Urbanisation of Land

Stories of Inhabitations in the Western Suburbs of Mumbai

The stories of inhabitation in the western suburbs of Mumbai reveal the structures that have shaped its urbanity and provide clues to understand urbanism in the rest of India. ‘Urbanisation of land’ here is the process of tranformation in land patterns (use, sub-divisions and occupancies) where lands become ‘urban’. ‘Urban’ here is an soft and unclear category beyond state definions of urban and refers to an idea that operates in imagination of people. It has to do with aspirations, speculations, intensifications,image, etc.

The lands of Mumbai has been regulated through many centuries of policies by various governments. The modern state has operated through largely four instruments to bring about the transformation of lands into ‘urban land’. These include: promotion of changes from pastoral to industrial / commercial and service economies; reorganisation of sub-divisions from irregular plots shapes and sizes to rectangular plots with clear roads and amenity pockets; rationalisation of claims and development of a clear register of titles; and regulated and standardised built-form development. These instruments were mobilised through a series of policies including investment policies, revenue codes, town planning schemes, regional and town planning acts, development planning measures, layout based subdivisions, acquisitions acts, slum clearance and improvement acts, rent control measures, land ceiling acts, cooperative housing society provisions, municipal act provisions, etc. Moreover, these policies got played out through several state and non-state actors and agencies with complex histories, interests and practices that have been seldom congruent to each other.

Mumbai’s urbanity appears to be shaped by this entanglement of these policies, institutions and practices overlapped with aspirations and desires of its people. These stories of inhabitations intend to put together a sense of Mumbai’s urbanity and its experience.