In the era of a New Urban Regime

by Shahena Khan

In the wake of globalization, new geographies of governmentality are emerging. One of the expressions of these new geographies is the changing relationship between the State and its citizens. This relationship exists within a wide spectrum where, on the one hand is the idea of “deep democracy” when, marginalised communities seek new ways of claiming space and voice in the cities. On the other hand, is the re-incarnation of urban governance which includes Private Consulting Firms for their human resource, technical expertise and experience.

In this era of a new urban regime, what can be an equitable model to create teams for public sector programs that bridge the gap between these two ends of the spectrum?

A possible model is that of the CITIIS Program which has opened a window to un-think and re-imagine urban development in India. The program provides an opportunity to innovate- be it the institutional or the governance architecture, social processes, user-centric design and planning or even capitalizing knowledge through its 12 projects. In Puducherry, the CITIIS project focusses on the socio-economic and physical upliftment of communities living in low-income areas. It does so by building public-private-people’s partnerships. A challenge here has been to build a team with the right mix of people within the existing governance landscape. While developing the team architecture for the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Staffing Plan we asked ourselves several questions:

a.    Consultants versus in-house staff?

b.    Should we appoint a Project Management Consultant (PMC) or focus on hiring expertise from within the existing parastatal departments connected to the grassroots and build their capacities?

c.    What could be the architecture of the SPV for the CITIIS project that can ensure effective project delivery, have ears on the ground and strengthen the capacity of the city to undertake such projects in future?

Tier-II and Tier-III cities and towns like Puducherry, grapple to effectively implement urban development programmes due to the complex institutional and governance landscapes coupled with lean staffing strength. Puducherry, like any other cities across the states, has adopted a similar ideology of hiring Project Management Consultant (PMC) for development and implementation of Centrally Sponsored Programmes being implemented in the city. This ideology is backed by their existing constraints of high deficit of human resource in the government departments, lack of their technical capacities, regular displacement of officials within the institutional system hindering personal growth and low availability of required expertise locally in the open market. However, there are limitations with the PMC model as well- lack of understanding of the ground realities, loss of contextual uniqueness due to the replication of standardised ideas across cities and limited individual experts accountability. This model also negates the idea of capacity development of the existing human resource in government institutions.

Given the open-endedness and flexibility of the CITIIS Program, we are therefore, exploring the architecture of the SPV. To make the team more dynamic we plan to include existing human resources from the allied government departments and focus on enhancing their capacities. Additionally, localised consulting firms or independent consultants can act as domain experts to support the in-house staff of the SPV. This contextualised architecture of the project team formulation can reduce the time lost in bureaucratic and dogmatic procedures, increase project sustainability and strengthen cities capacity to independently undertake such projects in the future.

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