Book Review: Anuj Bhuwania, Courting the People: Public litigation in Post Emergency India

Date01 December 2017
Published date01 December 2017
Subject MatterBook Reviews
11INP727986_F.indd Book Reviews 293
forms of claim making politics, specifically by informal women’s organizations like Mangal Dal is
minute and significant. These organizations have been instrumental in foregrounding women’s struggle
for fodder and fuel and, they have been celebrated by other scholars in the field. The author strongly
argues that an unqualified celebration of such formations ‘bind the women to particular roles that are in
no way emancipatory’ (p. 124). These arguments substantiate a prescription of ‘flexibility of institutional
design’ (p. 128) for local structures of governance.
While comparing Joint Forest Management (JFM) with the older system of van panchayats, the
author clarifies the importance of local and inter-departmental contestations while substantially demon-
strating that in the JFM model ‘the entire participatory exercise is top heavy’ (p. 146). The reshaping of
NGOs ‘as line agencies of the forest department’ and the erasure of ‘all their political content’ (p. 163)
informs the critique of anti-historical methods of developing policy initiatives. These arguments need to
be read as part of the existing literature on anti-politics in India by scholars like Vasudha Chhotray who
have substantially clarified the qualitative distinctions in the processes of depoliticizing the discourse on
In the two penultimate chapters, the tone and site of the study changes significantly. The author argues
for an archetypical transition within the public sector organizations. He demonstrates that institutions
and beneficiaries of rural water supply suffer due to ‘a structure of accountability that is responsive to
the central government’ (p. 181). The empirical evidence comes from Uttar Pradesh and Kerala and a
macro policy reading of resource governance in India. In this section of discussions on the water sector,
the author describes pathways to decentralization in three different states: ‘substantively participatory’
institutions outside ‘local government structure’ in Uttarakhand (p. 205); redefining deconcentration
through ‘notional participation’ in Tamil Nadu (p. 207); and democratic devolution in Kerala through
institutionalization of Village User Committees (p. 209).
The book concludes by highlighting two issues of capacity-building...

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