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

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

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

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?