Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI) Initiative at Centre for Policy Research (CPR) awarded Best Non-Profit Engagement Model in Sanitation: Rural and Urban by India Sanitation Coalition (ISC) and FICCI

New Delhi 7 December: The Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI) Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) won the award for the ‘best non-profit engagement model in sanitation: rural and urban’ at the 6th edition of the ISC-FICCI Sanitation Awards Ceremony and India Sanitation Conclave. CPR’s SCI-FI Initiative was presented the award in recognition and appreciation for the unique urban-rural convergence model for faecal sludge management in Dhenkanal in Odisha. The initiative has been working in the state since 2014, offering technical expertise to the state and local-level administration to achieve safely-managed sanitation for all.

The urban-rural convergence project was conceptualised by CPR’s SCI-FI Initiative in response to the emerging need for faecal sludge management in Odisha’s rural areas as the state witnessed rapid construction of toilet facilities under Swachh Bharat. The model is based on taking a district-wide planning approach to sanitation. It involves leveraging existing urban sanitation infrastructure and services for rural areas, in neighboring gram panchayats. The successful implementation of the model has led to a scale-up across Odisha. It has also received traction at the national level.

Speaking on the occasion, Shubhagato Dasgupta, Senior Fellow and Director of CPR’s SCI-FI Initiative said, “We are delighted to receive this award and would like to thank our many partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, Arghyam, Practical Action, the Municipality and District government of Dhenkanal and finally and foremost the Housing and Urban Development Department of the Government of Odisha without whom this would not have been possible.”

President and Chief Executive of CPR, Yamini Aiyar said, “In the past few years, CPR has broadened its engagements and deepened work at the subnational level, offering technical expertise to solve difficult and complex policy problems. Our longstanding work in Odisha aimed to provide safely managed sanitation for all is one such example. This award is a recognition of that effort.”

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Land Rights Initiative turns 8 today!

Land Rights Initiative turns 8 today! As we mark this important milestone, I am incredibly grateful to the Centre for Policy Research, our researchers, donors, mentors, collaborators, government, civil society groups, and communities that have made this journey possible and our work sustainable.

I set up the Land Rights Initiative (“LRI”) with the belief that land is central not just to India’s economic development agenda but to the very idea of India itself. Even as we celebrate 75 years of India’s independence this year, almost 60 percent of all Indians are directly dependent upon the land for their livelihoods. Land is not just an economic resource; it is also central to individual dignity and community identity, history, and culture. Land reforms were crucial not only to India’s economic development but also to its political independence and social redistribution story.

India’s freedom movement was premised upon liberating us from a past of colonial domination and subordination and upon building a future that would bring about rapid economic development for all Indians and ensure individual dignity for all. The Indian Constitution adopted in 1950 safeguarded land rights of Scheduled Tribes and through the inclusion of the fundamental right to property in Article 19(1) (f), for the first time guaranteed equal property rights to all Indians, including women and Dalits or Scheduled Castes. Together, women, Scheduled Castes, and Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes constitute the bottom 60% of the population.

However, as the development agenda played out over the following decades, it brought to the fore the inherent tension between the utilitarian nature of the “development discourse” and the dignitarian nature of the “rights discourse”. This led to the gradual demise of the right to property through a series of constitutional amendments between 1951 and 1978. Ostensibly done for the benefit of the poor, the period since the abolition of the right to property in fact saw greater displacement and dispossession of people from the land due to various development projects. Particularly vulnerable were the Scheduled Tribes, which constitute only 8.6% of India’s population but constitute nearly 50% of those displaced between 1950 and 1999, many of them twice in one lifetime due to dams, mines, wildlife parks, and sanctuaries. This widespread development-induced displacement led to persistent and ubiquitous legal and extra-legal conflict over land, plaguing the lives of people across millions of hectares of land and threatening investments worth billions of dollars.

It was against this backdrop that Land Rights Initiative set out to investigate the reasons for conflict over land and to build a body of knowledge that would enable the government to formulate and implement policies in a way that would preserve the land rights of the people of India without derailing the development agenda.

Over the first five years of its existence, LRI released two pioneering research reports and a singular policy brief that outlined reasons for land conflict and made policy suggestions for reform. The first research report on Land Acquisition in India: A Review of Supreme Court Cases from 1950 to 2016 (CPR: 2017) constituted a first-time-ever comprehensive attempt to analyse all judicial decisions by the Supreme Court on land acquisition, numbering 1269, to illuminate the reasons for popular discontent with the government’s processes of land acquisition which had, in turn, led to both legal and extra-legal conflict over land. This Report has been used extensively by the Department of Land Resources in the Ministry of Rural Development and has been used in training and capacity-building programmes by the National Highways Authority of India and the National Institute for Defence Estates Management. The Report has also been used widely by individual litigants defending their lands against governmental acquisition. That this Report is now the authoritative text on land acquisition is evident from the fact that it was cited by opposing parties, both the government and farmers, before the Supreme Court Constitution bench in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and others (2020).

The second research report on The Legal Regime and Political Economy of Land Rights of Scheduled Tribes in Scheduled Areas of India (CPR:2018) for the first time mapped the Scheduled Areas and plotted the forest cover and mines in India to show a significant overlap with the Scheduled Areas. Through a review of the constitutional and legal provisions pertaining to the Scheduled Areas, and conflicting narratives of identity and development of Scheduled Tribes, the Report was able to shed light on the reasons for the displacement, poverty, and landlessness of Scheduled Tribes. Recommendations from this Report and the National Seminar on Understanding Landlessness and Displacement of, and Atrocities against Scheduled Tribes co-organised by LRI and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in 2018, and the 2020 NCST report on Tribal Land Alienation in India, for which I served as an expert advisor, were incorporated into NCST’s Annual report (2019-2020) under Article 338A of the Constitution. NCST’s Annual Report was sent to the President of India in early 2021.

Consolidating our work over a five-year period, the policy brief on Understanding Land Conflict in India: Suggestions for Reform (2019) highlighted the conflicting people versus state narratives over land which in turn had led to over a thousand colonial and post-colonial laws and administrative practices. The absence of a publicly available comprehensive database of land laws greatly hampered citizen access to the laws that govern one of the most important aspects of our lives. The desire to fill this gap is what birthed LRI’s most ambitious project called One Thousand Land Laws: Mapping Indian Land Laws. Conceptualised and executed over a period of five years, this project involves an attempt to create a comprehensive, exploratory archive of all land laws in India, a veritable “google maps for land laws”. This year, we launched the web and mobile versions of this website, accessible at

The website currently features officially authenticated copies of nearly 500 original and active central laws, and state laws from a geographically representative sample of eight states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Punjab, and Telangana. The website also features Hindi and English language summaries of all laws. From laws pertaining to land reforms and land acquisition, to revenue and taxation and land use, forest and mining laws; from laws promoting and regulating urban and infrastructural development to laws dealing with evacuee, enemy, ancestral and religious property, this vast legal apparatus governs the lives of the people of India, and their interactions with each other and the state. Embedded within the website is a subject-wise classification of all the laws according to over thirty categories, further subdivided into a hundred and fifty sub categories.

For our work in creating citizen awareness and deepening democracy, in 2020, LRI was one of fifteen organisations (out of a hundred and fifty) shortlisted for the inaugural Shamnad Basheer Citizenship Prize, which recognises organisations transforming the field of law and justice. LRI’s research papers have informed courses and curricula across law schools and social science programmes. LRI’s internship programme has exposed and nurtured an entire generation of students in research on this complex subject. As the pioneering institution in the land policy space, LRI has also nurtured the land policy ecosystem by supporting the work of land policy initiatives at other research institutions.

Even as LRI enters its ninth year, climate devastation is upon us and world leaders are meeting in Egypt at the UN Climate Change Conference 27 to shape our collective response to the climate crisis. Our learnings over the past eight years have led us to conclude that land is not just crucial to the imagination of India, but also crucial to our imagination of sustainable survival on planet earth. We at LRI strongly believe that the indigenous imagination of “jal, jungle, zameen” as constituting an indivisible ecosystem, is crucial not just to the preservation of the way of life of Adivasis or Scheduled Tribes but is crucial to sustainable living on the planet. Land rights are an important mechanism for ensuring individual dignity and intergenerational equity, and community-based resource management systems are important for sustainable development. Over the next two years, LRI hopes to create dialogic engagement between our body of work on land rights and economic development with climate imaginaries of sustainable survival.

Dr. Namita Wahi
Founding Director, Land Rights Initiative
Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

Message from CPR’s Chairperson, Governing Board, Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath on the 49th Foundation Day

The 49th anniversary of the Centre of Policy Research is an important occasion, and one that calls for both celebration and introspection. The sheer efflorescence of output at CPR is reason to celebrate. CPR was envisaged as an ecosystem that interfaced between the university and government to breathe intellectual life into what its founder then saw as a “moribund system of public administration, hamstrung by the poverty of imagination”. Dr.V.A. Pai Panandiker, Former President of CPR, laid the foundations of a vibrant space that pioneered the impressive body of work on policy issues in India that has become synonymous with CPR.
The nature of policy research is not narrowly prescriptive here. What is emphasized is the option generating imagination, that is best suited to the complex, diverse, highly variegated governance ecosystem of the country. CPR’s experts contribute to a dialogic process that brings voices to the table that are not often heard during policy consultations. Policy makers often draw on this rich repertoire for innovative scenario building.

The local and the global are not seen as discrete spaces, but as a matrix of criss- crossing trajectories that require collaborative, consultative engagement. This kind of interdisciplinarity is fully on display at the hugely popular Annual CPR Dialogues that draws enthusiastic participation from across sectors. Moving seamlessly from the local through the national, regional and global domains, CPR’s work transcends programmatic silos.

Through all the multisectoral work that we do, the leitmotifs reflect (1) an engagement with first principles, (2) the long view of the nature of the ethicality of the social compact, (3) how it delivers on democracy, on social and economic rights and enhances human dignity. We examine the normative dimension – not merely what is expedient for policy – but on how it impacts those it is intended for.

As we enter the 50th year as one of India’s premier think tanks, we celebrate our various milestones, but also collectively introspect on our evolving role and mandate:

  • How useful is our research and to whom does it matter? Are we an effective bridge between state, civil society and academia?
  • Does our knowledge production feed effectively into policy spaces?
  • Do we contribute to a wider epistemic community beyond the compulsions of funding deadlines and ‘outcome’ expectations?
  • Do we buttress democratic praxis?
  • In our quest for solutions how sensitive have we been to what questions remain…which we failed to ask?

In the dialectical interplay between ‘governance’ and ‘democracy’ is embedded our abiding question of what it would take to build a responsive, equitable, inclusive, effective 21st century State for India.

Our research takes us to the intersections of this complex mosaic of perceptions, practices, structures, beliefs that collide, cohere, even collude in ways that significantly determine the manner in which the people of India experience their rights and the quality of citizenship. The changing nature of the state and its ‘capacity’ in the current phase of ‘globalization’ is the big idea that links our work on accountability, urbanization, sanitation, energy, climate change, land rights, migration, health, cities, and the nuts and bolts of federalism with the lived experiences of the citizens of the Republic whom the state is meant to serve – not just service.

The other big question that engages us, revolves around navigating the emerging geopolitical landscape and the congruence between domestic/ electoral compulsions, the economy and India’s global aspirations. As the norms of engagement in the global order change, how should India calibrate her geopolitical position? What are the new configurations at play?

In a globalized world, as the line between what is external and what is domestic becomes increasingly porous, how must India secure her credentials as a democratic, pluralistic polity with a stable growth trajectory?

For an institution that celebrates its Golden Jubilee next year, CPR is incredibly young. Its resilience and vitality is reflected in its ability to continuously reinvent itself. Keeping in mind the changing national scenario and global imperatives CPR has added newer projects, even while fine tuning and refining existing programs. There is a continuous striving for greater congruence between projects.

As much as we introspect, we also continue to make our work accessible in the larger public sphere and draw upon reasoned critique to help nuance, refine and push the envelope further on the quality, credibility, non-partisanship and efficacy of our suggestions for sustainable implementation. This enables us to sustain a unique multi-stakeholder space where leading public policy practitioners, academics, and members of civil society deliberate upon the opportunities and critical challenges that animate governance choices and trajectories for India in the 21st century. Our striving to sustain robust public discourse based on objective, informed and non-partisan research on the issues at stake is the enduring leitmotif of our work

Public Policy Certification Programme

for Faculty and PhD-holders belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Marginalised Groups
November 14-18, 2022

Centre for Policy Research is embarking on an ambitious programme to impart insights and skills in public policy research as well as research methods to scholars and faculty members belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other marginalised groups. The programme is funded by the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and spanning over six months, this hybrid programme consists of three parts: 1) a 5-day inaugural workshop, 2) periodic online interactions will be facilitated between individual scholars and their respective subject experts, and 3) a 3-day concluding conference at the end of six-month period. The inaugural workshop will be held from November 14-18 2022 in New Delhi.

The workshop will have three components: 1) scholars and practitioners of public policy in India share their knowledge and experience; 2) methods in social science research will be explained in the context of individual participants, and; 3) lectures will be delivered on topics such as writing effective grant proposals, enhancing writing skills, exploring publication avenues, funding sources, and conducting impactful research.

Reading material, such as manuals, books, etc., will be provided. A candidate, belonging to any of the social groups mentioned above, should meet the following requirements. He/She must:

  • Below the age of 40 years
  • Trained in Social Sciences/ Humanities such as History, Law, Psychology, Sociology etc.
  • Holding a PhD (candidates without PhD but are teaching in universities and colleges are eligible)

The participants will get free boarding and lodging on a twin-sharing basis. Two-tier AC train fares by the shortest route will be reimbursed.

Eligible candidates may apply online or email their CVs to before 27 October 2022. Selected candidates will be intimated before 31 October 2022.

Clearing the Air?’ Seminar Series on India’s Air Pollution Crisis

The Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE) at the Centre for Policy Research organised a seminar series from 2017 to 2018 entitled ‘Clearing the Air?’. Featuring the voices of prominent researchers, doctors, civil society members, and experts, this series of 10 events aimed to promote sustained and informed public discourse on the data, impacts, sources and policy challenges involved in addressing India’s air pollution crisis.

Filling the Knowledge Gap on Air Quality in Indian Cities
Date: December 4, 2017
Speaker: Dr. Sarath Guttikunda – Founder and Director, UrbanEmissions.Info, NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow, and TED Fellow
About the Seminar: Dr. Guttikunda discussed the contribution of various sources to air pollution in Delhi, identified gaps in knowledge and data availability on air pollution in India, and explained the challenges of monitoring emissions across different sources.

Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of Dr. Guttikunda’s presentation, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Health Effects of Exposure to Air Pollution (co-organised with Public Health Foundation of India)
Date: December 20, 2017
Dr. Prabhakaran – Vice President (Research & Policy), Public Health Foundation of India
Dr. Preet Dhillon – Epidemiologist, Sr. Scientific Officer, Public Health Foundation of India
Moderated by Bhargav Krishna – Manager, Centre for Environmental Health, Public Health Foundation of India

About the Seminar: This panel of clinicians, health experts and researchers from the Public Health Foundation of India discussed the effects of air pollution on important health outcomes such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and cancer.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Air Pollution as a Preventable Cause of Adverse Birth Outcomes in India: New Evidence from Cohort Studies in Tamil Nadu
Date: January 10, 2018
Speaker: Kalpana Balakrishnan Ph.D., FAMS – Director, World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, SRU-ICMR Centre for Advanced Research on Air Quality, Climate and Health, Department of Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai

About the Seminar: Dr. Balakrishnan presents results from a recently concluded cohort study in Tamil Nadu that provides some of the first quantitative effects estimates for linking rural-urban PM2.5 exposures and birthweight in India, adding important evidence from high exposure settings that experience dual health burdens from ambient and household air pollution. Highlighting the need to consider maternal exposures to PM2.5, Dr. Balakrishnan emphasises the imminent need for strategic air quality actions focused on protecting vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and infants.

To learn more, watch the full video of Dr. Balakrishnan’s presentation, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Role of the Transport Sector in Delhi’s Air Quality: Key Drivers and Opportunities for Intervention
Date: February 1, 2018
Amit Bhatt – Director of Integrated Urban Transport, WRI-India
Parthaa Bosu – Lead Consultant, Environment Defence Fund
Sumit Sharma – Fellow and Associate Director, Earth Science and Climate Change, TERI
Moderated by Mukta Naik – Senior Researcher, CPR

About the Seminar: Vehicular pollution has been a significant contributor to air pollution in India. This panel deliberated on key technical and policy drivers for the reduction and management of emissions from the transport sector, including the source composition of air pollution from transport, potential gains from changes in fuel standards and fuel types, and issues related to public transport and modal shares.

Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Crop Burning as a Source of Air Pollution in the National Capital Region
Date: February 23, 2018
Dr. HS Sidhu – Senior Research Engineer, Borlaug Institute of South Asia
Pritam Singh Hanjra – Farmer from village Urlana Khurd, Panipat, Haryana
Dr. Rajbir Yadav – Principal Scientist, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI)
Moderated by Harish Damodaran – Rural Affairs and Agriculture Editor, The Indian Express

About the Seminar: This discussion on crop residue burning as a source of air pollution explored the genesis of the problem, and touched upon some recent technological interventions intended to address the issue. It also discussed some of the key political, scientific, economic and social drivers that need to be considered while designing a long-term solution to crop residue burning. Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Municipal Solid Waste as a Cause of Air Pollution
Date: March 7, 2018
Ravi Agarwal – Founder & Director of Toxics Link
Nalini Shekhar – Co-founder of Hasiru Dala
Dr. Seema Awasthi – Founder & Director of ICUC Consultants Pvt. Ltd
Moderated by Arkaja Singh – Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

About the Seminar: Solid waste burning is being recognised as a significant contributor to the deteriorating air quality in the NCR. This panel discussed some of the best practices on waste disposal that can help reduce exposure to airborne toxins from municipal solid waste. Some of the strategies suggested gave primacy to waste workers, whereas others emphasised technology, infrastructure and management. Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Campaigning for Air Quality: Lessons from Two Decades of Advocacy
Date: April 12, 2018
Anumita Roychowdhury – Executive Director, Research & Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment
In conversation with Navroz K Dubash – Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

About the Seminar: Anumita Roychowdhury has been at the forefront of the clean air campaign in India for more than two decades. In this conversation, she discussed effective strategies to improve air quality regulation and governance, and reflected on some of the lessons learnt from shaping policy through deep government engagement and work with the courts. She also discussed the importance of strong institutions, evidence-based policy, and effective long-term implementation strategies to deal with poor air quality. Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of the conversation, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Power Plants as a Source of Air Pollution in India
Date: May 11, 2018
Vinuta Gopal – Co-founder & Director, Asar Social Impact Advisors
Priyavrat Bhati – Programme Director, Energy, Centre for Science & Environment
Ritwick Dutta – Environmental Lawyer & Founder, Legal Initiative of Forest & Environment
Moderated by Shibani Ghosh – Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

About the Seminar: Sulphates, nitrates, mercury and particulate matter emitted from power plants contribute significantly to air pollution in the country. The panel discussed the scale of the problem, described the governing regulatory eco-system, and analysed the policy formulation process for the 2015 emission norms, explaining why there was limited compliance. The speakers also deliberated on the role of the courts – the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court – in regulating pollution from power plants. Selected excerpts from this discussion are available in the form of a written Q&A.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Thick with Dust: Air Pollution in the National Capital Region
Date: July 16, 2018
Dr. Umesh Chandra Kulshrestha – Professor, JNU, New Delhi
Dr. Anuradha Shukla – Chief Scientist, Central Road Research Institute
Mr. Sunil Agarwal – Founder and Managing Director, Black Olive Ventures
Moderated by Navroz K Dubash – Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

About the Seminar: While dust is often seen as nothing more than an irritant, suspended particulate matter and other dust pollutants present very real threats to air quality, and create toxic respiratory conditions, particularly for vulnerable sections of the population like outdoor workers, children, and the elderly. This panel explored the environmental and health-related consequences of dust in the air, including the nature and scale of the dust problem, how climatic factors and increasing desertification contribute to the problem, and what changes need to be made to the regulatory environment.

To learn more, watch the full video of the panel discussion here.

Lessons from the Ground: Civic Engagement with Air Pollution
Date: August 8, 2018
Dr. Rohit Negi – Associate Professor, Ambedkar University, Delhi
Ashutosh Dikshit – CEO, United Residents Joint Action, Delhi
Chetan Bhattacharji – Managing Editor, NDTV
Moderated by Dr. Navroz K. Dubash – Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research

About the Seminar: This panel analysed whether and how civil society has been able to constructively contribute to the public discourse on air pollution. It also explored ways in which it has been able to – or can potentially in future – influence policy change and ensure effective and sustained action on air quality regulation and governance.

To learn more, watch the full video of the speakers’ presentations, which was followed by a round of questions from the audience.

Analog Pasts and Digital Futures: Reflections on India’s Smart Cities Mission

India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in 2015 to improve infrastructure, enhance service delivery, increase citizen engagement, and meet sustainability and inclusivity goals through institutional and technological innovations. Over the last seven years, the SCM has been gradually implemented in 100 cities, with varied experiences and trajectories. The core SCM policy has also substantially evolved in its push for cities to ensure digitalization of municipal services and infrastructures and collecting large urban data (Parkar and Purandare, Forthcoming). Alongside city-level implementations and policy, literature on the SCM have also been diverse and evolving.

Early work unravelled the multiple interpretations of smartness in policy (Khan et al. 2018; Praharaj and Han 2019), highlighted institutional restructuring and rescaling through the Special Purpose Vehicles (Taraporevala 2018), suggested postcolonial imagination of ‘speed’ or ‘fast urbanism’ through a digital turn (Datta 2018), or as technological fixes (Khan et al. 2018). More recent work has tried to evaluate various trajectories of city-level implementations (Prasad et al. 2021), particular SCM infrastructures such as Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCC) (Praharaj 2020), or smart city responses to the pandemic (Datta et al. 2021) and suggested that the SCM drives fragmented placemaking projects (Prasad et al. 2022). Other literature has tried to unravel various actors such as consultants that are involved in the SCM from contributing to national policy to the ideation and implementation of city-level projects (Purandare 2021).

As the SCM approaches its end date in June 2023 and cities rush to finish projects, this workshop seeks to bring together varied strands of research that try to take stock of the mission. We invite papers that are interested in looking at the multiple facets of the SCM such as policy and legislation, governance institutions and their relations, networks of actors and agencies, implications of technologies and infrastructures implemented in various cities. We seek to organize papers through the following axes:

I. Governing Smart Cities: Actors, Institutions and Relationships of Power

The Smart City Mission introduced mandatory institutional conditions to plan and monitor projects. The creation of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and the recourse to Project Management Consultants (PMCs) are instrumental in reshaping the boundaries between the public and the private sector, modifying the balance between scales of government, and in disrupting existing power relationships between and within the bureaucratic, political, and civil society realms. Adding on, the growth of digital solutions is likely to cause long-lasting impacts on organisational cultures and professional practices, leading to transformations in decision-making processes. Considering these factors, we seek papers that critically look at governance shifts at work under the SCM.

  • How do we understand the SCM impacts on the relationships between different scales of government and on the capacities of existing municipal agencies?
  • How do the networks of private actors such as PMCs, system integrators, and vendors shape implementations of the smart city?
  • What is the role of civil society and political actors in Smart City governance?
  • How do service and data centralization exercises through the ICCC shape convergences between multiple city agencies? Does the SCM tackle the problem of departmental silos, or does it enhance it further?
  • How can we locate the SPV between conventional governance agencies? What are possible futures of the SPV in municipal governance? What have been the impacts of SPV on procurement, financial practices and asset management?

II. Infrastructures and the Production of Cities

Cities under the SCM have substantially spent funds on redevelopment, retrofitting, and improving urban infrastructure. At the same time, cities have also invested in digital infrastructure such as CCTV cameras, optical fibre cables, sensors, and data centres. The SCM also gave rise to a new hybrid form of infrastructure which combined classical urban infrastructure with digital components through projects such as smart poles and smart roads. Further, the projects under the SCM involve creation of multiple apps and platforms that deliver or manage municipal services through automation and analytics. In this context, we seek papers that engage with infrastructures created under the SCM.

  • How does the SCM perform in infrastructure delivery in comparison to previous and contemporary urban development programs?
  • How do we conceptualise newer forms of urban infrastructures created under the SCM?
    What is the future of the SCM digital infrastructures within conventional municipal governance or under new forms of governance such as SPVs?
  • What are various spatial effects of infrastructuring and placemaking exercises under the SCM on city planning and allied practices?

III. Sustainability and Inclusivity in Smart Cities

One of the stated objectives of the SCM is to focus on sustainable and inclusive development by placing communities at the core of planning and implementation. It attempts to bring integrated and sustainable solutions through innovative methods and careful selection of technologies. Many cities under the SCM have proposals for the development of green and open spaces (Mundoli et al., 2017). Amidst recurring environmental catastrophes such as heatwaves, pollution crisis, and urban flooding, cities have also devised disaster management plans (Prasad and Alizadeh, 2020). There is focus on solar powered energy and emphasis towards a switch to LED light bulbs from incandescent, halogen and compact fluorescent lighting systems. There are also projects that promote active transport, dedicated bike lanes, and non-motorised and electric vehicles. In this background, we call for papers that focus on environmental aspects of the projects under the SCM.

  • What solutions do Smart Cities offer to global environmental challenges? How effective are these solutions?
  • How do the projects under the SCM address ecological and social concerns faced by the cities? What are the outcomes of such projects?
  • How do Smart Cities contribute towards reduction of carbon emissions and attaining sustainable development goals?
  • How is the technology leveraged to offer sustainable solutions? How do these solutions impact the people living in cities?

IV. Digital Democracy Futures

The SCM asks cities to engage with citizens in creating their proposals and implementing solutions that enhance participation. Notwithstanding questions of digital literacy, policy vocabulary suggests using digital tools to ensure transparency, bring about accountability and engage with communities, organisations, and academic networks. In light of this, cities deploy various digital solutions ranging from app-based taxation and licensing, online grievance redressal portals, to kiosks for accessing municipal services. At the same time, cities also make use of multiple surveillance systems such as CCTV networks and collect vast urban data through these infrastructures and platforms. With this understanding, we invite papers that address questions of democracy in the context of digitalization.

  • How have cities engaged with citizens in planning and implementing the SCM? What are the experiences in engaging with citizens groups, communities, and civil society?
  • In what ways digital interventions impact transparency and accountability in governance practices?
  • How has digitalization contributed to participatory processes of urban governance? What are its implications towards conventional offline access to elected representatives?
  • How does data collection and algorithmic automation shape citizen experiences? What are the impacts of surveillance systems created in the SCM?
  • What are the implications of datafication practices in the context of limited privacy laws and protections?

Workshop Details

The workshop will be conducted in a hybrid mode, but with a preference that participants are able to travel to Delhi to present their work in person. Partial funding may be available for participants who require travel support. We expect the papers presented in the workshop to lead to an edited volume.
If you are interested in participating in the workshop, please send your abstracts of between 250-300 words to by 14 October 2022. Please indicate your full name, current affiliation, and whether you will prefer to participate online or in person. If you would require funding to travel to Delhi, please indicate that as well.


Deadline for submissions of abstracts: 14 October 2022
Selection of abstracts: 21 October 2022
Full papers due: 18 December 2022
Workshop: 17 & 18 January 2023


Gaurav Mittal (Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)
Khaliq Parkar (CESSMA, IRD, Universite Paris Cite, Paris)
Marie-Helene Zerah (CESSMA, IRD, Universite Paris Cite, Paris)


Datta, Ayona. 2018. “Postcolonial Urban Futures: Imagining and Governing India’s Smart Urban Age.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 37(3): 393–410.
———. 2021. “Apps, Maps and War Rooms: On the Modes of Existence of ‘COVtech’ in India.” Urban Geography 42(3): 382–90.
Khan, Sama, Persis Taraporevala, and Marie-Helene Zerah. 2018. “Mission Impossible Defining Indian Smart Cities.” Economic & Political Weekly 53(49): 80–88.
Mundoli, Seema, Hita Unnikrishnan, and Harini Nagendra. 2017. “The ‘Sustainable’ in Smart Cities: Ignoring the Importance of Urban Ecosystems.” Decision 44(2): 103–20.
Parkar, Khaliq, and Uttara Purandare. Forthcoming. “Decoding the Digitalization of Urban Governance in India: Policy, People and Processes of the Smart Cities Mission and the National Urban Digital Mission.” Centre for Policy Research: New Delhi, India.
Praharaj, Sarbeswar. 2020. “Development challenges for big data command and control centres for smart cities in India.” In Nimish Biloria (ed) Data-driven Multivalence in the Built Environment. 75–90. Springer.
Praharaj, Sarbeswar, and Hoon Han. 2019. “Cutting through the Clutter of Smart City Definitions: A Reading into the Smart City Perceptions in India.” City, Culture and Society 18:100289. 1–10.
Prasad, Deepti, and Tooran Alizadeh. 2020. “What Makes Indian Cities Smart? A Policy Analysis of Smart Cities Mission.” Telematics and Informatics 55:101466. 1–15.
Prasad, Deepti, Tooran Alizadeh, and Robyn Dowling. 2021. “Multiscalar Smart City Governance in India.” Geoforum 121: 173–80.
———. 2022. “Smart City Place-Based Outcomes in India: Bubble Urbanism and Socio-Spatial Fragmentation.” Journal of Urban Design 00(00): 1–21.
Purandare, Uttara. 2021. “Who Drives India’s Smart Cities? Understanding the Role Of Consulting Firms in the Smart Cities Mission.” In Chris Hurl and Anne Vogenpohl (eds) Professional Service Firms and Politics in a Global Era: Public Policy, Private Expertise. 79–96. Springer.
Taraporevala, Persis. 2018. “Demystifying the Indian Smart City.” Centre for Policy Research: New Delhi, India, 1-35.

A Statement – 9 September 2022

9th September 2022

Established in 1973, Centre for Policy Research is a non-profit, non-partisan independent institution, dedicated to conducting research that contributes to high quality scholarship, better policies and a more robust public discourse. As one of 24 research institutes of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research network, CPR has all requisite approvals and sanctions, and is authorised by the government as a recipient under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.

The Income Tax Department visited our office to undertake a survey of CPR on 7th and 8th September 2022. We have extended full cooperation to the department during the survey, and will continue to do so in the future.

We hold ourselves to the highest standards of compliance and are confident that we have done nothing wrong. We are committed to working with the authorities to address any questions they might have.

We remain committed to our mission to provide rigorous research to policy making in India.

On behalf of CPR:

Yamini Aiyar
President and Chief Executive
Centre for Policy Research

South Asia Dialogue Series on Sustainable Development Goal 6

Watch this webinar series focusing on key challenges and solutions in reaching universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in South Asia. Produced in partnership with Athena Infonomics, Centre for Policy Research’s Scaling City Institutions for India Initiative (CPR SCI-FI), Sanitation and Water for All, UNICEF, Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA) and IRC.

WASH access in South Asia

In the past five years, South Asia has made good progress on improving sanitation. Access to at least basic water services is now also relatively high across the region, ranging from 99% in Maldives to 75% in Afghanistan. However, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of universal access to safely managed sanitation is a long way off, with 2020 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) data suggesting that more than half of households in India, Bangladesh and Nepal do not have access to safely managed sanitation. Similarly, the SDG target for universal access to safely managed water is also off the mark, most notably in Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan and Afghanistan, where three quarters of households lack access.

The 2020 JMP data suggest large variation in basic access to hygiene services across South Asia, with 80% of people in Pakistan able to wash their hands with soap and water at home, compared with 58% in Bangladesh. For countries in the region to deliver on their commitments to provide safely managed water and sanitation services to all by 2030, strong political will and adequate financing are required.
The South Asia Dialogue Series on SDG 6 is a joint initiative by WaterAid, CPR SCI-FI, Sanitation and Water for All, UNICEF, Athena Infonomics, FANSA and IRC to encourage evidence-based lessons across the region to facilitate discussions and address the challenges hampering progress towards SDG 6 in South Asia. The webinar series focuses on key challenges and solutions in the areas of: strengthening municipal finances; access to safe and affordable WASH services, and the impact of climate change on these; data systems and monitoring progress; and gender inclusion.

As the sector evolves, innovative solutions are emerging to help address some of the most pertinent issues. We look forward to encouraging and facilitating further discussions on these.

Webinar 1: Municipal financing for sanitation in small towns.

Webinar 2: Fostering robust local data ecosystems for sustainable sanitation service delivery in cities of South Asia.

Read a summary of the key takeaways from the webinars here.

CPR Faculty Speak: Ashwini K Swain

Ashwini K Swain is a Fellow at CPR’s Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE). His research interests include the political economy of electricity, the interface between energy service needs and climate mitigation goals, and the water-energy-food nexus, especially in the Indian context. He has also worked on public participation in service delivery, and has a keen interest in the political economy of India and political analysis. In this edition of CPR Faculty Speak, he talks about his work and interests at CPR, why they matter, what impact he hopes to achieve and more.

Tell us about your research work and interests at CPR.

At CPR, I am a part of the Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE) and work on the energy theme. My research interests include the political economy of electricity, energy transition and the water-energy-food nexus. My work is largely focused on India, with a thrust on the state-level political economy context and Centre-state relations.

Why does these issue interest you?

I was introduced to the electricity sector as a potential case study to understand Centre-state relations in India, when I was a Master’s student. I got an opportunity then (2005) to work as a research assistant with Navroz Dubash at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP). While electricity reforms and policies at that point in India and globally sought to separate the political and economic content of electricity sector decisions, Navroz’s research highlighted why such depoliticisation is neither feasible nor desirable. My research interests are shaped by exposure to that analysis at an early stage in my career, along with my disciplinary training in political economy and personal experiences with electricity access.
In our subsequent research, we suggest that electricity sector dynamics cannot be understood independent of the broader political economy trends; we explain how well-designed reform interventions have failed to achieve the desired results due to a lack of engagement with political costs and opportunities. While techno-economic solutions are important, the path forward for Indian electricity lies in finding ways to generate more political payoffs from improving electricity.

How have these issues evolved in the country and globally over the years?

Over nearly two decades of my observation, there has been significant progress in electrical development in India. However, despite sustained interventions, chronic challenges like losses, financial insolvency and unreliable supply are persisting in the sector. On the other hand, driven by a complex set of developmental imperatives, technology cost considerations and climate mitigation considerations, India has embarked on a path to decarbonise its energy consumption through a transition to cleaner sources of energy. Simultaneously, there is a greater recognition of the limits of the 1990s reforms and the importance of political economic forces.
Together, these developments pose potentially disruptive consequences as well as an opportunity to address the 20th century electricity challenges while making a transition to a 21st century energy future.

What impact do you aim to achieve through your research?

Through my research, I seek to highlight the importance of getting energy politics right, explain state-specific political economy forces that shape energy policy decisions and outcomes, and facilitate data-driven and state-specific approaches to improve electricity access. My work seeks to stimulate engagement with political opportunities and constraints as part of the energy policy discussion in India and promote data-driven policy choices.

What does a typical day look like for you at CPR?

A good part of my day goes to responding to emails, project management responsibilities and meeting with people. I try to keep some time for brainstorming with colleagues, reading and writing. Post COVID-19, some of the external meetings have converted to online meetings, which is helpful for time management. CPR generally has an event every other day, which is useful to learn about research outside your area. I am glad that we are getting back to physical events in the building after two years of pandemic related disruptions. Finally, teatime chat with colleagues is the bright spot in my day. I generally look forward to being in the CPR building.

What are you currently working on and why is it important?

I am currently working with my colleagues on four areas to achieve impact.
First, we have been engaging with the national energy policy discussion to suggest approaches to align political conditions to the achievement of an energy transition.
Second, we are analysing the performance of private electricity discoms in Delhi and Odisha, experiences with micro-privatisation in electricity, and centrally-sponsored distribution reforms to stimulate a wider engagement with India’s electricity distribution future.
Third, our work on state-specific approaches to energy transition proposes pathways towards convergence between energy transition imperatives and developmental imperatives, particularly around rural productivity.
Fourth, in collaboration with Prayas (Energy Group) and WRI-India, we are developing and executing a state-level framework to assess plans, actions and governance processes towards an energy transition. Building evidence and narratives on energy transition governance is a necessary complement to the techno-economic discourse. Thus, this work aims to catalyse a quicker uptake of energy transition-related ambitions and actions by the states, and seeks to inspire a race to the top among state-level and local actors.
In addition, we have started working on a transition away from coal in India and its consequences. I am looking forward to a colleague joining us in September and taking that work forward.

To know more about Ashwin K Swain’s work, click here.

The Past, Present & Future of Modern South Asia

On the 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence

and Partition

The Centre for Policy Research and C-Voter announce an exhaustive study on

‘The Past, Present & Future of Modern South Asia’

12th August 2022: August 1947 stands out as the most consequential month in the history of South Asia. It not only marked the transition of the region from a British colony, but also the partition of Punjab and Bengal to create Pakistan (and modern day Bangladesh). The joyous celebration of Independence was unfortunately marked by unprecedented levels of violence and torment. The aftermath of the partition led to the death of close to a million people and the displacement of several millions. There is a long shadow of the partition; the ramifications of it have impacted India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh’s political, economic, and social life till date.

The Past, Present & Future of Modern South Asia as a study aims to take a deep dive into the views of common citizens in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This study is a result of a collaborative effort between two internationally reputed research centres – the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and the C-Voter. It uses the historical canvas of the partition to paint a picture of what citizens of the once same socio-political geography but now independent sovereign nations are thinking and feeling today; and how they look at their future.

Talking about the study, Rahul Verma, Fellow at CPR said, “Home to approximately 20 percent of the global population, the fate of South Asia is relevant on an international scale. Hence, the study aims to act as a comprehensive tool for predicting the nature of South Asia’s future and understanding the impacts of the partition on not only the region’s socio-political and economic status but also its impact in a broader, international context.”

Explaining the study design, Yashwant Deshmukh, Founder of C-Voter said, “The targeted sample size of the study is 15,000 respondents – approximately 6000 citizens of India and 4500 citizens each in Pakistan and Bangladesh – in three waves. The findings of the study will be based on a large scale sample survey using CATI (computer assisted telephone interview) method.”

“The survey instrument has been designed to collect information on critical issues such as religious and social harmony, democratic institutions and their legitimacy, international political relations, and each country’s successes and failures since partition.” added Sutanu Guru, Executive Director, C-Voter Foundation.

The results of the survey would be disseminated through panel discussions, short country reports along with a comprehensive comparative report, newspaper commentaries, and an edited volume. The edited volume will carry 25-30 short essays based on the survey data collected through this study by scholars studying politics and society of these three countries.

For media queries and more information, please contact:

Hemali Sodhi:

Dhruv Bhasin:

Rahul Verma: