Interview: ‘We have underestimated the extent of India’s jobs crisis. It is far more serious’
and gosh. one more frikking q&a. On Thursday, a political storm boiled over after Business Standard reported that, between 2017-’18, unemployment numbers in India reached a 45-year high. The newspaper based its report on a survey, conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation, called the Periodic Labour Force Survey that the government had not made public. According to… Continue reading
One year after GST, India’s smaller companies are on the backfoot
On July 1, 2017, India introduced the Goods and Services Tax to replace the patchwork of indirect taxes that existed at the time and to improve tax compliances. As the tax regime completes its first year, Scroll.in reporters interviewed people running a variety of businesses: handicraft-makers in Guwahati, textile manufacturers in Surat and Tirupur, paper-goods… Continue reading
On the six factors which cumulatively added up to India’s unprecedented cash squeeze
India’s current cash crunch is a real enigma. To begin with, there is its sheer unprecedented nature. In all the years since Independence, India has never seen something like it. “We have heard of coin shortages but never a cash shortage,” said MS Sriram, visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore’s Centre for Public… Continue reading
15 theories about why India is facing a cash crunch a year and a half after demonetisation
atms are again running dry in india. and theories claiming to explain why are doubling every day. out today, a quick report with my colleague rohan which seeks to separate plausible theories from the disingenuous (or just plain stupid) ones. Continue reading
Why small businessmen in Gujarat are quitting industry and turning to financial speculation
Two major trends are playing out in Gujarat’s economy. On one hand, small industrial units are shutting down. This is not a recent development. Micro, small and medium units in the state started getting into trouble about five years ago, well before the central government demonetised high-value currency notes in November and introduced the Goods… Continue reading
Two months in, How is GST affecting Surat’s textile hub?
Three months ago, when the central government was getting ready to roll out the Goods and Services Tax, the textile industrial cluster of Surat, Gujarat, India’s biggest manufacturer of synthetic fabrics, was distinctly nervous. At play were two conflicting views of how the new tax regime would affect India’s predominantly informal business sector. The government… Continue reading
Beyond Surat’s GST strike: New technologies, Chinese imports are causing a churn in textile sector
At one time, the neighbourhood around Surat’s textile markets was noisy. The street resounded with the clacketing of powerlooms – five or six machines in dark, poorly ventilated rooms with split levels. Most of these were family-run businesses. The looms were on the groundfloor with families working by day and sleeping upstairs at night. Now,… Continue reading
In Surat’s textile hub, small businesses are afraid of GST – but big companies are not
Rajesh Mehra is desolate. A big-boned man in his mid-fifties, he is a trader in women’s blouses. Until ten years ago, Mehra used to take orders from garment wholesalers in big cities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, buy the cloth and thread he needed from garment clusters like Silvassa, and get the blouses stitched in… Continue reading
‘Is the pain worth it?’: 50 days after demonetisation, rural South India has a few questions
On November 9, life suddenly came to a standstill in Chikka Tirupathi, Bagalur and Hosur. As in the rest of India, the first day of demonetisation in these towns abutting the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border was marked by problems in conducting day-to-day trading for small businesses and a frenzied hunt for Rs 100 notes for families.… Continue reading
An update from Patna’s Maroofganj mandi
ten days into #notebandi, patna’s Maroofganj mandi had frozen. As demonetisation enters its second week, traders in Patna’s Maroofganj mandi are seeing something unprecedented. In the last seven days, the supply of new stocks in this wholesale market, which supplies cooking oil, spices, rice, wheat and pulses to shopkeepers across Patna, has plummeted. The supply… Continue reading
Ground report: In Bihar, murmurs of protest break the sullen silence against demonetisation
Banka was the last stop before returning to Patna in this reporter’s travels from North Bihar to South Bihar, to get a sense of how notebandi was impacting the structures of everyday life. The journey had started with Raxaul, on the India-Nepal border, on November 18, exactly 10 days after notebandi was announced. Heading south,… Continue reading
Money is trickling into the banks of Bihar – but is not being distributed evenly
A month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, cash availability is starkly uneven across Bihar. In relatively affluent parts of the capital city of Patna, the long queues outside ATMs seen in the first week of notebandi, when the government invalidated 86% of… Continue reading
Demonetisation: In a hamlet in Bihar, income and expenditure is down, but hopes are up
The last 30 days have not been easy for the people of Bhindu Paimar. The standard demonetisation narrative has played out in this tola (hamlet) in Karjara panchayat in Gaya, Bihar, about 20 km from Gaya city, on the road that leads to the ancient Buddhist university of Nalanda. Earnings have fallen. Most people in… Continue reading
The demonetisation effect on border town Raxaul: Income loss, dependence on Nepalese currency
My second field trip in Bihar took me from Patna to Raxaul in the far north. A couple of days there, and then I began trickling southwards. Bettiah. Gopalganj and then Darbhanga. And then Patna again. I will head further south tomorrow — towards Gaya — before turning northeast towards Nalanda and then straight east… Continue reading
Cauliflower sells for Rs one a kilo in Bihar as demonetisation depresses demand
At first glance, it looks like any other day at the mandi in Bettiah. Trucks stand next to the concrete arch that leads into the fruit and vegetable market in this small town in northern Bihar. Inside the mandi samiti, as the precinct is called, hawkers sit with baskets bursting with vegetables. The shops seem… Continue reading
How four families have survived two weeks of demonetisation
reported for this story. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to do away with Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has not been good for Guddu Sharma’s family. Sharma, 24, lives with his wife and two sons near Patna’s Boring Road, and runs a men’s salon about 30 minutes away. Since the prime minister’s announcement, he… Continue reading
Demonetisation has left India’s food markets frozen – and the future looks tense
As demonetisation enters its second week, traders in Patna’s Maroofganj mandi are seeing something unprecedented. In the last seven days, the supply of new stocks in this wholesale market, which supplies cooking oil, spices, rice, wheat and pulses to shopkeepers across Patna, has plummeted. The supply of cooking oil, for instance, is down by 80%.… Continue reading
‘All these notes suddenly have no value:’
this field report on Day One of demonetisation. In the borderlands of Chikka Tirupathi and Hosur, the first day of the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes by the Indian government was marked by problems in day-to-day trading for small businesses and a frenzied hunt for Rs 100 notes for families. Shankar, who… Continue reading
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
the great rural land grab
For the longest time, the price of farmland in Vadicherla stayed below Rs 20,000 an acre.Ten years ago, that began to change. “In 2003, an acre cost Rs 25,000. By 2006-07, it had climbed to Rs 2 lakhs,” says Byru Veeraiah, sarpanch of this village in Andhra Pradesh’s Mehbubnagar district, “By 2010, an acre cost… Continue reading
Inside the mysterious world of the microfinance agents
this is the draft of a story on microfinance agents that never got published. i could not conclusively prove the existence of these microfinance agents. but it is an interesting read nonetheless, on how the informal economy subverts the formal sector’s best laid plans. take a look. In xx, while auditing the books of an… Continue reading
(am writing this post in 2014 but retrospectively dating it back to dec 28, 2009. this, as things stand, is the very first set of stories i wrote for the economic times — they appeared three days before i joined the paper. the paper was bringing out an year end issue, and i wrote about… Continue reading
Fixing India’s Mandis
note: this is the first article i wrote on agriculture. years later, after the village stay at tihi, i read this story again and found it embarrassingly technocratic in its outlook. anyway, do take a look. **** Jawaharlal Nehru had once described agriculture as “India’s greatest living industry”. Yet, 60 years after Independence, the country is… 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