3 - The Plot
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2022
I met Mukesh Yadav sitting on the side of the Gurgaon–Sohna road in Badshahpur village in late 2015. Mukesh and two other elderly men were playing cards under the late afternoon shade while two others shared a hookah pipe. Badshahpur village was incorporated into the Gurgaon–Manesar Urban Complex in 2007, precipitating a rush on the village land by a host of domestic and international real estate firms emboldened by the liberalisation of the real estate sector two years ago. The historic territory of eighteenth-century Mughal military ruler Begum Samru, today the village is split into two by the road that connects central Gurgaon to its southern neighbour Sohna, a much quieter town that had recently been brought under its own urban development plan. Between 2008 and 2014, 560 acres of land in Badshahpur was purchased by developers and licenced by the planning department for the construction of a series of gated residential towers and colonies at the intersection of the highly sought-after DLF Golf Course Road. The village, akin to so many in Gurgaon, is composed of low-rise, fading and densely constructed tenement buildings linked by a maze of narrow paved streets, hemmed in on all sides by the porous boundary walls of posh residential colonies. The roadside is alive with dusty activity throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, with lorries, jeeps and cars shooting down the main thoroughfare passing small grocery shops and dhabas rubbing shoulders with small brokerage and dealership offices.
Mukesh's family had owned 4 acres of land across Badshahpur and like all landowners his family's landholdings were split into smaller shares scattered across different plots in the village. In addition, Mukesh's family had a non-alienable claim to both abadi property and the village shamilat (common) lands. As the eldest son, he had spent much of his life overseeing the family's land and was the final authority when it came to selling up in the mid-2000s. Like many of the small to medium landowners in Gurgaon, Mukesh's family did not greatly benefit from access to Green Revolution technologies in the 1960s. ‘Land was never profitable,’ he explained. ‘We grew some wheat and mustard but it's difficult to make a living from this land and now with the builders coming here, there's no future in farming for people here.’
- Subaltern FrontiersAgrarian City-Making in Gurgaon, pp. 133 - 177Publisher: Cambridge University PressPrint publication year: 2023