Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Bhanu Joshi co-authors article in Environment and Urbanization Asia

February 21, 2020

Political science graduate student, Bhanu Joshi,  was one of the authors of "Officiating Urbanization What makes a settlement officially urban in India?" a paper published in Environment and Urbanization Asia. The article asks - how urban is India? Joshi and Pradhan posit that India's definitional architecture severely under-acknowledges urbanization rate. 

Financial incentives including government support grants for infrastructure creation, health and education development in many countries is contingent on where people live. In India, the allocation of critical government subsidies explicitly recognizes urban population as a criterion for budgetary allocation. Yet, the fundamental question about what is an urban area and what does it entail to be recognized as an urban settlement in India remains understudied. This paper aims to understand the definitional paradigm of statutory towns in India. We create a novel dataset of all state laws in India on the constitution of urban local governments. We analyze the eligibility criteria that would qualify any area to become urban local bodies under the law in different states and find large variation among states. In our dataset, only fifteen of the twenty-seven states explicitly define and have laws on urban settlements. Within these fifteen states, we find that many small and transitional urban areas violate the eligibility criteria laid down by the state laws constituting them. We further find that states which do not provide statutory laws rely on executive fiat, i.e. it is the prerogative of the state government to declare the creation of a statutory town. What then becomes or “unbecomes” urban in these states is open to dispute. The full extent of this variation and reasons thereof can open up new avenues of scholarship.