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Unsettling developments: How different 'value(s)' of land influence outcomes of a Special Economic Zone in rural India - 2 February 2023

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How is “value” of land constructed and how does it differ among social groups? Whose perception of value matters and why? In the context of large-scale replication of Chinese style SEZs in India since 2005, this project answers these questions using the case of an SEZ project in rural Maharashtra.

Based on in-depth interviews with villagers affected by the SEZ, this project examines social change more than a decade after land was sold with promises of jobs and opportunities with the creation of an SEZ that did not come to fruition.

Scholars such as Balakrishnan (2019) analysed similar processes of industrialisation in Maharashtra and predicted an optimistic future with growing socio-economic equality and better economic returns to the locals. However, we find otherwise as we examine contestations around the sale of land as influenced by caste hierarchies and an increase in inequalities following resettlement.

Most notably, while many from upper castes experienced continuity with previous ways of living, having already left farming as their primary occupation and with a home in the city and spare land, tribal communities experienced extreme disruption of their traditional pastoral life and deprived of their only piece of land.

Though expropriated land was formally classified as dongar- “barren” or “wasteland”, it was widely used for livestock rearing and subsistence farming by the tribal communities. Therefore, SEZ induced resettlement entailed major changes to their livelihoods, lifestyles and diet, resulting in sharpened inequalities.

About the speaker

Dr Soumya Mishra

Dr Soumya Mishra is a Lecturer in India and Global Affairs. Soumya completed her PhD in International Development from the University of Oxford, focusing on migrant labour and employment relations in the Delhi NCR. More recently, she has been working as a research associate on a British Academy-funded project led by Dr Charlotte Goodburn and Dr Jan Knoerich on Chinese-style SEZs in India. Her research interests lie in migration, comparative development, and mental health.

About the chair

Professor Louise Tillin

Professor Louise Tillin is Director, King’s India Institute and Professor of Politics. Louise’s research interests span federalism, democracy and territorial politics in India, and the history and politics of social policy design and implementation. Louise is a regular commentator on Indian politics in UK, Indian and international media. She is an editor of the journal Regional and Federal Studies, and an editorial board member of Pacific Affairs.


At this event

Louise Tillin

Louise Tillin

Director, King's India Institute

Soumya Mishra

Soumya Mishra

Lecturer in India and Global Affairs

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