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Time to power the reform

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2014 has been pending for well over four years. The ongoing monsoon session is the last chance for the current government to pass the bill before it lapses. The electricity distribution sector, majorly state owned, has been the Achilles’ heel of the entire electricity value chain in the country. Through this bill the governme

It’s time for the Bullshit Season

It was nearly midnight at a small ground in Aminabad of Lucknow, and an enthusiastic crowd was waiting for VP Singh. This was in 1988, after the Bofors scandal had blown up in the face of prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and a rebellious VP had emerged as a beacon of hope for people yearning for a clean-up and change. As usual, VP Singh arrived on the scene with the élan of a

Can we eradicate our caste templates?

When Hima Das won gold in the 400 metres sprint at the IAAF World U-20 Championship in Tampere, Indians demonstrated once again what’s on their minds the most – caste. On her day of glory, the top Google prompt for her name was “Hima Das caste”. The same had happened with wrestler Sakshi Malik and badminton player PV Sindhu on the days they won their Olympic medals. Peop

The movie inspired by Modi’s childhood has a remarkable social message

A 32-minute short film titled ‘Chalo Jeete Hain’, premiered at a screening hosted by vice president M Venkaiah Naidu at the GMC Balayogi auditorium on Wednesday, is more remarkable for the social message it carries than the fact that it is inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s childhood days. The film is essentially centered on deep-seated caste prejudices

Reforming governance key to progress on SDGs in India

“Our ministry of rural development in the government of India is the nodal agency for SDG1 – ‘end poverty’. We have two main schemes in the ministry – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM),” explained a senior official of the ministry on how the strategy of poverty eradication is on track

Rahul’s messianic words don’t match dirty deeds of politics

Self-deception is an essential trait of a revolutionary, particularly of the Marxist variety. Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president seems too eager to internalise this trait in his politics. If you have any doubt, look at his latest tweet which is divinely prophetic in its content. I stand with the la

When two plus two need not be four

The recent victory of the opposition in the Uttar Pradesh by-elections after their complete decimation in the 2014 general elections and the 2017 assembly elections has been interpreted differently by different takers. Some saw it as a resurgence of the opposition on the back of an alliance. This led to  discussion of  the possibility of a grand alliance in UP. Alliances have not been

The rhythms of a protest

On June 29, I was able to grab Carnatic singer TM Krishna for a few minutes on the sidelines of the launch of ‘Kodaikanal Still Won’t’, a music video calling out Unilever’s double standards in cleaning up its mercury contaminated factory site at, well you guessed it, Kodaikanal. The video, a fusion of Carnatic, rap and Tamil Gaana Kuthu genres, features rapper Sofia Ashr

With infighting, CBI faces unprecedented drift

Skeletons, if kept in the cupboards of investigative agencies, are bound to tumble out much sooner than later. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is no exception. The corridors of the CBI headquarters in Lodhi Estate in Delhi have been stinking as hell as an internecine war is on within the agency.   And the destruction of the institution is fairly assured. The latest

Stop shooting the messenger

The recent survey commissioned by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which had ranked India as the most dangerous place on earth for women, has created a serious controversy in India with the government “rejecting” the report, while opposition parties have latched on the report to prove a serious erosion of law and order under the current dispensation. There have been a rash of article

New medium is the new message

A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Those initiated into English-language journalism were asked to learn this sentence by rote and type it on a typewriter repeatedly to familiarise themselves with the keyboard layout. That was before the advent of computers. This sentence (it’s called pangram as it contains all the letters of the alphabet) was the terra firma on which a repo

Woman power plus

The world over, the labour force has proportionately far more men than women. What does this mean in real, quantifiable terms? Here’s one way of looking at it that is quite astounding: according to the McKinsey Global Institute report for 2015, gender parity in labour force participation (LFP) alone could yield global growth of $12 trillion, or about 11 percent of the world’s estima

Contextualising the agrarian

India is looking at a twin set of developmental challenges. First is the sustainability of the rural ecosystems for local prosperity including enhancing farmer incomes. Second is the sustainable development of urban spaces in the face of fast-growing burden on them. These twin set of challenges, however, are not dichotomous. Policy analysts have long focussed on a structural cha

Police reform: Fixed term for top posts a cure worse than the disease

In the discourse of governance in India, no term is as much abused as ‘police reform’. The question is: reform from whose perspective? Should it be focused only on elite Indian Police Service (IPS) officers or also include the constabulary? The answers to these queries lie in the grey areas.   In its July 3 order, the supreme court, it seems, mistook reform for a

Opposition is less than the sum of its parts

Narendra Modi has finally emerged as the architect of unity – of opposition unity, that is. Though it took the Congress and other non-NDA parties four years to learn this lesson, it has come just in time for the grand elections scheduled next year. So, one theory states: As the troubles on the economic and other fronts are piling up and the government is apparently losing its rapport with

The man in the muddle: NN Vohra

Amid a welter of images of blood and war, it is easy to lose sight of how deeply people crave for good governance. The good news from Kashmir last fortnight was that people by and large welcomed governor’s rule. “People are very happy about governor’s rule, especially with this governor,” youth activist Touseef Raina observed a couple of days after the BJP withdrew sup

The Galahads of Indian bureaucracy

 In 1988, at the peak of the Rajiv Gandhi-VP Singh face-off fuelled by media exposes, the most respected editor of those times, Girilal Jain, wrote a comment in The Times of India with the headline, “A Galahad of the Press”. It was a rare front-page editorial, and it continued over into an inside page. It clearly targeted Indian Express editor Arun Shourie for pursuing more act

The neighbour and the valley

The declaration communicated through the director general of military operations (DGMO) of Pakistan and India on May 29, 2018, to implement the ceasefire agreement of 2003 between the two countries in “letter and  spirit” has opened up an opportunity to restore peace in the disturbed Kashmir valley. Indeed, the positive atmosphere generated by the 2003 agreement had not merely

The steel frame in peril

As a nervous, young IAS aspirant in 1977, I remember being thrilled to see my name in the newspapers when the list of successful candidates was published. Indeed, I was hoping to be allotted my home state, Kerala, but knew that my rank in the exams did not make that possible. Yet, I cannot deny being a little shell-shocked, when, towards the end of our first phase of training, instead of God&rs

Pranab Mukherjee wasted opportunity to take RSS to task

“The politician performs upon the stage: the historian looks behind the scenery.” This distinction, made by British historian AJP Taylor, was expected to come true when former president Pranab Mukherjee took to stage at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters at Nagpur on Thursday. That was not to be. Mukherjee, a schoolteacher in his formative years, could

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