Informal Local Power Structures in Everyday Governance

By Kunal Chaturvedi

“Bhaji walon ka nazariya chahiye to unhi se poocho, mujhe kya pata hoga” (If you want to know about the perspective of vegetable vendors, ask them. Why are you asking me?), was the response to our question about the views of Pune city’s vegetable vendors on the Smart City Project. The blunt reply shocked us, and we began to wonder why exactly were we interviewing this big-time builder/businessman and local strongman on an issue that does not concern him. However, interviewing him was not our decision. We were taken to his office by the leader of the vendors himself, who quite explicitly told us that the de facto authority in the area lies to a large extent with the strongman’s family. In fact, many of the vendors in the market refused to directly answer our questions, stating that any untoward statement that they might make will invite the disapproval of him.

This, and other such experiences faced by our team on the very first day in the streets, combined with the large hoardings and the signboards on various buildings, roads and colonies made it very clear to us who the dominant landlords in the area were. We later came to know that the patriarch of the powerful family was in fact an ex-mayor of the Pune Municipal Corporation, whereas his close family members also served as former corporators. On the other hand, the business and building interests of the family are looked after by another family member who we spoke to. The family fielded a woman candidate from within the family in the year the ward was reserved for women leaders raising suspicions about the real decision makers behind the candidate. There has also been an allegation of misrule during one of the family member’s leadership while serving as the elected representative from the area.

The key to understanding the family’s hold over the area lies in the history of the pattern of landholdings in the area. As one of the family members claimed in an interview with members of our team, the clan is an offshoot of an erstwhile dynasty from Gujarat, and was given the land in the area as part of their jagirs. Upon inclusion of the Aundh region into the Pune city limits in 1950, the area was “handed-over” to the PMC by his father, who was the sarpanch of the area at that time. However, despite the loss of formal authority over the area, the informal hold of the family continued, particularly due to them maintaining ownership over significant amount of land. This informal authority is perhaps best reflected in the views of a large number of residents about the developmental trajectory of the area. These residents point out to the fact that as late as the 1990’s, the area was dominantly agricultural. Over the last two decades, as one elderly resident claimed, the area was developed as a residential-cum-semi-commercial zone by the on of the sons of the ruling patriarch in response to the expansion of the effective city limits due to continuous migrations. The fact that many residents still give the credit for the infrastructural development of the region to the them is an important insight to the extent of the family’s hold over the minds of the people in the area. In fact, even today, the family owns several IT parks and corporate hubs, along with a petrol pump and several vacant plots planned for further construction in a local neighborhood named after one of the earlier scions of the family. The claim has been taken one step further in the family’s website used to promote party propaganda, which states that the developmental works done by them in Aundh were the reason for the selection of the area for the Smart City Project.  Moreover, the family also hold significant interests in public facilities such as the private school and a hospital located in the area, with the principal of the school herself referring to it as the brainchild of the patriarch in an interview.

The developmental trajectory of the area, and more importantly the perceptions of the people about the driving forces behind it reveal that the power that the family holds in the area despite holding no constitutional posts at present is built upon the continuance of the feudal mindset and the deep imbibing of the informal relations of power that have historically existed. As a result, several client-patron relationships have sprang up between members of the family and various local stakeholder groups, the most glaring example of which is perhaps the mandai mentioned earlier. The vendors in the market were given formal recognition as well as a semi-permanent place to sell their wares by one of the family members during his tenure as the mayor. Today, an unusual alliance has developed between the vendors and the ex-mayor, with the family providing security of tenure and business to the vendors, and the vendors providing ground level political ‘feelers’ for the family. The political connections, though covert, are visible in the perceptions of the people, who firmly believe the area to be a Congress stronghold under the family, and claim that the recent BJP victory in the municipality elections is owed exclusively to electoral malpractices.

Apart from the historic sociopolitical factors that have shaped the hold of the family over the area, considerable credit is also owed to the personal charisma and accessibility of these power figures themselves. As we found out, while every vendor in the mandai was unwilling to speak independently to us, almost all of them had access to one of the son’s contact details, and one of them served as our guide to his office. Similarly, the patriarch himself walked down till his petrol pump to meet the team which went to interview him, and took them to a café owned by him nearby. Several residents in the area claimed that it was this accessibility that makes the family the rallying point for the community in the area. However, regarding the question of the limits of this accessibility during the period of his incumbency as the mayor, no definite answer could be found, since people of the area either completely support or are totally against them. Similarly, the overt willingness displayed by one the businessmen in the family towards establishing a forum for cooperation between various stakeholder groups in the area points out to the fact that this family serves as a merger of interests between different sections of the society. While themselves belonging to the rich, upper class of big builders and businessmen, they also patronize local small vendors and hawkers, leading to an effective, informal and local level dispute resolution mechanism. Moreover, the family sometimes serves as an effective link between the stakeholders in the area and the bureaucratic and political decision makers, using their considerable political and money influence to alter and reshape decisions.  Obviously, this cooperation only holds true as long as there is no direct conflict of interest between the family and the stakeholder group.

This nexus of political as well as capital power within the family becomes obvious upon meeting the two brothers. While one of the brothers fits perfectly into the image of a politician, dressed immaculately in white Kurta-Pajama, and speaking in the diplomatic, political lingo, the other is the image of a modern-day capitalist, dressed in western formals, and speaking a language replete with legal and business terminologies.

In such a scenario where multiple formal and informal power structures including elected representatives, dominant political families and individuals and bureaucrats exist together, it becomes interesting to note that the poorer sections of the society are often dependent on their relationship with a particular power figure, and this loyalty is maintained irrespective of whether he/she is in formal power or not. Moreover, as evidences from the interviews of the mandai vendors point out, the negotiations between various power figures is such that a group loyal to a particular power figure is often left alone by the opposition even when its patron is not in power. Thus, while the system of multiple power structures appears incomprehensibly complex, the whole system manages to work out through a web of negotiations and adjustments between various groups and stakeholders.

* All names have been deliberately removed to protect identity.


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:


Smart Streets Vs Street Vendors: Can Visions of Development be Inclusive?


By Divya Bharti

The use of a street is not just limited to movement from one end to the other. A street is a spectrum of different uses ranging from economical to social to physical — a kaleidoscope, if you will. Streets are spaces for earning livelihoods, they are a recreational space, a playground, an interacting space, a socialising space, a celebratory space, a stage, or put simply, streets are a space of multiple claims and contestations, which vary from one street to another and also from rural to urban. This photo essay looks at an urban street in Aundh, a suburb in Pune City, which is set to become “smart” under the Smart Cities Mission. Ever since the Smart Streets project has been announced, the street vendors have started receiving notices of eviction. Only a few have been promised rehabilitation to another location.  

What is an urban street? Some say it is a ‘public space’, others call it a ‘public good’, and yet a ‘common pool resource’. In all the contested definitions of a street, one thing that is conspicuous is that “a street is a limited and valuable, non-excludable but rivalrous resource” (Jain & Moraglio, 2014) which should be accessible to each and every member of the society. But is it the reality? Each claimed and contested space of a street tells a story of its own — of how that place was acquired.

The courage of the vendors amidst all the uncertainty is laudable. They set themselves up for the same struggles every year, and yet persist. The national economic figures show that the informal and unorganised economy accounts for more than 90% of India’s economy — the vendors and hawkers form a big part of it. They essentially cater to the basic needs of people, are accessible and available at short distances saving time and cost of travelling, yet they remain unappreciated. Everyone wants them, but not at their doorstep. So where should they go? This essay looks at whether new visions of development safeguard the interests of street vendors.


“None of us have permanent jobs here — we deal with uncertainty every day.”

Image 1: Sharda Ashok Rakshe, the lady in the brown sari, has been selling her wares in the Aundh area for 30 years. Every year during Diwali, she temporarily claims this section of the street to earn an extra income. This unauthorised claim over space means that she has to fight to keep it, and pay a fine to get her things back every time the officials take away her wares during a raid. She and others like her are not allowed to erect any kind of structure that hints at permanency such as an overhead structure made up of aluminium sheets. There is no formal governing arrangement for these kinds of temporary livelihoods to exist, so they are forced to exist in precarious, informal spaces.  

Image 2: The ‘Shri Siddhivinayak Sweet Shop’ on the opposite side of the road belongs to her husband, who has been living in the area for over half a century. There’s an ironing shop besides it which also belongs to them, and they have rented it out. So why does she need to resort to the above-mentioned temporary means of livelihood? She says, “Permanent job to nahi hai yahan kisi ke paas, to ye sab karna padta hai”. (No one has a permanent job here, so we have to do these things). Currently, they are worried because they’ve been told that they will be rehabilitated to another place. They, along with the other residents, in the adjacent basti (locality) are resisting. They say that they are getting a small space in the new place and no rights to a shop. They don’t want to leave the space they’ve created in exchange for a smaller one far away.



“Smart City means good footpaths, roads, dustbins — but we don’t come under ‘Smart Cities’, do we?”

Suryakant Kamle, owner of the street side stall in an auto, has been in Aundh since 2008 and has had a license since 2011. However, he is still not allowed to claim this space. He has not faced the threat of eviction yet, only orders to move his shop because his license is a travelling license and not a permanent one. Though he has a license, he has no idea about the Street Vendors Act, 2014. The Street Vendors Act 2014 accords street vendors with rights to livelihood and protection against eviction. He doesn’t have a problem with being shifted elsewhere if it meets his needs of vending. He says “Smart City to hona chahiye, par idhar se utha ke udhar chod do aisa nahi hona chahiye, kidhar to jagah milni chahiye” (Smart city should be there but moving us from one place to another should not be the trend, we should get a designated space). On being asked what does he mean by ‘Smart City’, he says, “Smart city matlab standard area, lighting, footpath, acchhi road, dustbins…to hum to nahi aa sakte na smart ke andar.” (Smart City means a standard area with lighting, footpath, good roads, dustbins…so we can’t come under smart, can we?). When asked what if everything is made ‘smarter’, his reply was, “sab smart nahi ho sakta….bas humein ek area de do ‘smart sa’ khada rehne ko”. (Everything can’t be smart, just give us a somewhat smart area to stand and vend).

How and why does such a perception develop in their minds that they don’t belong in the ‘smart’ or the ‘urban’? One factor could be the state’s and public’s apathy (and sometimes antipathy) to their plight and the constant displacement in the name of “development”. What is “smart” about a city if it can’t cater to every citizen’s need?


‘Why should the street vendors leave? We were here before this village turned into a city.’

The above pictures show the same area with a slight difference. The picture on the left shows the space has been claimed till the parking lane, but the picture on the right shows the space claimed is just till the footpath. This change was observed within a period of a week. The vendors have been here for over 25 years, since the time it was a rural-agricultural area. One of the vendors claims to have a license for five years, yet he and others like him face the threat of eviction. The shops in the background of the second picture have come up after the development of the area. These shopkeepers frequently lodge complaints against the vendors to get them evicted because they apparently reduce the visibility of their shops and create problems of parking. They claim that the occupation of the footpath forces the senior citizens to walk on the road which results in accidents. The vendors in response ask: “Hum kyun jayein? Hum yahan pehle se hain…” (Why should we go? We were here first.)

Whose claim in the above contestation for space holds more weight? Let’s look at another claim over a similar space…


“We are a government authorised dairy, we won’t answer any questions.”

This dairy in the picture above has been there for almost 20 years. It’s a brand supported by the central government and hence, is an authorised stall. It has a license for vending here, meaning it doesn’t have to face any trouble with the authorities. The dairy owner refused to answer any questions; instead he had just one line to say “Hum sarkari dairy hain, hum koi jawab nahi denge…” (We’re a government authorised dairy, we won’t give any answers).

The above examples show the unequal (and unfair?) behaviour of the state towards one kind of vending over another. Why this distinction? Why does one vendor have to constantly haggle and struggle for survival, while the other is secure?


‘Some residents help us out, others complain.’

The above picture is a curious case of an informal and unexpected form of negotiation between a vendor and a resident. This juice vending stall run by two brothers has been on this footpath since 2001. Their problem is that “municipality wale utha ke le jate hain” (Municipality people take our things away). The fine to get their things back is Rs 500. It has been almost 5 to 6 years since they had applied for a license. They have also paid Rs 5000 to some official as bribe. When asked about the problems with residents, he says, “kuch achchhe hain, jinhe fark nahi padta, par kuch complain karte hain” (some are good who don’t mind our presence, but some complain). The good ones include people from a house just across the street, where he gets to park his wares at night, free of cost. What the brothers want, like the other vendors, is a license to vend.

Streets are like a coin with two sides, a visible realm and an invisible one. The intricacies of these two realms come with their own contradictions conspicuous in the various contestations one might see walking down a street (in a reflective mood). The claims on streets are decided by a number of things including one’s class and caste to one’s position in the socio-political hierarchy. The legality and permanency of these claims and contestations depend on the money and power one has or can wield to influence the decision-making process. A vada-pav stall owner becomes inferior to a restaurant owner; vehicles become more important than livelihoods. What/who decides which claim should stay and the other done away with? The Indian streets appear to be a restricted and a limited-use resource. Should they be that way? I would say no. The state is responsible for all its citizens but where should one go, when the state does not deliver justice? The need of the hour is to give a serious thought to these claims/contestations and develop a mechanism where the voices of the ‘unheard’ and the ‘unaccounted’ are taken into consideration and their demands are met. There is a dire need for reforming the existing processes of public engagement, participation and the overall governance structure to make the service delivery system more inclusive, equitable and just. It is imperative to take action if India wants to achieve the esteemed Sustainable Development Goals and become a developed nation, which won’t reach fruition if there exists a Bharat that is impoverished in an India that abounds.


Jain, A., & Moraglio, M. (2014, August 31). Struggling for the use of urban streets: preliminary (historical) comparison between European and Indian cities. Retrieved from International Journal of the Commons:

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:



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:


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 –

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:


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:


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: