Evolving Regulatory Framework for Rural Drinking Water – Need for Further Reforms

in India Infrastructure Report 2011
OUP India

The provision of drinking water in rural areas has been a major concern of successive governments in India for several decades. This can be explained easily by the immediate link between water and human survival, as well as that between sufficient safe water and an adequate standard of living. This immediate link between water and human life ensures that it has direct political implications from the local to the national level.

The regulatory framework for rural drinking water surprisingly does not reflect this sense of importance. Indeed, beyond the frequent assertion and reassertion of a fundamental right to water by the superior courts, little effort has been made to develop a comprehensive legislative framework operationalizing the fundamental right. An additional complication is that states have primary responsibility over drinking water. This has led to a maze of instruments that include mostly general provisions in legislation such as panchayat acts at the state level and secondary instruments adopted by the executive at the union level that have had a strong influence in the states because these instruments have come with financial incentives for states to adopt their principles.