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,… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
Politicians aren’t only messing with Tamil Nadu’s water – they’re making Rs 20,000 crore from sand
Out today, the first instalment of our three-part series on sand mining in tamil nadu. Stepping onto the bank, the first thing that’s visible is a ten-wheeled tipper. It grinds to a halt at the end of a queue of similar trucks. Beyond it stretches a vast riverbed. That is the Thenpennaiyar, one of the… Continue reading
How Karnataka and Tamil Nadu mismanaged their water and then blamed each other
Why is the Cauvery such a recurring flashpoint between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu? In recent days, an array of hypotheses have been advanced to help answer that question. Some of these are broad in their scope – tracing the long history of the conflict. Others focus on the here and now – rainfall patterns and… Continue reading
Why does the IAS Association defend HC Gupta but not Ashok Khemka?
Our second piece on this ghastly caterwauling over ex-coal secy HC Gupta. The fervent defence of former Coal Secretary HC Gupta seems to be taking India into dangerous waters. India’s Prevention Of Corruption Act, 1988 should be amended, wrote Partha Sen Sharma, a serving Indian Administrative Service officer in The Times Of India on Tuesday,… Continue reading
Can the courts save India’s rivers from pollution? Tirupur shows the answer is no
the second — and concluding — part of our trip down the Noyyal (see previous post). A slum sprawled on one side of the river. In the distance, a factory belched smoke in the air. The riverbed was overrun with weeds and crammed with plastic bags that were half buried into the earth. An earthmover… Continue reading
How a river in Tamil Nadu turned into a sewage canal
A narrow little rivulet splashes down, bouncing from boulder to boulder as it descends the rockface. It pauses to catch its breath in a tiny pool limned by trees, before rushing downhill again, merging with other streams to form a small river called the Noyyal. For centuries, the river’s 170-km course used to take it… Continue reading
What the people defending former coal secretary HC Gupta are not telling you
Last week, former Coal Secretary HC Gupta surprised everyone in the Central Bureau of Investigation Court. He intended to “face trial from inside the jail” and withdraw the personal bond he had submitted in order to obtain bail, he told Special Judge Bharat Parashar. Gupta is an accused in several coal block allocation cases relating… Continue reading
A tsunami of debt is building up in Tamil Nadu – and no one knows where it is headed
G Venkatasubramanian trots out some astonishing numbers. Over the last 15 years, he and his fellow researchers at Pondicherry’s French Institute have been studying debt bondage among families in 20 villages in Tamil Nadu. Half of these settlements are in the coastal district of Cuddalore, and the others are in the adjoining district of Villupuram.… Continue reading
the kabuki of environmental governance
in which i write about the environment ministry’s decision to do away with the Rs 200 crore fine on the adani group’s port and sez complex at mundra. this is a process of forgetting, i say. do read. Continue reading
Why Tamil Nadu’s fisherfolk can no longer find fish
“What did you catch?” Alagairi Madhivanan shouts across to the fisherman in a small boat to our left. The young man stops scanning the net he has just pulled out of the lagoon, turns towards us and says, “Five fishes.” His answer echoes what Madhivanan has been telling me over the past hour as his… Continue reading
The controversy over ‘Udta Punjab’ shows how the state government has completely lost the plot
Hope has finally arrived. At a time when the Centre and the State governments in India are proving entirely unequal to the responsibilities placed before them, Punjab has decided to step up and show the way. Late last week, the state government – run by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party –… Continue reading
For ‘Make In India’ to work, India first needs to become globally competitive
Bhoday Sales Corporation is tucked inside the industrial zone of Ludhiana. A small machine tooling factory with a net worth of not more than Rs 10 lakh, it makes manufacturing equipment for other plants in the city. Of late, it has fallen on bad times. Sales are down. At one time, says its founder, 68-… Continue reading
No country for the poor: What we have learnt so far from Scroll’s EarToTheGround project
As Scroll’s Ear To The Ground series reaches its halfway point, what have we learnt so far? The series, for those coming in late, seeks to create a current snapshot of India through reportage from six specially chosen states – one from the North East; one which is mineral-rich; one with Green Revolution agriculture; another… Continue reading
NASA scientist on how Earth is tipping (and spinning slowly) because of climate change
Think about how climate change affects earth and some obvious answers come to mind: Rainfall patterns will change, sea temperatures will rise, more corals will bleach, planetary wind systems will change, the number of extreme weather events will rise… But a paper published last month in scientific journal ScienceAdvances, added another change to what we… Continue reading
Why puzzling questions about #PanamaPapers can only be answered by a forensic audit
The Panama Papers exposé by the Indian Express throws up some puzzling questions — like who (covertly) owned some of these companies? a quick and dirty story. Continue reading
What we talk about when we talk about Punjab
Between October and January, Scroll.in’s Ear To The Ground project reported from Punjab. The idea, as in Mizoram and Odisha, was to create a snapshot of the state. How are its people doing? What are the largest processes shaping the state? When Scroll.in moved to Punjab, it was late October. The state was simmering. Farmers… Continue reading
Questions the CBI should answer before closing its probe in the Jindal coal block case
Even under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiries into the captive coalblock allocation scam continue to be half-hearted. In the latest instance, as the Indian Express reported on April 2, India’s apex investigating agency has closed its probe into how former Congress Member of Parliament Naveen Jindal’s Jindal… Continue reading
Explainer: Why #PanamaPapers is just the tip of the iceberg
The leak of information from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the giant law firm headquartered in Panama, is a reality check. Not because the information, which went public in India late Sunday night, exposes over 214,000 offshore companies typically used as structures to evade taxation connected to people in over 200 countries. Or because its… Continue reading
Why the Kolkata flyover collapse is a warning for India’s infrastructure industry
out today, this story on why kolkata’s vivekananda flyover collapsed. Continue reading
Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?
In the last 15 years, novelist and writer Desraj Kali has seen Punjab undergo some striking changes. But none is as striking as its gradual religious revolution. A growing number of people in the predominantly Sikh state, he says, are now visiting Hindu temples. Not those of principal deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Rama, but… Continue reading
How the Badals spread their control over Punjab (and why it is eroding)
Following up on yesterday’s story, part 3 of our series on Punjab under the Akali Dal. In Punjab, the domination of the government machinery by the Badal clan is near complete. It starts right from the top, the cabinet of ministers, and trickles down to the ground, to the level of the police station. Here… Continue reading
Every business in Punjab leads back to an Akali Dal leader (well almost)
out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab. Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the… Continue reading
why we need to talk about the companies building authentication apps off the aadhaar database
Monika Chowdhry, who heads the marketing division of Swabhimaan Distribution Services, the company that created TrustID, defended the app, saying it offers the valuable service of verifying people’s identities. “In our day to day life, we do a lot of transactions with people – like maids or plumbers. Till now, you would have to trust… Continue reading
How do so many industrialists get into the Rajya Sabha?
Vijay Mallya’s flight to England has opened up a veritable can of worms. Every day there are little-known strands coming to light about his business and personal life, from the giant loan defaults to the marquee properties. What is not being discussed as much is his political life and the conflict of interest. The chairman… Continue reading
Has Punjab’s obsession with cancer robbed its poor of healthcare?
“Private waley kehte hain ghar le ja kar sewa karo.” Private hospitals tell us to tend to the patient at home if we cannot pay their fee. That was Mohan Lal Shonky’s response when asked how he and others in the poor quarter of Nurmahal town in Punjab’s Jalandhar district use medical services. Shonky, 55… Continue reading
Why hydel-power companies in Arunachal Pradesh want NHPC to take over their projects (and why it won’t)
In a delicious twist of fate, a cluster of private companies that rushed headlong into Arunachal in the late 2000s to build hydel power projects are now, in a turnaround, asking the public sector National Hydel Power Corporation to take over their projects. The fascinating afterlife of Arunachal Pradesh’s hydel scam. Continue reading
Why Punjab’s power bills include a cow cess and water charges
late last year, during my early days in punjab, i was nonplussed to find the state is charging a cow cess on electricity. and then, i found the state also charges octroi on power. which nonplussed me some more. and then, i learnt the state is going to start porting its water and sewerage charges… Continue reading
Iran’s blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web
most of the time, this blog is just an online dumping ground for my articles. this article in the guardian has me breaking that pattern. Even before I went to jail, though, the power of hyperlinks was being curbed. Its biggest enemy was a philosophy that combined two of the most dominant, and most overrated,… Continue reading
No city is an island: Lessons from Delhi’s odd-even experiment
The Delhi government’s 15-day odd-even initiative to contain vehicular emissions has made little or no difference to air quality in the capital, The Hindu reported last week. The report claims that peak pollution levels during the first week of the scheme – which moved cars with odd licence plates off the streets on alternate days… Continue reading
RIP Priya Thangarajah
my friend priya passed away last november. since then, the brain has circled back to her repeatedly. in fond, sad remembrance. For more on her, two links (one and two) and this old image. Continue reading
on the pathankot attacks
wrote this quick and dirty piece after a day trip from jalandhar to pathankot. Continue reading
and now for something completely different
For a few years now, I have sneaked off every December for a relatively long bike ride. The brain gathers all manner of stresses and tensions as each year vends along, and it has seemed like a good idea to leave email, twitter and other horsemen of the ‘constant connectedness’ apocalypse behind and hare off… Continue reading
why industry is leaving punjab
In his 50 years in Ludhiana, Harbans Singh Bhanwer has seen it all. Around 1965, when he began making machine parts in Punjab’s biggest industrial centre, the town was booming. The Green Revolution was underway, and Ludhiana provided a large part of the engineering underpinning for that boom. Some units made farm implements, while others… Continue reading
How climate change has sparked political and social unrest in Punjab this year
my first article on punjab is out. it looks at the recent whitefly attack on the state’s cotton crop and traces it back to worrying behaviour by the mid latitude westerlies and the collapse of extension work in the state. Continue reading
Why farmers burn their fields in Punjab despite knowing that it worsens the fog over north India
On the evening of 7 November, a deep fog settled along the stretch of 250 kilometres between Sirsa and Gurgaon in Haryana. By ten in the night, it was thick enough to make travel almost impossible. In places, visibility shrank to not more than five metres.State transport buses cut their trips short. Cars, trucks and… Continue reading
Why Odisha sees little protest despite the state’s poor public services
Stay in Odisha for a bit and you will run into a puzzle. Despite healthy finances, the state is failing to provide basic services to its people. Its schools and hospitals are badly understaffed. Jobs are not easy to find, as a result of which young people are getting disillusioned with education itself. Welfare programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee… Continue reading
Part 3: How Odisha squandered valuable mineral resources without any gains for its people
In Unchabali village in Odisha’s Keonjhar district, a massive house is under construction atop the ridge that looms over the village. It belongs to the local MLA, Sanatan Mahakud. Given his zealous security guards, you cannot give the sprawling complex the close attention it deserves, but as you drive by, you see a temple coming… Continue reading
Part 2. Meet the Odisha MLA whose assets grew by 1,700% in five years
Travel around the district of Keonjhar and you hear stories of the MLA who distributes money among his constituents every month. Elected as an independent candidate in 2014 from Champua constituency in the heart of Odisha’s richest iron ore-rich belt, Sanatan Mahakud distributes anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 to more than half the… Continue reading
Part 1: How a contractor from Tamil Nadu carved out an enormous mining empire in Odisha
the first part of our trilogy on illegal iron ore mining in Odisha, a boom in which only a few benefitted. this story looks at the rise of b prabhakaran and his thriveni earthmovers. Continue reading
These workers at Amritsar’s grain market are smiling only for the camera
The anaj mandi at Amritsar will not forget 2015 easily. For the first time, the state’s long-grained basmati rice, famous for its fragrance, is selling cheaper than the humble parimal variety procured by the Indian government for its public distribution programme. Just two years ago, the variety favoured by local farmers, labelled ‘1121’, fetched about… Continue reading
and, sigh, one more lal thanzara story
In a decision which underscores the impunity India’s political leaders enjoy, the Congress party’s Mizoram unit has chosen tainted state minister Lal Thanzara as its candidate for the bypoll in Aizawl North constituency on November 21. and, then, an excellent development. Pu Vanlalvena, the Mizo National Front Youth leader who took on Pu Lal Thanzara… Continue reading
Samajwadi Party leader shot, injured in Mainpuri
20 days after false allegations of cow slaughter almost saw two muslims get lynched, the town of karhal in uttar pradesh’s manipuri district is on the boil again. this time because 3 goons shot and wounded a local muslim leader. Continue reading
Is a monopoly taking shape in India’s port sector?
The mood in the Odisha port town of Paradip is turning grey. Ever since the Adani group bought the neighbouring port of Dhamra last May, people and companies dependent on the port are worried Paradip is being weakened to favour Dhamra. “I handle 70% of the cargo at Paradip. I have 1,000 employees,” said a… Continue reading
What a primary school in Keonjhar tells us about Odisha’s misplaced government spending
Pradip Kumar Behera is trying to beat the odds. A bespectacled man in his late thirties, he is the headmaster of the government school in Unchabali, a village in Odisha’s mineral-rich district of Keonjhar. Under his watch are 144 students, mostly from the poorer families in the village, studying in classes from the first grade… Continue reading
why odisha’s empty engineering colleges hurt students and not their owners
As colleges go, Krutika Institute of Technical Education is certainly educative. Located on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, this private engineering college works out of a half-built red and cream building with iron rebars bristling from its top. The lobby stands unfinished with its girders exposed. Similarly unfinished, the water fountain in front is no more… Continue reading
how to engineer a riot and influence people
Last Thursday, a mob nearly killed two Muslims in Uttar Pradesh’s Karhal town. The two men, 55-year-old Mohammad Shafiq and 27-year-old Mohammad Kalam, were skinning a cow when they were accused of slaughtering the animal. Very rapidly, a mob of 1,000-1,500 people, according to police estimates, converged on the spot, a stretch of open land… Continue reading
Meat unit equity: Company filings show why BJP’s Sangeet Som should quit politics (like he promised)
On Friday, the Hindustan Times reported that Sangeet Singh Som, the Bharatiya Janata Party member of Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly from Sardhana, along with two others, had acquired land for a meat-processing plant in Aligarh. The report said that land for the company Al Dua Food Processing Private Limited was purchased by Som, who happened… Continue reading
Why lakhs of people leave Odisha to work in distant, unsafe brick-kilns
A small railway station with shanties on either side. A main street running the length of the town, selling everything from household provisions to construction materials. A semi-finished temple, a few lodges and bars, and as the town ends, a series of truck-repair shops. The tiny town of Kantabanji in western Odisha’s Bolangir district looks unremarkable in the summer. But… Continue reading
Why it is premature to exult over Lal Thanzara’s resignation
Last Monday, when allegations of conflict of interest forced Mizoram minister Lal Thanzara to resign from the state cabinet and assembly, there was much excitement in the state. However, the excitement might prove short-lived as the minister could return to the cabinet soon, making this yet another case that slipped through the cracks of India’s anti-corruption… Continue reading
And Lal Thanzara steps down
Yielding to rising pressure, Lal Thanzara, the health minister of Mizoram, on Tuesday resigned from both the state’s assembly and council of ministers. for context, see this. Continue reading
Mizoram CM’s brother claims he didn’t know he owned controversial shares until he read Scroll report
On the 29th of June, we had published an article highlighting endemic corruption in Mizoram’s roads sector. Well, there is an update on the matter now. The CM’s brother, who had been accused of owning shares in a company getting road contracts, has finally responded. In a meeting yesterday with Congress party workers, he said… Continue reading
By limiting Aadhaar, Supreme Court may have given government a way to expand its reach
By now the contours of the events are known. On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether Indians have a fundamental right to privacy. The same afternoon, when the judges reconvened, they restricted the use of the government’s biometrics-based identity project Aadhaar to only the public distribution system… Continue reading
Should India import onions?
Once again, India is hyperventilating over onions. In Delhi, say press reports, prices of the bulb have spiked by 25% between July and August. Similar spikes are being reported from elsewhere in the country. In response, blame games are underway. NAFED, a central government agency that procures agricultural produce, has accused the Delhi government of ignoring its missives in April, June… Continue reading
why people in Nagaland and Manipur are responding cautiously to the new Naga peace accord
A day after the NDA announced its “historic” peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), speculation is rife in the two states affected most by the agreement – Nagaland and Manipur. What is the shape of the agreement hammered out by government and the rebel group? After all, the NSCN was formed… Continue reading
What the one-time mining boom-town of Koira tells us about modern Odisha
Once a tiny village surrounded by forests, (Koira) had been taken over by the trucking economy. Lured by miners willing to pay high rates for every ton of ore transported down, truckers were flooding in from as far away as Uttar Pradesh. Miners were bribing them to take quicker routes, or paying bonuses to those… Continue reading
Mr Environment Minister, India is carrying out deforestation, not reforestation
On Wednesday morning, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar gave India one more reason to think of him as among the country’s worst environment ministers till date. As the Indian Express reported, the minister sent out an intra-ministry letter on July 16 asking bureaucrats to replace the term “diversion” of forest land with “reforestation” in their communications. When asked about… Continue reading
The Dongria Kondhs of Odisha now face a more formidable enemy than Vedanta
Two years ago, when the tribal people of Odisha’s thickly forested Niyamgiri hills unanimously rejected the plans of the London-based conglomerate Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in their lands, it appeared that a decade-long struggle to protect the hills and forests – and the tribal way of life – had finally succeeded. But that might have… Continue reading
The CBI must understand trains and bogies if it aims to crack the Vyapam scam
out today, this story which looks at how exam rigging was done in madhya pradesh’s #vyapam scam. As the number of gangs grew, the market evolved further. First, students began shopping for lowest prices between gangs. This gave rise to a set of disputes which, by 2009, had resulted in the gangs dividing up Madhya… Continue reading
Vyapam’s hidden costs: Broken dreams and a health system staffed by dodgy doctors
In 2009, Poonam Sharma finished school and turned her thoughts to medical school. The daughter of a junior police officer, Sharma left home in Shivpuri, in the northern reaches of Madhya Pradesh, for Gwalior, home to coaching centres that promise to help candidates crack all kinds of entrance exams. She enrolled for a year-long coaching… Continue reading
The Mizoram government spends so much on itself, it has little money for the people
Between March and June, Scroll reported its Ear to the Ground series from Mizoram. The idea was to create a snapshot of the state and its people at this point in time, to try and understand the major forces shaping the lives of the people in the state. Twelve articles later, what have we learnt? Continue reading
On political corruption in Mizoram’s roads sector
Step into the office of the Class 1 Contractors’ Association in Aizawl and you wonder if any civil construction happens in Mizoram at all.Tucked away on the ground floor of an unremarkable building behind the excise office, the office is decidedly laidback. Next to an unattended reception desk, two women roll a large number of… Continue reading
In violence-scarred Manipur, ancient scrolls show why AFSPA will not work
About 300 years ago, a time when India’s North East was a hive of tribal chiefdoms and tiny kingdoms, Manipur was invaded by Tripura. After a pitched battle, Manipur defeated the invaders. The aggressors were on the run, the Manipuris in pursuit, when a seer reminded Manipur’s ruler King Pamheiba that a sacred Manipuri code… Continue reading
Why children in Manipur are writing postcards to Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Stacked on a dining table which doubles up as a workdesk in the office of Human Rights Alert lie postcards written by schoolchildren in Manipur and addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and save democracy in India. For years, Manipur’s people have been appealing and… Continue reading
Travelling down the Kaladan highway
A blogpost which accompanied my story on the Kaladan highway. Continue reading
A new gateway to the North East runs into – and jumps over – a corruption roadblock
Can one road change the fortunes of a state? Mizoram is hoping so. Once ready, National Highway 502A, the road it is banking on, will connect the state to a port in Myanmar from where ships will ply to Kolkata and beyond. Not only will this create an alternative to the narrow Siliguri Corridor which… Continue reading
On why the 14th Finance Commission is bad news for Mizoram
In early April, PC Zosangzuala lost his job. About three years ago, the 28-year-old had been hired by an Indian government programme which supports India’s middle schools – Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan. The job contract signed by “Peecee”, as his friends call him, suggested the programme would run till 2017. However, on April 4 or April 5 – he… Continue reading
Seoul-stirring soaps in Aizawl: How South Korea’s soft power is changing Mizoram
Stay for a while in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl and you start catching glimpses of South Korea. Travel around the state and the images emerge repeatedly ‒ in the clothes, the hair styles, even the furniture. In Champhai, the district that conducts most of the trade between Mizoram and Myanmar, business in fairness creams and hair colour… Continue reading
In Mizoram, Facebook groups take readers where newspapers fail to tread
“Have you seen the papers here?” asks PC Zosangzuala. The 28-year-old and I are sitting in a tiny tea shop off Aizawl’s old Zodin theatre. It is Saturday evening. The city is slowly shutting down for Sabbath. And I have just asked him how he accesses news. He doesn’t answer immediately. Instead, Peecee, as his… Continue reading
Will India’s recent coal block auctions actually burden banks and skew the fuel market?
The first part of Scroll’s analysis of the coal block auctions took a close look at the auctions for the steel, cement and aluminium sectors. It found an extremely wide divergence in the winning bids. Some blocks went for twice the notified price of coal, or the price at which the bulk of India’s coal is… Continue reading
Are the coal block auctions as successful as the Modi government claims?
At a gathering in Paris last month, drawing attention to the coal block auctions that have taken place under his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted, “Twenty coal blocks out of 204 have been auctioned so far and we got more than Rs. 2 lakh crore from them.” The factual error in the statement –… Continue reading
Why medical workers are taking personal loans to keep Mizoram’s healthcare system running
One late evening in April, a senior official with the Mizoram health administration sat in his office in Aizawl, frustrated and angry. It was dark outside. Most of his staff had left for the day. “If they delay it by two months it is okay, if they delay it by three months we may manage, but… Continue reading
The land of many changes
The reporting plan for the coming days is crystallising. I will leave Aizawl on Monday and go down to Silchar for a couple of days. And go from there to Manipur after a small trip to Delhi. Leaving Mizoram will tug a bit. I have enjoyed my two months here. Also, this blog is providing… Continue reading
Why AIDS is about to explode in mizoram
Thirty-three year-old Lalbiaki is a counsellor with Mizoram’s AIDS Prevention and Control Society. Until last year, she would spend several days on the road every month, travelling the hills and valleys of Champhai in a white-coloured pickup with two colleagues – a lab technician and a driver – scouring the countryside for cases of AIDS. Located… Continue reading
Why the CBI cannot claim much glory for filing a chargesheet against Naveen Jindal
The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday filed a chargesheet against industrialist Naveen Jindal and 14 others in the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block allocation matter. The matter will come up for hearing in the CBI court on Thursday. Apart from Jindal, among those named in the chargesheet are former Minister of State (Coal) Dasari Narayana… Continue reading
Minority councils in the North East want direct funding but will that really help them develop?
the previous story reported that the autonomous tribal councils of Mizoram are trying to cosy up to the BJP. the sequel looks at whether direct funding to the councils will improve the lives of people living there. Continue reading
On the BJP’s attempts to curry favour in Mizoram…
Last month, for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party won an election in Mizoram. The party contested 201 seats in 37 village councils in the autonomous tribal area for Chakmas, a Buddhist community that is an ethnic minority in the predominantly Christian state. It won 42 seats and a majority in seven councils. “We are… Continue reading
How the congress subverted its biggest rural development programme in Mizoram
Until last fortnight, most nights in Mizoram were lit up by the red glow of forest fires. Long thin lines of flame, rising and falling along the contours of the hills, ate their way up through the forest. It was jhum time in the state, when farmers who practice the traditional practice of slash-and-burn cultivation… Continue reading
Mizoram governor’s sacking is BJP’s latest misstep in a state it is trying to woo
When Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah makes his planned visit to Mizoram this month, officials of his organisation’s state unit have arranged for him to meet with church elders and receive a memorandum from them. Their note will remind the BJP that “India is a secular state, that the people of Mizoram are against the… Continue reading
Announcing “Ear To The Ground”
How is India doing? It’s hard to say. While some of the major changes underway in the country are extremely visible, others, less dramatic or occurring away from the media’s usual hunting grounds, are more difficult to detect. Between them, we have an incomplete understanding of India as it is today. The fallout is predictable. We live in… Continue reading
And then, the NDA decided to allot coalblocks to state PSUs for commercial coal mining…
out today, this quick and dirty story about the issues that need to be considered before allotting coal blocks to state companies for commercial mining. the last time this was tried, things were a complete snafu. Continue reading
A new threat for Delhi’s air quality monitoring systems
On Tuesday, the Indian government announced a big change in how the people of Delhi get their air quality data. So far, the three agencies monitoring air quality in the city – the Central Pollution Control Board, the Indian Meteorological Department and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee – collect and disseminate their numbers separately. The Indian… Continue reading
Why AIIMS Is In Trouble
In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced plans to set up five new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam. This line of action , set up more AIIMS, has been a popular response to both the larger, generic challenge of adequate… Continue reading
the clause that landed emta its coalblocks…
As litigation amps up after the Supreme Court’s cancellation of all captive coal-block allocations, court documents are throwing light on one of the more puzzling aspects of the coal scam — the 74:26 MDO agreements… These JVs had several striking features. The MDOs held 74% in the JVs — which meant they controlled the mining… Continue reading
the reconfiguration of the nicobars
Ten years after the tsunami, life in India’s coral-fringed Nicobar Islands is settling into a new pattern. For the most part, it is an ugly one. In the tiny island of Car Nicobar—it has a perimeter of just 45 kms—even 12 year olds are getting drunk. “There was always some drinking,” comments Samir Acharya, a… Continue reading
revisiting the overloaded archipelago
for a while now, i have been trying to go on a cycle ride at the end of every year — have succeeded three out of four years. in 2014, biologist vidya athreya and i went to the andamans. and i came back and wrote this story about cycling up the islands. The friend is… Continue reading
Ambiguous drafting continues to dog the NDA’s coalblock auction plans
After the Coal Bill, it is the turn of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Rules, 2014. Rules say the central government can allot a coalblock where mining has already started to any company recommended by the ministry of power which “henceforth may be awarded a power project based on competitive bids for tariff”. The phrasing,… Continue reading
an iffy clause in India’s new coal bill
The new coal bill may allow the discretionary allotment of mines, as experts say a new clause in the proposed law can be interpreted as facilitating such action. However, coal ministry officials say the clause has been inserted only to allow tariff-based bidding. Section 5(1) of The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, says the… Continue reading
india’s coal boom and attendant air quality fears…
A new report has warned that premature deaths due to emissions from thermal power projects (TPPs) will rise two-three times as India’s reliance on thermal power increases. The report by Urban Emissions. Info, an independent research group working on India’s air quality, and Mumbai-based NGO Conservation Action Trust, expects India’s thermal power generation to rise… Continue reading
a closer look at the tsr subramanian committee report
The TSR Subramanian Committee’s report on overhauling environmental governance in India is a puzzling document. It correctly identifies environmental crises facing India and the lacunae in environmental regulations, monitoring and enforcement responsible. And goes on to outline a new architecture for clearing, monitoring and resolving disputes around projects. The report also makes, however, a set… Continue reading
can self-certification control emissions?
A high-level committee headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian has, among other things, proposed a radical overhaul of how India ensures compliance with environmental clearances. Arguing that the present system, built around physical inspection by government employees, has created a rent-seeking ‘inspector raj’, the committee — which was set up by the government to… Continue reading
Why people fretting about Delhi’s low air quality are missing the bigger picture
In May this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that Delhi’s air quality is the worst in the world. In the months that followed this perception about Delhi’s air has strengthened further as winter smog set in the capital. This perception, however, could be incorrect. Air quality of other Indian cities and towns could… Continue reading
another update on the looming captive coalblock auctions
out today. this update on the emerging blueprint for coalblock auctions. With the draft rules of the proposed coal block auctions in the public domain, a set of industry experts says things are getting muddled as the government tries to balance contrasting objectives… “The government is again committing the historic blunder of tying itself in… Continue reading
on the tsr subramanian committee report
Belying the pessimism which surrounded its formation, a committee set up by the environment ministry has submitted a hard-hitting report. Among other things, the committee, headed by former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, has recommended that project approvals should be granted not by the environment ministry but by a new National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). It… Continue reading
five years of the competition commission
the competition commission is one of the more interesting institutions to come up in india. it has a complex remit — to ensure fairplay in diverse markets. in a story out today, i take a look at its performance so far. Comments former CCI member Geeta Gouri: “There are many industries and so we cannot… Continue reading
a small update on jan dhan yojana
a quick and dirty story on jan dhan yojana. The aggregate numbers are designed to impress — 6.99 crore accounts have already been opened since PM Narendra Modi launched Jan Dhan Yojana on Independence Day, according to pmjdy.gov.in, a government website. But several concerns lie hidden beneath those numbers. Continue reading
Coalgate. Part Two.
Last week, the NDA’s Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Ordinance, 2014, was greeted rapturously. Comforting a country facing coal shortages, it laid out a road map for ensuring coal supplies in the wake of the Supreme Court’s order last month cancelling captive coal-block allocations. But will the ordinance fix the mess left behind by the previous… Continue reading
a mess created by speculation, not environmental laws
i reported for this story by my colleagues ravi teja sharma and avinash celestine on why real estate is in doldrums in and around delhi. 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