UNDERstanding Indian Urban Governance REFORM: A comparative analysis of the Smart City Mission reforms and their impact on sustainable urban mobility was a project running for two years from 1 May 2018 and jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). It was an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS), University of Leeds, UK, the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV) University of Birmingham, UK, the Department of Transport Planning, School of Planning and Architecture Delhi (SPA), India, the Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India and the World Resources Institute. (For more on partners’ individual profiles see The Team above.)
Rationale and Aims
This research had two primary aims. The first was to develop cutting edge, theoretically informed insights into the nature of mobility governance reform and the potential to generate more sustainable urban mobility in India. The combined pressures of a growing urban population, increasing urban sprawl, and rapidly rising income, coupled with inadequate public transport, lack of coordinated infrastructure, and increased motorisation have placed huge and unequal burdens on India’s urban areas. This has resulted in highly congested roads, poor air quality, high pedestrian casualty rates and poor accessibility and quality of life particularly for the urban poor. In this context, redesigning urban mobility governance was identified as a critical element of progress in delivering more inclusive and economically, environmentally and socially sustainable cities in India (MoUD, 2006, MoUD, 2015 and NITI Aayog, 2017).
Insights into reform
Efforts to reform urban transport governance, primarily through the bolstering of local level capacity, have been underway in India since 2006 but with limited effect due to lack of meaningful delegation of authority and financial power. However, in 2015 the Indian national government launched the Smart Cities Mission, aimed at going beyond what has been achieved before at the local level. The focus of the initiative was to promote ‘cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens’ through the application of ‘Smart’ Solutions (MoUD, 2015, p5). Within this context then, this research used the Smart Cities Mission as a major opportunity to understand the aims and processes of transport governance reform and the extent to which those reforms were capable of achieving a significant improvement in the mobility system. To this end, the research undertook a qualitative comparative analysis of previous and planned reforms in four of India’s designated smart cities: Bangalore, Jaipur, Indore and Kochi. The research characterised governance arrangements and governance reforms across each of the four cities, and in using the multi-level governance framework to guide empirical analysis, was innovative in developing this framework within a non-Western context. The research also traced the impacts of governance reforms through to impacts on the economic prosperity and quality of life of citizens through analysing changing processes and outcomes. This was essential for moving beyond identifying problems to understanding how to overcome them.
The second aim of the research was to bring together, develop and inspire a community of researchers and practitioners to advance the study and understanding of mobility governance across India and between the UK and India. The research was bottom-up in its approach; working with WRI India, the project engaged practitioners in the four cities from the outset to ensure the findings were as meaningful as possible. The interview protocol was co-created with stakeholders and the data collection was informed by key challenges of urban mobility governance identified by stakeholders through exploratory workshops at the start of the project. A study visit to four UK cities that have experienced different levels of transport governance reform was held for stakeholders from each of the four case study cities, to share lessons from the UK experience and draw on practitioner expertise. A special session of the World Conference on Transport Research in Mumbai was also convened to bring practitioners into dialogue with scholars at the forefront of research on transport governance in India and beyond. The project also convened a ‘summer school’ in India for researchers to develop their research methods, theoretical perspectives and networks in relation to transport governance and reform. These activities were instrumental in building both professional and research capacity to address future transport governance challenges.
Economic and Social Research Council
The UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues, ESRC supports independent, high quality research impacting business, the public sector and civil society. At any one time ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.
ESRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by the UK government bringing together the UK’s research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.
Indian Council of Social Science Research
The Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) was established in 1969 by the Government of India to promote research in social sciences in the country. The Council aims to review social science research and advise users, sponsor research and administer grants, scholarships and fellowships, foster interdisciplinary research and advise the Government of India on matters pertaining to social science research.