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

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Water Conservation and Religious Organisations

In response to Srirupa Bhattacharya’s article “Groundwater, Gurus, and Governmentality: Seva in the Neo-liberal Development Regime in India” (EPW, 10 August 2019), this article raises a few important questions on the modalities of the implementation and, consequently, the actual impacts of the water conservation projects run by religious organisations. Using the example of the Manjra river rejuvenation project, this article further decodes Bhattacharya’s observation of the gurus receiving “unprecedented structural cooperation” and “universal acceptability” from all, including the state actors.

In the article titled “Groundwater, Gurus, and Governmentality: Seva in the Neo-liberal Development ­Regime in India” (EPW, 10 August 2019), the author Srirupa Bhattacharya has illustrated upon the network emerging between the religious organisations, state actors, international funding orga­nis­ations and multi-national corporations while planning and executing water conservation activities in the post-­liberalisation era. Citing an example of the Art of Living (AOL) and their Kumu­dvathi river rejuvenation project, the ­author has argued that while such colla­borative efforts rope in a range of actors, the local actors, however, are either completely excluded or involved at much later stages of the project. In this article, I am taking this argument a step ahead to explore whether such nexus formulated by the religious organisations across bureaucracy, policymakers, capitalists, media houses, and experts can lead to better implementation and outcome of development projects (here, river rejuvenation) or not.

In this context, this article examines the Manjra river rejuvenation project initiated and led by the AoL and RSS Jankalyan Samiti (RSS–JS) for Latur city in Mahara­shtra in the summer of 2016. In her article, Bhattacharya (2019: 57) has, also, made passing reference to this project. This ­article analyses the process of implementation of the Manjra river rejuvenation project, explores the knowledge claims of the AoL and RSS–JS pertaining to water conservation by examining the validity of the approach of ­river rejuvenation with reference to the hydrology of the Manjra basin, and finally assessing the actual benefits in contrast to the promises made by religious organisations to gain public participation.

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Updated On : 15th Jun, 2020

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