Mukta Naik, a Fellow at CPR, is an architect and urban planner. Her research interests include housing and urban poverty, urban informality, and internal migration, as well as urban transformations in small cities. She has written widely in the print and digital media and has also run a market research and media services company. As trustee for a Gurugram-based NGO and a Board Member for a Netherlands-based Foundation, she is also deeply involved with community-based initiatives. Naik is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture, where she is also a visiting faculty member. She has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Texas A&M University.
In this edition of CPR Faculty Speak, Naik talks about her work and interests at CPR, why they matter, what impact she hopes to achieve and more.
Tell us about your research work and interests at CPR.
At CPR, I work broadly on thematic areas that lie at the intersection of urban governance and migration studies. A key strand of my work in this is housing, specifically forms of rental housing that accommodate migrant workers in Indian cities but also broader explorations of the links between housing informality, urban livelihoods and quality of life especially for the urban poor. A second strand examines the role of small cities in migration pathways, which links with CPR’s longstanding work on subaltern urbanisation. A third emerging strand of my work investigates how social protection and services are organised in urban areas, cross-linking with the work of the Accountability Initiative at CPR.
Why do these issues interest you?
I come from a background in urban planning and before joining CPR, my practice comprised strategies to improve habitat in informal settlements. I developed a deep interest in how low-income communities, especially rural migrants, inhabit the urban space; what their experiences of livelihood, employment, access to services and housing are; and how they interact and negotiate within their social contexts in order to achieve social mobility.
This specific intersection of migration and urbanisation is exciting because place-based governance structures have not really thought about how to deal with mobile populations, even though this seems like a fundamental need for a large, diverse country like ours with such an uneven economic geography and consequently, uneven distribution of employment opportunities.
How have these issues evolved in the country and globally over the years?
The exodus of migrant workers out of cities back to home villages during the pandemic has placed a spotlight on migration in India, just as the Syrian refugee crisis had in Europe a few years ago. Like the latter advanced migration studies substantially, I anticipate a spurt of research on migration issues in India.
What impact do you aim to achieve through your research?
In this, I hope to contribute to developing theoretical and policy frameworks around migration governance, which are deeply linked to processes of economic growth, structural transformation, urbanisation and social change in India.
What does a typical day look like for you at CPR?
A typical workday would have 2-3 meetings, a mix of internal brainstorming sessions with other team members and interactions with funders and collaborators. It might also have a component of research, like a physical field visit. Sadly, in current COVID-19 times, these have been reduced to a phone or online interactions. The rest of the time would be spent answering emails and if I’m lucky, getting in a couple of hours of writing.
What are you currently working on and why is it important?
I am currently leading a UNICEF-funded research project examining social protection and services for migrant women and children in five states, with a view to examining pre- and post-COVID-19 policy responses. The diversity, rationale and effectiveness of these responses is expected to offer insights into future policymaking in the migration context.
Parallelly, we are producing and curating a range of outputs on housing on a dedicated website called the India Housing Report, and will bring out a report by the same name in the summer of 2021. The report focuses on interlinkages between housing and health, infostructure, planning, finance, society, livelihoods and more. In drawing these links, it seeks to re-orient housing policy away from merely delivering houses to building resilient urban communities.
To know more about Mukta Naik’s work and research, click here.