Our meeting started with a short statement on what SUBURBIN is about followed by a discussion on our vision of the program, aims and expectations.
Introduction: First meeting
Our starting point was the first analysis done after Indiapolis geodatabase, which showed that an important part of Indian’s population is living in agglomerates with at least 10,000 inhabitants in 2001 and not in metro-cities or their immediate peripheries. 40% of them are in cities, towns, and big villages with less than 100,000 inhabitants. Many of these smaller human settlements are participating of the urbanization process. This subaltern urbanisation has to be qualified clearly.
So, besides the intense growth of metro-cities, smaller units also expand and emerge. They already attract companies in services and industry and of increasingly in construction and real estate. However, the dynamics of growth in this structure of human settlements remains to be explained. This certainly depends on multiple factors and specific articulation (or confluence) of local and regional factors?
What happens outside of the metro-cities’ world? How does ordinary city grow? Why are small towns and large villages expanding? And, what are these small and medium towns, and big villages? This set of questions seems to be the common focus of research of several colleagues within the program.
Here we agreed that we have to document more clearly the status of localities and the underlying process/politics of classification. For example, the census town of West Bengal and elsewhere in India (Karnataka?) are not becoming ULB; they stay under rural panchayat administration). Regional discrepancies in the urban / rural classification have to be better understood.
SUBURBIN aims to better qualify the role and contribution (notably economic one) of little and middle urban centres to the overall economic development (“growth”) of India (and raise questions for similar countries). Further, we hypothesize that their contribution is certainly more important than often thought’, it might even be contributing more than captured by existing data. Our position is thus in opposition to the dominant New Economic Geography (NEG) theory, which prioritizes solely the unlimited development of huge urban and economic centres. The NEG argument is premised on the benefits of economy of scale, attraction of talents, and innovative environment. While these are certainly important, these are not the only determinants of locational choices made by companies. There are increasing negative externalities of mega-agglomeration as well as incentives to locate in smaller towns or large rural agglomerations
Some questions can be raised about what small towns and big villages represent. It may be equally important to understand what they can potentially represent in term of social development and sustainability:
i) Agglomeration of poverty;
ii) Places of spill-over (diffusion) of large cities externalities;
iii) Dependent on transfers (financial, schemes) – “territorial economy”;
iv) Existing economic dynamics at work (endogenous or linked to larger economies – low tech innovations)?
We insisted on the necessity to better understand the extent and forms of the urban world in Indian context beyond megacities:
- To get a better understanding of the urban classification game;
- And to clarify the governance mechanisms within the localities (political economy);
- To document the redistribution process in the three tiers system;
- The fiscal question have to be worked out too;
- The play around regulations related to environmental and industrial risks to settle activities within or outside ULB has also to be observed and evaluated;
- Of course small and secondary towns’ dynamics have to be analysed in term of linkages, mobility, circulation, and flows. The linkages question concerns, of course, agriculture, market towns, agribusiness, but also small towns and metropolitan area.
Doing so, we certainly contest the dominant story on the metrocity as a unique motor engine driven by economy of scale. We will aim at highlighting a more complex and balanced story. This narrative will not hide or ignore a large part of the settlement systems. Subaltern urbanization can’t be only considered as a unified passive object of redistribution or spill over. We have to document and conceive alternative models able to better explain the existing spatial dynamics. It’s certainly one of the main focuses of the project.
As the project led by Navdeep was on the local effects of globalization on secondary cities (access to services notably), our research is about the urbanization process of small towns and big villages. What is happening in contexts below metrocities and secondary cities when the metrocity centric growth machine is view as the key to development? What kind of contribution induces by smaller settlements?
Navdeep’s team was looking at cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, whereas our research focuses on smaller localities. But the number of inhabitants is not a major criterion for the selection of localities. We had a discussion on this specific point. The ceiling in the project of cities below 20,000 inhabitants appears as too low, so we agreed upon any settlement between 10,000 to one lakh.
We realized that we should agree on a common vocabulary. It’s particularly crucial when we consider the multiplicity of scientific disciplines represented (economy, econometric, geography, urban studies, anthropology, demography…) and also the diversity of nationality. This diversity implies a permanent translation game of concepts/words/ideas. It’s inherent to the multiplicity of traditions/practices, reading and work methods. The literature review should lead us also to a clarification of the concept – one word/expression = one definition.
Building a bridge between quantitative and modeling approaches driven by data, and narrative approaches driven by field specific collection of information is a major challenge that we are facing. The dialog of the two is fundamental.
We divided then in two groups – one called macro study and the second one micro – the first engages in quantitative data analysis; the other involves qualitative approaches based on field work, locality monograph.
1. What is macro analysis about
1.1 Toward a conceptual framework
The macro group, as the micro one, was requested to come out with a conceptual frame and not on deliberate the objectives of data driven research for SUBURBIN. However, it appeared that the group felt the necessity to start by listing available data, and discuss their limits and potentials. It’s only on the second day, during a second session, that a conceptual note could be drowning after we had fixed again the objective with the micro group.
The issue: The conceptual framework for SUBURBIN is clearly based on a willingness to challenge the New Economic Geography. Are at stake the common narratives of NEG that are used as strong arguments for post 1990-2000 investments policies (that metrocities are drivers of growth and pushing for rapid growth by concentration of means of production to boost development) – more than the modeling exercise in itself. The modeling will have to be more dynamic than the NEG and able to integrate a multiplicity of settlements small to big, making system.
Our hypothesis of a more distributed growth dynamic encompassing a larger geographical space and set of human settlements has to be checked based on secondary data. Ideas coming from case studies will help to unlock the black box that the modeling will necessarily produce.
There are two main questions that the overall macroeconomic group shall try to answer:
(i) Can there be agglomeration economies that are associated with a spatial form that is not limited to agglomeration in larger cities?
(ii) If yes, what are the channels of transmission of growth (redistribution, innovation, productivity and factors of production, clusters, mobility, linkages with other settlements, technical changes)?
Do we see concentration of inputs (pvt and govt) and production driven in priority toward big cities or the extended metropolis? What is the pertinence of metrocity agglomeration for private investments in the context of Indian economy? For most of the economic sectors (industry, IT and BPO) engaged in a global competition reducing cost matters first, much before joining a space favorable to innovation. Reducing costs means looking for access to the cheapest land, lower wage workers (non unionized), weak or absent environment regulation, low urban taxation, weak local government…
Are only big cities connected with the rest of the world matter (NEG hypothesis)? What are the spatial linkages of small cities?
Are outcomes in terms of (inequality?/ environmental costs?) worse off in the big cities compared to small cities? Can we weight the positive and negative externalities? Certainly we have to conceive an “evaluation” of localities which is not limited to the very restrictive economic notion of “growth”. We suggest (hypothesize) that Localities are also places of living and accommodation and thus this space cannot be reduced only to the exchanges, linkages and positive externalities are commoditized – notion of territorial economy. Certainly we have to look more at all the non-accounted form of exchanges and access to resources; but also at local forms of investments of remittances and subsidies.
According to the NEG model, the bulk of the population may be moving to big cities. By contrast, the majority of the Indian’s population is living in non-million plus cities (more than 60%) – population is not moving en masse to urban areas (cf. graph.) –
Regime of mobility has to be documented and understand more precisely: how rising pendulum and temporary circulations are becoming substitute to residence migration and stimulate transformation of local economy?
Analyses of urban dynamics need to look beyond population story -Size class of cities and share of population. Economic data are required and have to be analyzed more seriously. Governance, financial, investments and services distribution dataset has to be also mobilized.
It seems that relying on the existing geo-economic literature on Indian for economic analysis can lead to a limited picture. We have to produce our own analysis encompassing an extended urban system including the small towns.
A major question will concern the connectivity, flows, dependency and capture of diffusion benefits in different settings. A probable schema for inquiry is as follows:
- (Physical) Activity in the periphery of big cities – growth in peri-metropolitan areas \ extended metropolitan areas – the Strong NEG (corresponding to the economy of agglomeration model/story);
- Growth happens in cities connected with metropolis or distributed growth – Weak NEG;
- Future centers of growth, cluster of small innovative localities – space of endogenous growth – level of independence to the NEG, complementary, space of flexibility?
- Dead zones, places excluded of redistribution and local potential for economic growth, place of accumulation of exclusion/poverty, only demographic agglomeration without development. Situation of shrinking towns and localities may occur too.
A strong NEG in the context of this report is defined as where the activity is concentrated in the periphery of biggest cities and the growth in peri-metropolitan areas is driven by the metropolis capacity to concentrate activities and wealth. In other words, growth in small town / village landscapes may be seen here as an extension of metropolitan areas
We should be able to suggest a classification of small towns and big villages based on the following aspects: (i) location (near metro, near non Metro, Isolated), (ii) history (old cluster, specialty, market town, temple town…) and (iii) present activities, access to funds and services (investments) and functionality.
After the review of literature on Economic geography, we need to come with some strong hypothesis about what scenarios could be tested and formalized as an alternative to the NEG metro-city polarization story.
1.2 Data issue
We listed potential data, to gather, organize and combine in order to develop an innovative analysis.
- NSSO/CSO data at district level: migration rates/pattern, occupation, poverty, (1983, 1993, 2004 rounds) – 77 spatial division, possibility of representation at district level (Andhra migration) – 15 agro regions of India; housing amenities
- CMIE data with location of plants (XY on pin code)
- Annual Survey of Industry
- Economic Census data – NIC, number of employees (at least 10 employees), year of creation, zip code
- NEPA College school opening – story – proxy for strategy of investment in education and diffusion (private and public), zip code
- UIDSMT fund 40% 2 states Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh
- GDP data per district from Planning commission
- Market towns (mandis) data – Maharashtra msamb.com (financial transactions), mapping the level of activities – type of documents is available for market à see GRIMMS
- Census data 2011 is coming
- Data of amenities 1991, 2001, non agricultural land use extension
- RBI: Banking and credit data at district level (urban, semi urban, villages) 100 biggest cities
- UNIDO: development of industrial clusters and towns
- Financial flow public fund (case studies area) – district level decision
- Elections commission: election results (central & state)
- Association for Democratic Reform (ADR) profile of candidates
- the Town & Country Planning Authority produces a diachronic City profile for 2000 cities since the 6th Plan (1996) – Sri
GIS geodatabase for SUBURBIN
è Indiapolis: agglomeration with at least 5,000 inhabitants with their population from 1961 to 2001 – a basis geocoded to link other geocoded data sets (in process with Elfie link with 2001 services by localities rural and urban; CMIE/IFP data 2010 geolocalised; GDP by district…);
è MODIS / Bhusampada land use / remote censing
They should be organized along a GIS multi-layer perspectives: Milap and IFP team should organize this with the support of Sri and Partha.
- Agglomeration (population, housing…)
- GDP and investments (activities)
- Land use, urbanization of land
- Government and schemes
- Transport and connectivity
Questions: what kind of data we need to analyse the growth story and explain the growth between different classes of towns? What kind of correlation between the type of local governance and trajectory of localities?
Mainak and Basu affirmed their interest to analyse existing form of linkages within the extended system of towns and cities and to tackle precisely the relation between productivity and the level of agglomeration.
Survey of Industry (SI) and CMIE data will help to analyse activity localization? – Innovation level of technology, scale intensity – link with cluster, spill over, linkage effect, economy of scale, factor of location – 40 years (15 years district level), 1st State level – what drives the economics of small towns?
We can agree that during the first year, this team will have to draw its own landscape analysis of the Indian’s extended urban system (governance, services & activities) in order to better understand the role/function or contribution and diversity of small towns and big villages.
Some meetings/workshops are already planned between the participants (visit of Mainak and Chandra in IFP, Pondicherry), to work on certain questions and making sense of specific databases.
The organization and exchange of data have to be sorted out as the design of a website, possibly through theindiancity.net (CPR, Partha) and support of the geo-server of CSRD/JNU and Milap.
2. What is the micro about
2.1. The conceptual framework and methodology
For sure it’s about studying localities, small towns and big villages in different regions and of different types. While in the macro group, a certain divide was perceptible between colleagues looking for a more descriptive and empirical approach (more inductive too – what are data saying?) and those leaning towards model demonstration (mostly deductive), in the micro group, there was a divide between those interested to start with a standardized analytical grid to feed layers of information in order to ensure a certain comparability and those arguing for a narrative approach, thick descriptions and an understanding of the interlink between layers or spaces/stages of action where actor practices and strategies are the key issue (“town stories”).
The discussions were shaped around a number of main points:
i) It appears that nobody wants to work based on a kind of check list; however, there was a consensus that it is necessary to understand the settlements we study as well as to understand their dynamics;
ii) A common concern is to understand how the city works?
iii) To do so, a list of common elements to describe our cities is requested as a first step before each researcher chooses to focus on specific dimensions. A frame has been rapidly devised (see the table below in annex). This will be circulated and needs to be refined. It will serve as a base to a first outcome, of a monographic nature that will provide a baseline for all our “Town story” series.
What is central to our work is to simply describe small towns (there is existing work on this) but to clearly aim at understanding the urban dimension of changes (these can be multifarious). Everybody agree on the centrality of constellations of dominant castes, elites, entrepreneurs and civil servants, eventually local mafias, gathering in ad hoc coalitions of interest. Access to land is a pertinent place to figure out such setting.
Town stories will give a sense of the balance between space of conflicts and stability. Where are, locally, the big issues at stake? How are they connected, induced or dependent, to the regional and national actors – flows of power & material flows – investments and schemes? Mapping political economy from bellow, starting from the locality: is that possible?
In a classical perspective, locality profile can be organized along these 5 categories which have to be reworked and more precisely defined:
- Human: social structure (caste, class, gender), population, demography, age, migration, floating population, language, education, sex ratio
- Landscape: infrastructure, spatial distribution or land use, topography, public transport, motorization rate
- Economy: GDP, informal economy, distribution of employment, land prices, tourism, pilgrimage, temple economy, agriculture linkages, markets, industrialization…
- Governance + institution: civil society, public schemes. What is the political economy of town compares to city (municipality, corporation and town VS rural panchayat).
- Mobility issues: connectivity improvement and pendular migration increase.
Since this list is done, it appears that we analyse interactions and circulation of resources along the above mentioned 5 dimensions?. This has to be privileged. We discussed how to be able to do this. Various possibilities: mostly, observe conflits to understand the linkages between the various dimensions, or observe causalities. Another manner could be to look at burning issues as expressed by first field visits or forgotten questions. . Mostly these are possibilities to understand Structure, Dynamics and Processes. Doing so, we should arrive to a systematic approach of local dynamics linking the 5 aspects/dimensions.
Sri: Small town and what is urban: How a locality is connected? Sharing and dependency, form of cooptation and flows
Here come the question of the relation between the two groups, between macro and micro?
For sure, global analysis and qualification of the Indian’s extended urban system will help to make sense of the chosen localities. Ideally this could help in the “selection” process. Already Indiapolis analysis shown that the economy of being urban or not has several regional bias that are contrasting with the agglomeration dynamics. Notably, we observed a low official urban recognition for Kerala, West Bengal and Bihar but a huge process of physical agglomeration.
Data and map group can also help to state what is that town?
Should we have an overall methodology? Are we able to have one?
The methodological question related to choice of selected towns.
Participants agreed on the necessity to find the right balance between town stories and comparison. A realistic perspective has to be adopted taking into account available means and workforce, which will have a bearing on the choice of localities. In addition, each of us has his/her own history of research, other programs and regional/local knowledge will also impinge on the selection of case study localities.
Place of the district and region in the process of polarization – where are the small towns in a meso system?
In the case of non criteria approach, there is a risk that we choose only exception? We can also say that each locality is unique (cf. Ordinary city).
We had a discussion about potential criteria:
- Size & population history – growing not growing
- Governance – urban-rural divide (status)
- Economy – activities and land
- Distances and location or connectivity
And type of localities to have in the selection:
- Fast growing urban
- Slow growing urban
- Fast growing urban
- Slow growing rural
è Marie-Hélène is working on a synthesis of the elements to collect on the different localities.
Sri and Partha present a grid conceived with students in order to organize a first vision of studied locality (see annex 1). Is that necessary or to restricted. Development and use of such tool has been left open.
Julien Kast advocated for a more systematic approach:
“As far as I am concerned, the theoretic topic to be developed is the adapted kind of governance (including all socio-economical-political factors) to the towns’ sizes (not necessarily in terms of number of inhabitants). Departing from geographical observations that have to be screen through different examples, a general framework can be built up in such a way as to analyse some observations on particular towns and data that have been or will be gathered by our colleagues. For this, it seems necessary to base the different study on a common methodological basis, and, when possible, complete it by theoretical models and instruments”. The idea then is to be able to conceive a model of efficiency of local governance weighing risks and growth potentials. From this it could be possible to draw efficiency a different types of small locality arrangements (governance, coalition…) with regard to metro-city where negative agglomeration effects are more and more difficult to tackle. That supposes to harvest clear information about decision process, type of investments and schemes”.
2.2 On the pre-selection of localities and/or districts
Indiapolis geodatabase associated with demographic and existing service informations will support the choices and exploratory first survey in order to identify the selected case studies.
Colleagues named their interest for some locality:
Marie-Hélène about Farooq Nagar, a market town in the NCR, which is not serving Delhi but certainly more Gurgaon. But yet an exploratory fieldwork is necessary for NCR – to be coordinated with Milap; Mostly will start with the Geopolis database.
Dyia talked about Kulu-Manali pilgrimage and tourism inducing land conflicts and environment/landscape redefinition suggesting a possible comparison with coastal towns’ situation;
Frédéric talked about Mumbai and Nassik-Pune region with an interest for the middle-class emergence, relocation in relation with emergent value and strategy linked with environment values;
Sri mentioned preliminary work on Munnar and his interest to pursue; possibility of Kumli too;
Solly is interested in Coorg region;
Bhuvana, Venkat and Kamala with focus on Tamil Nadu;
Gopa will work on WB, and will first start with the Geopolis data base.
Here, an important is to be made about the absence of poorer States, which are central to our analysis. Suggested states could be Madhya Pradesh, Orissa or Bihar. We shall clearly encourage the two Ph. D students part of the project (and not part of the meeting) to cover on these states too. Sri will have students in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
2.4 The articulation between micro and macro
We saw three types of articulation:
i) Macro – Micro: in the help of town selection through the sharing for districts selected of the Geopolis results;
ii) Macro – Micro: help in defining the town by providing existing data either at the city level or at the district level;
iii) Macro-Micro (and vice versa): to refine our hypothesis regarding the relevance/adequacy of NEG.
3. literature reviews
As planned in the research project, two literatures reviews are planned and we shall make a collective effort to produce those. One will deal with the macro dimension and one with the micro dimension.
3.1 For the macro one
Mainak is interested to make sense of the NEG literature (with Basu & Vel), and understanding of its mathematic (Kast too?), especially in its mathematics modeling;
Kamala and Eric will provide a lecture of the current critics of the NEG literature (with help of others such as Frédéric, MHZ, Solly, Elfie);
Bhuvana is reading too NEG literature as Partha (?);
3.2 On the micro
Solly will provide a synthesis on Land and locality literature including legal pluralism; later, Solly show interest in bringing comments on the literature on “everyday state politics”, governance context (encroachment); he raised the importance of having a common ground on literature and economic rationale related to trading – economic ethnography; Land issues to enlighten the question of governance in non urban localities.
The Cluster economy literatures shouldn’t be neglected;
Eric can contribute on land and legal pluralism too;
Sri is interested to make sense on literature about peri-urban, governance and local finance;
Rémi can contribute to make sense of finance and decentralization literature;
Bhuvana and Anna can contribute to anthropology of every day state;
MHZ can provide reading of the general literature on small towns;
Dia’s interest is on the historical aspect of small towns (history of urbanism);
Venkat will make sense of the very large set of locality monographs in Tamil Nadu (Arni, Tirupur, Palar valley and the clusters economy…);
Sri and Partha have started to compile a bibliography on small towns in Indian’s University (SPA monograph);
Frédéric will bring the literature of case studies localities lead by agriculture;
Gopa can contribute, notably for West Bengal, to review the existing literature on localities;
Solly underlined that part of the literature pre 1990’ (post liberalization) is eclipsed. We have to take in account these forgotten texts in our reviews. This eclipse is coinciding with a decline of fieldwork in the profit of remote and quantitative analysis – remote biais.
4. Calendar for 2011
The literature review will be done in two steps:
– By July, commented list
– By autumn, first draft of the critical literature review should be ready. A review will follow with the objective of publishing working paper during the winter;
The field study group will start from now a first round of field visits and literature and data review in order to identify suitable case studies;
The field study group will gather data during August/December to define more precisely their methodology and selected the localities;
Exchange of data is starting from now organized by the data group;
Meeting of the micro group in Delhi the week from 22nd to 26th August.
Global analysis of the extended urban system is ongoing and will beneficiate of several sessions of work before summer (Mainak and Chandra visiting IFP);
Partha, Milap and Eric will work on the development of a proper website and websystem of exchange/access of data (databank);
5. General orientations after Burdwan
May be after Burdwan, we are more between:
i) quantitative and institutional approaches,
ii) and qualitative approaches.
They are very much complementary as the first will show a dynamic system (the small town landscape and the small towns in the extended urban system) and the second will contribute to explain and restitute the complexity in actions of the production of such stylized figures; its political economy. The second will inform the black box that the first will necessarily produce in progressing in showing/describing/measuring correlation of facts and trends.
We are sure that our research is about the place, trend, autonomy and contribution of subaltern human settlements, or small agglomerates, in the current dynamic of agglomeration of growth. Is this agglomeration dynamic’s more diffused than the canonic story?
May be if we look at the trend in term of social and political construction (development or social development?) rather than only in terms of economic growth contribution, polarization and diffusion. Another landscape can appear.
 Class 3 and 4 tier cities are to be targetted by real estate developers as the returns in metros are flattening (FT?)