Hostels in Indian Campuses Still Off-limits for Trans Students

May 4, 2022

Inclusive living facility for trans students has been a critical issue all over India. Off-campus accommodation is usually costlier, unsafe, and not readily available to trans persons because of their identity. Transgender persons face discrimination and harassment at rental housing. Amongst the many concerns were the fear of sexual violence, higher rent rates, lack of secure tenure, unreasonable demands and intrusion into personal space by the landlords

Covid- 19: Officers bat for state autonomy on strategy, find politicians to be worst communicators 

August 29, 2021

Most IAS officers in India believe that states must have the autonomy to formulate their own responses based on their needs and capacities in case of emergencies like Covid-19. They regard speeches by politicians as the least effective while find frontline workers to be highly effective in communicating the right message to the public, found a survey. Around 52 percent felt that national lockdown imposed last year should have been better planned while 47.7 percent deemed it to be the right action.

Rural job scheme guarantees carbon sequestration

June 28, 2021

Activities related to natural resource management under MGNREGS can capture 249 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, finds a study. Drought-proofing activities like plantations, forest restoration, make up 40 percent of the total carbon sequestered through MGNREGS.The scheme already offers financial and ecological resilience to the most vulnerable against the climate crisis besides cushioning impact of emergencies like economic lockdown due to Covid-19

Indian men are more educated than their grandfathers but hold same occupations

April 17, 2021

Educational levels have increased in India over three generations but people are still holding same occupations. This multigenerational mobility differs in social groups. For instance, for Muslims mobility in education and occupation has decreased in comparison to that of Hindus while SC/ST and OBCs have become more mobile over generations in education (compared to General Castes), but not as much in occupational mobility, putting a question mark over how well affirmative policies like reservations are working

Scrappage policy: A step forward but a missed opportunity

March 23, 2021

While the new draft policy is a big positive, its focus on targeted fleet renewal for maximum emissions gains is still weak. The proposed policy puts the entire onus of incentivising fleet renewal on the state governments. They have been advised to waive off a big chunk of road tax and registration fees on replacement vehicles.  Given the fact these are important sources of state revenue, the reaction of the state governments is still not known

How censoring of OTT platforms will hamper art

December 15, 2020
Streaming platforms have opened up new possibilities. Image: Andrés Rodríguez

The bloom of Over The Top (OTT) digital streaming platforms in India has offered a range of opportunities for independent artists. Writers also enjoy the liberty to produce any narrative unhindered by a regulation but that is set to change. The cabinet secretary issued a gazette notification to amend the rules putting digital streaming platforms under purview of the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, causing many to fear undue censorship

Lockdown Woes: 91% workers didn't get ration, no wages for 84%

November 10, 2020
Stranded workers during lockdown. Image: Sumita Roy Dutta/Wikimedia Commons

While the lockdown did not contain the spread of the virus as expected, it did spawn a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. India’s lockdown has been cited as one of the most ‘stringent’ and ‘stingy’ lockdowns in the world shutting down the economy and movement with a meagre fiscal package for the vulnerable. In the first half of the lockdown, migrant workers were stranded with no food and money. In the second, their woes were compounded due to chaotic travel orders

A Generation in Peril. How Climate Crisis is Impacting Childhood

January 11, 2021

The impact of climate crisis on people across the world is highly disproportionate but no other group is as vulnerable as children in low income families of developing countries. Children are not emotionally and physically capable of understanding the dangers during extreme weather events and are dependent on adults for their survival. They are more susceptible to water and vector borne diseases, malnutrition and they are forced into labour due to economic challenges induced by climate crisis. 

India should spare its forests for sustainable post-Covid recovery

August 18, 2020
Forests offer far more benefits than a development project. Image: GoI Monitor

Indian forests offer model of equitable development in the post-Covid world by offering food and money to the most vulnerable. The government is, however, going the other way by auctioning coal blocks in rich forests and diluting environmental laws. ​Around 50 million families in India supplement their diet with food from forests and scrubland while Rs 20,000 crore worth of minor forest products are traded in the country. Loss of forest ecosystems will displace people and make them more dependent on government and market, both of which failed to live up to their promises during the lockdown

Ballooning loans, job insecurity for India’s reverse migrants

July 27, 2020
Workers are finding it tough to hold on to jobs. Image: Pikist

Millions of migrants began a journey on foot or cycle to reach their home states safely with no food or water supplies, dealing with hunger, starvation, and exhaustion. Many even lost their lives while trying to make this journey. Data compiled by various individuals and agencies have painted a grim picture. According to the data provided by Thejesh GN, the lockdown has resulted in the death of 884 migrants as of 26 June 2020. Those who managed to reach their home states were again meted with inhumane treatment.

Perilous venture into commercial coal mining 

July 23, 2020
Jharia coal mine in Jharkhand. Image: Abhishek/Wikimedia Commons

The recent Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, opens mining to the private sector with no restriction on end-use of coal and permission for 100 percent foreign direct investment. The move is supposed to close the gap between government’s revenues and expenditure and help save foreign exchange. It, however, comes at a time when India’s energy mix is already shifting towards cleaner renewables. State governments have also filed objections.

Covid-19: Race to generate work in villages

June 22, 2020
Women workers at a MGNREGA work site. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok

Around 400 million workers are at risk of falling even deeper into poverty because of Covid-19 pandemic. Centre and states are racing against time to generate jobs near their homes where they went from cities due to lockdown with MGNREGA emerging as the greatest absorber of workforce. State governments have included farms, water conservation works, fruit tree plantation and construction of sports stadiums in villages as works to be done under the rural job scheme

भूमि सुधार बस एक सपना ही रह गया

May 30, 2020
ग्रामीण भारत के 56 प्रतिशत परिवारों के पास कोई खेती की ज़मीन नहीं है। चित्र: मनु मुदगिल

आज़ादी के समय भारत के कृषि ढांचे की विशेषता भूमि के असमान वितरण और किसानों के शोषण से थी। ब्रिटिश सरकार द्वारा नियुक्त जागीरदारों और जमींदारों जैसे बिचौलिये किसानों से उच्च किराया इकट्ठा करते थे। इन बिचौलियों को खेती और कृषि भूमि के सुधार में कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं थी। किसानों के नाम ज़मीन नहीं थी, उनके कार्यकाल की कोई सुरक्षा नहीं थी और देश के विभिन्न क्षेत्रों में विभिन्न भू-राजस्व और स्वामित्व प्रणालियां प्रचलित थीं। भूमि सुधार का तात्पर्य कृषि भूमि के साथ किसान के संन्द संस्थागत परिवर्तन लाये जाने से है। इस संदर्भ में भूमि सुधार के लिए दो प्रमुख उद्देश्य अपनाये गए है: एक, कृषि उत्पादन में वृद्धि और दूसरा, कृषिकों के प्रति सामाजिक न्याय

Vizag Gas Leak: What we know

May 8, 2020
Gas leak in Vizag underscores threat of industrial disasters again. Source: Pixabay

In 2018, the factory had submitted a Rs 168 crore proposal to the Union Ministry of Environment to expand its production capacity by another 250 tonnes per day (tpd) -- from the current 415 tpd. This permission was recently granted. Acute (short-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in mucous membrane and eye irritation and gastrointestinal effects. Long-term exposure results in impacts on the central nervous system leading to headaches, fatigue, weakness, depression, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy.

Tribals fret over sale of minor forest produce

April 25, 2020
Mahua flowers. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Files

India gets Rs 20,000 crore worth of minor forest products (MFPs). This year, these can provide the much-needed cushion against massive job loss and tanking economy. The ongoing lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic has cast a shadow on the trade of MFPs as well. While governments have allowed collection of MFPs from the forests, usual weekly markets (haats) are not functioning and traders are not allowed to move around, leaving little options for sale.

Historical Lapses in Deporting Bangladeshis

March 7, 2020
Bangladesh-India Border sign. Photo by Nahid Sultan/Wikimedia

From the time of independence, India has seen many refugee /illegal migration problem. Many people migrated to India from neighbouring countries fleeing persecution in their homes or looking for better work opportunities. Though India dealt with most migrant crisis systematically, migration from Bangladesh has always been a knotty affair. In past there have been reports of many immigrants being ‘pushed back’ along the Indian border by the BSF. Bangladesh government condemned Indian action as “unilateral, illegal, unfortunate, and against all international laws”

The promised land that never was

February 3, 2022

There are 56 percent households in rural India which do not own any farm. On the other hand, around 7.18 percent households own more than 46.71 percent of total agricultural land thus signifying that few people continue to hold on to large resources. Land reforms failed in their main task of empowering the poor who continue to suffer due to current market-led reforms. Average availability of common land, which is best bet for landless for fodder or farming, has also been declining.

Why sanitation workers continue to carry our filth

January 16, 2020
Kaverappa being lifted out of a pit by Muniraju in Bengaluru. By: Water Aid / CS Sharada Prasad

Manual scavenging is a hereditary occupation that predominantly involves forced labour and is mostly done by Dalits. It is estimated that 1-3 sanitation workers die cleaning sewers every five days in India.  A recent report identified 1,686 workers in 12 districts of four states who were engaged in different kinds of manual scavenging. Inadequate government schemes, poor social and financial status and lack of livelihood options restrict these families to their hereditary occupations.

किसानों और जंगली जानवरों का लफड़ा क्या है

क्या सच में किसानों का लालच हाथियों के घटते रहवास के लिए जिम्मेदार है? Source: Need

ये सच है कि जंगल साफ़ करके खेत बनाने की प्रवत्ति किसानों में बहुत पुरानी है। आदमी और जानवरों की लड़ाई भी बहुत पुरानी है। लेकिन इस सब में हम ये भूल जाते हैं कि बहुतायत भारतीय किसान अपने उत्पादन का अधिकतर हिस्सा घरेलू जरूरतों के लिए इस्तेमाल करते हैं। लेकिन औपनिवेशिक काल के ये उद्योग किसकी भूख को ध्यान में रख कर बनाये गए थे, क्या इसमें हमें कोई हिस्ट्री क्लास चाहिए? जिस औद्योगिक नीति से औपनिवेशिक काल में अंग्रेज़ों ने हमारे संसाधनों का शोषण किया, उसका असर अब तक ख़त्म होना तो दूर, बढ़ ही रहा है । मान लीजिये आप एक वनवासी हैं, और सरकार आपके जंगल में ऐसा एक पेड़ लगा देती है, जिसका इस्तेमाल आपको पता ही नहीं

Triple Talaq and a short history of personal laws

August 4, 2019
Diversity in India requires diverse personal laws.

Parliament passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill making instant triple talaq as illegal and cognizable offence with maximum three years imprisonment and fine. This has again put the focus on system of Muslim personal law in India. Various religions in India have their own personal laws. Most personal laws were, however, discriminatory to women. With incremental changes, there is now greater parity.

Muslims, OBCs feel police bias more than others

April 30, 2019
Amidst Chaos. Source: Harni Calamur/Flickr

Over a half of 15,000 respondents from across 22 states of India said that police discriminate on the basis of class, followed by caste, gender and religion. What makes the bias more worrisome is the lack of diversity in police. While SCs, STs and women have reservations in the police, the targets remain unmet. Muslims were most likely among all religious groups to feel the bias of police. They also have very low representation in the force which could have helped build trust. 

Politics of electoral bonds

April 15, 2019
Political funding is still a grey area in India.

Electoral bond is an instrument to donate money to political parties  and can be purchased from State Bank of India and identities of donor and receiver are kept secret. NDA government rejected objections of RBI before passing the law. The government claims that electoral bonds will weed out black money from political funding but opposition parties and Election Commission feel the bond scheme promotes anonymous funding and favours the BJP. 

Why north east India is on boil over Citizenship Bill

February 3, 2019
Protests in Assam against Citizenship Bill. Source: Mohammad Belal Shaikh Hussain

Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on January 8 this year triggering widespread protests in north east India. The bill changes definition of illegal migrants by providing citizenship to non-Muslims coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. North east people fear influx of outsiders and loss of indigenousness with these new rules. Most partners of BJP in north east have threatened to move out of the alliance if the bill becomes law. All eyes will be on Rajya Sabha as it takes up the bill for discussion soon. This short video explains the topic in 30 seconds. 

History of reservation in India

January 11, 2019
Protest by Maratha Kranti Morcha for reservation in 2016. Source: Midhanesh/Wikimedia Commons

Parliament recently passed the bill to allow 10 per cent reservation for poor in general category in education and jobs. Many hail the move as a corrective  measure even though a petition has already been filed in the Supreme Court challenging its legality citing that the court had earlier put a cap on reservation at 50 per cent. The history of reservation in India begins much before independence when the king of Kolhapur introduced reservation in education for non-Brahmin and backward castes in 1902. Since then, it's been a topic of much debate and politico-legal battles.

Swacch Bharat and its motivators

July 28, 2018
Prereks during a menstrual hygiene management session. (Pic courtesy: Divyanshu Seth)

The Preraks provide coordination, management and monitoring support to the district administration for effective implementation of SBM-G. They are involved in developing district-level swachhta action, finance, and sustainability plan for monitoring mechanisms and quality supervision protocols. They also ensure monitoring and implementation support for district-level sustainability initiatives pertaining to the programme. That's not all. They provide support for the development and rollout of the Social Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC) strategy, with a focus on sanitation and personal hygiene issues.

Current policy on stray dogs has created a hate-filled environment

February 1, 2018
Millions of homeless dogs die every day in India. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Despite spending crores of rupees on the birth control programme, the population of stray dogs has been increasing across India resulting in more attacks on humans, especially children, and retaliatory attacks on dogs. Stray dogs are also a great danger to wild animals and livestock in villages and protected areas. A petition currently being heard in the Supreme Court raises many questions on the government programme to deal with stray dogs. We talk to dog lover and researcher Meghna Uniyal about the concerns.

Remember Bhopal through images and voices

December 4, 2017
This collaboration transformed four rooms and one hall way of a rented duplex flat into a lived experience.

At ‘Remember Bhopal’, the first community-led museum of India, voices of survivors lead you through the biggest industrial disaster of the world that killed over 5,000 people, maimed hundreds of thousands and continues to contaminate land and water even after 33 years. The ltragedymade it to the history textbooks but it’s here that one confronts the enormity of this man-made tragedy. 

Women Reservation: The long haul

September 25, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the valedictory session of the National Conference of Women Legislators. Source: PIB

With Congress president Sonia Gandhi asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get the law on women reservation passed in the Parliament, the issue has gained momentum again. Though major political parties, including BJP, Congress and the Left, have always supported reservation, several smaller and regional parties found it incomplete and inefficient in dealing with unequal status of women.

India @70: Take politics out of governance

August 12, 2017
The votes polled by the elected members must not be less than 60 per cent of the votes polled 

As India celebrates 70th Independence Day, it stands as a polarised country. Divided on political lines with little room for tolerance to opposite view point. The sanctity of an elected post is often ignored and seen an extension of political affiliation. Political parties thrive and grow at the cost of Indian democracy and help in promotion of an organised lobby of selfish people. The spirit of the Constitution demands that good people contest elections on their own, reach the Parliament, select a leader and then work on a national agenda instead of working on the agenda of a political party.

Why the rapes never stop

August 1, 2017
Demonstrating in favour of safe world for women in Bengaluru. Source: Kiran Jonnalagadda/Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, the Delhi gangrape incident, in which a physiotherapy student was gangraped and tortured in a private bus, brought the issue of rape onto discussion platforms, street protests and also pushed the government to come up with stronger policy and law on crime against women. Ever after five years, however, we are an unsafe nation for women. In fact, the situation is only worsening. The data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that number of rape cases shot up by more than 47 per cent between 2012 and 2014. 

India needs to be cautious on free trade pact with ASEAN

July 19, 2017
RCEP is essential for India in context of economic, geo-political and security architecture shift in the region.

India relies on regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement with ASEAN members and the five states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs. Despite the impressive prospects the gains for India may not be as significant as assumed and may lead to dumping of cheaper imports which will hamper domestic producers.

Nothing to cheer about in Indian job market

May 12, 2017
Only 60% of those seeking work are able to get it throughout the year. Source: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons

Country’s unemployment saga lies far beyond the glass towers and high figure pay cheques. Around 77 per cent families have no regular wage earner and more than 67 per cent have income less than Rs 10,000 a month. Add to this the consistent march towards labour reforms make it easier for industries to sack workers. Not even the courtesy of a ‘pink slip’ for them. More than the availability of jobs, it’s the kind of jobs people have to live with. Only 17 per cent persons were regular wage/salaried persons thus a majority of workers were not eligible for social security benefits.  

Projects with scant regard for environment

March 31, 2017
A drain emptying raw sewage. Source: Daniel Bachhuber/Flickr

The recent audit report on environmental clearance and post-clearance monitoring lists many such instances of violations from development projects across India. Inadequate environmental impact assessments, irregularities in public hearings, not meeting promises and unregulated use of natural resources are just a few of the points raised by the audit team. Companies also routinely went back on their promises made during public hearings whether that included compensatory afforestation, installation of instruments for pollution monitoring, rainwater harvesting, dust management systems or effluent treatment plants.

What CAG said about Army food supply

January 14, 2017
Indian soldiers breaking bread with PM Modi at Siachen. Every day a helicopter drops canned food here. Source: PIB

The army jawans continue to consume ration even after the expiry of original shelf life putting their health at risk. Modernisation of the food testing laboratories could not be done despite availability of funds. Army continues to procure most items of dry ration without following the recommended procurement process. Full requirement of ration was not met, which led to local purchase by the supply depots at higher rates. Recovery of this extra expenditure could not be invoked from the defaulting firms by the Ministry. 

Demonetisation: Why it didn't work for India earlier

November 10, 2016
The withdrawal of relatively lower denomination notes in 2016 has widened the net, which was also essential considering the huge amount of black money circulating. Source: Pixabay

Cash notes worth over Rs 14 lakh crore have been junked by the government via its order on November 9 to curb black money. Pegged at over Rs 30 lakh crore, black money in India is estimated to be 20 per cent of the GDP. While most are optimistic about this move, many have also questioned if it will be worth the inconvenience people have been put to. Thankfully, we can always look back at history to know if we have done better than before. This is the third time India has gone through demonetisation of modern currency. In 1946, the British government demonetised hundred rupee currency and in 1978, currency notes of Rs 1,000 and above were demonetised.

How solid are the BRICS?

October 18, 2016
The heads of BRICS nations at Goa Summit. Source: PIB, India

The member countries have little in common as far as economic and foreign policy interests are concerned. They generate growth in different and often competing ways. While Brazil and Russia are major energy producers that benefit from high energy prices, India, as a major energy consumer, suffers from them. Except in highly unusual circumstances, like in last decade, they are unlikely to grow in unison. Except China, they have limited trade ties with one another. All the BRICS countries are slowing down which should not be surprising because it is hard to sustain hard growth for more than a decade

How Niyamgiri sees development

October 11, 2016
A Dongria Kondh girl collecting forest food in Niyamgiri Hills. Source: Rita Wilaert/Flickr

The movement against global mining behemoth Vedanta Corporation led by a small adivasi community of around 8,000 people was likened to many grassroots-level organic and contemporary struggles. However, the popular perception remained that this indigenous community does not want development. That they may yearn for the benefits of modern age was lost in the din of voices as varied as seeking their mainstreaming to leaving them on their own. A recent study conducted by Kalpavriksh draws attention to the needs of the community which they want to fulfil through means that are amiable to their culture and surroundings

Where does your car end up?

September 12, 2016
Around 2.2 crore vehicles are estimated to reach their end of life by year 2025. Source: Sreeram/BHP Team

In India, the automobile industry is only 25 years old. But post the entry of foreign direct investment and liberalisation in 1991, the market for vehicles of all types has seen a colossal growth. Around 2.2 crore vehicles are estimated to reach their end of life by the year 2025. Around 80 percent of those vehicles are expected to be two wheelers. In India, ELVs are almost entirely processed in the informal sector with little to no inputs from the formal sector. Most businesses are family owned and knowledge is passed down the generations.Jobs in the informal sector are normally precarious and insecure; they thrive in hazardous or unhealthy environments, and they cannot rely on formal health assistance or safety nets. 

Case of Commons: What has the SC judgement achieved so far

June 16, 2016
A herder taking his cows away from the enclosed pasture area in Rajasthan.

Across the world, rapid development restricted to few growth centres has induced a major change in land use. Forests and traditional set up have given way to farm houses, orchards, plantations, industries and residential societies. On January 28, 2011, the Supreme Court gave much needed judicial recognition to the importance of ‘Commons’. Commons can be understood as a community’s natural resources such as forests, wastelands, and water resources, where every member has access and usage facility with specified obligations. A policy review draws key lessons from the SC’s directions and steps taken up by state administrations to comply.  

Panama Papers is another pointer to inheritance crisis

April 13, 2016
Panama Papers leak offer India an opportunity to rationalise inheritance

Panama Papers have demonstrated how unfettered inheritance turns leaders and celebrities into petty thieves and knaving dynastic slaves. In 2004, I read in the Utne Reader that the founding fathers of free market economy had very strict views on inheritance, and that they strongly disapproved the policy of unfettered inheritance. I realised the simple equation that "Capitalism without the compounding effects of inheritance was actually some kind of socialism." In 2004 the effects of unfettered inheritance that my own country was experiencing had still not dawned on me.

‘केवल भूमि सुधार गरीबी और भ्रष्टाचार को रोक सकता है’

पर्दर्शनकारी 2007 में दिल्ली की तरफ पद यात्रा करते हुए । सौजन्य: एकता परिषद्

भूमि सुधार कानून स्वतंत्रता के बाद बनी सरकार की मुख्य प्राथमिकता थी जिसके तहत जमीन को अमीरों से लेकर गरीबों में बांट कर परंपरावादी जमींदारी प्रथा को समाप्त करना था। लेकिन आज किसी भी पार्टी के घोषणा-पत्र में यह नजर नहीं आता।  वर्ष 2012 में एकता परिषद् ने भूमि सुधार की मांग को लेकर ग्वालियर से दिल्ली तक पद यात्रा की थी। एकता परिषद् के अध्यक्ष पीवी राजगोपाल बता रहें हैं कि क्यों यह भूमि सुधार के लिए कठिन समय है और कैसे इससे निपटने के लिए अपनी जड़ों की ओर लौटने की जरूरत है 

Indian Railways right on the track: In 11 charts

October 27, 2015
Only 24% of railway track is electrified. Source: Vinoth Thambldural

From1850s when the first train ran in India and royal families sponsored its expansion to the present-day envious network and 12,000 trains running daily, railways has connected India like nothing else. Here we look at how things have changed with Indian Railways whether it's the expansion of tracks, jump in freight traffic or even casualties during operations. The total length of track used by Indian Railways is about 90,000 km of which 24 per cent is electrified. During the last four years, whereas new lines have registered a growth of 74 per cent, Doubling and electrification have grown at 167 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

Women cops satisfied with work, not with set up

February 28, 2018
Two police women in Chennai. Source: John Hill/Wikipedia

Despite the changing ethos and increased interest among the women to engage in police organisations, their composition has not gone beyond 7.28 per cent nationally, shows the latest government data. It is believed that presence of women in the police force will encourage women victims of crime to approach the police stations without any inhibitions especially considering that overall crimes against them are on rise. 

India's largest employer has less than 7% women in its workforce

July 1, 2015
Maximum women are employed in Group A and B and least with Group D.

Train tracks connect India like nothing else. Meandering through valleys, counting fields, jumping over rivers and bringing to halt road traffic, Indian Railways carried over more than 23 million passengers a day in 2014-15 on its 65,436 km network. For many, train turns into a home for few days. However, it’s not easy for women to commute on this convenient and many a times the only mode of transport. In 2013, 693 cases of crime against women were reported from railways of which 54 were rape cases. Such incidents grew by 327 per cent from 160 cases in 2005.

When States get rich and powerful

May 4, 2015
States are better capable of administering their finances. Source: Aart van Bezooyen/Flickr

The Union budget saw increase in share of states in the gross tax receipts. While in actuals this might translate to an increase of a nominal 4 per cent in terms of tax revenue shared from Rs 7.62 lakh crore in 2014-2015 to Rs 7.93 lakh crore in 2015-2016, it is the nature of these resources that add value to fiscal devolution. Studies have indicated that states are better capable of administering their finances, while at the same time steadily increasing public investments, when compared to the Centre. so, should we celebrate this development in the fiscal architecture?

'Policing requires wide and numerous reforms'

May 3, 2015
Amidst Chaos. Source: Harni Calamur/Flickr

In India, police are trained well, paid minimally, put to odd times and jobs. Yet they remain in a position of power over the rest of the citizens, which is then used to extract money, and other favours. Political control further aggravates the situation. This is why the need for reform of the police force was felt but the reforms were not really acted upon, and if done, it was merely a lip service. Devika Prasad, who works with police reforms programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, talks about the shortcomings

Movement in the woods

March 11, 2015
FRA gives powers back to the people.

Forest Rights Act proposes to do away with historical injustices done to those living in and around forests. It might be a tribal sourcing out forest foods and cultivating the land or a non-tribal using the wood for building own house, the Act gives powers back to the people not only for using the resources but also for conservation and protection. But there's still a lot of ground to be covered and we should not miss trees for the wood. Here's the data and voices from the ground that tell us more about this.

Land for all but Adivasis

March 8, 2015
Nahar Singh with his fellow farmers.

Bhils of Dungarpur bought land from their erstwhile king without knowing that it had already been acquired by the government. While the royal family and the government fight over compensation, farmers continue to live under fear of eviction. All this, despite paying the king as well as the new administration for over 50 years now. The government goes on to build anganwadis, primary health centres, schools and even granted mining leases on the land but when it comes to farmers, the subjudice compensation case is flashed as a hurdle.

Think people, not vehicles

March 5, 2015
The vehicle population in India increased from 5 million in 1980 to 145 million in 2011. Source: Tamal Mitra

In India, only 4 per cent of transportation is by private cars; but these contribute 20 per cent of passenger transport emission. The policy of encouraging private cars and neglecting public transportation makes transportation of both the car owners and others miserable. Width of the roads becomes inadequate and cannot be increased due to crowding of buildings on both sides. Our policy makers offer flyovers and metro rails in big cities as solutions but experience and studies reveal that only an efficient bus service can free up road space and reduce cost with smaller carbon footprint.

More power to the States

November 2, 2014
Source: Bin im Garten/Wikimedia Commons

The Centre-State relations have always been under strain especially when opposite political parties are heading the two governments. Most of the bickering is either due to fund allocation or matters of jurisdiction. It’s the subjects under the Concurrent List which provide much fodder for conflict as they invite overlapping of powers. These items require an overhauling policy framework defining service delivery, availability of adequate funds and strategies to reach the masses, thus prompting the Centre to play the lead role. Classic example in this case is Education.

Doordarshan's disruptive signals

September 28, 2014
Programme mismatch has been the bane of Doordarshan

A major change has taken over the Indian skies. Gone are the days of aluminium rod antennas decked with torn kites. The small direct to home (DTH) dish antennas of today signify the shift from terrestrial (over the air) transmission to satellite telecast. In India, this also implies easing out of the national public broadcaster Doordarshan (DD). While most would like to believe stiff competition from private channels and lack of autonomy are the only reasons for DD’s downfall, a five state study conducted by the Media Foundation throws up some interesting findings.

A bridge on the river Kosi

September 2, 2014
A boy stands outside his home on a spur

It is difficult to make small talk with a woman who has lost her all. Khair-un-Nissa had generously invited me to her home for a meal, a curry made of the famously succulent Black Haringhata hen, no less. The curry was special but it was her house that impressed me most. The bamboo and straw structure boasted a fresh coat of clay. The area was so scrupulously tidy that I felt refreshed the minute I entered the courtyard. Normally, I would be gushing with compliments; in this case a compliment would be tactless.

Money savers of rural India

Around 3 crore women are members of various SHGs. Source: MoRD

In a country where savings of poor families are meagre and banks not ready to risk giving loans, how do you fund local business plans? You let the poor be the bankers themselves. That’s what 2.5 million aptly named self-help groups (SHGs) do across India. The core belief behind SHGs is that poor can help each other by pooling in their savings and lending the money to the members in need. Linkage with banks also gets them easy credit for group entrepreneurial activities. Perfect at concept level, the scheme has done well in states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bihar. But there’s still a lot of ground to be covered.

‘Only land reforms can tackle poverty, corruption’

April 8, 2014
Women protesters under the banner of Ekta Parishad in 2007. Source: Ekta Parishad/Wikicommons

Land reforms were meant to right the wrongs of traditional zamindari system through redistribution of land from rich to the poor. On top priority of the government at the time of independence, land reforms don’t feature in any party manifesto now. In 2012, Ekta Parishad took out a foot march from Gwalior to Delhi demanding the same.The government agreed to the demands and drafted a homestead law which never got tabled in the Parliament. Ekta Parishad’s president, P V Rajagopal, says this is the toughest time for land reforms 

Rural job scheme: Can we get it right?

April 9, 2013
Around 47 per cent of the total person-days generated have been by women. Image: Steve McCurry

The rural job scheme, officially known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), has received more brickbats than bouquets in its six year run. With Rs 1,66,000 crore spent between 2006 and 2012, many call it a government dole rife with corruption and lack of long term vision. Lately, claims about its negative impact on agriculture have also been made. 

The joke is on us

February 18, 2014
Handover holds a mirror to our conditioned learnings.

What’s the cost of a child’s life in India? Should poor people be allowed to sell their children?  The answer has always been a resounding no. The law does not permit this. Religion and social norms also go against such a practice as this puts a child’s life in jeopardy making him a slave of trafficking industry.  But there are always two sides of the coin and we should not favour one for another. In 2012, 42 out of every 1,000 infants died in India and malnutrition was a major reason for this.  The government support in the form of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) has failed miserably.

A city wasted and redeemed

February 15, 2014
Members of SWaCH collecting waste during a festival. Source: SWaCH

Surekha Gaikwad is a high school graduate. She started picking waste along with her mother-in-law after getting married. Till five years back, she would not even bother to dress up as the day would be spent at a hot and filthy garbage bin. “Even if I had a bath in the morning, by midday I was stinking. So I never bothered to stay clean,” she says. But now Surekha wears a nice fresh sari to work, with a rose in her hair. She leads a team of eight waste pickers

'We need to declassify all records about Netaji'

December 13, 2012
The latest book on Bose mystery by Anuj Dhar

Disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has been the biggest mystery of modern India running for almost seven decades and involving multiple international link ups, national political interests and mysticism. GOI Monitor talks to journalist-turned researcher Anuj Dhar who recently came up with his second book on Bose which tries to clear several doubts

Stuck in Obscurity: The Sewerage Workers of India

June 10, 2012
A memorial to sanitary technician man in Russia.  Wikicommons

On June 1, two sewerage workers died after entering a manhole in Lucknow city due to inhalation of methane gas from the sewer. Not even a simple rope was available at hand which could have been thrown in to pull the men out. The workers both in their 20s, were engaged by a private contractor to clean the manhole before operationalisation of the new civil lines laid down by the Lucknow Jal Nigam.

'Slums are a solution not a problem'

May 12, 2012
Two boys in Dharavi slum. By- NGO MEDAPT

Q It is estimated that by 2050, 54 per cent of Indians will live in cities. But with such a high premium being placed on urban land, how are the cities going to host migrants, especially the poor?

Firstly, that estimate is probably incorrect. Already, as indicated by the 2011 Census, urban growth is slowing down - from 54 per cent in the 1970s to 32  per cent currently even though the Census has

Happy In Dependence?

August 10, 2011

India is a polarised country today. Divided on political lines with little room for tolerance to opposite view point. The sanctity of an elected post is often ignored and seen an extension of political affiliation. Political parties thrive and grow at the cost of Indian democracy and help in promotion of an organised lobby of selfish people. The spirit of the Constitution demands that good people contest elections on their own, reach the Parliament and then select a leader and work on a national agenda instead of working on the agenda of a political party.

Timeline of electoral reforms in India

March 17, 2018
A blind man being carried for voting during 1952 General Elections in Delhi.

The pace of electoral reforms in India is tardy and often times regressive as in the case of recent relaxation in disclosure norms for corporate donations. On the other hand, demands like state funding of elections, putting political parties under RTI and declaraton of paid news as electoral offence remain unresolved. This timeline is an attempt to look at how we have fared over the years.

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