Bright Lights, Big Bill

Atul Loke/Outlook

With no power in his home, Kunal Shinde makes do with the light of an oil lamp to study for exams.

In India, power is power. Whoever can provide precious kilowatts to householders or industrialists scores huge political points. Politicians allow slum dwellers to tap into the grid for free in return for votes, and policemen do the same for bribes. The government even subsidizes electricity bills for farmers, the majority of the population. The country simply doesn't have enough juice. And its underdeveloped and antiquated power grid is making life miserable for virtually everyone.

The exception should be the Indian state of Maharashtra, which has electricity galore, thanks to a major power complex set up by Dabhol Power Co., a consortium of...

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