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Accepted Paper:

‘If the gas runs out we are not going to sleep hungry’: The everyday jugaad in securing household energy in critically polluted central India  


Patrik Oskarsson (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
Devanshi Chanchani (Brunel University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on qualitative research in polluted low-income urban settlements in Chhattisgarh's coal belt, we investigate the everyday jugaad (hack) in securing domestic energy for cooking and heating. Understanding everyday jugaad is crucial to informing policy and a transition to clean burning fuels.

Paper long abstract:

Despite a range of initiatives to introduce cleaner fuels, a large proportion of poor people in India continue to rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating with severe implications for personal and family health. This paper seeks to open up the varied fuel supply strategies that underpin domestic energy use in low-income settings. We draw on long-term ethnographic engagements in four severely polluted low-income urban settlements in central India’s coal belt to investigate how communities, and primarily women, ensure domestic energy provision. As households struggle to balance a range of potential fuels with different benefits and drawbacks, we outline the socio-cultural and economic processes that shape household energy choice. These highly uncertain processes take place within an institutional structure which offers some possibilities, but is overall too rigid to fit the lived realties of low-income residents. While the monetary cost of cooking gas is not always significantly higher than for alternative solid fuels, we find that the full upfront payment is a deterrent. Further, the time spent on gathering or using solid fuels might be the only available savings people can make in a setting of underemployment. Households understand that there are negative health effects from solid fuel smoke, but pollution and health are only marginal considerations for households in routine struggles to save on expenses. We argue that understanding the everyday jugaad (unconventional solution) of household energy provision is crucial to assess the possibilities to shift away from fuels damaging to both human health and the environment.

Panel P48b
Demanding Power: the contentious popular politics of energy subsidy reforms II