Ahmedabad/ Slum and Underdog: the Hidden Face of Urban Transformation
The colonial era under the British rule has brought about the major setting up of railway networks (1855-1864) connecting to other parts of India, together with the associated technologies and skills. It is particularly the storyline of a city’s transformation: the insertion of new technological breakthrough which is able to activate a society and change the face of the city in a positive way. Yet beneath the splendidness and glory there lies the under-face of the transformation, which is a direct result of the strike of railway networks on the urban fabrics.
It was never an intention for the British Government to improve the immediate nearby living conditions in the city of Ahmedabad. Instead they saw it as a long-term investment: the opening up and linking up with the surrounding cities would raise competitions and communications, hence economic benefits to the colonial government. So the harms and immediate effects of the insertion of infrastructure to the urban fabrics is, more or less, out of the scope of the city transformation agenda.
With the insertion of the tracks, on one hand, it has brought about matters on pollution and mobility which adversely affected the livelihoods of the tenants living in the area. On the other hand, with the gradual opening up of the city, there was a sharp push for upward social mobility: citizens in Ahmedabad pusued a better living when they started to escape from the circumscription of the old walled city, gradually migrating to areas across the Sabarmati River, or other parts of India.The transformation in social structure left the walled city of ahmedabad unattended, essentially for groups of people who had no ability to afford other living places. “A separate sense of space has come to characterize the old walled city as a whole; once it was the better part of the city and today it has come to be treated as pathogenic, as a predictable place of violence” (Rajagopal, 2011). The way how the railway cut through the city fabrics, in a way, also urged for the segregation of the city into several parts. The strong north-south orientation of the railway has denied connections between the eastern and western Ahmedabad, further closing off the old walled city fabrics to other parts of the city, ameliorating the disjunction of living quality between the old fabrics and new fabrics. And along the railway track, which could also be seen from nowadays Ahmedabad, there was barely settlement and community, instead only barren lands and loose cultivations were perceived. Moreover, these kind of loosened residue spaces were often left unattended by the colonial government and land owner, urging for the formation of interstices and slum areas.
Rajagopal, A., Urban Segregation and the Special Political Zone in Ahmedabad:An Emerging Paradigm for Religio-Political Violence, South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal. Available from: https://samaj.revues.org/3285?lang=fr
R.P. Misra, Millions Cities of India Volume I, Sustainable Development Foundation, 1998