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

Black money: Making a mountain out of a molehill?

  • 28 October 2014
  • From the section India
India notes being counted
Undeclared cash is seen as a major hurdle to India's economic growth

"Black money is so much a part of our white economy, a tumour in the centre of the brain - try to remove it and you kill the patient," wrote Indian-born writer Rohinton Mistry in his novel Family Matters.

To put it simply, black money is cash that has not been declared or taxed. It also fuels India's bustling underground economy. Politicians are believed to use it to finance expensive election campaigns. Buyers and sellers vastly prefer it in transactions involving land and property . It is near-impossible, for example, to buy both in the capital, Delhi, without paying a substantial amount of the price in funny money. Since the majority of India's jobs are in the informal sector, undeclared cash transactions are common. Essentially, black money rewards the dishonest and punishes the honest.

There are varying estimates about the amount of this illicit money stashed abroad - from $500bn (£297bn) to $2 trillion.

Dev Kar, chief economist at Global Financial Integrity, estimates India lost $213bn (£132bn) in illicit financial flows - or illegal capital flight - between 1948 and 2008 alone. He says this illegal capital was the result of graft, bribery and kickbacks, criminal activities, and tax evasion and accounted for 16% of the India's GDP. Arun Kumar, author of The Black Economy in India and economics professor, estimates the figure is much higher at $2 trillion. If the authorities are able to recover a fraction of this amount, it could fetch the government billions of dollars in revenue in taxes and penalties.

After coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to crack down on people who had not reported money parked in offshore tax havens. So when the new government disclosed the names of seven people and a company on Monday for allegedly stashing away black money in foreign banks, many wondered whether it was making a mountain out of the molehill.

Read full article Black money: Making a mountain out of a molehill?

Indian media invited to rather formal 'informal chat'

  • 25 October 2014
  • From the section India
Indian PM Narendra Modi meets journalists, 25 October 2014
The Indian PM made a speech praising the media's role in highlighting his cleanliness campaign

India's mainstream media has had a rocky relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr Modi believes that the media has often been unfair and hostile to him after it blamed him for not doing enough to stop the religious riots in Gujarat in 2002.

Read full article Indian media invited to rather formal 'informal chat'

How Cyclone Hudhud got its name

  • 11 October 2014
  • From the section India
Hoopoe bird
Hudhud in Arabic refers to the hoopoe bird

Did you know Cyclone Hudhud, expected to hit India's south-eastern coast on Sunday afternoon, was "born" in Oman?

We are talking about the name of the cyclone, not the storm itself. The cyclone itself originated in the north Andaman sea in the Bay of Bengal and is now hurtling towards Andhra Pradesh and Orissa states.

Read full article How Cyclone Hudhud got its name

Ten laws that India should scrap

  • 7 October 2014
  • From the section India
Old sign "Bangalore Telegraph Office"
India still has a law regulating possession of telegraph wires - but telegram services ended last year

India's archaic and obsolete laws are seen by many as its most burdensome legacy.

Among those which remain on the books are more than 300 dating from the colonial era, as well as rules to manage issues arising out of the Partition of India. There are more than a dozen laws imposing redundant taxes that yield little and cost a lot to collect, as well as outdated laws relating to former princely states and the nationalisation of industries and banks.

Read full article Ten laws that India should scrap

Why India's sanitation crisis needs more than toilets

  • 6 October 2014
  • From the section India
Indian residents arrive to defecate in an open field in a village in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
More than 500 million Indians defecate in the open

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Independence Day speech, vowed to eliminate open defecation, India took notice.

After all, it was unusual for a prime minister to use the bully pulpit in India to exhort people to end this appalling practice and build more toilets.

Read full article Why India's sanitation crisis needs more than toilets

India's Mars mission: Picture that spoke 1,000 words

  • 25 September 2014
  • From the section India
Indian staff from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) celebrate after the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft (MoM) successfully entered the Mars orbit

When the crowded command control room of India's Mars mission exploded into applause after it successfully put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, photographer Manjunath Kiran of the AFP news agency clicked this remarkable image of scientists congratulating each other.

Wednesday's picture arrived with a rather anodyne caption saying "staff from the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) celebrate after the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft (Mom) successfully entered the Mars orbit".

Read full article India's Mars mission: Picture that spoke 1,000 words

Bollywood cleavage row shows India's 'crass' side

  • 22 September 2014
  • From the section India
Deepika Padukone
Deepika Padukone is one of Bollywood's top actresses

A clash between India's top newspaper and a Bollywood actress shows no signs of abating.

It all began last week with The Times of India publishing a photo and tweet about actress Deepika Padukone's cleavage.

Read full article Bollywood cleavage row shows India's 'crass' side

Did Kashmir 'abandon' its flood-hit people?

  • 12 September 2014
  • From the section India
A view of residential houses submerged in flooded waters on September 10, 2014 in Srinagar
While waters are receding in Kashmir, some 400,000 people are feared to be stranded

The chief minister of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has told a TV news channel that his government was caught off guard by the devastating floods as it could not predict the magnitude of the disaster.

Omar Abdullah said his government did not have a "response... designed for waters of this level".

Read full article Did Kashmir 'abandon' its flood-hit people?

The angry youth of Kashmir won't accept al-Qaeda

  • 5 September 2014
  • From the section India
Anti-India protests in Kashmir (File picture)
There were massive anti-India protests in Kashmir in 2010

Will the disaffected youth of Kashmir really listen to al-Qaeda and "raise the flag of jihad"? Is there an appetite for violence?

'War should continue, message to the Muslims of Kashmir' was the name of a video uploaded earlier this year by al-Qaeda, urging Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir to follow the "brothers" in Syria and Iraq and wage jihad against India.

Read full article The angry youth of Kashmir won't accept al-Qaeda

Narendra Modi's first 100 days

  • 2 September 2014
  • From the section India

The idea of 100 days in office possibly dates back to US Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who took charge in the midst of Great Depression and pushed through 15 key pieces of legislation to tackle unemployment and a broken financial system.

The flurry of law making - which Mr Roosevelt discovered later had taken him exactly 100 days - formed the basis of the New Deal, which led his country out of the downturn. There have been books written on FDR and Barack Obama's 100 days in office.

Read full article Narendra Modi's first 100 days

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    Around and about the world's largest democracy


  • Damian Grammaticas, China correspondent Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

    The people, power and politics of China


  • Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

    The arguments over Europe, its politics and personalities


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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