2013 Holland Prize

Highway Urbanization and Land Conflicts: The Challenges to Decentralization in India

Sai Balakrishnan
Columbia University, New York, USA
Volume 86, No.4, December 2013, pp. 785-811

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Sai Balakrishnan

This year’s Holland Prize winning article by Sai Balakrishnan is a captivating brocade woven of sustained fieldwork, keen comparative analysis, nuanced historical contextualization, and jewelled prose. By taking a close look at two mega-projects along the Bangalore-Mysore and Pune-Nashik highways in India, the article persuasively explains the adjustments hybrid regional institutions — parastatals and cooperatives — have made to respond to new challenges and conflicts stemming from the expansion of the highway networks. Challenging orthodox views of administrative decentralization as a top-down devolvement of decision-making through its illustrations of the complex, contingent, and contested nature the actual decentralization processes, this article helps us think through and beyond the familiar diptychs of the local-regional and the urban-rural.