Green shoots, parched roots: What the microfinance industry tells us about rural India and the grassroots economy
Once again, an old contradiction is rearing its head.Talk to MFIs — or any of their associations — and they will tell you the sector is on the path to post-Covid recovery.This February, for instance, the association reported some green shoots. While the quantum of loans remaining unserviced for over 180 days inched up marginally… Continue reading
Who Is Buying Jet Airways? What the Spate of Unknown Actors Buying Indian Firms Means
As the first part of this series reported, the bankruptcy resolution of Jet Airways is not going well. Not only has the process seen established players in the aviation sector back out early, with a bunch of unknown entities trying to bag India’s best-run airline instead, it has also yielded an outcome where a businessman… Continue reading
Jet Airways’ Bumpy Flight Path Points to Serious Issues with India’s New Bankruptcy Code
On November 10, 2022, came startling news. As a part of an investigation into suspected fraud and money-laundering, prosecutors in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Austria had raided multiple properties belonging to Florian Fritsch. The investigation was based, said the Liechtenstein prosecutor, on “several complaints by suspected victims”. The news created ripples in distant India. Fritsch is… Continue reading
Post-Hindenburg, what happens to Adani’s energy plans?
In early February, as the market was absorbing the immediate impact of Hindenburg’s exhaustive report on Adani’s alleged improprieties, cabinet minister RK Singh struck a sanguine note. Speaking at a press conference, Singh, India’s minister for New and Renewable Energy, dismissed concerns that the Adani Group’s current crisis might hurt India’s clean energy plans. “I… Continue reading
A Journalistic History of the Adani Group
What would a brief history of India Inc look like? At the time of independence, India’s private sector was dominated by a clutch of business families. Their reign continued into the license raj years – and then was challenged by newcomers like Dhirubhai Ambani. In the 1990s, the country saw the flowering of a new… Continue reading
With Hindenburg, Adani Faces His Stiffest Challenge Yet
What does the short-seller’s report mean for Adani’s plans to grow through international bonds? I write for The Wire. Continue reading
Where is India investing more, fossil fuels or renewables?
Is India embracing renewables or fossil fuels? On the one hand, there are the commitments India has made to decarbonise its economy in the face of climate change that is already impacting the country grievously. Then there are the planners who are convinced that fossil fuels are imperative to provide the electricity needed for India’s… Continue reading
‘Despite the State’ is back!
It’s time for another update on Despite the State. Six months after Amazon shuttered Westland (its subsidiary and my publisher), it is now returning to bookshops — new copies began reaching bookshops last weeks. I am still with Westland — the team moved to Pratilipi, India’s biggest self-publishing platform (2 crore readers). I am curious… Continue reading
Five questions India needs to answer about its PLI scheme
India is trying to become a manufacturing powerhouse in a clutch of old and new sectors. Its policy instrument, the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, stands on a mix of old and new pillars—high import tariffs to coax companies to stop importing and source in India instead; a focus on creating a few champions in each… Continue reading
So long, Dr Sen.
It was 2012. I was in The Economic Times. Around April that year, I had first heard about the concentrated insanity of the common banking correspondent (BC) auctions. The details are unimportant here and so, briefly: the department of financial services wanted to cleave India into 20 clusters and appoint one BC as the common… Continue reading
What India’s solar and battery PLIs tell us about how the scheme is working
As the first part of this series said, India is trying to become a manufacturing powerhouse in a clutch of old and new sectors. Its timing is propitious. After COVID-19, countries don’t want too much geographical concentration in their supply chains. They seek an alternative to China. In tandem, in a clutch of emerging sectors… Continue reading
Can India win the global energy race with the PLI scheme?
Photovoltaics were first discussed in the country’s third five-year plan (1961-66), a time when the young republic wanted an indigenous solar sector to meet developmental imperatives like rural electrification.That beginning, which could have seen India export solar technologies to the third world, went nowhere. India’s next two five-year plans (1969-78) ignored solar and focused on… Continue reading
More Hindu Right Groups, Polarising With Impunity: How Communal Tensions Intensified in Khargone
On April 10, violence engulfed the small town of Khargone. While the town was celebrating Ram Navami, a rumour spread that the police had stopped a religious procession near the local Jama Masjid. In response, a second procession moved down the same path. More militant, it aired provocative songs and slogans, and even pulled along… Continue reading
Under BJP-RSS Rule, Madhya Pradesh’s Culture Department Stares at Moral, Artistic Decay
In April 2021, readers of local daily Swadesh found an astounding report in their newspaper. Headined ‘Ustad Alauddin Khan Sangeet Evam Kala Academy ka Kaarnama (‘A Great Feat by the Ustad Alauddin Khan Music and Art Academy’)’, the newspaper reported that the Academy – set up by the Madhya Pradesh government in 1979 – had… Continue reading
Marooned: Praful Patel’s War On Lakshadweep
ON THE PHONE, Muhammad, a shopkeeper from Minicoy, the southern-most coral atoll in the Lakshadweep islands, sounded worried. Sales at his provisions-and-stationery shop had crashed. By March 2022, his monthly income had dropped from up to Rs 60,000, to down to as low as Rs 10,000. “Buying has come down. Everyone is facing a problem in their business,” he… Continue reading
Hydel #3. Why states might bear the onus of supporting hydel projects that struggle to compete against batteries, electrolysers, and their ilk
India’s latest hydel push is facing strong headwinds. With a target of 500 GW of renewable power capacity by 2030, the country needs to add as much as 80 GW of energy storage to stabilise the grid, and meet peak power demand. Accordingly, not only is the government pushing technologies like Battery Energy Storage Systems… Continue reading
Hydel #2. The future of these projects sizably depends on how India’s energy storage landscape will evolve
Out today, the second part of our series on India’s new hydel push. Continue reading
Hydel #1. Does hydel have a role in India’s decarbonisation plans?
Once again, India is in the throes of a dam-building enthusiasm. Not only are old, stranded projects being revived, newer ones are being commissioned as well. Just last year, the BJP-led NDA government announced fresh dams in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In Sikkim, there is speculation that a 520 MW hydel project at Dzongu will… Continue reading
Making sense of India’s energy sector
For a year-and-a-half now, I have been trying to understand the largest processes shaping India’s energy sector. These variously support/weaken the growth of the principal forms of energy India depends on – and, consequently, determine the country’s energy transition. Note: Regular readers of this blog — both of them, that is to say — will… Continue reading
Finance Firm Buying Public Sector Central Electronics Ltd. for Cheap Has Links to BJP Leaders
The divestment saga of Central Electronics (CEL) deserves more attention than it is getting. The broad details are well known enough. The public sector undertaking (PSU), founded in 1974 to commercially exploit technologies developed by national laboratories and indigenous R&D institutions, briefly hit the headlines last November when the Narendra Modi government announced its sale… Continue reading
CAA/NRC protests. A sense of how deep they spread.
Early in January 2020, as protests against NRC/CAA began spreading across India, I began scouring twitter trying to gauge how anger was spreading across India. Which cities, towns, districts and mohallas were seeing protests? The exercise was slapdash but heady — that was, after all, a lovely moment in India’s otherwise depressing recent history. Nothing… Continue reading
The slab that fell (and the story it told)
Black of grackles glints purple as, wheeling in sun-glare, The flock splays away to pepper the blueness of distance. Soon they are lost in the tracklessness of air. I watch them go. I stand in my trance. Another year gone… Am reminded, all of a sudden, of this poem by Robert Penn Warren. 2021 is… Continue reading
Will Ambani’s promise be like Tata’s?
A car for ₹1 lakh. That was the promise that Ratan Tata made. One family, one car, ₹1 lakh. 1-1-1. In 2003, when Tata first declared the ambitious project, the excitement triggered was genuine. The cheapest car in India at the time, the Maruti 800, cost twice as much. The announcement set off much speculation… Continue reading
Energy Transition #5. On the large costs of decarbonisation sans a pathway
Talk about the energy transition and coal comes up immediately. A number of researchers across the world are working on ‘just transition’ – to support the economies that run on fossil fuels. In India, ‘just transition’ is usually invoked in the context of coal. As its use falls, coal-producing regions will see revenues fall; sectors… Continue reading
Energy Transition #4. On PM Modi’s dramatic promises at COP 26.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow by storm. Speaking at the summit, not only did he commit India to a net-zero target, he also made a series of aggressive commitments on behalf of the country by 2030. By the end of this decade, he said, India will meet 50%… Continue reading
Energy Transition #3. What Carbon Capture needs to work: Supportive state policies. An interview with Asam Rafi of Carbon Clean
As CarbonCopy has reported, a global race is underway to bring down electrolyser prices. That should help users seeking to ditch carbon fuels for cleaner alternatives. As for firms without cleaner pathways, they can reduce their emissions through carbon capture. Existing technologies for capture, however, are too expensive, and run on too small a scale.… Continue reading
Energy Transition #2. As a consumer of energy
This is a tale of two steel companies. The first is an Indian transnational with an annual steel-making capacity of 34 million tonnes. Climbing aboard the global energy transition, it is upgrading its steel plant in Europe to run on hydrogen. Even back home in India—with a government yet undecided about decarbonisation and far lower social pressure on emissions—it has set… Continue reading
Energy Transition #1. A supplier of energy?
Over the last two months, I have been trying to better understand the looming energy transition — and the prospects it holds for India. You know the backstory. In the run-up to COP26, chatter about Net Zero has peaked. So has talk about decarbonisation. We know the energy transition will reshape the world. Some countries… Continue reading
Book review: Ramrao
About three years ago, Jaideep first told me about Ramrao. The book is finally out. And it was a real pleasure to write this review. Continue reading
Why India should embrace Net Zero
In August last year, Coal India put out an eye-popping statement. Quote-tweeting India’s Union minister for coal, it said: “CIL is poised to become a “Net Zero Energy Maharatna PSU”.” The accompanying video had more details. Coal India would produce 3,000 MW of solar power by 2023-24, it said, enough to cover all of its… Continue reading
Why Did India Need a Fresh Ministry for Cooperatives?
A day before the reshuffle, Narendra Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government created a new Ministry of Cooperation.It would provide, said its statement, a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the cooperative movement in India.A day later, it announced Union home minister Amit Shah would also head the new ministry.Singly and together, these announcements… Continue reading
India’s solar sector #4. Growth minus market scaffolding
We published the last of our solar stories today.Essentially, all the hype and bombast notwithstanding, solar power sector is struggling. Take a look at the sector and you will see slowing capacity addition, developers cutting costs/restructuring/exiting, and rising M&A activity. This needs to be understood. In part because high solar/renewable targets are a cornerstone of… Continue reading
India’s solar sector #3. The fall and rise of solar costs
Out today, Part Three. On why solar is not just slowing, it is about to see a rise in its costs. Continue reading
India’s solar sector #2. Rooftop solar and DISCOMs
This is the first question. Why did India amp up its rooftop (solar) target without considering its implications for DISCOMs? Out today, the second part of our series on why India’s solar sector is struggling. ps: this report has been cross-posted at The Wire. Continue reading
India’s solar sector #1. Dissonance, chaos and tumult
At first glance, all seems well in India’s solar sector. Its tariffs continue to crash. At the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI)’s auction last November, Saudi Arabia’s Aljoemaih Energy and Water Co and Green India Wind Energy, one of Sembcorp’s India investments, won after bidding ₹2 per unit. State-run NTPC wasn’t too far behind.… Continue reading
Lakshadweep: Chartered Flights for Administrator Patel, Job and Welfare Cuts for Locals
On June 14, administrator Praful Patel arrived in Lakshadweep. In the background of a photo clicked shortly afterwards stood the Coast Guard plane, CG 789, he flew over in. This choice needs to be understood. The Union Territory is connected by air to Kochi. Even at short notice, a two-way flight ticket from Daman to… Continue reading
A Field Guide to Praful Patel’s Tumultuous Record as UT Administrator
My second report on Patel, and the crisis facing Lakshadweep. Continue reading
In Lakshadweep, a political administrator courts ecological mayhem
What are Praful Patel’s plans for Lakshadweep? For a week now, the administrator of this archipelago of 35 atolls and coral reefs in the Arabian sea has been in the news. Since December 2, 2020, when he took charge of the Union Territory (UT), the one-time BJP MLA from Gujarat has issued a series of… Continue reading
23 April-8 May, 2021. The first two weeks of the second wave of Covid-19.
As I start populating this page with text, the second wave of Covid-19 has broken across India. If the first wave had been terrifying, I lack words to describe the second one. Not only are some of the new Covid variants more transmissible – some also do not seem to show up in diagnostic tests… Continue reading
Coal India chooses energy-intensive manufacturing; Adani and NTPC chase vertical integration.
For a long while now, from the time #DespiteTheState went to the presses, I have been chasing a story on coal. You know the score. India’s coal sector is behaving in discontinuous ways — Coalblock auctions find few bidders; Coal India mulls diversification into Aluminium smelting and solar ingot/panel manufacturing; power producers like NTPC and… Continue readingAdani, Coal, Coal India, India, NTPC, Solar, Thermal power
Peering into Coal India’s ambitious pivot
“We do not want to be a coal mining company any longer. We do not even want to be a mining company. We want to be a producer of cheap pithead power.” From his office in New Delhi’s Shastri Bhavan, coal secretary Anil Jain is working on a radically recasting of Coal India, the biggest… Continue reading
Strange times ahead for the coal sector
As CarbonCopy reported in the middle of last year, India’s energy policy is distinctly muddled. By 2030, the ruling NDA government says oil demand will double; and gas demand will treble. It has also told Coal India to boost coal production to one billion tonnes by 2024 – up from 600 million tonnes in 2018-19 – and replace imported… Continue reading
A reading list for reporters
For a while now, I have been thinking about listing the journalism books that taught me the most. And so, with the blessings of a rough typology, here we go. On the moral imperative of journalism: Simple, reporters should belong to the time they live in. In other words, their work should try to create… Continue reading
America’s shale story enters a new chapter
Will the two senate run-offs in Georgia, both of which went to the Democrats, make it easier for the Biden administration to steer a more progressive climate agenda? The question is as consequential as it is hard to answer. Since 2014, riding on fracking, the United States has upturned global energy markets. Till September 2013, it was the world’s biggest importer of oil. By… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
The four hidden risks lurking in India’s gas expansion plans
India’s plans to remake itself into a gas-based economy are floundering. As the previous story in this series described, not only is the fuel controlled so tightly by the government that players struggle for viability, India is also running out of cheap domestic gas. The country’s new gas finds – in deepwater fields – and… Continue reading
Why India’s gas boom is running out of steam
Seen from a distance, India’s gas sector seems to have everything going for it. Given how energy-starved India is – not to mention climate commitments to reduce its economy’s carbon intensity – there is abundant demand. Given the global surge in gas production even as traditional markets slow, supply is not a problem either. Helping… Continue reading
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.… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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,… Continue reading
“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.… Continue reading
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,… Continue reading
Why India’s GHG emissions are about to rise faster
This morning, Carbon Copy published the second – and concluding – part of my report on global fossil fuel companies making a beeline for India. It is a development which comes with large fallouts. In the past, every time India liberalised a nationalised sector, private players have gained at the cost of public sector entities… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
Who will bid for India’s newly auctioned coal blocks?
A quick opinion piece today — for Carbon Copy. Continue reading
On the mechanics of Gautam Adani’s extraordinary expansion across India
For a long while now — ever since my colleagues at Economic Times and I profiled Gautam Adani in 2013 — some of my friends and I have been wondering how the Adani Group funds its growth. Is there a mismatch between the quantum of its balance sheet and the quantum of its investments? That… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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.… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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,… Continue reading
Opinion: New RBI chief Shaktikanta Das’s actions after note ban show why he is a poor choice
My big lesson from recent years in journalism is that things are never so bad that they cannot get worse. A case in point, the appointment of Shaktikanta Das as governor of the Reserve Bank of India. An event which resulted in this disbelieving little commentary. Continue reading
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 – 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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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… Continue reading
15 theories about why India is facing a cash crunch a year and a half after demonetisation
atms are again running dry in india. and theories claiming to explain why are doubling every day. out today, a quick report with my colleague rohan which seeks to separate plausible theories from the disingenuous (or just plain stupid) ones. Continue reading
Political meddling to financial impropriety – it is all going wrong at Amul
out today, the second — and concluding — part of our report on how Kaira Union, the Amul Dairy set up by Verghese Kurien and Tirbhuvandas Patel is doing. Continue reading
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… Continue reading
And now for something completely different
Earlier today, my friend Rafat sent over snaps of some of our earliest reportage. This is circa 1998, from our first job at now-shuttered A&M, India’s first magazine on advertising and marketing. Am pasting them below and noting – with much pride and approval – the pun in one of these headlines, for a report… Continue reading
Power. The ignorance it engenders. And some photographs.
Towards its end, “The Post”, Spielberg’s film on the Pentagon Papers, says: “The role of the press is to serve the governed, not the governors.” Which makes one think. Who are these people we are meant to be serving in India? Take a look at the snaps above. These people — belonging to Mizoram, Odisha,… Continue reading
And now for something completely different
No ‘End Of The Year’ cycle ride (see this and this and this) this year. One of my two co-conspirators was scrambling to finish his long overdue book — writing, not reading, it. The other was busy prepping for a marathon. And so, January 2018 saw the ‘End Of The Year’ trek. Eleven days of… Continue reading
‘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).… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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,… Continue reading
Amul is now a Congress-mukt federation’: How BJP took control of India’s largest milk cooperative
Out today, the second — and concluding — part of our report on why Amul, India’s much-loved dairy federation, is in trouble. Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
‘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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
Missing in the panel set up to frame India’s new mineral policy: Adivasis, ecologists, civil society
Does the KR Rao Committee ring a bell? It was set up last month by the Union Ministry of Mines after the Supreme Court’s tough judgement on illegal iron ore mining in Odisha. Disposing of a petition filed by the non-profit Common Cause, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta not only ordered the… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
I am an Indian journalist with interests in energy, environment, climate and India’s ongoing slide into right-wing authoritarianism. My book, Despite the State, an examination of pervasive state failure and democratic decay in India, was published by Westland Publications, India, in January 2021. My work has won the Bala Kailasam Memorial Award; the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award; and five Shriram Awards for Excellence in Financial Journalism. Write to me at email@example.com.
“…une plongée dans les failles béantes de la démocratie indienne, un compte rendu implacable du dysfonctionnement des Etats fédérés, minés par la corruption, le clientélisme, le culte de la personnalité des élus et le capitalisme de connivence. (…a dive into the gaping holes in Indian democracy, a relentless account of the dysfunction of the federated states, undermined by corruption, clientelism, the cult of the personality of elected officials and crony capitalism).” Le Monde
“…a critical enquiry into why representative government in India is flagging.” Biblio
“…strives for an understanding of the factors that enable governments and political parties to function in a way that is seemingly hostile to the interests of the very public they have been elected to serve, a gross anomaly in an electoral democracy.” Scroll.in
“M. Rajshekhar’s deeply researched book… holds a mirror to Indian democracy, and finds several cracks.” The Hindu
“…excels at connecting the local to the national.” Open
“…refreshingly new writing on the play between India’s dysfunctional democracy and its development challenges…” Seminar
“A patient mapping and thorough analysis of the Indian system’s horrific flaws…” Business Standard (Image here)
“33 മാസം, 6 സംസ്ഥാനങ്ങൾ, 120 റിപ്പോർട്ടുകൾ: ജനാധിപത്യം തേടി മഹത്തായ ഇന്ത്യൻ യാത്ര… (33 months, 6 states, 120 reports: Great Indian journey in search of democracy…)” Malayala Manorama
“Hindustan ki maujooda siyasi wa maaashi soorat e hal.” QindeelOnline
“What emerges is the image of a state that is extractive, dominant, casteist and clientelist.” Tribune
“…reporting at its best. The picture that emerges is of a democracy that has been hijacked by vested interests, interested only in power and pelf.” Moneycontrol.com
“Ten best non-fiction books of the year“, The Hindu.
“Twenty-One Notable Books From 2021“, The Wire.
“What has South Asia been reading: 2021 edition“, Himal Southasian
“Journalism is a social enterprise…,” Booksfirst.in.
“Democratic decay at state level: Journalist M Rajshekhar on book ‘Despite the State’,” The News Minute.
“Covid-19 en Inde : “des décès de masse” dont un “État obscurantiste est responsable,” Asialyst.
“JP to BJP: The Unanswered Questions“.
Mahtab Alam’s review of “JP to BJP: Bihar After Lalu and Nitish”.
“Urban History of Atmospheric Modernity in Colonial India“. Mohammad Sajjad’s review of “Dust and Smoke: Air Pollution and Colonial Urbanism, India, c1860-c1940”.
“Westland closure: Titles that are selling fast and a few personal recommendations,” by Chetana Divya Vasudev, Moneycontrol. (Because this happened too. In February, a year after DtS was released, Amazon decided to shutter Westland, which published the book. The announcement saw folks rushing to buy copies of Westland books before stocks run out.)
“Time to change tack on counterinsurgency” by TK Arun, The Federal.
“All Things Policy: The Challenges of Governing States” by Suman Joshi and Sarthak Pradhan, Takshashila Institute (podcast).
“The Future of Entertainment“, Kaveree Bamzai in Open.
“On What India’s Watching“, Prathyush Parasuraman on Substack.
“The puppeteers around us“, Karthik Venkatesh in Deccan Herald.
“Will TN election manifestos continue ‘populist’ welfare schemes?“, Anna Isaac for The News Minute.
“Why wages-for-housework won’t help women“, V Geetha in Indian Express.
“The poor state of the Indian state“, Arun Maira in The Hindu.
26 December, 2021: Rangashankara, Bangalore, a discussion with Dhanya Rajendran.
16 November: Rachna Books, Gangtok, a discussion with Pema Wangchuk.
29 August: Books In The Time of Chaos, with Ujwal Kumar.
21 May: Hyderabad Lit Fest with Kaveree Bamzai and Aniruddha Bahal.
28 March: Paalam Books, Salem, Tamil Nadu.
19 March: The News Minute, “Citizens, the State, and the idea of India“
6 March: Pen@Prithvi, with Suhit Kelkar
20 February: A discussion between scholars Usha Ramanathan, Tridip Suhrud, MS Sriram and me to formally launch Despite the State.
6 February: DogEars Bookshop, Margoa.
5 February: The Polis Project, Dispatches with Suchitra Vijayan.
30 January: Founding Fuel, “Systems Thinking, State Capacity and Grassroots Development“.
25 January: Miranda House Literary Society