Urban Parallax - Himanshu Burte

Book Launch: Urban Parallax, Policy and the City in Contemporary India, Amita Bhide and Himanshu burte

Urban policy and particularly, the knowledge base and fundamental assumptions behind the same have rarely been the subject of scholarship in India. This book fills in this gap by deconstructing urban policy and asking some critical questions about knowledge of the urban and of policy from multiple perspectives.
Urban Parallax - Himanshu Burte

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Urban policy and particularly, the knowledge base and fundamental assumptions behind the same have rarely been the subject of scholarship in India. This book fills in this gap by deconstructing urban policy and asking some critical questions about knowledge of the urban and of policy from multiple perspectives. Economists, sociologists, geographers, planners, architects have contributed their insights to foundational premises such as the relationship between urbanization and growth, its relationship with inequality, issues of centralization vs decentralization, the issue of differing scales of policy application and when does policy seem to work and not work.

Published by
Yoda Press and Aga Khan Agency for the Habitat


Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Vice Chancellor, Ashoka University

Reading this volume is like peering through a vibrant and unique kaliedoscope on Indian urbanization. The essays by our leading urbanists provide well thought out perspectives on different aspects of urbanization. It combines macro overviews with micro studies, rich data with good ethnographies and empirical mapping with the conceptual underpinnings of urbanization. The result is unfailingly stimulating and original.

Patrick Heller
Lyn Crost Professor of Social Sciences, Brown University

A parallax is the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions. The Indian city is a case in point, and the publication of “Urban Parallax: Policy and City in Contemporary India” is a timely and important contribution. Juxtaposing the heterogeneity and complexity of actual urban situations to the simplifying and modernization discourses of official, Delhi-centric, urban policies, Urban Parallax provides a variety of perspectives to unpack the policy challenges of urban India. Edited by Amita Bhide and Himanshu Burte, this collection of articles by leading scholars and practitioners provides a wide-ranging, multidisciplinary, critical and comparative lens on the politics, history, local processes and mutli-scalar dynamics that are shaping urban India. Taken together the articles impressively accomplish 4 tasks that are essential to any serious engagement with India’s urban challenge. First, the volume provides a comprehensive historical and institutional account of the current state of urbanization and municipal governance. Various articles explore the demographic and economic divers of urban transformation and others carefully unpack the kaleidoscopic nature of overlapping jurisdictions, contested lines of authority and generally fragmented modes of governance that constitute urban policy in India. Second, Urban Parallax delivers a searing critique of the multiple failures of Delhi-centric urban governance. Across the volume a stark picture contrasting the high modernist, self-assured, hyper rationalized and repeated roll out of centrally-driven schemes of urban change and governance against the sobering reality of cities held hostage to policies that are poorly adapted to local circumstances and histories, rarely integrated with planning functions and generally ineffectual. This diagnosis includes detailed analyses of massive coordination failures across agencies and levels of government, poorly designed schemes such as slum rehabilitation and low income housing and a systemic failure to incorporate spatial logics into urban planning. Third, the volume does full justice to the diversity of local conditions and configurations with case studies that range from Hyderabad, to Mumbai and Mizoram, all while keeping the larger, general patterns of economic transformation and intuitional constraints in perspective. The volume in this sense maintains throughout a powerful and balanced analytic sensibility to the complex interactions of the national urban system with local specificity. Finally, the volume provides clear but thoughtful policy prescriptions, beginning at the most critical level with an uncompromising critique of centralized power and authority and a clear call for genuine decentralizing, but also for a series of cogent principles for policy design, project implementation and greater integration of strategic planning into urban policy. Urban Parallax accomplishes a rare synthesis of critical and comparative academic sensibility to complexity with a pragmatic concern for making policy work. Urban Parallax should be required reading for anyone – scholar, practitioner or activist – who cares about the future of Urban India.


Gautam Bhan teaches urban politics, planning and development at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), Bangalore. His writing, research and practice focuses on the politics of poverty in contemporary urban India with a focus on urban displacement, access to affordable housing, and housing policy in India. He has been an active part of urban social movements on sexuality as well as housing rights, and currently advises and trains governmental agencies at local, state and national levels on housing policy. He holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Bhan is most recently the author of the In the Public’s Interest: Citizenship, Evictions and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi (Orient Blackswan and University of Georgia Press, 2017); and co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South (Routledge, 2017); co-editor of Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India (Yoda Press, 2005) and co-author of Swept off the Map: Surviving Eviction and Resettlement in Delhi (Yoda Press, 2008).

Amita Bhide is Professor and Dean of School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). She did her MA in Social Work, specializing in Urban and Rural Community Development in 1990 and has been engaged in teaching at TISS for over twenty years, Along with teaching and research, she has been deeply involved in grassroot-level work on issues related to urban poor communities, community organization and housing rights movements and advocacy groups and has also worked on issues of tribal development and rural governance. She has been involved in several Committees of the local and state government in addressing issues of housing and poverty. She was the recipient of the Inaugural fellowship of the India China Institute at The New School University, New York in 2006–08. Professor Bhide’s recent work at the School of Habitat Studies has been on urban governance reforms, housing and land issues with a focus on small and medium towns in Maharashtra. She also heads the M East Ward Social and Economic Transformation Program, an action research project that seeks to create a model of inclusive urban development in M East Ward, the poorest municipal ward in Mumbai.

Himanshu Burte, an architect and urbanist, is Assistant Professor at the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. His book, Space for Engagement: The Indian Artplace and a Habitational Approach to Architecture (Seagull Books, 2008. Kolkata) proposes an alternative conceptual framework for architecture centred on the act of dwelling. A former Fulbright Fellow with a PhD in Urban Planning from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, Burte has published extensively across the professional, popular and academic press for over twenty-five years. His research interests include modernism, public space, urban infrastructure, housing policy, theatre architecture and sustainable urbanism. He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel of Marg Publications.

Sahil Gandhi is an Assistant Professor at Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. His research interests are in the areas of urbanization in India, land and housing markets, and metropolitan governance. His research has been published as chapters in edited books, and peer reviewed journals. He has worked on projects with government agencies and think tanks. He has a PhD in Economics from the University of Mumbai.

Lalitha Kamath is an urbanist whose research interests focus on the political, economic, social, planning and governance dimensions of urbanization. She is particularly interested in learning from and theorizing everyday practices and bridging academic, pedagogic and practitioner networks, both, within India and across the Global South. Her recent research has involved examination of urban reform programmes launched for big and small cities, civil society and the politics of participation, planning for local economic development and informal economies. Some recent publications include ‘Planning as Practice Governance Conjunctures and Informal Urbanisation in Solapur Town’ (Economic and Political Weekly, 2014), a co-edited volume titled ‘Participolis: Consent and Contention in Neoliberal Urban Governance’ (Routledge, 2013), and ‘Decentralisation and Local Government Innovation in Providing Urban Services for the Poor in South and South East Asia’ (Space and Polity, 2012).

Malini Krishnankutty is an architect and consulting urban planner trained at the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked on Mumbai’s Development Plan (EDDP 2014–34), Mumbai Metropolitan Region’s Regional Plan, 2016–36, and Regional Plan for Goa, RPG-21. She has been involved in teaching, and building a critical discourse around sustainable architecture and planning in India. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and is the Secretary of the MMR- Heritage Conservation Society and MMR- Environment Society, Mumbai.

Darshini Mahadevia is Professor at the Faculty of Planning CEPT University (CEPT) and is the Director of the Centre for Urban Equity (CUE) established by her in 2009. She holds a PhD from Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. Mahadevia has held the position of the Dean of Faculty of Planning for one term. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and over 25 years of interdisciplinary research. She has expertise to assess equity issues in housing, transport, water & sanitation, municipal finance and climate change resilience and mitigation in the urban context. She has been and is a member of national and international organizations/committees and also of Boards of Studies at different academic institutions. She has participated in a large number of research projects and published on human and gender development, urbanization and urban development and sustainability.

Anant Maringanti is a geographer with a PhD from University of Minnesota and has taught graduate courses at the National University of Singapore and University of Hyderabad. His research and teaching interests centre on questions of urbanization and globalization from the South Asian vantage point. He is currently the director of Hyderabad Urban Lab, a multi disciplinary research programme run by the Right to the City Foundation. He is widely published in national and international academic journals on social movements, politics of development and urbanization.

Om Prakash Mathur is Senior Fellow and Head, Urban Studies at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi and has served as a Distinguished Professor of Urban Economics at the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi from 2011–13. He has held the IDFC Chair in Urban Economics and Finance at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi for over 15 years. He held the position of Director, National Institute of Urban Affair, New Delhi from 1984–1992. His earlier assignments include: SeniorEconomic Planner at the United Nations Centre for Regional Development, Nagoya, Japan (1978–1984); UN Senior RegionalPlanning Advisory/Project Manager, Imperial Government of Iran (1975–78); and Director, Multi level Planning Division, Planning Commission, Government of India (1971–75).
Mathur wasamemberof thePrime Minister’s NationalReview Committeeon JawaharlalNehruNationalUrban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). He was a member oftheAcademic Panelof the McKinsey Group workingonIndia’s urban sector and of the High PoweredExpert Committee on Estimating Investment Requirements for Urban Infrastructure, chaired by Dr.Isher Ahluwalia. Om Prakash Mathur is member of the Advisory Board of the ADB-GIZ sponsored City Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), and a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Global Cities Institute, Universityof Toronto.

Partha Mukhopadhyay joined CPR in 2006. He was previously part of the founding team at the Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), focusing on private participation in infrastructure. In previous positions, he has been with the Export Import Bank of India, and with the World Bank in Washington. He has been on the faculty at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur and the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi. He has published extensively, writes frequently for the national media and has also been associated with a number of government committees. Most recently, he was chair of the Working Group on Migration, Government of India and member of the High Level Railway Restructuring Committee, Ministry of Railways and of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation.He has previously been associated with the Committee on Allocation of Natural Resources and with the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Infrastructure. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Council of LIRNEasia, Colombo. He received his PhD in Economics from New York University and an MA and M.Phil from the Delhi School of Economics.In 2006, he was chosen as one of the inaugural Fellows of the India China Institute, New School, New York and in 2016, he was selected for a Residency at the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation. His research interests are in urbanization, infrastructure, and the development paths of India and China.

Abhay Pethe is a senior academic who currently holds the Dr. Vibhooti Shukla Chair Professorship in the Centre for Urban Economics & Regional Development in the Department of Economics, University of Mumbai. Apart from being involved in extensive teaching and research activities he has been a member of various expert committees of the Indian Government at Central, State and Local Levels. He has also worked as a consultant to private, governmental and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, UNDP-UNCHS amongst others.

Vaidehi Tandel is Junior Fellow at IDFC Institute, Mumbai. She has published co-authored papers in peer reviewed journals and has co-authored a chapter in an edited book on the Indian Economy. She has worked on projects commissioned by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, World Bank, Ministry of Urban Development, NITI Aayog Government of India, and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. She has a PhD in Economics fromUniversity of Mumbai.

Radha Varadarajan is a PhD student at the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras and currently a research consultant at Madras Institute of Development Studies. Her research interests include Nontraditional Security, Food and Agriculture Policy and Rural Sustainability. She is the founder of Kalpam Farmers’ Society, a grassroots food and agriculture initiative based out of Kanchipuram, TN. She has an MA and M.Phil. in International Relations from the University of Madras and is trained in Corporate Sustainability Strategy from Harvard Extension School.

M. Vijayabaskar is a Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies. His research centres on political economy of regional development with a research focus on labour and land markets, industrial dynamics and rural-urban transformations as they are shaped by social institutions, processes of marketization and other policy interventions.He is the co-editor of Industrial Dynamics in China and India: Firms, Clusters and Different Growth Paths (Palgrave McMillan, 2011), ICTs and Indian Social Development: Diffusion, Governance, Poverty (Sage, 2008) and ICTs and Indian Economic Development: Economy, Work, Regulation (Sage, 2005). He has published in numerous scholarly journals and media outlets, including the Indian Express, Economic Times and the Financial Express. He holds a PhD in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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