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
On India’s air monitoring during Diwali
As India celebrated Diwali on Thursday, the environment ministry’s efforts to capture changes in air quality were spotty at best – with the information either inadequate or simply outdated. Given such lapses in data gathering, it’s anyone’s guess what kind of air most Indians were sucking into their lungs. In Delhi, at about 10 pm,… Continue reading
An updated version of the air quality story
today’s et carries an updated version of the air quality story published yesterday — the story got reworked once i got the cpcb’s answers. as things stand, its answers resolved some of the questions in the previous avatar of the story and triggered newer ones. do take a look. and, here, the q&a with the… Continue reading
On the proposed Air Quality Index (and flaws therein)
About six days ago, India released a draft Air Quality Index. The idea is unexceptionable. The Index seeks to make air quality more easily comprehensible by reporting air quality not as dry numbers of raw concentrations but as colour-coded assessments of health impacts — good, moderate, poor, very poor, hazardous, etc. In this story out… Continue reading
The Chandasi Coal Mandi
Today’s ET carries a story on Chandasi – also spelt as Chandausi. It is a mandi — like the agri markets of India — but one dealing in coal. It is a fascinating place. Its architecture is similar to that of a farm mandi even though the commodities the two trade in are so different.… Continue reading
Why India’s numbers on air quality cannot be trusted
For some time now, India has been putting out her air quality numbers. Visit the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) or the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and you will find them. In the odd city, you will see LED displays giving real-time updates on air quality in the city. How accurate… Continue reading
lov verma, harsh vardhan, jp nadda…
Has the Union health ministry misled Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the AIIMS CVO matter? On August 23, health secretary Lov Verma sent a detailed note to the PMO on why Sanjiv Chaturvedi, an Indian Forest Service officer who had uncovered several scams while posted in Haryana, had been removed from the post of Chief… Continue reading
On cleaning up India
yesterday, on the day mahatma gandhi was born, the indian government unveiled its latest mantra. ministers were out sweeping streets, saying that india needs to be cleaned. it is anyone’s guess if this new mission will fizzle out or stick around and make a difference. saying that televised tokenism is not enough, i wrote this… Continue reading
and the supreme court deallocates all blocks…
yesterday, shortly after 2 pm, the supreme court deallocated almost all captive coalblocks — sparing just the umpps and two JV-less blocks of sail and ntpc. with that, i guess, ends my reporting on the captive coal block allocations. see these two links. one, this bouncy little primer written yesterday on what coalgate was all… Continue reading
what the affidavits submitted by the 40 operational coal block owners tell us…
Earlier this month, companies with operating captive coal blocks submitted affidavits in the Supreme Court. Attempting to ensure their blocks, 40 in all, are not deallocated along with those where mining has not started, these affidavits listed investments made, the quantum of coal produced and the production from the End Use Plant (EUP) paired with… Continue reading
#coalgate. as for the attempts to avoid deallocation of operational blocks…
my previous story on the supreme court hearings into the captive coal block allocation was a bit of a curtain-raiser. it said when hearings resume on monday, the biggest question before the judges will be re: what to do with the blocks where mining has already started. as things turned out, a set of industry… Continue reading
is the bjp getting nervous about the by-poll in chhattisgarh?
The Chhattisgarh unit of Congress has alleged that BJP coerced all 6 independent contestants to withdraw from the Antagarh by-poll, two days after its candidate Manturam Pawar withdrew from the race. Continue reading
what should be done with the coalblocks where mining has already started?
On Monday, the Supreme Court will decide what to do with captive coal blocks, having deemed more than 200 allocations made since 1993 to be illegal. While writing their order, one of the biggest questions before Chief Justice R M Lodha and his fellow judges Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph will relate to the 40-odd… Continue reading
on the national tiger conservation authority and its strange disdain for laws…
today’s ET has this story on the NTCA — the national tiger conservation authority. “On July 9, India’s ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) issued an intriguing circular. It sought candidates for an apex position in tiger conservation — additional director general (Project Tiger) and member secretary at the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) —… Continue reading
day one of jan dhan yojana
i reported for this story on the first day of jan dhan yojana. while the media exults over its success in opening over a crore accounts on day one, cracks in the model are already visible. cynical tokenism, all this. Continue reading
modi sarkar and its env/dev record
and then, there is this story on its environmental track record till now. If environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s tweets are anything to go by, India is treading a fine balance between development and environmental protection. For instance, on May 31, shortly after taking charge at Paryavaran Bhawan, he tweeted: “The government believes in #environment and… Continue reading
the new, new contours of financial inclusion
from the et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 resplendent days in power, this story on financial inclusion… Every two years, India’s financial inclusion drive reformats itself into a brand new, entirely unrecognisable avatar. Till about three years ago, it starred banks, the Reserve Bank of India and banking correspondent companies. Then came DBTs… Continue reading
On cleaning the ganges
from an et special issue on modi sarkar completing 100 days, this report on its election promise to clean the ganga. Continue reading
how to clean up the coal allocation mess
With the Supreme Court announcing that the captive coal block allocations were illegal, India needs to engage with a new set of questions on coal. Right now, our coal industry is a mess. It has spawned oligarchs, hurt local populations and decimated local ecosystems. While doing all this, it simultaneously failed to supply the country… Continue reading
and the supreme court comes in with an excellent verdict
yesterday, the SC ruled that all coal block allocations, from 1993 onwards, were illegal. and i, little rajshekhar, wrote this edit. The Supreme Court’s ‘Coalgate’ verdict needs to be welcomed. It gives India a rare second chance to fix terrible decisions made by our politicians. The coal allocations scandal is not an outrage merely because… Continue reading
why rising food prices might be here to stay
None of the standard explanations quite explain the rise in food prices India has seen: pronounced since 2006 and alarming after 2010. Drought and poor rains? The country has seen good aggregate rainfall in most of those years. Spike in global prices? Those were high in 2007-08, not now. Fragmented value chains that allow middlemen… Continue reading
is the forest rights act being implemented well? (the answer is ‘no’)
Last month, union tribal Minister Jual Oram told the Lok Sabha that India is making “satisfactory progress” implementing the “Forest Rights Act” (FRA). However, a closer look at the numbers he submitted in the house indicates otherwise. my story on how the government’s claims about “satisfactory” implementation of the forest rights act are garbage. what… Continue reading
modi. dbt. jayalalitha. tn.
Resisting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for direct benefits transfer using Aadhaar, Tamil Nadu has refused to share list of its welfare scheme beneficiaries for matching with Aadhaar numbers, saying a hasty cross-checking exercise could end up denying benefits to hundreds of poor. Continue reading
on coal and ppps
The Economic Survey, last month, said there was an urgent need to fast-track the entry of private sector in coal mining to increase production of this mineral and, by extension, reduce imports. Subsequently, coal and power minister Piyush Goyal stated the government was considering the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to achieve this objective. PPPs… Continue reading
a big setback for aadhaar
The finance ministry has decided to limit Aadhaar’s role in its welfare scheme payments and, instead, use ATM-enabled RuPay cards for last-mile authentication to withdraw money. While it will continue to use Aadhaar for opening accounts and to eliminate ghosts and duplicates from beneficiary rolls, the ministry has decided to give RuPay ATM cards with… Continue reading
RBI opposes NDA financial inclusion plan
The new financial inclusion push, Sampoorn Vittiyea Samaveshan, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to unveil on August 15 does not quite have the central bank on its side. Top government sources told ET that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) was in disagreement with three critical elements of the drive. it opposed… Continue reading
the latest question on aadhaar
…While researching this story, ET reviewed two drafts produced by the Department of Financial Services – one in June, and the second in July. The draft dated 8 July, 2014, says: “This account would be linked with the Aadhaar number of the account holder and would become the single point for receipt of Direct Benefit… Continue reading
nilekani meets modi, saves aadhaar
There is enough evidence to suggest that the crucial July 1 meeting between Nilekani, the prime minister and the FM, brought forth a volte face in the government stand on UIDAI. Only two days before this, on July 3, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Telecom, IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Planning Minister Rao… Continue reading
MGNREGA ver 2.0
out today, this story on the changes planned by the nda for nrega. Sanitation projects to reduce open defecation, increasing green cover and emphasis on creating assets form the crux of the Narendra Modi-led government’s blueprint for redeploying UPA’s flagship social sector programme — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA.Top officials… Continue reading
on aadhaar, npr and the nda
my colleague and friend vikas dhoot and i have this update on the continuing aadhaar and npr saga. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has backed the UPA’s Aadhaar programme for now, but that may not be the final word on whether it will be retained. The government has asked the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI),… Continue reading
on the quantum of natural forests in india
India has no more than 3.3 lakh sq kms of land under real forests, less than half the number claimed by the environment ministry in the 2013 forest survey released last week. for the longest time, india’s environment ministry has been claiming india is adding forests, not losing them. this assertion, as a bunch of… Continue reading
photos from here and there
other photos from the trip (see earlier posts) Continue reading
i have been reading about trilobites for a while now. first in an essay called ‘hard parts’ by david quammen. and then a spluttering succession of other books. these were the first lifeform on the earth to develop an exoskeleton, which is one reason why they are so well preserved in the fossil records. but… Continue reading
the inuit with his beluga
(from tadoussac, i went to the city of quebec. from there, some inuit scupltures i saw.) and these carvings on a walrus skull. what do you see? i see huskies, a dog sled, an eskimo, an igloo, another eskimo; on the other side, a seal, a walrus, a polar bear, another igloo and an eskimo;… Continue reading
the view from tadoussac
(i was on leave between the 12th of June and the 5th of July. a close friend was getting married in toronto. and so, i took about 25 days off and travelled in bits of canada and the uk) ** destination number one was a village called tadoussac. on the western bank of the st… Continue reading
from the 2014 economic survey
Bigger public-private partnership (PPPs) in social sector programmes and a thorough overhaul of the rural employment scheme to link it with creations of assets and infrastructure relating to agriculture and tourism are on the government agenda, the Economic Survey said. The biggest challenge confronting India is “unleasing the potential of its demographic dividend’, it said.… Continue reading
On the new forest diversion norms
Last week, India’s environment ministry overhauled the process it follows for identifying forests where industrial activities can be permitted. Instead of using six parameters — forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, density of forest cover, integrity of the landscape, and hydrological value – for deciding whether a forestland can be given over for, say, mining,… Continue reading
on coal and land
i am uploading this story late. it was published the day i went on leave. about ten years ago, ntpc was alloted the largest captive coal block of all — pakri barwadih, with 1.6 billion tons of coal. mining is yet to start here. the company blames delays in land acquisition. but the reasons for… Continue reading
fresh trouble for aadhaar
Agencies contracted to enroll people into the Aadhaar fold have joined hands to protest heavy penalties levied on them by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that was steered by tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani till three months ago. The enrollment imbroglio is the latest in a series of shocks for the project in recent… Continue reading
on what it will take to clean the ganga
Till now, India has followed a relatively simple approach to clean up the Ganga—or, for that matter, any of its rivers. It has acted on the assumption that preventing pollution is sufficient to restore the river. Accordingly, India has been setting up effluent and sewage treatment plants, which clean up waste water before releasing it,… Continue reading
on how the upa’s development initiatives might fare under the nda
out today, a story on the possible outlook for the upa’s major development initiatives — aadhaar, cash transfers, npr, rights-based legislations, the proposed environment authority, the land acquisition bill — once the modi government takes over. It’s a space the incoming BJP-led government will need to .. Read more at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/35353059.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst Continue reading
the strange case of the missing 2013 forest cover report
A crucial appointment and general elections have delayed the biennial government report on the state of Indian forests. This report, which was due in 2013, was first delayed because the Forest Survey of India (FSI), which conducts the survey, was headless for six months. And then, the ministry of environment held back the report, citing… Continue reading
on land, bjp, congress and the fine art of selective mudslinging
For weeks now, Congress and the BJP have been clubbing each other over land allotments.The attack started with the Congress alleging that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had given large tracts of land at dirt-cheap rates to infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani, an industrialist Modi is widely perceived as close to. The BJP rubbished… Continue reading
on the CBI’s decision to start filing closure reports…
in the past few days, india’s central bureau of investigation (CBI), one of the country’s apex investigating bodies, has closed some of the FIRs it had registered while peering into the captive coalblock allocations. the reason it cited was ‘insufficient evidence’. more recently, unnamed CBI officials have been giving interviews saying that there is no… Continue reading
the bandhan experiment
early in april, the rbi surprised most financial sector watchers by granting a banking license to bandhan, a microlender with most of its operations in eastern india. in a story out today, my colleague atmadip and i take a closer look at this decision. and say that this is a high stakes experiment — for… Continue reading
should aadhaar be junked?
The last 60 days have not been good to India’s much-feted Aadhaar project. On the 30th of January, the UPA pressed the pause button on direct benefits transfer for cooking gas. On 26 February, the Mumbai High Court directed Aadhaar to share its biometrics database with the CBI. A year earlier, a seven year old… Continue reading
the greens step in
Even as the ministry of environment met its March 31 deadline to submit a plan to the Supreme Court for a new environment regulator, a set of academics, activists and environmental lawyers have weighed in with their own design. Concerned that the ministry version “would not meet the minimum standards of an independent regulatory authority”,… Continue reading
the environment ministry tries to weaken the proposed environment authority…
Tasked by the Supreme Court with creating a new and independent environment authority, the Ministry of Environment & Forests wants to retain its say in choosing the panel of experts to vet projects, a Cabinet note on the matter shows. This is a change from its earlier position, where the ministry said it would relinquish… Continue reading
the follies of rushing in…
yesterday was profoundly anomalous. i filed two stories. both, as it were, on aadhaar. one on a sting by cobrapost which flagged faulty enrolments. and the other where the supreme court said aadhaar cannot share its database with anyone without consent from the number holders. this is a significant development. over the last five years,… Continue reading
old enrolment concerns resurface re aadhaar
Investigative journalism portal Cobrapost has aired videos of sting operations that allegedly show the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) conducting a flawed enrolment process that allows people from even neighbouring countries to get an Aadhaar number after paying bribes. it is hard to escape a sense of deja vu. these complaints — about poor… Continue reading
on nandan nilekani’s stint with the upa…
out today, this quick and dirty story on nandan nilekani’s stint in upa2. it was a part of a larger package profiling some of the technocrats leaving office along with the upa — c rangarajan, montek singh ahluwalia, the member of the national advisory council, and nilekani. Continue reading
on the environment regulator: an interview with william lockhart
ET just uploaded an interview with William Lockhart, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Utah’s SJ Quinney College of Law, re the proposed contours of the environment regulator. Professor Lockhart has been studying the Indian environment clearance process for a long time — my 2006-07 thesis on the Environment Impact Assessment Notification had… Continue reading
an update on the proposed environment regulator
India’s environmental clearance process is universally loathed. Industry and technocrats find it cumbersome and corrupt, and blame it for project delays and slowing growth. Environmentalists and project-affected people consider it superficial, corrupt and given to approving virtually all projects, unmindful of their social and environmental costs. Both views are correct. India’s environmental clearance (EC) process… Continue reading
the sharad pawar interview
on the day the sharad pawar story appeared, we put this email interview with him online as well. take a look. The press recently reported that you wanted a high subsidy (Rs.3,500/ton) for sugar exports. If Indian sugar is not globally competitive, why do we want to export it? If there is no domestic shortage… Continue reading
on sharad pawar’s ten years in krishi bhawan
a long time back, when i was at businessworld, i had written my first story on agriculture. that was on fixing the mandis. i had met sharad pawar for that story. it was 2004. he was new to the agriculture ministry. i was young and impressionistic. the story that emerged was technocratic and naive. almost… Continue reading
with the standing committee rejecting the mfi bill, old questions come back to haunt MFIs
and, after a long time, i write again on india’s search for regulatory mechanism for microfinance. With the Standing Committee on Finance rejecting the latest avatar of the microfinance bill, old questions about the microfinance sector have resurfaced. Since 2010, when the controversial Andhra Pradesh ordinance made it all but impossible for Microfinance Institutions (MFIs)… Continue reading
upa1 vs upa2
and so, upa2 presented its final budget – a vote on account – yesterday. and i wrote this quick little story comparing the developmental efforts of upa1 and upa2. In his speech today, Finance Minister P Chidambaram suggested UPA-II has done a good job on social welfare. As statements go, that assertion is not correct.… Continue reading
Why Health Secy Keshav Desiraju Was Transferred
something strange happened in mid-february. the bureaucrat who heads india’s union ministry of health was abruptly transferred. and none of the explanations doing the rounds seemed to make much sense. Why was health secretary Keshav Desiraju transferred? Two days ago, in a statement reproduced by the Press Trust of India, Azad said: “Officers’ and ministers’… Continue reading
the upa puts dbt-lpg on hold
out today, this story by my colleague yogima seth and me on a surprise decision by the upa to pause its DBT programme for LPG. The government’s decision to put the Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer (DBT) for cooking gas on hold could be a blow to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), set up… Continue reading
in october 2012, i had travelled to a tehsil in rajasthan called dudu where the congress formally announced that direct benefit transfers would be its magic bullet for the coming elections — in the state and nationally. well, i just reported for a story by my colleague akshay deshmane on the role of DBT in… Continue reading
no easy way to clean up the upa’s coalgate mess
last week, the supreme court finished hearing all arguments on whether the coalblock allocations should be cancelled or not. in the coming weeks, we will know india will find a sensible conclusion to the whole #coalgate saga or not. based on what we have reported so far, this can still go either way. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“…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