What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part II

Quick Note: This post is the second of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

In the previous post, I discussed the scale and context of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. The project has been billed as so wide-reaching that its own objectives have been changing over the years. For instance, the development of MRTS projects and a solar plant have been added to the DMIC’s ambit, along with providing expertise for building a convention centre in the national capital![1] I broadly discussed some of the socio-economic concerns arising out of the project last time. In this post, I would like to focus on some specific environmental concerns raised as a result of going through with the project.

One, the foundational idea behind the corridor will enhance carbon dioxide emissions and increase vehicular traffic. Two, the corridor passes through extremely water-scarce regions in the country and will create an even greater stress on the water resources. Three, the corridor will pass through important bio-reserves and will create threats to the quantum of biodiversity in India. Let us look at each of them in detail.

First, the very idea of the industrial corridor is based on equating wider roads with better development. The plan to make a new, wide highway for the movement of private vehicles is going to promote the use of self-driven vehicles for private as well as commercial purposes. Carbon emissions will only increase due to greater usage of vehicles. Further, environment clearances have already been given for four thermal and gas-based power plants across the corridor.[2] Such conventional uses of energy will increase carbon emissions and add to the degrading standard of air quality in northern India. This clearly indicates that the idea of developing ‘smart cities’ is merely a cosmetic one because they are based in fuel generated by thermal power and increasing vehicular usage. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has recognized the potential for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through extensive use of the dedicated freight corridor in a report on the DMIC.[3] But this is made redundant by the use of fossil fuel resources for power generation and for the promotion of vehicular usage over large distances. It will also waste a lot of existing resources because there are a number of urban centers, such as Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh, which already have an inventory of unused factories etc. and the construction of entirely new zones will waste a lot of resources and impact the environment and worsen it.

Second, the project disregards the water needs for irrigation in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh or the needs of the farmers or residents of these areas.[4] The DMIC seeks to take two-thirds of its water needs from rivers and the remaining from groundwater.[5] Farmers and other users already face great strain while retrieving water for agriculture and other purposes. Even existing cities, such as Manesar, Indore, and Surat, along the corridor use water from the same resources and there has been no ecological assessment of how the DMIC could use water sustainably without affecting the needs and usage of the existing users. Rivers require at least 50% of their volume to remain in the rivers to ensure that they are able to self-replenish and self-clean.[6] However, if the DMIC plan is put into operation, then all the rivers will have no volume left for their preservation. In fact, such is the desperation that the DMIC seeks to draw water even from seasonal rivers such as the Luni, in Rajasthan.[7] Further, not only will this industrial plan destroy the rivers but it will also affect the groundwater levels and its quantity. The rise in new cities and increasing population settlements will take up a lot of the groundwater and the new industries being set up will also contaminate and pollute the groundwater simultaneously. The perspective plan of the DMIC itself acknowledges that two-thirds of the districts under the DMIC are in overexploited or critical stages as far as groundwater is concerned.[8]

Third, the DMIC is having a major impact on the wildlife and biodiversity along its route. In terms of forests/mangroves, towards the southern part of the project, a lot of mangrove forests as well the foothills of the Western Ghats are prone to being overrun by the expansion of roads and rail lines. The conversion of land use from the adjoining fertile land to industrial zones or airports will also cause ecological damage to the leeward side of the Western Ghats.[9]In a specific instance of directly impacting wildlife, the DMIC passes through Balaram Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary that is known to contain sloth bear and leopard populations.[10] However, the National Board for Wildlife cleared the proposal for laying railway tracks through the sanctuary without requiring any preconditions such as the erection of fences.[11] More recently, the Board recommended doubling the width of a road passing through the same wildlife sanctuary.[12] Just as speeding cars have reduced the panther population in southern Rajasthan, speeding trains have now been granted authority to subject sloth bears and leopards to the same fate.

 

[1]About IICCL, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC),http://www.dmicdc.com/iicc;About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Power Projects: Environmental Clearance, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/cpage.aspx?pgid=62.

[3]Prem Pangotra and PR Shukla, Promoting Low Carbon Transport in India, Infrastructure for Low-Carbon Transport in India: A Case Study of the Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor, UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM (UNEP), August 2012, available at: http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/16964/DFC.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[4]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[5]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[6]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[7]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[8]Downloads, DMICDC, available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/frmDownloads.aspx?pgid=43; Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[9]Raksha Kumar, Delhi Mumbai Corridor, How the World’s Largest Infrastructure Project is Uprooting Indian Farmers, THE GUARDIAN, September 15, 2015, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/15/indias-future-dmic-delhi-mumbai-industrial-corridor.

[10]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[11]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[12]Minutes of the 47thMeeting of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife, F.No. 6-4/2018 WL, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Wildlife Division), Government of India, February 7, 2018, http://www.moef.gov.in/sites/default/files/Minutes%20of%2047th%20meeting%20of%20Standing%20Committee%20of%20National%20Board%20for%20Wildlife%20%281%29.pdf.

Workshop Design at FoV

Any questions? Ready? Let’s begin!

It’s a familiar setting – Chart papers, post-its, groups of people, sketch pens. If not all, most of us have  been through some kind of workshops in our lifetime. I remember in school we would have these team building sessions which in retrospect I can only imagine was some form of a workshop for our class to work through our interpersonal issues and resolve differences (if any). Wasn’t as much fun as I thought. We didn’t do much except maybe sat and listened to our facilitator’s lectures, looked at a few slides, nodded along and then went home. Needless to say these were just ways to fill time while the real work of correcting papers and filling out the report cards went on. Also this is an example of a bad workshop.

What is a workshop?

A workshop is essentially a space where a group of people come together and ‘work’ through a certain topic through a set of guided activities. There are lots of different kinds of workshops. There are writer’s workshops, theatre workshops, Management workshops, training workshops and so on. The idea is to gain some insight into the subject matter by anchoring discussions through a set of activities. The first time I got introduced to any real form of workshop was in Design school. There they took us through something that we call a design thinking process. By the end of the workshop you come up with something tangible, all the while your thinking has been guided by a predetermined set of activities. It’s fun.

The activities are timed so you have to think on your feet and you are always required to work in teams. The design thinking process that we were put through was somewhat derived from the Stanford d.school’s design thinking methodology that follows this particular trajectory Empathize-Define-Ideate-Prototype-Test. We were taught a lot how to think about the ‘user’. Since design is always about making products or services for the end user to solve some problem that they were facing, we must begin by putting ourselves into the shoes of the user in order to gain insight into what they may want. The workshops were always centered around ‘a’ problem and we had to work around that problem to come to some form of a solution. Now this would be easy if everyone involved in the system had the same problem and through one simple solution that problem would be solved.

Working through ‘a’ problem or through multiple perspectives?

Social problems are complex. And they are complex because there are many stakeholders involved in asking that particular question and each stakeholder has a unique perspective on the problem itself. Together all these elements may pose a daunting challenge as to where can one even begin? So then how do we bring together all these perspectives and truly design in an environment where not one but many solutions exist with varying trade-offs.

Workshops at the Fov playground

At Fields of View, we have crafted our own design methodology that helps us enter this problem space in a way that by the end of it we have a way forward to tame the beast (well maybe just parts of it). We unpack the several issues that are related to the topic. In our constitution project workshop we provided certain cue words to the participants to help them anchor their inquiry around a mammoth document such as the Indian Constitution. During our workshop participants tackled a plethora of ideas from the constitution through the timed activities and the constraints and objectives of creating a tool. Resisting the urge to look up an expert’s opinion, each participant brought to the table their own unique disciplinary perspectives and engaged in dialogue around the Constitution.

We cluster, break apart, discuss then cluster again and finally arrive at the exact problem space we are looking to tackle. We then proceed to map the actors (not users) in the problem ecosystem. We map their place in the system according to their Individual-Institutional, Formal-Informal, and influence characteristics. We then move on to chart out the relationship between the actors. Once these relationships are mapped we then move on to ideas and questions that will be worth exploring in the context of the problem space and the target audience.

The FoV workshop helps us not only in tackling the problem space and but also in data collection. We have conducted workshops with a variety of audiences such as Administrative services officials in Sri Lanka, Government officials working on land-use, water and waste in Chennai, Changemakers from Ashoka Youth venture, school children at the Maker Faire Bangalore. It is a tool that can also be used in gaining information from the target audience for the project. So if you remember that design thinking chronology that I had mentioned earlier, well it’s not always so sanitized in the real world.

All things visual

The workshops that we conduct (for ourselves and others) have a heavy visual component to it. Those guided activities that we talked about earlier, well the workshop assets as we call them, are manifestations of it. Infact all the content that is generated in the workshops is guided by visual cues on these large chart papers provided to the participants.

Just the other day, my colleague and I spent a considerable amount of time discussing and exchanging notes on why a certain sheet should or should not have arrows. Why it should be horizontally laid out and not vertically. Or why we should not put the word organisation in a circle. Now how does it even matter whether we put 3 connecting lines with arrows or not put any lines at all. We just need to give them specific instructions that’s all.  Well, that’s precisely where some may get it wrong.

Let’s consider this scene: You have explained the activity, provided all the necessary instructions and now the activity has begun. You see now the participant is left alone to complete the task. Alone, in a world full of possibilities and her head full of ideas in the company of that sheet which says ‘activity mapping’ the mind can often go blank. And then suddenly in those moments of quiet doubt, those arrows that you had put in the sheet start gleaming almost with a soft halo around them. They subtly nudge the participant to put 3 activities down (one for each arrow). They feel relieved, they have filled the sheet with the required number of activities.

What has happened here? The visual cue of 3 arrows led the participant to put down only 3 ideas, whereas there could have been more or even less. Was that something that the arrow intended? No! In my experience of fixing alignments and setting type and making squares and circles and putting words into them, I have to constantly question what message is the visual giving out. Is it intending to do what the exercise requires or is it adding another layer of meaning to what the task intends to do. Is that meaning something we require? Those visuals must justify their purpose – whether it’s in anchoring a spectrum, listing under categories, illustrating directional relationships, such that if that participant is left alone with that same sheet again, the sheet does what it’s supposed to do, anchor responses in the way intended.

More on this later. For now, I have to go roll up those chart papers, put the sketch pens back into the boxes, and get back to fixing those wretched rags in the paragraph.

Game Session of ‘Made to Order’ at UWC Mahindra College, Pune

Four students stood in a large multimedia hall with masks tied around them and there were eight more students sitting down on the wooden floor. The walls of the hall were lined up with fans, cuboid black speakers, tube lights and switch boards and neatly hung flags of different countries. The participants were students of the Theatre, Gender, Identity and Film summer program at UWC Mahindra College in Pune, between 14-18 years of age. The participants had been initiated into the conversation about intersecting identities the previous day as part of their course and had pondered over the questions of class, race, gender, privilege and power. At 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, the Made to Order session commenced.

Made to Order is a game developed by Fields of View that looks at the intersections between caste, class and gender. The purpose of the game is to give the player an immersive understanding of the intricacies of these three aspects of one’s identity. The game is set in the garment industry in India. The game was first developed for Gender Bender 2017, a production of Sandbox Collective and Goethe Institut Bangalore. The game draws from real-life qualitative and quantitative data.

The game session involved 15 mins of briefing, 50 mins of game play and another 45 mins of debriefing.

People understand gender better than they understand caste

“My caste is Bestha, so does this apply to me?”asked one of the players. The game involves the players to make certain choices based on the profile that is given to them. These profiles are stated on the profile cards. While four players play the roles of garment factory workers, the others play the role of the upper management. The above-mentioned question is a common occurrence in a game of Made to Order. People more often that not are unaware of which caste is Scheduled and which is not. In the game those who play the role of garment factory workers have to achieve 5 goals. One player who managed to achieve all his 5 goals in the game, expressed happiness over the fact that he had made some good decisions during the game. He also however acknowledged the fact that his profile being that of a male, didn’t involve any of the impediments women had to face. His profile also entitled him to an SC/ST certificate because of which he could get free eye surgery for his parents. Sometimes your caste in the game held you back while sometimes it helped you move ahead.

Where some perceived caste and gender as labels affecting their movement in the game, for one of the players there seemed to be a disconnect between her perception of the profile she was playing and the life of that very person in the profile. While playing the role of a transgender person employed in the factory as a helper, she decided very consciously to apply for vocational training even though it required her to dress up as a man – “I had to get money for gender reaffirmation surgery and that was a lot. So I had to save and I couldn’t achieve a lot of goals because of it. I thought getting more money was more important for me than to dress up as a woman if I ever wanted to achieve that particular goal”. Would someone struggling to express their gender to the world actually go through with such a decision like that? How much would a person compromise in order to make their ends meet? Speaking from their own personal experiences, one of the participants talked about how gender and sexuality are not understood where he comes from and why he needs to hide his sexuality from his own family because of the trouble he might face if he discloses it.

Power as a process and not an event

During the debrief one of the participants said “As a woman I think it’s not just that instance when I feel threatened or violated, but I can do something about it after that instance has passed. And my caste and class support me in that.”For another player the act of making choices was just about survival as he pointed out. He was making the least amount of money as a sanitation worker, that combined with him playing as a woman who belongs to a scheduled caste, made it extremely difficult to achieve anything in the game. In the game the players are required to respond to certain questions and make choices. And the very labels of one’s caste, income and gender tend to weigh in on all these choices throughout.

Does Industry and development go hand in hand?

“We had no consequences whatsoever for ourselves. And there was nothing to stop us from making the choices we made. I think we had a lot of power in the game”.Turning to the participants playing upper management, there was a unanimity in how much power they felt in making the decisions they had to. On being asked about their choices as the management another one said “I made the decision of moving out the factory to a rural place. Because as the employee turnover is high in the city anyway and the workers are more likely to switch jobs in the city, I thought they could easily find a job even if the factory shut down here. Instead we could take it to a rural area and set up there. It would not only generate employment but also develop the area, schools etc would come up.”On questioning further, discussions emerged on whether such development models even function in the real world and how much do industries that are setup in rural parts of the country actually contribute to the education or overall growth of the people in the rural areas.

Claustrophobia and decision making

Some participants pointed out that “the game was mentally exhausting and having to constantly think about the decisions was tiring. I can only imagine having to face that on a day-to-day basis.”One of the girls playing the role of a transgender helper at the factory mentioned how restricted and stuffy the mask and the impediments made her feel in the game. “The impediments felt very real for me. It became more and more difficult to move. I am somewhat claustrophobic, so the masks were also a difficult thing for me.”

We wound up the session, thanked each other for their time and participation and left for the day to do other things. I saw those four students leave, the participants who played the roles of the workers, with smiles on their faces like the rest of their classmates. And here I was packing their very masks with labels defining the caste, gender and income stuck on them repeatedly. Those masks had managed to make them feel suffocated in this air-conditioned hall. The impediments had restricted their movement so much that even a 10 feet distance had become a struggle to tread. The questions and decisions in the game had drained them enough for that hour if not the rest of the day.

But I guess that’s how it is in real life, for some the claustrophobia lasts an hour and for some it is their lifetime.

 

 

 

City Game Session at Genwise

What do a bunch of adolescents between 12-14 years of age have in common? Capris, shorts and t-shirts when they don’t have to wear a uniform? Ask a lot of questions, are not afraid to say what they are thinking and have all seen the recent Black Panther movie. At least the group we conducted a City Game session for at the Genwise summer school had.

The City Game is designed to explore urban form and elicit a group/individual’s preferences about their city. The game also allows for its participants to reflect upon why we imagine our cities the way we do. The students in this group were a part of the course ‘Perspectives in Tackling Wicked Problems’ and they belonged to grades 7 to 9. As the ritual goes, we had a short round of introductions and then we proceeded to the session.

There were two parts to the session at Genwise. In the first part, the students were asked to silently reflect upon what they understood by a ‘smart city’.

The second part involved playing the City game.

“Do we build a democratic city? Are we placing social concepts or infrastructure?” asked one of the students. “It’s completely up to you”, I replied. “So then what kind of a city do we build?” “A city you want to live in”. With all the clarifications in place, the gameplay began.

Negotiations started early. The kids immediately jumped on to the blocks and started building roads, business parks, sewerage treatment plants, sports centre, foot over bridges, BRT corridors, a historic statue, airport and more. Some interesting highlights were that a jail was placed before a police station was conceived of. Road networks were placed around first in order to ensure easy mobility. A lot of blue, pink and yellow tape was ripped and stuck around to ensure that the BRT corridors don’t get confused by a highway or a metro line. Somewhere near the 5th round (or half time), one or two in the group began to panic as to whether the city has its basic infrastructure in place or not. As the group had started to break and move around and the energy seemed to dip a little, a list was put on the white board and a number of things were listed on them. “Now we can track what we are building and have something to reference in case we miss out”. Slowly fire stations, public toilets, schools, hospitals, a windmill field, a car showroom, five-star hotel, railway stations, a library, and even an orphanage showed up. By the 8thround, the city had been built and it was time for lunch.

“Would you like to live in this city?” “Yes!” said two, “No!”, said the others. “Why?” we asked. In the debrief session, the students reflected upon this city that was built. A city that despite being built around the roads and other transit systems, seemed congested. Where did the poor live in this city? Some expressed their disappointment that the city was not built for different kinds of people (especially the people they had listed on the post-its before the game). Some said that the city was too congested around the business park. One even said that the city is not the same as her home town Chennai, which is why she wouldn’t want to live in it. There were a lot of ways to move around in the city, but who all could move around was not clear.

What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part I

Quick note: This post is the first of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

“Initially, it used to happen once or twice a month, later it decreased to 2-3 times a year, and now we can just drive by without worrying about it at all”, claimed Shiva, a taxi driver who frequently drives between Udaipur, Rajasthan and Palanpur, Gujarat, a route that forms a significant area of influence under the upcoming Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). What Shiva was referring to is the number of panthers killed by speeding vehicles while crossing the highway from a lake to the forest.

The DMIC is an urban expansion project that aims to span the entire western sector of India. It is envisaged to include a high-speed road and rail corridor, with dedicated freight lines, as well as the construction of ‘smart cities’, new industrial regions and green field airports.[1] Along the entire corridor, it seeks to give impetus to industrial growth and create an industrial belt to achieve sustained economic growth for India. The plan has an influence area from Delhi to Mumbai covering over 400,000 square kms.[2] It is going to pass through the states of Uttar Pradesh, where it will begin in Dadri, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, where it will end at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which is a distance of almost 1500 kms.[3]

The project is not a novel idea in terms of its substance. In fact, developing urban areas with large-scale infrastructure and investment in capital goods has for long been considered as a spur for urban and consequent economic growth. To provide some context for urban development, a couple of centuries ago the total urban population of the world was not more than 250 million, which was less than a fifth of the then existing population.[4] Today, India, at 34% of urban population, has more than double the people in urban areas alone than this entire figure.[5] For the first time in the history of the world, in this century, more people (4.1 billion, or 55% of the world’s population) are living in urban areas than in rural locations.[6] Given the push for urban development as a way to increase household incomes and wealth[7], this growth is seen most visibly in developing nations, with the largest urban agglomerate areas such as Mumbai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Beijing, in developing countries.

By their very nature, large-scale projects, especially those in developing countries, are dependent on angel funding (either by States or private players) for their development. The sheer scale of some of these projects makes it crucial to discuss their potential implications on a variety of aspects – socio-economic, environmental, and financial.

The plan for the DMIC is in line with this strategy of building larger and new cities. It has been touted as a game changer for addressing India’s existing problems in messy urbanization. It is going to be a huge investment over a number of years, with the estimated project cost alone estimated at Rs. 6, 30, 000 crore or Rs. 6.3 trillion (USD 90 billion).[8]

It relies on policy measures that various urban growth models have experimented with, such as engaging the private sector for essential infrastructure development, building green field parallel to existing urban centers, and relying on different forms of international aid, soft loans, or State support for funding models. This can create a multitude of obligations in terms of monetizing land, sourcing requirements, conditional use of funds, and even bilateral relations (in cases of international funding).

The next question then is, given these financial risks, if such projects are at least meant to benefit the entire population. The answer, unsurprisingly, is no. Building MRTS systems or airports systematically excludes those who cannot pay for the high cost of such services. Further, these projects necessarily require continuous funding for the maintenance of the infrastructure. As a result, such attempts at growth often serve to increase the wedge of inequality in society by depriving locals of their land, privatizing profits from the area and creating livelihood insecurity for those living in the region.

In the next post, I will discuss some specific environmental implications of the DMIC.

[1]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Shantanu Guha Ray, A New Grand Trunk Road – For Industry, TEHELKA, February 16, 2008, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main37.asp?filename=Bu090208Grand_Trunk.asp.

[3]About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[4]Rakesh Mohan and Shubhagato Dasgupta, Urban Development in India in the 21stCentury: Policies for Accelerating Urban Growth, Working Paper no. 231, STANFORD CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, October 2004, p. 1, available at: https://globalpoverty.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/231wp.pdf.

[5]Urban Population (in %), THE WORLD BANK, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[6]Urban Population Growth, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, available at: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/. (last accessed on August 29, 2018); Urban Population, THE WORLD BANK, available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL(last accessed on August 29, 2018).

[7]Spence et al. (Eds.), Urbanization and Growth, COMMISSION ON GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (THE WORLD BANK), 2009, https://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTPREMNET/Resources/489960-1338997241035/Growth_Commission_Vol1_Urbanization_Growth.pdf.

[8]Metamorphosis – DMIC Overview, http://www.dmicdc.com/Uploads/Files/5df_dmic-overview.pdf.

Who needs philosophy?

Definitely not folks who work with technology. Most definitely not engineers. I was one of those people, an engineer. (There is a certificate somewhere that attests to that.) Philosophy for me was about looking out into the distance and thinking about whether I was really thinking or dreaming or existing in some sort of fugue state induced by the Mumbai heat searing metal compartments of local trains. The word ‘Philosophy’ conjured images of busts of men whose names were as strange as the non-spelling of ‘Irinjalakuda’ is to the English language. Even though I went through Sophie’s World, it seemed her world was never mine to hold and understand.

Around six years ago, I read a paper, and something shifted. It was called ‘Classes versus Prototypes: Some philosophical and historical observations’ by Antero Taivalsaari[1]. The paper spoke about Plato and object oriented programming in the same breath. I knew about object oriented programming but I didn’t understand its relationship with Plato.

I encountered object oriented programming in a book by Timothy Budd and was smitten by it. Budd’s book is innocuously (and sincerely) titled ‘An introduction to Object Oriented Programming’. It does not have the identity of the murderer tucked away in the last page, but I read it as though such a revelation was sure to come.

Budd starts about how people who are new to object oriented programming understand it better than those who have worked on procedural programming. Procedural programming models the world as a set of steps, a process or a procedure. In other words, you instruct the computer to perform actions by coding these actions as a series of procedures. On the other hand, object oriented programming was about seeing the world anew, as a set of objects that belonged to certain categories and the relationship between them. You change the world by performing different operations on these objects. Budd argued that it is easier for someone who has not thought of manipulating the world in terms of procedures to start conceptualising it in terms of categories, objects that belonged to those categories, and the relationship between them. An untutored mind could adopt to this new way of seeing rather than the one that was already moulded and ossified. As a regular student, keen to see the world in radical new ways, I was eager to reshape my mind, and read the whole book in one go.

I never realised until I read Taivalsaari’s paper that what had gotten me excited about Budd’s book and object oriented programming in the first place was the philosophy behind it, which is to see the world as a set of objects that are related to each other. What I didn’t understand back then was that philosophy was about a way of seeing the world in order to understand it, and every discipline, including computer science rests on philosophy.

Every discipline tries to understand the world, and therefore, every discipline has a certain philosophical foundation that tells you how that discipline perceives the world. Plato and Aristotle thought that the world has a certain fixed ‘order’, and we discovered that ‘order’ as we understood the world. For a long time most disciplines in the Western canon adopted this approach to looking at the world, and computer science was no different:

What Plato and Aristotle thought:

“… categories were thought to be well understood and unproblematic. They were assumed to be abstract containers, with things either inside or outside the category. Things were assumed to be in the same category if and only if they had certain properties in common. And the properties they had in common were taken as defining the category.[2]

Relationship between Aristotle’s model of the world and object oriented programming:

“His [Aristotle’s] classifications were based on the same idea that underlies object-oriented programming today. A group of objects belongs to the same category if the objects have the same properties. Thus, categories of objects are defined by common properties that a group of objects (the extension of the category) share.[3]

For a second, think about the consequences of adopting Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophical position for different disciplines:

  1. There is one ‘ideal’ world out there
  2. All of us ‘discover’ this world when we understand it

Image 1 – Is there an ‘ideal world’ we all discover? Or the world we perceive is the world we know?

But, if you think that the world is not fixed, and the world is what we perceive, what we make of it, you adopt a different philosophy, a different way of looking at the world. A lot of disciplines, including computer science, started grappling with this different way of seeing the world, a way of seeing that was rooted in being human. By virtue of the bodies we inhabit, we understand the world a certain way. We perceive the world a certain way because we as humans are made a certain way; our bodies influence our cognition: if we adopt such a philosophical position, then we understand cognition as ‘embodied’. This in turn means that there is no ‘ideal’ world out there for all of us to perceive the same way, but the perceptions differ based on the vessel doing the perception. And as there are many kinds of human beings, there are different ways in which this classification can be done, this understanding can happen.

Consequences of adopting an ‘embodied’ understanding of cognition, and therefore a different philosophical position for different disciplines:

  1. Each of us understands the world in our own way, and that understanding is shaped by our bodies
  2. There is no ‘ideal’ world for us to understand, but there are ‘interpretations’

It is a dramatic shift in thinking about the world, a fundamental philosophical shift. It means moving away from thinking there is one world we all are trying to understand, to thinking about everyone’s perception as a valid interpretation of the world.

Different disciplines from economics, cognitive science, linguistics, computer science, psychology – all of them grappled with this philosophical shift. And in a series of blogposts, I hope to explore this shift, and what it means for research and practice. (There will be politics too – after all, what doesn’t have politics?)

[1] Taivalsaari, A. (1996). Classes vs. Prototypes Some Philosophical and Historical Observations. Journal of Object-Oriented Programming10(7), 44-50.

[2] Lakoff, G. (2008). Women, fire, and dangerous things. University of Chicago press.

[3] Taivalsaari, A. (1996). Classes vs. Prototypes Some Philosophical and Historical Observations. Journal of Object-Oriented Programming10(7), 44-50.

On Janaagraha’s response to FoV’s critique of the ASICS survey

The Hindu had published Fields of View’s critique of the Annual Survey of India’s City Systems (ASICS report) by Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy. We had critiqued the survey at two levels — the methodology used and the broader framing. The critique of the methodology examined the survey design, the questionnaire, and the ranking. The critique of the framing looked at the broader frame the survey subscribed to, that of looking as a ‘city as a service’.

Janaagraha wrote a response to the critique that was recently published in The Hindu. Overall, Janaagraha’s response is more of an iteration of what the ASICS report does (which has already been explained in the report) instead of a substantive argument responding to FoV’s critique. In the post below, we provide our argument as to why that is the case by examining Janaagraha’s response in its entirety. The post is divided into five parts, and every part begins with Janaagraha’s response in italics and our argument follows.

Part 1

“Life in India’s cities is an urban nightmare that we just cannot wake up from. Potholed roads, garbage fires, flooding, traffic congestion, air pollution are daily bugbears that our citizens have been facing for decades, clearly indicating a systemic failure of governance in our cities. Fixing urban governance is key to fixing our cities, and hence the importance of diagnosing and measuring what’s broken in our governance. ASICS aims to do just that. ASICS is an objective evaluation of 23 Indian cities across 20 States on 89 questions, covering 150 parameters, and 3,900 points of investigation. It takes a systemic, data-driven approach towards urban governance. ASICS is a diagnostic tool indicating the health of urban governance systems in a city and therefore, its ability to deliver good quality of life in the medium to long term. The evaluation is based on the ‘City-Systems’ framework consisting of four distinct but inter-related components — spatial planning, municipal capacities (both human and financial), political leadership, and lastly transparency, accountability and participation. ASICS is based on the premise that fixing systems across all these components are critical to city governance.”

The beginning of Janaagraha’s response is about what the ASICS report does; there is no new information, either to clarify the methodology or the framing.

Part 2 

“One of the significant criticisms raised by the authors was that ASICS argues for ‘city as a service’ model. ASICS see quality of life comprising of two distinct but inter-related aspects — ‘quality of urban infrastructure and services’ and ‘quality of citizenship’. Thus ASICS is not about evaluating the relationship between the city and the citizen as one of service provider-client, but rather about the extent of ownership and empowerment of both the city government and the citizens in the running of the city. ASICS evaluates the extent of devolution and empowerment of our Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and strength of formal institutional platforms, such as ward committees and area sabhas, for citizens to participate and actively engage with their government in line with the provisions of the 74th Constitution Amendment Act (CAA). ASICS looks at parameters such as mayoral tenure, powers of the council over staffing practices, voter turnout in municipal elections, and extent of functional devolution in practice. It examines availability of information on civic services, service levels, financial information, status of public works, revenue collections, spending, etc , all of which would enable citizens to gain a better understanding of the functioning of the ULB and make their engagement more objective and meaningful.”

Janaagraha claims that the ASICS report does not argue for a ‘city as a service’ model, contrary to what FoV’s critique claimed. The evidence Janaagraha offers is that the ASICS report evaluates the quality of citizenship too, and not just quality of infrastructure. There are two aspects to our response:

 

  1. As we mentioned in the critique, when engaging with the primary question of ‘Who is a citizen?’, there is an inherently limited notion of citizenship that the survey espouses. For example, to gauge citizen participation, there are questions on online information access. This question, by its very conception, excludes wide swathes of citizens who do not have access to online resources. Incidentally, even though mobile phone penetration is high in India, smart phone is not. In addition, cities need to contend with multiple literacy-levels, and diverse languages. Even a preliminary engagement with the complexity of citizenship, and the associated challenge for cities would mean the parameters used for evaluation have to be expanded.
  2. Though quality of citizenship is said to be a criteria on which ASICS evaluates cities, the way the criteria is conceived demonstrates that it is still within the ‘city as a service’ frame. Citizen participation does not translate to just providing feedback about services, which is what a customer does. The relationship of a citizen to the city is that of responsibility, of ownership, and of being a guardian and a partner of the city’s future.

Part 3

“ASICS is based on an analysis of relevant laws, policy documents and websites of city & State governments. One may argue about the unfairness of evaluating cities based on the quality of State legislation. But given India’s quasi-federal governance structure, where governance of cities lies in the domain of the State governments, the quality of urban governance is also a commentary on the quality of State legislation. As the report clearly indicates, to deliver good quality of life in urban India, reforms are required across all levels of government — Centre, State and the city government, with the king’s share to be undertaken by the State governments.”

Above is Janaagraha’s response to what the critique has pointed out as the ‘unfairness of evaluating cities based on the quality of State legislation’. Janaagraha agrees that India has a quasi-federal governance structure. Knowing this, we are puzzled as to the rationale for designing a survey that penalises cities for something that is not under their control, by their very admission. It is, again, conceptually unfair and therefore, not well designed.

Here is a snapshot from just one section showing different questions that evaluate the cities, while the power lies with the State.

A snapshot of the issues with questions in ASICS Survey by Janaagraha

Question No. in Evaluation CriteriaQuestionIssue
1Is there a provision for a state spatial planning board which is mandated with planning policies and reforms for the state, and is the final approving authority for regional and municipal SDPs ?TC&P Act is created through a state passed law, therefore, either awarding cities points or docking points from such a score is irrelevant.
2Does the Act require 3 levels of SDPs (master plans) for metropolitan cities: regional, municipal and ward(s) /localTC&P Act is created through a state passed law, therefore, either awarding cities points or docking points from such a score is irrelevant.
2a, 2b, 2c, 3, 3a, 3b, 3c, 4, 5, 6-TC&P Act is created through a state passed law, therefore, either awarding cities points or docking points from such a score is irrelevant.
7a, 7b-Plans are made by the relevant city development authority, to score the ULB (elected city council) on the timeline and validity is irrelevant
8a, 8b, 8c-Whereas 8 looks at a "clear decentralised procedure" for approval of plans, 8a, and 8b go onto scoring the ULB based on the state's actions.
9, 10TC&P Act is created through a state passed law, therefore, either awarding cities points or docking points from such a score is irrelevant.
11Do the SDPs reflect a stated articulation of future vision and development priorities?The stated objective is to look at "objective" parameters, whereas in the evaluation of this question, the ULBs are evaluated on a score of 10 based on if the SDP mentions metrics for the objectives. Also, these plans are created by the respective city development authority/agency.
12Do the SDPs at each level, integrate the plans and priorities of various sectoral public departments and agencies?
14Are there provisions in the act for modifications to notified SDPs?TC&P Act is created through a state passed law, therefore, either awarding cities points or docking points from such a score is irrelevant.
15Has an MPC been constituted?The state constitutes the MPC, why is the ULB being scored on this point? Under Article 243ZE, Constitution of India

The ‘Town and Country Planning Act’ is a law passed by State governments. Hence, using its features as a marker for a city’s governance and functional processes is unfair. It may be argued that documenting and evaluating such absences of this law (or certain features of it) will push cities to negotiate with the state government in order to improve their urban governance. However, this assumes a high level of city-state government synergy, and more importantly, an inherent value in strengthening the law. When a city such as Bangalore, which receives high focus from the state government, has been unable to push changes to the state law to improve its urban planning or governance, it would be a monumental task for other cities, which include non-capital cities, to press for the same. Further, Town and Country Planning Acts have mostly enabled urban planning to take place in a top-down approach through city development authorities in direct contravention of the spirit of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution.

Part 4

“As the authors have rightly pointed out, lack of capacities in urban local bodies is a huge hurdle which affects institutional aspects such as maintenance of accounts, budget preparation, audits, and aspects of service delivery such as approval of building plans, environment protection, road design etc. ASICS believes in fixing the City-Systems and identifies that gaps in financial and human capacity is a significant handicap in the ability of ULBs to deliver better quality of life to citizens in a sustainable manner. The author’s assertion that the ASICS report recommends outsourcing of many functions of the ULB appears to be a misreading of the recommendations. Firstly, ASICS suggests exploring options such as ‘outsourcing’ only in functions such as revenue collection where the lack of adequate number of field staff has severely impacted the ability of the ULBs to collect their dues. States like Jharkhand have demonstrated that engaging professional agencies through a transparent tendering process can help ULBs to plug the personnel gaps due to significant vacancies in Accounts and Revenue departments. States and ULBs must explore a gamut of options such as building a professional Municipal Cadre, facilitating lateral hires, to address the debilitating levels of vacancies in key departments.”

 At the outset, we wish to state that we are in full agreement that personnel gaps, and skill-based gaps have to be filled.

We argue it is not a misreading when our critique states that ‘ASICS report recommends outsourcing of many functions of the ULB’. In the recommendations section of the ASICS report (page 17 & 18 at http://janaagraha.org/asics/report/ASICS-report-2017-fin.pdf), “outsourcing” is mentioned five times as potential ways to fix the problem under ‘Urban Capacities & Resources’. One could argue that it is ‘only’ five out of seventeen recommendations, and therefore not the primary motive. Unfortunately, as researchers we do place these five recommendations in perspective with the other recommendations and the survey questions. A few questions that arise are, are these recommendations only possible because of this ‘objective’ survey or have these recommendations been made in the past (10, 20 or 30 years) by other groups without the benefit of such an ‘objective’ study? Are the other recommendations feasible and under what conditions? If these recommendations are implemented and the status quo does not change? Would the fall back then be to ‘outsource’?

In the spirit of debate and engagement, it is wonderful when a response leads to further questions just as it is futile if the state of debate does not progress.

Image 1 – A screenshot of the recommendations in the ASICS report, with all the recommendations to outsource highlighted.

Part 5

“The authors have evocatively questioned the choice of benchmark cities in the survey — London, New York and Johannesburg. The benchmark cities were chosen to evaluate the institutional and governance mechanisms within a democratic framework which enabled these cities to provide the high standards of services and infrastructure to be recognised as global hubs of opportunity and talent. Cities are economic growth drivers, innovation hubs, job creators and providers of social, cultural and educational opportunities. It is undisputable that New York and London are melting pots of culture and diversity and global engines of economic growth and prosperity. These are qualities that most cities aspire to have, and these cities are desired destination to live, work and play because of the underlying strong institutions, policies and processes by which they are governed. ASICS is not about pushing Indian cities to become a London or New York, rather it suggests looking at these cities and seeing what Indian cities can learn from them. ASICS underscores the importance of systemic approach to solving urban India’s challenges and recommends that all of us must collectively do what is necessary to strengthen our ULBs as institutions, and the systems and processes of their governance.”

Janaagraha’s response still does not provide any reasoning as to why “looking at these cities” (these cities being London, New York, and Johannesberg) to learn from them is more useful than looking at any other city – Buenos Aires, or Beijing. The reason we questioned this choice of the three cities as any form of benchmark continues to be the following:

“For instance, in Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking of 2017, London is nowhere in the first 10 or even 20; its ranking is 40. In The Economist’s World’s Most Liveable cities, both London and New York are not in the top 10. The recent edition of the UN Habitat’s biannual ‘State of World Cities’ report says that ‘the most unequal cities in the region, and probably the world, are in South Africa’. If it is not about quality of life, what do London, New York, and Johannesburg stand for?”

The response from Janaagraha is: “It is undisputable that New York and London are melting pots of culture and diversity and global engines of economic growth and prosperity.” (emphasis ours)

For starters, this claim has been disputed by Mercer’s, by The Econonmist and by UN Habitat. Moreover, as we argued in our critique, the budgetary inflows for Indian cities are limited as property tax is the only major source of revenue. Not only is this not true for London and New York, the budgetary and regulatory environment is also completely different. Consider this snapshot of London[1], New York[2], Mumbai[3], and Bangalore[4]:

Comparison of London, New York, Mumbai and Bangalore

ItemLondonNYCMumbaiBangalore
Population8.79 million (2016)8.55 million (2016)21.3 million (2016)11.5 million (2016)
Number employed by city council369,942(estd.)327,793 (2012)104000 (2017)18000 (2017)
Avg annual budget(last 3 years) US$31.5 billion (FY2014-2017)US$78.13 billion (FY2015-2018)US$4.9 billion (FY2015-2018)US$0.97 billion (FY2015-2018)
Sources of revenueRing-fenced education grants, Settlement funding assessment, council taxes, special and specific grants, HRAs, capital grants and receiptsBusiness taxes, capital IFA (Inter-fund agreements), Disallowance of Categorical Grants, Federal Categorical Grants, Miscellaneous Revenues, Other Categorical Grants, Other Taxes, Personal Income Tax,Real Property Tax, Sales Tax, State Categorical Grants, Unrestricted inter-governmental aidOctroi taxes and duty, property tax, various receipts, interests, grants, supervision charges, service charges, development chargesFees, fines, service charges, cesses, property taxes, recoveries, statutory deductions, GoI grants, GoK grants, interests
Avg exp on IT(LAST 3 YEARS) US$47.22 millionUS$515.4 millionUS$46 millionUS$160 million
Per capita (city council) employed0.042086689420.038338362570.0048826291080.001565217391
Per capita (city council) budget3583.6177479138.011696230.046948484.34782609

 

 

 

[1] http://ukpopulation2016.com/population-of-london-in-2016.htmlhttps://www1.nyc.gov/site/planning/data-maps/nyc-population/current-future-populations.pagehttps://data.cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/Expense-All-Funds/am45-6syqhttp://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/downloads/pdf/misc/workforce_profile_report_12_30_2013.pdf, https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_migrate_files_destination/2015-16MayorsCapitalSpendingPlan.pdfhttps://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_migrate_files_destination/2015-16%20Final%20Budget.pdfhttp://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/sites/default/files/images/londoncouncils/LGFrevenuefundingfinallargge.JPG, http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/node/4929http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Policy%20themes/Local%20government%20finance/Total_Funding_15-16_01_0.jpg.

[2] ibid

[3]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/citizen-services-likely-to-be-hit-as-bbmp-employees-set-to-protest-on-monday/articleshow/62973932.cms, http://bbmp.gov.in/documents/10180/2746234/Final+BBMP+Budget+Book+Revised+9-6-2017+-+Copy.pdf/377be30a-60e8-46de-89d8-6c4c67da8b53http://des.kar.nic.in/docs/Projected%20Population%202012-2021.pdfhttp://bbmp.gov.in/budgets.

[4]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41464636http://www.mcgm.gov.in/irj/go/km/docs/documents/MCGM%20Department%20List/Chief%20Accountant%20(Finance)/Budget/Budget%20Estimate%202017-2018/1.%20MC’s%20Speech/Budget%20A%2CB%2CG/ENGLISH%20SPEECH.pdfhttp://www.mcgm.gov.in/irj/go/km/docs/documents/MCGM%20Department%20List/Chief%20Accountant%20(Finance)/Budget/Budget%20Estimate%202015-2016/1.M.C’s%20Speech/English%20Speech%20Budget%20A,B,G.pdf.

[5] Appadurai, A. (1993). Number in the colonial imagination.

Dissident data – The Subject Matter(s) – Part 1

Quick note from FoV:

Fields of View is thrilled to host ‘Dissident Data’ a new blog series by Dr. Niveditha Menon, who is a senior research advisor at the Centre for Budget and Policy Studies. Here is the Part 1 of the second post. You can read the first post here

When I was in the field collecting data for my dissertation on domestic violence, my advisor, Mike, recommended that I write about my experiences every day. I was not very disciplined, so I would only do them every week. These were not technically field notes, but my own reflections on what I was experiencing when I was in the field. I decided to make them into letters that I sent every week to people who were interested in hearing from me. This is an entry:

I know I have glorified the process of data collection in previous letters. But it can be really hard… I sometimes get so angry I don’t know what to do with myself. The anger is fine.  But after a while, I feel myself getting a little cynical about the lives of the women I encounter. I remember feeling shocked at my own reaction in one interview when one woman (whose husband was not beating her) said that she was very happy with her husband. A voice in me said – yeah well, how long is that going to last? I realized immediately that I can’t think about the world that way, or I am not going to be a very happy person.  

I recently interviewed a woman whose story made me mad during the interview. I wanted to shout, scream, do something for this woman and do something to her mother-in-law. Usually, this anger hits me after I have finished with the interview and usually, I try and control myself when I am interviewing. But during this interview, I felt like screaming obscenities at the world and I don’t even know any good ones. Well, it passes. It always does.

What I didn’t realise then and am able to see so clearly now is that it doesn’t always pass. It stays, much longer than it should. These emotions of anger and helplessness were the first formative lessons in data collection that I learnt in the field, and in various forms, they have stayed with me ever since. These are the stories and lessons that I still go back to when I have to understand anything about oppression or violence, and about how the world is not tilted along the right axis for many people.

I brought these feelings to bear, to some degree, in my writing. When I wrote my case notes, I would bring a mental picture of the women I had been interviewing. By concentrating on her face, I would try to remember what she said and how she said it. Sometimes, this made the writing process very hard, because I would remember their faces flicker with emotions that I couldn’t even begin to name. I would remember the shuttering down of something dark and lightening up of something joyful. Somewhere in the middle was a story that I probably did not do justice to. And that feeling of impotence has survived all these years . . . that I could listen more, that if I could talk more, that if could do more, then it would all be better.

I remember thinking (with all of my feelings of inadequacy, cynicism, and anger) that the research that I was doing could not even begin to address the level of structural inequalities that I was seeing and recording. No amount of empathetic writing or theoretical understanding could take away the pain and hurt that the women I was interviewing were experiencing. It started to feel as though all of research is pointless, and the role of the researcher, even more so.

At the time, the very wise Mike told me – I can’t dwell on what isn’t, or I can never do anything with what is. I must admit, I didn’t quite understand it at the time. I was so lost in my own self-flagellation and my own navel-gazing that I didn’t get it. It was only years since that I understood that he was trying to tell me (at least) two things. First, the pain and anger I was feeling was an abstract one. It was on behalf of someone else and something else. It cannot be made mine, even if I tried. So, it had to be channelled into a more productive arena; it can be channelled into more empathy, for instance. Second, the feelings of frustration and impotence that I was experiencing are not the same as being self-reflective. These feelings of impotent guilt cannot (or perhaps, should not) be used to punish myself. It has to be channelled outward into asking questions of possibilities – What can be done? How do I do what I do best to make it better? How do I contribute? What can I change?

Over the years since that advice was given to me, what I have learnt is that these emotions that we take to and take from the field act as anchors. They make us empathetic, they make us accountable, and they make us human. Our knowledge of the complexities behind simple statements (of fact) comes from these complicated feelings we have towards and about those who have shared their lives (and data) with us. Any knowledge (or data) that we have derived from these interactions are, thus, almost always tinged with this emotional content. And this is really what I remember when I remember the lessons that I have learned in the field. So, no, these complicated feelings do not always pass. Perhaps, they shouldn’t.

Game Session of ‘Made to Order’ at City Scripts, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore

 

Date: 17th February 2018

Duration: 75 minutes

Number of Participants: 14

 

Introduction to the Game

‘Made to Order’ is a physical, multiplayer game that can also accommodate spectators developed by Fields of View to explore the intersecting dimensions of caste, class and gender, and how intricately they are bound. The game was first developed for Gender Bender 2017, a production Sandbox Collective and Goethe Institut Bangalore. The game involves participants playing different roles set in the garment industry, drawing from real-life qualitative and quantitative data.

 

 

Overview of the Session

A modified version of the game was conducted at IIHS as part of City Scripts, an urban writings festival. In this version, the garment workers were divided as employees of two competing garment factories, who were represented by their upper managements.

The participants were conversant with English and in the age group 25-45. Some of them were working in research institutions, including IIHS. The game session lasted for 75 minutes, including 15 minutes of briefing and 60 minutes of gameplay. Four participants played the role of workers in two garment factories, while nine of them formed the upper management of those two factories. The remaining participants formed the spectators. Each worker, keeping in mind their gender, caste and class, had to make decisions based on different situations through the game.

 

Observations of Gameplay

  1. Three of the workers spent money on achieving at least two of their goals. One of them chose not to fulfil any. None of the workers interacted with each other during the game.
  2. During questions put to the upper management, they discussed with one another and gave unanimous decisions each time. When both groups had to decide on measures to improve their bid, they were competitive and mindful of the other group’s choices. There was no interaction across the groups.
  3. There were few comments during the game and they were limited to providing reasons for the choices made, such as “Even though it is costly, I will take the private transport service because I need more time to help my husband and children” and “I have to constantly keep shifting houses so there is no reason for me to get it repaired”.
  4. Questions raised were mostly clarificatory in nature and included “My caste is ‘Holeya’. Does it fall under the list of Scheduled Castes?”; “Can I reduce costs by buying a cycle to travel to work instead of subscribing to a private van service?”; “I know that there is little chance of being selected since I am a woman, but can I still apply for the vocational training programme?”; and “Can we choose the same measures to improve our bid as the other factory?”.

 

 

Reflections

  1. In previous sessions of the game, many participants who played the characters of the workers were visibly involved with their characters, reading their profiles slowly, pausing to think before deciding on their choices, and providing reasons on each occasion. In this session, the choice of decisions was much quicker and often without stating any reasons. One of the workers read out the narrative of all their choices rapidly and without pause, as though they were in a hurry to finish reading regardless of the content.
  2. The upper managements, when presented with a choice to either not pay workers’ wages for a certain period or to cut them from thereon, picked the latter each time. However, when they had to compete with the other factory to improve their bid, they chose to implement measures, such as contracting out employment, that could lead to a loss of wages entirely.
  3. A participant playing the role of a female sanitation worker whose husband had passed away a few years ago, stated that the question of her pregnancy was not applicable to her. We had not considered or observed this outcome – of limiting the possibility of pregnancy within wedlock – in previous sessions of the game.

Internships at Fields of View

Recently, we were asked, what intern profiles do you seek at Fields of View. For a minute, we were wondering what to say .

We have had interns whose backgrounds range from law, social sciences, technology, and art. We conduct workshops and courses at design colleges, architecture colleges, as well as engineering colleges. Our projects are at the intersection of art, design, technology, and social sciences, and so we necessarily need people from diverse backgrounds to participate, and the profiles of all researchers at Fields of View and our interns mirrors this need for diversity. We realized the only possible answer to the question of what intern profile we seek is to say that we are discipline agnostic.

Image 1 – Some interns who have worked with us in the past.

Mail work@fieldsofview.in if you are interested in pursuing an internship here, with details of your background and what areas you are interested in.