Ahmedabad/ Human Segregation Followed by Infrastructural Transformation

Infrastructure in the city is perceived as sign of prosperity and progression throughout centuries. It somehow holds the power to affect demographics and direct activities of people in the context of a city. One parameter to justify the implementation of infrastructure upon a particular area is the human response towards the issue.

By 1864, the insertion of the BB&CI Railway has been completed and the railway was already put to work. One prominent effect spotted from the implementation is the movement and resettlement of people which follows certain patterns.

Ahmedabad before 1800s existed as a walled city  enclosed by pheripheral wall, and areas within the wall are organized in modules of wards. Followed by the boom of housing demands Ahmedabad existed as a growing complex with areas expanding out of the original walled city fabric. The railway was put up at the city in such a stage of development in 1864.

Ahmedabad in colonial period © 1900s, Desai Sowmya
Ahmedabad in colonial period © 1900s, Desai Sowmya

“With the coming of the railway around 1860, development began to spill over (beyond the city-limits) towards the northwest and southwest of the walled city.” (EuroIndia Centre, 2006) Immediately after the putting up of the railway there was an increase in the overall population density due to the increased accessibility and economic opportunity in the area. However, population seemed to accumulate closely around the riverside in the west in pursuit of better living quality. And residents in the walled city tended to reside out of the peripheral wall “due to commercialization of Ahmedabad as well as due to repeated communal violence in the area” (EuroIndia Centre, 2006). so with the construction of infrastructure and opening up, it was believed that it triggered the relocation of people. Moreover, to the east of the area where the train track was located, population density significantly decreased due to the operation of trains which posed certain disturbances to the surrounding area.

One interesting thing to note is that a higher concentration of people has been observed in the fringe area of the peripheral wall right after the construction of the railway. This phenomenon was partly due to the fact that railway network inserted into the existing fabrics, which brought in a reverse growth back to the original fabrics. The tension created between the outward expansion of the city and the reverse influx of growth has created the narrow community form in the fringe area, for citizens who could not afford to relocate to other areas. As city progressed, the walled city became slum areas without proper governance, while the new fabrics under expansion shared a new upper middle class of community. And among the two extremes, there existed a gap community which shared the burden posted from the two sides. As such, the collision between the new and old has in fact deformed the city’s social structure and urban fabrics.

It has to say that for every large-scale reformation of a city, there is no guarantee for a clearer resolution of urban issues. Ahmedabad is one of the examples in which the city was broken down in pursuit for progression.

City Wall of Ahmedabad © 1866, Colonel Biggs
City Wall of Ahmedabad © 1866, Colonel Biggs

Reference:

Ahmedabad City, the Euro India Centre, 2006 Available from: http://www.the-euroindia-centre.org/pdf/AHMEDABAD%20CITY-%20Note.pdf

R.P. Misra, Millions Cities of India Volume I, Sustainable Development Foundation, 1998

3 Comments on “Ahmedabad/ Human Segregation Followed by Infrastructural Transformation

  1. It is interesting to see the series of narrative about how the railway lead to the urban problems.Does the segregation of human lead to any more urban problems, such as crime and corruption, except from those mentioned above? Does it affect the economy and goes the opposite way as the British government expected? What is the situation inside the old walled city after people have moved out?

  2. I think the main issue outlined here as one of the implications of inserting infrastructure into a city is that there can be many outcoming trajectories of the fate of a city under the influence of the construction, and Ahmedabad is under one adverse influence. There were in fact many of the consequences followed by the railway construction, economically and socially. Perhaps the slum formation in the walled city is one example. I would say just by focusing on the parameter of human segregation and dispersion, one would be able to trace the underlying problems brought by infrastructural development, and that is one big factor justifying an urban development. And i think by considering the outcome of the railway insertion, it frames the struggle of colonial government in regulating and containing urban development, which is something not anticipated by any governmental body.

  3. Ahmedabad has a classical Third World urban land use model. The upper class usually lives in the centre of the city while the poor lives in the outskirt areas.

    The social segregation is mainly due to the free market forces. After the development of railway, the centre of the city becomes the core of the city, namely Central Business District, where most economic activities would take part. The housing prices around the CBD would be high as the properties are usually better built and the housing quality is higher than the outskirt areas. Thus, the upper class would concentrate in these inner city areas.

    Meanwhile, the poor who could not afford the high rent around the CBD, would have to sacrifice the accessibility and live in the outskirt areas.

    However, in order to develop the city fully, it is important to cater the poor in the city. The government should always put more resources to the outskirt areas so that the outskirt areas would be able to develop on their own. In this way, the social gap would improve and the poor could receive a fairer treatment.

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