Saturday, December 22, 2012

State-making through decentralization in Kolkata

Manka Bajaj

Key analyses of decentralization in India have evaluated it from the democracy prism and concluded that it has failed to enable participation. Many argue that provincial state governments have been reluctant to devolve adequate powers to the local level. However this argument, while partially correct, can be misleading for two reasons: a) an expectation from decentralization to deliver democracy has focused attention on failures and weak capacity of local governments and b) an easy categorization of the state and local on a dichotomous scale has limited the analysis of their relationship as antagonistic as if power-sharing between the two is a zero-sum game.

This essay focuses on the relationship between the state government of West Bengal and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to argue that the prevailing analysis does not capture the ways in which the two collude to create an external set of losers. When it comes to projects of the state such as urban renewal for example, the municipality can be rather effective in freeing up land by evicting street vendors or acquiring prime land from rich lessees. A failure to distinguish when the local has the capacity and when it does not hides the invisible ways the state is operating through the KMC.

Thus the paper tries to show how even if municipal governments are not autonomous entities, they are not entirely incapacitated; and hence, matter, for urban governance. Taking the local-state relationship as the starting point allows us to move beyond what local governments are not doing (enhancing participation) to look at what they are doing (state-making). Decentralization in this paper is presented as a form of state-making, irrespective of whether this outcome is intended or not.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

mHS-BSFL, BASIX-Baliga Low Cost Housing Repair and Reconstruction Pilot Project in Delhi: a Case Study

Shahana Sheikh

Shahana Sheikh looks at the mHS-BSFL, BASIX-Baliga Low Cost Housing Repair and Reconstruction Pilot Project in Delhi to understand the house building practices, the target client, micro housing loan approval process and the financial terms. The author also interviewed various stakeholders in the project to understand their issues and perceptions on the above issues.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bangalore: The Coming of Post-Industrial Society?

Manka Bajaj

In the 1970s scholars like Daniel Bell predicted a shift from “industrial” to “post-industrial” society; and as most prophecies in social theory are destined for, became a subject of controversy. This essay uses David Harvey’s idea of continuity (rather than rupture) to frame the theoretical argument. The aim is to explain how the industrial city model, in which the city is structured by the industry, still remains relevant to explain urbanization in Bangalore.

The idea that Bangalore is still a predominantly industrial city is not new. Scholars like James Heitzman and Smriti Srinivas have demonstrated that the industrial legacy of the city is not yet past and remains vibrant. While the author is in full agreement with this argument, this paper takes a different approach to establish the industrial character of the city i.e. through the high-tech IT industry. This appears a more relevant approach to engage with current theoretical debates that emphasize the transition from goods to service production and consequently, knowledge production as the new driver of urban development.

The first section traces the roots of the IT sector in Bangalore's high-tech industry to argue that the city is not yet in a post-industrial stage but rather in an advanced industrial stage. After establishing that the city is still industrializing, the second section explores how this industry is changing the scale of urbanization. The third section establishes a dialogue with Harvey’s ideas on the three circuits of capital to discuss how the IT industry is steering capital investments and policy decisions. The paper concludes with an assessment of the application of the industrial city model to Bangalore.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brief: Inflation in urban and rural sectors

Yamini Singh

Yamini Singh, an intern at the Centre for Policy Research, compares the trend and level of inflation rates in urabn and rural sectors. Further, she compares inflation rates across urban centres of various population sizes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unacknowledged Urbanisation: The New Census Towns of India

Kanhu Charan Pradhan

The unexpected increase in the number of census towns (CTs) in the last census has thrust them into the spotlight. Using a hitherto unexploited dataset, it is found that many of the new CTs satisfied the requisite criteria in 2001 itself; mitigating concerns of inflated urbanisation. The new CTs account for almost 30% of the urban growth in last decade, with large inter-state variations. They are responsible for almost the entire growth in urbanisation in Kerala and almost none in Chhattisgarh. Consequently, the estimated contribution of migration is similar to that in previous intercensal periods. Further, while some new CTs are concentrated around million-plus cities, more than four-fifths are situated outside the proximity of such cities, with a large majority not even near Class I towns,  though they form part of local agglomerations. This indicates a dispersed pattern of in-situ urbanisation. A growing share of urban population in these CTs is thus being governed under the rural administrative framework, despite very different demographic and economic characteristics, which may affect their future growth.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Lessons from Shimla: Direct Election of Mayor in India

Bhanu Joshi

The outcome of elections held in one of India’s oldest Municipal Corporation, the Shimla Municipal Corporation had some important lessons for other Indian cities. The Mayor of the hill town was to be directly elected by the residents of the city after an amendment was made to the Municipal Corporation Act in 2010. The Congress which had dominated the Corporation since 1986 was stunned out of majority. The BJP which had hoped to use to its advantage the new law it passed for direct elections to the posts of Mayors and Deputy Mayors had to be content with 12 of the 25 seats in the Corporation Council. The CPI(M) Mayoral candidate Sanjay Chauhan won by 7868 more votes than his BJP counterpart; this when of Shimla’s estimated electorate of about 84,000, 64% turned up and 40% voted for Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Panwar  of the CPI(M) for Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s post. Even though the corporation is not dominated by the BJP & Congress, electors opting for different candidates for the Mayor’s post beckon analysis.The Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act 2010 provided for direct election of Mayor to the corporations in Himachal Pradesh and removed the no confidence motion clause, which is different from Rajasthan which adopted for direct election last year but the directly elected mayor can be removed by bringing a motion of no confidence after one year of his election. Even though the functions & powers of the Mayor weren’t ‘enhanced’ in the Himachal Pradesh Amendment, the newspaper reports are full of Sanjay Chauhan’s enthusiasm and his declared objective of making the Corporation “Mayor-centric” rather than “Commissioner-centric” and thus rendering the position politically accountable.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brief: A Note on Community Participation in India

Shiny Saha

This paper discusses the situation of communityparticipation in India, the various programmes initiated to facilitate it andthe roles of various interest groups towards the same. The paper is dividedbroadly into three sections. The first section - National Context: Facilitating Community Participation via Decentralization - discusses the provisions undertaken by the government tofacilitate community participation. The second section - Local Expressions of Community Participation - discusses acts of community participation that have evolved independent of governmentinterventions. The third section - Participation: A critical analysis - critically analyzes participationand the role of civil society in the same.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brief: Do slum dwellers have the required documentation?

S. Chandrasekhar & Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay

It is a cause for concern that overall at least 51.3 percent of households in notified slums and 52.3 percent of households in non-notified slums do not have a voter ID card. This implies that 19,83,830 households in notified slums and 10,16,407 households in non-notified slums are possibly disenfranchised.

Brief: The out of school population - motivation and analysis

Aditi Gandhi & Kanhu Charan Pradhan

This note reviews the reasons due to which the currently out of school population did not enrol or discontinued education for both genders in rural and urban India. The analysis seeks to determine the importance of financial constraints, parental preferences and gender specific influences in causing a student to not enrol or drop out of school. It is also observed that the urban-rural disparity in education completion rates progressively widens from Elementary to Secondary to higher levels of education. This trend is also explored.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brief: Gains in education attainment

Shiny Saha, Kanhu Charan Pradhan & Aditi Gandhi

In this note we review the participation in elementary and higher education over time to identify the changing pattern in education enrolment and attainment, in both rural and urban India. We find that significant gains have been made in attainment of education over the past fifty years. However, the levels in attainment of secondary education are still perceptibly low. Further, while in urban areas the gender disparity has closed, in rural areas, it still persists. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book Review: The City

Shiny Saha

The City by Max Weber

The City is divided into five chapters however, broadly, the book can be divided into two sections. The first section comprising of the first chapter discusses the nature of the city. Here, Weber argues that mostly a city is understood in terms of its size and density, which are not sufficient to define a city. Therefore, he characterizes the city in terms of economy, political-administrative and fortress or garrison. Economically, for Weber, the city is a settlement in which the citizens live off versatile trades and commerce, rather than agriculture, and satisfy the substantial part of their daily needs through the market. Politico-administratively Weber defines the city in terms of its unique land relations in which land ownership is not accessory to house ownership. In terms of the last characteristic he argues that in the past the city, although not universally, was a fortress. He adds that this characteristic of the city has been lost in the present but the fusion of the fortress and the market was important for the composition of the city in the past: the consumption power and protection of the fortress attracted merchants and at the same time the lord was interested in attracting them to earn revenue through taxation or investment.

Municipal Bonds

Aditi Gandhi

The case and potential for developing municipal bond markets

The Report on Indian Urban Infrastructure and Services (HPEC) estimates Rs 39.2 lakh crores of urban infrastructure expenditure over the next 20 years (exclusive of the land acquisition expenditure). Further, the operations and maintenance expenditure is estimated at Rs 19.9 lakh crores.

The urban expenditure so far has been financed significantly out of the budgetary support. However, going forward, it is envisaged that increasingly the financing needs will be met by Urban local body (ULB) own revenues and the external financing needs through debt financing. There is a strong case for the development of municipal bond markets.

There is also significant potential for the development of bond markets in India. The savings rate in India is high, close to 33%. The household savings are roughly 25%, of which only about 50% are currently invested in financial assets. Moreover, over 10% of household savings are invested in gold or currency. An integrated set of actions is required to convert gold/currency based saving into financial saving.

The development of municipal bond markets in India has been slow due to constraints that operate on both the demand and supply side.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Butter Chicken in Ludhiana

Aditi Gandhi

Butter Chicken in Ludhiana Travels in Small Town India by Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Misra’s Butter Chicken in Ludhiana (1995) is peppered with diverse stories of people from across the small towns with a single common underlying theme: Aspirations. Each anecdote has a shade of ‘climb up the ladder’ motivation.  

There are the quintessential rich man’s children, the unknowing victims to consumerism: here in this book, a certain Mr Sahrma, resident of Ambala whose daughter uses only the imported Camay soap and watches Bold and the Beautiful, and the sons of businessmen in Shimoga who travel in Maruti and fritter away parents’ money.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reading beyond the lines

Cross posted from The Indian Express
The Op-Ed Page (March 28, 2012)

Reading beyond the lines
Consumption-based measures don’t accurately estimate poverty

Since the publication of poverty estimates purportedly based on the Tendulkar methodology and the 2009-10 consumption survey of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), many in Parliament and outside, from different political parties, have questioned its conclusions. Concomitantly, media reactions have speculated on poverty’s relationship with fertility, growth, specific schemes, et al. But, India’s poverty, like itself, refuses to classify itself in simple boxes.
Beyond the happenstance of poverty decline in an odd state being less than another, there is no strong and obvious relationship to growth in incomes, whether agricultural or non-agricultural; population, urban or rural, or to the performance of schemes like NREGS. Might it be found in district-level relationships to economic and demographic structure?
It might, but there are good reasons why it might not. The headcount ratio, that is, the share of people below a certain level of consumption, called the poverty line, is a blunt measure. States with a high proportion near the poverty line will show a large fall in headcount ratio for relatively small increases in overall consumption, while states with a large proportion well below the poverty line will show smaller reductions, even if they have higher increases in consumption. This indifference to inequality below the poverty line weakens the relationship between growth and the headcount ratio and is the essence of Amartya Sen’s critique of the measure.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Urban Development and Housing Budget

Budgetary support to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation for FY 13 is Rs 1,163 crores (15% increase YoY). Major plan expenditure in the housing space is financed out of the Internal and Extra Budgetary Resources (IEBR) of Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), and is budgeted at Rs 12,176 crores (an increase of 3% over last year).[1] Budgetary support for the Department of urban development increased by 12% to Rs 7,729 crores. Urban development plan outlay will also be supported by Rs 2,637 crores (flat at last year’s level) of IEBR, specifically by the NCR Planning Board and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). [2]

In addition to above, expenditure of various other ministries includes an urban component, such as the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports spends on sports infrastructure in urban areas. The National Health Mission is slated to expand coverage to urban population this year. Government is also working on a legislation to safeguard and promote the livelihoods of street vendors under the ‘National Scheme for Support to Street Vendors’ and is launching the ‘National Programme for Urban Homeless’ to help create a network of composite shelters. Mumbai Metro, Jaipur Metro and Kochi Metro will be introduced in FY'13; The Govt. is also studying feasibility reports for Metro Rail projects for all cities with population over 20 lakh people. Rs 148 crores will be spent on capacity building for the flagship schemes - JNNURM and RAY.