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AAS WORKING PAPERS IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Shalini Randeria and Ciara Grunder
T HE ( UN )M A K IN G OF P OL IC Y I N
THE SHADOW OF THE WORLD
ÖAW ARBEITSPAPIERE ZUR SOZIALANTHROPOLOGIE
Infrastructure development, urban
reseĴ lement and the cunning state
AAS Working Papers in Social Anthropology /
ÖAW Arbeitspapiere zur Sozialanthropologie
Editors / Herausgeber:
Andre Gingrich & Guntram Hazod
© Forschungsstelle Sozialanthropologie
Zentrum Asienwissenschaften und Sozialanthropologie
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
Fax: 01/ 51581-6450
THE (UN)MAKING OF POLICY IN THE SHADOW
OF THE WORLD BANK:
Infrastructure development, urban resettlement
and the cunning state in India*
SHALINI RANDERIA AND CIARA GRUNDER
“The government agreed to the World Bank policy, it was worked out together. Why does
the government not keep to the policy? We don’t want much; we simply want our problems
solved according to World Bank policy. We are prepared to resettle but following World Bank
policy….We are ﬁ ghting because our project is a World Bank project.”
Interview with Mr. Vasi, a displaced resident of Gazi Nagar (Mumbai) who
ﬁ led a complaint before the Inspection Panel of the World Bank in 20041
“The World Bank should make reasonable demands. The government of Maharashtra was
forced to accept the policy. But it was not possible for us to implement it. Conditions should
be set, which can also be met. The World Bank should also respect property rights. Those
aﬀ ected by the project have no licences (for business) and no legal titles (to land).”
Interview with Mr. Datar (Secretary Special Projects,
Government of Maharashtra)
The juridiﬁ cation of ever more domains of our lives today increasingly blurs the distinction
between law in the strict sense of the term (i.e. rules enacted by a body with legitimate authority)
and policy. Juridiﬁ cation denotes the creation and interpretation of rules, regulations and new
soft law instruments by a range of actors – public and private, national and international. Policies
and procedures of international ﬁ nancial institutions, development agencies and humanitarian
organisations belong to an ill-deﬁ ned domain at the intersection of international private law, public
international law, technical norms and soft law. These policies lack legislative basis but acquire
nonetheless law-like qualities and produce eﬀ ects similar to the workings of law in the everyday life
of individuals and communities in the South. This new architecture of governance has important
implications for sovereignty and citizenship rights. Its study calls for a closer dialogue between
ﬁ elds that have hitherto developed relatively independently of one another: the anthropologies of
law, development and policy.
The proliferation of juridiﬁ cation is also accompanied by the institutionalisation of new quasi-
judicial arena of mediation, arbitration and inspection at various scales. One consequence of
this development is an increasing judicialisation of politics, or “lawfare” to use Jean and John
Comaroﬀ ’s term (2006). We argue that the expansion of legal forums, and their increased use by
citizens to inﬂ uence policy outcomes, neither necessarily strengthens the rights of citizens nor
furthers the accountability of public institutions. Paradoxically, the spread of quasi-judicial bodies
AAS WORKING PAPERS IN SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY
2009, Volume 6: 1–15
* The present contribution is based on a paper presented by S. Randeria at the Social Anthropology Research
Unit of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, April 18, 2008.
1 Direct quotations and paraphrases of views expressed by actors derive from interviews carried out by Ciara
Grunder during her ﬁ eldwork on the MUTP project in Mumbai from September 2006 to March 2007 (Grunder
2008). Names of interview partners have been altered to preserve anonymity.
can create greater legal uncertainty for citizens, who are forced to navigate a maze of unfamiliar
inst it ut ions w it h u nc lear, over lappi ng ju ri sd ictio n. St ates a nd int er na ti onal ins ti tu tions ar e o ft en able
to render themselves unanswerable by passing the responsibility for policy design and execution to
one another, or on to non-state actors involved in the process of its implementation. Ethnographic
enquiry can fruitfully examine the eﬀ ects and experiences of juridiﬁ cation, its ambiguities and
limits, from the vantage point of actors in locations constituted as “local”. Moreover, it can trace
how the relationships between the national and international, internal and external or public and
private are reconﬁ gured through the transnationalisation of soft law and public policy. Analyses of
the making and unravelling of policy call for sensitivity to its diachronic dimension too. For only
a study of the worlds of policy over time can map “deformations of the planned and the formation
of the unintended”, as Sally Falk Moore (2005: 3) has pointed out.
Our ethnography explores some paradoxical outcomes of current processes of juridiﬁ cation
that seek to regulate forced displacement in a World Bank funded infrastructure development
project in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). It delineates the dynamics of the direct involvement of
the international ﬁ nancial institution in the formulation of resettlement policy within the ongoing
Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). The making and unmaking of this policy highlights
the interplay between four actors (the World Bank, the MUTP project authority/ the Maharashtra
government, NGOs and private ﬁ rms of real estate developers). Yet neither the joint formulation of
policy by the World Bank and the regional government nor its execution by NGOs and the private
sector contribute to “good governance”. On the contrary, a proliferation of policy actors leads to a
dispersal of power and dilution of accountability. Those adversely aﬀ ected by the project seek in
vain to hold the state and World Bank accountable for problems of resettlement.
The chapter analyses the strategies of the World Bank and the state government, as they act against
one another or in tandem, to disavow responsibility for the policy jointly negotiated between
them. The World Bank takes credit for an innovative policy design but disclaims responsibility
for implementation. Government oﬃ cials in turn claim inability to put into practice an untenable
policy, which there was no choice but to accept. Our case study aims to capture the politics of mutual
complicity between World Bank and the borrower, on the one hand, and the politics of sovereignty
used by the cunning state to render itself unaccountable to citizens and to international institutions
alike, on the other. We use the notion of the cunning state (Randeria 2003, 2007a) to focus on the
strategies of the state rather than its presumed (in)capacities. We argue against the view of subordinate
states in the international system as merely weak either in terms of capacity to govern populations or
territory or in terms of capacity to negotiate with powerful international ﬁ nancial institutions. Instead
we seek to capture the constrained agency of states in the South in order to understand how it is used
to legitimate certain policy options and outcomes. The idea of a cunning state is thus a useful way to
delineate a range of tactics deployed at sites of negotiation where the state appears only to disappear
and where it constructs and dismantles itself ways that renders it unanswerable.
Despite sustained demands from social movements and NGOs over the past three decades, the
Indian state has yet to formulate a national resettlement policy. It has a dismal record of the
expropriation of the poor having displaced some 500,000 people every year throughout the country
since independence. Most of the over 30 million people forcibly evicted have neither received
compensation nor been adequately resettled. The courts have been less than sympathetic to
their grievances. The involvement of the World Bank in the MUTP introduces fairer standards
of resettlement by way of credit conditionality into the national arena. Yet citizens are unable to
inﬂ uence through elected representatives the course and content of policy negotiations between
the World Bank and the administration. Disaﬀ ected citizens try therefore to secure their rights
to information, consultation, participation, resettlement and compensation using legal remedies
within a labyrinth of administrative, judicial and new quasi-judicial institutions at various scales.
We map this shift in the exercise of citizenship rights (i.e. from political participation to inspection
and surveillance), which accompanies the transnationalisation of policy formulation. The chapter
analyses the ambiguities of this process as experienced by two sets of actors in highly asymmetrical
positions: oﬃ cials of the regional government responsible for the implementation of MUTP and
a group of persons displaced by the project. We discuss, on the one hand, the complex process of
negotiation of resettlement policy between the World Bank and bureaucrats of the Maharashtra
government and trace, on the other hand, the tenacious use of the Bombay High Court and the
inspection mechanism at the World Bank by citizens protesting against violations of the policy.
The Mumbai Urban Transport Project
With a population of some 18 million people Mumbai, the capital of the province of Maharashtra
and the commercial and ﬁ nance metropole of India, is one of the largest cities in the world. The
Mumbai Urban Transp ort Project (MU TP) aims to improve the inadequate tra nsport infrastructure
in this mega-city in order to further the mobility of people and goods. The World Bank views
inadequate transport as a bottleneck for the economic development of the city and especially as
a constraint for the poor, who need much longer travelling time to work (World Bank 2002: 6).
The project consists of three components: the extension of the suburban railways network, the
expansion of highways within the city and a programme of resettlement and rehabilitation for those
displaced as a result. Of the estimated total cost of 945 million US dollars the World Bank has lent
more than half (542 million US dollars). The rest comes from the Indian Railways, the federal and
the regional governments (World Bank 2004a, 2004b).
The project loan includes a big budget for the resettlement and rehabilitation of some 120,000
people, whose homes, shops, businesses and small industrial establishments are situated on land
needed for the enlargement of the city’s transport infrastructure (World Bank 2002, 2004a and
2004b).2 The massive scale of urban resettlement is unprecedented for a World Bank funded
project anywhere in the world except China. The inclusion of a resettlement policy into the project
design and a large loan for the purpose are exceptional too. In fact, MUTP is unique in being the
ﬁ rst infrastructure project ﬁ nanced by the World Bank that includes a budget for resettlement.
Yet issues of resettlement and rehabilitation have turned out to be the Achilles heel of the project.
No other project funded by World Bank has led to so many complaints about trenchant violations
of the institution’s own safeguard policies to be ﬁ led before its Inspection Panel, a quasi-judicial
body. The report of the latter led the World Bank management in 2006, for the very ﬁ rst time, to
temporarily suspend credit for a project in India. The reaction of the project authorities was as
revealing as the subsequent actions of the lending institution. The former publicly welcomed the
2 This ﬁ nal ﬁ gure has had to be continually revised upward over the years pushing up project costs and
complicating the implementation of the plans for rehabilitation. See the Resettlement and Rehabilitation
Policy for MUTP, March 1997 (amended 2000) for the broad deﬁ nition of “Project Affected Persons” adopted
at the behest of the World Bank.
withdrawal of the imperious institution, which had infringed on national sovereignty and imposed
impracticable conditions. The latter soon resumed the credit despite the absence of signiﬁ cant
improvement in the condition of the displaced families. It is this dance of donors with dependent
states, to use Sally Falk Moore’s evocative expression (2002), and its consequences for aﬀ ected
citizens, that our ethnography details.
Planning for the gigantic project to improve the suburban railway infrastructure began in 1995.
The project was represented as pivotal to economic growth, improvement of the quality of life
and poverty reduction in the city. But a second component, namely the extension of highways,
was added to the original plan shortly before the loan document was ﬁ nalised in 2002. By then
the resettlement policy for the project had already been drafted with a view to the needs of those
families, whose homes along the railway tracks were to be demolished. The belated inclusion of the
extension of highways along the Santa Cruz-Chembur Link Road and the Jogeshwari-Vikroli Link
Road into the MUTP created several problems. The costs for the resettlement of those displaced by
the road expansion had not been adequately budgeted for in the loan agreement. Moreover, those
displaced due to the new highways included owners of shops, businesses and small industrial units,
whose rehabilitation needs were diﬀ erent too. It is this group that has been at the forefront of legal
action against violations of MUTP resettlement policy. The Regional Safeguards Advisor of the
World Bank felt that the inability to design diﬀ erential compensation packages for various groups
of displaced persons was an important factor in precipitating the conﬂ ict around resettlement.
However, oﬃ cials of the government of Maharashtra took a diﬀ erent view. They pointed out that
it was not the application of the policy to an additional set of persons that was problematic but the
basic premises of the resettlement policy itself were ﬂ awed. In their view government was being
forced to violate its own laws on land acquisition and its policy on slum clearance in order to
comply with the World Bank’s unreasonable demands on the question of resettlement. During the
policy negotiations oﬃ cials were opposed to the acceptance of resettlement norms at variance with
the country’s laws and policies, which provided no compensation for those without legal titles to
land acquired by the state for a public purpose. Partial and selective implementation of the policy
was therefore justiﬁ ed by bureaucrats with reference to its utter unsuitability for the local context
and its disregard for national policy, as the quotation from an interview with a senior bureaucrat at
the beginning of the chapter illustrates.
Negotiations on resettlement policy
The World Bank, wary of repeating its earlier mistake in seriously underestimating the nature,
extent, cost and massive problems of displacement caused by the dams on the river Narmada that it
had ﬁ na nced in pa rt, in sis ted on in cor porat ing a re sett lem ent pol icy wit hi n the MU TP from t he st art.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s a transnational advocacy network had mobilised public opinion
worldwide against the Sardar Sarovar dam that caused the forcible displacement of nearly 200,000
people without adequate compensation measures (Randeria 2003). The successful campaign led the
government of India to forego the remaining credit for the Narmada project. This terminated the
involvement of the World Bank in probably the most controversial infrastructure project in its entire
history. The campaign also brought about signiﬁ cant policy changes at the World Bank including
the formulation of its current policy on involuntary displacement (Fox and Brown 1998).
The World Bank’s Operational Policy (OP)/Bank Procedure (BP) 4.12 (Policy on Involuntary Re-
settlement) is binding on all borrowers for projects involving displacement (World Bank n.d.).3
The safeguard policy enjoins prior consultation with those to be displaced in order to ensure their
participation in the planning and implementation of resettlement programmes. These programmes
are to be executed with a view to sustainable development that enables those aﬀ ected by a project to
share in its beneﬁ ts. The policy also aims to assist those to be displaced ‘to improve their livelihoods
and standards of living or at least to restore them, in real terms, to pre-displacement levels or to levels
p re va i l i ng p r io r to th e b eg i n ni n g of p ro je ct i mp l em e nt a t io n , w h ic h ev er i s hi g he r ’. M a ny o f t h e se n or m s ,
which were incorporated into MUTP resettlement policy, originally stem from demands advocated by
environmental NGOs in the North and social movements in the South in the course of the campaign
against the Narmada dam. Understanding paths and patterns of diﬀ usion and domestication of policy
in various locations thus calls for a study of connections across sites and scales as well as over time.
What appeared to Maharashtra government oﬃ cials to be unfeasible policies imposed by the World
Bank top down turn out on closer examination to incorporate norms originating from civil society
actors including some from India. These norms are subsequently diﬀ used to borrowers in the South
through their incorporation into the operational policies of the World Bank. Such circuitous policy
making increasingly blurs the boundaries between actors within and beyond the nation-state.
A close reading of the documents on the MUTP project, supplemented by interviews with some
of the Indian bureaucrats involved in the negotiations, reveals the process by which policy
prescriptions of the World Bank were turned into policies of the government of Maharashtra. As
the World Bank, for example, notes in its Project Appraisal Document, “… GoM (Government
of Maharashtra) had issued a Government Resolution (GR) adopting the policy in March, 1997
which was later amended in line with the Bank’s OD (Operational Directive) 4.30 on involuntary
resettlement. The modiﬁ ed version was reviewed and endorsed by the World Bank in February,
2000. Subsequently, the GoM (Government of Maharashtra) has brought out a Government
Resolution (Prakalpa 1700/CR 31/Slum 2, dated December 12, 200 0) signifying the adoption of t he
revised policy for the project.” (World Bank 2002: 98, information on abbreviations in parentheses
added by the authors). Interventions in the formulation of policy by donors are thus represented and
justiﬁ ed as the consent of the recipient state (Anders 2008). Or as Sally Falk Moore (2002) has put
it, the command of aid conditionalities is couched in the language of contract. Such a ‘construct
of presumed consent’ (Mattei 2003: 385) inverts accountability by shifting responsibility for the
implementation of the World Bank’s operational policies (OP) and directives (OD) onto an often
unwilling borrower with no choice but to accept the terms of a loan agreement. But the cunning
state can use its latitude in the interpretation and execution of policy to undermine the agreed upon
policy. It is able to get away with even gross infringement of policy with impunity by raising the
sensitive issue of violation of national sovereignty by the World Bank.
The incorporation of the World Bank’s operational policy norms into the resettlement policy of
MUTP was a matter of protracted negotiation with the government of Maharashtra. The latter
instituted a working group on resettlement policy comprising of senior government oﬃ cials
and the private sector to iron out diﬀ erences behind closed doors. Sundar Burra, adviser to
SPARC, a NGO entrusted with implementing MUTP resettlement programmes, notes that “The
3 OP/BP 4.12 together have replaced the earlier Operational Directive (OD) 4.30 on Involuntary Displacement.
World Bank required that there be civil society representation on the Task Force to formulate
R&R (resettlement and rehabilitation) policy” (Burra 2001: 5). The task force, which included
representatives of NGOs, recommended that each family to be evicted be given 225 sq. ft. (or
20,91 sq.m.) of accommodation free of cost. Government oﬃ cials gave in to the World Bank’s
demand to provide alternative housing to those evicted but insisted on limiting its size. But they
refused to acquiesce to the World Bank directive to compensate for loss of income or restoration
of the existing standard of living. Moreover, oﬃ cials warned against setting a precedent within
MUTP, which they would be hard put to replicate elsewhere. As Mr. Datar, a senior bureaucrat
in charge of infrastructure projects put it, “We (the government of Maharashtra) have nine such
projects, the World Bank only one. It is impossible to implement the other projects according to the
same resettlement standards as the World Bank one. The state simply does not have the funds for
this.” However, aﬃ rmations of state incapacity by government oﬃ cials must be seen as strategic.
Bureaucrats reacted in press interviews to the temporary suspension of the World Bank credit
due to gross violations of the resettlement policy, for instance, by stressing the ability of the state
to implement the project without the pressure of World Bank aid with strings. They faulted the
rigorous MUTP resettlement policy for having slowed down progress on the project, and increased
costs, and thus ultimately to the inability of the project authorities to meet the demands of the
World Bank for speedy implementation and a positive cost-beneﬁ t ratio.
MUTP resettlement policy grants far more rights to persons forcibly displaced by the project
than any other policy for expropriation of land for public purpose or slum demolition followed
in India so far.4 Small wonder that those adversely aﬀ ected by the project are adamant that World
Bank policy (and not national law) apply to them, as Mr. Vasi insists in the interview from which
we quote at the beginning of the chapter. Policies tied to development projects, however, raise
vexed issues of legal pluralism and the fragmentation of citizenship rights. World Bank structural
adjustment policies, for example, aﬀ ect all citizens even if their impact is far from uniform within
the borrowing country. Policies framed within a particular development intervention, however,
carve up state territory into project areas and populations to whom norms negotiated with a
particular international organisation apply. These norms may diﬀ er with the donor in question
and may also be at variance with national laws and policies. People displaced by infrastructure
development projects in Mumbai are, for example, divided into those aﬀ ected by MUTP and those
displaced by projects without World Bank funding. Only the former are eligible to stake claims for
compensation according to World Bank norms as incorporated into MUTP policy.
The existence of dual standards caused dissatisfaction among those displaced due to diﬀ erent
infrastructure development projects in the city. The plurality of resettlement norms was also partly
responsible for considerable confusion in identifying beneﬁ ciaries as claimants swelled the ranks of
those eligible for compensation under MUTP. Government oﬃ cials sought to reclassify the homes
and shops of many of these protestors as falling under the plans for eviction as part of the Mithi
river project, one without World Bank involvement. The policy framed within the MUTP is limited
to the duration of the project. Yet the World Bank entertained the vain hoped that it would form the
proto-type of future regional and national policy. Oﬃ cials of the Maharashtra government, however,
stated in no uncertain terms that it would not be extended beyond the ambit of MUTP.
4 Activists of the National Working Group on Displacement have advocated norms for fair resettlement and
rehabilitation that go much beyond those adopted by the World Bank (Randeria 2003, 2007a).
The World Bank policy on Involuntary Resettlement, which enjoins compensation regardless of
the duration of residence prior to eviction or possession of legal titles to property, contravenes
earlier policies of the government of Maharashtra too. Although the Maharashtra government was
averse to keeping its own policy temporarily in abeyance for households dislocated due to the
MUTP, it was forced to accede to the demands of the World Bank management. Almost all those
displaced by the MUTP belong to the oﬃ cial category of “slum-dwellers” without legal title to t heir
homes or business property (World Bank 2004a: 5). This is not surprising as more than half of the
population of Mumbai inhabits so-called “slums” (MTSU 2006) built on either private or public
land. Government oﬃ cials objected strongly to the demand of the World Bank for rehabilitation of
those who in the eyes of the law are “illegal encroachers”. Oﬃ cials went so far as to append a note
of dissent to the MUTP policy stating that the World Bank’s insistence to comp ensat e il legal “slum-
dwellers” sets a dangerous precedent that encourages lawlessness and rewards illegal occupation of
land. The fact that MUTP policy was at odds with the international ﬁ nancial institution’s insistence
on respect for property rights did not escape notice either, as exempliﬁ ed by the quotation from an
interview with a senior bureaucrat at the beginning of the chapter.
Non-state actors of policy implementation: real estate developers and NGOs
During the protracted negotiations on the project, Maharashtra government oﬃ cials had strongly
opposed the World Bank’s initial suggestion that the responsibility for the resettlement programme
be fully given over to a private corporation. They had advocated instead the choice of MMRDA
(Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority). Yet neither the MMRDA, nor even the
World Bank for that matter, had any experience with urban resettlement on such a large scale, as
Mr. Nayar, the former chief of Resettlement and Rehabilitation at MUTP conceded. The World
Bank solved this problem by redeﬁ ning it as one of the weakness of urban governance institutions
in India, which suﬀ ered from a fragmentation of functions and responsibilities as well as from lack
of overall coordination. The Project Appraisal Document for MUTP therefore proposed to reform
the MMRDA into an eﬃ cient and transparent organisation according to the “good governance”
criteria of the international ﬁ nancial organisation (World Bank 2002: 37).
Int ere stingly, th ere was no disagree ment be twe en th e World Bank and t he Ma harasht ra gover nm ent
about the involvement of private real estate developers, a component of MUTP resettlement policy
that was imported from the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme in the city. Private ﬁ rms were selected to
build the new apartment blocks for resettlement. I n excha nge for the construction of these bu ildings
they were given permission to develop property in prime areas of Mumbai. World Bank documents
are full of praise for this “innovative” market-oriented approach using so-called Transferable
Development Rights (TDR) (World Bank 2004b: 7-8 and 2006: 44), which enabled the state to
acquire additional private land for purposes of infrastructure development (World Bank 2002: 99).
TDR gives the developer the right to build at another location, or to sell to a third party the right
to build, 2,5 times the ﬂ oor space index (FSI) generated for resettlement. In return for providing
1000 sq.m. of built space to house those aﬀ ected by the MUTP, for example, a ﬁ rm of developers
acquires the right to construct commercial or residential space of 2500 sq.m. elsewhere in the
city. Noting the extremely poor quality of the new buildings for displaced families Mr. Wadoo, an
activist of the Bombay Environmental Action Group remarked, “Instead of the earlier horizontal
slums now vertical ones have been built and that too on a much smaller area of land than earlier.
Those who have proﬁ ted are the builders thanks to the TDR.” The choice of new locations for
resettlement at the outskirts of the city reﬂ ected the interests of powerful ﬁ rms of developers and
not the preferences of the displaced for accommodation close to their original homes and business
premises. The latter had not been consulted prior to relocation in violation of the World Bank’s
policy, as the Inspection Panel found upon its investigations into complaints.
The involvement of non-state actors to implement resettlement policy reﬂ ects the World Bank’s
neo-liberal prescriptions for development. But it may also be seen as a reaction to the Indian state’s
recalcitrant attitude towards questions of forced displacement in the past. Having learnt its lesson
from the controversial Narmada dam project, the World Bank insisted on entrusting responsibility
for MUTP resettlement programmes to NGOs with high local legitimacy. The NGOs contracted
for the purpose were: SPARC (Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres), SRS (Slum
Re hab ilit atio n So ciet y) and NSDF ( Nati ona l Slu m-D wel ler s Fe dera tion), which in cludes the Railway
Slum Dwellers Federation that represents the interests of families living along the railway tracks
in Mumbai. All three organisations have a long record of active involvement in furthering the right
to housing for the urban poor. They have furthered dialogue between slum-dwellers and the state
to solve problems arising from lack of civic amenities, evictions and relocation. The NGOs see
themselves as facilitators, who enable local communities to organise themselves through participatory
processes (SPARC/NSDF n.d.; SRS n.d.). Whereas SPARC represents itself as “one David against
three Goliaths (the World Bank, Indian Railways and the government of Maharashtra) (Patel and
Sharma 1998), for those protesting inadequate resettlement the battle lines were drawn diﬀ erently.
The NGOs were contracted to carry out baseline socio-economic surveys of the households to
be dislocated, to draw up resettlement plans and implement them. The MUTP project authorities
had to be pressurised by the World Bank into giving up responsibility for the implementation
of these parts of the project. Thus the NGOs took over the burden of determining eligibility for
compensation and issuing identity documents in the absence of any existing system of identity
cards or registration of residence by the state. Among the contentious issues, which were left to
the NGOs to resolve were: who constituted a family, which kin and aﬃ nes could be counted as
belonging to a household, whether they had to be resident in the structure to be demolished at the
time of relocation, whether those currently absent from Mumbai in the village could be counted
as family members, and who should bear the cost of their travel to the city to be photographed
for purposes of identiﬁ cation and compensation. Moreover, SPARC and NSDF were also given a
contract to construct the 2500 ﬂ ats necessary to temporarily house those who had to be urgently
relocated before the ﬂ ats at the resettlement site had been built. The NGOs oﬀ ered to construct
these “transit tenements at about 75% of the estimated cost, making the oﬀ er attractive both to the
(World) Bank and the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan regional Development Authority in charge
of project implementation)…” (Burra 2001: 6).
The responsibility for the identiﬁ cation and resettlement of nearly 120,000 persons thus rested with
NGOs, who also bore the brunt of the criticism that was deﬂ ected away from the World Bank and
the state government or MMRDA, the nodal agency that coordinates the project. Policy outcomes
vary with the local constellation of actors, who implement and contest it on the ground. The
involvement of the World Bank alters the dynamics of such conﬂ icts for it introduces a powerful
actor with norms and institutional mechanisms, which can be used by activists to set aside national
laws and policies (Randeria 2003, 2007b). Disaﬀ ected citizens in the MUTP case simultaneously
ﬁ led a petition before the Bombay High Court and requested the Inspection Panel of the World
Bank to enquire into breach of resettlement policy.
The futile search for quasi-judicial remedies: inspection mechanisms at various scales
Established in 1993, the Inspection Panel is by no means a full-ﬂ edged body for adjudication
but provides a forum for a complaint by any party adversely aﬀ ected by a World Bank funded
project. The independent body represents an innovation in international law, whereby individual
citizens are for the ﬁ rst time formally allowed access to an international ﬁ nancial organisation.
Its establishment responds to a long-standing demand by civil society actors, which was also
voiced forcefully by the transnational coalition against the Narmada dam. They demanded the
accountability of the World Bank not only to its member states but equally to citizens in debtor
countries, who, though aﬀ ected by its lending policies, have no voice in its functioning. Although
the (in)action of borrower governments is beyond the purview of the Inspection Panel, it has been
use d not o nly to ensur e c ompl ia nce w it h Worl d Ba nk s afeg ua rd s pol icie s but p ri ma ri ly to pres su ri ze
one’s own government to adhere to World Bank’s norms or standards (Clark et al. 2003; Randeria
200 3, 2007). T he pr imary purpose of t he Ins pect ion Panel, a three-member body with investiga tor y
and advisory powers, is to examine compliance by World Bank staﬀ with the safeguard policies
and procedures laid down by the institution that are also binding on the borrower. Its establishment
does not render the World Bank legally liable, nor does it provide for compensation even to those
whose complaints are found to be justiﬁ ed. In using it as a forum to seek remedy, citizens and civil
society organisations also challenge the nation-state’s exclusive claim to speak for its citizens and
represent their interests at the international level.
In 2004 and 2005 four requests for investigation into infringements of MUTP resettlement
policy were made to the Inspection Panel. Complaints concerned the lack of consultation with
the community, the choice of inappropriate relocation sites and inadequate restoration of incomes
and living standards due to the unavailability of access to essential services such as schools,
medical services, water and waste removal facilities. It was contended that relocation in far away
areas inaccessible by public transport had led to severe problems of mobility, an increase in travel
expenses and commuting time to work and to a loss of daily wages for poor households, who could
least aﬀ ord such costs. Adequate rehabilitation according to World Bank policies must therefore
compensate for disruption of livelihood and a decline in standards of living, petitioners claimed.
But as the conﬂ ict between the MMRDA, the project implementing authority and those who ﬁ led
a request for inspection made clear, the cunning state had little intention of abiding by the policy
negotiated with the World Bank. The petitioners drew attention to the callousness and the high-
handedness of MMRDA oﬃ cials, who had consistently failed to address their concerns. In a letter
to t he Ins pe ct io n Pane l, th e repr es entat ives of th e familie s t o b e d ispl ac ed fr om Ga zi Na ga r r ec orded
their altercation with the then head of the project implementation authority, as follows: “Mr. T.
Chandrashekhar proudly replied us that this is India and not America. One cannot hold us that
much accountable and responsible as Americans are! When we told him that it means you people
are not as accountable and responsible as expected by the World Bank, Mr. T. Chandrashekhar
replied in yes (sic) and further stated that the people of Gazi Nagar should not expect any such
accountabilities and transparencies from him nor from the government [sic]. . . Now we the poor
residents of Gazi Nagar are unable to understand where to go for justice in such circumstances”
(World Bank Inspection Panel 2004: 47).
Residents of Gazi Nagar recalled that members of the Inspection Panel had explained to them
during the site visit to Mumbai that it could merely document violations of policy but had no
powers to take decisions to improve implementation. In its view the power to improve the situation
of the displaced lay with the World Bank management. Once management responds to the report of
the Inspection Panel by putting before the Executive Directors of the World Bank an “action plan”
for improvement in the implantation of the project, which it devises together with the borrower,
neither the complainants nor the Inspection Panel have the right to comment on the plans further
(Clarke et al. 2003: 267). Besides formulating such a plan jointly with the MMRDA, the World
Bank management also reacted to the numerous complaints to the Inspection Panel by prevailing
on the project authorities to activate the grievance redress mechanisms established within MUTP.
The case before the Bombay High Court and the complaint to the Inspection Panel compelled
MMRDA to take steps towards the formalisation of the functioning of these grievance instances.
But even in 2006 no regular hearings took place and complaints to the Field Level and Senior
Level Grievance Redress Committees responsible for assessing the eligibility for compensation
were summarily dismissed. Indignant at being forced to institute complaints mechanisms within
MUTP at the behest of the World Bank, and distrustful of the urban poor, bureaucrats saw to it
that the new instances remained totally ineﬀ ective. Following criticism by the Inspection Panel, the
Independent Monitoring Panel (IMP) within MUTP, a third body instituted under pressure from the
World Bank, was broadened to include independent members from outside the state bureaucracy.
But in the absence of any competence to take binding decisions, the IMP too remained ineﬀ ective.
Nevertheless Mr. Parasuraman, chief of resettlement and rehabilitation at MUTP and Mr. Sonowal,
director of MUTP were impatient with all the discussions within IMP. The latter felt that, “In
projects one must bridge the gap between two aims: follow procedures and realise project aims. If
one always only focuses on procedures, then no progress is possible.”
Not surprisingly, these non-functioning quasi-judicial instances brought no relief to those who had
lost homes and businesses. But their existence on paper relieved the World Bank of its responsibility
to address problems of implementation. It also deﬂ ected demands for accountability addressed to
the World Bank management onto the project authorities, who in turn pointed to the existence of
the three tier grievance redress mechanism within MUT P in order to demonstrate compliance with
credit conditionality in the area of “good governance”. Citizens remain sceptical of these internal
mechanisms. As Mr. Shaban, a member of the United Shop Owners Association that ﬁ led a request
to the Inspection Panel, remarked, “What kind of a bureaucracy is this, which is defendant, judge
and lawyer in one? How can one expect justice here?” Moreover, these various MUTP bodies do
not seem to have any legal status or established procedures. Their main function seems to be to
prevent complaints to, and further investigations by, the Inspection Panel of the World Bank, an
aim that both borrower and lender were interested to achieve.
Matters came to a head, however, as MMRDA, the project implementing authority, seemed to
be unable or unwilling to resolve the serious problems of resettlement. Following a spate of
complaints, the Inspection Panel went ahead with a limited ﬁ eld investigation into allegations of
policy violations. Its highly critical report detailed infringement of the policy on environmental
assessment, on project supervision and on involuntary displacement. It was critical of the choice
of resettlement sites, the overestimation by the World Bank management of the capacities of the
NGOs and the project authority to carry out resettlement programmes on such a large scale, the
ineﬀ ectiveness of the grievance redress mechanisms within MUTP and deterioration in living
standards after relocation (World Bank IP 2005 and 2006). The report forced the World Bank to
temporarily suspend the disbursement of the remaining 20 percent of the IDA credit and the 150
million US dollar loan for the controversial road and resettlement components of the project in
March 2006. The cunning state, however, welcomed the suspension as a blessing in disguise, as it
aﬀ orded an opportunity to sidestep the stringent standards of the World Bank. The then head of
MMRDA, Mr. Chandrasekhar, stated in an interview to the press that it would be cheaper, quicker
and less cumbersome to implement the project without World Bank policies and standards, which
push up the costs of resettlement and rehabilitation to a level that was not feasible for the project
authority to meet. According to him, “The World Bank has a lot of harsh impractical conditions.
They want us to use global laws for local conditions” (Deshmukh and Mehta 2006). He announced
that MMRDA would consider turning to Japanese banks to complete the project, which lent funds
at lower rates without social and environmental conditions attached to them. This turned out to be
an empty threat. The federal government prevailed on the project authority and the Maharashtra
government not to exacerbate the conﬂ ict so as not to jeopardise relations with the World Bank.
Exercise of citizenship rights through legal action
Deﬁ ning democracy as the ‘politics of the governed’ (2004: 4), Partha Chatterjee points to the
emergence of a new distinction between citizens and populations in contemporary regimes of
power, following Foucault’s idea of the ‘governmentalization of the state’. He argues that these
regimes do not secure legitimacy through the political participation of citizens. Instead, their
legitimacy rests on claims to provide for the well-being of statistically deﬁ ned populations as the
objects of social and economic policies. Policy thus comes to replace politics, just as the rule
of experts substitutes for political representation. Whereas the right to vote in a representative
democracy still remains tied to a world of territorial nation-states, the right to inspect and to judge,
the right to evaluate or denounce have not merely gained signiﬁ cance but are also being exercised
both within and beyond state boundaries, as our case study shows. Although those at the margins
of the nation-state may have recourse to new transnational arena like the Inspection Panel of the
World Bank this does not mean that they live in a world of “post-national” or “pluri-national”
citizenship, which is a privilege reserved for another class of citizens. Pierre Rosanvallon (2006)
has identiﬁ ed the tendency towards increasing surveillance and control as a central aspect of what
he calls ‘counter-democracy’ at the national level. But even at the transnational scale it is easier
for citizens to inspect or name and shame governments than it is to improve access to, and gain
representation in, international institutions.
One aspect of this shift is the increasing use of courts at all levels by citizens rather than participation
in elections to render governments accountable. Political mobilization, parliamentary debates and
street demonstrations are conspicuous by their absence in the Mumbai case. These have been
increasingly displaced onto litigation in the High Court and the international arena. The MUTP case
is remarkable for the tenacity with which those seeking adequate rehabilitation have focussed almost
exclusively on the search for legal remedies. However, claims in the judicial or quasi-judicial arena
also require extensive prior mobilisation on the ground. Their outcome in these arenas may also
depend to a considerable extent on the success in marshalling resources, capturing media attention
and sustaining political pressure. The media (especially the English language press in Mumbai)
has been rather hostile to the rights of slum and pavement dwellers in the city. The middle classes
consider them to be lawbreakers, who illegally occupy valuable public or private land and create a
public nuisance. There has been a sustained campaign to “beautify Bombay” by summarily evicting
those who disﬁ gure the city by using public space for sleeping, cooking and defecating. The urban
poor are represented as “free riders”, who use amenities that middle class tax payers sustain.
Interestingly, in the early stages of MUTP a public interest litigation petition was ﬁ led by a NGO
asking for the demolition of all slums along the railway tracks without compensation (Burra 2001).
The High Court in all likelihood would have conceded the demand had it not been for the assurance
of the government of Maharashtra that it would urgently implement a resettlement programme for
the aﬀ ected families. It is unlikely that the government would have taken this view if it had not
known itself to be under scrutiny from the World Bank in this regard. However, the petition by
those seeking to avert eviction due to the extension of highways under MUTP was turned down
by the Bombay High Court.5 They were asked to present their problems to the internal grievance
redress mechanism within the MUTP as requested by the defendants, the project authorities. But
the court also ruled that no evictions were to undertaken until rehabilitation according to the norms
of the MUTP resettlement policy is provided. The court thus upheld World Bank policy rather than
national law to be applicable in this case. Disregarding the court judgement and its own policy,
MUTP went ahead with evictions and demolitions while complaints by residents were pending
before a grievance committee. By ﬁ ling a compliant to the Inspection Panel of the World Bank
the petitioners could circumvent the administrative and judicial machinery of the state temporarily
but they remain dependent on it in the long run. Disappointed by the lack of improvement in
resettlement programmes despite the Inspection Panel having recorded serious violations of
policy, citizens turned once again to the Bombay High Court to complain against corruption and
mismanagement in MUTP. This case is still pending.
Eﬀ orts by citizens to organise and press claims in legal forums at the national or transnational scale
are concerned with issues of inspection and judgement rather than with the core classical concerns
of citizenship around questions of legitimacy, participation and representation. A broader grammar
of governance has thus emerged, one that has extended the vocabulary of citizenship both within
the nation-state and outside it. One of the dilemmas faced by citizens in the new architecture of
non-accountability is to identify the addressee of protest. Activists diﬀ er in their assessment of
the eﬃ cacy of using local, national or transnational arenas either exclusively, consecutively or
simultaneously. The strategic choices they make also vary with the issue in question as well as their
location and ideology. Moreover, the resources available to local actors vary and also determine
the levels of support they can marshal at diﬀ erent scales, the networks they are able to tap into or
the coalitions they can build and sustain. As the Mumbai case demonstrates, the addressee of the
protest, the scale at which it is voiced and the strategy used to further claims can also shift in the
course of a struggle.
5 Activists of the National Working Group on Displacement have advocated norms for fair resettlement and
rehabilitation that go much beyond those adopted by the World Bank (Randeria 2003, 2007a).
Anthropology of policy provides a useful vantage point to map processes of the restructuring of
state and its relationship with international ﬁ nancial institutions and citizens. It is well suited to
capture shifts in rhetoric and practices of sovereignty as well as the exercise of citizenship rights.
Our ethnography of the (un)making of resettlement policy within the MUTP has explored how
soft law attains eﬃ cacy in everyday life in a particular place. An understanding of processes of
juridiﬁ cation in a developmental state, aptly termed “a state of endemic expropriation” by Jean and
John Comaroﬀ (2006: 15), requires the study of dynamic and conﬂ ict-laden ﬁ elds. The boundaries
of these ﬁ elds are not pre-given but are empirically determined in relation to our objects of enquiry.
Processes of policy making can not be understood without reference to the workings of larger
forces, which are global in reach but local in their manifestations.
We have shown that the same World Bank policy can produce very diﬀ erent outcomes in diﬀ erent
contexts depending on the bargaining strength of the borrowing state and the extent to which it is
able to circumvent policies negotiated under conditions of unequal power. Yet the state is neither
a passive recipient of external policy prescriptions nor without means to aﬀ ect their realisation in
a local context. While it is an object of neo-liberal restructuring, the state actively shapes these
policy outcomes too. We use the idea of the cunning state to counter discourses of state weakness
that proliferate in academic and policy circles. The cunning state can successfully render itself
unaccountable by legitimising its lack of political will to implement a policy in terms of its inability
to do so. Partial compliance and foot-dragging can be interpreted in turn by the World Bank as
the need to improve state capacities and governance. The dispersal of power in transnationalised
worlds of policy leads to a loss of transparency in decision-making as well as to a dilution and
divestment of responsibility. In such a context, the proliferation of processes of juridiﬁ cation, and the
establishment of new quasi-judicial arena, has been experienced by various actors as simultaneously
empowering and disempowering. Our ethnography has explored the equivocal nature of some of
these developments that hold out a promise they have yet to fulﬁ l.
Shalini Randeria is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zurich.
Ciara Grunder is an anthropologist who currently holds an assistant post at the University of Zurich.
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