Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Mobilities in India: The Experience of Suburban Rail Commuting

Bhaswati Mondal, Gopa Samanta




Mobility is often discussed mainly as movement that involves a change of residence, either permanent or temporary. Much less documented is the local, often daily and repetitive movement that does not require moving home – in other words, commuting, which is an increasingly important part of life for the residents of many cities around the world, especially larger ones. In India, 70 per cent of non-agricultural and non-household industry workers are estimated to commute to work, with higher numbers around metro cities. There are several reasons for this, ranging from urban policies to discourage permanent migration of low-income workers to high residential land values and the development of transport infrastructure and networks.

This book explores how the growth of the Kolkata Metropolitan Area is linked to the expansion of the suburban railway line facilitating commuting of people living in rural and small towns of KMA. The decentralization policy of the state government was important in creating a number of new townships, and the electrification of suburban railways allowed many rural dwellers to stay in these peripheral small towns while commuting to higher-paying jobs in the city. Based on in-depth empirical research, this book challenges the very idea of commuting as a stressful journey. It also challenges the old-fashioned idea that commuting is a masculine activity: despite having a number of domestic responsibilities within the private sphere, women commute for longer distances in comparison to men.

Book note prepared by Cecilia Tacoli

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