Five reasons why claims by forest dwellers for their land are low – and rejections are high
On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered the eviction of more than 10 lakh families of Adivasis and other forest-dwellers from forestlands across 16 states. The order came while the court was hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The petitioners had demanded that state governments evict those forest dwellers… Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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 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… Continue reading
On the real contours of “Coal-Gate”
This post aggregates all the stories my colleagues John Samuel Raja D, Avinash Singh and I did on India’s captive coal block allocation scam between June last year and now. The articles were an attempt to understand ‘coalgate’ in as much detail as possible. Given that we now live in an age of media clutter,… Continue reading
सतपुड़ा के घने जंगल
over the past week and a half, i have been travelling in chhattisgarh. one set of stories on coal are over. and now, my colleagues and i are trying to fathom the linkages between coal, power, land and forests. and so, last sunday, i was in hasdeo arand, the forest over which the go/no go… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
The Great Forest Cover-Up
In February, the latest instalment of a little environmental kabuki played out when the Forest Survey of India (FSI) released its biennial report card of forests. It declared India’s forests were in fine fettle, with a net addition of 1,128 sq km, or 0.16%, in the last two years. At 692,000 sq km, forests covered… Continue reading
on forest diversions
The government plans to make the diversion of forest land for industrial, development or mining projects more predictable by adopting a ‘Go, No Go’ style classification for forests on the basis of their ecological value. A group of ministers (GoM) on measures to tackle corruption has approved a clean-up act in forest clearances that would… Continue reading
Change in the Air?
This article was written after attending the hearing where Amicus Harish Salve suggested that the Supreme Court direct the Centre to set up one or more statutory authorities to ensure the country’s forest policy is implemented “in letter and spirit”. If Mr Salve’s suggestion is accepted by the bench, it would represent nothing less than the… Continue reading
this is the first story i wrote on environment. i was in businessworld where, for the yearend issue, we were left loose to write on anything that took our fancy. and i had reported on ecodevelopment — a world bank assisted programme to create alternative livelihoods for villagers living in the periphery of forests, in… 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