Dholera Smart City: Urban Infrastructure or Rentier Growth?

This study examines the ongoing creation of the Dholera Special Investment Region along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor in Gujarat. It analyses the agrarian political economy of the region in relation to the anticipated rentier gains from the conversion of land from agriculture to a “smart city.” Given the low level of interest by real estate developers in the project so far, the stagnant manufacturing investments in the country, and the continuing resistance by local residents, the study argues that the anticipated futures that moor the Dholera smart city are tenuous and rife with conditions of resistance and overthrow. It argues that the ‘rentier economy’ driving the project may not meet the development needs of a majority of local residents, dispossessing a large majority of peasants for whom the agrarian economy offers a choice of critical livelihood strategies. The ‘land pooling’ mechanism is ill equipped to deal with issues emerging from dissent. In contrast to official articulation of industrial infrastructure development, local opinion emphasises agrarian infrastructure, specifically the overdue Narmada canal irrigation system. This contest over what is deemed necessary infrastructure for economic growth, and who will benefit from such infrastructure, points to the necessity for policies oriented towards ‘development from below.’

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