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

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From Policy to Practice

The Mihir Shah Committee report lays a solid foundation for restructuring water governance in India. Yet, a few supplementary provisions could reinforce the report’s recommendations, nudging the effort towards improved water resources management.

Focus on Sustainable Groundwater Management

The growing crisis in groundwater availability in India means that the time is ripe for a paradigm shift in the way we think about it. This article reviews recent developments that have opened up exciting opportunities for change, and makes suggestions to address some of the shortcomings of the past.

Water Governance Reform

The Mihir Shah Committee report demands a paradigm shift, bringing the ecosystems perspective to the ways water is governed in India. This article argues that these governance reforms, though essential, are not enough to enable the paradigm shift necessary for sustainability and ecological justice. But it may be a great place to begin.

Comment on the Proposed National Water Commission

Describing the tasks proposed for the National Water Commission as visionary, varied, and vast, this article underlines that ensuring high performance, accountability, speedy implementation, and cost effectiveness to India’s water management is a massive challenge. Highlighting three major problem areas, it suggests possible ways forward.

Merits Undeniable despite Drawbacks

While welcoming the overall thrust of the Mihir Shah Committee report and its suggestion for a National Water Commission of technical experts to assist the states, this article underscores that it does have some blind spots. These would include its non-inclusion of waterbodies and preference for floodplain zoning, among others.

The Way Forward

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

An Important Step in Reforming Water Governance

While appreciating that restructuring two of the most important water institutions in the country is embedded in the alternative agenda proposed for the water sector in the Mihir Shah Committee report, this article asserts that new ideas and vision need new institutions.

Evolution of Irrigation Sector

Charting the historical evolution of irrigation in India, this article looks into the nature of shifts that have occurred over the years, and the major challenges it faces now. While the Mihir Shah Committee’s recommendation of creating a National Water Commission is welcome, it suggests that the new body operate on the lines of an independent think tank.

Shifting Categories in the Discourse on Caste and Class

The categories of caste and class are undergoing radical change. Global capital has worked against the articulation of shared experiences of exploitation. This holds true for both caste and class. The left's historic failure in not comprehending the exploiting role of caste has militated against class solidarity. There are, however, incipient movements that try to overcome this traditional weakness of the left.

The Many Omissions of a Concept

Discussions on caste are caught in the binaries of Scheduled Castes and the "General Category." Such binaries see the lower caste as a monolith and leave little space for discussing discrimination among such castes. The nomenclature "Dalit," its revolutionary impulse notwithstanding, also does not help address the issue. The homogenising claims of the category Dalit have failed to address the issue of discrimination within Dalits. A major omission pertains to scavenging work.

Dichotomisation of Caste and Class

In the swirl of contradictions that tug and bind India, none may be as conflicting and as similar as histories of the Dalit and the communist movements. The cause of the dichotomy between caste and class struggle in India was the misunderstanding of Karl Marx's concept of the base and superstructure. Ambedkar, in fact, demonstrated over and over again that the struggle against caste could be organically unified with the class struggle.

Dalit Chronicles from the Telugu Country

The colonial experience in India, confronting the pre-existing caste system, did nothing more than create a peculiar order that was neither feudal nor capitalist in its manifestation. What this deformed system did, instead, was to assimilate the privileged castes into the ruling structure, while simultaneously unleashing multiple forms of oppression on marginalised sections of the population in India. This article attempts to narrate the lesser known stories of the unacknowledged Dalits who were inspired by the Marxist ideology of class struggle and used it to mobilise agricultural labourers and manual scavengers in the Telugu country.

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