Ritu Maheshwari learned quickly how recovering part of the $10 billion a year of electricity stolen across India could be a career-limiting move for a young, female bureaucrat.
As a newly minted official at the Kanpur Electricity Supply Co. in 2011, Maheshwari installed new meters across almost a third of the company’s customer base. The devices recorded energy consumption digitally and exposed real-time leaks in the distribution system. That’s where Maheshwari’s approach in Kanpur comes in.
“I managed to change 160,000 meters of 500,000 amid protests from pilfering consumers that drastically brought down the city’s distribution losses, which were at 30 percent then,” she said in an interview in New Delhi.
Resistance came from high levels. Some politicians would charge into her office, spewing threats, she recalled. Staff connived with perpetrators to pass on knowledge of specific locations in which power-theft investigations would take place, often helping them remove illegal connections temporarily before the search team arrived.
“People thought I could be fooled or manipulated, because what would a woman know about electricity and complex grids?” said Maheshwari, who graduated from the Punjab Engineering College in 2000, and joined the Indian Administrative Service three years later. “Staff members at different levels were not happy with the kind of measures being taken, whether it was metering or raids on theft. Insiders passed on information.”
Her strategy worked. Losses at the Kanpur Electricity Supply Co., or Kesco, have since halved to 15.6 percent, data on the power ministry’s website show.
Some retailers, including firms in New Delhi and Mumbai, have also found that technology can curb theft and improve billing and payment-collection efficiency to minimize losses.
Source The Economic Times