Poster Paper: Tracing Dominant Narratives in Governance: Historical Analysis of the Indian Water Sector

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Buidling 5, Libreria Foyer (Bookstore Foyer) (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Paroma Wagle, University of California, Irvine

India is facing a serious water crisis of diverse dimensions. The enormity of the current water crisis is almost inconceivable given the massive technical and financial effort that went into the development of the Indian water sector throughout the seven decades after independence, focusing on massive modern water infrastructure across the country, much of which is now in a state of disrepair. In response to the crisis, in recent times, various NGOs, activist groups and local movements around water issues have engaged in severe criticism and practical resistance to the persistent dominance of the modern infrastructure and government bureaucracy. They have suggested the technologies of pre-modern, pre-colonial, or traditional as a viable and appropriate alternative. The clash is not purely between the different kinds of technologies but also the different narratives that are battling for control over water policies and governance systems. This reemergence of both the pre-modern and modern narrative has in a way positioned the Indian water sector at an interesting crossroad. Narratives are not without agendas, are a covert exercise of power, and give us a value-driven orientation to policy and governance. This review paper engages in the historical investigation of the development of Indian water sector through four key periods: pre-colonial, colonial, early post-colonial, and the contemporary. It traces through these periods the prevalence and dominance of the three narratives – pre-modern, modern and neoliberal – that have shaped the Indian water sector, trying to understand the path dependencies and historical groundings of these narratives.