Policy Briefs & Reports

Re FORM: Lessons for Urban Governance futures from the Pandemic


Centre for Policy Research

March 20, 2021

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns have exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities of marginalised groups living in Indian cities/towns, including workers engaged in the informal sector as well urban poor living in congested and overcrowded informal settlements with inadequate housing and limited access to water, sanitation and health facilities – all of which are essential to reduce chances of getting infected with the virus.

The Scaling City Institutions for India (SCI-FI), Centre for Policy Research (CPR) with the support of South Asia Research Hub (SARH), Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Government of UK undertook a rapid study to understand the specific vulnerabilities of the urban poor in the context of past pandemics, as well as during COVID-19, in order to craft specific urban planning recommendations to build greater resilience in cities in South Asia, in general, and India, in particular.

The findings of the study have been documented in the form of a report titled ‘Re FORM: Lessons for Urban Governance futures from the Pandemic’. The study explores the impact of COVID-19 on public spaces, housing and slums, water and sanitation, public health, and clinical health, livelihood, and social protection in urban areas of the country and also analyses the policy gaps and governance systems in addressing pandemic in the country. It underscores the need to ensure that the measures taken to combat pandemic have to be across the short, medium and long term and further outlines recommendations to attenuate the impacts of such pandemic by framing apt urban policies and strengthening governance mechanisms to implement policies on the ground.

The study envisaged assessing the intersection between urban policy, planning and pandemics adopting an inter-disciplinary conceptual framework and methodology. The study followed a mixed-methods approach, including primary and secondary research methodologies. A detailed secondary literature review was undertaken to understand how earlier pandemics have shaped the form and processes across the themes mentioned above. Further, an innovative tool – the Press Scan Analysis – was undertaken based on the press coverage from January to September 2020 which helped garner information about perceptions and critical issues discussed in multiple geographies through media reporting on COVID-19. The Press Scan covered 38, 7484 sources globally and 7,003 sources at the India level, generating a total reach of 62 billion articles at the following levels – global, South Asia (including India, Myanmar, Bangladesh & Nepal), five Indian cities (Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, and Bhilai) and six towns (Malerkotla, Jhansi, Lingasugur, Ajmer, Dhenkanal and Muzzafarpur) along with Dhaka, Yangon & Kathmandu.

The primary research covered 11 cities/towns selected to ensure representation of various geographical regions, different size classes of urban settlements (large, medium, small), varying densities and diverse nature of economic activities. The primary data collection was done using structured questionnaires administered to Key Informants, such as representatives from the Government, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and communities. A total of 158 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) were conducted across 11 cities/towns.

Suggested citation: Dasgupta, S., Mukherjee, A., Dwivedi, A., Dewan, S., Naik, M., Dasgupta, R., Chhabra, S. S., Bharti., Singh, T., Dhar, B. S., Kumar, A., Gupta, A., Khurana, I., Bhol, A., Tomar, T., & Agarwal, N. 2021. ‘Re FORM: Lessons for Urban Governance futures from the Pandemic’. CPR Research Report. New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.36187.08481

A dissemination workshop based on the study can be accessed here.