State, society and environment in the ex-state of Bahawalpur: a case study of the Sutlej Valley Project, 1921-1947

Khalid, Zahid Ali (2018) State, society and environment in the ex-state of Bahawalpur: a case study of the Sutlej Valley Project, 1921-1947. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This study examines the impact of Sutlej Valley Project (SVP) – a colonial mega canal colonisation scheme implemented by the British rulers of India in the years 1921- 1947, in order to bring upland crown waste areas of the British Punjab, and the princely states of Bahawalpur and Bikaner, under cultivation. This study covers only that part of the project which was implemented in Bahawalpur State and investigates the impact of this phase of hydraulic engineering on the state, society and its environment through the nexus of hydro-politics, land settlement, migration, demography, agricultural development and ecological change.
The implementation of the SVP opened up large wasteland areas to reclamation, areas which were subsequently colonised by both local and immigrant peasant communities from different parts of India – though predominantly from the Punjab. This thesis argues that the state – through the ownership of extensive colony lands and a large network of perennial canals – monopolised the means of production and thus took control of both society and landscape in order to reshape them to its own advantage. Through the project the state was able to wield power not only over the environment, but also its people and society. Prospective colonists, whose loyalty was ensured by the allotment of land, were carefully selected, not only for their ability to improve cultivation but on the basis of fitness for citizenship.
The SVP – implemented in a desert area – brought about radical changes in ecology. The creation of new agricultural villages and mandi (market) towns, criss-crossed by a large network of perennial canals that extended cultivation to one million acres of new colony lands, turned a desert into a productive agricultural region and made it a new commercial centre of the arid region of North-West India. The project, however, along with its positive contributions to economy and society, created significant environmental and social problems: polluting the pure desert environment and dividing the local Bahawalpuri society along ethnic lines. Through the investigation of historical materials, this thesis critically examines all these developments and looks to assess their effects on the social, political, economic and cultural life of the state. Furthermore, the analysis of the SVP presented here is conceived of as an instructive case study, and the project itself as a microcosm of wider colonial hydraulic endeavours.
In the main, this analysis utilises governmental publications issued in the form of reports, gazetteers, census reports and surveys, along with the secondary sources published as books and articles by contemporary writers. The construction of irrigation works, colonisation of wastelands, and their economic, political, social and ecological implications are analysed in order to explore whether a project of such magnitude was justified in Bahawalpur State at the time. The project is furthermore analysed in terms of the achievement – or failure to achieve – its stated objectives, which, along with an assessment of its contribution to the material progress of the princely state and the impact of this project on the state, society and its environment, form the core of the research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > History
Subjects: D History > DS History of Asia > DS401 India (Bharat) > DS463 English rule, 1761-1947 > DS480.45 1919-1947
D History > DS History of Asia > DS401 India (Bharat) > DS483 Local history and description > DS485 Minor kingdoms, states, regions, etc., A-Z > DS485.B12 Bahawalpur
T Technology > TC Hydraulic engineering. Ocean engineering > TC0001 Hydraulic engineering > TC0601 Canals and inland navigation. Waterways > TC0699 Asia > TC0702.9 South Asia > TC0703 India
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2018 07:08
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

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