New Book

The Broken Ladder:

Despite becoming a global economic force, why does India win so few Olympic medals and have so many people living in poverty? Why have opportunities not become available more broadly? How can growing individuals assist with the task of building a growing economy? Krishna presents a refreshingly unusual perspective of emergent realities, drawing on the stories of everyday lives, of people like you and me and those less privileged. Through decades-long investigations, living in villages and slum communities, the author presents eye-opening details of missed opportunities and immense untapped talent that can be harnessed, with tremendous consequences for equity and growth. Offering possible solutions for inequality and those in need, The Broken Ladder is a comprehensive and fascinating account of development strategies in a fast-growing, yet largely agrarian, developing economy.

Cambridge University Press.

Penguin India. 

Media Coverage

OPEN Magazine: Divided Destiny

“A nuanced and empathetic exposition on the pathologies of development in one of the world’s most populous and complex nations” — Soutik Biswas

The Financial Express: Anirudh Krishna’s ‘The Broken Ladder: The Paradox and the Potential of India’s One Billion’, a poignant narrative of the extremes in India

“Brilliantly researched and poignantly narrated … Krishna has turned familiar chiasmic stories of prosperity and poverty into such scheming and conniving possible-impossible aporias that you are left wonderstruck.” — Ashwani Kumar

Times of India: How to fix India’s broken ladder to growth

“Compels you to look for answers with a different perspective… With PM Modi talking about eliminating poverty by 2032, doubling farmers’ incomes, bringing in social equality among all sections of the society, the book has come at the right time.”  — Anilesh S. Mahajan

Business Today: Worm’s Eye View

“Compels you to look for answers with a different perspective… With PMModi talking about eliminating poverty by 2032, doubling farmers’ incomes, bringing in social equality among all sections of the society, the book has come at the right time.”  — Anilesh S. Mahajan

The Tribune: No Support, No Information . . . No Opportunities for Poor

This interesting book makes the point that bureaucrats are not heartless, merely clueless. Unwittingly, they have managed to create a governmental system in which no one has any stake in achieving any outcome.” — M. Rajivlochan

The Business Standard: Fixing the Ladder of Opportunity

“Mr Krishna presents detailed case studies of people he lives around, and this closeness keeps him from making glib judgements.” — Vikram Johri

Hindu Business Line Interview: Blame the ‘Broken Ladder’ for India Not Climbing

“About his motivation to write the book, Krishna says, “After serving in the IAS for 14 years, I became a full-time academic researcher. I spend several months each year living in villages in different parts of India, and in slums. It’s the human stories from these places that form the bulk of the book. These stories are backed up by research.”

Interview with The Wire

Advance Praise:

“This is a remarkable book pointing our attention to the ground-level realities and vulnerabilities of the poor that are overlooked by the glowing macro-economic growth stories about India. With vivid examples it highlights the micro situations (involving attitudes, beliefs, availability of information and credit, etc.) that make it so difficult to climb out of that poverty and vulnerability for otherwise highly motivated and talented people. The author’s human case studies are quite touching as the analysis is incisive. I recommend this book to any reader who is interested in an empathetic understanding of the constraints, institutional failures and opportunities facing vast numbers of people in India.”

Pranab Bardhan – University of California, Berkeley


“A masterly work grounded in decades of methodical research combined with unusual personal commitment and experience . . . reminiscent of Naipaul’s India: A Million Mutinies Now.”

Rakesh Mohan


“With great clarity, Anirudh Krishna provides acute insights into the complex problems that ensnare ordinary Indians, and imaginative ways out. He is the most ingenious field investigator working on India, and the themes that he tackles here are crucially important to the livelihoods of ordinary folk, and to their access to vital services, especially education and health. This is a realistic and deeply humane book of the first importance.”

James Manor – Emeka Anyaoku Professor Emeritus of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London


“This is not an ordinary book, another one celebrating India’s emergence on the global scene or lamenting about its uneven growth story. This is a serious engagement with some of the most compelling questions confronting the ordinary Indian living in its diverse social and demographic locations. Based on a close observation of ground realities, a ‘worms’ eye view’ of someone who besides being an academic of considerable repute has also had the experience of administration and recognizes the critical significance of state policy, the book provides a perspective and a guide to what needs to be done to take a billion plus Indians ahead.”

Surinder S. Jodhka – Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


“This is at once a passionate and sharply analytical account of how the pathologies of development have created a divide between Indians who live in the urban `dollar economy’ and those that live in the rural `rupee economy.’ Krishna’s worm’s eye-view possesses a rare authenticity as it documents the heart-rending ways in which talented young people from disadvantaged rural backgrounds experience the lack of opportunity and social mobility in their lives.”

Niraja Gopal Jayal – Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.


“This is unquestionably the only book I know that so comprehensively and lucidly sets out the full picture of ‘the poor’ in India, drawing on an immense amount of utterly up-to-date research.”

Philip Oldenburg – South Asia Institute, Columbia University


“[Krishna] is able to see transformational challenge of an epic proportion with credibility and compassion.”

Subroto Bagchi – co-founder of Mindtree, Indian entrepreneur


“A compassionate, engaged and informed portrayal of the broken ladder which forces millions of Indians to “cope without advancing.'”

Harsh Mander – Director of the Centre for Equity Studies