ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Navroz K DubashSubscribe to Navroz K Dubash

The Electricity-Groundwater Conundrum: Case for a Political Solution to a Political Problem

Low cost and low quality electricity for agriculture contributes to erosion of electricity distribution systems and encourages wasteful consumption, even as farmers are increasingly deprived of adequate and good quality power. While past efforts to solve this problem have focused on technocratic approaches, this paper attempts to articulate a political interpretation of the electricity-groundwater conundrum. The paper argues that farmers are quite rational in their current decision-making given the problematic context within which they make choices. It outlines a more explicitly political approach to the problem, based on state level bargains between stakeholders and a multifaceted approach to implementing bargains.

Of Rocks and Hard Places

Indian debates over electricity have been strongly influenced by international experiences. This paper provides a critical overview of recent global debates on electricity restructuring. The paper first discusses the electricity price trajectories in countries that are often cited as models of reform. It then discusses several challenges to creating competitive markets in electricity. The final two sections relate international experience to the Indian context. The authors find that the full model of organised electricity markets will be extremely challenging to implement in India, and suggest a more pragmatic "no-regrets" approach. Suitably designed, competition may be one element in this approach but it is not a short-cut to larger reforms.

Alternating Currents

The Indian electricity sector is poised at a critical moment. Implementation of the sweeping Electricity Act, 2003 is under way, even as there is considerable ferment in international thinking about electricity restructuring. This paper introduces a collection of papers written for EPW that review international experience with electricity restructuring in order to inform the Indian debate. The paper also provides a brief recent history of electricity restructuring to set the context for the country and regional papers. The history traces the initial rise of electricity restructuring to the status of "conventional wisdom" in the sector, and the more recent questioning of the model due to a series of setbacks and crises in different parts of the world.

Power Politics

Power sector policy in India appears to have locked itself into adverse arrangements at least twice in the recent period. The first was when agricultural consumption was de-metered and extensive subsidies were offered; the second when Independent Power Producer contracts with major fiscal implications were signed by the State Electricity Boards. A third set of circumstances, with the potential for equally powerful forms of institutional lock-in, appears to be in the making with the reproduction of the Orissa model on the national scale. This paper provides an analysis of the social and political context in which power sector reforms have taken place in India. While a state-led power sector has been responsible for substantial failures, is the design of the reformed sector well aimed at balancing efficiency and profit-making on the one hand and the public interest on the other? The discussion of the forces and actors that have shaped the reform processes is intended to contribute to an understanding of how the public interest can best be served in the ongoing effort to reshape the power sector.

Ecologically and Socially Embedded Exchange

Groundwater markets are highly developed in the state of Gujarat, as a result of which the Gujarat experience has been upheld as a model of how markets can enhance access to irrigation. This 'Gujarat model' rests on key assumptions about being able to shape and construct markets through policy intervention. In this paper, empirical comparative data on water markets in two villages shows instead that exchange processes are shaped by: hydro-geological factors which influence the risk of accessing water and the fixed costs of drilling wells; path dependence in the construction of irrigation infrastructure (wells and pipelines); and historical precedent and social norms which determine the institutional rules under which water is sold. But actual patterns of exchange rate shaped by complex local institutions. To understand how terms of exchange are structured and shaped over time requires attention to the micro-analytics of how real markets for groundwater actually function. Accordingly, the paper analyses local informal norms of exchange, and explores how they change over time

Pages

Back to Top