• ‘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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • And now for something completely different

    This year’s EOTY (end of the year) bike ride started at Guwahati, Assam, and ended at Miao, Arunachal Pradesh. The route (Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Dekhiajuli, Pabhoi, Majuli, Sibasagar, the coaltown of Margarita, Miao, followed by a visit to Namdapha Tiger Reserve) stretched along the north bank of the Brahmaputra till the river island of Majuli and… Continue reading

  • Reading Zygmunt Bauman

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

  • the retreat of the elephants

    Working on the hydel stories, thinking about how these dams will change the Brahmaputra, feeling the country will have to live with the consequences of these decisions for a long, long time, I am reminded of this passage from Mark Elvin’s The Retreat Of The Elephants. A paradox has to be confronted. The same skill… Continue reading

  • The Dov Ospovat Book

    A couple of hours ago, I finally finished reading Dov Ospovat’s The Development Of Darwin’s Theory: Natural History, Natural Theology, and Natural Selection, 1838-1859. I had blogged about this book some weeks ago saying anyone reading The Origin Of Species will be struck by several paragraphs where Darwin describes painstaking experiments he carried out seeking… Continue reading

  • dov ospovat and the development of darwin’s theory

    i am finally reading dov ospovat’s the development of darwin’s theory. back in 2009 when i was studying the drafting of the forest rights act, i had read the origin of species. interspersed in that book were little paragraphs where darwin described numerous experiments he had conducted in the years after he got off the… Continue reading

  • and now for something completely different

    i spent a large chunk of sunday reading the first two volumes of jason lutes’ graphic novel called berlin. set in the late nineteen twenties, the books recreate a time in the city when fundamental forces had been unleashed in germany. rearmament was secretly underway. fascism and socialism were competing for the soul of the… Continue reading

  • and now for something completely different

    some months ago, i wrote a small blogpost wondering about the surprising lack of books which focus on the experience of cycling, running and whatnot. it is a theme that i revisited while writing for ET about the mumbai marathon. Gather all books ever written on running and you will have enough to pave a running… Continue reading

  • this planet bleeds biodiversity

    This year, I have read a few books about species going extinct. Sam Turvey’s Witness to Extinction about the collapse of the Yangtze River Dolphin. Anne LaBastille’s Mama Poc about the end of the Guatamalan Giant Grebe. And George Schaller’s The Last Panda. An angry look at chinese and global efforts to save the Giant Panda. All… Continue reading

  • India And Her Myriad Responses to NREGA

    the third of three stories for et 50. It will probably take a big, fat book to describe the myriad impacts the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA ) has had on India. At one level, it has created a safety net for rural folks during summer months when employment is scarce. It has improved… Continue reading

  • The curious lack of fiction set in rural India

    during my tihi days, i felt for the first time that only fiction could do justice to the immense changes that this village was seeing. it is a feeling that has been reinforced over time. for instance, at the contested site where posco’s industrial complex is supposed to come up, only two of the three panchayats whose… Continue reading

  • a history of indian environmentalism

    yesterday’s hindustan times printed my review of ram guha’s newest book, “how much should a person consume?” here, with massive tweaks and additions, is it again. …After chronicling the Chipko movement, the life of Verrier Elwin and the history of environmentalism, Guha is now chasing a larger, grander question. In his promisingly titled How much should a person… Continue reading

  • a snake called boiga irregularis

    the latest issue of businessworld features my book review of out of eden. am posting the original draft here. take a look. i hope it makes you want to go and read this somewhat philosophical book on conservation biology. Have you heard of a gifted survivor called the Brown Tree Snake? Boiga Irregularis, as it is known, reached Guam about… 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


…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.”

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

Book lists

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…,”

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.

Book discussions

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