State-Led Neoliberalism? Exploring the Politics of Urban Land Development in India

Chakravarty, Arpana
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University of Guelph

This research explores the role of the state in facilitating the conditions for neoliberal development. Neoliberal policies continue as the dominant globalized political/economic ideological mode despite reservations from development scholars. This development dilemma is a continuing thread in the debates over the role of the state in land acquisition, a measure often required for large-scale development projects in India. New Town, Rajarhat, is a recent case where land was forcibly acquired to create a massive futuristic suburb for the state capital of Kolkata. This paper will argue that the New Town project was highly neoliberal in conception and execution, and also refutes claims that the government managed to avoid costs scholars have come to associate with neoliberalism and the displacement resulting from large-scale development projects. In this case the events that disadvantage the displaced are not the drawn-out processes of market liberalization, but government attempts to create conditions favourable to market-led development. These conclusions are informed by over 300 elite interviews with primary actors including government officials, corporate heads, and leaders of NGOs, as well as minimal interviews from those more directly impacted.

Neoliberal development, India, Urban land development, Land acquisition, Role of the state