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 empire … Continue reading The extinction of the Telegram
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 the … Continue reading Defamation: who should you fear more- Big Govt. or Big Corporate
This post is part-comment, part-response to Nick Robinson's post on the Law and Other Things Blog (please do check the blog out!) regarding the NAC's proposal for having pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills to be passed by Parliament. The National Advisory Council came out with "Draft Recommendations on Pre Legislative Process" for both draft rules, and draft … Continue reading Why have pre-legislative scrutiny for Acts of Parliament?
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 also … Continue reading New uses of UID/Aadhaar operationalised
Following is the article I wrote for Seminar Magazine (May 2013 issue) as a response to a piece on obstructions in Parliament: Communication AN article in the February 2013 issue of Seminar titled ‘The Real Price of Parliamentary Obstruction’ by Tarunabh Khaitan highlights the issue of recent obstructionism in Parliament and elaborates on its attendant consequences. The piece highlights … Continue reading My article in Seminar Magazine on Parliamentary obstruction
India's civil society has by now patted itself on the back for the umpteenth time having shown the political classes its raw, real-grassroot-democratic power by having its version of the Lokpal Bill passed. Let it now look inward to examine its own internal corruption. News reports and trending blogs indicate how wide, and how deep … Continue reading “Civil society” biases: Regionalism
Some interesting comments on the Maoist movement being made by Arundhati Roy (minute 10 onwards). I generally find her a little difficult to make sense of, but she was fairly lucid during this part of the conversation.
-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 regulations … Continue reading Consumer protection or curb on right to speech and expression?
-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 of … Continue reading Can “civil” society also reform the state?
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
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
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
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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
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?
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
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
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
India has a variety of intelligence agencies. Though not in the same league as the USA which has hundreds of agencies, there were many I had never heard of until I made a concerted effort to check for them. What is more disturbing is that none of these have been set up by any law. … Continue reading India’s intelligence agencies
In my last blog post, I had summarised the main events in Jammu and Kashmir's past history to try and give a context to the post I am writing today. I encapsulate the main events which have taken place within Jammu and Kashmir within the last month or so. In doing this, I have also … Continue reading Kashmir II: The last Month
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
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
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
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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”
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
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
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?
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
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