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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

EDITORIAL 01.09.09

September 01, 2009

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Month September 01, Edition 000286, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

Editorial is syndication of all daily-published newspapers editorial at one place.

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1.      A WRONG TURN

2.      NO SETBACK









2.      FORMULATE 1








































2.      CITY WOES
















































2.      BLAME GAME











3.      MY FEMALE ‘HE MAN’...!













































It is the same old story told all over again. Pakistan has been found to have illegally modified missiles supplied by the US for its so-called ‘war on terrorism’ with the explicit purpose of using them to wage war on India. In other words, Pakistan has been slyly diverting US-supplied military hardware to build up its arsenal, thus posing a real and serious threat to India. In the past, American audit reports have shown how Pakistani Generals and politicians have siphoned funds from US military and civilian aid to keep terrorists in comfort and feather their own nests. Such reports, however, have not dampened American enthusiasm to write out more cheques and hand over more arms to a rogue nation that symbolises everything that the US claims to be fighting against. US President Barack Obama, who had promised during his election campaign to review military and civilian aid to Pakistan if elected to office, has had no qualms about dishonouring his pledge. He has not only been pushing for greater assistance to Pakistan but has also demanded that Congress should desist from linking aid to Islamabad demonstrating its commitment to fighting jihad. Given such benign indulgence by their American benefactors, it is not at all surprising that the Pakistanis should have ‘tweaked’ Harpoon anti-ship missiles, supplied by the US, so that they can be used for land strikes. The Pakistanis have also altered the US-supplied P-3C maritime aircraft and equipped them for land attacks. And how has the US responded to these violations of the US Arms Control Export Act? The Obama Administration, according to The New York Times, has lodged an ‘unpublicised diplomatic protest’ with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other top officials.

This timid non-response raises several questions. Why has the US decided to play down Pakistan’s gross violation of the terms of its military assistance programme? Why is Washington, DC continuing to mollycoddling both Islamabad and Rawalpindi? Why is Mr Obama, despite such knowledge of Pakistani perfidy, persisting with his $ 7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan? This is no longer about American tactics and strategy (which impress nobody apart from Pakistan’s ardent admirers in the US Administration); it is now a brazen case of America aiding and abetting Pakistan’s diabolical intentions. Had it not been so, the American reaction would not have been restricted to an ‘unpublicised diplomatic protest’; Mr Obama would have spiked the enhanced assistance programme.

India has often pointed out the danger of unrestricted and unsupervised supply of military hardware to Pakistan. Sadly, New Delhi’s protests have till now fallen on deaf ears in Western capitals. With the latest discovery — though this is not the first time Pakistani perfidy has been exposed — India stands vindicated. It is another matter that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s craven attitude towards the US and his eagerness to do America’s bidding have contributed to Washington taking New Delhi for granted. It is not sufficient for the Government of India to express its outrage; it must take its protest to the right quarters — let the UPA Government tell the Obama Administration in no uncertain terms that enough is enough. For a change, we could try telling the sanctimonious Americans that they are either with us or against us — they can’t craftily help Pakistan build up its arsenal and profess friendship with India.







The dramatic change in Government in Japan carries with it the promise of a new beginning, but the cheers have to be muted for the moment. The venerable Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled Japan virtually uninterrupted since 1955, has suffered a crushing defeat, and the main Opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, is projected to win more than 300 seats in the 480-member Lower House of Parliament. The leader of the DPJ and presumptive Prime Minister, Mr Yukio Hatoyama, faces daunting challenges: The economy, still suffering from the ‘lost years’ of the 1990s after the real-estate bubble burst, has taken a hit due to the global recession. Although GDP growth has resumed in the second quarter, unemployment is high and rising. Exporters are suffering from the high value of the yen, diminishing demand for their high-tech wonders, and increasing competition from elsewhere in Asia. The DPJ’s centre-left thinking, its rather bold manifesto, and its attacks on what it called ‘American market fundamentalism’ may suggest a radical departure from earlier economic policies, but it remains to be seen how socialist they will be in practice.

The political challenges are even more fraught. Under the LDP, Japan was largely content to be tied to America’s apron-strings as its most trusted ally in Asia. The brains behind the DPJ, former Prime Minister Ichiro Ozawa (then with the LDP), has called for a re-evaluation of this historic relationship. He helped change the pacifist Constitution that confined Japanese military forces to a purely defensive posture; consequently Japanese forces now take part in UN peace-keeping missions abroad. This new assertiveness is necessary at a time when an American security umbrella may not be a long-term solution to Japan’s defence needs. Nevertheless, the ‘special relationship’ with the US is likely to continue: Their interests converge too often.

The big, unspoken concern is about aggressive China. Given China’s increasingly muscular Army and Navy, its sponsorship of missile-launching North Korea, long-running territorial disputes (for example, the Senkaku islands), and expansion into many of Japan’s export strongholds, China should loom large in the minds of Japan’s leaders. The conservative LDP, especially under the charismatic former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, defied Chinese political pressure, for instance over symbolic visits to the Yasukuni War Memorial. The Left-leaning DJP would be well-advised to not swallow China’s rhetoric over its ‘peaceful rise’. Instead, it must pursue coalitions with others threatened by the dragon: India, Russia and Vietnam, for instance. India, in particular, has two advantages: There are no recriminations over World War II issues, and as the ‘Holy Land’ of Buddhism, India is viewed positively by many Japanese. Circa 400 CE, Bodhidharma went east and established the Zen school. Time to return the compliment, perhaps?







If anything has changed in the BJP, it is that after five years of sustained denial from the defeat of 2004 to the debacle of 2009, the party has finally admitted it is in crisis. This breaks the mental blockade that vetoed honest assessment of poor performance and barred corrective measures.

The high command remained frozen in status quo, with RSS-backed president Rajnath Singh failing to break into the charmed circle of Advani acolytes. He remained the classic outsider, spurned at every turn, and will doubtless feel relieved when expected purges sweep the top leadership away, in a manner reminiscent of the late-1970s when the Jana Sangh leadership of Nanaji Deshmukh & Co walked into oblivion, making way for the rise of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr Advani.

The present crisis boils down to Mr Advani remaining unreconciled to his failure to become Prime Minister in 2004 and 2009, and unable to continue after senior members of his own coterie descended to a no-holds-barred attack on him. As Mr Advani’s exit is certain, some points are in order.

Mr Advani, his friends and foes will have to leave the judgement of his role in public life to history which, as the successive Jinnah episodes demonstrate, is open to revision and perversion. Hanging on to the office of Leader of the Opposition after his public life is effectively over is neither edifying nor useful. His autobiography proved more deleterious than helpful to his image; the needless controversy over Kandahar hostages has damaged him irreparably.

The anxiety to ensure succession by a crony further undermined his credibility as BJP is an ideology-driven party with little patience with personality cults. The fact that several prima donnas have been tolerated, even pampered, is something the BJP and the RSS will have to rectify. Declining performance in by-elections, including municipal and cooperative elections, has chastened Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has quit the race for central leadership. But despite shoddy performance in the State Assembly and recent parliamentary elections, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has tormented the party on the issue of stepping down.

A new ‘gang of four’ is now the cynosure of public attention. Unmindful of the Sarsanghachalak’s August 18 interview to Times Now, suggesting BJP look beyond four ‘approved’ names, Mr Arun Jaitley, Ms Sushma Swaraj, Mr M Venkaiah Naidu and Mr Ananth Kumar (replacing Mr Modi), jointly met Mr Mohan Bhagwat to press their suit. They emerged smiling before media cameras, followed by blatant ‘plants’ about how all leadership positions were being apportioned among them to the utter surprise of the RSS and the BJP!

Barely half-a-day later, Mr Venkaiah Naidu muttered denials about the purported ‘coup,’ blaming media invention (what else?); Mr Advani made his way to Keshav Kunj to finalise his retreat strategy. The suspense in the BJP is truly awful. Mr Bhagwat said he could suggest 75 candidates for top party positions; there was never a better time to reinvent the party.

The RSS knows Mr Arun Jaitley, Ms Sushma Swaraj, Mr Venkaiah Naidu and Mr Ananth Kumar are unsuited for BJP leadership as none is a mass leader or vote-catcher. Worse, each is perceived as distant from, if not inimical to, the Hindu ethos. They are seen as folk who rose in the hierarchy on account of patronage and factional affiliation, rather than merit and hard work. Their parliamentary performance has been mediocre, no matter how self-congratulatory their self-perception. Imposition of any one of them would aggravate the BJP’s problems as the rank and file would refuse to cooperate with them. This caused the 2009 defeat in no small way, and scuttled Mr Advani’s plans for a new yatra to reconnect with the people.

The ball is now in the court of the RSS whose chief, on August 18 and again on August 28, directed the BJP to recover from the ‘jolt’ of the recent election, stop the infighting, and quickly settle the leadership issue. He hinted at ideological deviation when he said the RSS remained committed to the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.

In this connection, the new RSS chief must appreciate that ordinary Hindus never acquiesced in the RSS-BJP accord to sacrifice the three core issues of Ram Mandir, Article 370, and a Uniform Civil Code for the sake of power in New Delhi. Many Hindus have asked why the BJP could not sit in Opposition for another five or 10 years; they ask why the party has failed on so many other fronts, most notably terrorism, the plight of Kashmiri Hindus, and correction of the distorted historical narrative.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement gifted Mr Advani the unique opportunity to bring the Hindu idiom to the public arena, and advance Hindu consciousness on a national scale. It was simultaneously a civilisational and sub-continental project; responsibility for its fizzling out will have to be apportioned among the leading lights of the Sangh Parivar, though Mr Advani’s personal conduct following the triumphant demolition of the Babri superstructure was less than edifying. The then RSS chief, Balasaheb Deoras, singularly failed to address Hindu sentiment that fateful day.

Hindu society, however, did not disown the BJP, and the party was in office from 1998 to 2004. Its tenure was less than satisfactory. Poor understanding of the nature of contemporary jihad and the training, arming and funding of jihadis for Western geo-strategic ends, coupled with a foolishly romantic attitude towards America and Israel, intensified jihadi assaults on India. These climaxed in the attack on the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly in Srinagar and Parliament in Delhi; which was succeeded by an ill-considered opening to Pakistan (at US prodding) and the utterly scandalous Agra summit, where Gen Pervez Musharraf thought he was going to be gifted the Kashmir Valley!

Currently Washington is encouraging an imploding Pakistan to foment trouble in Jammu & Kashmir because it plans to further dismember the Islamic Republic. An independent Balochistan will help America control Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, and provide a base to confront Russia in Central Asia. America also wants an excuse to get a base near Tibet to overlook China.

The BJP is asleep to these grim threats at a time when the UPA is making dangerous compromises with Pakistan, a Western stooge or non-Nato ally in Washington terminology. The sooner a new leadership speaks for Akhand Bharat, the better.

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the writer and do not reflect this newspaper’s views.







With an eye to minority votes in the coming Assembly election in Maharashtra, it seems that the Union Government led by the Congress will surely introduce the Communal Violence (Suppression) Bill 2005 in Parliament. However, the Bill in its present draft has several flaws which need to be weeded out.

The biggest flaw in the Bill is that its invocation will depend on the whims and fancies of the State Governments or the Centre. Undermining the federal structure, the decision to declare an area as communally disturbed will depend on the relationship between the States and the Centre. If a State has the support of the Centre, it can engage in the most heinous communal crimes and get away with it, except in most extreme circumstances like in case of criminal violence resulting in death and destruction of property which poses a serious threat to the unity of the country. The other heinous crimes, which may not result in death such as rape, and which are not considered to result in danger to the unity of the country, fall outside the gambit of this draft. Another flaw in the Bill is Section 10 that provides immunity to the police and the Army. Various Committees set up to look into communal violence have very clearly stated in their reports that the police and the civil authorities either remain passive or play a partisan role during communal violence. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots bear testimony to the above fact.

A chapter, therefore, needs to be incorporated in the Bill for punishment of security force personnel who are found involved in communal riots either by not registering FIRs or registering them improperly or by not providing security to victims under attack.

Besides, the present draft Bill has no provision relating to the duties of authorities after riots break out, like providing immediate relief to victims, protection from further acts of violence, preparing a list of victims and their losses, to provide for legal aids, allowances and facilities which legal proceedings may require. Similarly, provisions to enable the arrest and detention of those persons engaged in the speeches also need to be incorporated in the draft.

Had the Congress wanted, the Anti-Communal Law would have come into existence years ago and averted the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Gujarat riots. Even in the 21st century, we can little hope that the Congress at the Centre will do anything worthwhile for the security of minorities by way of plugging the loopholes in the present Bill and turn it into a law.







Media reports from Japan indicate that as widely forecast by opinion polls, the Democratic Party of Japan has won the elections to the House of Representatives, the lower House of the Japanese Diet (Parliament), held on August 30, 2009, dislodging from power the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition, which had ruled the country almost continuously for over 50 years, except for 11 months in 1997 when a non-LDP coalition ruled the country. The 62-year-old Yukio Hatoyama, a founding father of the DPJ in 1996 and its president since May, 2009, who used to act as the media spokesperson of the non-LDP coalition in 1997, is expected to take over as the new Japanese Prime Minister.

The DPJ, which came into existence in 1996, was expanded on April 27, 1998, by merging into it the Party of Japan, the Good Governance Party, the New Fraternity Party and the Democratic Reform Party. The newly-expanded party had a liberal or social-democratic agenda. In 1998, as a result of these mergers, the newly-expanded DPJ had 93 members in the House of Representatives and 38 in the upper House, the House of Councilors. Mr Naoto Kan, former Health and Welfare Minister, was appointed as the president of the party and Mr Tsutomu Hata, former Prime Minister, as Secretary-General.

On September 24, 2003, the party was further expanded by merging into it the small, centre-right Liberal Party led by Ichir Ozawa, which had eight seats in the House of Councillors, but none in the lower House.

In the 2003 elections to the House of Representatives, the DPJ won 178 seats, increasing its tally by 85 seats, but still short of a majority. Following a pension scandal, Mr Kan resigned and was replaced as president of the party by Katsuya Okada, a liberal. In the 2004 elections to the House of Councillors, the DPJ won one seat more than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In 2005, Mr Junichiro Koizumi, the then Prime Minister, dissolved the House of Representatives before it had completed its tenure following the rejection by it of a Bill moved by his Government for the privatisation of the postal banking services and called for fresh elections. The DPJ did badly in the elections and lost 62 seats to the LDP. Following this electoral setback, Mr Okada resigned as the president of the party and was replaced by Mr Seiji Maehara in September 2005. He had to resign on March 31, 2006, following allegations that he used a fake e-mail to make allegations of wrongdoing against the Koizumi Government. He was replaced on April 7, 2006, by Mr Ichir Ozawa as the party president.

The real credit for building the DPJ, which started as a hotch-potch party of various liberal or social democratic factions, into a viable political formation capable of beating the LDP should go to Mr Ozawa, who started his political career as a member of the LDP in the Diet in 1969, succeeding his father and as a political aide to Kakuei Tanaka, the legendary LDP leader. Dissatisfied with the policies of the LDP leadership, he and some of his followers quit the LDP in 1993. After his resignation from the LDP, he gravitated to the small New Frontier Party and then to the Liberal Party, which subsequently merged with the DPJ. Even before he moved to the DPJ, he had published a document titled a ‘Blueprint for a New Japan’, which called for electoral reforms and more assertive foreign affairs and defence policies. As the president of the DPJ, he worked for gaining public support to some of these ideas incorporated in the blueprint. He had to resign abruptly as the party president in May 2009 after his secretary Takanori Okubo was accused of accepting political donations from a company involved in scandals. Mr Ozawa, who had pledged to cleanse Japanese politics of corruption and wrongdoing, was embarrassed when his own secretary was allegedly found involved in political corruption.

But for this, Mr Ozawa would have led the DPJ to victory in the elections and might have become the new Prime Minister. Ultimately, after the resignation of Mr Ozawa, Mr Yukio Hatoyama, who has been in the DPJ right from its inception in 1996, took over as the president of the party and led it to a spectacular electoral victory, which would make him the Prime Minister. While Mr Ozawa was embarrassed by the scandal involving his secretary, he has not been politically weakened. He still has many supporters and admirers in the party and is expected to play an important role in policy formulation either as a member of the Cabinet under Mr Hatoyama or as a senior functionary of the party.

Mr Hatoyama, who belonged to a blue-blooded LDP family, studied engineering at the prestigious University of Tokyo and earned his PhD from the Stanford University in the US. His grand-father was the Prime Minister of Japan from 1954-56. His father served as the Foreign Minister of Japan for some years. Mr Hatoyama, who started his career as a teacher, entered politics in 1983 as the personal secretary to his father.

In a personality profile on Mr Hatoyama disseminated on August 27, 2009, Mari Yamaguchi of the AP wrote as follows: “Stiff and professor-like, Hatoyama is an unlikely figure to bring about major political change. He is not seen as charismatic and has a tendency to be verbose and dismissive. His shock of curly hair is often piled up on his head as though he just awoke from a troubled sleep. He has even garnered the nickname ‘alien’ because he can come across as eccentric or aloof. During the campaign, Hatoyama appealed to voters with promises that he will cut wasteful Government spending, rein in the power of the bureaucracy and put more money in consumers’ pockets by holding off on tax hikes that the ruling party has said are in the works.One of his biggest departures from the LDP’s positions is Japan’s relationship with the United States, its biggest trading partner and military ally. He wants Japan to be more independent from Washington and closer to Asia.

“We must not forget our identity as a nation located in Asia,” he has said. But Mr Hatoyama has also stressed he does not intend to change Japan’s course overnight. In an opinion piece published in The New York Times, Mr Hatoyama said the US-Japan alliance would “continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy”.

Polls indicate that voters want change — but not too much. And Hatoyama’s relatively conservative pedigree suggests that he’s not going to seek any radical departures from what most Japanese feel comfortable with.”

Some Japanese analysts view the victory of the DPJ under Mr Hatoyama as more due to the disgust of large sections of the voters with the long period of corruption and cronyism-ridden LDP rule than to any fascination for the DPJ and Mr Hatoyama. He has promised wide-ranging changes in the political, economic and social spheres. They are doubtful of his ability to deliver. Three of his promised flagship changes are:


  Regional sovereignty. He has promised to reverse the process of the over-centralisation of the Japanese Government under the LDP by transfering more powers and funds to regional authorities.


  Breaking the nexus between the bureaucracy and the political rulers which, according to him, became the hallmark of the LDP rule. He has promised that he will ensure that politicians are responsible for policy formulation and the bureaucrats are responsible for implementation.


  A shift away from the urban-centric policies of the LDP towards greater attention and importance to the problems of the rural areas.

He has also promised many lollipops to various segments of the population such as pensioners, farmers etc. Skeptics are doubtful whether he would be able to implement them and, even if he wants to, whether he will be able to find the required funds if he sticks to his promise of not to raise taxes.

In the manifesto issued by the DPJ when Okada was the president before the 2005 elections to the House of Representatives, the references to India were positive. It said:


  “India is expected to be a nucleus of Asian economic development in the 21st century along with Japan, China, South Korea, and ASEAN. It projects a unique charisma not only as an economic, demographic, and cultural/philosophical giant but also as a huge democracy. Establishing and maintaining a close relationship, including strategic, with this India will be in the national interests of Japan and will expand Japan’s diplomatic options.”


  The East Asian Community should never become an exclusive institution. India, Australia, and New Zealand will be important partners when building a full-scale East Asian Community.”


  “Japan can also promote a joint sea lane patrol programme against terrorists and pirates in collaboration with ASEAN, China, India, and the United States, naturally paying due respect to the sovereignty of coastal states.”

At the same time, it contained a worrisome reference linking Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation to the Kashmir issue. It said: “In the overall context of Asian security, WMD proliferation and terrorism are extremely important challenges. The new Japanese Government will further promote the Proliferation Security Initiative and actively engage itself with the peaceful solution of the Kashmir conflict, which has led to the nuclear armament of India and Pakistan.”

All these references to India were missing from the election manifesto this time, drafted under the presidentship of Mr Hatoyama. The only reference to India in the manifesto is the following sentence: “Play a leadership role in environmental diplomacy and encourage the participation of major emitter nations, including the United States, China, and India, in the post-Kyoto international framework for greenhouse gas emissions reduction.”

What are the views of Mr Hatoyama on India? Does he attach importance to the strategic relationship between India and Japan? The answers to these questions are not yet available. If one were to go by the latest manifesto, Mr Hatoyama’s world consists essentially of Japan, the US, China, South Korea, North Korea (all mentioned by name) and “other countries”. India has been relegated to the position of one of the “other countries”.

Is this interpretation correct? One has to wait and see.  The writer is director of the Institute for Topical tudies, Chennai.








It is a pity that the intellectual snobbery of West Bengal is unable to distinguish between idle chatter and irrefutable reason. Therefore, political attacks on the unsatisfactory performance of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led West Bengal Government over three decades has been pitched at a level that is distressing.

It is incontrovertible that the quality of administration in West Bengal is as contaminated by patronage politics as elsewhere in India. Whereas in the rest of the country corruption, abuse, nepotism, blatant partisanship have affected the delivery of targeted Government schemes to beneficiaries, in West Bengal the situation is compounded by the absence of local alternative economic opportunities, that irrespective of the brutality of exploitation nevertheless offer some people some advantages.

The failure to thwarting opportunity is not limited to the role of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in sending the Tata Motor’s Nano project packing or the obstruction to the development of Nandigram as a Special Economic Zone. The failure has roots older than the emergence of Ms Banerjee as the alternative to the CPI(M)’s ‘misgovernment.’ The lack of opportunity stems from idée fixes of the Bengali mind, in other words the set in which it is moulded, which includes an endemic dependence on Government as the easiest source of goodies, however pitiful these might be.

Unwilling to challenge the socially constructed idea that of course suits only a few and ruins the rest, West Bengal is hostage to idle chatter. Therefore, when Ms Banerjee declares that the State’s development has stagnated for 30 years, opinion leaders including poets, filmmakers, writers and academics parrot the same lines.

Delusions aside, there is a need to take a look at bits of history that are not the circa 2009 reconstruction of the past vis-à-vis the Left’s role in West Bengal. Because convenience combined with bile is producing a toxic cocktail, the result is a form of mass hysteria that manifests itself in widespread amnesia. Ignoring the lived experience of parents and grandparents, as well as perhaps their own as very young children, opinion leaders and certainly lakhs of those who voted for Ms Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress slogan of ‘Change’, a section of public opinion has forgotten the shambles that West Bengal was in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and the 1970s.

The turmoil, turbulence, downslide began before 1947 and continued through independence, partition, the millions who arrived with nothing, not even hope, as refugees and continued through the flight of mostly British capital, followed by the flight of Indian capital and the trickle of planned investment till 1977, when the CPI(M) won a majority and headed the Government. The families that came as refugees cannot have forgotten how tough it was. The families who did not come as refugees could not have forgotten how tough the migration made it, coupled with every sort of scarcity and every sort of hardship.

The disconnect between lived experience and the rhetoric of opposition is jarring. There is too much Bengali cinema that testifies to the horrific condition of people who came as refugees. There is too much in Bengali literature that describes the hopelessness and violence of the decades between partition and the CPI(M)’s start of misrule to wallow in the sort of make believe that is doing the rounds.






The Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the USSR, better known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was signed 70 years ago, on August 23, 1939. A secret supplementary protocol demarcated the signatory countries’ spheres of influence in eastern Europe in case of territorial realignment. Despite the pact, Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Was the pact inevitable or could another option have been found? What made the Soviet Union sign it? Did it help to postpone war? What did Vyacheslav Molotov think about the pact? Political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov, Head of the Russian World foundation and grandson of Vyacheslav Molotov who signed the pre-war non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, shares his view with Maria Frolova in an interview.

Q. Was the pact a ploy to gain more time to prepare for war, or did it reflect the desire of the Third Reich and the Soviet Union to define their spheres of interest?

A. The two factors were interconnected. The issue was clear-cut for the Soviet leadership at the end of August 1939: Germany was launching a war against Poland, as it had announced almost officially. Did German troops intend to stop in Warsaw, or move on to Minsk or Moscow? That was the crucial question. The delineation of the spheres of influence provided an answer. It was a matter of life and death, closely interconnected with a play for time.

Q. Was there an alternative to the pact? Did it bring war with Germany closer, or postpone it?

A. Theoretically, there was an alternative. The Soviet leadership first proposed it in April of 1939, or even earlier. This was the idea of European collective security, based on Soviet agreements with Britain and France to guarantee Polish and Romanian security. In principle, the system could have drastically reduced the chance of Germany unleashing war on Poland. We can only regret that the idea was never acted upon. All attempts to implement it were fruitless, mainly because France and Britain were reluctant to commit themselves to extremely serious obligations and, secondly, because Poland and Romania were unwilling to accept security guarantees from the Soviet Union. And so that alternative was pure speculation.

War against Poland was imminent, and the situation demanded practical agreements. Regrettably, the French and British military delegations, which were working in Moscow in August of 1939, were not authorised to sign any agreements. So it was a Hobson’s choice. In fact, the Soviet Union had no options.

The pact did not affect the timing of the German attack on Poland. The deadline had been set long before it was signed, and Hitler would have attacked Poland in any case, pact or no pact. He did not see any difference, as he had the chance of starting war on the Soviet Union simultaneously with the attack on Poland. It is possible that he intended to attack the Soviet Union even then.

Q. Did the German attack really take the Soviet leadership by surprise?

A. The Soviet Union expected the attack every day. It made no difference whether it would come on June 21 or 22, 1941.

Q. So the leadership expected war, even despite the pact?

A. They did. The Soviet leadership was 100 per cent sure there would be war. It managed to postpone it in 1939. My grandfather told me they had expected a year’s breathing spell, but it was even longer. There was hope for another postponement as late as June 21, 1941.

Q. Was there any difference between the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Munich Agreement?

A. The Munich Agreement was not concerned with the spheres of interest. No non-aggression pacts were signed in Munich. It was a meeting of Western leaders to discuss German territorial claims on Czechoslovakia. The German reasoning was acknowledged. In other words, a part of Czechoslovakia was ceded to Germany. Later on, the West turned a blind eye to the German de facto annexation of Czech lands. There was nothing in common between the Soviet-German pact and what took place in Munich. Be that as it may, Western countries had encouraged German and Italian aggression for years.

Q. Did Molotov share his impressions of his meeting with the German delegation with anyone?

A. He did. He said the German delegates were “serious people”. However, he met with Foreign Ministers and heads of state practically every day, so I do not think that particular meeting made an indelible impression on him, however important it may have been.

Q. What did the pact matter to Molotov? What did he think of it?

A. He approved of it. He said the pact enabled our country to prepare for war and, in the final analysis,win the war. He never regretted signing it.

Q. Were there any similar German pacts with other countries?

A. Germany signed other non-aggression treaties, in particular, with Poland. It was denounced in April of 1939. Nevertheless, many countries sign non-aggression pacts.

Q. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is among the principal arguments for reappraising World War II. What can Russia do against attempts to put Communism on a par with Nazism?

A. There is ideology behind such attempts. We can hardly do anything against it. Relevant questions were answered by the Nuremberg trial, which determined the amount of each party’s guilt. As for people who sympathise with Nazism, we can do nothing about them. There is no way to suppress the manipulation of historical fact for political ends.

The writer is a columnist based in Moscow.









The operation against the Tehrik-e-Taliban by the Pakistani military in the Swat and Malakand divisions could have been the first step in a reorientation of Islamabad's threat perceptions from Pakistan's eastern border to the militancy making inroads from the west. But if reports of the Pakistani defence establishment modifying US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missile for use against land targets are true, it is back to business as usual. The veracity of the accusation is not entirely confirmed Islamabad has taken the unusual measure of stating that it will allow Washington to inspect its Harpoon stocks but it was taken seriously enough for an official, if discreet, US diplomatic protest. And if it indeed turns out to be true, there are troubling questions to be answered.

The US, in its role as Pakistan's chief benefactor and partner by compulsion, must rethink its policies. Enhanced non-military aid is well and good; a Pakistani government too weak to provide governance and infrastructure will create a socio-political space for radicalism in the country that will benefit no one. But in the aftermath of 9/11, expedience has been allowed to take over too often. Billions of dollars have flowed into Islamabad until as recently as this year with no credible benchmarks in place. Verification mechanisms have been wholly lacking with US personnel in Pakistan having no access to Pakistani military records for purposes of oversight. The lack of transparency has been such, in fact, that at times there has been little clarity even in the US Congress about the exact nature and quantum of aid being pumped into Pakistan.

The result has been predictable. Both civilian and military aid has been diverted to boost military capabilities effective against India rather than bolstering anti-insurgency operations. This must not be allowed to continue. Current military aid legislation imposes more robust checks. The pending version of the civilian aid Bill imposes conditionalities as well, ranging from verifiable action by Islamabad against terrorist groups to free and fair elections and cooperation against nuclear supply networks. The danger is that the Obama administration continues to argue for easier terms. This is in no one's interests, least of all Washington's. An upsetting of the status quo in the subcontinent and diversion of Pakistani resources to its eastern border will set back Washington's efforts in Afghanistan by years and perhaps condemn them to failure.

New Delhi must take an active stance. It has been quiescent on the Pakistan front since the confusion surrounding Sharm el-Sheikh. Now it must act with clarity and make its concerns known to Washington, directly as well as through bodies such as the India Caucuses in both US Houses. With $400 million military aid and $1.5 billion civilian aid to Islamabad pending, it cannot afford not to.







India's first major venture into outer space, the Chandrayaan-1 moon mission, has been formally declared terminated after radio contact was lost in the early hours of Saturday, when the probe was located 200 km above the moon's surface. Scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) were reportedly crestfallen, and understandably so, as the much-publicised mission had raised expectations and generated wide public interest and excitement. However, according to both ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair and mission project director Mayilsamy Annadurai, there is absolutely no reason to despair that all is lost. Nearly 95 per cent of the venture's data collection targets have been fulfilled, they say, with the organisation having already received a wealth of information before Chandrayaan went on the blink. So really, the daunting task before ISRO now is the organisation and collation of data, followed by scientific analyses for its potential applications.

Chandrayaan-1's flight path hasn't been a smooth one. The launch of India's first moon mission was marked by intense public debate over its relevance. Questions were raised as to why India needed to reinvent the wheel. So from the word go, ISRO has had to not only justify the necessity of the mission, it had to also deal with several technical glitches that surfaced during its progress. Once the mission was launched, the Indian Deep Space Network, based in Bangalore, monitored its progress to glean the maximum possible benefit from the expedition.

Mission failures are not unusual even for countries and organisations with large resources and networks. The US National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) has faced several space mission failures, particularly among its missions to Mars, and some have been for reasons that were avoidable. And who can forget the tragic end to the Challenger shuttle mission in 1986 that blew soon after take off? Or the disintegration of the Columbia shuttle in 2003 that claimed the lives of all crew, including Kalpana Chawla? These serious setbacks and tragedies have prompted researchers to look for viable alternatives to the shuttle, especially in manned missions.

That ISRO successfully salvaged the Chandrayaan mission in an earlier setback in May by altering its course to protect it from radiation and again battled other related problems subsequently bears witness to the determination and dedication of mission members who have worked hard to put India on the space map. The experience will better equip ISRO to plan Chandrayaan-2 and the proposed missions to Mars.








In early 2007, Ong Keng Yong, then ASEAN secretary-general, insisted that India, Australia and New Zealand be included in plans for a free trade zone covering 16 nations participating in the East Asia Summit. ASEAN economic ministers agreed to study a Japanese proposal for a free trade area harnessing three billion people and an economic output of $9 trillion. But the Singapore summit in December that year recognised China's demand that only ASEAN+3 be included. India's failure till then to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with ASEAN facilitated China's attempt to keep it out of the big club. This highlighted India's failure to recognise that time and opportunity, once lost, are difficult to come by again.

Recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a desperate attempt to recover lost ground by convincing his cabinet colleagues that India would suffer a diplomatic loss of face by pulling out of the FTA. It would also drive ASEAN into a tighter strategic clinch with China. On August 13, he asked his commerce minister to sign the FTA on the sidelines of the ASEAN trade ministers' meeting in Thailand.

While the FTA is an economic 'win-win' for both sides, its merit lies more on its political and diplomatic impact on ASEAN. During negotiations lasting over six years when India dithered many times, an impression gathered in ASEAN countries that India was not serious about engaging Asia. Signing the FTA has signalled India's commitment to economic integration and political cooperation with South East Asia as a logical outcome of its Look East policy (LEP).

The main thrusts of our South East Asia policy being economic integration and energy security, LEP has less of a political, strategic or cultural dimension. Given India's effort to integrate with the global economy, diplomacy focuses more on trade and investment. India's success here is significant in terms of greater integration with Asia. This, however, was not due to its offering any 'niche' in terms of creating a future economic or strategic architecture in Asia, as in the case of China which has seized the leadership in practically everything that happens in the region.

India's LEP lacks a strategic vision of a future Asia-Pacific that can inform its policies and actions, helping it establish its rightful place in the Asian balance of power. Such failure to articulate a vision is pervasive in foreign policy in its entirety as India faces new challenges and opportunities in its rise to influence in an uncertain international environment. No major power's foreign policy can be effective without a guiding framework of underlying principles reflecting its geopolitical requirements and values.

Instead of defining its role in an emerging economic and security architecture, India is almost depending on others to accord it a role. Our foreign policy and security establishments speak more about what the US, Britain or France says about India's rising power and potential. A major power communicates status by articulating its own vision and role in the world. It shapes the strategic environment in a way that moves others to adjust themselves to its proclaimed world view. But our policymakers are more prone to ad hoc policy decisions. India's South East Asia policy has been reactive, particularly to what China is doing, not proactive in terms of trying to influence regional developments in its favour.

Our interactions with ASEAN over the last decade were more a result of its eagerness to cultivate India in the post-Cold War and post-Asian economic crisis environment for its own strategic and economic compulsions. It now looks towards India because of its potential as an economic powerhouse and partly to balance China's overwhelming economic and strategic influence.

India's LEP was initiated not so much to 'rediscover Asia' and secure India's natural strategic interests, which historian K M Panikkar highlighted as early as the 1940s. While the ostensible reason was to promote economic interests, India's policy was fashioned more as a response to China's growing strategic depth in Myanmar. The geopolitical reality of Myanmar as the only land-bridge to South East Asia and its strategic importance for India's security, particularly in the disturbed north-east, should have dawned on our foreign and defence policymakers long before the consolidation of Sino-Burmese strategic and economic relations.

India has not spelt out its strategic objectives in South East Asia. It has, however, sought defence cooperation with Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam and secured a role in the security of the Straits of Malacca as a likely insurance against Chinese hegemony. While India hesitates to take a more assertive role due to its limited military and economic power and its desire to avoid direct confrontation with China, ASEAN is interested in India's active involvement in Asia's evolving strategic order. Now that it has paved the way to regional economic integration, India should envisage a new strategic architecture for Asia and its own pivotal role in it. The ASEAN summit in October can be an ideal platform for articulating that vision.

The writer is a former professor and chair of South East Asian Studies, JNU.







The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has set the ball rolling on a relook at 50-over cricket. It has announced a 40-over domestic format from 2010 though England will continue to play 50-over cricket internationally. In addition, ECB is likely to ask the International Cricket Council (ICC) to conduct a formal review of the 50-over format.

While the ICC has brushed aside suggestions of any immediate changes to 50-over cricket, it is apparent that this format needs to be overhauled, if not phased out in the near future. With the spectacular success of Twenty20 which is basically one-dayers on speed there is every likelihood that ODIs are not going to be as popular as before. Interest in one-dayers is already dipping.

What the ECB has suggested is tinkering around with the 50-over format to make it more spectator friendly. South Africa, too, does not have a 50-over competition in domestic cricket. And the Australian cricket board has suggested changes such as two innings per team. But in the end such cosmetic changes might not be enough to save the 50-over game.

Though ODIs have proved to be exceptionally successful over the past four decades, it has been made somewhat redundant by Twenty20. Just contrast the last 50-over World Cup in West Indies, which was such a lacklustre affair, with the two enormously successful Twenty20 World Cups in South Africa and England. There is a staleness about ODIs with the middle overs being particularly predictable. Several international players, including Adam Gilchrist, have called for a phasing out of 50-over cricket.

This has become even more necessary with the packed cricket calendar. Twenty20 tournaments, such as the Indian Premier League, now take up nearly a month every year. There are other Twenty20 tournaments on the anvil. In such a situation something has to give way. And the most likely candidate is 50-over cricket, particularly the meaningless bilateral contests.

Test cricket, despite its declining popularity, will continue to have a niche audience. However, Twenty20 must replace the 50-over game as cricket's preferred format for a mass audience.







The decision to drop the 50-over format from the ECB's domestic schedule is misplaced. Twenty20 may be the toast of the day, but that's no reason to kill the 50-over game.

The advent of one-day internationals did not make Test cricket redundant. To the contrary, it induced a new energy into Test cricket and made it even more skilful and attractive. Similarly, Twenty20 is likely to force players and administrators to reinvent one-day cricket. Twenty20 has overshadowed the 50-over game primarily because it's the new brand on sale. Wait for some time and the excitement will be over. Of course, Twenty20 has its share of innovations that makes one-day cricket look jaded. Most importantly, Twenty20, taking a cue from one-day cricket, has marketed the entertainment aspect of the game well. Interestingly, the 50-over format was invented essentially to make cricket more entertaining. But as the 50-over game evolved, it created its own basket of skills and innovations. It gained an identity of its own, different from Test cricket in every aspect.

There is every reason to expect that the ODI format will now be reinvented. If spectators appear to be losing interest in it now, that's because of too many ODIs being played. Clearly, there is a need to cut down on the number of one-day internationals. A mix of Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20 is the right way forward. Presently, the one-day format is also used as a platform to get second-rung teams to play top Test-playing nations. The logic goes like this: Ireland can't play a Test match with Australia, so let them play an ODI of 50 overs. This is a recipe for disaster.

ICC, in consultation with national cricket boards, must work out a schedule, which allows all three formats of cricket to be played and at reasonable intervals. Let all of them flourish. If one-dayers don't live up to the challenge posed by Twenty20, it will die a natural death. But let's not kill it.






It is difficult to imagine any sitcom being able to take the place of 'Friends' in the mindscape of one particular generation. Recently, however, another show is stealthily making its way into the hearts of 'Friends' fans: 'How I Met Your Mother', now on its second season in India and fifth in the US. Without denying its freshness and unique brand of humour, addicts of the sitcom can surely spot its thematic similarity with 'Friends': a group of men and women in their late 20s, dealing with the blows life and love throw them, finding solace and security in each other and in their group dynamic.

The story, which begins in 2005, is narrated in past tense by the protagonist Ted, who, in 2030, is relating to his children ''how he met their mother''. The plot is propelled forward by the desire to find out how Ted, fumbling through different women and life choices, finally meets the phantom mother, at which point, it is assumed, all five central characters will find some sort of stability in their lives.

Similarly, the plot line of 'Friends' can be mapped out as a 10-year-long coming-of-age. The story begins when the six central characters are in their early to mid-20s: so, finished with studying (one already has a PhD) but not yet established with permanent careers. The 10 seasons of the show follow the ups and downs of their growing-up curve. By the time they accept their new roles as grown-ups, they are well into their 30s.

'Friends' reflects a trend that is becoming increasingly common in most of the world, a phase of life after adolescence and before adulthood. This phase has been explored by academics and commentators recently and is now popularly called 'the odyssey years', since it consists mainly of wandering, discovery and overcoming several small rites of passage. In this phase, 20-somethings live, seemingly, with no clear sense of direction.

This phase emerged first with the generation born in the 1970s, perhaps partly due to the fact that their parents had been teenagers through the idealism and freedom of the 1960s. The children of the 1970s thus grew up in a society that attributed a certain value to "discovering oneself". Moreover, kids born in the 1970s and onwards have grown up in an atmosphere of uncertainty, diversity and fluidity. Previous norms have been upturned. The information economy has transformed the job market; the sexual revolution has altered the equation of the sexes and scrambled both courtship rituals and ideas of marriage; increasing longevity has pushed back the age of retirement, relieving kids of some of the pressures to support themselves and their parents.

Today's parents do understand intellectually that the reason kids are floundering around in their 20s is due to the uncertainty of the times they live in. Most parents are willing to give them time for self-discovery and to make their own choices. Nevertheless, as this period extends into five or seven years, parents begin to feel anxious. They pressurise their child to get a move on.

In truth, this period is hardly self-indulgent. It is immensely stressful for the 20-something since it is full of uncertainty, competition and stress. This is a demanding, often traumatic period, when 20-somethings feel unsatisfied with their lives, sense the gravity of every choice they make and are usually lonely, stressed and broke.

Despite the stress it causes to parents and kids alike, this new phase is here to stay. Within a few generations, the odyssey years will become a norm and, with acceptance, the anxiety experienced by both parents and 20-somethings will hopefully reduce. It will be recognised as a necessary period of growth, that will hugely influence the phase of adulthood that follows, when the new 'grown-ups' can sit back and relate the roller-coaster stories of how they met their own selves.

The author is a fiction writer.







It was July 1971 and the peak of the Bangladeshi crisis. Millions had crossed over from East Pakistan to India and thousands more were crossing everyday, the bulk into Tripura. I had come to Agartala to organise the arrival of tanks and armoured vehicles. I was not committed in the ongoing skirmishes with Pakistani army on the borders, being a tank officer. I had all the time in the world to move around. This is the time when international attention was drawn to the plight of Bangladesh and Europe and America were waking up to the carnage. Following a musical tribute by Ravi Shankar in New York, popular support for the cause was also built up in those societies. While the American administration supported Yahya Khan, the Kennedys expressed solidarity with the oppressed. This is when the only surviving brother, Ted Kennedy, decided to visit East Pakistan to see what things were like for himself. But Yahya Khan refused him a visa. So, Kennedy decided to pay a quick visit to Agartala.

I received a message one rainy morning that two armoured vehicles had toppled while descending from hilly terrain into Agartala and two soldiers were badly injured. There was no military hospital in Agartala at the time. They had to be admitted to the hospitals already catering to refugees from across the border. I was told to look like a civilian since the Indian government wanted to keep the army's presence in Agartala quiet, especially from Kennedy. But the two Sikh soldiers who had been wounded were in the same ward that Kennedy was to visit. So we made the soldiers sleep on their sides with the pagadis removed and their hair covering their faces, making them look like female patients in deep slumber. When Kennedy came, he was taken around by a surgeon and was visibly moved by the plight of the girls. With his eyes moist, he stood benumbed for at least five minutes. I wished i had a camera to capture this poignant moment, but somebody else did. The surgeon photographed Kennedy, who moved quickly on, hardly looking at the sleeping soldiers, too moved, perhaps, to speak to other patients and saving India from possible embarrassment. The photograph now sits prominently in that surgeon's Delhi drawing room.









It is tempting to see a recovery in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of the current financial year. That sighting, however, will be flawed. The sequential upturn — from 5.8 per cent in January-March 2009 to 6.1 per cent in the next three months — is misleading because India does not put out seasonally adjusted data. Yet as the slippage from growth rates a year ago is arrested — from a 2.5 percentage point decline at the height of the global financial meltdown in October-December 2008, to 1.8 points in the next quarter and 1.6 points in April-June 2009 — things are definitely looking up. At least till the second half of the year when the monsoon shortfall will crop up in the account books.


Broken down, the numbers look more encouraging. The financial sector, including real estate, which contributes nearly as much to national income as agriculture, is growing at a respectable 8.1 per cent. As are trade, hotels, transport and communications. This clutch of services, although growing 5 percentage points slower than a year ago, brings 80 per cent more to the table than farming. Factory output delivered a pleasant surprise in June by growing 7.8 per cent and there is little evidence to suggest that this was an aberration. While it is early to make projections on the eventual size of the summer crop, the decline ought to be offset by fairly robust growth in a bunch of sectors that are individually bigger wedges of the Indian economic pie than agriculture.


The various fiscal stimuli appear to have worked their way into parts of the economy that can keep demand aloft. Transfer payments over 15 months show up in the fact that household consumption as a share of GDP has come down from 58 per cent in April-June 2008 to 55.6 per cent a year later. Over this period, the government went through a hump in consumption before settling near the year-ago level. Money is thus reaching the people who spend. But policymakers have another worry in the declining share of investment in national income. Every percentage point fall in this statistic shaves a quarter of a point in achievable growth. The investment cycle was widely expected to turn anytime now. This recovery could be jeopardised by rising food inflation at home and commodity prices abroad. The central bank has flagged inflation as an emerging concern. Attempts to combat it could hurt growth.












Jump on to the nearest podium and uncork the bubbly. Sunday’s success in the Formula 1 ring has got Indians revving with delight. Though the achievement of Vijay Mallya’s Force India, powered by Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella, in Belgium took on the Ministry of Sports’ recently aired belief that F1 is not a sport “but pure entertainment”, it has given us an opportunity to raise at least a pint of beer to a sporting success with a strong Indian participation.


But the government’s spurning of an increasingly popular sport is symptomatic of how it reacts to sports in general before we make a mark. Sportsmen blaming the State for apathy and getting blamed in turn for being churlish has become an almost regular occurrence. Olympian Abhinav Bindra was only one sportsman who highlighted the role of Indian sporting successes despite the State rather than because of it. State enthusiasm towards sports like hockey and football — sports that we were once good at — tell their own stories. The neta’s role is confined to competing against other netas in showering the winner with cash prizes, plots of land and other sporting gestures of encouragement and pride that enhance the neta’s brand.


But with Formula 1 now, we can be rest assured that things won’t go awry — at least not because of any loss of interest until Mr Mallya or any other racing enthusiast with deepish pockets decides to move on to, say, darts or lacrosse. The fact that Indian sportsmen need patrons before they wear laurels and step up on the podiums is undeniable. Instead of waiting for a China-style ‘whatever it takes’ push from the State, let our sports be powered the way our industry is: private pride with private-public returns.








Of the many failures that characterise the polity and society in contemporary Gujarat, probably the most dangerous is the unprecedented extent of the arrest and collapse of processes of authentic reconciliation, because of which wounds refuse to heal. People of diverse faiths live side by side or in segregated ghettoes but in an uneasy, warped, brittle truce, without the restoration of genuine trust and normal social and economic intercourse.


The State remains openly hostile to a segment of citizens only because they belong to a different faith from the majority, reflected in raucous and openly prejudiced sectarian taunts in speeches of senior elected public leaders. They cast aspersions on the patriotism of Muslim citizens, parody their supposedly pervasive practices of polygamy and breeding large families, decry the alleged slaughter of the cow despite deep reverence towards her by Hindus, and claim their wide sympathies with terrorist violence.


Muslim ghettoes are routinely discriminated in public services, Muslim youth are picked up almost randomly on charges of terrorism and their deaths in ‘encounters’ or extra-judicial killings are explained away by State authorities with rarely even the façade of any credible evidence of their terrorist links and the circumstances in which it became necessary for the latter to take their lives without the due process of law. Their Muslim identity is accepted as reason enough to believe that they must have been terrorists, and terrorists do not deserve the protection of law.


There are few organised social and political spaces — official or non-official — in Gujarat today, for fostering forgiveness and compassion. There is instead a frightening communal chasm, accepted or actively fostered by the powerful political, administrative, business and media establishments. This engineered divide is growing exponentially between people of different religious persuasions. An ominous subtext characterises re-engineered social relations: new realities of settled hate, settled fear and settled despair in all villages and urban settlements that were torn apart by the gruesome mass violence of 2002. Gujarat continues to be a society bitterly, and some now grimly fear, permanently divided.


After the communal bloodbath that accompanied the vivisection of the country as it seized its independence, leaving a million people dead, there have been thousands of riots, or episodes of mass clashes between people of Hindu and Muslim faith, and pogroms, resulting in the loss, according to one painstaking estimate, of at least 256,28 lives (including 1,005 in police firings). It is remarkable that despite this recurring communal bloodletting during and after the traumatic partition of the country, there has been no systematic structured official (or even significant non-official) processes of ‘truth and reconciliation’, to help perpetrators and survivors of hate violence come together; to see and speak to each other; acknowledge their crimes and failings, their hate and fear, their grievances and suspicions; to seek and offer forgiveness, trust and goodwill; and ultimately help bring closure and eventual healing.


Given the enormity of contemporary threats posed by a deliberately fostered communal divide and violence to the very survival of secular democracy in India, fuelled further by the manufactured global ‘war on terror’, it is imperative today more than ever that systematic, sustained processes of reconciliation and justice in communal relations between sporadically embattled people of diverse faiths and ethnicities in India are established.


The Indian people have arguably had more experience than most through millennia of living with diversity. Therefore, even without organised processes of reconciliation, there are usually natural spontaneous processes of reaching out and healing that follow bouts of sectarian violence. There may be debates about whether without structured modes of facilitating reconciliation for survivors of the cataclysmic Partition violence of 1947, there has been adequate closure for families that experienced the agony and permanent uprootment from and the irreparable loss of their loved ones and homeland.

My own parents and their extended families lost their homes amidst hate, slaughter and arson in a region of the country that became a part of Pakistan in 1947, and their grief of loss remains dormant more than 60 years later, just below the surface. Perhaps we needed much earlier to bring together people who lived with the violence from both sides of the border, to share truth, discover their common burdens of suffering and privation, and thereby find the spaces for individual and collective forgiveness.


In other communal conflagrations that I have witnessed and handled in small district towns as a district administrator, I have observed that within days of such mass sectarian upheavals, persons of goodwill and compassion reach out from each community and others grasp their outstretched hands gratefully. There are spontaneous individual and collective expressions of remorse and grief at the loss suffered by the other community, and of compassion, through which processes of social and personal healing set in.


By contrast, the defining feature of Gujarat after the 2002 massacre is its frozen compassion. It is the determined absence of remorse both by the State and among many segments of the people, the conspicuous absence of social and political processes of reconciliation, and a resultant persisting bitterly unreconciled divide and distrust between the estranged communities. It is not surprising, therefore, more than seven years later, that what is most scarce in the parched earth of allegedly vibrant Gujarat is reconciliation and empathy.


Excerpted from Fear and Forgiveness: The Aftermath of Massacre (Penguin)


Harsh Mander is Convenor, Aman Biradari. The views expressed by the author are personal.








The GDP growth figures for the first quarter (Q1, April-June) of 2009-10 are of interest for three related reasons. First, is the worst of the crisis over? That depends a bit on what one means by crisis. There was a short-term credit squeeze that began in September 2008. And there is a longer-term global slowdown. The latter continues, with no immediate signs of recovery, explaining lacklustre export performance. If the credit crunch is identified as a crisis, Q1 of 2009-10 should be better than Q3 and Q4 of 2008-09 and CSO figures show this is true. 6.1 per cent is best of three quarters, though significantly lower than 7.8 per cent in Q1 of 2008-09. The dip in growth in 2009-10 compared to 2008-09 is particularly marked for manufacturing and services and has been neutralised somewhat by mining.


Second, what are growth prospects in 2009-10? Before the drought spectre, most forecasts for the full year were around 6.5 per cent with 6 per cent for the first half and 7 per cent for the second, though the government had a more optimistic 7 per cent for the entire year. Q1 figures vindicate 6-per-cent-for-first-half proposition. But that was before the drought. It is still too early to gauge the full impact of the drought, with state proclivities towards declaring districts drought-affected in search of Central assistance. With agriculture’s share declining and rabi sometimes compensating for kharif, it is unlikely the drought will shave off much from GDP growth, perhaps no more than 0.5 per cent. Upward pressure on prices of edible oils, pulses or sugar is more a sectoral issue. Therefore, 6 per cent GDP growth for the entire year is as good a guess as any and that’s roughly what the Planning Commission has been suggesting.


Third, assuming the worst is over, since global recovery is uncertain, what can the government do to ensure more endogenous sources of growth? There is a long list of pending reforms, including those in rural and infrastructure sectors. That apart, the key is revival of private investments and since September 2008 there has been a switch towards public consumption expenditure. Both private capital formation and consumption expenditure are functions of interest rates. Thus, beyond reforms, and increased efficiency of public expenditure, it is necessary to ensure that there isn’t a hard interest rate regime, on account of inflationary fears.







Certain disclosures are inconvenient and dangerous; they hurt so many vested and entrenched interests. S/he who dares to report corruption or violations of the law within an organisation is thus soon pounced upon and, in whistleblower jargon, “mobbed”, after having his/her identity revealed somehow and thereby anonymity and safety compromised. Why else was Satyendra Dubey murdered? Why else, as reported in this newspaper, do chargesheets, suspensions, censures and “departmental inquiries” spell the fate of so many public sector whistleblowers, now compelled to visit the courts to defend their honour, to have their injustices redressed, to retain the law’s focus on their acts of courage which exposed so much amiss? Nevertheless, while these unfortunate individuals did not imagine the 2004 whistleblowers resolution to be so ineffective, or that their identities and reports to the Central Vigilance Commission might be leaked, persecution of whistleblowers is a global phenomenon. The global record on whistleblower protection is also inconsistent.


The bottomline however is this: a country with undeniably sound democratic credentials cannot persist in this lack of institutional transparency and empowering laws. Last week, the prime minister spoke about the need to tackle corruption immediately and effectively. That, and institutional transparency, will not come about if those who make confidential disclosures about wrongdoings in public organisations are not protected — in theory and practice. Thus formal legislation protecting them, replacing the 2004 resolution, could provide a solution. That the government has finalised the draft of the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill 2009 is undoubtedly a step forward, but ministers have significantly been excluded from its purview; nor is there any provision for corporate whistleblowers yet.

Ignoring frivolous or false cases, and excluding matters sub-judice or encroaching on strategic interests, protecting whistleblowers is a means of protecting citizens and the public interest. Provisions thereof would also be in keeping with the president’s promise of a public data policy in June and the RTI Act, which is transforming India in many ways. Whistleblowers expose what escapes the public eye but needs to be acted upon. They cannot perform this essential, and thankless, role without adequate legal cover.








More often than not it’s the usual suspects who dominate the Grand Prix. It’s either Ferrari or McLaren leading the pack and Hamilton or Button popping open the champagne. The Belgian Grand Prix set in the hilly Ardennes Forest set the scene for something extraordinary. Force India, owned by Vijay Mallya, gave Ferrari a run for its money as Raikonnen was only a few nano seconds ahead of Fisichella in a rare sequence of events.


Now more than ever one wonders, can Formula One actually evolve from being the elitist sport it is believed to be? There was a time when tickets were so excessively priced that those who cleared up their streets for this prestigious event were unable to attend. But as global reach and following gathered pace, so did the organisation. Tickets are now cheaper, and beyond that the sport is now no longer a commodity of the West. With tracks in China, Bahrain, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, it appears as though the sport is taking stock of changing realities. Furthermore, as the organisation remodels itself during the recession there have been attempts to place a budget cap. The idea was to allow for newcomers and level out the playing field. Unacceptable to the big boys, Ferrari threatened to walk out should that happen. In fact, matters went as far as Ferrari pushing for a new championship.


So, are the stakeholders too powerful? F1 is all about technological advances — just look at the evolution of the sport, trace it back to the Industrial Revolution in order to grasp its European dimension. Many of the same companies still command the market and lead it in research and development pushing F1 to new limits. In fact, perhaps this high level of competitiveness is beneficial, especially when newcomers indicate that they too can perform.









Jaswant Singh’s book is a brilliant landmark encompassing accepted and contrarian views. According to him, Partition (he uses the emotion-laden word “vivisection”) is the central event of 20th-century Indian history. Singh is wrong. The central event of the times was the ending of the British Raj. He argues that Nehru and Patel were as responsible for Partition as Jinnah. He is right. It is his position that Partition was a great mistake that is questionable.


Let’s look at the counter-factual “where would we be if Partition had not happened?” It’s impossible to say whether we would have been better or worse. We might have become a fractious violence-ridden Lebanon. We might have splintered into dozens of warring states, something that has happened before in our history. If things went well, we might have been a prosperous, happy utopia! This question does not have many takers among Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. Most of them, with a few exceptions, think that Partition was good. We must perforce take them at face value.


We need to look at the positions of Nehru and Patel based on the facts they knew and the bargaining chips they had in 1947. They were confronted by Muslim extremism and they had to reckon with the fact that the British would try to further their own interests and sabotage that which was not to their liking. Muslim extremists had two contradictory positions. The Muslim League position was that in a Hindu-majority India they would be overwhelmed. Their solution was to have Muslim-majority regions secede. The second extremist position (inspired by Deobandis and Ahrars) was that India was once ruled by Muslims and Muslims had a right to propagate all over India, not just in one part, and ultimately prevail. Conceding the secession of Muslim-majority areas, followed by other Muslims living in India as citizens of a secular civil society, was and, in hindsight, is far better than a so-called united country where large numbers are pursuing plans to “re-conquer” India.


While there is much to praise in Jinnah, he and his colleagues gave preference to collective rights and identities in contrast to the ideal of “individual citizenship”, the bedrock of the American and French revolutionary philosophies. For Napoleon, French Catholics or Jews were French “citoyens” in the public sphere doing whatever they wanted in their private spheres. For Jefferson, religious freedom in Virginia was to be exercised by individuals. To his credit, Nehru stood up for individual rights in the enlightenment tradition; he may have conceded a quasi-Marxian class consciousness, but never exclusive religious identity as the basis for citizenship.


The British had a set of arguments which they both intellectually believed and which suited their self-interest:


— India is not a “nation”; only British “impartiality” kept this geographic tract together.


— The leadership of the Congress was dominated by radicals who would not support British interests post-Independence. They may even become pro-communist and pro-Soviet. A separate Pakistan would be


pro-British and would vigorously oppose atheistic communism and the Soviet Union.


— The Congress “stabbed Britain in the back” by launching the Quit India insurrection when Britain was in a desperate position after the fall of Singapore and Burma. It was typical of the Congress. They thought the Japanese would win and were trying to curry favour with the new conquerors. The Muslim League on the other hand had remained loyal and therefore deserved British sympathy and help.


— Creating a Muslim state in the Indian sub-continent would strengthen British relations with oil-rich Muslim states of the Middle East.


— Net-net the British were determined to allow secession, or at least the right to secession.


The Cabinet Mission Plan allowed for provinces and groups of provinces to secede after 10 years. This would have resulted in 10 years of wrangling and unrest followed by a break-up not dissimilar to that which happened later in Yugoslavia. The Congress rightly opposed this and realised that we needed to make a bargain with the British to get the best deal we can. The British after all were still the rulers. The two provinces of Punjab and Bengal had bare Muslim majorities (low 50 percentages) and these majorities despite some aberrations had some geographic consistency — western Punjab was predominantly Muslim and eastern Bengal was predominantly Muslim. Therefore, partitioning of these provinces could and did make sense. It has been wrongly argued by some that Nehru and Patel favoured centralisation while Jinnah and others preferred decentralisation. The centralisation debate was secondary. The issue was secession. Nehru and Patel were willing to live with a one-time secession but, like Lincoln, refused to countenance an ongoing “right of secession”. If the Cabinet Mission proposals had been accepted (as advocated by Seervai, Jaswant and others, who refer to it as the “last chance” for preserving a united India), one can be reasonably certain that in 1957 there would have been a partition and not just Lahore and Dacca but Jalandhar, Rohtak, Hisar as well as Calcutta, Asansol and Darjeeling would have separated from India leaving us with a husk of a country. In retrospect, rejecting the Cabinet Mission proposals which would have at best given India an illusory, unstable unity for a mere 10 years was among the smartest and most practical things that the Congress leadership did. The US had a civil war eight decades after independence. We may have avoided one 10 years after independence by agreeing to Partition.


Sardar Patel argued that we had a chance to develop 80 per cent of the country and the Muslim League were welcome to develop the other 20 per cent. This thought remains valid today — staying focused on development and less on rewriting history with hypothetical counter-factuals.


The writer divides his time between Mumbai, Lonavla and Bangalore








India’s much-publicised moon mission came to an abrupt end on August 29 when we lost radio contact with Chandrayaan-1. After failing to re-establish contact for more than 24 hours, the Indian Space Research organisation terminated the mission. Yes, in principle, the mission could be said to have achieved most of its objectives; but it is equally true that its abrupt end has hurt ISRO’s pride.


This mission was sold, after all, as the single event since Pokharan-II that has brought the most glory to Indian science. (It is ironic that Pokharan’s legacy has come in the same week as the moon mission has had to wind up, well before its programmed life of two years.)


Actually the end is not as unexpected as it may seem; for the last month or so the writing has been on the wall, with the only question being when. This was because a month ago a vital sensor on the craft (the so-called star sensor) had gone bad. This sensor was meant to aid the precision of the craft’s orientation towards the moon.


ISRO had a “Plan-B”: scientists had then put a gyroscope on board along with an innovative antenna-pointing mechanism to keep the spacecraft functional. By that time it had completed 3,000 revolutions around the moon and had dispatched over 70,000 images of the surface. Overall, during its 10 months of existence, Chandrayaan-1 completed 312 days in orbit, making more than 3,400 orbits around the moon, and providing large amounts of data.


But was this mission a success or a failure?


The quality of data despatched back to Earth clearly indicates that the mission has succeeded in achieving most of its technical objectives. As is now generally known, almost 95 per cent of the desired data has already been “picked up”. All sophisticated sensors onboard — the terrain-mapping camera, the radiation dose monitor, the mini-synthetic aperture radar, the hyper-spectral imager and the moon mineralogy mapper — performed accurately. Most importantly, for the first time, an Indian spacecraft reached a distance of 4 lakh km, remained there for 10 months, and successfully carried out various experiments.


The performance of the craft even after the failure of the star sensor was satisfactory. Chandrayaan-1 carried out a unique experiment along with a US craft just a week before going silent. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched on June 18, 2009, and Chandrayan-1 joined hands together on August 20 to look for water on the moon. Both the crafts were manoeuvred within a few dozen kilometres of each other to study a crater near the moon’s North Pole.


Naturally, one more year in space would have allowed this craft to carry out a few more such experiments and to learn more about the moon’s atmosphere. The remaining 5 to 10 per cent loss of data will certainly leave gaps in our understanding. And ISRO will have to undertake a detailed review of what happened; initial reports indicate that some catastrophic failure either in transmitter or receiving systems could likely cause the snapping of radio links.


But, if that’s all true, here’s the question that must then be asked: did ISRO over-enthusiastically overestimate the lifespan of Chandrayaan-1?



Just before India two similar missions were launched respectively by Japan and China. Japan’s Kaguya-1 was intentionally crashed on the moon’s surface on June 10, 2009 after completing one year and eight months of its stay in the close vicinity of the moon. China’s craft Chang’e-1 wound up its operations on March 1, 2009 after a successful stay of one year and five months.


Interestingly, both these states during the launch had claimed the designed life of their craft was a single year; they extended it only subsequently, after judging its performance in the moon’s atmosphere. Kaguya faced some difficulties while in space but successfully overcame them. ISRO could have been a bit more conservative in its statements of the mission’s life-period.


ISRO’s significant roadmap for the future shouldn’t be held hostage. It should quickly put in place the lessons learnt from this mission; Chandrayaan-2 must not be delayed. Such setbacks are hardly uncommon to scientific quests. However, when you are competing with states like Japan and China — both commercially and also otherwise — keeping the image of your programme intact is also important. Any skills at manoeuvring that ISRO possesses can’t be limited to its satellites.


The writer researches non-traditional threats to national security at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi










The public have just voted us into power. We should not respond by raising the price of petrol and diesel — thus was the politicians’ response in June to the government’s proposal to deregulate the price of petroleum products. ‘The Maharashtra and Haryana elections are around the corner. It would be politically imprudent to tamper with the pricing mechanism at this juncture’. Such might be the political reaction were the newly constituted Parikh Committee to recommend that domestic prices be aligned to international prices. The quotes are of course, my paraphrased version of corridor whispers, but they do provide an insight into the dynamics of decision-making and in particular, the dominant influence of the politician (as distinct from the government). Notwithstanding logic and evidence when economic push comes to political shove, political perception seems always to trump economic fact. This is not unique to the petroleum sector. It is the case with all economic activities that have a mass impact.


I am not stating anything new. The skewed power equation between ‘good economics’ and perceived ‘good politics’ has been the subject of much commentary and discussion. This article could well be critiqued for flogging an oft beaten donkey. I do so nonetheless because of concern at the growing economic costs of current political inaction. The enormity of these costs can be gauged from three sectoral estimates.


First, petroleum: it is well known that the oil marketing public sector companies ratcheted up losses in excess of Rs. 50,000 crores during FY 2008-09 because the government-administered sales price of diesel, petrol, kerosene and LPG was less than the market-based costs of acquisition. The reason these companies were not bankrupted was because of the government oil bonds — paper IOUs — that bolstered their balance sheet. A corollary of this policy — the costs of which in terms of lost productivity, operational inefficiency and shoddy service cannot be quantified — has been to kill competition. The oil bonds are not offered to the private sector and this has so tilted the playing field that all private companies have had to scale back their ambitions. Second, power: a just published report states that the opportunity cost of power outages, theft and captive generation is in excess of Rs. 200,000 crores annually. And third, infrastructure: McKinsey has written that if the current trends in inefficiency regards the development of infrastructure continue over the 11th and 12th plan periods (2008-2017), the country will suffer an opportunity cost loss equivalent to almost 18 per cent of GDP in FY 2017.


These estimates will no doubt be challenged but I doubt whether the fundamental message contained within the numbers can be disputed. The cost of shelving ‘good economics’ to pursue perceived ‘good politics’ is huge and increasing exponentially — so much so that sooner rather than later the price of such politics will become unaffordably high.


So the question: what if anything can be done to resurrect ‘good economics’. The usual response has been ‘nothing’. It is said that this is the price of democracy; that politicians cannot be expected to accept short-term pain (a la voter backlash) in return for ill-defined future benefits; that the government cannot ride roughshod over political sentiment — they are after all answerable to the political class — and that the companies do not have the operational autonomy to side step their government shareholder. But in today’s connected world a different and more cautiously optimistic answer should perhaps be considered.

The current impasse between ‘good economics’ and ‘good politics’ is because of the politicians’ perception of the reactions of the public. They expect a voter backlash to decisions such as a hike in the price of diesel or the curtailment of free power. And accordingly they block the policy despite the supporting weight of economic logic. Ipso facto the impasse can be broken only if the politicians were persuaded that there would be no such backlash and that the public would welcome economic statesmanship over political populism. The fact is that public opinion is the politicians’ lodestar. When that shifts, the politicians sway in sync.


Consumer preferences are not set in concrete. They alter in the face of new information and experience. The problem is that consumers are often ill informed. The majority of the public do not know for instance the implications of governments policies on fuel pricing, subsidies, free power etc. It is no wonder therefore that they react against suggestions that threaten to pinch their pocket. Were they better informed their responses to issues like a price hike might well be more muted.


The public does not respond simply to short-term issues. They are no doubt motivated by self interest but this encompasses not just immediate needs but also future gratification for themselves and their ‘yet unborn’. It is a mistake therefore to assume that consumers will always react adversely to decisions that inflict short-term pain. If rationalism is not unrecognised. Government have often used public opinion as an instrument of policy. At the height of the oil price crisis last year when prices were riding above $ 100 billion and subsidies were bleeding the exchequer, Malaysia circulated a white paper on the broader consequence of continued subsidies on economic growth and development. The paper spelt out in clear, non-technical and objective language the ramifications on subsidies on infrastructure development, education, health, the environment etc and made clear that its continuation would thwart growth. The purpose of the paper was not simply to prepare the public for a price hike but also to co-opt them in the government’s effort to bring around the political class. In similar vein, it might be a good idea for the Parikh Committee to issue not simply a technical report but also a paper for the public.


The underlying message is that public opinion is the essential domino. The impasse between ‘good economics’ and ‘good politics’ can be broken if this domino is moved. This is a difficult task but made easier by technology. The positive, cascaded impact of such a move could stem the current financial haemorrage.


The writer is Chairman, Shell Group in India, views are personal.








It is only appropriate that the report of the Yash Pal Committee on higher education was being discussed by the Central Advisory Board Education ( CABE) before being implemented. The Yash Pal Committee makes a bold appeal for the revival of the state universities and asks the planners to bridge the huge gap that exists between them and the centrally created universities. One can only hope that the state ministers are not daunted by the report’s call to grant real and substantive autonomy to the centres of higher learning. Such autonomy would effectively mean leaving educational matters to academics and cessation of interference by the ruling party or ideology of the day, not only in matters like selection of vice-chancellors and faculty but also curriculum and syllabi.


Autonomy is the fulcrum of the Yash Pal report. Perhaps this partly fuels the scepticism with which Left intellectuals have received it. They suspect that autonomy would lead to privatisation, and therefore they see it as part of a large conspiracy by market forces proponents to take over higher education. Interestingly, the ideologues of for-profit universities are also unhappy with the report as it firmly rejects the argument that quality education can only be ensured by opening the doors of higher education for market forces and strong competition. One member of the committee, who is at Cornell university, presented a dissenting note arguing that the state-funded universities should be left to deal with ‘esoteric’ knowledge areas like humanities and social sciences where as the commercially lucrative areas like management, engineering, medicine and law should be the concerns of private, for-profit educational entrepreneurs. Prof. Shyam Sunder , an economist at Yale countered this by asking which of the leading hundred universities across the globe are for-profit entities! What is to be noted is that the report welcomes the participation of non-government or private players who are serious in their intent and are not here to earn profit. Surplus generated should be ploughed back into the institutions rather than being siphoned off for other purposes. The contribution of TIFR, IISc, TISS to higher education of India cannot be overemphasised. One should not forget that many of our leading universities are the result of private initiatives. The role of individuals and communities cannot be ignored and the state cannot be the sole source of all educational endeavours. Non-state initiatives bring colour, diversity and vitality to higher education.


Separating knowledge areas from each other and setting up specialised, single-discipline universities robs education of its essence. The history of knowledge is full of instances of new knowledge being created at margins of disciplines or through their cross-fertilisation. State or non-state, all institution builders should keep this in mind when they create a university. The report makes a case for diversifying IITs and IIMs where humanities and social sciences are but service departments. It calls upon them to move beyond the role of producing undergraduate engineers and strive to equal institutions like MIT or Caltech which are institutes of technology but have Nobel laureates in areas like economics and linguistics too.


The desire to become world leaders in education would remain empty if we are unable to create new knowledge. And it is here that the report disagrees with those who argue that since quality is in short supply here, we need to import it and invite foreign universities to plug the gap. The report says that true universities grow in organic connection with the cultural soil and develop their unique character over a very long periods, and cannot be transplanted mechanically. It is the metaphor of agriculture and not engineering which needs to be evoked. Education or knowledge is a touch sport. Our universities should have space for academics from all over the world and they should not feel constrained by ‘universal’ rules regarding compensation etc., while inviting them. It is here that the principle of autonomy becomes crucial.

A strong role for the state, space for creative non-government initiative, respect for the unique individuality of an institution, elimination of the distances between disciplines and between knowledge and life outside, a scheme of education which is relevant to the student and the society in all respects are some of the critical features of this report. These are the principles on which the new all-encompassing regulatory agency proposed as the National Commission for Higher Education and Research(NCHER) would replace the existing regulatory agencies like the UGC, AICTE, MCI, COA, NCTE which take a fragmented view, depriving the education of a holistic vision which alone can make innovation in their respective fields possible.This would not be a regulatory body to lord over the higher education institutions but to play the role of a catalyst for lively exchange between diverse educational experiences, a defender of their individuality and protector of their autonomy from all extra-educational interferences, be it from the government of the day or ruling commercial interests. Are we mature enough to take this call?


The writer is associate professor at Delhi University








BJP leaders are not alone in jumping into the ring and wrestling each other. Three lusty lads from Haryana have traveled to South Africa for a bout or two. They’re up against Tornado and other wrestlers with equally improbable names. Welcome to WWF, eshtyle Indian 100 per cent. And when we say 100 per cent we mean 100% De Dhana Dhan the new weekend show on Colors. It has a galaxy of hitmen (no pun intended) led by: that old warrior Dara Singh and the bad man of Bollywood, actor Sharat Saxena cheering on our boys as they grapple with the best South Africa has to offer. And the best South Africa has to offer are at least a foot taller and broader than our wrestlers!


It also has Mohan Kapoor, commentator. He is bald. He wears dark glasses inside the studio ring. He knows very little about the art of wrestling with words. He throws them to the floor, flips them over, stamps on them before beating them into submission, rather like the contests he describes. Suggest he take a few more wrestling lessons. Finally, since no one wants to watch so many half-naked men fling themselves at each other, there’s actress Isha Koppikar looking wholly out of place fully clothed with well-set head piece. Couldn’t she have streaked it orange, purple, something? See you at the ring.


There is something so pleasant about Farah Khan, you can watch Tere Mere Beach Mein (Star Plus) simply for the pleasure of her. Plump, she’s comfortable with being plump and herself. Hers is a talk show with a purpose: to extract something more valuable from her guests than a few tidbits: she got a dress out of Priyanka Chopra and signature red boxing gloves from pugilist Vijender, to auction for charity. Farah gives as good as she gets: she donates money to her guests — one lakh to Iqbal and one lakh to train boxers. These noble causes do not make the show drip with the milk of human kindness although it did spring tears when young Iqbal told his heartwarming story. Enjoyable chit-chat. Watch out for the sets: a cross between a home as comfy as Farah and a beach resort where the waves painted on to the background actually wave. We kid you not.


Timing, it is said, is everything and perfect timing, well. At precisely 10 pm on Thursday night, Brajesh Mishra appeared on CNN-IBN in conversation with Karan Thapar and with Barkha Dutt on NDTV 24x7. Thapar beat Dutt to it: he asked Mishra about Jaswant Singh’s revelations on L.K. Advani and Kandahar. Two seconds later, she asked Mishra about Jaswant Singh’s revelations on L K Advani and Kandahar. He gave them identical answers (barring a transit verb here or there). Then Thapar asked Mishra about how Narendra Modi was meant to resign in 2000. On cue, Dutt asked Mishra about how Narendra Modi was meant to resign. Then, the sequence was reversed: Dutt, split seconds ahead of Thapar asked if Vajpayee was hurt by the goings-on in the BJP now and Thapar, split seconds later, asked how many times Vajpayee had been disgusted by the goings-on in the BJP (or the equivalent). At some stage, the two anchors discovered that imitation no longer flattered either of them and the questions diverged.


How does one explain such identical twin questions? Did Mishra reveal the questions he had been asked by one anchor to the other? Unlikely. Did the anchors ask each other what they had asked him? Even more unlikely. Did an electronic or human mole eavesdrop on the recordings? Or, is it simply that great minds will think alike? Whatever happened, it was a surreal TV experience to watch the interviews side by side.


Idea! The next time anyone has anything to reveal, he or she should hold a press conference like Mohan Bhagwat did and appear on all the news channels, that too live.








After hitting a trough of 5.8% in the previous two quarters, a pick-up in GDP growth rate to 6.1% in the first quarter of 2009-10 is confirmation that the economy is past its worst phase. Perhaps the most striking trend is the trend in the industrial sector where growth has bounced back from a low of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2008-09 to 5% in the first quarter of 2009-10. And the pick-up has been extensive with manufacturing, which had hit rock-bottom in the last quarter—output shrinking by 1.4%—bouncing back into positive territory, at 3.4%. Equally encouraging is the pick-up in construction, where growth has steadily accelerated from 4.2% to 6.8% and further to 7.1% over the last three quarters. However, the services sector continues to be a drag on overall growth, with numbers steadily slipping from 10.2% to 8.6% and further to 7.8% over the last three quarters mainly on account of the deceleration in community, social and personal services segment, where growth was bloated by the sixth pay commission award. Though the pick-up in agricultural growth to around 2.5% during the last two quarters has also contributed to the recovery—this may change in the following quarters because of deficient monsoon—the long-term prospects of the economy continue to be restrained by the fall in domestic consumption and exports.


Private consumption expenditure continues to fall from a peak level of 57.4% of the GDP in the third quarter of 2008-09 to 55.6% in the most recent quarter and the contribution of exports to GDP has shrunk much faster from a peak level of 26.5% of the GDP in the first quarter of 2008-09 to 22.3% now. Also, the impact of the fiscal pump-priming seems to be slowly dissipating with the share of government consumption expenditure once again shrinking to 9.9% in the most recent quarter, after touching a high 13.4% in the fourth quarter of 2008-09. One reason for optimism is the slow pick-up in investments with gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) edging up from a low of 30.9% of the GDP in the third quarter of 2008-09 to 31.6% in the last two quarters. But full recovery can only take place when GFCF is once again pushed up to pre-crisis rates of around 35%. Interestingly, financial services have reported impressive growth, probably on the back of impressive performance by banks. It’s, however, time that the banks stepped out of the comfort zone of profits and began to lend more aggressively and cheaply to get investment going. RBI can lend a helping hand by announcing at least one round of rate cuts.







Despite the improvement in liquidity, bank credit to companies and individuals continues to remain sluggish. It dropped by over Rs 5,000 crore in the fortnight ended August 14. A part of the decline can be attributed to repayment by oil companies and low disbursals of sanctioned loans to the infrastructure sector. On a year-on-year basis, bank credit growth fell to14.89% in the 15 days up to August 14, compared to 15.74% in the previous fortnight. This is hurting the economy as is evident from the index of six core industries which rose by just 1.8% in July, lower than the 4% in June. Similarly, the GDP numbers for the first quarter of this financial year show gross fixed capital formation was down 0.6 percentage points compared with the same period last year. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a decline in demand for even working capital loans, and companies are now looking for more positive consumer sentiments before they take disbursement of even sanctioned loans. One reason why companies are postponing their investment decisions is the lack of belief in the early signs of economic recovery. Usually, companies get loan amounts sanctioned by banks for the entire year and then draw funds when they require them.


The current 10-12% interest rate on corporate borrowing is expensive, given the fact that revenue growth is yet to pick up. On the contrary, companies are now finding the global market more lucrative to borrow as the credit default spread has come down to the same level as it was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Companies borrowed $2 billion through external commercial borrowings in July, the highest since September 2008. Also, companies are aggressively switching from floating rate dollar loans to fixed rate liabilities, fearing that interest rates would increase even in the global market. But the global credit market is only accessible for big companies. Locally, companies also fear that the government’s massive borrowing could crowd out capital and harden interest rates. Banks will now have to play a proactive role to reduce interest rates that will instil confidence among corporates to borrow even if revenue growth takes another two quarters to revive. Some of the borrowed funds can be pumped into capital expenditure plans, which typically take 12 to 18 months to yield results. Banks have become wary of incremental exposures to real estate, gems & jewellery, textile, leather, auto-ancillary, and non-banking financial companies, but remember, these sectors were the main growth drivers in the past. Crisil estimates credit growth will be around 12-14% in 2009-10 and, as the economy picks up, it will revive, but the heady days of 30%-plus growth are some distance away.








The India GDP data and growth numbers released on Monday are broadly in line with our (and street) expectations and are quite impressive compared to the growth performance of other emerging markets, particularly our Asian peers. Other than China (7.9 percent), India’s Q2 Calendar 2009 growth has far outperformed most others, with only Indonesia managing relatively decent positive growth.


But more important than the current numbers, which will be printed at length in this newspaper, are questions of what lies ahead. What is the prognosis of growth for the rest of the year? How will the stimulus programmes play out and drive consumption and investment? What will be the global environment in which India will grow? How will RBI read the growth signals and craft its responses?


The most striking aspect of the GDP numbers today was the sharp slowdown of the community and social services segment, from the 22 and 12 percent growth rates of the two previous quarters to 6.8 percent. This was during a quarter that has seen large borrowings by the Central government, about the same levels as that projected for the July-September quarter. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the proximate causes of the lower increase in the context of the continuing stimulus measures of the government and the RBI, it is possible that a large part of these borrowings were deposited with banks.


We had indeed seen a marked increase in deposits during the quarter, and some of that was earlier attributed to mutual funds. It is likely that with elections mid-way through the quarter, and then the presentation of the Budget, expenditures other than for the maintenance of government might have been deferred.


This is a not a very convincing conjecture, given the published data on fiscal deficits, and the fact that these outlays might have shown up in other segments like construction, without which the respective growth rates could have even lower. But this can serve as a working hypothesis for the question of whether growth rates are likely to sustain, weaken or accelerate over the next three quarters.


There are reasons to expect that the GDP growth, on the whole, will sustain, but not strengthen, over the next few quarters. On the negative side, agricultural output is likely to weaken over the next two quarters, coinciding with the kharif output shortfall, before picking up slightly with the winter harvest. However, analysts have already factored in the effects of a deficient monsoon season, in different degrees, with the attendant downrating of growth forecasts.


Following on from the observations on the government’s expenditure before, this is likely to directly contribute less to later quarters, a large part due to the aforementioned high growth rates of the quarters last year. However, our conjecture is that we are likely to see a higher growth rate in the second quarter data, once expenditures on plan and budgeted projects kick in.


Reinforcing this are signs that credit offtake might not improve quickly and strongly for much of the year. Other than being a sign of slowing demand for credit, and probably economic activity, this will lead to a lower growth rate of the financial services segment (about 7 percent) of GDP.


On the positive side, globally, there are signs that economic recovery will be quicker, and probably avoid a double dip, in most developed markets than earlier expected. This will hopefully improve India’s export prospects over the rest of the year. Given that goods and services exports accounts for around a quarter of India’s GDP, this will gradually put wind in the GDP sails. In addition, with equity markets likely to improve gradually, and with low housing finance rates, there might be a revival of demand for residential housing, which, together with infrastructure projects, might boost construction.


In addition, shorn of fundamentals, there is a statistical reason for expecting higher growth in the last two quarters. The first two quarters of FY09 had had relatively high growths, at 7.8 and 7.7 percent, before falling to 5.8 percent in the last two quarters.


Ceteris Paribus, this should boost Q3 and Q4 growth numbers this fiscal year. The net outcome of these mutually reinforcing drivers is that a sense of weakness if likely to persist for time.


The implications for policy are evident. If the RBI were to subscribe to our rather bearish view of the continuing weakness of economic activity, then there is a good chance that it will desist from tightening its policy stance for the better part of the year.


The author is vice-president, business & economic research, Axis Bank. These are his personal views








‘The public have just voted us into power. We should not respond by raising the price of petrol and diesel’—thus was the politicians’ response in June to the government’s proposal to deregulate the price of petroleum products. ‘The Maharashtra and Haryana elections are around the corner. It would be politically imprudent to tamper with the pricing mechanism at this juncture’. Such might be the political reaction were the newly constituted Parikh Committee to recommend that domestic prices be aligned to international prices. The quotes are of course my paraphrased version of corridor whispers but they do provide an insight into the dynamics of decision-making and in particular the dominant influence of the politician. Notwithstanding logic and evidence when economic push comes to political shove political perception seems always to trump economic fact. This is not unique to the petroleum sector. It is the case with all economic activities that have a mass impact.


I am not stating anything new. The skewed power equation between ‘good economics’ and perceived ‘good politics’ has been the subject of much commentary and discussion. This article could well be critiqued for flogging an oft-beaten donkey. I do so nonetheless because of concern at the growing economic costs of current political inaction. The enormity of these costs can be gauged from sectoral estimates.


First petroleum. It is well known that the oil marketing public sector companies ratcheted up losses in excess of Rs. 50,000 crore during FY 2008-09 because the government administered sales price of diesel, petrol, kerosene and LPG was less than the market-based costs of acquisition. Second Power: a just published report states that the opportunity cost of power outages, theft and captive generation is in excess of Rs 200,000 crore annually. And third infrastructure. McKinsey has written that if the current trends in inefficiency regards the development of infrastructure continue over the 11th and 12th plan periods (2008-2017), the country will suffer an opportunity cost loss equivalent to almost 18% of GDP in FY 2017.


The cost of shelving ‘good economics’ to pursue perceived ‘good politics’ is huge and increasing exponentially - so much so that sooner rather than later the price of such politics will become unaffordably high.


So the question: what if anything can be done to resurrect ‘good economics’? The usual response has been ‘nothing’. It is said that this is the price of democracy; that politicians cannot be expected to accept short-term pain in return for ill-defined future benefits. But in today’s connected world a different and more cautiously optimistic answer should perhaps be considered.


The current impasse between ‘good economics’ and ‘good politics’ is because of the politicians’ perception of the reactions of the public. They expect a voter backlash to decisions such as for instance a hike in the price of diesel or the curtailment of free power. And accordingly they block the policy despite the supporting weight of economic logic. Ipso facto the impasse can be broken only if the politicians were persuaded that there would be no such backlash and that the public would welcome economic statesmanship over political populism. The fact is that public opinion is the politicians’ lodestar. When that shifts, the politicians sway in sync.


Consumer preferences are not set in concrete. They alter in the face of new information and experience. The problem is that consumers are often ill-informed. The majority of the public do not know, for instance, the implications of governments policies on fuel pricing, subsidies, free power, etc. It is no wonder therefore that they react against suggestions that threaten to pinch their pocket. Were they better informed their responses to issues like a price hike might well be more muted.


The public does not respond simply to short-term issues. They are no doubt motivated by self-interest but this encompasses not just immediate needs but also the future . It is a mistake therefore to assume that consumers will always react adversely to decisions that inflict short-term pain. Governments have often used public opinion as an instrument of policy. At the height of the oil price crisis last year when prices were riding above $ 100/bl and subsidies were bleeding the exchequer, Malaysia for instance circulated a white paper on the broader consequence of continued subsidies on economic growth and development. The paper spelt out in clear, non-technical and objective language the ramifications on subsidies on infrastructure development, education, health, the environment, etc and made clear that its continuation would thwart growth. The purpose of the paper was not simply to prepare the public for a price hike but also to co-opt them in the government’s effort to bring around the political class. In similar vein it might be a good idea for the Parikh Committee to issue not simply a technical report but also a paper for the public.


The author is chairman, Shell Group of Companies in India. These are his personal views






In 2008, Vijay Mallya’s Force India spent something to the tune of $120 million compared to Toyota’s $450 million, McLaren’s $430 million, and BMW’s $365 million, according to various reports. This year, given its earlier performance and the general recessionary trends, the budget was slashed further. The investment was no match for what the big guys in the circuit were spending, but Force India, with considerable self-belief, finally achieved a podium finish at the Belgian Grand Prix.


Interestingly, marketers and sponsors in India look at sports sponsorship in a unique manner: ratings first; the sponsorship can follow. So if you looked at television ratings for Formula One in India, it simply doesn’t stand a chance, sponsorship wise.


If the 2008 season’s performance is anything to go by, TVRs are still at sub-zero levels. For the July 26, Hungarian Grand Prix the TVR stood at 0.01 (males 15-34 years). Interestingly, the viewership of F1 in India peaked in 2005 with 24 million individuals sampling the sport, thanks to Narain Karthikeyan, who drove for the Jordan team that season. The average viewership that year, on an all-India level, rose 100%, from 0.14 to 0.25. Of course, a comparison with cricket is unfair but just to put things in perspective, the IPL 20:20 debuted in 2008 with an average TVR in the inaugural season in mostly in double digits. So can Formula One establish itself as a television sport in India? The early signs are positive.


Even though 75% of race viewership comes from Europe at the moment, Asian countries are catching up. ESPN Star Sports stuck its neck out as early as in 2005 when it signed a five-year agreement with F1 organisers to broadcast all 19 championship races of F1 from 2006 to the 2010 season. The Force India team has also managed to drum up an impressive list of sponsors: Kingfisher, a brand owned by Vijay Mallya, is the primary sponsor. Other sponsors for 2008 included ICICI Bank, Median, Kanyan Capital and Reliance Industries.


After Force India F1’s swashbuckling race to the podium on Sunday, television viewership will, no doubt, increase. Ratings are bound to follow.








By itself, the decision of the United Progressive Alliance government to increase the reservation for women in all tiers of the panchayati raj system from one-third to at least half is a progressive step. But seen in the context of the government’s part-inability, part-unwillingness to push through one-third reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures, this initiative loses much of its gloss. The success of 33 per cent reservation for women in the panc hayats should have been reason enough to extend it to the elected bodies at the highest political level. However, in the face of strong opposition from several political parties, including supporters of the government, the UPA clearly lacks the political will to do the bold thing. The experience of States that already have at least 50 per cent reservation in panchayati tiers is that the local administration becomes more gender-sensitive and accessible. An increase in the number of women politicians at the grassroots level directly and indirectly leads to women’s empowerment in several fields. Greater participation of women in decision-making fortifies the overall democratic process, and makes the functioning of the elected bodies more meaningful.


The increase in reservation for women in panchayats is to be followed by a similar increase in urban local bodies. What is involved is an amendment of Article 243 of the Constitution, which provides for caste-wise and gender-wise reservation. As Members of Parliament have no direct stake at the lower levels of governance, and as States have powers to decide on the extent of reservation in local bodies, the amendment to facilitate 50 per cent reservation for women is unlikely to face any hurdle. Although major political parties such as the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Left have voiced support for the Women’s Reservation Bill, a small group of noisy diehard opponents have formed an impenetrable wall. The two major parties must accept a major share of the blame for the non-passage of the Bill. In the name of an elusive political consensus, the Congress and the BJP let matters drift, pretending virtuously to be for the big change but going along with the no-changers. This stance suits their MPs and MLAs, many of whom, quite hypocritically, have opposed the Bill in private while toeing the party line in public. The benefits of reservation in a profoundly inequitable society such as India’s are evident to all. The Manmohan Singh government has no excuses left for staying with the soft option and not mustering the political will and the parliamentary numbers to see the Women’s Reservation Bill through.







Medical ghostwriting, according to a researcher, “occurs when someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or disclosure. It is considered bad publication practice in the medical sciences, and some argue it is scientific misconduct.” An extreme case is what the U.S.-based Wyeth Pharmaceuticals did, according to a cache of 1500 documents that is now in the public realm. Wyeth hired professional ghostwriters to make a major contribu tion to the production of 26 papers that were published in 18 medical journals between 1998 and 2005. The papers showed in good light Prempro — the corporation’s blockbuster hormone therapy drug prescribed to menopausal women — in the face of mounting evidence of increased breast cancer risk from taking the drug. Even after this particular ghostwriting scandal was brought to light by a U.S. Senator, the documents would have remained out of reach but for the public-spirited intervention of PLoS Medicine, an open access journal, and The New York Times. The two acted as intervenors in the litigation brought against the drug company by thousands of affected women.


It is scandalous that ghostwritten papers that mimic well-researched science manage to get published in reputed medical journals. The effect is to mislead doctors by playing down the harmful effects of the drug and encouraging them to prescribe it to more patients. What is shocking is the willingness of researchers of repute to lend their names to the ghostwritten papers. Since the number of newly discovered molecules is very small, pharmaceutical companies sometimes feel obliged to make the most out of commercially available drugs. This is believed to be a major factor behind medical ghostwriting. One way to counter this is to punish the researchers who collude in such sharp practices. Unlike in the case of data manipulation and science fraud, universities have not shown much inclination to crack the whip against academics who lend their names to the ghostwritten papers. Where even the U.S. government failed, a group of medical journal editors succeeded in bringing about more transparency and accountability in the way clinical trials are conducted — by obliging drug companies to register trials prior to enrolling the first volunteer. They have also achieved a measure of success in obliging authors to disclose any conflict of interest. Conscientious journal editors and publishers have a big responsibility to ensure that unscrupulous sections of the pharmaceutical industry do not use their journals to mislead the scientific community and cause injury to the public.









The controversy relating to the disclosure of judges’ assets has achieved, for the moment, a happy resolution. A vigorous debate among the public, former judges, leaders of the Bar, Bar Associations, High Court judges and last but not the least the Chief Justice of India — is a sign of a vibrant democracy. The method and content of the disclosure are still opaque and may require further debate.


The contest was a thrilling and educative exercise, for every citizen. The media, particularly the electronic media, were a force-multiplier and reached many households across India. The debate will always remain a landmark and turning point in Indian legal history and will be the stuff shared by law teachers with generations of law students and citizens.


Let us briefly recount the highlights of the controversy. The first shot was fired when an application was made by one S.C. Agrawal under the Right to Information Act (RTI) seeking information “whether judges declared their assets as per the May 7, 1997 Resolution” — a resolution unanimously passed by Supreme Court judges. The demand was not for a disclosure of assets.


The redoubtable public interest crusader, Prashant Bhushan, representing Agrawal, succeeded before the CIC. This was a landmark order upholding the right of the citizen to information, in furtherance of the principles of judicial accountability.


The Chief Justice of India reacted: “We do not agree with what [the] CIC has said — we might appeal against it in Court” (Hindustan Times, 11.01.09).


Former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, who was instrumental in getting the 1997 Resolution passed unanimously, publicly opined that the assets of the Supreme Court judges were very much in the public domain (The Indian Express, 19.01.09).


Justice Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi High Court stayed the CIC’s decision on 19.01.2009 in a writ petition filed by the CPIO of the Supreme Court and appointed F.S. Nariman as “Amicus Curiae” who declined since he had very clear views — publicly expressed — that judges must disclose their assets.


Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said: “Judges of the higher judiciary should also be subjected to accountability on issues like declaration of assets …” and added “he had allowed access to information about MPs’ assets to anyone who sought it.” (The Indian Express, 22.01.09)


Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee cryptically said: “Whether legally bound or not, in the fitness of things, judges should declare their assets.” (The Times of India, 23.01.09)


The argument of the Supreme Court Registry that the resolution was purely voluntary and confidential and did not require any disclosure under any legal provision did not cut much ice, either with the Bar or the public. The Delhi High Court Bar Association resolved to support the CIC order. (The Hindu, 25.01.09).



After a brief summer interlude, on August 3, 2009, the introduction of the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill, 2009 in the Rajya Sabha brought the controversy to the centre-stage. The Bill contained Clause 6 prohibiting the disclosure to the public or in any other manner except in court proceedings where an offence is alleged or in proceedings involving misbehaviour. The battle-lines were drawn. The Bill supported the Supreme Court judges.


A stormy debate followed and Arun Jaitley, himself a leading lawyer, contended that the clause violated Article 19(1)(a). Ram Jethmalani said: “what this Bill does is, it creates a suspicion in the public mind that the judiciary is seeking favours from the executive — Now, this privileged position, which the judges are seeking from the executive makes them totally subservient to the executive.” Some members of the ruling party joined the criticism. The passing of the Bill was deferred. Parliamentary support was not forthcoming.


The parliamentary debate triggered strong articles from former Chief Justice J.S. Verma and F.S. Nariman. Justice Krishna Iyer also threw his considerable weight in favour of disclosure. Justice Shylendra Kumar (Karnataka High Court) wrote an article supporting disclosure and, inter alia, stated “The Chief Justice of India does not have the authority to speak for all other judges” (The Indian Express, 22.08.09). Justice Kannan of the Madras High Court voluntarily disclosed his assets. Senior Advocate K.K. Venugopal is reported to have said: “I agree with the judge of the Karnataka High Court that all judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts should make a complete disclosure of their assets.” (The Indian Express, 23.08.09)


The Chief Justice responded to Justice Kumar’s article by saying “he wants publicity and such a thing is not good for a judge. Judges should not be publicity-crazy.” (The Indian Express, 24.08.09) The stand of Justice Shylendra Kumar received wide support.


On August 27, 2009, The Hindu reported that the judges of the Supreme Court had decided in principle to put their assets on the website, but regarding the modalities — in what manner or form — no decision was taken. Transparency triumphed. Public opinion prevailed. The entire nation was happy that the Supreme Court had enhanced its own reputation by agreeing with the public perception. The decision received laudatory notices in many editorials.


The remark by the Chief Justice about the Karnataka judge, that he was “publicity crazy,” was an off-the-cuff remark — an impulsive reaction in an unguarded moment. The Chief Justice, in an exclusive interview, is reported to have gracefully said about the Karnataka judge: “He is young and has a good chance to make it to the Supreme Court on the basis of merit once he attains the required seniority — why alone an elevation to the SC, he has a good chance of becoming the CJI” (The Times of India, 29.08.09).


Exchanges between judges in public are not unknown in other jurisdictions. Earl Warren and Felix Frankfurter’s exchange in the U.S. Supreme Court has been recounted by Bernard Schwartz. Justice Frankfurter while dissenting observed in open court that the majority opinion was an “indefensible example of judicial nitpicking” and “excessively finicky appellate review.” Chief Justice Warren angrily retorted “that was not the dissenting opinion that was filed … As I understand the purpose of reporting an opinion in a courtroom is to inform the public and is not for the purpose of degrading this court.”


Lord Atkin is admired for his powerful dissent in Liversidge vs. Anderson where he stated about his colleagues: “I view with apprehension the attitude of judges who, on a mere question of construction when face to face with claims involving the liberty of the subject, show themselves more executive-minded than the executive.” The majority, including Lord Maugham and Lord Wright, were not amused. They refused to talk to him. Lord Maugham wrote a letter to the London Times criticising Lord Atkin and defending his own judgment. Maugham was widely criticised for this unprecedented “lapse.”


In the State of Rajasthan vs Union of India, acting President B.D. Jatti saw Chief Justice M.H. Beg before he wrote his judgment. Justice Goswami records in his judgment: “I part with the records with a cold shudder. The Chief Justice was good enough to tell us that the acting President saw him during the time we were considering judgment after having already announced the order and there was mention of this pending matter during the conversation.” Chief Justice Beg issued a press statement giving his views.


The current controversy has broken fresh ground. For the first time, the Supreme Court became a litigant before a High Court; for the first time, a High Court judge spoke up against the view of the Supreme Court judges — not in their judicial capacity because that is not permissible — but on a public issue with ethical dimensions; for the first time, former judges, in an effort to preserve the institutional integrity and respect of the Supreme Court, vigorously entered the fray; and for the first time, the media boldly took a critical stand against the apex judiciary.


In cricketing terms, the Supreme Court team has been bowled out against the citizens’ team which prevailed. The opening fast bowling combination of Verma and Nariman created the momentum — the Rajya Sabha debate carried it forward and the final six came from a High Court judge. Meanwhile, the media rating almost touched 20-20 levels.


But there are no winners and no losers in this friendly contest — because both sides believed that they were protecting the independence of the judiciary. The only winner is Indian democracy. Have we graduated from the most populous democracy to a more robust democracy?


(Anil Divan is a Senior Advocate.









“You’re looking at a people whose next income — if they’re lucky — will materialise in January or February 2011,” says Y.V. Malla Reddy in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. He is a 35-year veteran of NGO activism in this district, which till last week had seen perhaps the worst rainfall of the season anywhere in the country. The “next income” is always a fragile process in this single-crop district heavily focussed on groundnut, but 16 months away?


“The kharif is gone,” say farmers in village after village. “The late rains will help us with some fodder and maybe we can sow a few short-duration crops. But the groundnut [the main crop] is gone.”


Had the kharif been all right, says Mr. Malla Reddy, “they would have harvested it in November and December. It would have been sold in January-February 2010, five months from now. With that gone, the next sowing will be in July 2010. If that crop succeeds — it is always an ‘if’ over here — they will harvest it four months later and earn from it only when they sell in January-February 2011.”


Mr. Reddy, who heads the Ecology Centre, Anantapur, also points out: “It’s not 16 months without an income, it’s 34. Last year, excess rains wrecked the groundnut crop; so many [farmers] drew a blank in January-February 2009. Which means their last income came in 2008 February. The next is due in January 2011.”


How, then, are people surviving at all right now? “Of the 175 families here,” says P. Challaiah, a farmer in Palavai village, “all but half a dozen are sending members to NREGS sites. In fact, 200 people go from this village for that. Take that away and we’re dead.” Migration has plummeted in this village which once saw a hundred people moving out in search of work each year. “But,” says farmer and activist Maruti, “we wish they’d run the programme for at least 200 days a year. If there’re three of us in a family, those ‘100 days’ are gone in 30.”


These feelings are echoed in Palacherla village of the same Rapthadu mandal. It has 350 families — and 400 people reporting for work at the NREGS sites. Here, too, migrations have fallen sharply in the past two years. “Even [rain-fed] farmers owning 20-25 acres are seeking NREGS work,” laughs Prakash Reddy, a farmer here. “We need it. Not only because of the higher wage. The landowners might pay the same as they have to compete with it. But how many days will they give — five or ten, at this time?”


It is the same picture across the Rayalaseema and Telangana regions. The poor in Andhra Pradesh have three things going for them: The NREGS, rice at Rs.2 a kg and pensions for the aged and women. At this point, the dependence on nooru rojula panni (hundred days’ work), as the NREGS is known here, is total.


In Anantapur, where it has performed robustly, Collector B. Janardhan Reddy and Project Director P. Murali confirm the explosion in demand. There were roughly 97,000 wage-seekers in July 2008. This July that number was over 2,20,000, an increase of over 126 per cent. In August last year, wage-seekers totalled 57,000 for that month. This year, in just the first 15 days of August, they numbered 1,46,000. That is an increase of over 156 per cent — with just half the month counted.


For the poor and landless it is clearly the lifeline. But many little (and sometimes not so little) shopowners in Anantapur, Kurnool and Mahbubnagar have also sought work in the NREGS. In the arid zones, rain-fed farmers with up to 30 acres have reported for work. In Nalgonda district, skilled stone-cutters, facing the collapse of their trade, are eager to come use it. The drought comes atop a crippling price rise and the “economic slowdown.” A time when many have suffered great loss of income.


So much so that Ganesh pandals across these districts look forlorn. “There’s no chanda [contributions] this year,” say people in Pothireddypally in Mahbubnagar. In Nalgonda, the political parties have stepped in — competitively — to put up the pandals as ordinary folk are broke. “We have a Congress Ganesh, a TDP one, a PRP rival, a TRS contender and even a Communist Ganesh,” laughs a local activist.


Why does Anantapur have this prolonged no-income cycle? Isn’t any other crop possible? Why think of short-duration crops only when groundnut sinks? “There has never really been a rabi crop in Anantapur where over two-thirds of the cultivable area is under shallow, gravel-like red soil.” says Mr. Malla Reddy. “Just 10 per cent of the cultivated area is black cotton soil. And a second crop on this has been rare to non-existent.”


This is also a district where irrigation actually declined from a peak of 17 per cent in the late 1980s to just about 11 per cent by the middle of this decade. “Besides,” says Mr. Malla Reddy, “the rainy season is between June and October. To attempt another crop you must sow by September. But the groundnut crop cycle lasts 110-115 days, all the way into October. Harvesting begins in November if you’ve sown in July. So the best you can do is to have a contingency crop when groundnut cannot be sown. The question of a regular second crop does not arise on 90 per cent of the land.”


There is a brief lull in Anantapur’s NREGS activity as late rains have arrived and farmers are scrambling to sow something. “You said the late rains will give a very limited yield, if any at all,” I ask. “Then why are you sowing now, especially groundnut, which will not succeed at this point?”


There are sheepish grins all around. Last year’s groundnut crop in Anantapur, destroyed by excess rain, was covered by nearly Rs.600-crore worth of insurance. The varying amounts they get from this will be their only, if limited, cushion for now.


For a people with no income from crops to speak of for 34 months (and with a limited number of days in the NREGS) this is a straw to clutch at. In effect, they are sowing a crop called Insurance 2009. In a terrible period, it just might give them some respite. At least until — and if — the kharif of 2010 brings them an income in January 2011.









Since August 4, 2009, when the death of a girl from the A(H1N1) flu was reported in Pune, the insatiable media coverage has kept alive public interest in and fear over the epidemic.


The panic over the spread of the flu is understandable. The media obsession is predictable. This is a new strain of the flu; fear of the unknown and the global scale of its reach make for compelling news. The information overdrive has fuelled public a wareness of the issue, helping to dispel many half-truths and myths. This is the positive spin-off. The media interest has also kept the government on its toes, forcing it to act, or at least be seen to be responding to the epidemic with alacrity.


It is easy to draw the inference that the flu has thus far only affected the well-off and reasonably well-off sections of society, and hence the public furore. Seven children have died of A(H1N1) flu in India since the first case was reported on May 16. Their death could possibly have been prevented with timely diagnosis and early treatment. The public anger is understandable. And the media quite rightly highlights the loss of young lives and the risk of children being particularly susceptible to the flu.


However, there is another tragedy that quietly unfolds on a daily basis across villages and towns in India but receives scant or no attention. According to government sources, in India 45 children die every hour due to respiratory infections. One child dies every two minutes due to diarrhoea. Annually in India, about two million children below the age of five die mainly from preventable causes: that is, thousands of children die every month of diseases that are easily treatable and even preventable.


Yet, this news hardly causes a ripple, leave alone a media storm. There is no palpable public outrage at this needless loss of lives. On the other hand, despite the fact that so far 74 persons have died of the flu in India (the number has risen to 102) and the spread of the A(H1N1) virus has been restrained, the epidemic has attracted publicity disproportionate to its severity.


Drawing a parallel between the media attention on the flu and the lack of it on deaths due to diarrhoea among young children is an easy stick to beat the fourth estate with.


But, have we become so inured to statistics that we no longer care about them?


Almost 50 per cent of children below the age of five in India are malnourished, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the world’s malnourished children. Malnutrition stunts physical, mental and cognitive growth and makes children more susceptible to respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses. Malnourished children are more likely to die as a result of common and easily preventable childhood diseases. The children who do manage to survive the ravages of malnutrition come to have lifetime disabilities and weakened immune systems, and are often intellectually disabled. They remain chronically vulnerable to illness.


In his Independence Day speech two years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed malnutrition among children a matter of national shame. In his August 15 speech this year too, he reiterated his resolve to “root out” malnutrition. He said: “We will endeavour to extend the benefit of the ICDS to every child below the age of six years in the country by 2012.” But, as the appalling figures show, good intentions alone are not enough.


The world’s largest child feeding programme, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), has not made any significant dent on the numbers of sick and malnourished children over the last 20 years or so. In Delhi alone, for example, only 45.5 per cent of children under six have access to an ICDS centre. India spends less than 5 per cent of its annual budget on children. The 2009-10 Union Budget earmarked a mere 4.15 per cent on children. This in a country where 447 million people are 18 or below. Of the total budgetary allocation on children, just 11.1 per cent is for child health schemes.


The government should be commended for taking quick action on the flu epidemic. The media too must be applauded for taking the government machinery to task for not doing enough initially when it broke out. By the same token, should not infant mortality and malnutrition be a political, indeed a national, priority? The epidemic of malnutrition is quietly wiping out generations of children and it is an emergency that needs to be tackled on a war footing. We owe it to the future of the country and our children that we invest in their well being.


(Thomas Chandy is chief executive officer, Save the Children.)










One of the most baffling elements of Jaycee Lee Dugard’s story is why she never attempted to escape during 18 long years of captivity at the hands of the man who kidnapped her and raped her.


Despite the elaborate lengths to which Phillip Garrido went to hide Ms Dugard along with their two children, it has also emerged that he regularly exposed her to public contact. Several people have reported seeing Jaycee — or Allissa, as Garrido called her — in the open.


Ralph Hernandez, a retired police officer from Garrido’s home town of Antioch in California, told this reporter that he visited the house last year to talk to Garrido about some work. He was introduced in the living room to a blonde woman who looked about 20 — Ms Dugard is now 29 but is said to appear much younger. The woman was quiet and polite, but said nothing.


A similar account was given by Ben Daughdrill, a customer of Garrido’s printing business. He told The New York Times he was introduced to a young woman who Garrido said was his daughter Allissa and later exchanged emails and phone calls with her. “She was the design person; she did the art work; she was the genius,” said Mr. Daughdrill.


Another customer told the Contra Costa Times Ms Dugard would sometimes be seen in the house wearing gloves and with printer’s ink all over her clothes.


After their dramatic reunion, Ms Dugard told her mother Terry that she felt guilty that she had not escaped, and for having bonded with Garrido. That has led to speculation that Ms Dugard exhibits the classic signs of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological disorder in which a captive comes over time to feel entirely dependant on, and even affectionate towards, his or her captor.


It is named after a bank robbery in Stockholm in 1972 in which the bank workers became emotionally attached to the criminals over a six-day hostage ordeal.


The most notorious case is probably that of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of the publishing magnate, William Randolph Hearst, who became a member of the outlawed Symbionese Liberation Army having been abducted by them.


Joseph Carver, a U.S. psychologist with expertise in Stockholm Syndrome, said that Ms Dugard’s situation met all the criteria of such a reaction, but stressed it was a survival mechanism rather than anything to do with romance. “If we think about it, her bonding with the kidnapping duo probably saved her life, as well as the lives of her two children.”


Mr. Carver said that recovery would probably take a long time, not only for Ms Dugard but also for her children and her family. “Emotionally, the family is reliving both her initial loss and return,” he said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








Notwithstanding Islamabad’s only-to-be-expected denials, the United States government under President Barack Obama is now complaining that the anti-ship Harpoon missiles supplied to Pakistan as military assistance in the late 1980s have been illegally converted into land-based strike systems whose target can be India. Similar is the story with the P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft which can now be mobilised from the sea by the Pakistan Navy for on-land missile targeting of India. Washington has earlier acknowledged that military hardware support given to Islamabad to fight the Al Qaeda and Taliban more recently have also been seized upon to be used against India. There is little that is new about such complaints, however. Also, such grousing has never come in the way of the abiding US-Pakistan relationship, which has at no time been placed under such scrutiny by Washington as to amount to a change in dynamics in bilateral ties of the two countries — one a leading democracy, the other, ironically, a leading military dictatorship for the most part, which has become a problem for the world in more ways than one.


From the time that Pakistan came into being, its rulers have assiduously wooed the United States for military assistance and financial aid. Washington responded richly as Karachi, the then Pakistani capital, showed an eager willingness to be a part of the US-led ideological and military alliance against the erstwhile Soviet Union. The weapons received under that anti-Communist scheme were unfailingly turned against India. Indeed, Pakistan’s basic reason to be part of the American-led Central Treaty Organisation (Cento) was to acquire weapons for use against India in the guise of holding a flank against global Communism. In their day the Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indira Gandhi governments in this country made it a point to bring to Washington’s notice the games its protégé was playing. But these were invariably overlooked because India was a leader of the nonaligned bloc that gave Washington no political comfort. That was then. But the basic storyline appears to have changed little, although India and America now seek a long-term bilateral relationship with one another that can be a force for good in the world. A month ago, reacting to the Obama administration’s plan of infusing massive military aid into Pakistan, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna had cautioned Washington that this would be cleverly sought to be used against India. There are no signs that Washington heard.


What the US has to keep in mind, however, is that its so-called AfPak strategy is likely to appear thinner than it is already if weapons received by Pakistan to clear the tribal areas of international and local terrorist elements nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence are diverted to other uses. Further, the AfPak strategy, which has several layers, can hardly be seen as a coherent whole if any anxieties are caused to India on account of prejudicial Pakistani actions. The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve a $7.5-billion aid package for Pakistan to be disbursed over the next five years. Some of this is meant to assuage hostile feelings among the people of Pakistan on account of American drones targeting terrorist leaders inside Pakistani territory, an act that detracts from Pakistani sovereignty. The US Congress, however, cannot but be concerned about the uses to which American aid is put by Pakistan. To what extent would US legislators like to test the new impetus in US-India relations is also a question to be kept in view.







"I am not like Jaswant Singh. I felt like crying. It was the saddest day of my life, after my parents expired", former Lok Sabha Speaker and CPI(M) leader Somnath Chatterjee said of his expulsion from the party. Mr Chatterjee, who joined the CPI(M) in 1968, was a member of the party for 40 years. In 2008, party general secretary Prakash Karat expelled him for not quitting the Speaker’s post after the Reds decided to withdraw support to the UPA government before the 2009 general polls. In an exclusive interview to Sanjay Basak and


Namrata Biji Ahuja, Mr Chatterjee, once one of the tallest leaders of the CPI(M), speaks of his anguish and the cash for trust vote scam, which continues to haunt the Opposition...


How would you describe the situation in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) at this juncture?


It is uncertain. Though I am out of it, I am still concerned about its well-being. The party base is not expanding, it’s getting restricted to three states (Bengal, Kerala and Tripura). There was a time when so many comrades were getting elected from so many states — Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and others. Somehow, the party is not being able to attract leaders from other states. In Bengal I don’t see any activity to rejuvenate the party.


How would you compare the party under the then general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the existing leadership?


I do not wish to compare...


It’s not merely about comparison...


(Cuts in) The CPI(M), which was supporting the United Progressive Alliance regime from outside, became very powerful. The Left became important politically. Those who were in power (in the Left) started feeling they had become the arbiters of the nation. That was a wrong thing. These are the people who did not allow Jyoti Basu to become Prime Minister.


What exactly happened in the politburo in 1996? Why was Jyoti Basu not allowed to take charge of the nation?


The formula is we should not be in a government where we cannot control policy. I told them it was a wrong decision.


You feel the Left should have participated in the UPA government when it had the chance?


If you are taking part in electoral politics, you cannot not be willing to stand by the people and deliver your promises. Many people have said, "Why should we vote for you — only to criticise others?" It was unfortunate. The party would have been in a dominating position if it had joined.


What went wrong?


They tried to use the same formula. There was a division in the central committee. I tried to project that the party’s participation in the UPA government was important. But, I must confess, I was in a hopeless minority. The comrades are now asking, has it helped the party, has it helped the cause of the people for whom the party is working.


How do you look at the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s decision to withdraw support from UPA on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal ?


It was tragic. Tragic from the point of view of the people and the party and its supporters. With great agony I must say, though I have been thrown out of the party, the CPI(M) and the Left as a whole have almost become irrelevant. We have never been a large force. The use of parliamentary forum is very important. I have seen great leaders like A.K. Gopalan and others using the forum. People used to respect Left leaders. They may or may not agree with their views, but they would listen to them seriously. By the way, the CPI(M) was never a person-based party. If it was, Jyoti Basu would have had his way, Surjeet would have dictated terms. They could not get their way in 1996 to form the government at the Centre.


Mr Karat played a key role in this?


That was the time when Prakash Karat’s rise in the party started, as far as I remember. The great question mark is on the justification of the withdrawal of support from the UPA government.


If the party is not driven by a person, how come, despite opposition from within, CPI(M) pushed through the decision to withdraw support?


I was not in the party. I can only assume that there was a belief that the Congress’ importance had gone down. It was wrong. This did not pay off.


What were your views?


I said, you oppose the nuclear deal, you oppose the policies, but withdrawing support meant, either the BJP would come to power or there will be elections. Nobody assumed that the Samajwadi Party would extend support. No one knew the government would survive. The CPI(M) had not done well in the Bengal panchayat polls. I said this was the worst time for the party to go to polls. It’s time for consolidation. I said that there were many good decisions of the government (UPA). We should have said that these were the Left parties’ contribution. The Congress was impressed upon to take those decisions. Going to elections would be suicidal, I said. Elections never took place. The SP supported the government. The result was that the Left was sidelined.


You told Mr Karat?


I had no contact with Karat. I sent a note. Nobody responded. In five years, he met me only twice — once to inform of the withdrawal of support and, earlier, when the party decided not to put up any candidate for the President’s post.


Did Mr Karat talk to you about resignation before the trust vote?


No. The general secretary had repeatedly said that it was for the Speaker to decide. Anyway, I have written everything in my book which, I hope, will be published. I later found out that my name was also on the list of members withdrawing support. How can that be? Interestingly, the order of expulsion did not came on July 20 (before the trust vote). It came a day after the trust vote.


Why interesting?


Because, probably, they (CPI-M) thought the government would go and the chapter will be closed.


Did Jyoti Basu say anything before the trust vote? Was he in favour of withdrawing support?


Jyoti Basu felt sad and sorry about my expulsion from the party. But he is too committed to party discipline. It was, however, Jyoti Basu who asked me to preside over the trust vote debate. I heard that he got some message conveyed to Mr Karat later.


Tell us about cash for trust vote scam?


It was one of the worst things to have happened. Now so many things are coming out. I believe it was known to them. They knew that something was going to happen to disturb the proceedings.


Who is "they"?


The Left.


The Left knew about the cash for trust vote scam?


I have no proof. But there were rumours that they were anticipating some disturbance. They definitely knew something was going to happen. The intention was somehow to scuttle the debate. It was a very despicable attempt. Their antipathy to the government was so much that they (the Left) were keen to get rid of the government. I asked the MPs and L.K. Advani why I wasn’t informed earlier. One BJP member told me that the bags (carrying cash) were there before and not brought in at 4 pm. Anyway, the Left and the BJP not only came together, but they voted together.


How do you react to the CPI(M) rallying behind scam-tainted Kerala state secretary Pinyari Vijayan?


It’s bad and unfortunate. Shows double standard. I was not given any opportunity, though there was no allegation of corruption or anything like that. Party felt politically I was wrong.


After being in the party for decades, how did you react to your expulsion?


I am not like Jaswant Singh. I felt like crying. After my parents’ demise, it was the saddest day of my life.


Compare Mr Advani to Mr Karat?


(Laughs) Politically they are on the two opposite sides of a pole. I hope there is no meeting point. Perhaps, lurking ambition to come to power made them both come close on the floor of the House, which was a disaster.


Should Mr Karat step down?


This is not an ordinary setback. Worst electoral debacle of the party. Someone should take responsibility and own up. Negative politics does not help.


Mr Karat said he was merely carrying out the central committee’s decision to withdraw support from the UPA before the 2009 polls?


(Loudly) What is a general secretary for, if he is not able to guide the central committee? Nobody can override the general secretary easily. It’s a lame excuse. Now he is blaming the state governments, state committees. What is he there for? What is the politburo there for?


How do you see the rise of Trinamul Congress


leader Mamata Banerjee?


People have supported her. That’s how she came to this position.










THE report that Pakistan has illegally modified the US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles and P-3C surveillance aircraft to target India is an alarming development. Interestingly, Pakistan’s perfidy has been exposed by the Obama administration itself, as the report carried in The New York Times reveals. The US detection of the breach of an understanding by Islamabad has confirmed India’s stand that military aid that Pakistan gets from the US and other sources is routinely diverted to building its armed strength against India. New Delhi has brought this to the notice of Washington time and again but in vain.


Some time ago the Obama administration had declared that the $7.5 billion aid it had promised to Pakistan would be released during the next five years on condition that it must be used for the intended purposes like fighting the Taliban and other militant forces active in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is not known what arrangements the US has made to ensure that the US funds would not be diverted for strengthening the Pakistan Army vis-à-vis India. Now that the legislation on the aid package has gone to the US Congress, the Obama administration must fix strict conditions so that the funds are utilised for the specified purposes only. Any violation of the conditions imposed should result in the stoppage of the aid forthwith. This is the only way to make Pakistan conduct itself responsibly.


Pakistan has been using the Al-Qaida and Taliban threat to peace as a ruse to get not only massive aid but also advanced military technology for its nefarious designs against India. The latest case in point is Islamabad’s request for the US Drone technology on the pretext of taking on the Taliban and other extremists more effectively. Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made the request against when he met US Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke in Islamabad recently. The US must understand that any such sensitive technology transfer will have larger implications and will not be in the interest of peace in South Asia.








Instead of going for a thorough overhaul, the BJP seems to be set for a patchwork operation for the time being. The delayed action has been necessitated not only by the fact that it has to find a face-saving device for senior leaders like Mr L K Advani and Mr Rajnath Singh but also by the spectre of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana where the current turmoil in the party is bound to be reflected in the poll results. So, it is the status quo at the moment. However, there is very little chance of the two leaders being given too long a time. Their position has become untenable and the sooner they go the better it would be for the party.


But equally important is who will be handed over the baton now. There are no obvious choices because there is a paucity of second-rung leaders. According to current indications, instead of tall personalities, there will be several leaders of average merit who will be looking after various responsibilities. These may include Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and even some dark horse.


The big question remains: whosoever they be, will they be able to extricate the BJP from its present mess? What needs to be noted is that nobody has really addressed uncomfortable issues raised by Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Yashwant Sinha, Mr Brajesh Mishra and Mr Arun Shourie. Instead, the BJP is now being prepared to conform to the RSS ideology. That will mean that there may be re-dedication to the “core belief” of Hindutva, whatever softer name it may be given. That will only be pushing the party into the same quagmire which had made it stumble in the recent general election. The redemption may actually lie in exactly the opposite direction. Mr Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghachalak of the RSS, may be optimistic that the BJP can rise from the ashes, but others — even the insiders — may not be that confident. Everybody wants the party to change the way it is run. But who is there to effect the course correction? 








India’s moon mission was launched in October last year with such confidence that the scientists at ISRO did not deem it fit to insure the Rs 386-crore spacecraft. The supposed two-year mission to the moon has been cut short and no one at ISRO is able to explain why. Earlier in August, ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair had claimed that 95 per cent of Chandrayaan’s work was over. Then why was it supposed to stay there for another year or so? Media reports suggest an ISRO goof-up as no lunar spacecraft has so for worked for two years. An insurance cover would have perhaps, apart from covering the loss, provided another independent check on its survival capability.


During its 312 days in space, the 1,380-kg Chandrayaan –I made 3,400 orbits around the moon, searching for signs of water and rich mineral deposits, including Helium 3, a rare isotope used in nuclear fusion to generate energy. One of the achievements of the spacecraft that caused a national emotional high was the hoisting of the Tricolour on the lunar surface. Despite ISRO keeping a lid on the spacecraft’s weaknesses, it became clear quite early that all was not well. Some of the crucial onboard systems did not operate as expected. Both star-sensors as well as one of the two “bus management units” became non-functional. The thermal management to save the spacecraft from either getting frozen or baked was not effective, forcing ISRO to move it away from the moon in May. In July the space agency finally admitted the systemic failures.


However, the setback need not dishearten the ISRO scientists from their work on Chandryana-II, which is expected to be on schedule. Every unsuccessful experiment leaves lessons for future success. ISRO has catapulted India into the big league comprising the US, Europe, Russia, China and Japan engaged in the quest to understand the moon better.









Breaking a half-century hammerlock of one-party rule in Japan, the opposition Democratic Party won a crushing election victory on Sunday with pledges to revive the country’s stalled economy and to steer a foreign-policy course less dependent on the United States.


But it was pent-up voter anger, not campaign promises, that halted 54 years of near-continuous dominance by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The party had become a profoundly unpopular, but deeply entrenched, governing force that so feared it would be swept from power that it had put off a national election for nearly three years.


In a record landslide on a rainy day, voters awarded 308 seats in the powerful 480-seat lower house of parliament to a slightly left-of-center opposition party formed by disaffected LDP veterans. It is led by Yukio Hatoyama, 62, a Stanford-trained engineer who will probably be chosen prime minister in mid-September.


“I believe all the people were feeling a great rage against the current government,” Hatoyama said. “Everything starts now. We can finally do politics that the people are building their hopes on. My heart is too full for words.”


The grand strategist behind the win was Ichiro Ozawa, a former LDP power broker. He was the Democratic Party’s founding leader until he was forced to resign this year in a campaign finance scandal.


Hatoyama thanked Ozawa on Sunday night for engineering the victory, and said he wants Ozawa either to serve in his cabinet or to continue as campaign manager for the party.


“Frustration against the LDP, which ignored people’s lives and favored the bureaucracy, has been felt nationwide,” Ozawa said, explaining his party’s win.


Japan was the postwar wonder that grew into the world’s second-largest economy. But it became enfeebled and directionless in the latter years of LDP’s long watch, with stagnant wages and sputtering growth, the worrying rise of the world’s oldest population and a monstrous government debt that will soon double the gross national product. Unemployment set a record last week and the economy shrank for much of the past year at nearly twice the U.S. rate.


For these failings, voters seemed eager to punish the LDP and its unpopular leader, Prime Minister Taro Aso. On Sunday, Aso called his party’s defeat “very severe.”


“I think it is a result of the people’s dissatisfaction and distrust towards LDP’s leadership,” Aso said, adding that he takes responsibility for the loss and will step down as party leader.


Judging from polls and voter interviews, the opposition won not because of its attractive policies or charismatic leadership. There is skepticism about how sound those policies are and doubt about how capable the party’s unproven leaders will be. Instead, the Democratic Party won by default, as the only available means by which voters could wrest power from the LDP.


“It is not really that I am voting for the Democratic Party,” said Atsushi Neriugawa, 49, owner of a consulting company, after voting in Tokyo. “I simply want power to change. If the Democratic Party happens to be no good, then I will revert back to LDP.”


The election marked the first time in post-war Japan that an opposition party seized power with a majority in a national election. The Democratic Party’s capture of 308 seats was a record in the lower house. Final turnout was projected by the Kyodo news agency to be 69 percent, highest since the current electoral system was introduced in 1996.


The upper house is controlled by the Democratic Party, but that could change after an election next year if the new ruling party stumbles.


A stumble is probably likely, given the severity of Japan’s economic problems. By the go-go standards of Asia, this country’s economy is dead in the water — averaging about 1.09 percent growth since 2000. In the past two decades, Japan has skidded from fourth to 14th among industrialized nations in per-capita gross domestic product.


Growth is desperately needed to pay for pensions, health care and other costly social services for a fast-aging population, 40 percent of which will be 65 or older by 2050. Accelerated growth is also needed to raise enough tax revenue to begin reducing a public debt of $9.14 trillion, the heaviest debt burden in the industrialized world, measured as a percentage of the country’s economy.


The Democratic Party says increased growth will come through higher domestic consumption. It says it will give parents $276 a month to raise children, and will also eliminate highway tolls, increase support for farmers and raise the minimum wage. “We’ll make sure the economy recovers by providing benefits to households,” Hatoyama said in a speech last week.


But analysts say his party’s plans do not add up to a credible strategy for reinventing Japan’s export-addicted economy. Voters, too, are skeptical, telling pollsters they do not understand where money will come from for $178 billion in new spending. The party is promising not to raise the public debt or increase consumption taxes for the foreseeable future.


“The Democrat Party actually has no economic policy,” said Minoru Morita, a political analyst. “They have no systemic proposals, no New Deal. Without a plan, they cannot overcome the crisis left to them by the LDP. If they drive the economy recklessly, then they could lose big time in the upper house election next year.”


The Democratic Party has pushed for greater independence for Japan from the United States, which has about 50,000 military personnel stationed here and is treaty-bound to defend the country from attack. Japan helps pay for the cost of stationing U.S. forces on its territory, a policy the Democratic Party has questioned. It says it wants to rethink the entire agreement that keeps U.S. soldiers here.


But in recent weeks Hatoyama and other party leaders have said they will not seek major changes in foreign policy. Hatoyama said the U.S.-Japan alliance would “continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy.”


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







FOR several centuries the Ganga and Yamuna rivers have remained a lifeline for crores of people apart from supporting abundant aquatic life as well as other animals and birds. These rivers have been a source of reverence and inspiration for countless people and Ganga-Yamuna culture has left an indelible print on the life of India and its neighbourhood.


In more recent times, however, the pollution and many-sided threats to these rivers have caused much concern to the people as well as the government. The government’s efforts to protect these rivers have concentrated mainly on checking pollution levels. However, despite the prioritisation of these rivers, the result has not been particularly encouraging.


Reviewing the 20 years of the Ganga Action Plan, the 11th Plan document (2008) said that while the Ganga river’s overall polluted stretch has been reduced, the important stretch from Kannauj to Allahabad has not yet achieved even the bathing quality standard. The condition of the Yamuna river is even worse.


According to official norms, the biological oxygen demand (BOD) less than 3 mg/litre and dissolved oxygen (DO) more than 6 mg/litre indicate water is of bathing quality. However, the official water quality data (March-June 2006) at Kanpur downstream reveal DO in Ganga was only 3.90. BOD was recorded higher than 3 at Kannouj D/S (4.2), Kanpur (6.8) and Allahabad U/S (4.9).


In the case of the Yamuna, the shocking situation at the Nizamuddin Bridge (Delhi) and in the Agra canal was a DO of absolute zero. In Mathura also this was below the bathing quality standard. The BOD level at Nizamuddin was shockingly high at 31 (against the desirable norm of below 3). This remained very high in the Agra canal (28) and in Mathura, Agra and Etawah (around 15).


This is the disturbing picture revealed by the official data, but some unofficial sources say that the situation is even worse. For example, in the case of Varanasi the official data say the situation of the Ganga after nearly 20 years of the Ganga Action Plan is reasonably satisfactory but close monitoring done by a local organization, Sankatmochan Foundation (dedicated to pollution-free Ganga), revealed a very different situation of unacceptably high pollution levels.


Thus it appears that despite heavy investment in the Ganga and Yamuna Action Plan, the pollution levels in the rivers have remained unacceptably high. Clearly the approach to reducing pollution has to be improved and overall a more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle the many-sided threats faced by these rivers.


To evolve a comprehensive approach we should start at the place of origin and the hill catchments of these rivers in the Himalayan region. To provide stability in the flow of these rivers, it is important to protect the remaining natural forests, trees and other greenery and to plant more indigenous species of trees, particularly broad-leaf species with better soil and water conservation properties. Concerted efforts should be made to improve soil conservation and to reduce the threat of landslides.


At present a large number of dams, tunnel dams and hydel projects are being built at a great hurry on these rivers and their tributaries in the Himalayan region and even more are planned. In the hurry to speed up projects, essential precautions are being ignored, explosives are being used excessively and village communities are being traumatised.


In the case of tunnel dams, rivers more or less disappear for considerable stretches, locked in the darkness of tunnels. The unique quality of the Ganga water comes from its close contacts with Himalayan herbs and minerals – how can this be retained when the river is forced time and again into cemented narrow tunnels, denied even sunshine?


The threat from the indiscriminate construction activity increases when one sees that many warnings given earlier in the case of the Tehri Dam Project are proving true and several villages are sinking precariously towards the newly created reservoir. There is, therefore, a clear need to reconsider these projects with many-sided hazards and threats to rivers and people living around them.


When these rivers emerge from the hills, again there is a hurry to divert excessive amounts of water so that enough fresh water is not left for the natural flow of the river. In the case of the Yamuna this is done to such an extreme extent that hardly any fresh water remains in the Yamuna after Tajewala right up to Etawah. In such a situation the river cannot be saved by waste treatment alone.


Due to the poor results of the existing plans, innovative approaches of waste treatment and pollution control are needed. Efforts should be made to prevent toxic waste’s entry into the river. In this context an innovative project proposed by Sankatmochan Foundation in Varanasi shows a lot of promise.


In water-scarce cities like Delhi the monsoon flows,which reach the Yamuna flood plains, play a very useful role in increasing groundwater which has been under a lot of stress. But this is a high-value land and all the time there are pressures – unfortunately supported by the authorities – to colonise this land and build heavy cement and concrete structures on it.


It is clear that a comprehensive approach is needed to tackle the many-sided threats to the Ganga and Yamuna rivers. The impact on the people living around these rivers should also be given full attention. The entire effort for protecting the rivers should take the form of a people’s campaign and subsequently a people’s movement.


The existing efforts like Nadi Bachao Abhiyan, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan are steps in the right direction but we need such steps on a much bigger scale. The government’s efforts should benefit from and involve such people’s movements.







Bankay Mian, a Pakistani singer, has devoted a qawwali to Jaswant Singh, praising him for standing up for the founding father of Pakistan. He has given a “21-gun” salute to Singh


“Koi to hai joh wahan hamare

tarane gaa riya hai

Hamare badon ko wahan yaad

kiya jaa riya hai

Naam hai uska Jaswant Singh

aur fan hai woh Quaid-e-Azam ka”

“Quaid-e-Azam ke peeche

usne wahan phatta bol le liya hai

Isi chakkar main uski party ke thekedaron ne use ghar jaane ka nyota de diya hai”

“To Jassu Bhaiyya aap toh ab zara

Bankay Mian ki aake qawalli sun le

Aur apne apne naam ki

21 gunon ki salami sun le”.

Shashi Tharoor’s book


Having unveiled his book “Shadows Across the Playing Field” in Mumbai in early August, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor is all set to launch it in Delhi in the third week of September. Shaharyar Khan, a former Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board,r is the co-author of the book and is expected to attend the function in Delhi.


The book, to be released by former Indian skipper M.A.K. Pataudi, captures 60 years of India-Pakistan cricket. Shaharyar wants Tharoor to come to Lahore for the launch of the book in Pakistan. But can Tharoor do that as a minister in the government?



Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who has retired as the Chief of the Navy Staff, is not known to mince words. At his farewell press conference, however, Mehta did not “take the bait.” He ducked controversial questions. 

He had a piece of advice for the media – it should be responsible and report carefully. He issued a small clarification on his recent remarks on China saying “you people misquoted me”. Later, he even shouted at a reporter. “Do you run the Navy or I do …?”. 



Top legal brains of the country were involved in a bitter battle in the Supreme Court on a recent Friday, a day for miscellaneous cases each of which normally take only a few seconds or minutes for the judges to take a decision.


A similar case, however, took over half-an-hour before a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, with Attorney General GE Vahanvati and Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam taking on two senior counsel Harish Salve and Mukul Rohtagi.


The case related to elections. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation was the client of the AG and the SG, while grassroots-level political workers aspiring to contest the election to the civic body had hired Salve and Rohtagi.


The case has made two things clear. High stakes are not restricted to elections to Parliament and assemblies. And gone are the days when the AG, the highest law officer of the nation, used to make rare appearances in courts, largely limiting his role to tendering advice to the government and the President on crucial Constitutional matters.


Contributed by Ashok Tuteja, Ajay Banerjee and R Sedhuraman








The nation needs feel neither shame nor sadness at the premature termination of the Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon. No doubt the mission, undertaken at a cost of Rs.380 crore, apart from being an essay at advancing the cause of Indian space research, was simultaneously projected as a showpiece. It marked India’s entry into an elite club which had literally ‘reached for the moon’, apt achievement for an advancing country destined to be a superpower in the future. The fact that China, always a rival in international perception, is also a member of the club had been one of the spurs that had goaded India into sending an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the moon and gather specific data. As asserted by authorities at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at the time of the launch, this mission had merely been a prelude to a manned lunar probe by India in the none too distant future. Unfortunately, Chandrayaan-1, which carried ten scientific payloads and had the key objectives of mapping the lunar surface and studying the satellite’s environment, developed snags within ten months of its intended two year life-span in lunar orbit. In an effort to prolong India’s first foray into deep space ISRO had raised the orbit of the spacecraft from 100 to 200 km away from the moon in May this year, but apparently this did not help save the mission.

But the premature termination of the mission due to loss of contact and control cannot be viewed in a negative light, because the gains have far outweighed the losses. One recalls that pioneering countries such as the erstwhile USSR and the US had suffered numerous failures and spent billions before being able to put a spacecraft into the lunar orbit. No doubt our scientists had benefited from the experience of those nations and the data and technologies that evolved from their failures. Even then ISRO’s feat of placing a spacecraft successfully into the lunar orbit at the very first attempt is one unmatched by other nations and testifies to Indian scientists’ expertise. Also, with Chandrayaan-1 having completed 3,400 orbits around the moon and sent over 70,000 images and other data to the ISRO station, a large segment of the key objectives have already been met. No doubt the experience gained by Indian space scientists will aid them in aiming even higher and attaining greater success in forthcoming missions. However, one worrisome factor in this episode had been ISRO’s lack of transparency prior to the abortion of the mission. For instance, ISRO officials in May had asserted that there was nothing wrong with the spacecraft and the change in orbit was done to study the gravity of the moon better, an assertion which on hindsight now appears to be an unacceptable attempt to conceal facts from the general public.








The city stood paralysed once again on Sunday morning following heavy downpour the previous night. The inadequacy of the drainage -- on which crores of rupees have been spent over the years -- as also the shortsightedness of the authorities handling the city’s civic amenities have repeatedly been laid bare by recurring artificial floods. Things have reached such a stage that a single burst of shower is enough to inundate the roads, by-lanes and residential areas for hours, transforming the city into a cesspool of filth. No less worse is the aftermath of the waterlogged situation, as receding waters invariably leave behind a thick layer of slush which later creates severe dust pollution. Now, the State Government is on the verge of implementing a Rs 125-crore project aimed at diverting the water of the Bahini river to the Silsako Beel to ease waterlogging, especially in areas around the RG Baruah Road. While any practical move to address the problem is welcome, the deplorable fact remains that the Government and the administration continue to turn a blind eye to some fundamentals. Most of the Beels (wetlands) in the city are now a shadow of their former selves thanks to unbridled encroachment. Even the Government has allowed filling up of water bodies to make room for so-called development. The Silsako Beel itself is a grim testimony to this vandalism perpetrated on nature. Unless efforts are directed towards conserving the wetlands and hills, no drainage would be enough to rid the city of its perennial waterlogging.

Waterlogging apart, a host of ills continue to beset the civic infrastructure of this capital city. The haphazard development process has extracted a heavy toll on its civic amenities. Crucial areas such as drainage, garbage disposal, water supply, preservation of open space, pollution, traffic congestion, public transport, etc., present a pathetic picture. Guwahati hardly has any infrastructure associated with a modern, planned city. Swanky malls in overcrowded market places and mushrooming of apartments in every conceivable open space are all that our short-sighted authorities tend to identify with development. This is largely because ad-hoc measures continue to blur the authorities’ vision, negating any scope for long-term scientific planning. Environmental concerns are invariably brushed aside under narrow commercial considerations something testified to by the diminishing forests and wetlands. The ills plaguing the city’s growth are gradually raising their ugly heads in other towns of the State as well. The Government must wake up from its stupor and put in place a remedial mechanism before it is too late.








Food prices have mastered a great art. They can now be a very useful guide to Sensex on how to rise and rise and rise and never fall again. Courtesy the powers-that-be in Delhi who know how to weep in public and yet do nothing to rein in the forces responsible for the rise.

In the third week of February, 2009, the United Nations Environment Programme released a report in New York, which warned food prices might increase by 30-35 per cent within the next ten years forcing those living in extreme poverty to spend 90 per cent of their income on it, if major changes were not made in the food production and processing system. The report noted that changing the ways in which food was produced, handled and disposed of across the globe from farm to store and from fridge to landfill could both feed the world's rising population and help the environmental services, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "we need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed, sold and consumed and we need a revolution that can boost yields by working with rather than against nature." He pointed out that over half of the food produced today was lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain. "There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet", said the UNEP official,

Food prices in India have obliged the UNEP report by rising and rising. And just a demand-supply phenomenon cannot explain it. On February 16, 2009, presenting the interim budget, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the real heroes of India's success story were our farmers, "through their hard work they have ensured food security for the country." He told the Lok Sabha, "with record procurement of 22.7 million tonnes of wheat and 28.5 million tonnes of rice for our public distribution system in 2008, our granaries are full. During this four-year period, the annual growth rate of agriculture rose to 3.7 per cent and the production of foodgrains increased by about 10 million tonnes each year to reach an all-time high of over 230 million tonnes in 2007-08." But, Mukherjee may not have liked to hear, the full granaries failed to calm the turbulent prices. Months later, on July 21, 2009 the fourth Advanced Estimates figures were released, which said the overall foodgrains production in 2008-09 was a record 233.88 million tonne. The figures showed wheat and rice production had exceeded their targets reaching new highs though cereals, pulses, oilseeds, cotton and sugar had seen some reverses. Prices ignored all this and they hust rose. In the previous year, all the crops that saw reverses, had recorded a better harvest,. And the prices? They gave no indication even to believe that they are a distant cousin of the overall food output. They just rose. About the Advanced Estimates, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told the Lok Sabha. "After Independence, this is the highest production."

On August 7, 2009, Pawar, who also holds the portfolio of Civil Supplies, discovered "new factors" like increase in income, climate change, high energy prices, globalisation and urbanisation for impacting the cost of essential commodities. He told the Lok Sabha that day: "There have been changes in the world, which are having impact on India too." On the shortage of pulses in the country, be said production of pulses had stagnated while the demand had gone up, resulting in a gap of 3.5 to 4 million tonnes. The shortage was quite marked in the case of some pulses, adding that public sector entities and private enterprises had already imported 9.30 lakh tonnes of pulses. True, all these factors play their part in pushing up the prices. And now the government has a convenient villain, drought. On August 19, 2009, Sharad Pawar announced in New Delhi that the number of drought-hit districts had risen to 246 in ten States as a result of which rice production might decline by 10 million tonnes this kharif, following a shortfall of 5.7 million hectares in paddy sowing. He told the conference of State Food and Civil Supplies Ministers, held that day, that the country had received 29 per cent less rainfall so far. "Due to expected reduced production of rice, there could be pressure on availability and market price," he said.

Here we would like to quote eminent journalist P Sainath, who wrote in The Hindu on August 15, 2009: "The price-rise-due-to-drought warning is a fraud. Of course, a drought and major crop failure will push up prices further. But prices were steadily rising for five years since the 2004 elections, long before a drought. Take the years between 2004 and 2008 when you had some good monsoons. And more than one year when we claimed 'record production' of foodgrain. The price of rice went up 46 per cent, of wheat by over 62 per cent, atta 55 per cent, salt 42 per cent and more. By March 2008, the average increase in the prices of such items was already over 40 per cent. Then, they rose again till a little before the 2009 polls. And have risen dramatically in the past three months."

Sharad Pawar's discovery of new factors is closer to the diagnosis. But is he, or the government he represents, serious about them and wants to do something to relieve the pressure? It was Dr Manmohan Singh, who as the Union Finance Minister, introduced the new economic policy and liberalisation in the country in 1992 and began India's integration with the global market economy. Now with him as the Prime Minister, the Government wants to preside over the privatisation of the country's public sector. Thus this government has identified itself with globalisation. Liberalisation has taken its toll on the agri-inputs. Their costs go on increasing making agri-products costlier and costlier. And higher energy prices? They are really a culprit. Observers have pointed out that 2008 global food crisis was influenced by many factors, but the proximate cause was a rise in the cost of oil. Sudden changes in the price of oil can drastically affect input prices and explain why global food prices fell this year as the recession pulled down oil prices. Only months ago, on July 1, 2009, the government raised the price of petrol by Rs 4 and diesel by Rs 2. Oil is a milch cow for the government and is heavily taxed. Whenever there's a rise in global crude prices, the government, instead of reducing the taxes, shifts the burden to the consumer. So, by blaming globalisation and higher energy prices, Pawar has blamed himself and the government without realising it.

But here is a bigger factor. The speculators at the New York Mercantile Exchange and International Petroleum Exchange in London were mainly responsible for the unprecedented rise in global crude during the last four to five years. In India, foodgrains, pulses and oilseeds among other things are meeting the same fate. Forward trading enables corporate, big business and wholesalers to buy up standing crops and then stock the produce. They can speculate on food, manipulate the market and jack up the prices. When food prices soar, the poor eat less and as environment activist Vandana Shiva points out, India has emerged as the capital of hunger with 214 million people denied the right to food. This time around things are likely to turn gloomier. With reduced farm incomes as a result of drought, more people will go to bed with an empty stomach.

Is there not a way out? There is. A ban on forward trading, a decentralised universal pubic distribution system, revamping the system by expanding the Below Poverty Line category, a serious expansion of the NREGA benefits, and of course a rollback of the oil prices can save the people. But will the government ever do it?








There is no denying the fact that English has come to be widely regarded by the students and their parents as the language of opportunity, opening the door to higher education, a better job, upward social mobility and economic development. In spite of our love-hate relationship with English we cannot survive in the present competitive world without a good command of the English language. English has penetrated deep into the social life of the Indian people and the present Indian society is divided into two groups: one English knowing section deriving the benefits of the modern technological world and the other non-English knowing section groping in poverty and darkness and lamenting their inability to use English, the language of opportunity of the 21st century.

What kind of English do our children learn in the regional medium schools of Assam? The Government of Assam has introduced English at the lower primary level and it is hoped that this will yield the desired result. It is heartening to note that English teachers of Assam have started thinking of making English teaching in the schools a meaningful exercise and with this end in view a group of 42 teachers coming from all the districts of Assam gathered at English Language Teaching Institute , Assam located at Kahilipara on 31 July 2009 and chalked out a plan of action for streamlining the teaching of English in the regional medium schools of Assam.

In order to improve the English language proficiency of the students and to create an awareness among the pupils regarding the importance of learning communicative English, the representative meeting of the teachers teaching English in the regional medium high and higher secondary schools of Assam decided to observe September 1, 2009 as English Language Day in all the regional medium high and higher secondary schools of Assam.

The schools observing the English Language Day will organise recitation competitions, extempore speech competitions and essay competitions in English on that day and will encourage the students to be involved in oral communication in English on that day. It will be organised as a purely academic exercise without affecting the regular classes and without incurring any additional expenditure. Teachers teaching English in the schools will involve the students in these activities in the English class itself so that other classes are not affected. It is learnt that the English Language Day will be observed as a voluntary academic exercise.

It is gratifying to note that an enlightened sections of the English teachers of the State have planned to observe a particular day of the year as English Language Day without any Government patronage or a ceremonial celebration. It will be a pedagogical exercise to create the right atmosphere for the learning of a language which is often dubbed as the legacy of the colonial rule. A time has come for the students of the regional medium schools to realise the importance of acquiring the communicative competence in English and the symbolic observance of a particular day marked as English language Day will go a long way to instill confidence among the Assamese medium students studying in the regional medium schools. It will give them a chance to showcase their ability in English and will send a strong message across the State that English language proficiency is not the monopoly of the English medium students only. People with vested interests may try to mislead the students saying that the proposed observance of a particular day as English Language Day may affect the students’ love for their own language. But it should be remembered that those who speak against English often send their children to English medium schools. The hypocrisy of a section of our people for cheap popularity and political ambition has already ruined the future of lakhs of Assamese children studying in the Assamese medium schools. Can’t these innocent victims acquire the benefits of a language which will open the window to the world? Why September 1 only? A particular day of each month should be earmarked for English if we are to develop the communicative competence in English of our hitherto neglected Assamese medium students.

Every Assamese child has a right to learn English which is the language of the global village of the present century and every teacher teaching. The regional medium schools of Assam are duty bound to teach this language meaningfully so that the students studying in these schools do not lag behind their counterparts studying in the English medium schools. The observance of the English Language Day as proposed by a section of the teachers of English and endorsed by the English Language Teaching Institute, Assam, an autonomous organisation sponsored by the Government of Assam and the the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India will go a long way in creating the right pedagogical environment for the learning of English in the regional medium schools of Assam. Will the Government and other organisations come forward to make the teaching-learning of English a mass movement in the interest of the regional medium students of Assam? Let’s give them a helping hand. English is for all and it should not be kept reserved for the privileged section of the society. The observance of September 1 as English Language Day may usher in an equal distribution of the rich resources of an international language which will be a tool for a better tomorrow in the hands of our regional medium students of Assam.

It is suggested that September 1 of every year should be celebrated as English language Day for the development of English proficiency of the regional medium students of Assam.








Oxymoronic phrases reflect the contradictory nature of society; and at no time does it become more apparent than during a crisis. As cases of H1N1 are rising globally, so are the numbers of ‘the worried well’. While the term may bring to mind phrases like ‘the living dead’, there is no need to get, well, worried. There is, however, an element of moronic behaviour in the spread of this ‘worried well’ contagion, on both sides of the doctor-patient divide. Take, for instance, the new warning by the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona this week that growing evidence shows risks outweigh the benefits of taking a daily dose of aspirin. The doctors should have spared a thought for those worried well-ers who have been quaffing the tablet like a prophylactic. They will now become ‘even-more-worried well-ers’, further clogging up the arteries of the healthcare systems in their countries, as the doctors have revealed that while aspirin reduces chances of heart disease, it increases the risk of internal bleeding. As it is, swine flu has sent countless millions around the world scurrying to the organised mess of their local hospitals — or the virtual reality of their computer terminals to search for ‘symptoms + H1N1’ — emerging convinced that they are infected, regardless of evidence. For those whose objective opinion is they are unwell until proven otherwise, a single, rather cruel word was used: hypochondriacs.

Now, the more sympathetic alternative to either the oxymoronic or downright unkind depiction is that they suffer from health anxiety. As medical science swiftly advances, demolishing diseases and popular beliefs with equal alacrity, the ranks of the ‘worried well’ are bound to swell, perhaps even faster than H1N1 spreads in the conducive clamminess of the coming winter. Common sense is the only cure; it is time medical researchers devote their energies to coming up with a vaccine form of it.











The week began on a cheery note for the UPA government. At 6.1%, GDP growth for the first quarter 2009-10 marginally exceeds the consensus estimate of 5.8-6%. Better still, it is an improvement over growth (5.8%) in the previous quarter, though significantly lower than the 7.8% growth recorded during the comparable period last year. However, the comparison with the first quarter (April- June) of 2008 is a bit unfair. The world has changed significantly since then (especially post the collapse of Lehman Bros in September 2008). As the latest edition of the Economist shows, there are few countries (five to be precise) that can boast of any economic growth in 2009. India is one of them. And though we trail China, expected to clock 8% growth, it is not a bad showing by any reckoning. Having said that, it would be dangerous to imagine we are over the trough. For, though the slump in manufacturing (from 5.5% last year to 3.4% this year) was more or less expected and the slowdown in services, though less marked, not surprising, what is worrisome is that the decline in agriculture seems to have started in the first quarter itself viz., well before the impact of a poor monsoon could have been felt.

It could be argued that a slowdown in agriculture does not impact the overall growth rate much, given the relatively small and shrinking share of the sector in the GDP pie. But that would be both naive and short-sighted. With 65% of the population dependant on the rural sector, a slowdown here has ramifications, not only in terms of rural demand but, more important, human distress. Especially when juxtaposed with the rise in price of food articles (8.5%).

Payments under the NREGA may shore up rural demand and release of balance arrears (60%) due under the Sixth Pay Commission to government employees may boost demand elsewhere in the economy. Short-term! But the economy will have to get off steroids some time. The key to long-term sustained growth must lie in a revival in agriculture and manufacturing. While the first depends on reforms to rain-proof Indian agriculture, the second is linked to revival of the global economy. The second is not in our hands, the first is; but will we move on it?








RSP leader Abani Roy may be in the news for the wrong reason — that of facing the party axe on the charges of dabbling in corporate affairs — yet, he’s quite the object of envy for others. The comrades, to be precise, who have quite literally vanished from the news. Gone are the days when the OB vans and sound-byte hawkers were parked 24X7 in front of the left parties’ headquarters. Those days any comment from these leaders against the Congress leadership and UPA regime would immediately become “breaking news”. After the Indo-US nuclear deal stand off exposed the hollowness of the ‘Left threat’ and ever since the comrades became almost invisible in the new Lok Sabha, getting into the news has become as difficult as protecting the Left base in West Bengal and Kerala. In fact, this dry run has resulted in some of these “erstwhile studio stars”, who had undergone an image make-over by dressing immaculately — with special emphasis on camera-friendly blue shirts — developing a sort of withdrawal syndrome. No wonder that even in his darkest hour, Abani Roy is causing some jealousy.


Over to J&K, where Mehbooba Mufti is making a lot of enemies. And people put it down to her inability to keep quiet. And the ranks of the disgruntled are growing, even within the party she heads. First, Ms Mufti was instrumental in ensuring that Congress’ Azad government falls. Then a salvo was fired against Omar Abdullah by alleging the CM was on the list the CBI had framed in the sensational sex racket in 2006. To make this revelation, Ms Mufti used Muzaffar Hussain Beig, perhaps the most presentable face in the party. After retaliation from NC and with the central government siding with Omar, Beig is reportedly not happy with the party. For years, the PDP has been harping on its “self-rule” solution. However, while speaking in the assembly recently, Ms Mufti suddenly chose to give credit for the idea to a professional who is serving the government. It naturally embarrassed the government and the professional no end. But some in the PDP aver it’s no point getting angry with Ms Mufti. For, the lady didn’t even spare her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. After facing taunts for years, Ms Mufti finally announced in the state assembly recently that it was her father who, as India’s first Muslim home minister, had brought the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act to J&K. That’s a shot in the foot all right!


The joggers’ track in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens is known for helping the political elite remain in good shape. But two leaders, one each from the BJP and Congress, are now working hard in those green environs to find ways to undo some of their ‘excessive articulations’ of the past. The BJP one is at the receiving end of getting back from party colleagues what he’d been doing to them on a day-to-day basis: literally laying their paths with thorns. It’s a moot point whether the sudden twist in the career plan will throw the clever futuristic investments the leader has made into disarray — especially given that the “outsider” mantra is getting louder in the BJP’s succession war. Meanwhile, the Congress junior minister — known for missing no opportunity to launch whispering campaigns against a ‘VVVIP’ by flaunting his own projected proximity to the powers that be in the Congress inner circle — has just been ‘found out’ by sniffing colleagues. With acute imagination, this junior minister has now been nicknamed “Arjun Singh Jr” by party leaders for the strikingly similar operation style.







The sugar economy is in total disarray, prices are touching record high and production is expected to drop sharply. The blame rests with an irrational policy regime caused by the near total politicisation of the sector. Retail sugar prices are now over Rs 35/kg and are expected to go higher in the coming festival season. The government’s response has been predictable — allow free imports, restrict bulk consumption and crack down on hoarding. These measures are unlikely to have any significant impact given the expected low production and high global prices. Sugar production is expected to drop to 15 million tonnes in 2009-10 from 26 million tonnes a year ago. Attendant prospects of large Indian imports have pushed global prices to a 30-year high. Most commodities follow a cycle, but sugar in India tends to have an exaggerated 2-3 year boom-bust swing due to undue interference. Given the symbiotic relationship between farmers and mills — sugarcane cannot be transported beyond a certain distance as it loses sucrose content quickly and, thus, has to be processed by the local mill — there has to be some regulation on sugarcane prices. The Centre does set a price that seeks to cover input costs and give a reasonable return to the farmer, but these are distorted by the higher prices suggested by state governments. In a low sugar price year mills are not able to meet these prices, causing arrears to farmers, who then switch out of sugarcane to other crops causing a shortfall in the following years. Further distortions are introduced by the government’s attempt to keep retail sugar prices low through market interventions.

The solution is minimal intervention. Directly or indirectly, sugar accounts for a low share of household expenditure. It does not warrant the kind of control the government exercises on the sugar market. It can take care of the weaker sections through the PDS. Likewise, there needs to be more sanctity for the scientifically determined statutory minimum price for sugarcane. A minimum price needs to be established — mills can pay more if they want to — and state governments must be encouraged to respect the same. India is now the largest producer and consumer of sugar. Irrational policies will mean a huge cost for the country.







This year marks the 400th anniversary of the use of an invention that not only revolutionised science, but had a radical impact on our collective identity. The telescope, invented in Holland in the early 17th century and used by Galileo in 1609 for astronomical study — for the first time ever — was certainly a tool that greatly boosted the ancient science of astronomy; but it also marked the beginning of the end of the Christian religious belief in geo-centrism, that is, that Earth was the centre of the universe. Man was suddenly reduced to a puny being on a small planet at the fringes of the universe. The Christian religious establishment considered all this as blasphemy. Galileo, suspected of heresy by the Inquisition, was forced to recant, but spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Science had collided, head-on, with religious dogma.

Clearly, science has long since won this battle: that Earth is but a minor planet of a small solar system, tucked away in a corner of the universe, is no longer generally disputed. Yet, has it won the war? Have dogmas — religious or secular — edicts, fiats and fatwas been trumped by science? Science — and particularly its hand-maiden, technology — has been recognised as not only a vital part of the civilisational project, but as a determinant and driver of the economic and political power of the State. Promoting and nurturing science has, therefore, become critically important.

Science is about questioning, re-examining and doubting. It is about throwing out theories that no longer work, or radically changing those that do, in the light of new observations. It is not about force-fitting data to justify a given theory. Evolved over centuries, the method or process of science consists of the cycle of observation-hypothesis-validation-theory. More importantly, it involves a degree of scepticism and an attitude of questioning.

Tolerance, encouragement — even promotion — and facilitation of this is the key to broad and general progress in science. Inflexible mind-sets and rigid, bureaucratic structures are dampeners that will stifle science.

Institutions and organisations that recognise this, and are able to create an open, non-hierarchical working environment, tend to consistently produce great science. Little wonder then that globally it has been the universities — traditionally open and free-thinking — that have regularly been the source of scientific breakthroughs. Independent organisations that have modelled their culture and structure on this basis have also been successful.








Notwithstanding Islamabad’s only-to-be-expected denials, the United States government under President Barack Obama is now complaining that the anti-ship Harpoon missiles supplied to Pakistan as military assistance in the late 1980s have been illegally converted into land-based strike systems whose target can be India. Similar is the story with the P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft which can now be mobilised from the sea by the Pakistan Navy for on-land missile targeting of India. Washington has earlier acknowledged that military hardware support given to Islamabad to fight the Al Qaeda and Taliban more recently have also been seized upon to be used against India. There is little that is new about such complaints, however. Also, such grousing has never come in the way of the abiding US-Pakistan relationship, which has at no time been placed under such scrutiny by Washington as to amount to a change in dynamics in bilateral ties of the two countries — one a leading democracy, the other, ironically, a leading military dictatorship for the most part, which has become a problem for the world in more ways than one. From the time that Pakistan came into being, its rulers have assiduously wooed the United States for military assistance and financial aid. Washington responded richly as Karachi, the then Pakistani capital, showed an eager willingness to be a part of the US-led ideological and military alliance against the erstwhile Soviet Union. The weapons received under that anti-Communist scheme were unfailingly turned against India. Indeed, Pakistan’s basic reason to be part of the American-led Central Treaty Organisation (Cento) was to acquire weapons for use against India in the guise of holding a flank against global Communism. In their day the Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indira Gandhi governments in this country made it a point to bring to Washington’s notice the games its protégé was playing. But these were invariably overlooked because India was a leader of the nonaligned bloc that gave Washington no political comfort. That was then. But the basic storyline appears to have changed little, although India and America now seek a long-term bilateral relationship with one another that can be a force for good in the world. A month ago, reacting to the Obama administration’s plan of infusing massive military aid into Pakistan, the external affairs minister, Mr S.M. Krishna, had cautioned Washington that this would be cleverly sought to be used against India. There are no signs that Washington heard. What the US has to keep in mind, however, is that its so-called AfPak strategy is likely to appear thinner than it is already if weapons received by Pakistan to clear the tribal areas of international and local terrorist elements nurtured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence are diverted to other uses. Further, the AfPak strategy, which has several layers, can hardly be seen as a coherent whole if any anxieties are caused to India on account of prejudicial Pakistani actions. The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve a $7.5-billion aid package for Pakistan to be disbursed over the next five years. Some of this is meant to assuage hostile feelings among the people of Pakistan on account of American drones targeting terrorist leaders inside Pakistani territory, an act that detracts from Pakistani sovereignty. The US Congress, however, cannot but be concerned about the uses to which American aid is put by Pakistan. To what extent would US legislators like to test the new impetus in US-India relations is also a question to be kept in view.










It is strange that both Mr Lal Krishna Advani and Mr Jaswant Singh realised the greatness of Muhammad Ali Jinnah after a visit to Pakistan. In 2005, following a visit to Pakistan, Mr Advani reportedly hailed Pakistan’s founder and had to relinquish the post of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president. In 2009, Mr Singh praised Jinnah and was expelled from the party.

The book Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence, reveals Mr Singh’s confusion and his distortion of facts. Fuelled by the desire to give justice to Jinnah who, he thinks, is demonised by Indians, Mr Singh ventured to demonise Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

He also thought it expedient to admonish Mahatma Gandhi for treating Jinnah as a Muslim leader by first ousting him from the Home Rule League and, later, from the Congress itself. But in any democratic set-up such things happen.

Mr Singh is right to endorse Jinnah’s position regarding the Khilafat Movement. But the Hindu-Muslim riots that followed cannot be attributed to the Khilafat Movement alone. There were riots between the two communities before and after that.

Jinnah left the Congress as Mahatma Gandhi succeeded in changing the Constitution and the creed of the organisation. Khadi and spinning became obligatory and the Congress’ statement of belief changed to civil disobedience. Jinnah opposed this as he feared that it would lead to lawlessness.

Mr Singh blames Nehru for rejecting the British offer of giving India a dominion status — India would be independent but would have to retain the British monarch as head of state. The book says that Nehru lost the opportunity of reaching an understanding with Jinnah. But there was no such offer — neither in the 20s nor at the Round Table Conference in the beginning of the 30s.

No doubt that Jinnah was a great man. It is also an undisputed fact that Jinnah created Pakistan, but this creation was not out of nothing. Mr Singh cites Gandhi who regarded Jinnah as a great man. But he is blissfully unaware that Jinnah also paid Gandhiji with the same compliments. Any important historical event should not be considered in isolation.

In his book, Mr Singh has held Congress leaders, especially Nehru, responsible for the Partition. He maintains that both Nehru and Sardar Patel were proponents of centralised polity, while Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi were for a federal state.

Was Jinnah consistent about federalism? It is best here to refer to The Sole Spokesman, a scholarly book by Ayesha Jalal, a well-known Pakistani historian. She says that while Jinnah aimed at equal power-sharing with the Congress in governance of India, he insisted on a federal Constitution. But at the Round Table Conference he opposed the idea of a federal government but, leaders like Fazl-i-Hussain of Punjab were very active and they prevailed in getting a federation. Afterwards, in 1937, Jinnah saw that the Congress and the Muslim League joint ministry could not be formed and he realised the danger in accepting the demands of the provincial leaders.

In the elections under the 1935 Act, the Muslim League could not form a ministry in any Muslim majority province — from Sindh to North-West Frontier Province. At that time Jinnah was not very powerful. He was accepted as the Muslim representative in the Central Assembly by chief ministers of the Muslim majority provinces at a great cost. Details are in Ms Jalal’s book.

Mr Singh is free to criticise Nehru to his heart’s content, but he is wrong to hold Nehru solely responsible for the failure of the Congress-Muslim League talks about forming a joint ministry in Uttar Pradesh after the 1937 election. Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, who was negotiating with Congress leaders, said that Nehru was not involved in the negotiations. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Govind Ballabh Pant and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai represented the Congress and all the correspondence was with Azad. (Choudhry Khaliquzzaman, Pathway to Pakistan)

Later, as a Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah wielded extraordinary powers making his ministers powerless. He advocated loose federation only when he wanted to have two states in India and the Centre to hold minimum powers. But in Pakistan, his policy was quite the contrary.

Blaming the Congress for not conceding Jinnah’s demands is also unjust as Jinnah wanted the Muslim League to be recognised as the sole representative body of the Muslims and the Congress as the Hindu organisation which could not have been acceptable. Jinnah became powerful when he gave the slogan of “Islam in danger” and called for Pakistan.

In his new incarnation, Mr Singh laments the demonisation of Jinnah by Indians. But the BJP, to which he belonged for 30 years, was at the forefront in this game. He has asked Indians to look into the eyes of the Muslims and stop treating them as aliens. But as a BJP leader he should have asked for action against Mr Kalyan Singh and Mr Narendra Modi or even Mr Advani or at least expressed his repentance now over Babri Masjid or Gujarat riots.

Mr Singh, like Mr Advani, is much impressed by Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947, and so they both depicted Jinnah in a secular image. But Mr Singh should have known that Sharif-ul Mujahid, director of the Quaid-e-Azam Academy, described the speech as “a serious lapse”, and that Jinnah himself soon changed tack, falling back upon Pakistan’s identity as a state of the Muslims. Veteran Communist Jyoti Basu said in 2005 that he was not interested in Jinnah’s “secular” lifestyle but rather in his instigation of Direct Action in 1946 which led to horrific bloodshed and made Pakistan imminent.

As the foreign minister in the National Democratic Alliance government, Mr Singh interacted with Strobe Talbott, assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration. Back then Mr Singh tried to persuade Mr Talbott to give up Pakistan and establish close relations with India. While advocating this policy he expatiated why Muslim nations could not have democratic polity. Mr Talbott had the impression that Mr Singh wanted US and India to be allies against Pakistan. (see Talbott’s Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and The Bomb).

So which Mr Singh should the Indian people acclaim? The present one as a great friend of Pakistan or the advocate of India-US united front against Pakistan?








Many of the retrospectives on Ted Kennedy’s life mention his regret that he didn’t accept Richard Nixon’s offer of a bipartisan healthcare deal. The moral some commentators take from that regret is that today’s healthcare reformers should do what Kennedy balked at doing back then, and reach out to the other side.

But it’s a bad analogy, because today’s political scene is nothing like that of the early 1970s. In fact, surveying current politics, I find myself missing Richard Nixon.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Nixon was surely the worst person other than Mr Dick Cheney ever to control the executive branch.

But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for healthcare reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.

Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures”. No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems.

So what happened to the days when a Republican President could sound so non-ideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?

Part of the answer is that the Right-wing fringe, which has always been around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of America’s two major parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a healthcare deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal, helped feed the “death panel” lies?

But there’s another reason healthcare reform is much harder now than it would have been under Nixon: the vast expansion of corporate influence.

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organise fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.
And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for healthcare, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 per cent of GDP in 1970 to 5.5 per cent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are “centrist” Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money.

Given the combination of GOP extremism and corporate power, it’s now doubtful whether health reform, even if we get it — which is by no means certain — will be anywhere near as good as Nixon’s proposal, even though Democrats control the White House and have a large Congressional majority.
And what about other challenges? Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.
I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realise what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Mr Barack Obama would be a “transformational” President — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning the US around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.










 “I am not like Jaswant Singh. I felt like crying. It was the saddest day of my life, after my parents expired”, former Lok Sabha Speaker and CPI(M) leader Somnath Chatterjee said of his expulsion from the party. Mr Chatterjee, who joined the CPI(M) in 1968, was a member of the party for 40 years. In 2008, party general secretary Prakash Karat expelled him for not quitting the Speaker’s post after the Reds decided to withdraw support to the UPA government before the 2009 general polls. In an exclusive interview to Sanjay Basak and Namrata Biji Ahuja, Mr Chatterjee, once one of the tallest leaders of the CPI(M), speaks of his anguish and the cash for trust vote scam, which continues to haunt the Opposition...


How would you describe the situation in the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) at this juncture?
It is uncertain. Though I am out of it, I am still concerned about its well-being. The party base is not expanding, it’s getting restricted to three states (Bengal, Kerala and Tripura). There was a time when so many comrades were getting elected from so many states — Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Assam and others. Somehow, the party is not being able to attract leaders from other states. In Bengal I don’t see any activity to rejuvenate the party.


How would you compare the party under the then general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and the existing leadership?

I do not wish to compare...


It’s not merely about comparison...

(Cuts in) The CPI(M), which was supporting the United Progressive Alliance regime from outside, became very powerful. The Left became important politically. Those who were in power (in the Left) started feeling they had become the arbiters of the nation. That was a wrong thing. These are the people who did not allow Jyoti Basu to become Prime Minister.


What exactly happened in the politburo in 1996? Why was Jyoti Basu not allowed to take charge of the nation?

The formula is we should not be in a government where we cannot control policy. I told them it was a wrong decision.


You feel the Left should have participated in the UPA government when it had the chance?

If you are taking part in electoral politics, you cannot not be willing to stand by the people and deliver your promises. Many people have said, “Why should we vote for you — only to criticise others?” It was unfortunate. The party would have been in a dominating position if it had joined.


What went wrong?

They tried to use the same formula. There was a division in the central committee. I tried to project that the party’s participation in the UPA government was important. But, I must confess, I was in a hopeless minority. The comrades are now asking, has it helped the party, has it helped the cause of the people for whom the party is working.

How do you look at the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat’s decision to withdraw support from UPA on the issue of Indo-US nuclear deal ?

It was tragic. Tragic from the point of view of the people and the party and its supporters. With great agony I must say, though I have been thrown out of the party, the CPI(M) and the Left as a whole have almost become irrelevant. We have never been a large force. The use of parliamentary forum is very important. I have seen great leaders like A.K. Gopalan and others using the forum. People used to respect Left leaders. They may or may not agree with their views, but they would listen to them seriously. By the way, the CPI(M) was never a person-based party. If it was, Jyoti Basu would have had his way, Surjeet would have dictated terms. They could not get their way in 1996 to form the government at the Centre.


Mr Karat played a key role in this?

That was the time when Prakash Karat’s rise in the party started, as far as I remember. The great question mark is on the justification of the withdrawal of support from the UPA government.


If the party is not driven by a person, how come, despite opposition from within, CPI(M) pushed through the decision to withdraw support?

I was not in the party. I can only assume that there was a belief that the Congress’ importance had gone down. It was wrong. This did not pay off.


What were your views?

I said, you oppose the nuclear deal, you oppose the policies, but withdrawing support meant, either the BJP would come to power or there will be elections. Nobody assumed that the Samajwadi Party would extend support. No one knew the government would survive. The CPI(M) had not done well in the Bengal panchayat polls. I said this was the worst time for the party to go to polls. It’s time for consolidation. I said that there were many good decisions of the government (UPA). We should have said that these were the Left parties’ contribution. The Congress was impressed upon to take those decisions. Going to elections would be suicidal, I said. Elections never took place. The SP supported the government. The result was that the Left was sidelined.


You told Mr Karat?

I had no contact with Karat. I sent a note. Nobody responded. In five years, he met me only twice — once to inform of the withdrawal of support and, earlier, when the party decided not to put up any candidate for the President’s post.


Did Mr Karat talk to you about resignation before the trust vote?

No. The general secretary had repeatedly said that it was for the Speaker to decide. Anyway, I have written everything in my book which, I hope, will be published. I later found out that my name was also on the list of members withdrawing support. How can that be? Interestingly, the order of expulsion did not came on July 20 (before the trust vote). It came a day after the trust vote.


Why interesting?

Because, probably, they (CPI-M) thought the government would go and the chapter will be closed.

Did Jyoti Basu say anything before the trust vote? Was he in favour of withdrawing support?
Jyoti Basu felt sad and sorry about my expulsion from the party. But he is too committed to party discipline. It was, however, Jyoti Basu who asked me to preside over the trust vote debate. I heard that he got some message conveyed to Mr Karat later.


Tell us about cash for trust vote scam?

It was one of the worst things to have happened. Now so many things are coming out. I believe it was known to them. They knew that something was going to happen to disturb the proceedings.


Who is “they”?

The Left knew about the cash for trust vote scam?

I have no proof. But there were rumours that they were anticipating some disturbance. They definitely knew something was going to happen. The intention was somehow to scuttle the debate. It was a very despicable attempt. Their antipathy to the government was so much that they (the Left) were keen to get rid of the government. I asked the MPs and L.K. Advani why I wasn’t informed earlier. One BJP member told me that the bags (carrying cash) were there before and not brought in at 4 pm. Anyway, the Left and the BJP not only came together, but they voted together.

How do you react to the CPI(M) rallying behind scam-tainted Kerala state secretary Pinyari Vijayan?
It’s bad and unfortunate. Shows double standard. I was not given any opportunity, though there was no allegation of corruption or anything like that. Party felt politically I was wrong.


After being in the party for decades, how did you react to your expulsion?

I am not like Jaswant Singh. I felt like crying. After my parents’ demise, it was the saddest day of my life.


Compare Mr Advani to Mr Karat?

(Laughs) Politically they are on the two opposite sides of a pole. I hope there is no meeting point. Perhaps, lurking ambition to come to power made them both come close on the floor of the House, which was a disaster.


Should Mr Karat step down?

This is not an ordinary setback. Worst electoral debacle of the party. Someone should take responsibility and own up. Negative politics does not help.


Mr Karat said he was merely carrying out the central committee’s decision to withdraw support from the UPA before the 2009 polls?

(Loudly) What is a general secretary for, if he is not able to guide the central committee? Nobody can override the general secretary easily. It’s a lame excuse. Now he is blaming the state governments, state committees. What is he there for? What is the politburo there for?


How do you see the rise of Trinamul Congressleader Mamata Banerjee?People have supported her. That’s how she came to this position.








Al-Megrahi, being partly responsible for the murder of 270 people on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, has been released by Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill “on compassionate grounds”. Ancient Greeks would have smelled a rat. Mytilene, a city-state on the island of Lesbos, revolted against Athens in 427 BC, and was brought to heel.

The Athenian Assembly voted to punish them by executing all the adult males and enslaving the women and children. Next day, however, there was a change of feeling about such a “cruel and unprecedented” act directed against innocent and guilty alike, and a second Assembly was called. Thucydides reports the two main speeches: Cleon for holding the line, Diodotus for executing only the guilty.
Cleon argues that Athens’ power depends on its strength. To show weakness is disastrous: “It is dangerous to you and will not make your enemies love you any more”.Sucking up to such people will do no good: “You will not make them obey you by injuring your own interests to do them a favour”. Changing one’s mind does no good: “It is fatal to pass measures and not abide by them”. Besides, there is a lasting truth about human behaviour: “Humans despise those who treat them well, but look up to those who make no concessions”.

Cleon’s sentiments apply precisely to those who can see no case for releasing al-Megrahi. Diodotus, however, comes at the issue by asking what the consequences of carrying out the decision will be, and argues that to execute the innocent will alienate those who never opposed Athens in the first place — all it will achieve will be to ensure full turnouts for future revolts, since innocence will act as no protection against punishment.









Cricket lovers know that a second innings is always off to a slower start than the first. This is especially true of a side that is keen to consolidate its victory. Manmohan Singh in his second tenure as prime minister finds himself exactly in that situation. He began his second innings after an unexpectedly handsome victory in the hustings. Immediately, there was a rise in expectations. Mr Singh somewhat spurred these on by trying to set an agenda for the first 100 days. On the completion of that first landmark, it would appear that the performance of the United Progressive Alliance government has fallen short of the hopes it had aroused. It can be argued that time was out of joint for the government to deliver on most of its promises. When this government took its oath of office, the economy was going through an unprecedented downturn; very soon, the country faced a drought; and there was a panic about the flu epidemic. What is remarkable is that Mr Singh and his team of ministers have been able to overcome, at least in some spheres, these very adverse circumstances. The economy, aided by the government’s stimulus package, is showing signs of recovery. The fears about the epidemic have turned out to be less than real. More importantly, in the fields of education and rural development, some crucial programmes have been announced. The prime minister can also take credit for preparing the ground for normalizing relations with Pakistan without compromising on India’s firm stand against terrorism that originates in Pakistan.


No one expects completion of major projects in 100 days. But those that have been started will now come under the scanner. What is cause for concern is the official indifference to issues of governance. The mess that surrounds the extraction of gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin is one example of the government’s failure to take a decision on a critical matter. This is not unrelated to the government’s neglect of the promise to usher in a new era of transparency and accountability. There is the general perception that there isn’t a strong enough hand on the rudder to provide direction. Mr Singh conveys the impression that he is running on inertia and then he erases that impression by taking a very firm stand on a crucial issue. This style of functioning is deceptive and often exasperating for those who make it their job to watch Mr Singh.






Chandrayaan-I, India’s first lunar orbital satellite, is now a free-floating body in outer space following the snapping of India’s radio contact with it. This unexpected closure of India’s first lunar expedition has raised questions about the country’s space programme that could perhaps have been avoided had the scientific team of the Indian Space Research Organization not tried to overreach itself. This it did by first predicting, without sufficient reason, that the satellite would last in space for no less than two years. Isro scientists are now busy trying to argue that since no satellite lasts more than six to seven months, Chandrayaan-I has done well by comparison. This is irrefutable, but Isro could have left the facts to be borne out by actual experience. Had it done so, Isro would not have found itself so desperately trying to prove its credibility, especially since the Chandrayaan-I expedition leaves no room to doubt its success. The second count on which it tripped was on not keeping the public in the loop about what was happening to Chandrayaan-I. The satellite had its first technical problems within months of the launch. In April, its power regulators failed, allowing the satellite to have only 50 per cent of the power it required. In May, its star-sensors failed and the gyroscopes had to take on their function. It should have been apparent by then that the satellite was living on borrowed time. Yet, it was made to appear that the programme was running smoothly.


That Isro might have felt compelled to put up a brave front has a lot to say about its need for public acceptance. It is true that government organizations and departments become sitting ducks for public criticism and anger directed against political dispensations in power. But that should be regarded as the starting point of introspection, not self-flagellation. Nor should that prompt any attempt to mislead or misguide public opinion. The Indian space programme has had major successes since it began in the Seventies, and Isro has been its guiding star. Even before Chandrayaan-I had been sent into space to plant the Tricolour on the moon, India had beaten Russia in launching ten satellites into space at one go. Chandrayaan-I had beaten the odds so long because of the expertise of the scientific community. One hopes that together with greater technical skill, other lessons have been learnt as well.






Three months after the cyclone, Uddalak Mukherjee visits the Sunderbans to look at a corporate rehabilitation projectAs I watched the waters rise on the Bidyadhari river, I was reminded of a passage in Amitav Ghosh’s Hungry Tide. Ghosh had described how the boundaries between land and water are “always mutating, always unpredictable” in the tide country. Surrounded by the vast, grey Bidyadhari, I saw a stretch of land in the distance, but I could not be sure. It could have been the line that separated the river from the sky. In the Sunderbans, the rivers also blur the boundaries between what is, and is not, real.


I was on my way to Tipligheri, a remote tribal hamlet under the Lahiripur gram panchayat, to take a look at a rehabilitation project being run by the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation together with the World Wildlife Fund for the people devastated by Aila. On many an island in the Sunderbans, I was told, corporate bodies and non-governmental organizations had stepped in to fill the void left by the State, which had failed to provide relief to the cyclone victims. Six people had died in Tipligheri, three of them in an outbreak of gastroenteritis after the cyclone. A copy of a report, which I tried to hold in my hand and read in the fierce wind that blew from across the river, stated that the 84 surviving families were now dependent on food and shelter provided by the bank and the WWF.


Earlier, we had reached Gadkhali from Calcutta, crossed the river to Gosaba, and were now waiting on a rickety, motorized launch to get to Tipligheri. I was accompanied by Partho, the bank’s point-man who had facilitated the visit, and Chiranjib, a field officer from the WWF, together with a freelance photographer, a former policeman and a man from the fisheries department who was working on a de-salination project. The ride from Calcutta had been cheerful, with the former policeman entertaining us with stories from his uniformed days. At Gosaba, where the launch had stopped to pick up supplies, the mood was more sombre. Humbled by the sight of the river and the shadowy forest, we braced ourselves to visit a land and a people ravaged by winds and water.


Our boat set off, trailing grey foam, its engine making a thudding noise. We passed a line of boats, some of which were headed for the forest. Three months had passed after the storm, but I could still see its imprint on the banks: broken houses, bare stumps that were once trees, half-eaten bunds that were being rebuilt with sandbags and clay all over again. (Near Pakhiralay, Chiranjib pointed to the remains of a concrete embankment that had been washed away. In tide country, nothing, not even concrete walls, survive the elements, he said.) We left the Bidyadhari, crossed the Durgaduyani and then entered a channel called Dutta khaal near the Sajnekhali range. The half-submerged foliage of the forest continued unbroken along the banks.


Four hours later, we were in Tipligheri. I asked to be taken to the Lahiripur gram panchayat office first,

where I was met by Radhakrishna Sarkar. Sarkar first told me how, on the day of the storm, he had waded into the swirling waters to rescue villagers and check for breaches in the embankment. Then he shared details of the rehabilitation work undertaken by the government in and around Tipligheri. An adequate number of tarpaulin sheets had been distributed (he could not tell me the exact number); government medical teams had visited the island shortly after the calamity; drinking water had been provided by the Sunderban Development Trust; each family had been given six kilograms of rice and some dal. (According to the West Bengal government’s relief manual, after a natural disaster, each adult is entitled to 12 kg of foodgrains and each child to six kg of the same every month.) However, owing to irregularities in the list prepared by the foreman committee — a four-member body of the panchayat pradhan, panchayat samiti sabhapati, leader of the Opposition in the panchayat and the block development officer — that is supposed to identify the people eligible for relief, the money to rebuild damaged houses has not been provided yet.


Official statistics are like plasticine. They can be kneaded and twisted to make devious claims. Later, in the tribal hamlet, I was told that the panchayat in Lahiripur had provided only three kg of foodgrain in the month after the storm. The people here, mostly Mundas, had also heard that those who did not possess ration-cards would not be entitled to claim damages. None of the families, I was informed, had a ration or a BPL card. Forsaken by the State, they were now hoping to rebuild their lives with the help of corporate initiatives.


In Tipligheri, HSBC and the WWF have provided community kitchens, tarpaulin, medicines and mosquito-nets. To reduce the people’s dependence on the nearby forest, a vegetable garden, piggeries and poultries have also been set up. Community initiatives, too, have been undertaken to prepare raised earthwork. The talmukut variety of rice, which can survive saline conditions, has been planted on an experimental basis on 142 acres. If the experiment succeeds, it would be replicated in other parts of the Sunderbans to help fight crop failure on account of salinity. I stood near the community kitchen with a woman whose husband was killed by a tiger a few months back. She said that she would vote for the WWF in the next panchayat elections.


Is there then a case for relief and rehabilitation in the Sunderbans to be privatized, so that corporate bodies can help the victims directly, without the State acting as facilitator? The relief model that I saw in Tipligheri, seemingly transparent and participatory, seemed to be the right one. But private rehabilitation initiatives are not flawless. In the Sunderbans, there have been reports of NGOs doling out cup-noodles instead of puffed rice, even though there was an acute shortage of water to boil the noodles. The distribution of relief often adhered to political lines, and allegations of financial irregularities were not unheard of. Moreover, the reach of the State, and the funds that it commands, make its involvement imperative in such rehabilitation projects. The idea of a welfare state reneging on its responsibilities and forcing the people to survive on the munificence of corporate organizations and NGOs is unacceptable.


Evening had fallen on our way back to Gosaba. The islands — with their abject poverty and defenceless, heroic people — seemed to have affected us in different ways. Chiranjib was thinking about a meeting that needed to be organized in Tipligheri, Partho was immersed in calculations about how much money was still required to augment the work, while I sat and thought of the woman with five children who would never see her husband again. The river lapped quietly, but the forest was alive with the sound of the birds returning. Suddenly, I saw two creatures circling the darkening waters: they were dolphins, their graceful movement made me forget the misery momentarily. It was only then that I understood that in this land, webbed by immense rivers, beauty and terror were eternally bound together. Caught in the cycle of high and low tides, the beauty and the terror of the land, are the people who will never leave in search of dry land.








A colleague and friend, Sujit Mandal, had his home on Bali island in the Sunderbans, washed away by Cyclone Aila. Sujit and I, along with other colleagues, students and friends made the first of several trips to the Sunderbans, post-Aila, on May 28. What follows is based on what we learnt on these trips.


The State machinery essentially failed the people of the Sunderbans immediately before and after Aila, although it seems to have recovered somewhat since then. Even when the cyclone was well-documented a full day before it struck, no effort seems to have been made to warn villagers about it. Up to May 29, the only relief that had reached the hamlet of some 1,500-odd people where we went was a single 50-kg sack of chinre. For weeks afterwards, much of the relief material was going to just a few places, located close to the riverbanks, leaving many others, located further inland, untouched.


Ordinary people responded to the cyclone with alacrity, generosity and passion. For over a month, trucks, vans, and private vehicles stretched for over a kilometre, every day, waiting to take relief materials to the cyclone-affected. Sadly, there was no attempt on the part of the State to coordinate such efforts and ensure that the provisions reached areas most in need. This could have been done quite easily by setting up a camp at each of the take-off points from where one has to get on to a boat to reach the islands of the Sunderbans. All such a camp needed was a map and up-to-date reports on the status of relief reaching (or not reaching) the islands. Mobile telephones were working during and after Aila, so such information was hardly difficult to obtain. In the absence of any guidance, many groups who had come loaded with relief (food, clothes, medicines, tarpaulins, water and so on) simply asked the people hanging around the ghats where they ought to go. Disaster touts took full advantage of this and asked people to leave relief material with them, which they later sold, making huge profits in the process. Others who made easy money from the cyclone include transporters, of boats or auto-rickshaws, quacks (charging thousands of rupees for providing cheap, readily-available medicines and saline drips) and, of course, moneylenders. Food, clothes and medicines were plentifully available in towns like Gosaba and Basanti, a day or two after Aila. Those who could not afford to buy these had already fallen into the moneylenders’ debt-trap.


On our first trip, we met a family where the eldest child’s boi-khata, the only things that had dried sufficiently to be used as kindling, were being lit as fuel to cook gruel for the two youngest children. We realized it would be more fruitful to direct our limited resources towards replenishing the books that the students had lost. We concentrated on a single school in Bali, and were able to provide its 1,600-odd students with books, pens, pencils and so on.


Time after time, we saw sections of the dams left untouched (or nearly so) while others had been largely destroyed. In every case, those parts left untouched had an outer protective layer of mangroves between them and the river. And wherever dams had broken there was the conspicuous absence of mangroves. The money promised by the Central government for repairing dams will, we fear, be used to make concrete structures, likely to prove far less effective as a barrier than mangroves. The sustainable solution to the problems of the Sunderbans has to be found not in steel-and-concrete engineering but in ecologically sound methods of working in harmony with the local flora and conditions of existence.


The people of the Sunderbans are facing a severe food crisis as no rice is likely to be grown there for the next three or four years, because the paddy fields have been salinated by the cyclone. Such saline land cannot support high-yielding varieties of paddy, with their Green Revolution protocol of using insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and irrigation by fresh water. There once were local varieties of saline-water-friendly rice there, remembered fondly by older cultivators. Varieties like nona bakra, sada gentu, kalo gentu, srabanti saal and Hamilton saal can not only grow in saline water, but also require no chemical inputs to thrive. Government policy should be geared towards reviving these folk rice varieties on an urgent basis. As for power, the answer lies not in setting up fossil-fuel-based power plants but in utilizing the potential for solar and wind power generation that the Sunderbans possess. Instead of depleting groundwater by digging tube-wells at random, locals should be encouraged to practise rainwater harvesting. Part of a long-term plan for managing disasters like Aila should be the building of storm-proof housing, using local materials. But ugly, and ultimately ineffective, steel and concrete shoeboxes are likely to be erected instead of using local materials and knowledge to rebuild homes.


After such knowledge, what forgiveness?


(The author teaches Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, Calcutta)









SELDOM is there cause to applaud the functioning of the sports ministry, but its decision not to endorse the release of $ 36.5 million for bringing Formula-1 motor-racing to India is the exception that proves the rule. True some, but not too many, will be disappointed that roadblocks have arisen in the path of India staging its own Grand Prix for which a circuit (amid some land-use controversy) is being developed, but the short point is that the “cream” of motor-sport has only limited domestic relevance. And Force India’s maiden podium finish at Spa does not change that reality. Certainly it cannot be equated with hockey, football, cricket, athletics etc. that not only have mass appeal but are also “open” to the masses ~ hence sanctioning of foreign exchange for them does have a promotional element. To link F1 with rallies, which draw considerable local participation, is specious. The story of India’s own Grand Prix is twisty: first eyebrows were raised when the Indian Olympic Association was seen as involved in bringing the event to the country. Then the IOA washed its hand off the matter, but the members of the IOA chief’s family are now confirmed as major stake-holders in the firm that will be staging the event. While it is true that most “private” races on that circuit are in financial difficulties and seeking governmental backing to continue operations the situation in India is different ~ there is no established event that requires sustenance: why launch a venture that cannot fund itself?

When the idea of an Indian Grand Prix was first circulated this newspaper had wondered if the domestic automobile industry had so developed as to back an event from which it would gain the lion’s share of the commercial spin-off ~ the tourism factor being more notional than practical. Obviously the industry’s foreign exchange earnings are too limited for it to sponsor the event to the extent of $ 36.5 million. To drain the national foreign-exchange holdings of that amount, even if reserves are comfortable, would not be money well spent. Having taken that stand the ministry must now prepare itself to withstand much pressure. At the same time it must not create needless obstacles: if the promoters of an Indian Grand Prix can pay their own way in “hard currency” they must be wished all success.








NEPAL’s Vice-President, Mr Parmanand Jha, has found himself at the centre of controversy ever since he took the oath of office and secrecy in Hindi in July last year, instead of the official Nepali. The oath was written in Nepali but Jha is said to have translated it into Hindi and read it out, triggering widespread street protests, mostly by students, for days together. A Nepali grammar book was also tossed at him on the occasion that he was reportedly attired in what was described as an “Indian law-maker’s dress”. A local lawyer, BK Neupane, filed a writ petition against him in the Supreme Court alleging that the oath Jha took was unconstitutional. Surprisingly, not much was heard of the issue for more than a year until 24 July this year when the apex court ruled that Jha’s swearing-in was unconstitutional and directed him to retake the oath in Nepali. When Jha remained adamant, on 23 August the apex court gave him a week’s deadline (30 August, 4 pm) to retake the oath or else be automatically dismissed from the post. Jha even defied the cabinet’s request to respect the court order.

His action does not seem altogether extraordinary since he belongs to the Terai where Hindi is spoken and, more importantly, his supporters have rallied behind him. He has defended his action by saying that since his Madhesi People’s Rights Forum ~ the fourth largest party in the constituent assembly ~ has adopted the policy of making Hindi one of the official languages, further emphasising the point that the language is indispensable in Nepal, there is nothing wrong in it. Whether or not Jha will earn a respite is not clear but he has said as much that he has put his signature “in the oath of office and secrecy on paper written in Nepali”. However, his refusal to retake the oath until the constituent assembly endorses the bill facilitating taking the oath in one’s own respective mother tongue may not be the end of this affair.









Much as it marks the end of an era, the momentous victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in Sunday’s election is no less a testament to the resilience of a country’s democratic process. To paraphrase Metternich’s change-continuity construct of 19th century Europe, Japan has above all registered a vote for change, almost a verdict to jettison continuity. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s status quo of 54 years has ended with a profoundly decisive message that has placed the nation on the turn. The post-Koizumi decline in the fortunes of the LDP is now a settled fact. At first sight, the result might be perceived to be an index of the lack of confidence in Taro Aso; but it would be less than fair to attribute the denouement to the incumbent Prime Minister alone. Aso merely belonged to a line of weaklings who succeeded Koizumi. That fundamental shortcoming of recent dispensations was compounded by the economic blight that Aso, by a quirk of history, had to countenance in the manner of his contemporary heads of government. By an equally quirky coincidence, the global recession hit Japan with Aso’s assumption of office. The faltering economy and the burgeoning unemployment turned out to be the opposition’s major campaign planks. Between them, the twin issues have served as the immediate provocation that has led to the eclipse of the LDP, its rout more severe than what the pollsters had forecast.

With a two-thirds majority in the Lower House, Yukio Hatoyama’s Democratic Party of Japan will be in a position to form a government on its own and crucially without forging a coalition. In matters of policy, therefore, Hatoyama as PM will not be hamstrung by constraints. The pattern and the extent of the change that the country is prepared to accept will be clear only in the fullness of time. In the context of the DPJ’s campaign emphasis on such bread-and-butter issues as the need to help the consumer, a shift in focus will entail a critical change in the policy of favouring big business. No less profound will be the anticipated change in foreign policy. Hatoyama has pledged support to peace-keeping efforts and “greater realism” in Japan’s dealings with Russia and China. And should there be a settlement of the Kurile Islands dispute, Russo-Japanese relations will enter a new phase. The process of a rapprochement with China, initiated by Shinzo Abe in 2006, can be expected to be carried to its logical conclusion by Yukio Hatoyama. The forces of change may gradually reduce the Cold War compulsions, historically a driving force in Japan’s international relations, to irrelevance.







WE swear by the rule of law and rightfully take pride in extolling its virtues. Indeed, rule of law forms the bedrock of a modern civil society with a liberal polity. That premise begs the question whether one can be justifiably expected to follow, and be satisfied with, any law enacted by the legislature including the laws which pass the tests prescribed by the Constitution.

The issue is whether there should be a conjunction of laws enacted by a legislature and the accepted canons and notions of justice, so as to make the laws serve the cause of the people and ensure justice for them.

Professor Amartya Sen in his latest work, The Idea of Justice, has prefaced his book by referring to Pip in Dickens’ Great Expectations. Dickens has highlighted his quest for justice in the laws of England in the loaded satire, Oliver Twist. “What a noble illustration of the tender laws of England! They let the paupers go to sleep! “. And when Mr Bumble, the beadle, exclaimed when Oliver asked for extra gruel, saying “Oliver Twist has asked for more”.


This illustrates that since time immemorial the question as to whether laws require to be tempered with justice has been the subject of intellectual discourse. One needs to consider the objectives which laws are intended to achieve. The most comprehensive definition of law is found in Black’s Law Dictionary (ninth edition), which states that law is “the regime that orders human activities and relations through systematic application of the force of politically organized society, or through social pressure, backed by force, in such society”.

Clearly, the framing of laws by the legislature has to factor in the consideration that laws passed must promote the betterment and greater good of the society as a whole without leaving any scope for any reasonable person to nurse any grievance of having been unjustly prejudiced by any such law.
It is not enough to be smug with the axiomatic belief that laws are made in the legislature by elected representatives of the people, that an elected legislature is the repository of the people’s will and that it is presumed to know the needs and aspirations of the people. This is all the more important in a democratic set-up because in a democracy, the majority rules the day.

But one cannot be impervious to the fact that the minority is constituted of a sizeable section of the people. It is, therefore, imperative that the majority must not be allowed to thrust any injustice on the dissenting minority in the process of framing laws. The legislature must be vigilant enough to ensure that even the majority view factors in the concept of justice to one and all in the law-making process.
Laws relating to the acquisition of land are a case in point. Such laws are based on the theory of “eminent domain” meaning that the State has the power to take over privately-owned property and convert it to public use. However, the acquisition laws must necessarily ensure that the private owner is suitably compensated.

The just compensation clause in the Fifth Amendment to the Federal Constitution of the United States is one instance of ensuring that justice is embedded in law-making. Such laws should also ensure that the powers of acquisition can be exercised only when the pain and suffering of a person being deprived of his property is overwhelmingly outweighed by the public good sought to be achieved by the acquisition. Such laws should also ensure that no private owner of property is deprived of his life or livelihood in the process of acquisition if the land in question forms his only source of economic sustenance.
There are myriad situations where the need for ensuring justice in the process of law-making is of crucial importance for motivating people to be respectful of the laws and abide by them. It is also necessary to ensure that the state has the moral authority to punish those who violate the law. It is even entitled to reasonable use of force to compel obedience.


A reference to Roscoe Pound in this regard would be instructive. In his book, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law, which is based on the Storrs Lectures delivered before the Law School of Yale University in 1921-22, Pound examined the function of legal philosophy. He remarked that philosophers were seeking a better basis for obedience to the law than the material used by the Greek philosophers. He was probably referring to an exhortation by Demosthenes to an Athenian jury. Pound observed: “ What was needed above all was some theory of the authority of law which should impose the bonds of reason upon those who enacted, upon those who applied, and upon those who were subject to law in such an amorphous legal order.”

One is inclined to conclude with the words of Roscoe Pound in his essay, “More about the Nature of Law” in “Legal Essays in Tribute to Orrin Kip Mc Murray” as quoted in Black’s Law Dictionary: “Some twenty years ago I pointed out two ideas running through definitions of law: one an imperative idea, an idea of a rule laid down by the law making it an organ of a politically organized society, deriving its force from the authority of the sovereign; and the other a rational and ethical idea, an idea of a rule of right and justice deriving its authority from its intrinsic reasonableness or conformity to ideals of right and merely recognized, not made, by the sovereign”.

The civilized world yearns for the day when the authority of the sovereign in law-making is guided by the second of the two ideas mentioned by Roscoe Pound.







LONDON, 31 AUG: Poland is seeking an apology from Russia for the erstwhile Soviet Union’s pact with the Nazis, a month before the World War II broke out on 1 September 1939, a British newspaper has claimed.

Few countries suffered as much as Poland during World War II; Adolf Hitler built his extermination camps there, great cities were destroyed and three million Poles died.

Seventy years on, Poland wants an acknowledgement from Russian Prime Minister Mr Vladimir Putin that Moscow's pact with Hitler was illegal, and a major contributing factor to the war which claimed 55 million lives, The Daily Telegraph reported.

A Polish government spokesman expressed his hope that the Russians would offer some sort of “acknowledgement of the truth” when Mr Putin and European statesmen gather in Gdansk on Tuesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

But Moscow is unwilling to offer any apology. Mr Yuly Kvitsinsky, the First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Parliament's Committee on International Affairs, is a bit adamant that the erstwhile Soviet Union did nothing wrong in signing the pact on 23 August 1939, just to protect itself.

Claiming the pact “bought time” against Nazi invasion and protected the Soviet Union's borders, he said: “Any war is judged by results it produced. The outcome of that war was in our favour. That war made us into a great world power.” PTI











The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) has decided to centralise its valuation scheme for the ICSE and ISC examinations “to make the evaluation system more transparent”. The new system, which will replace the existing manual one, is designed to reduce errors. Selected teachers will assemble in their respective marking centres to evaluate the performance of students drawn from across the country.

Established in 1956 to conduct the University of Cambridge Syndicate’s examinations in India, the council has enjoyed the reputation of training high academic achievers in various fields. Its affiliated schools have also enjoyed an unbroken record of scholastic success.

Even though their outdated teaching and learning methodologies left much to be desired, they still shone by comparison with the plethora of substandard institutions. It is a pity that the council has now decided upon a rigid and unimaginative evaluation scheme when the present day trends in meaningful education point to decentralisation of authority to improve schooling. This move defies all accepted norms of teaching and learning since the education of a child calls for sensitivity rather than an inert, bureaucratic approach.

The CSISC has argued that its present move will decentralise authority from the centre to the school. This is a misnomer, as the schools will only end up editing the data supplied by the centre. Teaching, learning and evaluation are three important components of a child’s schooling. They form an uninterrupted course where the teacher unfolds a whole world of knowledge and experience to a student who, in turn, assimilates it and responds according to her capability.

The evaluation of such teaching and learning is the last step. It not only examines how much the student has absorbed, but it also assesses how well the teacher was able to transfer that knowledge. It is an examination for the teacher as much as for the taught. Such an examination has to be a continuous process inside and outside the classroom involving both teacher and pupil. It cannot be a one-time annual affair, much less a centralised one, where a total stranger evaluates a child’s talent on the basis of carefully calibrated answers written in response to stereotyped, may be multiple choice, questions.

According to the national education policy of 1986, which the ICSE/ISC courses claim to follow, there must be “a continuous and comprehensive evaluation that incorporates both scholastic and non scholastic aspects of education”.

The CISCE must also distinguish between the workload of students and standards of attainment. Today, the workload is heavy and the standards low. Educationists have repeatedly advised reducing the former to give more space for games, sports and cultural activities all of which develop a complete personality. In fact, everything that a student learns need not be examination-oriented.


These courses should prepare a student for higher studies as well as the world of work. Today, parents look for ICSE schools in the hope that the child will be competent to take more examinations at the national level. This exam-driven type of education is no education.

As Yashpal, chairman, National Advisory Committee, rightly observes, children receive the message as soon as they start schooling that the only thing which matters is one’s performance in the examination.


Since the council has been listed in the School Education Act as a body conducting public examinations, one can understand this undue importance given to them — sometimes at the cost of education itself.

Perhaps, we can take a leaf out of the UK’s 1988 National Curriculum. It comprises 10 subjects of which English, mathematics and science are the core subjects. The children are informally tested and graded outside the stifling atmosphere of the examination hall by their teachers in three key stages of schooling that involve practical projects as well.

At 16, they are eligible to take the GCSE whose main purpose is to give a student opportunity to make informed choices about his future education or work plans. On the contrary, subjecting young people to the trauma of formal examinations which hardly reflect their real talents and aptitudes is a meaningless farce. It is a mockery of education that benefits neither the child nor society.









My barber is a pious Hindu. He methodically goes through the morning pooja before opening shop for business. Though in his early 20s he has wise head. With consummate skill he manages to hide his lack of education behind a business-like exterior coupled with a glib tongue and easy bonhomie. His business instinct is indeed remarkable. Though he does not employ any assistants he manages to attend to all his customers single-handed. His methods are simple. When a new customer butts his head in to estimate his chances of a quick service, my barber would say, “Attend to you in 10 minutes, Sir” without batting an eyelid, knowing fully well he has at least half-a-dozen others waiting on the bench.

To forestall any protest from the waiting customers against this apparent misrepresentation of facts and ensure their continued silence he has about a dozen film magazines and Kannada and English dailies spread on a small wicker table in front of the long bench. The waiting customers, a cross section of Hindus and Muslims, are either immersed in reading or engaged in a lively debate over Pakistan’s nuclear programmes or Tendulkar’s exploits in a cricket match. My barber is all ears, never missing a single point made by the debaters. Sometimes when attendance is thin, he engages in conversation with even the customer under his scissors. Between the snicks of the scissors and the flicks of the comb he pick’s the man’s brain to collect more information on any given subject such as Rahul Gandhi’s chances of becoming the next prime minister or the Tamil militants’ chances of wiping one another out to ensure permanent peace in Sri Lanka.

Even when his scissors and razor remain idle, as it sometimes happens, he often has a few old-timers of the neighbourhood popping in for a look at the daily newspaper or some youngsters looking in to preen themselves at the mirror or take a deco at one of the movie magazines. This way, though illiterate, this enterprising young barber not only adds to his fund of knowledge, broadens his outlook and widens his circle of customers but also basks in a feast of reason featuring mature brains reminiscing the past, analysing the present and predicting the future. He is a tiny bridge between contrasting thoughts, ideologies and faiths.








It took Japan decades, but voters finally got fed up with the entrenched ruling clique and threw it out of office. The landslide election victory for the Democratic Party of Japan was the worst defeat for the rival Liberal Democratic Party in more than 50 years. We hope this stunning rout presages the end of economic decline and political stagnation, but that will take real leadership, not just trading one group of politicians for another.


The first challenge is getting the economy out of its worsening crisis. Japan, crippled by recession throughout the 1990s, is about to lose its standing as the world’s second-largest economy, to China. The economy, projected to contract 6 percent this year, is among the world’s worst performers.


Although constrained by a public debt approaching 100 percent of its gross domestic product and a fiscal deficit hovering around 10 percent of G.D.P., Japan needs to do more to stimulate domestic demand — to deal with the immediate emergency and diminish its historical dependence on exports as an economic engine. This requires maintaining fiscal stimulus. It also requires a longer-term strategy that encourages spending by Japanese households. The Democrats’ plans do not yet amount to a strategy that could rebalance the economy and put it on a path of domestically focused growth.


Yukio Hatoyama, who is expected to be the next prime minister, wants a more equal alliance with the United States. Some of his policy proposals are reasonable, but others are cause for concern. We are eager to hear more details. The United States needs a responsible strategic partner committed to a strengthened alliance.


One concern: Mr. Hatoyama’s suggestion that Japan not renew the mandate for its ships on a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of United States military operations in Afghanistan. President Obama is implementing a new Afghan strategy. Japan should continue its risk-free mission, at least through next spring.


One good sign: Mr. Hatoyama’s pledge not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. Visits by some of his predecessors stirred damaging tensions with China and South Korea.


Some wonder if the Liberal Democratic Party can survive this loss. We hope it — or some successor — does. Every democracy needs a vigorous and responsible opposition to give voters a choice — just like the Democratic Party finally gave the voters in this election.







Barack Obama, of Illinois, is the first president since Michigan’s Gerald Ford to come from a heartland state that depends heavily on the Great Lakes for its economic well-being. Hopes have thus been raised that the Great Lakes will at last get the help they need.


The Clean Water Act of 1972 did much to stop direct discharges from industries and municipal sewage systems. But the lakes still suffer — from lingering industrial pollution, toxics like mercury, deteriorating wetlands and, more recently, invasive species that have devastated the fishing industry and fouled shorelines.


In response, the Environmental Protection Agency will soon roll out recovery programs known collectively as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In June, the House gave the program the entire $475 million the White House wanted. The Senate should do likewise.


This is a small down payment on a project that could ultimately cost $20 billion. But it is an important start that will be administered by one agency, the E.P.A., in an effort to avoid the scattershot funding that undermined earlier restoration efforts.


Many of the tasks that lie ahead are easily identified, and some are “shovel-ready,” awaiting only an infusion of federal energy and money. But nobody has found the answer to what has become the lakes’ biggest and most complex enemy — the invasive species.


The worst is the quagga mussel, a fingernail-sized shellfish that made its way to the lakes on an ocean freighter. First documented in Lake Erie in 1989, these tiny creatures now carpet the lake floor and filter out the tiny organisms at the bottom of the food chain with such efficiency that there is little left for bigger fish. Species vital to local economies — like salmon and whitefish — are disappearing. Recreational fishing in Lake Huron has nearly collapsed. Lake Michigan could be next.


The hope is that a truce of sorts can someday be reached between native species and the exotics. But that

will not happen unless new invasions stop — which will require sterilizing the ballast of overseas freighters or, possibly, closing the lakes to foreign shipping.


That would be a radical step, but not irrational. It seems increasingly clear that the economic damage from exotic species outweighs the benefits of allowing polluting ocean ships into the Great Lakes.








When I woke up the other day, I went straight to my computer to catch up on the news and read e-mail. About 20 minutes later, I walked half a block to the gym, where I exercised for 45 minutes. I took the C train to The New York Times building, and then at the end of the day, I was back on the C train. I had dinner on my friends Elisabeth and Dan’s rooftop, then walked home seven blocks.


I’m not giving away any secrets here — nothing I did was secret to begin with. Verizon online knows when I logged on, and New York Sports Club knows when I swiped my membership card. The M.T.A. could trace (through the MetroCard I bought with a credit card) when and where I took the subway, and The Times knows when I used my ID to enter the building. AT&T could follow me along the way through my iPhone.


There may also be videotape of my travels, given the ubiquity of surveillance cameras in New York City. There are thousands of cameras on buildings and lampposts around Manhattan, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, many near my home and office. Several may have been in a position to film dinner on Elisabeth and Dan’s roof.


A little-appreciated downside of the technology revolution is that, mainly without thinking about it, we have given up “locational privacy.” Even in low-tech days, our movements were not entirely private. The desk attendant at my gym might have recalled seeing me, or my colleagues might have remembered when I arrived. Now the information is collected automatically and often stored indefinitely.


Privacy advocates are rightly concerned. Corporations and the government can keep track of what political meetings people attend, what bars and clubs they go to, whose homes they visit. It is the fact that people’s locations are being recorded “pervasively, silently, and cheaply that we’re worried about,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a recent report.


People’s cellphones and E-ZPasses are increasingly being used against them in court. If your phone is on, even if you are not on a call, you may be able to be found (and perhaps picked up) at any hour of the day or night. As disturbing as it is to have your private data breached, it is worse to think that your physical location might fall into the hands of people who mean you harm.


This decline in locational privacy, from near-absolute to very little in just a few years, has not generated much outrage, or even discussion.


That is partly because so much of it is a side-effect of technology that people like. Drivers love E-ZPasses. G.P.S. enables all sorts of cool smart phone applications, from driving directions and find-a-nearby-restaurant features to the ever-popular “Take Me to My Car.”


And people usually do not know that they are being monitored. The transit authority does not warn buyers that their MetroCards track their subway use (or that the police have used the cards in criminal investigations). Cameras that follow people on the street are placed in locations that are hard to spot.


It is difficult for cellphone users to know precisely what information their devices are sending about their current location, when they are doing it, and where that information is going. Some privacy advocates were upset by recent reports that the Palm Pre, which has built-in G.P.S., has a feature that regularly sends its users’ location back to Palm without notifying them at the time.


What can be done? As much as possible, location-specific information should not be collected in the first place, or not in personally identifiable form. There are many ways, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, to use cryptography and anonymization to protect locational privacy. To tell you about nearby coffee shops, a cellphone application needs to know where you are. It does not need to know who you are.


When locational information is collected, people should be given advance notice and a chance to opt out. Data should be erased as soon as its main purpose is met. After you pay your E-ZPass bill, there is no reason for the government to keep records of your travel.


The idea of constantly monitoring the citizenry’s movements used to conjure up images of totalitarian states. Now, technology does the surveillance — generally in the name of being helpful. It’s time for a serious conversation about how much of our privacy of movement we want to give up.







There was a lot of confusion last week about swine flu. A presidential advisory group issued a “plausible scenario” in which a swine flu epidemic could cause up to 90,000 deaths, three times the mortality in a typical flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention countered that the toll would most likely not approach that number.


Our own take is this: A swine flu epidemic this fall and winter is likely to infect more people than a normal flu, but the virus will not be abnormally lethal. If it spreads rapidly after schools open, we will have to face it without vaccine, which will not arrive in substantial quantities until the swine flu epidemic has peaked.


The report that sparked concern was issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The council stressed that it was not predicting what would happen but was simply offering a scenario to help the government develop responses to a potential epidemic.


The report posited an epidemic that could produce symptoms in 60 million to 120 million people and cause as many as 90 million to seek medical attention; up to 1.8 million could be hospitalized, 300,000 could flood into crowded I.C.U.’s, and 30,000 to 90,000 people could die.


Even some members of the advisory panel think their estimates may be a bit high. In any case, this is a virus that is no more lethal, and possibly less lethal, than normal flu strains.


In the initial outbreaks last spring, an estimated 800,000 New Yorkers, 10 percent of the city’s population, developed symptoms attributed to the swine flu virus. Only 54 died — an encouragingly low death rate. Most infected people got better without medical treatment.


Another encouraging sign is that the virus has not become more virulent as it wends its way around the world. Finally, the United States is better prepared than ever before. The Bush administration and Congress invested heavily in planning and in stockpiling medicines and medical supplies to fight a feared avian flu pandemic that never materialized, and the Obama administration has continued the effort. The same medicines should work against the swine flu virus.


The rub is that a vaccine to prevent swine flu is still being tested and will not be ready until mid-October, too late to help most people if the virus spreads rapidly in September after schools and colleges open almost everywhere. The standard advice will be to cover our coughs, wash our hands, and stay home if sick. There will be medicines to treat the very sick.


The swine flu virus seems to infect mostly people under age 65, in contrast with seasonal flus that primarily harm the elderly. Health officials are assuming that they have to prepare for both kinds of flu to be circulating and will be offering vaccines to protect against both. Whatever damage swine flu causes may well be piled on top of the normal flu sickness and deaths.








THE Obama administration has proposed sweeping changes to our financial regulatory system. I am an active supporter of the key pillars of reform, including the creation of a consumer financial protection agency and the administration’s plan to consolidate the supervision of federally chartered financial institutions in a new national bank supervisor. This consolidation would improve the efficiency of federally chartered institutions while not undercutting our dual system of state and federally chartered banks.


But some are advocating even more drastic changes, like the creation of a single regulator for all banks (and bank holding companies). We clearly need to streamline the system, but a single regulator is not the solution. Calls for consolidation beyond the administration’s plan fail to identify the real roots of last year’s financial meltdown. The truth is, no regulatory structure — be it a single regulator as in Britain or the multiregulator system we have in the United States — performed well in the crisis.


The principal enablers of our current difficulties were institutions that took on enormous risk by exploiting regulatory gaps between banks and the nonbank shadow financial system, and by using unregulated over-the-counter derivative contracts to develop volatile and potentially dangerous products. Consumers continue to face huge gaps in personal financial protections. We also lack a credible method for closing large financial institutions without inflicting severe collateral damage on the economy.


The creation of a single regulator for all federal- and state-chartered banks would not address these problems. Rather, it would endanger a thriving, 150-year-old banking system that has separate charters for federal and state banks. Within this system, state-chartered institutions tend to be community-oriented and very close to the small businesses and consumers they serve. They provide loans that support economic growth and job creation, especially in rural areas. Main Street banks also are sensitive to market discipline because they know that they’re not too big to fail and that they’ll be closed if they become insolvent.


Concentrating power in a single regulator would inevitably benefit the largest banks and punish community ones. A single regulator’s resources and attention would be focused on the largest banks. This would generate more consolidation in the banking industry at a time when we need to reduce our reliance on large financial institutions and put an end to the idea that certain banks are too big to fail. We need to shift the balance back toward community banking, not toward a system that encourages even more consolidation.


A single-regulator system could also hurt the deposit-insurance system. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation currently supervises state banks. The loss of a significant regulatory role would limit its ability to protect depositors by identifying and assessing risks in the financial system.


We can’t put all our eggs in one basket. The risk of weak or misdirected regulation would be increased if power was consolidated in a single federal regulator. We need new mechanisms to achieve consensus positions and rapid responses to financial crises as they develop.


I have advocated the creation of a strong council of federal financial regulators. This council would monitor the financial system to help prevent the accumulation of systemic risks and would also have the authority to close even the largest institutions. But we don’t need — and can’t afford — to depend on one supreme regulator to have sole decision-making authority in times when our entire financial system is in flux.


One advantage of our multiple-regulator system is that it permits diverse viewpoints. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation voiced strong concerns about the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s relatively relaxed rules for determining how much capital banks should have on hand. In a single-regulator system, it’s very likely that these rules would have been put into effect much more quickly and with fewer safeguards, and our largest banks would have faced the current crisis with much smaller buffers of capital. This is not about protecting turf. This is about protecting consumers and the safety of our financial system.


Working with Congress, we need to draw on the best ideas available to plug regulatory gaps as outlined in the administration’s proposal. We may never have a better opportunity to address the root causes of this crisis — and prevent it from ever happening again.


Sheila C. Bair is the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.








Two tides swept over American politics last winter. The first was the Obama tide. Barack Obama came into office with an impressive 70 percent approval rating. The second was the independent tide. Over the first months of this year, the number of people who called themselves either Democrats or Republicans declined, while the number who called themselves independents surged ahead.


Obama’s challenge was to push his agenda through a Democratic-controlled government while retaining the affection of the 39 percent of Americans in the middle.


The administration hasn’t been able to pull it off. From the stimulus to health care, it has joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress. The White House has failed to veto measures, like the pork-laden omnibus spending bill, that would have demonstrated independence and fiscal restraint. By force of circumstances and by design, the president has promoted one policy after another that increases spending and centralizes power in Washington.


The result is the Obama slide, the most important feature of the current moment. The number of Americans who trust President Obama to make the right decisions has fallen by roughly 17 percentage points. Obama’s job approval is down to about 50 percent. All presidents fall from their honeymoon highs, but in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.


Anxiety is now pervasive. Trust in government rose when Obama took office. It has fallen back to historic lows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.


The public’s view of Congress, which ticked upward for a time, has plummeted. Charlie Cook, who knows as much about Congressional elections as anyone in the country, wrote recently that Democratic fortunes have “slipped completely out of control.” He and the experts he surveyed believe there is just as much chance that the Democrats could lose more than 20 House seats in the next elections as less than 20.


There are also warning signs in the Senate. A recent poll shows Harry Reid, the majority leader, trailing the Republican Danny Tarkanian, a possible 2010 opponent, by 49 percent to 38 percent. When your majority leader is down to a 38 percent base in his home state, that’s not good.


The public has soured on Obama’s policy proposals. Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does, but more and more have a growing conviction that if the president is proposing it, it must involve big spending, big government and a fundamental departure from the traditional American approach.


Driven by this general anxiety, and by specific concerns, public opposition to health care reform is now steady and stable. Independents once solidly supported reform. Now they have swung against it. As the veteran pollster Bill McInturff has pointed out, public attitudes toward Obamacare exactly match public attitudes toward Clintoncare when that reform effort collapsed in 1994.


Amazingly, some liberals are now lashing out at Obama because the entire country doesn’t agree with The Huffington Post. Some now argue that the administration should just ignore the ignorant masses and ram health care through using reconciliation, the legislative maneuver that would reduce the need for moderate votes.

This would be suicidal. You can’t pass the most important domestic reform in a generation when the majority of voters think you are on the wrong path. To do so would be a sign of unmitigated arrogance. If Obama agrees to use reconciliation, he will permanently affix himself to the liberal wing of his party and permanently alienate independents. He will be president of 35 percent of the country — and good luck getting anything done after that.


The second liberal response has been to attack the budget director, Peter Orszag. It was a mistake to put cost control at the center of the health reform sales job, many now argue. The president shouldn’t worry about the deficit. Just pass the spending parts.


But fiscal restraint is now the animating issue for moderate Americans. To take the looming $9 trillion in debt and balloon it further would be to enrage a giant part of the electorate.


This is a country that has always been suspicious of centralized government. This is a country that has just lived through an economic trauma caused by excessive spending and debt. Most Americans still admire Obama and want him to succeed. But if he doesn’t proceed in a manner consistent with the spirit of the nation and the times, voters will find a way to stop him.


The president’s challenge now is to halt the slide. That doesn’t mean giving up his goals. It means he has to align his proposals to the values of the political center: fiscal responsibility, individual choice and decentralized authority.


Events have pushed Barack Obama off to the left. Time to rebalance.








There is a long and remarkable article in the current New Yorker about a man who was executed in Texas in 2004 for deliberately setting a fire that killed his three small children. Rigorous scientific analysis has since shown that there was no evidence that the fire in a one-story, wood frame house in Corsicana was the result of arson, as the authorities had alleged.


In other words, it was an accident. No crime had occurred.


Cameron Todd Willingham, who refused to accept a guilty plea that would have spared his life, and who insisted until his last painful breath that he was innocent, had in fact been telling the truth all along.


It was inevitable that some case in which a clearly innocent person had been put to death would come to light. It was far from inevitable that this case would be the one. “I was extremely skeptical in the beginning,” said the New Yorker reporter, David Grann, who began investigating the case last December.


The fire broke out on the morning of Dec. 23, 1991. Willingham was awakened by the cries of his 2-year-old daughter, Amber. Also in the house were his year-old twin girls, Karmon and Kameron. The family was poor, and Willingham’s wife, Stacy, had gone out to pick up a Christmas present for the children from the Salvation Army.


Willingham said he tried to rescue the kids but was driven back by smoke and flames. At one point his hair caught fire. As the heat intensified, the windows of the children’s room exploded and flames leapt out. Willingham, who was 23 at the time, had to be restrained and eventually handcuffed as he tried again to get into the room.


There was no reason to believe at first that the fire was anything other than a horrible accident. But fire investigators, moving slowly through the ruined house, began seeing things (not unlike someone viewing a Rorschach pattern) that they interpreted as evidence of arson.


They noticed deep charring at the base of some of the walls and patterns of soot that made them suspicious. They noticed what they felt were ominous fracture patterns in pieces of broken window glass. They had no motive, but they were convinced the fire had been set. And if it had been set, who else but Willingham would have set it?


With no real motive in sight, the local district attorney, Pat Batchelor, was quoted as saying, “The children were interfering with his beer drinking and dart throwing.”


Willingham was arrested and charged with capital murder.


When official suspicion fell on Willingham, eyewitness testimony began to change. Whereas initially he was described by neighbors as screaming and hysterical — “My babies are burning up!” — and desperate to have the children saved, he now was described as behaving oddly, and not having made enough of an effort to get to the girls.



And you could almost have guaranteed that a jailhouse snitch would emerge. They almost always do. This time his name was Johnny Webb, a jumpy individual with a lengthy arrest record who would later admit to being “mentally impaired” and on medication, and who had started taking illegal drugs at the age of 9.


The jury took barely an hour to return a guilty verdict, and Willingham was sentenced to death.


He remained on death row for 12 years, but it was only in the weeks leading up to his execution that convincing scientific evidence of his innocence began to emerge. A renowned scientist and arson investigator, Gerald Hurst, educated at Cambridge and widely recognized as a brilliant chemist, reviewed the evidence in the Willingham case and began systematically knocking down every indication of arson.


The authorities were unmoved. Willingham was executed by lethal injection on Feb. 17, 2004.


Now comes a report on the case from another noted scientist, Craig Beyler, who was hired by a special commission, established by the state of Texas to investigate errors and misconduct in the handling of forensic evidence.


The report is devastating, the kind of disclosure that should send a tremor through one’s conscience. There was absolutely no scientific basis for determining that the fire was arson, said Beyler. No basis at all. He added that the state fire marshal who investigated the case and testified against Willingham “seems to be wholly without any realistic understanding of fires.” He said the marshal’s approach seemed to lack “rational reasoning” and he likened it to the practices “of mystics or psychics.”


Grann told me on Monday that when he recently informed the jailhouse snitch, Johnny Webb, that new scientific evidence would show that the fire wasn’t arson and that an innocent man had been killed, Webb seemed taken aback. “Nothing can save me now,” he said.










The re-naming of Northern Areas as ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ falls short of what the people who live in the area were wanting but removes at a stroke one of their minor irritations – that of being lumped together with NWFP by the media. The tourism industry – what is left of it – has long complained that this erroneous labelling of what is generally a quiet and peaceful region has done much to damage their business. Along with a new name comes a range of other changes, some minor but some major and all of them adding up to less than provincial status. The bottom-line demand of the people for decades has been that they be a part of Pakistan as citizens rather than — as they see it — subjects. They have been ruled from the centre since partition, and moreover ruled by political appointees whose origin is from outside the pool of ethnicities that make up Gilgit-Baltistan. There have been attempts at reform of the legal status of the area before, notably in 1973-4 and in 1994, and neither did much to satisfy local demands.

The sticking point as far as provincial status goes is that the entire region is coupled in tandem to the Kashmir problem, and is impossible to redefine constitutionally or any other way until the Kashmir dispute is resolved – an event some time in the far future. Pakistan is responsible for the development and governance of the area, but it will remain extra-territorial. The effort to address the demands of the people by the current government probably goes as far down the road to meeting their demands as is legally and constitutionally possible, and is to be welcomed. The governor of this not-a-province will still be appointed from the centre, but it will have its own elected council – which has both limited autonomy and mandate but is one of those ‘something is better than nothing’ solutions that are applied in an effort to tidy up the enduring post-colonial mess. There seems to be a welcome political consensus about the new proposals, with the PML-N displaying a common-sense approach and the entire area now stands at a developmental and economic threshold as two very large projects – the Basha Dam and the upgrading of the Karakoram Highway — get into their stride. Re-naming is one thing, re-branding another. All too often the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have seen fine words disappear into the mountain mists – this time, they need to see the cash and commitment from the centre to give the words substance. But, for the moment, something is better than nothing.






India and Pakistan seem to have embarked on a new blame game. This after all is something they are rather good it. Diligent practice of the skill is one reason why there has been limited progress over the decades in building a stronger, more constructive relationship. The Pakistan foreign minister has said that India is responsible for the failure to resume talks and Pakistan is willing to do so, even at a neutral venue. The minister’s somewhat immature jibe about the Indian ‘mindset’ with reference to the ouster of Jaswant Singh from the BJP reflected too new strains in ties, even if the controversy over the book on Jinnah and the response to it from the BJP is rather childish for a country that prides itself on its democracy. The Indian prime minister has meanwhile stated that ‘elements’ in Pakistan do not wish to see ties improve. However, since he stressed he himself was eager to reach a better understanding with Islamabad while leaders there have expressed precisely the same sentiment, it is difficult to see why they do not then set about resuming the dialogue process rather than just issuing statements.

The separate remarks from the Indian national security adviser that India would not resume the composite dialogue until it had credible evidence of Pakistan’s actions against terrorism suggest that elements hostile to peace exist in that nation too. This is of course hardly a revelation. We all know hawks on either side of the fence see advantage in continued animosity. The challenge is for leaders who possess a wider vision to override their efforts and to prove to the people of both countries that a great deal can indeed be gained through discussion and negotiation. Human achievement after all lies in learning to live together and putting aside difference. This is what civilisation and rationality are all about. Islamabad and New Delhi must both recognise this and rather than hurling small verbal pellets each other’s way begin a process that can take us closer to a resumption of the dialogue that was sabotaged by the Mumbai attacks late last year.






Just as some semblance of normal life had begun to return to the battered city of Mingora, a suicide bomber has shown it is too soon for people to abandon the shroud of fear they have carried everywhere with them for months. Fourteen policemen died in Sunday’s attack on a police station. Following the blast the NWFP information minister has acknowledged that there is still some way to go before terrorism is vanquished. The suicide attack in Mingora, days after a similar attack on security forces in Khyber Agency, goes to confirm fears that the Taliban are anxious to show that they are not a defeated force. Indeed, their new young commander will be eager to demonstrate he is no less ruthless and no less effective than his predecessor. He undoubtedly realises too that the resumption of such attacks may be the only way to hold together a force in danger of fragmenting.

One question that arises is whether an important opportunity has been lost. There were analysts who suggested that the Taliban should have been gone after in Waziristan immediately after the drone attack that took out Baitullah Mehsud. Others hold that such premature action may have been unwise. It is impossible to say if there is one correct answer. But what is needed now is a serious assessment of the task that still lies ahead. The Taliban for the present remain a group that is largely intact. The recovery of pre-teen would-be suicide bombers in Swat suggests that they have planned meticulously and that dozens more boys may be preparing to carry out suicide missions in other places. If there are too many suicide bombings in the coming months, the myth that the Taliban are invincible will be resurrected and this will make the task of inflicting a final defeat on them all the harder.








IN a statement carried by a section of the press, one Zaim Qadri has demanded trial of former President Pervez Musharraf and all those who abetted him for coup in 1999 under Article 6 of the Constitution. The said person has described himself as spokesman of the PML (N) and it is all the more shocking that he has portrayed it as demand of his party.

We wonder whether or not it is demand of the party as no other leader worth the name of the PML (N) has made any such statement. We did not comment on his demand earlier because we waited for the party to come out with some clarification but nothing of the sort has happened, conveying an unfortunate impression as if what the gentleman has said is the official line of the PML (N). The statement is highly condemnable as it is fraught with serious and disastrous consequences, which, it seems, a person like Qadri is unable to comprehend. In principle, those making demand for trial of the former President under Article 6 of the Constitution have a point and they can justify their claim. This is because, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared his November 3 action as unconstitutional and illegal and many steps taken under PCO or emergency powers have been rolled back. But there is a hell of difference between promulgation of PCO and imposition of emergency on November 3 and overthrow of the Government in 1999. No doubt, no one can sanction disruption of the normal constitutional and democratic process but it is worth mentioning that the action of 1999 was sanctioned by the Supreme Court and then protected under 17th Amendment. So in the first place, it should be a closed chapter as there would be no point in revisiting the past and create unnecessary tension. Secondly, even if the issue is to be re-opened then only a mentally deranged person would demand trial of all associates of the then Army Chief viz Vice Chief of Army Staff General Aziz, DG ISI General Kiyani, DGMI General Ehsan and Corps Commander Karachi General Usmani. One can imagine what harm this suicidal demand can cause to the system. Under these circumstances, we would urge the PML (N) to clarify its position at the earliest so as to avoid any confusion and misunderstanding.







ACCORDING to a report, more than ten thousand cases, which were transferred from the defunct Islamabad High Court to Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench after Supreme Court’s July 31 verdict, have not been taken up for hearing due to vacant seats of judges.

The story only reveals the plight of those whose cases were being heard by the defunct Islamabad High Court and it is understood that the Lahore High Court Pindi Bench might have thousands of other cases pending as well. Therefore, the delay in appointment of the judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court is compounding problems of the people and the process needs to be expedited in the interest of the litigants and demands of the justice. The delay in appointment of judges to the superior courts is understandable as different interest groups are in play to influence the process while the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Chief Justices of the High Courts are determined not to allow political influence to mar transparency of the process. But it is also a fact that there is a huge accumulation of cases in Supreme Court, High Courts and of course, in lower judiciary and in many cases it takes decades to decide a trial. Apart from the delays caused by police investigations and court procedures, this is mainly because of increasing number of cases which the incumbent judges find it humanly impossible to handle in time. It was in this backdrop that separate High Court for Islamabad was established and it had started delivering but its winding up added to the miseries of the litigants. We believe that there is not only a need for recreation of the Islamabad High Court but also increase in the number of judges of other High Courts as well so that the cases are disposed of expeditiously.







BOMB explosion and heavy firing at Chaman on Sunday destroyed a number of vehicles carrying fuel and food supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan. This and other similar incidents are expression of indignation of the people against the presence of occupation troops in Afghanistan.

In the past large number of fuel supply tankers were burnt to ashes in the NWFP and as a result the United States had to go for alternative supply lines through the Central Asian States. The Chaman incident took place when hundreds of trucks coming from Afghanistan side blocked the road and refused to get the luggage searched. There are confirmed reports that arms and ammunition are being smuggled into Pakistan through the Afghan border and naturally trucks carrying trade goods are used for this purpose. It was essential for the Pakistani authorities to keep a strict vigil against smuggling of weapons or other items. The smuggled weapons are being used by the terrorists inside Pakistan who have links with enemy agents on the other sides of the Pakistani borders. The suicide bombing in Mingora on Sunday that killed 16 policemen is the offshoot of presence of NATO tanks in Afghanistan against whom local resistance started and spread to FATA, Swat and Malakand. Pakistan security forces in their search and clean up operation secured most of the areas in Swat but it is almost impossible to prevent suicide bombers who can move and mix among the common citizens and then explode themselves to inflict maximum casualties and create scare among the people. The Mingora bombing was intended to inflict a blow at the morale of newly appointed police recruits. One thing is for sure that now the local population has risen against them and the terrorists would not succeed through such inhuman acts. However incidents of bombings or suicide attacks would not die down as long as foreign tanks are in Afghanistan. There would be no cause for militancy in Afghanistan or in the bordering areas of Pakistan once foreign troops go back with their tanks and leave it to the Afghan people to handle their own affairs.











Jean Valjean, the principal character in Victor Hugo's classic novel Les Misérables has attracted sympathy for convicts over the ages. In the case of Bangladesh a study reveals that the problem of integrating former convicts with society may not be a one-way street with half of the former convicts going back to the world of crimes after their release. This problem, not figuring very prominently in society, naturally did not come up for public discussion. It was assumed that once a sentence was passed adequate deterrence had been ensured and society henceforth would be free of a crime, at least, from that particular person. But evidently the issue is not as simple as that.

According to the study, analysis into the patterns of crime, social association and personality types may give clue as to how the 50 per cent - the Jean Valjeans - can be integrated with mainstream society.  Some of the factors identified by the researchers need to be taken into account. They say that 46 per cent of those who reengage in crime are drug addicts. This means that releasing drug addicts is of questionable value. Other studies have shown they need professional (psychiatric) help for rehabilitation and our jails do not have any such programme. Perhaps it is time our prison authorities incorporate that programme into the system. 

Another one-fifth of the convicts go back to the underworld because of a lack of social support; so, here also the administration could help. Bad association, among the repeat offenders has been identified as the prime reason for the former convicts relapsing. This, too, can be handled by the jail administration if they are orientated to do so. As for first time criminals, political patronage and poverty have been largely blamed for it. Perhaps these are areas where the administration and society must think about doing something more seriously than before and more so as most of these criminals have access to firearms which would mean the crimes can be lethal, as the study reveals.






A tectonic shift has taken place in Japanese politics with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the traditional 'outsiders' of Japanese politics, dealing a crushing blow to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which has ruled the country for more than half a century. The victory of the DPJ led by Yukio Hatoyama, who is poised to be the next prime minister, has been largely considered as the electorate's reaction to the LDP's failure to handle the worst economic recession of the country since World War II.

Besides a number of financial scandals over the last couple of decades by the Liberal politicians must have alienated voters quite significantly. The election results also reflect voter's rejection of the long incumbency of the conservative politicians and an endorsement of the DPJ's election plank. The outgoing prime minister, Tara Aso, who has conceded defeat, has called the election result 'very severe.' However, it is important to remember that it was during the long rule of the LDP that Japan witnessed the "economic miracle" that raised it from war devastation and rubble to the status of being the second wealthiest country of the world.

Assuming power after 54 years, the DPJ will face the daunting task of weaving the country out of the current economic downturn. The party will also have to fulfil their election pledges of refocusing spending on households, child health allowances and assistance to farmers. DPJ's Hatoyama, in fact, urged voters, prior to last Sunday's polls, to bring change to Japan, alluding to Obama's election victory in the USA and the voters have done that, exactly. It is now his responsibility to deliver.
Besides fulfilling the many ambitious election promises to his domestic constituency, the new government in Japan is also expected to effect a less subservient partnership with its main ally, the USA and boost regional ties. The new administration is also expected to initiate a move for creating a European Union-style Asian community with its common currency, a policy that should go down well with the rest of Asia.









"…Meet Britain's rarest cat…" ADC Aug 31st


Ours isn't a very cat country, oh no it isn't. It's more dog country here, though other than Salman and a few other stars most of the dogs are tiny, snapping Pomeranians. So it's not everyday I see articles about cats, and as I went through this piece in the ADC, I thought of my own very special Flash who had died more than thirty years ago and for whom I'd composed a tune which if you press me hard enough and don't mind seeing a grown man cry I'll play for you on my harmonica. My mother loved cats, my father dogs, so we had both. "What's its name?" asked the vet gruffly. "Flash," I said looking lovingly at my Persian kitten. "Flash?" asked the vet. "Named after Flash Gordon!" I said proudly, "My favourite comic hero!"

"Isn't he a man?" asked the vet.  "Like my little Flash will be someday," I said looking at my little fellow, "A he man cat!"

"Sorry," said the vet, "but your he man cat is a female!" I stared at my little kitten, uncertain what to do, "You'll have to change its name!" said the vet with an air of finality, "maybe Kitty, or Pussy?"
"No," I said stubbornly, "Flash she is and Flash she will remain!" And Flash she remained. Flash grew up more dog than cat, waited for me to return from school and later from college and followed me around like a devoted puppy. She was jet-black, fluffy and the cynosure of all the toms around. She had one strange habit, to climb onto my mother's shoulder via her sari, which she used as a ladder.

And then one day we heard faint mews, but no Flash, the cries getting fainter, and my brother, mother and I searched the house, then outside but no sign was there of Flash, till my mother looked down an ancient well and found her right there below, getting weaker and weaker as she swam around slowly losing her strength. I lowered a bucket, which only scared poor Flash, till my mother suddenly started unwinding her sari and lowering it into the well and Flash with Pavlov instinct with us all cheering started her long climb up, wondering why she wasn't reaching my mother's shoulder, but ultimately reaching safety, our welcome arms and looking apologetically at our glad tearful eyes. "Oh Flash!" I whispered as I hugged her, "I thought we'd lost you forever!"

She was nine when she died, hit by a stone thrown by some cruel fellow. "She's gone," said my brother, "Bury her," I sobbed from my bed, "I don't want to see her dead!" And later that day when the house was empty I pulled out my harmonica and composed a tune to my dear departed friend.

Many moons have passed and tears don't come easily for me now, but if you press me hard enough and if there's a harmonica around, then like summer tempest will flow my tears for my female 'he man' cat...!









AT LAST, a Rudd Government minister prepared to talk turkey on reform - and risk upsetting some of his constituents in the process. Craig Emerson's willingness to put his views on competition policy so robustly to a business audience yesterday was a reminder of the reformist vigour of the Keating era. It was a breath of fresh air from a government that has been silent on such issues while it has been busy borrowing $43 billion for a highly interventionist exercise to prop up the national economy.


In a speech titled "Labor is the party of competition", delivered to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia , the Minister for Small Business laid out a clear approach to his portfolio, based, in his own words, on "suspicious attention" to the bona fides of policy proposals. In doing so, Dr Emerson was intent on switching competition policy from a dry economic exercise to a central Labor value. As he put it, anti-competition proposals dressed up as competition would get short shrift. Yes, competition policy requires a framework of rules, but new regulations would on the whole be avoided, and calls for protection against open competition would "not be listened to with great sympathy"


In short, Dr Emerson has done what Treasurer Wayne Swan has failed to do in recent weeks - reinforce the primacy of the free market as a way to build wealth. His comments yesterday would not please some colleagues such as Industry Minister Kim Carr, whose protectionist streak defines his being.


Dr Emerson's speech is important as the Rudd government deals with business and simultaneously juggles the politics of a stimulatory intervention colliding with an increasingly bullish economy. He is making the link between competition policy and consumers - something that former prime minister Paul Keating did so effectively in the early 1990s.


For a small business minister to talk this way is particularly valuable. Dr Emerson made it clear yesterday that he is not interested in buying off his small business constituency. He is unimpressed with calls to protect small business beyond what is needed to maintain an open economy.


After a decade in which the Howard government dropped the ball in the fight against red tape and bureaucracy, the economy is overdue for a determined assault on anti-competitive regulation and practices. Dr Emerson is reaffirming the commitments of the Keating government in this area. His willingness to take on special interest groups recalled the spunk of earlier Labor governments with their commitment to modernising the economy.


John Howard may have pushed through major reforms like the GST and labour market laws, but he was not a fan of competition policy and there is much more to be done to ensure the nation does not simply rely on another resources boom for its wealth creation.


Dr Emerson's articulation of his position yesterday was clear and strong, all in all a good day out. It's not just Senator Carr who needs to listen up. Kevin Rudd would do well to take note and consider the need to talk up the competition story to business, big and small. At a time when the government is embarked on a huge public spending program, it's reassuring that our economic ministers include Dr Emerson and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, with their strong market credentials.








JAPAN'S new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has a massive mandate for change, with his party expected to win 308 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament. As with Gough Whitlam in 1972 and Margaret Thatcher in Britain seven years later, the unequivocal outcome of last Sunday's election means the electorate expects Mr Hatoyama to deliver significant change and it will be all but impossible for the defeated Liberal Democratic Party's allies in big business and the bureaucracy to publicly argue against his reforms. There is certainly no doubting Japan cannot continue as it is. Under the LDP, in power, with one brief break, for more than 50 years, government was about protecting interest groups, and the civil service was all but untouchable.


The irony is that despite Japan's efficient export economy, a culture of domestic subsidies and regulation ensured Japan has stagnated for 20years. While the economy expanded by 4 per cent per annum in the 1970s and 80s, GDP growth halved in the following decade and has never really recovered. Unemployment is at a post-war high of 5.7 per cent and GDP will shrink by close to 6 per cent this year. And the LDP's panacea for all economic ills - subsidies for industry, cash for consumers plus vast public works programs - cannot continue. Japan's public debt amounts to 180 per cent of GDP.


Mr Hatoyama promised change in the campaign but kept his options open on what he will do. On the one hand, he spoke of Thatcherite reforms, cutting the size of the civil service, reducing the bureaucracy's power, ending special interest subsidies. On the other, he used standard social democratic rhetoric, denouncing "market fundamentalism" undertaking to protect agriculture from "globalism" and promising more help for families and the unemployed. But he has not explained how he will pay for improved welfare in a country where the ageing population ensures the cost of social security will automatically increase for decades. And he needs a program of regulatory reforms and changes to work practices to encourage the domestic economy. According to the OECD, inefficiencies in service industries have halved productivity growth in a generation - accounting for some of the unpopular increase in low-paying part-time work.


The electorate has given Mr Hatoyama a mandate for change but it is up to him to decide a direction. He can take the road of real reform and rebuild the Japanese economy, as Mrs Thatcher did in Britain, or he can follow Mr Whitlam's path - and make a slump more severe.








THE speech delivered by James Murdoch in Edinburgh on Friday should be noted by anyone interested in a vital and independent media and its role in maintaining an open democracy. Mr Murdoch, chairman and CEO of the European and Asian operations of News Corporation (publisher of this newspaper), attacked state funding of media, specifically the on-line operations of the BBC.


News is arguing that there must be a charge for internet content and Mr Murdoch went straight to that point in his speech: "Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet. Yet it is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it." The BBC's growing dominance on-line was a threat to pluralist, independent news, Mr Murdoch said.


His is an uncompromising view that in a media world where the boundaries have disappeared, it is time to reassess the role of state-backed media outlets. He argues the attitudes, business models and policy frameworks of today's media are based on a time when there was a scarcity of broadcasting spectrum and "central planning" was deemed necessary. While the industry in the UK is different from ours - there is a TV licence fee and the BBC's pound stg. 4.6 billion budget makes for a monolithic media player - his speech does hold lessons for Australia.


State broadcasters made two key mistakes, he suggested. They treated their customers as passive and did not take them seriously, unlike commercial operators who recognised the power of customers to choose. Secondly, instead of concentrating on areas where the market was not delivering, the BBC tried to compete head-on for audience share.


The ABC should take note. In a fast-changing media world, its raison d'etre must be to innovate and deliver in areas where the commercial operators fail - not to chase ratings through replicating their success.


But Mr Murdoch's comments are particularly apposite in a more general sense at a time when some commentators, worried about the viability of newspapers, have urged the establishment of state-sponsored papers, or news collection. This is a recipe for disaster. The best guarantor of independence and plurality is profit, not supervision and dependency on government funding. Independence is sustained by accountability to customers who deliberately and willingly choose a service they value.








WHAT governments give with one hand, they may take with another. Yesterday Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced that citizenship applications by foreign-born athletes would be expedited so they could compete at international events in Australian colours. Under amendments to the Citizenship Act to be introduced in Federal Parliament next month, the residency requirement for naturalisation will be reduced from four years to two for highly talented athletes. Yet barely a fortnight ago the same minister was toughening up visa requirements for international students. Senator Evans said that online visa applications would be limited because of evidence that some migration agents had used fraudulent documents, and announced that students from India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan would be subject to more stringent interviews before visas were approved.


The new rules match those already applying to applicants from Australia's biggest foreign student market, China, and are comparable to those prescribed by other countries with large expatriate student populations, such as the United States. And, they implicitly acknowledge one of the elements in the recent troubled history of international students in Australia: that some of those who seek to come here are interested primarily in residence and work opportunities, not in obtaining a qualification. That reality has in turn been exploited by ''colleges'' offering courses of dubious worth, and by agents who collude with those colleges. So Senator Evans' acknowledgement that student-visa applications deserve close scrutiny was certainly welcome, both as a response to a particular problem and as a sign that the Rudd Government intends to restore a principled immigration policy in this country. It may be doubted, however, whether cutting corners for those who might help Australia pick up a gold medal or two is equally principled.


As The Age reported yesterday, there is considerable evidence that day-to-day management of immigration has been passing from government, which is notionally responsible for it, to employers. In the 2008-09 financial year, the number of permanent migrants, refugees and New Zealanders who arrived in Australia rose by 12.8 per cent. Yet that figure alone seriously understates the real increase, which must include 657,124 temporary migrants with the right to work, an increase of 11 per cent. Nearly half of these temporary migrants were international students.


The issue is not whether foreign students should have the right to work. The fundamental issue is whether Australia's official immigration program, which is supposedly based on the recruitment of permanent migrants who possess job skills that are in short supply, is being sidelined because of the inflow of temporary workers. It can be argued that Australia's apparent desirability as a destination for the latter group is evidence that jobs are, in fact, available. And, it has long been the experience of this country that increased migration has a direct economic benefit through increased demand. It is also the case, however, that in the past decade Australia has experienced its biggest surge in immigration since the post-Second World War boom - though in circumstances that have changed markedly since the late 1940s and 1950s. Not least because of diminishing water resources, questions of sustainability arise now that were not then at issue.


These changes are generating renewed debate on immigration, which ideologues of several kinds will seek to manipulate. Advocates of a deregulated labour market seeking to soak up and exploit the new pool of temporary workers will be pitted against radical environmentalists opposed to all growth. There will also be those who use environmentalist concerns to cloak racism. But reality lies in none of these extremes, which is why the review of Australia's immigration needs and priorities that Senator Evans has announced is essential. One thing can safely be said, however, even before the review begins: Australia's refugee intake could rise without significant social impact. Only 13,500 refugees were included in 232,598 people who arrived under the official migration program last year, and the number of refugees was tiny compared with the total number who arrived on working holiday visas or as international students with the right to work: 474,516. Whoever is heeded in the new immigration debate, those who incite fear and hatred because of the arrival of a few boats filled with asylum seekers should not be.







THE scale of the election defeat suffered by the Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan for all but 11 months since its founding in 1955, has been likened to a bloodless revolution. The centre-right face of postwar Japanese government shed two-thirds of its seats to the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan, which won 308 seats in the 480-member lower house. The LDP paid dearly for years of economic stagnation and scandal.


The repudiation of the LDP was unambiguous. What is less clear is what changes DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, 62-year-old grandson of the LDP's first prime minister, can deliver under Japan's model of government, an ''iron triangle'' of entrenched politicians, public servants and big business, in which bureaucrats steer policymaking. Mr Hatoyama, who left the LDP 13 years ago, has promised to shift power to politicians who are accountable to voters. He also desires a less ''subservient'' role for Japan in the alliance with the US and friendlier relations with China. These diplomatic recalibrations, while likely to be modest, will demand close attention from Australia, which has at times appeared to take Japan for granted. Like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Mr Hatoyama has ventured into print to criticise ''the excesses of the current globalised brand of capitalism'' and plans to boost consumers' spending power. This should benefit Australia, since Japan is its largest trading partner. The DPJ positions on climate change and whaling are also promising.


Policy changes aside, one consequence of this election stands out. Japan could be moving towards a dynamic, two-party system in which bad government invites defeat. The likely result is more responsive and accountable leadership and a less rigid, corrupt and bureaucratic system. That would be a transforming development for Australia's most important partner in Asia.




                                                                                                                      THE GUARDIAN




All great causes involve a tension between collective belief and individual action. A shared agreement that something must be done is not enough to win the battle if people do nothing. This is especially true of the fight against climate change, which must involve all of humanity over many decades, working together to achieve something that none can see or touch and that can only be measured by scientists: an end to the rapid increase of climate change gases in the atmosphere. Faced with this, even the most generous-spirited of people could be forgiven for feeling daunted – surrendering, perhaps, to the hope that someone else will solve the problem.


Urged to do their bit, individuals may wait instead for governments to act, or engineers to come up with technical fixes, or just give in to the comforting but scientifically-unsupported gamble that calamity may be avoided if things go on as they are. Today, the Guardian lends its support to a new movement that aims to defy such fatalism. The 10:10 campaign does not claim that climate change can be wished away through a series of small personal measures taken in Britain alone; it fully supports the need for a deal at the Copenhagen summit in December and for great economies such as the US and China to change too. But if the international agreement is to mean anything, the way people live in this country must change. The 10:10 campaign – named after its target of helping people reduce their individual carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 – will put pressure on government to meet its promises, but it will also have an immediate effect. Climate change gases, once in the atmosphere, stay there. The faster emissions fall now, the less will have to be done later.


All calls for individual environmental responsibility tread a tricky path. On the one hand there is a large and committed green movement, represented this week by the climate camp now in place where the Peasants' Revolt once gathered in Blackheath in south-east London. Many of its supporters, for the best of reasons, want human life to change radically and immediately: an end to the global free market, to meat-eating, to air travel, to all coal-produced electricity. They disapprove of mechanisms to bring down carbon emissions such as the European Union's carbon trading scheme; some dislike technological solutions such as carbon capture and storage. The trouble with these ambitions is that they are never likely to be supported by the majority of the population, who, if told that such things are essential to stop climate change, may simply give up trying altogether. But at the other extreme lies an even more unrealistic response: to pretend that all that individuals need to do is make tiny adjustments to their lives – change a light bulb and save the world – while government sorts out the rest at very little cost. The fight is going to be much harder than that. And even if it eventually repays its costs, as Lord Stern has argued, the bills will arrive first and the savings later.


The new campaign hopes to avoid both pitfalls. As writers explain in the Guardian today and through the next year, individuals have a moral obligation to act which can be met without abandoning the good things about life as it is lived today. Houses can still be heated, but must be insulated too. All sorts of food can still be eaten, but perhaps less meat and less often, and where possible that food should have travelled less far. Walk more, drive less – such things are so obvious that they can seem petty, and yet if enough people and organisations in Britain do them regularly, the effect can be immense. Britain's emissions have fallen since 1990. They must keep on falling sharply: current emissions of over 10 tonnes per capita must drop to two tonnes by 2050. This new campaign will not be enough to achieve that. But it is more than a start; it is the direction Britain must take, if the world as we know it is to survive.







Japanese people know all about earthquakes. So when commentators there describe Sunday's general election result as the political equivalent of one, they are not indulging in hyperbole. Sunday's results have utterly transformed the political landscape of a country which, with one brief interruption, has been governed by the conservative Liberal Democrats since 1955. The LDP went into the election with 296 seats in the 480-seat parliament, against the opposition centre-left Democratic Party of Japan's 113. After Sunday, under Japan's part constituency-based, part proportional-representation system, the tables have been well and truly turned. Now the DPJ has 307 seats to the Liberal Democrats' 119. The DPJ and its leader Yukio Hatoyama, could hardly have asked for a larger or more emphatic mandate.


Like Barack Obama in the most recent election in a G7 nation before Japan's, Mr Hatoyama campaigned as the candidate of change in the aftermath of recession and financial collapse. Like Mr Obama, he also promised to put people first, with a series of big government intervention pledges to support consumers, low-income households and the unemployed. And like Mr Obama, Mr Hatoyama ran on a strong commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions; whatever else happens as a result of the DPJ's win, it is certainly good for the chances of a stronger rather than a weaker agreement in December's climate change talks in Copenhagen.


Yet it would be a mistake to exaggerate the extent to which Japanese or US voters are part of some worldwide radicalisation against economic globalisation. Japan's problems, like those of the US, are specific to its own system. Japan's downturn also long predates the credit crunch. The system of de facto one-party LDP rule of the postwar era worked well as long as it delivered an uninterrupted rise in living standards. That ended in the recession of the early 1990s. Since then, the voters have given the LDP several chances to reform itself, which the party has spurned or failed to seize. Those failures have now caught up with the LDP.


Mr Hatoyama will bring a more independent approach to Japan's international role. There will be a regional wind of change in East Asia. In the end, though, the real test for the DPJ will be whether it can supply the healthcare, pension and job security that Japanese voters crave. This groundbreaking election was, in many respects, a revolt against the LDP's failure to reverse Japan's economic stagnation and decline rather than an uprising in favour of the DPJ's not always consistently argued alternatives. It is a new political dawn for Japan, but as British voters know, yesterday's landslide can eventually become tomorrow's disillusion.







At the age of 89, you might think that Dame Fanny Waterman would have decided to ease off. But, like Dame Vera Lynn, who this week became the oldest person to have an album in the top 20, she is indefatigable and irresistible. It is 36 years since Waterman co-founded the Leeds International Piano Competition with Marion Thorpe. This year, as ever, she is still putting in 14-hour days as chair of the jury in the world famous event with which she is synonymous. A firm believer in the competitive ethic – woe betide anyone with the temerity to suggest that such events put unhealthy pressure on young artists – she has always led from the front. Over the weekend, Waterman and her fellow judges whittled the 68 entrants down to the 33 young pianists who will go forward into this week's second round. Perhaps the youngest of them, China's Qi Xu, a mere 14, is destined to emerge at the end of next week as winner, joining illustrious artists such as Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Andras Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, all of whom made their names after winning prizes at Leeds. It is decades since Waterman went from being merely the best piano teacher in north Leeds – where she still gives lessons – to the most legendary piano teacher in the world; more than 2 million students have bought her Me and My Piano series. This year, with a bit of time to spare, she took on the presidency of the Harrogate Festival. The festival's motto is "Global talent in god's own county". Just like Dame Fanny, in fact.








North Korea appears to be on a dialogue offensive. In early August it let former U.S. President Bill Clinton visit the country and released two captured American journalists. When South Korea's Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong Eun visited Pyongyang, the North released a detained Hyundai worker and agreed to ease operation of the joint industrial park in Kaesong.


More recently, the North sent a delegation to Seoul for the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, who had held the first inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting North and South reconciliation. Mr. Kim Yong Gon, an official of the Korean Workers Party responsible for inter-Korean relations, met with South Korean Minister for Unification Hyun In Taek.


Mr. Kim Ki Nam, secretary of the party's central committee, met with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak — the first meeting that Mr. Lee has had with a North Korean official since he assumed office in February 2008. The North Korean party official delivered a personal message from North Korean leader Kim. Although the content of the message has not been made public, it is believed to concern inter-Korean cooperation. Mr. Lee explained to the KWP official the "firm principles" of Seoul's policy toward Pyongyang. He also said there are no problems that cannot be solved if the North and South talk with each other sincerely.


North Korea may be trying to cut its way through an encircling net of economic sanctions imposed against it by the international community following the North's second nuclear test in May, and to get additional economic aid from the South. The North will very likely use money from outside to promote its nuclear weapons programs. Pyongyang also may hope that improved relations with Seoul will eventually lead to direct bilateral talks with Washington.


North Korea has shown no sign of changing its stance on developing nuclear weapons. The international community should not be swayed by its charm offensive but should seek effective ways to get the North to accept denuclearization.







Aug. 25 marked the third anniversary of a tragic traffic accident in the city of Fukuoka that caught nationwide attention. On that night in 2006, a car driven by a drunken Fukuoka city government worker rear-ended a sports utility vehicle carrying a family of five — a couple and their three children — on a bridge, causing the SUV to plunge into Hakata Bay. All three children were killed.


On the very day of the anniversary, a police sergeant of the Kokura Minami police station in the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, was arrested in connection with a hit-and-run accident. A blood test detected 1.27 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood — more than four times the threshold of 0.3 mg. It is especially regrettable that this incident involved a police officer who is empowered to arrest drunken drivers and is supposed to be a role model for obeying the law.


In 2008, there were 4,295 death-causing traffic accidents involving sober drivers against 305 such accidents involving drunken drivers. Still, it must be remembered that if one drives under the influence of alcohol, he or she is much more likely to cause a traffic accident than a sober driver. This is a plain truth. In this sense, drinking before driving is very irresponsible.


On the night of Aug. 24 the police officer who was arrested had driven his car down a highway in the city of Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, in the wrong direction. His car collided head-on with a car driven by a woman in her 50s. He was later found sitting on the roadside some 200 meters away. He is suspected of having left the scene without helping the woman, who suffered head injuries. As he refused a breath test, a court order was obtained to have his blood tested.


In June, a former assistant police inspector of the Kokura Kita police station was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. And an assistant police officer in central Hokkaido is suspected of having driven a patrol car after drinking alcohol. How many police officers are doing this? It would not be surprising if more people, as a result of these reports, became less conscientious about not driving after drinking.








HONG KONG — The global economic turmoil has sparked international debate over whether we are witnessing the death throes of capitalism or signs that a "new capitalism" needs to be devised. French commentators have gloated over the end of the Anglo-Saxon way of doing business, citing the need for the state to play a bigger guiding role.


The worrying thing about the state's guiding hand is that too often politicians, and sometimes bureaucrats, have made spectacularly poor choices. The British motor industry, and the Anglo-French accord on supersonic airliners, offer excellent examples of how easy it is to throw pots of money at hopeless causes.


Even postwar Japan has had its failures: If bureaucrats had had their way, Toyota would probably not have had the opportunity to challenge Nissan, let alone General Motors and Ford.


It should be a matter of grave concern that since the global crisis erupted, vital policies are being made hand to mouth, often by politicians thinking in slogans rather than about the repercussions of their actions. Americans particularly might stop to ask two disturbing but pertinent questions: Has the administration become too close to Wall Street? Has Congress become captive of special interests?


Another worrying factor is that academic economists who have spent years searching after truth, however uncomfortable, have been sidelined. Paul Krugman has a regular column in the New York Times, and Joe Stiglitz gets quoted here and there, but they are voices crying in a wilderness against mainstream policies.


Former International Monetary Fund chief economist Simon Johnson, now back in academia, has admitted that "Most economists suffer from the antiquated belief that if we can just figure out exactly what went wrong, policymakers will beat a path to our door to ask our help in enacting necessary reforms. Unfortunately, the world no longer works that way."


His followup comments illustrate the skepticism of leftist economists: "Our corrupted government, our criminal business and banking institutions, lobbyists, special interests, and the corporate-controlled media are not interested in fixing this problem. They are making trillions of dollars through a vast scheme that transfers wealth from ordinary American taxpayers and consumers to their corrupt coffers."


If policymakers want to understand the implications of their slogans rushed into law, they would be well advised to talk with Amartya Sen. The Harvard Nobel Prize winner holds the unique distinction of having been a professor in his native India, at the London School of Economics and at Oxford University, and at Cambridge, where he was the first Asian master of Trinity College.


He told me that when he was having difficulty getting an American hotel to understand the spelling of his name, he resorted to a phonetic explanation — "S for someone, E for everyone, N for no one." It is a good summary of Sen himself.


Sen believes there is a need for fresh ideas about changing the organization of society that reach beyond the immediate task of dealing with crisis. In some ways it is more important to have a long-term plan at the same time as tackling the crisis since palliative measures may conflict with longer-term needs.


Having distinguished himself across a broad spectrum of economic theory and practice, from mathematical and statistical to philosophical, social and welfare economics, he has a much better grasp than most economists of the nexus between economics and the real world.


In recent discussions, including an important article in the New York Review of Books, Sen addresses these seminal questions, including whether capitalism should be discarded.


He defends Adam Smith, and suggests that John Maynard Keynes and his Keynesian policies are insufficient to deal with the current crisis. Sen points out that Smith did not rely on the virtues of markets alone.


"Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere," he said, "but first they required support from other institutions — including public services such as schools — and values other than pure profit-seeking. Second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions — such as well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor — for preventing instability, inequity and injustice."


He also cites Smith as insisting that the essential for markets to operate properly is trust: "Historically, capitalism did not emerge until new systems of law and economic practice protected property rights and made an economy based on ownership workable.


"Smith called the promoters of excessive risk in search of profits 'prodigals and projectors' — which is quite a good description of issuers of subprime mortgages over the past few years. Discussing laws against usury, for example, Smith wanted state regulation to protect citizens from the 'prodigals and projectors' who promoted unsound loans."


The quote from Smith calling for regulation is prophetic: "A great part of the capital of the country would thus be kept out of the hands most likely to make a profitable and advantageous use of it, and thrown into those (hands) most likely to waste and destroy it."


Sen also argues that the oft-quoted Keynesian economics does not offer a sufficient solution to the present crisis, which is marked not only by a massive downturn and reduced incomes for the poorest people in society, but also by a crisis of confidence exacerbating the credit crunch.


He suggests that Keynes' great rival at King's College Cambridge, Arthur Cecil Pigou, has more relevant contributions from his work on economic psychology and the ways it can sharpen and harden a recession. Pigou looked at the "psychological causes" or "variations in the tone of mind of persons whose action controls industry, emerging in errors of undue optimism or undue pessimism in their business forecasts."


The conclusion of Sen is that "new capitalism" is not necessary. What is necessary is a better understanding of old ideas and a clearheaded perception of how institutions actually work, and how smoothly market and state organizations can work together to produce a more decent economic world.


The point of all this is that politicians are likely to blunder and make things worse if they don't take better advice. It is time for a dose of Sen and his common sense.


Kevin Rafferty is editor in chief of Plain Words Media, a group of journalists specializing in economic development issues. He previously was in charge of Asian coverage for the Financial Times.









As the new government of the Democratic Party of Japan seeks to create a "New Japan" with new economic and diplomatic policies, Korea can expect a positive change in its relations with its neighbor.


Upon the news of the DPJ's landslide victory in Sunday's lower house elections, officials here first recalled party leader Yukio Hatoyama's remarks last month that he would not visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine if his party won power. He issued a virtual ban on visits by his party colleagues to the shrine, which honors Japanese war dead along with convicted war criminals.


They also cite the fact that Hatoyama paid a visit to President Lee Myung-bak in May last year immediately after he became leader of his party. During the election campaign, Hatoyama and his foreign relations aides emphasized a "mature partnership" with South Korea as part of their major diplomatic concept of an "East Asia community." With the United States, the Hatoyama government would seek "close but equal" ties.


A "mature partnership" means not allowing matters of dispute to hurt basic cooperative relations. There are quite a few historical troubles between Japan and Korea. The Dokdo islets, Yasukuni Shrine, descriptions in Japanese history textbooks, the "comfort women" during World War II and other perennial issues between the two countries will not go away even with the advent of a left-leaning centrist government in Tokyo, but the change of power in Japan brings hopes of a new approach.


DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada's assurance that the new government would follow the Murayama statement with "heartfelt apologies" about the aggression and WWII atrocities indicates a possibility of change. Korea and China have been tired of hearing from the leaders of successive Liberal Democratic Party governments the same evasive remarks about the past, which were often accompanied by outright denials of guilt by some reckless ministers.


We want to see and hear something different from the new Japanese government, clearer evidence of a conscience that rejects the usual practice of consulting dictionaries in search of an adequate level of expression in conveying regret about the past wrongdoings at major diplomatic events. A formal repetition of the genuine apology made by the Socialist prime minister in 1995 could settle the problem at least in that part of the dispute.


It is hoped that the DPJ's campaign pledge to establish a memorial facility to replace the Yasukuni Shrine as the place for paying respect to the war dead will be expeditiously followed up. The new government also needs to carry out the plan to form an "Eternal Peace Study Center" to investigate and address problems involving victims of the war, including the "comfort women" and the survivors of atomic bombings.


Despite the large margin of victory, the new ruling party, which was born just 11 years ago in a merger of four minor opposition parties, will have to remain super sensitive about public reactions to any policy shift concerning history. Elections for the House of Councilors are scheduled for next July and the DPJ cannot afford to show a markedly soft stance departing from the practices of the LDP to which voters were attached for more than five decades.

A flexible approach is also required of Seoul, with awareness that the historical problems, despite their importance in maintaining friendly ties, are only an aspect of the relations with the neighboring country that also involve economy, trade, security and culture. Efforts to prevent any sudden eruption of trouble are strongly called for as the two governments endeavor to forge a mature partnership.








President Lee Myung-bak's search for a new prime minister to form a cabinet dedicated to "reconciliation and integration" has hit a snag. Liberty Forward Party Chairman Shim Dae-pyung finally declined the president's invitation to join his new cabinet in a feud with party head Lee Hoi-chang, whom he accused of obstructing his bid to become prime minister out of political egotism.


It is unfortunate that the two leaders of the Chungcheong-based party separated, after a short alliance, as a result of mutual distrust exposed by President Lee's offer of the premiership. After all, the LFP is being seriously shaken.


Lee Hoi-chang would not allow Shim to accept the president's offer unless it meant a power sharing between his party and the ruling Grand National Party. His aides in the LFP suspected that the president approached Shim in an attempt to destroy the regionally-based conservative party. Shim was annoyed that Lee Hoi-chang regarded him as a pawn in the political machinations of Cheong Wa Dae, while he believed that the president invited him in an earnest effort to establish a cabinet that suits his new governing principle of social integration that transcends regional divides.


Since the beginning of the Lee Myung-bak government, Shim had been a strong candidate for premiership because of his high administrative capabilities proven during his time as South Chungcheong governor and his connection to the central region. Han Seung-soo, Lee's current number two man, hails from Gangwon Province.


President Lee decided to replace Han, not for any particular wrongdoing, but to freshen up his administration. In looking for his replacement, regional neutrality is considered the main criteria, followed by personal integrity and administrative capability. With Shim Dae-pyung out of the running, Lee's aides went back to the list of other candidates for prime minister but the request to find one who is regionally eligible must be making their job extremely difficult.








CAMBRIDGE - The bursting of America's housing bubble in the summer of 2006 triggered the global financial crisis and recession. The sharp fall in house prices that followed caused a dramatic downturn in household wealth, leading to lower consumer spending and an overall fall in GDP. By now, wealth in the form of owner-occupied housing is down about 30 percent, equivalent to a loss of more than $6 trillion of household wealth.


The fall in house prices also led to a sharp rise in mortgage defaults and foreclosures, which has increased the supply of homes on the market and caused house prices to fall further. As a result, one-third of all American homeowners with mortgages are already "underwater" - their mortgage debt exceeds the value of the house. For one-sixth of these homes, the debt is 20 percent higher than the price of the house.


In addition, high loan-to-value ratios in the United States interact with household financial problems to increase the number of defaults and foreclosures. More specifically, the rising unemployment rate, along with the large number of employees on involuntary part-time work, has increased the number of people who cannot afford their monthly mortgage payments.


Unlike virtually every other country, U.S. residential mortgages are effectively "no recourse" loans. If a homeowner stops making mortgage payments, the creditor can take the property but cannot take other assets or a fraction of wages. Even in those states where creditors have the legal authority to take other assets or wage income, the personal bankruptcy laws are so restrictive that creditors don't bother to try.


Although it is tempting to think of this as a purely domestic problem affecting the United States, nothing could be further from the truth. When homeowners default, banks lose money, and uncertainty about the extent of future defaults undermines confidence in banks' capital, making it more difficult for them to raise funds and causing them to reduce their lending in order to conserve existing resources.


As a result, the recession has been deeper and longer than it would otherwise have been. The resulting weakness of the U.S. economy will mean lower U.S. import demand. And, if the downward spiral in house prices continues, the value of mortgage-backed securities held by financial institutions around the world will continue to decline, affecting the supply of credit far beyond the United States.


Some recent data suggest that the decline in house prices may be coming to an end. The rate of decline of U.S. house prices fell in the past three months for which we have data (ending in May), and the figures for May show essentially no decline at all. If that trend continues, it will prevent further erosion of household wealth and strengthen the banks' capital positions.


But the recent data, while encouraging, may be the result of temporary factors rather than an indication that the fall in house prices has actually come to an end. Mortgage interest rates fell below 5 percent in March and April, but have risen significantly since then. Moreover, a government program of subsidies to first-time homebuyers may have released a backlog of pent-up demand. And banks had a voluntary moratorium on foreclosures, holding supply off the market.


All of this may have caused a temporary improvement in house prices. In short, we will have to wait for the data on house prices in June and July to know whether there has been a permanent turnaround.


The recent rise in existing home sales in the United States may also be misleading, since a large proportion are sales of foreclosed properties. Indeed, property that has either been foreclosed or is on the verge of foreclosure now accounts for nearly one-third of all existing home sales. Foreclosed property is generally sold at auction, guaranteeing that there will be a buyer - but driving down prices. Significantly, foreclosures rose 7 percent month on month in June, and a whopping 32 percent compared to June 2008.


The Obama administration has enacted legislation aimed at helping individuals who are having difficulty making their monthly mortgage payments because of a decline in their incomes or a rise in the interest rate on their mortgage. For individuals with high monthly mortgage payments relative to their disposable income, the U.S. government will share with the creditor bank the cost of reducing the monthly payment to 31 percent of disposable income.


This is a new program, and it remains to be seen how well it will work to prevent future defaults. Some limited previous experience with mortgage modifications is not encouraging. Nearly 50 percent of those who had their mortgages modified nevertheless defaulted within six months.


Unfortunately, there is no program to deal with the defaults and foreclosures caused by high loan-to-value ratios. Given the large number of negative-equity homeowners, there is a risk that defaults and foreclosures will continue. If they do, the sale of foreclosed properties will continue to depress house prices, reducing household wealth and hurting financial institutions.


Unless house prices have stopped declining, it is important for the Obama administration to turn to the problem of high loan-to-value ratios. That would help not only the U.S. economy, but also the economies of all of America's trading partners.


Martin Feldstein, a professor of economics at Harvard, was formerly chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors and president of the National Bureau for Economic Research. - Ed.

(Project Syndicate)








MUNICH - Panta rhei. Everything flows. This Greek aphorism often comes to mind when I think of the economic and political changes in my lifetime. They seemed as impossible before they occurred as they have felt natural in retrospect. Communism fell. Germany was united. The United States elected a black man president. And now we are in a phase in which Asia is catching up with the West and American hegemony is being challenged.


While American casino capitalism has collapsed, and America's European economic satellites are suffering, China seems to be taking advantage of the situation, increasing its trade surplus in the midst of the global economic crisis. Indeed, in the first four months of this year, China became the world's leading goods exporter, overtaking Germany, the previous champion.


It is true that in other economic terms, China still lags far behind. Although China accounts for 20 percent of the world's population, its share of global GDP currently is only 7 percent. By contrast, the United States and the European Union account for 54 percent of global GDP, despite having only 12 percent of the world's population.


But these figures are changing rapidly, owing to China's exuberant growth. From 1995 to 2008, China's economy grew by 229 percent, while the world economy grew by 63 percent, the U.S. by 45 percent, and 27-member EU by only 37 percent. It may be difficult for China to ever match the success of a small Asian country like Singapore, which has already overtaken the U.S. in terms of GDP per capita as measured by purchasing power parity. Yet China will undoubtedly become the world's largest economic power in the foreseeable future. To achieve this leadership position, it needs less than a quarter of U.S. per capita GDP, because its population is more than four times larger.


The forces of globalization that were liberated by the fall of Communism have created a better world, with rapid economic convergence and shrinking inequality. The proportion of people living below the World Bank's poverty line of $1.25 a day shrank from 52 percent in 1981 to only 25 percent in 2005. More than 50 percent of the world's population is now considered middle class, with a living standard above the average of the developed countries' poverty lines ($8.2 at 1996 PPP prices). And the worldwide Gini coefficient of inter-country inequality fell from 0.653 to 0.556 from 1980 to 2007, owing largely to the astounding performance of the emerging countries, particularly China and India.


The development of the world has not been without problems, however. Carbon-dioxide emissions have been growing fast, fossil-fuel resources are being depleted rapidly, and global warming has accelerated. Even if the U.S. embraces the Kyoto Protocol under President Barack Obama, the world's temperature will break the record of the last 800,000 years in the next 30 years.


Moreover, huge waves of migrants from developing countries to OECD countries challenge the assimilation capacity of the latter and deprive the former of its educated work force. In the U.S. and Germany, 13 percent of the population is foreign born, as are 8 percent of France inhabitants and 10 percent of Britain's. Unskilled migrants tend to come to Europe, where they burden the welfare state, and skilled migrants are lured to the U.S., although they are urgently needed at home. The brain drain is a problem not only for South America west of the Andes and many African countries, but also for Turkey, Italy, Britain, the Balkan countries, Germany and Finland.


Migration from developing countries partly reflects a problem that also triggered the current financial crisis: international capital flowed in the wrong direction. In recent years, the U.S. absorbed half the world's capital exports, while China provided one-fifth of the total. In 2007 alone, the U.S. imported $790 billion of capital, while the emerging and developing countries exported $714 billion.


This made it possible for U.S. households to stop saving and enjoy an exorbitant consumption level, but it stood on its head the conventional wisdom that capital should flow from rich to poor countries, where it can more productively be invested. Since the world will not continue to provide the U.S. with goods in exchange for dubious financial securities, Americans will have to leave their dream world. They will have to brace themselves for an extensive period of diminished expectations that will last much longer than the next economic boom, and that will require substantial structural changes in the U.S. economy.


In the next few decades, the biggest challenge for the world will be peace, because the changing economic power structure will require corresponding political changes, which the U.S., as the incumbent superpower, will not easily accept. The situation is similar to Germany's challenge to British geopolitical hegemony in the 19th century, when the German economy blossomed. The resulting political tensions led to a second Thirty Years' War that brought Western civilization to the brink of collapse. It can only be hoped that the political leaders who shape the course of the 21st century will be wise enough to avoid such an outcome.


Hans-Werner Sinn is a professor of economics and public finance at the University of Munich, and president of the Ifo Institute. - Ed.


(Project Syndicate)










On the recent Independence Day, President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono launched his vision of Indonesia in 2025: an advanced nation, part of the league of developed countries. As usual, that statement received mixed reactions.


The President’s vision is ambiguous. Serious work is needed to translate the grand design into a more detailed plan. The new cabinet will need to work speedily in translating the vision into a workable agenda.


Viable economic visions both macro and micro need to be formulated. Indonesia’s economy has shown great resilience, most recently during the global crisis.


The economy has been structurally stronger than it was before the Asian crisis. The mindset of business people, improved risk management in the banking system as well as the excellent management of government finances resulted in continued growth in 2008 and 2009, at a time when most other countries fell into recession.


In 2008, the average income in Indonesia was US$2,271, an increase from $1,946 in the previous year. It could be predicted that in 2010, income per capita may increase to between $2,800 and $3,000.


If that level can be achieved, the top ten percent of the population, or 23.5 million people, will earn between $8,400 and $9,000, higher than the Malaysian average. It is worth noting that this number is equivalent almost to the entire population of Malaysia.


Thirty percent of the population, that is 70.5 million people, more than the entire population of Thailand, will earn between $5,100 and $5,500, a level higher than Thailand’s average income per capita. Thus, Indonesia, with a muchstronger middle class, will have tremendous purchasing power.


What will be the level of the people’s welfare in 2025? The most optimistic scenario will lead an average income per capita of around $15,000 per annum; the low estimates are around $10,000. The optimistic estimate would mean around 30 million people will earn $45,000 per year, a level almost as where the United States is currently. At the same time, the top 90 million people will receive incomes of around $27,500.


Overall, the Indonesian GDP will be between $3 trillion and $4.5 trillion, a level higher than the GDP of UK, France or Germany in 2008.


These large numbers beg the question of whether we really have the human capacity to support the 2025 dream.


Most of the time, we underestimate our own capacity. In the 1960s, the Hotel Indonesia was built by Japanese engineers. Now, the BCA Tower, four times taller, and the Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, an iconic mall more luxurious than the Mall of America (in Minneapolis, USA) sit right next door, built mostly by Indonesian engineers.


The same thing can be said for the first toll road, Jagorawi, which connects Jakarta and Bogor.


The road was built by Korean engineers, including the current Korean President. However, the subsequent toll roads were built by Indonesian engineers. Similarly, in the past, the Indonesian palm oil industry was mostly foreign run. But now, millions of hectares of plantations are not only run by, but owned by Indonesian companies.


The same is true with the Indonesian coal industry. The shift from foreign to Indonesian majority has occurred in a relatively short time.


Indonesia also has a strong base in the aerospace industry that has so far produced 50 passenger airplanes. The industry has recovered from the torment of the Asian crises that almost annihilated it.


Similarly, the Indonesian maritime industry also has the capacity to built 50,000 ton ships. Moreover, the domestic automotive industry has the capacity to produce a million units a year – and it continues to expand. At the same time, the 6 million motorcycles produced in Indonesia every year makes ours the second largest industry in the world.


Indonesia has developed expertise in the petroleum, cement, plastic, textile and garment industries, just to name a few.


To support the 2025 vision, it is imperative that Indonesia build a strong education system for its people. Serious planning is critical in order to translate the vision into reality.


The writer is an economist.







Indonesia would have learned a great deal from the fatal mistakes of its 24-year occupation of the then East Timor, now Timor Leste, so it hardly needs more lessons. Well perhaps one more: a lesson on statesmanship from President José Ramos-Horta.


On the 10th anniversary of the UN-sponsored independence referendum that ended Indonesian rule, Ramos-Horta’s speech Saturday was worthy of his standing as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, part of which read “My stated preference, as a human being, victim and head of state, is that we once and for all close the 1975-1999 chapters of our tragic experience [and] forgive those who did us harm.”


He called on Timorese to put the past behind and criticized those who continued to call for an international tribunal for Indonesians who had perpetrated the ugly violence in the wake of the Aug. 31, 1999, referendum. Mindful that the demands came mostly from the West, he asked why there were no similar demands for the carpet-bombing in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, or in the aftermath of the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa.


Ramos-Horta is continuing the good neighbor policy started by his predecessor and Timor Leste’s first president Xanana Gusmao. He saw the completion of the work of the joint Commission for Truth and Friendship last year that agreed the two neighboring countries would look to the future and not be beholden by the bloody past.


Does this mean Indonesia is off the hook? Perhaps, but in the absence of any formal closure, the human rights violations will likely continue to haunt us prevent Indonesia from becoming the civil nation that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono referred to recently when he talked about a new vision of Indonesia for 2025.


Any investigation into the human rights abuses carried out by Indonesian officials in Timor Leste and elsewhere in the country should be an initiative by Indonesia, and not come at the behest or pressure from outside. We owe this to ourselves if only to clear our conscience.


Now a free and democratic country, the culture of impunity remains strong, raising serious doubts about our leaders’ commitment to human rights.


The perpetrators of the violence in Timor Leste and elsewhere in Indonesia during the Soeharto regime are still roaming free. Two former Army generals with dubious human rights track records now lead minority political parties in the House of Representatives. It was just as well that they did not win the recent presidential election, for that would put Indonesia in a very awkward position.


Timor Leste is fortunate to have truly great statesmen like Ramos-Horta and Gusmao. Statesmanship will remain in short supply among Indonesian leaders for as long as we continue to let human rights violations go unpunished. While our leaders are busy talking the talk at international forums, we are certainly not walking the human rights walk.








Eighty students of a high school in Henan province are confirmed to have contracted the A(H1N1) influenza. Another 26 infections were reported from a school in Gansu province.


As has been true since April, when the virus was first found on the mainland, responses have been swift and effective. Given the less-than-serious consequences to date, infections hardly make news nowadays.


That community-level infections re-emerge after a relative low during the summer vacation, however, is a worrisome reminder that the epidemic may have never been on the decline as many have taken for granted. We hope the new school term begins with less headlines screaming about H1N1. Yet cases of the Henan and Gansu schools alert us to the very opposite.


The World Health Organization has called on countries to prepare for a new peak of H1N1 infection. Our own medical scientists have also warned of a possible new upsurge this fall.


Obviously, we are not there yet. Will there be a new case some other day? Nobody can tell. Yet what we are seeing does not seem to bode well. So, it appears increasingly imperative for us to get serious and, as some experts have suggested, prepare for the worst.


And campuses, of all levels and sizes, are the logical focus of heightened oversight. Youngsters have shown special vulnerability to the H1N1 epidemic. High mobility during the summer vacation would have exposed them further to possible sources of infection. The collective nature of campus life increases the risk of the virus spreading.


The joint decision of the ministries of education and health to highlight H1N1 influenza prevention and control in the new school term was a sensible one, and its importance is underscored by the latest cases of on-campus infection. But the two latest cases convince us that medical screening should be conducted before the virus is brought to the classroom. That is the only way to avoid canceling classes and closing entire schools. Since the virus may be here with us for an indefinite period, we have to make sure it does not cause major disruption of normal life, either on the campus or society-wide.


Since even medical scientists are still in the dark about the prospects of variation of the virus, and current research is yet to come up with vaccines that are safe and available to everybody, our best chance rests ultimately on prevention. In schools, which are among the most vulnerable to community-level spreading, timely pre-school screening may be the best way to cut off the potential chains of infection.









The launching of the long overdue human organ donation program is more than necessary as only about 10,000 out of 1.5 million patients who need organ transplants annually survive by receiving them.


China Red Cross Society announced last week that, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the program will begin with 10 provinces and municipalities on trial basis.


A document is in the pipeline to regulate the specific work of designating medical institutions to receive organ donations, distributing them in the required manner and encouraging more people to donate.


China has the second largest number of organ transplant operations in the world, but a lack of both donors and a national program to organize donations has remained an obstacle in meeting the ever-increasing needs of organ transplant.


The fact that nationwide only 130 donors volunteered their organs after death in the last six years is not only embarrassing for a nation with one fifth the world's population, but also makes it impossible for the majority of those in need of organ transplants to grab the last chance of extending their lives.


Traditionally, the Chinese are taught to treasure even a hair from their body as it is from their parents; and, to keep their bodies safe from any injury, to say nothing of giving an organ such as a liver or kidney to a stranger, is considered the very basis of filial piety. Even for those willing to donate organs after death, their relatives, children in particular, can hardly accept their loved ones going to another world with incomplete bodies.


An expert once said that even if 10 to 20 percent of those who die in a traffic accident, of a heart attack or brain tumor donate organs, the demand would be met to a large extent.


In reality, the mechanism to encourage people to donate their organs after death or persuade their relatives to accept the practice leaves much to be desired. There are such incentives for blood donors that they themselves and their relatives may get blood transfusion free of charge if they need it. Probably there should be similar incentives for organ donors and their relatives. In addition, one way or another, we may need to show our respect for those who save other people's lives by donating their organs.


The Red Cross Society in east China's Shandong province is reported to be considering the idea of a special cemetery with stone tablets for donors, where organ recipients and their relatives can pay their respects. That may be what is needed as an incentive - acknowledgement and recognition of having made a contribution.


There is a long way to go before the majority of Chinese change their traditional ideas about organ donation. And, much work will have to be done before an effective national program is in place.


To those in need of organs, this program is the first step towards a sound mechanism for both the donation and effective use of organs for saving many people's lives.








Japan's next prime minister faces the task of how to organize a new government to tackle the slew of challenges ahead - such as record unemployment and a rapidly aging society - and draw the world's second largest economy out of the worst recession since World War II.


Japan's historic House of Representatives election on Sunday ended with opposition parties snatching an overwhelming 340 seats, leaving the ruling coalition with only 140. In its historic victory, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) alone gained 308 seats, far more than the 115 it won in 2005. The defeated Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for most of the last half-century, got only 119 seats - far lower than the 300 it got in the last election. The DPJ won a complete victory in nearly a third of the electoral districts, while the LDP gained only one seat in another one-third of the total districts, suffering its first defeat since its founding in 1955. The LDP has been in control of the lower house in the past decades even when it remained out of office for 10 months between 1993 and 1994.


The Diet of Japan is a bicameral legislature, composed of a lower house (House of Representatives) and an upper house (House of Councilors).


Japan's outgoing prime minister Taro Aso has blamed the LDP's humiliating defeat on growing grievances among the public over the past years, its failure to reverse voter opinion and frequent changes of the party chief. Naoto Kan, a former DPJ leader, however, attributed the landslide defeat of the LDP to its alienation from mainstream public opinion and failure to ease people's main concerns.


Anyway, the defection of one-third of LDP's supporters to the opposition DPJ was one of the underlying factors behind the former's defeat. Because of its record defeat, the LDP is facing a crisis of survival now, with its president Taro Aso and other key leaders announcing their resignations. The mounting calls for new and changed government policies, together with the effective election tactics, of the DPJ helped the party's chances to defeat the more powerful LDP.


Despite its overwhelming victory, the DPJ, however, does not face an easy job ahead in ruling the politically-restive country. The DPJ, and its coalition partners, would be in a parliamentary dilemma if it cannot win in next year's election to the House of Councilors. Conscious of the political risks ahead, Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ leader, said that his party would adhere to the established policy of forming a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party, although the DPJ alone has won a clear majority in the lower house.


With a long-reviled bureaucracy and the task to bring the decade-long faltering Japanese economy onto a normal development track, the incoming DPJ will need to deal with a series of formidable challenges ahead. It is expected that the DPJ will push for some sweeping reforms to the country's bureaucracy, either in personnel installation or in governance psychology. However, the long-established multi-faction partisan politics - which has been built on Japan's traditional political culture - can by no means be easily uprooted in a short period. There are enough reasons to believe that such politics will be strengthened within the DPJ as the party begins ruling. Currently, there are nine political factions within the DPJ, with each having about 20 political figures. As the strength in the House of Representatives will increase by a large margin, all DPJ factions will accordingly expand. It is reported that Ichiro Ozawa, former DPJ president, had a 120-member team behind him in this year's Chamber election. How his political faction evolves after the DPJ comes to power remains to be seen. According to Kyodo News, which cited party sources, DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama has decided to let Ichiro Ozawa, who has also been one of the party's acting presidents and its chief election strategist, handle the DPJ's campaign for the upper house election due next year.


On the diplomatic front, the DPJ-led Japanese government is expected to continue maintaining the decades-long alliance with the United States even if some changes are likely to be made in the long-disputed military alliance. But a Japan under the DPJ will show its character to be different from that of the LDP, given that the former has long advocated diplomatic independence. It is expected that the new Japanese government will make great effort to pursue the goal of equal status with the US and try to reduce US troop deployment on its territory. Also, how to co-exist with China and smoothly push for its strategy of re-focusing on Asia will top the diplomatic agenda of the new Cabinet. Japan's policies towards China under the new government will not undergo radical changes. However, with a number of thorny issues unresolved, the two countries should further increase communication to enhance mutual trust, especially on issues relevant to their fundamental national interests.


The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.








Brazil has become much more important to China in the last 10 years. The flows of trade between China and Latin American countries rose from US$10 billion in 2000 to US$140 billion in 2008. Fifteen percent of Brazil's exports goes to China in 2009, up from eight percent just a year ago.


China and Brazil have strong complementarities and a long history of peace and acceptance. The Chinese community living in Brazil is enormous, recognized as hard workers setting up business and development in the last 50 years and are well integrated with the country's multiracial and multicultural society.


China is probably the largest developing nation, with the biggest improvement of living standards in the world. The new multicultural urban society with the 700 million new rural consumers in China represents a huge development, with growing income, and targeted by the Government with the recent announcement of opening 150 thousand stores in rural areas.


In this very positive scenario of development, China may face problems in securing food supply for its own growing, richer society. Problems relate to costs, clean water, water availability, soil conditions, land, to environment, and others.


Brazil is already the largest food exporter, and has 850 million hectares of land, with 350 million hectares arable. Only 70 million hectres are being used for crops, 200 million for pastures, and 80 million being new land to be conquered. In resume, there is at least 100 million hectares that could be converted to agriculture and biofuels production, in a sustainable way.


In the coming years Brazil has an opportunity to be the most important partner to supply food and biofuels. Soybeans exports from Brazil to China grew 27 percent in 2009 from a year ago.


Brazilian share in China's imports increased from 0.7 percent in 2003 to almost 3 percent in 2009, and it is expected to grow faster due to imports of poultry, beef and other protein sources and food, that are just starting.


The risks to produce food in Brazil are very low, almost zero, since the country is a large food producer and exporter, with plenty of land and food in the internal market, reducing risks of political or institutional changes, for example forbidding exports and expropriating assets as happened in several other countries. It is an open market, providing opportunities for Chinese companies to produce food in Brazil to export to China, in a safe way.


Another great opportunity is to make common investments so that Brazil can help China to address the environmental concerns, as Brazil has one of the cleanest energy matrixes in the world.


Ninety percent of all Brazilian new cars are bi-fuel, capable of running bothon gasoline and ethanol. Of the fuel consumed in Brazil, ethanol accounts for 52 percent, and gasoline the remainder. By 2015, 80 percent of its internal market of fuels will be ethanol, produced in a sustainable way, from sugar cane.


The area used to supply 52 percent of Brazil's fuel today accounts only 1 percent of the arable land. So there are opportunities for Chinese companies to produce ethanol there, contributing to a major reduction of pollution in China.


China is also a producer of several products needed for Brazilian development, since China has technology, scale and expertise.


Since Brazil lacks the sources for investment, this is where China can participate. Logistics in Brazil is still a huge concern, especially in grain production areas, increasing the cost of commodities and food. There are also opportunities in roads, ports, airports, storage capacity, pipelines for ethanol, and several other investments. Another challenge, where Brazil is moving very fast, is to adapt food production towards international standards of sustainability.


It is clear that China and Brazil have a role in the future. China will be the world leader and most important economy in a few years. China and Brazil have a history of common respect, of admiration. It is a perfect match.


The countries should immediately work on topics related to one major question: "how to enhance future food trade in a win-win relationship?" The cooperation must come linking institutions towards a better future, doing research together, linking the business community in order to start and improve business, common investments, linking Universities in interchange programs and others. Put people together towards a development of a new world, with economic, environmental, human sustainability and with tolerance towards the difference. Let’s move!


The author is professor of strategic planning and food chains at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil








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