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Governance

Backgrounders

Governance : Background & Perspective

By Binu S Thomas

Governance is the new buzzword in development discourse. The World Bank and other international financial institutions identify public sector management, transparency, legal framework, accountability and information as the key components of governance. In a country like India, which has the largest number of poor people in the world and also ranks high on the list of most-corrupt nations, good governance involves fighting corruption, improving bureaucratic and political accountability and promoting people's participation and public-private partnerships

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»Who will bell the cat? By Swarna Rajagopalan
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Analysis

Why muddy the debate around AFSPA?

By Sumona DasGupta

debate around AFSPAA 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

The principle of civilian supremacy in India has been well entrenched since independence in 1947.  Unlike some of its South Asian neighbours and several African and Latin American countries emerging out of the colonial experience in the 1950s and ’60s, India has never witnessed a coup d etat .
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»Direct Benefits Transfer as pro-poor populism By Karishma Mutreja
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»‘Media trials are the bane of jurisprudence’ By Rashme Sehgal
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»150 serious attacks on RTI activists since 2005: Aruna Roy By Diva Arora
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Features

Urgent need for political party reforms

By Nripendra Misra and Tannu Singh

Non-compliance by political parties
An RTI application unearthed the fact that only 8% of 1,196 registered political parties have submitted annual reports regarding contributions above Rs 20,000 to the Election Commission. And only 15% have submitted their audited financial statements!

Political party reforms are critical in the context of electoral reforms and need to be addressed urgently.

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»Six steps to a more effective parliament By Nripendra Misra and Tannu Singh
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»MGNREGA in UP Bundelkhand: Regular irregularities By Ashok Gopal
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»Batulan Khatoon's farming advisors wear khaki By Alka Pande
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Books & Reports

Last man first

By Nandana Reddy

The late LC Jain’s new book titled ‘Civil Disobedience’ illustrates how corruption has become the norm and ‘India Shining’ the cover-up for all our ills. And how the battle for democratic decentralisation today has become one to save the state itself from a corporate takeover

We live in very troubled times and with his book Civil Disobedience, published in 2011 by The Book Review Literary Trust, the late Lakshmi Chand Jain has gifted us a talisman to guide us through them.

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»Manipur: A history of strife By K S Subramanian
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»The poor pay bribes of over Rs 8,000 million to access public services By Deepti Priya Mehrotra
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»'The government is over-stretched; we need stronger public-private partnerships' By Rashme Sehgal
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MDG 2015

India's progress on MDGs found tardy

Despite some progress in primary education, assured rural employment and access to potable water, India continues to lag behind in realising the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015 by the United Nations, says a new report

With just five years to the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), India is not on track to meeting a majority of targets, including health, unless a concerted national effort is made by government and all sections of civil society, according to the third ‘Millennium Development Goals -– India Country Report 2009’, prepared by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. 

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»Progress to MDGs slowing down, says latest UN report
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»South Asia still lags behind in MDGs: latest UN report
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»Millennium Development Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
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Changemakers

'The loss of idealism is unacceptable': LC Jain

By Ashok Gopal

 LC Jain, noted economist and policymaker, died on November 14. In this interview with Infochange in 2007, he looked back at his work over half-a-century, tracing India's problems to an over-reliance on the bureaucracy to helm India's development, the erosion of idealism, and our failure to remember what Gandhi knew well -- nothing should and can be done without the involvement of the people

Closely associated with various development efforts in India for nearly 50 years, as a policymaker, analyst and later, teacher, observer and mentor, Lakshmi Chand (LC) Jain firmly believes the Gandhian way of thinking and doing things is as relevant today as it was in Gandhi’s time.

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Stories of change

'We are not neech, we are netas'

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

From organising a two-day workshop on NREGS for the Noniya (dalit) community to meeting the chief minister to get a primary healthcare centre sanctioned and organising an all-castes community bhojan in a harijan basti, dalit women panchayat leaders are making a real difference in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are among India’s so-called ‘Bimaru’ states: they are ‘ailing’ in that they lag behind with regard to most parameters of development. Yet, within these states, working class dalit women have not only won panchayat elections but have worked tirelessly to empower dalit communities in their villages. These are shining examples of grassroots action that can ultimately change the face of the country.

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»Participation for change
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»PROOF: Bangalore moves a step closer towards accountable governance
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»PAC brings out report cards and surveys on governance issues
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News

NAC recommends government acquisition of 100% of land for public and private purposes

In a departure from earlier suggestions, the National Advisory Committee backs the idea that government can acquire 100% of land required for public and private purposes. And, that landowners be given six times the price of a plot in the area. It also said affected families must participate in and be consulted on the acquisition.

The powerful National Advisory Committee (NAC) has come out in support of the government acquiring 100% of land for public and private purposes “by offering very good compensation to landowners”. It said no private sector player could buy land for projects where more than 400 people are being displaced.

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»Mass support for Hazare's anti-corruption bill
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»Another MGNREGS activist killed for exposing corruption
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»'Institution more important than individual': SC in CVC case
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Statistics

State wise social sector spending as percentage of total expenditure

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Conflict resolution & Governance

Maoist violence and the government's response

By K S Subramanian

The constitutional obligation to take special care of the protection and development of adivasis and dalits was diluted when the Union home ministry transferred this role to a new ministry of social justice, writes K S Subramanian, former director of the home ministry’s Research and Policy Division, which studied emerging Naxalite violence in the context of increasing atrocities against adivasis

In the late-1970s, EMS Namboodiripad had perceptively observed that India has “democracy at the top and bureaucracy at the bottom”.

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»Defining terrorism By K S Subramanian
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»Innocents caught in the crossfire By K S Subramanian
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»Why atrocities against dalits and adivasis continue By K S Subramanian
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Worldview

Love thy neighbour: reminiscences of a trip to Pakistan

By John Samuel

We must learn how to differentiate between people and governments, writes John Samuel. Governments construct public perceptions via methods ranging from curriculum, to media, to academic discourse. Ordinary people, a vast majority of them, just want to live happy lives: they want jobs, they want peace, they want security. In this there is little difference between the people of Pakistan and the people of India

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»Global conversations on democracy: The search for democratisation By John Samuel
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»The shifting sands of multi-polar politics By John Samuel
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»Managing social change organisations  By John Samuel
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Security for all

Security in a world of people on the move

By Swarna Rajagopalan

 
security consequences of this increased mobilityOpen societies, unfettered communication, easy travel, free interaction between people, ideas and goods are all desirable factors of an increasingly mobile world. But what are the security consequences of this increased mobility? How should one monitor or regulate the flow of people?

No one is an island; this cliché reflects the peripatetic nature of the human experience. In our own region, far from being isolated and unchanging, Indians have always been part of a world in motion, encountering traders, missionaries, scholars, explorers, monks, raiders, invaders and settlers as part of their everyday social reality, across the length and breadth of this subcontinent.

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»Pulse readings: Public health and security By Swarna Rajagopalan
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»Making tough choices: Elections and security  By Swarna Rajagopalan
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»Security and democracy By Swarna Rajagopalan
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Small World

How many women in 2019?

By Swarna Rajagopalan

women in politics

How many more women will enter the political sphere between 2014 and 2019 depends on how creative and focused civil society’s efforts are—to find the women, convince parties, support campaigns and build women’s confidence and capacity, writes Swarna Rajagopalan

As we count down to the deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals and Beijing+20, the goal of gender equality will have to get a middling score, especially on the question of political participation.

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»Why sexual violence in conflict is an Indian problem By Swarna Rajagopalan
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»Allergic about autonomy By Swarna Rajagopalan
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»Stirred by a foreign hand? By Swarna Rajagopalan
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Right to information

Shehla Masood: Fighter till the end

By Kamayani Bali-Mahabal

Shehla Masood, Slain RTI activist

Shehla Masood, RTI and wildlife conservation activist who was shot dead on August 19, was campaigning for a law to protect whistleblowers, investigating Madhya Pradesh’s record on conservation, and questioning the mining activities of diamond major Rio Tinto in MP.

It was Diwali 2010, and this was the festive message I received from Shehla Masood: “HAPPY DIWALI IN PENCH - Today nothing can be more exciting than the news of the Pench tigress giving birth to five cubs, and Saraswati elephant giving birth to a baby elephant calf. Both the mothers and their young ones are safe and healthy.”

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»Speak up, speak out By Anumeha Yadav
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»Goa governor summoned by state information commissioner
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»E-literate paanwalla unearths Rs 1 crore NREGS scam
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Who will bell the cat?

At the heart of the controversy over the Lokpal Bill is the question of accountability, or ensuring that the state delivers on its mandates without infringing citizens’ rights, says Swarna Rajagopalan. But who is to enforce accountability -- state, society, civil society? Or citizens themselves?

Read more...

Governance : Background & Perspective

By Binu S Thomas

Governance is the new buzzword in development discourse. The World Bank and other international financial institutions identify public sector management, transparency, legal framework, accountability and information as the key components of governance. In a country like India, which has the largest number of poor people in the world and also ranks high on the list of most-corrupt nations, good governance involves fighting corruption, improving bureaucratic and political accountability and promoting people's participation and public-private partnerships

Read more...

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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Urgent need for political party reforms

By Nripendra Misra and Tannu Singh

An RTI application unearthed the fact that only 8% of 1,196 registered political parties have submitted annual reports regarding contributions above Rs 20,000 to the Election Commission. And only 15% have submitted their audited financial statements!

Non-compliance by political parties

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Six steps to a more effective parliament

Arvind Kejriwal’s outburst on parliamentarians is only the latest display of the disdain we have for our MPs. Nripendra Misra & Tannu Singh suggest ways to remedy the governance and financial setbacks caused by disruptions, logjams and standoffs in parliament, and bring in parliamentary reform

parliamentary reforms

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MGNREGA in UP Bundelkhand: Regular irregularities

By Ashok Gopal

The modalities of fraud detected in one village, Kolawal Raipur, in Banda district of UP Bundelkhand, reveal how the national rural employment guarantee scheme is systematically subverted for private gain

Read more...

Batulan Khatoon's farming advisors wear khaki

By Alka Pande

In poor and underdeveloped Sonebhadra district of UP, plagued by extremism and crime, the men in khaki are giving the concept of community policing a new meaning. They are taking on everything from water management to livelihood-generation and healthcare

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The cost of India's MPs

India’s MPs have given themselves a threefold hike in salary, now earning 68 times the country’s average salary. But no conditions of service have changed. In the USA, for example, members of Congress cannot earn more than 15% from outside of their Congressional salary. In India, the average assets of 304 MPs who contested in 2004 and then re-contested in 2009 grew 300%!

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The case of the disappearing ponds

By Pradeep Baisakh

An RTI inquiry in Kusmal village in Orissa’s Nuapada district revealed that though in official records seven farm ponds have been built under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, not a single pond exists in reality. Across this district, which has high levels of migration, Rs 77 lakh has been misappropriated under the job guarantee scheme by unscrupulous administration officials at all levels

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Who gains from the Games?

Viewers of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa see only the multimillion-dollar stadiums constructed, not the poor who were displaced by them in Cape Town. Similarly, the Rs 20,000-crore Commonwealth Games jamboree will benefit only the posh heart of New Delhi, not its poorest citizens who are being evicted, says a new report from the Housing and Land Rights Network

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The dry well of UPA promises

By Anosh Malekar

The Wada Na Todo people’s movement for governance accountability assessed the UPA government’s achievements on livelihood, education, health and social exclusion one year into its second term and concluded that the government was focused more on image-building than people’s welfare

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Why does India condone corruption?

China recently executed two people involved in the melamine-adulterated milk powder scam. In India, thousands of lives are endangered by spurious drugs and adulterated food, and yet no action seems to be taken. Why, asks Suman Sahai

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The adivasi voice

By KS Subramanian

In the frequent debates on government and civil society response to Maoist violence in central India where Operation Green Hunt has been launched, the views of the adivasi communities themselves are missing. A recent people’s hearing in New Delhi on the impact of land acquisition and resource grab on adivasis allowed their voices to be heard

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Do pro-people legislations actually work for the poor?

By Pradeep Baisakh

After three years of fighting for his right to unemployment allowance under NREGA, and to find out under the RTIA why the allowance has been withheld and the erring authorities not been penalised, Kailash Nayak has got nothing. And to top it all, he has gone missing and the police claim they cannot trace him

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People's movement against corruption

By Renu Ramanath

From Plachimada to Kasargod and Guruvayur, a wide range of people’s movements have joined hands in Kerala to battle corruption. Their definition of corruption includes the looting of natural resources, anti-people and anti-nature development policies, and the exploitation of adivasis and dalits

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A tool of empowerment only enables more exploitation

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

Rigorous and frequent social audits are the only way to make the NREGA effective, as these audits in two gram panchayats in Karnataka showed. The audits revealed that elected officials fool or bully beneficiaries into signing away their rights and monies, refuse them work they are entitled to, and threaten NGOs who are seen to be on the ‘side’ of the villagers

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Where is NREGS heading?

By Pradeep Baisakh

The biggest danger the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme faces is that the people it is meant to benefit will lose faith in it. In far too many instances guilty officials are not punished, social audits are not followed up, payment of wages is delayed and violence against those seeking to make the scheme work goes unchecked

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My name is not Khan

Nevertheless, Mukul Sharma finds himself questioned and detained by immigration authorities all over the world. Why is it that governments claim the right to exercise authority over their borders, but more often than not forget their obligation to respect the rights of people?

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The activistocracy

Another world is certainly possible, but is another World Social Forum, wonders Achal Prabhala, recalling the crucial debates at the plenaries between crypto-autonomists and anarcho-syndicalists or whatever, while the masses slept in the back rows and indigenous people sang and shouted “Down Down World Bank!” every time a camera crew passed by

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Three sarpanches, no justice

By Aparna Pallavi

Gajjudeori panchayat in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandla district has three sarpanches, backed by three different panchayat secretaries. All three sarpanches claim to be the ‘real’ one, and all of them possess and use the official seals! Despite repeated appeals to the authorities, no one wants to get involved in local politics to resolve this strange situation

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A scarred nation celebrates

Not everything will change with the election of Obama, says Gautam Bhan who watched America celebrate the election of Barack Obama, but change it will. Race will not disappear, but it will never be the same again. Structural inclusion and inequality might not vanish tomorrow, but its pipes and planks will be made visible

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A circle of good people

By Nicholas Paul Gill

The Ennangalin Sangamam (Confluence of Thought) is an annual event in Tamil Nadu that brings together neighbourhood volunteers. This year, around 500 volunteers shared their stories - of enabling eye donations, helping the disabled find employment or educating prisoners in Madurai

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Social entrepreneurs make it their business to change India

By Frederick Noronha

A social entrepreneur recognises a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organise, create, and manage a venture to forge social change. The first international conference on social entrepreneurship was held at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences recently

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Engaging citizens: Lessons from Brazil's experiences with participatory governance

By Andrea Cornwall

Brazil's Citizens' Constitution of 1988 created the legal basis for the development of some of the world's most progressive democratic institutions

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New Age crusaders stand up only for their own

By Freny Manecksha

The class with its cell phones and laptops has assumed the garb of the New Age crusader. The media is celebrating this middle class activism. But there are major exclusions based on class and caste in this court of public opinion

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'Fixing' the Vidarbha BPL list

By Aparna Pallavi

Around 250,000 families have protested against the rigging of the below poverty line (BPL) lists in Maharashtra's Vidarbha districts, which are in the grip of a severe agricultural crisis, and where inclusion in the list is essential for the poor to access their entitlements

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Sweden's green agenda

By Darryl D'Monte

Ninety-five per cent of all Swedes believe it is important to do something about climate change; two out of every three think it is very important. Sixty Stockholm families have embarked on a novel experiment related to 'smart consumption'

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NREGA: Challenges in implementation

By Tanushree Sood

Seven months into India's ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, guaranteeing 100 days of employment a year to every rural household in 200 districts, several problems of implementation are being reported from the field

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Using their arrows for sport, not war

By Rupa Chinai

From sports clubs that build team spirit to special schools for dropouts, it's ordinary people who are working to strengthen and develop Bodoland

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'Only those who can pay bribes survive'

By Rupa Chinai

Northeastern India is apparently on the move: everywhere there is hurtling traffic, gaudy and unplanned construction, new roads. But where exactly is Bodoland, which won a long battle for quasi-autonomous status recently, headed? Infant and maternal mortality rates for the Bodos are amongst the highest in the country, poverty and indebtedness dog the majority of the people, and there is a crisis of governance. This is the first in a special series on Bodoland

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The big hope: Transparency marks the NREGA in Dungarpur

By Anosh Malekar

A social audit across 800 villages in drought-prone Dungarpur district in Rajasthan is a shining example of how public vigilance and a proactive administration can combine to see that the rural employment guarantee Act is successfully implemented

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Where has the money gone?

By Anosh Malekar

A social audit exposes the corruption in Rajasthan's employment guarantee works. This should not discredit the hard-won 100 days work guarantee for India's millions, but make citizens and civil society more vigilant to corrupt practices

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Mineral rush

By Rahul Goswami

Kalinganagar in Orissa is only the latest in a series of bloody confrontations between the state and the people over India's minerals industry. What are the imperatives of the international iron and steelmaking industry, and the attendant mineral extraction, that engender such a ruthless response by the state, and its complicity in ensuring that the interests of industry remain paramount? A special report

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Consent cannot be manufactured by guns

By Vidhya Das

Protestors have gathered on the road to the Kalinganagar industrial area in Orissa. The bodies of four of those killed in police firing on January 2, are laid out here. This on-the-spot report records the seething anger against the industries that are usurping the lands, livelihoods and basic rights of adivasi farmers

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Traditional grassroots democracy: Kerala's sea courts

By N P Chekkutty

Kerala's traditional sea courts, or katal kotathi, were the most effective form of grassroots democracy in the region for centuries. Now, thanks to government apathy, administrative lapses, modern technology and capital-intensive practices, they have become defunct, polarising fishing communities in the state and prompting violent, often communal, clashes over disputes

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CSOs make a difference in UP panchayat elections

By Ashok Gopal

A large Pre-Election Voter Awareness Campaign (PEVAC) has had a positive impact on the recent UP panchayat elections. Hundreds of candidates selected by community organisations got the people's mandate; several women and dalits got elected from unreserved seats

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'If the politicians are corrupt, so too will be the people'

By Rashme Sehgal

An interview with Admiral R H Tahiliani (Retd), chairperson of Transparency International India and architect of India's largest ever corruption survey

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Land reform: The Forest Conservation Act is in the way

By Richard Mahapatra

Is the rigid Forest Conservation Act, 1980, derailing ongoing peace talks with the Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh and other states with its stringent provisions disallowing settlement rights on forestland?

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Women panchayat members: Catapulted into the public domain

By Rashme Sehgal

More than a decade after the 73rd constitutional amendment made it mandatory for 33% of all panchayat seats to be reserved for women, have women begun to play a significant role in local self-governance?

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Gandhi's ideals live on in Gandhigram

By Lalitha Sridhar

Starting out as one woman's dream, Gandhigram has grown into one of the largest umbrella institutions of its kind in India. The reason for its success is that instead of offering a readymade agenda for development it has responded to the needs of the community

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'No government wants to deal with a whistleblower'

By Rashme Sehgal

Pramod Kumar, Joint Secretary of the Haryana cadre, has alleged corruption at several levels in the state's education department, including the technical education programme and the district primary education programme. An interview with the whistleblower

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A movement, not a newspaper

By Shabnam Dhar

Prabhat Khabar is a newspaper that bucks the trend, puts people's concerns before entertainment, glamour and profitability, and still manages a circulation of over 2,50,000 copies

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Towards an alternative politics: People's movements join the electoral process

By Girija Godbole and Bhaskar Vira

Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy aren't the only activists who have made the difficult decision to step into the political arena. Last year in Madhya Pradesh, mass-based tribal organisations or sangathans decided to contest the assembly elections. Now the Samajwadi Jan Parishad is getting ready to field some candidates for the Lok Sabha election in MP, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra

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Gyani Baba says...

By Sandip Das

Folk art has been stimulating social change in rural India for decades. At a recent convention, folk artists from 12 Indian states discussed their role in changing mindsets and ensuring greater participation in governance

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Emergency without an Emergency? The two-child norm for panchayat members

By Mohan Rao

Laws to empower dalits, adivasis, OBCs and other sections of the poor through local self-government institutions are being circumvented by anti-democratic population policies. Indeed, if today fertility is to be a marker for citizenship, can the day be far behind when religion is?

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No kidding: Apex court enforces two-child norm

By Laxmi Murthy

Since the mid-' 90s, the Indian government has attempted to make a shift from the target-oriented approach to family planning to one of advocacy, quality of care and individual choice. Now, with the Supreme Court upholding the two-child norm for contesting panchayat elections and with some states formulating anti-people population policies, there seems to be a return to coercive methods

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