Environmental claim making, grassroots actors and the Indian state : the case of Kolkata, India
This research aims to understand the environmental claim making of urban grassroots women and men, and to compare it with institutional designs for increasing the access of municipal channels to a wider base of people. The gap between environmental claim making as it happens 'on the ground', and institutional provisions for inclusive and accessible formal claim making is hypothesised to cause the exclusion of grassroots actors' claims from formal channels. The Indian case was used for the research, focussing on the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act (74th CAA) enacted in 1993 by the Indian state for devolving power to urban municipalities. The environmental agenda of the 74th CAA introduced a new understanding of the urban environment for municipal governments, while the inclusion agenda introduced new channels to increase municipal access to a larger number and variety of voices. Formal channels studied include new channels instituted by the 74th CAA and existing channels such as elected municipal representatives and appointed officials. Fieldwork was conducted in Kolkata city for two cases, in which grassroots groups were in conflict with surrounding communities over access to and control over urban waterbodies. The Third World Political Ecology approach was adopted for this research. The research focused on the discursive field and the political field of the city to understand grassroots environmental claim making. Qualitative analysis of the data established the importance of political and bureaucratic culture of the state, and the identity of the claim makers. The impact of this on shaping environmental discourses and formation of discourse coalitions and solidarity groupings and the impact of these on the politics of environmental claim making in the formal channels was also observed. The claim making process was observed as being embedded in various moments of social processes, unlike as understood by the 74th CAA.