An online public archive of resources & research centered around the urban

Urban Resources Knowledges
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Watch this space to learn about more about upcoming seminars by academicians, policymakers, activists and those engaged in thinking about the urban
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Alice in Wonderland? Some critical reflections on the work of Unnayan and of a life of initiatives and experiments in social action and self-realisation

By Jai Sen
When: 29th January 2018

ABSTRACT: Unnayan (meaning ‘development’ in Bengali, in the sense however of self-realisation), a social action group in Calcutta that was formed in 1977 and imploded in the early 2000s, was involved in a wide range of initiatives in social mobilisation and public policy advocacy on urban and rural issues at local, city, state, national, and international levels, some of which are perhaps quite widely considered to have been significant contributions in their time. The work of the speaker, who was the primary founder of the organisation, came to be inextricably intertwined with that of Unnayan’s for much though not all its life. In this talk he will try to critically reflect on the history and reality of Unnayan’s work, and to some extent his own, to engage with what was a marvellously productive period of social action but which, he feels, also turned out to be a not-so-magical reality; and to draw lessons from this.

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Digitisation of land records administration in Maharashtra

By Bhargavi Zaveri
When: 12th February 2018

ABSTRACT: While land constitutes a significant percentage of the asset allocation in the portfolios of Indian households, there are several challenges that hinder a systematic and comprehensive study of the functioning of land markets in India. Among them are the near absence of reliable real time data on land ownership and the maze of state-level legislations that have an important bearing on land allocation and property rights in India.

Bhargavi will be presenting a report on the implementation of the DILRMP (Digital India-Land Records Modernization Program) in Maharashtra. Written by the Finance Research Group (FRG) at IGIDR, this report is a step towards studying the land market in India. As the title suggests, it focuses on the modernisation of land record administration in the state of Maharashtra. Using a combination of publicly available data sources and field studies, we studied the extent to which land record administration in Maharashtra has been digitised and its impact on service delivery to the end consumer. The findings of this study, which was commissioned by the Omidyar Network, have important implications for the institutional designs and systems that underpin land record management in India.

 

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A Panacea or a Myth? Market-based Provision of Affordable Rental Housing in Mumbai

By Mr Faizan Jawed Siddiqui, doctoral student at MIT
When: 4 to 6pm, December 9, 2016
Where: Clifford Hall, Ground Floor, Academic Building II, New Campus, TISS, Mumbai

Since the publication of the “Housing: Enabling Markets to Work” report by the World Bank in 1993, many developing country governments have turned to market-based schemes to deliver affordable housing. India is no exception. As part of the broader on-going economic reforms, in the housing sector, the Indian government has been developing market-based affordable housing schemes. Two important assumptions underpinning these schemes are that private developers know where the demand is and that they will respond with housing supply to meet the demand fairly quickly. The validity of these assumptions gains critical importance especially when a large number of urban poor are to be housed through these housing schemes.


Given the relative newness of this approach, literature on the working of such schemes in India is thin. This paper presents the first detailed case study of the working of a large-scale market-based affordable housing scheme in Mumbai, India. This scheme uses Floor Area Ratio (FAR) incentives to attract private developers in the Mumbai region to develop housing projects, part of which the state requires be handed to the city planning authority for use as affordable rental housing units.The main findings of this paper are that while the scheme has been able to attract large private developers to build housing, much of it has come up in far-flung, peripheral areas that presented opportunities for developers to make windfall gains. Many of these locations currently do not have basic infrastructure provision. Developers are confident that middle class buyers will buy these apartments as investment. For the poor, however, the rental units are not livable because of missing infrastructure like transportation, water and sanitation. Further, the rental housing unit size stipulated under the scheme has created such high housing densities that local city governments declared it impossible to provide infrastructure. As a result, the maximum FAR increase was lowered by the government. This change reduced the profitability of projects under this scheme and has made the developers lose interest.


More fundamentally, this case shows that the critical assumptions underpinning a market-based scheme do not hold true in some markets (like Mumbai). Developers do not necessarily look for short-term gains, which is a problem when the government is interested in immediately housing the poor. The government will have to undertake a stronger regulatory role. Making location decisions for development of affordable housing is one parameter that needs to be strongly regulated.

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Organising alternatives in collective urban spaces: Thirty years of Forte Prenestino in Rome, Italy (1986-2016)

By Dr. Christine Lutringer
When: November 25, 2016, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Hall, Ground Floor, Academic Building II, New Campus, TISS, Mumbai

The Forte Prenestino in Rome is a Centro Sociale, in other words a Social Centre occupied by a community group. These collective spaces have been markers of urban territories throughout Italy since the early 1980s. Self-financed and self-managed, they are located in abandoned buildings that are illegally occupied by young people and political activists. Seen as sites for resistance to neoliberal capitalism, they are often considered as ‘headquarters’ of a new oppositional movement. However, they have also engaged with the public at large, organising cultural activities as well as the provision of social services. This lecture will explore this double dynamics and examine the different modes of engagement with the city through the history of the occupation of this historical Fort. In particular, we will discuss how creative engagement with ideas and practices of ecological sustainability and responsible consumption has reshaped its relation with the public.

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Learning from Geneva: spaces of difference and politics of the common in the gentrified city

By Luca Pattaroni, Laboratory of Urban Sociology of the EPFL
When: November 25, 2016, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Hall, Ground Floor, Academic Building II, New Campus, TISS, Mumbai

In my talk, I will look at the story of urban struggles and squatter’s movement in Geneva in an attempt to reflect on the transformations of the relations between space and politics that occurred in European cities in the last decades. The squatter movement in particular marked a shift in collective action from general public demonstrations to spatially situated critique of a functionalist urban order and the making of prefigurative politics. It opened up alternative ways to appropriate and even produce urban contexts. This spatial turn of the critique remain central in contemporary mobilisations, but plays out however in profoundly transformed territorial and political urban dynamics characterised by heavy expert regulations, controlled participation and strong land pressures. Is it still possible to express and experiment substantial differences in this context of “guaranteed city”? Is the politics of the common doomed to be a sole politic of carefully framed stakeholders and regulated diversity?

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Planning is Dead, Long Live the Planning

By Vidyadhar Pathak, Dean, Faculty of Planning, CEPT University
When: August 19, 2016, 4pm to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

Planning, here, is limited to urban spatial planning of Mumbai. After briefly tracing planning initiatives 1898 till 1965 I propose to cover planning milestones during the following 50 years as I was a witness and participant in the process throughout that period. Urban planning is intricately woven with institutions and perspectives on land as property. Urban planning has largely been normative and driven by axiomatic paradigms. Urban planners and their critiques both carried bloated expectations of what planning could achieve. Professional urban planning in Mumbai has always been muted. Most plans have been prepared by the civil servants. Any questioning of ruling paradigms has been resisted by tumultuous cacophony. Planning in Mumbai is reduced to crony socialism that believes in creating scarcity of development rights and selectively relaxing such restraints for apparently helping the poor but in fact for protecting the vested interest. The future of urban planning depends upon whether it could move from axiomatic planning to "evidence based" planning. But such expectation at least as of now appears to be unfounded.

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How is India Planning (or not) its Human Settlements?

By Sanjeev Vidyarthi, Associate Professor, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois, Chicago
When: June 17, 2016, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

This two-part presentation explores how contemporary India is planning its human settlements. The first part describes the changing views of spatial plans within the planning academe. Plans, for example, are no longer seen as precise and predictive in character but incremental and provisional by nature. There is a growing recognition that a diverse range of actors (homeowners, squatters, developers, politicians etc.) make different kind of plans (informal, tacit, spontaneous, incremental and more) as they anticipate and prepare for an uncertain future in an increasingly urbanized world. The second part of presentation will illustrate how the post-liberalization dynamic in India has led to the contemporary situation in which a wide variety of existing and emergent social actors and their plans are beginning to shape Indian urban regions in unprecedented ways.

The presentation is based on Sanjeev Vidyarthi's ongoing research. Dr Vidyarthi is an Associate Professor in the department of Urban Planning and Policy, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago. His research investigates the development of planning thought and spatial planning practices in independent India and his scholarly interests include ideas and actions in the fields of city-building, urban theory and design, and globalization and development studies.

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BOOK LAUNCH: In the Public's Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi

By Gautam Bhan
When: March 8, 2016, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

Contemporary Delhi is a city scarred by the evictions of 'Bastis'—urban settlements that house the city’s poorest of the poor. Many of these evictions were ordered by the Indian Judiciary in Public Interest Litigations, which was a tool introduced to enable the poor to access justice. How did a judicial innovation introduced precisely to enable the marginalised to seek justice become an instrument of their exclusion? Drawing on an archive of court cases that resulted in evictions in Delhi from 1990 to 2007 as well as ethnographic research with basti residents and social movements resisting eviction, In the Public’s Interest shows how evictions have been fundamental to how urban space is been structured and produced, and asks what they tell us about the contemporary Indian city.

Gautam Bhan teaches and works on issues of poverty, inequality and cities at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. He writes as part of Kafila.org, and is also co-editor of Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India.

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Designing Inclusive Participation

By Avinash Madhale
When: December 15, 2015, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

The word "Participation" gives nice feeling, it takes a while to give it some meaning. Urban areas provide huge challenges as well as opportunities to make this word more meaningful. Making participation Inclusive, Deliberative and Effective requires experiments around methods, tools and techniques of participation. Centre for Environment Education (CEE) Urban Programmes group is experimenting around this theme. Avinash Madhale, working with CEE Urban programme would like to share some learning from experiments within Pune and Primri Chinchwad Municipal limits.

Avinash has done his masters in Political Science and Public Administration from University of Pune and UGC Net (2001). He was faculty member at S.P. College and Nehru Institute of Social Science, Tilak Maharashtra University. He joined CEE in year 2006 at Rajasthan and since 2008 he is working with CEE's urban programmes group in Pune.

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Speculating on Development Provincial and Transnational Circuits of Accumulation in Andhra's New Capital Region

By Carol Upadhyay
When: October 14, 2015, 4 to 6pm
Where: Room 908, M S Gore Building, Nowroji Campus, TISS, Mumbai

In the months leading up and following the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, circulating rumours about the possible location for a new state capital led to intense speculative activity in land, driving up prices to unprecedented levels around key coastal towns. After the state government finally announced its decision to build a ‘greenfield’ city along right bank of the Krishna River in Guntur District, together with a land pooling scheme to acquire 35,000 acres of prime agricultural land, the real estate market in the region became even more volatile. Although Andhra provincial capital has long engaged in speculative practices, this pattern has been reinforced and complicated by the growing entanglement of local real estate markets with transnational circuits of capital. The logic of speculative accumulation is also reflected in Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s ambition to create a ‘world-class’ capital city by sourcing expertise and capital from Singapore and other Asian countries, and in the land pooling scheme itself. In this presentation, I draw on the unfolding story of the Amaravathi ‘world city’ project to raise larger questions about the trajectory of urbanisation and the nature of capital and the state in post-liberalisation India.

Carol Upadhya, a social anthropologist, is Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, India.

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Exploring Changes and Impacts of the Navi Mumbai Airport Influence Notified Area (NAINA) Using Slow Journalism

By Rahul Bhatia
When: September 11, 2015, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2

Right until the end, the greatest stories of our times wash over us so slowly that we barely feel them. These stories call out to be heard, and heeded. And then, finally, these stories become what we call current events and breaking news. This has happened with climate change, migration, inequality, erosion of liberty, to name a few subjects. Almost as if in response to the quick-fire nature of news-gathering and publishing, a movement to document these changes has risen. The movement is called slow journalism. This kind of reportage requires time, and so there are few people who pursue it. The focus of this talk will be about slow journalism and NAINA, the planned city in western India that will rise over nearly 600 square kilometres around Panvel. The author has covered the gradual formation of the city for Peepli.org, using the techniques of slow journalism. While newspapers largely publish reports about developments at an administrative level, such as a new development plan for the region, or new concessions made to villagers, slow journalism goes deep into the subject, revealing something else entirely. Going deep has allowed us to discover life on the cusp of change in the villages notified for NAINA. We see what people on the ground are fighting for, what a large number of locals value, and what their precise problems with the development plan are.


Slow journalism has an important role to play in the conversation about development in India (among other subjects). This talk will discuss the benefits and challenges of slow journalism at a larger level, and specifically within the framework of the new city of NAINA, and the people most likely to be affected by it.

Rahul Bhatia is a co-founder of the Peepli Project (peepli.org), a slow journalism platform that explores development, water, and wildlife issues in India today. He is presently writing about NAINA, a city marked for creation outside Mumbai, the Navi Mumbai Airport, and the people affected by both projects.

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Trajectories of place: the JVLR effect

By Himanshu Burte, Shruthi Parthasarthy and Nisha Kundar
When: August 7, 2015, 4 to 6pm
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

What happens to place when a new space is produced? Taking Henri Lefebvre’s theses in The Production of Space as a point of departure, this talk examines the fate of place in the wake of the construction and more specifically, the widening of Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road a little over a decade ago, in Mumbai. Proposed as one of the five major East West link roads in the famous Wilbur Smith Associates transportation plan for Mumbai (1962), JVLR was given statutory backing through the first Development Plan of Mumbai in 1964. But its alignment had already been the site of informal settlements which continued to flourish in the decades of state inaction between the Wilbur Smith proposal and the commencement of construction. Building the road, and especially, widening it to a six lane highway under the World Bank funded Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), required the demolition of over a thousand houses as well as of common amenities like playgrounds, religious shrines and community toilets. The relatively progressive R & R policy provided eligible Project Affected Households with small apartments in different sites, including at Sukh Sagar, Majas, right along the new road.

The presentation approached the road project as an instrument of producing a new social space in the Lefebvrian sense. In elaborating his conceptualization of social space Lefebvre observes that social space contains many places. The presentation examined the broad transformation of the socio-spatial landscape by the road, pointing to its deterritorialising and reterritorializing effects. It also conceived every informal settlement in the path of the road project as a ‘place’, drawing on the diverse literature on that concept. This move emphasizes the informal settlements’ integrity, stability and viability as practiced socio-spatial ‘fabrics’, qualities that were disrupted by the road project largely because of the informality of the places. The presentation then argued that the characteristics of formality that mark the resettlement housing colony at Majas are the key impediments to successful place-⁠making by the rehoused families. The argument connects the literature on ‘place’ to Lefebvre’s theorization, especially through an important paper by the geographer, Allan Pred, where place is conceptualized as process.

Urban Resources Knowledges
Completed

State-led Urbanisation in China: Skyscrapers, Land Revenue, and Concentrated Villager's Living

By Lynette Ong, Associate professor of political science at the Munk School of Global Affairs, the University of Toronto.
When: June 26, 2015
Where: Clifford Manshardt Hall, Academic building 2, TISS, Mumbai

This paper examines the rationale behind municipal and local government’s pursuance of urbanisation, and the political-economic and social implications of removing villagers from their farmland into apartment blocks in a policy called “concentrated villagers’ living.” It provides evidence of increasing reliance by municipal and local governments on land revenue and the financing of urban infrastructure by the governments’ land-leasing income. After relocation, villagers complain that their incomes have fallen and their expenditures have risen. Additionally, they have ceded rights to the use of their farmland to the government but have not gained access to state provided social welfare. The compensation is usually inadequate to sustain them, as a result displaced peasants are emerging as a disadvantaged societal group deprived of the long-term security of either farmland or social welfare.