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Nihal Singh was the last of the Gentlemen Editors
These are such desperate times for journalism that S. Nihal Singh's departure at 89 triggers memories about a phase in the profession that dreams are made of. My personal journalistic trajectory trailed his rather closely. He was The Statesman's Special Correspondent in Singapore when I entered the portals of that once great newspaper as a cub reporter. I was, in fact, following Nihal's footsteps because this was how he entered the profession a decade earlier -- as a cub reporter. There were no schools of journalism then, but we received training of exactly the thoroughness which our respect ... read more

Will social media replace traditional media as democracy's fourth pillar?
The increasing polarisation among media in India -- and perhaps across the world -- has led to an unprecedented trust deficit in everyday news. What was once regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy today finds itself under the scrutiny of citizens as tainted news published with self-securing motives are an everyday occurence in our times. The times we live in are extremely challenging for the media. How media outlets have been hand-in-glove with political leaders and parties is no secret today. A journalist now commands far less respect in society than was the case even a decade ago. All ... read more

Women's Health in India still facing a recognition challenge
According to the OECD Health Statistics 2014: How Does India Compare report, the overall health spending accounted for only four per cent of the GDP in India in 2012, out of which only 33 per cent of health spending was funded by public sources. Further, health accounted for only 4.8 per cent of total government spending in 2012. India ranks extremely high even among other developing countries in out-of-pocket costs on healthcare. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2016-17 says that tobacco smoking is a major preventable risk factor for a number of causes of death. In India, 10.7 per cent adult ... read more

The future lies in preparing for jobs that don't exist today
It's April and a time to celebrate for millions of young Indians who have just finished their school-leaving class XII examinations. The days that follow help them unwind after months of exam preparation. The celebrations, however, are short-lived. The next many weeks and months are consumed preparing for admission tests for entry into a wide variety of disciplines. It's a tough time as they evaluate options that further their individual interests and make deliberate decisions that will determine what lies ahead of them -- perhaps for the rest of their lives. For young Indians, making it to ... read more

Make in India will not work -- unless there is a strategic plan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi set out an ambitious agenda when he announced his administration's Make in India programme in September 2014. The centerpiece of that programme is the National Manufacturing Policy, the purpose of which is to make India a global manufacturing hub. Its intent is to increase manufacturing's share of the country's GDP from 16 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022 and to create 100 million additional jobs by that year. The policy sets out 11 areas of concentration, including focus sectors, easing of regulatory environments and acquisition of technology and development. It ... read more

Nutrition-based welfare schemes play huge role in social upliftment
Our pursuit of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals - is largely dependent on equality in the distribution of resources and inclusive growth. In the 2017 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, assessing the performance of countries in terms of achieving the SDGs, India ranked 116th out of 157 countries. The need to step up our efforts was further emphasised when we ranked 93rd of 128 countries in the 2017 Social Progress Index -. Unlike the Human Development Index -, which takes into account the Gross Domestic Product - or other economic measures, SPI rankings are based on various indicators of ... read more

Aspirational Districts initiative a breath of fresh air
The NITI Aayog recently launched the first round of ranking of India's Aspirational Districts. The ranking, based on the socio-economic performance of 100+ districts, marks the initiation of a significant shift in development policy formulation in the country. Over the years, India has focused much energy on fostering economic growth, and to good effect. As the recently released Economic Survey reports, the economy grew by over 7.5 per cent annually from 2011 to 2016, and is projected by the World Bank to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world over the next three years. This growt ... read more

Chennai DefExpo: Will it initiate a new dawn for India's military?
The four-day DefExpo 2018 that opens outside Chennai on April 11 has been innovatively and generously showcased as India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub and a large number of platforms and military inventory items manufactured in India will be on display. The Chennai event is the 10th in the DefExpo series and hopes to position the country as a credible manufacturer and exporter of certain military inventory items and this focus on export as opposed to importing military hardware marks a conceptual shift in Indian defence policy. Military aircraft and naval ships will be part of the ... read more

Can you have your privacy and eat it too?
When Aristotle seminally made a distinction between the polis and the oikos, laying the early foundations of the confidential zone, he did so around clear societal demarcations and a very different understanding of what was private, and what privacy needed protection from. In an era of automated public and private spheres mediated by all-powerful, all-pervasive online intermediaries, these boundaries have dangerously blurred, and the fallout of this is visible for all to see. A number of the technologies that we spent the best part of the last decade celebrating have fallen from grace, and m ... read more

Why are Muslim achievements and liberal traditions not celebrated?
It does not surprise me that the continuing debate on the Op-Ed page of the Indian Express on the Muslim predicament skirts fundamental issues. The debate has been triggered by Ramachandra Guha disagreeing with Harsh Mander on the Muslim question. Mander's column, headlined Sonia, Sadly, expresses his hurt at Sonia Gandhi's public expression of fear that the Congress was being perceived as a Muslim Party. In the very first paragraph of his column, Guha plucks out a quote from Mander. A Dalit leader tells Muslims who come to political meetings: By all means come in large number to our rallies ... read more

The importance of children's books
Language development is very important in the early years -- from communicating using facial expressions, movement of the body and crying, to the use of verbal and sign language. The minds of young children are like sponges, they have the ability to absorb a lot more than adults do, they are able to acquire thousands of words and use them to communicate. Using the whole language approach -- listening, speaking, reading and writing -- lays the foundation for language development. A print-rich environment that encourages children to practice literacy skills is important, and one of the key hab ... read more

Linking solar energy with agriculture in India
The World Economic Forum annual meeting last month revealed some startling facts about India and the world's economy. The Oxfam survey highlighted that the richest one per cent in India accounted for 73 per cent of the wealth generated in the country, showcasing the worrying trend of income inequality. Recommendations to alleviate this included promotion of labour-intensive sectors and investment in agriculture. On the other hand, India is aggressively pushing for solar power with a 100 GW target for 2021-22. The installed capacity crossed 20 GW in 2017, with 18.4 GW in the form of ground-mo ... read more

Indian cinema needs to ride the new wave or drown
In several of my recent articles I have written about the crisis facing the Indian film industry, specially Bollywood. To reiterate a few of the problems again one can talk about few screens -, dwindling footfalls in cinemas, increasing entertainment options, over-production, lack of innovation and so on. Yet, in a peculiarly perverse sort of way, tinsel town will survive for now. Why this will happen in spite of mounting problems is interesting. Let's look at some of the reasons. For over a century, India has been obsessed with films. Our passionate love for anything showbiz is phenomenal. ... read more

Protectionism chorus by internet entrepreneurs a reaction to a far more serious problem
Protectionism has suddenly become the refuge of India's internet entrepreneurs. Some of them, and their investors, cite the emergence of big - internet companies from China to encourage the Indian government to go down that road. But as historian and political commentator Niall Fergusson, in his zealous pursuit of defending British imperialism, says, Empire was the least original thing that British did as everywhere in Eurasia there were empires. In the present context of preferring Indian companies to overseas corporations, a legitimate question is: How, in an era of big multi-national corp ... read more

UP discoms need to balance between income and expenditure
Like most Indian states, Uttar Pradesh's discoms have the twin challenge of universal household electrification while also ensuring revenue matches the cost of supply. But growing demands for electrification and subsidies, combined with a lack of revenue recovery from those consumers, conflicts with the discoms' ability to cover their costs. This has resulted in an increasing revenue gap that peaked at Rs 21,486 crore in FY 2016. Part of the reason for poor revenue generation is the inability of discoms to charge consumers the true cost of electricity. Other reasons include high aggregate te ... read more

The corrective measures required post-Facebook data breach
The Facebook data breach raises urgent questions that need to be answered responsibly by our industry -- given its terrifying scale and impact. In today's world, data is a form of soft power, and it is essential for those who wield it, to use it responsibly so that consumer confidence isn't compromised. The challenge is that, at an idea-generation stage, it can be difficult to draw a clear, bright line between whether data is being used for optimisation or for manipulation. Take, for instance, the Obama and Trump campaigns in the US. The former used the same digital platforms for optimising ... read more

Big ticket labour reforms at last?
A recent amendment to the Industrial Employment - Rules, 1946, has sparked excited debates by its proponents and critics alike. Some observers see the latest move as the ushering in of much promised big ticket reforms in the labour and employment sector. Employers generally have welcomed the development, whereas workers' representatives have by and large castigated it as a subterfuge for legitimising contract labour. Will the big bang sustain or will it end in a whimper? I have argued elsewhere that, given the political situation -- not to mention the disadvantage it faces in the Rajya Sabha ... read more

Build and sell: Changing dynamics of real estate business
Following the key reforms of demonetisation, Real Estate Regulation & Development Act - and Goods and Services Tax -, coupled with enabling policy initiatives, the real estate sector is looking at new business models that are set to change its very dynamics. Thanks to RERA, we have seen the emergence of the informed and empowered consumer. Several RERA provisions -- mandatory disclosures by developers, restrictions on construction without land and necessary permissions, separate escrow account for customer payments, stringent penalties, including jail term, for errant developers, and a f ... read more

The CSR in Swachh Bharat
A Swachh marathon conducted by the Dettol company, Reckitt Benckiser, in collaboration with NDTV, as part of the Swachch Banega India project, takes the discussion on sanitation into the drawing rooms of the middle and upper classes. With brand ambassadors like Amitabh Bachchan hosting the show, people look up and watch. Naina Lal Kidwai, Chair, India Sanitation coalition, an industry association to bring organisations and individuals under one platform for promoting sanitation speaks at the World Water Week in Stockholm on Swachh Bharat, pushing for higher budgets for water and sanitation, ... read more

How can India improve her Happiness Quotient?
It does crush the pride of a nation to find itself ranked as low as 133rd in a global ranking of happiness. While it's debatable whether something as subtle as happiness can be plotted on the basis of gross factors such as income and life expectancy or intangible values like social support and generosity, we cannot brush aside the fact that we are ranked much unhappier than our counterparts in terror-ravaged Pakistan - or poverty-stricken Somalia - and Ethiopia -. Interestingly, the 11-place decline from the preceding year has come at a time when our GDP growth seems to be doing just fine. S ... read more

Why are India's farmers committing suicide?
Farmer suicides have been taking place across India for years now, and studies of rural distress reveal the deeply-rooted, tenacious causes, such as lack of irrigation, fragmentation of land, unsuitability of seeds and inadequate sources of credit. Despite the democratically-elected governments that claim to represent a country where over half the population is dependent on farming, agriculture has been consistently ignored at a steep cost to farmers' lives. Remedies have been tried -- the state waived loans to small and marginal farmers ahead of elections and such sops were criticised after ... read more

The Modi economy: Mostly sunny, with a few clouds
On Sunday, January 7, the New York Times ran a front page story titled Rising Anxiety in India is Piercing Modi's Aura of Invincibility. The article discussed the decline in GDP, consumption and consumer confidence and its impact on India and Indians. A little more than two weeks later, on January 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the opening address at the Davos World Economic Forum - in Switzerland. In that address, he declared: According to the World Bank and IMF, our growth rate is going to be steady and high. The question becomes, as the end of the first quarter of 2018 approaches, ... read more

Why you shouldn't be trying to persuade a robot that you should get the job
While much of the world is busy worrying about losing jobs to automation in the future -, what has crept past for over a decade is that automated systems - already play a major role in whether or not -- and how -- we get the jobs we still have, and these are used by a steadily growing number of Indian and multinational companies. The current breed of algorithmically-driven, automated decision-making systems warrant our attention and alarm. All but ubiquitous, particularly in mass hiring, these systems are largely opaque as to their decision-making process, potentially making many unethical - ... read more

Indian women's cricket enters golden phase
New Delhi, March 11 - In a landmark announcement, the BCCI has revised the annual central contract of Indian women cricketers, making it the highest ever annual retainer fee in the womens category globally. The Board of Control for Cricket in India - has recently announced its 2017-18 contract for Indian men and women cricket teams. In view of the recent rise of women's cricket and media attention on the Indian eves squad, the sports frat has now come forth for increased pay scales for the eves. The central contract however is only the beginning of the golden period for the Indian eves. It ... read more

Ban tobacco, promote sports
Let me start by saying that I don't want to sound a fanatic, for I don't suggest anything that I can't do myself. I quit smoking recently. And that's no small feat. Tobacco is the most common form of addiction and one of the most harmful as well, much more than the dreaded cannabis or for that matter Ecstasy, let alone alcohol. If, and I know it's a big if, alcohol is consumed in moderation at a decent pace, half an hour for a peg, it's actually medicinal. But there's no safe amount of consumption of tobacco products. And for a young country like India, where half of the population is below ... read more

Tripura ends CPI-M tedium by trading decency for false El Dorado
The extraordinary feat the BJP has pulled off leaves one breathless. Which other Chief Minister in the country will have a decorated Director General of Police, B.L. Vohra, write in his book, Tripura's Bravehearts, Manik Sarkar was definitely unlike any Chief Ministers whom I had seen, met, worked with and heard about.... He was honest personally and that had percolated down to all echelons of the government -- again one cannot find many examples of his ilk unfortunately in the country. This level of decency has been traded by the Tripura electorate for mobs who pull down statues. The univer ... read more

Blockchain can truly revolutionise our lives
The use of the internet has undergone rapid evolution in a matter of a few decades. In the 1990s, the internet was described as a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents or simply put, 'The Internet of Information' which was primarily used to access data resources and services administered on the web browsers. Back then, no one would have thought how it would fundamentally change our daily lives in the future. It has rapidly evolved from a platform to gather information to a space where we can shop, bank and commu ... read more

Modi-Macron moment: The real Belt and Road Initiative
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the world's fastest-growing economy, and Emmanuel Macron, President of the world's most aggressive climate change saviour, have a rendezvous starting from March 9 in New Delhi. They truly represent the strongest redeemers of the world's most formidable challenges of today -- climate change, terrorism and inequality. And no one knows more than these two leaders that combating these three enemies would require tremendous political will and resources. That is because confronting them is not an exercise of three separate encounters on three fronts. They are inter ... read more

NTP 2018 must set stage for 'Telecom-Plus' era
The National Telecom Policy - 2018 is on the anvil. There have been a lot of deliberations -- and opinions sought from the ecosystem, including industry and the regulator -- about what NTP 2018 should look like. It is expected that the Department of Telecom will incorporate most of the enabling and constructive suggestions it receives. There could have been no better time than this for a new telecom policy. As we usher in a new, digitally-led India, telecom has a vital role to play. Hence the policy merits an overhaul -- not only in content and scope, but also in outlook. Telecom is no longe ... read more

Maldives: India needs to give measured but tough response
Idyllic Maldives faces a serious constitutional crisis and there are no indications that President Abdullah Yameen is willing to soften his position. On the contrary, all indications are that Yameen would ruthlessly incarcerate the opposition and even prevent the forthcoming presidential elections from taking place. Like his predecessor, he has assiduously cultivated relations with Beijing. The extension of the emergency, especially after New Delhi expressed its misgivings and concerns, demonstrates how confident he is of China's support. This is India's backyard and the dilemma New Delhi fa ... read more

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