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‘Homegrown’ Smart Cities: empowering or deregulating Indian municipal government?

Authors: Persis Taraporevala*, King's College London
Topics: Legal Geography, Urban Geography, Asia
Keywords: Legal Geography, Smart Cities, Governance, Entrepreneurial Cities, India, Cities, Urban,
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Smart Cities Mission, launched in 2015 in India, necessitates the creation of corporate parastatal entities in 100 Indian cities. These entities will be given the rights and responsibilities of local municipal government, they are open to private investment and have no obligation to ensure the presence of local elected councillors as company shareholders, on the board or in any decision-making capacity within the parastatal entity (Khan et al. 2018). Furthermore, the legal validity of these parastatal entities within the constitutional framework of India is unclear and I will explore these spaces of legal ambiguity to understand the relationship between these municipal and corporate entities of governance.

The existing body of literature on Indian Smart Cities recognises this potential conflict of power however it does not detail the relationship between these two bodies neither does it acknowledge that India has a long and complicated history with local electoral politics (made mandatory only after the 74th Constitutional Amendment in the 1990s). I analyse the Smart Cities Mission through the lens of critical legal studies and explore this highly contested and fluid relationship through elite interviews, within the municipalities and corporate entities and through an ‘institutional ethnography’ (Scheppele 2004; Taber 2010) of ‘graphic artefacts’ (Hull 2012) which include government communications and other forms of paper that effectively create and legitimise this new entrant into the political and legal landscape of Indian urban governance.

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