Democracy And Efficacy In Service Provision: A Comparison Of Post-Reform Domestic Water Supply In Three Indian States
The reigning consensus on decentralizing local governance to improve service provision, target development interventions and deepen democracy remains splintered on the question of how to decentralize. Articulated within two distinct discourses – the neoliberal and the communitarian -- reform prescriptions include a variety of institutional propositions that differ fundamentally in their value premises, theoretical rationales and contextual assumptions. The common focus on the community as the locus for decentralized governance in the latter discourse masks a further divergence, between a "revised neo-liberal" articulation that suggests partnership arrangements between local governments and private, non-governmental and community organizations, and a progressive vision of direct-democratic governance. There is, however, little understanding of the relative suitability of either type to different kinds of developing locations. Focusing on India, this dissertation addresses the gap, by comparing the performance of devolved (Panchayat) and liberalized (Sector Reform-Swajaldhara Program) arrangements for domestic water provision in three Indian States, Gujarat, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with different economic, political and socio-cultural characteristics. The efficacy of the reformed institutional configurations that are instituted in each State, its effeciveness in water provision and the inclusion of women in the reformed decision-making processes are assessed, for both devolved and liberalized governance configurations. Cross-case comparisons show that both types of reformed arrangements improve water availability in all locations, but outcomes are equitable and processes inclusive only in a context of high political awareness, civic engagement and social development (as in Kerala). Also, though liberalized arrangements perform better than devolved arrangements in delivering water in all three States, disparities in access between households with private connections and households dependant on public sources are exacerbated in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Surprisingly, in Gujarat, with high economic development but moderate political and social development, decentralization of both types produce inequitous outcomes, problematizing the desirability of contextual fit. For in Madhya Pradesh, with poor social, economic and political development, and lacking enabling features for decentralized governance, devolution to elected local governments actually reduces disparities. The intersection of regulatory and constituent institutional elements that produce these varied outcomes is discussed.
dissertation or thesis