Local Governance and Pandemic - Comparison of Covid Response of Two Indian Cities

Authors: Tathagata Chatterji*, Xavier University Bhubaneswar, Souvanic Roy, Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology, Shibpur
Topics: Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Development
Keywords: Local Governance, Covid-19, India, Kochi, Bhubaneswar
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The way, India’s governance apparatus has sought to mitigate the Covid crisis varies from state to state. This research will explore two inter-related objectives. The first objective is to explore how variations in state-level political cultures influence disaster management policy environment. The second objective is to understand how the above variations translate to policy implementation through the administrative mechanisms of the urban local governments. Urban governance systems in two states – Kochi(Kerala) and Bhubaneswar (Odisha), are analysed to understand the governing logic and roles of the key decision-makers. State governments of both Kerala and Odisha had adopted pro-poor policies and had been relatively successful in reducing the spread of the pandemic. However, this research brings out crucial differences in their urban governance approach through institutional mapping. The Kochi model demonstrates ‘pluralist’ governance, where the key decision-makers are elected urban municipalities. Whereas the Bhubaneswar model is more top-down ‘managerialist’ governance led by state-appointed bureaucrats as municipal commissioners. Kochi case study shows, politically empowered local bodies are adopting bottom-up strategies to extend welfare benefits through civil society organisations and community groups. The Bhubaneswar model shows a more truncated role of the municipal government and larger involvement of various state-level agencies. Based on the case study findings, the paper discusses urban governance implications towards better disaster resilience within an existing institutional paradigm.

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