Reviving the Ganga #3. Three ways in which the Modi government is adding fresh stresses to the river
A century ago, the gharial could be found all the way from the Indus to the Irrawady. The thin-snouted, fish-eating member of the crocodile family was spread out over 20,000 sq km at the time, studies estimate, and numbered between 5,000 and 10,000. Now, no more than 200 breeding adults survive in the wild. The… Continue reading
Reviving the Ganga #2 Modi said he would revive Ganga but his government is doing the opposite by reviving dams
The focus of their anger lay 400 kilometres to the north. Since 2002, Uttarakhand, where the Ganga originates, has been on a drive to build hydel power projects. The state, which currently produces 4,000 MW of hydel power from 98-odd projects, has since 2009 signed agreements to build another 350 dams. Most of these are… Continue reading
Reviving the Ganga #1. Modi’s clean Ganga plan hinges on private companies tackling sewage. Will it work?
In September 2014, shortly after coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first meeting on the Ganga. The river had featured prominently in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election manifesto. The Ganga was both jeevan dayini, the giver of life, and mukti dayini, which sets the soul free, the document said. But all was… Continue reading
Can the courts save India’s rivers from pollution? Tirupur shows the answer is no
the second — and concluding — part of our trip down the Noyyal (see previous post). A slum sprawled on one side of the river. In the distance, a factory belched smoke in the air. The riverbed was overrun with weeds and crammed with plastic bags that were half buried into the earth. An earthmover… Continue reading
How a river in Tamil Nadu turned into a sewage canal
A narrow little rivulet splashes down, bouncing from boulder to boulder as it descends the rockface. It pauses to catch its breath in a tiny pool limned by trees, before rushing downhill again, merging with other streams to form a small river called the Noyyal. For centuries, the river’s 170-km course used to take it… Continue reading
No city is an island: Lessons from Delhi’s odd-even experiment
The Delhi government’s 15-day odd-even initiative to contain vehicular emissions has made little or no difference to air quality in the capital, The Hindu reported last week. The report claims that peak pollution levels during the first week of the scheme – which moved cars with odd licence plates off the streets on alternate days… 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
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
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
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
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
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
when claims of indian exceptionalism run into bhopal gas survivors
in a month, it will be 27 years since the gas leaked out of that tank in union carbide’s bhopal plant. it is an event which has never quite lost its ability to shock people — the scale of the disaster; the state’s brutal abandonment of the gas affected; the subsequent discovery that households living… Continue reading
Union Carbide. Reflections
this is the first of three opinionated stories i wrote for et’s 50th anniversary. i cannot find the links to these on the website, and so am pasting the raw text itself. Blackened and twisted from the heat of the reaction, tank 610 lies on its side. Twenty-six years ago, on the night of 2nd-3rd… Continue reading
Union Carbide Followup. Three
In June this year, responding to the public outcry over the weak judgments handed out by a Bhopal sessions court, the Indian government unveiled a new relief package for the survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. With the 26th anniversary of the leak around the corner, the Economic Times travelled to Bhopal to take stock of… Continue reading
India, China and the (bedraggled) state of their environments.
Whenever China’s environment is discussed, the narrative that crops up is that its authoritarian government has steamrolled environmental concerns while chasing growth. And so, fittingly, when Jianguo Liu and Jared Diamond rate 15 of the world’s most populous countries on environmental sustainability, China is the second worst with a score of 129 (on a 142 point scale).… Continue reading
Union Carbide Followup. Two
and what the GoM recommended. Continue reading
Union Carbide followup. One.
after the outcry, a meeting by the GoM (group of ministers). Continue reading
A tragedy that looks like it will never end
eleven days earlier, a Bhopal sessions court had handed down measly sentences to seven people accused in the bhopal gas leak. in the resulting cries for revenge and demands for the extradition of warren andersen, a big point was ignored. the tragedy at bhopal did not just occur 25 years ago, it continues to unfold. Widespread… Continue reading
A backpacking trip to Orissa
(this post was initially written for http://www.theotherindia.org. that site has since been shuttered. and i thought i would repost this article here. the year spent freelancing was the start of my introduction to india. and this was one of the more seminal trips. backpacking across the mining districts of orissa taking a first-hand look at… 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.
12 November, 2022: Stop Loss: Overcoming the systemic failures of the Indian State. Tata Literature Festival, Mumbai.
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