The politics of visibility in urban sanitation : bureaucratic coordination and the Swachh Bharat Mission in Tamil Nadu, India
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Gabriella Y. Carolini.
MetadataShow full item record
Often linked with class and caste and mired in socio-cultural taboos, sanitation has a reputation problem in India. The introduction of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to address these challenges not only at the individual level, but also at the organizational level. SBM heavily banks on the use of reputational devices such as social media campaigns and city rankings to incentivize the sub-national implementation of reforms. While literatures on sanitation implementation highlight coordination between agencies and between agencies and NGOs as key to service improvements, few if any, explore how organizational reputation may affect that coordination. Given the importance afforded to SBM within India's current march toward sanitation reform, this scholarly lacuna is surprising. My dissertation aims to address this knowledge gap through an in-depth study of coordination, and the role of organizational reputation in the roll-out of SBM in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.First, I ask what impacts public sector coordination in urban sanitation under SBM. Second, I examine whether SBM's reputational devices have any effects on coordination. Within Tamil Nadu, I focus on two major streams of work within the SBM Urban portfolio -- toilet construction and solid waste management --in the cities of Chennai, Coimbatore, and Trichy. To conduct my study, I use semi-structured interviews with bureaucrats and NGOs, document and social media analysis of SBM materials, and participant observation of behavioral change campaigns run by public agencies and sanitation-centric NGO partners. I found that SBM's reputational devices were no match for entrenched institutional weaknesses, like poor bureaucratic capacity and administrative incoherence, to incentivize coordination either between agencies or between agencies and NGOs across the three cities. Instead, SBM's emphasis on social media, city rankings, and certifications has exacerbated the burden of documentation and the "tick-box" culture within agencies. However, I also found that in some cases, SBM's reputational devices have empowered existing sanitation NGOs by increasing demand for their services.I conclude that SBM's emphasis on visibility rather than deep institutional reform obfuscates the kind of work needed to improve outcomes in the urban sanitation sector.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, May, 2020Cataloged from the official PDF of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 164-188).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.