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 been … Continue 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 rules … Continue reading How lack of transparency kills the credibility of the government

How Indian media can become better

The New York Times quotes Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of American democracy as having said that "he would rather have newspapers without government than government without newspapers." If such is the exalted status which a founder of the world's oldest democracy gave to the media, it is perhaps important for the media … Continue reading How Indian media can become better

My article in Financial Express

I co-wrote an article for Financial Express along-with my colleague Mr. Madhukar.  The following in the text: The recent order of the ministry of environment and forests (MoE&F) rejecting the application for grant of forest clearance to the Orissa Mining Company (the Vedanta project) has raised a number of important questions. The order cited the … Continue reading My article in Financial Express

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 in … Continue reading Who files the most court cases in India?

Nuclear Bill – deciphering the “and” gesture

A number of newspapers have carried stories on the presence of a mysterious "and" in one of the provisions in the Nuclear Liability Bill.  I have put up a post on my office blog - Parliament’s Recommendations on the Nuclear Liability Bill – Why the “and”? The blog discusses the implications of what the insertion … Continue reading Nuclear Bill – deciphering the “and” gesture

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 are … Continue reading One-third of poor are not born poor

India’s intelligence Agencies – II

In yesterday's post, I had mentioned in passing the lack of any law, legal framework or accountability with regard to intelligence agencies being a major issue.  I elaborate on the subject here. “Parliamentary approval of the creation, mandate and powers of security agencies is a necessary but not sufficient condition for upholding the rule of … Continue reading India’s intelligence Agencies – II

Kashmir as it stands today – I

The recent violence in Kashmir has dealt a great deal of damage to the gains made there in recent years.  In this and the next blog post (will be up soon), I encapsulate a summary of the main events concerning Kashmir, and also an attempt at making a timeline of recent events there. Main events … Continue reading Kashmir as it stands today – I

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 by … Continue reading Major Government schemes II: Mid-day meal

How much does a Bandh Cost

Noted economist Prof. Bibek Debroy has written on how to estimate how much Bandhs cost.  This seems to be in response to figures given by industry associations on the cost of the recent Bandh organised by the BJP and left-parties.  I am pasting the article below: Price of a bandh Bibek Debroy Posted online: Fri … Continue reading How much does a Bandh Cost

Who holds intelligence agencies accountable?

I have put up a blog post on my organisation's blog on the issue of Parliament's oversight of intelligence agencies such as RAW and IB.  In India, there is absolutely no scrutiny by our popularly elected Parliament of the intelligence agencies in the country.  The blog post "Parliamentary Oversight of Intelligence Agencies" cites examples from … Continue reading Who holds intelligence agencies accountable?

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 or … Continue reading How well are major government schemes working?

Bhopal Gas Paper Leaks: Minutes of GoM meeting leaked

The minutes of the meeting of the government GoM constituted to look into the Bhopal Gas Claims and the recent Court judgement were put up on the website of The Hindu.  I had saved a copy of the minutes: Full_Text__Minutes__133855a.  Though there is nothing very sensational in the minutes, what it does reveal is that the … Continue reading Bhopal Gas Paper Leaks: Minutes of GoM meeting leaked

Do strict laws really help when nobody enforces them?

In another move by the government to show its doing something about the pressing inequities in society, the Home Ministry has proposed framing stricter laws to rein in Khap Panchayats and their extra-constitutional activities.  The issue simply put, is: will stricter laws help in ensuring that the laws of the state are applicable to Khap … Continue reading Do strict laws really help when nobody enforces them?

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 reports … Continue reading Commonwealth Games II: Delhi’s War on Beggars

Survey on SC/ST Atrocities: The Crimes we never talk about

Media coverage on crime is heavily skewed in favour of reporting urban crime as opposed to rural, or caste-based crime.  Though we occasionally hear reports of honour killings, or entire community households being burnt down, they are reported more as examples of a malaise afflicting society.  This malaise itself is not talked about.  This post … Continue reading Survey on SC/ST Atrocities: The Crimes we never talk about

India’s Constitution that Gandhi (never) wrote

India has developed a rich tradition of Parliamentary democracy over the past sixty years or so.  However, time and again we face major disruptions and challenges to the form of government that our founding fathers established.  It might therefore be worthwhile to examine whether there was any alternative form of democracy we could have adopted … Continue reading India’s Constitution that Gandhi (never) wrote

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 estimate … Continue reading How expensive is corruption? Public Administration I

SLPs and Supreme Court: Honest activism causing delays in justice

The recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Mathai @ Joby v. George and Anr. ( highlights how (probably) well-meaning activism can in the larger scheme of things, cause greater harm to the system if not backed by well thought out systemic changes. The judgement concerned the frivolous filing of Special Leave … Continue reading SLPs and Supreme Court: Honest activism causing delays in justice

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 Indian … Continue reading Spectrum Scam: Confidential transcripts summarised

Khap Panchayats: Krap or dangerously reasonable

Khap Panchayats have been in the news recently.  Following the conviction of some members for killing a couple who married against the wishes of the Panchayat, leaders of various Khap Panchayats have sounded a defiant note and want changes in marriage laws.  This post tries to look at the validity of their claim. First, a … Continue reading Khap Panchayats: Krap or dangerously reasonable

India No. 1on “The World’s Most Inappropriate Government Agencies”

A recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine titled 'The World's Most Inappropriate Government Agencies' lists the Backward Classes Bureau as one the world's most inappropriate government agencies.  The body is separate from the National Commission for Backward Classes, and implements schemes for Backward Classes. Other such bodies in other countries include: 1. The KGB in … Continue reading India No. 1on “The World’s Most Inappropriate Government Agencies”

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 Mayor … Continue reading Local Government IV: India’s municipal bodies

BJP’s “Audacity of Hope”: Gadkari’s Maharashtra manifesto

An article in the April issue of Caravan Magazine drew my attention to the writings of Nitin Gadkari, the newly elected President of the BJP.  Caravan mentioned a short 90-page book titled "Politics for Development" which was written by Gadkari.   This post summarises my impressions of his book. One of the first things that … Continue reading BJP’s “Audacity of Hope”: Gadkari’s Maharashtra manifesto

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?

Local Government II: Central government and local bodies

The central government does not have a direct role to play in the functioning of municipal bodies.  It however releases funds to state governments annually for urban development.  These funds are released based on the recommendations of the Central Finance Commission’s report. The central government also has a role in municipal administration by promoting urban … Continue reading Local Government II: Central government and local bodies

How bodies such as the MCD, BMC, KMC function

India likes to tout the fact that its experiments with local self-government and decentralisation have worked wonders over the years.  Starting today, I will be putting out a series of posts on how precisely these Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) function. Part I: Background Since independence, the urban population of India has grown nearly five times.  … Continue reading How bodies such as the MCD, BMC, KMC function

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 post … Continue 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 reforms … Continue reading What is a true welfare state?

CAT thinks RAW ‘secrecy’ is a joke!!

Nisha Priya Bhatia, a senior RAW officer had in 2008 filed a complaint alleging sexual harassment by A.K. Chaturvedi , was arrested, compulsorily retired, and put in a hospital for 'medical illness'.  The Central Administrative Tribunal ('CAT') today ordered the central government to re-instate her with immediate effect. She had accused A K Chaturvedi, of … Continue reading CAT thinks RAW ‘secrecy’ is a joke!!

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 tabled … Continue reading Selective transparency: CAG Reports on Defence

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 areas … Continue reading Size of the State

Bestseller III: Update on Bestseller spewing anti-Muslim Propaganda

I had written a couple of posts (Bestseller I and Bestseller II) on a High Court judgement banning a book spewing anti-muslim propaganda.  In today's Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta discusses the judgement in a larger piece on religious freedom and freedom of expression: "...courts have been unduly squeamish about protecting free expression. This squeamishness … Continue reading Bestseller III: Update on Bestseller spewing anti-Muslim Propaganda