Swajaldhara: ‘Reversed’ Realities in Rural Water Supply in India
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For the last two decades and more, nations, international organisations and civil society, both local and global, have been rallying for the cause of ‘efficient’ and ‘equitable’ water supply and distribution. To this end, the New Delhi Statement, a precursor to the Dublin Statement, in many ways marks the first step in reforming the water sector. This article explores how ideas of community ownership and participation lauded in the New Delhi Statement and reiterated in the Dublin Statement later translate into practice when they meet the complex sociopolitical and institutional realities at the ground. It locates the genesis of Swajaldhara, the flagship rural water reform programme in India, the origin of which can be traced to the Delhi?Dublin configuration and shows how a success model became a story of poor implementation defined in the language of ‘gaps and slippages’ or ‘policy reversals’. It argues further that the objective of ‘Some for All’ still remains a target yet to be achieved in many parts of the country. The work underlines the disconnect between the global paradigms and local manifestations of such ideas and investigates the reasons for the same. Based on field research in two villages of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the article unpacks the processes that lead to policy?practice dichotomy.