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Why muddy the debate around AFSPA?

A massive rally in Imphal on February 19 demanding the repeal of AFSPA has highlighted yet again the place of this special legislation in the world’s largest democracy and the blurring of the lines between policy, strategy and tactics, writes Sumona DasGupta

debate around AFSPA

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Direct Benefits Transfer as pro-poor populism

By Karishma Mutreja

The Direct Benefits Transfer Programme has been hastily launched in 20 districts. But there is evidence to prove that transferring purchasing power can have a socially desirable outcome only where there is a strong rural infrastructure and easy access to banks, schools and hospitals

,Aadhaar biometric identity card

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‘Media trials are the bane of jurisprudence’

By Rashme Sehgal

Media and public pressure has seen 26 special courts set up to deal with corruption. But cases of rape, murder and communal violence, where human lives are at stake, continue to be dealt with by a slow and overburdened judicial machinery. Have we lost our sense of priorities, asks criminal lawyer Rebecca John

criminal lawyer Rebecca John

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150 serious attacks on RTI activists since 2005: Aruna Roy

By Diva Arora

The Whistleblowers Protection Bill and the Grievance Redress Bill have become victims to the more high-profile and politicised Lokpal debate, says Aruna Roy in this review of generation-next legislations introduced and pending in India

 

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We need a politics of the poor: Nikhil Dey

By Pradeep Baisakh

Social activist Nikhil Dey discusses the flaws in the Lokpal, Grievance Redressal, Food Security and other bills

Nikhil Dey

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Indian spring?

India will not see the transition that mass protests can impel as long as urban India refuses to see the close connect between rural and urban, and continues to dismiss people's movements in rural areas with a 'who cares?', writes Keya Acharya

mass uprising, democratic movements

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Civil society as the watchdog of democracy

Civil society protests in India – for justice for the victims of Godhra, for those living around the Koodankulam nuclear facility, for those affected by AFSPA – are keeping democracy alive in India. The state’s attack on such non-violent activism in support of progressive causes is reason for grave concern, writes Rohini Hensman

civil society in India

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The public interest in subsidies and tax exemptions

Why is cutting subsidies seen as the only way to cut down the government’s fiscal deficit, asks Kannan Kasturi. What about raising additional revenues by increasing direct taxation of the rich, reducing corporate subsidies and increasing customs duty on items such as gold?

taxing the poor

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What is the real goal of the Anna movement?

It was clear from the start that the real root of corruption -- unaccountable power and impunity -- was not the target of the Team Anna campaign, writes Rohini Hensman. Is their goal then regime change, or constitutional change? And if so, could the movement unwittingly pave the way to fascism?

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Beyond the Lokpal: Fighting corruption on multiple fronts

While punishing the corrupt is important, institutions such as the Lokpal or Lokayukta can play only a limited role, says Samuel Paul. What we need is reform of public service design and delivery, transparency in public governance, and the end of discretionary decision-making by bureaucrats and politicians

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Citizen's charters: Putting people first

By Nidhi Sen

A Lokpal may reduce corruption, but will it improve the abysmal quality of our public services? For that to happen we need citizen’s charters and legal guarantees of prompt and efficient public services. Madhya Pradesh and Bihar’s legislations on public services are excellent beginnings

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Converging agendas: Team Anna and the Indian Right

Anna Hazare’s authoritarianism, the lack of any whiff of democracy in the village he rules, the crushing of dissent, his ultra-nationalism and his belief in caste hierarchy, suggest a convergence of his agenda and worldview with that of the right-wing, says Rohini Hensman

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Lip-service to inclusive growth

The emphasis in the Approach Paper to the Twelfth Five-Year Plan continues to be on achieving GDP growth of 9-9.5%, with the focus on capital markets and infrastructure, and scarcely a mention of nutritional security, agriculture, sanitation, health and education, writes Kathyayini Chamaraj

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The hollow claims of the anti-corruption campaign

By Ayesha Pervez

An activist explores the reasons for her discomfort with the Anna Hazare ‘movement’ which only ended up externalising corruption and glossing over the structural inequalities that perpetuate it

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Lokpal: A half-won victory and an incomplete Bill?

The Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 is an incomplete document that Team Anna and watchful members of civil society need to fully work out if the aspirations of millions who have been fired by the campaign for a corruption-free India are to be met, says Chitta Behera

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Fascism, Maoism and the Democratic Left

Jairus Banaji explores cultures of resistance that are hostile to democracy

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Lokpal Bills: Where is the logjam?

A comparison of the main provisions of the Lokpal Bill introduced by government in Parliament and the Jan Lokpal Bill drafted by Anna Hazare and his team

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Lokpal Bill: The third way?

The Lokpal is too simplistically visualised by the India Against Corruption campaign as the single solution to the problem of corruption, says Aruna Roy of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information. Instead, Roy proposes an alternative five-fold strategy in these excerpts from her open letter to government

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Building peace in Jammu & Kashmir

Dileep Padgaonkar, one of the team of interlocutors appointed by the home minister to study the Kashmir issue, discusses the role of the state interlocutor in building peace, and the importance of going beyond positing the crisis as a Hindu-Muslim one, or one of competing nationalisms, to seeing the plurality of concerns, interests and aspirations in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh

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Civil society as a PLU platform

Why does Anna Hazare have more legitimacy as a ‘civil society’ representative than Baba Ramdev, asks P Sainath. Both were self-selected groups claiming primacy over the elected government; both demanded that their fatwas be written into law. But Hazare was surrounded by People Like Us, Ramdev wasn’t

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Bribes: A small but radical idea

Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu’s suggestion that bribe-giving be legalised dolls up corruption at precisely the time the Indian people are displaying their opposition to it, says P Sainath. The simplistic assumption that bribe-givers will ring the bell after the bribe ignores the realities of power equations in our society and assumes access to legal recourse

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The making of the Lokpal Bill

By Rakesh Shukla

A comparison of the government’s draft Lokpal Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill of Anna Hazare and other civil society members reveals that the likely areas of contention for the joint committee drafting the Bill will be the Lokpal’s power to entertain complaints directly from the public, initiate suo moto investigations with the powers of a police officer and order prosecution of the guilty

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Five years after SEZs: Chronicle of revenues forgone

SEZs, touted as the silver bullet for India’s economic ambitions, appear to have lost their sheen as the Direct Tax Code threatens to withdraw the exemptions offered them. We have only just begun to realise how many thousands of crores of revenue have been forgone due to tax holidays granted to SEZs, says Manshi Asher, who secured some revealing statistics on this subject after invoking the RTI law

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The riddle of representation: Issues in the caste census debate

For close to a century veils have been drawn over the backwardness of the Dalits and OBCs. It is time to draw the veil aside, gather the numbers and give the long-neglected OBCs their rightful voice in the affairs of the nation, says Cynthia Stephen in this historical perspective on the question of including caste in census data

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Of laws and holy cows

By Cynthia Stephen

In fulfilling its election promise of banning cow slaughter on religious grounds, the BJP government in Karnataka ignores the fact that it is not just minorities whose livelihood will be badly hit but also dalits and other poor sections of society who depend on the cattle industry for a living

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Give us our due

The quota within a quota demand in the Women’s Reservation Bill should be encouraged because women from the minority, dalit, and tribal sections want to articulate their own issues and organise under their own leadership since the mainstream feminists have for long given step-motherly treatment to their issues, says Cynthia Stephen

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Contextualising reservations for women

Tinkering with reservations has become our substitute for building a social infrastructure and enlarging the pie so everyone has more, writes Swarna Rajagopalan. But if accompanied by sincere efforts to deal with gender violence, education and healthcare for girls, the Women’s Reservation Bill could be a termination notice for gender inequality in India

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Killing democracy slowly

While there has been a furore over the Women’s Reservation Bill, the government has been attempting to push through the Nuclear Liability Bill, Communal Violence Bill and Biotechnology Regulation Bill without the discussion and consultation that are mandatory in a democracy, writes Manish 

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A new framework for sustainable mining

By Mukul Sharma

As the demand for minerals grows, the huge revenues generated from it are all too often fuelling conflicts and human rights violations, increasing poverty and undermining sustainable development. The new legislation the government is introducing must ensure transparency in allocation of mining concessions, and ensure participation of, and consultation with, communities affected by mining projects

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Grootboom, Mayawati and the Supreme Courts

The judiciary is always wary of intruding into the terrain of the legislature and executive. But increasingly, says Mukul Sharma, the courts in South Africa, Gambia and now in India with the Mayawati memorials case, feel it is their duty to question government’s resource allocation and policy prioritisation

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Why I did vote

Milind Wani writes a rejoinder to Ashish Kothari’s ‘Why I did not vote’, pointing out why a cynicism about the representative form of democracy is a cynicism about Indian citizens themselves

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Why I did not vote

Exercising your right to vote every five years is not democracy, a genuine participation at every level of decision-making is, says Ashish Kothari, outlining ways to make this possible

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Unfair wealth and fair elections

By Mukul Sharma

Is there a problem with having so many millionaires contesting the 2009 elections? Yes, says Mukul Sharma. It is not their riches themselves that are the problem, but their potential for misuse. Will a rich candidate from a mining district put his political power behind the displaced, for instance?

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Bharat's high-tension yojana

Where will the extra power come from to light up 78 million households, even if they are given electricity lines and if their villages boast transformers? A critique of the ambitious rural electrification programme, the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, by Rahul Goswami

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Winds of change set to sweep through Bretton Woods

By Richard Mahapatra

Developing countries are the sole market of the World Bank. But they collectively have only around 38% of its voting rights. All this is set to change, with developing nations set to get more representation and power. An exclusive report

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Unhappy highways: Economic growth, technology and alienation

Economic growth and technology may increase access to comforts, but may also induce a new individuation and social disintegration, says John Samuel  

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In praise of political parties

Political parties are crucial for the vitality of a democracy. But across the world, political parties have been reduced to mere electoral mechanisms, networks to capture power, says John Samuel

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The prince, the priest and the merchant

By John Samuel

We the people are supposed to be in charge of the modern manifestations of power. But are we? The secular democratic process is only the old Prince-Priest-Merchant nexus in disguise, says John Samuel

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The delusions of power: Beauty and the beast

By John Samuel

Everything small is beautiful these days. NGOs, busy with micro finance and micro politics for the poor, are small, beautiful -- and powerless. Meanwhile, the beast of markets and States can continue to dominate macro economics and politics. This neat division into micro and macro sustains the unjust power relationships that perpetuate impoverishment, inequality and injustice, says John Samuel

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The limits of judicial activism

By Rakesh Shukla

Today, everything from river pollution to the selection of the cricket team has become the purview of judicial activism. Is it time to put the genie back in the bottle and confine the courts' public interest jurisdiction to its original purpose of ensuring justice to the poor and exploited?

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Towards a dollar democracy?

By Aseem Shrivastava

Nandan Nilekani recently said that a city like Bangalore that contributes 60% of a state's GDP should have more than 7% of the state assembly seats. Nilekani and others are in effect arguing for a dollar democracy, where one rupee will count for one vote, rather than one person

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Man does not live by bread alone

By Darryl D'Monte

Bhutan's concept of Gross National Happiness, like E F Schumacher's concept of Buddhist economics, Hazel Henderson's compassionate economics, and the modern measure of Happy Life Years, is a recognition that progress is inextricably linked not with material growth or financial gain but with the absence of suffering or samsara. Darryl D'Monte reports from the world's last Shangri-La

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Towards democratic governance

By John Samuel

The people must reclaim the institutions of governance: questions need to be asked, policies need to be monitored, rights need to be claimed and accountability needs to be asserted

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Preconditions for an empowered India

By John Samuel

What are the enabling conditions for the empowerment of a billion people?

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Letting doctors get away with negligence

By Rakesh Shukla

The medical profession has consistently resisted the jurisdiction of the courts. A recent Supreme Court judgment puts medical professionals in India above the criminal law of the land. But surely it is hazardous to start carving out exceptions to the uniform applicability of criminal law, asks Supreme Court advocate Rakesh Shukla

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Power to the people

By Deepak L Xavier

The Indian government's National Electricity Policy 2005 appears to be governed by the liberalisation themes of competition and privatisation. What does the policy imply for domestic consumers and farmers?

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Citizens who seek redress

By Darryl D'Monte

A citizen in India tends to go to the public authorities 13 times to get a single complaint redressed! But increasingly, citizens are putting the State and its governance under the scanner. At a recent workshop 'Developing Mechanisms for Public Accountability in Urban Services', experts emphasised the ways in which citizens are being empowered to seek redress

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What is good governance?

By John Samuel

It's definitely not just the effective management of economic resources, as the World Bank believes. It's about freedom, human rights, public accountability and people's participation

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Freedom postponed: Stories of broken promises

By John Samuel

When the right to live with dignity is denied to millions, the Millennium Development Goals are a million miles away from the poorest of the poor

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Economics vs ecology: Progress within limits

By Darryl D'Monte

A recent meeting in Tuscany, Italy, explored the stormy relationship between economics and ecology and questioned the concept of growth without limits

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Banning the majority from voting

By Darryl D'Monte

A recent petition in the Bombay High Court seeks to ban slumdwellers from voting. The argument would be that squatters don't occupy land legally and don't pay taxes and therefore deserve to be disenfranchised. The argument doesn't wash, says Darryl D'Monte. Surely citizenship and voting rights are not defined by the dwellings and structures one occupies?

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Opening the Planning Commission to the people: Sayeeda Hameed

By Rajashri Dasgupta

Sayeeda Hameed, member of the Planning Commission, talks about a system to invite people's participation in the planning process

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Two-child norm puts panchayats under pressure

By Rashme Sehgal

The mandatory two-child norm for panchayat members, that exists in many Indian states, is proving to be more divisive than productive, with many women being forced to step down from their posts despite having little say in the number of children they have

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Putting a premium on diversity

By Darryl D'Monte

This year's Human Development Report comes as a breath of fresh air. It emphasises that enjoying cultural freedoms in the 21st century is a basic human right. And that instead of viewing diversity as a drag on development, we should consider cultural liberty an integral component of social and economic progress

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'The challenge is to make panchayati raj institutions vehicles for both governance and delivery'

By Rashme Sehgal

Mani Shankar Aiyar, India's new minister for panchayati raj, talks about the need for a full-fledged ministry for local self-government, and the achievements of the 1 million women who are now active at the panchayat level

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Environment: will the new government be any more responsible?

By Ashish Kothari

What does the new government need to do to tackle environmental degradation head-on? Ashish Kothari an environmental manifesto

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The feel-good factory: A government-media joint venture

By P Sainath

Amidst the orgy of celebration over India Shining, P Sainath points out that the fastest-growing sector in these golden years has not been IT or automobiles, but inequality

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