The curious case of a state’s selective benevolence

Forbearance makes for good politics, especially in democracies where politicians have to be responsive to voter preferences.

A fairly common occurrence in many of our daily lives is the trip to the local thelawala to buy something. Fruit, vegetables, chaat, momos, litti or paav bhaaji, socks, headphones or inflatable toys—there’s almost always an informal street vendor selling something nearby in urban India. Rarely do these vendors have any kind of formal paperwork or permissions allowing them to ply their trade (although efforts have been made towards licences in some states in the last decade). Yet, they continue to function, a natural part of India’s cityscape. However, from time to time we see upheaval in their …


Rohit Chandra

Rohit Chandra is an assistant professor at IIT Delhi’s School of Public Policy and also a visiting fellow at the Centre for Policy Research. Primarily a political scientist and economic historian, his academic work spans the areas of energy policy, state capitalism and infrastructure finance; he has spent the last decade studying the coal and power sectors.