ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Life in a Special Economic Zone

Navigating the Transition–Transformation–Aspiration Continuum

Special economic zones in India continue to be seen as vehicles for social and economic development. The article describes how resident communities of an SEZ in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, experienced a series of livelihood transformations that were mediated strongly by capabilities and aspirations. Divergent social and economic outcomes were created for respondents living in and navigating through a transition–transformation–aspiration continuum. The SEZ creation legitimised precarity by engendering casual, insecure, and unprotected labour relationships. The article suggests that SEZ performance be evaluated by metrics that incorporate an explicit focus on the enhancement of capabilities.

The authors thank the respondents for their participation and patience. Discussions with Purnendu Kavoori and Jessica Seddon helped the authors conceive some of the ideas used in this article. Radhika Kanade created the map used in this article. They also thank the editors for their comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by a research grant from Krea University.

Large-scale industrial infrastructure projects, such as free trade zones, export processing zones, and special economic zones (SEZs) create what Cross (2015) describes as an “economy of anticipation,” an economy that thrives on balancing speculation with projected profit, but also one that creates hope, desire, anxiety, and fear within its willing, unwilling, or indifferent participants. Neveling (2015) writes how, throughout history, there have been several attempts to organise, reorganise, and re-form practices that shape the political economy through the modification of land–labour society relationships. Within the domain of institutional economics, the view on SEZs tends to be a mix of optimism and caution, arguing that these zones are new developmental enclaves that promise to boost manufacturing, production, and employment, while on a cautionary note, they also cite land alienation, speculative forms of real estate development, rentier capitalism, and the loss of government revenue as problems that could accompany the creation of these SEZs (Lakshmanan 2009).

Social Outcomes and SEZs

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Updated On : 28th Nov, 2021
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