Dispossessing irrigators: Water grabbing, supply-side growth and farmer resistance in India

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This paper examines, first, the conditions under which irrigating farmers are being alienated from their water through a state-led process of dispossession, and then, second, details the dialectical process of farmers' resistance to these efforts. The paper advances recent scholarship on water grabbing and 'accumulation by dispossession' by drawing on a case from northwestern India to explore the connections between non-agrarian economic growth, irrigated agriculture and farmer livelihoods. Specifically, it examines an urban water infrastructure development project that aims to provide water to Jaipur, the Indian state of Rajasthan's capital city, through the appropriation of an existing rural dam/reservoir complex built for irrigation and redirecting it to domestic, commercial and industrial uses. Drawing on an examination of policy documents and interviews with farmers and state planners, this paper argues that these transfers must be understood as a supply-side solution to support economic growth, where the lack of stable water supplies is a barrier to capital accumulation. The paper contributes to critical scholarship by showing that the processes underpinning water's reallocation are specific acts of ongoing 'dispossession' through extra-economic means under advanced neoliberal capitalism, which alienates water away from peasant producers towards new centers of capital accumulation, dialectically creating peasant resistance to these efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-105
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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