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Review of Urban AffairsSubscribe to Review of Urban Affairs

JNNURM as a Window on Urban Governance

Owing to its scope, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is an excellent window for understanding the evolution of urban governance in India, despite its closing in 2014. The JNNURM’s aspirations were belied by its realities of progressive centralisation, degraded local capacities, commercially-oriented infrastructure development, and intercity and intra-city inequalities. We identify and discuss three signatures that shaped its conceptualisation, operationalisation, and outcomes: flexible networks of policy actors and advisors; mobile policy ideas, best practices, and norms; and the pervasive role of consultancies. These signatures appear to endure, to varying degrees, in new urban programmes, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for urban governance.

Living in a Category

The 2011 Census revealed that the most dynamic sector of urban growth in India is taking shape within rural institutions, given the unprecedented growth of “census towns.” The long-term difficulty in India of finding an appropriate term and mode of governance for rural areas that are also urban, is not simply a nomenclatural conundrum. A brief foray into the travails of local self-government in colonial Punjab demonstrates important continuities with urban processes today, providing essential insights to securing more humane urban policies in contexts like the census town.

Urban Jungles

In an exploration of the processes through which urban India acquires or loses green spaces, this article examines how parks and urban publics are mutually constituted in Delhi. Social change has led to a re-imagination of cultural meanings and modes of ecological management. Ecological change, in turn, has created new social relations around the use and protection of nature. Analysing Mangarbani, a sacred grove on the edge of the metropolis, and the Delhi Ridge, a “wilderness” domesticated for recreational use, the author argues that the creation and preservation of certain forms of urban nature relate to the shifting sensibilities of elites, especially the section that acts as a self-appointed vanguard of environmental causes. However, other users of public green areas challenge the far-reaching effects of this “bourgeois environmentalism.” The contested meanings and practices around urban natures create new alliances and understandings that may promote ecology and justice.

Migration, Caste and Marginalised Sections

A spatial overview on availability of urban basic services reveals disparities across urban India. Although various levels of government, including the parastatals, have strived to achieve sufficiency in provisioning of urban basic services, the coverage is far from satisfactory. The growing urban population creates deficiencies on the limited urban infrastructure. The condition is even more precarious for the new migrants who are poor and belong to socially marginalised groups. Using secondary data from the census and National Sample Survey Office, the distribution of basic amenities, including housing across states and size classes of urban centres, and the disparity in their distribution disaggregated by new migrants, marginalised groups and poverty levels are analysed.

Urban Planning and Violence

This paper argues that exclusion and violence are imprinted on the social and spatial fabric of cities and neighbourhoods, and that social and political divides are often manifest in the control and policing of public space. Urban violence has many drivers and manifestations. However, the challenge is how to retrofit cities once violence takes hold, and to examine whether urban planning has a role in recovery. Can urban planning breed a new transparency and confidence that breaks embedded exclusionary urban management practices, and create new spaces of engagement, or is urban planning a root cause of the problems?

Colonising the Slum

Significant continuities and critical shifts in the forms, intensity, sources and instruments of violence have taken place since the 1990s when a number of changes were brought about in land markets of Mumbai. This paper views the impact of these shifts and the violence/s embedded therein along the state–market axis. Intense everyday violence enhances insecurity among residents, women and young girls in particular in highly complex ways. However, far from being passive victims of this violence/s they are engaged in highly creative struggles to confront the multi-institutional injustices experienced by them.

The Violence of Worlding

Over the last two decades, the state-led production of space, as part of worlding cities, has introduced new structural violences into the lives of poor groups in Durban, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro, and has met with resistance. Three main mechanisms have been adopted to produce space—infrastructure and mega-projects, redevelopment, and creating exception regimes for “slums.” The nature of the state that enacts structural violence through worlding processes is simultaneously “strong” and “weak.” It is strong in its bid to open up new spaces for capital accumulation that integrate specific economic circuits, classes and groups “globally,” while weak in its responsibility to protect and strengthen the life chances and claims of poor groups/spaces.

Ecology vs Housing and the Land Rights Movement in Guwahati

Selective state interventions to mitigate natural disasters such as floods, the compulsions under which the urban poor inhabit ecologically marginal lands and in the case of Guwahati, the “encroachments” on wetlands and hills, have set the stage for conflict about housing rights, especially for those without legal land tenure. The “encroachments” of the poor are delegitimised and they become victims of eviction drives while encroachments by the state and the middle- and high-income classes on ecologically vulnerable areas are legitimised. In Guwahati, this has led to a cycle of violence and counter-violence. This paper sets this sequence of events against the historically contested land rights issue in a city with limited habitable land due to its natural ecology.

Water and Conflict in Bombay Hotel, Ahmedabad

The causes, conditions and consequences of poor water access in Bombay Hotel locality, a predominantly Muslim informal settlement located in Ahmedabad’s southern periphery, are studied through the lens of urban violence and conflict. This is done by tracing the dynamics of urban planning and governance that have produced two interlinked types of infrastructural violence in the locality—municipal water denial and violent articulations of infrastructure by informal water providers—and the experiences of everyday conflict and violence that emerge in residents’ lives as a consequence. How conflicts and violence shape residents’ attempts to negotiate and attain better water access are also discussed.

Resistance and Its Limits

Lyari, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Karachi, has been the site of ongoing violence for most of the past two decades. This paper explores the impacts of the ongoing conflict involving criminal gangs, political parties and state security forces. Residents have adopted tactics and strategies ranging from negotiation to active resistance in response to the varied forms of everyday violence. Specifically focusing on street protests between 2012 and 2014, it evaluates the possibilities and limitations of protest in the context of urban violence. More broadly, it argues that studies of urban violence need to move away from viewing the urban poor as exclusively clientelistic or insurgent. It argues that acts of resistance in the form of protest are constrained, determined by, and productive of particular configurations of power.

New Regimes of Private Governance

New forms of urban organisation with private modes of governance are being unleashed across India through the creation of special economic zones, industrial townships and smart cities. This paper aims to bring a grounded understanding of the emergence of such spaces by examining the transformation of the governance systems in Electronics City in peri-urban Bengaluru with the constitution of the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority. Even though ELCITA is not a democratically elected body, it is vested with the powers of a municipality, including the power to levy property tax and perform municipal functions. Such an institution could be created because of an exception provided for industrial townships under the 74th constitutional amendment. New urban regimes like ELCITA are created to bypass the social and political realities of Indian cities. Does this represent a new regime of governance that questions some of the basic premises of state authority in a democracy?

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