CITY DILEMMA

ISSUE 5

MARCH 2022

From Farmers to Businessmen – How the Farmers of Magarpatta (Pune) Proved Gentrification Could be Worthwhile

Medha is a final year student of architecture based in Pune. She likes to constantly learn, research, explore and expand her knowledge on different topics in this field. Currently, her interests lie in researching old and vernacular architecture, the architectural history of Indian cities, and urban renewal of decaying urban areas.

As Manmohan Singh rightly said about our country, urbanisation is the inevitable outcome of the processes of growth and the processes of modernization. The rapid urbanization that India is undergoing today undeniably translates into more population required to be accommodated in urban spaces. The fast-growing metropolitan cities in India accommodate this influx of population and are consequently under pressure since they are already densely populated and have limited central infrastructure. (Zope, July 2013)

The city of Pune is no exception to this. It is currently the second-largest city in the state of Maharashtra and has expanded from a mere 5 sq. km to 500 sq. km in a span of about 19 decades (817-2021). More recently, the rise of the IT sector and employment opportunities opened the city’s gates to a massive number of migrants in the form of both blue-collar and white-collar workers, thereby expanding its population to about 3.1 million. (Source: census 2011)

The necessary process of urban renewal leads Indian metropolitan cities like Pune to move outwards towards the urban fringes of the city, leading to what is known as gentrification. Gentrification is a curative concept to restructure certain areas of the city, to deal with increasing urbanisation. Quite often, gentrification is considered to be harmful to society since the process may cause displacement of lower-income working classes, conflicts within communities, loss of affordability, and so on.

However, gentrification does not follow any discreet process but it often acts in the combination with many. The process can have positive or negative impacts on the gentrifying neighbourhood and surrounding area, depending on the type of changes taking place. There are various typologies that gentrification in India can be classified into, based on its consequences. Some of these are commercial gentrification, recreational gentrification, rural gentrification, and so on. (Ashok Kumar, 2014) 

Chronological Growth of Pune, source: City Development Plan for Pune

This article elaborates on the case of Magarpatta city, which is an example of gentrification of urban villages.

Magarpatta City is a unique example of an inclusive growth model and is starkly different from other upcoming infrastructure and industrial projects in India that lead to the displacement of small landowners. Instead, Magarpatta is the result of a partnership of farmers which has led to the creation of world-class urban projects based on an innovative entrepreneurial idea and vision.

The Magarpatta area was in the agriculture zone but was listed as part of the Pune Municipal Corporation after 1960. The 1982 draft development plan of Pune Municipal Corporation showed Magarpatta as a zone that may be urbanized in the future since the Government predicted that when Pune’s population would touch 2 million that would be required. Just a few years later in 1991, the census showed that the population had already exceeded 2 million, which meant that under the Urban Land Ceiling Act, the Government had the authority to acquire the land at rates decided by them, which were always substantially lower than the market rates.

Simultaneously, rapid development in the Pune area from 1990 onwards sparked off an enormous chain of urbanization, leading to a wave of migration from the villages to the city. Pune joined the levels of most other Indian cities where scores of housing projects had emerged. Unauthorized buildings started to burgeon in the city’s suburban areas, all the agricultural land on the city’s periphery was fragmented into small plots and sold off to developers and builders because of the money offered by them.

The farmers of Magarpatta feared that the same might happen to them soon.

These farmers were not lured by the huge sums of money offered to them by developers. They did not want themselves and their families to be displaced in the development process, and also wanted to figure out a way in which they could get a lifetime benefit from the land that had belonged to them for decades.

“What does the farmer close to the city do when his land comes under development? Nobody wanted to sell his land and buy more land 100 kilometres away and migrate there. The older generation might have thought along these lines, but we are urban farmers who have got used to city life.” says Satish Magar, the current chairman of the township. (Magarpatta city: farmers direct investment)

The community of farmers that formed MTDCCL, source: magarpattacity.com

The question that needed to be urgently addressed was how to save the lands from being acquired and ensure a future for the collective and thus was born the idea of Magarpatta city.

The land of Magarpatta, being enclosed amidst a canal, a railway line, a highway, and a nallah (waterway), became a sort of an island, which led the farmers to live together as a community. This close-knit community of farmers and landowners came together and formed the Magarpatta Township Development and Construction Company Limited (MTDCCL) for the creation of this township. Each of these members pooled in their land and became a shareholder in proportion to their landholding.

Around 7 years after the inception of its idea, was when the master plan of Magarpatta City was approved by Pune Municipal Corporation and its design and construction finally commenced.

The farmers were trained as per their capabilities to contribute to the development process of the township, making them active participants and not mere spectators. An important aim was to upgrade their skills so that they adopt other professions, besides farming, that was suited to their disposition. It was made sure that a member from each family was involved in construction-related work and made money from the project continuously, not as an employee but as a businessman and shareholder. The machinery that the farmers had was extensively used in the construction process where possible, for example, the tractors of farmers were used in shifting the soil.

source: meramagarpattacity.info

After studying various town planning examples from around the world, the main inspiration for Magarpatta City came from San Jose and Santa Clara. Like these cities, Magarpatta is designed around the concept of walking to work, walking to shops, and walking to school, to make access a central feature and minimise the pressure on urban transportation. The town was planned based on the concept of the five forces of nature, which Indians had always worshipped. Plantations were planned based on nature’s cycles so that there were some blossoms year-round.

Apart from employing expert town planners and architects for the planning, feedback from potential buyers also held value. The ‘neighbourhood concept’ ensuring no disparity among residents, and incremental housing were some such feedbacks that were kept in mind.

“We began the exercise by asking: what did the new millennium need? The answers were: a clean and sustainable environment, good living standards, a modern educational system, state-of-the-art working conditions, and reliable security. These became the elements on which we decided to plan the township based on the government rules and regulations that existed at that point of time.” recalls Satish Magar who played a pivotal role in the planning of the city. (Magarpatta city: farmers direct investment)

Large gardens were created, including Aditi Garden, a 25-acres circular garden in the city centre, designed to be an architectural representation of planet earth. During the inception, thousands of trees were planted creating a huge green cover spreading over 25 lakh sq. ft.

Household and commercial garbage produced is separated at the source, and biodegradable waste is used for vermiculture and bio compost. A network of sewage treatment plants caters to the wastewater treatment needs of the township. Rainwater harvesting is done through pipes under the pavements. Over 7,000 solar collectors are deployed to heat approximately 9 lakh litres of water every day, resulting in savings of crores of electricity units per year. Further, all the bricks and construction material for the Magarpatta project was made by using fly ash, an environmentally hazardous waste produced by thermal power plants, which majorly helped in the reduction of greenhouse gases, making it a sustainable alternative to the conventional method.

Lastly and most importantly, the state-of-the-art infrastructure of Magarpatta City provided ample scope for employment opportunities to people from across the country. Cybercity, which is a large IT park located within, has attracted global IT giants such as Accenture, John Deere, Aviva, and Patni to the city. Apart from this, a school, large sports complex, commercial centres, multi-speciality hospital, power substations, petrol pump, public library, and numerous malls and restaurants are all a part of this township.

source: Associated Space Designers 

Today, with its emphasis on environment-friendly development, high quality of urban services, excellent modern facilities for education and health, and up-to-the-minute working conditions, this city is home to over 35,000 residents and a working population of 65,000. The success and popularity of this city allow it to offer a handsome revenue to the stakeholding farmers, their families, and their future generations, something that may not have been possible otherwise.

Central Aditi Garden, around which IT parks are located, source: Google Maps

In conclusion, the transformation of Magarpatta from mere farmland to a complete township truly defies the notion that gentrification has only negative impacts on society. A foreseen and inevitable situation was cleverly dodged and proved to be a huge benefit not just to the urban population of Pune but also to the relatively low-income farmer community.

References:

  1. Wambecq, Wim, Bruno De Meulder, and Parul Jain. “Magarpatta City| Pune, India.”
  2. Nallathiga, Ramakrishna, et al. “Evolution of Satellite township development in Pune: A Case Study.” Conference Paper. Available online: https://www. researchgate. net/publication/270894930_ Evolution_of_Satellite_township_development_in_Pune_A_Case_Study (accessed on 22 November 2017). 2015.
  3. Gupta, Amit, et al. “Magarpatta city: farmers direct investment (FDI).” IIM Bangalore Research Paper 384 (2012).
  4. Ranesh Nair. “Magarpatta: building a city with rural-urban partnership How we can and why we must foster such partnerships”. Financial Express, 2010
  5. Swapnil Vidhate, Dr. Anupama Sharma. “Gentrification and Its Impact on Urbanization in India”

Magarpatta City Masterplan, source: Associated Space Designers

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