I am now convinced, after reading the first few chapters, that India is a near perfect setting to study water infrastructure as it matters for states (both federal and subnational) — in a post-colonial period, deep democratic roots were fashioned from a doctrine of subnational state autonomy and a federal polity; water, thus, becomes a state and federal issue, but states are mainly left to the task of organizating, implementing, and maintaining water supplies, cleanliness, etc. All this complexity withstanding, urban infrastructure reform is beset by relatively low levels of urbanization, neoliberal urban reform policies, and genearlized global pressures and opportunities.
Using a multi-method and multi-site approach, Gopakumar takes us to three metropolitan areas in three subnational states: the city of Bengaluru in Karnataka, the city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu, and the city of Kochi in Kerala. Each case is carefully selected for their differing response to reform, mainly, in the form of resistance or acquiescence, and the relative autonomy of the subnational state from the federalized state of India.
If that were not enough, the case of India is a great one for state theory, and Gopakumar covers a lot of this territory in his review of the literature. India is presented as both a strong and weak state; strong enough to keep boarders and avoid decay, but weak enough that it failed to promote massive economic and social development. Additionally, even as India began to fortify its infrastructure, social interests co-opted the state aparatus thus making it increasing an “embedded” state too soft to enforce regulation and became overly accomodating to its many and diverse state stake holders. In this way, India was overloaded by engaging in too many endeavors, without delegating enough of these responsibilities to local, subnational states. As Sinha (2005) argued, the developmental state suffers not just practically, but also conceptually, and Gopakumar (2012:18) suggests that we must transcend ‘inherited scholarly barriers and mental containers that have prevented disaggregation of the state in critical analysis”! The problem he identifies, echoing Sinha, is that the overarching theme of state action overwhelmingly adopt a state-as-an-actor metaphor, as either a benevolent state aiding in the development of the country or a malevolent state preying on its people and resources.
The role of states in infrastructure studies seems nearly unquestionable at this point in research.