In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi

Gautam Bhan | 2016

About the book

Like many cities in the Global South, New Delhi has not been built by architects, engineers or planners, but by residents themselves. One form of such auto-construction is the basti—an urban settlement that houses income-poor residents. A basti marks years of an urban life, built slowly and incrementally. It is more than a ‘slum’—it is a claim to development and citizenship. In the moment of the basti’s eviction, this claim is erased, signifying a closure for the political, legal, social and economic negotiations that allowed a vulnerable citizenry to settle and survive for decades.

Contemporary Delhi is a city scarred by the evictions of bastis. Ironically, many of these evictions were ordered in Public Interest Litigations by the Indian Judiciary. How did a judicial innovation introduced precisely to enable the marginalised to seek justice become an instrument of their exclusion? Drawing on an archive of court cases that resulted in evictions in Delhi from 1990 to 2007 as well as ethnographic research with basti residents and social movements resisting eviction, In the Public’s Interest shows how evictions have been fundamental to how urban space is been structured and produced, and asks what they tell us about the contemporary Indian city.

Students and scholars of sociology, urban studies, development studies and geography will find this book engaging and useful.