Historicising Indian Smart Cities

Date and Time

April 19, 2024

3:45 pm to 5:15 pm


Online via Zoom and CPR Conference Room

Persis Taraporevala

School of Law – Birkbeck, University of London

Moderator Dr Marie-Helene Zerah

Senior Visiting Fellow, CPR

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The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) invites you to a discussion on:

Historicising Indian Smart Cities

Friday, 19th April 2024, 3:45 PM IST

Persis Taraporevala, School of Law – Birkbeck, University of London

Dr Marie-Helene Zerah, Senior Visiting Fellow, CPR

About the Talk:
In 2015, the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party launched the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) as an urban development programme intended to revolutionise infrastructure creation and service delivery in Indian cities. The SCM generated significant interest with critical readings viewing it as a harbinger of a process of depoliticisation or hollowing out of local democratic government in India. The Mission’s use of neoliberal and entrepreneurial forms of governance were critiqued as a ‘breach’ of the Indian constitution and antithetical to the democratic nature of urban government in India.

This talk builds on existing knowledge on the impacts of smart governance on multiscalar government in the global south and contributes to the notion of the just (smart) cities of the Global South by refocusing the core democratic component of local representative government within the scope of a smart city. Persis Taraporevala has argued that it is myopic to view the Mission as a recent and novel incursion curtailing municipal democracy in India. Through archival research and elite interviews, she has demonstrated that the SCM is part of a longer colonial and postcolonial pattern of distrust in elected representatives and a propensity to put bureaucrats or administrators in charge of municipal government. She also contends that the Mission is not a violation of the existing policy and legal landscape but the latest iteration of a longer recursive historical colonial and post-colonial pattern of paternalistic municipal government in India.

About the speaker:
Persis Taraporevala is currently a Research Fellow at the School of Law – Birkbeck, University of London. Her research interests include governance, participation, and citizenship. In the past, she has studied decentralised indigenous forest conservation processes in India. Her recent work revolves around smart cities and digitalisation, particularly their relationship with municipal governance.

Taraporevala has completed her Phd from King’s College London in ‘Urban Futures’ and has an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Oxford. She has also previously worked at CPR as a Research Associate.