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Modi ki diwani, Sheela ki jawani

Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, chose Independence Day, August 15, to launch his campaign to become prime minister. He is not formally the BJP’s official candidate, but makes no bones about his ambition. Even as Manmohan Singh made one more tepid Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, Modi lambasted him in a rival More >

Between rock, sand and a hard place

In several areas, Indian rules and regulations make honest business impossible. The only choice is illegal business or no business. This underlies the suspension of Durga Sakthi Nagpal, the IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh who took on the sand mafia and paid a heavy price. Sand is essential for construction. Sand, gravel and cement are More >

How much does a poor man’s meal cost?

How much does a poor man’s meal cost? One politician said Rs 5. Another said Rs 12. TV channels had a field day going around dhabas in cities, looking for cheap meals. Unsurprisingly, they found that even cheap dhaba meals cost Rs 20-25, and castigated insensitive politicians ignorant of Indian realities. The expose was most More >

Amartya Sen & Jagdish Bhagwati and Congress & BJP agree on development, disagree only in degree

The Indian media specialises in infotainment. An entertaining spin converts boring information into heated discussion. Some journalists have equated the Amartya Sen-vs-Jagdish Bhagwati debate with the Congress-versus-BJP debate in the coming general election. Rubbish! Sen does not embody the Congress, nor Bhagwati the BJP. Both the Congress and BJP borrow ideas from both. The boring More >

Why no applause for 138 million exiting poverty?

When China reduced people in poverty by 220 million between 1978 and 2004, the world applauded this as the greatest poverty reduction in history. Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and all other poverty specialists cheered. India has just reduced its number of poor from 407 million to 269 million, a fall of 138 million in seven More >

Tribals finally get land rights, using GPS technology

Last week I visited tribal areas in Gujarat to see how technology and an activist NGO could empower once-powerless tribals to get their full land rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The Act provided for land titles to be given to tribal plots in cultivation in December 2005. Earlier, government takeover of forests had More >

Gas pricing must be determined by market bids, not government committees

A Committee of Ministers fixed the price of natural gas in 2009-14 at $4.2/unit. The Rangarajan Committee has suggested a new pricing formula, accepted by the government, that from 2014 could raise the price to $8.4/unit (though the petroleum minister thinks it will be closer to $ 6.8/unit). Those favouring the change say it is More >

Without quick justice, politics will stay criminalized

Most people are so outraged by the rising tide of criminals in politics that they will welcome the two latest Supreme Court judgments. One bans any convicted person from contesting elections even if the person has appealed to a higher court. The second bans anybody contesting from jail, even if only in temporary police custody More >

Rising rural wage may boost UPA’s chances

For all the current gloom about the economy, the 2011-12 data on employment and consumption shows a remarkable one-third increase in average household consumption over two years, well above the rate of inflation. This will fuel Congress hopes to fare better in the 2014 election than opinion polls suggest. Four trends stand out. First, poverty More >

Kerala debate: It’s crime data does tell a grim story

A fortnight ago, I wrote that Kerala, contrary to its reputation, was not a welfarist socialist paradise with low crime and excellent treatment of women. In fact, its development model had used globalisation and private provision of education to achieve rapid GDP growth, along with associated inequality and rising crime. The column attracted a storm More >

Demographic dividend: delayed, but getting better

The latest employment data for 2011-12 show that India’s much-hyped demographic dividend has not yet arrived. The proportion of workers in the population rose slightly from 40% in 1980 to 43% in 2004-05, but is now down again to 40%. This is actually good news. It means that the record GDP growth of the 2000s More >

Bad regulation is our biggest public scam

Losses imposed by bad policies can be enormous, yet they catch the attention of TV anchors and the public only when a huge number is put on the losses (as in the 2G spectrum and coal blocks cases). The numbers in these cases later turned out to be greatly exaggerated, but nevertheless helped focus public More >

Kerala’s riches & rapes: One of India’s most progressive states, but crime data shockingly bad

Kerala is supposed to be a socialist paradise with the best social and gender indicators, frowning on economic growth and globalisation. But a look at the latest crime data suggests that even Kerala’s image as a civilised paradise for women is much exaggerated. Of all states, Kerala has the highest crime rate of 455.8 per More >

Waiting for a hundred dalit billionaires

On June 6, a new venture capital fund was launched by the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) to raise Rs 500 crore from investors for investment in companies run by dalits and tribals. Let goody-goody piece of affirmative action. The fund aims to provide investors with a commercial 25% pre-tax internal rate More >

How to reduce our rotting mountains of grain

India’s GDP growth has almost halved from 9.2% in 2010-11 to 5% in 2012-12. Major problems include a high current account deficit, high fiscal deficit, and lack of bank credit for small and medium enterprises. All three problems can be mitigated substantially by one single measure — reducing excess food stocks. So say Ashok Gulati and More >