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Land Changing...


I should confess I was not aware of this book until it was suggested by the book seller in the stall in Bangaluru when I was buying couple of other books last month. The Making of Land and The Making of India is an unique book that reflects on the chronology of three diverse Land and their Making in different parts of India over a decade of engagement by the author. It combines an interesting technique where the Author self-consciously is conversing with the reader about the book and the book writing projects of academics, tells the story of the land in the making in 3 states of India, its political, social, economic impact, challenges and also all through this discern the patterns that are presented with multiple references of scholarly work over long periods of time. 

While some people may find the multi-layered approach perhaps a bit tiring, I found it quite fascinating and true to the spirit of the story that was unfolding. It gathers the political nuances of diverse political ideologies and their residues, captured brilliantly through their slogans. The book tells the story of the land through the prisms of enliven land, territorial, governed, commodified and the access contained / privileged. In the process, the ecological and social themes are subsumed under each of the prisms and become almost the sub-text of the overall narrative. 

The flux of the land dealing by the Nation State, where the self-interest of the markets, bureaucratic corruption and political ambition (greed) merge the informal and formal sector to undermine both democratic processes and any form of due diligence is in itself worthy of an entire book. The 'broker' an ubiquitous term that is represented by all levels of society in the country is almost the central character in the book, often dispensing nuggets of 'wisdom' on how rules and regulations can be bent, whether they be changing the rules of the game completely in an absolute power state of Gujarat or finding a way to bypass the same in an ideologically divided state like West Bengal. 


These nuggets are presented while protecting the sources and timelines, morphing them in a  mish-mash of timelines, but, the message is clear, "the BIG BRANDS (investing in a state) can ask for the moon", says a Tamil Nadu bureaucrat as he shares that their demands for investing and moving their manufacturing facility in the state had about 90 different 'asks'.  The  difference in the narratives on land between the fisherman who has been removed from his traditional fishing land (I have seen such communities in the Kutch region bordering the private port there) to the developer who thinks his people have created more productive use of the 'waste land'. In fact reading this book adds so much more meaning to the poromboke movement that was launched in Tamil Nadu by collectives. 

Land in India, productive land, land supposedly 'wasted', land that is revered in local culture and rituals, agriculture land that is celebrated with festoons and flags when converted to 'real estate' land in several rural areas, land of the forest dwelling tribes that is given patta only to be hypothecated to the monoculture traders or their touts in the government, land about which there are more theatric sentiments and far more devious designs, all of these are captured through an amazingly honest presentation with great level of detailing. I do hope this book is noticed for what it is trying to communicate. I found it fascinating and a great read, detailing of several known orientations and alignments.