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Book Talks@ WRI Engage | How Urban is India? The State of the Cities Report

Please join us for a discussion between Om Prakash Mathur, Institute of Social Sciences and lead author of The State of the Cities Report: India with Dr OP Agarwal, CEO, WRI India, moderated by Shahana Chattaraj.

Watch the full recording of the event here:

In the most comprehensive and significant report on India’s urbanization in over a decade, Mr Mathur and co-authors Abbas Haider Naqvi, Akansha Laroiya, V Sai Samyukta and Himani Verma examine trends and patterns in India’s urbanization in the post-liberalisation decades.

Urban growth in India during this period has unfolded in complex and contradictory ways, resulting in multiple narratives of urbanization that is simultaneously rapid and slow, dynamic and messy, hidden and conspicuous. Looking at the evidence that underpins these narratives, the State of the Cities Report India focuses on three central dimensions of urbanization – demographics, the relationship with economic growth, and urban infrastructure and environment. The authors ask, and seek to answer, is post-liberalisation urbanization qualitatively and quantitatively different from earlier eras? How does it reflect macro-economic changes in the Indian economy over the decades? Are cities growing more or less productive, inclusive and sustainable and how do they compare with rural areas?

The State of the Cities Report India is available for download here.

Mr Mathur’s presentation and conversation with Dr Agarwal will explore the following questions, and will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

  • How urban is India and why does it matter?
  • How does Indian urbanization diverge from conventional wisdom as well as theoretical models of urbanization and development?
  • What should the goals and strategies of urban policy in India be? What gaps remain in data, research and knowledge on urban India?


Om Prakash Mathur is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi. He was previously Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi and held the IDFC Chair in Urban Economics at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy; Director, Multi-level Planning Unit, the Planning Commission of India, United Nations Project Team Leader, Decentralisation Project, Government of Iran; and Senior Economist, the United Nations Centre for Regional Development, Nagoya Japan. He was a member of the former Prime Minister’s National Review Committee on Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the JNNURM Technical Advisory Group, the High Powered Expert Committee on Urban Infrastructure Investment Requirements and the Advisory Group of Experts on Decentralization (AGRED) of UN-Habitat. Currently, he is a member of the GIZ-ADB Sponsored City Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) and the City Indicators Programme, hosted at the University of Toronto.

Dr OP Agarwal is currently the CEO of WRI India. He was a member of the IAS from 1979 to 2007 and was allocated to the Assam cadre. He held several positions, both under the central government and the Government of Assam. Among them was Joint Secretary in charge of Urban Transport in the Ministry of Urban Development. He was the principal author of the National Urban Transport Policy for the country. He has worked in the World Bank for 6 years as its global Urban Transport Adviser in Washington DC. He has been with the World Resources Institute since June 2017.

Dr Shahana Chattaraj, the moderator, is Director of Research Data and Innovation (RDI) at WRI India and visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Her research looks at urban political economy, governance and policy; the informal economy, digital platforms and the future of work, in India and globally. She holds a PhD in Public Affairs from Princeton University, and a master’s degree in international development and urban planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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