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The Business of Politics

A heady cocktail of politics, business emerges from the developments relating to one of India's biggest media conglomerates, the Chennai-based Sun group. The actions of different wings of the union government against Sun's owners, the politically influential Maran brothers, have raised a number of questions relating to allegations of breaking rules, taking advantage of proximity to power, economic offences and freedom of expression. These issues have, in turn, become embroiled in factional politics within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in New Delhi and in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Chennai, which is currently out of power both in the centre and in Tamil Nadu.

On Education

One of the greatest unmet challenges of contemporary India has been education. The state has not been able to live up to its self-professed role of providing education to all. It is necessary, in a context of massive and rapid changes brought about by a globalising world and a transforming society, to reiterate the well known but oft-forgotten adage that education is, in essence, about opening up the student's mind to the riches of the universe.

Understanding Vyapam

The Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh is not the familiar story of exam cheating. It is about the mutation of exam cheating into a service industry facilitated by the State. Understanding it requires a look at the political economy of a hollowed-out system of education. The scam found a congenial climate in the sociopolitical reality of Madhya Pradesh.

India's Handloom Challenge

The Indian weaver is dismissed in high places as an embarrassing anachronism, despite demand for his or her skills and products. In the new millennium, globalisation and a mindless acquiescence to imported notions of a good life threaten to take over, even as the West looks East for better concepts of sustainable living. Analysing today's crisis in the handloom sector, plagued by low-cost imitations from power looms, this article points out that we are caught in a meaningless dichotomy that could damage Indian handloom's unique reputation of coming from a system unmatched for delivering genuine sustainability.

A Subaltern View of Climate Change

In the context of the ongoing debate on climate change and the policies that nation states need to adopt to limit the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the author poses a relevant question: instead of asking what would happen to the world if everyone were to consume energy at the level of the rich "developed" American, we can now enquire why everyone is not consuming at the level of the above-poor "developing" Indian? He also suggests that the way the poor adapt, migrate and progress provides not just a sustainable approach to climate change but also one that addresses resource use.

Achilles' Heel of Public Policy

An inadequate information base and limited institutional capacity for policy formulation seem to be important factors constraining India's public policy pursuits. A look at the major recommendations of the Report of the High Level Committee on Reorienting the Role and Restructuring of Food Corporation of India illustrates that this has not changed in more than six decades of independence. Though a good understanding of the issue is essential for any policy formulation to be effective, an evaluation shows that there are good reasons to be sceptical about the committee's comprehension of issues, methods and interpretations.

Macroeconomic Aspects of Goods and Services Tax

The introduction of the goods and services tax may indeed be the biggest reform of taxation so far, but the proposal, as it stands, has led to confusion. Certainly, the myriad taxes producers face will be simplified. But the benefit will go to large-scale producers while the small-scale ones will be at a greater disadvantage than before. The cascading effect will be reduced but not eliminated. With resort to revenue neutrality, prices and costs will not decline. A "revenue neutral rate" will, however, be difficult to calculate and will be controversial, given the variety of taxes being replaced. The adoption of a fixed revenue neutral rate for all stages of production and distribution will lead to a rise in the prices of basic and intermediate goods, as also of services, making the introduction of GST inflationary, unless this problem is specifically addressed.

Unconstitutionality of Anti-Terror Laws

The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2015 does more than violate fundamental civil liberties; it is a dangerous instance of the state transgressing the constitutional limits of its lawmaking powers. The federal distribution of powers between the centre and states under the Constitution ensures that only Parliament can legislate on matters such as terrorism that relate to the security or sovereignty of the nation. States cannot arrogate this power to themselves by devising harsh anti-terror laws that apply only within their respective territories. The unconstitutionality of the Gujarat Bill is not just a sum of its numerous illegal parts, but rooted in a deeper, more fundamental failing, namely, that the Gujarat assembly did not have the power to pass such a law in the fi rst place.

Questions of Constitutionality

The National Judicial Appointments Commission system for appointing judges is unconstitutional for four reasons. There is potential for its misuse as appointments to the higher judiciary will be controlled by the executive branch of the government. It suffers from the vice of arbitrariness as there is no way to determine who an "eminent person" is. The veto powers given to any two members also make it susceptible to misuse. Finally, there are concerns about maintaining the independence of the judiciary because the high courts and the Supreme Court examine the validity of actions taken by the executive branch as well as the legislature.

The Importance of Being 'Rurban'

A categorical distinction is facing rough weather--that between urban and rural. If we take just agriculture, there is so much of the outside world that comes in not just as external markets but as external inputs. Further, many of our villages barely qualify as rural if we were to take occupation alone. So the earlier line that separated the farmer from the worker in towns is slowly getting erased. By now agriculturists are ready to accept that their future lies elsewhere, perhaps in cities and towns, perhaps also in household and informal industries. If they cannot make it to those places, at least their children should.

The Charlie Hebdo Affair and the Spectre of Majoritarianism

This article draws parallels between the seemingly disconnected responses from the Muslim and the Western worlds to the Charlie Hebdo affair to argue that these demonstrated the disciplinary power of the globally ascendant idea that public sentiments of the majority are sacred and ought to be protected by state and society alike.

'Leave God Out of It'

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, and their compatriots in other parts of the world, who lost their lives for daring to laugh at holy cows, are martyrs to the cause of humour.

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