University of Sussex
Bhasme, Suhas R..pdf (3.4 MB)

The politics of participation: a study of Water Users Associations in Western India

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posted on 2023-06-09, 01:42 authored by Suhas R Bhasme
The thesis investigates the processes of the formation and functioning of Water Users Associations (WUAs) which have been implemented under the policy of Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM) in Maharashtra, Western India. The thesis explores (1) how social and economic hierarchies shape the process of participation in WUAs; (2) the roles played by the State and Non-Governmental Organisations in the process of participatory development; (3) the ways in which processes of neo-liberalisation have influenced water reforms in a developing country like India. The study draws on different critiques of neo-liberalism, and it explores theories of participation to provide a holistic understanding of PIM (Participatory Irrigation Management) reforms carried out in Maharashtra. The study uses a qualitative approach, based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out over twelve months at two Water Users Associations in a village in the Nashik district of Maharashtra. The study finds that processes of participation are complex, and characterized by the vested interests of the different actors involved in the process of the formation and functioning of WUAs in the village. The WUAs have been able to provide water to many farmers in the area. However, the policy has been unable to achieve much success in terms of resolving conflicts among farmers and enhancing the participation of small landholding and marginalized farmers in the WUAs. I found that the process of neo-liberalisation does not challenge or reform traditional institutions such as caste and gender, but rather that it uses them to entrench market reforms. The implementation of WUAs’ policy in the wider neo-liberal context has increased the powers of the State and NGO intervention in the formulation and implementation of WUAs policy. Processes of WUAs’ formation and functioning are significant examples of the ways in which neo-liberalisation is taking shape in India, including the commodification of water, and thereby, the reproduction of existing hierarchies and power imbalances. The study contributes towards developing an understanding of the wider processes of neo-liberal governance in the water sector.


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