Hafta letters: Climate migration, Gujarat model, and public servants as masters

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Hi NL team

Re Hafta 343, I have a couple of comments.

Regarding Modi's Gujarat model, none of the economic data bears out Modi and the BJP’s claim that Modi's tenure transformed Gujarat into an economic powerhouse. That is the message the Modi Marketing Department has successfully propagated to cover for the true reason for Modi's popularity. My opinion is that when the Godhra tragedy happened, Modi very shrewdly took charge of the situation and used the mob violence against the Muslims to his benefit to show himself as the champion of the Hindus. His reputation grew from that of "one who managed to put Muslims in their place". None of the failures or ineptitude of his governments could overshadow this reputation.

Regarding minority assimilation, as someone who lives overseas, I can tell you that the very same NRI Hindu armchair warriors who applaud various transgression against the non-Hindu minorities in India would kick up a huge stink and cry discrimination when the local council rejects the plan for a new car park at their local temple in Sydney. But, we are known for our blindness to our own hypocrisy.

By the way, I admire Anand's scholarship and his knowledge although I'm not aligned to his political view. He can work on his delivery though. One tends to lose oneself when he speaks.


Venu Parthiban


Hi team,

Mehraj in the last Hafta sounded a tad softer towards the Taliban and a few things which he said were not true at all and made the Taliban look good. Something like they don't engage in women’s rape. And I am surprised none from the panel knew about the Kunduz horror. Google and check Amnesty's report on that.

A big thank you to the entire team for letting us see things beyond the news. Love listening to Anand. I mostly listen to both Hafta and Charcha but because of work if I have to pick one, I pick where Anand is speaking. No offense to others :)

Regards ,

Avinash Kumar


Hi NL team,

I am writing this mail hoping to get some guidance.

It is very, very disturbing how Muslims are being targeted using the bogey of “Economic Jihad”. For me personally, I am having difficulty to not see North Indian Hindus, particularly the upper castes, as anything more than violent, destructive bigots. I don't want to hate North Indian Hindus as bigotry is growing everywhere but I am unable to pity them or see them as victims of propaganda. How do you keep your empathy and not let the violence affect you?

On the topic of violence, may I suggest you do a Sena project on Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati. His followers seem to be everywhere from the calls to genocide given at Jantar Mantar to the recent attacks on the Mulism dose seller in Mathura, even the Jamia shooter is influenced by him.

He seems to be following the trajectory of Zakir Naik and it is only a matter of time before one of them conducts a terrorist attack. Should some people keep an eye on him so that he does not get a chance to run away.

Note: I don't mean any disrespect to any North Indian Hindu reading this, just that radical Hindutva has gotten me concerned about where India and North India is going as a society.

Avinash Kumar


In Halfta 343, the panel says NL is working on a story on the recent IPCC report. As I research in related fields, I would love to help you in any way possible. One of the inevitable impacts of the climate crisis is migration, which motivated me to write this email. In the last two episodes, when talking about Afghan refugees, the panel makes passing remarks on well-to-do entrepreneurial refugees who are apparently more welcome than others! As if people don't participate enough in the economy by buying toothpaste.

Migration is a continuous process and perhaps the most normal one in the history of life. Events like a Taliban takeover or a cyclone, or a flood just make it more visible. The idea that limited resources cannot handle an influx of immigrants historically had given rise to marginalization and racial discrimination worldwide.

Rarely do we see reports on rehabilitation after a disaster. It's high time we normalize migration because the public discourse needs to change if we care about community resilience amidst inevitable climate crises.

I was expecting some mention of the passing of Dr Gail Omvedt. Maybe having a more diverse team would have helped.

In the last two episodes, you missed out on Kriti's and Josy's recommendations. Please update the pages.

Hope my criticisms will be taken in a positive light. We subscribers hold NL to a much higher standard, hence the occasional brickbats that come your way.




I am a new subscriber and hopefully will continue being a lifelong subscriber. Big fan of Abhinandan! Can you guys please give a tour of your bookshelves, especially Abhinandan’s near perfect messy bookshelf, with so many organic stacks. Also, are the newspapers laid out in newsance that day’s papers? Could you share the list of journals, newspapers that you subscribe to at your office?

Prateek Jha


This is just my thought after hearing about the celebrations of being in the IAS in Hafta of September 4.

Aren't bureaucrats just public servants?

If our (Indian public in general) treatment of house helps, retail workers and similar other service people is anything to go by, why is there such a disconnect between our treatment of normal service people and government service people?

Similar to normal service people, the government service people also get paid from our (general public's) hard-earned money.

According to me, we should treat our general service people much better than we do and treat them as normal human beings, and treat the government service people a lot worse than we do now. Based on how we treat government service people, any third-party observer will think we are their servants and begging them for things.

Your thoughts?



Hi NL team,

Hope you are doing well.

I would like to know your opinions on an observation regarding regional parties in India.

Why is it that we rarely see parties from South, East and West of India attempt to extend their bases outside their respective states.

The only examples to buck this trend I can think of are TMC, AIMIM and the SDPI. The NCP from Maharashtra has a presence outside the state but is no longer expanding.

Do you think it is something regarding their politics or a structural flaw in India’s federalism that makes regional parties regional.



Hi there,

Having worked with PSUs as well as having started my career as part of a company that got privatised before I joined, here is my take on why government officials do what they do. I will use a comment made by a project manager at a PSU and a movie.

From the project manager in an engineering drawing approval meeting: "All of us are here to save our skins.”

The movie Basic. Watch it if you have not: GET YOUR STORY RIGHT. That's the storyline that runs throughout the movie.

And my own spin on it. There is no incentive to improve the process.

The first two are true for big companies too, if you wonder why big legacy MNCs (like Ford, BP etc) are slow movers. The third is also true of these companies.

So the frustration of being expected to do as you are told, constantly trying to find the right words and not being able to change despite knowing the gaps might be what keeps these bureaucrats angry.

Best regards,

Dhiraj Krishna Kumar


Hi team,

It's sad that pro-establishment media is critical of you when you are a truly Atmanirbhar, Make in India enterprise. Jokes apart, the problem with young civil servants arises out of the impulsive arrogance of young men who acquire a great deal of power in a society where many basics of civilized, comfortable life are still so exclusive. In my own very limited experience the fact that गाड़ी के ऊपर बत्ती मिलेगी और सब सलाम ठोकेंगे is a big big incentive offered to bright students right from school. A college senior ranked 9th in the exam some years ago and got posted to a prestigious state, but the young then-SDM was dismayed when many people at the office referred to him by his first name and not the expected barrage of "sir sir sir".



Having lived in Australia for years, I have noticed stark differences in government agency attitudes across countries. I perceived myself as balanced and rational but realised over time the impact of (sometimes bigoted) cultural myths embedded during my impressionable years creating inherent gender and class biases. Why would those kids who happen to grow up to be civil servants be any different? Recently, I debated a close friend whose relatives are senior bureaucrats in GOI. In his worldview, just getting past the UPSC selection process is a superlative achievement and he goes as far as using the number of UPSC aspirants in a family as the sole measure of their pedigree given the rigorous selection and influence wielded!

I suspect my two cents’ worth here explain the typical arrogance of bureaucrats that Abhinandan recounted.

1. Any competitive exam be it IIT-JEE, CAT or UPSC will be rigorous and the effort in getting through is commendable.

2. Hype around tough selection is also a self-fulfilling prophecy because many youngsters try UPSC purely for power and respectability/"rutba" factors rather than flair or motivation for civil administration, and as limited positions exist the success percentile will always remain small.

3. Finally clearing a selection process is no guarantee of competence in delivery.

Obviously, when citizens worship civil servants rather than assessing their efficiency as with any other service provider it creates an aura around the Babus.



I am an annual subscriber. Is there a way to renew for more than a year because I love all your work, especially the videos by Atul, Manisha, Meghnad, and Basant.

Now, on the business knowledge of last week's podcast team (read Abhinandan), Zomato has doubled from IPO levels. There are a lot more things happening in the stock market. Your guest didn’t explain it properly (was it due to some conflict of interest?).

Keep doing the great work.


Tarun Arora


This is in regards to Abhinandan's often excessive praise for American politicians and society. Governor Cuomo of New York did not resign because of the results of the investigation into his conduct but because the New York legislature was about to impeach and remove him. Same thing with President Nixon. There is no superior moral code which American politicians operate by compared to Indian ones. And Abhinandan is also wrong in his flat statement that Indian cops are corrupt while American ones are not. He should read a little about the corruption in the police departments of major American cities. The 500 rupee bribe our local constable takes pales in comparison to these multi-million dollar scandals.

Harish Nair


Dear Abhinandan, YouTube shorts is a stupid idea. It creates confusion which video is new and which one is a snippet of an old one. Kindly stop posting YouTube short videos.

Thanks for the good work.

Saurabh Agarwal


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