Himalayan Boom Town: Rural-Urban Transformations in Namchi, Sikkim

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  • Duncan McDuie-Ra, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Mona Chettri
Namchi, in the Indian state of Sikkim, is undergoing a building boom that is transforming a small district headquarters into an urban showpiece. Centred on religious theme parks and urban beautification, the boom captures Sikkim's emphasis on tourism as a development strategy. Growth in hydropower and pharmaceutical industries within the state, and infrastructure enabling this growth, seek to reduce dependency on the Indian government and have turned Sikkim into a ‘backyard’ for Indian capital. In contrast, Namchi epitomizes the transition from rural to urban space through tourism‐led growth, creating a ‘front yard’ exhibit which was recently awarded Smart City status despite its small size and relative unimportance. This article explores Namchi's boom by analysing the politics that drive it, the buildings and landscapes that capture its excess, and the town's lived urban spaces. The authors focus on three aspects of Namchi's boom: first, it is crucial for projections of success in Sikkim and aligns urban transformation with a particular vision of development actively promoted by the Chief Minister and ruling party; second, it is not based on resource extraction or agrarian expansion but on funds transferred to cultivate and reward loyalty in this border region; and third, it is drawing migrant workers to the town in large numbers, causing fissures and tensions, and simultaneously creating an emergent, though uneasy, cosmopolitanism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Change
Volume49
Issue6
Pages (from-to)1471-1494
Number of pages24
ISSN0012-155X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2018

    Research areas

  • development, urbanisation, migration, concrete, state-building, Himalaya

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