RIP, Mr Acharya

Samir Acharya has passed away. One of the people I respect most has passed away. The news is fresh. I got to know about twenty minutes ago. I have to write this obit and I want to write it while the shock and loss and regret of not having met him or spoken with him […]

Capital bows before the state. An article for Seminar

“IN a democracy, the primary governing agent is the political party. Other pillars of the establishment either implement its decisions or offer checks and balances. Political parties, as veteran journalist Prem Shankar Jha wrote in an essay titled ‘Where Indian Democracy Went Wrong’, need funds to maintain cadre and campaign in elections. In India, given […]

Can Gas Account for 15% of India’s Energy Mix?

In March this year, union minister Dharmendra Pradhan published an article. Most of the piece, titled Why India Needs A New Energy Roadmap, listed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s efforts to make India a gas-based economy. The government, wrote India’s petroleum and natural gas minister, wants to take India towards renewables. […]

India Is Back To A Time Before The Bhopal Gas Tragedy

I wrote today’s piece — for Article 14 — after reading a comparison between the draft Environmental Impact Assessment Notification (2020) and its forerunner, the 2006 notification. Such analysis is problematic. It suffers from what George Monbiot called the ‘Shifting Baseline Syndrome’ — of assuming what we inherited was ‘normal’ and everything thereafter is a […]

Crony Capitalism on Modi’s Watch Means Invisible Hands Ensure You Never Go Bankrupt

If crony capitalism under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was characterised by scams like captive coal block allocation where undeserving companies landed coal blocks, it reveals itself under the BJP through the party’s careful extrication of some business groups from the bankruptcy process while letting others get possessed and sold by banks. As a reporter, […]

“Campaigns are more effective when they are joined up” An interview with author Quentin Beresford

In 2015, Australian professor of politics Quentin Beresford published his book on Gunns Ltd- the biggest logging firm in Tasmania. The company was engulfed in snowballing controversy after announcing plans for a pulp mill that threatened native forests. It was a familiar script. Supporting the project, state politicians had dismissed concerns from local scientific bodies. […]

In memory of Richard Grove

It was August, 2006. Or, perhaps, September, 2006. Not too many days had passed since I reached the University of Sussex for a Masters in Environment, Development and Policy. Classes had just started. It was almost certainly the first week. One afternoon, wanting a cup of tea, walking to one of the many cafeterias in the campus, […]

India’s great fossil fuels push

In global circles fighting climate change, India scores a passing grade. Take Climate Action Tracker, a website tracking countries’ actions on climate change. Citing India’s ambitious renewable energy targets — 450 GW by 2030 – it says the country is on “track to overachieve its ‘2˚C compatible’ rated Paris Agreement climate action targets”. If the […]

How a legal loophole allows BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar to hide his full wealth from election panel

On March 12, 2018, as a part of his Rajya Sabha application as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar submitted an intriguing affidavit listing his assets and sources of wealth to the Election Commission. The affidavit, a mandatory requirement for electoral aspirants, pegged the businessman-turned-politician’s annual income at Rs 28 crore and valued his […]

More on the asymmetry that rules India’s business insolvency process

Since October last year, Scroll has been (intermittently) reporting on how India’s insolvency proceedings are coming along. Cumulatively, these reports flag a couple of peculiar patterns. A lot of companies are up for sale — In a country with 7500 companies with a topline over Rs 250 crore, 2511 companies are slated for insolvency proceedings. […]

Five reasons why claims by forest dwellers for their land are low – and rejections are high

On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of more than 10 lakh families of Adivasis and other forest-dwellers from forestlands across 16 states. The order came while the court was hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The petitioners had demanded that state governments evict those forest dwellers […]

Centre’s weak legal defence of forest act means ten lakh families could be evicted, say activists

On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to evict over 10 lakh forest-dwellers whose claims over forestland have been rejected, a direction that will hurt some of India’s most vulnerable people. The order came in a case on the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, which was passed in 2006 aiming to […]

The curious case of Russian oil deals that benefited Essar, hurt ONGC

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Delhi in December 2014, his camaraderie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely noted. What received less attention were the curiously asymmetric deals that an oil company controlled by the Russian government went on to sign with Indian companies over the next two years. First, between September 2015 and […]

Interview: ‘We have underestimated the extent of India’s jobs crisis. It is far more serious’

and gosh. one more frikking q&a. On Thursday, a political storm boiled over after Business Standard reported that, between 2017-’18, unemployment numbers in India reached a 45-year high. The newspaper based its report on a survey, conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation, called the Periodic Labour Force Survey that the government had not made public.  According to […]

P Chidambaram interview: Minimum income plan aims to wipe out poverty, MGNREGA had limited objective

On January 28, Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced the party is “committed to a Minimum Income Guarantee for every poor person”. His brief announcement raised more questions than answers. The financial scale of a scheme that gives a monthly income to the poor in India will be huge. Therefore, how will it be funded? If […]

Reviving the Ganga #3. Three ways in which the Modi government is adding fresh stresses to the river

A century ago, the gharial could be found all the way from the Indus to the Irrawady. The thin-snouted, fish-eating member of the crocodile family was spread out over 20,000 sq km at the time, studies estimate, and numbered between 5,000 and 10,000. Now, no more than 200 breeding adults survive in the wild. The […]

Reviving the Ganga #2 Modi said he would revive Ganga but his government is doing the opposite by reviving dams

The focus of their anger lay 400 kilometres to the north. Since 2002, Uttarakhand, where the Ganga originates, has been on a drive to build hydel power projects. The state, which currently produces 4,000 MW of hydel power from 98-odd projects, has since 2009 signed agreements to build another 350 dams. Most of these are […]

Reviving the Ganga #1. Modi’s clean Ganga plan hinges on private companies tackling sewage. Will it work?

In September 2014, shortly after coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first meeting on the Ganga. The river had featured prominently in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto. The Ganga was both jeevan dayini, the giver of life, and mukti dayini, which sets the soul free, the document said. But all was […]

Insolvency process: Competition Commission should see if monopolies are forming, says Yashwant Sinha

Over the last four-and-a-half years, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has done much to constrict India’s economy. Demonetisation hurt the smallest businesses: those of the self-employed. Their incomes are yet to return to pre-demonetisation levels. Many slightly bigger businesses, like small and medium enterprises in industrial clusters like Surat in Gujarat and […]

Interview: Income support schemes for farmers are a cop-out, says economist Abhijit Sen

On January 1, when Indian news agency ANI asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the government’s plans to reduce agrarian distress, he said loan waivers do not work as a very small segment of farmers take loans from banks. “A majority of them take loans from money lenders,” said Modi. “When governments make such announcements, […]

Biggest winner of Modi’s loan-in-59-minutes plan for small companies is an Ahmedabad fintech startup

On November 2, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a slew of announcements aimed at reviving India’s faltering micro, small and medium enterprises. One of these was about a dedicated digital platform – http://www.psbloansin59minutes.com – to enable them to access loans of upto Rs 1 crore in just 59 minutes. Unlike their larger counterparts, India’s smaller […]

Arun Jaitley is being disingenuous in blaming RBI for the troubles of India’s small and medium firms

What India’s Finance Minister says… The finance minister this week criticised the central bank for failing to check indiscriminate bank lending from 2008 to 2014 which has now ripened into a bad loan crisis. The attack was accompanied by the government invoking never-used powers under the Reserve Bank Act to issue directions to the bank’s […]

India’s curious inflexibility in trying to fix its bad loan crisis is leading to unforeseen problems

India’s crackdown on companies that have defaulted on loan repayments is reshaping the country’s economy in fundamental ways. As the first three articles in this series detailed, competitive advantage is being tilted towards larger firms because only a handful of buyers is picking up most of the insolvent firms on sale. Between the resulting consolidation […]

India’s proceedings to recover bad debt are reshaping Chhattisgarh’s economy – and politics too

A baton is changing hands in Chhattisgarh. Big companies are entering the state’s steel and power sector, using India’s ongoing insolvency proceedings to buy distressed firms. At the same time, Chhattisgarh’s local steel makers, several of whom entered the power sector in the mid-2000s, are looking beyond these two sectors. Part Three of our series […]

As India tackles its bad loans problem, large local groups and global funds are gaining advantage

By March, seven companies had evinced interest in buying Lanco Infratech. The company began life in 1986 as a construction contractor, but grew into a power and infrastructure behemoth after liberalisation. Much of this growth was funded by bank loans. In June 2017, after missing its loan repayments, the company found itself on the Reserve […]

India’s bid to fix bad loan crisis is reshaping its corporate sector – and creating new challenges

After a long break, I finally — and rather sulkily — resumed work in the middle of August. Out today, the first of my trademark long-winded and tremendously depressing series: on how India’s business insolvency cases are coming along. The series — it is a four-parter — essentially argues that India needs to pay far […]

The MJ Akbar playbook: Men look back at how he preyed on women colleagues in newsrooms and got away

It’s a case that is being described as “India’s Women vs MJ Akbar”. Beginning with veteran journalist Priya Ramani, 16 women have gone public this month with sexual harassment allegations against former Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar. After Akbar filed a criminal defamation case against Ramani, 17 more women who worked in […]

Modi is right. Amul was indeed an inspiring success story (but it’s all going wrong now)

Dairy cooperative Amul came in for high praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. Talking to a gathering of farmers after inaugurating the cooperative’s new chocolate factory in Anand in Gujarat, Modi said the organisation represents a viable alternative to capitalism and socialism. According to a report in The Hindu, he also said, “It […]

One year after GST, India’s smaller companies are on the backfoot

On July 1, 2017, India introduced the Goods and Services Tax to replace the patchwork of indirect taxes that existed at the time and to improve tax compliances. As the tax regime completes its first year, Scroll.in reporters interviewed people running a variety of businesses: handicraft-makers in Guwahati, textile manufacturers in Surat and Tirupur, paper-goods […]

The year of reading gluttonously

Earlier this evening, I sat down to write a blogpost about the better books I have read over the last few months. There has been – due to all manner of complicated reasons — a lot of reading. The months that immediately followed the end of my states reporting project for Scroll saw me pick […]

Bumps ahead

Realised some days ago that a bunch of hyperlinks on frac/earth are not working. Correcting them now. My apologies for this. If there is any article you need access to, drop me a line. Things should be working fine in a week or so. Update: All fixed.

On the six factors which cumulatively added up to India’s unprecedented cash squeeze

India’s current cash crunch is a real enigma. To begin with, there is its sheer unprecedented nature. In all the years since Independence, India has never seen something like it. “We have heard of coin shortages but never a cash shortage,” said MS Sriram, visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore’s Centre for Public […]

Amul federation could be soured by corruption charges against its oldest cooperative in Gujarat

On March 31, K Rathnam abruptly resigned as managing director of the Kaira Union, the oldest of the 18 cooperatives that market their products under the Amul brand name. The announcement came shortly after some board members of the union, including vice chairman Rajendrasinh Parmar, alleged a Rs 450-crore scam during Rathnam’s three-year stint running […]

‘Ear To The Ground’. What we reported on between 2015 and 2017.

In March, 2015, Scroll.in kicked off a reporting project called ‘Ear To The Ground‘. It was meant to ID the largest changes afoot in six handpicked states — and to use them to understand the major processes shaping India now. As that project draws to a close, it is nostalgia-time (for me, at any rate). […]

Few people seem happy with BJP’s rule in Gujarat, yet the party still controls the state. Why?

In April 2017, Scroll.in’s Ear to the Ground project reached Gujarat. Each of the other states covered by the project thus far – Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bihar – showed one democratic malfunction or another. What about Gujarat? Gujarat is unique in our subset of six states in having been under the rule […]

Urban planning: Why Gujarat’s cities are losing their fight against a changing climate

Out today, the second — and concluding — part of our series on Gujarat and climate variability. Urban planning has seen a lot of changes in Gujarat. Take Rajkot. In 1973, when this town in Saurashtra became a municipality, its municipal corporation was responsible for urban planning. That changed in 1976 when Gujarat passed the […]

Gujarat is battered by heat waves, floods, drought. How are its cities coping?

What does the climate map of Gujarat currently look like? Southern parts of the state get fewer days of rainfall now. In Surat, for instance, locals say that rainfall patterns over the city began changing about 15 years ago, with the city getting fewer days of rain each year. However, the rainfall is more intense, […]

The Amul story: How politics is hurting the economics of Gujarat’s milk cooperatives

In the winter of 2013, the inner workings of Amul briefly became public. A boardroom putsch was underway. The directors of no less than 14 of the 17 district milk cooperatives that were then part of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which owns the Amul brand, had turned against chairman Vipul Chaudhary. A member […]

The majoritarian project in Gujarat only serves the rich, says political scientist Ghanshyam Shah

In the run-up to Assembly elections in December, Gujarat is in the throes of powerful forces. On the one hand, some of its principal economic pillars, such as small manufacturing and agriculture, are in trouble. At the same time, the state is seeing a curious fissuring. What was once a separation between Hindus and Muslims […]

‘This government is killing our businesses’: What small, medium enterprises think of GST revisions

After Friday’s GST Council meeting, which decided to cut the goods and services tax rate on two dozen commodities and announced relaxations for exporters and small and medium companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the changes brought in an early Diwali. The business press was bullish as well. “Three months on, GST now good for […]

How palm oil from Malaysia fired the Patel agitation in Gujarat

Dhirubhai is in dire straits. He can no longer recover his investments on the groundnuts he grows on three acres of land along the Junagadh-Verawal road in Gujarat. In a good year, he grows 100 kilos of groundnuts – or peanuts – for every Rs 4,000 he invests. The minimum support price – or the […]

Why small businessmen in Gujarat are quitting industry and turning to financial speculation

Two major trends are playing out in Gujarat’s economy. On one hand, small industrial units are shutting down. This is not a recent development. Micro, small and medium units in the state started getting into trouble about five years ago, well before the central government demonetised high-value currency notes in November and introduced the Goods […]

Two months in, How is GST affecting Surat’s textile hub?

Three months ago, when the central government was getting ready to roll out the Goods and Services Tax, the textile industrial cluster of Surat, Gujarat, India’s biggest manufacturer of synthetic fabrics, was distinctly nervous. At play were two conflicting views of how the new tax regime would affect India’s predominantly informal business sector. The government […]

As Gujarat’s Vadnagar station gets a makeover, a local resident asks: ‘How many jobs will it create?

Gujarat’s Vadnagar station is getting the mother of all makeovers. Its solitary rail track – a 57-km long metre-gauge line connecting the town of Mehsana to the Jain temple at Taranga – has been ripped out. It is being replaced by a broad-gauge line and extended till Abu Road in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan. […]

Caste Calculus: How the BJP is expanding its footprint in Bihar

In a hamlet between Badlapura and Chirandgaon villages near Chhapra, Bihar, a small temple is packed with about 40 women. Unmindful of the summer afternoon heat, they are absorbed in worshipping the Hindu god Shiva. It is a Shiv Charcha, Ajay Pandey, the priest of a nearby temple, explained. The women live in five villages […]

Fear and loathing in Chhapra: How a peaceful Bihar town became a communal tinderbox

Over the past four years, religious tension has steadily increased in Chhapra, Bihar. For evidence, see how this once peaceful town in Saran district now celebrates Ram Navmi or Maha Shivaratri: the high point of the festivities is large processions of young men wearing saffron headbands brandishing swords and shouting “Jai Shri Ram” to a […]

Beyond Surat’s GST strike: New technologies, Chinese imports are causing a churn in textile sector

At one time, the neighbourhood around Surat’s textile markets was noisy. The street resounded with the clacketing of powerlooms – five or six machines in dark, poorly ventilated rooms with split levels. Most of these were family-run businesses. The looms were on the groundfloor with families working by day and sleeping upstairs at night. Now, […]

In Surat’s textile hub, small businesses are afraid of GST – but big companies are not

Rajesh Mehra is desolate. A big-boned man in his mid-fifties, he is a trader in women’s blouses. Until ten years ago, Mehra used to take orders from garment wholesalers in big cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, buy the cloth and thread he needed from garment clusters like Silvassa, and get the blouses stitched in […]

What’s common between coaching classes in Bihar and its bahubali leaders?

Career Plan Coaching Centre is not much to look at. It is a tiny room, tightly packed with benches and desks, housed in an unplastered brick structure, one half of which is a garage. A board advertises the services offered by the centre, located in Geetwas, a small village near Araria in northeastern Bihar: tuitions […]

Bihar’s Nitish Kumar has been in power for 12 years. Why has he failed to change its fortunes?

Kanwar jheel is a freshwater lake spread over 6,311 hectares in Bihar’s Begusarai district. Till the 1970s, the lake used to attract as many as 100,000 freshwater birds each year. But, in recent decades, it has been under attack. Landowners from the Bhumihar caste have been draining Kanwar jheel to farm on its lakebed. This […]

Bihar is struggling to improve the lives of the poor even after 27 years of backward caste rule

The district hospital of Muzaffarpur, 100 km north of Patna, Bihar’s capital, is struggling with a shortage of doctors. With 160 beds and an estimated inflow of 500-600 new patients each day, the hospital should have 48 full-time doctors and 52 nurses, said one of its administrators. What it has, instead, is 12 full-time doctors, […]

Bihar can’t even count how many dengue cases it has had, let alone fight the disease

In Bhagalpur, the historic Bihar city on the southern banks of the river Ganga, doctors disagree about the threat of dengue in the area. Vijay Kumar, the civil surgeon for Bhagalpur, says dengue is under control. His statement has been flatly contradicted by doctors at Bhagalpur’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital. The hospital identified […]

Lessons from Bihar’s 2016 dengue outbreak : Migration, poverty, garbage are spreading new diseases

In 2016, dengue hammered Krah. As many as 100 people living in this densely-packed, predominantly Muslim ghetto of about 1,000 families near Biharsharif contracted the disease, say residents. The scale of the outbreak was unprecedented. As Mohammad Ilyas, a young tailor who works and lives in Krah, said: “We never had such an outbreak earlier.” […]

Cancer has exploded in Bihar as lakhs of people drink water poisoned with arsenic

It is a day like any other at Mahavir Cancer Sansthan. The driveway is lined with people who have travelled a long way to get to this charitable hospital in Patna. Families sit huddled, holding their bags close. The lobby is even more crowded, rather like the ticket buying hall of a train station.  The […]

‘Is the pain worth it?’: 50 days after demonetisation, rural South India has a few questions

On November 9, life suddenly came to a standstill in Chikka Tirupathi, Bagalur and Hosur. As in the rest of India, the first day of demonetisation in these towns abutting the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border was marked by problems in conducting day-to-day trading for small businesses and a frenzied hunt for Rs 100 notes for families. […]

Aadhaar shows India’s governance is susceptible to poorly tested ideas pushed by powerful people

This series has flagged a puzzling trend. State governments are struggling to use Aadhaar-based fingerprint authentication in ration shops. At the same time, a rising number of companies are integrating Aadhaar into their databases. This is puzzling because from its inception, Aadhaar, India’s Unique Identification project, was pitched as integral to the modernisation of social […]

An update from Patna’s Maroofganj mandi

ten days into #notebandi, patna’s Maroofganj mandi had frozen. As demonetisation enters its second week, traders in Patna’s Maroofganj mandi are seeing something unprecedented. In the last seven days, the supply of new stocks in this wholesale market, which supplies cooking oil, spices, rice, wheat and pulses to shopkeepers across Patna, has plummeted. The supply […]

What happens to privacy when companies have your Aadhaar number?

Out today, the second part of my story on companies, aadhaar and privacy. As the previous story in this series reported, some companies are using Aadhaar to share customer and business partner information. This could aid the rise of data-broking companies like Acziom in the United States that hold ever more detailed profiles of people. […]

How private companies are using Aadhaar to try to deliver better services (but there’s a catch)

Aadhaar, as India’s Unique Identity Project is called, aims to give a 12-digit unique identity number to all residents by collecting their fingerprint and iris scans. As of September, its database, maintained by the Unique Identity Authority of India, held the names, addresses and biometric information of more than 105 crore people. The project was […]

The lid on illegal sand mining in TN might finally be lifted (but perhaps for the wrong reasons)

In a day of fast-paced developments, Income-Tax Department officials raided the house of Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary P Rama Mohana Rao on Wednesday morning where they seized Rs 30 lakh in cash in new, post-demonetisation currency notes, according to the Hindu. Later in the day, Central Bureau of Investigation sleuths also arrested Shekar Reddy, one […]

Ground report: In Bihar, murmurs of protest break the sullen silence against demonetisation

Banka was the last stop before returning to Patna in this reporter’s travels from North Bihar to South Bihar, to get a sense of how notebandi was impacting the structures of everyday life. The journey had started with Raxaul, on the India-Nepal border, on November 18, exactly 10 days after notebandi was announced. Heading south, […]

Think Tamil Nadu has good public healthcare? It’s hard to find it on the ground

the concluding part of our story on why Tamil Nadu’s healthcare system is weakening. In India’s development circles, Tamil Nadu is viewed as one of the best performing states in the delivery of public welfare like education and healthcare. But, as the first part of this story reported, the state is improving on some public […]

Tamil Nadu’s healthcare numbers look good – but its people aren’t getting healthier

Out today, the first part of our final #ETTG story from Tamil Nadu. This one says the state’s much-vaunted healthcare system is weakening. On some fronts, the state’s public health system continues to work well. Today, nearly all babies in Tamil Nadu are delivered in clinics – from 87% in 2002-’04, institutional deliveries climbed to […]

Money is trickling into the banks of Bihar – but is not being distributed evenly

A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, cash availability is starkly uneven across Bihar. In relatively affluent parts of the capital city of Patna, the long queues outside ATMs seen in the first week of notebandi, when the government invalidated 86% of […]

Demonetisation: In a hamlet in Bihar, income and expenditure is down, but hopes are up

The last 30 days have not been easy for the people of Bhindu Paimar. The standard demonetisation narrative has played out in this tola (hamlet) in Karjara panchayat in Gaya, Bihar, about 20 km from Gaya city, on the road that leads to the ancient Buddhist university of Nalanda. Earnings have fallen. Most people in […]

Paneerselvam has a major task: To reverse Tamil Nadu’s slipping development standards

O Panneerselvam has a tough task ahead of him. Contrary to popular perception, which credits Tamil Nadu with high scores on development indices and a smoothly functioning administration, the state has lost ground over the last ten or so years. Take education. Between 2010 and now, the number of students passing the state board exams […]

The demonetisation effect on border town Raxaul: Income loss, dependence on Nepalese currency

My second field trip in Bihar took me from Patna to Raxaul in the far north. A couple of days there, and then I began trickling southwards. Bettiah. Gopalganj and then Darbhanga. And then Patna again. I will head further south tomorrow — towards Gaya — before turning northeast towards Nalanda and then straight east […]

Cauliflower sells for Rs one a kilo in Bihar as demonetisation depresses demand

At first glance, it looks like any other day at the mandi in Bettiah. Trucks stand next to the concrete arch that leads into the fruit and vegetable market in this small town in northern Bihar. Inside the mandi samiti, as the precinct is called, hawkers sit with baskets bursting with vegetables. The shops seem […]

Tamil Nadu tried to reform its schools – but made them much worse

the concluding part of our story on TN’s school education system. A former official in the state examinations department traced the disarray to a handful of factors – among them the decision to do away with exams, the obduracy of matriculation schools, and rising pressure on the education department to show good results.

How four families have survived two weeks of demonetisation

reported for this story. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to do away with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has not been good for Guddu Sharma’s family. Sharma, 24, lives with his wife and two sons near Patna’s Boring Road, and runs a men’s salon about 30 minutes away. Since the prime minister’s announcement, he […]

Demonetisation has left India’s food markets frozen – and the future looks tense

As demonetisation enters its second week, traders in Patna’s Maroofganj mandi are seeing something unprecedented. In the last seven days, the supply of new stocks in this wholesale market, which supplies cooking oil, spices, rice, wheat and pulses to shopkeepers across Patna, has plummeted. The supply of cooking oil, for instance, is down by 80%. […]

Reading Zygmunt Bauman

during these months spent on #eartotheground, one of the largest social processes my colleagues and i have written about is this rising intensification of caste and religious identities.we saw that in punjab. and we saw that in tamil nadu. our story at tamil nadu advanced an hypothesis that stagnant economic fortunes of the intermediate castes […]

As MNREGA work dries up, even the elderly in Bihar are migrating to brick-kilns

In a year when large swathes of rural India reeled under drought, the Centre used WhatsApp messages to ask states to go slow on generating employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. This startling revelation emerged in the public domain in the last week of October through the reports of the Business […]

And now for something completely different

Some photos from my first field trip in Bihar. Patna-Muzaffarpur-Araria-Bhagalpur-Patna. A tea seller on the banks of the Kosi. A village market. A villager who, seeking sustenance, set up an x ray clinic in his village. Field trip number two. Patna-Raxaul-Bettiah-Gopalganj-Darbhanga-Patna. A smoggy sunrise in Gopalganj. Hazarimal’s Dharamshala in Bettiah (This is where Gandhi had […]

‘No ideology, no political idea’: Hosur shows what happens when a society has been sedated

In the last 40 years, Hosur has been on a rollercoaster. In 1973, this Tamil Nadu town on the border with Karnataka was chosen as the site for the state’s second industrial cluster. Through the ’70s, a diverse clutch of companies, producing everything from trucks to garments to medicines, set up factories here. Hosur began […]

These companies are changing the way labour is hired (and fired) in India

Heard of a company called UDS? Like India’s IT companies, it hires workers and sends them to client locations. There’s just one difference: while the IT companies supply white-collar workers to firms across the world, UDS provides blue-collar workers to offices, factories, airports in India. They run assembly lines, do housekeeping, handle packing and loading, […]

Why Tamil Nadu is erecting cages around statues (hint: it’s linked to caste)

Two statues stood on a road between Pondicherry and Villupuram. On the right was CN Annadurai, the first Dravidian chief minister of Tamil Nadu. On the left, Bhimrao Ambedkar. Together, they made an arresting tableau. Annadurai’s statue stood on an open cement plinth, with a red and black flag of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam jammed […]

Sand mining in Tamil Nadu is incredibly destructive – but it’s also unstoppable

For the longest time, V Chandrasekhar fought a lonely battle. When sand miners first came to his village near Pondicherry in the 1980s, most of his fellow villagers stayed quiet. They stayed quiet when the local riverbed went down by 30 feet, local groundwater levels collapsed, wells dried out and then filled up with saline […]

Think sand mining damages the ecology? It ruins politics as well

…Villages talk about collapsed groundwater levels, wells that do not fill even when the river is brimming, wells in coastal areas which have turned saline. Little here is surprising. These ecological changes are well-known side-effects of sand mining. But the damage done by sand mining isn’t just ecological. As Scroll found while reporting from Tamil […]