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Labyrinths of governance

The year 2014 saw the publication of the memoirs of a former CAG of India, Vinod Rai, and this year another former member of this prestigious constitutional body has penned an account of his time as an auditor (and also administrator while on deputation). Parimal Brahma’s book tal

Why you must spare a thought for this poor farmer...

Emotional appeal is one of the sharpest swords of advertising. That it is double-edged becomes evident only when it fails. One such failure is an ad from the Federation of All-India Farmer Associations (FAIFA), displayed of late on the rexine hoods of some auto-rickshaws in Delhi. It shows a turbaned tobacco farmer, hands folded in supplication, and is captioned: `Protect our livelihood. Save l

Right wing trumps liberalism?

As the dust settles on the US presidential elections and analysts discuss Donald Trump’s victory threadbare, the larger question on what this upset victory portends for the US and for the world at large will continue to be a part of the intellectual discourse and common man’s discussions. For sure, the world we live in today is very different from what we had imagined. Eminent comme

Black money debate in black and white, with a touch of saffron

“It’s a war; it’s a mahayajnya. You have to decide on whose side you are.” -- M Venkaiah Naidu, in parliament on November 17   In its well-intentioned but misconceived war on black money, the government has obviously bitten off more than it can chew.   A wide spectrum of people and political leaders (includin

Debating freedom of press and expression

The recent decision of the central government to ban NDTV India has raised concerns regarding the rights of free press in India. Mostly, people are using the ‘freedom of speech & expression’ interchangeably with the rights of a free press.  But are both one and the same?   The constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expr

OROP issue is not dead

Subedar Grewal’s decision to consume poison and kill himself over One Rank One Pension (OROP) has brought back into sharp focus an emotive issue that has seen veterans waging a battle over what they perceive as something that is unfair and unjust. The veterans are right. The government needs to pay serious attention to their demands and quickly remove the ano

Tata-Mistry fallout: Independence of independent directors

The Tata-Mistry melee prompts a reassessment of the institution of independent directors and the role they play in ensuring effective corporate governance in India. Though independent directors are often expected to protect the interests of minority shareholders, their foremost duty is to act for the benefit of the company as a whole.    The independent director

Reading the mind

It all started when Balvinder Kumar, a senior civil servant, was suspended twice while serving in Uttar Pradesh almost a decade ago. In the midst of worrisome and sleepless nights, he decided to explore spiritual readings and practices like Transcendental Meditation. The deeper he went into studying philosophy, science and spirituality, his fascination about the mind and its thoughts

Ending poverty in all its forms

Ending poverty is one of the 17 global goals that make up the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Eradicating poverty in all its forms, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. Poverty reduction and sustainable development are inseparable as poverty reduction is the premise for sustainable development. Poverty

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

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