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Thursday, July 16, 2009

EDITORIAL 16. 07.09

July 16, 2009

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EDITORIAL

Month July 09, Edition 000247, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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Index

 

 

THE PIONEER

  1. NEEDED, WAR ON MAOISTS
  2. SAY NO TO PLASTIC BAGS
  3. NOT THE TIME FOR ONE-UPMANSHIP-SHOBORI GANGULI
  4. FORCING HOMOGENEITY REASON FOR STRIFE-KAJAL CHATTERJEE
  5. UPA ON A BORROWING SPREE
  6. IN A FIX OVER GORKHALAND-SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  7. LEFT SEES RED OVER SANSKRIT-SANDEEP B

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. KEEP IT PRIVATE
  2. BEYOND AF-PAK
  3. IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO-JAYADEVA RANADE
  4. GM IS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
  5. DECISION IS DANGEROUS AND ILL-ADVISED-ANIL THAKKAR
  6. LIKE A BABY'S BOTTOM-ARUN BHATIA

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. FASTEN THE SEATBELTS

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. STRANGERS TO HASTE
  2. ON A GM PLATTER
  3. HOME GOALS
  4. SUBJECTS TO CITIZENS-PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  5. A JUDGMENT FOR INDIA-KARAN SINGH
  6. HOW THE PARTY WITHERS AWAY-ARUN SHOURIE
  7. THE HINDU RAINBOW
  8. ASHES TO ASHES-KUNAL PRADHAN

 

THE FINENCIAL EXPRESS

  1. DOING IT THE EXPRESS WAY
  2. GOOD AND MODIFIED
  3. DO THE MATH: DEFICIT WON’T PUSH UP RATES-MAHESH VYAS
  4. FORGET 3G, PROBLEMS IN TELECOM ARE A GENERATION OLDER-RISHI RAJ
  5. REGULATING THE NEW DRUG CARTELS-MG ARUN

 

THE HINDU

  1. DREAMS OF THE MOON AND BEYOND
  2. TOWARDS THE GST
  3. LESSONS FROM THE CHHATTISGARH TRAGEDY -PRAVEEN SWAMI
  4. BUDGET SHORT CHANGES STATES -V. SRIDHAR
  5. THE REMARKABLE RISE OF TWITTER -BOBBIE JOHNSON
  6. AMARTYA SEN ON HIS IDEA OF JUSTICE OUT OF LONDON -HASAN SUROOR
  7. A(H1N1) VACCINE STILL MONTHS AWAY

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INDIA’S FRENCH CONNECTION
  2. PRINCIPLES VS PRACTICALITY
  3. PAK’S ‘MUSLIM’ CLAIM OVER J&K IS BOGUS-NITISH SENGUPTA

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. LETTING HAFIZ SAEED FREE
  2. THIS IS MUMBAI
  3. DEAL WITH KHAPS
  4. POLICIES CLOUDED BY POLITICS-BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA
  5. WHAT AILS THE LEFT-Y SATISH MISRA
  6. GOLF DIVIDES ARMED FORCES-BY AIR MARSHAL N. MENON (RETD)

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. TEA INDUSTRY
  2. MAOISTS’ ATTACK
  3. REMOTE SENSING DATA
  4. THE FUTURE OF STILWELL ROAD-DWAIPAYAN
  5. YASH PAL COMMITTEE REPORT AND ITS IMPACT-SATYA RANJAN DOLEY

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SORRY, FM, IT’S MONETIZATION
  2. LEFT IN DISARRAY
  3. BEATING RETWEET
  4. CREATING ENGINES FOR FUTURE GROWTH-KIRAN KARNIK
  5. LALGARH AND THE CRISIS OF THE LEFT-TK ARUN

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. INDIA’S FRENCH CONNECTION
  2. US MUST GIVE RUSSIA MORE THAN A SPEECH -BY BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  3. AMERICA: GOODBYE IRAQ, AND GOOD LUCK -BY BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. PRINCIPLES VS PRACTICALITY -BY B.G. DESHMUKH
  5. PAK’S ‘MUSLIM’ CLAIM OVER J&K IS BOGUS -BY BY NITISH SENGUPTA
  6. SET UP REGIONAL BOARDS TOO -BY BY CHENGAL RAJU

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. METRO LESSON
  2. UNIFORMED LOOT
  3. ‘FREE FOR ALL’

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FAILED QUEST
  2. COSTLY FREEDOM
  3. TESTING FOR CONSENT -ANCHITA GHATAK
  4. NUANCES IN XINJIANG -RANA MITTER

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. NEED TO RID US OF THE CANKEROFCORRUPTION-PRASENJIT CHOWDHURY
  2. THE MONSOON RAGA-AMBUJA NARAYAN

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A STRONG HEALTH REFORM BILL
  2. THE RIGHT TO ARM PUBLIC HOUSING
  3. $1.75 BILLION BOONDOGGLE
  4. CALIFORNIA’S BUDGET CRISIS AND THE PARKS

 

I. THE NEWS

  1. THINK FIRST
  2. RIPPLE EFFECT

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IRANIAN WAY OF CURBING TERRORISM
  2. BRITAIN SHOULD RESPECT ITS PUBLIC OPINION
  3. NO TO SHUTTER DOWN STRIKES

 

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. BDR-BSF TALKS
  2. FORMALIN DETECTION KIT
  3. NON-ISSUES AS ISSUES...!

 

THE DAWN

  1. KARACHI KILLINGS
  2. INVESTMENT TROUBLES
  3. RIGHT TO EQUALITY
  4. LOCAL GOVERNMENT BLUES-BY I.A. REHMAN
  5. MAKING OF SIDESHOW ARTISTS-BY JAWED NAQVI
  6. ALLIANCE OF DENIAL-BY SIMON JENKINS
  7. THE MOSCOW SUMMIT- BY TARIQ FATEMI

 

CHINA DAILY

  1. RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITY
  2. CHECK SOE LEADERS

 

JAPAN TIMES

  1. UNIVERSAL ORGAN DONORSHIP
  2. GLOOMY EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS
  3. REFLECTING ON THELESSONSOFROBERT MCNAMARA'S WAR-BY GREGORY CLARK

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. SLOW DOWN STIMULUS TO DELIVER DIVIDENDS
  2. POWER AND PASSION
  3. STOP SCARING US SILLY

 

THE SUNDAY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE WORLD TILTS TOWARDS URANIUM
  2. EXPLOITATION BY EDUCATION

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. CLIMATE CHANGE: GREEN DREAMS
  2. IN PRAISE OF ... ARA DARZI
  3. WHITEHALL AND WILLIE'S WIND OF CHANGE

 

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. ANOTHER FIASCO
  2. VIGILANT AGAINST FLU
  3. HILLARY IN ASIA, A TRICKIER ROUND TWO-SIMON TAY
  4. ROBERT MCNAMARA AND HIS REGRETS OVER VIETNAM WAR-JONATHAN SCHELL

 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

NEEDED, WAR ON MAOISTS

CENTRE HAS TO WORK WITH STATE GOVERNMENTS

 

Realisation, it would appear, has at last begun to dawn upon the UPA Government that any further delay in responding to the Maoist menace and the murderous campaign unleashed by the Left extremists could prove to be disastrous for the entire country. For, with each passing day, the Maoists are expanding the theatre of conflict if not their stronghold, cocking a snook at State Governments desperately trying to halt their onward march while the Union Government remains unmoved. Indeed, it is the inaction of the Union Government, its failure to realise the true dimensions of the problem and the nature of the threat posed by Maoists to national security, that has contributed to the spread of Red terror across the country. Responding to concerns raised in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has admitted as much: “Regrettably, for many years we did not properly assess the threat posed by Left-wing extremism. We underestimated the challenge and, in the meantime, the Maoists extended their influence.” Mr Chidambaram may well have added that his predecessor wasted five years twiddling his thumbs although the Prime Minister, to his credit, had said that Maoist violence poses the single largest threat to India’s internal security. Little purpose is served in pointing out that having correctly estimated the evil power of the Maoists, the Prime Minister, till now, has done next to nothing to force the Home Ministry into crafting, adopting and pursuing a pro-active agenda to counter Left extremism.


Hopefully, the years of inaction will now come to an end. Ever since he took charge as Home Minister following the 26/11 fidayeen attack on Mumbai, Mr Chidambaram has demonstrated his determination to focus on issues that have had a debilitating impact on internal security. His statement in Parliament indicates that unlike his predecessor, he does not see Maoists as ‘wayward boys’ up to innocent mischief for which they deserve no more than a rap on their knuckles. Which, however, does not mean that he has the right solution to the problem. While it may sound impressive that the Government has decided to appoint a military adviser to guide its actions to eliminate Maoist terror, it would be in order to underscore the fact that fighting Left extremism is not the same as counter-terrorism or, for that matter, counter-insurgency operations. What we are facing is guerrilla warfare with an ideological underpinning — no matter how obnoxious that ideology might be — that feeds on real and imaginary grievances of the people in rural India. The Maoists do not lack financial resources and the extent of the network established by them in urban centres, including the national capital, can be gauged from the fact that a Delhi-based businessman has been found supplying them with sophisticated communications equipment and combat gear.

This is a war that has to be fought by the Union Government, along with the State Governments, on several fronts, and strategy and tactics have to be devised accordingly to achieve a common objective. To win this war, both conventional and unconventional, innovative methods have to be adopted, among them Chhattisgarh’s successful use of tribal resistance to Maoist thuggery through what has come to be known as ‘Salwa Judum’. Surprisingly, Mr Chidambaram is not impressed by such efforts by State Governments, which is a pity.

 

 

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THE PIONEER

                                                          EDIT DESK

SAY NO TO PLASTIC BAGS

EXTEND BAN TO ENTIRE COUNTRY

 

It is only fitting that the unreasonable petition of the All-India Plastic Manufacturers’ Association to overturn the ban on plastic bags in the capital has been struck down by the Delhi High Court. In doing so, the court has upheld the Delhi Government’s notification that was issued in January this year, banning the use of plastic bags in certain areas. The plastic manufacturers, with whose business interests the notification clashed, had petitioned the High Court on the grounds that they had not been given a fair hearing before the Government went ahead with its ban and that the decision had made their business come to a standstill. It is to the credit of the court that it has rubbished both the contentions of the petitioners and affirmed that they were given adequate opportunities to place their point of view before judicial and administrative authorities and that the decision of the Government was taken after careful consideration of the impact it would have on local businesses. The Delhi Government’s notification had come in light of the Delhi High Court’s direction in August last year. It is no secret that polythene bags are highly harmful for the environment. Not only does their manufacturing release tonnes of carcinogenic pollutants into the air, but being non-biodegradable, they also cannot be disposed of. As a result, used plastic bags accumulate as landfill and clog up a city’s drainage system, leading to water-logging and other assorted problems, especially during the monsoon. Mumbai’s plight is a case in point.


However, despite knowing the damage that they can cause to the environment, the use of plastic bags has flourished, given their low cost. So much so, even Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh recently stated in Parliament that according to him, a total ban on plastic bags is not viable. Nonetheless, the negatives of using polythene bags clearly outweigh the alleged positives. Neither can public interest be diluted for commercial interests. Alternatives such as cloth, jute or paper bags must be encouraged, and simultaneously the Government must push for a complete ban on polythene bags. Also, there is no reason why something that is applicable for the betterment of the environment in Delhi cannot be applicable across the country. Thus, a uniform country-wide ban on plastic bags is something that should be definitely considered. It can be done in phases by initially making the use of plastic bags difficult by imposing limited bans and charging a special tax on them. This will also incentivise the move towards alternatives. But the final aim should be to eliminate all use of plastic bags, irrespective of bogus claims made by those who are unmoved by the environment’s degradation.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

NOT THE TIME FOR ONE-UPMANSHIP

SHOBORI GANGULI


The party got over long ago; in May 1999 to be exact, on the heights of Kargil to be precise. A decade since India fought its last conventional war with Pakistan the fire ignited at Kargil continues to rage, staring us in the face from newspapers and television screens every day as Pakistan-backed, trained and nurtured terrorists continue to bleed India with outrageous impunity.


Ten years since more than 3,000 irregulars or mujahideens along with the Pakistani Army engaged the Indian armed forces in Kargil it is apparent that Pakistan has long abandoned all civil and conventional norms of diplomatic engagement with its neighbour. Its denial mode on terrorism continues, greatly helped by the fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet undecided on how best to get Pakistan to deliver. Hence, after years of bus, train, and cricket diplomacy, after scores of heinous terror attacks on our innocent civilians, and after reams of evidence provided to the Pakistani Government, India is still wringing its hands in despair.


The past decade has quite clearly established that terrorists based in Pakistan are no longer satisfied with feasting on the blood of Indian civilians and soldiers in the Kashmir Valley alone. Terror attacks across the length and breadth of India, all traced to cells operating in Pakistan, make it more than evident that terrorism and not Kashmir is the real issue with Pakistan. However, that country continues to challenge India, the latest being the derisive dismissal of India’s case against the 26/11 terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed, this despite a UN resolution on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h chief. That Pakistan could send such a defiant signal days ahead of Mr Singh’s meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Egypt only points to the degree of its commitment to seriously deal with any of India’s concerns. In fact, action on Hafiz Saeed was being viewed as a litmus test of Pakistan’s resolve to root out terror from its soil, a promise made not just to India but to the international community. Pakistan has clearly decided to brazen that test out.


While Pakistan’s position is understandable and predictable, India appears to have made some inexplicable moves of late. First, Mr Singh decided to deliver Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari a ‘tough message’ on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Russia last month. No arguments with that, except he chose to do so under full media glare. Even as Mr Zardari beamed for the cameras, Mr Singh bluntly said, “I must tell you quite frankly that I have come with the limited mandate of discussing how Pakistan can deliver on its assurances that its territory would not be used for terrorist attacks on India.” While this may have gone down well with the domestic audience, the insult got Pakistan’s hackles up and even though Mr Zardari sheepishly swallowed the insult, his people back home were irate. In the follow-up Mr Singh lost his interlocutor, Pakistan deciding to field Mr Gilani in Egypt instead of Mr Zardari.


In yet another attempt to play the domestic card, Mr Singh after that meeting with Mr Zardari said, “No discussion on Kashmir took place. He did not raise it nor did I raise it.” Already reeling under Mr Singh’s ‘grand-standing’ in Yekaterinburg, Pakistan saw red at this statement. Just ahead of his meeting with Mr Singh, therefore, Mr Gilani sought to set the record straight and said, “When there will be more interaction, I think that will pave the way for the composite dialogue and for more interaction with the Indian Government.” Clearly, Pakistan has once again decided to keep Kashmir in the foreground of any further talks with India. For India terrorism is the issue and that certainly is not part of any ‘composite dialogue’ with Pakistan. However, what seemed like a sleight of hand by Mr Singh in Russia may have in fact had an undesired impact on the Pakistani mindset. It is no secret that no amount of international offensive can unite Pakistanis more than an Indian one. Therefore, the tough-talking Gilani, who rarely loses sight of Kashmir, is what Mr Singh will now have to deal with. And Mr Gilani certainly does not share Mr Zardari’s view that Pakistan’s militants and extremists “were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve short-term tactical objectives”.


Another inexplicable move by Mr Singh was to subsequently apologise for his public rebuff of Mr Zardari in Russia, claiming “What I had said to Zardari Sahib, I had not intended to say that in the presence of all the media. I simply forgot that the media were present there. It was not my intention in any way to hurt Zardari Sahib’s feelings.” Surely, Mr Singh has been Head of Government long enough to understand the difference between a photo-op and a one-on-one. Strangely, Mr Singh’s apology did not come in the immediate wake of the outrage in Pakistan over his unexpected rebuff. It has come after a month since that interaction, a month since the world gleefully partook of the Pakistani President’s visible unease.

The timing of Mr Singh’s apology is curious. It is now a well-established fact the United States is working hard to get Pakistan to walk its talk on terror. At this juncture, if the Pakistani establishment is pushed into a corner by India, which the ‘insult’ to Mr Zardari clearly did, Pakistan would be forced to queer the Kashmir pitch with India and that would divert its attention from what the Americans have ordered. Therefore, days ahead of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to New Delhi, Mr Singh has sought to soothe Islamabad’s frayed temper with his public apology.


Clearly, this is not the time for one-upmanship and certainly not for India. The US deals with a very different Pakistan from the one India interfaces with. The shadow of a military confrontation hangs forever heavy on India-Pakistan relations. The Border Security Force on Tuesday sounded an alert that Pakistan has accelerated construction activity along the international border, building not just a temporary mud wall but bunkers and observation towers. Only a decade ago the two countries had stood in open war. While the US would not want any escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan to safeguard its own interests, India too can ill-afford to divert the Pakistani establishment’s mind from the overarching issue of terrorism to a self-defeating and debilitating bilateral conflict.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

FORCING HOMOGENEITY REASON FOR STRIFE

KAJAL CHATTERJEE


This refers to the letter, “India must learn from China” by Mr Ganesh (July 14). He has stated that the grievances of any community must be heeded, but separatism of any kind must be put down with an iron hand. But, as a matter of fact, separatist tendencies germinate due to the cold attitude of the concerned state towards the grievances of a particular community. The bloody riots between the Uighur community and the Han ethnic people in China’s Xinjiang province were only inevitable. No self-respecting community will tolerate being exploited by outsiders without registering a protest.


Nationalism is a fine ideal, but it cannot be used as an instrument to politically, culturally or economically subjugate minority communities. China does not regard Tibet and Xinjiang at par with the mainland, but merely as colonies to be exploited. However, Beijing is not the sole culprit in this regard. Throughout the world there exists hundreds of regions where indigenous communities have been reduced to a minority and rendered non-entities in their own land. And when they finally protest, either through peaceful means or by taking up arms, they are branded as ‘anti-nationals’ and brutally suppressed. This is what happened in the case of the Red Indian tribes in America, the Aborigines in Australia and the Ainu community in Japan.

The problem is that the exploitative Governments believe that unity can only be attained by cajoling the whole population to adopt the culture of the majority community. But by ignoring the sentiments of the minorities and imposing a dominant culture over them, the nation’s unity is only thrown into jeopardy.

Though we are living in the 21st century, the mindset of the people, in general, is still primitive and their urge to dominate over other groups through language, religion, caste or colour still rules the roost. Thus, unless people and Governments learn to accord equal respect, honour and importance to every language, religion and community; unless the migrants to a particular place learn to respect the sentiments of the locals and give them their rightful due in their own land, more violence will continue to plague China and the rest of the world. It is nobody’s case that parochialism or parochial politics should be encouraged. But that should not be an excuse for homogenisation and trampling of local cultures.


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THE PIONEER

      OP-ED

UPA ON A BORROWING SPREE

 

The Budget presented by the UPA Government does not inspire confidence in its ability to steer the economy to the path of high and inclusive growth. After raising expectations of job-generating reforms, the Finance Minister has skirted the issue entirely. What we have is a disastrous plan to borrow blindly, pay huge interest, and leave the people struggling to cope with the consequences of the UPA’s folly.

M VENKAIAH NAIDU

The national economy faces a stiff challenge. The challenge is not entirely on account of the global financial crisis but on account of a ‘Do Nothing’ approach adopted by the UPA Government. In the last five years, the UPA blamed the roadblocks created by the Left.


Today, even without the roadblocks and despite the assurance of political stability, the mindset of the UPA is not development-oriented. The Budget presented by the Government has some positive aspects, which deserve to be welcomed. But it also disappoints on several critical points.


The major challenges of concern are price rise, growing unemployment, agriculture crisis and economic slowdown. Of course, internal security, which is diverting our attention from development, is another challenge. The budget has disappointed on all these challenges.


The present economic situation in the country is disturbing. We are faced with a fiscal deficit of 6.8 per cent of the Central Government. If the off-Budget items and the States’ deficit are added, the likely actual deficit will be over 13-14 per cent. The revenue deficit of the Union Government itself is 4.8 per cent. Effectively, the Government has a total spending of Rs 10.38 lakh crore of which it can only raise Rs 6.14 lakh crore by way of taxes and other incomes. The borrowing itself is Rs 4 lakh crore. In real terms, almost 40 per cent of the Budget expenditure is borrowed.


So, after having made the country suffer from the illusion of a ‘Dream Budget’ for the past five consecutive years, the exchequer now faces catastrophic consequences.


Big ticket reforms expected by many are missing. The Budget has nothing to offer in the short term. No targets have been fixed for fiscal prudence — neither for food security nor for public sector enterprise disinvestment.

The Finance Minister has not mentioned anything about the far-reaching financial sector ‘reforms’ as suggested by the Economic Survey which include the passing of the Banking Regulations Bill; hiking FDI in insurance to 49 per cent; permitting 100 per cent FDI in select insurance companies, in defence industries, and so on.


The Budget is unrealistic; not transparent and is unlikely to stimulate economy. High fiscal deficits, high interest rates, few exemptions and too little incentives and nothing more. It is a clear case of total economical mis-management by the Government.


The fiscal management for the last four-five years has been miserable. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister were assuring us that “India will not be affected by the global slowdown and our fundamentals are strong.”

Throughout this period and especially in the last one year, after completely denying month after month that the country was heading for a slowdown, the Government is now using the global economic slowdown as an alibi to cover up the consequences of its own mismanagement.


In the present economic slowdown nobody expected wonders from the Finance Minister. But, at the same time taking, this as an opportunity, he should have announced a road map and taken some bold measures.


There cannot be inclusive growth without growth, and we are all aware that growth is not possible without economic reforms. The Finance Minister has said that we have crossed Rs 10,00,000 crore as far as expenditure was concerned. The fact of the matter is that we are going to spend Rs 6,18,834 crore for non-Plan revenue expenditure, which is totally unproductive like interest payment, pensions, subsidies, establishment charges, postal deficit, etc. The Plan expenditure, of Rs 3,25,149 crore is not even half of the total non-Plan expenditure. The debt service burden is Rs 5,68,400 crore. Interest payment alone is Rs 2,25,500 crore.


According to experts, out of the proclaimed ‘stimulus’ of Rs 1,86,000 crore, over Rs 1,30,000 crore — that is more than two-thirds — consists of fall in Income Tax collections (Rs 20,000 crore), Sixth Pay Commission dues (Rs 40,000 crore), fertiliser subsidy (Rs 45,000 crore), food subsidy (Rs 11,000 crore) farm debt waiver (Rs 15,000 crore), and extra interest on borrowings (Rs 2,000 crore). None of these items is related to the ‘stimulus’.


The Government spends Rs 10 when it earns only Rs 6. This year it will borrow Rs 4,00,996 crore or around Rs 1,100 crore for every day of the year.


The Government will pay Rs 2,25,511 crore or over Rs 3 of every Rs 10 it earns as interest costs. What India faces is a 6.8 per cent Budget deficit. In other words, for every Rs 10 the Government has planned to spend, it will have to borrow Rs 4. The cost of this borrowing will be so high that of every rupee earned, more than Rs 3 will go into repaying interest.


Needless to say, huge borrowing beyond means is detrimental to the nation’s development. The Finance Minister has not said how the deficit is to be financed. It will obviously be from substantially increased borrowings. The total market borrowings in 2009-10 would be four times higher than the amount envisaged in the 2008-09 Budget.


As a result, the Government, with large additional expenditures, will draw funds from the market and squeeze funds for the private sector. When private investors start knocking on the banks’ doors, the banks will have no money to lend. So interest rates will go up and money will become more expensive. There is little prospect of interest rate reductions. This will deal a blow to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s plan to ride out the slowdown through more spending and more borrowing as rising interest rates can kill growth.

The conventional course adopted by Finance Ministers has been to give push to reforms so that economic activity can be generated. Conscious of the fact that the trickle-down effect is slow, reforms had two major advantages:

 

Some trickle-down would take place in terms of generating employment and reducing poverty; and, Enhanced revenues in the hands of the Government could be used for the social sector and poverty alleviation programmes.


But Mr Mukherjee has decided to abandon reforms in this Budget completely. He has come with a Budget of the 1960s. Spending at the bottom would have a trickle-up effect and automatically improve the situation, in his wisdom. Little does the Finance Minister realise that the trickle-up effect would be faced with inadequacy of investment being made and the possibility of huge leakage would further dampen its desired impact.


The UPA and the Finance Minister have always talked about economic reforms. The Congress has been in power since 1952, with short breaks, but even now the people are compelled to live without basic amenities like bijli, sadak, pani, shiksha, swasth and swarozgar.


The devil is always in the details. The UPA’s Finance Ministers have followed a convention of making big announcements, but when the details are looked into, the facts are not commensurate with the announcements. For example, a tall claim has been made that 12 million jobs will be created this year. The previous UPA Government had claimed creation of one million jobs each year. But what the country got instead was only job losses.


The Finance Minister has devoted only one small paragraph to the unorganised and informal sector of our economy, which, as he himself concedes, “accounts for 92 per cent of the employment and absorbs bulk of the annual increase in our labour force.”


The per capita income of the common man, in the last five years, has fallen from 7.3 per cent to 4.6 per cent. Who is responsible for this?


To resume faster growth, economists say the country will need big doses of investment from business and the Government. It took four years for the UPA to reduce fiscal deficit from 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2003-04 to 3.3 per cent in 2007-08. This was when economy was good.


Earlier, the Indian economy grew at 9 per cent in the last 3-4 years because of the steps taken by the NDA Government.

In the last two years, the Union Government’s revenue deficit has more than trebled and increased to 3.4 times as a ratio to GDP because revenue expenditure has increased more than Rs 3,00,000 crore while tax revenues have risen only by Rs 35,000 crore. Almost nine times more than taxes.


The Government should have taken steps to counter the effects of global economic shocks by the judicious combination of tax-cuts and increases in spending. I would suggest that the Government should take steps for a low tax, low interest regime so that people have more money and their purchasing power increases, which in turn will serve as an impetus for the economy.


I would also suggest the following measures to the Government:

Set a maximum ceiling of four per cent interest for agriculture loans to farmers from banks.

 

Introduce a pension scheme for aged and hapless farmers.

 

Implement a Farm Income Insurance Scheme through which both price and produce will be insured.

 

Technology, productivity, remunerative price, crop diversification — these needs special attention.

 

The allocations for Irrigation sector are too small. Same is the case with Seed Development Programme. These are the areas where this Government needs to pay more attention.

 

A re-look about the functioning of SEZs is required. They should not be allowed to become real estate projects. At the same time, the external commercial borrowing scheme should be extended to the entire Indian real estate sector, including SEZs, for even those with more than 100 acre townships, hotels and hospitals.


Will the Government show the courage to adopt these measures?

 

 M Venkaiah Naidu is a senior BJP leader. These are excerpts from his speech in the Rajya Sabha during the debate on this fiscal’s Budget


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THE PIONEER

OP-ED

IN A FIX OVER GORKHALAND

BJP LEADERS ARE DIVIDED AND UTTERLY CLUELESS

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


The indefinite bandh in Darjeeling, which is now sans tourists and boarders of the exclusive schools, sans policemen and administrative officials, has started. Darjeeling and the hill subdivisions of Kurseong and Kalimpong, with the seasonal industries of tea, education and tourism have, therefore, temporarily become the domain of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, where the writ of India’s Constitution and its distribution of authority no longer prevails.


If the history of 2008 repeats itself, then the bandh will be called off to allow the tourist trade to recoup when the Puja season in late September begins. Meanwhile, a delegation of the GJM has settled into its role of collection agent in New Delhi.


Armed with a document “Why Gorkhaland” and high expectations that the BJP will back its claim, the delegation is in the capital for “political consultations”. If all this follows the course that was charted in 2008, a tripartite meeting will be called at the initiative of West Bengal (because the rules require it to be so) and the BJP, the Congress and the Communist Party of India can all make declarations that add up to no solution.


However, as Marx said, history does not repeat itself. On the separate Gorkhaland issue, what will unfold in New Delhi and Darjeeling is not farce; it could be disaster. For, unlike 2008, the GJM has interlocutors in New Delhi now. The price of winning the Darjeeling seat converts BJP’s Jaswant Singh into the representative of the “people”, who have given their overwhelming support to Mr Singh which he received in the hill subdivisions and that means a vote for a separate Gorkhaland. Whatever some within the BJP may say, the fact is that Mr Singh now represents the “people” under Gurung’s command. Ipso facto, Mr Singh must work at delivering a separate State of Gorkhaland to his voters.


There is no doubt that with the 2010 deadline rapidly approaching, Mr Gurung must get some action going on — that is his promised delivery date for a separate Gorkhaland. To make that happen, Mr Gurung bartered his absolute control over how the public would deliver its verdict in the recent Lok Sabha election in the three hill subdivisions. With Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy evidently assisting Mr Singh by making declarations in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP is making all the noise it can to convince its patron from Darjeeling.

In late June, Mr Rudy attended a meeting in Darjeeling, where plans to ensure delivery were chalked out. According to reports, Mr Rudy’s role as Mr Singh’s emissary was to work on plans to “rejuvenate” the movement. He also said, “We are weighing several short-term and long-term proposals to bring the movement again in national focus. Stress should be given on making the people aware of the imperatives of carving out a separate State in the Darjeeling hills to respect the mounting ethno-cultural and economic aspirations of the Nepali-speaking Indians,” he said.


It is imperative that the GJM makes noisy, even turbulent moves now. With the 2010 deadline looming for establishing Gorkhaland, albeit within the territorial framework of India, Mr Gurung needs to convert the verbal promise into a visual spectacle of “marching hand-in-hand with the BJP for the cause of Gorkhaland”. He has stressed that “Our alliance would prove enduring and mutually beneficial.” In other words, the expectations come with a very veiled threat: Deliver, or else...

No matter how certain Mr Gurung and Mr Rudy may be about what was the promise and the expected time for fulfilling it, within the BJP there are many, particularly in Kolkata, who are in denial mode. Quoting an official declaration that denies a promise on statehood, BJP leaders in West Bengal are desperately trying to convince themselves and anyone who will listen that “sympathy” for the grievances born of decades of neglect is not the same as promising to split West Bengal. According to the West Bengal version of the story, the BJP is committed to keeping the State intact, though it supports movements for justice for the disgruntled Gorkhas of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong and anywhere else that they are to be found.


The problem is that nobody is buying the State BJP version of the deal. In everybody else’s perception, Mr Singh and BJP leaders in New Delhi have made commitments and Mr Gurung wants them to be met. The BJP would like to shelter behind the Congress, which heads the UPA Government in New Delhi, because any deal on statehood requires the Centre’s approval. The party would like to shelter behind the CPI(M) in West Bengal, because the proposal for statehood has to be initiated from Kolkata. BJP leaders know that without CPI(M) plus Left Front’s 235 seats in the State Legislature, no statehood resolution will get through.


But they also know that Mr Singh and the party are sitting atop a rampant tiger named Gorkhaland. BJP’s concern is that history will not forgive it for encouraging a territorial split of West Bengal on the basis of ethnic-linguistic politics. So how will the BJP avoid nemesis, fulfil promises? For now, support the movement so that it remains a headache for political rivals at the Centre and in West Bengal.

 

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THE PIONEER

OP-ED

LEFT SEES RED OVER SANSKRIT

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE SETTING UP OF A SANSKRIT UNIVERSITY IN KARNATAKA ARE ROOTED IN MARXIST OPPOSITION TO ANY EFFORT TO PRESERVE AND REVIVE INDIA’S CULTURAL HERITAGE

SANDEEP B


Ever since the Government announced the idea of forming a Sanskrit university in Karnataka, the forces of hell have been unleashed there. Normally, the two main Opposition parties who are always opposed to each other on every issue in the State are now united in their opposition to this proposal.


Sanskrit-bashing has been in vogue ever since it was institutionalised under the aegis of the Nehruvian secularist state. India’s first brown sahib wrote about Sanskrit in flowery English, but failed to grasp its fragrance. The result was the perpetuation of the missionary system of education that severed hundreds of thousands of Indians from their own roots. That kind of education apart from generating employment breeds a curious sense of audacious entitlement bred by ignorance. And so, these worthies call Sanskrit a “dead” language without learning it.


Ask them why, and you get a list of ‘evidences’ stained with colonial and Marxist hues of Indian history. The ‘dead’ tag has become political fodder for all opponents of Sanskrit. But fundamentally, it stems from a vituperative hatred of Brahmins.


According to this theory, Sanskrit is supposedly associated to Brahmins because it was the language of priests during the Vedic times. This language was kept ‘secret’ and deliberately not taught to the ‘oppressed classes’. The latest variation of this theory is that we need languages that generate employment and Sanskrit doesn’t qualify for this. By this logic, most if not all Indian regional languages qualify as ‘dead’ languages.


Realistically, how many regional languages are used in everyday business? Also, establishing a Sanskrit university is supposed to somehow endanger Kannada’s survival, another baseless argument as we shall see.

The whole hoopla over renaming cities, roads, and insistence on governmental transactions in a particular regional language shows the desperation to retain the ‘purity’ of these languages in face of the onslaught of English.


What these purity proponents don’t realise is that you cannot preserve Indian languages by severing their inextricable link with Sanskrit. The vocabulary and grammar of most Indian languages are derived from Sanskrit. From Telugu (which exhibits the maximum influence of Sanskrit), Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, and Oriya, the root of every Indian language is Sanskrit. Cut off this root and every language will need to find new words for common terms like marg, jan, mantri, parishad, sabha, baarish, sri, guru, and so on. Also, is it a mere coincidence that the script of most major Indian languages (barring all South Indian languages) is a variant of Devanagari, the script of Sanskrit?


There’s plentiful research that shows that Sanskrit was not the language of just the Vedic priests. The most readily available evidence is the Sanskrit idioms that have an echo in their regional counterparts like galli ka kutta, road romeo, eve-teaser, and so on. The obvious conclusion is that Sanskrit was a language of the lay man.

Sanskrit is what gives identity to the Indian civilisation as we know it. From Valmiki to Kalidas, every major Sanskrit literary work spoke of this identity in its own way. From the fourth canto of Raghuvamsham, which describes the length and breadth of India to Meghadootam, where the cloud-messenger describes in intense detail the beauty of the varying diversity of India. Both these exalted works contain the subtext of the cultural unity of the nation. And it is what our secularists want us to forget in their hollow trumpeting of ‘composite culture’ (sic), which actually means denying India its heritage to which Sanskrit contributes the lion’s share.


The real reason for opposing the founding of a Sanskrit university in Karnataka is starkly political than anything noble. It reeks of the tired old rhetoric of Brahmins-are-the-root-of-all-evil-in-India. Those opposing the move have exactly zero accomplishment in promoting the cause of Kannada. Besides, the other overarching factor is that there’s a BJP Government in Karnataka.


We only need to look at all the other Sanskrit universities in India to expose this woeful reasoning. How many of these Sanskrit universities have threatened the language of the State in which they are situated? Or is Kannada (or Telugu or Bengali) that fragile that it can’t withstand Sanskrit’s influence? History shows that Indian regional languages were actually enriched by close contact with Sanskrit and vice versa.


There’s a reason why regional languages are struggling for survival. The Nehruvian state’s removal of Sanskrit from the education system robbed these languages of their original richness. As a result, the Hindi or Tamil we get to hear in the cities contain more English than Hindi or Tamil.


The Karnataka Government’s move is more than welcome. If the Sanskrit university revives the defining language of India, it will create a generation of self-aware and proud Indians who will (hopefully) rediscover the genius of India and Sanskrit.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDITORIAL

KEEP IT PRIVATE

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee seems keen to address post-Budget blues. He has said the moratorium on disinvestment will be lifted, with government stakes offloaded in select PSUs. Mukherjee has also given a welcome signal that the UPA would revert to the path of fiscal prudence. It hasn't been spelt out that resources raised through disinvestment would go into plugging the fiscal deficit. But recent reports that the government is thinking of dismantling the National Investment Fund, where such proceeds are parked, suggest they would be used for this purpose.


Disinvestment, however, shouldn't be viewed in light of the fiscal deficit alone. Since 2004, the UPA has tom-tommed its decision to stick to initial public offerings to shed PSU stakes. Accordingly, government equity in PSUs won't go below 51 per cent. Privatisation remains a dirty word in the ruling coalition's lexicon because the Congress fears criticism from its allies like the Trinamul and DMK. However, with the Left's exit from centrestage, reforms shouldn't be held hostage to the politics of competitive populism. If economic good is to be paramount, government must get out of economic activities that are best left to private players.


Aviation is one such domain, as Air India's travails make plain. With losses mounting, the merged AI-Indian Airlines entity has seen expansion plans thrown off gear. And it may not get much-needed funds from sources beyond government dole. Its proposed divestment through public offers may be stalled thanks to its appalling financial health. The problem with Air India isn't only that civil aviation minister Praful Patel has no answers for why things have come to such a pass under his watch. It is that the company shouldn't be in government hands at all.


Government's role in economic affairs should be that of a regulator, overseeing private competitors to the extent of ensuring they play by the rules. As a regulator plus majority stakeholder of companies, government faces a conflict of interest that it often reconciles by skewing the level playing field it's meant to guarantee. Private firms are at a competitive disadvantage when their state-run counterparts are coddled. Consider the reported fiat to ministers and babus to only fly Air India. Or take the morally hazardous government stranglehold over the coal sector. Under-exploitation of coal reserves in this nationalised sector impacts negatively on the dry fuel-dependent power sector, leaving private players to face the brunt in case of shortages. The services sector tourism, hotels is also best left to private interests for the sake of viability and quality. If dipping ITDC hotel profits say anything, it's that government should get out of the business.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDITORIAL

BEYOND AF-PAK

 

When US secretary of state Hillary Clinton lands in India tomorrow on her maiden visit after taking charge, she will have her plate full. She is the highest-ranking member of the Barack Obama administration to visit India yet, which makes this visit significant. Clinton's visit will mark the launch of full-fledged bilateral exchange between Washington and New Delhi under the Obama dispensation and set the tone and agenda for ties between the two countries going forward.


Security issues will obviously be a dominant theme during Clinton's trip. The Af-Pak situation is bound to be discussed as also terrorism. India's concerns about the situation in Pakistan, Islamabad's reluctance to crack down upon those operating out of its territory against India, and Pakistan's non-cooperation in bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to book should be impressed upon the US delegation. Crucial as they are, security and strategic issues should however not be allowed to become the sole focus of this exchange. It is in the interests of both countries to firm up partnerships in other areas such as science and technology, trade and education.


Clinton's agenda in India reportedly focuses on what is being called the "five pillars" of the relationship between the two countries: defence cooperation, science and technology including health innovation, energy and climate change, education and trade ties. That's a vast canvas, which holds potential for mutually beneficial projects and exchanges. For instance, trade between the two countries could be more broadbased. There is also potential for collaboration in R&D and higher education.


At the same time, New Delhi should place on the table issues that the two countries do not always see eye to eye on. Bilateral trade, for instance, cannot flourish if the US insists on taking a protectionist stance, be it on offshoring or limiting H1B visas. On climate change, we have serious differences. The US House of Representatives has passed a Bill which imposes trade restrictions on countries which do not sign up to an emissions cap. If the Senate passes the Bill, it could hurt India, which along with other developing countries expects developed countries to take the lead on emissions cuts. Let's have a frank discussion, build on the old, and explore new vistas where the complimentary strengths of the two countries could be aligned for mutual benefit.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDITORIAL

IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO

 

The global geopolitical order has been undergoing a transformation in recent years. The transition heralds the emergence of new centres of influence and power in Asia. The growth of India, China and Japan, simultaneously for the first time in history, accentuates the change. The two civilisations on either side of the Himalayas, together accounting for one-third of the world's population, now have the prospect of influencing global affairs in an unprecedented manner. The window of opportunity is shrinking, however, and only strategic statesman-like policies will ensure that aspirations do not prove illusory.


Rajiv Gandhi, as prime minister, took a major step to ease tensions and dispel suspicion when he shrugged off conventional advice and travelled to Beijing in December 1988. With this single gesture he broke the ice that had frozen bilateral relations for 34 years. China acknowledged it as a 'major event'. Rajiv was received by top Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping, when in-depth talks on the boundary issue were held. It was agreed that these would be settled through peaceful, friendly discussions.

Narasimha Rao, as prime minister, pushed the process further in September 1993, with the Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas. This 'landmark' agreement specified that "neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other" and, pending an ultimate solution to the border question, both "shall strictly respect and observe the line of actual control between the two sides". It added that "no activities of either side shall overstep" this line and, in case they do, they "shall immediately pull back to their own side" on being cautioned by the other side. It clarified that "references to the line of actual control in this agreement do not prejudice their respective positions on the boundary question".


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit in January 2008 was equally important. It signalled India's commitment to continuing the normalisation process and highlighted the economic benefits of the relationship. The target for bilateral trade was fixed at $60 billion by 2010.


India has additionally exhibited sensitivity to Beijing's concerns. It has sidestepped involvement in international initiatives that could cause China discomfort. It sought to include China in efforts to obtain a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It consistently downplays the increasing incidence of intrusions by Chinese troops to prevent the atmosphere of bilateral relations getting vitiated.


As evident from its activities in the South China Sea and South Asia, however, China is using this interregnum to test its influence and ability to further territorial claims. Progress in border talks continues to be tardy with China not reciprocating India's willingness to settle down to preliminary, but substantive, discussions on the basis of maps. Instead, it has given higher profile to its claim on Arunachal Pradesh. It raised the issue of Tawang for the first time in 2005. China asserts this claim is non-negotiable since Tibetans have strong sentimental ties to Tawang as the Sixth Dalai Lama's birthplace. After the Dalai Lama affirmed that Tawang is part of India, China raised the ante by criticising his statement in 2007.

Notwithstanding the Agreement of Peace and Tranquillity, the incidence of intrusions has increased over the years and a disconcerting trend is that they now occur all along the border and are, occasionally, fairly aggressive. Intrusions occurred in Arunachal during the recent general elections and in the western sector in the aftermath of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, both sensitive times for India. Such actions do not enhance trust. Intrusions have occurred in northern Sikkim, despite China having acknowledged during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministerial visit in 2003 that Sikkim is part of India. Chinese maps have depicted this since 2006. Intrusions signal that this issue has been reopened.


Other actions have added to the trust deficit and contributed to suspicions as to China's intentions. Examples include China's collaboration with Pakistan in the military, nuclear and political fields, opposition to India's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat, sustained opposition to the India-US civilian nuclear agreement, attempt to block the Asian Development Bank's funding, including for projects in Arunachal Pradesh etc.


Rising bilateral trade and exchange of high-level visits do not by themselves suggest normalisation of relations. There is need for mutual trust. The publication of toughly worded articles critical of India and dismissive of its conciliatory efforts, as recently in the People's Daily and Global Times, a subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, do not help.


Beijing needs to seriously begin dispelling mounting suspicion about Chinese intentions. It needs to take verifiable bold initiatives, the easiest of which is to cease border intrusions and not reopen settled issues like Sikkim. This should be reinforced by an initiative calculated to address India's sensitivities and interests. Otherwise, the already glacial pace of normalisation will grind to a halt under the weight of suspicion and doubt.


The writer is a former additional secretary in the cabinet secretariat.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

VIEW

GM IS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE

 

The government plans to introduce genetically modified (GM) foods, particularly tomatoes, brinjals and cauliflower, to help meet food production targets in three years' time. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Department of Biotechnology has approved the three transgenic crops that are in various stages of tests and development in institutes across the country. This decision is bound to be controversial, as this is the first time that India will experiment with GM crops in food. To date, India has only allowed the use of GM cotton, a non-food crop.


For the past few years global food consumption has outstripped production, causing world food prices to spike last year. The global recession has seen many people, particularly in developing countries, fall below the poverty line once again.


The Food and Agricultural Organisation says there are now a billion people who do not have enough to eat (defined as less than 1,800 calories per day), 100 million more than last year. During the food crisis last year, there were food riots in many countries. In Haiti it even led to a coup. Is that the future we want? India faces a mammoth task in feeding its billion-strong population. Biotechnology offers the best promise of producing enough food for everybody. Are we going to let the fear of hypothetical risks shut down an area of science that promises to solve this problem and save millions from hunger?

India cannot, in good conscience, abandon yield-boosting modern technology. The food crisis is real and more immediate than we might like. With climate change, and dwindling water resources, it is imperative that this country explores all available options to increase food production. GM food items can and should be labelled as such so that consumers have a choice. But we must remember that while GM foods have not killed anybody, starvation is another matter.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DECISION IS DANGEROUS AND ILL-ADVISED

 

The problem with radical scientific advances is that the potential benefits can all too easily trump caution and common sense. The Indian government seems to be bearing this out with its decision to introduce genetically modified food crops in the country. At a time when serious doubts have been raised in various parts of the world, particularly Europe, about the risks posed by such crops, this is counter-intuitive. It seems to have given little consideration to the potential dangers of arbitrarily splicing DNA from one crop strain to another. Worse, in order to force compatibility, it becomes necessary for the modified DNA to contain elements of virus DNA.


For one, controlling genetically modified crops once they have been introduced into the environment can be problematic. Many strains are bred to be resistant to certain herbicides; it would be all too easy for them to acquire the genes to resist other herbicides as well. In fact, this has already happened in Europe in one instance with genetically modified sugar beets. Now imagine the consequences of cross-pollination of these with weeds or undesirable crops; the potential development of superweeds and loss of vast tracts of arable land.


The effect of modified crops on the environment and the food chain cannot be calculated either. Many strains are bred to contain built-in pesticides. The potential dangers of this are huge given that there is no way to control how these pesticides are disseminated. Insects that are an integral part of a crop's life cycle may be harmed, as tests in the US have shown. Animals may be affected as well, and this is not even counting the indirect ripple effect that has already seen farm birds in Britain suffer from food shortage.

Most important, of course, is the risk posed to those who are intended to directly benefit from such crops - us. What new allergies and conditions might be triggered by the toxins they contain? Given the virus DNA embedded in them, what mutated strains of diseases could they spread among humans? There are no easy answers to these questions. And that makes the Indian government's plan all the more difficult to understand.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SOFT OPTIONS

LIKE A BABY'S BOTTOM

 

As our house guest, at dinner he'd had the usual spicy thali meal with us. In the morning, from our guest bedroom, this American friend said: "Hmmm. I know now why you people carry water to the toilet." We desis are on the right track. Have been on the right track for a while now by carrying water to the toilet. For, recent findings are that the tender, delicate American buttock is causing more ecological damage than the nation's gas-guzzling cars and fast food. Green campaigners are saying that the American public wants extra soft, quilted and multiply products when they go to the bathroom. Says Alan Hershkowitz, scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council: "This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the environmental devastation from manufacturing it from trees is enormous. Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age."


It is made from virgin wood because longer fibres in virgin wood are easier to lay out and fluff up. But it is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution. The chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests have a significant impact. In fact, there is a campaign by Greenpeace on raising American consciousness about the costs of their toilet habits. Greenpeace is countering the big ads by the paper industry honchos, who are pushing 'luxury brands'. The majority of the toilet roll sold in the US comes from virgin forests, says Hershkowitz. Not so in Europe and Latin America, where 40 per cent of toilet paper comes from recycled products. Greenpeace says that we have this myth in the US that recycled anything is so low quality, it's like cardboard and impossible to use. The big paper product manufacturers use celebrities to push the so-called comforts of luxury brand toilet paper and tissue. These brands put quilting and pockets of air between several layers of paper. They are damaging the environment. A news report suggested that Kimberly-Clark, a paper products major, spent $25 million in the third quarter of 2008 on advertising to persuade Americans against trusting their bottoms to cheaper brands. I couldn't say all this to the American friend. He was a guest...atithi devo bhavah and all that.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

FASTEN THE SEATBELTS

 

Air India is making news these days for all the wrong reasons. Articles speak of burgeoning losses and directions being issued for cost-cutting, employees being asked to ‘shape up or ship out’, and being permitted to seek alternative employment while remaining on the rolls of Air India.

 

In the mid-90s, Indian Airlines and Air India went through similar crises. Though the members of the boards were common, the managements of the two airlines adopted very different strategies. Air India reduced staff and stations on its network and closed down offices; Indian Airlines (IA) retained its work force, increased emoluments, commenced new routes and moved into profits in a few years.

 

In 1994, IA faced rampant and endemic industrial unrest. Strikes took place every year, leading to the exit of chief executives — 1990 to 1994 seeing three Chairman and Managing Directors (CMDs) being forced to resign. Equally endemic were the losses, which commenced with the continued grounding of the entire spanking new fleet of 31 Airbus 320 aircrafts for over nine months, leading to a loss of Rs 127 crore.

 

Vayudoot, the feeder airline, collapsed and was merged with IA, carrying with it losses of over Rs 250 crore. The playing field for IA was not level, since while the national carrier had to air-link many stations that the private operators were unwilling to, private airlines could concentrate their entire fleets on profitable trunk routes. IA was, therefore, faced with an annual recurring loss of over Rs 250 crore a year. Recovery seemed impossible, since there was an exodus of pilots and engineers: 166 pilots including 17 commanders left IA for the private sector, which were offering emoluments twice that of public sector airlines.

 

By 1998, however, the situation changed dramatically. To begin with, there was total industrial peace. Unions did not even resort to ‘go slows’. From chronic annual losses, the airline achieved a modest profit of Rs 45 crore. (Incidentally, increase of fares did not contribute towards this, since increases were only resorted to match increases in costs of Aviation Turbine Fuel.)

 

With emoluments being paid to match the market, pilots’ shortage was overcome, and there was a reverse flow of pilots and engineers from private airlines to IA. However, the additional outflows of funds on account of increased emoluments were more than matched by the increased revenues resulting from rises in productivity.

 

Pilot productivity rose from 55 to 75 hours a month. The increased productivity of engineers was underlined by the fact that while in 1994-95, out of a fleet of 10 Airbus

 

300s, only four or five were flying on an average, by 1998, seven or eight were in the air.

 

From being rated the ‘least preferred airline’, IA was declared the most preferred airline in every survey. The airline bagged 22 awards, including two prestigious international ones. Its market share rose from 58 per cent in 1995 to 69 per cent in 1997.

 

The airline had a common board with the likes of Russi Mody as chairman and Deepak Parekh, Pratap Reddy, Pallam Raju and Inder Sharma as members. The strategy that top management adopted was employee-centric. TMI, the consultancy firm that played a major role in the turnaround of SAS and British Airways, emphasised the need of catering both to the ‘external customer’ and the ‘internal customer’, internal customers being employees, the belief being that unless they were served well by the company, they would not serve the external customer well.

 

Measures to increase morale included very frequent   interactions of management with employees all over the country. The CMD and heads of departments, together with their teams, were on tour for over 20 days in a month, listening to employees. The top management flew economy, not to save money but to interact with the cabin crew and pay ‘major attention to minor details’ of service.

 

All major decisions were taken only after discussions in meetings attended by functional heads of all departments and regional heads. Morale and self-esteem were boosted by reminding employees that they served Indian Airlines. When Delhi Airport was damaged by fire, on reaching the spot at 3 am the management asked whether the first flight — and the flights thereafter — would take off on time. And they did.

 

Considering that employee morale was of paramount importance, while considering a merger, the management recommended that IA should follow the successful example of British Airways, and spread the process of merger over a five-year period, starting with a holding company and commencing the process by merging smaller and simpler entities, and utilising the time available to communicate to every employee the principles and processes being adopted for the merger.

 

Together with the induction of consultants and experts — and exercises of downsizing — some attention needs to be devoted to those who are expected to deliver a better product, with the recognition that people are an important part of the solution and are not the problem.

 

P.C. Sen is former Chairman and Managing Director of Indian Airlines and Chairman, Air India.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STRANGERS TO HASTE

 

We know time is relative. So, apparently, is timeliness. In India, where building projects usually drag on for small eternities, the Delhi Metro was that unique thing — an ambitious infrastructure initiative that met successive targets bang on time, and still delivered a classy product. It was not just the shiny, spacious new subway that made Delhi proud; it was the no-fuss punctuality and professionalism of the project itself — tangible proof that here was another kind of work ethic that we could claim as our own.

 

But evidently, there are enough who are nervous and suspicious of this ordinary feat. That explains the sudden visibility of “I-always-suspected-something-was-wrong” opinions in India’s national discussion. This is dangerous, and backward-looking. It might be easy to fall back into viewing pre-set, perfectly reasonable time-frames as freakish impositions, but that is hardly going to aid the infrastructure-building process. All over the world, and in India, elaborate construction tasks have been undertaken and completed exactly as planned on paper. In Dubai, their underground railway system is being completed at an even faster rate — and nobody expects it to be substandard. After all, Indians should know, from unhappy experience, that an infrastructure project is hardly likely to have impeccable outcomes simply because it was lingered over. Shoddy work is shoddy work, regardless of how much time is poured into it. In modern project management, scheduling goals, keeping tight control on budgets, and ensuring quality are all inter-related, and all considerations must be met for the work to be deemed successful. So in fact, chances are, a project that is casual about time is likely to be lax about budgets and, perhaps, less committed to excellence. So, when we see a project that is delayed, we should not celebrate it as business-as-usual; we should be asking: why is this delayed? And what else does it imply? That’s what was missing in the fanfare that accompanied the inauguration of the Bandra-Worli Sealink.

 

India needs to radically ramp up infrastructure, and it had better get cracking if the 70,000 kilometres of roads and bridges and all its various metro projects are to materialise in the next five years. Setting up an imagined inverse relation between speed and safety does no favours to either, besides being counterproductive and demoralising.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ON A GM PLATTER

 

The debate on genetically modified crops is so prone to being hijacked by pseudoscience, alarmism and overstatement that delays have been built into the delivery to Indian farmers of new seeds that farmers in other countries take for granted. Two years ago, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, India’s apex regulatory authority, granted permission to Mayco for largescale trials of Bt brinjal. This week, K.V. Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, told Parliament that production of GM brinjal, tomato and cauliflower could be

 

expected within three years. Earlier this month, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh had also told Lok Sabha that among other plants cleared by the GEAC for generation of bio-safety data are cotton, rice, okra, potato, groundnut, corn, cabbage, mustard and sorghum. Before being made commercially available, however, any seed will have to be cleared by the GEAC and the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation.

 

The emphasis on the regulatory mechanisms for field trials of GM crops and their clearance for widespread sowing is well-stated for reasons of science and of popular perceptions. Transgenic crops have to be tested in different ecological conditions for the impact on local vegetation and to check if properties like higher productivity or pest resistance hold in the new environment. But the debate on GM crops needs to be reclaimed from the extremes of the critics convinced of technology’s Frankenstein properties and its votaries who believe transgenic crops are the unambiguous answer to every distress of the farmer and the consumer. Our

 

experience with Bt cotton shows that cropping patterns do not adhere to such abstractions. In fact, in 2001, some cotton farmers served notice of their impatience with the regulatory delays by reaping the benefits of Bt technology, whether inadvertently or through deliberate piracy. The subsequent commercial clearance of Bt cotton has also been a learning curve, and has compelled the development of more productive hybrid varieties.

 

The case for hastening Bt trials without compromising safety checks is not driven by a desire to catch up with agricultural economies like those in the US, China or Argentina (where the acreage under GM cultivation has grown rapidly). It is instead to give the farmer more options.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOME GOALS

 

Football stadiums around Iraq have been brimful of spectators and cheer these past days, as the national football team plays its first matches at home, in this case against a Palestinian team, since the American invasion in 2003. Iraq’s footballers have expectedly been winning their matches, but even if they had lost, they would not have harboured an older fear. When Iraqi football was in the care of Saddam Hussein’s son, losses in big-ticket games brought his wrath upon the team. But the relief expressed by players like the goalkeeper, Mohammed Gasad, was of a higher order: “We are tired of travelling,” he said. “Now we have our own country.”

 

Sport is transcendent in so many ways. The specifics of a match and the scoreline do not always reflect its import. For Iraqis, famously passionate about their football, the commencement of home matches would be an index of the possible gain of normality. In neighbouring Iran, football has been an index of other national issues. When some players sported green armbands in a recent outing as show of support to Mir-Hossein Moussavi, they drew the ire of the hardline government. Football, as hardliners know, has the potential to moderate even the strictest of their diktats. Stories abound of men and women streaming out into the streets in celebration after a key football victory, with even the policemen humbled by the occasion into turning a blind eye to violations of the social code. In fact, it was at a football game that a group of women won the right of entry into the stadium some years ago, thereby asserting their entitlement to public spaces.

 

Football is much too often associated with hooliganism. But from Iraq we get proof of its capacity to right so many things.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SUBJECTS TO CITIZENS

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

Amid the din of ministries hogging the limelight with their 100-day agendas, one ministry has been relatively less discussed. But arguably, the ministries of rural development and panchayati raj are at as significant a cusp of reform as any other ministry. In terms of budgetary allocation, the ministry of rural development, now in charge of large flagship programmes, from NREGA to Indira Awas Yojana, is the most significant in this cabinet. In terms of direct impact on the lives of millions of people, the scope and reach of this ministry is remarkable. But there are special reasons to pay attention to these ministries at this historical juncture for a number of factors.

 

First, there is no doubt that the architecture of rural welfare will be created through these ministries. Every single scheme in this ministry has received significant increases in its budget. NREGA now has universal coverage and the wage rate has been increased to Rs 100 per day. In this sense, the scheme will inevitably move from a modest self-identified employment guarantee scheme to a much more ambitious welfare scheme. For the most part this is for the good. But the implementation and political management of this scheme (particularly fixing wage rates) will arguably command more and more attention.

 

In an ideal economy, NREGA would become less necessary. But the direction of its institutionalisation suggests that it will acquire characteristics of a classic welfare scheme, rather than a scheme of last resort. Second, the government is also proposing an ambitious convergence programme, where NREGA is allied to a host of other programmes. At some level, this convergence may be sensible, but designing an architecture that does not derail existing schemes in the name of convergence is going to be a tricky issue. In particular, crucial choices will have to be made about who retains the final decision-making authority over the form convergence takes at the local level.

 

But perhaps the most important reason is the fact that for the first time the ministry of rural development and the ministry of panchayati raj have the same minister. This provides an occasion to resolve what has been a perpetual tension in the way government thinks about the architecture of rural service delivery. On the one hand, there are what we might call schemers. These are officials who think largely in the framework of Centrally-sponsored schemes, bureaucratic largesse from above with all kinds of conditionalities. On the other hand, there are genuine decentralisers, for whom the objective of rural service delivery is not simply about the implementation of Centrally-sponsored schemes, but about genuine empowerment of the local panchayat system. The conflict between the two is not always stark. Sometimes, Centrally-sponsored schemes can be used to strengthen panchayat institutions, as happened in the case of NREGA. Although even here, it has to be said, often the success of the scheme depended upon bypassing panchayats, rather than strengthening them.

 

New Delhi has largely been dominated by schemers rather than genuine decentralisers. States have certainly for the most part opposed genuinely strengthening panchayat institutions, fearing a loss of their own power. But support for decentralisation at the Centre has also been more symbolic than real. There is considerable evidence of this. Despite the 73rd Amendment, the constitutional status of panchayats in terms of being able to perform a range of functions remains very fragile. There is also considerable irony in the fact that most of the states where panchayats have deeply institutionalised after the 73rd Amendment were also states where these institutions did well before the amendment.

 

The amendment itself has turned out to be a weaker instrument for local empowerment. There is a vexed question about the relationship between elected local officials and the bureaucracy; by and large the bureaucracy has had the upper hand in this relationship. There is still relatively little clarity about what functions should be performed at what level and why; the subsidiarity principle is evoked largely as a gesture. Finally, there is the perennial argument of the schemers: we cannot transfer funds, functions and functionaries to panchayats because they have no capacity. In this argument, capacity has been judged, not by the ability to mobilise locally relevant knowledge for taking simple decisions, but by the ability to conform to bureaucratic canons of standardisation. No argument has been more beautifully self-fulfilling: since they don’t have capacity, don’t devolve real power to them; since they don’t have real power, don’t build up their capacity. This debate has gone on for 60 years and it is high time panchayats were endowed with genuine administrative capacity.

 

There has also been another political paradox at the heart of the panchayat system. In order to avoid capture by local elites, reservation and rotation were introduced. These instruments may have had the effect of prising open local power structures a little bit. But they also have vitiated the political strength of the panchayat system as a whole for two reasons. One of the attractions of local government was supposed to be that citizens could reward and punish elected officials on performance; the more local the government, the easier it is to make judgments about the distinguishing character of politicians. This mechanism has become relatively meaningless. Due to the fact that elected officials cannot now create an enduring political base, their bargaining power in relation to other political functionaries and the state is also reduced.

 

Now there is an unprecedented historical opportunity to genuinely empower panchayats. The scale of funding and number of functionaries available under various schemes is now truly staggering. And if the control of some of these is transferred to the panchayats, their significance and capacity will be enhanced dramatically. The minister in charge, C.P. Joshi, is a veteran of panchayat matters, with a sophisticated understanding of the political, constitutional and administrative issues involved; the fact that he has both ministries should allow him to resolve the tension between the schemers and the decentralisers decisively. Oddly enough, there is also now considerable analytical depth to our understanding of local governance in rural India, in stark contrast to our near ignorance about the dynamics of local government in urban India. Joshi’s predecessor, Mani Shankar Aiyar, was consistently right about one broad theme: you cannot, in the long run, have inclusive growth without inclusive governance. There is no way of having genuinely inclusive governance in rural India without strengthening panchayat institutions. Welfare schemes are important, but taken alone they do not complete our transformation from subjects to citizens.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A JUDGMENT FOR INDIA

KARAN SINGH

 

The Indian Penal Code insofar as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private is violative of Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.” These words in the Delhi high court judgment of July 1, 2009 have stated the situation clearly and unambiguously. Indeed, it is surprising that an outmoded colonial law, introduced during Victorian times, should have remained on our statute book for so many years since Independence. Our former colonial masters’ motivation for the law was clear: to prevent any physical contact between the young British civil and military officers who came out to administer India and the “natives”; its equivalent in the United Kingdom was repealed decades ago.

 

We are perhaps the last liberal-democratic country in the world to have decriminalised gay sex, and now join 126 countries around the world that have already done so. This will come as a long-awaited relief to a particularly vulnerable section of society which, even if we accept claims that it is only 2 per cent of our population against the generally-accepted figure of 10 per cent, would include over 20 million people.

 

The judgment has sparked off a lively debate; the media, both electronic and print, has been largely supportive. Some points need to be clarified. The judgment in no way propagates gay sex; all it does is to ensure the fundamental right of equality, non-discrimination and personal liberty guaranteed to every Indian citizen under our Constitution. It is also important to note that it does not decriminalise non-consensual sex or paedophilia, which will remain cognisable offence subject to severe punishment.

 

The argument that some religious leaders are against the judgment cannot become a deciding factor. I recall that, when in the early ’50s Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar piloted the Hindu Code Bill through Parliament, there were a large number of Hindu leaders — including some Shankaracharyas — who were strongly opposed to it, as was then-President Rajendra Prasad. Nonetheless, they pushed it through, thereby ensuring that the 800 million Hindus in India today live in a much more equitable and fair society than earlier. Similarly, all Christian denominations are not against gay sex. The Roman Catholic Church certainly is; they also oppose contraception, but that does not mean that we should stop our family welfare and condom distribution programmes. As far as Muslim communities are concerned, conservative leaders might certainly take a rigid attitude — but younger people are likely to be less dogmatic. In any case, if one looks at the great Sufi tradition within Islam, we find that they celebrated love, both human and divine, in all its multifaceted glory.

 

The argument that this is against nature is also not viable. To begin with, for the gay or LGBT community, their particular lifestyle is apparently as natural as heterosexual relationships are to the rest of society. Also this argument of nature can be pushed to extremes. It is not “natural”, after all, to wear clothes; or to eat cooked food. Nature is much more varied and inclusive than many realise, and alternative sexuality has been found in almost all cultures, ancient and modern, around the world.

 

It is often forgotten that some of the greatest artists and musicians, rulers and conquerors, philosophers and poets in history have been gay or bisexual. Same-sex love was one of the bases of the ancient Greek civilisation that produced such great thinkers as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who laid the philosophical foundations of Western civilisation. In India, too, the Kama Sutra clearly mentions same-sex love in a very matter of fact manner, and the Khajuraho sculptures depict it graphically. In our magnificent iconography, the ultimate integration of the masculine and feminine archetypes is found in the great concept of Shiva Ardhanareshwara; in the broader philosophical context, the Vedanta believes that the divine resides in all human beings, in which case discrimination on any basis including sexual preference is unacceptable.

 

To conclude, therefore, one can say that the historic judgment of the Delhi high court marks a positive step in widening the scope of our inclusive democratic structure, and rescuing millions of citizens from the shadow of an archaic and outmoded colonial legacy.

 

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OP-ED

HOW THE PARTY WITHERS AWAY

ARUN SHOURIE

 

THE FUNDAMENTAL REASON

This is the crucial factor: the decision to reform or not has come to vest in the hands of the very persons who will be finished were the reform to take place — recall the two examples we encountered at the beginning: the civil service that stymies every commission’s recommendations, and the legislators who do not rectify the manifest lacuna in the law which allows those convicted of murder to continue as members. Hence the paradox: the stronger that the leader and his circle appear, the weaker the organisation.

 

FACTIONS MUSHROOM

As ‘power’ now flows solely from the Leader, factions sprout even within this circle — tiny though it is — around him. All the more so because the only glue now is lucre, pelf. The courtiers are now an ever-changing kaleidoscope of ‘tactical alliances’: three join, get the fourth; then two of the three join and get the first. To each, the nearest neighbour is the greatest enemy. At every turn, each of the sudden allies prides himself on being clever, he preens himself on being successful. In fact, even as they succeed against each other, they are undermining the esteem of the people and the workers of the party itself for the circle as well as the leader who presides over it.

 

The leader frowns, but inwardly foments the factions; at the least, he does not scotch them. As each subaltern jostles to be closer to him, he feels important, indeed he feels indispensable — “They are not yet mature enough to manage on their own.” He preens himself as arbiter, as the dispenser of favour and frown.

 

But the jostling, the ever-shifting alliances and ruptures among the courtiers break through the curtains of the court. Three consequences follow. The character of the leader is soon evident to all: that he is the one who is fomenting factions, that he is the one who is playing favourites. Second, the courtiers defame each other successively: soon enough, people know enough about each of them to believe the worst of all of them. Third, both because the leader has been seen for what he is and because each of the subalterns has shown himself to be but a schemer and plotter, the whole — the so-called party — loses the esteem of the people.

 

As factions fight, as subalterns spread stories about each other, the leader moans, “The party was never like this... When we began, we toiled without any expectation at all that we would ever be in power. We just toiled. Today, everyone expects rewards, office, perks. The simplicity of our leader of the time, his utter selflessness, his humility...And this business of factions, and backbiting — it was unheard of.”

 

Each time he invokes that distant leader, he reminds the listeners how far he has himself come from that sainted person. He reminds listeners how, under his direct stewardship, the party has been converted from being a crusade to becoming an instrument for his aggrandisement and that of his chosen handful.

 

THE SLIDE ACCELERATES

Cleverness in the leader produces cunning and deviousness among his henchmen. Cleverness, cunning, deviousness at the top produce feigned loyalty among followers. The followers stick to the party only in the expectation that their chance to grab the goodies will also come one day. But as the party suffers successive defeats, that prospect recedes. Seeing that this is not the vehicle to lucre that they had imagined, the followers lose enthusiasm. Chunks break away. To other parties — where, of course, the same sequence is in progress.

 

That the same sequence is being enacted in other parties makes it that much more difficult to arrest it in this party. The rival party is fielding a criminal. Only a more audacious, a more resourceful criminal can defeat him. As winning the requisite numbers is all, those who urge that tickets be given only to persons of integrity and competence are easily shoved aside as unpractical ‘idealists’ — in the very party that had been founded and nurtured by idealists, the word becomes a pejorative.

 

Such adoption of what is common to others is triply harmful to a party that grew out of a movement, that has sworn fidelity to ideals. To start with, it loses its claim to being different from the others. Next, its culture, its very character changes. And third, if by chance and for reasons that have little to do with its new character, it wins, its members are not able to handle the complex tasks of governance — any more than those ‘boors in office’ were able to manage the states they founded after destroying Rome.

 

These accidental victories, however, have consequences for the party itself also. The victories come about from time to time, for reasons that are independent of the drift in the party — the strength in an area of the candidates as individuals, the particularly perfidious conduct of opponents. But the consequence is that the leader and his coterie feel vindicated in their ways. Those who had been warning of what will befall the party should it continue in the direction it has been proceeding are now even more easily put down as the perpetual whiners, the disgruntled, frustrated alarmists, the congenital pessimists.

 

Even as the party wins the odd contest, it continues to lose that vital intangible — esteem among the people. It is seen as being more and more like any other conglomeration. Every memory of the movement from which it had originated, every memory of its original leaders only reinforces this inference. The party no longer claims that it is different from the others. On the contrary, the other parties hurl that erstwhile claim at it — as a taunt.

 

The party which was a movement has become routine. Routinisation robs every abhiyaan it launches of meaning. It dwarfs everyone. How true the lesson that historians hold out:

 

“Early Roman history has been described as the history of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In the later Empire it took an extraordinary man to do anything at all except carry on a routine; and, as the Empire had devoted itself for centuries to the breeding and training of ordinary men, the extraordinary men of its last ages — Stilicho, Aetius, and their like — were increasingly drawn from the Barbarian world.”*

 

But the other parties are enacting the same sequence. They don’t have any extraordinary men either that this party may swear in. Yet something has to be done to shore up its fortunes. The party knows its own too well. They have been around, and have not brought victory. Those in rival parties may not be extraordinary, but they have the attraction of being in other parties. The party, therefore, inducts persons who are like members and leaders of the parties it has hitherto denounced. Better still, it inducts persons who are still members and leaders of those parties. To little avail. The entrants are seen as turncoats. That the party’s claim to being different is fake is reinforced. Those who have served it loyally for decades are incensed.

 

THE CLEVER SPINNERS

The leader, cocooned, does not notice the ground slipping away, in part because he is by now surrounded by clever courtiers. The moment a victory turns up, they are able to produce a dozen reasons to show that it is due to the leader, and, incidentally, themselves. The moment a defeat occurs, they are able to produce two dozen reasons to prove that it is due to others. And another score why the defeat is due to special, transient, exceptional, local circumstances, and, therefore, is no cause for worry.

 

The party’s electoral losses resume. They accelerate. Fewer and fewer new recruits join the organisation. Those who join, join for reasons other than the ideas and ideals for which that party or organisation once stood — they do so, for instance, in the belief that doing so will get them jobs, posts, contracts.

 

The leader and his circle could easily see the portent, if only they would. Are only the already-converted coming to our meetings? Are they coming spontaneously, or do wehave to bus them? How many uncommitted, new listeners are coming to our meetings? Indeed, the leader and his circle do not have to go even that far. They just have to look only at their own diaries: how many persons outside our circle have we met in the last week? But they don’t see. The organisation is busy talking to itself. Those within the circle are busy knifing each other. And the leader? He is enveloped in an impenetrable fog of self-satisfaction: the day’s photo-opportunity, the day’s conclave, the day’s meeting of the ‘core group’, the day’s meeting of ‘office-bearers’, the day’s meeting of ‘allies’ — what a fulfilling day...

 

The party stops hearing those outside the party. The leader stops hearing those outside his circle — of weak men and henchmen.

 

Many factors continue to obscure the fact that the ground is shifting from underneath the party. For a while, to cite one factor, the ‘core constituency’ continues to support it: out of habit; out of loyalty to the old ideals; out of an obstinate consistency. But the leader and his circle reassure themselves, “Our core constituency is intact.”

 

They draw an operational inference: in the belief that doing so will solidify the support of this core constituency, they reinforce earlier slogans so as to demonstrate that they remain committed to their original ideology. But each time they proclaim the slogans, they remind listeners — all the more so, this core constituency as it remains truly committed to what those slogans had promised — that, when they had the opportunity, they did nothing for those promises to materialise. Regurgitating the slogans thus does little to mobilise the core constituency. On the other hand, it consolidates the opponents. And another thing has happened in the meantime: a host of new elements have entered the arena — for instance, the young. Each time the leader and his coterie proclaim those old slogans — ‘socialism’ of the Congress; ‘Hindutva’ of the BJP; ‘Marxism-Leninism’ of the assorted Communists — they remind these new entrants that they and their party are an obsolete bunch. And then, suddenly, one day, a day like any other, that ‘core constituency’ also walks away.

 

KAFIRS AND APOSTATES

At each turn, well-wishers counsel reform, they counsel that the party change course. But by now the leader is the party, most certainly in his eyes. Therefore, he takes every suggestion to be a rebuke, an assault on him personally for conducting the affairs of the party as he has been conducting them. When the suggestion-which-is-censure comes from an outsider, the leader rejects it as the ranting of a kafir, of one who has never believed, who has never committed himself to the cause. When it comes from one who undeniably has been part of the crusade, the leader dismisses it as being the rant of a murtad, an apostate — as the rant of one ‘who has crossed the barricade’. His reflex is to insulate himself even more into an even tighter circle.

 

The leader whose example used to be the goad; whose mere presence induced attention; whose glance, whose whispered suggestion used to ensure compliance, he now stands on office, on rank, on the years he has spent ‘in the service of the party’. He demands respect — a sure sign that he no longer commands it. Another sign, a sure one that what, in the infinitely vaster context of civilisations, Arnold Toynbee had called ‘the creative minority’ — the small group that brought the civilisation into being, and presided over its flourishing — has become ‘the dominant minority’ — the small group that chokes, and presides over the ultimate disintegration of the civilisation.

 

The circle becomes tighter and more and more homogenous, more and more subservient and sycophantic.

 

As the leader and his cohorts move within this ever-narrower circle, they see less and less of what is going on without the circle, they hear less and less. This blindness and loss of hearing are brought about all the more swiftly the more hierarchical is the organisation — for the greater the respect for hierarchy, the more the leader and his circle are not just looked up to, they are venerated, they are treated as oracles, as paragons of virtue and dedication; and the more disciplined the organisation is — for the more disciplined it is, the less do subordinates speak the whole truth to their seniors, the less they think for themselves: “Sir, hamare yahaan to soochnaa aayi, sochnaa band,” a stalwart once explained to me.

 

(To be concluded)

 

The writer is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha

 

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                                                                           INDIAN EXPRESS

OP-ED

THE HINDU RAINBOW

 

In an opinion piece titled “Shy society. Shameless debate”, S Gurumurthy writes: “Homosexuals displaced the Economic Survey for the year 2008-09 from the headlines of most media on July 3, 2009. New headings such as, ‘Historic benchmark’; ‘Sexual equality’; ‘Landmark Judgement’ appeared in the media. This is how the media had headlined the Delhi High Court judgement holding Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes homosexual acts offences in law, partly unconstitutional. Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code was not Manu’s code. It was Macaulay’s. This colonial law made homosexuality punishable. In Judeo-Christian tradition homosexuality was seen an act against the law of God, punishable even with death. The Islamic rules also prescribed capital punishment for the offence. In all Abrahamic traditions the hostility to homosexuality originated in the story associated with a city as Sodom [the etymological source of the world ‘sodomy’] where the sexual sin was first committed according to their texts, though the respective accounts varied. This is the philosophy of the law against homosexuals in Abrahamic societies. Macaulay’s law reflected their theological position. Earlier, there was no state law in India to punish homosexuality. Does that mean that the Hindu — read Indian — tradition approved of homosexuality?”

 

The article adds: “What was the position of the state and state enacted laws in India in such matters? The king or the state in India had refrained from handling most issues which the society or families could handle. It is the colonial state, with its laws and courts, that began to intrude the sovereign domain of the family and society. The Indian discipline was always built around unenforced social and family norms; not state laws. Self-restraint and shyness were the tools to regulate the deviants from the norms, not the police or courts. Even today, it is this non-formal moral order — read dharma — not the laws of Parliament or State assemblies, that largely governs this society. India is otherwise ungovernable; just some 12,000 plus police stations in some 7 lakh towns and villages cannot regulate over 110 crore people. Thanks to this moral order, the Indian society had handled, and even now handles, such sensitive issues with great finesse than does state law. It is in stark contrast to the gross state law and media discourse of today. Historian Devdutt Puranik says that in Hindu literature ‘though not part of the mainstream, the existence of homosexuality was recognised, but, not approved’.”

 

It concludes: “Tolerance for the deviants from generally accepted human conduct is part of the Indian ethos. Here the society would wisely ignore the marginal deviants rather than punish them, even discuss them — a more subtle, sensible social management principle. The society felt, even now feels, shy to discuss them. That is why the traditional religious scholars have refused to be drawn into the current debate on the issue. In the Indian tradition, homosexuals, as elsewhere, were thus regarded as deviants. But, here, unlike in the Abrahamic, the right of these deviants to exist without being punished was never denied; and will never be. Yet no one can argue here or elsewhere that homosexuality is a virtue. No law or court of law can declare it as a virtue”.

 

BUDGET ON THE BACKFOOT

The editorial in the latest issue of Organiser, titled “Budget: Congress finds globalisation too hot for comfort”, observes: “By all accounts, the budget for 2009-10 presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was a damp squib. Particularly after the hype created by the media about the new budget as a vision statement of the second term of Dr Manmohan Singh. A cynical view could be that the dispensation has grown brazen because of its re-election after its awkward and loathsome record in the first term. There can also be a more generous appreciation of the context. Perhaps, the big message of the budget was washed away in the monumental Sensex meltdown and the orchestra of disappointment played out by the protagonists of big-ticket reforms. Mukherjee meant to dismiss some pet agendas of the reform lobby. He stood his ground, in spite of the tsunami of big bang reform predictions as the only way forward for tiding over the recession. There was a promise in the budget speech that the government will retain majority stakes in the public sector companies. This ruled out distress sell-off of PSUs and share disinvestment which foreign investors were eagerly waiting for”.

 

The editorial adds: “There are two competing schools of economic thinking in UPA-II. If the Economic Survey reflected the thinking of Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the budget reflects the thinking of the politician segment in the party, which for long felt suffocated under the mindless reform binge of the career politician bandwagon which so far held sway over the administration. In a way, Mukherjee’s budget is a rethink on the economic policy adopted under globalisation”.

 

Compiled by Suman K Jha

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OP-ED

ASHES TO ASHES

KUNAL PRADHAN

 

Sitting on a high table with one-and-a-half black eyes, vowing to stay away from beer, Ricky Ponting had looked like an unfortunate caricature of our times in his first public appearance after a drunken brawl at the Bourbon & Beefsteak nightclub in Sydney’s infamous King’s Cross area in 1999.

 

A year before that, he had been fined for alleged ‘bad behaviour’ at Equinox, a pub in Kolkata, after Australia had suffered their biggest Test defeat in 60 years. The 34-year-old Australian captain has come a long way from there. Last month in Cardiff, he made news for the most benign of reasons — a late evening, incognito run to pick up some groceries and comfort snacks.

 

The simplest of batsmen, Ponting, the man, has his fair share of complications. There was very little he did wrong in the first Ashes Test last week — a big century, picking Hilfenhaus ahead of Clark, sticking with Hauritz despite warnings from the spinner’s numerous detractors. But he still came off appearing ungracious, a bit of a whiner, after the match ended in a draw.

 

His outburst against England’s obvious time-wasting tactics in the final moments of the opening match on Sunday may have sparked a debate about the ‘spirit of the game’, but it also gave the impression that the Australian skipper was suggesting he was ‘owed a victory’ going into the second Test. By trying too hard to be one of the boys in victory, or being too tactless in defeat, Ponting often lets the occasion get to his head, and the opposition under his skin.

 

In the 2005 Ashes, for example, he had seemed needlessly obsessed (after his run out by substitute Gary Pratt) with the liberal use of stand-in fielders in the modern game. His tirade — despite the fleet-footed Pratt’s entry because of an injury to fast bowler Simon Jones, who went on to miss the fifth Test — had briefly threatened to overshadow the biggest sports story of the year as England reclaimed the trophy after 16 years.

 

Last year in India, Ponting’s frustration during the Border-Gavaskar trophy was clear as he battled both with slow over-rates and new Indian skipper MS Dhoni’s ultra-defensive field setting in the final Test in Nagpur, where the eventual series loss resulted in denting Australia’s aura of invincibility and led to calls for his removal as captain.

 

As a strong-willed and sometimes bull-headed man, Ponting’s irritation stems not from these little incidents but from a larger complaint against those sitting in judgment on his legacy. While his greatness as a batsman has never been in doubt — he is fast closing in on 40 centuries and is only 64 short of Allan Border’s Australian record 11,174 runs — the problem is that his captaincy hasn’t been held in the esteem he seems to think it deserves.

 

So, whether he admits it or not, for Ponting this Ashes series is about unfinished business — both with the English team that had beaten his side in 2005, and with his own standing as a worthy successor to Border, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. After all, the result of the series will perhaps define how history will remember his tenure as the captain of what, until he took over, was the finest Australian team of all time.

 

Former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie was forced to come out in his support this week, giving a list of Ponting’s achievements and stressing that he was ‘not crap’ at his job. But if Australia lose the Ashes, not only will they relinquish the number one ranking, more cruelly, it will make the double World Cup-winning captain the first Aussie skipper in history to be at the helm during back-to-back Ashes losses in England.

 

The stakes are higher than ever. And whining won’t change anything, winning will.

 

kunal.pradhan@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DOING IT THE EXPRESS WAY

 

India’s National Highway Development Project (NHDP) has the ‘ambitious’ goal of constructing 1,000 km of expressways. That’s in sad contrast to the fact that the US already had more than 1,210 km of toll roads that met express highway standards back in 1950. It’s got the largest number of expressways in the world today. We could put this down to a more than a half-century’s headstart, but for the China factor. Until near the end of the 1980s, China didn’t have an inch of expressway. In 1990, the Shenyang-Dalian link became operational. Rapid construction in the intervening years has put the country in the world’s second spot, boasting 60,300 km of expressways by 2008-end. China’s Transport Planning & Research Institute director has said that to facilitate the transportation of the same amount of goods and people, expressways use 40% less land than ordinary roads, simultaneously cutting vehicle emissions and traffic accidents by a third. With those kinds of returns on the horizon, it’s clearly worth India’s while to get on the expressway bandwagon even at this delayed stage. Now, India’s new Union road transport & highways minister proposes to put a concentrated focus on expressway construction by setting up an expressways authority separate from the National Highways Authority of India. We welcome this attentiveness, but raise some concerns.

 

Let’s first address issues raised by the existing expressways. The Mumbai-Pune link is definitely worth celebrating, but as it passes through crowded villages, traffic reportedly slows to walking speed sometimes. Ditto for the Delhi-Gurgaon link, which, in addition, has seen more than 100 accidental deaths since it started collecting tolls in January 2008 without anybody taking responsibility for them. Now, to cope with a manifold increase in traffic volumes, there is talk of splitting up the existing 32 toll plazas to add 16 more lanes. We don’t question that this is necessary, but surely it’s a symptom of really bad modelling. As we go ahead with future projects, India can ill-afford more of the same. Combined with regular policy changes, this really raises the risk profile of infrastructure projects, which, in turn, makes it harder to attract investors (Kamal Nath has also said that budgetary support will not be sufficient to support projects). Second, any new authority will necessarily face a clash of jurisdictions and interests. Third, expressways will call for new alignments, going beyond expanding existing roads. This will involve a whole new array of challenges—land acquisition, rehabilitation, refashioning existing utility grids like power lines, environmental clearances, etc. Not to mention new problems with allies. The minister has a reputation for efficiency. He has been talking to investors, researchers, contractors and policymakers. India needs better highways and expressways. Let’s hope he can deliver them.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GOOD AND MODIFIED

 

The government’s parliamentary reply that three genetically modified varieties of vegetables—tomato, brinjal and cauliflower—will be in commercial production in three years clarifies a situation made murky by constant activism. This should be taken as proof that the government is serious about bringing about a second Green Revolution in a fast stagnating agriculture sector. India has been very slow to adopt GM technologies and has thus missed the opportunity to exploit the many advantages that come with GM farming. GM crops, at a minimum, offer the unambiguous benefits of higher yields and greater resistance to pests, both of which could give a big boost to the average farmer. So far, the only GM crop permitted in India is Bt cotton, which was cleared for production for the first time nearly seven years ago. The results of the experiment with Bt cotton have been very positive—cotton production has almost doubled since GM seeds were introduced, and productivity has shot up. At the same time, there has been no evidence of any damage to soil patterns, which is one of the fears bandied about by the anti-GM lobby. Incidentally, apart from the rise in quantity, there has also been an improvement in the quality of cotton produced in India, which has reduced our dependence on imports of high-quality cotton.

 

The government’s decision is bound to face resistance from various narrow focus groups, who will attempt to highlight the perils of GM crops and GM food. The government should lean on the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, which has ruled GM foods completely safe for consumption. GM seeds and crops have been shown to have no negative effects on the soil either. Evidence from elsewhere where GM farming has been used more extensively—particularly from the US, Argentina and Brazil—shows the enormous rise in yields after the adoption of GM technology. These countries have been using GM seeds for a long time now with no adverse health effects reported. Incidentally, we already consume GM products in India via imports—soyabean oil from Argentina are entirely GM. Of course, there is good reason to have proper regulation to ensure that all scientific procedures are complied with. India actually has one of the best institutional structures for this, courtesy Supreme Court intervention and government action thereafter. All GM proposals must pass a two-tier regulatory system through the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee. Both the bodies have a wide range of experts with different views on GM that ensures adequate checks and balances. The systems are in place, and the government must proceed even beyond the three vegetables on the near-term agenda.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

DO THE MATH: DEFICIT WON’T PUSH UP RATES

MAHESH VYAS


The gross fiscal deficit of the central government is projected to be 6.8% of the gross domestic product in 2009-10. This is higher than most expectations. The finance minister’s speech was categorical in ruling out privatisation of PSUs and also ruling out the divestment of its ownership in banking and insurance. The minister did not announce any “reforms” as the markets understand them.

 

As a result, the markets were punishing. Equity valuations dropped precipitously. CMIE’s COSPI (it includes all actively traded stocks) dropped by 7.5% from 4 July, the eve of the budget, to 14 July. The Nifty dropped 7% in the same period.

 

The question worth considering is ,will this high fiscal deficit cause high interest rates? I have stated earlier in this column that the fiscal deficits seen in the past two decades in India bear no statistical relationship with interest rates or inflation. Now, we work out some simple arithmetic to see how 2009-10 would pan out.

 

The 6.8% GFD/GDP ratio is derived from the central government’s plan to borrow Rs 4.5 lakh crore from the financial markets. But Rs 1.62 lakh crore has already been borrowed. Thus, more than one-third of the total annual borrowing was actually completed in the first quarter. This did not lead to a stiffening of interest rates. On the contrary, PLRs of banks declined during this period.

 

Back to the arithmetic. Rs 0.5 lakh crore is to be repaid on account of maturing government securities. Thus, the government has to effectively borrow only Rs 2.4 lakh crore in the remaining nine months of the year. This is a lot less daunting than what the Rs 4.5 lakh crore figure conjures.

 

Further, there is ample liquidity to meet the demands of the government and the private sector. Banks have consistently parked more than Rs one lakh crore with the reverse repo window of the Reserve Bank since April 2009. As of July 3, 2009, the amount outstanding in this account was Rs 1.6 lakh crore. Banks only park their excess liquidity in this account as it offers a mere 3.25% returns.

 

The statutory liquidity requirements on bank deposits is another source of funding the deficit. Banks are expected to mobilise Rs 7.7 lakh crore by way of deposits during 2009-10. These are expected to yield another Rs 1.5 lakh crore to the government as SLR during the July 2009 to March 2010 period.

 

Thus, the SLR investments of banks in the remaining months and the reverse repo investments of banks together can comfortably meet deficit requirements in the remaining months of 2009-10.

 

But, will all this funding of the government deficit hurt the availability of funds to the private sector through the banking system. Again, some simple arithmetic should help. RBI expects deposits to grow by 20%. We accept this assessment and thus estimate that Rs 7.7 lakh crore of deposits would be mobilised. Of this, 24% will be appropriated for SLR and 5% towards CRR. This leaves Rs 5.4 lakh crore of deposit money to meet credit disbursement. This is much more than the projected Rs 4.4 lakh crore of credit demand in 2009-10.

 

Credit demand is projected to drop in 2009-10. In the first quarter of 2009-10, outstanding bank credit declined from Rs 27.8 lakh crore as of March 28 to Rs 27.7 lakh crore as of June 20. Bank credit is thus expected to grow by 16% in 2009-10 as against a growth of 17.5% in 2008-09. This lower growth of 16% implies that credit deployment will be of the order of Rs 4.4 lakh crore in 2009-10.

 

Thus, banks’ deposit-credit gap will widen to Rs 3.2 lakh crore in 2009-10 from Rs 2.2 lakh crore in 2008-09. Banks will thus have additional liquidity. This additional liquidity will fund government borrowing.

 

The various computations discussed above make it clear that the large deficit of the government can be easily funded without straining the financial markets; without raising interest rates or starving the private sector of funds during the year. This does not justify the large deficit. It merely explains its implications for interest rates without debating its larger merit or demerits.

 

Recent press statements by bank leaders indicate that they expect interest rates to rise in the second half of the year. Implicitly, they do not expect them to rise around now. But, the calculations made above show that they are unlikely to rise during the entire year. The excess liquidity on the contrary imply that interest rates may even decline further during the year.

 

The question now is: why did the markets tank after the budget? Is the deficit going to hurt growth this year? Unlikely. The concern is elsewhere—will there be a normal monsoon. We discuss that another time.

 

the author heads the centre for monitoring indian economy

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FORGET 3G, PROBLEMS IN TELECOM ARE A GENERATION OLDER

RISHI RAJ


The telecom sector is a successful symbol of the reforms unleashed in 1991 and is moving ahead at full steam. But there are problems at the policy level which threaten to stall the progress. Controversy and delay continue to plague the much delayed 3G auctions but interestingly enough it is in fact the normal voice services or 2G—which all of us use, which may be at risk if remedial steps are not taken fast.

 

What has largely gone unnoticed is that the allocation of 2G spectrum has come to a halt in the recent past on the orders of a telecom tribunal, which instead of ad-hocism wants a policy, and the department of telecommunications (DoT) is dragging its feet on it. This could end up compromising the quality of services that are being offered even with 2G. For the uninitiated, spectrum is the basic raw material for mobile operators—the airwaves on which the signals travel.

 

So far, allocation of 2G spectrum was done on the basis of the number of subscribers an operator had. But with several allegations of gold-plating as well as allocating more to a few based on administrative orders as against licence conditions, a committee was set up last year to recommend a thorough overhaul. The committee has submitted its report, which has wide industry support as it has said that licence and spectrum should be de-linked, all 2G spectrum be auctioned and trading in spectrum be allowed.

 

Among other issues, simple matters like having a uniform licence fee as against the current structure which ranges between 6-10% of the adjusted gross revenue of operators depending on the circles, has been left unattended for the last three years. As a result most of the big operators are currently being audited by the government to see whether they paid the right licence fee. Irrespective of the outcome if a simple rationalisation had been done on time there would have been no need to carry out such an arduous task on taxpayers’ or shareholders’ money.

 

But DoT seems to have chosen to go slow on these issues choosing instead to, ironically, focusing on 3G before sorting out 2G issues.

 

rishi.raj@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

REGULATING THE NEW DRUG CARTELS

MG ARUN

 

Will the European Union Competition Commission’s probe into out-of-court settlements between MNCs and generic companies impact the latter’s fortunes in the regulated markets in a major way? Quite unlikely. But the Commission’s move can be a disincentive for such future out-of-court deals, considering the quantum of scrutiny and accompanying litigations that those deals could generate.

 

The Commission, in a recent report, has alleged that generic pharma companies like Teva, Lupin and Matrix have entered into agreements with multinational firms, that might have hindered the market entry of the cheaper, generic version of a hypertension drug. The drug in question is French company Servier’s perindopril, and the Commission is probing whether delaying the entry of a generic version violates anti-trust rules. Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has gone a step further to say that delays in bringing cheaper generic medicines to the market have pushed up consumers’ bills by 20% between 2000 and 2007. The Commission has reached these conclusions after an 18 month probe that began in January 2008 after raids at GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca Plc, and Sanofi Aventis.

 

The reasons for the cynicism regarding a conclusive action against such settlements are many. First, there is a widespread perception among industry professionals that the EU probe may not lead to any consequential action in the end, much like the 2006 probe by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US into the phenomenon of ‘authorised generics’—generics that are exactly the same as branded drugs, made by the manufacturer of the original branded drug but marketed as a generic product. The FTC initiated the probe in 2006, but that has not led to any conclusive results yet. Rather, such settlements keep happening. Out-of-court agreements like Sun Pharma’s settlement with Novartis on Exelon, Ranbaxy’s dispute settlement with Astellas and Boehringer Ingelheim over Flomax, are some recent examples.

 

Second, the very nature of the pharmaceutical business leads to constant issues and litigations between original innovators and generic players, something which regulatory authorities are quite sensitive about. The pharmaceutical industry remains one of the most regulated sectors on the globe, and the business of big pharma companies is driven by innovative and patented products. An entry into the regulated markets calls for challenging the patents of existing drugs, and generic firms vie to benefit from the first mover advantage. At the same time, it is in the interest of the innovative companies to delay generic entry, and the US allows the manufacturer of a brand name drug to put an authorised generic on the market from day one after the patent expiry of the brand name drug.

 

The EU Competition Commission had made it clear that its probe is largely in areas of ‘uncertainty’ in settlement agreements between generics and pharmaceutical companies and not at ‘genuine’ patent disputes. It has said its inquiry will “complement, not challenge, intellectual property law, as both systems share the objectives of fostering innovation, and increasing consumer welfare.” Therefore, a drastic move from the part of the EU is not expected by many. This should leave open a window of possibility for generic firms to still pursue out of court settlement opportunities.

 

Third, in the current context, it has not been conclusively proved that there has been a deliberative anti-competitive behaviour on part of these companies. Moreover, the European Competition Commission has been examining such cases not just in pharmaceuticals.

 

What this also points to is the increased interest of a highly regulated market like the EU towards promoting generics. Countries in the EU are aggressively pushing the use of generics. The EU generics market is expected to grow from $18.7 billion in 2006 to $30.2 billion in 2011, at a CAGR of 10%. The major generics markets there include the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. In these countries, governments are taking measures to encourage doctors prescribe generic medicines, pharmacists to distribute generics and consumers to recognise the value of these medicines and accept them. Competitive pricing structures are also established to promote generics. Germany, the largest generics market in the EU with a market size of $7 billion, for instance, has made generics substitution by the pharmacist made compulsory, and has altered reference pricing and prescription frequency to favour generics usage. UK, the second largest, has encouraged the practice of prescribing by the international non-proprietary name or the generic name. UK has also set targets for generics prescription. Similarly, France has set generic utilisation targets. With these measures already in place, it will not be surprising to see the EU continue to put pressure on MNCs to prevent purposeful delaying of generics entry into that market.

 

mg.arun@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

DREAMS OF THE MOON AND BEYOND

 

It was forty years ago this month that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon, taking “a giant leap for mankind.” Ten more of their compatriots followed in subsequent Apollo missions, leaving their own imprints on the lunar dust. But the Moon landings did not become a stepping-stone to realising the science fiction dream of humans going where no one had gone before. As Arthur C. Clarke, a remarkable space visionary, once sadly remarked, far from dominating the 1970s “Project Apollo has been dominated by them.” While astronauts walked on the Moon, back on planet Earth the United States was embroiled in the pointless bloodbath of the Vietnam War. Soon after the astronauts of the last Apollo mission returned safely home in 1972, the country was transfixed by the misdeeds of its President and his men in the Watergate scandal. The race to be the first to send humans to the Moon was a product of the Cold War mentality and the superpower rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. But once the U.S. won the space race, there appeared little reason left to undertake more manned space exploration. Ever since the high point of the Apollo Moon landings, space travel has taken humans just a few hundred kilometres from the Earth — a far shorter distance than the journeys countless people undertake in aircraft every day.

 

America still seems deeply uncertain about the course its manned space programme should take. In 2004, President George W. Bush gave the space agency NASA a long-term goal: “to return to the Moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond.” An extended human presence on the Moon would allow ever more ambitious missions. But the Obama administration appears to have doubts about such a project. At the urging of the government, NASA has appointed a committee to conduct an independent review of its ongoing human space flight plans and programmes. In the meantime, a committee set up by the U.S. National Research Council has produced a report on the key goals and critical issues for the country’s civil space policy in this century. One goal is to “expand the frontiers of human activity in space.” Further, since “human space flight creates a perception of national leadership,” the U.S. should remain in the forefront of such activities. But space travel is no longer the preserve of the U.S. and Russia. China has an active manned space programme and plans to establish space stations of its own. India too appears poised to follow suit; this year’s central budget has stepped up the allotment made for “Manned Mission Initiatives.” If humans return to the Moon, the next set of spacefarers could well be from Asia.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS THE GST

 

In one of the significant announcements in his budget speech, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee not only confirmed that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be introduced as scheduled on April 1, 2010, but also outlined broad contours of the new levy, as agreed to by the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers. As widely expected, India will adopt a dual structure, with the Centre legislating, levying and administering its own GST and the States having their own laws and rates for the tax. In effect, there will be two sets of GST, one for the goods and the other for the services, levied at two levels, the Centre and the State. These two would be mutually exclusive and operate throughout the value chain. Now that the government has come out clearly on the structure, attention should now turn to other essential features of the new tax on which a consensus is yet to emerge. A key challenge will be the determination of the rates to be applied. Reports speak of an aggregate GST for goods in the range of 14 to 17 per cent, with the probability of it being introduced at the upper end. While the issue is still to be thrashed out, it is very likely that the GST for goods will have multiple — but not more than three — rates, with exports and certain other categories attracting zero rate.

 

Two other major challenges relate to compensating the States for possible revenue loss and revamping the legal architecture. The 13th Finance Commission Chairman, Vijay Kelkar, has sought to allay the fears of the States and the Union Territories over possible revenue loss by promising suitable compensation at least in the early stages. Far more difficult, especially because so little preparatory work is in evidence, is the process of repealing Acts such as the Central Excise Act 1944 and the Finance Act 1994. Existing VAT laws will need to be amended or partially repealed. Amendments to the Constitution will be necessary, for instance, to enable the States to levy a service tax and the Centre to tax goods beyond the factory gate. A dual GST regime for goods and services will need to be backed up by a comprehensive set of rules for inter-State transactions. Even more than VAT, the GST will require strong political will for its implementation. Technology will need to be harnessed to a very large extent to make the GST work. The taxpayers, government officials, and the public at large will have to be educated about the various aspects of the levy. The GST will take the country closer to the ideal of a well functioning, integrated market, but a great deal of work needs to be done on a war footing if it is to be rolled out by the target date.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

LESSONS FROM THE CHHATTISGARH TRAGEDY

TO FIGHT THE MAOIST INSURGENCY, POLICYMAKERS MUST ADDRESS EFICIENCIES IN TACTICAL AND WEAPONS TRAINING OF POLICE.

PRAVEEN SWAMI

 

“Force alone cannot be a solution,” the former Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, said in the wake of the killing of 24 police personnel in the Elampatti-Regadgatta forests of Dantewada district of Bastar division in Chhattisgarh on July 9, 2007.

 

Mr. Patil’s remarks were not intended as a critique of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) violence. They were directed, instead, at critics who were calling for massive investments in improving police counter-insurgency capabilities.

 

Early this month, the new Home Minister, P Chidambaram laid out a very different road map for action. In a July 7 speech to the Lok Sabha, he said “clearing out” Maoist-held areas was a precondition for initiating development work — a sharp break with conventional wisdom on the subject.

 

Mr. Chidambaram’s speech came just days before the slaughter of 36 police personnel at Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. Preceded by the large-scale assault on West Medinipur district in West Bengal and the killings of 16 police personnel in Gadchiroli in February, the Rajnandgaon killings exposed the appallingly deficient capabilities of police personnel in Maoist-hit areas.

 

Fatalities in the Maoist insurgency, Union Home Ministry data shows, now exceed those claimed by Islamist violence in Jammu and Kashmir. Figures compiled by the Ministry show a steady escalation in fatalities in the grinding Maoist insurgency in central India, from 482 in 2002 to 837 in 2007, the last year for which figures have been published. Estimates by the independent South Asia Terrorism Portal, based on media reports on Maoist violence, show that fatalities by the end of June 2009 already exceeded two-thirds of all killings in 2008.

 

POLICING IN CRISIS

Part of the problem is well known: like most States, Chhattisgarh just doesn’t have enough police personnel even to administer routine law-and-order tasks, let alone fight an insurgency.

 

United Nations estimates suggest that countries ought to have a minimum of 222 police personnel for every 1,00,000 residents; many advanced countries maintain twice this level. India, figures published by the South Asia Terrorism Portal show, has a police-population ratio of 122:1,00,000. Chhattisgarh has a sanctioned strength of just 103 per 1,00,000.

 

Matters are made worse by large-scale vacancies, particularly at cutting-edge, mid-level officer posts. National Crime Records Bureau data shows that Chhattisgarh has in service only two-thirds of the 318 Deputy Superintendents of Police and SPs who should be on its rolls; the State had only 1,392 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors instead of the 2,194 who ought be in service. In 2006, as the Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh was gathering momentum, the Bastar division was assigned just 8 of 38 sub-inspectors who are sanctioned to guard the area. Even now, Bastar is chronically short-staffed

 

But hiring more policemen won’t solve the problem. There is a larger, unaddressed problem: police forces are not being trained or equipped to cope with the challenge.

 

In Rajnandgaon, the Maoists used time-tested tactics that a well-trained and led police force ought to have defeated. Early in the morning, the Maoists executed two policemen at Madanwada, who had been compelled to leave their outpost — an outpost that was fortified but lacked toilets. Knowing reinforcements would be called in, they then waited in ambush.

 

SP Vinod Kumar Choubey and 30 other police personnel were killed driving towards Madanwada. Dozens of police personnel have died in similar ambushes — for example, the July 2007 attack, which claimed the lives of 17 policemen near Motu, in Orissa, or last August’s attack in Jharkhand which killed 12. Police have been instructed to travel on foot or motorcycle — but prudence is not always possible in the face of the need for a rapid response to crisis.

 

Poor training was also responsible for the February killings of Maharashtra police personnel in Gadchiroli, just across the State border from Rajnandgaon. Hundreds of Maoist militia members surrounded a police patrol which had been despatched to Markegaon. Maoist guerrillas fired at the police from a distance — reportedly drawing over 1,000 rounds of ineffective and un-aimed fire in return. When the police ran out of ammunition, the Maoist militia swarmed the police positions, hacking off the limbs and gouging out the eyes of their adversaries.

 

None of these, is, of course, exceptional to Maoist-hit States. Just how poor the training of India’s police personnel was graphically illustrated in June, when dacoit Ghanshyam Kewat engaged over 400 policemen for nearly 50 hours — killing four and securing his escape before finally dying in chance engagement with a separate police patrol.

 

Chhattisgarh has sought to compensate for these weaknesses with two sets of measures, elements of which other States are seeking to emulate, perhaps unwisely.

 

First, Chhattisgarh has set up elite counter-insurgency units modelled on the Andhra Pradesh Police’s Greyhounds, who are trained at a combat school run along the lines of the Indian Army’s famed School of Jungle Warfare in Vairangte. Despite this, police fatalities have risen year on year since 2005. The Greyhounds succeeded in the context of the development of overall police infrastructure and training. Chhattisgarh has, by contrast, done little to improve the training, equipment and infrastructure of its force as a whole.

 

Second, the State has relied on New Delhi to pump in central forces to hold the ground, as well as the controversial Salwa Judum militia — a quasi-volunteer force set up against the advice of expert counter-insurgency practitioners like the former Punjab Director-General of Police K.P.S. Gill. Neither undisciplined and untrained irregulars nor the injection of outside forces unfamiliar with the terrain helped stem the Maoist tide.

 

Paid salaries on a par with unskilled labour, recruited on the basis of minimal educational qualifications, obliged to work without overtime for 18 hours a day or longer and provided no regular on-job training, the police forces in States like Chhattisgarh are reaching breaking point.

 

Last year, during Supreme Court hearings, Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam candidly admitted that the Chhattisgarh government was finding it difficult to find recruits to the police. “Policemen”, he said, “are not ready to step into the forests.” Fifteen people, including a Central Reserve Police Force officer, were arrested in November for having faked elections from the Gogunda booth in the Konta Assembly constituency for fear of entering the Dantewada forests.

 

WORKING TO A PLAN

Unlike the Indian state, the Maoists have worked to a long-term plan. Back in December 1999, the People’s War Group — which in September, 2004 merged with the Maoist Communist Centre to form the CPI(Maoist) — decided to create a core operational zone out of reach of the state forces.

 

Key party functionaries and resources were relocated in what the CPI(Maoist) calls the Dandarakanya Special Zone, centred around the dense, un-surveyed forests of Abujhmadh in the Bastar division. Abujhmadh was later declared the Maoists’ Central Guerrilla Base Area; the party’s central committee and significant leaders like Muppala Laxmana Rao also began functioning out of the forests.

 

Chhattisgarh police officials estimate that the CPI(Maoist) built an armed force of over 5,000, equipped with assault rifles, mortar, and a range of improvised explosive devices. In addition, there are an estimated 20,000 volunteers, equipped with everything from rifles to bolt-action rifles.

 

In 2002, according to figures published by the Union Home Ministry, Chhattisgarh recorded 55 fatalities related to Maoist violence, compared to 117 in Bihar and 157 in Jharkhand. By 2007, the last year for which the Ministry has published data, the killings increased almost nine-fold. Chhattisgarh that year recorded 435 insurgency-related fatalities. Of these, 198 were of security force personnel and 171 of civilians. Jharkhand, which suffered 170 fatalities and Bihar, with 69, registered levels of violence not dissimilar to those seen five years earlier.

 

Earlier this month, Shivdhar Reddy, a highly respected counter-insurgency expert who serves as Deputy Inspector-General of Police at the Andhra Pradesh Police’s Special Intelligence Bureau, provided a bleak assessment of what could lie ahead.

 

“The intensified Maoist activity in Koraput and Malkangiri districts in Orissa,” Mr. Reddy noted, “indicates that they are going beyond the control of the administration. The situation is the same in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, which is a hotbed of Maoists.” He said it would take at least two years of concerted action to stem the tide.

 

Mr. Chidambaram’s speech suggests that New Delhi is at last listening to voices like these. It now needs to frame a long-term programme for action. Funds for police modernisation — better weapons, better communications and better mobility — are part of the answer. But India desperately needs a national weapons and tactics institution to produce the instructors who can train state forces to use these assets intelligently.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

BUDGET SHORT CHANGES STATES

LOWER TAX REVENUES AND GREATER RELIANCE ON NON-TAX REVENUES REDUCE THE TRANSFER OF RESOURCES TO THE STATES.

V. SRIDHAR

 

The projected decline in tax collections by the Union Government in 2009-10 is likely to have a serious impact on state government finances, hampering their ability to participate in any meaningful effort at stimulating an economic recovery.

 

Two aspects of revenue side of the government’s accounting ledger are significant this year. First, there is a sharp deceleration in tax revenues projected for the current year. Gross tax revenues of the Centre are projected to fall by seven per cent in 2009-10, when compared to the budget estimates of the previous year. While revenues through Income Tax and Customs are both projected to fall by 18 per cent, collections of Central Excise are likely to fall 23 per cent in 2009-10.

 

The second aspect of the shift is the increasing reliance on non-tax revenues, which the Centre does not share with the states. The unprecedented increase in non-tax revenues in 2009-10 adds a fresh twist to the contentious question of the terms on which the centre transfers resources to the states.

 

The states are projected to suffer serious erosion of their resource base as a result of the lower collections. Their share of the tax pool is projected to fall to Rs. 1.64 lakh crores in 2009-10, from Rs. 1.78 lakh crores in 2008-09. This loss of revenue is happening at a time when the states’ own revenues are slowing down significantly.

 

Kerala Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac says his government, which had “budgeted for something like Rs. 5,400 crores” now finds that the resource transfers will amount to only Rs. 4,400 crores. He points out the main levies in the hands of the State Government – Value added Tax (VAT), Motor Vehicles Tax and Stamp Duty – are all yielding far lower revenues this year. Kerala’s VAT collections, which were growing at 20 per cent per annum, are likely to be only 5-7 per cent higher in 2009-10, Dr. Isaac said. The economic slowdown, which has severely impacted the real estate sector, has also affected Stamp Duty collections in many states. “State governments will be unable to provide any economic stimulus because of the severe resource constraint,’ said Dr. Isaac.

 

The increasing reliance on non-tax revenues in the budget has an important bearing on state finances because these resources are mostly outside the scope of the shareable pool prescribed by the Finance Commissions. Although non-tax revenues are projected to increase by 46 per cent in 2009-10, the states will be unable to draw anything from this. Incidentally, the auction of the 3G mobile spectrum is projected to contribute almost 80 per cent of the increase in non-tax revenues in 2009-10.

 

Of course, the obviously understated extent of disinvestment in public undertakings – projected at only Rs. 1,200 crores in the budget – will also not be shareable with the states. Dr. Isaac pointed out. Faced with a severe financial squeeze many states may be compelled to indulge in distress sale of stakes in their public enterprises.

 

COST OF BORROWING UP

The relaxation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) ceiling on the states’ borrowings from the market provides a window of opportunity for them to raise resources. However, the huge size of the Union Government’s borrowing programme – projected at more than Rs. 4 lakh crores – is likely to increase the cost of borrowing for the states. For instance, the tranches of 10-year State Development Loans floated by three state governments on July 7 were priced 93 basis points (one basis point in one-hundredth of a per cent) above the rate of interest on loans of a similar tenure floated by the Centre. This sharp increase in the spread – which used to be about 50 basis points till a few days ago – points to a hardening of interest rates loans raised by the states.

 

States also complain about the nature of the transfers from the Centre. Dr. Isaac says “direct transfers” of funds from the Centre to the districts and administrative structures below the district level have increased “phenomenally” this year – from about Rs. 60,000 crores in 2008-09 to more than Rs. 95,000 crores in 2009-10. Since state governments have to necessarily commit a proportion of the funds for the Central schemes, they are left with no funds for other programmes of their own.

 

In the context of the slowdown, it is evident that the states are unlikely to be able to either provide an impetus to economic activity or provide relief to sections that have borne the brunt of the crisis.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE REMARKABLE RISE OF TWITTER

TWITTER IS THE HOTTEST INTERNET START-UP ON THE PLANET. IN A MATTER OF MONTHS, THE MESSAGING SERVICE IT PROVIDES HAS MORPHED FROM A SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOL INTO AN INSTRUMENT OF REVOLUTION.

BOBBIE JOHNSON

 

It’s a sunny, breezy afternoon in San Francisco, and I’ve just stepped inside the offices of one of the city’s many, many web companies. Indeed, the first thing you notice is how much the large, open space looks just like any other dotcom. To one side there’s a huge flatscreen TV that staff can use to play videogames during their breaks; in one corner stands a lonely red British telephone box; a pair of life-sized, green plastic deer stand in another, for no discernible reason. It definitely has all the hallmarks of a web startup.

 

And if you didn’t know any better, you might guess that this one wasn’t doing too well. It’s so quiet that it feels like it could be the weekend — the only real noise is the murmur coming from a trio of workers, laptops out, sitting on a sofa in the corner.

 

But behind the calm, every-office exterior, lies the astonishing truth: the staff here are holding up the systems behind the world’s hottest internet start-up. They are responsible for a sprawling website on which 35 million people from all over the world fire out vast numbers of messages every second. This isn’t just any normal office. This is Twitter.

 

Right now, the company’s 52 employees are part of the biggest media story on the planet. Their online messaging service — which encourages people to share their thoughts with the world in short, bite-sized morsels — has rocketed into the public consciousness over the past year.

 

It began as the kind of thing a hip young iPhoner would do, then won endorsements from people such as Oprah - who knew celebrities would want to let their fans know every time they left the house? - and then, most extraordinarily, it began to play a role in times of extreme crisis, getting information out of countries such as Iran and China where the authorities were tightly controlling the news.

 

And to top it all, this amazing journey — from plaything to instrument of social change — seems to have happened in a matter of months.

 

How does it feel to be at the heart of all that? “It’s a little bit like being in the eye of the storm,” says Biz Stone, one of the company’s co-founders. “It’s not hectic per se.”

 

I am meeting Stone — an amiable 36-year-old designer who is now the company’s creative director — to try to understand what life at Twitter has become since the team first started working on it early in 2006.

 

Back then, everything seemed like a happy accident: the team was working on a different project called Odeo — a set of tools for podcasters. It was making slow progress, but during a brainstorming session, programmer Jack Dorsey came up with an unrelated idea: a quickfire messaging system that helped people share information with groups of friends using their mobile phone.

 

Chief executive Evan Williams and Stone — 10-year dotcom veterans, who had enjoyed previous success building blogging services and social networking sites — knew they were on to a winner: within a year, the podcasting company was being sold off and the team was concentrating full-time on Twitter. The idea was simple: to build a website that let someone tell their friends what they were doing.

 

What’s most strange about the calm in this office is that it is such a polar opposite to the frenzied activity on the website they have created. At any given moment, millions of people are sending messages from their computers or mobile phones, or reading the messages left by others. Twitter lets you choose who you want to keep up with; they, in turn, can choose whether to listen back. The conversations are largely held in the open, allowing anyone to point to somebody’s messages or rebroadcast ones that are interesting, funny or (in the case of Iran) important.

 

Twitter is many things to many people, but most of all it is lightweight, easy to use and transparent. Its swirl of activity is like a huge party full of hundreds of conversations you can tap into — not, like Facebook, an exclusive club where you need to know the right people to join in. All of this makes it catnip to users — and to the media, which dutifully reports every twist and turn on the site.

 

“We have to stay focused on what we’re working on and not to get too caught up in the spotlight,” says Stone. “There’s a knowledge that these things go up and they come down again. No matter what, we’ll just keep working on trying to make Twitter better . . . we like to have fun and stay humble.”

 

It’s an admirable sentiment, but the company can’t quite ignore its current status. After all, it has courted the celebrity world to an extent (in one meeting room, there’s a photograph of rap mogul Sean “P Diddy” Combs, taken in the building’s lift one day after he turned up to express his gratitude and excitement). And Twittermania has led to a sequence of high-profile moments in which they have mixed with some of the world’s most famous and powerful people. Notably, there was an appearance on Oprah for Williams, who also spent the last week with Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates at the Sun Valley conference — a notorious deal-making hangout for the media industry’s biggest players.

 

Stone, meanwhile, has seen his face splashed across numerous magazines and was recently the star guest on The Colbert Report — the spoof chat show that is adored by millions of savvy young Americans. Does the attention get too much? Or worse, does it become intoxicating?

 

“They are definitely memorable moments,” says Stone, leaning back in his chair and sipping a drink. “I happen to be a huge fan of Colbert, so when I was sitting there at the table watching him before he came over to interview me, I was thinking, I’m watching Colbert, he’s funny. And then suddenly I realised I’m not watching, I’m on the show.”

 

Part of his job, he says, is to try to help everyone at the company keep these things in perspective — making sure that Twitter does not become a gang of egotists who gloat over their status as part of the Next Big Thing, but instead maintains a “general level-headed, unassuming, humble, humorous, funny atmosphere.”

 

“We focus a lot on culture specifically at Twitter because of this spotlight,” he says. “We don’t want to end up like the child actor who found success early and grew up all weird and freaky. We want to remain OK; just because we found success early and in many ways got lucky doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of geniuses. It means what it means.”

 

This all means that staying simple and understated is not an accident, but a philosophy. As a result, no one in the team could be described as flashy: Stone, like most of the company’s employees dresses in the uniform of new media — T-shirt, carefully messed-up hair and black-rimmed glasses.

 

Of course Twitter doesn’t actually make proper money right now. It does have $55m in the bank, though, from a variety of investors, which is being spent on propping up the service and its growing staff (Stone predicts there will be 100 of them by the end of the year).

 

Not making money isn’t so unusual in this world. Twitter is concentrating on building up a large audience with the idea that the cash and profits will eventually follow. In doing so, it is treading a well-worn path for dotcom companies: successful examples of the same approach include Google, Yahoo and Amazon — though the graveyard housing the corpses of failed start-ups who chased the same dream would stretch for miles.

 

With so much money in the bank, Twitter does have breathing room, though — and major ambitions. “There are 4 billion mobile phone users in the world that are all carrying around with them Twitter-ready devices,” he says. “It can be very transformative when you realise that people can have access to this real-time network when all they have is a cellphone.”

 

The team tries to concentrate on keeping things running smoothly, not interfering. If enough people talk about something it bubbles to the top of Twitter’s hot topics - a list that lets users see what everyone else is talking about — but aside from weeding out spammers, they largely keep their hands off.

 

And of course Twitter isn’t only about people chatting to their friends, or sharing news of a revolution. Stone points to the success of companies who use the service to communicate with customers — whether it is big names offering discounts (such as computer manufacturer Dell) or smaller businesses who send messages to customers telling them about the latest products (a number of San Francisco eateries tweet their daily menu, for example).

 

“Think about that with a street vendor in India, asking, ‘If I get a watermelon, will you buy it?’ There’s a transformative power in SMS that’s extremely inspiring for us, and we’re going to bring that online worldwide.”

 

Suddenly it’s not just about searching for information; it’s about letting the news find you — offering people anywhere the chance to get their messages out to anyone who is interested.

 

That world-spanning vision is certainly a long way from where the company’s founders started out. Williams, who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, dropped out of college and packed his bags for Silicon Valley. Stone, a Massachusetts native, also quit university to take up a design apprenticeship. Dorsey, who grew up in Missouri and moved to California, ending up working for a taxi dispatching company in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco.

 

None of them were obvious candidates for success — but Stone says part of their inspiration comes courtesy of people with similar global drive: Google chief executive Eric Schmidt is “super-smart,” he says, and he also lauds Barack Obama.

 

“There’s a lot we can learn from smart people out in the world. One of the things I like so much about President Obama is his vision that it’s not a zero-sum game, where one country is going to win the game of earth. That fits with Twitter.”

 

Those influences might not be surprising for a group of technologists in one of the world’s most liberal cities, but for the Twitter team it’s a little different. After all, Stone and Williams know Google’s top people, having worked for the internet giant for a couple of years after it bought their previous enterprise, BloggerBlogger.com. And Twitter doesn’t just admire Obama; it played a part in the election campaign as his team used the service to send out messages to hundreds of thousands of supporters.

 

Doesn’t it feel odd to have that connection — or, as happened during the Iranian protests, to have the U.S. State Department plead with you to make sure your site stays online?

 

“Something unbelievable happens every week,” he says. “Things do get increasingly weird as we become part of a global stage. It’s intimidating, but it’s a great opportunity.”

 

In the grand scheme of things, he says, Twitter is just one part of a larger movement in which Google, Facebook, the mobile phone industry and the internet all play a part.

 

“You need to zoom out a little bit more and realise that communication and the open exchange of information in general has a positive impact in the world.”

 

Taking the long view looks a lot like being back in the eye of the storm. It makes a lot of sense — except

that, for all the humility and patience and lack of ego, there are hints that life is more hectic than they like to let on.

 

How does Twitter compare to any of the previous start-ups that he’s worked at, I ask. “Everything about Twitter goes faster,” Stone says. “It’s grown faster, we move faster . . . any decision you think we’re going to need to make two years from now, we’ll probably have to make it tomorrow.”

 

That, he suggests, reflects modern life — a world where we expect things to happen with increasing speed. “We’ve just entered an era where things are happening faster, and as a result we need tools to help us make decisions faster. Those decisions can’t be sloppy, they need to be smart, so we need tools to help us operate and Twitter is one of those tools. So it’s almost like it’s feeding itself: we live in a world where we need things like Twitter.” While that’s true, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

AMARTYA SEN ON HIS IDEA OF JUSTICE OUT OF LONDON

“THERE ARE REMEDIABLE INJUSTICES AROUND US WHICH WE WANT TO ELIMINATE.”

HASAN SUROOR

 

For those who might like to test their sense of justice, here’s a little quiz that Amartya Sen tried on his audience at the London Literature Festival the other day and had them struggling until he came to their rescue with, well, a sort of an answer. He used it to illustrate his alternative approach to mainstream theories of justice that he challenges in his new book The Idea of Justice published this month.

 

Three children — Anne, Bob and Carla — are quarrelling over a flute: Anne claims the flute on the ground that she is the only one of the three who knows how to play it; Bob demands it on the basis that he is so poor that — unlike others — he has no other toys to play with and it would therefore mean a lot to him if the flute were given to him; and Carla says that it belongs to her because she has made it with her own labour.

 

The important thing to note here is that none of the claimants questions their rival’s argument but claims that his or hers is the most persuasive. So, who deserves the flute?

 

Should it go to the child for whom it represents the only source of entertainment as he has no other toys to play with? Or to the one who can actually make practical use of it; or to the child to whom it must belong by virtue of her ``right” to the fruits of her labour?

 

The answer, according to Prof. Sen, is that there is actually no one “right” answer. In his scheme of things that he elaborates persuasively over more than 400 pages in his book, it is not possible in any situation to have an “impartial” agreement as to what offers a “perfect” resolution to a problem — and that applies to the dilemma posed by the children’s competing claims.

 

Nor, indeed, is there one perfect process to arrive at a conclusion that would be acceptable to all. The question as to who really deserves the flute can be decided in many ways — through a process of ideological reasoning ; on compassionate grounds such as charity (for example the poorest of the three children should get it); by majority opinion; and even by an arbitrary method like tossing the coin.

 

Prof. Sen argued that the story of “Three Children and a Flute,” which also features in his book, showed that there was no such thing as “perfect” justice; that justice was relative to a given situation; and that rather than searching for “ideal” justice the stress should be on removing the more manifest forms of injustice.

 

“The idea of justice demands comparisons of actual lives that people can lead rather than a remote search for ideal institutions. That is what makes the idea of justice relevant as well as exciting in practical reasoning,” Prof. Sen said.

 

Again and again while discussing the book with broadcaster Jon Snow and answering questions from the audience, the Nobel Laureate warned against the idea of a “perfectly just society” and said, instead, the question we needed to ask was: how “remedial injustices” could be rectified. It was more important to address such obvious forms of injustices as oppression of minority groups, subjugation of women or extreme exploitation of workers through a reasoned debate than splitting hair over whether a “40 per cent top tax rate is more just or less just than a 41 per cent top rate.”

 

This was also the theme of his Southbank Centre Lecture he delivered on the occasion.

 

In his alternative approach to existing theories of justice, the point is not about imagining “what a perfectly just society would look like.” Rather it is about identifying remediable injustices “on the removal of which there would be a reasoned agreement.”

 

“What moves us is not the realisation that the world falls short of being completely just, which few of us expect, but that there are remediable injustices around us which we want to eliminate,”, Prof. Sen said pointing out that his quarrel with contemporary political philosophy was its rigid insistence there could only be one precise combination of principles that could serve as the basis of ideal social justice.

 

But what is justice? Is it right to go on harping on the injustices of the past such as colonialism in order to deliver justice? For example, does “justice” demand that developing countries should be allowed to pollute the atmosphere to the same degree that the industrialised world did before they agree to move on climate change? Can “retribution” be regarded as a form of justice? Are any means legitimate in pursuit of a perceived “just” goal?

 

These were some of the issues Prof. Sen dealt with as he argued for a new way of looking at justice. A point he repeatedly emphasised was that harking back to the past in search for justice would not do. The starting point for any discussion should take into account the reality that “we’re where we are today” and then ask: where do we go from here and how?

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

A(H1N1) VACCINE STILL MONTHS AWAY

 

Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan said on Wednesday that the vaccine against A(H1N1) was still months away.

 

Ms Chan’s remarks cast doubt on the British government’s claim that first stocks of A(H1N1) vaccine will arrive in Britain in August.

 

Ms Chan told the Guardian that having a vaccine available was not the same as having a vaccine that had been proven safe. Britain is to build a nationwide immunity to the disease, the biggest vaccination program of the past 50 years as the number of confirmed cases in Britain is moving closer toward 10,000.

 

The first doses of A(H1N1) vaccine were set to arrive in Britain next month, the British health authorities said on Sunday. “Clinical trial data will not be available for another two to three months,” she said.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INDIA’S FRENCH CONNECTION

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being made the guest of honour at France’s Bastille Day parade, the first Indian leader to be accorded that distinction and mark of friendship, and the participation in that event on the majestic Champs Elysees of an Indian tri-services contingent for the first time, serve to add gloss to a deepening bilateral relationship between the two countries that was first thought of by India in the 1980s. Although India was a close friend of Moscow and relied on it in a big way for its defence hardware in the Cold War period, a time when our ties with Washington were at rock bottom, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was conscious of the need to diversify sources of military supply. In the entire Western bloc, France alone stood out as a likely alternative source of friendship. At the level of perception, and cultural exchanges, the two countries always had a good rapport, which was not quite the case with the US and its other allies. India had also been collaborating with France in the space arena since 1949, a partnership that has gone from strength to strength. Apart from such bilateral considerations, France had antecedents. Under its legendary leader Charles de Gaulle, in 1966 it had pulled out from military participation in Nato arguing that such attachment compromised its sovereignty as the US had too much weight in the Atlantic alliance. (In March this year France returned to military association with Nato, with considerable contrary domestic opinion making itself manifest.) In non-aligned India this was a great sell. In more recent times, after the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, when a howl of protest went up in the West seeking to impose international sanctions against this country, France stood out in opposing the move, advocating instead the path of drawing India into a dialogue on the issue of non-proliferation.

 

The totality of their mutual ties persuaded India and France to upgrade relations to the level of strategic partnership. What began in 1998 under President Jacques Chirac picked up steam after Paris opposed sanctions against India on the nuclear question. In late 2005, when India embarked on a discussion with the US on the civil nuclear agreement, which would fructify after three years of exhausting negotiations, Russia and France gave it hope and a morale boost. Although founding members of the NPT, they promised to enter into nuclear commerce with it once clearance from the IAEA and NSG were available. Had their doors been closed, as many others were, the going would have been much tougher for India. India and France have by now developed deep-going ties in the use of civil uses of nuclear energy, space, and science and technology. The France-India summit in Paris in September 2008 also made clear that the two were "fully committed to consolidating" a defence relationship that included joint programmes in industry, research and technology building in the defence sector. The bilateral trade between the two countries is posited to rise to 12 billion euros by 2012, and France hopes to become India’s third largest defence supplier after Russia and Israel. In the area of countering international terrorism, there is probably greater political comfort from France than any other Western power. Among the countries of western Europe, France has always had a strong sense of itself, like India, and in the French discourse the nature of Indian democracy is valued more than in the Anglosphere.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OP-ED

PRINCIPLES VS PRACTICALITY

IMPORTANT TO HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY

THE AGE DEBATE

 

Actually it’s a good tradition to resign if there is a major disaster. This sends the message that one should accept moral responsibility for major incidents. I am happy that E. Sreedharan, the Delhi Metro chief, had sent in his resignation after last Sunday’s accident. The Delhi chief minister should have accepted it. Later they could have asked him to come back in a higher and equally important position. The principle of responsibility would have been established even though Mr Sreedharan may not have been directly responsible for the disaster.

 

It’s a good principle and one recalls former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who, when he was railway minister, resigned after a major railway accident. When a person is in charge of a project the ultimate responsibility is his. The message should go down that you are accountable. In this case it was good that the Delhi Metro chief put in his papers of his own accord. It established a principle that others should emulate. Mr Sreedharan should have insisted on the Delhi administration accepting his resignation and it should have been accepted just to establish the principle of accountability.

 

This is very necessary. Otherwise, how do we get jobs done in a democracy? How do we get policy and projects carried out? How can there be good governance? When a person is given responsibility, s/he must discharge it effectively, honestly and productively. If a collector is responsible for famine relief and if overall tackling of the situation is not good, s/he should be held responsible. In the political field, and in the civil services, especially when one is in charge of a major project, it is important to establish the principle of responsibility.

 

For instance, after 26/11, Union home minister Shivraj Patil, Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and the state home minister R.R. Patil should have resigned on their own, accepting constructive responsibility, instead of being made to resign. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to establish accountability in a democracy. It is an essential part of good governance that you are held responsible for what you are supposed to do. What the Delhi administration did was not correct. They could have honoured Mr Sreedharan for his gesture of accepting responsibility and used his services in an equally important position later.

 

B.G. Deshmukh, former Cabinet Secretary,

 

Government of India, and now a social activist heading AGNI

 

NO SENSE IN LOSING A GOOD, HONEST MAN

I am happy that E. Sreedharan offered his resignation and I am happy that it was not accepted. I was hoping that his resignation would not be accepted because we will find it very difficult to get a person of his commitment, high standards and personal integrity. These virtues are sorely lacking in our country and we have to support a person like Mr Sreedharan.

 

There are few people of his calibre in the country today. The days when we had leaders with the integrity of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who resigned after a major train accident, are gone. Suppose the Delhi chief minister had accepted Mr Sreedharan’s resignation, what would have happened? Would it have made any difference? It would certainly not have sent any message down the line as people don’t care about sterling values these days. They have no great faith in integrity. Nor do they have the willingness to serve. They are there to serve themselves.

 

Therefore, the resignation of the Delhi Metro chief may or may not have sent a message. But we would have lost a good man. The country would not have benefited in any way. Only his personal image would have gone up higher and been enhanced. I can tell you it would have been a 100 per cent loss for the country.

 

It would have been a different story if there was someone of the same calibre waiting in the wings. Then I would say not only accept his resignation, but sack him.

 

I don’t see people coming up with his type of commitment today. People know his integrity and commitment. That’s why the general reaction of the people to his resignation was "don’t accept it". Accepting his resignation and giving him another, bigger, job, as has been suggested in some quarters, wouldn’t work. He is not interested in a job. He is not in search of a job at 77. He is above ambition and is just doing a task that he has been given.

 

To him the Metro Rail was an opportunity to show people that it can be done.

 

There is no question of good governance being involved here. Good governance is about implementing the law. In this case there was no law involved. It was only moral responsibility that was involved.

 

Julio Ribeiro is a retired director-general of police. He now heads he fight against music piracy.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OP-ED

PAK’S ‘MUSLIM’ CLAIM OVER J&K IS BOGUS

NITISH SENGUPTA

 

Once again with US President Barack Obama’s prompting the Kashmir issue has come to the forefront. In the last few months, Pakistan has seized every opportunity to voice its concern about a solution to the Kashmir issue at every possible international forum. This is in sharp contrast to the near-absence of the issue during the past two or three decades. The question then is how valid is Pakistan’s claim to be a party in the Kashmir issue?

 

The Indian Independence Act passed by the British Parliament had vacated the sovereign power of Britain and placed it fairly and squarely on the 700 princes. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir exercised his option to join India. India also promised that there would be a plebiscite and this was incorporated in the United Nations-supported Peace Agreement. With the maharaja’s decision to opt for Kashmir on the strength of the law passed by the British Parliament, that should have been the end of the matter. But Jawaharlal Nehru formally appealed to the UN, declaring Pakistan as the aggressor. The result was that a ceasefire brokered by the UN has lasted ever since, with sporadic and spasmodic attempts by Pakistan to make incursions into India’s territory. Unfortunately, this plebiscite demand remained and the dispute has continued.

 

Even if the UN-brokered truce enjoined upon India a duty to hold a plebiscite after the withdrawal of Pakistan forces, that commitment has lost its validity as the Pakistan Army never withdrew from the Muzaffarabad-Gilgit area. The UN resolutions, which were adopted around 1948-49, are no longer valid, to quote former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. For some unexplained reason, India has avoided reference to this important announcement. It is time India raises this in international fora to resubmit our credentials and to say that no UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir is valid.

 

Pakistan does not have a case regarding Kashmir. We should refuse to discuss it with Pakistan and boldly assert that India claims sovereignty over the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the so-called "Azad Kashmir" which is under Pakistan’s illegal control and also some stretches in the border areas in the north which Pakistan handed over to China several years ago.

 

The geopolitical changes in 1971 viz the break-up of Pakistan and the emergence of Muslim-majority Bangladesh as a sovereign country completely altered the situation. This split drastically changed the situation and Pakistan can no longer legitimately claim Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it has a Muslim majority.

 

Bangladesh has a much larger population of Muslims than Pakistan. But it has never claimed to be a party in the dispute over Kashmir. The number of Muslims in India is more than Pakistan’s entire population. Why cannot the claim of the Indian Muslims, who prefer Kashmir to be a part of India, be treated as superior to the claim that Pakistan has made?

 

Jammu and Kashmir has had a number of general elections, along with other states of India, whereas Pakistan has been under the rule of its Army most of the time since independence. The Pakistan Army, to keep itself in power, has kept the Kashmir issue alive. It is a strong, omnipotent force in Pakistan’s body politic.

 

The international media is abuzz with news about China helping to build an illegal railway station in no-man’s land along the Munabao-Khokhrapar train link. India must protest as vehemently as it can.

 

Unfortunately, we were generous towards a defeated Pakistan at the Shimla Conference (1972) and repatriated many prisoners of war. This was a gesture of which there is no parallel in history. Why Indira Gandhi, in return for these, did not make Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto accept the 1948 ceasefire line as the effective boundary between the two countries remains a mystery.

 

Nonetheless, Pakistan stopped raising the Kashmir issue during the next two decades. It came back only with the Kargil conflict of 1999 and after Pervez Musharraf’s controversial visit to India. The National Democratic Alliance government, by tactlessly accepting his controversial self-created status as President of Pakistan, gave him the opportunity to raise the Kashmir issue in discussions with India. This is how the Kashmir issue returned to centre court. It has stayed there ever since, helped by the advent of jihadi terror following the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

 

Interestingly, India’s strong legal case comes under moral scrutiny when we come to the issue of alleged atrocities perpetrated by India’s security forces in the Kashmir Valley. Why are we unable to prevent such incidents? These are very unfortunate and affect our moral claim. They also lead to a rather shame-faced attitude in a section of the media, which often takes up such issues of abuse of human rights in the Valley.

Exemplary punishment should be given to all those officials and men who are responsible for violations of human rights. There is some force in chief minister Omar Abdullah’s demand for the withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other paramilitary forces from the Valley. For law and order to prevail, the Kashmir police should be held responsible.

 

Also, there is a case for suspension of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. If the Army keeps the Line of Control under its strict control and successfully prevents intrusion by the members of militant outfits, then the Jammu and Kashmir police force can be successfully in charge of the Valley.

There will be little or no scope for men in uniform to indulge in the kind of offences they are often charged with. In that event the secessionist forces cannot give calls for bandhs so frequently and bring life in the Valley to a standstill.

 

Liberals in India should remember that there are many cases of suppression of civil rights in other parts of the country, such as Chhattisgarh. If such cases also take place in Kashmir they need not be linked with the general issue, thereby weakening India’s strong case.

 

Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a

former secretary to the Government of India

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LETTING HAFIZ SAEED FREE

SIGNS THAT MILITANTS WIELD POWER

 

The request by Pakistan’s Punjab government to the Supreme Court in Islamabad to allow it to withdraw its appeal against the release of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and one of the prime accused in the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, points to the strange mindset of the Pakistan government and to the stranglehold that some terror outfits have on it. It is indeed noteworthy that the reason given by the Punjab government was that the federal government had failed to provide any evidence against him in support of the detention. That this has come on the eve of the meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries which is to be followed by a meeting between the two prime ministers is a reflection on how strong is the clout of the forces supporting terror. If the action of the Punjab government succeeds in casting a shadow on the peace process, the purpose of these forces would have been well served.

 

Significantly, just a day before the Punjab government appeal, the advocate-general of the province had told the court that there was “confidential evidence” against Hafiz Saeed. The next day saw was a complete turnaround, with the advocate-general claiming that since the federal government had not shared the “confidential information”, it was proper for the prosecution to withdraw the appeal. Evidently, the Punjab government found it expedient to bow to the dictates of the militant forces or those in the Pakistan establishment backing them.

 

The sincerity of the Pakistan government is indeed on test. If it really means business, it can go ahead with its appeal against Hafiz Saeed’s release despite the Punjab government’s volte face, by dint of being a party to the case. Enough evidence has been adduced against Saeed by India to build a prima facie case. If, however, it fails to act, the conclusion is inescapable that it has wilted under terrorist pressure or unseen influences from within. This does not mark a happy beginning for the efforts to resume a peace dialogue which the people on both sides have been looking forward to.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THIS IS MUMBAI

AGAIN UNPREPARED FOR THE RAINS

 

When terrorists struck Mumbai on 26/11 and almost every department was found wanting, the excuse bandied about widely was that this was a totally unexpected kind of happening. But monsoon is something which is an annual feature. Yet, every year, the metropolis goes under, causing untold misery to millions of its residents. This year has been no different, with the much-awaited bounty from the skies bringing life to a halt in the commercial capital of the country. If this is what can happen in Mumbai, one can well imagine the plight of lesser cities and towns. The irony is that the rain so far has not been particularly harsh. Still, this hopeless situation has developed this week in the great metropolis.

 

Mumbai is battered by torrential rain year after year. Since there is an inevitability about the monsoons – provided the rain gods continue to be kind to the country – suitable preparations have to be mounted in time. Unfortunately, both the government and the municipal corporation have refused to learn any lessons. This despite the fact that on July 26 four years ago, more than 150 people died due to the rain. Frightened people had to make human chains to save themselves. The phenomenon, when Mumbai received 94.4 cm of rain within 24 hours – a record in 95 years – can occur again. But nobody seems to be serious about the possibility.

 

It is not as if the government does not earmark funds for rain preparation. The problem is that those who show laxity are not held accountable. Prior to a flood, disaster management cells preen that they have made all arrangements, but when the so-called preparations prove totally ineffectual, no heads roll. That is why irate citizens of Mumbai comment that when the rain comes, every promise of the government goes down the gutter, but not the water. The officials owe an answer to the nation as to why they leave the citizens to their own devices at the time of crises.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEAL WITH KHAPS

HARYANA MUST PROTECT INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

 

India might be living in the 21st century but many of its village institutions nurse a medieval mindset. Khap panchayats in Haryana are notorious for passing diktats that infringe upon individual liberty and are contrary to the rule of law. More recently, khap panchayat at Dharana village in Jhajjar district has ordered that either the marriage of a couple who apparently violated their strict gotra requirements be annulled or the family leave the village. This is not the first time khap panchayats have dared to assert themselves. Often these have turned into kangaroo courts and even ordered death of a couple that dared to marry against their convoluted principles of caste and gotra. Demands of khaps have varied from insensitive— asking the couple to abort their unborn baby, depriving another of their eight-day-old infant— to down right ludicrous; beseeching a married couple to live like brother and sister.

 

While the courts have come to the rescue of victimised couples, the police and the state machinery has been least sympathetic. If the khap panchayats think, they have the “divine right” to meddle, the state and its official machinery has erroneously lulled itself into believing that it has no business to interfere in the social customs of villagers. Never mind that khaps themselves have no legal power. Three years ago, the Haryana government informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that these self-styled khap panchyats have no legal sanctity. Yet when it comes to taking action the state dithers.

 

The state government must assert its authority and provide protection to couples as well as their family members. While regressive khaps need to be restrained by law enforcement authorities, the villagers who tacitly approve of their obscurantist edicts have to be educated, as is being done by some social organisations. Marriage is an individual choice and khaps cannot be permitted to frame rules on it and get away with direct challenge to rule of law. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OP-ED

POLICIES CLOUDED BY POLITICS

‘AAM ADMI’ REMAINS UNSATISFIED

BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

 

The Budget 2009-10 is over and the government has made it clear that it wants to emphasise the welfare of the ‘aam admi’. But today the ‘aam admi’ is confronting rising food prices, high rents, lack of adequate water and power and declining incomes.

 

Inflation as measured by the WPI has turned negative but inflation measured by the Consumer Price Index is still high (because it lays emphasis on food items).

 

There are fears of job losses and if a person is in business, there is a fear of slack business and slow turnover. Basically the ‘aam admi is insecure and far from optimistic.

 

In fact, the pace of manufacturing growth has been alarmingly slow though there has been a 2.7 per cent growth in industrial production in May. There is also an encouraging double digit growth in consumer durable industries. But industries producing non-durable consumer goods have been contracting for the last six months.

 

Private investment is critical for industrial growth, especially when the growth stimulus has been coming from private investment in the past few years. If private investment is clogged, then industrial production becomes uncompetitive. It is in this area that disappointment has been felt by industry in the last Budget. Some sops have been given to certain industries but many feel these are not enough.

 

For private investment, interest rates are very important. If the government is going to go in for heavy borrowings as outlined in the Budget (fiscal deficit at 6.8 per cent), the fear is that interest rates would rise by 1 percentage point. How not to crowd out private investment by its huge borrowing programme has to be on top of the government’s agenda.

 

In agriculture, many incentives for greater accessibility of credit have been given to farmers by the Finance Minister but as always, there is a problem regarding who gets the benefits. Besides, basic things like water, fertilizers, seeds, storage are most important to farmers and there has to be an improvement in the availability of all these.

 

If there is drought, all calculations can go awry and the government may be faced with a special situation in which more relief measures and more money would be needed. There is a serious threat of rainfall deficit this year in many wheatgrowing areas that could lead to high prices. The government has already banned wheat exports.

 

India’s own demand is big enough to absorb the rise in industrial and agricultural production even when exports face a grim prospect for some more time. In the current global crisis, big economies have been faring much better than smaller economies dependent on exports.

 

With a big boost ( Rs 16,883 crore) to government employees’ incomes, thanks to the Pay Commission awards, a rise in consumer demand is likely, soon.

 

Though protectionism has been decried in the recent summit of G8 in Italy, most countries are resorting to protectionism and are imposing higher taxes on imports. The Obama Administration is discriminating against US companies that are outsourcing their business processes to countries like India.

 

In the case of Indian industry, many cheap imports, especially from China, are hurting our own manufactures but duties have not been raised. For example raising the duty on edible oil imports would have brought in a lot of revenue and would have protected oil seed farmers also.

 

The government is fond of putting more money on schemes which have fancy names but no one knows whether they are wholly successful with the exception of NREGA. On a visit to any village, one is shocked to see school dropouts loitering around without work or working in temporary unskilled jobs.

 

There is also much corruption in the admission of students in technical/vocational colleges and schools, and the high handedness in every bit of official money doled out—be it a stipend or a scholarship, puts off the ‘aam admi’.

 

Most small enterprises have to pay high interest rates on borrowings to run their businesses and the conditions of work are often quite appalling and the workers are routinely paid below minimum wages.

 

All these problems of governance are there at the ground level where a village BDO or panchayat is all important. The problem is that the government involvement at the state level is very different from the grandiose announcements by the Finance Minister in Parliament in New Delhi.

 

Again in every Budget, including the last one, more and more money is doled out for primary health care and for preventive medical care but it has not made a dent on the rural population as is evident from the crowds that crave for the attention of doctors at public hospitals every day.

 

Most people do not need to crowd city hospitals if primary health care was available in the villages or small towns.

 

Similarly, despite huge sums being pumped into primary education, basic facilities in most village schools are lacking and absenteeism among teachers forces children to drop out and become farm labourers.

 

India’s problem of malnourished children is a shameful blot on its glorious 9 per cent growth. This year the announcement of the availability of 25 kg of wheat of rice at Rs 3 per kg for the poor is indeed a hope for the army of malnourished children. But again the earmarked foodgrains could be hijacked and diverted to the open market and life would remain dreary for the poor.

 

Similarly, the power situation is always a critical element in India’s growth. There has been a huge gap between the power requirement and its generation and supply — the government fell short by 70 per cent of the target to set up new power plants in 2008-09 and there are frequent voltage fluctuations and power cuts.

 

The sooner the problem of power shortage is handled efficiently, the better it would be for providing jobs in small towns and villages which will have to be connected by a network of good roads.

 

So where should the priority lie in selecting the areas of focus for a huge country like ours? Unfortunately, priorities seem clear but policies are clouded by politics. It is all about making the right ‘noises’ (disinvestment for example) so that no partners’ feathers are ruffled.

 

India is fortunately not in a deep crisis situation like the western nations — widely acknowledged now by the World Bank and the IMF, and even if there are no foreign investment inflows, our own high savings rate at 38 per cent (of the GDP) can sustain growth of about 7 to 8 per cent. What remains important is to encourage private initiative and investment and the proper implementation of projects funded by public spending.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OP-ED

WHAT AILS THE LEFT

BY SATISH MISRA

 

The battle in Lalgarh in West Midnapore district in West Bengal between the state police and the CPI (Maoist) has brought contradictions of the Left Front into the open. It has once again exposed the doublespeak of the Left parties and has exposed its ideological shallowness. The over three-decades-old Left Front government is entrapped in its own web, not knowing how to deal with the Maoists.

 

While on the one hand, the Left Front government is exploring legal avenues to deal with the Centre’s ban on the Maoists in West Bengal, the CPM’s political response is that there is no need to ban the outfit and the Maoists should be fought “politically”.

 

Why have the Maoists not been fought politically till now? This is a question that the Left parties in general and the CPM in particular need to answer. The Left parties are possibly presuming that people at large are ignorant about the Maoists’ existence in West Bengal.

 

The West Bengal government had made a request to the Centre to send the central forces to meet the Maoist challenge. If the Left parties and the Left Front government were capable of fighting the Maoist “politically”, then why has it not been done till now and what was the need for the central forces?

 

If the CPM is so ideologically convinced of fighting political outfits politically, then has why the Left been demanding a ban on right-wing outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajarang Dal and even the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh?

 

The Left’s stand on the Maoists and explanations for its worst-ever electoral defeats in recent times show that the Left movement in the country is groping in the dark for a strategy to recover its lost ground and regain confidence of the people.

 

Both the CPM and the CPI have held deliberations but there appears to be no sign that factors for the electoral defeat have been identified and a revival plan has been readied for implementation.

 

While the CPI leaders have been saying that the withdrawal of support on the nuclear issue was one of the prominent reasons for the electorate’s alienation from the Left, the CPM has stubbornly stuck to its stand that the withdrawal of support on the N-deal issue was correct and justified.

 

CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat lacks the courage to admit his own role in the worst-ever electoral performance and has sought to hide behind the façade of unity.

 

Similarly, it has been said that the Left was not able to advertise its achievements during over four years of the UPA government when it was giving outside support. The Left leaders are also found claiming that but for them global recession would have hit India much harder.

 

They also pronounce that capitalism is facing its worst crisis and days of state control over levers of economy are back with a bang. Unfortunately, there has neither been a serious analysis of the international situation nor a deep introspection of the domestic political reality.

 

An honest analysis of the electoral performance and the political situation prevailing in the country would have offered enough clues for regaining the confidence of the people.

 

The Left could remain relevant till poverty, inequality and disparity exist but if the present Left leadership, particularly the CPM, sticks to its “fundamentalist” path, then its reach is bound to become limited.

 

But what prevents the Left-of-Centre parties from playing a role in national politics which they should be playing? A mixed set of misplaced priorities, a mistaken notion of their strength, superiority complex and a skewed understanding of the emerging middle class prevents them to assume a role that is due to them.

 

The Left leaders would have to accept that crucially important defining characteristic of capitalism, particularly global capitalism, is its capacity to adapt and then to mould according to the changing operational environment. Capitalism, unlike communism, does not waste time to change its direction or course if there is an objective need.

 

The Left leaders are not even ready to have a relook at Karl Marx who gave them an empirical model to comprehend the changing socio-economic and socio-political realities.

 

But what the leaders of the two main Left parties need to do is to realise the significance of the time-trusted saying of “Divided we fall, united we stand”. Should the Left leaders, particularly of the CPM, not admit that a united communist party would ensure greater degree of credibility among the masses?

 

For achieving unity, the Left leaders must indulge in a serious introspection to understand why the communist movement was split which resulted in the creation of the CPM. The leaders, whether of the CPM or the CPI, must admit mistakes of the past to pave the path of Left unity.

 

The writer is a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OP-ED

GOLF DIVIDES ARMED FORCES

BY AIR MARSHAL N. MENON (RETD)

 

The armed forces were once known for their prowess in sports and games. Combined Services teams or teams from individual Services stole the honours at national sporting events. In hockey they challenged the might of Punjab, in football they dared teams from West Bengal and Kerala, in cricket they defied the brilliance of Bombay and in the track and field events they overwhelmed the competition. Officers and men bonded together in a fusion of spirit and skill with their strategies and tactics leaving the spectators spellbound and awestruck.

 

That was then, but what is it now? Services teams struggle to find a place in the higher leagues at city level, the medal tally has plummeted at national events and the officer class refrains from participating in contact games due to the fear that an injury would result in a career setback. Many reasons are attributed to this dismal state of affairs but one factor not talked about is the adoption by the officer class of a game called golf. The game golf has been elevated to a cult status in the armed forces and entry into this cult fraternity is restricted to the officer cadre. The exclusion of the majority has had its own negative dynamics.

 

Golf is a game in which individuals pursue objectives for their individual gain and profits increase if the others playing the game trip or get stuck. This concept, arguably, may be relevant in some fields of human endeavour but is a complete anathema to the psyche of the armed forces. In the fighting forces mission accomplishment through team effort and coordination is the overarching objective and individual brilliance must harmonise with this objective or else is rejected.

 

Football, hockey and cricket are excellent examples where the spirit of the game is congruent with the essence of the armed forces. Golf stands in stark contrast with its objectives militating against everything that the forces want to instil in their personnel. And the unfortunate part is that golf has succeeded in driving every other game into the background.

 

Golf made its silent entry into the armed forces in the early 1970s, spread its tentacles in the 1980s, lured the younger lot also in the 1990s and in the first decade of the new millennium has become a symbol of ‘having reached it’ for the officer class. All this has happened at the cost of the other traditional games.

 

Scarce resources have been allocated to golf to the detriment of other games. And these other games are played by personnel below officer rank (PBOR). Cricket grounds have been converted to golf greens, trees have uprooted to create fairways and vast tracts of defence lands have been reserved as golf courses. The oddity in this state of affairs becomes evident when one realises that commissioned officers, for whom all this has been done, constitute less than 4 per cent of the overall strength of the fighting forces.

 

It is not unusual these days for itineraries of senior officers visiting lower formations being structured around senior officers’ golf preferences. Does the senior officer wish to ‘tee off’ early morning or later in the day? No problems, the rest of the visit or inspection can be fitted into the remaining part of the day! The outcome is that the dignitary does not get an opportunity to interact informally with the men.

 

The golf culture has also spawned a parallel HR system in which young officers seek postings and placements of choice or redressal of personal problems. Bypassing the laid down channels of communication or redress weakens the entire system and dilutes military authority.

 

Golf has not been good for the armed forces. It has driven a wedge between officers and PBOR. It will be an uphill task to reverse the trend but a beginning has to made. Traditional games must be encouraged and young officers discouraged from playing golf. Subsidisation of the golf culture should stop and the senior leadership, on whom rests the well-being of the fighting forces, ought to take the lead in bridging the golf divide.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

TEA INDUSTRY

 

Deficit rainfall in the country is having an adverse effect on the tea industry, with both production and export recording a slump. The graveness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that even a sharp increase in tea prices has failed to negate the loss accruing from the fall in production and export. Upto April this year, tea production in the country dwindled to 144.4 million kg compared to 169.9 million kg during the corresponding period last year. Assam, which accounts for a major share of the country’s output, has witnessed a slump of 15 per cent. Exports, too, have plummeted to 50.26 million kg as against 62.83 million kg in the same period earlier. Deficit rainfall and the resultant prolonged dry spells could not have come at a worse time, as declining productivity and quality has emerged as a serious concern for the State’s tea industry in recent times. A major factor behind the qualitative and quantitative decline has been the existence of large areas of cultivation having tea bushes over 50 years old. While as much as 38 per cent of the country’s tea growing areas is considered uneconomic, Assam accounts for half of this unproductive area. The problem is sought to be addressed through replantation with the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) now in operation but the exercise will take some time.


In recent years, Assam’s tea has been having a tough time in the international market, thanks mainly to the emergence of new players like Kenya and Sri Lanka leading to stiffer competition. Falling exports apart, a decline in domestic consumption too is having an undesirable impact on the industry. While the Centre has come up with several interventions to arrest the negative developments besetting the industry, the latter has to play a pro-active role in restoring the waning glory of Assam’s tea. With Assam tea securing the all-important GI mark, it is high time the industry launched an aggressive brand-building campaign. In today’s globalised world, brand building and promotion assume tremendous significance. Then, there can be no compromise with qualitative improvement, and this together with brand building, will go a long way in changing the fortunes of the industry. Given the health benefits of drinking tea, this aspect needs to be emphasised while promoting tea as an ideal beverage. We are yet to explore the prospects of organic tea, which is becoming a fad with the health-conscious. Last but not the least, the small tea growers of the State need to be covered by government support, as they have a big role to play in the growth of the industry.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

MAOISTS’ ATTACK

 

In one of the deadliest attacks the Maoists, killed 29 policemen including the District Superintendent of Police of Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh last Sunday.The SP was leading a police reinforcements comprising about 100 policemen when over 200 heavily armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist People’s Liberation Guerilla first attacked the SP’s convoy with powerful land mines and indiscriminate firing. The Maoists’ triggered violence had already claimed 148 lives in Chhattisgarh this year alone. This was the -first major strike by the Maoists after the Central Government had decided to ban the organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as a terrorist organisation. The Maoists had earlier fought a daring battle with the State police and paramilitary forces in Lalgarh area in West Bengal which they declared as Muktanchal (free land) barring entry of police and government officials .Their main target was the CPI (M) cadres. They killed many local leaders, set fire to their houses and burnt CPI (M) offices. The situation took the same turn as in Nandigram. However due to the firm determination of the State and the Central government the area could be freed from the control of the Maoists.


The CPI (M) were unhappy with the Central Government decision to ban the Maoists as a terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and would prefer to deal them politically and isolate them from the people. There was doubt as to whether the CPI (M) government in West Bengal would implement the ban or not. The Chief Minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharjya minced no words when he declared that the ban was applicable to all over India and West Bengal had no choice but to implement the same. The friendly relationship between the Maoists, and the Trinamool Congress was another cause of worry. Both in Nandigram and Lalgarh it was clear that there was some understanding between the two parties. Now that the Maoists had been banned, Mamata Banerjee should make it clear her stand on this entire issue. Maoist menace is not confined to one or two States. They have created a red corridor from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh affecting more than 150 districts. No State government can root out Maoists from their territory unless a well coordinated and concerted effort was initiated by all the affected States by setting up a Special Task Force under a unified command. The Home Ministry should provide men and resources to set up the STF and fight the new deadly terrorists– the Maoists.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

REMOTE SENSING DATA

 

With a view to evolve fresh strategies for making timely use of high resolution indigenous Remote Sensing satellite data in the development and management of country’s water resources, the Ministry of Water Resources recently organised a workshop to discuss modern developments in technology of Remote Sensing. It was attended by participants from Satellite Data Users organisations from various Central Ministries and the representatives from State Governments, Universities and Premier Institutes.


The Ministry is now gearing up for optimal utilisation of Remote Sensing alongwith conventional data for management and development of water resources of the country. It strongly feels the utility of Remote Sensing in water resources development activities. The Satellite imagery is a versatile tool for facilitating mapping and assessment of waterways and water bodies.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

THE FUTURE OF STILWELL ROAD

DWAIPAYAN

 

That Assam’s economy which is basically agrarian has weakened a little bit with the reported fall of income by way of tax-revenues of the State Government from oil sector and the tea industry in particular, in the first quarter of the current fiscal year seems a temporary setback. The correction of the bad situation can be expected to be done when the 12th Finance Commission releases the second instalment of its grant after the Union Budget is passed in Parliament. That is possibly why there was no popular reaction in any part of the State in evidence, in this respect.


However, this unpleasant development leads to a thinking that unless the State initiates remedial measures to rejuvenate its own economy in the days ahead, and solely depends on the Centre for financial assistance, solving any intractable problem facing it for a long time now, be it recurring floods, rising unemployment or maintenance of law and order whatsoever, to the satisfaction of all, it appears in retrospect, may not be an easy job. A case in point before us is the chronic floods. We have heard over the decades that the Centre would take it over as a national problem and find out a permanent solution to it. But till today there is so far no information about its seriously contemplating to do so at the earliest simply because it knows it very well that taming them involves a huge sum of money New Delhi could easily afford long before but it is unwilling, maybe because Assam is not as strong a constituency as Bihar or UP which has an altogether 80 Lok Sabha seats, or, maybe because of the absence of a pressure group from the State.


Every year Assam’s economy suffers a serious setback not only because of the large-scale damage repair by floods and erosion but also in rescue and relief operations for affected people during the post-calamity period. In meeting the two situations, the expenditure incurred by the State Government from the relief fund is so colossal that it is not possible for it to undertake even any short-term flood and erosion control measures unless it receives any Central aid. Remarkably, its security cost is also growing slowly.

The persistence of floods and erosion as well as militancy has, therefore, been a cause of prime concern to the people in the State because they have over the years turned out to be a major hurdle to its sustainable economic growth. But, there is no sign visible at the end of the tunnel of their being resolved on a long-term basis in the immediate future when the need of the hour is creating a business friendly atmosphere for capital investment for reviving its economy and generating employment opportunities in the State.


A study shows that after spending money on floods, erosion and security what is left with the State Government at the end of a fiscal year is much too meagre an amount to take up any profit-yielding development project. If an amicable solution of the insurgency problem continues to be delayed, there will hardly be any speedy economic growth in the State. Similarly, it will also continue to be in the doldrums if floods elude a permanent settlement. What is worrisome is that the existence of these problems leads to periodic social unrest in the State.


The most depressing, however, is that the tea sector that is always thought to be one major component of the State’s economy is not contributing to its economy expectantly.


In spite of all these troubles, a speedy economic growth in the State was possible if the people of Assam had the opportunity of doing trade with Asian countries and China by the Stilwell Road. Though economically underdeveloped, the State is known everywhere as relatively resource-rich in the northeastern region. It has huge deposits of crude oil and natural gas. It produces 50 per cent of the total tea produced in the country. More importantly, it also possesses good quality Eri and Muga and also mulberry varieties of silk that have all had a great demand in the global market.


Secondly, Assam, like most Northeastern states, enjoys locational advantage for boosting the volume of border trade with South East Asia and China. In other words, Kunming, capital of China’s Yunan province, Bangkok and even some other cities of Myanmar and China are closer to Assam than they are to Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore. Indeed, all it has needed for a long time is the restoration of the 1726-km long Stilwell Road at Ledo that connects Assam to Kunming after crossing Pangsau pass. It also touches almost all the important Southeast Asian metros. Its reopening could, therefore, enable the State people to conduct increased trade with these countries which could soon turn into a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) where opportunities for jobs only increased as was the spirit of the Look East Policy.


Thirdly, North East’s historical and cultural-trade ties and, more importantly, its past affinities with such countries as Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and China, would make its products easily acceptable. On the otherhand, an access to the ever-expanding markets of the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) would not only boost trade between the two regions (but also facilitate the growth of additional trade centres along the Stilwell route. As a result, the consumable items which the northeastern States including Assam, bring in from outside the region by paying VAT and transportation costs, could be available at affordable prices, not just to the people along the both sides of the international border but also those in the North East, that too, in a definite time-frame.


In spite of all these benefits Assam can derive from wholesale trade with the Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia, throughout the year through the Stilwell Road, it is unfortunate that this is not going to be reopened in the immediate future. Instead, an alternative sea route to connect the landlocked North East with these countries have been identified through Sittwe port in Myanmar.


The plan of reopening the Stilwell Road has been put on hold following objections from Myanmar. Informing this at Guwahati recently, DoNER minister Bijoy Krishna Handique stated that the idea to restore the route had been mothballed by the government since the road passes through Kachin in Myanmar where several insurgent outfits of the North East have camps. Handique said Sittwe port is located 250-km from the Mizoram border on the north-western coast of Myanmar where the Kaladan river which flows through Mizoram and Myanmar, merges with the Bay of Bengal. He added that Aizawl will turn into a hub of economic activity in the region as soon as the sea route is opened. Undoubtedly, it is heartening that the capital city is going to be a destination of business activity in the ASEAN nations sooner than later.


But, the crucial question that may arise in a curious mind is: if Myanmar does not want the border trade to be carried out through the Stilwell route for fear of a possible backlash by the activists of the militant outfits camping in Kachin, why does not the Centre take up the issue with it to expedite the reopening of the historic road. It is important to restore it at an early date because the economic prospects of the entire North East largely depend on it.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

YASH PAL COMMITTEE REPORT AND ITS IMPACT

SATYA RANJAN DOLEY

 

Higher education plays a pivotal role in building the nation. No one can imagine the progress of a country without having a good system of higher education. Higher education is the key that shows the nation which direction it should proceed. A nation is progressive and enlightened when the people of that country are highly qualified in the diverse field. Thoughts of the people are directed towards the path which would lead to invention of new things. Invention and innovation are result of research and only fruitful and effective higher education alone can give the research right direction and enrich the country scientifically, socially, economically, politically etc. In the present context, it is imperative that there is need of reform in higher education.


The Government of India constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Prof Yash Pal to review and offer recommendation on the existing system of higher education. The committee after consultation with many academicians had prepared the report and submitted it to the Ministry of HRD for follow up action. The HRD Ministry accepted the report submitted by the committee and also agreed to execute the recommendations made by it on the renovation and rejuvenation of higher education.


The report outlines that, first, there is necessity for greater autonomy for colleges and universities. For that, the UGC should give some powers to these organisations for smooth functioning Besides, the entry of new colleges and universities should not be prevented from entering and coming into existence. The priority of the UGC is to maintain standard of quality. The reformed UGC and AICTE should give up on the licensing of higher education. But the big question arises here is existence of the institutes/colleges in the market. Poorly performing colleges and educational institutions will be completed out of existence by the pressures of the market. For this reason, the UGC should rate the universities and institutes of higher education and publicise ratings which is detailed, annual exercise and prominently available on a website.

Second, the report spells out that it is not possible for any government to run over 300 universities with equal generosity. It follows from this that the necessity is the differential treatment of institutions and universities and also of individuals. This has to be based on transparent system of objective evaluation so that every individual and every university has the same opportunity. Here question arises is salary and research supports. The old system in which the pay package of every professor was put at the same level, nowadays, is not feasible. Thus, special pay package be paid for star researchers and professors like the country the US in which began this system. The exact modality of this will entail discussion and debate. The average salary of all professors all over India can be held constant and this achieved by simply creating a graded salary system. It is expected that this would transform the quality of India’s higher education.

Third, the report mentions that private sector money be allowed to come into higher education. The purely private colleges should of course not be subsidised by the State. They should be allowed to set college fees as high as they choose. Then only rich student can afford to enroll in such institutions. There is no harm in this and some advantages, since the State will now be able to allocate more money to the colleges and universities under its charge and provide good education to the remainder at a lower cost. But there is a common presumption that private institution wants to make money at the cost of quality. In fact, it is not logical and if private party is intended to establish institution, it is a welcome step.


Fourth, it is outlined in the report that it is the time to make India into the world’s major hub for higher education. The advantage in higher education in India is our strength in English language and low cost of living. For this reason, India positions itself to attract the students not only of underdeveloped countries but also of the developed countries. In the US, the annual cost of education is approximately in terms of Indian currency Rs 25 lakh. If India can build some good universities with high quality residences for students and advertise globally, foreign students will be attracted to study in India because of low cost and this would help bring in large infusion of money which can make it possible for the Indian government to subsidise Indian students pursuing higher education.


In the context of Assam, the existing higher education of Assam is horrible and is not catering to the needs and requirements of the present day. The people of Assam are witnessing the deteriorating condition of higher education. This is matter of serious concern and needs to pay immediate attention so that appropriate step can be taken early to reform the whole system of higher education which is related to quality and transparency. So far as Yash Pal committee report is concerned it will have some impacts on the higher education in Assam. The advantages may be pointed out that differential pay package as mentioned in the committee report is likely to give incentive to the faculty member to work harder and contribute to enhancement of professional skill which would result in improvement of quality and rating system of the institution would give scope to upgrade the institution as every institution of higher education will be seeking to be rated in top position. The report speaks about entry of private institution in the higher education without any prevention from the regulatory authority. This may be drawback because there is every possibility that talented and meritorious students prefer these institution for the reason of infrastructure and other benefits. Non availability of meritorious and talented students in government run institutes in Assam may pose problems to stay in the market and solution of this problem is major question mark. Nevertheless, it is to be noted that most of the advantages of Yash Pal committee main report outweigh the disadvantages if it is executed in true letter and spirit.

 

(The writer teaches in DHSK Commerce College, Dibrugarh).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SORRY, FM, IT’S MONETIZATION

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee says the Reserve Bank of India will support half the government’s borrowing programme of Rs 398,000 crore through open market operations. This, he claimed was not monetisation, which he defined as the RBI directly buying government debt at market rates. Sorry, but the distinction is meaningless. When the RBI buys securities — government debt, private debt or any other securities — it pays with freshly created money. And this increase in money supply is monetisation. Now, rapidly rising money supply is often viewed as inflationary. But this is not true in a growth recession, when additional money supply tends to raise output rather than prices. In a recession, every government needs to run a fiscal deficit (to stimulate demand) and keep interest rates low (to stimulate private investment and credit-backed consumption). If the fiscal deficit is so large as to crowd out private borrowing and raise interest rates, the central bank should step in and monetise the deficit.


This ensures that enough credit is available for both the government and private sector, and that interest rates do not shoot up. So, monetisation is not a dirty word in the present context, and the finance minister should not fight shy of it. The US Fed has increased US money supply by over a trillion dollars.


The government’s additional borrowing programme of Rs 398,000 crore this year is almost 62% of the increase in bank deposits last year. That has stoked market fears of crowding out. This is why the RBI definitely needs to monetise a significant portion of the market borrowings. This carries a risk of inflation later this year, especially when the base effect reverses after October. The risk must be taken. If the world economy remains depressed, global commodity prices will stay low and help tame inflation. If, however, the world economy starts growing fast, commodity prices will shoot up, but so will government revenue, reducing the fiscal deficit. Tricky issues will arise as to when and how exactly to reverse the stimuli given to combat the severe slowdown, and how to claw back tax cuts without nipping the recovery in the bud. Those are tomorrow’s problems. For now, let it be said that monetising the deficit is the right policy.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEFT IN DISARRAY

 

For a political perspective that has been an important part of India’s political landscape, the Left is now facing a crisis as never before. The CPI(M), to be more precise, is now at its lowest ebb since its inception in 1964, at a point where people authoritatively pronounce its irrelevance. The sheer scale of the defeat in the 2009 elections has certainly left the leadership fumbling for explanations. And the way the party has handled the rift in its Kerala unit is ample proof of the rampant ad hocism. The fight between state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and chief minister V S Achuthanandan has not only brought administration in the state to a standstill, but is assuming somewhat farcical proportions. After a two-day session to discuss the rift, the CPI(M) expelled VS from the party politburo, while allowing him to continue to head the government. This means a CM continues in the role after being penalised by his party! As for Vijayan, he too continues as state party chief despite facing a CBI case in a huge scam. This patchwork formula to ‘deal’ with the bitterly divided factions — more so for a party that would pride itself on discipline and an absence of the kind of endemic corruption most other political parties historically seem to accept as a part of life — shows the almost total erosion of the CPI(M)’s organisational politics.


The wider failure of the party (and of the Left as a whole), in fact, goes deeper than things like leadership issues, organisational lapses or even getting poll alliances all wrong. Through a process of institutionalisation and ossification, Left politics is now actually the reverse of what it was envisaged to be. Things have come to such a pass that even internal critiques now are about the Left’s very raison d’etre. At least theoretically, in a country like India, the Left should have established a significant presence, nationally. Of course, it is too premature to speak of the Left’s irrelevance, not least given the disproportionate influence it has had in Indian intellectual life. But the political failure of the Left, culminating in the current disarray, could well turn out to be an important moment in independent India’s history.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEATING RETWEET



Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. Why then is a twitterer a twit? The word twitter usually prompts a titter, as it means either chirping or short bursts of silly sounds and inconsequential information. Its creator, however, need not necessarily be described by means of foreshortening the original word. Yet, something more serious is obviously afoot than mere objection to birdsong when the ministry of external affairs bans its officials from not only a micro-blogging activity that has adopted the chittering sound for its short chattering service, but any kind of internet social networking at all. At least while in office. Twittering is akin to littering, is the mantra. The ostensible reason for the move is the spate of hacking incidents involving official computers and nosy foreign powers. There is also every indication that other ministries may attempt to banish twitters and twitterers from their hushed corridors as well.


Governments and officialdom have a legendary propensity to be longwinded. Therefore, the very fact that senior mandarins — and indeed ministers too — are displaying a talent for expressing themselves with mere ‘tweets’ of 140 characters, should be commended for their daring departure from the norm. Clearly, however, this ability is seen instead as a dangerous, foolhardy and precipitous descent into succinct articulation. Perhaps certain key people are exhibiting symptoms of new-age malaises such as twitterholism and twitterrhea, both known after-effects of excessive twittering. Some sensitive twitterers could also need to be curbed before they descend into twitterexia or a critical contraction of expansive expression. Undiagnosed and untweeted, they may be tempted to pass files without windy notings and confine themselves to only tweet-length treatises on pressing issues and generally give short shrift to verbiage. In all cases the benefits are also manifest: brevity. The government should have the wit to recognise the relevance of this virtue and utilise it instead of foresaking the twittersphere experience altogether.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CREATING ENGINES FOR FUTURE GROWTH

KIRAN KARNIK

 

Post-1991, India’s economic landscape has witnessed huge changes. From 1.2% and 3% in the two earlier decades, the per capita GDP growth has increased to about 4% in the decade after liberalisation (1992-2002) and to 6% in the last six years. A more personal and human way of appreciating these figures is to look at the time required to double the income of an average Indian: this decreased from 60 years (a full life-time) in the 1970s to 12 years now. Another facet of economic change has been the emergence of yet-small but rapidly growing sectors based on knowledge and technology. A particularly visible example is the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.


Through the last two decades, the Indian IT software and services industry has seen explosive growth. An industry that was seen as a natural monopoly of developed countries was given a make-over with India’s innovative and disruptive business model — outsourcing with a combination of on-site and off-shore work — low costs and an abundance of high-quality talent. While India is but a bit player yet in the overall IT industry, it is firmly centre-stage as far as cross-border outsourcing is concerned: more than half of all inter-country outsourcing comes to India. As a result, India’s IT-BPO industry has grown from $5 billion in 2000 to about $60 billion in 2009. It is India’s biggest earner of forex, with exports of almost $50 billion. Equally important, it provides direct employment to some two million and indirect employment to almost four times that number.


The communications sector too has seen phenomenal growth in the country. FM radio, cable TV and DTH are basically developments of the last two decades. Together, they have revolutionised communications. Radio, considered a terminal case, has seen a huge revival — thanks to FM, privatisation and competition. Imaginative and interactive programme formats have contributed to radio’s resurgence — as have traffic jams. As for the profligate choice of TV channels, “drinking from the fire-hose” would probably be the most apt description — especially for the pre-1990s generation, which grew up on one TV channel. Even this impressive growth pales before what has happened in mobile communication, where we have moved from almost nothing to over 425 million mobiles in the space of a dozen years.


Already the single most widely owned item in India, it is probably but five years before mobiles cross the billion mark; an annual growth percentage in the 20s is taken for granted. The IT-BPO industry has grown at an unbelievable 33% annual compounded rate over the last 10 years, even as the base has grown. Projections in a NASSCOM-McKinsey study indicate that the industry could be as large as $360 billion in 2020, with exports of over $300 billion, if we play our cards right. The point of this piece, though, is not the huge success of India’s ICT sector; it is the lessons that might be drawn and the factors that may be emulated.


Despite the many constraints — and intense global competition in the case of IT-BPO — the ICT sector has maintained a track-record of hyper-growth. While it is necessary to discuss what policy and other initiatives are needed to sustain this growth, it is more interesting and important to understand how one might identify and nurture other such opportunities. Which areas can provide a stimulus to development through a 30+% annual growth rate, while creating jobs and secondary benefits? What public policy measures will help in locating and developing such opportunities?


The present global economic situation aside, if the country is to have a sustained double digit growth in GDP, it will need high-growth sectors that scale rapidly. Ideally, these new opportunities should also be employment-intensive, so as to absorb the growing numbers in the working-age group and surplus labour from the agricultural sector.


It is not necessarily a matter of finding such opportunities, like locating a gold mine: the opportunity may have to be created. A more appropriate analogy is planting seeds — not one, but many, and of different varieties — in the right soil, at the right time, and then nurturing them in the expectation that at least one will grow and bear fruit that can be regularly harvested. There are many contenders vying to become the most appropriate “seed”: bio-technology, renewable energy, healthcare, education, housing, value-added services on mobile phones, travel and tourism services. Any of these could be the “next IT sector” in terms of growth and potential size; so could many others. While bets on which ones win are best left to investors and entrepreneurs, there is a role for government.


Let us not forget that the genesis of India’s IT success story lies in the IITs and engineering colleges, in English-based higher education, in the special attention given to technology-based industry and R&D: all part of the broad Nehruvian vision, and all initiated many decades ago. In later years, government policies on low/no customs duty on software, tax exemption for export profits, foreign investments in IT sector, and partnership with the private sector, all contributed greatly to the growth of this sector.


Therefore, in looking for sunrise sectors, the government must not be merely a facilitator or partner, but often an initiator. It cannot abdicate this responsibility and pass it on to the private sector. The government must look ahead — not to next year or the next election, but to the next generation. Most new opportunities will tend to be technology-intensive; hence, investment in R&D is the key to creating these new growth industries. Many will depend upon the cross-domain use of technology (e.g., ICT in healthcare or education); therefore, rigid regulatory and bureaucratic boundaries will have to be dismantled. Tax and regulatory ambience conducive to risk-taking — by entrepreneurs and funders — must be created. Only then can we hope to create more high-growth sectors that act as the engines for development.

(The author is a policy and strategy analyst)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LALGARH AND THE CRISIS OF THE LEFT

TK ARUN

 

Shed a tear for the Santhals of Lalgarh, stomped into gory pulp, as footsoldiers of wrongheaded ideology, peddlers of patronage and defenders of the state’s sanctity compete to occupy that jungle fringe’s moral high ground.


For a moment, forget the turf war between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, forget the Maoists and just focus on these simple tribal people fighting for control over the traditional means of their primitive subsistence: water, land and the jungle. Their battle is not for ideology, but ideologues and guerrillas joined their battle and then derailed it. The tribal people bore the full force of the state’s repressive machinery. They now remain battered, tarred as challengers of the Indian state’s legitimacy, bereft of media or mainstream party support, their hopes of a second uprising (the first one had been against the British) crushed. And they now remain completely alienated. If the Maoists had to hijack their struggle earlier, now they stand ready converts to any extremist ideology.


‘You made me a communist’, went the ringing title of a storied play that fuelled the growth of the communist movement in Kerala. It highlighted the injustice meted out by landlords with the full backing of the state. In Lalgarh and many other areas of growing extremist influence today, such a play would be titled You made me a Maoist.


This is against this nation’s interests, against India’s hopes of sustaining high economic growth, and not just against the interests of defenceless tribal people pitted against a merciless, exploitative system. More than one-fourth of India’s 600 districts are officially counted as Naxalite afflicted and Maoist violence is rated as India’s number one internal security threat. Policing alone cannot stop the trend. We need a new kind of politics that creates broadbased economic growth. Inclusive growth does not mean hand-outs from the state but converting people into active participants in the process of globalised growth. Hand-outs such as by the employment guarantee programme do serve a purpose, and are relatively easy to produce. However, making marginalised people stakeholders in the growth process is far more difficult.

One would imagine that the mainstream Left parties would be better placed to take on this challenge than anyone else. Imagination, in this case, would collapse into hallucination. The Left believes that Capitalism has become moribund, devoid of any progressive, emancipatory potential and is, therefore, a system whose overthrow is the sole goal to be pursued in the interest of the people. This world view, fashioned in the 1950s, leaves the Left without any constructive agenda to deal with the world as it is.


This constitutes a strategic deprivation for the Left and leaves them in a peculiar bind. The Left was on a strong wicket while it mobilised the people against pre-capitalist land relations and brought about land reforms, wherever they were in a position to. However, after having established the pre-requisites of capitalist growth, they could not take things forward. After all, their job is to topple capitalism, not build it. At the same time, to win elections, you have to be seen to be trying, at least, to create jobs. Now, jobs can be created in the government sector, but only to a limited extent. So, for job creation at large, the Left has to dirty its hands by building capitalism, in some form or the other. It is this reduction of engaging with the real world to a vague compromise with its basic strategic programme which lies at the root of the Left’s problems, including underdevelopment of its areas of influence, Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, and alienation of the people of Lalgarh.


The way out is for the Left to accept that capitalism remains a dynamic system of organising production, with enormous emancipatory potential for the millions of Indians living on the margins of subsistence. This would mean abandoning its current shibboleths about neo-liberal growth and innovating ways in which broad participation can be created in the ongoing process of globalised growth.


If this becomes part of the Left’s strategic vision, it would not think of acquiring land for industrial project, replicating the dispossession of peasants that has been the standard model hitherto. It would innovate corporate holding models in which those who lose land to industrial projects have a continuing, sustained stake in what comes up on their land. It would build upon the cooperative success stories it had itself spawned in the past, as part of its trade union struggles, such as the Dinesh Beedi and Indian Coffee House, to mobilise people into viable production units.


And if the Left carries out such activity as basic strategy, and not as compromise, the result would be to rid its efforts of the twin evils of patronage and corruption that today pervade the Left.


Sure, some Left ideologues would sneer at such revisionism and class collaboration. Forgive them, my lord, they probably know not what they do. Spare a tear for them, too.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA’S FRENCH CONNECTION

 

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, being made the guest of honour at France’s Bastille Day parade, the first Indian leader to be accorded that distinction and mark of friendship, and the participation in that event on the majestic Champs Elysees of an Indian tri-services contingent for the first time, serve to add gloss to a deepening bilateral relationship between the two countries that was first thought of by India in the 1980s. Although India was a close friend of Moscow and relied on it in a big way for its defence hardware in the Cold War period, a time when our ties with Washington were at rock bottom, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was conscious of the need to diversify sources of military supply. In the entire Western bloc, France alone stood out as a likely alternative source of friendship. At the level of perception, and cultural exchanges, the two countries always had a good rapport, which was not quite the case with the US and its other allies. India had also been collaborating with France in the space arena since 1949, a partnership that has gone from strength to strength. Apart from such bilateral considerations, France had antecedents. Under its legendary leader Charles de Gaulle, in 1966 it had pulled out from military participation in Nato arguing that such attachment compromised its sovereignty as the US had too much weight in the Atlantic alliance. (In March this year France returned to military association with Nato, with considerable contrary domestic opinion making itself manifest.) In non-aligned India this was a great sell. In more recent times, after the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan, when a howl of protest went up in the West seeking to impose international sanctions against this country, France stood out in opposing the move, advocating instead the path of drawing India into a dialogue on the issue of non-proliferation. The totality of their mutual ties persuaded India and France to upgrade relations to the level of strategic partnership. What began in 1998 under President Jacques Chirac picked up steam after Paris opposed sanctions against India on the nuclear question. In late 2005, when India embarked on a discussion with the US on the civil nuclear agreement, which would fructify after three years of exhausting negotiations, Russia and France gave it hope and a morale boost. Although founding members of the NPT, they promised to enter into nuclear commerce with it once clearance from the IAEA and NSG were available. Had their doors been closed, as many others were, the going would have been much tougher for India. India and France have by now developed deep-going ties in the use of civil uses of nuclear energy, space, and science and technology. The France-India summit in Paris in September 2008 also made clear that the two were “fully committed to consolidating” a defence relationship that included joint programmes in industry, research and technology building in the defence sector. The bilateral trade between the two countries is posited to rise to 12 billion euros by 2012, and France hopes to become India’s third largest defence supplier after Russia and Israel. In the area of countering international terrorism, there is probably greater political comfort from France than any other Western power. Among the countries of western Europe, France has always had a strong sense of itself, like India, and in the French discourse the nature of Indian democracy is valued more than in the Anglosphere.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

US MUST GIVE RUSSIA MORE THAN A SPEECH

BY BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

The short point to President Barack Obama’s first visit to Russia in his new avatar is that he forgot to reset the button before leaving Washington. To say ‘forgot’ is to indulge in euphemism because the American foreign making elite has no intention of fulfilling what the Vice-President, Mr Joe Biden, initially promised in resetting the button in relations with Russia.

 

True, the US and Russia took the first steps in agreeing to reduce their gargantuan nuclear arsenals to replace the START I Treaty, and Russia made an important gesture in opening up its airspace to Nato soldiers and armaments engaged in Afghan operations. But there was no American give on the two touchstones of US intentions in Moscow’s eyes: the missile plans on Russia’s doorstep in Poland and the Czech Republic and proposals, in abeyance, to take Ukraine and Georgia into Nato.

 

America’s policy to Russia and Europe and the world was set in the dying days of the Soviet Union. With the USSR morphing into the Russian Federation, a nation losing its ideology and philosophical compass and grasping at new mantras of existence and prosperity, the United States reigned supreme. And an erratic Russian leader, Mr Boris Yeltsin, virtually outsourced his domestic and foreign policies to Washington.

 

The wise man of American diplomacy, Mr George Kennan, pleaded with his countrymen not to re-divide the European continent by retaining and expanding the Cold War military organisation, Nato. Mr Helmut Kohl, then West German Chancellor, and Mr James Baker, the US Secretary of State, solemnly promised Mr Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet President, that in return for Moscow’s assent for the reunion of the two Germanys, there would be no eastward expansion of Nato.

 

But these promises dissolved in mist in the triumphalism that prevailed in political Washington. In the American idiom, the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Soviet Union had disintegrated, and the defeat of the USSR was complete. Old promises would not stop the victory march of the United States nor would Kennan, the conscience of American policy, stem the imperialistic urges of Washington. The objective became the containment of what remained of the Soviet Union for as long into the future as possible.

 

Russian red lines were crossed with abandon. Nato welcomed the former communist states as also the Baltic states, and those admitted to the European Union cocked their snook at Moscow because they now belonged to the club of winners in the Cold War. For Moscow, plans developed by the Bush administration to have a missile defence mechanism were meant further to contain Russia, and Moscow drew a new red line on the admission to Nato of Ukraine and Georgia.

 

Against this setting, the absence of euphoria over President Obama’s visit, in sharp contrast to his reception elsewhere on the European continent, was no surprise. For Moscow, it was good to hear an American President talk of cooperation, rather than confrontation. But the old Russian saying – “trust, but verify” – President Ronald Reagan was so fond of repeating holds good today, as it did yesterday.

 

The moral of the story is that the post-Cold War architecture the United States is seeking to consolidate is being challenged by Russia and President Obama has given no indication thus far that he is prepared to make room for a resurgent Russia. It is not all Mr Yeltsin’s fault, but he proved a disaster for his country seeking to find new moorings. Whatever one might say about the authoritarian tendencies of Vladimir Putin, he put his country back on track in his eight years of presidency.

 

Although Mr Dmitry Medvedev has assumed the presidency, Mr Putin in the Prime Minister’s job remains a powerful figure. And the thrust of Russian policy remains what it was in the Putin era. Russia has its interests and will fight to safeguard them, whether in relations with the US or with Europe or the world. In Russian eyes, it is strange logic that a distant power can claim the right to set up bases and special relationships with former constituents of the Soviet Union, yet Moscow’s efforts in a similar direction are dismissed as ploys for reviving the old empire.

 

Given this scenario, President Obama needs to go back to the drawing board to come up with a new world architecture. America’s desire to conduct relations with Russia on its own terms will not wash simply because Moscow refuses to fall in line with the lowly status Washington would grant it. Fine words are no substitute for policy shifts. The African continent might find President Obama’s visit to Ghana and his rhetoric inspirational and evocative of the coming of age of the black man, but Russia is not Africa.

 

Until the US policy-making establishment is prepared to make basic changes in its view of the post-Cold War world, improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow will remain limited. There are obvious areas of agreement between the two Cold War rivals on non-proliferation, fighting terrorism and in lifting the emerging world out of poverty. But Moscow has given sufficient warning that it will react if its vital interests are threatened.

 

Which brings us back to the central problem facing President Obama. On two key issues that will determine his legacy to a large extent, he must fight his main battles at home. In bringing an end to the seminal Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he must battle the almost impregnable American Jewish lobby to give justice to the Palestinians. And on relations with the Russian Federation, he must confront the conventional wisdom of the policy-making establishment in the Beltway that has defined US interests in the post-Cold War world.

 

The Bush administration might have defined American interests bluntly as its right of pre-emptive attack on any nation of its choice, but this philosophy still remains supreme in Washington. To change this mindset will prove even more difficult than outmanoeuvring the American Israeli lobby. Americans believe that they won the Cold War against the Soviet Union and remain determined to drive home their advantage. Russia is now signalling that it stands in the way of the United States realising its dreams.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AMERICA: GOODBYE IRAQ, AND GOOD LUCK

BY BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

I’m in the provincial headquarters building in downtown Kirkuk — the oil-rich district of northern Iraq that is the most disputed corner of this country. The provincial leaders — Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians — have come to meet America’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with whom I am tagging along. All 11 Iraqi leaders are seated on one side of a conference table and local US officials have provided me a colour-coded guide, identifying each Iraqi politician, their political tendencies and religious affiliation. Each Iraqi leader tells the Admiral, through an Arabic translator, why his or her community deserves to have this or that slice of Kirkuk, until it comes to a Kurdish representative, who announces in English: “I want to tell a joke”.

 

IT’S MY LUCKY DAY.

 

“After Saddam was ousted in 2003”, said Deputy Provincial Council Chairman Rebwar Talabani, “there was an elderly citizen who wanted to write a letter to the new government to explain all his sufferings from the Saddam era to get compensation. But he was illiterate. As you may know, outside our government offices we have professional letter-writers for illiterate people. So the man told the letter-writer all of his problems. ‘In the ’50s, they destroyed my house’, he said. ‘In the ’60s, they killed two of my sons. In the ’70s, they confiscated my properties’, and so on, right up to today. The letter-writer wrote it all down. When he was done, the man asked the letter-writer to read it back to him before he handed it to the governor. So the letter-writer read it aloud. When he got done, the man hit himself on the head and said, ‘That is so beautifully done. I had no idea all this happened to me’”.


Talabani’s joke seemed to have been directed as much to his fellow Iraqis as to Admiral Mullen. My translation: “Everyone here has a history, and it’s mostly painful. We Iraqis love to tell our histories. And the more we do, the better they get. But with you Americans leaving, we need to decide: Do we keep telling our stories, or do we figure out how to settle our differences?”


And that is my take-away from this visit: Iraqis know who they were, and they don’t always like it, but they still have not figured out whom they want to be as a country. They are exhausted from years of civil strife and really don’t want to go there again. Yet on the big unresolved issues — how will power be shared in Kirkuk, how will the Sunnis who joined the “awakening” be absorbed into the government, how will oil wealth and power be shared between provinces and the Central government — the different ethnic communities still don’t want to compromise much either.

 

I am amazed in talking to US Army officers here as to how much they’ve learned from and about Iraqis. It has taken way too long, but our soldiers understand this place. But what about Iraqis? There are now many Iraqis embedded with US forces in Kirkuk. In the dining hall on the main base, I like to watch the Iraqi officers watching the melting pot of US soldiers around them — men, women, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics — and wonder: What have they learned from us? We left some shameful legacies here of torture and Abu Ghraib, but we also left a million acts of kindness and a profound example of how much people of different backgrounds can accomplish when they work together.

 

We are going to find out just what Iraqis have learned soon. As Admiral Mullen told the Iraqi leaders around that table: “The US is not going to solve” Iraq’s problems. That is the job “of a sovereign nation”. So Iraqis better get to work, because “on the current withdrawal plan, coalition forces will not be here in 18 months”.

 

That’s an important message — otherwise Iraqis will delay forever resolving their big, nation-shaping disputes. We can’t do it for them — but our diplomats could do more to help them forge those compromises. We have special envoys for Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Arab-Israeli affairs, but for Iraq — a country key to West Asia in which we have lost so many lives and are spending a trillion dollars — there is no special envoy, or secretary of state, totally focused on securing a decent outcome here. Vice-president Joe Biden is overseeing Iraq policy, but he has too many other things to do. Iraq needs a big, tough, full-time mediator.

 

Senior Iraqi officials are too proud to ask for our help and would probably publicly resist it, but privately Iraqis will tell you that they want it and need it. We are the only trusted player here — even by those who hate us. They need a US mediator so they can each go back to their respective communities and say: “I never would have made these concessions, but those terrible Americans made me do it”.

 

After we invaded and stabilised Bosnia, we didn’t just toss their competing factions the keys. President Bill Clinton organised the Dayton peace talks and Richard Holbrooke brokered a deal that has lasted to this day.


Why are we not doing in Iraq what we did in Bosnia — when the outcome here is 100 times more important?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

PRINCIPLES VS PRACTICALITY

IMPORTANT TO HAVE ACCOUNTABILITY

BY B.G. DESHMUKH


Actually it’s a good tradition to resign if there is a major disaster. This sends the message that one should accept moral responsibility for major incidents. I am happy that E. Sreedharan, the Delhi Metro chief, had sent in his resignation after last Sunday’s accident. The Delhi chief minister should have accepted it. Later they could have asked him to come back in a higher and equally important position. The principle of responsibility would have been established even though Mr Sreedharan may not have been directly responsible for the disaster.

 

It’s a good principle and one recalls former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri who, when he was railway minister, resigned after a major railway accident. When a person is in charge of a project the ultimate responsibility is his. The message should go down that you are accountable. In this case it was good that the Delhi Metro chief put in his papers of his own accord. It established a principle that others should emulate. Mr Sreedharan should have insisted on the Delhi administration accepting his resignation and it should have been accepted just to establish the principle of accountability.

 

This is very necessary. Otherwise, how do we get jobs done in a democracy? How do we get policy and projects carried out? How can there be good governance? When a person is given responsibility, s/he must discharge it effectively, honestly and productively. If a collector is responsible for famine relief and if overall tackling of the situation is not good, s/he should be held responsible. In the political field, and in the civil services, especially when one is in charge of a major project, it is important to establish the principle of responsibility.
For instance, after 26/11, Union home minister Shivraj Patil, Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and the state home minister R.R. Patil should have resigned on their own, accepting constructive responsibility, instead of being made to resign. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to establish accountability in a democracy.
It is an essential part of good governance that you are held responsible for what you are supposed to do. What the Delhi administration did was not correct. They could have honoured Mr Sreedharan for his gesture of accepting responsibility and used his services in an equally important position later.

 

B.G. Deshmukh, former Cabinet Secretary, Government of India, and now a social activist heading AGNI

 

NO SENSE IN LOSING A GOOD, HONEST MAN

BY JULIO RIBEIRO


I am happy that E. Sreedharan offered his resignation and I am happy that it was not accepted. I was hoping that his resignation would not be accepted because we will find it very difficult to get a person of his commitment, high standards and personal integrity.


These virtues are sorely lacking in our country and we have to support a person like Mr Sreedharan.
There are few people of his calibre in the country today.


The days when we had leaders with the integrity of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who resigned after a major train accident, are gone. Suppose the Delhi chief minister had accepted Mr Sreedharan’s resignation, what would have happened? Would it have made any difference? It would certainly not have sent any message down the line as people don’t care about sterling values these days.
They have no great faith in integrity. Nor do they have the willingness to serve. They are there to serve themselves.


Therefore, the resignation of the Delhi Metro chief may or may not have sent a message. But we would have lost a good man. The country would not have benefited in any way. Only his personal image would have gone up higher and been enhanced. I can tell you it would have been a 100 per cent loss for the country.


It would have been a different story if there was someone of the same calibre waiting in the wings. Then I would say not only accept his resignation, but sack him.

 

I don’t see people coming up with his type of commitment today. People know his integrity and commitment. That’s why the general reaction of the people to his resignation was “don’t accept it”. Accepting his resignation and giving him another, bigger, job, as has been suggested in some quarters, wouldn’t work. He is not interested in a job. He is not in search of a job at 77. He is above ambition and is just doing a task that he has been given. To him the Metro Rail was an opportunity to show people that it can be done.

 

There is no question of good governance being involved here. Good governance is about implementing the law. In this case there was no law involved. It was only moral responsibility that was involved.

 

Julio Ribeiro is a retired director-general of police. He now heads the fight against music piracy.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

PAK’S ‘MUSLIM’ CLAIM OVER J&K IS BOGUS

BY BY NITISH SENGUPTA

 

Once again with US President Barack Obama’s prompting the Kashmir issue has come to the forefront. In the last few months, Pakistan has seized every opportunity to voice its concern about a solution to the Kashmir issue at every possible international forum. This is in sharp contrast to the near-absence of the issue during the past two or three decades. The question then is how valid is Pakistan’s claim to be a party in the Kashmir issue?

 

The Indian Independence Act passed by the British Parliament had vacated the sovereign power of Britain and placed it fairly and squarely on the 700 princes. The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir exercised his option to join India. India also promised that there would be a plebiscite and this was incorporated in the United Nations-supported Peace Agreement. With the maharaja’s decision to opt for Kashmir on the strength of the law passed by the British Parliament, that should have been the end of the matter. But Jawaharlal Nehru formally appealed to the UN, declaring Pakistan as the aggressor. The result was that a ceasefire brokered by the UN has lasted ever since, with sporadic and spasmodic attempts by Pakistan to make incursions into India’s territory. Unfortunately, this plebiscite demand remained and the dispute has continued.

 

Even if the UN-brokered truce enjoined upon India a duty to hold a plebiscite after the withdrawal of Pakistan forces, that commitment has lost its validity as the Pakistan Army never withdrew from the Muzaffarabad-Gilgit area. The UN resolutions, which were adopted around 1948-49, are no longer valid, to quote former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. For some unexplained reason, India has avoided reference to this important announcement. It is time India raises this in international fora to resubmit our credentials and to say that no UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir is valid.

 

Pakistan does not have a case regarding Kashmir. We should refuse to discuss it with Pakistan and boldly assert that India claims sovereignty over the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the so-called “Azad Kashmir” which is under Pakistan’s illegal control and also some stretches in the border areas in the north which Pakistan handed over to China several years ago.

 

The geopolitical changes in 1971 viz the break-up of Pakistan and the emergence of Muslim-majority Bangladesh as a sovereign country completely altered the situation. This split drastically changed the situation and Pakistan can no longer legitimately claim Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it has a Muslim majority.

 

Bangladesh has a much larger population of Muslims than Pakistan. But it has never claimed to be a party in the dispute over Kashmir. The number of Muslims in India is more than Pakistan’s entire population. Why cannot the claim of the Indian Muslims, who prefer Kashmir to be a part of India, be treated as superior to the claim that Pakistan has made?

 

Jammu and Kashmir has had a number of general elections, along with other states of India, whereas Pakistan has been under the rule of its Army most of the time since independence. The Pakistan Army, to keep itself in power, has kept the Kashmir issue alive. It is a strong, omnipotent force in Pakistan’s body politic.

 

The international media is abuzz with news about China helping to build an illegal railway station in no-man’s land along the Munabao-Khokhrapar train link. India must protest as vehemently as it can.

 

Unfortunately, we were generous towards a defeated Pakistan at the Shimla Conference (1972) and repatriated many prisoners of war. This was a gesture of which there is no parallel in history. Why Indira Gandhi, in return for these, did not make Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto accept the 1948 ceasefire line as the effective boundary between the two countries remains a mystery.

 

Nonetheless, Pakistan stopped raising the Kashmir issue during the next two decades. It came back only with the Kargil conflict of 1999 and after Pervez Musharraf’s controversial visit to India. The National Democratic Alliance government, by tactlessly accepting his controversial self-created status as President of Pakistan, gave him the opportunity to raise the Kashmir issue in discussions with India. This is how the Kashmir issue returned to centre court. It has stayed there ever since, helped by the advent of jihadi terror following the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

 

Interestingly, India’s strong legal case comes under moral scrutiny when we come to the issue of alleged atrocities perpetrated by India’s security forces in the Kashmir Valley. Why are we unable to prevent such incidents? These are very unfortunate and affect our moral claim. They also lead to a rather shame-faced attitude in a section of the media, which often takes up such issues of abuse of human rights in the Valley.

Exemplary punishment should be given to all those officials and men who are responsible for violations of human rights. There is some force in chief minister Omar Abdullah’s demand for the withdrawal of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other paramilitary forces from the Valley. For law and order to prevail, the Kashmir police should be held responsible.

 

Also, there is a case for suspension of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. If the Army keeps the Line of Control under its strict control and successfully prevents intrusion by the members of militant outfits, then the Jammu and Kashmir police force can be successfully in charge of the Valley.

There will be little or no scope for men in uniform to indulge in the kind of offences they are often charged with. In that event the secessionist forces cannot give calls for bandhs so frequently and bring life in the Valley to a standstill.

 

Liberals in India should remember that there are many cases of suppression of civil rights in other parts of the country, such as Chhattisgarh. If such cases also take place in Kashmir they need not be linked with the general issue, thereby weakening India’s strong case.

 

Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

SET UP REGIONAL BOARDS TOO

BY CHENGAL RAJU

 

The proposal for a single national regulator for the entire higher education sector is excellent and needs to be immediately implemented. However, just bringing all the regulators under one umbrella will not serve the purpose.

 

We have the experience of JNTU-Hyderabad. All the engineering colleges in the state were brought under its purview earlier but it was unable to monitor such a large number of colleges. The government was then forced to divide the JNTU into three universities and distribute the colleges among them. So the national regulator should set up regional boards but the monitoring power should rest with the Central board. Existing regulators such as UGC, MCI and AICTE have only contributed to the mushrooming of universities, medical colleges and technical institutions in the country. Ironically, several of these institutes lack minimum infrastructure and faculty.

 

(Dr Chengal Raju is the principal of Vasavi College of Engineering)

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

METRO LESSON

GAMES PROJECTS MUST BE CLOSELY MONITORED


The Minister for Urban Development is an intelligent man, and will soon come to, if he already hasn’t, the conclusion that the collapse at a Delhi Metro site this week is a symptom of a larger problem that might soon haunt the government. While many believe construction is easier during a recession ~ because building contractors have less to do ~ Mr S Jaipal Reddy is wise enough to know it is actually more dangerous. For recession has a chain effect in the construction business. Demand drops, contractors are either not or not fully paid and, with bottom lines under pressure, they and their principals tend to cut corners. While the enquiry committee formed to look into the South Delhi disaster will look at proximate causes, it will not go deeper, to examine the overall health of the industry and the possible deleterious effects on other construction. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation as indeed every government agency involved in construction related to the Commonwealth Games has deep pockets. Deficit budgets and desiccated taxpayers ensure that Government’s coffers are always full. But does this apply to the construction and real estate industry?


Three of India’s largest real-estate majors have been in serious trouble over the past few months. One has seen its borrowing capacity drop, and its ability to deliver on projects suffer as a result of severe erosion in its net worth. Another a few weeks ago had nearly a hundred winding-up petitions pending in the Delhi High Court. The third, involved in major Commonwealth Games projects for which it has sought and obtained bail-outs from government, faces serious problems with several projects. These companies, in turn, engage contractors who they sometimes do not pay, or whose payments they delay. The contractors are involved in major construction jobs, including for DMRC projects. And while Mr E Sreedharan’s company may be prompt with payments, others in these hard times are not. Ergo, there is every reason to cut corners. And when you add the pressure of extremely difficult deadlines to this mix, the consequences can be deadly.


It isn’t only the Delhi Metro that is racing against time, and requires close monitoring. The Commonwealth Games village is being built on the ecologically sensitive floodplain of the Yamuna. It was the Government of Delhi that chose this site. The site falls in a water recharge zone, and for this reason alone it was badly chosen. Worse, it is a seismically active zone. Construction at the site was challenged in the Delhi High Court, which appointed a committee to assess ecological damage. The government appealed to the Supreme Court, and argued successfully that such a step would seriously jeopardize the holding of the Games. While construction is on, and the Delhi Government has even taken the extraordinary step of arranging funds for the builder, there remains the need for extremely close monitoring by government agencies. While the businessman who constructs, and not the politician who chose the site, will be blamed if a mishap occurs, the consequences will be felt by a nation that seeks to derive prestige from holding the Games. The lessons of Zamrudpur must be learnt.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

UNIFORMED LOOT

ARMY, GOLF DEMEANED


YEARS ago shock waves cascaded through the defence community at the revelation that some senior officers took a helicopter to a remote mountain stream where the mahseer fishing was excellent. Now the abuse of official assets for personal pleasure has hit a dirty low with the Comptroller and Auditor-General reporting that funds earmarked for battery operated vehicles for hospital inmates and track-laying reconnaissance vehicles were diverted to acquiring golf carts for the army’s several courses. That the carts would be reserved for only senior officers confirms the theory of fish rotting from the head; it also testifies to brazen and sustained scalping of taxpayers’ money. Insignificant, by comparison, are staff cars for shopping sprees, the “canteen” servicing the entire khandan, sahayaks (batmen) serving as an unglorified domestic aides etc. That such “stolen” golf carts are deemed par for the course ~ a few even sport the stars of a general-sahib ~ speaks volumes about the declining standards of probity in the ever-demanding defence family. The CAG rejected the army’s explanation, hence the defence ministry’s seeking another is pointless: AK Antony (a self-proclaimed Mr Clean) has to muster the courage to have a thorough study conducted into such looting of the exchequer, refuse to be browbeaten by the tarnished brass, and endeavour to inspire the military to regain some of its honour and morality. For the offending golf carts are merely symptomatic of a deep-rooted disease that not only deems public funds pocket money, but fuels an insatiable desire for more. The rot has to be stemmed ~ the defence sector owes some accountability to the people who grant it over a thousand crore rupees a year.


More than collateral damage has been inflicted on the game of golf, which, funnily, has replaced cricket as epitomising the highest of ethical standards. Most of the military’s courses have been carved out of defence land earmarked as training grounds (as the CAG previously noted), are maintained by the jawans, the club-houses are luxurious affairs, and now boast “free carts”. While many believe golf a comparatively sedentary exercise, some officers insist it is therapeutic: would that justify golf carts being described as vehicles for the sick? The way the military goes about it sustains the image of golf being elitist. Adding to the shame is that though officers now play few other games; it has been decades since the army last boasted a national amateur golf champion!

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

‘FREE FOR ALL’

A REALISATION 30 YEARS TOO LATE


There seldom has been a more succinct sizing up of the reality on the India-Bangladesh border than the one by a Central team last week. It literally has been a “free for all”, as described by the delegation, headed by the Additional Secretary of the union home ministry. The scenario has deteriorated to the extent that the Bengal frontier is today far worse than Raxaul on Bihar’s border with Nepal, an outpost that also has an open border. It signifies the concerted failure of an ineffectual Border Security Force and a restive Bangladesh Rifles. That failure on the migrants’ front has been compounded by an easy-come-easy-go exchange of commodities despite what must be a token presence of land Customs. And more critically, in the context of financial destabilisation, the mushroom growth of hubs that churn out fake currency. Bengal’s border with Bangladesh has the dubious distinction of being one of the worst administered in the country, going by the assessment of the Central team.


The home ministry intends to take up the issue with the state’s home secretary. But it would be less than fair to lay the blame entirely at the state’s door though it must be conceded that the anxiety to protect potential voters has been one of the deterrents. It is the Centre’s remit to ensure that the state of affairs doesn’t degenerate to a “free for all”. If Attari in Punjab has been completely sanitised, it begs the question why similar measures were not adopted in Bengal. The spread of illegality since the late seventies is today overwhelming. The realisation of a “free for all” is one that comes 30 years too late.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FAILED QUEST

 

It is not easy to reform the judical system. Anyone given the task, as V.S. Malimath, formerly chief justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts, must have known, would be bound to wade into difficulties. There is a lot obviously wrong with India’s justice system, such as the overload of pending cases, the long delay in trials and low rates of conviction. Such problems are faced by countries such as the United Kingdom too, where a serious attempt to reform the system brought about a storm of frenzied discussion and disagreement just as Mr Malimath’s recommendations did. But there are certain built-in checks in the UK justice system that India has decided to dispense with. The accused in criminal trials in India no longer have to face a jury. The presence of a jury would automatically prevent outrageous delay. Far more important, perhaps, is that a jury could become one of the chief guarantors of greater accountability and continuity.

 

For it is accountability that seems most precious and rare when the alleged murderers of a professor of political science conducting elections within his college in Ujjain are released for want of evidence. The Malimath committee report had suggested that the justice system be geared to find the truth, not merely to sift through evidence to prove a charge beyond all reasonable doubt. But the means envisaged to give courts and the police a more active role did not find many takers. Yet sometimes the truth does not even await a quest; it may be staring the world in the face. The tragic death of H.S. Sabharwal did happen, and it happened in public, in the middle of a crowd consisting of his students, colleagues and other members of the college. Yet political pressure from the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Madhya Pradesh government was strong enough not only to persuade witnesses to forget what they saw, but also to ensure that they were not subjected to inquiry or termed hostile. Some, it appears, were rewarded. Even though the Supreme Court directed that the case be shifted to a court in Nagpur from Ujjain purely because of such distortions, it was evidently too late. The case had fizzled out, and the six accused, from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, and frankly friends of the chief minister, were found innocent of both culpable homicide and of murder. This time the process did not take too long, although justice remained elusive

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

COSTLY FREEDOM

 

Gestures, and not so much words, have always decided the course of India-Pakistan dialogue. This is accepted on both sides of the border, and is the reason why the flagging-off of cross-border bus services and even forced handshakes have been given more than their expected share of significance in the annals of India-Pakistan amity. Given this history, it is expected that the Punjab government’s decision to withdraw its appeal before the Pakistan supreme court against the release of Hafeez Saeed — the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief, alleged by India to be the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks — will have a rather unplesant impact on the resumption of talks. India has squarely tied up any progress of dialogue to a “visible response” from Pakistan to the Mumbai terror investigations. And Pakistan, so far, has had little to show in that regard other than an admission that the attack had been planned from within its borders and the rounding up of a couple of scores of suspects. But it has been peculiarly apathetic about the prime suspects. The trial of the Lashkar e-Toiba leader, Zaki-ur-Rehman, has been stalled innumerable times and that of Saeed made to end in a fiasco for the lack of sufficient evidence.

 

But since gestures are important, especially on the eve of a meet as significant as that in Sharm-el-Shiekh, Pakistan has made a few. It initiated an appeal against the release of the JuD chief, then promised the commencement of trials for the suspects, and dispatched a dossier about the Mumbai attack to India immediately before the foreign-secretary-level negotiations in France. This feel-good atmosphere, painstakingly created as much by Pakistan as by India, will have received a powerful jolt from the news of the developments in Pakistan. The appeal against Saeed’s release fell through because of the Pakistan federal government’s refusal to share “secret evidence” against the suspect with the Punjab government. This disclosure will definitely damage Pakistan’s efforts at quelling suspicion, India’s as also the international community’s, about its possible motives in sheltering anti-India persons like the JuD leader. The foreign secretaries have met, but under the looming shadow of resurgent doubts. It will now be difficult for Pakistan to push India towards composite dialogue. The inopportune development will also have diluted Manmohan Singh’s optimism about meeting a reformed Pakistan halfway.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TESTING FOR CONSENT

ANCHITA GHATAK

 

Marriage is seen as essential for women in India. The law says that the minimum age of marriage for women is 18 years. But when talking to parents of girls in slums and villages, I am often left with the feeling that people think 18 years is the maximum age of marriage. Come what may, girls have to be married as soon as they turn 18.

 

Malati, a woman domestic worker from a village in South 24 Parganas, was pleased because she was receiving offers of marriage for her schoolgoing 15-year-old daughter. Since the parents of boys were approaching her, she felt the demand for dowry might be manageable and her daughter would be respectably disposed of.

 

Parents of daughters are tense about the loss of face an unmarried daughter causes. Studies and experiences from the field show that one major reason girls drop out of middle school is sexual harassment. They contend with lewd comments and physical assault, both on their way to school and in it. In an attempt to protect them, their parents take them out of school. This is then followed by a frantic search for a groom.

 

Let us not for a moment think that marriage for girls is inevitable only among the poor and semi-literate. A businesswoman proudly told me that her daughter had qualified as a dentist and won a gold medal. Although the girl was keen on post-graduate studies, it was likely that she would be married off while studying for her Master’s, which was a five-year course. It was not going to be easy to marry off a woman approaching 30.

 

In such a social milieu, it is not surprising that the Madhya Pradesh government has come up with the Deendayal Antyodaya Mission. This scheme, aimed at conducting marriages of disabled, poor and destitute women, was launched in 2006 with the marriages of 251 couples. The scheme is repeatedly described to suggest that its only beneficiaries are women. As a veteran women’s rights activist has often said, in India, men get married but women are married off. The husband, protector and provider, is doing the woman a favour by conferring respectability on her.

 

VIRGIN SCHEME

The Indian State subscribes to this view but is committed to women’s welfare. So there are schemes like the DAM (an unintended pun) to promote State-sponsored mass marriages that make a statement for simple weddings and against dowry. I could not find out if steps are taken to ensure that the couples married under DAM really have a dowry-free marriage, or if harassment for dowry begins after marriage.

 

Now we are told that the Madhya Pradesh government is conducting virginity and pregnancy tests on the women to ensure that the scheme is not misused by couples already married. The State is expected to act according to the law. There is no law in India’s statute books that prohibits sex for unmarried women, or bars pregnant women from getting married. This is assuming that the women married under DAM have all attained majority, that is, they are at least 18 years old.

 

We know that the Indian State sees itself as a promoter and upholder of Indian cultural values, and a dearly held Indian value, cutting across caste, class and religion, is that good Indian women do not have sex for pleasure. Bowing to the laws of biology, they submit to the sexual demands of their husbands so that they may attain the exalted state of motherhood. Sex is not about pleasure, it is about duty.

So, in its zeal for women’s welfare and desire to prevent the misuse of a noble scheme, the Madhya Pradesh government has not thought twice about assaulting women’s bodies, their rights and dignity. Are there laws that allow the State to conduct such tests on women or even to come up with such measures? It is likely that the women themselves, or one of their family, are even signing consent forms. In such a situation, isn’t it coercion presented as consent?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

NUANCES IN XINJIANG

CHINA’S NATIONALISM IS STILL SHAPED BY MEMORIES OF DEFEAT

RANA MITTER

 

Back in the eighth century, during China’s Tang dynasty, many great poets wrote about the pain of being sent away to the far west of the empire, whether as officials on duty, or as political exiles. Over a thousand years later, China’s far western regions still hold an ambivalent place in the country’s collective mind.

 

Over the last few weeks, the world has been astonished to see a city in China, a country that many think of as a highly controlled State, erupting into riots. The response of the authorities has been swift and decisive: armed police are patrolling the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, and thousands of ethnic Uighurs are fleeing to the interior of the province. It’s been made clear that the Chinese State will tolerate no opposition to its rule, and it blames separatists or “splittists” for the trouble. But behind this story of instant response and repression is a more complex reality.

 

The events in Urumqi bear a superficial resemblance to the uprising in Tibet in March last year. But unlike those events, the Urumqi riots were not primarily about a desire for separation from the Chinese State. They were about an issue that Chinese officialdom finds much harder to deal with: racial discrimination. Officially, China is a multicultural society with 55 different minorities. In fact, the dominant ethnic Chinese (Han) make up around 93 per cent of the population, and show great diversity even among themselves. In fact, many ethnic groups do coexist quite peacefully in China. However, there are some groups whose presence within China has been problematic throughout history. Tibetans are one clear example. Another is the Uighurs, a Turkic people who live mostly in the Xinjiang province on China’s far western border.

 

The Chinese State declares that Xinjiang, and its entire population, are unequivocally Chinese citizens. Separatist activists within Xinjiang suggest that the region ought to be independent from China. Both positions are stark versions of a more nuanced historical reality. It’s certainly true that Uighurs have their own language and script, and many (though not all) do not feel culturally Chinese. However, Uighurs live all over China, not just in Xinjiang. If you go to Beijing, it’s easy to find areas of the city where the food, drink, and music are all Uighur. Just as easy to find are the migrant workers from the region who are working in the boom cities of the south. It was that interaction that led to the riots earlier this month. Uighur migrant workers had been brought into a toy factory in Shaoguan, a city in Guangdong province, thousands of miles away from Xinjiang, and tensions flared between Han Chinese and Uighur workers over work conditions. A disturbing film appeared on YouTube which seemed to show two Uighur workers being chased and brutally attacked by Han Chinese colleagues.

 

For many Uighurs, this struck a chord. Despite the rhetoric of equality, there is a strong feeling among many ethnic minorities in China that they are treated as second-class citizens. The State often uses rather clumsy ideas to celebrate ethnic diversity: a particular favourite is the love of singing and dancing which various minority groups are supposed to possess, the whole thing described in official propaganda rather like an old-fashioned tourist brochure for a safari. There is often a deeply insensitive, even deliberate attempt to bulldoze (literally) old cultural traditions, such as the recent plan to raze many of the traditional winding alleys in the old city in Kashgar, one of the great cities of the Silk Road, and replace them with a Chinese boulevard and modern office blocks. The impetus for this is largely from the continuing Chinese obsession with technological modernization. Although China’s Communist Party has long since ceased to believe in social equality or revolutionary change, it has maintained its longstanding assumption that they must show how far the country has come by rejecting most of its past. A little is kept for the purposes of heritage, but much of China’s history, from the alleyways of traditional Beijing to the magnificent scenery of the Three Gorges of the southwest, has been destroyed to make way for ever larger highways, high-speed trains, and dams. The Uighur heritage in Xinjiang has also been a victim of this drive for secular modernization, which remains unsentimental about the past and people’s attachment to it. But many Uighurs feel that what the Han Chinese do to their own culture is their own business, but that they have no right to reshape a culture that has thousands of years of its own history.

 

Ironically, though, it’s the issues on which the State has tried to give the Uighurs privileges over their Han compatriots that have sparked tensions at more grassroots levels. The opening-up of China so that labourers can move more freely has enabled poorer Uighurs to try their luck elsewhere in China, particularly in the booming southern and coastal regions. And ethnic minorities are given more leeway under the country’s strict one-child policy: they can often have two or more children. This has led to repeated clashes with poor Chinese who feel that their Uighur fellow-citizens are getting a more favourable deal. In truth, the conditions they are fighting over — ill-paid work in appalling conditions in unsafe factories — are hardly something to aspire to. But in a country with no safety net, ethnic differences become another source of conflict for people who are fighting to rise even a little from the bottom of society.

 

There’s another aspect of the story that makes it a very 21st-century tale: technology. The distance between Shaoguan, where the race conflict began, and Urumqi, scene of the riots, is several thousand kilometres. But over the past decade, China has become wired. There’s near-100 per cent penetration for mobile phones, and although the internet is a more middle-class preserve, it now has millions of users. It didn’t take long for Uighur viewers in Urumqi to find out what had happened in Shaoguan, and start their protests. The Chinese State has been relieved that international sympathy for the Uighurs has been more muted than that for the Tibetans last year, not least because it seems clear that there was significant violence by Uighurs against Hans in Urumqi, although this aspect has been publicized much more than the response of Han violence against Uighurs. But the availability of easy communication also raises the possibility of further race riots somewhere else in China that the State can’t predict — as authoritarian states go, China is much less effective than it likes to proclaim. Technology brings its own social troubles along with greater convenience.

 

In the short term, the Chinese State will succeed in crushing protest on the streets of Urumqi. The Uighur cause simply doesn’t have the political traction to attract sympathy within China. But the underlying cause won’t go away. In a sense, the Chinese government understands the problem when it states so determinedly that the Uighurs and Xinjiang are unalterably parts of Chinese territory. There is a perfectly valid case that China and Central Asia are closely linked by ties of history and culture. Even during the Tang dynasty, considered China’s greatest period of cultural flourishing, wearing clothes and marrying spouses from Central Asia and even India was regarded as the height of cultural sophistication. For centuries, China has been a Eurasian power, and its new role at the helm of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which binds Beijing, Moscow, and the Central Asian states, is one nod toward recovering that role. The Chinese government could do more to recover that historical heritage today, and use it as a powerful argument against separatism. But it needs to understand that the Tang flourished because it accepted outside culture as an equal part of its own culture. For a century and a half, China has felt on the defensive about its identity and territory because of its experience of being invaded by the West and then Japan. Now it is in transition to a stronger role, but its nationalism is still shaped by memories of defeat and humiliation. China needs to develop a sense of national pride that is positive and fuelled by a genuine appreciation of its status as a multicultural society.

 

The author is professor of the history and politics of Modern China at Oxford University, and has written A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World

 

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DECCON HERALD

EDITORIAL

NEED TO RID US OF THE CANKER OF CORRUPTION

GOVERNMENTS COME AND GO, BUT LITTLE IS DONE TO ROOT OUT THE CULTURE OF CORRUPTION.

PRASENJIT CHOWDHURY

 

A commentator once tartly said that if larger numbers of people root for a rogue, a thief, a wanton criminal to hijack power, to perpetuate a wicked, criminal regime and thwart the beliefs and convictions of the rest of India, so it shall be! Because, that is democracy. Unscrupulous, corrupt politicians have long been voted to office because they manage to exploit caste, communal, regional and social divisions.

The mandate of the 15th Lok Sabha elections should have raised hope because the mandate was decisively against divisive and partisan forces, which come to power exploiting petty parochial interest groups. But did it?


The instance of some guilty corrupt British MPs made to step down (and others being made to repay the misused expenses) finds no resonance in India because we have lost count of how many times our corrupt MPs have been let off the hook, mostly on account of lack of evidence. We heard stories of scam-ridden politicians like Lalu Prasad Yadav, or those massively ostentatious politicians such as Jayalalitha and Mayawati and a number of criminal and corruption cases pending against many of Indian politicians.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has done an analysis based on the affidavits MPs filed when they became candidates, examining 533 candidatures out of 541 declared winners. It found out that 150 MPs face criminal charges -- 22 more than in 2004. As many as 20 MPs accused of murder, 24 of attempt to murder, three of robbery, seven of dacoity, two of simple kidnapping but five of kidnapping in order to murder – not to speak of forgery and cheating, among other charges.


Small wonder that according to a recent global survey — Global Corruption Barometer — by international corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) across 69 countries, Indian political parties and their elected representatives are found to be most corrupt in the country. As many as 10 per cent respondents said members of parliament and legislators indulge in corrupt practices, while the executive and not even the judiciary were above board.


Not meaning to be cynical, a caveat must be entered as the new Lok Sabha is yet mint-fresh. It is time to see why the tenets of welfarism runs aground, why funds allocated for rural employment, electrification, sanitation, public distribution, education and infrastructure, to cite some random examples, fall short of their target beneficiaries. And to ensure that it does not happen again.


SCAMS AND KICKBACKS

We have a chequered history of scams and kickbacks. Governments come and go but little is done to root out the culture of corruption. We get to hear not only of corrupt politicians, ministers, IAS and IPS officers but sadly even of corrupt judges, professors, doctors and NGOs.

 


That corruption in India, as elsewhere, has a bureaucratic core is true in the sense that a vast bureaucracy, instituted to control every aspect of economic life creates the incentives for individual and institutionalised corruption.

Thus the bureaucracy is subservient to the “democratic” political system which wheels the bureaucracy to extract ‘rents’ that are used for fuelling the vast political machinery. Companies buy favours and licences to do business from politicians and bureaucrats giving rise to crony capitalism.


In a jubilee poll of Indian Independence, corruption was rated as the greatest national evil, far above unemployment or inflation. Citizens pay ‘facilitation fees’ to the police and petty officials to get access to services. Even the wretched homeless in some cities have to pay for the right to sleep on the sidewalks.

Is bribery an efficient mechanism for rationing goods and services in short supply? Could we dispense with the need of ‘speed money’ at various public offices? Could we stop paying a few extra bucks for installing or repairing our telephone line? Could we demand to know how the scale of ‘donation’ for admitting our ward into a school is determined? Could we register our car or a piece of land without paying any bribe?  Could we demand fair medical practices that protect us from the throng of unnecessary tests geared to fleece us? The rub is, in India, the state focuses on economic control while neglecting basic tasks like literacy, public health, administrative and legal justice, accountability and transparency.

Corruption has been made to become a way of our life, irrespective of the government we are being ruled by. After more than sixty years of our tryst with democracy, corruption has been firmly institutionalised in India. We hope in our nation, the entry and passage of a new government does not remain as routinely unmoved by the canker of corruption as others.

 

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DECCON HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE MONSOON RAGA

HE SANG IN GAY ABANDON, WHEN HE REACHED THE CRESCENDO, SO DID THE SKY.

AMBUJA NARAYAN


“Barase badariya saawanki…, saawanki… manh bhavanaki” poured the lyrics based on Megh Malhar – the raga of Monsoon. A vocal session was on.


Sitting behind a bay window, Ashok looked out smelling the oncoming rain. A gentle breeze outside swayed the champa tree, which had grown up to his third floor apartment.


The tabalchi pulling his kurta sleeve up, caressed his left and right tablas and softly sounded the teental beat 1,2,3,4. Ashok tested his guttural base notes and began to punctuate the lyrics to suit the tabla measures.

For quite a few moments the nuances of Megh Malhar, Miyanki Malhar, Desh Malhar and other rain ragas seemed to get mixed up in his mind.


Outside, the sound of the wind picking up, dust circling to move in all directions and the bleating of vehicle horns distracted him.


Ashok needed to focus to filter out the recessive traits of the raga to steady himself to give body to the main raga of the monsoon. Out pours, akar thunders, and lashing lightning like thihayees (endings) enveloped the room.


The Guru sat in front with closed eyes and bated breath. The tempo had to double up. Soon the clouds sailed closer hugging each other to darken the sky while Ashok coaxed “Ni, dha ni, sa, sa” notes.


Swivelling around other notes Ashok’s mood developed and the build up gave way to the release and fury.

The tabalchi sweated it out keeping up to the tempo. Outside large drops of pitter patter lashed the window panes adding to the mood and mingled with the tabla rhythm. Ashok sang in gay abandon. Oblivious of the Guru sitting opposite. He reached the crescendo, so did the sky.


The clouds burst fully, lashing the window panes in fury and the lightning struck like the raga’s embellishments. Ashok reached the climax and began the slow coast down as the tabla sound softened. The rain petered down drop by drop, flooding the side walk. There was no sound after the fury.


The Guru was overjoyed that the pupil had made the mark. The champa fragrance filled the atmosphere.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A STRONG HEALTH REFORM BILL

 

While the Senate continues to struggle over its approach to health care reform, House Democratic leaders have unveiled a bill that would go a long way toward solving the nation’s health insurance problems without driving up the deficit. It is already drawing fierce opposition from business groups and many Republicans. This is a bill worth fighting for.

 

The bill would require virtually all Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. And it would require all but the smallest businesses to provide health insurance for their workers or pay a substantial fee. It would also expand Medicaid to cover many more poor people, and it would create new exchanges through which millions of middle-class Americans could buy health insurance with the help of government subsidies. The result would be near-universal coverage at a surprisingly manageable cost to the federal government.

 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2015, 97 percent of all residents, excluding illegal immigrants, would have health insurance. The price tag for this near-universal coverage was pegged by the budget office at just more than $1 trillion over 10 years — at the low-end of the estimates we’ve heard in recent weeks.

 

The legislation would pay for half that cost by reducing spending on Medicare, a staple of all reform plans. It would pay for the other half by raising $544 billion over the next decade with a graduated income surtax on the wealthiest Americans: families with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $350,000 and individuals making more than $280,000.

 

Predictably, the idea of raising taxes this way has critics outraged, with some charging that it is unfair to require a small sliver of the population to bear the brunt of the cost.

 

The wealthy have benefited greatly from Bush-era tax cuts, and their incomes have risen disproportionately in recent years. It seems proper that they should contribute heavily to an effort that is vital to hard-pressed Americans and to the long-term health of the economy.

 

The legislation also includes some sound ideas for slowing the inexorable rise in health care costs. Such savings are also essential for the nation’s economic health. It adjusts Medicare reimbursements to encourage health care providers to improve productivity, reduce costly hospital readmissions and spend more time on primary care that can head off the need for costly specialists. It expands prevention and wellness activities.

 

And it establishes a center to compare the effectiveness of various drugs, devices and procedures. Unfortunately, it prohibits the government from requiring public or private insurers to set reimbursement policies based on the findings. These steps may not produce big savings quickly but could lower costs in future years.

 

The bill makes a mockery of Republican claims that the Democrats are pushing a hugely costly government takeover of medicine.

 

This bill is clearly not hugely costly. It would expand the government’s role in financing and regulating coverage but would also bolster private coverage. It would increase employer-based coverage, mostly by requiring employers to participate. And it would send more clients to the private insurance industry. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that perhaps 10 million people might enroll in a new public plan, while twice that number might enroll in competing private policies.

 

The Senate health committee has approved, by a party-line vote, a bill that in many respects parallels the House bill. The Senate Finance Committee, hoping to win over Republicans and conservative Democrats, is balking at a public plan and raising taxes on the wealthy. If there is a deal to be had, it is worth discussing. But the House has set a clear standard for health care reform: It must cover all Americans without driving up the deficit.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO ARM PUBLIC HOUSING

 

Congress continues to do the gun lobby’s lethal bidding, delivering a bipartisan boost in a House committee to a reckless proposal that would allow residents of public housing projects to keep guns in their homes. The measure would endanger projects in major cities that have adopted the common sense precaution of declaring public housing to be no-gun zones.

 

The gun amendment was perversely attached to a much-needed measure widening access to Section 8 subsidized housing for families hard pressed in the current recession. Why these families should be forced to face this latest duck-and-cover mischief from the gun lobby is incomprehensible. Nevertheless, the gun amendment was approved 38 to 31 in the House Financial Services Committee, with 13 Democrats once more opting for the gun lobby’s zealotry over the cause of public safety.

 

It’s urgent that the gun amendment be stripped from the final measure, but do not expect bold or principled action from this Congress on this issue. It burdened credit card reform with an irrelevant amendment allowing visitors to carry loaded guns in national parks. President Obama signed it into law, showing no appetite to take on the gun lobby. Similarly, lawmakers poisoned the historic measure to grant the District of Columbia a vote in the House — yielding to a vindictive amendment striking at the city’s home-rule power to control gun traffic.

 

Congress should be ashamed at its retreat from responsible gun controls. Even statehouse politicians — long a pushover for unbridled gun ownership — are showing more spine. Lately they’ve been rebuffing the gun lobby’s lunatic priority: to force colleges to allow students to pack loaded guns in the classroom.

 

Far from authorizing the addition of guns to all the problems already rampant in public housing, Congress should be dealing with the national embarrassment that individuals barred from airlines on the terrorist watch list are free to shop for firearms. Senator Frank Lautenberg has a proposal to let the attorney general block this insanity. Security-minded Americans, however, better not count on action by this timorous Congress.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

$1.75 BILLION BOONDOGGLE

 

An unlikely alliance of senators — led by Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut — is backing an indefensible defense budget boondoggle: the wasting of $1.75 billion on seven additional F-22 fighter jets that the Pentagon says it neither wants nor needs.

 

The plane, the most expensive jet fighter ever built, was designed for cold war aerial combat. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has repeatedly argued that the Pentagon needs to phase out such high-cost, outdated programs so it can buy the kinds of weapons that American troops desperately need to complete their mission in Iraq and defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

 

The F-22 has not been used in either war. Buying more would only make it harder for the Air Force to shift money into aircraft like unmanned intelligence drones and the more adaptable, cheaper-to-fly F-35 fighter, which is set to begin production in 2012.

 

The F-22’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, and its multiple subcontracting suppliers, have spread its 25,000 jobs across 44 states. And a majority of the members of the Armed Services Committee proved unable to resist that lure. Senator Chambliss, whose state is home to Lockheed Martin’s primary manufacturing plant for the F-22, sponsored the committee amendment adding the seven planes, which was approved by a 13-to-11 vote. Senator Kerry, who is not on the committee, has since said that he also supports the purchase.

 

President Obama is right to stand up for the nation’s military priorities and sound fiscal discipline in threatening to veto next year’s military spending bill if the extra F-22s remain. He has the full support of the Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin, and its ranking Republican, John McCain, who plan to offer an amendment to remove the seven F-22s.

 

Providing for America’s real defense needs is expensive enough without making the military budget double as a make-work jobs program. Capping the F-22 program at 187, as the Pentagon wants, would keep production lines intact for years to come, well beyond the immediate need for stimulus-related job creation.

 

The full Senate will have a chance to put the nation’s security needs ahead of a bogus job program when the Levin-McCain amendment comes up for a vote in the next few days. If not, Mr. Obama should use his veto pen.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CALIFORNIA’S BUDGET CRISIS AND THE PARKS

 

Nearly every day, there is another reminder of just how deep California’s $26 billion deficit cuts into the operations of the state. It ripples through schools, cities, highway departments, state agencies — everything that makes California function.

 

None of the cuts are welcome, and some do less for the budgetary bottom line than they seem to. One example is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close 220 state parks in order to save an estimated $213 million over nearly two years — or about $6 per Californian.

 

There are no easy trade-offs in this crisis. But it is worth pointing out that state parks — about 80 percent of which would close under the governor’s plan — provide low-cost recreation at a time when low-cost recreation is at a premium. Closing them means no water, no electricity, no public access and — because rangers would be laid off — no policing of what would become vacant lands.

 

State parks exist not only to offer recreation but also to protect natural resources. That protection would essentially vanish. It’s also worth considering the additional cost, in a better economic climate, of reopening the parks after nearly two years with no maintenance.

 

Six of the parks were created under a program that gave federal land to the state on the condition that they remain open for park and recreational use. If the state proceeds as planned, there is a good chance that these parks — including Angel Island and Point Mugu — would revert to federal ownership. The National Park Service has also proposed something like joint operating custody of these parks until the crisis ends. Either way, these six parks would face a better fate than the state parks that Mr. Schwarzenegger suggests closing.

 

Democratic legislators have been resisting Mr. Schwarzenegger’s plan. But it is going to take more than that to keep these parks open. It will take a broad public effort — including private fund-raising and possibly new fees and taxes. The payoff is keeping the state’s natural patrimony intact and available to everyone.

 

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I. THE NEWS

 EDITORIAL

THINK FIRST

 

Politicians and civil servants who speak directly to the public should be fitted with a 'delay' mechanism that operates every time they go to open their mouths. The mechanism should have a neural linkage to the part of their brain which has a switch saying on one side 'nonsense' and on the other 'common sense'. The default position is 'neutral' – but rarely engaged. Three of our leading politicians would have benefited from the employment of this device in the last twenty-four hours. Firstly, the president.


In a meeting held at the presidency to discuss the national security situation he said…"The fight against militancy and terrorism will end with the complete elimination of militants." This is nonsense. No nation anywhere on earth has ever completely eliminated militants or the threat of terrorism. Nor will they – and we are no different. These are threats that can be fought, managed even, but never eliminated. Secondly, the prime minister. He it was who deployed the ever-deadly 'S' word – 'Soon'. His actual words…"The nation will soon hear the good news ... soon the army operation will be over. A survey is being conducted, after which the reconstruction process will start". He said that in a meeting with reporters at the Prime Minister's House. As noted on these pages in the recent past 'soon' is a very elastic concept. A survey is being conducted? A survey of what, precisely? And how long will this survey take? Whilst we hesitate to label this complete nonsense it is at best confusing and imprecise. Take for instance what Interior Minister Rehman Malik has told us about one of Pakistan's 'most wanted' -- Mullah Fazlullah. He has claimed that Fazlullah has been 'seriously wounded'. Where is the report of the nature of his wounds and how they were inflicted and how come no news reporter or agency has got a whiff of this tale of 'badly wounded?'

None of these three is likely to have set out to wilfully deceive the people they were addressing – the people of Pakistan. There is no need to question the real spirit behind these statements, even if those who made them got a bit carried away. The true intention is worthy of praise. The president really does want to eliminate terrorism; the prime minister really does want people to have good news 'soon'. There is no escaping this. What all these leaders of ours have to understand and remember is that what they say matters, that the people do actually listen to their words; and what is perhaps worse they – perhaps perversely – heed them. And this has its consequences. They derive perceptions and make decisions on the basis of what they hear from their leaders. An IDP might conclude that it is safe to return home – even though it may be far from safe; but then the IDPs' 'soon' is probably a different 'soon' to the one employed by the prime minister. The interior minister's statement regarding Mullah Fazlullah was reported by all of the international news agencies and wire services. If his words prove true, fine – if not he looks a fool, and an irresponsible fool at that. Politicians everywhere dislike the language of precision, because therein lie hostages to fortune; but our leaders should engage their brains before opening their mouths, thus avoiding the insertion of their feet.

 

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I. THE NEWS

 EDITORIAL

RIPPLE EFFECT

 

A representative of the Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank based in the UK, has recently been in Pakistan and much interviewed by print and electronic media. Quilliam is a relatively new organisation and has a number of interesting features – not least of these being that two of its founding members Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz are both former Islamists who have rejected extremism and militancy. It is Mr Nawaz who has been touring our universities and getting slightly mixed reviews as he did. Poachers turned to being gamekeepers are always viewed with a degree of suspicion but in this case we are prepared to give Mr Nawaz the benefit of the doubt. He is an authentic voice of moderation and is one of the few who is able to construct and deliver an alternative narrative to that offered by those currently battling our forces in NWFP and elsewhere.


Now back in London, we note that he has spoken of the need for (UK) communities to stand up to those who preach intolerance, and also note that he comments that extremist influence in the UK has lessened of late in the light of attempts by the UK government to engage in dialogue with those – particularly disaffected youths – who may be attracted by the banner of extremism. He also comments on the difficulty of getting that message across when drone strikes, civilian casualties and extraordinary rendition are at the forefront of the minds of young Muslims living in the west. Whatever one may think of Mr Nawaz or the Quilliam Foundation, we have to acknowledge that it is a meaningful attempt to bridge a gap. Moreover, it could provide us with an object-lesson in that we lack a similar organisation with the same clarity of voice and purpose here. There is any number of civil society groups and NGOs that have a similar message, but their voices and arguments seem to carry little weight or resonance with those whose extremism they deplore and wish to countervail.


We need to hear the voices of those who now eschew extremism, who have left behind the Kalashnikov and the IED, for theirs is the voice that might just catch the ear of the common man – and woman. Finding them may be difficult but it is a search well worth the making; creating a safe space for them to speak, however, would be a yet greater challenge.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IRANIAN WAY OF CURBING TERRORISM

 

AFTER a short and quick trial, Iran, on Tuesday, hanged 13 suspected militants from Jundallah group dubbing them as ‘enemies of God’ for a string of attacks, including kidnapping of foreigners. The insurgents were executed in prison in the restive southeastern border city of Zahedan.


Though, according to reports, all of those executed were Sunnis and the Amnesty International has questioned the transparency and fairness of the trial yet we believe that Iran was perfectly within its legitimate right rather duty bound to take action against militants in any way it likes. In fact, the way Iran is curbing terrorism is the befitting answer to those who play havoc with the life of the peaceful citizens and challenge writ of the government. Iran has shown zero tolerance to violent activities and that is why it is relatively peaceful. Tehran is presently the target of different conspiracies by the US led West and in case it demonstrates any leniency in dealing with law-breakers then the country would land into more troubles. We believe that in Pakistan too we should promote the culture of zero tolerance for militants and terrorists and it would be only then that normalcy would restore to the volatile regions. Unfortunately, the Government and its about a dozen law enforcing agencies prefer to close down their eyes when foundations are laid for some negative activity and move only after the problem becomes a monster. Lal Masjid episode is a case in point where the authorities did not take action for long two years despite availability of reports that something wrong was going on there. It was strange that arms and ammunition were allowed to be stored so close to Pakistan Secretariat where the entire Government machinery is housed. Similarly, we are being told that there were huge quantities of sophisticated weapons in Swat, tunnels and training camps have been destroyed and the number of militants ran into thousands. Why the authorities and our intelligence agencies did not take any action when the militancy was in infancy? We hope that those at the helm of affairs would learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that in future there would be zero tolerance for such activities in any corner of the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BRITAIN SHOULD RESPECT ITS PUBLIC OPINION

 

A SPATE of deaths of UK troops in Afghanistan is raising more and more questions about the mission and majority of Britons are turning against their country’s participation in the fighting. The latest survey indicates that 59% Britons wanted their troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.


Public support for the war in Afghanistan is at a turning point after the body bags of 15 British soldiers landed back in London. It is in continuation of the opinion of a civilized society against US invasion of Iraq when there was an unprecedented protest in London expressing disapproval of Iraqi invasion. The same situation is now emerging about presence of British troops in Afghanistan. It is a fact that there is no legitimate interest of Britain in Afghanistan to throw its young soldiers before the barrel of gun. Twice as many people think British troops are making no difference to the country, and even causing harm, than doing any good. We are confident that if a similar survey is carried out in other member countries of the European Union, there would be a big NO to deployment in Afghanistan. There is no need to remind about the long history when foreign powers including United Kingdom and Soviet Union were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan after suffering unimaginable casualties. With 15 deaths in just ten days, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under strong criticism from Conservatives Party Leader David Cameron about sending soldiers to fight without enough equipment. Cameron also criticized the “scandal” of the shortage of helicopters with the British soldiers saying this was limiting their movements inside the country. Britain’s former senior most military commander in Afghanistan Brigadier Mark Carleton Smith had earlier warned that the war against Taliban cannot be won and public opinion should be prepared for a possible deal with the Taliban. Former British Ambassador in Kabul gave a similar assessment. We think that time has come that Prime Minister Gordon Brown should respect public opinion and advice of his diplomats and commanders who served in Afghanistan. There is a need to redefine the objectives in Afghanistan, change the mindset of settling disputes through the barrel of gun to one where it is done through negotiations. Let there be negotiations between Taliban, the United States and Britain to bring an end to the bloodshed and that should not make any power uncomfortable.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NO TO SHUTTER DOWN STRIKES

 

AN unfortunate trend is getting its roots in the country — frequent and whimsical strike calls by different interest groups and individuals on this or that pretext disrupting normal life, causing inconvenience to the people and inflicting harm on the local and national economy. It was in this background that former Chairman of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Tariq Sayeed, who is a man of ideas and keeps interests of the country uppermost in his mind, on Tuesday pointed out that using strike calls against the Government as first option to press for acceptance of demands is not a proper way to find out solution of the crises facing the country on various fronts.


His remarks came when transporters in Karachi were observing strike to protest against increase in fuel prices. Similar threats were hurled by about one hundred drivers and owners of vehicles who gathered on Murree Road in Rawalpindi a few days back to demand increase in fares. Some segments of the industry and business are also giving ultimatum for shutter down because of unending load-shedding. Every individual, organisation or interest group is entitled to agitate issues of its concern but taking things to the extreme in the first instance is not the right approach as pointed out by Tariq Sayeed. In civilised societies, people first present their charter of demands to the authorities concerned and then a process of negotiations begins that culminates into some sort of understanding on the issues involved, obviating the need to go for the last option like street demonstrations and strikes. Here in Pakistan, not to speak of large bodies, even a few individuals gather at some place and give call for wheel-jam or shutter down, forgetting the consequence of such an approach for the common man and the country. And others are forced to follow the suit as violent tactics are used to prevent people from plying their vehicles on roads or opening their businesses. We hope that apart from members of the business community, political leaders and workers too would heed to the sagacious advice of Tariq Sayeed.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

BDR-BSF TALKS

 

The director general level meeting of the border guards of Bangladesh and India that ended in Dhaka with an assurance by the Indian side to exercise "maximum tolerance" and show respect for human rights in dealing with suspected criminals. If killings of innocent people on the border which is a highly sensitive issue, comes down or does not happen immediately or in the future, we will know that the promise has been delivered.

Lists of criminals held or staying in each other's country or lodged in jail but wanted at home were exchanged but nothing was decided upon. The joint declaration after the meeting said that the two sides had agreed to coordinated joint patrolling within their respective territory along the border which will hopefully reduce cross-border or on-the-border crimes.


Evidently, it was not a highly effective exercise, so far as the content substance are concerned. Since the trust, confidence and multi-level communication are there, why shouldn't there be progress? If the official channels fail to deliver, they should, if necessary, use track II diplomacy to prepare the ground. After all, the political atmosphere is extremely favourable. If we cannot do it now, it is difficult to imagine anything better later.


As a country surrounded largely by India, Bangladesh has often no choice but to hone its diplomatic skills to the point where it can deliver. The regionalisation of economic development has made this an even greater compulsion. It is time we got out of what Karl Marx once called," a timeless world," and start using maximum diplomatic savvy to get the best possible results out of the bargain.  

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

FORMALIN DETECTION KIT

 

The inauguration of a facility for detection of formalin-treated fish at Karwanbazar fish market by Fisheries and Livestock Minister Abdul Latif Biswas augurs well for the fish-loving consumers. Developed by the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) laboratory, the kit is easy to handle, cheap and can instantly detect if a fish has been treated with formalin. Now the government has a plan to open up more such centres all over the country with the intention of detecting any misdeeds by fish traders. The sooner this is done the better. After all, the kit is so simple, light and hardly costly, it can be made available to a fish market anywhere in the country.


Now the need is to thoroughly inform people of the wonder kit that will decisively settle the dispute over a formalin-contaminated fish. True, both fish traders and consumers must know how harmful it is to eat fish treated with this highly toxic preservative. Unsurprisingly, toxic chemicals used as additives and preservatives in foods have been greatly responsible for the high incidence of cancer in the country's population.


Fish is just one item of foods, there are a variety of other items that - mixed or treated as they are with harmful chemicals - pose serious threat to public health in this country. Fruits of almost every kind are a prime target of criminal manipulation by greedy traders. Vegetables are also not free from such unlawful practices. Even cereals, edible oil, milk, butter, ghee and spices undergo all kinds of adulteration, with the consumers finding themselves at the receiving end.


There is definitely a need for developing more such kits to detect harmful agents in food items. Also along with provision for stringent punishment for food adulteration, educative programmes have to be launched on a regular basis to make people aware of why such practices have to be abandoned once for all in the interest of the nation.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

NON-ISSUES AS ISSUES...!

 

"…BJP MLA led a group of supporters and marched on the sea link…" Indian Express 14th July

 

"We want to walk on the Sea-Link! Want to walk on the Sea-Link! On the Sea-Link! The Sea- Link!"

 

Wife, "Husband!" Husband continues, "We want to walk on the sea…" Wife again, "Husband!" he responds this time, "Yes?"


"What are you doing?" He replies, "Practising for the protest this afternoon. Why should only cars be allowed on the sea link? Why not pedestrians? So we are taking a morcha onto the sea link shouting, 'We want to walk on the sea link! Walk on the sea link!" Wife, "Husband!" He, "Yes?" Wife asks firmly, 


"And after you have walked the sea- link?" Husband, "Our leader will tell us what the next protest issue is! Now let me practice, 'We want to walk on the Sea link!" Exasperated wife, "Husband!" Husband plaintively. "You are interrupting my protest practice!" Wife shakes head, "You mean your leader's protest practice?" Husband, "What do you mean?"


"Is walking on the Sea link really so important husband, that you give up a day's work, walk down six kilometres of a boring bridge and embrace arrest?"


"Our leader says…" Wife practically, "What do you say husband? Your leader is supposed to protest for you. What do you want him to protest for you? Do you know this building we are living in is unauthorised?" Husband, objects, "It is not! It is a legal building! We paid for it!" Wife, "I know! But the man at the municipal office what does he say?" Husband, "That the papers are missing!" Wife insists, "Are they missing?" Husband facing facts, "No he just wants money!" Wife clinching argument, "So shouldn't your morcha be held outside that office? Aimed at corrupt government officials who hold up permissions till they get money? Shouldn't your leader be organising a protest to help us get what is our right instead of protesting about things that really don't matter?" Husband surprised, "I never thought of it that way!" Wife explaining further, "It's we who should be giving him issues to protest about, because it's our issues he's supposed to fight for, but d'you know why it isn't that way. dear husband?" he shakes head, "No!"


"Because right now he's most probably getting his cut from the same municipal officers for all the 'missing papers' he's managed to bring to life when the correct amount of money is paid to him! Now go if you please! Shout and scream about walking over the sea…  Bah!"

           

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

KARACHI KILLINGS

 

GOING by Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s statement, it seems the federal government has finally woken up to the Karachi killings, which have led to scores of deaths this year. On Tuesday, the interior minister told a press conference in Karachi that the government intended to form a judicial commission to probe the recent spate of political violence in the city, fix responsibility and take action against the guilty irrespective of political considerations. The last point is important, considering the fact that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is involved in the present spree of violence, is PPP’s coalition partner in both Islamabad and Karachi. The interior minister then repeated that this situation had been created to destabilise the country’s commercial hub.

 

Mr Malik didn’t tell us precisely how he and the plethora of security agencies he commands can check the present nightmarish wave of violence. ‘Target killings’ is a euphemism for the blood feud between the Muttahida and the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi. It all goes back to 1992 when the army launched a crackdown on Muttahida (then the Mohajir Qaumi Movement) strongholds, bulldozed the security walls that had turned large parts of Karachi into ghettoes and opened up ‘no-go’ areas. Haqiqi rode into these areas on the back of the ar my. Even though this feud, arising as much from per sonality clashes as from dis putes over extortion rack ets, has been going on for 17 years, there has been a surge in recent days, with both Haqiqi and Muttahida claiming a number of casu alties among their workers. Because Aamir Khan, the Haqiqi leader, is likely to be out of prison on bail soon, his organisation be lieves that the Muttahida has gone on a killing spree to prevent him from mobi lising his party.

 

There is some justifica tion in the Karachi police chief’s claim that this is not a police problem, that po lice resources are over stretched because of the terrorist threat and that what is needed is a political solution. Mr Malik seemed to show an awareness of this truth when he said he had requested the Sindh chief minister to meet polit ical personalities to learn their points of view and evolve a strategy. While the interior minister thanked the Muttahida chief for offering his coop eration to end the bloodlet ting he should ensure that the security agencies do their duty impartially. Forming a judicial commis sion might be a step in the right direction. But more than that the federal lead ership as well as opposition groups need to exert pressure on the two rival organisations to resolve their turf war through talks before matters take a more serious turn.

going by interior minis- ter rehman malik’s state- ment, it seems the federal government has finally wo- ken up to the karachi kill- ings, which have led to scores of deaths this year. on tuesday, the interior minister told a press con- ference in karachi that the government intended to form a judicial commission to probe the recent spate of political violence in the city, fix responsibility and take action against the guil- ty irrespective of political considerations. the last point is important, consid- ering the fact that the muttahida qaumi move- ment, which is involved in the present spree of vio- lence, is ppp’s coalition partner in both islamabad and karachi. the interior minister then repeated that this situation had been cre- ated to destabilise the country’s commercial hub. mr malik didn’t tell us precisely how he and the plethora of security agen- cies he commands can check the present night- marish wave of violence. ‘target killings’ is a euphe- mism for the blood feud be- tween the muttahida and the mohajir qaumi move- ment-haqiqi. it all goes back to 1992 when the ar- my launched a crackdown on muttahida (then the mohajir qaumi movement) strongholds, bulldozed the security walls that had turned large parts of kara- chi into ghettoes and opened up ‘no-go’ areas. haqiqi rode into these areas on the back of the ar- my. even though this feud, arising as much from per- sonality clashes as from dis- putes over extortion rack- ets, has been going on for 17 years, there has been a surge in recent days, with both haqiqi and muttahida claiming a number of casu- alties among their workers. because aamir khan, the haqiqi leader, is likely to be out of prison on bail soon, his organisation be- lieves that the muttahida has gone on a killing spree to prevent him from mobi- lising his party. there is some justifica- tion in the karachi police chief’s claim that this is not a police problem, that po- lice resources are over- stretched because of the terrorist threat and that what is needed is a political solution. mr malik seemed to show an awareness of this truth when he said he had requested the sindh chief minister to meet polit- ical personalities to learn their points of view and evolve a strategy. while the interior minister thanked the muttahida chief for offering his coop- eration to end the bloodlet- ting he should ensure that the security agencies do their duty impartially. forming a judicial commis- sion might be a step in the right direction. but more than that the federal lead- ership as well as opposition groups need to exert pressure on the two rival organisations to resolve their turf war through talks before matters take a more serious turn.

now that the idps have started returning to their hometowns with the gov- ernment’s help, we can hope that normalcy will soon be restored to the conflict-hit areas. nearly 200 displaced families left the jalozai camp on mon- day, while another 26 star- ted their journey from charsadda. many said that their nightmare appeared to be coming to an end. repeated assurances have been given that the areas, dominated by the mili- tants until quite recently, are now safe; administra- tive services such as water and electricity supplies as well as banking facilities are also being restored in many areas. this consti- tutes some evidence of the government’s commitment to its stated resolve of fa- cilitating the idps’ return. nevertheless, it must be recognised that major challenges continue to con- front both the government and the idps. more than two million citizens were displaced by the conflict and their return to and re- habilitation in the battle- scarred areas, devastated by the use of heavy artille- ry, will not be easy. the at- tacks and counter-attacks have taken their toll on the civic infrastructure; the scale of reconstruction re- quired is immense. that services such as water, gas and electricity are being restored in some areas is no doubt encouraging. but beyond this basic step other measures such as rebuilding schools and hospitals are required. furthermore, a support system for the returnees will have to be put in place until they are able to resume their normal income-generating activi- ties — and this may take some years. meanwhile, chances of a lasting normalcy will hinge on the security situation. the army’s claim that the militants have been routed in the affected areas has held so far. however, mili- tant activity by even a handful of the remaining taliban would be enough to spread terror and se- verely disrupt civic life. after all, we have wit- nessed little success when it has come to arresting or eliminating the militants’ top leaders. it is evident that the idps are aware of this danger: the emer- gency response unit had made arrangements for over 2,000 families to leave the jalozai camp, but the majority of them refused to do so, citing security con- cerns. lasting peace in these areas requires not only that civic life be re- stored to what it was be- fore the militants launched their attacks, but that the earlier position of the citi- zenry be improved upon. the region needs increas- ed investment in develop- ment: better educational facilities, more income- generating opportunities and greater economic con- tact with the rest of the country. only then will it be possible to eliminate the risk of disillusioned citizens turning against the state in the future.

the delay in doing away with the 17th amend- ment with all its aberra- tions is astonishing given that there is a virtual con- sensus on its repeal. on sunday the prime minister repeated his resolve to an- nul the musharraf-gifted law that is now part of the constitution. speaking at the convocation of the international islamic university in islamabad, syed yousuf raza gilani reiterated his determina- tion to amend the basic law, pointing out that the present system of govern- ment was neither parlia- mentary nor presidential — a ‘hodgepodge’, as he put it. almost every politi- cal entity is in favour of scrapping the 17th amend- ment. in fact, the very first paragraph of the charter of democracy, signed in london on may 14, 2006 with benazir bhutto and the sharif brothers pres- ent, declared categorically that “the seventeenth constitutional amend- ment shall be repealed”. armed with this national consensus, the democratic government should have translated this idea into re- ality long ago. clearly, the resistance against revert- ing to a true parliamentary system comes from within the ppp. the most pernicious part of the 17th amendment is article 58-2b which gives the president the power to sack the government, even if the prime minister en- joys the national assem- bly’s confidence, and dis- solve the lower house. ziaul haq inserted it into the 1973 constitution by decree and it enabled him to sack the junejo gov- ernment. subsequently, ghulam ishaq khan and farooq leghari exercised this power to sack three prime ministers — benazir bhutto, nawaz sharif and then benazir again. inci- dentally the article makes it clear that the president can exercise this power on- ly if a situation arises where the government of the federation cannot be carried on according to the constitution. in each case, no such situation existed and ziaul haq, ghulam ishaq khan and farooq leghari used it for purely political purposes. in his second term, nawaz sharif had the article repealed. pervez musharraf brought it back through the legal framework order. what is involved now is the ppp’s credibility. both the prime minister and president asif ali zardari stand publicly committed to the repeal of the 17th amendment. however, mixed signals from the presidential camp smack of dithering and lack of re- solve. the president may say one thing in public but his views are perhaps best couched in the statements of loyal functionaries. one cannot but recall here the inordinate delay that went into the restoration of the sacked judges. they were restored, no doubt, but not before mob fury forced the federal government to act. let the 27-man committee formed last month by speaker fehmida mirza expedite its work.

hoping for the best can do no harm but the signs aren’t promising. there is considerable an- ticipation surrounding what could happen on the sidelines of this week’s non-aligned movement summit, where top-level talks are expected be- tween pakistan and india. it is being hoped, at least in pakistan, that this inter- action in egypt may help kick-start the composite dialogue process that came to a halt following the mumbai massacre last year. the pakistani and indian foreign secretaries are expected to confer on tuesday, setting ‘the tone’ for talks the following day between pms yousuf raza gilani and manmohan singh. it could be argued that ‘the tone’ ought to have been set much earli- er, not 24 hours before the prime ministers’ tête-à- tête. things have been left a bit late, it seems, for any breakthrough. india’s position was un- derstandable in the heat of the moment. the mumbai attacks traumatised the country and it was soon clear that pakistani mili- tants had orchestrated the massacre. but what has happened since then is a different story. new delhi exploited global sympathy in a calculated manner to drive pakistan to the brink of international isolation. forgotten in all this was the distinction between state- and non-state actors. india’s strategy began un- ravelling in may this year when the pakistan milita- ry launched a telling oper- ation against the taliban. global and local opinion vis-à-vis pakistan’s hither- to questionable commit- ment to the fight against militancy began to change. yet india kept up the of- fensive. it demanded that the alleged masterminds of the mumbai assault be brought to book, ignoring the argument that taking a shaky case to court would serve little purpose. the release in early june of jamaatud dawa chief hafiz mohammad saeed added more fuel to the fire. again india over- looked the fact that under the law as it stands the court had no option but to order mr saeed’s release. most recently, an indian defence ministry report openly accused organs of the pakistani state, not in- dividuals or organisations, of aiding and abetting ter- rorism in india. pakistan, for its part, has admitted that non-state actors oper- ating from its soil were be- hind the terror unleashed in mumbai. to overcome the trust deficit, islam- abad also needs to demon- strate that its decision to take on militants is not limited to ‘jihadists’ oper- ating within the country or on the western front — those who seek to destabi- lise our neighbour to the east must also be neutral- ised. sincere cooperation in the battle against mili- tancy and dialogue on out- standing issues can point us to a new and healthier direction. the need to talk has never been greater.

 

iran’s guardian council has ruled that this month’s presidential election was fair and the “healthiest” the coun- try has seen since the 1979 rev- olution. how it came to these conclusions after “10 days of examination” remains un- clear, however. given the stranglehold tehran main- tains over information, what is true or otherwise in iran is hard to verify. the govern- ment has maintained all along that the election, which resul- ted in a landslide victory for in- cumbent president mahmoud ahmadinejad, was free and transparent. but mir hossein mousavi, who according to the official count was routed on june 12, believes he was short- changed. his views are shared by hundreds of thousands of iranians who poured into the streets for days on end to regis- ter their protest. in the imme- diate aftermath of the elec- tion, mousavi supporters al- leged that there was a short- age of ballot papers at several polling stations, agents of can- didates running against mr ahmadinejad were not al- lowed to oversee the voting process, and that some polling stations were shut down even though voters were lined up outside. then they took to the streets. what followed was a brutal crackdown by the state ma- chinery. at least 17 protesters were killed but some claim the number was much higher. women, who were in the fore- front of many demonstra- tions, were not spared either. neda agha soltan (1982- 2009), who has become a sym- bol of the struggle in iran, was apparently shot dead by a sniper while others were blud- geoned mercilessly by the basaji and the police. independent video footage supports these contentions. on friday, leading cleric ahmad khatami declared that “rioters” — it is not clear if peaceful protesters are in- cluded in this category — “should be punished ruthless- ly and savagely”. they should be declared mohareb, he said, guilty of waging war against god and therefore worthy of death. no one can contest the presidential election in iran, it should be pointed out, un- less he is vetted and approved by the guardian council. if anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, iran’s pow- er brokers are not in sync with the mood of a sizeable seg- ment of iranian society. roughly 60 per cent, if not more, of iran’s population is under 30 years of age and in- creasingly frustrated by the social and political restric- tions imposed on the citizenry by what is fast becoming the old order. what had rele- vance in 1979, or through the ’80s and ’90s, may no longer be applicable today. the pro- testers, for the most part, may have been driven off the streets through strong-arm tactics but that cannot change mindsets. mahmoud ahmad- inejad originally came to pow- er through a popular vote with his promises of helping the underprivileged and rein- ing in rampant unemploy- ment. his contribution on those counts has not been sub- stantial even though iran is the world’s fifth largest ex- porter of crude oil. a rethink may be in order.

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

INVESTMENT TROUBLES

the skipper of the under- dogs summed it up nicely af- ter winning the semi-final. there is little to celebrate in pakistan these days, said the man from mardan, but the nation’s cricketers are deter- mined to bring a smile to peo- ple’s faces. and that the pakistan team certainly did with sterling back-to-back performances after a lacklus- tre start to the twenty20 world cup. for a while it seemed that the nation’s joy would be confined to seeing india exit the tournament at the super eights stage. the clinically efficient south africans lay ahead in the first of the two semi-finals, a contest pakistan was tipped to lose. how could so mercu- rial a side prevail over a ma- chine programmed to win? never mind, pakistan did it anyway. and on sunday, it was sri lanka’s turn to be re- minded that pakistan can put in a crackerjack perform- ance when it counts most. an unpredictable side, of course, but also most sub- limely, sweetly brilliant when it matters. as one com- mentator, former england player david lloyd, put it: “it’s pakistan. and yes, you might say fittingly.” fittingly indeed. pakis- tan’s victory in the t20 world cup final sends a clear mes- sage that we will not be writ- ten off, come what may. yes, it is perfectly understandable that foreign teams are unwill- ing to play in pakistan. after all, the sri lankan side, which alone stood by us in our time of trial, came close to dying on pakistani soil. we are now resigned to the fact that we will either have to play our ‘home series’ at off- shore venues or not play at all. so how are things any different now? pakistan’s vic- tory tells the world that we can win wherever we might have to play. even in india, which with its deep pockets now virtually controls the icc. it will take some doing to crush pakistan’s spirit. we will not simply go away and sulk. we can triumph in the face of adversity. besides the cup, the best thing this slam-bang version of cricket delivered was a sense of self-belief. also, this pakistan side seems to enjoy itself on the field; it’s not just another day at the office for men who once liked playing cricket for its own sake. gone too for the most part are those pumped up ‘i would be a serial killer if i weren’t a bowler’ celebrations that some subcontinental players had picked up in recent years from caucasian teams. why be angry when you take a wicket? that’s not our style. this team smiles and exults when it gets a batsman out, like the west indians did in their heyday. if there is any friction behind closed doors — and it could well be that for a change there isn’t — it doesn’t show on the field and that’s what counts. this pakistan side has done us proud.

 

CAPITAL needs a peaceful environment in which to maximise profits and multiply. In that sense, Pakistan has never been the ideal destination for global investors and it is not surprising that foreign investment in the country has plunged by 31 per cent to $3.7bn in 2008-09 compared to the previous corresponding period. There are many explanations for this drop in foreign investment levels: security concerns, global financial troubles, domestic economic woes, political turmoil and the power crunch.

 

Nevertheless, rising levels of foreign investment in Pakistan during the last several years, until fiscal 2007-08, showed that investors were prepared to dismiss security concerns if the economy offered them an opportunity to make profits on their investment. That’s why we continued to receive direct and portfolio investment in spite of poor law and order and conflict in parts of the country. Even the turmoil generated in 2007 by the judicial crisis, the imposition of emergency and Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, together with terrorist attacks in major cities ahead of the 2008 elections, couldn’t deter the investors.

 

Foreign investment continued to pour in until the first half of the last fiscal up to December 2008 when it became clear that the economy was shrinking and opportunities for maximising profits dwindling. The global financial crunch too has had much to do with stalled investment inflows. But the major blow was dealt by the eroding confidence in the economy on the back of surging inflation, worsening macroeconomic fundamentals and a severe energy crunch. Pakistan lost whatever attraction it had as a destination for foreign and domestic investors.

 

For years foreign investors ignored security concerns. But now they are not prepared to invest in an economy plagued by energy shortages and economic uncertainties. Even when the global recession is over and international investors have liquidity to spare for countries like ours they are unlikely to return to Pakistan unless we overcome the energy crunch and remove obstacles in the way of profitability. The government cannot tackle this on its own and must take domestic businessmen and investors on board before it seeks international investment to prop up the economy.

 

capital needs a peace- ful environment in which to maximise profits and multiply. in that sense, pakistan has never been the ideal destination for global investors and it is not surprising that foreign investment in the country has plunged by 31 per cent to $3.7bn in 2008-09 com- pared to the previous cor- responding period. there are many explanations for this drop in foreign invest- ment levels: security con- cerns, global financial trou- bles, domestic economic woes, political turmoil and the power crunch. nevertheless, rising lev- els of foreign investment in pakistan during the last several years, until fiscal 2007-08, showed that in- vestors were prepared to dismiss security concerns if the economy offered them an opportunity to make profits on their investment. that’s why we continued to receive direct and portfolio investment in spite of poor law and order and conflict in parts of the country. even the turmoil gener- ated in 2007 by the judicial crisis, the imposition of emergency and benazir bhutto’s assassination, to- gether with terrorist at- tacks in major cities ahead of the 2008 elections, could- n’t deter the investors. foreign investment contin- ued to pour in until the first half of the last fiscal up to december 2008 when it be- came clear that the econo- my was shrinking and op- portunities for maximising profits dwindling. the glob- al financial crunch too has had much to do with stalled investment inflows. but the major blow was dealt by the eroding confidence in the economy on the back of surging inflation, worsen- ing macroeconomic funda- mentals and a severe ener- gy crunch. pakistan lost whatever attraction it had as a destination for foreign and domestic investors. for years foreign invest- ors ignored security con- cerns. but now they are not prepared to invest in an economy plagued by ener- gy shortages and economic uncertainties. even when the global recession is over and international investors have liquidity to spare for countries like ours they are unlikely to return to pakistan unless we over- come the energy crunch and remove obstacles in the way of profitability. the government cannot tackle this on its own and must take domestic busi- nessmen and investors on board before it seeks inter- national investment to prop up the economy.

pakistan is no strang- er to ill-conceived laws and regulations that eventually prove crippling to the na- tional good. take the blas- phemy laws, which over the years have become an in- strument for the victimisa- tion of individuals and mi- nority communities. tho- ugh less pernicious, the most recent example of dis- criminatory laws is the gov- ernment’s announcement that the sending of “inde- cent, provocative and ill- motivated stories and text messages” via email and cellphones will henceforth be punishable by up to 14 years of imprisonment un- der the cyber crime act. according to the interior ministry, the government is initiating a campaign against “ill-motivated and concocted stories against the civilian leadership and the security forces.” this borders on officially sanc- tioned censorship of the free flow of ideas and the people’s right to engage in debate over the actions of the government and its in- stitutions. for one thing, the ‘law’ is dangerously loosely worded: the param- eters of ‘indecent’ or ‘ill- motivated’ have not been defined. neither have any conditions been identified under which potentially prosecutable offences will be delineated from legiti- mate discourse. this leads to the possibility of the reg- ulation being misused to harass and silence the gov- ernment’s critics. indeed, the decision carries dis- turbing echoes of past attempts at censorship, for email and sms messages are now an important means through which the voice of the people makes itself heard. by criminalising what is essentially the people’s freedom to debate and comment, the government exposes itself to the charge of stifling political opposi- tion rather than changing or reconsidering policy. certainly, no person should be allowed to fan communal hatred or incite others to violence. but the laws governing freedom of speech must be specific and tightly worded, as they are for slander and libel. the government would do well to remember that upholding the tenets of democracy, amongst them the freedom of legiti- mate expression, is an im- portant part of retaining its democratic credentials. the political parties cur- rently in power may tomor- row find themselves in the opposition, facing the sharp end of the stick they wield today.

so rapid is the rate of degradation that slow poi- soning may no longer be an accurate description. as speakers at a workshop pointed out last week, irra- tional use of chemicals in both rural and urban set- tings is killing the envi- ronment as well as the peo- ple of pakistan. agricul- ture is a major culprit, with run-off from farms that re- ly heavily on chemical fer- tilisers and pesticides pol- luting waterways and con- taminating groundwater aquifers. polluted water not only harms human health and biodiversity but also affects agricultural productivity — which, iron- ically, is what pesticides and other chemicals are meant to boost. pesticides comprise an overwhelming majority of deadly toxins classified as ‘persistent or- ganic pollutants’, which ac- cumulate in body tissue over time. despite interna- tional restrictions, some of these pesticides are still used in pakistan and have entered the food chain. studies have also shown that fruit and vegetables grown with polluted water can contain alarming lev- els of heavy metals. at times this ‘water’ is ob- tained by directly tapping into the effluent dischar- ged by factories located on city outskirts. improper storage of expired pesti- cides is another cause for serious concern, as is the release of untreated waste into the sea. industrial air pollution and vehicle emis- sions are also hurting hu- man, animal and plant life in a country where rele- vant environmental laws exist on paper but are rou- tinely flouted. serious physical and psychological ailments are on the rise in large cities with unaccepta- ble levels of air and noise pollution. irrespective of where it occurs, the poor are always the biggest victims of envi- ronmental degradation. farmers, herders and fish- erfolk lose their liveli- hoods as land and water resources shrink. the ur- ban poor tend to cluster in the most polluted parts of cities and towns, and as a result are exposed to seri- ous health risks on a daily basis. the state healthcare system cannot cater to their needs and poor hea- lth in turn affects produc- tivity and life expectancy. children are deprived of adequate schooling as well as the nourishment they need for future develop- ment. among other socioe- conomic measures, envi- ronmental laws must be rigorously implemented if this vicious circle of pover- ty is to be broken.

punjab minister for prisons chaudhry abdul ghafoor has had problems with traditions and customs in recent weeks but this was a particularly bad day for him. for a period of time on monday afternoon and from the sharifs’ raiwind estate, the minis- ter hogged the attention of television channels. this was the time when a clash — apparently over washing rights — between inmates at lahore’s kot lakhpat jail competed for space on the screen with a fight tak- ing place inside the punjab assembly. eventually, the more privileged lawmakers won and the prisoners fa- ded out. chaudhry ghafoor has yet to speak on the fre- quent shows of ill-manner- ism on the part of jail in- mates in punjab. he has, however, felt sufficient urge to explain as to what prompted his face-off with a group of women lawmak- ers belonging to the pml-q in the house on monday. he accused a woman mpa of trying to defame the leader of the house, mian shahbaz sharif. indepen- dent accounts confirm the mpa, bushra nawaz gar- dezi, had flashed a placard inside the assembly, which in no ambiguous words criticised chief minister sharif of failing to protect punjab’s share of water for agriculture. independent versions al- so say some other leaders, among them prominent men such as zulfiqar khosa of the pml-n and raja riaz of the ppp, had played more than a cameo role in the proceedings which led to the violence. chaudhry ghafoor denies having as- saulted the q-league la- dies but eyewitnesses say he had the intent to do so and that throwing books at his target did, in fact, con- stitute some kind of an at- tack. fortunately, he was reined in by his party men or we could have had an even uglier situation on our hands. indeed one of the aggrieved women mpas has reminded the faithful chaudhry ghafoor of the grave consequences his act could have entailed. chaudhry ghafoor sur- vived the episode just as his political career escaped an early ending after he was accused of violating the law at lahore’s allama iqbal airport in may. who knows he might have earned a pat on the back for the show of his loyalty to the sharifs inside the punjab assembly but a par- ty occupying the high mo- ral ground on issues will find his continuing antics a bit too difficult to ignore. after the lahore airport in- cident, mr shahbaz sharif let chaudhry ghafoor go with a ‘be careful in fu- ture’ warning. the people are watching: the chief minister needs to be care- ful himself. all is not well in baloch- istan. the simmering insur- gency there shows no sign of abating. but why should it? after all nothing has been done on the ground to meet the demands of the disgrun- tled baloch. the provincial budget with an outlay of rs72.2bn hardly reassured those in the province who are demanding control over their resources. be it the gas in sui, the mineral wealth of saindak and now the deep-water port in gwadar, one knows well that the un- derdeveloped province will not be the major beneficiary of these projects. even the nfc which divides taxes col- lected by the centre among the provinces works against balochistan, which is contri- buting handsomely to the treasury but gets very little in return. the allocation is made on the basis of popula- tion and balochistan happens to be sparsely populated. the province needs propor- tionately more funds to devel- op infrastructure throughout its sprawling territory and make facilities accessible to its scattered population. long overdue, a new nfc award is being promised but nothing has been delivered. and, with summer in full swing, it is a major blow to a water-starved province to be deprived of 30 per cent of its water entitlement. seen against this back- drop, it is shocking that islamabad doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to put matters right. since the ppp govern- ment assumed office more than a year ago it has been reiterating its commitment to negotiate with the baloch to resolve problems that have already been identified — many of them by committees and subcommittees set up by the centre itself. an apology has been offered by the pres- ident and the need to grant autonomy to the province has been conceded. but this is just talk and no one walks the walk. as a result we now have a hardening of the baloch nationalists’ stance which may take them to the point of no return. on sun- day sardar akhtar mengal, head of the bnp-m, said that even a compromise is not ac- ceptable on the national rights of the baloch. it is dis- turbing that the nationalists are now convinced that they are being taken down the garden path with offers of dialogue and negotiation that are designed to appease and not necessarily solve any problem. this is most dis- quieting because our failure to respect the political sensi- tivities of one province led to the loss of half the country. we cannot push another province over the brink. the government itself says that there is many a foreign pow- er interested in continued turmoil in balochistan. why should we so willingly help?

one must welcome the re- alism shown by the foreign ministers of pakistan, afgha- nistan and russia in recognis- ing drug trafficking as a ma- jor source of funding for ter- rorists. meeting in trieste on friday, shah mahmoud qure- shi and his afghan and russian counterparts, r. d. spanta and s. lavrov, agreed to cooperate in a number of fields, including terrorism, drug production and traffick- ing, regional stability and sus- tainable development. accor- ding to a statement the three decided to explore the poten- tial of cooperation in areas of border control, exchange of information on terrorist activ- ities and organisations, train- ing anti-terrorist and anti- drug police personnel and promoting tolerance and in- ter-cultural dialogue. express- ing the belief that terrorists could not be defeated merely by law enforcement, they called for the affected re- gion’s socio-economic devel- opment. one harsh reality seems to have made the three ministers focus on the drug trade — afghanistan has re- turned as the world’s largest drug producer. more regret- fully, powerful elements in the kabul government are al- legedly involved in drug smuggling, and the karzai government has been unable to act against them. this was a godsend for the taliban. in fact, as richard holbrooke told congress recently “hun- dreds and hundreds of mil- lions of dollars” have gone waste in destroying crops without achieving the desired results, for this only served to drive the peasants into taliban hands. the various taliban fac- tions run billion-dollar em- pires. they need — and man- age to get — big money for sustaining military operations, which require not only an un- interrupted supply of sophisti- cated weapons but also a mod- ern logistics system, besides an underworld that runs re- cruitment, brainwashing and training centres. the point to note is that not all this money comes from the drug trade, for there are other sources of funding available to the taliban, including from those who have misguided concepts of philanthropy. while the ac- tivities of the drug barons can perhaps be tracked if not to- tally crushed, detecting the flow of non-drug money to the terrorists is a truly difficult job, because this system is more subtle. this makes us wonder whether the plethora of intelligence and security agencies we have possess the skills and investigative techni- ques needed to intercept and break up the infrastructure of this source of funding for the rebels. while the tripartite co- operation is welcome, the onus perhaps is on us in pakistan because of the sub- tlety of the challenge and its effect on the current military operations against the taliban.

sarabjit singh may have committed the crimes for which he was sentenced to death, but he is now in jail and as such poses no danger to pakistan or the well-being of its citizens. what then will be accomplished by execut- ing mr singh, who has spent nearly 20 years in prison? taking the life of a murderer will not bring back those he has killed, nor has it been demonstrated that the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime. indeed, does the state have the right to take a person’s life? issues of morality aside, the death penalty has no place in a country where po- lice officials and even judges can be bought or intimida- ted, where the wealthy can get away with murder and where the poor are implica- ted in crimes they did not commit. personal vendettas come into it, as does the in- competence of an unprinci- pled police force which often considers its job done so long as an arrest — any arrest — can be officially recorded. pakistan is also a country where torture is the prefer- red method of extracting ‘confessions’. against this backdrop, the scope for mis- carriage of justice is huge and chances are high of inno- cent people being put to death. while dismissing sarabjit singh’s review petition of his sentence on wednesday, the supreme court observed that “no ground has been made out in the case war- ranting a review”” is this is surprising given that mr singh’s lawyer failed to at- tend wednesday’s hearing as well as the one preceding it? true, the same verdict may have been issued even if the convict’s counsel had both- ered to show up. but one thing is clear: his absence certainly did not help sarabjit singh’s appeal in any way. hope for mr singh now lies in presidential clem- ency, a gesture that would not hurt relations between pakistan and india. court rulings are based on the law as it exists and it is up to the government to in- troduce new legislation. in june last year the prime min- ister proposed that capital punishment be abolished and death sentences commu- ted to life imprisonment. then, in october 2008, it was reported that the law minis- try would soon present a fi- nal draft in this connection, enabling the government to fulfil its pledge and do away with the death penalty. but little or nothing has been done and more than 7,000 prisoners are still languish- ing on death row. their lives, and that of sarabjit singh, ought to be spared.

balochistan is simmer- ing. a low-grade insurgency has gradually been gaining strength and the law-enforce- ment agencies are finding it difficult to check the violence that now erupts with unfailing regularity in the province. last friday, a judge and his aide were killed. the same day a bomb blast in dera murad jamali injured a num- ber of people while two were wounded in a grenade attack in quetta. there have been more incidents of violence since then. in may the police disclosed that since the begin- ning of 2009, more than 200 incidents of shooting, bomb blasts, grenade attacks and abductions had taken place. more than 150 people had died while approximately 400 were injured. add to this the toll of the last one month — over 20 deaths and at least 125 injured — and the picture is one of war. so grave is the crisis that talk of all-parties conferences, committees and enhanced budgetary allocations does not have any impact. why should it be taken seriously when no concrete steps are being taken to indicate that islamabad means business? the government’s broken promises are now becoming embarrassing for the baloch leadership that threw in its lot with the rulers at the centre. some of the leaders have tried to resign but have been held back. others have dem- onstrated public dissent at the way matters are being handled. take the apc. the ppp promised a dialogue to resolve balochistan’s prob- lems but has so far failed to honour its word. the last time the prime minister pledged to convene an apc was in may and it was supposed to be “within days”. nothing has come of these assurances ex- cept for the establishment of a ppp committee headed by senator raza rabbani to study earlier reports and for- mulate a common position. the rabbani report makes many worthwhile points. but will they help if they remain on paper as previously? there is also the question of baloch participation in the apc. not all nationalists are willing to attend. so strong is their dis- trust of islamabad that they are no longer willing to be ap- peased by words. if islamabad is serious about resolving the balochistan problem, some confidence-building measures are in order. palpable steps to trace the missing people, re- lease political prisoners and rein in the military presence in the province might help pave the way for a dialogue on political and economic is- sues. at the heart of the prob- lem is the desire of the baloch to control their own political destiny and natural resources. is this really an unreasonable demand?

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

RIGHT TO EQUALITY

 

IN a country where the rights of citizens are abused routinely, the importance of the recent Supreme Court decree that the federal and provincial governments take steps to protect the rights of transvestites is welcome. Discriminated against by virtually every section of society, this group of people is separated from the mainstream because of a backward societal mindset and lack of awareness about physical and emotional gender-related conditions — it must be remembered that the term ‘transvestite’ is used generally in Pakistan to describe hermaphrodites, eunuchs, crossdressers etc. These people are often forced into the lowest strata of society, subjected to mental and sexual abuse and denied their right to education and employment. Indeed, it is not unknown for families to wash their hands of the responsibility of raising children with genderrelated physical abnormalities by handing them over to ‘gurus’, or leaders of ‘transvestite’ gangs, to be raised as prostitutes, beggars or dancers. In the absence of a law or a sizeable forum actively reiterating their rights, these people have been routinely harassed by many, even the police if approached for help.

 

After hearing the petitioner argue that as a welfare state, it was the government’s responsibility to look after this community, the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday that as equal citizens of Pakistan, ‘transvestites’ should benefit from the federal and provincial governments’ income support schemes such as the Benazir Income Support Programme and that they were entitled to funds from the Baitul Maal. These are encouraging developments and it is hoped that they will lead to an improvement in the financial and societal status of ‘transvestites’. However, there is also a need to address the educational and vocational training requirements of this section of the citizenry. An awareness campaign is just as crucial if societal attitudes are to be changed.

it was not a suicide bomber who left 12 peo- ple, including seven chil- dren, dead in a village near mian channu on monday; it was a huge quantity of ammunition stored in a seminary that blew up, spewing death and destruction. this is just a small indication of what some of those who run madressahs do behind what would appear to be an innocuous, even lauda- ble, activity. the man who ran the seminary, riaz kamboh, was known to have militant links, had gone to afghanistan for training and was arrested twice but then released. seemingly, the madressah he ran was teaching the holy quran to village boys and girls. however, the re- covery of propaganda liter- ature and suicide jackets from the debris makes it abundantly clear that he was using the madressah as a cover for organising a terrorist cell which brain- washed and trained young people to become terro- rists and suicide bombers. what happened at vil- lage 129/15-l in south punjab is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon throughout the country, for many — though not all — madressahs have links with banned militant or- ganisations and serve as recruiting grounds and as centres of indoctrination for both boys and girls. let us not forget that jamia hafsa was an intrinsic part of the lal masjid empire run by the aziz-rashid duo, and it used girls for unlawful activities like raiding and occupying a government library and kidnapping a woman. there are thousands of such madressahs and semi- naries in pakistan, and though all of them cannot be tarred with the same brush the security agen- cies must be able to sepa- rate the wheat from the chaff. that kamboh’s ac- tivities remained undetec- ted constitutes a sad com- mentary on the efficiency of our security agencies whose performance leaves a lot to be desired. we do not know how many other kambohs are using ma- dressahs as cells for terro- rist activity.

 

balochistan law min- ister robina irfan has called upon the govern- ment and parliamentarians to work for the protection of children’s rights. noting the increase in child labour, incidents of sexual abuse and violence against chil- dren, she termed the situa- tion “very alarming” and demanded that the govern- ment take notice. certain- ly, the minister’s concerns are valid. although pakis- tan ratified the un con- vention on the rights of the child in 1990, the rights of the country’s children con- tinue to be violated. child labour and trafficking, vio- lence in the home, school and workplace, sexual abuse, child marriages and the handing over of under- age girls in dispute settle- ments are a few examples of direct transgressions against child rights that take place virtually every day across the country. also pressing is the issue of juvenile offenders: the juvenile justice system ordinance was formulated in 2000 but the codes of conduct laid out therein have never been properly implemented. in reality, minors falling foul of the law rarely benefit from their right, as specified by the ordinance, to state-pro- vided legal counsel or alter- native sentencing meas- ures. and beyond these is- sues, there are the less im- mediately apparent ways through which children are routinely denied their due: lack of education, health- care, economic opportunity or even adequate food and potable water. with the country’s popu- lation skewed heavily to- wards the young and a ris- ing birth rate, it is high time that the protection of child rights became a prior- ity of the state and citizenry alike. it is ironic, mean- while, that the minister has called for the attention of a government that she, in her professional capacity, is part of. it is the task of the country’s parliamentarians, and the elected govern- ment they represent, to not only formulate legislation and policy but also ensure implementation. in the case of child rights, the leg- islators’ performance has been unjustifiably slow.

mixing food with poli- tics is sure to leave a bad taste in the mouth. the way that ‘food street’ in lahore’s gwalmandi area has succumbed to politick- ing confirms that. a food court overlooked by taste- fully painted and well-lit balconies of traditional lahori houses, the place was the delight of gour- mets and a favourite haunt of tourists and other visi- tors to the city. now the curtain has fallen on all that. with vehicular traffic allowed through the street during all times of the day, shopkeepers have lost the open space for seating and serving their customers. the lights are out for good it seems. it all started last month with city authorities telling the shopkeepers in the area to pull down their shutters for a few days to facilitate the laying of a sewerage line. next the of- ficials said the street could no longer remain a restric- ted area. they said those living in the vicinity were dismayed that their access to nearby roads had been blocked. in fact, a couple of banners hung over the gates of the now desolate street praise local and se- nior leaders of the pml-n for restoring the people’s right to free passage. given that the street is part of a thickly populated neighbourhood, this would sound reasonable — if it were true. first, the street is not the only route availa- ble to local residents to make their way out of the side lanes. second, it is sur- prising that the residents who haven’t complained for nearly a decade should do so now. perhaps the real reason for the closure lies in how the management of ‘food street’ has lost the po- litical support it enjoyed before the 2008 polls. it seems that punjab’s new rulers cannot stomach any- thing that started during gen musharraf’s regime — how could they allow the street to flourish in the heart of their political stronghold knowing that it enjoyed the former presi- dent’s patronage? certain- ly, in doing away with this popular haunt they might have rid the country of yet another remnant of the musharraf era but not with- out depriving lahore of one of its star attractions.

french president nicolas sarkozy is not wide of the mark when he says that an israeli attack on iran will be “an absolute catastrophe”. his state- ment at the g8 summit at l’aquila, italy, comes within days of american vice-president joe biden’s remark in a television in- terview that his country could do nothing if israel chose to attack iran. in an interview with abc news, mr biden said washington could not “dictate to an- other sovereign nation” and that it was for tel aviv to decide what was in its interest. ‘dictating’ to an- other country is, of course, against the basic princi- ples of interaction among sovereign nations. but the sole superpower cannot take refuge behind this principle to shirk its re- sponsibility and avoid ac- tion where a serious breach of international law is feared and where a recalcitrant state’s or group’s behaviour poses a threat to world peace. the g8 summit called upon tehran to negotiate, but thanks to russia the con- ference decided not to slap further sanctions on iran. the summiteers thus showed maturity when they gave tehran until september to negotiate, and refused to impose an- other layer of sanctions on iran. mr biden’s statement runs counter to the spirit of moderation shown by the g8 summit and to the overtures president bar- ack obama has been mak- ing to the muslim world. mr obama has also exer- cised restraint during the west’s iran-bashing frenzy in the aftermath of the june 12 presidential elec- tion, and he has promised a seat for tehran at the afghan talks. the ameri- can vice-president’s state- ment, however, is fraught with consequences, for it is tantamount to giving a go-ahead for the attack. the french president perhaps pulled the rug from under israel’s feet when he said “israel should know it is not alone and should follow what is going on calmly”. already reeling un- der the weight of a massive power shortage, the coun- try suffered a body blow on monday when mangla dam went off line and the na- tional grid all but col- lapsed. outages of up to 18 hours a day were reported from across the country. infuriated people took to the streets in large num- bers, particularly in punjab where some protests turn- ed violent. while demon- strations that result in de- struction of property can- not be condoned, the out- rage felt by long-suffering citizens is understandable. for years now pakistanis have paid the price for gov- ernment inaction in the power sector, where ad-ho- cism and excuses seem to rule. life at home has been turned into a living hell for all but the privileged, com- merce has taken a huge hit, small-time entrepreneurs are feeling the pinch and factories sit idle these days for prolonged periods, de- priving daily-wage earners of a sizeable chunk of their already meagre incomes. productivity has declined and the economy as a whole is suffering because of a crippling shortage of electricity. mangla’s contribution to the grid is massive and a sudden shutdown there was bound to cause major problems. but that just re- flects poor planning. our power-generation capacity is woefully inadequate and there seem to be no contin- gency plans for unexpec- ted shortfalls. according to pepco’s managing director, “we have lost all sense of the demand and supply sit- uation. the entire system is overstretched … without any contingency [measures in place].” a similar situa- tion was witnessed in kara- chi and other parts of sindh last month when a storm cut off power sup- plies from wapda for nearly two days. then too there was no backup plan that could have lessened the impact of a sudden power deficit. these are not problems that will go away and must be ad- dressed immediately.

our collective conscience is silent each time humanism stands compromised. the age- old price tag slapped on the female of the species is a com- mon example as young girls continue to be ‘auctioned’ to the highest bidder or traded in transactions such as vatta satta and other forms of bar- ter. the latest reported victim is eight-year-old zahida who was ‘married’ to a teenager in karachi. reports say the bar- gain was engineered by her father who wanted to marry the groom’s sister. the great paradox is that these inci- dents abound at a time when women’s rights’ awareness is at an all-time high across the globe. the prime culprit re- mains the state; it has consis- tently failed to enforce laws that provide protection or es- tablish shelters for victims. secondly, it extends implicit sanction to such excesses by overlooking the provision of legal aid, women police per- sonnel and stations, and laws that guarantee security and women-friendly legal process- es. on the other end, child marriages such as zahida’s not only sustain a self-perpet- uating cycle but throw up tragic consequences — loss of education, rise in infant and maternal mortality, and more victims of domestic torture. these ‘marriages’ are one of our saddest social truths that are not just embedded in pov- erty and ignorance but in the menace of male supremacy. also, this practice has to be seen as a heinous form of child abuse and the child marriage restraint act of 1927 that prescribes imprison- ment for perpetrators should be brought into force. despite pakistan’s status as a signatory to the united nation’s convention on the rights of the child and the stockholm declaration and agenda for action that pro- tect children from abuse, low- income segments of the coun- try remain bereft of the con- cept of child rights. organisa- tions such as unicef and sparc need to initiate aggres- sive advocacy campaigns that target rural, feudal and low- income environments, focus- ing on elders who have the power to curb such customs. last but not least, parliamen- tarians must overhaul exist- ing laws, police stations and relevant authorities to ascer- tain that ‘conventions’ extend beyond paper. healthy child- hoods cannot be distant dreams but realities made possible through sensitised legislature and media.

security and freedom are bad neighbours. to create a sense of safety and security, the authorities often put re- strictions on people’s move- ment. restrictions on pillion- riding, roadblocks and securi- ty check-posts appear differ- ently to the government and the citizens. popular reaction to such security measures be- comes all the more negative when they are meant to block access to the government it- self. it was under these circum- stances that the lahore high court on wednesday ordered the punjab government to de- molish a wall it had built to block a road connecting the government officers’ resid- ences (gor) to a public park. the court ruled that the gov- ernment could not be allowed to stop people from using thor- oughfares, not even under the excuse of securing a neigh- bourhood. but the wall is not the only obstacle impeding public ac- cess to gor. a couple of weeks ago, footpaths in the neigh- bourhood were replaced with greenbelts in an obvious at- tempt to discourage the entry of pedestrians; at least four roads in the area remain blocked for all kinds of traffic, and the entire gor remains off-limits to rickshaws, carts and a number of other not-so- pleasant-looking vehicles. these are not the first attempts to turn gor into an exclusive zone. under the previous pro- vincial government of chaudhry pervaiz elahi, the chief minister had a secretariat erected for himself smack where once a thoroughfare used to be. senior officials had walls built on a number of ma- jor roads leading to the area where almost all of them resi- ded. to what extent such steps induce a sense of security is subject to how they are per- ceived. the government’s standpoint is that its offices and residential buildings are obvious targets for terrorists and, therefore, should be safe- guarded no matter what. but the citizens might be forgiven for thinking that a government obsessed with its own security can do little to maintain public safety. people also fail to un- derstand why one area needs more securing than all others and see it as an attempt to dif- ferentiate between the rulers and the ruled. that they should see their freedoms compro- mised thus, without raising an outcry, beats the imagination.

an example of medical negligence has presented it- self in the case of a woman who died in an islamabad hospital due to the transfu- sion of blood that did not match her blood group. according to reports, none of the health professionals attending to her noticed that the blood administered was not of the correct group. it seems that the prescribed protocol was not followed to the letter. this resulted in the mixing up of two blood bags. the unfortunate wom- an, who was operated on first, received the blood meant for another patient. this shows how a little care- lessness can lead to death. the hospital’s decision to conduct an independent in- quiry into the incident will be welcomed since it will help it pin responsibility and ensure that such fatal errors are not repeated. there are two aspects of the matter that should be ad- dressed seriously. one is the protocol that a hospital for- mulates not simply in its blood bank but in every de- partment. it is widely known that stringent and foolproof processes not only facilitate the smooth running of insti- tutions. they also help mini- mise the chances of human error, that can cost a human life, in various surgical and medical procedures. the second aspect is the human factor. even the best of pro- tocol can be of little use if it is not observed carefully. it is therefore a pity that the surgeon, the anesthetist, the nurse and the technician at- tending to the woman were not attentive enough to check the error that proved to be fatal. this case reflects poorly on the professionalism of those whose stated mission is to save lives and ease the distress of the sick. given the quality of education and training in our medical edu- cation institutions which are supposed to instill motiva- tion and commitment in their students, can we ex- pect any better? true, we as a people have developed the trait of doing our work in a haphazard, careless fashion, and meticulousness is no longer considered to be of any use. but negligence in the medical profession can prove to be costly as this is a matter of life and death.

azad kashmir’s budget for 2009-10 focuses on the rehabil- itation of those affected by the october 2005 earthquake, the reconstruction of infrastruc- ture and the generation of em- ployment opportunities. the ajk government says the “budget provides solid foun- dation for the social and eco- nomic uplift of the area with the provision of infrastructur- al services and escalation in the pace of development ac- tivities ….” there is little rea- son to doubt its claims. the budget sets aside rs10.8bn, in- cluding a foreign component of rs1.1bn, for development projects. the proposed devel- opment outlay is 13 per cent more than the amount for last year. the money will be provi- ded by the pakistan govern- ment, which is also financing the revenue budget deficit of rs4.8bn. in addition, the ajk council is also likely to spend rs2.5bn on development ac- tivities. the pakistan govern- ment has separately allocated rs6.4bn in its public sector development programme for 11 projects in the region. besides, development ex- penditure to the tune of rs29.5bn has been allocated to different federal minis- tries. another sum of rs15bn is to be spent on reconstruc- tion. on the whole around rs64bn is to be spent on ajk’s developmental activi- ties, with additional spending on projects by sponsors. that should be sufficient mo- ney to undertake develop- ment works, provide relief and rebuild infrastructure in the quake-hit areas. if spent judiciously, the funds set aside for the different schemes can bring about a no- ticeable change in the life of the people in the region. the government intends to spend rs16bn on reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes and over rs6bn for the com- pletion of 11 mega projects under the annual develop- ment programme. allocations have also been made in the budget for implementing de- velopment projects in the health, education, agriculture and irrigation sectors. pro- vision of potable water is also a priority. apart from making generous allocations for de- velopment, the new ajk gov- ernment should also be com- mended for its austerity drive, which allowed it to retire its overdraft of rs2bn and save another rs1bn. one hopes that the government will continue to control unpro- ductive expenditure and di- vert resources to the social and economic development of the region in future as well.

with the post-polls pro- tests in iran escalating by the day, we now have an an- nouncement from the council of guardians that some dis- crepancies have been detec- ted in the results. three mil- lion votes are under scrutiny. this adds a new element to the iranian crisis that has kept the world on tenter- hooks for the last fortnight. state television reported 10 deaths in sunday’s demon- strations, bringing the total tally of casualties to 17. until the council of guardians’ new position, it appeared that the government, which in- cludes president mahmoud ahmadinejad and supreme leader ayatollah khamenei, who represents the religious establishment, was not will- ing to accede to popular de- mand. but the protests do not seem to be on the way to pe- tering out as happened in 2003 and 1998 when iran was convulsed by demonstrations. mr ahmadinejad’s opponents are convinced that the results were rigged, though no proof is available in the absence of independent observers. the president, who claims the sup- port of 63 per cent of the elec- torate against mr mir hossein mousavi’s 33 per cent, has de- nied allegations of foul play. he accuses the us of med- dling in iranian affairs and in- stigating the protests. irrespective of who wins, or if there is a compromise, one fact can no longer be denied. a large number of iranians, especially among the post- revolution generation, now want reform — albeit within the islamic system. with the active backing of mr rafsanjani and mr khatami, both of whom have presided successfully over iran’s desti- ny in different official capaci- ties, mr mousavi is proving to be a heavyweight. what is more, the religious establish- ment has split and the clerics in qom are supporting the op- position. mr ahmadinejad is said to enjoy the support of the rural masses who have been won over by his populist politics. he also has the back- ing of the revolutionary guards and its auxiliary — the basiji — militia. with 35 per cent of the iranians living in the countryside, mr ahmadinejad will have to contend with changing reali- ties. one hopes that the use of force is not an option to main- tain the status quo.

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

LOCAL GOVERNMENT BLUES

BY I.A. REHMAN

 

SINCE the clamour to dismantle the local government system stems partly from selfish motives and partly from ignorance there is a danger that the government may end up doing the cause of democratic governance more harm than good.

 

No elaborate argument is needed today to demonstrate the critical importance of local bodies in a democratic setup, especially in countries like Pakistan. Local government institutions serve as the foundation of a democratic polity and as a nursery to train elected representatives in the responsible management of public affairs. They also offer the largest possible number of people possibilities of participation in self-government.

 

Further, local bodies are the means to achieving the goal of decentralisation of power, something that is desired by all states in the world but which has become essential for Pakistan. Under Article 37 (i) of the 1973 constitution the state has made a pledge to “decentralise the government administration so as to facilitate the expeditious disposal of its business to meet the convenience and require ments of the public”.

 

However, neither the colonial government nor its post-independence successors acknowledged local government as a vehicle for people’s empowerment. Almost invariably these institutions have been viewed as props to bolster the central edifice. The colonial masters used the local bodies, particularly the district boards, to breed toadies. This tradition was kept alive after independence by dictators Ayub, Zia and Musharraf as their overriding concern was to undermine the democratic forces’ challenge to their rule. They did not favour local bodies out of love for democracy, they did so to wean the masses away from democratic movements, or at least to canalise such trends.

 

Elected civilian governments have acquired considerable animus towards the local bodies. For one thing they have found it expedient to lambaste the local government as the authoritarian rulers’ favourite keep. But a more serious reason for their hostility towards local bodies has been their stubborn resistance to the whole issue of decentralisation.

 

Despite all the losses and humiliation suffered as a result of running the federation as a highly centralised unitary state, the centre in Pakistan is not prepared to allow the federating units their due share in power, privilege and resources. And the provincial governments behave even more intransigently when it comes to devolving power to local governments. This is the crux of the problem and the current debate needs to be seen in this context.

 

Among other matters, the present local government system has been denounced as unconstitutional. True, the provincial ordinances of 2001 on the subject lacked democratic sanction but the scheme launched under these measures is perhaps no more unconstitutional than the assemblies and the government itself.

 

Indeed, one of the non-controversial features of the last regime’s actions was its move towards making local government the third tier of constitutionally recognised government (after the central and provincial governments). The solitary reference to local government in the 1973 constitution was in Article 32 (principle of policy, and not necessarily enforceable) which said: “the state shall encourage local government institutions composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned and in such institutions special representation will be given to peasants, workers and women”. (Those gunning for the local bodies may note that seats for workers, peasants and women in these institutions cannot be denounced as unconstitutional.) The addition of a new article (140-A) to the constitution in 2002 was a step towards decentralisation as it made it a constitutional obligation for the provincial governments to set up local government institutions.

 

Where the Musharraf government went wrong was that apart from the authoritarian regime’s desire to use local government as a central prop, its ambition and arrogance led it far away from the safe area of realism. It combined the revival of local bodies with the abolition of the office of district magistrate and a radical shift in the structure and control of the police. Further, the scheme was never wholly and sincerely implemented. In particular, the police-friendly provisions of the Police Order were speedily enforced while its people-friendly provisions were ignored.

 

Now, a reform of the district administration and replacement of the Police Act of 1861 had for long been found both necessary and desirable but the regime failed in its efforts because, firstly, its executive orders could not be owned by the public and, secondly, it brought the district administration and the police under elected local governments sooner than the state system was prepared to absorb the blow.

 

The Musharraf regime antagonised the provincial governments by making the local bodies richer and stronger than them. It also antagonised the bureaucracy by replacing junior viceroys with plebeians. The alliance against the local government system lost little time after the 2008 election in reviving the office of commissioners and drawing up plans to dilute public oversight of the police force. Now the provincial governments want to control the local bodies because they are not comfortable with elected rivals; they are happier with bureaucrats who can be easily manipulated or dispensed with.

 

A fundamental objection to these changes is that they have not been justified at the bar of public opinion. The same objection will be raised if the provincial governments make changes in the local government system without a fullscale and open public debate. The fact that local government is a provincial subject does not mean that it should become the provincial government’s handmaiden. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the local bodies are not deprived of their representative character. Their constitutional status needs to be strengthened and they must retain the necessary authority, financial and administrative both, to function as responsible institutions of democratic government.

 

Now that the prime minister is waxing eloquent in favour of provincial autonomy in relation to the local bodies, is it too much to expect that the rights of provinces will be recognised in other areas too? It is certainly time to hack away at the central behemoth, abolish the ministries dealing with provincial subjects (beginning with the federal ministry for local government, of course), and create a single ministry for provincial coordination. A lean central government should serve Pakistan better than the present hydraheaded and heavy-footed animal. ¦

 

since the clamour to disman- tle the local government system stems partly from selfish mo- tives and partly from ignorance there is a danger that the gov- ernment may end up doing the cause of democratic governance more harm than good. no elaborate argument is needed to- day to demonstrate the critical impor- tance of local bodies in a democratic set- up, especially in countries like pakistan. local government institutions serve as the foundation of a democratic polity and as a nursery to train elected repre- sentatives in the responsible manage- ment of public affairs. they also offer the largest possible number of people possibilities of participation in self-gov- ernment. further, local bodies are the means to achieving the goal of decentralisation of power, something that is desired by all states in the world but which has become essential for pakistan. under article 37 (i) of the 1973 constitution the state has made a pledge to “decentralise the govern- ment administration so as to facilitate the expeditious dis- posal of its business to meet the convenience and require- ments of the public”. however, neither the colonial govern- ment nor its post-independence succes- sors acknowledged local government as a vehicle for people’s empowerment. almost invariably these institutions have been viewed as props to bolster the central edifice. the colonial masters used the local bodies, particularly the district boards, to breed toadies. this tradition was kept alive after independ- ence by dictators ayub, zia and musharraf as their overriding concern was to undermine the democratic forces’ challenge to their rule. they did not fa- vour local bodies out of love for democ- racy, they did so to wean the masses away from democratic movements, or at least to canalise such trends. elected civilian governments have ac- quired considerable animus towards the local bodies. for one thing they have found it expedient to lambaste the local government as the authoritarian rulers’ favourite keep. but a more serious rea- son for their hostility towards local bod- ies has been their stubborn resistance to the whole issue of decentralisation. despite all the losses and humiliation suffered as a result of running the feder- ation as a highly centralised unitary state, the centre in pakistan is not pre- pared to allow the federating units their due share in power, privilege and resour- ces. and the provincial governments be- have even more intransigently when it comes to devolving power to local gov- ernments. this is the crux of the problem and the current debate needs to be seen in this context. among other matters, the present lo- cal government system has been de- nounced as unconstitutional. true, the provincial ordinances of 2001 on the subject lacked democratic sanction but the scheme launched under these meas- ures is perhaps no more unconstitution- al than the assemblies and the govern- ment itself. indeed, one of the non-controversial features of the last regime’s actions was its move towards making local govern- ment the third tier of constitutionally recognised government (after the cen- tral and provincial governments). the solitary reference to local government in the 1973 constitution was in article 32 (principle of policy, and not necessa- rily enforceable) which said: “the state shall encourage local government insti- tutions composed of elected representa- tives of the areas concerned and in such institutions special representation will be given to peasants, workers and wom- en”. (those gunning for the local bodies may note that seats for workers, peas- ants and women in these institutions cannot be denounced as unconstitution- al.) the addition of a new article (140-a) to the constitution in 2002 was a step to- wards decentralisation as it made it a constitutional obligation for the provin- cial governments to set up local govern- ment institutions. where the musharraf government went wrong was that apart from the au- thoritarian regime’s desire to use local government as a central prop, its ambi- tion and arrogance led it far away from the safe area of realism. it combined the revival of local bodies with the abolition of the office of district magistrate and a radical shift in the structure and control of the police. further, the scheme was never wholly and sincerely implemen- ted. in particular, the police-friendly pro- visions of the police order were speedily enforced while its people-friendly provi- sions were ignored. now, a reform of the district adminis- tration and replacement of the police act of 1861 had for long been found both necessary and desirable but the regime failed in its efforts because, firstly, its ex- ecutive orders could not be owned by the public and, secondly, it brought the dis- trict administration and the police under elected local governments sooner than the state system was prepared to absorb the blow. the musharraf regime antagonised the provincial governments by making the local bodies richer and stronger than them. it also antagonised the bu- reaucracy by replacing junior viceroys with plebeians. the alliance against the local government system lost little time after the 2008 election in reviving the office of commissioners and drawing up plans to dilute public oversight of the police force. now the provincial govern- ments want to control the local bodies because they are not comfortable with elected rivals; they are happier with bureaucrats who can be easily manipulated or dis- pensed with. a fundamental objection to these changes is that they have not been justi- fied at the bar of public opinion. the same objection will be raised if the pro- vincial governments make changes in the local government system without a full- scale and open public debate. the fact that local government is a provincial sub- ject does not mean that it should become the provincial government’s handmai- den. it is therefore necessary to ensure that the local bodies are not deprived of their representative character. their con- stitutional status needs to be strength- ened and they must retain the necessary authority, financial and administrative both, to function as responsible institu- tions of democratic government. now that the prime minister is waxing eloquent in favour of provincial autono- my in relation to the local bodies, is it too much to expect that the rights of provin- ces will be recognised in other areas too? it is certainly time to hack away at the central behemoth, abolish the ministries dealing with provincial subjects (begin- ning with the federal ministry for local government, of course), and create a sin- gle ministry for provincial coordination. a lean central government should serve pakistan better than the present hydra- headed and heavy-footed animal. ¦

the kerry-lugar bill and the berman bill are now in the proc- ess of being merged. not many stakeholders in pakistan have examined or minutely gone through the 58-page berman and approximately 17-page kerry- lugar bill to assess its impact on military aid to pakistan. in this article i intend to focus on two issues; first, whether the bills stretch their legal scope unnecessarily to in- clude military assistance; second, wheth- er they give undue space to political statements. in addition to regulating civilian aid, the bills intend to bring into their fold the already agreed to or ongoing milita- ry assistance and make it subject to con- ditions such as specific certification by the secretary of state. this means that assessing the performance of the civil- ian leadership under the aid pro- gramme will be a basis on which clearance shall be giv- en for the grant of military aid. is that acceptable to pakistani stakeholders? is the leadership in full knowl- edge of the implications of the fine print? if so, then fine; the matter ends here. if not, then the implications need to be examined. ongoing military assistance to pakistan is being given through existing us laws such as the foreign assistance act 1961 and the arms export control act 1976. under the present bills, the an- nual amount of $1.5bn is to be spent on the people of pakistan and not for milita- ry purposes. not many will disagree with this approach of giving aid for the peo- ple’s welfare. in fact, given past allega- tions of the diversion of funds, the us government will, rightly so, put in checks to ensure that these funds are not diverted for military purposes. looking at it from a legal point of view only, the attaching of more conditions to military aid is some what ultra vires and extraneous to the scope of the law that is otherwise devoted to civilian aid. it is certainly understandable that the us would desire a verifiable guarantee that civilian aid should not be diverted to ful- fill military purposes. however, why should the proposed us law regulate the subject matter (military aid) that it is neither granting nor regu- lating? military aid is being provided by the us to pakistan under a separate set of laws. those laws have in-built safe- guards. licensing regimes are in place, export permissions are required from the state department etc. several states in- cluding poland, hungary, the philippines and jordan along with pakistan buy mili- tary hardware from the us government complying with all regulatory conditions. if new conditions are added in the final kerry-lugar bill on military aid to pakistan, it shall be discriminatory and pakistan shall be singled out vis-à-vis sev- eral other states routinely receiving mili- tary aid and supplies from the us. once the bills are finalised, they will introduce additional legal obstructions to obtaining military assistance under other us laws. given pakistan’s signifi- cance as a us ally, pakistan should be given prompt access to upgraded milita- ry hardware for use in its present coun- ter-insurgency operation. under the circumstances, retaining a distinction between ‘military aid regula- tory law’ and ‘civilian aid regulatory law’ may be desirable. both need to operate independently of each other. otherwise, the non-fulfillment of conditions on the civilian side may inadvertently end up obstructing military supplies to pakistan. politically, it can become a tool to put pressure on pakistan any time in the future. the other important legal issue is that both bills are aid-specific and provide conditions for disbursements and enlist heads under which the aid shall be spend. this is really the true scope and purpose of these bills. however, instead of confining the text to the core objec- tives, the bills devote unnecessary space to enlisting issues that are legally extra- neous to the scope of the bill itself — for example, providing a long list of terrorist incidents in pakistan, like the marriott bombing, the names of terrorists arres- ted such as khalid sheikh mohammad etc. certainly, these are facts. but are they relevant to the bill? in both the kerry-lugar and berman bills, detailed elaborations of considera- tions and reasons for the bill are provi- ded under several headings. all this could have been explained in a few lines of the preamble. both bills contain more political statements than legal formula- tions under various headings such as ‘findings’, ‘declaration of principles’, ‘purposes of assistance’, ‘statement of policy’, ‘sense of congress’ etc. the approved legal approach is that such clauses in a draft bill must be brief and stay legalistic in outlook. this is the advice given to us lawmakers by the legislative drafting manual prepared by the legislative branch of the us congress. the pres- ent drafts of both the kerry-lugar and berman bills are inconsistent with this advice and need to be shortened drastically so that the focus of legislation remains primari- ly on aid for the people of pakistan. those congressmen who are still interes- ted in providing a detailed background of events in pakistan can do so in intro- ductory speeches that are part of the congress record. in conclusion it can be stated that both the kerry-lugar and berman bills when merged should result in a brief, clear and legalistic instrument that radiates optimism and goodwill and that stays fo- cused on aid for the welfare of the peo- ple of pakistan. ¦ the writer is an advocate of the supreme court of pakistan and president of the research society of international law. ahmersoofi@hotmail.com

it was not empty talk — pure electioneering, as many be- lieved — when barack obama declared that he would treat afghanistan differently if he were to win the election and be- come america’s next president. he had rejected his predeces- sor’s approach. for george w. bush, the war in afghanistan was a sideshow; for him the real war was in iraq. his administration had only limited goals in afghanistan. after having quickly overrun the coun- try in the fall and winter of 2001, and placed hamid karzai as the liberated country’s president, the administration thought the job was done. the main ob- jective then was to keep karzai in place in the hope that the afghan president would be able to create an environment in which a limited number of western troops would be able to keep the taliban at bay. for some time the strategy seemed to work and afghanistan — at least compared to iraq — was in relative peace. there were bombings, killings and kidnappings but these were seen as the products of a violent society learning to adjust to a different way of living and a different way of be- ing governed. the economy began to re- vive with gdp increasing at double-digit rates. the afghans once again began to trade with the world outside their bor- ders. the long-standing transit arrange- ment with pakistan began to work once again as the traditional route that con- nected the landlocked country through karachi with the outside world was re- vived. the term normal has always been difficult to apply to afghanistan but the country seemed to be returning towards some kind of normal functioning. while the central government’s power was limited to kabul and while the prov- inces were largely in the hands of power- ful chieftains to whom the epithet ‘war lords’ could be comfortably applied, this way of governing was not much different from what the country had known for centuries. and the taliban were lurking in the wings. at one time pervez musharraf, then pakistan’s president, had suggested that not all those who chose to call them- selves the taliban should be painted with the same brush; not all taliban were terrorists. many were the pakhtuns who were not happy with the way hamid karzai was managing the country. because of the circumstances of the lib- eration of afghanistan from taliban rule, the share of power held by non- pakhtuns far outweighed their propor- tion in the population and their econom- ic strength. musharraf argued for separating the pakhtuns opposed to the karzai govern- ment in two groups: the taliban whose ideology was clearly not acceptable to any civilised society, and those who could be made to work in the system that was evolving. but by then washington was accustomed to looking at the world from the perspective of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. this approach only hel- ped strengthen the diehard elements in the taliban community. by the time the american election campaign was entering its final phase, afghanistan had begun to unravel. more foreign troops were dying in that country than in iraq where the counter-insurgen- cy strategy developed by gen david petraeus had begun to work. the main component of this approach was to give space within the new system to elements in the sunni community, in particular those who had violently opposed the oc- cupation of their country by the americans. once this approach was accepted, it became clear that a large number of sunni insurgents were prepared to cross the line and come over to the american side. once the switch was made, the level of violence in iraq be- gan to decline rapidly. the same approach could have worked in afghanistan but for the long- enduring problems between the afghan governing elite and the political elite in pakistan. the two had always pursued different objectives. kabul, under the traditional elite, wished to bring the pakhtun living on the pakistani side of the border — the durand line — under its control. pakistan, always fearful of india’s designs with respect to its integri- ty as a nation state, wished to end the old afghan-india entente in its favour. this conflict, therefore, gave the kabul re- gime under hamid karzai the excuse to use pakistan as an explanation for its own failures. there was some substance in the afghan belief that unless the border be- tween afghanistan and pakistan was not sealed they would not be able to win the escalating war against the resurgent taliban. the sealing of the border was needed to stop the taliban insurgents being pursued by the americans from withdrawing into their sanctuaries on the pakistani side of the border. once there, they could rest, regroup, rearm and attack. but there were elements within the taliban community that pakistan did not wish to give up since it was one way of retaining influ- ence in the country against what were per- ceived as india’s de- signs. there are, therefore, four features of the pakhtun conundrum that need to be addressed in order to bring peace to this area. the first is to recognise that there are many genuine grievances felt by this community con- cerning the way power has been appor- tioned by the karzai regime among dif- ferent segments of the afghan society. second, pakistan has to show resolve that it will not allow those now general- ly referred to as stateless actors to pur- sue their own agendas against the coun- try’s neighbours. third, it also needs to make sure that the law of the land is re- spected by all segments of society. this means that the country will not allow it- self to be fragmented to accommodate those not happy with the current politi- cal and legal orders. finally, there must be a clear under- standing with india on what are its legit- imate interests in afghanistan. pakistan has to recognise that india is a regional power with regional interests. at the same time india has to pay heed to pakistan’s security interests. ¦

 

the kerry-lugar and berman bills are being moved simultane- ously in the senate and house of representatives. a joint com- mittee of legislators from both the houses shall then sit and merge them to enact what is likely to be called a peace act through which pakistan shall be given an annual aid package. both these bills contain several condi- tions as a prerequisite for aid to pakistan. however, the text of both bills leave out certain necessary provisions that are expected in a country-specific legislation of this nature. here i intend to collectively review the text of both bills and also propose the inclusion of certain issues. the draft law that would be eventual- ly adopted after merging the kerry lugar and berman bills must contain a provision to respect the sovereignty of pakistan. right now such a statement is missing. the us government needs to recog- nise the territorial integrity and political independence of pakistan. the us govern- ment should in legislative language assure pakistanis that it shall not implement this act in any manner that may affect the territorial integrity and political independence of the state. such a statement is almost customary in extra- territorial legislation. it would have not only legal value but also enormous polit- ical value for pakistanis. according to the present language of the bills the us may facilitate peace in the region, which in effect means that the us administration through the in- coming law is abstaining from making a clear commitment to facilitate the reso- lution of regional disputes. if the present language is adopted the us would have no legal compulsion under its own law (peace act) to facilitate the resolution of kashmir or regional issues. in other words if the status quo is maintained in the region, as india demands, then the bills would not provide any legal basis to pakistan to argue otherwise. this is con- trary to obama’s own position on the res- olution of the kashmir dispute. the final draft act needs to mention that the us shall facilitate the resolution of the kashmir issue or at least that it shall facilitate the resolution of regional disputes, particularly because it is the us congress itself that has been passing resolutions earlier for resolving the kashmir issue. now when an occasion has arisen for pakistan- and region-spe- cific legislation, it suddenly chooses to omit it. under the present drafts, pakistan has been asked to demonstrate that it is not interfering in the affairs of its neigh- bouring states. this obligation placed on- ly on pakistan is surprising. either a sim- ilar obligation should also be placed on india and afghanistan or the subject of intervention or interference should not be touched on at all in the present bills. the alleged indian and afghan in- volvement in the balochistan and fata insurgencies is well-known. in view of this, the correct approach would have been to ask pakistan’s neighbouring states not to interfere in pakistan. instead only pakistan is facing a condi- tionality of non-interference. the possible misuse of such a cove- nant could mean that even a frivolous complaint from afghanistan or india would obstruct incoming aid to pakistan. therefore, in the final draft act, the obli- gation of non-interference should be placed on all the neighbouring states. that would be the balanced legislative approach and in conformity with the principle of non-intervention as per in- ternational law.what if pakistan claims that afghanistan and india are acting in a manner that is curtailing its ability to take effective counter-terrorism meas- ures pursuant to the law? what should pakistan do then? to address such an eventuality, the final draft act should contain a provision to the effect that the neighbouring states of pakistan will re- frain from acting in a manner that may prejudice or undermine the ability and capacity of the pakistani government to fulfill the various obligations under the act and in case of suspicion of such an event pakistan shall provide the details of the same to the us president who would make it part of his report to the congress. the provision seeking access to nucle- ar proliferation suspects must be de- leted. in this context, the peace act can become a cause of anger among pakistanis with regard to their ‘nuclear hero’. the us has other specific legisla- tive instruments such as the non- proliferation act to address this particu- lar issue. there is no gain in making this aid-specific legislation controversial. under visible influence of the indian lobby one of the draft bills demands that pakistan will need to take action against jamaatud dawa because the indian lob- by suspects it of being an al qaeda asso- ciate. this is a smart legal move. if al qaeda is somehow linked with any enti- ty that is involved in kashmir, then it to- tally changes the outlook of the kashmir struggle. from a movement of self- determination against which force can only selectively be used, it shall suddenly become a counter-terrorism issue and fit for an all-out counter-in- surgency operation. there is no provision on support for the internally displaced persons in the draft bills. a provision needs to be add- ed for supporting the idps whose omis- sion from the final bill would send across the damaging message of the insensitivi- ty of the us congress. the bill currently states that pakistan shall be paid “up to” $1.5bn per year. in other words, there is no guarantee of any amount for pakistan. without this guaranteed exact figure, pakistan cannot plan for making provisioning. therefore, the us govern- ment must commit a solid figure and de- lete the ‘up to’. these are some of the im- portant points that need to be consid- ered by pakistani policymakers while in- teracting with the us administration. ¦ the writer is an advocate of the supreme court of pakistan and president of the research society of international law. ahmersoofi@hotmail.com

how should pakistan care for its poor whose number is increasing at an alarming rate? with very little gdp growth in 2008-09, there may not be any increase in income per head of the population. we know from the empirical work done at some development institutions that the gdp must increase at a rate equal to twice the rate of increase of population for the in- cidence of poverty to remain unchanged. for the incidence to decline, gdp increase has to be higher, perhaps as much as three times the rate of population growth. it needs to be even higher when income distri- bution is inequitable, as is the case in pakistan. for pakistan this translates into a growth rate of six to seven per cent a year. the economy is failing in this respect. this means that the dismal performance of the economy in 2008-09 must have added to the number of people living in poverty. the in- cidence may have increased from 50 million to 55 million. as was indicated in the budget for 2009-10, only a small increase in gdp is like- ly in 2009-10 and for a couple of years after that. if these es- timates hold, there will be a further growth in the number of poor, perhaps by 10 per cent a year. this rate of increase is more than five times the increase in population which means that the proportion of poor in the population will increase significantly. the increase will be even higher in the less developed parts of the country. this is clearly an untenable situation, which could have severe political and social consequen- ces. a rising incidence of poverty means a higher rate of unemployment, particularly in the country’s large cities. in pakistan’s case, there is a very young population — the median age now is 18.2 years. this means a very large number of young people are without productive jobs. the problem pakistan faces today has two dimensions. the state needs to assist the poor to meet their basic needs. and it needs to engage the youth in productive work. how does the government plan to address the problem? an answer was provided in the budget. islamabad is adding additional resources to a number of programmes aimed at alleviating poverty as well as pro- viding relief to the poor. much of the effort will be focused on a relatively new mechanism created by the present government and called the benazir income support programme (bisp). under this, the government is providing direct cash transfers to the poor. this is in keeping with the approach de- veloped in institutions such as the world bank that favour cash payments rather than subsidies directed at the poor. development institutions have learnt through experience that subsidies, more often than not, don’t reach the intended beneficiaries. in coun- tries such as pakistan, where the state is weak, there are enormous leakages in such programmes. cash transfers can be better monitored. the component of “conditional cash transfers” is being added to the bisp, i sus- pect at the urging of the world bank that has tried this approach in several countries in the middle east that have fallen behind the rest of the developing world in terms of human development. the idea is to provide cash to families in return for taking action such as sending girls to school; keeping chil- dren in school for periods that are long enough not only for them to learn to read and write but also to make them responsi- ble citizens; and immunising children against communicable diseases. there is one additional advantage to adopting this approach. it encourages people to use the private sector for obtaining some of the services on which cash flows are condi- tioned. in this the burden is not placed on the public sector which is very weak in countries such as pakistan. some of this has already begun to happen. over the last couple of decades, the private sector has become actively involved in the sectors of education and health which were previously the concerns of the state. while much of this is being done for profit, there is also the active involvement of the non-gov- ernment sector in education and health. even when the private sector is doing this for generating incomes for itself, it is not targeting its activities at the relatively well- to-do. since the poor even in the vey poor areas are prepared to pay for health and ed- ucation, the private sector is bringing serv- ices to them. the conditional cash pro- gramme the government is now including in its on-going efforts will provide the poor ad- ditional income to spend on these services. this will encourage further private enter- prise in the social sectors. the government is making a very large commitment to the bisp. “during fiscal year 2008-09, rs22bn was distributed to 1.8 mil- lion families,” said ms hina rabbani khar, state minister for finance, in the budget speech. “during fiscal year 2009-10, it is pro- posed to increase the allocation to bisp to rs70bn ...this would constitute more than a 200 per cent increase … and five million fam- ilies would benefit.” each eligible family would receive, on average, rs14,000 of cash in 2009-10. this is 14.5 per cent more than the rs12,222 provided in the previous year. as is the experience in other parts of the world where such programmes have been tried — they are popular in latin america and the middle east — care needs to be tak- en to ensure that money reaches the right pockets. a number of target- ing mechanisms have been tried and some of them have worked. those that have succeeded are based on good informa- tion about the poor. this is done by building what are called ‘poverty maps’ based on censuses and household surveys. the government seems to be moving in that direction. accor- ding to ms khar, “a census would be com- pleted within three months in 16 districts of pakistan as a pilot to benchmark incomes. this would be extended to the entire coun- try within the calendar year. the benazir income support cards would serve as vehi- cles of transparent management and ad- dressing the needs of the vulnerable.” the government has also indicated the willingness to commit resources to public works programmes in both rural and urban areas in order to provide temporary relief to the urban unemployed. these programmes work well when there is good oversight. in pakistan’s case this could be provided by the local government institutions. all these are palliatives, however. the re- al solution to the poverty problem lies in getting the poor engaged productively in the economy as wage earners and that will need both a high rate of gdp growth as well as the development of labour-intensive sec- tors of the economy. ¦

the public debate on constitu- tional, legal and political reforms in the federally administered tribal areas (fata) has begun not a mo- ment too soon. indeed, some people think the time for leisurely talks may have passed. the fact remains that the battle for the hearts and minds of the tribal people will not end with a victory of arms over the militants. fata needs a new deal more urgently than any other part of pakistan. the basic issues relating to fata have been discussed in detail over the past many years. briefly, these are: what should be the consti- tutional status of fata? should fata be merged with the frontier province or should it be made a separate provincial unit? what should the frontier crimes regulation be re- placed with? should political parties be al- lowed in fata? what kind of local govern- ment needs to be introduced there? what are the priorities regarding fata’s socio-cul- tural-economic development? a recent roundtable atten- ded by most political parties that matter again showed that while considerable agreement on the future dispensation in fata already exists, quite a few contentious issues have yet to be resolved. for instance, all parties want articles 246 and 247 of the constitution amended for three objectives. firstly, the tag ‘tribal territory’, commonly described in urdu as ‘ilaqa ghair’ (other people’s territo- ry) must be discarded as it distorts the per- spective on both sides. secondly, the territo- ry should be transformed from a president’s fief into a parliament-controlled area. and, thirdly, the area should fall under the juris- diction of the supreme court. similarly, most political parties readily agree, and for obvious reasons, that they should be allowed to operate in the area. for the sake of convenience one may endorse their call for the extension of the political parties order, 2002, a musharraf regime rel- ic of doubtful value, to fata, but it is time they devised a framework for political par- ties that could inspire public confidence in their democratic, responsible and transpar- ent functioning. the preparation of a local government plan appropriate to the area also should not be difficult. avoiding the musharraf regime’s mistake of treating all parts of pakistan as uniformly developed and liable to be strap- ped under a single system, it should be possi- ble to work out a local government scheme that can facilitate the fata people’s initiation into post-tribal local self-government. as regards the socio-economic develop- ment of the area, nobody will dispute the need to give priority to enlargement of eco- nomic activity, creation of jobs and establish- ment of educational and health institutions. but differences on the mode and mechanism of service delivery cannot be dismissed. this problem has not been solved in the rest of pakistan either. the search for a model that is people-friendly (as opposed to parliamen- tarian-friendly) and free of a built-in facility for a corruption model may not be easy but is well worth the effort. thus we are left with two ticklish issues — fcr’s replacement and fata’s provin- cial status. mr yousuf raza gilani’s announcement immediately after his accession to the prime ministerial gaddi about the fcr’s annulment was in line with liberal thinking. however, it was soon realised that the extension of the so-called normal laws and court procedures, which might have been possible some deca- des ago, was no longer a workable proposi- tion. the reasons were firstly, social changes in fata as a result of the communication ex- plosion, the afghan war and the militant cleric’s success in supplanting the tribal ma- lik, and, secondly, the fata people’s distaste for and fear of pakistan’s justice system. as things stand, pragmatism may serve pakistan better than idealism. this means that a new law should be made for the area that does not have the obnoxious features of the fcr, such as the scheme of collective fines, destruction of offenders’ houses and absence of appeal provisions, and still re- tains the spirit of a community-managed sys- tem for adjudication. in order to avoid every case causing protracted litigation, petty ca- ses and minor disputes could be resolved by democratically constituted juries with possi- bilities of appeal to superior judicial forums. the moment a tactical accommodation of the fata people’s sensibilities is mentioned, two questions are raised. first, it is said that no step that perpetuates the tribal system can be welcome. among other things, this may trigger similar demands from elements that are in the process of transition from the tribal to post-tribal stage. secondly, how will the rights of women and minorities be pro- tected? the first objection ignores the impossibili- ty of a tribal society’s acceptance of non-trib- al norms of personal and collective conduct without the abolition of tribal relations — economic, political and social. it also frees the state of pakistan of its liability to pay for the cost of protecting, in its narrow interest, the tribal population against social change. the bills have to be paid now with compound interest. if the banner of sharia is raised, for that too the state cannot escape responsibili- ty. as for the rights of women and minorities, guarantees for these have to be negotiated. it will be a test not only of islamabad’s negoti- ating skills but also of its sincerity in uphold- ing women’s and minorities’ rights as to how it presents these rights as non-negotiable val- ues. without such guarantees all talk of re- form will be a hoax. somewhat harder is the determination of fata’s provincial status. the frontier politi- cal parties have a clear interest in seeking fata’s merger with their province. the exis- tence of some elements in fata who support this idea cannot be denied. but nobody can say as to the strength of the people who wish fata to be made a separate province. and are there no people who have reservations about coming under the pakistani constitution itself? the question obviously touches on the erosion of the confidence of the fata people in pakistan. there is no point in harping on these people’s 1947 decision to throw in their lot with pakistan because that would raise the difficult ques- tion of whether the pakistan government honoured its part of the bargain. pakistan to- day is not the garden of promises it was in 1947. it is impossible to blame the fata pop- ulation for becoming wary of joining a fami- ly whose older members are behaving oddly, to say the least, and are pulling in different directions. there is no gainsaying that this trust defi- cit, accumulated over six decades, cannot be instantly wiped out — especially when the means of accomplishing this are no better than clichés. however, before schemes of the advancement of fata are unfolded the pro- clamation of a charter of its people’s rights and islamabad’s commitment to upholding them may still help in winning over these vig- orously and foolishly excluded people. a white paper may be issued acknowledg- ing the fata people’s role in promoting and defending pakistan’s interests and stating in unambiguous terms the federation’s resolve to honour their rights. the white paper must make it clear that while the wishes of the people of fata to protect their traditions de- serve respect no compromise on the rights of women and minority groups and on human rights, democracy and the rule of law can be contemplated as this will harm the tribal community itself the most by putting a cross on their right to social progress. ¦

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

MAKING OF SIDESHOW ARTISTS

BY JAWED NAQVI

 

NEWS headlines in both countries are shamelessly self-absorbed: leaders of India and Pakistan will meet in Egypt today where they are to attend the NonAligned Movement’s (NAM) summit. In the recent past the two sides have met at other foreign venues.

 

After last November’s terror assault on Mumbai, India’s prime minister and Pakistan’s president met in Russia after considerable global nudging though without any obvious signs of success. Before that, following last July’s suicide attack on Delhi’s embassy in Kabul and a cluster of terror attacks across major Indian cities, when their ties were yet again strained, the prime ministers met in Colombo. This is ridiculous, more so because at least India claims that bilateral disputes, which include the Kashmir issue, should not be internationalised.

 

By carrying their laundry bags to regional and international summits, albeit to meet on the so-called sidelines, the two countries come across as churlish, immature neighbours. This is not an encouraging attribute for the nuclear-weapons states they both have gate-crashed their way to become. One day they declare to each other — and thereby to the rest of the world — that their peace process is irreversible come what may. The next day their envoys would be seeking the first available agony aunt to offload their all-too-familiar travails to, be it about lifethreatening terrorism or lifegiving water resources among their other unresolved bilateral topics.

 

They almost seem to have been better off during the Cold War. One was militarily anchored to the West with extensive strategic tie-ups in the Middle East, the other ideologically tethered to the Third World. They were not the best of friends, but they were geopolitical adults. In fact, on one occasion when for a brief moment India found itself on the same page of the global divide with Pakistan in 1977, it was greeted by Islamabad with a big (some said embarrassing) hug: the Indian prime minister was decorated with the neighbour’s highest civilian honour.

 

On other occasions if their rivalries delivered a lacerating blow both would bear with candour and not wince or howl in pain. They knew how to get even but they did so discreetly. India, though, mostly had the upper hand right up to the Simla Accord and beyond.

 

Take 1983. Indira Gandhi became host of the NAM summit in Delhi by default. It was Saddam Hussein’s turn to take over from Fidel Castro, but since Iraq was engaged in a brutal war with Iran, the honour was diverted to the Indian prime minister. She needed the opportunity to refurbish her image after the fiasco of her 1975-77 emergency rule. The Cold War was at its peak when Mrs Gandhi took the gavel from Castro. That year Moscow and Washington were playing cat and-mouse in Afghanistan and to an extent in Iran.

 

India and Pakistan were not unencumbered by their global loyalties. Mrs Gandhi had veered close to Moscow in 1971. By 1975 she was accusing her opponents of working for the US and China. Both happened to be Pakistan’s close partners. Analysts have argued that her claim was not entirely inaccurate considering that the pro-America Jan Sangh and pro-China communists led the anti-Indira movement. On the other hand Moscow-backed communists had supported her emergency. It is another matter that they later regretted it, as communists often do.

 

Gen Ziaul Haq, who represented Pakistan at the 1983 NAM summit in Delhi, looked forlorn and friendless. Mrs Gandhi was the presiding deity while her rival was a pariah having offended senior Third World leaders who had unsuccessfully pleaded for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s life to be spared. They never forgave Zia for his cruelty to one of their icons. I vividly remember the general smiling bravely to himself as other NAM leaders seated with him were riveted to the Indian military pageantry Mrs Gandhi had especially organised for the occasion.

 

The general’s smile may have masked his reverie. Here was Mrs Gandhi putting up an impressive show before the world, but only he knew how seriously she was singed by the raging insurgency in Punjab, which was looking menacing with each passing day. Her Sikh bodyguards assassinated Mrs Gandhi the following year. Benazir Bhutto was to later admit to Pakistan’s culpability in India’s Punjab tragedy. It did not require a great sleuth to see the link from London to Washington and Ottawa. The fingerprints in the Punjab upheaval were there for all to see. And yet did we hear any war drums? On the contrary, the next few years raised the most promising hopes for peace between India and Pakistan. Check this out in the details of the Rajiv GandhiBenazir Bhutto talks. It was a different era altogether.

 

I am not sure if Mrs Gandhi and Gen Zia met again after 1983. Whatever their serious differences they never took their confrontation to this or that world capital. Though they came from opposite ideological corners, both countries were signatories to NAM resolutions. Some of these agreements may have been loftier than the capacity of their sponsors to translate them into practice — i.e. declaration of the Indian Ocean as a nuclear-free zone, support for PLO, Swapo and goodness knows how many other burning and usually legitimate issues of the time. The war between Iran and Iraq became the most important of these. Those were the days when India was perceived as a credible voice from the developing world and Pakistan was secure in its role as a frontline state in the Cold War. They were not the sideshow artists they were to become at any available venue abroad. ¦ The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

 

jawednaqvi@gmail.com

 

 

 

first it was manu- facturing. then it was accounting. next it was software. after that, it was call centres. and now, it seems, it is tor- ture that is being out- sourced by rich coun- tries too squeamish to do their own dirty work. in a series of disturbing sto- ries, the guardian has exposed the british practice of point- ing out terror suspects from its pakistani community travel- ling to their home country. these young men have then been picked up, and severely tortured in safe houses, alleg- edly by the isi. spearheading this investigation is ian cobain, a journalist who has won the martha gellhorn prize for journalism, as well as an award from amnesty international. cobain has focused on britain’s apparent complicity with foreign agencies in the torture of suspects overseas, in contravention of british and international laws. mi5 officers have questioned pris- oners undergoing terrible mis- treatment in morocco, egypt, bangladesh and pakistan. and while they have not per- sonally inflicted the pain, it was clear throughout that the questions were being framed by them. the post-9/11 policy of ren- dition pioneered by the cia produced a network of tor- ture centres across the world where suspects would be put through the grinder at washington’s behest. this outsourcing of torture was copied by britain as compli- ant lawyers and legislators turned a blind eye to the geneva conventions as well as common decency. cobain quotes cofer black, former head of counter-terrorism at cia, telling a congressional committee: “all you need to know: there was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. after 9/11 the gloves came off.” there is a certain obscene logic to this cynical use of for- eign agencies to commit acts prohibited by law in the us and britain. abstract notions of national security have pro- vided a fig leaf to many crim- inals in and out of uniform, apart from protecting many reputations and careers. from this perspective, if physical and mental duress are to be applied, it is far bet- ter to have foreigners do the dirty work. describing the torture he underwent in pakistan during his trial on terrorism charges in britain, rangzieb ahmed tells a harrowing story. according to the guardian, “ahmed told the court how he had been beaten with sticks, whipped with electric cables and rubber whips, sexually humiliated and deprived of sleep … the nail of the small finger of his left hand was re- moved….” he has been found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. the issue here is not the guilt or innocence of individu- al suspects, but the manner in which evidence is obtained. the concept of torturing sus- pects is a medieval one that was outlawed many years ago in most western countries. as cobain reminds us in his piece in the guardian, the last tor- ture warrant was issued in england in 1641. neverthe- less, the english were not above using physical pressure in their colonies. the indian police in the colonial era had a reputation for brutality that is proudly maintained today in police stations and prisons across south asia. so when we loudly criticise the americans for the un- speakable torture inflicted at abu ghraib and guantanamo bay, should we not spare a thought for what goes on every day in torture cells in pakistan? as we all know, petty criminals hauled in for the most minor crime are routinely slapped around by the cops. if the victim is well-connected, suspects are given the third degree with- out any thought for conse- quences. occasionally, those at the receiving end of this ‘intensive interrogation’ do not survive, and compliant doctors put down their death to ‘natural causes.’ in this environment of widespread acceptance of these abuses, it should come as no surprise that our intelli- gence agencies torture people who have not been accused of any crime on our soil. at the behest of london and washington, we are ready and willing to inflict the worst hor- rors imaginable on young men fingered by the cia or mi5. i suspect that one reason we have lost our capacity to be shocked and angered by these excesses committed in our name is that we know that they seldom happen to ‘peo- ple like us’. in other words, the victims of torture are members of an underclass with whom we seldom come into social contact. so when the cops apply their standard ‘chhitrol’ to petty criminals, the prevailing attitude is that they probably deserved it. this lack of sympathy and empathy has had a brutalising effect on society. police offi- cers shield their underlings from disciplinary action; judg- es are aware of how confes- sions were extorted, but go along; and senior officials of intelligence agencies know they are safe from any ac- countability. and while all of us close our eyes to this grim reality, victims of torture con- tinue suffering in our name. but this inhuman treatment is not limited to officialdom: several political parties are well-known for their use of torture. drilling holes in the knees of victims with electric drills is an old favourite. the taliban are no slouches at in- flicting pain, and take pride in filming the suffering of their victims. when it comes to complici- ty with our agencies in the use of torture, it is clear that agents from mi5 were out of line. they may or may not be prosecuted on the basis of in- formation unearthed by the guardian as well as by various human rights organisations. but the fact is that in the west, the use if torture is an aberration, and not the norm it is here in pakistan. one interesting (and de- pressing) fact to emerge from the whole terrible rendition saga is that nearly all these ep- isodes took place in the muslim world. alleged partic- ipants include egypt, moro- cco, bangladesh, the uae, jordan and pakistan. all these countries are notorious for the ill-treatment of prison- ers. of course, one reason for this slant is that almost all ter- ror suspects detained after 9/11 were muslims. clearly, those wishing to commit acts of terror must be stopped. we in pakistan have suffered more from them than any other nation. but by bru- talising others, we ultimately debase our own society. if we are to occupy the moral high ground in our fight against ex- tremism, we cannot use the methods of our enemies. ¦ irfan.husain@gmail.com

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

ALLIANCE OF DENIAL

BY SIMON JENKINS

 

DIPLOMACY, your hour has come. There is no way soldiers will find an exit from Afghanistan. They can deliver defeat or they can deliver bloody stalemate. They cannot deliver victory and every observer knows it. This conflict will end only when the courage being daily demanded of soldiers is also shown by politicians.

 

Those who said that sending an army to Afghanistan was madness can collect their winnings and go. But diplomacy is a relativist ethic. Its practitioners cannot say, “Do not start from here.” They must face the fact that Barack Obama and Gordon Brown are entangled in a mess from which there is no easy release.

 

Obama made a serious error on coming to power. To honour his pledge to disown Iraq he felt obliged to “adopt” Afghanistan. What had begun as a punitive raid on the Taliban for harbouring Osama bin Laden morphed into a neocon campaign of regime change, counter-in surgency and nation-building. Obama rashly identified himself with this crusade and leapt from the frying pan of Iraq into the fire of the Hindu Kush.

 

The president now owns Afghanistan. As a result, he and his British ally, Gordon Brown, are sucked into mendacity on the scale of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. They talk of “clearing, holding and building” Afghan territory, to make the world safe from terrorist bases. Brown talks of fighting “to prevent terrorism coming to the streets of Britain”. His helpless defence minister, Bob Ainsworth, tells troops they must stay until the Karzai government “can tackle the threat of the Taliban on its own”, which he knows is never.

 

Such explanations insult public intelligence. Terrorism does not need bases. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany. The safety of Britain’s streets is secured not by boys dying in poppy fields, but by sound intelligence and domestic policing. We learned last week that UK security service MI5’s former head, Eliza Manningham-Buller, specifically warned the government that British security would be harmed by intervention abroad. Ministers know this. Why do they lie?

 

The answer is because they are trapped in an alliance with America, a country also in denial. Brown does not believe in this war. That is why he left the 2006 Helmand expedition with so few helicopters and refused to reinforce it with 2,000 extra troops — though in fairness to Brown, the army did tell him that it could cope with what it had. As a result the force has had to be rescued by the Americans, to the Taliban’s glee.

 

The worm is now turning. Not a week passes without a military and diplomatic source questioning the government’s policy, or lack of one. A high-powered British Academy (of humanities and social sciences) seminar last Friday, attended by senior generals, diplomats and academics, was astonishingly at odds. Some said Britain should stay “for the long haul”, others that staying was a terrible mistake. Some said that security would only follow a “hearts and minds” campaign, others that it should precede it. Some wanted democracy, others said forget it. The shambles was revealing.

 

Washington hardly displays greater coherence. Obama gave his favourite general, David Petraeus, three months to come up with a new Afghan strategy. The advice, to no one’s surprise, was for a “surge”, with more troops to hold territory and rebuild consent for the Kabul government. Obama appeared to like it.

 

The idea of establishing a western-style democracy is dead. The dreams of Kabul’s NGO groupies, to install technocrats or elevate women or eradicate poppies, have vanished in a morass of corruption and aid extravagance. ¦ — The Guardian, London

 

british troops are dying in afghanistan because of a lack of money. whatever min- isters might say about their commitment to make sure the army has the best possible equipment, that’s the reality. what’s more, the penny- pinching has nothing much to do with the fact that britain is skint. the cost of the reces- sion will push the budget def- icit to some 12 per cent of gdp this year, but the squeeze on the defence budg- et began years ago. it is possible to provide the forces in afghanistan with the helicopters and heavily arm- oured vehicles they need but something will have to give. the fiscal facts of life are these. just over four decades ago, harold wilson an- nounced the end of britain’s east of suez policy. at that time, britain had a sizeable military presence in the middle east plus bases in singapore and hong kong. all but hong kong were abandoned because money was tight as a result of the economic problems that cul- minated in the devaluation of 1967. in that year, the uk spent 6.5 per cent of gdp on defence, more than it was de- voting to education (five per cent) and a lot more than it was investing on health (four per cent). the cuts involved in east of suez saved a consid- erable amount of money but even when wilson lost the 1970 election the defence budget still accounted for well over five per cent of gdp, as it did when jim callaghan lost the 1979 elec- tion to margaret thatcher. over the next 30 years, de- fence took an ever-smaller share of spending, with the big change coming with the collapse of communism at the end of the 1980s. govern- ments in the west — includ- ing britain, of course — felt they no longer had to spend as much on defence now that the russian threat had disap- peared. they received a tidy cold war dividend, which they duly spent on other things. in 1991, defence accounted for four per cent of gdp, but in the last full year of con- servative rule five years later it was down to 3.2 per cent. but after tony blair came to power in 1997, new threats emerged. blair’s “muscular interventionism” involved sending troops to fight in four serious conflicts — sierra leone, kosovo, iraq and af- ghanistan. what it did not in- volve was a commensurate in- crease in the defence budget. in the current year, the uk is planning to spend £42.1bn on defence at a time when the treasury’s estimates the out- put of the economy will be £1.43tr. that amounts to three per cent of gdp. when gordon brown and his team say that they are planning increases in defence spending, they are right but only for the short term. an ex- tra £1.6bn has been allocated to the forces in 2010 and be- cause the impact of the reces- sion is to make the economy smaller, defence will account for 3.1 per cent of gdp. that will be the highest since 1997. the increase will, however, be only short-lived since de- fence — like every other de- partment — will feel the squeeze from the spending re- straint deemed necessary to reduce the budget deficit. almost £2bn will be shaved off military spending and the defence budget will once again drop to less than three per cent of gdp. apologies for the blizzard of figures, but they are impor- tant. too much of the debate about what is happening in afghanistan is taking place in a statistical vacuum or in- volves the manipulation of se- lectively chosen figures. brown, for example, said at the end of the g8 summit that britain had doubled the num- ber of helicopters available for the troops in helmand province since 2006. what he didn’t say was that according to military experts it has dou- bled from 10 to 20 — a total inadequate to support the 9,000 troops. fewer helicop- ters has meant troops being moved around helmand in vehicles, which offer scant protection against the road- side bombs. so the conclusion is simple. the government wants to fight a war against extremism in afghanistan and pakistan but is doing so on the cheap. it has returned to an east of suez policy but with a de- fence budget less than half what it was in the 1960s. brown’s case for remaining in afghanistan is that there is a “chain of terror” linking the poppy fields of helmand to the streets of britain. his riposte to those who say that the defence budget for a me- dium-sized country with big economic problems should be spent on national security is that this is a matter of na- tional security. but if that’s what the prime minister thinks, he needs to find the resources to fight the war properly. otherwise, it will be lost — and at an unneces- sarily high cost. ¦ — the guardian, london

something bizarre is happening in the area of dalston, in london’s hackney, where i live. as i write, half a dozen men are hunched over planting half- grown wheat on derelict wasteland. next to them, ar- chitects are building a wind- mill that will generate the en- ergy to power two bread ovens. when it opens on wednesday, it will host bread- making, music, theatre and feasts for anyone who wants to step away from the noise of the shops and traffic-clogged nearby streets. it’s an installation linked to the radical nature exhibi- tion, at the barbican, in london, but it’s evidence of an art that is penetrating some of the least hospitable places, very far from galler- ies, to open up conversations in unexpected ways around our relationship with land, food and each other. can we think differently about the way we use land, produce food and relate to each other? the origins of dalston’s wheatfield lie thousands of miles away, with agnes denes, one of a generation of american land artists who took art out of galleries and away from making objects to be bought and sold. in 1982 she planted wheat on two acres of wasteland on battery park, two blocks from wall street; her harvest was worth £158, produced on land val- ued at $4.5bn. the photos of waving golden wheat juxta- posed against the manhattan skyline became an iconic im- age of environmental art. with her collaboration, her idea is now being recreated in hackney. at a time of growing anxi- ety about how we feed a crow- ded earth — food security was discussed at the g-8 last week — her image of fertility and sustenance is even more poignant, and no longer out- landish. such possibilities of food production in the city could be commonplace for our children. havana, fa- mously, learned to largely feed itself from within its city limits after imported russian oil dried up in the 1990s. the point about denes’s work in dalston — and the ex- hibition at the barbican — is that it raises for a new gener- ation the role art can play in shifting attitudes towards our natural environment. with fortunate timing, tate britain also has a retrospective of an- other land art pioneer of denes’s generation, richard long. or look north to man- chester’s international festi- val and gustav metzger’s ex- traordinary uprooted, upen- ded trees set into concrete. on every side, artists are put- ting their shoulder to the wheel, trying to prompt the revolution in values and atti- tudes required to deal with environmental crisis. can art succeed where sci- ence is proving insufficient to generate the will to act effec- tively on climate change? scientists sound increasingly desperate as the evidence they are carefully accumulat- ing stacks up but fails to prompt the urgency they in- sist it requires. science seems only to create a panicked pa- ralysis: a language of proba- bilities, statistics and num- bers fails to gain traction on the public imagination. is this where artists have to step in to prompt understand- ing, to challenge what is taken for granted, to turn our ideas upside down? to that ques- tion, tim smit, founder of the eden project, quotes cs lew- is: “science can lead to truth, only the imagination can lead you towards meaning.” if this all sounds a little eso- teric, think again. peterboro- ugh council is at the beginning of fulfilling a huge ambition to make itself the environmental capital of europe. it believes it probably has the largest number of environmental bus- inesses on the continent. to re-orientate the city around sustainability, it plans to build art/culture into every step of the process. devolving decisi- ons to neighbourhood counci- ls, the council’s leader, marco cereste, sees art as vital to prompting that local engage- ment that can generate the sense of belonging crucial to environmental sustainability. but art can never be didac- tic, insists smit. at the eden project the art can encourage people to “look anew, and transform their view. so many of us are skating so fast over the surface of so much,” he says. ¦ — the guardian, london

britain’s nuclear stock- pile could be reduced after multilateral talks next year that are likely to flow from a global summit on nuclear weapons, the british prime minister, gordon brown has indicated. the summit, to be con- vened by barack obama, is expected to come up with a new regime to prevent nucle- ar proliferation and the safe storage of nuclear stockpiles. it is likely to involve up to 30 countries, providing an oppor- tunity for discussion on a more intrusive weapons in- spection regime and a chance for nuclear weapons states other than russia and the us, which between them account for 95 per cent of nuclear weapons, to contribute to the disarmament process. talks are due next year anyway on a successor to the 40-year-old nuclear non-pro- liferation treaty. the obama summit, which is likely to be held in march, will also look at the risks posed by nuclear terrorism, the safety of nucle- ar stockpiles and atomic smuggling. the safety issue has been made more urgent by the ex- pected worldwide spread of civil nuclear power. obama briefed his fellow g8 leaders on his plan following his sum- mit in moscow earlier on, where he signed a framework accord aimed at cutting stock- piles to as low as 1,500 war- heads. britain is acting earlier than intended, mainly be- cause of worries that prolifer- ation is in danger of accelerat- ing, driven by fear of a nucle- ar north korea and nuclear iran. gordon brown indicated that a key aim of the obama summit could also be to dis- cuss a new inspection regime, whereby countries such as iran would be placed under a tougher obligation to prove that they were not develop- ing nuclear weapons. in re- turn, non-nuclear weapon states would be given greater help with developing civil nu- clear power. in the next few days, he is due to publish a plan setting out detailed british proposals on civil nuclear power, disar- mament and non-prolifera- tion, fissile material security and the role and develop- ment of the international atomic energy agency. in a speech in march, brown poin- ted out that britain had halved the number of its nu- clear warheads since 1997, and said it was ready to re- duce the number further in multilateral discussions. on thursday, brown stre- ssed he was not planning to reduce britain’s stockpile unilaterally, or to revisit the decision to press ahead with a replacement for the trident nuclear weapons system. but he indicated a better weap- ons inspection regime would help give britain confidence to disarm. he said: “we have to show that we can deal with this by collective action. unilateral action by the uk would not be seen as the best way for- ward. we are prepared to re- duce our nuclear weapons, but we need new kinds of as- surances that other countries are not proliferating.” brown added: “we need a tougher regime so the onus will be on the countries that do not have nuclear weapons to prove this. one of the prob- lems with iran is the question of whether you can prove or not that they have nuclear weapons.” ¦ —the guardian, london

despite the constraints he faced in fulfilling pledges he made as a candidate, barack obama has succeeded in offering avenues for coop- eration to cuba, iran, the muslim world in general, and now russia. obama will be in ghana, and there is intense specula- tion about what this son of africa, who electrified the world by so improbably tak- ing the helm in america, will say about what he expects from, and will offer, the conti- nent. the president’s personal knowledge of and interest in africa, his charisma and his grass-roots support mean that he could be a major player there. this is particularly true since africa’s low profile among the american political elite allows us leaders a lot of leeway in formulating policy towards it. but as obama devises us approaches to african chal- lenges, he will face difficul- ties from an unexpected quar- ter — the us military. george bush and his war on terror, and his reliance on force as a first resort, gave the military extraordinary power in shap- ing african policy — symbol- ised by bush’s creation of the united states africa command (africom), in the misguided notion that the military approach was the best way to tackle terrorism. thankfully, african govern- ments overwhelmingly resis- ted the siting of africom bases. but africom is a reali- ty, so it is vital that obama move to curtail one of its most dangerous mandates: its in- volvement in economic devel- opment and humanitarian ac- tions. this risks the militarisa- tion of africa’s political and social life — areas that re- main the best hope for a bet- ter africa. africom apart, a number of obama’s political appoint- ments are also hawkish, among them the africa spe- cialist who is now a member of his cabinet as the us am- bassador to the united nations — susan rice. she is inclined to the use of force, as evidenced by the threatening language she used about sudan and eritrea before joining the cabinet. it is this influence that would explain obama’s risky decision two weeks ago to es- calate us involvement in somalia and ship arms to the isolated government — by ob- taining a waiver from the long-standing un embargo. somalia’s tottering govern- ment has no public support, and runs just a few blocks of mogadishu, despite the sup- port of 4,300 ugandan troops. this new intervention is a continuation of the ruinous bush policy in somalia, which resulted in the militant al- shabab islamists — a previ- ously negligible group — emerging as the country’s dominant force after large numbers of somalis were radi- calised by us air strikes and the invasion by ethiopia, somalia’s arch enemy, in 2007 to topple the popular and mod- erate union of islamic courts. while attention will be heavily focused in accra on what obama says about africa, what is even more im- portant is for the us presi- dent to begin hearing from africans. he must confer with civil society leaderships that have finally come of age across the continent. one thing he would consis- tently hear from civil society leaders would be that good governance — democracy, in- clusion, respect for human rights and the rule of law — is non-negotiable. he would al- so hear that some of the sig- nificant gains made in ex- panding freedoms in multi- party africa are being rolled back. this is not surprising, as the strategy of the us war on terror reverted to the cold war model of supporting dic- tatorial allies, which in east africa included the ethiopian and ugandan leaderships. obama would also hear that there can be no compro- mise on free and fair elec- tions. in too many countries recently — including ameri- ca’s close allies ethiopia, uganda and kenya, as well as zimbabwe — elections have been seriously tainted, and have been followed by vio- lence, the loss of liberties and the strengthening of state se- curity organs. ¦ — the guardian, london

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DAWN

 EDITORIAL

THE MOSCOW SUMMIT

 RUSSIA HAS RECOVERED FROM THE DRIFT AND CONFUSION OF THE YELTSIN YEARS.

 BY TARIQ FATEMI

 

RUSSIA is no longer an ideological threat to the US. But it remains the world’s biggest state with enormous natural resources and a huge arsenal of non-conventional weapons.

 

It was therefore understandable that President Obama’s recent visit to Moscow should revive memories of the intrigue and excitement that surrounded past summits.

 

The Russian media handled the visit with restraint. Most comments were circumspect as evident from the Izvestia report that noted Obama’s desire to reset relations with Russia, but warned that “the US administration must do something to show that it has really changed its stand. So far not a single drop has been poured from the ‘carafe of promises’ into the glass of resetting relations”.

 

Moscow’s cautious approach is understandable. Obama may want to ‘reset’ relations with Russia, but he cannot start with a clean slate, for the Russians, raised on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, carry deep memories of past indignities. Though the Soviet Union collapsed largely on account of its own mistakes and institutional weaknesses, Washington grasped the opportunity to claim that this exposed not only the bankruptcy of the Marxist-Leninist ideology, but also represented the triumph of democracy and capitalism.

 

This gave rise to the Bush administration’s nauseating arrogance towards others, which Moscow deeply resented, especially after its offer of assistance in the wake of 9/11 was readily accepted but never reciprocated.

 

Nato was expanded at a frenetic pace, with little consideration for Moscow’s sensitivities, even in areas traditionally viewed as constituting its historic area of influence. US support and encouragement to the ‘colour revolutions’ in Georgia and Ukraine and the likelihood of this ‘virus’ spreading to other states, added to Moscow’s fear of ‘encirclement’ — a powerful factor that has influenced Moscow’s psy che in the past.

 

Washington’s plan to deploy a missile defence system in Central Europe, ostensibly to counter the Iranian threat, but in reality to bring greater pressure to bear upon Moscow, as well as the two capitals’ sharply differing objectives in Central Asia, worsened an already grave situation, renewing much of the distrust and animosity of the Cold War years.

 

In the meanwhile, Russia has undergone a dramatic revival, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s strong leadership and his espousal of assertive nationalist policies that were bolstered by the massive foreign exchange earnings from unprecedented oil and gas prices. Russia has recovered from the drift and confusion of the Yeltsin years, a factor accounting for Putin’s continuing popularity at home.

 

On the other hand, the US, thanks to the arrogance and contempt with which the Bush presidency viewed the world, added to the impression that it need neither be respected nor feared. In fact, America’s current economic crisis has turned the world’s only superpower into the world’s largest debtor-nation, shattering its hope of recasting the global community in the mould of a ‘new world order’.

 

Washington’s eagerness to reset relations with Russia was therefore understandable. Whichever way Obama may look — Central Europe, the Middle East, North Korea, Iran, Central Asia or Afghanistan — Russian cooperation is essential to achieve any headway.

 

While the White House was keen to claim success for the summit, the reality was somewhat different. Yes, the two sides did agree to press the ‘reset button’ on their relations. They have also taken the first step towards a new strategic arms limitation treaty, with both sides calling for a reduction of their nuclear arsenals from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and from 1,600 to between 500 and 1,100 delivery vehicles. This is to be achieved within the next seven years but an agreement formalising this could be on the table by the end of the year. But they remain far apart over US plans to place missiles in Central Europe as well as on Iran although both sides have agreed to play down their differences, with Obama expressing confidence that “US and Russian positions on these issues can be reconciled”.

 

It was, however, the understanding on Afghanistan that caught diplomatic observers by surprise. Moscow’s agreement to allow up to 4,500 US military over-flights a year, to ferry men and material to Afghanistan, without payment is a remarkable gesture that will surely earn it Washington’s appreciation.

 

Coming at a time when the US is finding it increasingly difficult to supply its troops in Afghanistan by the land corridor through Pakistan, the Russian offer is important, both in terms of the political message that it sends to the region, as well as in easing a major US concern. The White House has calculated that this could save the US as much as $133m a year in transit costs. But its real value far exceeds this modest sum.

 

First of all it sends a strong message to the international community that when it comes to confronting terror, Russia will stand by the US, because Moscow feels equally concerned about the growing threat of Islamic militancy brewing in its territory where Muslims are in large numbers. More importantly, having made this gesture, it is not unlikely that Moscow may suggest to Washington that it need no longer insist on retaining military bases in the Central Asian states.

 

For Pakistan, the USRussia agreement on overflights is a stark reminder that while Washington will continue to use our transit facilities, it is already exploring other options, to ensure that it does not become totally dependent on us.

 

More importantly, when it comes to extremism and militancy, there is virtual unanimity among the major powers to enforce a policy of zero tolerance. To add to our worries, the recent disturbances in China’s Xinjiang province could become a major irritant in relations with our strategic ally should there be any evidence of collusion, even by non-state actors based on Pakistani soil, with the rioters. ¦

 

 

 

there are two main views on the foreign aid — mostly military, and from the us — which pakistan has received in the past. the first is that pakistan has been over-dependent on it for long-term development re- sulting in insufficient mobili- sation of domestic resources (a negative link between do- mestic savings and foreign aid, the dutch disease, strate- gic rent-seeking and other eso- teric economic phenomena are often cited as evidence) and perpetual dependency on foreign relief. the other view, unfortu- nately predominant, is that aid received by pakistan is far too little. ‘peanuts’ is the word gen ziaul haq used to ridi- cule jimmy carter who of- fered $325m for three years to support the afghan jihad. he then waited to drive a much harder bargain with reagan. gen musharraf was recent- ly reported to have expressed regret over not demanding $20bn per year, instead of the paltry $1.5bn that he agreed to accept from bush in a rush. had he succeeded in striking that bargain, we would have indeed made a profit of sever- al billion dollars, as the total cost of the war has been esti- mated at $35bn — approxi- mately $5bn a year. but then, the military would have had vested interests in prolonging the war. indeed, gen musharraf’s autobiography talks of the war on terror as something that was not only his duty to engage in as pakistan’s chief soldier, but also as a lucrative business proposition for the country. undeniably, us for- eign aid to pakistan for mili- tary and economic objectives has primarily ensured that pakistan remains a faithful accessory to washington’s self-assigned role of chief sheriff on a strategic oil and gas highway. the idea of a us-pakistani military relationship first came under serious considera- tion in washington in 1951 — in the quest for bases and al- lies in the region to protect america’s strategic and eco- nomic interest in the middle east. ironically, the event that brought about the cha- nge in pakistan’s foreign aid fortunes was the nationalisa- tion of iranian oil by moha- mmad mossadegh in march 1951, and president obama has admitted to us complicity in mossadegh’s fall in 1953. suddenly, pakistan’s strate- gic importance dawned on the us — the infant state with great potential as a foot sol- dier to keep a watch on its re- source-rich neighbourhood. the dulles brothers speeded up negotiations to induct pakistan as a military ally, cul- minating in the signing of the us-pakistan mutual (military) assistance pact (map) in 1954. the pact became a game- changer in pakistan’s domes- tic and foreign policies. it also provided india with a facile pretext to renege on its com- mitment to solve the kashmir issue under un mandates. it is important to remember that the pact was signed after considerable disagreement in the cabinet and manipulation of domestic politics by the pro-american lobby in then west pakistan’s bureaucracy and military, which has con- tinued to cast its long shadow to this day. in his seminal article on the burden of us military aid to pakistan, scholar hamza alavi had illustrated that pakistan was not a net receiv- er of aid from the treaty. the expenditure that pakistan it- self was required to under- take to sustain its military ca- pacity — including local costs of armed map forces sta- tioned in pakistan — was to be paid from its own budget, exceeding this military aid. such callous disregard for the cost-benefit calculus by the military can be justified only by the ambitions of powerful generals who bene- fited from inflated military expenditure. the us-pakistan military alliance of 1954 concluded in the context of the cold war and laid the foundation for a long, if unreliable, relation- ship between the us and pakistan military establish- ments. the main characteris- tic of this relationship has been ambivalence in the ob- jectives pursued by them. whereas, the key interest of the us has been to leverage pakistan’s territory and armed forces in proxy wars in the middle east and afghanistan, the pakistani military’s objective has been to acquire state-of-the-art mili- tary technology and equip- ment to bolster its strength against india. it has been a du- bious, if not duplicitous, rela- tionship that has lacked trust. pakistan experienced three major infusions of us eco- nomic and military aid — 1954-1965, 1980-90 and 2002- 07— which, according to one estimate, add up to about $68bn in terms of the current dollar rate. a much larger amount of aid is in the pipe- line, predicated on the success of the ongoing military opera- tion in the northwest. these have not served pakistani polity and economy well, president obama not- withstanding. the political fallout is the emergence of the military, rather than a sover- eign parliament, as the major player on the political scene in the last 55 years — by virtue of its role as the almost exclu- sive interlocutor with the us on military aid, which often determined the associated economic aid. its economic consequences have included geo-strategic rent-seeking, rather than self-reliant — not necessarily anti-globalisation — development strategies and the continued neglect and de- ferral of structural issues fac- ing the economy. above all, it has resulted in a complete lack of innovative and imagi- native economic thinking. with the restoration of de- mocracy, it has now become imperative for parliament to monitor military expenditure along with military aid. the us congress deliberates on the subject to guard its own interests; the pakistani parlia- ment should also scrutinise the disbursements of aid to ensure conformity with na- tional priorities. the estab- lishment should prepare a white paper on how foreign military aid has been utilised since 1954, solely for the sake of transparency and to avoid future mistakes. ¦ smnaseem@gmail.com

the british royal family is to demand a pay rise from the taxpayer to fill a looming £40m hole in its finances. queen elizabeth wants an extra £4m a year to pay for repairs and improvements to her homes, including buckingham palace, windsor castle and st james’s palace. courtiers may also request an increase in civil list pay- ments to cover rising costs of running the royal family, which hit £41.5m during the 2008-09 financial year — an increase of £1.5m. the plan to demand extra cash from the taxpayer emerged as the annual re- port of the royal public finan- ces revealed the royal family spent £6.5m on travel alone last year. prince charles and the duchess of cornwall spent £33,400 on a private jet to visit the bushmills whis- key distillery and other en- gagements in northern ireland. the queen and the duke of edinburgh spent £14,515 to travel one way from euston to liverpool on the royal train — a journey that costs £74 first class when booked in ad- vance on virgin trains; and prince andrew spent £55,269 on a one-way flight from london to the red sea resort of sharm el-sheikh to co-chair the world economic forum. the queen also spent £300,000 relaunching her website, and £8m on the up- keep of buckingham palace — an increase of 36 per cent on the previous year. the annual publication of the cost of the monarchy sparked fresh calls for the royal family to cover their own expenses by selling tick- ets to visit their palaces and for greater scrutiny of their spending, in particular on travel, where details of any trip costing under £10,000 are kept secret. “now is not a good time to be asking for more money,” said richard bacon mp, who sits on the house of commons public accounts committee, which this month reviewed palace finances. “they should be looking at what could be done to open up the occupied palaces and their priceless treasures to the public and in the process generate more revenue.” he said that if the white house could open for most of the year then buckingham palace should too. this year, the palace will only open from the end of july to the end of september. republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, said the real cost of the mon- archy worked out at more than four times the amount quoted in monday’s ac- counts, once the hidden cost of security, which some esti- mates put at £100m a year, and other costs are included. sir alan reid, keeper of the privy purse, defended the family’s spending as good val- ue. the queen carried out 400 engagements last year. ¦ — the guardian, london

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CHINA DAILY

                            EDITORIAL

RIGHTS & RESPONSIBILITY

 

Last week's detention of four employees of Rio Tinto's China operations must have further dramatized the iron ore price negotiations between China and global mining giants which have already been particularly contentious this year.

 

The case came right after the intense negotiations - between China's steel industry and Australian and Brazilian iron ore producers over the price cut for 2009-2010 contracts - passed the traditional June 30 deadline.

 

The sensitiveness of the timing has made it difficult to put in perspective such a case of industrial espionage. Some foreign observers had thus misread the case as an unfair tactic for negotiation or a sort of discrimination against foreign businesses.

 

However, as the Chinese authorities keep widening the investigation among domestic steel makers into alleged leakage of State secrets, their determination to crack down on commercial corruption has become all too clear now.

 

Soon after Stern Hu, a general manager for the Chinese operations at Rio Tinto's iron ore division, as well as three other employees at the mining company were detained on July 5 for alleged spying, the Chinese government has been forthright. It pointed out that sufficient evidence exists to show that these people committed acts of espionage and stole State secrets; and their acts were responsible for huge losses to China's economic and security interests.

 

And now, it is reported that the Chinese authorities have extended the probe to leading domestic steel makers and officials from the industry association to identify the bribe-takers.

 

Such an investigation will not have a negative impact on China's long-term commitment to protect the legitimate rights of foreign companies doing business in or with the country.

 

On the contrary, the investigation sends the important message that, as the Chinese government works hard to clean up the domestic business environment, both foreign companies and their Chinese counterparts should accept the responsibility of abiding by Chinese laws and regulations.

 

For many years, a large number of foreign companies have successfully shared the remarkable growth story of the Chinese economy through investment and trade.

 

To improve its commercial climate for sound and sustainable economic growth, China has now made the fight against commercial corruption a top priority.

 

This is actually a good cause for foreign companies to shore up confidence in the Chinese

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

CHECK SOE LEADERS

 

Chen Tonghai, former general manager and chairman of board of directors of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC), more than deserves the death sentence with a two-year reprieve that was announced yesterday. The total he received in bribes is close to 200 million yuan ($29 million).

 

The amount of bribe is not necessarily the sole benchmark for punishment. The core issue is whether the way power was abused by corrupt leaders like Chen will help identify and plug the loopholes in our system.

 

Chen earned himself notoriety for arbitrary and despotic exercise of power. He behaved as if he was the king of the State-owned petroleum giant. His whim was policy. He was famously quoted as saying, "The 1 or 2 million yuan I spend in socializing a month is a piece of cake compared with the more than 20 billion yuan our firm brings to the State in taxes every year. You can't make money unless you know how to spend it".

 

It is not so much his arbitrariness as the lack of supervision and control that resulted in his downfall. Without dispute, he was one of the most corrupt officials.

 

With corrupt leaders being nabbed one after another, few would question the resolve of the central authorities in fighting corruption. However, the fact that increasing numbers of them are being arrested in successive years suggests that the crackdown has failed to serve as a deterrent. And, neither has the supervisory mechanism improved to the point of effectively preventing abuse of power.

 

The latest stipulations by the central committee of the Communist Party of China on honest and clean management by SOE leaders for the first time explicitly specify what they can't do on their position. The document stipulates SOE leaders cannot decide their own compensations without permission from higher authorities.

 

Even though the taboos are too self-evident as violations to be laid down in a document, but it was quite common for some SOE leaders to get compensation by way of salary or bonuses as much as millions of yuan a year. When they are appointees of the government, how can they have the authority to fatten their pocket like that? So it is absolutely right for the CPC central committee to be specific on this matter.

 

However, stipulations alone cannot be expected to stop officials from abuse of power. Some of SOE leaders will quite probably invent ways to circumvent the rules, regulations and restrictions that act as checks and balances. So we need to further improve the supervisory mechanism to make it impossible for them to do so.

 

Chen's case shows what we really need is effective supervision and transparency. How to institutionalize these is what matters.

 

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EDITORIAL

UNIVERSAL ORGAN DONORSHIP

 

The Upper House on Monday enacted a bill to revise the Organ Transplant Law. Current law does not recognize brain death as actual death and allows, with family approval, organs to be taken only from people aged 15 or over who not only had accepted brain-death as actual death but indicated in writing their intention of being donors. The revision would recognize brain death as actual death and allow organ transplants from a brain-dead person of any age if the person has not openly rejected the possibility of becoming a donor and his or her family members approve. In view of such a drastic change, insufficient efforts were made to develop a public consensus on the issue.

 

Since the bill aims solely to increase the number of organs available for transplants, it carries the danger of infringing on the rights and feelings of those who are faced with the difficult decision of whether to allow the organs of a brain-dead family member to be donated. These people should not be pressured into making a rushed decision and their privacy should be respected. The bill is likely to increase the burden of doctors, especially emergency room doctors, at medical facilities designated as capable of removing organs for transplants. Since all brain-dead people will become potential donors under the bill, doctors will have the added duty of explaining the situation and asking family members whether they approve of organ transplants.

 

Diagnostic criteria for brain death in children must be stricter because children's brains have a stronger chance of recovery than adult brains. A third-party watchdog body comprising experts should be established to prevent organs being taken from a child whose brain death was or could have been the result of child abuse. Most importantly, emergency medicine for children should be greatly improved.

 

Also disturbing, the bill allows family members of a brain-dead person to give priority to their relatives when donating organs. This violates the principle of equity. More things must be done to ensure transparency in organ transplants in the year before the bill takes effect.

 

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JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GLOOMY EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

 

Somewhat bright reports on the Japanese economy have been issued by the government and the Bank of Japan. But other data show that the economy is still in difficult straits. Careful attention should be paid especially to the gloomy prospects for employment.

 

In June, the government upgraded its assessment of the economy for the second consecutive month. Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano said, "It is strongly estimated that the economy clearly hit the bottom in the January-March period." Last week, in a meeting of Bank of Japan branch managers, BOJ Gov. Masaaki Shirakata said, "Japan's economic conditions, after deteriorating significantly, have begun to stop worsening."

 

But a BOJ report shows that Japan's wholesale prices dropped a record 6.6 percent in June from a year before — the largest drop since the BOJ began releasing comparable data in 1960. Although lower energy prices are a big factor, weakening domestic demand cannot be ruled out. Wholesale prices on a month-on-month basis fell 0.3 percent from May for the 10th straight month of decline — the longest decline since January 2002. These data testify to the effects of deflationary pressure on the recession-hit economy.

 

In May the unemployment rate worsened by 0.2 percentage points from the previous month to 5.2 percent, approaching the worst-ever 5.5 percent registered six years ago. It is predicted that the rate may hit 6 percent before yearend. Tokyo Shoko Research says 86,694 employees saw their 8,169 employers, each with debt of ¥10 million or more, go bankrupt in the first six months of 2009, up 8.28 percent from a year before.

 

There is now less than one job offer for every two job seekers. If offers for full-time jobs alone are counted, there is only one job offer for every four job seekers. In this situation, it is difficult to expect strong consumer spending. The government should take stock of the fact that the employment situation is bad despite the passage of four economic stimulus measures in the past year. It needs to fine-tune unemployment insurance benefit payments and projects aimed at creating job opportunities.

 

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JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

REFLECTING ON THE LESSONS OF ROBERT MCNAMARA'S WAR

BY GREGORY CLARK

 

The death of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at age 93 has reopened the debate on his role, first as architect for the Vietnam War, and then later in apologizing for it with his 1995 book "In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam." Since a hawk with a conscience is a rare commodity, McNamara deserves the attention he is getting.

 

One of his post-Vietnam "lessons" was the need to "empathize" with the alleged enemy — to realize that they are humans like we are with legitimate desires and hopes. It is a very worthy goal. But how do you do that once the shooting begins and bombs begin to to fall?

 

The hawks and their well-subsidized camp followers in the think tanks, universities and media take over, dragging public opinion behind them. The enemy is dehumanized. McNamara is said to have realized the futility of the Vietnam War as early as 1967 — before he moved to head the World Bank (April 1968). But that did not stop the war from continuing another eight years, with even more dreadful killing and bombing.

 

One of McNamara's braver acts was visiting Hanoi after the war to meet with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap and other Vietnamese military leaders and discuss the war that had obsessed him for decades. The filmed version, broadcast in 1998 and only in Japan, it seems, thanks to announcer Hideo Yamamuro and other NHK progressives, is even more powerful than the book. It shows a genuinely contrite McNamara exposed directly to the Vietnamese point of view, namely that it was purely a civil war, that it had no connection with China or falling dominoes (a Washington obsession earlier shared by McNamara) and that originally it had not even been anti-American. So why had they been subjected to a brutality rarely seen in human warfare?

 

One dramatic moment had McNamara pointing out how a key element in a U.S. decision seriously to escalate the war had been the 1965 Vietnamese attack on the U.S. Pleiku Air Base the day a senior U.S. official arrived in Saigon. The United States was determined it could not be humiliated in this way.

 

We then saw the amazed North Vietnamese commander responsible for the attack asking how, isolated in the jungle, he could even have known about the official's visit. His decision was based purely on the weather and other local factors at the time. Meanwhile, back in Washington, it was being seen as yet another link in Hanoi's dastardly plans.

 

And so it continued — a catalog of mistakes, lies, deceptions, foolishness and misunderstanding that makes even the U.S. war in Iraq look sane. I was somewhat involved as midlevel Australian diplomat based in Moscow in the early '60s. The Australian government had decided, without the benefit of even a single Vietnamese speaker in its establishment, that in the April 1965 words of the then Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, "the takeover of South Vietnam must be seen as part of a thrust by Communist China between the Indian and Pacific Oceans." At around the same time the Australian foreign minister, Paul Hasluck, told us that China was determined to establish hegemony in Southeast Asia "working in the first place through the agency of her North Vietnamese puppets."

 

On this basis Canberra had quixotically decided that it was our job in Moscow to persuade the Soviets to join the West in restraining a belligerent China. I was sent to the Soviet Ministry of Affairs to pass on our regrets over Moscow's failure to realize China's evil role in promoting the Vietnam war. Hasluck himself came to Moscow to pass on the same message, only to be met by a puzzled Soviet premier, Alexei Kosygin, saying there was no way Moscow would want to cease its support for the brave Vietnamese people seeking national independence, and he hoped the Chinese would do a lot more too.

 

Even then the evidence of China's weak support for Vietnam was obvious. Simply by talking to the many North Vietnamese students in Moscow at the time, one could confirm that Hanoi was pro-Moscow and China was distrusted. Beijing was to prove this by launching a grubby little border war against Vietnam a few years later. Yet in the West our best and brightest had convinced themselves the Vietnam war was a Chinese plot.

 

In 1965 I was to leave the diplomatic service and join the anti-Vietnam war debate, convinced it was only a matter of time before people would realize the China was not involved, that it was in fact a civil war in which our side was busily killing a lot of brave Vietnamese who simply wanted to reunify their nation (as had been promised by an international agreement) and to oppose a corrupt, cruel, artificial, U.S.-controlled government in Saigon. We should have saved our collective breath. If anything we prolonged the war, giving the people at the top an added incentive to try to prove us wrong.

 

Today the magic word is "terrorist." In those days it was "communist." The very words were able to conjure up images of evil men hiding out and preparing to kill our brave soldiers. Talk of emphasizing — realizing — that these people had to hide out in order to survive, and that many were fighting in response to the brutality and killings by our side, was out of the question. Only when, as in Vietnam, our side is defeated despite its overwhelming military superiority do a few like McNamara have the moral responsibility to admit their mistake. We have yet to see any similar responsibility in Australia, despite its at times crucial role in encouraging the U.S. into Vietnam.

 

Gregory Clark is a longtime Japan resident. His book "In Fear of China" was published in 1968. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on www.gregoryclark.net.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

SLOW DOWN STIMULUS TO DELIVER DIVIDENDS

DECISIONS THAT WILL DETERMINE A PRIME MINISTER'S LEGACY

 

FOR once it is a good thing that public sector projects are behind schedule. It allows the Prime Minister the luxury of taking stock of his plans and considering, in the light of changing economic circumstances, if the government's stimulus program should be recalibrated. Earlier this year, in an understandable attempt to help the economy ride the downturn, Kevin Rudd instructed ministers and bureaucrats to find projects ready for the shovel. But as Nicola Berkovic reported in The Australian yesterday, less than 2 per cent of the $100 million allocated for projects scheduled to start this month is actually being spent as of now. State bureaucrats are also struggling to spend the $14.7 billion school building program. Meanwhile the opposition has done Kevin Rudd a favour by referring the Building the Education Revolution program to the Auditor-General. Malcolm Turnbull should not expect any thanks, but it gives Mr Rudd the benefit, however discreetly realised, of sound and independent advice.


This fortuitous confluence of events gives Mr Rudd the best opportunity he will get to distinguish himself as a visionary leader, one who sees the wisdom in the words of John Maynard Keynes: When the facts change, I change my mind. It is a chance for Mr Rudd to demonstrate he is a true fiscal conservative by taking decisions that will demand courage, foresight and resolve. With an election due next year, the easiest course for Mr Rudd and the former state secretaries in his inner circle would be to leave the spending tap running until the polling stations open. He could continue pouring out electorally popular projects in marginal seats and allow ministers like Mark Arbib to clock up frequent flyer points in their hard hats, criss-crossing the country in search of photo opportunities. The harder course would be to make an honest assessment of the current state of the economy, to be upfront with voters and to re-adjust spending accordingly. It may well be that the priority is no longer the emergency spending the government deemed necessary late last year and in February's second round, which The Australian endorsed. Instead, now might be the time to think about reaping the dividend from the downturn, to seize the opportunity for reform.

 

As Mr Rudd and his Treasurer, Wayne Swan, have prudently reminded us, we are not out of the woods yet. Expected declines in business investment and exports could still lead to a harsh recession. But there are enough signs our economy is recovering and that the worst may be over in the US and China to think again about the quantum and quality of the next round of government spending. It gives Mr Rudd an opportunity to demonstrate he is a creative reformer in the Hawke-Keating tradition rather than a reflexive spender of the Whitlamesque school. The challenge for the Prime Minister is to look further than next quarter's growth figures and the unemployment rate for the rest of the year. The manner in which he answers this challenge will shape his political reputation long after his management of the global financial crisis is forgotten.

 

This is not to deny Mr Rudd was right to commit to spending substantial amounts of money quickly when the global financial crisis commenced. But neither should we overstate the impact of government spending. As economist Tony Makin wrote on these pages on Tuesday, the interest rate cuts that started last year have put $6000 per annum in the pocket of people with a $200,000 home loan -- compared to the $900 cash payment. Falling petrol prices and strong exports, helped by the natural stabilising effect of the lower Australian dollar, have also helped keep Australians and Australia out of the red.

The danger now is that the government over-revs the economy by keeping the stimulus funds flowing into un-productive investment beyond the point at which the nation turns the corner. With some 75 per cent of the infrastructure funds not scheduled to be spent for two years, or even later, there is a danger public sector programs will soak up investment funds and increase the cost of skilled labour, thus crowding out private sector projects. Fiscal expansion during a recovery will put pressure on the Reserve Bank to raise rates, putting the economy into a handbrake turn. To qualify as policy-focused leaders, rather than mere managers, Mr Rudd and his team must plan for sustainable long-term growth. That means keeping public debt at a minimum to free up resources for the private sector. And it means looking for long-term productivity returns on government investment. It means cutting back on spending that pays people's wages now but will saddle them, and their children, with the consequence of debt for decades to come.

 

In this, Mr Rudd is fortunate to have a wise and worldly Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, who is capable of donning the mantle of Peter Walsh. The respect of the Hawke government finance minister for disciplined public spending was second only to his loathing of waste. Mr Tanner should look at all major stimulus programs in terms of their impact on productivity over the next 20 years, rather than how many jobs they will generate in seats the Government wants to win at the next election -- an approach which is likely to be preferred by former Labor state secretaries in the ministry, such as Mr Swan and Workplace Participation Minister Mr Arbib.

 

Mr Rudd has one more piece of good fortune on his side should he decide to risk the political backlash that could come from reducing government spending. He was elected with enormous political capital which, against all the odds, he has managed to retain and build upon. It is political capital he should be investing now for the long-term good of the country. It is also an investment from which he also stands to reap a personal dividend. Like Hawke and Keating before him, his legacy will be enhanced by true nation-building leadership.

 

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

POWER AND PASSION

THE FOUR MILE URANIUM MINE WILL MEET INTERNATIONAL DEMAND

 

HOWEVER reluctantly, Environment Minister Peter Garrett has finally graduated from his myopic rock star and Nuclear Disarmament Party days. His approval of the Four Mile uranium mine, about 600km north of Adelaide, was responsible economically and environmentally. Hopefully, the advent of Australia's fourth uranium mine will usher in a new era in which the nation takes greater advantage of holding the world's largest known uranium resources.


At this stage, a mature debate about further mining expansion and development of a domestic nuclear power industry is being impeded by the arrogant and uncompromising prejudices of some of Mr Garrett's former allies. From her time warp, ageing anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott accused Mr Garrett of a "descent into moral turpitude" over the Four Mile decision. Greens leader Bob Brown claimed the minister had "sacrificed" himself to Labor, a party of "big business". Let them fume.

 

The emotive lyrics Mr Garrett once belted out on stage -- "In the wind / The ashes fly / The poison crown / The charcoal ground" -- suggested otherwise, but uranium mining was never the moral issue its opponents claimed. It was always about economics, trade and the environment. Amid fears about fossil fuels and climate change, more nations are turning to nuclear power as a clean, greener alternative.

 

Approval of the new mine was timely. ABARE has noted that 64 nuclear power plants are to be commissioned around the world in the next six years. China is planning to build at least 20 in the next decade.

 

Five months ago, Sweden, which already derives more than 40 per cent of its electricity from nuclear generation, scrapped a long-standing ban on building nuclear infrastructure. Finland is building its fifth nuclear plant and considering a sixth, and Poland is moving to build two nuclear power stations to cut its dependence on coal.

 

For all the green rage, Tuesday's decision was not a surprise. Mr Garrett was a staunch opponent of Labor's decision to abandon its three-mine policy at its 2007 party conference, insisting he remained opposed to uranium mining and was "proud of it". But he agreed to toe the party line. And in his conference speech that year, he opened the door a fraction to a more pragmatic attitude when he called for a rigorous commitment to "achieving safety and environmental safeguards". In August last year, Mr Garrett approved an extension of the Beverley mine, 10 km from Four Mile.

 

The Rudd government is opposed to nuclear power in Australia, but the economics of climate change and carbon reduction should force a rethink. Such issues should be decided on the basis of what works best, not what is ideologically pure. And around the world, regimes Left and Right are recognising the benefits of nuclear power. In tilting at ideological windmills, the Greens have dealt themselves out of the serious debate. Mr Garrett, however, has shown a welcome aptitude for putting the national interest first.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

STOP SCARING US SILLY

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS SABOTAGE CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS

 

NO one can fault economist Clive Hamilton for frankness in the way he gave the green game away on ABC TV's Lateline on Monday night. He dismissed the Rudd government's interest in developing clean coal as a way to reduce global warming as a "delusion", adding that "the only way to get people to take the necessary actions is to scare the pants off them".


It says a lot about the ABC that an activist with no scientific credentials is allowed to lay down the law when a real scientist, climate change sceptic Ian Plimer, was recently sharply challenged by compere Tony Jones on Lateline. And it says more about the the green extreme's fury that people wonder why we must take severe steps now, given the disasters they warn about are so far in the future. In the absence of present evidence, Professor Hamilton suggests scaring us all silly.

 

It will not work, which is why "third way" theorist Anthony Giddens, who also appeared on Monday's Lateline, wants activists out of the argument. Instead of scare tactics, Lord Giddens suggests encouraging government and industry to develop technology to create new industries -- to turn the problem into an economic opportunity. This means replacing warnings of catastrophe with investment and research. He is right. London's air pollution problem ended when people abandoned burning low-grade coal in the 1950s. Smog was reduced by better engineered vehicles. And new technologies will reduce greenhouse emissions. The debate needs more engineers interested in clean coal and fewer eco-catastrophists.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE WORLD TILTS TOWARDS URANIUM

 

TWENTY-FIVE years ago, when Peter Garrett was young and conspicuously opinionated, the word uranium was synonymous with pollution, pestilence and nuclear doom. Uranium mines were seen as compromising the land rights and ecology of Aboriginal communities. The meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in 1979 was still fresh, and the disaster at Chernobyl was just around the corner. Nuclear power was regarded by many as unsafe at any speed.

 

No one believed this more loudly than Garrett. In 1984 he helped found the Nuclear Disarmament Party and stood for the Senate, but was defeated when Labor directed its preferences to the National Party ahead of the NDP. That same year, Garrett's band, Midnight Oil, released the best-selling Diesel And Dust album, featuring the rock anthem, Dead Heart, with its refrain:

 

"Mining companies, pastoral companies,/

 

Uranium companies, collected companies,/

 

got more right than people,/

 

got more say than people."

 

How the world turns. Today Garrett has more rights and more say than most people. On Tuesday, as the federal Minister for the Environment, he announced that the Labor Government had approved the expansion of Australia's uranium mining industry by giving the go-ahead to the Four Mile mine in remote South Australia. Whatever Garrett's personal views on the matter may be, the decision reflects the strong views of the Prime Minister, and the majority of cabinet, that Australia should exploit its position as having the world's largest reserves of yellowcake, the raw material of uranium.

 

The Federal Government is expected to approve further expansion at BHP-Billiton's Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the world's largest uranium deposit, and two other sites in Western Australia and South Australia. Uranium exports are projected to become a major export income stream for Australia as the world's hunger for energy continues to grow and the real cost of coal will increase as it is taxed by governments as a way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

All this is logical. Plenty of sport has been made of Garrett's evolution from uncompromising outsider to compromised insider. But his dramatic evolution is a metaphor for a dramatic change in the debate. Global warming is now viewed as a threat to the world. Of the available technologies that can produce power at large scale and a non-prohibitive cost, nuclear power emits far lower greenhouse emissions than coal, and even much less than natural gas.

 

The world has changed, and carried Garrett with it.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

EXPLOITATION BY EDUCATION

 

IT IS hard to know what to be angriest about: the wickedness of the businesses that are exploiting overseas students in this country or the apparent indifference of federal and state authorities that are letting it happen. As the Herald revealed yesterday, thousands of these young people, desperate to stay here permanently, are effectively being forced to work for free, or even paying for the privilege. It is a racket but, shamefully, it is not illegal. Indeed, the whole ugly system was made possible by changes to federal rules in 2005 under which students undertaking vocational courses had to complete 900 hours of work experience, with no requirement that they be paid.

 

Insisting that students gain practical work experience before achieving a trade qualification was sensible enough, but the failure to also provide for fair pay for labour was an invitation to unscrupulous businesses, and some private colleges, to abuse the system. Thousands of foreign students have become virtual economic slaves, bound not by chains but by the heavy debt obligations they and their families have incurred and by their own readiness to endure misery for the probable future prize of permanent residency.

 

A university-educated overseas student told the Herald she had spent $22,000 on a two-year hairdressing course she will never use to secure her residency, doing her unpaid 900 hours' work experience in a salon linked to the college. Students there pay a non-refundable $1000 "bond" to use the salon's equipment.

 

It is a nasty but profitable $15 billion industry. Since 2005 the number of overseas students in vocational training has leapt from 65,000 to almost 174,000, with vocational private colleges soaring from 664 to 4892. Knowing this, last year the Federal Government foreshadowed rules stipulating that work experience must be paid and kept at arm's length from the training institution. We are still waiting.

 

Meanwhile, Australia's reputation as an educational destination - already battered by reports of racist violence against Indian students, shonky private colleges providing dubious diplomas, and visa abuses - is suffering grievously. Our universities and TAFE systems, needing foreign students' fees, struggle to hold the line for quality against rapacious opportunism. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, must act urgently. A lack of co-ordination, or even communication, between the federal departments of education, immigration and employment - and between them and the state governments, which license private colleges - is at the heart of the problem. We need a truly national, effective system to monitor, regulate and discipline the vocational sector.

 

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                                                                                                                      THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE CHANGE: GREEN DREAMS

 

Everything must change and yet nothing must change, Ed Miliband insisted yesterday as he set out a plan to make Britain a low-carbon society by 2020, while leaving most aspects of modern life as they are. His long and fascinating white paper offers a schedule of works for the re-engineering of a country: green power, electric trains and efficient homes among many other good things, all contributing towards a 34% cut in emissions by 2020 on 1990 levels and an even greater fall after that. But it comes with the audacious suggestion that this can be achieved without depriving people of the comforts of their present, carbon-intensive, lives.

 

Two decades from now, the government imagines people will still be able to fly when they want (including from a third Heathrow runway), drive (but efficiently and perhaps electrically), and live in warm, well-lit (but far better insulated) homes. This is supposed to happen without pushing up energy bills excessively or extending fuel poverty. On top of that, the green revolution has been loaded with the task of digging Britain out of recession, creating 500,000 new jobs and technologies to export.

 

The ambition is remarkable, even if much of the detail in the paper is familiar to experts. But it is reasonable to ask whether it can be met in only 10 years, during a period of sharply falling government spending, dependent on technologies that have not all been invented and decisions that have not all been taken.

 

If that sounds negative, there is also much to welcome. No other government in the world has published anything quite like this, both a collective statement of intention and a fairly detailed description of how carbon reduction might be achieved. No other government, either, has bound itself (with the support of its likely successor) to legal targets for carbon reduction, department by department. There is a boldness to this that is lacking in so many other areas of Labour's policymaking. The destination has been set and the full range of state instruments are being deployed to get there: tax, regulated markets, subsidies. It is cheering, too, that opposition parties back the plans. Yesterday's (legitimate) Conservative complaint was largely that too little has been done so far, Britain lagging with Malta and Luxembourg at the bottom of European renewable energy users.

 

The great majority of carbon cuts will come from energy use, and the white paper is in essence the energy strategy Britain has lacked ever since Margaret Thatcher gave up on coal. Even without climate change it would be needed as an answer to falling North Sea oil and gas output. Already Britain's electricity is becoming too dependent on gas brought in by ship through the Suez canal. The answer is partly efficiency (though converting Britain's ancient homes will be more expensive and difficult than anyone seems to admit) and partly new forms of generation. To achieve the latter the paper increases state direction of the national grid, Ofgen and power companies - and this is the newest thing in the document.

 

If the government can shift the power industry then it will get within a few percent of the 18% overall carbon cut on 2008 levels set by law. A lot of attention has been paid to wind farms, but the bigger test for the future will be developing other forms of renewables, especially tidal energy, where Britain should be much further advanced. Next year brings a decision on the Seven Barrage: any scheme is likely to be at the smaller end of the options.

The two other members of what Mr Miliband calls the energy trinity are nuclear and carbon-capture coal. Getting the first new nuclear plants running by 2020 will be tricky; the latter even harder. Both should be pursued energetically. But for yesterday's plan to deliver what the government promises, almost everything will have to go right. Britain's record up to now has been so poor that there is reason to hope that, at last, it might just happen.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... ARA DARZI

 

Legend paints the goat as a devilish creature, and Gordon Brown has learned the hard way just how diabolical it can be. From "simple sailor" Admiral Alan West to business megaphone Digby Jones, Brown's Government Of All the Talents from outside politics produced pain with little gain. The exception was the surgeon Ara Darzi, who yesterday said he was quitting as health minister. At a time when MPs' second jobs are in the spotlight, Darzi is a reminder of how useful to Westminster wider experience can be. His shrewd review of the NHS worked with the grain of its professionals, without jumping to their tune. Instead of waging war on the medics, as his Blairite predecessors had done, Darzi invited them to take a hand in designing their own targets and bound them into reform. He stressed the quality of care after Labour's decade-long obsession with quantity. And while the drive for private involvement continued, it took a less dogmatic turn. The NHS's morale improved, as did its public standing. Despite the 54 letters after Darzi's name, though, his political inexperience showed at times - as when he casually dismissed a Labour manifesto pledge. But by continuing to practise, he forged deep alliances with more experienced hands. He rescued one colleague using a defibrillator on the floor of the Lords, and helped another when No 10 sent him on a 3am house call. It was Peter Mandelson, stricken by kidney stones. Darzi's soothing treatment for the NHS will be sorely missed.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

WHITEHALL AND WILLIE'S WIND OF CHANGE

 

Working on the sound principle that nobody ever expects to learn anything interesting from a speech in parliament, smart politicians have always known that the best way to keep something secret is to announce it in the House of Commons.

 

You can almost imagine a minister standing at the despatch box to confess solemnly that he has just murdered his Permanent Secretary, chopped up the body, and buried it in his filing cabinet – the minister would be unlucky if his disclosure rated more than a few lines of the In Brief section of the newspapers. If the minister were really cunning, and timed his revelation for after eight o'clock at night when the Commons is virtually deserted, he might get no coverage at all.

 

William Waldegrave is a clever man, but he is not a smart politician. If he were, the minister would have approached the launch of his white paper on open government quite differently. He would never have made a long speech from the despatch box about "a significant step towards more openness". He would instead have secretly sealed blurred photocopies of his white paper into manila envelopes and leaked them to the papers.

 

That would have guaranteed splash headlines, intense interest in his proposals, a crowded House, MPs and media alike demanding to know more. As it was, Mr Waldegrave addressed a few dozen listless backbenchers and a smattering of yawning reporters.

 

Speaking with the anguished sincerity of Prince Charles addressing a flowerbed, Mr Waldegrave convinced us that he really had endeavoured to sweep away the cobwebs of secrecy. Alas, his feather duster has been no match for the spiders of Whitehall who have spun ifs, maybes, howevers, and not likelys all over his proposals.

 

No surprise there. Yet, listening to MPs, you began to wonder whether they want open government either.

 

The trouble is that Labour's enthusiasm for open government has only ever lasted as long as it has been in Opposition. Mad keen now, the minister fairly remarked that: "The last Labour government agonised for seven years and did nothing". His own government has done twice as well and agonised for 14 years. Even on the back benches, among MPs who never expect to be part of the Government, enthusiasm for openness was strangely muted.

 

Could it just be that, perhaps subconsciously, they have worked out what would happen to them if ever the doors of Whitehall were really flung wide open. They would be out of work. If there were no more secrets, they could never again allege cover-ups. Horrors!

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER FIASCO

 

Prosecutor-general nominee Chun Sung-gwan's withdrawal marks the first time that a nominee for the chief prosecutor's post has stepped down during the confirmation process since the system was introduced in 2003.

 

Suspicions of financial "sponsorship" by a businessman and over the lavish lifestyle of his family - one that could not have been supported by Chun's income alone - that were revealed during the confirmation hearing clearly showed that Chun was not fit to lead the Prosecutors' Office.

 

In fact, Chun's unsatisfactory answers to legislators' questions - some of which were later shown to be lies - make one wonder why Chun did not decline the nomination when it was offered. Did he think that his problems were only minor and would not affect the confirmation process? Or did he have reasons to believe that he would be appointed despite his problems? Given his demonstrated ethical lapses, it was only natural that Chun withdrew from the confirmation hearing.

 

Had Chun persisted and assumed the post, he would not have been able to effectively lead the Prosecutors' Office at a time when there are calls for reform. The credibility and reputation of the Prosecutors' Office, which is already low, would have greatly suffered had Chun been allowed to become the prosecutor-general.

 

For this mess, the Blue House is largely to blame. The presidential office should have done a thorough background check to see if Chun had any questionable financial transactions. If the presidential office was aware of Chun's problems but nevertheless went ahead with the nomination, reasoning that they were "minor" problems, it suffers from an even bigger problem.

 

The Blue House suffers from a poor track record in personnel appointments. The Lee administration's first Cabinet line-up came under attack last year for lacking diversity - most of the ministers were wealthy, living in the affluent Gangnam area and several of them attended the church where Lee serves as an elder. The confirmation process also revealed irregularities in the way many of the nominees amassed wealth, primarily through illegal real estate transactions.

 

When Lee announced the choice of Chun as the next prosecutor-general, it was heralded as a serious attempt at reforming the Prosecutors' Office. Chun comes from the Chungcheong area, an area underrepresented in important government posts, and was younger than the senior prosecutors.

 

Chun's nomination resulted in the en-masse resignations of eight senior prosecutors and now, with Chun's withdrawal, the prosecutors' office is faced with a leadership vacuum. A new prosecutor-general nominee needs to be found and the ranks of the senior prosecutors will stand empty for quite some time. This is an unprecedented event.

 

The presidential office has precipitated this mess and should be held accountable. A Cabinet reshuffle is widely expected in the coming weeks. The president should also consider a change of personnel at the Blue House. Fiascos such as Chun's nomination are politically costly for the president. Even more importantly, they are also costly for the country

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

EDITORIAL

VIGILANT AGAINST FLU

 

More than 500 cases of A(H1N1) flu infection have been reported in Korea since the first case was confirmed on May 1. Korea has so far been relatively isolated from the spread of the flu and there have been no deaths caused by the virus, but recent cases show that this may no longer be so.

 

With the arrival of summer, there has been a swell in the number of international travelers, increasing the risk of the virus spreading. In fact, the number of new cases, which was limited to single digit figures per day until mid-June, surged to double digits. Health authorities fear the summer months could be a pivotal point in the spread of the highly infectious flu.

 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that 24 Indonesians and 5 Koreans participating in the World Choir Championship were confirmed to be infected with A(H1N1). In fact, such international events and meetings pose risks of hastening the spread of influenza A. Subsequently, a number of international events around the country have either been cancelled or scaled back to prevent the virus from spreading.

 

Another notable development is the occurrence of flu cases whose origins cannot be traced to travel abroad or contact with infected persons. For example, three elementary school classmates who were confirmed to have influenza A had neither traveled overseas nor been in contact with someone with the flu. Health officials predict that such cases will grow in number in the weeks and months to come.

 

September, when viruses from the southern hemisphere start moving to the cooler northern hemisphere, could see an exponential growth in the the number of new H1N1 flu cases.

 

The government said that it would provide vaccinations in November to more than 13 million people who are vulnerable to infection. Students in elementary, middle and high schools will be given free vaccinations starting November.

 

A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine said that the H1N1 virus is a fourth generation descendent of the virus that caused the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. An estimated 500 million were infected, about one-third of the world's population at the time.

 

The World Health Organization has declared an H1N1 pandemic. Experts warn that the winter months in the northern hemisphere could see an escalation in the number of cases. Individuals must do their part to prevent the spread of the virus. Exercising good personal hygiene - such as frequent washing of hands with soap - is a very simple but essential first step.

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

EDITORIAL 

HILLARY IN ASIA, A TRICKIER ROUND TWO

SIMON TAY

 

SINGAPORE - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to travel to Asia again in July to meet foreign ministers at the ASEAN Regional Forum, and to visit India. On her first Asian trip in February, she provided a welcome contrast to the past with her openness to others' views, her willingness to cooperate, and her star power. She made Asians look at America anew.

 

But this trip will be trickier. One challenge is that part of the plot for the United States and Clinton is being written by others. North Korea will be on the agenda after its missile tests, as will Myanmar, since its generals persist in prosecuting Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's most famous political detainee, on trivial charges.

 

After all that has happened in recent weeks, the definition of "success" must be set low. Nothing positive will come from the United States condemning these two difficult regimes unilaterally. So a key goal of Clinton's visit must be to pull together with the Asian leaders present at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

 

As for Myanmar, its neighbors and fel