(Un)propertied Citizenship and the Governance of Informal Land Use in Peri-urban Delhi, India

Authors: Debangana Bose*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Asia
Keywords: Urban displacement and resettlement, property and property rights, land use laws and practices, Urban informality and illegality, Differentiated citizenship and rights to the city
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom B, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Displacement of the poor from the inner city to the periphery is a common strategy to make large cities ‘slum-free’ in India. However, the government of Delhi uses the rhetoric of formalizing property rights through allotment of resettlement plots as a compensation for displacement, camouflaging its intent to territorialize the poor in the city’s periphery. I argue that viewing the resettlement conundrum through the lens of land use control offers exciting new insights about the governance of the periphery and its implications for the displaced slum dwellers: how hidden land-use laws tagged with policies for formalization of property rights among displaced slum dwellers render them illegal subjects. The displaced slum dwellers have use rights with restrictions. Land use practices, which were legal in the inner city (e.g. use of land for commercial purposes, selling and renting), become illegal in peripheral planned resettlement colonies. Although most slum dwellers engage in informal land-use practices, the city-government-planning complex (CGPC) criminalizes some slum dwellers by cancelling their plots while endorsing others. The paper dehomogenizes both slum dwellers and the CGPC actors, and moves beyond property ownership as a vector of citizenship by identifying types of land-use practice as a crucial dimension of differentiating displaced slum dwellers, intersecting with conventional, identity-related categories of difference. I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in a resettlement colony, Savdha, on Delhi’s periphery, using mixed methods, including policy assessment, comparing published and actual land use, and interviews with slum dwellers, NGO workers, and various CGPC actors.

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