Walk This Way: Travails of Pedestrians in Pune

By Najwa Abdul Rasheed

Right of Way is a commonly used term in the transportation lingo. But whose right of way prevails? Is it the car owners’ zooming down the widened roads or the pedestrians’ who extend out their hands while crossing the roads, murmuring a prayer under their breath? In a country with no particular demarcated place for pedestrians there exists numerous nuanced ways of crossing a road.

Though as a kid, I’ve been taught theoretically how to cross a road: “look right, then to your left and again to your right”, I was introduced to an absolutely different way of crossing during my excursions through the streets of Pune. This is what my friend who doubled up as my Pune guide instructed me: “Maintain eye contact with the driver. Once a connection is established after locking the gaze, interact with your eyes regarding your intention to cross the road and voila! You’ll find yourself on the other side of the road.” Though it seemed crude, it surely did work while traversing the streets.

Chitale Chowk, Bajirao Road

At Chitale Chowk, Bajirao Road, we failed to see the zebra crossing initially because the traffic had enveloped it completely. Crossing at the apparently demarcated place, one had to jostle among the two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

The mad traffic was a contestation for space; private vehicles with buses, vehicles with pedestrians and even private vehicles with themselves. In this frenzied rush, a scooter happened to graze past a brand new Royal Enfield bike, breaking off a portion of the tail lamp, but the rider of the bike found no time to stop and look at the damage caused amidst all the commotion and cacophony.


Gayakwad peth near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai

The Gayakwad peth near Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai is always abuzz with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Walking around in that area on a weekend was a more tedious task than anticipated. One had to watch out not only for fellow wayfarers and vehicles, but also hand carts which were in plenty near the market. With the biggest vegetable market in Pune and a plethora of stalls in the vicinity, walking was more of a shopping experience.

Garware Chowk. Picture courtesy: Times of India


Subway crossing at Garware Chowk

This subway crossing at Garware Chowk, near Deccan Gymkhana, provides a respite for pedestrians from the continuous flow of traffic at the chowk. As vehicles dart across the roads above, the wayfarer crosses the road freely from beneath. Though it bore a deserted look at night, a pair of elderly people had seated themselves at the meeting point of the three subway crossings. With an informal seating arrangement in the middle, it served as a placid spot bang in the middle of a busy intersection.

A vendor sells earthen lamps at the entry point of the subway at Garware Chowk.

The subway crossing, apart from catering to pedestrians, also served as a means of livelihood for Kamle, an earthen lamp seller, situated right at the entry point. She and her daughter place their stall at the exact spot every year before Diwali. Kamle claims that this spot has been used for her seasonal stall since she was a kid.


Maruti Chowk, Laxmi Road

Here is Suraj Hajare, a manager at multinational bank, manning the traffic at Maruti Chowk, Laxmi Road, on a Sunday afternoon. He and his band of volunteers from Samarpan Foundation, ranging from students to doctors, step in to volunteer and ease pedestrian movement at Laxmi Chowk, Raman Bagh Chowk and Maruti Chowk on weekends.

As a man behind the driving wheel expressed his resentment at having been stopped at the junction, Suraj riposted, “Bhaiya, you have to stop for only 30 seconds”. Even the pedestrians are taken aback when he stops them from crossing the road when the vehicles zoom past. But Suraj says that over the span of one year during which Samarpan Foundation has taken this initiative citizens awareness has increased; they themselves would stop at the intersections and refrained from jaywalking.

There was a traffic policeman too at the junction, who was oblivious to the flowing traffic. He was nestled in a corner playing on his phone. As a driver passed by the junction, he conveyed his frustration to Suraj at the apparent lack of action of the policeman, while Suraj could just smile, shrug and carry on with his voluntary work.


The view from Shaniwar Wada

Climbing atop the Shaniwar Wada, it was a pleasant shift for me from being a pedestrian to an aerial onlooker. The overhead perspective from atop this 18th century historical fortification, the seat of the Peshwas of the Maratha empire, is a grandiose scene, especially the garden complex on the other side of the ramparts. Though the roads were lined with footpaths, it often gave way to hawkers and trees, forcing the pedestrian to walk on the road while jostling with the moving as well as parked vehicles for space. Historical buildings interspersed amidst the multitude of people and vehicles allude to the history of the old quarter of the city.

Amidst all the dissonance on the streets with swarms of people moving about; some with a definite purpose and destination in mind, some in no particular direction whatsoever, there exists a harmony of sorts — an order amongst the disorder, a sequence in the chaos; and therein lies the allure of Pune’s streets.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html



National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to City in India’

Aundh stock picture

When: April, 16 to 17,  2018, New Delhi
Organisers: Right to the City Campaign in collaboration with Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, TISS and YUVA

This is a closed workshop and is open to only invited participants.

The ‘Right to City’ (RTC) concept introduced by Henri Lefebvre in the 1960s as a praxis has now been formally adopted as part of the ‘New Urban Agenda’ by the UN international Conference on Habitats in 2017. At least a few national constitutions such as those in Brazil, Ecuador and some in Africa have included the term and some of its principles. The formal inclusion of RTC in the urban agenda has not led to either greater clarity on the concept nor has it led to a greater commitment to more inclusive and just cities. In fact, even in countries where the agenda has been instituted in national constitutions, cities remain sites of contestations within an overall ethos of pursuit of capital. Beyond operationalisation, the debate around whether RTC is a moral claim or a justiciable claim, whether it is a set of individual or collective rights, whether RTC comprises of rights in the city or rights to the city; the political processes and the institutional sites for realisation of right to city remain.

According to Jordi Borja, “the development and legitimization of civil rights depend on a threefold process: i) cultural, hegemony of the values that underlie these rights and the act of demonstrating them; ii) social, citizen mobilization to achieve their legalization and iii) the creation of political and institutional mechanisms and procedures that ensure their implementation, to formalize, consolidate and develop policies and thus make them effective”. The RTC needs to be conceptualised and realised at all these levels.

What is the vision/s of a city as conceptualised by RTC? What new dimensions are added to realisation of rights by the notion of city? What claims to the city are various struggles and movements around the country making? For whom? How far or close are these claims from the existing policies/ governance mechanisms? What new moral or strategic strength does the RTC lend to these struggles? These questions are at the heart of the organisation of a National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to city in India’ in New Delhi on April 16 and 17 2018.

The Indian context is characterised by a scenario in which several aspects of urbanisation and what is happening in the urban are ‘in transition’ and contested. These range from defining the urban to the nature of urban governance and design of institutions to the meaning of justice and inclusion for diverse social groups who contribute to cities in myriad ways but whose contributions remain unrecognised and whose presence in the city is an exercise in indignity. The process of claim making for many groups in the country has largely been made from the frame of human rights at large and very rarely through an urban lens; mobilisation has been at regional and national scales and hardly ever at an urban scale. The last few years have seen enhanced claim making and assertion of toilers and settlers in urban areas of varied scales across the country and moved beyond the restrictive geography of metros. Above all, the turn of the new millennium and the launch of urban policies that espouse ’urbanisation as the growth engine ‘for the country has lent a new intensity and urgency to localised struggles around rights and claims in the city, to the city and to retain an open access the city.

The key question here is ‘what ‘is the city or cityness to which one is laying a claim to? Is there a form, nature of the city that we envisage? How similar or distinct is it from the Indian city of the past, today, or that which is emerging?

The Indian constitution is a highly progressive document that lays down the basis for the realisation of several rights; yet the time when the constitution was imagined was one of a largely rural India and thus it is often unable to effectively support the claims in an emerging urban India where citizenship is itself contested and where claims and welfare are tied to local residency and legality of property rights. The regimes through which the disenfranchised could claim the city are regimes that rested upon ‘humanistic claims’. These regimes are being significantly transformed. The promise of democratic, local governance is far from being realised and governance is being imagined in techno-bureaucratic terms. At the same time, concepts like housing, participation, and empowerment are being significantly redefined.

What then are the paths for realisation of RTC? Do we engage the city as well the particular groups whose claims are being expanded? How? Which spaces lend themselves to such democratisation? Does such engagement require new techniques, tools, resources? The experience of the Indian city is a highly variegated one, differing across scales but also across sectors and themes. Thus, some of the most rapid changes are being experienced in sectors such as housing, transport and infrastructure building. Other sectors are experiencing changes at a different space and realms. The institutions of governance are fragmented, and cultures of governance are experienced as sectorally specific. Claims of groups adversely impacted by processes thus necessarily must be sectorally mediated. This sectoral division creates multiple contradictions and can create lines of conflict among groups of toilers and settlers. Yet alternate ideas of cities also need to have a sectoral specificity, if they are to have some substance. What is the balance of substance and process in realisation of RTC? What is the meaning of RTC within thematics and across them? In short, how can right to city be viewed through the lens of water? Does solid waste offer a distinct conundrum of contestations as opposed to water or housing? Are some dimensions of RTC more critical than others? Which are they?

The National Workshop on ‘Realising the Right to City in India’ is envisaged as a dialogue on RTC across practitioners, activists and academics in cities across India, engaging with questions such as the ones raised above. The Centre for Urban Policy and Governance, TISS has been researching on this theme for the past couple of years, YUVA – the co organisers of this workshop have initiated a RTC campaign with multiple partners in 2015. The understanding derived in the process of research- practice forms a basis for the workshop. The objective is to discuss the way the concept is being operationalised in multiple realms, its utility and how it is being moulded through struggles in varied ‘urban’ sites in India, and its relationship to other concepts such as human rights and citizenship. Besides this ‘reflection’ over practice, we also hope that the shared understanding also contributes to an advance, a networked practice and a sharpening of new tools and ideas across various groups and academics in working towards a ‘progressive, democratic and just city’.

The schedule for the workshop is given below:

Right to the City Workshop

E-Governance in the Streets of Pune

By Arunav Chowdhury

Pune is an important metropolitan centre in Maharashtra and also an IT and education hub with a population of more than five million. Administering a city of this size is a herculean task and it becomes imperative that information is made available to people at their fingertips and governance is made more accessible.

There is an urgent need in delivering governance through modern methods and processes. Electronic governance or e-governance is the application of information and communication technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information, communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between government-to-customer (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G) as well as back office processes and interactions within the entire government framework. (Saugata, 2007).

Given the trend of digitisation and the Government’s policy of Digital India, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also taken a slew of initiatives in that direction although E-governance in the city is not new. Here are a few of them:


CIVIC COMPLAINTS VIA WHATSAPP Citizens are now able to register their civic-related complaints just by sending SMSes to their local ward officer, ward medical officer, medical inspector, deputy city engineers or junior engineers.

Complaints pertaining to problems like irregular water supply, breach in pipelines, potholes, broken footpaths, uneven lids on manholes, garbage clearance, illegal hawkers, cleanliness of public areas and street lights can be made by citizens.

COMPLAINTS WEBSITE Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has tied up with the Citizen Empowerment Forum to register their complaint through the Internet.

The system enables the citizens to file their complaint online and the complainant can check the status of the complaint on the net.

PMC CARE An app for complaints, to share information and get ‘live’ updates from the corporation. 
DIGITAL LITERACY E-governance training programmes to meet the needs of PMC employees by training them on conceptual and practical aspects of Information and Communication Technology.
TRAFFICOP The programme consists of a software application that runs on mobile devices linked to a server that stores all customised vehicle and license holder data. When the traffic officer logs into his/her device, he/she can enter the vehicle and license details of the offender and will automatically obtain a record of the offenders’ past history.
BUDDYCOP Buddy Cop is a WhatsApp group administered by a police officer where working women, especially in IT and banking sector, join to ensure they have immediate access to the police in a dire situation.
E-CHALLANS Around 1250-odd CCTV cameras are installed across the city, of which more than 200 have the options to tilt,pan and zoom. These cameras provide live feed to the main police control room. A screen-grab of a violation is culled from this footage as photographic evidence.
The offender is then sent a text message with the E-Challan. The city police have also introduced swipe machines to enable the offender to pay through cards.
SOCIAL MEDIA The city police has an active Facebook and Twitter Page.
Image link – http://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/how-much-does-pune-municipal-corporation-care/story-M3AoTO8y5iqV95Ls2tl63M.html

Regarding civic complaints and grievance redressal issues, people complain that the PMC has a poor track record on grievances.  Currently, the PMC runs six different helplines, each one addressing a different issue. While the garden department started helplines to register tree cutting, tree falling and the rescue of injured or trapped animals, the garbage department started a helpline to alert authorities towards locations where garbage hasn’t been cleared. The citizens say that registering a complaint is not the issue, but the fact that there is no follow up from the officials makes the umpteen number of helplines a futile exercise.

With regards to the E-challans, the Pune Traffic Police have been unable to recover fines amounting to whopping Rs 13 crore from traffic rule violators over the past six months although it has been able to issue e-challans swiftly.

While e-challans are being issued swiftly, there is no mechanism as yet to recover the fine amount from offenders. Through the CCTV-based ‘third-eye’ system, the unpaid dues have reached Rs 7,49,07,400, while the unpaid dues through cases filed by traffic personnel on the streets is Rs 5,77,55,708. Which mean, collectively, the traffic rule violators of Pune owe the traffic police Rs 13,26,63,108 in fine.

If a violator fails to respond to the notice, a court case will be filed and the procedure will be initiated. Therefore, not only does the new system promise increased strain on the judiciary, its introduction has failed to ensure traffic discipline or regulation of numbers of traffic rule violations in the city.


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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html


Smart City to Our City: Why Citizens Should Shape Their Cities

By Suvedh Jaywant

“Arre beta hi Smart City nahi Udyog kiti aahe! Changle raste aani property todun tithech kahitari navin banavun paise khanyache udyog chalavle aahet ya lokanni” (Son, this is not Smart City, this is Business City! This is the business of breaking something good that already exists and building over it to make money,” said Mr  Shivashankar, a coconut seller on the Dhole Patil road (DP Road), in Aundh, Pune. He meant that existing good quality public infrastructure is demolished and retrofitted again and again under the name of Smart City. He said this entire process was linked to corruption. The allegations made by this vendor on the footpath gave us an idea of the perception of the impoverished, common man towards the government’s Smart City Mission.

DP Road is one of the nine streets of Aundh which has been chosen to be developed into Smart Streets under the Pune Smart City Project. We, the students of the School of Habitat Studies, TISS, Mumbai, conducted a survey of these nine streets under the Winter Institute* coursework.

A popular school on the DP road provides services to around 7000 students in the area making it an important stakeholder in the process of transformation of the road. As a part of our survey, we decided to meet the principal of the school to understand her idea of a ‘Smart City’. She was happy with the overall idea of the Smart City, but was complaining about the newly constructed e-Public toilet and a bus stop shelter just outside the school. According to her, this bus stop shelter was installed just six months ago and no commuters boarded the bus from this point since it was the second last stop of the city bus. She felt that the bus-stop had become a nuisance for the school since boys from the neighbouring slum sit there the entire day. She mentioned that a few eve-teasing incidents had also taken place causing serious security concerns for the school. The school was in plans of requesting the ex-mayor of the city (a local informal power personality), who was also on their management board, to look into the matter and get the bus-stop shelter removed.

Just three days later, while we were on our field doing our survey, we saw a bulldozer demolishing this bus-stop. The photo clearly shows that the authorities could have neatly uninstalled it, however, they just evicted the structure with a bulldozer, making it not fit for reuse and increasing the scrap. When I was clicking the photo of this incidence, few more passers-by gathered there and started discussing how this bus-stop was installed only few months ago and how this process of installation and eviction is waste of public money.

The question here is not whether the eviction of bus-stop was a right thing to do or not, but, certainly, some other basic questions like:

  • Who decided to install a bus-stop with the waiting area there? Were the residents consulted when the bus-stop was installed?
  • Who was consulted before the demolition? Was the opinion of all residents taken before this step?
  • Why didn’t the school or other residents take any objection while installing the bus stop?
  • Who will bear the financial loss incurred out of this installation-uninstallation activity?
  • Is this haphazardly demolished new bus-stop just going to be a piece of scrap for the municipality?
  • And most importantly, why aren’t the citizens opposing such unnecessary expenditure? 

It seemed like Mr. Bhimashankar’s perception about the smart city project was true. We often think public infrastructure is a common property owned by nobody. It belongs to the Government. So we tend to neglect the way it is developed or maintained and the government authorities are free to execute the works as per their convenience. However, public infrastructure is public property i.e. the property which is owned by all of us. We all are collectively responsible for its development and maintenance. The people should feel that this is my street and I should be a part of the development process. This feeling is not seen in the people. The municipal authorities also get orders from the top and just execute the work.

Till when will the ‘top-down’ approach continue? Does Smart City mean only creating new infrastructure? Or is there a need to involve the real owners of the city i.e. the people, in planning processes? Isn’t there a need to create smart citizens too? A sense of ownership must be created among the citizens to get their active participation and making the streets smart. Else the blame game between citizens and institutions will be continued even in this ‘Smart’ Era.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html


To Park or Not to Park: The Legitimacy of No-parking signs on the streets of Pune

By Anna Brittas

During our short stint in Pune one of the very interesting things that we noticed were the signages. Under the broad heading of these signs, no-parking signs stood out due to their sheer abundance. What was really engaging was the fact that the signs came in different shapes, sizes and colours and were sometimes even in the form of barriers. It almost seemed like anyone and everyone could put up a ‘no parking’ sign. How do people especially motorists and vehicle owners view these signs and do they follow them while parking?

Various observations on the field revealed mixed patterns. There were areas such as the main roads where these signs were blatantly ignored while in some of the interior roads and those that were more residential there were fewer instances. The legitimacy factor of these signs can be arrived only when there is necessary infrastructure to implement it. The Motor Vehicles Act section 119/177 lists out all offences under the ambit of parking and also establishes the fine amount that contains both the toeing and the compounding fee which together fall in the range of Rs 150-300. So in effect what can be seen is that if the municipalities or the traffic police don’t have the necessary equipments then they cannot really perform their duties and therefore the motorists have no fear of parking in no-parking zones.  Considering that parking is a major issue and how vehicles parked in an unruly manner are the prime cause of obstruction in the movement of pedestrians in any street, it’s not surprising that there is such a huge number of such signs and barriers. All of this is linked to Pune’s rapid growth and urbanization in the last few decades and its emergence as a hub of manufacturing and IT services. Comparing the Census of India, 2001 and Census of India 2011, Pune has witnessed a population growth rate of 30.37%. All of these have led to increased congestion on the roads and problems in parking and crunch in spaces for pedestrians to move freely.

It’s also fascinating how residents themselves erect these boards near their gates, and also how they manage to deal with the vehicles if in case they are parked in these self-created no parking zones.

A classic sight of violation, as seen at a residential area in Kothrud, Pune.
An effective way of ensuring a no-parking zone through barriers (Aundh, Pune)
A market for no-parking signs exists, wherein the signs also act as advertisements. (Kothrud,Pune)
A very interesting sight if one carefully notices, of a bicycle not just parked, but locked on the signage. Shows an alternate albeit contradicting use of the sign. (Shaniwar wada, Pune)
Anna 2.jpg
A space for 4-wheeler parking taken over by two-wheelers (Aundh, Pune)



Random scribbling of ‘no parking’ on walls, but no legitimacy whatsoever (Aundh, Pune)


An informal way of making sure vehicles are not parked in front of gates of residential complexes.(Aundh, Pune)


To conclude, it is very clear that various areas in Pune have a parking crisis. According to Pune Municipal Corporation’s Environment Status Report for the year 2016-17, the vehicle population is equal to the city’s population and in fact the ratio of vehicles compared to per person is more than 1 which is quite high. The need of the hour is to have a control on this growing number of vehicles which would require looking into the public transport system in Pune and also to encourage cycling and incentivizing it as Pune is known as the cycle city. An improvement of the services of buses, autorickshaws and other such modes will definitely help curb the problem. On the supply side, parking regulation needs to be in order so as to lessen the problems on the street as it can be noticed that there is no dearth in street signs in Pune but rather it’s a question of who governs them and whether any action is taken or not by the authorities because otherwise the signs are redundant.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html


Mini Public: Bringing Diverse Voices Together

By Tushar Anand

A Mini-Public event was organised by the Centre for Environment and Education (CEE) and Centre for Urban Policy and Governance on October 14, 2017 in Aundh, Pune, with the idea of bringing various stakeholders on the same table to deliberate on the topic of development of the streets. The name ‘Mini-Public’ itself alludes to the emphasis upon greater civic participation and social inclusion in the process of development. For this event, the Samvaad Hall at the YASHADA Administrative Training Institute in Baner, Pune was chosen. It seemed to be the perfect location for the event since samvaad literally translates to dialogue.

We the students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences were volunteers and facilitators for the day. The hall was arranged with five different tables with ten chairs each. Care was taken to ensure that each table had equal representation from all groups, and no particular group dominated the flow of discussion in any table. A separate utility table was set up at the back of the room which held an assortment of stationery, card papers, permanent markers, and rolls of fake currency which were to be used as props as the event progressed.

Separate tables, similar agenda. Picture courtesy: Abhishek Anil

The stakeholders started arriving around 11am, but the work behind the scenes is important to highlight. The stakeholders in the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi area were identified and their opinions were analysed as a part of the fieldwork done by the students for a few days before the event. CEE also had a major role to play, since they had been closely involved in the Smart City project which is being implemented in the area. It was important that the informal vendors in the area were provided with a platform to raise their concerns, and special care was taken to include them in the discussion. A significant point to remember is that these informal vendors work on a daily-wage basis, and their participation in the event meant that they would lose out on their livelihood for the day. This point wasn’t lost on the organizers, who compensated them for their time and participation in the event (although, the vendors themselves had no idea that this would happen at the time when they agreed to be a part of the event- which negates the argument that they participated solely for monetary benefits). The collective efforts bore fruit on the day the event was organized, when a substantial participation of such stakeholders was observed- a pleasant surprise for both the organizers and the students, who were still uncertain of the level of participation on the actual day. It was the allure of making their voices heard on a platform of equal opportunity, and being a part of discussions which they had been denied previously, which drew them to the event. A definite triumph for the organizers who envisioned the event for the empowerment of the weaker sections of the society, who probably had the most to lose and the least to gain with the current mode of implementation of the Smart City project, and no other platforms to make their voices heard.

Deliberations, discussions and debates. Picture Courtesy: Abhishek Anil

The whole event was conducted in the local language Marathi to facilitate conversations among the stakeholders and make the people more comfortable while listing out their concerns and expectations from the project in particular, and governance as whole. The first round of discussions were conducted in two phases, with each table listing down the “Things we Want” and “Things to Change” as separate lists. Collectively, these lists represented the demands and expectations of various groups and every issue was meticulously debated and deliberated upon. It must be kept in mind that the vendors were sitting on the same table with residents and traders probably for the first time, and it’s quite understandable that the discussions were a bit insipid in the beginning. However, soon they lost their inhibitions and the room was full of voices from every corner of each of the tables. Every table had facilitators, translators and record-keepers, both from CEE and TISS, who would facilitate discussions and ensure that the core issues were being discussed, and recorded judiciously.

Voices for inclusive participation in decision-making. Picture Courtesy: Abhishek Anil

Mere discussions were not the only agenda of the day. In order to understand the actual decision-making process and participatory governance in action, each member at the tables was given a set amount of fake currency which they had the right to allocate to various issues that they had commonly decided earlier in the day. The idea was to understand the decision-making process by a governing authority which has a set budget to implement a project within a definite time period, at an individual level through the medium of collective participation. Fourteen key issues had been identified by the earlier deliberations, and each issue was discussed again with every individual allocating set resources towards each problem. For example, if waste management was an issue that people wanted to be improved in their area, they could allocate greater amount of ‘money’ to that problem and hence it would indicate a higher priority by the majority. The whole act had all the markings of a classical ‘game’ (from Game Theory in Economics) – with a stratified random sample group having to make decisions in accordance with predetermined set of rules. It is interesting to note that upon repetition of the game (there were two rounds with similar rules), the groups came to a better consensus in the understanding of the issues (which was evident in the high allocation of resources towards common issues such as better quality and access to public services and utilities) – a phenomenon that bears close resemblance to Nash’s predictions*.

Aside from the fact that this particular part of the event is of great fascination to anyone with a mild interest in behavioural economics and group psychology, the participants were very satisfied with the event. It was the first instance of participatory democracy and collective decision-making in practice, and there was great enthusiasm among all the stakeholders who devoted an entire day to deliberate upon the issues that affect everyone. It’s hardly surprising that all the participants responded with a resounding “YES” when asked whether they would be a part of similar events in the future as well.

* One of the most important ideas in John Nash’s famous concept of equilibrium in Game Theory is that reiteration and repetition of games would lead to the players being more familiar with the rules, and would eventually show behaviour patterns at the Nash Equilibrium- which can be predicted and generalized.
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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html

Rethinking Smart Cities through Participatory Governance  

By Abhishek Anil


The Centre for Urban Policy and Research at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, along with Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Pune, organised a Mini Public on the October 13, 2017. The event was a culmination of week-long fieldwork done by the students of TISS in the Aundh-Baner-Balewadi area of Pune, identified for the Smart City initiative. The project involved identifying the numerous stakeholders of the area which included residents, hawkers and owners of small commercial enterprises amongst others to create a miniaturised participatory governance process through rounds of guided discussions and deliberations.


The event was held at Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration. Among the attendees were individuals from diverse socio-economic backgrounds engaged in different occupations. The attendees invited represented the numerous demographic groups of any urban region. The intention behind having a diverse demographic representation was to include groups which often find themselves excluded from participatory exercises and decision making processes.


The idea behind this initiative was to bring people — from hawkers to bungalow residents — together on a common platform as equal citizens. This would then ensure a samvaad, or dialogue among the different stakeholder groups about how these groups would like their locality to be like in the foreseeable future.


As people trickled in, a process of registration commenced. We, from TISS were frankly quite overwhelmed with the response showed by the residents of Aundh to take time out from their busy schedules to turn up for our Mini Public. The attendees were a healthy concoction of vendors, residents and especially women eager to contribute with their thoughts and actively participate in the process.


As the invitees poured in, they were welcomed with a display of a series of posters prepared by the students. In the picture above, Anushri explains the various limbs of governance like PMPML, Pune Municipal Corporation, Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd etc, which determine how our city shapes up as. These posters also highlighted the condition of the indispensable workforce behind maintaining our cities. These workers belong to the various corporations like PMC and SWACHH who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the streets are clean, the drainage functional and the trees trimmed, without getting their fair share of recognition or even basic equipment.

These posters were intended to show the dynamics of governance at work, while simultaneously sensitizing the affluent of the plight of the people who keep the city trim and proper.



After the people occupied their seats, the Mini Public formally commenced with Mr Avinash from CEE taking charge of the proceedings. The entire process was conducted in Marathi for the convenience of non-Hindi speakers. He introduced the concept of participatory governance and provided them with a broad overview of the themes for the day. The 40 attendees were then divided among six tables, with each table having a facilitator from CEE to guide them through the processes to come. Each table also had a fair representation of the various socio-economic and gender groups to make the process as inclusive as possible. To begin with, each table was asked to choose facets of their locality they wished to retain and the ones they wanted to expend, like trees, historical structures, bus stops, public toilets and such like. As different stakeholders used the streets differently, they were asked about the specific ways they viewed a space as public as a street which resulted in a plethora of responses. The facilitators at each table ensured the deliberations weren’t hijacked by a certain individual or group and the process functioned as smoothly as possible.


The discussions were a stark departure from what we, the students of TISS observed during our fieldwork. Interactions with a PMC official, local corporators and residents showed the ideals of the 74th CAA weren’t followed in spirit. Moreover, the Smart City SPV didn’t involve enough participatory exercises to ensure inclusive governance. The hawkers and vendors were systematically left out and often treated as appendages to a broader and ambiguous notion of ‘smart city’. The demands of lower income groups were not given adequate attention while formal and established institutions enjoyed greater say in the discussions, partly because of their proximity to the decision-making elites.

We at CEE and TISS aimed to bridge this very gap and give the underrepresented a greater chance to voice their demands and concerns. While people engaged with each other across tables, we realized the people’s concerns weren’t drastically different after all. Each group did want safer streets and better public transport, and such demands cut across various socio-economic stratifications. It was quite heartening to see people recognise differences and still come together as ‘we’ and not ‘I’.

Forceful arguments were made…
…but there were a few light-hearted moments too.

When asked about what the stakeholders would like to retain or change in their neighbourhood, a variety of responses emerged. However, almost each member of the group could relate to it. Demands were as basic as an accessible footpath, streetlights to ensure safety and connectivity with the wider public transport system to make people’s commute easier. Rarely did we come across demands or aspirations which a certain section couldn’t relate to, which was a sign of how participatory governance processes can lead to symmetric development of the masses.


Discussions were followed by a process of allotment of funds. As in the real world the political economy plays a crucial role in which demands of the people are realised and which ones are shelved, this exercise made the participants realise why not all their demands are released.


Which projects or amenities see the light of day depends on whether the taxpayers are willing to put their money into it. For this exercise, each group was given limited funds which was then collectively allotted to the numerous demands they made earlier. While a few demands were indeed funded, a few were shelved for a later day.

We had a few serious listeners…
…and a few delighted faces.

At the end of the exercise, the issue which got the maximum amount of funds was the revamp of public transport. This highlights how despite the earnest attempts of the government and auxiliary limbs of governance, transport in urban India remains abysmal, leading to an over-reliance on private vehicles. While the wealthy do enjoy the luxury of being able to afford vehicles, the economically vulnerable need an efficient public transport system to meet their daily commuting needs.


And that’s how the Mini Public culminated with a lot of valuable takeaways, both for our stakeholders and us, the students of TISS.

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: http://urk.tiss.edu/winter-institute.html