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Debraj Bhattacharya
Thursday , February 12, 2015

Has Delhi joined a global pink tide?

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Since the victory of AAP in the Delhi Assembly election on February 11 there has been a series of analyses of why they have won both in the print and electronic media. The key debate that seems to have dominated both television and print has been whether this is a local Delhi centric verdict or whether this result has a national significance. Needless to say BJP has tried to portray this as an aberration, a small election in a small state, while the opposition has tried to say that there is a national significance and this shows popular anger against the Modi Government. Let me try to pose another question - is this election result part of a global trend, where a new kind of left is emerging around the world? Is the New Delhi result part of a global pink tide? Consider recent election results around the world. ....

Saturday , December 27, 2014

India's Tryst with Entrepreneurship

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Ever since India along with Brazil, China and Russia was declared by Goldman Sachs as the emerging giants of the world economy there has been a steady increase in publication of books on various aspects of 'emerging' India. Hindol Sengupta's book Recasting India fits in within this trend. Before moving on to more substantial discussion, let me point out that the book is lucidly written and it took me only a couple of days to finish it. Sengupta, being a journalist, has the eye for stories, and the fingers to pen them down. He knows how to keep the readers engaged, can effortlessly move from a personal anecdote to analysis of financial data to discussion on national trends on a particular topic. The chapters are coherently structured with catchy titles and section heads. The book is both informative and readable. Sengupta's book has a hero and a....

Saturday , November 15, 2014

The Kiss of Globalisation: Is India Ready for It?

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Consider the following facts from recent past: (a) Narendra Modi announces to the world a new slogan "Make in India", with the aim of transforming India into a manufacturing hub of the world. (b) India sends a satellite to Mars. Entire country rejoices. (c) Dinanath Batra's attack on Wendy Donninger and other scholars for offending the Hindu sentiment. (d) From Kochi to Kolkata to Hyderabad to Delhi youth revolts against moral policing by daring to kiss in public and throwing a challenge at Hindu rightwing organisations. (e) Smriti Irani says that students must read Sanskrit and not German. (f) A young man and a woman who belong to two different religious communities are on the run and being chased by Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists. (g) Modi says that ancient Indians must have known plastic surgery as is evident from the face of Ganesha. ....

Tuesday , September 23, 2014

Kolkata: a tale of two rallies

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The dream of "Paribartan" or change in West Bengal has turned into a nightmare at the end of three years and a bit of the TMC regime. Over the last three years, there have been many cases of rapes, sexual assault, assault on teachers and academic institutions, violence against party workers of opposition parties, violence during Panchayat and Loksabha elections. In August, an ICDS worker in Kanthi (East Medinipur district) who is the wife of a CPIM party worker was allegedly paraded naked and then raped and murdered. This was also accompanied by the increasing heat of Saradha ponzi scam where the ongoing CBI investigation led to the arrest of TMC leader and former DGP, Rajat Majumdar. The Chief Minister, meanwhile, had a high profile visit to Singapore and it was told that lot of investment is on its way from Singapore, even though the reality of the state was....

Saturday , August 02, 2014

Human Development Index - a weapon of the weak?

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If you are interested in 'development' you would probably know about the Human Development Index. Although the statistical calculation involved in arriving at the score for each country according to the Human Development Index is a matter for statisticians, most of us know that every year the UN brings out a report called the Human Development Report which apart from discussion on various issues also brings out ranking of countries according to Human Development Index. The countries are divided into four groups - (a) very high human development; (b) high human development; (c) medium human development, and (d) low human development. This index was first initiated in 1990. If we go back to the history of the concept of human development and the human development index we shall see that the two leading thinkers behind it were Mahbub-ul-Haq of Pakistan and Amartya Sen from India. The idea behind developing....

Thursday , June 26, 2014

Modi's India: The first 30 days

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Narendra Modi led NDA government has completed its first 30 days in office following a massive electoral victory in May. While it is too early to pass any judgment as to whether the new government will be able to live up to the expectations of the people who have voted him to power, we can nonetheless see certain trends emerging. Let me briefly try to recap some of the crucial developments happening over the last one month. Modi and his Ministers India's Modi era started with a gala swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 26. This was attended by the elite of India ranging from corporate tycoons to spiritual gurus. The leaders of the SAARC countries, including Nawaz Sharif were also present. Soon after, Modi announced a new catchy mantra "minimum government, maximum governance", whatever that means. In effect it meant fewer Ministers but....

Monday , May 05, 2014

Time to re-think MGNREGS

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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme is probably the most important rural development scheme of Government of India. Indeed if you go to a Panchayat office responsible for the implementation of the scheme you will see that at least 50% of its time is spent implementing this scheme. The scheme of course followed from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 and it was rolled out across the country since 2006. After eight years it is now necessary to have a fresh look at this scheme and ask what difference is it making to a poor person's life? Is there a better way in which the money allocated can be spent in order to reduce rural poverty? The data released by Government of India for 2013-14 makes interesting reading. Whereas the Act guarantees up to 100 days of employment, the national average of number of days for which....

Friday , April 04, 2014

Why voters are not as powerful as they are made out to be

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Every time there is an election in India, especially a Parliamentary election, we see certain myths about the voter in India being propagated. Indian and foreign media harp on the fact that in the elections, every voter has one vote and therefore the rich and poor are equally powerful to decide who will rule the country. Celebrities come out and say that all of us should go and vote and take part in the selection of the leaders of the country. Voting is the pious responsibility of the Indian citizen and the fact that every time an election takes place large number of poor people goes out to vote shows how important voting is for the poor Indians and how this reflects the triumph of democracy. There are of course a few isolated acts of violence here and there and a few criminals do....

Friday , February 07, 2014

Seven Rules of Populist Politics

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You want to enter politics and transform your country? You want to be a popular politician? You want to be seen on television every evening? Here are seven golden rules that you need to follow in order to achieve success. 1. Create an easy to understand villain Remember that politicians you are competing with are not just your "opposition." That is too tame a word. They must be converted into a "villain", the archetypical "bad guy". Whether it is a comic book version of Ramayana or a popular film like Sholay what makes a narrative a hit is the villain. In populist politics too, the villain is very important. If you cannot show before your prospective voters a villain who is responsible for all the bad things happening to them, all their misery and their poverty, then you do not stand a chance in populist politics. However....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Significance of the Polio Success

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We love our stars. Whether it is Cinema, Cricket, Politics or Development we like to see stars on our television screen. As soon as a movement makes news the media starts focusing on certain individuals - whether it is the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Anti-corruption movement we instantly see certain stars emerging as the focus of media attention. The audience, the people of India, believes that certain super heroes will come and transform the country. Somebody will bring "good governance" if elected as PM, somebody will rid the society of corruption, somebody will do this, somebody will do that, and we shall all worship them for their great heroic achievements. In the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata we are forever looking for our Rama or Arjuna to fight against evil and take the country forward. This is where the significance of the success of India in eradicating polio....


More about Debraj Bhattacharya

Debraj Bhattacharya is an alumnus of Presidency College, Calcutta, and currently is with Institute of Social Sciences, a civil society organisation, where he researches on contemporary development issues. He has earlier edited a book of essays, "Of Matters Modern: The Experience of Modernity in Colonial and Post-Colonial South Asia" (2008) and has written several reports on rural development issues of India. He also writes in more popular vein in newspapers in English and Bengali.



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