The Army of Women Battling India’s $10 Billion Power Problem

India’s power companies have a problem largely responsible for $10 billion a year in losses. Slum dwellers steal electricity and refuse to pay their bills. But company officials often can’t go in without being chased by mobs—and sometimes beaten, tied up, urinated on, even murdered.

So officials at Tata Power Co.’s joint venture with the Delhi state government came up with a solution that’s turning out to be a model, not just for the rest of India, but for the world: It hired women living in the 223 slums it serves in the northern and northwest parts of the capital and called them “Abhas,” from the Sanskrit word for light.

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd.’s force of now 841 wives, mothers, and women as young as 20 go around the slums, knocking on neighbors’ doors and persuading, coaxing, cajoling and nagging them to pay their power bills.


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