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Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) is happy to announce recipients of the 5th Smitu Kothari Fellowship for young writers. The ten recipients for 2022 (three months fellowship) come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and hail from different parts of the country across the length and breadth of the nation.
The three-month fellowship gives an opportunity to young people for a deep-dive into some of the topics they are passionate about and publish. The fellowship encourages young writers to critically look at the world of development finance beyond lending.
This year’s fellows will work on a variety of topics, including the environment, fiscal federalism, inequality, urban planning, and waste management.

The fellows are mentored by Rakesh Dewan, editor of Sarvodaya Press Service, and assisted by the experts at CFA.
The fellowship is instituted in the name of Smitu Kothari who was a distinguished environmentalist and scholar-activist and was involved in ecological, cultural and human rights issues.

The fellows for this year are:

Sruthi Pillai is an environmental engineer turned interdisciplinary researcher. A research scholar at the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas, IIT Bombay, she is interested in understanding the persistence of water pollution in the country. Her research interests include environmental governance, sustainable transformations and transdisciplinary research.

As part of the fellowship, she is interested in examining the use of environmental compensations and benefits in restoring the environment.


Yogesh Upadhyay works at IIM Ahmedabad as an Academic Associate in the Public Systems Group department. His interest lies in the political economy of development in forest spaces, social ecology, social movements and cultural politics of the middle-class in India. He is an alumnus of Ambedkar University, Delhi. He has worked with Himdhara Environment Collective, researching and documenting the impacts of run-of-river Hydro Electricity Projects, and spreading awareness of upcoming dams, Forest Rights Act and Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act amongst the ‘Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’.

Yogesh will look into ‘Inland Waterways: Submerging Local Livelihood?’ as part of this fellowship.


Shalini is a researcher and community organizer based in Hyderabad with a background in Sociology. She has worked with different non-profits in the field of Education, Gender and Social Movements and also taught Sociology at the undergraduate level. Her research interests include questions around the intersections of ecology and labour, gender, caste, environmental & social movements and urban studies.
As part of the fellowship, Shalini will investigate the ‘Political ecology of waste: A Case Study of Environmental Injustice in Jawahar Nagar dumpyard in Hyderabad.’


Sidharth R is a final year post-graduate student in Economics at the University of Kerala and holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Calicut. His articles have appeared in Business line and The Hindu. His research interests include areas related to Public Finance, Monetary Macroeconomics, Gender, Caste and Social capital.

He will be working on the Impact of cess and surcharges on Indian fiscal federalism.


Aazam Abdul Nisthar has completed his master’s in sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University. As a Marxist, he is keen on the political questions about the state and democracy. For long-term research, he is interested in the sociology of the judicial field in India.

He will be working on understanding the economic and political crisis in Puducherry UT, and what that speaks to the Indian public about Union Territories.


Shaista Banu works as a quality control manager with the Food Corporation of India. Her job involves safeguarding food grains stored in the warehouses, and liaison with the State Govt and its agencies during procurement seasons for monitoring and super-check the food grains procured. She has previously worked as a researcher in the fisheries and mangrove ecology fields. With an engineering degree in biotechnology, she has also enjoyed teaching biology to a range of students.

As part of the fellowship, Shaista will look at the ‘Case For Public Distribution in India.’


Alex Chongtham is a Post-Graduate with an MA in Development Studies from IIT Guwahati. He has been working as a Research Associate in the Indigenous Perspectives, Imphal. Since his master’s, he has continuously been working as an active member of the fishing community union, the ALLAFUM and the NGAMEE LUP helping them with research and planning.

With this fellowship, Alex will investigate ‘Loktak Eco-Tourism project by the state of Manipur, to be funded by ADB.’


Sanskrita Bharadwaj is an independent journalist based in Assam. Her bylines have appeared in several international and national publications. She is also a Pulitzer Center grantee and a South Asia Speaks fellow.

Sanskrita will be working on the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, especially focussing on the women street vendors of Kohima, Nagaland.


Suchak Patel, is a Research Assistant for the Prime-Time Show of the NDTV India. He also has a keen interest in RTI activism and has filed several requests with concerned departments over the years. His research interests include public policy and government schemes.

With this fellowship, he aims to look at ‘The Black Hole of Public Finance: Implicit taxation and Inequality.’


Rupam Deb has an MA in Strategic and Area Studies from the Centre for Himalayan Studies, University of North Bengal. He has been working with the vulnerable communities in North Bengal, with an orientation of building up youth platforms with youths hailing from vulnerable Tea-garden communities. He has mobilized tea garden workers for their rights, with an alternative platform called Chai Bagan Bachao Committee in Alipurduar district. He also works as a freelance journalist writing for Bengali newspapers, Ananda Bazar Patrika, Uttar Banga Sambad, along with The Telegraph, Groundxero and Countercurrent.

As part of the fellowship, Rupam will look at ‘The Mismatch between the Land Demand and Land Policy in the Tea Plantations of West Bengal.’

The works of Smitu Kothari fellows 2021 can be read here.

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Soma Kishore Parthasarathy
Soma Kishore Parthasarathy
1 month ago

Excellent line up!! Wish the fellows all success, greatvwaybtobremember Smithu and keep his amazing work ethic alive!