Columns

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

How to spend for universal healthcare

India remains among the countries with the lowest public health budgets in the world. Its health budget stands at around 1 percent of the GDP.  This historical lack of emphasis on the health system is most pertinently captured in former health secretary K Sujatha Rao’s 2017 book, ‘Do We Care? India’s Health System’. The manifestations of the lack of financial and te

Keeping them safe

What do Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, RK Narayan’s Swamy and His Friends and Charles Perrault and Disney’s Cinderella have in common?  They were happy children who lived in a world free of unwarranted fear and risks. Heidi ran up the Swiss Alps without fear, Swamy and his friends played on the streets of Malgudi without having to watch their back and Cinderella had no qualms ret

Coming full circle: The ‘strong leader’ vs the gang-up

When numbers forced prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to demit office on the thirteenth day, he delivered a memorable speech in the Lok Sabha, ending on a trademark wave of his hand and saying that they were going to the president to submit their resignation. It was an extraordinary day in the history of the Lok Sabha, marked by impassioned debate, but the most impressive intervention came fr

Look who’s talking ethics in Karnataka?

 Just after the UP assembly election in 1996, I was among the scores of reporters waiting at Kalyan Singh’s residence, waiting to get the first inkling of the future course of the BJP. The party had secured the maximum seats – 174 out of 425 seats – but was short of the majority mark. Since TV cameras had still not taken over the public space for news coverage, the crowd

Why hasty ordinance on rape of minors needs gender balance

Of all offences, it’s the crime of rape that fires public sentiment the most, eliciting an outrage that exceeds the seemingly worst felony of all – murder too. It has probably more to do with the offence and associated gory details staying, even being replayed ruthlessly, in memory with continual mention and recall that compound its severity. It’s this outrage that offsets any

Some Sholay dialogues can help make sense of Karnataka polls

While driving down from Bengaluru to Mysuru, you come across a patch of hillocks near Ram Nagar, a place that provided the backdrop for the all-time hit Bollywood movie, Sholay. This was where villain Gabbar Singh, played by inimitable Amjad Khan, delivered that immortal dialogue, “Kitne aadmi the? (How many people were they?)” The dialogue is better remembered for its style of deli

Caste in two minds

Dr BR Ambedkar has been one of those rare thinkers, social revolutionaries and outstanding scholars who have earned unparalleled posthumous recognition. With each passing year, more and more social thinkers and political parties are competing to appropriate the iconic figure of Ambedkar. Although he had a much larger world view, Ambedkar’s undelivered lecture to the ‘Jat-Pat Todak M

Expect Karnataka to thrash predictable political punditry

If political punditry is to be believed, the predictable outcome of the Karnataka election will invariably be a hung house. And this punditry is based on sound logic which is quite convincing for anyone familiar with science of election forecast.   If you have any doubt, look at these facts: split Karnataka into four parts and try to analyse the electorate’s beh

Modi-Jinping meet: The art of personal diplomacy

Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked up to the museum in Wuhan during his two-day China visit, a smiling president Xi Jinping was waiting to receive him. Xi then gave him a nugget of critical information. No Chinese president has ever accorded reception to a visiting head of the state outside Beijing. “I did it twice for you,” Xi is learnt to have told Modi.  

The East African gambit

India has been consistently forg ing closer ties with African states since the India-Africa Forum Summit of taneously, there has been notice able emphasis on the eastern and october 2015. Simultaneously southern coastal states of the continent abutting the Indian ocean region. owing to the presence of the Indian diaspora in these countries for more than a century, India has been able to facilit

Kodnani’s acquittal raises doubts about criminal justice system

 Maya Kodnani, a BJP leader who was the MLA from Naroda when this locality on the outskirts of Ahmedabad witnessed one of the most gruesome episodes during the Gujarat riots of 2002, was acquitted by the Gujarat High Court on Friday. Her acquittal in the Naroda Patiya massacre case is only a sequel to a series of such exonerations of those named in collective crimes.   

Energy as the new value system for redesigning daily life

Remember Kardashev scale? For the uninitiated, it’s a method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement, based on the amount of energy it is able to use for communication. We will get to its unconventional relevance to the big urban questions at the end, but just keep it at the back of your mind and dig it out when we get to it. All serious urba

A rare peek into the mind of Modi

It’s always lonely at the top. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s marathon townhall event at the Central Hall Westminster, titled ‘Bharat ki Baat, Sab ke Saath’, was nothing but his way of shedding that loneliness, communicating and mingling with people and showing his vulnerable side.   “I am one among you and I have all weaknesses that anyone has.&

From ‘Nirala’ to Kuldeep Singh Sengar, Unnao has come a long way

“Sadak par todti patthar, Dekha maine use Allahabad ke path par (She was breaking stones, I saw her on footpaths of Allahabad)”. This verse by Hindi poet Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’ is not alien to anyone conversant with elementary Hindi literature. Nirala revolutionised Hindi poetry by penning in simple words a complex concept of individualism a

Sengar episode once again highlights the perils of Yogi’s macho statecraft

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath can be singularly credited for borrowing the phrase, `thok denge`, from Bollywood flicks and introducing it right in the mainstream governance discourse. The phrase is a Bollywood euphemism for eliminating somebody. Yogi used this expression last year ("Agar aparadh karenge to thok denge (if they commit crime, they will be bumped

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