Baiganwadi

November 23, 2015

 

Walking across Baiganwadi, Mr. P. the junior engineer of the Bombay Municipal Corporation, points out to me that all the structures in this informal settlement are above the authorized height of 14ft. Every time such an unauthorized construction happens, the bureaucrats are to follow the due process of law and demolition the excess structures. However, every structure in Bainganwadi is above the mandated 14ft and has been so for over 20 years now. Mr. P says, “Look, when people came here, their families were small and they didn’t need too much space, now they do. We know it is illegal to build above 14 ft but how many people are you going to harass with these rules? Plus it’s a waste of our time and energy too! So to avoid jhanjhat, we just issue demolition notices three times and actually carry them out, if people build again after that, they probably really need the space, so we then just let them be.”

 

 

Such stories and practices are not uncommon in the local bureaucracy in Mumbai. Almost every individual will have some unimaginable anecdote to share about their time in this bureaucratic institution, which pervade all logic of the ‘due process of law’ or ‘formulations of the state’. Do we call the practices of the local state as seen above moral, or informal or corrupt? Is the bureaucracy porous or illegible in its actions? In my interaction with this massive bureaucratic institution of the state in India, I have come to believe that it is multiple. There is no pattern, no all pervasive logic in the way that it functions. Instead I will show that the state is a ‘socio technical assemblage’, networks with ever shifting nodes of power leading to infinite possibilities for a better world.

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