India Insight

Why should the government control inflation?

A labourer pulls a plastic sheet to cover sacks of paddy from rain at a grain market in Chandigarh January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay VermaThe ‘reform agenda’ understood as ‘market-oriented reform’ or giving more space to market mechanism in food and fuel economy seems to have been held up.

The government can not be seen to be doing away with subsidies just as prices are up. Its hand is stayed for now.

But is that enough for say the gross national happiness?

Food and fuel inflation has been in the news for a while.

The government has no short-term control over supply side issues causing price rise like a bad monsoon leading to a low harvest or floods, but it can control the rising demand by reining in liquidity.

It is guarded on doing so for fear of stifling growth.

Is that fair to the poor?

Prolonged inflation redistributes income in favour of the rich (who possess non-monetary assets) as the value of money, whatever little of it may be held by the poor, goes down.

In the text-book understanding of things, it should be bad politics in a country still debating the definition of the “poverty line”.

Omar Abdullah: a successful year in office?

Omar Abdullah, the youngest ever chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, completed a year in office on January 5.

Omar AbdullahThe administration, youth and people of the state had huge expectations from Abdullah after the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference formed a coalition government with the Congress party last year.

“When he came into people, he wanted to prove himself as an excellent leader, but looking down a year that hope is slowly but surely diminishing because nothing concrete is happening on the ground,” says Raja Muneeb, a local resident of Srinagar.

Should K.P.S. Gill be stripped of his medals?

Media reports saying that the central government may take away the medals of police officers convicted of crimes have had an unexpected impact.

A policeman holds a submachine gun during a function in Mumbai August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Arko DattaThis puts former Punjab DGP and “super cop” Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (better known as K.P.S. Gill) in the same dock as S.P.S. Rathore, the former Haryana police chief convicted of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra.

Is such a step justified?

Gill, convicted in 1996 for misbehaving with an IAS officer, has said it is not right to strip officers of medals with retrospective effect. The former DGP also said he won’t be bothered if his medals are taken away.

The economic paradox of north-east India

India’s seven northeastern states, known as the seven sisters, have been “on the map, but off the mind”, if one goes by the title of a Tehelka-organised seminar on the Northeast.

INDIAThe region, connected to India by a narrow stretch of land called the “chicken’s neck”, has been through a string of conflicts, seen the rise of many rebel groups, lack of infrastructure and poverty.

The World Bank describes conditions in the region as a low-level equilibrium of poverty, non-development, civil conflict and lack of faith in political leadership.

Telangana today, Gorkhaland tomorrow?

Protests in Hyderabad

The United Progressive Alliance at the centre has set in motion the process of carving out a separate Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh, a move that is likely to give impetus to other statehood demands.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram’s statement on Wednesday about initiating the process of forming the new state was prompted by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) party chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s resolve to fast unto death and violent protests in state capital Hyderabad, home to 1000 IT companies.

As jubilant TRS supporters danced on the streets of Hyderabad and shouted slogans, the Congress-led ruling alliance’s capitulation raises several questions about the likely impact of such a momentous decision.

Are we ready for genetically modified vegetables?

You may soon find India’s first genetically modified vegetable, Bt brinjal, making its way to your vegetable market.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which is responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered products, on Wednesday approved the environmental release of the vegetable but it still has to get a nod from the central government.

Many in India are concerned over the harmful effects of the vegetable and question the need for a genetically modified vegetable.

Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

Justice no longer delayed: Moily’s roadmap for reform

If Law Minister Veerappa Moily has his way, horror stories of years, even decades, spent waiting for a court verdict may soon be a thing of the past.

In an interview to a national daily this week, Moily said his ministry is planning to set up 5,000 new courts in the next three years, each working in three shifts to clear a backlog of  27.4 million cases pending in trial courts.

The Moily ministry’s roadmap for judicial reforms sees court cases resolved in just a year. At present, some cases drag on for 15 years or more.

What Afghanistan’s vote means for India

India and Pakistan, with their competitive strategic interest in Afghanistan, are keenly watching the war-battered nation’s election this week, the second since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.

The front-runner of that vote is incumbent President Hamid Karzai who is facing a stiff challenge from his former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. There are more than two dozen other candidates.

While a successful vote could mean a step toward achieving basic political and military stability in Afghanistan, its outcome holds crucial geopolitical significance for India and Pakistan.

The spectre of climate change in Kashmir

Its striking beauty is not the only thing that hits you when you visit Kashmir valley.

Though it was the kind of paradise I had imagined, I didn’t know there would be so many shanty towns set in such picturesque locales.

As I travelled through Kashmir, the breathtaking views did make me breathless but so did the smoke and dust. 

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