News & Events

Faculty Seminar | In the Shadows of the State: How Rent Shape Our Cities


Online (Closed Event)


Wednesday, January 6, 2021, 5:00 pm

This session was chaired by Dr. Sushmita Pati, Assistant Professor of Law, NLSIU.

“My work is centred around how cities are constituted by rent. We know enough of how capital and labour make cities. But we don’t really know where to place rent in all of this. But if we do want to understand urbanisation in the global south, I argue that rent is central. To do this, I look at a peculiar form of urban villages in Delhi. In 1950s, in the bid to create a modern postcolonial city, and along with it, modern citizens, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), a statutory body created in 1957, passed an order to acquire 34,070 acres of land under section 4 of Land Acquisition Act on 13 November 1959, in preparation for the Delhi Master Plan. Most of these villages happened to be Jat and Gujjar dominated villages lying on the southern side of the city precincts. Currently, there are some 135 such urban villages or lal dora villages dotting the urban landscape of Delhi. The reasons for not acquiring the village settlement in such a curious fashion are not very clear. A fair guess suggests that this strategy speeded up and cheapened the process of acquisition. In their grandiose scheme of wanting to create an  urban revolution through a regional plan, the planning authorities could not be too bothered about the question of these newly created ‘urban villages’.

It would be decades before the urban authorities begin to get haunted by these unruly spaces, now no longer tamable by law. Urban villages ironically are a by-product of Delhi Master Plan 1962, the modern, regional plan that was supposed to end all woes of the city. At any rate, these villages remain as oddities amidst the vast landscape of upmarket residential colonies, shopping complexes, malls and flyovers. I look at two Jat dominated villages in my work- Munirka and Shahpur Jat, and their transformation as New Delhi continues to grow around them, unabated. In early years of 1960s and 1970s, these villagers try their hand at enterprises like construction and transport and other ancillary businesses whose demands were fuelled by the city. The state, also unsure of what to do with these villages, put them under a building bye-law exemption in 1963. Since they were villages that predated the Master Plan, they were not expected to abide by the building bye-laws. The exemptions therefore, were easy ways through which the state could declare the villages as ‘exceptions’ and therefore, forget about them.”

Read the full paper.