Narrowing possibilities of stateness: The case of land in Gujarat

Date: Jan, 2008
ODID Working Paper No. 163
Author(s): Nikita Sud (QEH)

This paper investigates the transformation of the Indian state from a stance of developmental interventionism towards increasing support for economic liberalisation. The definitional dilemma of 'the state' is resolved by constructing a conceptual map. This portrays the state as an idea, a system of government and as embedded in politics. The map forms the template for undertaking an empirical exploration. Ongoing changes in land policy in Gujarat provide a case study. Ostensibly, the state's position has shifted from the active promotion of 'land to the tiller' to an ongoing disengagement from a liberalising landscape. However, re-evaluating this scenario against a multi-layered conceptual map leads to conclusions against the grain of existing perceptions.

State ideas of land serving the greater common good have continued into the post-liberalisation era, as has the petty land administration's proprietariness, expressed in reluctance to fast track land transactions. At the same time powerful, alternative sets of ideas and institutional actions have come to the fore. These urge rapid land liberalisation to foster industrialisation, and have been promoted by the highest bureaucratic and political echelons. While the high state - big business alliance is neither new nor the only feature of the state today, it is perhaps the one with the most significant politico-economic consequences. This alliance represents not a homogenised pro liberalisation or pro big business state but one in which other possibilities of stateness have narrowed. The narrowing of the possibilities of action within the still interventionist and dynamic state mark the liberalising landscape.

ODID Author(s)