To be or Not to be Governed: Symptoms of Transformation in Urban-Rural Landscapes of West Bengal, India

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Tanya CHANDRA, Singapore-ETH Centre, Singapore
The discourse around “right to the city” and “leaving no one behind” fail to acknowledge wider regional dynamics and transformation beyond the defined urban core. Urbanisation in many parts of India is not concentrated in cities but in regions that mix urban and rural characteristics. These such hybrid regions feature a persistence of rural economies, high-frequency shorter-term commuting, loosely regulated development. Road development connecting the urban cores of the country affect broader and diverse scape which lead to hybrid forms of urbanisation. Questioning the unpreparedness of large regions governed locally in the reverberation of urbanisation brought by catalytic actions of road development.

This study examines these hybrid regions in the state of West Bengal which supports a large, dense rural population that is socio-economically dynamic and youthful. Using symptomatic reading methodology, the study identifies irrepressible and recurring spatial symptoms of transformation in habitations with introduction of all-weather road access to arterial network within the region. The symptoms of transformation observed are in housing construction, education demand and mode of travel; showcasing change from vernacular choices towards globally acknowledged solutions. This process of transformation is leading to population densification, dependence and demand of goods and services in rural classified areas of West Bengal. Rural classified areas in India come under self-governing village system called Panchayati Raj, unequipped in spatial and governance solutions that could support the undergoing transformation.

An urban bias underpinning road development and planning policies in India, downplays or ignores altogether this hybrid urban-rural condition, resulting in unprepared local-bodies of governance in rural areas. As a consequence, there is a sharp unplanned and uneven form of urbanisation along these corridors of development. This condition opens towards the question of development agendas failure to address broader and diverse scape, leaving rights of large population behind to ‘sustainable’ development.