Power and Powerlessness
The Injustice of India's Electricity System
Electricity is a basic need for practically all people, and it is also one of the most obvious failures of infrastructure in India today. Power cuts, load shedding, voltage fluctuations, and simple lack of electricity supply are basic features of life for the vast majority of Indians. Simultaneously, and with far less attention from the media, electricity-related projects - dams, coal mines, power plants - have sparked conflicts across India. In both of these ways, electricity is a central issue in both policy and politics across the entire country.
In this book, we seek to ask - why is India's electricity sector failing in so many different ways? What are the common threads between these myriad failures? Perhaps most importantly, what can those who care about justice, dignity and development do about those failures?
The answers we have found are not what one might expect. The structure of the modern electricity sector in India hides more than it reveals, and there is a giant gap between the stated goals of that structure and the actual reality of the policies, institutions, rules and guidelines that make it work. This book is neither a policy manual nor a technical report on the electricitysector - we aim instead to present a kind of map of this system. We hope that the findings here can be useful at multiple levels - to individuals, such as researchers, academics and those simply interested in the subject; to organisations working for social justice in local areas or at regional and state levels; and to groups fighting for larger-scale policy changes.