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Colossus: The Anatomy of Delhi

A Virtual Book Talk with the Editors

in partnership with the South Asia Center & the Penn Institute for Urban Research

Sanjoy Chakravorty & Neelanjan Sircar
Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Director of Global Studies, Temple University and Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, respectively
Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 12:00
A Virtual CASI Book Talk via Zoom — 12 noon EST | 10:30pm IST

(English captions & Hindi subtitles available)

About the Book:
The National Capital Region of Delhi (NCR) is a diverse and unequal space. Its more than 30 million people are sharply differentiated by economic class, religion, caste, education, language, and migration status. In some ways, it is a dynamic society aspiring to global city grandeur; in other ways, it is a bastion of tradition, sectarianism, and hierarchy. To grapple with these matters, Colossus: The Anatomy of Delhi (Cambridge University Press, 2021) provides a detailed analysis of the CASI-NCR Survey, a wide-ranging social survey of 5,500 households, alongside comments from scholars with specialized knowledge of NCR. The book details three themes: social change, community and state, and inequality. From the material condition of the metropolis (its housing, services, crime, and pollution) to its social organization (of who marries whom, who eats with whom, and who votes for whom), this book unpacks the complex reality of a metropolitan region that is emblematic of India's aspirations and contradictions.

Colossus: The Anatomy of Delhi is a publication of papers originally presented at the November 2017 CASI 25th anniversary workshop on Urbanization, co-organized by former CASI Director Devesh Kapur along with the book's editors, Sanjoy Chakravorty and Neelanjan Sircar.

About the Editors:
Sanjoy Chakravorty is a CASI Non-Resident Visiting Scholar and a Professor of Geography and Urban Studies and Global Studies at Temple University. He writes on India, inequality, cities, and theory. He has written or edited seven academic books and one novel. His books have won or been shortlisted for high awards, including The Crossword Prize in India and The CHOICE Award from the American Library Association.

His most recent book is The Truth About Us: The Politics of Information from Manu to Modi (Hachette, 2019). It shows how India’s “truths” have been made up through the control and manipulation of information–simplifications, inventions, denials, and lies–from colonization to the present moment. Plus there is a new co-edited volume called Seeking Middle Ground: Land, Markets, and Public Policy; and the forthcoming Colossus: The Anatomy of Delhi.

Neelanjan Sircar is a CASI Visiting Scholar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ashoka University and a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. Previously, he was a CASI Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2013-15). His research interests include Indian political economy and comparative political behavior with an eye to Bayesian statistics, causal inference, social network analysis, and game theory. Sircar’s recent work focused on state level elections in India through both data work and ethnographic methods. He is particularly interested in understanding theoretic principles that undergird the decision-making processes of voters in India, which can shed light on democratic practice in the developing world more generally. He also works on projects characterising the social connections between citizens in India and their local brokers and leaders, as well as how these local brokers and leaders, both rural and urban, make decisions.


Tariq Thachil:

Welcome to another of the weekly seminar series at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, CASI, here at the University of Pennsylvania. My name is Tariq Thachil and I'm the director of CASI and I'm delighted to be able to welcome you to our regular seminar, which as many of you know is held on Thursdays at noon. But we have a special event that we're holding today, Wednesday, and I'm delighted to be able to do it. It's a presentation that's special to me for several reasons. First and foremost, because the subject matter is this book Colossus, published by Cambridge University Press, The Anatomy of Delhi. It's a wonderful book that we'll hear about more today, but one of the reasons it's special is the subject matter is my own hometown Delhi and an attempt, a brave attempt by the 20 authors to at least partially answer the question that the editors themselves acknowledge as almost impossible one to answer, which is what is Delhi? And they provide a series of rich and fascinating answers to that question through the volume.

The second reason today's presentation is special is just the project is one that is very close to CASI, to the Center for reasons that the authors will outline having been in many ways, conceived here and many of the collaborations that emerged emerging out of the larger CASI network of colleagues and friends. And the third is that both the editors who are joining us today of the book, each of them have a long and rich affiliation with CASI and have contributed greatly to the Center.

So Professor Sanjoy Chakravorty is professor of geography and urban studies and the director of global studies at Temple University. He's been a long time visiting fellow at CASI and writes on India on epistemology, inequality, politics, cities in urbanism and social theory. His most recent book is, outside of Colossus, which we'll be presenting on today is The Truth About Us: The Politics of Information from Manu to Modi, which was published by Hachette Press in 2019, focusing on India's truths and how they've been made up through the control and manipulation of information. Other books include Seeking Middle Ground: Land, Markets, and Public Policy, which was published by Oxford University Press, also in 2019. As I was telling Sanjoy, before we got on, he has too many books for me to individually list, but I did want to highlight one other one because of its close affiliation with CASI as well and that is The Other One Percent, which many of us including myself, consider the definitive work on Indians in America, which is published in 2016 with Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh, also by Oxford University Press. And Sanjoy has written broadly for the popular press, The Hindu, Indian Express and BBC News. And really it's been CASI's privilege to have a long affiliation with him.

Our second editor is Neelanjan Sircar, who's currently a visiting fellow at CASI, has been for this past semester. He is also a senior visiting fellow at the Center of Policy Research and his research interests broadly focus on the Indian political economy and competitive political behavior and he has a special interest in understanding the decision making processes of voters in India, which itself is another impossible question to try and ask and answer. And his academic writings have appeared in a number of journals, including the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Contemporary South Asia. And he regularly provides thoughtful commentary on contemporary Indian politics and political economy for outlets ranging from the Hindustan Times, Scroll and India Forum. He has also had a long affiliation with CASI, including serving as a post-doctoral fellow from 2013 to 2015 and a visiting fellow on numerous occasions.

They're going to both present, they're going to both provide some brief comments on the book. It's difficult to summarize a book which has been such a labor of love and has no less than 20 authors who've contributed 14 chapters on topics ranging from energy and electricity, migration, crime victimization, marriage, education, and partisan politics. So I'm looking forward to hearing from each of them and then we'll open it up for Q&A.

Just a couple of housekeeping notes before we get started. First, please mute your mics if you haven't done so already and please only unmute yourself when you have a question to ask and are called on directly to ask that question. Secondly, if you have any questions, please enter them directly to me, Tariq Thachil, in the chat box and I will keep a list of questions and I will call on you individually to ask your question directly to the authors and please keep your questions brief and to the point so that we can get to as many of them as possible. And finally, just to remind everyone that you cannot record any part of this presentation without prior permission from CASI and the presenters. We are making a recording, which will be available on our website after the presentation is complete.

So with that, let me turn it over to our editors. Thank you both for joining us, Sanjoy and Neelan. Sanjoy, I believe you're going to take us away, so I hand it over to you. Thanks again.

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Thanks Tariq. Thanks everyone for showing up, sort of. I would like to actually begin by providing sort of collective thanks. I mean, this is a pretty large collaboration. It not only involves the 20 authors and CASI of course, I mean, but people in CASI, they are individual people who should be named. Juliana, Molly, who's no longer working for CASI, Georgette, Alan. I want to thank Center of Policy Research in Delhi for their support and people at CPR who have worked on this project, people who have funded the project, the CASI Advisory Board. This project had a long gestation and Juliana pointed out to me that today is four years to the day since we had our workshop that actually brought the people together. That was the beginning point that has led to this book eventually.

And I would also like to thank Baladevan Rangaraju and his team of, I don't know how many workers that actually collected the data, the information that has been analyzed in 10 of the 14 chapters. So more than most books, this really is a collective effort and all Neelanjan and I did was sort of heard them, really, not much more than that. It fell upon me eventually to kind of make sense of the stuff that we collected and we had some sense going into what we wanted to find and some other material that sort of emerged through a discovery process and we eventually organized our findings in roughly three issues. We organized them around three issues, and I think these connect to pretty serious theoretical questions. They are relevant not only to India, but relevant to students of cities and urbanization and urban issues everywhere.

The first issue or set of issues that we were interested in was the question of social change. So one of the givens of urban theory is urbanization leads to social change, people become less tribal if you will, and they become more worldly. Their identities change. And we wanted to not assume this as something to be taken for granted, but we wanted to actually interrogate this question is to what extent has social change has actually taken place in Delhi. And we find some encouraging news, particularly in the domain of girls' education. Delhi has done very well. India is doing much better than before, but Delhi in particular has done very well.

But in other domains, we found rather dispiriting news. We found for instance, on marriage, that 19 out of 20 people disapprove of inter religious, inter caste, inter class and inter linguistic marriages, all of them individually. Basically 95% of people who live in Delhi do not approve of marrying outside their own particular religion, caste, language, and class kind. We also find that people don't eat with each other. They in fact, roughly three quarters of Hindus and two thirds of Muslims have never had a meal outside relatives home. We find that roughly half the Hindus do not ever want to or anticipate having or sharing a meal with Muslims. So we find really much more of traditional India if you will, than we expected to find. And it raises pretty serious questions about what social change means. We are unclear about how things are in other cities. We suspect that attitudes are slightly better in Delhi than in the villages, but really not by a lot.

We want to explore this as an open question, but mostly what we want to do is submit that the very fundamental principle of what we call the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate of social change through urbanization is really one that we should not assume is one that is taking place. We're also interested in the question of other forms of change. So we expect that part of the identity change that might happen with urbanization is the formation of new identities, not just your original clan identity, which is stereotypically associated with a village location, but being in a city would almost force you to deal with complexity and force you to form other communities of contingency.

Something we can think of it in Robert Putnam's terms of social capital, of bonding social capital being the primary thing that you bring from the village and then bridging social capital of new forms of associations, membership in this club, that resident welfare association, this political party, some other group, et cetera, in which you kind of expand your identities. And we did see a lot of that. We see a lot of that, especially because they deal with a much enlarged, bureaucratic state, that the more a state does, the more arms it has, the more divisions, the more agencies, the more institutions and Delhi being a multi state region with many municipal authorities and several state authorities and a huge, more as of agencies to deal with and issues of housing [crosstalk 00:13:01] shortages, et cetera.

We find interactions to be quite intense. We find this to be a somewhat under theorized area in urban research generally. And I think it is something that certainly our political scientists have taken quite seriously. This issue keeps coming up in a number of chapters on crime, for instance, on netas, and who the representatives are and in number of other chapters in service [inaudible 00:13:35]. And the third issue, which was really the central issue when we conceived this project was of inequality. I mean, if there's one thing that connects urban research around the world, it is the study of inequality. It was the motivating idea behind Marx's original understanding of capitalism, seeing Manchester and London. It has motivated researchers for a long time. And we looked at inequality from a number of different dimensions. We looked at what inequality is. We looked at what inequality does. We looked at inequality of assets. We looked at spatial inequality. We looked at service inequality and we eventually came to the conclusion that this is the subject that is the driving force of urban studies generally, but it's very hard to do comparative work, whether Delhi is more unequal than Mumbai or Kolkata or London or Shanghai.

I mean, the analytical frameworks are very different, so it's kind of hard to decide, but we also, because of events in Delhi, as we were compiling the book and previous events of course, of violence, we came to the conclusion that one of the things that we have not studied enough, perhaps is, oh, let me put it this way. We've looked at majoritarianism and violence from a political perspective and looked at it in one particular intellectual box, if you will. And we've studied urban inequality in another box. And whereas at this point in India and in Delhi, it is the combination of majoritarian politics with segregation, with inequality, that poses pretty significant dangers and threats to the urban polity. And we need to find ways in which we can reopen this issue and bring sort of new analytical insights to this. And to end, I mean, really the question we started with is to know what is Delhi and it's hard to conclude as Tariq pointed out.

But if there is two things we are pretty sure of is, they're pretty banal, but I'm going to say them, nonetheless, Delhi is very much an Indian city. So I don't think there's much value at this point, at least it was our approach of comparing Delhi to say Shanghai or to Los Angeles, because it really reflects Indian society. It is made up of Indians. It's a very Indian city, and it's also a city of contradictions. So people simultaneously exhibit behaviors and hold ideologies that are in contradiction to each other and their everyday behavior tends to kind of bear that out. I'm actually going to stop here because really it's 400 plus pages of material, lots of stuff. There's innovative insights from a number of our authors. And I'm at this point going to turn it over to Neelanjan.

Neelanjan Sircar:

Thank you, Sanjoy. I think I'm just going to quickly share my screen here. So I'm going to sort of do a complimentary, cover a complimentary set of facts. I think Sanjoy has covered a lot of the sort of intellectual contributions and the ideas that animated the volume. What I want to do is just take a step back and think a little bit more about the intellectual project, that animated Colossus, right, this volume, and also some of the technical details that allowed us to do the kind of research that we undertook in this book, in this volume.

So I want to start with thinking about this is a larger agenda on studying urban India that has actually come out of CASI. So as Tariq mentioned, I started here as a post doc in 2013. At that point, the director was the Devesh Kapur at the Center, and there hadn't been a huge amount of urban research, at least that's come out of CASI and there was an interest in expanding the portfolio. So after a lot of thinking and a lot of false starts, we ended up focusing on the larger region around Delhi, and I'll talk a little bit more about that, and that is this book, right? And largely we're dealing with structural and spatial inequalities, social change. In the next, in a sort of a follow up project, in many ways, motivated by the work that we, that you're going to see in this book, we worked along with the Ford Foundation and on some part with IGC to survey for urban clusters, which are what are called [inaudible 00:19:10] cities in India, Gambar, Patna, Indore, Varanasi. Now, rather than asking the same sets of questions, we've put a lot more focus on gender, intra household bargaining inequalities in this second phase of this project.

Now, a lot of us have moved on. Tariq is now the director at CASI and as many of you know, he has a longstanding research agenda on urban India. A lot of you will have read his work on slums, on ethnicity, in urban settlements, his work with Adam Auerbach and CASI is now sort of starting a very large project on small towns in India, thinking about governance and access. So you can kind of see that it's a part of a larger research agenda to try to go across the hierarchy of cities, if you'll call it that in terms of size, but also addressing a number of questions and number of ways of thinking about inequality in cities. And I want to sort of ground this project in the sort of larger thinking because certainly Delhi and certainly the national capital region is not all that we have to study in urban India, but it's to understand this as a part of a larger intellectual project.

Now I want to shift focus to the book that we're presenting here today. So it's not a book just about Delhi as it turns out, right? It's a book about the national capital region. It's the metropolitan area. Now, when we sort of approach this product, it's important to understand that actually the study of urban India is a very vibrant area of study, both within India and outside of India. It's been study in all India scale. There is fantastic ethnographic work across many cities in India. Many of those questions motivate the work that we have here. The contribution that we wanted to make was, could we understand an urban space at "metropolitan scale"? Could we look at the core of a city, its suburbs, its surrounding areas? What is the national capital region around Delhi and understand this as a unit in itself and understand contradictions and inequalities within it, right?

So national capital region is very quickly is a behemoth, right? It is 22 districts outside of Delhi. It cuts across four states and union territories, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh. In 2011, so this is a very old data, the urban population was already 30 million and the overall population of these districts was 50 million, right. A huge land area. And it has been, we'll have to see what the next census says, but it's been growing at about 20% per decade population, right? This is a massively massive unit, very dynamic space. A couple of questions that emerge when you think in metropolitan scale, do people who are in NCR conceive of themselves being an NCR? I can imagine that for those who are in another region, if you're in Gurgaon or Noida, you might see yourself as a part of Delhi. But do you see yourself as a part of Delhi if you're in Bharatpur or Meerut, right?

So also to understand that over this space, something we talk about quite a bit in this book over this time, the borders of the national capital region, what's considered the national capital region changes significantly. There are many people who are born in a city that was not in the national capital region, but today is in the national capital region. So it's not always you who are engaging with NCR, it could be the NCR, The National Capital Region, is coming to you or engaging with you. It is just basically sticking over your space, right? So these are things that make you sort of think about it. Now, [inaudible 00:23:18] it's a big mess in a number of ways and very early on, we understood that this project with all of its contradictions, unwillingness could only be called Colossus, right, which is what made it to the title of the book.

The other theoretical intervention we wanted to make and this is a very technical intervention is that if we wanted to understand the NCR at metropolitan scale, we needed to be able to draw a sample with what I call spatial representativeness. This is something that would track the population density of the region so that when you look within smaller spatial units, you still have representativeness and also be able to track across very urban, mixed, rural and urban spaces, which are the national capital region. Now, the way that we did this was that we built a sample matching polling booth list, voter list to census areas. Megan Reed, who is a PhD candidate in sociology at Penn, at the time was working at CASI and she did a lot of this work. What's important about this is that polling booths across space matched the population density, right? So it allows us to sort of think about spatial representativeness because of the way that pulling booths are laid out across the region.

The second thing is that we understood that not everybody in the national capital region is a voter, and we need to understand what biases might exist on the voter list. We drew 80% of the population according to voter list. It's important to draw from voter list because there are many people on the voter list that you will never see from a listing exercise. People who are dhobis in an expensive colony or people who are working as domestic labor, who often get missed in listing exercises, but they'll be there on the voter list, right? But in order to correct biases, we actually came up with a set of statistical techniques to glue together a random walk to understand what biases we may have in our sampling.

And the final thing and this is sort of a more technical point. A spatial representative sample is one that should stand on its own. Many of you work with large surveys and you will see weights. So there are two kinds of weights in statistics. There's sampling weights, the probability of which you meet somebody and there are post stratification weights and that happens when you have a bias sample and you then anchor your data towards some kind of census or something. Now in general, weights are controversial in most statistical techniques and post stratification weights are broadly unusable for many studies of social change because you're taking a bias sample and trying to wait it to the overall population. So we understood that we needed a representative sample, spatially representative sample from the very beginning. We designed a very detailed survey across education, employment, household consumption, infrastructure. We also asked questions about marriage, commensality, who eats with whom, interactions. Sanjoy talked about that in some detail.

And so this is the kind of outcome that we got, and I just want to say it very quickly [inaudible 00:26:28]. So we have a large cluster of people. This is sort of spatial rendering of our sample jitter data so you can't figure out where we sampled exactly. Obviously around Delhi, you have a huge population mass, but when we think about the 30 million in NCR and I've actually cut this image, it actually extends much further. You have some population Palwal, you have a large population Meerut, you have some population Panipat, Sonipat. This is what it looks like. It looks like one large cluster and a patchwork of urban space that is increasingly thin as you get further away from the core of Delhi, right? So this is kind of what the sample looks like. And just to sort of a proof of concept when we do compare it to census data, so on and so forth, we do find that even without waiting, our data is representative across many things that you might care about.

Okay. So just very quickly, because I talked about some of these technical details, what difference does it make to look at the voter list versus looking at a random draw? So actually you'll be surprised to find that almost every household, even in a random walk, somebody's on the voter list. That's something you'll see. The difference is that when you are taking a randomly selected population, you will on average find a few more people who are not on the voter list. People who've married into the household, people who moved from elsewhere. It's a part of a general strategy that most households will have somebody on the voter list because of access to benefits. That's something that we understood as we were designing this project. But that being said, in principle, this could cause biases. We did do various waiting schemes, because you can figure that out from the sampling, it doesn't actually change any of the data. So it is important to understand that part of our bias production protocol made sure that we could make very detailed claims about social behavior precisely because we believe that our sample was representative spatially.

I just want to quickly touch base on two things just to give you some sense of some things it can do. This is a density map using our survey data, which shows how to, what the distribution of the overall population, of the schedule caste population, of the Muslim population looks like over the region. You can see the Muslim populations are far more concentrated than the schedule caste population, which is not concentrated in the overall population. Now these kinds of calculations cannot really be done from census data. If you've worked with census data, the units are too large. Religious data in particular is quite difficult. So this requires that you have spatially representative data and you've got the population densities right otherwise these maps won't work. We've also juxtaposed this data with some of the data that Sanjoy talked about, who eats with whom, who interacts with their neighbors. So we have a very fine understanding of what social segregation looks like in this book.

We're also able to map income inequality across space, right? So the darker areas are poor populations, the lighter areas are wealthier populations, you can see it's a very mixed space, right? And again, income data doesn't exist in the census. Spatial data doesn't exist in the census. This can only be done if you have spatially representative data. I should also say the statistical technique that was used here is something called a spatial spline, which will get messed up with weights. So it's actually very important that you have representative data without weighting in order to use a number of statistical techniques to get sort of, to understand data across space. And finally, if you're sort of tired of looking at maps, what I would say is that one can, of course juxtapose the kind of data that we have collected and think across metropolitan scale across space, right?

So a project sort of something that I have studied quite a bit, that Tariq has studied much more than I have actually, is the use of intermediaries, brokers, dalals whatever you want to call them to access the state. And here you see that there's an inverse relationship between how far you are from the core of the city and how often you have access to one of these intermediaries. So in Delhi where people may have, maybe wealthy enough in various ways do not need these characters or there might be more presence of the state, you see fewer people needing intermediaries out in the outskirts, really far out, suburbs are Gurgaon [inaudible 00:31:19]. Really far out, you see much less. Right. Okay. So just finishing up, you can take a look at the table of content.

I just want to thank a few people here as we finish up. There were a number of people who have actually written within the volume. I've already talked about the work that Megan Reed did, who also did a lot of work for this project as a whole. So Deepaboli Chatterjee, Babu Lal, Rimjhim Saxena, they have a chapter here on education as you'll see, but they also did a lot of the data work that was sent across teams. There are interns that are sort of hidden here that were working in Delhi. Priya Rathod, Akashmeg Sharma, Sadhana Senthilkumar, who did a lot of the backbreaking work, cleaning the data. So these are all things that helped us and I want to just thank them.

And I want to end with thanking two people that we've already mentioned. One, Baladevan Rangaraju, I think we talked about how difficult it was to collect the sample. He really was a research partner in figuring out how to collect this sample. He and his organization, India Institute did the sampling for us, collected the data for us and we learned a lot. Right. And finally, I want to thank Devesh Kapur, who was the director of CASI at the time. This really was in a number of ways, his brainchild, and he was an intellectual mentor throughout this project and none of this really would've been possible without him. So I want to end it there and I want to thank all of you for joining us for this presentation. Thank you.

Tariq Thachil:

Thanks so much, Neelanjan and Sanjoy, for giving that broad range. It's a difficult book to summarize and you guys did a great job of kind of drawing out some of the main themes, as well as the main empirical approach that was used for many of the chapters. Just to get us started off, I wanted to ask a question to both of you about, kind of how we think about some of the larger lessons that maybe connect some of the chapters? I mean, obviously each chapter has its own individual contribution, but there are also kind of larger themes that obviously merged from the book and one of the ones that obviously Sanjoy mentioned in any [inaudible 00:33:46] of any urban space, let alone one as large and varied as Delhi is going to think about is inequality.

But I wanted to kind of frame the thought, what are the kind of lessons the book has for our understanding of inequality, even within Delhi in terms of space? Because I think space and the politics, the economics, the kind of social dynamics of space feature very prominently in several of the chapters. And I was wondering what you, as editors in your kind of role think of as like the areas of maybe convergent and divergent understandings across these chapters in how we advance our thinking about urban space. Because when I think about it, there are areas where we think that the importance of neighborhoods for example, is really exemplified in the book. There is the chapter by Heller et al. on differentiated citizenship, where a lot of that differentiation is occurring across kind of locality lines. There's the idea of kind of spatial inequalities in the chapter, even in spatial politics by Srivastava.

But there are also dynamics, including a chapter that you write, Neelan, about spatial co-location that one of the features of Delhi is that actually inequality and poor and rich neighborhoods are often quite proximate to each other, not simply a urban periphery of the poor. And so that often can engender certain kinds of unexpected solidarities as well as other kinds of tensions. There is a chapter by Roy on sub colonies that mentions that it's not just, we may think of the neighborhood, we may even think of sub neighborhoods and sub colonies as important sites of access, power and networks. So I'm trying to kind of aggregate out of that. How do I think about, I mean, I think anybody who's been to Delhi understands the importance of neighborhoods, understands the importance of sub neighborhoods, but coming out of the book and the different kind of chapters that deal with the kind of dynamics of urban space in the book, what would you think are some kind of key takeaways on those dynamics and even areas of potential tension that are productive even between the different chapters? I don't know if that's something you can comment on.

Neelanjan Sircar:

Sanjoy, do you want to go first or?

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Sure. That's a very good question, Tariq. I mean, as I said, the study of urban inequalities, perhaps the number one urban project fairly in the social sciences, I'd like to start out by saying something that we realized pretty early on is that we will have ultimately a limited view of inequality, which is because we will actually not be able to get into the houses and ask questions of the privileged of Delhi. We have no sense, actually, neither does the government of India, neither does the census apparatus. They can't get into their homes either. They can't ask them questions either. So we know that we are actually missing a large chunk of the upper tail of the distribution. We don't even know how large in a chunk is. We do not know how upper that upper is.

So what we have is a typical social scientist vision of looking down. So we kind of look at, not even our level, but below us and having done that, having that limited view, not really having a view of the top, we see firstly, something that's, say the reverse of the American urban model, which is, say the privilege is at it's peak in the urban center and it sort of declines as you move out, which is sort of the photo negative of the American experience, which is unique. So Delhi's experience in that way is similar to other cities, say Paris or London. And we find that once you do that, once you make that broad generalization, the next issue that comes up is one that we actually did look at insufficient detail because we chose not to, because we knew that was a separate project, which used to look at land and I've been working on land myself quite a bit and land, land use, what gets, who gets to use which land, who gets to get good housing. We didn't even go there because it's so complicated and it's a big gap in the book actually.

And then we come to, I think housing and you pointed out Heller, Mukhopadhyay, Shahana, their contribution, which I think is really interesting. You pointed out Roy's contribution and they're really interesting in terms of taking the question now down to the neighborhood, the colony, the collective that looks and feels and acts somewhat similarly, right? And you see differences between neighborhoods, between neighbors almost. So the further down you go ethnographically, to down the spatial grade into [inaudible 00:39:05], that the richness of the story emerges. And we have at best, I think pointed out the multi scaler question of inequality. There is much to be done with this. And I think your own work and a number of other people are really interested in this scale question and what we've done probably is underlying the scale question, probably without a lot of original things to say about it.

Neelanjan Sircar:

So, I think the only thing that I would add to what Sanjoy said is that you will see that when we talk about spatial inequalities, there's a tension there, right? So I think a lot of the work that comes out of the West, understandably focuses on the disciplining forces on space of property values, redlining insurance, all these things that we're quite used to. And so there's this idea that shows up in a number of the chapters of spatial co-location, mixed colonies, people with different settlement patterns, rich living next to poor, economic interdependencies. But we juxtapose that with another contradiction, which is becoming very real in Delhi, Hindu-Muslim segregation, and that is something that shows up in our data quite a bit as well, right?

That the same kind of forces that might be bringing people together in terms of economic class, there are forces related to violence and intimidation that are separating Hindus and Muslims across space. Now, actually this book was written, the chapters were written before the Delhi riots took place last year. We do comment on it, referring to the chapters that have been written but in many ways, the material that you see here presages what ends up happening in Delhi. One final small thing that I'd say, we've mentioned the chapter by Patrick Heller, Partha Mukhopadhyay, Shahana Sheikh and Subhadra Banda and by Shamindra Roy. In both of those chapters, they're taking survey data and matching it and mapping it to administrative data in very complicated ways. And I think when people read those chapters closely, they'll also understand the unique methodological contribution of studying space in that way.

Tariq Thachil:

Thanks very much, both of you. I have a question from Howard. Howard would you like to ask your question?


Yeah. I was wondering if you ask subjective questions, how people evaluated their lives in Delhi? Were they getting worse? Were they getting more difficult? Were they changing? And perhaps if they've moved in from somewhere else, how do they compare Delhi with where they've lived before?

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

We did ask some subjective questions, not these. There are a lot of questions, a little background. We have analyzed, our team, everybody together has analyzed, I don't know, 20% of the data, 30% of the data. There's a lot that we haven't, we simply don't have the person power to look at. There are issues in particular about, say commensality, who eats with whom, right? These, we believe our subjective questions and that their asking these questions is tricky. We do ask subjective questions about crime, for instance, about perceptions of safety. So yes, there are subjective questions, which is the power of a survey research. You can ask the questions that a census can't. Do we ask enough? We ask too many is my answer, perhaps not as many subjective ones that we could have.

Neelanjan Sircar:

I would say the one small thing that I would quickly add, just sort of directly to the question that Howard posed is that, in a chapter on migration, Khushdeep Kaur Malhotra is pointing out that people who have lived in Delhi have a first mover advantage compared to people who are migrating into the city. So it is the case that even if you control for economic wealth, occupational status, or so forth, that simply being a migrant means that you're moving to spaces with poor infrastructure. So that's one of these very interesting findings you don't normally intuitively think of, but of course's a very real thing in a space as dynamic as the national capital.

Tariq Thachil:

Okay. Thanks guys. We have another question here from Navin. Navin, do you want to ask your question?


Thanks Sanjoy and thanks Neelan. As someone who studies spatial segregation, and I want to ask this question to Neelan and I've read the chapter, and I also wanted you to elaborate more on how did you do the sampling and really, because understanding spatial segregation with sample data is always complex. So I would want you to kind of, if you can elaborate more [inaudible 00:44:51] and how did you come about understanding spacial residential segregation, caste, class, legion, et cetera, in your own study in Bangalore, in Delhi, New Delhi? Sorry. Thank you.

Neelanjan Sircar:

So it's a wonderful question. I think some of the more technical details, I'll interact with you separately, but I think the larger point is a very important point, which, I sort of, I said very quickly, why does spatial representativeness matter when we do sampling? Right? So I've used, I've specifically glued together the word spatial and representativeness. And the reason is that once you're looking at geographically referenced data, the data points need to broadly match with the actual population densities would look like across the space. You can see very quickly that if you ever tried to fit segregation or density of populations, but your sample does not fit what that gradient looks, that spatial gradient of the population looks like, your results are going to be completely wrong. So the real question is how many checks can you do to make sure that, that gradient is as close to one might imagine without having to apply weights, because once you apply weights, again, it's going to go off.

And so what I would just say as a small thing, for people who are sort of, I see there are a lot of researchers on this call and people think about this, the polling booth and the voter list turned out to be a very valuable hack. And the reason is polling stations and where people vote actually track closely to population densities, not perfectly, right. That's why we need to do the random walk. And so once you have a list of the population that broadly tracks populations across space, then you can start playing with how do I sample this to get the distributions across space, right. Now, the checking of this requires of course, making sure your sampling went okay, looking at where the clusters of the population are, and also matching it with administrative data. So if you look at the maps I gave you, it intuitively fits with where you think the populations are, that's unweighted data, right, so that tells you that it kind of worked out. But yeah, so this is sort of how you do it. And we should be very honest about what happens when it goes off. I would not try to do this kind of estimation with most existing large sample surveys. It would probably give you incorrect results.

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

I'd like to quickly add a shout out to Naveen and Deepak Malghan and their work on segregation, which we have cited in chapter one actually, and-

Neelanjan Sircar:

A major motivation.

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Yeah, it is. And this is really the sort of detailed work that's needed. As I keep saying over and over again, this study of Delhi, whatever its merits, demerits, whatever we find and we don't, or we fail to see, it's something like this simply hasn't been attended before for Indian cities and it requires really multiple efforts. We have to kind of keep poking at this beast using multiple methods, getting large teams. Delhi is arguably the second or third largest metropolitan region in the world right now. Given its size, it is woefully understudied and this would be true of most Indian cities and I think the questions we ask of both the methodology and finding are all relevant and hopefully we be help inform kind of research going forward.

Tariq Thachil:

I got a couple of questions from people who want me to pose the question myself. So let me just, there are a couple of them, I'm going to pose both, and then you can answer all of them. So the first is to do with gender. And I think there are disparate findings across the book, again, that speak to different aspects of what women's experience in particular, not to equip women agenda, but the women's experiences in Delhi are. And in some ways, you said in your presentations Sanjay, there's some more, some of the brighter findings in the book regarding, especially around education and women's education. On the same time, we think about a lot of people's kind of probably ex anti thoughts about life in Delhi would be one that in many ways is not particularly easy for a lot of female residents and so across different domains, what are you finding in terms of women's experiences in the book and in terms of what kind of takeaways there are on that?

And the second is about migration. You mentioned the Malhotra chapter on migrants, but I think, we often hear kind of popular depictions of Delhi as the city of migrants, Delhi is a city that has not really been defined by a nativist politics that we might have seen elsewhere, is that even a correct perception anymore? Are there seeds of a kind of nativism that the book kind of points to that may look different than what it may look elsewhere, but that we are finding a kind of native migrant divide that, or is it kind of getting subsumed within other kinds of cleavages that you guys have referenced between whether it's Hindus-Muslims or different kinds of caste groups, so kind of both on gender and migration, kind of some of the key takeaways that you guys see from the book?

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Neelanjan, would you like take the first crack?

Neelanjan Sircar:

Sure. So, I want to sort of iterate something that Sanjoy said, which is that we understood going through this book, that there were unaddressed questions when it came to intra household inequalities and gender, because it's a very different kind of study once you are attuned to those kinds of issues and a number of those issues became motivating questions for the second study that I mentioned that that was done along between CASI and the Ford Foundation, looking at exactly at inter household and gender inequalities, especially in the labor force. So just sort of talking a little bit about what we find on gender. On one hand, it is a positive result that education for women in Delhi and surrounding areas has more than caught up actually to that of men, but it doesn't translate to the labor force.

And this is a problem that many people who study in India know, and in many ways it becomes an animating question for further study and these other studies that I am talking about. The question on marriage, the chapter on marriage, unfortunately it's a very depressing chapter. I think there's no other way to put it. There's just simply not been the kind of social change that one might have hoped along those very hard to move social institutions like marriage. And that's very clear on this book as well. On the question of migration, I would say there's a chapter by Adnan Farooqui on the Aam Aadmi Party and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party. But within there, there's a lot of discussion of various communities and dynamics, what we call Purvanchali voters, people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who are part of NCR voting within Delhi and how a base of voters is built there.

People who are Punjabi and Hindu, and there's a base of voters there and how it is that the parties sort of negotiate across these very complicated, for lack of a better word, linguistic and ethnic identities that make Delhi what it is. In many ways, when we say it's a city of migrants, we're talking about two slightly different things. We're talking about a technical definition where somebody actually came into Delhi or the national capital region, but actually two, three generations up because refugees settlements and so forth, a very high percentage of the population in many ways has a social mentality of being a migrant to the city. And that's something that we talk about in the initial chapters actually, but certainly, we haven't studied that in the kind of detail that one plausibly could. Sanjoy?

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Yeah. I would've made roughly the same points. I'll add just a couple of little things. One is, I recalled it when you raised this question, the amount of time we debated internally on how to define head of household or whom to ask the question when you enter, when you are able to enter a household and you can ask questions. So a lot of the respondents were women, so in that sense, women's voices are pretty strongly represented in the data. I think the question of women also become... the woman question intersects very seriously with the migrant question also because of the very significant majority of the recent migrants are women because women are moving for marriage. I mean, that really is the driving force of migration in Delhi. Now, because of these interrelated strands, you kind of find it difficult once you chapterize them to ask the sort of questions you are asking. So what about the gender question? Well, we have a little bit on gender here, a little on gender there.

I will basically reiterate, kind of the core finding if you will, of contradiction. On gender, there is contradiction. I'll underline what Neelan said a moment earlier. There's no doubt that girl children are getting good, getting at least as much and probably more education than [inaudible 00:55:43] children in the Delhi region right now. But then again, we do not see this being translated into the labor market and especially for the upper income groups, those who were able to capture people with cars and air conditioners, they seem to be educating and this really almost stuns us sometimes, some of the findings stunned me honestly, is they even now seem to be educating the girls and women for the marriage market rather than the labor market. So can we draw a summary judgment on this? I am loath to do so, but here are the facts. I mean, it's a society going significant change that is deeply conservative and not undergoing change in some pretty fundamental ways.

Tariq Thachil:

No, I think that's actually helpful, I think that outlining the axis of contradictions and just even lifting those is really helpful for people who are thinking about engaging with the book and also thinking about their own work on these topics and I think that itself is generative of new questions. And since we're almost at time, let me ask the final two questions that have come in, both from students. One is a very short one, but I think the short question is just, will any of the data be made publicly available or for students to use given that there's so much of it and more than even was used across these 14 chapters? The second-

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

Yes is the answer.

Tariq Thachil:

Yes is the answer. Okay. So stay tuned and we'll keep you posted as to when the data would be made available and I'm sure we'll have at least a link to it from the CASI website. And maybe I can ask any students on the call who are interested to maybe be in touch with the author, the editors directly about when that might be.

The second question is, what was, we have several students on the call, people who are interested in the urban space, young researchers were thinking about these questions. What was the big question you emerge out of the book where, which you are now thinking, as for me, I am sure there were many, but if you had to think of one or two key questions that you think are kind of ripe for exploring, and particularly those that you think might be feasible for younger researchers who may not have access to be able to do all that was done for this book, are there a couple of kind of questions that you are just thinking, even just specifically for Delhi or for metropolitan cities in India that you think you came out for all that you've covered in the book here is an area that's still crying out for more attention? I think it would be great for some of the young scholars on the call to hear.

Sanjoy Chakravorty:

So, and that's a really good question. I don't know who asked it, but that's a really good question. So for me, and this is just me and everybody will come to this differently, the intra household ideology, the formation of decision making within the household of choices and preferences, how to shift that, how to move that, or whether to move that? The kind of ideologies that we came in win, which is why when we find a finding surprising is because our ideologies had not prepared us for that finding, right? And to me, the findings on food and marriage, were honestly, perplexing. When we presented these findings at CPR, a couple of years ago, we were flat out told by some experts in the room that our survey was wrong, that we got it wrong.

I submit we all live in our information bubbles, but trying to understand at the micro level, the decision making that is happening within households regarding location choices, marriage choices, education choices is something I think we should seriously focus on. But at another scale, looking at the dynamics of the land market, which is a big issue that we left off the table is, and the role of the, in the case of The Delhi Development Authority and state authorities in controlling and manipulating the land market is another big issue to look at. And the third big issue, which is probably infeasible is to get inside the house of the Delhi elite, is to get inside their minds, to get to see the world as the see it and to understand their ideologies and what they support. So really getting inside houses is one thing, the hard thing to do and understanding the layout of the land, to me, these are the big questions.

Neelanjan Sircar:

So I'm going to sort of add, I'm going to end with a hobby horse, and maybe if I can be a little bit provocative about what happens when you start looking at the urban at metropolitan scale. In some sense, our sort of disciplinary and theoretical windows [inaudible 01:01:00] the kind of research that can be done. We want to define who is a migrant, or you want to pick neighborhoods ahead of time. One of the discussions that we actually had as a team was how do we think about people commuting? But this doesn't necessarily mean that I live in one neighborhood in Delhi and I'm commuting to work, I'm walking to work somewhere else. There are many people, let's say if were to go to Western UP where one son is living two days a week somewhere closer to the city, somebody else is working on the fields. Sometimes they're switching spaces, right? We want to think of them as migrants potentially, but they're not really staying long enough in one space for them to be caught in any sort of a genuine, empirical definition of being a migrant, right?

When you are within three, four hours of the core of a city, you are impacted by the economic pressures and economic pull factors from that city and it affects your life in a number of ways. And I am willing to bet that whatever numbers we have when we talk about migration or in cross city commuters, we may have just as many, if not more of these kinds of commuters. And this sort of economic interconnectedness, we talked about it in very local terms, but it's a much grander phenomenon, especially when you live in the region, it's very noticeable. And I think that something that obviously was very difficult to get at, I don't think we really did get at it very well in this book, but I think it's an area that is really right for future study.

Tariq Thachil:

Okay. Well, thank you both so much for those rich sets of thoughts. Sanjoy, your story at the end reminded me and I thought I should mention that. I don't think you've had a productive discussion in Delhi if at least one person hasn't told you that you're totally wrong. So I think that's, since we're talking about Delhi, it's appropriate that we end on that note and I'm sorry that we were too civil here to call you flat out wrong, but that's why we're in Philadelphia, not in Delhi, not that Philly is known for. It's lack of directness, but I think that it was fantastic to hear these insights from across the book. Having read through the book and read through these chapters, I highly encourage people to do the same. There's a lot to engage with and a lot to kind of dip in and out of, and it's as led and complex and contradictory as its subjects. So I think that's entirely appropriate. Thank you guys so much for putting this together and thanks everyone for joining on the call.

And again, we'll see you next week at our regular Thursday time, so Thursday at noon, Eastern 10:30 PM in India for a lecture by Ashwini Deshpande at Ashoka University on dropping out, being pushed out, or can't get in, decoding declining labor force participation of Indian women, which I think has been teed up nicely by today's discussion. So we'll see you next week. Thank you so much.