Right to Drinking Water in India

C. Ramachandraiah
Working Paper No. 56 May, 2004
JEL codes: 
Right to water has assumed greater significance in India in recent years. Declarations by the United Nations and other international organisations, and judicial pronouncements by the Supreme Court of India from time to time that right to water is part of right to life as per Article 21 of the Constitution of India have, among others, contributed to the growing awareness on this issue. That the State has the obligation to protect and fulfill the fundamental rights of citizens, in this case provision of clean drinking water as part of right to life, has not mattered much to the condition of the poor in this regard. In addition to the lack of access to adequate quantity of water, millions of poor have been suffering from the adverse consequences of water contamination. There has been a paradigm shift towards treating water as an economic good in India as a result of the structural adjustment policies and the State has been adopting policies that favour the corporate business in water sector. This paper analyses some of these issues and argues that the entry of the corporate capital in water sector together with the role of the State in this sector, poses a threat to the realization of the right to water for the poor and marginalized groups in India. The paper further argues that the right to food campaign should strongly incorporate the right to water in the struggle against hunger and starvation