Development Projections: The World Bank in Calcutta in the 1970s

Abstract: This article studies the World Bank’s Calcutta Urban Development Project (CUDP) in the 1970s through the lens of institutional projection. Specifically, it focuses on the World Bank’s effort to strengthen the administrative capacity of the state of West Bengal as part of and as a condition for the success of urban development. The article critically engages with the characterization of the World Bank as an ‘anti-politics machine’ and argues that case of the CUDP shows that the organization, rather than trying to depoliticize India’s development problems, acknowledged the distinctly political nature of these problems and tried to solve them with managerial means.

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This essay studies how the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, or World Bank) carried out the Calcutta Urban Development Project (CUDP) in the 1970s in an effort to improve the region’s political and economic situation and, more generally, to spur India’s development. The World Bank engaged in the CUDP on two interconnected levels. Firstly, it provided money for large-scale infrastructure projects in the city and the metropolitan region of Calcutta. Secondly, the Bank aimed at rationalizing the work of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), which had been put in charge of the CUDP by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1970. In the eyes of the World Bank, the CMDA needed to become more efficient to be able to implement the ambitious urban development program. Toward that goal, the World Bank personnel tried to revise the organizational structures and administrative procedures of the CMDA.

It is the contemporary concern over the connection between public administrative structures and state capacity that links this essay to the overarching theme of technologies of state-ness. At the heart of the World Bank’s intervention was the perception that the state of West Bengal was dangerously weak, and that this weakness allowed for, and in parts created, the kinds of developmental problems observers identified in Calcutta: infrastructural decay, economic decline, poverty, disease, and political radicalism. The resulting image of the state of West Bengal was a study in contrast with the ideal type of the modern state many contemporaries had in mind and considered a necessary precondition for economic growth: a state that was proactive, rational, and efficient and that represented the interest of citizens who, through their economic contribution, had a right to tax-based public services. To help lay the basis for such a state in West Bengal, World Bank representatives tried to transfer some of their own organization’s managerial practices onto the CMDA, based on the belief that the structural reform of the CMDA along the norms of the bank was the most promising way of accelerating Calcutta’s, West Bengal’s, and India’s development.

To study the process through which the World Bank tried to anchor its administrative technologies in Calcutta, it is useful to work with the concept of institutional projection. Steven Heydemann and David C. Hammack employ the concept to analyze the work of internationally active philanthropic organizations. They argue that these organizations transfer their own norms and structures onto the recipients of aid, which have to adapt their administrative procedures to those defined as standards by the providers of aid. The goal of organizations practicing institutional projection is to make their counterparts more compatible with themselves on both a technical and ideational level, and thereby to exercise control over the ways in which the recipients behave so as to realize the interests and expectations connected to the projects.1 Such a goal clearly existed within the World Bank, whose president, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, in the 1970s was eager to “increase the Bank’s ability to influence the behavior of its borrowers.”2 India received the largest share of credits from the World Bank, yet its government’s decisions with regard to economic development were often not in line with Western international expectations.3 The United States, the most powerful member of the World Bank, was very critical of Indira Gandhi’s handling of the economic and financial situation of the country, her approach to the perceived population problem, her cooperation with the Soviet Union, and her ability to secure the country’s political stability.4 From the late 1960s on, the Nixon administration tried to use the World Bank to make its demands vis-à-vis New Delhi heard. McNamara, who wanted to strengthen the Bank’s profile as a development organization, countered Nixon’s attempts and used the organization to promote his own ideas about what development should look like and how it should be carried out.5 Against this political background, the case of the Calcutta Urban Development Program suggests itself to a critical analysis of the process of institutional projection in a development context.

The logic of institutional projection is closely related to the concept of institutional isomorphism, which emerged as part of the research on new institutionalism in the early 1980s. Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell argued, in 1983, that institutional isomorphism constitutes the process whereby one organization tries to force or entice another organization to adapt its own standards and procedures, thereby increasing the degree of homogeneity in the organizational structure of companies, bureaucracies, and nongovernmental and international organizations.6 In the 1990s, many scholars studying processes of globalization focused on mechanisms of diffusion and institutional convergence. However, in recent years the emphasis on the homogenizing effects of globalization has been challenged, and, relatedly, the concept of institutional isomorphism has been criticized for being overly focused on convergence while neglecting processes of divergence.7 In line with this critique, Heydemann and Hammack contest the assumption that institutional projection necessarily increases homogeneity among organizations, arguing: “Even where form and function seem to converge, content is often stubbornly resistant to change. . . . The experience of diffusion is not one of crowding out, as the local is displaced by the global, but of absorption, integration, layering, and, no less often, resistance.”8

This perspective challenges, at least in part, the understanding of the World Bank as an anti-politics machine, as anthropologist James Ferguson describes it in his study of the World Bank’s work in Lesotho in the 1970s and early 1980s. Ferguson argues that the Bank actively depoliticized problems like economic inequality, poverty, and conflicts over land by translating them into bureaucratic issues that could be solved with technical and administrative means. He writes that “the state . . . tends to appear as a machine for implementing ‘development’ programs, an apolitical tool for delivering social services and agricultural inputs and engineering economic growth.”9 Can we observe a similar trend in the case of the Calcutta Urban Development Project? Was the World Bank’s projection of institutional norms onto the CMDA an attempt to neutralize the political conflicts that characterized Calcutta and West Bengal in the late 1960s and 1970s? More generally, did the World Bank’s mission vis-à-vis the CMDA have the expected effects, and which obstacles did it encounter?

To respond to these questions, this essay first looks at the situation of Calcutta and West Bengal prior to the establishment of the CUDP and describes the World Bank’s view of India’s and Calcutta’s problems. It then follows the Bank’s decision to become active in the Calcutta project and the corresponding attempts to reform the CMDA. By looking at the Bank’s earlier experiences with developmental parastatals, the essay situates the case of the CUDP in the larger context of developmental interventions and institutional projections. The conclusion returns to the World Bank’s portrayal as an anti-politics machine, and places the Bank’s intervention in Calcutta in the changing history of development policies in the 1970s and 1980s.

Calcutta, “the World’s Most Decayed City”10

Before the World Bank became active in Calcutta in the early 1970s, the city had gained an international reputation for being in a state of rapid decline. The former basis of the British East India Company and the capital of British India (until 1911), and a hub of intellectual, cultural, political, and economic life in the region, after 1947, Calcutta increasingly became seen as dysfunctional and potentially dangerous. Its immensely negative image was mirrored in and contributed to the trope of the Asian city, which gained traction among Western observers through books like Gunnar Myrdal’s Asian Drama and Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, both of which appeared in 1968.11 As problematic as these and similar interpretations were in many ways, they did have an empirical basis insofar as Calcutta was confronted with a combination of very real and severe material problems. The city suffered from a chronic lack of basic infrastructure, its economically important harbor was continuously clogged, and the transport of goods and people within the city was difficult due to the lack of connections and bridges. Furthermore, Calcutta was home to a large and growing number of extremely poor inhabitants who lived in slums (bustees) under immensely difficult economic and hygienic conditions, with endemically high levels of disease and malnourishment. Finally, the city experienced the repeated outbreak of water-borne epidemics, especially cholera, which were difficult to bring under control.12

The roots of this enormous complex of problems reached back to the colonial period and the decolonization of India. Under British rule, the infrastructure of large parts of the city had been neglected, and urban development, apart from individual projects carried out under the 1911 Calcutta Improvement Act, had not taken place in a concerted way. The colonial legacy of spatial segregation—the designation of a so-called white town for Europeans and the Bengali upper class and a so-called black town for the other, multiethnic inhabitants—had contributed to this neglect and the growing inequality accompanying it.13 In the context of the subcontinent’s partition in 1947, which separated Bengal into Pakistani East Bengal and Indian West Bengal, Calcutta became a center of migration for Hindus fleeing Pakistan. The arrival of a large number of refugees put immense pressure on the already weak infrastructure of the city, and since urban planning did not figure prominently in overall development efforts in the early years of India’s independence, few resources were available for improvements.14 Furthermore, the economic, trade, and demographic relations that had long sustained Calcutta were cut off by partition, thereby isolating the city from the Bengali region and rendering it highly dependent on a degree of political regulation that was difficult to realize in the post-1947 situation.15

In those years, Calcutta and the state of West Bengal were considered notorious for their highly fragmented politics. Many Indian and international observers considered West Bengal “the ‘problem state’ of India,” unable to solve its capital’s problems due to “constant political crisis and economic strain since Independence.”16 From the point of view of conservative and liberal analysts alike, the problematic situation of West Bengal was also a result of the fact that the Communist Party of India, which had been very influential in Calcutta since the 1930s, particularly in the anticolonial movement, gained in importance and power after 1947, thereby challenging the hegemony of the Indian Congress Party, on whose ability to produce consensus a large part of India’s legitimacy as a new nation rested.17 Hence, the unquestionable need for urban development was closely connected to the perception that the state of West Bengal was weak, that it might be further weakened by radical politics, and that an external intervention was therefore necessary.

The first systematic efforts toward Calcutta’s urban development began in the early 1960s. A cholera epidemic had broken out in 1958, and several international organizations, including the World Health Organization and the World Bank, sent missions to Calcutta to study the city’s problems. In 1961, the West Bengal government established the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organisation (CMPO) and gave it the task to formulate a program for Calcutta’s development, especially with regard to its water-related infrastructure. Throughout the 1960s, the American Ford Foundation, which had been engaged in various development programs in India since the early 1950s, contributed to the CMPO’s efforts. A team of experts from India and the United States identified key challenges and worked on a highly differentiated master plan, which was completed in 1966.18 However, due to the complexity of the problems the city and the metropolitan region of Calcutta were experiencing, the plan by and large remained a theoretical exercise.19 Meanwhile, demographic growth, especially among the poor parts of the population and those considered to be members of the lower castes, was accelerating in Calcutta (as in India at large).20 Estimates talked about the city having 6.2 million inhabitants in 1960 compared to 3.5 million in 1948. In 1957 there were four thousand bustees in Calcutta and its metropolitan region, and at least 650,000 individuals were believed to be living on the city’s streets.21 Simultaneously, Calcutta’s economic potential was decreasing. Indian and international observers feared that together these developments might destabilize the state of West Bengal and the entire region neighboring Nepal, East Pakistan, and Burma.

Indeed, the political situation in West Bengal became increasingly turbulent in the second half of the 1960s. A United Front government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) came into power in West Bengal after the elections in 1967, when the Congress Party was defeated for the first time since independence.22 Many conservatives and liberals in India and abroad worried about the existence of a communist-led government, fearing that India’s democracy might come under existential pressure. Yet the United Front government showed signs of disintegration early on; and, in February 1968, it resigned, leading to a year-long state of President’s Rule during which the state government was dismissed and West Bengal was ruled by the Home Ministry in New Delhi. The next, democratically elected government lasted only a year before it, too, was dismissed, and President’s Rule was reinstated in March 1970.

What added to the political instability was the conflict in East Pakistan between the Pakistani military and the Bengali population, which erupted first into an immensely violent civil war and then into war when Bangladesh declared its independence and broke away from Pakistan. Due to the geographical proximity of Bangladesh and Pakistan, many Indians were afraid that the war would spill over to West Bengal. At the same time, the Naxalites, a peasant movement protesting unequal access to land based on an adaptation of Maoist thinking, were becoming more active in West Bengal and in Calcutta, staging protests and attacking police stations, which provoked brutal reactions from the government and the police.23 To avoid further radicalization of the city’s inhabitants and politics, and to prevent negative effects on “India’s national development effort,” many observers argued that Calcutta’s socioeconomic situation had to be stabilized quickly so that political and economic confidence would return.24

Right at the beginning of his tenure as World Bank president in 1968, Robert McNamara visited Calcutta, surrounded by strong anti-American protests related to the Vietnam War.25 During his visit, McNamara told the Indian and West Bengal governments that the Bank would be willing to support Calcutta’s urban development if the region’s conditions improved.26 Apart from a stable (that is, a noncommunist) government, it seemed crucial from the World Bank’s point of view to establish a more effective public administration to implement the urban development program, one that contained “a minimum of rational organization, administrative and managerial competence, fiscal control, planning, project evaluation, and self-help.”27 This goal seemed to be coming closer when the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) was founded in September 1970, during West Bengal’s second President’s Rule.

On the one hand, the situation presented a grave political challenge to the government in New Delhi as it showed that the Congress Party was no longer in control of the situation. On the other hand, the situation allowed the federal government to intervene and to regain control. Specifically, Indira Gandhi understood the establishment of President’s Rule in 1970 as an “opportunity to initiate well-planned and expeditiously executable massive development programmes in Calcutta.”28 To emphasize her government’s claim on bringing order to the city, she characterized the “Calcutta problem” as a “national problem.”29 Already in 1961, Nehru had called Calcutta’s problems “national problems.”30 Yet by 1970 the situation seemed much more urgent, and this urgency contained political potential on which Gandhi intended to capitalize. She initiated the establishment of the CMDA, which was given the task to formulate and execute development plans for Calcutta, to coordinate and supervise the execution of the plans, and to finance and carry out the related projects.31 The CMDA’s planners drew on the 1966 development plan produced by the CMPO and the Ford Foundation, including more than one hundred individual projects to be implemented by at least seventeen agencies.32

Trust in Structures: The World Bank’s Expectations toward the CMDA

Given their worries about the scale and intensity of Calcutta’s problems and the risks involved in trying to address them, representatives of the World Bank felt that the existence of the CMDA and the fact that it had been created during President’s Rule presented an advantage. The dismissal of the state government created “favorable circumstances” for the establishment of an authority that was supposed to coordinate the many different development projects foreseen in Calcutta.33 Furthermore, the CMDA, due to the extensive mission it was given by the government in New Delhi and the political signal its establishment was supposed to send, had broad executive powers, a high degree of administrative independence, and a large budget, which drew, in part, directly on the Indian Five Year Plan.34 With this set of paralegal functions, the CMDA constituted a parastatal organization: “A company, agency, or intergovernmental organization that possesses political clout and is separate from the government, but whose activities serve the state, either directly or indirectly.”35 The CMDA’s service was expected to be a direct one, both to the state of India and to the state of West Bengal.

From the World Bank’s perspective, the CMDA was immensely promising: “It could be defined as an ‘urban development finance company’ servicing a restricted clientele,” a staff member of the Bank noted, and continued: “This will be our first attempt to lend to an urban development authority which not only is empowered to borrow but has also been given responsibility for financing and supervising the execution of an entire program of urban infrastructure in a single city.”36 The confidence in the potential of the CMDA is notable. It seems to have been rooted in the Bank’s earlier experiences with infrastructure development projects like the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), which the World Bank co-financed with two large credits in the 1950s.37 The DVC was set up in 1948 to develop the Damodar river region in the states of West Bengal and Bihar (today’s Jharkhand). The origins of India’s first multipurpose river development project extended back to the late colonial period, when the British administration had started to consider building a system of dams to prevent floods like the one that had devastated the Damodar Valley in 1943.38 Whereas in earlier times, the British, in line with their ideal of indirect rule, had emphasized the responsibility of provincial administrations to carry out development projects, in the mid-1940s the tide turned in favor of a more centralized approach. The discussions preceding the DVC’s establishment mirrored the British effort to make a claim in the field of development. At a time when anticolonial protests were gaining in intensity and the British government was setting up an extensive welfare system at home, for the colonial administration to take on development tasks was seen as a promising strategy of securing legitimacy and stabilizing colonial rule.39 To develop the Damodar River Valley, colonial administrators argued that the new agency would need a high degree of flexibility so that it would not become entangled in political conflicts between the different administrative levels.40 The model that served as the organizational inspiration to the DVC was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).41

The TVA had been established by the US administration in 1933 to promote the socioeconomic development of the southeastern part of the United States by regulating and using the water resources of the region’s rivers, most notably through the building of dams that served the purpose of preventing floods and generating electric energy.42 In the context of the New Deal, the TVA was presented as a democratic model of development as opposed to the authoritarian development and modernization programs Japan, Germany, and Italy were conducting at the time.43 According to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the best way to address the problems of poverty and regional inequality in the United States was to create “a corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.”44 Hence, the TVA, while receiving federal grants, was granted wide-ranging powers, following the belief that too much governmental control was counterproductive and politically questionable in a liberal system.45 The Damodar Valley Corporation followed this model closely, both with regard to the understanding that the need for rapid infrastructure development called for a body that, to realize its responsibilities, needed a privileged status, and with regard to its organizational set-up.46 Furthermore, the TVA directly provided training and advice to Indian technicians and administrators working on the Damodar project.

The DVC was far from being a pure replica of the American project. Indian ministers and bureaucrats were not willing to accept all components of the TVA model, and party politics and vested interests produced a situation in which the DVC’s structure and work differed from its American counterpart.47 Nonetheless, the Damodar example shows how strong the belief was at the time that parastatals were the best possible form of organization to realize large-scale development projects. This belief was closely tied to the perception that it was the state’s role to plan, execute, and monitor the nation’s economic development, a belief McNamara shared.48 Although the World Bank documents on the Calcutta project do not contain direct references to the DVC or the TVA, it seems plausible that the Indian and international actors responsible for the founding of the CMDA had similar organizations in mind when designing the Calcutta authority. Similarly, many World Bank representatives lauded the CMDA’s establishment in its particular format because they were familiar with similar parastatal organizations. They shared the belief that it was beneficial to delegate national development responsibilities to such organizations, and they trusted that if the CMDA were improved it could provide an important service to the city and the region that the state of West Bengal was not able to provide on its own.

Due to the perception that the CMDA had the potential to become an organization that could take on those tasks the state of West Bengal was too weak or too disorganized to fulfill, the World Bank was eager to cooperate with it in implementing the Calcutta Urban Development Program. “While the 1960’s produced plans, there is today some basis for hope that the 1970’s will produce action,” as an internal World Bank report put it in 1972.49 Although the CUDP focused on Calcutta, the World Bank’s experts argued that its importance went far beyond the city per se: “We can participate in an approach which is concerned with the problem of the city in the context of the state and region.”50 This was in line with established World Bank rationale, according to which a project in a specific region was expected to have a multiplying effect in the rest of the country. Also, the CUDP promised an opportunity for the organization to gain experience in a field of increasing importance, seeing that cities and metropolitan regions were growing very rapidly in many parts of the world as a result of continuing migration from rural regions.51 During the presidencies of George Woods and Robert McNamara, the World Bank began to pay more systematic attention to rural and agricultural problems, but also development-related issues like housing, education, and health, reflecting a more integrated understanding of the reasons of poverty and regional inequality.52 The Bank’s decision to co-finance the Calcutta Urban Development Project reflected this new approach.

Strengthening the State by Reforming the CMDA: The World Bank’s Calcutta Experience

In August 1973, the International Development Association (IDA), which belonged to the World Bank group and gave loans at favorable conditions to the poorest countries, granted a credit of USD 35 million to the government of India for the CUDP.53 This amount covered 36 percent of the total estimated project cost. The credit was for a term of fifty years with a ten-year grace period. It did not cost the Indian government any interest but carried a service charge of 0.75 percent per annum.54 Until 1988, two more credits (CUDP II and CUDP III), together amounting to USD 234 million, were added. The Indian government was content to have succeeded in securing multilateral funds rather than having to engage in yet another bilateral agreement. The focus of the CUDP was on improving the city’s water supply, sewerage and drainage systems, garbage disposal, sanitation, roads and traffic, and the living and hygienic conditions in the slums which, by 1970, housed approximately one million individuals.55 Hopes ran high at the World Bank headquarters that the existence of the CMDA would allow the Bank to focus on policy issues relevant to promoting development in the direction its representatives considered beneficial.56

This brings us to the self-understanding of the World Bank at the time. The World Bank’s task was to grant credits for projects geared toward stimulating economic growth, which, as modernization theories of the time suggested, would foster sociopolitical progress in societies considered backward or underdeveloped. There was a distinct liberal anticommunist element to the Bank’s work, which in many ways mirrored American and Western political interests in the broader context of the Cold War.57 The World Bank’s profile and structure changed notably when Robert McNamara became president. For one, McNamara opted for a much more proactive approach to the Bank’s work, drastically increased its budget to allow for higher lending, internationalized the staff, and hired a large number of economists who were more focused on development issues than the earlier generation of bankers and engineers.58 Secondly, the organization was restructured in 1972, following recommendations by the consultancy firm McKinsey.59 McNamara wanted to replace the Bank’s older management style, which had prized “collective accountability, continuing interactions and comparatively uncodified policies,” with an organizational structure that relied on individual units to cater to specialized needs and divided responsibilities in an effort to increase efficiency.60 The new structure strengthened the position of the president and delegated responsibility for particular regions to individual divisions and departments, thereby giving the World Bank a profile that was similar to that of multinational companies.61

Whether the organizational changes taking place at the Bank’s headquarters and regional offices affected the CUDP directly is not discussed in the historical sources available. However, those working on the Calcutta project were acutely aware of the relevance of organizational and management structures as part of a professionalization process and believed that their related expertise could improve the work of the CMDA.62 One of the earliest expressions of this dynamic was the World Bank’s internal discussion of the Calcutta project and its relation to the CMDA. In 1972, a year before the project started, the Bank expected that “we would lend to the CMDA and the CMDA would disburse and supervise the use of our funds. The CMDA would act on our behalf and would be required to report on the progress of our disbursements and take necessary corrective action as it is empowered to do to ensure that the work is carried out according to plan.”63 In other words, the World Bank, by granting credits to the CMDA, would become the overseer of the CMDA’s work, and thus gain influence over the ways in which the organization coordinated and executed the various development projects. Responsibility for project implementation would remain with the CMDA as the executive agency, while the World Bank could keep an arm’s length from any potential conflicts arising in the process among the Indian representatives. The success of this model depended on the functioning of the CMDA according to the World Bank’s standards and expectations.

A 1973 World Bank memorandum stated that “apart from the effectiveness of the present development effort by the CMDA, it is the prospect for progressive institutional strengthening which justifies our involvement in Calcutta’s urban development at the present time.” Therefore, it seemed essential that the CMDA planned and conducted “fiscal reforms necessary to ensure that in the long term the cost of operating improved services in the Metropolitan District be, as far as possible, borne by the ultimate beneficiaries.”64 This statement suggests that World Bank representatives believed that repairing and improving Calcutta’s physical infrastructure was not sufficient. In their eyes, the decay of the city reflected the dysfunctionality of the municipal and state administrations; hence, what seemed necessary was a more general development effort geared at “institution building.”65 In the eyes of the World Bank personnel, this meant turning the administrations on the local, regional, and state levels into units that had the capacity to provide services to the inhabitants, foster socioeconomic development, and plan for the future.

Specifically, yet somewhat generically, the Bank wanted to see “progress in the implementation of measures to strengthen operations and finance of urban services in the Metropolitan District.”66 Conditionality had been part of World Bank projects for a long time, of course (and one the very poor countries had been struggling with and criticized the Bank for), yet the focus on reforming administrative structures indicated a new, institutional form of interventionism on part of the World Bank. Most importantly, the World Bank promoted what it considered the “progressive rationalization” of the CMDA.67 McNamara had carried out similar efforts within the Bank when he took over the organization’s presidency. He had new accounting, budgeting, and planning mechanisms installed, and he introduced new programming formats to render lending more coherent and efficient.68 With regard to the CMDA executive, the World Bank wanted to see the professional capacities of the CMDA improved—another parallel to the Bank’s internal reform under McNamara’s leadership. In 1973, the executive corps of the CMDA consisted of fewer than thirty individuals, most of whom were considered well qualified because they had received professional training outside of India with the help of the Ford Foundation in the 1960s. Yet even thirty qualified individuals could not carry out the immense tasks the CMDA was responsible for, so more personnel had to be recruited and trained.69 The Ford Foundation, which had been providing professional education, especially in fields like public administration, to elites from Asian, African, and Latin American countries since the 1950s, promised support in offering training which, implicitly, would be in line with the expectations of the World Bank toward professional qualification and the normative elements this involved.70

Furthermore, the complicated structure of the CMDA executive seemed to present an obstacle to the perceived need to streamline the organization’s work.71 World Bank staff recommended an organizational structure that was more focused on thematic responsibilities and allowed for a leaner decision-making and execution process similar to that of the Bank.72 Sectoral task groups were established, each of which had its own planning and financial units and was responsible for its own administration. Also, planning, finance, and service departments were set up that reported directly to the CMDA secretary. While the World Bank was satisfied with these organizational measures, it criticized that there was “no single full time chief executive” overseeing the work of the CMDA.73 The secretary shared responsibility with the technical advisor, which created a dual structure within the executive. According to the World Bank, this format was largely due to pressure from the engineers in the West Bengal government who feared that their professional and institutional concerns would not receive sufficient attention from the secretary, who was an administrator, not an engineer.74 This case suggests that while the CMAD had been established in a top-down process, there were limits to the influence the federal and the state governments could exercise over the functioning of the organization, especially once it had been approved by the newly elected West Bengal legislature in 1972 and thereby gained democratic legitimacy and responsibility.75

Apart from the organizational structure of the CMDA, World Bank officials believed that new administrative mechanisms should be installed, most importantly in the fields of reporting, monitoring, forecasting, and procurement. The monitoring and reporting procedures were supposed to increase the accountability of both the CMDA and the agencies carrying out the different projects. Notably, neither the government of India in New Delhi nor the CMDA officials in Calcutta agreed to all of the World Bank’s demands in this regard. For example, while the Bank expected that contracts for the largest water, sewerage, and bridge-building projects would be tendered internationally, the Indian government flatly rejected this demand. New Delhi officials were not willing to tolerate a higher degree of intervention into Indian economic policies and decisions than they considered absolutely necessary. In their view, Indian companies should be benefitting from development projects whenever possible, not least in the interest of reducing the balance of payment deficit from which the country had been suffering for many years. Interestingly, the World Bank accepted the position of the Indian government on this issue and excepted several large projects from its condition of international bidding.76

Similarly, the World Bank did not succeed entirely in its efforts to increase taxation levels in order to provide the city with the financial basis to cover the costs for the improvements. Taxation in Calcutta and West Bengal was very low compared to other cities and regions of India. For example, whereas Bombay’s per capita tax revenue in 1963–1964 had been fifty-four rupees, for Calcutta it had been only twenty rupees; here the World Bank saw considerable room for improvement, arguing that more income could be generated, which, in turn, could be invested into the city’s economic revival.77 Seeing that the provision of clean water was one of the main elements of the CUDP, charging the inhabitants for the water they consumed seemed to be reasonable from an economic and financial point of view. Yet a large number of those who were supposed to be benefitting from the water schemes were the inhabitants of Calcutta’s slums, who “in effect pay for water through the land tax paid by their landlords.” The city council feared the “political consequences” of introducing individual user charges and thus abstained from this step to avoid protests that could rekindle the radical demands on the part of the communists.78

These cases show that while the World Bank experts and advisors identified specific problems (for example, a lack of state income) and suggested particular solutions they considered beneficial (for example, privatizing the costs of water consumption), translating them into reality was much more difficult than expected. The unequal power structure between donor and recipient did not necessarily result in a one-sided, linear homogenization process but left room for the CMDA personnel to adopt some of the World Bank’s demands for change and reject others that were not in line with their economic principles and political priorities. Notably, many of Calcutta’s inhabitants were highly critical of the CMDA’s work and their encounters with government officials. This was especially true of the poor, who felt that their problems were not taken seriously by the CMDA engineers. As the president of the South Calcutta Bustee Improvement Society described it in a 1976 letter to World Bank president McNamara: “C.M.D.A. always looks at official angle and some officers think themselves as versatile [sic] genius and capable of doing all sorts of jobs. These ideas would be abandoned and proper man should be placed in proper place to get the work done quickly and efficiently.”79 Hence, the CMDA was perceived as being out of touch with the realities of Calcutta life. This critique did not go unnoticed in the World Bank headquarters. Some staff members indicated that they were aware that their understanding of Calcutta was not necessarily complete or objective.80 Others critically observed that the Bank encouraged an engineering mentality that prized technical achievements but paid little attention to the particularities of social life.81 At least to some degree, the original trust in the need for and efficiency of a central authority in charge of the development program was challenged over the course of the project. While the political situation in Calcutta and West Bengal in the early 1970s had seemed so fragile that a central, hierarchically organized decision-making apparatus appeared to be the best option, by the early 1980s some favored more de-centralized structures for urban management.82


In 1977, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other Left Front parties won the West Bengal elections and were continuously re-elected until 2011. The government carried out land reforms and promoted antipoverty measures, yet its dogmatic bent of the 1960s gave way to more pragmatic approaches. Some scholars even argue that the Left Front government turned toward “increasingly neoliberal strategies of economic growth,” in the sense that it gave up its opposition to foreign investment and began to embrace privatization strategies based on recommendations of consultancy firms like Price Waterhouse and McKinsey.83 Whether the World Bank’s interventions have supported this alleged trend is difficult to determine. Undoubtedly, though, the World Bank contributed to shaping the political situation of the region in the sense that it stepped in at a crucial point in time and contributed to anchoring the CMDA and the political goals associated with it in the political landscape of West Bengal.

The assumption of the World Bank staff that Calcutta’s crisis could have political consequences far beyond the city’s location was what drove the organization’s decision to intervene in the early 1970s. The Bank thus aimed to help the state of West Bengal regain control over the city’s development through “a combination of new financial resources and new institutional capacity for concerted action” in a direction that the Bank and the government of India considered beneficial.84 Since the state of West Bengal did not seem to be capable of guaranteeing the success of the Calcutta development project because it did not appear to have enough power over the CMDA, it was in the World Bank’s interest to improve the organization so that the CUDP could be carried out successfully. Thus, in the eyes of the Bank, the CUDP was much more than an urban development project: it was an exercise in state-building through the administrative reform of a parastatal.

Does the latter observation imply that the World Bank, by focusing on administrative issues, tried to depoliticize the challenges Calcutta, West Bengal, and India were facing at the time, and functioned as an antipolitics machine? It does not, I would argue. The Bank became active in Calcutta because its leadership recognized the intensely political character of the city’s problems and tried to promote development in order to prevent further radicalization and destabilization of the region. The instruments it used in the first years of its involvement were predominantly organizational ones that focused on administrative issues. This implied that problems like environmental degradation, epidemics, lack of education, and health care were interpreted as the result of the lack of control the state of West Bengal had over Calcutta. However, while there was a distinct technocratic element to the CUDP, terms like “anti-political” are misleading in this context, as is the image of the World Bank as a “machine.”

The World Bank’s interpretation of and approach to solving Calcutta’s problems was far from antipolitical, and it did not function as an automated device that blindly turned development problems into administrative ones. Robert McNamara and his staff clearly understood the specific nature of Calcutta’s problems, and the decision to commit the Bank’s financial and organizational resources to the CUDP was in itself a highly political one. It was based on the perception that poverty and lack of economic growth were, at least in part, caused by a lack of state power, and that the state had to be strengthened to be able to control the potentially destructive effects of these phenomena. Thus, the Bank was an arbiter not only of financial credits but also of a particular kind of expertise that used administrative tools to affect the political change considered necessary to make the credits a good investment. Yet, in doing so, the World Bank functioned neither as a black box isolated from the broader political context nor as a robot mechanically dealing with development problems in a predetermined fashion. The Bank was an actor in a highly interdependent environment; it reacted to social and political changes and shaped its responses accordingly. Its representatives understood their organization not as a replacement of the state but rather as an agency that had at its disposal the means to consolidate and increase the capacity of the state in a way that was in line both with the World Bank’s and the Indian political elite’s normative assumptions of what made a state a state. To achieve this goal, they focused on the CMDA; their expectation toward the parastatal organization was strongly influenced by their professional and generational experiences.

The fact that Indian actors opposed some of the efforts by the World Bank and criticized the CMDA for not paying attention to the problems they considered crucial shows how important it is to look not only at statements of intention but also at the practice of institutional projection. The resistance the World Bank encountered within the CMDA and the Indian political arena at large against the efforts to project the Bank’s interests and standards onto the CMDA did not go unnoticed. They initially met with anger and frustration but later led to a reassessment and adjustment of the Bank’s practices. To avoid an interpretation that overestimates the power of the World Bank, it is indispensable to include these relational dynamics in the analysis of institutional projection processes. This is also important for understanding the position of the Calcutta project in the larger history of development and perceptions of the state.

The World Bank’s focus on reforming the CMDA to increase West Bengal’s state capacity was one of the last expressions of a development policy that prioritized centralized, state-directed development. After a period of about three decades in which the state had been seen as the primary driver of development, the trust in its capacities diminished rapidly at the end of the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, parastatals the World Bank had helped to fund in earlier years would become the object of structural adjustment measures that were geared at de-centralizing and de-regulating development programs. The new approach was based on the perception that the states to which the parastatals were delivering their services were not in control of the development process because they had grown much too large and were riddled with corruption. In the 1980s and 1990s, good governance became one of the key terms of international development efforts.85

The case of the World Bank’s attempts to project its own institutional norms onto the CMDA demonstrates that concepts like good governance and structural adjustment did not suddenly arrive in the 1980s.86 Some of them grew out of the World Bank’s internal interests and its attempts to find new approaches to large-scale spending.87 Others, as this essay has shown, were the result of experiences the World Bank made in countries like India and in the context of projects like the CUDP. The Bank’s lending was never unconditional; it always implied expectations of the borrowers and was always influenced by normative assumptions about the structures and practices that would produce the best possible results from the point of view of economic growth and political stability. What changed over time was the meaning good governance had, implicitly or explicitly, in the view of organizations like the World Bank, and the ways in which this view was tied to the interpretation of the role of the state in development and the technologies required to fulfill this role.


I am grateful to Vincent Lagendijk, Nehal Bhuta, Guy Sinclair, Gaurav Garg, and Humanity’s reviewers for their valuable comments and advice.

  1. Steven Heydemann and David C. Hammack, “Philanthropic Projections: Sending Institutional Logics Abroad,” in Globalization, Philanthropy, and Civil Society: Projecting Institutional Logics Abroad, ed. David C. Hammack and Steven Heydemann (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2009), 3–31, 6–7.
  2. Patrick Allan Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War: The World Bank and International Development (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 128. Also see Heydemann and Hammack, “Philanthropic Projections,” 46–47.
  3. One of the earliest expressions of this concern was the report of a World Bank mission to India in 1958 that criticized the Indian emphasis on a planned economy and called for larger public and private investments into agriculture. Francine Frankel, India’s Political Economy, 1947–1977: The Gradual Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), 269–72.
  4. See, among others, John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), chap. 8; Kristin L. Ahlberg, “‘Machiavelli with a Heart’: The Johnson Administration’s Food for Peace Program in India, 1965–1966,” Diplomatic History 31 no. 4 (September 2007): 665–701; Frankel, India’s Political Economy, 393–95.
  5. Patrick Sharma, “The United States, the World Bank, and the Challenges of International Development in the 1970s,” Diplomatic History 37, no. 3 (June 2013): 576–77, 581–82.
  6. Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” American Sociological Review 48, no. 2 (April 1983): 147–60. Also see Walter W. Powell and Paul J. DiMaggio, eds., The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).
  7. See Jens Beckert, “Institutional Isomorphism Revisited: Convergence and Divergence in Institutional Change,” Sociological Theory 28, no. 2 (June 2010): 150–66.
  8. Heydemann and Hammack, “Philanthropic Projections,” 4–5.
  9. James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 65–66, 255–56 (quote 65). For similar interpretations, see Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), chap. 3; David Mosse, Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice (London: Pluto Press, 2005), chap. 2; Richard Rottenburg, Weit hergeholte Fakten: Eine Parabel der Entwicklungshilfe (Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius, 2002); Franco Moretti and Dominique Pestre, “Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports,” New Left Review 92 (March/April 2015): 75–99, 91, 93.
  10. Arthur H. House to Jochen Kraske, April 13, 1972. World Bank Group Archives (WBGA), Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  11. On the colonial roots of the notion of the Asian city, see, among others, Swati Chattopadhyay, Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism, and the Colonial Uncanny (London: Routledge, 2005), chap. 1, esp. 62–68. Also see Thomas Robertson, The Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012), chap. 5.
  12. See Corinna R. Unger, “The Calcutta Urban Development Project: From Slum Clearance to Slum Improvement,” in Transplanting Modernity? New Histories of Poverty, Development, and Environment, ed. Jenny Leigh Smith and Thomas R. Robertson (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019 under review).
  13. On urban spatial segregation in colonial settings, see, among others, Stephen Legg, Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities (Malden, UK: Blackwell, 2007), chap. 2; William J. Glover, Making Lahore Modern: Constructing and Imagining a Colonial City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 48–57.
  14. See Joya Chatterji, The Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–1967 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 119–23, 132–33, 141–44; Romola Sanyal, “Displaced Borders: Shifting Politics of Squatting in Calcutta,” in Urbanizing Citizenship: Contested Spaces in Indian Cities, ed. Renu Desai and Romola Sanyal (New Delhi: Sage, 2012), 212–28; Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh, The Partition of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 115–17.
  15. See Chatterji, Spoils of Partition, 238–47.
  16. Inci Ak Ozusta, Calcutta and its Hinterland, Part I, October 18, 1972, 4. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  17. Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, Decolonization in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-Independence West Bengal, 1947–52 (London: Routledge, 2009), chap. 4; Manali Desai, “West Bengal,” in Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics, ed. Atul Kohli and Prerna Singh (London: Routledge, 2013), 291–97. On the different Indian communist groups and parties, see Vijay Singh, “Some Strategies of Indian Communists after 1947,” in India in the World since 1947: National and Transnational Perspectives, ed. Andreas Hilger and Corinna R. Unger (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2012), 99–119.
  18. Corinna R. Unger, Entwicklungspfade in Indien: Eine internationale Geschichte, 1947–1980 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015), 230–34.
  19. Arthur H. House to Kenneth Bohr, May 5, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  20. On the contemporary perception of and debates about India’s alleged population problem, see Robertson, Malthusian Moment, chap. 4; Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), chap. 6; Marc Frey, “Neo-Malthusianism and Development: Shifting Interpretations of a Contested Paradigm,” Journal of Global History 6, no. 1 (March 2011): 75–97; Mohan Rao, From Population Control to Reproductive Health: Malthusian Arithmetic (New Delhi: Sage, 2004), 38–44.
  21. Guha, India after Gandhi, 104–5; Maitreyi Bardhan Roy, Calcutta Slums: Public Policy in Retrospect (Calcutta: Minerva Associates, 1994), 16; The Times of India, “Improving Slums of Calcutta: Union Minister’s Scheme,” April 20, 1957; Ford Foundation, Docket Excerpt, Board of Trustees Meeting, June 22–23, 1961. Rockefeller Archive Center, Ford Foundation, Reel 2545, Grant 61–233, Section 1.
  22. Bidyut Chakrabarty, Indian Politics and Society since Independence: Events, Processes and Ideology (London: Routledge, 2008), 113–16; Desai, “West Bengal,” 292. For a contemporary analysis of the communist parties in West Bengal in the 1960s and early 1970s, see John Osgood Field and Marcus F. Franda, The Communist Parties of West Bengal (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1974).
  23. Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (New York: Ecco, 2007), 423–24, 426–27, 449–53; Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, and Aditya Mukherjee, India since Independence (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2008 (2000), 302–08.
  24. R. M. Westebbe and K. Mera, A Note on Calcutta’s Urbanization Problems and Prospects, January 30, 1970, 23. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.” Also see World Bank, Urban Projects Department, Background Studies of the Calcutta Metropolitan District, July 30, 1973, 10. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  25. Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 40.
  26. Arthur H. House to Kenneth Bohr, May 5, 1972; Gregory B. Votaw to Arthur House, May 19, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I”; Ford Foundation, Urban Planning, Poverty and Governance: The Ford Foundation 1952–2002 (New Delhi: Ford Foundation, 2002), 15.
  27. Arthur H. House to Kenneth Bohr, May 5, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  28. Prime Minister’s Secretariat, Economic Development of West Bengal, April 1, 1970. National Archives of India, New Delhi, Prime Minister’s Office, 17/941/70-PMS. I owe this quote to Gaurav Churiwala Garg.
  29. “Special Scheme for Slum Clearance in Calcutta,” The Times of India, May 13, 1970. Also see World Bank, Report and Recommendation of the President to the Executive Directors on a Proposed Credit to the Government of India for the Calcutta Urban Development Project, August 1, 1973, 6. WBGA, Box 78597, Folder “IDA Project: Calcutta Urban Development Project”: “GOI [Government of India] recognised the need for urgent action, but only after the introduction of President’s rule on the dissolution of West Bengal legislature in 1970 was GOI in a position to intervene directly.”
  30. Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization, Basic Development Plan for the Calcutta Metropolitan District 1966–1986 (Calcutta: Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization, 1966). Thanks to Gaurav Churiwala Garg for pointing out this reference.
  31. World Bank, Urban Projects Department, Appraisal of the Calcutta Urban Development Project, May 9, 1973, Annex 6, 1. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  32. Arthur H. House to Kenneth Bohr, May 23, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  33. Timothy King to Edward B. Cunningham, March 1, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  34. Arthur H. House to Jochen Kraske, April 13, 1972; Gregory B. Votaw to J. Burke Knapp, May 2, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  35. Wikipedia, s.v. “parastatal,” accessed September 28, 2017, For a historical analysis of a parastatal across several regime changes, see Marc Frey, “Doctrines and Practices of Agrarian Development: The Case of the Office du Niger in Mali,” Comparativ 27, no. 2 (2017): 15–34. For the contemporary discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of parastatals in the food sector, see Steve McCorriston and Donald MacLaren, “Food Security, Welfare, and Partial De-regulation of Parastatals,” Oxford Economic Papers 68, no. 3 (July 2016): 836–56.
  36. Kenneth A. Bohr to Robert Sadove, May 26, 1972. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  37. See David C. Engerman, The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 66–69.
  38. See Robert Laporte, Jr., “Intergovernmental Change in India: Politics and Administration of the Damodar Valley Scheme,” Asian Survey 8, no. 9 (September 1968): 748–60, 749–52.
  39. Rohan D’Souza, “Damming the Mahandi River: The Emergence of Multi-Purpose River Valley Development in India (1943–46),” in Environment, Development and Society in Contemporary India: An Introduction, ed. Archana Prasad (Delhi: Macmillan India, 2008), 88–108, 100. Also see Paul Kelemen, “Planning for Africa: The British Labour Party’s Colonial Development Policy, 1920–1964,” Journal of Agrarian Change 7, no. 1 (2007): 76–98; Rohland Schuknecht, British Colonial Development Policy after the Second World War: The Case of Sukumaland, Tanganyika (Berlin: Lit, 2010), 89–91.
  40. D’Souza, “Damming the Mahandi River,” 91–93; Suranjit Kumar Saha, “River-Basin Planning in the Damodar Valley of India,” Geographical Review 69, no. 3 (July 1979): 273–87, 274.
  41. See Daniel Klingensmith, “Building India’s ‘Modern Temples’: Indians and Americans in the Damodar Valley Corporation, 1945–1960,” in Regional Modernities: The Cultural Politics of Development in India, ed. K. Shivaramakrishnan and Arun Agrawal (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), 122–42; D’Souza, “Damming the Mahanadi River,” 91.
  42. Haines, “(Inter)Nationalist Rivers?” 137; D’Souza, “Damming the Mahanadi River,” 89–91.
  43. See David Ekbladh, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).
  44. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Message to Congress Suggesting the Tennessee Valley Authority,” April 10, 1933. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project,
  45. Ekbladh, Great American Mission, 62.
  46. Saha, “River-Basin Planning,” 278; Laporte, “Intergovernmental Change in India,” 749.
  47. Klingensmith, “Building India’s ‘Modern Temples,’” 134–37. Also see Laporte, “Intergovernmental Change in India.”
  48. D’Souza, “Damming the Mahanadi River,” 100; Guy Fiti Sinclair, To Reform the World: The Legal Powers of International Organizations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 243–45, 254.
  49. K. A. Bohr, A. House, R. Woodford to Robert Sadove, September 12, 1972, 3. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  50. D. A. Strombom to Robert Sadove, April 11, 1972, 11. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  51. Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 64–65; Stephen Macekura, Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 153.
  52. Martha Finnemore, “Redefining Development at the World Bank,” in International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays on the History and Politics of Knowledge, ed. Frederick Cooper and Randall Packard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 203–27; Catherine Gwin, “U.S. Relations with the World Bank, 1945–1992,” in Devesh Kapur, John P. Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), 195–274, 211, 213–15; Verena Kröss, Becmoing a Big Player: The World Bank in the 1960s and 1970s. PhD dissertation, Jacobs University Bremen, 2019; Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 116–26.
  53. On IDA see Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 15–16; Edward S. Mason and Robert E. Asher, The World Bank since Bretton Woods (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1973), chap. 12.
  54. IDA, Press Release No. 73/72, August 16, 1973. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  55. Unger, Entwicklungspfade, 248.
  56. Kenneth A. Bohr to Robert Sadove, May 26, 1972, 3. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  57. According to David Milobsky and Louis Galambos, the Bank’s work was initially characterized by three elements: “One was dominated by a sense of social mission, a powerful ideological commitment to improving the world through public-sector economic programs; another was the banking culture framed in terms of prudent fiscal behavior; a third embraced a technical approach to problem-solving and project-design in all of the works supported by the World Bank Group.” David Milobsky and Louis Galambos, “The McNamara Bank and Its Legacy, 1968–1987,” Business and Economic History 24, no. 2 (Winter 1995): 169–95, 170–71. Also see Michele Alacevich, The Political Economy of the World Bank: The Early Years (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), 17; Amy L. S. Staples, The Birth of Development: How the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Health Organization Changed the World (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 2006), 8–10, 22–23, 29, 35, 39; Gwin, “U.S. Relations,” 196, 204–5.
  58. Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 29–32, 36, 41–42.
  59. Ibid., 51.
  60. Quoted in Louis Galambos and David Milobsky, “Organizing and Reorganizing the World Bank, 1946–1972: A Comparative Perspective,” The Business History Review 69, no. 2 (Winter 1995): 156–90, 185.
  61. Galambos and Milobsky, “Organizing and Reorganizing the World Bank,” 176–83; Christopher D. McKenna, The World’s Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 188; Finnemore, “Redefining Development,” 213; Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 51–52.
  62. DiMaggio and Powell consider professionalization efforts one of the key sources of normative pressures toward institutional isomorphism. DiMaggio and Powell, “Iron Cage Revisited,” 152–53.
  63. Kenneth A. Bohr to Robert Sadove, May 26, 1972, 3. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  64. Jochen Kraske to Mervyn L. Weiner, May 30, 1973, 4. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.” Also see Jochen Kraske to M.S. Shroff, March 15, 1973. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  65. Jochen Kraske to Mervyn L. Weiner, February 26, 1973, 1. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.” Also see K. A. Bohr, India: Calcutta Urban Development Project. Board Presentation, August 14, 1973, 2. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  66. K. A. Bohr, India: Calcutta Urban Development Project. Board Presentation, August 14, 1973, 2. Also see Jochen Kraske to M.S. Shroff, March 15, 1973, 1. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  67. K. A. Bohr, A. House, R. Woodford to Robert Sadove, September 12, 1972, 7. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. I.”
  68. Sinclair, To Reform the World, 241–42; Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 43–46.
  69. World Bank, Urban Projects Department, Appraisal of the Calcutta Urban Development Project, May 9, 1973, Annex 6, 2–3. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports”; Jochen Kraske to M.S. Shroff, March 15, 1973. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  70. On the Ford Foundation’s training programs, see Corinna R. Unger, “The United States, Decolonization and the Education of Third World Elites,” in Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century, ed. Jost Dülffer and Marc Frey (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 241–61, 250–51.
  71. Jochen Kraske to Mervyn L. Weiner, February 26, 1973, 2–3. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  72. Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 46–47.
  73. D.A. Strombom, Status of Project, February 21, 1975, 6. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. IV,” 3.
  74. Ibid., 4.
  75. World Bank, Urban Projects Department, Appraisal of the Calcutta Urban Development Project, May 9, 1973, Annex 6, 1. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  76. Jochen Kraske to M. S. Shroff, March 15, 1973, 5. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.”
  77. R. M. Westebbe and K. Mera, A Note on Calcutta’s Urbanization Problems and Prospects, January 30, 1970, 11. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  78. R. M. Westebbe and K. Mera, A Note on Calcutta’s Urbanization Problems and Prospects, January 30, 1970, 17. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, Agreements and Bank Reports.” Also see Jean Racine, “Calcutta’s Bustees: The Magnitude of the Problem and the Development Policy,” in Calcutta 1981: The City, its Crisis and the Debate on Urban Planning and Development, ed. Jean Racine (New Delhi: South Asia Books, 1990), 314–25; Roy, Calcutta Slums, 4.
  79. R. S. Paul to Robert McNamara, December 10, 1976. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 756 IN, vol. II.”
  80. Kenneth A. Bohr to K. C. Sivaramkrishnan, August 8, 1973. WBGA, Box 78595B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN, Vol. II.” Bohr wrote: “I must confess to being a bit awed by the results of our efforts. The report and its annexes seems [sic] to give the impression that we actually know something about the CMD! Under the pressures and requirements of this institution the written material tends to take on a life of its own. I recognize this danger and only hope that we have managed to convey as realistic a view of the situation as we feel we have.” Ibid.
  81. World Bank, Operations Evaluation Department, Project Performance Audit Memorandum: India: First Calcutta Urban Development Project (Credit 427-IN), June 30, 1982, 13–14. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN—Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  82. Mary Choksi to Kenneth Bohr, February 2, 1982. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “IDA Project: Calcutta Urban Development Project.”
  83. Desai, “West Bengal,” 292 (quote), 295.
  84. World Bank, Operations Evaluation Department, Project Performance Audit Memorandum: India: First Calcutta Urban Development Project (Credit 427-IN), June 30, 1982, 6. WBGA, Box 78597B, Folder “India—Credit 427 IN—Agreements and Bank Reports.”
  85. See, among others, Sharma, Robert McNamara’s Other War, 113–14, and chap. 7; Corinna R. Unger, International Development: A Postwar History (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), chap. 8.
  86. Sinclair, To Reform the World, 203, 216–18.
  87. See Patrick Sharma, “Bureaucratic Imperatives and Policy Outcomes: The Origins of World Bank Structural Adjustment Lending,” Review of International Political Economy 20, no. 4 (August 2013): 667–86.



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