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

Publication Year : 1995

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.