September 25, 2012

2012: Highlight # 1

Is a trade-off between agrarian prosperity and rural well-being inevitable? Nisha Nair and Tushaar Shah investigate the status of rural power supply environment in western India...

The Other Side of India's Electricity-Groundwater Nexus

The disruptive impact of tube well irrigation on rural development in western India

Nisha Nair and Tushaar Shah

The rural Power Supply Environment (PSEn) - daily hours of power available, frequency of voltage fluctuations, frequency and length of interruptions - is a major casualty of the boom that India’s western states have experienced in tube well irrigation during recent decades. Poor PSEn has been a roadblock to broad-based development of rural economies, the growth of non – farm livelihoods, the development of cottage industries and even to basic services such as health and education in villages. Free power supply to farmers and the subsidised flat tariff are at the root of the growing anarchy at the feeder, resulting in poor PSEn.

This Highlight summarises the results of a survey, undertaken by IRMA interns of some 1400 rural electricity consumers in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Kerala in 2010, to explore the relationship between farm power rationing and rural PSEn. We also explore approaches used by states to improve rural PSEn. Technical fixes - such as feeder separation and High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) – can help contain feeder-level anarchy. But the potency of these approaches increases manifold in conjunction with vigorous campaigns to control power theft and organisational reform of power utilities, to enhance customer service orientation.

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