"Reaching the Unreached": (Un)Making an Inclusive and World-Class Delhi



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This dissertation focuses on the nature of governance of the urban poor and examines the 'behind the scene' politics as well as the 'side effects' of a recent good governance project designed to serve six million poor citizens in Delhi, India's capital city-state with a total population over 14 million. Over the past decade, Delhi's march to become a world-class city has further marginalized its poor residents as the government has demolished slums, threatened informal livelihoods, and diverted social welfare funds to host international events like the recent Commonwealth Games 2010. Overwhelmed by the growing disparity and a concern for its impact on attracting global trade and tourism, the Delhi government initiated Mission Convergence in 2008, a 'good governance' project implemented in partnership with over hundred community-based Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), to survey every poor person in Delhi, streamline and extend welfare service delivery, and to empower poor women across all low income areas in the city-state. The slogan of this initiative was "reaching the unreached" ? to make the aspiring world-class city inclusive and caring of its poor citizens.

Twelve months of ethnographic research with slum residents, partnering NGOs, elected politicians, and government officials, indicates that Mission Convergence introduced a new institutional arrangement for the exclusive governance of the poor in Delhi as an additional two million poor citizens entered the government's welfare registers and more than 400,000 poor women participated in Mission's women's empowerment programs. Such tangible results defined Mission as a successful example of efficient inter-sectoral governance in the global South, but also disturbed the political economy of pre-embedded traditional service providers like elected politicians, local leaders, and welfare staff. This dissertation examines the competing logics of good governance as traditional and new arrangements wrestled to claim authority over serving the poor as the world-class city aspirations continued the social and spatial marginalization of the poor. Mission Convergence was expected to reduce the growing disparity that spawns out of exclusionary urban development policies. However, this dissertation engages with theories of neoliberal governmentality, neoliberal urban development, and feminist economics, to show that supposedly efficient inter-sectoral arrangements could disturb regressive power relations and streamline services for the benefit of the poor, but work in nuanced ways to enable the state to sustain its political legitimacy and to create an aura of its caring and inclusive intentions towards the poor at a time when fast-paced city modernization violated their basic rights to shelter and livelihood in the aspiring world-class Delhi.