ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles By Lalitha Kamath

Caste’s Quiet Role

The transformation of agricultural land in the periphery of Patna into the high-value settlement of Rajeev Nagar over 50 years is analysed to show how a coalition of the four privileged Hindu upper castes acts to leverage control over state and civic institutions in order to informally occupy and develop land and achieve its regularisation. Emerging from the Rajeev Nagar experience, we argue that the upper castes are advantaged in urbanisation processes through the refashioning of caste as networks, relations and knowledge. Caste and its social relations are crucial in shaping urban transformation in exclusive and selective ways.

‘We Must Persevere and Persuade, Not Lose Our Tempers and Shout’

Little is known regarding how women politicians at the local level experience and influence everyday political work. This paper remedies this gap by focusing on narratives from 14 women corporators in the newly formed Vasai–Virar City Municipal Corporation in the context of expanded electoral representation for women in cities. The conceptualisation of women corporators’ agency as enabled by nested structures of subordination, situated at the intersection of gender and agency, helps understand the discursive and practical conditions within which women corporators in a non-metro Indian city arrive at varied forms of aspiration and capacities for action.

Rural Water Access: Governance and Contestation in a Semi-Arid Watershed in Udaipur, Rajasthan

A significant focus of policy in recent years has been to devolve decision-making and management of water systems to the community level. This paper is based on a study of a minor irrigation project in the semi-arid Udaipur district of Rajasthan, where the livelihoods of people in the watershed are dependent on canal water and there are serious inequalities in the distribution of water within and between villages. This study points to both the social and spatial dimensions of inequalities in access to water. It also focuses on governance arrangements and highlights inequalities that arise from the delegation of management of water systems to communities. These reflect the democratic deficit in local governance institutions and, in turn, the larger political economy.

Piped Water Supply to Greater Bangalore: Putting the Cart before the Horse?

Cities in India are moving towards commercially viable models of urban water and sanitation delivery to fill the widening gap between demand and supply. Cost recovery through upfront beneficiary contributions is increasingly becoming a key consideration in the provision of piped water and sewerage. This paper examines the Greater Bangalore Water and Sanitation Project, a project that aims to extend piped water from the Cauvery to over two million residents in peri-urban Bangalore. The paper critically evaluates the project and makes four interlinked arguments: (1) Upfront payments from citizens have not guaranteed timely and satisfactory service. (2) The project's financial model is disconnected from actually existing settlement and urbanisation patterns, thus delaying water delivery and undermining accountability. (3) The project's highly centralised decision-making process has resulted in low political buy-in and public acceptance. (4) Modifications to the original financial model have been crucial in sustaining credibility and getting the project off the ground.

Limits and Possibilities of Middle Class Associations as Urban Collective Actors

Studies on Resident Welfare Associations draw attention to their predominantly middle class and exclusive character. Based on survey and ethnographic data on such associations across diverse neighbourhoods in Bangalore, this paper reveals the fractured, often contradictory, nature of claims made by different sections of middle class. The category urban "middle class" is too homogeneous to account for the multiple locations, interests, and varied access to power of different sections. Homogenising the middle class produces a "middle class-urban poor" dualism which elides critical factors shaping middle class mobilisation, internal conflicts, and local histories and geographies of development of specific neighbourhoods that are integrally linked to land values. This mapping of middle class action also contributes to our understanding of the process of structuration of urban spaces as new strategies are deployed to transform Indian cities.