Eurozine has write ups on two Indian cities in its current issue whose editorial is titled “The city as stage for social upheaval“. One is on Calcutta/ Kolkata and another on Bombay/ Mumbai (the latter in German, though). In the backdrop of the architectural history of Calcutta, Swapan Chakravorty observes the more recent changes wrought about by globalization:
Now that the city has to adjust to the global market, the Communists find themselves saddled with the ironic task of imposing the orderly claims of civil society against the carnival of the fringe. The old industrial map has changed with the dismantling of the protectionist economy. The premises of defunct factories are being handed over to developers who build condominiums, malls, and multiplexes. The patriarchal communitarianism of the neighbourhood has no place in these new enclaves. The fishermen in the eastern suburbs have moved out, with developers buying up every available piece of land flanking the Eastern Bypass. Derelict warehouses along the river may be soon converted into Singapore-style restaurants. The High Court has banned political processions and meetings on weekdays; crackers and microphones are illegal; the Election Commission has outlawed political graffiti. Communists now plead with their own trade unions to ignore the workforce in information technology so that American clients are not upset.
About Mumbai, the editorial observes:
In Mumbai (Bombay), with its 19 million inhabitants, the enormous wealth disparities take on grotesque manifestations. In India’s biggest city, slums are cleared to make way – quite literally – for golf courses. Ilija Trojanow describes how, among the bureaucratic classes, the word “Slum” has become a synonym for “encroachment”. The efforts of the wealthy to keep the poor at bay reminds him of the laager mentality of the European settlers in South Africa. There, life within the barricaded settlements that kept out the indigenous population was seen as orderly and harmonious, everything outside filthy and chaotic. That mentality led directly to the Apartheid regime: a comparison not at all far-fetched in the context of contemporary Mumbai.
Cross- posted at How the Other Half Lives.