Planning from the Bottom up highlights the gap between the official rhetoric and the political reality of democratic decentralisation and bottom-up planning using an in-depth study of the metropolitan planning process in Kolkata, India. The key issue addressed here is how elected officials at different governmental levels, professional planners, and ordinary citizens interact in the process of metropolitan planning, and which players dominate the process. The focus is on the dynamic interactions between planners and the operation of the political process that shapes this reality. This book illustrates that there are differences in the real motives for the state to pursue decentralisation and what it claims to be behind its decentralisation policy and that the planning process is unlikely to be truly bottom-up if power is concentrated within any one political party. It also depicts how external funding, either from international agencies or higher levels of government, has the potential to force change in the local and regional structures of decision-making so that the voices of ordinary people can be included in public decision-making; for the effective implementation of bottom-up approaches to metropolitan planning the planning bureaucracy needs to be independent of the political class and bottom-up planning requires that planning capacity be built from a grassroots level. This requires devolution of both responsibilities and means/resources to carry out those responsibilities to the lowest level of planning.
This book is a revised version of my doctoral dissertation, completed in May 2007 at the College of Architecture and Planning of the University of Colorado. A number of individuals and organisations provided invaluable support for the research that went into it and in the final preparation of the manuscript. This work would not have been possible without the invaluable support of my mentors, family members, colleagues and friends.
I would like to gratefully and sincerely thank Professor Willem van Vliet for his guidance, inspiration, encouragement, and most importantly, his friendship during my graduate studies. His mentorship was paramount in providing a well-rounded experience consistent with my long-term goals. He is and will remain a role model for me in both my academic and personal life.
I would also like to thank all of the members of my dissertation committee. Professor Fahriye Sancar helped me see my own biases and prejudices during the writing of my dissertation and offered valuable suggestions to address them. Professor Brian Muller helped me identify critical aspects of the literature on planning theory and also to organise my thoughts. Dr. Anthony Phipps provided extensive comments on all my earlier drafts and offered insights from development practices in Latin American and Asian cities. Mrs. Banashree Banerjee provided invaluable support during my fieldwork in Kolkata and helped me develop my empirical questions based on her intimate knowledge of the on-the-ground realities in India.
Let me also say ‘thank you’ to Mr. V. Ramaswamy, Dr. Mohit Bhattacharya, Mr. Kalyan Roy and a number of others in Kolkata who agreed to talk with me and offered important information during the course of my fieldwork. Many thanks to my colleagues at the OTB Research Institute at TU Delft who encouraged and supported me in my effort to publish my dissertation in book form. I am thankful to the Department of Urban Renewal and Housing at OTB, which covered the expenses for the preparation of the manuscript in its present form.
My gratitude also extends to my parents, who have supported me throughout my life and encouraged me to pursue my dreams, making important sacrifices along the way. And last but not the least, this dissertation would not have been completed without the encouragement, inspiration, and help of my wife, Yiping. She has been a part of this project from the beginning to the end in ways that were absolutely critical in successfully completing my research and finally preparing the manuscript.
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