What can data tell us about modern India?

The Aha! moments

I am a fan of the author Rukmini. I first came across her work in The Hindu. In a three part series, she analysed nearly 600 judgements in cases involving rape in Delhi’s seven district courts. The insights she gained from this painstaking work are shared in the first chapter of the book and are easily worth its price. So many enlightening passages! For example, why do we see headlines of girls abducted using ‘sedative laced cold drinks’? Turns out that it is because many of the rape cases are actually cases of consensual elopement. The family of the girl objects to this relationship — often for caste or community reasons. To show that the girl was taken away against her will, the family members allege that she was given a ‘sedative laced cold drink!’

When data is not asked the right question

Early in the chapter on urbanisation is the statement

When data cannot answer important questions

At AskHow India, we have spent a lot of time trying to understand employment. If I were to share one insight, it would be — People look for Acchi Naukri (regular salaried job with ‘good’ pay and status) and not just kaam(employment). Most of the country’s employment measures don’t tell us anything about Acchi Naukri. There are other problems too. Let me explain with a made up example.

Where data gets really unreliable — measuring beliefs

The chapter on beliefs in my copy of the book is filled with questions. For example, here is the author on the results of a survey on attitudes towards democracy and authoritarianism



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Yogesh Upadhyaya

Yogesh Upadhyaya


Entrepreneur. Economist. Investor. Actor. Technophile. Policy wonk. Comedian. I love to explore places where these worlds intersect.