Urban transformation in South Asia has not meant prosperity for all. With the state unable to cope, security is being delivered by private, informal and extralegal agents. This panel explores how public order and security are conceptualised and delivered in the cities of South Asia
South Asia is urbanising rapidly, but this transformation has not meant prosperity for all. In India a staggering 37% of urban households live in one room or are homeless, while in Pakistan the infrastructure deficit implies only 1% of wastewater is treated before dumping and cities are only able to clear half of the solid waste generated in them. These urban spaces are also increasingly violent. With municipalities and city police forces unable to cope, increasingly service provision and security are being sought from and delivered by private, informal and extralegal agents.
In this context, we know relatively little about whether the socio-political, economic or spatial and material parameters of the environment in which the urban poor live somehow pre-dispose the poor to physical insecurity. Drawing on a range of academic disciplines, this panel will aim to fill this gap by exploring the changing meanings of safety and security across cities in contemporary South Asia, and unpack how these meanings differ by gender and age, between public-private, and formal-informal spaces. An equal importance will be placed on the historical trajectories of urban planning and policing in order to highlight the processes of social segregation and ghettoisation that are often sustained by legislation. By doing this, we aim to problematize the paradigm of modern and safe 'charter cities', and be forward looking to envision how the presence of violence and the nature of security provision shape the role urban spaces play in social and economic growth processes in South Asia.