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

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

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

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

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

on the investment in captive coal blocks

Last week, defending the Centre in its coal-block allocations, Goolam Vahanvati, the government’s top law officer, told the Supreme Court that companies had invested Rs 2,00,000 crore in their captive blocks. Some industry players have been citing this figure as the financial cost of a complete cancellation of licences. But ET calculations on the estimated […]

on how india’s attempts to fix the coalgate mess are faring

in the days after the cbi’s 14th FIR, delhi’s political circles crackled with ignorant speculation. the FIR was the congress’ way of warning industry against supporting narendra modi, the BJP’s prime minister aspirant; the FIR had been filed to discredit pc parakh, the former coal secretary; a rival business group was trying to scupper industrialist […]

as in iron ore, so in sand

Last Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government suspended Durga Shakti Nagpal, the sub-divisional magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar who had been cracking down on the sand mafia. Three days later, Pale Ram Chauhan, a Noida-based activist who had taken on the local sand mining mafia, was killed. Sand mining is back under the scanner. As are […]

the strange case of hpdcapl

Arunachal Pradesh, the epicentre of hydel power in India, has decided to reverse its contentious decision in 2009 to give 49% equity in its hydro-power corporation to the Naveen Jindal Group. The decision, taken last month, came after a backlash from government departments and other companies having hydel projects in the state against the joint […]

the hydel contrarian

Which power-generation company with operations in India delivered the best returns in a post-Lehman Brothers world? That distinction does not belong to sector heavyweights such as Tata Power, Reliance Power, NTPC or Suzlon Energy. A little-known, 260-crore company, operating primarily in the clean energy space, has left these powerhouses trailing on shareholder returns since January […]

on arunachal’s egregious hydel plans

between december and now, i worked on a set of stories about the hydel projects coming up in arunachal pradesh. between 2006-09, this state in north-eastern india signed 130 MoUs with about 55 companies allocating them places where they could build dams. several things about these MoUs were surprising. these MoUs translated into 130 dams […]

coal to liquid projects. #coalgate

In the report it submitted last week, the parliamentary standing committee on coal observed that the inter-ministerial group (IMG) whose recommendations formed the basis of allotment of two large coal blocks to private players for conversion to oil “has not performed its duty honestly”. While the report does not elaborate on the IMG’s alleged failings, […]

a seemingly innocuous transaction

A company owned by former and current directors of the Naveen Jindal Group, and then by Naveen Jindal himself, gave an unsecured loan of Rs 2.25 crore in 2008 to a nondescript trading company, which used it to buy new shares on extremely generous terms of a company owned by Dasari Narayana Rao, one of […]

on rising murmurs of rent seeking in india’s environment ministry

while working on the coal and hydel stories (the latter is yet to be published), i kept hearing about rising corruption in the environment ministry. some of those conversations found their way into a story in today’s ET, by my colleagues soma, urmi and me, on why the environment ministry and environment minister jayanthi natarajan […]

the five habits of successful coal block allottees (that manage to pip more eligible companies to coal blocks)

today’s ET carried a story which tries to answer one of the many puzzling questions thrown up by the coal scam — how did small, obscure companies like Jas Infrastructure or Vini Steel & Power bag a coal block where larger, more established ones failed? a part of the answer lies in, yes, the screening […]

On why the institutional action being taken to clean up coal is necessary but not sufficient

On Tuesday, ET carried a small update on how the institutional response to coal-gate was shaping up. That article ended by concluding it will take more than these responses to clean up the suppurating mess in the indian coal sector. A story by my brilliant friend/colleague Avinash Celestine and me in today’s ET Magazine elaborates […]

Coal and Corruption. Part Two. Enter, Political Funding

following from the previous story, this one too says that corruption in coal goes far beyond the allocation of captive coal blocks. and that one of the larger forces driving corruption in this sector is the opaque manner in which our political parties are funded. It was a roundtable on ‘campaign finance reforms in India’, […]

Understanding India’s coal shortage: Captive blocks

something doesn’t add up here. over the last few months, the country has been awash in news reports about the sudden coal shortage being faced by power projects and others across india. these assertions are somewhat puzzling. for instance, india needs 731 million tons of coal every year. however, the total coal allocated to companies […]

is the environment ministry responsible for the shortfall in coal production?

a red letter day. i had two stories in the paper today. the first explored a rather curious contradiction. all this time, we have been hearing that the environment ministry has been diluting environment and forest clearance processes and clearing every project that hoves into sight. at the same time, there is this insistence by […]

the importance of hedging despite the alleged incorruptibility of the lokpal

 What is the best institutional architecture for fighting corruption? Should India have one, all-powerful anti-corruption watchdog or should it have several smaller ones? What if the Lokpal gets corrupted the way other institutions have? Are we better off with a strong Lokpal? Or are we better off making the CBI more independent of the government, […]

Santosh Hegde, Karnataka and the Illegal Mining Machinery

In 2007, the Karnataka Lokayukta, established to investigate grievances with administrative actions, was asked by the state government to study rampant illegal mining in the state. Though this report, finalised as early as December, 2008, has been doing surreptitious rounds in government, legal and mining circles, it is yet to be made public. This document, a […]