[Workshop] CSH-CPR Highway Urbanization and Public-Private Cities: Evidence from Highways in the Pune region by Sai Balakrishanan of Rutgers University

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As part of our Urban Workshop Series, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), Delhi, are delighted to invite you to a Workshop on Highway Urbanization and Public-Private Cities: Evidence from Highways in the Pune region by Sai Balakrishanan of Rutgers University.

In 2001, the Indian government launched an ambitious infrastructure development program, comparable in scale to the 19th century railway enterprise of colonial India. These highways are expected to spur the growth of new cities that will be developed as public-private partnerships (PPPs). Proponents see them as catalysts that will kick-start India’s transition to a globally competitive, urban economy; whereas critics argue that they are a variation on the old theme of infrastructure-induced displacement.

The workshop’s focus will be on a cluster of highways in the Pune region – the Pune-Mumbai, Pune-Nashik and Pune-Sholapur highways – that fall within the shadow of the grand Delhi-Mumbai Infrastructure Corridor. These three highways are a comparative natural experiment because new urban developments along them are being implemented as PPPs, but the organizational form of the PPPs varies. The state coercively acquired land along the Pune-Mumbai highway, leading to the widespread displacement of tribal land owners/occupiers. Along the Pune-Sholapur highway, agrarian landowners voluntarily pooled and converted their fragmented agricultural land into urban townships and retained ownership of their land through pro rata shares in shareholding companies. The Pune-Nashik highway also led to no displacements, with bureaucrats mediating the land transactions and allocating the shares of the new urban developments amongst private sector firms, state agencies and agrarian landowners.

The presentation will use the PPPs in Pune highway region as inroads into analyzing India’s new version of infrastructure-led development and its distributional implications. The focus will be on how the specific organizational structure of PPPs insulates certain actors from project risks while exposing others, how the PPPs co-exist with the recent political mobilization of poor and low-caste groups and the deepening of democracy, and how these new public-private urban developments are re-ordering claims to the Indian city.

Sai Balakrishnan is Assistant Professor in International Development at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University. Previously, she was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center on Global Legal Transformation, Columbia Law School. Sai has worked as an urban planner in India, the U.S and the U.A.E and as a consultant to the UN-HABITAT, Nairobi. She is a Research Associate at the Land Governance Laboratory, a not-for-profit organization that works on innovative, inclusive land tools. Sai holds a Masters in City Planning from MIT and a PhD in Urban Planning from Harvard.


This is the fifty fifth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Jayani Bonnerjee at jayani.bonnerjee@csh-delhi.com, Partha Mukhopadhyay at partha@cprindia.org or Marie-Hélène Zerah at marie-helene.zerah@ird.fr

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