Unsmart Outcomes of the Smart City Initiatives

Displacement and peripheralization in Indian cities

Authored by: Darshini Mahadevia

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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The “Smart Cities” notion that has recently gained dominance across much of the world as a technology-driven, neo-modernist urban development approach is now spreading to the Global South amidst existing inequalities and widespread dystopias. In India, too, the dream of a Smart City has been superimposed on the existing large-scale informal settlements. One of the important components of what is called Smart Cities Mission is housing for low-income households, which comes at a juncture of relatively unsuccessful efforts of social housing provision in the cities of India, earlier under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and Affordable Housing Policy and, in recent years, under the Prime Minister’s Awas Yojana–Urban Housing Initiative. This chapter uses the example of Ahmedabad to show that the state’s reliance on market principles and mechanisms to increase supply of low-income housing using public policy and finance has resulted in peripheralization, marginalization, and displacement of the urban low-income households. When households have been forced to relocate to the periphery, their living conditions have deteriorated. In years past, low-income households have survived and progressed in Indian cities through some smart and ingenious methods. In the endeavor, however, to make “smart” cities, there is a real danger of creating “unsmart” outcomes.

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