Times of India

Handle with care: The big takeaway from Nepal fiasco

“Good fences make good neighbours,” said Robert Frost, and by this he meant that neighbourly success depends on respecting each other’s autonomy. This is especially true when those neighbours are as unequal as Nepal and India. The smaller neighbour is invariably suspicious, which is why Mexicans say, “Too close to America; too far from God.” India looms large in the Nepali imagination but Nepal hardly figures in India’s, except as a fantasy wonderland in the Himalayas.

Smriti Irani, have a good cry. Then give 240m kids a chance

Smriti Irani should begin by asking why 15-year-olds from India who took part in a famous international test came second last — only ahead of Kyrgyzstan. Yes, Indians ranked 73 out of 74 in 2011 in a simple test of reading, science and arithmetic called PISA (Program for International Student Assessment). The response of the UPA government to this shocking result was to refuse to participate again in PISA.

Death penalty: Life can be far worse, says the Mahabharata

It has been over a month since we hanged Yakub Memon. Since then many Indians have wondered, what did we achieve? Some are worried that we may have made Yakub into a martyr, especially among a section of Muslims who feel that they are singled out for the death penalty. Others believe that justice was done, sending a powerful signal to terrorists. In a landmark report, the Law Commission, headed by Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, has now recommended abolishing capital punishment, except in terrorist cases.

Elusive tryst with destiny: Sixty-eight years into Independence, the market still remains in chains

An approaching Independence Day is a good time to pause, extend our circle of concern beyond day-to-day events, and reflect upon our nation`s journey over the past 68 years as a free nation. As i look back on our confused history as an independent nation, i discern in the fog three great milestones: in August 1947 we won our political freedom; in July 1991 we gained economic liberty; and in May 2014 we attained dignity.

Porn, prudes and the parampara of optimism

The state has a duty to protect me from others but not from myself. This is the premise behind our Constitution, which reposes trust in me as a responsible citizen and gives me freedom to pursue my life in peace without interference from the state. Hence, the government was wrong in banning 857 pornography sites last weekend. To its credit, it realized its mistake by Tuesday and reversed its stand: it unbanned adult sites while rightly retaining the ban on child pornography.

Wanted: Vyapam reforms to overhaul our democracy

Something has gone terribly wrong with our republic. There are ominous clouds over the approaching monsoon session of Parliament. When MPs should be deeply concerned with the fragile nature of our economic recovery, debating how to create a million jobs a month, they are straggling back to work in a stupor having forgotten why they were elected.

Modi is building on India’s wondrous trading past

Last week’s historic accord with Bangladesh erased a dispute as old as Kashmir while nudging the subcontinent towards a common market. Trade and investment have been the refreshing focus of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy. He understands instinctively that power emanates from a bowl of rice, not from the barrel of a gun. In this respect, he is following an ancient tradition that once made India a great trading nation that carried its amazing soft power on merchant ships.

One-year itch: Modi shift to political centre angers both right and left

Politics is a short game while economics is a long one. Both tend to converge in the end but in the interim they pull in opposite directions. Because of this mismatch, most of the people are invariably disappointed. This is Prime Minister Modi’s problem on the first anniversary of his government. Although his record is reasonably good, he has neither met the extraordinary expectations of his supporters nor followed through on key priorities.

Ten steps that can put the railways back on track

Once upon a time we used to proudly call Indian Railways the ‘nation’s lifeline’. Today, we are embarrassed by it. Every Indian had an impossibly romantic railway memory. Today these memories have faded as successive politicians have played havoc with a grand old institution. The root problem is that railways is a state monopoly, starved by politics of investment and technology, and prevented by a pernicious departmental structure from becoming a modern, vibrant enterprise.

Land agitators forget even a farmer’s son needs a job

India elected Narendra Modi to control inflation, restrain corruption and bring back jobs. Inflation has come under control; there has been no corruption scandal in the past ten months; but jobs are nowhere in sight. Modi is banking on his ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme to revive manufacturing and deliver a million new jobs that are needed each month. But the problem is that manufacturing is precisely the sector that has historically let India down. Since 1991, India’s growth has been driven largely by services.