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

A+| A| A-

Swajaldhara or 'Pay'-jal-dhara: Right to Drinking Water in Rajasthan

The government of India's ambitious Swajaldhara scheme promises access to drinking water across India's rural areas. The scheme moves away from supplydriven programmes and emphasises a demand-driven approach, with programmes conceived, implemented and maintained by local user committees after initial state support. A field study in Rajasthan reveals how Swajaldhara ignores existing socio-political realities that prevail across India's villages, where income inequalities, caste hierarchies and local power dynamics continue to deny this vital resource to the marginalised and the poor.

SPECIAL ARTICLEdecember 29, 2007 102Swajaldhara or Pay-jal-dhara:Right to Drinking Water in RajasthanPreeti Sampat The government of Indias ambitious Swajaldhara scheme promises access to drinking water across Indias rural areas. The scheme moves away from supply-driven programmes and emphasises a demand-driven approach, with programmes conceived, implemented and maintained by local user committees after initial state support. A field study in Rajasthan reveals how Swajaldhara ignores existing socio-political realities that prevail across Indias villages, where income inequalities, caste hierarchies and local power dynamics continue to deny this vital resource to the marginalised and the poor.Over the past two decades of neoliberal policy, the role of the state has been seriously challenged and re-examined across the world. The policy framework in place today stands on the assumption of the inefciency and failure of the state in securing development goals; as the state has proved itself inefcient in most productive and service delivery func-tions, it has now to make way for other bodies to secure these ob-jectives and leave development to the people and market forces. Its productive functions are to be taken over by private corpora-tions and service delivery functions are to be taken over by other forms of private bodies. Heralded by the Thatcher-Reagan era, this reconstitution of democratic processes has repercussions right down to the smallest political constituencies. The discourse on rights that has emerged is perhaps a reection of the insecu-rity caused by the states retreat. As evidence shows, not the least of public divestments include doing away with provisions for the security of basic rights through public health and educa-tion programmes. The 1970s and 1980s saw a mushrooming of NGOs in India as a result of the serious problems and limitations of government structures in securing development objectives. The role of the state is now furiously contested, and the forces that keep it in the arena of basic service provision and security are wielded, still, by the scores of people who still need the state to carry out its welfare functions and it can be argued, vote for it to do so. Unfortunately, this view is not reected by a dominant majority of policymakers. New policies pruning the states role are constantly and vigor-ously trumped in policymaking arenas. Thus we nd, good gov-ernance which implies a trimmed state, peoples participation1 implying users committees, and community ownership imply-ing cost sharing principles, are all catch-phrases in the idiom of mainstream development literature todayfrequently called upon to justify the paradigmatic shift of the state becoming a facilita-tor that enables access to these services. Resources and services like water, energy, health and education are now called socio-economic goods that people must own and maintain on their own. Increasingly in almost all service sectors energy, health, education or water demand-driven projects are formulated and executed by user committees supposed to establish com-munity ownership through initial cost-sharing with all opera-tions and maintenance costs borne by the users. Added to this, establishment of independent regulatory commissions like those witnessed in the power as well as water sector mean that citizens can no longer hold the Indian state directly accountable for se-curing basic services for all citizens. In the economic logic of this This study was supported by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and an initial survey in 15 villages in Bhilwara and Rajsamand districts of Rajasthan was supported by the School for Democracy, a Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan initiative. A eld survey was also carried out in two districts in Maharashtra, Osmanabad and Latur. The author would like to thank TISS, the School for Democracy, students of the Udaipur School of Social Work batch of 2004-06: Amit Kumar, Ashok Berwa, Bhupendra Kaushik, Gajendra Meghwal, Girija Singh, Paras Banjara, Shilpa Jadav, Vikas Singh and Vikrant Singh for research support, and special thanks to Philippe Cullet for sharing time, information and insights.Preeti Sampat ( is currently a doctoral scholar at the City University of New York, United States. SPECIAL ARTICLE December 29, 2007103paradigm shift, ability to pay, in other words being a user seems to be the new minimal criteria for access to services, and thus for the privileges of citizenship. In effect, this implies a privatisation2 of resources and service provision through divestment of state responsibility. The redenition of the states role thus takes two important dimensions among others; the better known and hotly contested debate on privatisation of public sector undertakings(PSUs) on one hand and sectoral reform on the other. In this paper we are concerned with the latter, specically in the area of rural drink-ing water supply. The focus is on the Swajaldhara scheme for drinking water provision undertaken under the drinking water sector reforms by the central government. Findings from eld surveys in two districts each in Rajasthan are drawn on to exa-mine some emerging trends and concerns in securing the right to drinking water through this scheme. What Sector Reforms ImplyAn instrument that emerges from the Washington Consensus edict of structural adjustment, sector reform policies that reduce the states role in service provision and securing basic rights for citizens while opening up avenues for private actors is one of the bag of policies now crucial for the nod of approval from a trans-national bureaucracy, read World Bank and in places (notably Africa) where it is still important, the International Monetary Fund. What makes interesting reading is the fact that all over the world there is near uniformity in reform policy and process [Sampat 2004]. Despite widespread criticisms of disenfranchising already marginalised people, structural adjustment led sector reform is a common feature from the developing south to the Transition economies (SAPRIN 2002 for an in-depth critique of structural adjustment policies) and indeed the north where social welfare mechanisms are being dismantled steadily. It is worth noting that the World Banks Country Assistance Strategy(CAS) for India in 1995 focused on the need for state-level reform inter-ventions [World Bank 1996]. It is worth noting that sector reforms, while forming a signi-cant aspect of the paradigm shift in the role of the state, are being effected relatively quietly and systematically. There is no legisla-tive provision to effect this redenition of the role of the state. Flowing smoothly from a pre-existing dominant political culture of secrecy and silence, transparency and democratic consensus, quite apart from the rhetoric, does not constitute the area of radi-cal shift in the functioning of the state!Specically in the case of water, these reforms have been pro-posed in many countries as a way to address diminishing per capi-ta availability, increasing problems in water quality and increasing competition for control, access and use of available freshwater. They seek to comprehensively reform governance in the water sector [Cullet 2006]. The Dublin Principles established the no-tion of water as an economic good in the early 1990s. While this principle was later changed to include social and economic value in various international fora, the idea that water is a tradable com-modity now forms the dominant discourse in legal and policymak-ing circles. This implies an important shift in terms of the rights of control over and access to water. In fact, this leads to a complete policy reversal from the perspective that water is a public trust to the introduction of water rights and the possibility to trade water entitlements The novelty introduced by the reforms is that wa-ter rights are now created in favour of water users. These rights are the necessary premise for participation in the management of water resources, for the setting up of water user associations and for the introduction of trading in entitlements (ibid). Water Sector Reforms in India The Eighth Five-Year Plan in India (1992-97) introduced the con-cept of water as a commodity that should be supplied based on effective demand, the cost recovery principle and managed by private local organisations. Through the 1990s the World Bank already had a series of water supply and sanitation projects in various states of the country based on these principles. Of parti-cular relevance is the World Bank initiated drinking water and sanitation pilot project with the government of Uttar Pradesh in 1996, Swajal. Having located its premise in the Eighth Plan, in its staff appraisal report for the subsequently named Swajal project in 1996 the World Bank stated: Policy reform is urgently required, in particular to: (a) replace the current supply driven ap-proach that results in inefcient service delivery and poor quality of construction with a demand-driven approach where decision-making responsibility is given to beneciaries; (b) integrate rural water supply, environmental sanitation, environmental manage-ment, catchment protection, and health and hygiene; (c) introduce cost recovery to increase sector sustainability; and (d) develop a state water resource management policy [World Bank 1996]. All subsequent sector reform state and central schemes for drinking water and sanitation in the country are structured on remarkably similar principles and components as Swajal. A joint World Bank and GoI review of water resources manage-ment in 1999 [World Bank 1999b in James 2004] subsequently concluded that India faces an increasingly urgent situation with its nite and fragile water resources while different sectoral de-mands grow rapidly and that a major challenge for Indias water sector was to nd solutions for competing inter-sectoral demands. It further noted, fundamental reforms are needed now in India in how water is captured, allocated between sectors, delivered to users and managed (ibid). The review advocated a comprehen-sive approach is needed, emphasising four overarching factors: A shift from supply-driven to demand-oriented approaches. Division of sectoral responsibilities between the government and non-government stakeholders,recognising that water is an eco-nomic good with public and private good characteristics. Decentralising decision-makingto include non-government stakeholders in service delivery, while reorienting the role of gov-ernment to being facilitator and enabler. Achieving nancial viability of service delivery to make the sector sustainable and make further development possible with private sector funding for investment activities [James 2004; emphasis in original]. The prerequisites for this approach are crucial changes of policy, legislative and regulatory framework; in institutional arrangements; and in setting up an economic and nancial incentive framework. Subsequently, a number of water law SPECIAL ARTICLEdecember 29, 2007 104reforms have been introduced in recent years, from new water policies to projects and schemes premised on these principles and new regulatory mechanisms like water regulatory authorities. The new National Water Policy(NWP) [GoI 2002b] is a good ex-ample of the nature of reforms being envisaged and undertaken in the states. While allocating topmost priority to drinking water followed by irrigation, hydropower, ecology, agro-industries and non-agricultural industries and navigation and other uses, the NWP 2002 goes on to emphasise the physical and nancial sus-tainability of existing facilities to ensure that the water charges for various uses should be xed in a manner that they cover at least the operation and maintenance charges of providing the service initially and a part of the capital costs subsequently. Now these rates are to be linked directly to the quality of service pro-vided, with the subsidy on water rates to the disadvantaged and poorer sections of the society well targeted and transparent. In a situation where the hitherto provision of drinking and domes-tic water as well as irrigation water has been substantially subsi-dised, this implies a signicant policy reversal [Cullet 2006]. In terms of decentralisation and participation NWP 2002states: Management of the water resources...should incorporate a par-ticipatory approach; by involving not only the various govern-mental agencies but also the users and other various aspects of planning, design, development and manage-ment of the water resources schemes. Necessary legal and insti-tutional changes should be made... for the purpose... Water Users Associations (WUA) and the local bodies such as municipalities and gram panchayats(GPs) should particularly be involved in the operation, maintenance and management of water infrastruc-tures/facilities at appropriate levels progressively, with a view to eventually transfer the management of such facilities to the user groups/local bodies (Ministry of Water Resources 2002). The policy thus legitimises the user discourse in basic services and divests the government (progressively) of the responsibility for operations and management, or actual service provision. How-ever, while participation is considered an umbrella term includ-ing the stages of planning, design and implementation, in reality the focus is really on the tail-end of the process [Cullet 2006], mainly operation and maintenance. The legislative changes and regulatory and institutional mecha-nisms to support the sector reform process are reected in sev-eral water related state acts enacted in recent years3establishing (a) control over water resources; (b) regulatory authorities, as well as; (c) local level institutions like the WUAs or in the case of Swajaldhara, user committees. For a detailed analysis of these sec-tor reform initiatives and their implications see Cullet 2006 who points out that it is remarkable that while water is a state subject and hence each state has relative freedom to evolve its own policy and legislative frameworks with due regard to its context, in re-ality most of these recent initiatives are remarkably similar and concurrent to World Bank principles of sector reform. Swajaldhara: A Brief Overview Water is today perceived by the public as a social right, to be provided free by the Government, rather than as a scarce resource which must be managed locally as a socio-economic good... Demand preferences of the people are generally not taken into account while planning and executing the schemes. In other words, rural water supply programme has been adopting a supply driven approach. Experience has shown that the present approach has led to the failure of a number of water supply systems/schemes due to poor operation and maintenance [GoI 2002a]. GoIs major intervention in the water sector started in 1972-73 through the Accelerated Rural Water Supply Pro-gramme(ARWSP)for assisting states/union territories to accel-erate the coverage of drinking water supply. In 1986, the entire programme was given a mission approach with the launch of the Technology Mission on Drinking Water and Related Water Management,later renamedthe Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM) in 1991-92. In 1999, the Department of Drinking Water Supply(DDWS) was formed under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD)to give emphasis on rural water supply and sanitation. Following the World Bank and GoI review mentioned earlier, GoI initiated the Sector Reform Pilot Projects(SRPP) in April 1999 with the implicit strategy of these reforms premised on the understanding that people will be willing to maintain and operate water supply schemes only if theyowned the assets; had been involved in the projectsthroughout from choosing struc-tures to installations and repairs;know that the government will not maintain the asset; had sufcient funds for maintenance and had to pay for operation and maintenance of the system [James 2004]. theGoI decided to move a demand-based approach where users get the service they want and are willing to pay for Apart from demand-responsiveness, this approach stressed nancial viability and sustainability of the schemes, through full cost recovery of operation and maintenance and replace-ment costs These sector reforms were to be implemented on a pilot scale in selected villages in 67 districts (in)... 26 states in the country, which probably represents the worlds largest (central) government supported yet demand-based rural drinking water programme. The Water and Sanitation Programme South Asia(WSP-SA) andUNICEF provided institutional support to the RGNDWM for the Sector Reform Pilot Projects. They also provided implementation support to selected states [James 2004]. A demand driven approach premised on full participation of villagers in the choice of scheme design and management ar-rangements; establishment of village water and sanitation com-mittees; an integrated service delivery mechanism by stream-lining functions of the agencies involved; cost-sharing by users contributing in labour, land, material or cash with 10 per cent capital cost and 100 per cent O&M; and conservation measures for sustained supply of water through rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge structures, were envisaged in the guide-lines issued by theRGNDWM. An elaborate institutional structure was set up for the SRPP at the national, state, district and village level to facilitate the projects. Even as the Sector Reform pilot projects were carried out, there was inadequate guidance and the responsible govern-ment ofcials were not even involved in conceptual and opera-tional discussions and clarications;NGOs were not involved in discussions; and capacity building for key implementers was in-adequate. Further, all members of village communities were not SPECIAL ARTICLE December 29, 2007105involved and the formation of committees and their takeover of O&M and nances did not really constitute community manage-ment. As found in a survey in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, the poorest of the poor continued to be left out of management [Joshi 2004 in James 2004]. Before these insights could be gleaned from the SRPP implementation experience, the GoI scaled up the SRPP into a country-wide programme of community managed wa-ter supply and sanitation called Swajaldhara (see James 2004 for a detailed account and analysis of the SRPP experience). Consultations were held by the DDWS with state governments, NGOs and the external support agencies and the extreme need for convergence, promotion of social mobilisation and capacity development of the community and their institutions [GoI 2002a] in order to hasten the process of sector reforms emerged. It was suggested that all reform initiatives in the rural drinking water sector should be brought under Swajaldhara. In order to provide llip to the reform initiatives, it was felt that the state governments had to play a proactive role, provide an enabling environment for proper implementation, and draw up a clear vision statement with specic road-maps for action plans. Comprehensive guidelines have thus been brought out. Swa-jaldhara has two streams: (i) Swajaldhara-I with the gram pan-chayat as the lowest unit for implementing reform initiatives; and (ii) Swajaldhara-II with the district as the unit for imple-mentation. The guidelines provide operational exibility to state governments and implementation exibility to lower level insti-tutions. Further, these guidelineslay down the implementation processes; tools for evaluation, monitoring and nancial proce-dures are provided. The guidelines state that the conditions un-der which people would be willing to pay capital cost partially and operate and maintain water supply schemes are: (a) if they own the assets, (b) if they have themselves planned and installed the systems and been involved throughout in the process, (c) if they have been trained to do simple repairs, (d) if they know the government will not maintain the asset, (e) if they have sufcient funds for maintenance, and (f) if they have to pay for operation and maintenance of the systems. Swajaldhara-I: A singleGP or a group of GPs or the intermediate panchayat could come up with project proposals under Swajald-hara-I. Specic proposals under Swajaldhara-I will be sanctioned by the District Water and Sanitation Committee (DWSC) provided the projects conform to swajaldhara guidelines. Swajaldhara-II: State governments would identify districts where chances of success of Swajaldhara are high and prepare proposals for implementation. Such requests should have a project proposal along with Project Implementation Plan(PIP) and Detailed Project Report(DPR). The district selection will be made by the State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) in all states/union territories. While the guidelines state that to avail of funds under Swa-jaldhara I and II, state governments would enter into a MoU with theDDWS, MoRD it is not clear if this was implemented until 2006 since the secretary,PHED department in Rajasthan (implement-ing agency for Swajaldhara) was unable to entertain our request on information regarding theMoU. Subsequent queries by Inter-national Environmental Law Research Centre with the DDWS in New Delhi also yielded unclear information. However, the MoU is expected to deliver a commitment of the state government to the reform principles in the water and sanitation sector and to pro-mote Swajaldhara principles. Every state government is required to prepare an action plan and agreed time-frame for reforms in the sector and address issues like institutional reforms, integra-tion of water, sanitation, and hygiene, capital cost sharing prin-ciples, water tariff/charges, operation and maintenance of sys-tems, the institutional mechanisms for implementation, the role of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs),NGOs, and community based organisations (CBOs); water quality; water conservation meas-ures including legislative action. Further, performance indica-tors are to be laid down in the MoU which would be periodically reviewed by central and state governments (for more details see; GoI a; b; and c). GoI releases funds in two installments and schemes are ex-pected to be completed in a period of two years. In case of all hab-itations fully covered in the states with 40 lpcd drinking water facility, the service level can be improved to 55 lpcd with 20 per cent of capital cost to be borne by the community. In such states, in case of water supply schemes providing more than 55 lpcd, the additional incremental cost is borne by the community/PRIs/ state government. Funding byGoI would be restricted to 80 per cent of capital cost of 55 lpcd schemes only. The community con-tribution towards the capital cost of schemes could be in the form of cash/kind/labour/land or combination of these with at least 50 per cent in cash. In case the community contribution is more than 10 per cent of the cost, the excess amount shall be included in the operation and maintenance fund. Operational IssuesOperation, maintenance and management cost of the water sup-ply schemes will have to be fully borne by the concerned local level community.It would beimperative on the part of the PRI/community to have a full understanding and appreciation of likelyO&M costs of various technology options before they select the technology for their water supply scheme. The size of the cor-pus should be sufcient to meet the O&M cost of the scheme for at least six months. GPs would require to mobilise funds through user charges. Further, upon completion of Swajaldhara schemes and their successful operation for at least 12 months from the completion date, GoI may provide up to 10 per cent of capital cost as a one-time incentive to the O&M fund and the state govern-ment should also make an equal matching contribution. Since funding forO&M will not be available under ARWSP for all villages in a Swajaldhara project district under Swajaldhara-II, state governments may continue to provide funds, if necessary, for O&M for non-Swajaldhara project GPs from their own funds till theGP is covered under the project. However, state govern-ments should take positive steps to hand over existing rural water supply schemes toGP/VWSC, after undertaking requisite rejuvenation/repair works, after a specied date (to be decided by the state government) so that there is one uniform rural water SPECIAL ARTICLEdecember 29, 2007 106supply system in the district where the GP/VWSC meets fullO&M expenditure. Towards this end, communication and capacity development activities must commence in the district at the earliest. So far ve phases of Swajaldhara have commenced across the country (see Annexure 1, p 110 for state-wise allocations for 2006-07). Case of Rajasthan Rajasthan is one of the driest states of the country. The surface water resources in the state are only about 1 per centof total surface water resources of the country. The rivers are rainfed and identied by 14 major basins divided into 59 sub-basins. The states surface water resources are conned to the south and south-eastern parts.A large area in the western part of the state does not have any dened drainage basin. Thus the water resources in the state are uneven distributed in time and space. In large areas, ground water is over-exploited and water table in some areas is depleting at the rate of three metres per year. Availability of drinking water has been in a critical state in Rajasthan for years now. Consecutive drought years (four in the last six) have worsened the situation. The stress is acute in the summer with water becoming a source of frequent conicts in villages and privileges of access to water including the tankers supplied by the state being drawn along caste, class and commu-nity lines. The burden on women and young girls is doubled, as they are the ones who traditionally fetch water for the household. Cattle also face this stress, and this adds to the larger livelihood crisis; rates for fodder are also high in the summer months. At the same time, adequate drinking water provision for people and livestock is the topmost stated priority of the state [GoR 1999; 2005]. Water supply to about 91 per cent (65 lakh) households is based on groundwater sources and the remaining households depend on surface waters of the Indira Gandhi Canal or the Bisalpur Dam or other surface water sources. Barring a few, most districts in Rajasthan are categorised as critical in the exploitation of their ground water resources. The new state and central policies claim that through sector reform under the Swajaldhara scheme, introduction of shared cost (10 per cent community and 90 per cent central govern-ment), establishment of user committees and gradually increas-ing water tariff to meet costs, a high degree of participation and community control might be achieved that would meet the needs ofwater for all. In 2004-05 a total of Rs 2,544.25 lakh was allocated to districts in Rajasthan under the Swajaldhara scheme. It is inthis overall context that this study was undertaken to assess the impact of Swajaldhara in two districts of central Rajasthan through a sample survey of 28 villages in Rajsamand and Bhilwara. Bhilwara and RajsamandIn 2004-05, Rs 267.12 lakh were allocated to Rajsamand un-der Swajaldhara and Rs 91.99 lakh to Bhilwara. As a result a number of Swajaldhara schemes are underway in the state and in the aforesaid districts. These districts border each other and their ground water resources are in a critical condition [GoR 2005]. They offered a good starting point to study the impact of Swajaldhara in securing the right to water in areas where water resources are critical. The fact that the author resided in Rajsa-mand district at the time of the survey was also an advantage in the familiarity with the context. The initial survey was undertaken in 18 villages 14 in Rajsa-mand district and four in Bhilwara with the support of School for Democracy4comprising ve Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan ac-tivists and 10 Udaipur School of Social Work students. The second round5 was conducted in 11 villages of Bhilwara. The villages were chosen randomly across different blocks (tehsils) to repre-sent a 25 per cent sample of the Swajaldhara villages inthe two districts. In all villages surveyed, the benchmark was at least 10 per cent household surveys, general discussions with villagers and Table 1: Survey Villages in District BhilwaraNo Village Type of Scheme Amount No of Users Initial Contribution and Receipts Monthly Records Households Sanctioned (house-Amount for Personal Charges Shown Interviewed (Rs in lakh) holds) Connection (in Rs) (in Rs)1 Kasya Repair of existing tank;new pipelines 10.00 200 700 Yes 36 No 6 connected; 1 not connected 2 Baaniyon ka Talaab 4 tanks; 2 bore wells 12.76 34 250-500 followed by 1100 for connection Yes 75 Yes 7 connected; 4 not connected3 Kerkheda 2 tanks with public taps 7.51 150 Some individuals in the village including No Two village meetings the ex-sarpanch paid the cost with 60 people. 4 Neel ki Khedi Pipe and tank 3.01 40 1250 and 500-600 for personal connection No Not fixed yet No 6 connected; 3 not connected5 Mukundpuriya Pipe and tank 3.31 50 700 and 200-600 for fitting No 100 No 7 connected; 1 not connected6 Sandgaanv Pipeline 2.90 50 500 and 400 for fitting No 100 No 5 connected 7 Mohanpura Pipe and tank 8.05 100 500 and 6-700 for fitting No 120/ 130/ No 9 connected; 150/ 500 3 not connected 8 Soniyana Pipe and tank 2.50 40-45 500-2000 No 20-30 No 8 9 Padampura (joint scheme Pipe and tank 3.01 45 300 and 250 for fitting Yes 60 No 9 withKesarpura)10 Kesarpura (joint scheme Pipe and tank 3.01 34 450 and 350 for fitting No 60 No 3 withPadampura)11 Latala Pipe and tank 3.40 36 2000 and 150-200 for fitting Yes Yes 4 12 Sinhpura Pipe and tank Incomplete 5.15 400 for initial contribution Yes NA No Common meeting 13 Rooppura Papers say pipe and tank but on the ground only pipeline and people do not have knowledge of a tank to be constructed 5.95 500 and 350 for fitting Yes 70 No Common meeting 14 Luhariya Papers say pipe and tank but nothing found on the ground 3.00 Common meeting *These are Sector Reform projects initiated in the state before Swajaldhara but premised on the same principles as the latter. Source: Compiled from the surveys undertaken in 14 villages of Bhilwara district in Rajasthan. SPECIAL ARTICLE December 29, 2007107interviews of committee members.District level ofcials ofthe PHED department were also interviewed. Tables 1 and 2 give a brief overview of the villages surveyed in the two districts. Implications for State Policy The Constitution of India recognises the essential tenet of equal access to water. Article 21 which speaks of the right to life has been liberally interpreted by the Indian Supreme Court to include all facets of life. The directive principles of state policy(dpsp), recognises the principle of equal access to the material resources of the community. Article 39 (b) mandates that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good. Article 51-A(g) casts a fundamental duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers, wild life and to have compassion for living creatures [Muralidhar 2006]. As evident from Tables 1 and 2, the schemes undertaken in the villages surveyed were a varying combination of pipes, tanks and wells. Where structures are complete and functioning, the users expressed relief at the greater and easier availability of water. In terms of knowledge of the schemes conditions and principles, there is an appalling ignorance among users and larger commu-nities. The long-term sustainability of the scheme also hangs in bal-ance with any major O&M costs in the future unanticipatedby the users. The divide between users and non-users who cannot afford to pay or for other reasons are not part of the schemeis also inade-quately dealt with. This survey has unearthed a set of fundamental questions that need to be dealt with on a priority basis if the right to drinking water for all is to be realised and this access is to be sustainable for those with access today, into the future. Access to Water? A basic underlying assumption of Swajaldhara is that cost-sharing will enable participation in implementation and ownership of assets. However a chief concern emerging from this study is that through the introduction of shared cost and water tariffs only those with adequate resources are able to access water while others remain outside the schemes purview. Thus, those that cannot afford to pay the initial cost and contribute to the cost-sharing are left to fetch water from already existing sources. In village after village we interviewed people who were also gener-ally not allowed access to anyone elses connections since they had not contributed the initial cost. Thus, in Khadbamniya in Rajsamand district people who could not afford to come up with the Rs 1,000 initial contribution could not avail of the water sup-ply. Similarly in Rajpura in Rajsamand, despite a strong sense of community ownership, the people who could not afford to pay this sum as initial cost could not access water from the new scheme, as was seen in many households in Chhatarpura too. In cases where they could become users after the scheme had become operational, the cost of membership was signicantly higher (Rs 1,500 in Chhatarpura), often including interest rate on the initial amount from the time contributions were rst collected to the time of payment (as in Jogela-Miyala where new members were expected to give interest over and above the Rs 7,000 initial contribution). In Sirola-Pithoda the initial contri-bution was Rs2,200 and the committee demanded Rs 5,000 for subsequent new connections. Similarly, every village had house-holds unable to afford the initial contribution and subsequent costs and thus preferred not to become users. As a result of caste equations still prevalent in the villages, access to water is determined by caste hierarchies. Thus in Rajput dominated Bagatpura in Rajsamand, dalit households were forced to pay for the access to water under Swajaldhara despite weak economic conditions and inability to pay through threats. A dalit respondent revealed that the handpump near his house was bro-ken by the upper caste elite in order to pressure him to contribute. Other ramications that emerged from eldwork in Maharashtra range from absence of Swajaldhara structures in dalit bastis to a general state of disrepair of structures in these localities or too few structures compared to the need of the population. Further, if a person or family does not nd favour with the committee president/sarpanch or another powerful member of the committee, then their access to water is curtailed since they are not allowed to become members. Understandably, being in favour of the elite seemed to determine access to water for all Table 2: Survey Villages in District RajsamandNo Village Type of Scheme Amount No of Users Initial Contribution and Receipts Bimonthly Records Households and Status Sanctioned (house-Amount for Personal Charges Shown Interviewed (in Rs) holds) Connection (in Rs) (in Rs)1 Jogela/ Miyala Pipe and tank 6.01 11 7000 Yes 60 No 13 2 Bagatpura Pipe and tank 2.99 43 1200 and variable from 350-750 for fitting Yes 70 Yes 15 3 Bharatsinghji ka guda * Pipe 8.80 136 550 60 No 15 4 Pithakheda Pipe, tank and well Incomplete 2.72 700 No No Common meeting 5 Rajpura/Fatehpura Pipe Yet to begin work 18.38 43+110 1000 Yes No Common meeting (2committees)6 Ganeshpura Panghat-People have no 2.05 Common meeting knowledge of the scheme7 Khadbamnia Pipe, tank and well 16.29 107 1000 and 400-500 for fitting No 60 No 19 connected, 4 not connected8 Chhatarpura* Pipe 6.78 57 1000 55 Yes 13 connected, 5 not connected9 Sirola Pipe 12.75 52 2200 120 No 11 not connected 10 Baghana* Pipe 11.90 87 300 120 No 11 connected, 5 not connected11 Kalalon ki aanti Pipe 11.70 168 520 No 12 connected 12 Devpura Pipe Incomplete 9.18 No 12 13 Kankrod Pipe Incomplete 16.03 200 750 30 No 17 14 Kachhabli Pipe, well and tank 7.97 18 1000 No 50 No Common meeting *These are Sector Reform projects initiated in the state before Swajaldhara but premised on the same principles as the latter. Source: Compiled from the surveys undertaken in 14 villages of Rajsamand district in Rajasthan. SPECIAL ARTICLEdecember 29, 2007 108members of a community within the vicinity of a project. This was brought home in Jogela-Miyala in Rajsamand, where one family was denied a piped water connection though the main supply pipe passed close to their house, because they did not enjoy the favour of the sarpanch who was the committee presi-dent. In Sirola- Pithoda as well, people willing to pay the initial amount were deliberately kept out since they were not in the fa-vour of the powerful school teacher who had initiated the scheme in the village and was a committee member. Additionally, depending on the amount to be paid upfront, some villagers also had to take loans for their contribution, in-creasing their debt burden. This was the case where the initial contribution was very high. The location of the structures created also determined who had access to how much water supply and where the water was supplied. In Jogela-Miyala, the tank was created on common land near the elds of the committee president and his rela-tives. A valve had been installed at that point with pipes lead-ing to their elds and when the motor was run to ll the tank, villagers reported that water was diverted to these elds. Also, many households had cultivated kitchen gardens from the water supplied to them. Apart from the fact that households within the same village were hard pressed to raise resources to avail of the scheme and some were denied access due to political dynamics, this was in clear violation of scheme principles that only allow for drinking water for domestic use and beyond the measure of 40 lpcd, require a greater contribution from the community. Similarly in Kachhabli in Rajsamand, the location of the tank was close to a powerful committee members house ensuring that his family and relatives got the best supply while others complained of much less water availability. Mere existence of a scheme thus does not imply that access to water for all has been secured. While monetary reasons were cited most for lack of access, the local socio-political dynamic greatly inuenced access. On paper, government records would only show the existence of a scheme and perhaps the number of households covered by it, clouding the reality of lack of access and reasons for it. The demand driven nature of the scheme pre-vents those worse off in the local socio-economic relationships from breaking the shackles of their marginalisation and also does not secure them the right to water. People may be willing to pay for these necessities if they feel it would improve access, but their willingness to pay does not necessarily reect their ability to pay. It was found in the villages surveyed that the poorest were often not part of the user groups of Swajaldhara schemes and were fetching water from pre-existing sources because of their inability to pay. Since they had not con-tributed to the project cost they were not allowed access. They also mentioned that their access to water would improve if the facility was provided to them free of cost. It was mostly the well off who could afford to pay the initial contribution. Community Ownership and Participation A principal premise of the Swajaldhara scheme is that community ownership and participation will emerge from the formation of village water and sanitation committees and through raising community resources for the 10 per cent mandatory community contribution. The ofcial expectation is that a high degree of participation and community control might be achieved through this feature that would meet the needs of water for all. We found that the constitution of committees is arbitrary in most cases, depending on favours from the local elite and apart from the few in their favour, there is little knowledge of the existence of such committees among the general population. People knew the name of the scheme president but could not give names of any other committee members. For instance, in Kasya in Bhilwara district, people who had a Swajaldhara connection did not even know the names or number of com-mittee members and could only point to the president, Ghisulal Jain. While the president revealed there were 14 members in the committee and meetings were held regularly, he refused to show us the records claiming that they were with the secretary (also the village secretary) who was absent at the time in the village. In Khadbamniya in Rajsamand, people in the village had no knowledge of the existence of the committee at all. In Baniyon ka Talaab in Bhilwara again, the local prad-han (also representative of Kasya) had solicited the committee president who then revealed that he had solicited the other committee members. In Kachhabli in Rajsamand district, the committee members were all the local elite who were family members of a BDO, the local school principal, and police ofcer who determined the decisions of the committee. One exception to this general trend was Rajpura village in Rajsamand district. Here the village community had struggled against a Hindustan Zinc mine since the groundwater had been greatly depleted.As a result there was strong community par-ticipation in the constitution of the committee and the schemes implementation. While committees are to be formed in the gram sabhas, often gram sabhas turn out to be meetings in which the locally powerful manoeuvre the decision-making process. In Kerkheda in Bhilwara, the powerful ex-sarpanch had constituted the committee and paid most of the initial cost. Since it was a predominantly SC-ST village (around 82 households) the cash contribution was 5 per cent and the structures created were two tanks without any pipelines. Effectively, while the construction of the tanks with public taps was appreciated by the people interviewed in the village, the decision-making was not participatory and the contribution was also not collected at the community level, serving to reinforce the Sarpanchs power. Even as people paid monthly charges for water supply, know-ledge of how this was accounted forand access to records was almost non-existent except among the committee president, secretary and treasurer where we could meet them. Of the 28 villages surveyed, we managed to see accounts for only four vil-lages. Given the arbitrary manner in which the committees were constituted and the lack of information among users, the pres-ence ofSC/ST or women members in these committees seems to be mere tokenism. SPECIAL ARTICLE December 29, 2007109There is a strong preference for piped water systems with indi-vidual connections in the villages surveyed. While the provision for public tanks and taps would reduce projects costs and might effectively distribute the benets of the scheme in an egalitarian manner,piped water supply component keeps costs high. Given the limited nature of participation in the committees and de-cision-making processes, it seems this preference for personal connections comes from those who can afford to pay and further serves to deny access to others. Power of the Local ElitePolitical patronage was a clear issue emerging in villages where the entire initial contribution was borne by the political elite in the community, as seenin Kerkheda in Bhilwara, and is a com-mon feature in Maharashtra.This seemed to be politically moti-vated to garner support. The sarpanch from Satadharwadi in Latur district in Maharashtra had paid the entire initial cost and revealed that he had paid bribes to get the scheme sanctioned and had made more money from the scheme than he had paid in bribes! This naturally inuenced the constitution and mem-bership of committees as well as the neighbourhoods that would benet from the scheme. The underlying assumption in the user committee approach seems to be that village communities are homogeneous and do not have a local socio-political dynamic that actively informs how the resources are used. The mere formation of a commit-tee does not guarantee participation in any way. The benets are generally dened by this socio-political dynamic and often a nexus of local political elites and local ofcials guarantee that they are the beneciaries of schemes and projects more than the people at large and specically the already marginalised. The committees are not linked formally to the panchayat and while recently an order has been passed to have the village sarpanch and secretary function as the committee president and secretary respectively, there is no formal accountability to the community at large. There are also no social audit mechanisms envisaged to ensure that committees are indeed constituted and mandated by users. Transparency, Information and Corruption Little was known to people about the specics of the scheme and its implications. As mentioned above, people did not know about the committee as well as the accounts of the project in most vil-lages. What was alarming was the near-complete lack of know-ledge among users regarding future coststo be borne for replace-ments or repair for materials such as pipelines, motors and even tank walls. Information about the schemes lies with the elite and powerful. The general lack of knowledge of committee accounts also al-lows for corruption where costs are inated on paper and less materials or poor quality materials are used. The experiences from social audits conducted in villages across the country are testimony to this travesty of development programmes. Very few committee presidents or treasurers actually showed the accounts to the survey teams and most claimed that their accounts were either with the secretary or had gone for audit. Without a deliberate provision and action for social audits in the project formulation itself, this promises to be another scheme that potentially serves as a source of income for the locally pow-erful. While in Rajasthan there were no instances of doubts that came to light during the survey, the above cited example in Ma-harashtra in Satadharwadi village of Latur district is illuminat-ing. The committee president had bribed ofcials to secure the project and later inated the costs of the project to ensure that he personally made more money from the project than the bribes already paid! Further, given the private connections, every user has to pay a (generally) bimonthly fee of approximately Rs 60 Rs 120 in the villages surveyed. This amount is to take care of the electricity and caretaker charges for the project. To what extent this fee is arbitrary and/or reects actual cost is unclear un-less one studied the accounts of a few months and access to these records was not forthcoming. Discussions with committee members revealed that balance amounts are kept by the committee as maintenance costs but again, there is no clear social audit mechanism available. Sustainability People often responded that if the future costs of replace-ment or repair were high, they would ask the government for support. This forces one to consider the question of the sustainability of the Swajaldhara projects. An area of serious concern would emerge if the government indeed rolls back from the drinking water sector completely once its target of villages to be covered is met. The presumption that the projects would be sustainable and ensure the right to wa-ter for all after the transfer to the community is questionable given the nature of access and participation that the scheme has been able to secure. Importantly, water harvesting structures and other service delivery mechanisms were not in place in any surveyed village and people do not even know of any such provisions in the Swa-jaldhara scheme to demand the same. Considering that there is a crying need for such structures in Rajasthan this lack in initia-tive, information and formulation is appalling. ConclusionsThe application of user fees and shared cost of infrastructure seems thus to ensure that one who has more money has more access to resources and this will worsen socio-economic iniq-uities without the state acting even notionally as an unbiased protector (and guarantor) of rights. While peoples ownership and participation in decision-making processes are a must in ensuring access to resources, in a country where many poor, unemployed and underemployed people enjoy little access to resources and information, it is important to acknowledge that demand-driven and cost-sharing features will not really secure the right to water for all. In fact it can be argued that with so many people dependent on daily wage labour, imposition of costs for drinking water provision amounts to a violation of the right to water. Given that the number of BPL people in the country remains at 33 per cent, that indicators

Eibe Riedel & Peter Rothen (eds), The Human Right to Water. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag: Berlin.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 236

(Readers in India)

$ 12

(Readers outside India)

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.