Indian class and caste and public


Before understanding the Indian public, I had to grasp the difference between class and caste.


Indian case studies:

Professor Rohan Mehrotra from KRVIA, who heads the design cell CRIT in Mumbai, has been instrumental in explaining public space issues in and around the city.

He summarized the city’s significant structural transformation from a traditional city to a booming metropolis, from non-traffic to a car city.  This huge transformation inevitably affected space-making.  Also, two policy measures really impacted the way cities can be built and by who in India.  These are: the Special Township Scheme and the Urban Land Ceiling Regulation Act.  Mostly, they represented the ability for a private developer to build a township on his/her own.

He explained the large, green open spaces in Bombay.  There is one near the Colaba train station, pictured, where I was staying.  In the 80s, a big citizens’ movement emerged, a campaign to maintain these spaces, also referred to as “Maidans.”  These maidans were leased out for various public activities: circuses, private cricket tournaments, office events.  Residents complained of different ‘publics’ using the space: drug addicts, young couples, slum children.  The residents  desired a more sociable space and they deemed current activity problematic.  Through their efforts, they erected a gate around the green area with 2 secured entrance/exit points.  This represented a case where the residents (one public of a certain class and caste)  were dictating, or defining, the public, the people allowed to actually use the space.

Other cases include residents banning hawkers from certain distances outside of major train stations, setting rules on public activity and behavior (only permitting people to walk in a single direction around a path in a park), and leasing out public grounds to private functions (ie. sports clubs).

For more info, check out City Space, an NGO that has been campaigning for ‘protecting’ public space in the city.  Also see: Hanging Gardens, Khotachiwadi, and Powaii Lake/Township.


About this entry