The Chennai Foodbank

Miriam Thangaraj


This report briefly discusses the Chennai Food Bank, started in 1993 by the Rajasthan Youth Association. Beginning with a “interest in service”, and informed with a religious ‘anna daan’ instinct; since its inception, this project has grown into the Chennai Foodbank, both in terms of the number of sponsors as well as the range of beneficiaries. By 2007, they had helped to provide over 1 crore meals to the under-privileged. This document elaborates on the model and reach of this project, and presents some recommendations for future expansion.


Unequal Life Chances: Demographic Transition in India and Equity

Harsh Mander, Astha Singla, Anirban Bhattacharya and Vivek Mishra


This volume looks closely at India’s demographic transition, specifically from the perspective of social, economic and gender equity. It argues that if a ‘youthful bulge’ is to result in high economic growth, sufficient employment opportunities accompanied by nutrition, health, education, training and morale for young people are necessary. However, the state continues to make very low public investments in these, and the market is unable to compensate for these failures. The majority of young people are therefore being excluded from economic opportunity, and condemned instead to distress migration and low-end exploitative employment. The state can reverse these trends only with high public investment – by extending universal quality nutrition, health-care, education and social protection to all its people, and ensuring significantly higher investments in agriculture, especially to protect the incomes of farm workers and small and marginal rain-fed farmers, fish-workers, forest-workers and artisans.

Mourning Rohith Vemula, Who Could Not Rescue Himself From the ‘Fatal Accident’ of His Birth

Harsh Mander


In the summer of 2016, many students sat on a hunger strike in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. They were protesting the punishment meted out to them by the university authorities for having demonstrated against the hanging of Afzal Guru. On the wall behind their protest site, they had painted a larger than life portrait of a beaming Rohith Vemula. Below it was the inscription: 1989-Forever.


Rohith Vemula’s Velivada: A Phoenix That Keeps Rising

Anirban Bhattacharya

The Wire, 2019

It has been three years, and it seems the spectre of Rohith Vemula still continues to haunt the saffron citadels of power. On a cold and chilly winter morning, just a couple of weeks before the third anniversary of Rohith’s institutional murder, we woke up to the news of the Velivada being torn down by the University of Hyderabad administration. However, this was not the first time that the Velivada was attacked, vandalised or under siege. Through the summer of 2016, there were multiple attempts to bring it down. Even the bust of B.R. Ambedkar was removed from Velivada clandestinely in July 2016. Days later, that of Rohith had been desecrated.


Inadequate Pensions Leave India’s Elderly No Choice But To Work

Kinjal Sampat and Nandini Dey

India Spend, 2017

The logic behind old age pension is to enable those beyond a certain age to maintain a reasonable standard of living without having to engage in paid labour. In India, this is empirically true for people who receive assured monthly pensions following their retirement from work, but, in the non-formal sector, people do not retire from work at any stipulated age. The participation of the elderly in the workforce is all pervasive, particularly in the unorganised sector that employs the majority of Indians, without formal conditions of employment. In the absence of adequate income and social security, the elderly lack real choice in determining the extent, duration and nature of their engagement with paid work.


As India Ages, Indians Seeks Universal Pension From The Government

Kinjal Sampat and Nandini Dey

India Spend, 2017

India’s 860 million-strong working population (15-64 years), the world’s largest, is beginning to age. Over the next 33 years, by 2050, 324 million Indians, or 20% of the population, will be above 60 years of age. If pension continues to cover only 35% of senior citizens as it does today, 200 million, or 61.7% of India’s elderly population, will be without any income security by 2050.


There’s Nothing Universal or Basic About Universal Basic Income in India

Kinjal Sampat and Vivek Mishra

The Wire, 2017

Universal Basic Income is only an idea in the making, but within its first year of conceptualisation, it seems like the first two terms of the acronym have already been reduced to notional ideas. The time will be ripe for discussing UBI when the state is able to assure both universality and adequacy and match it with adequate public infrastructure and safeguards from volatile market fluctuations.


Job Security in India Falls Even as GDP Continues to Rise

Vivek Mishra and Anirban Bhattacharya

The Wire, 2017

The informal sector generates around 50% of India’s GDP. It employs more than 90% of country’s workforce. The total figure for formal and informal employment in the unorganised sector is 82.7%. Of the current workforce of around 475 million, around 400 million, considerably larger than the population of the US, are employed with little job security or any formal protection of the labour law regime.


Some Paths to Forgiveness

Harsh Mander

The Hindu, 2011

Is there a way to build trust, confidence and eventually empathy between previously embroiled people? Through human history, estranged people’s have collectively sought or rediscovered ways of living together with peace, faith and goodwill. In the wake of the violence of Partition, and innumerable communal pogroms which followed, this is a path which Hindu and Muslim communities in India must still traverse.

Exclusion from Digital Infrastructure and Access

Osama Manzar, Rajat Kumar, Eshita Mukherjee and Raina Aggarwal*

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have many diferent defnitions, Te World Bank defnes it as ‘Te set of activities which facilitate by electronic means the processing, transmission and display of information’ (Rodriguez & Wilson, 2000). Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacifc (ESCAP) defnes ICTs as ‘….refer[ring] to technologies people use to share, distribute, gather information and to communicate, through computers and computer networks’ (ESCAP, 2001). In this chapter we shall follow the one standardized by the United Nations, ‘ICTs are basically information-handling tools—a varied set of goods, applications and services that are used to produce, store, process, distribute and exchange information’ (United Nations ICT Taskforce, 2003).


Te Long March to Eliminate Manual Scavenging

Bezwada Wilson and Bhasha Singh*

We would like to begin this chapter with some difficult questions, perhaps at the risk of making you, the reader, uncomfortable. Why are the Indian government and even the media and civil society quiet about the death of more than a thousand of its citizens (Tomas, 2016)? People are being killed in sewer and septic tanks every day and yet, so far there has been no relevant discussion by policy makers, in state assemblies or the Parliament. By the time you are reading this essay, this number would have increased multifold. What could be the reason for this apathy and indifference? Is this because all who die in sewers and septic tanks are Dalits? Why is it that even amidst the rhetoric of development and progress in 2017, 1.3 million (FirstPost, 2016) Dalits in India, and mostly women, are forced to manually clean human excreta? Why does the country allocate a budget of INR 16,248 crore 1 for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan while it has only INR 5 crore to spare for rehabilitation of manual scavengers, as per the Union Budget for the fiscal year 2017–18? Why is India unable to invest in finding a technology to clean sewer septic tanks without endangering human life?


School Education and Exclusion

Kiran Bhatty, Annie Namala, Agrima Bhasin, Amod Shah, Anam Mittra, Archana Dwivedi, Farah Farooqi, Gunjan Sharma, Madhumita Bandyopadhyay, Naaz Khair, Radhika Alkazi, Sajjad Hassan, Sandeep Tirkey, Shilpshikha Singh

India’s philosophical tradition has engaged with the idea of education in multiple ways. Rabindranath Tagore, one of the first to take a wider and more progressive view of schooling, stressed school as being a place not just of learning but of experiencing all the wonders of life—art, music, literature. He took the classroom outdoors, where children could learn as much from nature as they could from textbooks. For Tagore, the role of teachers was to create a pedagogical environment that thrived on curiosity, not competition, on learning from nature as much as from textbooks, on creativity and self-expression, and where self-discipline and not corporal punishment was the norm. This opened up a whole new dimension in thinking about education and stripped it of its earlier, dull, competitive and pedagogically uninteresting form.