Dissertation Abstracts

Civil Society Organisations and Urban Governance: A Study of Civil Society –Urban Local Body Partnerships in Mumbai

Author: Singh, Dr. Binti , bintiacademics@gmail.com
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
University: Indian Institute of Technology Bombay,Mumbai, India
Supervisor: Prof. D Parthasarathy and Prof Kushal Deb
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Civil Society , Urban Governance , Mumbai , Partnerships
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Social Classes and Social Movements , Regional and Urban Development


This exploratory and interpretative study, seeks to understand the linkages between the partnerships of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) with Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) through detailed analyses of two cases - the Advanced Locality Management (ALM) groups and the NGO Council in Mumbai. This thesis contributes theoretically to the understanding of civil society and the definition of civil society in contemporary India. The process of involving new partners in urban governance under the nomenclature of ‘CSOs’ whether as a result of economic liberalisation (1991), good governance (administrative reforms), the decentralisation agenda (envisaged in the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992), or a combination of these three forces as witnessed in the urban reforms agenda (specifically in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, 2005-12), is a fairly recent phenomenon.

CSO-ULB partnerships could be seen as forms of urban struggle for space and consumption of collective goods and services like solid waste management. Following the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2000, this sector has followed a restrictive staffing policy, contracted out services to private contractors and NGOs, and involved citizens in cleanliness of their neighbourhoods using the philosophy of ‘self governance’. This philosophy perfectly matched the ideological position of a rapidly proliferating ‘new professional middle class’engaged in occupations and enterprises that gained prominence after economic liberalisation. This class, confident in its economic success, also harboured aspirations for the city, including making Mumbai a ‘world class city’, address basic shortfalls in urban governance, reclaiming urban spaces to its ‘rightful citizens’ that had been encroached upon by street vendors and slum communities. Unable to utilise the constitutionally given spaces for participation in urban governance (namely Ward Committees) and also to gain the confidence
of elected representatives (perceived as having low status and education and favouring urban poor groups), middle class citizens resorted to partnerships with the non elected executive wing of the municipal corporation; thereby creating parallel structures of local governance that bypassed elected representatives and WCMs and depended more on informal and unaccountable networks. The attendant exclusionary discourse on urban governance, urban space, citizens’ rights, and their spatial practices, positioned them against other classes of people. Besides, this space of partnership is fragmented with contestations within, informed by location, competing parallel experiments, proximity to official channels, prioritisation of issues and affiliations.
Despite being exclusionary in many respects, these partnerships in several instances have attempted to address larger issues of environment and governance, widely disseminated their ideas, reports and analyses through articulate use of new technologies of communication, optimally using their informal ties with higher officials in the ULB to ‘get things done’, and innovating new ways of interfacing with the local government. Thus the trajectory of CSOULB partnerships is not limited to being just invited or negotiated spaces; in fact they help expand the ‘political society’ in Mumbai in ways that represent a typical development of the post 1990s. Resultantly urban space turns into a site of contestations, alliances, claims and counter claims of various groups of citizens and their respective civil societies.