• In just a few days, India’s eighteenth general elections will get underway with voting in the first phase kicking off on April 19. Between April 19 and June 1, India will have seven separate polling days culminating in a final counting of votes on June 4.

    Every single pre-election survey to date shows the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi winning a comfortable majority of seats in the Lok Sabha. If these predictions come to fruition, it would be the first time that a party has won three consecutive elections under the same leader since Congress during the Nehru period.

    To preview these elections—and what they mean for India’s future—Milan is joined on the show this week by Sukumar Ranganathan, editor-in-chief of the Hindustan Times. Few people in India have observed and analyzed politics, economics, and social change as comprehensively as Sukumar.

    Milan and Sukumar discuss the issues animating voters this election, the state of the economy, and the significant expansion of the BJP coalition. Plus, the two discuss the opposition’s struggles, the BJP’s big push in the southern states, and what we know about the agenda for Modi 3.0.

    Episode notes:

    1. Milan Vaishnav, “On electoral bonds, a short-lived celebration,” Hindustan Times, February 17, 2024.

    2. “Decoding the Indian Economy (with Pranjul Bhandari)” Grand Tamasha, April 3, 2024.

    3. Sukumar Ranganathan, “Five Things with @HT_Ed,” Hindustan Times (newsletter).

    4. Hindustan Times, General Elections Retrospective (accessed via the HT app).

  • On March 11, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization conducted the maiden test of its Agni-V MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-Entry Vehicle) missile. MIRV capability is a complex technology and there are only a handful of countries that have developed it.

    The test represents a breakthrough for India’s missile program but it’s also prompted warnings of a new arms race in the Indo-Pacific, a region already marked by sharpening geopolitical rivalries. To discuss India’s missile program, its defense posture, and its emerging space policy, Milan is joined on the show this week by Ankit Panda. Ankit is the Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He’s an expert on the Asia-Pacific region and his work encompasses nuclear strategy, arms control, missile defense, nonproliferation, and emerging technologies.

    Ankit and Milan discuss the significance of India’s MIRV test and the new “missile age” in the Indo-Pacific. Plus, the two discuss the China-India-Pakistan triangle, the importance of India’s 2019 anti-satellite test, and the future of India’s space policy.

    Episode notes:

    1. Ankit Panda, Indo-Pacific Missile Arsenals: Avoiding Spirals and Mitigating Escalation Risks (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2023).

    2. “Southern Asia's Nuclear Future with Ashley J. Tellis,” Grand Tamasha, October 26, 2022.

    3. Ankit Panda, “The Indo-Pacific’s new missile age demands Washington’s attention,” Breaking Defense, November 16, 2023.

    4. Ankit Panda, “How India’s breakthrough as an ‘elite space power’ devalues discovery and innovation,” South China Morning Post, April 7, 2019.

    5. Alex Travelli, “The Surprising Striver in the World’s Space Business,” New York Times, July 4, 2023.

    6. Toby Dalton et al., “Dimming Prospects for U.S.-Russia Nonproliferation Cooperation,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 14, 2024.

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  • It seems wherever you turn these days, there are stories about India’s status as the fastest growing major economy in the world. Its growth rates remain the envy of both the developed—and the developing—world. But what is really happening under the hood? What are the opportunities for India in a world riven by conflict and technological disruptions? And what challenges might it face as it tries to navigate these choppy waters?

    To talk about the nuts and bolts of the Indian economy, Milan is joined on this week’s show by the economist Pranjul Bhandari. Pranjul is chief India and Indonesia economist and managing director for global research at HSBC. Whether it’s breaking down the latest GDP print, forecasting India’s inflation dynamics, or dissecting India’s annual budget, Pranjul is one of the sharpest and most prolific observers of the Indian economy.

    Milan and Pranjul discuss the latest growth figures from India, the stickiness of inflation, and underwhelming consumption growth. Plus, the two discuss the puzzle of India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows and what it will take for the “Make in India” program to succeed. The duo conclude with a discussion about the reforms India must prioritize if it is to achieve sustained rapid growth.

    Episode notes:

    1. Mohamed El-Erian and Michael Spence, “The Indian Giant Has Arrived,” Project Syndicate, March 22, 2024.

    2. Pranjul Bhandari, “Beyond the budget: what happened when no one was really looking?” Mint, January 30, 2024.

    3. Pranjul Bhandari, “India’s fiscal future: Lots done, more to do,” Mint, November 22, 2023.

    4. Pranjul Bhandari, “India’s growth prospects are on the up. What changed?” Indian Express, December 19, 2023.

    5. Pranjul Bhandari, “Building an India for manufacturers,” Indian Express, October 9, 2023.

  • In today’s India, there are few historical figures whose writing and thinking help explain the current ideological zeitgeist more than Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

    Despite this newfound attention, Savarkar is often viewed in black and white—as a staunch Hindu nationalist who devoted his life to expounding the virtues of conservative, Hindu majority rule.

    A new book by the Berkeley historian Janaki Bakhle, Savarkar and the Making of Hindutva, paints a much more nuanced picture of the Hindutva ideologue. Savarkar was certainly a Hindu champion, but he was also an anti-caste progressive, a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, and a patriotic poet.

    To talk more about Savarkar’s multiple identities—and his legacy in today’s India—Janaki joins Milan on the podcast this week. They discuss Savarkar’s life under surveillance, shifts in his views on Muslims, and his desire to jettison caste in order to strengthen Hindu identity. Plus, the two discuss Savarkar’s Marathi poetry and his ideas about the nation-state.

    Episode notes:

    1. Janaki Bakhle, “Savarkar accepted intercaste marriages for one reason—it kept Hindus within the community,” ThePrint, February 24, 2024.

    2. Janaki Bakhle, Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

  • A few weeks ago, the Indian government formally notified the rules implementing the controversial 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act, or CAA. The law provides persecuted religious minorities hailing from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan an expedited pathway to Indian citizenship, provided they belong to the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Parsi, or Sikh communities. Notably, the law does not provide such a pathway to those who belong to the Muslim faith.

    The notification of the CAA rules—on the eve of India’s 2024 general election—has kicked off a fresh debate over the law, its implementing provisions, and the resulting implications for the future of secularism in India.

    To discuss all of this and more, Milan is joined on the show this week by legal scholar M. Mohsin Alam Bhat. Mohsin is a Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary University of London, where he specializes in constitutional law and human rights. Mohsin has written extensively about law and citizenship in India.

    Milan and Mohsin discuss the origins of the CAA, its constitutionality, and the fine print of the CAA rules. Plus, the two discuss the situation in Assam, that state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the prospects of an all-India NRC exercise.

    Episode notes:

    1. “What’s Happening to India’s Rohingya Refugees? (with Priyali Sur and Daniel Sullivan),” Grand Tamasha, May 24, 2023.

    2. Mohsin Alam Bhat and Aashish Yadav, “CAA will not help persecuted Hindus, Sikhs from neighbouring countries,” Indian Express, March 19, 2024.

    3. “The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019,” PRS Legislative Research.

    4. Madhav Khosla and Milan Vaishnav, “The Three Faces of the Indian State,” Journal of Democracy 32, no. 1 (2021): 111-125.

    5. Mohsin Alam Bhat, “The Constitutional Case Against the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” Economic and Political Weekly 54, no.3 (2019): 12-14.

    6. Mohsin Alam Bhat, “‘The Irregular’ and the Unmaking of Minority Citizenship: The Rules of Law in Majoritarian India,” Queen Mary Law Research Paper No. 395/2022.

    7. Niraja Gopal Jayal, “Faith-based Citizenship,” The India Forum, October 31, 2019.

  • Zac O’Yeah is a Swedish novelist, rock musician, and author of the Majestic Trilogy—a trio of detective stories set in his adopted home of Bengaluru. And if that were not enough, he’s also the author of the brand-new book, The Great Indian Food Trip: Around a Subcontinent à la Carte.

    In the book, O’Yeah catalogues his travels crisscrossing India on a gluttonous search for the best food and drink—from the pickled mussels of Kerala to the goat’s brain of Mumbai’s Irani cafes and the signature masala dosas of Mysore. The book offers readers a mouth-watering, whirlwind tour of Indian cuisine.

    On this week’s show, O’Yeah joins Milan to talk about the culinary wonders of India. They discuss the simple pleasure of Koshy’s in Bengaluru, where to eat proper “club” food, and the surprising “pizza-lovers’ paradise” that is Puducherry. Plus, O’Yeah dishes about his boozy night drinking caju in Goa with writers Orhan Pamuk and Amitav Ghosh and reveals what Indian dishes are on his list of essentials.

    Episode notes:

    1. Sidharth Bhatia, “An Eating and Drinking Tour of India, With Some Misadventures Along the Way,” The Wire, July 8, 2023.

    2. Zac O’Yeah, “A culinary trip across Southeast Asia,” Indian Express, January 6, 2024.

  • Over the last several decades, there have been monumental changes in the social, economic, and political lives of Dalits, who have historically been one of the most oppressed groups in all of South Asia.

    A new volume edited by three leading scholars of India—Dalits in the New Millennium—examines these changes, interrogates their impacts on Dalit lives, and traces the shift in Dalit politics from a focus on social justice—to a focus on development and socio-economic mobility.

    D. Shyam Babu, who along with Sudhai Pai and Rahul Verma, is one of the co-editors of this important new book joined Milan on the show this week to talk more about their findings. Shyam Babu is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. His research focuses on how economic changes in India have been shaping social change and transformation for the benefit of marginalized sections, especially Dalits.

    The two discuss Dalits’ shift toward the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the decline of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati, and what “Ambedkarization” has done for the Dalit community. Plus, the two discuss the shortcomings Dalits experience in their “social citizenship” and the successes and challenges of Dalit capitalism.

    Episode notes:

    1. Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Lant Pritchett, and D. Shyam Babu, “Rethinking Inequality: Dalits in Uttar Pradesh in the Market Reform Era,” Economic and Political Weekly 45, no. 35 (August 28-September 3, 2010): 39-49.

    2. Devesh Kapur, Chandra Bhan Prasad, and D. Shyam Babu, Defying the Odds: The Rise of Dalit Entrepreneurs (New Delhi: Vintage, 2014).

    3. D. Shyam Babu, “From empowerment to disenfranchisement: Lower caste mobilisation appears to have run its course,” Times of India, August 28, 2019.

    4. Chandra Bhan Prasad, “Fellow Dalits, open your own bank: If no one else, Dalit middle class can fund Dalit capitalism to produce Dalit billionaires,” Times of India, November 25, 2019.

    5. Devesh Kapur, “Fraternity in the making of the Indian nation,” Seminar 701 (2017).

  • Two weeks ago, a five-judge bench of India’s Supreme Court ruled that electoral bonds—a controversial instrument of political giving introduced by the Narendra Modi government—violated the Constitution and would immediately cease operating.

    Under the court’s ruling, the State Bank of India will immediately stop issuing bonds; the Election Commission of India must disclose details of all transactions since April 2019; and any bonds which have not yet been encashed are to be refunded.

    On this week’s podcast, Grand Tamasha host Milan Vaishnav—who has written extensively about campaign finance in India—takes a turn in the hot seat. In a special collaboration with DAKSH, a Bangalore-based non-profit working on judicial reforms and access to justice, Leah Verghese (host of the DAKSH Podcast) interviews Milan about the Court’s ruling and what it means for the future of political funding in India.

    The two discuss the history of campaign finance in India, the controversy around electoral bonds, and the controversy around foreign funding of elections. Plus, Milan and Leah discuss why ordinary Indians should care about the dynamics of election funding.

    Episode notes:

    1. Milan Vaishnav, “On electoral bonds, a short-lived celebration,” Hindustan Times, February 17, 2024.

    2. Crime and Politics with Milan Vaishnav,” The DAKSH Podcast, September 2022.

    3. Devesh Kapur and Milan Vaishnav, eds., Costs of Democracy: Political Finance in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2018).

    4. Milan Vaishnav, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

  • With general elections just months away, it is the era of the ten-year retrospective—a chance for India watchers to reflect on what has changed over the past decade under the Narendra Modi government—and what has not.

    One area especially deserving of scrutiny is India’s relations with the neighborhood. The Modi government came to power with an eye towards reimagining India’s relationships in South Asia, and across the Indo-Pacific.

    Yet, the past ten years have seen tremendous upheaval in the region--set against a backdrop of growing competition between India and China to gain the upper hand.

    Few people in India have watched this space more closely than Constantino Xavier. Tino is a Fellow in Foreign Policy and Security Studies at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress in New Delhi, where he leads the Sambandh Initiative on regional connectivity.

    Tino joins Milan on the show this week to discuss whether the Modi government’s approach to the neighborhood demonstrates more continuity than change. Plus, the two discuss the recent crisis in India-Maldives relations, the Ministry of External Affairs’ budget woes, and the potential of an India-Middle East-European Economic corridor.

    Episode notes:

    1. Constantino Xavier and Riya Sinha, “How India Budgets to Become a Leading Power,” Centre for Social and Economic Progress, February 8, 2023.

    2. Constantino Xavier, “India: Looking to Help Frame a New Global Balance,” in Regional Security Outlook 2023 (Canberra: Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, 2022).

    3. Constantino Xavier and Amitendu Palit, eds., Connectivity and Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal Region (New Delhi: Centre for Social and Economic Progress, 2023).

    4. Constantino Xavier and Jabin Jacob, eds., How China Engages South Asia: Themes, Partners and Tools (New Delhi: Centre for Social and Economic Progress, 2023).

    4. Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks on India and the United States: A Vision for the 21st Century,” Chennai, India, July 20, 2011.

  • Last Thursday, voters in Pakistan went to the polls in the country’s first general elections since the July 2018 election that brought former prime minister Imran Khan to power. In 2022, Khan was ousted in an unprecedented no confidence vote and now finds himself behind bars.

    In the months before the election, Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was repressed with party members jailed, harassed, and eventually forced to contest the 2024 elections as independents. Pakistan’s powerful military was widely seen as the guiding force behind these moves. But the election results appear to have caught the military—and perhaps many Pakistanis—by surprise.

    At last count, PTI-backed independent candidates emerged as the single largest party, with allegations of vote rigging rampant. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s traditional political heavyweights are engaged in a furious effort to form a coalition government.

    To talk about the election, and what it means for Pakistan and the region, Milan is joined on the show this week by Zoha Waseem. Zoha is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick and author of Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi.

    Milan and Zoha discuss the tumultuous months leading up to the contested polls, the reasons for the PTI’s surprise showing, and what comes next. Plus, the two discuss what these election results mean for India-Pakistan relations.

    Episode notes:

    1. “South Asia’s Economic Turmoil (with Ben Parkin),” Grand Tamasha, September 21, 2022.

    2. “Pakistan After Imran Khan (with Aqil Shah),” Grand Tamasha, May 4, 2022.

    3. Zoha Waseem, “A House Divided: Karachi’s Politics Remain in Flux,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 3, 2022.

  • From the Obama “birther” movement in the United States to the fringe politicians who believe congestion pricing in London is part of an international “socialist plot,” it is no exaggeration to say that conspiracy theories have become part of the standard political playbook the world over.

    But when it comes to outlandish conspiracy theories, India stands out as a country where such tales are driving everyday political conversations in a major way. Buoyed by politicians, the media, and social media forwards, they have come to be accepted as reality by many people.

    A new book, Love Jihad and Other Fictions: Simple Facts to Counter Viral Falsehoods, takes aim at these conspiracy theories, subjecting them to strict journalistic scrutiny using ground reporting, data, and a bit of common sense. The authors—Sreenivasan Jain, Mariyam Alavi, and Supriya Sharma—are veteran journalists with a long track record of ground reporting.

    On this week’s show, Mariyam and Supriya join Milan on the show to talk about the book. The trio discuss allegations of “love jihad,” rumors of widespread religious conversions, and claims of “minority appeasement.” Plus, the three discuss what lessons this book holds for journalism and civic discourse more generally.

    Episode notes:

    1. Karan Thapar, “Debunking propaganda myths, restoring truths,” Hindustan Times, January 27, 2024.

    2. Sreenivasan Jain, Mariyam Alavi, and Supriya Sharma, “Bringing Journalistic Scrutiny to Hindutva Conspiracy Theories,” The Wire, January 17, 2024.

  • It seems like you cannot open a newspaper, listen to a foreign policy podcast, or open Twitter/X without somebody somewhere sounding off on the emerging geopolitical battle over semiconductors. Semiconductors, which we colloquially refer to as chips, have quickly moved from the periphery to center-stage of global high politics.

    To discuss this high-stakes race, and India’s role in it, Milan is joined on the show this week by the scholar Pranay Kotasthane. Pranay is Chair of High-Tech Geopolitics at the Takshashila Institution in Bangalore and, with Abhiram Manchi, is the author of the new book, When the Chips Are Down: A Deep Dive into a Global Crisis.

    Pranay and Milan discuss the history of the technology, importance of semiconductors at the current geopolitical crossroads, and how the world will balance national security interests and with rapid technological change. Plus, the two discuss India’s most recent attempt to build a semiconductor ecosystem and the policy missteps that bedeviled past efforts.

    Episode notes:

    1. “India's Tryst With Policymaking (with Pranay Kotasthane),” Grand Tamasha, January 25, 2023.

    2. Pranay Kotasthane and Raghu S. Jaitley, Missing In Action : Why You Should Care About Public Policy (New Delhi: Penguin India, 2023).

    3. Pranay Kotasthane, “Anticipating the Unintended,” weekly Substack newsletter.

  • This week, Grand Tamasha kicks off its eleventh season with a special return guest to the podcast. The Third Way: India’s Revolutionary Approach to Data Governance is an important new book by the lawyer-scholar-and-author Rahul Matthan. Rahul is a partner at the law firm Trilegal, where he heads their technology practice. Over the past several years, he has worked closely with the Government of India, most recently as DPI advisor to the Ministry of Finance during India’s G20 presidency.

    Rahul joins Milan on the show this week to discuss India’s unique approach to building digital public infrastructure (DPI)—an ecosystem that can have transformative impact at home but also build partnerships for India abroad. They talk about India’s DPI evolution, India’s unique public-private model, and whether India’s approach can be replicated abroad. Plus, the two discuss how India can mitigate the risks posed by excessive surveillance, privacy breaches, and beneficiary exclusion.

    Episode notes:

    1. “What the Personal Data Protection Act Means for India (with Rahul Matthan),” Grand Tamasha, Septemner 27, 2023.

    2. “Book Discussion: The Third Way: India’s Revolutionary Approach to Data Governance,” Carnegie India Global Technology Summit 2023, December 7, 2023.

    3. Rahul Matthan, “Tech policy in India has had a year packed with action,” Mint, December 27, 2023.

  • Back in 2019, we started the Grand Tamasha podcast on a whim. India’s 2019 general elections were around the corner, and we sensed that there might be a (temporary) marketplace for a weekly audio podcast focused on Indian politics and policy for diehards hoping to keep up with the campaign action. Nearly five years later, the podcast has become a weekly fixture and the marketplace has turned out to be more welcoming that we had imagined.

    For Milan, one of the joys of doing a podcast week-in and week-out is the ability to read some of the best new books on India and speak with their authors—from journalists to historians, and political scientists to novelists. Last year, we published our first annual list of our favorite books featured on the podcast in 2022. As the current year comes to an end and we prepare for a mini-podcast hibernation for the holidays, here—in no particular order—are our Grand Tamasha top books of 2023 (drumroll, please):

    Shadows at Noon: The South Asian Twentieth Century

    By Joya Chatterji. Published by Yale University Press, Penguin Random House India, Vintage.

    Migrants and Machine Politics: How India's Urban Poor Seek Representation and Responsiveness

    By Adam Michael Auerbach and Tariq Thachil. Published by Princeton University Press.

    Age of Vice

    By Deepti Kapoor. Published by Riverhead, Juggernaut.

    Making Bureaucracy Work: Norms, Education and Public Service Delivery in Rural India

    By Akshay Mangla. Published by Cambridge University Press.

    In this episode, Milan talks about why he loved each of these books and includes short clips from his conversations with Joya, Adam and Tariq, Deepti, and Akshay.

    Think of this final episode of our tenth season as our little holiday present to you—our listeners.

    Episode Notes:

    Grand Tamasha’s Best Books of 2023

  • Over the past decade, India has witnessed significant conflict within—and around—several democratic institutions meant to act as a check on executive power. One of the most important theatres of conflict has been the judiciary—more specifically, the Supreme Court.

    A new book by the legal scholar Gautam Bhatia, Unsealed Covers: A Decade of the Constitution, the Courts and the State, takes readers through some of the most controversial cases that have come before the court during this critical decade. Gautam is a lawyer who has been personally involved in several important contemporary constitutional cases. He is the author of multiple books of fiction and non-fiction and founder of the influential, “Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy” blog.

    Gautam joins Milan on the show this week to talk about the relationship between judicial assertiveness and the strength of the government in power, disconcerting signs of excessive judicial deference, and ongoing debates over the right to privacy.

    Plus, the two discuss the controversial issue of electoral bonds, the government’s proposed law outlining new procedures to select election commissioners, and the vagaries of the controversial anti-defection law.

    1. Gautam Bhatia, “Decoding the Supreme Court’s Election Commission Judgment – I,” Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy (blog), March 3, 2023.

    2. Gautam Bhatia, “A case that scans the working of the anti-defection law,” Hindu, February 24, 2023.

    3. Gautam Bhatia, “The Supreme Court’s Right-to-Privacy Judgment,” Economic & Political Weekly 52, no. 44 (November 4, 2017).

  • On December 3, votes were finally tallied in four Indian states which went for elections this past month—the last test parties and candidates will face before the general elections in April-May of next year.

    After much anticipation, Counting Day left very little to the imagination. In a big setback for the Congress Party and the opposition alliance more broadly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won decisive elections in three big Hindi belt states—Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The lone Congress Party victory came in the southern state of Telangana, where it displaced the once-dominant regional party—the Bharat Rashriya Samithi (BRS).

    To discuss the results—and what they tell us about the race for 2024—Milan is joined this week by two veteran political journalists: Sunetra Choudhury, the political editor of the Hindustan Times, and Dipankar Ghose serves, the paper’s deputy national editor.

    The trio discuss the impressive performance of the BJP, the Congress Party’s lingering weaknesses, and how these results will shape the 2024 campaign. Plus, Milan, Sunetra, and Dipankar talk about the next steps for the opposition I.N.D.I.A. alliance and whether Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra had any long-term impact.

    Episode notes:

    Prashant Jha, “What BJP wins in 3 states mean for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” Hindustan Times, December 4, 2023.

    Vaibhav Tiwari, “‘Conceit’: Congress slammed by INDIA bloc allies after 3-1 election drubbing,” Hindustan Times, December 4, 2023.

    Ritesh Mishra and Dipankar Ghose, “Misfired OBC gambit, infighting: How to lose a mandate in 5 years,” Hindustan Times, December 4, 2023.

    Sunetra Choudhury, “HT Interview: Unsavoury words were used against me…Madhya Pradesh election results have silenced them: Scindia,” Hindustan Times, December 4, 2023.

  • Anyone who has even casually glanced at the news over the past several weeks would be hard pressed to miss the plethora of headlines about north India’s air pollution crisis. Every year as late Fall rolls around, air pollution across north India—including in the nation’s capital of Delhi—climbs to levels that make life almost unlivable for hundreds of millions of residents.

    As bad as the crisis is, the situation is not helpless. Milan’s guest on the show this week, the economist Anant Sudarshan, has spent years trying to evaluate solutions to what seems like an intractable problem. Anant is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick and a Senior Fellow at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

    Milan and Anant discuss the contours of India’s air pollution crisis, the country’s environmental data challenge, and the efficacy of Delhi’s controversial “odd-even” scheme. Plus, the two discuss strategies for managing industrial pollution, the potential of Indian emissions markets, and whether voters sufficiently value the air they breathe.

    Episode notes:

    Michael Greenstone et al., “The Solvable Challenge of Air Pollution in India,” India Policy Forum 2017-18: 1-51.

    Michael Greenstone et al., A Roadmap Towards Cleaning India’s Air (EPIC India and Harvard Kennedy School, 2018).

    Michael Greenstone et al., “Can Pollution Markets Work in Developing Countries? Experimental Evidence from India,” Working Paper, January 27, 2023.

  • One of the most remarkable episodes in modern Indian history is the story of how the leaders of over 550 sovereign princely states were convinced that they should give up their independence to become a part of a free India. This monumental task of accession was carried out over weeks, not months or years.

    But accession was just the first step in an ongoing drama between India’s princes and the rulers of the Indian republic, a drama that would unfold over the next many decades. A new book, Dethroned: Patel, Menon and the Integration of Princely India, captures this incredible story in almost cinematic fashion. The book’s author is John Zubrzycki, an Australia-based writer who has previously worked in India as a diplomat as well as a foreign correspondent.

    John joins Milan on the show this week to discuss life in princely India, the myth of India’s “bloodless revolution,” and the cast of characters tasked with integrating India. Plus, the two discuss the incredible story of the accession of Junagadh, Indira Gandhi’s decision to abolish privy purses, and the legacy of the princes seven-and-a-half decades on.

    Episode notes:

    “India’s Hidden Treatise on Statecraft (with Rahul Sagar),” Grand Tamasha, November 2, 2022.

    “The Hidden History of Conservative Economics in Post-1947 India (with Aditya Balasubramanian,” Grand Tamasha, October 11, 2023.

    “Ramachandra Guha Revisits India After Gandhi,” Grand Tamasha, April 19, 2023.

  • In recent years, there has a growing concern that the Supreme Court of India is not firing on all cylinders. Critics have argued that the court functions in an opaque manner, exhibits excessive deference to the executive, is sluggish in concluding cases, and is hampered by an excessive reliance on super-lawyers who can get their cases heard for exorbitant fees.

    A new book, Court on Trial: A Data-Driven Account of the Supreme Court of India, examines each of these critiques, using hard data from the Court’s own functioning. Milan’s guest on the show this week is one of the book’s authors, constitutional lawyer Aparna Chandra.

    Aparna is an associate professor of law at the National Law School of India, and has previously worked at the National Judicial Academy in Bhopal and the National Law University in Delhi, where she founded the Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance.

    Milan and Aparna talk about the institutional crisis facing the Court, the Court’s shocking backlog, and the arbitrary powers of the Chief Justice. Plus, the two discuss the controversy around judicial appointments, the excessive deference the Court pays to the government of the day, and what if anything can be done to improve the Court’s effectiveness.

    Episode notes:

    “A Court in Crisis? Interview with the authors of 'Court on Trial', a data-driven analysis of the Supreme Court of India,” Bar&Bench, September 7, 2023.

    [VIDEO] “How do we fix the Supreme Court of India?” Scroll Ideas, September 1, 2023.

    Soutik Biswas, “Supreme Court: Why India's powerful top court is in a 'crisis,’” BBC News, July 31, 2023.

  • It’s been six weeks since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to the floor of Parliament to announce that Canadian security agencies had evidence of credible allegations that Indian authorities had a hand in the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, on Canadian soil in June 2023. Nijjar was a well-known activist in Sikh diaspora circles but someone Indian authorities branded a terrorist.

    Trudeau’s allegations led to a rapid downward spiral in bilateral relations between India and Canada, a spiral that shows no immediate sign of ending. To discuss these recent events—and the larger question of bilateral relations between Canada and India—Milan is joined on the show this week by Sanjay Ruparelia. Sanjay is Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Toronto Metropolitan University, where he holds the Jarislowsky Democracy Chair. He is the host of the podcast, “On the Frontlines of Democracy,” and the author of Divided We Govern: Coalition Politics in Modern India.

    Milan and Sanjay discuss how India fits into the Canadian government’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the two countries’ longstanding bilateral struggles over trade and investment, and the explosive growth of the Indian diaspora in Canada. Plus, the two discuss the allegations surrounding the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Indian government’s response, and the precarious position the Biden administration finds itself in.

    Episode notes:

    Sanjay Ruparelia, “The opportunities and challenges of courting India,” in Maxwell A. Cameron, David Gillies and David Carment, eds., Democracy and Foreign Policy in an Era of Uncertainty: Canada Among Nations 2022 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023): 241-268.

    “Reframing Canada’s Global Engagement: Ten Strategic Choices for Decision-Makers,” Global Canada, September 2020.

    Sanjay Ruparelia, “In India, the government’s election machine is humming – but the economy and democracy are at risk,” The Globe and Mail, March 22, 2022.