Cities, Local Governance & Public Policy

Session Report Mansi Garg

Fundamentals of PUBLIC POLICY is An Online Spring School Program, A Four-Week Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course conducted in March 2023. The second speaker for the day was Mr Tikender Singh Panwar who was a Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Senior Fellow, IMPRI.


Mr. Tikender Singh Panwar provides a historical perspective on the development of cities in India, highlighting the evolution of urbanization, governance structures, and urban design. He begins with ancient civilizations, such as Mohenjo-Daro, emphasizing that even in these early times, urban planning and architectural skills were evident. He points out that early cities in India were not necessarily ruled by a single autocrat but had participatory and democratic elements.

He then discusses the development of cities during various periods, including the ancient Hindu cities, Rajput towns, Mughal cities, and the British colonial era. He notes the introduction of concepts like forts, inner and outer cities, and parade grounds during these periods.

The speaker mentions the significant impact of the British colonial period on Indian cities, introducing a regimented cantonment system and municipal governance. He explains that the concept of setbacks in urban design emerged because British vehicles couldn’t navigate the narrow lanes of older Indian cities.

He also touches upon post-independence urban planning, mentioning the Nehruvian model of city development, which aimed to address poverty and housing needs through industrialization and centralized planning. He highlights Chandigarh as an example of this model, emphasizing the need for affordable housing to prevent the city from becoming a “ghost city.”

Historical Urbanization

Mr. Panwar begins by highlighting the existence of early urbanization in ancient India, with examples like Mohenjo Daro. These early cities demonstrated elements of urban planning and governance. He emphasizes that these cities had participatory governance structures.

Colonial Influence

During the colonial period, the British introduced a regimented urban planning approach, marked by the segregation of civil and military areas, as well as the development of cantonments. Municipal governance began to take shape during this time.

Post-Independence Era

After India gained independence in 1947, urban planning and governance took a centralized approach. The Nehruvian model of urbanization aimed at industrialization and rural-to-urban migration. Chandigarh, designed by Le Corbusier, is cited as an example of this era’s urban planning principles.

Refugee Settlements

Mr. Panwar notes that during this time, cities like Delhi had to accommodate a large influx of refugees from the partition of India. Plots were provided to refugees, but the housing conditions were often poor, leading to the development of slums.

Shift to Service Sector Economy

In the 1990s, there was a shift in India’s economic profile from manufacturing to the service sector. Cities were encouraged to attract investments and become competitive. Real estate development became a prominent driver of urban growth.

Current Challenges

The speaker highlights the challenges of urbanization, including the growth of slums and the dominance of the real estate sector in city planning. He also emphasizes the need for a shift toward a more decentralized and participatory model of urban governance.

Centralization and Governance

Mr. Panwar criticizes the centralization of governance and planning in cities, calling for a more democratic and people-centered approach to urban development.

He discussed various aspects of urban development, governance, and sustainability in India. He mentions the developmental model, architectural features of Chandigarh, centralized planning, and the challenges posed by rapid urbanization, including the growth of slums. Mr. Panwar also delves into the history of urban governance models in India, the shift from industrialization to the service sector, and the impact of real estate development on urban spaces.

The Impact of Investment and Urbanization

The speaker discusses how urbanization and investment have transformed cities like Gurgaon, leading to income disparities, extreme poverty, and a shift from formal to informal employment.

Lack of Urban Governance

The speaker highlights the inadequacies of urban governance in India, with a focus on how city planning is often controlled by central governments rather than local authorities.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment

The 74th Constitutional Amendment aimed to transfer certain functions, functionaries, and finances to city governments. Additionally, he highlights the need for democratic decentralization and empowerment of people in urban governance. However, the speaker emphasizes the importance of transferring functions, functionaries, and finances to city governments as outlined in the 74th Constitutional Amendment. He also raises concerns about unsustainable urban practices, such as widening roads to accommodate more cars in developing countries.

Sustainable Urbanization

The speaker emphasizes the need for sustainable urbanization, which includes decentralization and democratization of urban governance. They argue that the current model prioritizes profit for large corporations over the well-being of the people.

Challenges of Globalization

The speaker mentions how globalization has led to the transfer of pollution and unsustainable practices from the global North to the global South, exacerbating problems in developing countries.

Critique of the Smart City Model

The speaker criticizes the Smart City model, describing it as a departure from the principles of democratic and participatory governance outlined in the 74th Constitutional Amendment. Additionally, the speaker mentions the Smart City model and its shortcomings, particularly in terms of centralization and lack of true participation. He suggests the need for a new paradigm in urban governance that prioritizes inclusivity and sustainability.

Call for Democratic Decentralization

The speaker concludes by advocating for a new paradigm in urban governance that prioritizes democratic decentralization and empowerment of the people.


Mr. Panwar highlights the challenges of urbanization, such as the shift from formality to informality and the dominance of real estate-driven development. It criticizes the consultant-driven model of urban planning, which often prioritizes profit over the needs of the people.

The author argues for democratic decentralization and empowerment of the people as a solution to the current issues in urban governance. They stress that cities should not be designed solely for the benefit of the wealthy and should focus on sustainability and the well-being of all residents.

In conclusion, Mr. Panwar underscores the need for a paradigm shift in urban governance that prioritizes the well-being of all residents, rather than catering solely to economic interests. He encourages a focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and the empowerment of local communities in shaping the future of Indian cities.

Acknowledgement: Mansi Garg is a research intern at IMPRI.

Teaser Youtube Video of Fundamentals in Public Policy Programme:

Read more session reports on web and policy learning events conducted by IMPRI:

Eco Swaraj and Alternative Developments: Towards Rainbow Recovery.

Climate Justice and Equity: Realities in India.