‘Ear To The Ground’. What we reported on between 2015 and 2017.
In March, 2015, Scroll.in kicked off a reporting project called ‘Ear To The Ground‘. It was meant to ID the largest changes afoot in six handpicked states — and to use them to understand the major processes shaping India now. As that project draws to a close, it is nostalgia-time (for me, at any rate).… Continue reading
The controversy over ‘Udta Punjab’ shows how the state government has completely lost the plot
Hope has finally arrived. At a time when the Centre and the State governments in India are proving entirely unequal to the responsibilities placed before them, Punjab has decided to step up and show the way. Late last week, the state government – run by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party –… Continue reading
For ‘Make In India’ to work, India first needs to become globally competitive
Bhoday Sales Corporation is tucked inside the industrial zone of Ludhiana. A small machine tooling factory with a net worth of not more than Rs 10 lakh, it makes manufacturing equipment for other plants in the city. Of late, it has fallen on bad times. Sales are down. At one time, says its founder, 68-… Continue reading
No country for the poor: What we have learnt so far from Scroll’s EarToTheGround project
As Scroll’s Ear To The Ground series reaches its halfway point, what have we learnt so far? The series, for those coming in late, seeks to create a current snapshot of India through reportage from six specially chosen states – one from the North East; one which is mineral-rich; one with Green Revolution agriculture; another… Continue reading
What we talk about when we talk about Punjab
Between October and January, Scroll.in’s Ear To The Ground project reported from Punjab. The idea, as in Mizoram and Odisha, was to create a snapshot of the state. How are its people doing? What are the largest processes shaping the state? When Scroll.in moved to Punjab, it was late October. The state was simmering. Farmers… Continue reading
Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?
In the last 15 years, novelist and writer Desraj Kali has seen Punjab undergo some striking changes. But none is as striking as its gradual religious revolution. A growing number of people in the predominantly Sikh state, he says, are now visiting Hindu temples. Not those of principal deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Rama, but… Continue reading
How the Badals spread their control over Punjab (and why it is eroding)
Following up on yesterday’s story, part 3 of our series on Punjab under the Akali Dal. In Punjab, the domination of the government machinery by the Badal clan is near complete. It starts right from the top, the cabinet of ministers, and trickles down to the ground, to the level of the police station. Here… Continue reading
Every business in Punjab leads back to an Akali Dal leader (well almost)
out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab. Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the… Continue reading
Has Punjab’s obsession with cancer robbed its poor of healthcare?
“Private waley kehte hain ghar le ja kar sewa karo.” Private hospitals tell us to tend to the patient at home if we cannot pay their fee. That was Mohan Lal Shonky’s response when asked how he and others in the poor quarter of Nurmahal town in Punjab’s Jalandhar district use medical services. Shonky, 55… Continue reading
Why Punjab’s power bills include a cow cess and water charges
late last year, during my early days in punjab, i was nonplussed to find the state is charging a cow cess on electricity. and then, i found the state also charges octroi on power. which nonplussed me some more. and then, i learnt the state is going to start porting its water and sewerage charges… Continue reading
on the pathankot attacks
wrote this quick and dirty piece after a day trip from jalandhar to pathankot. Continue reading
why industry is leaving punjab
In his 50 years in Ludhiana, Harbans Singh Bhanwer has seen it all. Around 1965, when he began making machine parts in Punjab’s biggest industrial centre, the town was booming. The Green Revolution was underway, and Ludhiana provided a large part of the engineering underpinning for that boom. Some units made farm implements, while others… Continue reading
How climate change has sparked political and social unrest in Punjab this year
my first article on punjab is out. it looks at the recent whitefly attack on the state’s cotton crop and traces it back to worrying behaviour by the mid latitude westerlies and the collapse of extension work in the state. Continue reading
Why farmers burn their fields in Punjab despite knowing that it worsens the fog over north India
On the evening of 7 November, a deep fog settled along the stretch of 250 kilometres between Sirsa and Gurgaon in Haryana. By ten in the night, it was thick enough to make travel almost impossible. In places, visibility shrank to not more than five metres.State transport buses cut their trips short. Cars, trucks and… Continue reading
These workers at Amritsar’s grain market are smiling only for the camera
The anaj mandi at Amritsar will not forget 2015 easily. For the first time, the state’s long-grained basmati rice, famous for its fragrance, is selling cheaper than the humble parimal variety procured by the Indian government for its public distribution programme. Just two years ago, the variety favoured by local farmers, labelled ‘1121’, fetched 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 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