ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Water and Agricultural Transformation in India

An argument for twin propositions is presented in this two-part paper: (i) that solving India’s water problem requires a paradigm shift in agriculture (Part I), and (ii) that the crisis in Indian agriculture cannot be resolved without a paradigm shift in water management and governance (Part II). The second part describes the paradigm shift needed in water, which includes rejuvenation of catchment areas of rivers, a shift towards participatory approaches to water management, focus on green water and protective irrigation, and widespread adoption of water-saving seeds and technologies, while building transdisciplinarity and overcoming hydro-schizophrenia in water governance.

Water and Agricultural Transformation in India

An argument for twin propositions is presented in this two-part paper: (i) that solving India’s water problem requires a paradigm shift in agriculture (Part I), and (ii) that the crisis in Indian agriculture cannot be resolved without a paradigm shift in water management and governance (Part II). If farming takes up 90% of India’s water and just three water-intensive crops continue to use 80% of agricultural water, the basic water needs of millions of people, for drinking water or protective irrigation, cannot be met. This first part argues that the paradigm shift in agriculture requires a shift in cropping patterns suited to each agroecological region, a movement from monoculture to polycultural crop biodiversity, a decisive move towards agroecological farming, and greater emphasis on soil rejuvenation.

Reading K N Raj in the Age of Free Market Fundamentalism

This article tries to assess how K N Raj would have weighed in on some of the major contemporary issues like the trade policy, farm crisis and reprivatisation of public sector banks on the basis of his many writings. It also highlights his views on the fundamental orientation that an academic discipline like economics needs to have for contemporary social relevance.

Resistance to Reforms in Water Governance

This article provides a response to the critique of the Report Submitted by the Committee on Restructuring the CWC and CGWB, by M Dinesh Kumar et al (“New ‘Water Management Paradigm’: Outdated Concepts?” EPW, 9 December 2017). Their critique misrepresents what the report says, and is part of an ongoing attempt to thwart reforms in the governance of India’s water sector, which, in crucial respects, has remained unreformed for the last 70 years. Without these reforms, however, India’s water crisis will only deepen by the day.

The Way Forward

The chair summarises background, main features, and addresses some of the issues raised by the articles in this issue.

Eliminating Poverty in Bihar

A close examination of Bihar's recent growth experience reveals several paradoxes. These are paradoxes only with reference to certain orthodox positions widely held in development economics. Resolving these paradoxes helps formulate a more incisive understanding of what bottlenecks lie in the way of eliminating poverty in Bihar and opens the way for working out solutions to the problem.

Urban Water Systems in India

Urban water and waste water management have not been relatively well understood in India. The Indian urban space has been considered in an undifferentiated manner, which ignores the specificities deriving from different stages of urban development, the sources of water, as also the diverse nature of aquifers catering for urban settlements in different parts of the country. This paper advances a series of hypotheses that can serve as an initial analytical framework and outlines a way forward for urban water systems, which could provide rich terrain for further research.

Regional Disparities in India

Among the various axes of inequality in India, regional disparities have acquired greater salience in recent times, with demands being made for special status for certain states on this basis. What has been completely overlooked in the process is that regional backwardness in India is a moving frontier with the most intense forms of poverty and deprivation getting increasingly concentrated within enclaves of backwardness, especially those inhabited by adivasi communities. This paper reports on a recent exercise within the Planning Commission that tries to capture this dynamic of regional backwardness in India.

Regional Disparities in India

Among the various axes of inequality in India, regional disparities have acquired greater salience in recent times, with demands being made for special status for certain states on this basis. What has been completely overlooked in the process is that regional backwardness in India is a moving frontier with the most intense forms of poverty and deprivation getting increasingly concentrated within enclaves of backwardness, especially those inhabited by adivasi communities. This paper reports on a recent exercise within the Planning Commission that tries to capture this dynamic of regional backwardness in India.

The "New" Planning Commission

The body that is to replace the Planning Commission must build on the strengths of the existing one even as it addresses the many existing deficiencies.

Civil Society and Indian Democracy

Spaces available for democratic expression need to be utilised with renewed creativity by those fighting for a more equal, less exploitative social order. There is a need to guard against both the despair of rejecting all civil society efforts as sham as well as of taking this democracy for granted. Can civil society organisations work for social transformation without veering towards these two extremes?

Punjab Water Syndrome

The current groundwater crisis in Punjab is a combination of paradoxical consequences - extreme depletion in some areas and water logging in others. This paper provides a brief description of the contours of the crisis and pinpoints possible reasons for its emergence in failures of policy as well as implementation. It also proposes a package of approaches as part of a paradigm shift for Punjab that can simultaneously tackle the twin challenges of water logging and a decline in groundwater levels and quality.

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