The Politics of Participation: A Study of Water Users Associations in Western India

@ATREE auditorium at 3.45 pm on 17th October 2016


The research examines the transformation process in irrigation sector in post independent India arguing for the participation of the farmers for effective management and equitable distribution of water. The study used a qualitative approach to collect the data and understand how social and economic inequalities shape the formation and functioning of the newly emerging institutions such as Water Users Associations (WUAs) in India particularly Maharashtra. The study argues that the irrigation reforms introduced in India, regarding the formation of Water Users Associations’(WUAs) in the irrigation sector, does not challenge the existing pattern of domination if anything it leads to greater domination by the farmers belonging to dominant caste in local village politics. However, the functioning of WUAs did create a rupture in the caste domination particularly for the farmers from non-dominant caste and class groups to negotiate and maintain their access to canal water. But even this rupture is not uniform for all the farmers from non-dominate caste and class groups particularly been less favorable to the lower caste groups such as Dalits and tribal farmers in the village. It is this limited sense of rupture achieved by the WUA that is eventually leading to new social formations in the village gradually affecting the larger politics of the village. The key lesson learned is that it is important to recognize the social and economic heterogeneity among the farmers to achieve just, effective and sustainable governance of water resources.

About the speaker

I am currently a researcher in the Department of Faculty and Research at the Indian School of Business(ISB), in Hyderabad, India. My current research examines the complexities affecting the process of building community institutions regulating the distribution and use of groundwater among the farmers in rural parts of Telangana, India. Before starting as a researcher, I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of International Development, School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex (UoS), in the United Kingdom (UK). My research examined how social and economic inequalities shape the formation and functioning of the newly emerging Water Users Associations in India. It thereby makes an attempt to understand the limitations of the paradigm of Participatory Governance in rural parts of India. Besides research, I have also done teaching at Sussex for undergraduate level, as well as work at the administrative office at the University. Before moving to Sussex, I was at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, where I studied for an MPhil and MA in Political Science. My research interest includes common pool resources, institutionalism, the process of liberalisation and accessibility to water in the rural areas, local governance, and rural economy.