Smitu Kothari

In the memory of Smitu Kothari, a distinguished environmentalist and scholar-activist, in 2018, the Centre for Financial Accountability established the Smitu Kothari Fellowship to encourage young writers to critically look at the world of development finance beyond the lending and ‘development’.

The Fellowship is open to all Indian citizens below 40 years of age writing in  English and other Indian languages.

The three-month-long Fellowship every year entails writing comprehensive, well-researched, and investigative articles, photo essays or short documentaries on the specific area/projects related to the themes selected for each year. Fellows are encouraged to get their articles published.

Smitu Kothari was a distinguished environmentalist and scholar-activist, who was involved in ecological, cultural and human rights issues. He was a fellow-traveller and a good friend of many social movements and bridged the worlds of activism and academics. Throughout his life, he tried to collectively forge a national and global alternative that is socially just and ecologically sane.


“In the rush to cover daily news, it’s hard to do the deep-dive necessary to critically analyse the story behind every story. The Smitu Kothari Fellowship gave me the time and discipline I needed to do a comprehensive report on the energy sector and the problems that I knew renewables in particular was facing in India. This was a great opportunity for me to look for the vast tracts of data this story needed, identify trends and conduct extensive interviews with power companies, investors and lenders, energy consultants and scientists to understand and report on what’s really going on.” Tanya Thomas, National Writer, Mint, and Smitu Kothari Fellow 2019

“The Smitu Kothari fellowship is a gift for independent researchers and journalists to chase stories from parts of India that don’t regularly feature in our newspapers or television sets. The fellowship gave an immense boost to my project at a time when I was struggling to get most funders and editors to appreciate the crucial link of the Act East Policy in India’s development narrative. It has also emboldened me to stay on the path to continue following the story.” Makepeace Sitlhou, independent journalist and Smitu Kothari Fellow 2019

“The opportunity this Fellowship offered was critical to upcoming researchers, like me, who wanted to investigate more on newly emerging, ‘under’ researched and yet deeply troubling concerns of our times. The support offered by the fellowship team with new ideas and critical feedback throughout the fellowship duration has nuanced my understanding of the issues and reflected in my work during the fellowship period.” Aravind Unni, public policy and developmental activist, Smitu Kothari Fellow-2018

“The Smitu Kothari fellowship allowed me to kick start my work on the impact of large power projects on the environment in fragile ecosystems.” Divya Rajagopal, Senior Assistant Editor, The Economic Times, Smitu Kothari Fellow-2018

“I got a chance to cover climate change and the financial irregularities as a Smitu Kothari Fellow-2018. During my fellowship, I saw how the international funds for climate change or green funds released by organisations like the UN, World Bank, US Aid and others do not reach the projects directly. This is affecting some of the key climate projects, being executed at grass root levels.” Kushagra Dixit, Senior Correspondent, IANS, Smitu Kothari Fellow-2018

More information about the fellows, themes, and writings, can be found below.