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The Times of India

Child labour can’t end without good schools for all

Indians are delighted that Kailash Satyarthi has won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating child labour. This includes Indians who have, directly or indirectly, used child labour in house holds, dhabas, and artisanal work of every kind (from weaving and matchstick-making to pottery and gem polishing). Child labour is so common that it evokes tut-tutting More >

Chidambaram’s ghosts

Narendra Modi has generated much hope and enthusiasm. He has been praised for the Jan Dhan Yojana, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, higher FDI limits for defence and insurance, punctuality requirements for bureaucrats and selfcertification of documents by citizens. Some of these are simply extensions of old Congress schemes, but Modi has done a fine sales More >

Don’t bribe Pak with gas when we need it more

The government seems serious about a ridiculous proposal — supplying Pakistan five million units of imported gas per day, enough for two large power plants. When India is desperately short of gas, this is folly. Many Indian power plants lie closed for want of gas. The consequent power shortage translates into lakhs of farmers with More >

‘Bimaru’ MP now fastest-growing state in India

For several years, Bihar has been India’s fastest-growing state. In 2013-14 it has been overtaken by another backward state, Madhya Pradesh, which grew 11.08% against the national 4.7%. MP has averaged over 10% in the last three years, even as national rate has plummeted. Till the 1990s, backward states in the Hindi belt grew slowly, More >

Denationalize coal, produce gas along with it

Denationalize coal. Auction all future coal blocks. Allow all winners to produce associated gas (methane) as well as coal. These should be the key features of a new coal policy, following the Supreme Court’s striking down of 214 coal block allocations since 1993. Many analysts call this a verdict against corruption. Actually, the court has More >

If Indians aren’t investing here, will foreigners?

Narendra Modi came to power by promising fast economic growth to create millions of jobs. So, it’s mysterious that he has spent so much time on foreign visits and receiving foreign dignitaries like Chinese president Xi Jinping. Foreign relations matter, but cannot create millions of jobs – that requires structural reforms that dynamise Indian investment. More >

Sell gas at top prices like coal blocks, spectrum

The Kelkar Committee has produced a road map for a market-determined price for natural gas. Inter-generational equity, it says, requires non-renewable resources like gas to be sold to the highest bidder. A lower price deprives future generations of their full entitlement to national resources. This novel argument strengthens the simple logic of auctioning resources to More >

Modi’s been lucky; now make it sustainable

When a general with excellent credentials was recommended for promotion, Napoleon asked “But is he lucky?“ In politics, as in war, luck counts for a lot. Narendra Modi today is riding a wave of good luck. GDP growth in the April-June quarter hit 5.7%, the highest for two years. BJP spin-masters say “achhe din“ have More >

Stop new Babri movement against churches

When the demolition of the Babri Masjid was threatened in 1991, Parliament en acted a law prohibiting the conversion of any place of worship of one religion into that of another, the only exception being the Babri Masjid itself. Back then, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad sought to demolish 3,000 mosques, claiming these were once temples. More >

Adam Smith vs Manu: Look who’s winning

The most heartwarming book of 2014 is Defying the Odds, by Devesh Kapur, Shyam Babu and Chandrabhan Prasad. It tells the stories of 21 dalits who rose from humble origins to become millionaire tycoons. India has long been a land of oppression. It has just started becoming a land of opportunity too. Sukesh Rajan came More >

Corruption? Protection rackets more than crony

RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has lambasted crony capitalism. Other critics say economic liberalization has enriched only cronies through monopoly profits from political allocations of land, minerals and spectrum. Now big corruption is rampant. But I distinguish between crony capitalism and political protection rackets. The former bestows monopoly profits on cronies. But if after paying up, More >

Will Modi grab the idea of Kashi dwip?

During the general election, I was among journalists that visited Varanasi, Narendra Modi’s constituency. In the evening we went down to the famous Dashashwamedha Ghat, winding our way through crowded bazaars full of beggars, sadhus, religious offerings and mementos. Most photos you see of Varanasi are of the Dashashwamedha Ghat and its neighbouring one. These More >

Scrap subsidies that burn funds

In Gujarat, Narendra Modi has pioneered the Jyotigram project which provides 24×7 domestic electricity to all rural households. He wants to spread this to the whole country, and some states (like Madhya Pradesh) have already implemented the idea. However, neither Modi nor any chief minister is asking a simple follow-up question. For decades, kerosene has More >

Meeting terrorists is a journalist’s duty, not sedition

If I was offered a meeting with Hafiz Saeed, head of the Lashkar e-Toiba, what would be my reaction? I would seize the opportunity with glee. Any self-respecting journalist should be delighted to get such a scoop. Yet when Ved Prakash Vaidik, a senior Hindi journalist, met Saeed in Pakistan, Indian politicians and TV anchors More >

Jaitley dons a PC mask

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden budget repeats so many figures of Chidambaram’s interim February budget that global analysts call it a cut-and-paste job. I call it a Chidambaram budget with saffron lipstick. Chidambaram’s February figures were attacked at the time as bogus and inflated by the BJP. The same figures have suddenly become the BJP’s More >