Case for synchronising election cycles

Since public memory is woefully short, it may not be common knowledge that general elections for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously initially – in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. The cycle was broken by the disruption of some state assemblies in 1967, advancing of Lok Sabha elections to 1971 by PM Indira Gandhi and the dismissal of six state assemblies in 1978 by the J

The new governance order

Excerpts from the deputy national security advisor’s speech at CyFy 2016: Digital Asia Scripting the New Governance Order conference organised by Observer Research Foundation on September 30. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are emerging as the engine of growth and prosperity in India. We have gained enormously from the cyber space. At the same tim

Balancing the rights – of mother and unborn baby

A recent Bombay high court judgment has emphasised that the right of women to make motherhood choices – whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant – is an inalienable natural right. This has given strength to the demand for changes in the law regulating termination of pregnancy to give more autonomy to women over their bodies. Though pregnancy can be terminated

The sledgehammer blow and its aftermath

The time has come for India to announce to the world that India can no longer be transgressed or trespassed with impunity. And there couldn’t have been a more telling way of doing so than by unleashing the special mission operations, with the brilliance and precision of an experienced surgeon’s scalpel, and spread across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. This retaliation to the unprovok

Reforms will have to top on the to-do list of next UN chief António Guterres

When Portugal’s former prime minister António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres succeeds Ban Ki-moon as the next UN secretary-general, he will find himself pitted against a host of challenges, particularly reforming the international organisation that was set up way back in 1945. UN’s membership and working systems are from an era that is bygone. It looks ill-suited

Social Solidarity in healthcare

The world will observe the fourth universal health coverage day on December 12, urging governments to ensure universal access to quality healthcare without financial hardship. India, a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has a challenging task ahead to universalise its healthcare. In spite of several strides in health services, the country is still reeling under heart

Traffic and Game Theory

Traffic conditions in Indian cities are among the worst in the world. I thought it was a case of a developing country – till I found that India is very peculiar in this regard. Traffic is as bad if not worse in Yangon, Lima, Kampala and Nairobi. But Delhi and Mumbai face an issue which none of these cities has, that of drivers not following lane rules. I argue that the problem we face is

From red tape to red carpet

On Independence Day, we heard the PM saying that his government’s motto is to reform, perform and transform. Also, on September 1, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote, “India’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, but the country’s bureaucratic quality is widely perceived to be either stagnant or in decline.” It is time to relook at overhauling t

Delhi in deep waters

The waterlogged roads and huge traffic jams witnessed in Delhi in August hogged the headlines in the media, with the high court judges hitting out at the Delhi government. Even the US secretary of state, John Kerry, joked about the situation in his address at IIT Delhi the same month, by asking the audience whether they had all come by boat. The comptroller and auditor general o

The first P in PPP

Public-private partnerships (PPPs), the preferred way these days to develop infrastructure like highways and airports, is a curious thing: it is both public and private. Thus, the Delhi airport is on public land, but developed and maintained by a private party. Should the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) check its finances, the way it does for all departments and schemes involving

A case for taxing agricultural income

At a time when the government is trying to shore up its revenues so that it can carry on its ambitious projects, a key sector that has been left out of taxation is agricultural income. Policy makers need to take a sharp look at exempting agricultural income from taxation as there is a possibility of the well-heeled taking this route to pay less tax. The comptroller and auditor ge

KVIC rejoinder: “Khadi production, sales and employment have increased significantly”

The KVIC has taken a serious note of an article entitled ‘Khadi: Time to revive the nation’s cloth’, by Lekshmi R Nair and D Dhanuraj published in Governance Now (September 1-15 edition). It is very unfortunate

Yet another ID

The government has proposed to provide a new unique identification number to eight crore BPL households, or approximately 40 crore people, for its new insurance scheme, National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS). The idea of a new unique number, according to a senior health ministry official, stems from the facts that not everyone is enrolled in Aadhaar and no one should be denied services for wa

Time to end the marriage of bad money and bad politics

Black money is essentially a popular name for black economy. By now it has ‘evolved’ into a grey, that is an indistinguishable mixture of black (i.e., illegal-immoral) and white (i.e., legitimate-moral), political economy. Also, it continues to be among the major factors holding back inclusive development of India. Evidently, such a pattern of growth in the midst of a booming grey s

Odisha again: Body of tribal woman carried on cart

Even before the searing image of Dana Majhi carrying the body of his wife could fade, another distraught family in Odisha’s Jajpur was forced to carry a woman’s body on a cart. The two back-to-back incidents highlight the fact that government schemes are failing to provide succor to the poor and the marginalised. After Dana Majhi’s plight became public, Odisha c

Justifying personal law discrimination

 The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has defended triple talaq and polygamy before the supreme court (SC). The argument that personal law is immune from judicial scrutiny will be considered in the court but the board has evoked a debate, within the community and outside, by supporting polygamy as a social and moral necessity and justifying triple talaq, claiming it saved lives

Singur Saga: Back to homeland

It was a major victory for the country’s farmers when the supreme court (SC) quashed the acquisition of land in Singur for Tata Motor Limited’s Nano car project. The judgment took a strong stand in favour of the farmers’ agricultural land besides calling into question the definition of ‘public purpose’. What is unique is that for the first time the court ordered

Surrogacy and gender justice

The union cabinet has approved the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, according to which, commercial surrogacy is completely prohibited and foreigners cannot access surrogacy in India, but altruistic surrogacy is permitted only for needy married couples with the help of close relatives as surrogate mothers. Surrogate mothers will have more rights over the child and will be offered legal support

Ganga dam(ned)

The government aims to profit from the longest river of the country by using it as a water highway. It has expressed interest in dredging lengthy stretches of the Ganga, building barrages and thus introducing a ‘cheaper mode of transportation’. This means that the exploitation of the Ganga will not be restricted to its headwaters in Uttarakhand where the river has been chained up in

Borrow, but carefully

Many people may not know that there is a National Debt Clock of India, which gives second-by-second details of the overall position of India’s debt. At 11 am on August 19, when I started writing this article, the clock’s readings were as follows: National debt of India: a mind-boggling figure of Rs 57,021,582,965,509 Interest per year: Yet anot


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