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Souvanic Roy and Tathagata Chatterji

This chapter analyses the Smart Cities Mission launched by India in 2014, with the ambitious goal of transforming Indian cities into drivers of the country’s economic aspirations through big-data-intensive, techno-managerial interventions designed to improve operational efficiency of the delivery of urban services to a ‘world-class’ standard. It locates the new urban policy against the backdrop of India’s post-liberalisation nation-building narrative to understand its drivers, agencies and road map for implementation. We argue that the Smart Cities Mission is ushering in a new model of corporatised urban governance through the rubrics of public–private partnerships and special purpose vehicles, bypassing elected municipal governments. The centralised and technology-centric leapfrog development approach perpetuates dependency on expensive hardware and proprietary technologies. In the process, it fails to recognise the embedded cultural context of a place and the power relations manifested through politics, governance and competing claims. We examine and analyse this policy through the good governance framework.