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The Anti-Politics Machine in India


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An innovative assessment of the validity of ‘anti-politics’ critiques of development in the peculiar context of India.

This book assesses the validity of ‘anti-politics’ critiques of development, first popularised by James Ferguson, in the peculiar context of India. Ferguson’s memorable metaphor of development as an Anti-Politics Machine – that serves to entrench state power and depoliticize development – continues to appeal to those cynical of the widespread tendency of development discourses to treat various issues apolitically. The book examines this problem in India, a country where development planners after independence adopted a scientific stance and claimed to distance themselves from mass politics, but also one where the groundswell of democratic political mobilization has been considerable in recent decades. In a country with an extremely differentiated landscape of authority and diverse politics, what does it mean for the state to undertake a project (or indeed, projects) of depoliticization; for as scholars inspired by Foucault and Gramsci have variously agreed, depoliticization is a tentative project where outcomes are far from certain. The book examines these questions within the new context provided by decentralization, the potential of which to reorganize relationships amongst different levels of the state greatly complicates the very pursuit of depoliticization as a coherent state practice. It looks at these issues through a highly technocratic state watershed development programme in India that has witnessed key transformations towards participation in recent years.

List of Tables and Maps; Acknowledgements; Introduction: The Anti-Politics Machine in India; Chapter 1: The Idea of ‘Anti-Politics’; Chapter 2: The Indian ‘Anti-Politics Machine’; Chapter 3: The Anti-Politics Watershed Machine: The Making of Watershed Development in India; Chapter 4: Two Landscapes of Decentralization; Chapter 5: Depoliticizing Local Institutions? Panchayats and Watershed Committees; Chapter 6: The Dialectics of Consent in Participatory Practice; Conclusion; Notes; References; Index



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The AntiPolitics Machine in India
Antipolitics rests on antipathy to a particular kind of politics, which is political in itself. Quite simply put, antipolitics is merely another type of politics.
James Ferguson’s memorable metaphor of development as an ‘AntiPolitics Machine’ that serves to entrench state power and depoliticize development continues to appeal to those cynical of the widespread tendency of development discourses to treat various issues apolitically. The book considers this problem in India, a country where postindependence development planners have adopted a scientific stance and claimed to distance themselves from mass politics, yet the groundswell of democratic political mobilization has been considerable in recent decades. The book examines key transformations towards decentralization and participatory development within a technocratic state watershed development programme. Based on an interrogation of the idea of antipolitics and a careful reading of state watershed policy, the book shows that depoliticization is first of all about characterizing politics in particular ways and giving it selected meanings. With extensive primary research in two states, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, it then goes on to show that the adoption of a strategy of depoliticization depends on specific political and institutional configurations of decentralization with a range of different outcomes. This is an account of how ‘development as antipolitics machine’ actually plays out in practice.
Vasudha Chhotrayis a lecturer in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK.
The AntiPolitics Machine in India
State, Decentralization and Participatory Watershed Development
Vasudha Chhotray
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2011 by ANTHEM PRESS 7576 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Vasudha Chhotray 2011
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover design by Devdas Chhotray and Jyoti Ranjan Swain
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested.
ISBN13: 978 0 85728 767 0 (Hbk) ISBN10: 0 85728 767 2 (Hbk)
This title is also available as an eBook.
List of Maps and Tables Acknowledgements
Introduction The AntiPolitics Machine in India
Chapter One The Idea of ‘AntiPolitics’
Chapter Two The Indian ‘AntiPolitics Machine’
Chapter Three The AntiPolitics Watershed Machine: The Making of Watershed Development in India
Chapter Four Two Landscapes of
Chapter Five Depoliticizing Local Institutions? Panchayats and Watershed Committees
Chapter Six The Dialectics of
Notes References Index
Consent in Participatory Practice
vii ix
207 219 231
Maps 1. India showing Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh 2. Veldurthi Mandal, Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh
3. TonkKhurd and Bagli tehsils, Dewas district, Madhya Pradesh
Tables 1. Financial performance 1997–2001, Lilapuram watershed project 2. Financial performance 1998–2001, Malligundu watershed project
3. Physical and financial achievements under Kishangarh watershed project
4. Principal changes in land use, Neelpura
5. Land area devoted to food and nonfood crops, Neelpura
xi xii xiii
170 176
181 186 186
This book draws on my doctoral research which I carried out nearly ten years ago at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. It has taken ten years, and journeys through two other Universities, at Manchester and now Norwich in East Anglia, for me to write it fully. It bears the imprint of these institutions, especially SOAS, my alma mater, where over formal supervisions and informal conversations I was exposed to the many debates I have pursued in the book. I wish first of all to acknowledge the teachers, colleagues and friends in these institutions who have been endlessly patient with my ideas. I also want to thank the Felix Trust for awarding me a doctoral fellowship at SOAS and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK for giving me a postdoctoral fellowship, without which I could not have carried out this research. I am deeply grateful to my PhD supervisor, guide and confidante Rathin Roy for his inspiration and nurturing, and for critically reading not just the thesis, but also the full draft of the book. Rathin has had a seminal influence on my approach to critical thinking, and his incisive reviews have helped me construct and refine the key elements of this research. I want to thank David Mosse and Maureen Mackintosh, whom I was privileged to have as PhD examiners, and for their extremely constructive and exciting engagement. I was exceptionally lucky to discuss so many of these ideas with Stuart Corbridge, who has been warm and generous in his support in the years since. There are many others who have at different points helped to improve my ideas. They are Sudipta Kaviraj, Subir Sinha, Sangeeta Kamath, David Hulme, Sam Hickey, Phil Woodhouse, Diana Mitlin, Rene Veron and David Owen. I am especially indebted to Gerry Stoker for his encouragement and a postdoctoral opportunity that any young researcher can only dream about. I thank them all for enriching the perspectives contained in this book. I am particularly grateful to Professor John Dunn for his remarks on a paper presented at the University of Southampton in March 2008, where I was treated to his exclusive attention to my ideas. I would like to acknowledge the anonymous referees of Development and Change, the Journal of Development Studies and Contemporary South Asia, where papers relating to this study have appeared in previous years. I want to thank Thomas Sikor for always taking an interest in my ideas, and for reading draft chapters with
his graduate students and offering me very highquality critical feedback. Janet Seeley has been generous with information and support. My own students here at the School of International Development in the University of East Anglia have received and challenged my ideas. Lastly, I am very grateful to the two anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for their generous and insightful comments. My fieldwork in India spanned fourteen long months, where I received the generous hospitality, assistance and support of many different persons. I want to acknowledge them all with warmth and gratitude. Satyanand and Yashodhara Mishra, Rashmi and Sanjeev Shami, Sunil Chaturvedi, Snehalatha, Satya Mishra, Tirupat Reddy and Srinivas Reddy not only helped me at every step but also opened their homes to me. I want to thank B. N. Yugandhar, Sanjay Gupta, S. P. Tucker, Gauri Singh, Hariranjan Rao, all bureaucrats par excellence, for their frank and valuable insights. My fieldwork with Samaj Pragati Sahyog in Dewas was a very special part of my fieldwork, and I thank the wonderful members of this organization for their kind hospitality. Dr Mihir Shah and Rangu Rao educated me patiently on so many different issues, Vijayashankar guided me through my fieldwork and gave me his friendship, and Nivedita Rao always made sure that I was comfortable in Bagli. I would like to thank Deven and Rajaram for their camaraderie and motorcycle rides into the villages. I was very lucky to have a wonderful and loyal group of research assistants, and my special thanks to Mukesh and Ram Prakash for their affection and patience. To Sunita and Vani, my interpreters in Kurnool, I owe appreciation for their intelligent and perceptive assistance. I would like to express my deep affection and gratitude to the people of the villages where I spent precious time learning about India. In the ten years I have taken to write this book, I have acquired the debt of so many wonderful friendships that have sustained me. My friend Anasuya Mathur has kept me sane by showing a healthy scepticism of academic preoccupations. Atreyee Sen, Priya Das, Farhad Vania, Jonathan Pattenden, Carina Vanrooyen, Rajiv Narayan, Lopamudra Mohanty, Anju Yadav, Adarsh Kumar, Amitabh Behar and Elissaios Papyrakis have each supported me at different stages of my writing and work. Prafulla Mohanty and Derek Moore, and Prodeepta and Kaumudi Das gave me a home in London each time the strains of student life grew too heavy to bear. Chris gave me his unflinching love and support, and soothed me during my endless ups and downs. Without him, not much would have been possible. I am grateful to my mother for her love and for trying, even if not always succeeding, to instill in me a sense of balance, and to my brother, for lightening my worries with humour. To my father, I owe my greatest debt, for giving me confidence and courage. It is to him this book is dedicated.