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Friday, August 7, 2009

EDITORIAL 07.08.09

August 07, 2009

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Month August 09, Edition 000266, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

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6.      WHO'S ORIGINAL?-


















































2.      SWINE FLU










































1.      OPEN HOUSE
























































It would be tempting as well as easy for the Congress and its allies, most notably the DMK, to snigger at the AIADMK for deciding to boycott the upcoming byelections in five Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu because the party does not trust electronic voting machines. The detractors of Ms J Jayalalithaa will no doubt point out that EVMs have been in use for some time now; that they have proved to be useful in reducing time for counting votes; and, that an automated machine is a far better option than a ballot box, not least because it cannot be stuffed with bogus votes. But this is only one side of the story. Much of the so-called success story of electronic voting machines, or EVMs as they are popularly referred to, is based on facts that can be contradicted with another set of equally, if not more, persuasive facts. For instance, there is nothing invincible about an EVM, nor is it absolutely tamper-proof. Since EVMs are essentially dependent on computer programming, they can be ‘hacked’ into and re-programmed in a certain manner that would benefit a particular candidate or party. Indeed, it would not require a particularly gifted computer programmer to tamper with an EVM; anybody with basic skills and a sense of algorithm could fix the machine and thus predetermine the outcome of its automated tally at the end of voting. In other words, even if a candidate were to receive a majority of votes, his or her opponent could be declared the winner on the strength of a cleverly manipulated tally. Since this is not an impossibility, it is possible that the outcome of this summer’s elections to the Lok Sabha and some State Assemblies does not reflect the popular choice — or so it could be argued by those who are not convinced by the logic of the votaries of EVMs. Various studies and demonstrations of how EVMs can be fixed by tampering with the programming have shown that this is an argument not to be scoffed at.

Other modern democracies have not blindly embraced EVMs as India has. Those who have introduced EVMs have also ensured that there is a paper trail to cross-check results. Ms Jayalalithaa has a point when she says that in a democracy every voter has the right to know whether the vote cast by him or her has gone to the candidate of his or her choice. This right is denied by insisting on the use of EVMs without a matching system to check whether they have been tampered with or not, or if the machine’s programming has malfunctioned as computer programmes are prone to do. Little or no purpose is served by authority shutting its eyes to this possibility or turning a deaf ear to the rising clamour for either reverting to the system of paper ballots or ensuring there is a paper trail as evidence in the event of results being disputed. The idea is not to make life easy for over-paid and under-worked Government employees whose services are requisitioned to conduct elections, but to ensure that democracy is not subverted in the name of modernisation. The Election Commission does not enjoy a very high level of credibility nor is it seen as an unbiased agency. Therefore, whatever it says about the infallibility of EVMs will be taken with more than a pinch of salt. An election boycotted by one of the two main parties, as will happen in Tamil Nadu, will be no more than a sham; shorn of legitimacy, it will serve as a severe blow against democracy. This is hardly desirable and can be avoided by rethinking our dependence on EVMs.








The recent Supreme Court ruling that the Government can’t revisit its decision not to sanction the prosecution of a public servant unless there is fresh evidence in the case against him or her is a tricky one. Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the prosecution of a public servant can only be carried out after requisite sanction is obtained from the appointing authority. The Supreme Court verdict no doubt stems from the intention to prevent the political victimisation of public servants. For, it is possible that the sanction to prosecute an honest public servant was validly denied, but with change of Government the new regime reopens the case as an act of political vendetta. This is something that upright public servants should be shielded against. However, the apex court judgement can play out both ways. In case the permission to prosecute a public servant was denied on political considerations, then what the ruling effectively means is that even if a new Government wants to undo the wrong, it can’t do so unless it provides fresh evidence in the case. This is something that is not desirable either — a successor regime should have the flexibility to review the decisions of the previous regime if the situation warrants it. Also, that there necessarily has to be fresh evidence for the Government to overturn a previous decision to not grant sanction for prosecution can be problematic. In many cases there may not be any fresh evidence against the accused and the evidence already available could be enough to merit prosecution. In such cases the absence of new evidence could prove to be a technical loophole for corrupt public servants, who manage to avoid trial because of their political patrons, to wriggle out of prosecution on reinvestigation.

There is no denying that the political victimisation of public servants is an issue. All possible steps must be taken to ensure that those in power cannot lean on Government employees. But at the same time it must also be ensured that public servants are not able to insulate themselves from scrutiny on the basis of their ‘close contacts’ with higher authorities. Keeping this in mind it would be prudent to recognise that each case of prosecution against a public servant has to be considered on merit. Irrespective of the Government in power, if a case merits prosecution it must be done without hesitation. On the other hand, it is not always that the sanctioning or the denial of permission for prosecution of a public servant is politically motivated. The fundamental issue here is of trust: Do we trust our Government to justly act against public servants who are corrupt? This depends on the kind of Government we elect. We have only ourselves to blame if the Government in power is not one we trust.








As the Budget Session of Parliament, the first major business session after the Lok Sabha poll, draws to a close, the lustre of the UPA’s election victory is already fading. The unbelievable India-Pakistan joint statement that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inked in Egypt last month is only one of the several areas in which the Government has goofed up.

Mr Singh invoked the legacy of his predecessor, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to justify the Sharm el-Sheikh disaster. However, Mr Vajpayee’s strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan was vastly different. Within days of the NDA Government coming to power in 1998, Mr Vajpayee demonstrated great political acumen. By carrying out the nuclear tests in Pokhran, he announced to the world that India had graduated from being a first generation to a second generation nuclear power.

It was only after demonstrating India’s nuclear capability that Mr Vajpayee initiated his ‘bus diplomacy’ with Pakistan. Later, it was only after completely routing the Pakistani forces in Kargil sector that he invited Gen Pervez Musharraf for the Agra summit. Here too Mr Vajpayee did not yield an inch, which disappointed Gen Musharraf as his book In the Line of Fire very clearly mentions.

Similarly, after the ISI-sponsored attack on our Parliament House complex, for almost two years Mr Vajpayee refused to shake hands with the Pakistani President, so much so that Gen Musharraf was forced to offer a handshake at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu. Also, for two years the NDA Government kept the Pakistani Army on the edge by launching Operation Parakram. Finally, Mr Vajpayee eased the pressure on Pakistan but only after the latter’s national security chief agreed to relent on the terrorism issue.

Therefore, simply invoking Mr Vajpayee’s legacy of statesmanship will not help the UPA Government undo the damage it has already done in Sharm el-Sheikh. Soon after the joint statement, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani milked the Balochistan issue that India had conceded, and told the Pakistani media that he had made New Delhi agree to delink the dialogue process from action on terrorism.

The fundamental position of Pakistan has not changed despite the cosmetic measures that Islamabad has of late undertaken to please its American bosses. There is no denying that terrorism continues to be used as an instrument of state policy by Pakistan vis-à-vis India. Pakistani terrorist organisations keep the entire Indian security establishment engaged at all times. What could be a better proxy for the Pakistani Army?

Therefore, Islamabad will never dismantle the terrorist camps operating from its soil. The on-going Pakistani Army operation against the Taliban is different because these jihadis are a threat to Pakistan itself. Rest assured, terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba will remain insulated from any such crackdown.

Back home the Government is facing flak on various domestic issues. Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is already backpedalling on his proposal to have a single secondary school board for all States. Further, the dispute over natural gas pricing has invited the criticism that the Government is being partisan in its handling of this important issue. This criticism has been so effective that the Government has had to amend its stand on the matter in the Supreme Court.

The Government has also had to backtrack on several other issues. For instance, after welcoming the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality, it now says that it wants to reconsider its stand. Its ally, the Trinamool Congress, has also forced it to rethink the land acquisition Bill, while the DMK is refusing to go along with the Government on divestment, at least as far as PSUs in Tamil Nadu are concerned. Union Telecom Minister A Raja hasn’t helped the Government’s image either. He continues to embarrass the Government with his shenanigans.

The severity of the power crisis nationwide, the shadow of drought looming large over many parts of the country, and the spurt in food grain, pulse and vegetable prices even though inflation is in negative, do not provide a rosy picture of the Government in charge. Even before recovery from the economic downturn has firmed up, there is talk of inflation raising its ugly head again.

The Government’s chicanery on the issue of declaration of assets by our judges has been well and truly exposed. After introducing the relevant Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the Government quietly withdrew it when the Opposition saw through its gameplan to shield the judges.

And finally, to cap it all, the Maoist menace plaguing many States of the country flies in the face of all the brave talk by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Two months in office may be too short a time to judge a Government. But the omens are worrying. This Government is virtually no different from the previous regime which was in power from 2004 to May 2009. That is a lot of time to show results, or obfuscate issues.






Bollywood actor Emraan Hashmi, who recently alleged that he was denied permission to buy an apartment in Nibbana, a plush housing society on Palli Hill, because of his religion, has put the Muslim community on the defensive. While Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Arif Naseem Khan has ordered a probe into the issue and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt has come out in Hashmi’s support, top actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have slammed him. Whether defending or attacking Hashmi, the very knee-jerk reactions of Muslim politicians and celebrities can be seen as being defensive. None of them needs to take a stand without finding out what actually happened and whether it was a one-off episode or symptomatic of rampant practice.

In a multi-religious society, prejudices cannot be wished away, but it is not fair to tar all incidents with the same brush. Legally speaking, Hashmi’s contention that the housing society refused to give him an no-objection certificate on religious grounds is bunkum. As per the model by-laws framed under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act a person does not require an ‘NOC’ from the society at the time of transfer of flat. Thus, a society cannot disallow anyone from selling (or renting) out a flat to anybody. Second, his appeal to the State Minorities Commission, seeking its intervention, does not stand scrutiny as the state cannot intervene in the sale or purchase of private property.

Hence, Hashmi should introspect whether it was right of him to give the issue a communal spin and pander to the Muslim community’s feeling of imagined victimhood. The uncalled for media focus on the issue will only lead to erosion of faith in democracy; it will generate fear among Muslims. The fact that Muslims in India have done well socially, politically and economically, than Muslims in any other country affirms that the time has come to stop stereotyping them as a weaker section. As Actor Salman Khan has said, “Had religious profiling happened in this country, Emraan would not have been a star.”

It is in the interest of the community in general and Hashmi in particular to realise that manipulative media managers will continue to serve the purpose of the grand old party that thrives on minority appeasement and this politics of victimhood will not lead them anywhere.







Mamata Banerjee is clear in her mind that the Congress can at best be the junior partner in its alliance with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. But the Congress isn’t willing to give up so easily. But Mamata Banerjee knows that she has the upper hand and can call the shots .


Is the honeymoon between the Trinamool Congress and its erstwhile parent party, the Congress, souring? The Congress is perplexed about dealing with Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee. Congress managers say they find it difficult to deal with Ms Banerjee’s mercurial temper and her ego after she has managed to reduce the Congress to a minor partner in West Bengal.

Although the understanding between the two parties was to continue their alliance until the West Bengal Assembly election in 2011, differences have already crept in. But if they really have a common objective of throwing out the Left Front Government from power, both will have to grin and bear each other. While the Congress needs the support of the Trinamool Congress, Ms Banerjee also needs the Congress to achieve her one-point programme of becoming the Chief Minister of West Bengal. The Congress has already achieved its objective of marginalising the Left parties. It will be a sweet revenge for the Congress if the Left Front is thrown out of power after the Assembly polls.

For Ms Banerjee, although she has become the Railway Minister, her goal is yet to be achieved. That is why she spends more time in Kolkata to be able to organise her party and face the huge task ahead. Presently she is in an advantageous position. First of all, things are going her way as the party is gaining ground. Her popularity graph is going up. Secondly, the anti-incumbency factor against the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Government may hurt the Left Front. The people of the State are getting fed up with the Left Front regime.

Thirdly, she is in a position to play Santa Claus by way of giving new trains and other concessions. She wants to create a pro-poor image. Fourthly, Ms Banerjee would like to have a weak Congress leadership. The Congress does not have big names in West Bengal and Pranab Mukherjee who is the tallest figure of the party is already busy with so many other tasks.

Just few months back before the Lok Sabha election relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress was all smooth and even the seat-sharing for the Lok Sabha polls between the two went off without much problem. The victory was very sweet for both the parties. Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were quite relieved that unlike Mr Karunanidhi Ms Banerjee did not demand too many Cabinet berths and also did not bargain for hefty portfolios.

But the first signs of strain became apparent when the Trinamool Congress chief wanted to be consulted on the Centre’s decisions pertaining to West Bengal and made her displeasure known when the Government did not do so. The Congress then promptly deputed Mr Pranab Mukherjee to assuage her feelings.

On the other hand, Ms Banerjee seems to believe that the Congress still has a soft corner for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharajee Government. In the past four months, the two parties have taken different stands on various issues. In the post-Aila devastation, Ms Banerjee insisted on bypassing the Chief Minister to send the relief as her party controlled the panchayats. She was upset when the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced Rs 1,000 crore relief aid to the State Government. Soon after appeared the Lalgarh issue. The two parties differed openly on whether to send central security forces to the Maoist-infested area. Ms Banerjee was against any such decision without consulting her. Then, when the Congress called for a bandh to protest against the attack on its MLA, the Trinamool Congress cadre stayed away. In a tit-for- tat gesture, the Congress repaid it by not deputing its senior leaders to attend the Martyr’s day rally organised by the Trinamool Congress on July 21.

The tensions reached a flashpoint when Ms Banerjee dared the Congress to “face the consequences” after the Congress “immorally” captured the Uluberia civic body with the help of the BJP and Forward Bloc. She also opposed the Center’s move to bring the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill to Parliament. To avoid confrontation with the Trinamool Congress, the Government has now shelved the Bill.

Latest in the row to add to the rift is the issue of seat-sharing for the bypolls to be held for Bowbazar and Sealdah Assembly seats. During the negotiations before the nomination, the Congress was hoping that Ms Banerjee may concede at least one seat for the party. But she walked away with both seats after a meeting with Ms Gandhi, leaving local Congress leaders quite miffed about it. All are watching what would happen to the 11 seats where by-polls are due later.

Ms Banerjee began her stint as the Railway Minister in 2009 on a promising note and as a ‘reasonable ally’. Optimists in both the parties are quite confident that the alliance will survive until the next Lok Sabha election. More so, Ms Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi are said to be keen on the alliance. It is also believed that the Congress is willing to announce Ms Banerjee as their joint candidate for the Chief Minister. However, two years is a long time in politics. In future, there is bound to be hard bargaining between the Congress and its ally and, more likely, Ms Banerjee will have the upper hand.








A ghastly political charade, with Chief Minister Mayawati as chief protagonist, is being played out in impoverished Uttar Pradesh. The lady has disproved all theories about empowered Dalits rectifying historical wrongs by misutilising public funds at her disposal for cosmetic purposes. In a betrayal of the trust vested in her by the people of her State, especially those most at the mercy of the vagaries of nature, she remains obsessed with erecting statues of her mentor Kanshi Ram and other Dalit icons during a time of drought. The most badly affected are the very sections, whose interests she purportedly represents. The spectre of starvation confronts them even as the woman, who rode piggy-back on their hopes and dreams to the Chief Minister’s post for the fourth time, keeps herself busy with the frivolous work of building monuments and statues, and laying out parks, quite in the manner of the grand Mughals and their peers. Except that as empire builders, they were entitled to do so on the strength of military conquests and outstanding aesthetic accomplishments.

Sadly, Ms Mayawati has little to boast of in terms of poverty alleviation and genuine development works, with her time and energy being spent on Dalit heroes and hero worship, and political stratagems. This indicates a narrow vision, limited in scope and interest. Her pretensions stand exposed by the contents of the supplementary grant of Rs 7,559 crore tabled by Uttar Pradesh Finance Minister in the Vidhan Sabha. The money apparently is required for completing development projects. The break-up is revealing — with Rs 553.91 crore being set aside for the beautification of parks made in tribute to Dalit icons. By contrast, the amount for healthcare in the State is a paltry Rs 10 crore.

That cosmetic exercises preoccupy the Chief Minister is also visible in these details. Rs 199.89 crore is required for making a park at Jail Road; Rs 55.53 crore for building Kanshi Ram Memorial; Rs 57.90 crore for beautifying Kanshi Ram Smriti Upvan; Rs 57.66 crore for Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Sthal; Rs 56.29 crore for making Rama Bai Ambedkar Maidan; Rs 26.74 crore for putting up portraits of Dalit icons at various sites; and Rs 100 crore for ‘integrated development’ of Lucknow. These intended expenditures have spurred criticism from opponents who point out that the need of the hour is to provide people relief from drought and other problems. The Chief Minister, abdicating her responsibilities, seems bent on following a destructive course. It is a monumental blunder, like the ill-conceived Taj Corridor plan, a real estate misadventure, which entangled her in corruption cases. However, she appears not to have learnt from past mistakes.

The Mughal princesses — Shah Jahan’s daughters Jahanara and Roshanara, and Aurangzeb’s daughter Zeenat un Nisa Begum all unmarried since husbands might have posed threat to their power — also kept themselves engaged with creative endeavours. But they had the luxury of doing so since the task of administration did not rest on them. Chandni Chowk, the fairytale bazaar of Shahjahanabad, was conceived by Jahanara, the deposed emperor’s faithful companion during his incarceration in the Agra Fort. Her sister Roshanara, who sided with Aurangzeb, their brother, in the power struggle, laid out the beautiful Roshanara Gardens in Delhi. Her grave, open to the sky, was later made at the centre of a white pavilion inside the garden. And Zeenat un Nisa Begum had the Zeenat-ul Masjid built upon a hillock near the Yamuna river in 1709. The red sandstone complex harboured her grave. British troops were said to have used the mosque for a brief while as a bakery during the 1857 mutiny. Today, the bazaar, garden and mosque are all part of the capital’s great heritage.

So far as Ms Mayawati’s creations are concerned, their architectural value is debatable, and theme repetitive. In Noida, green areas have been appropriated for another Dalit monument/park. Verging on the Okhla bird park, it is seen as a grotesque concrete encroachment on the river environs. Building schools and medical centres for the living would certainly be a more valuable tribute to the leaders, who struggled to uplift the poor and oppressed. For these are what they really need for a better future, and not the ‘lifeless things’, to quote the poet Shelley, that seem to possess the Chief Minister’s imagination.







A footprint is the term environmentalists use to describe each person’s impact on the earth. The more one travels, the more one eats, the heavier carbon footprint he produces, thus affecting the Earth adversely. The idea is to make one’s footprint so gentle that he passes through this life without hurting the planet. This means eating as much as required without wasting the food, eating only local vegetarian food, restricting our wants in terms of energy and comforts.

Carbon footprint means the amount of energy one uses. In other words, the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual.

Energy saving is not just about putting lights off, it encompasses everything an individual does. An extra pair of shoes has used up a life, chemicals, electricity and has dirtied the river somewhere else. It is brought to the shop where it is displayed in airconditioned showroom till you go and buy it. This might not cost you much but it costs the earth dearly. If you use palm oil, for instance, the forests of Borneo are cut and all orangutans will die.

So one needs to cut carbon footprints and increase compassion footprint. The compassion footprint is not a measurement of how you feel but a measurement of emitted compassion as compassion has every bit as much to do with the quality of life on earth as fossil fuel emissions or ozone depletion. Compassion is defined as deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

We need to understand that this world is as much ours as of animals. Therefore, either we must live with them in a responsible manner, share our world with them equitably or face environmental devastation in the form of drought, famine and etc.

The answer lies in being ‘conscious’ of what we eat, wear and use. We must go beyond the looks of product and check its source. Has this product harmed another creature to benefit or give pleasure to human? Is the level of pleasure equal to the pain it has caused?

One can start this by avoid using products which legally abuse, harm, or kill animals in the name of education, science, or fashion. Every day we have ample opportunities to consciously reduce our carbon footprint.

Answer the questions honestly and as you go along you will learn it’s not hard to reduce our carbon footprint.

1. After finishing your food, you leave a few morsels in the plate as waste. Do you throw it in the dustbin or out on the window ledge where a passing bird could feed on it?

2. Do you share any part of your household’s food with stray animals?

3. Do you put all your edible leftovers or grass clippings into plastic bags so that no one can eat from a public garbage area or do you leave them free for dump animals

4. When you see an injured animal on the street will you merely shrug your shoulder thinking someone else will do something or call an animal welfare organisation and inform them about the animal?

5. When was the last time you planted a tree ?

6. Have you ever visited an animal shelter and maybe donated something even if it is old newspapers?

7. Have you placed a bowl (of water or food grains) for birds to feed them from during the summer season?

8. Have you ever written to a newspaper or a television channel that showing abusive entertainment like bullfighting or acts that involve eating animals for winning contests is not fun at all?

9. Have you refused to experiment on animals in your school or college?

10. Do you go to circuses? Do you enjoy the cruelty meted out to them on the show and
off the show?

11. Do you read the label of every day products you use, especially cosmetics, to see whether they are free from animal testing?

12. Have you ever stopped to help any animal in distress? Do you look when you walk so that you do not step on ants?

13. Do you teach your children to be sensitive to animals and not abuse them even if the ways may seem small such as tearing off the wings of dragonflies, pinning butterflies in their scrap book or kicking a passing dog?

14. Do you use chemicals in your home to kill insects instead of simply preventing them from coming in?

Now answer the big question that gives you a million points on the ‘compassionometer’: Are you vegetarian?

It is simple to make compassionate choices about what we eat and wear and how we educate students, conduct research, and entertain ourselves. Reduce carbon, increase compassion!

To join the animal welfare movement, contact









They say that when US Vice President Joseph Biden visited Georgia in July, Americans made sure he did not see George Bush Street, which is on the way from Tbilisi Airport to the old city.

Now, under President Barack Obama it has become embarrassing for President Mikheil Saakashvili. In turn, Mr Saakashvili is politically embarrassing for Mr Obama, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the bigger part of western Europe.

The closer the first anniversary of the Caucasian war approaches, the more accusations of Russia as a threat to Georgia appear. Mr Saakashvili claims that tensions on the border are escalating every minute, and the Russian Army is moving frontier markers almost every hour. Observers from the European mission in Georgia reported on August 4 that they had not seen any change in the frontier markers. But, as the Brits say, why let facts ruin a good story?

After a whole series of publications and TV documentaries, Europe and the United States have revised the causes of the Caucasian war, and revealed its main culprits. However, the publication of the recent EU report on this war has been suspended till September. At first, it was supposed to be published on July 31. According to some sources, the report bluntly says that Georgia is to blame for starting the conflict, that it has violated norms of international law, and caused Russia’s natural response. The report has been suspended officially because ostensibly new facts requiring additional analysis have come to light. But diplomats in Brussels familiar with the report say that the decision not to publish was made so as not to “finish off” Mr Saakashvili on the eve of the war’s anniversary.

During his visit to Tbilisi, Mr Biden did not give any written or contractual commitments to Georgia (for instance, to supply it with weapons), but promised to focus military assistance on training, planning, and organisation. In US lexicon, these forms of aid usually mean tougher control over the actions by the military authorities of minor allies with a view to preventing exactly what happened in the early hours of August 8 last year.

The US does not find it very comfortable to supply Georgia with weapons during the crisis because it has no money to pay for them. Under Mr George W Bush, Washington already committed itself to put all Georgian bureaucrats on its payroll, having paid a little more than $ 1 billion as a compensation for Mr Saakashvili’s small war. The first tranche of $ 250 million has already been transferred. According to the Treasury, these funds will be spent on old age pensions, scholarships, social payments, and assistance to refugees. However, and this is the main point, a considerable part of these funds will be allocated for compensation and salaries of Government officials of all ministries, except for the Defence and Interior ministries. In other words, all of Georgia’s Government officials are already on US payroll, a fact which nobody even tried to conceal during the last few years of Mr Bush’s term.

Incidentally, August is the month of another tragic anniversary in the history of Georgia. On August 14 it will be 17 years since the start of Georgia’s aggression against Abkhazia. In 1992, Eduard Shevardnadze’s Georgia brought its troops into Sukhumi. They consisted of a terrible mix of military, paramilitary, and outright bandit forces. Thousands of people were killed, while 2,00,000 Georgians were forced to leave Abkhazia.

Last year, Mr Saakashvili and his entourage merely did a repeat of the Abkhazian venture. It is regrettable that few people remember the original. At that time, Tbilisi was also talking about “struggle against separatists,” and “the need to preserve Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

The writer is a political affairs columnist based in Moscow.







Six years after the bomb attacks in Mumbai killed 54 people and injured over 180, a special court has sentenced three people to death. The investigators and the jury deserve praise for completing the trial in reasonably quick time and in a transparent manner. Terrorists do not deserve any sympathy and attempts to politicise or communalise terror trials must not be encouraged.

It is important that all terror-related cases are fast-tracked without compromising due process to ensure that justice is delivered quickly. In many cases, avoidable delays in investigation and trial have resulted in innocent people spending years in jail as undertrials. These compromise the credibility of public institutions and provoke a sense of victimhood among people and communities. There are groups that exploit such sentiments. If better infrastructure material and personnel is provided to the police and the legal system, it would be possible to reduce the time taken to conduct terror trials in a fair and transparent manner. Speedy disbursal of justice can limit the spread of complaints and conspiracies.

Terrorism is an inhuman act and exemplary punishment must be meted out to terrorists. The legal system in India sanctions death penalty as a punishment in the 'rarest of rare' cases. However, this newspaper has for long argued that death penalty has no place in a liberal society. No crime is deserving of death because the premises for death penalty, such as retribution, deterrence and incapacitation, are flawed. Retribution is a base instinct. The idea of justice must not be driven by the primitive urge to seek revenge. Procedural or juridical sanctions are not sufficient to justify an act that seeks to exterminate a life as punishment however gruesome the crime is. No murder can be condoned and nation states can't claim exemption to the moral logic that human life is precious if not sacred.

One may argue that death is the most powerful deterrent against crime. But the existence of death penalty has not prevented people from plotting and conducting massacres in the name of religion and ideology. Crime must be punished and punished in an exemplary manner, of course. And punishment in cases of terrorism must be severe enough to deter prospective terrorists and sufficient to incapacitate a convict. Life imprisonment, in the true sense of the term, could satisfy these considerations. It is time our lawmakers revisit the legal provisions for death penalty and make changes to the law in accordance with enlightened liberal practices elsewhere. That only 58 countries follow death penalty in law and practice as against 94 that have abolished it should serve as a wake-up call for us.







It is a marker of how deep the dissent against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs in his country that despite seven weeks of brutal repression of the opposition against his disputed re-election, the fires in Iran are still burning. At Ahmadinejad's inauguration on Wednesday, several top officials, including presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi, former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, as well as the grandson of the founder of Iran's Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pointedly stayed away. And though the million-strong rally called by the opposition failed to materialise owing, perhaps, to the heavy police presence in Tehran the country remains in the midst of its biggest crisis since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The inauguration ceremony, as well as the formal blessing given to Ahmadinejad by supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Monday, exposed rifts in Iran's ruling elite. In recent weeks, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have tussled over the choice for the president's top deputy before Ahmadinejad finally backed down. Many conservatives in his own camp reportedly have misgivings about the president, which is likely to hamper him when he attempts to win parliament's approval of a new cabinet. Indeed, the situation was summed up best when at Monday's confirmation, poor choreography left Ahmadinejad unable to kiss the Khamenei's hand to express his appreciation.

Still, for all the challenges facing him, Ahmadinejad remains in control. Despite the rather comical scene between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad at the endorsement ceremony, the president retains the full support of Iran's supreme leader. He has a huge majority in parliament and, most importantly, has the backing of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which has emerged as the driving force behind efforts to crush the opposition movement.

Though authorities have resorted to harsh measures to crush the opposition, dissidents have continued to find ways of demonstrating discontent. Tehran's mass show trial of over a 100 government opponents last week has failed to break down the opposition. Instead, it has reinvigorated them to call for further public protests, even in the face of attempted intimidation from prosecutors cautioning against questioning the legitimacy of the trials. All this underscores the dilemma faced by the international community, led by the United States, of whether to engage with Iran. Several western countries have refused to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his victory. But the Iranian regime is not only repressive of dissent at home; it is blaming foreign countries for the continued opposition it faces. Despite all opposition, it is unlikely that Iran's current rulers will be toppled, as least in the near future.







The launch of INS Arihant, India's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, has added a new dimension to the country's nuclear deterrence. Given the military threats and challenges India faces from its nuclear-armed neighbours, credible minimum nuclear deterrence is a fundamental national security requirement. As India follows a 'no first use' nuclear doctrine and is willing to absorb a nuclear strike that may cause large-scale destruction and cripple substantial elements of its nuclear forces, nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) provide genuine deterrent capability that is robust, infallible and potentially insuperable.

The current international trend is towards development of more modern, high quality nuclear forces. The US is working on the Reliable Replacement Warhead programme. China and Pakistan are upgrading their nuclear warheads and delivery systems. India must close the missile technology gap with them as early as possible, or else the credibility of its nuclear deterrence will remain suspect.

As India has conducted only six nuclear tests so far, its nuclear warhead designs are based on a small database. Hence, despite the availability of sophisticated computer modelling and simulation for improving warhead designs, India must retain the option to carry out further nuclear tests as and when it is considered technically necessary by scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission and is politically feasible to do so.

Similarly, India's Agni-I and Agni-II intermediate-range ballistic missiles have been inducted into service after a limited number of flight tests. Additional tests of the Agni series of missiles should continue both to enhance the credibility of nuclear deterrence by showcasing their technological maturity and accuracy of delivery and to inspire confidence among the armed forces personnel manning them. It is also imperative to redouble efforts to acquire SLBMs with a range of 3,500 km. Sagarika, the present submarine-launched missile, has a range of only 700 km. Meanwhile, a small number of surface combatants in the eastern and western naval fleets must be equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles to add to the uncertainties of the direction of launch that an adversary must consider.

India must step up efforts to acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for long-range deterrence against possible future adversaries. The Surya ICBM programme, which can benefit from the polar and geostationary series of satellite launch vehicles, needs to be given the highest research and development (R&D) priority. In view of the R&D developments in China, it would be prudent to start a research programme on multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle technologies as a technology demonstrator.

The deployment of effective ballistic missile defence systems to defend value targets and provide point defence to strategically important installations will considerably enhance the quality of India's deterrence. Effort must be made to acquire this capability through imports as well as indigenous R&D.

India should cooperate with the international community in furthering non-proliferation efforts even while remaining outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. For counter-proliferation efforts to succeed, global support is needed for the Proliferation Security Initiative and Container Security Initiative launched by the US. India should join these initiatives as an equal partner after ensuring that Indian interests are safeguarded.
Nuclear terrorism presents a credible threat, particularly the possibility of radiological dispersal devices or 'dirty nukes' being exploded by Islamist terrorist organisations active in India like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. The agencies concerned should aim at prevention through a widespread human intelligence network. And radiation disaster management capabilities must be established in the battalions being raised by the National Disaster Management Authority. Also, India must strengthen security arrangements around civilian nuclear reactors so as to prevent Chernobyl-like consequences through a terrorist attack. In the eventuality of Pakistan's nuclear warheads falling into jihadi hands, India should be prepared to extend all help to the international community to secure these warheads, including logistics support and military assistance.

India must continue to make efforts to enhance confidence-building and nuclear risk reduction measures with Pakistan so as to reduce the risk of accidental and inadvertent nuclear war and must extend these efforts to negotiating similar measures with China despite that country's insistence that India is not a nuclear weapons state.

It is not in India's interest to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is important to keep the option for further nuclear testing open for political and technological reasons. However, India should consider joining the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty after sufficient fissile material has been stockpiled to produce the number of warheads considered adequate for credible minimum deterrence. Meanwhile, India should participate in negotiations that are likely to go on for five to 10 years.

To aid 'operationalisation' of India's nuclear arsenal, the Nuclear Command Authority must be given a permanent nuclear planning staff. Finally, India's nuclear weapons policy should proceed along parallel tracks: continue to enhance the quality of nuclear deterrence while simultaneously working to achieve total nuclear disarmament in as early a timeframe as possible.

The writer is director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.









When and why did you decide to write the book?

I went to Delhi to gather courage to leave the convent. Jesus worked many miracles on that journey to make my escape possible. I was helped by friends and even accepted into their homes during that difficult time. I was wonderstruck and decided to write. I also believe that there ought to be transparency in the church. I believe that God made me an instrument; it was my duty to speak up.


Did you protest while you were still a nun?

Usually junior sisters are not expected to speak at all. But i started protesting even before i was a senior. Synasis, held once ever three years, is a representative body of the church. I was an elected member. They put me in Mother Prudential's group with all the important councillors. I was told to be meek and humble, "like Jesus". Jesus was also a revolutionary. But they never consider that. For them, it's all about how much he suffered without uttering a word. The authorities use the vow of obedience to control us, saying, ''You are under strict obedience, obey this.'' It is the interpretation that matters. Taking the vow of obedience means that we will obey the will of God. But the authorities make everything look like the will of God.

What does corruption do to genuine vocation?

Some sisters are sincere but the atmosphere is spoilt. Nuns must bring in as much money as they can and are asked to vote for particular political parties as well. Only a small percentage joins out of genuine vocation. Nowadays we get vocation from poorer families. There are more children and it's a relief if one joins the convent/seminary. The general belief is that the child who joins the convent is the best in the family, very holy and divine. The younger ones join to earn respect. Even the junior-most sister in charge of a post in the college or hospital is powerful among those who come. Then you needn't worry about your future, job or money.

How has life changed outside the convent?

My students, social workers and other intellectuals are all with me. They invite me to meetings and ask me to speak. Some of the students called me and said that the teachers who were against me are all my admirers now. The church insists on chastity but they can't live it. Why take the vow of chastity if you're not going to keep it? Why can't we take a stand against it, say we can't take it? The system should be transparent. We should say what we practise. If we don't, we have no right to advise others.








To Harry or not to Harry? That is the question. After 30-odd years, Bunny and i are once again in Venice, magical city whose roads are waterways, giving the visitor from Bengal a pang of nostalgia for Shyam Bazar's Five-Point Crossing in Calcutta after monsoon rain. During its heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries, Venice was the Queen of the Adriatic, so rich and powerful that she could marry none but the sea itself, into which a gold wedding ring was dropped in an annual ceremony performed by the Doge, the CEO of the city. Today, Venice is in danger of sinking under the weight of its own legend, swamped by a tide more perilous than that of the sea: a human tide of tourists from across the world.


Like an old but still wily seductress, Venice flaunts her ravaged charms to win the uncertain kindness of strangers. On the serpentine S of the Grand Canal, Caneletto painting come to life, crumbling palaces hang suspended, upside-down dreams of a mouldering magnificence. Gondolas, supercilious as black swans, glide between huffing vaporetto water bases, belching spume and self-importance. In St Mark's Square, with its bell tower, cathedral and the marzipan pink-and-white Doge's palace, teeming hordes of tourists get into each other's picture frames, while dive-bombing pigeons crap on every uncovered head they find. And Bunny and i debate: should we, or should we not, go to Harry's Bar.


The last time we were in Venice, those 30-some years ago, we were far too broke to even think of Harry's. We're not all that much better off now. But maybe we're better off enough to have a drink, one drink, at Harry's. Discreetly tucked away behind St Mark's Square, Harry's Bar is as much a part of the cult of Venice as the Bridge of Sighs (romanticised by Byron) or Shakespeare's Shylock (Signor Antonio, many a time and oft on the Rialto, etc, etc). And, like most things to do with Venice, Harry's is at the centre of passionate and sustained controversy. Founded in 1930 by Giuseppe Cipriani, who invented there the Bellini cocktail (fresh peach juice blended with white wine), Harry's, named after the founder's son who now runs the place, became the unofficial meeting point of the international jet set, long before that term was coined. American writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway drank Bellinis there and Hollywood stars hobbed with other nobs. Spies and adventurers, royals and rakes, countesses and con men, celebrities and fakes, rubbed shoulders. All at Harry's.


Dammit, the place wasn't any longer a bar, a watering hole; it had become a metaphor, a myth, a greatness more than the sum of its parts. And like all myths, Harry's has its champions, those who've been there and loved it, and its detractors, those who've been there and hated it. With Harry's there is no middle ground. For those who've loved it, Harry's is the bar. As Everest is the mountain, or the Mona Lisa the painting, or the Taj Mahal the monument, the ultimate benchmark for all others of their genres. For those who've hated it (and there are almost as many as the first lot), Harry's is a small, unprepossessing establishment emanating as much charm as a dentist's waiting room, with insolent waiters, sloppy service and horrendous prices (a signature Bellini costs 16 euros a pop, that's more than a thousand rupees, if you stand at the tiny bar, almost twice as much if you sit at one of the tables).


So what's my verdict? What did i think of Harry's? Did Bunny and i eventually get there or not? I'm not telling. There are some discoveries, some pilgrimages that we all have to make for ourselves. This is one such. That's the trouble with Harry's. And the reason for its fame. Or is it infamy? Go and find out for yourself. And when you do, don't tell anyone what you thought of it. Let them find out for themselves. That's the secret of Harry's.







A poem purportedly written by a teenage Bob Dylan and up for auction at Christie's is actually a song written by late Canadian country singer Hank Snow, the auction house has said. So, this means that even the great Bob Dylan has been accused of plagiarism! But who doesn't plagiarise? Even Martin Luther King, Jr derived his PhD thesis on theology from other sources, in what appears to have been only an example of a lifetime habit of borrowing without proper attribution.


Shakespeare is believed by some to have got Christopher Marlowe killed to steal all of Marlowe's works and pass them off as his own, though many scholars dismiss that as a conspiracy theory. Rabindranath Tagore was so enamoured of Hafiz Shirazi's mystic poetry in Persian that he translated a few of them into English. Shakeel Badayuni usurped a primary schoolteacher's song, 'zindagi ke safar mein akele the hum', sung by Mohammad Rafi. That unfortunate man later committed suicide. The list is endless.

There seems to be nothing original and if anything appears to be so, it's probably just plagiarism that is as yet undetected. It sounds so much better when referred to as getting inspiration rather than stealing. So, many artists will brazenly say that their works are 'inspired' by so and so, whereas all these works are really inferior copies of the originals. We live in a world of flagrant imitation, where nothing is genuine. What we erroneously think to be genuine is probably a faint echo of something seen or heard in a distant past.


So, the most charitable interpretation of plagiarism is that it is a deep-rooted unconscious desire to emulate someone else. We're all copies of our predecessors in some ways, after all. I remember, when Steven Spielberg was accused by journalist Agnon Frazer of lifting the concept of his path-breaking movie ET from Satyajit Ray's unpublished works, Spielberg calmly asked Frazer, ''Didn't Ray also get the idea from Evelyn Jennings?'' Incidentally, Jennings was the first science fiction writer who thought of ET way back in 1933. Our great Ray was just 12 years old at that time. The irony is that the possibility of Jennings getting the idea of ET from someone else cannot be ruled out either. So, who's original? Isn't that the million-dollar question?











Nine years after Irom Sharmila Chanu started her indefinite fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and five years after the killing of Manorama Devi triggered protests against the Act, Manipur is again on the boil. The reason: the killing of Sanjit (27) in an alleged fake encounter on July 23 and the gunning down of protester Rabin Devi, both in Imphal. The deaths have brought back focus on the Act, which many feel gives the armed forces the licence to kill with impunity. However, the armed forces feel that this Act is necessary to keep insurgency under control in the state. In the face of such contradictory views, New Delhi should have quickly stepped in to defuse the situation. But it has done little and, therefore, the current fracas should not take it by surprise.


The immediate trigger for this round of protests in Manipur was clearly the two tragic and avoidable deaths. But what leads to such incidents becoming so explosive so quickly is the feeling that the region has always been given stepmotherly treatment by New Delhi. And this is not without justification. In 2004, after the killing of Manorama Devi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would consider repealing the AFSPA and replacing it with a “more humane law”. A panel headed by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy was set up. Predictably, its recommendations were not made public thanks to opposition from the Army and Ministry of Defence. The panel was of the view that the Act must be scrapped. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission that was headed by V. Moily, now India’s Law Minister, also agreed with the review panel on most counts. Yet, nothing moved. So it would be premature to expect that things will change after the Home Minister’s recent pronouncement that the Centre is working on amendments to the AFSPA and limiting the application of the legislation in some areas.


It would be very unfortunate if the Centre does not grab this chance to bring about the required changes. It has already lost a lot of time and the confidence of the people by not taking a decision on the Act. The Northeastern parts of India already suffer from a sense of alienation; incidents like the one in Manipur only reinforce the image of the Big Brother State. The Reddy report needs to be debated and acted upon without delay. Otherwise we’ll find ourselves with more fires than is possible to put out.







Any resemblance between the herds of stone elephants dotting the Uttar Pradesh landscape and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) pachydermian symbol is coincidental. For those who have been tusk, tusking that the party is using public funds to create elephant statues, the BSP has made it clear. The party haathi has its trunk down, while the statues have them raised in welcome.


How silly of all those doubting Thomases out there not to have seen that straightaway. The elephant is our national pride and joy as are those gadzillion statues of B.R. Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and our very own Mayawati. Our only worry is that if a new government takes over, it might not be able to appreciate the aesthetics and sentiment that went into building these monumental tributes. The statue most at risk is that of our beloved sister. Ambedkar is a sacred cow, Kanshi Ram the revered founder of the party of Dalit pride. So given our veneration of the departed, let us assume they will be spared.


But then again, we are sure that any attempts to pull Mayawati off her pedestal will be countered by her emotional supporters who will uproot, preferably public property, for her any day. Also given that ‘Behenji’ has an elephantine memory, especially about those who have wittingly or unwittingly, cast slurs on her, not too many will cast the first stone. Since the UP government is not one to trumpet its considerable achievements, especially its relentless park and stadium building, we need more symbols to remind us of the fact that the BSP means business. And if the bill is a jumbo one, rely on the government to be thick-skinned on that.








In what has become a controversy for the ages, the Indian cricket team’s refusal to the International Cricket Council (ICC)-stipulated World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) drug-testing policies has become another unfortunate example of what the public perceives as arm-twisting by the world’s most powerful cricket body: the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).


With the Ministry of Sports lending its support to Wada compliance, and with about 571 sports bodies agreeing to comply with a somewhat invasive regulation, it has put the BCCI on a slippery slope: until the ICC commits one way or the other. What’s getting lost in the entire episode is the stipulation that has triggered the debate. It’s unlikely that Wada will modify or alter its regulations.


Drug-testing in sports lends itself to inflamed reactions from athletes and morality-policing by the officials. Public opinion is varied and generally irrelevant. It is a direct conflict between the parties concerned and officiating would be inconsequential, unless matters get out of hand.


The BCCI’s proposed solution — for cricket to form and operate its independent doping laboratory and commission — is impractical and will put an end to cricket’s eligibility for any global sports forum. It’s prohibitively expensive to establish and operate an independent doping agency for cricket. Significant R&D is required, as is a global presence and support from authorities and law-makers.


Above all, it needs a reputation of uniformity and objectivity and  it must provide an accurate indication of a player’s compliance with rules and laws that govern his/her sport. The ICC cannot create such an agency overnight.


The rule that’s launched a million debates — where a player must inform Wada of his/her whereabouts for at least an hour everyday for about three months in advance for the purposes of being randomly tested — would not withstand scrutiny from an invasion of privacy and constitutional rights standpoint, if it goes to the courts.


The timing and procedure that should have been followed would have entailed an official complaint by the BCCI to the ICC, which could have taken up the matter with Wada. Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) followed that route and negotiated some exemptions. The BCCI doesn’t have any such luxury and has been thrust into an unwelcome spotlight.


It’s hard to pick sides in this tug-of-war. The Board and players shouldn’t be chastised for trying to invoke their rights. Unluckily, the protest comes at a time when the Nadals of the world have agreed to comply for a simple reason: most drug violations take place not during competitions, but during out-of-competition training.


There are many drugs that are untraceable within 24 hours of their consumption. Yet, if consumed over time, they help enhance performance to a great extent. The offending regulation minimises that risk by leaving the option to test open for any day of the year, randomly or systematically.


The lone battle that the BCCI is fighting doesn’t seem as if it will end on a positive note. Sports ministries of cricket-playing nations (including ours), committees of global events like the Olympics and the Wada make this an uphill climb of Malthusian proportions. The BCCI has ventured into deep volcanic waters. It’s in a sink or swim situation now. Let’s hope it’s not the Indian fans who have to suffer.


Desh Gaurav Sekhri is a sports attorney








In the din of Parliament, it was a despairing sight: the once mighty George Fernandes struggling to take his oath as a Rajya Sabha member. He couldn’t speak, could barely walk, this was a lion in the winter of life being almost pushed to perform one last time on the big stage. He was ill but was being asked to defy age and poor health. The question that many of us who had tracked the controversial but charismatic politician could ask was: is this how a senior public figure must fade away?


Fernandes, after all, is a life story that few Bollywood scripts would be able to match. The teenager who was sent to a seminary to train as a priest, but then rebelled and became a trade union activist. The young man who came to Mumbai with eight annas in his pocket, slept on the pavement and then built a workers’ movement that would bring the country’s commercial capital to a halt. The politician who became ‘George the Giant Killer’ after he defeated Mumbai’s reigning political badshah S.K. Patil in the 1967 elections. The ultimate anti-establishment hero during the Emergency, it was the image of Fernandes in chains that became symbolic of the political repression of  the period.


Through all the twists and turns, Fernandes enjoyed the arclights, relished a challenge, took pride in being perhaps the last political iconoclast (who else but Fernandes as the country’s defence minister would have allowed his official residence to be used as a home for Burmese and Tibetan rebels?). And yet, today, at 79, Fernandes is being reduced to a pathetic lonely figure, a cruel reminder of how nothing is permanent in life.


Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar has hinted that the decision to make ‘Georgesaab’ a Rajya Sabha member was a form of ‘guru-dakshina’ to a mentor. Admirable sentiments, although only a few months earlier, Kumar had refused to give a Lok Sabha ticket to his ‘guru’, saying he was too ill. Are we then to understand that the Rajya Sabha is an retirement home, much like the Raj Bhavans? Do politicians have a retirement age, or are they expected to soldier on till the very end?


Indian politics (like much of our society) is trapped in a ‘Bhishma Pitamah’ syndrome. The idea of a pater familias who will be our compass through life is a powerful one; we expect our elders to offer wisdom gleaned from experience. But an over-emphasis on age is also proving debilitating to a young society. In our search for Bhishma-like figures, we are preventing the next generation from questioning the status quo.


For example, take the Left. Part of the problem is that there has been little attempt to allow newer voices to emerge. A Jyoti Basu could perhaps have continued as West Bengal CM and politburo member for an eternity, because there was a lurking fear within the Marxist ranks of what life would be like without him at the helm. Eventually, the patriarch opted out himself, but how many others are willing to say goodbye?


Family-run regional parties, driven by the cult of personality, are prone to being unable to shake off  the burden of  age. An octogenarian Karunanidhi must stay on, even if he is confined to a wheelchair, out of concern that his ‘retirement’ from politics will spark off a succession war. A Bal Thackeray must still be the face of the Shiv Sena, even if he is too weak to campaign, because he alone commands the authority to hold the party together.


Even the BJP and the Congress are facing a similar predicament. The BJP’s failure to effect a generational transfer of leadership is partly because the party has been so dependent on the A.B. Vajpayee-L.K. Advani duo for more than four decades that it cannot quite come to terms with a situation when they are no longer around. Vajpayee’s health has reached a stage where he can only hold a symbolic value for the party. Advani is a remarkably fit 81, but his decision to retire at the end of the year has once again left the BJP struggling to identify a leader who can carry forward the Hindutva torch.


The Congress, on the other hand, may have identified Rahul Gandhi as their next generation leader, but the formation of  the Manmohan Singh Cabinet only confirms the compulsions of having to accommodate political “seniors”.


If it was the image of an ageing Arjun Singh that haunted UPA-I, this time it’s 77-year-old S.M. Krishna who is struggling to cope up with the demands of a high-profile ministry. This is not to suggest that the answer lies in a radical generational shift in our politics. Many of our ‘young’ MPs are still beneficiaries of being members of political dynasties, and have not earned their spurs in the rough and tumble of public life. Give me a ‘wise’ Pranab Mukherjee any day over some of  our camera-friendly but still raw young MPs.


The real solution lies in moving away from a feudal attachment to age to a modern commitment to ideas. Choose MPs, ministers, indeed, any professional leader, on the basis of their ability to generate new thoughts and implement them successfully, irrespective of their age. A Fernandes will be remembered because he gave the trade union movement in the 60s a certain dynamism and spirited leadership. A Fernandes will not be remembered because he chose the sinecure of a Rajya Sabha membership despite failing health.


Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN Network









Reeda Sheikh’s tragic death from swine flu has sent the nation into a tailspin. The H1N1 virus is now a Stage 6 pandemic and has claimed 1154 lives across 168 countries, since it first surfaced in April. The World Health Organisation had then warned that the pandemic could affect millions of people, but the numbers are, mercifully, still manageable. However, we have now moved from containment to mitigation, and the exact dimensions and trajectory of the outbreak are still to be determined, and the fear of mutation still hangs over us. In the UK, the first wave is said to have peaked. A big surge in swine flu is again expected in a few months when the normal flu season starts. India needs to snap to it, quarantining infected people, testing those who might be possibly affected, and providing medical assistance to those who need it.


A few months back, there was a sense that the threat of swine-flu had been blown out of proportion by international health organisations and an excitable media. This is not the Spanish Flu of 1918, which has become the doomsday mental model for all pandemics since. This is not to underplay the gravity of the situation — in the last week alone, 338 people have succumbed to the disease, says the WHO. But just as the pandemic assumes menacing proportions in a closely interconnected world, our administrative damage control systems must also react with vigour and coordinated purpose. The government is now tracking the transmission dynamics of the virus in an effort to understand and best tackle this new strain.

But Reeda Sheikh’s death has awakened public vulnerabilities, and the lack of cohesion between private practitioners and government hospitals isn’t helping calm the panic. Television anchors claim that anyone with a sniffle should be tested for swine flu, and reporters do earnest pieces to camera wearing masks. People who feel the beginnings of a scratchy throat are scrambling for urgent medical attention from designated hospitals. By contrast, severely afflicted countries like the US and UK advise such people to stay home and take care, and monitor for swine-flu symptoms via phone helplines. The stress is on disseminating a factsheet and making sure that those who really need medical attention get it immediately. Pune’s concern makes sense, with a total of 118 positive H1N1 infections out of 596 across the country (many of which have been treated), but we are undercutting our own efforts and straining our resources with this great rush to the hospital.









It is coming to being a year since Lehman Brothers collapsed, leaving the global economy with the spectre of the biggest depression this side of the ’30s. But already, sightings of the green shoots of recovery are becoming rampant. Banks in the United States, for instance, are beginning to return to the government the enormous sums of bailout money they received in hastily-assembled emergency measures. In India, of course, no bank failed, an achievement we have embroidered with assorted explanations, ranging from the government’s foresightedness decades ago in nationalising banks to far more plausible ones suggesting that banks operating in India pulled along through the crisis because they had not been exposed to new financial innovations like credit default swaps. Along the way, Indian banks’ performance in this year has oddly become a reason to be wary of financial sector reform. The logic being, if it ain’t so easily broke, why fix it.


Bless the United Forum of Bank Unions, then, for showing us why. UFBU claims to have pulled along 10 lakh employees in a two-day strike by public sector banks that began Thursday. They are demanding a wage hike and pension benefits, and during Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha got the full-throated endorsement of, among others, the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta. He counselled government intervention, naturally on the side of the unions’ demands, saying that in these recessionary circumstances the costs of prolonged confrontation with bank employees could be huge. He failed, again naturally, to see that the very fact of the strike — timed as so many union tactics are to win the employees a long weekend — is a signal that things are potentially returning to business as usual.


This is of course good reason for bank managements to look into — and be permitted by the rules to look into — wages. And by the manner of their blackmail tactics and the collective bargaining they are able to enforce, the unions demonstrate exactly what’s wrong. The argument is not against a wage hike, it is instead against the mandated-by-rules uniformity that informs the pay structure in public sector banks.







It is shockingly easy to just stop noticing that our cities and our countryside are dotted with signs of our endlessly fascinating past. Monuments and heritage sites live and breathe in India in a way that they may not elsewhere; they are part of the fabric of many people’s lives, a sight seen so regularly that sometimes they begin to breed something like contempt. And that, while inspiring, can also become a problem. “Living” though they might be, they are also held in trust by today’s Indians for tomorrow’s generations: that is, after all, precisely what “heritage” means.


Which is why, the new attempt by the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities to create a egistry of historic structures is laudable, essential, and overdue. A million monuments, it is expected, will be on the list, a five-year project which will bring together information from disparate sources. And the proportion of those that have been overlooked, neglected, encroached upon or otherwise harmed will, no doubt, be depressingly high.


It can be nobody’s case that heritage sites should be bloodless, antiseptic, and unchanging. But winning that argument is not enough. By their very nature, heritage sites are heirlooms; at the very least current generations must take care to not degrade them, lest we fail in our responsibility to those others who have stakes in them — future Indians seeking a connection to their nation’s past, or even people from elsewhere who have as much a stake in the relics of our great civilisation as we have in the Bamiyan Buddhas or the Great Wall of China. Great nations with great histories nurture their inheritance. If India wishes to be one, it must do the same. A registry is a necessary start, but it is not enough. An entire change in mindset is required.








The recent episode over the Judges (Declaration of Assets & Liabilities) Bill is a reminder of just how difficult genuine judicial reform is going to be. In some ways, the issue of declaring assets is the simplest item on judicial reform. Judges’ legitimate concerns that their disclosures not be used as a tool of harassment can be easily handled without having to exempt them from public disclosure. But the judiciary’s response to the issue has two fundamental mistakes. The first rule of any sound jurisprudence is that no one should be a judge in their own cause. The judiciary insists that only it can superintend itself. The second related mistake is to convert the claim of judicial independence into exemption from accountability. If Veerappa Moily is serious about judicial reform, accountability in so many different forms will be a central concern. The attitude of some sections of the judiciary to the asset bill is a warning about how independence will be used as a shield against accountability. And the delicious irony in the fact that politicians were teaching constitutional lessons to the judiciary in the parliamentary debate is a sign of how resistant they are perceived to be to serious reform.


In any reform story, entrenched actors within a sector are the hardest to move towards reform. Unfortunately, the judiciary is proving to be no exception. There are a number of indicators of this. We are all grateful to the courts for some splendid defences of our liberty and for holding government accountable. But if you scratch under the surface, it becomes apparent that there is a selection bias driving our perception of the judiciary. To just take one example, institutions like the Delhi high court have been at the forefront of rights and governance issues, sometimes excessively so. But if you look at the country as a whole, barring a couple of jurisdictions, the so-called rights revolution in our courts has not taken place. There is enormous variability in how courts are responding. In short, even the court’s achievements are much more contingent and fragile than we suppose and seem to be driven largely by wonderful individual judges rather than systemic factors.


The mere fact that millions of plaintiffs are now suffering what is called the punishment of due process is an enormous blot on the credibility of the justice system. And there is growing evidence that many seeking justice are dropping out of the formal system all together. The factors behind this are complicated. But one of the most disquieting aspects is that many of the delays are a result of procedures and conventions directly under the control of judges. Individual judges are enormously hard working. But there is no rational basis for the way adjournments are granted, benches shifted and assigned, and the utter lack of control over lawyers. One of the big mysteries in political economy is why judges, with all their protection and security, do not intellectually, legally and procedurally take greater charge of their own courts. Even at the highest levels of the judiciary, the deference to lawyers is amazing. The test of the judiciary’s willingness to reform will be first and foremost a serious and committed internal conversation about all the million small things it can do that are within its power. The lack of this open conversation suggests how muted the constituency for reform is.


The judiciary’s position on appointments, especially to the Supreme Court, is constitutionally untenable. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the most non-transparent processes in the world, not open to any form of scrutiny. There is no principled basis for the judiciary to sanction reservations for everyone else, but exempt itself from its ambit. In public perception the judicial response to charges of corruption is extremely tepid, mostly amounting to treating Sikkim and Assam as a backwater posting. Even in areas where the judiciary took on major governance roles, like the environment, the net results are mixed. The common thread running through all this is that independence has become a fig leaf to shield accountability. The concern for judicial independence is not a sufficient argument to shut out other branches of government from participating in creating better systems of accountability. Indeed, the judiciary’s claim to independence and its credibility will be enhanced if it is more transparent.


Moily has an ambitious agenda for reform: timely disposal of cases, improving the quality of appointments, introducing a modicum of judicial accountability, initiating procedural innovations. But none of this is going to be possible without active cooperation and dialogue with the judiciary. The disquieting lesson of the Judges Bill is that it is a demonstration of just how difficult and adversarial this dialogue is going to be. And then you can throw into the mix the legal profession which has an odd relationship to the system.


Broadly, there are three groups. There is the growing group that does mostly backroom professional legal work, like contracts, etc. But in the frontline profession there are two groups. The upper echelons are great beneficiaries of both judicial deference and a lack of culture of accountability. Many of them are brilliant and upright. But the systemic culture of the profession needs a hard look. Forget more complicated ideas of conflict of interest, and what it means to be an officer of the court. There are a distressingly large number of instances where top lawyers, even after having taken advances, will not show up for hearing after hearing, and there is simply no redress. The top echelon has the ability to dominate an intellectually insecure judiciary and benefit from great under-professionalisation. Then there is a large mass of struggling lawyers at different levels: immensely resentful of the privileges of the few in the profession and convinced that justice is not about the law but manipulating existing protocols and conventions. They have also consistently blocked legal and judicial reform.


The executive also has more than its fair share of blame. But the importance of the Judges Bill was not simply that it would have brought judges under principles they themselves have enacted. It was that this was a test case for the possibility of a dialogue between the judiciary and other branches of government. If the debate on this is so entrenched on the simplest issue, think of what might happen on more complex issues like the Judicial Accountability Bill or the appointments of judges or the reform of the Bar. Now the rule of law is running into the political economy of the judiciary.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi








Imagine a world where everyone has to wear a size 40 shirt. Might be the right size for some, but the rest would face a dilemma of sorts. That unusual analogy best describes how our Planning Commission’s one-size-fits-all approach in formulating national welfare programmes is helping a few states more than others. I believe it is high time we took a non-partisan view on this matter.


There exists a great imbalance between fiscal resources and fiscal responsibilities assigned to states. States are devolved about 34 per cent of total revenue; but incur 57 per cent of expenditure. This ratio has dramatically shifted over the last 40 years. More bad news: the 12th finance commission recommends that only 30 per cent of total revenue be devolved to the states; even this looks optimistic with the lop-sided nature of the newly-proposed Goods and Services Tax. GST will take 80 per cent of all state taxes and 35 per cent of Central taxes.


Our polity is surely gravitating towards the states; our economics is as surely headed towards the Centre. What makes this more unacceptable is states feel short-changed by the Centre. On the one hand, the Centre takes a disproportionate share of total revenues; on the other, it promulgates national schemes, not suiting certain states, left then without enough funds to do what’s best for them.


Nationally-formulated schemes are well-intentioned and although deemed successful at the apex level, upon closer, state-level, examination the national yardstick often falls short — leaving some states miserably deprived while others benefit.


Take an example: the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) is a national scheme intended to bring 100 per cent rural electrification. The problem is that states like Haryana and Punjab achieved complete electrification in the ’70s. While electrification should be, and is, one of the key priorities for the Union government, the call of the hour varies among states. In Haryana or Maharashtra, the focus is to ensure uninterrupted power supply to meet foodgrain production, while Jharkhand and Bihar need to come up to speed with achieving electrification. It would be unfair for the Planning Commission to put Haryana and Jharkhand in the same bucket. Haryana needs to invest in capacity enhancement to meet its growing agricultural targets and the resulting 15 per cent hike in annual demand for power (against the national average of 8 per cent), while Jharkhand needs to focus on its power distribution infrastructure.


Similarly, consider the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) meant to provide good all-weather road connectivity to unconnected habitations. States at advanced stages of rural connectivity, like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, will fail to tackle their specific connectivity-related problems, a fact that seems to have slipped the minds of our policymakers.


Then there’s the flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or NREGS, one of the UPA’s flagship programmes. While successful in MP and Rajasthan, it is perhaps ill-designed for Punjab. Punjab has about 52,000 beneficiaries and has been able to utilise only Rs 14 crore of the Rs 57 crore sanctioned. (Bihar was able to utilise Rs 421 crore of its Rs 1,021 crore.) In Punjab, it is difficult to find agricultural labour even at Rs 150 per day, hence the number of people interested in employment through the NREGS is lower. Add to this the fact of migration of labour from Bihar which is ultimately driving down wages in Punjab, and we are left pondering: is anyone really concerned about the poor in Punjab? Poverty is relative, dependent on the cost of living, and should be tackled accordingly.


Let us look at another facet of the paradox: according to the 12th finance commission, while distributing revenue to a state, 50 per cent weight is given to something called income distance, 25 per cent to its population, 10 per cent to its area and the remaining to other factors. A formula that clearly penalises smaller states with reasonably high levels of per capita incomes for their better than average performance!


To conclude, I believe that it is awfully clear that our financial policy is working on the principle of the lowest common denominator, leaving some of our states to fend for themselves. While it would be only fair to share more with the poorer states so we can work towards building a truly prosperous India, it is equally just to expect our policymakers to further the special needs of relatively affluent states so the path to progress is a sustainable one.


An important consideration, before we begin to assess how in the medium-to-long run our national fiscal policies may actually serve as a drag for the growth of some of our states, is politics: as a result of imbalanced national fiscal policy, a feeling of being “left out” is finding roots in the minds of more developed states. This, I believe, can very well govern politics in these states over the coming years — something we can ill afford to permit as a nation.


The writer is the MP for Rohtak in Haryana








In this series, it has already been reported (IE, July 24) that her constant struggle to overcome judicial “hurdles” to bank nationalisation and abolition of princes’ privy purses had exacerbated Indira Gandhi’s conflict with the higher judiciary. However, the confrontation had started much earlier and over a different issue. Moreover, the fight was on behalf of Parliament as an institution. Personalisation of power came later.


To begin from the beginning, for the first 17 years since the commencement of the Constitution, Parliament’s right to amend the basic law was unfettered as long as it adhered to Article 368 requiring that an amendment be passed by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting as well as a clear majority of the total membership of the House. In February 1967, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice K. Subba Rao, by a majority of four to three, debarred Parliament from amending the fundamental rights. And the CJ added, for good measure, that Parliament could enlarge these rights but not restrict them. This was the famous Golak Nath case.


It has been well said that Subba Rao had gone too far. He wanted to “save the Constitution”. But he succeeded in provoking what he had intended to prevent: increased parliamentary authority to amend the Constitution and a Parliament strengthened at the expense of the Supreme Court. For, no sooner had the Golak Nath judgment been delivered than Parliament was in uproar. Most opposition parties were at one with the government on this score. Within the Congress party, factional fightings intense. Yet, the supporters of Indira Gandhi and those of Morarji Desai (who was then out of the government) were united in demanding that Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution be restored immediately.


An opposition member, Nath Pai (Socialist) moved a bill to this effect. It could not be passed but it later became the basis of the Twenty-fourth Amendment that restored the pre-Golak Nath position. Meanwhile, Subba Rao had compounded the situation by resigning from the Bench to become the Opposition’s candidate in the presidential election, thus fuelling anger against him and his verdict. The now defunct Swatantra party, representing big business and princes, gave him full support. This lent an edge to the gibe that he was a defender of “vested interests”.


Anyway, the Constitution (Twenty-fourth) and (Twenty-fifth) Amendment Bills could not be passed in 1970. The opposition to them was strong. The Congress party had formally split in 1969 and the Congress (O) was vehemently opposed to these measures. This was so because the 24th Amendment went beyond mere restoration of Parliament’s right to amend all parts of the Constitution. It provided that the amendment could be “by way of addition, variation and repeal”. The 25th Amendment went even further. Dealing largely with the fundamental right to property (Article 31), it introduced a sub-Article (31C) that ruled out judicial review of the “amount” (the word “compensation” was deleted) paid for acquisition of property. Laws enacted to enforce the Directive Principles of Policy, the new provision added, could not be challenged in any court of law.


After Indira Gandhi’s landslide victory in the 1971 election, there was no difficulty in passing both the Bills with overwhelming majorities in both Houses. The President promptly gave assent to them. But both the amending laws were immediately called into question in the Supreme Court in the historic Kesavananda Bharati case.


So inflamed were passions in the country both for and against the two constitutional amendments that Chief Justice S. M. Sikri constituted a “special bench”, consisting of all the 13 judges of the apex court. Its much-awaited judgment was delivered on April 24, 1973, just two days before Sikri was due to retire. The 13 judges could not have been more divided; nor could the majority (seven-to-six) behind the verdict be narrower. Six judges voted for the government’s stand. Justice A. N. Ray was the most senior of them though he was number five on the bench. Six other judges, including the CJ and the three judges next to him in the seniority list, voted against the government all through. Justice H. R. Khanna restored the balance by agreeing with the first set of six on some points and with the other six on some issues. Overall, the court’s verdict overruled the Golak Nath judgment, and although it upheld the 24th and 25th Amendments, it declared invalid the new Article 31C enacted by the Indira Gandhi government. The most important point of the judgment was that while Parliament could amend any section of the Constitution it could not change its “basic structure”, which remains the law of the land.


Proponents of radical changes in the Constitution saw the judgment as Indira Gandhi’s “defeat”. She retaliated within 24 hours. The President, on the advice of his council of ministers, appointed A. N. Ray as the next Chief Justice, superseding three judges —- J. M. Shelat, K. S. Hegde, and A. N. Grover — senior to him. All of them resigned at once. Nothing like this had happened ever before. Since Nehru’s days, the most senior judge of the Supreme Court had become Chief Justice. Amidst the already inflamed polarisation, supersession of judges hit the country like a thunderbolt. Such eminent legal luminaries as M.C. Setalvad, M. C. Chagla and V. M. Tarkunde described the “blow” as a “manifest attempt to undermine the Court’s independence”. Opposition parties screamed that Indira Gandhi wanted to “suborn” the judiciary and “destroy” all democratic institutions. Some also alleged that she was manipulating the apex court’s composition with an eye to the election case against her, slowly wending its way in the Allahabad high court.


On the government’s behalf, several ministers, led by Mohan Kumaramangalam, a former communist, invoked the names of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt in support of the contention that it was “vital” to take into account a judge’s “philosophy” and “outlook”.


Furious debate was still raging when the hammer-blow of the Emergency intervened, and the whole ballgame changed. Yet, there was a sting in the tail. On January 18, Indira Gandhi called fresh elections. Eleven days later, she appointed M. H. Beg Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, superseding Justice H. R. Khanna, who resigned instantly.


The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








There are times when it’s great to cheer blindly for your side. India vs Australia in Sydney for instance. There are other times, though, when things are not so simple, when a sensible point of view doesn’t necessarily fall neatly into an Us vs Them dichotomy. Classic example? The climate change debate.


The problem of global warming involves many issues — environmental justice, social justice, fairness, technology, science, population growth, generational equity and so on. It is not surprising, therefore, that there are many different points of view on what needs to be done to make a global solution possible. Yet when Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh holds forth on how the US demonstrates the “heights of hypocrisy”, or calls a two degree rise in global temperatures an “aspirational goal,” he chooses to take a stance that takes us nowhere near a solution and does not advance any interests — whether Indian or global.


I am not suggesting the United States or other developed countries are free of bias or hypocrisy. It is also absolutely true that development and poverty alleviation must be priorities for India, and therefore we will have to increase our energy consumption significantly. Yet for us to claim that global warming is only a problem caused by developed nations and must therefore be solved by them is unhelpful and ultimately counterproductive.


The facts are straightforward. Climate change is as much a problem of continued emissions today as it is about past, accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And India today is the world’s fourth largest emitter. We are also in a part of the world that will be affected most by global warming. The two degree number that our minister pours scorn on is a realistic limit beyond which adapting to climate change will be extremely costly for everyone — including and perhaps especially India. Put simply, this is not a problem that will go away unless both the West and countries like India and China take action. Our notions of what is ‘fair’ or who should ‘move first’ will not change that fundamental fact.


In such a situation the right thing for us to do, is to honestly assess where we can act and take measures accordingly. If we do that, we are in a position to put pressure on other nations. The alternative is for us to call the US hypocritical, for them to call us obstructionist, for the problem to remain unsolved and ultimately — for both to pay heavily for the consequences. Indeed to an extent we are paying already, as we struggle to adjust to shifting rainfall patterns that affect crop yields in North India or rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers from which spring the rivers that are the very lifeblood of millions.


Unfortunately for cheerleaders of our negotiating position, we need to accept that there are two Indias. There are millions who use virtually no energy, have little access to electricity, and for whom development must be the primary objective. But there is also a much smaller, and richer, India. Wealthy urban households, a booming services sector, transport and manufacturing. That’s the India that uses most of our energy and causes most of our emissions and in many cases remains inefficient and wasteful. Perhaps we should call them ‘India Shining’ because a lot of their electric lights are certainly on.


It is here that there is plenty we could do — rationalising energy prices to reduce waste, enforcing strict energy efficiency standards, investing in green lighting and building technology. All areas where we have been painfully slow in acting. A good example is the recent National Action Plan on Climate Change, which showed no willingness to commit India to any concrete targets. Instead we regularly claim the existence of unspecified large economic costs and the need for technology transfer in taking action — ignoring many studies that have found zero or negative cost energy efficiency solutions that could be implemented today.


The point is not that we should cap our emissions and curtail development. Nor am I arguing that we need to accept binding limits on total emissions in the near future. However, we do need to commit to some action. What we can do, is to look at how energy is used in India, make concrete policy choices and, most important, place self-imposed, clear targets on the table. Doing so allows us to demonstrate global leadership, makes economic sense, places pressure on the West and moves us towards a solution. The alternative? Well it’s not pleasant — either for Us or Them.


The writer is doing a PhD in energy and environment policy at Stanford University










The global slowdown has finally forced Indian IT companies to look at new markets outside the US and Europe—Infosys, for example, has just announced a foray into Australia. IT companies are also looking at new verticals like energy, retail and healthcare instead of just focusing on banking and financial services that have taken a big hit after the financial meltdown. Unfortunately, these new strategies do little in terms of moving up the value chain in the IT industry, which is the only sustainable growth path—Indian IT’s low-cost advantage is already being eroded by competitors from Africa and parts of Asia. However, a move up the value chain requires heavy investment in research & development by companies in particular. It also requires the government to invest directly in R&D and indirectly by expanding higher education opportunities in science & technology. At the moment, we have quite a distance to cover before we can aspire to move up value chains not just in IT, but also in other sectors like pharma and auto where R&D is a crucial component of growth. India’s domestic R&D spending has remained almost stagnant at 1% of GDP since the late 1980s. In 2007, India spent 0.8% of GDP on R&D—approximately $8 billion—with 80% of that being publicly funded. China, on the other hand, spent $47 billion on domestic R&D, and only 30% of it is done by the public sector. The government plans to increase R&D spending to 2% of GDP by 2012 under the 11th Five-Year Plan, but even that may be too small an ambition. That said, there are early signs of some very limited private sector initiatives: just three Indian companies—Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy’s and Tata Motors—make it to a list of the top 1,250 companies in the world in terms of R&D spending. Interestingly, no Indian IT firm makes that list.


At a more fundamental level, India suffers from an acute shortage of qualified scientists and engineers. We have about 120,000 scientists in our country while the United States, which is approximately a quarter of our size demographically, has ten times as many. In fact, there are more Indian scientists working in the US (about 150,000) than in India. Much of US IT’s original research and proprietary software is written by Indian software engineers at Microsoft and other leading Silicon Valley firms. In India, Nasscom has continuously identified a shortage of qualified workers to satisfy the demand for outsourced R&D, even though the number of engineering students who graduate per year has increased from around 44,000 in 1992 to 230,000 in 2006, according to Nasscom figures. Tellingly, from an innovation perspective, only 1% of these typically go on to complete PhDs, compared with 9% in the US and 10% in the UK. We clearly need to begin working at the base before we can aspire to move up global value chains.






India’s main inflation measure—the WPI—has fallen for the eighth straight week. But, as is being increasingly noted, food prices have kept rising. There is also the question now whether monetary policy should be tightened sooner than later. This question is posed in abstract usually, without looking at the details of current food-price inflation. A report in this newspaper yesterday gave some details. Fruit & vegetable supplies to many major wholesale markets, Delhi and Bangalore for example, have sharply come down. Also, the trend rising prices started in 2004. What is happening? A part, local supply that goes for urorganised retail outlets, has been commandeered by organised retail.This is not the whole explanation, but it is enough for opposers of organised retail to raise a toast. They will be wrong, of course. The real point is this: if a full-scale retail revolution had really been allowed and many more outlets had mushroomed across the country, if we had seen greater investment in supply-chain bottlenecks, including an adequate cold storage network, if a national market for vegetables, for example, had been created, supply would have been more, retail prices would have been lower and farmers’ price realisation would have been higher. As should also be abundantly clear, this kind of price rise is indifferent to a tighter monetary policy.


Maybe, better inflation measurement will lead to better policy. A new WPI series is supposed to be out in October. It is expected that the base of the series will be revised from 1993-94 to 2004-05, and the weight of primary articles will be decreased in favour of manufactured products. Certainly, India’s data series for inflation is in urgent need of reform. RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao asked last week, which inflation index the central bank should target when faced with five—one wholesale price index and four consumer price indices. Technical efforts are on to reduce the number of consumer price indices but, even that, Subbarao said,“Will not give us a single representative inflation rate for an emerging market economy with market imperfections, diverse geography and 1.1 billion people.” The RBI governor is right. There’s plenty of work to do on better inflation measurement, including using seasonally adjusted data and using quarter-to-quarter and/or month-to-month changes instead of year-on-year ones.








First there was decoupling. Then, when Asian markets fell, there was recoupling. Now, with Asia seeming to recover faster than the West, there is re-decoupling. No doubt, we will soon be onto de-re-decoupling.


The train metaphor is a good one for the global economy, with national economies coupled together like boxcars on a long freight train. The question is not whether the boxcars are hitched together or not. They are. GDP growth will vary country to country, but the growth rates of major economies will rarely, if ever, head in opposite directions.


The question, rather, is what is the locomotive pulling the other cars? Until recently it has been the US, at $14 trillion the largest economy in the world by a factor of 3. In recent decades, America has run an annual trade deficit consistently, helping to develop and sustain export-led economies in Asia. Meanwhile, American households have consumed themselves into debt. The US personal savings rate has fallen since the early 1990s, and went negative in 2005.


The US is unlikely to continue to be the locomotive engine of the world economy in the coming years. A weakening dollar will make it less attractive for America to import goods from overseas. American households will begin to save to rebuild their balance sheets. Indeed they have already begun to do so; the US personal savings rate hit nearly 7% in May, the highest level since 1993. Finally, America’s massive and growing national debt makes future tax increases all but inevitable, which will further dampen US economic activity. In short, America’s shopping spree is over. If the global economy is a freight train, think of the current economic crisis as a switchyard, where the rolling stock is being shunted back and forth, arranged in a new order. Once the cars are lined up, a new locomotive will need to pull the train out of the yard.


China, already the world’s third largest economy and sitting on two trillion dollars in foreign exchange reserves, is already poised to power the world economy. Does India have what it takes to be, along with China, a twin engine of the world’s growth? The answer is yes, but only if India Inc. adapts its business model from that of a follower to that of a leader.


Today India’s economy is built around being a boxcar, not a locomotive. India’s IT industry is a case in point. The likes of Infosys, TCS and Wipro have managed to build multi-billion dollar companies by providing services around intellectual property that resides in other companies, in other countries. Need SAP installed? Need a chip designed? Need a new software product tested? Call the Indians.


The inherent limitation in the IT services business model is that it is not scalable. Microsoft generates $58 billion in revenue with 93,000 employees. Infosys has 10,000 more employees than Microsoft, while generating less than one-tenth the revenue. Leaders like Microsoft build products that can be standardised to earn outsized margins through economies of scale; this creates cash to fund additional R&D and new production innovations in a virtuous cycle. Followers sell customised services around those innovations, and must content themselves with squeezing the remaining drops of profit out of someone else’s product.


There are signs that India’s economy is changing from follower to leader. India’s IT services majors have recognised the need to develop and commercialise their own intellectual property; TCS alone applied for 58 patents in fiscal year 2009. These filings represent an important mindset shift towards developing ‘non-linear’ revenue models that will give companies better economies of scale than a pure service business does. It is only a matter of time before an Indian software programmer, tired of toiling offshore to build someone else’s intellectual property, starts out on his own and develops the world’s next Windows, SAP or Oracle.


In pharmaceuticals too the push is on to develop unique molecules in India. Glenmark, Dr Reddy’s and Lupin are leaders in this respect, investing the time and money needed to bring new drugs through from research to clinical testing and ultimately to the market. They aim to capture the high margins that patent protection affords, leaving the more modest generic profits for others to capture later.


Innovation is the fuel that drives the engine of economic growth, whether new software products, new drug molecules or countless other discoveries in industries yet to be conceived. India has all the tools to create an innovation ecosystem such as exists in the US and Europe: technical skills, entrepreneurial drive and abundant risk capital. The shift from boxcar to locomotive will not happen overnight; we are the very beginning of a decades-long process whereby India will transform itself into an innovation-led economy. India’s brains and China’s brawn make a formidable twin-engine locomotive; they will keep the world’s economies coupled together and chugging along through the 21st century.


The author is global head of M&A & private equity at Elara Capital Plc








At one level, there is the obvious effect of rainfall failure, at another level, there is political jockeying. As P Sainath said, everyone loves a drought. The effects of the kind of weather we have had are severe, but on some people and in some areas. Remediation has to be focused, which becomes more difficult if the drought refrain is everywhere. The second broad point is this: I am an admirer of statisticians and meteorologists, but I must say, the metwallahs, perhaps under pressure from bureaucrats and politicians, havn’t exactly covered themselves with glory in saying that their average normal forecast may still turn out right. When more than two out of five agro-met regions have done badly and the kharif crop is definitely damaged, this kind of statement is hardly helpful.


The most optimistic bet now is that kharif will show a small decline in output. Kharif output in recent times has exceeded rabi. Anyway, lower retained moisture and reservoir levels will affect the rabi crop. However, if winter rains are good there is still a possibility that agriculture will not show a decline for the year as a whole. Agricultural growth rate last year, as anticipated in this column, was mildly negative. Of course, lower GDP growth, as we had argued, was on account of export and FDI deceleration. Agriculture no longer determines macro outcomes. In the past thirty five years we have had only three years of negative aggregative growth but many years of poor rainfall and crop failure.


But there will be many pockets of misery given the kind of rainfall failure we have had. The pattern of misery documented by Narpat Jodha for very arid regions still holds for rainfed regions in Central and Eastern India. In these areas, rains have been poor. In the rain shadow regions and upland areas, if rainfall is of the kind seen so far this year, the choice for many vulnerable agricultural and rural households will be how many animals will be allowed to die. This is still the reality of the adivasi economy. Drinking water sources will be under pressure and there will be more hunger in these regions. Unemployment and the search for work should be less traumatic with NREGA but will still be a problem.


From all accounts, not more than 15 agroclimatic-met regions will be under this kind of pressure. A lot can be done by focusing on them. Advance planning can mean that the macro effect of the relief programmes—essentially releasing grain—will be anti-inflationary at the margin. This will be all the more so if the relief and employment plans are anticipated with existing outlays. A drought is the time to accelerate water conservation, development and delivery programmes. Watershed projects, deepening water bodies, declogging existing canals and repairing wells are all sensible and doable.


Also this is a year to emphasise the value and price of water. Not all projects give benefits in the period of the poor weather cycle, but popular participation will be more and the programmes more effective, if planned well. The priority to drinking water is highlighted in all water policy documents but violated in practice since industrialists and big towns are more influential. This has to be enforced by the State this year.


Mihir Shah is the planning chief for such programmes and has considerable experience in all this and this is the time to make him park himself in the field and provide the much needed coordination and planning focus at the local level. Turn adversity to advantage. Sudhir Kumar, one of our senior civil servants, wrote a piece on the synergy of a collector and a planning commission member working together when he was a young collector — in those days called district level chief secretary—in Karnataka. Rajiv Gandhi made me do it thirty years ago as a plan panel member and I see no reason for us not to do it again.

This is also the year to highlight the technology and incentive systems for dryland crops. Oilseeds, pulses and fodder crops need profitability and technological support. Now that RBI has also pointed out that agriculture does not cause inflation but food prices rise as a consequence of bad policies, let us at least take up some model projects and with agricultural research and institutional systems, cooperatives and corporates. Supply planning for food crops is not a major problem for cereals, given the stock position. For other crops, imports will need to be organised within variable tariff bounds so that the rainfed regions don’t lose out on short to medium growth prospects. All this and more are possible. But we need coordination between agriculture, rural development, water development and macro policymakers. But coordinating agencies must pull their weight.


The author is a former Union minister








The Right to Education Act has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament. But the real challenge in education lies ahead. For example, there is no consensus on the basic medium of instruction, torn as we are between global necessity and reality on the one side and acute rural deprivation and political considerations on the other. The colossal resources required to bring a large number of rural and corporation schools from deplorable to respectable levels in terms of facilities and amenities is daunting and there is no clear vision on when and how these will be bridged. Teachers with pitiable salaries being loaded with punishing work loads, is well known even in reputed institutions. In some states, education is a business run by oligarchy. And as a part of competitive politics, standards are diluted. Tamil Nadu, for instance, recently waived the need to clear papers before a candidate could progress to the next year. That could arguably dilute standards further.


The more fundamental question of inequalities in opportunity across social strata will still need to be addressed even after the passing of legislation.


Excellence in education cannot be created through slogans, cosy discussions and cosmetics. To achieve real change, the grave issues outlined earlier have to be addressed before tinkering with motivational techniques. We must first bring credibility to our education system by ensuring that no child is deprived of basic education, merit is not considered taboo, institutions with dubious records are brought to book and crass commercialisation of education ceases.


We do have some world class institutions which should be used as role models. The brand image of the IITs, IIMs and others such as the Indian Institute of Science and AIIMS and some prominent schools have been built through a package of dedicated staff, considerable resources, hard work of students and an uncompromising stand on quality. The government must begin to work out the details of implementation—the devil and the angel both lie in the detail.


The writer is a corporate executive. These are his personal views








It is hard to believe that 35 national monuments, including tombs, temples, and cemeteries, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have gone missing, as the Union Ministry of Culture has acknowledged. The irony is that the maximum number of missing monuments is from Delhi where the ASI is headquartered. In 2006, 11 of the 157 national monuments in Delhi, declared protected until 1950, were reported missing; and this number has since gone up to 12. It is not as though there is a problem of plenty: for an ancient historical civilisation, India has an abysmally low stock of monuments designated as nationally important (3,675). To lose dozens from this stock is unacceptable. It does not augur well for the conservation movement in general and especially the ASI, which, paradoxically, has done a commendable job of developing good conservation practices. The reasons attributed for the disappearance of monuments are urbanisation, commercialisation, and implementation of development projects. Inefficient protection and inadequate monitoring are additional factors. A telling statistic: in 1984 the R.N. Mirdha committee recommended a minimum of 9,000 monument attendants to provide security to the structures — but by 2008 the ASI was able to deploy merely 4,000.


Financial assistance for heritage protection needs to be increased but that is not the main issue. The ASI has spread itself thin and a severe shortage of technical personnel has hamstrung the conservation efforts. This problem must be overcome as a top priority. Secondly, more micro-circles must be set up to manage smaller areas more effectively. The ASI also needs to rethink its ‘fence and forget’ approach. What is abundantly clear is that the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, on which the ASI depends to regulate development around the monuments, has not delivered. It is time that the conservation efforts were dovetailed with the local area development plans so that heritage zones as a whole are better protected. Then there is the inadequate legal framework combining with the flouting of rules of monument protection. The current legal framework operates at two levels — one looks at nationally important monuments, the other supports State-level monuments. This arrangement covers a total stock of 7,200 State and nationally important monuments, leaving vast numbers of significant structures unattended. What is urgently needed is a third level of institutional-legal arrangements involving local bodies and a committed enforcement of rules and scientifically grounded measures to enhance heritage protection.








A brisk, stress-free walk is a pleasurable experience, and from a medical standpoint, the first line of defence against diabetes, hypertension, and lifestyle-related diseases. New data suggest that even non-leisure walking confers distinct health benefits. The results of a major cross-sectional study in the United States indicate that commuters are at lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Commuting here is defined as walking or biking regularly as part of the trip from home to work. The findings of the 20-year Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study involving 2,364 participants are important for public health policy, given the trend towards unbridled motorisation and loss of safe walking spaces in emerging economies such as India. The health benefits of active commuting must persuade policymakers to act quickly to eliminate the dangers that walkers and cyclists face. Although more work must be done to determine the cause and effect link, it is evident from the data reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine that active commuting is inversely associated with cardiovascular risk factors — namely, obesity, triglyceride and insulin levels, and blood pressure. Clearly, governments concerned about public health must provide citizens all facilities to walk comfortably and safely, and encourage them to commute.


A serious infrastructure deficit in India’s urban centres prevents many from using public transport. There is also the important question of safety. Evidence shows that pedestrians, occupants of public transport vehicles and two-wheeler riders carry a higher risk of road traffic injury in South Asia, while the opposite is true in high income countries. This situation is hampering the effort to reduce the burden of chronic diseases. The INTERHEART study reported not long ago that about 90 per cent of the coronary heart disease risk in South Asia could be linked to specific factors, and these can be modified by active commuting. They include hypertension, diabetes, bad cholesterol ratios, and abdominal obesity. Encouraging walking should, therefore, become a policy imperative. It is disappointing that massive investments being made in urban centres are creating bridges, flyovers and roads, which, in the absence of proper design, endanger walkers. Also, there are no functional urban transport regulators in the States to develop modern, integrated bus and train systems. The Sundar Committee’s recommendation to create Road Safety and Traffic Management Boards in the States has also evoked little response. At least now, there must be a major effort to make cities friendly for walkers and commuters.









The debate about the displacement of people caused by various developmental projects has been going on for over two decades. Without going into that history in detail, we may note that the Government of India finally notified the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 in October 2007, and followed that up with the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2007 and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill 2007. Those Bills have lapsed and have now to be introduced afresh in the new Lok Sabha. There have been reports that Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is unhappy with the Bills. There have also been protests against the Bills by many NGOs.


Superficially, the Bills seem to include a number of good elements. There was a demand for a Rehabilitation Act and here is a Bill; the much-criticised Land Acquisition Act is being amended; ‘public purpose’ is being re-defined; governmental acquisition of land for private parties is being reduced; ‘minimum displacement,’ ‘non-displacing alternatives,’ consultations with the people likely to be affected, and so on, find a place in the Rehabilitation Bill; a Social Impact Assessment is provided for; an Ombudsman is being provided for the redress of grievances; and a National Rehabilitation Commission is envisaged. Why then are the Bills not being welcomed?


Let us consider the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill first. At first sight, the deletion of all references to companies gives us the impression that acquisition by the state for private parties is being eliminated, but that is not the case. The original Act had the wording “for a public purpose or for a company”; the words “or for a company” are now being omitted; but the definition of “public purpose” itself is being changed to include a (supplementary) acquisition for “a person” (including a company). If the private party purchases 70 per cent of the required land through negotiation, the balance 30 per cent can still be acquired by the government for that party. This means that sovereign compulsion will be brought to bear on those who are not inclined to sell their land, and also that state patronage for industrial houses can continue. Incidentally, it will be seen that the definition of ‘public purpose,’ instead of being made stringent and narrow as many had recommended, is being widened.


Moreover, it was necessary not merely to rule out (or limit) the acquisition of land for private parties under the Land Acquisition Act, but also to ensure that rural communities are not taken advantage of by corporate bodies in unequal negotiations. There is no such provision in the Bill.


Judging by its name, The Land Acquisition Compensation Disputes Settlement Authority will apparently deal only with compensation issues. A longstanding criticism of the Land Acquisition Act has been that the ‘public purpose’ for which land is being acquired is not open to contestation. There seems to be no change in that position.


One wonders whether the bar on the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the establishment of a Dispute Settlement Authority instead is in fact a good thing to do. There is room for misgivings here.


Turning now to the Rehabilitation Bill, the provision for a Social Impact Assessment seems very good, but the impacts are rather narrowly confined to physical assets (buildings, temples), institutions, facilities, etc. Social impacts must be more broadly understood to include the loss of identity; the disappearance of a whole way of life; the dispersal of close-knit communities; the loss of a centuries-old relationship with nature; the loss of roots; and so on. It is good that the SIA will be reviewed by an independent multi-disciplinary expert body, but it should first be prepared by a similar body. The provision for a Social Impact Assessment clearance is good, but not enough: it should be part of an overall clearance for displacement. If the felling of trees and interference with wildlife and nature in general require statutory clearances, should not the displacement of people be subject to a similar requirement? Such a clearance must come from an independent statutory authority and not from the bureaucracy. The clearance must of course be subject to certain conditions and must be revocable in the event of non-compliance or lapses; and the revocation clause should be actually used.


The terms ‘minimum displacement’ and ‘non-displacing alternative’ are music to the ears, but the application of this criterion is left to a late stage when the consideration of options may no longer be possible, and the decision is left to the Administrator for R&R. In other words, this crucial decision is entrusted to the bureaucracy.


An impressive structure of institutions has been specified, but their responsibilities and powers have not been spelt out. Administrator, Commissioner, project-level and district-level R&R Committees, Ombudsman, Monitoring and Oversight Committees, National R&R Commission: what each will do, how they will be inter-related, what decision-making powers each will have and in relation to what aspects, and so on, are far from clear. Everything is covered by the phrase “as may be prescribed.”


Words such as “wherever possible,” or other similar phrases are scattered throughout the Bill. For instance, group settlement is laid down, but qualified by the phrase “wherever possible;” training is to be provided “wherever necessary;” there are also qualifications such as “if government land is available,” “preferably,” and so on. They seem innocuous, but all of them involve decisions. Such hedged-in requirements can hardly be mandatory: they are likely to become discretionary, with the discretion vesting in the bureaucracy.


The Ombudsman provision is a good one, but ‘grievance’ has been narrowly defined to cover only the case of “not being offered the benefits admissible.” Grievances could relate to many other things: non-participatory project decision, failures of consultation, non-compliance with the minimum displacement condition, non-inclusion of a person in the ‘affected’ category, and so on. How the Ombudsman will be appointed, how the Ombudsman will function, etc., are left to be ‘prescribed.’


Taking the preceding points together, it appears that the precise manner in which this seemingly benign and enlightened legislation will actually work in practice will be entirely determined by the delegated/subordinate legislation, that is, the rules that are made under it.


The National Monitoring Committee seems totally bureaucratic, except for the non-mandatory association of some experts (the operative word is “may”). No civil society or NGO participation seems envisaged.


In the case of the Sardar Sarovar Project the basic principle in force (though it may not always be complied with) is: rehabilitation must precede submergence. The present Bill retreats from that position and requires only “adequate progress in rehabilitation” prior to displacement. This is a retrograde step. Besides, who will decide the adequacy of the progress?


The elements of the rehabilitation ‘package’ seem inferior to the policies already adopted in projects such as Sardar Sarovar and Tehri. Moreover, cash in lieu of land is envisaged in several places. This is fraught with danger. Eventually, cash may well become the main form of compensation.


In the event of deliberate or inadvertent lapses or non-compliance or deviations, what consequences will follow? The Bill is silent on this. Without such sanctions, how can the provisions be enforced? Far from sanctions for non-compliance, there is a sweeping indemnity provision!


In addition to those primary points, there are many others, some of them quite important, that need consideration. They cannot be set forth in detail here for want of space.


The conclusion that emerges from this quick examination of the two Bills is that there are many weaknesses and questionable features in these Bills which need to be rectified. Opposition to the Bills is therefore warranted. However, the very fact that the government is thinking of a rehabilitation law and of amending the Land Acquisition Act is an achievement for public opinion. It has taken more than two decades for the debate to reach this stage. Opposition to the Bills should be carefully modulated so that we can proceed further from here and not lose what has been gained.










Judges have powers to guillotine people, to rob them of their entire riches, to grant divorces and disinherit children as being illegitimate. Such enormous powers they have, yet there is no authority to punish them if they exercise these powers in an authoritarian and arbitrary fashion.


Harlan F. Stone wrote in United States v. Butler: “… [W]hile unconstitutional exercise of power by the executive and legislative branches of the government is subject to judicial restraint, the only check upon our own exercise of power is our own sense of self-restraint.” (297 U.S. 1, 78-79, 1936)


The great Felix Frankfurter justified the criticism of judges thus: “Judges as persons, or courts as institutions, are entitled to no greater immunity from criticism than other persons or institutions. Just because the holders of judicial office are identified with the interests of justice they may forget their common human frailties and fallibilities. There have sometimes been martinets upon the bench as there have also been pompous wielders of authority who have used the paraphernalia of power in support of what they called their dignity. Therefore judges must be kept mindful of their limitations and of their ultimate public responsibility by a vigorous stream of criticism expressed with candour, however blunt.” (Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 289)


The judges of India’s highest court consider themselves to be gifted with infallibility because of the finality of their judgments. This shall not be. Like other institutions they too must suffer when they go wrong or are negligent. A powerful Performance Commission to investigate the delinquencies of judges is essential if the number of instances of egregious judicial blunders is to be minimised. Rules of good conduct that were voluntarily created do exist. But they carry neither sanction nor penalty and are often violated, though yet rarely. If Parliament has enough vitality and sense of duty it must forthwith create a comprehensive code of judicial conduct for higher judges when state power is exercised by constitutional instrumentalities.


Transparency in functioning and accountability with respect to duties are fundamental in a democracy. Parliament is the ultimate inquest of the nation, and judges are no exception to this. If robes rob by corruption they must be subject and answerable to, like other constitutional agencies, the people through Parliament. They are no Niagara but great power canalised and controlled in their furious flow, ultimately to be beneficial to the nation. This process of social engineering is part of social philosophy which is structurally basic to legal engineering, so that justice, social, economic and political; human rights and fundamental duties laid down by the Founding Fathers (vide Parts III, IV and IV A) do not remain an illusion.


Corruption among judges, even sexual misconduct, is escalating. And there is no punitive therapy save the political futility of the impeachment pharmacopoeia. One method to arrest the evil of corruption, communalism and other dangerous deviances is to insist on transparency and accountability. Probity and integrity could thus be invigilated by a high-level committee comprising the nation’s most respected souls acceptable to the President, the Cabinet and others. They should be free from politics, communalism and any dark shades in public life.


One controversial question concerns the common man’s desire to know, in a socialist secular democratic Republic like India, about the assets, accumulations and the methodology of acquisition of wealth by judges. Judges have to declare their assets before the President, the Chief Justice of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India... This information should be available to any responsible citizen or institution on reasonable grounds when it is demanded for legitimate purposes. This information should not be a secret that is hidden among the judges, for that could provoke suspicion. Suspicion is the upas tree under whose shade reason fails and justice dies. Judges, great in status and mighty in their majesty, should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion.


Yes, judges are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its savour, wherewith shall they be salted? You have assumed office by an oath to uphold the socialist, secular, democratic Republic. If you breach this oath, the Performance Commission shall disrobe you and forfeit the Bench. Be you ever so high, the oath binds you.









For months, Laura Ling’s uncle sent her scores of unanswered e-mail messages, suggesting that she practice meditation while held in confinement in North Korea. For weeks at a time, her family in California would hear nothing, plunged into dark worries about her health and future yet unable to do anything about her well-being.


And so, after Ling’s return to the United States on Wednesday as part of an extraordinary diplomatic mission, her mother brought her soup.


“Laura loves this soup,” said Mary Ling, standing in front of her daughter’s North Hollywood house with a bouquet of flowers and some nourishment. “It’s a special Chinese herbal soup.”


Exhausted, emotionally drained and clearly moved to be reunited with their families after a long plane trip home with former President Bill Clinton, the American journalists Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, began the rest of their lives in Los Angeles on Wednesday, their loved ones elated and, for now, on the other side of the cameras.


It was an intimate homecoming remarkably played out in a public setting that intertwined politics, the Clinton family, journalism and the secrecy of a spy novel.


Both women wept as they descended the stairs of the private airplane they had taken from Korea, Lee bending over for a second as if overcome with her own joy, Ling pumping two fists in the air. Both were met at the bottom by their husbands, whom they grabbed and clung to tightly, and Lee bent over to gaze at her 4-year-old daughter, Hana, whose little arms she grasped.


Ling had called her sister Lisa from the airplane, and Lisa urged her to remember to mention her surprise at seeing Bill Clinton in Korea when she hit the tarmac in Burbank early on Wednesday morning. And then the sisters got to wrap their arms around each other. “I can’t ever describe what my whole body went through,” said Lisa Ling.


Laura Ling said both women had sensed their country’s emotions in prison, even without constant communication.


“We could feel your love all the way in North Korea,” she said. “It is what sustained us in our darkest hours. We are very grateful we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea.”


Iain Clayton, Ling’s husband, said “it was the best feeling of my life” to see his wife descend from the plane to his arms. “I looked in her eyes,” he said, “and saw she was seeing her family at the bottom of the steps, and I saw the joy and relief in her.”


The two women were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border with China while reporting for Current TV, a San Francisco-based channel co-founded by former Vice-President Al Gore. In June, the women were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour for illegally entering the country, but they were released on Tuesday after Mr. Clinton negotiated their release.


During their captivity, supporters of the two women held vigils in San Francisco, Washington and other cities. Lisa Ling, a former co-host of “The View” and correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” played a pivotal role in drawing press attention to their plight.


Lisa said her sister and Lee had been held in isolation for most of their detention, without any knowledge of each other’s well-being. North Korean authorities permitted the women to call their families on a few occasions, and at one point Laura Ling told her family on the phone to write to Lee “and tell her I’m thinking about her and I love her.”


During a July call, Ling and Lee told their families that the North Koreans had told them they would be willing to grant them amnesty if “an envoy in the person of President Clinton would agree to come to Pyongyang and seek their release,” according to a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters. The proposal was then reported to Gore, who passed it on.


After their daybreak return to Los Angeles, both women sequestered themselves inside their homes, enjoying their reunions with their families. Attached to a wall outside Lee’s home was a sign that read “Welcome Home Euna” placed by a neighbour. Los Angeles police officers stood outside keeping the press at bay.


Ling’s family was the more forthcoming. “She’s been in isolation for three and a half months,” Lisa Ling said about her sister. “She’s trying to decompress. She hasn’t been able to speak freely in months. Before she wants to speak her story, she wants to make sure of her state of mind. She is lethargic and tired now.”


Jerry Wang, the brother of Ling’s mother, said he regularly e-mailed Ling throughout her imprisonment, even though he knew she could not respond.


“Even though it’s been hard, it’s been a very good experience for our family,” he said. “It brought the family closer in a lot of ways just to be together in our thoughts and prayers for Laura.”


Lee called the journalism unit at Current TV around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, and employees gathered around a speakerphone to hear her. She told the employees that she was grateful to be home, and thanked them for the letters that reached her in prison, via the Swedish ambassador, which she said she read over and over.


Questions will inevitably rise about whether the women will return to their journalism careers. The trip to China was the first overseas assignment for Lee, who speaks Korean. Ling sometimes worked 12-hour days and shuttled frequently between the San Francisco headquarters of Current TV and Los Angeles. Wang said he was sure his niece would continue with journalism because it “has always been her passion.”


For now, there is food. “She is really anxious to have fresh fruit and food,” Lisa Ling said of her sister. “She told us there were rocks in her rice,” while in detention, she said. “There will be a sushi dinner sometime really soon.”








If you want to save the planet, don’t count on your cat. An American couple who set out to live for a year without producing more than a single small carrier bag of rubbish have discovered it’s far, far easier for humans to adapt to a greener way of life than felines.


Appalled by their country’s throwaway culture - the average American throws out about 2 kg of rubbish every day — Amy and Adam Korst, a couple living in a small logging town in Oregon, embarked on a personal quest last month to drastically reduce their household rubbish.


“As environmentalists, I feel like we are bombarded by so many different messages: buy local, buy organic, do all these things. And at the end of the day you don’t really see the difference it has made,” said Amy Korst. “But if Adam and I can get our total garbage output down to five pounds at the end of the year, we’ll have really made a difference.”


The initial adjustment was easy — at least for the human members of the household. As well as wholeheartedly embracing recycling, the Korsts gave up junk food such as crisps because of the packaging. They brought their own cups to the local coffee shop, and turned down straws for their iced mochas. They even found a company that would recycle their used toothbrushes.


But the Korsts could not persuade their eight-year-old cat, Lexy, to switch to biodegradable kitty litter.


“The older cat would have nothing to do with it. She held it for about two days and would not go into the litter box,” said Adam. “We do not have a green cat. We tried hard with her, but she is pretty stubborn. She is not going to change for us and we have to allow her to have the lifestyle she is used to.”


Otherwise, the secret to garbage-free living is organisation, said the Korsts.


Adam, a photographer at a local paper, and Amy, a high school English teacher, did extensive research to find out where to buy items with minimal or recyclable packaging, and where to find recycling options beyond those of their town’s standard rubbish collection.


They ordered toothbrushes made out of recycled plastic yoghurt containers, and found a company that accepts wine corks for recycling. They sought out a recycling depot for used electronics, in case any of their appliances break down in the coming year. The couple also visited farmers markets and local food producers to ask about buying in bulk, or bringing their own reusable containers.


The hardest part — aside from the cat — was figuring out what to do with packaging from toiletries and medicines.


The project is part of an expanding genre documenting experiences in greener living. In the scale of their aspirations, the Korsts are midway between novelist Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote a book about her family’s year spent eating only food produced close to their Virginia farm, and Colin Beavan, who got rid of his refrigerator during his year as No Impact Man.


The couple, who are blogging about their experiences at, also hope to write a book.


Even before the stand-off with their cat, the couple tried to find the middle ground. “If you go too extreme, people aren’t going to listen,” Adam said. “We wanted to tell people, yes, you can still live with your luxuries and the things you want to live with, but just be more conscious of it.”


In terms of time investment, Amy said their new lifestyle means grocery shopping takes about two hours a week, instead of one. The couple also spend a good deal of time sorting out multiple recycling piles.


The local authority collects basic recyclable materials like newspapers, cans, and plastic bottles. The Korsts have a bin they take to a recycling depot, for items such as tin foil and milk cartons. Another bin holds glass. Meat scraps and animal hair get buried in the woods.


Four weeks after the start, the rubbish accumulated by the Korsts fits into a shoe box: a dog squeaky toy that got run over by a lawn mower, packaging from flea medication, a razor blade, a couple of pieces of plastic tape, and the blister packaging from an allergy pill.


But both insist the project has not taken over their lives, and that their new lifestyle will be sustainable, long after their year of living garbage-free is up.


“I think we are mostly going to stay with this lifestyle. I think there will be a few exceptions - like we will probably go and buy a bag of chips,” said Adam. “But 4.5 pounds a day of garbage is just so much and now, on my own, I am making a difference. It’s a fabulous feeling and I don’t think that either one of us is going to want to let this go.”











The Islamic Republic has on the whole been good at producing political theatre. Its establishment knows that politics can be a form of entertainment and that Iranians enjoy a good show. Unlike the Shah, who always appeared uncomfortable with politics, the establishment of the Islamic Republic has tended to understand its utility. The sudden scandal, the rumour and, best of all, the “trial” have all helped to preoccupy the inquisitive and perhaps reassure the sceptics that politics remains alive, if not necessarily well, in the Islamic Republic of Iran. That said, managing political theatre has always been a delicate balancing act; too little and you risk losing control over the message, too much and you lose credibility. Many, particularly those of an authoritarian disposition, would like to dispense with the process altogether.


The paradox of the current administration in Iran, and in particular the character of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is that they want it both ways. They want the theatre but they also want total control, not only of the production, but of the audience reaction. In so doing they have singularly failed to manufacture consent and have been struggling since the election on June 12 to impose their narrative. Indeed, we should not lose sight of the fact that for all the contests on the streets and the divisions within the elites, this is at heart an ideological contest, where the message matters. This is why journalists have been expelled, academics imprisoned and activists put on trial. This is why the hardline establishment insists on normality and business as usual, and why the mere continuation of protests denies them that particular fiction.


The last few days have offered good examples of the difficulties faced by this particular paranoid state. On Saturday, the hardline establishment decided to produce a spectacular show trial with the requisite confessions in an obvious attempt to convince people that the narrative of the velvet revolution they have been peddling is for real. Quite apart from the images of humiliated prisoners that will have angered many, it was the extraordinarily broad indictment which drew the most damning criticism from the opposition, including many in Qom who lambasted the government for ignoring the very legal procedures it had been urging on others. Interestingly, the news anchor who blithely conducted the “poolside” chat with the repentant protesters has had to close his blog because of a torrent of public abuse.


And then to the week’s two key ceremonies: the formal confirmation and inauguration in the parliament. Both were notable for their absences - no great surprises, but a reminder of the divisions that haunt the elite. Wednesday’s (August 5) inauguration compensated by inviting a number of “celebrities,” but by and large neither of these events were celebrations, and the inauguration itself was met with protests on the streets.


Perhaps most unusual was the poor choreography of it all, especially during the confirmation when Ahmadinejad appeared uncertain how to show his appreciation — it was not at all clear to me whether Ayatollah Khamenei withdrew his hand or Ahmadinejad refused to kiss it (if the latter, this will not have been taken well by Khamenei); but most extraordinary was the decision to position Mojtaba, Khamenei’s son and apparent cause of many of the problems, to the side of the platform, effectively “behind the curtain.” As photo opportunities go, the opposition cannot have asked for a better image, and this singular mistake will have drowned out any words of conciliation Ahmadinejad sought to present.


For several weeks now there have been attempts to sweeten the pill by softening the language and offering conciliatory gestures. Ahmadinejad’s inauguration speech was no exception. Yet it sits uneasily with the actions of the government’s shock troops in the streets and the increasingly public awareness of the scale of the violence. The consensus is that the number of deaths is well within the hundreds. This more than anything has shattered the narrative of conciliation. This has become all the more serious because the victims have not been limited to the “liberal elite” but have included the children of staunch conservatives. Mohsen Rezai, a defeated candidate and the former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, pointedly noted that the judiciary ought to convene a court to try those who had actually murdered Iranian citizens. He, too, joined the boycott of the inauguration.


If anything the situation has become more polarised and the rhetoric increasingly bitter, particularly from the opposition. But now the language of treason is being used with alarming frequency and many hardliners have suddenly become aware that they have no monopoly on vitriolic language. None of this bodes well for the future. What started as an election dispute has moved on to engulf the very structures of the Islamic Republic. The very seriousness of the consequences of this may yet force an uneasy accommodation but experience - and the peculiar character that is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - suggests otherwise.


(Ali M. Ansari is director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and the author of Iran Under Ahmadinejad, Routledge.)








Soaring bad debts drove Lloyds Banking Group to a £4bn loss in the first half of the year as the rescue takeover of HBOS continued to dent the bank. Laying bare the scale of the risks taken by HBOS before Prime Minister Gordon Brown intervened to allow the Lloyds TSB rescue takeover last September, the “bank for Britain” stunned the City — London’s financial district — by revealing bad debts of £13.4bn. Despite the bigger than expected impairment charge, Lloyds shares were the biggest risers in the FTSE 100 after it told investors that the worst of the crisis inside HBOS was over.









When the World Health Organisation declared the H1N1 virus — still being mistakenly called "swine flu" in common parlance — a Phase 6 pandemic more than a month and a half ago, it became clear that the strain was being passed on as between humans in every community in the world, and had ceased to be a disease transmitted from animal to people. The approach to deal with it had to be community-based. Instead, our authorities were foolishly seeking to harass passengers at airports, thinking the virus was being imported. If this didn’t highlight the wooden nature of the government’s response to a burgeoning crisis, it was shocking to hear the additional chief secretary (health) of Maharashtra self-complacently ask the media the other day, right after the tragic death of a Pune schoolgirl from the H1N1 virus, "Don’t people read newspapers?" The officer was suggesting that the unfortunate child should have been taken to a designated government facility for testing, rather than to a private hospital. This is, in part, the problem. The government had not sufficiently spread the information about which government hospitals to go to. So, reading the newspapers would not have really mattered. But more, the named government hospitals were too few to handle the suspected cases, as became clear in Pune itself when more than a thousand people turned up and were met with fewer than a dozen doctors, leading to a massive confusion. The easiest thing to do was to involve private sector hospitals and medical practitioners. Why this wasn’t done is a mystery, considering that as much of 80 per cent of India has to take recourse to private sector medicine for outpatient work, and indeed 50 per cent of admitted patients are also to be found in private medical facilities. In the circumstances, to have ignored the private sector signified a criminal disregard for community health and the lives of ordinary people. Especially since the government spends less than one per cent of the budget on community health, it should have relied on private hospitals and doctors.


Since the international outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic, the government appears to have done little more than pat its own back. When it was clear on the basis of WHO pronouncements that there was no drug available anywhere to counter the pandemic, senior Union health ministry officers busied themselves making swashbuckling statements about possessing sufficient quantities of the needed medicine — an extraordinary claim. It was naively felt that morale-boosting propaganda would do the trick. The day after the country’s first H1N1 death in Pune earlier this week, the Maharashtra government invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 in Pune and Satara districts, so that the collectors may take all necessary action. But this is worse than stupid. The Pandemic 6 category for H1N1 means the virus is not confined to particular districts but has spread to every community in the world. The Delhi government too had exhibited the same ignorance a month earlier. The point really is, why was the Centre not coordinating community health activities with every state government all this time? Must someone always die to sensitise the government?








It is almost fated that civil liberty activists and the police share an inimical relationship. Yet "Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police", a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released earlier this month, diverges from prototype.


While it does record individual cases and make broad-sweep assessments of what it considers police corruption and overreach, it doesn’t just stop there. The HRW report studies the sources of police dysfunction — from shortage of recruits to appalling working conditions, from political manipulation to the institutional legacy of the Indian police, and how it contributes to everyday failings.


The Indian police was created by the British during the Raj to pacify an occupied people, to scare and oppress, rather than to provide justice. Fighting insurgencies and collecting information on a subject people were its priorities, not solving crimes and keeping the citizenry secure. As the HRW report points out, "The Indian police in the colonial era was paramilitary in operation". It was a political instrument rather than a civic institution.


"The Indian police", the report stresses, "has long had a strained relationship with the public. India’s state and Central police services were organised based on the Police Act of 1861, a law drafted in the wake of the 1857 uprising... that remains... the basis for most state police laws". The police was "charged with instilling fear in the public, rather than seeking its cooperation". It exhibited a "military ethos" and "failed to develop the public service orientation of modern policing".


The positing of "military ethos" as necessarily adversarial to "public service orientation" is noteworthy. What does it tell us about notions of policing?


An analogy may be useful here. In 2005, the American city of New Orleans faced the fury of Hurricane Katrina. Devastation led to homelessness, hunger and crime. It was argued by some that the United States armed forces should have been deployed in relief operations, being the one federal agency capable of carrying out such a gigantic logistical exercise.


As it happened, use of the military in domestic policing is outlawed in the US by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Posse comitatus literally means "power of the country". The law was passed after US Army soldiers were used for policing duties in the post-Civil War American South. Obviously, they conducted themselves as a conquering, occupying force, much like the police in colonial India.


There was public reaction and corrective steps had to be taken. Today, with some exceptions — tackling insurrection, checking drug smuggling — the US armed forces don’t get into domestic law enforcement. The police is seen as a local institution, integrated with the community. In some cities the integration is imperfect and charges of prejudice or racism are voiced, but on the whole the philosophy of policing has been divorced from its coercive origins.


The Posse Comitatus debate that must have so occupied America in the 1870s simply did not take place in India in the 1950s. It is at the root of the Indian police’s public relations crisis.


Ironically, the British were themselves aware of the limitations of the police system they had created. In the old presidency towns where the European population lived, the system of police administration was very different from that in the so-called "native" areas.


Bombay, Madras and Calcutta — or Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, to use their current names — had fairly independent police forces under commissioners. The commissionerate system gave the police chief the authority to build local intelligence networks — among so-called "bad characters" — invest in crime prevention and investigation, organise a beat constable routine, and make the police a community enabler. The commissioner was not shackled by the civil service. He had a free hand.


This was not so in the districts, where distrusted and allegedly restive Indians lived. Here the police was a peacekeeping force rather than a civic enabler. The superintendent of police (SP) reported to the district magistrate (DM) and took his permission before arresting people — by way of seeking a warrant — or even opening fire.


It was expected that the persons arrested or fired upon would be political protesters and freedom fighters (or rebels, as the British saw them). Thus the district SP and DM would act together as representatives of the imperial government. It was different in the predominantly white towns, where the commissioner and his team were there to serve the community and help the proverbial old ladies and little children.


In a sense, this history dogs the Indian police. Effacing crime and making life easier for the common citizen is not a priority outside a few big cities, where the commissionerate system operates, where the media is vigilant and where the Indian elite live. In other locations, Indian police forces are understaffed, under-equipped and not encouraged to take criminal activity in the community particularly seriously.


HRW’s "Broken System" reflects this harsh reality. It calculates that: "There is just one civil police officer for every 1,037 Indian residents, far below Asia’s regional average of one police officer for 558 people and the global average of 333 people".


The HRW team found dilapidated police stations, with no electricity and limited telephones. Police teams were dependent on complainants to provide them transport to investigate crimes and even paper and stationery to record complaints. "At a station in Himachal Pradesh", the report says, "the police struggled for several minutes to unclasp and close a pair of rusted, decades-old handcuffs".


The corollary is that police recruitment — in terms of quality and quantity — and training have no political ownership. "More than 13 per cent of civil police positions are vacant nationwide". The report notes, "... police training is severely under-funded. In 2007, only 1.2 per cent of state expenditures on police went towards police training".


In this environment, it is both politically and functionally convenient to under-register cases. Politicians can claim there is little crime; policemen can artificially reduce their burden. Statistics are telling: "In 2007, a total of 215,613 violent crimes were registered nationwide or 19 crimes for every 100,000 residents in India. Bangladesh also suffers from under-registration, but has a higher rate of 83.21 reported crimes per 100,000 residents". The figures for Japan and the United States are "more than 1,000 reported crimes per 100,000 residents".


Either India is an extraordinarily low-crime society or the police system does not see solving crime as its principal mandate. Take your pick.


Ashok Malik can be contacted at








"IN the interests, then, of peace; in the interests of commerce; in the interests of moral and material improvement, it may be asserted that interference in Afghanistan has now become a duty, and that any moderate outlay or responsibility we incur in restoring order at Kabul will prove in the sequel to be true economy".


The language, to some extent, betrays the provenance of this piece of advocacy: 21st-century spin doctors would couch their aims in somewhat different terms. Yet the advice offered in 1868 by Sir Henry Rawlinson, a member of the Council of India, serves as a useful reminder of the longevity of the great game.


His comments were made in the context of the potential threat posed by a Russian presence in Afghanistan, and it is notable that commerce took precedence over other concerns. It could also be argued, not entirely without merit, that in the late 20th century the great game was resumed only when the prospect of a Russian presence arose once more.


However, it’s not that simple. By the late 1970s, Afghanistan was an unlikely zone for the Cold War, in which the Soviet Union and the US were the main protagonists, with Britain reduced to a relatively insignificant ally of the latter. Its basically feudal structure notwithstanding, Afghanistan was considered to be in the Soviet sphere of influence, much as the United States’ Latin American "backyard" was construed to be a politico-economic playing field exclusive to Uncle Sam. But then the Saur Revolution — styled thus, presumably, to evoke the landmark October variant in its neighbourhood — helped to change the rules of the game.


It may have been different had the Saur coup-makers enjoyed widespread popular support. Their influence, however, was restricted largely to the Kabul intelligentsia. Well aware of their compatriots’ confessional tendencies, Nur Mohammed Taraki and his ilk went out of their way to insinuate that their government was neither un-Islamic nor anti-Islamic. But it was a futile effort, damned by the Communist tag. It is quite possible that the cold warriors in Washington were even quicker than the bamboozled apparatchiks in Moscow in deciding to exploit the situation.


The US did its level best to create a situation whereby it just might be able to avenge its humiliation in Vietnam. The effort rapidly paid dividends — although it’s well worth noting that the Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan, notwithstanding the absence of bourgeois democracy, was preceded by a spirited debate within the Communist hierarchy in which sceptics such as KGB chief Yuri Andropov and rising star Mikhail Gorbachev were overruled by the Brezhnevite majority.


That offers a striking contrast with the virtual absence of discussion that preceded the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and even Iraq in 2003. The American entanglement in Afghanistan, from the late 1970s, was supposedly surreptitious, although by the early 1980s it had become an open secret as the CIA operation expanded into the largest covert war since Vietnam, with Pakistan reprising with greater gusto than ever before its chosen role as an agent for Uncle Sam — personified in those crucial years by the recklessly delusional Ronald Reagan.


In those days, the US was a prime source of jihadi literature, alongside Pakistan under Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and Saudi Arabia. The motley bands of Mujahideen were schooled, inter alia, in slitting the throats of those who dared to teach in co-educational institutions. More or less every sign of progress on the economic or social front was painted as a Communist conspiracy. The trend appealed, inevitably, to those who were least inclined to take progressive developments in their stride. They may have been wary of the Americans, but they were more than willing to accept the assistance of perceived infidels in the crusade against Moscow’s godless agents.


This included, crucially, the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles, liberally supplied by the CIA, that effectively knocked Soviet helicopter gunships out of the equation.


Once they had achieved their purpose, the US devoted some energy to buying back unused Stingers, often from arms bazaars in Pakistan. The absence of equivalent weaponry has helped to keep the western death toll relatively low in Afghanistan, although last month proved to be the deadliest since 2001, amid the battle for Helmand — in greeting whose purported conclusion, Gordon Brown sounded much like one of his distant predecessors would have in the Victorian era.


His foreign secretary, David Miliband, meanwhile, has once more mooted the idea of negotiations with second-tier Taliban.


At least one of his Cabinet colleagues has at the same time pointed out that the terrorist threat to Britain emanates more from Pakistan than from Helmand.


As they did under the command of Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, American and British troops are today once more involved in offering combat training to Afghans, albeit this time with the intention of tackling the offspring of their previous pupils, the Mujahideen. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the head of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in the country, is reportedly working on a "new" strategy that involves doubling the Anglo-American presence as well as boosting the numbers and capabilities of the official Afghan security forces. And attempts to buy off sections of the resistance — including familiar figures such as the infamous CIA and Zia favourite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — evidently enjoy Washington’s imprimatur.


Barack Obama, before he became the President of the US, was taken aback when he discovered that the Pentagon lacked an exit strategy in Afghanistan. However, none has thus far become apparent during his incumbency either. It is unlikely that the Afghan presidential election scheduled for August 20 will produce any dramatic change.


The neocolonial adventure embarked upon in the wake of 9/11 is ultimately doomed to failure in the absence of the realisation that the long-term future of Afghanistan must be determined by Afghans, rather than by interlopers, well-intentioned or otherwise, from near or afar.


By arrangement with Dawn







When the World Health Organisation declared the H1N1 virus — still being mistakenly called "swine flu" in common parlance — a Phase 6 pandemic more than a month and a half ago, it became clear that the strain was being passed on as between humans in every community in the world, and had ceased to be a disease transmitted from animal to people. The approach to deal with it had to be community-based. Instead, our authorities were foolishly seeking to harass passengers at airports, thinking the virus was being imported. If this didn’t highlight the wooden nature of the government’s response to a burgeoning crisis, it was shocking to hear the additional chief secretary (health) of Maharashtra self-complacently ask the media the other day, right after the tragic death of a Pune schoolgirl from the H1N1 virus, "Don’t people read newspapers?" The officer was suggesting that the unfortunate child should have been taken to a designated government facility for testing, rather than to a private hospital. This is, in part, the problem. The government had not sufficiently spread the information about which government hospitals to go to. So, reading the newspapers would not have really mattered. But more, the named government hospitals were too few to handle the suspected cases, as became clear in Pune itself when more than a thousand people turned up and were met with fewer than a dozen doctors, leading to a massive confusion. The easiest thing to do was to involve private sector hospitals and medical practitioners. Why this wasn’t done is a mystery, considering that as much of 80 per cent of India has to take recourse to private sector medicine for outpatient work, and indeed 50 per cent of admitted patients are also to be found in private medical facilities. In the circumstances, to have ignored the private sector signified a criminal disregard for community health and the lives of ordinary people. Especially since the government spends less than one per cent of the budget on community health, it should have relied on private hospitals and doctors.


Since the international outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic, the government appears to have done little more than pat its own back. When it was clear on the basis of WHO pronouncements that there was no drug available anywhere to counter the pandemic, senior Union health ministry officers busied themselves making swashbuckling statements about possessing sufficient quantities of the needed medicine — an extraordinary claim. It was naively felt that morale-boosting propaganda would do the trick. The day after the country’s first H1N1 death in Pune earlier this week, the Maharashtra government invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 in Pune and Satara districts, so that the collectors may take all necessary action. But this is worse than stupid. The Pandemic 6 category for H1N1 means the virus is not confined to particular districts but has spread to every community in the world. The Delhi government too had exhibited the same ignorance a month earlier. The point really is, why was the Centre not coordinating community health activities with every state government all this time? Must someone always die to sensitise the government?










That the ruling party will win all the three assembly byelections in Punjab was expected, given the disinterest shown by senior Congress leaders. None of them had ventured out in the humid, hot weather to canvass aggressively for their candidates. 


Besides, it is common for Punjabis to vote for the ruling party in the byelections, barring a deviation here and there. Their approach is pragmatic: why waste votes on an opposition party candidate who cannot do anything for them and annoy the ruling party, which could turn vindictive?


In the high-profile Jalalabad constituency Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal was sure that he would win, but the huge margin of 80,662 votes with which he has defeated the rival was perhaps beyond his calculations. The voters have chosen him in the hope that he will initiate development projects in the backward area of Ferozepur in general and Jalalabad in particular. 


Sympathy vote has helped Akali Dal candidate Jasjit Singh Bunny win the Banur seat, which fell vacant on the untimely death of his father, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who had nurtured the constituency for long. The Congress could not take advantage of factionalism in the Akali Dal. Kahnuwan, the third constituency for which the byelection was held, too has voted for the Akali Dal. The Congress candidate here could not benefit from the fact that the Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency, of which Kahnuwan is a part, is represented by his brother, Partap Singh Bajwa.


The jubilant Akalis need not read too much in the verdict. It does not reflect popular endorsement of their government’s policies. It was only in Jalalabad, from where the junior Badal makes his debut in the Vidhan Sabha, that the issue of development cropped up. Elsewhere, it was the usual blame game.


The Akali Dal sought a greater share of the Central taxes collected from states, while the Congress accused the ruling party of bankrupting the government. The elections were peaceful, free and fair with a high 75 per cent turnout for which the voters, the contestants and the Election Commission deserve credit.








By presenting to the National Assembly (parliament) a list of 25 banned terrorist outfits, the Pakistan government seems to convey the message that it has ultimately realised the need for taking on all kinds of extremist organisations to win the battle against terrorism.


However, only time will tell what Pakistan’s real intentions are. The organisations declared unlawful include the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi. These groups had been involved in destructive activities, including suicide bombings, for a long time, but action against them was avoided because these were considered as “strategic assets” by Pakistan. Interestingly, the Pakistan Supreme Court had recently put off for an indefinite period hearing on the petitions filed against the Lahore High Court judgement letting off JuD founder Hafiz Saeed from house arrest. This is so despite the conclusive proof provided by India that he was the main brain behind the Mumbai terrorist strike.


Pakistan has a record of declaring terrorist outfits as unlawful and then allowing them to reappear with a new name. When the LeT was banned under international pressure it soon started functioning as the JuD. Last December when the UN Security Council proscribed the JuD after the Mumbai terrorist massacre, the Pakistan government imposed a ban on it. Reports have it that the JuD has re-emerged as the Falah-e-Insaniyat with an account in the Bank of Punjab, Lahore.


Islamabad must have realised by now that Pakistan faces the most serious threat to its survival as a state from the terrorist outfits it once patronised. It is, therefore, necessary that the infrastructure of all types of terrorist groups must be destroyed with their funding sources blocked forever. They must never be allowed to re-emerge on any pretext in the interest of peace and stability in Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.








Not just Manipur but the entire nation deserves to learn the truth about an allegedly fake police encounter in Manipur. Was 27-year-old Chongtham Sanjit actually killed in cold blood, as a series of photographs reproduced first by a website,, would suggest?


Or was he gunned down while firing indiscriminately in a crowded bazaar in the heart of Imphal? The photographs raised doubts about the official version and a swift inquiry was needed to restore people’s faith in the government. The Chief Minister, Mr Okram Ibobi Singh, unfortunately, strengthened the people’s worst suspicion by dithering over the popular demand for a judicial probe.


The delay in suspending the policemen and in ordering the probe after the incriminating set of photographs surfaced, has already cast a cloud over the state government’s intentions. The judicial inquiry, therefore, needs to be both swift and transparent in order to restore people’s confidence. One can only hope that good sense will prevail and the inquiry will not drag on for months and years. The state government also needs to take other measures to discipline the infamous Rapid Action Force of the Manipur Police, which, by all accounts, is a law unto itself.


The border state has been witness to dramatic protests in the past. Irom Sharmila, who launched an indefinite fast in 2000 in protest against the killing of 10 civilians, continues to be fed forcibly. A group of protesting women had stripped themselves naked in 2004 after the alleged rape, torture and murder of a woman by security forces. The judicial inquiry will hopefully be able to contain the brewing discontent and help in disproving the popular sentiment that “life in Manipur is a lottery and you are alive because you are lucky”.












While on the one hand we are talking of higher education as dynamics of societal transformation and a tool for ushering in a knowledge society in our country, our thinking, our approach, our ethos remain steeped in the stereotypes of the past.


This is all the more conspicuous in the educational field where we see erosion of university autonomy day after day; increasing hegemonic role of certain central agencies; dilution of regional and cultural diversity in the domains of arts, humanities and social sciences in the guise of standardisation of the courses of study; homogenisation of our composite cultural heritage in the name of a particular kind of tendentious value-orientation of education; rigidisation of territorial and functional jurisdictions of the universities.


There is an urgent need to rethink the territorial jurisdiction of our universities. Territorial jurisdiction of the universities in a state has relevance in the case of the affiliating universities so as to ensure a coordinative relationship between the university and the affiliated colleges and institutions.


But beyond this point the universities should be free to have campuses and centres throughout the country with network relationships among themselves, made so easy by the information and communication technologies; procedures for setting up overseas campuses should also be simplified.


In evolving new university models to meet the imperatives and challenges of the 21st century, apart from the university-to-university network relationship and collaboration, mutually beneficial interaction with industry and business is also essential for continual awareness of the dynamics of the market forces, fast-developing technologies for updating of the syllabi, and reciprocally providing to the industry and business economy “inputs” arising out of university research.


But a word of caution is necessary here. The societal obligations of education should not be narrowed down to subserving exclusively the interests of industry and business which can lure the educational institutions into their nets by offers of funding university projects.


Already there exists an unresolved contradiction between the mass system of education and the elitist system; subservient role of the universities in relation to industry and business can and will compound this contradiction.


Both intensive and pervasive information technology impact is going to radically change our educational system, with a progressive use of the learner-based techniques: recourse to internet; web-based learning; on-line courses; multimedia modes; video-conferencing; etc.


The fusion of formal and informal streams has opened up new vistas of both self-learning and life-long learning. Distance education, passing through the traditional correspondence courses departments to the open university phase with the cyber, virtual university mode in the offing, would not only realise the national objective of raising the literacy level among the masses, but also ensure life-long self-learning which is one of the imperatives of the knowledge era.


Reorganisation of the existing compartmentalised faculties on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary lines is a ‘must’ despite likely resistance from within the universities.

Horizontal and vertical mobility of the learners, with lateral entry and exit and the adoption of a modular approach to the courses of study; bridge courses; credits transfer system, etc. already followed in some of our universities in one or the other form, also need to be institutionally incorporated in our higher education system.


The UGC may evolve some new viable models with different combinations and permutations of innovative measures for reorienting our university patterns towards the desired direction and goal.


It is also imperative for our education system to ensure that the knowledge era does not lead to a value-neutral society. But value-orientation of education is not something like putting a price-tag to a commodity. This, also, does not mean preaching morality to the students; a better way would be to give every student in any discipline, a short foundational course in speculative thought, cultures and civilisations of the world to broaden his mental horizon and deepen his insight in the main subject of his study.








The most crucial reforms in education should begin from the school and the day the child enters the system. With the Bill for right to education having been passed, the first step required is to ensure that the schools admit children from the area these are located in and all schools must provide quality education. This should be the first rule for equity and accessibility of education.


Subsidised lands have been allotted to private schools in the urban areas and a government school network is available. But on all week days you witness on our city roads and village link roads vans and rickshaws ferrying school children up and down from one end to the other, jeopardising their safety as they are packed in unsafe vehicles.


Rural children cover long distances in search of quality education. In the urban areas it is the race for the name and prestige attached to the school.


The government schools in the rural and urban areas should rise to the occasion and provide quality education in the localities they are located in.


New private players should first assist in supplementing the government schools as part of their corporate social responsibility to help update the initial infrastructure for school education.


The further impetus required for accessibility may be given through private or government initiatives. The private players also need to introspect as to the limit of their profit from education.


The approach to education reflects in the society as a whole in which their children have also to breathe and an unequal society is a dangerous place for their progeny too.


Education has become stressful because the edifice of education is being built on the provisions of rote and is basically devoid of interest. It is being considered a necessary evil, the way education is imparted because it fails to generate interest and is not able to excite the mind.


In fact examination stress is a cumulative stress due to lack of interest in education which gets built up when the child is in 10th standard. Next to equity and accessibility, reforms in education should make a scientific appraisal for this lack of excitement in learning.


Now knowledge is at the click of the mouse, but the ability to understand, comprehend and use it requires a deeper understanding with reasoning abilities. These can be better focussed if the choice of education is based on individual aptitude and interest, which is going to vary with individuals as how much freedom and space one gets as a child or needs to express the aptitude.


The basic tools of education that help the child grow with the obsession of interest will have to be identified. To help achieve individual excellence, the national educational programmes must develop a milestone approach as to what is required to be done from pre-school onwards. Broadly we can:


1. Invest in good nursery or kindergarten infrastructure; provide enough space and freedom to the children to express themselves through as varied creative activities that the teacher can innovate.


2. The primary school stage should provide the tools of literacy in language communication and calculation along with more room for individual creativity.


3. High schools should help the child channel his aptitude and start investing in the basal education required for furthering the cause of the interest that was inherent or ignited through.


The most important reform that the Indian education system needs is to identify the strengths within. A student grows with an obsession to complete education abroad. Every year thousands of students are moving to the USA, the UK, Australia, Russia and Europe, why, so? It is surely not the spirit of adventure that makes them spend large amounts of their parents’ hard-earned money.


It is simply because we have not made efforts to benchmark Indian education and win faith of our own students. Effort is required to acknowledge education other than IITs in India. No doubt, they are the best ones and globally acceptable, but there are other systems too like the agricultural universities, providing multidisciplinary education since the sixties in India.


Graduates from these universities have very high placement rates and have not only been employed in agriculture but diverse fields due to their broad-based education. They fill also an important vaccum in institutes of higher learning in the developed countries.


However, these institutes have been relegated to a secondary status today with all the glamour in education hovering around new world class universities.


Another crucial reform that we need is to benchmark the level and quality of core education required at the undergraduate levels, where agricultural education must remain one of the subjects along with science, maths and social sciences, It has been clearly spelled out by UNESCO that for sustainable development and address the issues of environment and population, this form of education will serve future the cause of mankind.


Therefore, reforms in education cannot be effective unless all the steps are systematically addressed.








The education reform should be such that it attends to a maximum number of children, preferably all. As adults, we should be able to find a way.


Society is a blend of mathematicians, scientists, doctors to care for our body and its comforts, and artists to enliven our minds and saints to enrich our souls. We also have care-takers at home and office to look after our needs.


Each child is different, and unique and special. As such, he must be allowed, rather encouraged to grow to his full potential. The present education system is forcing Picassos, Shakespeares to become Einsteins, Plutos and vice-versa. And the proposed reform of grades is not going to help much.


You may believe that you will save unbearable stress in a few (which could be personality-related), but you will kill the spirit to excel in studies in millions of students. Further, our Picassos and Shakespeares are still not being nurtured, as they should be. They can definitely do without trignometry, statistics, etc. So can the hard workers, who are getting complexes unnecessarily, whereas they may excel in some other field.


The reform should attend to the needs of different abilities in children, and not bring these out as superior or inferior. This will take care of the stress factor. These children are the society of tomorrow. And the responsibility for its health, moral, physical, mental, spiritual, lies on us, the society of today.


There could be class X (professional), class X (vocational), class X (fine arts). So students with different capabilities may be nurtured accordingly at an early stage in life, without having to bear the stresses of something they are not made for, and yet excel in their field of talent/ability. Sports facilities should be provided to all.


We do not need to club students into grades; we need to club them into different capabilities.








Primary teachers in Punjab can be divided into two categories. The first category is of teachers who are committed to their job i.e. teaching. They go on teaching honestly and to the best of their potential, come what may.


The second category consists of those who are rarely seen in their schools. Recent surveys have established that there is about 35 to 45 per cent direct absenteeism and 50 to 60 per cent indirect absenteeism among the primary teachers of Punjab. The fact is well known and yet nothing has been done so far to mend the situation.


Along with teaching the tasks a teacher has to perform are unnecessary clerical work (dak), providing mid-day meals to students and maintaining records thereof, construction, supervision and accounting activities under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Election duties and various kinds of surveys further add to his tension.


This is again very well known. But the problem is that all such unnecessary tasks are mainly and necessarily to be done by the first category of teachers. They have to do all such fruitless activities along with teaching, which is bound to suffer.


The second category of teachers, however, remain absent from the scene here also. Being out of school, they avoid all such activities too. How do they manage all this? The answer is they are the ‘yes men’ of the higher authorities. Obliging them even on non-educational pursuits is more important to them than teaching in schools. They are seen more in district and block education offices than in schools. Teaching little children is not considered by them as part of their job. They enjoy special status of “out of school teachers,” being close to their bosses, who are happy in availing their services for their mean ends.


Teaching little ones, especially in the rural areas is really a demanding task where parents mostly are illiterate and poor who can’t pay any attention to the education of their wards. There, it is the primary teacher who has to look after everything as far as the educational needs of children are concerned. So it is a really challenging job which demands a great deal of commitment and devotion on the part of a primary teacher.


The fact is that the teachers of the second category fail to face this challenge. That’s why they want to be out of schools on one pretext or the other. It’s not that the first category teachers have some compulsions of teaching. They can also stay away from school. But it is their ‘conscience’ which denies them any such possibility. They want to teach and so they teach even in the face of these adversities.


Various schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Padho Punjab have added to the number and confidence of the second category teachers as most of the resource persons and coordinators for these schemes belong to this category. They enjoy additional; perks as resource persons, besides their regular salary for ‘teaching’, which they do not do at all.


So they are a very happy lot. Faulty governance and incompetent administration are not allowing the first category teachers to teach and at the same time are not making the second category teachers teach in the schools. Teaching has been reduced from a once noble profession to a joke in the primary schools of Punjab. Those who themselves have never taught are instructing the teachers how to teach.


The purpose of this write-up is not to offend the personal feelings of anybody. It is only to lit the flame of truth and honesty amongst the teachers, particularly those belonging to the second category, and also to make an earnest appeal to those concerned at the political and administrative levels to kindly let the teachers of first category and also to make the teachers of second category really teach in the schools so that there is only one category i.e. teacher.










The electorate has given the Congress a sweeping mandate in the municipal election, enabling it to complete four successive victories beginning with the last Assembly polls. The Panchayat poll and the recent Lok Sabha poll outcomes cemented its position as the number one force in the State, and the municipal election further consolidated its position. The main opposition party, the AGP, cut a sorry figure with just 87 seats against the Congress’ 424. The BJP, despite its 66 seats, is gradually improving its position. The biggest loser has been the AGP, and it is time the party did some serious soul searching to put its crumbling house in order. Otherwise, it stands the risk of total marginalisation ahead of the next Assembly polls. The party needs to prove that it can indeed rise above its history of narrow, individual power-centric bickering and take uncompromising stands on the burning issues confronting the State. Gaining confidence of all sections of the people, especially the ethnic communities, would be critical to its success. The job at hand for the AGP is to present an unambiguous agenda before the people and strengthen its base at the grassroots.

The civic poll verdict has entrusted the Congress with a great deal of responsibility. As these polls are a means to deliver governance through decentralisation of power, the party has to ensure precisely that. The civic infrastructure in Guwahati, the State capital, presents an appalling picture. With other towns and urban areas experiencing a rapid population growth and haphazard expansion, they would be facing similar constraints in the days to come unless urgent steps are initiated to secure a planned growth. The management of civic amenities and facilitating scientific urban development is serious business. The crumbling civic infrastructure across the State is in need of urgent revamp. The people have voted the Congress to power in the municipal polls largely because they feel that with the same party at the helm of affairs both in the State and at the Centre, it stands in a good position to deliver the goods vis-à-vis urban development. Decentralisation of power also brings with it decentralisation of corruption. The Congress needs to ensure that huge funds meant for urban development do not end up enriching the coffers of the few engaged in implementation of the projects. The voters will keenly be watching its performance, and any lapse would cost the party dear in the coming days.







The death of a 14- year girl in Pune on August 3 has confirmed the worse fears about the dreaded H1N1 virus. The death of the girl has sent the signals loud and clear about an impending pandemic in the country. As she had no history of any foreign travel, it is apparent that she had come in contact with persons who are already infected with the H1N1 pandemic virus which is commonly known as swine flu. What has made the alarm bell ringing is that the number of persons infected with the H1N1 virus in the country is fast climbing up. Considering the danger swine flu poses, it is time the health authorities of the country swung into action and initiated all possible steps to keep it at bay. Strategies should be formulated to tackle the swine flu cases before it assumes a pandemic form. With the population having no immunity against the swine flu, preventive steps are the only way out to contain the spread of the disease.

The swine flu virus knows no geographical barriers and can rapidly spread across the globe. As it poses threat to mankind as a whole, the World Health Organisation has rightly pointed out that all should come together to deal with it. The virus has already infected over 130,000 people across the world and has claimed 816 lives so far. With no effective vaccines in sight, sustained awareness campaigns at all levels may help in containing the spread of the disease. The people must be made aware of the symptoms of the disease. Simple steps like washing hands, avoiding contacts with sick people, avoiding touching nose, eyes, and mouth, refraining from travelling to affected areas and proper quarantine of patients to some extent help in preventing the spread of the disease. An awareness campaign would help in identifying the cases at the earliest and it in turn would make it possible to initiate steps to contain the disease within the area without letting it to spread. The health authorities must be fully prepared to tackle the threat of a pandemic as it may strike at any where anytime. A coordinated planning and implementation, public health response and global surveillance may help in containing the swine flu till vaccines are discovered to tackle it.







Climate change is already affecting food security and it is expected to have even greater impacts in coming years. In 2007, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth assessment report, summarising the findings of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change and what can be done in response. There are at least four channels by which climate change affects food security:

Higher temperatures lead to heat stress for plants, increasing sterility and lowering overall productivity. Higher temperatures also increase evaporation from plants and soils, increasing water requirements while lowering water availability.

In many places, growing seasons are changing, ecological niches are shifting, and rainfall is becoming more unpredictable and unreliable both in its timing and its volume. This is leading to greater uncertainty and heightened risks for farmers, and potentially eroding the value of traditional agricultural knowledge such as when to plant particular crops.








It was expected that in the recent G-8 summit in Italy a global consensus on a comprehensive strategy to combat global warming would be evolved. However, it was belied not withstanding the fact that the members of the G-8 group are more responsible for destroying the atmosphere of Mother Earth than the developing nations; a fact which can be well corroborated by the statistics of per capita production of carbon dioxide by the nations till end of 2004. It would be worth mentioning that per capita carbon dioxide production of China and India are 3.8 MT and 1.2 MT respectively in contrast to 20.8 MT produced by USA and 20 MT by Canada as on 2005. Needless to say that right from KYOTO summit on weather change in 1990, a general consensus was arrived at to bring down the cumulative carbon dioxide level of the nations in phases in order to prevent the catastrophic effect caused by global warming. USA declined to sign any agreement on climate change and the matter fizzled out. In the latest G-8 summit, a target has been fixed to bring down the carbon dioxide level of the developed nations to 20 per cent of the value as in 2005, against 50 per cent reduction target for the developing nations. Even if the target set itself without any semblance to the principal of equity need to be made to achieve the target. The target could be termed inequitable because USA’s share in creation of global warming will remain at a level of more than seven times that of a developing nation like India; yet we have little option but to accept the target by fathoming the content of the saying “half a loaf is better than no loaf .

Yet, a pragmatic solution on the ways and means to be adopted to minimise the effect of global warming could not be chalked out by removing the existing constraints encountered by the developing nations in this matter. Amassing of money by exploiting Nature blatantly has become the thrust area of imperialist globalisation at whose behest various world economic policies are propounded and made mandatory for all the nations. It is apparent today that the free market economy is an effective tool devised for success of an exploitative strategy of the super powers at the beck and call of the imperialist lobby. Naturally, preservation of the atmosphere has been intricately connected with the economy. It needs not only huge investments but also technology both of which are at the hands of this lobby. The developing nations could hardly proceed to succeed the mission








Soon after the earliest reports of a new immuno-deficiency syndrome first appeared in medical literature in 1981, the search for a causative agent . Two French scientists, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi of Virology Department, Institute Pasteur Paris, and Luc Montagnier of World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, Paris, isolated and cultured lymph node cells from patients that had swollen lymph nodes characteristic of the early stage of acquired Immuno-Deficiency-Syndrome, commonly known as AIDS, and detected activity of the enzyme reverse transcriptase, a direct sign of replication of a retrovirus. (Retroviruses are any of a group of RNA viruses which insert a DNA copy of their genome into the host cell in order to replicate). The researches also found retroviral particles separating from the infected cells. Isolated virus particles infected and killed lymphocytes (small white blood cells found in lymph) from both diseased and healthy donors, and reacted with antibodies from infected patients. The surprising observation was that unlike retroviruses that cause cancer, the newly discovered retrovirus, now know as Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), did not produce uncontrolled cell growth (tumour). By 1984, Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier had obtained several isolates of the novel human retrovirus, which they identified as a lentivirus (any of a group of retroviruses producing illness characterised by a delay in the onset of symptoms after infection), from sexually infected individuals, haemophiliacs, mother to infant transmission and patients who had taken blood transfusion.

After the discovery of the virus, several groups contributed to the definite demonstration of HIV as the cause of AIDS. Further work by the two scientists allowed identification of important details in the replication cycle of HIV and how the virus interacts with its host. Furthermore, it led to development of methods to diagnose infected patients and to screen blood products, which has helped in limiting the spread of the pandemic. The unprecedented development of several classes of new anti-viral drugs in also a result of knowledge of the details of the viral replication cycle. The combination of prevention and treatment has substantially decreased spread of the disease and dramatically increased life expectancy among treated patient.

Never before has science and medicine been so quick to discover, identify the origin and provide treatment for a new disease entity. Successful antiretroviral therapy developed as a consequence of the new findings have made life expectancies for persons with HIV infection reaching levels similar to those of uninfected people. In recognition of their valuable contribution to the discovery and unravelling the secrets of HIV, Barre-Sinoussi and Montagnier were jointly awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008.

Significantly, in popular imagination, being HIV-positive is seen as a premature death sentence, ridden with extreme pain and suffering. What is less well known is that with good nutritional management and prevention of infections, an HIV-positive person can lead a long and reasonably healthy, normal life. Early detection is crucial. If the virus is detected early on in an otherwise healthy person, if the person can afford two square meals a day, and if quality medical care is available whenever opportunistic infections occur, then a HIV-positive person can live for several years even before antiretroviral therapy (ART) becomes necessary. Contrary to popular perception, management of HIV does not begin with ART drugs. However, ART, together with continuing nutritional and medical support, can further increase lifespan by several years more. For this, an HIV-inflicted person should visit a health centre to test his/her CD4 cell count. Monitoring of CD4 cell count in HIV-positive persons in vital, so that ART can be started on time-neither too early nor too late. CD4 cell count is an expensive test. However, government hospitals are providing it free of cost.

HIV is a human virus. A person already infected with HIV is therefore the sole source of this infection. Epidemiological studies in Europe, USA and Australia have documented repeatedly only three modes of transmission of HIV-sexual, blood-to-blood and mother-to-child. The person himself/herself may not be aware that the virus has entered his/her body and he/she may remain unaware for years together. As the virus enters the body, it gets attached to the CD4 lymphocyte and the number of virus increases. There are about 2-4 billion CD4 lymphocytes in the human body. The virus multiplies rapidly and produces a high concentration of virus in the blood. This condition is manifested as fever, headache, diarrhea, rashes in about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the cases. These symptoms appear like a common cold or flu. The symptoms pass off after a few days and the person becomes normal again. If blood sample is taken during this time, during the first 8- 12 weeks for testing HIV antibodies, the result will be negative since the body has not yet produced sufficient antibodies to make the test positive. This period is called “window period”. Sometimes, the window period may be as long as six months. During this period, the person may transit the virus to his/her spouse/partner through unprotected sex.












One wonders how the Oldest Member (OM) in P G Wodehouse's golf stories (first published 87 years ago) would have reacted to the Haryana government's recent decision to slap a 25% entertainment tax on golf with retrospective effect from 2003 and to be levied on membership fees, subscription fees, cart fees, caddy fees and on the rental-income of golf clubs.

Wodehouse's OM, who played golf with religious fervour, would have been shocked and pained at Haryana State Excise and Taxation Commissioner A K Singh's loose reference to this noble sport as a "recreation".

The OM would have been aghast at the official Haryana view that golf was played for "pleasure" by people buying "expensive membership". The OM would have muttered "O tempora! O mores!" at this modern, materialistic view of an ancient sport and sought solace on the golf-course which he regarded as "Nature's cathedral".

Bureaucrats, whether in Haryana or Himachal, are so focused that they very often can’t see the wood for the trees or the golf-course for the 'greater' cause of mopping up revenue every which way to fund populist schemes which will get their political masters re-elected.

Environmentalists may see the golf-course in Gurgaon or Gandhinagar as a green oasis in the concrete jungle of urban India but the blinkered bureaucrats and populist politicians love to target any activity perceived as elitist without, of course, defining it as such.

Some 15 years ago, then Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav hit the headlines by talking about converting the Patna Golf Course into a goshala. And any golf-course in Lucknow or UP could at any time be converted into a memorial by the mere raising of a Mayawati eyebrow!

The next time Haryana sporting icon Kapil Dev steps on to a golf-course in his home state, he could well wonder whether the slapping of a 25% entertainment tax has reduced the game to the level of smoking and gambling and whether other sports will also be targeted.







The death of a schoolgirl in Pune from swine flu has raised the spectre of the pandemic hitting the country. Though the panic, especially in Pune, is out of proportion to the ground realities — more people die every year of malaria and diarrhoea — the fact is the appalling state of our healthcare systems makes us particularly vulnerable, should the disease take on epidemic proportions.

The latest scare seems to fit in with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) observation that in many countries the earliest cases usually occur as school outbreaks before spreading into the wider community.

According to WHO the number of human cases of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 is still increasing. Since the outbreak of the disease in Mexico in April this year, 168 countries have reported at least one laboratory-confirmed case of the disease.

The WHO's latest (60th) update shows the number of deaths has risen to 1,154 (with the Americas reporting the highest number of deaths at 1,008), up from 816 a week earlier, though estimates from the UK suggest the rate of infection has started to decline.

We are still at the early stage of the pandemic, so chances are we will see an increase in the number of those stricken by the disease, though timely testing and quick remedial action could minimise the number of deaths.

We could take our cue from WHO, which suggests a shift in policy to testing only samples of ill persons because as the pandemic progresses trying to test all ill persons will severely stress our limited resources.

Here we could take a leaf out of the books of the UK where the National Pandemic Flu Service has been launched to ensure better access to antivirals for people with swine flu symptoms. True, given our poor health infrastructure, this might not be possible except in bigger cities.

But the government can and must do two things immediately. It must launch a mass awareness campaign so that there is no widespread panic and it must increase the number of testing centres to beyond government hospitals.

The latter are simply unable to cope with the numbers and if access to testing is not improved we will only see a surge in the number of undetected cases and more panic.







The government's decision to conduct a quarterly Cabinet review of infrastructure projects is welcome to the extent that it would bring the tardy pace of implementation into sharper focus. It, however, remains to be seen whether this review leads to meaningful reforms and creates the resolve on the part of the government to speed up core sector projects.

The ministry of statistics and programme implementation already monitors for the prime minister’s office central sector projects costing more than Rs 500 crore. The latest report for the period ending March 2009 shows that of the 187 such projects, 84 are faced with time overrun, 87 cost overrun and 47 both. Another high-profile review is unlikely to provide any fresh insight.

Ever-changing policy, delays in land acquisition, time-consuming clearances, energy linkages for power projects, and skills shortage are largely the reasons why infrastructure projects get delayed. Even the seemingly foolproof projects, awarded through competitive bidding, have run into delays as the bidders have bid aggressively, often under the assumption that they would be able to get policy tweaked later.

The key issue is the lack of accountability, both on the part of the government agencies involved in project approvals and the private party involved in implementing the project. If a private bidder is unable to execute the project for reasons other than, say, force majeure, then he should forfeit the project or be ready to take a cut in his profits.

In the case of private airports, for instance, now that capital raising has become easier the government should withdraw the user development fee and ask the private sector developers to raise required funds from the market.

The government needs to send a strong signal that it wants progress on infrastructure and would not tolerate any subterfuge. But before that, it needs to restore the sanctity of contracts, by respecting contracts and getting the private sector to abide by agreements.

This would discourage frivolous bidding in the future and prevent unnecessary litigation. Likewise, the government departments charged with clearing projects must be held accountable for delays at their end. Without these, no amount of monitoring would help.








RasGas was hosting a dinner in Doha to celebrate the commissioning of additional LNG capacity. One of the senior Exxon executives walked up to tell me that they shed tears every time a cargo is loaded for India.

I knew why he told me that. The deadlock in the final negotiations was resolved on my proposal to hold the price of $2.53 firm over the first five years. RasGas complied with the contract and shipped the cargos on schedule even when gas price went into double digits.

There was an inspired campaign that $2.53 was too high a price, and a whispered suggestion that India did not need any gas to be imported. The RIL offer of $2.34 to NTPC in global tender was compared to RasGas' $2.53, missing out on the fact that LNG price includes about $1.00 for liquefaction and regasification. But that is a different story.

The present petroleum minister has held the job for three-and-a-half years; he had the cramp on 'sovereign right over mineral resources' only after the Mumbai High Court decided on the RIL-RNRL case. Evidently, he is oblivious of the fact that the prime purpose of his ministership is to protect and exercise those rights!

Going by media reports, the minister's and the ministry's case is that to make any offer of sale, the 'contractor' is required under the production sharing contract (PSC) to obtain prior approval of quantity and price from the ministry of petroleum & natural gas (MoP&NG). Did the ministry 'approve' RIL's bid before it was submitted to NTPC?

The point of dispute in the RIL-NTPC case is whether the global tender was concluded in a contract. Going by the stand now taken by the petroleum minister, RIL's bid was illegal because by all accounts, prior 'approval' of the petroleum ministry had not been taken.

The illegal tender should have been rejected outright; on the other hand, NELP terms & conditions were publicised in full by GoI-MoP&NG, and NTPC should have made such prior 'approval' for domestic NELP gas a pre-qualification criterion. Either way, NTPC is at fault! Absurd?

NELP and award of each PSC under NELP, is approved by the Cabinet; individual ministers cannot make any change in a signed PSC. Even when a minister and a contractor agree on modifications, the Cabinet has to accord formal approval. Such changes will apply uniformly to oil and gas in all the PSCs. Why is it necessary for the petroleum ministry to repeatedly file revised submissions to the courts, or at one stage, even disown its own counsel?

There is deafening silence from one set of the interested parties: the power minister, his ministry and his company, NTPC. GoI-MoP is apparently committed to the three-monkey approach to life and times, and possible loss of 12 mmscmd gas @ $2.34 does not matter; after all, the regulator accepts cost of fuel as a 'pass-through' item! Therefore, GoI-MoP is apparently conceding a walk-over to GoI-MoP&NG.

Another source of deafening silence is the ministry of finance. Petroleum minister is struggling to erase the figure of $2.34 everywhere, with the declared intention to maximise GoI revenue; GoI-MoF is quietly


Given the petroleum minister's obsession for money, why is his ministry putting his company, ONGC, on the mat for securing a price of $5.50 on 'new' gas? The record shows the minister's utter indifference to the compulsion on his company, ONGC, to sell almost all the gas at APM price of less than $2.00; his other company, OIL (where an IPO is due to be launched) gets only a fraction of this APM price in the North-East.

GoI-MoP&NG used to allocate specific quantities of all domestic gas to consumers. This “Gas Linkage Committee” was wound up in 2003 as a measure of market reform. We now have an interesting contradiction where according to the petroleum ministry, producers of APM gas are free to negotiate quantities with consumers but producers of NELP gas are not!

To generate investor interest, the government had offered several concessions and guarantees in NELP and these were publicised in every round, all over the world (at arguably avoidable cost to the taxpayer). Be that as it may, the freedom to set prices in sync with the global market is one of the most important features of NELP; NELP even allows export (of course with prior approval of GoI-MoP&NG) if international prices are not available in the domestic market.

The prime condition is that the price should be firmed up on an 'arms-length' basis. One of the holiest principles of the government is that there is no better way than global tenders to establish such a price, and NTPC did just that.

Gas market has unique features. One example: production of 'free' gas can be calibrated to actual demand (is the minister aware of ONGC capping its wells in Tripura for decades for lack of demand?) unlike 'associated' gas which is produced with oil, as in Mumbai High.

Another example: all pipelines, especially gas pipelines are natural monopolies, and tenders can be invited only from buyers who happen to be connected to a particular pipeline grid used by the seller; by definition, these are cases of 'limited tender'.

The buyers have no choice but to accept whatever pricing formula is imposed by the lone seller who may or may not be the transporter as well. Such cases are to be classified as 'single tender' transactions, abhorred by the GoI.

It will be instructive to know how the EGOM treated this issue. (As a buyer, NTPC had side-stepped this problem by asking for a 'delivered' price, making the seller responsible for transportation). One more example: the conflict of interest where the seller is also the transporter for several buyers, and the application of 'common carrier' principle to pre-empt abuse.

Epilogue: Doha again, this time for a conference hosted by the government. Some weeks earlier, Petronas had walked out of a gas deal that they had pursued for years in Iran. In fact, Petronas had bid for the NTPC contract on the expectation of sourcing from Iran. During a coffee-break, a top executive of Petronas and I exchanged notes on our experiences in Iran. As we walked back to the conference hall, he said: we were lucky to have lost the NTPC deal.

(The author is former chairman, ONGC Group of Companies)









When the World Health Organisation declared the H1N1 virus — still being mistakenly called “swine flu” in common parlance — a Phase 6 pandemic more than a month and a half ago, it became clear that the strain was being passed on as between humans in every community in the world, and had ceased to be a disease transmitted from animal to people. The approach to deal with it had to be community-based. Instead, our authorities were foolishly seeking to harass passengers at airports, thinking the virus was being imported. If this didn’t highlight the wooden nature of the government’s response to a burgeoning crisis, it was shocking to hear the additional chief secretary (health) of Maharashtra self-complacently ask the media the other day, right after the tragic death of a Pune schoolgirl from the H1N1 virus, “Don’t people read newspapers?” The officer was suggesting that the unfortunate child should have been taken to a designated government facility for testing, rather than to a private hospital. This is, in part, the problem. The government had not sufficiently spread the information about which government hospitals to go to. So, reading the newspapers would not have really mattered. But more, the named government hospitals were too few to handle the suspected cases, as became clear in Pune itself when more than a thousand people turned up and were met with fewer than a dozen doctors, leading to a massive confusion. The easiest thing to do was to involve private sector hospitals and medical practitioners. Why this wasn’t done is a mystery, considering that as much of 80 per cent of India has to take recourse to private sector medicine for outpatient work, and indeed 50 per cent of admitted patients are also to be found in private medical facilities. In the circumstances, to have ignored the private sector signified a criminal disregard for community health and the lives of ordinary people. Especially since the government spends less than one per cent of the budget on community health, it should have relied on private hospitals and doctors. Since the international outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic, the government appears to have done little more than pat its own back. When it was clear on the basis of WHO pronouncements that there was no drug available anywhere to counter the pandemic, senior Union health ministry officers busied themselves making swashbuckling statements about possessing sufficient quantities of the needed medicine — an extraordinary claim. It was naively felt that morale-boosting propaganda would do the trick. The day after the country’s first H1N1 death in Pune earlier this week, the Maharashtra government invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 in Pune and Satara districts, so that the collectors may take all necessary action. But this is worse than stupid. The Pandemic 6 category for H1N1 means the virus is not confined to particular districts but has spread to every community in the world. The Delhi government too had exhibited the same ignorance a month earlier. The point really is, why was the Centre not coordinating community health activities with every state government all this time? Must someone always die to sensitise the government?








July was a tough month for Western forces in Afghanistan. More soldiers were killed in combat than in any earlier month during the past eight years. The months ahead may be tougher still, for the American military “surge” in Afghanistan has barely begun. On the political front, too, this period is bound to be significant. The presidential elections are slated to be held in two weeks’ time, and will be followed by a phase of readjustment amongst all partners in the war against the Taliban. Western strategy in Afghanistan, then, is about to enter choppy waters.


For some time now, relations between Kabul and Western capitals have been strained. To the extent possible, the Obama administration has distanced itself from the Afghanistan President, Mr Hamid Karzai’s bid for re-election. The problem is that there are few credible alternatives in sight. Yet the Americans have already expressed fears about possible electoral malpractice and lack of transparency in the process. The leader of the European Union’s election observer mission to Afghanistan has pointedly stated that his top priority is to prevent fraud. These thinly veiled attacks on the Karzai government betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at stake.

The greatest problem about the elections is that considerable sections of the populace, particularly in the Taliban-dominated southern areas, might be unable to exercise their franchise. The Taliban have explicitly stated their intention to disrupt and prevent the elections. In a bid to convey the seriousness of their threats, they have made so bold as to launch large coordinated attacks on Afghan government installations and an American military base in the provincial capitals of Jalalabad and Gardez. If such tactics succeed in instilling fear in the local populace, the turnouts could be very low. This would result in the Pashtuns of these areas being further alienated from the Central government. Such an outcome would, of course, make the counter-insurgency efforts all the more onerous.

Mr Karzai, for his part, feels that much of the current mess is of the coalition’s making. Consider, for instance, the much vaunted problem of poppy cultivation and its links to the Taliban insurgency. This stems at least partly from the coalition’s policies. Prior to sending their troops into Helmand in 2006, the British insisted that the province’s governor was a drug lord and hence needed to be sacked. Mr Karzai rightly observes that since then poppy cultivation has increased almost four-fold in the province. This is to a large extent because of the coalition forces’ unwillingness to go after the drug traffickers and money launderers. Instead, they sought to wean the farmers from poppy cultivation by encouraging the market for other crops — a policy that failed to recognise the fact that the farmers were in the business not just for lucre but out of fear.

Perhaps the most serious differences between Mr Karzai and the Obama administration centre on the coalition’s military strategy. At first blush, it might seem that the two sides are reading from the same page. Both Kabul and Washington have emphasised the importance of talking to sections of the Taliban insurgency and possibly co-opting them. The Americans feel that such an approach has worked in Iraq and could yield results in Afghanistan too. But Mr Karzai appears to support this approach because he recognises the potential weaknesses of the coalition’s strategy.

In particular, he realises that unless the Taliban’s safe haven in Pakistan is disrupted, the insurgency can continue almost indefinitely. The availability of this sanctuary not only enables the Taliban to push more forces into Afghanistan, but also enables the insurgents to evade the coalition forces. As long as the sanctuary exists, there is no way that Western or Afghan troops can take the battle to the insurgents. Sealing the Afghan-Pakistan border is not a viable option either: it would require many more troops than could possibly be made available. Merely increasing the quantum of forces will result in additional casualties and battle fatigue. The acrimonious debate in Britain about operations in Afghanistan underscores the limitations imposed by domestic politics.

Mr Karzai’s misgivings get to the core of the problem. Mr Barack Obama rightly recognised the need to club together Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the administration has focused excessively on counter-insurgency in the former and inadequately on the latter. American officials have argued that Islamabad’s military efforts in recent months point to the seriousness with which it views the Taliban threat. Such claims, however, rest on a grave misreading of the situation.

The Pakistan Army has acted against groups such as Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, which predates the Taliban and has a regional agenda in Swat, and other Pakistani Taliban outfits which turned against the Pakistani state after the Army’s incursions into the tribal areas in 2004. But the Afghan Taliban — Mullah Omar and his cohort — continue to be ensconced in Balochistan. The Pakistan government has made no moves thus far to curb them, nor has it shared any intelligence about them with the Americans. The “high-value targets” of American drone attacks are almost invariably individuals who have links with Al Qaeda, and not the Afghan Taliban.

From Pakistan’s standpoint, the Afghan Taliban are the proteges best placed to further their interests in Afghanistan. Besides, they have proved useful in other ways. Mullah Omar’s forces have come handy in dealing with Baloch nationalist insurgents and the Shia tribes in the area. The so-called Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban has also been an intermediary in dealing with the Pakistan Taliban. In fact, in late 2008, Omar dispatched a team to convince the Pakistan Taliban leaders to forsake their fight against Islamabad and instead join the battle with the coalition forces in Afghanistan. The current round of military operations notwithstanding, Islamabad knows that Omar could be important for future negotiations with the Pakistan Taliban.

Given this complex of considerations, there is currently no incentive for the Pakistan government to act against the Afghan Taliban. Unless the Obama administration applies concerted pressure on Islamabad to move in this direction, its military efforts inside Afghanistan may well be doomed to failure.


Srinath Raghavan is at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru









Mr Barack Obama had his 48th birthday this week. Since we learned during last year’s campaign that he can be blamed for anything bad that’s happened in this country since he was a toddler, perhaps this is a good time to suggest that it’s his fault the Beatles didn’t perform at Woodstock.

The President celebrated by having lunch with the Democratic senators, proving once again that this is truly a guy who knows how to party. He also showed up at a press briefing to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ms Helen Thomas, the legendary reporter and columnist who turned 89 on the same day.
Ms Thomas began covering the White House for United Press International in 1961, and she once told me that the competition for Kennedy family stories was so intense, United Press International (UPI) woke up the press secretary, Mr Pierre Salinger, to ask him if it was true that Ms Caroline’s hamster had died. This sort of thing would of course never happen now because the hamster would have its own Facebook fan page, updated hourly.

Mr Obama is hitting another milestone this week. When Congress goes into recess it’ll be a rough half-year marker for his presi-dency. And things have been looking pretty good. American influence is rising abroad, and at home nobody in the White House appears to be plotting to undermine our civil rights on a daily basis.


The economy’s looking kind of stimulated. These things take time, but the “cash for clunkers” part of the plan seems to be working like a charm. Beli-eve it or not, it turns out that Americans will buy a lot more cars if you pay them a bunch of money to do it.


The Senate is going to plough some more money into the clunker programme, once it finishes Ms Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The debate has taken the concept of anticlimactic to a whole new level — although the Republican, Mr Jon Kyl’s announcement that he’s read the wise Latina speech “many times” did seem new, in a slightly disturbing way.

Still, even some of the Republicans who warned that she might become “untethered” after her elevation and start committing empathy admitted that Mr Obama has picked an impressive candidate to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Good work, White House.

And then there was the administration’s first big coup of the week, Mr Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea to rescue the two jailed American journalists. This goes to show how Ms Hillary Clinton will surprise you every time. When it comes to the secretary of state’s life story, I thought the one unbendable rule was that whenever he was most needed, Mr Bill was going to be most unhelpful. But there he was at the Burbank airport, delivering the journalists to their families and getting that nice hug from Mr Al Gore.

We’re still trying to figure out what North Korea wanted. Prestige? New weapons talks? Was the weird, ailing Mr Kim Jong-II working out a succession plot on behalf of one of his sons? He has three, although everyone seems to have written off the oldest since he got picked up using a false passport to get to Tokyo Disneyland. Personally, I like the one who Newsweek says went to Swiss boarding school and wrote an essay about how he’d like to fight terrorism with Jean-Claude Van Damme. But we’ll probably wind up with the one who makes his sister call him “General Comrade”.

Since everyone running North Korea seems to be crazy, it might be safest to work under the assumption that the motives were crazy, too. Maybe the nation’s elite were involved in a high-stakes scavenger hunt, with a list of items that included a 1979 almanac, a matchbook from an Indonesian nightclub, and a picture of Mr Bill Clinton sitting next to the Dear Leader and looking like he was stuffed.
Anyhow, Ms Laura Ling and Ms Euna Lee are home. Well done, everybody.

Once the Senate leaves town, the Obamas can go to Martha’s Vineyard and relax. True, there’s no Healthcare Bill yet, and members of Congress are getting yelled at about socialised medicine by people who appear to have been sitting in their attics since the anti-tax tea parties, listening for signs of alien aircraft. But on the bright side, they’ve finally got something to distract them from the President’s birth certificate.

And — more good news! — the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is malfunctioning. You may remember that the collider was supposed to smash subatomic particles for super-advanced physics research. Chronic worriers claimed it might create a black hole that would suck up the universe. Or take us back in time to the year when eight-year-old Barack Obama was responsible for Nixon’s presidency, the institution of the draft and the popularity of Sugar, Sugar by the Archies. Or deliver us to a parallel universe in which Mr John McCain and Ms Sarah Palin are running the country.

Now, as Mr Dennis Oberbye reported this week in the Times, there are problems with the wiring and the magnets. And while this is a loss for science, we’re on black hole vacation.










It is almost fated that civil liberty activists and the police share an inimical relationship. Yet “Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police”, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released earlier this month, diverges from prototype.

While it does record individual cases and make broad-sweep assessments of what it considers police corruption and overreach, it doesn’t just stop there. The HRW report studies the sources of police dysfunction — from shortage of recruits to appalling working conditions, from political manipulation to the institutional legacy of the Indian police, and how it contributes to everyday failings.
The Indian police was created by the British during the Raj to pacify an occupied people, to scare and oppress, rather than to provide justice. Fighting insurgencies and collecting information on a subject people were its priorities, not solving crimes and keeping the citizenry secure. As the HRW report points out, “The Indian police in the colonial era was paramilitary in operation”. It was a political instrument rather than a civic institution.

“The Indian police”, the report stresses, “has long had a strained relationship with the public. India’s state and Central police services were organised based on the Police Act of 1861, a law drafted in the wake of the 1857 uprising... that remains... the basis for most state police laws”. The police was “charged with instilling fear in the public, rather than seeking its cooperation”. It exhibited a “military ethos” and “failed to develop the public service orientation of modern policing”.

The positing of “military ethos” as necessarily adversarial to “public service orientation” is noteworthy. What does it tell us about notions of policing?

An analogy may be useful here. In 2005, the American city of New Orleans faced the fury of Hurricane Katrina. Devastation led to homelessness, hunger and crime. It was argued by some that the United States armed forces should have been deployed in relief operations, being the one federal agency capable of carrying out such a gigantic logistical exercise.

As it happened, use of the military in domestic policing is outlawed in the US by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Posse comitatus literally means “power of the country”. The law was passed after US Army soldiers were used for policing duties in the post-Civil War American South. Obviously, they conducted themselves as a conquering, occupying force, much like the police in colonial India.
There was public reaction and corrective steps had to be taken. Today, with some exceptions — tackling insurrection, checking drug smuggling — the US armed forces don’t get into domestic law enforcement. The police is seen as a local institution, integrated with the community. In some cities the integration is imperfect and charges of prejudice or racism are voiced, but on the whole the philosophy of policing has been divorced from its coercive origins.

The Posse Comitatus debate that must have so occupied America in the 1870s simply did not take place in India in the 1950s. It is at the root of the Indian police’s public relations crisis.

Ironically, the British were themselves aware of the limitations of the police system they had created. In the old presidency towns where the European population lived, the system of police administration was very different from that in the so-called “native” areas.

Bombay, Madras and Calcutta — or Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, to use their current names — had fairly independent police forces under commissioners. The commissionerate system gave the police chief the authority to build local intelligence networks — among so-called “bad characters” — invest in crime prevention and investigation, organise a beat constable routine, and make the police a community enabler. The commissioner was not shackled by the civil service. He had a free hand.

This was not so in the districts, where distrusted and allegedly restive Indians lived. Here the police was a peacekeeping force rather than a civic enabler. The superintendent of police (SP) reported to the district magistrate (DM) and took his permission before arresting people — by way of seeking a warrant — or even opening fire.

It was expected that the persons arrested or fired upon would be political protesters and freedom fighters (or rebels, as the British saw them). Thus the district SP and DM would act together as representatives of the imperial government. It was different in the predominantly white towns, where the commissioner and his team were there to serve the community and help the proverbial old ladies and little children.
In a sense, this history dogs the Indian police. Effacing crime and making life easier for the common citizen is not a priority outside a few big cities, where the commissionerate system operates, where the media is vigilant and where the Indian elite live. In other locations, Indian police forces are understaffed, under-equipped and not encouraged to take criminal activity in the community particularly seriously.
HRW’s “Broken System” reflects this harsh reality. It calculates that: “There is just one civil police officer for every 1,037 Indian residents, far below Asia’s regional average of one police officer for 558 people and the global average of 333 people”.

The HRW team found dilapidated police stations, with no electricity and limited telephones. Police teams were dependent on complainants to provide them transport to investigate crimes and even paper and stationery to record complaints. “At a station in Himachal Pradesh”, the report says, “the police struggled for several minutes to unclasp and close a pair of rusted, decades-old handcuffs”.
The corollary is that police recruitment — in terms of quality and quantity — and training have no political ownership. “More than 13 per cent of civil police positions are vacant nationwide”. The report notes, “... police training is severely under-funded. In 2007, only 1.2 per cent of state expenditures on police went towards police training”.

In this environment, it is both politically and functionally convenient to under-register cases. Politicians can claim there is little crime; policemen can artificially reduce their burden. Statistics are telling: “In 2007, a total of 215,613 violent crimes were registered nationwide or 19 crimes for every 100,000 residents in India. Bangladesh also suffers from under-registration, but has a higher rate of 83.21 reported crimes per 100,000 residents”. The figures for Japan and the United States are “more than 1,000 reported crimes per 100,000 residents”.

Either India is an extraordinarily low-crime society or the police system does not see solving crime as its principal mandate. Take your pick.


Ashok Malik can be contacted at [1]








 “IN the interests, then, of peace; in the interests of commerce; in the interests of moral and material improvement, it may be asserted that interference in Afghanistan has now become a duty, and that any moderate outlay or responsibility we incur in restoring order at Kabul will prove in the sequel to be true economy”.

The language, to some extent, betrays the provenance of this piece of advocacy: 21st-century spin doctors would couch their aims in somewhat different terms. Yet the advice offered in 1868 by Sir Henry Rawlinson, a member of the Council of India, serves as a useful reminder of the longevity of the great game.

His comments were made in the context of the potential threat posed by a Russian presence in Afghanistan, and it is notable that commerce took precedence over other concerns. It could also be argued, not entirely without merit, that in the late 20th century the great game was resumed only when the prospect of a Russian presence arose once more.

However, it’s not that simple. By the late 1970s, Afghanistan was an unlikely zone for the Cold War, in which the Soviet Union and the US were the main protagonists, with Britain reduced to a relatively insignificant ally of the latter. Its basically feudal structure notwithstanding, Afghanistan was considered to be in the Soviet sphere of influence, much as the United States’ Latin American “backyard” was construed to be a politico-economic playing field exclusive to Uncle Sam. But then the Saur Revolution — styled thus, presumably, to evoke the landmark October variant in its neighbourhood — helped to change the rules of the game.

It may have been different had the Saur coup-makers enjoyed widespread popular support. Their influence, however, was restricted largely to the Kabul intelligentsia. Well aware of their compatriots’ confessional tendencies, Nur Mohammed Taraki and his ilk went out of their way to insinuate that their government was neither un-Islamic nor anti-Islamic. But it was a futile effort, damned by the Communist tag. It is quite possible that the cold warriors in Washington were even quicker than the bamboozled apparatchiks in Moscow in deciding to exploit the situation.

The US did its level best to create a situation whereby it just might be able to avenge its humiliation in Vietnam. The effort rapidly paid dividends — although it’s well worth noting that the Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan, notwithstanding the absence of bourgeois democracy, was preceded by a spirited debate within the Communist hierarchy in which sceptics such as KGB chief Yuri Andropov and rising star Mikhail Gorbachev were overruled by the Brezhnevite majority.

That offers a striking contrast with the virtual absence of discussion that preceded the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and even Iraq in 2003. The American entanglement in Afghanistan, from the late 1970s, was supposedly surreptitious, although by the early 1980s it had become an open secret as the CIA operation expanded into the largest covert war since Vietnam, with Pakistan reprising with greater gusto than ever before its chosen role as an agent for Uncle Sam — personified in those crucial years by the recklessly delusional Ronald Reagan.

In those days, the US was a prime source of jihadi literature, alongside Pakistan under Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and Saudi Arabia. The motley bands of Mujahideen were schooled, inter alia, in slitting the throats of those who dared to teach in co-educational institutions. More or less every sign of progress on the economic or social front was painted as a Communist conspiracy. The trend appealed, inevitably, to those who were least inclined to take progressive developments in their stride. They may have been wary of the Americans, but they were more than willing to accept the assistance of perceived infidels in the crusade against Moscow’s godless agents.

This included, crucially, the shoulder-fired Stinger missiles, liberally supplied by the CIA, that effectively knocked Soviet helicopter gunships out of the equation.

Once they had achieved their purpose, the US devoted some energy to buying back unused Stingers, often from arms bazaars in Pakistan. The absence of equivalent weaponry has helped to keep the western death toll relatively low in Afghanistan, although last month proved to be the deadliest since 2001, amid the battle for Helmand — in greeting whose purported conclusion, Gordon Brown sounded much like one of his distant predecessors would have in the Victorian era.

His foreign secretary, David Miliband, meanwhile, has once more mooted the idea of negotiations with second-tier Taliban.

At least one of his Cabinet colleagues has at the same time pointed out that the terrorist threat to Britain emanates more from Pakistan than from Helmand.

As they did under the command of Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, American and British troops are today once more involved in offering combat training to Afghans, albeit this time with the intention of tackling the offspring of their previous pupils, the Mujahideen. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the head of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in the country, is reportedly working on a “new” strategy that involves doubling the Anglo-American presence as well as boosting the numbers and capabilities of the official Afghan security forces. And attempts to buy off sections of the resistance — including familiar figures such as the infamous CIA and Zia favourite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — evidently enjoy Washington’s imprimatur.

Barack Obama, before he became the President of the US, was taken aback when he discovered that the Pentagon lacked an exit strategy in Afghanistan. However, none has thus far become apparent during his incumbency either. It is unlikely that the Afghan presidential election scheduled for August 20 will produce any dramatic change.

The neocolonial adventure embarked upon in the wake of 9/11 is ultimately doomed to failure in the absence of the realisation that the long-term future of Afghanistan must be determined by Afghans, rather than by interlopers, well-intentioned or otherwise, from near or afar.

By arrangement with Dawn








David Cameron innocently said twat on the wireless last week. He pronounced it to rhyme with hat, when it should rhyme with what. He hadn’t realised it was rude. It’s funny which words one can say and which one can’t. Mr Cameron seems to have thought twat was like prat, which seems to be acceptable. Oddly enough, an American dialect meaning for twat is “the bottom”, which is the modern meaning of prat. Similarly, the Americans also mean “bottom” by the word fanny, a synonym in England for twat, which can lead to transatlantic misunderstandings. Prat used to mean a buttock, just the one. In Richard Brome’s play A Jovial Crew (1652), Autumn-Mort, an old beggar woman, cries out, “Set me down here on both my Prats”, before singing a song, drinking her bowl of liquor, falling back and being carried off stage. Very droll.

Prat has hardly been offensive in modern times. Nöel Coward happily used the compound pratfall in words and music, which was staged in 1939, and contained the wise advice: “Don’t do a pratfall in your first routine”. It is possible rudely to call someone a prat, but not a bottom. In 1792 James Gillray drew a caricature of the slender Pitt the Younger entitled “The Bottomless Pitt”, and another word available at the same period was bum, which Samuel Johnson defined in 1755 as: “The buttocks, the part on which we sit”. Puck, when not amusing himself as a crab-apple, imitated a stool and slipped from beneath the “bum” of an old woman. My sympathies are with the old woman, naturally. But if bum has fallen out of straight vocabulary, it still doesn’t work as a term of abuse. Bumsucker is all right, as used in a private letter by Swinburne, meaning “sycophant”, but to call someone a bum means “hobo”, in the American sense. That parody of a revivalist hymn “Hallelujah I’m a Bum” dates from the 1890s.
Arse is “obsolete in polite use”, the Oxford English Dictionary (oed) kindly tells us, but, even so, few would call anyone an arse with any hope of offence. Last year the OED, anxious to update its arseology, inserted a quotation from The Royle Family (1999) to illustrate the term my arse: “Barbara. ‘Let’s all have a snowball! Don’t snowballs make your feel Christmassy, ey?’ Jim. ‘Snowballs my arse. It’s a bloody swizz this Christmas lark”’. So Mr Cameron’s radio host Christian O’Connell might suitably have responded: “Twat, my arse”.


By arrangement with the Spectator




*************************************************************************************THE STATESMAN




CONFIRMATION of the “no news is good news” theory has been provided by the annual pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath cave in Jammu and Kashmir that concluded on Wednesday without generating any negative headlines. Last year the state had been violently split down the middle over the allotment of land to the shrine management, and on a couple of previous occasions militants had scripted some gory episodes. Close to 400,000 yatris made the revered trek between 16 June and 5 August, and apart from “normal problems” resulting from ill health, fatigue etc. all went well. Even the “ponywallahs”, who are not to be slammed for seeking some additional bucks, seemed to have behaved themselves. A massive, multi-tiered security exercise was mounted involving some 7,000 paramilitary and army personnel in addition to the local police force. Also exploited were a range of “aids”: sniffer-dogs, electronic surveillance including the army’s unmanned aerial vehicles, radio communication interceptors. The coordination between the various security agencies was exemplary, and that was matched by the efforts of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in catering to the pilgrims’ shelter, food, toilets, medical support and so on. Much of that commendable effort will, sadly, go generally unrecognised: as a people we take all that for granted.

The success story, ideally, should continue beyond the yatra. If the army, paramilitary and police could harmonise their endeavours along the pilgrim’s route why not when countering militants and maintaining the counter-insurgency grid? True there were few “professional” trouble-makers around, but the security forces must extend their decent behaviour to their other duties too. Several members of the Muslim community provide the yatra back-up, indeed some are financially-dependent on pilgrims, and what has just been portrayed is a defeat of the mischievous forces on both sides of the Pir Panjal to create a regional/religious divide. More than traces of much-threatened ‘Kashmiriyat’ have manifest themselves. It is upon such successes ~ without seeking political advantage ~ that the state administration must try to build, to earn the respect and confidence of the citizen. There can be no better counter-punch than clean, effective governance to separatists and the like.







BILL CLINTON has been famously successful in North Korea and on a mission that the West considers to be one of the best kept secrets of international diplomacy. The triumph is as personal as it is of the USA. The former President has secured the release of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had been arrested by Pyongyang in March for having strayed into the country from China while on an assignment. Beyond their freedom, Mr Clinton has choreographed a watershed development in the USA’s historically strained relations with North Korea. As recently as June, Ling and Lee had been sentenced to 12 years’ hard labour. They have now been granted a “special pardon”, an incredibly dramatic turnaround by the North Korean authorities almost immediately after Clinton’s meeting with the ailing ruler, Kim Jong-il. Whether the former US President had delivered to Kim a verbal message from Barack Obama must remain a subject of conjecture. Just as it can merely be speculated upon whether the two journalists’ road to freedom was paved by Hillary Clinton’s appeal for amnesty, or by a nudge and a nod from China. Implicit in Mrs. Clinton’s appeal was an indication that Ling and Lee had violated the laws of North Korea. The world may never know whether Mr Clinton’s achievement was preceded by a flurry of diplomatic activity. For, it is not often that Mr Kim grants audience to a visiting dignitary within hours of his landing.

Beyond the two individuals’ march to freedom lies the almost intractable irritant. The development has simultaneously raised hopes that Mr Clinton’s meeting with North Korea’s “Dear Leader” could eventually break the ice, ending Pyongyang’s nuclear standoff with the USA. It has been a momentous forward movement since the Bush dispensation branded the North as being part of the “Axis of Evil”. For all that, the fact remains that the defiant testing of a nuclear device and long-range missiles together pose a daunting challenge to President Obama’s foreign policy. International relations will truly be on the turn if Mr Clinton’s mission of mercy can in the fullness of time lead to developments of still greater moment... to the benefit of both countries. The real test concerning matters nuclear will be keenly watched by the comity of nations.








IT OUGHT to surprise no one that Kolkata’s enterprising touts and a section of the staff of the Public Vehicles Department have found a way to beat the High Court-imposed ban on pre-1993 vehicles. It ought, further, to surprise no one that the Additional Chief Secretary (Transport) has no knowledge of the racket, as indeed it ought to occasion no surprise that senior bureaucrats are ~ because they must be ~ unaware of the rampant corruption that envelops the department overseeing public vehicles. To hear and see no evil is a part of the civil servant’s profile, especially when it concerns his own department. But the judiciary and especially civil society must take note of the lacklustre implementation of the ban on vehicles of a certain vintage, and the various means adopted by their owners to short-circuit a measure aimed at providing cleaner air to the citizenry. For actions such as exposed by this newspaper, of manipulating changes in computerized records to generate smart cards that clearly are smarter than the law-enforcement machinery of the state; or, as revealed by a contemporary, of dabbing a coat of green paint on auto-rickshaws that are beyond the bounds of acceptability constitute as much a contempt of court as they do an assault on people of the city. For this is a battle that every citizen who suffers from respiratory ailments, and every parent whose children have a wheeze and require a bronchodilator for relief, must join.

The ban on old buses, mini-buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws is ultimately not just a matter for judicial scrutiny. The judiciary only stepped in because the administration ~ read the Government of West Bengal ~ was unwilling to do its job. Every minister and every civil servant who had a chance to regulate the conduct of public transport, and every minister and civil servant who now has a chance to make the ban effective must be put on notice by civil society that his performance is being monitored. Yes, there will be some inconvenience when some buses and taxis and autos are withdrawn from the roads. Had things been better planned, this might not have happened but that is neither here nor there. It is better to have to wait a little longer for the ride home, or to work, than to suffer the alternative. It is for the citizen to be vigilant; the judges can only do so much.








MS Liberhan’s 17-year delay in submitting his report on the Babari Masjid demolition is politically disadvantageous for the BJP, for its publication will remind the party of a time it wants to forget. Between 1990 and the present, the BJP lived in three worlds. One saw its transition from the sidelines of politics to the centre-stage as a result of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. The second witnessed its assumption of power in Delhi as a direct fallout of the movement, and the third saw its defeats in successive general elections.

What is significant, however, is that two contradictory factors marked these roller-coaster rides. The Ramjanmabhoomi agitation, which led to the Babari Masjid demolition, was based on a reckless stoking of Hindu sentiments. But, after gaining power at the Centre in 1998 (after a brief 13 days in 1996), the BJP began to distance itself from the incendiary rhetoric of the temple programme because it realised that ruling pluralistic India required a kinder, gentler outlook.

However, the party’s defeats in 2004 and 2009 have demonstrated that its show of moderation is not widely believed. The reasons are its anti-minority record and the continuing evidence of that attitude in the Gujarat riots, the burning of churches in Orissa and VarunGandhi’s CD. Hence, Arun Jaitley’s advice to the party to eschew “shrillness”, Jaswant Singh’s preference for a relook at Hindutva and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s condemnation of the “Pilibhit version” of cultural nationalism, which is another name for Hindutva.


But not everyone in the BJPis sure whether such a change will help when its credibility is so low since it will be seen as a sham. Besides, the RSS will not approve of it. Even as it dithers, the Liberhan report will compound its problems by resurrecting the atmosphere of the temple movement in all its gory details. It will be a reminder that what Varun Gandhi says today was said earlier with equal vehemence by Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharati,and that the riots of 1992-93 were a precursor of the Gujarat outbreak a decade later.

The report will also be a reminder of the concoctions which led the BJP to start an agitation, which it later liked to describe as the biggest since the independence movement. That the two do not bear the slightest resemblance does not require any proof considering that the freedom movement inspired all sections of Indians whereas one of the slogans of the temple agitation was Mussalmano ke do hi sthan, Pakistan yakabaristan.

But what is more important is that such stridency was unavoidable in the BJP’s and the SanghParivar’s campaign because it was based on myths and historical distortions. Being an iteration of fables and half-truths, the party and the Parivar had no option but to raise their decibel level since that is the only way that prevarications can pass muster. Otherwise, it would not have been possible to start a campaign based on the myth of Ram’s birthplace when there is no certainty that today’s Ayodhya is the same town which existed 3,000 years ago or that Babur destroyed a temple at the very spot in 1528.

These were not the only fanciful theories on which the BJP banked. Even more provocative was the spreading of the paranoid propaganda of the Hindus being under a pincer attack from the rising population of the Muslims, each one of them with their four wives (Hum panch,hamarepachis,as

NarendraModisaid), and the Christians with their supposedly insidious conversion process.
These were the electoral trump cards on which the BJP based its ascent, helped, of course, by the Congress’s decline in the late Eighties and Nineties. However, even as it now wants to soften its stance to become an “inclusive” party, as promised by LK Advani, its retreat from Hindutva is opposed by the RSS.To the latter, the revisiting of the glory days of the Nineties in the Liberhan report will be a reminder of what might have been if the BJP had not lost its nerve after its inability to secure support for AtalBehariVajpayee’s13-day minority government in 1996.

It WAS that failure which made the BJP put its pro-Hindu agenda on hold. The RSS is sure, however, that if the BJP had pushed ahead instead with its assertions of Hindutva, the party could have gone from strength to strength. Since this line is likely to be endorsed from outside by the VHP and also from inside by the likes of Rajnath Singh as a part of the political infighting in the BJP, the report will muddy the waters for the party in more ways than one.

In addition, the culpability of some of the senior leaders for the demolition, as may be revealed by the report, will cast a shadow on the party and the Parivar, making the BJP’sefforts to don the mask of respectability all the more difficult. This factor of criminal trespass and destruction of a historical monument will be compounded by the probe into the Gujaratriots by the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court. Narendra Modi is among the 62 politicians and bureaucrats who will be questioned by the team.


What these highly discomforting developments will mean for the BJP is that the party will have to continue to pay in the foreseeable future a heavy price for the violence it unleashed in the 1990sto gain political power by fomenting sectarianism. However, it did not realise at the time that an attack on the country’s multicultural tenets would not succeed not only because a vast majority is against such divisive politics, but mainly because the legal process would finally catch up with the party’s and the Parivar’sacts of criminality.








Behind the celebrations over the passing of the right of children to free and compulsory education bill lies a fundamental question. Is it better to give things a push-start, or to have every detail worked out before taking the plunge? The Union minister for human resource development, Kapil Sibal, clearly believes in jumping in at the deep end first — and making everyone else do the same — once a broad framework has been put in place. And the new law enabling all children between six and 14 years of age to demand subsidized elementary education from the government does have both goal and framework. Not that the plunge is unprepared for. The moment has been long in the making, beginning with debates within the constituent assembly, to the drafts of the National Democratic Alliance, till compulsory elementary education changed from a directive principle of state policy into a fundamental right through a constitutional amendment in 2002, and then on to the efforts of the United Progressive Alliance in its first incarnation, till it came to fruition this month. It was high time. But the problems of educating every child, even those who need to work, or who are disabled, or for whom going to school is a difficult, sometimes frightening, first-generation adventure, are yet to be addressed on a practical level.


The questions raised by the new law lead in different directions. “Why 14, why not 16?” asks one. A similar worry is directed towards the below-six child, although the law directs states to arrange for the pre-school education of three to six-year-olds. This opens the door to a host of problems. The Centre-state funding formula is vague, although the states have been given a number of responsibilities, including the opening of “neighbourhood” schools wherever needed and free travel for students. Already, the states feel that they were not consulted before the final planning in spite of education being on the concurrent list. The unease over the possible exclusion of differently abled children has been quelled by Mr Sibal’s assurance that they would be included in the 25 per cent reservation for disadvantaged children that every school, government or private, must henceforth provide.


In spite of many more doubts, what is promising about the legislation is that it requires a combination of governmental effort and civil society’s participation to become meaningful. This includes parental presence in school managing committees, although the mindset required for this synergic relationship is yet to evolve. But even if the push-start option gets things moving, it cannot make up for the law’s peculiar blankness about teachers. Where are they to come from, how trained must they be and how rewarded if they are to make private tuition superfluous for even the first-generation learners? There cannot be a law about education without a serious look at the educators.






Not all judicial probes satisfy those who ask for them. But in India, the judiciary is still seen as the people’s last hope for institutional justice. This also reflects their increasing loss of faith in other institutions of the State, especially in the police. But a strange unwillingness to order judicial probes is common among state governments. The Manipur government’s refusal to hold a judicial inquiry into the killing of a pregnant woman and a young man in Imphal has only made things worse. The government’s position is both unnecessary and ill-advised; it has made more people suspect that the government has something to hide. The swelling of public anger is showing in the apex body of non-government organizations joining the protesters. The chief minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, should waste no more time in accepting the growing demand for a judicial inquiry into the incident. The resignation of a minister has already exposed the rift in the cabinet over his handling of the incident. He needs to order the probe not just to save his coalition government but also to let the truth prevail.


Truth is the first casualty as much in a counter-insurgency battle as in a conventional war. Innocents die in these battles in Manipur and elsewhere in the Northeast. But militants often use, and even kill, innocent people as part of their strategy. The latest incident in Imphal has raised serious questions about the killing and the police’s role in it, thanks to evidence collected by a New-Delhi-based news portal. Whether the evidence will stand up to judicial scrutiny is another matter. But that is no reason why the government should avoid facing the probe. It is not the State’s obligation to protect policemen if they are found guilty. An impartial inquiry can help restore the people’s confidence in the administration.








Last week, I took a leisurely walk through the town centre of Elgin in Morayshire, Scotland, with a 20,000 population. As a town, Elgin is undistinguished — my own curiosity was fuelled by my familiarity with the name, thanks to a road in south Calcutta named after a largely forgotten Viceroy. Its importance stems from its status as the main market-town of Speyside, the whisky centre of Scotland. There is also a ruined abbey, which had its lead roof removed after the Reformation, but which has persisted as an attraction for Scotland’s defiant Roman Catholics. The High Street is the usual mixture of estate agents, curry houses, indifferent pubs, Boots, the Oxfam shop run by sensible matrons and some lesser known supermarket chains; there are hardly any interesting, small, independent shops selling quirky merchandise at inflated prices. Elgin, in short, is just another undistinguished place made more unmemorable by the wanton destruction of many of its grand Victorian houses in the 1950s and 1960s.


Predictably, Elgin wasn’t without the one monument that is as much a feature of Britain as the pub and the curry house — the war memorial, built on the foyer of the town hall in 1922. A striking feature of the Elgin war memorial was that the names of soldiers who fell in battle between 1914 and 1918 took up all the four sides of the memorial. There must have been some 500 names of Scottish highlanders buried somewhere in France or Mesopotamia. For the tiny town of Elgin, the human cost of the Great War were staggering. By contrast, the two plaques in small adjoining memorials commemorating the local lads who fell in battle in the 1939-1945 war couldn’t have contained the names of more than 50.


Some nine decades after the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, it is sometimes difficult to gauge the extent to which the Great War scarred every community in Britain. Cutting across the classes, an entire generation of young men were sacrificed, sometimes out of sheer military ineptitude, in the trenches and in the killing fields of Flanders, the Somme, Gallipoli and Passchendaele. According to statistics, nearly 5.4 million people were mobilized in the United Kingdom, of which some 703,000 died — a staggeringly high casualty rate of 44 per cent. For decades after Kaiser was dead and buried and the Prussian aristocracy dispossessed, sensitive men and women with long memories persisted with their haunting memories of a “lost generation”. The “War poets” articulated an incipient pacifism, but the actual loss of sons, husbands, sweethearts and friends were expressed through symbolic poppies on coat lapels and wreaths at the local war memorial.


Last week witnessed the deaths of two of the three last survivors of the Great War. Britain commemorated the deaths of Private Harry Patch and Aircraft Mechanic (First Class) Henry Allingham, both well into their 100s, through touching memorial services and generous obituaries in the newspapers. Their deaths became the occasion for sensitive forays into the past — an exercise that the British are good at. The horrors of trench warfare and purposeless assaults on enemy lines were relived for the benefit of generations for whom even the Blitz is not lived experience.


The commemoration of the lives of the two veterans was also the occasion for many Britons to agonize over another war that is increasingly appearing meaningless to a great majority. July was a bad month for the British army fighting a strange war in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. It led to the deaths of 22 British soldiers, the highest monthly casualties from a war that is now nearly eight years old.


The bitterness generated by the feeling that Afghanistan is a redundant and unwinnable war has had an impact on the beleaguered Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The government was mercilessly pilloried when it emerged that wounded soldiers were short-changed in the compensations by an over-bureaucratic ministry of defence. The parents of some of the soldiers killed in action also drew attention to the missing military hardware, which may have saved the life of their sons. In a letter to the Times earlier this week, Bruce Kent, a veteran anti-war activist who first shot into prominence during the Margaret Thatcher era, argued that the British involvement in the Afghanistan campaign was “illegal”. The Taliban-led Afghan government, he argued, hadn’t mounted any assault on British territory. Kent, it would seem, was taking the discovery of the “moderate” Taliban by the foreign secretary, David Miliband, to its logical conclusion.


As of now it is unlikely that there will be an abrupt British withdrawal from Afghanistan. Indeed, the government is floating vague proposals of sending another big chunk of Britons to the disturbed country to train the Afghan army and the police — a classic version of the ‘helping people to help themselves’ philosophy so earnestly championed by NGOs. However, in political terms, Britain has more or less signalled its desire to get the hell out of Afghanistan. The war, it is generally conceded, has been lost. The debate now centres on managing the defeat and the efficacy of allowing Pakistan to re-acquire its “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.


To those accustomed to viewing Britain through the prism of its imperial past, the kerfuffle over Afghanistan is bewildering. That there has been a complete cock-up over the objectives of the war is undeniable. In 2001, Tony Blair was clear in his mind that operations in Afghanistan were part of the larger “war on terror”. Subsequently, the war aims were modified to imply a war on drug-linked criminality and extremism. Now, the likes of Miliband take the cue from an equally confused Obama administration in America to suggest that the war is all about saving Pakistan from the jihadi extremists. What began as the war to save Western civilization has quietly been painted as a conflict to revive Pakistan — with predictable consequences on morale.


However, policy blunders in Whitehall are only a small part of the problem. At the heart of the agonizing over Afghanistan is a larger question of Britain’s role in the world. As long as the empire existed, military involvement overseas was seen as a part of the imperial burden. However, apart from Margaret Thatcher’s brave attempt to arrest the tide of history in the Falklands campaign, the overall British inclination has been towards disengagement and non-involvement. To blame politicians for this retreat is unfair. The truncation of strategic objectives has become a national consensus in Britain, the reason why Blair was edged out despite his awesome electoral record. Patch and Allingham may be celebrated for being the last links with an earlier age, but the war they fought for king and country are no longer seen as a necessary part of British endeavour. Britain cannot countenance the deaths of its boys in faraway lands.


In a curious sort of way, Britain’s contemporary priorities reflect the mindset of the much-reviled Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain. Horrified by the trauma of the Great War, both these prime ministers believed that it was important to save British lives at all costs. That is why they were willing to engage with the dictators and turn a blind eye to evil.


The wheel has come a full circle. For those whose mental image of Britain was frozen by the raj, it is difficult to believe that 60 years has made such a colossal difference.







Thankfully, today is the last day of the current session of Parliament, one that was fraught with misconduct and saw the wastage of precious time. We shall now have a reprieve from the endless and futile walkouts and inappropriate behaviour that have become endemic to the political space. The right to education bill has been passed. But complications are bound to arise out of the 25 per cent reservation for admissions with a tiny ‘donation’ from the government that will neither cover the fee nor the other costs. Middleclass families, which put all their resources together by cutting down on their expenses, will have to bear the burden of a huge hike in fees to accommodate and subsidize the additional 25 per cent. The consequences of this move will soon hit the ceiling, and there is bound to be a case filed against this provision.


Why not have more Kendriya Vidyalayas with quality teachers and a sound syllabus to compete with ‘private’ schools? Why does the government always sponge off private initiatives instead of challenging them with a better, efficient product, particularly in health and education? It is time attitudes began to change, and it is for the leaders in power to ensure that. Instead of ‘walkouts’, members of parliament should debate issues such as this one threadbare and reach a positive conclusion. But to do this, the elected representatives need to engage in some serious homework to determine the future of education in this country.


The school syllabus needs to be looked at with great care. To superimpose, mindlessly, a ‘model’ that is alien to the cultural realities of India will continue to aid and abet inferior learning. The excitement of accessing knowledge is critically important in the years of schooling. It opens the mind to the vast landscape of knowledge and helps youngsters to decide on a future course of specialization. Therefore, the favoured syllabus should consider subjects that are familiar and intrinsic to India’s historical and cultural ethos. Only then will we spawn innovative ideas and alternatives for the future.



We must empower the young by reinforcing what is part of their special identity, and add to it the energy of a changing, shrinking world. That is the challenge. To include 25 per cent additional young, unadulterated minds into a moribund system will add to the general decline that has suffocated and overwhelmed us.


More often than not, young people studying in private schools are uneasy in their own environment when compared to those who are less privileged as the latter are more rooted in their skin. As such, when young people enter the ‘English-speaking’ systems, they become socially insecure and feel that they have to clone their peers. This creates a great divide, which is bound to degrade the future of this great civilization. Conversely, those who have been educated in a Westernized, English-speaking cocoon feel alienated from the larger, real ethos and are insecure about that reality.


The Indian subcontinent will always have such, and many other similar, differences, layers and levels. We must celebrate the plurality and salute the diverse identities. That is the challenge for those who are drafting India’s learning and education policy. It has to be finely calibrated and carefully nuanced to retain all the strengths of this civilization and ensure their growth.


To replace one Westernized, alien syllabus with another can only make matters worse. This will confuse young, agile and aspiring minds. It seems absurd to ape and clone cultures that are not nearly as profound as ours in an effort to standardize and sterilize a vibrant, intellectually energetic, human resource — the multifaceted, diverse population of India.










Yet another round of talks, 13th in a row, on the border disputes between China and India, begins on Friday in New Delhi.  The last such talks were held in September last year. Although one major reason for souring of the relationship between India and China was the border issue, positive developments in the bilateral relationship in the last few years have over shadowed the vexed border dispute. At the same time, however, the two countries know well that they can ill-afford to ignore the dispute, because it is an issue which is high in the national self-esteem of the two countries.

 The two countries have thus adopted a very pragmatic approach of first creating a climate of mutual understanding, appreciation and accommodation and then addressing the border issue with an open mind and being receptive to new ideas.

With an objective of providing an institutional mechanism to address the border issue on a continuous basis, the Joint Working Group was established during the visit of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in 1988.

To aid and assist the Joint Working Group, Special Representatives were appointed in 2003 to take a political view of the dispute. After hectic parleys, the two sides agreed on political parameters and guiding principles for settling the dispute in April 2005. Article III of the guiding principles stipulates that “both sides should, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual understanding, make meaningful and mutually acceptable adjustments to their respective positions, to arrive at a package settlement to the boundary question.”

The guiding principle further envisages that the settlement has to be a package deal covering all sectors of the boundary – western, middle and eastern. While the negotiations on these sensitive issues may not be that easy, the improvement in the bilateral relationship between the two countries and the convergence of approach and outlook, in turn, has created a very conducive condition for the border parleys.
This is not withstanding irritants such as China’s attempt to withhold Asian Development Bank’s $ 60 million watershed development project in Arunachal Pradesh, a part of which China claims belongs to it.


There is a perception that these talks are nothing more than talking about talks. But a deeper analysis suggests that this is not so. Unlike Indo-Pak talks which is equally sensitive, India-China border talks have been held on low-key without arousing any kind of unrealistic optimism or expectation. Talks have been slow, but steady, without meeting any roadblock.

This is symbolic of the maturing of relationship between the two countries which has been achieved over the years. The progress though incremental has been structured, focused and devoid of exuberance. China over the years has mastered the dexterity and finesse of diplomacy and negotiation.

Negotiations on such issues are time consuming as they take into account a complex matrix of factors. China in the recent past has, however, successfully concluded a number of border issues left over by history with a number of neighboring countries including Russia, sharing a land border or maritime border with it.

Given that both the countries attach  a great deal of importance to their respective claims of territory, and that it is an emotive issue, it is difficult to expect any breakthrough at the meeting attended by India’s special representative M K Narayanan, National Security Advisor and Chinese Special representative, Vice-Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo. What is a property dispute between two individuals, similar is perhaps a territorial disputes between two countries and that is equally true of India and China.

 But engagements do help in understanding each other’s view points, claims and counter claims. The consensus is that cooperation and collaboration in other sectors such as economy, culture, tourism, education etc should not suffer due to border dispute. There should be flexibility and mutual accommodation. In any case, the talk must continue as India must take its parliament into confidence and the resolution adopted by Parliament should be taken into account.









During the 1950s, Middle Eastern clubs were opening all over the US and the demand for dancers far exceeded their availability. After a highly exciting tour of the US in 1959, the vivacious twins landed in Calcutta during its short-lived winter, the time when Calcutta is always at its best. They were to perform at Sherry’s and Maxim, the in-house restaurants of The Great Eastern Hotel.

Well before the show began, we three friends occupied a table at a vantage point at Sherry’s.

Lazily, we started tackling the fish and chips while sipping the sparkling cider we had ordered. Soon the flood lights lit up the polished wooden dancing floor. The band started playing some specific belly dance music.

The dancers appeared amid resounding clapping. In their colourful, flowing costumes and with complexion having inputs of old ivory and rose petals, they looked ravishing and out of the world. The long hair fell free on the shoulders, giving flashes of mild glimmer. The elegance and charm of the performance conjured up heavenly images.

At times they danced all over the floor in rapid whirling motion like waltzers. They made circular motions at shoulders and hips, shimmied at times and rolled the belly muscles with amazing ease  and poise.

To  acknowledge the applause of the audience at the end, they curtsied. With one foot tucked behind the other, they bent their knees, lowered their bodies to show respect and then quickly moved among the diners.

Unexpected as it was, they made a beeline to our table. Of all the diners present, they picked up our own flamboyant  Harbaksh Singh, donning light blue turban and a matching tie. We exchanged sweet nothings and got rewarded with their proximity and the lingering ragrance they left behind.

That was the scenario half a century back. Today, belly dancing is the new rage in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities to lend zing to the arties. Lebanese girls and those from the independent satellite states of the former Soviet Union are in great demand for belly dancing in hotels and restaurants.








Iran made a big show this week of inaugurating President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a stolen second term. If the hard-line mullahs, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s most important constituency, hoped it would demonstrate self-confidence and control, they were wrong. There are too many other reminders of the regime’s illegitimacy.


Start with the mass trial of 100 government critics detained after the June 12 election brought on widespread protests. The group includes senior pro-reform politicians, lawyers and journalists. Among them is a reporter for Newsweek, Maziar Bahari.


The proceeding is clearly aimed at intimidating an opposition movement that has shown surprising resilience in the face of government attacks. Mr. Bahari and other defendants have not been able to speak with their lawyers; their families were not notified when the trial would commence.


Authorities did not even bother to charge them with legitimate crimes. The full indictment has not been released. But according to Human Rights Watch, it accused the defendants of attempting a “velvet coup” without charging them with specific violations of Iranian law. Who was behind this bogus “velvet coup”? The indictment names the women’s rights movement, ethnic groups, human rights groups, the labor movement, nongovernmental organizations and students — in other words, a broad swath of civil society.


We were especially alarmed that some of those charged — including Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president; Muhammad Atrianfar, a journalist and former Interior Ministry official; and Mr. Bahari — have been shown on television reciting humiliating, and almost certainly coerced, “confessions” in which they denounced former colleagues and declared that there had been no fraud in the election.


Despite a worsening crackdown, government critics have refused to go quietly. Some of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s most prominent opponents, including the former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, stayed away from Wednesday’s inauguration. And there were still scattered street protests, despite an unusually strong police presence.


For all of this week’s public shows, Iran’s leaders are determined to hide the truth of what is happening in the country. Rights groups say 40 journalists have been detained since the election. The Iranian people have not been fooled. More abuse, lies and intimidation are only likely to feed their anger and the world’s revulsion.







The “cash for clunkers” program seems to be doing its job: people flocked to dealerships to use the rebates and trade in their old vehicles for new, more efficient ones. Dealers estimate they sold nearly a quarter million cars under the plan, almost exhausting the program’s $1 billion budget in about 10 days. The new cars achieved 10 miles per gallon more, on average, than the trade-ins.


This was an encouraging sign that incentives can persuade drivers to ditch gas hogs for smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. Congress was right to add $2 billion to extend the program until Labor Day. But the success of the program cannot obscure the fact that many Americans remain wedded to the guzzlers and that their enthusiasm for smaller, more efficient vehicles is likely to diminish once the clunkers money runs out.


Sales of pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s, which tumbled as gasoline reached $4 a gallon last year, started recovering market share as soon as gas prices receded. In June, before the clunkers program was switched on, about 25 percent fewer pickup trucks were sold than a year earlier. But June sales of compact cars were down by 42 percent. The Ford F-Series pickup, which was briefly bumped last year from its long-standing position as the nation’s top-selling brand, regained its perch.


The fuel-efficiency goals announced by the president in May could be a big step forward: a fleetwide average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a significant increase from today’s fleetwide average of about 28 m.p.g. These standards will theoretically be reinforced by new limits on tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.


But some experts worry that loopholes could yet undermine Mr. Obama’s goals. This has happened before. The original fuel economy standards enacted in the mid-1970s were later weakened by the so-called S.U.V. loophole, allowing carmakers to redefine S.U.V.’s and minivans as light trucks, which face much lower fuel-efficiency standards than ordinary cars. Consumers, enjoying cheap gasoline, flocked to the big vehicles, which soon dominated the market.


Under the Obama plan, cars and light trucks would, as before, be governed by separate standards. But this time the manufacturers should be required to meet an overall target for their entire fleet.


Policy makers could do even more to push consumers in the right direction by giving them a clear financial incentive to buy fuel-efficient vehicles. And that, in turn, could mean a gas tax — the most effective way we can think of to keep fuel prices high enough to make people think twice before buying a guzzler. One study of car sales from 1999 to 2007 concluded that a $1 increase in the price of gas cut the market share of S.U.V.’s by more than 11 percent and raised the market share of compacts by about 17 percent.


Any gas tax scheme should include some mechanism like tax credits to protect low-income consumers. But coupled with the new fuel economy standards, such a tax could take this country a long way toward reducing carbon emissions.


Drivers embrace fuel economy when gas hits $4 a gallon. Some device is needed to encourage them when it drops below that.






The Obama administration on Thursday announced major steps to overhaul immigration detention. It is good news, considering how bad the system has gotten, having grown quickly and without oversight into a sprawling network of ill-managed prisons rife with reports of abuse, injury and preventable death.

The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, said he wanted to turn immigration detention, which holds about 32,000 people a day, and 400,000 a year, into a “truly civil detention system,” one focused on safely and humanely holding people accused of civil immigration violations until they are deported or released. The current conglomeration of private, for-profit lockups and state and county jails is run more like a system to warehouse and punish dangerous criminals, which immigration violators overwhelmingly are not.


The announced reforms include creating offices and advisory boards to focus on medical care and the management of centers, reviewing contracts with private prisons and local jails, and installing managers at the 23 largest centers to make sure complaints are heard and problems fixed. Centers will face random inspections. Community groups and immigrant advocates will be invited to offer advice and comment. And the government will stop sending parents with children to a notorious prison near Austin, Tex., as it seeks alternatives to the Bush-era tactic of putting whole families behind bars.


It is past time to impose accountability and oversight on a system that puts little children in prison scrubs, that regularly denies detainees basic needs, like contact with lawyers and loved ones, like soap and sanitary napkins. It is a system where people who are not dangerous criminals by any definition get injured, sick and die without timely medical care.


It is not clear yet how soon the changes will be felt. Nor is it evident whether the new systems of accountability within the federal bureaucracy will allow for adequate outside scrutiny, as new complaints and violations emerge. It is not clear what this means for continuing outrages, like those documented by immigrant advocates at a center in Basile, La., where detainees have waged hunger strikes to get their grievances heard.


For all that, it is hard not to be encouraged by the changes that Mr. Morton outlined this week. They could be the first steps in a long journey away from insanity. We will never finally get there, of course, without a wholly reformed immigration system — one that has enough visas for workers to enter legally, one that allows the undocumented to pay their debt to society and live openly as neighbors and citizens. In a system like that, it will become utterly unnecessary to catch and lock up 400,000 people a year.







Recently, Wal-Mart has been rolling out plans for what it calls a sustainability index — a measure of how green the products it sells really are. It is asking each of its suppliers, an enormous list of businesses, 15 questions about the life of their products from manufacturing through disposal: questions about greenhouse gas emissions, social responsibility, waste reduction initiatives and water use.


It is a sound idea. And probably a very good marketing tool. Given Wal-Mart’s huge purchasing power, if it is done right it could promote both much-needed transparency and more environmentally sensitive practices.


Wal-Mart has already created a Sustainability Index Consortium, which will include environmental groups and other nonprofits, universities and businesses. The consortium will create the criteria for the index, and will share with Wal-Mart the task of building a product-by-product database measuring the environmental impact of each product’s life cycle.


Wal-Mart seems aware that the success of its effort to reveal the environmental transparency of its suppliers will depend on the transparency of its own efforts — including the degree to which it collaborates with critics.


The company plans to do more with the index than simply using it to guide its own purchases from suppliers. This database could inform consumers as well. To that end, Wal-Mart hopes to put a readable version of it in every aisle so that consumers can gauge the environmental impact of their purchases.


Wal-Mart has done consistently well by selling at low prices. Historically, however, cheap goods have often reflected careless and unsustainable environmental practices — clear-cutting entire forests, for instance, which is cheaper than selective logging. If Wal-Mart successfully combines cut-rate prices with high-class environmental stewardship, other businesses should follow.








It was Henry IV of England who in 1404 convened what became known as the ‘Parliament of dunces’ because he excluded all lawyers on the grounds that they knew far too much and had been to school. We, naturally, went down the opposite path and decided that you couldn’t sit in parliament unless you had been to school – but no longer. Having a certificate to say that you have been educated to graduation level is no longer required for those seeking to take part in elections. The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved the draft Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009 which seeks to abolish the graduation clause imposed by Musharraf. Its imposition had led (allegedly) to widespread abuse of the system, with tales of fake degrees being appended to the names of sitting MNAs and to the names of prospective candidates. We were the only country in the world that by design excluded a specific segment of the population from its legislature for lack of an educational qualification. Given the overall quality of education in Pakistan at every level we must wonder at the value of many of the degrees which are held by parliamentarians as well as the common man anyway – and passing through our education system is no guarantee that you will come out of it the other end any more educated than when you went in.

In a nation which is predominantly illiterate it makes little sense to exclude those who, though they may not be educated to a higher level, nevertheless are possessed of a degree of wisdom, sagacity and maturity that has little or nothing to do with attending university. There is a crying need for members of parliament who are truly representative of their constituents rather than party hacks and placemen slotted into this-that-or-the-other seat because it suits somebody in their party hierarchy. There is an equally urgent need for parliamentarians who do their job diligently, attend the house and serve the committees that are the engines of legislation. We need better representation from the rural areas where parliamentarians are drawn predominantly from the feudal, rather than the working, classes. We have no need at all for a parliament stuffed with dunces that can wave a phony degree purchased from a two-room backstreet ‘university’. We need a parliament that is inclusive rather than exclusive. The removal of this widely abused condition is a step in the right direction.







Rather unexpectedly, the prime minister has stated the government may be willing to put former president Pervez Musharraf on trial, under Article 6 of the Constitution, for subverting that document. The comment, made in the National Assembly, is a deviation from the previous stance by the PPP. The PM was responding to a speech made by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali condemning the government for protecting Musharraf. Mr Gilani has said if a majority resolution is moved the ex-dictator could be put on trial. This sequence of events has of course been triggered by the SC ruling annulling all actions taken under the emergency of November 3. Since then, the PML-N in particular has been baying for blood and demanding ‘justice’. This of course, from the perspective of party leaders, would be sweet revenge for their long exile and hardship. There is no doubt we are a nation in need of some tradition of justice and accountability – though there must be some question as to whether the apex court verdict will act to truly keep out future dictators.

But there are things for parliament to consider that go beyond demands by politicians. It is true that General Musharraf should by right be made to stand trial for the many wrongs he committed. In many ways these damaged the country he insisted he was determined to serve; some of the damage at least will not be easy to repair. This includes the undermining of political parties and the rapid growth of terrorism during his nine years in power. But having emerged from this dark period, there is a need too to look to the future rather than peer continuously back into the past. Pakistan today stands at a perilous place. Internal problems of several kinds threaten to overwhelm it. If these are to be overcome, we need first of all the stability that allows forward movement. Without this there can be no economic growth, and this is perhaps our most urgent need. We must ask if revenge alone will solve our problems. This is not to say a dictator should not be tried; indeed this should happen to set a precedent for the future. But the priority must also be to move on, and see what we can do now to recover from the many ills that held us back in the past.






We are told the wife of Baitullah Mehsud and possibly other relatives of the TTP leader have been killed in what appears to have been a targeted drone strike on the home of his in-laws. Initial rumour that Mehsud himself may have been killed has been fervently denied. The strike has however re-focussed attention on the continuing US policy of drone strikes. As in the past, the intelligence on the basis of which the US forces have operated appears to have been superb. The house struck was one frequented by Mehsud and some accounts suggest he may have been present in it just hours before it was hit. At present it is hard to say what direction events are moving in Waziristan. A delegation of tribal elders is currently in Islamabad to try and hammer out a peace deal. Meanwhile fighting is said to be continuing in North Waziristan where the military has launched an operation.

The point perhaps to be made is that the US must realize knocking out Mehsud in this fashion could prove counter-productive. There is every possibility this would trigger a surge of sympathy that may undo gains brought about by the death of a key militant figure. One can understand Washington perhaps feels it has little choice. But the task for Islamabad is to prove that it possess the capability and the commitment to tackle Mehsud and his militias itself. A capture of the man many see as the country’s most dangerous terrorist by Pakistani forces, rather than assassination by external agents – particularly US ones – may serve the cause of the wider war on terror more effectively. Militancy in Waziristan may not end with the death of Baitullah Mehsud. A strategy that aims at winning back the agency must be actively pursued by Islamabad.









WITH each passing day, situation in Balochistan is getting dangerous dimensions on account of a host of factors. Of course, there has been sense of deprivation since long and political alienation of the Baloch people became critical following assassination of Nawab Muhammad Akbar Bugti. Now there are frequent incidents of bomb blasts, target killings and attacks on governmental installations, which are not only detrimental to the national solidarity but also to the process of progress and development of the province itself.

It is because of all this that the saner elements have been urging the authorities concerned to take urgent and visible measures to address the situation squarely. But regrettably, those at the helm of affairs are showing no sense of urgency that is the demand of the fast deteriorating situation. There is tangible evidence that Indians are fully involved in destabilization of the Province and their Consulates in Afghanistan and agents are providing training, supplying arms and funding the insurgency and acts of sabotage in Balochistan. This has repeatedly been stated by the officials concerned and top leadership and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani raised the issue with Dr Manmohan Singh in Sharam el Sheikh. There was also a reference about Balochistan in the joint statement issued thereafter. But it is all the more worrisome that in addition to India, NATO too is, directly or indirectly, involved in making things worse for Pakistan Government in Balochistan. Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told newsmen at Karachi Press Club on Wednesday that arms in Balochistan had been traced back to NATO countries and that Pakistan had already approached those countries in this regard. This is for the first time that a categorical statement has been given on the issue but it is sorry to point out that Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where issues of so dangerous and grave nature are handled in a casual manner. One fails to understand what prevents our authorities from raising the issue with due seriousness with their interlocutors from Washington or Brussels. Why we are not ready to even lodge strong protests with the United States and NATO countries? This is high time that the Government accords due priority to the issue and sensitises the international community about conspiracy being hatched by those considered as friends to destabilise the country. It is also time that we shun rhetoric and take practical measures to resolve political and constitutional issues involving the province through a meaningful process of dialogue with Baloch leadership.








WHILE the country is facing water and power crises that are having crippling impact on the agriculture and industrial sectors and in turn on the economy, practical measures that are within the reach need to be taken on a priority basis. Under the Indus Water Treaty Pakistan has the sole right to use the Jhelum River water yet viable projects with immense potential to generate power had been ignored in the past and even now no attention is being given to jump start them for long term benefits.

A report published in this newspaper Thursday pointed out that Pakistan may lose water priority rights on the Neelum River as no project is on the ground while India is fast constructing the most controversial Kishanganga Project. Pakistan believes construction of the Kishanganga Hydropower Project is a violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The Indian plan involves diverting the water of the Neelam River upstream of its entry across the LoC into Azad Kashmir through a 21-KM long tunnel. The diverted water would be used for generating electricity and feeding the Wullar Lake. Resultantly, the course of the Neelum River will be changed downstream by about 100KM. Such engineering adventurism will greatly affect natural Jhelum-Neelam confluence at Domel in Muzaffarabad. Consequently, the flow of water into Azad Kashmir will be reduced by almost 20 per cent. The huge adverse effect of the Kishanganga Project will also be on the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project. The 2.16 billion dollar project will produce 969 MW of electricity. The previous Government had imposed 10 paisa per unit surcharge in electricity bills to generate resources for this vital project yet the progress is much to be desired. It is time that instead of persisting with bilateral negotiations, Pakistan must take the Kishanganga issue to the World Bank without any delay and in the meantime speedily complete the Neelum-Jhelum project. At the same time other projects wherever possible may be launched otherwise the economic cost would be heavy, as water is becoming a scarce commodity due to rising demands of population.







KASHMIR and Palestine are among top of the issues that have held the world peace hostage for decades but champions of the world peace have paid only lip-service to resolution of these problems. Palestinians have rendered huge sacrifices in the face of unending Israeli atrocities and the tension has made future of the region entirely unpredictable.

The precarious situation in the Middle East and apathy of the world powers especially the United States has deepened the impression that the only superpower has no genuine interest in the resolution of the problem as its interests are best served by perpetuation of the hostilities. It is because of the US patronage and encouragement that the Jewish State has been rejecting with utmost contempt dozens of UN resolutions calling for just and fair settlement of the Palestinian issue and halt of aggression and atrocities. This is also borne out by the use of veto power by the United States on a record number of times to protect Israeli interests and jeopardize the rights and interests of Palestinians. In fact, it is widely believed that the US is instrumental in fanning differences among Palestinians with a view to rendering their struggle ineffective. It is because of this that King Abdullah, who is a statesman par excellence and most respected figure in the Muslim Ummah, has, in a letter to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, emphasized the need for unity in the ranks of Palestinians, telling them that the dream of an independent State would remain elusive until and unless they sink their differences and wage united struggle against the enemy. We hope that Palestinians would listen to the timely advice of Khadim-e-Harmain Sharifain for their own better future. We would also suggest to King Abdullah to move beyond writing of the letter and invite the Palestinian leadership to Makkah to sign a declaration of unity.




*************************************************************************************KOREA TIMES




A partnership agreement between South Korea and India is expected to open a new horizon in bilateral economic cooperation. The two countries will sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) today, concluding more than three years of negotiations. The signing has significant implications as the pact is seen as a free trade deal. Under the accord, Korea and India will get rid of or reduce tariffs on goods over the next 10 years, while opening their services and investment sectors.

The CEPA comes after Korea signed a free trade agreement with Chile, Singapore, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the United States. The country has recently concluded another FTA with the European Union (EU). Thus, the nation has laid the groundwork for a free trade network with the world's major markets, including the Americas, Europe and Asia.

When FTAs with the U.S. and the EU as well as the CEPA with India take effect, South Korea's trade with free trade partners is likely to be 35.3 percent of its total trade, almost a threefold growth from the current 12.1 percent. This means that Korean-made products will improve its competitive edge, aided by lower tariffs and easier access to lucrative markets. Of course, the country will have to open its market wider to foreign goods, services and investment. However, as an export-oriented economy, Korea has no other choice but to promote free trade.

Therefore, it is important for the country to forge mutually beneficial ties with its free trade partners. Especially, India has great potential to develop collaborative relationship with Korea that can supplement each other's industrial and economic structure. India is one of the so-called BRIC countries, including Brazil, Russia and China. India has a population of 1.2 billion, the world's second largest after China. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the South Asian country will enjoy a strong economic growth of 6.5 percent this year and 5.4 percent in 2010.

The Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) forecast that the CEPA will help increase Korea's exports to India by 80 percent or $2.8 billion annually, while its imports from the partner will rise by 30 percent or $500 million. Two-way trade stood at $15.5 billion last year with South Korea recording $2.3 billion in trade surplus. The state-run think tank also said the pact is likely to boost the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.3 trillion won and create 48,000 jobs.

Korea and India should focus on long-term benefits rather than short-term gains, because the partnership accord calls for a lower level of market opening and a slower pace of tariff phase-out than free trade agreements with other countries. Thus, it is necessary for Korean companies to take advantage of India's potential for production and consumption. Korea can benefit from its strong automobile, parts, machinery and electronics sectors.

It is also worth noting that India has agreed to recognize goods produced at the Gaeseong complex, an inter-Korean industrial zone in North Korea, as South Korean-made. Such an agreement is the first of its kind with any trading partners. The CEPA is also expected to facilitate the influx of Indian scientists and engineers, especially those specializing in the IT sector, into South Korea.

To ensure the success of the bilateral partnership, both India and Korea should double their efforts to smoothly translate the accord into action and step up cooperation not only in economy and trade but also in politics, diplomacy, defense, security, culture and education.







It is with more than a simple relief that we hear the news about unionists ending their occupation of Ssangyong Motor. Both employers and employees, who reached a last-minute agreement through mutual concession, deserve to be complimented not least because they managed to avoid what might have developed into a worst-case scenario.

The accord which calls for retaining 48 percent of the 976 workers who want their jobs back by giving them a one-year unpaid leave and letting go the other 52 percent was, at the least, the next-to-best compromise they could have made under the present situation.

Both the management and labor, however, have little time to celebrate, as they should hurry to put its long-paralyzed production back on the right track. At stake is how they will work out a corporate normalization plan by Sept. 15, the deadline demanded by bankruptcy court, which would determine whether the troubled automaker could remain alive or sink. For that to happen, Ssangyong should resume production in a week or so to raise monthly output to 3,000 vehicles and meet the annual target of 27,000 units, a level court-appointed accounting firm has set as a minimal level for keeping the carmaker afloat.

Ssangyong managers and workers will be able to fulfill these minimum requirements if they can unite as one, but there are more obstacles to overcome to win the court's final approval for survival, including the restoration of its destroyed sales network and the recouping of the brand images of Ssangyong-made sedans and SUVs. A prerequisite for all this will be how quickly the company can narrow the gulf between labor and management and even divisions within the labor between hard-line and soft-line unionists.

Some might ask whether the company truly had to undergo 77 days of illegal siege and hundreds of injuries, both to workers and police, just to save some 500 workers. The same conservative critics will also likely call for the punishment of union leaders for alleged law-breaking activities.

Looking back, however, all this could have ended far earlier or not even happened at all, had the government and businesses admitted they were at least half responsible for the automaker's plight, and realized that restructuring needs not be equated with the massive trimming of workers.

Also, workers who were not dismissed by the management should ask themselves whether there really was no way to share the burden of their fired colleagues, instead of demanding the released workers sacrifice themselves for the good of the far larger group of laborers who retained their jobs.

Last but not least, President Lee Myung-bak and three cabinet ministers each responsible for finance, labor and industry who went on vacations while the police-union battle resembling a street fight was reaching its climax, should make time for serious self-reflection.

While they were away, thousands of police officers and workers were engaged in hellish fight, prompting messages and demonstrations from dozens of international organizations in protest of the brutal crackdown on the unionists, the likes of which have long disappeared in most advanced countries since the first half of the 20th century.







The unexpected mission to North Korea this week by former U.S. president Bill Clinton indicates the Obama administration is deploying a new weapon in the struggle with its most difficult opponent in Asia.

That is, its willingness to exploit the North Korean weakness for face.

The dispatch of such a senior elder statesman had more impact on the North Koreans than all the brawn and threats that characterized the Bush years because it touched the proud, impoverished state where it most hurts: its international isolation and inability to escape its need to behave badly.

North Korea is like the clown in the street playing for pennies. He would rather be among friends in the audience, but knows no other role. When a nice and important person, like Bill Clinton, steps out from the annoyed cinema queue, cash in hand, and asks if he's having a good day, he gets normal for a moment.

Clinton's formal mission was to secure the release of the two American reporters, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were arrested in March after illegally crossing the Chinese border into North Korea. In this, he was no doubt assured of success before he left.

Lee, 36, and Ling, 32, were on a filming mission for Current TV, a network co-founded by Al Gore, who was Clinton's vice-president from 1992-2000. Although exact details are not known, we may presume the two TV journalists thought there was no one looking when they waded over the shallow river that marks the boundary. Detained on the spot, the two were tried in Pyongyang in June and found guilty of ``committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry" and sentenced to 12 years corrective labor. It is not known if anything bad has happened to their local contacts.

The incident was one of several that marked a first half of high tension after Pyongyang tested a nuclear device and fired off a number of ballistic missiles, moves which led to UN sanctions.

This is not the first time that a retired American president has gone to Pyongyang to coax a diplomatic rabbit out of the hat. Jimmy Carter, U.S. president from 1976-1980, visited then-ruler Kim Il-sung in 1994 during a similar period of nuclear-tipped tension. Carter secured Kim's promise to restart nuclear talks, as well as a commitment for a North-South Korean summit. (Kim died a few weeks later, but his son and successor, the current leader Kim Jong-il, honored the agreement and signed a pact with the U.S. The promised Korean summit was deliberately torpedoed by the South Korean President, Kim Young-sam, who called Kim Il-sung a ``war criminal").

Bill Clinton's visit will almost certainly have impact extending from the mission to secure the release of the two jailed Americans. But, while irrelevant to the North Korean dictatorship, the role of rescuer played by such a senior politician is an enormous lesson. South Korea, in particular, is at a loss in democratically balancing the plight of its individual citizens and the interests of the state.

From the perspective of progress with North Korea, the choice of Bill Clinton at this time is interesting for two other reasons.

The first is, of course, that he is the spouse of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the American Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton and North Korea have not been getting on well recently. She has pointed out the hurtful truth that North Korea has ``no friends left" and has ``no place to go." They, in return, have referred to her as ``a schoolgirl" and ``by no means intelligent." Clearly, Pyongyang thinks she needs a spanking, and who better to deliver it than her husband and their new friend?

The second point of interest is that Bill Clinton has real motivation to create some movement in the relationship with North Korea. One of the ironies of the 1994 Carter visit was that the Clinton White House at the time was playing tough with North Korea. It resented the interference and only gave Carter permission to accept the invitation when there seemed to be no other course left. By his last year, Clinton himself had turned his interest to engagement with North Korea. But it was too late. In retirement, he regretted he had focused so much on the Middle East and all but ignored the communist state.

The trip this week gives the former U.S. president an opportunity to revisit that regret and gives us in the region hope that something lasting may come from it. That, and the welcome return home of the two reporters.

Michael Breen is chairman of Insight Communications Consultants and exclusive partner of FD International. He can be reached at








I have naturally curly hair. I inherited the trait from my father, whose hair neatly bundles up to sophisticate his demeanor.

My curvaceous locks are tangles when brushed numerous times, and a bush when I awake in the morning. My friend Yoon-joo claimed the tangles formed a frizzy iron pot scourer, making me look like a North Korean who crossed borders to escape poverty (a nasty joke, given the distress above the 38th parallel). With its suggestions of rustic backwardness, the North Korean nametag was something I naturally wanted to dispel. So I took 40,000 won to the neighborhood hairdresser, who ironed my crumpled hair into slick conformity.

I used to flaunt my curly hair with great pride. I thought the coils were cute, as did my loving parents (but of course what part of you isn't cute to them). But my love for my mane was challenged when I came to Korea after having lived in Chicago for the bulk of my childhood. The glossy, regular curls celebrities donned were all right, even beautiful, but my unruly, outspoken (pasta) were out of the question. They had to go.

At first, the girls simply implied: ``Well doesn't (put celebrity's name here)'s straight hair look amazing?'' Then their objections grew in volume until they outright said, ``Your hair's really ugly.'' I was indignant, I was hurt, but I wasn't stupid enough to brush away their advice. Korean communities are so tenaciously interwoven that peer pressure is a dominant driving force in many decision-makings; this one was no exception. I thanked them for their selfless advice.

By razing my hair with a steam hair straightener, I not only burnt each tip
severe hair damage that took years to recover but also flattened my self-esteem and distinct identity, that quirk I had thought so characteristically me. Self-consciousness and individuality are prized above all in the American classroom, where the best advice a teacher can give is, ``Be yourself, not what people tell you to be,'' but I had been brainwashed into believing that I wasn't good enough nor was my frizzy hair.

While living in Korea, I felt as if every opportunity was bent on repressing my individuality, my inherent desire and need to be different. I'm too outspoken. I use my chopsticks incorrectly. What's wrong with my brain? Don't I know what I must do? Every time someone corrected my ways, I could feel my anger gauge rising to the tip of my head, but Korean values had swamped me by the time I was full to the brim. The anger just oozed out with no particular violence or vengeance, but a sweet resignation. A white flag.

Of course, I remained different. Simply taming my Medusa didn't restructure my genetic makeup, which ensures that I differ from everyone else (even if just by the slightest). However, I wasn't who I was ``made'' to be. This distortion of self was perhaps inevitable. It wasn't just my friends, but an entire societal juggernaut out there to get me (no, I'm not paranoid, thank you very much). The Korean education system enforced homogeneity
uniforms; hair length restrictions; no makeup, high heels, or unconventional ideas. The message inculcated was ``Study, study, study, get rich, be polite, don't talk back to elders.'' I was told what to wear, what to say, what to do basically, how to live.

The uniformity enforced in society had spilled over into cosmetics to nag me about my curls.

There are ideal models of beauty in all societies, suggested to the unknowing teenager through jean commercials, magazines and television shows like Gossip Girl, but none so enforced as the Korean.

You want large eyes, with double eyelids; a large, pointy nose; luscious lips; a V-lined, egg-shaped face and a slender, graceful figure complete with large breasts and a tempting derriere. The celebrities that teenagers are typically exposed to look virtually identical, as if stamped and assembled on a forever busy conveyor belt.

The situation's not so different for teenage boys. Slick cars, six-packs, tall height, wide shoulders, gorgeous face
these are the criteria for male perfection in Korean society. No wonder Korea's infamous for cosmetic surgery. I don't want to be overcritical of my own nation - I'm actually quite patriotic but that doesn't change the fact that change is urgent. I want to live in a nation where curly hair, ugly faces and obesity aren't looked upon with disdain, where the community embraces individuals as they are. Individuality, rather than uniformity. Is that too much to ask for?

Well, I guess it's ``I once had curly hair.'' I've ceased to straighten my hair, but the past can't be unwritten. I hate to admit it, but the straightening became addictive, until I couldn't control myself when the slightest curl led me to the closest hairdresser. My curls are now limp, verging on nonexistent. They will never be as curvaceous as they once had been. I suppose this is the price I pay for conforming.

The writer is a senior at the American International School of Guangzhou, China. She has lived in the U.S., Korea and China, and can be reached at









Unemployment last month was steady at 5.8 per cent, below many economists' expectations that it would climb to at least 6 per cent. While full-time employment fell by 16,000, part-time employment was up 48,200, reflecting the benefits of workplace flexibility.


The good result, and the fact that, so far, Australia has avoided a technical recession is due to several factors, among them low interest rates. But the government can claim credit for having moved quickly when the global financial crisis emerged. Pre-Christmas and February stimulus payments to pensioners and low-income earners hit their target well, especially in boosting the retail sector. Lower petrol prices have also helped, as have strong trading relationships. Australia's record terms of trade have fallen drastically since boomtime contracts expired, with coking coal down 60 per cent, thermal coal down 44 per cent and iron ore down 37 per cent. Yet the trade deficit improved from $740million to $440m in June because key markets, including China and Japan, are buying larger volumes of minerals.


Despite a range of positive indicators, it would be wrong to suggest that the threat of recession has passed. The prospect of an international shake-out in the bonds market, stemming from a US budget deficit of 13 to 14 per cent of GDP, and hefty deficits in Europe, continues to loom as a threat.


Australia's strong economic performance, however, requires the Rudd government to be as far-sighted and proactive in preparing for recovery as it was in stimulating the economy at the outset of the downturn. As the Prime Minister pointed out in Berlin a month ago, governments need an exit strategy from the stimulus measures precipitated by the financial crisis, including rebalancing budgets to contain inflationary pressures. Doing so is important to minimise interest rate hikes that would stifle activity.


Yesterday's strong employment figures should further alert the government to the risks of overcompensating for a possible recession. The Auditor-General's review of the $14.7 billion school building program presents an ideal opportunity to review how the program can be better directed towards improving education dividends and productivity.


If unemployment was edging towards the 8.25 per cent for the June quarter next year tipped in the budget, the emphasis on shovel-ready projects to boost jobs for tradies and labourers would be appropriate. But given current conditions, the government can afford to better target its initiatives.


Not for the first time, Treasury's forecasts appear wide of the mark. Despite Treasury secretary Ken Henry's peevishness with those who question his officers' projections, it is not beyond the reading age of most people to comprehend that Australia's unemployment is not rising as quickly as expected. Some observers, including ANZ chief executive Mike Smith, believe it will peak at 6 to 6.5 per cent, well below's Treasury's prediction of 8.5 per cent in mid-2011. Such a gap would be no surprise given the track record of Treasury forecasts. Between 2002 and 2007, for instance, budget surpluses exceeded what was predicted by an average $12 billion.

In conjunction with other recent data, the new employment figures suggest further stimulus measures should be geared towards boosting productive capacity and positioning Australia for recovery.









Not to mention the lifting of the pension age to 67 and the implied extension of our paid working lives.


Older workers will be anxious about the comments yesterday from the Sex (and Age) Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick, about the extent of "ageism" among employers. She makes a good case for a shift in social attitudes generally towards older people, who are too often stereotyped as inflexible and with outdated skills in a hi-tech age. But the answer is more likely to come from changing demographics than from more regulation constraining the freedom of employers to choose the best people for the job, irrespective of their age.


Business has sometimes been remiss in recognising the experience of older workers, opting instead for a generation that takes the internet for granted and is unfamiliar with dinosaurs such as fax machines. Employing younger people can look like a cheaper -- and perhaps cooler -- alternative.


In recent years, generations X and Y have been in pole position in the labour market: employers enamoured of youth have groaned about being interviewed by demanding applicants rather than the other way around, and then have bent over backwards to accommodate picky young things.


But increasingly, market forces look set to favour older workers who not only have experience, but have often absorbed a stronger work ethic. These workers -- especially women who may have spent some time out of the workforce -- are often highly motivated and single-minded about their jobs. They will increasingly represent a formidable group employers will find hard to ignore.


Ms Broderick suggested yesterday that the federal Age Discrimination Act does not offer enough protection and that there is a need for regulatory review and reform. But the thrust of her speech was about the need to promote the issues and to change entrenched social attitudes about older people generally. Such cultural change is always welcome.


But in the end, older workers (like those of any age) will be judged on their abilities. Ultimately, good employers -- those intent on running solid, productive, profitable operations -- will look beyond the stereotypes and choose those who best fit their needs. Which means that mature-age workers (however they are defined) should have nothing to fear.








This is the facility terror suspects allegedly staked out in March. And certainly not the officials who have charged the news crew under a 1903 law that forbids sketching or photographing a defence installation, in this case a facility so secret it includes a golf course open to the public. Both actions demonstrate how officialdom is too often unprepared for anything outside the ordinary. And they raise questions about how people on the frontline at bases would respond in the first crucial minutes if confronted by terrorists with murder on their mind. Defence experts suggest terrorists attacking Holsworthy would be dead within minutes as soldiers returned fire. But as the Telegraph's team demonstrated, under existing arrangements terrorists could be shooting at close range before this occurred.


There is nothing uniquely Australian about an unwillingness to be on watch for the worst. Despite the lessons offered by the IRA, ETA in Spain, and Islamists terror attacks all over the world, people in peaceful countries fail to foresee attacks or quickly respond when they occur. On September 11, 2001, there were just 12 fighter aircraft allocated to the defence of the continental US, and even as the dimensions of the disaster became apparent the military still stumbled, with orders to destroy hijacked passenger planes not passed on to pilots. The police in Mumbai were similarly slow to react to the November terror attacks. Such precedents are no excuse for lax security here.


In this case, it appears that excellent police intelligence led to the early arrest of alleged terrorists plotting to kill soldiers. But no wise commander relies on one line of defence and Kevin Rudd is correct in calling for a review of base security. While he is at it, he might suggest that charging journalists for reporting problems in the national interest is plain stupid. The established practice of using civilian security guards on military bases, because it is too expensive to deploy service personnel, may make sense in areas where there is no risk of attack. But late last year, Islamists were sent to prison for planning an attack on the army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey. What was planned there could occur here. There is no excuse for not being ready.











THE corporate executives and company boards who reward themselves with excessive salaries have yet again been brought under public scrutiny and criticism, this time from the Remuneration Tribunal, the authority which sets the salaries of top public servants. The tribunal has produced a scathing submission which not only questions the salaries and perks of top private sector executives but challenges the very idea that this self-serving generosity contributes to maximum performance.


The Remuneration Tribunal also provides a useful moral instrument, the concept of "psychic income", the sense of power, prestige and influence that comes with top executive positions. This should be taken into account in corporate remuneration, not just the pressure and demands of the job. The president of the tribunal, John Conde, writes in the submission: "We believe that the private sector should acknowledge that certain very senior positions involve very considerable aspects of prestige, honour, power and influence, and that the remuneration arrangements for appointees to such positions should accept and reflect this."


The submission is also sceptical, even dismissive, about the supposed arms-length objectivity of remuneration consultants. Their recommendations are based on performance benchmarks and peer comparisons within an industry. Conde describes the process as "a recipe for movement in one direction only - upwards - or, even worse, leapfrogging." This charade allows consultants to be richly rewarded for making chief executives rich.


The Remuneration Tribunal draws a stark contrast between the salaries paid to company executives and those paid to judges and top public servants, who are also subject to great pressure and responsibility. It cites the Chief of Defence, paid $428,560 a year to lead more than 50,000 people, and the Tax Commissioner, who heads an organisation with 20,000 staff whose work affects every employed person in the nation.


Do corporate executives receive 10 or 20 times as much salary because they work 10 or 20 times harder and more effectively than top public executives? No. The wealth they create is in large part built on the efforts of thousands of managers, staff and customers.


We recognise the impracticality of regulating the remuneration of corporate executives. However, we endorse the Remuneration Tribunal's contribution, and feel the public needs to put pressure on the corporate executive class and its hubris. Superannuation funds, which hold an important public trust, should lead the way in applying social pressure on the company boards that are ultimately responsible for the widespread practice of executive enrichment.







THE National Trust is right to be worried over the toll of heritage buildings and bushland expected in Ku-ring-gai under new plans to increase population density there. That is not to say, though, that the latter aim is wrong.


Sydney suburbs must change to meet the coming shortage of energy, and to reduce the cost of new infrastructure as the city grows. Put simply: more people will have to fit into the same space. That means more terrace houses and flats where free-standing houses stood. The process is well under way: Hurstville, Chatswood, Parramatta, Sutherland, and Cronulla have all changed to higher density development. They have been chosen, like Ku-ring-gai's suburbs, because they are close to railway stations.


To give Ku-ring-gai residents their due, many realise that change must come in their district, which is well served by public transport; it is the scale and the process of change that alarm them. Local activists have documented many of the demolitions and rebuildings that have appeared: substantial homes in tree-lined streets flattened to make way for bulky, crass and charmless oblongs that dominate, and blight, their surroundings. Far from progress, it is an almost unbroken record of net loss. Small wonder the public is outraged. Some developers report their flats are bought by locals who have sold a home nearby. Perhaps they want to live where they do not have to look at the new building.


The National Trust's statistics hit home: 692 houses of heritage significance under threat. Nearly four-fifths of houses within the trust's urban conservation areas - around suburban centres - threatened with demolition if a draft local environment plan is adopted. The trust, of course, wants to make the best case it can for preserving heritage and opposing development, but it is hard to argue with its conclusion that in transforming Ku-ring-gai's housing the State Government has ignored Ku-ring-gai's community. Heritage concerns should not stifle development; but that does not imply that all heritage concerns are invalid, that bulldozers must rule.


For Labor, which has been flagrantly partisan in many planning decisions, it is now almost impossible to maintain goodwill or make development decisions that do not arouse suspicion about its motives. It must listen more closely to residents' concerns. The draft local environmental plan needs to be amended to mitigate its effect on its surroundings.


Redevelopment of established suburbs to increase population density will always require delicacy. Large-scale changes to a suburb's physical character have to be managed carefully and wholesale transfiguration avoided. Ku-ring-gai must not become just another example of how not to plan Sydney.




                                                                                                                      THE GUARDIAN





President Clinton yesterday launched an international hunt for the perpetrators of two murderously effective car-bomb attacks on United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.


"These acts of terrorist violence are abhorrent, they are inhuman," he said in Washington, vowing: "We will use all the means at our disposal to bring those responsible to justice no matter what or how long it takes."


There was no warning and no group claimed responsibility for the attacks. But there was speculation that Middle Eastern Islamic extremists were involved. The majority of the 81 who died as well as the 1,700 who were injured were local people.


In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, there were still dead and living in the debris of the US embassy and an adjacent building. An Arabic-speaking man was reported to have been taken into custody by police in connection with the bombing.


At least eight Americans were among the 74 dead in Kenya and six were missing. The US ambassador to Kenya, Prudence Bushnell, was found covered in blood after the blast – one of more than 1,600 wounded – but helped direct the rescue after being treated. In the Tanzanian city of Dar-es-Salaam, the other soft target to be hit, about two-thirds of the American embassy was destroyed by a car bomb that exploded in the embassy's car park, in a residential area north of the city centre near the Indian Ocean. Police said that, as well as the seven known dead – five of whom were local embassy employees – 72 people were injured.


Appearing on national television to extend his sympathies to the families of the victims, the Kenyan president, Daniel arap Moi, expressed disbelief that such terrorist acts had happened in Kenya. "Kenya is not at war with any other country and we don't deserve this kind of tragedy." Kenya is heavily dependent on tourism earnings, which the explosion is bound to hit.


Suspicions were focused on the Egyptian fundamentalist movement, Islamic Jihad, which earlier this week issued a threat against the US for what the group claimed was the CIA's role in helping extradite four of its activists from Albania to Cairo.


Another possible perpetrator was Osama bin Laden, the exiled scion of an enormously wealthy Saudi merchant family. Until recently at least, he was based in Afghanistan.







Wasps - the small stinging creatures, rather than the London rugby club or some posh east coast Americans – have a poor public image. Overshadowed by the recent troubles of their more cuddly cousin the honeybee, wasps are normally seen as one of nature's blacker jokes. Yet their ecological importance is undisputed. While for humans the sting is painful (and in extremely rare cases, fatal), it is an indispensable part of the predator wasp's weaponry in its quest for food. Its preferred diet is not us, nor even jam sandwiches, but troublesome garden pests like caterpillars and aphids. But we should treasure wasps not only because they are our enemy's enemy. They are social creatures that often build exquisite nests of chewed up vegetable matter glued elaborately into spirals. Although they neither make honey nor pollinate flowers, their colonies are broadly similar to a bee's, centred around a queen with workers that tend the larvae. The larvae in turn excrete a sweet substance on which the workers feed. Trouble comes only once the queen stops producing eggs. Deprived of homegrown food, hungry workers look elsewhere for something to eat. Then that half-eaten plum becomes a magnet. The warm spring has meant it is a bumper year for wasps; late summer picnics may become more than usually hazardous. But before your roll up your newspaper to do battle, remember what sterling service the wasp has performed so far (and be glad you still have such a multifunctional instrument to hand).







The devastation at the epicentre of the storm over the G20 demonstrations is becoming more vivid; at the same time the outer reach of the damage is becoming more far-flung. There were many clashes between police and public, but only one death – that of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, who simply wanted to get home. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, his family explains how the pain of bereavement was compounded by the Met's initial response, which they regarded as a cover-up. Meanwhile, the Independent Police Complaints Commission yesterday released the first of several reports into scores of complaints from others caught on the wrong side of the thin blue line.


The IPCC's spotlight was on a 23-year old woman who was not only bashed with a riot shield, but also trapped at the scene for four or five hours despite bleeding which could, conceivably, have indicated a miscarriage. Forty-eight hours after potentially triggering an unprecedented manslaughter charge against a serving officer by handing the Tomlinson file to the crown prosecutors, the IPCC yesterday condemned the police for applying "kettling", the tactic of forcibly detaining protesters, with such a heavy hand.


The home affairs select committee recently heard of others trapped in even more dangerous circumstances – including a diabetic who needed insulin. Everyone can now agree, as the IPCC did yesterday, with the earlier G20 report by the chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor, which said the police should be better trained. Would-be officers must, of course, be schooled in the psychology of crowd control, not merely shoved behind shields with bricks being lobbed their way. And they must, of course, be taught the legal limits on their power to detain – something Mr O'Connor said even the top brass often knew little about. But worthwhile as they are these suggestions from the chief inspector, himself a former policeman, will not be sufficient on their own.


The resources and the role of the IPCC, which Mr Tomlinson's family see as part of the problem, need to be looked at again. The culture of the force must change to reflect the reality that it can now be held to account by electronic footage. This requires a defter, less-bureaucratic response to complaints. An earlier incidence of kettling in 2001 is only now about to come before the European court of human rights. A strong ruling could force a shake-up of police attitudes to protest to match the shake-up over race which the Macpherson report enforced.


The police will always have to maintain the order. But they must learn to respect peaceful demonstration as a precious thing to be facilitated, rather than a problem to be contained.








The premium payment rate for Kokumin Nenkin (national pension) — a public pension system for self-employed people, part-time workers, jobless people, etc. — fell to a record 62.1 percent in fiscal 2008. The situation suggests that modifications should be made to the plan under which the Social Insurance Agency will be abolished and taken over by a new entity in January 2010.


The premium payment rate is derived by dividing the number of months in which pension system participants actually paid premiums by the number of months in which they were supposed to pay premiums. The rate started to fall from the peak of 85.7 percent in fiscal 1992 and hit a low of 62.8 percent in fiscal 2002. Although the rate was 63.9 percent in fiscal 2007, it fell to a new low the next year. Since the government's target is 80 percent, the situation should be considered serious.


People in their late 50s showed the highest payment rate of 75.1 percent while people in their late 20s showed the lowest payment rate of 49.4 percent. If this trend continues, pension benefits could dwindle and the number of people without pension entitlement could swell.


Apparently the worsening employment situation is contributing to the lower rate for paying premiums. According to the SIA, the fact that 65 percent of premium collection workers must devote their time to sorting out some 50 million hard-to-identify premium payment records is a factor contributing to the lower rate.


It is important to persuade individual participants to pay premiums or go through the official procedure exempting them from making payments if they don't have the financial means to do so. The procedure keeps such people eligible for receiving at least a reduced pension. Experienced social insurance workers are needed to help bring about a higher premium payment rate.


The new pension entity will have 20 percent fewer workers than the SIA. The number will be further slashed by another 20 percent in the future. The political parties should seriously consider ways to increase the pension premium payment compliance rate.







In 2008, Japan Airlines appeared to be heading toward successful reconstruction by increasing its capital by ¥150 billion with funds from banks and trading firms. But Japan's flag carrier is now in trouble. For the business year ended March 31, it suffered a consolidated loss of ¥63.1 billion and may suffer a similar loss in the current business year.


The firm has secured ¥100 billion in loans from the Development Bank of Japan, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and three major banks, with government guarantees for 80 percent of the loans. In connection with the loans, the government in an unusual move said the transport minister will oversee the improvement of JAL's management. The firm must live up to transport minister Kazuyoshi Kaneko's call for "drastic and painful reform."


In the past year, JAL has faced severe obstacles such as a steep rise in fuel prices, the spread of the H1N1 influenza and the global recession triggered by the U.S. financial crisis. The JAL group saw the number of passengers on its international and domestic air routes decline by 19.8 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively, in May from a year before. In light of these negative conditions, JAL must implement measures to sharply reduce its costs.


One of the pressing issues is reform of the pension program. An average JAL retiree is said to receive a monthly pension reaching ¥500,000, including the public pension. Most people would regard this as too high for a company in dire financial straits. To implement the reform, JAL must get consent from two-thirds of the pensioners, those set to receive pensions and current employees. The company will have to work hard to persuade them to agree to the reform.


JAL has already made it clear that it will abolish loss-making international air routes or reduce the number of flights on them. JAL may, however, face political pressure to maintain unprofitable domestic routes. It is hoped that JAL's efforts to improve will win the support of politicians and local governments. More importantly, JAL must find creative ways to boost customer demand.










LONDON, INTERNATIONAL POLICY NETWORK — This week India and South Korea sign an agreement that they say will reduce barriers and boost trade between our two important economies. But the reality of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership (CEPA) is in the fine print.


By signing a free trade agreement that does not actually free trade, our governments are denying us the best tools to fight the recession. They admit as much by saying it will pave the way to removing more barriers to commerce in the future, even though this agreement has been in the works for over three years.


At least it is a step in the right direction. With the World Trade Organization talks of the Doha Round in a coma, both governments are right to seek other ways to boost trade. But both governments are being far too timid by pursuing trade accords that won't boost trade much at all, such as South Korea's recent free trade agreement with the European Union and one that India is seeking with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.


Liberating trade between Indians and Koreans makes a lot of sense. India's massive labor force and emerging globally competitive companies, particularly in information management and software, match up well with a relatively capital-intensive South Korea whose expertise is information technology, electronics and automobiles.


South Koreans have long understood the value of trade with the rest of the world. In the early 1960s, their living standards were similar to those of Ghanaians or Kenyans. Now, South Korea is at least 30 times more productive per capita than those two most successful economies in West Africa and East Africa. Some 70 percent of South Korean jobs are now directly linked to some form of international trade.


India has taken a lot longer. After a disastrous experiment with self- sufficiency that not even an economy with more than a billion people could sustain, India's liberal reforms since 1991 have made dramatic improvements.


Further liberalization has brought the average import tariff in India down from 32 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2007, according to the WTO. In 1991 the average import tariff in India was 115 percent. India is now the world's 16th-largest trading nation and the sixth-largest in trade of services.


In the 1990s, both South Korea and India grew a full three percentage points faster than countries that did not open up to trade, according to World Bank economists Aart Kraay and David Dollar. Trade was the key to growth before the global slump and remains the only sustainable route to recovery.


India's booming automobile sector shows how. After putting up for decades with very few choices because of the government-protected oligopoly, keen Indian consumers are buying 9 percent more cars a year, making India one of the world's fastest growing markets.


Among the many investors is South Korea's Hyundai, now India's second-largest car manufacturer. Through joint-ventures with foreign producers and newly gained expertise through trade, Indian manufacturers are becoming globally competitive too.


Nevertheless, India's remaining tariffs on auto components benefit a tiny minority who fiercely opposed the CEPA and got special protection — at the expense of Indian consumers. India has secured CEPA limitations and exceptions for other so-called sensitive sectors such as agriculture and textiles. In other words, India's negotiators are preventing Indians from getting cheaper food, better clothes or good Korean cars.


After decades of protection from trade prevented growth, liberalization made many Indian businesses globally competitive. Yet New Delhi continues to insist that coddling India's farmers is the route out of poverty, as it constrains property rights and the freedom to trade even inside India.


Opposition to free trade is also deeply rooted among South Korea's rice farmers, who fear competition will erode their 60 percent grip on the market.


Protection for a variety of vested interests means that the agreement will be implemented slowly, over 10 years. But why wait to boost two-way trade by what South Korean negotiators calculate to be worth $3.3 billion a year?


Both governments will proudly announce the CEPA this week as an historic achievement, but we should be worrying about the contents instead of admiring another photo opportunity. Let us sign a free trade agreement that does what it says on the tin: free trade.


Chung-Ho Kim, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center for Free Enterprise, South Korea. Both think tanks are members of the Freedom to Trade coalition. Barun Mitra is executive director of Liberty Institute, India.









Korea appears to have come out of the foreign currency crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September last year. Its foreign exchange reserves, which rose to a 10-month high in July, are most likely to exceed what the government regards as an appropriate level by year-end.


The turnaround is nothing short of amazing, given that the Korean government had to go cap in hand to Washington and other capitals to conclude currency swap deals that would forestall a post-Lehman financial meltdown. Better still, the growing reserves are not the only sign of a fast economic recovery.


Consumer prices are stable. The won is strengthening. Exports are regaining vitality. And the current account records surpluses month after month. No wonder the stock market has turned bullish. One of the few exceptions is the bleak job market.


The government, corporations and households should keep themselves from being blinded by all these developments, which appear to be unbelievably good. Pitfalls still lie on the path to a full recovery.


One case in point is the consumer price index. In July, it gained a mere 1.6 percent from a year ago, the lowest since May 2000. But the incredibly low rate of inflation should not fool any of the economic players. If no action is taken, it is only a matter of time before inflationary pressure surges.


It is a fundamental economic principle that consumer prices rise as liquidity increases, all other things being equal. At the moment, inflation is being held in check, even though the market is awash with liquidity, with the central bank's benchmark rate standing at a historic low of 2 percent.


But inflationary pressure will build up once consumers start to open their purses and businesses begin to invest in earnest. Then the central bank will have to tighten the credit spigot. It goes without saying that timing is critical here. It should come as no surprise if the central bank starts to siphon off excess liquidity in the not-too-distant future.


As the state coffers are bulging with foreign exchange reserves, Korea has now regained its pre-crisis creditworthiness in the global financial markets. The reserves, which totaled $237.5 billion at the end of July, will expand to $260 billion at the end of the year, according to reports from economic think tanks. The amount will be larger if the central bank buys U.S. dollars from the market to moderate the strengthening of the Korean currency.


The exchange rate, which peaked at 1,573 won per dollar on March 3, now hovers around the 1,220 won level. The Korean won is gaining as the nation's revitalizing exports contribute to current account surpluses.


Economic think tanks agree with financial institutions that the won is still undervalued and that it will continue to strengthen in the months ahead. Among them is Goldman Sachs, which predicts the Korean currency will strengthen to 1,150 won per dollar a year from now.


That spells hardship for Korean corporations, which have boosted exports with the help of a weak won. The exporters will have to cut costs, improve quality and upgrade their products if they are to survive the won's steep appreciation.


The government and the central bank are well advised to guard against the temptations to moderate the won's rise against the dollar by intervening in the foreign exchange markets. It will do more good than harm to the nation's economy if marginal exporting companies that are over dependent on a weak won are forced out of the market.


Another benefit to be gained from the won's rise is that it helps to lower import bills and, by doing so, stabilizes consumer prices.








A group of parts suppliers for Ssangyong Motor Co. has recently petitioned the court to declare the troubled automaker insolvent and begin the process of liquidation as soon as possible. But what they actually have in mind is a post-liquidation recovery plan.


The suppliers find a favorable recovery model in the case of General Motors -- a deal which sold key operations to a newly established company with 60 percent of its stock held by the U.S. government. Such a plan is not desirable, even if it may sound plausible.


What the suppliers are ignoring is that Ssangyong is by no means a Korean equivalent of GM, whose collapse would have had an enormous impact on the U.S. economy. In other words, the Korean economy could easily shake off the impact of the liquidation of a minor automaker the size of Ssangyong.


For this reason, neither the Korean government nor Ssangyong's main creditor, the state-owned Korea Development Bank, is lending a sympathetic ear to the suppliers. The government and KDB are right to say there will be no direct aid to Ssangyong.


The court makes it clear that it will proceed with the bankruptcy protection plan as scheduled. Before making a final decision, it is planning to review a recovery plan that the court-appointed manager is scheduled to submit on Sept. 15. Reportedly, the court is saying it will not take any action until then unless it is justified by special circumstances.


The main criterion in making the decision is whether it is more beneficial to liquidate the automaker or keep it alive. The court said it would be worth saving the automaker before the strike rendered it even more moribund. Whether or not the court still holds the same opinion is anyone's guess.


In determining the automaker's fate, cool heads should prevail over warm hearts. The court should remind itself that an unwarranted act of sympathy could eventually drive all stakeholders out into the cold.










LONDON -- Are financial sector workers paid too much? Not all of them are, of course, for there are poorly paid bank clerks and cleaners who count in this category. But is it possible to justify the enormous rewards earned -- or should we say received -- by investment bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity partners?


Most people would easily and quickly answer "no." Certainly that is what congressmen in the United States, and members of Parliament in the United Kingdom think. They are trying to cook up ways to discipline financial firms, albeit without conspicuous success so far, as demonstrated by the large sums stashed away for employee compensation by Goldman Sachs after its most recent profitable quarter.


But what does it mean to say that financial folk are paid too much? By what measure, and in relation to whom are they overpaid? Like many other people, I tend to believe that anyone paid more than me is prima facie over-rewarded, but I know this is not the most rigorous test I could apply.


Economists have been trying to produce more robust answers to those questions. Thomas Philippon and Ariell Reshef, for the National Bureau of Economic Research, have looked at a hundred years of data in the United States, for pay in finance, and in other occupations. Their conclusions are fascinating.


They find that if you control for educational attainment and skills, financial jobs were highly paid until the Great Depression of the 1930s, higher than the quality of the people who held the jobs would imply. Then from the depression, and the introduction of new and tighter regulation, financial sector pay reverted to the norm, and remained there until around 1990.


But from that date up to 2006 it raced ahead and, on average, employees in financial firms were paid between a third and a half more than similarly qualified counterparts elsewhere. We just don't know yet whether the crisis will cause another reversion to the mean, but some downward adjustment looks likely.


So there is some basis for saying they are overpaid, but why? Philippon and Reshef argue that regulation, or deregulation is a big part of the story. Deregulation increased the opportunities for innovation and trading, and for profit. There is also evidence to support that proposition from the observable fact that rewards in the less regulated parts of the asset management sector -- hedge funds etc. -- are typically higher than in Security and Exchange Commission-regulated competitors.


But is this a good enough explanation? As rewards went up, why did new competitors, prepared to undercut, fail to come into the market? In other parts of the economy, where we see excess returns, we usually look for some weakness in competition, or perhaps for the exploitation of insider information, which excludes new entrants. That may be part of the story, but competition for talent and for customers seems intense between investment banks and others, yet they have collectively been extravagantly rewarded at the expense of those customers.


An alternative hypothesis, which seems to fit the facts, recently emerged from the Paul Woolley Centre for the Study of Dysfunctionality in Capital Markets, at the London School of Economics. Researchers there argue that in fragile speculative industries (and finance has certainly been in that category in recent years) it is hard for investors to monitor those who manage their money. They can see short-term returns, but they do not understand very well how those returns are generated.


Managers can demand higher and higher returns in the upturn. But eventually these high returns reduce the payouts to investors (Bernie Madoff may be the reduction ad absurdum of this phenomenon) and slow the growth of the sector. Managers take more risks in search of higher returns to justify their pay, which at some point will lead to risk mispricing, and a crisis. We have seen the last part of this cycle over the last two years.


If this explanation is broadly correct (and it incorporates the deregulation point as well, as you can see) then what can be done about it? Politicians and regulators are exploring a number of options, from higher tax rates, through fines for certain types of bonus arrangements, to variable capital requirements. Higher taxes may be justified for other reasons, but are unlikely to solve the problem described. Regulators have struggled with the problem for years without finding a solution.


The Bank of England has described the way in which remuneration policy can create risks for banks and said that, as a result, "it is of increasing interest and concern to supervisors and regulators." But that was written in 1997, and progress since then has been very slow, on both sides of the Atlantic.


Shouldn't shareholders take more of an interest? After all, it is their money which is at stake. They have earned low returns from financial sector investments, indeed those returns have been very strongly negative in the last two years. Shareholders seem to take little interests in pay policy. The arrival of "say on pay" provisions in the United States -- whereby boards will need to put their compensation policies to a shareholder vote in future -- may focus minds, though the impact of similar provisions in the United Kingdom has been modest. Yet without shareholder pressure, all the signs are that the problem will persist.


Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics, was the founding chairman of Britain's Financial Services Authority and is a former deputy governor of the Bank of England. -- Ed.


(Project Syndicate)








Students who have both the opportunity and the financial resources (or financial aid) to attend a college or university for a bachelor's degree often do so. However, the decision to stay in school and pursue an advanced degree can be more difficult.


When deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, there are a number of factors to consider. First, you should determine what you would like to pursue as a career. The purpose of graduate school is to increase your depth of knowledge and expertise in your current (or in a closely related) field. It offers little or no opportunity to take exploratory classes and investigate areas outside of your field. As a result, it is poorly suited for students who are unsure of their future path.


Next, you should ask and determine if you need a graduate degree for that career. For example, many research and faculty positions require a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or equivalent). Your application will not be considered without one. In 48 out of 50 states in the United States, individuals who wish to become certified public accountants must complete 150 hours of course work -- usually by obtaining a master's degree. But engineering has no such requirement. You can become a professional engineer with just a bachelor's degree. Academic and professional qualifications vary widely by field.


If you are unsure of what degree(s) you need, you will have to do more research on your chosen career. Colleges and universities often provide some type of career counseling and have many resources available for undergraduate students. You can also find career information on the internet or at the library. It can be very helpful to discuss your career plans with a professor, your undergraduate academic adviser or another mentor. Finally, you can often arrange to speak with professionals in the field you are interested in pursuing. Many colleges, universities and professional societies offer programs to help connect students with alumni or established professionals.


Then, you must decide if you want a graduate degree. Graduate school may be a good fit for you if you have an unbridled joy of learning and wish to take more advanced classes in your field. Or, you may want a graduate degree if you have unyielding curiosity and want to do research.


Graduate programs offer more opportunity to do interdisciplinary work than undergraduate programs. The Graduate School of Culture and Technology at KAIST and the MIT Media Lab are both good examples of interdisciplinary programs that bring science and engineering together with the humanities and social sciences. If you are interested in research at the boundaries of several fields, graduate school may provide the best opportunity for you to do so.


But graduate school will be very different from the undergraduate experience. Graduate courses are more difficult. They move faster, cover more material and include more detail than undergraduate courses. They also require more independent study. For example, many graduate course instructors will assign homework but will not collect or grade it. Students are expected to master the material covered in the homework assignments without additional external motivation from the professor.


In addition, many master's and doctoral degree programs organize their students into research labs directed by a faculty member who serves as the student's advisor. Much of the students' education (and sometimes social activities) are based in the research lab. Affiliations with your class year are much weaker. Some students find it difficult to make friends outside of the lab when attending a new school. In addition, there are fewer general requirements, so your research and education will be strongly dependent on your research adviser.


Graduate school can be great fun, but it is a different kind of fun than your undergraduate years were.


Finally, you must decide if the costs associated with attending graduate school are worth the benefits that you will reap from the experience. A typical master's degree requires one or two years to complete. A typical doctoral degree takes four to five years to complete, although they can take as little as two years and as many as 10. During this time, you will work long hours, suffer many failed experiments and experience many frustrations. Your salary may be small or non-existent. And tuition, if not supported by your adviser or department, can be very high.


A graduate degree may result in a better job, greater income, more flexibility, and more control over your future. After completing a graduate degree, you will be a stronger, more capable, and more professional individual. You will have more knowledge and experience than many of your counterparts. But graduate school is not for everyone. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.








On Saturday when the Chinese commemorate the first anniversary of the Beijing Olympics, there would be plenty of rhetoric about legacies of the historic event.


The politically-minded might lament China's failure to live up to some of their expectations. China remains more like what it has been than what they had wished it would become. Those preoccupied with environment and sustainable development, too, might complain about setbacks. Authorities no longer appear anxious to do whatever it takes for ensuring high environmental standards. And, we are almost sure to hear the same old line that the world should not have awarded the Games to the capital of this country.


Unless one had looked at the Games as a potential turning point in the history of contemporary China, which it never was, the legacies are rich and of far-reaching significance, for both China and the world. No matter how eagerly some interested outsiders had wished that the historic occasion would help to maneuver fundamental changes to their own tastes, the Chinese embraced it as a new starting point. In that sense, the Beijing Games did a great job.


And, everybody feels it.


For the average Beijinger, the finest elements of the Games' lasting legacy include better air quality and more convenient public transport. Indeed, the municipal authorities are no longer nervously counting "blue-sky" days and worrying over foul air. But that is because, on the one hand, air quality in the city has improved, and, on the other hand, some of the expedient measures adopted specifically for the Games are now part of the city's everyday practices.


Many had suspected that the Chinese government would reduce the degree of latitude allowed to overseas journalists in conducting interviews. That did not happen. Instead, overseas reporters swarming to Urumqi in the wake of the July 5 rioting were actually surprised at the unrestricted access they had.


Seen in the narrow context of information control, this may be something "revolutionary." Yet given the country's determination to press ahead with reforms and opening up, that is also a step it will have to take, sooner or later. The Beijing Olympics served as a catalyst for many positive changes in this country. Higher air quality and more convenient public transport are only some of the most evident.


The world and China have never been so close together prior to the Beijing Games. Of course such face-to-face encounter is important for mutual understanding. Outsiders portrayed the Games as China's "coming-out party." For the Chinese nation, the people and their government alike, it brought a truer sense of integration into the international community.


Should not the world celebrate seeing a more confident, accommodating, and responsibility-conscious China? It is the best part of the legacy of the Beijing Olympics.








Whether Lai Changxing, dubbed the most wanted man for his involvement in China's most notorious smuggling case in the 1990s, would be successfully extradited from Canada and brought to justice is, in many ways, of particular significance to the campaign against corruption.


The willingness Lai expressed early this week in an interview to be repatriated is the light at the end of the tunnel for the 10-year-long effort to get him back for trial since he fled in 1999. He admitted, during the interview, to the crime of evading a large sum of taxes and stated that he wanted very much to return to his motherland. He said that he had been facing a lot of pressure both economically and psychologically in the past decade.


That his ex-wife, who divorced him four years ago, has already returned, has added to the possibility of Lai's successful extradition. His youngest daughter came back with his ex-wife.


The lack of an extradition agreement with Canada has made the process very complicated for China to bring back economic criminals, who are taking shelter there. A similar situation exists with other Western countries, with which China is yet to sign such treaties.


Whatever lies behind Lai's change of mind to accept being extradited for trial, it is an encouragement to China's unremitting fight against corruption, especially the effort to bring to justice those corrupt elements who fled the country.


This indicates that the attempts of the public security department, for the last 10 years, to have Lai repatriated will finally pay off. If Lai can be successfully repatriated for trial, it would certainly send a message to the hundreds of other corrupt elements still at large that justice is only a matter of time. So it is better for them to realize that they cannot remain in hiding for the rest of lives, but give themselves in and confess their crimes in order to get lenient punishment.


On the other hand, the hard situation Lai has been facing in Canada should serve as a warning to those corrupt officials who are planning to flee abroad that it will be not easy to be on the run in a foreign land.


Lai said that his two brothers and two sisters passed away during the last 10 years and he had missed them as he could not meet them when alive. He said that he used to invite his hometown fellows to dinner on festivals but now he can hardly meet any of them, even when they visit Canada. Anyone in his shoes would undoubtedly feel bad at not being able to return home simply because of the booty illegally obtained.


Traditionally, we Chinese believe in justice. Most of the corrupt elements who have fled abroad will sooner or later be brought to justice. Even though Lai is welcome to return to the motherland, he still has to face smuggling, tax evasion and other charges against him.









Tensions have been mounting between Russia and Georgia with the approach of the first anniversary of the outbreak of last year's military conflict.


A five-day war broke out between Russian and Georgian troops in the Georgian region of South Ossetia on Aug 7 last year. Russia achieved an overwhelming victory, as indicated by the de facto separation of pro-Moscow South Ossetia and Abakhazia from Georgia's rule, and the inclusion of the two regions in Russia's sphere of influence. Russia's victory was also symbolized by the fact that its war against a smaller neighbor did not provoke dramatic reactions from the international community, such as punitive measures, and that the public extended great support to the Russian government.


However, the military triumph has not brought Moscow's political intentions to complete fruition. For example, Russia failed to prompt more countries to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abakhazia. Also, its plan to include the two Georgian regions into the Russia-Belarus Union has so far failed to come true. Anyway, Moscow has taken a strategic initiative in the pivotal Caucasian chessboard against the pro-West Georgian regime.


Given the disparity in their strength, Georgia is not in a position to confront a far more muscular Russia. But, that did not change Georgia's consistently tough posture in its rivalry with Russia. The substantive supports the United States, the European Union (EU) and the NATO have extended to the Caucasian nation have made the Russia-Georgia conflict bear the typical character of the bigger Russia-US confrontation.


In a sense, Russia's confrontation with Georgia is an indication of the extended Russia-US confrontation in the Caucasian region. This was fully reflected in Washington's one-sided support to the Georgian government in the latter's conflict with Moscow. Moscow did not budge an inch and counterattacked in the direct face of Western accusations. Also, it almost completely applies the Kosovo model to the South Ossetia issue, thus putting Western countries in a passive position.


As a result, the US and the European countries are not likely to recognize South Ossetia and Abakhazia's independence. They will possibly see it as a top priority to further check the strategic offensives launched by Russia across the Caucasian region. Against this backdrop, the US and the NATO have held successive military exercises with Georgia, aimed at displaying to Moscow the determination to safeguard their small ally's security. In a tit-to-tat move, Russia has also organized similar military drills on the border of Georgia.


Display of military power and exchange of military threats between Russia and the West have plunged the Caucasian region into a state of war. Latest developments indicate that the Russia-Georgia confrontation will not ease in the short term.


Russia has been looking forward to a change of government in Georgia. It will not ease tensions with the neighbor if Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili remains in office. A change in the strength equations of Georgian political factions is the biggest factor that can lead to a new leader. In fact, Georgia is now in an unstable condition, given that the Saakashvili administration has been under severe challenge from his political opponents. Whether the pro-West Georgian president can hold the reins will determine the Caucasian trend.

It remains Russia's long-term strategic goal to gain recognition for the independence of South Ossetia and Abakhazia. It is expected that Moscow will not rush to absorb the two Georgian regions into its own territory, given that the time now is not ripe. The political elite in Moscow believes that South Ossetia and Abakhazia will help Russia control the Caucasian region.


President Saakashvili can be expected to do his utmost to retrieve the two lost regions. To this end, he will more actively seek support from the US, the EU and NATO. Due to the Western position and their own interests, the US and other Western countries are likely to take measures to come to Georgia's aid and check the offensive by Russia. As the situation stands now, the tension and the conflicts between Russia and Georgia, and between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abakhazia appear certain to continue. Russia's conflict with the US and the West on this issue is also expected to persist.


The geopolitical situation in the Caucasian region suggests that the US and NATO elements will inevitably play their part in the asymmetrical Russia-Georgia political games. Russia cannot tolerate the existence of a pro-West country alongside its border, while the US aspiration is to develop Georgia as an outpost to contain the expansion of Moscow's influence.


The author is deputy director of the Center of China's Borderland History and Geography Research under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.










So far most of the focus in the climate discussions has been on big polluting industries. The reason for that is we have approached climate change as a problem. This perspective is leading us toward trade conflicts with entities with unsustainable consumption levels and blaming those with high greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting industries. This could be avoided if we shift to a solution perspective and focus on the opportunities for cities.


Last year was the first time in human history when more than half of the world's population was living in urban, not rural, areas. This trend will continue and in 40 years 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities. China will lead this development in many ways, with 70 percent of its population living in cities in about 30 years.


Cities are the main destination for investments and centers of innovations. And whether we will destroy or save the planet depends on toward where those investments and innovations are directed: high- or low- carbon development.


To turn cities into solution providers we must move beyond the simplified perspective that have dominated the climate change debate so far, especially in the West. The focus on problems has resulted in a situation where almost all of the work is invested in house-keeping measures to reduce direct GHG emissions in cities. This is not unimportant; it is just one part of a much bigger picture.


A strategy to support low-carbon city development must include at least four factors. We need cities that can do all things well, but right now we also need cities that focus on one of the factors and become world leaders in it.


The most obvious area, and where almost all focus is today, is direct emissions from cities. Cleaning your house is always a good thing. Cities should develop strategies to reduce direct emissions from buildings and transport and all other significant sources. What is important is setting targets and formulating strategies that actually reduce GHG emissions and not just move them to another place.


Ensuring continued focus on energy efficiency and new smart system solutions instead of only looking at decreased use of coal and oil is important. Projects like Shanghai's initiative of building smart buildings is very interesting and would help create a low-carbon 21st century infrastructure based on broadband communications instead of roads and airports.


The second area that must be addressed to ensure that GHG emission problems are not just moved from one place to another is "embedded emissions".


Embedded emissions are those that have been released in order to produce something. If a city is moving a steel plant because it emits huge volumes of carbon but keeps on using as much steel as before then the problem has not been solved; it has only been moved.


Many cities in the rich world that talk about low-carbon development ignore the goods with significant amounts of embedded carbon they import. Research shows emissions a country like Sweden is responsible for would be double if its imports are included. The reason is that Sweden, like other Western countries, exports less-carbon intensive goods than it imports.


The Chinese government has issued regulations to discourage export of energy intensive products and support a low-carbon lifestyle, offering a unique opportunity for its cities to review their imports and exports from a climate perspective.


A very important but still not very well known climate aspect in cities is export of low-carbon solutions. A city is an active part of the global economy, and since there is an urgent need for low-carbon solutions it must support companies that export them.


An export perspective allows cities to focus on companies providing low-carbon solutions and how promoting a low-carbon development can create jobs. Obviously there is a link between direct GHG emissions and the export of low-carbon solutions. If a market is created for new smart solutions in a city, the companies that provide them can first grow in the domestic market and then become important exporters of low-carbon solutions.


If cities become providers of low-carbon solutions they can become "climate positive". Such cities would contribute to more emission reductions from the use of the solutions they export than the GHG they emit. In the future, climate-positive cities could become the most important solution providers on the planet.


Baoding in Hebei province may be well known for its potential to become the world's leading climate-positive city, but it is not the only Chinese city that holds such a promise. Dezhou in Shandong province is one. Products made in these cities are supplied to the domestic as well as the international markets.


Finally, it is important for cities to have a strategy that support multifunctional solutions. While climate change is important, it is not the only challenge we face.


Our efforts to reduce GHG emissions should also help solve other problems.


Solar solutions, for example, can help provide solutions for desalination plants and farming. Some interesting projects are in progress in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and Suntech is developing integrated solutions that allow desalination and cleaning of water at the same time as providing clean and renewable energy. These solutions would be good not just for the climate, but also increase food production, reduce poverty and help avoid conflicts.


Let's hope Chinese cities become a strong voice for a solution agenda. A lot is already going on in China, but these initiatives still need a stronger international voice.


The author is adviser to various companies, governments and NGOs.








Considering how badly Montreal's municipal political parties serve us all, it's easy to see potential for real improvement in the nascent movement toward borough-level parties. It's too early to draw any conclusions, but this is a development Montrealers should watch with optimism.


Our city-hall reporter Linda Gyulai noted yesterday that at least four new political groups now asking for official-party status are focused solely on individual boroughs: Parti Ville LaSalle, Parti d'Outremont, Outremont Autrement, and Renouveau Municipal (of Montreal North). A previously successful local party in Anjou recently fell apart, as its leader and borough mayor Luis Miranda joined Mayor Gérald Tremblay's party and accepted a seat on the powerful executive committee.


So only three of Montreal's boroughs have this phenomenon so far. Given how poorly the city-wide parties work, however, the birth of new local-interest parties could quickly become a trend.


We have often noted in this space - as has columnist Henry Aubin on the page opposite - that Union Montreal, Vision Montreal, and most of their predecessors over recent decades share some or all of these unwelcome characteristics: utter domination by the leader, a revolving door for councillors, very efficient fundraising among those hoping to do business with the city, policy formation from the top down, and central and sometimes secretive control of the nomination process.


Imagine a different kind of city council, one where the councillors from each borough had been elected on the basis of local issues: the issues reflected, say, in the municipal-services satisfaction-survey results that Aubin wrote about last Saturday.


At present most Montreal voters make a choice for mayor, and then fall in line behind that leader's local candidates for city and borough council. Imagine instead that in each borough, local councillors were elected on the basis of local issues, rather than as mere acolytes of an aloof and distant mayor.


True, once city councillors assembled there would be a steep learning curve as local champions from the 19 boroughs puzzled out how to work together. Loose ad-hoc coalitions would surely arise, but these would not necessarily be the same groupings on any two issues. The mayor's job would be to articulate and deliver a city-wide vision clear and strong enough to provide leadership. He would also have to assemble an executive committee sufficiently capable and balanced to build a council majority on each major issue. City council would then be a forum for meaningful debate, instead of a tedious scripted rubber-stamp factory.


The great advantage of this system would be that every councillor would owe allegiance not to an all-powerful mayor, nor to a shadowy party apparatus, but solely to electors in his or her own borough.


For that reason, the big parties will do what they can to abort this phenomenon. But if it were to catch on in a critical mass of boroughs, the city-wide parties would suddenly start to look like dinosaurs.


There are no guarantees about just how such a system would evolve, but we see in this idea great promise of improved governance. Montrealers should look carefully at any such local-interest parties in their own boroughs.








Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien has been acquitted of criminal charges of influence peddling. It's not a case to make anybody feel better about politics.


An iconoclastic tech tycoon who bulled his way into city politics at the top in 2006, O'Brien was accused of buying off rival candidate Terry Kilrea. The latter would withdraw from the race, the idea was, in exchange for a job at the National Parole Board, a federal appointment. O'Brien was well-connected in Conservative circles, but there's no evidence he was capable of pulling such a string. No such appointment was apparently even considered. (It is also a criminal offence to seek a benefit by falsely claiming influence.)


Without better proof than Kilrea's addled memory, the Crown should never have laid charges. City council seems to have governed Ottawa to its own satisfaction, at least, while the mayor was in his political coma. Perhaps that's why some in the city murmur that the laying of charges might have served some political agendas as well.


Justice Douglas Cunningham wrote in his decision that he is satisfied O'Brien and Kilrea did discuss some kind of quid-pro-quo, but that the evidence did not support reasonable certainty of O'Brien's guilt.


Politics is like sausage, the ancient adage says: You're happier not knowing what goes into it. The idea of mutual benefit is the common coin of political life at all levels. Nobody should be shocked that politicians can and do use office for their own benefit.


The challenge is always to tame this process and expose it to the light. This costly trial did at least contribute to that.





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1 comment:

  1. Thanks to Ramaswamy Iyer (A slow but sure step forward) for an enlightening analysis of the amendments to the Land Acquisition law and the National R&R Policy. These are most urgent issues and all of us must work to ensure that the steps indeed move forward in the direction of social justice and welfare for all.

    Forced Land Acquisition and on-paper-only rehabilitation have been displacing and impoverishing lakhs of Indians before Independence and every year since.

    Rather than widening the definition of public purpose, as the amended LAA does, to include private and company interests, we must ask the most basic question, “who defines public purpose?”
    Unfortunately in neither the existing LAA nor the amended LAA can anyone contest the ‘public purpose’ for which land is being acquired.

    We must ensure that those who are asked to invest land in any project are consulted at the earliest stages of planning the project, not just in view of their vulnerability as losers, but also for their expertise in social and natural resource management which they have honed over generations. This is the time to seek out paths for “minimum displacement” and “non-displacing alternative” so that the people can help in planning the project to meet the objectives efficiently. We should also plan in such a way that we can return the land to the investors in case the project is not effective. Though it may not be returned in the same condition as when it was acquired, it should nonetheless be returnable if it turns out that the project was a failure and should not remain as permanent government property without consultation with the investors.

    These investors must be treated as shareholders in the project and have a role in planning its public-purpose benefits as well. In the Narmada Valley I have listened to the adivasi people say, “we are willing to sacrifice for the benefit of those who are poorer than ourselves.” Yet the drought-affected farmers for whom the Sardar Sarovar dam was supposedly built, were left high and dry as Narmada waters were given to industries, water parks and cities along the canal route long before it could reach Kutch and Saurashtra.

    So let there be no doubt that the landholding poor will not support projects for the public interest. Take their help from the beginning and we are sure to see the sun shine on non-displacing alternatives.


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