Neoliberalisation, Hydropower and Hegemony: The Contentious Politics Around Water Resources in Contemporary India

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 12:45
Oral Presentation
Shruti VISPUTE, University of Coventry, United Kingdom
Water is a very distinct natural resource. Water use needs prioritization and choice, and this itself means possible differences and potential conflicts. This paper focuses on the proliferation of social movement struggles around water, particularly following the increase in the number of hydropower projects in India especially in the North Eastern part of the country, to facilitate conditions for industrialisation and urbanization. These processes of accumulation of capital by exploiting water resources altered the ways in which different social groups use and access water resources. It increased the conflicts over water resources and exploitation of the marginalised for the greater good of the nation. These hegemonic processes of neoliberalisation in the water sector have produced spatial inequalities and displacements in India. This paper discusses how the extractivism; inequalities and exploitation accompaning it, have been challenged and collectively resisted by the people with varied identity markers (caste, class, gender and ethnic identities). While investigating the nexus between the neoliberalisation, hydropower and hegemonic policies of the government, this paper emphasizes that it is important to understand how the social movement struggles around water internalise the general problematics of accumulation by dispossession (Harvey, 2006). The paper considers inter-relationships between the processes of domination and resistance within Indian civil society, with the example of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) movement against hydropower dams on Teesta river, in Dzongu region of Sikkim state in India. The paper argues for the need to address questions such as what is being dispossessed and by whom and what can be done about it and by whom.