Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent

Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

This is where to come for my take on life and times in the world’s largest democracy

Why India should not get complacent over its tiger population

  • 21 January 2015
  • From the section India
Indian tiger
India says it now has almost a third more tigers than it did four years ago

How good is the news that India has almost a third more tigers than it did four years ago?

Experts say tiger numbers are the most reliable indicators of the health of the population. But they also warn that it is more important to monitor individual tiger populations every year to really get a handle on their health. "Once-in-four-years country-wide estimates do not have much practical use. But everyone, including politicians and conservationists, seems to set much in store by these numbers," says Dr K Ulhas Karanth, one of India's top conservation experts.

According to the latest tiger census, the tiger population rose from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 in 2014. The latest tiger estimation identified 1,540 tigers through images collected from 9,735 camera trap locations in 18 states. "Because of the extensive survey effort and camera trap results, which identified nearly 70% of the estimated tiger number; these figures are most accurate ever," claims WWF India, one of the country's top conservation organisations.

Sure, tiger numbers have definitely increased since 2006 when India upped investments under pressure from global and international conservationists in hiring more guards, protecting reserves and promoting voluntary village relocation. All this helped, say experts, in many parts of India, although over large swathes, tigers have been wiped out or are in low numbers.

But many questions remain. What is the state of availability of prey in India's tiger reserves? Every tiger requires a breeding prey population of 500 animals in its territory to ensure a "food bank". Tiger populations thrive on abundant prey - a breeding female tiger produces a litter of three cubs every third year. Mortality rates can be high: Dr Karanth's studies show 20% or more higher mortality rates in a thriving tiger habitat in Nagarhole in southern India.

Read full article Why India should not get complacent over its tiger population

Why Indian author Perumal Murugan quit writing

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section India
Perumal Murugan
Perumal Murugan is one of the finest writers in the Tamil language

"Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He has no faith in rebirth. As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave him alone."

With these dramatic words on his Facebook page, the well-known writer in the Tamil language announced his decision to give up writing forever. The provocation: wrathful protests against his novel Madhorubhagan by local Hindu and caste-based groups.

Read full article Why Indian author Perumal Murugan quit writing

Is Kashmir headed for direct rule?

  • 9 January 2015
  • From the section India
Kashmir election
The PDP's success has been attributed to widespread public discontent over the National Conference party's handling of devastating September floods that killed scores of people

Politics is the art of the possible, but more than a fortnight after elections results in Indian-administered Kashmir, no government is in sight.

To be sure, the split verdict hasn't made things easier.

Read full article Is Kashmir headed for direct rule?

Atul Gawande: What ails India's public health system

  • 16 December 2014
  • From the section India
Atul Gawande
Atul Gawande is an expert on medical error and performance

What do you make of India's under-performing, poorly-funded, leaky public health system, smothered by high population and appalling sanitation?

It is the same health system, by the way, which has helped raise life expectancy from 32 years a few decades ago, to more than 65 today.

Read full article Atul Gawande: What ails India's public health system

Why segregated housing is thriving in India

  • 10 December 2014
  • From the section India
Rizwan Kadri
Rizwan Kadri moved into a Muslim apartment building from a mixed neighbourhood

Rizwan Kadri runs an architecture firm with three partners, all Hindus, in India's western city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state.

Son of a revenue official, he grew up in mixed neighbourhoods. In 2002, massive anti-Muslim riots sparked by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, left more than 1,000 people dead in Gujarat.

Read full article Why segregated housing is thriving in India

Why so many Indians flock to gurus

  • 19 November 2014
  • From the section India
Devotee of Sai Baba
Sai Baba's influence endures after his death

I don't think many people were aware of the controversial Hindu guru Rampal before Tuesday's violent clashes between his supporters and the police.

But then India is a country of more than a billion people and tens of thousands of gurus.

Read full article Why so many Indians flock to gurus

India's dark history of sterilisation

  • 14 November 2014
  • From the section India
A woman, who underwent sterilization surgery at a government mass sterilisation "camp", walks to sit in a hospital bed at a district hospital in Bilaspur, in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh, November 13, 2014
Nearly four million Indians, mostly women, were sterilised during 2013-14

The death of 15 women at two state-run sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh has put a spotlight on India's dark history of botched sterilisations.

The drive to sterilise began in the 1970s when, encouraged by loans amounting to tens of millions of dollars from the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Authority and the UN Population Fund, India embarked on an ambitious population control programme.

Read full article India's dark history of sterilisation

Are Gujarat's 'toilet politics' democratic?

  • 13 November 2014
  • From the section India
In this September 22, 2014, photo schoolchildren talk in front of a poster bearing a quote from PM Narendra Modi in Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made abolishing open defecation a top priority of his government

Is banning a person from contesting for public office if he or she does not have a toilet at home a good idea?

India's western state of Gujarat certainly believes so. Earlier this week, the state's legislators passed a bill which makes it mandatory for candidates to have toilets in their homes to qualify for contesting elections to local municipalities and village councils. Existing elected members will also have to declare within six months that they have toilets at home, failing which they will face disqualification.

Read full article Are Gujarat's 'toilet politics' democratic?

Will Narendra Modi change India?

  • 5 November 2014
  • From the section India
Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi led his BJP to a historic election win

He is a powerful speaker and draws huge crowds. He talks about himself in the third person. He's the most energetic leader India has had in years, burning the midnight oil and campaigning for his party with equal fervour.

He's also an astute performer: recently he dropped into a police station and picked up a broom to promote a campaign to clean up India. Behind the bluster and performance, he, according to insiders, is a loner who trusts his instincts but very few people.

Read full article Will Narendra Modi change India?

Why the riots in Delhi's Trilokpuri are significant

  • 1 November 2014
  • From the section India
A policeman walks past a burnt shop in Trilokpuri, New Delhi
A clothes shop owned by a Muslim was burnt down in the riots

Last week's clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Trilokpuri in Delhi did not exactly become headline-grabbing news.

Residents - helped by, many say, outsiders - fought pitched battles on the streets with stones and bricks, torched a couple of shops, threatened each other and vandalised property. Thirty-five people were injured. Five people sustained gunshot wounds as the police fired to rein in the rioters. More than 60 people were arrested.

Read full article Why the riots in Delhi's Trilokpuri are significant

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About Soutik

Before joining the BBC, Soutik worked with Indian newspapers and magazines and an international newspaper as a correspondent and an editor.

He was a Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford.

Soutik has covered elections in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, the tsunami in India and Sri Lanka in 2005, and militancy in Kashmir, working mostly on a series of stories on the state of youth and women in the disputed region.

In 2005, he used a laptop link to connect BBC News readers from around the world to a people living in a Pashtun village in Afghanistan. He revisited the village two years later to do a similar project and to see how life had changed.

He loves blues and jazz, and believes Derek Trucks is the best and most innovative slide guitarist alive.

He is a big movie buff, with Michael Haneke, Martin Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen and Satyajit Ray among his favourite directors.

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