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Director, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust
Independent Legal & Policy Consultant
Avantha Chair, King’s India Institute, King’s College, London
Practitioner Researcher in Urban Policy, Planning & Governance

Date & Time

Tuesday Tue, 30 Nov 2021

Location (for BIC Venue, BIC Hybrid and BIC Cafe)

Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560 071 India
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+91 98865 99675 bic@bangaloreinternationalcentre.org

In the year that passed, the Covid 19 pandemic unsympathetically unveiled multiple marginalisations that our cities have harboured for decades. Dispossessed migrant workers and the marginalised urban poor confronted us with our failure to shape inclusive cities. What dissuades the “Right to the City” for our vast urban majority? At the national scale, rights are predicated on a recognition of physical presence, usually through absolute conceptions of citizenship, held stable by protocols of immigration. At the micro level, the urban poor are forced to live outside the legal framework of the master plan, and can do so because master planning, in ideation and implementation, is weak, leaving space for the informal systems of tenure that allow their survival. This renders their lives and homes vulnerable to dispossession and demolition, condemning them to a degraded environment. We do not recognise the extent of marginalisation forced by the current urban paradigm because we do not look at the city from the perspective of human rights.

The “Right to the City” is the right of all inhabitants of a city, not just citizens, to inhabit, occupy, use and shape inclusive, just and equal cities. The concept of the “Right to the City” as a basic human right was initially formulated by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre and has since been explored further by many scholars and activists. This panel discussion brings together eminent scholars and practitioners in India, who have engaged with the concept of the “Right to the City” from multiple dimensions including legal, political, social, economic, planning and gender. The discussion will examine the potential and future of the “Right to the City” in India.


Bijal Brahmbhatt

Director, Mahila Housing SEWA Trust

Bijal Brahmbhatt is the Director of Mahila Housing SEWA Trust (MHT). She is a civil engineer by training and is a recognized expert in habitat improvement through women’s  empowerment, community development and housing finance. She supervises the MHT’s operations at the national level and has proven experience in conceptualizing planning, and managing slum up-gradation programs across India.

Her professional experience has focused on a range of poverty alleviation issues, particularly with women, entrepreneurship, slum up gradation, Water and Sanitation, urban planning, housing finance, housing technology etc. She is on board of SEWA Grih Rin, a housing finance company for the poor women and is also as an advisor to poor women credit cooperatives. She has authored several publications/ papers on habitat, housing finance and community development.

Bijal has been selected as a fellow for the Women Change Maker program of the Womanity foundation for the year 2015-2016. She has also recently been featured in the coffee table book titled ‘Women of Pure Strength’ by Vodafone Foundation (India) released in January 2015.

Mathew Idiculla

Independent Legal & Policy Consultant

Mathew Idiculla is an independent legal and policy consultant based in Bangalore and a visiting faculty at the School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University. His research and practice are broadly in the intersection of public law, politics, and public policy, with a focus on issues concerning cities, governance systems, and federalism. He is a consultant with the law programme of WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) and previously worked with the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR).

Over the past ten years, Mathew has engaged with the field of urban governance in multiple ways: inter-disciplinary academic research, legal and policy consultancy for government, advocacy with civil society groups and writings in popular media. He has played an active role in urban governance reform in Bangalore and led the drafting of the “Greater Bengaluru Governance Bill, 2018” for the Expert Committee on BBMP Restructuring, Government of Karnataka. Mathew is also the founder of a Bangalore-based inter-disciplinary discussion forum on urban issues and writes frequently about various law and policy debates in India in scholarly and popular publications.

Niraja Gopal Jayal

Avantha Chair, King’s India Institute, King’s College, London

Professor Niraja Gopal Jayal is the Avantha Chair at King’s India Institute, King’s College, London. She also holds a Centennial Professorship (2019-23) at The London School of Economics, in the Department of Gender Studies. She was formerly Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Her book Citizenship and Its Discontents (Harvard University Press and Permanent Black, 2013) won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association of Asian Studies in 2015. She is also the author of Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and Democracy and the State: Welfare, Secularism and Development in Contemporary India (OUP, 1999). She has co-edited The Oxford Companion to Politics in India, and edited, among several others, Democracy in India (OUP, 2001) and Re-Forming India: The Nation Today. (Penguin Random House, 2019) Her most recent book is Citizenship Imperilled: India’s Fragile Democracy (Permanent Black).

Jayal delivered the Radhakrishnan Memorial Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford in 2009, and was Vice-President of the American Political Science Association. (2011-12). She has held visiting appointments at, among others, Princeton University, King’s College, London, and the EHESS, Paris.

Champaka Rajagopal

Practitioner Researcher in Urban Policy, Planning & Governance

Champaka Rajagopal is an independent practitioner and researcher in urban policy, planning and governance. She brings over twenty years of experience of having worked with national, state and local governments in India and abroad. She is faculty at the School of Public Policy & Governance, Azim Premji University and Professeur Affiliae at SciencesPo, Paris.

Co-led several large scale public sector projects including the Development Plan for Greater Mumbai 2034, with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai; the Perspective Plan for the Bengaluru-Mumbai Economic Corridor Region with the erstwhile Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation and worked on the Revised Master Plan for Bengaluru 2015, with the Bangalore Development Authority.

Champaka holds a doctoral degree in Planning and International Development Studies from the University of Amsterdam, a Masters’ Degree in Urban Design from University of California at Berkeley, USA and an undergraduate degree in Architecture from Centre for Environmental Planning & Technology, Ahmedabad, India.