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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EDITORIAL 21.09.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month september 21,  edition 000303 , 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.      A CONTENTIOUS ISSUE

2.      MYSTIC MASSEURS

3.      NEW FACE OF BABUDOM?-JOGINDER SINGH

4.      BENGAL PREPARES FOR DURGA’S VISIT-RIYADARSI DUTTA

5.      ENTER THE DRAGON-GAUTAM MUKHERJEE

6.      BUDDHADEB FIGHTS BACK-SHIKHA MUKERJEE

7.      HIJACKING HUMAN RIGHTS-JACOB MCHANGAMA

8.      RUSSIA PREVAILS OVER US ON DEFENCE SHIELD-ROLAND OLIPHANT

 

TIMES OF INDIA

1.      BYPOLL BLUES

2.      GREENING UP

WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR-

4.      'INDIA SHOULD NOT IMITATE THE WEST'

5.      BLONDES & SURDIES-

6.      TRUE LIES: POLYGRAPH KA SACH-

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

1.      PENNY FOR THAT POUND

2.      TALKING TERMS IN KASHMIR

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

1.      CHINA SYNDROME

2.      ACCIDENTAL CANDIDATE

3.      COLOUR CODED

4.      PICK A NEW ORBIT-C. RAJA MOHAN

5.      ‘I AM VERY ANGRY WITH SC SAYING IF GOVT TELLS US TO DISCLOSE (ASSETS) WE WILL DISCLOSE. THAT’S WHAT GOVT WANTS — IT WANTS TO CONTROL THE JUDGES’

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

1.      REDEFINE RADICAL

2.      DON’T JUST TALK

3.      LAND AHOY-SUDIPTA DATTA

4.      TREE CHEERS FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT?-RENUKA BISHT

5.      GOOD ADVISOR, BUT WHO’S LISTENING?-BIBEK DEBROY

 

THE HINDU

1.      PAKISTAN AND HAFIZ SAEED

2.      BEYOND TRADE ISSUES

3.      WHO STANDS TO GAIN FROM WAR HYSTERIA? -M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

4.      TIME TO DELIVER ON CLIMATE CHANGE -JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO

5.      DETERRENCE AND EXPLOSIVE YIELD -K. SUBRAHMANYAM AND V.S. ARUNACHALAM

6.      THE ECONOMIC DIMENSION OF NATIONAL SECURITY

7.      U.S. URGES CHANGES TO GOOGLE’S BOOK DEAL - MADANJEET SINGH

 

THE ASIAN AGE

1.      STAKES ARE HIGH IN MAHARASHTRA

2.      ENCASHING GANDHI LEGACY, ONE MEMENTO AT A TIME-SHIV VISVANATHAN

3.      NAXAL VIOLENCE IS A CRY TO BE HEARD-ARJUN SENGUPTA

 

THE TRIBUNE

1.      SINO-INDIAN RELATIONS

2.      MISSILE DEFENCE PLAN

3.      URANIUM FROM MONGOLIA

4.      NEW DEAL WILL BENEFIT INDIA 

5.      AUSTERITY DRIVE WON’T DO-BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM

6.      THINGS FORGOTTEN, THINGS UNIQUE-BY HARISH DHILLON

7.      A SKULL THAT REWRITES THE HISTORY OF MAN-BY STEVE CONNOR

8.      PLACATING RUSSIA WON’T WORK-BY DAVID J. KRAMER

9.      ISSUE OF YSR SUCCESSOR PUT ON HOLD-BY DEVI CHERIAN

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

1.      COORDINATED POLICING

2.      TECHNICAL EDUCATION

3.      THE TANG OF PUJA-DR JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

4.      EID-UL-FITRE: THE JOY OF BREAKING FAST-JAHIDUL ISLAM KHAN

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

1.      PROGRESS ON GST

2.      NEXT TIME, BUILD A NEW TOWN

3.      AN INSTITUTION TO PROTECT SHAREHOLDERS-ASHWANI WINDLASS

4.      BOUND NO MORE BY PAST BAD KARMA-K VIJAYARAGHAVAN

5.      HIGH GROWTH TO COUNTER CORRUPTION-MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

1.      NAXAL VIOLENCE IS A CRY TO BE HEARD - BY ARJUN SENGUPTA

2.      STAKES ARE HIGH IN MAHARASHTRA

3.      WHY IS AMERICA SO SCARED OF A FUEL TAX? - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

4.      ENCASHING GANDHI LEGACY, ONE MEMENTO AT A TIME - BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

5.      A SHORT HISTORY OF FAST TIMES ON WALL STREET - BY DAVID SILVER

6.      DID FEMINISM BENEFIT MEN? - BY MAUREEN DOWD

THE STATESMAN

1.      A LIBERAL TAX REGIME-SS KOTHARI

2.      PRACHANDA WARNS OF ANOTHER

3.      PROFLIGATE CAMPUSES

4.      OMAR SCORES

5.      TRENDS IN BIHAR

 

THE TELEGRAPH

1.      WAY TO GO

2.      FAIR EXCHANGE

3.      EFFICIENT AND ENERGETIC -S.L RAO

4.      RIGHT OF PASSAGE -GWYNNE DYER

 

DECCAN HERALD

1.      TIME TO REFORM THE GLOBAL CASINO-BY HAZEL HENDERSON

2.      THE MYRIAD COLOURS-BY LAKSHMI NAIR

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

1.      BACK TO BAGRAM

2.      THAT PROMISE OF DETENTION REFORM

3.      FEEL IGNORED? TRY CALLING YOUR TAXI DRIVER

4.      PRESENT AT THE TRADE WARS -BY DAVID ROCKEFELLER

5.      CHALLENGE, ANYONE? -BY PAUL KEDROSKY

 

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

1.      THE REAL CLIMATE DEBATE STARTS NOW

2.      COURAGEOUS HONESTY

3.      A CHAMPION OF IDEAS

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

1.      OBAMA MOVES TO BRING RUSSIA IN FROM THE COLD

2.      KEEPING LEFT IS THE RIGHT MOVE FOR TRUCKS

3.      THE SOUND AND THE FURY

4.      WHAT'S THEIRS IS HIS, TOO

 

THE GURDIAN

1.      IN PRAISE OF… THE GECKO

2.      UN AND G20 MEETINGS: ONE WEEK AND THE WORLD

3.      IN PRAISE OF… THE GECKO

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

1.      LESSONS OF LEHMAN BROTHERS

2.      LESS 'EXCLUSIONARY' DPJ TO TEST METTLE OF REPORTERS

3.      DIVINING JAPAN'S NEW LEADERSHIP AMID THE EXPECTATIONS OF CHANGE-BY HUGH CORTAZZI

 

THE KOREA HERALD

1.      MORE BABIES

2.      G20'S EMPTY PROMISES ON EXIT STRATEGIES -MARTIN FELDSTEIN

3.      GDP FETISHISM OVERLOOKS WELL-BEING -JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

A CONTENTIOUS ISSUE

DINAKARAN SHOULD WITHDRAW HIS NAME


The controversy surrounding Chief Justice PD Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court is perhaps reaching its culmination. This past week, the Supreme Court collegium met and discussed Justice Dinakaran’s elevation to the apex court but failed to take a decision. Five senior lawyers and a body of legal community opinion — represented for instance by the Advocates Association of Bangalore — had urged the collegium not to elevate Justice Dinakaran, who faces admittedly unproven charges of acquisition of assets by irregular means. A former Union Law Minister has suggested that the Supreme Court collegium consult two justices of the Delhi High Court who had earlier worked with Justice Dinakaran. The issue is at once tricky and sensitive. Apex court judicial appointments are in the hands of the judiciary itself precisely to insulate these from political manipulation. It follows, however, that the mechanism must be both above board and seen as above board. It is obvious that the Supreme Court collegium is alive to the disquiet and, despite a 40-minute debate on the contentious issue, could not arrive at a final conclusion. The week ended with Justice Dinakaran dropping out of an official visit to Australia, to be led by the Chief Justice of India, as it would have been seen as inappropriate at this juncture. Indeed, the issue has acquired a life and momentum of its own. It comes in a period of fervid public argument about the roles and responsibilities of judges, about their commitment to transparency, and whether they should be called upon to declare their assets on an annual basis. Of course, there are no easy answers. Yet, in an ideal situation, the judiciary must do the right thing and must push the frontiers of rectitude on its own, without an external nudge. It would be best if this principle be adhered to in the matter of Justice Dinakaran as well. What holds true for the collective must also do so for the individual. The spirit of abnegation that the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court has displayed in opting out of the trip to Australia could perhaps offer a route out. What if Justice Dinakaran were to himself write to the Chief Justice of India asking not to be considered for a position in the Supreme Court?


It is crucial to view an occurrence in the context of its time. A decade-and-a-half ago, a generation of upright judges began to give the Supreme Court an unprecedented stature. The presence of a weak executive — as represented by coalition and minority Governments — also aided the process. It led to more and more routine decision-making and even policy formulation devolving on the judiciary. From a new situation, this has now come to be accepted as conventional wisdom. From merely measuring the judiciary against the appalling standards of the executive, people have to come to see the judiciary against the exacting standards it has set for itself. That is why questions of institutionalising judicial integrity and transparency are coming to the fore. Far from a slight, this phenomenon actually represents a tribute to the judges and places an onerous moral responsibility upon them. No more are they just interpreters of law; India’s judges are now repositories of public trust. It would be best if Justice Dinakaran recognised this.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

MYSTIC MASSEURS

GAMES TO GET A DESI FLAVOUR


Guess how authorities in Delhi plan to make the 2010 Commonwealth Games an unforgettable experience? By providing free massages to athletes and tourists alike. The Health Department of the Delhi Government is currently in the process of shortlisting ‘good and educated’ masseurs who will not only help the 10,000-odd athletes taking part in the Games to limber up, but also give willing tourists an authentic champi. Given the state of preparations, one would have thought that the authorities would have been inclined to employ all resources at their disposal to complete more pressing projects like the 17 venues that are being used for the Games. At present not even a single site is ready. Yet, recruiting masseurs and training them for the Games has become a priority. But here too things are moving at a snail’s pace. Like all the projects for the Games, reports suggest that the recruitment of masseurs is also running behind schedule. The Health Department is presently trying to figure out what kind of masseurs should they take up for training: Traditional masseurs or those with some form of formal training. We see how difficult a decision this could be. Traditional masseurs do bring with them a certain aesthetic appeal whereas formally trained ones can tell the difference between the sciatic nerve and the levator palpebrae superioris.


If the idea here is to give those coming to participate in the 2010 Commonwealth Games a taste of ‘real’ India, why not extend the idea behind the masseurs further? The municipal authorities of Delhi should be given the task of shortlisiting snake charmers to entertain the spectators during the breaks between the events. Only ‘good’ snake charmers who really take care of their snakes will be given accreditation to perform. Similarly, the authorities would do well to look into the possibility of showcasing pigeon flying during the Games. It is too late to include this fascinating sport in the official list of sporting events, but maybe the crowds and the Commonwealth Games Committee will love it and ask for it to be officially introduced as a competitive event the next time we get to hold the Games. Here too care must be taken to shortlist only those who have been associated with pigeon flying for at least 35 years or more and are known to belong to families that have upheld the tradition for a minimum of five generations. Another brilliant venture that could add a desi flavour to the 2010 Commonwealth Games is the recruitment of traditional palmists and astrologers who will read out the athletes their fortune for the day before they hit the track. It is bound to be a guaranteed hit. Did anyone say we have a velodrome to finish?

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NEW FACE OF BABUDOM?

JOGINDER SINGH


We have so many committees and commissions set up by the Government that often duplicate or triplicate what has already been done. Some of them do not have even half-a-day’s work. But one common feature shared by the members of these committee and commissions is that all of them have the trappings and perks of Government, including bungalows, chauffeur-driven cars, telephones and a plethora of personal assistants and private secretaries who are as under-worked or under-employed as their bosses.


One of my friends, belonging to an all-India service, had annoyed the powers that be. So he landed up with one of those jobs which are euphemistically called consultants or advisers. One day I dropped by his office and asked him how much work he had. He said that he had five files. He committed the mistake of disposing of one of them. He asked his private secretary as to why files were not coming to him. The private secretary, also called ‘principal private secretary’, as those attached to senior officers are called, told him that for the last couple of years only five files were with the office. So, to keep busy, his predecessor would raise the same perennial queries and see to it that some scope was still left for raising further questions. It did not matter, whether the questions were relevant or irrelevant.


Against 25 secretaries to the Government of India at the time of Independence, the number has crossed 350 if all the posts of secretaries, special secretaries and those holding equivalent rank outside the secretariat are counted. Before the First Pay Commission, the age of retirement for Government servants was 55; it was raised to 58 in 1963; and to 60 in 1998. The reason given was that since people were living longer, Government servants could also work longer.


The truth is that longevity has nothing to do with efficiency. What matters most is physical fitness and good health. Most people after 50 and definitely after 60 survive only on medicines required to control ill health and diseases, which are a natural concomitant to aging.


Whether one admits it or not, the fact remains that age catches up with men and women and the capacity to work decreases as we grow older. If all Government servants were subjected to a thorough medical examination, a vast majority would be found to be suffering from one or the other medical problem and some of them would be declared unfit to work.


Besides, when the entire world is moving towards harnessing youth power, India is probably one of the few countries which still believes in giving jobs to old people on the ground of experience. With all their experience, the regulators or people heading commissions and committees have not made an iota of difference to the quality of governance.


There used to be an exception to give extension in service. Now the exception is practised in another way. Instead of allowing a service extension, now each department, whether it has work or not, has created the posts of so-called regulators or members of commissions and committees for specific work or negotiations whose tenure is elastic. It is amazing that the Law Commission, comprising a full time chairman and one part time member and other supporting staff has recommended an increase in the retirement age for others and for itself and those heading tribunals indirectly. It says, “Barring few exceptions, a person is fit and fine at the age of 62 or even 65 years.”

People in such jobs keep a low profile so that they are not noticed, lest their existence may be detected and their services terminated. Assuming for the sake of argument, not that there is any substance, the claim for raising the age of retirement to 70 rings hollow and will have a multiplier effect, upsetting the system of governance.


The same argument can be trotted out by other services and other Government employees, that they also have 30 or 40 years of experience to back their claim, whereas any tribunal or commission chairman, if he or she is a retired judge, would never have that much experience as normally all judges appointed from the bar are aged 45 years or more. If this happens, then we will have physical and mental wrecks in the Government and we can bid farewell to good governance.


Leaving aside everything else, if retirement age is increased under one excuse or the other, then where does the younger generation get a chance for employment? We want our forces to be young so that they are alert and able to face any challenge efficiently. Then why do we want our bureaucrats and rulers to be of ancient vintage? A Hong Kong-based organisation, which conducted a survey of 12 Asian economies, says that Singapore’s civil servants are the most efficient among their Asian peers, but they tend to clam up unhelpfully when things go wrong.

It has ranked India’s “suffocating bureaucracy” as the least efficient. The report says that working with Indian civil servants is a “slow and painful” process. They are a power centre in their own right at both the national and State levels, and are extremely resistant to reform that affects them or the way they go about their duties.


The recommendation to raise the age of retirement should be rejected outright in the interest of the nation and the younger generation which is the hope of the country. Recall what William Makepeace Thackeray said: “Next to the very young, the very old are the most selfish.”

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BENGAL PREPARES FOR DURGA’S VISIT

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; close bosom friend of maturing sun’ is how Keats describes autumn in his ode. In autumnal poems of Tagore, that Keatsian sensuousness is replaced by a divine delight at Durga’s homecoming. Tagore — given his Brahmo background and universalist outlook — does not see Durga an an idol. He sees her coming in ‘chariots of white clouds’, ‘shining path of blue skies’, ‘when the sun plays hide and seek with shadows in fields of paddy’. Nature is animated and in a state of jubilation. What is very Tagoresque, is actually very Bengali. Bengal, unlike south India, has no classical heritage to boast of, but has made it up with spontaneous creativity.


There is something interesting about Durga’s image as Bengalis worship it. Lion-borne 10-handed Durga slaying the demon Mahishasur, flanked by her children Lakshmi and Ganesh, Kartik and Saraswati. Durga Saptashati (popular as Chandi in Bengal), which describes the exploits of Mahishasur Mardini, has no mention about the other deities. They are clearly interpolations, a product of Bengali imagination. Bengalis have domesticated the redoubtable Mahishasur Mardini as the homely Uma (Parvati) who comes down from Kailash to her parents’ home for four days in autumn.


Durga’s devotees in north India will be surprised. Even a general reading of Chandi gives contradictory signals on whether Durga is the same as Parvati/Uma. But Bengali imagination has transformed the whole thing into a human interest story.


Durga Puja, like Ganesh Utsav, is actually a pan-Hindu festival. But Bengalis have culturally assimilated it like Marathis and Gujaratis have assimilated Ganesh Utsav. Hindu society is full of regional flavours, something that the practitioners of Hindutva should take note of. Howsoever we wish, it is difficult to ‘Hellenise’ Hinduism on purely national and historical lines.


Providing work to artists is an understated beauty of Hinduism. The creative designing of the pandals in West Bengal leaves one wonderstruck. Many designers spend the entire year conceiving designs that would be in place only for four days! Idol-making, Tanjore paintings, sculpting are evidence that Hinduism is not merely a religion but a grand cultural construct.


Our ancient Sanskrit texts were about literature, aesthetics, vibrancy of life, and human imagination. Religion is not merely about the truth of creation, but also about creativity. We hardly realise how creativity has sustained our national life.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ENTER THE DRAGON

INDIA’S IS A GROWTH STORY IS SECOND ONLY TO THAT OF CHINA. AND SOME EXPERTS ARGUE THAT IS WHY CHINA WILL NOT UPSET THE APPLECART WITH WAR. THIS MIGHT BE TRUE BUT WE CAN ONLY SEEK COLD COMFORT IN SUCH PREDICTIONS. INDIA MUST FOCUS ON BOTH ECONOMY AND DEFENCE

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


Romantics throw coins into wishing wells and fountains. The Trevi in Rome is a particular favourite. But such wishes as accompany those myriad coins, despite the illogic of it, are sometimes, some say always, answered. In the Indian context, there are at least three wishes and hopes that have caught the people’s fancy in recent days.


Number one would be the opposite of our woeful lack of military preparedness should China decide to push into Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. They have walked into, or fired, flown and littered in, all of the above lately, and found no one on our side to object.


Some, including the Prime Minister, the NSA, our la-di-da helmsmen at the MEA, and a section of the media, would have us believe this is nothing to worry about now that we are in 2009 and not 1962. But, as far as I know, the law of the jungle has not changed in the interim.


If one listens to what retiring service chiefs let slip routinely, coupled with nuclear scientists casting aspersions on our much-vaunted nuclear deterrent, our level of preparedness to beat China back is about the same as it was in 1962. Then too, Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon were dismissive about the Chinese threat.

And let us not forget that in 2009 we have to reckon with China’s well-documented encirclement policy too, using Pakistanis, Nepalis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, the high seas, and even Burmese!


And also note the insurrections they are fanning inside — in the North-East, among the Maoists, via Pakistanis and Nepalis. Besides, the Khalistanis are reportedly active once again. And Pakistan-sponsored terrorism continues unabated.


We need to urgently strengthen every law and order and national security force/agency from the police and intelligence to the para-military, the commando units, the armed forces and their support systems; and equip them with generous quantities of the best weaponry and logistics available. We also need to sharply upgrade our own defence/nuclear manufacturing facilities, including those that can be developed faster and better by the private sector alongside.


This entails at least a doubling of the defence budget from present levels. China, an economy over three times as large as ours, currently spends 4.3 per cent of its GDP on defence and it would be silly to suggest it is doing so without purpose. India, on the other hand, spends less than three per cent of its GDP, even after increasing it 34 per cent in Budget 2009-10.


To gain any kind of parity with China, we need to enhance our spends to about 10 per cent of GDP in short order, or about $ 100 billion annually. Most of the new money should go towards modernisation and expansion of armed strength of numbers as well as access and deployment oriented military roads, airports, harbours, surveillance equipment and other infrastructure; which will, coincidentally, also benefit civil society and commerce just for being built.


The Government could also introduce tax-free Defence Bonds paying a competitive rate of interest. And such Defence Bonds should also welcome our unfathomable reserves of black money, including returning hawala money from abroad, no questions asked.


The second debate that is much in the news concerns the size of our Government itself and its gargantuan expenditure. It has grown to truly worrisome proportions, and similar runaway but inefficient statism was partially responsible for the economic collapse of our erstwhile mentor, the USSR.


While token efforts to cut expenses under ‘austerity’ drives are commendable, they are not nearly enough. To really bring down recurring costs we need to downsize Government and privatise as many parts of it as possible. Many new initiatives in the core sector may still need initial Government investment, though recent private sector successes in the fields of oil and gas and increasingly in steel and power seem to suggest otherwise.

 

But it is seen that several older Government-owned core sector behemoths are now doing well. They need to be offloaded to public investment and listing on the bourses. Many that have already gone public are showing good results and far greater management accountability.


The third issue creating a buzz is the disbelieving optimism arising out of a ‘V’ shaped recovery on the bourses that has confounded many expert doom merchants. And an FII influx of $ 9 billion so far this year is also nothing to sniff at. But the big question is, will it last?


No one can tell you about day-to-day fluctuations with certainty, but the point to be understood is that this next decade is going to be the decade of infrastructure and modernisation in India. And this transforming endeavour will suck in enormous investment that cannot but help boost the economy and keep it growing at a healthy clip of anywhere between six to nine per cent per annum.


So as things stand in the world, India’s is a growth story second only to China. And some argue that is why China will not upset the applecart with war. That might turn out to be right and yet needs to be seen as cold comfort. Because China seems determined to pressurise all our bilateral negotiations and contain India’s aspirations in a multilateral context as well.


Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly is about to hold its annual summit in New York. The world’s leaders and diplomats will assemble to make and listen to speeches. They will discuss the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the apparent inability of the world to stop it.


Iran, the latest designated bad boy, will be there. China will be there to protect North Korea and Pakistan. China will also side with Iran, and Russia will concur. Libya will be there to underscore its reformed status. Political correctness will rule the roost. Everyone will avoid remarks that are liable to sharpen the North-South Divide.


The Security Council will also be there. So what if it is reduced to a checkmated chess game.


India will be a non-presence as usual, perfect at being there in a manner as good as not being there. But then New York in the autumn can be very pleasant, and one might just find a wishing well and a coin to drop into it.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

BUDDHADEB FIGHTS BACK

BRINGING IN IT MAJORS COULD PROVE TO BE GAME CHANGER

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


West Bengal’s moody Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has declared that he will not go gently into the good night. Instead, he has joined issue with the tempestuous Minister for Railways, Ms Mamata Banerjee.


It was on the eve of the Pujas last year that the Nano plant’s shut down produced a political crisis. It is on the eve of another Puja that Mr Bhattacharjee has declared his decision to fight back.


Battle, if it has not begun, will do so soon. Recovering from his ‘upset’ after the Vedic Village was burnt down by land sharks with political links, Mr Bhattacharjee has found alternative land in Rajarhat, the new township adjacent to Salt Lake for Infosys’s first campus in the State and Wipro’s second one.


The land he has identified has already been acquired by Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation and there should be no difficulty in transferring it to Infosys and Wipro. Except that there are two issues; first, Infosys had been wooed to select the land next to the Vedic Village because it was cheaper. Second, Mr Bhattacharjee will have to wait till the land use plans for Rajarhat are amended to accommodate two 45 acre campuses for the IT sector.


Given the propensity of the Opposition in West Bengal to function as spoiler, the chances of Mr Bhattacharjee’s freshly minted plans to keep Infosys and Wipro investments in the State going through without a political battle is questionable. It would be ideal if the Trinamool Congress were to cooperate with the West Bengal Government, since the Congress has already declared itself in favour of the projects going through.

But, it is possible that the Trinamool Congress, which certainly calls the shots for the Opposition may find a reason to raise a stink. In that scenario, it will be up to the Congress to either fall in line when Ms Banerjee cracks the whip or step out and declare its independence, thereby jeopardising the alliance and the long-term objective of ousting the Communist Party of India (Marxists) from power.


After a depressing year of retreat and failure, with the West Bengal Government immobilised by the CPI(M)’s political failures and the proportionate success of the Trinamool Congress, the decision to jointly relaunch the offensive to halt the dizzy downward spiral is a refreshing change. For one year, the aftermath of the Nano shut down and the Nandigram operations, followed by the Lalgarh ‘situation’ with its complicated mix of grievances, politics and anti-insurgency security operations, has spread gloom and doom over West Bengal.


If the West Bengal Government and CPI(M) succeed in the Infosys-Wipro retention exercise, the political dynamics would change. Till now, the West Bengal Government has operated separately and received confused support from CPI(M). This retention exercise is different because, the announcement for the rescue operation was made by the Chief Minister, at a hastily convened Press conference at the CPI(M)’s State headquarters in Alimuddin Street. The signal that seems to have been sent out is that instead of Mr Bhattacharjee fighting a lone battle, the CPI(M) is underwriting his plans for West Bengal’s economic transformation. The last time this happened was when Mr Bhattacharjee announced the Nano project by Tata Motors in May 2006.


The need for the West Bengal Government and the CPI(M) to get their acts together and bring some coordination into the game has been obvious for several years. The absence of a combined effort was evident before 2006, when Mr Bhattacharjee went ahead with plans to develop with Indonesian conglomerate Salim’s investment a health city and knowledge park in South 24 Parganas, the petroleum and chemicals manufacturing hub under the Special Economic Zone with the same investor and a toll road and a toll bridge too.


Within the CPI(M) and certainly within the Left Front, his plans were not welcome and there was internal bickering. It was then said that each time Mr Bhattacharjee, politically, blundered he was bailed out by the CPI(M)’s late Anil Biswas, in his capacity as State party boss.


Post-2006 elections, the scene changed. Biswas passed away, his successor Biman Bose was an uncertain manager and Mr Bhattacharjee lacked political skills to respond to the rumblings that enabled Ms Banerjee to eventually shut down the Nano factory weeks before the car was slated to roll out.


Mr Bhattacharjee’s declaration on Infosys-Wipro is the first step in a different direction. This could sound the call for a regrouping of forces within the CPI (M) and signal the revival of the ‘vision’ statement that turned the Chief Minister into a poster boy for educated aspiring youth and their families. The decision to find alternative land for investment to restart the process of investment and take on the Trinamool Congress over the politically explosive land issue has come at a politically opportune moment.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

HIJACKING HUMAN RIGHTS

JACOB MCHANGAMA


Human rights have helped secure liberty and the rule of law for millions of people, but extending them to nebulous concepts such as climate change is indeed nonsensical


Traditionally, human rights were meant to protect individual freedoms from Governments, for example outlawing torture and restrictions on free speech. The UN and activists, however, have inflated them over the years to cover ideas ranging from housing to a clean environment - perversely threatening real rights.


The latest example is climate change, undermining “the full and effective enjoyment of human rights” by jeopardising food and health, the latest draft for the international summit in Copenhagen in December says. This linkage comes straight from the UN’s discredited Human Rights Council, dominated by countries like Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.


Pressure group Friends of the Earth makes clear that this means that any developed country not signing up to a Copenhagen treaty will be violating human rights: “The legal and moral responsibility for urgent meaningful action rests firmly on the shoulders of the rich, industrialised countries whose over-consumption of fossil fuels and promotion of particular development paradigms has caused the climate crisis we all face.”


The FoE statement forecasts “massive human rights violations impacting on the world’s most impoverished people...” Greenpeace says “climate change... is the most important economic issue of our time, and indeed a human rights issue.” For activists it would indeed be a great coup to give their agenda a legal, human-rights, standing — and the prospect of cash is attractive to such backers as India, playing a clever game in climate negotiations.

The 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously declared human rights to be “nonsense on stilts,” meaning they could neither be natural nor inalienable but had to be agreed and enforced. While the principles of human rights have helped secure liberty and the rule of law for millions of people, extending them to nebulous concepts such as climate change is indeed nonsensical.


For rights to have meaning, it must be clear what they are and who is responsible for upholding them. Take free speech: If a Government arrests a dissident for peaceful statements or thoughts, it is clearly breaching human rights.

The right to a clean environment or health and education are far less definable. Also, if people have a right to these things, others must provide them: In practice, collectively via Governments. Such ‘positive rights’ are therefore really a call for state intervention, at the expense of other priorities and freedoms.


As acknowledged even by the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, there is no way of determining which individual, organisation or Government is to blame in the event of any climate-related disaster. Although many experts agree that humans are affecting the climate, there is little agreement on the degree or outcome. And how does one determine if a drought in China or a flood on a Pacific island is entirely caused by man-made climate change?

If — implausibly — scientists did determine that the natural disaster was solely the result of human carbon dioxide emissions, which particular Government should be held liable?

For matters such as free speech and torture, rights are important for protecting individuals from the nefarious practices of Governments. But elevating complicated concepts such as health and the environment to human-rights status merely over-simplifies the economic and scientific issues.


So far, defenders of traditional human rights have been reluctant to criticise this political agenda: No-one wants to be perceived as being against not only the environment but also human rights. That is why countries such as Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands signed up to the HRC statement with repressive Albania, Bulgaria and Syria.

But there is a real danger to human rights from this false cry: The enormous cost of proposals to halt climate change. They would prolong the world recession and prevent the growth that is the only way for the poor to get better health, living standards and education - which human-rights activists insist Governments must provide.


This campaign also devalues true human rights. The Maldives is one of the main backers of climate change as a human-rights issue, while arbitrarily arresting citizens and censoring the Press. While the deeply politicised HRC is keen to stretch its mandate to cover climate change, it has refused to condemn Sudan for the atrocities in Darfur and has passed several resolutions on “combating defamation of religion,” which stifle freedom of speech and strengthen oppressive laws.


As they prepare for one of the most important climate change summits ever, negotiators should reject the human rights approach to climate change as “nonsense on stilts” and stick to what can and cannot be done.


The writer is head of legal affairs at CEPOS, a Danish think tank and an external lecturer of international human rights law at the University of Copenhagen.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

RUSSIA PREVAILS OVER US ON DEFENCE SHIELD

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SHELVES THE MISSILE DEFENCE POLICY FOR CENTRAL EUROPE, WRITES ROLAND OLIPHANT


With very carefully chosen words, US President Barack Obama on September 17 announced his administration’s decision to change US missile defence policy. Instead of building a land-based anti-ICBM system in central Europe, a sea-and-land-based system designed to counter short and medium-range missiles will be positioned further south, closer to Iran. Though he barely mentioned it, the policy shift also removed the greatest single thorn in the side of US-Russian relations.


The news threw the Russian and international Press into a frenzy, for experts it was long expected. Several Russia-watchers have in recent weeks mentioned that the American Administration was considering putting a halt to the missile defence plans, which had been pushed vigorously by the previous administration.


The Bush Administration always argued that the proposed radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland were needed to guard against the threat of long-range missiles, possibly carrying nuclear warheads, being fired from Iran. And, according to the Wall Street Journal article that broke the story, Mr Obama’s decision to “shelve” the plans was to be justified on the grounds that “Iran’s long-range missile programme has not progressed as previously estimated.” Relations with Russia were not to be mentioned, or at least as little as possible.


As expected, when President Obama spoke to the Press on Thursday, he did not speak about shelving or abandoning anything, but adopting a “new missile defence programme,” based on “proven and cost effective technology” that will “better counter the current threat.” It was, he said, “more extensive” than the previous programme involving the Czech Republic and Poland.


And, to be fair, there is something to that. Experts have been expecting this announcement for some time for two reasons, and neither involves Russia. Firstly, the project would be hugely expensive, and demanded a very long term commitment of resources for development. “A workable missile defence system does not yet exist,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the foreign policy journal Russia in Global Affairs. “To take political risks for a system that does not exist so far was probably not seen as the best way forward.”


Secondly, regardless of costs and development, the strategic value of the project was always questionable. “It wouldn’t cover the whole territory of Europe, and even from the American point of view the location was not ideal,” said Oksana Antonenko of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. According to Antonenko, the strategic debate has already shifted to installing systems closer to Iran. “Israel, or possibly Turkey …there are areas where missile systems with existing capabilities would make more sense.”


But appeasing — or at least pleasing — Russia will not have been absent from the calculations in Washington, though it is an aspect the Obama Administration will be keen to play down. “I can imagine that the main line of criticism against Mr Obama’s decision will be that he demonstrated and gave up to Russian expansionism and abandoned allies like Poland and the Czech Republic,” said Lukyanov.


But in Russia it may not be seen as a ‘concession’ so much as a return to ‘common sense’, which according to Antonenko, is exactly what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told an audience at the Valdai Club of Russia experts last week. “The attitude is, well, you know you made a mistake, now you are putting it right,” she said.

 

The danger of that is the two sides could fall “into the same trap as in 2001, but in reverse,” said Lyukanov, referring to Russia’s offering America access to Central Asia, and the United States’ subsequent failure to offer a quid pro quo. “Then-President Vladimir Putin thought that was a great concession and a very serious gesture, whereas the feeling in America was that the Russians were not doing anything that was not in their own national interests,” recalled Lyukanov. That misunderstanding is said to have caused serious disappointment in the Kremlin, and to have contributed to Mr Putin’s more confrontational attitude to the US later in his presidency.


It would be naïve to expect a direct quid pro quo, and the one area where the Americans have the greatest hope of reciprocation — Iran — is unlikely to yield much.


The writer is is a political affairs analyst with Russia Profile magazine.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

BYPOLL BLUES

 

The results of byelections held since August in 49 assembly constituencies spread across 12 states must serve as a wake-up call for the Congress. Despite the crisis in the BJP, it has fared reasonably well and has won more seats than the Congress. While the Congress lost seven of the seats it held among the 49 that went to polls, the BJP tally went up by five.


What explains the Congress reverses, coming four months after its remarkable success in the general elections? The political dynamic of a general election and assembly polls, particularly byelections, is very different. Local factors development record of the administration, selection of candidates etc influence byelection outcomes more than national issues. Yet, the reverses suffered by the Congress in Delhi, UP and Gujarat and the Janata Dal (United) in Bihar were unexpected and, in many ways, instructive. Clearly, these parties failed to read the mood of the voters correctly and underestimated the ability of their rivals to regroup after the general election defeat. The JD(U), in particular, was impervious to the logic of its past electoral success. People supported the party because it promised to shift the paradigm of Bihar politics from the cynical identity management games conducted by Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) to matters of governance. Many of the JD(U) candidates who lost were RJD turncoats who had moved over to JD(U) after the general election. However, the BJP Nitish's ally in Bihar managed to retain its three seats.


The results are also a reflection of the organisational capabilities of the Congress and the BJP. The Congress was successful in projecting a united and credible leadership at the Centre while the BJP's central leadership appeared to be a confused and divided lot. This influenced the general election results. However, the picture is different in the states. Despite the ideological confusion at the top, the BJP doesn't appear to have lost ground in its strongholds. The success in Gujarat where the party won seats from the Congress and Madhya Pradesh indicates that its organisational clout has not suffered. In contrast, the Congress is yet to rebuild its organisation in states like Gujarat and UP. The party failed to win a single seat in UP where it had done reasonably well in the general election. In the absence of a well-oiled party organisation, it is difficult to sustain electoral success. And, that's what helped the BSP to bounce back in UP.


The big battle will be fought in Maharashtra and Haryana, two states that have Congress governments, where elections are due. Congress can't afford a repeat of the byelections in these two strongholds.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

GREENING UP

 

The minister for environment and forests might appear to be grandstanding by declaring that India is willing to specify the amount of emissions it could cut to demonstrate its green credentials. Yet, the political rhetoric does indeed reveal a milestone achievement in the way India has evolved from a diffident bystander at international climate change meets to a more vocal and confident frontline participant.


This is a good sign, since India badly needed a makeover of its negotiating profile in order to be heard at international climate change meetings, particularly since there is mounting pressure from developed countries to include emerging economies like India and China in an emissions reduction protocol that would be time-bound and mandatory. All along, the focus in India has been more on adaptation to the effects of climate change for instance on how to face the challenges of environmental degradation, changing crop patterns and vanishing habitats. The official approach to climate change is now beginning to seriously consider effective mitigation measures that would result not only in reducing dependence on conventional fossil fuel and oil imports but also expanding and intensifying investment in alternative clean energy solutions.


In continuation of India taking a broader perspective on measures to reduce the phenomenon of global warming, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the government proposes to set up a national climate change mitigation authority (NCCMA). This body would assign and monitor aspirational green targets to be achieved by the year 2020 towards reducing India's greenhouse gas emissions. The NCCMA's guidelines would complement or get included in the proposals spelt out in the prime minister's National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) formulated in 2008.


By addressing the climate change issue from the perspectives of both adaptation and mitigation, India is taking a more balanced approach to finding solutions to the global warming phenomenon. Although many aspects of the NCCMA's proposals find mention in the NAPCC, by instituting an authority dedicated to encouraging and monitoring green initiatives as well as suggesting model emissions targets, the government of India is demonstrating its green commitment in tune with the prevailing international sentiments on an inclusive agenda for all.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR

 

Seoul: To listen to scholars, journalists and politicians from Japan and South Korea discuss what China's emergence as a world power means to them is a sobering experience for an Indian. Their thoughtful analyses, presented at a forum hosted by the influential newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, focused on present and future opportunities and challenges rather than on past fears and animosities. This is in sharp contrast to the discourses on China one hears in the corridors of power and influence in New Delhi.


Let us leave aside the Left parties who, given their congenital anti-Americanism, disregard China's sustained efforts to make life difficult for India. It has gained a foothold in our neighbourhood; it has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean; it frowns at our nuclear power status; it opposes India's legitimate quest to gain the permanent membership of the UN Security Council; it shows no genuine interest to solve the boundary issue.

However, important sections of the Indian establishment, unable to forget or forgive China's aggression in 1962, and convinced about that country's expansionist designs, are still wary of a serious engagement with our northern neighbour. They appear to envy China's stupendous achievements in every conceivable field of endeavour bar its political system. Envy, in turn, generates suspicions about its real as against its stated ambitions.

None of this figures in Japanese and South Korean assessments of China. For both, that country's rise to economic, military and even cultural pre-eminence is no more and no less than a fact of life, a reality that needs to be acknowledged, accepted and respected in order to develop mutually beneficial relations. Indeed, China, now poised to become the second most important nation in the world in GDP terms, is destined to grow stronger and stronger in the years ahead.


One paper presented at the forum listed China's plans to expand its economy between now and 2020. They make an Indian squirm in his seat with embarrassment. During the next decade, China hopes to build 500 coal-fired plans, 97 new airports (bringing the total to 244), thousands of kilometres of roads and railways and an ever more extensive communication network. At the end of this period the country will have 160 cities with a population of more than one million as against nine in the US and two in the UK.


To sustain this pace of growth, China leaves no stone unturned to gain access to energy resources and raw materials. Already the country is either the first or the second consumer of most commodities. It is first for nickel, copper, aluminium, zinc, steel, coal, sea-borne iron ore and tin and second for oil and lead.


Coupled with this aggressive buying are China's efforts to enlarge its trained manpower. The figures here are equally revealing. In 1977, 2,70,000 students graduated from Chinese universities. Thirty years later the number stood at 5.7 million. In 2008, China boasted of 30,000 fresh MBAs. Thirty years earlier the number hold your breath was zero. Add to this some 7,00,000 new engineers who join the workforce every year.

 

Realising the potential of the Chinese market, Tokyo and Seoul moved swiftly to do business with Beijing. Growing economic interdependence gradually paved the way for a better understanding of how the three countries should address their security concerns. Both Tokyo and Seoul are fully aware that their biggest security challenge North Korea cannot be met without the active connivance of Beijing. Its considerable influence in Pyongyang is required to check that country's nuclear weapons ambitions and indeed even to help determine the future course of North Korea once Kim Jong-Il dies.


Therefore, without in any way minimising the problems facing China on the home front seething discontent in Tibet and Xinjiang and social tensions caused by unemployment, regional disparities, large-scale corruption and the grip of the Communist Party on public life they avoid doing anything that might needlessly irk the Chinese. However, both Japan and South Korea are firmly opposed to China's efforts to persuade the two countries to distance themselves from the United States. And this on the grounds that America makes a to-do about human rights, supports the separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang, denies advanced weaponry to modernise the Chinese military and often resorts to unfair trade practices.


To this a Japanese editor gave a telling rejoinder: ''When Japan takes actions either together with the US, or with US backing, China tends to listen to what Japan has to say. If Japan does not have that support, China is unlikely to listen to it.'' That holds good for South Korea too. Under no circumstance is it prepared to loosen its alliance with the US. What these experts propose instead is that the US, China, Japan and South Korea engage in sustained, multi-cornered parleys to address issues of common interest and concern. That alone can reassure Beijing that its neighbours and America are not in cahoots to encircle it. Is New Delhi listening?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'INDIA SHOULD NOT IMITATE THE WEST'

BY 2050, THREE-QUARTERS OF HUMANITY WILL BE STAYING IN CITIES. WITH GLOBAL WARMING THREATENING THE WORLD, BUILDING ECO-FRIENDLY 'GREEN CITIES' HAS BECOME A CHALLENGE FOR URBAN PLANNERS AND ARCHITECTS. DIETMAR EBERLE FROM THE FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (ETH), ZURICH, HAS MADE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS IN THIS ARENA, DESIGNING INNOVATIVE BUILDINGS IN SEVERAL EUROPEAN AND CHINESE CITIES. HE DISCUSSED THESE ISSUES WITH SUBODH VARMA:

What is a 'green city'?

It is a city where a proper balance between good standard of living and low primary energy demand has been achieved. In a building we work for optimal temperature, humidity, acoustics, layout, etc. In a city, more complex issues like transport, waste disposal, utilities, as also the education, health, history and identity of the people have to be dealt with. There is no ideal green city in the world today, but many are striving and making progress towards a better balance.


Can mega-cities like Delhi or Mumbai become green?

A megacity is actually made up of several smaller units districts or communities. It is like a collage. Each unit has it's own life. So, let us not get overawed by size. If we address each of the units separately, and improve the quality of life in it then it will all add up. Why do people have to commute long distances for work? We can develop a system where they can comfortably walk down to their workplace. If people are given the responsibility they will respond positively and make efforts to build such a society.


Cities in India have a large number of poor people. How can a balance between energy use and providing better facilities for them be maintained?


This can be done by a two-pronged strategy. One part should be reducing energy consumption by the affluent sections. They must take a fresh look at their energy consumption and do away with wasteful components. The other part should be providing additional energy for the poor, including energy generated by using new technologies. Optimal combinations of various options like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc can be used. The additional energy directed towards the urban poor will improve their quality of life through better homes, more water and electricity and better health and education. The same principle applies for international efforts to control carbon emissions advanced countries should cut emissions drastically while developing countries like India can increase to an optimal level, harnessing new technologies.


Where will the resources for meeting the costs for this come from?

Education is the primary and essential prerequisite. Once the feelings, desires and knowledge of people are oriented towards bringing about a change in the way we have lived so far, then the means for building a better life will be found. India does not have to make the same mistakes that we in the West have made. It should not imitate the West, which has become locked in a destructive lifestyle. Now, a lot of effort is needed to educate the people there.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

BLONDES & SURDIES

 

What do blondes, Jews, Sardars and Gujaratis have in common? The answer of course is that people make jokes about them. The supposedly 'dumb' blonde is a frequent butt of jokes in the Anglo-Saxon world. Why did the blonde draw the curtains? Because she was afraid that the neighbours might see her change her mind.


Why pick on blondes? There is nothing to suggest that fair-haired women (male blonds are never the subject of jokes) are mentally deficient as compared with their brunette counterparts. So why this jokey creation of a popular myth about the blonde's brainlessness? The answer seems to lie in the perception that men find blondes more attractive than they do women of other hair-colouring. As the title of the Hollywood film has it, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.


Whether or not this is true, there is another factor at work here. Quasi-scientific studies suggest that, in the next few decades, blondes may become an extinct species, thanks to the increasing incidence of inter-racial marriage or at least breeding which will gradually eliminate the pigmentationally weaker fair-haired gene in preference for the stronger dark-haired gene. This gives blondes a rarity value, and hence a real or imaginary advantage over other women in the mating game. This in turn leads to a subconscious envy of the blonde, who is made the subject of jokes so as to whittle her down to size: laughter is an antidote to anxiety and fear; we laugh at those who, rightly or wrongly, we perceive to be more powerful, more successful, or more desirable than us. Laughter is an antacid against corrosive envy, and a restorer of our self-esteem. Sure, blondes may be sexier (more successful in reproductive competition). But we darkies are smarter. So there.


Similarly, other groups of people who are, or traditionally have been, envied or feared find themselves an inspiration for barbed humour: the greater the envy they willy-nilly generate, the bigger the barb. Age-old moneylenders to the world, with the capacity to finance kings and king-makers, the Jews have in the Christian world always faced a deep current of anti-Semitism, the least objectionable of which are jokes at their expense (generally to do with their alleged meanness in money matters). In fact, Jew jokes cruel as they might sound against the murderous backdrop of the Holocaust could help to deflect more violent expressions of anti-Semitism. Better a 'kike' joke any day, than Auschwitz.


Immigrant communities people who have literally the get up and go to seek a livelihood in far-flung places are inevitably feared by the native populace who apprehend that the newcomers will take their jobs or businesses away from them through dint of greater energy, enterprise or acumen, or simply because they'll work for lower wages.

In India, arguably three of the most visibly enterprising communities, each in its own way, are the Sikhs, the Gujaratis and the Marwaris. The cartoon showing American astronauts landing on the Moon only to find a Sardarji who offers them an omelette from the tea shop he has already set up there, says it all. Wherever you are, wherever you go, the chances are a Sardarji has got there before you. If you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em. How? By telling a Surdie joke. What else?


Much the same goes for Gujaratis and Marwaris (respectively known in joke-lore as Gujjus and Marrus). The economic stature they have achieved, in India and abroad, is so great that the rest of us feel it necessary occasionally to lampoon them through the downsizing, distorting mirror of humour.


From blondes to Surdies, the subjects of jokes are invariably those whom people envy. So don't worry if the joke's on you. Treat it as a left-handed compliment. Indeed, it's only if you aren't being made fun of that you should worry. Are you really that unenviable?

 

jug.suraiya@timesgroup.com

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

 

TRUE LIES: POLYGRAPH KA SACH

 

"Kya aapne aapke mangetar ke saath bewafai kee hai" (Have you cheated on your fiance), asked the anchor. The contestant a young lady weighed the question for a while and then said, "Yes!" The answer was correct and she crossed one more hurdle to winning a crore, even as the fiance absorbed the shock of the unsavoury revelation. Actually, once the question had been popped, it was in her interest to tell the truth for a lie could be nailed by the polygraph machine. To be sure, the reality TV show 'Sach Ka Saamna' had its positive side. It encouraged contestants to tell the truth and the rewards were not only monetary, but also psychological and social. For airing one's dark motives, infidelities and hurts buried deep inside can take a load off one's conscience and put the relationships on firmer ground. However, the flip side is that the crucible the polygraph test on which the show relies, is far from being foolproof. The test is based on the premise that when a person tells a lie his physiological responses are different than when he speaks the truth. However, its reliability remains questionable. Various studies have put its accuracy between 80 and 95 per cent. But what is worse, in its 2003 report on the subject, the National Association of Sciences of the USA found that the majority of polygraph research was 'unreliable, unscientific and biased'.


Even the most ardent supporters of the polygraph test concede that it is possible to cheat the machine. Aldrich Ames, the CIA counterintelligence officer who was convicted for spying for Soviet Union and later Russia, passed several such tests. There are several such examples. In other words, the machine can also lie. Not because it isn't smart but because, one, different people react differently to lying and two, the physiological responses that are identified with a falsehood can also be triggered by a host of other reasons nervousness, anxiety and stress. It doesn't help that in the end the examiner's interpretation is subjective. Surfing on the Net, one comes across many personal cases in which a false polygraph test verdict ruined perfectly sound relationships. Is it a good reason to ban the show from ever returning for a second season? Certainly not, but considering that the spirit of scientific enquiry is hardly the forte of our society, no harm would be done if a cautionary warning about the limitations of the polygraph test was displayed before each episode.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

PENNY FOR THAT POUND

 

It seems the current austerity drive vis-à-vis air travel is not only limited to deciding who gets to snooze in the ‘cattle’ or ‘castle’ class; its effect seems to be slowly creeping into the luggage hold as well. If the bug spreads, very soon, only the well-heeled will be able to carry that extra packet of Haldiram’s savouries or Hawkins pressure cookers for desi clansmen on the East Coast. American Airlines, one of the US’s biggest carriers, has finally brought the concept of paying for checked-in baggage to Indian shores. After the first ‘free’ checked-in piece of luggage, the airline will now charge $50 for the second bag and $150 for the third one. So, pack in those in-flight free beers if you will, but do be careful about how much you pack in that checked-in case.

 

As the frills come off one by one, an entire generation of flyers is being forced to deal with the harassed airlines’ new au naturel avatar, what with budget carriers charging for everything from half a soggy cookie to a sip of water. Now, in addition to rules that govern the shapes and sizes of our scruffy VIPs or ritzy Vuittons, we’re being forced to shell out a ransom for their contents.

 

Given that airlines are fed up with high fuel costs and exorbitant parking charges, one wonders if the dimensionally-enhanced might soon be charged for parking that posterior if the numbers on the weighing scale don’t agree with company policy. If we agree with the principle that we can’t make heavy weather out of airline policy, we must insist that it works both ways. So, perhaps it’s time for the vertically and horizontally well-proportioned to start demanding discounts of their own.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TALKING TERMS IN KASHMIR

 

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of Kashmir’s All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is known to speak his mind. But even so, his statement that the “time to be anti-India is over” will set the dovecotes aflutter in the troubled state, not to mention in Pakistan. The Mirwaiz is, if nothing else, a pragmatist, something that has set him apart from the usual fire and brimstone Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir. New Delhi, which has not been able to come up with any fresh thinking on the issue — despite Omar Abdullah taking over the reins of the state — should waste no time in holding out the olive branch to the Mirwaiz and his considerable number of supporters.

 

The solution that he is looking for is on the usual lines — demilitarisation, self-governance and better people-to-people contact with other parts of Kashmir (PoK included). His assertion that he has no intention of embarrassing India at the upcoming Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meet is another signal that he means business. The OIC is traditionally a platform for India-bashing, led by Pakistan and endorsed by many that New Delhi considers its friends. He had put the ball in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s court quite a while ago when he said that Mr Singh had the mandate to make peace. The Mirwaiz enjoys greater legitimacy in Kashmir than the run-of-the-mill politician in that he is a spiritual head as well. This has, time and again, countered the influence of hardline Islamists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. That the Mirwaiz has spoken of dialogue in a state where the very mention of the ‘D’ word would have brought charged crowds out into the streets suggests that he senses that the mood is shifting away from the separatists.

 

The younger people of the state, while still dreaming of independence, are not unaware of the benefits to be had from an economically resurgent India. Pakistan, for all its bluster about espousing the cause of Kashmiris, has nothing much to offer, given the precarious condition it is in today. This is a chance that the Centre cannot afford to fritter away. Kashmir’s story has been one of missed opportunities. The conditions today are more conducive than ever before. Given the influence wielded by the Mirwaiz, the hopes in a youthful chief minister and a far-sighted prime minister, Kashmir could well turn the corner sooner than we think.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CHINA SYNDROME

 

The prime minister, the national security adviser, the army chief and the foreign secretary all had to speak up, within a span of 48 hours, to cool the China discourse that was drifting dangerously over the last few weeks. Their intervention might have arrested the escalating tensions with Beijing; but there is nothing to suggest that our system is ready to address the three structural reasons for the malaise at hand.

 

First, the prime minister and his team rightly pointed to the aggressive hype from a section of the media. But where was the government before it was compelled to intervene at the highest level? Everyone — from junior officials on the ground to the top guns at the Centre — seems to speak to every item on the scroll running at the bottom of our TV screens. Yet there is not one authoritative voice — either political or bureaucratic — in this government that is charged with offering clarification, let alone spin, on the “breaking news” of the day. Second is the dark veil that the government has thrown over the nature of our boundary dispute with China and the negotiations to resolve them. Our China chaos will continue until the government learns to be transparent and educates our chattering classes about the complexities of our northern frontiers.

 

Finally, since the normalisation of relations with Beijing began in the late ’80s, New Delhi tended to cloak bilateral difficulties with such vacuous slogans as “Asian solidarity” and “multipolarity”. Deluding itself, New Delhi could not and did not see the very visible and breathtaking Chinese plans to modernise the transport infrastructure in Xinjiang and Tibet across the Himalayas. This included the extension of rail networks to Kashgar and Lhasa, new roads all along the 4000 km border. Taking full advantage of the new infrastructure, the PLA launched aggressive patrolling of the frontier and a vigorous assertion of its territorial claims. Shaken out of its slumber a few years ago, the UPA government ordered the much-delayed modernisation of the transport infrastructure on our side of the border. Typically, very few of those plans have moved forward and no one in the government seems accountable for those projects. India must talk less and do more, on a war footing, to improve the nation’s access — both military and market — to the China frontier. Otherwise, there will remain fertile conditions for hawkish posturing at home and unpreparedness on the border.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ACCIDENTAL CANDIDATE

 

It is too early to say whether Kalavati has a future in Maharashtra politics, and certainly her political interventions as yet give no reason to see her as a game-changing debutant. Nonetheless, her candidature has added spin to the assembly elections. Kalavati, widow of a debt-stricken Vidarbha farmer, was plucked out of her “aam admi” obscurity in the Lok Sabha debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal in the summer of 2008 in which the first UPA government proved its majority in the House after the Left parties withdrew support. Profiled in Rahul Gandhi’s much-interrupted intervention, she has since reappeared in the news with a litany of complaints about promises unkept to make her life easier. Now, she says she will make a bid for the Maharashtra assembly on a Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti ticket.

 

Kalavati’s appeal for a political party is easy to gauge: name recall and her guaranteed association with the Congress’s top leadership. During that Lok Sabha trust vote, Gandhi’s forceful — and good-humoured — focus on her circumstances was part of an argument to highlight the need for electricity to light up huts like Kalavati’s. That spotlight ensured that overnight reporters arrived at her hut in Jalka village of Yavatmal district to get a reaction firsthand from the woman who had earlier hosted the Congress leader. Since then, Kalavati’s appearances in media reports became somewhat more contested, as she listed her grievances with the system, and in turn lists of the aid and assistance she had got were put out. Now, as she makes an electoral pitch by seeking to espouse Vidarbha’s farm issues, the calculators are out in an effort to see if she can split the pro- and anti-Congress vote.

 

But beyond their actual electoral progress, accidental politicians like Kalavati can be valuable profiles to understand key issues about political representation. She may yet prove her critics wrong that she has over-leveraged her inadvertent celebrity, if it may be so called. But, in her strikingly innocent manner of using that Lok Sabha speech to get assistance and political mileage, she shows how the system can require recommendation from “above” to hear out a citizen in distress. Kalavati’s story, clearly, is very much a work in progress.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COLOUR CODED

 

Clashes and chaos, coups and counter-coups and consecutive constitutions have characterised Thailand’s political stalemate. The recent protests marking the third anniversary of the coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra from the prime ministership have brought the pro-Thaksin red shirts to the streets highlighting yet again the deep divisions in Thai society.

 

Shinawatra is deeply popular in Thailand’s north for his populist policies. Brought to power in landslide election victories in 2001 and 2005, he was ousted in a military coup while he was on a visit to the UN General Assembly. Currently in exile following a court sentence that charges him with “conflict of interest in relation to a land purchase scandal”, he continues to egg supporters on from an undisclosed location. The red shirts maintain that democracy has been held hostage by Bangkok’s royalist elite who enjoy the support of the judiciary and military. As the rift between the two factions deepens, one cannot but remember the chaos Bangkok has been subjected to in the past year. One protest led to the removal of an elected prime minister and the other brought the country to its knees as Bangkok’s international airport came to a standstill due to a sit-in by royalist yellow-shirt protestors.

 

The political system now once again stands challenged as demands for the current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to resign echo from various segments of society. As the situation intensifies eyes are upon the aging King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He has reigned for over six decades and has served as the head of state through more than a dozen attempted or successful coups and constitutions. As the king has traditionally stayed out of politics and continues to maintain that the current political conundrum can only be addressed constitutionally, the red shirts maintain that this position has allowed for the further entrenchment of elitist power. Therefore, till something gives, the stalemate will be far from broken.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

PICK A NEW ORBIT

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

Three recent developments — the resurrection of the controversy over the yield of India’s sole hydrogen bomb test in 1998, the reports on the expansion of Pakistan’s atomic arsenal and the renewed apprehension about American pressures on various international arms control treaties — have seen a nervous New Delhi walk the well-trodden nuclear ground all over again. India’s obsession with debating the familiar prevents it from addressing new challenges.

 

In the late ’50s and early ’60s, when China was racing to become a nuclear weapon power, India devoted its energies to promoting global nuclear peace. One would have thought the border conflict with China in 1962 and China’s first nuclear test in October 1964 would have cured India of its nuclear non-sequiturs.

 

Instead, India embarked on a diplomatic campaign for a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. When India did respond finally in 1974 with a nuclear test of its own, it chose to call it a “peaceful” device and did nothing to launch a nuclear weapons programme.

 

Having broken up Pakistan in 1971 and conducted a nuclear test in 1974, India did not anticipate the response of Islamabad and Beijing, who had no reason to buy into New Delhi’s metaphysics on Pokharan-I. As New Delhi “stood up” to international pressures, Beijing decisively assisted Pakistan in acquiring nuclear weapons and missiles.

 

After Pokharan-I, India wasted nearly a quarter century posturing on universal disarmament and non-discriminatory non-proliferation, before testing again, declaring itself a nuclear weapon state and seeking nuclear reconciliation with the world.

When then-US President George W. Bush offered a sweetheart deal that would allow India to keep its nuclear weapons programme and regain access to the global nuclear market without signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, India spent three years agonising if it was a “gift horse” or a “Trojan horse”.

 

The story of India’s nuclear iner-tia continues with the current debate on the fizzle. Only one good may come out of the debate — burying the proposition that everything a “scientist” says must be “true”. As our “scientists” argue viscerally with each other, it should be quite obvious that science policy is as much about politics — personal, institutional and ideological — as it is about science.

 

The arguments about the fizzle are interesting but do not alter the fundamentals of the Indian strategy of nuclear deterrence, which rests on the ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons. The hydrogen bomb’s main distinction is the massive size of the explosion it offers. The business of nuclear deterrence, however, is all about the certain delivery of the bang and not its size.

 

On Pakistan too, India’s real problem is not with the size of its nuclear arsenal. It is our inability to deter Pakistan from running its unconventional war of terror against us. Pakistan is supremely confident that its nuclear arsenal — irrespective of its size — has neutered

 

India’s conventional military superiority and New Delhi’s ability to punish Islamabad’s transgressions.

 

Nor does the H-bomb debate have anything to do with India’s position on testing nuclear weapons or signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The decision to test was and will always be a political one. At this stage, India has no incentive at all to break the current de facto moratorium on nuclear tests being observed by major powers. That context would of course change if Beijing, Moscow or Washington resumes testing of nuclear weapons.

 

On the presumed American pressure to sign the NPT, CTBT, and the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty, the problems are all in our mind. If a much weaker India could not be coerced into signing the treaties it did not like between the ’60s and ’90s, where is the question of a rising India signing on the dotted line now? Must India jump every time the UN says something about universalising the NPT? Should we press the US to caveat all its references to NPT with a clarification that this does not apply to India? Can’t India differentiate between international rhetoric and policy?

 

But even a paranoid has enemies. There are many second order nuclear issues that our security establishment must address and resolve; but those are not the ones being debated today.

 

One is about the ability of the DAE and the DRDO to keep our nuclear arsenal in good trim, and ensure its safety and reliability. New Delhi must ask for a review of and full support for plans to create computer simulation of nuclear weapons testing and design. Instead of agonising over the H-bomb “fizzle”, New Delhi and Mumbai must put more resources to fusion research, especially the one involving high energy lasers.

 

Rather than worry about the CTBT, we must ask if the DAE and DRDO have the ability to conduct sub-critical nuclear tests that are legitimate under the treaty. And if they do, what is holding them back? Is it the absence of political will? On the FMCT, our speeches at New York and Geneva are less important than asking if the DAE makes the best use of its current stockpiles of unsafeguarded plutonium. It is about ending the extended delays in reprocessing accumulated spent fuel stocks.

 

None of these second order nuclear problems compares with our real challenges of deterrence. One is about preventing Pakistan from organising and supporting Mumbai-style terror attacks on India under the shadow of nuclear weapons. The other is about Beijing’s rapidly widening lead in missile and space technologies.

 

Addressing these challenges would necessarily involve a new national debate on what other great powers are calling the “new nuclear triad” — stronger conventional deterrence, theatre missile defences and a sophisticated infrastructure that can respond to the emerging atomic threats. It is to that debate that India must now turn.

 

The writer is the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC express@expressindia.com

 

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

‘I AM VERY ANGRY WITH SC SAYING IF GOVT TELLS US TO DISCLOSE (ASSETS) WE WILL DISCLOSE. THAT’S WHAT GOVT WANTS — IT WANTS TO CONTROL THE JUDGES’

 

Eminent jurist Fali S Nariman feels that though the Bar has no veto, it has every right to caution judges. In this interaction with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7’s Walk the Talk, Nariman says the time has come to have a judicial ombudsman and unless a judge has the image of the institution in his mind, there’s no point in being an SC judge

 

Shekhar Gupta: Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk and my guest this week, well, not only the most respected voices in the business of law and justice and delivery of law and justice in India but worldwide and also if I may say, undoubtedly my most famous neighbour, Fali Nariman, welcome to Walk the Talk.

 

Fali S Nariman: Thank you, thank you.

 

Shekhar Gupta: We have planned to do this many times and we kept on thinking of the right moment.

 

Fali S Nariman: That is because we are neighbours.

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is because we are neighbours. We take each other for granted. But this is as good a moment as any, to look back on so many years.

 

Fali S Nariman: Oh, yes. Absolutely. That is correct. We have been law since August 1975 and we have never regretted it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And you have been in the business of law now for half a century.

 

Fali S Nariman: Almost 59 years, to be exact.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So next year is the diamond jubilee..? But you have seen a lot change?

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, of course. I think that is perhaps the sin of the old days, that you look back and say, ah! Those days were much better.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Fali you are not allowed to say old days because I was going to ask you many questions about how you stay ageless, because you are inspiration to all of us who are getting there.

 

Fali S Nariman: I am old. I am very ancient, I am very ancient.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You have seen so many turning points in the history of Indian judiciary, ‘75 to the end of emergency being one and now being another. Both sort of historic but in different ways.

 

Fali S Nariman: You see the emergency was an entirely different situation and perhaps it was in a sense in retrospect, since it lasted fo4r only a year and a half…

 

Shekhar Gupta: But didn’t look like a short while then?

Fali S Nariman: Didn’t look like a short while then but it was a good thing for us. It was an inoculation, in my opinion, against tyrannical rule. And I don’t think we will ever, at least for the next 50 years, face that same situation where we would have rule without law. That is where the thing breaks down. Even benevolent rule without law, I think, is an anathema.

 

Shekhar Gupta: When you see inoculation, what you mean is that it sort of released the antibodies in our

constitutional and democratic system>

 

Fali S Nariman: I think we worked best, you know, be it lawyers, judges, just imagine…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Don’t forget the media…

 

Fali S Nariman: And the media. But no that is a post emergency phenomenon, I must tell you. You see, it is the lawyers and judges who reacted admirably during the emergency whereas in the normal course there was much to be said against them.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because if those two judgments had gone against the right cause, then it was over?

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes. And just imagine, nine High Courts struck down emergency laws in each state etc and freed all the detainees and it is only the Supreme Court that shut out the lamps of liberty. But that itself was a great clarion call for all of us, and that helped us along. But I think now the steam has gone out. That steam we had, of consideration of liberty…

 

Shekhar Gupta: In the legal profession?

 

Fali S Nariman: In the legal profession, in the judiciary. I think people have forgotten all this. They must be reminded, constantly reminded that …

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is a serious reprimand from Fail Nariman.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, it is. I am afraid so. People don’t remember all this. They don’t even bother about it. And I keep reminding whenever I have the occasion, reminding the judges also about what happened during those dark days. And it is best always, that is why I like these anniversaries when in June your paper, someone else’s, magazine…pick up all this, what happened on 26 th of June and things like that. It is a good revival of something that was wrong and that people must realize was wrong.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Fali it was that inoculation of the emergency and the judiciary coming in the limelight as the last sort of guardian of liberties and the rule of law, that then led to a lot of reform that empowered the judiciary. Isn’t it?

 

Fali S Nariman: Absolutely. And a lot of soul-searching when in the judges who didn’t search their souls at all at one point of time, and that made a great difference.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So all these collegiums, all this autonomy about appointments ultimately came as a result of that?

 

Fali S Nariman: Only as a result of that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: The judiciary got empowered by the emergency just as the media got empowered.

Fali S Nariman: Absolutely. I think the media today is fulfilling a tremendous role. Post emergency, it is a very very important role and I don’t care if sometimes someone is maligned, someone says something about nasty about Mr X, Y or Z. that you have to take because, I mean, if you don’t like the heat of the kitchen, as Truman said, then you must get out of it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And that applies to the judiciary as well.

 

Fali S Nariman: That must apply to the judiciary as well.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Have you got a sense lately that the judiciary has shied away from facing the heat?

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes and no. But I must tell you that the contempt jurisdiction which we used to exercise, the judiciary used to exercise quite frequently before, is now diluted. I was very sorry to find those Madras advocates on the question of whether the former Chief Justice should have retired and had reached a superannuation age, and that poor man was sent to jail. I don’t like that sort of thing and I think that has set the tone now. They are much more considerate of criticism now than they were before.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Yes, but when I say shying away from the heat, the heat today is on declaration of assets, the heat today is on the antecedents of certain judges. Is the judiciary engaging or is the judiciary shying away?

 

Fali S Nariman: it is not engaging, unfortunately. I must tell you that I admire some of our younger judges, judges in the High Court for instance, who have had the courage to say, “No, we must declare our assets”. One of the judges of the Delhi High Court has said so. And, I mean, he could have very well taken the moral high ground that oh, we are superior to everybody, we don’t have to do anything.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, he deserves to be saluted?

 

Fali S Nariman: Absolutely. A large number of judges in this High Court, I find, are extraordinarily good.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And Karnataka High Court, Punjab High Court…

 

Fali S Nariman: Even Karnataka High Court, Punjab High Court and the Bombay High Court, I think, all the younger people are extraordinarily good…

 

Shekhar Gupta: All these people who dared to say something different, who dared to break from the pack on declaration of assets.

 

Fali S Nariman: Absolutely, and I don’t see why there was that criticism of that particular judge, I forgot his name, of Karnataka, who said…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Shailendra Kumar.

 

Fali S Nariman: Shailendra Kumar, yes, who said I will declare my assets. Well, good enough. Doesn’t matter if he wanted to steal the limelight a bit but that was the breaking point, if you ask me, that was when every body said, oh! My God, now we are really breaking down so, lets gather forces and move with the tide. And that was a good thing. Sometimes, out of lla this comes out a lot of good.

 

 

Shekhar Gupta: What is with the younger judges, you know, you are a veteran but a very young veteran, do you think there is a revival now? The new crop of judges…

 

Fali S Nariman: I have great faith in the young people of this country, particularly if you ask me, the younger students…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Law students, particularly?

 

Fali S Nariman: Law students. Whenever I go to these colleges and lecture and so on and so forth, I find the response is so magnificent…and I find they know much more than some of us know, lawyers of 10 year, 15 year experience don’t know. When we go we have to be really prepared. And I am told that even in medicine it is the younger doctors, younger people who are extraordinarily good.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You have talking at these new colleges now…

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, I have been talking at these new colleges now. I went to Jhodpur recently and we found in that law faculty the students were extraordinarily receptive, they knew much more than many of us knew and they kept themselves son the ball, use the internet, something I don’t use…

 

Shekhar Gupta: And you don’t have to. You have got internet in your head.

 

Fali S Nariman: No, no, I should use it much more but I leave it to secretaries to do that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because Fali, in old days at law faculties were…you could hide once you had finished college for a few more years if you didn’t have anywhere to go and you do a little in campus. But it is tough to get into law colleges.

 

Fali S Nariman: I must tell you at the Government Law College in Bombay , which is 150 years old, there is a Latin maxim­­--because all maxims are Latin, there are no Hindi maxims or English maxims—which meant that ‘nothing defile the temple’. I like that, that nothing defile the temple of the law which I think is a very great vision. I don’t decry the present rung of judges but t6he older judges had much more vision of that particular aspect because after all especially in the highest court where you have the power of life and death over people, you have to be seen to be extraordinary in character, in integrity, in competence, everything.

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is why all these salutations and my lord and wigs and all that…

 

Fali S Nariman: But I must tell you something. You see, take a gentleman like Mr Venkatachala. H ow do we remember him today? Most people know him, of course, because he is one of our living legends. Because only because, Chief Justice Pathak, when he deliberately went to Karnataka to find out who would be a good choice for the Supreme Court and looked at No 1, No 2, No 3, No 4 and then found from the bar that the best choice would be No 5 who is Justice Venkatchala . That is how he was brought to the Supreme Court and became one of our most distinguished Chief Justices.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So he was head-hunted?

 

Fali S Nariman: He was head-hunted. You must head-hunt. In the final court, you must head-hunt. And perhaps that is one of the great things. Infact, when I was at the bar in 74-75, I had gone to Kerala and I can mention names today, I appeared before a man called Justice Irady, who later became a judge of the Supreme Court.

 

Shekhar Gupta: We know him as the man who headed that tribunal on river waters.

 

Fali S Nariman: And who never leaves. You are right. But at that time, his demeanour was so good, competence was good, I lost the case but I found him very good so, I came back and told Justice Ontwalia , whom we knew very well here in Delhi, that I was before a particular judge named so and so and do you know what Chief Justice Reddy told him that brother why don’t you go to Kerala this weekend, have a look, find out from the bar--the bar is the best judge of judges. The bar unanimously proclaimed that he was good and he was brought here and for a whole year after that, he kept saying that Nariman brought me to the Supreme Court. It is true. It is absolutely true. And this is what people should do. You have to travel in order to find out good material. You can’t do on paper work, you can’t do it in your room…

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, you have no anxieties about bar associations running these campaigns against judges.

 

Fali S Nariman: No, no anxieties. They will be all scotched up if they are not worthwhile, if they are not bona fide…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because, you know, the other side would say that at this rate the bar has a veto on who gets appointed as judge.

Fali S Nariman: No bar has no veto, bar has no vote. But the bar has the right to warn, the right to caution as in the present circumstances we have been doing. You must caution, ultimately the decision is theirs but they must also realise that they are only passersby, they are only passengers in this big ship called the Supreme Court. They are not people who are permanently there. The permanent thing is the institution. Unless you have the image of the institution in your mind, there is no point being a judge of the Supreme Court.

 

Shekhar Gupta: I mean, let me make a sort of make a little disclosure. We haven’t chosen this old monument with any purpose. It is called Chor Minar , just happens to live in our neigbourhood or we seem to live in its neighbourhood.

 

Fali S Nariman: Quite appropriate to have a lawyer here.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, Fali now many judicial appointments run into controversies, many sitting judges run into controversies on issues not of ideology, legal views, views on the constitution, quality of judgments but straightforward issues of personal integrity and professional integrity.

 

Fali S Nariman: This is one of the very disquietening things of today. In the older day there were problems as you said, not of integrity, never of integrity or hardly ever of integrity but only because you are a landlord judge and you are a tenet judge and things of that sort. Just the proclivity of a judge towards a particular view…

 

Shekhar Gupta: During the emergency it was said that the judges are pro-rich.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, yes, of course the progressive judges, the so-called progressive judges. That was a very bad time and that was a very bad occasion. I think over all, Mr Kumaramangalam was responsible for that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: He himself was very ideological.

 

Fali S Nariman: He was very ideological. He said we must have people who look forward and forward looking, and the moment he said forward looking, everybody steeped up and said, “I am forward looking”. But it all arises because distinction in the age limits of the High Court and the Supreme Court. If they equal it out, if everyone retired at 65, High Court or Supreme Court, you require much persuasion to bring up a Justice Gupta or Justice Nariman from the High Court and say please will you come to the Supreme Court because you are best. Otherwise, it would be, “My lord I am very well qualified, I should come and so on…”

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, you mean people get compromised just to get five more years?

 

Fali S Nariman: Just to get five more years. And unfortunately, nowadays people are not like Justice Wanchoo. Whenever some judge went to call on him, send his card in, he would come out and say, yes Mr so and so. And that person would say I am Mr Nariman and shake hands, I am judge of such and such court. Yes, Mr Nariman. Thank you Mr Nariman for coming. Good Day. Finish. No conversation about how isd your court doing or what are the judges doing or who is a nasty fellow and who is not. You make your own assessment. You travel a bit. The trouble with our Supreme Court is, our judges, they don’t travel, they don’t see places except to deliver one or two speeches.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And what is the reason for it. They are overworked?

 

Fali S Nariman: They are fantastically overworked, I must tell you that. People must come and see how overworked they are. They have far too much work. So, unless this institution of a collegium is institutionalised, unless you have an office, a registrar, somebody like that to receive complaints, to find out in the zone of consideration, how many people are good, what is their qualification and so on, how will you choose them. Not on paper, not because I tell them or you tell them.

 

Shekhar Gupta: How do you reduce the workload on them?

 

Fali S Nariman: Very difficult. Because we entertain everything and I don’t blame them. Today the greatest problem with our courts, High Courts particularly, is the problem of caste. Because if you are such a such caste lawyer before such a such caste judge, you will either lose or win depending upon your caste.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Does it actually happen?

 

Fali S Nariman: It happens.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It is not just a perception.

 

Fali S Nariman: No. And therefore, in the Supreme Court all that is got rid off for the simple reason that there will be a bench of atleast two, one from one state and another from another state.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Maybe, it would be very tragic if you start now looking for caste balance in our Supreme Court benches.

 

Fali S Nariman: Oh! My God, that will be a disaster, no doubt about it. We have to be a little more liberal, we

have to look forward…

 

Shekhar Gupta: But are you saying if we are not careful, we may get there?

 

Fali S Nariman: We may, we may. It is unfortunate but we may. Infact, you see, I don’t know, nowadays competence is just one thing but integrity is the most important factor. In our days, it used to be assumed that if you are going to be a judge, are you competent. Nobody said anything about your integrity.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because integrity was taken for granted.

 

Fali S Nariman: Integrity was taken for granted. Members of the bar are also responsible for this lack of integrity.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Why do you say so?

 

Fali S Nariman: Because we are the people who negotiate in certain courts with certain judges, in High Courts etc, we have known that, there have been case4s about it recently. I mean they negotiate with them and find out how a particular judge is behaving or not behaving. Is he likely the person to accept some favours in return for something and so on? And that is what our bar has to…

 

Shekhar Gupta: But some of the campaigns in the past, there is committee on judicial accountability, it did look like, you know, an impression was growing that almost no judge can get in sort of unblemished. There were campaigns against two sitting CJI’s.

 

Fali S Nariman: There were, yes. Sometimes we overdo it. But it is better to overdo it than not to do it at all.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But do you think that the higher judiciary, the Supreme Court bench, the CJI, they have missed a trick. That they could have embraced this whole idea of declaration of assets more willingly.

 

Fali S Nariman: They missed it so badly, you are absolutely right. I don’t know, maybe perhaps it is because of too much work that they haven’t given that thought to it. Because of they had given that thought to it, confidence of the public in the higher judiciary is still so high and we can’t have it reduced now for God’s sake otherwise what are we going to renown as it is. People are not bothered about our politicians too much. In fact, it is because they say they suspected politicians that we got all these distinctions about declaring your assets and there were all the brave…..You see, now there is this passion for integrity which has to be so because in all walks of life we are not just bothered with how competent you are a person who is corrupt. It is a change in values; I think perhaps television is responsible for it. Maybe, I am not too sure but perhaps it is. Because, you know, the press was a very sturdy institution, in my opinion, but now it is all these media and there being no FCC like in the United States to control the media at all. I mean we don’t only go for news but gossip and wrong things and insinuation.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what you are saying is that, you know, if you now say that the first qualification of a judge should be that he should be honest, then you are lowering the bar.

 

Fali S Nariman: You are lowering the bar. Man, the first thing should have been that is he worth the handle, is he competent enough to handle cases in the Supreme Court.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because integrity is to be taken for granted.

 

Fali S Nariman: Integrity was always taken for granted.

 

Shekhar Gupta: When did it change? Was there a turning point?

 

Fali S Nariman: I don’t know. I think it is after the emergency. Emergency shook the institution like nothing else did. When Keshavan Bharti , you know, the great constitutional case of 13 judges where six judges signed the order and the other seven refused to sign or it was the other way round seven signed the order and six refused to sign. That marked the turning point of the breaking of the court, in my opinion, which was very unfortunate but that is how it was.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And it has never quite recovered from that.

 

Fali S Nariman: It has never quite recovered from that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But in this particular case, assets declaration, you know, the Chief Justice and the higher judiciary, did they make it look like they were being sort of dragged, kicking and screaming.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes. That is unfortunate. It should have come off their own bat and nobody would have said ‘yes, yes, these assets should be disclosed and should also be put on the website etc. But now the horse has bolted from the stable, you can’t go closing doors. Now the whole thing is there.

 

Shekhar Gupta: When you talked to them, did some of tem regret it that they lost an opportunity?

 

Fali S Nariman: Some of the judges do.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because they gave the political class a handle.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, they said you wanted us to do it. Quite frankly the law minister looked, if I may say so without meaning nay disrespect, a bit foolish when he had to withdraw the bill about protecting judges. All parties across the board said ‘No,no. No exemption for anybody. Let them disclose then we will see how it is to be done’. Infact, I think we have today the need of a judicial ombudsman, a judicial ombudsman, above the Chief Justice. Yes, maybe, above the Chief Justice.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And how does that work?

 

Fali S Nariman: A judicial ombudsman to whom complaints could be made in private, never public. That gentleman or lady or group, who ever they are, will look into them. You, of course, have to have people of unimpeachable integrity, competence…

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, it is a presidium over the collegium.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, a presidium over the collegium. You have to. Look at what is happening today. You have to. Because either the collegium has no time because they are very good people, they are extraordinarily important people but they have no time to consider whether Shekhar Gupta is better than Fali Nariman or Fali Nariman is better than Shekhar Gupta from the High Court. Why do they not have? Because they don’t go and ask the bar there, they don’t go and ask the bench there, they don’t have any methodology. You see, once we decided it has to be done by the judges themselves, that is their recommendation, it should have been institutionalised. That is you must have an office, you must have a letter head saying “In the office of the collegium of the Supreme Court’. It is separate from the Supreme Court with a director, registrar who will gather information, find out…

 

Shekhar Gupta: And some transparency…

 

Fali S Nariman: ...transparency, data will come in and then on that data you can perhaps discuss, otherwise, what is the use of my saying you should come in and you shouldn’t. one of the best judges in Bombay Justice Pangsia , I can name him, he is retired now, didn’t come to the Supreme Court only because some of the Bombay judges who were there a year in the Supreme Court said no we won’t have him where as Manoj Mukherjee, Judge of the Supreme Court, a very eminent judge told me once that Pangsia is our best judge in the High Court. So, I said go and tell your Chief Justice and he said I have already told him but they didn’t appoint him.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because of groupism?

 

Fali S Nariman: Because of groupism. So, it is not that this is happening for the first time, it has happened before.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, this ombudsman is a wonderful idea, it is a fascinating idea. Has it been done elsewhere, overseas?

 

Fali S Nariman: No, I don’t think so. But a judicial ombudsman is the need of the our, in my opinion, having regard to our state of affairs.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Elaborate a bit more on how it will work? Does the CJI report to him in some way?

 

Fali S Nariman: No, he doesn’t do any such thing. Infact, people--because this is a participatory democracy—disgruntled people, people with good intentions, bad intentions will keep prying this gentleman, lady or group with all sorts of complaints. Now it is the job of the office of the ombudsman of the Supreme Court to inquire into the complaints against High Court judges, Supreme Court judges. Keep it to ownself, there is publicity. Then quietly again, consult the Chief Justice, ask him what he feels about it, take his views into account and then move in a particular manner saying that no, we think, that something should be done.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But then won’t every litigant lawyer who loses a case go to the ombudsman, making it a one more court of appeal.

 

Fali S Nariman: He may but it is better than to go to the press or media and say this judge is this and this judge is that. I am afraid, we have to institutionalise something.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So the time has come?

 

Fali S Nariman: Time has come I am afraid. Because, you see, with due respect, we don’t have the giants of the bar today, we don’t have the giants of the bench also.

 

Shekhar Gupta: There is one right here.

 

Fali S Nariman: No, no. I am not, I am not. Not at all

 

Shekhar Gupta: The giant of giants then?

 

Fali S Nariman: That is good of you but no. I don’t have that…

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, are you saying that this is the idea whose time has come and maybe the higher judiciary would do well to take the lead here instead of again looking like being dragged, kicking and screaming?

 

Fali S Nariman: You see, I am very angry with their saying that if government tells us to disclose we will disclose. Why? Why should they ask the government? Either you want to disclose it, disclose it or if you don’t want to disclose it, say it is wrong and strike down the law. You have powers, immense powers.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It was unusual for the Supreme Court to say ‘if the government wants’.

 

Fali S Nariman: I was very disappointed because that is exactly what the government wants. It wants to control the judges.

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is exactly what the political class wants to hear.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes. And I am very regretful that that sort of a statement…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Did you pull the leg of some of the judges saying why have you done this? Admonish them?

 

Fali S Nariman: Let’s leave that for another occasion.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But Fali I know I don’t want to talk in detail about the Diakaran issue. But it is unusual for you to put yourself signature on a petition. You almost never do it.

 

Fali S Nariman: You are right. I never do it but I will tell you something. The reason I did it was, I mentioned it on television the other day, not because I know this gentleman, I don’t know him at all. I have never appeared before him. I have heard stray reports but that is nothing. That doesn’t mean I should put my signature. There were three or four senior advocates, whom I place great reliance, of Madras who told me certain things which shocked me about this particular gentleman. Now it may be wrong or it may be right, therefore, I only put my signature to a letter which said, ‘Please investigate, sir, before you appoint him’. Because as I told you, we (bar) have no power to veto, no power to appoint, we have only the ability because of our stature, because of what we are at the bar, to tell the judges please have a look and then if you want, do it. Besides, if there is such a clamour against him, then drop him. There are 500 other judges of the High Courts whom you can appoint.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Many would say clamour rises because of caste, because somebody is from the underclass….

 

Fali S Nariman: Maybe, maybe. You are quite right. Discount all that. Take that into account, I am not saying don’t. If you take that into account and say this is totally worthless but why should very senior advocates put their name and stake their reputation to these charges.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And some of the people who have done it are people who you trust in Madras ?

 

Fali S Nariman: Absolutely. And now we have Karnataka, the whole bar has passed some sort of a resolution this morning. Now…

 

Shekhar Gupta: Are there particular lawyers that you respect in that. Are there particular names that you think are eminent people and they don’t do this flippantly?

 

Fali S Nariman: You take a man like Mr Arvind Dattar , top class lawyer in the Supreme Court, Shri Ram Panchoo, a very good mediator, he has done a lot for Madras bar, and people like that. Now if these are people who are so eminent then you must trust them. And I was only a spokesman for them and the reason why I was their spokesman was not because Mr Justice X or Y is brought here, therefore, I oppose him. I don’t oppose anybody. I only oppose that you are really introducing something which you may regret later. So, please be careful.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And which may then weaken the institution?

 

Fali S Nariman: Totally weaken the institution.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Not just the Supreme Court but judiciary itself.

 

Fali S Nariman: Because we can’t get rid of a judge once we appoint him. I mean, almost you can not. The impeachment…..

 

Shekhar Gupta: and then maybe the political class may start thinking of easier ways of doing that.

 

Fali S Nariman: I don’t want this institution of ours where I have practiced continuously since 1972 to become some sort of a shop or bazaar, for God’s sake. I would rather stop practice. Because otherwise they would say look like you are also part of it. Why are you complaining? You won such and such case. You must have done something. And believe me, it is when you win something that you realise that something hanky panky has gone on. I will tell you something. A judge from Bombay High Court, one of the judges who were not given any work by Chief Justice Chetartosh Mukjerjee, I was asked to appear before him in a review. A decree had been passed for rejectment and this was a review. Anyway, we went there and the judge ate out of my hand. He said, yes, yes, you are right, it should be reviewed. Mr Rane, very brave member of the bar from appellate side was very angry and he told me outside that this judge is corrupt. He has taken money and I believed it because when the matter came to the Supreme Court, I was appearing for these clients, and the court immediately called upon me and said Mr Nariman what do you have to say. I said I have nothing to say and sat down. So, they admitted the appeal. This is the sort of thing that happens when you are in the driving seat, when you are the person who has won the matter that you realise why you have won a case you should have lost. And…

 

Shekhar Gupta: And then you figure something did something?

 

Fali S Nariman: You figure something did something. Then I said Chetartosh Mukjerjee, then Chief Justice of Bombay High Court was right who did not give these judges any work because of this scandal at the bar.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, in terms of the history of Indian higher judiciary, this is a moment of crisis?

 

Fali S Nariman: This is a moment of crisis, I am afraid.

 

Shekhar Gupta: How big is it? Is it one of the biggest or is the biggest after the emergency?

 

Fali S Nariman: It the biggest after the emergency and it is unfortunate that it is brought on. It could have been avoided. This is a lack of preparation, lack of homework, if I may say so without meaning disrespect, to the five good judges of our Supreme Court, the first five…

 

Shekhar Gupta: The collegium?

 

Fali S Nariman: The collegium, yeah, that you must do much more homework when you recommend the name. Once the recommendation has gone out, it will be very difficult for them to withdraw it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It will look one more loss of face.

 

Fali S Nariman: One more loss of face or you are giving in to the bar like that, which is not correct also.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And then this will embolden maybe in some cases bar with the wrong motive.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, quite right.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, it is best not to expose your flank like this?

 

Fali S Nariman: You should not.

 

Shekhar Gupta: What is your advice now to these five wisest judges in India , among the five wisest in the world, the five busiest in the world on how to get out of the situation?

 

Fali S Nariman: You see, in the first place as I said before, while the system is there, make it work properly. Each of you, or one of you atleast, whenever you want to fill a place from the High Court, please go there, find out from the bar what their impression are. You need not do it publicly, you just go there, find out from everybody concerned because you never know who will say what. Make an assessment yourself, because ultimately they are wise people, as you said the five wise men, they should really do it and perhaps a woman in addition would help.

 

Shekhar Gupta: That is one problem, Supreme Court not having a woman judge.

 

Fali S Nariman: We had one, an extremely competent one. But then we must have another. There is absolutely no doubt about that. All the world courts have women as judges.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, even if it requires a little bit of affirmative action, we should do it now.

 

Fali S Nariman: Yeah, we should do it now. There is no doubt.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because just the presence of a woman there would bring in a different kind of balance and sensitivity?

 

Fali S Nariman: I think so.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You forgot to mention something else. Something you said just a few minutes back.

 

Fali S Nariman: What?

 

Shekhar Gupta: Maybe time has now come for the collegium itself to push the idea of a judicial ombudsman and not to hide from it.

 

Fali S Nariman: I hope so.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And not to see it as a threat or as an encroachment?

 

Fali S Nariman: no, not to see it as a comedown or as a check on their power and so on. Because after all it was a court invented scheme of things—we didn’t trust the government that is why the collegium came in.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And because we still don’t trust the government we would rather have our own ombudsman.

 

Fali S Nariman: That would be better than a national commission even because National Commission would have the same problem. What do you do with the leader of opposition and the prime minister? What would they know? What would they bother? They will listen either to me or the Chief Justice and make their choices. But here is somebody (Ombudsman) who is concentrating only on the judiciary. He knows what it is, he asks for information, Intelligence Bureau reports…

 

Shekhar Gupta: And it isn’t only one person, it can be a presidium of three…

 

Fali S Nariman: It can be, like the Election Commission.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And that truly is a most original idea and I know this will be talked about now…

 

Fali S Nariman: It may be criticized and all but something is better than nothing. Because here they are caught on the wrong foot and it is a bit of loss of face. I mean, if I was a member of the presidium or collegium, I would also feel a loss of face. I had myself recommended Mr X and how can I withdraw that recommendation. So there has to be a very cogent reason.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And a little bit of an, if I may use the expression, fig leaf as well because then they don’t have to step back, the ombudsman can take that call.

 

Fali S Nariman: That is right. He can take that call and also communicate. There should be a channel of communication between the ombudsman not as a superior but as someone, I mean, who has that authority…

 

Shekhar Gupta: And that is much better than the law minister or the law secretary?

 

Fali S Nariman: Yes, of course, for better than what we ever had. Let’s hope something like that happens.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So, Fali, what I can say is that anytime one has a conversation with you, one learns something new and one goes back thinking. I think what you said today of this new idea of judicial ombudsman should get the country thinking, certainly should get the judiciary and the legal circles thinking. Before I conclude, tell me how do you keep your body and mind getting younger and younger as years pass…?

 

Fali S Nariman: Oh! My God, I am just coping. I will let you into a secret. I am taking less and less work, much less work than I used to because there is no point in showing that I am the greatest…

 

Shekhar Gupta: But you are taking a lot of burdens.

 

Fali S Nariman: You have to…

 

Shekhar Gupta: I mean you could just be sitting back and writing memoirs.

 

Fali S Nariman: Something like that, yeah. But you have to do something. If you are worth the candle, you have to do something.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And, when do you start writing your memoirs?

 

Fali S Nariman: That is an open secret.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Well, I mean when you do think of that, you remember you have a neighbour who can come and help you, reading the notes at least.

 

Fali S Nariman: Thank you.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Thank you very much, Fali.

 

Fali S Nariman: We will walk one more talk.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Absolutely. So wonderful of you to find time and so wonderful of you to actually stand up and be counted in this situation. We need more people like you. Thank you.

 

Fali S Nariman: Thank you.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REDEFINE RADICAL

 

Where's the CPM headed? Is there even one CPM effectively anymore? There are two CPMs in Bengal: CPM (Buddhadeb) and CPM (not-so-Buddhadeb). One in Delhi. And at least two factions in Kerala. All the five CPMs suffer from waning political influence thanks to growing electoral difficulties. For the CPM to not go the way history suggests communist parties go, first, the five CPMs have to become one again, in part by redefining the party’s purpose. Ideally, the party should junk silly anti-Americanism, considerably loosen, if not cut, its ties to organised labour (ties that bind it to all major, disruptive strikes), move from confused critique of ‘neo-liberalism’ to pragmatic social democratic precepts, and leverage its strengths: brainpower at top and, despite what’s happened in the Bengal unit, or rather units, relative probity. A cleanish, social democratic, non-identity politics based party can be said to have a future. True, since the Congress tacks to the left on economic policy, the left-of-centre space can be a bit crowded. But a smaller left-of-centre third party can have a role look at the Liberal Democrats in Britain, for example. In India, a political party that speaks for, say, unorganised labour without wanting to use them as union fodder will be politically optimal. But can the CPM even begin to attempt such changes?

 

Blind anti-Americanism is a favourite of Delhi-based senior ideologues. Is there a second generation with enough intellectual heft and courage to challenge this dogma? Ties to unions are crucial for political muscle flexing and funding. If those ties are loosened, how will the party project muscle outside Bengal and Kerala and how will the funding work out? Some short-term disruption for long-term gain will be called for. Will the CPM, actually a deeply conservative party despite all its revolutionary rhetoric, be ready for that? Changing over from bad economics that gets angry about neo-liberalism to solid, left-of-centre economics may be the easiest reform for the CPM. India has plenty of good economists who respect the market but approach it from the left. Some of them will be glad to provide intellectual gloss to a social democratic party programme. The key is changing the party programme. Might more electoral shocks produce the necessary impetus for change; losing Bengal and Kerala in 2011, for example? This is a tough question. But if some pragmatists take over the party leadership in Delhi, and assuming the CPM’s party discipline stays, there may be some hope. Or will the communist party break up again? The CPM came out of CPI because it thought the CPI was not radical enough and the CPML came out of CPM for the same reason. This time, what communists understand by ‘radical’ has to change.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DON’T JUST TALK


When the G-20 heads of government last met in London six months ago, things still looked grim for the world economy, even if not as grim as during the late 2008 meeting in Washington. Now, as the G-20 gets ready to meet in Pittsburgh this week, green shoots of recovery are evidently visible in most major economies around the world. But it is still too early to call an end to the recession. Most importantly, a lot of the recovery that we see now is probably a direct consequence of the aggressive monetary and fiscal action undertaken by governments all over the world in the course of the last one year. If that stimulus is withdrawn at this stage, we risk going into another trough. So, the primary agenda of the Pittsburg meeting must be to commit to keeping stimulus measures in place for a while yet. Inflation is still not a serious threat anywhere and is unlikely to be for the remainder of this calendar year. And the only countries which are in favour of withdrawing stimulus—France and Germany—are the ones who were never keen on it in the first place. They must be prevailed upon yet again.

 

That may be the easy bit. The more difficult questions are likely to arise around the issue of regulation of the financial system in the future. The populist focus is on bankers’ pay but as we have argued on a number of occasions in these columns, that isn’t likely to solve the key problems. In any case, there may be little that such a diverse group of countries will agree on, at least if it’s binding. And the US and the UK will almost certainly resist caps on executive pay. Instead of focusing on issues where there isn’t likely to be a consensus, the G-20 should focus on issues where they can forge a common purpose. India should, in particular, push for the restructuring of international financial institutions which would give more rights to emerging economies. This will be hard for anyone to object to. Similarly, countries could agree to some basic principles on capital adequacy requirements for banks and financial institutions. Over-leverage was a more important cause of this crisis than bankers’ bonuses. There may, of course, also be the temptation of not doing anything at all, since everything seems to be limping back to normal. That would be unfortunate. Circumstances rarely converge in favour of coordinated multilateral action. They have in the last one year. The G-20 will not want to go down in history as just another talking shop.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LAND AHOY

SUDIPTA DATTA

 

Ten days after the West Bengal IT department scrapped an IT park where it had promised 90 acres each to info-tech majors Infosys and Wipro, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee jumped into the fray to keep them in Bengal. At a hastily called press conference on Thursday, Bhattacharjee announced that Infy and Wipro would be given 45 acres each at Rajarhat’s New Town, in an area usually earmarked for housing projects. While Infy has put off all expansion plans—and so its first facility in West Bengal will have to wait; Wipro, which is looking to set up its second centre in Kolkata, said it’s looking forward to hearing from the government officially.

 

And there lies a tale. While Bhattacharjee refused to be drawn into any discussions on the price, both Infy and Wipro aren’t willing to pay anything more than Rs 50-60 lakh per acre. The Rajarhat land, according to sources, is unlikely to be sold below Rs 2 crore an acre, which is also lower than the market price. That’s why the scrapping of the IT park next to Vedic Village is weighing heavy on the government. The model the state had chosen for that project, and which had got a Cabinet nod, was ostensibly tilted in favour of the government—it would move in only when the private parties, including the promoter (and MD, now in police custody) of Vedic Village, provided 600 acres free of cost to the government. Once it came to light that the private parties had resorted to land grab, the government, already in the dock for the way it handled land acquisition at Singur and Nandigram, had no other option but to cancel the project. If it had managed to get land free of cost, the government would have some room to negotiate with the tech majors, who have raised quite a hue and cry over the last few years about land prices in Bengal, even threatening to go elsewhere. But will Bhattacharjee’s hasty offer change anything on the ground, solve land acquisition problems that’s proving to be the bane to industry in the state? Unfortunately not, for there’s no clarity on the land issue, and that’s what is making IT companies, real estate players and industrialists jittery.

 

sudipta.datta@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TREE CHEERS FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT?

RENUKA BISHT

 

Nature can be the biggest ally in our fight against climate change, that’s the simple idea behind the UN programme for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD). Between 2000-07, natural sinks across land and oceans have removed 54% of all CO2 emitted from human activities. But, not only has increased warmth been lessening the oceans’ ability to absorb CO2, deforestation is now responsible for 20% of global warming. As arresting deforestation appears easier to accomplish than shuttering coal plants or junking cars, ratification of REDD looks likely at Copenhagen. What India is urging, however, is that attention to afforestation match that being given to deforestation.

 

In this, India is challenging entrenched offset positions where the global South has mostly been rewarded for protecting existing forests. Indonesia—trailing only China and the US in its carbon emissions, largely on account of deforestation—has already issued REDD regulations. In 2009, Brazil has promised the smallest deforestation rate of the past 21 years. Last year, it announced a plan to slash Amazon deforestation in half over 10 years. This will avoid the release of 4.8 billion tonnes of CO2—the same as what natural land and ocean sinks around the world have absorbed per year between 2000-07. Countries will expect compensation for such initiatives, especially as they cost large commercial operations.

 

But India is not batting for afforestation alone. It has got the Red Dragon in its corner. If India claims to have added one million hectares of forest cover a year, China claims four million. Our forests capture 11% of carbon emissions, as compared to their 6%. China has also documented a growing shrubland carbon sink. This is akin to developments in African tropical forests, where trees appear to be holding more carbon now than they did 40 years ago. Sometimes called the fertiliser effect of anthropogenic change, it’s a hopeful but yet-to-be-fully-understood sign that tropical forests are evolving to do more to mitigate global warming. This becomes pertinent as an instance of how unpredictable is the future behaviour of carbon sinks. More unpredictability logically leads to investment in more varied options, and this too makes India’ case stronger.

 

Take how fast the conversation in the US has changed. It wasn’t that long ago that it was believed that the country’s carbon sink was enough to balance the carbon its factories emitted by burning fossil fuels. Terrestrial ecosystems still sequester a much healthier percentage of emissions than those in Europe or China. But, even as forest fires rage on in California, new studies are claiming that climate change will cause 50% more area burned every year by wildfires by 2055. Given that US forests account for up to 40% of its carbon sequestration, what this means is that more and more of the country will see carbon sinks turning into carbon bombs. Even as fires increase worldwide and now contribute about a third as much atmospheric carbon as burning fossil fuels, the US neighbour on the North is battling a pine beetle infestation effecting a similar turnaround. As Canada’s forests succumb to the pest, they die and release toxins instead of absorbing them. Once more, what this means is that as much protection as intact primary forests demand, the world will increasingly recognise the need to invest in afforestation, again strengthening India’s hand.

 

Returns already estimated look good, with an investment of $45 billion in protected areas alone securing nature-based services worth $5 trillion a year. This month also saw what’s being called the biggest ever forest sink sale. A New Zealand forester sold credits for around $22 a tonne. A recent report from India’s Union ministry of forests and environment claims that India can get Rs 6,000 crore every year from its carbon sink; that’s assuming the value of just $7 per tonne of CO2. The New Zealand sale suggests that possible monies could get even bigger.

Even before the world has taken stock of the Indian agenda, backyard skeptics are complaining that environment minister Jairam Ramesh talks faster than he can walk, that newer trees don’t absorb carbon quite as well as mature ones. Sure, India is short of high-density forests. But this may be a case of catching the goat the wrong way around.

 

Replanted woodlands aren’t as strong a carbon reservoir as matured trees, but what if one is thinking long term? Then, as time consuming as it is, doesn’t one have to start with planting a few trees? And Ramesh seems to have a realistic agenda. Recognising demographic constraints, all he is pitting for is a qualitatively improved forest cover: “The objective of India's forest policy is to ensure in the next ten years that all our forest cover is high density or medium density.”

 

renuka.bisht@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GOOD ADVISOR, BUT WHO’S LISTENING?

BIBEK DEBROY

 

Since reforms started in 1991, there have been five finance ministers—Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Pranab Mukherjee. There is a difference between chief economic advisor (CEA) and chief economic consultant (CEC), partly notional cum technical. The former has to mandatorily be via UPSC, the latter is ad hoc and not part of the system, though job descriptions are similar. More than once, a former CEA has technically been on leave. Consequently, a new incumbent couldn’t be appointed as CEA until former CEA formally resigned. Without drawing distinctions between CEA and CEC, we have had six gentlemen occupy the position—Deepak Nayyar, Ashok Desai, Shankar Acharya, Rakesh Mohan, Ashok Lahiri and Arvind Virmani (The gender bias is inadvertent.) With Arvind Virmani moving on, there will be a seventh. Each of these six is a recognised and established name and their specific contributions to policy-research can also be mentioned. Their credentials are therefore impeccable. However, a slightly different question can also be asked. Independent of their individual contributions to research, how much impact have they had on policymaking as CEA? The answer is not flattering and is an indictment of the system.

 

Who is CEA? Apparently, CEA is Chief Economic Advisor to government, not only Finance Ministry. The glamorous view is CEA offers profound policy advice to government. But let’s get the unglamorous bits out of the way first. First, CEA writes Economic Survey, aided by other Economic Advisors in Finance Ministry who write specific chapters. These other Advisors typically write sectoral chapters, while CEA writes the all-important first chapter. (For 2008-09, the all-important chapter is of course the second one.) Not all CEAs think Economic Survey is that important, by which one means an improvement in quality of Survey, as opposed to annual mechanical reproduction. At the risk of subjectivity, only three from that list of six thought Survey was important—Ashok Desai, Shankar Acharya and Arvind Virmani. Second, CEA answers Parliamentary questions pertaining to Finance Ministry, particularly starred ones. Unstarred ones can be delegated to other Advisors. Third, CEA heads Indian Economic Service (IES) and this administrative nuisance can be significant. If one’s academic credentials are impeccable, as has always been the case, offering policy advice is an easier task than managing a service. The latter requires an understanding of the system that CEA does not necessarily possess ab initio.

 

This is complicated by turf battles with broader civil service. There is Revenue Secretary, Expenditure Secretary, Economic Affairs Secretary (if there is one) and Finance Secretary (this is not a fresh post though, the senior-most among others is Finance Secretary). CEA reports to Economic Affairs Secretary, though CEA has Secretary-rank. The broader civil service doesn’t bend over backwards to make CEA’s task easier. So far as managing IES is concerned, it is learning by doing and a CEA with a short stint is doomed to failure. Among the six mentioned, only Shankar Acharya and Ashok Lahiri could have had a stab at success on this one. Once these three unglamorous items and endless meetings are out of the way, one realises glamorous policy advice finds little time. Not that it is non-existent. But there are caveats. First, four of five FMs (Jaswant Singh is the exception) possessed considerable economic expertise. It isn’t always the case they necessarily sought, or accepted, CEA’s advice. Second, four of five FMs (Pranab Mukherjee is the exception) brought in special fiscal (or non-fiscal) advisors. Since bread and butter of North Block is fiscal stuff, this marginalised CEA somewhat. After all, CEA is supposed to possess fiscal expertise.

 

Third, after first flush of reforms in early 1990s, thrust of reforms moved to other ministries (each of which usually has its own Economic Advisor) or States (where Planning Commission or Finance Commission come in). That too, means marginalisation of CEA. Fourth, PM often has a Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and this, together with role of PMO, often reduces CEA to economic advisor to Finance Ministry rather than CEA to government. CEA is certainly consulted at time of budget and CEA certainly drafts chunks of budget speech. However, that’s not quite the image CEA conjures up. It is true some of those CEAs impacted policy. But did they do that in their role as CEA or as part of commissions and committees they were members of? While it may be difficult to disentangle the two, more often this membership wasn’t ex officio, but because of their individual expertise. Mentioning CEAs who had considerable influence earlier is neither here nor there. (In recent times, Bimal Jalan is the obvious instance.) The point is circumstances have changed. Becoming CEA is good for one’s professional advancement (and ego too). One learns about the government system and data, good for writing books later. But beyond that, is there a big deal?

 

The author is a noted economist

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN AND HAFIZ SAEED

 

Two interesting developments in Pakistan, possibly linked, offer some hope that sections of that country’s leadership understand India’s and the world’s concerns about Hafiz Saeed and may want to address them. He is the leader of the Jamat-ud-Dawa, a group that fronts for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. In the nationalist mythology of Pakistan, LeT is a defunct group that ceased to exist after it was banned in 2002; JuD is a charity organisation that educates childr en and offers free health services; and Hafiz Saeed is a harmless preacher-teacher-philanthropist. Much of this mythology was derived from the Pakistan security establishment’s patronage of Mr. Saeed and LeT for the jihad in Kashmir. Forced by the United States to act against LeT and other jihadi organisations after 9/11, General Pervez Musharraf reluctantly banned the group in 2002. But Hafiz Saeed’s re-emergence as the leader of JuD indicated that he continued to enjoy some state indulgence. In recent days, a few red lines around him have been breached. First, on September 16, police in the Punjab province registered two cases against him in Faisalabad for glorifying and soliciting funds for jihad, unconnected to the Mumbai attacks. Since 2002, he has been a veteran of house arrests, including after the Mumbai attacks. But this is the first time Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act has been used against him. At the risk of being accused of bending to Indian pressure, Interior Minister Rehman Malik even announced that Mr. Saeed was under investigation for the 26/11 attacks.

 

From this there is no need to jump to the conclusion that justice is at last being done. Going by the reported contents of the two First Information Reports, the case against Mr. Saeed seems weak. He has not been arrested yet. The invoked section of the law is meant for organisations proscribed under the terrorism Act, and it is not clear if JuD has been banned at all. The question is whether the FIRs and the announcement that Mr. Saeed is under investigation also for his alleged role in the Mumbai attacks will go any further. Ahead of the Sharm-el-Sheikh summit, the Pakistan government went to the Supreme Court against the Lahore High Court’s order releasing the JuD leader from house arrest. But nothing came of it. Similarly, the recent actions against Mr. Saeed have come just before the foreign secretaries and foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. But despite the doubts, and given the known constraints on Pakistan’s elected leadership when it comes to touching some holy cows, it would be premature to dismiss these small steps as meaningless. New Delhi’s cautious welcome was the right response.

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THE HINDU

                                            EDITORIAL

BEYOND TRADE ISSUES

 

The simmering trade dispute between the United States and China, if allowed to escalate, might hinder ongoing efforts at promoting global cooperation, so vitally needed for the world economy to come out of recession. The rising tensions could, for instance, cloud the outlook for the forthcoming G20 Pittsburgh summit meeting and affect the progress of the Doha development round of negotiations that have just resumed at Geneva. The genesis of the latest dispute lies in the U.S. decision to slap a 35 per cent duty on tyre imports from China on top of the countervailing duties levied on steel pipe imports. China has responded by taking the first steps towards creating tariff barriers to importing automobile products and chicken from the U.S. These items form a very small portion of the total trade between the two countries. During the first seven months of this year, Chinese tyre exports to the U.S. amounted to just $1.3 billion. The U.S. exported $800 million in automobile products and $376 million in chicken last year. To put these in a proper perspective, the U.S had a whopping trade deficit of $268 billion with China in 2008. For every dollar of goods the U.S. exports to China, it buys nearly $4.46 worth of Chinese goods.

 

It is clear that the trade dispute is but a manifestation of more complex issues that have caused friction between the two countries. The U.S. and some other countries having an unfavourable trade balance with China have accused it of holding down the value of its currency, thereby boosting its export competitiveness. However, successive attempts by the U.S. government to persuade China to let the yuan rise have met with limited success. China has accumulated more than $2 trillion of forex reserves, an overwhelmingly large part of which is invested in U.S government paper and other dollar denominated assets. There have been genuine fears in the U.S. that China might start selling those assets or at least stop buying them. Obviously, a permanent solution to the global imbalance lies in the U.S. saving more and China increasing its consumption. For now, there is a recognition that domestic pressures are behind the trade dispute. The U.S. President is seen acting on his campaign promise to save manufacturing jobs. A very large number of them have already been shifted to China. Given the interdependence of the two countries that goes well beyond trade and the overall size of their economies, it will be in the interest of the global economy as a whole that the disputes are resolved without any delay.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

WHO STANDS TO GAIN FROM WAR HYSTERIA?

WHAT IS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR IS THAT NEITHER INDIA NOR CHINA STANDS TO GAIN FROM THE WAR HYSTERIA THAT HAS BEEN WHIPPED UP THROUGH THE RECENT MONTHS OVER THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

In a famous essay published in the Pravda newspaper in 1913 titled Who Stands to Gain?, Vladimir Lenin wrote: “When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: “Who stands to gain?”… It is not important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stan ds to gain from these views, proposals, measures.”

 

What is abundantly clear is that neither India nor China stands to gain from the war hysteria and xenophobia that have been whipped up through the recent months over the relations between the two countries. So much is evidently at stake at this historic juncture for the two Asian powers as they pursue their respective trajectories of growth and development in a highly volatile international environment. Neither India nor China can afford to be distracted from its chosen path that places primacy on development in the national policies. A war for either of them is highly detrimental to core interests. Yet, on any single day, sections of our corporate media — print as well as electronic — are replete with stories that resonate with the sound of distant war drums.

 

True, the media cannot be held solely culpable for such irresponsible conduct. In a way, their panache for atavistic themes and Manichean doctrines is quite understandable. Alas, they live in an ephemeral world and their repertoire of survival techniques includes various sorts of gimmickry to attract viewership. However, organisations funded by the government and headed by ex-bureaucrats who held sensitive positions in the government have also joined the fray in building up the present hysteria. One government-owned think-tank even featured in its journal an article recently by Arun Shourie as the lead contributor, who of course duly cast China in an “enemy” image. Again, retired officers of the Indian armed forces who are associated with “think-tanks” funded by the services are visible too in the media enthusiastically piloting the current campaign. Therefore, it is necessary to go beyond what the National Security Adviser has done by way of putting the blame solely on the doors of our media for all the things that have gone wrong. The government needs to set its house in order, too.

 

Broadly speaking, three categories of Indian opinion-makers are raising the war hysteria over India’s relations with China. First, it isn’t difficult at all to spot old familiar faces in the foreign and security policy circuit who push the case with great sophistication and aplomb that a growing Chinese menace leaves India with no alternative but to calibrate its foreign policy and edge ever closer to the United States. They are intelligent people, suave and articulate, who held important positions in the government in various capacities in India and abroad. Naturally, their assertion that India should play the “Tibet card” against China carries weight. They will insist they are hardened “realists” but it must be extreme naivety on their part — or plain dissimulation — to say China can be pressured over Tibet. They are far too experienced to know that if China reciprocates by playing various sundry “cards,” the game can turn quite rowdyish. See the amount of dust created by just one Chinese article recently about “balkanising” India, written in response to dozens penned in the past two-year period since unrest broke out in Tibet by our fundamentalists fancying a break-up of China into nice little pieces.

 

Second, an easily identifiable ebullient crowd of retired defence officers presents a one-dimensional case that the civilian leadership is underestimating the Chinese threat and the armed forces should be provided far greater financial and material resources to meet the threat. All militaries have corporate interests and a case needs to be built for earmarking 7 per cent of India’s GDP for the defence budget. The tussle for resources between butter and guns is an ancient one. But, on the other hand, the Indian public opinion has never questioned the country’s defence budget as excessive. The only disquieting aspect is the manifest passion on the part of a growing lot within the military to canvass for weaponry sourced from America. But then, American arms manufacturers have a way of charming their potential clients.

 

Third, of course, there are the ubiquitous right-wing Hindu nationalists, the self-appointed custodians of national security, for whom China is the hurdle to India’s emergence as a superpower. They genuinely lack the intellectual wherewithal to comprehend that the time for “superpower-dom” is gone with the wind in world politics. But their doublespeak puzzles. China concluded a memorandum of understanding with the RSS last year and senior RSS figures were hosted by Beijing. It must, therefore, be concluded that they are grandstanding to score a point or two against the ruling party.

 

These cliques coordinate in their untiring campaign on China’s evil intentions. Indeed, they would have us believe that a war is round the corner and there isn’t much time for preparing Indian defence capabilities. The government should quickly decide on pending arms procurements such as the 126 advanced multi-role fighter aircraft.

 

Against this tragicomic backdrop, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stepped in and poured cold water on the war hysteria. Army Chief Deepak Kapoor trooped in with the calming assurance that the border with China remains tranquil. These interventions have not come a day too soon. Dr. Singh has assured us that there will be greater information flow to the Indian public so that it does not become a captive audience of our China experts. That will help. But war hysteria can only be countered on a “war footing.” Therefore, it will help if the Army Chief could also enforce better discipline in his ranks, which leak like a sieve. True, it is habitual for American commanders to fight turf wars through aggressive media leaks. But we Indians don’t have such Martian culture, nor do we need to cultivate one.

 

Indeed, the India-China relationship has been steadily expanding and maturing in the recent years. The regular high-level political exchanges, burgeoning trade ties, nascent strategic dialogue, cooperation in regional and international issues of common concern, military-to-military cooperation and so on can only lead to greater trust and confidence, enabling the two countries to address the border dispute. This was also the pattern of Russian-Chinese normalisation. There is no better way of steering India’s complex relationship with China through the present sensitive corridor of time than what the UPA government adopted. Most important, India’s China policy is being conducted today in the policy establishment in highly professional terms. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is an outstanding diplomat and China expert in the Indian Foreign Service and the political leadership couldn’t have summoned a better person to lead the team in South Block.

 

So, where lies the problem? Who indeed stands to gain by vitiating the climate of India-China relations? Suffice to say, China is the second largest economy in the world and India is poised to become the third largest in an intermediate future. In strategic terms, as the two countries probe ways and means of cooperating on a range of issues of vital interest — climate change, Doha Round, religious extremism and terrorism — their collective impact on the Asian security paradigm can be phenomenal and it is beginning to be felt in some significant measure already. A sense of uneasiness is appearing in the West about the locus of world politics inexorably shifting eastward.

 

The objective reality is that China has not only nothing to gain by invading India, but has a great deal to lose. In fact, the entire edifice of Chinese policies, which focusses on the country’s economic transformation, will come tumbling down. China’s international standing as a responsible power and stakeholder in world stability will suffer a serious setback. The suspicions regarding the “Middle Kingdom” will resurface among China’s neighbours. As the current developments in Myanmar show, China’s friendly ties with many of its neighbours are delicately balanced — though the common thesis propounded by a junior American analyst in the Pentagon in her late twenties and parroted by our seasoned strategic thinkers is that China is constructing a “string of pearls” around the Indian neck. Last but not the least, China is a cautious power. The disturbed conditions in Xinjiang and Tibet and the extended supply lines to the border make a protracted conflict with India quite a problematic proposition for Beijing.

 

Curiously, the war hysteria has deflected attention from the U.S. regional policies aimed at perpetuating a military presence in our region by co-opting Pakistan as its key ally. It also generates uncertainties in the regional environment just as India, Russia and China explore the potentials of cooperation on issues such as Afghanistan and terrorism. If the xenophobia is to be stretched to its logical conclusion, India should unhesitatingly expand its military cooperation with the U.S. to counter the Chinese menace. Lenin was right.

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

TIME TO DELIVER ON CLIMATE CHANGE

A DEADLOCK AT COPENHAGEN RISKS BEING AN ACRIMONIOUS COLLAPSE, PERHAPS ON THE BASIS OF A DEEP SPLIT BETWEEN THE DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.

JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO

 

Climate change is happening faster than we believed only two years ago. Continuing with business as usual almost certainly means dangerous, perhaps catastrophic, climate change during the course of this century. This is the most important challenge for this generation of politicians.

 

I am now very concerned about the prospects for Copenhagen. The negotiations are dangerously close to deadlock at the moment — and such a deadlock may go far beyond a simple negotiating stand-off that we can fix next year. It risks being an acrimonious collapse, perhaps on the basis of a deep split between the developed and developing countries. The world right now cannot afford such a disastrous outcome.

 

So I hope that as world leaders peer over the edge of the abyss in New York and Pittsburgh this week, we will collectively conclude that we have to play an active part in driving the negotiations forward.

 

We need to stop playing poker with our planet as the stake. Now is the time for putting offers on the table, offers at the outer limits of our political constraints. That is exactly what Europe has done, and will continue to do.

 

Part of the answer lies in identifying the heart of the potential deal that might yet bring us to a successful result, and here I think that the world leaders gathering here in New York can make a real difference.

 

The first part of the deal is that all developed countries need to clarify their plans on mid term emissions reductions, and show the necessary leadership, not least because of our responsibilities for past emissions. If we want to achieve at least an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, developed countries must strive to achieve the necessary collective 25-40 per cent reductions by 2020. The EU is ready to go from 20 per cent to 30 per cent if others make comparable efforts. Second, developed countries must now explicitly recognise that we will all have to play a significant part in helping to finance mitigation and adaptation action by developing countries. Our estimate is that by 2020, developing countries will need roughly an additional 100 billion ($150 billion) a year to tackle climate change. Part of it needs to be financed by economically advanced developing countries themselves. The biggest share should come from the carbon market, if we have the courage to set up an ambitious global scheme.

 

But also public finance needs to flow from developed to developing countries, perhaps in the order of 22 billion to 50 billion per year by 2020. Almost half of this amount will be required to support adaptation action giving priority to the most vulnerable and poor developing countries. Depending on the outcome of international burden sharing discussions, the EU’s share of that could be anything from 10 per cent to 30 per cent, i.e., up to 15 billion a year. We will need to be ready, in other words, to make a significant contribution in the medium term, and also to look at short term “start up funding” for developing countries in the next year or so. I look forward to discussing this with EU leaders when we meet at the end of October.

 

So we need to signal our readiness to talk finance this week. The counterpart is that developing countries, at least the economically advanced amongst them, need to clearly put on the table what they are ready to do to mitigate carbon emissions compared to business as usual as part of an international agreement. They are already putting in place domestic measures to limit the growth of their carbon emissions but there is a need to step up such efforts — particularly by the most advanced developing countries. They understandably stress that the availability of carbon finance from the rich world is a pre-requisite to mitigation action on their part, as indeed agreed in Bali. But the developed world will have nothing to finance if there is no commitment to such action.

 

We have less than 80 calendar days to go till Copenhagen. As of the Bonn meeting last month, the draft text contains some 250 pages: a feast of alternative options, a forest of square brackets. If we don’t sort this out, it risks becoming the longest and most global suicide note in history.

 

This week in New York and Pittsburgh promises to be a pivotal one, if only as it will reveal how much global leaders are ready to invest in these negotiations, to push for a successful outcome. The choice is simple: no money, no deal. But also: every country has to contribute to the deal!

 

Copenhagen is a critical occasion to shift, collectively, onto an emissions trajectory that keeps global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. So, the fight back has to begin this week in New York.

 

(The author is the President of the European Commission .)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

DETERRENCE AND EXPLOSIVE YIELD

NUCLEAR DETERRENCE IS ESSENTIALLY A MIND GAME AND ENSURING THE SECURITY OF WEAPONS IN CASE OF AN ATTACK IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KILOTON YIELDS.

K. SUBRAHMANYAM AND V.S. ARUNACHALAM

 

During the Cold War, Western powers and the U.S.S.R opted for a status quo and the world was spared a nuclear war

Even with 25kt fission bombs, the damages are going to be far more extensive than what Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered

 

Following the controversy on the success or otherwise of the thermonuclear test of India on 11th May 1998 questions have been raised by some senior ex-service officers and civilian strategists on the credibility of the Indian deterrent posture and the perceived mismatch between a 3,500-km missile and a warhead of two digit explosive yield. It is not the intention here to go into the question of success or otherwise of the thermonuclear test. Heaven knows, so much has been said about that already. Instead, there is a need to understand what we mean by deterrence and we shall also discuss whether Indian nuclear strategic posture is credible in the absence of thermonuclear warheads.

 

Nuclear deterrence is essentially a mind game. A potential aggressor will be deterred if he is persuaded that the nuclear retaliation that will be delivered by the survivable nuclear force of the victim will cause unacceptable damage, totally incommensurate with any strategic, political, economic or any other objective that drives him to go for the first strike. During the Cold War, the Western assumption was that communist ideological expansionism constituted a threat to the very survival of democratic system. But as George Kennan pointed out, the communists while espousing an offensive ideology were also convinced that history was on their side and were not ready to push it at the risk of a nuclear conflict. Both sides thus opted for a status-quo and the world was spared a nuclear war.

 

In the sixties the U.S. gave serious thought to the possibility of carrying out a total disarming strike on the Soviet Union when it had more than ten times the superiority in warheads. The U.S. Chiefs of Staff could not, however, assure the President that a few Soviet warheads would not get through to the U.S. and that was enough to deter Washington from pursuing that idea of a disarming strike.

 

No doubt Robert McNamara as Defence Secretary came up with very fanciful calculations of what percentages of Soviet population and industry should be threatened by assured destruction to become the deterrent. These calculations were based on the Soviet Union suffering 20 million casualties in the Second World War and enormous damage to its industry in the European part of Russia. But that happened incrementally over four years of the war and the Soviet leadership could not have known there would be such losses when the Nazi aggression took place. In real world, the Soviets could not accept the loss of fifteen thousand lives in Afghanistan and pulled out of that country. In a sense the U.S. calculations were a misplaced justification to build an arsenal of several thousand warheads and engage the Soviet Union in an arms race. Having built 30,000 warheads at great costs, both sides are now cutting back on their arsenals and dismantling those weapons, again at great cost.

 

Robert McNamara in later years of his life changed his views. Writing in Foreign Policy of May/June 2005 he said that he had never seen any U.S. or NATO war plan which concluded that initiating the use of nuclear weapons would yield U.S. or the Alliance any benefit. He added that his statements to this effect had never been refuted by any NATO Defence Minister or senior military leaders. Yet it was impossible for any of them, including the U.S. Presidents, to make such statements publicly because they were totally contrary to established NATO policy

 

War is politics by other means and the aim of a war is to compel the adversary to accept one’s terms. President Reagan and the Soviet Union’s General Secretary Gorbachev are on record that a nuclear war cannot be won. In a nuclear war, once the missiles are launched, entire countries on both sides become battlefields. It is difficult to control or regulate the firing of the missiles since both sides are under compulsion to use the missiles before they are eliminated by the enemy strike. As soon as the first city is hit, populations of all cities would attempt to empty out into the countryside since there will be panic that their own city will be the next target in the next few minutes. Think of the entire urban population of a country becoming internally displaced persons in a matter of hours. Can there be effective governance in the country?

 

A thermonuclear weapon of 150 kiloton explosive power or three 25 kiloton warheads delivered in a distributed way on a city will perhaps produce equal magnitudes of casualties and property damage. Can it be argued that only a 150 kiloton weapon will deter another warhead of a similar yield? Deterrence is not about the damage one causes to the adversary. It is about what the aggressive side will consider as unacceptable. It is irrelevant whether the destruction is caused by 150 kt weapons or 25 kt weapons. Obviously, it is not infra-dig for a 3,500-km range missile to carry a 25 kt warhead. Cost-effectiveness calculations have no meaning since the nuclear war itself has no meaning. In a mega-city struck by a couple of 25 kt warheads, apart from the hundreds of thousands of dead, there will be an equal number of people wounded and more people affected by radiation; all of whom will be envying the dead. One of us is revisiting the calculations involved in predicting the extent of destruction inflicted by nuclear weapons. Our preliminary results suggest that even with 25kt fission bombs, the damages are going to be far more and extensive than what Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered given the higher population densities in the cities of China and South Asia and the urban development of recent years. Therefore, the Indian deterrent posture will not lose its credibility if India is compelled to rely on fission weapons only.

 

IMPORTANT DETERMINANTS

The role of the Indian nuclear weapons is to deter others using nuclear weapons against us. It can perform that role so long as the retaliatory force is perceived as survivable and able to inflict unacceptable damage on the aggressor. That does not depend on the explosive yield of the individual warheads. Theoretically speaking, the same unacceptable damage can be inflicted by increasing the number of delivery vehicles and warheads of lower yield and increasing their survivability. Reliability, robustness and survivability of weapon platforms are important determinants in validating the deterrence a country practices.

 

In this article we do not propose to sermonise on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons globally. This was articulated by Rajiv Gandhi in the United Nations many years ago, but has not been pursued since then. Along with our deterrence policy, we should once again pursue the mission for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Our world will be better for that and fission or fusion will then lose their relevance.

 

(K. Subrahmanyam is a well known strategic analyst and V.S. Arunachalam, a former Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister, is now Chairman of CSTEP, a Bangalore-based think-tank.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE ECONOMIC DIMENSION OF NATIONAL SECURITY

THE SAARC COMPONENT OF TRADE AND ENERGY IN THE INDIAN OCEAN SECURITY ARCHITECTURE.

MADANJEET SINGH

 

The suggestions made by two former Foreign Secretaries, Shyam Saran and Shiv Shankar Menon, that India should initiate a discussion on a collective security arrangement between the major powers whose bulk of energy and trade flows through the Indian Ocean, is laudable. Mr. Menon made the suggestion while speaking on “Maritime Imperatives of Indian Foreign Policy” at an event organised by the National Maritime Foundation. This security architecture evidently inc ludes the land-based economies of the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, as well. According to a 2003 Goldman-Sachs report, “BRIC countries would emerge as dominant economies by 2050; India and China would dominate world markets in services and manufacturing, while Brazil and Russia would dominate in the supply of raw materials.”

 

It was not without significance that Mr. Menon and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan accompanied Manmohan Singh on his first visit abroad as second-term Prime Minister to attend the BRIC conference at the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg on the Europe-Asia border. In today’s globalised world, trade and commerce cannot be isolated from national security, which in turn can be strengthened by national as well as inter-state land-based transport infrastructure.

 

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo who visited Tibet last month wrote in a recent article that Tibet is part of a much larger Asian drama that is “changing from being a barrier to a region linking China and India together.” He added: “Economically, there was much to be gained by improving road and rail links between Tibet and South Asia. Indeed, the Chinese have suggested that Lhasa and Calcutta [Kolkata] be linked by rail.” Mr. Yeo explained that “the rapid growth of China-India trade in the past 10 years and the emergence of China as India’s biggest trading partner marked just ’the beginning’ of new economic linkages between the two Asian neighbours.” Common economic interests are driving the two countries into closer political cooperation, both bilaterally and internationally, and how they “relate to each other in the coming decades will affect everyone,” Mr. Yeo wrote.

 

INEFFECTIVE MURDER WEAPON

In his speech at the National Maritime Foundation, Mr. Menon stated that though China was conducting extensive port development activity in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and actively supplying weapons to these countries, there are no Chinese bases in the Indian Ocean despite talk of the “string of pearls” which, he said, “was a pretty ineffective murder weapon.”

 

In the context of the collective security architecture in which the inevitability of an India-China conflict is excluded, South Asia must strengthen its economic clout by jointly standing up vis-a-vis the Chinese inroads. Pakistan has already approved an Indian proposal to launch a South Asian train service linking India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. A number of road links are also expected to incrementally increase commerce and trade among the SAARC countries.

 

South Asia is lagging far behind China’s traditionally entrenched trade and commerce supremacy in South-East Asia. Many Chinese businessmen operate as local nationals, too. The economic scene is somewhat similar to what prevailed in post-Second World War Europe when leaders such as Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet dared to stand up to the American economic might. The formation in 1951 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) by six countries, and the launching of Europe’s single currency euro in 1999, resulted in a number of cooperative bodies set up by the countries of the European Union. In 1957 they signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Ten years later, the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament were created. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht promoted new forms of cooperation between member-states in the areas of defence, justice and home affairs, and in 1995 the Schengen Convention introduced free movement for individuals and commodities. Not surprisingly, the EU family has already grown to 27 members.

 

A COMMON CURRENCY

As with European economic and regional cooperation, SAARC will benefit from the centripetal force created by a common currency (called ‘Sasia’ in my book, The Sasia Story: UNESCO, 2005). It will, like the euro, become the anchor of economic stability and accelerate trade and commerce between the SAARC countries. As with the European Coal and Steel Community, it will create areas of congruence such as a ‘peace pipeline’ that will carry natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian subcontinent. Hence, land-based trade and security of SAARC is as important a component of collective security arrangement for the Indian Ocean architecture that the two former Foreign Secretaries have rightly proposed.

 

(Madanjeet Singh is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and the Founder of the South Asia Foundation.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

U.S. URGES CHANGES TO GOOGLE’S BOOK DEAL

MIGUEL HELFT

 

In the latest challenge to Google’s plan to establish the world’s largest digital library and bookstore, the U.S. Justice Department said late on Friday that a proposed legal settlement between Google and groups representing book authors and publishers should not be approved by the court without modifications.

 

The Justice Department said the agreement raised significant issues regarding class-action, copyright and antitrust law.

 

But the Justice Department described recent discussions with the parties as “productive” and asked the court to encourage the parties to continue negotiations, indicating that its objections could be remedied.

 

“As presently drafted the proposed settlement does not meet the legal standards this court must apply,” the department wrote in a 32-page legal filing. “This court should reject the proposed settlement and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.” Rule 23 governs procedures for class-action lawsuits.

 

The Justice Department made its filing after 10 p.m. and representatives of Google and the other parties to the settlement — the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers — could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

The proposed $125-million settlement, which is subject to court approval, has ignited extensive controversy, and the Justice Department’s filing echoed some of the concerns that have been raised by various groups. Some critics, including academics and Google rivals like Microsoft and Amazon.com, say it will give Google virtually exclusive rights to commercialise millions of so-called orphan works — out-of-print books whose copyright holders are unknown or cannot be found.

 

Others, including authors and publishers in the United States and overseas, as well as the nation’s top copyright official, have said that by granting Google a blanket license to millions of books unless authors specifically object, the agreement turns copyright law on its head.

 

Several advocacy groups and librarians have also raised concerns that the agreement does not explicitly protect the privacy of users, whose reading habits would be tracked by Google.

 

The parties to the settlement have strongly defended the agreement, saying that nothing in it prevents competitors from following in Google’s footsteps and obtaining similar licenses to orphan works. They argue that the agreement would give authors and publishers new ways to earn money from digital copies of their books, and it would benefit the public by making millions of rarely seen out-of-print books widely available online.

 

Sony, which makes a reader for digital books, and some academics and public interest groups have also expressed support for the agreement.

 

If approved, the settlement would resolve class actions filed in 2005 by the groups representing authors and publishers against Google in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suits claimed that the company’s plan to digitise millions of copyrighted books from libraries without prior approval from rights holders was illegal.

 

The settlement would allow Google to go forward with its scanning project and absolves it of copyright liability. It also greatly expands what Google can do with digital copies of copyrighted books. Under the settlement, which covers all domestic and foreign books that are protected by copyright in the United States, Google would be allowed to show American online readers as much as 20 per cent of most books. Readers would be able to buy from Google access to complete copies of individual books online. Google would also be allowed to sell access to its entire collection to universities and other institutions. And it would also grant free access to the full texts in its digital library at one terminal at every public library in the country.

 

The revenue generated by the programme will be split, with Google taking 37 per cent and authors and publishers sharing the rest. Google will also help set up a non-profit Book Rights Registry administered by authors and publishers, which will oversee rights and distribute payments.

 

Individual authors were allowed to opt out of the settlement until September 8. Those who did not can remove individual books from Google’s database at any time. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

U.S. URGES CHANGES TO GOOGLE’S BOOK DEAL

MIGUEL HELFT

 

In the latest challenge to Google’s plan to establish the world’s largest digital library and bookstore, the U.S. Justice Department said late on Friday that a proposed legal settlement between Google and groups representing book authors and publishers should not be approved by the court without modifications.

 

The Justice Department said the agreement raised significant issues regarding class-action, copyright and antitrust law.

 

But the Justice Department described recent discussions with the parties as “productive” and asked the court to encourage the parties to continue negotiations, indicating that its objections could be remedied.

 

“As presently drafted the proposed settlement does not meet the legal standards this court must apply,” the department wrote in a 32-page legal filing. “This court should reject the proposed settlement and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.” Rule 23 governs procedures for class-action lawsuits.

 

The Justice Department made its filing after 10 p.m. and representatives of Google and the other parties to the settlement — the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers — could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

The proposed $125-million settlement, which is subject to court approval, has ignited extensive controversy, and the Justice Department’s filing echoed some of the concerns that have been raised by various groups. Some critics, including academics and Google rivals like Microsoft and Amazon.com, say it will give Google virtually exclusive rights to commercialise millions of so-called orphan works — out-of-print books whose copyright holders are unknown or cannot be found.

 

Others, including authors and publishers in the United States and overseas, as well as the nation’s top copyright official, have said that by granting Google a blanket license to millions of books unless authors specifically object, the agreement turns copyright law on its head.

 

Several advocacy groups and librarians have also raised concerns that the agreement does not explicitly protect the privacy of users, whose reading habits would be tracked by Google.

 

The parties to the settlement have strongly defended the agreement, saying that nothing in it prevents competitors from following in Google’s footsteps and obtaining similar licenses to orphan works. They argue that the agreement would give authors and publishers new ways to earn money from digital copies of their books, and it would benefit the public by making millions of rarely seen out-of-print books widely available online.

 

Sony, which makes a reader for digital books, and some academics and public interest groups have also expressed support for the agreement.

 

If approved, the settlement would resolve class actions filed in 2005 by the groups representing authors and publishers against Google in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suits claimed that the company’s plan to digitise millions of copyrighted books from libraries without prior approval from rights holders was illegal.

 

The settlement would allow Google to go forward with its scanning project and absolves it of copyright liability. It also greatly expands what Google can do with digital copies of copyrighted books. Under the settlement, which covers all domestic and foreign books that are protected by copyright in the United States, Google would be allowed to show American online readers as much as 20 per cent of most books. Readers would be able to buy from Google access to complete copies of individual books online. Google would also be allowed to sell access to its entire collection to universities and other institutions. And it would also grant free access to the full texts in its digital library at one terminal at every public library in the country.

 

The revenue generated by the programme will be split, with Google taking 37 per cent and authors and publishers sharing the rest. Google will also help set up a non-profit Book Rights Registry administered by authors and publishers, which will oversee rights and distribute payments.

 

Individual authors were allowed to opt out of the settlement until September 8. Those who did not can remove individual books from Google’s database at any time. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

STAKES ARE HIGH IN MAHARASHTRA

 

While three states will go to the polls next month to elect new state Assemblies, it will be the Maharashtra results that will be avidly watched all over the country — particularly by the national parties that are in the fray. The stakes are huge in terms of psychological repercussions on various national parties, particularly the Congress after it came out with flying colours in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. The Congress is also the ruling party in Maharashtra in alliance with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, and the state has been a traditional Congress bastion, except for one five-year term when a BJP-Sena alliance was in power. The state, one of India’s richest, has also traditionally been one of the principal sources of fundraising for the ruling party, and thus defeat here is likely to hit it very hard.

 

The fortunes of both the NCP as well as the BJP-Sena combine are in the melting pot. For the first time in its history in the state, the BJP is ridden with the kind of factionalism which used to plague the Congress. Once-disciplined party workers in Raigad and Nagpur are busy forming their own parties in order to fight "official" Shiv Sena candidates. In Ghatkopar (East), for instance, where late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam is the party candidate, the BJP leadership faces accusations that it had "bartered away" Ghughar, a party fiefdom for decades, to the Sena so that it could secure the seat for Ms Mahajan. The Sena-BJP alliance is expected to lose some crucial numbers because of this. The alliance’s carefully-laid plans to neutralise the Raj Thackeray factor will be in disarray due to this infighting. The Sena has for some time been trying desperately to convince middle–class voters that supporting Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will only divide the Marathi manoos vote to the advantage of the Congress.

 

It is also likely that the parting of ways between the RPI and the Congress will neutralise the support that the Congress got from the MNS. For the first time, the Congress appears to have angered a section of dalits because of the hamhanded way in which it evicted dalit leader Ramdas Athavle from his bungalow in New Delhi last week. This is being interpreted in certain circles in Maharashtra as an anti-dalit move as Mr Athwale had of late distanced himself from the Congress. The RPI is expected to question why action was taken against Mr Athawle when several other former MPs continue to occupy official quarters for longer periods.

 

Mr Sharad Pawar’s political future is also in the melting pot, particularly after his party put up a poor showing in the Lok Sabha election. If it continues to perform badly in this Assembly election it will greatly weaken his position at the Centre, and the voices demanding a merger of the NCP with the Congress are likely to grow louder. The key reason which prompted Mr Pawar to form the NCP over a decade ago was his allergy at that time to the question of Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, something he says now is no longer an issue. Then why, his critics are bound to ask, is there any need to maintain the NCP’s separate existence?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

ENCASHING GANDHI LEGACY, ONE MEMENTO AT A TIME

SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

Sometimes politics invades the personal as an act of surprise. It intrudes, invites itself and takes over. A movement often begins with an anecdote.

 

One afternoon, a colleague of mine, who had laboured years over a translation of Narayan Desai’s biography of Mahatma Gandhi, came in and asked, "Do you know Peter Ruhe?" All of us had seen his anthology of photographs of Gandhi and admired it. Some even confessed ruefully that the Phaidon edition of photographs was too expensive to buy. My friend’s books had a collection of classic photographs evocative of Gandhi at every stage of life on the cover. It was a craftsmen’s delight encapsulating a generation’s memory.

 

That afternoon my friend had received a letter from Ruhe, noting that the photographs could be used in India but not in Europe. It was a formal note and a polite warning.

 

Peter Ruhe is a German collector. He roamed India befriending people who took these photographs of Gandhi. Most of them were old stalwarts, forgotten and literally abandoned by a later generation. Most of these photographers were quietly middle-class and delighted to be befriended by a foreigner, conversant about Gandhi and interested in them. They were happy to part with the photographs for a small sum. One man was quietly cornering the market in Gandhian memorabilia, especially photographs. Ruhe now possess a heritage of photographs aided by the Berne Convention which guarantees protection of artistic work.

 

I want to see the Ruhe story as a fable. At one level, one can be rational and say that Ruhe’s market instincts have contributed to the public good. As a society, we deface monuments, defile statues and are quite content to display our literacy on archaeological buildings.

 

The craftsmen, the designers, the photographers who have kept our traditions alive are ignored, celebrated only if discovered by a foreign expert. At one level, one can be happy that Ruhe’s efforts saved these pictures from "oblivion" and the indifference of the current generation of Gandhians deep in dentures and mothballs.

 

But suppose we were to change the question and ask, are all forms of innovation, property? Let us bracket innovation and look at property. Is heritage, a monument, a tradition property to be controlled by one individual or corporation? Is the past a piece of property? Then what happens to our access to memory?

 

Memory is not just recollection. It is remembrance. It is a reinvention of an event and community and involves both individual biography and collective consciousness. One reinvents the social through acts of retelling. Gandhi is legacy, monument, history, memory. The sadness begins when he is treated as property. What gives Ruhe the right to own and charge for photographs of Gandhi? Is it just the laws of the market or the rules of the Berne Convention?

 

The right to property is conceived too materially. One misses the symbolic domain. An access to the past is an access to an identity, a collectivity and a skill. One needs a broader notion of entitlements to cover the symbolic domain. Access to the past is not an act of mourning where we bring out objects to create a repetition of past events. It is an act of celebration where we celebrate the breakthrough.

 

Even Gandhians have been parasitic on the earnings from Gandhi as property. For all these years, Gandhi’s writings were copyrighted material, but as the copyright expires, it is up to us to be bold and Gandhian and declare Gandhi as a commons. It is time to invite the world to the celebration of Gandhi and stop treating the expiry of copyright as the great deficit. Once Gandhi becomes part of the world commons, we can start reinventing him again. I think the best words in this context were said by Fidel Castro. The youthful Castro once said, who would dream of a copyright of Quixote or Shakespeare. Who could dare think of patenting jazz? Unfortunately, such an obscenity is becoming an everyday event. World legacies are being transformed into property to be sold through the tourist trade or they become part of kitsch in the world of brands and souvenirs.

 

The question I want to ask now is why is it that the Gandhians are not able to respond to this. Gandhi brought humour to combat technology, ethics to disband an empire. In response, we embalm Gandhi, treating him as a form of political correctness. Consider even the contours of the austerity debate. Politicians in the Congress haggled between travelling first-class and business class. Austerity was treated as a collection of brownie points or boy-scout badges one acquired to maintain one’s political status.

 

The idea of austerity has been disembedded. It is seen as limiting rather than read as a sense of harmony and creativity through limits. It is a monadic word disassociated from caring, ethics or community. It becomes almost calorific, disconnected from fasting. There is an erasure of the Gandhian here as austerity is converted to a Congress lifestyle brand.

 

Yet Gandhians keep silent as Ruhe appropriates their pictures and the Congress waxes illiterate on austerity. One is often tempted to attribute to them a syndrome that the cultural critic Walter Benjamin used to describe the Left. He accused the Left of suffering from "Left melancholia". Melancholia is a frozen sadness, where a group is unable to mourn, but is caught in the immobility of a memory that neither redeems, liberates or invents. It is a lazy fetishism that reprimands others but refuses to do anything new.

 

One has to ask, is there a "Gandhian melancholia", where the word is reified and the world forgotten? It is fetishism where we remain loyal to things as souvenirs as we withdraw from the world of human relations. How does one combat such melancholia? Maybe the first step is to bring out the dirty khadi and sun it. The movement from swaraj to swadesi is caught in the prayer of these little beginnings.

 

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

NAXAL VIOLENCE IS A CRY TO BE HEARD

ARJUN SENGUPTA

 

On september 15, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sounded the most serious warning about Naxal violence, calling it one of the "gravest internal security problems" the country faces. "I would like to say frankly that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace. It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected states continues to rise", he said.

 

It is important to understand why this is so and in what sense Naxalite violence is different from other violent outbursts.

 

Although it has always expressed itself as a breach of law and order with violence, murder, extortion and acts of heinous crimes, it may not be prudent to think of every protest movement of the disaffected people as a simple issue of law and order violation, and calling for its brutal suppression.

 

This form of extremism, indeed, goes beyond law and order, fanning some deep-seated grievance. We must try to resolve those problems first, as otherwise the violence will remain insurmountable.

 

I am not referring only to the problems of poverty which have been prevalent in our country for many years and in many forms. Poverty only provides a fertile ground for Naxalite grievances to grow. For the pursuit of a movement of reasonable intensity for a reasonable period of time, the nature of the grievances must be penetrating enough to upset the status quo. For example, when certain events affect the social equilibrium and add insult to injury, the situation often becomes explosive and outbursts of violence may become uncontrollable. It is not just poverty and deprivation that germinate Naxalite violence. It’s when social exclusion or a sense of injustice get added to poverty that people take to violence as the last resort of protest.

 

Dr Singh is right to point out that in our country Naxalite violence of this kind is very likely to come up again and again. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) has established that 77 per cent of our population lives on less than Rs 20 per day, while less than five per cent of our population leads an ostentatious life of luxury. This naturally infuriates people who suffer or lag behind. But that may not be sufficient for them to take up arms in protest. It is only when these poor people also suffer the worst social discrimination, such as 88 per cent of our dalits and 84 per cent of our Muslims living in abject poverty, that the protests turn violent.

 

Years of reforms have brought a high rate of growth for our country, but they have left behind an overwhelming population in the shadow of deprivation and destitution, suffering the worst forms of indignities. People who are sitting ducks and can turn to violent protest whenever an opportunity arises.

 

Dr Singh has rightly described this violence as "Leftist extremism". In the history of our Leftist movement there has always been a group which believed in taking up arms instead of playing the game of democratic politics and trying to win over the majority to their line of thinking. In fact, Leninism itself was considered at the beginning as inspiring a minority of the underprivileged group who could organise themselves into a violent revolutionary force. Bolsheviks did not even have a majority in the working class. After the 1917 Revolution, Lenin himself changed his position. During the Second International, he talked about forming a United Front of social groups fighting for their emancipation. But that position was not accepted by many other Communist leaders, including M.N. Roy from India, who believed in the revolutionary force of a well organised and well armed minority group.

 

This position was later taken up more seriously in China. The Communists came to power on an upsurge of the masses but some of their leaders, like Lin Biao, argued for a small band of militants to carry forward the revolution. There are many theories about the formation of these revolutionary groups, the conditions of their success and the logic of their armed insurrection. The armed group of revolutionaries are supposed to disrupt the state’s law and order mechanism, attack the police and the Army at their points of vulnerability and then retreat back in their hinterland of popular support to avoid confrontation. These groups are supposed to take up issues which have a great demonstration effect and then find shelter in thick forests or among the rural masses. India has provided a very fertile ground for this kind of hit-and-run extremism — attack, withdraw and regroup to attack again.

 

To this has been added the current turbulent international situation when practically any amount of arms of any degree of sophistication are available in plenty, either procured by the militants themselves or given by powers interested in disintegrating the country. Naxalite violence today has become more affordable than before and, therefore, a more dangerous threat to our country’s integrity.

 

To the classical areas of deprivation and discrimination in India, a new element has been added in the recent past which has assumed an unmanageable dimension. This is the "land grab movement" in the name of development, industrialisation and market-based economic activities. Millions of common people, small and marginal farmers and advasis and dalits are ousted from their habitations. Rich landlords and their agents are aided and abated by the government’s police force without much attempt to rehabilitate those who are being thrown out, not to speak of any attempt to negotiate with them the terms of land transfers.

 

Grabbing land in the name of development, and not just in the tribal areas, has been going on in India for quite some time. But over the last few years there is a new consciousness among those who are being evicted. If they get together and fight, they can resist land takeover even in the most distant tribal areas where modernity is yet to reach. A message has gone around that if they stand together and fight, which may occasionally mean killing their adversaries, they can protect their land and livelihood.

 

The only way the Naxalite problem can be resolved is by genuine negotiations and trying to provide answers to their age-old problems. But before you even start these negotiations, you have to generate confidence among these vulnerable people that they are equal partners in the negotiations, that you are not out to grab their land and property, and that you will respect their human rights.

 

Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former economic adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SINO-INDIAN RELATIONS

MEDIA MUST HEED PM’S CALL FOR RESTRAINT

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s observation that the Indian media is blowing things out of proportion on the China front and that there is no evidence of increased incursions by the Chinese into India must lead to some restraint in the Indian media while reporting international affairs. Foreign policy is a complex issue and painting an alarmist picture on the basis of half-baked information can jeopardise relations with a country. While the Indian armed forces need to maintain tight vigil on the border with China and there is no room for complacency, it is also important that minor incursions which have always taken place from both sides are not exaggerated. It is, therefore, just as well that Dr Singh has spoken to counter the tendency to whip up a virtual war hysteria.

 

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan put it in perspective when he said recently, “What we need to be careful of is that we don’t have an unwarranted incident or an accident of some kind. That’s what we are trying to avoid. But there is always concern (that) if this thing (media hype) goes on like this someone somewhere might lose his cool and something might go wrong.” This overall tone of moderation on the part of the government fits in with a strategic dialogue that India and China are engaged in with a mature outlook on both sides. Barring occasional public expression of differing perceptions, the border tangle is largely confined to regular rounds of talks between the two sides.

 

In today’s context when economic interests dictate political ties increasingly, India and China have moved to a stage where China has become one of India’s largest trade partners, and India is now one of the most vital investment and overseas project contracting markets for China. The Indian calculation apparently is that gradually the Chinese would shed their designs on territorial acquisition in enlightened economic self-interest. How true this premise proves only time will tell, but what is vital today is that while the political dialogue be kept going, the borders, the seas and the air route be guarded zealously.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

MISSILE DEFENCE PLAN

OBAMA’S MOVE TO SCRAP IS PRAGMATIC

 

The Obama administration’s decision to scrap the US missile defence plan for Eastern Europe is a step in the right direction. As expected, it has evoked a positive response from Russia, which had been opposed to former President George Bush’s missile shield idea for US allies in Europe on the pretext of blunting the threat from Iranian long-range missiles. Moscow considered the missile defence system, to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic, as being aimed at neutralising Russia’s nuclear deterrent. That is why Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has described it as a “correct” and “brave” decision. It can go a long way in easing tensions between the US and Russia. The erstwhile Bush administration’s controversial scheme of things for its East European allies had undermined the achievements made after the end of the Cold War.

 

President Obama’s latest decision is being seen as a tactic to bring Russia on board on the Iranian nuclear issue. The US now expects Russia to soften its opposition to the US-led drive for additional UN sanctions against Iran, which has been refusing to dismantle its controversial nuclear programme. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made it clear that there is no question of a trade-off on Iran, and Moscow will continue to firmly oppose any move for new UN sanctions against Iran.

 

Whether the US succeeds in winning over Russia on the Iranian nuclear question remains to be seen. But there is another objective that the US intends to achieve immediately. The scrapping of the missile defence plan is most likely to clear the way for a new pact on nuclear arms reduction between the US and Russia. This is urgently needed to replace the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, going to expire within three months. If the new pact comes about, Russia may agree to destroy at least 1,300 long-range missiles, which will not be a small gain for the Obama administration. In any case, the US today needs Russia as a partner in resolving major global issues.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

URANIUM FROM MONGOLIA

NEW DEAL WILL BENEFIT INDIA 

 

After the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal in September last year Mongolia is the fifth country to have entered into a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with India. Earlier, such pacts were signed with France, Russia, Kazakhstan and Namibia. Details are being worked out for a similar arrangement with Canada, too. All this has been possible after the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted the 34-year-old ban on India last year for doing nuclear trade with any country despite New Delhi not having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Now that the situation has changed, India has no difficulty in procuring the latest nuclear power generation technology and ensuring uranium supply from different countries. Australia, which has been showing reluctance so far, may also fall in line in the near future.

 

The pact with Mongolia, which was signed on last Monday along with four other agreements, has special significance. Mongolia is among the countries with large uranium deposits. Once the Mongolian uranium starts arriving in India, the country’s nuclear reactors will be able to run smoothly. Nuclear fuel shortage may become a thing of the past. India needs to generate as much nuclear power as possible to meet the growing energy requirement of industry and other sectors.

 

India and Mongolia are set to expand their trade and cooperation in various fields with a sharper focus on health and cultural exchanges. The visiting Mongolian President, Mr Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorji, has been assured of a $ 25 billion soft loan by India for helping the Central Asian nation to tide over the financial crisis it has been faced with in the wake of the global economic slowdown. The two countries can easily find new areas for increasing bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Mongolia can benefit considerably from India’s advancement in different areas like IT and telecommunications.

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

AUSTERITY DRIVE WON’T DO

GOVT NEEDS TO ENSURE EFFICIENT FUNCTIONING

BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

It is claimed that the government and the ruling party have instituted an austerity drive to conform to the imperatives of the much-anticipated country-wide drought conditions, and the need to economise to reduce the fiscal deficit that will be higher than the acceptable levels consequent on the stimulus packages adopted by the government in the light of the global financial crisis. Measures of effecting economy and increases in productivity and efficiency are the goals the government and political parties should constantly strive for. Therefore, steps in that direction will be welcomed by the aam admi.

 

But the word “austerity” appears to be inappropriate to describe what the ruling party and the government presumably want to do. The dictionary meaning of the word “austerity” is “lacking comfort, luxuries and adornments”. Surely, the idea is to function without luxuries and adornments. But is it the intention to function without comfort? There is often reference to Gandhiji and his austerity. But it often escapes notice that Gandhiji’s closest comrades, all men of unostentatious and simple style of living, did not shed their normal clothes, adopt vegetarian diets, give up smoking or live in mud huts. Are we to conclude that Gandhiji was the only person identified with aam aadmi and the rest of the leaders of the Congress party of the times of freedom struggle were not.?

 

Gandhiji carried his austerity and identification with aam aadmi to the extent of not wearing the appropriate warm clothes when he attended the Round-Table Conference in London. Others, including Jawaharlal Nehru, wore the clothes appropriate for British weather when they were on a visit. Therefore, let us leave Gandhiji and his style of identifying with aam aadmi out of the scope of this discussion. Gandhiji was a mahatma and aam aadmi wants a higher standard of living and has no aspirations to become a mahatma.

 

It will not be correct to argue that austerity is part of our tradition and culture. If we are to go by our traditional culture, austerity is prescribed for people who have transited from Grihasthashram and become Vanasprastha. Our culture provides for a comfortable life for people during their working years. Comfort is different from luxury and ostentation. We have examples of people like Azim Premji or Narayanamuthy who, in spite of being billionaires, live simple, unostentatious, efficient, productive and comfortable lives. Comfort is necessary for efficient functioning. Airconditioning of offices in summer is not a luxury, but a comfort necessary to ensure higher productivity. When Udyog Bhavan and Krishi Bhavan were built during the time of Nehru they were designed to be centrally airconditioned. Then came the foreign exchange crisis of 1957 and the idea was abandoned and airconditioning was restricted to deputy secretaries and above.

 

The most puzzling among the decisions on austerity is the one asking the ministers and officers travelling to foreign countries to take the economy class ticket. They are supposed to attend conferences and enter into negotiations with their counterparts in the countries they visit. Do we want them to be fresh, alert and feeling relaxed, or tired and jet-lagged? Has somebody calculated the cost to the country of a negotiator not on top of his talents as against the savings in the airfare between the business class and the economy class? The same considerations apply to travel within the country for ministers and senior bureaucrats travelling up and down to a state capital on the same day or overnight and having to be in the office next morning. It also seems to have been overlooked that some of our ministers are senior citizens for whom it is not advisable health-wise to travel long hours sitting in an economy class seat.

 

 

Aam aadmi is not in charge of government decision-making. Do we want higher quality decisions from decision-makers working in comfort or should we sacrifice the quality and quantity in decision making to identify ourselves with aam aadmi? The price of such short-sightedness in terms of decision-making will be borne by the common man. He is the beneficiary of good and efficient governance and the primary sufferer if quality and productivity in that respect is affected

 

The highest potential for ensuring economy and improving productivity in national decision-making is in ensuring that disruptions in the functioning of Parliament are avoided and not treated as an established ritual. A few days of disruption of Parliament will more than offset all the potential savings envisaged in the austerity drive. One single shout during the Presidential address to the joint session of the US Congress resulted in the reprimand of the errant member. That is the kind of legislative conduct aam aadmi in this country expects from our legislators if they really care for the common man instead of trying to advance their own parochial and partisan interests

 

We have a long history of such economy drives (not austerity ones). An ad hoc cut of a percentage is often imposed on the budgets of all ministries. It is always accompanied with exhortation that non-plan expenditure should be cut. Invariably that results in maintenance expenditure being cut leading to the neglect of the upkeep of the assets already created. The infrastructural assets created earlier deteriorate. Our public buildings are shoddy, our roads develop potholes, our electricity system becomes inefficient, our irrigation canals get silted, our schools do not have adequate teachers and our rural hospitals lack medicines. Creating assets and not maintaining them is one of the banes of our development process. If only the storage of foodgrains had been maintained properly the saving for the country would have been very much more than what the austerity measures can be expected to yield.

 

The monsoon did not fail us as much as it was feared. Therefore, distress relief expenditure on account of delay and a shortfall in the monsoon is likely to be considerably less than anticipated. This gives an opportunity for the government to ask each ministry to identify possible retrenchments of wasteful expenditure and propose steps to increase efficiency and productivity. The Administrative Reforms Commission has proposed reforms to this end. The need of the hour is not austerity but identification and avoidance of wasteful expenditure and leakage and diversion of government funds and, above all, to increase the efficiency of the government in delivering goods and services to the common man.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THINGS FORGOTTEN, THINGS UNIQUE

BY HARISH DHILLON

 

MY father was a prisoner-of-war in Singapore and my mother a patient in a T.B. sanatorium. So my poor grandmother was landed with the responsibility of looking after me. I say “poor” because I was a particularly obnoxious child and often drove the usually patient lady to the very edge.

 

I don’t really blame her for accepting the offers of generous relatives to relieve her of this burden for a few months. The people who hosted me have all blurred in my memory but I do remember that all of them, without exception were extremely kind to me.

 

A few things have stayed in my mind chiefly because I have never come across them again. In Sialkot, I think there was this huge cast iron griddle, like a waffle iron, which had a dozen half egg shapes scooped out of the tray. Every time we had egg curry, the eggs would be whisked, poured into these scoops and the griddle placed over the cooking fire. The cooked eggs, would be made into curry. They were delicious — the white and the yolk firmed into one. I have never, never again come across this.

 

I have asked many people over the years but no one seems to know what I am talking about. Was that griddle custom built for that particular relative or was it an invention which failed with consumers? I don’t think I will ever know.

 

Another relative, probably in Bannu, garnished our “kheer” with the thread like fibre from the inside of banana peels.

 

“It will make you grow big and strong,” she would say. I have never again come across anyone who carefully shreds the inside of banana peels. All my questions to doctors and dieticians, in this regard, have been met by the same uncomprehending look. Where did the lady garner her belief in the nutritional value of this fibre?

 

The third unique experience was in Lyallpur. The family lived in a typical colonial bungalow with its wrap-around verandah and acres of largely untended garden. But there were a large number of trees and most of them had monster plants trained along their trunks.

 

The year I was there these plants bore fruit. It was a long, green, scaly fruit, which was plucked and then buried beneath clothes in the chest of drawers in my room. At night the whole room would be permeated by the strong but beautiful aroma of the fruit.

 

Finally the fruit, now yellow, was taken out, peeled, sliced and fed to the rather large family. It was delicious, a splendid combination of the best of a pineapple and the best of a banana. The bonus was that my clothes carried the wonderful fragrance for weeks.

 

I have never again seen, leave alone eaten, the fruit of the monster of a plant and everyone I’ve spoken to about it, has looked at me incredulously as if I was making up another one of my endless stories. Under the circumstances I can’t really blame them.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A SKULL THAT REWRITES THE HISTORY OF MAN

BY STEVE CONNOR

 

The conventional view of human evolution and how early man colonised the world has been thrown into doubt by a series of stunning palaeontological discoveries suggesting that Africa was not the sole cradle of humankind. Scientists have found a handful of ancient human skulls at an archaeological site two hours from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, that suggest a Eurasian chapter in the long evolutionary story of man.

 

The skulls, jawbones and fragments of limb bones suggest that our ancient human ancestors migrated out of Africa far earlier than previously thought and spent a long evolutionary interlude in Eurasia – before moving back into Africa to complete the story of man.

 

Experts believe fossilised bones unearthed at the medieval village of Dmanisi in the foothills of the Caucuses, and dated to about 1.8 million years ago, are the oldest indisputable remains of humans discovered outside of Africa.

 

But what has really excited the researchers is the discovery that these early humans (or “hominins”) are far more primitive-looking than the Homo erectus humans that were, until now, believed to be the first people to migrate out of Africa about 1 million years ago.

 

The Dmanisi people had brains that were about 40 per cent smaller than those of Homo erectus and they were much shorter in stature than classical H. erectus skeletons, according to Professor David Lordkipanidze, general director of the Georgia National Museum. “Before our findings, the prevailing view was that humans came out of Africa almost 1 million years ago, that they already had sophisticated stone tools, and that their body anatomy was quite advanced in terms of brain capacity and limb proportions. But what we are finding is quite different,” Professor Lordkipanidze said.

 

“The Dmanisi hominins are the earliest representatives of our own genus – Homo – outside Africa, and they represent the most primitive population of the species Homo erectus to date. They might be ancestral to all later Homo erectus populations, which would suggest a Eurasian origin of Homo erectus.”

 

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Guildford, where he gave the British Council lecture, Professor Lordkipanidze raised the prospect that Homo erectus may have evolved in Eurasia from the more primitive-looking Dmanisi population and then migrated back to Africa to eventually give rise to our own species, Homo sapiens – modern man.

 

“The question is whether Homo erectus originated in Africa or Eurasia, and if in Eurasia, did we have vice-versa migration? This idea looked very stupid a few years ago, but today it seems not so stupid,” he told the festival.

 

The scientists have discovered a total of five skulls and a solitary jawbone. It is clear that they had relatively small brains, almost a third of the size of modern humans. “They are quite small. Their lower limbs are very human and their upper limbs are still quite archaic and they had very primitive stone tools,” Professor Lordkipanidze said. “Their brain capacity is about 600 cubic centimetres. The prevailing view before this discovery was that the humans who first left Africa had a brain size of about 1,000 cubic centimetres.”

 

The only human fossil to predate the Dmanisi specimens are of an archaic species Homo habilis, or “handy man”, found only in Africa, which used simple stone tools and lived between about 2.5 million and 1.6 million years ago.

 

“I’d have to say, if we’d found the Dmanisi fossils 40 years ago, they would have been classified as Homo habilis because of the small brain size. Their brow ridges are not as thick as classical Homo erectus, but their teeth are more H. erectus like,” Professor Lordkipanidze said. “All these finds show that the ancestors of these people were much more primitive than we thought. I don’t think that we were so lucky as to have found the first travellers out of Africa. Georgia is the cradle of the first Europeans, I would say,” he told the meeting.

 

“What we learnt from the Dmanisi fossils is that they are quite small – between 1.44 metres to 1.5 metres tall. What is interesting is that their lower limbs, their tibia bones, are very human-like so it seems they were very good runners,” he said.

 

One of the five skulls is of a person who lost all his or her teeth during their lifetime but had still survived for many years despite being completely toothless. This suggests some kind of social organisation based on mutual care, Professor Lordkipanidze said.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PLACATING RUSSIA WON’T WORK

BY DAVID J. KRAMER

 

Russian leaders never liked the idea that the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic were cooperating on missile defense to confront an emerging Iranian threat. The notion that two former Warsaw Pact states that Moscow used to control would be hosting 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a corresponding radar facility in the Czech Republic was unacceptable.

 

Kremlin leaders alleged that the system was meant to target Russia, not counter Iran, and they had threatened to scuttle unrelated arms control negotiations with the United States unless Washington backed down.

 

With the Obama administration’s announcement Thursday that it is indeed abandoning the Polish and Czech sites, Moscow’s complaining appears to have worked. Yet the administration’s capitulation to Russian pressure is a serious betrayal of loyal allies in Warsaw and Prague whose governments pursued politically unpopular positions at the request of the Bush administration to help confront a rising threat from Iran. (Announcing this policy change on Thursday, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, added unnecessary insult to injury.)

 

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama showed little enthusiasm for the missile defense plans of President Bush. After his election, however, Obama appeared to take a firmer position, one closer to his predecessor’s thinking.

 

“Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies,” he said in Prague on April 5. “The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed.”

 

Whatever the official explanation now for not moving forward, many — including the Kremlin — will read this shift as an effort to placate Moscow. Announcing the decision ahead of Obama’s meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reinforces such thinking. The Obama administration has prioritized a follow-up to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and dropping the Polish and Czech sites removes a major obstacle to finalizing agreement.

 

Yes, Washington has an interest in an arms control deal with Moscow, but Russia’s need for such a deal is much greater: It cannot afford to maintain its aging nuclear weapons, nor could it compete with the United States in any new arms race.

 

Russia’s nuclear arsenal is already within or moving toward the ranges proposed in the latest negotiations regarding both warheads (1,500 to 1,675 per country) and delivery vehicles (500 to 1,100). That should have provided Washington with significant negotiating leverage, but the Obama administration’s eagerness for an agreement before START expires Dec. 5 has essentially forfeited that leverage.

 

Russia’s repeated efforts to link the missile defense sites to an arms control agreement should have made it harder politically for Obama to back down. Ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic were never a threat to Russia. Winning Russian help in dealing with Iran as a quid pro quo is also very unlikely.

 

Yet Obama’s efforts to placate the Russians come at the expense of U.S. relations with Eastern and Central European governments that are already uneasy about the U.S. commitment to their region. Worse, rewarding bad Russian behavior is likely only to produce more Russian demands on this and other issues.

 

The administration defends its decision by claiming that Iran is not developing a long-range capability as quickly as was previously thought. The Bush administration, however, had proceeded on the reasoning that Iran would have the capability in four or five years, roughly when the missiles and radar would be fully operational. Announcing this change ahead of an Oct. 1 meeting with Iranian officials also seems particularly unwise.

 

The Kremlin started a dangerous game of chicken by linking conclusion of a post-START agreement to missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Moscow appears to have prevailed in that contest of wills. The administration should insist on delinking these two separate issues and move forward with the missile defense plans it inherited.

 

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

CHATTERATI

ISSUE OF YSR SUCCESSOR PUT ON HOLD

BY DEVI CHERIAN

 

AICC managers have done with what they are good at. They have bought time on the seemingly hot issue of YSR successor. So, as the mourning period for YSR came to an end, the Jagan Mohan camp continued to lobby in Delhi. But the seasoned AICC Congress firefighters have, as usual, beaten them with a proposal the ‘AP son brigade’ cannot ignore.

 

The high command has postponed the leadership issue till the assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal are over. This one-month waiting period will be an extended exercise in strategic thinking.

 

Disgruntled Andhra leaders camping in Delhi say they are being given homoeopathy treatment. They are given ‘meethi golis’ and are being asked to be patient. In the meantime YSR’s son Jagan has been told he could plan a formal entry into state politics — as a stepping stone for bigger things in future — by contesting the by-election from the assembly seat that has fallen vacant due to his father’s death.

 

In the meantime, senior Andhra leaders in Delhi are waiting for the phone call from 10 Janpath.

 

Congress ticket for leaders’ kin only?

 

As the Haryana and Maharashtra elections have been announced, ‘family comes first’ seems to be the slogan. In both these states nearly all senior political leaders of the Congress want their brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nephews and nieces to get the Congress ticket. In Haryana infighting within the party is at its peak now. This seems to be the best way to adjust your relatives in the most lucrative business in the country today.

 

Mrs Gandhi recently stated that this family quota system should be done away with. Even though fortunately for the Congress in Haryana, Hooda does not have any danger from the Opposition. His rivals are within his own party.

 

In Maharashtra also the Congress leaders want all their kith-and-kin adjusted in this coming election. If this is how the ticket distribution is going to be done, then obviously it is an in-house game. During the Madhya Pradesh elections, Mrs Gandhi decided not to give the ticket to relatives of Congress leaders. Will this formula take place in these two states too? So there is still hope for the ordinary Congress worker, who has no relative to fight his case. He still may get a chance to become an MLA.

 

Low-key birthday celebrations

 

Three boys celebrated their birthday last week. Home Minister P. Chidambaram started his day as usual at 9 in the morning. As he reached the venue of a high-level official meeting, he was greeted with flowers and good wishes. He spent the whole day at office and then went home to a quiet dinner and bed. P.C is a workaholic and no-show guy. In his constituency down south his followers distributed dhotis to the poor and prayed for him.

 

Next came Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat. After his victory in the byelections he camped in Delhi for some time. The birthday boy spent his day on his own. Only his friend, Arun Jaitely, went to meet and wish him. Some BJP leaders say they called and wished him. There were just some posters put up by his followers wishing him on his birthday.

The third birthday boy was the exiled flamboyant artist, M.F.Husain. He turned 94. He a penchant for high-end cars like Ferrari but roams barefoot. He is in exile due to threats from Hindu fundamentalists and so shuttles between London and New York. He was in New York for this birthday.

 

You can be lonely at the top, it seems.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

COORDINATED POLICING

 

Close coordination between the police forces of all the States has become need of the hour in view of the fact that leaders of the militant groups have started to take shelter in the States considered safer and the recent arrest of DHD (J) chief Jewel Garlosa in Bangaluru bears testimony to the fact. Moreover, with fundamentalist and jehadi forces trying to establish their roots in India to create disturbance, only close coordination between the police forces of all the States can deal with the problem. During the recent meet of the police chiefs of the States of the country, the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram expressed the view that expansion of the network of the Naxal militants is a cause of concern and such forces might try to establish their roots in the North East also and if they manage to do so, it will only add to the worries of the States of the region, which are already facing the problem of militancy. The Government of India must take initiative for improving coordination and regular sharing of intelligence between the forces of all the States and though the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) organises a meet of the DGs of the police forces of the States once a year , more interactions should be held to ensure better coordination as meeting once a year for two to three days will not be enough to deal with the problems. In recent times, the coordination between the police forces of the North East states has improved considerably, which led to arrest of a number of hardcore militants, while, two hardcore Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) militants were arrested in Kokrajhar district only because of the tip off that the Assam police received from West Bengal Police.


The Government of India has recently launched an ambitious project of interlinking all the police stations of the country, which will definitely help in improving policing, particularly in dealing with militants and criminals. A scheme to interlink the police stations of Assam has already been launched so that senior officers can also monitor the progress of investigation of the cases. However, only connecting the police stations through computers will not be enough if the system is not used properly and for that, the Government must train up police personnel so that they can make full use of the facilities. At the same time, the Government must ensure that the personnel posted at the police stations carefully carry out data entry regularly to make the system work to the desired extent. At this moment, most of the policemen , particularly in Assam, are overburdened due to shortage of manpower, which even affected investigation of the cases. To make the scheme of interlinking of police stations function properly, a few persons in all the police stations should be entrusted with the job of data entry regularly to make the system functional and all required training should be given to them.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TECHNICAL EDUCATION

 

The Centre’s clearance for setting up of five National Institutes of Technology (NITs) in five north-eastern States of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim is a welcome development that can do a world of good to the much-neglected sphere of technical education in the region. Institutions imparting quality technical education has been a long-felt need in the North-East, and the proposed NITs would definitely help in creating an ideal environment for the growth of technical education. A worrying trend of late has been the diminishing interest of students in science, which calls for urgent efforts to ensure the right type of ambience for higher science education. Economic development of our backward regions presents an enormous challenge and an equally enormous opportunity to our scientific community for making a positive difference in the lives of millions. An accelerated growth of technical education is imperative for developing a vision and a correct approach to ensure meaningful application of new knowledge and technology in the day-to-day lives of the people, particularly the disadvantaged sections. For this, the governments have to provide adequate support for science and technology. The need to support basic research in science and engineering to find solutions to basic problems of food, drink, shelter and health had never been as pronounced as it is now.


However, it is not just technical education but the entire realm of higher education beset with myriad problems that continues to be an area of concern in the North-East. Infrastructural constraints apart, lack of professionalism and administrative discipline in our institutions of higher learning has been a bane in the qualitative growth of this vital sector. Education is passing through a period of transition, which demands a greater level of dynamism, professionalism and discipline on the part of those imparting and managing education. While we are in an urgent need of new subjects and syllabi to thrive in the age of globalisation, a similar zeal and professionalism ought to be displayed by the teachers. The State governments, too, have done precious little for expansion and consolidation of higher education over the decades. The absence of a sound, pragmatic policy has been having a debilitating impact on the development of our education. It is a fact that no government can provide enough educational institutions to meet the needs of the students, and therefore, the role of private educational institutions will be more crucial in the days to come. An increase in the number of educational institutions will also lead to greater competition resulting in a corresponding increase in quality.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE TANG OF PUJA

DR JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

 

The Autumn has arrived and the people are hopeful that the days would be cooler soon. Autumn is the most lovable season out of all the seasons. As poet Keats said it is “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. We are immensely relieved that the scorching summer is finally going to leave us for the year. The days are of course still hot, but we think that the blazing fury of the Sun has become a little milder. With the onset of the autumnal sky, the slight nip in the breeze spells relief, for this is the harbinger of something that kindles desires and that is the reason for us to escape from year-long drudgery. Autumn has another joy in store for us. For us it implies the approaching Durga Puja festival. The exotic white and pink Sewalis are in full bloom giving the atmosphere a divine beauty. It is time for Goddess Durga, to visit her parental home along with her celebrated offspring. They remind us of a wonderful, happy and lovable family. The homecoming of the Mother Goddess makes us feel the ecstasy of the spiritual mingling with the material world. The visit she makes every year brings hope, joy and laughter to her countless devotees.


According to the almanac the Goddess is coming in a palanquin and will go back home riding an elephant. Apparently her mode of travel has great significance – since it may imply prosperity or adversity. It has been said that the palanquin ride spells ill for humanity, while the elephant ride implies good harvest. But whatever might be her mode of transport, people at the moment are not much concerned. After all, we have been suffering for years together and our cup of misery is full to the brim and is spilling over. Hence a few more knocks will not matter – not much any way. This is not the time to wallow in sorrow. We have only a few days to enjoy and forget everything else. This joy of four days is worth a lifetime of misery.


Durga Puja is a festival of joy. Of course it is not unmitigated enjoyment – as we have to cope with various groups of young men, coming for subscription from diverse localities. They are not the least bothered about our financial problems. We have to oblige otherwise they will get belligerent. Well – we have to accept the rough with the smooth – the evil with the good. We cannot possibly refuse to pay the money demanded. There is nothing voluntary about it and we do it most reluctantly, and it does make large holes in the dwindling purse. It is not really a donation, the proper term should be extortion.


Durga Puja implies shopping at large scale – it is fun to go shopping to buy gifts for friends and relatives. It is obligatory to buy gifts in the Puja time, even if we have to spend more than we can afford. Hence in spite of the fear of all these bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, and earthquake fear, we have to go for shopping. Once no shopping was complete without a visit to Fancy Bazar, at that time the fanciest market with the fanciest prices of the goods. But now Fancy Bazar has lost its past glory. At present Guwahati can boast of several shopping malls, fashionable shopping centres and mega markets, displaying the most glamorous collections. You get everything there – you name it and it is there. Quite a few famed shopping complexes from outside the State have opened their branches in our city. One can get things like costly ornaments, glitzy dresses, fashionable shoes, furniture of latest design and everything else here in our city malls, which till a couple of years back were available only outside the State. Now they are all here at our door step. We have only to step out of our homes to reach them. If you have sufficient amount of money, you can get anything you fancy in our own city. But there is a snag. Not all of us can afford such costly things. To lure customers some of these shopping centres promise attractive gifts, if you buy things from them, the cost of which would be above a certain amount.


With prices of everything rising to the sky it is getting extremely difficult for people, belonging to the middle class, to buy clothes or other things, which is unavoidable. The joy of giving and loving compensates all our hardships. But despite the existence of these mega marketing centres almost at our door step, somehow shopping remains incomplete without a visit to Fancy Bazar for some of the old timers like myself. It has become a hub of feverish activities with the increasing number of Puja shoppers. One does not have to walk–he will be pushed to his destination by the surging mass of humanity. The hawkers have already occupied the pavement and half the road. They sell almost everything customers might require and they are thronged mostly by the people belonging to the economically backward section. It is the tradition that everybody, rich or poor, must wear new clothes in this season of joy. We have no option; even we are short of money. One cannot possibly dream of wearing the same old worn – out dress during the Pujas.


It is very pleasant to buy gifts for our nearest and dearest ones. The shining happy faces of the receivers of the gifts are all the reward we need. We do not have any regrets for spending more than we can afford, even if we have to survive on dry bread and water for the rest of the year. After all, Durga Puja comes only once a year and we have every right to buy whatever we please, without counting every rupee we spend.


Durga Puja is a veritable theatre festival and every locality has something to express or reveal. Depending on the message, which could be historical or socio-political, the ambience varies according to the theme. The festival has proved beyond doubt its potential to depict diverse objects in a stunning exercise of creativity. We must not forget the ingenuity of those behind the – scene – artists, whose nibble hands could create such exquisite images. Those artisans remain unappreciated and unrecognised, though without them Durga Puja would not have been possible.


The Pujas witness a kind of thematic frenzy. A majority of them are craft-based, while the rest are subject oriented or concept oriented. Some of them present a rustic charm on account of their simplicity. Experimentalism is the order of the day and it is having a field day, with imagination running riot. The decoration is the most crucial part, as attraction lies in the splendour. This is the age of awe and admiration–immediate and effective. The thirst for accolades is reigning supreme amongst the organisers of different Pujas. Competitiveness is the rule where once sincerity prevailed. In this season one’s emotions, ambitions, hopes and budgets – all run high. This festival once again reasserts what the Hindu scriptures silently remind us that everything is transient and that joy and sorrow go together – the joy at ‘Sasthi’ when the Goddess enters Navapatrika to the sad farewell on the ‘Dasami’ day when “Visarajan” takes place. Still for us this annual event has a sense of continuance and we hopefully wait for the next year.


Durga Devi demonstrates the victory of good over evil by slaying Mahisasura, the epitome of evil. But now we are steeped in evil upto our neck and thousands of Mahisasuras have swamped this good earth of ours. We do not deserve her love and blessings and she might consider our craving for her blessings as an audacity on our part. How can sinners like us ask for her blessings? It is a wonder that she has not yet abandoned us to our fate. Yet we do hope that she would forgive us and help us in mending our ways. Let our sins be washed away by her blessings and the world regain the peace and happiness for which it was meant. With her blessings we would surely be able to cultivate the attributes of love and honesty and retrieve our lost humanity.


(The writer is former Head of Philosophy, Cotton College)

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EID-UL-FITRE: THE JOY OF BREAKING FAST

JAHIDUL ISLAM KHAN

 

Eid-ul-Fitre is one of the two Eid celebrations for the Muslims. The other one is Eid-ul-Azha. Both these days are considered to be the days of great joy and happiness and the days are endowed by Allah with great blessings. The word ‘Eid’means ‘greatest joy and happiness’ and the word ‘Fitre’means ‘breaking fast’. So, the words Eid-ul- Fitre mean “the greatest joy and happiness of breaking fast”. It is celebrated on the first day of the lunar month `Shawal’ which is the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic calendar is counted on lunar months. The lunar year consists of 355 days and the solar year consists of 365 days. So the lunar year is shorter by ten days than the solar year. That is why, the Islamic festivals advance by ten days every year. The festival of Eil-ul-Fitre advances by ten days every year and in a span of 36 years, this festive occasion revolves round all the seasons of the solar year.


The festival of Eid-ul-Fitre is held just after the completion of fasting in the month of Ramadan. It is the lunar month of Ramadan in which the first message of Allah was brought by a messenger to Prophet ‘Hajrat Muhammad’ and it is the month in which the revelation of the Quran started. So, Ramadan is observed as a holy month by the Muslims. Ramadan is the month long fast and it has been being observed as the month of fasting. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are ‘Kalima’(which means that Allah is one and Mohammad is His Prophet), ‘Namaz’ (prayers for minimum five times in a day), ‘Zakat’(alms to the poor and the needy people) and ‘Hajj’ (pilgrimage to Mecca). The fasting in Islam is a physical, moral and spiritual discipline and its purpose is the promotion of righteousness and security against evil. The month of Ramadan begins with the appearance of the new moon and ends with the appearance of another new moon. As soon as the new moon of Ramadan is sighted a joyous surge of anticipation inspires the hearts of all, male and female, young and old. Mosques begin to fill with eager worshippers for the prayers. The period of the daily fast extends from the first flush of dawn till after sunset. In other words the Muezzin’s call for the Fair prayer is the signal for the commencement of the fast and his call for the Maghrib prayer is the signal announcing the end of the fast. During this time, neither any kind of slight food nor a single drop of water may pass through the lips of a person who is observing fast. The meal which is taken just before the commencement of the fast is called ‘Saheri’ and the light meal which is taken just after the ending of the fast is called ‘Ebtar’. The fast may, however, be discontinued in case of emergency and should be terminated if the person observing fast becomes sick. There should not be any kind of sexual relation between husband and wife in the month of Ramadan. However, the sick person is required to fast for an equal number of days at some other time. Apart from this daily routine, the person who observes fast must perform his or her regular prayers for five times and then Taravih during the twenty rakas of which the congregation is privileged to listen to the recitation of the holy Quran from the very beginning to the end in proper sequence, evening after evening, till by the end of the month the whole Quran is recited.


A festival is celebrated on the following day of the completion of the month of Ramadan. It is observed as the festival of the termination of the fast. The festival is called Eid-ul-Fitre. It is one of those occasions when even a voluntary fast may not be observed. Early in the moming of this day the Muslims take bath, wear new and clean dresses and use perfume. The younger ones seek blessings from their parents, grandparents and elder ones. The elders bless the youngers and the youngers pay their homage to the elders. The male and female Muslims greet ‘Eid Mubarak’ each other and wish each other’s bright and glorious future. Then the male Muslims assemble for Eid-ul-Fitre prayer. In conformity with the spirit of Islam, the only celebration prescribed for the festival is an additional prayer during the forenoon comprising two rakas and an address by the Imam who is the head of the congregation of the prayer. The prayer is somewhere held in some bigger mosques, but in view of the large numbers involved the prayer is generally held in the open field which is called ‘Eidgah’. At first, before the commencement of the prayer, the Imam of the congregation delivers his religious lecture and advises the people to be truthful, sincere and punctual in their religious duties. Then all stand up sincerely according to the rules of Islam. The Imam delivers the Fatiha and recites a few portions of the Quran. All praise Allah and pray for peace of the souls of the Prophet and their own relatives. Everyone present begs Allah’s forgiveness for his past sins and prays for sound health and peace of mind.


Zakat can be given at any time, but it is generally given in the month of Ramadan or before the Eid-ul-Fitre prayer to the poor and the needy people so that they can elevate their economic status. Zakat is taken at the rate of two and a half per cent of income or wealth a person possesses. On the day of Eid-ul-Fitre, before the prayer, it has been made compulsory for all rich Muslims to pay Fitra. The quantity of Fitra for each rich Muslim is generally decided every year by the local religious committees.


Eid-ul-Fitre is a festival of great joy and happiness because on this day the pure repentant person’s bad deeds are wiped clean and past sins are forgiven by Allah. Allah befriends those who repent for past sins and bad deeds and those who wish to attain purity. Quran say” Allah loves those who turn to Him and those who keep themselves clean”. Hence, when a day is so blessed that a man repents for all his bad deeds and makes a truthful vow of peace with Allah and bows his head before Allah’s commandments then undoubtedly he will be saved from the punishment for his bad deeds. In this way he attains that which he did not even have any hope of attaining. A person can imagine himself or herself what great joy one can feel when having lost all hope of attaining something, in a state of complete hopelessness, he finds what he was seeking. After the prayer of Eid-ul-Fitre, the Muslims exchange greetings by embracing with one another and they greet everyone they come across irrespective of colour, caste, religion and community. They invite their friends and relatives, Muslims and non-Muslims, to feast together. Exchange of greetings helps to strengthen the bond of unity, friendship and brotherhood among all sections of people in the society. So, Eid-ul -Fitre is one of the occasions of the Islamic world which heralds joy and jubilation for one and all, male and female, young and old.

 

(The writer teaches English in Uttar Barpeta College).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROGRESS ON GST

 

A consensus among states to go for three rates for the state level goods and services tax (GST) marks positive movement in implementing this major tax reform. The lack of agreement on a single rate at the state level should not be seen as a major setback, as some tend to. But the success of the transition would depend on putting in place a proper system to allow input tax credit. In any case, an abrupt move from multiple rates of tax to a single rate is neither easy nor advisable, as it has the potential to disrupt stability of prices across a spectrum of goods.


Politically, it is not feasible - no politician would like to take responsibility for imposing higher taxes on citizens. Besides, there would be opposition from industry, particularly those that are required to move to a higher rate of tax, even when all taxes paid through the value chain are offset through input credits. No doubt, a single rate is ideal, as it reduces distortions and misuse of input tax credit. For the policy makers that should be the milestone to be reached in a few years. For the moment, it makes sense to have three rates - a standard rate, a lower rate for essential items, and a nominal rate for precious metals. Exempting some goods from GST makes no sense - in fact, it can discourage production and distribution of these goods achieving scale and organisation.

Agreement on the structure does not, however, mean that GST will commence on April 1, 2010. In the most optimistic scenario, the Centre would succeed in amending the Constitution to allow taxation of both goods and services by the Union government and the states. A joint working group will work out within two months the amendments required to the Constitution and also prepare a model GST law for the Centre and the states. Simultaneously, the states would put their heads together on creating an IT network to capture data on inter-state transactions, necessary to prevent leakage of taxes. They also have to update the database of inter-state transactions. A system to allot new tax identity numbers under GST and for filing of returns has also to be finalised. It is a long haul before the country can move to a GST regime, and policymakers need to remain focused on removing all impediments to its implementation.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEXT TIME, BUILD A NEW TOWN

 

Delhi might or might not get its act together for the Commonwealth Games. In either case, the games too shall pass. The lessons from how Indian authorities prepared for the games would remain. The principal one would be that additional construction of urban infrastructure for an event like the commonwealth games or the Olympics should integrate into organic process of the nation’s urbanisation. India is urbanising fast, which is natural for a country such as this, where fast growth comes in the context of an extremely low level of urbanisation — 28% as per the last Census and probably 32% as of now. People have at large noticed that the share of agriculture in the country’s output has been dropping rapidly — it has dipped below 18%, from about 27% at the turn of the decade.


Correspondingly, the share of industry and services in GDP has gone up. Now, it is not the case that no service sector or industrial activity takes place in rural areas. However, indisputably, the bulk of high-value industry and services take place in an urban setting. Fast economic growth is driven by high-value services and industry. These require the physical environment of a town. They also require manpower to move to towns, on an increasing scale.


Back of the envelope calculations show that India’s urban population will go up by at least 20 crore people over the next 15-20 years. Considering the level of preparedness of our existing cities to accommodate their present population in a manner half-way decent, we can well imagine what hellish conditions would be created, if these additional 200 million people were to descend on our present clutch of towns.


We badly need to build new towns. And these towns must be designed to minimise energy consumption even while being designed for generalised prosperity — note how government housing in Delhi only provided for scooter garages, the authorities never dreaming that hoi polloi would own cars. An event like the Commonwealth Games would serve as the perfect occasion for building precisely such a brand new town from scratch, instead of grafting some structures on to an old town.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN INSTITUTION TO PROTECT SHAREHOLDERS

ASHWANI WINDLASS

 

The Satyam saga saw enough pundits preaching corporate governance. Enough critics lamented on inadequate regulatory oversight. And we came down on the role of the independent directors. Except for an efficient bailout by the government to save the company, there has been no proactive steps to prevent recurrence of such scandals. A new Companies Act is on the anvil, trying to tighten some dimensions. But why can’t Satyam case catalyse new institutions for shareholders’ protection?


Let us face it. There is no way investors can retrieve what they lost in Satyam. They went by audited cash and profits in the company’s books. Some consolation exists in the US for investors seeking class action suits. But the poor Indian investors will get no relief. And that still leaves the gullible Indian investors vulnerable if the controlling shareholders decide to turn greedy. That is where the proposed Act needs to dig deeper. So can there be a new bridge to serve the stranded shareholders, protect the value of a business and indeed all the stakeholders?

A systemic change can be brought to counter ingenuity of greed. The answer may lie in debating and introducing a new entity called ‘a shareholders’ trust’ between the shareholders and the board of directors. These trusts can help seed and strengthen adequate structures for good corporate governance and see through manipulation, if not make it impossible. It can also have triggers with self-exerting levers. Such a trust is different from a two-tier boards in Europe and is intended to be an active institution across companies like auditors are.


Such trusts can be be a harbinger of widely held corporations that will offer twin promises — real public control and ownership of large corporations and a serious incubator for professional entrepreneurs. Rightly nurtured, it can help realise large entrepreneurial dreams that suffer from several constraints including large capital. Further, it would have a stabilising influence on the corporate culture. But it requires an enabling law.


So how is this construct different from what we already have in law?


First, it is conceived to encourage the arrival of a widely held corporation without one single controlling shareholder. It could have several, and at best some influential, shareholders.


Second, the shareholders will vest their significant, but not all, rights and powers in these trusts, run by qualified trustees. The trustees could be chosen on the basis of a well laid out criteria and process. It could be an engaging avenue for accomplished professionals whose wealth of experience will be handy.


Third, this trust resides somewhere between the board of directors and shareholders. It can be common to more than one company, but not to an unlimited number. This is thus different from the concept of supervisory and executive boards practised in Europe, as it responds more to our reality. Conflict of interest rules out auditors for this role.


Fourth, it would have clearly defined relationship between the shareholders and the board of directors and their inter se rights and duties. As this institution evolves, some trustees could also double up as independent directors.

Fifth, there is much debate on the office of independent directors. Often, whether they do act independently is questioned. The appointment of such independent directors can also be subject to ratification by these trusts to strengthen this office.

 

Sixth, with this trust, ordinarily, board of directors would need to go to shareholders only once a year to get its approval on key issues such as capital, business restructuring, new directors, etc. The shareholders can vest their broad mandate on subordinate issues. This would save expense of frequent but meaningless shareholders meetings.

Seventh, these trusts will act as a bridge between the shareholders and boards of directors. They could update shareholders with a six-monthly brief. They can raise a red flag when required. Their report would focus on specific areas of the company to ensure good corporate governance.


Eighth, these trusts should be subjected to punitive action should they be found wanting in their duties. In fact, our law should facilitate class action suits against institutions like these trusts and statutory auditors who are credited with fiduciary responsibilities.


Ninth, leading investment banks or accredited placement companies that even today search for independent directors can run a repository of names of qualified people to run these trusts. A trust, like an audit firm, could oversee a number of companies to spread its expense.


Tenth, these trusts can be made mandatory with listing requirements for public companies with a minimum capital base, say, Rs 1,000 crore.


And finally, the new enactment should also provide of a separate takeover code that discourages easy targeting of such corporations with trusts to discourage disruptive and unduly hostile takeovers.
The Satyam episode has another pertinent point. Before a show controlled and managed by a large shareholder becomes a widely held one comes a point where a single, large, controlling shareholder dilutes significant shareholding while retaining management control. This is the turning point for the company truly turning widely held. The law should provide that a decline in controlling shareholders interest below 20-25% should trigger appointment of shareholders trust as mentioned above.


The Satyam story suggests that our regulation had no extra requirements when the company reached this turning point. But this is the point where the gullible investors stood exposed and lost crores in the value of their shares. Looking around, there are hardly few widely held, Indian corporations like HDFC, ICICI, and L&T. They can claim professional leadership, depth of management and established governance. But then these are far and few. Given that growth of these corporations coincided with the opening up of the economy, their story is not replicable.

A widely held corporation is a more enduring institution to withstand business cycles and any individualism. The likes of Motorola, AT&T, Unilever, Pfizer, GSK (the erstwhile Glaxo) have all reincarnated several times, surviving all macro and micro attacks. Such a construct can catalyse good governance across India Inc. Even the government can take a leaf from here for managing the public sector.


(The author is chairman SA & JVs, MGRM Technologies Inc, USA)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BOUND NO MORE BY PAST BAD KARMA

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN

 

The capacity to make up for acts of omissions and commissions of the past, through skill and proper application, differentiates the great from the ordinary. Be it concerning lost health, wealth or time, there always is scope to make amends. Abuse, misuse or disuse is not merely limited to one’s physical or mental health but all aspects of living, including squandering opportunities to grasp glories that always wait to be harnessed.


The Jain concept of making up for past bad karma is in simple practical terms, the process of ‘waking up’ — better late than never, to ensure sane living. Dr Priyadharshana Jain, lecturer of Jainology in the University of Madras refers to this process as stopping “the inflow of subtle karmic forces” and “annihilation” of the existing retarding forces, to obtain “freedom from bondage for obtaining emancipation”. She also drives home the point: “It is not important what you do or how much you do, but how you do it, which is of utmost importance — whether it is charity, austerity, fasting, service, scriptural study or meditation”.


As Jainism extends its faith of non-violence to all animate as well as inanimate creations, Dr Jain also draws attention to broader issues, including environmental degradation (also a bad karma), caused by senseless elimination of wildlife, forests and mountains.


The skill and intelligence obtained for right action is, thus, the basis of this Jain concept of “annihilating” the impact of all bad karma. This, verily, is “karmasu koushalam” (Bhagawad Gita: 2, 50), expressed through that supreme and powerful intelligence and wisdom within, referred to as jnanagni, which Gita declares (4,37) burns away all karma. Indeed, this also is the visualisation of the potential in and possibility of being freed from the binding impacts of all past bad karma.


Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutra (2,16) also deals with this issue by assuring that suffering, which would otherwise have ensued, can be preempted. In his commentary, Swamy Satyananda Sarawati also analyses, with specific illustrations, the inner meaning of this Sutra, centred on ‘making up’ through compensating acts.


Indeed, to err is human — and so is it to fall or falter. But one’s greatness lies in picking himself up and to learn skilfully from lessons of life, sidestepping potholes, pitfalls and distractions. This, verily, is that process of not being bound any more by past bad karma. Doubtless, this also is the art of living!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HIGH GROWTH TO COUNTER CORRUPTION

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH

 

Received wisdom (backed by academic research and intuitive reasoning) has it that corruption harms economic growth. Paulo Mauro writing in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (1995) argued that corruption acts as a disincentive for investment and impacts growth negatively over the long run. This is true even in countries where bureaucratic regulation is very cumbersome and corruption could be viewed as a means to cut through bureaucratic red tape and thereby speed up economic activity.


But could causality run the other way round? Could economic growth impact corruption? In a paper ('Economic growth, law and corruption: Evidence from India', ASARC Working Paper 2009/15) presented at the Indian Economy and Business Update conference in Canberra recently, Sambit Bhattacharyya and Raghbendra Jha (hereafter referred to as B&J) of the Australia South Asia Research Centre at the Australian National University examine the impact of economic growth on corruption in Indian states during the period 2005-2008.


Since there are wide variations in both rates of economic growth and in levels of corruption between different states, India, say the authors, is an ideal testing ground to examine the link between growth and corruption. Using forest cover as a proxy for economic growth, (a somewhat surprising and highly debatable choice) B&J look at a data set of 20 Indian states during the three year period after the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and find that faster growing states do indeed have lower levels of corruption suggesting that growth does reduce overall corruption.


In itself this is not very surprising. Intuitively, faster economic growth would normally (though not always) lead to improvement in human development indicators, better access to education, awareness of rights and greater empowerment of citizens, all of which would keep a check on corrupt practices. But Bhattacharyya and Jha have a different take on this. They argue that economic growth combats corruption by providing the state with additional resources to fight corruption.


Some might dispute the reason advanced by B&J (it is not clear the fight against corruption in India is hampered by want of resources as much as by want of will!). The choice of forest share to total land area as a proxy for economic growth is even harder to accept. The authors' plea that the choice has been dictated by the need to tackle endogeneity concerns (concerns about growth itself being affected by corruption) cannot be not reason enough to justify use of such a weak proxy.

 

With that qualification in mind, what is indisputable is that to the extent additional resources make it possible for the state to go in for, say, mass computerisation, it could have a salutary effect in reducing petty corruption of the every day kind that is a thorn in the flesh of ordinary citizens/small businesses, etc.


Typically, it is such corruption - in getting electricity connection (though thankfully no longer in getting a telephone connection), driving licences, passports, building clearances, environmental clearances and so on - that raises transactions costs in India and ensures we remain at the bottom of the league tables, both of Transparency International and the World Bank's 'Doing Business' Reports.


As Jha pointed out in the discussions that followed, the rampant corruption associated with booking of railway tickets back in the 1970s and 80s disappeared almost magically following computerisation of railway reservations in the 1990s. That kind of transformation hasn't happened as yet with e-filing of sales tax documents, export documents and numerous other such documents. But as more and more governmental dealing goes on-line and e-governance becomes the norm rather than exception, opportunities for corruption will come down.


Changes in systems and procedures that compel greater transparency can also go a long way to tackle corruption. The best example of this is the reduced scope for corruption following the transition to Vat (Value-added tax) that has spurred computerisation in a big way. Admittedly there is much misuse of Vat credit, but hopefully, these are teething troubles in transiting to an entirely different tax system. The reality is businesses can avail input tax credit only where they are able to back their claims with proper invoices. Consequently, not only is there much less scope for tax evasion, the built-in audit trail inherent in a Vat regime makes it easier for the authorities to nab offenders.


The good thing, as B&J point out, is that their study suggests macro policies to promote growth will not only improve living standards but will also improve the quality of public goods and service delivery by reducing corruption. Of course, these are preliminary results and will need to be fine-tuned, especially with regard to the proxy variable and put through more rigorous tests. But with India slated to return to a high growth path by 2010, we have one more reason for ordinary Indians to cheer the return to a high growth path.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NAXAL VIOLENCE IS A CRY TO BE HEARD

BY BY ARJUN SENGUPTA

 

on september 15, The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, sounded the most serious warning about Naxal violence, calling it one of the “gravest internal security problems” the country faces. “I would like to say frankly that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace. It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected states continues to rise”, he said.
It is important to understand why this is so and in what sense Naxalite violence is different from other violent outbursts.


Although it has always expressed itself as a breach of law and order with violence, murder, extortion and acts of heinous crimes, it may not be prudent to think of every protest movement of the disaffected people as a simple issue of law and order violation, and calling for its brutal suppression.


This form of extremism, indeed, goes beyond law and order, fanning some deep-seated grievance. We must try to resolve those problems first, as otherwise the violence will remain insurmountable.


I am not referring only to the problems of poverty which have been prevalent in our country for many years and in many forms. Poverty only provides a fertile ground for Naxalite grievances to grow. For the pursuit of a movement of reasonable intensity for a reasonable period of time, the nature of the grievances must be penetrating enough to upset the status quo. For example, when certain events affect the social equilibrium and add insult to injury, the situation often becomes explosive and outbursts of violence may become uncontrollable. It is not just poverty and deprivation that germinate Naxalite violence. It’s when social exclusion or a sense of injustice get added to poverty that people take to violence as the last resort of protest.
Dr Singh is right to point out that in our country Naxalite violence of this kind is very likely to come up again and again. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) has established that 77 per cent of our population lives on less than Rs 20 per day, while less than five per cent of our population leads an ostentatious life of luxury. This naturally infuriates people who suffer or lag behind. But that may not be sufficient for them to take up arms in protest. It is only when these poor people also suffer the worst social discrimination, such as 88 per cent of our dalits and 84 per cent of our Muslims living in abject poverty, that the protests turn violent.


Years of reforms have brought a high rate of growth for our country, but they have left behind an overwhelming population in the shadow of deprivation and destitution, suffering the worst forms of indignities. People who are sitting ducks and can turn to violent protest whenever an opportunity arises.


Dr Singh has rightly described this violence as “Leftist extremism”. In the history of our Leftist movement there has always been a group which believed in taking up arms instead of playing the game of democratic politics and trying to win over the majority to their line of thinking. In fact, Leninism itself was considered at the beginning as inspiring a minority of the underprivileged group who could organise themselves into a violent revolutionary force. Bolsheviks did not even have a majority in the working class. After the 1917 Revolution, Lenin himself changed his position. During the Second International, he talked about forming a United Front of social groups fighting for their emancipation. But that position was not accepted by many other Communist leaders, including M.N. Roy from India, who believed in the revolutionary force of a well organised and well armed minority group.


This position was later taken up more seriously in China. The Communists came to power on an upsurge of the masses but some of their leaders, like Lin Biao, argued for a small band of militants to carry forward the revolution. There are many theories about the formation of these revolutionary groups, the conditions of their success and the logic of their armed insurrection. The armed group of revolutionaries are supposed to disrupt the state’s law and order mechanism, attack the police and the Army at their points of vulnerability and then retreat back in their hinterland of popular support to avoid confrontation. These groups are supposed to take up issues which have a great demonstration effect and then find shelter in thick forests or among the rural masses. India has provided a very fertile ground for this kind of hit-and-run extremism — attack, withdraw and regroup to attack again.


To this has been added the current turbulent international situation when practically any amount of arms of any degree of sophistication are available in plenty, either procured by the militants themselves or given by powers interested in disintegrating the country. Naxalite violence today has become more affordable than before and, therefore, a more dangerous threat to our country’s integrity.


To the classical areas of deprivation and discrimination in India, a new element has been added in the recent past which has assumed an unmanageable dimension. This is the “land grab movement” in the name of development, industrialisation and market-based economic activities. Millions of common people, small and marginal farmers and advasis and dalits are ousted from their habitations. Rich landlords and their agents are aided and abated by the government’s police force without much attempt to rehabilitate those who are being thrown out, not to speak of any attempt to negotiate with them the terms of land transfers.


Grabbing land in the name of development, and not just in the tribal areas, has been going on in India for quite some time. But over the last few years there is a new consciousness among those who are being evicted. If they get together and fight, they can resist land takeover even in the most distant tribal areas where modernity is yet to reach. A message has gone around that if they stand together and fight, which may occasionally mean killing their adversaries, they can protect their land and livelihood.


The only way the Naxalite problem can be resolved is by genuine negotiations and trying to provide answers to their age-old problems. But before you even start these negotiations, you have to generate confidence among these vulnerable people that they are equal partners in the negotiations, that you are not out to grab their land and property, and that you will respect their human rights.

 

Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former economic adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

           

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

STAKES ARE HIGH IN MAHARASHTRA

 

While three states will go to the polls next month to elect new state Assemblies, it will be the Maharashtra results that will be avidly watched all over the country — particularly by the national parties that are in the fray. The stakes are huge in terms of psychological repercussions on various national parties, particularly the Congress after it came out with flying colours in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year. The Congress is also the ruling party in Maharashtra in alliance with Mr Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, and the state has been a traditional Congress bastion, except for one five-year term when a BJP-Sena alliance was in power. The state, one of India’s richest, has also traditionally been one of the principal sources of fundraising for the ruling party, and thus defeat here is likely to hit it very hard. The fortunes of both the NCP as well as the BJP-Sena combine are in the melting pot. For the first time in its history in the state, the BJP is ridden with the kind of factionalism which used to plague the Congress. Once-disciplined party workers in Raigad and Nagpur are busy forming their own parties in order to fight “official” Shiv Sena candidates. In Ghatkopar (East), for instance, where late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Ms Poonam is the party candidate, the BJP leadership faces accusations that it had “bartered away” Ghughar, a party fiefdom for decades, to the Sena so that it could secure the seat for Ms Mahajan. The Sena-BJP alliance is expected to lose some crucial numbers because of this. The alliance’s carefully-laid plans to neutralise the Raj Thackeray factor will be in disarray due to this infighting. The Sena has for some time been trying desperately to convince middle–class voters that supporting Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will only divide the Marathi manoos vote to the advantage of the Congress. It is also likely that the parting of ways between the RPI and the Congress will neutralise the support that the Congress got from the MNS. For the first time, the Congress appears to have angered a section of dalits because of the hamhanded way in which it evicted dalit leader Mr Ramdas Athavle from his bungalow in New Delhi last week. This is being interpreted in certain circles in Maharashtra as an anti-dalit move as Mr Athwale had of late distanced himself from the Congress. The RPI is expected to question why action was taken against Mr Athawle when several other former MPs continue to occupy official quarters for longer periods. Mr Sharad Pawar’s political future is also in the melting pot, particularly after his party put up a poor showing in the Lok Sabha election. If it continues to perform badly in this Assembly election it will greatly weaken his position at the Centre, and the voices demanding a merger of the NCP with the Congress are likely to grow louder. The key reason which prompted Mr Pawar to form the NCP over a decade ago was his allergy at that time to the question of Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, something he says now is no longer an issue. Then why, his critics are bound to ask, is there any need to maintain the NCP’s separate existence?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHY IS AMERICA SO SCARED OF A FUEL TAX?

BY BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Do we owe the French and other Europeans a second look when it comes to their willingness to exercise power in today’s world? Was it really fair for some to call the French and other Europeans “cheese-eating surrender monkeys?” Is it time to restore the French in “French fries” at the Congressional dining room, and stop calling them “Freedom Fries?” Why do I ask these profound questions?


Because we are once again having one of those big troop debates: Do we send more forces to Afghanistan, and are we ready to do what it takes to “win” there? This argument will be framed in many ways, but you can set your watch on these chest-thumpers: “toughness”, “grit”, “fortitude”, “willingness to do whatever it takes to realise big stakes” — all the qualities we tend to see in ourselves, with some justification, but not in Europeans.
But are we really that tough? If the metric is a willingness to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and consider the use of force against Iran, the answer is yes. And we should be eternally grateful to the Americans willing to go off and fight those fights. But in another way — when it comes to doing things that would actually weaken the people we are sending our boys and girls to fight — we are total wimps. We are, in fact, the wimps of the world. We are, in fact, so wimpy our politicians are afraid to even talk about how wimpy we are.
How so? France today generates nearly 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and it has managed to deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or panics. And us? We get about 20 per cent and have not been able or willing to build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or neighbours. We’re too afraid to store nuclear waste deep in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — totally safe — at a time when French mayors clamour to have reactors in their towns to create jobs. In short, the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power, despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover.


How about Denmark? Little Denmark, sweet, never-hurt-a-fly Denmark, was hit hard by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 1973, Denmark got all its oil from West Asia. Today? Zero. Why? Because Denmark got tough. It imposed on itself a carbon tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax, made massive investments in energy efficiency and in systems to generate energy from waste, along with a discovery of North Sea oil (about 40 per cent of its needs).


And us? When it comes to raising gasoline taxes or carbon taxes — at a perfect time like this when prices are already low — our politicians tell us it is simply “off the table”. So I repeat, who is the real tough guy here?
“The first rule of warfare is: ‘Take the high ground’. Even the simplest Taliban fighter knows that”, said David Rothkopf, energy consultant and author of Superclass. “The strategic high ground in the world — whether it is in West Asia or vis-à-vis difficult countries like Russia and Venezuela — is to be less dependent on oil. And yet, we simply refuse to seize it”.


According to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel fuel would raise about $140 billion a year. If I had that money, I’d devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new healthcare and 10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.


Such a tax would make our economy healthier by reducing the deficit, by stimulating the renewable energy industry, by strengthening the dollar through shrinking oil imports and by helping to shift the burden of healthcare away from business to government so our companies can compete better globally. Such a tax would make our population healthier by expanding healthcare and reducing emissions. Such a tax would make our national-security healthier by shrinking our dependence on oil from countries that have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs and by increasing our leverage over petro-dictators, like those in Iran, Russia and Venezuela, through shrinking their oil incomes.


In sum, we would be physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier. And yet, amazingly, even talking about such a tax is “off the table” in Washington. You can’t mention it. But sending your neighbour’s son or daughter to risk their lives in Afghanistan? No problem. Talk away. Pound your chest.
I am not sure what the right troop number is for Afghanistan; I need to hear more. But I sure know this: There is something wrong when our country is willing to consider spending more lives and treasure in Afghanistan, where winning is highly uncertain, but can’t even talk about a gasoline tax, which is win, win, win, win, win — with no uncertainty at all.


So, I ask yet again: Who are the real cheese-eating surrender monkeys in this picture?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ENCASHING GANDHI LEGACY, ONE MEMENTO AT A TIME

BY BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

Sometimes politics invades the personal as an act of surprise. It intrudes, invites itself and takes over. A movement often begins with an anecdote.


One afternoon, a colleague of mine, who had laboured years over a translation of Narayan Desai’s biography of Mahatma Gandhi, came in and asked, “Do you know Peter Ruhe?” All of us had seen his anthology of photographs of Gandhi and admired it. Some even confessed ruefully that the Phaidon edition of photographs was too expensive to buy. My friend’s books had a collection of classic photographs evocative of Gandhi at every stage of life on the cover. It was a craftsmen’s delight encapsulating a generation’s memory.
That afternoon my friend had received a letter from Ruhe, noting that the photographs could be used in India but not in Europe. It was a formal note and a polite warning.


Peter Ruhe is a German collector. He roamed India befriending people who took these photographs of Gandhi. Most of them were old stalwarts, forgotten and literally abandoned by a later generation. Most of these photographers were quietly middle-class and delighted to be befriended by a foreigner, conversant about Gandhi and interested in them. They were happy to part with the photographs for a small sum. One man was quietly cornering the market in Gandhian memorabilia, especially photographs. Ruhe now possesses a heritage of photographs aided by the Berne Convention which guarantees protection of artistic work.
I want to see the Ruhe story as a fable. At one level, one can be rational and say that Ruhe’s market instincts have contributed to the public good. As a society, we deface monuments, defile statues and are quite content to display our literacy on archaeological buildings.


The craftsmen, the designers, the photographers who have kept our traditions alive are ignored, celebrated only if discovered by a foreign expert. At one level, one can be happy that Ruhe’s efforts saved these pictures from “oblivion” and the indifference of the current generation of Gandhians deep in dentures and mothballs.
But suppose we were to change the question and ask, are all forms of innovation, property? Let us bracket innovation and look at property. Is heritage, a monument, a tradition property to be controlled by one individual or corporation? Is the past a piece of property? Then what happens to our access to memory?
Memory is not just recollection. It is remembrance. It is a reinvention of an event and community and involves both individual biography and collective consciousness. One reinvents the social through acts of retelling. Gandhi is legacy, monument, history, memory. The sadness begins when he is treated as property. What gives Ruhe the right to own and charge for photographs of Gandhi? Is it just the laws of the market or the rules of the Berne Convention?


The right to property is conceived too materially. One misses the symbolic domain. An access to the past is an access to an identity, a collectivity and a skill.


One needs a broader notion of entitlements to cover the symbolic domain. Access to the past is not an act of mourning where we bring out objects to create a repetition of past events. It is an act of celebration where we celebrate the breakthrough.


Even Gandhians have been parasitic on the earnings from Gandhi as property. For all these years, Gandhi’s writings were copyrighted material, but as the copyright expires, it is up to us to be bold and Gandhian and declare Gandhi as a commons. It is time to invite the world to the celebration of Gandhi and stop treating the expiry of copyright as the great deficit. Once Gandhi becomes part of the world commons, we can start reinventing him again. I think the best words in this context were said by Fidel Castro. The youthful Castro once said, who would dream of a copyright of Quixote or Shakespeare. Who could dare think of patenting jazz? Unfortunately, such an obscenity is becoming an everyday event. World legacies are being transformed into property to be sold through the tourist trade or they become part of kitsch in the world of brands and souvenirs.
The question I want to ask now is why is it that the Gandhians are not able to respond to this. Gandhi brought humour to combat technology, ethics to disband an empire. In response, we embalm Gandhi, treating him as a form of political correctness. Consider even the contours of the austerity debate. Politicians in the Congress haggled between travelling first-class and business class. Austerity was treated as a collection of brownie points or boy-scout badges one acquired to maintain one’s political status.


The idea of austerity has been disembedded. It is seen as limiting rather than read as a sense of harmony and creativity through limits. It is a monadic word disassociated from caring, ethics or community. It becomes almost calorific, disconnected from fasting. There is an erasure of the Gandhian here as austerity is converted to a Congress lifestyle brand.


Yet Gandhians keep silent as Ruhe appropriates their pictures and the Congress waxes illiterate on austerity.

 

One is often tempted to attribute to them a syndrome that the cultural critic Walter Benjamin used to describe the Left. He accused the Left of suffering from “Left melancholia”. Melancholia is a frozen sadness, where a group is unable to mourn, but is caught in the immobility of a memory that neither redeems, liberates or invents.

 

It is a lazy fetishism that reprimands others but refuses to do anything new.


One has to ask, is there a “Gandhian melancholia”, where the word is reified and the world forgotten? It is fetishism where we remain loyal to things as souvenirs as we withdraw from the world of human relations. How does one combat such melancholia? Maybe the first step is to bring out the dirty khadi and sun it. The movement from swaraj to swadesi is caught in the prayer of these little beginnings.

 

 Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

A SHORT HISTORY OF FAST TIMES ON WALL STREET

BY BY DAVID SILVER

 

Many fear that new technology is giving some investors unfair access to stock market information. Supercomputers allow certain traders to profit by executing trades in milliseconds, a practice known as high-frequency trading. These traders also use a technique called flash orders that gives them a sneak peek at other investors’ orders to buy and sell stock.


High-frequency traders are said to have made $21 billion in profit last year. This may seem like a 21st-century problem. But in fact, similar criticisms have been made for over 100 years, since the days when trades on the New York Stock Exchange were executed by humans using notepads and pencils.


Even back then, critics claimed that the exchange members who were physically present on the floor could get trading information and execute their own orders faster than anyone else. The creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934 included the power to regulate the buying and selling of securities by exchange members trading for themselves, rather than for customers.


A Roosevelt administration official testifying in support of the 1934 legislation, Thomas Corcoran, described such floor traders as “chiselers.” This referred to their ability to quickly buy from sellers at prices lower than they would otherwise get, and promptly resell to buyers at prices higher than they would otherwise pay.


These complaints were well founded. By being on the exchange floor, traders could see with their own eyes the prices of completed trades minutes before they appeared on the exchange tape.


Executing their own orders gave them a head start over ordinary investors, whose orders could take minutes to reach the floor. As a former Wall Street Journal editor wrote in 1903, “They know the prices even before they are recorded on the tape, and they are able to join in every upward movement the moment it begins, and to abandon it the moment it shows signs of wavering.”


In 1909, a committee created by Gov. Charles Evans Hughes of New York to study stock market abuses similarly commented that floor traders “acquire early information concerning the changes which affect the values of securities,” giving them “special advantages” over other traders.


In 1963 a congressionally mandated report on the securities markets found that floor trading conferred unfair advantages and should be abolished. Consequently the S.E.C. required that the major exchanges ban most floor trading, an exception being trading to contribute to “orderly” markets – that is, markets not subject to violent price fluctuations. This action, however, proved to be a temporary fix. Today, there’s little need to be on the trading floor: Computer technology creates new opportunities to acquire and preferentially trade on inside market information. While these advantages are measured in milliseconds rather than minutes, both high-frequency trading and flash orders enable certain investors to chisel a profit between bid and offer — the same abuse of inside market information and access that the S.E.C. tried to eliminate four decades ago. Now, traders have simply found different ways to tilt the playing field, which means that the S.E.C. will have to update its regulations to preserve equal access to securities markets. The sooner it does that, the better.


But it would be a mistake to assume that we are facing a new problem. Today a major defense of high-frequency trading and flash orders is that they add liquidity to the markets. This was true of floor trading as well, but as the 1963 report pointed out, added liquidity “cannot justify trading that in other respects is deleterious.”


There are other similarities as well. Today, high-frequency traders are said to rent space as close as possible to stock exchange computers in order to pick up an extra millisecond of advantage. In early 19th-century New York, those seeking inside market information rented space next to the exchange and bored holes in the wall so they could eavesdrop.


On Wall Street, someone will always look for a way to be first, whether it’s fair or not.

 

n David Silver, a former senior staff lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, was the president of the Investment Company Institute, a trade association for mutual funds, from 1977 to 1991

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DID FEMINISM BENEFIT MEN?

BY BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

Women are getting unhappier, I told my friend Carl.

“How can you tell?” he deadpanned. “It’s always been whine-whine-whine”.

Why are we sadder? I persisted.

“Because you care”, he replied with a mock sneer. “You have feelings”. Oh, that.


In the early ’70s, breaking out of the domestic cocoon, leaving their mothers’ circumscribed lives behind, young

women felt exhilarated and bold. But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?


According to the General Social Survey, which has tracked Americans’ mood since 1972, and five other major studies around the world, women are getting gloomier and men are getting happier. Before the ’70s, there was a gender gap in America in which women felt greater well-being. Now there’s a gender gap in which men feel better about their lives. As Arianna Huffington points out in a blog post headlined The Sad, Shocking Truth About How Women Are Feeling: “It doesn’t matter what their marital status is, how much money they make, whether or not they have children, their ethnic background, or the country they live in. Women around the world are in a funk”. (The one exception is black women in America, who are a bit happier than they were in 1972, but still not as happy as black men.)


Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher who has a new book out called Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently, says that men and women passed each other midpoint on the graph of life. “Though women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, as they age, they gradually become less happy”, Buckingham writes in his new blog on the Huffington Post, pointing out that this darker view covers feelings about marriage, money and material goods. “Men, in contrast, get happier as they get older”.


Buckingham and other experts dispute the idea that the variance in happiness is caused by women carrying a bigger burden of work at home, the “second shift”. They say that while women still do more cooking, cleaning and child-caring, the trend lines are moving toward more parity, which should make them less stressed.
When women stepped into male-dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.


“Choice is inherently stressful”, Buckingham said in an interview. “And women are being driven to distraction.”


One area of extreme distraction is kids. “Across the happiness data, the one thing in life that will make you less happy is having children”, said Betsey Stevenson, an assistant professor at Wharton who co-wrote a paper called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. “It’s true whether you’re wealthy or poor, if you have kids late or kids early. Yet I know very few people who would tell me they wish they hadn’t had kids or who would tell me they feel their kids were the destroyer of their happiness”.


The more important things that are crowded into their lives, the less attention women are able to give to each thing. Add this to the fact that women are hormonally more complicated and biologically more vulnerable. Women are much harder on themselves than men. They tend to attach to other people more strongly, beat themselves up more when they lose attachments, take things more personally at work and pop far more antidepressants.


“Women have lives that become increasingly empty,” Buckingham said. “They’re doing more and feeling less.”
Another daunting thing: America is more youth and looks obsessed than ever, with an array of expensive cosmetic procedures that allow women to be their own Frankenstein Barbies. Men can age in an attractive way while women are expected to replicate their 20s into their 60s. Buckingham says greater prosperity has made men happier. And they are also relieved of bearing sole responsibility for their family finances. Men also tend to fare better romantically as time wears on. There are more widows than widowers, and men have an easier time getting younger mates. Stevenson looks on the bright side of the dark trend, suggesting that happiness is beside the point. We’re happy to have our newfound abundance of choices, she said, even if those choices end up making us unhappier. A paradox, indeed.

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

A LIBERAL TAX REGIME

THE SHORTCOMINGS NEED TO BE CORRECTED

SS KOTHARI


THE finance minister deserves to be complimented for having formulated a new tax code that envisages a radical reform of the Income Tax Act It seeks to simplify the procedure, eliminate distortions, improve the efficiency and equity of the system, moderate tax levels and expand the base. The government has been generous in regard to the personal tax structure and the corporate tax rates, and legitimately expects an improvement in voluntary tax compliance.


However, certain major provisions relating to the personal tax structure and corporate taxation run counter to the otherwise commendable tax code. The introduction of the “EET principle” whereby Provident Fund accumulation and the life insurance maturity value would be taxed in certain cases. Long-term capital gains would be subject to normal rates that are applicable to incomes although the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) would be abolished. While the EET would alienate the majority of serving/salaried classes, the taxation of LTCG would adversely affect domestic investment in risk-prone equity.


The code drastically alters the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT). It provides for MAT at 2 per cent on the value of gross assets instead of 25 per cent of profits. Besides, tax incentives have been reduced. Such provisions will make the new code cumbersome. Savings, investment and inflow of foreign investment capital will be affected.


PERSONAL TAX RATES

THE Direct Taxes Code is liberal in regard to the personal tax rates. Twenty per cent tax is applicable on the slab of income exceeding Rs 10 lakh and 30 per cent on income exceeding Rs 25 lakh. Such a structure ought to encourage voluntary tax compliance. As regards companies, both domestic and foreign, the tax will be reduced to a uniform rate of 25 per cent instead of the present 33 per cent on domestic companies and 42 per cent for foreign companies. However, the latter would have to pay 15 per cent tax on branch profits as reduced by corporate tax. This is an improvement upon the present tax rate.


The rate for domestic companies would bring the country’s tax structure more in tune with the low tax regimes in East Asian countries. This can stimulate economic activity and income and increase the collection of taxes.
This principle of taxing Provident Fund and life insurance money on maturity is wholly inequitable and pernicious. It will affect hundreds of thousands of people whose quantum of retirement funds would be taxed and eroded. It will also reduce the ratio of savings of the GDP and have a harmful impact on investment. Above all, it could well alienate a large number of people who depend hugely on their retirement dues.
The provision should be dropped if the Direct Taxes Code is to serve its objectives. The tax regime has improved considerably over the past decade. The EET principle, if implemented, would upset the progress.

 

Deduction under the existing Section 80C for savings has been increased to Rs 3 lakh from Rs 1 lakh. This could be scaled down to Rs 2 lakh, and the EET withdrawn.


The distinction between the short-term and long-term capital gains is being abolished. The code provides that assets would be classified into business and investment assets. Income from transactions in all investment assets will be computed under the head, capital gains, while the income from transactions in all business assets would be computed under the head, income from business.


However, the profit on the sale of business capital assets and the profit on the sale of an undertaking under a slump sale would no longer be treated as capital gain and would be regarded as income from business. The argument that capital gain enhances the ability to pay and as such it should form part of taxable income, is hardly convincing. It concludes that the distinction between short-term and long-term investment assets on the basis of the period of holding the assets, would be eliminated.


However, if a capital asset is sold after one year from the close of the financial year in which it is acquired, the cost of acquisition and improvement would be adjusted on the basis of cost inflation which would reduce the inflationary gain. Loss on sale of business assets would be treated as intangible asset. In effect only a portion of the loss will be allowed to be set off in a year.


An important aspect of taxation of long-term capital gains at full marginal tax rate is that it would adversely affect portfolio investment, both domestic and by FIIs. An essential part of the management of portfolio investment is that of rational reshuffling of holdings in equity investment. If certain sectors are declining ~ like synthetics and textiles ~ investment in their shares should be sold, and shares in sunrise sectors such as power, telecom, cement and IT purchased. But if with every reshuffle, long term capital gains tax at the highest marginal tax rate has to be paid, the exercise may become expensive.


THE PROFIT FACTOR

THE determination of profit on a presumptive basis has been extended and will inter alia include civil construction, retail trading, turnkey power projects approved by government, prospecting and extraction of mineral oil, supplying plant and machinery on hire, and operation of chartered aircraft. Wealth tax would be applicable to individuals whose wealth exceeds Rs 50 crore; the rate would be 0.25 per cent.
The code provides for Minimum Alternate Tax calculated on the value of gross assets instead of book-profits at present. Gross assets include the net value of assets after depreciation, capital work in progress and the book value of all other assets.


Banking companies have not been spared; the rate of MAT would be 0.25 per cent of the value of gross assets. This may discourage banks from opening rural branches which may not be profitable. The government would be well advised (a) to retain MAT in its present form on the basis of book-profits and (b) exclude banks from the ambit of MAT.


The code, in the case of certain industries such as oil exploration, power, infrastructural industries and development of Special Economic Zones substitutes investment-based incentives for profit-linked incentives.

 

All capital and revenue expenditure (other than land and financial instruments) would be allowed to be recovered, and thereafter profits would be subject to income-tax.


The code is liberal in regard to development allowance for scientific research. This could be an incentive for innovations by corporate enterprises. It provides for General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) which empowers the tax authorities to reallocate incomes and “disregard or recharacterise” any arrangement or transaction which they consider as impermissible and intended to avoid taxes. The ministry can even overrule the double taxation avoidance treaty. Such a provision would inevitably lead to disputes and litigation with the corporate sector.
The new code is a bold attempt to improve the tax structure. Shorn of some of the glaring deficiencies and negative features, it ought to fulfil its objectives.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PRACHANDA WARNS OF ANOTHER

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

 

Kathmandu, 20 SEPT: Nepal Maoist chief Prachanda has warned of another round of “decisive protests” soon, if political parties fail to break the political deadlock, prompting the government to ask them to be “sincere” to the peace process and not return to the path of violence.


CPN-Maoist chairman Prachanda said that attempts were being made to forge an agreement between the political parties but warned that the “people always possess the right to revolt” if no solution is reached on a national government by the upcoming festival of Diwali.


Prachanda said the UN would also support an uprising as the UN Charter has such provisions to uphold people's rights in case of civil rights violation, The Kathmandu Post said.

 

He, however, said that the nature of their uprising will be “peaceful”.


Responding to the statement, Nepal foreign minister Ms Sujata Koirala said the Maoists should be sincere to the peace process and not return to the path of violence. “I don't think that the Maoists would be in a position to return to war,” she said.


“The Maoists should help in the peace process and the process of drafting the constitution... The statement about launching another revolution is irrelevant talks,” she said.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PROFLIGATE CAMPUSES

CAN’T EXPECT STUDENTS TO BEAR THE BRUNT


AS austerity is the flavour of the season, the discourse becomes still more spurious, and not merely at the ministerial level. More the pity, therefore, that the union HRD ministry’s 12-page note to universities, IITs and IIMs on the necessity of belt-tightening confirms the profligacy that was indulged in all these years, with the bills being cleared by the UGC and by the ministry itself. Academics have now been asked to scout for sponsors should they intend to make trans-Atlantic trips for what they call “presentations” at Ivy League universities. Such presentations abroad have never been a mandatory requirement for a doctoral dissertation, only an officially approved and financed junket. The directive to curtail foreign travel ~ economy class if at all ~ the ban on seminars in five-star comfort, another on the purchase of vehicles, curbs on power consumption and car rentals and the instruction to raise resources to buy books and laboratory material illustrate an overriding anxiety to relieve the pressure on the state exchequer.


That having been conceded, the authorities must also acknowledge the subtext of the guidelines, specifically that such heads of expenditure are far removed from academics. Plainly, junkets and allied extra-curricular activity have been accorded greater priority than classroom lectures, evaluation of exams, and building up the student. Neither the HRD ministry nor the UGC could have been unaware of this perversion of priorities. Small wonder why the UGC has now stipulated the minimum number of classes if teachers are to be entitled to the recommended pay-bands. The belt-tightening would scarcely have been necessary if universities, IITs and IIMs were more focussed on the raison d’etre of their existence.


The ministry has couched its directive with implicit concern that this bout of cost-cutting might impede expansion, as envisaged in the 11th Plan. Hence the three suggestions to generate funds: an increase in tuition fees; withdrawal of hostel subsidies; and the levy of a user-fee for libraries. It would be less than fair to expect the taught to bear the burden of this contrived exercise in resource mobilisation. Enough and more have been squandered already by the teachers. The user-fee for campus libraries is an absurd proposition. They are not public reading rooms; the tuition fee entitles the student to use the library.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

OMAR SCORES

WHO’LL ‘SHOOT’ FOR THE OTHERS?

 

EVEN if promising Kashmiri footballer Basharat Bashir Baba does not make it to the big league he is unlikely to forget how Omar Abdullah scored a “blinder” on his behalf. And while the chief minister of that troubled state has recently come under fire when struggling to douse other fires, he has proved to all his several critics that he is strong on “heart”. The teenaged footballer was one of three selected from a group of 300 for professional exposure and training in Spain and Brazil (where the game is played at a very high level) under a programme run by an Argentine coach, Juan Marcos Troia. He had waited for over a year for a passport to be issued to him, even moved the High Court against his being denied travel documents because his father had been involved in militant activity, but no redress came his way. But when Omar’s attention was drawn to a media report on Basharat’s being blocked, he dribbled with the craft of a Ronaldo and hit the net with the power of a Rooney. Taking the bold line that a son could not be made to suffer for what his father had done, he directed the red-tape be cut and the passport delivered pronto. Congratulations.


It appears that it is standard practice ~ though the government denies any such policy ~ for the CID wing of Jammu and Kashmir police not to issue security clearance when the relative of a militant applies for a passport. There are thousands of passport applications pending, the cops have a blacklist of over 60,000 persons suspected of direct or indirect militant activity. Nobody could question maintaining such records, yet the likelihood of the list being misused is very real ~ like their khaki counterparts elsewhere, the J&K police are no paragon of virtue and passport-denial could be the least of the penalties. The chief minister would do well to set up a mechanism to review/prune that list, any relief to those who were listed on flimsy grounds would serve as a confidence-building measure. For not every “case” will come before the chief minister. The police would gain too, a shorter list would make for more effective monitoring of the suspect.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

TRENDS IN BIHAR 

A CLEAR SETBACK FOR NITISH KUMAR

 

Bihar’s ruling JD(U) has suffered an electoral setback for the first time in the four years it has been in power. This is the singularly striking feature of the recent by-elections to the assembly. Whether the RJD chief, Lalu Prasad, who has maintained a low profile since the Lok Sabha debacle, is steadily regaining his base is a matter of conjecture. As speculative as whether the by-election to the 18 seats can be deemed as a “semi-final” before next year’s assembly polls. In equal measure have the parties registered their gains and losses; while the RJD-LJP alliance has won eight seats, the NDA has lost eight. Having bagged five seats against the JD(U)’s four, the opposition RJD emerges as the single largest winner.


Confirmation of Lalu’s claim that Nitish Kumar’s division of Bihar along caste lines had influenced the swing factor must await a detailed study of the voting patterns. Arguably, the upper castes, believed to have voted for the NDA in the Lok Sabha election, may have been alienated by a government commission’s report that had backed the rights of the sharecroppers. Suffice it to register that the Chief Minister must be lamenting the internal bickering that has palpably done the party in. There was considerable dissension in the run-up to the election as several MPs and MLAs had turned against the CM who had denied tickets to their acolytes. Yet another factor behind the JD(U) drubbing was the nomination given to a bunch of post-Lok Sabha election RJD deserters, some of them erstwhile henchmen of Lalu Prasad. The strategy, intended to cut into the RJD votes, has clearly come a cropper. The turncoats have been rejected fair and square and one must give it to Lalu that his statewide campaign against them has paid off. Whether or not the result is “a warning bell” to Nitish Kumar, as Lalu imagines, it will no longer be prudent for the JD(U) to give a short shrift to the BJP, as it did before the Lok Sabha election.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WAY TO GO

 

It is unlikely that the prime minister will venture out into Pittsburgh, but if he and his team stepped out of their sanitized locales, they would see American democracy at work. Many groups have been negotiating for months with the local authorities to be allowed to demonstrate; the authorities tried to wear them out. Finally, the demonstrators appealed to the federal district court. Seeing the way the wind was blowing, the city permitted three groups. Two of them, the G6 Billion group and the Bail Out the People group, will be allowed to demonstrate, though they cannot invade the south bank of Allegheny River where the leaders would be meeting — and a group of artists may sing and dance in a park. The court allowed Code Pink to set up a tent city in a park for two days, but then they must clear out to make room for another demonstration led by the former vice-president, Al Gore. However, the court refused to let the Three Rivers Climate Convergence camp overnight in a park because that would leave too much rubbish.

 

These proceedings are a reminder that it is not only people in poor countries who have problems. In August, 9.7 per cent of American workers were unemployed — 15 per cent if they were black, and 25 per cent if they were teenagers. Unemployment has been rising in all industrial countries, although it has not reached the United States of America’s level anywhere except in France. That is on definitions used by the US; if the official statistics of other countries are taken, unemployment exceeds 12 per cent in Ireland, and 18 per cent in Spain.

 

There will be much discussion in G20 on global finance. The leaders will be briefed by the Financial Services Board that they have recently created; the press too will hear much about money matters. It is relevant to infuse new life into the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and to consider a new international currency. But none of this is urgent; its relevance arises from the fact that national crises spill out into the international field. A robust global financial system may serve to limit contagion. Official thinking on this question is still running in rather conventional channels — that what is needed is a younger version of the Washington sisters. But institutions designed to bail out countries in economic crises have to follow some rules, and those rules cannot be any different from those that have been followed for 60 years: namely, countries should be given emergency aid but forced to mend their ways. What has been missed is the cause of the crises. They invariably involve inability to service debt. For some good reasons, global debt flows are far larger than equity flows; it is their ratio that needs to be changed for world economic stability. How to do it — that is the question G20 should be asking itself.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FAIR EXCHANGE

 

It is like throwing tantrums for the golden egg after having killed the goose. The simile may seem in rather bad taste when talking about young Haryanvi men demanding brides of their politicians when they come asking for votes for the October 13 assembly elections. Haryana has managed to reduce the number of women to 861 against a thousand men mainly by unchecked female foeticide. A generation has grown up to find no anxious brides’ fathers queueing up with competing dowries, but a matrimonial wasteland in which unemployment has added to the lack of brides to turn marriage into an elusive dream. The situation has its roots not in mere bad taste, then, but in a crime, in brainless sex preference and a drive for gender domination. But it is too much to expect that this society has learnt a lesson. That the people of Haryana are asking politicians to get their young men brides in exchange for votes shows their inability to think of women as anything other than reproductive and slaving machines to be bought in one way or another.

 

Brides do not grow on trees, although those who kill female foetuses may not be educated enough to know that. The politicians are evidently expected to produce trainloads of bashful maidens, possibly from other states, to fill up the vacuum that Haryana has created by killing female foetuses. Now that the state’s attitude to women is so clear, new brides may not feel particularly welcome, and may be terrified of producing any children at all, in case they turned out to be female. The only good thing about the demand for brides is that it is aboveboard. Girls from poor families in other states are regularly being sold off and transported to states where the sex ratio is poorest. The crime of female foeticide has given the crime of trafficking a real boost. Promising politicians votes in exchange for brides is perhaps the funnier side of the cruel darkness at the heart of Indian society. Only the humour is bitter and black.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

EFFICIENT AND ENERGETIC

SHIFTING TO RENEWABLE ENERGY IS NECESSARY BUT NOT EASY FOR INDIA

COMMENTARAO -S.L RAO

 

Greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, largely caused by burning coal, are believed to be the chief cause of global warming and climate change. Energy through renewable sources and improved energy efficiency in generation and use can mitigate their adverse effects. Despite a cabinet minister for renewable energy, there is little information, or the advocacy of energy efficiency, the using of renewables, cutting the use of energy sources that cause high emissions, educating people about the high cost of energy and the need to pay the full cost, or pushing distributed power so that small communities can manage their energy needs and costs.

 

Economic growth in India at eight per cent per annum might bring the majority out of dire poverty in 10 years. This growth will require a restructuring of the Indian economy, moving people from agriculture to industry and services, and from rural to urban locations. Far more private transport, emulating the Western model of ‘development’, as well as large-scale cutting of trees and vegetation to convert agricultural and forest lands to accommodate houses, roads, factories and so on would be inevitable. This growth requires raising energy consumption in oil equivalent to a million tonnes from 513 to 1,536 (and if not enough is done to improve efficiency, even 1,887) by 2031-32. Per capita energy consumption will rise (in kilograms of energy) from 439 to 1,250 by 2031-32 (in equivalent coal). Countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development are already at 1,688. India’s emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases will rise (McKinsey estimate) from 1.6 billion equivalent of CO2 emissions to between 5 and 6.5 billion in 2030.

 

Over half of India lives on less than $2 per day and uses ‘free’ energy, such as dung, dried leaves, twigs, and so on, causing enormous damage to the health of women and children as the fuel is burnt in chulas in unventilated huts. Even eight per cent growth annually will, by 2031-32, still leave many unable to pay for the cost of cleaner energy. No democratic government can deny these deprived people improvement in their lives through economic growth and higher energy consumption.

 

China consumes many times more coal and produces 4,820 million metric tonnes of carbon emissions (growing annually at five per cent). India’s is growing at four per cent, and the United States of America, the largest burner of coal and the worst emitter at 6,209, is growing at two per cent.

 

India has a national renewable energy policy in place. Little publicity has been given to it, in India or overseas. So to many in the world, India appears only to complain about the original sinners — the polluting developed countries — but to not do anything to combat it in India. The present position and potential for renewables is that potential for wind is estimated at 45,000 megawatts and achievement at 1,870 MW; small hydro power potential is 15,000 MW and achievement 1,870; biomass and cogeneration potential is 19,000 MW and achievement 484; biomass gasifiers produce 53.17 MW; solar photovoltaic power potential is 20 MW per square kilometre and production is 2.50 MW; making the total potential from renewables 81,200 MW and achievement 3950.93 MW. The calculations of potential need scrutiny since they could be higher and the achievement is low.

 

Our national renewable energy policy has targets and plans for supporting and accelerating power generation from renewables. It proposes a supportive fiscal regime, single window clearance, leveraging additional budgetary resources from other departments of government, preferential prices for renewable electricity, and so on. Many specifics, however, have still to be worked out. These include social cost-benefit calculations to discount higher renewable energy costs for their lack of damage to climate. This will make it more competitive in price to coal. The actual cost of renewable is higher than that for other non-renewables and their use will further raise the cost of subsidies for the poor. Waste on subsidies — to farmers and the poor (reaching wrong target populations or theft) needs strong administrative actions and institutional strengthening.

 

The policy envisages by 2012 a capacity addition goal for wind energy of 5,000 MW, small hydroelectric plants of 2,000 MW, biomass power cogeneration 2,500 MW, urban/ industrial waste converted to energy 220 MW, solar photovoltaic power 30 MW, solar thermal power 250 MW, all totalling 10,000 MW. It will deploy solar water heating systems, electrify by renewables 24,000 villages, deploy of five million solar lanterns and two million solar home lighting systems, cover 30 million households through improved wood stoves, set up three million family-size biogas plants and expand rainwater harvesting. It will also raise energy use efficiencies, for example, by reducing the rate of growth of coal use, with more efficient boilers.

 

These plans will take renewables from the present five per cent of potential to 10 per cent in 2012. McKinsey consultants propose a more ambitious plan that will accelerate progress with an investment of $874 to $1.1 trillion on energy efficient technologies in power, transport and agriculture. This can reduce energy consumption by 22 per cent and amounts to around 1.8 to 2.3 per cent of India’s total forecasted gross domestic product till 2030.

 

Concurrently there must be drastic changes in pricing. The real price for carbon-emitting energy must include the environmental costs. Tax concessions on equipment purchase, allowances (unlike today on wind power) on generation than merely on investment, and research and development concessions are required.

 

Climate change, mitigation (not reduction) of emissions, and renewable energy are connected. They need dissemination, publicity and more ambitious targets. They require measures of taxation of emitting industries and energy sources, incentives and tax breaks to renewables and reworking incentives. The focus has to change. India has many pressures on limited resources: security threats, health, sanitation, water supply, irrigation, and education. But mitigating climate change should not get short shrift.

 

To counter climate change, the world must reinvent itself to adjust to new energy efficiency paradigms, cutting its energy-guzzling habits. India can innovate and build global leadership on renewables. As China is aggressive in developing photovoltaic and electric cars, India needs to find its own areas, like wind and solar thermal.

 

Efficiency improvements have led to considerable saving of energy in India. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is making accelerated efforts with industry and stakeholders in setting standards and identifying technologies. But technologies like burying carbon emissions underground are still theoretical and economically unviable. There is yet no proven way to reduce carbon emissions from coal, nor coal usage. Better boilers, more efficient generation and use of energy, lower use of petrol and diesel and more renewables usage can reduce our carbon footprint. But subsidy costs will grow further as more people move from using free (twigs, dried leaves, and so on) to commercial energy, and we use efficient but expensive energy technologies.

 

India has to resolve the dilemma of growing emissions, unaffordable cleaner energy costs for the poor and inadequate alternatives. It must do so for its own sake, and not for global commitments.

 

The author is former director-general, National Council for Applied Economic Research

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

RIGHT OF PASSAGE

FIFTH COLUMN - GWYNNE DYER

 

Early next week, two German-owned container ships will arrive in Rotterdam from Vladivostok in the Russian Far-East, having taken only one month to make the voyage. That’s much faster than usual — but then, they didn’t take the usual route down through the South China Sea, past Singapore, round the bottom of India, through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean and up the west coast of Europe. They just went around the top of Russia.

 

It’s the first-ever commercial transit of the Northeast Passage by non-Russian ships, and it shortens the sea trip between East Asia and Europe by almost a third. It’s the melting of the Arctic sea ice that has made it possible, although for the moment it’s only possible for a couple of months at the end of the summer melt season, when the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover has shrunk dramatically. But it is a sign of things to come.

 

It’s the Northwest Passage, another potential short-cut between Europe and East Asia going through the Canadian Arctic archipelago, that has got the attention in the past few years. Although ice-breakers have traversed it from time to time, no ordinary commercial ship has ever carried cargo through it. But when the Russians put on their little propaganda show at the North Pole two years ago, the Canadian government had kittens.

 

In 2007, Artur Chilingarov, a Russian scientist famous for his work in the polar regions and personal Arctic adviser to then-president, Vladimir Putin, took a mini-sub to the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed. The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, immediately flew to Iqaluit in the high Arctic and responded with a rabble-rousing speech: “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic,” he said. “We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake: this government intends to use it.” He then announced a programme to build six to eight armed Arctic patrol vessels to assert Canadian control over the Northwest Passage, and a deep-water naval base on Baffin Island to support them.

 

Too many odds

 

Canada’s dispute over sovereignty in the Northwest Passage is actually with the United States of America, not with Russia. The US used to believe that the Northwest Passage could be useful if it were ice-free, so Washington has long maintained that it is an international waterway which Canada has no right to control.

 

Canada disputes that position, pointing out that all six potential routes for a commercially viable Northwest Passage wind between islands that are close together and indisputably Canadian. But Ottawa has never asserted military control over the Northwest Passage, because to do so would be risking an awkward confrontation with the US. However, if you can pretend that you are building those warships and that naval base to hold the wicked Russians at bay, not to defy the Americans.... That is Harper’s game. He now visits the high north every summer to reassert Canada’s sovereignty claims. But in the end it will make no difference, because the Northwest Passage will never become a major shipping route.

 

The problem for Canada is that all the routes for the Northwest Passage involve shallow and/or narrow straits between various islands in the country’s Arctic archipelago, and the prevailing winds and currents in the Arctic Ocean tend to push whatever loose sea ice there is into those straits. It is unlikely that cargo ships that are not double-hulled and strengthened against ice will ever get insurance for the passage at an affordable price.

 

Whereas the Northeast Passage is mostly open water, and there is already a major infrastructure of ports and

nuclear-powered ice-breakers in the region. If distances are comparable (as they are), shippers will prefer the Northeast Passage every time. The Northwest Passage will never be commercially viable.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TIME TO REFORM THE GLOBAL CASINO

CENTRAL BANKS AROUND THE WORLD HAVE MODELLED THEMSELVES ON THE US FEDERAL BANK.

BY HAZEL HENDERSON

 

The awful truth is emerging: globalised rogue finance is disordering human societies and destroying our ecological life-support systems on a global scale. A spate of books and studies examining the role of finance finds deep flaws in the way money is created and credit is allocated. The age-old invention of money, which extended opportunities for trading beyond barter, has become a computerised global monster. Blind to other human values and goals, this global casino has decoupled and abstracted from real economies.


Financiers make money out of money by automated high-frequency trading buttressed by faulty ‘financial economics’ and its bogus models, engineering only corruption and using false indicators of profit and national progress such as GDP.


How did global finance turn from its earlier role as a useful service for real economies into an overgrown ‘too big to fail’ colossus which tyrannises democratic governments through its political power of the purse?


In the US, control of the young nation by banks was feared by its founders. In 1816 Thomas Jefferson said, “Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies”. Benjamin Franklin voiced similar warnings as did many other founders, and as early as 1777 Samuel Webster warned, “Let monopolies and all kinds and degrees of oppression be carefully guarded against”.


CHANGE IN LOYALTY


In the last US presidential election, tens of millions of US voters, from the conservative supporters of Congressman Ron Paul to those across the spectrum who supported Congressman Dennis Kucinich, attested to the growing understanding of money itself, which has no intrinsic value. These voters now support the over 200 members of Congress whose bill calls for examining the role of the Federal Reserve Board, founded by a secretive group of politicians and bankers in 1913.


Since then, central banks around the world have modelled themselves on the US ‘Fed’ and promoted their claims to secrecy and independence from political control by even the most democratically-elected governments. The profession of economics advanced this cause with thousands of academic papers and theoretical models of finance.


World leaders like Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Lula da Silva, and Hu Jintao are calling for the reform and downsizing of the global casino at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, Sept 24-25. They rightly argue for restricting huge bonuses, raising capital reserve requirements on all banks and financial companies, curbing excessive risk-taking and regulating derivatives that are simply bets, such as credit default swaps. This is necessary but not sufficient.

The entire system of global finance must be restructured. China has rightly led the debate over the need to phase out reliance on the US dollar and create a more stable global reserve currency, which is supported by the UN General Assembly and its Stiglitz Commission. Beyond this, Britain’s Lord Turner has called for a small financial transaction tax to curb speculation and downsize the overblown financial sectors. Such a tax was advocated by James Tobin in the 1970s and by Larry Summers, now chief White House economic advisor, in 1989. Financial transaction taxes have been debated ever since as the best way to reduce speculation: the billions raised would be used for deficit reduction, repaying taxpayers for their bailouts, and investing in the low carbon Global Green New Deal supported by most governments, private investors, trade unions, UN agencies, and by 72 per cent of the public in 20 countries in the BBC-Globescan poll, Sept 14.


In addition, a new level of insurance against the risks of systemic financial crises can be created. This Systemic Financial Crises Insurance Fund (SFCIF) would have all financial firms above a certain size pay to insure themselves against future bankruptcies and panics. Similar to the FDIC, which all US banks pay into, this new SFCIF would shift risk from taxpayers to where it belongs: the financial sector. In addition, governments must finally tackle reform of central banking and their money creation and credit allocation activities, which are widely seen as shockingly unfair. Their trillion-dollar bailouts of Wall Street and the financial casinos is now revealed as politics in disguise.


All these reforms must be enacted globally by the G-20 and by widening these agreements to include all countries of the UN. This more democratic G-192 can join with the G-20 in finally facing down the bankers, downsizing and taming the global casino and returning it to its traditional role of facilitating businesses, production, and innovative sectors of societies and in growing a cleaner, green, more just global economy that works for all.


IPS

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE MYRIAD COLOURS

TULSI BHAG HAD MANY MORE HIDDEN TREASURES WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED.

BY LAKSHMI NAIR

 

The first impression of Tulsi Bhag was one of a kaleidoscopic nature. Prisms of colour burst forth from every corner. Sights and sounds hijack your senses and leave you completely enslaved. The hypnotic aroma of street chow entices you towards the food stalls lining the streets. You dither but for a moment before becoming an unequivocal convert to a totally new shopping experience.


A small side winding lane from the main arterial Laxmi road takes you to the lively world of Tulsi Bhag. Here you are introduced to a quaint world full of intriguing and unusual characters. Where persuasion is power.


Lining the street sides were several stalls, selling rangoli powders in neatly arranged conical mounds of sunny yellows, fiery reds, turquoise blues and pretty pinks. A soft breeze sent a constant swirl of colour into the air.


Inside a shallow reed basket perched precariously on the back of a cycle, were thick coils of jasmine flowers which reposed snake like on their bed of green peepal leaves. These particular flowers possessed a fragile beauty which was sadly lacking in the kitschy bouquets and mammoth garlands sold in some of the bigger shops nearby.


A watch repairer with an eye piece delicately examined the innards of an ancient timepiece with the care and adroitness of a heart surgeon. Time has literally stopped in this shop filled with antiquated timepieces whose hearts will never tick again.


The brass shops were huddled together along one corner. Here you came across the most exquisitely designed nutcrackers, lamps, statues and brass decorative pieces. Polished to perfection they had a beautiful golden patina.

Brightly painted food carts jostled for position under a shady banyan tree. Very soon a small crowd gathered around the carts to eat hot spicy pakoras and tangy bhel puris. These snacks are normally washed down with a spicy masala chai.


Tulsi Bhag had many more hidden treasures waiting to be discovered and explored with each visit.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BACK TO BAGRAM

 

As it works to shut down the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, the Obama administration faces a no less pressing challenge in bringing the larger military detention center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan squarely within the rule of law and fundamental notions of fairness. Recent developments are cause for both real encouragement and serious concern.

 

There are 600 or so prisoners at Bagram, north of Kabul. Some have been there for years, detained under harsh conditions without charges or access to lawyers, and with only rudimentary reviews of their status as “enemy combatants” — a shameful legacy of the Bush years.

 

In a heartening move, the administration has unveiled new guidelines aimed at giving Bagram prisoners much greater ability to challenge their custody. Detainees would still not have lawyers. But they would be assigned a United States military official who would act as their representative, helping gather witnesses and evidence, including classified material, to challenge their detention before a military-appointed review board. New panels would review detentions every six months.

 

As always, much will depend on how the plan is implemented. But the proposed changes seem a decent effort to provide protections that meet or exceed those required by military and international law, and do a better sorting job so innocent people are released. Even so, accurately screening people just off the battlefield is easier than trying to do so later on. There is ample reason to question whether the new protections are sufficient, especially for existing prisoners already held for long periods on stale evidence.

 

In a troubling legal brief filed last week, the Obama administration followed the disreputable example of the Bush White House by opposing judicial review of military detentions, even for a discrete segment of prisoners: the 30 or so non-Afghan Bagram prisoners who were seized outside Afghanistan, far from any recognizable battlefield, and who have been incarcerated for more than six years.

 

The brief was filed as part of the government’s appeal of a narrowly drafted federal court ruling last spring that gave these prisoners the same right to federal court reviews that the Supreme Court has accorded similarly situated prisoners at Guantánamo.

 

The Obama team’s intention to appeal the ruling was announced months ago, but second thoughts should have been prompted by the ongoing review of military detentions as well as the experience of Guantánamo detainees seeking habeas corpus review. In all but a handful of more than two dozen Guantánamo appeals to reach judgment in federal district court, judges have ruled that the government lacked a legal basis to detain.

 

Unlike Guantánamo, Bagram is in an active theater of war, and, historically, habeas corpus has not been extended to detainees abroad in zones of combat. But as the challenged court ruling found, the theater of war excuse for denying judicial review evaporates when the government decides to import detainees to the war zone.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THAT PROMISE OF DETENTION REFORM

 

Last month the Obama administration announced that it was going to overhaul immigration detention, to impose accountability and safety on a system notoriously deficient in both. This month, the official chosen to lead the effort, Dora Schriro, announced that she was leaving Washington to become the commissioner of correction for New York City. But the job of fixing the detention system, and all of its horrors, must move ahead.

 

On Friday, her last day on the job, Ms. Schriro delivered a report on the detention system to Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary. We hope that it fully reflects the desperate reality: the brutal mistreatment; isolation, filth and deprivation; the shabby or nonexistent health care and the ill and injured detainees who languished and sometimes died, their suffering untreated.

 

Ms. Schriro’s successor will have a big job in fulfilling the administration’s promise of reform. The abuse and neglect must end. The system must also become much more discriminating about whom it holds — dangerous criminals, not the harmless and sick.

 

It will also have to rein in the private for-profit prisons that deliver brutal service on the cheap. And it will have to increase accountability and transparency. Ms. Napolitano can start by releasing Ms. Schriro’s report. Americans need to find out what happened in Basile, La., where detainees staged a hunger strike to protest detestable conditions, or downtown Los Angeles, where inmates filed a lawsuit to protest the squalor.

 

While Ms. Napolitano and her team promise to make detention a “truly civil” system, they show no interest in reforming the corrupt mechanisms that feed it. Instead, they are expanding the programs that have allowed corrupt local officials to round up thousands in unjust raids. The same people whom President Obama has promised a decent shot at citizenship remain easy prey to racial profiling, and are terrified of ending up in this truly uncivilized system. Mr. Obama and Ms. Napolitano must resolve that fundamental contradiction.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FEEL IGNORED? TRY CALLING YOUR TAXI DRIVER

 

It may come as a surprise to anyone who has ridden in a New York City taxi lately, but taxi drivers are prohibited from talking on the phone.

 

For safety’s sake, the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission outlawed the use of cellphones by its licensed drivers 10 years ago. Unlike taxi drivers in Washington and Los Angeles, where hands-free devices are permitted, or Denver and Miami, where all phones are allowed, New York taxi drivers, if caught talking on any kind of phone, can be fined $200. Repeat offenders can lose their taxi license.

 

Undercover inspectors in Operation Secret Rider pose as ordinary passengers to catch wrongdoers. But obviously a lot of chatter goes undetected — or unreported by fuming passengers. The city’s 48,000 taxi drivers received fewer than a thousand tickets last year and only 232 tickets in the first half of this year.

 

Despite their reputation as expert complainers, New Yorkers apparently don’t like to do it officially. The commission recorded only 329 complaints last year about phone use — and only 175 through July of this year.

 

Short of registering an official complaint, there are other ways of dealing with chatty cabbies. Riders especially worried about safety can take the unusual step of buckling their seatbelts.

 

They can also choose a more drastic option suggested in the taxi commission’s Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights, which states that anyone dissatisfied with such problems as noisy radios or drivers using cellphones can always “decline to tip for poor service.”

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRESENT AT THE TRADE WARS

BY DAVID ROCKEFELLER

 

AS if he needed another policy concern to distract him from the health care debate, President Obama now finds himself embroiled in a quarrel with China over his imposition of a steep tariff on automobile tires from that country that is to take effect this week. The Chinese have responded by threatening to impose higher tariffs on American chicken. This may seem like a petty dispute, but the controversy could endanger the global economic recovery if the underlying issue — the rise in protectionism —is not resolved quickly and forcefully. Perhaps Washington has justification for increasing tariffs in this particular case, but in general it sets a bad precedent.

 

President Obama should resist the desire to accommodate the forces of protectionism from unions, environmentalists and cable television pundits alike. Giving in to their demands may be politically astute, but it would send the wrong message to our trading partners and, more important, inflict damage on the already weakened American economy. Despite the recent rally in the stock market, the next two or three years could still be very painful.

 

I lived through the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it, and I saw that there was no direct cause and effect relationship. Rather, there were specific governmental actions and equally important failures to act, often driven by political expediency, that brought on the Depression and determined its severity and longevity.

 

One critical mistake was America’s retreat from international trade. This not only helped to turn the 1929 stock market decline into a depression, it also chipped away at trust between nations, paving the way for World War II.

 

In late 1929, intense protectionist pressure from farm, labor and business groups prodded the Republican-dominated Congress to pass the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which increased rates on imported goods to historically high levels. President Herbert Hoover signed it into law in June 1930, and in doing so raised the prices of more than 20,000 items produced abroad.

 

The results were devastating. Our trading partners retaliated by raising their own tariffs on American goods. From 1929 to 1933, imports from Europe into the United States declined by almost two-thirds and our exports were more than halved. From 1929 to 1934, overall world trade declined by some 66 percent. The tariffs took a toll on the domestic economy as well. When trading partners reciprocated with tariffs of their own, American importers found their goods priced too high to sell, while exporters experienced depressed demand. In both cases, American workers lost jobs. The unemployment rate rose from around 9 percent in 1930 (a bit lower than it is today) to close to 16 percent a year later and a staggering 25 percent in 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt took office. We could be at a similar crossroad today.

 

The high level of economic anxiety is, quite understandably, fueling protectionist sentiment and economic nationalism both here and abroad. Quite a few Americans believe that defeating new trade agreements and gutting existing ones would protect American jobs and stabilize our economy. In reality, those actions would be damaging and counterproductive, and repeat the mistakes of the 1930s.

 

It’s not too late to get back on the right path. President Obama should use the meeting of the Group of 20 this week in Pittsburgh to argue the case for the expansion of world trade. He should also condemn the subtle protectionist measures — subsidies and domestic content legislation, for example — already used by the United States and many of our trading partners. President Obama should also urge Congress to pass free-trade agreements with Panama, South Korea and Colombia that would truly open those markets to our products. He should also ask Congress to renew “fast track” authority for Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative. This would signal our strong commitment to fair and equitable international trade, as well as our willingness to act quickly on future agreements.

 

Some will ask why the president should stress trade expansion at a time when our domestic economy is in the doldrums. The reason is that our economy is richer as a result of globalization. At a time when economic growth is flat at best and unemployment is approaching 10 percent, we need every instrument available to stimulate job growth.

 

President Obama should recognize the critical need for a free flow of trade and finance across the world’s borders, especially our own. He must help Americans understand that the fate of workers in Chinese tire factories, and that of poultry farmers in Arkansas, is inextricably intertwined with their own.

 

David Rockefeller is the former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CHALLENGE, ANYONE?

BY PAUL KEDROSKY

SAN DIEGO

 

ROGER FEDERER is getting teased, and not just because he lost the U.S. Open last week to Juan Martin del Potro. He is being mocked for his terrible eye. He challenged more calls in the U.S. Open than any other competitor, and yet he had one of the lowest success rates of any of the top players.

 

Insult to injury, right? Wrong. Federer is adept at challenging tennis calls, and he should challenge more of them — as should his rivals. Professional tennis players are almost certainly losing matches because of their unwillingness to do so.

 

Here’s how challenges work. Major tennis tournaments (like the U.S. Open) have multiple cameras arrayed around the court. This permits a simulated replay of a shot, showing to the millimeter where a ball landed on the court. So instead of futilely shouting, “You can’t be serious!” at linesmen and umpires, players can raise their hand immediately after a call and ask for a replay.

 

The rules allow three incorrect challenges per player per set. In a best-of-five-sets match (which is normal for men), that means at least 18 available challenges per match, none of which carry over from set to set.In other words, use ’em or lose ’em. A player can get an additional challenge if the match goes into a tiebreaker, or if a fifth set goes overtime.Yet despite all these opportunities players have to dispute calls, at this year’s U.S. Open, men’s singles matches averaged 6.3 challenges that had a 29 percent success rate. Even Federer averaged a miserly one challenge per set in his 25 sets played at the Open. Why this reluctance to make a challenge? After all, the 29 percent success rate of challenges in the men’s singles matches shows that linesmen are regularly wrong.

 

And the rewards for challengers can be substantial. For example, the No. 10 seed at the Open, Fernando Verdasco of Spain, averaged 0.4 challenges per set and had a sparkling 43 percent success rate. If he challenged once per set, like Federer, and his challenge success rate fell to a similar 30 percent, it could mean one more point to him in a three-set match. If his success rate didn’t fall as much, however, and he challenged twice per set it might mean as many as three more points in a five-set match. Either way, it could be the difference between winning and losing.It’s not all about math. There are also behavioral reasons that explain why tennis pros would shy away from challenges. Look at the sheepish faces on players when they’re wrong, and listen to the clucking from announcers. But players should worry about total challenges won.

 

Players also hang onto challenges “just in case,” only to have them expire when a set ends. But close line calls don’t always show up when you need them to.

 

So what should players do? Rather than fretting about Federer’s fondness for challenges, they should try to out-challenge him. Even challenge recreationally now and then. Sure, it might be embarrassing to challenge on a ball that looked well in, but who cares? The disruption to an opponent’s rhythm can be worth it, as can the opportunity to take a short breather after a tough rally. The real challenge is to ignore the giggling critics.

 

Paul Kedrosky is a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, a center for economic research.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

THE REAL CLIMATE DEBATE STARTS NOW

AUSTRALIA IS PLAYING A CONSTRUCTIVE ROLE BEFORE COPENHAGEN.

 

REALITY has begun to bite in the climate change debate, with just 11 weeks to go until more than 8000 people from 192 nations gather in Copenhagen to attempt to thrash out a new protocol on cutting carbon emissions. The political games being played in Canberra over whether the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will be passed by the Senate before or after the conference, and what the final Coalition position will be, is nothing but a distraction that is peripheral to the major international issues at stake. Most pressing among these is the fact that the biggest players - the US, the EU, China and India are poles apart in their positions as the conference draws near. Crafting workable agreements on reducing carbon emissions and emissions trading, it seems, could take years, not weeks.

 

Kevin Rudd was frank when he landed in New York yesterday about the lack of preliminary agreements on such key issues as targets for developed countries, verifiable commitments for developing countries, how to finance the changes and how technology should be employed. In leaving the preliminary negotiations and agreements too late, participants have increased the likelihood of a stalemate in Copenhagen.

 

If such an outcome is to be avoided, real progress must be made this week at the Pittsburgh meeting of G20 leaders. Member nations account for 85 per cent of the world's GDP and include all major industrial nations, including the emerging economic superpowers of China, India and Brazil. Mr Rudd has raised the possibility of another gathering of G20 finance ministers before Copenhagen. But the value of any such meeting would depend on what progress is made this week.

 

As Lenore Taylor reports in these pages today, Australia has seized the initiative by proposing a compromise to break the deadlock between developed and developing nations. The proposal, which will be outlined today by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong at New York University, is a formal, practical proposal about the legal structure of any possible agreement in Copenhagen. While developed nations, under the Kyoto Protocol, agreed to "go first" in accepting binding emission-reduction targets, such nations also insist that developing nations promise reductions. Some, however, such as India, are refusing to agree to legally binding cuts.

 

Australia's proposal to break the deadlock calls for more flexible "national schedules" for developing nations. While these would require commitments, they could be sufficiently flexible to vary from country to country, depending on national circumstances. They could include measures ranging from economy-wide targets or renewable energy targets to a technology standard or a target for reducing deforestation. Ideally, as Ms Wong says, each nation would put forward its own schedule, to be studied and discussed before Copenhagen.

 

Given the fact that by 2030, China is expected to be responsible for 33 per cent of global emissions, the US 11 per cent and India 8 per cent, it is clear that the most industrialised developing nations must be central to any meaningful conclusions to come out of the December conference. It is equally clear that while Australia needs to be part of any widespread agreement, the 1 per cent of global emissions that we will contribute by 2030 give us no reason to jeopardise our economy by moving ahead of the rest of the world. The Rudd government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is a sensible and minimalist, market-based scheme designed to achieve a 5 per cent emissions cut by 2020. Like the plan the Howard government took to the 2007 election, it was designed to limit economic fallout.

But Australia has no reason to feel compelled to lock in the legislation in November, just a few weeks before the Copenhagen conference, which is now surrounded by uncertainties. There will be plenty of time next year, when the outcomes are known.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

COURAGEOUS HONESTY

ANDREW ROBB HAS SHOWN COURAGE SPEAKING ABOUT DEPRESSION.

 

LIBERAL frontbencher Andrew Robb, 58, one of the opposition's most capable performers, has demonstrated great courage and honesty in speaking publicly about his battle with depression. Mr Robb is taking three months leave to undergo treatment. After years of thinking he was simply "not good in the mornings", feeling flat and negative but improving as the day wore on, he was diagnosed with a biochemical disorder, diurnal variation, after speaking to beyondblue chairman, former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett.

 

By being open about his experiences with a problem suffered by one million adults and 100,000 young people in Australia each year, Mr Robb will no doubt encourage others to seek much-needed medical help. Despite the fact that one in four females and one in six males, on average, experience depression at some point in their lives, the debilitating condition often remains undiagnosed and is frequently misunderstood by family members, friends, co-workers and employers.

 

Mr Robb's announcement is a reminder that politicians, whose lives are usually demanding, are as vulnerable to illness and life's hard knocks as those they represent. Political figures who have battled depression in recent years include Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry, former West Australian premier Geoff Gallop, former Tasmanian education minister Paula Wriedt, former Queensland attorney-general Linda Lavarch, former Queensland Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett and former NSW opposition leader John Brogden. Winston Churchill was also a sufferer, calling it his "black dog". Sadly, federal Labor backbencher from Victoria Greg Wilton and One Nation Queensland member Charles Rappolt took their own lives.

 

In telling her story in The Weekend Australian earlier this year, Ms Wriedt made the point that "it would have been more convenient if I'd had cancer" -- a reference to the fact that cancer is better understood and accepted as an illness in need of treatment. But in speaking about their experiences in recent years, high-profile sufferers of depression, including politicians, have done much to improve community understanding and eliminate the stigma that was once attached to all forms of mental illness. The efforts of beyondblue have also been invaluable during the past decade in assisting patients and ensuring depression and mental illness are discussed in sensible terms.

 

Mr Robb, a former Howard government minister and federal director of the Liberal Party, expects to return to full health and resume work. Like all Australians, we wish him well.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

A CHAMPION OF IDEAS

KRISTOL DEFINED A NEOCON AS A "LIBERAL MUGGED BY REALITY".

 

PHILOSOPHER and writer Irving Kristol, who has died at the age of 89, set the agenda for decades of political debate in the US and beyond. Kristol was the leading thinker in the movement that came to ben known as neoconservatism. He was a Trotskyite who later shifted to the Right when he became disillusioned by the Left's softness on communism and the rise of the counter-culture, the failure of social welfare policies and the anti-Vietnam War movements. Or as he put it, a neoconservative was a liberal "mugged by reality".

 

The Public Interest, the magazine he ran for 40 years from 1965, had a small circulation but exerted a powerful influence over Republican politics advocating pro-growth, supply-side economics and the defence of traditional values.

 

Mr Kristol's lasting legacy was the elevation of conservative scholarship to counter what he described as the "permanent brain trust" of the liberal Left.

 

He was a champion of ideas, writing in 1973 that: "I know that it will be hard for some to believe that ideas can be so important. This underestimation of ideas is a peculiarly bourgeois fallacy, especially powerful in the United States. For two centuries, the very important people who managed the affairs of this society could not believe in the importance of ideas until one day they were shocked to discover that their children, having been captured and shaped by certain ideas, were either rebelling against their authority or seceding from their society."

 

Ideas, he said, shape institutions. To achieve success, governments need "a guiding philosophy; not a zealous ideology, which is insensitive to political compromise, but a directional touchstone, which provides overall consistency. In other words, ultimately they must be ruled by values and ideas and not only by an instinct for political survival, necessary though that is." The arguments that Mr Kristol expounded are still at the centre of the political debate, ensuring that his ideas will live on long after him.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

OBAMA MOVES TO BRING RUSSIA IN FROM THE COLD

THE BUSH MISSILE SHIELD SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN EMBARKED UPON.

 

THE date was not auspicious, but the announcement was made by a man who has repeatedly shown that he will not be bound by failed ways of thinking. Last Thursday, the 70th anniversary of Russia's invasion of Poland, President Barack Obama informed the Polish and Czech prime ministers that the US would not proceed with its planned missile defence shield, which would have been based in their countries. The news that this initiative of the Bush administration had been abandoned was greeted with dismay in Warsaw and Prague, celebration in Moscow, frosty silence in Tehran, and accusations by Republicans in Congress that the President is endangering US security. It is to be understood, however, not in terms of last week's anniversary but in connection with this coming Thursday's United Nations nuclear summit in New York, which Mr Obama will chair.

 

The Obama Administration, rightly, regards nuclear proliferation - especially the prospect that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons - as a greater global danger than the lingering possibility of conflict between the former Cold War rivals. In that context, the Bush plan for a missile shield amounted to a provocation to a country whose support the US will need if the nuclear summit is to result in an agreement aimed at checking proliferation, and especially if any nuclear ambitions held by Iran are to be restrained.

 

Under the shield plan, a chain of radar stations would have been built in the Czech Republic, supporting interceptor missiles based in Poland. Instead, the US will now deploy smaller, ship-based missiles intended to intercept short and medium-ranged missiles launched from Iran, and the radar complex is likely to be moved to Turkey or one of the Caucasian republics.

 

Mr Obama's Congressional critics are correct in describing this as a gamble, but it is one in which the odds are more favourable to the US than they would have been under the Bush plan, which contained its own risks. In retrospect, a case can be made that expanding NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union to include Moscow's former Warsaw Pact allies did not serve the cause of European peace well. Russia felt threatened by the development, and that sense of threat has been grist to the mill of belligerent Russian nationalists such as Vladimir Putin. The enlarged NATO cannot now be easily dissolved; but the Bush administration's missile plan needlessly aggravated the tension, with the Kremlin threatening to revive the Cold War arms race.

 

Russia has made no offer of arms cuts in response to Mr Obama's announcement, as Congressional Republicans have also pointed out. But President Dmitry Medvedev said: ''We value the US President's responsible approach to implementing our agreements. I am ready to continue the dialogue.'' That is a very different tone to that adopted by Mr Medvedev's predecessor, Mr Putin, in his exchanges with George W. Bush.

 

Deterring Iran, the aim of Mr Obama's new strategy, was also the avowed aim of the Bush missile shield. Yet over time its supporters came to regard the shield in a different light: it indicated a refusal to be cowed by a resurgent Russia. For the American right, missile defence has had a special allure since President Ronald Reagan unveiled his Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), dubbed ''Star Wars''. The Bush missile shield was more modest in scope than the SDI, but like it it was very expensive and technically dubious. Its strategic assumptions were continuous with those of the Reagan era, and by junking the shield Mr Obama has, in the eyes of his opponents, besmirched the Reagan legacy, too. The fact that Defence Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, and the joint chiefs of staff all recommended the course Mr Obama has taken is unlikely to inhibit his increasingly shrill domestic critics from saying that he is not fit to be commander-in-chief.

 

Abandoning the missile shield is justifiable in money terms alone. The immediate question, however, is whether the decision will give Mr Obama the leverage he needs to secure Russian support for a tougher line on Iran. This week's nuclear summit will be followed a week later by a meeting between representatives of Iran and the inelegantly titled P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Iran is far more likely to be swayed by appeals for restraint if the P5+1 delivers them in a united voice. Mr Obama should find out this week if that is likely to happen.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

KEEPING LEFT IS THE RIGHT MOVE FOR TRUCKS

 

LAST week's accident involving two trucks and a utility on the Monash Freeway reverberated across the city. After the initial percussive crunch of glass and metal came the extended droning of idling engines and the exasperated moaning from thousands of drivers trapped in a 15-kilometre deadlock that took three hours to clear. The clogging of this system was as drastic to Melbourne's road system as the clogging of an artery would have been to the human body.

 

Although details of the incident that caused the chaos have yet to be determined, it raises again the question of banning trucks from specific lanes on high-use roads such as the Monash, CityLink and West Gate freeways. Victoria's Roads Minister, Tim Pallas, has indicated the Government is considering the issue, citing what he calls ''genuine community concerns about the interaction between cars and trucks''. Such concerns, raised in the aftermath of the Burnley Tunnel collision two years ago that killed three men, have only festered over time - as they would have during last week's logjam.

 

Not surprisingly, the trucking industry opposes the idea, saying keeping trucks out of the fast lane would make it even harder for cars in the inside lanes, particularly those wanting to exit the freeways. This does not appear to be a worry to millions of drivers on European motorways or some American freeways whose fast lanes remain truck-free, and are usually more efficient and safer because of it. Indeed, safety and security should be the driving forces in the Government's considerations of effecting such a ban. The Victorian Transport Association and the RACV have long campaigned for a change in the law. It is time it happened.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE SOUND AND THE FURY

 

THE revelation that Airservices Australia breached its own guidelines and secretly introduced a narrow, heavy-traffic air corridor over suburbs from Five Dock to Miranda has once more drawn attention to the shortcomings of Sydney Airport. That Airservices Australia also denied the corridor's existence when confronted by the Liberal member for Cook, Scott Morrison, only to admit it later to the Herald, will have appalled but not shocked a Sydney public which has endured any number of precedents.

 

The closure in 2007 of the east-west runway for extension aroused fury at the time not just because of the extra noise but also because of the announcement's cynical timing - three days after the federal election. Work had been planned for months but there had been no consultation with the councils and residents in affected areas. Last April, Jetstar was fined $550,000 after one of its aircraft took off for Bali almost half an hour after the 11pm curfew despite warnings from air traffic controllers - the fourth time an airline has been prosecuted under the Sydney Airport Act.

 

And then there is - or perhaps will one day eventually be - Sydney's second airport. Despite millions of dollars and six decades wasted on plans and inquiries, the second airport is entering the realm of misty fantasy: unicorns may prance at Badgerys Creek before we see aircraft land there.

 

In the 1940s politicians and bureaucrats stroked their chins about Badgerys Creek but did nothing. The Hawke government bought land there, but its fear of voter hostility saw it alight instead on the idea of a third runway. In 2003 the Howard government effectively took a second airport off the agenda. Last year, council opposition in western Sydney thwarted a fresh campaign for it by the NSW Urban Taskforce. The present Government has published a green paper raising the prospect of a second airport - but who would hold their breath waiting for it?

 

As we have no good reason to expect anything more than procrastination and political wimpishness, a renewed commitment to noise-sharing is essential: it is fair and it works. Noise complaints ran at 9000 a month in 1997 but only 580 were recorded in February this year. However, transparency in its management is equally vital. Noise is unpleasant but Sydney people are reasonable. They will find it easier to put up with rows of howling jumbos without the dissembling and arrogance that has come to typify Sydney airport management.

 

Meantime we await the transport white paper with interest. Goulburn and Newcastle have been touted as possible alternatives. It is heartening to know the unicorns have a choice of stables.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S THEIRS IS HIS, TOO

 

KEVIN RUDD'S choice of his political opponent Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the European Union and NATO, as well as Kim Beazley as ambassador to Washington, has been hailed as putting an end to jobs for the boys. In fact, Rudd did that some time ago as far as Labor is concerned with his choice of the former leader of the National Party, Tim Fischer, as ambassador to the Holy See. Since then, he has appointed a series of senior Coalition figures to government posts. The Howard government appointed no Labor figures to government jobs.

 

Both the appointments announced on Thursday were good choices. Beazley's interest and expertise in American politics are well known. Nelson's experience in the Defence portfolio will serve him well in a post where the mission in Afghanistan will be a major concern.

 

But there is more to Rudd's bipartisanship than idealistic concern to tap the nation's best talent. It is clever politics. Appointing former opponents to senior posts reinforces his claim to represent the centre ground. As Peter Hartcher suggested in the Herald on Friday, it may also be easier for Rudd to choose former opponents for top posts, because he has less animus against them than he has against those from his own party. It may have been harder for him to send Beazley as ambassador to Washington because of the troubled relationship between the two from when Rudd was challenging Beazley for the Labor leadership.

 

The willingness of a Labor leader to appoint political opponents to government jobs emphasises what has been apparent for some time, that in Australian politics there is no longer any great ideological difference between the main parties. Politics has returned to the condition it was in before the arrival of the Labor Party in the late 19th century refined a new class-based political dividing line. Differences remain between the outlooks of the two sides, but they have been attenuated and narrowed by the collapse of the left-wing agenda, and the gradual transformation of politics to a glorified tribalism tinged with a faint afterglow of rival ideologies.

 

It remains to be seen whether Rudd has broken the stranglehold of party loyalty which has afflicted politics, and reduced it over the decades to sterile trench warfare. We will not know if he has until the next Coalition government - whenever that may come to power - makes appointments of its own. But he certainly deserves credit for making a start.

 

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THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… THE GECKO

 

Is there no limit to the marvels of the gecko? This family of lizards – with a range that extends from the Mediterranean to New Zealand, from Madagascar to Vietnam – continues to astonish. Sometimes subtly patterned, sometimes Day-Glo bright, these creatures are not just providers but discerning consumers of the spectrum: the nocturnal gecko is one of the few animals that can distinguish colours in the dark. A gecko's feet are covered with microscopic hairs, which exploit mysterious electrostatic forces so that geckos can run up smooth walls at three feet a second and even hang upside down from ceilings. The gecko's tail serves as a balancing agent, a kind of fifth leg, during difficult climbs. Should the gecko fall, the tail becomes part of its skydiving equipment for a glide to a safe landing. And should a predator get too close, the gecko's tail makes the ultimate sacrifice: it painlessly detaches itself and becomes a decoy, a device to delude the pursuer. Now scientists in North America report in Biology Letters on the latest twist in the tale of the gecko. Once shed, the tail behaves as if it had a mind of its own: it twitches, it flips, flops, cartwheels, jumps and lunges. The gecko's feet have already inspired industrial adhesives. Now the gecko offers a lesson in making do and mending. Some mechanism in the tail seems to control movement after its severance from the nervous system. This clever reptile has knowledge humans can only envy: how to manage catastrophic spinal injury. And, of course, it can also grow a new tail.

 

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THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

UN AND G20 MEETINGS: ONE WEEK AND THE WORLD

 

If ever there was a week for putting the world to rights, this is it. Tuesday sees a special UN summit of world leaders to jump-start the process of salvaging the climate. On Wednesday the general assembly's general debate opens, with an agenda that straddles Middle East peace, terrorism and global poverty. Then, on Thursday, Barack Obama takes the chair for a special session of the security council, at which nuclear disarmament will be the chief talking point. Just in case leading statesmen are left feeling unsatisfied at this point, the most powerful will then up sticks from New York to Pittsburgh, and then reassemble as the G20, the grouping charged with speeding the world's escape from what remains an extraordinary slump.

 

It is always worth retaining a measure of scepticism about the ability of brief planetary pageants to convert lofty ambitions into earthly achievement. After all, the general assembly convenes to discuss pressing matters every year, and yet this annual jaw-jaw has not banished war-war so far. But what is different this time is the gathering sense that the UN is where it's at, a sense which owes a great deal to President Obama. Almost a year after the poetry of his campaign started giving way to the prose of practical decisions, and amid intensely partisan bickering over healthcare, the US public has realised, as it was always bound to do, that he is in fact another politician; and, with approval ratings now bobbing around the 50% mark, it has come to esteem him as a rather average member of the presidential species. But as far as the rest of the world is concerned he is far from average, because of his determination to engage multilaterally. That was evident when he upgraded the US ambassador to the UN to cabinet status, and has now become clearer still in connection with nuclear weapons.

 

As the Guardian reveals today, the president has rejected the first draft of the Pentagon's review of America's nuclear posture on the grounds that it was too grudging about the prospects for disarmament. Banning the bomb multilaterally is a nice idea that ordinarily seems so far from reality that Washington's most hawkish characters have often had no problem with signing up to it in principle, safe in the knowledge that nothing would come of it. Mr Obama, however, has consistently striven to convert pipe dream into possibility – from his early decision to cut development funding for a "reliable replacement warhead", through his disarming April speech in Prague, and on to last week's abandonment of European missile defence. That last move, in particular, just might keep the missile-laden Russians at the disarmament table, which is the crucial precondition to overhauling the creaking non-proliferation architecture and doing away with most existing instruments of Armageddon.

 

The president will soon need to prove to sceptical voters how magnanimity on the world stage can reap rewards felt back at home. But it is a sign of the audacity of Obama's hope that he is pushing his plan at a time when other world leaders are worrying about other things, often for good reason. The preoccupations of Gordon Brown this week, for instance, will be climate change (he is now signalling that he may personally attend December's critical Copenhagen negotiations) and restoring economic growth, an agenda on which he senses political opportunity in the contrast between his proactive internationalism and the Conservatives' more laissez-faire approach. French president Nicholas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, are concerned about making a co-ordinated move against the bankers, so as to undercut their claim that global competition renders their bonuses untouchable. It is unlikely that all the brave hopes will survive the week, particularly as the leaders are thinking so differently. But even so, they are coming together and thinking big – and that has to be good news.

 

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THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… THE GECKO

 

Is there no limit to the marvels of the gecko? This family of lizards – with a range that extends from the Mediterranean to New Zealand, from Madagascar to Vietnam – continues to astonish. Sometimes subtly patterned, sometimes Day-Glo bright, these creatures are not just providers but discerning consumers of the spectrum: the nocturnal gecko is one of the few animals that can distinguish colours in the dark. A gecko's feet are covered with microscopic hairs, which exploit mysterious electrostatic forces so that geckos can run up smooth walls at three feet a second and even hang upside down from ceilings. The gecko's tail serves as a balancing agent, a kind of fifth leg, during difficult climbs. Should the gecko fall, the tail becomes part of its skydiving equipment for a glide to a safe landing. And should a predator get too close, the gecko's tail makes the ultimate sacrifice: it painlessly detaches itself and becomes a decoy, a device to delude the pursuer. Now scientists in North America report in Biology Letters on the latest twist in the tale of the gecko. Once shed, the tail behaves as if it had a mind of its own: it twitches, it flips, flops, cartwheels, jumps and lunges. The gecko's feet have already inspired industrial adhesives. Now the gecko offers a lesson in making do and mending. Some mechanism in the tail seems to control movement after its severance from the nervous system. This clever reptile has knowledge humans can only envy: how to manage catastrophic spinal injury. And, of course, it can also grow a new tail.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LESSONS OF LEHMAN BROTHERS

 

On Sept. 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, a venerable international financial firm, went bankrupt. Its collapse set off a chain of events that triggered a global financial crisis that is estimated to have caused more than $1.6 trillion in losses and cost millions of jobs. A year later, we are still assessing the lessons of the Lehman debacle. Incredibly, one year later, little if anything has been done to prevent another such collapse in the future.

 

Lehman Brothers was one of the oldest financial firms in the United States. Founded in 1850, during the 1980s it became the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. with the highest return on equity in the industry. From 1994 — when it went public — until 2007, the firm increased net revenues over 600 percent from $2.73 billion to $19.2 billion, and the number of employees increased from 8,500 to over 28,000. That history and track record were not enough to stave off disaster last year, when losses from its holdings of subprime mortgage loans forced it to sell assets at fire sale prices and start laying off employees.

 

Those steps were not enough to restore confidence in the firm. Its stock price plummeted and creditors began calling in loans. Unable to meet those demands, and finding no other party — in particular the U.S. government — willing to lend it a hand, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15, 2008, the largest failure of an investment bank in nearly two decades.

 

Lehman's collapse triggered a drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of just over 500 points, the biggest fall since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Investors the world over worried that other financial institutions faced similar problems. A crisis of confidence rolled across global financial markets, and banks and other institutions quit lending money out of fear that it would not be returned. And with that, the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression truly began.

 

The U.S. government's failure to bail out Lehman stunned banking officials. France's financial minister called the decision "horrendous" and a "genuine mistake," an opinion that was shared by the head of the European Central Bank. For some observers, U.S. inaction actually caused the debacle, transforming a crisis into a global collapse. U.S. officials insist that they did not have the legal authority to help the company.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, however, most analysts now believe that it was only a matter of time before something went sour. Too many financial institutions were overexposed, holding long-term paper whose value was evaporating and short-term deposits that they could not pay back in a pinch. If Lehman Brothers had not been the trigger, then another equally vulnerable banking institution would have done the trick.

 

Those same observers believe that it was the shock of the Lehman Brothers' failure that galvanized the U.S. to take action. That is probably too optimistic an assessment. The U.S. Congress debated the bailout plan for several weeks; it voted down several attempts at a bailout. More disturbing is the continuing failure to take concrete steps to avoid a repetition of the crisis and the return of dubious practices among bankers.

 

On the anniversary of the Lehman collapse, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in New York City to strengthen efforts at financial market reform. He wants to shore up regulation of financial institutions, figure out ways to limit the speculation that led to the imbalances in balance sheets, and create a new consumer protection agency that would put an end to the abusive lending practices that created the subprime mess. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has been distracted by the battle over health care reform, his signature issue.

 

Meanwhile, old excesses are making a comeback. Bank profits — and associated bonuses — are again in the stratosphere. The Dow has reclaimed a good part of its losses. The financial sector has consolidated, making big banks even bigger and increasing the prospects of catastrophic failure. Brokers have begun repackaging assets, a practice that looks suspiciously like the bundling of subprime mortgages, which started the downslide a year ago.

 

In fact, national action alone will not solve the problem. One of the most important lessons of the past year is that the global financial system is indeed global. Only coordinated, multilateral action has a chance of success. Thus, financial regulation now tops the Group of 20 agenda and will dominate the upcoming meeting in Pittsburgh scheduled late this week.

 

A global pay code will provide some satisfaction, especially if it prevents bankers from profiting from their recklessness. But financial safety and security will only result from a regulatory regime that has the power to oversee all financial institutions and ensure that reward is tied to risk-taking. It is the gap between the two, and the near certainty that calamitous decisions will not only go unpunished but will be offset with a bailout, that brought about the harrowing events of the past year. The most important lesson of the past year is that this sad state of affairs must stop.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LESS 'EXCLUSIONARY' DPJ TO TEST METTLE OF REPORTERS

 

The resounding victory by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the general election Aug. 30 not only will bring about a change of government but also is likely to shatter an exclusionary "press club" system that has long prevented freelance, non-Japanese and other nonmember journalists from interviewing the prime minister and other top political leaders.

 

Strange, if not absurd, though it may look, Japan has long had the system — in which one press club is established in the offices of the prime minister, government ministries, political parties and other organizations. Membership in the club is limited to major Japanese newspapers, press agencies and radio and TV stations. This means that only members of the press clubs can attend news conferences and question the prime minister, Cabinet minister and government officials.

 

The first sign of the DPJ moving toward a revamping of this system was March 24, when Ichiro Ozawa, then president of the party, invited freelance journalists and foreign correspondents to his press conference.

 

Takashi Uesugi, one of the freelancers, commended Ozawa's move, saying, "Those of us who do not belong to press clubs are not given any chance of attending press meetings held by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the prime minister's office, government ministries, or the public prosecutor's office."

 

Uesugi asked Ozawa, who at the time was regarded as the most likely candidate to become the prime minister after the general election, whether he would open his press conferences to outsiders or maintain the exclusivity. Ozawa replied, "I have not changed my policy of inviting anybody and everybody to my press conferences."

 

Although he was forced to resign as the DPJ president because of a political donations scandal involving his secretary, it appears all but certain that his policy will be taken up by his successor, Yukio Hatoyama, who was elected new prime minister by the Diet last week.

 

If that materializes, any foreign correspondent or freelance journalist will be able to attend the prime minister's press conferences and ask questions, though they will naturally be subject to certain security regulations. This, some critics say, will make Japan "like any other country."

 

This could be bad news for many veteran political reporters who have long enjoyed exclusive privileges through cozy relations with the political establishment, dominated for more than half a century by the LDP. Unlike reporters in countries where periodic changes of government are the norm, those under Japan's one-party rule developed much more collusive relations with politicians in power.

 

There have been a number of cases in which reporters assigned to cover events related to LDP factional groups get fully acquainted with the inner workings of such groups, become "brains" of powerful figures, serve as public relations agents, act as political conciliators, and engage in politics rather than report political events. More often than not, they tend to place more emphasis on protecting their vested interest than on writing facts that the public is entitled to know.

 

Even after climbing the corporate ladder and gaining high executive positions, some of these reporters retain their ability to influence politicians, because the political landscape continues to be run by the same party. Seldom are they challenged over such behavior.

 

Another evil effect emanating from decades of one-party rule is an acute shortage of reporters who are well-versed on specific policy matters and capable of discussing and debating policy issues on an equal footing with bureaucrats and experts. Many senior political journalists may know what is going on behind the scenes but have limited knowledge of what policies should be pursued for the good of the nation.

 

During the decades of LDP rule, the replacement of one prime minister with another did not constitute a shift of power from one political party to another; rather, the change was among intraparty factions. Policies were drafted by bureaucrats and amended to reflect the will of the most influential politicians at the time before being written into legislative bills.

 

Under these circumstances the primary interest of reporters by and large was to know what influential politicians were really thinking since their will and human relationships influenced policy. What ensued was a lack of logical analysis of the government's policies, which in turn has further strengthened the bureaucrats' positions.

 

Now that a major change of government has taken place, it is incumbent upon all those in the field of journalism to analyze the feasibility of policy proposals put forward by competing political parties. Achieving that end requires that individual reporters be fully knowledgeable in specific fields, such as diplomacy, agriculture or education.

 

There are numerous well-qualified freelance journalists who are not members of the existing press clubs and, therefore, are not permitted to take part in press conferences. Once the Prime Minister's Office, government ministries, political parties and the like open their doors to nonmember journalists, a large number of them will get the chance to come in direct contact with political leaders. This may spell the end for "big name" political commentators who have made themselves well-known on national TV programs. The competition with younger reporters could raise suspicions that some of these commentators reached their position simply because of the decades of close ties with the LDP.

 

But will the younger political reporters, long fed up with their seniors' perks, have the ability and courage to change the antiquated political journalism that grew out of the LDP's one-party rule.

 

This is an abridged translation of an article from the September issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DIVINING JAPAN'S NEW LEADERSHIP AMID THE EXPECTATIONS OF CHANGE

BY HUGH CORTAZZI

 

LONDON — On a recent visit to France, I was frequently asked about the results of the Japanese election. Did the results mean that Japan was really changing? Would the new Japanese government increase Japan's influence in the world?

 

I had to hedge my replies with "ifs" and "buts." The defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been inevitable. It had been in power for too long and had lost touch with Japanese voters. The three Japanese prime ministers since Junichiro Koizumi exited the stage in 2006 had looked like party hacks lacking charisma and leadership qualities. Party factions seemed to have reasserted their influence, and interest groups to have regained their ability to lobby effectively. It was clearly time for a change.

 

But would the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) be any better for Japan? I was far from certain that they would be. When I learned that Ichiro Ozawa was to be the party secretary general, I feared that in the traditional way he would be the power behind the scenes pulling the strings in the new government. The French adage, which may be translated as "the more things change the more they are the same," might well apply.

 

I recalled that Ozawa had been close to the late Kakuei Tanaka, who had been mired in corruption charges, and to the late Shin Kanemaru, who exemplified some of the worst features of factionalism in Japanese politics. Had Ozawa really changed his spots, and could he be trusted to revolutionize Japanese politics and add vitality to Japanese democracy?

 

Ozawa has long advocated that Japan should become a more "normal" country and not be constrained by provisions like Article 9 of the Constitution. This attitude is understandable, but what will it mean in practice? It won't be easy to amend Article 9, especially when Japan's socialists are part of the new Japanese government.

 

I was also concerned to learn that Shizuka Kamei would hold an important post in the new Japanese government. He had led the opposition to the postal privatization policies of Koizumi, and seemed to be a strong opponent of deregulation when he was an LDP leader.

 

Will the DPJ halt deregulation, try to re-impose bureaucratic controls and adopt protectionist trade policies? These would not only damage Japanese competitiveness and increase the cost of living but also have a serious impact on Japan's standing in the world.

 

The DPJ seems determined to stop companies from taking on temporary workers. This is understandable in a country where the safety net for the unemployed is full of holes. But it could have serious repercussions for Japanese firms competing in world markets.

 

The DPJ's tax and spending policies do not seem to add up. Japan's fiscal deficit is among the highest in the world while the 5 percent consumption tax is out of line with tax rates in other countries.

 

The DPJ's determination to destroy the iron triangle of politicians, bureaucrats and business suggests radical change. But the party will need bureaucrats to put policies into effect and industry's support if the Japanese economy is to recover.

 

It may be that the bureaucrats and business have had too many "carrots" in the past, but too much of the "stick" will be counterproductive. The DPJ would be wise to eschew confrontation with either the bureaucracy or with industry. It should instead seek their cooperation in effecting the wishes of the electorate as reflected in the election results.

 

Yukio Hatoyama, the new Japanese prime minister, and Ozawa have called for a more independent Japanese foreign policy. But it is far from clear what this means in practice. If it means trying to improve relations with China and South Korea, it's all for the good. But is the DPJ really prepared to recognize the facts of Japanese history and part company with Japan's historical revisionists?

 

Japan continues to rely on American support in Asia. The Japanese government no longer has to deal with George W. Bush, whose policies in Iraq alienated so many. President Barack Obama has a different and less confrontational view of the world, but faces huge problems in Afghanistan and the Middle East. In both areas, his policies ought to commend themselves to the new Japanese government.

 

Yet Japan is set to end its support for the war in Afghanistan by withdrawing its refueling ships in the Indian Ocean. This decision inevitably raises questions about Japan's commitment to Western efforts to combat terrorism.

 

It is difficult for those not directly involved to comprehend all the issues related to the presence of U.S. forces in Japan. Japanese sensitivity over U.S. bases in Okinawa is understandable, and the problem of finding alternative sites in a country as mountainous and densely populated as Japan is clear. But Japan does not have nuclear weapons and there is, fortunately, no realistic likelihood that Japan will leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to develop its own nuclear arsenal. Japan still needs the American nuclear umbrella.

 

The new Japanese government would be wise not to antagonize a basically moderate and friendly American government that will, for its part, need to be especially careful about Japanese sensitivities. On the assumption that both the Japanese and the Americans keep their cool, it should be possible for both sides to find a way forward. Japan must, however, clarify that it is not ambivalent about combating international terrorism.

 

All in all, I am far from certain that the changes implied by the election results will be beneficial for Japan. Yet, I don't think that they imply the revolutionary change that some commentators wish to see in them. They do at least suggest that Japan is now moving toward a two-party system that should be healthy for Japanese parliamentary democracy.

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

 EDITORIAL

MORE BABIES

 

The low birthrate has reached the point where a Cabinet member was compelled to say that it is even more menacing and dangerous than a North Korean nuclear bomb.

 

Indeed, statistics show that Korea is on a perilous path. The number of marriages recorded in the first half of this year totaled 127,000, down 10,000 from the same period last year. Some 228,000 babies were born in the first half of this year, a drop of 10,000 over the same period last year.

 

Given these trends, experts predict that the total number of children a woman has in her lifetime may drop below the 1.19 recorded last year. This aggregate fertility rate is far lower than the average for the American woman at 2.1 births. The rate in France is 2.

 

In fact, the rate for Korea is far below the OECD average which stands at 1.73. If the birthrate continues to decline, we may soon face a grim reality in which the rate drops to below 1.

 

If this low birthrate trend continues, Korea's population will start declining in 2018, and by 2050, the total population will be reduced 10 percent and four out of 10 persons will be elderly. This would make Korea the most aged country in the world.

 

The ramifications of a low birthrate are grave. It means that the people in their productive years will have to support increasing numbers of the elderly. Labor will be in short supply, and the average age of the working population will go up, leading to lower productivity. Overall, the growth potential of the country will be retarded.

 

The graying of society will also lead to a drop in consumption, slowing growth. The costs of social welfare programs will grow considerably. It is not difficult to imagine generational conflicts in society where the younger people will feel resentful of having to shoulder the increasing burden of caring for the elderly.

 

So, what is to be done? The government in recent years has implemented one scheme or other aimed at getting women to have more babies. Outright cash payments for families having a third child and more have been much publicized in the media. However, these one-time payments which amount to a couple of million won at most are not a sufficient incentive to bear another child. The government assuming a portion of the prenatal care costs likewise has little impact. Childcare subsidy is a better incentive but the reality is that affordable, quality childcare is very difficult to find.

 

In fact, one of the biggest reasons for couples delaying having children or deciding against having children at all is the skyrocketing cost of education - in particular, the costs of private cram-school lessons and other extracurricular activities that parents feel are essential to give their children an advantage in this highly competitive society.

 

A study has shown that it costs some 230 million won to raise a child from the time he is born to college graduation. Some 30 percent of those who have stopped having more children report that childcare and education expenses are the reason for their decision. Making it less expensive to raise children may hold the key to boosting the birthrate. Providing more financial support to a greater number of families to cover childcare expenses and making high-quality childcare facilities widely available may encourage families to have more children.

 

In Korea, we have a particular phenomenon in which both none-working women - because of financial constraints - and working women - because of work constraints - are averse to having children.

 

More women than ever are joining the workforce and cultivating family-friendly corporate environment will go a long way toward encouraging women to have children.

 

While women in advanced countries who work outside the home tend to have more children than their counterparts who do not work, among Korean working women, the higher her income, the fewer children she will have.

 

This phenomenon is due largely to the male-oriented corporate culture in Korea. Working women often feel they need to make a choice between family and career. Many working women stop working upon getting married or when they have children - and this is as much by choice as it is induced by societal pressures.

 

This situation is unfortunate for both women and businesses. Businesses invest time and money in hiring and training employees. When women leave mid-career, it costs not only the women themselves in lost income but the businesses as well.

 

Family-friendly corporate environment yields a win-win situation for everyone. Businesses are able to retain their trained workers and get greater loyalty from their employees. Productivity at family-friendly companies has been shown to be 30 percent higher compared to those that do not have a family-friendly corporate culture.

 

Given the urgency of the low birth rate problem, the government should encourage businesses to adopt and firmly implement family-friendly corporate environment. Expectant mothers should be allowed to go for their monthly prenatal checkups without being penalized for their absence from work. Using the full maternal or paternal leave allowed under the law should be the norm, not the exception. Family-care leave should be mandated to allow caregivers to take care of sick children.

 

There has to be a paradigm shift in order for such family-friendly policies to be realized in the workplace. Raising children should not be a task relegated to women alone. As Hillary Clinton once so aptly put it when she quoted an ancient African proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." The society as whole should share in the responsibilities of raising children; only then will women be encouraged to have more children.

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

 EDITORIAL

G20'S EMPTY PROMISES ON EXIT STRATEGIES

MARTIN FELDSTEIN

 

CAMBRIDGE - Talk about "exit strategies" will be high on the agenda when the heads of the G20 countries gather in Pittsburgh. They will promise to reverse the explosive monetary and fiscal expansion of the past two years, to do it neither too soon nor too late, and to do it in a coordinated way.

 

These are the right things to promise. But what will such promises mean?

 

Consider first the goal of reversing the monetary expansion, which is necessary to avoid a surge of inflation when aggregate demand begins to pick up. But it is also important not to do it too soon, which might stifle today's nascent and very fragile recovery.

 

But promises by heads of government mean little, given that central banks are explicitly independent of government control in every important country. The U.S. Federal Reserve's Ben Bernanke, the Bank of England's Mervyn King, and the European Central Bank's Jean-Claude Trichet will each decide when and how to reverse their expansionary monetary policies. Bernanke doesn't take orders from the U.S. president, and King doesn't take orders from the British prime minister (and it's not even clear who would claim to tell Trichet what to do).

 

So the political promises in Pittsburgh about monetary policy are really just statements of governments' confidence that their countries' respective monetary authorities will act in appropriate ways.

 

That will be particularly challenging for Bernanke. Although the Federal Reserve is technically independent and not accountable to the president, it is a creation of the U.S. Congress and accountable to it. Because of the lagged effects of monetary policy and the need to manage expectations, early tightening by the Fed would be appropriate. But the unemployment rate could be over 9 percent - and possibly even more than 10 - when it begins to act. If so, can we really expect Congress not to object?

 

In fact, Congress might tell the Fed that it should wait until there are clear signs of inflation and a much lower unemployment rate. Because Congress determines the Fed's regulatory powers and approves the appointments of its seven governors, Bernanke will have to listen to it carefully - heightening the risk of delayed tightening and rising inflation.

 

Reversing the upsurge in fiscal deficits is also critical to the global economy's health. While the fiscal stimulus packages enacted in the past two years have been helpful in achieving the current rise in economic activity, the path of future deficits can do substantial damage to long-run growth.

 

In the U.S., the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that President Barack Obama's proposed policies would cause the federal government's fiscal deficit to exceed 5 percent of GDP in 2019, even after a decade of continuous economic growth. And the deficits run up during the intervening decade would cause the national debt to double, rising to more than 80 percent of GDP.

 

Such large fiscal deficits would mean that the government must borrow funds that would otherwise be available for private businesses to finance investment in productivity-enhancing plant and equipment. Without that investment, economic growth will be slower and the standard of living lower than it would otherwise be. Moreover, the deficits would mean higher interest rates and continued international imbalances.

 

In contrast to monetary policy, the U.S. president does have a powerful and direct impact on future fiscal deficits. If the presidential promise to reduce the fiscal deficit was really a commitment to cut spending and raise taxes, we could see today's dangerous deficit trajectory be reversed.

 

Unfortunately, Obama showsno real interest in reducing deficits. The centerpiece of his domestic agenda is a health-care plan that will cost more than a trillion dollars over the next decade, and that he proposes to finance by reducing waste in the existing government health programs (Medicare and Medicaid) without reducing the quantity and quality of services.

 

A second major policy thrust is a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. But, instead of raising revenue by auctioning the emission permits, Obama has agreed to distribute them without charge to favored industries in order to attract enough congressional votes. Add to this the pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 and you have a recipe for large fiscal deficits as long as this president can serve. I hope that the other G20 leaders do a better job of reining in their budgets.

 

Finally, there is the G20's promise to reduce monetary and fiscal excesses in an internationally coordinated way. While the meaning of ??coordinated?± has not been spelled out, it presumably implies that the national exit strategies should not lead to significant changes in exchange rates that would upset existing patterns of trade.

 

In fact, however, exchange rates will change - and need to change in order to shrink the existing trade imbalances. The dollar, in particular, is likely to continue falling on a trade-weighted basis if investors around the world continue to set aside the extreme risk-aversion that caused the dollar's rise after 2007. Once the Chinese are confident about their domestic growth rate, they can allow the real value of the renminbi to rise. Other exchange rates will respond to these shifts.

 

In short, it would be wrong for investors or ordinary citizens around the world to have too much faith in G20's promises to rein in monetary and fiscal policies, much less to do so in a coordinated way.

 

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

 

(Project Syndicate)

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

 EDITORIAL

GDP FETISHISM OVERLOOKS WELL-BEING

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

 

NEW YORK - Striving to revive the world economy while simultaneously responding to the global climate crisis has raised a knotty question: are statistics giving us the right "signals" about what to do? In our performance-oriented world, measurement issues have taken on increased importance: what we measure affects what we do.

 

If we have poor measures, what we strive to do (say, increase GDP) may actually contribute to a worsening of living standards. We may also be confronted with false choices, seeing trade-offs between output and environmental protection that don't exist. By contrast, a better measure of economic performance might show that steps taken to improve the environment are good for the economy.

 

Eighteen months ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy established an international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, owing to his dissatisfaction - and that of many others - with the current state of statistical information about the economy and society.

 

The big question concerns whether GDP provides a good measure of living standards. In many cases, GDP statistics seem to suggest that the economy is doing far better than most citizens' own perceptions. Moreover, the focus on GDP creates conflicts: political leaders are told to maximize it, but citizens also demand that attention be paid to enhancing security, reducing air, water, and noise pollution, and so forth - all of which might lower GDP growth.

 

The fact that GDP may be a poor measure of well-being, or even of market activity, has, of course, long been recognized. But changes in society and the economy may have heightened the problems, at the same time that advances in economics and statistical techniques may have provided opportunities to improve our metrics.

 

For example, while GDP is supposed to measure the value of output of goods and services, in one key sector - government - we typically have no way of doing it, so we often measure the output simply by the inputs. If government spends more - even if inefficiently - output goes up. In the last 60 years, the share of government output in GDP has increased from 21.4 percent to 38.6 percent in the U.S., from 27.6 percent to 52.7 percent in France, from 34.2 percent to 47.6 percent in the United Kingdom, and from 30.4 percent to 44 percent in Germany. So what was a relatively minor problem has now become a major one.

 

Likewise, quality improvements - say, better cars rather than just more cars - account for much of the increase in GDP nowadays. But assessing quality improvements is difficult. Health care exemplifies this problem: much of medicine is publicly provided, and much of the advances are in quality.

 

The same problems in making comparisons over time apply to comparisons across countries. The United States spends more on health care than any other country (both per capita and as a percentage of income), but gets poorer outcomes. Part of the difference between GDP per capita in the U.S. and some European countries may thus be a result of the way we measure things.

 

Another marked change in most societies is an increase in inequality. This means that there is increasing disparity between average (mean) income and the median income (that of the "typical" person, whose income lies in the middle of the distribution of all incomes). If a few bankers get much richer, average income can go up, even as most individuals' incomes are declining. So GDP per capita statistics may not reflect what is happening to most citizens.

 

We use market prices to value goods and services. But now, even those with the most faith in markets question reliance on market prices, as they argue against mark-to-market valuations. The pre-crisis profits of banks - one-third of all corporate profits - appear to have been a mirage.

 

This realization casts a new light not only on our measures of performance, but also on the inferences we make. Before the crisis, when U.S. growth (using standard GDP measures) seemed so much stronger than that of Europe, many Europeans argued that Europe should adopt U.S.-style capitalism. Of course, anyone who wanted to could have seen American households' growing indebtedness, which would have gone a long way toward correcting the false impression of success given by the GDP statistic.

 

Recent methodological advances have enabled us to assess better what contributes to citizens' sense of well-being, and to gather the data needed to make such assessments on a regular basis. These studies, for instance, verify and quantify what should be obvious: the loss of a job has a greater impact than can be accounted for just by the loss of income. They also demonstrate the importance of social connectedness.

 

Any good measure of how well we are doing must also take account of sustainability. Just as a firm needs to measure the depreciation of its capital, so, too, our national accounts need to reflect the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of our environment.

 

Statistical frameworks are intended to summarize what is going on in our complex society in a few easily interpretable numbers. It should have been obvious that one couldn't reduce everything to a single number, GDP. The report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress will, one hopes, lead to a better understanding of the uses, and abuses, of that statistic.

 

The report should also provide guidance for creating a broader set of indicators that more accurately capture both well-being and sustainability; and it should provide impetus for improving the ability of GDP and related statistics to assess the performance of the economy and society. Such reforms will help us direct our efforts (and resources) in ways that lead to improvement in both.

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize, served as chairman of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. - Ed.

 

(Project Syndicate)

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