Centre for Urban Policy and Governance


A key ambition of the Centre is to re-imagine the urban in India, and the Global South, especially in the context of globalisation. The Centre is actively involved in building theory and informing practice around the processes, challenges and opportunities that being and becoming urban in the Global South hold. The Centre undertakes comparative urban research projects in collaboration with a rich and diverse network of academic and non-academic partners in India and the Global South.  The centre has conducted collaborative research across geographical scales (street, neighbourhood, city, urban peripheries, mega cities, metropolitan regions) with a special focus on the much neglected and under researched smaller and medium towns of India which form the bulk of India’s urban settlements. Covering several levels of urban governance and their power dynamics, i.e. from the centre to the state to the local, there is a strong focus on studying impact of urban reforms on the marginalised urban populations, on policy analysis and advocacy to expand and deepen the space for urban democratic participation.

CUPG seeks to disrupt dominant theorisations about urbanisation that tend to portray cities of the global south as chaotic, crime ridden, and unmanageable. It seeks to question the techno-rational perspectives of the urban system and instead offers a more grounded socio-political understanding of how cities are produced. The Centre’s research foregrounds the lived experiences of marginalised and subaltern urban populations. It attempts to re-situate the urban within the complexities and contestations produced by the shifting state-market axis post liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. The work at the centre thus focuses on the socio-spatial relations that constitute localities arguing that they play an equally important role in influencing urban transformations by resisting, subverting, moderating, and mediating changes wrought by neo-liberalising forces. The policy research undertaken by the Centre attempts to better understand the emerging dynamics of the urban governance ecosystem, the relative autonomy of the local bodies vis-à-vis the state and central governments, the constraints to democratic devolution of powers, and the role played by state and non-state actors, including informal power brokers influencing decision–making.

Briefly, some of the ongoing and future research themes of the Centre are:

  • Contestations around and transformations of urban space - streets and livelihoods in relation to transportation; conflicts around land use and occupancy changes through policy and practice, commodification of land, modes and impacts of urban renewal, approaches to slum resettlement and rehabilitation, policy debates around affordable housing
  • Worlding of cities - linkages to urban real estate and land markets, changing state-market axis and the socio-spatial restructuring of cities, emergence of PPP in financing of urban infrastructure, critiquing new imaginations of technologically equipped, data driven ‘smart’ cities, changing patterns of urban employment and precariousness of informal urban livelihoods, privatisation of public space, splintering urbanism and contested cities, spatiality of informal work and settlements
  • Trajectories of urbanisation – political, economic, social drivers of urbanisations, politics of incorporation, limit extension, new town development and peripheral urbanisation, metropolitanisation and metropolitan governance,  impacts on livelihoods, informalisation and feminisation of labour, access to land and environmental resources and commons, mega projects and urban corridors
  • Urban Infrastructures and governance of infrastructures: public provisioning and planning of urban infrastructure, municipal finances and infrastructure, linkages between urban land and infrastructure, access to basic urban services (water and sanitation, housing, public transport, solid waste management, sewerage and drainage) and the politics of inclusion and exclusion through the lens of infrastructure, evaluation of on-ground impact of implementation of central infrastructure policies such as JNNURM  outcomes of infrastructure provisioning, studying new hybrid forms of urban governance
  • Mechanisms and modes of public participation in urban governance and local democracy - constraints and opportunities of democratic decentralisation, gendered and participatory forms of governance, participation in urban planning decision-making,
  • Social movements, identities and community action - emergence of new urban actors, coalitions, mobilizations and social movements in reclaiming the city; right to the city, social and spatial justice, marginalisation of new and old migrants and contesting claims to the city
  • Challenges and experiments related to sustainable building, urban design and sustainable urban habitats,
  • Theories of urbanisation, of planning, of cities from the Global South, re-imagining alternative urban futures