Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

EDITORIAL 08.09.09

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month september 08, edition 000292, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. TRUTH ABOUT PAKISTAN
  2. CAUGHT IN A TIME WARP
  3. TAINTED CONGRESS BLAMES BJP!-A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. ADVANI REMAINS THE TALLEST-MC JOSHI
  5. CHINA CLUELESS IN XINJIANG-B RAMAN
  6. PAMPERING EXTREMISTS-BARRY RUBIN
  7. CIA ‘TORTURE SCANDAL’ BAILS OUT OBAMA-NAREK SEFEJAN
  8. WHAT SMOULDERS IN YELAGIRI IS NOT FIRE BUT ANGER-KALPANA DHARINI

 

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. WALK THE TALK
  2. CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!
  3. OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS-
  4. IT'S A GREAT PROJECT
  5. ON SLIPPERY GROUND-
  6. THE POWER OF BREVITY -PRITISH NANDY
  7. THE HOUSE OF FAIRIES-

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. LEFT MUST GET THINGS RIGHT
  2. KEEP THEM IN LINE
  3. J&K AND KASHMIR-RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. FOLLOW THE LEADER?
  2. NO DEVIATIONS
  3. SOUND UNBOUND?
  4. NO SECOND THOUGHTS-K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. ACCOUNTABLE ALSO TO MAN-ARSHAD AMANULLAH
  6. DECENTRALISED DESTINY-PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  7. NORTHERN ERRORS-REKHA CHOWDHARY
  8. MAKING UP THE FACTS AS WE GO ALONG-SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  9. HINDUTVA’S FOUNDING MYTHS-BALRAJ PURI
  10. THE WIKI WAY OF THE WORLD-GAUTAM JOHN

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. NO TRUTH FROM SATYAM
  2. POPULISM VS THE RIGHT THING
  3. LEHMAN AND THE FEAR OF BUYING-SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR & IT’S NOT MUCH-JEFFREY HAMMER
  5. GOLDFINGERED IN SEPTEMBER-JAYA JUMRANI

 

THE HINDU

  1. BREAKING THE DEADLOCK?
  2. THE STATE OF INTOLERANCE
  3. RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE -K.N. PANIKKAR
  4. ELECTRONICS REACH OUT TO BOTH ENDS OF AGE SPECTRUM -KEVIN J. O’BRIEN
  5. MAKE DECLARING JUDGES’ ASSETS MANDATORY FOR ALL FURTHER APPOINTMENTS -SRIRAM PANCHU
  6. HOUSEHOLD CHORES DWARFED BY SCALE OF UNIVERSE -CHARLIE BROOKER
  7. AN AFGHAN VILLAGE IGNORES TALIBAN THREAT -BILAL SARWARY

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SOME REFRESHING PLAIN SPEAKING
  2. ADVANI’S FALL: FROM IRON MAN TO FEVICOL MAN-ASHOK MALIK
  3. SERVICES EXPORTS NEED NEW MARKETS-JAYATI GHOSH
  4. WILL GULF OF ADEN BE A NEW LOC FOR NAVY?-SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. PAK INACTION ON 26/11
  2. A SUCCESSOR TO YSR
  3. A GENTLEMAN IN POLITICS
  4. THE REDDY PHENOMENON-BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  5. MILKMAN AND THE ASSEMBLY-BY EHSAN FAZILI
  6. TRUTH OF PARTITION-BY N.K. SINGH
  7. ‘PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM COSTS MONEY’-BY STEVE RICHARDS
  8. CHIDAMBARAM MONITORED MEDIA BRIEFING

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. POVERTY ALLEVIATION
  2. POVERTY ALLEVIATION
  3. WHERE HOPES DIE YOUNG
  4. CENTRAL ASSISTANCE
  5. WORLD LITERACY: A COMPARATIVE STUDY- DR KATHITA HATIBARUAH
  6. DEFICIENT MONSOON RAINS: A NATIONAL CONCERN- DR H K GOSWAMI

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  2. SONS-IN-WAITING
  3. MJ'S PARADOX: DEATH REVIVES FORTUNES
  4. NOT ENOUGH COAL: OPEN UP THE SECTOR
  5. TOTALISATION CALLS FOR LOCAL TAX CHANGE
  6. MAKING SENSE OF SUGAR PRICE MUDDLE-ANIL SHARMA
  7. SO WHAT IF PAPA DID PREACH?-MUKUL SHARMA
  8. LEARNING FROM LEHMAN: A YEAR LATER-MK VENU

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SOME REFRESHING PLAIN SPEAKING
  2. WILL GULF OF ADEN BE A NEW LOC FOR NAVY? - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. HOW ABOUT AN EGYPTIAN TO HEAD UNESCO? - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. ADVANI’S FALL: FROM IRON MAN TO FEVICOL MAN - BY ASHOK MALIK
  5. SERVICES EXPORTS NEED NEW MARKETS - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  6. I FAST DURING RAMZAN - BY ROYA ROZATI

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. POISED FOR TAKE-OFF ~ NEW TREATS AWAIT N-E 
  2. AWAY FROM THE MASSES ~ CPI-M WILL HAVE TO CHANGE ITS THEORETICAL POSITION-TAPAN KUMAR BANERJEE
  3. ‘FUNDAMENTALISM WILL DAMAGE SOCIETY’-STEVE CONNOR
  4. THE TEAM IN IRAN ~ AHMADINEJAD REINFORCES AUTHORITY

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. AGENT AGENDA
  2. HANDS OFF
  3. AMERICAN USE OF TORTURE -ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. FROM TRAGEDY TO FARCE -MALVIKA SINGH
  5. NOT FOR THEIR SAKES ONLY -AVEEK SEN
  6. TESTS OF A DIFFERENT KIND -CLASS APART

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ALL NOT WELL WITH BARACK OBAMA-BY MICHAEL JANSEN
  2. MOVING ON WITH A BOW-BY NAYTHAN CARVALHO

 

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. VAGUE CYBERBULLYING LAW
  2. A THREAT TO FAIR ELECTIONS
  3. HUSTLE AND BUSTLE AT THE WHITE HOUSE
  4. HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG TO SAIL AROUND THE WORLD ALONE? -BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. THE BLOODY CROSSROADS -BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. IT’S TIME TO GET HELP -BY BOB HERBERT
  7. JAPAN COMES OF AGE -BY RYU MURAKAMI

 

I.THE NEWSE

  1. 38 YEARS LOST
  2. TAMILS AND TERROR
  3. FORGIVE AND FORGET
  4. A CONSPIRACY AGAINST MY FATHER-MUHAMMAD IJAZ UL HAQ
  5. THE KUNDUZ CARNAGE-RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  6. ROLE OF REMITTANCES-DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  7. ROLE OF REMITTANCES-DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  8. LET US NOT BEG ANYMORE-TASNEEM NOORANI
  9. EVALUATING THE SWAT TEST-DR MALEEHA LODHI
  10. GENERAL REPRIEVE-MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN

 

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

  1. US NEEDS IMAGE IMPROVEMENT
  2. ALTAF SHOWS THE WAY
  3. PATHETIC PICTURES OF LADIES WITH ATTA BAGS
  4. CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY-I-MUHAMMAD IJAZ UL HAQ
  5. MEDIA AND SOCIETY-MALIK M ASHRAF
  6. SIMILARITIES TO VIETNAM OMINOUS-MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  7. IN FAIRNESS TO PERVEZ MUSHARRAF -AHMAD SUBHANI
  8. STABLE PAK NEEDS STABLE AFGHANISTAN-FREDERICK W KAGAN

 

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. BOOSTING SMES
  2. ASSIMILATING EXPERTISE
  3. THE SPIDER’S WEB…!

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. WHERE'S THE ANGER THIS TIME AROUND?
  2. A LUDICROUS LAW
  3. VIGILANCE IS VITAL

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. NO RETREAT FROM KABUL JUST YET
  2. LESS MASS, MORE HIGHER EDUCATION

 

THE GURDIAN

  1. SRI LANKA: ACCESS DENIED
  2. IN PRAISE OF… PUBLIC IMAGE LTD
  3. TERRORISM: THE RULE OF LAW

 

THE GAZETTE

  1. ENDING THE TRAFFIC WARS WILL TAKE TIME AND EFFORT
  2. POLITICIANS STILL TREAT ETHICS TOO LIGHTLY

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RISING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
  2. INAUSPICIOUS START FOR CONSUMERS
  3. THE RETURN OF FRANCO-GERMAN LEADERSHIP-BY DOMINIQUE MOISI

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. DEBUNKING MYTHS ON TERRORISM-MUNAJAT
  2. G20 FOR STRONGER BANK CAPITAL

 

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. SEJONG DILEMMA
  2. WAS IT INTENDED?
  3. HAS DPJ WIN PUT JAPAN ON ROAD TO METAMORPHOSIS? -MASAHIRO MATSUMURA

 

THE KOREA TIMES

  1. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
  2. WINTERLESS KOREA

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

  1. A CHANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT EXPERIMENTATION
  2. ARE WE DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS?-BY IAN

 

CHINA DAILY

  1. SIZE ALSO NEEDS STRENGTH
  2. POLITICS OF CONSULTATION
  3. SELLING SOME HOPE TO VENDORS
  4. HOW YOU HAVE CHANGED SINCE WE FIRST MET

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

******************************************************************************************

THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

TRUTH ABOUT PAKISTAN

WHO’S TELLING IT? PM OR CHIDAMBARAM?


Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was never quite comfortable with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s astonishing about-turn on Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross-border terrorism reflected in the joint statement that was issued after he met Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh. While Mr Singh defended his shameful capitulation first by insisting that the statement meant exactly the opposite of what it said and later by suggesting that he was convinced Pakistan had initiated action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 massacre in Mumbai, Mr Chidambaram had expressed his reservations. As a result, we had the Prime Minister saying something in Parliament and his Home Minister saying something else outside Parliament; curiously, the Congress’s position, as articulated by party president Sonia Gandhi, was closer to that of Mr Chidambaram. If Mr Singh was hopeful of slyly delinking the composite dialogue process from Pakistan acting against jihadi organisations based on territory under its control — the US has been ‘urging’ India not to link talks with terror — he had to abandon it in the face of the BJP’s scathing attack on his attempt to redefine the terms of bilateral engagement to the detriment of India’s interest as well as the Congress’s refusal to back his perverse Pakistan policy.

Interestingly, since then while Mr Singh is seen to have beaten a hasty retreat, Mr Chidambaram has been unsparing in his criticism of Pakistan. In a recent interview, he has accused Pakistan of deliberately “stifling” the inquiry into last November’s terrorist attack on Mumbai and reiterated that there can be no talks unless Islamabad acts against the culprits. According to him, “They are still on Pakistani soil. We know their names... we have shared their names with them. They are not investigating the case. The trial hasn’t opened yet. It will be a year on November 26.” He has also let it be known that the dossiers of information given to Pakistan contain “cogent and convincing” evidence linking Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed to the Mumbai attack. “The evidence that we have presented tells any investigator, any prosecutor what Hafiz Saeed did, where he was, whom he met, what he told them, what his role was. If that is not evidence to continue investigation against Hafiz Saeed, what else is evidence?”


At one level, it is amazing that on an issue of national security there is such divergence between views held by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. Both cannot be right in their respective assessment of Pakistan’s intentions — given Islamabad’s failure to keep its promise to bring the masterminds behind 26/11 to justice almost a year after the terrible bloodbath and demonstrate that it no longer adheres to the policy of promoting jihadi violence in India, Mr Chidambaram’s views carry far more credibility than the utterances of Mr Singh. What, however, is cause for concern is that the Prime Minister has elected not to be guided by the Home Ministry’s views but by presumably what was told to him by Mr Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh. No less important is the fact that despite his own Government’s reservations about Pakistan and the incumbent regime in Islamabad, Mr Singh has chosen to tread his own path. It is, therefore, not surprising that what he stated in Parliament flies in the face of what Mr Chidambaram is now saying. An explanation to the nation would be in order.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

CAUGHT IN A TIME WARP

CPM SEEKS REFUGE IN PIOUS HOMILIES


It is amusing that the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, after having met over the weekend to take stock of the party’s political future, has decided to prescribe a ‘code of living’ for its comrades to arrest the decline of the party’s fortunes. Revisiting an old party document, the Polit Bureau has advocated an austere lifestyle based on ‘simple living and high thinking’. The dictum is apparently directed against the allurement of ourgeois capitalism. Hence the instructions to avoid partying, adopt simple wedding practices and shun living in palatial houses. The decision to set standards of conduct and living is being seen as having been borne out by the need to effect an image makeover of the party’s image, which has increasingly lost mass appeal even in the Left’s bastions of Kerala and West Bengal. But given the position that the Marxists find themselves in today, it will take more than issuing austerity tips to the cadre to set things right. For, today the Left is in a shambles. The last Lok Sabha election has reduced its electoral strength to such an extent that its political voice has little or no value now. There is infighting within the CPI(M) as exemplified by the feud in the Kerala unit of the party which finally culminated in the sacking of the State Chief Minister and party State secretary VS Achuthanandan from the Polit Bureau.


A party that faces an increasing trust deficit vis-à-vis the masses needs to modernise its political ideology and outlook. However, given that the Marxists are literally caught in a time warp and believe that we still live in the 1970s, this is a solution that no card-carrying comrade would dare contemplate. It is because the leaders cannot dream of shaking off the baggage of their archaic Stalinist ideology that the party is in such a mess. And, since no one in the CPI(M) is willing to acknowledge this fact, the party and its allies will continue to experience an erosion in their electoral fortunes. In West Bengal, for instance, the CPI(M) is slowly losing its grip over the rural masses who once formed the mainstay of the party’s support base. Today the CPI(M) cadre in the State have become synonymous with goondaism, and after Singur and Nandigram the party no longer speaks for the have-nots of the State. This, coupled with a resurgent Trinamool Congress, is ominous for the party’s prospects in the State Assembly election due in 2011. In Kerala, unseemly infighting within the party’s State leadership, coupled with allegations of corruption, has severely bruised, if not destroyed, the party’s image. A natural consequence has been confusion in the ranks and demoralisation of the party State cadre. The Left’s prospects in Kerala, where too election is due in 2011, are no better than in West Bengal. The disease that afflicts the CPI(M) is far too serious to be treated with pious homilies. In fact, it calls for drastic action.

 

***************************************

            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TAINTED CONGRESS BLAMES BJP!

A SURYA PRAKASH


Cashing in on the current vulnerability of Mr LK Advani on the Kandahar and Jinnah issues, the Congress is making a sinister attempt to foist the charge that he ‘masterminded’ the cash-for-votes scam in Parliament last year! Mr Advani, as we all know, has a lot to answer for in regard to his stated positions on the hijacking of IC-184 in December 1999 and on the founder of Pakistan, but to insinuate that he engineered the bribing of MPs is preposterous.


What is shocking is that sections of the media which are close to the Congress have conspired with it in this crude attempt to wash away its sins vis-à-vis the bribery scandal and to pin the blame on the very party whose MPs it sought to bribe. If we allow those behind this calumny to get away with it, it would be a signal disservice to Parliament. We, therefore, need to remind ourselves of the facts of the case and of the conclusions drawn by the parliamentary committee that probed the scandal.


The sequence of events is as follows: On July 22, 2008, when the Lok Sabha was debating the motion of confidence in the Council of Ministers, three members of the BJP offloaded bundles of currency notes on the Table of the House. They alleged that the Manmohan Singh Government had tried to win over their support through bribery.


Mr Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party (which jumped to the Government’s support) had declared at a Press conference that one BJP MP — Mr Brij Bhushan Saran Singh — would vote for the Government. He also made it known that more defections were in the offing.


“When we open our cards on July 22, many will be taken aback” he had boasted.


Sure enough, Mr Rewati Raman Singh, general secretary of his party, contacted some BJP members and met them at the residence of one of them — Mr Ashok Argal — around midnight of July 21-22. Two of the MPs met Mr Amar Singh next morning. According to these MPs, Mr Singh offered them Rs 3 crore each if they abstained from voting and promised to immediately send a down payment with his assistant Sanjeev Saxena. He also got them to speak to Mr Ahmed Patel, general secretary of the Congress.


Shortly after this meeting, Mr Saxena arrived at the residence of Mr Argal and placed Rs 1 crore on the table. The MPs said that Mr Saxena also contacted Mr Amar Singh on his mobile and got the three MPs to speak to him. The balance of Rs 8 crore was to be paid later.


The BJP was in touch with a private television channel to conduct a sting operation on this attempt to bribe its MPs. The channel recorded Mr Rewati Raman Singh’s meeting with the MPs and Mr Saxena placing bundles of currency in front the MPs. There was no record of the MPs’ meeting with Mr Amar Singh. The BJP claims that the understanding with the channel was that it would telecast the sting right away. When this did not happen, the MPs tabled the bribe money in Parliament to expose the Government.


The Speaker appointed a seven-member committee headed by Mr Kishore Chandra Deo, a senior parliamentarian and chairman of the Privileges Committee of the House, to probe the allegations. After examining the ‘sting’ tapes and recording the testimony of those involved in the operation, the committee said it was not possible to reach “a conclusive finding linking Mr Amar Singh with the delivery of the money to the said two MPs through Mr Saxena”. There was also no evidence that could “conclusively prove Mr Ahmed Patel’s involvement”.


As regards Mr Rewati Raman Singh, the committee found his testimony to be unconvincing. He claimed that he visited Mr Argal’s house to discuss the MP’s desire to seek a Samajwadi Party ticket in the next election. The committee said it was unable to understand why Mr Singh would “hotfoot” to the MP’s house for this purpose in the middle of the night and on the eve of the crucial vote. The meeting could very well have taken place the next day.


“It seems improbable that there could have been any understanding regarding Samajwadi Party ticket for Mr Argal without there being some quid pro quo arrangement requiring Mr Argal to vote in favour of motion of confidence, particularly in view of the timing of the meeting,” the committee said. This view, the committee added, was strengthened by Mr Singh’s remarks on tape, namely, “Don't worry… I have talked to him in your presence… The amount will be settled in your presence... You will get the money there… Let us move now.”


The committee said “unfortunately” there was nothing on record “to prove beyond reasonable doubt” that Mr Singh was acting on Mr Amar Singh's behalf. It, however, felt that a person of Mr Rewati Raman Singh’s eminence and standing “should not have involved himself in such shenanigans”.


Mr Saxena is another key character in this drama. He claimed that he was never under “direct employment” of Mr Amar Singh. He worked for a private company which meant occasional work at Mr Singh’s residence and, strange as this may seem, he quit this job on July 21, 2008 (a day before the attempted bribery). On July 22 he was given a bag by some one in Asoka Road and asked, “under duress”, to deliver it to the MP. He was also given a mobile phone and asked to state certain things to someone whom he did not know.


The committee declared that “Mr Saxena was a bribe giver wittingly or unwittingly”. On whose behalf was he operating? The committee said there was no material before it to answer this question. It, therefore, said his role and involvement must be looked into by an investigating agency.


For those who wish to see, there is damning circumstantial evidence in Mr Deo’s report to establish that the Government of the day was up to some hanky-panky on the eve of the crucial vote in the Lok Sabha. Yet, a full year after the bribery scandal, we are still clueless about Mr Saxena’s role. We are not troubled by the fact that he lied through his teeth before a committee of Parliament. Nor are we troubled by the committee’s indictment of Mr Rewati Raman Singh.


Instead, if you believe sections of the media that are constantly batting for the Congress, the villain in this story is Mr Advani, the leader of the party whose MPs were sought to be bribed. God save our ‘independent’ media. God save our democracy!

 

***************************************

 

THE PIONEER

COLUMN

ADVANI REMAINS THE TALLEST

MC JOSHI


This refers to the front page report “Farooq comes to Advani aid over Kandahar” (September 2). Barkha Dutt must have been quite disappointed by her failure in making Mr Farooq Abdullah and Mark Tully fall in line with her in denigrating Mr LK Advani. Mr Farooq Abdullah commendably snubbed not only the particular NDTV anchor but virtually the entire ‘secular’ media when he said “Why do you want to hang him (Advani)? Why the hell are you people playing it up so much? An icon will fall… You want it to fall… Advani is an icon India can never forget. He has done everything possible for India. He has thought for India. He has lived for India. He will live for India till his last breath.”


BBC veteran Mark Tully’s comments were also no less than an indictment of the ‘secular’ media which is engaged in a vicious campaign against Mr Advani. The cover of the September 7 issue of Outlook featured Mr Jaswant Singh’s interview with Mr Advani’s photograph superimposing the words “Jaswant Singh lashes out — Advani was at the centre of the Money-for-Votes drama”. It also had Mr Jaswant Singh’s remark, “Advani is not fit… to serve the interests of the country” in bold letters in the cover story.


Mr Advani doesn’t need certificates from Mr Jaswant Singh or from the ‘secular’ media. Why was Mr Jaswant Singh silent all these years? While associating his name with the Babri demolition, why did he forget that it was VP Singh who, by playing the Mandal card, pushed the BJP into Mandir politics and the Ram Rath Yatra?


While raising questions on Kandahar, why forget that the decision to release the terrorists to get the IC 814 hostages freed was the result of the immense pressure built by the media and relatives of the hostages camping outside the Prime Minister’s house. The same media subsequently used it to beat the BJP and Mr Advani. While talking of the “Money-for-Vote” drama, why forget how PV Narasimha Rao survived a similar vote?


Mr Advani is a man of integrity and character and the tallest leader. If in spite of blunders like Jammu & Kashmir, Tibet, Aksai Chin, 1962, Emergency and Bofors, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were fit to serve the country, then Mr Advani is the fittest.

 

***************************************

 

THE PIONEER

OPED

CHINA CLUELESS IN XINJIANG

PROTESTS BY HAN CHINESE IN URUMQI, WHO HAVE ACCUSED SECURITY AGENCIES OF FAILING TO PREVENT MYSTERIOUS ‘SYRINGE ATTACKS’ ON THEM, HAVE FORCED THE SACKING OF TWO SENIOR OFFICIALS. BUT BEIJING IS YET TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO CALM FRAYED NERVES AND DEAL WITH THE SIMMERING RAGE OF UIGHURS

B RAMAN


The demonstrations by a large number of Han residents of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, from September 2 to 4 to protest against the failure of the local authorities to stop the wave of mysterious attacks by hypodermic syringe needles since August 17, 2009, have claimed their first victims — one at the level of the Urumqi city and the other at the provincial level.


The officially-controlled Xinhua news agency announced on September 5 that the regional committee of the Communist Party of China for the Xinjiang Autonomous Region has replaced Mr Li Zhi, who was the secretary of the Urumqi Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China, by Mr Zhu Hailun, who was the secretary of the Regional Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the entire province.


At the provincial level, Xinhua reported that the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of the province, which is the provincial legislature, has replaced Mr Liu Yaohua, who was the director of the Public Security Department of the province, by Mr Zhu Changjie, who was the party chief in the Aksu Prefecture of the province. The Public Security Department of the province, which works under the Ministry of Public Security of the central Government in Beijing, is responsible for internal intelligence and internal security. The police also comes under its supervision. In China, the head of the Public Security Department of a province is generally referred to as the police chief of the province and the Minister for Public Security at Beijing is referred to as the police chief of China. All police chiefs are appointed by the respective legislatures on the recommendation of the party — the provincial police chiefs by the provincial legislature and the Minister for Public Security by the National People’s Congress or by its Standing Committee, if it is not in session.


Some interesting points about these two changes need to be underlined. First, the two decisions have been projected as taken at the provincial level, but the instructions for the changes must have come from Beijing. Second, while the change at the party level has been restricted to the municipality of Urumqi, the change at the governmental level has affected the head of the Public Security Department for the entire province. There has been no announcement regarding the head of the Public Security Department in the Urumqi municipality. Any decision regarding him has apparently been left to the new provincial chief.


It is also interesting to note that Wang Lequan, the head of the Communist Party of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, has not so far been affected. He is the provincial head of the party continuously since 1994 and is considered very close to President Hu Jintao. During the demonstrations, most of the slogans were against him. Large sections of the Hans of Urumqi blame him for the failure of the police to protect them, but he can be removed only by the central party Polit Bureau or its Standing Committee in Beijing. It would be interesting to see whether he too is removed by the Polit Bureau or whether he is protected from any humiliation by President Jintao.

If he is removed, that could be an indication that Mr Hu’s position in the party has been weakened by the developments in Xinjiang. If he manages to stay on despite his alleged mishandling of the situation, that could be an indication that his position remains strong.

The other person whose future requires watching is China’s Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu, who rushed to Urumqi from Beijing on September 4. He is responsible for supervising the work of the Public Security Department of the province. If the provincial chief is removed because of the situation, can Mr Meng escape responsibility for failing to supervise his work effectively. Mr Meng can be removed only by the National People’s Congress or its Standing Committee on the recommendation of the party.


One possibility is that Mr Wang and Mr Meng may be allowed to continue till the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China next month are over and may be eased out thereafter. Will the Han residents of Urumqi remain quiet till then or will they resume their demand for sacking Mr Wang immediately. If the Hans resume their demand for removing Mr Wang and if Mr Jintao doesn’t do so, there is a danger of the public anger turning against him.


In the meanwhile, there was relative calm in Urumqi on September 5. There was one attempt by a group of about 1,000 young Hans to gather at the central square, but this was thwarted by the police without using force. The authorities allowed the local mosques to hold their Ramzan prayers. Many shops were open. However, there was a heavy presence of the People’s Armed Police all over the city. Despite this, more incidents of needle-stabbings were reported. There have been no fatalities due to the stabbings, but for the last three days rumours have been circulating in the city that the Uighurs have been trying to infect the Hans with the HIV virus. This has added to the panic. A team of Army doctors has been rushed to Urumqi from the PLA headquarters in Beijing to examine the persons injured by the needle-stabbings and to dispel these rumours.

The local security agencies are totally non-plussed and do not know how to deal with the new modus operandi of the Uighurs, which amounts to the use of soft terror, that is, criminal intimidation, causing polarisation between Muslims and non-Muslims and discrediting the security agencies in the eyes of the public through means, which do not cause mass fatalities. Or are some local irrational elements, having nothing to do with terrorism or extremism, causing a scare in the population similar to the anthrax scare in the US after 9/11?

The writer is director of the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

OPED

PAMPERING EXTREMISTS

SYRIA-SPONSORED ISLAMISM DOESN’T BOTHER AMERICA

BARRY RUBIN

 

On August 26, the US State Department spokesman, Mr Ian Kelly, was asked what the United States thought about the dispute between Iraq and Syria. His answer shockingly recalls the last time a US Government made that mistake.


First, some background. Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki visited Syria on August 18 to discuss the two countries relationship. He offered Syrian dictator-President Bashar al-Assad a lot of economic goodies in exchange for expelling 271 Iraqi exiles involved in organising terrorism against their country. Mr Assad refused. Mr Maliki left.

The next day, huge bombings struck Baghdad, directly targeting the Government’s Foreign and Finance Ministries. More than 100 Iraqis were killed and over 600 were wounded. The Iraqi Government blamed the very same exiles living in Syria who Maliki was trying to get kicked out and implicated the Syrian Government directly in the attacks. The two countries recalled their ambassadors; the Iraqis are calling for an international tribunal to investigate.


Enter the United States. Since the Iraqi Government was created by elections made possible by the US invasion, since the same terrorists murdering Iraqis have killed American soldiers, and since Iraq is a US ally and Syria is a terrorist sponsor allied with Iran, what US reaction would you expect?


Why, support for Iraq, of course. For decades under several US Presidents, Syria has been unsuccessfully pressed to kick out terrorists targeting Israel, and later Lebanon. This is an old issue and a very clear one for about a half-dozen reasons.


And what did the Obama Administration do? Declare its neutrality!


Here’s what Mr Kelly said, reading from his State Department instructions:


“We understand that there has been sort of mutual recall of the ambassadors. We consider that an internal matter. We believe that, as a general principle, diplomatic dialogue is the best means to address the concerns of both parties. We are working with the Iraqis to determine who perpetrated these horrible acts of violence ... We hope this doesn’t hinder dialogue between the two countries.”


Before analysing this response, let me tell you of what it reminds me. Back in 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was threatening Kuwait, demanding that the weaker neighbour surrender to an ultimatum. Iraq was no friend of America; Kuwait, though not an ally, was a state that had good relations with the US. A decade earlier, America had gone to the verge of war with Iran to protect Kuwait.


What did the US Government say? This was a matter between Iraq and Kuwait in which the US wouldn’t take sides.

A few days later, Saddam invaded and annexed Kuwait. At the time and afterward, everyone said: What a terrible mistake! The announcement of neutrality, the refusal to support a small threatened country against a bullying neighbour ruled by a blood dictatorship, gave a green light to Saddam and set off a war.

And now the Obama Administration has done precisely the same thing. Of course, Syria won’t invade Iraq, it will just keep welcoming, training, arming, financing, transporting, and helping the terrorists who do so.


The Obama Administration has declared the war on terrorism to be over. But it also said that the US viewed as an enemy Al Qaeda and those working with it. The Syria-based Iraqi terrorists fall into that category. America sacrificed hundreds of lives for Iraq’s stability. Most of those soldiers and civilian contractors were murdered by the very terrorists harboured by Syria.


How can the administration distance itself from this conflict instead of supporting its ally and trying to act against the very terrorists who have murdered Americans?


Nominally, of course, the cheap way out was to say: We don’t know who did these particular bombings. Well, who do you think did it, men from Mars? Even this is not relevant since the Iraqi demand for the expulsion of the terrorists — who have committed hundreds of other acts — came before the latest attack even happened.

Moreover, the administration not only invoked its obsession with dialogue at any price but did so in an incorrect and dangerous manner. The Iraqi Government had sought dialogue, had used diplomatic means, and was turned down flat.


So is this administration incapable of criticising Syria? Even if it wants to engage in talks with Syria it doesn’t understand that diplomacy is not inconsistent with pressure and criticism, tools to push the other side into concessions or compromises.


Looking at this latest development — along with many other policy statements and events during the new administration’s term so far — how can any ally have confidence that the US Government will support it if menaced by terrorism or aggression? It can’t. The problem with treating enemies better than friends is that the friends start wondering whether their interests are better served by appeasing mutual enemies or mistreating an unfaithful ally which ignores their needs.


The writer is director of the GLORIA Centre, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, and The Truth About Syria.


***************************************

THE PIONEER

                                                        OPED

CIA ‘TORTURE SCANDAL’ BAILS OUT OBAMA

FURTHER ‘REVELATIONS’ OF HOW SUSPECTED TERRORISTS WERE ‘TORTURED’ DURING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION YEARS HAVE HELPED DISTRACT VOTERS FROM AMERICA’S DEEPENING ECONOMIC CRISIS, WRITES NAREK SEFEJAN


A scandal has broken out in the United States over another declassified report on the CIA’s tough methods of interrogation of suspected terrorists. This report was kept secret for five years.


Strange as it may seem, but Mr Dick Cheney, a high-ranking official of the George W Bush Administration, was one of the initiators of its publication. Apparently, the former Vice-President wanted to show how effectively the CIA worked after the 9/11 attacks.


But the expectations of the Republican Cheney did not fully materialise. His intention had hardly been to smear the CIA. The Democrats did not want this either, but they brilliantly used Mr Cheney’s idea against his former boss’s administration.


For the first time, this scandal over interrogation methods played into US President Barrack Obama’s hand a year before the elections, when the Democrats were not doing that well. Mr John McCain left his rival far behind and was confidently preparing for the decisive battles. The Democrats needed a serious trump. Mr Obama’s constant references to US military setbacks in Iraq did not produce the desired effect any longer, and the Democrats opened a ‘second front’. The destruction of taped tortures by the CIA was revealed and caused a scandal. According to available information, these tapes had existed but were destroyed for security reasons. The results exceeded all expectations. Since then illegal interrogation methods have surfaced whenever Mr Obama’s rating leaves much to be desired.


There is a clear link between the popularity of the US President and new details of this scandal. Now the President’s rating has fallen to a record low, which means that it is time to recall “the atrocities” of his predecessor’s team. But this posing as a humanist has gone too far, and threatens to get out of control.


Back in April, Mr Obama started making excuses. He said that in making a decision to allow the publication of more documents, he did not mean to “cast a shadow” on the Bush Administration. But all his actions point to the contrary. If a major scandal breaks out, there should be someone to blame. In a democratic society, those who are guilty have to be punished accordingly, but this seems to be an exception.


Mr Obama has already ‘covered’ the CIA’s agents. Secret service employees, who used tough methods of interrogating terrorist suspects but did not violate their instructions, will not be charged. Instructions allow for a broad interpretation in any intelligence office. The document in question allowed agents to use a whole number of tough interrogation methods such as slapping in the face, keeping in premises with limited movement area, forcing suspects to assume awkward positions, sleep deprivation, and so on and so forth.


Mr Obama said more than once that when he is elected President such methods would not be used, even as regards terrorist suspects. What stands behind this behaviour?


Mr Obama is hardly trying to pose as a humane Democrat. Most probably, he wants to show to the American people and the rest of the world that his administration is different from the previous one. And, finally, there is one more important aspect. US economy is still facing serious difficulties. Every new scandal is a good method of sidetracking voters from the economic crisis, which the Obama Administration has not yet overcome.

The writer is a political affairs columnist based in Moscow.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

                                                        OPED

WHAT SMOULDERS IN YELAGIRI IS NOT FIRE BUT ANGER

IMPOVERISHED TRIBALS IN TAMIL NADU ARE SETTING FORESTS ON FIRE TO RECLAIM THEIR LAND, WRITES KALPANA DHARINI


There are 14 hairpin bends on the coiling hill road that leads to Yelagiri; each one offers a view of 3,500 acres of verdant forestlands that surround this tribal hill station in northern Tamil Nadu. But with increasing regularity, this view also offers another spectacle, of long tongues of forest fire snaking their way through the trees and huge tracts of forestland disappearing under massive flares.


Suspicions arose and questions were raised about how ‘natural’ these fires were as the Forest Department continued to claim. But the truth, as the perpetrators themselves unhesitatingly admit, is simple. The fires are lit by tribals.


Yelagiri is a tribal settlement of about 14 villages, flanked by four hills, in Vellore district, Tamil Nadu. Lying about 258 km to the north of Chennai, the people here speak Tamil and Malayalam, and call themselves ‘Karalars’ which means ‘the people of the clouds’, or sometimes ‘Malayalees’, ‘the people of the mountains’.


When the Forest Dwellers’ Act, 2006 was passed, it was hailed as a revolutionary step, a long awaited recognition of the rights of traditional forest dwellers. The ground realities, however, are vastly different. Riddled with loopholes and left to the discretion of forest guards, the implementation of the Act has been one that has created several problems along the way. Yelagiri is no exception.


Under constant pressure from the forest officials to leave the jungles, the tribals have been fighting a losing battle to reclaim their rights to the land that they have inhabited for generations. These communities are regularly served notices by the concerned department demanding them to move out. And when they refuse to obey, the harassment becomes more brazen. Forest officials deny them entry into the jungles. And for communities that depend extensively on forest produce for their livelihood by collecting fruits, honey and vegetables that they sell in the local market, this effectively severs their lifeline.


“The families are too few in number to warrant a struggle. Moreover, this place has become a real-estate market with the local people selling off their land,” said KS Ramamurthy, who started the Society for Development of Economically Weaker Sections in Yelagiri in 2004, which has been active in promoting primary education and computer training in schools in Vellore. So the tribals hit back at the officials by setting the forests alight and hundreds of acres of land burn to cinders.


It is a fact that land prices in this pristine natural habitat have skyrocketed. Ten years ago, an acre of land in this relatively isolated hill station could be bought for Rs 1 lakh. Now, the same plot of land costs over Rs1.50 crore, a 150-fold increase. This means the pressure on the tribals to vacate their land is already immense.


Moreover, as real-estate sharks rip up the forests and sell them to the highest bidder, the land available for grazing and farming has shrunk drastically and the tribals are already struggling to escape this tightening noose. And in the case of a conflict between commercial interests and traditional rights, it is not difficult to say which one triumphs. So, this denial of access to common property resources comes as a fatal blow, ill-timed and devastating in its impact.


Interestingly, there is no concrete data available on the area of forest cover destroyed in a year, and nor are there any inquiries conducted to ascertain what caused a particular conflagration. “These fires are mainly because of the foreigners. The tribals are in no way connected to this,” said an official from the Tourist Information Centre in Yelagiri. The forest department also continues to claim that the fires are caused by transformer bursts, and tourists careless with their cigarettes and bonfires.


They added that the only way that the tribals are involved is the odd incident occurring owing to their superstitions. For instance, the officials allege that there is a belief among the tribals that burning crops can cure chronic stomach ailments, and that setting the remnants of harvested ‘manjam pul’ (a yellow grass that carpets the hills) alight helps them to sprout again in the summer. They flatly refuse to consider these occurrences as a sign of protest of the tribals remonstrating their unfair actions.


What smoulders in Yelagiri is much more than the trees or the forests; it is the anger of a community abused and denigrated; their call for help when they fear no one is listening. For them, placing a burning torch to a tree is no easy option, it has been their source of life, shelter and edification for generations, and the desperation that drives them to it is perhaps beyond our comprehension. It is their last stand, their last resort. Whether we take heed is the only question that remains.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

WALK THE TALK

 

When home minister P Chidambaram visits the United States this week, conveying New Delhi's concern about Pakistan's reluctance to act against anti-India terrorists on its soil is sure to be on the agenda. Prior to his departure Chidambaram stressed that India is deeply unsatisfied with the progress, or lack of it, in the investigations into 26/11 being conducted by Pakistan. He has rightly posed some pertinent questions: ''Where is the trial? Where is the chargesheet? When is a trial starting? When is the first witness being examined?'' It's going to be a year in a couple of months since that dastardly attack on Mumbai. But Islamabad is nowhere close to answering these questions.


Pakistan's prime minister, Yusuf Gilani, keeps harping on the need for the countries to restart a composite dialogue process lest terrorists take advantage of the impasse. But India was injured grievously on 26/11, which Islamabad shouldn't underestimate. Despite the joint declaration by the two countries at Sharm el-Sheikh in July, the impasse is likely to continue unless Pakistan proves that it is cracking down on anti-India elements in that country.


One of the more contentious issues in this exchange between the two neighbours on 26/11 is Pakistan's refusal to arrest Hafeez Saeed and put him on trial. This, despite credible evidence being provided by India that he had met the terrorists who wreaked mayhem in Mumbai during their training sessions in Pakistan. His past record also bears out his involvement in anti-India terror activities. Why, then, is Pakistan loath to pin him down? If Islamabad is serious about honouring its stated commitment to flushing out extremists of all shades from its territory, why does it stop short of taking action against anti-India groups, which continue to find safe haven across the border?


India's concern about Pakistan's non-cooperation is not unfounded. Pakistan has, in the past, not honoured similar commitments, whether it is curbing infiltration of jihadis into the Kashmir valley or rooting out outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Meanwhile, there has been a spike in infiltration bids over the past month, and the Indian Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, has drawn attention to the many ceasefire violations by Pakistani regulars. India and Pakistan must, of course, come to the table to resolve their differences and chalk out a more meaningful coexistence. But a dialogue can only be built on trust. If Pakistan walks its talk, India would be more than willing to come on board. That's the message Chidambaram must convey to his US interlocutors.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

 

The leader has been lamented, and how! Reports indicate that over 70 people died of shock or committed suicide after hearing about the untimely death of YSR in a helicopter crash. YSR-related deaths were reported from 19 of the 23 districts in Andhra Pradesh. No doubt, the former chief minister was a popular politician and administrator. It's been pointed out that even the death of NTR, a screen hero turned mass leader, didn't evoke such a show of sentiments.


The large-scale public display of emotions seemed, in fact, to have a political intent. Love for YSR was transformed into a demand to make his son, Jaganmohan Reddy, the new chief minister. In an unprecedented move, some MLAs moved a resolution to the effect and got overwhelming support when the legislative party met to endorse senior leader K Rosaiah as the interim CM. Rosaiah was forced to say that he agreed with the popular sentiment but was only obeying the orders of the party leadership.

 

The party high command later stepped in and asked Jagan, a "loyal party worker" and a fresher in politics, to rein in his supporters. Ministers in the erstwhile YSR cabinet too agreed to take oath, after refusing to become ministers initially. Everyone agreed that Sonia Gandhi knows best and agreed to follow her wishes, conveyed through the emissaries of the high command to Jagan.


However, developments in Andhra Pradesh have shown that the culture of sycophancy is not a phenomenon restricted to the Gandhi family. Its roots run deep and any popular leader can tap it. YSR, like most successful rulers, had built a system of patronage. His supporters and loyalists were beneficiaries of his patronage. They fear that a change in leadership could mean a disruption in the system. For many people, YSR represented the benevolent ruler who tweaked the system to their benefit. His son alone could continue to provide the goodies, they believe.


The flaws in governance help the culture of sycophancy to thrive. Politics of patronage breeds sycophants. Public utilities and welfare schemes are identified as contributions of the person in office and not as the outcome of modern government. The state publicity machinery also helps to reinforce the impression. If public institutions become autonomous and deliver the goods independent of the people in power, patronage politics will peter out. That calls for a more democratic public culture. The Congress high command did the right thing by refusing CM's office to Jagan. It must go a step further and dismantle the patronage network.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

 

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), formed in 1996, won the lower house elections with an unexpectedly large majority, unseating the reigning Liberal-Democratic Part (LDP) which has ruled Japan since 1955, aside from a short break when it led coalition governments. Marking a major change, this reflects more a growing disappointment with the miserable state of the economy than any surge in support for the DPJ. But it does provide an opportunity to carve out a new path.


The bureaucracy's dominance, growing loss of jobs, a declining population, inability to fund growing social welfare budgets and pensions coupled with China's rise have battered Japan's self-confidence and unsettled well-established patterns. Yukio Hatoyama, DPJ leader, is the man in the right place. But is he the right man for the job?


For those given to historical analogies, it may be noted that Hatoyama is the grandson of Iichiro Hatoyama, three-time prime minister who restored diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1951 which cleared the way for Japan to become a UN member. Outgoing prime minister Taro Aso (LDP) is the grandson of Yoshida Shigeru, another of the famous postwar prime ministers and a rival of Iichiro Hatoyama. The battle of the grandsons also reflected the growing clout of political dynasties in Japan. Today Yukio Hatoyama has the opportunity to not only rebuild the economy and carry out administrative reforms but also chart a new foreign policy strengthening ties with China and its Asian neighbours.


Does Yukio Hatoyama's past indicate a leader who can fulfil this promise? He began his political career in the LDP but left the party in 1993, along with others including Naoto Kan, to form the New Frontier Party (Sakigake). The party was supported financially by his mother, Yasuko Hatoyama, daughter and heir to the immense fortune of Shojiro Ishibashi, founder of Bridgestone. Many see the role of the 'godmother' (as she is called) as detrimental and Hatoyama as unduly under her influence.


Again, Yasuko donated billions of yen when the two brothers, Yukio and Kunio, founded the DPJ in 1996. Kunio eventually left the party and returned to the LDP but Yukio was chairperson from 1999-2002 and then became secretary-general succeeding Ozawa Ichiro as party president on May 11, 2009, by defeating his rival Katsuya Okada. He won because of Ozawa's backing.


The three, Hatoyama, Ozawa and Okada, are the triumvirate that controls the party but their relationship is complicated. Ozawa, a former LDP general-secretary, is an old hand at political manoeuvring. His campaigning played a major role in the DPJ victory and it was his support that won Hatoyama the party presidential elections. How Hatoyama asserts his leadership and deals with the internal critics of Ozawa, having all along been under his tutelage, remains to be seen.


In foreign policy, Hatoyama has stressed regional cooperation but is not a critic of the US alliance and follows Ozawa's balancing act. He has appointed as foreign minister Katsuya Okada, a tough principled politician who wants to change the policy on US bases in Okinawa where over 50,000 US troops are stationed, as well as stop naval support for the US's Afghanistan operations. He also wants tougher measures on climate change. The DPJ's foreign policy emphasises regional cooperation and working through multilateral organisations. Hatoyama has called for greater emphasis on the East Asian Community (EAC) to curb excessive nationalism through economic integration.

While there are few references to India, Okada's earlier statements indicate that India is seen as a crucial part of the EAC. It remains to be seen where India fits in the world view of the new government but its policies will offer new opportunities for direct engagement not based on the common fear of China but on a common need for constructive engagement.


The real test for Hatoyama and his government is the economy and administration. In a speech to the World Economic Forum in Tokyo on September 4, he said, "We cannot just leave everything to the markets. We need to have a balance between government regulations and free market activities." This is an idea he has elsewhere called fraternity, using the word from the French revolutionary slogan. Naoto Kan has been appointed head of a national strategy bureau and deputy prime minister to address the concerns of farmers and small and medium businesses, curtail wasteful spending and mine for what is called "buried treasure" - surplus funds buried in special accounts.


Though it lost the elections, the LDP is not to be written off just yet. Defeat can be used to reinvent the party. With many old stalwarts out, it has a chance to bring in fresh faces. The polls show the DPJ has a weak mandate. Hatoyama will have to carry his coalition partners, establish his leadership within the party and battle critics in politics and bureaucracy to implement his ideas. Can he turn Japan around? Many are hoping he will.

 

The writer is professor, department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

IT'S A GREAT PROJECT

 

In 2002, Google embarked on its ambitious project of organising the world's information and creating the library of the future by scanning millions of books from university libraries and letting users search and read snippets from those books. The project has immense advantages as it would afford anyone with an internet connection easier access to books than ever before in history.

 

However, some copyright holders challenged Google in a class action lawsuit, a peculiarly American judicial instrument whereby one or more members of a large group, or class, of individuals or other entities sue on behalf of the entire class. The dispute was settled last year, with an agreement between the two sides where Google consented to create a books registry that would disburse a share of any profits made by them using scanned texts.


Nevertheless opposition to the deal has been building as well, a core sticking point in the settlement being the fate of so-called orphan works, texts whose copyright holders cannot be found. The settlement would give Google complete ownership of all such works published in the United States. If a copyright holder comes forward at a later stage, she will be entitled to a share of what Google has made from her books, and can then choose whether to let the web giant continue to sell the book.


Unfair? Hardly. The settlement, in fact, could encourage copyright holders who couldn't be traced before to come forward and claim their share of the settlement. Moreover many out-of-print books will be in circulation once again. Neither is the settlement about creating a monopoly. Any other company is free to negotiate its own agreement with authors and the publishing industry. The project, in fact, creates a new business model which harnesses the power of the internet, and which other companies are free to emulate. It is of monumental importance to human society, as what Google is doing will democratise knowledge on a previously unimaginable scale.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

ON SLIPPERY GROUND

 

Google once unilaterally decided to skate on legally slippery ground by digitising the collections of pliant US research libraries. A clutch of not-so-pliant authors subsequently sued it for copyright breach. Both parties then made a breathtaking deal now awaiting a judicial verdict.

 

One term of the settlement is that Google can do its will with out-of-print and 'orphan' books their authors aren't traceable on condition a slice of the proceeds from sale of books or library access goes to the writers, if traced. Amounting to a multi-billion dollar corporation getting away with brazen copyright infringement by paying a pittance $125 million for any outstanding claims, the deal has met with stiff opposition. And deservedly.

It's said that Google has claimed it's doing everyone a service by making inaccessible books available to all net users. The 'social value' of its online library mission, it seems, compensates for any intellectual property-related damage done to individual authors, who often can't be located. It seems to forget that free societies are based on individual rights that can't be messed with, however philanthropic an enterprise may seem.

 

The deal, if okayed, would require private citizens to emerge or else accept the forced digitisation and/or sale of their works as a given even without their go-ahead. As some point out, writers wherever they are for whatever reason should decide if they want their books scanned and sold or placed online and their own publishers can very well help them out. They don't need Google to tell them what's good for them or for society.

The controversial project can also violate international treaties on authors' rights. Not surprisingly, it has raised a hue and cry from Europe to China. So, Google will find itself having to firefight on many fronts. Doubtless, it has the deep pocket and capacity to silence naysayers and push its plans through. But the fact is that the argument of 'social good' a contestable notion in itself might help a commercial giant gain monopolistic hold on cultural products. Let's not pretend that all we're talking about is democratising access to books.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

THE POWER OF BREVITY

PRITISH NANDY

 

Years ago I remember Rajiv Gandhi once asking me (rather impatiently) for a note on how the media's independence can be protected and yet a sense of responsibility enforced on journalists. I do not recall what I wrote and if at all I ever sent it to him but I clearly remember the most crucial part of his brief: Be as detailed as you want to but keep it to one page. I was a journalist then and suspected Rajiv was suffering from attention deficit disorder. A wiser man today, I realise how prescient he actually was, how ahead of his time.

 
Rajiv's advice has stayed with me. Apart from this column, where I try to discuss ideas in some detail, everything else I write is brief, precise, to the point. My preferred means of communication is the SMS but since I do not give out my phone number, most people email me, directly if it's personal or through Maria at PNC. Long emails invariably pile up unread. Short ones are swiftly acted upon. And when I choose to talk to the world, I go on twitter where all messaging is restricted to 140 characters. No, not alphabets; characters. That would include punctuation and spaces between words. Think it's funny? Try it. People effortlessly convey the most complex, convoluted ideas in 140 characters. That's all it needs if you are a smart communicator. And, as with SMS, people on twitter hate tweets that spill over. No, no one out there has the time or the patience to read a message that's not complete in itself. So much for the silly snobs who think twitter's a waste of time and meant for unemployed pre-teens or prematurely retired seniles.  

 
Verbosity is widely despised today. I guess it comes from our deep and enduring disgust for pompous, windbag politicians, garrulous chat show hosts, bombastic journalists, rambling academics, prolix bloggers, loquacious gurus, chatterbox celebrities with nothing to talk about but the tedium of their boring, over exposed lives. The sheer dread of having to listen to them forces most of us to put on our earphones and listen to Black Eyed Peas instead. There was a time when the Silent Mariner could transfix you with just a stare. But the tyranny of words took over. Luckily, what man messes up, technology often heals. So, quietly, almost unobtrusively, we are slowly returning to sanity, rediscovering the art of saying things short, simple, succinct.

 

In the turgid, turbulent Age of Verbosity, brevity had almost died. Poetry was in purgatory. Silence was misread as being dumb or dumbfounded. People were admired for not what they said but for how long and how often they said it. Bung Soekarno, Indonesia's iconic prime minister, is said to have given the same speech 342 times during one election campaign, each time with the same flourish. Krushchev spoke for almost 3 hours in the UN and not satisfied with that, a week later he banged his shoe on the podium. Our Krishna Menon was no less. He ranted for 8 hours on Kashmir in the Security Council and almost lost us our case. Till Arkady Sobolev quietly stood up and said a simple Nyet, exercising the USSR's 79th veto, and halted the UN's intervention in Kashmir. But no one quite matched Fidel Castro who stunned the world with a 33 hour political speech that entered the Guinness book as the ultimate in political garrulousness. The police refused to let his listeners go.

 
But it's not just politics that has become so wordy. Look at business contracts. When we began making movies 8 years ago we signed one page contracts and rarely had any disputes. Today we sign 120 page contracts. Lazy, loquacious legalese has taken the place of precise English. What we tend to lose sight of is that loquacity is usually a cover for the vilest of intent. Hidden amidst a million words is a boobytrap you could easily miss. My own belief is that the more verbose, the more convoluted a contract is, the more the chances of it leading to a bruising court battle.

 
What legalese hides, love flaunts. My biggest dread has always been those painful long love letters that bleedings hearts send. These are luckily drying up. Partly because of my age, I guess, and partly because everyone knows by now my zero tolerance for verbal extravagance. I have always believed that a simple, well delivered kiss is worth a thousand tired phrases.

 
Do I miss words at all? Yes I do occasionally. But as long as they are few, I'm fine. It's the avalanche that scares me. Excess is not my scene. I respect the simple, the short, the hint of things to come. I like the play of imagination. Imagination's what I think this century is going to be all about.  So my choice is clear. Twitter over War and Peace. Haiku over James Joyce. Cinema Paradiso over Star Wars . The Bhagwad Gita over the intimidating  Mahabharata. 

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

TWIST OF FATE

THE HOUSE OF FAIRIES

 

I was born in a sanitised room in Woodlands Hospital, under masked doctors. But one generation earlier, and it could have been a dark room in the 'house of fairies' in Amritsar, supervised by a great-aunt whose chole everyone remembers, but not her name. That was where my father was born, before partition, in a narrow lane still called Karmon Deori, where houses kissed each other across the street and where women didn't use phones, but shouted from trellised windows: "Shakuntala nu munda hoya-e!" and, within hours, the entire community would get news of a little boy's birth. When he was five, the family moved to Bombay.

 

As they grew more prosperous, the ties to Amritsar grew more tenuous, until they became as threadbare as a worn shawl which has little use in an age of comforters, but which you still take out for a whiff of memory. My father remembers the buffalo on the ground floor of the 'house of fairies' named after the two alabaster angels that looked over the walled city and the aunt who turned its milk into delicious ghee. He grew into a cosmopolitan Bombay-wallah. He still spoke in Punjabi with his mother, and went occasionally to the Wadala market to get vadiyan, but by the time we came along, the mother tongue at home was English and we were raised to be global citizens with a healthy disregard for parochialism and for ghee!


But you can't just delete history, connectivity. My son recently asked whether he was Punjabi or Sindhi. I said both, but realised he didn't know either world. My husband's family had long left Larkana and my family was equally distant from Amritsar. Grandparents now spoke to him in English, he needed tuitions in Hindi, and he was becoming an even more alarming global citizen than his parents. I asked my father to take us back to Karmon Deori.

 

The house of fairies was still there, with its blue-stained glass windows, but the buffalo room was now a linen showroom. As we were leaving, a young girl ran out and said, "Have you met Shahrukh Khan in Bombay?" I laughed at her naivete, then balked. She had our grandmother's smile. It was a simple twist of fate that this branch of the family stayed behind and the other moved to Bombay. The truth is, i could have been the girl who ran down Karmon Deori.

 

***************************************

 

******************************************************************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEFT MUST GET THINGS RIGHT

 

In the wake of the recent Lok Sabha elections, nothing seems to be going right for either the main Opposition party, the BJP, or for an erstwhile kingmaker, the CPI(M). While the BJP, warts and all, seems to be struggling to steady itself, the CPI(M) does not appear to have got beyond airy-fairy observations of what went wrong in its just-concluded politburo meeting. While the focus of the meet should have been on how to recover lost space in its traditional stomping grounds like Kerala and West Bengal and reconnect with the younger generation, it came up with diktats on how to lead a simple life and avoid ostentation. The issue of ideological purity, of course, featured in the context of how today’s Left cadre had got things on a platter.

 

But the problem that’s crippled the Left is not that of lifestyle or ‘alien trends and habits.’ It is that there is an enormous disconnect between its politburo and the rank and file that helps it win elections. While those making crucial decisions for the party do not have to face the electorate, they have no qualms in telling leaders on the ground what to do. In recent times, many of the politburo’s actions like weighing in against Kerala Chief minister V.S. Achu-thanandan in favour of state party boss Pinarayi Vijayan have caused a great deal of resentment among the cadres. The short shrift given to a popular CM like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has also not gone down well with West Bengal CPM leaders. The factionalism which was once the bane of less disciplined parties now seems to have the CPI(M) in a death grip. Yet, at no point of time in the meeting did General secretary Prakash Karat and his supporters admit that they may have made serious errors of judgement which have cost the party dearly.

 

It is vital for the functioning of our democratic system that major parties like the CPI(M) play their role as an effective opposition. Of course, it has raised several economic issues in recent times, but it would seem that given the disarray in the party, no one is taking it too seriously. The very fact that neither Mr Bhattacharjee nor Mr Vij-ayan attended the meeting undermines its credibility. Mr Karat owes it to the party that he has brought to its knees to come up with a credible formula for course correction. Hopefully, when the new rectification draft is put before the Central Committee in late October, the party will have regained its will to move beyond its recent loss.

 

***************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

KEEP THEM IN LINE

 

A new game is being played across the Sino-Indian border. It’s called ‘Chinese hecklers’, a test of stealth and creativity for bored Chinese troops, who try to outdo each other by sneaking across the imaginary Line of Actual Control (LAC) and leave sundry calling cards behind. Given the secrecy of the Chinese system, no one knows how the score is kept and there’s no clarity either on whether, for example, painting boulders red and scrawling a hasty signature in Cantonese earns more points than leaving empty juice cartons and cigarette packs on the Indian side. But what keeps these devious daredevils going is the ultimate reward: an honourable mention in the Indian press every other day.

 

Chinese jaunts into Indian territory are neither new nor shocking, with Indian troops making their share of kabaddi-style incursions into the Middle Kingdom with comparable frequency. In fact, given the ‘Hindi-Chini bye-bye’ spirit that seems to have permeated Sino-Indian relations lately, what with vacuous border talks that seem to be going nowhere, this border disorder might just be a ruse devised by farsighted military commanders to keep boredom at bay.

 

So, instead of getting our chopsticks in a twist, we should suggest a few desi variations to up the ante. Like asking the Chinese to leave little scraps of paper with authentic recipes for Szechwan hotpot or Xiangdu roast duck behind. In return, we could reward them with a list of special ingredients for Punjabi Chinese, the best-kept culinary secret on this side of the pretend LAC. Well, why not dispense with all the secrecy and organise our very own border Olympics and find out who can deliver a can of cola across the Pak border faster than you can say Manchurian!

 

***************************************

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

J&K AND KASHMIR

RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

Sorting out some papers, I came across an old essay in an obscure periodical on a topic of contemporary relevance. Published in December 1973 in the Sarvodaya journal Bhoodan-Yagya, it was written (in Hindi) by Chandi Prasad Bhatt, the pioneer of the Chipko Andolan and, arguably, of modern Indian environmentalism itself. I have known Bhatt for many years, and have come to greatly admire his understanding of agrarian issues, and at the same time to greatly deplore the neglect of his work by the media and the public at large. However, the essay I speak of was not about his chosen themes, environmentalism and sustainable development. Rather, it dealt with politics and society in what was then, and what is now, a very troubled part of India.

 

It was in April 1973 that the Chipko movement began in the Alakananda valley under Bhatt’s leadership. In November that year, he went with a fellow Garhwali named Karim Khan to Kashmir, ostensibly to study the condition of the forests and the rights of villagers in their produce. As it turned out, the account of his journeys did not mention forests at all. For he had entered the Valley at a time of deep discontent, with students protesting in the streets against the policies of an unpopular state government. In the bus that Khan and Bhatt took to Srinagar, they were advised to sit in the aisles, lest a stone thrown by an angry demonstrator breaks the window and injures them. It was also suggested that, as a Hindu and a Muslim respectively, they eat in separate restaurants.

 

No sooner had they entered the capital of Jammu and Kashmir that the Garhwali travellers came across a crowd shouting pro-Pakistan slogans. This is how Chandi Prasad Bhatt described (in my inadequate English translation) the scene in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk: “Taxis, cars and buses lay stalled on the road, their tyres punctured or their windows shattered. The police were there in force but they looked on idly, perhaps not wanting to mess with the demonstrators. As the day proceeded the violence intensified. At about four in the afternoon, the crowd decided to attack and destroy a hotel as well as a printing press. Scattering a hail of stones, this crowd then proceeded to the Amir Kadal crossing. As they walked, they shouted slogans in favour of Pakistan. When they reached Amir Kadal, they tried to set a bridge on fire. They were prevented from doing so by the arrival of a platoon of the Central Reserve Police Force, which also succeeded in dispersing the
protesters.”

 

Later in the evening, while walking through the mohalla of Ganpatiyar, the visitor came across what he sardonically described as a ‘majedar tamasha’ (fun ruckus), namely, women standing on roof-tops raining down stones on the police.

 

Bhatt titled his travelogue, Kashmir Ke Do Roop: Ek Ashant aur Ek Shant (The Two Faces of Kashmir: One Troubled, the Other Peaceful). For there was indeed another side to the Valley, that manifested itself in the industry and enterprise of peasants and craftspeople. Travelling through the countryside, Bhatt met kesar (saffron) farmers who made a good living from the cultivation and export of the spice. Other landholders profitably grew fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile, his fellow Gandhians were actively promoting silk cultivation and sheep-rearing. One outfit of the Khadi and Gramodyog Commission claimed an annual turnover of Rs 20 lakh (a considerable sum back in 1973). Then there were the cottage industries carpentry, the making of cricket bats, shawl weaving, etc. — all of which seemed to be in fine shape.

 

“Where the scene in Srinagar was characterised by daily fights and processions,” remarked Bhatt, “on the other hand the atmosphere in these villages was marked by peace and tranquility.” Where “in one Kashmir stones were being thrown and bullets being fired,” he continued, “in the other Kashmir exquisite pashmina and jamawar shawls were being made and sold.”

 

What has changed in Kashmir since this essay was published 35 years ago? Urban discontent remains, expressed as before by young men as well as middle-aged women. But the villages are not as placid and peaceful as they might once have been. Peasants and artisans seem to be as disenchanted as the townsfolk. Among a wide swathe of the population, there exists a deep yearning for greater political freedom.

 

These sentiments are assiduously stoked by Pakistan. Still, one would be foolish to ascribe them wholly or even principally to the designs of our neighbour. Increasingly, the pro-Pakistani slogans that Chandi Prasad Bhatt heard in 1973 have been replaced by pro-azadi (independence) ones.

 

On the security side, the police and the CRPF that Bhatt saw in operation have been augmented in massive numbers by detachments of the army. For all this, there remain two sides to Kashmir. Thus, in between periods of protest, the people have voted energetically in state and national elections. The desire for political freedom is sometimes superseded by the desire for dignified employment — as in the hero’s welcome accorded to software entrepreneur N.R. Narayana Murthy when he visited Kashmir University some years ago. The challenge, in 2009 as in 1973, remains the same: the conversion of the currency of identity to that of interest, such that the people of the Kashmir Valley may come — in a political as well as economic sense — to acquire a real stake in the Republic of India.

 

Ramachandra Guha is a historian and the author of India After Gandhi.ramguha@hotmail.com

 

The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

***************************************

 

******************************************************************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FOLLOW THE LEADER?

 

The question of who will succeed Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh appears to have been settled — for the moment. YSR’s cabinet have all taken the oath again, and appear to have accepted, however reluctantly, K. Rosaiah as their chief minister for now. Perhaps, from the point of view of stabilising policy in a shell-shocked state, that makes sense. And there is little question that the spectacle of the Andhra Congress’s overwrought legislators barely waiting out a dignified mourning period before sloganeering for dynastic succession was by turn pitiable and tasteless. But the manner in which the All India Congress Committee enforced obedience on its state unit gives rise to worrying questions. Is the AICC clampdown on disagreement with the central line in its state unit caused by disquiet about Jagan Mohan Reddy? Or is it a sign that the Congress’s central leadership has been taken aback by the popularity of a “mere” state leader, and wishes to show who’s boss?

 

Whether or not it is true Jagan Mohan Reddy would have made the best chief minister for Andhra is beside the point. The point even survives discussion of whether or not his elevation would have been best for the narrower question of the Congress’s political fortunes in Andhra. The point here is a larger one. It is about whether the Congress understands that decentralising to strong state leadership is necessary for its future. And whether its rhetoric on modernisation and democratisation can be matched by reality.

 

The party’s central leadership will have to ask itself: does it really want apparently loyal Congressmen standing up and, tearfully, declaring that “in the Congress, no one must question the high command?” That was what Rajya Sabha MP and YSR loyalist K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao was forced to do. Is that the direction in which it wishes to move the Congress? Because it sounds less like the promised future and more like the darkest, authoritarian past — which, needless to say, is what sparked the party’s decline in the first place. The problem and privilege of living with democracy is that, sometimes, you don’t like the outcome that democratic discussion throws up. That will be as true of democratic parties as democratic countries. The powerful in countries proud to be democratic know that those are moments not to intervene as deus ex machina but to lead by example, and by persuasion. It is perhaps time to learn that that is equally applicable to the powerful in parties struggling to be democratic.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO DEVIATIONS

 

The CPM appears to be at a crossroads. Analysing the recent electoral rout of the party in West Bengal and Kerala, the Politburo has pinned the blame on the growing disconnect between its cadre and the masses. Bengal’s land acquisition clashes, Lalgarh or factionalism in the Kerala unit — any one of these could have convinced the Politburo that, without a course correction, the CPM will come out even weaker from upcoming assembly polls, with the 2011 Bengal and Kerala elections as its existential battles. Therefore, the party will update its “rectification document” of 1996 and hand out a clear list of dos and don’ts to its cadre, who appear to have lost their “ideological moorings” and succumbed to “bourgeois consumerism” and “parliamentary opportunism”. If the cadres are not re-indoctrinated into a simple, communist lifestyle and value-system, the CPM fears further punishment.

 

The CPM seems to have grasped its problem, but only in part. That factionalism in Kerala and cadre violence in Bengal have been its bane is not news. It’s indeed imperative that the party change its brand of politics at the grassroots level, and re-educating the cadre to that effect is in good faith. But when the Politburo statement mentions “ideological purity” for cadres, how literally are we to take it? Equating the party’s ethical slide and corruption with “alien trends and habits” and the hallowed line of “parliamentary deviation” could mean the CPM hasn’t understood that the devil’s in its very exorcism. Thus it recommends as a corrective the re-building of mass struggles, without realising that that very emphasis on mass movement and organisational strength has produced the goon culture practised by its cadre. To connect with the masses, all it needs is sincere, engaged and engaging democratic politics. Ethical standards can be re-established without being regressively doctrinaire.

This CPM discourse, wherein such “right(wing) deviations” are the constant hazard of pursuing democratic politics, belies the party’s own record of maturing to parliamentary politics. One wonders if breaking with the BSP — the first overt distancing since the parliamentary trust vote last year — for the Haryana polls hints at a new grassroots mobilisation? Or just confused strategy?

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SOUND UNBOUND?

 

In an effort to give the more invisible contributors to the movie business their due, the HRD ministry is working out a set of copyright amendments. For instance, a piece of film music has several components: the composer, the lyricist, the performer, and the producer. A composer may either be paid a fixed sum and cede ownership to the producer, or negotiate for a slice of future revenues. It is unclear how copyright amendments can intervene here and ensure a steady stream of income for artists who have already signed away their rights. But either way the amendments promise that original creators will be credited every step of the way, whatever the afterlife of their artistic work.

 

Remixes have been ridiculously popular in India, turning half-forgotten film songs into wholly different, highly profitable phenomena. The Kaanta Laga cover a few years back, for example, sold millions of copies and introduced a new generation to an old hit, but it offended the sensibilities of its aging composer, given neither credit nor compensation. Unassignable moral rights over a work would not only establish paternity, but also limit the perversion of an artist’s intent.

 

In addition, the copyright period of a film is also set to be extended, with a royalty-sharing arrangement between the directors and producers worked out. The HRD ministry’s amendments are meant to protect the creative industries, but it must make sure it strikes a balance between legitimate protection of artists and a hyper-extended, restrictive copyright regime like the US now has (where Disney’s desire to hold on to Mickey Mouse bumped up copyright terms). Indeed, generally speaking, the less lawyerly permission required to access artistic material, the better for the culture at large. The slow creep of copyright can hurt public access and, ironically, the very artistic progress that copyright was designed to protect.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

NO SECOND THOUGHTS

K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

The Chief of the Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, is reported to have suggested that the country may have to revisit its “No First Use” (NFU) policy in the light of reports from some credible US sources that Pakistan may have an arsenal of 90 nuclear weapons and may be building up further stocks.

 

When NFU was formulated ( I was the convenor of the National Security Board that drafted it) there were no assumptions on the size of the Pakistani arsenal. The doctrine stands by itself irrespective of the size of the potential enemy’s arsenal. There is a second component of the nuclear doctrine: the credible minimum deterrent. It is that component that may call for some adjustments if the potential enemy’s arsenal were to increase. Even that is not a necessity from the point of view of deterrence, but a question of influencing the perception of the adversary. The crux of deterrence is the survivability of the retaliatory force and the aggressor’s calculation as to whether the casualties and damage likely to be inflicted by the survived retaliatory force on his population and cities can be justified by the strategic gain the unleashing of the nuclear attack will secure for the aggressor. Very rarely, if at all, can the answer to that question be in the affirmative. In such circumstances deterrence will prevail.

 

Deterrence is not a question of having the ability to inflict much larger casualties and damage on the adversary than, according to one’s own calculation, one is likely to suffer in retaliation. An aggressor’s attack can be counter-force or counter-value. If it is counter-force the aggressor can never be certain that he can destroy all the force of the other side and escape retaliation. In the early ’60s the United States planned a total disarming strike on the Soviet Union, when it had more than ten times the USSR’s number of warheads. When the president asked whether there could be certainty that no Soviet warhead would hit the US the answer was a clear negative. That was enough to deter the US from proceeding with its disarming strike in spite of a ten-fold superiority. Since then, surveillance methods and missile accuracies have improved. But so also the mobility of the weapon platforms, even on land; the submarine deterrent is of course exceedingly survivable. When India’s nuclear doctrine was published, many Westerners questioned the need for a sea-based deterrent; a senior NDA minister (a member of the cabinet committee on security) even called it an “academic exercise”. In our country, the learning process on nuclear issues has just begun.

 

The NFU doctrine was formulated in 1999 by the National Security Advisory Board and was officially adopted in 2003. Only after its official adoption were strategic force commanders appointed; we have had four, two from the air force, one from the navy and, presently, from the army. In the last six years, scientists of the Department of Atomic Energy and the Defence Research and Development Organisation have acquired valuable experience in operationalising the arsenal. So, certainly, there is a case to review our deterrent posture and policy six years after the National Command Authority was set up. The government will be well-advised to commission a taskforce, comprising the ex-strategic force commanders, senior officials of DAE and DRDO familiar with the deterrent force’s standard operational procedures and three-star representatives from the services — as well as an intelligence specialist with a background in nuclear strategic matters and one or two civilian experts — to carry out such a review. Committee members should be cleared for top-secret classification, and have full access to all data (except the current actual operational plan). They should be in a position to discuss alternative future operational strategies. As time goes by more and more people privy to nuclear secrets will retire from service. Therefore there should be a realistic approach to making data available to such a group of experts after they sign the Official Secrets Act pledge.

 

There are a number of ways the increase in the Pakistani stockpile can be countered, besides responding to it with a similar increase in the size of our credible minimum deterrent. In India, the credible minimum deterrent was always envisaged in three-digit numbers; that itself gives sufficient flexibility.

 

The best short-term counter measures will be to improve our surveillance and warning capabilities, the mobility of our land-based missiles, and survivability of our airborne retaliatory force. As the potential adversary improves his technology these measures will be necessary and it will be prudent to start on such programmes straightaway. The new scientific adviser is a specialist in theatre missile defence and there are reports of India jointly developing missile defence systems with Israel. The missile defence further increases the uncertainty of the aggressor and reinforces deterrence.

 

The more robust the deterrence, the stronger the justification for the NFU strategy. It reflects greater confidence in the survivability of one’s arsenal and ability to retaliate punitively, according to the original wording of the doctrine in 1999. In 2003, this wording was changed from “punitive” to “massive”, a discredited term in the nuclear lexicon. Further — by copying the Americans and including largescale WMD attacks as justification for nuclear retaliation — the 2003 document diluted the NFU pledge. If today an increase in the Pakistani nuclear stockpile and the development of Babar cruise missile cause concern about a decapitating first strike, then the logical remedy is not to abandon our NFU but to provide for credible, visible succession for both political and military command, and to streamline the chain of command. It is a well-known joke that the camel is a horse designed by a committee. We know committee deliberations could not stop IC-814 from taking off from Amritsar. It is just incredible that committees are going to handle nuclear command and control. These are vital issues to be addressed to enhance our deterrence irrespective of the size of the potential enemy’s stockpile.

 

Giving up NFU will only increase nuclear tension without solving the problem of the risk of a possible decapitating strike by the potential enemy. There must be a better understanding of the national no-first-use policy among our armed forces and other decision- and policy-makers, as well as a deeper grasp of the concept of deterrence.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst express@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

ACCOUNTABLE ALSO TO MAN

ARSHAD AMANULLAH

 

More than a decade ago, on my way to the Jamia Salafia madrasa of Varanasi, I happened to meet a Mumbai-based taxi-driver who was returning to his village in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. As soon as he came to know that I was enrolled in a madrasa, he spoke passionately of the need to abolish polygamy allowed in the Muslim Personal Law in India. He was motivated by first-hand knowledge of gross misuse of the provision by more affluent sections of the community and was convinced that abolition was necessary to protect the institution of the family. The controversy surrounding the recent report of the Law Commission of India titled “Preventing Bigamy via Conversion to Islam” reminded me of this so many years later.

 

In its report — report No 227 — The Law Commission of India examined the existing legal position on bigamy in India along with judicial rulings on the subject. It recommended that Supreme Court rulings that a married Hindu man could not re-marry by converting to Islam without getting his first marriage dissolved should, among other things, be incorporated in the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.

 

The recent high-profile conversion-to-marry of Haryana Deputy CM Chander Mohan (Chand Mohammad) and Haryana Assistant Advocate-General Anuradha Bali (Fiza Mohammad) seems to have served as the immediate cause behind this recommendation. It attracted scathing criticism from the clergy. Urdu newspapers widely covered the leading ulema’s bitter opposition. Worse, Professor Syed Tahir Mahmood, the sole full-time member of the commission, found himself under fire as some of the clergy named him in their comments.

 

The whole episode holds up a mirror to the tension that prevails between secular and religious laws within Muslim society. Though a common Muslim tends to be practical in his engagement with such tension, the ulema as a class are reactionary in their response to any non-ulema intervention in the Muslim Personal Law. I am convinced of the relativity of categories like “reactionary”; however, any uninformed response to an issue of social concern is no less problematic as well. The ulema’s critique of the Law Commission’s recommendation betrays that a few of them have taken the pains to go through the text of the report.

 

Moreover, what Prof Mahmood takes to be the “apprehensions” of the ulema was in reality their intellectual arrogance, gestures questioning his competence and credibility when it comes to suggesting any policy regarding the Muslim Personal Law, hitherto their preserve. Hence, even though it has been clarified that Muslim law on bigamy — or the state of bigamy among Indian Muslims — was not the issue, a Mumbai-based cleric issued a fatwa of kufr against him.

 

The agenda of a government, even a democratically elected one, does not necessarily coincide with that of its citizens. The controversial recommendation of the Law Commission however is a situation where a government body seeks to address a genuine concern of the Indian people. Ironically, the ulema, whose own legitimacy to critique government intervention into Muslim personal law rests solely on their claim to represent Muslim citizens’ religious concerns, fail to appreciate even such a recommendation.

 

I am not against the idea of accountability of government officials and intellectuals before citizens. But I am also for the accountability of the religious class before the Indian masses. Just as government servants are paid out of taxpayer money, the ulema are dependent for their bread-and-butter on religious taxes and alms from believers. Is it too much then to expect the ulema to help in addressing social problems through law?

 

Being part of a liberal democratic political system requires the ulema to re-interpret its obligations towards society at large. Contributing its due to the realisation of Indian society’s greater common good must be among its priorities. In a country which celebrates electoral democracy through universal adult suffrage, the religious class’s accountability to the Supreme Being must be mediated by its immediate answerability to the common man. Such a reading of its religious duties demands of the clergy, especially of those who raised such an unnecessary hue-and-cry in this case, that they widen the scope of their duties beyond the numerical consideration of a particular religious group into a more accommodating and humanistic enterprise.

 

Writing of the ulema in 1946 in Modern Islam in India, W.C. Smith described them as “politically progressive” but “socially conservative”. This observation of Smith holds true even after more than 60 years. Unless the ulema redefine their locus of accountability and scope of religious duties, the common Muslim (men) like that Mumbai taxi-driver, will continue to demand adjustments to the Muslim Personal Law according to the needs of a complex capitalist social reality. If the ulema cannot initiate such a project, then they have to cooperate with the legal system of India as it does.

 

The writer is a New Delhi-based documentary filmmaker and writer who has been educated at Jamia Salafia Madrasa, Varanasi, and Jamia Millia Islamia (express@expressindia.com)

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DECENTRALISED DESTINY

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

There is palpable excitement over the prospect of higher education being seriously reformed. The one proposal that has caught immediate attention is a move to depoliticise the appointment of vice-chancellors. There can be no quarrel with the desirability of this move. According to reports, there is a proposal to have a collegium headed by an eminent person to make appointments. Keeping politicians out of the process is one thing, but having a single body make all appointments is quite another. In fact, there is something of a misunderstanding about the current system. In its intent, even in the current system, the selection is made by eminent persons. But they are asked to submit panels, and often ministries have the last word. One simple thing to do would be to remove the role of the ministry; you would still get the eminent panel, but without the centralisation.

 

In some ways the logic of this proposal is very much at odds with what the Indian system needs: greater decentralisation rather than greater centralisation. To grasp this point one needs to put the VC’s role in a broader context.

 

We have to recognise that the one institution that is central to the working of universities and institutes is the Executive Council — the EC — or an equivalent board. It is these institutions that are the most politicised, even more than the VC’s office. The sources of politicisation are both external and internal; externally because of government nominations; internally because of the political links of teacher representatives. More than the VC, the quality and composition of these councils matter to the university. These need to be radically depoliticised.

 

The Indian system is bizarre in that the EC, the main body that enforces accountability, doesn’t own the appointment of the institution’s head. In fact in well-run institutions two conditions are necessary: that the board be of high quality, and that it be broadly aligned with the chief executive’s vision. For the latter to happen, there has to be some direct board involvement in selection. Of course, the current composition of these boards is the source of the problem. A real innovation would be to rethink their size, composition and function.

 

The most peculiar feature of the appointment of VCs is that the appointing committees know almost nothing about the universities they are making appointments to. While some of them will loosely canvass names, none of them makes determinations about the kind of person a particular university needs at a particular juncture. There is also no mechanism for conversations with candidates about ideas they would bring to improve a particular university. This kind of conversation cannot be captured through the idea of an interview. It is more about discussing challenges a particular university faces. In some ways the risk is that centralised collegia will continue to exacerbate these distances and gaps of knowledge between the board and the appointee, between the selection committee and the university. In most successful universities outside India, it is the board-equivalent that is central to the appointments process and an ongoing conversation about the direction of the university.

 

In some ways, none of this mattered much because we had homogenised our university system so much. The vice-chancellor operated within a fixed set of rules on everything ranging from appointments to fund rising, to degree structures, to budget constraints. Very occasionally a VC would break the mould with a certain degree of improvised crashing at the gates, but these innovations would usually not outlast their tenure. The crucial challenge for the Indian system is to inculcate more institutional diversity, experimentation, and the ability of institutions to evolve their own character, to compete and make judgment calls about where to head next. Instead, much of the talk is about greater standardisation of the system. We want everything centralised, from admissions criteria to appointments. In some ways creating a centralised mechanism for the selection of vice-chancellors is of a piece with what is referred to as the “UPSCisation” of academic life.

 

It is fundamentally also a symptom of the fact that the one thing we do not really want to contemplate is giving universities charge of their own destiny. In our conception there must always be a body unconnected with the university to make so many of the key decisions that define the university’s character. There is also another fallacy implicit in this centralisation model: the fallacy of a quick fix. If Indian public universities are to be reclaimed they will have to be reclaimed one institution at a time, each with its own set of challenges. It will require the hard labour, not just of appointing VCs, but of ensuring that all bodies that enforce accountability in the system have their ideas aligned.

 

The one final thing that helped ruin the Indian system was the rise of the professional education bureaucrat. In some ways this would not be a bad thing: the skills required to run an institution are different from professorial skills, and you need both personality types. But in field after field, a small group of academics exercised inordinate power in committee after committee as gatekeepers of academic and institutional wisdom. And eminence was no guarantee of the manner in which power would be exercised.

 

While its exact composition is not known, a single centralised committee runs exactly this same risk of empowering a super-class of people; except that this group will now control a larger number of universities all at once. Concentration of power ought usually to be an object of suspicion; in the case of universities even more so. In principle, there will be one collegium for Central universities and states can have their own parallel structures. In all likelihood, particularly at the state level, this will merely shift the locus of politicisation to a different level; now it will be at the level of nomination to a colleguim rather than appointment of the VC. But it might also have the unintended consequence of concentrating even more academic power.

 

Restoring vitality to the university system requires that each university have a distinct sense of its identity, it has autonomy in that its functionaries take charge of key decisions, and it sees itself in competition for excellence with other universities. Centralising appointments of VCs is a bit like giving a country sovereignty only on the condition that its rulers be appointed from outside. If we want really radical reform, we should decentralise appointments and let responsible authorities in universities take charge of their own destiny.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi (express@expressindia.com)

 

***************************************

                

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NORTHERN ERRORS

REKHA CHOWDHARY

 

A significant development has taken place with regard to the status of Gilgit-Baltistan — a part of the erstwhile undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani control since 1947. Bordering Afghanistan, China and India, the area was perceived as strategically important for Pakistan and therefore was isolated from the rest of ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’. Treated as a separate administrative unit comprised of Gilgit, Baltistan, Hunza and Nagar, it was designated as the ‘Northern Areas’ and was denied any kind of legal or political status. While Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (though controlled by the federal ministry of Kashmir affairs) had some semblance of political governance, this area merely had administrative status. Under the direct control of Islamabad, it was governed by civil administrators. And because of the ambiguity about its legal status, the people belonging to this area were not represented in the Pakistan National Assembly. The right of democratic representation, therefore, was not extended to them in any form. Worse, they were also denied access to justice. The Judicial Commissioner had supreme power and people had no right to appeal. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had no jurisdiction; nor did the judiciary of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir have any role for the people in this part.  

 

Due to this, the area has suffered unrest for quite some time. Local grievances forcefully articulated during the last few decades, have not only been in the context of lack of a modern democratic system but also the suppression of the political identity of the area and the people. By denying it its traditional name, Gilgit-Baltistan, its status was reduced merely to that of a geographical entity. Further, there were allegations of substantial demographic and territorial interventions by the Pakistani state. Apart from the transfer of around 5000 sq km of the area to China, which is aggressively pursuing its interests in the area, the Pakistani government has been accused of pushing demographic change in this Shia-dominated area. It is alleged that Pakistani rulers by allotting the land to outsiders, especially Punjabis, Pathans and other Sunnis, encouraged them to settle in this area. There is a general feeling that this demographic engineering has altered the area’s traditional culture of harmonious co-existence. There have been several incidences of sectarian violence in the last few years.  

 

With the increasing discontent, nationalist sentiments have been sharpened and many groups have been involved in the political movement in this area. Demands have ranged from political autonomy to a separate nation of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is a consequence of the growing political unrest within the region that the ‘issue of Gilgit-Baltistan’ is being raised at par with ‘Kashmir issue’ in international forums. Though Pakistan refused to recognise the issue for a long time, it has lately been a part of the peace discourse, especially during Musharraf’s time. While offering a self-rule formula, Musharraf has referred to the ‘Northern Areas’ along with ‘Azad Kashmir’ as the two regions on the side of Pakistan where the formula needs to be applied.  

 

Last week, the federal cabinet of Pakistan approved the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009. By virtue of this order, the official name of the area has been changed from ‘Northern Area’ to Gilgit-Baltistan, and it has been granted political autonomy. The people of Gilgit Baltistan are supposed to have now the right of representation, the freedom of party politics as well as access to justice. The area will have its own elected assembly, chief minister and a centrally appointed governor.  

 

To what extent the order will satisfy the aspirations of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan is difficult to predict at the moment. Nationalist sentiments may not be placated by the package of autonomy. What is clear however, is that the order might further complicate the thorny Kashmir issue. There are already voices expressing concern over the unilateral change in the status quo of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is being seen as a step towards the merger of Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan. It is not only India that has expressed its apprehensions in that direction, the political leaders of ‘Azad Kashmir’ and the Kashmiri separatists have also reacted in a similar manner. The leadership of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, contesting the official position of Pakistan, has always asserted that Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of Jammu and Kashmir — a position established by the high court of ‘Azad Kashmir’ in a famous verdict given by Chief Justice Majid Malik. 

 

Even Kashmiri separatists are not happy with the development, seeing it as a move to dilute the Kashmir cause. Autonomy to this area would amount to its separation from the rest of the state; further, it may become a precedent that could be applicable to other parts of the state too. According to Syed Salahuddin, since the political status of the state is still unresolved, any change in its territorial integrity would have a negative impact on the issue. JKLF leader Yasin Malik and other separatist leaders echo this stand.  

 

While it is important to recognise the political rights of people of Gilgit-Baltistan, the step taken by Pakistan has serious implications for the peace process in Jammu and Kashmir. The logic of the ongoing peace process has been a ‘notional unity’ of the state through the concept of irrelevance of borders. The autonomy of Gilgit-Baltistan may start a trend in the reverse direction and may just justify the division of the state.

 

The writer teaches political science at Jammu University.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MAKING UP THE FACTS AS WE GO ALONG

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

After 26/11, they promised they had learnt from their mistakes and we thought they had. Until last week, when once again, a live and tragic event unfolded over 24 hours. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s disappearance required restraint and a scrupulous respect for facts. It needed a closely coordinated effort between the media and the governments — central and state — to ensure that this time, we got to know only what could be confirmed, not what people hoped, feared or heard.  

 

For a while on Wednesday afternoon, it was November 26, 2008 once more. Times Now said YSR had been traced and was safe according to the Civil Aviation Ministry, CNN-IBN and NDTV denied it quoting the Home Ministry, then NDTV agreed with Times Now but by then Times Now was disagreeing with itself claiming Home Ministry confirmation was awaited but Zee News proclaimed Reddy was safe and CNN-IBN denied it but said that according to someone in Reddy’s security chain Reddy was alive but didn’t know his whereabouts, whereupon Headline Today said Civil Aviation Ministry confirmed the CM was safe and on the way to Chittoor by road and NDTV said the AP police had said he was safe but since changed their minds and India TV quoting AP Congress sources agreed but Aaj Tak claimed that while the helicopter had landed, there had been no contact with it or anyone.

 

Between them, the authorities and the media, had too many sources telling too many different stories — in the face of the Home Ministry’s insistence that the helicopter and AP chief minister were still missing, information all news channels broadcast. By about 4 pm, the speculation subsided and news channels stuck to Home Ministry updates. Finally, the government and the media had found each other on the same page, or in this case, channel.  

 

If there’s one opinion most people hold, it is that Indian TV entertainment is injurious to our health and sensibilities. Those of us who watch it are advised either psychiatric treatment or awarded Olympic medals (make that gold). So we turned to English entertainment. Caught Dr Who in the midst of a cookery recipe right out of hell: human faces were mincing machines spewing human mince to the accompaniment of disembodied voices from somewhere other than the TV screen (BBC Entertainment). On AXN, people who think they can dance abandoned themselves to violent contortions and then collapsed in pools of sweat. Very invigorating for them but rather less edifying to watch. I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here (Star World) is the equivalent of Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao (actually it’s the other way around). It reflects our sentiments exactly while watching it: a group of uninteresting ladies and gentleman were yelling obscenities at each other so frequently all we heard was a stream of beeps. From the human jungle to a Prison Break (Star World) or Keith what’s-his-name illusionist on AXN and Silent Witness (BBC Entertainment). Prison Break and Silent Witness are compelling drama series but they’re just so grim — doesn’t anyone smile any more?

 

Sheer hunger for something appetising and wholesome drives us to the cookery shows and into the waiting arms of Top Chef, Kylie Wong, Nigella Express. Here, you can feast your eyes for as long as you want without gaining a centimetre. What is it about watching a meal being prepared and then consumed by other people that gives us such satisfaction that we keeping coming back for more? It’s not as though most of us ever try out any of the recipes or will ever eat beef steaks in crab sauce and foie gras topping. Yet, watching parathas dripping butter on Highway on my Plate (NDTV Good Times) is the most pleasurable sight on TV.  

 

Lastly, could someone please explain why Fear Factor: Khatron ke Khiladi Level 2 (phew!) that began yesterday has 13 female contestants and no males (Colors)? Are the men running scared?

 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HINDUTVA’S FOUNDING MYTHS

BALRAJ PURI

 

As far the concept of Hindutva is concerned, there was never any clarity or unanimity among the leaders of the BJP. The original discussion between Syama Prasad Mookherjee and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar on August 26, 1952, is now well known: the former requested the latter to bless the Jana Sangh. Savarkar wanted the philosophy of the Hindu Mahaasabha, ie Hindutva, to be adopted by the Jana Sangh, which Mookherjee declined to do.

 

The Jana Sangh instead adopted Integral Humanism, as propounded by Deen Dayal Upadhya, its foremost ideologue and organiser, as the party’s guiding ideology. But since the election results, BJP president Rajnath Singh and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat have reiterated the commitment of the two organisations to Hindutva and abrogation of Article 370 which grants a special status to Jammu and Kashmir — most recently in Jammu, at a meeting organised at the University there on the occasion of 57th death anniversary of the founder President of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Syama Prasad Mookherjee.

 

Launching a Hindutva offensive from Jammu has historical antecedents, but is of doubtful wisdom. The BJP’s predecessor, the Jan Sangh, launched its first popular movement in the country from Jammu in 1952; and, of course, as recently as last year it claimed that it would use the Amarnath shrine row to kickstart a nationwide ‘mass agitation’. Yet it didn’t get anything near a majority in the state assembly election — and, moreover, lost both Lok Sabha seats in the region.

 

A more relevant issue that has been recently raised is the claim of the RSS — expressed by Mohan Bhagwat — that Mookherjee laid down his life to oppose the theory of two constitutions, two flags and two heads of state within one nation — the principle agreed upon under the Delhi Agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah in 1952.

 

This claim is factually incorrect. Yes, it is true that the Jana Sangh led by Mookherjee came to Jammu to support the movement of the Praja Parishad that had this objective. But after a prolonged correspondence with Nehru extending for two months of January and February 1953, Mookherjee , in his letter to Nehru dated February 17, 1953, offered to withdraw the agitation and support the Delhi Agreement, which was to be implemented in the next session of the J&K Constituent Assembly. He further suggested that both parties reiterate that the unity of the state will be maintained and that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu — and of course to Ladakh and the Valley.

 

This was precisely the formula to which I was able to persuade Nehru and Abdullah to agree which they announced at a joint press conference on July 24, 1952. The unfortunate and untimely death of Mookherjee on June 23, 1953 only hastened the process of implementation of the offer he made to Nehru. The leaders of the Praja Parishad agitation were released on July 1 and invited to Delhi and on July 3, they met Nehru where they agreed withdraw their agitation is response to the offer of regional autonomy. (It wasn’t until many months after Mookherjee’s death that the Jan Sangh, under directions from Nagpur according to Jan Sangh leader Balraj Madhok, withdrew support to the Delhi Agreement and regional autonomy.)  

 

Meanwhile a 45 page draft on autonomy was sent by the state government to the Praja Parishad leader — Durga Dass Varma, then underground — which he returned after approval of the party experts. Truth be told, if every aspect of the agreement between Nehru, Abdullah and Mookherjee on autonomy of the state within India and of the regions within the state had been implemented, Kashmir would not have turned into the problem it has become.

 

The writer is a J&K-based commentator and director, Institute of J&K Affairs

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE WIKI WAY OF THE WORLD

GAUTAM JOHN

 

Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia reached a new milestone after eight years of online existence — it has three million articles on practically everything under the sun, growing every minute.  Wikipedia is the essence of the radical changes the internet has experienced since 1989, from social networks to peer-to-peer “sharing” of information and crowd-sourced creative projects, which have been built upon a culture of openness and collaboration.  

 

The Wikipedia project is run, amazingly enough, by a community of unpaid contributors and editors, while the required physical infrastructure and some administrative functions are handled by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation headquartered in San Francisco. The work is further supported by national chapters which play an important role in promoting and evangelising the project in their respective countries and support the work of local volunteers. However, India does not yet have a chapter.

 

Every year, a bunch of Wikipedians gather from all around the globe in the hope of building better strategies and capacities for open online collaboration. This year’s conference was organised in Buenos Aires by the Wikimedia Foundation.  The recurring themes in this year’s Wikimania were growth in non-English wikis, improving usability, arresting a possible slowdown in growth, and addressing demographic issues such as inadequate representation of women among editors, for example. A fact from the statistics presented was that only 13 per cent of contributors to Wikipedia, across all languages, are women. This was an outcome of a detailed self-selected survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation and UN-MERIT. Some other interesting findings were that 69 per cent of respondents were motivated to contribute to Wikipedia to fix an error, nearly 73 per cent contribute because they ‘like the idea of sharing knowledge’ and 19 per cent of Wikipedia contributors hold Masters degrees. By one rough estimate, less than two per cent of Tamil Wikipedia editors are female, far below the global average.

 

This year, while assessing the future of Wikipedia, what emerged was a definite need to focus on the growth of non-English language versions of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales, the founder, went so far as to state that he would like to see Wikipedia, in some ways, as the saviour of some languages that might otherwise be lost to history. Other talks and panels covered aspects of the software used to run Wikipedia, the usability (with a focus on ease of editing), matters of strategy, and the challenges in smaller Wiki projects. In particular, there were presentations on the ongoing and proposed usability improvements to make the site less intimidating for new users, the quality control process being followed in German Wikipedia and strategies to attract and retain new users. Some highlighted insights from Wikipedia usage statistics and the editorial process for publishing CD/DVD and print versions of Wikipedia. Many warned of the oncoming slowdown and plateau in the growth of Wikipedia, its demographic decline and the growing complexity of the community. There were also interesting inputs from the experiences of organisations like the Red Cross, generating a debate on whether Wikipedia editors should have multiple career paths and experiences from other crowd-sourced platforms some of which could be applied in the case of Wikimedia projects. There was also much thought on how to tap other structured data sets for inclusion in Wikipedia projects.

 

One of the great successes of the Wikipedia movement has been to build a platform and a philosophy around which other projects have been able to coalesce. In particular, the education space has seen much success in creating and sharing free, open and editable textbooks of such high quality that they have passed California textbooks standards and become a platform for Dutch teachers to create and share teaching and learning materials.

 

Looking at the need for growth in non-English language Wikipedias and at the need to support the growing number of users and community in India, plans are in motion to form the Indian chapter of Wikimedia. The Indian chapter has a number of challenges waiting to be addressed including increasing the awareness of Wikipedia in general and Indian language Wikipedias in particular, lobbying with governments and other bodies for the release of more public domain content, fixing India-specific technology issues like input methods, fundraising, bringing out offline versions of Indian Wikipedias, and so on.

 

The writers attended the Wikimania conference in Buenos Aires, and are part of the effort to set up the Indian chapter of Wikimedia

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

******************************************************************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO TRUTH FROM SATYAM

 

It has been said many times, but bears repeating, that when India’s fourth-largest IT company spiralled into spectacular ‘riding the tiger’ anarchy, that was a big call for shifting corporate governance into higher gear in the country. Back then, in January, we had said that responding to the public’s cry for justice with one inquiry after another would simply not suffice. Even then, when the arrests of Satyam’s former CFO and the Raju brothers were being fêted for their speediness, they were simultaneously thwarting the pursuit of justice, with Sebi having to file a local petition to interview the fraudsters. Now that Ramalinga Raju is reportedly awash in special privileges in jail—from a new badminton court to a daily dose of fish or meat—while investigating agencies continue to scramble to get their act together, our fears seem to be more than justified. As FE reported yesterday, a lot of work is still pending with all the four agencies tasked to track the Satyam accounting fraud. These agencies are: SFIO, Sebi, ICAI and CBI. To focus on the CBI case, despite filing a 6,500-page chargesheet against Raju and eight others for the Rs 7,800-crore fraud, it doesn’t seem to have enough to book the former promoters of the company for issues like diversion of funds, their misappropriation or the independent directors’ role played over the years. Raju’s confession still seems the strongest evidence against him.

In the interim, our columnists have emphasised both how important it is to make an exemplary case of Satyam and how imposing severe penalties is the most effective deterrent to accounting manipulation. In addition, we should be focused on ways to improve the quality of firms’ financial reporting, whether by way of switching to IFRS or liberalising the rules governing stockholder litigation. Here, we must make special mention of the accountants because corporate affairs minister Salman Khurshid was complaining last weekend about how ICAI has been delaying its final report on how the Satyam fraud unfolded. Again, as early as in January, commentators had pointed out how, if an auditor fails in his duty in India, he faced a maximum imprisonment of two years as against the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act that handed out imprisonment for 20 years. Combine the fact that India has one of the poorest corporate fraud conviction rates in the world with that we have entered new waters with the Satyam case, and you have a lab case for why Satyam must be dealt with most efficiently. All imperatives notwithstanding, nine months on, we still seem stuck with the bare bones of the Satyam saga. We don’t, for example, yet know how Satyam ADRs worth $100 million were deployed or how funds were siphoned off between Satyam and its sister concerns.

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

POPULISM VS THE RIGHT THING

 

G-20 finance ministers met in London over the weekend to lay the ground for the heads of government meeting in Pittsburgh later this month. Essentially, they ended up discussing the two issues that have been the focus of international coordination, at least at the G-20 level since late 2008. The first is the issue of stimulus where differences between countries remain as they were at the start. The US and UK, then and now, have fortunately prevailed in persuading the G-20 to be aggressive with expansionary fiscal and monetary policy, against the more conservative stance adopted by France and Germany. As we have argued in these columns, it is far too early to withdraw stimulus. But perhaps it’s the second issue up for discussion—bankers’ pay—that has greater implications for the long run than stimulus, which everyone knows has a finite life. Interestingly, while there are differences between major countries on how to deal with the issue of executive compensation in the financial sector, almost everyone agrees that something needs to be done to change the incentive structure (in pay) which many believe led to this crisis.

 

The consensus centres on the realisation that executive compensation must reward long-term performance rather than short-term gain and must at no cost reward failure. The G-20 is still mulling over proposals to enable ‘clawing back’ bonuses in case banks and other financial firms make losses. In terms of rewarding long-term performance, proposals revolve around giving bonuses over a five-year period and perhaps not in cash, but in stock options—that should incentivise executives to work towards maintaining a solvent, high-performing firm, which will be properly valued by the market. While it’s reasonable enough to put these options on the table, it would be a mistake to take a more extremist position (again, articulated by France and Germany), which seeks to actually put a cap on bankers’ pay. For one, it would be difficult to implement. And second, it probably isn’t the right solution because, if strictly enforced, it may completely kill the appetite for risk taking, which is the cornerstone of capitalism. It’s important to remember that while targeting executive pay may make for good populist politics, it doesn’t make for a sensible solution rooted in economics. The root of the crisis was overleverage—that’s why banks collapsed. The solution, therefore, is in ensuring adequate capitalisation of financial institutions. If the G-20 agrees on just this one simple and perfectly practicable point, it will go a long way in preventing a repeat of this crisis.

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LEHMAN AND THE FEAR OF BUYING

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

One year back, as the financial world centred on Wall Street went into crisis, the trigger being the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Indian financial firms had a real chance to get in the big league buying up some of the broken pieces. But that never happened. This is the biggest lesson from the crisis for India.

 

The closest any Indian firm got was Religare. But on Monday morning AIG Investments—the investment advisory and asset management arm of AIG—was bought instead by Hong Kong-based Pacific Century Group of Richard Li for $500 million. Till last week the consortium of Religare with Macquarie Bank of Australia was seen as a front runner for the buy out. The prize was not a small one. An AIG statement says, the units being sold to Li operate in some 32 countries and manage approximately $88.7 billion in investments belonging to institutional and retail clients. To its credit, Religare fought hard.

 

This is not an issue of patriotism. Size is a crucial change agent in the world of finance and that takes time to build. The collapse of many of the giants in the tumultuous two weeks of September 2008, opened up a sliver of opportunity for banks from Asia to make up that deficit.

 

The strongest challenge was expected to come from China and there was possibility for India too. But that did not happen despite those two weeks in the second half of September 2008 being the best time to learn the right lessons. So one year down the line, as the G-20 sherpas deliberate the need for rolling back the fiscal and monetary measures to take on the impact of the game changer days, its time to mull over the loss of opportunity for the banks here.

 

In a way that loss of opportunity is the biggest one for the Indian financial sector in the post Lehman world. In a bidding war it is quite possible that the Indian entities could have come a cropper. But none of the entities even cared to put in a bid for any of the stakes on offer. There are several reasons why that did not happen and the reasons for that do not lie with RBI.

 

Since the freezing of the global money market had crippled the fund raising capacity of the private sector banks, it was obviously the public sector banks which were expected to be there, honourable exceptions like Religare notwithstanding. Of the total assets of the financial sector, the public sector banks and insurance companies are the dominant force in India.

 

A decision to pick up a stake in one of the assets being sold does not need a nod from RBI, on substantive issues. Instead it is the government which could influence opinion. Yet there is no evidence that either the government nominees on board of the Indian institutions or others raised any discussions on such offers.

 

The arguments of fire sale does not hold good as one year down the line, these assets are turning out to be good bargains. Actually this is one of the big lessons from the financial meltdown we did not learn.

 

The bosses of the companies found themselves so snug in the lack of competition in the sector they found no reason to bring it in. This is more than surprising; it is a glaring absence of understanding of the new dynamics of the world of finance. Because in the wake of the September collapse, it became evident that India was as much tied to the world finance market as any other entity. The seizure of the global money market immediately pushed up demand for funds from the RBI from a daily average hovering at Rs 2,000 crore to a high of Rs 90,000 crore, that it was hard put to meet.

 

So it was evident that there would not be a return to a business as usual scenario. It was in circumstances like these, post 1997 that the manufacturing sector from India went on its global big ticket acquisition.

 

The ramifications of the lack of push could come home soon. Bank chiefs are ready to explain when they are not quoted that financial sector regulators abroad, are pretty reluctant to hand out licences for new branches. An acquisition in the bigger economies could have solved some of these problems for organic growth that the Indian banks face.

 

Since this is a problem all the big public sector banks have faced abroad, they therefore should have been much more alive to the possibilities opened up by the bargain sales. The lack of movement could instead come back to haunt once the recovery proceeds, as the Indian financial institutions will still be picking up size after the big boys are ready. In the global pecking order of banks based on the size of assets and the strength of their Tier I capital, State Bank of India ranks at the 64th position and ICICI bank ranks 81st. PNB, HDFC Bank and Bank of India are way behind at 239, 242 and 263 respectively as per the rankings compiled by the Financial Times.

 

Just a postscript: The recently released, Global Finance, in its latest ranking of the top 50 safest banks in the world does not include any Indian entity.

 

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR & IT’S NOT MUCH

JEFFREY HAMMER

 

With all the publicity that health care is getting in both the US and in India these days, it is natural to draw comparisons between the two and see what lessons the US example may hold for India. There are some but you have to think deeply about the fundamental problems of health care before any of them are evident. As far as specific policy options are concerned, there are really no connections at all.

 

The US is an extreme outlier in the currently rich world. Fully 15% of the population is not covered by health insurance. The poorest are eligible for the public programme Medicaid and most people are employed in the formal sector and have coverage through their employers. This leaves 15%—too rich for public assistance, usually too poor (or too young or too casually or self-employed)—without. This is a shockingly high number for a country plenty rich enough to cover everyone.

 

However, India has virtually no health insurance in the private sector. Readers of this paper may find this a strange statement since a goodly fraction may well have such coverage, but readers of this paper are a strange (ie, very small and unrepresentative) sample of the population.

 

The new Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) could, if executed as designed, reach the 20% or so who hold BPL cards, though whether these are the poorest people in the country is, at best, debatable. That leaves 80% without coverage. The difference between 20% covered and 80% covered is a qualitative difference, not just a large quantitative one. The US is grappling with taking the last steps towards universality. India has yet to take the first.

 

The qualifications I need to make for the previous paragraph point out other major differences between the countries. In one sense, we could say everyone in India is covered since everyone has the right to use the public system of care for all medical needs. But since the vast majority of people prefer not to use the public system—even for hospital care—it’s hard to argue that people feel themselves so well cared-for in the public sector. Except for former military personnel, there is no publicly supplied medical care in the US as there is very little publicly supplied medical care in the entire rich world. It is insurance that is publicly supplied, not care.

 

The US is concerned with runaway medical care costs. In the old days, simple insurance paid for medical care as determined and as priced by doctors and hospitals, a situation with virtually no control on services provided or their costs. That concern has already led to a major change in the way healthcare is paid for over the 15 years since the Clinton administration tried to solve the healthcare problem. Now, only a small minority of people are covered by old-style health insurance, a larger share is covered by various forms of “managed care” where some limitations are put on what procedures are done and what the insurer will pay for them. This may well have slowed the increase in costs but they are still on the rise and still a cause for concern.

 

India has ‘solved’ the runaway cost problem differently. In the private sector, there is no third party insurance and a majority of people are very poor and simply can’t afford modern, high-tech, medicine. There is a distinct limit to what can be paid in the private sector—the sector of choice for the vast majority. In the public sector, the problem can be solved by simple budget decisions and has been solved by not paying very much.

 

The consequence of this has been to get what you pay for: not very much. Research has shown that the private sector is probably prescribing too many antibiotics—a serious problem but not really because it amounts to large sums of money. The same research shows the public sector simply doesn’t do enough even with the money it has through high absentee rates and cursory care that sometimes amounts to refusal to treat patients.

 

The other major difference between the US and India is the heavy reliance of the former on tax deductions for health insurance paid for by employers. While at the centre of the debate in the states, it relies, obviously, on the overwhelming majority of employment being in the formal sector. They’re the only ones who pay taxes for which the deduction is relevant. India, of course, has only a small proportion of its workforce in the formal sector. These are already burdened by dozens of laws and don’t need any more piled on them.

 

Now, to see any common ground between the problems of India and the US, we have to look at the deeper incentive issues that all insurance schemes introduce and the way in which medical care suppliers respond to them. That’s a topic for a separate discussion.

 

The author is Charles & Marie Robertson visiting professor of economic development, Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GOLDFINGERED IN SEPTEMBER

JAYA JUMRANI

 

It was a coincidence that on Friday, as the stock market bounced back after a four-day slide, gold shone, too. The price of pure gold touched an all-time high of Rs 15,805 per 10 gm in the Mumbai market. This was followed by the prices reaching Rs 16,000 per 10 gm in the national capital on Saturday. Standard gold surged in the domestic market where stockists and jewellers built up their stocks to meet demand for the upcoming festival and marriage season. The sentiment was also bolstered by the firm trend in the global market where gold is hovering around a six-month high of $1,000 an ounce.

 

Interestingly, gold prices and September share a sacrosanct relationship. According to researchers, gold has shown gains for 16 of the last 20 Septembers since 1989.

 

This year, the global financial meltdown has created panic amongst investors and there is renewed interest in gold as an investment option. Historically, gold has shared a positive correlation with crude and negative correlation with the dollar. But, due to the recent turbulence in the financial markets, gold prices have moved against the trend and are showing negative correlation with crude.

 

Market analysts are divided on gold’s outlook. While some believe that new bookings will be lacklustre in India at least for the next fortnight; some others believe that gold prices would continue to rally.

 

There has been an around 50% drop in India’s gold sales volume for the first half of 2009, but with festivals coming up in the second half it is expected that the demand may rise given that the prices remain in an affordable range.

 

According to some analysts, gold may touch the $1,200 mark by the end of the year due to a weak dollar, but a weak physical off-take from the world’s largest consumer ie, India could cap its upper limit. However, it is too early and difficult to predict whether these represent the beginning of a trend or not. But, it is clear that the pro-gold sentiment and safe haven demand has started regaining much influence among investors.

 

jaya.jumrani@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BREAKING THE DEADLOCK?

 

The two-day mini-ministerial meeting in New Delhi of trade ministers and officials from 35 countries has broadly agreed to conclude the Doha round by 2010. Trade negotiations will resume in right earnest in Geneva soon. Chief negotiators and their officials will prepare an agenda for action. It might be premature to claim a “breakthrough” on the basis of these outcomes which essentially cover the process rather than the substance of the trade talks. The course of negotiations in the past suggests that substance guides procedures. Although there have been no high-level ministerial meetings since July 2008, trade officials working at the WTO Secretariat were refining the texts of the drafts on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA). These two have remained contentious and the new texts released in December will form the basis for the forthcoming meetings. For India, an important outstanding issue is to bring negotiations on services on a par with those on agriculture and NAMA. There is very little indication that services negotiations will move to the centre stage any time soon. There ought to be some satisfaction over India taking the initiative in restarting the talks. The mini-ministerial meeting of July last year ended abruptly following differences between India and the United States over the special safeguards mechanism for agricultural products.

 

Given the Doha round’s chequered history over almost eight years, it would be naïve to expect an early wrap up of the talks. Moreover, even the December texts on agriculture and NAMA have a number of highly divisive issues, and any one of those could be a deal-breaker. For instance, in agriculture the design of the special safeguard mechanism that will satisfy all is yet to be arrived at. A major area of discord in NAMA is the demand that India and China should be required to adhere to sector agreements for harmonisation or elimination of tariffs. Obviously, the negotiations in Geneva would have to focus on these contentious issues immediately. The revival of the Doha round talks is taking place at a time when the global economy is coming out of a severe recession. But with unemployment continuing to remain at very high levels, there has been a trend towards protectionism — though mostly within the parameters of the WTO rules — in many industrial countries. There is a realisation that a completed Doha round will strengthen the multilateral trading system and spur freer, orderly trade. While the efforts to revive the talks are to be welcomed, one needs to guard against raising expectations too high at this stage.

***************************************

THE HINDU

                                            EDITORIAL

THE STATE OF INTOLERANCE

 

The Gujarat government does not seem to have learnt any lessons from its aborted misadventure. Its ban of expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah was summarily struck down by the Gujarat High Court. Yet, the Narendra Modi government persists with the idea of issuing a second ban notification. The reason for such obstinacy in the face of a chorus of scathing public criticism is not hard to seek. It has little to do, as some BJP leaders’ c laim, with the book’s alleged eulogising of Jinnah or its alleged censure of Sardar Patel. The ban notification came a mere two days after the book was released and it is doubtful whether anyone of consequence in the Gujarat government had even so much as bothered to read it. The cynical calculation was that banning the book will go down well with its core constituency — one that nurtures a strong sense of historical grievance about a range of issues from the nature of rule in medieval India to Partition in 1947. In its unseemly haste to ban the book, the State government overlooked providing the ostensible grounds for the ban, thereby failing to explain why it was “against national interest” or how it could affect the “tranquillity of the public.” While striking down the ban because of this technical flaw, the Court sent a strong message, censuring the government for “non-application of mind” and the haste in proscribing the book.

 

Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers State governments to declare newspapers, books, and documents “forfeited” if they are seditious, obscene, promote disharmony between groups, disturb public tranquillity, or outrage religious feelings, thereby violating various sections of the Indian Penal Code. None of these conditions obtain in the Jinnah biography case. Preserving public tranquillity is routinely invoked to ban films and books, even though the courts — as reflected in the landmark Ore Oru Gramathile case — have generally refused to allow free speech to be restricted in the face of official claims that the law and order situation would be affected. Jaswant Singh’s book — a scholarly account of Jinnah’s life — had posed no law and order threats. The idea that books on history should reflect received opinion or fit into some ideological straightjacket springs from bigotry and intolerance. As the Bombay High Court astutely observed in a 1983 case, “It will be very difficult for the State to contend that a narration of history would promote violence, enmity or hatred.” If such material is prevented from being published or distributed, the “nation will have to forget its own history and, in due course, the nation will have no history at all.”

 

***************************************

THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES   

RELIGION IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE

UNLESS THE SECULAR CHARACTER OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE IS RETRIEVED, THE RELIGIOUS CHARACTER THAT IT HAS COME TO HAVE COULD IMPINGE ON THE FUNCTIONS OF THE STATE.

K.N. PANIKKAR

 

On March 15, 2007, Jurgen Habermas delivered a lecture at the University of Tilberg in the Netherlands, on ‘Religion in Public Sphere,’ an expanded version of which has appeared as a chapter in his latest work, Between Naturalism and Religion. In the debate that followed the lecture, the most important issue that was raised related to the relationship between modernisation and secularisation.

 

For a long time it was held that a close link existed between the modernisation of society and the secularisation of the population. Consequently, it was argued that the influence of religion declined in post-enlightenment society. This assumption, Professor Habermas suggests, was based on three considerations. First, the progress in science and technology made causal explanation possible and more importantly, for a scientifically enlightened mind it was difficult to reconcile with theocentric and metaphysical worldviews. Secondly, the churches and other religious organisations lost their control over law, politics, public welfare, education and science. Finally, the economic transformation led to higher levels of welfare and greater social security. The impact of these developments, it is argued, has led to the decline of the relevance and influence of religion.

 

Opposed to the modernisation-secularisation paradigm is the view that the influence of religion in the public sphere has not only not declined, but in fact, has increased. It is held by many scholars that the modernisation thesis has lost its validity in the contemporary world, as there are tendencies which suggest that there is a worldwide resurgence of religion. Such an impression is based on three factors: missionary expansion, fundamentalist radicalisation and the political instrumentalisation of the potential for violence. On the whole, although “data collected globally still provides surprisingly robust support for the defenders of secularisation thesis,” Professor Habermas terms secular societies as ‘post-secular’ in which “religion maintains a public influence and relevance.” At the same time, he held the view that “the secularist certainty that religion will disappear worldwide in the course of modernisation is losing ground.” It is not only that this expectation has not been realised, religion has emerged as a powerful influence in the public sphere all over the world. This is particularly so in India.

 

A national survey conducted by the Centre for Developing Societies, New Delhi, testifies to the growing influence of religion in Indian society. According to this survey, four out of 10 people are very religious and five out of 10 are religious. That is to say that 90 per cent of the respondents claimed to be religious — performing rituals, visiting places of worship and undertaking pilgrimages. Among them, 30 per cent claimed to have become more religious during the last five years. An increase in the number of religious institutions is also an indication of the greater hold of religion on society. Enlightenment and modernity in India have not led to the decline of the influence of religiosity. If anything, it has only increased.

 

The public sphere emerged in Europe in the 18th century within the bourgeoisie society as a discursive space in which private individuals came together to discuss matters of public interest. The separation of powers of the state and the church and the enlightenment virtues of reason and humanism, and the economic changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, contributed to the formation of the public sphere and shaped the transactions within it. The existence of the public sphere was contingent upon the access of all citizens to, and protection of individual rights by, the rule of law. In essence, the character of the public sphere as it evolved in Europe in the 18th century was secular and democratic.

The formation and development of the public sphere in India during the 19th and 20th centuries had a different trajectory. This was primarily because India was under colonial domination and Indian society did not have the necessary independence to shape its destiny. The political, economic and intellectual conditions were qualitatively different from the one in which the public sphere in Europe took shape. The passage to an uninhibited state of enlightenment and modernity was not part of its experience. The constraints of colonialism warped the economic development, inhibited the efflorescence of renaissance and enlightenment, suppressed democratic aspirations and tried to undermine secular consciousness. Yet, within these constraints emerged what has come to be described as colonial modernity, which was at best a caricature of what was witnessed in Europe. The contradictions within this modernity, existing as an island in a traditional pool, induced the Indian intelligentsia to seek an alternative, the endeavours of which were articulated through the highly restrictive transactions in the public sphere.

 

For a variety of reasons, the ability of the agencies which contributed to the formation of the public sphere in India — such as the media, voluntary organisations and social and religious movements — to constitute a public sphere was restricted. Unlike in Europe the public sphere in India was not the product of a free bourgeois society; it took shape within the political, social and economic parameters set by the colonial government. Its social base was very weak, consisting of the nascent middle class emerging out of the structures of colonial governance. The media were constantly under the surveillance of colonial rule; the reach of the voluntary organisations was limited and the social and religious movements could not transgress their respective caste and religious boundaries. As a consequence, the public sphere was not vibrant, nor could it acquire a fully democratic and secular character. This in a way emerged out of the ambivalence of the colonial state: its liberal pretensions on the one hand and authoritarian compulsions on the other. As a result, it could not but monitor the transactions within the public sphere.

 

The legacy of colonial rule imparted to the public sphere in independent India an internally contradictory character. In terms of conception and constitution the public sphere was democratic and secular, but it was not so in practice. Several sections such as women and Dalits were excluded, and by and large it remained a preserve of the educated upper castes. Moreover, either created or controlled by the colonial bureaucracy, their democratic rights were considerably restricted. Yet, the public engagements within the public sphere indicated a continuous struggle for democratic ideals and practice.

 

As an institution mediating between civil society and the state, debating issues of public interest, the public sphere is secular in character. In India, however, the public sphere reflected the co-existence of the secular and the religious. The media were essentially secular, but an undercurrent of religious consciousness was reflected in their concerns. For instance, the contributors to the Letters to the Editor column of Bombay Gazette in the 19th century described themselves with their religious-denominational descriptions — Hindu, Muslim, Parsee and so on. They were all debating public and secular issues, but while doing so carried with them their religious baggage. The religious identity was true of voluntary associations also as was evident from their denominational names. Many of them were organised on religious terms.

 

If religion is a private matter, as considered by the Indian state, would it be proper to allow it to be active in the public sphere? The Indian state has not successfully resolved this contradiction. The official policy of equal recognition of all religions has only led to the reinforcement of this contradiction, because it has opened up more and more public space to all religions. As a result, what has become prominent in the public sphere is not secular reason but religious celebration. The public sphere has succumbed to the celebration of religiosity, based on rituals and superstitions.

 

Two conclusions are in order about the transactions in the public sphere in India. The universal experience of the modernisation-secularisation connection appears to be true of India. It is particularly so because the renaissance, enlightenment and scientific revolution being either borrowed or weak, the capacity of modernisation in India to impact on secularisation and marginalisation of religion is itself not pronounced. Instead, religion remains a powerful force in civil society. Secondly, the use of religion for political ends has substantially increased during the last few decades. Such a development has serious implications for a secular state and society. Retrieving the secular character of the public sphere is therefore imperative; otherwise its religious character is likely to impinge upon the functions of the state.

 

(These are excerpts from the valedictory address delivered at the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, on September 4. Professor Panikkar can be e-mailed at knp8@rediffmail.com)

 

***************************************

 

THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

ELECTRONICS REACH OUT TO BOTH ENDS OF AGE SPECTRUM

KEVIN J. O’BRIEN

 

Engineers at a research institute in the Netherlands have programmed two robots — Nao and iCat — to teach young children to avoid overeating and to remind them to take life-saving medications, like insulin.

 

Emporia Telecom, an Austrian cell phone company, has expanded production since T-Mobile, the largest German mobile operator, began selling its TalkPremium model for seniors. The phone has a large keypad and is built for voice- and text-messaging.

 

The very young and the elderly have never been target markets for high-tech companies, which focus instead on the global mainstream. But with the economic downturn reducing growth, companies are applying cutting-edge technology to the often-neglected extremes of the consumer spectrum.

 

“Targeting technology to the very old and the very young is a fast-growing field,” said Mark Neerincx, a professor of man-machine interaction at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “This is going to be a big business.”

 

Seniors are now more willing to spend money on technology that enhances their lives, said Levent Bektas, the head of sales for DSC-Zettler, a maker of large-button mobile and fixed-line phones in Petershausen, Germany.

 

“We are seeing much more demand than 20 years ago,” Bektas said.

 

Doro, a maker of senior-friendly cell phones in Lund, Sweden, is using panels of elderly consumers to test its devices.

 

Emporia has had success with its TalkPremium for seniors.

 

“It’s been selling very well for a year,” said Roland Meyer, the head of employee training in Germany for Emporia. “The elderly are growing in number and have money to spend.”

 

Even Nintendo’s Wii, a video game designed for the mass market, has caught on with seniors in the United States who are using simulations like bowling for diversion and low-impact exercise.

 

“The Wii is a hit at a lot of U.S. senior centres,” Alwan said.

 

Twenty per cent of Germany’s 82 million residents are 65 years old or older, according to the U.S. Population Reference Bureau. That compares with 13 per cent in the United States. Worldwide, 8 per cent of the global population, or 544 million people, is 65 or older.

 

By 2050, the world’s elderly will grow to at least 10 per cent of the population, or more than 1.4 billion people, according to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

 

Philips has shifted its focus to the other end of the age spectrum. At the TNO research institute in Delft, Philips has developed the iCat, which, along with the Nao, developed by Aldebaran Robotics of Paris, has been programmed to appeal to the young.

The robots, about two-feet tall, can see and talk, and mimic empathy by moving facial features. Both have been successful in studies at building emotional ties with young children, said Neerincx, a researcher on the project.

 

Philips is applying some of the fruits of that research to Sonicare for Kids, an electric toothbrush designed to teach 4- to 10-year-olds to brush their teeth. The oscillating brush beeps every 30 seconds for two minutes.

 

The audible reminders are supposed to encourage children to brush for a full two minutes and to help parents monitor that the job has been done, said Hubert Grealish, a Philips product manager. The brush also has a rectangular rubber grip to let children lay it down while applying toothpaste.

 

Samsung, the world’s largest consumer electronics maker, introduced a mobile phone called the Corby, which the company said represented its revamped focus on the youth market. The handset, which comes in a variety of loud colors, has integrated links to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and other popular social networking sites.

 

“The Corby continues Samsung’s history of developing new products and technologies for specific audiences,” said J.K. Shin, an executive vice president who heads Samsung’s mobile division. “We see strong growth opportunities in this sector.” — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

***************************************

 

THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

MAKE DECLARING JUDGES’ ASSETS MANDATORY FOR ALL FURTHER APPOINTMENTS

IT WOULD BE MOST UNFORTUNATE IF NEWLY APPOINTED JUDGES WERE FOUND OWNING LARGE ASSETS WITH NO CREDIBLE EXPLANATION.

SRIRAM PANCHU

 

These past weeks have been difficult times for the Supreme Court, particularly the Chief Justice of India (CJI), over making public the details of judges’ assets. Reacting to the CJI’s statements rejecting such disclosure, Justice D.V. Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court wrote a forthright article in a newspaper stating the CJI did not speak for the many judges of integrity in India. Justice Kannan from the Punjab and Haryana High Court publicly declare d his assets. The media, former judges and public opinion weighed in heavily on the side of these two.

 

Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, earlier rejected a Bill, which sought to prevent public scrutiny of such declarations of assets. The Supreme Court’s isolation was complete. Perhaps for the first time since the days of the Emergency, when the court was reviled for letting down citizens on the issue of unlawful detention, the judges were at the receiving end of public criticism, and seen to be occupying the low moral ground. After all, it is a little difficult to answer the question posed by the common man, “if there is nothing to hide, what is there to fear?” Indeed, the public must have reacted in dismay at the stand taken here; just a few years ago, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for politicians to declare their assets. For many members of the Bench, current and retired, and the Bar, it was galling to see their institution come under suspicion and attack. Fortunately, the Supreme Court reversed course, agreed to disclosure and averted further damage to its reputation and credibility.

 

Just as well, because another embarrassment was waiting for it a week later. Under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Central Information Commission directed the Supreme Court to furnish details whether judges had filed their declarations of assets; the Supreme Court challenged this in the Delhi High Court. On September 2, 2009, the High Court rebuffed the apex court, holding that the declarations were not immune from the RTI, and added for good measure that declaring personal assets resonated with the best practices and standards of ethical behaviour of judges.

 

It is crystal clear that the dominant mood in the country is that judges of the superior courts (Supreme Court and High Courts) must declare their assets and allow citizens to access such information. Indeed, such transparency must be welcomed as an aid to fighting corruption in the judiciary. As early as 1997 the judiciary, then headed by CJI J.S. Verma, resolved to make such disclosures. Compliance was partial; some judges declared their assets, some failed to periodically update the declarations, and some did not declare at all. The correctness of what was declared was not verified; no procedure or mechanism exists for that. No instance of any action against a judge for non- or wrong disclosure.

 

The primary area of concern is the acquisition of assets by a person after he became judge. The relevant questions are: “Has the judge failed to disclose an asset of value? Is there a declared asset whose acquisition cannot be explained, having regard to the judge’s legitimate sources of income?” These questions cannot be asked when disclosures are kept under wraps in a cupboard in the Supreme Court; but the answers will be sought when the declarations are out in the open. A suitable body and procedures will have to be devised to deal with the questions and get the answers. Safeguards must be erected to minimise harassment to judges, and this will be in addition to the extraordinary power that judges have to punish for contempt of themselves, and the common remedy of criminal and civil action for defamation.

Disclosure is all the more important now because we hardly have any weapon to fight judicial corruption. There is no specific forum to complain to, and no investigative machinery. The police cannot register an FIR against a judge on charges of corruption without the CJI’s permission. Corruption within the judiciary is no small matter; it grows horizontally and vertically. In 2001, a former CJI said 20 per cent of the judges across the board were corrupt; that figure would have to be indexed for inflation. Recent horror stories involve touting for appointments to High Courts, cash delivery to a judge’s house, and gifts to judges from employees’ provident funds. The judges implicated continue to sit on the seat of justice. The only existing remedy is impeachment by Parliament. This is illusory; no judge has ever been impeached. The CJI did recommend in vain impeachment of a Calcutta High Court judge for misdemeanours; a resolution has not even been tabled in the House. But if questions are raised about assets, then the public process of transparency may overcome institutional secrecy, and accountability may begin to replace inertia. After all, it is said, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

 

The Indian superior judiciary is the most powerful in the world, largely because of two features which are unique to it. The first is its extensive public interest jurisdiction, enabling it to exercise powers in executive and legislative areas. The second is the near total control it exercises over judicial appointments. Neither of these two features was envisaged in the Constitution; the court acquired them by rather creative interpretative exercises. It could do so because public opinion was solidly behind it; people saw it as the one organ of state that was clean and could be trusted. That public trust is the bedrock that sustains the court. It does not have the power of the elected vote, or purse or sword; its legitimacy, and extent of power, is defined precisely by how much public regard it is the repository of. The court lost that trust in August on the issue of public disclosure, could not long sustain isolation and fortunately reclaimed lost ground. The lesson in this for us who are supporters of the judiciary is that if the house is not kept in order and the occupants are not well chosen, the institution will forfeit public confidence, and with it the source of power.

 

A day after announcing its willingness to openly disclose the assets of its judges, the Supreme Court announced the names of five prospective appointees to the court and others to be Chief Justices of the High Courts. No mention was made of the requirement of declaration of their assets. It will be in the fitness of things for the court to immediately apply the high principle of transparency and require these judges to first declare their assets publicly, and await any information from the Bar or the public, before confirming the appointments. That would demonstrate judicial sincerity and commitment, and allay any residual public misgivings. It would be most unfortunate for the judiciary if any of these judges assumed high office, and was then found owning large assets with no credible explanation. The government too has a constitutional duty to ensure that proper procedures are followed and proper persons selected; and our President, a constitutional power, to advise and guide.

 

(Sriram Panchu is a senior advocate at the Madras High Court. Email: srirampanchu5@gmail.com )

 

***************************************

THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

HOUSEHOLD CHORES DWARFED BY SCALE OF UNIVERSE

NEWS THAT ANDROMEDA IS EATING STARS MAKES IT HARD TO CARE ABOUT PUTTING OUT THE RUBBISH.

CHARLIE BROOKER

 

The sheer breadth of human knowledge is a wonderful thing. But sometimes it’s scary. I was aimlessly clicking my way sometime ago around the BBC news site — which has become one of my favourite things in the world since I discovered just how much its very existence annoys James Murdoch — reading about the burial of Michael Jackson and the like, when my eye was drawn to an alarming headline.

 

“Galaxy’s ‘cannibalism’ revealed,” it read. This led to a story in the science section which calmly explained that a group of astronomers has decided that the Andromeda galaxy is expanding by “eating” stars from neighbouring galaxies. Having studied Andromeda’s outskirts in great detail, they discovered the fringes contained “remnants of dwarf galaxies.” It took me a couple of reads to establish that Andromeda wasn’t literally chewing its way through the universe like a giant intergalactic Pac-Man, and that the “remnants of dwarf galaxies” were living stars, not the immense galactic stools I’d envisaged. That was what had really frightened me: the notion that our entire solar system might be nothing more than a chunk of undigested sweetcorn in some turgid celestial bowel movement; that maybe black holes are actually almighty cosmological sphincters, squeezing solid waste into our dimension. What if the entire universe as we know it is essentially one big festival toilet?

 

That’d be a pretty good social leveller, come to think of it. So there, James Murdoch. You might well walk around thinking, “Ooh, hooray for me, I’m the chairman and CEO of News Corporation Europe and Asia, not to mention chairman of SKY Italia and STAR TV, the non-executive chairman of British Sky Broadcasting, and a non-executive director of GlaxoSmith-Kline,” but at the end of the day you’re just one of 900 trillion insignificant molecules in an all-encompassing turdiverse. And your glasses are rubbish.

 

OVERWHELMING

Anyway, the astronomers who made the discovery about Andromeda deserve our awe and respect, because their everyday job consists of dealing with concepts so intense and overwhelming that it’s a wonder their skulls don’t implode through sheer vertigo. Generally speaking, it’s best not to contemplate the full scope of the universe on a day-to-day basis because it makes a mockery of basic chores. It’s Tuesday night and the rubbish van comes first thing Wednesday morning, so you really ought to put the bin bags out, but hey — if our sun were the size of a grain of sand, the stars in our galaxy would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and if our entire galaxy were a grain of sand, the galaxies in our universe would fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools. You and your bin bags. Pfff!

 

The human brain isn’t equipped to house thoughts of this humbling enormity. Whenever I read a science article that nonchalantly describes the big bang, or some similarly dizzying reference to the staggering size and age and unknowable magnitude of everything, I feel like a sprite in an outdated platform game desperately straining to comprehend the machine code that put me there, even though that isn’t my job: my job is to jump between two moving clouds and land feet-first on a mushroom without ever questioning why.

 

Perhaps astrophysics stories should come with a little warning. Just as graphically violent news reports tend to be preceded by a quick disclaimer advising squeamish viewers that the following footage contains shots of protesters hurling their own severed kneecaps at riot police — or whatever — maybe brain-mangling science reports likely to leave you nursing an unpleasant existential bruise for several hours should be flagged as equally hazardous. How can I flip channels and enjoy my favourite cop show once I’ve been reminded of the crushing futility of everything? I can’t even get worked up about the murders in that kind of mood. Yeah, kill him. And her. And them. Sod it. It’s all just atoms in an unfathomable vortex.

 

Not that the few scientists I know seem to suffer. In fact, they’re unrelentingly calm and upbeat, like they’ve stumbled across a cosmic secret but aren’t telling. One of my friends is married to a quantum physicist who, sickeningly, manages to combine an immense brain with a relaxed, down-to-earth, amused attitude to everything. He once tried to explain the characteristics of different theoretical dimensions to me.

 

Dimensions one to four I could just about cope with. The fifth made vague sense at a push. But the rest collapsed into terrifying babble. There was no foothold.

 

I swear, at one point he casually claimed the seventh dimension measured about half a metre in diameter and was shaped like a doughnut. That can’t be right: either I’ve misremembered it because my brain deleted the explanation as it was going in, chewing it up and spitting it out before it could do damage, or — and this is just a wild theory — I’m too stupid to understand much in the realm of science beyond the difference between up and down, and the seventh dimension is beyond me. God knows what the eighth dimension consists of. Probably two chalk moths and a puddle. Whatever it is, and wherever it lives, don’t tell me. The dustcart’s due and I don’t want to know. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

***************************************

 

 

THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

AN AFGHAN VILLAGE IGNORES TALIBAN THREAT

BILAL SARWARY

 

Just before the elections, people in the Eastern Province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan complained of a spurt in violence and government apathy, fearing that it may affect voter turnout.

 

But increased violence and constant threats from the Taliban did not deter residents of this remote village from participating in the presidential and provincial elections held on August 20.

 

Braving bad weather and rocket attacks, voters from Kodi Khel left their homes in mountainous valleys early in the morning for polling stations.

 

The Taliban tried its best to deter them. Several people were killed in the run-up to the elections.

 

Schools, government offices and homes of officials were targeted in an attempt to create a wave of fear among the electorate.

 

On the night just before the polling day, the Taliban distributed pamphlets in the area asking people not to venture out.

 

“This is not a real Afghan election, this is just a game by the invaders,” a village elder read out from one such pamphlet. By invaders the Taliban meant the Western forces operating on Afghan soil.

 

A stamp at the bottom read “Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.”

 

“We knew the risks [involved in going to vote]. But someone said there would be more attacks and killings if we didn’t elect a president,” said Khan Mohammad, a resident of Kodi Khel, who was among the first from his village to cast his ballot.

 

“Once I voted, a lot of my family members and villagers followed.”

 

People here said they had encountered surprising problems once they reached the polling stations.

 

“The ballot paper was so long it took me 10 minutes to locate the election symbol of my candidate,” said Khalid Khan.

 

“It took me even longer to vote for the provincial council candidate.”

 

Some others said the long list of candidates was too confusing.

 

“In other countries, there are just two or three candidates in a [presidential] poll. I had to spend 20 minutes just to find Ramazan Bashardost in the list,” said Gul Rahim.

 

Mr. Bashardost is among the 30 candidates in the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan.

 

In Kodi Khel, residents decided to stay awake the night before the polling day to guard the village and reassure the voters of their security.

 

But Taliban attacks and propaganda against the polls have had an effect.

 

“Female turnout was particularly very low, largely because of security concerns,” said Wali Shah of Kodi Khel.

 

“But male voters did turn out in large numbers,” he added.

 

In other villages of Sherzad district, violence did affect the voter turnout.

 

“Security concerns added to the people’s woes. They are not happy because they have not seen big changes in their lives [following the first presidential election in 2004]. So why vote?” asked another villager.

 

Accusations of fraud, ballot stuffing and other alleged irregularities in the polls are what dominate the conversation here these days.

 

“We want the election commission to decide,” said Ahmed Rahim, while listening to the news of the disputed results on radio.

 

He’s worried that continued uncertainty could lead to more trouble.

 

“We want our politicians to fight with words. Afghanistan needs peace, not war.” — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SOME REFRESHING PLAIN SPEAKING

 

No official Indian observations since last November’s terrorist outrage in Mumbai by trained Islamist gangsters from Pakistan has come as close to unravelling the complex reality since the attacks as the words spoken by Union home minister P. Chidambaram ahead of a working visit to the United States this week. It is a pity that after Mumbai, although not a single concrete step had been taken by Islamabad to address India’s legitimate concerns and while the lone terrorist caught was singing, some in this country began to entertain the illusion that time was ripe for India and Pakistan to actively collaborate to break the back of terrorism nurtured in Pakistan by that country’s spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence. The view was propagated by idealists who do not look beyond their nose. Inexplicably, this outlook also found an echo in the Sharm-el Sheikh joint statement. Fortunately, the Prime Minister saw it fit to resile from that understanding when he maintained at the recent conference of chief ministers on internal security that Pakistan’s infrastructure of terrorism targeting India remained standing, rebuffing every glib assurance to the contrary being made by Islamabad.

 

Infiltration in Kashmir, meanwhile, which has been going on since January 2008 in complete violation of the ceasefire agreement signed during Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s time in office, has come to define a steady pattern. Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile has also grown in this period. Last week, we had the evidence of a former Pakistani parliamentarian, Shah Aziz, suggesting that on account of the company he kept he was tasked by his country’s intelligence establishment after the Mumbai attacks to win over Baitullah Mehsud, the dreaded chief of the Pakistani Taliban (who was recently killed), to partner the Pakistan Army establishment to discomfit India. This hardly bespeaks of a cooperative attitude to combat terrorism, regional or international, and to help India investigate the Mumbai jihadist onslaught. Can there be any question that each time Pakistan asked India — the famous questionnaires — to supply clarifications in respect of the Mumbai attacks so that investigations in Pakistan may be facilitated, it was engaging in the clearest duplicity?

 

Mr Chidambaram makes two basic points. One, that India has never ruled out the involvement of state actors in Pakistan in 26/11, whatever Pakistan may say. It is refreshing to hear this. The captured terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, undergoing trial in Mumbai, has said that a "Major-General Saab" had visited him and his fellow-attackers in the company of Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (which spawned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba), during a training session preparatory to the Mumbai attack. This implicates the official establishment as well as Mr Saeed, released from house arrest by a Lahore court as the government there pressed no serious charges. It is then understandable why the home minister was aghast when Mr Saeed was sent home a free man. Mr Chidambaram’s second contention is that he is not sure why Islamabad appears unwilling to take the investigation forward. His broad premise should make us think. In the circumstances, what is the nature and level of "friendship" that can be expected from Pakistan? While Islamabad plays games in respect of a matter as serious as Mumbai, it continues to obscure the trail in the context of the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, where India is seriously engaged in nation-building, and does everything it can — militarily and diplomatically — to destroy India’s presence in Kabul. In the event, what is to be gained from proposed political meetings with Pakistani leaders? The home minister intends to share Mumbai-related data with the Americans. It is to be seen how much practical effect this would have on Islamabad’s behaviour.

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

ADVANI’S FALL: FROM IRON MAN TO FEVICOL MAN

ASHOK MALIK

 

I’m a man without conviction

I’m a man who doesn’t know

How to sell a contradiction

You come and go

You come and go

George O’Dowd, Karma Chameleon, 1984

 

About the biggest disappointment in the past month’s mess in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been Lal Krishna Advani. His reputation stands diminished. Once seen as the thinking man’s politician, he has been reduced to a caricature of his past. He has faced accusations of hankering after petty office, clinging to the Leader of the Opposition post in the Lok Sabha. In the phase after the general election verdict of May 16, this has invited anguish and harsher emotions from even former admirers.

 

Following Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s intervention, Mr Advani has finally agreed to stand down and retire as Leader of the Opposition. However, his idea of fading into the sunset doesn’t quite match everybody else’s. This past week Mr Advani told reporters he would be undertaking yet another cross-country journey, this time to shore up confidence among BJP workers and identify new talent within the party.

 

Does it strike him he may be part of the problem and his continued presence in the frontline may actually be a reason for loss of confidence among party sympathisers? This is a cutting assessment, but is it entirely inaccurate? No wonder the so-called "talent hunt" — what next, a reality show called "BJP Idol"? — has evoked mocking responses.

 

To be fair, Mr Advani is not alone in bringing the BJP to its existential crisis. Rajnath Singh, president for the past three years, never rose above his provincial status and converted the party organisation to an agency for factional and transactional ends.

 

Neither is the RSS totally in the clear. Despite protestations that it is a "cultural" and apolitical body, it is now expected to transfer more and more of its pracharaks into the BJP at various levels. The third umpire first became non-playing captain and now promises to appoint itself sole selector.

 

It is fairly clear that the RSS intends to arbiter the generational change in the BJP and have a decisive say in the naming of future leaders. A task that should have been left to the party and to a robust mechanism of internal elections has been appropriated.

 

How all of this will play itself out and what implications it will have for the BJP is a matter for the future. First, one must understand why this came about and ask whether it could have been avoided. Both queries will result in fingers being pointed in the same direction — that of Mr Advani.

 

After the defeat of 2004, propriety demanded that both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Advani step aside. To be fair to Mr Vajpayee, in a few months — and once he realised that the United Progressive Alliance-Left alliance was not going to break quickly — he reconciled himself to the inevitable and retired with his dignity intact.

 

Mr Advani hung on, and on. At one point, he anointed himself party president as well as Lok Sabha leader and then, in 2007, became the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and election mascot. It was said of Ronald Reagan that he was the "Teflon Man": nothing (no scandal) stuck on him. In the post-2004 period, Mr Advani became the "Fevicol Man": he just stuck on to everything, every post. Did he really have to bring this upon himself?

 

The situation became completely untenable after the rejection of 2009. Mr Advani initially announced that he would not be Leader of the Opposition any longer. Within a few hours he had changed his mind, allowing himself to be persuaded and inviting suggestions that he wasn’t serious in the first place. In a few weeks, his confidants were sending out the message that he would be around for a full five years.

 

Finally, the RSS had to tell him to leave. Whatever its other shortcomings, the Sangh leadership has been extremely courteous to Mr Advani. It has told him he has a couple of years to fade away from the party hierarchy and decision-making. Till then, he can be guidance counsellor to a team that will probably be put together by the RSS.

 

Yet, as his "talent hunt" brainwave suggests, Mr Advani is not reconciled to his own irrelevance. He plans to use his grace period to keep himself in the limelight or merely in the news. Bheesma thinks he is Arjuna, believes he is the hero and the Pandavas and Kauravas are peripheral characters, and wants the script altered to his convenience. This is not a modern Mahabharat; it is a political tragedy.

 

What has Mr Advani’s unconscionable delay in letting go led to? Particularly after the May 2009 drubbing, the BJP just had to effect its long-overdue transition. This process needed a referee, somebody who was above the fray and thought for the party. It was a role tailor-made for Mr Advani.

 

Unforgivably, Mr Advani refused to elevate himself to elder statesman and continued to see himself as a competitor for jobs. This created a vacuum; the party cried out for an anchor to manage its generational evolution. The RSS was the only available option. Mr Advani built the party in the 1990s but, at a time when the BJP needed him most, he actually failed the party.

 

That is why the Advani of today comes across as a sad, almost pathetic figure. Nobody knows what be believes in any longer. His opinion on Muhammad Ali Jinnah as expressed in 2005 was not markedly different from Jaswant Singh’s this year. Both positions were flawed, but at least Mr Singh has been consistent and not changed his mind.

 

During the election campaign, Mr Advani had no noteworthy words on Varun Gandhi’s anti-Muslim diatribe, offered no clarity on policy issues. He just seemed (and continues to seem) to be going through the motions — too tired to move forward, too scared to move on.

 

From Lauh Purush to Plasticine Purush, did it have to come to this?

 

Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

SERVICES EXPORTS NEED NEW MARKETS

JAYATI GHOSH

 

Services exports have emerged as an important source of foreign exchange and even employment generation for many countries in developing Asia. This is part of the global explosion in services trade, which really occurred after 2003; before that, world services trade was growing at around the same rate as merchandise exports. Some developing and newly industrialised countries of Asia benefited disproportionately from this trend of increasing services trade, particularly from the export of commercial services other than transportation and travel.

 

Contrary to the general perception of India as the most important service exporter from developing Asia, it turns out that China is the largest exporter of commercial services, and also has shown the fastest rate of growth, especially in transport services. To some extent that is explicable by the rapid growth of foreign trade, which would naturally have required more transport services. But even "other commercial services" exports, which are supposed to be India's great success, have grown by 22 per cent per annum for China in the period 2000-2007, slightly faster than India. However, unlike China, which has a net deficit in commercial services, India has a surplus in this category.

 

Service exports from developing Asia are vulnerable to the current global crisis because of the significant reliance on the Northern markets. Where data are available (such as for Hong Kong China and South Korea) they suggest that the United States and the European Union accounted for around 40 per cent of total services exports in 2007. In India, it is known that at least 60 per cent of software exports (the fastest growing category of services exports in India) are destined for the US market alone. A significant proportion of that has been to the banking and financial services industry. The impact of the crisis on this sector, and the subsequent (and related) protectionist attempts to limit offshoring of services by Northern companies, are therefore likely to have a clear negative impact on such exports.

 

One specific element of travel services that has direct employment effects is the tourism industry. The recent decade witnessed a substantial increase in international tourism in developing Asia. One notable feature is the increase of intra-Asian tourism that has been noted within the trade, and reflects the growing prosperity of Asian middle classes as well as some easing of restraints on cross-border travel within the region. However, the crisis acted swiftly and sharply to affect tourism in many countries of the region. Both tourist arrivals and tourism receipts (in US dollar terms) decelerated sharply in 2008 compared to 2007 for most countries, and even turned negative from very sharp earlier growth in the case of China.

 

However, the monthly pattern of tourism receipts does not show such a sharp decline for China. Rather, the impression is of volatility around a relatively stagnant trend. In the case of India, the effect of the global recession is clear in that the usual seasonal increase in the winter months of 2008 and early 2009 simply did not occur, and the peak level of January 2009 was only around the same as that achieved two years earlier in January 2007. However, initial evidence from the case studies suggests that the downward trend is likely to be prolonged into late 2009. In addition to the economic effects of the crisis, concerns about the spread of the AH1N1 virus and security concerns in some countries in the region are also likely to affect tourist arrivals.

 

The crisis may also have changed the geographical pattern of tourist arrivals. For example, since the onset of the global financial crisis, Cambodia has received less tourists from South Korea and Japan as well as other high income countries, but more from Vietnam and China, which are relatively lower income countries. This has implications for tourism revenues, since per capita spending of tourists from these regions may be lower. It has been found that luxury hotels have been facing lower occupancy rates than three star and budget hotels.

 

Some countries with a higher proportion of tourists from Asia-Pacific countries (such as Indonesia, where more than half came from the Asia Pacific region, with Japan, Australia, China, Malaysia and South Korea among the top five markets) have been relatively less adversely affected by the downturn. However, in Vietnam the opposite tendency was evident: while all tourist arrivals reduced by 22 per cent in the first five months of 2009, tourists from China and South Korea decreased by 38 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, while the number from US fell by only 1.2 per cent and those from Canada actually increased by 4.2 per cent.

 

Just as for merchandise exports, therefore, it appears that diversification of markets is the key to continued expansion of service exports as well

 

***************************************

 

 

THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

WILL GULF OF ADEN BE A NEW LOC FOR NAVY?

SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

A few months back the Russian warship Admiral Panteleyev, reportedly responding to a distress signal from the tanker Bulwai Bank, under attack from Somali pirates 120 km east of the Somali coast, tracked down a captured Iranian trawler being used as a command-and-control ship for pirate vessels, and apprehended 12 Pakistani nationals on board, including its captain, Mohammad Zamal. Russian investigators found that those apprehended were well trained and familiar with weapons handling (seven AK-47 assault rifles as well as pistols were recovered), as well as with military and naval procedures. There are other persistent media reports of "well-trained" Pakistanis directing Somali piracy operations near the coast of East Africa — off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden. If this is correct, it would appear to indicate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, that country’s official clearing house for covert and subversive operations, may have extended its charter to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. This is a matter of concern for India, since in addition to general piracy, smuggling and gun-running, there is every likelihood of the ISI directing its marine jihadis to specifically seek out and target Indian merchant shipping, or ships bound for or out of Indian ports, and interdict or interfere with Indian maritime activity to whatever degree feasible. Indian economic interests and energy security are likely to be particularly affected because the Afghanistan experience indicates that these are always primary targets of Pakistani quasi-state covert entities, whether labelled Al Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba or any other.

 

Ninety per cent of India’s total overseas trade, in particular the vital energy resources on which the country is critically dependent for 80 per cent of its demand, is carried by sea routes focusing in and out of Mumbai, the principal port in the country. The country’s maritime jugular traverses westwards through the Arabian Sea and connects with destinations in Europe and the energy centres of the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the West Asian region through strategic choke points along the East African and Arabian littorals around the Horn of Africa. Notable among these are the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Red Sea en route to the Suez Canal and beyond, and the Straits of Bab el Mandep at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. These waters are India’s new frontiers for national security.

 

Somalia lies on the East African coast of the Arabian Sea, across the street from Mumbai as it were, in a position strategic to India’s maritime interests, dominating the Gulf of Aden through which passes India’s main maritime expressway. A predominantly Muslim country, the largest in the Horn of Africa, Somalia’s traditional faith has now acquired increasingly radical overtones under the influence of indigenous jihadi organisations like the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and Al Shabab ("The Youth"), which have taken root in the region, reinforced by foreign fighters from ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, with its lack of any central authority, and very strong clan-based affinities and culture, Somalia has much in common with the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, notwithstanding the obvious differences in ethnicity, and provides similar environments for rapid spread of jihadi influence. The country has been ripped apart by bitter and intermittent inter-clan wars ever since the collapse of President Mohammad Siad Barre’s national government in 1991. A United Nations Peacekeeping Force was sent to maintain peace and restore order in the country, in which the Indian Army’s 66 Mountain Brigade formed part of the mission. As always, the Indian contingent performed outstandingly, but the United Nations were unsuccessful overall and had to withdraw after suffering casualties. (The Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down is based on a true incident during that period.) Since then, constant internecine conflicts between warring clans and warlords, military intervention by neighbouring Ethiopia and the increasing intensity of radical jihad have almost totally destabilised the country and reduced Somalia to a status worse than Afghanistan. The prevalent state of total anarchy has impacted not only neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, but also spread to the seas around the Horn of Africa, particularly the Gulf of Aden, which have become zones for free enterprise for increasingly well-equipped and directed Somali pirates preying on international merchant shipping from fishing trawlers to supertankers which traverse these waters at their peril.

Notwithstanding any potential fallout targeted specifically at Indian shipping, piracy in the Gulf of Aden is also a cause of major international concern. After a slow start, Western governments dispatched naval ships to safeguard shipping in the region, irrespective of nationality. Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) was established as an American-led multinational naval anti-piracy mission, based on logistical facilities in the adjacent French African enclave of Djibouti on the Red Sea. The task force consists of ships from seven nations, with a rotating command structure between the members. The Indian Navy has not contributed to CTF-50, but operates independently with a naval detachment in the region, initially based on INS Tabar, later replaced by INS Mysore, on a bilateral understanding with the Somali government, which though severely incapacitated and barely functional, nevertheless remains the legitimate national authority. The Indian Navy has performed very successfully ints anti-piracy mission, in many ways a marine replica of the counter-insurgency operations being conducted by its sister service in the Kashmir Valley. However, Somalia and the Gulf of Aden are as yet small clouds on a distant horizon. But if, as in Afghanistan, a "plausibly deniable" Pakistani intervention through the tested pattern of jihadi surrogates is developing on the East African littoral to turn the Gulf of Aden into a maritime Khyber Pass for Indian shipping and trade, the Indian government will have no choice but to put appropriate counter-measures in place at the earliest, to forestall a Limburg-type suicide bombing or an Achille Lauro-type hijacking and passenger hostage situation involving Indian shipping or personnel. All in all, the Gulf of Aden (and possibly even the Persian Gulf) might turn into a long-duration "Line of Control" proxy war commitment for the Indian Navy.

 

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury (Retd) is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAK INACTION ON 26/11

SHIELDING SAEED EXPOSES ITS BAD INTENTIONS

 

IT is over nine months since the well-planned terrorist killings in Mumbai occurred, but no one has been punished by Pakistan so far. The man who fathered the massacre plan, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was arrested but let off by the court because the prosecution did not present before the judge enough evidence in support of the case. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has rightly described it as “atrocious”. The dossier provided by India was obviously kept aside. This has exposed Pakistan’s non-seriousness about punishing the perpetrators of 26/11. There is no dearth of evidence to nail Saeed, who earlier headed the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba. More details could have been gathered by launching an investigation by the Pakistan government. But this required honesty of purpose and an unflinching commitment to fight terrorism, unfortunately missing in Pakistan.

 

The talk of non-state actors being involved in the Mumbai attack has been aimed at confusing the whole issue. No Pakistan-based terrorist outfit operating against India can be successful in implementing its dirty designs without the backing of a state actor — the ISI or the Pakistan Army. Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested for the Mumbai killings, has given the Indian investigators sufficient details about the people behind 26/11. He has revealed the name of one “Major-General Saab”, as Mr Chidambaram has pointed out. The Pakistan government has been stifling the probe on the basis of the dossier provided by India because it will expose the hand of its own agencies in the ghastly incident.

 

In such a situation, no government in New Delhi can afford to think of resuming the peace dialogue. Mr Chidambaram must bring Pakistan’s perfidy to the knowledge of the Americans whom he will be meeting during his four-day visit to the US, beginning Tuesday. The US needs to put enough pressure on Pakistan to start the process of punishing the guilty of 26/11. India cannot allow those who masterminded the Mumbai attack to go scot-free. This is necessary to ensure that the Pakistan-based terrorists refrain from repeating what they did in Mumbai.

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A SUCCESSOR TO YSR

A HUGE CHALLENGE AHEAD FOR PARTY

 

THE Congress high command deserves to be commended for the manner in which it has handled the clamour for the appointment of the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy as chief minister. The unseemly haste with which Mr Jagan Mohan’s supporters went about their agenda of having him installed as YSR’s successor was clearly in poor taste. While ministers and legislators scrambled in support of Mr Jagan Mohan even before the charismatic YSR’s body was laid to rest, the noisy demonstration by Congress activists in his support at a condolence meeting organised by the state Congress committee detracted from the solemnity of the occasion and was revolting.

 

An element of enforced sanity returned when the high command made it clear through its emissaries that it would not brook dissent. That all the members of the erstwhile council of ministers fell in line on the high command’s dictat and took oath as members of K. Rosaiah’s caretaker administration was heartening. The selection of a successor can and should wait until the seven-day state mourning is over.

 

At this stage, Mr Jagan Mohan’s supporters have relented, but there is a strong possibility that once the state mourning is over the power game would start again. It would be in the fitness of things for the high command not to buckle under pressure. Giving in to fast-growing regional satraps could well open a Pandora’s box and lead to repercussions in other states as well. At the same time, it never pays for the central command to impose an unpopular decision. Mr Jagan Mohan is yet very young and inexperienced and his proximity to some business interests does not inspire confidence as of now. He could well be a future leader but for now he needs to be counselled. A suitable incumbent must be found who evokes widespread respect and has the right credentials for governance. It would take all the tact on the part of central leaders to accomplish it with minimum heartburning and rancour.

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A GENTLEMAN IN POLITICS

BRAR STOOD UP WHEN REQUIRED

 

MR Harcharan Singh Brar, who died on Sunday, aged 87, had been Punjab’s Chief Minister for barely 15 months. Within this short period he brought down the political temperature in the militancy-infested Punjab by shunning the politics of confrontation that his predecessor, Mr Beant Singh, had engaged in to corner the Akalis and terrorists. The soft-spoken and mild-mannered Mr Brar was temperamentally incapable of playing political games or hurting anyone. His aristocratic lifestyle separated him from scheming commoners in politics. Mr Brar was more suited for the office of Governor (which he held in Haryana and Orissa) than for chief ministership, which requires skills to manage and manipulate supporters with unbridled ambitions.

 

It came as no surprise, therefore, when Mr Harcharan Singh Brar was ousted from the office of Chief Minister in an undignified way in November, 1996, after some 40 MLAs revolted against his style of functioning. They were led by a more aggressive and pragmatic leader, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was sworn in as the next Chief Minister. Two months later, Mr Brar was expelled from the Congress as he had unilaterally decided to pull out of the electoral contest from Muktsar. Mr Brar cited heart trouble as the reason. A few months later, he was booked on the charge of taking a bribe of Rs 25 lakh. Mr Brar must have left politics a disillusioned man.

Punjab’s Malwa region has produced two major political families — the Badals and the Brars. Mr Parkash Singh Badal is a shrewd, calculating politician, a master of politics — quite the opposite of Mr Harcharan Singh Brar. Yet when locked in a direct contest in Gidderbaha in 1967, Mr Brar defeated Mr Badal by 57 votes. They never faced each other again. As a minister, Mr Brar challenged the formidable Chief Minister Beant Singh on the water and power tariff issues. He could be polite but firm, when needed.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE REDDY PHENOMENON

HE FOUND AN AUTONOMOUS ROLE FOR HIMSELF

BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

MR Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death is a reminder of the evolving and changing pattern of relationship between state leaders and their national leaderships. In the halcyon Jawaharlal Nehru days, a man like West Bengal’s Dr B.C. Roy was a power to reckon with even in an age of tall leaders. In later years, the same state produced powerhouses such as Atulya Ghosh. Kamaraj Nadar of Tamil Nadu was a formidable force and men of the ilk of Govind Ballabh Pant were leaders in their own right before moving to the Centre.

 

The diminution of regional leaders belonging to national parties — in effect the Congress before the Bharatiya Janata Party joined its ranks - came about with the advent of Indira Gandhi after she had decisively won the intra-party battle. The national Congress leadership had always influenced the choice of regional leaders but the phrase “we leave it to her” took on a life of its own. The state leader remained chief minister at her pleasure; he was not merely the choice of the legislature party or the wishes of the larger voting constituency.

 

The Indira legacy has been kept alive to an extent by Ms Sonia Gandhi, once she assumed charge. To an extent, it is a question of balancing the various constituencies in the party and the state but a regional leader’s equation with the national Congress leader tips the scale for or against an aspirant. The remarkable aspect about Mr Reddy was that while remaining loyal to the First Family, he had carved out a unique autonomous role for himself. He won a second term in his state and, even more impressively, delivered in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

 

One lesson of the Reddy phenomenon is that a leader’s clout in the party’s central leadership is dependent upon his vote-getting prowess. Traditionally, it has been true at the national level that the Congress party forgives its leader many of his or her sins provided he or she fulfils the all-important task of pulling in the votes. And in an era of more competitive politics, it also holds true for regional leaders as long as they do not display the ambition of carving out a totally autonomous role for themselves.

 

This is also the case with the BJP in the limited period it has been in power at the Centre although the rise of Mr Narendra Modi, given his hold on the Gujarat electorate, is a pointer to his oversized ambitions. The party has not been required to come to grips with this phenomenon, in view of its successive losses in two general elections. Some BJP leaders raised the slogan of Mr Modi being fit for the Prime Minister’s office in the general election campaign for their own ends. Mavericks apart, in seeking to discipline regional leaders, the overarching central leadership of the BJP must share power with its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

 

In the Congress party, those who aspire to break the glass ceiling of the top job being reserved for the First Family — the Manmohan Singh experiment being the exception – must break away to form their own parties, as was the case with Mr Sharad Pawar and his Nationalist Congress venture, now living in an uneasy compact with the parent organisation.

 

Others who have rebelled have drifted into the political wilderness. Provincial or state parties are immune to this virus because their ken is limited and the question of passing on the leadership baton to the progeny is a relatively simple operation. Witness the gumption of Mr Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab in pre-empting the future by making his son Deputy Chief Minister, and there are other examples, as in the case of Tamil Nadu.

 

Mr Rajasekhara Reddy’s uniqueness was in relating himself to the largest rural community while balancing it with programmes of urban renewal and development. Like other strong leaders, he brooked no dissent, was often arbitrary in his actions and apparently favoured some realty firms over others. His ultimate recipe of success was that he delivered. He delivered votes for the Congress, he delivered succour to the farmer and he delivered development to the urban dweller, apparently on his own terms.

 

Mr Reddy’s untimely death left his son Jagan Mohan Reddy somewhat unprepared for succeeding his father, having only just being minted as a member of Parliament, leaving the central Congress leadership with the difficult task of facing local clamour for his immediate induction into office while making the right choice. The clamour is part emotional and part fuelled by vested interests, but the embarrassment for the national leadership is that Rajiv Gandhi was relatively inexperienced when he was catapulted into the Prime Minister’s chair and Mr Rahul Gandhi is apparently serving his apprenticeship for the same office. In Reddy Junior’s case, however, he is yet to earn his spurs and his business and media ventures have been controversial.

 

This generational change by heredity is not exceptional to India. Look at Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, which has just lost power after its half-century of almost uninterrupted rule and its long line of sons and grandsons, including the next Prime Minister belonging to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, inheriting office. But the institution of building leadership families complicates the task of the national Congress in choosing state leaders. Does Ms Sonia Gandhi give the post of Chief Minister to one obviously unprepared for the high office merely by virtue of his birth?

 

The complaint of Congressmen at the local level is that the princely heirs to political dynasties leave them less room to make their mark. But an able and intelligent leader can still shine if he or she can demonstrate effectiveness in governance and, what is often more important, in relating to the majority of his people. Indira Gandhi’s penchant for promoting her son Sanjay and a tribe of wheeler-dealers starved the Congress at the roots. Mr Rajasekhara Reddy proved that these roots could be revived and revitalised with hard work and political savvy. This will remain his most telling epitaph.

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

MILKMAN AND THE ASSEMBLY

BY EHSAN FAZILI

 

EVERY morning my milkman has something to say while he pours in litres of milk from his huge can that he holds firmly in his left armpit. If there is nothing important happening around, he would talk about the day’s weather.

 

He is familiar with the news around, for his routine job is in the cluster of houses and residences of over two dozen newsmen and their offices. In fact, his clientele is spread over a area where he reaches everyone without fail. Even if one is not available he would definitely try to reach again during his second and third rounds.

 

I know him for the past about two decades now, during which period he has hardly missed any day of his duty. I do not remember if he had been able to deliver when the Lal Chowk was under siege when BJP top brass led by Murli Manohar Joshi had to unfurl the Tricolour at the Clock Tower on January 26, 1992.

 

The milkman, whose name I have never known though I tried to find it occasionally, did fail in August last year. He was stopped from entering the area by policemen posted to prevent “Lal Chowk Chalo” for four or five days in the aftermath of the Amarnath land agitation. Many of his customers in dire need, including me, had to drive to his place to fetch milk while everything else was closed.

 

Over the past few days he happened to miss me during his first morning round, since I had been getting ready for reaching the State Assembly in session. Or he had to wait for a few minutes till I got ready, while other family members were out to their schools. Thus, he had a piece of advice for me: “Change your timing”.

 

How could I do that since the timing of Assembly was rescheduled to begin an hour earlier at 9 a.m? So I rescheduled my time with him, after which he had no complaints.

 

Next day, he had a new piece of advice for me: “Be careful inside the Assembly”. He also sought to know whether the newsmen were sitting close to the members. I assured him that it was a “safe distance” in the new Assembly complex which had come up 27 years after its foundation stone had been laid but asked him what was wrong there. “Chairs are being hurled there. You might get hurt,” he said with genuine concern.

 

I smiled away saying that it was not going to happen as there was a good distance and no detachable chairs were there to get thrown. There was, however, the Speaker’s odd old type mike that was wrenched on the first day of this session.

 

***************************************

 

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

TRUTH OF PARTITION

NEITHER JINNAH NOR PATEL RESPONSIBLE

BY N.K. SINGH

 

THE present controversy on Jinnah and Patel is raging because neither politicians nor many in media have a flair for history or literature. When I asked some top leaders if they had read Azad or Albinia, they feigned ignorance.

 

The result is that the positions are being stated for and against Jaswant Singh without reading his voluminous book and research for five years as he claims.

 

My purpose is not to review his book nor fan the controversy but to unveil some aspects of truth which may sound weird but have authentic historical evidence.

 

On the basis of my reading of various documents, which I will quote briefly, I can say that the real man behind Partition of India was no other than the Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten. It was neither Jinnah nor Patel as is claimed by different warring groups.

 

First of all, let us clear Jinnah from this controversy. Alice Albinia in her research in “Empires of Indus” writes “Suave Loius Mountbatten, eager to assure himself a dashing role in history, had accepted the job of Indian Viceroy in February 1947 on one condition that by June following year Britain would be out of India. Mountbatten arrived in India in March. In June he made the startling announcement that India was to be divided — not next year as he had agreed in London, but in ten weeks time.”

 

Jinnah was taken by surprise when British conceded his demand for a separate state for Muslims – was he using

the idea of a separate Muslim homeland as apolitical leverage, a bargaining tool? Jinnah, a Congressman, was disillusioned with Gandhi’s support to the Khilafit movement to win support of Muslim clergy Jinnah felt “he was inciting and encouraging religious frenzy.”

 

Despite his political success and national renown, Jinnah renounced politics and retired to London. He was persuaded to return in 1934 by which time the idea was mooted. “ Even three days before the declaration of Independence he declared in a speech “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosque… you may belong to any religion or caste or creed- that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens in one state”.

 

Jinnah was not a secular but irreligious man. “He refused to whip up religious passions, continued to drink whisky, eat ham sandwiches and dress like a Brit.” A more authentic version of events is available in “India Wins freedom,” a precious book by one who contributed immensely to the national freedom movement. It was published after 30 years and kept under seal in archives as Azad did not want to hurt his colleagues in writing his side of the truth, which to a large extent is undisputed.

 

He has written “Lord Mountbatten took full advantage of the situation. Because of the dissensions among the members, he slowly and gradually assumed full powers. He still kept up the form of a constitutional Governor General but in fact he started to mediate between the Congress and the League to get his own way. He also began to give a new turn to the political problem and tried to impress on both the Congress and Muslim League the inevitability of Pakistan. He pleaded in favour of Pakistan and sowed the seeds of the idea in the minds of the Congress members of the Executive Council”.

 

Here I feel he interpreted the facts a little uncharitably in regard to Patel by squarely blaming him for falling for this ploy. He felt that Patel fell for this idea when Mountbatten initiated it while it had been given up even by the Muslim League and the Congress was dead against it.

 

Patel had a very frustrating experience in working with Liaqt Ali, who was heading Finance when he himself was the Home Minister. The idea of the Governor General that under the joint plan evolved by the Cabinet Mission to have state autonomy and joint management at the centre, eventually states will become strong and a weak centre is fatal to a large country like India. There was, therefore, no other alternative but to accept partition and unified central authority.

 

Patel, who was already committed to build a strong India, therefore, found this logic in tune with his thinking, especially in the background of his hatred for the Muslim League. He thought that Pakistan will be economically unviable and will wither away in due course.

 

He wished for a strong India and thought that the country could be built only with a strong centre and later on, by integrating the states, he showed his mettle and proof of his commitment.

 

Seeds of partition were sown by the British and, no doubt, finally everyone accepted it as they found no other alternative feasible to gain freedom from the British Raj.

 

Gandhi too acquiesced in this unwillingly. As Albinia sums up, “In August loath to spoil a good party, Mountbatten delayed the announcement of the noxious new borders until two day after Independence was declared. Only once he had made his speeches, had his photo taken and received his thanks, could killing begin”.

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

‘PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM COSTS MONEY’

BY STEVE RICHARDS

 

Instead of those silly pledge cards paraded by New Labour figures in advance of the 1997 election, every leading politician should carry a leaflet with ‘Public-service reform costs money. Reform cannot save money in the short term and may never do so’.

 

Once this message is accepted it will be possible to have a grown-up debate about how much we are willing to pay for public services and what shape they should take. Until then, we are stuck in a fantasy world in which public services are supposed to magically improve while saving the taxpayer billions of pounds.

 

Take the case of the NHS. As The Independent’s Ian Birrell has argued persuasively on these pages in recent weeks, the NHS is often inefficient, poorly managed and treats some patients with complacent disdain. His solution is more choice, competition from private providers, the scrapping of targets, a less “statist” approach and a cut in public spending. He also argues that treatment should still be free at the point of use, with a more market-based approach addressing inefficiencies and creating substantial savings.

 

But his support for a system in which treatment is free at the point of use has massive consequences which his free-market solutions do not address. A relationship between provider and patient in which there is no cash transaction means the government is still responsible for raising the overall level of spending that is available and the policy framework in which healthcare is delivered.

 

Ultimately, therefore, the government must answer for a service available to more than 60 million people who could fall ill at any time, and which, with an ageing population, will make increasingly high demands on any system.

 

There is no bigger responsibility and the decisions a government takes on our behalf in relation to the level of health funding are highly sensitive politically. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took a huge risk when they raise taxes in 2003 to pay for higher investment in the NHS. Blair briefly feared it would cost Labour the following election. Similarly, although it is the least risky option for David Cameron he will come under immense pressure if he wins the next election as a result of his pledge to increase NHS spending.

 

Many on the right will call on him to cut spending on health, along with the other cuts he is vaguely pledging to make. In government Cameron will, therefore, need to prove that his decision to increase investment in this one area is vindicated by improvements in the service. As a politician wary of the state he might wish to stand back from the institution, but as a leader who has already taken a controversial spending decision he will not be able to do so.

 

I am fine about this. It is called accountability. In the end national politicians must be held accountable for the decisions they take about how they are planning to spend our money. But those who loathe the state want politicians to keep out of the way while expecting them to put their necks on the line by raising the cash to maintain a system that is free at the point of use.

 

Obviously, a Prime Minister and his Chancellor cannot keep their eyes on how every penny is being spent. That means others must do so. They are called bureaucrats. There are too many of them in the NHS and other public bodies with a guaranteed income. I know the dangers I worked at the BBC for many years. But some bureaucrats are necessary to monitor how the money is spent. There are no cash transactions between patient and provider.

 

Therefore, there must be other intermediaries. Without them, even more money would be blown unaccountably.

 

If the health market is opened up fully to private providers a hundred thousand new bureaucrats would rub their hands with glee. New companies would be established to advise the private bidders on how to get the best deal from normally gullible Whitehall negotiators. Armies of lawyers would be involved in the negotiation of contracts, seeking the deals with the most profitable treatments. Accountants would have a field day. In order to establish genuine choice for patients a surplus of decent places in hospitals and GP surgeries must be available. There is no point in having a theoretical choice only to discover that the decent hospital is full.

 

The free market reformers argue that competition will raise standards and save costs. Perhaps it will over time, although the evidence in other fields does not suggest this will automatically be the case.

 

After the privatisation of the railways the costs for the taxpayer soared, partly because so many more outsiders were involved, often making the delivery of the service much worse. What is certain is that such drastic reforms would cost a lot of additional money in the short term and the government would still be heavily involved because it is responsible for raising the cash.

 

At least there is a fragile political consensus about the need for real-term increases on health. Of more immediate interest is how the Conservatives plan to fund their reforms of schools. The Conservatives propose to allow the establishment of so-called free schools based on the Swedish model, set up by parents or other providers. They would be funded entirely by the state. The proposal raises many issues n one of them is cost. In the short term at least there would be a surplus of schools, as free schools would be funded in new buildings with a full staff.

 

Existing schools would continue to function, presumably becoming sink schools fairly quickly, dealing with the troublemakers who would not be welcome in the new free schools.

 

The proposal is well intended and over time perhaps standards would be raised across the board, although I would not bet on it. If it is done properly I would gamble a fortune on it costing more than the current spending on schools.

 

Those who claim “reform” will save money immediately and improve public services have learnt nothing from the experiences of the past thirty years here and from other countries, including Sweden, which are more used to accepting that improvements cost money.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

DELHI DURBAR

CHIDAMBARAM MONITORED MEDIA BRIEFING

 

AS the helicopter of the late Andhra Chief Minister YSR Reddy crashed last week, it was time for some tough talking in Delhi by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram. First, the Home Minister ensured that no wrong or erroneous information was disseminated through the media in Delhi or Hyderabad.

 

A state government official who said the chopper had landed safely was questioned by the Home Ministry officials about his source of information. He could not reply properly and was asked to keep quiet.

 

The same happened in Delhi when Civil Aviation Ministry officials were quoted saying the chopper had landed safely. The Home Minister made sure that the Civil Aviation Ministry did not speak out of turn.

 

Chidambaram cancelled all his appointments as the ministry’s control room in the North Block was used to direct one of the largest search operations in the history of India.

 

BJP MAY HAVE TO DELIVER TWINS

The media is full of news about problems in the BJP and how RSS leader Mohanrao Bhagwat, acting as an arbiter, has devised a succession plan for the party, whereby Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani will finally bow out and make way for a GenNext leader to become the LoP.

 

Simultaneously, BJP president Rajnath Singh too is under notice to vacate his chair since his tenure is coming to an end this December. But there is no unanimity in the BJP about the successors.

 

Everyone is banking on the RSS to solve this tangle, leading one BJP watcher to comment lightly that the party is undergoing birth pangs and the pregnancy is prolonging because it is to deliver twins—the party president and the LoP.

 

Finally, it may be a ceasarian delivery to be performed by Dr Mohan Bhagwat. Incidentally, Bhagwat is a qualified vet.

 

SECULARISM ON DISPLAY IN SUPREME COURT

Secular credentials of the Supreme Court came to the fore time and again last week. A Bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju cautioned a lawyer against trying to equate the judges to any god.

 

The judge made it clear that the apex court stood for upholding secularism. The Bench made the remark after the lawyer said judges were like Lord Krishna for the legal fraternity.

 

A day or two later, the Chief Justice’s court was quick in directing the Uttar Pradesh government not to demolish three temples inside the Lucknow Central Jail.

 

The same day, another Bench of Justices DK Jain and RM Lodha upheld the Kerala High Court verdict that had set aside the election of PC Thomas to the Lok Sabha in 2004. Thomas had resorted to corrupt practices during the election by seeking support in the name of religion, besides committing other irregularities.

 

Contributed: by Ajay Banerjee, Faraz Ahmad and R. Sedhuraman

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POVERTY ALLEVIATION

 

The North-East continues to lag behind most other States of the country in terms of development and poverty-alleviation even after six decades of independence. Some striking features of the underdevelopment plaguing the region have been infrastructure bottlenecks, widespread poverty, restricted access to basic needs such as health care, sanitation, education, etc., and burgeoning unemployment. According to a recent study, poverty in the region is having a higher incidence than all-Indian average. If we look back, Assam had a higher per capita income than all-India average immediately after independence. Obviously, things have not progressed in the right direction all these years. While the geographical isolation and the neglect meted out to the region for several decades after independence is partly responsible for the backwardness, the most crucial letdown pertains to our inability to put to effective use the resources of the region. Lacunae in planning and implementation are largely attributable to the perpetual backwardness of the region.


Since a majority of our people reside in villages, no tangible progress can be expected without adequate thrust on rural development. Regrettably, the rural development scenario in the State continues to be at a nascent stage. While some progress has been made in recent years – thanks to liberal funding by the Centre — the overall situation is far from being commensurate with the flow of funds. Widespread poverty, absence of basic amenities such as all-weather roads, electricity, health facilities, drinking water, educational institutions, etc., continue to beset a sizeable section of the rural populace. The distressing situation naturally raises legitimate questions on the success of the much-publicized rural development projects. The disparity between funding and benefits lies in tardy implementation of rural development projects, with only a small percentage of the sanctioned amount actually reaching the beneficiaries. Rampant swindling of public money – thanks to the thriving nexus of contractors, bureaucrats and politicians — has become a blot on governance. Lack of any effective monitoring ensures that there is hardly accountability and transparency vis-à-vis implementation of schemes, and the swindling of public fund goes on unabated. For restoring some semblance of normalcy in the situation, it is highly imperative that the Centre put in place a stringent monitoring mechanism. The people, too, can play a role in checking corruption and misappropriation of public money, if they remain informed and proactive. The Right to Information Act can be an effective tool for fighting corruption and making the guilty accountable.

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POVERTY ALLEVIATION

 

The North-East continues to lag behind most other States of the country in terms of development and poverty-alleviation even after six decades of independence. Some striking features of the underdevelopment plaguing the region have been infrastructure bottlenecks, widespread poverty, restricted access to basic needs such as health care, sanitation, education, etc., and burgeoning unemployment. According to a recent study, poverty in the region is having a higher incidence than all-Indian average. If we look back, Assam had a higher per capita income than all-India average immediately after independence. Obviously, things have not progressed in the right direction all these years. While the geographical isolation and the neglect meted out to the region for several decades after independence is partly responsible for the backwardness, the most crucial letdown pertains to our inability to put to effective use the resources of the region. Lacunae in planning and implementation are largely attributable to the perpetual backwardness of the region.


Since a majority of our people reside in villages, no tangible progress can be expected without adequate thrust on rural development. Regrettably, the rural development scenario in the State continues to be at a nascent stage. While some progress has been made in recent years – thanks to liberal funding by the Centre — the overall situation is far from being commensurate with the flow of funds. Widespread poverty, absence of basic amenities such as all-weather roads, electricity, health facilities, drinking water, educational institutions, etc., continue to beset a sizeable section of the rural populace. The distressing situation naturally raises legitimate questions on the success of the much-publicized rural development projects. The disparity between funding and benefits lies in tardy implementation of rural development projects, with only a small percentage of the sanctioned amount actually reaching the beneficiaries. Rampant swindling of public money – thanks to the thriving nexus of contractors, bureaucrats and politicians — has become a blot on governance. Lack of any effective monitoring ensures that there is hardly accountability and transparency vis-à-vis implementation of schemes, and the swindling of public fund goes on unabated. For restoring some semblance of normalcy in the situation, it is highly imperative that the Centre put in place a stringent monitoring mechanism. The people, too, can play a role in checking corruption and misappropriation of public money, if they remain informed and proactive. The Right to Information Act can be an effective tool for fighting corruption and making the guilty accountable.

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WHERE HOPES DIE YOUNG

 

Recent reports in the media have painted a bleak picture about children and youth residing in tea gardens of Assam. It has emerged that most of them endure malnutrition, poor education and have little scope for acquiring skills which could lead to livelihood opportunities. Right from the time of their infancy, children face a plethora of problems just because they are denied the care of their mothers who are busy in the gardens from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon. The girl child, in particular, confronts even more odds as she has to take care of younger siblings from an early age. Not surprisingly a large number of young girls drop out of schools in the elementary level. Till today, the schools have not seen necessary augmentation, and their teachers are among the lowest paid in the state. The lack of adequate educational opportunities has created a state in which children of tea gardens cannot think of completing college education. Poor economic status of families wedded to shaky school education inhibits their wish to pursue higher education. Reports published exclusively in this paper indicate that the number of out-of-school children is highest in the tea gardens; the situation is worse than that of remote river islands, areas occupied by people of the minority community. Skill training opportunities are meagre, consequently the youth who are handicapped by lack of education face excruciating difficulties to acquire gainful employment. Government data is insufficient, but those acquainted with the situation indicate that unemployment could be as high as eighty per cent among youth of the tea gardens.


It is a shame that even though the State Government is aware of the situation, strategic interventions to improve it have been absent. More than six decades after Independence, children and youth of tea gardens are yet to enjoy the privileges of health, education and skills like most of us. Of late there have been attempts through the National Rural Health Mission and Sarva Siksha Abhiyan Mission to effect changes. But much more needs to be done, especially in the area of skill training of youths. Unless there are ways and means to acquire gainful employment, young men and women would not be free to extricate themselves from the vicious cycle of poverty and despair that has entrapped tea garden workers for ages. Urgent attention is also needed if the State Government is really serious about its oft-repeated mantra of inclusive growth.

 

***************************************

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

CENTRAL ASSISTANCE

 

The Ministry of Rural Development has sanctioned Rs 80.2678 crore as 1st installment to the State Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya and West Bengal for the Centrally sponsored National Land Record Management Programme (NLRMP) during the current financial year (2009-10).


The ten districts of Madhya Pradesh viz. Bhind, Dhar, Guna, Morena, Rajgarh, Rewa, Satna, Shahdol, Shajapur and Tikamgarh are to receive Rs 40.1618 crore (75%) of the total amount of Rs. 53.5491 crore sanctioned to take up and implement the Centrally sponsored National Land Record Management Programme (NLRMP) during the current financial year.

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WORLD LITERACY: A COMPARATIVE STUDY

 DR KATHITA HATIBARUAH

 

World Literacy Day is observed on September 8 throughout the globe every year by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to use language to read and write. According to UNESCO "literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential and to participate fully in their community and wider society”.


About 80 per cent of the world population was literate in 1998 as per United Nations’ definition. Literacy rates vary widely from country to country or from region to region. This often coincides with the region’s wealth or urbanisation, though many factors play a role, such as social customs which limit the education of females in some countries.


Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are close to four billion literate people in the world. Literacy for all children , youth and adults is still an uncomplicated goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts , inadequate resources and strategies and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task account for the unmet goal.


Researchers express the view that lessons learnt from the recent decades show that meeting the goals of universal literacy calls for not only more effective effort but also for renewed political will and for doing things at all levels : locally, nationally and internationally. Therefore the General Assembly of United Nations proclaimed the ten year period beginning from first January 2003 as the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012). The Assembly welcomed the International Plan of Action for the decade and decided that UNESCO should play a coordinated role in activities undertaken at the international level within the framework of the decade.

If we look at the world literacy scenario, we find that USA, UK, Germany, Canada have achieved 99 per cent literacy rate. The literacy rate in France, as with many other Western European countries is very high with 99 per cent literacy for both men and women. Among the Asian countries. Japan has achieved 99 per cent literacy rate for persons over 15 years old.; China’s literacy rate is 90.9 per cent and that of Thailand is 92.6 per cent.


Let us examine the educational funding from the point of view of GDP. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is an aggregate measure of the value of goods and services or national income produced in a country. The percentage of GDP spent on education from public sources correspond of the share of the country’s income that the public sector invests on education. Variations in this measure across countries reflect differences in national priorities and commitment to education, but these variations are also influenced by the share of students in the population. However, this indicator is not a measure of total invest on education, since private educational expenditures account for at least 20 per cent of the total educational spending in some countries like the USA and Japan.


In 1992, the USA devoted approximately 5 per cent of its GDP to public spending on education. Among the G-7 countries, only Canada earmarked a larger share of GDP to public spending on education than the USA. The following statistics reveal the status of funding on education as percentage of GDP: Canada 7 per cent France 4.8 per cent West Germany (former) 3.0 per cent Italy 3.9 per cent, Japan 2.7 per cent, UK 4.9 per cent, USA 4.9 per cent Australia 4.7 per cent, Netherlands 4.5 per cent, Norway 7.5 per cent Sweden 6.6 per cent.

According to recent figures, in 2003, the UK spent 5.4 per cent of GDP on education; Denmark spent 8.3 per cent while Turkey and Japan each spent 3.7 per cent of GDP on education. In 2001, the USA spent the most on education at roughly US $ 500 billion, followed by Japan, Germany and France at US $ 139 billion, US $ 89 billion and US $ 82 billion respectively. While the USA spent the most in absolute dollars it ranked tenth in education spending as a percentage of GDP at 4.8 per cent Saudi Arabia ranked first investing 9.5 per cent of GDP on education. The top five include Norway, Malaysia, France and South Africa. All five countries spent in excess of 5 per cent of GDP on education.


As against this. India’s literacy scenario deplorable. Even after 62 years of India’s independence. Literacy rate is only 64.8 per cent (male 75.3 per cent, female 53.7 per cent). It will take many decades for India to achieve 99 per cent rate. Currently India spends nearly 4.02 per cent of its GDP on education which is not enough. Planning Commission Member B. Mungeka said in a meeting of Vice Chancellors in New Delhi that the country will spend 5 per cent of GDP in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. As far back as 1968, though Kothari Commission targeted to achieve 6 per cent of GDP on educational funding, it remains a distant dream.


Currently public expenditure on education was Rs. 84,179 crore (at 4.02 per cent GDP). So to achieve 6 per cent target, we would have to spend Rs. 125,641 crore an additional Rs.41,461 crore over what was spent. It is a gigantic task and does not seem feasible in the foreseeable future.


India is the largest democracy in the world and supports one billion population which constitutes roughly 16 per cent of the world population. With the spiraling growth of population, the illiterates have increased in absolute numbers to 362 million accounting for more than one-third of the country’s population.


A Report published by the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ministry of Industry of the Government of Canada gave a comparative study of literacy skill in 20 countries, viz. Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK, and USA, only to mention a few. The report reveals a significant number of adults with low literacy skill. The low level of literacy of adults could be raised with brief formal education and particularly of the youths from the lower socio-economic background. Youths are at risk because of illiteracy, ignorance and acute poverty. Illiteracy is a termite that has the potential to cripple the most powerful of the nations of the world. Unfortunately for country of India’s size, illiteracy is a persistent problem. Despite Government’s manifold efforts, about seven million children in India are still out of schools. These out -of -school children are a potential source of social menace .They comprise of slum dwellers, street beggars, drug addicts and delinquents who commit crimes of various types. Governmental efforts like Sarva Siksha Abhijan, National Literacy Mission, Janshala and Operation Black board etc have not been able to achieve the desired result, mainly because of corruption and misuse of funds. There should be accountability and transparency in the matter of disbursement of funds by the concerned departments. Because of wide spread illiteracy in India, problems like unemployment, poverty, gender inequality have raised their ugly heads which have retarded the progress of the country.


The International Plan of Action for the Literacy Decade (2003-2012) proposes six lines of action to promote literacy for all: policy programmes and strategies for poverty reduction,, programmes for development of agriculture, health care, HIV/AIDS prevention, etc flexible programmes, capacity building, research, community participation, monitoring and evaluation and communication between government and community.


Our popular government should start an effective illiteracy eradication programme at the earliest to curb the curse of illiteracy from Indian society towards boon and to make knowledge as the wisdom hub. It augurs well that a Bill has been introduced in Parliament on 31 July, 2009 to provide free and compulsory education to children of age group 6 to 14 with the larger target of making India a’ knowledge'hub. The Bill when becomes a law, the schools will have to reserve 25 per cent seats for students coming from economically weaker sections and communities which are educationally backward and need benefit.


Literacy is a basic part of development process, an endeavour to improve the quality of life, building awareness among the disadvantaged sections, democratisation of political power and to bridge the gap between rich and poor. There is urgent need for dynamics of change for multicultural society like ours.


The US president Barack Obama remarked,” Change will not come, if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the one we have been waiting, we are the change that we seek. I am ready for it. Are you?”, Therefore we should not wait for others, if we want to do something because action delayed is action denied.


If we want to keep pace with other developed nations of the globe in matters of increased literacy rate for overall progress of the country, we should look for a new-paradigm of result oriented sustainable development.


(The article is published on the occasion of World Literacy Day)

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

 DEFICIENT MONSOON RAINS: A NATIONAL CONCERN

 DR H K GOSWAMI

 

The latest research report of consultancy firm Edelweiss Securities said the weak monsoon rainfall this year would lead to lesser food grains production in the country exerting more pressure on the prices of primary articles, comprising food and non-food items, and minerals which carry a 22.2 per cent weight in the wholesale price index based inflation. “Rainfall deficiency has been all the more pronounced over north-east and north-west India both important from the point of view of food grains production. Adverse monsoon effects on agro-production and an upsurge in agro-prices typically have knock-on effects on industrial prices as well”, the report said.


Credit Rating and Information Services of India Ltd (CRISL) has said that the weak monsoon this summer poses a risk to India’s growth. Data based on ‘deficient rainfall impact parameter’ shows that Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have been hit the most by poor rainfall. These five States account for 47 per cent of the total summer food grains production and 46 per cent of the total summer rice production.


It is significant that the Centre has appointed a Technical Experts Committee (TEC) on water solutions. The TEC is conducting field studies on various aspects of the issue. The Centre is also launching a “WAR” mission for dealing with the water problem in the various parts of the country. WAR stands for winning (water from sustainable resources), Augmentation (of quality of water from available and accessible sources) and Renovation for recycle. The Centre has directed all State Governments to provide all help- financial, technical and administrative – to the WAR mission so that the water problem in the entire country can be solved.


Meanwhile, at an emergent meeting of the State Chief Secretaries in New Delhi on August 8, 2009, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh advised the States to go in for oilseeds and pulses plantation as part of advance rabi preparations. For rabi, Punjab and Haryana have been advised to adhere to the recommended time frame for sowing of wheat. Both the irrigated States have been asked to take concerted steps for conservation of water. Himachal Pradesh farmers may grow rabi maize in hills and wheat in plain/valley areas.


Bihar, which is one of the worst-affected States, has been asked to go in for medium to late varieties of wheat, pulses like chick-pea and maize as the major rabi crops. Jharkhand, the other State that has a majority of districts affected by deficient southwest monsoon, has been advised to grow niger in fallow uplands during September 2009. In addition, it could plant pulses. Uttar Pradesh, has been advised to go in for rabi pulses and wheat as the main crop in western parts with special attention to adequate soil moisture conservation measures as well as zero tillage technologies for sowing. In eastern Uttar Pradesh, the ridge and furrow intercropping system could be adopted for rice with pigeon-pea for conserving moisture. Medium to late varieties of wheat may be adopted in this region, besides short duration pulse crops. In central Uttar Pradesh moisture conservation measures must be strictly followed to undertake assured rabi crops such as wheat and pulses. In Bundelkhand region, farmers must go in for suitable moisture conservation measures as a prime activity and chick-pea could be taken as a rabi crop.


Maharashtra, a rabi sorghum region, has been advised to go in for better crop management through ridge and furrows and compartmental bunding, particularly in the Sholapur region. For Vidarbha, cultivation of chick-peak and safflower has been recommended during rabi. In Maharashtra, farmers have been advised to undertake moisture conservation measures and to sow traditional rabi crops. In the rich Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, farmers have been advised to go in for wheat and chickpea. In eastern Madhya Pradesh, wheat (variety Sujata), mustard (Pusa Bold), chickpea (IG-315), linseed (J-23), safflower (JSF-1), and barley (K-605) should be promoted. Chhattisgarh should go in for rice, fallow pulses.


Rajasthan has been asked to take steps to sustain micro watershed development and rainwater harvesting, while Gujarat farmers could go in for sowing wheat and pulses in a planned manner. Orissa farmers could sow pulses as the main rabi crop. Seeds of recommended variety should be made available well in advance, while Jammu could take wheat as the main rabi crop. For the black soil area of Andhra Pradesh, the recommendation is for sowing of rice in fallow areas with chick-pea during rabi.


Assam too, has been declared as drought affected by the State Government. On August 13, 2009, Assam Agriculture Minister Pramila Rani Brahma apprised the Chief Minister that there would be a 20 per cent fall in kharif crop production this year, due to the deficient monsoon rains. A State-level committee is being constituted under the chairmanship of the State Agriculture Minister for advance rabi crop cultivation through 27 number of schemes with an investment of Rs. 7 crore.


(The writer is former Principal, Mangaldai College).

 

***************************************

 

******************************************************************************************

ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE

SONS-IN-WAITING

 

As the campaign for the elevation of late YSR's son Y S Jaganmohan Reddy as CM became louder, the Congress central leadership played a trump card to buy the much-needed breathing space in Hyderabad.


AICC managers were a worried lot when party in-charge of the state Veerappa Moily brought home the message that the Jagan camp was 'showing the numbers among the MLAs' to argue their case. A senior leader, finally, got into action by whispering into the son's ears that he should learn from Rahul Gandhi, who is willingly waiting even as partymen were lining up to take him to the PMO right from the word go.


The message had an immediate sobering effect on the ambitious young leader — who is seasoned enough to know that the future in the party lies in following the style of the future leader. So Rosaiah can take the CM's chair for now, if only to keep it warm.

 

SHARING THE SPLIT

With the Congress beating around the Maharashtra bush, keeping the NCP guessing about its seat-sharing plans, the political plot has certainly thickened.


While it is common sense that the Congress would cite the NCP's poor LS poll show to argue that Pawar's party should relinquish claim on some of the 121 seats it contested in 2004, the real AICC agenda is different.


Unlike in the past, the Congress wants the NCP to agree in advance that the post of the CM as well as some key portfolios will be reserved for it along the lines of the UPA pact in Delhi.

 

The AICC doesn't want a repeat of 2004 which saw the NCP 'giving up' the chief ministership only after wresting some plum portfolios. With Raj Thackeray set to split the BJP-Shiv Sena votes again, and as rumblings continue within the Pawar camp, the Congress thinks it's time to return the compliment.


ASSETS OF COMMUNISM

The reported decision of the CPI-M polit bureau (PB) to place a resolution at the next central committee meeting saying that all party leaders and office bearers should declare their personal assets is meant as a major step towards greater in-house probity.


The PB move, reported in a Malayalam daily, has already created some excitement in the faction-ridden Kerala party unit — as it comes in the thick of state party boss Pinarayi Vijayan moving the Supreme Court against the CBI charge-sheeting him in the multi-crore Lavalin scam.


While the Pinarayi camp says its leader will come out with "flying colours" in the asset test, many in the V S Achuthanandan camp feel the PB should also commission an independent agency to verify the accuracy of some 'strategically important declarations'. Incidentally, the warring factions agree on one critical issue: there is no need for the state party unit to declare its assets!

 

 

CLOUTING IT OUT

The BJP has seen another of its prominent state leaders being cut to size due to inner party wrangling. Once a high profile minister known to have direct access to then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lucknow's Lalji Tandon failed to get a party ticket for his son Gopal Tandon for the ensuing assembly by-elections.


Tandon with his clout within the party had hoped to help his son's political debut from the Lucknow-West assembly seat he has nurtured for decades. But the purge of Vajpayee-Advani followers in the BJP seems to have hit his plans.


Many aver that Rajnath Singh, just like cutting challengers down to size at the centre, is also ensuring that no leader in his home state gains too much clout. And thus, Tandon's plans came undone.

 

***************************************

 

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MJ'S PARADOX: DEATH REVIVES FORTUNES

 

It is indeed an irony of fate that the spectre of bankruptcy that drove Michael Jackson to embark on his last gruelling series of concerts may finally be dispelled by the spectacle that has followed his death.


It has been two and a half months since the King of Pop fell victim to a lethal overdose of illegally obtained prescription drugs but the drama has refused to die down. His family, while protesting about their privacy have let every detail of the saga trickle out including his daughter Paris's haircut, as keeping the public interested will definitely reap financial dividends above and beyond the reported fortune he had managed to keep away from his creditors.


First there was a televised, star-studded memorial service which not only gave fans their fill of MJ's music, his famous friends and conspicuously grieving family, all wearing what could well be trademarked as part of his persona, a single silver glove, but also fervently burnished his battered and tarnished halo. Even his children, who never appeared without masks in his lifetime, were brought into the full glare of limelight.


Then came a funeral, and then yet another ‘private’ funeral, again loaded with star power, with the Jackson clan arriving fashionably late in a convoy of black stretch limos that would put any presidential cavalcade to shame.


The most adored member of the clan is said to have been interred in a ‘secret’ place in the interests of security, but no one will be surprised if a grand memorial where fans can come and worship their departed icon appears, maybe on his Neverland estate.


Ironically, the sales of MJ's music and commemorative albums, recordings of the rehearsals of his last concert, books about his troubled life, interviews with friends, foes and family, and, ultimately, also the auction of his memorabilia, will posthumously revive his financial condition as surely as the pressures of his fame and talent drove him to his death. It is indeed a modern parable.

 

***************************************

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT ENOUGH COAL: OPEN UP THE SECTOR

 

The government reportedly wants future ultra mega power projects to be fired by imported coal, as it is looking to conserve the cheaper domestic coal for smaller power plants that would be unviable on imported coal. This is an apt case of policy looking to fix the symptom and not the disease.


The shortage of coal and the perceived need for restrictions arise because coal mining has remained an inefficient state monopoly, which has curbed investments and discouraged adoption of better production technology.

As a result, over the last decade, coal output has grown at a compounded rate of 5.8%, well short of the average nominal 11.8% GDP growth over the same period. While freeing up of oil exploration has brought in private investment and significant discoveries, the state monopoly in coal has hobbled the sector.


The only meaningful reform in coal has been to allow large consumers to mine coal for captive use. Such policy is at odds with the reality that coal would have to meet the bulk of India’s primary energy needs if we are not to become critically dependent on imported fuel.


There is need to create a separate, competitive market for coal and remove the cream in captive coal mining, with an independent regulator watching over the level playing field. A competitive market is also required to encourage adoption of efficient and environmentally better technology over the entire coal cycle from production through transportation to final combustion for energy.


Though India has nearly 250 billion tonnes of potential coal, much of it is high on ash. We have been transporting this ash-heavy coal over large distances. The wasteful consumption of energy on essentially transporting mud over large distances can be prevented if coal beneficiation is adopted to remove impurities from coal before putting it on trains.


The enriched, higher calorific value coal would obviously interest users, as ash disposal would diminish as a concern and the quantity of coal needed would come down, along with transport and handling costs. A competitive market would encourage such efficiency through the entire coal chain.

 

***************************************

ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TOTALISATION CALLS FOR LOCAL TAX CHANGE

 

India's first totalisation agreement, the one with Belgium, came into force on September 1. But some provisions of the Indian tax law stand in the way of Indian companies drawing its full benefit. The government should lose no time in amending the tax law, so as to enhance India's global competitive advantage, particularly in information technology.


Totalisation agreements are meant to prevent guest workers from having to pay dual social security taxes — both in the home country whose company deploys him temporarily abroad and in the foreign country where he works.

In the absence of such agreements, companies that deploy so-called detached workers abroad agree to pick up their social-security-tax tab. Since this compensation attracts tax, they pay the additional income tax, too.


This pushes up the overall cost of deploying workers abroad, creating a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis rivals from countries with which the host country has a totalisation agreement. India has finally managed to convince one foreign government, the Belgian one, to treat domestic provident fund contributions as social security taxes.


So, under the totalisation agreement with Belgium, an Indian company that deploys a worker from India in Belgium would not have to pay his Belgian social security tax, if both the company and the worker make their due contributions to the Employees' Provident Fund in India. To make these PF payments, the company must pay its detached worker a basic salary in India along with allowances in Belgium. However, this salary would also attract income tax, deducted at source.


Since the employee would pay tax on the entirety of his income either in Belgium or in India, he would have to claim a refund for the TDS in India. He may or may not get that refund. The ideal solution is for the detached worker’s basic salary in India not to attract TDS. This can happen when India aligns its tax policy with global practice with regard to the geographic basis of the income being taxed.


Most countries collect tax on the basis of residence or 'origin', meaning location of the activity that generates the income being taxed. India applies a third criterion, place of receipt. India must shed this third criterion, for its totalisation agreements to fully benefit Indian guest workers abroad and their employers.

 

***************************************

 

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

COMMENT

MAKING SENSE OF SUGAR PRICE MUDDLE

ANIL SHARMA

 

There has been a significant increase in the price of sugar during the past few months, which has generated a series of extreme reactions and a host of suggestions. Policy makers, however, need to be more cautious and understand the reasons for the current state of affairs before taking any knee-jerk decisions.


It is true that there has been a 22% decline in the output of sugarcane in 2008-09, resulting a fall in sugar output from 26.3 million tonnes in 2007-08 to 14.3 million tonnes in 2008-09. This steep decline in the output of sugar, however, is not a problem that has been created by single year's shortfall in cane output.


It's the result of a continuous decline in sugarcane production during the last two years after scaling a peak of 355.5 million tonnes in 2006-07.


This phenomenon of downward trend in the output of sugarcane and sugar for some years followed by an upturn in output for a few years is not new. It has been going on for several years. The main reason for these cycles is mainly the policy regime for sugarcane and sugar, which has become very complex over the years.


Unlike rice and wheat, prices that farmers get for sugarcane are not the ones suggested by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). State governments announce their own state-advised prices (SAP), which are much higher than those recommended by the CACP, and vary greatly among states.


The actual prices paid by sugar factories are, in general, close to and sometimes higher than, SAP because they have to compete with the alternative sweetener industry. Our analysis shows that the mean excess of actual prices paid by sugar factories over state level support prices exhibit substantially higher incentives during the recent years.


At times, the high price of sugarcane not only increases the cost of producing sugar, but also create a peculiar situation for sugar producers. When the realisations from the sale of sugar are low, there is an accumulation of stocks, which leads to an increase in cane arrears that have to be paid to sugarcane growers.


This affects sugarcane producers adversely as non-repayment of arrears means losses to farmers. This in turn leads to lower allocation of area for cane cultivation leading to a reduction in sugarcane. And, when prices of sugar recover due to fall in sugarcane output, the accumulated stocks are liquidated and farmers are paid their arrears. The cycle is repeated after a few years, and usually lasts somewhere between 5-7 years depending on the market situation.


This is a serious problem with sugar production in the country and has been discussed several times including by various high powered committees, which have studied the sugar sector in detail. The current situation is essentially a reflection of this phenomenon.


A more serious consequence of this policy regime in sugar has been that much of the increase in sugarcane production has been the result of an increase in area under cane rather than an increase in productivity. (See the accompanying table).


During the first two decades — between TE 1952-53 and TE 1962-63, and between TE 1962-63 and TE 1972-73 — growth in yield contributed more to the output of sugarcane than growth in area. But, the period after TE 1972-73 has witnessed a significant decline in the contribution of yield to growth in output of sugarcane.


In fact, increasingly more and more output growth in sugarcane has been contributed by the increase in area. So much so that during the two recent periods — from TE 1992-93 to TE 2002-03, and between TE 2002-03 to TE 2008-09, the contribution of area in sugarcane output growth worked out to be 83%, and 89%, respectively.
Clearly, the contribution of yield in increased output of sugarcane during the last two decades has been marginal.


Near stagnation in productivity of sugarcane in all sugarcane producing states, especially in the two major sugarcane growing states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which account for 60% of the country’s total sugarcane output, is an issue of serious concern.


With the expansion of irrigation facilities more and more land has been brought under sugarcane cultivation and now there is very little scope for further expansion of area due to competition from other crops. The enormously high irrigation-intensity of this crop has also led to problems such as irrigation-water shortages, and other environmental hazards.


The excessive use of water coupled with unbalanced use of fertilisers, are some of the factors that are responsible for the growing degradation of land resources and stagnation in productivity in sugarcane growing regions.

Therefore, the solution to the crisis in sugar lies in breaking the cycle of extreme variations through a better policy regime, more predictable import policy, and focusing on productivity growth not just in terms of land, but


also in terms of water used, which is likely to become extremely scarce in future.


(The author is senior fellow at NCAER. Views are personal.)

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

COSMIC UPLINK

SO WHAT IF PAPA DID PREACH?

MUKUL SHARMA

 

In the 17th century, the Catholic doctrine — as embodied in the Vatican — believed in the stamp of approval St Aquinas had given to received Greek wisdom. In the main, this rendered the Earth an unmoving body around which the other heavenly objects either orbited or stayed fixed in their concentric celestial spheres.


It also maintained that such divinely created objects were totally perfect and free of any blemish. But the devout Galileo it seems was following the lead of an earlier saint and theologian, St Augustine, whose position on the scriptures was not to take every passage in the Bible literally.


"It is not the intention of the Spirit of God," he had written, "to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation."


Thus the ageing physicist from Padua went about un-malevolently destroying a whole lot the Church stood for. Using experimental methodology and a hand-built telescope, he proved among other things that the Earth revolved around another central body, Jupiter had at least four moons, spots tarnished the surface of the Sun and, in particular, things were not as static as Aristotelian thought had been for at least a millennia.


The Christian headquarters’ knee-jerk reaction is, of course, history. The old man was hauled up to face an inquisitional trial, denounced as being on the brink of heresy, his books were summarily banned and he was committed to house imprisonment for the rest of his life.


There is, however, another much more marvellous side to this story as brought out by the writer Dava Sobel in her book Galileo's Daughter — a girl who was born in the same year that Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for proposing a similar heliocentric cosmology.


Turns out that she was illegitimate and, therefore, not eligible for marriage. As a result Galileo put her in a convent at age 13 where she took her vows and became a pious Roman Catholic nun. But, and here's the thing, she continued to correspond with her father till she died. As did he.


So how did this affectionate Bride of Christ come to terms with the greatest enemy of the Church since Martin Luther? Seems like there was no problem really. She simply accepted Galileo's conviction that God had dictated the Holy Scriptures to guide men's spirits but proffered the unravelling of the universe as a challenge to their intelligence. A little love can go a long way towards any conflict resolution.

 

***************************************

 

ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

LEARNING FROM LEHMAN: A YEAR LATER

MK VENU

 

The first anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, and the consequent seizure of credit and liquidity flows among the top Wall Street banks, is upon us. At the time of the crisis, the balancesheet size of some ten troubled banks on Wall Street exceeded the combined GDP of all emerging Asian economies.


So the reverberations of Wall Street had to be felt across the global banking system. Last September, the world economy seemed to be hurtling down in a way that had initially raised the spectre of the Great Depression in America of the late 1920s.


After a while, the consensus view that finally emerged was that the world was possibly facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. Economists in reputed western research institutions studied recessions of the last 100 years and broadly concluded that the global economy would take two to three years to fully recover.

Of late, some of those who had completely missed the financial crises building up under their noses have begun to talk about a V-shaped recovery in the global economy! Mind you, this is based largely on the performance of stock markets which are supposed to reflect future trends in the real economy. However, such knowledge embedded in the markets can be imperfect, as we have learnt by now.


A small section of die-hard optimists is even talking about a V-shaped recovery in the US. The question is how much should one believe these economic forecasters who have gone so horribly wrong in the past. A recent edition of The Economist had rightly suggested that the biggest bubble of all was that of economic theory!


In some ways, the global financial crisis and its fallout are forcing economic agents to acquire new knowledge in regard to what might happen in the future. For both governments and central bankers, the past has ceased to be an accurate guide for determining future policy.


Commenting on the way the global stock markets were shooting up in recent months, the head of a Mumbai broking company said "there was absence of knowledge in the short run". What he had meant was that it was difficult to explain rationally why the stock markets were furiously running up even as company balance sheets were still bleeding.


The Mumbai broker may have been quite charitable in suggesting there was an absence of knowledge in the short run. Quite possibly, the world economy may well be faced with a situation where there is an absence of knowledge in the longer term as well. This is very clear from the way governments and central bankers have so far responded to the global economic crises.


In some ways, policy makers and central banks have done the only thing they could think of — inject massive fiscal and monetary stimuli. But this is old knowledge. For there is a consensus that the fiscal and monetary stimuli of $3 to $4 trillion across the world may be just about preventing the global recession from deepening further. There is immense comfort in the knowledge that we are not falling any further!


The US banking system appears to have seen its worst and the economy too has shown tentative signs of bottoming out. But is this recovery durable? No one wants to answer this question yet. To answer this question you need new knowledge. Old will not do.

The Fed chief Ben Bernanke had the humility to concede this point when he said his biggest challenge would be to rightly time the withdrawal of the massive liquidity injected into the system. This has to be done just about the time a sustained recovery is anticipated on the horizon. What if you don’t see a sustained recovery at all?


Indeed, if a sustained recovery is not seen in the US economy, it could well get into a long-term liquidity trap, of the kind Japan did in the 1990s. Many economists increasingly subscribe to this theory. Japan experienced a low growth trap for well over a decade as the government kept bailing out banks and injected enough liquidity to bring interest rates to zero.


Indeed, it was never anticipated that even at virtually zero interest rates investment and consumption would not pick up. This was new knowledge at that time.


Many believe the United States too is losing its memory and DNA of creative destruction on which it had built its robust capitalist economy in the mid-20th century. With a much expanded and politically empowered middle class, the United States has made creative destruction a difficult proposition now.


This can be seen in the way the US government has bailed out the banks and other inefficient parts of the economy such as the automobile sector. Much of EU is already in this mode. Indeed, Karl Marx had spoken about advanced capitalist societies developing socialist tendencies as the laws and regulations to protect workers became deeply institutionalised.


To understand this, you just have to compare the number of hours factory workers in the US and EU put in with that of workers in China, India or Brazil.


So what have these deeper tendencies got to do with the global financial crises and the consequent recession that gripped the world? The fundamental shift in the capitalist growth impulses from the developed North to the developing South has caused serious imbalances in the global economic system.


RBI governor D Subbarao recently said that not much has been done by nations to debate the fundamental imbalance in the global economic system which could in fact have been the primary cause of the Wall Street financial crises. This imbalance essentially made the United States merrily borrow from the rest of the world to consume.

Of course, in the past year or so some of this imbalance is partly correcting with the US current account deficit dropping and its savings rate going up. But is this enough?


The US needs to recover its real growth impulse by becoming a prime exporter of high technology goods — it is no more competitive in the manufacturing sector — if it wants to reduce its borrowing from the rest of the world.

If the US fails to do this, it will again be tempted to use finance capital as a steroid to create an illusion of growth. Wall Street helps in doing this. You don't sustain long-term growth with pure finance capital play. Finance capital works only when complemented by dynamic elements of the real economy. This was the big lesson of last year’s crises. Another crisis will surely occur if this lesson is not internalised.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SOME REFRESHING PLAIN SPEAKING

 

No official Indian observation since last November’s terrorist outrage in Mumbai by trained Islamist gangsters from Pakistan has come as close to unravelling the complex reality since the attacks as the words spoken by the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, ahead of a working visit to the United States this week. It is a pity that after Mumbai, although not a single concrete step had been taken by Islamabad to address India’s legitimate concerns and while the lone terrorist caught was singing, some in this country began to entertain the illusion that time was ripe for India and Pakistan to actively collaborate to break the back of terrorism nurtured in Pakistan by that country’s spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence. The view was propagated by idealists who do not look beyond their nose. Inexplicably, this outlook also found an echo in the Sharm-el Sheikh joint statement. Fortunately, the Prime Minister saw it fit to resile from that understanding when he maintained at the recent conference of chief ministers on internal security that Pakistan’s infrastructure of terrorism targeting India rema-


ined standing, rebuffing every glib assurance to the contrary being made by Islamabad. Infiltration in Kashmir, meanwhile, which has been going on since January 2008 in complete violation of the ceasefire agreement signed during Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s time in office, has come to define a steady pattern. Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile has also grown in this period. Last week, we had the evidence of a former Pakistani parliamentarian, Mr Shah Aziz, suggesting that on account of the company he kept he was tasked by his country’s intelligence establishment after the Mumbai attacks to win over Baitullah Mehsud, the dreaded chief of the Pakistani Taliban (who was recently killed), to partner the Pakistan Army establishment to discomfit India. This hardly bespeaks of a cooperative attitude to combat terrorism, regional or international, and to help India investigate the Mumbai jihadist onslaught. Can there be any question that each time Pakistan asked India — the famous questionnaires — to supply clarifications in respect of the Mumbai attacks so that investigations in Pakistan may be facilitated, it was engaging in the clearest duplicity? Mr Chidambaram makes two basic points. One, that India has never ruled out the involvement of state actors in Pakistan in 26/11, whatever Pakistan may say. It is refreshing to hear this. The captured terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, undergoing trial in Mumbai, has said that a “Major-General Saab” had visited him and his fellow-attackers in the company of Hafiz Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (which spawned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba), during a training session preparatory to the Mumbai attack. This implicates the official establishment as well as Mr Saeed, released from house arrest by a Lahore court as the government there pressed no serious charges. It is then understandable why the home minister was aghast when Mr Saeed was sent home a free man. Mr Chidambaram’s second contention is that he is not sure why Islamabad appears unwilling to take the investigation forward. His broad premise should make us think. In the circumstances, what is the nature and level of “friendship” that can be expected from Pakistan? While Islamabad plays games in respect of a matter as serious as Mumbai, it continues to obscure the trail in the context of the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, where India is seriously engaged in nation-building, and does everything it can — militarily and diplomatically — to destroy India’s presence in Kabul. In the event, what is to be gained from proposed political meetings with Pakistani leaders? The home minister intends to share Mumbai-related data with the Americans. It is to be seen how much practical effect this would have on Islamabad’s behaviour.

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WILL GULF OF ADEN BE A NEW LOC FOR NAVY?

BY BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

A few months back the Russian warship Admiral Panteleyev, reportedly responding to a distress signal from the tanker Bulwai Bank, under attack from Somali pirates 120 km east of the Somali coast, tracked down a captured Iranian trawler being used as a command-and-control ship for pirate vessels, and apprehended 12 Pakistani nationals on board, including its captain, Mr Mohammad Zamal. Russian investigators found that those apprehended were well trained and familiar with weapons handling (seven AK-47 assault rifles as well as pistols were recovered), as well as with military and naval procedures. There are other persistent media reports of “well-trained” Pakistanis directing Somali piracy operations near the coast of East Africa — off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden. If this is correct, it would appear to indicate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, that country’s official clearing house for covert and subversive operations, may have extended its charter to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. This is a matter of concern for India, since in addition to general piracy, smuggling and gun-running, there is every likelihood of the ISI directing its marine jihadis to specifically seek out and target Indian merchant shipping, or ships bound for or out of Indian ports, and interdict or interfere with Indian maritime activity to whatever degree feasible. Indian economic interests and energy security are likely to be particularly affected because the Afghanistan experience indicates that these are always primary targets of Pakistani quasi-state covert entities, whether labelled Al Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba or any other.


Ninety per cent of India’s total overseas trade, in particular the vital energy resources on which the country is critically dependent for 80 per cent of its demand, is carried by sea routes focusing in and out of Mumbai, the principal port in the country. The country’s maritime jugular traverses westwards through the Arabian Sea and connects with destinations in Europe and the energy centres of the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the West Asian region through strategic choke points along the East African and Arabian littorals around the Horn of Africa. Notable among these are the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Red Sea en route to the Suez Canal and beyond, and the Straits of Bab el Mandep at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. These waters are India’s new frontiers for national security.


Somalia lies on the East African coast of the Arabian Sea, across the street from Mumbai as it were, in a position strategic to India’s maritime interests, dominating the Gulf of Aden through which passes India’s main maritime expressway. A predominantly Muslim country, the largest in the Horn of Africa, Somalia’s traditional faith has now acquired increasingly radical overtones under the influence of indigenous jihadi organisations like the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and Al Shabab (“The Youth”), which have taken root in the region, reinforced by foreign fighters from ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, with its lack of any central authority, and very strong clan-based affinities and culture, Somalia has much in common with the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, notwithstanding the obvious differences in ethnicity, and provides similar environments for rapid spread of jihadi influence. The country has been ripped apart by bitter and intermittent inter-clan wars ever since the collapse of President Mohammad Siad Barre’s national government in 1991. A United Nations Peacekeeping Force was sent to maintain peace and restore order in the country, in which the Indian Army’s 66 Mountain Brigade formed part of the mission. As always, the Indian contingent performed outstandingly, but the United Nations were unsuccessful overall and had to withdraw after suffering casualties. (The Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down is based on a true incident during that period.) Since then, constant internecine conflicts between warring clans and warlords, military intervention by neighbouring Ethiopia and the increasing intensity of radical jihad have almost totally destabilised the country and reduced Somalia to a status worse than Afghanistan. The prevalent state of total anarchy has impacted not only neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, but also spread to the seas around the Horn of Africa, particularly the Gulf of Aden, which have become zones for free enterprise for increasingly well-equipped and directed Somali pirates preying on international merchant shipping from fishing trawlers to supertankers which traverse these waters at their peril.
Notwithstanding any potential fallout targeted specifically at Indian shipping, piracy in the Gulf of Aden is also a cause of major international concern. After a slow start, Western governments dispatched naval ships to safeguard shipping in the region, irrespective of nationality. Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) was established as an American-led multinational naval anti-piracy mission, based on logistical facilities in the adjacent French African enclave of Djibouti on the Red Sea. The task force consists of ships from seven nations, with a rotating command structure between the members. The Indian Navy has not contributed to CTF-50, but operates independently with a naval detachment in the region, initially based on INS Tabar, later replaced by INS Mysore, on a bilateral understanding with the Somali government, which though severely incapacitated and barely functional, nevertheless remains the legitimate national authority. The Indian Navy has performed very successfully ints anti-piracy mission, in many ways a marine replica of the counter-insurgency operations being conducted by its sister service in the Kashmir Valley. However, Somalia and the Gulf of Aden are as yet small clouds on a distant horizon. But if, as in Afghanistan, a “plausibly deniable” Pakistani intervention through the tested pattern of jihadi surrogates is developing on the East African littoral to turn the Gulf of Aden into a maritime Khyber Pass for Indian shipping and trade, the Indian government will have no choice but to put appropriate counter-measures in place at the earliest, to forestall a Limburg-type suicide bombing or an Achille Lauro-type hijacking and passenger hostage situation involving Indian shipping or personnel. All in all, the Gulf of Aden (and possibly even the Persian Gulf) might turn into a long-duration “Line of Control” proxy war commitment for the Indian Navy.

 

Gen. ShankarRoychowdhury (Retd) is a former Chief ofArmy Staff and a former Member of Parliament

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HOW ABOUT AN EGYPTIAN TO HEAD UNESCO?

BY BY ROGER COHEN

 

France is aflutter with rumours that its beautiful first lady, Ms Carla Bruni, will star in Woody Allen’s next movie. Mr Bruni, to judge by her choice of the President, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, likes short, driven, fidgety men, so there’s logic to the idea.


Ms Bruni has played her first-lady role with discreet aplomb. But let’s face it, she’s a star. I’d love to see her in an Allen film. All that European refinement is a Brooklyn Jewish kid’s fantasy. Mr Sarkozy won’t object: He trades in politics as spectacle.


Speaking of culture and politics, and for that matter Jews, an “affaire” is brewing as the French return from the beaches that may even relegate the Bruni-Allen talk. It concerns the Egyptian culture minister, his candidacy to head the Paris-based Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), and his past talk of burning Israeli books.


The man in question is Mr Farouk Hosny, a 71-year-old painter who has served as President Hosni Mubarak’s cultural guru for more than two decades. He’s got the Arab League, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference behind him in his bid to succeed Koichiro Matsuura, a Japanese diplomat, as Unesco director-general when voting begins on September 17. Until recently, he appeared to be the favourite.
Having an Arab lead the Unesco for the first time since its establishment in 1945 would, on the face of it, be good. Nowhere are the cultural chasms Unesco is supposed to bridge greater than between the Muslim world and the West.


But there are shadows over Mr Hosny. Questioned in Parliament last year about the presence of Israeli books in the Alexandria Library, the minister replied: “Let’s burn these books. If there are any, I will burn them myself before you”.


A comment summoning Germany, 1933, is not what you want on your résumé when applying to become cultural conciliator-in-chief. That’s not all. Reflecting stock thinking in Egyptian and Arab intellectual circles, Hosny has characterised Israeli culture as “aggressive” and “racist”, stalled cultural ties with Israel that might change attitudes, and peddled the old canard about “the infiltration of Jews into the international media”.


All this was cited in May by the heavyweight Jewish troika of Elie Wiesel, Claude Lanzmann and Bernard-Henri Lévy in an article called The Shame of a Disaster Foretold published by Le Monde. They dismissed Mr Hosny as “a dangerous man, an inciter of hearts and minds” and called for his rejection.


Mr Hosny responded with an apology. He “solemnly” regretted his words. The book-burning phrase was “the opposite of what I believe and what I am”. It was uttered “without intention or premeditation”.


The context of Palestinian suffering and the “profound emotion” it elicits had to be understood. Nothing, he wrote, was more foreign to him than “the desire to hurt Jewish culture”.


Lévy was scathing in rebuttal: “Palestinians suffer, therefore burning books written in Hebrew is proposed”.


Case closed? Not quite. This is an important political appointment, behind which Mr Mubarak has put all his weight, so let’s think coolly about it. Hosny, within a grim and repressive Egyptian political spectrum, has shown some openness — daring to criticise women in headscarves, and pledging to translate the Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman (although this move is being contested). He brooks debate, at least.


The Obama administration, which needs Mubarak for its West Asia peace plans, is keeping quiet. So is Mr Sarkozy, who needs Mr Mubarak for his dreams of a Mediterranean Union. So, most surprisingly, is Israel.
The daily Haaretz quoted a leaked Israeli foreign ministry cable after a meeting between Mr Mubarak and the Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, in May. It said that “in line with understandings with Egypt”, Israel’s position on Hosny had changed to “not-opposed”. The quid pro quo remains unclear. Bibi was ever a horse-trader.


I’m also in the not-opposed camp. What Hosny said was vile, a reflection of the prejudices of his compatriots — prejudices that Israel’s settlements policy does nothing to assuage. There are good alternative candidates, notably the former Austrian foreign minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who carry none of his baggage.


But there’s also something evasive about the alternatives. Mr Hosny stands at the crux of the cultural challenges confronting us. Let’s get him inside the tent rather than stoke the old anti-Western, anti-imperialist flames — reminiscent of what led the United States to abandon Unesco between 1984 and 2002 — by rejecting him.


And then, with the big United States contribution to the Unesco budget as leverage, let’s press him relentlessly to fight the anti-Semitic bigotry poisoning young Arab psyches; favour dialogue; open Arab minds to science and education; and embrace the peace that Unesco was set up to foster by draining the poisonous well from which his own now-regretted venom was drawn.

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ADVANI’S FALL: FROM IRON MAN TO FEVICOL MAN

BY BY ASHOK MALIK

 

I’m a man without conviction

I’m a man who doesn’t know

How to sell a contradiction

You come and go

You come and go

 George O’Dowd, Karma Chameleon, 1984

 

About the biggest disappointment in the past month’s mess in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been Lal Krishna Advani. His reputation stands diminished. Once seen as the thinking man’s politician, he has been reduced to a caricature of his past.


He has faced accusations of hankering after petty office, clinging to the Leader of the Opposition post in the Lok Sabha. In the phase after the general election verdict of May 16, this has invited anguish and harsher emotions from even former admirers.


Following Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s intervention, Mr Advani has finally agreed to stand down and retire as Leader of the Opposition. However, his idea of fading into the sunset doesn’t quite match everybody else’s.


This past week Mr Advani told reporters he would be undertaking yet another cross-country journey, this time to shore up confidence among BJP workers and identify new talent within the party.


Does it strike him he may be part of the problem and his continued presence in the frontline may actually be a reason for loss of confidence among party sympathisers? This is a cutting assessment, but is it entirely inaccurate? No wonder the so-called “talent hunt” — what next, a reality show called “BJP Idol”? — has evoked mocking responses.


To be fair, Mr Advani is not alone in bringing the BJP to its existential crisis. Rajnath Singh, president for the past three years, never rose above his provincial status and converted the party organisation to an agency for factional and transactional ends.


Neither is the RSS totally in the clear. Despite protestations that it is a “cultural” and apolitical body, it is now expected to transfer more and more of its pracharaks into the BJP at various levels. The third umpire first became non-playing captain and now promises to appoint itself sole selector.


It is fairly clear that the RSS intends to arbiter the generational change in the BJP and have a decisive say in the naming of future leaders.


A task that should have been left to the party and to a robust mechanism of internal elections has been appropriated.


How all of this will play itself out and what implications it will have for the BJP is a matter for the future.
First, one must understand why this came about and ask whether it could have been avoided. Both queries will result in fingers being pointed in the same direction — that of Mr Advani.


After the defeat of 2004, propriety demanded that both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Advani step aside. To be fair to Mr Vajpayee, in a few months — and once he realised that the United Progressive Alliance-Left alliance was not going to break quickly — he reconciled himself to the inevitable and retired with his dignity intact.
Mr Advani hung on, and on. At one point, he anointed himself party president as well as Lok Sabha leader and then, in 2007, became the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and election mascot.


It was said of Ronald Reagan that he was the “Teflon Man”: nothing (no scandal) stuck on him. In the post-2004 period, Mr Advani became the “Fevicol Man”: he just stuck on to everything, every post. Did he really have to bring this upon himself?


The situation became completely untenable after the rejection of 2009. Mr Advani initially announced that he would not be Leader of the Opposition any longer.


Within a few hours he had changed his mind, allowing himself to be persuaded and inviting suggestions that he wasn’t serious in the first place.


In a few weeks, his confidants were sending out the message that he would be around for a full five years.
Finally, the RSS had to tell him to leave. Whatever its other shortcomings, the Sangh leadership has been extremely courteous to Mr Advani. It has told him he has a couple of years to fade away from the party hierarchy and decision-making.


Till then, he can be guidance counsellor to a team that will probably be put together by the RSS.


Yet, as his “talent hunt” brainwave suggests, Mr Advani is not reconciled to his own irrelevance. He plans to use his grace period to keep himself in the limelight or merely in the news. Bheesma thinks he is Arjuna, believes he is the hero and the Pandavas and Kauravas are peripheral characters, and wants the script altered to his convenience.


This is not a modern Mahabharat; it is a political tragedy.


What has Mr Advani’s unconscionable delay in letting go led to? Particularly after the May 2009 drubbing, the BJP just had to effect its long-overdue transition. This process needed a referee, somebody who was above the fray and thought for the party. It was a role tailor-made for Mr Advani.


Unforgivably, Mr Advani refused to elevate himself to elder statesman and continued to see himself as a competitor for jobs. This created a vacuum; the party cried out for an anchor to manage its generational evolution.
The RSS was the only available option. Mr Advani built the party in the 1990s but, at a time when the BJP needed him most, he actually failed the party.


That is why the Advani of today comes across as a sad, almost pathetic figure. Nobody knows what be believes in any longer. His opinion on Muhammad Ali Jinnah as expressed in 2005 was not markedly different from Jaswant Singh’s this year.


Both positions were flawed, but at least Mr Singh has been consistent and not changed his mind.
During the election campaign, Mr Advani had no noteworthy words on Varun Gandhi’s anti-Muslim diatribe, offered no clarity on policy issues. He just seemed (and continues to seem) to be going through the motions — too tired to move forward, too scared to move on.


From Lauh Purush to Plasticine Purush, did it have to come to this?* Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com [1]

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SERVICES EXPORTS NEED NEW MARKETS

BY BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

Services exports have emerged as an important source of foreign exchange and even employment generation for many countries in developing Asia. This is part of the global explosion in services trade, which really occurred after 2003; before that, world services trade was growing at around the same rate as merchandise exports. Some developing and newly industrialised countries of Asia benefited disproportionately from this trend of increasing services trade, particularly from the export of commercial services other than transportation and travel.
Contrary to the general perception of India as the most important service exporter from developing Asia, it turns out that China is the largest exporter of commercial services, and also has shown the fastest rate of growth, especially in transport services. To some extent that is explicable by the rapid growth of foreign trade, which would naturally have required more transport services. But even “other commercial services” exports, which are supposed to be India’s great success, have grown by 22 per cent per annum for China in the period 2000-2007, slightly faster than India. However, unlike China, which has a net deficit in commercial services, India has a surplus in this category.

 

Service exports from developing Asia are vulnerable to the current global crisis because of the significant reliance on the Northern markets. Where data are available (such as for Hong Kong China and South Korea) they suggest that the United States and the European Union accounted for around 40 per cent of total services exports in 2007. In India, it is known that at least 60 per cent of software exports (the fastest growing category of services exports in India) are destined for the US market alone. A significant proportion of that has been to the banking and financial services industry. The impact of the crisis on this sector, and the subsequent (and related) protectionist attempts to limit offshoring of services by Northern companies, are therefore likely to have a clear negative impact on such exports.


One specific element of travel services that has direct employment effects is the tourism industry. The recent decade witnessed a substantial increase in international tourism in developing Asia. One notable feature is the increase of intra-Asian tourism that has been noted within the trade, and reflects the growing prosperity of Asian middle classes as well as some easing of restraints on cross-border travel within the region. However, the crisis acted swiftly and sharply to affect tourism in many countries of the region. Both tourist arrivals and tourism receipts (in US dollar terms) decelerated sharply in 2008 compared to 2007 for most countries, and even turned negative from very sharp earlier growth in the case of China.


However, the monthly pattern of tourism receipts does not show such a sharp decline for China. Rather, the impression is of volatility around a relatively stagnant trend. In the case of India, the effect of the global recession is clear in that the usual seasonal increase in the winter months of 2008 and early 2009 simply did not occur, and the peak level of January 2009 was only around the same as that achieved two years earlier in January 2007. However, initial evidence from the case studies suggests that the downward trend is likely to be prolonged into late 2009. In addition to the economic effects of the crisis, concerns about the spread of the AH1N1 virus and security concerns in some countries in the region are also likely to affect tourist arrivals.
The crisis may also have changed the geographical pattern of tourist arrivals. For example, since the onset of the global financial crisis, Cambodia has received less tourists from South Korea and Japan as well as other high income countries, but more from Vietnam and China, which are relatively lower income countries. This has implications for tourism revenues, since per capita spending of tourists from these regions may be lower. It has been found that luxury hotels have been facing lower occupancy rates than three star and budget hotels.
Some countries with a higher proportion of tourists from Asia-Pacific countries (such as Indonesia, where more than half came from the Asia Pacific region, with Japan, Australia, China, Malaysia and South Korea among the top five markets) have been relatively less adversely affected by the downturn. However, in Vietnam the opposite tendency was evident: while all tourist arrivals reduced by 22 per cent in the first five months of 2009, tourists from China and South Korea decreased by 38 per cent and 22 per cent respectively, while the number from US fell by only 1.2 per cent and those from Canada actually increased by 4.2 per cent.


Just as for merchandise exports, therefore, it appears that diversification of markets is the key to continued expansion of service exports as well.

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

I FAST DURING RAMZAN

BY BY ROYA ROZATI

 

God himself has said in the Quran that if you take one step towards me, then I shall come 100 steps towards you.
In 1997-98, I was very busy as I wanted to set up a tissue culture laboratory. I was approaching banks and was running from one place to another seeking funds. But nothing was happening.


One day, during the month of Ramzan, I had to stay at a friend’s house. During sehri, my friend convinced me to observe a fast. Until then, I had not observed a fast.


That was the day the Almighty started opening doors for me. The company, with which I was in talks for equipment to be installed in the lab, agreed to give it to me on instalments. After this incident I have been fasting during every Ramzan.


(As told to M. Roushan Ali)

Dr Roya Rozati is a senior researcherand fertility expert

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

POISED FOR TAKE-OFF ~ NEW TREATS AWAIT N-E 

 

THE Union ministry for the Development of North East Region is laden with ideas of how to make life brighter. In response to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s agenda to ministries to show concrete results within 100 days of his second term in office, the Doner and the North Eastern Council have come out with a fresh move for an “exclusive air service” to boost inter-state connectivity. This is a reassuring sign because when the idea of a dedicated air service exclusively for the region was mooted two years ago few private airlines were interested. Eleven new airports feature in the 11th Plan and facilities at the existing ones are being upgraded.


The impression now sought to be created is that all impediments are being removed and the scheme will be put into effect soon. Arunachal Pradesh has great tourist potential and has already scaled up its helicopter services, adding some new destinations of tourist interest. Air India is reportedly interested in operating services to Shillong (Umiam) and Baljek (Garo Hills) which President Pratibha Patil inaugurated in October last year but which has remained unused. On practical considerations ~ enormous investments on airports and equally inhibiting maintenance costs ~ the planners should have realised that helicopter services between state capitals would have been preferable.


Not to be left behind, the Doner is trying to organise TV reality shows through a private channel to promote competitions among regional local youth to select talent in various fields. Nagaland has already declared music an industry and set up a “musical task force”. Chief minister Neiphiu Rio has promised to send talented youngsters to reputed musical schools for training. Interestingly, the Centre is said to have inquired how Nagaland was faring in this field. Was it a subtle hint that Nagaland might as well fight insurgency, violence ~ and extortion ~ through music?

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

AWAY FROM THE MASSES ~ CPI-M WILL HAVE TO CHANGE ITS THEORETICAL POSITION

TAPAN KUMAR BANERJEE


After assuming power in 1977, the Left Front in West Bengal had laid emphasis on land reforms and a nationalised industrial system. Subsequently, in the wake of the liberalisation in the late Nineties, it realised the importance of capitalist industrialisation and the establishment of Special Economic Zones. Land was acquired and the Tatas were invited to set up a car factory in Singur. As was Indonesia’s Salim Group which was supposed to construct a chemical hub in Nandigram. The government set about acquiring land. The rest is history. In the net, the projected industrialisation of West Bengal came a cropper.


A few questions arise. Will the Left Front completely abandon its policy on SEZ? Will it regij its equation with the Salim Group for whom 10,000 acres were to be acquired in Nandigram? Will the chief minister alter his “industrialisation-at-any-cost” construct in total disregard for the social and environmental consequences?
Finance minister Dr Asim Dasgupta has declared that the government will not tread the path it had pursued to acquire land. Instead, a land-bank will be formed to facilitate industrial development. Industrialists will be in a position to buy land directly from the peasants.


SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOOD

THE concerted opposition of the farmers, sharecroppers and land-labourers to the method of acquisition accounts for the backtracking by the government. It bears mention that farmers didn’t oppose land acquisition in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and certain other states. In these regions, the villagers were considered as partners when land was acquired for SEZs. In some cases, the land was first developed and then a part thereof was returned to the original owners. In Mahindra’s World City project, 30 km from Chennai, the people who sold their land did not have to move out. They were encouraged to set up small enterprises nearby. In another SEZ in Jaipur, Mahindra offered to return 25 per cent of the land to the farmers after development. Thus were the farmers able to put that land to remunerative use.


In Maharashtra, there are at least four ongoing SEZ projects where those affected have been taken care of. Apart from adequate compensation, their skills were upgraded to ensure a sustainable livelihood. Even in West Bengal’s Salboni, where the Jindals are setting up a steel plant, the group has offered a much better package to the farmers. In addition to the price of the land, jobs have been offered to one member of every affected family. An amount equal to the compensation will be converted to equity in the proposed steel plant.
In contrast, the CPI-M leaders of Bengal are still talking in terms of compensating farmers to protect their current income. Despite the initial breakthrough, the absence of a holistic rehabilitation policy is likely to impede the industrialisation process. The interests of the villagers were overlooked and the land acquired forcibly in Singur and Nandigram. And this had an impact on the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections.
To overcome the crisis that now confronts the Left Front, it is determined to set up a land-bank and confer on the industrialists the power of purchasing land directly from cultivators. How will the land-bank be formed? To what extent will the farmers be compensated and rehabilitated? Even if the power to buy the land is given to the investors, is there any guarantee that all industrialists will protect the interests of the peasants? In protecting the interests of the peasants in West Bengal, the attitude of the Tatas differed from that of the Jindals. The change in the situation will call for a change in the attitude of the CPI-M leaders. But given the undemocratic character the party has acquired, will the psychological transformation of the leadership be feasible?



WARPED VIEW

IT is doubtful whether Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has lost his zeal for “industrialisation-at-any-cost”. He has a warped view of history, which sees industrialisation of any kind as progress. He fails to realise that corporate-sponsored neo-liberal industrialisation doesn’t produce the collective blue-collar workers (the proletariat). Also, it lacks the employment and social potential of classical capitalism. Rather, it is largely based on the strength of the white-collar workers, and is extremely capital-intensive. Mr Bhattacharjee also has a warped view of the stages of historical development. For him, semi-feudal India must first achieve capitalism and then attempt socialist reform. Such a perception underestimates the possibilities of social transformation that are available within India’s backward capitalism.


The chief minister considers the “China model” to be ideal, given such giant Special Economic Zones as Shenzen, unfettered freedom for multinational capital, and legalisation of private property. There are no labour rights in Shenzen. The mere loss of an identity card can reduce workers to penury. The Chinese vice-minister, Chen Changzhi, has revealed that 80 per cent of the 1.84 million hectares of farmland earmarked for industrial development was illegally acquired.


Clearly, highhandedness, lack of foresight, and faulty planning have complicated the issues of land acquisition and industrialisation. A change in the theoretical position and the organisational structure of the CPI-M is imperative. But does the party leadership have what it takes to bring about the change? The fact of the matter is that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has moved away from the masses.

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

‘FUNDAMENTALISM WILL DAMAGE SOCIETY’

STEVE CONNOR


LONDON, 7 SEPT: The existence of a supernatural being in the form of a god who can dish out punishment in the afterlife may have been an important force in the past that helped to keep societies together as co-operative entities ~ but not so in the future.


Lord May of Oxford, the president of the British Science Festival, said that although religion may have once helped to stabilise human societies, the rise in fundamentalism could make it more difficult to bring about the sort of high-level co-operation needed to tackle the global problems of climate change and a growing human population. The former chief scientific adviser to the government warned that the rise of fundamentalist religions in both the east and west will have a detrimental impact on the ability of the world to cope with the problems of the 21st Century.


Lord May, a mathematical biologist, said in his presidential address to the conference, that co-operation between people globally will be needed more than ever in the coming decades but added he feared that to make sure it worked there had to be some kind of mechanism that punished those who cheated others. In the past, the ultimate punisher was God. He said that punishment was much more effective if it came from “some all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful deity that controls the world”, rather than from an individual person.


“In such systems, there is unquestioning respect for authority. Faith trumps evidence. But if indeed this is broadly the explanation for how co-operative behaviour has evolved and been maintained in human societies, it could be very bad news. Because although such authoritarian systems seem to be good at preserving social coherence and an orderly society, they are, by the same token, not good at adapting to change.” The Independent

 

DANGEROUS DOUBTS ~ THE ‘FIZZLE’ STILL SIZZLES

WORRYING indeed is the snowballing of the controversy over the yield of the thermo-nuclear device tested during Pokharan II. Former Chief of the Army Staff, General Ved Prakash Malik, generally perceived as one who never seeks to be sensational, has given a new, practical dimension to the debate by asking that all doubts be cleared, so that the armed forces are confident of the potency of a weapon that hopefully they will never be required to deliver. Reassurance, he has stated, is critical to their planning for the task devolving upon them. It is important to note that the General has not questioned the yield of that test, and with customary restraint has not gone beyond saying that the clarifications from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (and a couple of others) are “unconvincing”. Sure there is another school of strategic thought that sees no cause to question the claim that “credible minimum deterrence” has been secured, contends that nuclear weapons cannot be tested in the same manner as artillery pieces, and argues that nuclear capability has political and diplomatic ramifications beyond military firepower. Yet all that does not serve to invalidate the point the former chief was making ~ for obvious reasons none of the serving “brass” would go similarly public ~ that soldiers must have confidence and faith in their equipment. That is a military “basic”.


What might add to the soldiers’ doubts is their experience with a range of indigenous weapons and systems: the merit in their having been developed and produced domestically does not always compensate for shortcomings on the battlefield. The track record would also point to a consistent refusal to admit to errors or failures ~ be it a sophisticated missile or a rifle that “jams” ~ and for political reasons the forces being pressured into accepting systems that do not really make the grade: the MBT Arjun being a classic example.

Nuclear capability, however, is an entirely different ball game, that is what makes resolution of the “big bang or fizzle” dispute so vital to national interests. As this newspaper observed soon after the seeds of the present phase of the controversy were sown, a comprehensive, authentic statement from the Prime Minister was an immediate imperative. The continuing silence only fuels speculation.

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE TEAM IN IRAN ~ AHMADINEJAD REINFORCES AUTHORITY


HOWEVER fraudulent the election, the formation of the Iranian cabinet illustrates that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reinforced his authority. Despite the fact that three of his nominees were turned down by parliament, the President has had his way in the appointment of his aides to the critical segments of the interior ministry, oil, and intelligence. No less sensational, if controversial as well, has been the induction of Ahmad Vahidi ~ the alleged international terrorist ~ as the defence minister, a man wanted by Interpol on charges that he had a hand in the bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in Argentina in 1994. It is an open question whether the charge is a Zionist plot to run down the government, as Iran claims. Suffice it to register that Ahmadinejad has been able to strengthen his position with last Thursday’s parliamentary approval for the key slots. No less significant, he has removed from his cabinet those ministers who had questioned the government’s handling of the post-election turmoil, decidedly the most serious since 1979.


The shot in the arm following a spurious election comes a week after the President had called for the prosecution of opposition leaders responsible for the recent unrest. By thus stepping up the pressure against the reformists, he has publicly sided with the hardline politicians, clerics and the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard.


The induction of Marzieh Vahid-Dasterji as the country’s first woman minister to hold charge of health will rank as a landmark appointment and not merely in terms of gender. The doctor is a hardline conservative, one in favour of segregated health care. Clearly, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been able to ensure space for the conservatives in the new cabinet. He may even have introduced a system of checks and balances by rejecting three of the presidential nominees. The cabinet overall will not be reckoned as a disputed formation in the manner of the election. Aside from domestic tension, the country and its cabinet will have to countenance the challenges in foreign policy, pre-eminently over its nuclear programme.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

AGENT AGENDA

 

If 70 per cent of mutual fund buyers and 90 per cent of insurance buyers resort to commission agents, then the quality of the agents’ service is important. Anyone who has looked at an insurance policy or the offer document of a mutual fund knows that they are indigestible; when he signs the applications for these financial products, he does so blindly. Hence the scope for cheating him is undeniable, and the government should concern itself with protecting him. So it was right to appoint the committee on investor awareness and protection. Its consultation paper is written in good English, and puts forward important ideas for public discussion.

 

Three of the ideas are important. First, the committee proposes a national financial wellbeing board, which, however grandiosely named, has a useful remit, namely to educate the people in managing their finances. This board is not meant to be another regulator, but an educator: it would set standards for distributors of financial instruments, and run examinations to ensure that the distributors know their job. It would also organize education programmes for budding investors. Second, it proposes a self-regulatory organization for financial instrument distributors which would enforce the NFWB’s standards and punish distributors who do not follow the standards. And finally, it proposes an end to the present practice of distributors getting their commissions from the first premium of those who enrol in a pension scheme or take an insurance policy.

 

However, there can be doubts about its basic premise — that agents do not tell customers about all the choices available to them because neither is trained. The agents stick to one product to sell because that is the product on which they get a commission — they are all agents for one institution or another. And the reason why they serve only one institution is that the institution prefers it that way. It is in competition with other institutions, and is interested in maximizing its own sales. And as long as there is competition in financial industries, that is how it will remain — agents will sell products of only one institution however much training they are given. But they would give information about a variety of products if the financial institutions sold them; and the reason why the institutions do not offer such a variety is that they are not allowed to. Each of them is a slave to a regulator which does not allow it to diversify; just think of the fuss the Reserve Bank of India made when the ICICI Bank tried to enter insurance. And there are so many regulators because that is how bureaucrats maximize their deputation opportunities. If the government is interested in the financial welfare of its citizens, it should do two things. First, it should forbid the employment of bureaucrats by regulators unless they resign first. And second, they should combine all financial regulators into one.

 

***************************************

 

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HANDS OFF

 

The increasing clout of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in the Darjeeling hills reflects poorly on the administrative machinery in West Bengal. While the demand for separate statehood lies in limbo, the hills continue to function more or less as any autonomous region, thanks to the brazenness of the GJM. Since the Gorkhaland agitation got a fresh lease of life under Bimal Gurung, the GJM has sprung quite a few surprises on the local population. From stalling daily life on the hills with sporadic bandhs to blackening the faces of the Gorkha people for not wearing the traditional dress, the GJM has left behind an anarchic trail. It is no surprise, therefore, that the latest disturbance in Darjeeling has been the work of the Gorkhaland personnel, an outfit formed out of the supporters of GJM to act as troubleshooters during rallies. Sadly, now the GLP has become a source of trouble itself.

 

After placing a ban on smoking in the Mall and an embargo on the supply of alcohol as well as the sale of gutka, the GLP moved on to moral policing last week. The latest victim of its surveillance is a young couple, pulled up for holding hands. Ironically, the GLP had miscalculated its moves with this one, as the enraged duo turned out to be married to each other — but that is beside the point. It is of utmost concern that Bengal, so long a safe haven from cultural fundamentalists like the Ram Sena or the Shiv Sena, is becoming prone to hooliganism of this sort. And the state government is no less to blame for this than the GLP. Had the former dealt with political delinquents with an iron hand ever since trouble started brewing in the hills, things would probably not have come to this pass. The only ray of hope in this sordid episode is the active public anger shown against the GLP for meddling in the lives of the citizens. If the GJM has any sense left, it ought to reflect on this censure and mend its disruptive ways.

 

***************************************

 

THE TELEGRAPH

COLUMN

AMERICAN USE OF TORTURE

TORTURE IS EASIER THAN INFILTRATING ENEMY RANKS

WRITING ON THE WALL - ASHOK V. DESAI

 

Reports and photographs of prisoners tortured by American government employees have made the United States of America notorious (it should be mentioned that they all came from American, mostly official, sources). Now the US justice department has released a 2004 report that gives considerable detail on the use of torture, and justifies its use by citing information extracted from tortured prisoners. Most of the report has been blacked out; but even what remains reveals much.

 

All captors harass captives; the severity varies. Resulting death or injury leaves evidence and can cause outrage; so some democratic governments lay down rules about permissible and impermissible harassment. The report says nothing about torture used in conflicts up to the Vietnam war. Those who took part in that war retired or left the army and went to work in the private sector; they took their knowledge of torture with them. In the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency was working with Latin American governments who had leftist rebellions to deal with. After that there was a relatively peaceful period when the US was not involved in foreign wars. Again the torturers left government.

 

When the US intervened in Iraq, a new template had to be created. The need became urgent after Abu Zubaydah, a 30-year-old Saudi jihadi who had begun his career in Palestine, was caught in Faisalabad (old Lyallpur) with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence in 2002. The CIA made a list of “permissible” techniques, and got the opinion of some psychologists that they would cause no permanent psychological damage.

 

They included the infamous “waterboarding”. It is described as tying a prisoner to a bench with head hanging down and immobilized, covering the head with cloth, and pouring water on the cloth to make him feel he was drowning. As the cloth got soaked, it would stick to the prisoner’s mouth and nose and he would feel he was suffocating. If he was not to be severely asphyxiated, the water pouring had to be stopped after 20-40 seconds. In actual fact, videotapes showed continuous pouring of water in waterboarding. Obviously, no one involved thought this was wrong; one of the “psychologists” said that the extreme waterboarding was “‘for real’ and… more poignant and convincing”. The report concentrates on three prisoners who were waterboarded: Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and not allowed to sleep for 180 hours in a month. Abu Zubaydah talked; Sheikh Mohammed did not disclose much. Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri was subjected to only two sessions before he talked.

 

Another technique was to lock up the prisoner in an awkwardly shaped box — for two hours if it was so small that he could not move, 18 hours if he could move his limbs — in the company of a “harmless” insect. A third one was to take hold of the prisoner by his shoulders and push him back into a “flexible” wall. Or the prisoner might be made to stay in a stressful position for hours — for instance, leaning on stretched hands placed on a wall 4-5 feet away. Manhandling was included. Not letting a prisoner sleep or go to the toilet or making him stand for three days, exposing him to loud and continuous noise as long as it did not make him deaf, and starving him moderately were called standard interrogation techniques.

 

Those above were the permitted procedures. There were no unpermitted procedures, but the report goes in detail into international and US law. Its essence is that anything was allowed as long as it did not cause “severe” pain; and severe pain too was all right as long as the interrogator did not inflict it. An interrogator gave a hooded prisoner the impression that he was cocking a pistol to shoot him; he switched on a pneumatic drill close to the prisoner. In another instance, interrogators faked an incident to give a prisoner the impression that they had just shot another prisoner dead. Interrogators blew cigar smoke into the face of a prisoner. When asked, they said they smoked cigars because the stench in the room was unbearable. One interrogator strangled a prisoner just enough to make him feel he was going to be throttled. When asked, he said huffily that he had years of experience and no one had ever told him how he might interrogate.

 

Cold showers were frequently used to torture prisoners. When questioned, an interrogator asked, “How cold is cold? How cold is life threatening?” To him, freezing a prisoner was all right as long as the prisoner did not die. In another case, an air conditioner was used; the report does not say what happened, but since the entire subsequent section has been blacked out, the consequence was probably horrible.

 

This is how the Americans treated people in their custody; it could be worse for others. One Afghan was suspected of being implicated in a rocket attack, and was sought. He himself went to an American army post. An “independent contractor” severely beat and kicked him, and locked him up; he died after four days. In another place, 200 schoolchildren were being questioned about a bomb that had killed eight guards. A teacher “smiled inappropriately”, upon which he was beaten up with the rifle butt.

 

The report details the information obtained from the three prized prisoners, and implies that the torture was worthwhile. It also includes long legal briefs justifying the torture; it is all within the four walls of American law. What struck me, however, was how the Americans were intent on dominating, and consequently, how alienated they were. They recognize enemies in the entire Islamic arc from Palestine to Indonesia. They bomb the Taliban; if a few innocent Afghan villagers are also killed, that is trivial collateral damage. They catch jihadis, and torture them over months to make them talk. But could they send fifth columnists into the ranks of the Taliban or Lashkar-e-Toiba? They would not know how.

 

This applies even more to India. We are not capable of operating officially abroad as the Americans do; we could not get Indonesians or Filipinos to catch terrorists for us, let alone the Pakistanis. We have no clout; it could not be proved more starkly than by the attack on Mumbai hotels. We fretted and fumed; we prepared big dossiers and sent them around. But when Pakistan just ignored them, all that Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee could think of doing was to make more statements. We are no tiger; we are a toothless elephant.

 

In those circumstances, covert operations behind the enemy lines become even more important. The only way we can foil attacks like the one on Mumbai is by having advance information, and the only way we can get that information is by having spies in Pakistan, especially in their terrorist organizations. Every summer our army reports infiltration of Pakistani terrorists into Kashmir. But it has no fifth columnists in those terrorists. We should collect a few thousand young people from Hindutwit organizations like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Ram Sena, train them to be good Pakistanis and send them across the border. They would then be doing something useful.

 

***************************************

 

THE TELEGRAPH

COLUMN

FROM TRAGEDY TO FARCE

MALVIKA SINGH

 

Power, and being victims of the belief that they are ‘all powerful’, can be a very destructive ‘aphrodisiac’, particularly when the incumbents in powerful positions begin to imagine that nothing can touch them and that they have divine protection. Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, taking off in bad weather, was asking for trouble. Like others before him, leaders riding the wave, at the height of their working lives, tend to be ruled by bravado and not by sane, calm common sense. Advice to refrain from doing something they are bent upon doing, is an anathema to ambitious individuals in the fast lane. More often than not, a moment comes in their heady, reckless, lives when life itself slips away because of carelessness.

 

Reddy, flying in bad weather, has died. From all reports, he was an able chief minister, a ‘grassroots’ politician who did not tolerate dissension, who expected Congressmen and women to fall in line with his views, and ruled his local party wing and the state like a satrap. With no second-in-command in place, no leadership trained to take the baton and run with it, and with no democratic infrastructure within the party fora that could cushion the blow and allow for sensible succession plans, the Congress went into a tailspin. Hysteria seemed to compel the Andhra Pradesh cabinet to recommend Reddy’s son as the rightful successor. But, in fact, Reddy had ruled with an iron hand, silencing all who confronted or contradicted him much like a dictator. It is becoming clear that he had managed to hold together a divided party with a rather tenuous string, one that was manipulated by him and him alone. In sheer fear, desperate to survive the aftermath, members of the Andhra cabinet used an emotional moment to endorse the son, become ‘loyalists’ and buy their ongoing place in the sun.

 

Mock despair

 

The press — as it regaled us with endless repetitions of the same few details over 36 hours, with all channels showing the same visuals and speaking the same half-truths couched in conjecture — did not have any intelligent take on this rather absurd political happening. Now, with the weekend behind us, it may begin to address the reality for what it is rather than continue with the ‘theatre of the absurd.’ General secretaries of the party sitting in Delhi can play ducks and drakes with the unfolding saga, make a muddle of the entire exercise, and then put their hands up in mock despair as they pass the buck to the high command. It is time to call the bluff of all the people who have spent decades destroying the party and its mechanism.

 

On the one hand, Rahul Gandhi is trying to instil democratic methods within the Congress and on the other, old, failed hands are busy discrediting him and his endeavour by operating against his mandate for the future. Is this how the oldies, those who rule the All India Congress Committee, want to make a mockery of what their future leader is religiously working towards? Is this a silent and polite way of discrediting him? Did M. Veerappa Moily think he was currying favour with the general secretary of the Youth Congress when he stated that Jaganmohan Reddy was a young leader and, therefore, there was nothing wrong with suggesting his name for the chief minister’s post although the final call would be from 10 Janpath? The trajectory of the tale has moved rather rapidly from a dreadful tragedy to an inappropriate farce.

 

Will the shift start now or will we have to wait a few more years for the old operating style to undergo a radical

overhaul? Will Rahul Gandhi’s generation take over the revamping of the AICC, and the party functioning? Will Jaganmohan Reddy be sent on a year-long padayatra to discover Andhra Pradesh before he is ‘anointed’? Or will he fall into the trap of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’-type politics?

***************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

NOT FOR THEIR SAKES ONLY

IF THE CBSE CLASS X EXAMINATION IS MADE OPTIONAL, WHO WILL DO THE CHOOSING — THE CHILD, THE GUARDIAN OR THE SCHOOL? ASKS AVEEK SEN

 

An option, says the dictionary, is both the thing that is or may be chosen and the freedom or right to choose. Such a fusion of object and agency is at once exciting and scary, exciting because scary. But human beings cannot bear too much excitement. (Deliver us, Lord, from the sexiness of risks.) That is why, instead of the expected gloom, a hopeless sort of serenity comes upon most of us when we contemplate the fact that there are no choices at all — no options — in the first and last things. We have no choice in our Coming Hither (just as some democracies, including this one, do not allow us to say “None of the above” when we vote). And religion, law and good manners place every possible obstacle to our voluntarily Going Hence. There is, of course, the Dignitas clinic in Zürich. But imagine going to the Swiss embassy with your visa application form saying, “Purpose of visit: to die.” Opting out is terribly difficult. Unless you don’t mind being made to feel like a loser, criminal or sinner. And at the heart of love, and of cruelty, there is a profound fear of freedom, of our own freedom and that of others.

 

To move from the first and last things to the Union HRD minister is perhaps not fair to the man (some will say, not fair to the first and last things). But Kapil Sibal has thrown up — unwittingly? — a fascinating version of the problem of freedom and choice in making the CBSE exams at the end of Class X optional. “Optional for whom?” is the crucial question here. How will this fairly radical change of policy be thought through, and then implemented, in the actual lives of a huge number of young people in the country?

 

More particularly, who will exercise the option: the student, the guardian or the school? To ponder the implications of this question is to realize how deeply it is tied up with the adult world’s notion of childhood itself, and with the extent of that world’s investment in this notion. And by the adult world, I mean here the family as well as the State, working as interlocking systems or “concentric nests”, to borrow A.K. Ramanujan’s phrase. In the current public discourse on education, given a frenetic new buzz in the media by the HRD ministry’s multiple reforms, there are two kinds of vocabulary being used to talk about the secondary-school student. On the one hand, the State must disburden the child, make the schoolbag lighter, minimize homework, lessen the trauma of exams, and shade the garden of learning from the glare of competition. On the other hand, children must be given the right to choose, they must learn to be free, they must be helped into adulthood. The first is the language of paternalism, the second that of rights. The first talks about protection, the second of participation. In the first, the child is an object, in the second an agency; passive in one, active in the other. (A third language, the voices of the students themselves, has been conspicuously unheard so far in the entire debate.)

 

Each language is premised on an idea of childhood that is apparently at odds with the other. But, in a society like India’s, the two languages end up being in a sort of loving collusion with each other. Such a collusion is founded, in turn, upon the family and the State seeing eye to eye, to a remarkable extent, on the issues of protection and participation, on the virtues and perils of having (or being given) choices and options.

 

In all this, the student comes to embody a peculiar kind of childhood, which has everything to do with the stage of life, biologically and culturally, in which he or she faces the first set of board exams in school. A student who is around 16 years old is caught in the passage from the first to the second configuration of childhood outlined above, between protection and participation. From the point of view of adult perceptions and handling of children, the ambivalence and ambiguities of adolescence can be challenging. (Notice how troubling words like handling begin to sound the moment we are talking about an older child, and how odd it feels to use the pronoun, it, for a child, even though the usage is grammatically correct and conveniently gender-neutral.) And this discomfiture with adolescence is reflected not only in the family and in institutions like the school, but also in the law, where the cut-off age for the definition of childhood varies widely from law to law, depending on which area of human experience is being regulated. The child as labourer, the child as learner, the child as bride or groom (that is, a sexual being), the child as victim or perpetrator of sexual, criminal or military violence: in each capacity, a different notion and corresponding image of childhood are conjured up and then institutionalized by the law through the cut-off age. From the Plantation Labour Act, 1951, to the Children Act, 1960, it varies from 12 to 21 years, and in significant instances (like marriage) the variation takes account of gender, but not social environment, class or caste. What the law mirrors, then, are the larger and deeper confusions and contradictions in the way we would like to think of childhood in relation to labour, sex, violence and education, or in our inability to balance our concerns about the minds of children on the one hand and their bodies on the other.

 

How we tackle the question of options is inextricable from such confusions and contradictions. These are not merely conceptual or intellectual failings, but are part of the complexity of our material and emotional relationships with children in different spheres of everyday life. So, as parents, teachers, lawkeepers or policymakers, what we are confronting here are not just laws, policies or principles, but matters that are part of the most intimate and unsayable depths of our adult being. What we actually allow children to be capable of, the choices that we let them make and the freedoms that we let them live out, are inseparable from the different limits, the different cut-off points, that we set ourselves in our imagination of childhood. These limits are, in turn, inseparable from what we ask of children, from the way we need them, what we want them to do for us, at every level and in every sphere of our lives, from the most frighteningly real to the most beautifully symbolic. In a desperately poor and unequal country, with its minimal welfare system in tatters, these needs are never just psychic or emotional, but also selfishly, brutally, material. So nothing that we do for children and with them, nothing that we wish for them, is for their sakes only, but for our sakes too. That is why the cherished language of unconditionality and disinterestedness may sound anything from movingly deluded to patently duplicitous when we are talking about our vision of childhood or love for children. And this is as true about the State as about the family, as true of the language of law as of the language of love.

 

So what kind of structures do we need to rethink and put in place — in our minds and hearts, in the family, in schools and law-courts, among other places — before we acknowledge the right of children to decide for themselves whether or not they will sit an important public exam? Or will they be interpreted and implemented out of the optionality of this particular option, leaving their guardians or teachers to do the choosing for them? Or if they are allowed to choose, then are we ready to allow the implications and consequences of that choice? In a school where 99 out of 100 students have chosen to sit the exams, how are we going to treat the one child who has opted out? Will there be room (in school, at home and among peers) for this child to be different (and continue to be different with the years), or will he or she have to conform eventually to the sheer pressure of numbers? Will the nature and extent of choice be different for girls and boys? And if children are allowed this choice, would it help them make (and help us let them make) riskier, more difficult, choices later in life? And can we bear not to wonder whether they have chosen right? For wouldn’t that be the beginning of letting them go, of letting go?

 

***************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

TESTS OF A DIFFERENT KIND

CLASS APART

 

Does the State think that children have the lowest stakes in their own schooling?

 

“Dear Stakeholder” — greets the user interface on the CBSE website containing questionnaires for students, parents, teachers and principals. The questionnaire is a measure adopted by the Union human resource development ministry to engage in a dialogue with those who will be affected if the Class X board examinations are made optional. The objective of this survey is to know the views of the various concerned parties, to gauge their mood and assess their worries. One cannot, however, help but note the disparity in the number of questions put to each group — 46 to students, 74 to principals, 76 to parents and 70 to the teachers.

 

Two things emerge from the questions. Do parents, principals and teachers hold greater ‘stakes’ in the education of children today than the students themselves? Also, the same kind of questions are rehashed to fit the respondents — each group is asked if it feels teachers “rush through” the syllabus in class, and the teachers are asked if they feel the pressure to do the same. There are some additional questions asked of parents, teachers and principals that deal with concerns exclusive to the ‘adults’ — parents are asked if they can concentrate on their work because of their children’s studies, principals are asked if they are worried about their schools’ standard, teachers asked if they suffer from insomnia or mood swings during exams, and so on. So does this mean that education is a lot about reinforcing an adult-child relationship? That is, parents and teachers provide him with ‘guidance’ and the child in turn studies to fulfil parents’ desires to see him ‘do well in life’ and have a ‘bright future’. The alternative is to lose sleep over the child’s failure to do so.

 

The survey is quite exhaustive in that it raises questions about the state of school education and evaluation systems. All four groups are asked if students feel “panic or anxiety attacks” during exam time, if they feel the “monotony” of classroom interactions, if they have time to play games, read, or pursue other interests. Emphasis is on the perceived flaws of the current system and the survey seems an attempt to see how many of the respondents agree with the policy-makers.

 

The fundamental notions about school education are never really challenged in the survey, but are reinforced through it. Academic performance is given precedence over other activities, referred to as “extra”-curriculars or “soft skills” (music, dance, poetry). The survey assumes that students are most definitely under pressure, but their need to ‘excel’ in studies, to get into a good college in a “good stream” is not questioned.

 

The alternative to this pressure — the reason for the survey — is to make the Class X board exams optional (though the coaching centre exams, internal exams, the Class XII board exams, would all remain intact). The ‘continuous and comprehensive evaluation’ system comes up in the survey as a token gesture — respondents are asked if they feel CCE is a better evaluative measure, but even there, academic performance is rated over all others. The CCE grade card divides evaluation four ways, based on academic performance, art and health education, personal and social qualities (punctuality and cleanliness), and attitude and values (towards teachers and peers). Though it is doubtful whether a student who is, say, excellent at dance would be promoted if his academic grade is not up to the mark. Most certainly not the child who turns out tidy for class, but fails in history.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ALL NOT WELL WITH BARACK OBAMA

PUBLIC EXPECTATIONS ARE GREATER THAN HIS ACHIEVEMENTS, PARTICULARLY ON THE HOME FRONT.

BY MICHAEL JANSEN

 

President Barack Obama is facing a major test of his resolve on Wednesday when he addresses Congress on healthcare reform. His job approval rating has fallen from 65 per cent to 50-52 per cent in spite of the relative success of his economic stimulus package and other domestic policies.


By spending $88 billion over six months to prop up altering banks and the automotive industry and offering tax credits to car and home buyers, Obama has prevented the ‘Great Recession’ from becoming another ‘Great Depression’. He has also secured the appointment to the Supreme Court of its first Hispanic justice, banned torture during interrogation, set in motion the closure of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, and laid down a deadline for US troops to leave Iraq.


Unfortunately, public expectations are greater than his achievements, particularly on the crucial home front. His economic policies have not yet translated into jobs, while the chief beneficiaries of Obama’s relief programmes have been the poor and lower middle class rather than the middle class which has been quick to express disappointment, dragging down his ratings.


THREE IMPORTANT ISSUES

Obama has given three issues pride of place on his first year agenda: providing healthcare for 47 million US citizens without private insurance, stabilising Afghanistan, and achieving peace in West Asia. On healthcare reform, he is being let down by members of his own Democratic party who are financed by medical insurance and pharmaceutical interests. Liberals castigate him for failing to provide firm leadership and trying to foist bipartisanship on Republicans. They have done their best to torpedo his proposals and scare constituents into believing he is building ‘big government’.


Republicans are exploiting irrational fears of government intervention in citizens’ daily lives although they depend on federal programmes for pensions and healthcare for the elderly and poor.


Radical conservatives call Obama ‘Hitler’ and a ‘Nazi’ and claim that ‘Obamacare’ amounts to ‘socialised medicine’ which will create ‘death panels’ to decide who receives and does not receive expensive healthcare. Radicals are also claiming that his healthcare proposals will lead to federal funding for abortions.


The welter of accusations and fabrications are forcing Obama to consider dropping his proposal for public healthcare for all and substitute less controversial semi-private healthcare cooperatives.


Radicals condemn Obama’s decision to address school children on Tuesday with the aim of encouraging them to study hard and strive for excellence.  They say he plans to propaganise children to back his policies rather than work for self-improvement. A number of schools and communities banned the broadcast although a majority is prepared to listen to what he has to say.


Obama’s rating has also been hit by his failure to curb violence in Afghanistan and contain the Taliban. Allegations against President Hamid Karzai of vote rigging in his bid for re-election have undermined Obama’s political strategy in Afghanistan. Rising violence in Iraq, from which Obama has pledged to withdraw US troops by 2012, has exacerbated domestic unease with US war efforts.


SINKING POPULARITY

Obama’s sinking popularity has encouraged Israel’s right-wing government to challenge his main foreign policy initiative: achievement of Arab-Israeli peace through a ‘two state solution’ involving the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Instead of accepting this demand, the Israeli government has rejected any freeze in Jerusalem, insisted on completing 2,500 housing units in West Bank settlements, and pledged to authorise another 500-700 units before implementing a limited ‘reduction’.



Obama’s friends claim he is too cerebral and not passionate enough about his policies. Allies argue he relies too much on building consensus in the legislature and the public. To defeat rivals and detractors, Obama has to demonstrate both his passion and his determination to lead.



They fear many legislators could lose their seats in the November 2010 election for the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Furthermore, unless his rating picks up, the party could lose its majorities in both houses and he could find it impossible to secure legislative approval for his programmes. Thus, Obama, the first Afro-Amercian to win the White House, could become a one-term president who failed to deliver on his promise to ‘change’ for the better the US and its relationship with the world.

 

***************************************

 

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

MOVING ON WITH A BOW

THOUGH EMBARRASSING AND AWKWARD THOSE WERE MEMORABLE MOMENTS.

BY NAYTHAN CARVALHO

 

The highpoint of our primary school life at St Anthony’s was our annual sports and Christmas concert. ‘Little Anthonians’, as we were called, waited eagerly for the two events. Our parents went a step further. They stood on benches, chairs and even ran across the auditorium and playfield to capture the magical moments of their little boys on film and video.


And moments there were a plenty — embarrassing, awkward, happy and sloppy. Little boys dressed in frocks, skirts, saris, ghagrha-cholis, plaits, wigs, tiaras, jewellery, make-up and high-heels. We performed skits, sang and danced. Somebody’s wig would fall off, or somebody’s skirt would slip down to roars of laughter from our amused parents. Each boy performed in some small way and we felt united and special in this collective experience.

For our passing out ceremony, in the dark auditorium, 150 fourth-graders strode in unison to Abba’s ‘I have a dream’. The left palm we placed on our chests and in the right we held a tiny torch which sent a glow on our tender faces. The parents couldn’t contain their tears to this solemn farewell.


Our sports day topped it all. Our PT teacher, Emmanuel, was a hard taskmaster who prepared us for months for the parade, relays and pyramids. Like clockwork the events were conducted with the help from every teacher. Months of hard work showed up in performing the pyramids. We fell at times but climbed all over again balancing our skinny bodies to the cheers and delight of our parents.


Our simple school motto, “Do well all you do” has somehow stayed with us and I hope it will stand us in good stead as it has for the thousands who have graduated from this great institution. The nuns must have done something right.


But sadly, this first home of ours will close its doors. We have moved on to a bigger school. It’s fine, but the feeling is just not the same. A group of seventh graders will be there one last time on sports day to bow, salute, and shed a few tears. For the ones who miss sports day, there is still the Christmas concert and graduation.

Dear Rahul Dravid, you are our most famous Anthonian. Would you like to join us? I wonder what Convent Road would be like without the laughter of the little boys. Finally, dear sisters, please keep the statues and the grotto for old times’ sake.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE NEWYORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

VAGUE CYBERBULLYING LAW

 

Lori Drew acted grotesquely if, as prosecutors charged, she went online and bullied her daughter’s classmate, a 13-year-old girl who ended up committing suicide. A federal court was right, however, to throw out her misdemeanor convictions recently. The crimes she was found guilty of, essentially violating the MySpace Web site’s rules, are too vague to be constitutional.

 

Many people were understandably horrified at the story of Megan Meier’s death. The Drews and Meiers were neighbors in O’Fallon, Mo. Prosecutors charged that Ms. Drew was part of a conspiracy that set up a MySpace profile for a fictional 16-year-old named Josh Evans and posted a photograph of a boy without his knowledge. That violated MySpace’s terms of service.

 

“Josh” flirted with Megan, according to prosecutors, then said he was moving away. Finally, he told her he no longer liked her and that “the world would be a better place without [her] in it.” After Megan committed suicide, Ms. Drew allegedly had the account deleted.

 

The jury acquitted Ms. Drew of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but convicted her of accessing a computer without proper authorization in violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Her crime was, in essence, violating MySpace’s terms of service.

 

As Judge George H. Wu of the United States District Court for the Central District of California rightly held, a federal law that makes violating a Web site’s terms of service a crime is unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires laws to contain “relatively clear guidelines as to prohibited conduct.” Ms. Drew’s conviction fails this test. The average users of any Web site has no reason to believe they are breaking federal law by violating terms of service.

 

It is also unclear which violations will be prosecuted. MySpace prohibits many things, including knowingly providing false or misleading information. It is hard to believe that people who lie about their age, weight or physical appearance are guilty of a federal crime.

 

Lawmakers should enact laws that can withstand challenge to give prosecutors tools to go after bullying of all kinds. What prosecutors cannot do is stretch federal law to label run-of-the-mill Internet activity as criminal.

 

***************************************

                

THE NEWYORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A THREAT TO FAIR ELECTIONS

 

The Supreme Court may be about to radically change politics by striking down the longstanding rule that says corporations cannot spend directly on federal elections. If the floodgates open, money from big business could overwhelm the electoral process, as well as the making of laws on issues like tax policy and bank regulation.

 

The court, which is scheduled to hear arguments on this issue on Wednesday, is rushing to decide a monumental question at breakneck speed and seems willing to throw established precedents and judicial modesty out the window.

 

Corporations and unions have been prohibited from spending their money on federal campaigns since 1947, and corporate contributions have been barred since 1907. States have barred corporate expenditures since the late 1800s. These laws are very much needed today. In the 2008 election cycle, Fortune 100 companies alone had combined revenues of $13.1 trillion and profits of $605 billion. That dwarfs the $1.5 billion that Federal Election Commission-registered political parties spent during the same election period, or the $1.2 billion spent by federal political action committees.

 

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the limitations on corporate campaign expenditures. In 1990, in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and again in 2003, in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, it made clear that Congress was acting within its authority and that the restrictions are consistent with the First Amendment.

 

In late June, the court directed the parties to address whether Austin and McConnell should be overruled. It gave the parties in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission a month to write legal briefs on a question of extraordinary complexity and importance, and it scheduled arguments during the court’s vacation.

 

All of this is disturbing on many levels. Normally, the court tries not to decide cases on constitutional grounds if they can be resolved more simply. Here the court is reaching out to decide a constitutional issue that could change the direction of American democracy.

 

The court usually shows great respect for its own precedents, a point Chief Justice John Roberts made at his confirmation hearings. Now the court appears ready, without any particular need, to overturn important precedents and decades of federal and state law.

 

The scheduling is enormously troubling. There is no rush to address the constitutionality of the corporate expenditures limit. But the court is racing to do that in a poorly chosen case with no factual record on the critical question, making careful deliberation impossible.

 

Most disturbing, though, is the substance of what the court seems poised to do. If corporations are allowed to spend from their own treasuries on elections — rather than through political action committees, which take contributions from company employees — it would usher in an unprecedented age of special-interest politics.

Corporations would have an enormous say in who wins federal elections. They would be able to use this influence to obtain subsidies, stimulus money and tax loopholes and to undo protections for investors, workers and consumers. It would take an extraordinarily brave member of Congress to stand up to agents of big business who then could say, quite credibly, that they would spend whatever it takes in the next election to defeat him or her.

The conservative majority on the court likes to present itself as deferential to the elected branches of government and as minimalists about the role of judges. Chief Justice Roberts promised the Senate that if confirmed he would remember that it’s his “job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”

 

If the court races to overturn federal and state laws, and its well-established precedents, to free up corporations to drown elections in money, it will be swinging for the fences. The American public will be the losers.

 

***************************************

                

                

THE NEWYORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HUSTLE AND BUSTLE AT THE WHITE HOUSE

 

Transparency doesn’t come easy in Washington, where deal makers and favor seekers prefer to work from the shadows. But the Obama administration is taking a major step into the sunlight with the presidential order to post online the thousands of White House visitors who come and go each month.

 

Dick Cheney fiercely indulged White House secrecy as vice president, most notoriously in refusing to name the corporate moguls who visited to create energy policy. But the Clinton administration was no less secretive about fund-raisers and other favored drop-ins.

 

The policy requires the routine posting of the Secret Service’s logs three to four months after White House visitations. Disclosure will name the visitor, who set up the meeting, where it was held and how long it lasted.

 

There are exceptions for national security and sensitive visitors, such as someone quietly under consideration for a Supreme Court nomination. But President Obama is promising citizens far more about “whose voices are being heard in the policy-making process.”

 

It took a court challenge by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to remind the administration of Mr. Obama’s campaign vows for a new era of openness. After a review, the president ordered the policy. We’d hope the White House aims for a shorter delay in postings so the names are more relevant to ongoing issues. But the administration is well on course to be the most open in modern times, with such earlier initiatives as the online Data.gov to allow citizen access to huge amounts of federal agency information.

 

***************************************

 

THE NEWYORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG TO SAIL AROUND THE WORLD ALONE?

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

Early last year, the boat I was on, a 47-foot yawl, pulled alongside a red-hulled vessel of similar length not far from the mouth of a fjord in Chilean Patagonia. The lifelines around the deck of that boat had been reinforced with netting because the crew — apart from the Austrian captain, his Dutch wife and her sister — consisted of two yellow Labs and two very young children. The mother of those children had herself grown up on a sailboat. It was like pulling alongside a scene from “Little Ship on the Prairie.”

 

I thought of that brief Chilean encounter when I read about Laura Dekker, the 13-year-old Dutch girl who wants to sail alone around the world. She was born in New Zealand when her parents were circumnavigating, and she has become a sailor in her own right, sailing single-handed in Holland and in the waters off Friesland. Her parents are now divorced. Her father reluctantly backs the idea of her solo circumnavigation. Her mother has made no public comment.

 

Recently, Laura sailed solo on the 26-foot Guppy to Britain, where she was detained and placed in a children’s home. Her father went there to retrieve her, but allowed her to sail home alone instead.

 

The Dutch authorities were not amused. They have taken Laura into temporary guardianship until a child psychologist can assess her ability to withstand the rigors of a solo sea voyage that could last as long as two years. On Oct. 26, she will learn whether she can weigh anchor for parts unknown.

 

This isn’t pure Huck Finn on Laura’s part. Huck wasn’t trying to be the youngest person to float down the Mississippi. In fact, Laura hopes to beat the record set by Mike Perham, the British 17-year-old who, on Aug. 27, finished a nine-month circuit of the globe in a 50-foot racing yacht. He broke the previous age record by two months.

 

But there’s enough Huck Finn in Laura’s ambitions to make this a real tangle, just the right mixture of nautical adventure, independent youth, state paternalism and laissez-faire parenting to get everyone upset.

 

A circumnavigation means knowingly taking your life in your hands, which is something the social contract doesn’t ordinarily let parents allow their 13-year-olds to do. Nor does it let parents purposely raise social isolates. Would a 13-year-old be allowed to live alone in a tiny flat in Utrecht? Why then in a very small boat — and the Guppy is a very small boat — on the high seas?

 

Laura would be at sea, utterly and sometimes abjectly solitary, at just the time in her life when most kids find their social world reknitting itself around them.

 

Some people — looking back on their own adolescence — are likely to wish they could have spent those years alone at sea.

 

Laura says she knows exactly what she’s getting into, and the question, finally, is whether we believe her. The telling contrast isn’t with 13-year-olds who want to stay home. It’s with Mr. Perham, who crossed the Atlantic solo when he was only slightly older than Laura.

His feat embodies the modern ideal of adventure. His boat was well-sponsored, and he had the vocal support of his family. Above all, there was never a sense that he was fleeing anything. He was sailing within the social contract, fund-raising for two charities every mile along the way.

 

Laura Dekker’s desire, as she told Dutch television, is “to live freely.” Knowing adults everywhere will hear her youth in that phrase, and they will recall that the usual response to adolescents who want to live freely is, “grow up.” She is, in fact, proposing to grow up at sea, to face without relief the almost unrelenting challenge of the ocean. And she’s also proposing to do it in the shortest rounding she can, in order to take the Guinness record away from Mr. Perham.

 

It may well be that for Laura, a solo circumnavigation is the shortest way home. She may, in her 20s, come to inhabit the sort of floating household that my friends and I came upon in Chile, the very kind she was born into. So far, she has done an excellent job of calling her father’s bluff.

 

If, in the end, the Dutch court allows her to set sail aboard the Guppy, the only bluff she will have to call is her own.

 

***************************************

 

THE NEWYORK TIMES

OPED

THE BLOODY CROSSROADS

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

In 1965, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Daniel Bell started a magazine called The Public Interest. Their idea was that the great ideological clashes between socialism and capitalism were in the past. In the age of consensus what was needed was a policy journal that would pragmatically weigh costs and benefits.

 

But as the years went by, they ran up against the limits of technocratic thinking. They found that they could not escape the murky depths of character, culture and morality. “At root, in almost every area of public concern,” James Q. Wilson wrote in the 20th anniversary issue, “we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants to public assistance, would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials.”

 

The Public Interest closed in 2005, when the last of the original editors, Irving Kristol, retired. It left a gaping hole. Fortunately, a new quarterly magazine called National Affairs is starting up today to continue the work. The magazine, edited by Yuval Levin, occupies the same ground: the bloody crossroads where social science and public policy meet matters of morality, culture and virtue.

 

The first essay concerns a great test of American national character. Today, James C. Capretta argues, America’s leaders are in the same position that General Motors’s executives were in a decade or two ago. The nation has made a series of lavishly unaffordable promises. The legacy costs are piling up. By the end of 2019, the nation’s debt will soar to 82 percent of G.D.P. — and that’s without new programs and before the full fiscal impact of the boomer retirements.

 

Creating a new and sustainable middle-class social contract isn’t only an accounting matter. It’s also a question of responsibility — whether Americans are willing to face the costs of their choices, and refrain from stealing from their grandchildren.

 

The challenge isn’t deciding whether to control spending, but how, in a democratic system, to pull it off. One answer is that we should smash through the special interests and hand power directly to the people. That’s been tried in California, and, unfortunately, the consequences are disastrous. As Troy Senik points out in his essay, the California Constitution gives voters relatively direct control over fiscal decisions. The result is that Californians have voted to tax themselves like libertarians and subsidize themselves like socialists.

 

California is in a fiscal meltdown. Direct democracy didn’t stifle the special interests; it empowered them. Because of union power, California can’t fire teachers — even one who was found with pornography, pot and cocaine in school. California teachers are among the best paid in the country, while the schools are among the worst.

 

The other alternative is to concentrate power and let public-policy professionals make the hard choices. But as Wilfred M. McClay argues, even highly trained experts get caught up in manias and groupthink — as the failure to anticipate the economic crisis shows.

 

Luigi Zingales points out that the legitimacy of American capitalism has rested on the fact that many people, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, got rich on the basis of what they did, not on the basis of government connections. But over the years, business and government have become more intertwined. The results have been bad for both capitalism and government. The banks’ growing political clout led to the rule changes that helped create the financial crisis.

 

If we can’t trust the people and we can’t trust the elites, who can we trust? How can change be effectuated? This is one of the problems National Affairs is going to have to think through in the years ahead.

 

Another is: Can the state do anything to effectively promote virtuous behavior? Because when you get into the core problems, whether in Washington, California or on Wall Street, you keep seeing the same moral deficiencies: self-indulgence, irresponsibility and imprudence.

 

Two of my favorite essays in the first issue go right at this problem. Ron Haskins delivers a careful reading of the data on inequality and social mobility and cuts through a lot of the sloppy reporting on this issue. He points out that the surest way to achieve mobility is still the same: get married, get a degree, hold on to a job. “Poverty in America is a function of culture and behavior at least as much as of entrenched injustice,” he writes. But how does government alter culture?

 

At the end of the issue, Leon R. Kass delivers an unforgettable article on why he decided to give up a career in the sciences to devote himself to the humanities. It nicely captures the spirit of the magazine — the fierce desire to see the human whole, to be aware of people as spiritual beings and not economic units or cogs in a technocratic policy machine.

 

In a world of fever swamp politics and arid, overly specialized expertise, National Affairs arrives at just the right time.

 

***************************************

THE NEWYORK TIMES

OPED

IT’S TIME TO GET HELP

BY BOB HERBERT

 

Maybe the economic stress has been too much. Looking back at the past few months, it’s fair to wonder if the country isn’t going through a nervous breakdown.

 

The political debate has been poisoned by birthers, deathers and wackos who smile proudly while carrying signs comparing the president to the Nazis. People who don’t even know that Medicare is a government program have been trying to instruct us on the best ways to reform health care.

 

The administration’s most popular anti-recession initiative was a startlingly creative economic breakthrough known as the cash-for-clunkers program. Over the weekend (presumably while the president was sleeping, because this occurred in the wee hours of the morning), White House officials whispered the official announcement that Van Jones would no longer be working in the administration.

 

The White House wishes it had never heard of Mr. Jones, who was hired to be its point person on green jobs. It turns out that Mr. Jones had used a nasty anatomical slur to refer to Republicans and once signed a petition suggesting that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.

 

There is no end to the craziness. The entire Republican Party has decided that it is in favor of absolutely nothing. The president’s stimulus package? No way. Health care reform? Forget about it.

 

There is not a thing you can come up with that the G.O.P. is for. Sunshine in the morning? Harry Reid couldn’t persuade a single Senate Republican to vote yes.

 

Incredibly, the party’s poll numbers are going up.

 

We need therapy. President Obama is planning to address the nation’s public school students today, urging them to work hard and stay in school. The folks who bray at the moon are outraged. Some of the caterwauling on the right has likened Mr. Obama to Chairman Mao (and, yes, Hitler), and a fair number of parents have bought into the imbecilic notion that this is an effort at socialist or Communist indoctrination.

 

As one father from Texas put it: “I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

 

The wackiness is increasing, not diminishing, and it has a great potential for destruction. There is a real need for people who know better to speak out in a concerted effort to curb the appeal of the apostles of the absurd.

 

But there is another type of disturbing behavior, coming from our political leaders and the public at large, that is also symptomatic of a society at loose ends. We seem unable to face up to many of the hard truths confronting the U.S. as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

 

The Obama administration’s biggest domestic priority is health care reform. But the biggest issue confronting ordinary Americans right now — the biggest by far — is the devastatingly weak employment environment. Politicians talk about it, but aggressive job-creation efforts are not part of the policy mix.

 

Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, according to official statistics. The real numbers are far worse. The unemployment rate for black Americans is a back-breaking 15.1 percent.

 

Five million people have been unemployed for more than six months, and the consensus is that even when the recession ends, the employment landscape will remain dismal. A full recovery in employment will take years. With jobless recoveries becoming the norm, there is a real question as to whether the U.S. economy is capable of providing sufficient employment for all who want and need to work.

 

This is an overwhelming crisis that is not being met with anything like the urgency required.

 

We’ve also been unable or unwilling to face the hard truths about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the terrible toll they are taking on our young fighting men and women. Most of us don’t want to know. Moreover, we’ve put the costs of these wars on a credit card, without so much as a second thought about what that does to our long-term budget deficits or how it undermines much-needed initiatives here at home.

 

There are many other issues that we remain in deep denial about. It’s not just the bad economy that has thrown state and local budgets into turmoil from coast to coast. It’s our refusal to provide the tax revenues needed to pay for essential public services. Exhibit A is California, which is now a basket case.

 

The serious wackos, the obsessive-compulsive absurdists, may be beyond therapy. But the rest of us could use some serious adult counseling. We’ve forgotten many of the fundamentals: how to live within our means, the benefits of shared sacrifice, the responsibilities that go with citizenship, the importance of a well-rounded education and tolerance.

 

The first step, of course, is to recognize that we have a problem.

 

***************************************

THE NEWYORK TIMES

OPED

JAPAN COMES OF AGE

BY RYU MURAKAMI

 

LAST week, some news outlets called it a revolution when the Democratic Party of Japan unseated the Liberal Democratic Party, which had been in power here almost continuously for a half-century. The old guard was out, replaced by a breath of fresh air. So why don’t people look happier?

 

The Japanese people are realizing that no government has the power to fix their problems. But this is a good thing — Japan is finally growing up.

 

Our news media have been dispatching reporters to ask men and women on the street what they hope for from the new administration. Citizens lean into the microphone and answer with simple honesty: “I want them to improve the economy” or “beef up social security” or “solve the unemployment problem.” But the melancholy expressions on their faces belie their stated expectations.

 

In the past, the government was able to fix our problems. After World War II, Japan’s growth was largely state-directed. The people expected the government to build roads and hospitals, to protect their businesses and to guarantee their employment. Today, in part because of our aging society and our troubled pension system, the government simply doesn’t have the money to make everything better.

 

Many people in the Liberal Democratic Party seemed to conclude that the Democratic Party didn’t win, the L.D.P. lost. It’s the same sort of distinction a Red Sox fan might make when his team is defeated by the Yankees. Some have yet to grasp the simple fact that the Liberal Democrats can no longer deliver happiness to all the people. Or perhaps it’s a fact that they’re just not willing to face.

 

The party bought the support of provincial voters by shoveling money to farmers, builders and small- and medium-sized businesses. Early in the postwar era, bringing public and private enterprises to one’s own district through connections and backroom deals seemed to be the main occupation of politicians. They functioned more as lobbyists than as politicians, and it’s hard to imagine a softer job. That’s why they love to have their sons and daughters follow in their footsteps.

 

The days of plenty eventually disappeared, but competing demands for the government’s largess continued. One group in a given district might want the government to subsidize highway construction while another wishes to see the local hospital rebuilt. A major problem here today, amid the worsening business climate, is that hospitals are under financial stress.

 

But a landslide victory won’t give the Democratic Party the money to both construct all the roads and finance the hospitals. National and local government finances are on the verge of collapse. The Japanese are not naïve enough to rejoice over a change of administration at a time like this, or foolish enough to believe that their lives are about to improve.

 

The depressing truth is hitting home. Though one stratum of Japanese society may benefit from the change in government, others may be hurt. Major corporations may be rescued with tax cuts while workers’ wages remain stagnant. If the minimum wage is raised, then corporations will shift production overseas.

 

The days when everything worked like a dream and everyone’s standard of living kept rising are over, and have been for a long time. Now that there is no longer enough money, the Japanese public has to make some hard choices.

Deep down, we all know this. That’s why the gloomy expressions on the faces of Japanese on the street haven’t changed. But this does not mean we are on the verge of decline or decay. We’re merely experiencing the melancholy that any child goes through as adulthood approaches.

 

Ryu Murakami is the author of the novels “Coin Locker Babies” and “In the Miso Soup.” This essay was translated by Ralph McCarthy from the Japanese.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

 

******************************************************************************************

I.THE NEWS

DITORIAL

38 YEARS LOST

 

Just occasionally in a land where injustice is so commonplace as to be unremarkable, there comes to light a case which is truly appalling even by our own jaded standards. Today an 85-year-old man, unable to speak and unable to remember who his family are or where he comes from, is cared for at a shelter home run by Christian missionaries in Murad Memon Goth, Malir. He has spent 38 years in assorted prisons and psychiatric units and has never been tried before a court or convicted of any offence. He stands as a pitiful and shameful indictment of a system that is careless, inept, corrupt and callous to the extreme. Every institution that Saeed-ul-Haq has come into contact with over all those years has failed him – the police, the judiciary, the prison authorities and the highest officers of the land over successive governments. He became 'lost in the system' – a man in name only shuffled from pillar to post, who, having lost the power of speech and reason long ago has never been able to plead his case himself.


His long-time advocate Qadir Khan Mandokhail has for many years spoken for him. He was originally charged with the gravest of offences – murder – in 1971. The FIR does not identify the person he was accused of murdering and there are no details of the crime – and nobody can trace a scrap of paperwork relevant to it either. Two years after his arrest he was transferred to a mental hospital in Hyderabad and then to various hospitals and prisons until 1999 – when institutional neglect really began in earnest. His advocate wrote to the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif who referred the matter to the Sindh Home Department which then compounded his misery by ignoring him for the best part of a decade. Every single one of the officials on whose desk this man's file has sat is culpable. Each of them played a part in the amplification of the suffering of a man who was never proved to be guilty of anything. The only thing he could be said to be guilty of is being a powerless and poverty-stricken nonentity – and there are more than a few million of them in Pakistan on this day. The thing that chills our bones to the marrow is that in all likelihood this man is not alone. There will be other Saeed-ul-Haqs shuffling around the prison system. Other men – and women too – who have become faceless nothings and will die un-mourned. Today he at least is cared for, and may have a little more dignity afforded him in his last years than he has for the last thirty-eight.

 

***************************************

 

I.THE NEWS

DITORIAL

TAMILS AND TERROR

 

The prime minister has said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam had financed the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year and may have had a hand in other acts of terrorism that have in the past taken place in the country. Mr Gilani stated interior ministry officials would be travelling to Sri Lanka to make inquiries. The possibility of a regional or even international nexus between terrorist organizations has been raised before. In other places, links have been established too between groups such as the Irish Republican Army and ETTA, seeking Basque independence, in Spain. There has been vague conjecture about the possibility of cooperation between Al Qaeda and European organizations. Some experts have in the past noted the similarity between the kind of suicide bombings the Tamil Tigers pioneered and the attacks we have seen across our country. There is then a possibility of organized cooperation between groups engaged in battling their governments, regardless of their motives for doing so.


Investigators and the government need to borrow a leaf straight from the book of the terrorists. A setup that enables information and counter-terrorism tactics to be shared is the need of the hour. The role of the Sri Lankans could be especially significant in this, given their success in defeating the LTTE. Colombo has indeed already offered its help. We need to look further afield and seek to incorporate what expertise the US, the British and other nations who have battled terrorism can offer. Working together with India is especially important. The Mumbai attacks and incidents before it have shown groups in both countries apparently work together to create mayhem. It is also important that we expand our understanding of terrorist networks and the way they operate. This can often provide clues as to what targets may be picked and how to put in place security measures to guard against this.

 

***************************************

 

I.THE NEWS

DITORIAL

FORGIVE AND FORGET

 

The MQM chief has stated that he has forgiven Mian Nawaz Sharif, army officers, intelligence outfits and anyone else involved in the 1992 operation against his party. This is in some ways at least a magnanimous gesture given that Altaf Hussain had lost close relatives in the action and had himself been forced to flee the country. The charges pertaining to the Karachi operation had been raised in a campaign that the PML-N alleges was intended to damage it. The statement from Altaf Hussain suggests we may be ready to move on and that the acrimony between the two parties could ease. At a time when many developments are unfolding all at once, it is to be seen what this leads to. There must also be some question as to whether forgiveness from an individual can wipe clean the slate as far as collective crimes committed against many go. Principle demands that those behind violence be brought to book and made to account for their misdeeds. This rule should of course apply across the board.


The MQM chief has also spoken of a truth and reconciliation commission to look into misdeeds from our past, including the martial laws that have been imposed. The idea of such a commission, borrowed from the one set up some 15 years ago as the apartheid era faded out in South Africa, is one that has taken the fancy of many of our politicians. The fact though is that our situation is quite different to that of South Africa which faced enormous challenges as it planned a collective future for a population made up of many races. It is also a fact that this commission was not entirely a success and has in the recent past received mixed reactions. What Pakistan needs most of all is adherence to our Constitution and the law. This would set in place important precedents that would serve us well in the future and prevent a descent into the kind of mayhem that struck Karachi in 1992.

 

***************************************

 

I.THE NEWS

COLUMN

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST MY FATHER

PART I

MUHAMMAD IJAZ UL HAQ


(The American embassy on September 6 denied any US involvement in the assassination of former president General Zia-ul Haq. This article, however, was received by The News before the denial was issued.--Editor)


1. Twenty-one years ago, on August 17, a C-130 aircraft of the PAF, known for its established standards/records of stability and safety, was made the target of sabotage and subversive act of terrorism. By employing the process of elimination, it was established by the Board of Enquiry that there was no doubt about the cause of crash.


2. In addition to the 29 military martyrs, two US nationals -- Ambassador Arnold Raphel and Brigadier General Herbert Wassom -- were killed. Pakistan's top military hierarchy was eliminated. The mystery is that the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), General Aslam Beg, having himself hovered over the disaster site, preferred to fly back to Rawalpindi. Major General Mehmud Durrani, the host of the whole episode, moved to Multan for a comfortable sleep.


3. Now, claiming credit for democracy and decorated with the democracy medal, General Aslam Beg did not feel obliged to care for the fallen comrades. Without knowing about the survivors and the urge to take over, he rushed to Rawalpindi where in a high-level meeting, he faced tough resistance.


4. The mortal remains were shifted to CMH, Multan. The doctors performed a post-mortem on Brig Gen Wassom which revealed that he had died in air before the plane hit the ground. For the rest of the victims, the doctors were stopped from conducting the post-mortem. If done, it could have determined the cause of their death. The Board of Inquiry confirmed the presence of sulphur, antimony and other lethal chemical agents on the damaged parts of the wreckage. It is also suspected that some odourless, poisonous gases were leaked inside the cockpit rendering the crew unconscious. That is how, it is deduced, no May Day signals were received at the control tower.


5. US law requires mandatory FBI investigation into the killing of any US national in any part of the world. In this case, when the FBI team was about to leave for Pakistan, it was mysteriously stopped by the US Secretary of State. It is also surprising that the team, which had already arrived to assist in the investigation, was without any formal request by the Government of Pakistan.


6. Ten months after the crash, an FBI team of only three Americans, without an air-accident expert or forensic expert, arrived. It only recorded the verbal statements of a few concerned individuals without any worthwhile effort to go into detailed investigations. By then, the PPP had come to power and it was futile to expect any cooperative move from the government. Colonel (retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema, Minister of State for Defence, in response to a question about the outcome, replied that anyone interested in knowing the outcome of the investigations should call Allah directly. Such was the callous attitude of the government functionaries responsible for conducting the investigation.


7. The FBI team which had arrived, as mentioned above, was found to be without any explicit mandate by both the US and Pakistani governments. The team was handed over a list of 25 individuals who should have been questioned for their possible involvement in the criminal act but none of them were confronted. After a trip to Taxila and Murree, the team finally left.

8. In 1979, Zulfiqar Ali (ZA) Bhutto, the executed leader of the PPP, in one of his writings had threatened that "If I am assassinated, my sons will take revenge." Even before his hanging, his sons and siblings formed a terrorist network "Al-Zulfiqar" (AZO) which carried out a series of terrorist attacks in the country. Die-hard political workers and estranged youth were recruited in its ranks and taken to India, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria for terrorist training. One such draft was arrested by the Pakistan Navy when found voyaging towards the Indian shores. AZO had gained strength and capabilities, and had effectively joined hands with RAW, Mossad, KGB, Afghan Intelligence and any other outfit willing to weaken Pakistan. It fired a missile on the president's aircraft at Rawalpindi but was unable to hit the target. Another aircraft was hijacked from Kabul and Damascus. From the manifest, Murtaza Bhutto singled out Major Tariq Rahim, had him killed and threw the dead body onto the tarmac at Kabul Airport. This ill-fated officer was the son of a retired general and had served as ADC to Murtaza's father. Traveling together in a car, Chaudhry Zahoor Ellahi and Justice Maulvi Mushtaq were ambushed at Lahore. The latter was Chief Justice, Lahore High Court, who presided over the trial of ZA Bhutto and awarded him the death sentence. In the attack, Chaudhry Zahoor Ellahi was killed while the Chief Justice sustained serious injuries.

 

9. Soon after the destruction of Pak-I and its passengers, Murtaza Bhutto claimed that the AZO was responsible for the crime, but detracted his claim when he came to know about the killing of American nationals.


10. General Zia-ul Haq lived and died for Islam. Having defeated and disintegrated the Soviet Union, he was dreaming of translating Muslim unity into one ummah. This would have caused alarm for those who didn't want this. The plant at Kahuta, still in its infancy, needed to be nursed. Given his patriotism, commitment and aspirations, President Zia-ul Haq was a willing donor. Pakistan, under him, could not be deterred from pursuing the nuclear path. Soviet Union's festering wounds could not be cured without the healing touch of the one who bled its nose.


11. The Soviet Union, through its Friendship and Defence Treaty with India, had broken Pakistan into two. Zia-ul Haq had paid back to the Soviets in the same coins and was determined to pay back the Indians.


12. Rajiv Gandhi had asked Pakistan that to stop interfering in the Khalistan Movement or else it would repent for generations. The Soviets resolved to punish Pakistan for its defeat. Pakistan, under Mr Bhutto during his last days in office, was about to be annexed with the Soviet Block. There was a strong nexus with Syria, Libya and Palestinian leaders trying to woo Pakistan to the Soviet Union. The game plan was reversed under General Zia-ul Haq. It could not have pleased the Soviets, being a global hegemonic power. Israel could not remain aloof and unconcerned from the emerging potential threat of Islamic revival. The vested interests in the region could not sit back and watch the fast-changing scenario in the global context. John H. Dean, a Jew and then US Ambassador to India, testified to Israel's involvement in the crash. He was later declared insane and sent to Switzerland for recovery and recuperation. Israel's involvement, by logic, means American consent, and Indian connivance and collaboration.


13. An interesting fact about Mr Dean is that he suspected that Israeli agents may have also been involved in the mysterious plane crash in 1988 that killed Pakistan's President General Zia-ul Haq. Later, he was rehabilitated by the State Department, given a distinguished service medal and the insanity charge was said to be fake by a former head of the department's medical service.


14. Various commissions were formed by the government to investigate the disaster without pin-pointing the criminals who had destabilised Pakistan via sabotage. No discreet Inquiry or criminal investigations were ordered by the then COAS who quickly covered up the tragedy. Justice Shafiur Rehman himself mentioned to me that the debris of the ill-fated C-130 had been removed and disposed off from the hanger, thus denying any examination/evidence. General Zia-ul Haq was a human and all humans have friends and foes just the way Brutus carried a knife while being in attendance in Caesar's court. What services did Major General Mahmud Durrani render (late) Benazir Bhutto so that even after her death, he could was not left unrewarded, and was made the National Security Advisor?

(To be continued)


The writer is a former minister for religious affairs. Email: ulhaq.ijaz@ gmail.com

 

***************************************

I.THE NEWS

COLUMN

THE KUNDUZ CARNAGE

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI


The ongoing debate in the US and other Western countries about the NATO mission in Afghanistan is all about avoiding their own soldiers' deaths and cutting losses. The growing demand for withdrawal of American forces is primarily based on the argument that, the eight-year-old war against the Taliban being unwinnable, it was time to pull out instead of losing more troops and wasting more money at a time of economic recession in the US.

In this self-centred Western debate, there is hardly any mention of the Afghan civilians getting killed and maimed due to the often overaggressive, disproportionate use of force, mostly airpower. The NATO, or more precisely US, airstrike in Kunduz on Sept 4 in which scores of civilians were killed, along with Taliban fighters, could temporarily divert attention to this issue in the current debate. However, there have been unacceptably high numbers of civilian casualties in US and NATO airstrikes in the past as well in places like Azizabad near Herat and in Nangarhar, Kandahar, Helmand and Urozgan provinces. But that didn't result in any real change of war tactics to minimise innocent Afghan deaths, or accountability of those responsible for the "collateral damage."

General Stanley McChrystal's appointment as commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan last June, and his announcement of a new strategy aimed at protecting Afghans instead of hunting down insurgents, was supposed to be aimed at reducing civilian casualties and winning people's hearts and minds. Claims were made by NATO military authorities, and publicised by the sympathetic Western media, about monthly reduction in civilian deaths due to strict application of General McChrystal's tactical directives to his commanders in the field. However, the airstrikes in Kunduz and the civilian deaths have undone whatever little may have been achieved following the declaration of the new strategy in reassuring the Afghan people that the foreign soldiers were there to protect them. Their conduct is typical of how occupation forces behave, reacting in panic at the slightest hint of danger to their lives and then justifying their overreaction as self-defence.


After every such incident, investigations are promised and reassurances given that the issue of civilian casualties is treated seriously by the Western democracies. But the Western leaders forget to add that their soldiers serving in occupied countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq aren't subject to the law of that country. Punishing guilty soldiers fighting a difficult and faraway war deemed necessary for Western security could demoralise troops and, therefore, cannot be allowed. Weak governments installed in those countries by the occupying powers are obviously unable to make the perpetrators of war crimes accountable. When was the last time that someone was really made accountable for the killings and humiliation of Afghans, Iraqis and others? (The punishments given in certain cases were too mild compared with the enormity of the crimes perpetrated.)


In the Kunduz airstrikes, the German military commander on the ground is being blamed for calling for close air support and ordering a US F-15E fighter jet to drop a 500lb (225-kilo) bomb on each of the two oil tankers hijacked by the Taliban fighters and stranded in the mud by the banks of the River Kunduz, in possible violation of NATO rules. Casualty figures being reported from the area range from 70 to 90, even 125, and the majority is said to have been civilians who had just eaten the dawn Ramazan meal of sehri and had gathered near the fuel tankers to get some free oil; the commander and the pilot feared they were all Taliban fighters. The German commander's decision, according to The Washington Post, was based on intelligence from a single source and, therefore, against General McChrystal's recent tactical directive that troops establish a "pattern of life" to ensure that no civilians are in the target area.

The German military authorities' counter-argument, that the tankers could have been used to attack their base in Kunduz City six kilometres from where the snatched trucks were spotted, explains the frustration of the foreign forces which feel helpless in tackling the challenge. The occupying troops see a danger lurking in every corner and are unable to trust any of their subjects. They know their presence is disliked, and this minimises their interaction with the people. How, then, is it possible to win hearts and minds without making frequent contacts with the people and getting to know their aspirations and suffering? It is also a bit late in the day after eight long years of failed policies and futile efforts to put into practice a vague policy to win hearts and minds. The time to do this is past, even though the US and its allies are trying to raise hopes of their own people and also the Afghans by ordering review of policies, coming up with new strategies, changing the military command and promising to avoid civilian casualties.


The Kunduz incident will also ignite the debate over the role and contribution of different NATO members in the Afghan war effort. Germany, along with France, Italy, Spain and some other European countries, were already being criticised for refusing to deploy their troops in the dangerous southern Afghan provinces such as Kandahar, Helmand and Urozgan and contributing little compared with the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia and Denmark in the increasingly tough battle with the Taliban. Criticism directed at the Germans, French, Italians and Spaniards could become louder and more bitter. The Americans and the British lose no opportunity in making fun of the Germans, French, Italians and others for shying from taking on the Taliban and risking harm. This is evident from a recent remark by British lawmaker Eric Joyce, who resigned as a parliamentary aide to Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth in protest at London's stance in Afghanistan following the rising death toll of British soldiers. Calling for more geopolitical return from the US for British contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, he remarked: "For many, Britain fights; Germany pays; France calculates; Italy avoids." Such barbs would be heard more often as the NATO troops suffer higher casualties and a blame-game is triggered for losing the war in Afghanistan.


That trouble is brewing in the NATO ranks became evident by the kind of strong words used by some of the European foreign ministers at their recent summit in Stockholm to express outrage over the civilian casualties in the Kunduz bombing. French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, who perhaps used the strongest words by demanding that those responsible for "the big mistake" be investigated and denounced, and asking the West to work with the Afghans instead of bombing them. It is possible that the strong demand for a proper investigation into the incident would lead to stricter controls on future bombing missions by NATO warplanes and better coordination between military commanders of the coalition forces. The mistake would be regretted and some compensation money paid to the poor and unfortunate Afghan families that lost members in the airstrikes. The Afghan government, as usual, would demand that it must be taken into confidence before ordering such strikes. But not much would change as far as the ground situation is concerned. In fact, the Kunduz killings like others in the past would turn public opinion even more against the presence of Western forces and help radicalise many more Afghans. This in turn would lead to revenge attacks by both the Taliban and the NATO forces. The cycle of violence would continue and innocent civilians would suffer the most.


The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahimyusufzai @yahoo.com

 

***************************************

I.THE NEWS

COLUMN

ROLE OF REMITTANCES

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Remittances constitute one of the largest and more resilient sources of foreign exchange earnings for developing countries including Pakistan. The flow of workers' remittances to developing countries has grown steadily over the past three decades – rising from $18 billion in 1980 to $328 billion in 2008; approximately an 18-fold increase. Within developing countries, South Asia accounted for 23 per cent, that is, $74 billion. India alone accounted for 70 per cent ($52 billion) remittances in South Asia followed by Bangladesh (12 per cent or $9 billion) and Pakistan (9.5 per cent or $7 billion). These three countries together accounted for almost 92 per cent or a remittance inflow of $68 billion in South Asia in 2008.


Workers' remittances in Pakistan continued to exhibit a rising trend over the last one decade (1999/00-2008/09). These have grown eight fold in 10 years – rising from $984 million to $7.8 billion. United States, UAE, other GCC countries and Saudi Arabia accounted for over 79 per cent of total inflow of remittances.


The surge in remittances flows in Pakistan during 2008-09 has surprised many analysts. In the midst of the global economic meltdown and rise in unemployment, remittances grew by over 21 per cent in 2008-09. This surge in inflow was not only limited to Pakistan but South Asia as a whole registered an increase of 33 per cent. Why did remittances surge in South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular during the outgoing fiscal year? There are several views in this respect. Firstly, migrants may have lost their jobs in host countries and have returned with their savings; hence, the jump in remittances flows. Secondly, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC countries are major destinations for the Pakistani migrants. It appears that these countries have not sent Pakistani workers back home in large numbers. Thirdly, falling property prices, rising interest rate differentials and a sharp depreciation of exchange rate may have played important roles in attracting large remittance inflows for investment purposes as opposed to consumption purposes.


Why are remittances important for developing countries like Pakistan? The developmental impact of remittances is widespread as it affects various sectors of the economy and helps improve living standards; these are non-debt creating inflows and help in developing the financial sector in recipient countries.


In particular, remittances improve households' welfare by lifting recipient families out of poverty and insulating them against income shocks. These flows serve as a means to increase recipient families' income, ease credit and liquidity constraints and allow them to improve their consumption and living standards. The increase in recipient families' consumption leads to an increase in the demand for goods and services which encourages entrepreneurs to invest more. This leads to an expansion of markets, increase in output, higher economic growth, and rise in employment opportunities. Higher consumption expenditure and greater demand for goods and services may increase tax revenue through consumption-based taxes. These additional resources can be used by the government by allocating more resources for strengthening the country's physical infrastructure and for alleviating poverty. Remittances also improve a country's debt sustainability level. Empirical evidence suggests that the recipient country of remittances can sustain higher levels of future debt. Empirical evidence also suggests that remittances have a positive and significant impact on investment and economic growth.


Remittances have played a pivotal role in Pakistan's economic development during the last one decade. Remittances surged from less than one billion dollars to almost eight billion dollars during this period. With the exception of 2006-07, remittances have always been higher than the FDI; these have been almost 10 times the official development assistance that Pakistan received in the last one decade; and in the absence of remittances, the current account deficit would have been over $20 billion or 12 per cent of GDP in 2007-08 and $16.4 billion or 9.9 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 – igniting a serious balance of payment crisis. Thus, remittances have played an important role in not only preventing the balance of payment crisis but also helping the country build foreign exchange reserves.


Remittances also played an important role in reviving economic growth through its contribution in promoting private consumption expenditure. As stated earlier, remittances, by easing liquidity constraints of the recipient families, allowed them to increase their consumption expenditure. The contribution of private consumption expenditure to economic growth surged from 20 per cent in 2000/01 to over 100 per cent in 2004/05 but declined sharply thereafter. However, despite aggressive monetary policy tightening in 2008/09 the contribution of private consumption expenditure to economic growth has been 100 per cent.


The most important contribution of remittances in Pakistan has been the reduction of poverty during the last 7-8 years. Since remittances accrued to private individuals (recipient families), an inflow of Rs. 1940 billion remittances during 2000/01 to 2007-08 must have raised consumption expenditure of the recipient families and thus, contributed to a sharp reduction in poverty from 34.5 per cent to 17.2 per cent during the period. A recent empirical study (Dr. Sajjad Akhtar and Mansoor Ahmed of Poverty Centre) suggests that a 10 per cent increase in workers' remittances would take 1.3 per cent poor people out of poverty.


The contribution of remittances in Pakistan's economic development has been widespread. It has helped revive economic activity; created employment opportunities; reduced poverty; improved the living standards of the recipient families; prevented the balance of payment crisis; built foreign exchange reserves; provided stability in exchange rate and improved the country's credit rating.


Remittances have been the most stable source of foreign exchange and proved remarkably resilient in the face of global economic downturn. Efforts must be made to reduce the cost and time for sending remittances, including removing barriers to entry and competition in the remittance market.


The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School in Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nims.edu.pk

 

***************************************

I.THE NEWS

COLUMN

LET US NOT BEG ANYMORE

TASNEEM NOORANI


Going by the statements of our leaders, it seems that Pakistan is begging for resumption of the so-called composite dialogue, while India is arrogantly rejecting requests and repeating the 'do more' advice on the Bombay incident.


In mid-July, at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Manmohan Singh, apparently having been charmed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, had signed a joint statement, which said that composite dialogue is the only way forward and should not be linked to the issue of action against terrorists. Having signed, he reneged immediately in the post-signing press conference.


We have not heard anything about the approach adopted in the joint statement since then. The Indian Foreign Minister recently said that Pakistan is to blame for the halt of the composite dialogue by failing to act against the perpetrators of the Bombay carnage, despite being provided with voluminous dossiers of evidence. Our prime minister has once again urged India to resume dialogue. Our foreign office continues to plead with India along the same line.


Why are we begging for the resumption of composite dialogue? Does it really have that much potential for us?

The concept was devised in February 2004 after five years of tension, starting with the Kargill fiasco, followed by the near all-out war in 2002. Composite dialogue in 2004 was then a smart move by India to start talking with Pakistan without really having to talk about Kashmir. It was like getting a diplomatic stay order on Kashmir. They said we must have "confidence building measures, people to people contact, before we can really target the main issue." The argument was "let us solve our easier and solvable issues like Siachin, Sir Creek and Wuller Barrage, before we come to Kashmir, which of course would be discussed." The extent to which the Indians have pushed us back in our diplomatic efforts can be gauged by the fact that we claim victory every time the Indians agree to use the word Kashmir in any joint statement.


We have been at it for more than five years now. Has there been any movement on even one of the issues? Even as simple an issue as the Wuller Barrage, where apparently only a design change was being demanded, still hangs fire. Many times one has heard that agreement on Siachin was around the corner, but it never came. Now any potential for a breakthrough remains doubtful.


The Indians keenly sought progress on the trade issue but their starting salvo was the injustice by Pakistan for not awarding them the most favoured nation status (MFN). When we would say that despite that (non provision of MFN), Indian exports to Pakistan were growing faster than vice versa, they would offer to do whatever we wanted to rectify this situation. When we would point out that it is the high tariff on products in which we are strong; they would argue that tariffs are the same for everyone. When we would say that in addition to tariffs there are non-tariff barriers, for example, the test of dyes used in the printing of textiles, they would say again that this applies to everyone but they would see what could be done. As a result, our exporters would return frustrated from India.


If we look at the run up to composite dialogue, we see that in 1999 our military strategists were thinking of taking Kashmir by force (Kargil). In 2001, our supreme commander thought he could get Kashmir (at Agra) through impressing his hosts with his glib talk. For the next three years, our rulers thought they could turn the heat on by helping the Kashmir freedom fighters. And then in 2004, we agreed to become civil and talk about other things before talking about Kashmir. Ever since then, we are more or less talking about the talks.


Seeing the performance of the composite dialogue for the last five years, there does not seem to be any justification to beg for them. As for the Bombay carnage, Pakistan should have nothing to hide. The non-state organisations, if involved, should be exposed and taken to task. If the evidence provided by India is inadequate to do anything more than is being done, it should be made public for all to see why nothing more can be done.


Pakistan is poor, disorganised, beset with terrorism and has an unstable political system. However, all that does not prevent it from maintaining its self respect and dignity. In a conflict between a rich and a poor man, it is the rich man who stands to lose more.

 

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: tasneem.noorani@tnassociates.net

 

***************************************

 

I.THE NEWS

COLUMN

EVALUATING THE SWAT TEST

DR MALEEHA LODHI


The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News


Has the military operation in Swat to regain control of the area delivered a decisive blow to militancy in Malakand? Has it just dispersed or irreversibly weakened the Taliban there? Is it a tactical gain or has it established the basis for a strategic setback for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), especially at a moment of disarray in the wider movement triggered by the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud?


Does this mark a turning point in Pakistan's counterinsurgency efforts? Will it have lasting effects? Has the fragile peace in the valley been endangered by recent attacks? Is it sui generis or can lessons learnt be applied elsewhere?

Answers to these questions must await the test of time. The "shape and clear" phase of the operation is almost complete. The intense kinetic mission is over but military action is still underway against sporadic pockets of resistance. The "hold and build" stage is now unfolding. Conclusive judgments therefore are only possible once the stabilisation efforts make more headway.


Counterinsurgency is neither quick nor easy, even when initial gains are encouraging. Lasting effects are contingent on the management of the post-conflict phase now in progress, which is fundamentally about governance capacity. Nevertheless, it is instructive to review what has happened so far.


In the major portion of Swat and Malakand division the Taliban have been driven out and control has been restored. A core goal of the operation to re-establish the state's writ has almost been accomplished within four months of its launch. Over 30,000 troops of three divisions were deployed, all of whom will remain there during the stabilisation phase.


However, as the recent suicide attack in Mingora demonstrated, the militants' capacity to strike still has to be neutralised, even if it has been significantly degraded. That the newly created community police force was targeted also underlined the Taliban's tactics to sow fear, demoralise recruits and raise the costs of local cooperation with the law enforcement authorities (LEAs), which has been so important for the intelligence-based military effort.


Military authorities acknowledge that a guerrilla-style, hit-and-run low-intensity conflict will continue. All the top leaders of the Swat TTP are still at large. sporadic fighting by scattered bands keeps erupting. Army units are said to be conducting search expeditions in the more inaccessible valleys such as Biha and Sakhra. Hardcore fighters who melted into the heavily forested terrain have occasionally engaged the army but in a defensive rather than offensive mode.


This resistance is said to be dwindling, especially as the local community is becoming more assertive in collaborating with the army authorities and trust between them is being rebuilt. More intelligence information is now flowing, although this has to be carefully verified to rule out any settling of local scores.


Official and public confidence has been encouraged by a series of militant surrenders, some to the LEAs and others to officially sponsored local lashkars. But setting too high a store on the people's ability to resist and inform must be tempered by their lingering fear of a Taliban comeback, until at least the top leadership is neutralised.

The most remarkable aspect of the Malakand operation is the return of displaced people. An estimated 1.8 million refugees have returned, 80 per cent back to the division and 90 per cent in Swat, confounding the doomsday predictions of many foreign observers. This would not have happened if they did not feel reassured about their safety. Public concern about the militants will not evaporate overnight, but the return of the IDPs is an important indicator of growing normalcy. Handling the displaced persons was rightly seen as a critical test of the operation. Their swift and largely orderly repatriation marks an important accomplishment.


The exodus of over two million people and the danger of a humanitarian disaster became issues of sharp domestic concern and vocal international criticism. Even though this caused much human suffering, the mass evacuation became the key enabling factor for effective military action, allowing artillery and aerial bombardment of the evacuated areas. It made it easier for the LEAs to distinguish between friend and foe, something the authorities claimed in the past had always created confusion in the mind of the law enforcers.

The Pakistani army seems to have also learnt by doing and honed its counterinsurgency skills. A key role was played by airborne SSG (Special Services Group) units that undertook the biggest such operation in the subcontinent's history. The Pakistan Air Force's ability to launch precision bombings on militant targets was also significant to the overall outcome.


The strategic shift that helped drive the operation was that in public sentiment which swung decisively against the militants and in support of the action. And because the Army leadership did not plan the offensive to be long drawn out it helped sustain public support. This reinforced an indispensable lesson of counterinsurgency: without popular legitimacy and local ownership no military action can be consistently pursued, much less succeed.

The operational plan involved moving into Swat from the surrounding areas as the militants' linkages and hideouts cut across district and divisional boundaries. That is why the offensive started from Dir and Buner with the focus on first tackling militant bases. Clearing Peochar, the hub of the Swat Taliban, marked a critical step.

High fatalities were suffered. To lose so many soldiers and a high proportion of officers had little precedent in any four month counter insurgency mission. The rules of engagement prescribed by the army leadership to avoid collateral damage, in large part, explain this.


In addition to regaining control of the region Operation Rah-e-Rast's accompanying goal has been to restore public confidence in the law enforcement agencies and the civil administration so as to create an environment unfavourable to the free movement of insurgents and inhospitable to the re-emergence of militancy.


Establishing the infrastructure for longer-term stability is fraught with problems and obstacles but is proceeding by building police strength for the NWFP and Swat with 3,000 police personnel under training by the army. Raising a local civilian militia known as the community police force seeks to expand law enforcement responsibilities to local stake holders. Local lashkars, while a useful short-term expedient, raise legal issues in a settled area, apart from being fraught with other risks.


The establishment of this hybrid security arrangement and conclusion of the stabilisation phase will dictate the army's ability to gradually withdraw from the area, leaving behind a permanent garrison.


Just as imposing in the recovery phase are the "build and rehabilitate" challenges which also involve putting in place sustainable local governance and justice systems. The outlook here is uncertain as the civilian complement to the military operation has yet to come into energetic play.


Government control has been re-established and the ingredients of a plan for longer-term stability and security of the region is in hand. But much hard work lies ahead before Swat can be declared a successful enterprise.

As for the Swat action's impact on militancy beyond the region it has put the militants on the defensive, halted their advance and reduced their ability to extend the war outside the NWFP. A political climate has been created that is more favourable to conduct counter militancy policies.


This doesn't by any means imply that the threat of militancy is over. The factors that fuel that threat and determine the fate of the TTP go way beyond Swat and are inextricably linked to the instability in Afghanistan which is worsening rather than showing any sign of ending.

 

***************************************

 

I.THE NEWSE

COLUMN

GENERAL REPRIEVE

MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN


It is now evident that former dictator Musharraf would not be tried for annihilating the constitution. Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK have rescued him from the clutches of the Article 6. In fact, Prime Minister Gilani's condition of unanimous parliamentary vote to prosecute Musharraf was an admission that he could not put Musharraf on trial. Musharraf after his Riyadh visit has disclosed the existence of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that virtually guaranteed him indemnity. According to Musharraf the Saudi king has said that this agreement should be honoured by all the parties. It is expected that Nawaz Sharif would soon visit Riyadh. He would certainly take King's advice to tone down his attitude against the former dictator. Nawaz Sharif might remember that Musharraf would have hanged him in the bogus plane hijack case if the Saudi king had not intervened.


Interior Minister Rehman Malik has philosophised that Musharraf's unconstitutional measures are now history and the government has no intention to dig the past. When does an action become history – after one year, 10 years or more? Musharraf's unlawful acts have not become history because they are so fresh. If they are history, as Mr Rehman Malik claims, then all the criminals who committed their crimes a year or two ago should be set free. The crime does not wither away with the passage of time. There are cases in history which tell us that criminals who had escaped justice in their lives were dug out from their graves and punished.


Article 6 has so far been a useless provision of the constitution. There have been two army coups after 1973 wherein the army chief captured the government, suspended the constitution replacing it with his own version (PCO) and subverted it to strengthen and prolong his hold on power. Musharraf's collaborators – Shaukat Aziz at top – have also been reprieved for 'aiding and abetting' the constitution buster. Obviously, the collaborators could not be tried if the chief conspirator is let off.


It is vital for achieving the rule of law and sanctity of the constitution that we either repeal Article 6 in its entirety, because we cannot implement it, or recast it to fit the ground realities. Such an action would restore the leftover dignity of the constitution and establish the rule of law. The deletion of Article 6 would spare the government the embarrassment of not prosecuting the constitution-busters.


Conducting of opinion polls is a very tricky business especially in developing countries. The questions are framed in a manner that elicits sensational answers. President Zardari is a frequent victim of such polls. Every two months they announce that Zardari has lost ground in popularity contest. President Obama and Gordon Brown have both suffered falls in their popularity.


Mr Zardari may not be an imaginative leader but he is practical to the core. Parliament is running smoothly despite occasional outbursts from the PML-N. The international agencies have given an improved rating to Pakistan's financial credibility. He is winning the war against terrorism. Loadshedding has largely disappeared. However, his perception in public is rather unfavourable. It is due to corruption charges which are afloat against him and the government. The PML-Q parliamentary leader in the National Assembly has asserted on the floor of the house that the government is receiving kickbacks on the rental power projects and both the president and the prime minister are involved in it.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: mirjrahman@hotmail.com

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

EDITORIAL

US NEEDS IMAGE IMPROVEMENT

 

LIKE other high profile cases and incidents of the past, the controversy about tragedy of mid-air crash that killed the then President Ziaul Haq on August 17, 1988 has also resurfaced with statements and counter statements on the cause of the crash and who was behind. Prominent politician and son of the late President — Ijazul Haq — is alleging that the United States forcefully stopped the probe into the incident and his assertion has been corroborated by an ex-master spy Brig (Retd) Imtiaz Ahmad.


The US mission in Islamabad has come out with a strong denial emphasizing that the country was not behind scrapping of the investigations into the unfortunate incident. The clarification points out that the US Ambassador in Pakistan was also killed in the air crash and Washington will always favour getting to the actual facts. Controversies and speculations surround such incidents mainly because no independent investigations are held or finding of the inquiry are swept under the carpet. It is because of this that there is an unending debate about what caused the fall of Dhaka, who assassinated the first Prime Minister of the country and who hatched the conspiracy to eliminate General Ziaul Haq despite multi-layered security. In our view, the claim of the US embassy might be right but the fact remains that there is a general impression in Pakistan that the US was behind the Bahawalpur crash. Proponents of the theory argue that Zia, who played the lead role in containing and combating Russians in Afghanistan, had outlived his utility for the US. Anyhow, leaving this aside, we may ask the US to give serious consideration to the phenomenon ie why in Pakistan or for that matter in rest of the world wrongs are attributed to the US. Americans themselves are lending credibility to this impression by way of their extra-ordinary presence in different parts of the world and frequent attempts at interference in purely domestic affairs of various countries. They are pursuing the objective of so-called ‘Regime Change’ as state policy and are even allocating annual budget for change of governments in countries like Iran. Bush administration had also been openly stating that they wanted to change the political map of the Middle East. In fact, in their books and articles, former officials of the much-dreaded CIA are also narrating innumerable stories of covert or overt operations in sovereign countries, which deepens the impression that Americans are behind everything wrong everywhere. There is no denying the fact that the United States provides largest humanitarian assistance worldwide and is always in the forefront of efforts to help people in distress. But unfortunately all this is sidelined because of growing impression of American involvement in the internal affairs of different countries in pursuance of their regional and global agenda. In our view, Obama administration may launch a major worldwide PR campaign for image improvement of the United States.

 

***************************************

 

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

EDITORIAL

ALTAF SHOWS THE WAY

 

MQM Chief Altaf Hussain while addressing a function in Karachi over telephone from London has announced to forgive all those who carried out military operation against his party. The MQM leader has increased the frequency of his speeches to party workers in the recent past and touching issues of national importance.

His statement to forget the past is a great gesture and in fact need of the hour when politicians and some of the former spymasters are busy in levelling allegations and disclosing secrets of the past twenty years. In our culture the mother of all problems is that our politicians don’t rise above their personal and party interests and continue to follow the politics of revenge whereas it requires large heartedness to forgive and forget. That is the situation, the country is witnessing today and some vested interests are exploiting that by inventing conspiracy theories of their liking to get limelight or political and financial benefits. Instead of exposing past misdeeds of certain persons, it is time that the political leaders who are supposed to lead must plan and adopt a futuristic approach as to where they want to see their country in a given period of time. Regrettably we have become hostage to the past and our leaders still follow the theory that lessons must be learnt from the past mistakes so as not to repeat them. This vicious circle goes on and we never tried to get out of it and move ahead. Our leadership needs to show sincerity and capability to take Pakistan on the path of development and ensure equal distribution of resources rather than concentration of wealth in few hands. Altaf Hussain’s pardoning of those who were involved in the Operation against MQM is a lesson to think for the future of our country, forget excesses of the past, plan innovative and holistic approaches for different sectors, particularly improvement in education, science and technology and implement them. We wish that those who are in the seat of power or waiting in the wings adopt the wider futuristic vision, focus their energies for the good of the country rather than falling prey to useless conspiracy theories.

 

***************************************

 

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

EDITORIAL

PATHETIC PICTURES OF LADIES WITH ATTA BAGS

 

IT is almost a daily occurrence that sections of print and electronic media highlight the humiliation caused to the citizens particularly to ladies who go to Sasta Bazaars and Utility Stores to get a bag of wheat flour on subsidized rates or two kilograms of sugar at reduced rates.


No doubt, Sasta Bazaars and Utility Stores’ outlets are contributing a lot in providing relief to the inflation-ridden people. Therefore, the Federal and Provincial Governments deserve credit for devising mechanism for provision of essential items to the masses at affordable rates especially during Ramazan when their prices shoot up significantly, thanks to the ever-greedy elements in our trading and business community. But the way these items are made available is an insult to the humanity, as photographs and TV footages show that at many places people who gather to get atta or sugar at subsidized rates are insulted by distributors and baton-charged by police. Fasting ladies including elderly ones leave their homes early in the morning in search for mobile trucks that distribute atta and often return home empty handed after waiting for several hours in queues. And those who are fortunate to get a bag of flour or a packet of sugar feel like getting a big prize. Why make people to wait in queue for hours to get essential items? It is the fundamental responsibility of the Government to ensure availability of these items on affordable prices to each and every citizen in every nook and corner of the country. By dispatching a few hundred trucks and opening a few so-called Sasta Bazaars in a city of millions is no solution to the problems confronting the masses. This clearly proves that the Government has not been able to discharge its primary responsibility and talks about good governance are nothing but lip-service. Is this the state of affairs for which Muslims of South Asia struggled for Pakistan? They were dreaming for a land of peace, tranquillity and where there will be no economic slavery but things have hardly changed for the common man. This is time to ponder for our rulers.

 

***************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

COLUMN

CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY-I

MUHAMMAD IJAZ UL HAQ


It was 17 August afternoon, 21 years back, when a C-130 Aircraft of the PAF, known for its established standards/records of stability and safety, was made a target of sabotage subversive act of terrorism. By employing the process of elimination, it was established by the Board of Enquiry that there is no doubt about the cause of crash and it is the result of a sabotage act. In addition to 29 Military Shuhada, two US Nationals, Ambassador Arnold Raphel and Brig Gen Herbert Wassom were killed. Pakistan’s top military hierarchy was eliminated. The mystery is that the VCOAS, Gen Aslam Beg, having himself hovered over the disaster site and preferred to fly back to Rawalpindi. Major General Mehmud Durrani, the host of the whole episode moved to Multan for a comfortable sleep.


Now, claiming credit for democracy and decorated with Democracy Medal, General Aslam Beg did not feel obliged to care for the fallen comrades. Without knowing about the survivors and with an urge to take over, he rushed to Rawalpindi where in a high level meeting he faced tough resistance from powerful personalities. The mortal remains were shifted to CMH Multan. The Doctors performed post mortem on Brig Gen Wassom which revealed that he had died while in the air and before the plane hit the ground. For rest of the victims, the doctors were stopped from conducting the post mortem. If done, it could have determined their cause of death. The Board of Inquiry had confirmed the presence of sulphur, antimony and other lethal chemical agents on the damaged parts of the wreckage. It is also suspected that some odorless poisonous gases were leaked inside the cockpit rendering the crew unconscious and unable to act or speak. That is how, it is deduced No “Mayday” signals were received at the Control Tower.


The US Law requires mandatory FBI investigation into the killing of any US National in any part of the world. In this case, when an FBI Team was about to leave for Pakistan, in a mysterious manner, it was stopped by US Secretary of State. It is also surprising that the Team which had already arrived to assist in the investigation was without any formal request by the Government of Pakistan. Ten months after the crash, an FBI Team of only three Americans without any assistance from an air-accident expert or forensic expert arrived. It only recorded the verbal statements of a few concerned individuals without any worthwhile effort to go into the detailed investigations. By then PPP had come to power and it was futile to expect any cooperative move from the government. Colonel (Retd) Ghulam Sarwar Cheema, Minister of State for Defence in response to a question about the outcome, replied that anyone interested to know the outcome of the investigations should make a telephone call direct to Allah, who alone and only can tell the details about the outcome. Such callous was the attitude of those government functionaries who were responsible for conducting the enquiries and investigations! The FBI Team which had arrived as mentioned above was found to be without any explicit mandate by both Governments of USA as well as Pakistan. The team was handed over a list of 25 individuals who should have been questioned/interrogated for their possible involvement in the conspiracy and criminal act.


None of them was confronted. After a trip to Taxila and Murree, the Team left at its leisure. In 1979, Z A Bhutto, the executed leader of the PPP, in one of his writings had threatened that “If I am assassinated, my sons will take revenge”. Even before his hanging, his sons and siblings formed a terrorist network “Al-Zulfiqar” (AZO) which carried out a series of terrorist attacks in the country. Die hard political workers and estranged youth were recruited in its ranks and taken to India, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria for terrorist training. One such Draft was arrested by Pakistan Navy when found voyaging towards Indian shores. The Al-Zulfiqar had gained in strength and capabilities and had effectively joined hands with enemies of Pakistan, RAW, Mossad, KGB, Afghan Intelligence and any other outfit willing and working to weaken Pakistan. It fired a missile on President’s aeroplane at Rawalpindi which missed the target. An other aeroplane of the PIA was hijacked to Kabul and Damascus. From the manifest Murtaza Bhutto singled out Major Tariq Rahim, have him killed and threw the dead body to the tarmac at Kabul Airport. This ill fated young officer was son of a retired General and had served as ADC to Murtaza’s father. Traveling together in a car, Ch. Zahoor Ellahi and Justice Molvi Mushtaq were ambushed at Lahore. Justice Molvi Mushtaq was Chief Justice Lahore High Court who presided over the trial of Mr. Bhutto and awarded him the death sentence. In the attack Ch. Zahoor Ellahi was killed while the Chief Justice sustained serious injuries. Soon after the destruction of Pak-I and its passengers, Murtaza Bhutto claimed that his Orgainsation was responsible for the crime but detracted his claim when came to know about killing of American nationals. Similarly, an earlier caller to a local newspaper, hours before the crash called to know whether the President’s plane had crashed or not? A credible story is also that the plane was hit with a missile causing inward impact and damaging its cargo door. The criminal act had been executed with complete sophistication and accuracy to ensure that the target is achieved through multi-layered employment and execution. General Zia ul Haq lived and died for Islam and Islamic cause. Having defeated and disintegrated Soviet Union, he was dreaming of Islamic reminiscence and translating Muslim unity into one ummah. This could have caused alarm for those believing in the opposite. The Plant at Kahuta, still in its infancy needed to be nursed and fertilized with blood. For his patriotism, commitment and aspirations, President Zia ul Haq was a willing donor. Pakistan under him could not be deterred from pursuing nuclear path without his taking. India could not control Khalistan movement without his taking. Soviet Union’s festering wounds could not be cured without healing touch by the blood of one who bled its nose. Soviet Union through its Friendship and Defence Treaty with India had broken Pakistan into two. Ziaul Haq had paid back to the Soviets in the same coins and was determined to pay back the Indians. Rajiv Gandhi had threatened Pakistan that it should stop interfering in Khalistan movement or else it will repent for generations. The Soviets resolved to punish Pakistan for the defeat and festering wounds the Polar Bear suffered in Afghanistan. Pakistan under Mr Bhutto during his last days in office was about to be annexed with the Soviet Block. There was a strong nexus with Syria, Libya and Palestinian leaders trying to woo away Pakistan to the Soviet Union. The game plan was reversed under General Zia ul Haq. It could not have pleased the Soviets being global hegemonic power. Israel could not remain aloof and unconcerned from the emerging potential threat of Islamic revival. The relevant quarters interested and anguished could not sit back in inertia to see the fast changing scenario in the global context. Mr John H.Dean, a Jew and then US Ambassador to India testified Israel’s involvement in the crash. He was later declared insane and sent to Switzerland for recovery and recuperation. Israel’s involvement, by logic means American consent and Indian connivance and collaboration.


An interesting yet mysterious fact about Mr. Dean is that he suspects that Israeli agents may have also been involved in the mysterious plane crash in 1988 that killed Pakistan’s President General Muhammad Zia ul Haq led finally to a decision in Washington to declare him mentally unfit, which forced his resignation from the foreign service after a 30 year career. Later he was rehabilitated by the State Department, given a distinguished service medal and the insanity charge was confirmed to be phony by a former head of the department’s medical service.

Various Commissions were formed by the Government to investigate the disaster without pinpointing the criminals who had destabilized Pakistan via sabotage. Mr FK Bandiyal, Ch Shujaat, and later Justice Shafi ur Rehman Commissions. No discreet Inquiry or criminal investigations were ordered by the then COAS who instead was fast enough to cover up the tragedy and NOT preserving the evidence. Justice Shafi ur Rehman himself mentioned to me that the debris of the ill-fated C-130 had been removed and disposed off from the hanger thus denying any examination/evidence. Zia ul Haq was a human and all humans have friends and foes including friends turned foes.


Carrying and concealing his knife, through centuries, Brutus is always in attendance, in the Court of Caesuras. What services rendered endeared Major General Mahmud Durrani to Benazir to the extent that even after her death, he could not be left unrewarded and was made the National Security Advisor? Was it not already the highest for him that he could have hardly achieved? —To be continued.


The writer is a former Minister for Religious Affairs.

 

***************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

COLUMN

MEDIA AND SOCIETY

MALIK M ASHRAF


The media as a watch-dog of public interest, carrier of information and promoter of a free and balanced debate , is the most dynamic institution of the civil society . The pluralist and free media is considered to be a defining element of a political and democratic entities. It is because of its demonstrated and inherent ability to influence human perceptions and create events that it is universally acknowledged as the fourth pillar of the state . Freedom of expression and right to know are embedded in the UN Charter of human rights and also guaranteed in the constitutions of most of the countries. The governments are supposed to provide an enabling environment to the media to play its due role . In the task of nation building the government and media have complimentary roles. This reciprocity of roles requires that in return for the government efforts to facilitate the media in the performance of its professional duties , the media should also show a sense of social responsibility by adhering to its constitutional , legal ,social and moral obligations.


Duty to one,s conscience is the primary basis of the right of free expression . This is a universally recognized norm and practice. Further, since the media represents the society which has its moral values, traditions, aspirations and certain national objectives, the media is supposed to respect and promote these values and make sure that its conduct is invariably focused on promoting the good of the society and the nation. If we evaluate the present media landscape in Pakistan against the touchstone of the foregoing , the inference drawn is that while the government has provided enabling environment to the media to perform and discharge its assigned role , it has cast off all the norms of professional and ethical behavior and consciously or unconsciously gone into a destructive mode. There is certainly something sinister about the sudden appearance of the former spies. What they have said is already known . They are also the people with a dubious past who have played their dirty roles in undermining democracy and sabotaging the will of the people through rigging of elections to produce choice results for the powers that be. It is simply mind boggling to see the interest shown by the media in such discredited characters and creating an undeserved hype about their convulsions.


Similarly the media depicted tremendous interest in the non-existent minus formula which ostensibly was floated to malign the PPP leadership and drive a wedge among them. This campaign has already produced a negative fall out in the form of exchange of barbes between MQM and PMLN and lately vitiating relations between the PMLN and the PPP , with the former suspecting that the campaign against its leadership may have been unleashed by the Presidency. The media should have given a thought as to the motives behind this developments and the impact it is likely to create. But regrettably it fell into the trap set by the forces inimical to democracy and exhibited a complete aversion to the internationally recognized professional and ethical codes in terms of its impact on the society. Another unhealthy trend noticed in the media is an intriguing knack for contriving dismal scenarios and propounding conspiracy theories . The doomsday prophets are trying to make us believe that the army has already scripted an exit strategy for President Zardari and it would be implemented with the connivance of Supreme Court, Prime Minister Gilani and Nawaz Sharif.


Judiciary is the most prestigious and sacred institution of the state structure and held in the highest esteem by the civilized societies. Generating controversies about it, maligning it or bringing it into disrepute is certainly not desirable at all . To top it all , it has also been claimed that the present system was likely to be sent packing by the powers that be , as they are not happy with President Zardari,s style of governance and his intransigence to do away with the 17th amendment. The proponent of this view also impliedly invited army,s intervention to fix the maladies. Nevertheless , an honest and objective appraisal of the ground realities reveals that the situation is not as alarming and bad as is being projected in the media. There may be differences among the political entities regarding the mode of repealing the 17th amendment but all of them seem to be on the same wavelength in regards to its repeal and a parliamentary committee comprising representatives of all the political parties is already seized of the matter. The President has repeatedly reiterated his commitment to forego his powers under this amendment. He and the Prime Minister are running the government through consensus under the prevalent governing arrangement and the Prime Minister has shown a remarkable understanding of the situation . The Army Chief has ungrudgingly backed government initiatives to fight terrorists and the religious extremists . The supreme Court has also demonstrated its independence through its epoch making decision by striking down the unconstitutional arrangement erected by the outgoing dictator. All these irrefutable realities strongly belie the conspiracy theories and the claims of sudden demise of the system. There are no doubt problems on the political and economic front which have mostly been inherited by the present government and which cannot be resolved immediately due to their complexity . There is ,nonetheless, a credible evidence that the government is striving hard to resolve them and clear the mess bequeathed to it. It would be unfair not to acknowledge these efforts.


It is indeed a matter of grave concern that at a time when the country is confronted with a myriad of challenges including an existentialist threat and the civil society is yearning for stability and strengthening of the democratic institutions , the media is sending wrong signals to the society. It is creating a sense of despondency and frustration among the masses and also shaking their confidence in the state institutions. It is a perfect recipe for disaster, The media therefore needs to introspect its attitude and be mindful of the fact that freedom of expression has no purpose or role other than safeguarding and promoting the interests of the society and the nation . In this hour of crisis it has to stand on the side of the democratic forces and the civil society and to resist the machinations of the undemocratic forces. That is the only way we can progress as a nation.

 

***************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

COLUMN

SIMILARITIES TO VIETNAM OMINOUS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL


Local press has carried Agency France Press report stating that US consensus on Afghanistan is crumbling. “Weeks from President Barack Obama’s expected move to send more troops to Afghanistan, the consensus behind the US commitment is crumbling as some raise the specter of a new Vietnam…On the ground, the situation continues to deteriorate, with month of August the deadliest month for US forces since the war began in October 2001”, the report stated. Wesley Clark, the former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation concerned about the course of the conflict, wrote in the New York Daily News: “The similarities to Vietnam are ominous.” There is a perception that the US is losing war in Afghanistan, and even the US and NATO top commanders acknowledge that despite enhancing boots on the ground insurgency has gained momentum. There are voices that the US should withdraw its troops and negotiate with local leaders instead of imposing a military solution to a complex political problem.


The US government and economists ascribe the causes of multifaceted crisis America is facing to external factors whereas the problem is that the US is spending on its misadventures like Afghanistan and Iraq, which have become liabilities and there is hardly any possibility that the US could achieve its objectives in the short or in the long run. Of course America has remained as engine of growth for the rest of the world for the last 100 years but now the countdown for its fall seems to have started. Europe was the theatre of 2nd World War which faced death and destruction unparalleled in the history. Its infrastructure, industry and countries were destroyed. America had made immense economic gains and emerged as super power on the basis of its strong economy. After the Second World War, the US had achieved a central position when it emerged a major player in the global politics, and both the US and Russia were super powers for at least 45 years. Nevertheless, after disintegration of the USSR, the US remained the only super power, which played a basic role in determining the course of world events. But now the US faces complex challenges like huge fiscal deficit due to its flawed policies. In 2008, its fiscal deficit was $1.7 trillion, trade deficit $821 billion and current account deficit $662 billion. The fact of the matter is that Americans spend too much and save too little; on the other hand people from Asia, Europe and Latin America are saving more and spending less. The question arises whether Asian and other countries that have been investing in US currency and hold $30 trillion in the form of greenbacks and treasury bills would continue investing in dollars when there are fears of dollar losing its value. America has no choice but to review its policies especially Afghan policy because the US is already on the verge of bankruptcy.

Pakistan of course can salvage the US position and help its honourable exit from Afghanistan. The US should however address Pakistan’s concerns vis-à-vis India’s influence in Afghanistan, and use its clout to stop members of cabinet who continue creating problems for Pakistan. It has to be mentioned that from King Zahir Shah to president Najibullah all rejected the Durand Line and supported centrifugal forces demanding Pushtunistan. After 16 years of Afghan war and civil war, Taliban taking advantage of conflict between the warlords took control of Kabul. They had full support of the masses who were fed up with death and destruction. Though Pakistan had recognized the Taliban government yet it did not approve their way of imposing their version of Islam and their desire to export ‘revolution’ to other countries. Having all said, Afghans like other countries of the world have the right to lead their lives according to their faith and culture.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor had supported the Mujahideen (who from the very beginning had fundamentalist tendencies) as part of the “Afghan trap” which succeeded in fatally wounding the Soviet empire. Historical evidence suggests that Afghans have always guarded their independence too jealously, and throughout its recorded history no power could subjugate them the way the colonial powers had colonized other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The result of three Anglo-Afghan wars was either defeat of the British Empire or at the most what it called a tactical victory. In late 1970s, former Soviet Union had occupied Afghanistan on the pretext that Afghan government led by President Tarahki had requested Soviet president Brezhnev to send a few troops for his personal security because he smelled conspiracy from Hafizullah Amin who was suspected of being an American agent. Later, when president Noor Muhammad Tarahki was overthrown and killed by Hafizullah Amin. Brezhnev felt insulted and wished to avenge. He decided to invade Afghanistan to punish Hafizullah Amin and also to counter American designs. Brezhnev had decided to send troops on the basis of an agreement with Afghanistan to help in case of threat to its integrity. Tarahki was indeed a socialist but he wanted to create a modern, prosperous, democratic and non-aligned Afghanistan. Anyhow, Soviet army had to face stiff resistance by Afghans, and the US on finding an opportunity to make Afghanistan Soviet Union’s ‘Vietnam’ tried to channelize the Afghans’ energies and their passion for jihad. Of course, United Nations had mandated that US and NATO forces could attack Afghanistan to punish Al Qaeda masterminds behind the 9/11 mayhem. But no country or countries in the world have the right to occupy another sovereign country even with the mandate of the United Nations.


Instead of scaling up an already disastrous war, the United States could change course in a way that would ultimately ensure the world’s safety. Such measures should include withdrawing of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. If possible a referendum should be held to understand whether people of Afghanistan want them to stay or end the occupation. But the referendum should not be held the way sham elections have been held, as we do not find any change on the ground despite holding two elections. Secondly, let all Afghan factions begin negotiations to resolve their differences, and there is every possibility that majority of the people would see logic in living peacefully and devoting their energies for the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan so that they and their posterity could live without trepidation and fear. Since the US stands for democracy, it should ensure that majority rules, and unless this is done there can be no peace, and America could face another Vietnam-like situation.

 

***************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

COLUMN

IN FAIRNESS TO PERVEZ MUSHARRAF

AHMAD SUBHANI


Visit any TV channel or go through the print media, the hot topic under discussion is Pervez Musharraf’s trial for breaching the Constitution. Most vocal in this campaign is Mian Nawaz Sharif and his coteries. The pertinent question that comes to mind is,whether it was the first time that it has happened. Quite a few dignitaries before him had also done the same. Why then he is singled out for retribution? Various platitudes have been put forward to justify this demand ; yet the crux of the matter is that it is a simple case of personal vendetta mounted by Nawaz Sharif’s bruised ego against Pervez Musharraf who ousted him from power on October 12,1999 when the plane bringing Musharraf from Sri Lanka was not allowed to land anywhere in Pakistan and plane’s crash was imminent since it had run short of fuel.


However, the tragedy was averted at the last moment by army’s intervention. This led to Musharraf taking over the reins of the Govt. They call it “coup” ;in reality, it was a case of self-preservation or retaliation on the part of the wronged party ( Musharraf ). Had he not taken that step, Musharraf would have been eliminated from the scene, altogether. Apart from above, certain other charges have also been leveled against Musharraf. Of these , Kargil war, Dr Qadeer Khan’s case and participation in War on Terrorism have been dealt with quite adequately by Musharraf in his speeches and statements and also in his memoirs ( In the Line of Fire). I therefore,need not touch said topics here. My considered views on the remaining important charges follows. Before proceeding further, I would like to affirm that those persons who know him from close quarters, would testify, that Musharraf is a truthful and straightforward man; therefore, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of events as described by him in his speeches / statements and memoirs.


In Lal Masjid’s case, action taken by the Govt. was unavoidable. Inmates of that Masjid , had repeatedly violated the law of the land through a series of illegal and immoral activities, thereby challenging the writ of the State. They were repeatedly warned to mend their ways, but to no avail. Besides creating serious law and order situation, their hooliganism was earning bad name for the country and the Govt., nationally and internationally. Protracted negotiations carried out with the clerics of Lal Masjid proved futile owing to rigid and non- conciliatory attitude of the die-hard mullahs. Govt. had to take action as a last resort, since no other option was left.

In chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s case, a reference was filed by the President with the Supreme Judicial Council involving CJ’s misconduct concerning illegitimate favours doled out to his son. The reference was in order legally but the case was mis— handled. The lapse provided the politicized lawyers an opportunity to resort to strike and indulge in street vandalism and boycott the courts. The reference in question, was turned down by a bench of the Supreme Court, but they failed to deliver a detailed judgement in support of their ruling in the case. This queer and uncharitable attitude of the Court is incomprehensible. The lawyers’ movement was soon hijacked by the Opposition,spearheaded by Muslim League( Nawaz). The event led to politicization of the legal community including the superior judiciary.


Other important allegations leveled against Pervez Musharraf are: promulgation of PCO and NRO in November,2007. Issuance of PCO was un-constitutional and was admitted so by the President himself and was, later on, rescinded. In respect of NRO, according to press reports, it was issued as a result of understanding reached between President Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto; but latter’s sudden assassination, torpedoed the whole scheme. The funny thing about said NRO is, that those who had criticized Musharraf before February,18 elections, for not allowing the self-exiled leaders to return and participate in elections, are now criticizing him for letting these failed politicians back ( because of said NRO) , after seeing their disappointing performance from February18, onwards.


After having dwelt on the negative aspects related to the subject under review, let us now turn to its positive ones :- When Pervez Musharraf took over in 1999, the economy of the country was in real bad shape, so much so, that the previous Govt. had gone to the extent of begging money from the masses under,” Mulk Sawaro, Qarz Utaro” Scheme. However, there is no trace available, where all those donations disappeared. Foreign exchange reserves with the Govt., were hardly enough to pay for six weeks’ imports and the country was on the verge of being declared a failed state. Musharraf took up the challenge and managed the economy so deftly and speedily that within few years, Pakistan accumulated $ 16 billion reserves; exports exceeded $ 17 billion; home remittances by expatriates surged to 6 billion and there was no longer any dependence on international donors. In short, within a span of 7 years, Musharraf transformed the sagging economy of Pakistan into one of the most robust emerging economies of the region. It is agreed on all hands, that his foremost contribution to Pakistan is his economic reforms that brought remarkable stability to the country.


Under his stewardship, record number of projects were started and completed. The I.T. and Communication Revolution, goes to his credit. Being a visionary, he brought about a revolution in the higher education sector where budget that was reeling at Rs. 200 million in 1999, touched a record ceiling of Rs. 20 billion in 2007. It is worth mentioning that during his tenure, Pakistan got rid of the IMF and its rating improved considerably as also acknowledged by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. No doubt, certain imbalances also crept in at the fag end of his tenure, due mainly to world-wide food inflation and constant rise in international oil prices and partly due to lapse on the part of our administration in controlling hoarding and smuggling of food items.


While Musharraf may be called a “ dictator”, it is his democratic policies that have made the maximum contribution to his un–popularity. For instance, he gave the media its long awaited freedom. The media while using its unbridled freedom, found an easy target in a tolerant and democratic minded military ruler. The media that he opened up to show his dedication to the cause of democracy ,chose him to be its favourite target. He is patriot to the core and is not corrupt like most politicians and previous rulers. He is a visionary leader and World acknowledges this fact. World’s top universities and forums invite him to deliver lectures at their venues. He has created a sense of patriotism in the country and his slogan “ Pakistan First” is a clear manifestation of that.. He is a tolerant person and believes in freedom of speech as duly exhibited by him during his tenure. His sterling qualities are, his humility and frankness. He has tackled national problems, admirably.


At present, he is the only living Pakistani leader known the World over and is held in high esteem. He speaks in unequivocal terms and has the courage of conviction. He is the only “dictator” to have fulfilled his promises he made:—shedding of uniform, lifting of emergency, holding of free and fair elections and unconditional acceptance of election results. Unlike the past elections, no body has complained about “ rigged”/engineered” elections. He is also credited with setting up the freest media in Pakistan’s history. Lastly, he got himself elected under the same democratic rules that he gave his adversaries to come up through.


As elaborated above, Pervez Musharraf has done so much for Pakistan, as no body else before him had done, rather he left each of them far behind. The irony is, how the nation has rewarded its benefactor. At a time, when Pakistan has reached a critical stage, in as much as, it has been declared one of the failed states of the World due to un-precedented melt down in its economy and dismal performance in other sectors, look at Nawaz Sharif, who is bent upon avenging his defeat at Musharraf’s hands unmindful of the fact that he himself was solely responsible for the dastardly act that he enacted on October 12,1999. To-day, it seems, that the entire political system is hostage to one man’s revenge For the ruling junta, particularly Nawaz Sharif, there has been left no other problem to tackle except to persecute Pervez Musharraf. Prudence demands from all of us, that we put aside our personal differences and acrimonies and unite, to face and overcome the grave challenges that the nation is facing, internally and externally.

 

***************************************

PAKISTAN OBSEVER

COLUMN

STABLE PAK NEEDS STABLE AFGHANISTAN

FREDERICK W KAGAN


Winning the war in Afghanistan—creating a stable and legitimate Afghan State that can control its territory—will be difficult. The insurgency has grown in the past few years while the government’s legitimacy has declined. It remains unclear how the recent presidential elections will affect this situation. Trying to win in Afghanistan is not a fool’s errand, however. Where coalition forces have conducted properly resourced counterinsurgency operations in areas such as Khowst, Wardak, Lowgar, Konar and Nangarhar Provinces in the eastern part of the country, they have succeeded despite the legendary xenophobia of the Pashtuns.


Poorly designed operations in Helmand Province have not led to success. Badly under-resourced efforts in other southern and western provinces, most notably Kandahar, have also failed. Can well-designed and properly resourced operations succeed? There are no guarantees in war, but there is good reason to think they can. Given the importance of this theatre to the stability of a critical and restive region, that is reason enough to try. Critics of the war have suggested we should draw down our troops and force Pakistan to play a larger role in eliminating radical extremists. American concerns about al Qaeda and Taliban operating from Pakistani bases have led to the conventional wisdom that Pakistan matters to the US because of what it could do to help—or hurt—in Afghanistan. The conventional wisdom is wrong as usual.


Pakistan’s ambivalence toward militant Islamist groups goes back decades. The growth of radical Islamism in Pakistan dates to the 1970s and ’80s when the government encouraged radicalism both for domestic political reasons and to combat Soviet encroachment. The Pakistani government, with U.S. support, established bases in its territory for Afghan mujahedeen (religious warriors) fighting the Red Army. When Afghanistan descended into chaos in the ’90s following the Soviet withdrawal, Pakistan intervened by building the Taliban into an organization strong enough to establish its writ at least throughout the Pashtun lands. Links forged in the anti-Soviet war between Pashtun mujahedeen and Arabs from the Persian Gulf remained strong enough to bring Osama bin Laden to the territory controlled by mujahedeen hero and Taliban leader Jalalluddin Haqqani. The 9/11 attacks were planned and organized from those bases. The 9/11 attacks caught Pakistan by surprise and forced a radical, incoherent and unanticipated change in Pakistan’s policies. Under intense pressure by the U.S., including an ultimatum from Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf chose to ally with America against Pakistan’s erstwhile Afghan and Arab partners. Mr. Musharraf long tried to channel his own and U.S operations narrowly against al Qaeda while diverting them from the remnants of the Taliban (whom elements of the Pakistani intelligence services continued to support).


But as American and NATO forces in Afghanistan discovered, the fight against the Taliban must be pursued on both sides of the border. Pakistan’s successes have been assisted by the deployment of American conventional forces along the Afghanistan border opposite the areas in which Pakistani forces were operating, particularly in Konar and Khowst Provinces.


Those forces have not so much interdicted the border crossings (almost impossible in such terrain) as they have created conditions unfavorable to the free movement of insurgents. They have conducted effective counterinsurgency operations in areas that might otherwise provide sanctuary to insurgents fleeing Pakistani operations (Nangarhar and Paktia provinces especially, in addition to Konar and Khowst). Without those operations, Pakistan’s insurgents would likely have found new safe havens in those provinces, rendering the painful progress made by Pakistan’s military irrelevant. Pakistan’s stability cannot be secured solely within its borders any more than can Afghanistan’s.

Only waging a proper counterinsurgency campaign on both sides of the border can defeat militants. — The Wall Street Journal

 

***************************************

 

 

 

******************************************************************************************

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

BOOSTING SMES

 

The country's Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector is facing difficulties in accessing loans from state-owned commercial banks, according to media reports. This is surprising as the news comes at a time when the country's banks are flushed with surplus liquidity. It would be hard to believe that bankers do not want to lend money, as it will mean increased income for them. If structural constraints pose a problem, it cannot be overlooked. The state-run commercial banks that possess most of the idle money cannot lend to people who are unable to provide collateral, according to government law. This poses a serious problem for the SMEs. 


The profitability of an enterprise depends on so many factors including availability of transportation. Bankers also complain that the lack of electricity and gas is contributing to the current sluggishness of the economy. This is a general problem and one that deserves high national priority but unfortunately there is not much headway being made here. Setting up captive generators may not be an option for small or medium entrepreneurs, as it will not be cost-effective for them. Expertise, market access and management are some of the other problems.


There is very little scope for the government and the policymakers to ignore the SMEs as they account for a lion's share of the economy and are usually labour-intensive. The government has already taken several steps including the formation of the SME Foundation to ease the difficulties in this sector. So devising and implementing an SME-friendly policy is quite feasible. After all, the country's single most runaway success - the apparel industry - started also as an SME in its early days. The policy model and ambience including cash incentives and other facilities given to the apparel sector can also be made available for other SMEs. As for the state-owned commercial banks, if the government really wants them to be of optimum help to the SMEs, the collateral provision has to be waived - but not at the cost of strong monitoring.

 

***************************************

 

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

ASSIMILATING EXPERTISE

 

In order to bring professionalism in the investigation work of the corruption and money laundering cases, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has decided to form expert teams, who will be drawn from other law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the country. For quick investigation into cases and strengthening of its functioning, the ACC, we believe, needs to hire expertise because at present it is difficult for the organisation to track down criminals with the existing manpower who have no specialisation in crime-detection. It is only when crime-busters are one step ahead of the criminals that crime can be controlled.


But unless the existing Anti-Corruption Commission Act is amended, the ACC cannot form expert bodies. A committee formed by the government is expected to submit proposals very soon to the cabinet for approval.
But there are two sets of conflicting proposals from within the government - one put forward by the home and law ministries and the Bangladesh Bank, and the other by the establishment ministry. The establishment ministry has suggested that ACC take prior permission from concerned officials before filing cases against government officials. The establishment ministry's argument that filing cases against government officials would hamper development activities is not tenable. Far from it, such a provision for the ACC will not only curtail its independence but will also encourage corruption. For smooth functioning, ACC can investigate money-laundering cases separately, as Bangladesh Bank has proposed. On the other hand, setting up of a separate bench in the higher court with an additional attorney general, as suggested by the law ministry, can help dispose corruption cases, quickly. 

 

***************************************

 

 

THE INDEPENDENT

BOB’S BANTER

THE SPIDER’S WEB…!

 

How often I've noticed that God's solutions are sometimes the simplest, so simple maybe that you can slap yourself for not thinking of it. I'm sure you've heard of the story of the spider's web, if not here it is, and if you have, let it renew your faith in a God of solutions.  During World War II, a US marine was separated from his unit on a Pacific island. The fighting had been intense, and in the smoke and the crossfire he had lost touch with his comrades. Alone in the jungle, he could hear enemy soldiers coming in his direction. Scrambling for cover, he found his way up a high ridge to several small caves in the rock. Quickly he crawled inside one of the caves. Although safe for the moment, he realised that once the enemy soldiers looking for him swept up the ridge, they would quickly search all the caves and he would be killed. As he waited, he prayed, "Lord, if it be Your will, please protect me. Whatever Your will though, I love You and trust You. Amen." After praying, he lay quietly listening to the enemy begin to draw close. He thought, "Well, I guess the Lord isn't going to help me out of this one." Then he saw a spider begin to build a web over the front of his cave. As he watched, listening to the enemy searching for him all the while, the spider layered strand after strand of web across the opening of the cave. "Hah, he thought. "What I need is a brick wall and what the Lord has sent me is a spider web. God does have a sense of humour." As the enemy drew closer he watched from the darkness of his hideout and could see them searching one cave after another. As they came to his, he got ready to make his last stand. To his amazement, however, after glancing in the direction of his cave, they moved on. Suddenly, he realised that with the spider web over the entrance, his cave looked as if no one had entered for quite a while. "Lord, forgive me," prayed the young man. "I had forgotten that in You a spider's web is stronger than a brick wall." We all face times of great trouble. When we do, it is so easy to forget what God can work in our lives, sometimes in the most surprising ways. And remember with God, a mere spider's web becomes a brick wall of protection…!


Lord I look for miracles in the problems that surround me

Lord I look for miracles as life sometimes overwhelms me

But when I see the simple ways you've dealt with them for me

I know then that even a spider's web from thee gives victory.

Lord I look for miracles in the problems that surround me

But the miracle of miracles is that you are always around me.

bobsbanter@gmail.com

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

WHERE'S THE ANGER THIS TIME AROUND?

SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES IN THE LATEST BOATPEOPLE STORY

 

SO just when does the Defence Minister intend to view footage of alleged inhumane treatment by navy personnel of asylum-seekers? And when does John Faulkner intend to release it to the Australian public?

 

The allegations that navy crew forced refugees back into the sea after a deadly explosion off Ashmore Reef in April are serious. They go to the judgment and integrity of the Australian Defence Force. They go to the care of survivors. They raise questions about possible responsibility for the death of five Afghan refugees.

 

Yet Senator Faulkner seems in no rush to view the footage - or to bring the facts to the Australian public. It is a response that parallels the reaction from some of those who have been most vocal in other asylum-seeker cases. Rather than clamouring for the release of video and photographs of the alleged incident, these media commentators and refugee advocates have been silent.

 

What a contrast to the tsunami of criticism against the ADF eight years ago when a vessel known as SIEV X - SIEV stands for suspected illegal entry vessel - and carrying 400 asylum-seekers sank in international waters south of Indonesia. A total of 353 people drowned in a horrendous accident. It was the height of a sometimes hysterical debate about the Howard government's refugee processes, and critics used the SIEV X disaster to attack the then prime minister, arguing that defence forces were responsible for the loss of life because they had known about, but had ignored, the plight of those on the sinking boat.

 

Senator Faulkner, then in opposition, was among the critics. As a member of a Senate select committee inquiring into the incident, he interrogated the issues strongly. In October 2002, the inquiry cleared Defence of any negligence or dereliction of duty, although this did not satisfy those who still saw the incident as exemplifying the malaise of the Howard years.

 

Fast forward to this year and the change in mood is remarkable. Revelations by The Weekend Australian that navy crew used force to fend off refugees after the vessel, SIEV 36, on which they had been held for a day, exploded, throwing both refugees and navy personnel into the ocean, have provoked little or no response from commentators at outlets such as the ABC and Fairfax, which were so outspoken during the Howard years.

 

For his part, Senator Faulkner says all video and photographs will be released after clearance from Defence lawyers. We would expect nothing less from a man who was happy to talk about transparency when he was in his previous job of special minister of state. Senator Faulkner must release the material as soon as possible so that Australians can judge for themselves whether the actions of the navy crew were reasonable or not.

 

This paper is not given to conspiracy theories when it comes to asylum-seekers. We were horrified by the loss of life on the SIEV X in 2001 and we pushed for answers. Our position was clear. We did not suggest Defence was morally culpable in the deaths of hundreds of asylum-seekers. We did demand answers on whether poor judgment had been exercised. When they came, we accepted the findings.

 

We do not know the full extent of what happened in the SIEV 36 case. We have no reason to believe that well-trained navy staff carrying out a tense and difficult operation did anything other than act responsibly. However, we believe that the concerns of well-placed sources in the Northern Territory who have seen footage of the incident deserve to be tested.

 

***************************************

THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

A LUDICROUS LAW

WILL THE AFP PURSUE MPS AS VIGOROUSLY AS IT DID MR KESSING?

 

IN 2005, when former Customs Department security expert Allan Kessing was suspected of leaking a secret report exposing gaping flaws in Australia's airport security to this newspaper, the Australian Federal Police pursued him up hill and down dale. They reportedly raided Mr Kessing's home and that of his deceased mother. Two AFP officers also visited the Sydney headquarters of The Australian to serve a subpoena on a journalist, and when he did not respond the officers said they were prepared to "wait for (him) at his house."

 

Mr Kessing pleaded not guilty, but was convicted under section 70 of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, given a nine-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a $1000 good behaviour bond. He continues to maintain his innocence.

 

The AFP is now considering whether to prosecute Mr Kessing a second time for leaking the report to Nathan Cureton, the former electorate officer to Anthony Albanese when the Transport Minister was an opposition frontbencher. The revelation that Mr Kessing met Mr Albanese and his staffer also poses a dilemma for the AFP in that it now has another two suspects who might have leaked the information to The Australian. And what about the documents on unrelated matters that Labor staffers and politicians received from Mr Kessing and used? To be consistent, the AFP would need to pursue and question Mr Albanese, Mr Cureton and perhaps a senator, backbencher Arch Bevis, and his staffer Rod Kendall with the same vigour it employed against Mr Kessing four years ago, undoubtedly with the backing of the Howard government.

 

Pursuit of such inquiries would be a ludicrous waste of police resources - but no more ludicrous than the pursuit of a Customs officer who might or might not have acted to protect national security by leaking information that alerted the public to dangerous gaps in security at Sydney airport. The Australian's original story prompted the Howard government to commission British security expert John Wheeler to inquire into airport security. He recommended widespread upgrades, which cost taxpayers $200 million.

 

Should the AFP decline to pursue government figures over the use and sources of their information, it might seem inconsistent and unfair to Mr Kessing, who still owes money for past legal fees. More sensibly, the Rudd government should show real leadership by overturning section 70 and legislating for genuine protection for whistleblowers who alert the public to serious maladministration.

 

***************************************

THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

VIGILANCE IS VITAL

REPORT POINTS TO DIFFICULT DECISIONS IN MEDICAL TESTING

 

THE contentious proposal that would deny free mammograms to tens of thousands of women aged less than 45 and more than 75 reflects an uncomfortable reality that is increasingly confronting our ageing population: taxpayer-funded medical resources are finite, and deploying them to best advantage involves difficult choices.

Breast cancer is all too common and deeply frightening for patients and their loved ones. The heart-rending tragedies of younger women, in particular, dying from the disease has greatly increased awareness about the need for early diagnosis.

 

In sharing their stories, such high-profile women as Kylie Minogue, the late Jane McGrath and the late Belinda Emmett have done other women a tremendous service in encouraging them to take advantage of screening programs. But the success of campaigns to screen patients and detect cancers at an earlier, more treatable stage has created a fresh dilemma. An evaluation of BreastScreen Australia has found the program is overstretched and is failing to reach its screening target among women aged 50-69, the group considered most at risk of breast cancer and therefore most likely to benefit from early diagnosis. The logjam is causing delays for women who need recalls to assess any abnormalities picked up or to be screened again within the recommended two-year timeframe. Part of the overload has occurred because the case for breast screening has been so well made in recent years that there has been a big increase in the numbers of younger women using the service.

 

It is understandable that women younger than 45 and older than 75 seeking free screening will resent the recommendation by the BreastScreen Australia Evaluation Advisory Committee that they be excluded from the program, although many would be able to pay for a private mammogram, costing from about $80 upwards. Women under 35 might also wish to ask their doctors about the report's cautionary note on the potentially harmful effects of radiation on younger women.

 

To its credit, the committee has recommended extending the target range for screening to include women aged 70 to 74 and those 45 to 49. It also warns that women at potentially high risk of breast cancer should not use BreastScreen Australia but would be better to undergo more intensive surveillance and monitoring. Medical decisions based on cost benefits are always painful, but in screening millions of women, BreastScreen Australia and its staff are doing outstanding, lifesaving work.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

******************************************************************************************

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

NO RETREAT FROM KABUL JUST YET

 

AS FRIDAY'S eighth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York approaches, the world will be reflecting on the adequacy of the West's response. Most reflection should be on the inept way the United States and its allies were distracted by the Iraq adventure from Afghanistan, the country which under the Taliban nurtured the September 11 hijackers, and which should have been their focus.

 

The death of more than 100 people, most of them civilians, in an ill-managed air strike on two oil tankers near Kunduz on Friday has sharpened criticism of the war - critiques which build on growing concern in the United States at its length and cost. The war has indeed lasted too long and has cost too much. Distraction does that.

 

In a review delivered a little more than a week ago, the US commander, General Stanley McChrystal, described a campaign close to failure. Many in the United States believe Afghanistan is already lost. The conservative commentator George Will has called for the US to withdraw, leave the Taliban and the warlords to fight over the country, and rely on missile strikes, surveillance drones and special forces raids to neutralise major threats. In essence, he is recommending less of the same: the same exclusive reliance on military aggression to manage a problem, but managed from offshore, with few American lives placed at risk.

 

If the United States wants to alienate yet another significant Muslim population for good, it will follow the contemptuous Will approach. The mission is necessary, both to bolster Afghanistan itself against al-Qaeda, and to support regional stability - in particular Pakistan.

 

General McChrystal has tried a change of tactic: less emphasis on engaging with opponents, and more on winning Afghan hearts and minds. His tactic has more troops undertaking more foot patrols, and less use of armoured vehicles. And troops are to hold off shooting or bombing if there is a risk of civilian casualties. After the Kunduz incident, the last part of the general's formula may seem more like cruel irony than a policy - yet General McChrystal is right. His visit to Kunduz and the bombing victims is further evidence of a necessary change of approach - as are signs of a renewed European interest in reviving the country. It is a great pity it has all taken so long.

 

US support for necessary foreign engagements - always fragile - has been squandered in the last eight years. As it keeps ebbing away and the pressure to withdraw the troops grows, General McChrystal's task becomes a race against time.

 

***************************************

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LESS MASS, MORE HIGHER EDUCATION

 

SYDNEY University wants to reposition itself as an elite research institution, and attract the brightest academics from across the world as well as the most promising students. Its Vice-Chancellor, Michael Spence, has set up a review of faculty structures, courses, administration and student recruitment which he hopes will revitalise the nation's oldest university, raise its profile and - most important - garner more money from government and business. His ideas deserve support.

 

It might seem paradoxical that soon after the Rudd Government has increased tertiary education funding, the university wants to cut its student intake. But the paradox is superficial. It shows mainly that the university wants to depend less on the fees foreign students pay - especially those from India and China, who now provide a sixth of its income. So it will need to take fewer risks and spread its resources rather less thinly than it had to during the Howard government. Its plans may alarm some among its staff, particularly those teaching vocational courses not traditionally thought of as university level. But the decision to pull back and concentrate on research and on its strengths is the right one.

 

The 159-year-old university has been under pressure. Its student-to-staff ratio is uncompetitively high when compared with Harvard and Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, the institutions it would have as its peers. The global financial crisis has battered its investment portfolio. A capital works program of $1 billion looms; academic and non-academic salaries worth $600 million in total are expected to rise. Professor Spence hopes to shift resources from bureaucracy into staff salaries, and to review the ways academic units work together. One strategy is to identify a few, large inter-disciplinary projects to attract sponsorship from benefactors and corporate groups. Professor Spence managed this successfully at Oxford; perhaps he can do the same here.

 

It is true we have only his plan at present, and detail is scarce. But the direction he wishes to take the university suggests a new understanding between academia and the Federal Government. Canberra's decision to fund courses directly on the basis of numbers, but also to fund subjects deemed to be in the national interest, means that some universities will be freed from chasing the undergraduate dollar and can focus more on higher degrees.

 

Tertiary education in Australia has for too long sought to accommodate all at the expense of many. The stated desire to concentrate expertise and funding in projects whose goal is academic attainment of the highest level is as welcome as it is overdue.

 

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

SRI LANKA: ACCESS DENIED

 

The Sri Lankan government is hugely dependent on outside aid in its efforts to deal with the human consequences of the war which the island had to endure for more than a quarter of a century. High military spending, collapsed tourism revenues, disrupted agriculture, reduced trade, and, to make matters worse, natural disaster in the shape of the tsunami have all undermined the economy.

 

The government simply does not have the resources to undertake, without international help, the work of repairing infrastructure, restoring economic life, feeding and temporarily housing large numbers of displaced people, and then returning them to their old homes in conditions approaching normality. Long before the war reached its end earlier this year, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and scores of voluntary organisations were all present in Sri Lanka ready and anxious to mitigate the impact of the fighting on ordinary people. They were kept at arm's length by the Sri Lankan authorities, who brooked no interference with, or oversight of, their military campaign. There was reason to hope that, with victory, this attitude would change. Unhappily, it has not. Colombo is still severely restricting access to the north, particularly to the area of the final battles, and to the camps where an estimated 280,000 people displaced by the fighting are detained.

 

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, came to Colombo a week after the war ended to ask for "unhindered access" to those camps. UN agencies have instead found themselves hampered in their attempts to bring in the materials to make life in the camps bearable, particularly vital as the monsoon breaks. Voluntary agencies have similarly found themselves blocked by regulations which seem to change weekly, if not daily, while some ICRC offices have been closed down on government orders. Independent travel by journalists is banned. In addition, the government reacts with fury to any criticism, from whatever source, of its slowness in getting the refugees out of the camps and back to their homes.

 

The secretary general's reward for the low-key approach he has taken to the Sri Lankan crisis since he assumed office has been to be ignored. Now the Sri Lankans have served an expulsion order on the Unicef spokesman, James Elder, after he warned that the monsoon would cause chaos and suffering in the camps. The Colombo government wants aid but it also wants to micromanage the way it is deployed and to bully those who have the job of delivering it. It is time that the donor nations and the agencies formed a united front to resist this unreasonable and ungrateful attitude.

 

***************************************

THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… PUBLIC IMAGE LTD

 

John Lydon will always be better known as Johnny Rotten, and the Sex Pistols will for ever have the notoriety and fame missed out on by Public Image Ltd. But in both cases the lesser-known incarnation is far more interesting, which is why Lydon's announcement to the Guardian yesterday that he is to reform PiL is worth celebrating. Take away the sneering lyrics and the musical inability, and the Sex Pistols were no more than a DIY Monkees – all simple pop chords and catchy choruses (no wonder they covered Stepping Stone). But when Lydon formed PiL he took a genuine risk. In 1978 the easiest thing for the face of punk to do would have been to form another Sex Pistols (the Gob Shites, perhaps) and coin it in. But pop's trickiest sod veered off in another direction altogether. Hooking up with brilliant bass player Jah Wobble and guitarist Keith Levene, Lydon made songs influenced by dub reggae, by Can and other experimental rock bands. Perhaps the most perfect example of their sound was the first single, Public Image, with its depth-charge bass rumble and Lydon delivering a two-fingered salute to all his former hangers-on ("You never listened to a word that I said / You only seen me from the clothes I wear"). A similar wilfulness was at play in the release of Metal Box, an album of three slabs of vinyl in a film canister. It was tricky to get the records out, and the box rusted soon enough. But that was Lydon all over: a fully paid-up member of pop's awkward squad.

 

***************************************

THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

TERRORISM: THE RULE OF LAW

 

More than two years have passed since the last significant terrorist attack on British soil, the attempted bombing of Glasgow airport, but the task of monitoring, containing and convicting possible terrorist suspects remains immensely difficult. Yesterday's conviction of three men accused of plotting to blow up airliners heading across the Atlantic from Heathrow was both a huge and welcome success for the security services and a reminder that the possibility of vast, deadly attacks is very serious. Because many trials, including the latest one, have taken place unreported while failed raids, most notoriously at Forest Gate, have occurred in full view, some have come to underestimate the genuine nature of the threat. Conversely, ministers and police chiefs have put too much effort into symbolic campaigns to toughen up anti-terror laws. Yesterday's verdicts, among many others in recent terror trials, shows that the  law works as it is. Strategy and resources matter much more than legislation.

 

Remember, too, that although the terrorist threat has evolved in the last decade, it is not new. The tortuous story of Britain's recent dealings with Libya has returned attention to the IRA's bombing campaign and the attack on Pan Am Flight 103. Britain coped with such things, just as it has coped with the possibility of suicide attacks since 2001. Now, as then, the best way forward lies in careful investigation and prosecution. That places a huge burden on the police and security services. The temptation to find other routes always exists.

 

In the 1970s this led to disastrous experiments with internment, and even shoot-to-kill. Control orders, subject to much more judicial control, are not a modern equivalent of those, but they have not been any more helpful. The search for a legally sound way to restrain people suspected of links to terrorism, without having to produce enough evidence to charge and convict them, has run into the sand. News that the home secretary has had to release a man – identified only as AF – after he had been held under home curfew for three years, because the government did not want to reveal evidence about his case, surely marks the final collapse of the control order system. It was cobbled together in 2005, after the law lords ruled that the previous system used to detain foreign terror suspects was incompatible with human rights. This June, the law lords ruled unanimously that control orders could not be justified on secret information. As a result, Alan Johnson, the home secretary, is expected to let most of the remaining 19 orders to lapse.

 

That is the right decision. But it will not assist the difficult task of attempting to convict people involved in terror plots before, rather than after, they mount attacks. The airline bombs could have killed up to 1,500 people, had they all been successful, and though the men involved were being monitored, authorities faced an unenviable choice about when to step in. American authorities wanted early preventive action; in Britain the proper priority was to secure enough evidence to ensure convictions. But even after spending millions, this was not straightforward; it took a retrial to secure verdicts of conspiracy to murder using explosives on aircraft against Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain.

 

No one should doubt they wanted to kill people on a massive scale. The ban on taking liquids on to planes, imposed after their plot was discovered, was more than post-9/11 hysteria. When security chiefs say the terror threat remains, they are right. But the possibility of terror attacks is not a reason to abandon due process, as the overdue demise of control orders shows. And politicians must be careful not to mislead people about where the danger comes from; the men convicted yesterday were British, influenced from Pakistan. Britain's Afghan war, justified as part of the fight against terror, would not have stopped them.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE GAZETTE

EDITORIAL

ENDING THE TRAFFIC WARS WILL TAKE TIME AND EFFORT

 

The circumstances of the accident that killed Toronto bike courier Darcy Allan Sheppard are murky at best, as is the role played by Ontario's former attorney-general Michael Bryant, who has since been charged with criminal negligence in the Toronto case.

 

Whatever happened on Bloor St. last week, Sheppard's bizarre and brutal end has focused attention on a war that has been raging for some time now on the streets of Canada's major cities, including Montreal.

 

It's an ugly little war, waged every day by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists competing for territory and the right of way. It is, for the most part, a war of angry words, near misses, dented metal, and damaged egos. But far too often it also involves mangled bodies and even death.

 

Dispatches from our own front in that war have been filling much of The Gazette's letters space for the last few months. Summer strollers complain about speeding cyclists on Mount Royal, for example. Drivers say they get no respect. Reader Mitchell Leckner described in Wednesday's paper how a careless, lane-switching motorist knocked him off his bike and into hospital for three weeks.

 

There has always been a certain tension between motorists and pedestrians in Montreal, but the emergence of the bicycle over the last few decades as a common mode of adult transportation has changed the battle lines and intensified the animosity.

 

Sadly, no side in this three-way war is without fault. Many motorists continue to act as if the road is theirs alone, boorishly ignoring the most elementary rights of others. Cyclists claim the privileges of motorists but often without accepting the responsibilities, flagrantly ignoring basic traffic rules and treating pedestrians with the same contempt that some motorists afford them. And far too many pedestrians, clearly the most vulnerable faction, continue to create horrendous risks - for themselves and others - to shave a few seconds off their walking time.Fixing this mess won't be easy. Clearer rules would certainly help; many Quebec drivers and cyclists simply don't seem to know the traffic laws. And better enforcement is a must. Anyone who lives or works in downtown Montreal sees dozens of dangerous violations every week, all of which go unapprehended.

 

But what's really needed is a change of road culture, from one of competition to one of co-operation. That change will demand time, effort, and education, but it can be done. In the Netherlands, which has as many bicycles as people, two-wheel safety is part of the school curriculum. That might be impractical here, but perhaps community-based programs could be established, especially in cities.

 

The notion of licensing cyclists seems extreme, but communities do have a legitimate interest in ensuring that bicycle commuters at least know the rules of the road.The growing popularity of two-wheeled transport is very much a good thing, healthy for both riders and the environment. But cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians are all going to have to learn to treat each other with courtesy and respect. Competition is great for the economy, but deadly on the streets.

 

***************************************

THE GAZETTE

EDITORIAL

POLITICIANS STILL TREAT ETHICS TOO LIGHTLY

 

In Quebec, a firm in which Labour Minister David Whissell has shares has benefited handsomely from untendered Quebec government road-paving contracts.

 

In Ottawa, Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been fined $200 for what Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson called a "serious contravention," failing to report his involvement in two family-owned companies.

 

This is far too much like the old style of business as usual. After the sponsorship scandal, which did such damage to Canadians' trust in their leaders. it is incomprehensible that politicians at the cabinet level can be so casual about ethical issues.

 

In Whissell's case, the fault lies more with his boss, Premier Jean Charest. Charest has been dragging his heels for years over introducing a provincial code of ethics for the National Assembly and appointing an ethics commissioner, despite having promised both as long ago as 2002.

 

Before accepting his cabinet post, Whissell alerted Charest to his interest in the paving company ABC Rive-Nord. Instead of acting on the information, Charest gave his new cabinet minister a Get Out of Jail Free card. He "adapted" his new code of ethics to Whissell's particular circumstances. This speaks volumes about the seriousness with which Charest is taking the idea of a code of ethics.

 

Radio-Canada reported that Whissell's colleague, Transport Minister Julie Boulet, awarded two untendered contracts last year to ABC Rive-Nord. The provincial treasury requires that contracts over $100,000 must be tendered, unless there are too few companies to compete.

 

Worse, one of the contracts was to repave roads in Whissell's riding of Argenteuil ... shades of the late master of paving, Maurice Duplessis himself.

 

By the time Charest gets around to a provincial code of ethics, the air in the National Assembly will be even thicker with public distrust. Whissell should be either a minister or a contractor, but not both. Charest should make him choose.

 

***************************************

 

******************************************************************************************

THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RISING UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

 

Japan's unemployment rate climbed to an all-time high of 5.7 percent for July, 0.3 percentage point higher than for June and topping the former record high of 5.5 percent in April 2003. The fact that Japan's unemployment rate remains the lowest among the Group of Seven industrialized countries is small comfort.

 

It is estimated that there are up to 6.07 million surplus workers for all industries, slightly less than 10 percent of

the nation's employed workforce. If companies become unable to keep these workers on the payroll, the unemployment rate will shoot up further. The new administration faces a difficult task.

 

The Aso government takes the position that the economy has hit bottom. But the unemployment rate has worsened for six straight months. In July, the unemployment rate for men rose to 6.1 percent, 0.4 percentage point higher than in June and topping 6 percent for the first time. The corresponding figure for women was 5.1 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than in June.

 

The ratio of job openings to job applicants for July fell to an all-time low of 0.42 for the 14th straight monthly decline. July also saw the number of unemployed people jump by 1.03 million from a year earlier to 3.59 million — marking the largest-ever increase. Of the total, 1.21 million workers had been laid off, 650,000 more than a year earlier.

 

The situation for workers is becoming polarized. While the number of workers employed by large companies (at least 500 employees) increased 0.4 percent in July from the same month the previous year, the numbers at small companies (one to 29 employees) and at midsized firms (30 to 499 employees) declined 1.4 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

 

Declining demand for full-time workers is worrisome. Full-time job offers in manufacturing have halved in the past year, while offers for part-time and seasonal employment have risen. Government, businesses and labor unions are urged to cooperate in efforts to increase the number of job offers, especially for full-timers. It is essential to identify areas where a service is in strong demand and labor is in short supply.

 

***************************************

THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

INAUSPICIOUS START FOR CONSUMERS

 

The Consumer Agency, which was inaugurated Sept. 1, is in a state of confusion — for which Prime Minister Taro Aso is solely to blame. He was obsessed with the idea of starting the agency on Sept. 1, about a month earlier than planned. Now, the lack of sufficient preparation is apparent.

 

All information related to problems affecting consumers is to be collected by the agency, which will then make recommendations to the ministries concerned. It is empowered to handle consumer-related problems not covered under existing laws.

 

Some 350 consumer service centers across Japan, run by local governments, were to serve as the agency's eyes and ears. But many areas don't have the centers yet due to local governments' financial difficulties. In addition, the working conditions of consumer life counselors employed at the centers are poor. Most are not permanent workers and have low salaries.

 

The plan to start a nationwide telephone hot-line service for consumers simultaneously with the inauguration of the agency has not materialized. Hot-line services will start in mid-September for Fukushima, Yamanashi, Shimane, Kagawa and Okinawa prefectures, but service nationwide is not expected until November at the earliest.

 

Personnel affairs have added to the confusion. The government appointed Mr. Shunichi Uchida, a former vice minister of the Cabinet Office, to head the agency. But the Democratic Party of Japan is opposed to Mr. Uchida serving in the position, as it says his appointment makes the agency a bureaucrat-led entity.

 

The DPJ is also critical of the agency operating from a privately owned building that costs taxpayers more than ¥800 million a year in rent, rather than from a government building.

 

Even with the DPJ in power, it may be difficult to remove Mr. Uchida, because he has been appointed by due process, and as a public servant, his position is legally protected. The DPJ, therefore, should concentrate on helping the agency function properly and giving it more power, including the authority to confiscate profits accrued by fraudulent business practices.

 

***************************************

 

 

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

REVISITING THE FOLLY OF INDIA'S NUCLEAR TESTS

BY RAMESH THAKUR

 

WATERLOO, Ontario — Three recent events reopen the debate on the wisdom of India's nuclear tests in 1998, as judged from within the narrow framework of its own interests. Or rather, they confirm the folly of the tests:

 

• K. Santhanam, director of the 1998 test site preparations, has claimed that the hydrogen bomb tests yielded less than half the amount of projected destructive energy: 15 to 20kt, not 45kt. His claims have been rejected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former President Abdul Kalam, the then scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defense, and Brajesh Mishra, the BJP Government's national security adviser.

 

The claims have been backed by some influential heavyweights, including P.K. Iyengar, former chief of the Atomic Energy Commission, and they are broadly in accordance with the conclusions of most disinterested international observers who analyzed the test data at the time. The reason for his revelation may be to put pressure on the government to conduct further tests for validating the design of India's hydrogen bomb, before the window is closed if the Obama administration ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pressures remaining holdouts to follow.

 

• Second, India recently began sea trials of a new nuclear-powered submarine with underwater ballistic launch capability. It plans to acquire a fleet of five, although even the first will not be operational for combat duty for some years yet.

 

• Third, Pakistan has been publicly perturbed at the prospect of more nuclear tests by India, nuclear-powered submarines and the civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States.

 

In an article in the current issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen argue that Pakistan is enhancing its nuclear weapon capabilities across the board. It has been developing and deploying new nuclear- capable missiles and expanding its capacity to produce fissile materials for use in weapons. Their article adds weight to calculated leaks from the U.S. intelligence community expressing unease at Pakistan's nuclear programs.

 

In other words, the critics of the 1998 tests have been vindicated. Nuclearization has bought India neither strategic gains nor defense on the cheap. It still lacks an effective deterrent capability against China, let alone parity with the U.S. Doubts have now been sown in the public mind in India and in official policy circles in China and Pakistan about the reliability, robustness and resilience of India's nuclear power status. These cannot be removed without further tests that are unambiguously successful in delivering the projected yields.

 

Yet any such tests would bring down the wrath of the international community and wreck the hard-fought nuclear deal with the U.S. At a time when President Barack Obama has recommitted to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and entered into fresh agreements with Russia for dramatic further steps in denuclearizing the world, India would be marching to a tune that everyone else finds harshly discordant. And it would launch a fresh round in the endless cycle of arms races in the subcontinent, with blame falling largely, perhaps even solely, on India.

 

In the meantime, during and after the decade since nuclearization, India continues to suffer serial terror attacks originating, by its own account, from across the border in Pakistan; continues to confront the prospect of a war with Pakistan that would be ruinous for both; and therefore continues to invest heavily in conventional defense at the cost of social welfare programs like health and education, which would boost economic productivity instead of draining the public coffers. Indians in huge numbers are among the poorest, unhealthiest and least literate peoples of the world.

 

Nuclear weapons in Indian hands did not stop Pakistan from occupying the forbidding Kargil heights on the Indian side of the Line of Control in 1999. The effort to retake it cost over a thousand lives in the end. The two countries came perilously close to a full-blown war in 2002, after the terrorist attack on India's parliament in December 2001.

 

Nuclear weapons have caused a triple damage to India vis-a-vis Pakistan. They have encouraged Pakistani provocations, be it in the form of incursions or cover for terrorist attacks as in Mumbai in November last year. They bring sobriety to Indian debates on how best to respond for fear of stepping on the ladder of escalation from which it would be difficult to step off because the process cannot be controlled. And the fear of a nuclear war has brought far greater international interest and involvement, something that suits Pakistan but agitates India.

 

Absent nuclearization, India could retaliate more easily and have much better assurance of inflicting military defeat. With nuclearization, India has found its policy options for dealing with a nettlesome neighbor far more sharply curtailed. The BJP, the nationalist party in power in 1998, should have been a tad more careful in what it wished for.

 

There is no chance of India or Pakistan renouncing nuclear weapons unilaterally. But the costs, risks and complications offer compelling reasons for India, ahead of the five-year review of the Nonproliferation Treaty next year, to line up solidly behind recently reinvigorated efforts to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

 

Ramesh Thakur is director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs and a distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario.

 

***************************************

THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

THE RETURN OF FRANCO-GERMAN LEADERSHIP

BY DOMINIQUE MOISI

 

PARIS — Regardless of who wins September's parliamentary election in Germany, the time has come once again for a major Franco-German initiative.

 

Regardless of their economic conditions or their confidence — or lack of it — in each other, France and Germany are more than ever jointly responsible for the future, if not the very survival, of the European project.

 

Are there alternatives to Franco-German leadership of the European Union? Having Britain join them in a Club of Three would be a good idea, but it is out of the question nowadays. Britain has largely excluded itself from any leadership role in Europe. Gordon Brown is barely surviving as British prime minister, and the Conservatives, whose return to power in the next year is almost certain, are as provincially euro-skeptic as ever, if not more so. Europe simply cannot count on the British, at least for a while.

 

The idea of a Club of Six, floated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy early in his presidency, was always abstract and is now untenable. Given Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sexcapades, the Italy that he leads cannot be taken seriously, while Spain is out of the running for an EU leadership role, owing to its dire economic conditions.

 

As for Poland, although the bumbling Kaczynski "twins" have been removed from power, the country's fixation on security in its immediate neighborhood is incompatible with true European leadership.

 

Since the other 21 EU members never liked the idea of a Club of Six to begin with, it is just as well that such a vision has been buried, probably forever. So where, except France and Germany, can Europe turn for leadership?

 

A positive referendum result on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland in October would be a necessary but insufficient condition to jump-start an institutional re-launch of the EU. Above all, the EU needs political will and direction. Only Germany and France, acting together, can convey to Europe's citizens and to the world the sense that the EU is at long last waking up to today's global realities.

 

Of course, it is impossible to underestimate the combination of suspicion, tension and exasperation that characterizes Franco-German relations lately. To a large extent, Germany has become a "second France" in Europe, at a time when France is more French than ever. And not only are they only putting their respective nationalisms first, they disagree on fundamentals — most of all, about how to surmount the economic crisis.

 

But the two giants of Europe can agree to disagree about the virtues of German-style budgetary rigor or French-style fiscal stimulus as long as they don't insult each other and, more importantly, as long as they compensate for their philosophical differences with a well-publicized program of joint initiatives on key subjects.

 

As long as each remains convinced that no alternative to cooperation exists within the EU, and that European cooperation remains a priority for both, it should not be overly difficult to restore their leadership. After all, France and Germany are closer to each other on many key topics than they have been for a long time.

 

With the return of France to NATO's integrated military structure, the two countries are on the same "Atlantic" wavelength for the first time since 1966. Despite both sides' deep reservations about the mission in Afghanistan, they are clearly in the same boat, even if French troops, being closer to British troops in terms of combat, are more vulnerable than the Germans. And both countries would probably subscribe to the following formulation: "Turkey's future is with Europe, but not necessarily in the EU, at least in the foreseeable future."

 

The fundamental question about how to deal with Russia remains a divisive issue, however. France and Germany have different sensitivities on the subject, which is both natural and inevitable, as these differences reflect both geography and history.

 

Germany is not only much closer physically to Russia; it is also much more dependent on Russia in terms of energy security. France must not delude itself: Germany is not about to convert to nuclear energy to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Yet Germany also must realize that Russia's negative evolution has consequences that Germans cannot escape.

 

A spectacular Franco-German security initiative following the election in Germany, accompanied by a joint message to the Kremlin, would also have the benefit of sending a message to the rest of the EU, particularly to its Vaclav Klauses: "If you decide to paralyze the Union through stubborn ill will, you will only end up excluding yourselves, rather than dictating Europe's fate."

 

France and Germany cannot move Europe alone, but Europe without them cannot move at all.

 

Dominique Moisi is visiting professor of government at Harvard and author, most recently, of "The Geopolitics of Emotion." © 2009 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

***************************************

 

******************************************************************************************

THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

DEBUNKING MYTHS ON TERRORISM

MUNAJAT

 

The two deadly suicide bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta Indonesia in July still leave some confusion and mysteries about understanding terrorism.

 

How can normal people or even those who appeared to be good people deliberately choose a path of bloodshed and destruction?

 

How can terrorism still exist in Indonesia after the capture of its most important members? How can we stop terrorism?

 

Some social scientists of political violence, more specifically terrorism, suggest that the main step to understand terrorism is to distinguish it from any other types of violence and crimes. Terrorism is a unique secretive movement.

 

However, many, including the Indonesian government, still treat terrorism just like any other individual and collective violence in terms of its characteristics and organizational structure. In fact, better understanding of terrorism correlates with the successful strategy to destroy and deter terrorism.

 

A criminologist, Richard Rosenfeld, argues that the difference between general violence and terrorism is like the difference between water and holy water. Drinking water can just be directly understood as an effort to satisfy one’s biological needs, but drinking holy water cannot be understood the same way.

 

Drinking holy water is very symbolic, apart from fulfilling biological needs. Thus, terrorist violence is different from general violence.

 

The following are some common myths and misunderstanding about terrorism that stem from treating it the same as any other violence.

 

First, poverty and low levels of education are the sources of terrorism, and terrorists are usually crazy, mad, frustrated, uneducated and poor. This argument has been embraced almost entirely on faith rather than on scientific evidence.  Alan B.Krueger (2007) in What Makes a Terrorist argues that the impoverished and uneducated are unlikely to participate in political processes, let alone in terrorist activities. Terrorists mostly have better education and are wealthier than the people from their own society.

 

Similarly, Marc Sagemen (2004) in Understanding Terror Networks argues that the members of global salafi jihad were generally middle class, educated young men from caring and religious families, who grew up with strong positive values on religion, spirituality, and concern for their community.

 

Second, terrorism is a rational organization with a hierarchical and identifiable chain of command. In fact, some research on terrorist groups show that terrorism is conducted by a conspiratorial cell structure or by individuals directly or indirectly influenced, motivated, or inspired by terrorist ideology.

 

Under hard repression and military scrutiny from international and national communities, it would be impossible for terrorists to form traditional or modern-bureaucratic organizational styles. Cell structure might therefore be the best strategy for terrorist groups to survive.   

 

For example, in the case of global salafi Jihad, like al-Qaeda and Jamaah Islamiyah, they might not exist any more, but their splinters and cells might be still active and spread across the world.

 

Thus, there might be no central leadership of terrorist organization, like Osama bin Laden of al-Qaeda and Noordin M. Top of Jamaah Islamiyah who have control in all terrorist operations. Bin Laden and Noordin M. Top might be best understood as sources of ideology rather than sources of material and organizational leadership.

 

Third, the root of terrorism is Islamic ideology, like the concept of jihad. Michael Chertoff, second secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, however objects that global terrorism is related to Islam. Referring to Bernard Lewis, he argues that no religions, including Islam, enjoin terrorism and murder. Extremist Islamism is not Islam, but politicized perversion.

 

Instead, the terrorist ideology is the interpretation of normative Islam shaped by twentieth-century Western totalitarian ideas, like fascism and communism. At least there are three similarities between Muslim terrorism and Western totalitarianism.

 

First, both used the same language, like “vanguard” and “revolution” for self-definition and “imperialist,” “capitalist” and “colonialist” for their enemies.

 

Second, both applied indiscriminate violence, there is no difference between the methods of killing between Adolf Hitler and bin Laden.

 

Third, they both share the macabre celebration of death. In doing so, Jose Millan Astray, a pro-Nazi general exploited the concept of Viva la Muerta, or “Long Live Death,” while bin Laden exploited the concept of syahid or martyrdom.

 

In short, understanding the nature of terrorism is a key point to the success of combating terrorism. Mistreating the very nature of terrorism may result in ineffective strategies for counterterrorism efforts.


The writer is a lecturer at STAIN Salatiga and PhD Student of Sociology at Texas A&M University, US.

 

***************************************

THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

G20 FOR STRONGER BANK CAPITAL

 

The core message of a statement issued by the Group of 20 (G20) finance ministers and central bank governors in London over the weekend, regarding banks, systemic risks and the stability of financial systems, was quite relevant to Indonesia, especially in view of the recent furor about the costs and processes involved in bailing out Bank Century.

 

The G20 called for much bigger and better bank capital buffers against shocks, apparently to follow up the findings of analysts that the regulatory requirements on capital standards are too lenient.

 

In Indonesia itself, the minimum capital adequacy ratio (against assets) is still set at 8 percent, lower than the international requirement of 12 percent. But the issue is not only about the amount but also the quality of the core capital because a number of banks   were known to use hybrid securities, which are more like debt than equity, as capital buffers.

 

The G20  reaffirmed its commitment to strengthen the financial system to prevent the buildup of excessive risk and future crises and support sustainable growth. It also reiterated the importance of stronger regulation and oversight for systemically important firms, including pushing for rapid progress in developing tougher prudential requirements to reflect the higher costs of their failure. Systemically important firms are institutions that are so big or deeply interconnected with other financial actors that their failure could trigger cascading losses and even contagion across the financial system.

 

The G20 called for a requirement for systemic firms to develop firm-specific contingency plans and for the strengthening of legal frameworks for crisis intervention and winding down firms.

 

Bank Indonesia has been largely held to blame for the larger-than-estimated Bank Century bailout. The quality and integrity of the central bank’s examiners and bank supervisors have been criticized for what now is increasingly seen as a decision that was poorly thought through.   

 

The G20 points on stronger regulation and oversight for systemically important banks are precisely the arguments raised by critics who questioned the legitimacy of the government-central bank decision on Nov.21 to classify Bank Century, a medium-size bank, as a financial institution whose failure posed a systemic risk to the Indonesian financial system on the whole.

 

The debates on this issue will likely continue until the Supreme Audit Agency completes its investigative audit of the Bank Century rescue package within the next two weeks.

 

Some analysts have also questioned the current system whereby the Finance Ministry and Bank Indonesia wait until a bank is in deep trouble before deciding whether it poses a systemic threat to the financial system’s stability and the broader economy. In this context, the government should consider the suggestion made recently by a number of analysts that regulators should not have to wait until the very last minute, when they are under enormous time pressures to make such momentous decisions.

 

By that point, analysts say, financial regulation has  failed. The underlying problem can no longer be prevented. All that can be done is to stabilize the institution with an extraordinary infusion of taxpayer money. Even then there is no guarantee that the infusion will be sufficient.

 

Those analysts advise us that a much bet