Bangalore International Centre had arranged a Talk on “Limits to Growth and Inclusion: India’s Cities and What to Do about them” by Prof. SmitaSrinivas, Columbia University (New York), Senior Advisor, Indian Institute for Human Settlements (Bangalore, Delhi), on Tuesday, 31st July, 2012 at 6:30 pm. The talk was moderated by Mr. V. NareshNarasimhan, Architect- Principal, Venkataramanan Associates, Bangalore.
The talk was addressed to a full auditorium, and began with explaining why it was an opportune time in India to jointly address economic growth, spatial growth, and inclusive cities. The speaker discussed why the limits to growth can be strategically positioned as, and empirically suggestive of, inclusive development and human-friendly cities. The focus of this assertion throughout the talk was on India’s specific industrial path and policy choices. While the talk was widely comparative in nature (India, and international), it also covered Bangalore’s own unique characteristics from growth, sector perspectives (e.g. IT, garments, defence industries, weaving, etc.), industrial structure and transformation and particular spatial and political character. Prof. Srinivasanalyzed why Indian industrial structure is different, but especially how its overlay with urbanization is challenging. A point of considerable discussion with the audience and illustrations during the talk was the informal economy. The informal economy’s sectoral, spatial, and political character is shaped by a series of national institutions-from laws on contracting, to labour regulation laws. Yet, urban local bodies and the 74th Amendment are increasingly implicated in urban outcomes. Yet, industrial policies and economic growth projections occur outside the ambit of local bodies, and often, to avoid urban local bodies. This can lead to intractable problems that stifle inclusion, but also suffocate technological vitality, economic growth, and worker and citizen participation. The citizen participation component came up repeatedly in the seminar as well as the question and answers with the audience. A parastatal-led strategy –common to Bangalore-has its own disadvantages for participation and transparency. Prof. Srinivas addressed the conditions under which industrial growth and urban growth go together, and when they are or have been distinct processes. She argued for why China and Singapore are inappropriate models for Indian industrial urbanization and why Japanese and other cities might provide better discussion examples. Using the examples of electrification and waste processing, she further showed how S&T and industrial priorities could be strategically dovetailed with urban needs. She then led the audience through one industrial urbanization practical exercise in Bangalore which Columbia University M.S. students led and some of the opportunities it presented in engaging with government agencies. Finally she discussed her affiliation with the Indian Institute for Human Settlement and why urbanization presented an opportunity to rethink how Indian cities are governed, and how to shape industrial priorities alongside urgent urban necessities.
The extremely interesting talk was adroitly moderated by Mr. V. NareshNarasimhan.