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Dr. Sandip Sukhtankar
Sustainability Science Program
Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: 311 Rubenstein Building
Tel: (1) 617-496-4382
Group affiliation: Giorgio Ruffolo Research Fellow in Sustainability Science
Sandip Sukhtankar is a Giorgio Ruffolo Research Fellow in the Sustainability Science Program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on corruption, governance, and the delivery of public benefits and services in India. Sandip is contributing to collaborative work with the Initiative on Public-Private Partnerships to Promote Sustainable Development in India led by Professor Rohini Pande. Past projects have examined the political economy of sugarcane cooperatives and incentives for corruption in India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes. Current projects involve randomized experiments to evaluate the use of technology to deliver public services. Sandip is an affiliate of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab, and a visiting researcher at the Centre for Innovative Financial Design at the Institute for Financial Management and Research. Sukhtankar received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University (2009) and a BA from Swarthmore College (2000). His faculty host is Rohini Pande.
(Monetizing) power to the people: An intervention in electricity markets in rural India
Free power to farmers in India is a common state policy widely understood to lead to over-use of electricity and groundwater depletion. A less commonly appreciated effect of this power is the negative externality on non-farm activity; utilities respond to free power policies by interrupting supply which adversely affects small-scale rural manufacturing and processing. The research uses a simple intervention that may solve problems associated with such policies while keeping beneficiaries satisfied. The idea behind the intervention is straightforward: monetize power, ensuring that farmers internalize the cost of electricity, yet compensate them for the loss of free electricity through a cash transfer. Farmers who use more than the allocated units would pay market price for the extra units. However, and this is the key economic incentive that drives the intervention, farmers who use less than the allocated free units would receive a cash transfer equal to the market value of the unused units. Thus the price of electricity consumption is internalized, and overuse of electricity and its subsequent consequences reduced. The research examines the effects of this intervention through a randomized control trial at the sub-station level in four districts in Andhra Pradesh. It captures outcomes such as consumption, welfare, economic activity, electricity consumption, and groundwater levels through a combination of household and enterprise surveys, data from electricity utilities, and physical and remote-sensing data on water levels.