Urbanization, Land Alienation and Proletarianization: A Study of Rajbansis in North Bengal

  • Hemantika Basu


Land alienation and the process of dispossession are linked to rural–urban transformations and urbanization—from a self-sustaining rural economy which rests on production to a surplus-generating industrial and service economy, based on consumerism. In this process of land alienation and transformations, labour undergoes a transformation reflected in the transfer of the labour process—labour power within the control of the producers to the control of local and even global capitalism, with labour going from being permanent and subsistent to being temporary and subservient. In this chapter, an attempt is made to critically examine land alienation and dispossession in the process of urbanization in Siliguri, a city in eastern India. In the process of urbanization in Siliguri and adjoining areas in north Bengal, the indigenous landholders of the region, the Rajbansis, are being alienated from their ancestral lands, taking up casual wage employment in the informal economy in the urban areas. The process of alienation is undertaken, either through consent or by coercion, in the name of urban development under various political and economic compulsions. Land loss is accompanied by impoverishment, shifts in livelihood and gradual or sudden occupational transformations among these peoples who historically have depended on land and land-based livelihoods. Because of this forcible land alienation, labour property and labour process are also undergoing significant shifts. Previously, owner-cultivators in their own lands took pride in the ownership of their labour power. However, owing to the socio-economic and political circumstances that led to land alienation since the middle of the twentieth century, present generations are bereft of not only land ownership but also control over their own labour power, earning meagre livelihoods in casual wage work in informal service sectors such as construction, petty trading and domestic work, setting in motion a process of proletarianization of this indigenous community.


Urbanization Land alienation Proletarianization Indigenous peoples Rajbansis 


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hemantika Basu
    • 1
  1. 1.Tata Institute of Social SciencesGuwahatiIndia

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