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A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India

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Country  India
Genre  Literary Non-Fiction
ISBN  978-9-35-029751-3
4.2/5 Goodreads

Author  Josy Joseph
Language  English
Publisher  HarperCollins India
Originally published  10 July 2016
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A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India is a literary non-fiction book by the Indian investigative journalist, Josy Joseph. Published by Harper Collins in July 2016, this 256-page book examines and documents the crisis gripping the world’s largest democracy - India.



Josy Joseph is an Indian investigative journalist, who is currently the National Security Editor of The Hindu. His stories have fostered public debate, and continue to contribute to significant policy and systemic changes in India. Among the investigative stories he has published are the Adarsh Apartment scam, Naval War Room Leak case, several aspects of the Commonwealth Games scandal, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, and other corrupt and nepotistic government decisions. The Prem Bhatia Trust elected him India’s best political reporter of 2010 ‘for his scoops and revelations, which include a list of scams that have become familiar names in the political lexicon’. In July 2013, the Ramnath Goenka Foundation run by the Indian Express group awarded him the Journalist of the Year in print media.


A Feast of Vultures is an unprecedented, multiple-level inquiry into modern India, and the picture it reveals is both explosive and frightening. Within the covers is unimpeachable evidence against some of the country’s biggest business houses and political figures, and the reopening of major scandals that have shaped its political narratives.

‘Every day, millions of people – the rich, the poor and the many foreign visitors – are hunting for ways to get their business done in modern India. If they search in the right places and offer the appropriate price, there is always a facilitator who can get the job done. This book is a sneak preview of those searches, the middlemen who do those jobs, and the many opportunities that the fast-growing economy offers.’

Joseph, through hard-nosed investigations and the meticulous gathering of documentary evidence, clinically examines and documents the non-reportable.The story is big: that of treacherous business rivalries, of how some industrial houses practically own the country, of the shadowy men who run the nation’s politics. The story is small: a village needs a road and a hospital, a graveyard needs a wall, people need toilets.


A tour de force through the heart of modern India, weaving together the daily struggles of its poorest with the shenanigans of its rich, A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and irrefutably documents the crisis gripping the world’s largest democracy. The book opens in an ordinary village and winds up outside the palatial residence of one of the richest Indians. In the pages in between, Joseph draws up on the stories of anonymous poor and famous Indians to weave together the challenges facing the world’s largest democracy.

From across the country, the author does breakthrough reportage on the flourishing phenomenon of middlemen in modern India. He brings to life the men and women who facilitate access to decision makers, and manipulate government decisions. A whole caste of middlemen sustains the staggering level of corruption in everyday life in India. From the lowest police post to the offices of the Prime Minister and President on New Delhi’s Raisina Hill, middlemen are as ubiquitous as they are varied.

The book zooms in on a particular segment of Indian economy to show how pliable the institutions of Indian democracy are at the hands of ambitious and well-funded business leaders seeking preferential treatment directly from government officials or through intermediaries, including those from the criminal underworld. Through a detailed investigation, the author reveals how evidence exists that some of the most successful of India’s new generation entrepreneurs have thrived through bribes, manipulation, and possibly even murder.

In the final segment of the book, Joseph writes about the real beneficiaries of this corrupt and crumbling system. Many of India’s elite are lawmakers and lawbreakers – who use their financial and political clout to steer policymaking and legislation to benefit their business empires – and keep competitors at bay. They have become the puppet masters in today’s bankrupt system of governance, straddling the heights of political and economic power, unencumbered by either democratic accountability or regulatory oversight.

Book Cover

A Feast of Vultures’ cover depicts the high-stakes world of big money and corruption, and equally the real-world impact of what that means. The cover combines a searing picture(Corbis/Getty) – the bed of a farmer who committed suicide, his photograph propped up against a pillow – with looming skyscrapers. Black-and-white tones heighten the effect of grimness. Together, the two photos form an image that speaks of two Indias and of how devastatingly one of them, and only one of them, could impact the other.


In an interview with Rohan Venkataramakrishnan for, Joseph said: “I'm the father of a 13-year-old girl. I would rather set an example for her than let my friends in the industry be happy or be scared of someone. I'm ready for it, if there is any litigation, I think it would be a great fight to have.” "Very honestly, I’ve been in Delhi for 25 years, and I’ve never seen this level of self-censorship in public discourse. Ever. The worst is the self censorship that reporters are subjecting themselves to, and the distortion of facts. I hope it’s a short-lived phenomenon. In a young country like ours, you cannot suppress dissent. At least not forever." "It's an embarrassing thing for journalists, though. We've forgotten our duty and become lapdogs of the establishment. Some of us will have to stand up and fight, and be firm about values. It is when we stand up, then things will change."

In an interview with Preetha Nair for, Joseph said: ”It is a coincidence that my book comes at a time when we are celebrating 25 years of liberalisation and 70 years of independence. A lot of us born in the socialist era have come to believe that middlemen are part of our system. Liberalisation has given a fillip to middlemen and they've grown a hundred times. If you get the right middleman, you can even buy a government. My book is an angst-ridden narrative on the distortion of our democracy.” "One of the fundamental flaws in our system is that Indian politics sucks in a lot of black money and our corporates are forced to feed the political class. If we can bring transparency in political funding, that itself will diminish corruption."

In an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf for, Joseph said:“As reporters, we are always dealing with a tiny bit of a large puzzle. We are also hamstrung by space limitations, various kinds of censorships imposed by corporate, political and such interests as well as other restrictions. I wanted to report and interpret modern India without any self-censorship, varnishing or any other considerations. A Feast Of Vultures is my first step in this direction.”

Critical Reviews

"Investigative journalist Josy Joseph’s book A Feast of Vultures, which deals with corruption at all levels of Indian society, opens a Pandora’s box..The book highlights some forgotten corruption cases involving the rich and the powerful, which the CBI failed to unravel." — Coomi Kapoor, in The Indian Express

"A book that breaks new ground and speaks the truth at many levels, A Feast of Vultures turns an unflinching gaze on the way democracy actually functions in India."— Karthika V.K., Publisher and Chief Editor, HarperCollins Publishers, India

"This is an irritatingly brilliant book. Too sweeping, too condemnatory, and, perhaps, too true. None of the chapters in the book would have made a report for any newspaper — nor would have any news editor let them get into the newspaper. Yet, there is a story to be told, and Joseph does it with considerable competence and style. A deeply sober and sobering book." — Harish Khare, Editor, The Tribune

"Compassionate, observant, acute, with a strong sense of justice, all in fine, mellowed prose. I hope it is widely read." — Harsh Mander

"A brave and brilliant book; exemplifies the best of Indian investigative journalism." — Varun Gandhi on Twitter

"This is going to be the book of the year!" — Sagarika Ghose on Twitter

“Joseph, who belongs to a fast-vanishing tribe of investigative journalists in a media largely reduced to a tawdry spectacle, then embarks on an ambitious inquiry of what ails India…Part memoir, part reportage and part polemic, Joseph’s book is a cautionary tale of a nation losing its way…When Joseph shines a light on the dark corners and the frayed edges and the decaying heart of the world’s biggest democracy, it’s a good time to ask: when will Indians confront their realities head on?” — Soutik Biswas in OPEN Magazine

“The book paints a realistic picture of the country, which, sadly, never gets depicted in the works of our academicians or even journalists. This is also a book that should be read by analysts who see the world through the prism of the business-economy lens—of stock market, emerging market, rural market, India vs China growth story. This is a book for everyone who is interested in the story of post-independent India told in the most blunt manner.” — Rishi Raj in The Financial Express

“Josy Joseph’s A Feast Of Vultures is an important, if sobering read, meticulously researched and intelligently written… Joseph judiciously mixes field reporting and investigative research: No wonder he is an award-winning journalist… This narrative reads like a thriller and is alone worth the book’s price.” — Aditya Sinha in Mint

"A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and documents the crisis gripping the world's largest democracy." — Iftikhar Gilani in DNA

"A Feast of Vultures is a reporter’s inquiry into the state of the nation... It is an account of the reality of India as we know it." Rohit Srivastava in The Pioneer

"A Feast of Vultures is the fascinating tale of modern India and its journey as a liberal economy. The message is loud and clear: the loot should end, rhetoric should turn into action and we must change the "business as usual" approach which allows crony capitalism, scandals and scams." — Namrata Biji Ahuja in The Week

"Joseph's book lays bare the corruption across all levels, from village panchayats to the top echelons of government and private sector, which is corroding India's innards." — The Financial Express

"A hard-hitting examination of the state of the nation, this is a gripping book about oligarchy in contemporary India, about the grabbing of its resources, and the impoverishment of the nation." — Hindustan Times

"Joseph explicitly wrote A Feast of Vultures, to cover stories from modern India that "never see the light of day" – not least because of the fear of legal reprisal." — Rohan Venkataramakrishnan in

"From unearthing the unholy nexus between the underworld and politicians to the staggering might of middlemen, investigative journalist Josy Joseph reveals the dark side of Indian politics in his book." —

"In journalist Josy Joseph's gripping book, A Feast Of Vultures - The Hidden Business Of Democracy In India, released this year, page after page lays out the dirty dealings and suspected graft that helped some of India's best known companies rise in fields such as defence and aviation." Ravi Velloor in The Straits Times


A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India Wikipedia

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