Farhat Naz, University of Bonn
Caste system making women visible and invisible in community based water management: a case study of rural Northern Gujarat, India
Until 1990s in India there was no emphasize on community based management in the development policy of India. It was only in post-1991 that community based management and initiatives in natural resource management and development began to be revived. A significant step for participatory and decentralized forms of decision making and fund allocation was started with the comprehensive common guideline which were evolved for all programmes with the recommendation of the Hanumantha Rao Committee in 1994 (Kerr et. al 2000). The watershed guidelines of 1994 advocated the need for different institutional arrangements at various level to fulfill the task of community based watershed management and to begin State-NGOs partnership oriented approach to address environmental problem, to achieve best possible utilization of natural resources, employment generation, restoration of ecological balance and to alleviate poverty through community based watershed management (GoI, 1994).
This paper illustrates a village based case study from the state of Gujarat in India which has a very poor endowment of water resources and suffers from permanent water scarcity, as rainfall is uncertain. About 78 percent of the area in Gujarat is subjected to erratic monsoons and on average, rainfall for the state is 800 mm and two in every five years are drought years. Hence, Watershed Development Programmes (WDPs) has become a key strategy for economic development in Gujarat due to its frequent facing of droughts, dwindling groundwater resources, increasingly salinity and loss of vegetations.
This paper seek to explain the role of women in community based water management by analyzing the maintenance of the water retaining structures ‘check dams’ build by the farmers as part of the watershed activity in a village of north Gujarat.
Thus paper exemplifies the role of caste and gender as key aspect of difference and hierarchy in maintaining the water retaining structures and how caste affiliations leads to different social positions of women in maintaining the structures in the village. The objective of the paper is to explain how often gender is used as symbol to make the social distance between social group more visible and apparent (Unnithan, 1994 and Mehta, 2005) and furthermore class, caste, religion, wealth and other symbolic and structural systems which makes a culture have strong binding force on gender (Mohanty, 1991, Harding 1996 and Mehta, 2005). Thus hierarchy arises among women due to all these factors and caste being the most important is analyzed in the present study.
This paper uses the micro level village based case study; employing qualitative methods for data collection such as semi-structured interviews, participation observation, focused group discussions, and narratives under the rubric of qualitative methodological tools. The study is based on ten months of ethnographic investigation carried out in Northern Rural Gujarat, India.