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Rediscovery of Gandhi-Nehru

If the future is bleak, turn to history. That seems to be the only intellectual diversion the BJP leaders have these days, that is whenever they are free of internecine feud. In a gathering of some BJP chief ministers and senior leaders in Mumbai, ostensibly to attend a workshop on good governance, it was the turn of the redoubtable Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to give delegates a lesso

The political reality of fake encounters

If Bollywood mirrors popular culture, trigger-happy cops backed by an insidious state have always been portrayed as saviours. Consider the plot of any movie like ‘Ab Tak Chhappan’ or ‘Wednesday’: a meticulous conspiracy to promote violence is not only regarded as an effective antidote to rising criminality or extremism but also finds approval of the state and society. Th

What do we do when the three pillars of governance conspire against us?

Former chief justice of India A H Ahmadi made an interesting observation while defending his decision to dilute charges against Union Carbide executives in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. He said: “There is no concept of vicarious liability. If my driver is driving and meets with a fatal accident, I don’t become liable to be prosecuted under 304-II (of IPC)”. That’s highly

Why nobody wants Pawar out

There is a beautiful parable about an emperor who though naked believes that he is wrapped up in a divine cloth. The emperor would get angry and bump off anybody who pointed out his nakedness. But the story would have taken a different turn if the emperor started flaunting his nakedness as a divinity-ordained quality. This is exactly what Sharad Pawar has been doing in the IPL bidding case. The

Caring State, heartless Market? What a stereotype!

In studying how the mighty institution of the Market functions in India, one can appreciate the wide gulf between organised and unorganised sectors of the economy, which allows the former to batten on the latter. If you are a craftsperson, driver, tailor, sweeper, carpenter, plumber, roadside food vendor, housemaid, rickshaw puller, or private security person, you are likely to be servi

Roy rejoinder: No gun intended

Arundhati Roy, our leading public intellectual, has made a rare clarification. She says she never wrote the phrase “Gandhians with a gun”, used to describe Maoists in an essay she wrote for the Outlook in March. The phrase appeared in the sub-headline and Roy says it was written by the magazine. The Br

EVM stands for electronic voting manipulation

As I have been saying over the past few days, the Election Commission is clearly under pressure. They better be. Not only have they stopped making irrational claims about electronic voting machines over the past month, they have begun a clean-up exercise to overcome some of the of EVM security lapses. In a seven-page communiqué to all state CEOs dated May 3, 2010, the Elec

NAC: think tank, super cabinet or unconstitutional?

The National Advisory Council has been reconstituted after a gap of four years. Once again Congress president Sonia Gandhi is its chairperson. The NAC was originally set up by a government order in June 2004 to monitor the implementation of the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP). The functions of the NAC include the formation of policy of the government and assistance in

Where is `she`?

It is a man’s world after all. We even refer to God as he. Even my liberal parents get a headache if one day I decide to come home late, whereas, my male friends wax eloquent about their after-hours escapades, which mostly are a ‘men-only’. Good girls stay in after dark; it’s not safe, you see. I live in the national capital- a city bordering some of the

VIP security vs public safety

The movement of ‘very important persons’ or VIPs on Wednesday -- only days after the Mangalore plane crash -- put to risk three commercial flights, with over 450 passengers on board, when they were diverted from Delhi airport, according to a Times of India report. The three flights had been dangerously short of fuel when they were diverted from Delhi to Jaipur airport withou

Why they want caste census

All governments, in order to govern their subjects efficiently, convert the population into homogeneous categories and also try to transform people into statistics. These ‘statistics’ and ‘categories’ are tools of governance and the state also imagines them as the basis for planning for development. Since caste is a vital structure of Indian society, policy maker

Wag the talk - Deciphering what the PM could have meant

When a prime minister talks, a nation listens. That’s what happened earlier today when Manmohan Singh addressed his first press conference in four years. But because prime ministers say so little, as did Manmohan this morning, it is what they don’t say that makes better news than what they say. And it is what they mean that makes better sense than what they say. So, h

PM`s prevarication is unacceptable

The 80-minute-long press conference by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can be summarised in six words: he came, he saw, he prevaricated. Being only the second press conference addressed by the prime minister during his six years in office, it was expected to be eventful, if not path-breaking, coinciding as it did with the completion of the first year in his second stint. As expected, the

Statute book self-governance

I and two colleagues, working for Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), a Delhi-based NGO, set ourselves on a search for a well-functioning gram sabha in late 2008. By the standards of ‘local self-governance’, a gram sabha should meet regularly and collectively decide all issues of development and social justice in its jurisdiction, leaving the elected and unelected panch

Are states doing as much as the centre does?

The centre and states usually have a very stormy relationship. I would want to draw attention of the readers of Governance Now to the different aspects of this relationship. We live in a federal structure of government with three levels; centre, state and the panchayati raj institutions. There are a number of legislative subjects that either belong exclusively to the centre or to the states, or

Have mercy, leave communal politics out of Afzal hanging

The more procedures, the less justice. Paraphrasing Cicero only states the fact, though, and does not even begin to unravel the sinister politics at the heart of the matter. The curious case of Mohammad Afzal, or Afzal Guru, is merely cloaked in procedures devised by ingenious governments in India to legitimise their designs to delay, thwart or subvert justice whenever they so choose. So Afzal

On Afzal Guru, Dikshit doesn’t really matter

To be fair to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who handles the home portfolio, a decision on the mercy petition of Afzal Guru was destined from the start and has been nothing but a political question requiring the attention of her ‘elders’. She doesn’t have any significant role to play here except to do her elders’ bidding. So her reported ignorance of the um

Nohria euphoria

A few hours after Indian newspapers (and the rare television channel which isn’t obsessed with TRPs!) got excited over the new, incredibly gifted, IIT-trained dean of Harvard Business School, the Financial  Times posted a sobering thought. “Amidst the euphoria, Indians generally celebrate the success of their overseas compatriots on the global stage, often equating the

Welcome to coalition club

Nickeee Cleggg, Nickeee Cleggg, what a wonderful, wonderful name (sung to the tune of Nicky Arnstein from My Fair Lady). Forever written into in history for having changed it so dramatically and finally drawn the curtain on democracy’s mother parliament and her affection for bi-partisan sitting arrangements. They say it is rather like the first kiss, the first olive in the jar or k

In defence of dissent

“The one who loves my Gujarat is my soul. The one who loves my India is my God.” With these lines from his poem Narendra Modi signed off his blog of March 28, a day after he faced a 10-hour interrogation from the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). It was a characteristic Modi intervention. He ably deflected the attention to Amitabh Bachchan an



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