Opportunities and Challenges Facing the World’s Fastest Growing Economy.

Event Recap

The IMF’s World Economic Outlook estimates that the Indian economy will grow by 7.8 percent in 2019, making it the world’s fastest-growing economy in both 2018 and 2019. With 1.2 billion people and the world’s third-largest economy, India has become a global economic giant.

While India’s progress has been significant, it still faces considerable challenges in terms of poverty and inequality, energy access, pollution, and infrastructure development. Recent reforms aim to empower the people, especially the poor, with universal access to education and health, and facilitate their full participation in their nation’s economic growth.

The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) and the Tata Center for Development at UChicago(TCD) welcomed Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India, to discuss the short- and long-term economic opportunities and challenges facing India. Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor of Economics, the College, and the Harris School, and the Director of BFI, moderated the conversation.

Watch a video of the conversation

Audience Q&A

Nancy Stokey, the Frederick Henry Prince Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College at UChicago, posed questions on economic growth during the audience Q&A.

Event Description

This event was hosted by the Becker Friedman Institute and the Tata Centre for Development.


Monday, April 16, 2018

10:30 am

Welcome and Introductions

Surbi Luhadia MBA Candidate, Booth School of Business
12:00 pm

Moderated Discussion

Arvind Subramanian Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Government of India
Michael Greenstone Faculty Director; Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, the College, and the Harris School
12:30 pm

Audience Q&A

Event Recap

The two-day conference highlighted some of the layered challenges facing India’s slums.  Anup Malani, the Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, harped on the fact that slums are not just a product of limited state capacity but a withdrawal of what limited capacity there is.

Adam Chilton, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, presented various socio-economic factors responsible for the growing demand for slums. Debolina Kundu, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi, argued that as opposed to the general perception, urban growth in India is witnessing a southward trend and rural-urban migration is also on decline.

While Amita Bhide, professor at the Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai pointed out how slum development narrative in Mumbai is centered on how to make it feasible and profitable for real estate developers, Pratima Joshi of Shelter Associates in Pune explained how granular data guides local government when it comes to giving access to improved sanitation and other essential services in slums.


Event Description

Urbanization is an important step in India’s development: millions of people, by revealed preference, are demonstrating that they are better off in cities than in rural villages. Yet urbanization also has the potential to result people being pushed into new slums and also contribute to the worsening of living conditions in existing slums.

Additionally, poor health and sanitation conditions may temper the economic benefits of growing. Now is a crucial time for academic and practitioners to develop nuanced understandings of slum conditions and collaborative proposals for interventions to help improve the social and economic conditions in India’s urban centers.

The conference will focus on discussing issues related to urban poverty in India, including: rural-to-urban migration, health in slums, property rights, housing policy, and the provision of public services. The event will bring together experts from the University of Chicago on law, development, housing and land use policy, and urban planning, along with scholars, community leaders, practitioners, government leaders, and experts from India.

University of Chicago Law School Professors Adam Chilton and Anup Malani will also present early parts of their book project based on qualitative and quantitative research on slums in major Indian cities.  The conference will create a dialogue for researchers to present research that is relevant to improving the economic and social development of slums, and for the researchers to learn from the practitioners and community leaders about the most pressing policy problems facing India’s slums.

This conference was held in collaboration with PUKAR, an organization that conducts community-based participatory research in Mumbai’s slums, to explore these issues


  • Anup Malani

    Lee and Brena Freeman Professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Professor at the Pritzker School of Medicine

Event Recap

The experts, who participated at the roundtable, called for exploring multiple approaches to water quality monitoring and setting standards for the country to follow. A national water quality monitoring protocol, they felt, could be one of the ways to guide institutions on how to increase efficiency and accuracy of monitoring.

The experts also recommended developing a Water Quality Report, which can be a reference document for policymakers as well as those working in this domain. It was suggested that documentation of good practices can convince government about the transformation that can be brought.

The experts also proposed creation of a network of hydrologists, doctors, technology people and social entrepreneurs who would collaboratively look at every component of water monitoring.


Roundtable on Water Quality

Event Description

This roundtable, hosted by the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago in collaboration with International Innovation Corps, will deliberate on a wide range of issues related to water quality monitoring. Researchers, policy advocates, and on-the-ground practitioners will come together to discuss how to create actionable data on water pollution, influence policy, and boost India’s potential to fight pollution in its rivers.

At a time when there is an enormous need for monitoring and mapping water quality at high spatial and temporal resolution, this roundtable gives a platform to discuss the future of gathering and disseminating water quality data. The roundtable will also explore opportunities to collaborate on creating a common platform to address water quality challenges.

Registration for this event is by invite only.


Friday, January 11, 2019

2:30 pm–3:00 pm


3:00 pm–3:05 pm

Welcome Address: Dr. Leni Chaudhuri, Country Director, Tata Centre for Development, UChicago

3:05 pm–3:10 pm

Water-to-Cloud Program: Prof Supratik Guha, Institute for Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago

3:10 pm–3:10 pm

Roundtable: Participant Introduction

3:10 pm

Session I: Making Data Actionable

4:10 pm–4:55 pm

Session II: Making Cross-Sectoral Linkages

4:55 pm–5:00 pm

Closing Remarks: Shriya Sethi, Associate Director, Projects, International Innovation Corps, UChicago


  • Supratik Guha

    Professor at Institute for Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago
  • Jagdish Kumar Bassin

    Chief Scientist & Head, CSIR-NEERI
  • Pawan Labhasetwar

    Head of Water Technology & Management, CSIR-NEERI
  • Raman VR

    Head of Policy, WaterAid
  • Sanjib Pohit

    Professor, NCAER
  • Mriganka Saxena

    Senior Consultant, Delhi Jal Board
  • Kavita Shah

    Dean, Institute of Environment & Sustainable Development (IESD) at BHU
  • Sukanya Randhawa

    AI researcher at IBM and co-creator of GangaWatch App
  • Samuel Rajkumar

    Foundation for Environmental Monitoring
  • Sumit Gautam

    Senior Programme Lead, CEEW
  • Devin Miller

    Co-Founder & CTO at NextDrop Technologies
  • Samrat Basak

    Director – Urban Water, World Resources Institute
  • Nalin Patel

    Waterscope, Cambridge University
  • Vidyarthi

    Central Pollution Control Board
  • Smita Rakesh

    Tata Trust & Social Alpha
The aim was to understand the concerns of the riverine communities and correlate data on water quality with the ground reality

Event Recap

Traditionally, river water quality is looked at in isolation, without understanding its socio-economic cost. As a logical extension of Water-to-Cloud Project, under which researchers at the University of Chicago monitor water quality of several rivers in real time through automated, mobile sensors, the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago collaborated with the Centre for Community Knowledge (CCK) at Ambedkar University and Ashoka University to understand the concerns of the riverine communities and correlate data on water quality with the ground reality.

The event, ‘Revitalising Yamuna: Alternate Imaginations’, hosted at the UChicago Center in Delhi on May 11, comprised a photo exhibition, film screening and a panel discussion, along with presentations of research projects.

The CCK at Ambedkar University has been documenting memories, people’s voices, and experiences of the Yamuna river under their project ‘The River and the City’. Their stories were woven together into a 30-minute documentary that brought forth the realities of various riverine communities that associate themselves with the Yamuna. It portrayed myriad understandings and experiences of people as and when they remember the river and points of connection with it or the lack thereof.

Revitalizing Yamuna: Alternate Imagination

The University of Chicago, in collaboration with the Young India Fellows at Ashoka university, had conducted a four-month-long field study to understand the impact of river pollution on health and livelihood of communities living on the banks of Yamuna in Delhi. The results that emerged from this study were presented during the event.

A photo exhibition on People of Yamuna displayed various themes that point to the connections and disconnections between the river and the residents of the city. It put forth how the Yamuna as a water body has changed over time; from its course to pollution load.

The panel discussion on ‘Connections and disconnections between the river and the residents of the city’ witnessed the coming together of experts on sociology, anthropology and biodiversity conservation as well as the riverine communities on the same platform.

The panel, moderated by Surajit Sarkar, Assistant Professor at Ambedkar University, had Neha Sinha, Reema Bhatia, Meeta Kumar, Bhim Singh Rawat and representatives of the communities living along the Yamuna. It deliberated on changes observed in the river over the years and encouraged individuals and communities to reconnect with it.

More event-related photos at our Flickr album.


Event Description


Saturday, May 11, 2019

4:00 pm–4:30 pm

EXHIBITION: Guided walk-through of photo exhibition on people of Yamuna

4:30 pm–4:35 pm

WELCOME ADDRESS: Dr. Leni Chaudhuri, Country Director, Tata Centre for Development at UChicago

4:35 pm–4:45 pm

PRESENTATION: Water-to-Cloud: Monitoring Yamuna Water Quality in Real Time

4:45 pm–5:30 pm

FILM SCREENING: The River and the City: Yamuna in Delhi

5:30 pm–5:50 pm

PRESENTATION: Socio-economic impact of river water pollution: Voices from the ground

5:50 pm–6:25 pm

PANEL DISCUSSION: Connections and Disconnections between the river and the residents of the city

6:25 pm–6:30 pm


Event Description

The Tata Centre for Development at UChicago will release the findings of its research study, India Climate Prospectus, on October 31. It is a culmination of a multi-year research conducted by the University of Chicago to understand the impacts of climate change and weather shocks on mortality. The results of the study will show places in India that are currently sensitive to high and low temperatures. This information could be used by for an early warning system.

The release of India Climate Prospectus will be followed by a panel discussion wherein government officials and subject-matter experts will deliberate on some pressing questions on multi-layered impact of climate change on India.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

11:30 am–11:35 am

Welcome Remarks: Bala Srinivasan, Executive Vice President for Science and Innovation, Deputy Provost, and Chief International Officer, University of Chicago

11:35 am–11:50 am

Findings of India Climate Prospectus: Amir Jina, Assistant Professor at Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago

11:50 am–12:00 pm

Keynote Address: Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Jal Shakti

12:00 pm–1:00 pm

Panel Discussion: Impact of extreme weather events in India

1:00 pm–2:00 pm



The discussion centered on the importance of bringing innovative research ideas to the foreground of public policy discussion

Event Recap

The discussion centered on the importance of bringing innovative research ideas to the foreground of public policy discussion and leveraging them to effect change on the ground.

The panel comprised AK Rastogi, Chairman of Jharkhand Pollution Control Board; Michael Greenstone, Faculty Director at TCD at UChicago; Dr. Sudhir Nair, Professor of Surgical Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre, and Dr. Nishant Agrawal, Director of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology, University of Chicago Medicine.

The discussion was moderated by renowned television journalist Faye D’Souza.

It was an opportunity for TCD to showcase some of its work around industrial air pollution and early detection of oral cancer, which are guided by the objective of translating research into action on the ground.

TCD has been conducting and disseminating research on energy, environment, health, urban development and other developmental challenges in India, forging collaborations with government agencies and academic institutions.

Research to Scale-up: Engaging Indian Policy

Event Description

The Tata Centre for Development at UChicago hosted a panel discussion on the theme of ‘Research to Scale-up: Engaging Indian Public Policy’ on November 1 at the UChicago Center in Delhi during the celebration of University of Chicago’s fifth anniversary of the establishment of its Center in Delhi.

This one-day conference will bring together individuals and organisations working directly in India's informal settlements

Event Description

University of Chicago, Tata Centre for Development at UChicago and Pukar are jointly hosting a one-day conference on December 5, 2019 wherein policy and development experts will join us for a deliberation on housing rights, public health, infrastructure and women’s rights and inclusion.

Speakers, comprising an interesting mix from academia, the government and non-profits, will share their insights on how to improve the lives of India’s urban poor.

The participating organizations do on-the-ground activism and research on topics, including housing rights, access to basic services like water and electricity, and sanitation.


This one-and-a-half day conference brought together government officials, academicians from think tanks to discuss specific reforms that could be implemented to improve lives of urban poor

Event Recap

Improving lives of India's urban poor

“Slum dwellers often pay dramatically higher costs for basic services, which results in a so-called ‘poverty tax’, which affects social mobility and a range of socio-economic outcomes,” said Adam Chilton, Professor at University of Chicago Law School. He was sharing observations from a collaborative study with the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago at the conference.

In informal settlements, where there is no public provisioning of basic services, prices of electricity appear to be three times higher than market rates and water prices can be up to 100 times higher, Chilton argued. According to him, higher cost of basic services in slums leads residents to use less of those services than would be optimal. Washing hands with water after using toilets or before having food is not realistic.

Anup Malani, professor at University of Chicago Law School, who has been studying electricity market in Mumbai slums, showed an example of poverty tax. His initial observations suggest that household in a slum in Mumbai consumes around 80kwh of electricity per month. Electricity supply from a formal connection costs between INR 201 – 376. However, the residents end up paying between INR 1500-2000.

Telling the story of another informal settlement in Mumbai, Amita Bhide, Professor and Dean, School of Habitat Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Science, shared how systematic public under-provisioning is leading to significant out-of-pocket expenditure in Mumbai’s Cheeta camp, a large informal settlement with a population of about 80,000. There are 60 contractors, operating largely in this area, she observed.

While Professor Luis Bettencourt of Santa Fe Institute explained how his team analyses community maps, satellite imagery and municipal data from a dozen cities around the world to create a tool that allows local organisations to improve underserved urban neighborhoods, Anand Sahasranaman of KREA University observed that slums in larger cities in India have better access to basic services like water, toilet and electricity as opposed to the ones in smaller cities.

Richard Green of University of Southern California argued that the percentage of total internal migration in India between 2001-11 was much higher (3.82%) as compared to previous four decades. On a similar note, Amitabh Kundu of Research and Information System for Developing Countries observed a significant decline in proportion of urban population living in slums. “Only the slightly better-off and skilled people are migrating from rural to urban centres,” he stated.

Neelanjan Sircar of Centre for Policy Research shared insights on his study that looked into the question: why aren’t women entering the urban labour force in India? Ajay Shah of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy presented a case study on Chennai floods that is looking into the impact of disasters on urban poor who don’t have the financial resilience to deal with disasters.

Event Description

This conference will bring together government officials, policymakers, and leading academicians from think tanks and universities to discuss specific reforms that could be implemented to improve the lives of the urban poor. The conference would feature presentations on a range of research topics under the domain of urban policy as well as various government initiatives.Topics will include land rights reform, migration, labor markets, and the provision of basic services and amenities. The conference is held in collaboration with the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, PUKAR, Mumbai, and Tata Centre for Development.

Join us for the screening of 'Aayi Gayi', directed by Anandana Kapur and produced by Tata Centre for Development, on Jan 31 at India Habitat Centre

Event Description

In Bihar, where “Sarkar mera bada bhai hai…” (The government is my older brother) is the righteous response to why one may illegally acquire electricity connections or not pay bills, a team of academics work on the ground to activate RLSS, Revenue Linked Supply Scheme, and are met with various degrees of opposition and success.

The film explores the complex relationships people have with the State through the lens of electricity. Is it a right? Or is it a commodity? In a country with limited resources, can it be a social right if the government needs funds to keep the grid functional? And if so, can the normalization of non-payment of bills be reversed? Is it possible to create an ideal citizenry?

Aayi Gayi, which won at the 7th Woodpecker International Film Festival, also catalogues how one of the largest social science experiments is uncovering a systemic problem and solution to improve access to electricity.

This hour-long film, a collaborative project of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, India – EPIC-India and Tata Centre for Development at UChicago, explores the complex relationships people in Bihar have with the State through the lens of electricity. The screening is hosted by Kriti: a development praxis and communication team.

The screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A with the filmmaker, Anandana Kapur.