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NGOs as Intermediaries for Pro-Poor Electrification in India

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Urban Development in a Post-Neoliberal Era?

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Neoliberalism is generally associated with certain paradigmatic regulatory experiments, such as privatisation, deregulation, trade liberalisation, financialisation, structural adjustment, welfare cutbacks and monetarist shock therapy. Prominent observers of the global economy swiftly proclaimed the “end of neoliberalism” after the global economic crisis of 2008. This paper shares the experiences of two Indian NGOs participating in a multiple-stakeholder pro-poor urban electrification programme that was designed to demonstrate a viable alternative to neoliberal models of basic service provision. By 2008, close to 100,000 homes had been electrified in the city of Ahmedabad and the programme is currently being replicated in smaller cities in Gujarat and in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. The broader findings from this research suggest that the news of neoliberalism’s demise may be greatly exaggerated. The “alternative” practices and strategies that have emerged more recently, such as the ones documented in this article, may challenge certain aspects of neoliberal thinking even as they reconfigure and recalibrate others. Although this case study cannot in any way enable us to gauge if India is moving toward “post-neoliberalism”, it does highlight the importance of documenting and understanding sub-national scales and actors in experimenting with and testing alternatives to market-based solutions.

Affiliations: 1: Western University


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