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Showing posts from May, 2016

Nothing Gandhian about prohibition in Gujarat; it’s a British legacy

By Rajiv Shah
I lived in Moscow for seven long years from 1986 to 1993 as Patriot correspondent, and travelled almost all corners of the ex-Soviet Union – from its Far-Eastern cities to its northern most port Arkhangelsk, many of the Central Asian towns which were later ravaged by internecine ethnic clashes and, of course, the cultural capital, St Petersburg. Yet, what surprises many of my acquaintances and friends is, how couldn’t I “learn” to give up my essentially teetotal characteristic?
Even the doyen of Indian diplomats, TN Kaul, couldn’t change me during his ambassadorship in Moscow. At embassy parties, not once, but several times over he would approach me, saying, “This is bad, Rajiv! You must at least hold a glass of wine!” I would obey, hold the glass till the toast was over, and abandon it immediately thereafter.
Not that I haven’t ever sipped alcohol. During informal gatherings in Moscow, I did indeed taste home-made wine, as also Georgian and Moldavian wine, rated pretty hig…

Is CSR gender insensitive? Corporate India fails to address sanitary needs of teenage, school-going girls

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study on how corporate social responsibility (CSR) is being used for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme, Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) has revealed that, despite “a vast body of research” showing that individual attitudes are the “key reasons for high open defecation rates” in India, “only 20% of companies reported integrating behaviour change into their programmes.
Titled “CSR in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): What are India’s top companies up to?”, the study has been facilitated by the India Sanitation Coalition (ISC), and carried out by a research team consisting of Anushree Parekh, Poorvaja Prakash, Richa Mukerjee and Dakshini Bhattacharya.
In all 100 companies with the largest CSR budgets on the BSE 500 were selected. Of the 90 companies that supported WASH programmes, 45 were from the heavy engineering and manufacturing sector, 19 from the banking sector, 11 from IT and finance, six from healthcare, five from the fast- moving consumer goo…

World Bank's full marks to UPA? Poverty rates "sharply reduced" in 2005-12, despite severe drought in 2009-10

By Rajiv Shah
A new World Bank study, released ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi completing two years in office, has said that the India’s national poverty rates fell much more sharply between 2005 and 2012, when the UPA government ruled the country, compared the decade between 1994 and 2005.
The study, carried out by Ambar Narayan and Rinku Murgai, and circulated as a policy research paper, says that poverty rates “decreased from 45 to 37 percent of the population between 1994 and 2005”, and “fell a further 15 percentage points in the next seven years, with similar patterns seen in both rural and urban areas”.
“This was a three‐fold increase in pace, as the country reduced poverty by 2.2 percentage points per year during 2005‐12, relative to the 0.7 percentage point per year decline between 1994 and 2005”, the World Bank study, titled “Looking Back on Two Decades of Poverty and Well-Being in India”, says.
Even during the period between 2005 and 2012, the study says, there were “two d…

"Strong evidence" of discrimination against Muslims seeking house on rent in Delhi: Helsinki Institute study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study by a top Helsinki-based institute has found “strong evidence of discrimination against Muslim applicants” seeking to take house on rent in the National Capital Region of Delhi. The study is based, to quote, “A web-based audit of the market for rental properties offered directly by owners/landlords using a sample of 170 rental properties in the Delhi region.”
Pointing towards the discrimination of Muslims, the study says, “Where the probability that a landlord contacts an upper-caste applicant is 0.35, this is only 0.22 for a Muslim applicant.”
“This points to a significant disadvantage faced by Muslim applicants relative to upper-caste Hindus, who must expend significantly more effort to find housing”, the paper says, noting, however, that OBCs or Dalits do not face such strong discrimination.
“We fail to find statistically significant evidence of bias against Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC)”, the authors of the study say, adding, “Mu…

Indian elite diverting water to industry: Result of "flawed" notion that river waters shouldn't go waste into sea

By Rajiv Shah
A top water resources expert, Shripad Dharmadhikary, has said in a recent paper that, taking advantage of a “flawed” policy perspective, continuing since independence, that river waters should not be allowed to “go waste” into the sea, India's powerful elite has been seeking to increasingly divert waters for industrial purpose.
Giving the example of Maharashtra, Dharmadhikary says, in the last several years, the state has “witnessed the diversion of huge amounts of water from irrigation to industry”. He adds, “In the last ten years, the total water diverted annually from irrigation allocation for industry and urban areas is close to 1,900 million cubic meters.”
Formerly with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and now heading Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, Dharmadhikary's paper, titled “Value as a Justification in Water Resources Development”, has been published in a new book, “Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis”, edited by two environmental …

“Wasted” waters of two re-profiled rivers — Narmada and Sabarmati

By Rajiv Shah
I have in my hand a new book, “Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis”, edited by two scholar-activists whom I have known for a little while for their insightful reports on ground-level environmental issues and their implications – Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon.
While I found most of the papers published in the book (published by Sage) too theoretical, hence would possibly require expert reaction, two of them interesting me. The first one is a paper by Shripad Dharmadhikary, a passionate expert on river systems, once associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. What interested me in Dharmadhikary’s paper is his strong, perhaps unique, argument on how the Narmada project was conceived to put into practice the “flawed” notion that water should not be allowed to go waste into the sea, and how this concept has ruined ecological systems.
The second paper that interested me is by Himanshu Burte, faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Burte deals with Ahm…

Modi’s educational qualifications — An unnecessary controversy

By Rajiv Shah
Ever since the controversy – if can be called that – broke out last year about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BA and MA degrees, I had been informally telling some of those involved in questioning his educational qualifications, including Ahmedabad-based political activist Roshan Shah and a few scribes, that, what I know for sure is, he was an MA student in Gujarat University. I am naming Roshan – whom I have found to be a fine person with good insights into local Gujarat issues, and a keen campaigner against Modi and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel on social media (something Modi’s opponents utterly lack) – because he was a kingpin in raising this and similar such controversies, citing RTI pleas and complaints.
Not that doubts about Modi’s educational qualifications did not exist earlier. They did exist even in my mind after he became Gujarat chief minister. Yet, these doubts seemed to have got cleared, when during an informal gathering, I asked Dinesh Shukla, a ve…