Yamini Aiyar
Articles by Yamini Aiyar

The structural constraints that hinder reform in India

Data from the 2023 Economic Survey illustrates an enduring tension in the dynamics of Centre-state relations that constrains policy reforms.

The table reports on the actual approval and release of funds to states.
Published on Mar 09, 2023 08:02 PM IST

Welfare spending cut could pose significant livelihood challenges

In re-prioritising expenditure with its big push on capex, the finance minister is taking a bet on the Indian economy, one that, for the moment, has significant risks for the livelihoods of India’s poor and vulnerable. Let’s hope it pays off

Welfare has now been relegated to the margins of government spending (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Feb 02, 2023 07:42 AM IST

Celebrate civic political action for its own sake

The battleground for substantive democracy in India has largely been outside the electoral arena in the form of citizen-led mobilisations. In 2023, when state polls will dominate discussions, the challenge will be to preserve this space

Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement, the Chipko movement, and the movement for a gamut of rights (information, work, food), to name a few, have played a crucial role in entrenching liberal norms and prising open spaces for rooting substantive democracy (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Dec 30, 2022 09:11 PM IST

India’s agrarian sector needs a budget boost

Farm policymaking slowed down after the repeal of three laws in 2021. But the climate crisis, geopolitical instability and inflation have exacerbated the urgency for reforms

At its heart, India’s MSP procurement was never about legal guarantees to farmers for price stabilisation and market risk mitigation. Instead, it was a mechanism for production incentivisation to achieve self-sufficiency (SANJEEV KUMAR/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Dec 02, 2022 08:56 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar and Mekhala Krishnamurthy

Reframing policymaking to tackle rural inflation

Rather than relying on new infrastructure projects, which are both capital-intensive and slow to start, the focus must be on the maintenance of existing infrastructure

From dams to rural roads and electricity distribution, existing infrastructure in rural India urgently needs maintenance. (AFP)
Published on Nov 02, 2022 08:56 PM IST

India’s key role in 21st century non-alignment

As Covid-19, the climate crisis, and Russia’s war in Ukraine exacerbate inequities in the world order, there is a strategic relevance for India to be a leader of developing nations in their quest for equity and autonomy

India’s stature and the call for renewed leadership emanates from the power of her example. It is the resilience of the Indian democratic project that distinguishes India as a non-western global leader like no other. (ANI)
Published on Aug 24, 2022 09:05 PM IST

What Sri Lanka tells us about the democratic project

The contemporary global moment has not been democracy’s finest. Across the world and, indeed, in Sri Lanka, formal democratic institutions are increasingly in conflict with and consciously undermining democracy’s ideals

The island’s future now hangs in the balance with the formal political process seeking to reinforce the status quo. (AFP)
Published on Jul 20, 2022 08:58 PM IST

Understanding the Agnipath protests

Economic vulnerability, especially unemployment and the social value of government jobs, lie at the heart of the ongoing stir against the scheme. Protesters are driven by the desire for social prestige and the chance of upward mobility

The path to reform doesn’t lie in piecemeal contractualisation of the State. It has to be rooted in the real challenges of the Indian economy, the aspirations of mobility and the social value of government jobs (Sameer Sehgal/HT Photo)
Updated on Jun 20, 2022 09:23 PM IST

The rural economy needs a new deal

Covid-19, the Ukraine war, and the climate crisis show that policymaking for rural India must shift from a knee-jerk approaches to one that invests in long-term risk management

Our cereal-heavy production regime played saviour in the pandemic by ensuring food security. But the climate crisis-induced heatwave of March exposed the fragility of excessive reliance on cereals (Shutterstock)
Updated on May 31, 2022 08:14 PM IST

Reviving the spirit of Centre-state alliance

For cooperative federalism to survive, empower the moribund Inter-State Council to fulfil its role of mediating Centre-state relations

Negotiating a compromise that enables genuine cooperative federalism requires a commitment to the federal principle. If the GST experience is anything to go by, these conditions do not exist in India today (PTI)
Updated on May 08, 2022 07:37 PM IST

Decoding the BJP’s model of welfarism

It positions welfare as empowerment, but strips it from the language of rights, and enforces it through centralised delivery mechanisms

In this formulation, the citizen is cast as a recipient, a beneficiary of welfare beholden to the benevolence of a charitable State rather than a citizen actively claiming rights from the State. (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)
Published on Apr 14, 2022 06:16 PM IST

The female voter has shifted the arc of electoral politics

The emergence of the female voter as a critical vote bank defies the framework of the identity, caste-based dynamic that has dominated our understanding of politics

Many female voters told us that they received phone call reminders, often from party workers, to collect rations. (ANI)
Updated on Mar 10, 2022 10:31 PM IST

Apathy, cynicism of babus hurt welfare

To reform the system, bureaucrats have to start believing in welfare. Only then they will be able to find the right algorithm

The bureaucracy is constantly worried about ‘identifying’ the poor. It is this belief system that caused the bureaucracy at the peak of the lockdown crisis to actively resist cash transfers to migrant workers (Himanshu Vyas/ HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 23, 2022 08:35 PM IST

Inadequate spending on health and welfare schemes is a cause for concern

India needs far greater investments in health. That is the one lesson that Covid-19 has taught us, but once again we have refused to learn

the economy is still under stress and the demand for the MGNREGS continues to be higher than pre-pandemic levels. (File Photo)
Published on Feb 01, 2022 10:28 PM IST

The politics of hate vs politics of secularism

The grammar of secularism was not adopted to eschew religion; it was a pathway to peace. Today, we have shunned this principle, favouring instead a competitive religious politics that co-exists with hate

The only antidote to hate, prejudice and communal poison is a politics of genuine secularism (Shutterstock)
Updated on Dec 28, 2021 09:15 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

The farm laws: Why this is not a 1991 moment

Beyond their political significance, the story of the farm laws, from their conception to repeal, raises critical questions about India’s economic policymaking frameworks and pathways to reform factor markets

These farmers need the State to invest — in market infrastructure, in accessible agricultural credit, in risk management — for markets to work. The real bottleneck to better markets, ironically, in much of India is the absence of the State (PTI)
Updated on Nov 26, 2021 07:13 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar and Mekhala Krishnamurthy

We are failing our children

There is grim news on education. But the silver lining is that the pandemic forced innovation. Build on it

Students pray in their classroom on the first day of reopening of schools, Pune (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Nov 19, 2021 03:51 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

When violence accompanies democracy

Unless we reclaim the language of the Constitution, secularism, and individual rights, violence, hate and bigotry will win

Some honest, plain speaking on the nature of violence is important. First, sites of violence have moved beyond major riots to everyday events; second, social media has given violence a new kind of visibility; and third, violence has visible State sanction (HTPHOTO)
Updated on Oct 25, 2021 06:45 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

India’s path to power: Strategy in a world adrift

At a time when global, regional and national politics is undergoing a churn, some of India’s finest public intellectuals — including those who have been policymakers and those who have observed and studied India in depth — have come together to outline the contours of the new world order and, more importantly, what India should do to achieve its objectives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (PTI)
Updated on Oct 02, 2021 06:05 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar, Sunil Khilnani, Prakash Menon, Shivshankar Menon, Nitin Pai, Srinath Raghavan, Ajit Ranade, and Shyam Saran

Bringing the states back in

There is only one way to increase farm and non-farm rural incomes — adopt a state-specific approach

Farmers drying their paddy Chandigarh, September, 29, 2020. (Ravi Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Sep 29, 2021 04:37 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar and Mekhala Krishnamurthy

Reshaping the State-citizen relationship

A corrosive culture distances the State from the public and legitimises demands for public ‘discipline’ to achieve policy goals

Police cane-charge a farmer at Karnal's Bastara toll plaza during a protest against the new farm laws, in Karnal, Haryana on August 28. (Manoj Dhaka / Hindustan Times)
Updated on Sep 02, 2021 06:40 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

In India, a diminished economic future

Employment trends, the shock to informal sector and persistently high demand for welfare present an alarming picture. Don’t get misled by revenue numbers and corporate profits

The long-term challenge for India remains finding its way toward an employment-intensive growth trajectory. This will require more than the current policy toolkit of extended credit guarantees and bulldozing reforms, as was attempted through farm laws (Vipin Kumar /HT PHOTO)
Updated on Aug 13, 2021 07:22 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

To reopen schools, India must go local

Involve parents; decentralise decision-making; and give schools greater autonomy for expenditure. Local innovation is the path forward

Schools have to be prepared for three scenarios — a strict lockdown; partial movement; and when all restrictions are lifted. The response of schools to these realities has to be localised (Keshav Singh/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Jul 28, 2021 06:00 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar and Rukmini Banerji

Reforms and Indian capitalism

Crony capitalism is entrenched, regulation is weak, and inequality is high. Reforms need a new imagination

Representational image. (AFP)
Updated on Jun 29, 2021 04:21 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

Covid-19 and the disease of inequality

The second wave will deepen inequality. Expand support to states, universalise PDS, and ramp up MGNREGS now

A Jharkhand government health worker conducts thermal screening of a villager at Chaite village in Namkum block of Ranchi earlier this month. (File photo)
Updated on May 27, 2021 05:45 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

The second wave and the Indian State

The Centre and states are at war, but India urgently needs a coordinated response. It’s not too late. But soon it will be

We need a hospital policy; a human resource policy; transparent data on oxygen requirement, allocation and supply processes; war-rooms to help citizens find beds, oxygen, medicines and tele-consultation (PTI)
Updated on May 09, 2021 10:32 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

As Covid’s second wave surges in India, history repeats itself

From curbs to blindness towards the plight of labour, from opacity in data to blaming citizens, it is 2020 all over again

Much has been said about the need for universalisation of vaccines and better coordination. But it is important to remember that a successful vaccination strategy will require transparency, citizen confidence and trust. (REUTERS)
Updated on Apr 09, 2021 03:43 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

The Union versus Delhi, Act II, Scene 1

The attempt to change the Capital’s governance structure raises a fundamental question — what should be the nature of the Indian Union?

The degree of sobriety, political maturity and commitment to the federal principle that is necessary for a harmonious construction of responsibilities is lacking in India. (SHUTTERSTOCK)
Updated on Mar 21, 2021 10:40 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar and Partha Mukhopadhyay

Navigating Centre-state fiscal ties

The 15th FC report re-enacts a fundamental tension that lies at the heart of India’s fiscal federal relations.

On vertical devolution, the Centre can maintain the status quo. And, on states vs local governments, the nature of FFC’s grant recommendations reflects the tensions in the refusal of states to fulfill their constitutional obligation to local governments (ANI)
Updated on Feb 18, 2021 06:35 AM IST
ByYamini Aiyar

Decoding the budget and the economics of welfare

Several announcements — a bad bank, the proposal for a development financial institution, and bank recapitalisation — aim at reforming the economy. But these will not respond to the structural inequalities caused by the pandemic

The FY 22 budget ought to have increased expenditure for welfare, provided for an inclusive social protection architecture that protects vulnerable groups especially migrant workers, and increased capital expenditure. At first glance, the government has only done the last. (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Feb 02, 2021 01:55 PM IST
ByYamini Aiyar
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