A Selection Of Short Reads From 2015

01 January, 2016

To round up the year, here is a selection of some of our most talked-about short reads from 2015.

The J-Minus Model: Can Digital-Media Outfits Survive Without Journalists in Their Newsrooms?

TR Vivek, January

Under what was dubbed the K-Minus programme, Taco Bell eliminated the kitchen from its restaurants. The food, normally at the core of a restaurant business, was outsourced to vendors so that Taco Bell could save on labour cost, overheads and retail space, to focus fully on delighting the customers by serving them re-heated fajitas. Today, most fast food chains around the world and in India employ the K-Minus model. In this report, TR Vivek observed that a new breed of digital-media products have adopted a similar system through newsrooms without journalists, a phenomenon he dubbed the J-Minus model.

Tremendous Weight

India’s most important kilogram

Virat Markandeya, February

The original kilogram, adopted as such in 1889, is a cylinder of an alloy of platinum and iridium housed in a vault in Sevres, outside Paris. The National Physical Laboratory is entrusted with the care of India’s copy of it—prototype No 57, which arrived in the country in 1958. Virat Markandeya on the last unit still defined by a physical artefact.

Thirty-Two Years Later, the Nellie Massacre Remains All But Forgotten

Subasri Krishnan, February

On 18 February 1983, a mob of unknown people claimed nearly 1800 victims—predominantly Bengali Muslim— in central Assam. The attacks, which started at 8 am and went on till 3 pm, were spread across 14 villages. Thirty-two years after the Nellie massacre, Subasri Krishnan examined how the memory of this event had been erased from public consciousness.

How Dainik Jagran’s Employees Have Taken on Their Management Over the Non-Implementation of the Majithia Board

Sandeep Bhushan, March

Dainik Jagran is the most widely read newspaper in India with thirty-seven editions that employ close to 8500 people. Sandeep Bhushan reports on the paper’s employees’ dissatisfaction with their low salaries and emoluments.

Blinding Star

Theft in the shadow of Amitabh Bachchan

Omkar Khandekar, March

Amitabh Bachchan’s fleeting darshan at his two-storey bungalow in the Mumbai suburb of Juhu is a decades-long tradition, observed every Sunday afternoon that the star is home, and hundreds gather for it regularly. But not all of them are drawn here by his fame. Omkar Khandekar on how the event has become a hotbed of petty theft.

The Journey of Sambhaji Bhagat: The Man who Inspired the Making of the Film ‘Court’ and Gave it Its Music

Bhanuj Kappal, April

Last year, the movie Court had won 18 international awards and the coveted National Award even before its theatrical release on 17 April. Bhanuj Kappal’s profiled Sambhaji Bhagat, the cultural activist who was the inspiration and music composer for the film.

Long-Term Investment

Making a business of recovering forgotten ancestral assets

Nikita Saxena, May

Nikita Saxena reported on Rakesh Gujral’s Delhi-based initiative, which aims to trace assets in India acquired by the client’s family elders and ancestors such as “shares & securities in Indian companies, bank accounts, lands and buildings etc., and facilitating the legal procedures to claim the same.”

It Doesn’t Matter If the Story was Planted, Four of Sushma Swaraj’s Tweets are Enough to Nail the Case Against Her

Hartosh Singh Bal, June

In June 2015, news of Sushma Swaraj’s alleged intervention as the minister of external affairs (MEA) to ensure that the UK issued travel documents to Lalit Modi—the architect of the Indian Premier League who is wanted by the Enforcement Directorate for his role in a a Rs 425 crore scam—brought about a political crisis for Swaraj. Hartosh Singh Bal argued that Swaraj dealt the biggest blow to herself, through the tweets that she published in her defence soon after the issue surfaced in the media.

How Indian Surveillance Disrupts Ordinary Life and Lives in Kashmir

Uzma Falak, June

Uzma Falak reported on the life of Kashmiri citizens living under the gaze of constant military surveillance.

Nobody Home

The Indian government’s Karachi properties

Sanam Maher, June

The Indian government purchased several properties from private individuals in Pakistan in the 1950s. Sanam Maher explored these small dominions of the Indian Republic within Pakistan.


Kumaoni stories come back to India via Russia

Mohini Gupta, July

In 1998, the Munich-based translator and publisher Roland Beer was working on taking the writer Namita Gokhale’s novel Gods, Graves and Grandmother into German. Over the course of their conversations, Gokhale was surprised to find that the German knew a good deal about her ancestral home, Kumaon. Beer had read about it, in German, in an old book of folk tales from the area. Mohini Gupta reported on how Kumaoni folktales made their way Russia and Europe and finally back to India.

Playing Tag

The battle for Kolkata’s walls

Sanjay Pandey, August

Through this story, Sanjay Pandey threw light on the clash between Kolkata’s graffiti artists and political parties for the city’s walls.

The Unending Fallout of Unilever’s Thermometer Factory in Kodaikanal

Atul Dev, August

For more than a decade now, several activists and non-governmental organisations have been attempting to spread awareness about the mercury contamination caused by Hindustan Unilever’s plant in Kodaikanal. The issue began attracting media attention last year, following a music video that gained traction on social media. In this report, Atul Dev explored the battle that former workers from Unilever’s factory and activists have been waging against the company for exposing them to mercury, and the contamination of the ecologically sensitive area of Kodaikanal.

Yakub Memon’s Mercy Petition: How the Supreme Court’s Late-Night Hearing Left Several Questions Unanswered

Dushyant Arora, August

On 30 July 2015, Yakub Memon—convicted over the 1993 bombings in Mumbai—was sent to the gallows. Memon’s execution took place in the midst of unprecedented circumstances and several twists and turns. In this report, Dushyant Arora provided a first-hand account of the Supreme Court proceedings during the hearing of Memon’s mercy petition at 3:30 am that morning.

Intelligent Design

An acclaimed art director re-imagines a revered shrine

Swati Sanyal Tarafdar, September

Anand Sai arrived at the state secretariat, and was shown into the office of the Swati Sanyal Tarafdar reports on Anand Sai, the temple designer for the Yadagirigutta temple complex, a cave shrine 60 kilometres north-east of the city, in Telangana.

Has Lok Sabha TV Become a Mouthpiece for the Government?

Ishan Marvel, September

Launched in 2006, Lok Sabha was conceptualised as an instrument to acquaint citizens with the functioning of the parliament. The independent channel was meant to represent the view of the entire parliament—of all its 543 members—and not just the majority. However, as Ishan Marvel found out in this report, the government’s murky relationship with the supposedly autonomous channel has rendered its functioning far more complex.

Peer Review

India’s last jury trials

Omkar Khandekar, September

Jury trials have been abolished in India since 1959—with one exception. Omkar Khandekar’s report on the handful of Parsi marital courts left where Parsi juries sit in on marital dispute cases.

Colonising Force

An influx of Indian users ruffles an online community

Ajay Mehta, October

Ajay Mehta wrote about the schism within the Quora community due to the high influx of Indian visitors and India-specific conversations that formed a majority of the platform’s content, subsequently.

In Search Of Lost Time

A blogger’s search for Parveen Babi’s fabled magazine cover

Mayukh Sen, December

Mayukh Sen explored the story of one fan’s five-year quest to acquire a copy of Time magazine with Parveen Babi on the cover.

“My harassers belonged mostly to the educated, urban, middle classes”: An Interview with Manabi Bandyopadhyay, India’s first transgender principal

Monobina Gupta, December

Manabi Bandyopadhyay, who took charge of Krishnanagar Women’s College in West Bengal’s Nadia district last year, is the first transgender person in the country to be appointed the principal of a school. Monobina Gupta met Bandyopadhyay in Delhi, at the ILF Samanvay Languages Festival. Bandyopadhyay discussed her experience and the hardships she faces as a transgender person. She asserted that the CPI-M has not really followed Marxism in its letter and spirit, and that, to her, Banerjee is the “sachcha” (true) communist.