Implications on Costs and Emissions of Electrification of Public Transport Buses

By Suvedh Jaywant

The urban transport sector in India currently faces the challenges of increased travel demand and trip lengths with a decrease in modal share of public transport (only 7% in India as against 30-35% in most of the countries) and increased private vehicles on roads (number of registered private vehicles in Indian cities is increasing by around 12% every year). This has resulted in an increase in traffic congestion issues, alarming levels of air pollution (concentration of PM10 in cities like Delhi is twice the WHO prescribed levels whereas that of PM2.5 is 17 times in Kanpur) and increase in related health problems (right from irritation in eyes and respiratory disorders to miscarriages and improper development of a child’s brain) , energy security issues due to higher energy demands by this oil dominated sector and rising green-house gas (GHG) emissions contributing to climate change. A new approach is needed to deal with these issues which involves decongestion of roads by promotion of public transport along with moving to a cleaner source of energy. Major cities in the world are looking at using electric buses for public transport as one of the probable solutions to address these issues. However, the electric buses are highly capital intensive as per today’s market conditions and a thorough analysis of the implications of having electric buses for public transport in an Indian scenario is required.

Most of the studies conducted so far have considered the indirect costs on health and pollution (which are notional) to check the viability of the electric buses and this study thus conducted a monetary cost-based analysis of having electric buses without considering the notional costs to understand the financial burden on the citizens using the public transport. The findings are applicable for Indian scenario in general.

For this analysis, a case study of the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), which is the municipal bus transport utility in Pune city was done. In Pune, the modal share of public transport was 18% as per the 2011 census which has been reducing continuously with the number of registered vehicles at 3.7 million for a population of 3.5 million in the year 2018. A study conducted by Shakti foundation in 2017 stated that the concentration of P.M 2.5 for Pune was 56.3 ± 12.9 μg/m3 which is much higher than the national standards (40 μg/m3 ) and five times that of the WHO guidelines (10 μg/m3 ) with 24.1% of these pollutants being the emissions from the transport sector. PMPML has an ambitious target of inducting 500 new-technology based fully electric buses in its fleet to tackle the issue of air-pollution in the city. It becomes necessary to evaluate the cost implications of this decision and the extent of the potential contribution of this move to mitigate pollution and emissions. The cost per kilometre (CPK) for different types of buses has been calculated for the city of Pune using the Total Cost of Ownership model and the current operational constraints based on costs of the current bus fleet of the PMPML.

The Table below shows the CPK for different bus variants at Business as Usual (BAU) scenario which tells us that it is already viable to use battery operated pure electric buses instead of pure diesel and hybrid buses in the AC bus segment. But overall, the CNG buses are still far cheaper as compared to electric buses.

Type of Expense Unit Diesel Non-AC CNG Non-AC Diesel AC Hybrid AC Electric AC Electric Non-AC
CapEx Lakh Rs ₹ 58.40 ₹ 84.00 ₹ 122.40 ₹ 235.15 ₹ 272.51 ₹ 247.40
OpEx Lakh Rs ₹ 623.04 ₹ 563.12 ₹ 779.70 ₹ 621.44 ₹ 529.29 ₹ 502.57
TCO Lakh Rs ₹ 681.44 ₹ 647.12 ₹ 902.10 ₹ 856.59 ₹ 801.80 ₹ 749.97
PV of TCO Crore Rs. ₹ 353.09 ₹ 343.30 ₹ 490.33 ₹ 503.25 ₹ 451.29 ₹ 422.51
CPK at PV of TCO Rs./km ₹ 39.34 ₹ 38.25 ₹ 54.63 ₹ 56.07 ₹ 50.28 ₹ 47.07

Further, if only operational expenditure is considered, the AC electric buses are cheaper than non-AC CNG buses by around 11.5% at BAU scenario which would further be cheaper once the battery rates go down.

The table below shows the tail-pipe emissions mitigated from this shift. It is indisputable that the electric buses will provide a clean local environment, but the net mitigation in carbon emissions is presently limited due to the coal dependent electricity.

Type of Bus CO Emissions
(Kg / year)
THC Emissions
(Kg / year)
NOx Emissions
(Kg / year)
PM Emissions
(Kg / year)
Diesel Non-Ac 351.51 30.46 93.74 2.34
CNG Non-AC 237.86 29.70 172.41 1.80
Electric Non-AC 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Diesel AC 562.42 48.74 149.98 3.75
Hybrid AC 224.97 19.50 59.99 1.50
Electric AC 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

The cost break-up of electric buses shows that 22% and 12% of the TCO was the capital cost and battery replacement cost respectively with more than 8% as the interest costs, which was huge as compared to 10% of TCO as capital cost and 2% as interest cost of Diesel buses.

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If the battery rates come down as speculated, the lower cost of battery replacement would bring down the CPK of electric buses by ₹3 and availing interest free loan can further bring down the CPK by ₹3. The CPK of an AC electric bus would then be ₹4 more than that of a Non-AC CNG bus, and thus comparable. 

It was further found that AC electric buses would be at parity with non-AC CNG buses around 2023. If the CNG rates increase faster than expected or if capital is available at a lower rate of interest, this breakeven can happen earlier, or vice versa if the battery and bus prices do not come down as projected. Also, more GHG emissions can be mitigated if the share of renewables in the electricity is increased and possibilities of other innovative technologies like top-up charging using solar roof-top and opportunity charging are explored. This shows that the viability of electric buses in the future looks better than the present.

However, to replace all the existing buses by electric buses in a single year in 2023 will not be feasible as this will lead to huge financial burden on PMPML in a single year, and some of the buses need to be replaced even before 2023 as they complete their 12 years of life. Thus, a phase wise replacement of the existing fleet is suggested based on the age of the buses. 

The high capital costs of electric buses are compensated by low operating costs as compared to diesel and CNG buses. But the benefit of low operating cost of the electric buses can be reaped only when the buses are able to run for the scheduled kilometres every day unlike today’s case where the scheduled trips are not completed due to the traffic congestion. Having electric buses in Public transport is just one of the components of the multi-dimensional solution that is required to make the urban transportation clean, affordable, and reliable in the country, which needs to be accompanied by the larger practice of changing the way cities and transportation systems are planned.

Thus, this study goes beyond using the notional costs of emissions and health of the citizens in order to check the viability of electric buses in the municipal transport fleet and finds out that having electric buses is not financially viable presently but looks promising in the future. It is recommended to have air-conditioned electric buses in the fleet of municipal transport buses in order to mitigate the carbon emissions, have a clean local environment, enhance the comfort of the passengers using public transport, and increase in the modal share of public transport in Indian cities. Innovative financing mechanisms need to be explored to reduce the financial burden of the high capital cost on the transport undertakings or the citizens using public transport, till the electric buses become financially viable. Else, it would just be a replay of  the international situation of inequitable sharing of the mitigation burden (where citizens using the Public Transport have to bear the costs of cleaning-up the environment) that the Government of India so vehemently opposes at the climate change negotiations internationally.




Home Away from Home: Tales of Migration and Placemaking in Humayunpur

By Arunav Chowdhury

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A Northeastern woman buying vegetables in Humayunpur.

The balcony in Cultured, a cafe in Humayunpur, Delhi, gives a good vantage point of the daily happenings in the streets — women walking the streets in their chic winter coats, men in trendy hairstyles going to office in their formal attire and people coming out to buy their daily groceries. On the same street one can see the local men of the village sitting in front of their houses with a hookah and a bonfire. Most of the young tenants in this urban village in Delhi are from the North Eastern states. As I sat in the cafe with Agnes, an Arunachali student who has been staying in Humayunpur for more than five years now, she tells me about the first time she discovered the place, “It was way back in 2011, I had come to Delhi for the first time for my admissions and came here to meet some school friends who were already staying here. Back then, I didn’t know there were places like this in Delhi where you could only see familiar faces”. This ‘sense of familiarity’ was a common refrain among many young migrants I spoke to in Humayunpur.

Humayunpur is in a prime location in South Delhi; the Safdarjung Hospital, the outer ring road, Green Park Metro Station all being at a distance of around 1km. In the 1960s, the government of India acquired the farmlands of the villagers in Humayunpur and sold it to DLF, which was then redeveloped into the nearby upper-middle class colony of Safdarjung Enclave, and Humayunpur survived as a tiny hamlet away from the eyes of the main roads. Ashish Phogat, a local Jat said, “What happened to Humayunpur is what happens to old parents and grandparents, kids grow up and forget their old parents”. 

Bhan (2014) writes, “In order to be able to retain their character urban villages were exempt from any building norms, mixed-use or single use zoning classifications.” The villagers added floors to their houses and started renting out the buildings initially to migrants coming from UP, Bihar and Nepal. In the early 2000s, Northeastern migrants started coming in which coincided with the call-centre boom in the National Capital Region. “At one time around 400 employees of Convergys were staying in Humayunpur”, said Ashish Phogat. Through word-of-mouth, more people started to shift to the place, especially students studying in the University. Over the years it has come to be characterised as a ‘North-eastern’ neighbourhood, finding an important place in the “North-East Map of Delhi” (Mcduie-Ra, 2014). What Mcduie-Ra refers to by the North-East Map is a set of practices and places through which migrants from the Northeast circumvent and navigate their way in the city through neighbourhoods, food, faith, and protest.

Arunav Dissertation 2
 Entangled Wires and ‘Handshake Buildings’ – A common sight in Humayunpur

As recently as 2014, the death of Nido Taniam after an altercation with shopkeepeers in Lajpat Nagar shook the Northeastern community in the city. In a city infamous for its racial attacks, how did the North-Eastern community went about making place in an area socially and culturally distinct from their homes? The North-Easterners are not a homogeneous community and consists of different communities with their own traditions and histories. This ‘virtual’ community which has come up in Humayunpur and in other parts of Delhi has risen out of new networks developed in the city through work, university etc. and a feeling of safety in their combined large numbers against a racial other. They co-exist with the locals while maintaining a careful distance from each other, what one can call it is a ‘friendly difference’. The Northeast communities reiterate that Humayunpur is probably the ‘safest’ place for them in Delhi, the locals here are ‘friendlier’ than other parts of Delhi, and one can roam its streets at any time of the night without any fear. 

Ashish Phogat is the husband of Radhika Abrol Phogat, the local corporator and is the de-facto leader of the Jat community. He and his extended family own a considerable number of properties in the village and have good relations with many of the Northeastern migrants. His brother, Virender talked at great length about how the economic exchange has greatly benefited the two communities. Inspite of the money coming in, there still seems to be some form of resentment among some of the villagers. Om Prakash, a member of the Valmiki community laments the change brought about by the migrants in the village, “They started affecting our younger generations starting from their dressing to everything. I once had a tenant from Manipur, he was a nice boy but he used to eat this smelly fish and the stench was horrible”.

Bijoy, an Assamese migrant who owns a jampad/music store in the village tells me initially he and his friends were not even not allowed to cook chicken in their homes. Over a period of time this was relaxed to them being allowed cook chicken once a week and now most of the restaurants in the area serve meat, including pork and buff, and the newer generation also relishes these dishes, albeit secretly. David, the owner of Mizo Diner, a restaurant serving ethnic Mizo food, has actively engaged with the surroundings of the village. David is a graffiti artist and his paintings can be found in different nooks and corners of the village.

Arunav Dissertation 3
David’s graffiti on one of the remaining old village-style houses in Humayunpur

He said that through these paintings he has interacted more with the local community and was even invited for dinner at their homes. The villagers are happy that he paints for “free”. While talking about the attitudinal changes of the locals towards the migrants, he said, “Money talks. The locals are profiting from us, why should they have any problems with us?”

After securing their place through this negotiated place-making with the local community, the Northeast migrants have gone about more concrete ways in establishing their foothold in the city. Most of them refer to the village as “Safdarjung”, thereby clubbing Humayunpur with the planned area to draw on its legitimacy to the city at large. The spatialisation of this place-making is manifested physically in the umpteen number of restaurants, cafes, boutiques and Northeast convenience stores found across the village. Migrants looking to secure their lives in the city by finding ways of livelihood that would cement their foothold in Humayunpur have led to a bustling market in the main lane of Humayunpur.

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A Bowl of Mohinga Ramyun Soup in Mohinga-The Taste of Myanmar. Mohinga is one of the recent eateries in the village, opened by Rohit, who grew up in the Manipur-Myanmar border.

Asha, a Tangkhul woman from Manipur started selling smoked pork and pork cooked in a rice cooker from her home. Word spread and her customers grew, who then started demanding for other herbs and ingredients. Three years later she opened the Asha Tangkhul store with the help of another woman who helped her bring the stuff from Manipur through her travel agency. Today she sells a variety of food items, herbs and vegetables indigenous to the region like bamboo shoot, fermented fish and soyabean, smoked buffalo, king chillies, Nagalasung (spring onion) etc. along with Korean ramen noodles and Myanmarese products which are normally found in Moreh, the border town in the Manipur-Myanmar border. Her customers come from all over the NCR-region. Her youngest sister is married to Swaraj, a Nepali from Darjeeling. The couple used to live in South-Extension but shifted to Humayunpur when she opened her store. Swaraj opened a boutique to the space left of Urban Ethic. In 2016, they opened a restaurant Asha Kitchen, next to the store. The restaurant has simple interiors with white walls and basic furniture compared to most of the new restaurants and cafes which have opened in Humayunpur. The new cafes like Cultured have invested in interior design like having an open kitchen; modelling it on other ‘hip’ places in the city. Swaraj and Asha splits their time between the three places, and the other two sisters also helping out from time-to-time. Asha store is like the ‘centre’ of the market as most of the migrants come to do their weekly shopping here and it also becomes a point of contact to find houses for new migrants coming in from Manipur.

Arunav Dissertation 5
Asha Store in Humayunpur

Many such stories are abound in the lanes of Humayunpur. The relationship of the migrant community with this place at times is one of emotional attachment, the most common reply being, “It’s just like home”. However underlying this “home” are also other factors like their associational or community networks and proximity to university and workplace. The temporality of settling in is then reflected in the shifting and sprouting of other “Northeastern-neighbourhoods” in Delhi. Humayunpur is transforming everyday with newer and more upscale restaurants replacing the former smaller ones. Rents are also rising with many of the older migrants now finding it difficult to continue living here. Some of the people in the village says that it will soon become like Hauz Khas Village, a nearby urban village which is now glittered with expensive pubs and restaurants. 

Many migrants who have spent a considerable time in Humayunpur says that it has become an integral part of their lives. Agnes says, “When we talk about spaces like home, Delhi is my second home, and in Delhi it is Humayunpur. This is one place I can always come back to, even if I don’t have friends I’ll always be welcome here”. 



Bhan, G. (2013). Planned illegalities: Housing and the ‘failure’ of planning in Delhi: 1947-2010. Economic and Political Weekly, 58-70.

McDuie-Ra, D. (2012). The ‘North-East’ Map of Delhi. Economic and Political Weekly, 69-77.



Home-based Work: Voices of Women from Mumbai slums

Article by Sharvari Pawar (Guest Writer)

Sharvari 3
Sample Imitation Jewelry

Mumbai is a city of dreams for hundreds of people who migrate to the city on a daily basis. As per the census 2011 data, the population of Mumbai was 12.4 million and since then the urban population has been increasing. Urbanization has resulted in slum proliferation in a megacity like Mumbai. Nearly 41.84% of people reside in slums in Mumbai (Mumbai City Census data, 2011). Most slum dwellers eke a living by working in the informal sector. Through the voices of women in Ambojwadi this article gives a glimpse into the lives of Mumbai’s home-based women workers.

Ambojwadi, located in Malad West is densely populated slum with a population of nearly 35000, majority of them belonging to Dalit, Muslim and Pasi Pardi community. There are migrants belonging to the Pasi Pardi community hailing from Solapur, the western belt of Maharashtra and others from Uttar Pradesh. History of the region reflects complex resettlement and rehabilitation policies of the state government. Around 728 project affected families were resettled in Ambojwadi in 1995. YUVA, a non-governmental organization has played an influential role in organizing the community for their basic rights. Daily expenditure on basic needs and resources such as water and sanitation ( shared toilets) are high. People’s movements, community-based organizations have also contributed towards the development of the slum community. The area has been declared as a non-development zone by the government authorities. Hence, it is not considered under the development plan of Mumbai ,according to a representative from YUVA organization).

Most people in the slum work in the informal sector. Males are working as daily wage workers, naka workers, labourers in the construction industry, street vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers and few are working in private companies. Women are engaged in home-based work and some are working as domestic workers in the neighbouring prime locations in Malad. In 2011-12, 80% of the urban workforce in India was informally employed, home-based work was the largest sector representing 14 percent of total urban employment and 17 percent of urban informal employment (Chen M, 2011).

“I am residing in Ambojwadi for 18 years, during my days of hardships this work has helped me survive bad days of life. Being a single parent to my 14 children, every day is a new challenge to sustain and survive. Every day I contribute my 4 hours to this work. We are paid as per the piece-rate which is Rs 3.50 per set of hair clips and imitation jewellery made”, said Mrs. Khan (name changed). Following neighbours’ footsteps, Mrs. Khan started working from home. The sub-contractor provides the raw materials to the Khan family. Raw materials include jewellery set, jewellery stones, glue stick, etc. The set is made and is then sold in the famous Natraj market of Malad. Patience and concentration are the most important factors required while working on imitation jewellery. Mrs. Khan said, “There are bruises on the hands of my daughter-in-law, we all suffer from irritation and pain in the eyes, sometimes we feel giddy too if we sit to work for long hours”. The glue used to stick the stones is corrosive in nature. Jewellery stones are usually fixed with bare hands without using hand gloves increasing direct contact and exposure to chemicals present in the glue. Further sitting for long hours in the same position creates a potential threat to their physical health.

Sharvari 4
Other articles made through home-based work

Home-based work is easier for women as they can balance their family time and work accordingly. Mrs. Khan’s day starts with managing the household chores and afternoon free slot is being utilized for work. Her daughter after coming from school contributes four hours in preparing the sets. Urmi (name changed) said, “After coming from school every day, I have my lunch and help Ammi in preparing these sets”. When asked about studies, she said, “This doesn’t affect my studies as I manage my time and study in the evening”. Other family members also contribute their time to home-based work. Mrs. Khan said that her daughter and daughter-in-law were paid as per their contribution to the work. Family stressors often bring in the wave of responsibilities.

Demand and supply mechanism is followed wherein the materials are prepared as per the demand from the contractor. Usually prepared in gross, they are paid Rs 3.50 paise per piece. The product is rejected if there are any defects. Even minor defects such as over spilled glue, mismatched stones lower the quality of the product and is therefore rejected and the contractor deducts the amount as per the set rate. Mrs. Khan said, “ In case of any defect the product is rejected by the contractor and we are charged as per the rate of the jewellery set. Sometimes we have to bear the loss of the entire set which is two to three times higher than the actual amount ”.

Mrs. Khan also mentioned that when asked for a hike in gross rate the demands of the women are ignored despite having cordial relations with the sub-contractors, the contractors often cut ties in case of high demands of income.

Creating the best business from waste

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Preparing Buff Maal 

“What is this about?”, I asked Mrs. Ansari, as I was fascinated by the rags hanging Mrs. Ansari said, these are not rags, it is called as ‘buff maal’ , it is used in the stainless-steel polish industry. To gain insights about the nature of work I started probing about the processing and working mechanisms.

Mrs. Ansari said, “We have been running this business from past 8 years. We collect rags and old clothes from local vendors and factories and use this raw material in making the rag sheets. The raw materials include plastic rag sheets, old clothes (chindi), homemade glue (glue is made in a large container using refined wheat flour (maida), hot water, and flea and insect repellents). The glue prepared is organic in nature and non-hazardous. The process is easy wherein we just have to stick the rag sheets together with the glue barehanded and dry in the sunlight. The rags once dried are packed and exported to the companies. After ‘buff ka maal’ is made, it is handed over to the contractor or company which further stitches those materials, processes it and uses as stainless-steel polish.”.
The buff material made is sold as per piece made. They earn Rs.100 after selling 120 pieces. Rs 80 is given to the labourer hired and Rs 20 is their earnings. Mrs. Ansari shared that an old woman was hired as labourer. She was paid Rs 80 for 120 sets made in addition to the gifts given on special occasions.This kind of material is also made in other parts of Mumbai such as Goregaon, Malad East. Mrs. Ansari’s company was located in Kandivali earlier. But now they have shifted to Vasai Virar. When asked about how profitable it is Mrs.Ansari said, “The earnings made through this business has kept our economic status stable, I was able to pay hospital charges of my husband and fees of my daughter through the earnings made by this. Investment is very low where we have to invest in purchasing the old clothes which we purchase at Rs 1- 2 per kg from the nearby factories. The unique concept of starting a small business by reusing waste products is one of the best ways of utilizing resources.

Sumati Tai, a staff member of Yuva said, “Women working in the home-based work in Ambujwadi mainly prepare imitation jewellery. Long years back, metal work was done on a large scale. Income earned was much more. Those working in home-based work get very less amount for their work. Time spent, energy utilized versus the income earned is very less. Currently, few women are associated with the organization through self-help groups, mahila mandals and Astitva Mulbhut Sansadan Kendra”.

Another staff member of YUVA Mr. Amit said, “We have been organizing the women through our collective action groups. Recently we initiated an idea of quilt making with the women who are working on sewing machines. Women prepared a few quilts to understand the process and nature of work. Later they received orders from us and few sources. Small quilts were sold for Rs 150 each, we purchased from them as a way to encourage them to use their skills to the best of their knowledge”.

Women should be motivated and encouraged to learn and grow and use their capabilities to the fullest and the home-based work should be recognized. The income earned through home-based work in comparison to the efforts and time contributed is very less. Organizations like SEWA, WIEGO have contributed through their intervention towards home-based work for women. In order to support the home-based women workers, an integrated approach should be followed wherein initial steps should include organizing women, studying the nature of work, understanding the market dynamics and involve them in the huge chain of the informal economy. Community-based organizations can intervene in upscaling the health of home-based workers and work with the secondary target audience such as their children and family members. Formation of home-based workers association and board in each area can create a space for home-based workers to voice their opinions and contribute their views on organizing home-based work.

Sharwari Pawar is a Research Associate with the Centre for Environmental Health, School of Habitat Studies

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MUPG Graduate Student Series (2017-2019)

Name of Graduating Student: Anusri Tiwari

In this interview series, our recent graduates of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance Program (2017-2019) share their experiences, insights, and remarks about the Program.

The Masters in Urban Policy and Governance is a 2-year intensive program which combines perspectives and insights from a range of disciplines to enable students to re-imagine the urban, especially in the context of the globalising present. The programme aims to equip its graduates to intervene effectively on urban habitat issues through their work in public, private, and civil society organisations.

*Note: The thoughts shared here are personal to each student and not of the Centre or School.

Visit our Website for department updates at:

MUPG Graduate Student Series (2017-2019)

Name of Graduating Student: Kunal Chaturvedi

In this interview series, our recent graduates of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance Program (2017-2019) share their experiences, insights, and remarks about the Program.

The Masters in Urban Policy and Governance is a 2-year intensive program which combines perspectives and insights from a range of disciplines to enable students to re-imagine the urban, especially in the context of the globalising present. The programme aims to equip its graduates to intervene effectively on urban habitat issues through their work in public, private, and civil society organisations.

*NoteThe thoughts shared here are personal to each student and not of the Centre or School.

Challenges of Research: Notes From my First Day of Fieldwork

By Devashree Ragde


A Photograph and Transect Map of the Bus Stand and Neighbouring Market

It was the first day of field work. We got off the bus onto a crowded bus stand, where we could see tall buildings which had numerous billboards for all sorts of businesses – stores, coaching and training institutes, and product advertisements. This was Mehdipatnam Bus Stand, an important node connecting the area with the rest of Hyderabad. We were here for our Winter Institute, a fieldwork-based intensive course under the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance. This year, the theme was “Youth, Work and the City,” and we were in Hyderabad for about two weeks to learn from the organisation Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). We had been given a mission for our very first visit here – to list down all the activities we observe that we consider as work, and identify what could be the ‘allied’ and ‘hidden’ and to spatialize the activities. 

‘Allied’ activities are those activities associated with the main activity, that make the main one function. For instance, a coconut seller at the corner of a chowk in the city is supplied coconuts from coastal areas. The supplier’s activity is allied and makes it possible for the said coconut seller to carry out his activity. 

Hidden activities are less about unseen activities but are more about the people carrying out these activities. A tea seller’s stall might be cleaned every morning by his wife or daughter, or a hired help, or the owner himself. But whether it is the wife or the help, it is possible that a woman is carrying out this work. The hidden activity probably does not pay the person doing it or earns them very less money, but still contributes to the main activity in a way. Identifying and understanding hidden activities is thus important to find out which demographic is more likely to be carrying them out.

A Sketch of the Activities Outside St. Anne’s College in Medhipatnam


We began walking around our area, listing down activities, using our imagination. But how were we to observe hordes of activities, and identify them as allied and hidden activities? We could not see the activity at that moment, so how were we supposed to imagine it and characterize it as being ‘hidden?’ Such an activity can be identified only after we talk to people, right? What if it is difficult to identify the hidden work even after talking to them? Another question to explore is whether the work activities are specifically money earning. This probably depends on a person’s perceptions. But we decided to incorporate such work as well. 

Here’s an example of a college we saw. The college has a principal, teachers, non-teaching staff, students, cleaning staff, guards, canteen. Consider a tiffin centre and shawarma café — they have owners, cooks, waiters, cleaners, suppliers, market sellers, renter or owner, buyers, delivery people like Swiggy, banks. A State Bank of India has its employees. A hospital again has its employees, a chai and chaat tapri, a tiffin food supplier, a medical shop, a photo studio, a gold loaning company and so on. We listed the allied activities of the allied activities. We guessed which of the activities are hidden. The next building had a hostel and an ATM. About 200 m in was the bus depot, general store and a cinema hall. The students of the college can probably find all their basic needs at a stone throw’s distance, as many of the basic facilities are located around the college.

We went on with our list in this way, sitting at a spot opposite the college, people staring curiously at us, until we realized that it had taken more than an hour and we were only on our first few buildings. Thus, another question we had was where do we stop? The work activities chain, and value chains could go on until you reach the smallest unit located at the other end of the country, and we could possibly take so much time in trying to follow such long chains. The length of the value chains is another important aspect when studying work. 

In Conversation with the Two Friends from UP
The Duo at Work

As was pointed out by my groupmates during discussions at the workshop, one can observe the sense of camaraderie between the people in the informal sector, as one vendor would give change to the other or the vendors would run away together at the sight of the police car. We spoke to people engaged in some of the occupations that have been mentioned above over the course of the next few days, and we found that on the same street, neighbouring street vendors knew one another, and one man had helped the other two avail the resources to start their own vending business. The male youth living in the Bojagutta residential area were all engaged in the construction sector. A pair of sisters were begging together on the street. A belt stitcher and an ice-cream seller who go around the area together on their respective bicycles to carry out their trade are good friends who came all the way from Uttar Pradesh on the suggestion of the older sibling of one of the men who has been living in Hyderabad for years. The coconut seller is supplied coconuts by a cousin, who gets it from the family farms on the coast. There is an interconnection even between the people engaged in certain occupations. We did have a discussion conducted by Anand Maringanti Sir, director of HUL on why it is more likely that a beautician is from the North-East or a nurse is from Kerala, it is probably due to stereotypes, or may be just an ease of access owing to people of the same state or community working in the field. Mehdipatnam has shown that there is a network which allows people to enter and exit their work activities. There is an interconnectedness between the people engaged either in the work activity in question and the allied activities.

The very first day on the field gave us insight into how we should go ahead with our fieldwork, our observations helped us come up with ideas on how to engage with the people, what questions we should ask, how we should plan our work, and how our observations should be presented as outputs. It was very good that we were asked to begin our field work in such a manner, which made us more curious and excited to keep working.



The Winter Institute is a full-fledged 3 credit course in the academic calendar of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance program of the School of Habitat Studies conducted in the first year. It is conceived as a platform for interdisciplinary collaborative learning through research and action in the field. The blog series showcases the work, reflections and opinions of the students, and not the Centre.

To see institute reports from previous batches visit our website:


MUPG Graduate Student Series (2017-2019)

Name of Graduating Student: Suvedh Jaywant

In this interview series, our recent graduates of the Masters in Urban Policy and Governance Program (2017-2019) share their experiences, insights, and remarks about the Program.

The Masters in Urban Policy and Governance is a 2-year intensive program which combines perspectives and insights from a range of disciplines to enable students to re-imagine the urban, especially in the context of the globalising present. The programme aims to equip its graduates to intervene effectively on urban habitat issues through their work in public, private, and civil society organisations.

*Note: The thoughts shared here are personal to each student and not of the Centre or School.