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Unformatted text preview: REVIEW OF AGRICULTURE June 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 208 Social Organisation of Shared Well Irrigation in Punjab Rakesh Tiwary An institution of shared well irrigation has existed for long in Punjab since the days of the Persian wheel about which there is little information available. This institution which is based on the intertwined relations of social structure and physical aspects of irrigation continues to be a significant part of social, economic and cultural life of the cultivators of Punjab. The institution has its own sets of principles and rules, where linkages of land and water, notions of equity and consensus shape the recurrent patterns of behaviour. The traditional irrigation system has been durable enough to negotiate technological changes from Persian wheels to submersible pumps. This paper aims to analyse the social organisation of shared well irrigation, with its structural and functional aspects, in the villages of Punjab. I rrigation, more than being an act of hydraulic engineering, is also a social-cultural activity (Kelly 1983). Sociological is- sues are embedded in all irrigation systems, small or large. Irrigation requires multiple tasks to be performed – water ex- traction, resource mobilisation, allocation, and conflict manage- ment. These require a coordinated system of rules, norms, cus- toms and laws which will shape the recurrent behaviour of ac- tors. It makes water flowing in irrigation systems as much a product of human organi sation as it is a natural commodity. Thus it will be very helpful to view irrigation units as organisa- tional entities, units in which a collectivity of individuals estab- lish actual patterns of behaviour. An in-depth understanding of the technical and economic problems of irrigated agriculture is impossible without understanding the social context in which irrigation is embedded (Cernea 1985). Various studies in the past have tried to understand and analyse the intert wined relation- ship of society and irrigation (Leach 1961; Hunt and Hunt 1976; Gray 1963; Lansing 1991; Fleuret 1985). 1 Introduction The idea of social organisation helps to decipher both ideal and actual behaviour patterns. There are facets of social organisation of irrigation, structural and functional, which go hand in hand to reinforce each other. The structural aspect of organisation entails an expected set of roles, set of rules or governing principles regulating social action. Social organisation rests upon collective adherence of social groups to these behavioural charters. These charters of behavi- ours are multilayered and can be categorised as (i) principles, (ii) rules, and (iii) sub-rules. Principles are fundamental bases around which irrigation activities are woven. They may be the result of evolution or diffusion. They are strongly adhered to the extent of being undisputable, and so they are durable for a fairly long period of time. For example, the principle followed in a long period of time....
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