Education Hubs and the Changing Urban Landscape in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), 1949-2009

Debarati Bagchi, Senior Research Associate and Deputy Head, MWS IBO

This project explores the connection between higher education institutions, land acquisition and the history of urbanization in postcolonial India. It looks into the various stages of the expansion of higher education in India since 1949 and analyses how, from the early 2000s, this sector witnessed a phenomenal shift and produced a particular relationship between education and urbanization. A study of the transformations in the policy landscape between University Education Commission of 1949 and the National Knowledge Commission of 2007 will help us grasp the shifts in the legal regime that facilitated the private university boom. The research will also demonstrate that it is crucial to combine archival and ethnographic methods to understand the changing relationships between universities and the localities where they have emerged.

 The development of higher education institutes and universities, often in the outskirts of big cities with acres of gated land, is not, as is often assumed, due only to the liberalisation of the Indian economy since 1991 but can be traced back to the establishment of public universities in the 1960s. My ethnographic and archival research focuses on two different sites in Delhi-NCR that respectively bear the mark of two crucial historical moments:  on the one hand, the high-noon of the public university and, on the other, the beginnings of the private. The first of these sites is the Munirka village in South Delhi, bordering the campus of the state-funded Jawaharlal Nehru University established in 1969. Since the 1960s, rental economy and social relationships in Munirka have been largely shaped by its proximity to a public university. The second site concerns the two villages of Akbarpur Barota and Rai, on two sides of the O.P.Jindal Global University, a private university funded by the Jindal Steel Group, which came up in 2009 in Sonipat in the northern fringes of Delhi. The changes in the pattern of land use and social structures in these villages can be traced to the more recent phenomenon of private universities. By studying these two sites, the project examines how the setting up of universities contributes to the socio-economic transformations in the neighbourhood and redefines rural-urban frontiers.

Related Presentations

‘Education Hubs and the Changing Urban Landscape around Delhi’, paper presented at the Young Scholars’ Workshop, Interrogating Marginality: Education and the Urban, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, 12 -14 Nov 2018