India Has Its Own Kind of Power Struggle

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Seven years ago, more than 50% of the power distributed by North Delhi Power Ltd. wasn't paid for by customers. Today, the company has cut that to 15%, signaling that one of India's biggest infrastructure problems can be solved, if tackled aggressively.

Power theft by rich and poor customers as well as businesses has plagued India for decades, hindering foreign and domestic investment that could spark the increase in generating capacity the nation desperately needs.

The experience of North Delhi Power, a joint venture between the Delhi government and Mumbai-based Tata Power Co. Ltd., shows that a broad and sustained effort can make a difference.

A key challenge for power companies is reducing theft by India's poor. Many have come to view free electricity as a right, something that politicians have done little to counter in a bid to win votes.

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