Beyond Power Politics: Evaluating the Policy Design Process of Rural Electrification in Gujarat, India

Date01 February 2017
Published date01 February 2017
AuthorNamrata Chindarkar
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Drawing upon existing theories, this article argues that good policy design requires two enabling conditionsan optimal design
space that balances political and technical goals, and policy capacity that includes organizational and analytical capacity to carry
out the implementation. The case of Gujarats unique Jyotigram Yojana(JGY) is used to illustrate how the policy design
process operates in the context of a particularly challenging issue of rural electrif‌ication. Our analysis suggests that the design
process and implementation of JGY were as much problem-driven as it was politically motivated. A top-down approach favored
the conception and implementation of JGY and enabled the state government of Gujarat to effectively leverage its f‌inancial,
technical, and administrative capacity. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
key wordssocial policy design; policy capacity; rural electrif‌ication; India
A majority of Indian households reside in rural parts of the country. In 2011, the number was estimated to be 168
million households out of a total 246 million households, making them a signif‌icant voter base (Census of India,
2011). Rural development policies are therefore at the heart of development policy formulation in India. Among
these policies, rural electrif‌ication is considered critical for growth of rural areas as it benef‌its domestic, commer-
cial, and agricultural users and has positive effects on livelihoods, health, and education (Khandker et al., 2013; van
de Walle et al., 2013). However, rural electrif‌ication is a politically sensitive issue in India, and the price of elec-
tricity is artif‌icially kept low and highly subsidized for farmers in an unsustainable manner. In some states, such as
Punjab, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh electricity is provided to farmers for free (Mukherji,
2012). Power theft is rampant, especially among agricultural users, but there is no punitive action taken against
them. Poor quality electricity supply with regular blackouts and brownouts during periods of high demand is a
common phenomenon in the Indian countryside (Joseph, 2010). At the same time, state electricity boards (SEBs)
or utility companies face huge losses and debts, resulting in a constant tussle between policymakers focusing on
rural development and those wanting f‌inancial viability of the energy sector (Financial Express, 2014).
In 2003, Gujarat became the f‌irst state in India to bring about a turnaround in rural electrif‌ication. The state
launched the Jyotigram Yojana(JGY), which translates as electrif‌ied or lighted village scheme. Under this
scheme, the state government set up separate transmission lines for domestic and agricultural users, following
which households received 24/7 high quality electricity and farmers received eight hours of uninterrupted high
quality electricity for pumping and irrigation. While other states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka,
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Rajasthan implemented similar feeder segregation, Gujarat combined
it with institutional changes, stringent measures to reduce power theft, and measures to mitigate the effects of farm
electricity subsidies. Consequently, the Gujarat SEB was able to recover its losses in a short period of time. It
started posting prof‌its in 2006 and is one of the few prof‌itable SEBs in the country. JGY is thus considered to
*Correspondence to: Correspondence to: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, 469C Bukit Timah Road,
Singapore 259772. E-mail:
public administration and development
Public Admin. Dev. 37,2839 (2017)
Published online in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pad.1777
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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