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

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Data, Urbanisation and the City

By using the enormous processing capacity of computing that is now available, we can, it is claimed, improve how cities are governed--make them smart! This review attempts to illuminate how data reveals relationships between citizens and the state and thus facilitates an informed debate on whether data can be deployed to build a more inclusive and constructive relationship between citizens and their government. As urbanisation deepens, we see struggles around who gets to decide what is to be governed and how the data is to be collected and deployed and what technologies and skills are to be deployed for implementation. The papers in this collection can be viewed in three groups, respectively, dealing with three issues: data collection processes, intra-urban spatial inequities and use of new sensing technologies.

Subaltern Urbanisation in India

The concept of subaltern urbanisation refers to the growth of settlement agglomerations, whether denoted urban by the Census of India or not, that are independent of the metropolis and autonomous in their interactions with other settlements, local and global. Analysing conventional and new data sources "against the grain", this paper claims support for the existence of such economically vital small settlements, contrary to perceptions that India's urbanisation is slow, that its smaller settlements are stagnant and its cities are not productive. It offers a classification scheme for settlements using the axes of spatial proximity to metropolises and degree of dministrative recognition, and looks at the potential factors for their transformation along economic, social and political dimensions. Instead of basing policy on illusions of control, understanding how agents make this world helps comprehend ongoing Indian transformations.

Keeping India's Economic Engine Going: Climate Change and the Urbanisation Question

Urbanisation in India is both a necessary input and an inevitable consequence of growth. However, we must accept that the existing urbanisation models are unsustainable at the Indian scale and there is no available alternative trajectory. The international climate change negotiations can be seen as an opportunity to create an environment that will help in the discovery of a more sustainable urbanisation. This paper explores a limited set of emergent issues that will have to be considered as India develops its domestic approach to urbanisation, while negotiating its international position on climate change. It is structured into three broad sections, viz, (a) the feedback loops from urbanisation to climate change and vice versa, (b) actions needed at multiple levels to influence these processes, and (c) the implications of these for India's negotiating position on climate change.

More on Direct Cash Transfers

Continuing the debate on direct cash transfers, the authors of the article "The Case for Direct Cash Transfers to the Poor" (12 April 2008) respond to Mihir Shah's criticism (23 August 2008). The six points of contestation by Mihir Shah - including those on the public distribution system and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme - are refuted. The argument in essence is that seeing the problems with anti-poverty programmes as faulty design and limited availability of resources does not recognise the culture of immunity in public administration and the weak capabilities of local governments.

The Case for Direct Cash Transfers to the Poor

The total expenditure on central schemes for the poor and on the major subsidies exceeds the states' share of central taxes. These schemes are chronic bad performers due to a culture of immunity in public administration and weakened local governments. Arguing that the poor should be trusted to use these resources better than the state, a radical redirection with substantial direct transfers to individuals and complementary decentralisation to local governments is proposed. The benefits, risks and associated reinforcement of institutions and accountability are outlined.

Whither Urban Renewal?

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is an ambitious programme to build infrastructure in Indiaâ??s cities and towns. However, the mission does not sufficiently recognise that the core urban deficit is not the lack of infrastructure but the lack of local self-governance.

Force-Funding of Infrastructure

It is easy to force-fund infrastructure by persuading the banks and the RBI to lend money, but this is only likely to result in a fragile banking system. The gains will be greater if the projects are first made viable. Investors will channel resources into infrastructure once a market has been created, regulation put in place, and tariff reform implemented.
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