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ABSTRACT

There has been much discussion recently on the ‘great Indian land grab’, that is, the acquisition of productive land by the government, and the handing over of this land to large-scale industry. What do these ongoing land transfers tell us about the nature of the state? This article builds a picture of the state in a liberalizing landscape based on empirical evidence. It outlines the role of the state in Kutch during a transfer of 30 km2 of forest and coastal land to a cement manufacturing and exporting operation ‘Karkhana Ltd.’ (pseudonym). Karkhana's experience does not evince a state in withdrawal. Nor do we witness a regulatory state that watches a changing economy from the legal and coercive sidelines. Instead, the case study is able to reinforce heterodox perspectives that place the state at the centre of India's new economy as a close ally of big capital. Taking these views forward, the author suggests that the state's role in this alliance is that of a normative legitimator of liberalization, a buffer in the contentious politics of land, and an institutional promoter of and manoeuvrer through the new land regime. A multifaceted state is indispensable to India's liberalizing landscape.