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?

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

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 Rules … Continue 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 found … Continue reading Erstwhile ‘State’ of Joy

Performance of Telecommunications Ministry written about

This ministry is not in service Anandita Singh Mankotia Posted online: Friday , Feb 12, 2010 at 0128 hrs From the outside it might look like the country’s telecom sector is bustling with activity. Seven to eight big operators, 17-19 million net subscribers added each month, the sector’s resilience to the financial meltdown last year … Continue reading Performance of Telecommunications Ministry written about

Bt Brinjal: Consultative process and democratic governance

Yesterday, the Minister for Environment and Forests decided against letting Bt Brinjal be commercially produced in India.  The Ministry also put out a detailed explanation of the reasons for the same.  I attempt to summarise it, state the facts, and then point out the sheer frenzy generated by activists.  The point here is to note … Continue reading Bt Brinjal: Consultative process and democratic governance

Commonwealth games: Child Labour galore

An article in Foreign policy highlights how contractors behind schedule are taking advantage of lax labor laws and coercing their employees to bring their children to work alongside them, promising payments of bread and milk. The article makes the following points: 1. India has very weak enforcement of child labour laws.  In fact, it is preferable … Continue reading Commonwealth games: Child Labour galore

Lobbyists BT-ing the new Brinjal

The recent controversy over the introduction of BT-Brinjal is a fantastic example of how much sustained lobbying can prevail over well documented facts.  The BT-Brinjal has been demonized over and over in print as well as on television.  Some have even called it "Zehrila Baingan" (poisonous brinjals), so they don't have to bother explaining what … Continue reading Lobbyists BT-ing the new Brinjal

Should MPs have the job of developing their local area?

Since 1993, Members of Parliament have been given a certain amount of money they can use to recommend works of a developmental nature in their constituency.  The scheme is known as the MP Local Area Development Scheme, or MPLADS. This scheme has become the subject matter of a crucial debate recently. Initially, all MPs were … Continue reading Should MPs have the job of developing their local area?

How much does a Supreme Court judgement cost?

"What kind of impact do some judgements have on the finances of the government?"  In this post, I propose to look at this question using a judgement delivered in April 2009.  In the course of this post, I also argue that judges should refrain from delivering judgements which have huge financial and policy implications, as … Continue reading How much does a Supreme Court judgement cost?

India v. China III: Current Flashpoints

In this post, I very briefly summarise the current flashpoints between India and China.  I am also mentioning 10 points about the strategic interests of both countries in the Indian Ocean, as we tend to overlook that in most discussions on border disputes. Jammu and Kashmir - Since India was invaded by China in 1962, … Continue reading India v. China III: Current Flashpoints

Govt. Preparing to influence media perception??

While doing some work-related research, I found an interesting sub-heading under the Ministry of Home Affairs' Action Plan document for October, 09 - March, 10.  Page 44 of this document (Under the sub-heading Naxal Management Division) mentions a heading called the "Media / Perception Management Plan".  The activities planned under it pertain mainly to inane … Continue reading Govt. Preparing to influence media perception??

Indian Supreme Court: When Distance affects Visibility

Taking a break from my posts on China, I am summarising a fantastic article by Mr. Nick Robinson (Yale Law School South Asia Teaching and Research Fellow and a visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi) which appeared recently in Frontline magazine.  The article argues that the Supreme Court is not as populist … Continue reading Indian Supreme Court: When Distance affects Visibility

India v. China II: Tibet

For this entry, I decided to look into the question of Tibet, and came across references to a meeting very few have heard of.  It was probably the last meeting at an international forum that Tibet represented itself as an independent country. The meeting I refer to is called the Asian Relations Conference of 1947. … Continue reading India v. China II: Tibet

Courts, Judges and RTI

A brief glance at the assets of Supreme Court judges on-http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/assets.htm highlights two important points: 1. There is no mention of the value of the assets of judges on a specific date.  Information concerning assets is only useful if we are able to keep track of the increase/decrease in personal incomes over a period of … Continue reading Courts, Judges and RTI

Unsung Heroes: Servicing our teachers

The Wall Street Journal's India section has some remarkable anecdotes on how teachers in rural India are, out of their own initiative, providing examples to the government as to how to cope with meagre resources and yet transform education in rural India.  The first part of this post summarizes the article, and later, I mention … Continue reading Unsung Heroes: Servicing our teachers

Judging our judges

Today's post is an article appearing in the Indian Express, concerning the condition of judges in our country: In defence of their lordships (Indian Express) GOPAL SANKARANARAYANAN Posted online: Wednesday, Jan 20, 2010 at 0250 hrs On September 1 2009, Neeraj Kishan Kaul stepped down as a judge of the Delhi High Court — a … Continue reading Judging our judges

Google vs. China: Exit, or Pushed out?

A recent article in Foreign Policy has a different take on Google's move to Exit China (previous blog entry here).  It claims that: 1. The day Google announced it might pull out of China, "Baidu, Google's dominant rival in China, saw its Nasdaq stock shoot up $64.01, or 16.6 percent. China's third- and fourth-place search … Continue reading Google vs. China: Exit, or Pushed out?

Right to Information: What Information?

Since 2005, India has witnessed a gradual change in the operation of governmental structures due to the rapid and powerful use of the Right to Information Act.  Recently, the Delhi High Court ruled that even the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India comes within the purview of the RTI Act. … Continue reading Right to Information: What Information?

Drugs Hurricane in one of the richest states in the Country

The cover-story of a recent issue of COVERT magazine provides an alarming picture of drug-abuse in Punjab ('THE DRUGS HURRICANE OF PUNJAB').  To quote some statistics: 1. 16% of the population of Punjab is hooked to hard drugs. 2. As of 2000, 67% of rural households in Punjab had at least one drug addict in … Continue reading Drugs Hurricane in one of the richest states in the Country

RTI: Knowledge, information…and violence

This post relates to a recent story titled: "CIC orders publication of PDS details" The Indian government runs one of the largest Public Distribution Systems (PDS) giving subsidised food and other essential commodities for the lower-income groups in the country.  Even if just those Below Poverty Line (BPL) are taken into account roughly 25 crore … Continue reading RTI: Knowledge, information…and violence

Update on reservation for Minorities: Ranganath Mishra Committee Report

The government has asked ministries for feedback on the implementation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission Reforms (Govt eliciting views of ministries on Ranganath Misra report).  The ministries have been asked to report whether there are 'insurmountable difficulties' in giving identified minorities adequate reservation.  I had posted a piece on the subject some time earlier.  Please read … Continue reading Update on reservation for Minorities: Ranganath Mishra Committee Report

Bestseller spewing anti-muslim propaganda banned

I recently saw a judgement of the Bombay High Court (RV Bhasin v. State of Maharashtra, January 6, 2010)  on censorship of a book.  The judgement is important as it deals with our freedom of speech and expression.  A book was banned by the government through an official Notification in 2003.  Normally, any story about … Continue reading Bestseller spewing anti-muslim propaganda banned