Columns

Charlie Chaplin through the Chaplins

Charlie Chaplin, the world’s most well-known comedian, hated Christmas – it reminded him of the grueling poverty of his childhood. As if by touch of a self-fulfilling prophecy, he died on the Christmas day in 1977.  “He was obsessed with the poverty he came from,” Michael Chaplin, the 70-year-old son of Charlie Chaplin, told this reporter. Pe

The poor have been forgotten more and more: Harsh Mander

I was still in civil services when economic reforms were introduced in 1991. A more dramatic event around that time [1992] was the demolition of Babri Masjid. In retrospect, one realises how important 1991 was and how much it would transform the destiny and course of this nation. The idea of a good state, when I joined IAS in 1980 and right up to the mid-1990s, was that it stood

The flawed premises of GST

The 122nd Constitutional Amendment (GST) Bill 2014, cleared on August 4 in the Rajya Sabha subsumes all other indirect taxes at the central and state levels to create one single tax – the goods and services tax (GST). The introduction of GST is claimed to be a significant step towards creating a ‘common national market’ and creating a harmonious tax system.  This begs the

Beware of dalit fury

A mass mobilisation of dalits is now taking place across the country, a move that may well change the way they have been treated over the years. The dalits are upset, particularly after four of them were ruthlessly beaten up by cow vigilantes in Gujarat’s Una town. “We will be congregating in Delhi during the winter session of parliament. We will tell the national lea

Is suicide decriminalised?

The Rajya Sabha passed the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, on August 8. While the proposed law would usher in landmark changes in healthcare and rights of the mentally-ill, if cleared by the Lok Sabha, the endeavour to shield the mentally ill against prosecution under section 309 of the IPC (attempt to suicide) may ironically restrict the application of the penal provision mainly to acti

From saving Narmada to critiquing development, NBA has come a long way

Medha Patkar and the movement led by her, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), evoke sharp responses. Many label them anti-development, anti-technology and in cahoots with those who do not want to see India racing ahead. On the other hand, many see them as the torchbearers of human rights and the first critics of the market-oriented economy.   Opinions and prejudices ap

Wonít cow down to cow-protectors

How can people divided into thousands of castes be a nation?” This was a basic question raised by Dr BR Ambedkar during the freedom struggle. According to him, without annihilation of caste, freedom of India had no meaning. As chairman of the drafting committee of the constituent assembly, Dr Ambedkar tried hard to make laws on atrocities against scheduled castes, but these

Thatís enough: Modiís stern message to cow vigilantes

 "If you have a problem, if you feel like attacking someone, attack me, not my dalit brothers. If you want to shoot anyone, shoot me, not my dalit brothers," declared Modi in his stentorian voice as he attempted to douse the fire of anger that had quickly spread among the dalits after four young men were ruthlessly beaten up by cow vigilantes in Gujarat. Now that Modi h

So near, yet so agonisingly far

India’s claim to the full-fledged membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) comes at an opportune time when most of the nations in the international system are knocking at the door of the West-ordained disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation order for parity and equity with the rest of the nuclear haves.   The NSG was formed in 1974 and did not entai

Citizens Charter: Waiting for accountability

It was in 2011 that the demand for an effective anti-corruption and grievance redress legislative framework gripped the nation. Five years hence people of the country are still awaiting the instruments of accountability that they had so vociferously sought – the Lokpal Act, the Whistle Blowers Protection (WBP) law and a legislation to redress grievances of people.  &nbs

How India let down the dalits

Limp implementation of law seems to be the principal cause of the rising violence against dalits in different parts of the country with the situation now turning alarming. “The machinery is biased, corrupt and lazy. Perpetrators (of crimes against dalits) do not hesitate to systematically violate the law,” BJP MP Udit Raj told Governance Now. Condemning

Forget progress on Lokpal, we are going backwards

 The Lokpal law that was enacted after decades of debate and demand for an anti-corruption institution was dealt a severe blow as an amendment bill was introduced and passed by parliament in less than 24 hours.  On July 28, parliament passed the Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to amend Section 44 of the original Lokpal Act and the corresponding rule-making power

India has failed in bringing administrative reforms: Mark Tully

  It was the former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who first wanted to introduce economic reforms. In the pursuit of that, I saw Rajiv as someone who got himself into what I may call a political muddle. And, in fact, I remember him telling me once that he knew he wasn’t good at politics. Apart from Morarji Desai, I was closest to Rajiv Gandhi [among the politicians]. Ra

Kashmir: Trouble in paradise

The imagery of Kashmir is heart-breaking: children with swollen faces and closed eyes lying on hospital beds, women wailing over their dead men, angry mourners accompanying the dead for burials and security men clashing with stone-pelting mobs – all for one person, Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander who, in his death, proved to be the biggest troublemaker in the recent times. In

Canít you see that my beloved Kashmir bleeds

Burhan Wani was just like any other youngster who loved to spend time on the social media. But, there was a sinister, dark side to him. He joined the ranks of terrorists and became the Hizbul Mujahideen commander. He was killed on July 8, triggering violence that has savaged Kashmir for the past fortnight. Six years of peace in the Valley has been shattered over the gun-toting 22

Children of Reforms

You can see them around you all the time. They cut across geography, gender, caste, class, community and religion. Almost all of them have tell-tale signs – they are young, generally between 13 and 25 years; they own swanky smartphones; wear weird but smart clothes; have similar hairstyles, and; walk with a swagger that says that they own the world. These are the Children of Reforms, whos

India in 1991 could have mirrored Greece in 2015

Narasimha Rao’s masterstroke was the appointment of Manmohan Singh. One of his closest aides later recalled to me that even as a cabinet minister, Rao always felt that a prime minister should always have one source of senior, substantive and non-political advice, especially in those areas where the prime minster is weak [Interestingly, Narasimha Rao did not make Singh a member of the CWC

Who will reform the idea of reform?

For the last one month, India has been wallowing in a cool, scented pool of self-congratulation over the 25th anniversary of economic reform that began in July 1991. But as has been well said, what you see depends on where you stand and that’s pretty much true of India’s self-congratulation over ‘reforms’ as well.   Thus, if you ask the Congres

Memories, bitter and sweet

The crisis of 1991 is the most momentous event I was ever involved in; it is also perhaps when I did the greatest service to my country. But it is also when I met colleagues with sharp knives – a time I try not to remember. India was the country where I was born and grew up, but not one in which I felt at home. Those great leaders who inherited it from the British had turn

In search of a uniform code

The central government has requested the law commission of India to study the feasibility of having a uniform civil code governing marriage, divorce and inheritance for people of all religions living in the country. While some political groups and Muslim religious leaders have opposed interference with personal laws as invasion into religious freedom of minorities, the real hurdle in way of r

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