Privacy, Aadhaar, Data Protection: Statist Liberalism and the Danger to Liberty

I have a new essay on the privacy discourse in India up at the LEAP Blog. I am reproducing the essay below:   Kings will be tyrants from policy when subjects are rebels from principle. – Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France Edmund Burke wrote these lines in a scathing critique of the demiseContinue reading “Privacy, Aadhaar, Data Protection: Statist Liberalism and the Danger to Liberty”

When the political establishment deserts you

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/the-fury-and-failure-of-donald-trump-w444943 This is a brilliant article in Rolling Stone magazine about the anger of the Republican party’s base at the realisation that their leaders have essentially sold them down the river through the decades. It’s also a great reminder of how populations react to the obnoxious and snobbish behaviour of elites, and how they respondContinue reading “When the political establishment deserts you”

Capital controls against FDI in aviation: An example of bad governance in India

When the coercive power of the State is wielded by the executive, this should be accompanied by appropriate checks and balances. Good practice in regulatory governance requires that when regulators wish to make changes to regulations, and thus affect the rights of private parties, the regulators must furnish reasons for making those changes. This increases transparency, predictability, and accountability.

Post on revising the regulatory framework for FDI and capital controls

I have a co-authored post on the reforming the FDI regulatory framework in India on Ajay Shah’s blog here. The post was published on April 21, 2014, and has been co-authored by me, Ajay Shah, and Arjun Rajagopal. The post is being reproduced below.    Capital controls against FDI in aviation: An example of bad governanceContinue reading “Post on revising the regulatory framework for FDI and capital controls”

Constituency-wise Manifestoes, their regulation and consequences

1 Introduction Today’s Mint carries an article on how political parties have increasingly moved to a system of “localised” manifestoes for the 2014 general election. This is a significant trend that began with Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi election campaign where it released local manifestoes for each assembly constituency (link). The BJP followed suit in Delhi, and according toContinue reading “Constituency-wise Manifestoes, their regulation and consequences”

Foreign direct investment in railways: Does national security matter?

This post has been written by Mr. Pratik Datta. Background Present Indian laws ’prohibit’ foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways (other than mass rapid transport system). Of late there has been growing expectation that the Indian Government might allow 100% FDI in construction and maintenance of railway projects (but not in operations). Suddenly the optimismContinue reading “Foreign direct investment in railways: Does national security matter?”

AAP Governance:The dangerous and regressive fight over Electricity pricing

1 Introduction The Aam Aadmi Party led Delhi Government has (link) slashed power tariffs in Delhi, and is in the midst of an ongoing tussle (link) with Reliance owned discom BSES over the supply of electricity in certain parts of Delhi. The AAP, even before taking the reins of the Delhi Government had long accused the Delhi discoms of overchargingContinue reading “AAP Governance:The dangerous and regressive fight over Electricity pricing”

Interesting reads: Media, merit vs. communism, and elections 2013

Some good stuff to read this week: Vinod K. Jose in Caravan on the lack of a larger philosophical framework for the Indian media to operate within: “Habits of Mind” Nobel Laureate physicist Walter Kohn remembers one-time partner, Indian physicist Chanchal Kumar Majumdar in “A master and his protege“. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s engaging piece onContinue reading “Interesting reads: Media, merit vs. communism, and elections 2013”

What entities are public authorities under the RTI Act?

The text below is from my brief titled “Who is a Public Authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005?” as published on the website of Accountability Initiative, published in September 2013. The brief can be accessed here.   The definition of ‘public authorities’ under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (“RTI Act”) has been anContinue reading “What entities are public authorities under the RTI Act?”

Can the state handle it?

This post was first published on http://logos.nationalinterest.in on September 15, 2013, and can be accessed here.    A minimalist theory of state functions explains the main functions of the state as being (a) the function of collecting revenue, (b) the maintenance of law and order, and (c) the protection of a nation’s boundaries. State capacity isContinue reading “Can the state handle it?”

The Indian Olympic Committee follows the “law of the land”

According to recent news reports the Indian Olympic Commission will continue to be disbarred from the International Olympic Association, due to its refusal to accept a “contentious” clause that prevents “charge-sheeted officials from taking part in administration or contesting elections.” (read here, and here) The reason is not difficult to fathom: “Its secretary-general Lalit Bhanot facesContinue reading “The Indian Olympic Committee follows the “law of the land””

RTI Amendment: Legislative supremacy and judicial intervention

Bhargavi wrote a great piece yesterday on the tendency of legislatures to nullify judicial pronouncements by passing laws which overturn judgements/orders. She rightly pointed out this practice as a major issue which needs greater deliberation. There is however, one other issue which needs to be considered while thinking of possible solutions. This is the issueContinue reading “RTI Amendment: Legislative supremacy and judicial intervention”

Transparency and Political Parties – Finding the Right Instrument

In a recent post, I had written on why I think bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act is a bad idea. Economic and Political Weekly recently published my article on the same topic, where I critique the judgement of the Central Information Commission in detail, and argue that transparency in incomes andContinue reading “Transparency and Political Parties – Finding the Right Instrument”

Dams and disasters in the Himalayas

This post was first published as an op-ed by Mint on July 9, 2013. The original article can be accessed here.    Relief operations in disaster-ravaged Uttarakhand have ended and the time seems ripe to take account of the institutional frailties that have contributed to the ongoing human disaster in the state. Chief minister VijayContinue reading “Dams and disasters in the Himalayas”

Death at Kedarnath: Mule owners and their right to strike

Little noticed news reports in a couple of papers (here and here) indicate that the death of many pilgrims in Kedarnath may have been exacerbated by the actions of local mule owners and contractors for car parking lots in the days leading up to the heavy rains and clash floods. The local mule owners andContinue reading “Death at Kedarnath: Mule owners and their right to strike”

The extinction of the Telegram

Firstpost reports that the Telegraph service in India will be discontinued from July 15, 2013, 160 years after the service was started in India. While telegrams have really become a relic, a service that people hardly use anymore, the growth and advent of telegraphs in India parallels the growth and spread of the British empireContinue reading “The extinction of the Telegram”

Should political parties be subject to the Right to Information Act?

The Central Information Commission (CIC), on June 3, 2013, stated that political parties are “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Public authorities under the RTI Act are required to make pro active disclosures regarding their organization and its functioning. In addition, they have to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs). MembersContinue reading “Should political parties be subject to the Right to Information Act?”

Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate

Unlike many other countries, India has both civil defamation (if you defame someone, you have to pay compensation), and criminal defamation (you defame someone, you go to jail). Most other countries have removed criminal defamation as a crime from their law books. The result is that in India, not only does a publisher face theContinue reading “Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate”

New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised

According to a NY Times blog post today, 3 different uses of UID numbers, or Aadhaar were operationalised recently: “Those in the Aadhaar system will now be able to identify themselves by using an eye scanner, which checks the unique patterns in their irises, and providing their ID number. Those with mobile phones can alsoContinue reading “New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised”

Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?

-writing from Harvard Law School   There have been recent news reports (though surprisingly few – here and here) on new government regulations that ostensibly seek to protect cell phone users from unwanted marketing calls, but may actually amount to restrictions on individual rights to free speech and expression. The telecom regulator TRAI introduced regulationsContinue reading “Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?”

Can “civil” society also reform the state?

-writing from Harvard Law School.   Over the last few months, people have either whole-heartedly supported Ana Hazare’s crusade against corruption, or have cautioned against the dangers of un-deliberated actions by civil society. Some have also taken pains to highlight how the movement is seemingly undemocratic.  One of the most interesting analyses I read ofContinue reading “Can “civil” society also reform the state?”

India’s Foodgrain policy

I am putting up an article by Prof. Kaushik Basu (working with the Finance Ministry, and authored the Economic Survey of 2009-10) on India’s foodgrain problem in Economic and Political Weekly.  He summarises the point of the article as: The simultaneous occurrence of high food inflation and large foodgrain stocks in our granaries has beenContinue reading “India’s Foodgrain policy”

How lack of transparency kills the credibility of the government

Lack of routine information available in the public domain plays a huge role in reducing the credibility of the state, and making citizens more suspicious of it than we need to.   A prime example of this would be related to the appointment of Mr. Thomas as CVC chief, and the apparent changing of rulesContinue reading “How lack of transparency kills the credibility of the government”

Who files the most court cases in India?

One of the major concerns for those seeking to improve our democracy is improving “access to justice”.  Simply put, “access to justice” implies a number of things such as getting larger people to resolve disputes through courts, disposing of cases speedily, ensuring judges give quality time to every dispute, etc.  One of the problems inContinue reading “Who files the most court cases in India?”

One-third of poor are not born poor

In recent years, a number of studies have been conducted on the number of poor in India.  Some have estimated that 77% of India is poor, others say 37% of India is below the poverty line.  The Wall Street Journal contains an article on a new poverty study which the reasons for why people areContinue reading “One-third of poor are not born poor”

Major Government schemes II: Mid-day meal

In an earlier blog post this month I had put up a summarised version of an evaluation study done by the Planning Commission of India.  The Planning Commission had evaluated the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.  In this blog post, I am summarising their evaluation of the Mid-day meal scheme. The Mid-day Meal Scheme was launched byContinue reading “Major Government schemes II: Mid-day meal”

How well are major government schemes working?

The background to this post comes in the realisation that though the government has launched big ticket “social-welfare” schemes in the last decade or so, the government should not merely be throwing money at problems existing in our society.  Social welfare schemes should have well-designed, well-formulated structures which can maximise benefits to the poor orContinue reading “How well are major government schemes working?”

Commonwealth Games II: Delhi’s War on Beggars

Various anecdotal evidences from peers and one’s own experiences reinforce impressions of Delhi’s transition to a “world-class” city without the transition to world-class systems.  One aspect of this is simply how extreme the difference between the purchasing power of those at the top and bottom of the economic pyramid is.  However, when one hears reportsContinue reading “Commonwealth Games II: Delhi’s War on Beggars”

How expensive is corruption? Public Administration I

Every instance where corruption is a topic of discussion revolves around one central question (apart from the obvious immorality of it):  How much does corruption cost society as a whole?  I recently picked up a book in an order to understand the process of public administration better.  Its preface gave at least one, objective estimateContinue reading “How expensive is corruption? Public Administration I”

Spectrum Scam: Confidential transcripts summarised

Some official and confidential documents relating to the 2G-Spectrum allocation scam were put up by the Hindu on its website for a while yesterday.  A read through the 2gspectrumscam document reveals a disturbing network of politicians, businessmen, PR firms and journalists.  What follows is a small summary. The CBI is investigating a criminal case under the IndianContinue reading “Spectrum Scam: Confidential transcripts summarised”

Local Government IV: India’s municipal bodies

Municipal Corporations Municipal corporations are formed in large urban areas, and usually have one head appointed by the government who is the ‘Commissioner’.  The other head of the municipal corporation is the Mayor, who is elected either directly by the people, or indirectly from among the elected members of the municipal corporation.[i] Though the MayorContinue reading “Local Government IV: India’s municipal bodies”

Local Government III: States – Culprits or bystanders?

The Constitution gives the state governments the power to make laws on all matters relating to the local government, the composition and powers of municipal bodies, and other local bodies for the purpose of self-government.[i] All states therefore have legislations setting out in detail the powers and functions of municipal bodies, and other local bodies.Continue reading “Local Government III: States – Culprits or bystanders?”

Counting India’s poor

We have heard time and again the agenda of the present government being to promote “inclusive growth”.   One of the major debates in this area is how to increase access to public services, subsidies, essential commodities etc to the poor.  Obviously, this can be done only when the poor are counted properly.  Today’s postContinue reading “Counting India’s poor”

Parliament: Bleak Outcome for Defence

In August 2005, a new experiment was initiated by India’s Ministry of Finance under P. Chidambaram.  Every Ministry would have to prepare an “Outcome Budget” and present it in parliament along with its annual budget.  An Outcome Budget, as the foreword to “Outlays and Outcomes – towards achieving better results” explains is essentially the following:Continue reading “Parliament: Bleak Outcome for Defence”

What is a true welfare state?

This post tries to pen down my recent pre-occupation with the concept of the ‘welfare state’ as we understand in India.  The dominant story of our democracy through the last 60 years has been of bringing the majority of our population out of poverty, and providing them a social security net.  Even the economic reformsContinue reading “What is a true welfare state?”

Selective transparency: CAG Reports on Defence

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India audits the accounts and performance of government ministries, departments, and various schemes that are being run in the country.  It is a body set up under the Constitution of India (Article 148), and its reports have to be tabled in Parliament (Article 151).  A report or document tabledContinue reading “Selective transparency: CAG Reports on Defence”

THE INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC OF REDDYS PART ONE AN EXPRESS INVESTIGATION From Minister to Collecto

THE INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC OF REDDYS PART ONE AN EXPRESS INVESTIGATION From Minister to Collecto read more…

Size of the State

One of the points made repeatedly by those in different fields of policy-making is to invest enough to make the Indian state more capable of governing the country properly.  This debate also finds some co-relation in the continuous debate in the USA where Democrats make the case for a larger government which regulates greater areasContinue reading “Size of the State”

Secret uncovered: How our cabinet works

Today, I am summarising some key  rules regarding how the business of the Government of India is conducted.  At the top of the Executive wing f the government in India is the Union Cabinet consisting of the Prime Minister, various departments directly under his control, and his Council of Ministers. One of the key RulesContinue reading “Secret uncovered: How our cabinet works”

Erstwhile ‘State’ of Joy

After having spent five years as a student in Kolkata (West Bengal), I revisited the city after a year earlier this month. The difference in perspective as a student and now as an employed professional prompted me to look at the state, and its governance anew.  Given below are some facts and figures I foundContinue reading “Erstwhile ‘State’ of Joy”

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