‘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
‘This government is killing our businesses’: What small, medium enterprises think of GST revisions
After Friday’s GST Council meeting, which decided to cut the goods and services tax rate on two dozen commodities and announced relaxations for exporters and small and medium companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the changes brought in an early Diwali. The business press was bullish as well. “Three months on, GST now good for… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
What we talk about when we talk about Tamil Nadu
It is out. Scroll’s wrap of all our #EarToTheGround reporting from Tamil Nadu. How is Tamil Nadu doing? Ask a layperson this question and, chances are, they will have good things to say. It does have a reputation for being one of the country’s better governed states. A welfarist state where, in marked contrast to… Continue reading
Think Tamil Nadu has good public healthcare? It’s hard to find it on the ground
the concluding part of our story on why Tamil Nadu’s healthcare system is weakening. In India’s development circles, Tamil Nadu is viewed as one of the best performing states in the delivery of public welfare like education and healthcare. But, as the first part of this story reported, the state is improving on some public… Continue reading
Tamil Nadu’s healthcare numbers look good – but its people aren’t getting healthier
Out today, the first part of our final #ETTG story from Tamil Nadu. This one says the state’s much-vaunted healthcare system is weakening. On some fronts, the state’s public health system continues to work well. Today, nearly all babies in Tamil Nadu are delivered in clinics – from 87% in 2002-’04, institutional deliveries climbed to… Continue reading
Paneerselvam has a major task: To reverse Tamil Nadu’s slipping development standards
O Panneerselvam has a tough task ahead of him. Contrary to popular perception, which credits Tamil Nadu with high scores on development indices and a smoothly functioning administration, the state has lost ground over the last ten or so years. Take education. Between 2010 and now, the number of students passing the state board exams… Continue reading
Tamil Nadu tried to reform its schools – but made them much worse
the concluding part of our story on TN’s school education system. A former official in the state examinations department traced the disarray to a handful of factors – among them the decision to do away with exams, the obduracy of matriculation schools, and rising pressure on the education department to show good results. Continue reading
Tamil Nadu’s schools are in crisis (but nobody is talking about it)
How good are Tamil Nadu’s schools? If you take a look at the exam results in the state, you would get the impression that they are in sound shape. Between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of students passing the state’s tenth standard board exams rose from mid-eighties to mid-nineties. So did the scores and the… Continue reading
Surviving on jugaad with help from Sai Baba 400 km from home
The camp looked intriguing. About a dozen tents – no more than plastic sheets covered by old sarees – standing in the midst of a strange amalgam of jury-rigged vehicles one day in March. One of the vehicles was still recognisable as a cycle rickshaw, despite its reinforced axle, thickened frame and motorcycle wheels. The… Continue reading
‘No ideology, no political idea’: Hosur shows what happens when a society has been sedated
In the last 40 years, Hosur has been on a rollercoaster. In 1973, this Tamil Nadu town on the border with Karnataka was chosen as the site for the state’s second industrial cluster. Through the ’70s, a diverse clutch of companies, producing everything from trucks to garments to medicines, set up factories here. Hosur began… 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
Why Tamil Nadu is erecting cages around statues (hint: it’s linked to caste)
Two statues stood on a road between Pondicherry and Villupuram. On the right was CN Annadurai, the first Dravidian chief minister of Tamil Nadu. On the left, Bhimrao Ambedkar. Together, they made an arresting tableau. Annadurai’s statue stood on an open cement plinth, with a red and black flag of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam jammed… Continue reading
Sand mining in Tamil Nadu is incredibly destructive – but it’s also unstoppable
For the longest time, V Chandrasekhar fought a lonely battle. When sand miners first came to his village near Pondicherry in the 1980s, most of his fellow villagers stayed quiet. They stayed quiet when the local riverbed went down by 30 feet, local groundwater levels collapsed, wells dried out and then filled up with saline… Continue reading
Think sand mining damages the ecology? It ruins politics as well
…Villages talk about collapsed groundwater levels, wells that do not fill even when the river is brimming, wells in coastal areas which have turned saline. Little here is surprising. These ecological changes are well-known side-effects of sand mining. But the damage done by sand mining isn’t just ecological. As Scroll found while reporting from Tamil… Continue reading
Politicians aren’t only messing with Tamil Nadu’s water – they’re making Rs 20,000 crore from sand
Out today, the first instalment of our three-part series on sand mining in tamil nadu. Stepping onto the bank, the first thing that’s visible is a ten-wheeled tipper. It grinds to a halt at the end of a queue of similar trucks. Beyond it stretches a vast riverbed. That is the Thenpennaiyar, one of the… Continue reading
How Karnataka and Tamil Nadu mismanaged their water and then blamed each other
Why is the Cauvery such a recurring flashpoint between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu? In recent days, an array of hypotheses have been advanced to help answer that question. Some of these are broad in their scope – tracing the long history of the conflict. Others focus on the here and now – rainfall patterns and… 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
A tsunami of debt is building up in Tamil Nadu – and no one knows where it is headed
G Venkatasubramanian trots out some astonishing numbers. Over the last 15 years, he and his fellow researchers at Pondicherry’s French Institute have been studying debt bondage among families in 20 villages in Tamil Nadu. Half of these settlements are in the coastal district of Cuddalore, and the others are in the adjoining district of Villupuram.… Continue reading
Why Tamil Nadu’s fisherfolk can no longer find fish
“What did you catch?” Alagairi Madhivanan shouts across to the fisherman in a small boat to our left. The young man stops scanning the net he has just pulled out of the lagoon, turns towards us and says, “Five fishes.” His answer echoes what Madhivanan has been telling me over the past hour as his… 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
modi. dbt. jayalalitha. tn.
Resisting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for direct benefits transfer using Aadhaar, Tamil Nadu has refused to share list of its welfare scheme beneficiaries for matching with Aadhaar numbers, saying a hasty cross-checking exercise could end up denying benefits to hundreds of poor. Continue reading
why the food security bill may not be the voter magnet the upa expects it to be
The sheer sweep and scale of the National Food Security Bill — subsidised food of subsistence quantities to up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population—suggests it could be an election game-changer for the ruling Congress-led UPA. But when seen along with the way this legislation will be… Continue reading
Rural Healthcare Delivery
SughaVazhvu is testing a radical idea: can technology replace doctors with nurses, human judgement with software solutions? “It is difficult to expect doctors to stay in villages,” explains Mor. “So, we are asking if a combination of technology and a reasonable amount of training (to local nurses), under the supervision of a doctor, can deliver… 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.
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