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Caste, Gender and the Rhetoric of Reform in India's Drinking Water Sector

Recent analyses indicate a historic loss of equity in the shift in India's drinking water policy from a welfarebased, free supply mode to a market-oriented demandled approach. However, a complex entwining of caste and gender has consistently defined water allocation and access among users and entrenched fractures in the structure and culture of the policy-implementing and regulatory institutions. Contrary to popular assumptions, both official welfare-based supply and recent neo-liberal policies and interventions hinge on a tokenistic, segregated and apolitical mention of gender and/or caste concerns which, when translated into action, have often reinforced existing inequities. Based on the above observations, this paper argues that subsequent changes in domestic water policies have only served to exacerbate an enduring unequal social order around water in India.

REVIEW OF WOMEN S STUDIES

Caste, Gender and the Rhetoric of Reform in India’s Drinking Water Sector

Deepa Joshi

Recent analyses indicate a historic loss of equity in the shift in India’s drinking water policy from a welfarebased, free supply mode to a market-oriented demandled approach. However, a complex entwining of caste and gender has consistently defined water allocation and access among users and entrenched fractures in the structure and culture of the policy-implementing and regulatory institutions. Contrary to popular assumptions, both official welfare-based supply and recent neo-liberal policies and interventions hinge on a tokenistic, segregated and apolitical mention of gender and/or caste concerns which, when translated into action, have often reinforced existing inequities. Based on the above observations, this paper argues that subsequent changes in domestic water policies have only served to exacerbate an enduring unequal social order around water in India.

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