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Reversed Realities in Rural Water Supply in India
 

Reversed Realities in Rural Water Supply in India

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STEPS Water & Sanitation Symposium 2011

STEPS Water & Sanitation Symposium 2011

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  • M.Phil research conducted in 2008-2009 in the state of Uttar Pradesh, IndiaOn rural Drinking water supply programme called Swajaldhara (own water)National level programme since 2002-2009 when policy revisions.
  • Dublin principles are deeply contested but the aim of the presentation is not to look at those contestation but analyse a process.Water democracy
  • Bhartaul and Chaneta are the two villages where the tank is in an operational state though intermittent. An overhead tank has been constructed in the village which supplies water to the people. It is a mini-pipe water scheme where people have taken tap connections in the houses. The source of the water is groundwater. Bareilly has a severe problem of water quality in the main city and the region as well; people tend to complain of poor quality of water.Bhartaul: closest village habitation to the city.Most of the people are agricultural labourers and some run small shops in the city or the village itself. The village has one primary school and one is under construction.The main source of drinking water, prior to the scheme was the India mark hand pump that is supplied by the Jal Nigam; the water comes from 100 feet below the surface.The poor households even today, continue to rely on the pumps or the normal hand pumps, which provide water from 40 feet below the surface level. This water has serious quality problems.
  • intermittent water supplyand supply line faults occurring successively, the village population is very dissatisfied with the delivery system. many people are reported with water borne diseases such as kidney stones, diarrhea, ameobisis and many others. A number of residents would fetch water from the city since the water was not safe for drinking.
  • However most of them seemed to be unaware as to how it came to be installed in the village. In the discussions during the field visits, the Gram Pradhan emerged as the key actor in getting the ‘tanki’ to the villageLocal patronage ties were effectively used in mobilization of rural population. Its use was visible in the process of mobilization of people for taking connections when the scheme was introduced.Not many villagers could remember any khuli (open)meeting that had supposedly taken place when the scheme was introduced in the village. For many of them the idea of a meeting itself was fictional as one of the villagers clarified that the meeting is held in closed doors and there is no consultation process. The decisions are taken and passed onto us ;koi kisi ko bulaye ya bataye tab na” (Some one has to call or inform us!).Most of them were aware that they had to contribute some amount of money to get the connections however the process was determined not by them but by the key members in the socio-political set up of the village.Given the dominance of the Gram Pradhans in the landscape of the villages, they handled the operations of the committee. Within the context of Swajaldhara, one finds a strange tussle at the institutional level; the structures, specifically the VWSC, that were put in place to manage and create demand, establish accountability and become the hallmarks of participation were not created and understood with such rationality either by the Gram Pradhan or the villagers. There existed a tacit understanding of the role that had been ascribed to institutions; it was determined more by local practices of patronage and arbitrariness.In a context where information and institutions at work get inextricably tied to bureaucratic and local relations, rules tend to get redefined according to relations of power. In a context where participation was least understood as an inclusionary practice and more of a ceremonial practice, this challenged the bottom-up notion of Swajaldhara from the start itself.
  • Described as too lofty an object for the rural context of Uttar PradeshBoth in Chaneta and Bhartaul, the VWSC consisted of female members. Their mode of selection reflected more of an institutional formality than a substantive measure towards “politics of presence”. One of the members stated that “pitaji ne meranaamlikhvadiya”(my father-in-law got my name written).The other member in Bhartaul told me that the Gram Pradhan put her name in the list as she was more educatedSee Anne Philips, Democracy and Difference, 1993.
  • Institutions get embedded in the context in which they are implanted and their survival depends on their degree of embeddedness. The exclusion of the target group from the local discourse of Swajaldhara resonated strongly of the patriarchal practices that made the role of women negligible in water distribution. Their role appeared to be more symbolic than substantively empowering.
  • The role of the SO: to prepare and train the community to maintain the scheme. These organizations were engaged to give a participatory framework to the project. The villagers took them to be private operators/ thekedaarsand their role as civil society actors was not visible in the local discourseIn Chaneta, there was consistent anger against the NGO, the DharmGrameenUtthanSansthanas the villagers blamed them for the intermittent supply since they used sub-standard material due to which breakages and leakages appeared on a regular basis. The Gram Pradhan reiterated, “Sab gadbadkaam kar ke gaye hain” and we do not have enough money to maintain now.Not available for the interview.SO people did not consult the people in their work and if the villagers raised any questions, they would be snubbed as being unaware and uneducated.and the SOs was underlined with a sense of inferiority and prejudice; a group who does not have the technical know-how to maintain the tankSOs were perceived to be a link between the people and bureaucracy and it seemed to have got caught in a strange paradox where the bureaucracy treated it as the voice of the people and the villagers saw it as an imposition from above.
  • Policy transfers wary of institutional endowments: convergence of ideas needs a convergence of context as well.Implanted in a context where the top-down model of service delivery was deeply embedded within the local institutions, the district level and the support organization, the concept of demand driven scheme and community ownership faced systemic reversals. The local practices of democracy and participation also influenced the process.Concepts of participation and community are invoked in development projects to impart a democratic tenor to the programmes and uphold the bottom-up approach. However the values that are invoked and the institutions created to support such values become a part of dense web of social and bureaucratic interactions that tend to either subvert or advance the cause of the programme. This is evident from the way Swajaldhara got embedded in a top-down model of service delivery and faced policy reversals. It become a contest of meanings.From April, 2009 onwards, Swajaldhara ceases to exist as a separate policy and has been merged in principle as the Swajaldhara-sustainability project within the National Rural Water Supply Programme with 20 percent financial allocation reserved for this initiative. The revised guidelines recognize the nature of water as a public good that every person has a right to expect. It places the responsibility on the state to provide for the basic need of the people and downplays on the commercialization of water. It states:

Reversed Realities in Rural Water Supply in India Reversed Realities in Rural Water Supply in India Presentation Transcript

  • Swajaldhara
    Reversed Realities in Rural Water Supply in India
  • Aim of the presentation
    Political economy of the policy making: key motivations
    Political economy of the implementation: field level study
    Process based study
    Some of the lessons / concerns that emerged
  • Global principles in Swajaldhara
    Decentralisation or the principle of subsidiarity
    Demand Responsive or Bottom-up model
    Community ownership of water resource
    Participation of women
    Pricing water: capital cost and O&M
  • Possible convergence
    Global norms as normative orientations
    Swajal /Sector Reform Project
    Political Will
    Political decentralization
  • Uttar Pradesh
    State in the Northern region is the second largest state.
    Accounts for 16 percent of India’s population (Census 2001)
    Low rate of urbanization;79.18 percent of population lives in rural areas
    Classified into the underdeveloped states of India
  • The villages: Chaneta and Bhartaul(Bareilly District)
    Important industrial district in the western zone of the state
    67 percent of the population resides in the villages
    Literacy rate is 47.8 percent
  • Bhartaul
    Most of the people are agricultural labourers and some run small shops in the city or the village itself..
    The main source of drinking water, prior to the scheme was the India mark hand pump that is supplied by the Jal Nigam
    The poor households even today, continue to rely on the pumps that have serious quality problems
    Fear of the tank closing down looms large because of the high electricity bill;t he village has defaulted on the electricity payment
  • Chaneta
    The village has 650 households. It has a heterogeneous population and the settlements were organized along the caste lines.
    The scheme was proposed in 2004-2005 and became functional in 2007.
    High maintenance problems
    severe water quality problems
  • Reality check on principles
    Contextualizing participation:
    Information asymmetry and ‘agreed to do’
    The Village Water and Sanitation Committee
    Community ownership
    Who owns the tank?
    Where was the ‘community’?
  • Women, Water and Participation
    Women were identified as the key beneficiaries of the programme (GoI, 2003).
    However the notion of empowerment seemed to be absent in the official discourse of implementation of Swajaldhara.
    The policy implementers, quite aware of the patriarchal context, were not very enthusiastic about the empowerment agenda within the policy.
    Women were a ‘symbolic’ part of the discourse
  • - in a village she is someone’s mother, someone’s daughter and someone’s wife, she has no individuality of her own, her source of information is always the man of the household
    Interview with Mr.Harinder Singh, Head of Abhinav NGO (25th November, 2008).
  • Institutional imbroglio
    Perception of villagers
    Attitude of the Support Organisation/NGO
    The attitude of the local bureaucracy
    Paradox: Status of the SO?
  • Iterations
    How bottom up became top down?
    Civil society and its accountability?
    the ‘uppers’ and the ‘lowers’ in the development discourse: the idea of frames?
    Is financial unviability the main problem or is there something much deeper than that?
    Is sustainability an economic phenomenon?
  • A Rights discourse in the making…
    Drinking water supply cannot be left to market forces as it does not recognize the importance of providing livelihood supply to all…the commodificaton of water will shift the focus of profits to be made from the scarce resource rather than human rights to water for livelihood
    (Government of India, 2009).