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Reinvigorating reinsurance

After the liberalisation of the insurance industry in 2000, private firms (mostly in partnerships with foreign firms) have readily taken to the sector. Till FY18 there were 23 private firms in the life insurance sector and 21 in general insurance segment. However, it was only in 2016-17 that the first private domestic reinsurance firm, ITI Reinsurance, entered the industry and was yet to begin

Informal power

Villages without power supply are easy to find though the government says there are none. The lines are laid, but many villagers are too poor to pay for electricity. BPL (below poverty line) families, entitled to free supply, are waived the installation charge. But they don’t have money to wire their homes. Others are held back by the fear that bills will rise beyond reach. &nbs

Betting on nostalgia

“Aandhi” (Storm), director Gulzar’s movie starring Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar, was made in 1975, when Indira Gandhi reigned supreme in Indian politics. The film, based on Kamleshwar’s Hindi novel ‘Kaali Aandhi’, depicted the life of a woman politician, and it was believed to be partly inspired by the life of the then prime minister. Suchitra Sen too app

Budget a helping hand for neo-middle class

An official who worked closely with Narendra Modi during his stint as the chief minister of Gujarat told me an anecdote to explain his style of working. Just before the 2007 state assembly elections, Modi had found himself pitted against a strong lobby of Patel farmers and the RSS-backed Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.   What got the goat of the affluent Patidars was Modi&rsqu

Fernandes: a die-hard proponent of anti-Congressism – with shifting loyalties

It was some time in 2011. Lal Krishna Advani was in his chamber in the parliament complex waiting to receive George Fernandes, a long-time friend and political comrade-in-arms. Fernandes was ushered in assisted by his wife, Leila Kabir, and sundry aides. His walk was infirm. Advani looked at him quite pensively and asked, “Do you recognise me, George?” Fernandes showed no si

The Kumbh: The grandest spectacle on earth

It is an incredible sight. As our small boat moves towards the Sangam (the confluence of the river Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at Prayagraj) much before the break of the dawn, a sea of humanity surges forward to take a holy dip in icy waters in an extremely cold weather by north India’s standards. Thus begins the Shahi Snan (the royal bath), marking the launch of the Kumbh Mela,

A limp loss, a paltry victory

The Rajasthan assembly election outcome has thrown up many curious surprises. It was a near-unanimous prognosis, both of poll pundits and pre-poll surveys, that ruling BJP under Vasundhara Raje would suffer a massive defeat. The reasons attributed were that the people were angry with Raje’s style of functioning and administration, the BJP rank and file was cut up with her, and the state

Back to ‘lamppost politics’

The Indian electorate’s tryst with cyclical elections invented a phenomenon called ‘lamppost elections’. Implicit in this formulation was the notion that the people would elect a minion against a titan if they decide to do so. Irrespective of the stature of a leader in front, even a lamppost can be a victor.   Of late this lamppost syndrome is forgot

Yogi Adityanath and the law of karma

Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, a BJP poster made news for showing Yogi Adityanath riding a tiger and other parties’ leaders riding a donkey each. Yogi’s fondness for tigers is well known, but in hindsight, the chief minister seems to be riding a metaphorical tiger – and does not know how to get off its back. The tiger here is the utter disregard for rule of law

Quantum urbanism in action: To protect earth, rethink waste

How can Quantum Urbanism help us rethink waste? It is as much a question as it is an open invitation to explore our relationship with waste and how deeply wedded that relationship is to systems thinking and everything else that comes bundled with it.    Simply put, Quantum Urbanism is a way of reconfiguring urban life at the level of each individual’s s

MP assembly polls: Of frogs, scales and upper caste equations

Driving down from Indore to Bhopal, my driver Roop Singh gave me a lesson in sociology and politics when I asked him about the elections. The lesson I learnt from Roop Singh was quite instructive in understanding the post-poll scenario. “You see, sir, upper castes are like frogs in a taraju (scale), and each of them jumps habitually to disturb the scale,” he said while talki

The Master Sahib effect

During his stint as BJP general secretary (organisation) and in-charge of Madhya Pradesh affairs in the late 1990s, Narendra Modi had acquired a new nickname. He was called “master sahib”, because of his persuasive way of running the party’s organisation and reshuffling the support base.   Of course, in 1998, Madhya Pradesh emerged as a strong ba

Why the bureaucracy needs to re-learn to work

“You will soon be talking to a new foreign secretary,” said prime minister Rajiv Gandhi announcing the sacking of the incumbent at a televised press conference in 1986. Foreign secretary AP Venkateswaran was a distinguished diplomat with 36 years’ service but was not getting along with Gandhi on various issues. Hence the swift and clinical retribution. Venkateswaran resigned

MP voters want to bake bread on the other side

Sharp, funny, vicious and raucous as the political discourse is on social media, it is no match for rural India`s pithy street wisdom. A few kilometres away from the Datia constituency in a rural setting, a villager gives me a taste of this when I enquire about which way the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election is headed. “Roti dono taraf se senkna chahiye. Ek taraf jyada senkne se jal ja

MP assembly polls: Closed sugar mills spell trouble for Shivraj Chouhan

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in the reckoning for a record fourth term in office. In the middle of his hectic campaigning, it will do him good to snatch a few hours of rest to watch Saudagar, a 1973 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan. Saudagar is a great story around the issue of making jaggery. A widow, played by Nutan, is skilled in m

Language Bar

I heard this interesting anecdote from a dear colleague in Lucknow, late Tahir Abbas. His father had attended a meeting addressed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Lucknow before Partition and returned quite dismayed at the great leader’s anglophile conduct. But the maulvis who attended the conference were quite impressed and heard saying, “Mian, Angrez bhi aisi angrezi nahi bol paate (Ev

Here and now: Life lessons from Adi Shankara

The mind often goes blank – no thoughts, no sense of self. This does not last long; we ‘wake’ up and get back into the normal mode with the first-person-singular in the role of protagonist, thinking of the past or the future, planning, fantasising, imagining dialogues. Or the incessant background noise in the head, if nothing else. That blank state, the one without the weight

Nature vs. human nature

A shocking sight greets the visitor in Rishikesh: At the main ghat, the Ganga spans no more than 10 feet with less than a foot in depth. A larger stream, though, flows on the other side, in full spate, but a sizeable island of sand and stones lies between the that Ganga and the ghat. It was not many years ago that a pilgrim would prefer Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh over Har-ki-Paudi in Haridwar

With Sardar statue, Modi builds a legacy and dwarfs Congress too

Before he laid the foundation for the world’s tallest statue of India’s first deputy prime minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on October 31, 2013, Narendra Modi (then chief minister of Gujarat), used to keep a small-scale prototype of the proposed statue on the desk in his office. When hosting foreign dignitaries in the office, he would spend considerable time in explaining the sig

The making of the Banana Republic

 In political discourse, the term ‘Banana Republic’ defines a state with a high degree of political instability, societal violence and oppressive inequality. American author O Henry, describing the central American country of Honduras in his ‘Cabbages and Kings’, coined the phrase and it stuck. It gained currency in India in the mid-1980s, when some commentators jok

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