The paper reports the main findings of a study, designed to develop a better understanding of institutional variations in working with the demand responsive approach (DRA) in rural water supply in the state of Odisha in India. Data for the paper were collected from twelve village communities, where water is being supplied either through their community based institution or through the local government institution of the Gram Panchayat. The findings suggest that the two types of institutions performed differently in implementing the DRA. It depicted that the DRA under the broader rubric of institutional reforms in the water sector has failed to address the question of social inequality, and rather had reinforced and extended the already existing inequity of Indian society to access to safe and secure drinking water in rural areas. The study highlights that participation, cost recovery, full operation and management transfer may be an efficient proposition, but not sustainable in the long run without proper investment in institution building and support from the state, especially in provisioning of basic services like drinking water to rural poor.