Zones of Compounded Informality: Migrants in the Megacity

Shikha Silliman Bhattacharjee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

41 Downloads (Pure)


This paper introduces the term zones of compounded informality to demarcate locations wherein regulatory exclusions in distinct domains interact to escalate the impact of exclusions for people who live and work in these areas. Based upon a study of India's Delhi, National Capital Region (Delhi-NCR), I explain how the interaction of flexible planning and employment in particular locales produce zones of compounded informality as a technique of governance. Circular migrant workers in Delhi-NCR overwhelmingly live and work in these zones, wherein unstable employment and housing contribute to nomadic migration. Legal exclusion from housing protections interacts with other procedural pathways, creating barriers to accessing social protection and citizenship rights. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, including participant observation, interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs), and a survey of 981 workers, I consider how zones of compounded informality in Delhi-NCR interact with India's Aadhar biometric identification system to variegate access to the franchise and Targeted Public Distribution System (PDS) for migrant and other low-wage workers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)226-240
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 30 September 2023.


  • Employment
  • Informality
  • Migration
  • Planning
  • Legal exclusion

Cite this