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State of Play Six Years after Gujarat Earthquake

This article critically reviews the process of reconstruction of Kachchh district since the 2001 earthquake; it examines the urban development of Bhuj as well as the industrial development patterns adopted in rural Kachchh.


State of Play Six Years after Gujarat Earthquake

This article critically reviews the process of reconstruction of Kachchh district since the 2001 earthquake; it examines the urban development of Bhuj as well as the industrial development

patterns adopted in rural Kachchh.


ix years ago, an earthquake in western Gujarat claimed around 14,000 lives. Many people I already knew well from previous research in the region died, more lost relatives, homes and possessions. In this article, I review in general terms what has happened to those who survived and I then turn to critically look as an anthropologist, at the implicit assumptions that have driven post-earthquake reconstruction, particularly in relation to (sub)urban design and industrial development in rural areas.

After the Earthquake?

As the dust settled after the earthquake, and the emergency response teams left for home, people faced the task of rebuilding their houses, livelihoods and relationships in a landscape depleted of many familiar people and things. There was a scramble for the rights to give and receive aid, which was intimately connected to party politics in Gujarat as well as to various manifestations of modern Hinduism and politicised nostalgia [see Simpson 2005; Simpson and Corbridge 2006]. In the countryside, villages were rapidly rebuilt by private agencies with financial assistance from the state. In the process, a variety of new political and religious ideologies were inscribed on rural Kachchh [see Simpson 2004]. At the time, these efforts seemed pernicious, particularly when driven by the political and religious aims of the private organisations and their auditors rather than the requirements of the villagers. Such interventions were frequently associated with various types of proselytisation (the most conspicuous of all proselytisers were Hindu sects intent on luring other Hindus to their fold). In some cases, private organisations built temples for their own deity in the new villages and assigned a manager to ensure that the beneficiaries of the houses the private organisations had provided attended that temple regularly. In other cases, informal village-wide associations were made with political parties in exchange for new houses. With a few years hindsight however, these kinds of interventions seem quite innocent in scale and ambition when held up against broader shifts that have taken place in Kachchh. Now, in early 2007, the village managers have largely deserted their posts, finding the task of policing the errant quite impossible, and a great many political unions have dissolved in the tide of subsequent happenings.

In Bhuj, the administrative centre of Kachchh from where most of my data is drawn, the disruption of this period (roughly 2001-04) is often referred to as the “second earthquake” as the government of Gujarat seemed to impose the weight of its understandable hesitancy on the beleaguered. It is not an exaggeration to say that surviving the earthquake became a full-time job for quite some years after the actual event. Many busied themselves with the details of the various compensation packages; some studied the new building codes; for others, there was time for little more than staying one step ahead of the bulldozers. The complexities and bureaucracy of urban reconstruction, the sheer size of the task, and clear divisions in popular opinion undoubtedly contributed to delays in policy design and implementation. There were some, for example, who thought Bhuj should be built anew elsewhere; others favoured rebuilding it the way it had been. For a long time, however, there appeared to be no plan causing anger among people; then it was decided to rebuild Bhuj where it had been and to allow room for future expansion and the resettlement of the homeless. Then, as the months passed, concern shifted to building temporary shelters, the result of loss of documents relating to property and finance and lack of governmental coordination. Later, it was planning considerations, policies for rubble clearance, levels of compensation and baffling questions about the rights of tenants and apartment owners that preoccupied many. There were surveys and more surveys, and an utterly mystifying system of damage classification was introduced. Later still, there were gnawing questions about the location and design of permanent housing and the scale and scope of new infrastructure.

Meanwhile, as these important debates raged, large numbers of people found good reason for why their homes, which had survived the earthquake, should not be destroyed to make way for new roads of the new town planning schemes or to conform to new safety regulations. It appeared to many people as if the government was taking away property to make way for these new roads without compensation. This caused widespread anxiety and resulted in a number of suicides. To an extent, the tragedy of these suicides stood as a metaphor for the popular perceptions of maladministration and alienation at the time. Gangs of profiteering contractors, mostly from distant parts of northern India, descended on the town at night with noisy machinery and hoards of (supposedly) wild and unruly labourers from Madhya Pradesh to demolish what remained of the old town. The local citizenry, often quite legitimately feeling alienated, engaged in letter writing campaigns, hunger strikes and protest marches against delays and injustices. Some called for an independent Kachchh or for Union Territory status, free from the shackles of step-motherly Gujarat.

While many worried about money and shelter, for others there was an unfamiliar superabundance of what might be thought

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007

of as “disaster boom” cash. Those who had regularised property but had previously scraped by on low wages suddenly had tens of thousands of rupees from government compensation schemes. The money was, of course, intended for new housing, but agencies selling motorbikes and television sets prospered. For others, cash sums from insurance companies and the government came at a very high price: the loss of relatives and/or body parts. Many, encouraged by an emergent class of brokers, made false claims for compensation and for enterprise grants. Corruption was an open secret in which it often seemed as if the whole town was complicit; very few could point accusatory fingers at others from the security of innocence. Some corruption was simply so outrageous, especially in relation to contracts for rubble clearance, that it made people chuckle and this had a cathartic effect. In 2004, government audits revealed some of the false claims and many beneficiaries, having already disposed of the cash, faced the worry of further debt or imprisonment as well as the problems associated with a lack of funds for the construction of a permanent shelter. There are others, also worth a mention, whose lives and properties were practically unscathed by the earthquake and have, as the years passed, grown increasingly tired of the seemingly endless debates.

In 2001, the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee promised a “New Kachchh”. In 2004, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, told Kachchhis to put the earthquake behind them because the rest of Gujarat had forgotten about it. In 2006, Modi started to liken Kachchh to Singapore; according to him, New Kachchh, the engine of Gujarat’s doubledigit growth, was complete. Now, six years after the earthquake, Bhuj, and the neighbouring towns of Anjar and Bhachau are essentially construction sites of vast proportions. The story of post-earthquake reconstruction is clearly far from over. Life goes on under clouds of dust, amid an endless and mentally draining cacophony of roars, thumps and tapping sounds. Elsewhere, thousands of families continue to live in shelters that were originally intended to be temporary (there are often quite counter-intuitive reasons for this). Recently, a doctor I know resigned from his job when the manager of his hospital trust asked him to administer out-of-date medical supplies, some of the vast excess that had been donated after the earthquake.

Large sections of the magnificent “quake proof” municipal hospital in Bhuj, built at tremendous cost from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, remain understaffed and under-powered. The aftershocks continue, and fruits of policies implemented over the last six years, described in what follows, are now beginning to ripen. Much of what can be seen in Kachchh is new, if not quite reminiscent of Singapore.

The New Bhuj

For at least the last 100 years Bhuj has been expanding, the population gradually settling outside the walled confines of the old town, tentatively at first and then in something of a rush [Tyabji 2006].1 After the earthquake, the pace and scale of change has been greatly increased. The distinction between the old walled town and the post1960s suburbs has been softened. New thoroughfares and roundabouts carry new names, particularly those of the various Swaminarayan orders. Boutiques, supermarkets and sweet shops with shimmering glass and metal facades line some roads. The most striking thing about the new Bhuj however is the size of the place, as vast swathes of suburban land, the work of government relocation strategies as much as private developers, stretch many kilometres to the south. Now, it takes far more than an hour to walk from the southern edge of the old town to some of the more distant relocation sites and costs around Rs 30 for a one-way rickshaw journey.2 These suburbs are overlooked by the new Hill Garden (at present named after Narendra Modi), a haven for flirtation and merriment on Sunday evenings. Concentric four-lane roads surround the town most eerily, unused by traffic but good for cricket and evening strolls.

New Bhuj has of course come at a cost and the last few years have seen the words “town planning” (or simply “TP”) and “cutting” (literally the process of cutting away the bits of buildings that stand in the path of new roads) often used in Bhuj. TP is popularly associated with road widening and the laying of new roads and has become a part of daily life, rather like the threat of malaria. TP is associated with modernisation and the imposition of order, and, to a much lesser extent, with the management of future disasters. For most people, TP is a given and non-negotiable set of parametres, widths and other measurements. Thus, popularly, there is no conception of good or bad town planning and consequently little protest against decisions that are clearly misguided or discriminatory. People are of course “wrong”, or solely speaking for dramatic effect, when they say there was no town planning before the earthquake. The rulers of the former princely state did it in their own way, just as the bureaucrats of the era immediately after independence did it in theirs. The municipality had indeed drawn up plans to improve a number of roads in the town before the earthquake. These plans were abandoned in the rubble. The key difference between then and now is that TP has given the town a new character that has largely usurped the older symbols of its identity. Most of the key roads that snaked through Bhuj before the earthquake have been widened and, as mentioned earlier, renamed. Three new and major looping access roads were bulldozed through the old town. The local administration championed the cause of road widening, suggesting that it affected everyone equally and no party, however influential, would be spared. The evidence rather suggests, despite the conspicuous cutting of the property of the wealthy in the main bazaar and along Hospital Road, that the potential loss and violence of TP really was like the threat of malaria and depended on how wealthy and influential you and your neighbours were as to how vulnerable you were to its dramatic effects.

If the scale of the post-earthquake development plan for Bhuj was influenced by projected future population growth it is still difficult to imagine where so many new people will come from. Perhaps the silent influence of military strategists, with an eye on the border with Pakistan, is behind the scale of new infrastructure; or, perhaps, the planners and consultants in the pay of the Gujarat Urban Development Company simply got carried away by the aesthetics of segmented and concentric models of urban development – like those they had studied in school.3 Either way, the acres of deserted tarmac that encircle Bhuj carry weighty symbolic capital if not traffic.

In November 2006, I asked a sample of 30 Bhuj residents whether their town was better before or after the earthquake. Half of those asked pointed to the miles of new road as irrefutable evidence that the town was much better than before. That roads should have become such a positive totem is an interesting sociological fact in and of itself. In this case, roads are public

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007 spaces that have created new links as well as new divisions between people and places. They have also connected particular kinds of places such as the new airport to the best hotels, and the wealthy suburbs to the lakeside parks, for example. Roads have not similarly paved the way from the slums to the washing ghats in the north-east, despite the fact it is a very well used route. The new roads have only been laid in the directions that some people want to go; for other people they have become obstacles. Some roads were built regardless of public protest, and Muslim cemeteries, most notably, as well as other religious sites were bulldozed. In short, roads have created particular routes through the town, and in the process other kinds of geographies have been marginalised.

The casual visitor who is accustomed to thinking about urban space in terms of roads, could quite innocently leave at the end of their stay thinking that the citizenry are all reasonably well-to-do and enjoy riding motorbikes. This visitor will simply not have seen the most densely populated parts of Bhuj to the north that are not only without roads but have been made all the more inaccessible, and thus rendered invisible by new roads. That the development plan did little directly for the poor and marginalised and less for the minority communities is not of course particularly surprising, but the issue of roads also leads me to the overarching but implicit assumption contained within the development plan for Bhuj which also affects those for whom the plan was hatched.

In the development plan, a majority of families are clearly intended to become suburban dwellers, dependent on their own motorised transport to reach their places of work. This is perhaps a price the planners had to pay in order to reduce the population density, especially in the old town. However, it seems particularly retrograde in terms of the environmental impact and for the consumption of fossil fuels, at a time when in other parts of India, people are looking for cleaner ways to move – or, more importantly, not to move within cities. It is important to understand that many of those who have now settled in the suburbs are not wealthy people and have pitched residence there because of government compensation payments, assistance from NGOs or a combination of both. As I have mentioned, travel to and from the suburbs is expensive and living there and working in the old city can carry an impossibly high cost. The fruit and

Figure: Bhuj Town

Hatched areas roughly show major areas of suburban expansion Old Walled Town 1 km 2 km North

vegetable sellers who make the long journey from the wholesale market to the suburbs also understandably inflate their prices. Other goods and services are simply not available because of the low population density which again necessitates that people make expensive journeys. Therefore, some families have literally been impoverished by their move to these suburbs. This seems to have a greater negative effect on women who are forced to stay at home more (because the rickshaw is so expensive and it is not practical to walk) than on men who tend to be the main wage earners and can ride a motorbike if they own one.

The broad roads (at least the radial ones to the south) now justify themselves because they have become necessary to cope with the increased level of traffic that the suburbs have created. This is not to deny that many local people are not extremely happy with the new roads and suburbs and that some measures were necessary to reduce congestion in some parts of the city. However, rather than attempting to reduce the flow of traffic through the town through pedestrianisation, traffic calming measures, public transport provision or clustering land use zones, the development plan exacerbates pre-existing problems such as levels of traffic through suburbanisation, rather than attempting to change anything significantly, let alone radically.4

Planning of the suburban government relocation sites has been conducted with wilful neglect of local ideas about social organisation, especially caste. Perhaps this is too harsh, simply the view of an anthropologist who tends to see the significance of social matters above all else; or perhaps, the planners felt that caste is anachronistic in modern India and that people would simply forget about it along with their own social history once they were given a house big enough for a nuclear family in the suburbs. Casteless planning in this context however seems to assume very improbable things. Of course, the caste of neighbours is not of vital importance for everyone, and such a concern is often analytically (but revealingly) inseparable from the desire to have pleasant and familiar neighbours. However, I assert with some confidence that for many more people in towns like Bhuj caste is a good measure of the person and therefore remains very important when deciding where to live if there is any choice in the matter. Evidence from elsewhere in Kachchh suggests that the planner’s casteless suburb (note I do not use the word “secular” here because very few Muslims have opted for life in the southern suburbs which are distinctly Hindu in character) was not only a cause of considerable anxiety for many people, as they waited years to know who their neighbours would be, but it will ultimately prove to have been, in part, a waste of time for the following two reasons.

First, in the countryside most villages were rapidly constructed anew through public-private partnerships. Many of these villages were built for reasons of economy and simplicity in grid patterns. In some cases, cursory attention was given to caste, religious and kin sensitivities of the local population. However, on the whole and perhaps rightly so, haste and need were placed over and above social dynamics and

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007

houses were often allocated on the basis of a lottery. Like others, I was initially dismayed by the unimaginative and barracklike nature of the new villages; villagers were mostly unenthused too. Yet, in the countryside the ensuing years have seen many thousands of intimate deals brokered and struck, as houses and neighbours have been exchanged to make villages that make more sense in the villagers’ terms. New housing patterns have been imposed on the grid as people have taken control of their space and have chosen who they want to share it with. Houses have been extended and merged and compound walls have been built around particular houses. More telling however is that walls have also been constructed around groups of houses, sometimes across the roads of the grid, blocking the way to enclose kin or caste groups and livestock. In many villages, the grid is now barely discernible as property has been re-organised by what might be thought of as the pressures of a noneconomic and social market.

Second, while the suburban “relocation” sites were the most prominent and regulated of the reconstruction schemes, there were smaller schemes run along more indigenous lines; among them there are two quite clearly discernible trends. First, caste organisations, notably those with clearly-defined patterns of leadership and religious affiliation, constructed their own suburbs (a Jain suburb or a Daudi Vohra suburb for example), often including places of worship, schools and primary health facilities. Second, in other settlements, such as those that started life as temporary shelters but were later made permanent, successful attempts have been made by non-governmental organisations such as Kachchh-based Abhiyan to consult people as to who they want as neighbours in order to design and distribute land and property accordingly. The results of this consultation mostly indicate bias towards caste preference.

The government suburbs of Bhuj are perhaps still too new for the effects of the kind of social jockeying seen in the countryside to have left a mark. The evidence from other housing schemes suggests that urban people too are concerned about matters such as the caste of their neighbours and it seems certain that people will impose their own order in the suburbs.

In sum, there seem to be two major assumptions about how the world should be embedded in the urban plan for Bhuj. First, not everybody need be planned for equally. Second, those who have been planned for the most, so to speak, will lead life which will involve suburban living, largely devoid of pre-earthquake social history.

An Industrial Revolution

I now want to take you out of Bhuj, east through Madhapur and the chaos and dirt of the service area for the many hundreds of trucks that ply between the opencast lignite mines in the west of Kachchh to the power stations and factories in east Gujarat. Further out of the town, the air freshens as the mechanical workshops and tyre centres give way to private resettlement colonies, a village for orphaned children and handicraft parks. Further still, the road splits, one branch heads southeast towards Anjar and the commercial port centre of Kandla-Gandhidam, the other heads slightly north of east towards Bhachau. A few years back, the road to Bhachau passed through a vast landscape of acacia, broken by the occasional village and agricultural oasis. The road served hinterland villages and was a corridor for nomadic pastoralists.

After the earthquake, the government of Gujarat’s industries and mines department developed the “Incentive Scheme 2001 for Economic Development of Kachchh district”.5 The scheme was intended to make “the economic environment of Kachchh district live” by encouraging new investment in the region. Industrial development was also promoted by ministers from the government of Gujarat at a number of trade fairs and at the “Resurgent Gujarat” event of 2002. The Incentive Scheme offered both excise and sales tax concessions for new industrial units commencing production in Kachchh before the end of 2005 for a period of five years.6

In 2003, the road to Bhachau was still silent; the only sound was the wind in the acacia. In 2004, three years after the earthquake, a ceramics firm had started to construct a manufacturing plant at the Bhachau end of the highway. By the end of 2005, there were around 25 mediumto large-scale units dotting the length of the road. The rate of growth along the highway has been phenomenal; in other parts of Kachchh it has been even higher, notably around the government port complex at Kandla and the private Adaniowned port at Mundra (further encouraged by the recent special economic zones).

The road to Bhachau now passes through a surreal landscape. It is still rural, but not confidently so, as it is lined with generous slabs of factory, belching chimneys, impeccably neat compound fences and splashes of urban-style colour of the postmodernist architecture of office blocks and reception halls. Today, the road is also unmistakably busier with traffic and there is discussion of “four-laning”.Here, as elsewhere in Kachchh, the Incentive Scheme seems to have been a rip-roaring success as there are now huge industrial complexes and infrastructure has been considerably improved. Also, as those who designed the policy might have anticipated, financial benefits are leaking, if not exactly trickling down, into the countryside.

On paper the scheme is excellent and generous; there is provision for pollution control and for compulsory future investment by beneficiaries. Careful reading of the documentation however, reveals that the policy is not even implicitly geared towards the creation of local industry, but is an invitation for existing industries from elsewhere to open plants in Kachchh with direct and indirect government assistance. This too is something of an open secret, and a former minister associated with industrial development told me that the best he could expect from the policy, was for Kachchh to host the industries and its people to provide ancillary support in the form of haulage and the like. The clouds of dark smoke emitting from factories, especially those in the far east of Kachchh further suggest that pollution is rather poorly controlled.

Along the road to Bhachau, there is the occasional flurry of people scrambling for transport when shifts in some of the factories change, but it remains oddly quiet. Local people are employed in many of these factories on assembly lines and the like, but much of the manufacturing is heavily mechanised, with little need for manual labour. There are rumours that such factories were established for shortterm profiteering, making use of a cooperative government and the ready (and thus indirectly subsidised) supply of land, water and power. There is another reason for the relative calm and the lack of shanties, tea stalls and other things that one might expect to spring up around new industrial complexes and that is simply that some factories appear to produce very little. This has prompted rumours that many of these factories make false claims

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007 of producing goods in Kachchh for tax concessions when in fact they produce elsewhere. I have no firsthand data to support this claim, but it is one made repeatedly by the local press.

This kind of development has allowed for individuals and companies to profit from state coffers. It is short-term at best, and it is difficult to imagine many industries staying in place after the period of incentives comes to an end, unless they are given further good reason to do so (here I exclude the “port led” industrial complexes around Kandla and Mundra that were spawned by policies of previous decades). Through this and other industrial development policies large parts of Kachchh are being degraded and other parts are being covered with the concrete of industrial infrastructure that allows for the processing, manufacture and transport of various materials that come and go through the ports. The profits of this activity, like most of the goods produced, are consumed elsewhere.

The occasional voice of protest has been heard, some complained about the destruction of mangroves in the Gulf of Kachchh, and a politician from Mundra protested that pollution had rendered agricultural lands unproductive. There has however been little or no public debate about rapid industrialisation and scant regard for glaring ecological and other environmental concerns, notably the ruthless exploitation of ground water and ensuing salination.7 Few have questioned the implicit assumption that industrial development should be given precedence over other concerns, and no one has suggested that industrial development is undesirable as an end in its own right.

We might reasonably ask however whether it was necessary or indeed sensible to allow factories to locate all along the 60 km stretch from the fork in the road outside Bhuj to Bhachau, essentially turning the entire stretch into an industrial form of ribbon development. Some say yes, because villages are scattered and thus is the needy indigenous labour force. Others say that this is just the beginning and that industry will attract industry.

It is also worth speculating about future scenarios for the road to Bhachau. Many local people have become exceedingly wealthy from the promise of industrial development. The already wealthy have become wealthier through land speculation of all types. Land in Kachchh has also become a very attractive investment for people from elsewhere. Farmers have sold their lands especially near highways, given the wild premiums they can demand. The villagers are then able to turn their backs on laborious agriculture in favour of wage labour in the local factory or the provision of an ancillary service of some nature. One possible future scenario is that in 2009 the factories will close down and the labour force will be laid off as it will no longer be economically viable to produce goods in Kachchh when the incentives lapse. Alternatively, in 2009, the whole workforce will be laid off to make way for cheaper labour from elsewhere – for reasons I will return to shortly. Either way, the hapless villagers will have little or no land to fall back upon and this process has made them landless peasants. What will they do then?

More optimistically, and this seems to be the implicit assumption behind the industrialisation drive, the factory will continue to invest in Kachchh and the villagers will become labourers who live in burgeoning industrial townships. We might legitimately ask whether this is desirable and fair. While these scenarios may sound bleak, they are only part of the story.

Clause 8e of the Initiative Scheme demands: “As per the employment policy of the government of Gujarat, the unit availing of the incentives, will have to recruit local persons for a minimum of 85 per cent of the total posts and for a minimum of 60 per cent of the managerial and supervisory posts”. This is why in my second speculative scenario above, the local labour force is replaced with a cheaper alternative at the end of the scheme. Anecdotally, I know of no factory in which this condition is met. Members of Group 2001, a citizen’s pressure group based in Anjar, conducted surveys of the new industry in 2003 and found that most factories employed high percentages of “outside” (that is to say non-Kachchhi ) labour. Group 2001 also suggests that since the earthquake the population of Anjar has increased by one-fifth, and most of the new residents are non-Kachchhis. As might be reasonably expected, this has created new tensions, resentments and a hyperbolic increase in the fear of crime and violence.

The standard argument in defence of the abuse of clause 8e is that local labour is unskilled, and therefore it is necessary to import labour from elsewhere. There is undoubtedly an element of truth in this but it is also equally true that outside labour is cheaper and the government is not enforcing 8e. The general point here is that those affected by the earthquake benefit far less from this industrial development in the short-term than might be supposed and in the longer-term such rapid industrialisation may well have highly detrimental effects on the district.

If complex systems of production need dirty areas for processing and production and clean areas for the consumption of the goods they produce, Kachchh is moving rapidly from being a marginal clean area

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007

to an important dirty one on the national stage. The relatively free access the government has granted to minerals and land is enabling large industrial enterprises to remove wealth from Kachchh in the name of post-earthquake development. The costs of this shift seem to be borne primarilyby the government, the environment and, perhaps in the long run, by the local population.


Those charged with “reconstruction” have often interpreted their responsibility literally and have built and imagined anew, at least in the terms of suburbanisation and industrialisation. In previous years, I have heard hundreds of hours of discussion about how post-earthquake development should be sensitive to local customs, how “vernacular” architectural techniques should be incorporated into the design of new homes, and how traditional livelihoods should be nurtured, people empowered, the local handicraft industry encouraged through training and marketing programmes, and so on and so forth. These discussions seemed important and worthy at the time, but seem positively quaint now that the effects of the government’s industrial and infrastructural policies are being seen. In short, a few hasty changes to a number of the government’s policies have had a far greater impact on the lives of all in Kachchh in the longer term than the intervention of hundreds of private agencies. The nongovernmental sector might be well advised for the future and some perhaps already do, to take note of this fact and to pace their interventions differently, perhaps critically looking at the design of the government’s policies rather than pretending they do not exist.

The state and its supporters have clearly been exceedingly effective in delivering post-earthquake reconstruction programmes. Their policies have mostly been successful in their stated aims when viewed over a six-year period. I have discussed some of the consequences and implicit assumptions of these policies. Arguably, the movement towards the suburbs and the state’s facilitation of large-scale industry in rural areas is not unique to Kachchh. These things are to be seen throughout western India, only perhaps slightly intensified here by the special circumstances of the earthquake. Public debate on the desirability, equity and sustainability of such trends remains embryonic among most sections of society. Looking critically at these aspects of industrialisation, I fear that many people in Kachchh are blind to the choking smoke of rural Nehruvian temples, choosing instead to see them as cash cows and as signs of Kachchh’s arrival on the global scene. For my own part, I am clear that to write and think critically about some aspects of industrialisation is not to write against industrialisation per se.

Finally, there are a further range of consequences to the patterns of industrialisation in Kachchh that also deserve consideration, which perhaps arise from the more shadowy realm of their unstated yet possible aims. Kachchh has essentially been re-colonised (in a mild form) through postearthquake reconstruction programmes by the government of Gujarat (it may have happened anyway). The population of Kachchh has swelled with people from all over India, which has introduced new languages, lifestyles and tensions. The district has been firmly drawn into the economy of the nation, the isolationist and distinctive nature of its previous economy and polity – dependent as it was on various forms of international and domestic migration – has been reduced in character. Perhaps this was also implicit in the postearthquake policies, for the effect has been to silence calls for Kachchh to have a separate political status from Gujarat, which were most audible in the first years after the earthquake. That said, in the coming decades, it is not impossible to imagine a backlash against such neo-colonisation in the name of regional or linguistic identity and a renewed series of calls for a separate political status for Kachchh; this time perhaps such calls will come from Bhuj’s new suburbs rather than from the crumbling mansions of the former princely state. The economic infrastructure for such a claim to have a sure footing is now perhaps in place.




[I thank Isabella Lepri for encouraging me to voice my opinion. I am also grateful to B R Balachandran, Malathi de Alwis, Aditya Dogra, Farhana Ibrahim, Aparna Kapadia, R Parthasarathy and Sandeep Virmani for influencing my thoughts on matters discussed here. Any errors in the text are of my own making.]

1 For an elegant account of the growth, history

and development of Bhuj see Tyabji (2006). 2 There are three relocation sites to the south of

the old city: Rawalvadi, Mundra Road and RTO (named after the adjacent Road Transport Office). Together they cover over 21 km2. A fourth site to the north and east of the old city, known after the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), was initially intended for temporary accommodation but has recently been made permanent.

3 Tracing the technical and intellectual genealogies of models of planning as practised in India as well as the conventional wisdoms of pre-Galbraithian economics I discuss later are beyond the scope of this article but these are surely topics on which comparative and historical discussions are urgently needed.

4 My knowledge of town planning in Bhuj comes mostly from generous conversations with the staff of the Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC), a not-for-profit organisation based in Ahmedabad, and with officials of the Bhuj Area Development Authority (BHADA). I stress that my criticisms do not relate to the work of these individuals or their organisations, but simply to what Bhuj has become overall. It is also important to note that the models of infrastructural development seen in Bhuj are not isolated from policy planning as practised elsewhere in the country. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission of the ministry of urban employment and poverty alleviation and the ministry of urban development, for example, is a national scheme designed to improve governance and prosperity in major urban areas. This mission also places great emphasis on the development of infrastructure as an objective rather than simply a means to other ends.

5 See Government Resolution No INC-10200903-I dated November 9, 2001 for the regulations for exemption from central excise; see government of India, ministry of finance, department of revenue, New Delhi, July 31, 2001, Notification No 39/2001-Central Excise.

6 The deadline for new industry to commence production was originally 2003 but this was extended to 2004 and later to 2005.

7 In Bhuj, in the 1990s, a group of concerned folk discussed responsible industrialisation and took legal action against a number of firms. Their efforts were however re-focused by the earthquake and their discussions and activism unfortunately lapsed.


Simpson, E (2004): ‘ “Hindutva” as a Rural Planning Paradigm in Post-earthquake Gujarat’ in J Zavos, A Wyatt and V Hewitt (eds), Cultural Mobilisation and the Fragmentation of the Nation in Modern India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

– (2005): ‘The ‘Gujarat’ Earthquake and the Political Economy of Nostalgia’, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 39.2.

Simpson, E and S Corbridge (2006): ‘The Geography of Things that May become Memories: The 2001 Earthquake in Kachchh-Gujarat and the Politics of Rehabilitation in the Pre-memorial Era’, Annals of the American Geographers’ Association, 96.3.

Tyabji, A (2006): Bhuj: Art, Architecture, History, Maplin, Ahmedabad.

Economic and Political Weekly March 17, 2007

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