Economic Marginalisation of Peasants and Fishermen Due to Urban Expansion: The JNP Project of New Bombay, India

S. Parasuraman


The Central and State Governments in India have actively
intervened in redefining land use pattern, often to the detriment of the
peasant cultivators. In most situations, the real beneficiaries were the
speculators, developers, builders, bureaucrats, and the planning and
executing body. The case of New Bombay is a classic example of state
intervention that completely redefined the relationship between land and
peasant-cultivators. The New Bombay project acquired large amounts of
agricultural and saltpan land from peasants in 95 villages for meagre
cash compensation. The objective of the paper is to trace the origin of
the idea-for the creation of New Bombay and a port to attract people and
industry so as to decongest Bombay-and assess the condition of peasants
who had lost land to the project. The study shows that the port, like
most other modem industrial projects, seriously undermined the economic
position of a large number of households. The small and marginal farmers
and the fishermen were seriously affected due to others' land
acquisition and their own loss of access to the sea, as well as denial
of employment in the project. The project also failed to assess the
skills and capacities of the affected people and facilitate them to
engage in alternative productive activities. Women were productively
engaged in agriculture, saltpan- and fishing-related activities in the
affected villages. The loss of land and access to the sea have led to a
greater degree of pauperisation of women, and increasingly confined them
to the margins of the labour market.

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