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

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Thwarting Water Sector Reforms

A water bureaucrat’s response to the critique of the Mihir Shah Committee report by M Dinesh Kumar et al (“New ‘Water Management Paradigm’: Outdated Concepts?” EPW, 9 December 2017) contends that by opposing the much-needed restructuring of the central water agencies, Kumar et al want to preserve the status quo and derail the attempt to reform the water sector.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.

M Dinesh Kumar et al in their article “New Water Management Paradigm: Outdated Concepts?” (EPW, 9 December 2017) assess and evaluate the Mihir Shah Committee’s report on restructuring of the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) (Shah et al 2016). They also discuss a set of critiques of the committee report published in the special issue of EPW on Water Governance (24 December 2016). Kumar et al (2017) make the observation that the authors of these critiques are from different backgrounds and “none of them actually represents the water bureaucracy, which is a major affected party.” This article is in response to Kumar et al’s contention that the restructuring of the CWC and CGWB is not required.

Kumar et al in their critique broadly dispute the 21st-century challenges to water management in India as identified by the Mihir Shah Committee’s report. They opine that the role of the CWC and the CGWB is “advisory in nature and they have no direct stakes in the outcomes of their decisions” (Kumar et al 2017: 89). Therefore, any reorientation and restructuring of these premier central water agencies, according to them, is a futile exercise. Kumar et al criticise the Mihir Shah Committee report for passing the judgment that the CWC and CGWB have outlived their mandate and their recommendation for “restructuring of these agencies into a NWC [National Water Commission] with basin-wise headquarters, without having any vision about future water management needs” (Kumar et al 2017: 94). According to them, these recommendations might lead to the demoralisation of the cadre of engineers and scientists working in these organisations. To support their views and opinions, they refer to the constitutional position of the subject of water, the legal status of the CWC and CGWB, the legal status of state government water agencies, and have then “cherry-picked” references that substantiate their opinions.

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Updated On : 25th Sep, 2018
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