Utilizing data from the power corporation of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, we study the politics of electricity theft over a ten year period (2000–09). Our results show that electricity theft is substantial in magnitude. The extent of theft varies with the electoral cycle of the state. In years when elections to the State Assembly are held, electricity theft is significantly greater than in other years. Theft is increasing with the intensity of tubewells, suggesting that it is linked to unmetered electricity use by farmers. Incumbent legislative members of the state assembly are more likely to be reelected as power theft in their locality increases. Our interpretation of these various results is that power theft exhibits characteristics consistent with the political capture of public service delivery by local elites. Our results fail to substantiate that theft is linked either to political criminality or is the product of weak institutions.
Golden, M.; Min, B. Theft and loss of electricity in an Indian state (IGC Working Paper). International Growth Centre (IGC), London, UK (2012) 38 pp.