A Rights Based Approach To Water User Associations In India

A number of States have now passed laws creating Water Users Associations in the last few years. Given the bias in the legal system that recognizes statutory rights to the exclusion of almost any other form of rights, the passing of these laws presents an opportunity to these Associations to see what effective rights have come their way through these laws. Although the States that have passed these laws have tended to adopt similar model and scheme for Water Users Associations a closer examination from rights based approach shows that there are significant variations in some of the State laws. The paper shall comment on the formal rights available to these Associations in different States today while focusing on both their internal and external rights. It shall also suggest whether and how far they are precipitating a group rights regime while tracing its inevitable linkage to the critical question of water entitlements. Finally, it will also be argued that the nature and extent of these rights are a direct function of the way law-making is carried out within the aegis of projects on Participatory Irrigation Management.