ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Governance Matters

The Persistence of Rural-governed Urban Settlements in India

A dual-track system of local governance provides the state governments in India the authority to designate a rural-governed or an urban-governed status for each settlement. Spatially, though, the term “urban” has no universal cut-off. Thus, an urban settlement as defined by the Indian census may well be designated as rural-governed. But how common are such mismatches and what are their potential implications in terms of development outcomes? This paper outlines the origins of rural and urban governance forms and provides an evaluation of how the designation compares in terms of urbanisation indicators and differential allocation of local public goods.

This paper is based on Komal Hiranandani’s Master of Science dissertation “Mismatched Governance: Exploring the Relationship between Rural and Urban Governance Forms and Urban Development in India” submitted to Cornell University in 2018. The authors thank an anonymous referee for comments and suggestions—specially for alerting us to the parallel literature on agrarian urbanism.

In a rapidly urbanising India, there is a critical need for local governance institutions, public resource allocation, and regulatory reforms to keep pace with the development needs. The article explores the consequences of a distinctive and understudied, dual-track governance system of designating village or town settlements as either rural- or urban-governed. The paper traces the constitutional origins of these two modes of governance, and their organisational and fiscal relationship with the states. It then investigates the policy implications when primarily urban settlements are classified as rural, with emphasis on the nuanced role of the otherwise canonical measures of urbanisation, and the difference that the rural or urban governance forms make to the provision of local public goods with high spillover effects. Finally, the study analyses the statewide statistics on the conversion of rural-governed settlements into urban, from 2001 to 2011, with a few remarks on the factors that may impede or facilitate this conversion.

Constitutional Origins of the Governance Forms

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Updated On : 14th Feb, 2024
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