Drawing upon both intensive and extensive field research, this paper assesses state provisioning of drinking water in 48 designated tribal talukas of 12 districts in the west Indian state of Gujarat, through the much-publicized Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana (VKY) of the Tribal Development Department (TDD). Absence of comprehensive and accessible basic data on the programme remained a major constraint in following up implementation and ensuring corrective measures en route. Despite claims of transparency and efficiency, it was near impossible to obtain village wise and scheme wise financial information as the TDD, the originator of the VKY, did not possess relevant data on these. This lacunae was compounded by the overlapping of interventions and difficulty in rendering the relevant agency responsive. The programmeís excessive dependence on groundwater, even in high-rainfall areas in south Gujarat, for drinking water purposes posed serious challenges in a state suffering steady decline in groundwater tables in several regions. Governance deficit was obvious at the village level where participation in Gram Sabhas was often low. An important dimension of quality of drinking water, as the field surveys revealed, had received the least attention in such state interventions. The effectiveness of the programme would critically depend on identifying and addressing its basic limitations.
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