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
Centre’s weak legal defence of forest act means ten lakh families could be evicted, say activists
On February 13, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to evict over 10 lakh forest-dwellers whose claims over forestland have been rejected, a direction that will hurt some of India’s most vulnerable people. The order came in a case on the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, which was passed in 2006 aiming to… Continue reading
Missing in the panel set up to frame India’s new mineral policy: Adivasis, ecologists, civil society
Does the KR Rao Committee ring a bell? It was set up last month by the Union Ministry of Mines after the Supreme Court’s tough judgement on illegal iron ore mining in Odisha. Disposing of a petition filed by the non-profit Common Cause, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta not only ordered the… 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
the reconfiguration of the nicobars
Ten years after the tsunami, life in India’s coral-fringed Nicobar Islands is settling into a new pattern. For the most part, it is an ugly one. In the tiny island of Car Nicobar—it has a perimeter of just 45 kms—even 12 year olds are getting drunk. “There was always some drinking,” comments Samir Acharya, a… Continue reading
revisiting the overloaded archipelago
for a while now, i have been trying to go on a cycle ride at the end of every year — have succeeded three out of four years. in 2014, biologist vidya athreya and i went to the andamans. and i came back and wrote this story about cycling up the islands. The friend is… Continue reading
is the forest rights act being implemented well? (the answer is ‘no’)
Last month, union tribal Minister Jual Oram told the Lok Sabha that India is making “satisfactory progress” implementing the “Forest Rights Act” (FRA). However, a closer look at the numbers he submitted in the house indicates otherwise. my story on how the government’s claims about “satisfactory” implementation of the forest rights act are garbage. what… Continue reading
in which we argue the critics are missing the real picture on NOTA
The popular perception is that the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option – a measure of rejection of all candidates – did not make a difference in the recent assembly elections, being as low as 0.6% in Delhi. But the NOTA choice came third in terms of votes polled in as many as 148 of… Continue reading
The Act That Disagreed With Its Preamble
I have waited the longest time to upload this. I had spent all of 2009 studying the drafting of the “Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. I finished writing it. Sent the paper to a journal called Conservation And Society. Got busy with my job at the Economic… Continue reading
on the latest cabinet reshuffle
the latest cabinet reshuffle underwhelmed most people. no big heads rolled. the larger ministeries stayed untouched. and parts of the media swiftly wrote it off as minor and inconsequential. in this article, my colleague devika and i argue that there are at least two significant moves in this reshuffle. jairam ramesh moves from the environment… Continue reading
The New Committee to Study Vedanta
THE Anil Agarwal promoted Vedanta Aluminas plans for sourcing bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills in the Kalahandi district of Orissa will have to wait.The environment ministry has set up a four-member committee headed by National Advisory Council member NC Saxena.The other three members of the committee are Dr S Parasuraman,director,Tata Institute of Social Sciences;retired IFS… Continue reading
The story taketh a turn…
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has written to the environment ministry to give clearance to the (Vedanta) project after “a thorough scrutiny by the expert appraisal committee and due consideration of all aspects”, a top government official said. the story indeed takes a turn. Continue reading
sense and nonsense in the debate over vedanta’s lanjigarh plans
for the longest time, vedanta’s bauxite mining plans in lanjigarh, orissa, have been a lightening rod for criticism. earlier this year, the environment ministry abruptly turned against it. one reason cited for this switch was the congress’ need to hold onto the tribal vote. but things had been simmering at the ground as well. and so, in… Continue reading
Vedanta, Niyamgiri and the Congress
Plans by Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Niyamgiri in Orissa, already delayed by vehement protests from non-governmental organisations, seem likely to suffer further damage—quite possibly terminal—as the Congress reaches out to India’s tribal population, sections of which have come under the influence of the grand old party’s arch rival BJP while others have fallen… Continue reading
Vedanta, Dongria Kondhs and the fight over natural resources.
The plan by the London-based Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in Orissa a key part of a giant aluminium complex which the company is building in the mineral-rich eastern state could be jeopardised if the Environment Ministry accepts the findings of a report by a government appointed committee. The complete story, here. Continue reading
another day in jarawa life
Some days ago, I posted about the Jarawas. And I said that the local administration in the Andamans is venal, that its public stance about leaving the Jarawas alone is a lie, and that the tribals are in huge trouble. (readthis, this and this). Well, here is a story from the latest issue of “The Light of Andamans”… Continue reading
The Overloaded Archipelago
note: in december 2004, while writing for businessworld, i sailed to the andamans to report on the acute water crises these islands in the bay of bengal faced every summer. things had reached a point where the administration, the largest employer in the isles, was granting mass leave to employees every summer, hoping they would… 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