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Saturday, October 3, 2009

EDITORIAL 03.10.09

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month october 03, edition 000314, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

 

THE PIONEER

  1. CHINA FLAUNTS VISA POWER
  2. TRICKERY IN SILIGURI
  3. DR STRANGELOVE’S LETTER BOMB - ASHOK MALIK
  4. BREAK AWAY AND FLY FREE - AJIT BISHNOI
  5. COMMUNIST CHINA, PREDATORY CAPITALISM - PRANAB BARDHAN
  6. A CURIOUS REVOLUTION - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  7. WHY DENY CHINESE SUCCEEDED WHERE WE FAILED? - JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

 

MAIL TODAY

  1. MINDLESS INDIA
  2. OUR QUAINT FOREBEAR
  3. MONEY BACKS ‘ SON- RISE’ IN ANDHRA - BY BHARAT BHUSHAN
  4. WHAT’S GOOGLE WAVE ALL ABOUT?
  5. MICROSOFT MUST PULL UP ITS SOCKS
  6. TWITTER TO EASE USERS’ LISTS PAIN
  7. NOW READ COMICS ON YOUR MOBILE
  8. MINISTRIES RUSH IN TO OBEY PM’S ORDER - BY ASHISH SINHA IN NEW DELHI
  9. TAMIL ACTIVISTS VANDALISE LANKA MISSION  - BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI

 

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. MACHO ADO ABOUT NOTHING
  2. NEITHER BHAI BHAI NOR BYE BYE
  3. IT IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
  4. NEW VENUES MUST BE ENCOURAGED -
  5. REJECT BAD POLICY, POOR POLITICS -

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. WAIT, WATCH, STRIKE IT RIGHT
  2. STOP THE HYPOCRISY - BARKHA DUTT
  3. THE LAWS ARE NOT ENOUGH - PRATIK KANJILAL

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MINE, MINE
  2. THREE CORNERS
  3. LIGHTING UP
  4. DISARMING RHETORIC - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. LORDS OF THE RINGS - DESH GAURAV CHOPRA SEKHRI
  6. FROM KABUL TO COLABA - Y P RAJESH
  7. PRINTLINE PAKISTAN - RUCHIKA TALWAR
  8. RED OCTOBER - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  9. MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED  - PAUL KRUGMAN

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ICANN, BUT CAN THEY?
  2. THE REAL PICTURE
  3. DOT COM IN EVERYONE’S DOMAIN NOW - SUMANT SRIVATHSAN
  4. WHAT WILL SUNIL MITTAL DO NOW? - ANANDITA SINGH MANKOTIA
  5. AMERICA’S RICH LOSE MORE, AND GIVE MORE - JAYA JUMRANI

 

THE HINDU

  1. NEXT STEPS ON PAKISTAN
  2. GLIMMER OF HOPE
  3. COMPANIES BILL & SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY  - MUKUL SHARMA
  4. IG NOBEL AWARDS FOR STUPID SCIENCE
  5. MAFIA HOLDS SWAY OVER 13 MILLION ITALIANS  - TOM KINGTON
  6. ‘LANGUAGE OF FORCE IS NOT HELPFUL ON IRAN ISSUE’  - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. GRIEF & LOSS WHEN DEATH DO US PART - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  2. PUTTING AN AUSTERE RING AROUND PAUCITY OF IDEAS - BY DILIP CHERIAN
  3. AAM AADMI SERVED UP AS ART IN LONDON - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  4. HAVE FAITH IN KARMA - VISHAL BHONSLE
  5. BHARTI-MTN: LET IT BE A WAKE-UP CALL

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. JUSTICE ON THE DOORSTEP
  2. STRENGTH ENSURES PEACE
  3. CRAZE FOR ‘PHOREN’
  4. COUNTERING NAXALISM
  5. NEED TO DEVISE A SUITABLE STRATEGY - BY K PADMANABHAIAH
  6. ALIBABA AND 40 OTHERS - BY AMAR CHANDEL
  7. BREAK THE LOGJAM
  8. THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO TALKS - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  9. BRAZILIAN ECONOMY IS HUMMING ALONG - BY CHRIS KRAUL
  10. UK RETAILERS FEEL THE HEAT FROM AMAZON - BY JAME THOMPSON

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. CENTRE’S STAND
  2. INDIA’S FLOP SHOW
  3. CHANGING FOCUS - ARUP KUMAR DUTTA
  4. INPUT SUBSTITUTION IN AGRICULTURE - DR CHINMOY KUMAR SARMA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. REVOLUTIONARY? RAHUL GANDHI AT JNU
  2. STANDARD OBSERVATIONS, SUBSTANDARD TRANSPARENCY
  3. CUT FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES
  4. CELEBRATING AN ECONOMIC TURNAROUND
  5. WINTER NIE AND ABRAHAM LU
  6. IS INTEREST COST INDUSTRY'S REAL BANE? - M Y KHAN
  7. SELF-CONTROL PROVIDES THE GREATEST SECURITY - ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA
  8. 'OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES WILL ULTIMATELY DIFFERENTIATE AXIS FROM THE REST'  - ASHWIN PUNNEN
  9. OSCAR GIRL FROM VARANASI - LEENA MULCHANDANI

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BHARTI-MTN: LET IT BE A WAKE-UP CALL  - BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
  2. GRIEF & LOSS WHEN DEATH DO US PART - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. RECESSION: MISSION NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. PUTTING AN AUSTERE RING AROUND PAUCITY OF IDEAS - BY DILIP CHERIAN
  5. AAM AADMI SERVED UP AS ART IN LONDON  - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. THE WIZARD OF BECK - BY DAVID BROOKS

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. MISSING THE POINT
  2. RANCID HONEYMOON
  3. RETURNING FIRE
  4. NEW WORLD ORDER - RAJINDER PURI

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. DANGEROUS MEN
  2. OF GOOD AND EVIL - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. BORLAUG REVOLUTION - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  2. WORTH EMULATING - BY PADMA GANAPATI

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. NEGOTIATING WITH TEHRAN
  2. BOTCHED EXECUTIONS
  3. SCIENCE AND LOBBYING AT THE F.D.A.
  4. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS DREAM - BY GAIL COLLINS
  5. EPHEMERAL COMFORT OF CONSERVATISM  - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  6. CRACKS IN THE FUTURE  - BY BOB HERBERT
  7. NOBODY LIKES US? WHO CARES? - BY JOHN R. MILLER

 

I.THE NEWS

  1. QUETTA QUESTION
  2. SUGAR AND THE SC
  3. THUMBS UP!
  4. FAHEEM HUSSAIN -- AS I KNEW HIM - PERVEZ HOODBHOY
  5. THREATS TO THE STATE - FARZANA BARI
  6. THE FOREIGN HAND - ASIF EZDI
  7. TERRIBLE TIMES - TALAT FAROOQ
  8. REPOTTING? - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. COURT'S EPIC JOURNEY - BABAR SATTAR

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. CHINA’S NATIONAL DAY’S CELEBRATIONS IN PAKISTAN
  2. NISAR’S EMPHASIS ON HIGH MORAL STANDARDS
  3. WHY US INSISTS ON TALIBAN’S PRESENCE IN QUETTA?
  4. AMERICA’S REAL INTENTS? - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. END OF AN IDEOLOGY, END OF A DREAM? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. A THORNY BUNCH OF FLOWERS - ALI SUKHANVER
  7. INDIAN ATROCITIES CONTINUE ON KASHMIRIS - WAQAR AHMED
  8. IRAN AGAIN: IS EVERYONE BLUFFING? - IMMANUEL WALLERSTEIN

 

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. ANTI-DENGUE DRIVE
  2. CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT
  3. WHISPERING WOODS, BATHTUB ROOMS…! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. RARE OPPORTUNITY IS NOT TO BE WASTED
  2. BUDGET CUTS TO COME
  3. SAYING NO TO NANNY

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. BUILDING A TRANSPORT SYSTEM ON THE RUN
  2. ONE MASTERPIECE A DAY WITH MEALS

 

THE GURDIAN

  1. OLYMPIC BIDS: GOING DOWN TO RIO
  2. CONSERVATIVES IN MANCHESTER: CORONATION STREET
  3. IN PRAISE OF… STIEG LARSSON

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. JUSTICE REVIEW TOO LOW-KEY
  2. MANDATE FOR CHANCELLOR MERKEL
  3. HOPES AND TASKS FOR THE DPJ - BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. EXPECTING MORE BLACKOUTS
  2. URGING BUREAUCRATIC REFORM IN JAKARTA - FAISAL DJABBAR AND DIDIK MULYANTO
  3. BILINGUAL EDUCATION DILEMMA - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  4. A FEW GOOD REASONS TO CHOOSE FOREIGN HOSPITALS AND DOCTORS - T. SIMA GUNAWAN
  5. CONDOLENCES ON SUMATRA EARTHQUAKE

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

CHINA FLAUNTS VISA POWER

AS ALWAYS, UPA TAKEN BY SURPRISE!


That the Chinese Embassy here has started issuing visas in the form of separate stapled sheets to those from Jammu & Kashmir wanting to visit China is a move that has been clearly designed to provoke India further. Although Chinese Embassy officials have tried their best to play down the matter saying that these were valid visas and that it is the Indian immigration authorities’ problem that they were not being accepted, the message behind the move is too conspicuous to be overlooked. China had recently started issuing these ‘new’ visas to those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers a part of ‘south Tibet’. That these visas are now being issued to those from Jammu & Kashmir could only mean one thing — Beijing questions the status of Jammu & Kashmir as a State of the Union of India. Whichever way one looks at it, and no matter how much of a sophisticated spin Beijing tries to put on its decision to issue these ‘new’ visas, the bottom line is China has decided to undertake a campaign aimed at frustrating India on several fronts. The Chinese military’s incursions and Beijing’s stance on border related issues are just part of this elaborate campaign. So are China’s efforts to stonewall India at various international fora and Beijing’s aggressive drive to acquire naval bases in South Asia to encircle India. The ‘new’ visas are yet another Chinese ploy to get India worked up.


It is becoming increasingly apparent that China has a specific strategy vis-à-vis India. It is also becoming evident that New Delhi has little or no clue as to what that is. This can be gauged by the awkward responses the Government has been making. On the Chinese incursions, the Government first tried to play down the intrusions, then said they were nothing new and that the media was guilty of ‘hyping’ things up, and finally meekly added that our armed forces were capable of meeting any challenge. On the visa issue, all that our Ministry of External Affairs could muster up is an expression of “justified concern” to the Chinese Government. One would have thought that something far stronger would have been in order — perhaps a tit-for-tat visa policy. The shaky responses to the provocations betray a sense of hesitancy on the part of the UPA Government to take Beijing head on. We would rather indulge in ‘constructive’ diplomatic engagements to promote bilateral relations in an “all round manner”.


The truth is it is not that New Delhi is faltering in its response to China but that it doesn’t know how to respond in the first place. We have no clear-cut China policy to speak of. As a result we are sceptical of doing anything that can later turn out to be counter-productive. The reason why we are in such a dilemma is because most of our foreign policy attention is focussed on Pakistan. It is because of our obsession with Pakistan, and Pakistan alone, that we have completely ignored China and have created a situation where we risk jeopardising our traditional strategic ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh. Had the Government given equal attention to all the countries in our neighbourhood, perhaps we would have been in a better position to tackle China and its tactics much better. It is time the Government gets on the ball and starts diversifying its foreign policy energies and formulating a concrete China policy. For, if things continue the way they are, there is no telling what other surprises Beijing might slip by us.


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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

TRICKERY IN SILIGURI

MAMATA SEES RED AS CONGRESS GOES WITH LEFT


Trinamool Congress chief and Minister for Railways in the UPA Government Mamata Banerjee has reason to be angry — very, very angry. She had thought that after establishing her clout in south Bengal, she would make her presence felt in north Bengal by capturing the Siliguri Municipal Corporation. The feisty leader had almost succeeded in achieving this goal after dislodging the Left Front, which has controlled this crucial civic body for the past 27 years, in last month’s election which the Trinamool Congress contested in alliance with the Congress. Without a split in the anti-Left vote, the results were predictable: The CPI(M)-led Left Front was reduced to a minority while the Trinamool Congress-Congress ‘Mahajot’ bagged the majority of the seats. Since Ms Banerjee is the architect of the ‘grand alliance’ which has scored spectacular results since the Lok Sabha election, she presumed that her party’s nominee would be elected Mayor. Presumptions, however, tend to go wrong in politics. On Thursday, the Congress had its nominee installed as the Mayor with the help of the Left; the CPI(M) was more than happy to oblige, if only to spite Ms Banerjee. The development has triggered speculation about the future of the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance. It has also been suggested that an entente between the CPI(M) and the Congress is in the offing — if that were to happen, the Trinamool Congress would suffer a huge jolt. On her part, Ms Banerjee has taken care not to attack the Congress’s central leadership, though she and her colleagues have been harsh in their criticism of the West Bengal unit of the party which has been once again described as the ‘B’ team of the CPI(M).


There are two aspects to the Siliguri episode that merit elaboration. First, the Congress’s tactical alliance with the Left to deny the Mayor’s post to the Trinamool Congress is not without a larger objective. The Congress is loath to see Ms Banerjee make inroads into north Bengal, its stronghold in the State. Also, the Congress is none-too-happy about Ms Banerjee giving the party the short shrift in south Bengal. The mayoral election has served the State Congress’s purpose of letting Ms Banerjee know that she can neither take the party for granted nor should she try to make inroads into its area of influence. But perhaps there’s a larger message for Ms Banerjee in the Congress outwitting her in Siliguri. The Trinamool Congress leader has been unsupportive of reform measures — especially to do with land acquisition for industrial purposes — planned by the UPA Government and on various occasions her impetuousness has caused embarrassment to the Prime Minister. By denying her what she aspired for in Siliguri, the Congress’s central leadership may have tried to put her in her place.


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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

DR STRANGELOVE’S LETTER BOMB

ASHOK MALIK


In April 2003, a film called Hero: The Love Story of a Spy was released across India. Starring Sunny Deol, its script was suitably over the top. At its heart was the quest of Pakistani radicals — terrorists, rogue Generals of the Inter-Services Intelligence, sinister-looking mullahs — to get their hands on a nuclear bomb.


The project was a global one. It included sourcing components through a front company run by a Canadian businessman of Pakistani origin. A half-Indonesian scientist was thought to have Islamist sympathies and was recruited. Unfortunately, he turned out to be Sunny Deol in disguise.


Six months after Hero, on September 25, 2003, Mr George Tenet, the then CIA chief, visited Gen Pervez Musharraf in his suite in New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Here, he provided evidence of AQ Khan’s proliferation business — the ‘nuclear Wal-Mart’, as it came to be called. It made Sunny Deol’s script-writer seem not just prophetic but almost limited in his imagination.


In the past six years, intricate details of Khan’s network have come to light. They have revealed a network of component suppliers in Europe and the United States, front companies in Dubai and Malaysia — Khan’s representatives worked with a firm partly-owned by the son of Abdullah Badawi, Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur from 2003 to 2009. Persons of Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan origin have also been named.


The Khan network had two components. The first was the matrix set up to source dual-use equipment for the Pakistani bomb. The second was the use of elements of this matrix, and of Khan’s private businesses, to supply nuclear know-how to client countries.


To be fair, this is well known. What has remained a mystery is how much the Pakistani state knew. As long as Khan was into nuclear procurement, he was acting on behalf of his Government. What about his years in nuclear sales and marketing?


It has long been obvious Khan could not have been acting alone. Yet, few have pressed for a proper investigation. The Generals in Pakistan have found it convenient to blame Khan as an aberrant individual.


Given this backdrop, the question of who in Islamabad knew what Khan was up to is largely a subject of conjecture. From time to time, disparate pieces of evidence come up. Occasionally, they complement each other and give tantalising glimpses of a fuller picture.


It is necessary to place Simon Henderson’s article in London’s Sunday Times of September 20, 2009, in this context. A former foreign correspondent In Islamabad, Henderson has had a longstanding professional acquaintance with Khan. His article quotes extensively from a mea culpa letter written by Khan in 2004.


Khan gave the letter to his London-based daughter, Dina, asking her to use it if any harm came to him. A second copy was sent to Khan’s niece, Kausar, in Amsterdam. Henderson says he has the third copy of the four-page letter.


What happened to the other two? Henderson writes the copy in Amsterdam was confiscated by Dutch intelligence agents. It was presumably shared with the Americans. Dina tore up her copy after ISI interrogators found out about it and threatened Khan. “Under pressure,” Henderson writes, “he (Khan) agreed to telephone Dina in London and ordered her to destroy the documents. He used three languages: Urdu, English and Dutch. It was a code for her to obey his instructions.”


This story is not new. In their 2007 book The Man from Pakistan (originally published as The Nuclear Jihadist) American writers Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins described the episode in detail. “In December (2004), as rumours of his possible arrest had circulated, Khan had given a thick stack of handwritten documents to his daughter Dina, who was visiting from London. He instructed her to take them back with her and keep them as an insurance policy. If the Government went after her father, she was to turn them over to Simon Henderson, a British journalist who had interviewed Khan years earlier.”


However, Frantz and Collins also pointed to something more ominous: “A close friend of Khan’s maintained that the scientist had given his daughter a far more extensive document, nearly 100 pages that constituted an autobiographical account of Khan’s proliferation activities over the years. Its fate remains unknown.”


According to Henderson, the Khan letter makes three big-ticket revelations. First, Khan writes that Pakistan “put up a centrifuge plant at Hanzhong (250 km south-west of Xian)” in return for Chinese weapon designs and uranium.

Second: “Probably with the blessings of BB (Benazir Bhutto) … Gen Imtiaz (Benazir’s defence adviser, now dead) asked me to give a set of drawings and some components to the Iranians. The names and addresses of suppliers were also given.” Third: “(A now-retired General) took $ 3 million through me from the N Koreans and asked me to give some drawings and machines.”


The letter was written in 2004 and Henderson says he got his copy in 2007. Why did he wait to publish his scoop? It can be guessed his sources asked him to hold on. Has Henderson been used by Khan and his friends to send a message to the Pakistani establishment? Is some bargaining happening in Islamabad?


Henderson’s sympathies are with his protagonist: “Khan is adamant that he never sold nuclear secrets for personal gain. So what about the millions of dollars he reportedly made? Nothing was confiscated from him and no reported investigation turned up hidden accounts. Having planted rumours about Khan’s greed, Pakistani officials were curiously indifferent to following them through.”


Henderson claims Khan is not personally wealthy. He has two properties in Islamabad and is one of many investors in a ‘modest’ hotel in Timbuktu (Mali, west Africa). Henderson also writes he has documentary evidence Khan was asking for his small pension (12,200 Pakistani rupees at the time) to be enhanced and that this was done in 2007.


Accounts of Khan’s penury may be exaggerated but they do imply substantial profits from the ‘nuclear Wal-Mart’ were pocketed by the Generals who were Khan’s principles. Today, the US is seeking to stop North Korea and Iran — both customers of Khan — becoming full-blown nuclear powers. At some point, it will need to turn attention to the supplier state. It can no longer do to pretend Khan was a one-man band. His accompanists need to face the music.

 

malikashok@gmail.com

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BREAK AWAY AND FLY FREE

AJIT BISHNOI


Isn’t it strange that those who are financially well-off keep running endlessly after more money? A few of us are crazy about power. Who doesn’t crave for a good position in society? Fame is a big motivating factor. Attention seeking is a common flaw. So is craving for worldly pleasures. Spiritually speaking, almost all of us are bound by at least one or all the three: Ignorance, passion and goodness. We are also helplessly attached to our bodies barring a few exceptions.


We actually love these bondages because we are ignorant of what these chains are doing to us and to our future. We are all prisoners of our faulty nature. We assume that attachment to world sense objects will give us happiness. Since most people are pursuing them we assume that they must be desirable. And because all of us need a sense of security and identity we convince ourselves that these worldly objects will help us grow.


But what do these bondages really do to us? They keep us bound. Such attachments prevent us from pursuing liberation or moksha. Who can be peaceful if he or she is thus bound? Attachments detract one from doing one’s duties. And a person thus chained cannot have a good and enriching life.


How does one extricate oneself from such bondages? One has to turn towards god. Only god can give us effective shelter. One must consciously get attached to god, which will counter other attachments. Spiritual practices like chanting, meditation, etc, greatly help in this. One should restrict oneself to doing one’s duties towards one’s body, family, etc. One should keep an open mind. One should also have a long-term view of his or her life. Simple living is conducive to being free. One should keep good company and consult those who are knowledgeable, his or her well-wishers and practitioners of what they advocate. One should realise that human beings are special due to their higher intelligence, evolved consciousness and great mental power. In this strong desire and motivation will help.


Is it wise to remain bound when one can be free through firm determination and efforts which are all within one’s capabilities? The benefits in being free are simply too great to ignore. Why then be bound? Why then suffer unnecessarily? We must all break our shackles and fly like free birds in a clear blue sky.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED


COMMUNIST CHINA, PREDATORY CAPITALISM

THE WORLD’S MOST POPULOUS NATION IS ACTUALLY RULED BY THE SMALLEST CLIQUE IMAGINABLE — A HANDFUL OF FAMILIES IN THE MOST PART. YET, SOME PEOPLE THINK THIS EXAMPLE MUST BE EMULATED BY INDIA

PRANAB BARDHAN


On the sixtieth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, one is prone to reflect generally on its dramatic recent history, including the historic irony of the development of today’s arguably most vigorous capitalism in an avowedly communist country. The contradictions involved here are much more than were dreamt of in Mao’s philosophy when he famously speculated on the nature of contradictions, first in a 1937 essay, where he stated: “The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society.”


While the party retains the monopoly of power, the market mechanism is the major allocator of resources in the Chinese economy — much like it was in Taiwan during the authoritarian days of the Kuomintang, an anti-Communist party organised on quasi-Leninist lines. While most people agree that the private sector is now the more dynamic part of the Chinese economy and creates most of the jobs, to find out how much of the (non-farm) economy is actually under private ownership is not straightforward: it is not easy to classify Chinese firms by their ownership or to distinguish between private and public or semi-public control rights. Even in China’s most famous private companies, Lenovo and Huawei Technologies, the ownership structure is quite convoluted, as Yasheng Huang indicates in his book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics.


This is, of course, part of the legacy of the development of the Chinese private sector under the shadow of the party-controlled state. As late as 1988, private firms with more than eight employees were not permitted. Many private firms operated below the radar and used various subterfuges and covert deals with local officials, as they adapted themselves to the changing permissible mores. Some of them used to be called ‘red-hat capitalists’, sometimes hiding under the façade of local collectives.


Only since the late 1990s did they slowly take off their red hats and start coming out of the closet. Many of the smaller and regional state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were privatised and often their managers became the new owners. Today, probably more than half of the non-farm output (though not of fixed capital investment) is primarily privately owned or controlled. Currently one-third of the private entrepreneurs are members of the Party (including ‘Xiahai’ entrepreneurs who are former officials); membership helps them get state finance, and more protection and legitimacy.


Of course, it is well-known that some of the entrepreneurs are, in fact, friends or relatives of party officials. (An article in Der Spiegel, February 27, 2007, reported a finding by the State Council of the Academy of Social Sciences and the Party’s Central University that of the 3,320 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million Yuan or about $14 million, 2,932 were children of high-ranking Party officials).


Many SOEs are also controlled by powerful political families. Thus there is a new political-managerial class, which over the last two decades has converted their positions of authority into wealth and power. The vibrancy of entrepreneurial ambitions combined with the arbitrariness of power in an authoritarian state has sometimes given rise to particularly corrupt or predatory forms of capitalism, unencumbered by the restraints of civil society institutions.

Perhaps nowhere has the predation been as starkly evident as in land seizures both in cities and the countryside. In the real estate boom of recent years, for example, the commercial developers in cahoots with local officials have bulldozed old city neighbourhoods, residents waking up in the morning to find that their house has been marked for demolition with the Chinese character ‘chai’ — meaning raze — painted in white, with hardly any redress or adequate compensation available.


This corrupt or predatory form of capitalism has also some obvious global implications. When foreign companies try to invest in China or Chinese companies try to acquire holdings abroad the decision-making process can be vitiated by arbitrary political interference, underhand dealings, kickbacks and influence-peddling. Even in matters of foreign aid in Africa a recent New York Times report points to the opacity in the activities of politically well-connected Chinese foreign-aid contractors.


While the State has relaxed its earlier control over prices and allows markets and profit-making to be the major organising principle of domestic economic life, it is still predominant in the capital goods sectors and in transportation and finance. Some of the SOEs are now important players in the global market competition.


In general, in recruiting professional managers, broadening their investor base, and shedding their traditional social and political obligations, many SOEs do not conform to the usual stereotypes about SOEs. The State still controls the larger and often more profitable (high-margin, monopolistic) companies in the industrial and service sectors.


The State’s role in regulating the private sector also goes far beyond the usual functions in other countries. Apart from exerting indirect control rights in private firms, during the current global recession some SOEs, flush with abundant loans from state banks, have even taken over some of the financially-strapped small and medium-size private enterprises. As a senior Chinese banker commented (quoted in the Financial Times, August 24, 2009): “It’s quite hard to compete when you’re playing against the referee.”


An important question arises in cases where an enterprise is managed on essentially commercial principles, but the state still has control rights over a large share of the assets: is this a capitalist enterprise?


Some may describe it as capitalist if the principle of shareholder value maximisation is followed (though this principle is not always followed in capitalist countries — say, in Japan or Germany). Others may point out that as long as substantial control rights remain with the state, which is subject to ever-malleable and potentially arbitrary political considerations, the internal dynamic logic of capitalism is missing, and politics take command. In late 2008, when China’s richest man, Huang Guangyu, was arrested, many thought that his biggest crime was that he was getting too powerful for the leaders’ comfort (shades of Putin’s Russia).


Nevertheless, it is probably reasonable to guess (though it may not be enough to reassure the global business community) that while the Party can undo individual capitalists at short notice, it would be much more difficult for the leadership to unravel a whole network of capitalist relations, by now thickly overlaid with various vested interests knotted with "guanxi" ties. Individual entrepreneurs have a clientelistic relationship with the state, but the state, for all its relative autonomy, is now sufficiently enmeshed in a profit-oriented system that has been identified with legitimacy-enhancing international economic prowess and nationalist glory, a tiger that the political leadership may find difficult to dismount.


At the local level, the central leadership, even while holding the important instrument of career promotion for local officials, often finds it difficult to rein them in as they collude with local business to commit some of the worst capitalist excesses (in land acquisitions, product safety violations or toxic pollution). In any case, by an official account, the Communist Party composition itself has drastically changed; the majority of members now are no longer workers or peasants, but professionals, college students and businessmen.


Such are the ambiguities and contradictions of Chinese capitalism that Comrade Mao never foresaw, nor did the capitalist corporations in the West now dealing with this strange hybrid.


Pranab Bardhan is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. His next book ‘Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India’ is forthcoming with Princeton University Press. Reprinted with permission from the editors of Yale Global.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A CURIOUS REVOLUTION

IN SIXTY YEARS, CHINA HAS ACTUALLY UNDERGONE SEVERAL REVOLUTIONS, BUT CHOSE THIS WEEK TO CELEBRATE THE ONE FROM 1949 WHOSE LEGACY IS NEITHER VISIBLE NOR UPHELD BY THE COMMUNIST TYRANNOCRACY

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


A lot of us who sat glued to TV on Thursday morning to watch the great parade in Tiananmen Square were left wondering what China was actually celebrating. All right, Hu Jintao wore a ‘Mao suit’ for the benefit of all those 55-plus types everywhere who were nostalgic for old Peking, the ‘Great Leader’, his ‘Great Leap’ and other things. But wasn’t he looking quite out of place surrounded by all those tuxedoed comrades whose feet appeared firmly in the new China? In India, we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti in a manner befitting the father of our nation. Americans celebrate their July 4 in the spirit of their independence, right? Not, as if they were honouring the fall of Saddam, right?


Maybe that’s the way it is with Communists. They not only falsify other people’s histories, but their own as well. The great successes of modern China that Hu showcased yesterday had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with 1949. It was as if all those millions of people who fought for Communism had died in vain. In 1949, China’s GDP was $18 billion, or $50 per capita. In 2008, total GDP reached $4.3 trillion and $3,260 per capita. This has happened because of the revolution that began in 1979 under Deng Xiaoping. He terminated the 30-year-long dark age under Mao which saw a famine killing at least 30 million people, useless wars in Korea, Vietnam and on the high Himalayas, genocide under the name of ‘Cultural Revolution’ and, most importantly, extreme economic dysfunction.


Deng threw China open to foreign investors. He encouraged the growth of a private sector and took drastic steps to cleanse the national political economy of the accumulated rot of three decades. Since 1979, 200 million people came out of the poverty bracket. Notwithstanding the Tiananmen massacre, Chinese society has become more open and dynamic than it was at any time in its history. There are close to 2,000 newspapers, more than 9,000 magazines and 287 TV channels. There are more than 700 million mobile phone subscribers. Though access to the Internet is controlled, there are more than 300 million internet users and 180 million bloggers. The Chinese leads the world in texting, blogging and surfing the web.


There has also been major progress in developing the rule of law and local democracy. In the past 30 years, 223 laws were promulgated, a task that has taken many countries hundreds of years. When the labour law was debated, the National People’s Congress received 2,00,000 suggestions, largely through public letters, emails and web comments. Elections were introduced at the rural level 10 years ago, and all of the 64,000 village committees are directly elected. The government is working hard to introduce democratic decision-making at all levels to ensure that people’s voices are heard.


By no means are any of the above the result of a Communist revolution. As Pranab Bardhan points out in his incisive piece (Main Article), China is actually more capitalist than any capitalist country in the world. It is a land where the investor, not common proletariat or peasant, is king. If an investor decides that so-and-so village is highly suitable for converting into a special economic zone, the inhabitants of the houses in the zone would most likely return from a hard day’s work to find the dreaded words ‘chai’ painted on their doors. This means evacuate fast — or else.


However, though Mao, if he were to return today, would not recognise the economy of today’s China, he would, given time, find strange comfort in the environment in the office of the Chinese Communist Party. The party that runs China today is still the same. It is aloof from the people, its leaders continue to enjoy comforts and privileges which the common Chinese can only dream of. The manner in which the people were excluded from the razzmatazz parade told the world that all the promises emanating from Beijing of a possible, gradual democratisation are highly spurious. It may be light years before the Chinese can enjoy the freedoms that we Indians take for granted. Party leaders acknowledge their lack of popular legitimacy and the unrest it often inspires. In 2007, China reported 80,000 ‘mass incidents,’ which officials define as protests of five or more people. That number has almost certainly risen. Uprisings in China’s far-flung ethnic provinces, Tibet and Xinjiang, also reflect an unwillingness to let local people influence their own destiny. At the same time, Chinese nationalism is on the rise among China’s fenqing, or angry youth. Many in that generation take pride in the country’s accomplishments without recalling the horrors of Mao’s rule.


But there is a tendency in India to ape everything Chinese. In the Mao era, our Communist brethren, the same who cheered Stalin foolishly, gave lusty slogans like ‘Chinar chairman aamader chairman’. The CPI split down the middle because a large number of desi Reds had tired of imitating the Soviets and decided that the Chinese form of Communism was purer. Actually, the admiration for China was quite infectious. The Second Plan formulated by free India placed strong emphasis on replicating the perceived success of China’s ‘cooperative farming’. In 1959, the Congress Working Committee approved the sending of a delegation to China to study how cooperative farming was working and it was given a grand conducting tour. They had no idea that at that precise time China was going through the worst ever famine in its history because the professed gains of cooperative farming was bogus.


In the post-1979 period, a new kind of Sinophile emerged. China became the darling of world capital. India’s FICCI and CII types praised the ‘success’ of China in wooing investment and turning the country’s farms, underground water tables, forests, cities, men, women and children into factors of an industrialized society. It also became fashionable to rubbish India’s slow but steady gains from liberalisation, which came without compromising her democratic ideals. The special economic zones experiment is a case in point. It was mindlessly copied by central and state governments until the bloody nose of Nandigram.


Best of luck to China on its anniversary, whatever they are celebrating. The only thing that India can look forward to is a China in peace with herself and her neighbours.


The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer)

 

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THE PIONEER

                                             OPED

WHY DENY CHINESE SUCCEEDED WHERE WE FAILED?

FREE INDIA, IN 1947, HAD A HUGE HEAD START OVER WAR-RAVAGED, FEUDAL CHINA. YET, TODAY, WE ARE AT LEAST A GENERATION BEHIND THANKS TO OUR CORRUPT LEADERS AND INDISCIPLINED MASSES

JAYSHREE SENGUPTA | AUTHOR AND COLUMNIST


China is the envy of countries like India, which, having attained Independence two years before in 1947, is still struggling to get the economic and military clout that China has in the world. China may have had some dark years of Cultural Revolution which is a blot on its history, but it has shown that determination and hard work can lead to rapid economic progress which has helped to reduce its poverty level drastically. China still has pockets of poverty in the country side but one cannot see abject poverty while travelling through its big cities.


Much of what China has achieved, India could also have achieved but many problems arose in India because it chose a democratic political process. It is a moot point whether China could have gone ahead as fast if it had not been for its authoritarian regime. People in China have to obey commands from above (evident even in a simple diktat that people won’t be allowed to watch the 60th anniversary parade from balconies of their houses). But both have made strides in human development indicators but China’s gains are spectacular. India still has 77 per cent of its population living on Rs 20 a day and lack of quality education, healthcare and inadequate infrastructure accentuate the difference between the two giants.


Corruption is rampant in both countries except that China punishes the corrupt severely. In India, the corrupt often escape and set bad examples. China’s enviable manufacturing superiority sprang from the government’s effort of investing heavily in infrastructure and education that provided a skilled and disciplined labour force. As it opened up its trade and investment, it learnt from its imports and from foreign investors who came to manufacture their products in China. It laid down conditions for investment and foreign investors having invested huge amounts, could not withdraw even when the conditions became too stringent. The trade spats with US have been continuous and prolonged. China does offer palliatives like restricting its exports or allowing higher tariffs to be imposed for protecting a specific industry to calm US fears but knows that US cannot abandon China as one of its most important trade partner.


Though China opened up its economy in 1978, it did so in stages and gradually — Deng Xiaoping called it ‘crossing the river by feeling the stones’. It was a highly practical way of opening up the economy whereas India went for the economic reforms at the behest of the IMF and World Bank and did not have a public debate on the subject. The pace of reforms has been slow as a result due to resistance from all quarters. Reforms have been seen to benefit only the rich in India and there has been little percolation of benefits downwards. But in China reforms have brought about all round prosperity though inequality too has also increased greatly.


China’s per capita income has gone up by three times since 1978 because it has had uninterrupted growth of 10 per cent for nearly three decades. India’s public delivery system is also more flawed than China’s and all pro poor programmes are full of leakages. Governance in China is obviously better though it has often meant repression of self expression and human rights.


While China is a land of huge technological strides with Shanghai boasting of the Maglev, the magnetic levitation train that reaches the maximum speed of over 400 km per hour. Shanghai is now aiming at becoming one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. The city’s factories run efficiently because their key functionaries are members of the Communist Party and keep a keen eye on the way factories workers and owners function. Land acquisition for setting up special economic zones is not a problem because people are given alternate land sites for resettlement and they are forced to move. All land belongs to the state. SEZs have transformed towns like Shenzhen and have enriched the workers.


The Chinese model cannot be replicated in India because the diversity of religion, caste, ethnicity in our society is much greater. People are too individualistic, evident in the way India reacted to population control in the 1970s. In China, one child policy was much better accepted and though today individual greed and ambition is more visible among the youth, it is still a society that remains subdued, restrained and obedient. For example look at the spotlessly clean cities as compared to ours. It is an extremely patriotic country also and Mao instilled the sense of patriotism after China had been humiliated by external and internal forces for a century and a half. Besides Mao’s image as a global revolutionary leader contributes to the moral and political legitimacy which China’s leaders are searching for amidst voices raised in favour of democratic values. The leaders and the people are proud of the economic achievements and of their President Hu Jintao who was seen standing next to President Obama at the opening reception of the G20 summit recently. Hu has encouraged continued economic development and a harmonious society.


China has weathered the global crisis rather well though exports had been going down drastically. Its bail-out package over two years amounting to $586 billion is going into infrastructure development, which could benefit the poor and those affected by recent earthquakes. It will help in boosting domestic demand. China is not only the biggest manufacturer in the world but also the biggest consumer of goods and services and hence the biggest market. It can only grow bigger economically in the future and India and the US have to got to accept China’s global role as a world power.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

MAIL TODAY COMMENT

SHIFT IN CHINA’S STANCE ON THE STATUS OF J- K

 

THE Chinese decision to give visas to residents of Jammu & Kashmir on removable pieces of paper, rather than by stamping them on the passport, is a signal of its hardening stance towards India. Some people have argued that this is a tit- for- tat response to India’s decision to regulate the misuse of Indian business visas by Chinese skilled and unskilled workers.

 

But this would be too simplistic an explanation. The Chinese, along with much of the world, believe that the status of Jammu & Kashmir is disputed. In 1963 when they signed a controversial border agreement through which Pakistan handed over the control of the Shaksgam Valley to them, Beijing had insisted that the transfer be conditional and that its finality be subject to the final settlement of the J& K dispute between Pakistan and India.

 

In the last quarter century even as China has been an “ all weather friend” of Pakistan’s, its support for Islamabad’s Kashmir policy has been muted. Even at the height of the Pakistan- backed Kashmiri rebellion, it has not shifted from its position that the J& K problem was an India- Pakistan issue. So, Beijing had been content to issue regular visas to the Indian residents of the state. The change therefore presages a larger shift in Beijing’s policy towards India and perhaps the Kashmir dispute.

 

The official spokesman has said that India’s “ well- justified” concerns have been conveyed to Beijing. At this juncture, perhaps that is all that New Delhi can do. But it would be prudent to closely analyse this development and factor it into our China policy. This appears to be an affirmation of a more assertive China and for this reason there is need to handle the issue with finesse and firmness.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

MINDLESS INDIA

 

SEVERAL aspects of the Kerala ferry tragedy give rise to the presumption that it was caused by human negligence. First, the boat was being operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation and not private operators for whom commerce is a priority. Second, that the boat capsized though it was new implies that something was wrong with the way it was handled on Wednesday evening.

 

Both the versions of the accident being trotted out show the authorities in poor light. If the boat overturned because a large number of its passengers moved to one side means that it had more people on board than it was meant to carry. On the other hand, if the accident happened because the driver swerved the boat too sharply, then it does not speak much of his skills.

 

The most obvious indication of negligence is that the passengers were not wearing lifejackets when the mishap occurred, a clear breach of regulations and common sense. This was all the more important because there were no emergency services available at the Periyar Tiger reserve.

 

This is the third such mishap in Kerala in the last decade. An accident in 2002 had led to an inquiry which recommended setting up of a regulatory authority for water transport. Nothing was done by the government in this direction. Had it acted, maybe God’s Own Country would not have ended up as a watery grave for close to 50 people from all over India.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

OUR QUAINT FOREBEAR

 

EVOLUTION scientists now have a new icon. Till yesterday, Lucy was the oldest early human ancestor specimen that walked the earth 3.2 million years ago. Now we have Ardi — a female member of a hominid species that lived 4.4 million years ago. Ardi walked on two legs on the ground and she also clambered about on four legs in the trees — perhaps an ape caught in the act of becoming human.

 

The fossil find puts to rest the notion — popular since Darwin's time — that a chimpanzee- like missing link resembling a cross between humans and apes would be at the root of the human family tree. It also means that though humans may be similar to orangutans and chimpanzees anatomically and genetically, their study is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings.

 

Who knows newer fossils may replace Ardi as well in the future and unearth even more fascinating ancestors of the human race.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

MONEY BACKS ‘ SON- RISE’ IN ANDHRA

BY BHARAT BHUSHAN

 

IT HAS been a month since the former Andhra Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy ( YSR) died in a helicopter crash.

 

The Congress high command has allowed his son, Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and his supporters to run riot in this period.

 

They paid people whose next of kin died of old age, chronic illness or other causes to say that they had died of shock after learning of YSR’s untimely and tragic death. This number was totted up to nearly 600 with talk of nearly half a dozen “ suicides”. Surprisingly, if the Jaganmohan Reddy run Sakshi TV and newspaper of the same name are to be believed, many of those who died of shock gave a dying declaration that after YSR only his son could continue his propoor policies as chief minister. India has not witnessed such a farce since Independence.

 

Today, in Andhra Pradesh, it would seem that there is no other Congress leader than Jaganmohan Reddy, no administration, no governance and a chief minister whose writ does not run over his own council of ministers.

 

Ironically, by allowing Jaganmohan Reddy to continue his unseemly blackmail, the Congress high command is transforming the political novice into the political leader that he never was.

 

But more of that later. One must first ask how such a political greenhorn enjoys, according to his claims, the support of three- fourths of Andhra MLAs. The answer lies in the changing pattern of political patronage in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Time was when Congressmen like others in public life accumulated political capital not only by their propeople initiatives but also through fostering intricate patron- client relationships.

 

This entailed appointing supporters to non- elected positions in the party and the government, helping them build their own patronage networks by giving them clear advantages such as access to the state machinery, and funding their election to local bodies, workplace unions, etc. In short, the attempt was to demonstrate to them that there were political advantages to be had by aligning with the party in power.

 

PATRONAGE

Andhra Pradesh seems to be changing that structure of patronage.

 

Instead of giving partymen a share in one’s political capital — the more one shared it, the more it grew — the Congress supporters are given a stake in the state’s economic enterprises.

 

YSR ushered in this revolution.

 

He converted his key supporters into businessmen, industrialists, contractors and realtors. Their loyalty to the party or the leader was based on pure economic interest.

 

 

YSR rewarded them with contracts in state sponsored irrigation projects ( the much- publicised Rs. 130,000 crore “ Jalyagnam” projects), highway projects, real estate activities, development of Special Economic Zones ( SEZs), land grants and housing schemes in urban as well as rural areas. The loyalty of a majority of the 156 Congress MLAs who got tickets in the last assembly elections was secured through such largesse. Some others have benefitted with smooth and quick approvals of their business ventures.

 

Those Congressmen who got irrigation project contracts during the YSR regime include MPs T Subbirami Reddy, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao and Rayapati Sambasiva Rao; state ministers Komatireddy Venkat Reddy and P Ramachandra Reddy; and MLA Adala Prabhakar Reddy.

 

And these are only the big fish — many other party MLAs like Adinarayana Reddy, Srikanth Reddy, Gurunath Reddy, and A Indrakaran Reddy ( former MLA) are believed to have got smaller irrigation and associated road works contracts.

 

Andhra Congress MLAs whose real estate business thrived during YSR’s chief ministerial tenure include ministers Shilpa Mohan Reddy and Jupalli Krishna Rao, who defaulted on payment of crores of rupees to an urban co- operative bank and Lagadapati Rajagopal ( Congress MP from Vijayawada who is building Lanco Hills — the country’s biggest real estate project). Many other Congress leaders like D Sudheer Reddy ( MLA) and Malreddy Ranga Reddy

 

( former MLA) have benefitted from the Rs. 3,000 crore Outer Ring Road project of Hyderabad.

 

Nellore MP Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy and his brother Chandramohan Reddy, MLA, have won contracts for roads and building works. K Pratap Reddy, the Treasurer of the Congress, has stakes in the cement industry and is believed to have business links with the YSR family.

 

Vijayawada Congress MP Lagapati Rajagopal is believed by many to be the biggest beneficiary of the YSR regime and is involved in businesses ranging from power, iron castings, real estate and infrastructure.

 

In short, it is difficult to find a Congressman of any consequence in Andhra who has not benefitted from the largesse of the state government.

 

Several businessmen, industrialists, realtors and contractors who are not directly in politics — some cutting across political lines like the Karnataka BJP minister and mine lord G Janardhan Reddy of Bellary who was given 10,700 acres of land in Anantapur — are all worried about their projects in various stages of development. They have a right to be worried.

 

FAMILY

Businesses which are underwritten and steered by someone at the helm of the state are less likely to fail. They were failsafe investments. Now their future is suddenly uncertain.

 

It has taken decades for Indian entrepreneurs like the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and Bajajs to convert family businesses into billion dollar corporations.

 

The Congress party under YSR in Andhra showed us that this could be done in barely five years.

 

The YSR family’s market capitalisation is estimated to be nearly three- fourths of the annual budget of Andhra Pradesh which is around Rs 1,00,000 crore. The family enterprises and business interests spread across real estate ( Silicon Builders, Classic Realty, Bhagvath Sannidhi Estates), infrastructure ( Silicon Infrastructure, Shalom Infrastructure, Marvel Infrastructure, Janani Infrastructure, Athena Infra, Viz Projects), cement ( Bharathi Cement), chemicals ( Pulivendula Polymers), plantations ( Forest Plantations India Ltd), power generation ( Athena Energy, Athena Kakinada Power, Sainz Hydro), newspapers ( Jagati Publications) and television ( Indira Television) besides owning Carmel Asia Holdings Pvt. Ltd.

 

The formidable business empire that YSR and his son set up has stakeholders among those who are in politics and business in Andhra today. The future of their investments depends on having a constant gardener from the YSR family to tend their interests. They cannot afford to let Jaganmohan Reddy lose out in the chief ministerial sweepstakes.

 

INDULGENCE

It is difficult to understand on the other hand why the Congress high command is so indulgent towards Jaganmohan’s shenanigans. Does the party have good reason to allow the mess that Jaganmohan Reddy’s supporters are creating in Andhra Pradesh? YSR was very close to Rajiv Gandhi who appointed him the state Congress chief at the relatively young age of 35 years. Sonia Gandhi has always valued loyalty to her late husband.

 

More importantly, YSR also delivered politically — not once but in two consecutive assembly and Lok Sabha elections. There would have been no UPA I or II without the electoral outcome of Andhra adding muscle to the Congress.

 

Another speculation doing the rounds is that the Congress high command is reluctant to act quickly against Jaganmohan Reddy because YSR was also believed to be one of the largest funders of the party.

 

Those sources of funds are now controlled by his son. So instead of cutting him to size, the party is being indulgent. Why else would the party allow speculation about Jaganmohan Reddy being offered Deputy Chief Ministership or a place in the central council of ministers? Could it be on the other hand that Jaganmohan Reddy is being allowed to demonstrate the support he enjoys in order to nurse his image as a mass leader? There could well be a strategy to allow the demonstration of support and soon people will forget that YSR’s son is a political novice. The blatant hooliganism of his supporters seems to have scuttled his chances to fill YSR’s shoes immediately. However, this will not prevent his well- wishers from claiming that YSR Junior has come into his own as a political leader with a mass base. This would pave the way for his accommodation in the party or the government.

 

bharat.bhushan@ mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

WHAT’S GOOGLE WAVE ALL ABOUT?

 

SO GOOGLE Wave had a limited release on September 30 ( only a lakh invites went out), making it one of the most significant days in software history.

 

To be honest, we don’t really know if Wave is going to change the way we communicate ( that’s Google’s claim, not ours), and going by the history of such claims made by various companies ( most famously, perhaps, by innovator Dean Kamen who said that the Segway mobility device will change the way we travel; but then outside of a few cities of the US and Europe, no one’s even heard of it), we will need to tread carefully with Wave.

 

Yet, for sheer functionality, we cannot but admire the real- time communication tool. Wave, developed by the brother duo of Jens and Lars Rasmussen, has email, instant messaging and web chat, social networking, instant file sharing, all rolled into one. Translation? All the stuff that you do online with friends and co- workers can be done on just one platform. And yes, it’s free.

 

The trouble with great pieces of software is that we often take it for granted. For instance, how many times have you clicked on your browser and said, “ Wow, that man Tim Berners- Lee, he was a genius.” Or, how many times have you sent an email or a chat message to a friend and said a silent thanks to the online gods that invented the whole thing? For that matter, do we really marvel at cell phones these days? My acid test for a great piece of software or for that software’s real success is when people stop talking about it. If Wave is a success, it could well become a part of our lives, and it will be difficult to live without it, just as it is tough to live without email, SMS or Web chat.

 

Users will decide that, but before we do, it would be a good idea to figure out what Wave is actually all about.

 

First, some features:

 

It’s real time to such an extent that — in some features, if you enable it — you can see what your friend on the other Waveside of the Wave is typing.

 

You want to convert your wave into a usable link? You could do that to share it with whoever you want.

 

You want to replay in your head what your really long conversation was with your friend? Don’t do that. All you gotta do is play the Wave like you’d play a movie.

 

As the conversation develops — with either one person or several friends — you can edit what people have written. For instance, if you know that one friend’s information about, say, the movie New York is incorrect, you can edit that after he or she posts the conversation and share it real- time with anyone.

 

For email or instant messaging, you don’t have to attach files so that everyone gets it separately. Just drag and drop the file to the conversation for single- click access to it.

 

Google says it will let people develop their own Wage Gadgets, just as Apple allows users to develop iPhones apps, a policy that has led to almost 2 billion Apple Apps Store downloads worldwide. Twave, for instance, is a Google Wave gadget for Twitter and is already up and running.

Similar to Wave Gadgets are Wave Extensions ( if you use Firefox as your browser, you already know what Extensions are). Use of third- party pieces of software could greatly enhance Wave, as the possibilities are limitless. The Apple iPhone, for instance, has more than 85,000 downloadable enhancements available.

 

THAT’S revolutionary in itself, but Google Wave is capable of doing much more, far much more than what we have a preview of. For instance, a multicity office conference on Google Wave using real- time chat as well as real- time video tools may be developed for Wave in the future.

 

On the Web, news sites can use Google Wave to create real- time chats with editors or celebrities, or perhaps even between readers themselves. Or, as the popular social media site Mashable suggests, it could be used by the hundreds of customer support companies worldwide — and those that provide outsourcing services from India — to convert Wave into a client- company relationship tool.

 

It also adds that Wave can be used for school learning. For instance, teachers have always dreamed of an interactive way of learning with their students.

 

Wave provides — from the looks of it, at least — that collaborating with students is very much in the realm of possibility.

 

Just reading about Google Wave excites me. I am hoping to get an invite soon, but like it did with Gmail, Google will only gradually make Wave universal. Like Gmail and Gtalk, I expect a lot of noise initially, but it is also likely that Google’s new killer app is the one we are most quiet on.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

MICROSOFT MUST PULL UP ITS SOCKS

 

NET Applications, a leading company that provides market share data on online and other technology products has submitted its latest September 2009 report. And the news for our friends in Redmond, Washington, is not good.

 

Microsoft Internet Explorer, the most successful Web browser in history, has lost its market share once again to the phenomenally useful Firefox 3.5 from the Mozilla Corporation. Google’s Chrome, meanwhile, has also made rapid strides after its initial failure last year.

 

The latest report gives IE a market share of just 65.71 per cent, a huge fall from the almost 90 per cent two years ago, with 1.3 per cent decline occurring in September. At the same time, Firefox went up by almost 1 per cent to reach 23.75 per cent and Chrome is placed at No 4 with 3.17 per cent. Apple’s Safari is third at four and a quarter per cent.

 

Microsoft has been the market leader in Web browsers from the time Netscape began sliding. It is still the leader, but is fast ceding ground. For instance, only 12 months ago, IE’s market share was almost 75 per cent.

 

That must hurt Microsoft which, despite the launch of IE8 — the company’s latest browser — has not been able to make a dent in the market share pie, mostly because of its own stubbornness to not evolve.

 

The browser market is not easy anymore as it is not just about opening pages. Firefox, for instance, has hundreds of extensions that convert the browser into some piece of magic. With IE8 Microsoft tried to gain its mindshare back, but it seems to be doing too little too late.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

TWITTER TO EASE USERS’ LISTS PAIN

 

THE problem with Twitter’s Web interface is that it is so minimalistic it is impossible to find anything easily. For instance, if you want to delete a spam message on the Web account, there is no button on the “ Home” page. For that, you have to go to the “ Profile” page.

 

Similarly, how do you organise tweets that fall into the same category? Twitter has been so miserly with basic functions on its site even two years after its launch that third- party applications such as Seesmic and TweetDeck have stolen a march over it and created desktop applications that do everything you ever wanted to do on Twitter with just one click. You can even create Groups based on interest or names that get categorised into columns.

 

But finally, Twitter seems to be waking up. It is testing a new feature that allows users to categorise tweets using Lists. They are nothing but heads under which you categorise messages. They could be anything from Sports to Technology to Marketing to Weather to Films.

 

The Lists will feature on the Profile page and will be public, although, Twitter says, you can make it private too. But that kind of defeats the purpose of Twitter because it is meant to be a public forum in the first place.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

NOW READ COMICS ON YOUR MOBILE

 

TATA DoCoMo has a new ace up its sleeve… comics on your mobile. The Indo- Japanese collaboration between Tata Indicom and NTT DoCoMo will now introduce a new application called Comix on the Go, according to digital media blog Medianama.

 

A media spokesperson from Tata DoCoMo told Medianama: “ The various Comix options would be Suppandi, Akbar Birbal, Manga, Disney, Mickey Mouse, Panchtantra, Devi amongst others.” That should let us relive our childhood, but for that to happen you might want to buy only those Nokia models that run the S60 user interface software ( N97, for instance) as the comics are compatible with only that phone.

 

Interestingly, even without the Apple iPhone 3G becoming a rage in India, mobile service providers have decided to invest hugely in mobile entertainment.

 

Just recently, Nokia launched its online music store that allows song downloads — for a fee — to specific Nokia phone models. If the Apple App Store too makes an appearance in the world’s second largest cell phone using nation, it could well shake up the market.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

MINISTRIES RUSH IN TO OBEY PM’S ORDER

BY ASHISH SINHA IN NEW DELHI

 

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh’s annoyance with the callous attitude of various ministries on reporting the progress of their respective schemes has worked wonders.

 

The Delivery Monitoring Unit ( DMU) reports have become the buzzword in the government.

 

There is a scramble among ministries — particularly those running ‘ flagship programmes’, ‘ new initiatives’ and ‘ iconic projects’ as identified by the PMO — to regularly post status reports in the public domain.

 

The DMU was set up in the PMO on July 7. It came a month after President Pratibha Patil’s June 4 address to the joint session of Parliament, where she put the UPA government’s 100- day agenda on record.

 

The unit, headed by Prime Minister’s principal secretary TKA Nair, was mandated to monitor the progress of various schemes on the basis of reports received from the ministries concerned.

 

But as the government completed 100 days in office and even later, the ministries took the directive for granted and did not care to report the status of the schemes.

 

The ministries were reminded that they must post the ‘ DMU reports’ on their respective websites beginning September 15 to ensure effective and time- bound implementation.

 

The latest status check shows that most ministries and departments have complied with the order. The general public can now see the progress made in various schemes by logging on to the ministry websites.

 

A total of 18 “ high visibility and high impact” projects were identified for such monitoring.

 

The official website devoted to each of the six ‘ identified flagship programmes’ has now complied with the instructions and their respective DMU reports have been put in the public domain. The six schemes include National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme ( NREGS), National Rural Health Mission By Ashish Sinha in New Delhi Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked ministries to post the ‘ progress status’ of projects on their websites.

 

( NRHM), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan ( SSA), Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission ( JNNURM),

Bharat Nirman and Multi- Sectoral District Plans for Minority Districts.

 

For instance, the Union rural development ministry has posted updated “ physical outcomes” related to

employment generation and asset creation on the NREGS website. “ Financial outcomes” related to funds and

expenditure on the scheme is also available.

 

The DMU report on the NRHM carries status till April 30 while the compliance for the JNNURM is better as it is updated till June this year. Similarly, the compliance report for Bharat Nirman, a time- bound plan for action in rural infrastructure, puts the latest target achieved percentage at 22.5.

 

A senior official said the compliance levels of the various ministries and departments are expected to improve with time as the “ system firms up in shape and process”. “ The PM is serious about the DMU reports and this has been conveyed to the ministries.

 

The PMO would soon start analysing the reports posted by the ministries,” he said.

 

The DMU reports for all six ‘ new initiatives’ are yet to be put in the public domain. The big ones in this

category include the National Mission on Female Literacy, Rajiv Awas Yojana, Innovation Universities,

National Council for Higher Education and National Council for Human Resources in Health.

 

Compliance on the six ‘ iconic projects’ — the third category identified by the PMO — is also taking place

although the Union home ministry and the ministry for development of north eastern region have already posted their DMU reports.

 

While the home ministry’s report deals with PM’s reconstruction plan for J& K, the scheme ‘ Infrastructure Development in North East’ also falls in the list of iconic projects.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 EDITORIAL

TAMIL ACTIVISTS VANDALISE LANKA MISSION

BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI

 

MORE THAN 30 activists of a little- known Tamil outfit barged into the Sri Lankan High Commission in Chanakyapuri, pelted stones and ransacked its premises on Friday. They were protesting against the Lankan Navy firing on Indian fishermen.

 

The activists belonged to a Tamil Nadubased outfit Puthiya Tamizhagam . They entered the High Commission premises at 3 pm. According to security guards, the gates were open at that time and they walked into the complex without much difficulty. “ Once inside the activists shouted slogans and pelted stones at the building. Some window panes and flower pots were broken,” Phizo K. Sangma, a constable of the Mizoram Police guarding the high commission, said.

 

All the protesters managed to flee and no one has been arrested as yet. “ There was no CCTV at the Sri Lankan High Commission.

 

But we are trying to get footage from cameras located at the nearby Chinese embassy,” a police officer said.

A senior Sri Lankan official said they will lodge a complaint with the police and take up the issue with the Indian government.

 

The Indian ministry of external affairs has regretted Friday’s incident and said security has been beefed up in the area after the incident.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MACHO ADO ABOUT NOTHING

 

He entered politics with guns blazing. He doesn't use silencers in verbal firing with poll combatants. His party rivals often fall to friendly fire. So why the fuss over Narendra Modi's gun-worship? Being Tough with a capital T (as in T-rex) is a shared Target for BJP's brotherhood. No sissies among saffronites, thank you.

 

Else, pre-2009 polls, L K Advani wouldn't have pumped iron, as much of a 'Loh Purush' in grand old age as when he rode chariots, bow and arrow in tow. Modi aka Chhote Sardar, on his part, performs shastra puja before a pantheon of pistols, machine guns and assault rifles. Duellists, beware. You might be messing with a faster draw than Quick Gun Murugun.


Who better than macho men to incarnate national machismo? Could war games thrive in Iraq sans the cowboy of the western world? When Bush Jr wasn't hunting you down to be "with" him or "against" him, he was being feted by the rifle-bearers of America. Russia too has its Incredible Hunk: Putin butterfly-stroking or mini-sub diving in Siberian lakes.

 

What a folk heroic contrast to Yeltsin. They say flabby Boris shamed Mother Russia when, as White House guest, he ran around in boxer shorts demanding pansy food like pizza. Nah, Putin's dacha-dwelling predecessors wouldn't have dared consent to dances with Dasha. Why? Dasha's a carnivorous Beluga whale, that's why. Hurrah for the He-Man!


Too bad demolition men run out of ammunition. Ex-prez Putin wants time to erase the excesses of a "dictatorship of the law", including gags on criticism of the Kremlin and riot police. Bush's shock-and-awe dimmed when America elected cerebral Obama. Weight-lifter Advani dubbed the PM "weak" but, post-poll, softie Singh became King. And, eye on centrestage, Modi can't seem to convince people his tough love is lovey-dovey.

Blame it all on the idea that sweet reasonableness and moral force, not armour-plates, maketh the Leader. Any wonder Gandhi is the world's reigning Brand? Ask pen-is-mightier-than-the-sword Mont Blanc, which has stoked controversy by using Gandhi tags on their luxury pens. With real or reel Gandhigiri still trouncing dadagiri, Bapu sure spoilt it for brawn power. When colonial muscle flexed, the spinner of yarn turned the other cheek. If only he had stopped there.

 

But no, he then torpedoed all comfortable notions of colonial masculinity and native effeminacy, humbling an empire through non-violence! Today, he's even the preferred dinner date of the world's most powerful officeholder. And Obama himself is flying around a Bush-whacked planet, talking peace and reconciliation! Geez.

Look at it this way. If more and more leaders lose their warrior genes, we might see a world that mothers ahimsa ambassadors par excellence wish for their children. Children could then learn that testosterone doesn't fuel wisdom, and that empathy is the better part of valour. What's that they say about it all going back to mommy?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

NEITHER BHAI BHAI NOR BYE BYE

 

The blaze of jingoism is short-lived. But its debris smoulder for long. India was administered that stern lesson half a century ago when it changed its attitude to China from end to end overnight. We need to revisit that period because, as our reactions to China's recent actions on the border, and to its moves to gain a strategic foothold in our neighbourhood show, we have yet to digest that lesson.


Until 1959, our China policy suffered from self-delusion on a gargantuan scale. Jawaharlal Nehru, then India's undisputed leader, convinced the country that communist China and democratic India were destined to coexist in peace and prosper in amity. Both had suffered the ravages of colonialism. Both were age-old civilisations. And both had not exchanged a shot at anytime in their history.


This assumption led Nehru to ignore the advice of his colleagues notably Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, and G S Bajpai, the senior-most official in the foreign office to acquiesce in China's occupation of Tibet in October 1950. And it led him to make light of the Dalai Lama's flight from Tibet in March 1959. Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai, rooted in the Panchsheel doctrine, was the order of the day. It detracted our attention from the fact that nationalism, not communism, dictated China's conduct.


Then disillusionment set in resulting in an outburst of anti-China hysteria. The trigger was the publication in September 1959 of the first in a series of white papers on the Sino-Indian border covering the years 1954-59. It revealed that India and China had wrestled with a number of border incidents throughout these years. Three other white papers followed to bring the story up to 1960. A year later, New Delhi published a detailed report on the discussions on the border between officials of the two countries.


In a remarkably insightful book on Nehru, Walter Crocker, then Australia's high commissioner in New Delhi, noted the aftermath of these revelations. They provoked "an upsurge of nationalism in India of a bitter, at times, of a frenzied kind". Under pressure from an inflamed public opinion, and doubtless to get even with a China that he felt had betrayed his trust, Nehru ordered 40 new checkposts to be set up in the disputed area in 1962. And it is as a riposte to this Forward Policy that the Chinese decided to teach India a lesson.


In October-November 1962, Chinese forces crossed the disputed border and within days, the poorly-trained, ill-equipped and outnumbered Indian troops faced an ignominious rout. That fuelled more jingoism in India. There was a great deal of talk in the press and in the political class about 'Chinese hordes' determined to gain control of the oil fields of Assam and even the port of Calcutta. At Nehru's initiative, Parliament unanimously passed a resolution vowing not to cede an inch of Indian territory to China. The truth, as Crocker noted, was nowhere what the jingoists made it out to be. He argued, correctly, that both India and China put up cases which were weaker in law, and in history, than either allowed.


More than 40 years later, the situation has not changed much. Hopes that a trade-off would solve the boundary dispute once and for all soared now and then only to subside just as quickly. But the questions that were valid then remain valid today. The first relates to how we view China's ambitions. Is it an expansionist power? Or, given its huge domestic problems, will it opt to function as a responsible member of the emerging world order?

The second question focuses on India's response to a resurgent China. Will it engage Beijing without the ideological blinkers of the past? Will it accept such an engagement even as it strengthens its strategic partnerships with other major players on the global scene? And instead of scouting for China's dark designs, must we not expend our resources and energies to keep our military and our economy in fine fettle?


Such issues are more relevant today than they were 50 years ago. To take but just one example: the nation state, once the sole unit of the international system, is no longer what it used to be. Its monopoly of power and sovereignty has been eroded by a technology-driven economy. The main business of the state of every state is to maximise opportunities for its citizens and to provide them security, not to seek pomp and pride for itself or to covet territory. The major challenges of our times ranging from epidemics to terrorism, from climate change to financial management make it incumbent on all to see borders between peoples and countries as bridges, and not as barriers.


This is not a new idea in India. Down the millennia, its sages, saints and scholars have articulated the artificiality of man-made constructs like maps and signposts with a high degree of sophistication. For instance, the Marathi saint-poet Tukaram was once asked what his country meant for him. His answer: "My country? Oh brothers, the limits of the universe there the frontiers of my country lie."

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

IT IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

 

Right now, the international cricket community is debating the issue of one-day cricket's survival. Test cricket itself, that holy of holies, is under threat by new kid on the block T20. Obviously, the need of the hour is for cricket boards around the world to ensure that matches are played on the most sporting pitches in stadiums with the largest capacities and best facilities.

 

Give the cricket fan a pulsating match on the best pitch available and a comfortable time off it and he will come back for more. One would have thought that as the world's richest and most powerful cricket board, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would be taking the lead. But what it has done instead is adopt a rotation policy for venues that puts Eden Gardens the finest stadium in India and one of the best in the world at the bottom of its list.


The logic behind the rotation policy is to give various grounds a chance to host international matches instead of letting Kolkata or Chennai or Mumbai dominate. But it is flawed in practice. As it stands, we have marquee clashes played out on dead pitches before empty stands. Dropping standards of matches will mean less money coming into the sport. And that will mean fewer resources to help develop cricket at the state level, achieving precisely the opposite of what the rotation policy is meant to do.


Another problem with the policy is its susceptibility to state cricket association politicking. Politics may have always been a part of Indian cricket, from the disastrous 1936 tour of England led by the meagrely talented but financially well-endowed Maharajah of Vizianagram to the epic struggles for power between Jagmohan Dalmiya and I S Bindra. But that can't be good for the future of the game. Matches must be allocated on the basis of the venue's quality. The system as it stands now will continue to result in goof-ups of the sort that will see Eden Gardens host its next match only in 2011. Even Vizzy might have baulked at that.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

NEW VENUES MUST BE ENCOURAGED

 

It is unfortunate that one of the oldest cricket stadiums in India doesn't get to host international matches frequently. That, however, is not a sufficient reason to debunk the rotation policy the BCCI follows while allotting matches to cities.


Cricket in India, until recently, was restricted to urban centres, especially the cities of the British Empire. The game needed to be popularised across the country. Taking international matches to cities where cricket was not so popular, was one way to build a new fan base. That has succeeded. The popularity of cricket has grown immensely in the last three decades and the regional and class profiles of cricket lovers and players have also changed. This, in turn, had led to the emergence of new power centres in cricket administration. State associations have become powerful and they want a say in the running of cricket affairs in the country. This would also include getting to host a fair share of international matches, which bring in big money.


Cities like Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar, Kochi, Jaipur and Ranchi don't have a long cricketing tradition. But they now regularly host one-day internationals, which attract huge crowds. These cities have also started producing international cricketers. Players like the current Indian captain M S Dhoni are beneficiaries of the BCCI's strategy to take cricket to new venues. Hosting international matches have a direct impact on the infrastructure and resources available for cricket in these cities. The stadiums here may not be as big as Eden Gardens, but some of them do offer state-of-the-art facilities for players and fans. Those that lag behind are sure to catch up soon.

The changes in Indian politics and economy have also facilitated the emergence of new venues. Regional parties and local economies now influence all spheres of public activity including sport. And, that's a welcome change. Many state capitals and even small towns also have developed the economic base to support sporting activities and build the necessary infrastructure. It has also become a matter of regional pride to host international sporting events. Plus, they give a boost to the local economy. Let's not be blind to these changes and cling on to nostalgia.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

GLOBAL EYE

REJECT BAD POLICY, POOR POLITICS

 

In dealing with demands to commit to specific targets on capping emissions, New Delhi has adopted a variation of the "pehele aap" approach. The sooner India gives it up the better. Brimming with moral indignation at the West's shirking of responsibility, India is in essence saying: our per capita emissions are minuscule while yours are gigantic. You first show your seriousness about changing your lifestyle, adopt concrete targets for limiting emissions and atone for your past sins of polluting the earth by offering financial and technical aid only then will we set our own emissions target.


Of course, India and other developing countries are justified in holding the West responsible for the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. One hundred and fifty years of unfettered fossil fuel-driven industrial growth in the West with more recent contributions from China, India and others have brought greenhouse gases to levels that, left unchecked, will produce irreversible and disastrous consequences for all.


India's demand that the West bear the bulk of the cost of clean-up and developing alternative energy sources may seem both logical and morally just. But equally, the critics are right to point out that by measuring emissions on a per capita basis India is simply making the majority of rural poor suffer for pollution caused by urban growth. India and China also have to take responsibility vis-a-vis the rest of the world for adding a billion people by 2050. Set against the backdrop of the lives and livelihoods under threat, focusing on historical responsibility is quite pointless. Claiming that poverty reduction and economic progress are India's "central concerns" is both bad policy and poor politics.


It is bad policy because it suggests growth and clean energy are incompatible. It also ignores the challenges to the Indian subcontinent stemming from global warming, which threatens millions of lives and could drive millions more deeper into poverty. Glaciers in Europe may be melting faster than those in the Himalayas, but the threat to life and agriculture in India's northern plains indeed to 40 per cent of the Asian population dependent on fresh water from rivers in the Himalayas and Tibet is growing.

 

With India's groundwater depleting at an alarming rate the threat to glacier-fed rivers, even if far off, as some Indian scientists say, cannot be ignored. Besides, as global sea levels rise, millions of refugees from inundated coastal regions of Bangladesh are likely to seek shelter in India. Regardless of who is ultimately responsible for global warming, the brunt of its consequences will be borne not by the morally guilty West, but the very poor for whose benefit India ostensibly resists global pressure on accepting emissions targets.

 

India's harping on historical responsibility is also bad politics because it makes the country appear less concerned about global warming and more focused on winning an argument for doing nothing. China has smartly backed off that position and won major public relations points by announcing at the UN that it intends to curb carbon dioxide emissions by a "notable margin" by 2020.


The irony is that while appearing as the world's naysayer, India has actually done quite a bit. It has taken enough of an initiative in developing alternative energy and yet our public diplomacy is more about finger pointing, about shirking responsibility, than actually taking any responsibility. India's new readiness, after years of denial, to open its emissions reductions measures to international supervision and its plan to launch a domestic energy efficiency trading scheme are concrete measures that could be presented to the world as evidence of India's commitment to confronting the threat.

India's resolve to play a proactive role befitting a rising global power could be coupled with its critique of the West. India could instead garner greater respect for its stance by taking the position that life may not be fair, but life is precious. The threat that a sixth of the world's population faces and the responsibility of the world's rich and polluting nations to come to its aid can work in tandem. Instead of preaching and saying 'you first', India could regain the moral ground by telling the world about its own struggles and calling all to join the battle against the biggest threat facing humanity.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

WAIT, WATCH, STRIKE IT RIGHT

 

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest outlook for the world economy has a lot of hope pinned on Asia, particularly India and China, which it sees growing at 5.4 per cent and 8.5 per cent, respectively, in 2009. The swift turnaround in the rest of Asia’s export-oriented economies is also ‘remarkable’. But it is a rebound fed by temporary factors like fiscal and monetary easing, resumption of capital flows, and inventory adjustment. “These forces may not be able to bring about a self-sustaining recovery if activity does not strengthen in other regions,’’ the IMF warns. “The challenge is to determine when and how to withdraw policy support while ensuring a successful transition to more balanced medium-term growth.”

 

The US and Europe are in for protracted adjustments as they repair their financial systems and households that suffered asset price bubbles busts rebuild their savings. The IMF estimates potential growth in the US will remain below 2 per cent for a considerable time on permanent output losses relative to pre-crisis trends. As a corollary, Asia will have to tweak its demand to rely less on exports. The structural shift requires wider social security to discourage precautionary Asian savings, more robust financial markets to lessen the dependence on foreign capital and flexible exchange rates to restore the global trade balance. For the immediate future, the IMF flags double-dip recession. “Is a renewed recession in the offing over the next year as expansionary monetary and fiscal policies lose impetus and private demand fails to gain momentum in the face of limited credit?” The answer: there is a recovery, but it will be weak by historical standards.

 

India’s aggressive fiscal expansion has put it at the forefront of this recovery. Its stock market has climbed a staggering 110 per cent from its post-crash low and its factories are restocking inventories furiously. Historically, India has trailed most of Asia in exports, so the dependence on the West for demand revival is low and the need for medium-term restructuring will be less onerous. The principal area of concern is the timing of the exit strategy. Being among the first to recover, India will have to unwind its fiscal and monetary stance at a time when most of the world will be pursuing it vigorously. A small price to pay for standing out in a crowd.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

STOP THE HYPOCRISY

BARKHA DUTT

 

I hate to disrupt the cozy comfort of a long weekend. But should Friday really have been a holiday? Why have we reduced the birthday of the country’s most iconic leader — one who continues to emblazon our imagination — to a sarkari farce? Tragically, Gandhi Jayanti is now all about perfunctory rituals, postage-stamp tokenism and the enforced prohibition that has come to be the hallmark of national holidays.

 

For a man who spun his own khadi, mopped his bathrooms himself and famously declared work to be the best form of worship, it sure is strange to honour his legacy with yet another lazy holiday. And if you really want to enforce something, why not, make it a day for mandatory civic duty? Let people get out and pick up the ice-cream wrappers flung about on the lawns of India Gate. Or let them get hold of a broom and wash down the drains behind their homes. Or, even just plant a tree.

 

I still remember an image from a few years ago on the Mahatma’s birthday — Rahul Gandhi lugging a mound of mud on his shoulder, walking behind a barefoot woman in a pink ghagra, chipping in with daily wagers at a construction site. I thought that single image captured the essence of what Gandhi stood for better than countless anniversary rituals at Rajghat. Despite his critics saying it was a slick photo opportunity, as messages go, it was in my view, the right one to send.

 

Our failure to commemorate Gandhi in a meaningful way has much to do with hypocrisy and literalism. We have drowned the Gandhi legacy in bucketfuls of political correctness and scrubbed away its colour, its robustness and its brilliant potential for contemporariness. We also get sidetracked by too many meaningless arguments over who can claim Gandhi and in what fashion. So — when Mont Blanc comes out with pens crafted in white gold to commemorate him — we huff and puff in faux outrage. How can a luxury company peddle Gandhi for profit, we proclaim. We act all shocked because he stood for austerity after all and now there are billboards of him promoting a pen that costs Rs 11 lakh a pop. But isn’t this anger a whole lot of humbug?

 

After all when Apple used Gandhi’s image for its ‘Think Different’ campaign, didn’t we feel a sneaking pride at the global resonance of an Indian leader. Or if you logged onto Google in the last 24 hours and saw Gandhi’s face woven into the search engine’s typography, didn’t you feel a sort of quiet pride at being Indian? I’m sure neither Apple nor Google were being altruistic when they used Brand Gandhi. Business agendas would have been woven into their plans as well. But, because their products sound more respectable than, let’s say, an overpriced pen, we work ourselves into a lather over the latter.

 

Frankly, this is probably our own middle-class guilt at the lives we lead, than anything else. To apply Gandhian values so literally, divorced from the context they once existed in, is to limit our understanding of the man and his essence. I would never bother buying the Mont Blanc pen, but as I see it, if the advertising campaign around the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition-241’ helps publicise the 241 miles of the Salt March that Gandhi and his followers did on foot, I think, it’s no harm done at all. Yes, it is the dichotomy of India that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and a luxury edition pen both seek to be christened after the Mahatma. But, well, that’s India, and Gandhi is an idea that no one can put an ownership tag on.

 

You only have to consider the irony that it was a beer baron who brought Gandhi’s belongings back home to underline how complicated it is to straitjacket what can be called ‘Gandhian’ today. It was Vijay Mallya who made the winning bid in New York and spent almost $2 million to claim many of Gandhi’s personal belongings, including his iconic round-rimmed glasses. Interpreted literally, ‘Kingfisher’ may seem incompatible, even antithetical to what goes by the cliché called ‘Gandhian values’. But, if it takes an unabashedly ostentatious business czar to bring back Gandhi’s belongings to India, I’m all for it.

 

I think too often we forget that Mahatma Gandhi was both himself and a symbol of something larger. And in his case, it’s that symbolism that is dynamic, and, therefore, eternal. So, when Gandhi-baiters wonder whether he would be relevant today, they should instead ask a different question. Would Gandhi in 2009 been the same as he was in 1939? Or would he have created a different syntax for the times? The reason that Gandhi remains a universal inspiration is because he stood for the ‘power of one’. He showed what a solitary individual could do to create mass mobilisation. He was like the Pied Piper of politics leading a country to self-discovery and strength.

 

As long as we remember and honour that, it doesn’t matter whether auction houses or business barons want one piece of the Gandhi pie. Remember, ‘Munnabhai’ may have done more to make Gandhi trendy than a million earnest tomes. And next time you get all weepy when you see Attenborough’s tear-jerker on him (I cry without exception every time I watch it) tell yourself that on the next Gandhi Jayanti, you will go out and make a small difference to the world we live in. That would be the best possible tribute.

 

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV  (The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LAWS ARE NOT ENOUGH

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

Along with Kashmir, casteism is now on the radar of the international community. Both issues came up at the 12th UN Human Rights Council which closed yesterday at Geneva. Actually, whether caste goes under the rubric of racial discrimination has been discussed at the UN for almost a decade. Meanwhile, Indian researchers working with their US peers assure us that there is no racial basis to caste, and that the Aryan invasion never happened. This story, too, goes back a decade to the Human Genome Project, which released draft data in 2000.

The UN process began eight years ago in Durban, at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Then, the emotive issue was not caste but the Western legacy of slavery and colonial freebooting. But three days after the meet concluded, 9/11 wiped it all out of public memory. Everyone was most relieved, having evaded the difficult issue of compensation for crimes anciently committed.

 

Dalit groups and NGOs highlighted caste later, most recently at the Durban Review Conference in April this year. And now, Nepal has backed the movement to use UN institutions to supplement national efforts to end caste discrimination. It’s worth considering, since despite decades of legislative and legal action, we are not even close to solving the problem. Thousands of outrages against Dalits are still reported every year and the persistence of community and caste as the basis of electoral politics suggests that, fundamentally, we have failed.

 

Caste is a forbiddingly complicated matrix of race, karma and profession. Even its basis in traditional law is contested because the Manusmriti reads like a prescriptive tract rather than a descriptive social taxonomy. The author could have been an upper caste conservative alarmed by growing social mobility in the period of uncertainty, following the collapse of Mauryan power. Anyway, it is completely out of date in contemporary society, where social mobility is a sign of modernity.

 

India is baffled by caste. Positive discrimination is deeply politicised and exposes the ugly territorial instincts of the fortunate castes. Empowerment has created a class of new Brahmins within the Dalit community, who have inherited upper-caste traits like impunity. Legal action has only reduced the incidence of violent crime against Dalits, not everyday discrimination. Political initiatives are electorally motivated — the UP Congress celebrated Gandhi Jayanti yesterday by corralling its district leaders overnight in Dalit hamlets, with strict instructions not to carry their own tiffin, water or bedrolls. The hardy institution of caste survives it all. It even survives conversion, creating Brahmin Christians, for instance.

 

Having failed to find a solution domestically, India has lobbied hard to prevent the internationalisation of the issue. Are we being cussed here? I would not trust international opinion on Kashmir, where the West saw terrorists as freedom fighters until 9/11 and as scum fit for the noose thereafter. Both positions are completely innocent of reality. But caste sits quite well in the universally understood discourse on racism. It is much more complex than race, as India likes to argue, but it is similar in its effects. And since the priority is not to theorise about first causes but to prevent ugly outcomes, the internationalisation of caste issues as race matters could be a positive step.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MINE, MINE

 

Iron Man, we know, is a profitable superhero franchise that has been re-imagined several times over, to suit the changing times. India’s own Iron Man, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, is turning out to be a pretty malleable cultural icon, made over by the BJP and fought for by the Congress.

 

Patel, that doughty crusader for a unified India, would be entirely surprised at the kind of political war raging over him. BJP politicians from L.K. Advani to Narendra Modi like to trace their genealogy back to him — in the popular imagination, he combines a tough-guy image with an inflexible nationalism and cultural conservatism. His legendary differences with Jawaharlal Nehru make it easier to pitch Patel as the man whose vision the Congress failed to understand, and for the BJP to appropriate. Patel, of course, can no longer protest this ahistorical hostile takeover of his image. After the flap over Jaswant Singh’s book, the Gujarat government rushed to ban it, citing injury to Patel’s reputation — “he is considered the architect of the modern India, no one can show him in bad light.” They had to climb down from that position after court orders, but Modi soldiers on in the effort to wrest Patel’s legacy. Meanwhile, the Congress has belatedly learnt to guard its turf — sanctioning Rs 17 crore to spruce up the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial in Ahmedabad and lavish attention on Patel through a book and artwork.

 

Modi stole the thunder, claiming that Sardar Patel should have been India’s first prime minister. He freely fantasised: had Sardar Patel been the first prime minister of the country, farmers would not have committed suicide in Karnataka and Maharashtra. There would have been no terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. He also hit the Congress where it hurts, claiming that Patel had predicted the Chinese threat, writing to Jawaharlal Nehru in 1950 and asking him to revise defence policy. Sonia Gandhi hit back, saying that to “claim that there were unbearable disagreements between Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru is to distort history.” And indeed, despite their well-known differences, there was no personal animus between Patel and Nehru — Sardar Patel remained a Congress anchor till the end. But then again, historical fact is hardly likely to get in the way of Modi’s grandiose self-fashioning project.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THREE CORNERS

 

That you cannot confront your enemies while marginalising your friends is the lesson that Union Railways Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee should draw from the Siliguri mayoral election. In a local development that has jolted West Bengal’s polity and made headlines nationally, the Congress successfully grabbed the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, with the help of the Left Front, against its ally Trinamool. Coming in less than five months after the Congress-Trinamool alliance trounced the Left in the Lok Sabha polls and about a couple of weeks after it smashed the Left’s 28-year-old citadel of north Bengal by winning the Siliguri civic election, this event is a strategic dilemma for the alliance in the garb of a tactical manoeuvre. Notwithstanding the drama, and the fact that political adjustments at the municipal level can be extremely localised, the writing on the wall says that politics is a constant flux, where intransigence does not pay.

 

It is important to read between the lines — of Congress explanations, of Mamata Banerjee’s resurrected accusations against the Congress, of the CPM’s stated motives — and tread the thin line between reading too much and too little into the affair. As such, it does not affect the larger Congress-Trinamool alliance yet. But it can, if Banerjee is to persist in insisting the Congress play second-fiddle to her everywhere in the state, all the time. It can, if state Congress leaders become too adventurous after sending her this loud warning. It, after all, damages the morale of state Congress workers if the party gets no political space and voice of its own. As far as calculations go, the Congress would like to use Siliguri to bargain harder for seats in next year’s civic polls, which include the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and in the 2011 assembly election. For the Left, it would be immensely rewarding to drive a wedge between the Congress and Trinamool — certainly for those assembly polls, the prospect of which has been making it anxious ever since May.

 

This seemingly minor issue has spiced up West Bengal’s political space. It is too presumptuous to consider any major realignment, but this strong assertion of its interests by the Congress is an object lesson for the Trinamool in political give-and-take.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LIGHTING UP

 

Over the past decade, as China has gone about choosing ways to assert its increasing political and economic global dominance, a phrase is almost inevitably kept as a caveat: that it is a “peaceful rise”. So on a day of spectacles on October 1 to mark the 60th anniversary of communist rule in the People’s Republic of China, the words “harmonious” and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” were conspicuous. China, conscious of being heckled at the high tables of multilateral organisations that it is not weighing in enough on key global issues, is always at pains to show it is a global stakeholder. But on October 1, the conversation seemed to be more domestic, with Beijing’s Tiananmen Square rocking to a show of military power and pyrotechnics to celebrate the Communist Party as much as the country.

 

Among the highlights were the display of intercontinental ballistic missiles (including one that could reach the US) in a Chinese-made only parade of weaponry and a half-hour-long firework display that’s said to have outshone the 2008 spectacular at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. For these dramatic feats the air over the city on Thursday was suddenly clear of its smog and haze and the possibility of rain, reportedly through cloud seeding. And impressions that this was, a year after the Games, another coming out party were deepened with the induction of Beijing 2008 veterans Zhang Yimou, one of world cinema’s most acclaimed filmmakers, to choreograph the show, and Cai Guo-Qiang to oversee the fireworks.

 

So, while a year ago, the big question was whether future Olympics hosts would ever match Beijing’s extravaganza, now it begets a supplementary: how and when will China match Thursday’s parade?

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DISARMING RHETORIC

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As our China debate continues, we must thank Defence Minister A.K. Antony for injecting a new word into the argument — capabilities — and facilitating a long overdue shift away from New Delhi’s anxious talk about Beijing’s intentions.

 

If India’s military capabilities and security infrastructure were in better shape, New Delhi would have no reason to be surprised by Beijing’s many moves — including the most recent one on issuing visas on separate pieces of paper for Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir.

 

According to Antony, who has held the defence portfolio for some time, India did not invest adequately in military modernisation in the past, it was doing it now, and there was no reason to worry. His remarks amount to a confession, policy affirmation and public reassurance all rolled into one.

 

The minister’s remarks reveal the different policy universes that China and India inhabit. China’s national security elite has learnt the art of talking softly but acquiring bigger and better sticks. India, as a collective, in contrast, talks loudly, non-stop, and carries a small stick.

 

Take, for example, our nuclear debate. No other country in the world is as obsessed as India is with the “text” of the nuclear treaties and agreements. As a result, it spends so little time on the “context” of the changing nuclear and missile capabilities of other powers and the shifting balance among them.

 

Our Parliament repeatedly debated the civil nuclear initiative with the US during 2005-08 and came close to pulling down the Manmohan Singh government, thanks to the tacit partnership between the CPM and the BJP.

 

The Karat-Advani combine had not once sought a parliamentary debate on the first ever agreement on the principles of a border settlement that the UPA government signed with China in April 2005.

 

It is easy to understand why Karat did not, but certainly not why Advani chose silence on the China border issues.

 

No one, least of all China, stops us from modernising our armed forces and defence infrastructure. Consider the Chinese reaction to our nuclear tests in May 1998. Beijing was relatively mute when the first round of tests was announced on May 11. It went ballistic on May 13, when Beijing concluded that Delhi was using the “China threat” to justify its tests.

 

If Beijing has not and cannot prevent us from building our defence capabilities, the defence minister will have to offer a little better than the casual remarks that his government has a policy to match China’s infrastructure on our borders.

 

We certainly know that the UPA government had taken a policy decision a few years ago on upgrading India’s civilian and military infrastructure all along the China border. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself went to Arunachal Pradesh, days after returning from a trip to Beijing, to announce a massive aid package on improving the infrastructure on the frontiers.

 

We presume it is the Border Roads Organisation under the defence ministry that is responsible for building, maintaining and upgrading transport infrastructure on the borders. As the minister in charge, could Antony tell us why the government cannot implement its own decisions on the China border?

 

It is nearly three years since China tested an anti-satellite weapon — in January 2007. That test certainly woke up Delhi into recognising China’s expansive military space programme. At that moment there were calls in Delhi for setting up a “space cell” to facilitate a focused Indian response.

 

Could the defence minister tell us what happened to that somewhat minimalist response to the dramatic transformation of China’s space strategy? Could Antony explain why he is not pressing for an explicit military space programme that his three services consider so necessary?

 

Staying with space, did the defence minister ever ask the Defence Research and Development Organisation and his public sector undertakings why India is so far behind China — in terms of both quality and quantity — on missile production? Has anyone told him that China is making big strides on using ballistic missiles for conventional military missions?

 

For nearly half a decade, the world has been abuzz with China’s rapid advances in cyber-warfare. China has made a strategic decision to focus on asymmetric warfare and has developed capabilities to hack into the computers of even the United States on a routine basis. Could Antony tell us what the government has done in response? Or why India, an alleged superpower in the IT domain, is lagging behind China on cyber-warfare?

 

Across the full spectrum of defence — from road building on the borders to missile production and from space technology to cyber-strategy — there is nothing in the public domain to suggest that our defence ministry is on top of its China game. As the minister responsible for the security of this nation, Antony owes the nation a serious explanation on how he proposes to address China’s widening lead on all major indicators of defence and military technology.

 

China, with its enduring tradition of respecting the logic of power, may be more sensitive to India’s concerns if it finds out that New Delhi has the will to power.

 

If New Delhi embarks on purposeful military modernisation and is open to constructive negotiations, it might discover interesting trade-offs with Beijing on Kashmir, Tibet and the entire Himalayan frontier.

 

But if the Indian establishment continues to oscillate between the loose talk on television and the perfunctory official assurances, China is bound to turn up the heat on a range of difficult issues and the UPA government will soon find there is no place to hide.

 

The writer is 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

COLUMN

LORDS OF THE RINGS

DESH GAURAV CHOPRA SEKHRI

 

The announcement regarding who the winner of the Olympics sweepstakes 2016 would be was preceded by intense lobbying, by Chicago and Rio de Janeiro, with American President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, joining the sales pitch. The selection process itself is quite complicated, with 99 of the 106 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members who are eligible to vote deciding on the host based on a variety of considerations.

 

However, the real work begins once the host is chosen.

 

Hosting the Olympics changes the complexion of a city, in ways that often permeate or trickle down to the citizens of the host city and its environs, in ways that extend far beyond sports, and sometimes reality. Each of the Olympics venues over the last 50 years rose into prominence, with the Olympics defining cities like Montreal, Athens, Beijing and Sydney. The Olympics are an unprecedented event for any city and country that win a bid to host them, but the bidding and qualification process is the last link in a long chain of events that results in the physical hosting of such an event, an extremely complicated as well as capital-intensive mandate. The Olympics are often seen as an opportunity to showcase a city and a country from a tourism perspective, as well as other trade and financial considerations. They are not usually cost-effective to the host, and in terms of infrastructure development as well as other steps and preparations that a city must take to become “compliant” with the extremely stringent requirements, the city must show overall capability and past experience with hosting multi-discipline events.

 

A case in point is Delhi, which, in its efforts to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games as the first step in an eventual 2020 (or later) Olympics bid, has come across more stumbling blocks than the Steeplechase event, or the 400 metres hurdles. Delhi is a perfect example of the roadmap for hosting an Olympics event however, despite the struggles it is going through. The first step was hosting the Asian Games, and much of the infrastructure that Delhi has today can be attributed to that event, in the hospitality, recreation, and sports domain. Similarly, as the dust literally and metaphorically settles on the CWG preparation, the entire complexion of the city would have changed. Simply put, Delhi will have taken giant steps in the hospitality domain, with innumerable hotels in every price range dotting the NCR, and more importantly, and if all goes well, the sports facilities will be world class.

 

The contrast between the CWG and the Olympics is stark. The CWG, for all intents and purposes, are just that: and not even the Commonwealth cares what happens in them. The phased preparation was meant to set Delhi up and showcase it as an audition for the IOC, to show that it could successfully host a marquee multi-day and multi-discipline event, albeit on a smaller scale.

 

The benefits of the Olympics infrastructure from a sports perspective also extend to improving the quality of training, facilities, and eventually performances of the host country’s athletes. If one looks at trends, it’s extremely rare that a host country embarrasses itself, and this could be an ego issue, but it’s more likely that the host country becomes more aware of what it takes for its athletes to succeed, and actually invests the national resources into its athletic talent pool to bring it up to speed.

 

Another aspect from the financial perspective that simply cannot be ignored is that once these world-class facilities are constructed, Delhi can play host to professional sports events and leagues. A world-class soccer stadium could see Manchester United and Chelsea, who often complain about the abysmal conditions, visit and compete in an exhibition or overseas league match. Similarly, world-class stadiums for tennis, hockey, basketball and other spectator-friendly sports could in the future result in ATP, NBA, or other global events that are sanctioned by the sports’ respective leagues.

 

There is a reason why Obama graced Copenhagen to support his home city. The Olympics synergise, electrify and captivate the casual spectator and corporate honchos like no other event in the world.

 

Beyond just sports, what the Olympics bring to a city in terms of global marketing, branding, awareness, sophistication and media attention is unprecedented and unmatched by any other event in any other industry. It also changes the perception and processes/ infrastructure of an entire country, with national security being ramped up, cyber and intellectual property laws implemented systematically and of course the infrastructure becoming internationally acceptable.

 

The Olympics are magical, larger than life and a battle against time and the odds that could eventually determine the host’s reputation. A real-life “Lord of the Rings” in every which way.

 

The writer is a sports attorney (express@expressindia.com)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FROM KABUL TO COLABA

Y P RAJESH

 

Over the last few weeks, the gridlocked roads of Mumbai have occasionally been greeted by the rather incongruous sight of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), parked near a busy junction or tailing a Ganesha immersion procession. Travel advisories warning of the possibility of terror attacks have come from even as hardy a country as Israel and spooked visitors. The US Consulate was first off the block with a security drill last week and the Mumbai Police followed it up with one of their own near the mission and at some malls, showing up with commandos and the APC.

 

It has been 10 months since the November 26 terror attack, and local as well as foreign security establishments have been unable to hide their nervousness in the face of the series of opportunities for the jihad factory across the border: the Ganesha festival, followed by Ramzan, Jewish holidays, Dushera, Maharashtra elections and Diwali. Or the fear of just a random day on the calendar such as November 26 becoming victim to the larger geopolitical crisis in South Asia. And now, a respected American newspaper writes about how the Lashkar-e-Toiba has actually grown in strength and that the Pakistani establishment has pretty much been unable to do anything about it, and more attacks in India cannot be ruled out.

 

The APC, therefore, is not as much a surprise — even though it would seem more at home on Residency Road or at Lal Chowk in Srinagar — as it is a tactic, one of “area domination” that sends out a clear signal that forces are present and ready to take on the enemy. It is a good deterrent but never fool-proof. Not in the face of the much larger tactical games being played across the border with such regular and predictable frequency that it would be insulting India’s intelligence if it isn’t seen through. To be fair to diplomats who have turned grey dealing with Islamabad and its games, there is an awareness in South Block that the India-Pakistan engagement in the last decade or so has become more a game of chess. And one that they don’t have complete control over even when it comes to their own moves because of the overarching political hand that makes and guides policy as it rightly should.

 

Flashback to the Lahore bus diplomacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Kargil fiasco that followed a decade ago. Cut to the attack on Parliament in December 2001 which led to Operation Parakram and the two-year hiatus in relations between the two countries and the fear of a nuclear war. The serial bomb blasts on Mumbai’s local trains in 2006 once again saw “peace-talks” being suspended only to be revived after the formation of a comic face-saver called the Joint Terror Mechanism. Mumbai 26/11 is becoming an all too familiar repeat performance. Suspension of talks, meetings between leaders of the two countries on foreign soil, a semantic concession here, a nudge and a wink from Washington there, a few months of quiet amid an exchange of evidence, dossiers and stray hot words, and it is back to business as usual.

 

The stray rays of hope that emerged in this decade died as much for their radicalness as for their differing perceptions on either side. The backchannel diplomacy between President Musharraf’s regime and the Manmohan Singh government which explored an out-of-the box solution to Kashmir such as creating soft borders, encouraging trade and movement of people and eventually some form of autonomy agreeable to both countries, was the boldest idea to emerge vis-à-vis Kashmir in recent times. Although both sides felt this could be a win-win solution to start with, Musharraf’s own instability and eventual departure and South Block’s subsequent smugness that it may have outstared the rival brought complacency back into the equation until 26/11 shocked India back to reality.

The now-visible, now-invisible third force, Washington, needs to shoulder a considerable portion of the blame for this flux. Whether it was George W. Bush taking his eye away from Afghanistan to slay non-existent demons in Iraq or Obama returning with a muscular Af-Pak policy, Washington has allowed Islamabad to play around with its pawns and plan diversions that have triggered havoc from Kabul to Colaba. Which brings us to the timing of the semantic concessions India made to Pakistan at Sharm el-Sheikh, just before the Afghan presidential elections in which Washington invested much to further its Af-Pak strategy and is now increasingly looking like a millstone in the face of Pakistan’s intransigence to act against the likes of Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed.

 

Now, as we hear Indian ministers saying that “enough evidence has been given to Pakistan”, and that tired old line of “Islamabad must dismantle the infrastructure of terror before talks can resume”, India’s Pakistan policy is beginning to appear emaciated. No one can grudge a Vajpayee or a Manmohan Singh their desire to make history by resolving the Pakistan problem and leave that behind as their legacy. But that can only be possible after Pakistan overcomes its delusions and rises as a responsible state with whom neighbours can do business. Until then, India’s Pakistan policy needs to be realistic, avoiding the pitfalls of short-term tactical games that others in the ring are adept at playing. If that means strengthening our defences with APCs and raising the pitch through more aggressive coercive diplomacy like in 2002, it would be money and effort well-spent in the short term. Just as sections of the media and the strategic community need to stand down on the needless heat raised about China, the government needs to stand up and infuse some fresh thinking and energy into its Pakistan strategy.

 

yp.rajesh@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PRINTLINE PAKISTAN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

OBDURATE INDIA

The much talked about meeting of foreign ministers of India and Pakistan along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly resulted in little progress. Dawn reported on September 28: “After extensive two-hour talks, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna admitted the two sides failed to fix a date for the resumption of dialogue suspended after the Mumbai attacks. ‘They understood our position and did not insist on fixing a date,’ said the Indian foreign minister. Qureshi said: ‘I think India is stuck in a groove. Pakistan has moved on... I feel there is room to move forward. I am here to act on the decision taken by the two PMs at Sharm el-Sheikh that the foreign ministers will meet to carry the dialogue forward, because according to Dr Singh, that is the only way forward.”

 

BACKCHANNEL DIPLOMACY

The idea of backchannel diplomacy was also ignored by India, as Dawn reported: “He (Qureshi) said India had rejected a Pakistani proposal for the backchannel diplomacy... Yet, both sides insisted the talks were ‘positive, frank and useful’.” Daily Times quoted Krishna: “Front channels are open for diplomacy... backchannel diplomacy is not needed.” Dawn added Qureshi’s reply: “If they want a front channel, we are more than happy to do so... Pakistan had put forth this proposal to help overcome India’s reluctance to engage in open talks with Islamabad.” Daily Times, in its September 29 editorial made a three-point analysis of Pakistan’s expectations from resuming dialogue with India: “1. If Pakistan is calling for talks, what does it want from them? Does it need them to get India to move towards an overhaul of bilateral relations, or does it want a resumption of the long-stalled ‘composite dialogue’ just for the sake of talking? 2.Does Pakistan need the dialogue more than India? If that is the case, then, it will have to give ground rather than expect India to conform to strict ‘reciprocation’. 3. A re-examination of the regional status quo among the stakeholders in Pakistan must be conducted before resuming talks... If disputes are not settled, what are Pakistan’s options? The ‘composite’ dialogue ran out of wind despite the bilateral ‘equalisation’ of the nuclear test in 1998. Will it start breathing now when the world is siding with India?”

 

PM Yousaf Gilani added a dash of spice to this already acrid debate as The News reported on September 30: “ ‘The resolution of Kashmir is the basis for normalisation of relations with India...’ he said while addressing a huge gathering in Gilgit. The event is being described as the beginning of PPP’s campaign for the forthcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. It was Prime Minister Gilani’s first visit to the area after it was granted internal autonomy.”

 

MEETING MUSHARRAF

On September 29, The News reported that: “President Asif Zardari is said to have met former President Pervez Musharraf near New York... Reliable sources said Musharraf discussed with Zardari the name of a person whom he wants as successor to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The would-be successor is said to be a confidante of Musharraf and he could manipulate the situation to defuse the popular demand for Musharraf’s trial and help the former dictator in his re-entry into power politics. According to sources, American patrons of Zardari and Musharraf arranged their meeting. However, sources close to the president rejected the report on this secret meeting... They said it was Zardari’s strategy that forced the former dictator, Musharraf, to quit power. Zardari has no love lost for the former dictator. His detractors spread such stories to defame him. Zardari also had few other meetings with CIA and Pentagon officials...”

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RED OCTOBER

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

The latest threat that Nepal faces is from Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists(CPN-M). “Come Deepawali, we will launch a fresh wave of revolution. And even the United Nations will back it,” he declared during an informal chat with ‘comrade journalists’ recently. His other, more aggressive, comrades in the party have warned that if peaceful methods fail to get power back to the fold of the Maoists, “we will go for other options”. A powerful leader of the Young Communist League (YCL) even declared that the party would physically target its enemies.

 

While Prachanda’s latest threat, if implemented, will mean unilaterally calling off the peace process, it has visibly embarrassed the United Nations, especially its two agencies, the United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (OHCHR) — often accused by other parties of being lenient towards the Maoists. UNMIN said it will only be acting in support of a peaceful democratic movement. OHCHR issued a statement asking the Maoists to hand-over its leaders, wanted in cases of individual and mass murder, to the police for trial.

 

But now, it is not only about how fair UNMIN and OHCHR have been to the role assigned to them. It’s more about the ineffectiveness of the UN in circumstances where other key actors are more power hungry, less committed to democracy and less committed to long-term peace. 85-year old G.P. Koirala — his body and stamina almost comparable to Morarji Desai’s, but his lust for power unparalleled — wants his daughter Sujata Koirala elevated to the rank of deputy prime minister (she is currently minister for foreign affairs) in lieu of his cooperation in the constitution-making process. He also said recently that he would go to the extent of sacrificing himself to save the country from disintegration. But Koirala’s words hardly enthused any hope among the people since he — in close company of and support from the Maoist chief — has rightly been blamed for the current impasse. Maoists have been demanding the creation of provinces on the basis of language and ethnicity with the right to self-determination. Not on one occasion in the past did Koirala, as the prime minister of the Maoist-backed coalition, warn Maoists that their policy was wrong and may lead to the disintegration of the nation. Koirala, like the Maoists, has of late, also tried to invoke “nationalism” by blaming India for much of the current mess that the country is in.

 

According to Kamal Thapa, president of the pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N), at least two million foreigners (read Indians) have been given Nepali citizenship, and a million Hindus have converted to Christianity during the past three years since G.P. Koirala took over as the prime minister following King Gyanendra’s surrender to the political parties as part of an India-mediated settlement. Nepali Hindus, some of them clearly backed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s Nepal chapter — Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh — are regrouping against the spate of alleged conversions. Even ordinary Hindus feel that Maoists and G.P. Koirala — a self-declared atheist — are anti-Hindu. The proof: his silence during the assault on priests of the Pashupati temple by the pro-Maoist groups recently, the second time in less than seven months. In fact, Maoists have been the cause of most of the problems, and are its beneficiaries. The absence of visible authority of the state has given Maoists, especially its leadership, the space to say or do anything and get away with it. Prachanda’s threat of imminent revolt by the people in less than three weeks, and his aide Baburam Bhattarai’s assertion that Kathmandu would be the laboratory of renewed bloodshed, can no longer be dismissed as a Maoist bargain for a hand-over of power to a government led by it once again. These are messages, loud and clear, that they may try to snatch power through the barrel of guns, silent and idle for the past three plus years.

 

Should the violence erupt in Nepal afresh, the country will have no dependable friends and international agencies like in the past. India’s mediation that brought seven pro-democracy parties and the Maoists together, is being seen as a failure. And UNMIN or the UN are also being seen as equal failures. Privately, Maoists say that trusting external forces including India was a blunder on their part. But whether they are going to sincerely pursue a politics of consensus, or continue with their politics of divide and demolish, needs to be seen.

 

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED

PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Another stimulus, no matter how politically difficult, is necessary Conventional wisdom overstates the case. The true fiscal costs of supporting the economy are surprisingly small.

 

STOCKS are up. Ben Bernanke says that the recession is over. And I sense a growing willingness among movers and shakers to declare "Mission Accomplished" when it comes to fighting the slump. It's time, I keep hearing, to shift our focus from economic stimulus to the budget deficit. No, it isn't. And the complacency now setting in over the state of the economy is both foolish and dangerous.

 

Yes, the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration have pulled us "back from the brink" -- the title of a new paper by Christina Romer, who leads the Council of Economic Advisers.


She argues convincingly that expansionary policy saved us from a possible replay of the Great Depression.

 

But while not having another depression is a good thing, all indications are that unless the government does much more than is currently planned to help the economy recover, the job market -- a market in which there are currently six times as many people seeking work as there are jobs on offer -- will remain terrible for years to come.

 

Anyone who thinks that we're doing enough to create jobs should read a new report from John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute, which describes the "scarring" that's likely to result from sustained high unemployment. Among other things, Mr Irons points out that sustained unemployment on the scale now being predicted would lead to a huge rise in child poverty -- and that there's overwhelming evidence that children who grow up in poverty are alarmingly likely to lead blighted lives.

 

These human costs should be our main concern, but the dollars and cents implications are also dire. Projections by the Congressional Budget Office, for example, imply that over the period from 2010 to 2013 -- that is, not counting the losses we've already suffered -- the "output gap," the difference between the amount the economy could have produced and the amount it actually produces, will be more than $2 trillion. That's trillions of dollars of productive potential going to waste.

 

Wait. It gets worse. A new report from the International Monetary Fund shows that the kind of recession we've had, a recession caused by a financial crisis, often leads to long-term damage to a country's growth prospects. "The path of output tends to be depressed substantially and persistently following banking crises."

 

The same report, however, suggests that this isn't inevitable: "We findthatastrongershort-termfiscal policy response" -- by which they mean a temporary increase in government spending -- "is significantly associated with smaller medium-term output losses."

 

So we should be doing much more than we are to promote economic recovery, not just because it would reduce our current pain, but also because it would improve our long-run prospects.

 

But can we afford to do more -- to provide more aid to beleaguered state governments and the unemployed, to spend more on infrastructure, to provide tax credits to employers who create jobs? Yes, we can.

 

The conventional wisdom is that trying to help the economy now produces short-term gain at the expense of long-term pain.


But as I've just pointed out, from the point of view of the nation as a whole that's not at all how it works. The slump is doing longterm damage to our economy and society, and mitigating that slump will lead to a better future.

 

What is true is that spending more on recovery and reconstruction would worsen the government's own fiscal position.
But even there, conventional wisdom greatly overstates the case. The true fiscal costs of supporting the economy are surprisingly small.

 

You see, spending money now means a stronger economy, both intheshortrunandinthelongrun.
And a stronger economy means more revenues, which offset a large fraction of the upfront cost.
Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the offset falls short of 100 per cent, so that fiscal stimulus isn't a complete free lunch. But it costs far less than you'd think from listening to what passes for informed discussion.

 

Look, I know more stimulus is a hard sell politically. But it's urgently needed. The question shouldn't be whether we can afford to do more to promote recovery. It should be whether we can afford not to. And the answer is no.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ICANN, BUT CAN THEY?


That the Internet originated in the US is indisputable. But as to who controls it now, opposite opinions have held equally strong. The people at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, have answered ‘no one’. It’s been over a decade since the US technically surrendered over the Internet to this independent body. Internet users have grown 20 times during this period, with domain names having grown from around 20 million to 200 million. ICANN has held that its representational structure—made up of numerous supporting organisations and advisory committees—allowed everyone affected by the Internet to be a part of its decision-making. An opposite camp—again, made up of numerous parties ranging from individuals to businesses and governments—has seen this answer disingenuous. Not only is ICANN incorporated in the US, it has ultimately been controlled by the US Department of Commerce. Now, ICANN controls the domain name system, or the root server system that translates text-based email and web addresses into numerical Internet protocol—think everything from .com and .net to .edu and .mil. When the master root system is based in the US and it’s not just the US Department of Commerce but also its Department of Defence and the US Army Research Lab that have oversight over the servers, it’s no surprise that France, China, Libya, Brazil, South Africa and motley others have been crying foul. Their cry hasn’t really captured the public imagination simply because ICANN, to its great credit, has managed the many challenges posed by the Internet’s unforeseen expansion quite efficiently. Threats of going rogue—setting up a separate Internet—don’t have much cache when the dominant system’s USP is universality.

 

This week, ICANN has taken its critics by surprise with a new Affirmation of Commitments, whereby the US will renounce primary control to become a member of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom said the US will have a seat at the GAC table—representing 100 countries—but there will be no separate reporting to its government: “All the reporting is to the world; that’s the real change.” Not just governments but also companies from around the world are being promised greater representation. Bill Clinton had directed the formation of ICANN and President Obama appears to be overseeing a further democratisation of the Internet. Meanwhile, the Internet has so expanded across the world that only 15% of its users now reside in North America. So, are the Democrats playing this right? Let’s put it this way: hope China, Libya or other countries impatient with the chaos of democratic expression don’t play a major role in setting policy.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE REAL PICTURE


After a year of lull, real estate prices are rising in both commercial and residential sectors and developers are announcing a slew of premium residential projects. Though there is a pent-up demand for small and mid-sized apartments, any speculative increase in pricing would discourage genuine buyers this time around. Many say a bubble is building up in the sector again and a timely intervention by RBI would cool things down. The memory of high-end and high-margin projects creating froth last year is still fresh. The central bank has already sent a note of caution to banks to factor in loans extended to subsidiaries, special purpose vehicles and related parties of real estate companies. Developers float a number of subsidiaries to buy land as it saves them the effort to raise money through the equity route to buy land. Bank data shows that while overall credit flow has slowed down, the banking sector’s outstanding exposure to the real estate sector was Rs 95,000 crore at the end of May—52% higher than the same period last year—and a substantial part of the money has gone to subsidiaries. Remember that increase in lending to subsidiaries led to tightening of bank credit last year. Given the hardening of real estate prices without substantial increase in sales, the central bank may once again increase the risk weightage for the commercial real estate segment. The same measure, announced by RBI in 2007, was criticised. But hindsight shows RBI got it right that time.

 

The other aspect is that when land price jumps sharply, demand for what is called affordable housing goes unmet. Recession or no recession, the demand for housing will continue to rise due to urbanisation, demographic change and falling household size. During the peak of the credit crunch, cash-strapped and highly leveraged real estate companies announced a host of affordable housing schemes mainly to take advantage of various policy initiatives and tax incentives announced by the government. It’s time to do a realty check on their progress. The draft Bill on real estate regulator, which is likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, has already drawn the ire of developers. Among other things, it mandates that a builder will have to register a project with the regulator before he can market the property. For this, the builder will have to submit a documentary proof of land ownership and mandatory approvals to the regulator. Only then will registration take place. Of course, this should not become another layer of bureaucracy that hassles businessmen. But a regulator who works fast but keeps an eye on things is not a bad idea. Some firms launch housing projects without having requisite land and some offer apartments that don’t have all approvals. That’s anti-consumer.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

DOT COM IN EVERYONE’S DOMAIN NOW

SUMANT SRIVATHSAN

 

The Internet is much like the Matrix; while we sit at work or at home, surfing the Web and checking our email, there are forces at work behind the scenes, making sure that what we’re looking for is indeed what we get. The most influential of these is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages the 13 root domain name servers (DNS) which match familiar URLs like www.google.com to arcane IP addresses, which are nothing more than series of numbers. ICANN was established as a non-profit organisation in 1998 by the US Department of Commerce (DoC) to provide operational stability for the Internet and to oversee the allocation of generic top level domains (gTLDs) such as .com and .org and country codes such as .in and .uk (ccTLDs).

 

Rod Beckstrom, president of ICANN, announced on Wednesday that after the end of the Joint Project Agreement between ICANN and DoC, the organisation would move into an independent role with increased representation for international parties. ICANN had previously requested a move to the private sector in 2005, a move which was endorsed by the United Nations, but was rejected by the Bush administration. The MoU between the DoC and ICANN has been replaced with an Affirmation of Commitments which detail ICANN’s way forward, and DoC’s engagement with ICANN’s new international Governmental Advisory Council.

 

When ICANN was instituted, the US had the largest Internet population in the world. Much has changed since then, and over 40% of the world’s Internet users today live in the Asia-Pacific region, with Europe occupying the second spot. The Internet is unquestionably a global entity, and it is unacceptable that such a large chunk of global commerce and productivity are under US governance. ICANN has also come under attack for lack of transparency and independence, with the accusation that the vested interests of domain registrars and registry services play a larger role in ICANN’s decisions than is good for the health and wellbeing of the Internet and its users. The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) has called for a full-scale audit of ICANN’s operations One high-profile example cited towards US government interference was ICANN’s move to reject the creation of the .xxx TLD for the exclusive use of porn sites at the behest of the Bush administration.

 

One of the key roles an international ICANN is expected to play is to ensure that the language of the Internet is truly global. This includes the use of international character sets and local language support for various countries not only for content creation, but also for URL formation and in ccTLDs. Beckstrom confirmed that Russian and Chinese character support for ccTLDs would be in place by 2010, provided security issues are resolved. A common domain hack used by spammers and phishing sites is the use of Cyrillic characters that resemble Roman letters in URLs. It would be exciting to watch the Indian-language online ecosystem grow to the extent that users would be able to use the Internet solely in Hindi, Tamil or Gujarati.

 

There is a concern that the decoupling of ICANN from DoC oversight could result in a glut of TLDs with little significance beyond a handful of industries and companies. gTLDs such as .realty, .cola and .sport could result in huge revenues for domain registrars and for ICANN ($185,000 per TLD), but with little or no value for Internet users, or for the organisations that will now have to spend lots more money to protect their trademarks on the Internet. The US government has had its reservations on this issue, and it is likely that the new Governmental Advisory Council (with representation from DoC as well as other international governments and organisations) that will run ICANN will also ensure that judicious restraint is exercised.

 

 

It has also been stated that a global ICANN could make it very easy for governments such as China and North Korea to enforce censorship on the Internet. This is somewhat fallacious, as the steps required to restrict access on the Internet does not change. A set of IP addresses would have to be identified as unacceptable, and then blocked. The technology of censorship is not related to the administration of the TLDs. While China could block ccTLDs of Chinese origin, the rest of the Internet is still subject to the same aforementioned technical processes.

 

Now that the administration of the Internet is in global hands, it is time for Europeans and Asians to put their hands up and take on the challenge. The Internet is growing more rapidly and in ways hitherto unimaginable. National and political boundaries have become redundant for this entity, and recognition of this fact is crucial to the long-term growth, sustenance and well-being of online communication, information sharing, commerce and creativity.

 

The author, a digital marketing professional since 2004, is now part of Microsoft Advertising’s India team

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT WILL SUNIL MITTAL DO NOW?

ANANDITA SINGH MANKOTIA


The story of Sunil Bharti Mittal’s rise as India’s telecom czar is too familiar by now. Quick summary: ordinary graduate from Ludhiana joined business in 1984 and busted all categories in the hierarchy-ridden world of Indian business. Just how much this story misses the MTN ending is clear from this: MTN is the official sponsor of the 2010 FIFA world cup being held in South Africa, Mittal would probably have been on the dais, presenting the trophy to the winning team. There is no brand campaign more powerful than association with world cup soccer. Mittal would of course know this. And that gives you a better idea than all the hard analysis how much Mittal misses not bagging MTN.

 

Mittal will have to adjust to Bharti not getting MTN because he’s not used to not getting his way. Beginning 1995, when cellular services commenced in the Delhi circle, Bharti was a big player. There were big challengers. In 2003, when the then undivided Reliance’s telecom ambitions took shape and the Reliance Infocomm’s juggernaut rolled out, the threat was that the masses who will buy cheap phones/services will push aside the classes, till then the mainstay of the business. Mittal has spoken about those times, his concerns. Some telecom players took a hit. Bharti became number one.

 

Bharti’s other businesses—agri-produce, insurance, retail—haven’t yet posted the big success. So, Mittal, while keen to diversify, remains essentially a telecom man. When asked how he sees revenue streams from his businesses five years down the line, he answers more than 70% would come from telecom.

 

Everyone says the Indian telecom market has growth potential and that MTN or no MTN, Bharti is well-placed. But this argument lacks the perspective of a key number and a key fact: tele-density in India is 42% and in circles like Delhi it is 110%, but in rural India, tele-density is only 18%. That’s the key data—the key fact is that 3G services may finally get going. Once sections of existing customers start migrating to 3G, spectrum will free up for 2G—that’s where the opportunity is for a big growth in subscriber base; more than 80% of rural Indians need a phone.

 

But Bharat won’t give Sunil Bharti Mittal a high profile place in global telecom history. What will is a replication of the Bharat model elsewhere. The low cost/low tariff/high volume model looks tailor-made for other emerging markets.

 

MTN’s out for now at least. Let’s look at other possibilities in emerging markets: Latin America, Middle East and Africa. Mittal is obviously too smart to go for a greenfield route in any of these markets. So, what can he acquire?

 

In Latin America, European and American telecom giants such as Telefonica and America Movil are well entrenched. There’s no way Bharti can acquire these companies, given their size and businesses. Also, Latin American countries that have strong economies, for example, Brazil, have high tele-density. Countries that have lower tele-density don’t look economically stable. So, scratch Latin America out.

 

Middle East is an attractive market with a big problem for an acquirer: the acquisition value of companies here will be very high. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Oman have two or three operators and the average revenue per user is very high. Tele-density is over 60% and the population base is stable. This translates into a business model that’s high value/low volume. This is exactly what Bharti’s low cost/high volume strategy can’t adjust to. Also, bids for licences in these countries touches astronomical numbers. Bharti is averse to price wars. A licence auction in Saudi Arabia recently touched $5 billion. A similar auction in Iran reached $2 billion.

 

So, what’s left? Africa, the home base of MTN. Africa’s tele-density is around 30%, somewhat lower than India’s, and the market very similar. Most African countries have a state-owned carrier and two private players. Zain Telecom is one such operator. It has a presence in 24 countries. Its Africa operations have been up for sale. But Zain is not MTN, which would have given Bharti more heft.

 

So, this is where Mittal stands now. Prospects in India: very good; prospects of becoming a global player on the basis of only Indian success: not very good; prospects of successful acquisitions in Latin America or Middle East: not very good; prospects in Africa: good; best buy in Africa: probably MTN.

 

It’s back to where it’s started and that’s the biggest challenge for Sunil Mittal, probably the biggest challenge of his career. He can’t be what he wants to be if he can’t get what he has failed to get twice. It would have been easy for Mittal if he could have moved on and looked at other buys. But really, he can’t.

 

anandita.mankotia@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AMERICA’S RICH LOSE MORE, AND GIVE MORE

JAYA JUMRANI

 

For those of you who think that you’ve had tough times since last year here is a bit of consolation. In this social group you are not alone, but are accompanied by the world’s richest people who also have taken big hits last year. According to the Forbes magazine’s just released annual ranking, the collective wealth of the 400 richest Americans has fallen by $300 bn over the past year from $1.57 trillion to $1.27 trillion—an annual decline of 19%.

 

It is only the fifth time since the Forbes 400 was first compiled in 1982 that the collective wealth has fallen. This year, there is not much difference from the 2008 list. Bill Gates (Microsoft) is still on the top worth an estimated $50 bn. Warren Buffet and Lawrence Elison are still in the second and third spot. The Walton family members occupy the fourth to seventh position in the list. There are four Indian Americans on the list as well.

This year there were many first timers for the Forbes 400 list. It was the first time for the list to account for last year’s stock market crash which caused the economy to falter and property prices to plunge. Also, the threshold level to enter the exclusive club has been reduced to $ 950 mn from a billion. According to estimates, around 79% saw a decline in their wealth. Out of the 400 individuals, 274 were self-made tycoons and 14% either never went to or never completed college. Overall, 314 people lost money this past year as compared to only 126, the year before.

 

Like the rest of us, the richest people in the world have withstood a financial disaster over the past year. There has been a 30% decline in the number of billionaires from 1,125 last year to just 793 this year. Interestingly, earlier this year in August, Forbes had for the first time released a list of the world’s billion-dollar donors. According to it, surprisingly only 14 out of the 793 billionaires in the world were living philanthropists who had given away $1 bn or more.

 

Also, this generosity was predominant among Americans. 10 out of the 14 philanthropists were from the US, even though only 45% of the world’s billionaires reside there.

 

jaya.jumrani@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

NEXT STEPS ON PAKISTAN

 

After the politically damaging controversy triggered by the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint declaration in July, it was perhaps too much to expect any real movement forward when the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met in New York last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s instincts may be to keep finding ways of engagement with Islamabad but he also knows the only way this can happen is for Pakistan to demonstrate it has started seriously addressing Indian concerns. In the run up to New York, the Pakistani side made some attempt to improve the optics. Yet another dossier was handed over and two criminal cases were filed against the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, Hafiz Saeed, though the refusal or failure of the police to arrest him or even place him under “protective custody” robbed the move of any real significance as far as New Delhi was concerned. By all accounts, the Indian delegation in New York received a comprehensive briefing from the Pakistanis on the progress made in the Mumbai terror attack case. In turn, they told their Pakistani interlocutors that India needs to wait and see how the cases that have been filed against key Lashkar operatives like Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah play out once their trials formally begin next week.

 

Given the ups and downs in the bilateral relationship, the trust deficit, and the need to prepare the ground for confidence-building over the long-haul, India is entirely justified in reserving judgment until the trial actually commences and makes visible headway. As and when a certain comfort level is achieved, the threads of dialogue are likely to be picked up. But the problem of Lashkar’s terrorism is not simply legal. Sooner or later, Pakistan has to realise that these kinds of terrorist groups have to be confronted politically. Islamabad’s insistence on “evidence” and other legal niceties is all very well but those are not the tools it is using to deal with the threat the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda are posing to it. The Inter Services Intelligence directorate may think it can manage the LeT and kindred groups for all time to come and that they will never pose an existential threat to Pakistan in the way the TTP does. Such a belief is seriously misplaced. The threat posed by such terrorist groups may be uneven but its impact on the future of Pakistan is uniformly destructive. There are already indications that the extremist menace has firmly taken root in southern Punjab. If left unattended, there is no telling where bomb blasts and sectarian massacres will take place next. Unfortunately, the ISI has not yet taken a decision to make the course correction that Pakistan so desperately needs. Until then, India should work out a viable strategy of engagement while taking all the internal measures needed to protect itself from terrorists based across the border.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

GLIMMER OF HOPE

 

After more than two decades of relentless effort and several failures, there is a glimmer of hope, from the results of the Phase III HIV/AIDS vaccine clinical trial conducted in Thailand. The vaccine candidates used in the prime-boost trial that started six years ago and involved more than 16,000 volunteers in the 18-30 age group have been found to be safe and 31 per cent effective in preventing HIV infection. Compared to vaccines against other diseases, the efficacy of th is vaccine is just modest. Yet, this is the first time that a vaccine to prevent HIV infection has reached this level of effectiveness. The two vaccine candidates — ALVAC-HIV and AIDSVAX — used in this trial had earlier failed in their objectives when tested individually on humans. That led to the idea of using two different candidates in a prime-boost vaccine strategy in fighting the virus. The Phase I AIDS vaccine trial under way at the Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai, and National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, is using such an approach. But unlike in the Thailand trial, the booster used in the trial in the two cities evoked very good immune response during the Phase-I trial last year at TRC.

 

While showing modest effectiveness in preventing HIV infection, the vaccines tested in Thailand failed in their second objective of reducing the viral load in those who had become infected. The reason for this is not known. There are several other important parameters that are not known as, for instance, the duration of immune response and the mechanisms by which the two vaccines together prevented the virus from infecting the volunteers. While the duration of protection will become known when the full results are presented next month at an Aids conference in Paris, it will take some time to know how exactly the vaccines work to protect against infection. The information will help researchers in designing prime-boost vaccine combinations that will be more effective and also the type of vaccines that will work in Africa, where the strain is different and the need is the greatest. Despite the modest protection offered, the vaccine will go a long way in bringing down the number of people who get infected every year. Since it is only partially effective, and drugs to clear the infection are currently not available, those who have been administered the vaccine should continue to use the time-tested preventive measures to reduce the risk of infection.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

COMPANIES BILL & SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS, SOCIAL DIVERSITY AND SIMILAR ISSUES WITHIN A COMPANY MUST BE SEEN AS ITS CORE, INTERRELATED ELEMENTS.

MUKUL SHARMA

 

The introduction of the Companies Bill 2009 in the Lok Sabha on August 3, 2009 was an important step. First introduced in 2008, it lapsed because of the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha. The new Bill is meant to address issues of corporate governance and accountability. Companies are accountable for their financial performance as well as social impact. Thus, the Companies Act should be defined broadly, obliging companies to take stock of their business activities and the ir effect on employees, communities and the environment. This Bill, coming after more than 50 years, deserves much better understanding and broader coverage.

 

Companies are a powerful force for the good — they provide jobs, boost economies and help to protect the environment — but they can also cause serious problems. There are too many instances in which irresponsible behaviour by companies has harmed poor communities, undermined workers’ rights and damaged the environment. Voluntary measures such as codes of conduct or voluntary social and environmental reporting have failed to address these issues and deliver real change. There are too many documented cases in which companies have signed up for such voluntary codes but have failed to deliver.

 

During discussions last year on the need for a new Bill, there were concrete demands for changes in the law which would ensure that companies became:

 

(i) Transparent on their social and environmental impact. They should be legally required to report on these, both to shareholders and the public.

 

(ii) Responsible. Companies and their directors must have a lawful responsibility to manage their wider social and environmental impacts, including taking action to minimise any harm caused to workers, local communities and the environment.

 

(iii) Accountable. People who are harmed by the activities of a company should be able to take action against it in court, especially when government remedies are inadequate or unavailable.

 

WHAT THE BILL SAYS

The Companies Bill 2009 strives to provide certain basic principles for various aspects of internal governance of corporate entities and a framework for their regulation, and the articulation of shareholder democracy with protection of the rights of minority stakeholders, responsible self-regulation with disclosures and accountability, substitution of government control over internal corporate processes, and decisions by shareholder control. Shareholders’ Associations/Group of Shareholders will be enabled to take legal action for any fraudulent action by the company, and to take part in investor protection activities.

 

The Bill deals with the duties and liabilities of the directors and provides for independent directors to be appointed on the boards as may be prescribed, along with attributes determining independence. It recognises both accounting and auditing standards. A more effective regime for inspections and investigations of companies while laying down the maximum as well as minimum penalty for offence is prescribed. In case of fraudulent activities/acts, provisions for recovery and disgorgement have been included. There are special courts to deal with offences under the Bill.

Its lengthy arrangements of clauses are for incorporation of companies, share capital and debentures, management and administration, accounts of companies, audit and auditors, appointment and qualification of directors, inspection, inquiry and investigation, revival and rehabilitation of sick companies, the national company law tribunal and appellate tribunal, special courts and many more. However, the Bill, as proposed, has certain serious lacunae.

 

To illustrate this point, we can compare our Bill with the U.K. Companies Act that came into force in 2007-08. It lays out the basic procedures and systems for the operation of a company also in terms of social accountability, which are lacking in proposed Indian Bill. Unlike any previous law, the U.K. Act states companies must now consider their impact on the community, employees and the environment. Two key sections highlight links between a company’s financial performance and its social and environmental impacts. They are: (a) Directors’ duties (Section 172) — they have a responsibility to consider their company’s impact on a range of social and environmental matters; (b) Transparency (Section 417) — publicly listed U.K. companies have a responsibility to report openly on their social and environmental risks and opportunities to their shareholders, as well as on employee matters and risks down supply chains. With these two sections in place, the U.K. Act provides a tool to help defend the rights of people and protect the environment against irresponsible corporate behaviour. However, this is severely lacking in the Indian case.

 

WHAT SHOULD IT MEAN?

To make the Companies Bill in India truly effective, we have to think of it within the framework of corporate social accountability. The directors of a company have a primary duty to promote its success for the benefit of shareholders. Importantly, the Bill must state that in fulfilling this duty, directors should also consider issues relating to employees, suppliers, customers, community, and the environment. In practice, this means that violating social and environmental standards can present a financial risk to the company. Generally speaking, directors will be required to be more conscious of how they manage their social and environmental impacts.

Take another example. Companies are required to produce annual reports. Under the proposed Bill, they should be asked to report on environmental matters, including the impact of the business on environment, employees’ social and community issues, persons with whom the company has contractual or other arrangements, which are essential to the company’s business. Companies should be expected to report to shareholders measures for reducing pollution or carbon dioxide emissions, staff retention, diversity and training, human rights implications of their activities, and supply chain issues (including the environmental and human rights standards of other companies which they own or of which they are part).

 

Seeing the recent corporate events in India, stakeholders are demanding greater credibility and transparency from the companies. Just stressing management and administration, reporting and auditing and ensuring financial performance through the Bill are not enough. A new accountability system is required to define, capture, manage and report on obligatory indicators, beyond traditional financial measures of performance. There are growing efforts among countries and international organisations to move towards enforceable standards and implement a company management system that can assess and report on economic, environmental and social impacts together. Many times, money and effort have gone into preparing a new Company Bill with ideas “to allow the country to have modern legislation for growth and regulation of the corporate sector in India ... in consonance with the changes in the national and international economy,” “to be suitable for addressing various contemporary issues relating to corporate governance, including those which have been recently noticed during the investigation into the affairs of some of the companies.”

 

But what will be the real value if it remains a weak and narrow Act? This search for value can lead us to learn from different countries, and other Acts and formats, targeting multiple concerns. This approach will help the government and the corporate sector address some of the serious deficits that emerged in the past and exist in the present. Some of the limitations act as a reminder, telling us that financial governance is only one part of the broader issue of corporate governance, with diverse stakeholders, citizens and society at large. Environmental concerns, social diversity and similar issues within a company must therefore be seen as its core, interrelated elements. They should be in a continuum under such an Act rather than stand-alone exercises.

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED  

IG NOBEL AWARDS FOR STUPID SCIENCE

BRITONS GAIN SPOOF GONGS FOR STUDIES WITH MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS.

IAN SAMPLE

 

The nation can hold its head up high. Once again, Britons have been honoured in the annual Ig Nobel awards ceremony, the second most important event on the scientific calendar. The Ig Nobels, or Igs, are an annual exercise in irreverence that celebrate research that “cannot, or should not, be repeated”. They are given to scientists whose results first make people laugh, and then make them think.

 

The ceremony took place at Harvard University on Thursday, with the coveted prizes handed out by real Nobel

laureates. This year’s recipients were allowed no more than 60 seconds to deliver their acceptance speech, a time limit enforced by an eight-year-old girl.

 

The event is hosted by the Harvard-based journal Annals of Improbable Research, and is timed to coincide with the far more lucrative and legitimate Nobels, which are due to be announced in Stockholm next week. The Ig Nobel awards were:

 

Veterinary medicine prize: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson at Newcastle University’s school of agriculture share the award for the groundbreaking discovery that giving cows names such as Daisy increases their milk yield.

 

“It’s the highlight of my career,” said Ms Douglas. “The work amused the public, but it addressed a serious issue about the welfare of animals and points to an easy way to improve yields by reducing stress in cattle.”

 

Peace prize: Awarded for research on whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full beer bottle or an empty one, the prize went to Stephan Bolliger and colleagues at the University of Bern in Switzerland. “Empty beer bottles are sturdier than full ones,” the researchers reported. “However, both full and empty bottles are theoretically capable of fracturing the human neurocranium.”

 

Public health prize: Awarded to Elena Bodnar of Hinsdale, Illinois, for patenting a bra that, in an emergency, can be converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the owner and one for a needy bystander. “This way, the mask is always readily available,” she said.

 

Medicine prize: To Donald Unger, a doctor in Thousand Oaks, California, who cracked the knuckles of his left hand, but never those on his right, every day for 60 years to investigate whether it caused arthritis. Mr. Unger, now 83, told the Guardian: “After 60 years, I looked at my knuckles and there’s not the slightest sign of arthritis. I looked up to the heavens and said: ‘Mother, you were wrong, you were wrong, you were wrong.”’

 

Chemistry prize: Javier Morales shares the award with two colleagues at the National University of Mexico for turning the national drink, tequila, into diamonds. Thin films of diamond were produced by heating 80 per cent-proof tequila blanco in a pressure vessel.

 

Biology prize: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University graduate school of medical sciences in Japan share the prize for demonstrating that kitchen waste can be reduced by more than 90 per cent by using bacteria extracted from giant panda excrement.

 

 

Mr. Taguchi suspected panda faeces must contain bacteria capable of breaking down even the hardiest of foods because of the bear’s vast consumption of bamboo.

 

Mathematics prize: Awarded to Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple way of dealing with a wide range of numbers. Mr. Gono ordered his bank to print notes with denominations ranging from one cent to one hundred trillion dollars.

 

Literature prize: Awarded to the entire police force of Ireland for issuing more than 50 penalties to a man they supposed to be the most persistent driving offender in the country: a Mr. Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means “driver’s licence”.

 

An investigation held earlier this year revealed officers had mistakenly taken down the wrong details from motorists’ documents.

 

Economics prize: Awarded to the directors, executives and auditors of four Icelandic banks: Kaupthing bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir bank and Central Bank of Iceland, “for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy”. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED  

MAFIA HOLDS SWAY OVER 13 MILLION ITALIANS

TOM KINGTON

 

The mafia’s formidable grip on Italy has been starkly illustrated by a new report claiming 13 million Italians live in areas where the mob exerts influence over everyday life.

 

Commissioned by Italy’s parliamentary anti-mafia commission, the report by research institute Censis used crime statistics to find the number of urban and rural districts where clans are active in the Italian south.

 

The Italians living in the 610 districts identified, even if law abiding and not members of clans, “are in some way conditioned by a presence that draws its strength from the ability to exert a capillary control in the area”, the report stated.

 

The four main mobs in Italy, Sicily’s Cosa Nostra, the Naples Camorra, the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta and the Puglian Sacra Corona, enjoy an estimated annual turnover of 130 billion. Investigators believe Italy’s clans are now investing more of their profits from extortion and drug dealing outside the Italian south, including in building work at the site for Milan’s Expo in 2015. The Camorra and the ’Ndrangheta are suspected of carving up investments in Rome, with the former focusing on suburban shopping centres and the latter on luxury property and restaurants in the heart of the capital. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

INTERVIEWS

‘LANGUAGE OF FORCE IS NOT HELPFUL ON IRAN ISSUE’

TEHRAN SHOULD BE MORE TRANSPARENT BUT ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAMME DOES NOT POSE A THREAT THAT IS IMMINENT, SAYS IAEA CHIEF MOHAMED ELBARADEI.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

 

As Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei is the world’s top nuclear policeman as well as its most valuable diplomatic asset in the struggle for disarmament and nonproliferation. A voice of sanity in a field otherwise dominated by irrational and sometimes violent rhetoric, Dr. ElBaradei strongly backed the lifting of nuclear sanctions on India and has helped prevent the escalation of the Iran nuclear crisis. In an interview with The Hindu during a visit to New Delhi this week, he spoke at length about the Iranian issue. Excerpts:

 

What do you think prompted the Iranian authorities to make the declaration on September 21 about a new enrichment facility?

 

I don’t know. We are yet to go and inspect and verify that new facility. The western countries say this was meant to be a secret facility, that it was declared by Tehran because it was compromised and the Iranians knew they would be discovered. The Iranians insist this is not the case, that they had to delay informing the agency because they wanted to build the facility underground to protect their technology in case of an attack on their nuclear facility. And they have been hearing about the threat of attacks over the past four or five years. Nonetheless, Iran, of course, has not complied with the requirement of the IAEA that they should have told us once they decided to construct the facility. I understand they have been working on it for a number of years.

 

How many years? What has the U.S. told the IAEA about it?

 

I think they said the work has been on since about 2005 and we have to go to Iran and verify but Iran should have informed us. This is clearly a setback because we have been trying to get Iran to be more transparent and cooperate more with the IAEA to clarify the issues that are still remaining for us to be able to verify the peaceful nature of the programme. But I also call on those who continue to say that we should use force, to attack Iran — that this is absolutely counterproductive. We need to create a different environment based not on confrontation but cooperation. For the first time, there is hope this could happen with Barack Obama talking about engaging Iran without preconditions, unlike the previous administration. Even after discovery of the [new] facility, he repeated that they are willing to engage Iran and I hope Iran will respond to that offer and I am not sure that offer is going to last forever. They better make use of that offer. It is only through engagement that we can verify the past and present Iranian nuclear activities. In the past, there were some claims that had done some military studies…

 

In fact, I want to come specifically to that. Your report as DG, on the basis of which the IAEA Board voted in September 2005 to find Iran in non-compliance, listed a set of outstanding issues. All of those issues have since been clarified. In some sense, isn’t that proof of considerable progress?

 

There is no question we have made considerable progress. At the time Iran was referred to the Security Council, the major concern was about the nature of its enrichment programme and that has been clarified. That is a major achievement. People seem to forget we have through systematic inspection made a considerable advance in understanding the nature of the Iranian programme. Then came these alleged studies.

Now, the first time the U.S. spoke of these alleged military studies was in the summer of 2005, when they briefed the IAEA and some countries about the contents of a laptop computer. Yet, this issue never figured in your September 2005 report.

 

Information about the alleged studies came over time to the agency. Iran says this information is fake. U.S. intelligence says Iran had weaponisation studies that stopped in 2003, other [Western agencies] claim Iran continued after that. Obviously, this is not very helpful — all agencies should get their act together and come to one conclusion. The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents.

 

And clearly there were enough doubts in 2005 that you did not mention it then.

 

If I recall, the issue had not yet materialised in 2005.

 

No sir, the U.S. had done a briefing in the summer of 2005 with the so-called laptop. Your reports begin to flag alleged studies only in 2006. But not in 2005 when Iran was found in non-compliance.

 

Probably because in 2005, we did not go through the vetting process. We receive information all the time. It is not automatically referred to in our reports. Information continued to come to us. As I have said, if this information is correct, there is a strong likelihood that Iran has engaged in weaponisation studies. But if authentic. And I underlined if three times! That’s why I continue to urge Iran, they are the ones who continue to say it is fake….

 

But how does Iran prove a negative? This is like the run up to Iraq war, when Baghdad was asked to prove it did not have WMD. Iran says the documents are fake, they have no markings, no seals. The U.S. says they are genuine but the supposed originals are not being given, which you said should be.

Sure.

 

So how does one square the circle? It seems impossible to resolve.

 

Well, there is a lot of information in these documents that Iran said is authentic, but in different contexts, done for non-nuclear activities, while some of it is fake. What we want is for Iran to engage in substantive discussions with us, tell us what is authentic, what is not. We need to talk to some of the scientists involved. But I agree with you – this is one of the most difficult questions to deal with. We are very good when we are dealing with nuclear material, we can take measurements and do environmental sampling. When we work with papers, it very difficult because it is one’s word against the other. That is why I continue to call on those who supplied us the information to give us the originals, some copies, to be able to move the discussion with Iran. And I call on Iran to help us clarify the wheat from the chaff. And that’s not happening. And that is why we have this issue still hanging.

 

But your reports say there has been no use of nuclear material connected with these studies.

 

That’s right.

 

Surely this reduces the gravity of the issue. Clearly Iran has not diverted nuclear material for prohibited purposes.

 

The only time we found Iran in breach of its obligations not to use undeclared nuclear material was when they had experimented in 2003 and 2004 at Kalaye. Those were experiments. And I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype.

 

In a sense, this one outstanding issue is far less serious than the issues which prompted Iran’s referral to the Security Council!

 

It is a serious concern but I am not going to panic, to say it is an imminent threat that we are going to wake up and see Iran with nuclear weapons. Our job is to make sure we do not overstate or understate a case. There are enough people around to use or abuse what we say. The judgment call is very difficult, but based on what we have seen so far — we are concerned, we need to clarify this issue, we need to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s programme, we need Iran to adhere to the Additional Protocol because that will help me build confidence. But I am not going to sound an alarm and say that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons.

 

You are right that the Security Council referral was based on issues that have since been settled. So if Iran were to continue to cooperate with us, help us to clarify these alleged studies and also if the suppliers [of the documents] should help in that process, we would move quite forward.

 

Has the world benefited from the Iran file being referred to the Security Council? Or have the costs outweighed the benefits? We’ve lost Iran’s adherence to the Additional Protocol, to the latest Subsidiary Arrangements, it hasn’t stopped enrichment.

 

The IAEA remains seized of the matter but the Security Council referral was to get Iran to suspend enrichment and apply sanctions. I leave it to those who decided to refer them to make that judgment. I always believe the more we use carrots rather than sticks in such complex situations, the better is the prospect of finding a solution. As you can see now, after three or four years of referral, the focus is not on the Security Council but on engaging Iran! So the focus right now is on dialogue, engagement, incentives and not on the stick. The stick is always there, you can always use it. But first exhaust every possibility of trying to understand where the other party is coming from.

 

Coming back to Iran’s latest disclosure, the IAEA legal adviser has acknowledged there is a grey area in the implementation of the Subsidiary Arrangements.

 

Subsidiary Arrangements are a technical requirement but the more important issue is transparency and confidence and Iran lost on confidence with this action, no matter what they said about the need to protect their technology, human resources, passive security. I don’t look only at the legal issue but the political implication.

Even if Tehran failed to report to you on time, don’t you think it was reasonable for them to be secretive given the open threats Israel and the U.S. have made of a military attack on their nuclear facilities?

 

That’s why I said using the language of force is not helpful. It leads to confrontation, to the other country taking counteraction. It is better to forget the language of coercion and focus on trying to engage in dialogue.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

GRIEF & LOSS WHEN DEATH DO US PART

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

SUPERSTITION IS ITS GANJA"

FROM DAS DASGUPTAL BY BACHCHOO

 

All one’s life one comes to terms with death. None of us have the privilege of being the young Siddharth, protected by his dad’s diktat from seeing old age, sickness and death. We are beset by these horsemen of the human conditional apocalypse and one contemplates their foreboding in different ways at different times. One hopes to attain something of the tranquillity or the peace of the Buddha before the reaper hits you with his scythe. These thoughts are prompted by my attendance for two days at the Catholic Masses and the funeral of a friend with whom I grew up and have known for all my life.

 

The death of Dara, Darius Francis Cama, was not the stuff of tragedy, not a shock, not generative of the desolation and waste one feels at the death of someone cut off in their prime. He was 68-years-old. He died of cancer which started in his tongue and spread to his oral cavity and then upward and downward to anatomical locations I couldn’t bear to enquire about. It was a painful death and a lingering one. Towards the end he had a funnel pierced into his stomach through which the medical staff would pour doses of pain-killing morphine and the nourishment to keep him alive.

 

My mother died peacefully, my father, 20 years before her, probably even more peacefully. He dropped dead while walking the streets of Isfahan, Iran. No, he wasn’t a professional street-walker. He was in Iran as a contract worker and was on his way to the local hospital to visit a sick friend. My mother and younger sister had gone on ahead and my father, following them on foot, spoke in his scant Farsi to the shopkeepers on the High Street and collapsed during the conversation. They called the ambulance and he was brought to the hospital where my mother and sister were waiting for him — but he was dead.

 

I was in England and got the news by phone.

 

I am now trying to remember or gauge the quality of my distress at the time. I certainly felt that he had more of a life to live even though he had lived a lot, seen and done a lot in the time he lived. My mother died when she was nearly 90. Her memory was going and she was quite frail. She would sit for hours on a sofa in my sister’s lavish drawing room and play Patience at a small table. I would on occasion find a card or two that had slipped from her uncertain shuffle and dropped by the sofa and would pick it up and tell her that she could never win a game with a card or two missing. She would look at me uncomprehendingly. It doesn’t matter, it’s not about winning, she would say. One may not hold all the cards — it was an attitude to living a life and to departing it.

The first death I experienced was my grandmother’s. I was eight. She died of a heart attack with two renowned Parsi doctors of Pune in attendance. I was deemed old enough to follow the bier to the Towers of Silence, clad in white and was acquainted then with the funereal ritual of exposing the body to the vultures, which seemed barbaric then but must be classified as ecologically desirable now.

 

Her death left a gap in my fledgling existence but it was not the same when a childhood friend, Sunder Wadhwani, perhaps four or five years older than me, who was the leader of our gang of youths, joined the Indian Air Force and died in a MiG crash during training. He had married young Maureen when he got his commission and she was pregnant when he plunged to his death. She died of a broken heart soon after. This was the tragedy of my teenage, the nightmare of the crash, the literal breaking of the heart of someone I knew, the horror of the unborn baby dying inside her. There was gossip in the town. Did he make a mistake? Was he trying one show-off manoeuvre too far? Did the MiG fail him because it had been inadequately maintained? The circumstantial and political questions faded. The horror, the loss, the void of a life cut short remained.

 

Then there was Anil Madan, again part of the later group of friends in Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune. We used to meet every day — in college, out of college and at weekends. Graduation and the pursuit of higher studies or jobs scattered us. I came to the UK and heard, a few years later, that Anil had done a masters degree in science and had migrated with his new wife to Boston. We kept in touch.

 

He died in a car crash at a road intersection in the late 70s. I was writing a book, a "novel" or concatenation of stories, about our boyhood and he haunted the writing. Poona Company is dedicated to him and I still see his gentle and penetrating eyes perusing the prose. He would have smiled and said a kind word had he actually read it.

Dara’s death was so different. He came to England, worked at odd jobs and very early on in his sojourn converted to Catholicism and then became a priest. He spent 10 or 12 years in Bolivia doing missionary work among the rural population of the Altiplano. He would write to me about it. Then his Order recalled him to serve as a priest in one diocese after another in England.

 

There were 600 people at his funeral and 55 Catholic priests. A bishop presided. I stayed two days in Swindon and Gloucester to make a gesture of representing his friends and family from that boyhood life, but found over those days and at the Mass and the funeral that he had won the affection of a whole community.

 

I was the only one there who didn’t share the certainty that he had gone to heaven. They sang, they prayed, they commended his soul to their God, they praised him — and they believed it. I spent a few quiet hours looking through his books in his simple suite of rooms and at the funeral, in representative respect rather than piety or belief, I recited a Zoroastrian prayer over his coffin as they buried him.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

PUTTING AN AUSTERE RING AROUND PAUCITY OF IDEAS

BY DILIP CHERIAN

 

Hypocrisy has a definite place in public life, as seen in the rediscovery of the virtues of austerity by the government. The political class is making a huge noise about this and odious comparisons are being made with babus. Of course, our political leaders have immediately taken a cue from the highest quarters in the land and embraced the new mantra, though as we saw in some highly-publicised instances, extremely reluctantly.

 

After all, let us not forget that political correctness is more often than not a coded cover for hypocrisy; a rhetorical device to escape some unpalatable truth(s). And even in a nation such as ours whose polity, much as anything else, rests on the timeless values of sacrifice, austerity and renunciation, there comes a time when people begin to see such acts as empty gestures devoid of any substance.

 

So the cynic may be forgiven for assuming that the missive that emanated from the finance ministry’s expenditure department — advising babus to shun first-class air travel, discourage use of five-star hotels, foreign travel, and "other administrative expenses" — should be viewed in the light of the forthcoming state elections. The political class is "sensitive" to those hapless ones in the citizenry who have been buffeted by the worst ill-effects of the economic slowdown. For sure, a certain frugality in the sarkar and its minions would not be amiss in a recessionary climate. But this is not the first time that such austerity drives have been announced, and going by past record, it can be safely stated that it would be highly optimistic to expect any great gains from the current one.

 

The thing is that austerity means different things to different people. The difference is in the semantics. What the politicians call austerity is what everyone else knows as cost-cutting. And while cost-cutting is eminently practical, it does lack the resonance of "austerity", which has a haloed air around it, thanks to its socio-cultural and historical linkage.

 

Gandhi is the overused excuse and the new Congress mantra of being as far Left as convenient is a long-term positioning strategy that ends up with just this approach. Surely, one may ask, if an austerity-stricken government is serious about cutting costs, not to mention bureaucratic inertia and inefficiency, it needs to trim "government". There is simply too much of it around. The fault lies not in babus but in the fact that we have too many of them. And it is a bit thick for the government to advocate austerity when the babus had barely laid their hands on to the Rs 12,500 crores largesse in the form of salary hikes and arrears from the Sixth Pay Commission! And this is just for the more than 3.5 million Central government employees, excluding defence personnel. The states have even more. Under pressure from their employees, they too have substantially jacked up salaries of babus in their respective states. According to an estimate, the combined budgetary deficit of all states is a staggering Rs 116,000 crores!

 

Let me illustrate with a recent example: Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Akali cohorts never tire of complaining about the fiscal crisis in the state. Most recently Mr Badal asked the Central government to release funds to compensate drought-hit farmers in the state. Still, the so-called paucity of funds has not stopped the Badal government from giving hefty pay hikes and salary arrears to babus and mantris alike.

 

Consider the fact that though babus in several other states are yet to get the second instalment of arrears recommended by the Sixth Central Pay Commission, officers in Punjab have, without waiting for the Union government notification, pressurised the chief minister into ordering the release of the arrears in advance. Clearly, austerity is something that you only impose on others when you are on the top. So it’s best imposed downwards and minimally imposed, but maximally imposed when you’re on the top. Therefore, the same set of babus and mantris are opposing release of Rs 4,800 crores arrears (recommended by the Fifth State Pay Commission) for state government employees, citing lack of funds!

 

After such knowledge, what forgiveness!

 

Simplicity and austerity should not be reduced to a one-line formula of mode of travel or class of travel. Austerity should be a sum total of babus employed. Travel, whether by babus or netas, forms a minor percentage of the government’s expenses although it does make for headline-grabbing reports in the media. A 10 per cent cut in all expenses of babus, as advised by Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, or donating a miniscule percentage of ministers’ salaries for drought relief will not win any brownie points for the advocates of austerity. The real culprit is "Big Government". We need to start downsizing it after countless years of budget speeches and reports of various pay and expenditure reform commissions.

 

Do we need 50 ministries (there were 18 at the time of Independence) apart from nearly a score of independent and attached departments and countless commissions and panels? Downsizing the government massively would be the real sign of austerity that is meaningful. Only once the Centre does it, can it tighten the screws on the states who anyway tend to be more profligate.

 

This means not only more administrative reforms and less discretionary government controls, but more transparent rules. Eschew the tokenism. That may also mean owning up and dealing with the bothersome equation between political leaders and babus. Ultimately, it should mean fewer government employees.

 

And could we do the same with netas, too?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

AAM AADMI SERVED UP AS ART IN LONDON

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

The best part of a London life is the constant buzz of events and exhibitions. You are spoilt for choice over theatre, cinema, art, discussions, book readings — and, of course, these days there has been the "Indian summer": literally a brief warming up before the cold winter sets in. So while we have been treated to sunny days, coincidentally, on the streets of London there is a desi invasion, partly to do with the increase in the number of Indian events. Therefore, it was fun, just last week, to be walking between these "happenings" at various locations and bumping into old friends such as Suhel Seth and Malavika Singh on Piccadilly Street — all of us celebrating the spirit of India in London.

 

So is London now increasingly receptive to "Indian" events? It certainly appears to be. Till last year, I have to admit, I was troubled by the fact that there were many more exhibitions and events related to China — especially Chinese art. Even the auctions, where a Hussain or a Souza made headlines in India, were generally ignored by the mainstream media in London. And, in fact, at most exhibitions by Indian artists here would be only the usual suspects — there has been a Lakshman rekha which has carefully divided the "mainstream" art and the "other" artists, such as those from India. Which is why last week has been particularly delightful: there have been two major exhibitions by artists of Indian origin — and if the opening reception of artist Subodh Gupta’s exhibition is anything to go by, Indian art seems to have arrived in a big way.

 

Both the artists, Subodh Gupta and Anish Kapoor, are exhibiting in Piccadilly across the road from each other. Whilst Anish has a major exhibition on at the Royal Academy, Subodh just opened this week at Hauser and Wirth — with his very Indian tongue-in-cheek exhibition called "Aam Aadmi". It may not exactly warm the cockles of the Congress Party heart to see its slogan so depicted — but it bears all the makings of a confident, flamboyant artist who has arrived.

 

My favourite piece of art by Subodh (not at this exhibition) is of course "A Very Hungry God" — an amazing sculpture of a skull made entirely from ordinary kitchen ware from the aam Indian kitchen. It is stunning in its complex design and simplicity of execution. As they say, it blows you away. In this exhibition he has carried his reputation of being an "idol thief" to a new dimension. Again using ordinary material — tiffin boxes, steel spoons, plates, and even shoes — he has managed to imbue a sense of belonging, nostalgia and memory in disparate elements. One immensely beautiful installation is something we all have seen in our dilapidated family homes — or in khandahars which abound in India: the roots of an ancient tree growing out of a wall. But apart from this realistic depiction, Subodh also plays with the world of ideas: his aam aadmi, for instance, are painted bronze mangoes in hay, lying inert in a wooden crate on a wood and iron table. Does it remind you of anything familiar — or is it more polite not to mention it?

 

Perhaps even more irreverant are his phallic prints framed like delicate and rare calligraphy on an entire wall of white. It would be difficult to find a better representation of the aam aadmi than that! (As I mentioned earlier, a certain political party may lose its fragile sense of humour over this, once again.)

 

Yet there are also more sweeping and grand installations: for instance, the clever creation of a huge gleaming steel thali in which coins shine through a haze of oil. An Indian version of the fountain at Trevi in Rome. This seems almost like a recognition of the aam aadmi and his aspirations — as well as the economic rise of India as a global giant. And yet in another large, equally gleaming silver thaali nearby lie, ironically, a collection of worn out shoes… the smoothness of the steel is almost an unnerving contrast to the worn out texture of the broken footwear: could these be the trampled, discarded men and women trampled in our race for aggrandisement and personal profit? Like all exhibitions, it is much more interesting if the art allows you the space to ponder — and while we quaffed our champagne and mulled over the transformation of the aam aadmi into art, it was also a moment to celebrate. In the crowded gallery, not only were desis present in full flow — there were also art critics and gallery owners sizing up the event and the opportunities.

 

Meanwhile, at the Royal Academy Anish Kapoor, an artist of Indian origin who already has an increasing number of acolytes, has opened to reviews which will guarantee an intrigued audience. Anish too has been exploring the explosive world of ideas and his installations and sculpture are even more interactive than those of Subodh Gupta. Starting from right outside the gallery where reflective balloons fly up giving distorted views of the entrance, to rather more playful (and yet again phallic!) representations inside, critics and viewers have claimed to be both enchanted and startled at the use of materials, colour and form. Reviewers have excitedly written about the colours which appear to assault you, and how the show "begins drilling down to our next level, the subconscious, where it starts probing indelicately in the psycho-sexual area…" (review by Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times). The critic goes on to talk about a "crudely masculine spectacle" of an "immensely phallic cannon". He also compares Anish to Antony Gormley saying he cannot make out who is Britain’s more successful public sculptor, since both are masters of "sexy audience manipulation". It is the last lines of the review which proved to me that Indian art has arrived. According to Januzczak, in Anish’s exhibition, "The biggest penis in the world was shagging the Royal Academy. That’s how weird a sculpture it is. That’s how good a show it is".

 

It is well known that as a country’s economy booms, so do its art and artists: let us hope this psycho-sexual titillation of the British audiences continues to prosper!

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

HAVE FAITH IN KARMA

VISHAL BHONSLE

 

I believe in God. I am religious, but I don’t go overboard. I pray every day and regularly chant Hanuman Chalisa. I am a Maharashtrian and at home we pray to Ganeshji, but I have also been attending services in church. In these services, they don’t tell you anything new, they just make you realise it. I do believe if your conscience is clear you go closer to God. My relationship with God is that of a friend and a mentor.

 

In acting profession there is fierce competition. When I go to meet the producers, I find so many contenders for the same job. By the end of the day, 80 per cent of people get disheartened, but the key is to remain focused. God has crafted things for you and He wants you to focus on your goals.

 

Earlier, I used to complain to God. But now I am at peace. I thank Him everyday for whatever He has given me.

 

I am not superstitious, but I avoid wearing black for important meetings. I do not believe in wearing stones or carrying charms with me. I believe in doing my karma and let God decide, because He can decide the best for us. I earnestly believe that a good karma won’t harm you.

 

I believe in the philosophy, "The roads that you choose to leave in life is what makes a difference". So think well before you act and believe in your hardwork.

 

(As told to Saumya Bhatia)

 

Vishal Bhonsle, actor and host of Dadagiri

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

BHARTI-MTN: LET IT BE A WAKE-UP CALL

 

The collapse of the proposed Bharti Airtel–MTN merger is akin to the flop of a big-banner movie, with equally devastating sentiments. The actors were marquee names, with Bharti the biggest telecom player in this country and MTN a jewel in South Africa’s crown which that country was simply not prepared to sever links with. There is considerable speculation about business competitors having floated the demand for "dual listing" of the merged entity (in both Indian and South African exchanges) when the deal was believed to be going smoothly, because from that point on it was evident that there was no way it could go through. "Dual listing" would require India to change its laws and regulations on capital account convertibility — virtually impossible as it would mean jettisoning the phased roadmap in that direction and put the country at financial risk. More important, there was no way the Indian government could change the laws overnight for the sake of one company, no matter how large.

 

It is, however, because some very big players were involved in the collapse of this mega-merger that it should serve as a wake-up call for the government, the financial institutions and Corporate India on the urgent need to modify and finetune our laws in line with the needs of changing times. Cross-border deals are inevitable not just because of globalisation, but also as the relative positions of Indian entrepreneurs and their overseas counterparts is rapidly changing. Due to their intrepid thinking, ability to think big, global ambitions and the financial health of their companies, Indian entrepreneurs are better placed than ever to take over foreign companies that may be equally big or bigger but are in a financially weaker position. We have seen this in the spectacular instances of the Tatas taking over the steel giant Corus, and later iconic brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover. There was also Lakshmi Mittal taking over the ailing European steel giant Arcelor. All these deals happened amid huge emotions, which often took on racial overtones. The world now has no choice but to accept that Indian businesses are in a position to reverse the old order, where only the Anglo-Saxons did all the taking over and were never themselves taken over by Indians. They are still fighting the takeover of iconic brands by the Arabs, Japanese and now the Chinese. With Indian businessmen now on the prowl, there is yet another dimension to their woes.

 

Issues such as "dual listing" to maintain the national identity of companies, capital account convertibility and global footprints require an understanding of the laws in each country, particularly where governments have a large role to play. All these issues now require a different approach. Changes in national laws must, of course, be in each country’s interest, for no government can take the risk of endangering its financial system. The financial collapse witnessed in the United States and Europe in the past year, which had devastating consequences for the rest of the world, is a warning signal about the direction not to go. "Dual listing" could well open a Pandora’s box, going far beyond the matter of capital account convertibility. There would be the question of regulatory oversight: the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), for instance, would not enjoy any jurisdiction in South Africa in the event of anything going wrong. Entrepreneurs, therefore, will need to finetune their merger and acquisition strategies. It’s not as simple as it looks, and not just a matter of give and take. And it is not only in emerging economies like South Africa that emotion can play a decisive role.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE ON THE DOORSTEP

RURAL COURTS WILL ALSO CUT DELAYS

 

The launching of 5,000 rural courts or Gram Nyayalayas throughout the country from October 2, coinciding with Gandhi Jayanti, by the Manmohan Singh government will ensure speedy dispensation of justice at the grassroots. The Centre has now enforced the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008, which was enacted by Parliament in December last. These courts are inexpensive and deliver speedy justice to people who need not spend money, time and energy any more in going to regular courts situated in far off places. The Gram Nyayalaya will be a mobile court, exercising the powers of both criminal and civil court. It will be a court of the First Class Judicial Magistrate and its presiding officer, Nyayadhikari, will be appointed by the state government in consultation with the high court.

 

The rural courts will go to villages, work there and dispose of the cases. As yet another effective alternative dispute redressal mechanism like the Lok Adalats, they will try to settle the disputes by bringing about conciliation between the parties through duly appointed conciliators. The rural court’s judgement and/or order will be deemed to be a decree. To avoid delay, it will follow summary procedure for its execution. The Sessions Court and the District Court will dispose of criminal and civil appeals respectively against a rural court’s order within six months from the date of filing the appeal. An accused may even apply for plea bargaining.

 

The states need not worry about finances right now because the Centre has released Rs 1,400 crore by way of assistance and this will continue for three years. The Centre will meet the non-recurring expenditure on running these courts subject to a ceiling of Rs 18 lakh (Rs 10 lakh for setting up the court, Rs 5 lakh for the vehicle and Rs 3 lakh for office equipment). As there are over 2.6 crore pending cases in the subordinate courts today, the Gram Nyayalayas deserve all support and help to provide relief to the people and reduce the backlog.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

STRENGTH ENSURES PEACE

ANTONY, IAF CHIEF EVOKE CONFIDENCE

 

It is good that Defence Minister A K Antony and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik have reassured the country in no uncertain terms that India is busy strengthening its capabilities, just as China is doing. After the drubbing we got in 1962, there are bound to be misgivings in the minds of many whether we are now any better prepared to withstand a similar onslaught. That is why Mr Antony was candid in admitting that while earlier we were “doing nothing”, the government in the past few years has been bolstering the infrastructure. As was mentioned by the air chief some days ago, our air power is only one-third that of China, but we are not sitting ducks either, as was the case in 1962. Much has happened in these 47 years and, in fact, learning from the past mistakes, defence is getting the priority that it deserves. There are numerous shortcomings, but at least things are on the upswing. The nation seems to have learnt the lesson that building strength is the best defence for the country.

 

This confidence shows in the way India has been dealing with China. Despite the 1962 war, India has engaged with China maturely without letting the past cloud the future for ever. It has rightly not allowed itself to be perturbed over minor incursions and arguments by the Chinese in various sectors. What is all the more creditworthy is the fact that the Indian Army joined in China’s 60-year celebrations whole-heartedly. On the whole two nations have sought to ensure that pending a border settlement peace and tranquility should prevail all along the Line of Actual Control.

 

Unfortunately, China has soured the atmosphere by starting to issue visas to Kashmiris on separate sheets and not on their passports. The move is being seen as an attempt by Beijing to question the status of Jammu and Kashmir. Apparently, all this is being done to please Pakistan. There is need to take up the matter with China. While good-neighbourly relations have to be maintained, that does not mean that New Delhi should take irritants lightly.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CRAZE FOR ‘PHOREN’

A LOT IS REQUIRED TO REVERSE THE TREND

 

Police had to be called in at Jalandhar and Chandigarh this week to ‘control’ the rush of applicants seeking Student Visa for the privilege of studying in Britain. A large number of applicants had reportedly queued up at midnight and yet failed to submit their applications. Many of them were turned away as the designated Visa Facilitation Service shut down before time or refused to accept more applications than they had received already. The rush this week was anticipated because October 1 heralds a new regime of stricter Visa regulations for students seeking to study in the United Kingdom. While till September it was not mandatory for applicants to clear the International English Language Test for admission to some courses, from October all applicants are required to clear the examination. This and the requirement to maintain a minimum balance in the bank account for 28 days and not just for one day, as was the regulation till September, is what led to the rush.

 

Many Indians do suffer from a craze for ‘phoren’. Fewer job opportunities at home, a promising lifestyle abroad, smaller holdings and costlier inputs making farming far from rewarding are evidently some of the factors which fuel this frenzy. Many of them are also known to have bent rules, forged documents, impersonated others, married on paper and committed other kinds of fraud to go abroad. Neither the prospect of menial work, which they are loath to do at home, nor possibility of racial discrimination, violence or harassment have doused this passion, bordering often on mania. Dubious agencies and institutions have mushroomed across Punjab to take advantage of this ‘weakness’ and offer to make the journey to the promised land “ abroad” smoother.

 

But when students in such large numbers seek to ‘study’ abroad, it could be that some of them are in the queue to dodge stricter regulations. It should be a matter of concern. The country needs more meaningful courses, better and more committed teachers and a more practical approach to teaching languages, if the trend is to be reversed. And also there is a need to regulate the agencies which may be exploiting the students’ craze for ‘phoren’.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

             COLUMN

COUNTERING NAXALISM

NEED TO DEVISE A SUITABLE STRATEGY

BY K PADMANABHAIAH

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reiterated his consistent view that Naxalism poses the gravest internal security threat. He also stated that “We have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.”

 

During the last one or two months the Union Home Ministry revisited the entire Naxal issue, and launched a series of new initiatives while at the same time strengthening some of the existing anti-Naxalite programmes. A new elite anti-Naxalite force, “CoBRA”, was established. For the first time pro-active steps have been taken to search, seek and destroy arms dumps of the Naxalites by entering into their strongholds in the jungles instead of the reactive and defensive approach followed till now. How effective are these new initiatives going to be? Has the state at last put aside its vacillating policies and are the state governments and the Centre on the same wavelength in their resolve to fight Naxalism, and is there broad agreement in the anti-Naxal policies and programmes ?

 

Naxalism in India had its beginnings at Naxalbari in West Bengal in the late sixties as a peasant uprising, but was brought under control by 1972. Around the same time it made its presence felt in a big way in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh but by 1972 it was rooted out from the district by determined police action coupled with a serious and sincere developmental effort. However, by 1980 Naxalism took fresh roots in Andhra Pradesh with the formation of the People’s War Group (PWG). It was able to garner intellectual support from some writers, poets and human rights activists. The state followed off and on a vacillating policy of police encounters and peace parleys leading to escalation in Naxal violence.

 

The year 2005 was described as one of the bloodiest years in Andhra Pradesh as a result of Naxal-police clashes. As recently as in 2006, Andhra Pradesh was being described as a citadel of Naxalism. However, in the last two years Naxalite violence has been controlled in the state very effectively.

 

In Bihar, Naxalism made its entry into Shahar and Sandesh blocks of Bhojpur district and held sway over this and some other districts for over one decade. Here again during the last two years or so, the government by successful implementation of development programmes at the grassroot levels has been able to make a very strong dent in these two developmental blocks which were the erstwhile strongholds of Naxals.

 

It is said that the most important factor in ending Maoist dominance in Bihar was panchayat elections. Similarly, it is reported that effective implementation of the Aaswad Project (Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar) in Jehanabad district from 2006 seems to have curtailed Maoist influence. Currently the worst-affected states are Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

 

Some basic questions that need to be answered are: What is Naxalism ? Who is a Naxalite? How is the movement financed and sustained? Who constitute the first and second rung leadership? Who constitute the cadres? What percentage of tribals are with the Naxals? Are the tribals or other poorer sections in remote areas being held hostage by the Naxals? The Naxalite leadership does not believe in the state, has no faith in the democratic or parliamentary system of governance, opposes elections, and believes in an armed struggle to overthrow the state.

 

 

With all its shortcomings in actual practice, parliamentary democracy has taken root in the country and people voluntarily subscribing to the Naxalite philosophy will be minuscule. Studies of the growth of Naxalism in specific districts have shown that a couple of Naxal leaders from outside ( mostly from Andhra or Bihar) visit the village chosen for making inroads, identify a local person who feels highly aggrieved with the scheme of things in the village, and form a local committee with a couple of other youth under that person’s leadership and give him a couple of guns. The gun helps in extortions.

 

With a handsome amount of development funds flowing into the rural areas under various schemes, including the NREGA, extortion from the village-level leadership either in collusion or coercion becomes easier. Any resistance is met with extreme and brutal violence. More extortions give more guns and more IEDs.

 

There is no doubt that Naxalism is the strongest in the remote hilly, forested and underdeveloped areas in the country where the physical (roads, communications, electricity, etc) as well as social infrastructure like schools, health centres, water supply, and policing is abysmally poor. In the absence of adequate policing, the vacuum is occupied by the Naxal ideologues. There is no security and some of the locals are coerced to join the movement. Even food security is a problem in many of these areas.

 

There is exploitation of the illiterate and the poor by landlords, forest contractors, beedi manufacturers, mining companies, et al. The administration also is very thinly spread and, more often than not, in cohorts with the rich and the powerful. The grievances of the locals are either not heard, or not redressed with any sympathy. The exploited, alienated and frustrated locals form the base of recruitment to the cadres. To win more recruits, Naxal leaders have been saying that they are prepared to support any cause of the exploited masses.

 

Half-hearted attempts at some development works like roads or electricity supply lines or communication towers are thwarted by the Naxal groups as they have a vested interest in the area remaining undeveloped.

 

Therefore, arguments like whether emphasis should be on development rather than on policing, or, as someone has put it, welfare vs warfare is futile. Since Naxalite philosophy is based on armed violent conflict with the state, it has to be met and neutralised squarely by a series of adequate policing actions, including intelligence gathering. Simultaneously, determined and sincere efforts must be made to develop these areas by way of physical and social infrastructure, and adequate governmental presence. Mere development alone would not help unless there is empowerment of the local people and a convincing effort in providing social justice.

 

One can draw lessons from the experience of Andhra Pradesh also. The state government raised a dedicated police force called Grey Hounds in 1989 to fight Naxalism. But the police had to fight a lone battle against the Naxals, with only nominal support by other wings of the administration or even the political leadership in the state. The political leadershlip in a way abdicated its responsibility by merely shifting its political burden to the police, leaving the latter to cope with it to the best of its ability. There was no firm policy with a couple of years of the ban followed by peace overtures mostly on the eve of the Assembly elections. Naxalite groups were banned in 1992, and the same was lifted in 1995 when talks were held for one year. Talks were started in May 2002 but the same colllapsed in 45 days.

 

Again talks were promised on the eve of elections in May 2004, and seven rounds of talks were held, which collapsed in January 2005. An interesting development was that while the talks were on, the PWG merged with the CPI (M-L) and the MCC in September 2004 to form the CPI (Maoist), a formidable force. This switch-on-switch-off policy was ultimately given up, and in the last two years a multi-pronged strategy of strong police action coupled with sensible development activities led to a great improvement in curbing Naxalism in the state.

 

 

The government is now fully conscious of the magnitude of the Naxalite challenge. For a change there is determination to fight the menace with all means available to the government. There is a commonality of purpose between the Centre and state governments, and they are following a proactive policy, both as regards policing and development. This should yield the necessary results. However, the government should be conscious of the fact that Naxalites are now spreading their tentacles into marine warfare (their actions in the riverine areas bordering Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa and their attack on the Grey Hound force in Balimela reservoir), into mobile warfare (in Jharkhand), into communal clashes (Kandhamal) and into urban areas (Maharashtra) and hence the need to devise a suitable strategy to handle them.

 

The writer is a former Union Home Secretary

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ALIBABA AND 40 OTHERS

BY AMAR CHANDEL

 

AS a triumphant Alibaba entered the cave after his 10,000th successful theft, his 40 associates almost brought the dwelling down with lusty shouts of “Alibaba zindabad”. He smiled indulgently, cleared his throat and addressed them in his baritone voice:

 

“Well, friends, we have made very good progress this year with profits increasing 200 per cent. The number of thefts we conducted has gone up from 2890 last year to 3257 this year while the number of dacoities rose from 978 last year to 1258.

 

“All this has been possible thanks to active participation of all of you and innovative techniques that we have jointly adopted. As a gesture of my appreciation, I am announcing a productivity linked bonus of 150 per cent”.

 

The announcement was greeted with even louder shouts of glee. Alibaba silenced them with a wave of his hand and continued:

 

“Friends. Having demonstrated our core competence in the field of wealth generation, now is the time to diversify. You will be glad to know that the Steering Committee of Alibaba and Associates Inc has decided to diversify into the field of politics. Instead of supporting various political parties, we are going to float a political party of our own”.

 

“Wah, wah. And what is it going to be called?”

 

“Honesty Party, of course,” said the Great Leader.

 

“And what will be its aims and objectives?”

 

“Out first aim is, of course, to maximise profits by a factor of at least 10. Then we are also trying to cut down risks involved in our present profession. We are getting on in years and it has been felt that politics will be an excellent complementary occupation”.

 

“All that will be perfect. But won’t we have to expand our numbers? Just the 41 of us won’t be able to sustain a party,” said one of the senior chors.

 

“You are absolutely right. We are going to launch a recruitment drive. While 50 per cent of the profits will be reserved for the 41 Founding Fathers, the other 50 per cent will be shared among the new entrants. In fact, we have already started Track 2 parleys with like minded people in various political parties that we have been bankrolling so far and also in the police and other government departments”.

 

“What are our plans for the future?”

 

“The coalition era seems to have dawned only for our benefit. To begin with, we want to capture 10 per cent of the seats so that no government can be formed without our support. If all goes well, we may be able to form our own government 10 years down the line.”

 

“You are our Chief Minister-in-waiting, Alibaba. When we become the ruling outfit, what will be our cherished objectives?”

 

“Our Honesty Party is committed to the abolition of the Indian Penal Code. We will also launch a nationwide agitation demanding 99 per cent reservation for criminals in all jobs in government as well as private sector.”

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BREAK THE LOGJAM

THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO TALKS

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

As expected, the talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan have turned out to be a fizzle. One could foresee this when the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries did not go beyond the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Exasperated Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir was not wrong when he said that the relationship could not be brought to “a standstill because of a trial or one investigation”.

 

Yet, public opinion in India is so irritated that any resilience by Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna from the stand that the 26/11 culprits must be brought to book before any dialogue would have evoked uproar and a feeling of let-down. Even otherwise, the Congress-led Manmohan Singh government could not afford to face any understanding that would have even remotely concurred with the delay in the 26/11 case, when the Assembly elections are due in Maharashtra and Haryana.

 

At the back of Krishna’s mind must also have been the stringent criticism over the interpretation of a joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a signatory to the statement along with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani, had to explain to Parliament what he meant by separating terrorism from the talks was that the 26/11 terrorists should be prosecuted before the resumption of a composite dialogue. Pakistan was disappointed because it believed that the talks would no more be dependent on other differences between the two countries.

 

Anyone who has followed the India-Pakistan relationship knows how domestic compulsions on both sides are so strong that the rulers cannot move forward without treading on somebody’s toes in their respective country. And the Sharm-el-Sheikh statement has become a casualty because of that. In fact, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi may have, unwittingly, closed the back channel by offering it before he met Krishna. These are delicate matters which become a prestige issue if they have the glare of publicity.

 

The situation has become more intractable because India’s litmus test is the extent to which Pakistan is willing to take action against Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, head of Lashkar-e-Toiba/Jamaat-ud Dawa, who is considered an arch planner and executer of the 26/11 attacks. Yet, the dossier against Hafiz Saeed, as Pakistan has said repeatedly, is not strong enough to get him punished at the court of law. New Delhi, which sent six dossiers, has reportedly said that it has forwarded Pakistan enough material to book Hafiz Saeed. Since Islamabad has its reservations why not make the dossiers public? There is no secrecy about them. New Delhi has shared them with 16 countries apart from Pakistan. The people would themselves judge how far Hafiz Saeed is involved in the charges levelled against him.

 

The deadlock once again indicates the loss of confidence in each other. But this is the story of last 62 years. The two countries have stuck to their positions which feed the ego of their government and all those who believe that there is no harm in “ignoring an impossible neighbour”. Such situations, as has been seen in the past, have only helped the terrorists. They thrive in the atmosphere of non-rapprochement. And, it is a pity that because of mistrust against each other, they find local help to sustain their nefarious activities. Since the patience is exhausted on both sides, one fears that even a small incident of terrorism may be blown up beyond proportions to exacerbate the situation still further.

 

 

A book, entitled The Clinton Tapes, has rightly pointed out the casual manner in which Indians and Pakistanis spoke of a nuclear war scenario. According to the author, “a doomsday nuclear volley would kill 300 to 500 million Indians while annihilating all 120 million Pakistanis”.

 

There is no alternative to the talks. They may well begin with the 26/11 attacks on top of the agenda and go on to other subjects, but the meeting should be attended by the top military brass and the intelligence chiefs in both the countries.

 

They are as much partners to the situation that obtains as bureaucrats and political leaders. Without Pakistan army’s participation, the talks would be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. No doubt, this does dilute the importance of elected government at Islamabad, but such is the reality in Pakistan. Despite the numerous acts of omission and commission, the army is fully rehabilitated in the minds of Pakistanis and they have forgotten the hard days of General Pervez Musharraf.

 

New Delhi must realise that the fear of India is one of the big factors which give shape to Pakistan’s policies. In fact, from day one, I have heard even in top quarters at Islamabad that India has not reconciled to the creation of Pakistan. We can argue that there should be no such fears till the cows come home, but we cannot completely eliminate that fear.

 

Foreign Minister Qureshi has claimed after his meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister that they had discussed Kashmir, water and other related matters. Although the Indian media has ignored Qureshi’s press conference, the two-hour meeting would not have been confined to the 26/11 and Hafiz Saeed, even if the two Foreign Ministers were discussing the subject threadbare. Even a cursory discussion on Kashmir or the water issue must have taken place, giving an insight into the thinking at New Delhi and Islamabad. Krishna’s observation that the talks had been “candid and useful” says a lot.

 

The point to consider for Islamabad is that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a staunch supporter of the process to normalise relations with Pakistan, has said: “The only obstacle is that Pakistan should give up its old attitude regarding the use of terror as an instrument of state policy.” How does Pakistan disabuse Manmohan Singh on this subject?

 

In the meanwhile, Islamabad would do well to invite an all-party delegation of Indian MPs to visit the country to see for themselves that Pakistan was not conspiring against its neighbour. Even otherwise, the meeting of Indian MPs with their counterparts and others may provide a key to the lock which does not look like opening.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BRAZILIAN ECONOMY IS HUMMING ALONG

BY CHRIS KRAUL

 

BRASILIA, Brazil—Finding the discount on the purchase of a new Renault hatchback irresistible, lawyer Roni Figueiro of Porto Alegre in Brazil took the plunge, plunking down $22,200 last week for the first new car he has ever owned.

 

Prodded by government incentives, consumers such as Figueiro are not just keeping the Brazilian economy afloat amid the global crisis but propelling it toward a robust recovery next year, according to a survey of Brazilian economists made public by the central bank last week.

 

The expected recovery is another example of how things seem to be breaking Brazil’s way. Friday, the nation will find out whether Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games. Last year, Brazil was named the venue for the 2014 World Cup soccer championship.

 

Figueiro has company in the driver’s seat. Brazil’s auto industry expects 2009 unit sales to reach a record 3 million cars and light trucks, a 10 per cent increase. That compares with a 25 per cent decline anticipated for U.S. vehicle sales.

 

“I’ve waited all my life for this. I’m 54 years old and have finally realized my dream,” Figueiro said. “If I didn’t

act now, it would have been impossible in the future.”

 

In a forecast issued Thursday, the International Monetary Fund said Brazil is leading Latin American nations out of recession and will register flat to slight growth in 2009 before its economy expands at a rate of 3.5 per cent in 2010.

 

By comparison, the IMF projects that Brazil will best Mexico, whose total economic output will shrink by a startling 7 per cent in 2009. The United States economy will contract by an estimated 2.7 per cent. Mexican and U.S. growth rates projected for next year were pegged at 3 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

 

Consumer spending is a big part of Brazil’s success story. Incentives that have been offered to consumers by the government of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva include forgiveness of sales tax on cars, which lured Figueiro to the auto showroom.

 

The government is also mandating subsidized loan rates on homes and appliances underwritten by three huge state-owned lenders. To increase Brazilians’ spending power, Lula added public sector jobs this year and increased welfare payments to 11 million families by 30 per cent, said Renato Baumann, economist at the United Nations office in Brasilia.

 

Although they express reservations about inflation and the impact of Brazil’s strengthening currency on trade, economists seem to agree that incentives offered by Lula to minimise the impact of the global slump have worked—at least so far.

 

Ernani Torres, an economist at the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank, said rising investment is another factor priming the growth pump. Foreign investment in factories and offices continued to pour into Brazil in 2009.

Moreover, foreigners are expected to invest up to $25 billion in Brazilian initial public stock offerings this year, a vote of confidence that Brazil’s economic system will withstand global gyrations.

 

An essential factor in that confidence is that Brazilian interest rates of 8.5 per cent are the lowest in history in

real terms, Baumann said.

 

Despite a 40 per cent appreciation in the value of its currency against the dollar since the beginning of the year that has hurt the competitiveness of its manufactured exports, Brazil will still show a trade surplus in 2009 because of its global demand for natural resources, economists expect.

 

Mexico, on the other hand, is hurt by the slumping U.S. economy, he said, which has reduced demand for exports and also cut deeply into remittances sent home by Mexicans living and working abroad.

 

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

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THE TRIBUNE

UK RETAILERS FEEL THE HEAT FROM AMAZON

BY JAME THOMPSON

 

Slough is now almost synonymous with the hit television series The Office, which gave birth to the fictitious paper company Wernham Hogg and the location for the UK headquarters of Amazon, the US online giant that launched on these shores in 1998.

 

While he eschews all Brentisms, Amazon UK’s chief executive, Brian McBride, is a big fan of Slough and The Office.

 

More importantly, Slough has a typical high street, says Mr McBride, which lets Amazon keep a close eye on its high-street rivals, which have felt its powerful tentacles both in cyberspace and in their stores. “It is a great window for us,” says Mr McBride, who was the UK managing director of T-Mobile before he joined Amazon UK in January 2006.

 

The scale and breadth of Amazon’s operation in the UK is colossal. Partly through third-party retailers and sellers of new and used items, Amazon offers millions of products, ranging from shoes to power tools. Among online retailers that sell multiple items, Amazon’s UK and US website receives more than 40 per cent of UK web traffic — streets ahead of Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Next, John Lewis and Debenhams, according to Hitwise.

 

Mr McBride says Amazon’s fastest-growing products categories are those it has launched in the past 18 months, including jewellery, clothing and shoes. Speculation has been rife that Amazon UK is considering an online grocery offer, following a trial in Seattle, where its US parent is based.

 

But Mr McBride says: “The jury is still out. Grocery anywhere is still an urban proposition and you still need critical mass.”

 

While Amazon is cautious about online grocery, Mr McBride says the company's dynamic culture and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, were key reasons for him taking the job. “I met Jeff and the senior team in Seattle and was blown away by their enthusiasm. It was more the people and company that appealed to me rather than the industry.”

 

Planning is critical for Amazon UK as it gears up for its busiest time of the year, Christmas. Amazon starts planning in March for product orders and warehouse capacity. The scale of the task should not be under-estimated. On its busiest day last year, 8 December, Amazon received orders for 1.4 million items—equivalent to 16 items a second over the 24 hours.

 

As a result, the online retailer increases its number of workers, primarily temporary staff, by nearly half over the Christmas period.

 

While Amazon does not break out country sales data, it is understood that Amazon's UK second-quarter sales to 30 June were in line with its international growth of 16 per cent. Mr McBride says that its UK operation has continued to grow and has not been affected by the falling sales that has afflicted much of the high street during the recession. “We have not seen that slowdown,” he says. According to IMRG, UK consumers spent £ 3.8bn online in August, a 16 per cent jump on the year before.

 

“There is no sign that the move to online is slowing down,” says Mr McBride.

 

Globally, Amazon delivered a 26 per cent jump in net income to $645m, on total sales up 22.5 per cent to $19.17bn for the year to 31 December 2008.

 

In terms of the wider market, Mr McBride says one of the biggest changes with online shopping is the age of cyber shoppers. “The demographic has really widened. The internet has become so much more pervasive in our society. You see over-sixties using it far more.” As the web evolves, Amazon will not be standing still.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CENTRE’S STAND

 

The Central Government has made it clear that it is not interested in talking with one faction of any militant group and this reduces the possibility of holding talks with the A and C companies of the 28 battalion of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), members of which came over ground to express their desire to hold talks with the Government and already submitted their charter of demands. Of course, holding of talks with only one faction of any militant group will not help in solving any problem but on the other hand, if the process of talks with one faction starts, it may encourage the others to join ranks with pro-talk factions. The reports that Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram was not even aware of the demands of the A and C companies of the 28 battalion of the ULFA are surprising as the members of the 28 battalion submitted their charter of demands to the Centre through Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the reports also raised doubts on whether there is any lack of coordination between the Central and State Governments. It is a fact that holding of talks only with the members of the 28 battalion will not solve the problem as long as the other senior members of the ULFA stay away from the peace process, but it is now a well established fact that the level of violence in upper Assam districts came down drastically after the cease-fire by the two companies of the 28 battalion of the ULFA, known to be the strongest wing of the outfit. The failure of the Government to listen to the grievances of those who declared unilateral cease-fire may send wrong signals to the anti-talk faction of the ULFA and it may even give rise to frustrations among the members of the pro-talk faction.


At the same time, the Government must try to expedite the process of talks with the militant groups, which already signed cease-fire agreements to solve their problems through talks and efforts must be made to persuade such groups with similar demands to join hands for permanent solution of the problems. For example, there is similarity between the demands of the DHD, which is holding talks with the Government for about five years and the DHD(J), which recently surrendered arms to come for talks and holding talks separately with both the groups will not help in finding permanent solution to the problems. It is reported that there is serious differences between the leaders of both the groups and the Government can persuade them to sit down together to settle their differences so that talks with both the groups can be held together for restoration of permanent peace in NC Hills. Similarly, talks with United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), a Karbi Anglong based militant group is going on for years and recently, the KLNLF, another militant group based in the same district declared unilateral cease-fire to express its desire to come for talks. The Government must take advantage of the situation and try to hold talks with both the groups together to ensure lasting peace in Karbi Anglong

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDIA’S FLOP SHOW

 

Team India’s early elimination from the Champions Trophy must serve as a wake-up call for everyone concerned and it’s time the problems were thoroughly analysed and ways devised to rectify them. Lacklustre performances in the games against Pakistan and Australia have badly exposed our weaknesses, not only in bowling and fielding but also our bench strength that had emerged, not too long ago, as a reassuring source of confidence. The absence of Sehwag, Yuvraj and Zaheer dealt a blow to India’s plans, and indeed, the story would have probably been different had they been around. But India still looked good enough to reach the semifinals with Gambhir, Tendulkar, Dravid, Dhoni, Harbhajan and Ishant Sharma forming the core of the team. But, our bowling and fielding proved to be too profligate, which allowed Pakistan to run away with a 300-plus total in the first match and also let Australia off the hook in the rain-hit encounter. Looking back, it was the Pakistan match that sealed India’s fate early on. India could have played much better and it was all over once they messed up the run chase following an extravagant bowling performance. The match against Australia was always going to be tougher and the way their batsmen were going, it would have been truly difficult for India to earn full points from the game. It’s unfortunate that India was left praying for a Pakistan win against Australia, something Pakistan would have never done even if they had the opportunity.


If the bowling was largely behind India’s damp squib, Dhoni’s captaincy too left a lot to be desired. Believed to be the reason behind India’s successes couple of years ago, Dhoni’s leadership has come a cropper in recent times and a lot of his decisions coupled with a passive body language have raised many eyebrows. While India lacks a quality all-rounder, Dhoni’s batting had once been a great balancing factor. Now it’s difficult to recall the last time the dashing skipper dished out a dazzling batting display. This is the third ICC event out of the last four where India crashed out early, and it does not quite justify our high ODI ranking. The cricket mandarins have to look deeper into the factors that have been unsettling Team India of late. They have to take some courageous steps like dropping non-performers and draft in some fringe players who have not yet been properly tested. The authorities should also nurture future hopes like Ishant Sharma and weigh the option of keeping them only for Tests to prevent early burnout. The bowling and fielding coaches must be held accountable for the lack of improvement in these two areas despite them being in charge for so long. A shake-up of the team and rectification of the problem areas is the need of the hour.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CHANGING FOCUS

ARUP KUMAR DUTTA

 

I have done my bit to project what today has become a tourist hot-spot, Kaziranga, before the outside world. This I say in all humility, and it was the love of the denizens of that National Park, fostered since childhood, which had impelled me to make it the theme or background of a few of my books. Having spent most of my childhood and youth outside Assam, I was all too aware of the utter ignorance of the rest of the country about my homeland. Let alone its unique and wonderful bio-diversity as to be seen in places like Kaziranga, what most people in other parts of the country then knew about the North-East in general and Assam in particular could be stashed on the tip of a needle!


Even in the 1980s Kaziranga was relatively unknown and the flow of tourists to this Park limited, a state of things my books, hopefully, helped to change. The most important of these, of course, was Unicornis, The Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, a work that has been acknowledge by the cognoscenti among naturalists and conservationist as one of a kind. The unexpected success of The Kaziranga Trail, its translation into numerous foreign languages and use as supplementary reading for schools, as also its being made into a feature film “Rhino”, familiarised the young generation with the Park, so much so that the three protagonists, Dhanai, Bubul and Jonti, were dubbed “The Kaziranga Boys!” Subsequently, I had used them as well as Kaziranga in two more books Save The Pool, and Oh Deer!, which too have earned a measure of popularity.


Mind you, it was to project the need for wildlife conservation rather than to tout the name of Kaziranga that had been my primary aim. But if people have become familiar with the Park through my books that was icing on the cake! Yet today I feel disconcerted at the excessive focus that has been given to a National Park with which I have always been in love. It is my belief that lesser game sanctuaries have suffered due to the fact that too much concentration is being devoted to Kaziranga.


The National Park has featured ad infinitum ad museum in campaigns launched by the State and Union tourism departments as though it is the only wildlife sanctuary in Assam. Its strategic location ensures that it is accessible to more domestic and foreign tourists than any other site in the region, while its size and tourism related infrastructure serves to attract more visitors than all other wildlife sanctuaries combined. Kaziranga too hogs the limelight as far as media attention is concerned, while lesser sanctuaries occasionally hop into print primarily for the wrong reasons. Most tourism related development activities, whether by the Government or the private sector, have been Kaziranga-centric, with the forest as well as tourism departments playing stepmother towards the others.


This is an attitude typical of Indian bureaucrats. Kaziranga has achieved popularity and fame not because but in spite of them, so they are content to rest on their oars and bask in its glory. Rather than try to build on the success of Kaziranga to widen the tourism net, the concerned department had rather rest content with reeling off statistics of ‘foreign visitors’, though most of them remain unacquainted with the rest of the region, spending less time here than they would have had there only been greater facilities. In other words Kaziranga has become an alibi for inaction, which accounts for the fact that most other game sanctuaries have pathetic tourism related infrastructure.

Yet Assam boasts of almost a dozen National Parks or Wildlife Sanctuaries, including lesser known ones such as Sonai-Rupai, Bamadi, Pobha, Garampani, Kachugaon etc. Many of these offer eco-systems and experiences different from each other, thereby offering a varied fare to genuine nature and wildlife lovers, something we should take full advantage of. The ambience of Manas National Park, for instance, is totally different from say Laokhoa or Nameri, while the ecological experience of Dibru-Saikhowa is absolutely unique in itself.


A recent visit to the Orang National Park, christened for some inscrutable reason as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, has reinforced my feeling that our tourism departments are not doing enough to highlight the attractions of our alternative assets capable of attracting nature lovers from across the world. Situated too as it is in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra, Orang with its marshy terrain of tall grass and sparse wood cover is a Kaziranga in miniature. Of course, it does not have the faunal variety of the latter, possessing just a single species of deer (pygmy hog deer) as opposed to the four species of Kaziranga. It also does not boast of bigger mammals like wild buffalo and elephants. Yet it’s Kaziranga like ambience and adequate population of the rhino (64 in a 78 sq km area) makes it a potential complimenting partner to the world famous National Park.


But the pathetic state of the existing tourism infrastructure makes one suspect that this is not an objective of our tourism department. As against the scores of hostelries that have mushroomed around Kaziranga, Orang has a single tourism department guest-house which stands lonely and dejected on the perimeter of the sanctuary. The approach road to the sanctuary too leaves much to be desired, as encroachers appear to have made their intrusion right to the fringes. Being newcomers rather than original settlers of the soil, the surrounding villages are none too appreciative of the importance of the National Park, making the job of safeguarding it all that difficult for the forest department personnel.


Sad to say, much of the tourism related development in Assam has been the outcome of private enterprise, with the concerned departments of the State Government betraying neither the initiative nor the imagination needed to create a brand out of this fascinating region. Places like Orang and Dibru-Saikhowa are illustrative of this. In the latter spot at least some local entrepreneurs are attempting to initiate a tourism related thrust without receiving much support from the Government. On the other hand, in Orang even this initiative is missing.

I am yet to come across Orang or Dibru-Saikhowa being in the focus of any tourism related campaign, let alone see any initiative at creating an integrated tourism circuit which will take nature lovers beyond Kaziranga. Clearly, a change of focus is needed as well as a strategy which will enfold alternatives that offer a similar or different kind of experience. It is, of course, not enough to merely create the stereotype infrastructure that the Government is so fond of and then watch it run to seed for want of custom. A publicity campaign with a changed focus is sine qua non if we are to make the best out of what has been gifted to us by Nature.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INPUT SUBSTITUTION IN AGRICULTURE

DR CHINMOY KUMAR SARMA

 

The prime focus of agricultural research and development has mainly been on yield maximisation, coupled with increasing specialisation in production over the last few decades which, although leads to substantial increase in productivity, contributes to raising total production, farmers and the environment have had to pay the price for keeping up with the development. Hence, many farmers across the world have chosen to shift to practices or inputs which are more environmentally sound and have the potential to contribute to the long term sustainability of the agricultural system. The factors that encourage individual farmers to begin this transition process share some similarities across the world which compels farmers to seek new ways to increase the farm return. During the process of conversion towards more sustainable system, income consideration is the predominant factor, while health aspect, environmental benefit and farmer’s empowerment are other influencing factors. The shift towards more sustainable farming system depends largely on agro-ecological situations and socio-economic conditions of the farmers, as well as on farmer’s need and aspirations.


Our conventional agricultural system relies heavily on external and chemical inputs which are expensive and unsustainable. Existing agricultural practices can be modified through adoption of ecological approaches emphasising maintenance of environmental services where energy and resource intensive inputs would be reduced and natural ecological processes would be encouraged and reintegrated into agricultural system to enhance soil fertility and reduce pest infestation. Input substitution in the agricultural production process may be an initiative in this direction, although, it alone, can not support a sustainable production system. Farmers generally, tend to convert their conventional farm either by reducing the usage of external chemical inputs gradually or by converting the entire farm to non chemical ways. However, it is not an easy task for large scale or small scale farmers to move away from external chemical input agricultural system to low external input system. It can be a complex one with the degradation of natural resources, quite often by their own farming practices and lack of access to resources and informations on eco-friendly ways of farming.


Major principles of ecological farming include maintenance of soil health through adoption of appropriate soil conservation measures and recycling of nutrients on the farm, utilising approaches such as changing crop management practices, integrated pest management etc. Organic system of cultivation has been gaining importance in recent years and there are many explanations and definitions for organic agriculture, but all converge to state that it is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. From time immemorial, soil fertility has been maintained only by the application of organic materials in traditional agricultural system and it has a unique role to play in soil fertility. In improving soil fertility, all the methods adopted need to focus on improving soil organic matter content. These efforts include organic matter production and application, reducing application of chemical inputs, inclusion of green manure and legume crops in the existing cropping systems, recycling of crop residues, use of bio-fertilizer and other locally available nutrient sources etc. However, sometimes relying on single source of plant nutrient to support crop growth may not be sufficient and adoption of Integrated Nutrient Management approach may yield good result. Integrated nutrient management is an ecological approach which envisages the use of chemical fertilizers in conjunction with organic manures, legumes in cropping system, use of bio-fertilizers, green manuring and other locally available nutrient sources for sustaining soil productivity. Mono cropping system of production not only has the risk of soil degradation, effect on the environment but also, it increases the risk to the farmers. This monotony could be broken through diversification based on resources and suitability of crops. Legume crops, by virtue of being a soil fertility restorer, have a unique position in crop diversification. Introduction of legume crops in cereal based cropping system will add sustainability to the system by ensuring both nitrogen economy and improving soil health and minimising dependency on chemical fertilizers. In fact, inclusion of pulse crop in cereal based cropping system has been viewed as a long term investment in resource enhancing technologies and as a component of integrated nutrient management system. Their cultivation economizes nitrogen to the tune of 30-40 kg per hectare for succeeding cereal crops. From time immemorial, green manuring has been practised by the farmer which encourages turning or ploughing into the soil undecomposed green plant tissues for the purpose of improving soil environment. Green manure crops may be included in the existing cropping pattern as summer sown catch crop or as inter sown crops or even as main crop in poor soil.


Addition of inorganic fertilizers constitutes one of the most expensive inputs in agriculture and therefore, harnessing the potentiality of bio-fertilizer is essential. Use of cost effective and eco friendly bio-fertilizer with suitable integration of organic manure helps in restoring soil health and keeps soil productive and sustainable. Bio-fertilizers supplying nitrogen to the system contain latent cells of nitrogen fixing bacteria which live symbiotically with the host crop like Rhizobium or are free living like Azotobacter, Azospirillum etc. However, these are crop specific and performance depends on soil environment. Several soil bacteria and fungi possess the ability to solubilise insoluble phosphorus which are being utilised in bio-fertilizer formulations now a days. Recent addition to the list of biofertilizers includes. mycorrhizal fungi which not only improve phosphorous availability but also improve soil health, increases disease resistance and help in better plant growth.


Harnessing earthworms as versatile natural bio-reactors is vermi-culture and the process of composting organic wastes through domesticated earthworm under controlled conditions is vermi-composting. Earthworms have tremendous ability to decompose all bio-degradable materials which 2-5 times higher than the conventional composting. During composting, the wastes are de-odorized, pathogenic microorganisms are destroyed and 40-60 per cent volume reduction takes place.


Pesticide use in most of the developing countries is reported to be unscientific and unregulated causing serious damages to the ecosystem and human health. Despite this fact, policies and regulations in respect of use of pesticides are in their infancy and as a result, pesticide misuse is prevalent. Problems associated with heavy use of pesticides are often seen among the semi-skilled labourers who apply pesticide on regular basis, field workers/women farmers and consumer.


The conversion process from conventional practices to more sustainable farming system through substitution of inputs, though desirable, may not be an easy process and still have many problems that occur in conventional practices. In order to achieve a sustainable production system, the input substitution strategy needs to evolve into an agro ecological production system approach.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REVOLUTIONARY? RAHUL GANDHI AT JNU

 

Unusually solicitous sultans of yore would sometimes don the garb of the aam aadmi, and sally forth to mingle with the crowds, to find out what the hoi polloi was thinking. That idea of a sort of participative democracy, it seems, has reached an apogee with heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi's forays.


The young man, it seems, is causing equal measures of consternation, some admiration and even derision — depending on what shade of opposition one possesses — with his actions. Of course, one could well decry a state of affairs that makes such visits a rare phenomenon in the first place. But then, perhaps an effort has to be appreciated as such.


And certainly, whatever its merits, any initiative that seeks, even nominally, to bring the Dalits into national prominence is quite all right. Amusing though, were the paeans accompanying Rahul's visit to that other bastion of Left politics — New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.


Leave alone the Congress, even the NCP jumped in to claim the visit was veritably 'revolutionary'. The latter, of course, happens to be a favourite word in JNU. But perhaps the young radicals mean a tad more by it than a young politician answering a few questions. Or perhaps, what the Congress and allies found revolutionary was Rahul's altered sartorial sense: he eschewed the kurta (favoured in JNU), and chose a more 'western' attire.


Or, one wonders, was the high praise some sort of backhanded compliment for the students at JNU, reputed to be rather opinionated and argumentative, and not quite respectful of reputations?


Many a politician, not to mention an academic, has had to wipe a sweaty brow when faced with questions at the institution. The thinking then was perhaps the visit constituted a stellar example of daring — a dip into the vipers' pit, so to say. The big campus question now could be if this helps the NSUI do better in the elections. That, indeed, would be a bit more revolutionary.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STANDARD OBSERVATIONS, SUBSTANDARD TRANSPARENCY

 

With the announcement of its Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements, Sebi has carried out considerable clean-up and rationalisation of rules and regulations. That will also mean, we hope, the demise of "Standard Observations," whose import and, for many, existence were highlighted by the 2004 Malegam Committee’s report on Disclosures.


These are more than 300 hidden guidelines, many in existence for years and yet not ratified or regularised. Many observations served probably only to help merchant bankers amuse themselves, as they certainly did not (or more correctly could not) bother to complain or protest.


The plethora of guidelines and observations, many repetitive and redundant, were probably one reason for the delay in clearing documents. Sebi, of course, has the right to frame regulations/guidelines that may be urgently necessary in the interests of investor protection, without going to a committee or board.


But just as ordinances have to be ratified by Parliament, these standard observations should have been ratified by the Sebi board later. Let alone ratification by Sebi's board, the Malegam Committee report seems to indicate that there was never even any senior level review at Sebi itself: why else would about 40% of these standard observations be found to be redundant?


Obviously, the operational staff have been operating without much supervision by their seniors, who, in any case, are deputationists who come with little experience of the industry and leave by the time they have learned the ropes. Sebi should reopen the issue of recruiting at least a reasonable percentage of its staff at all levels from the market.


We hope that there are no other similar quasi-guidelines/regulations (by whatever name called) in the system. The power and right to demand transparency from the market gets diluted if the regulations/guidelines themselves are not transparent.


Even after more than five years since the Malegam Committee submitted its report, the standard observations remained. At least now, we hope that these 40 pages of unnecessary comments would pass into the dustbin of history.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CUT FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES

 

The G20's call to phase out fossil fuel subsidies gives countries like India an added reason to take long-overdue action on this front. Such subsidies amount to $310 billion a year for non-OECD countries, the most munificent being Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and India.


For these countries, phased reduction of such doles is indeed a way to contribute to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These subsidies distort energy consumption patterns, retard economic growth and strain state finances.


They also significantly incapacitate governments when it comes to finding resources for social security, public infrastructure and general welfare. The bulk of petroleum subsidies in India goes to transportation and household cooking and lighting.


The beneficiaries include even the super rich. Coal, the predominant fuel for electricity, is sold to power stations at below global market prices, although this has little to do with monopolistic producer Coal India's efficiency.


Also, the nascent gas market is riddled with price support and rationing, which need to go as the market matures. Output subsidies on electricity can be limited to small farmers and the poor, provided distribution infrastructure and metering technologies are improved to thwart theft.


The government proclaims in virtually every policy document that "reform of subsidies remains an important fiscal policy agenda" but fails to walk the talk. It could have had no better occasion to overhaul the faulty subsidy regime than last year's oil price shock, which caused a big spike in subsidy bills.


There is every reason to quickly start the process to mitigate the carbon-intensity of India's GDP, even as fossil fuels would continue to have a large share of the energy portfolio of our fast-growing economy in the medium term.

Sound policy would be to use competition-induced efficiency of operations rather than subsidies to reduce the cost of energy to consumers.


It is imperative to invest more money and policy-making time in the development of climate-benign energy: nuclear, wind and solar. What would also help is adoption of technologies that reduce emissions (coal beneficiation/gasification, new-generation boilers and turbines) and conserve energy demand (LED lamps, energy-efficient appliances, public transport).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CELEBRATING AN ECONOMIC TURNAROUND

WINTER NIE AND ABRAHAM LU

 

China observed the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on 1 October. The celebrations, which have been under preparation for more than a year, rival those of the Beijing Olympics.


The expense may seem lavish at a time when the rest of the world is just recovering from a financial crisis, but the fact is that China has a great deal to celebrate. Despite major challenges, China has evolved into the world's third most powerful economy. It is now the world's premier source for manufacturing and it is increasingly making its influence felt in shaping international affairs. Equally important, there is no longer any question of China turning back.


In 1949, Mao Zedong stood before First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and declared victory, announcing that: "The Chinese people have now stood up."


This gave many Chinese people a sense of national pride following two decades of civil war and a succession of corrupt and ineffective regimes. An even more critical factor was the fact that in 1949, China was largely agricultural, mired in poverty and lacked roads, bridges, railways, electric power and a communications infrastructure.

Mao's first task was to move China's population (approximately 544 million) to a modern industrial-based economy. Despite a number of political and economic catastrophes, the plan ultimately worked, albeit at a cost. By 1979, China's industrial output, which had been only 12.6% of GDP in 1949, had increased 13 times to 46.8% of GDP. The size of China's rail network had more than doubled and the proportion of irrigated land had risen from 20% in 1952 to 50% in 1978.


Despite these advances, China still suffered from serious inaccuracies in its price structure, inflexible central planning, power shortages and inadequate transportation and communications networks. The next three decades changed that situation dramatically. China went from being the 19th largest economy in 1979 to the third largest today. Thirty years ago foreign currency reserves were practically non-existent. Today it stands at almost $2 trillion.
How China reached this point is critical to understanding how China thinks today and where it plans to go in the future.

When Deng Xiaoping launched his Open Door policy to modernise China in 1979, the country was still suffering from serious imbalances, including shortages of technicians and other highly trained personnel, insufficient foreign exchange for procurement of advanced technology and inadequate legal and administrative provisions for both foreign and domestic investment, among other problems.


Its economic policies had until then favoured state collectivism over private entrepreneurship. The ideology that had unified the leadership during the revolution had become a hindrance to modernisation. To modernise China a change was needed.


The turning point came during the third plenary session of the 11th CPC Central Committee meeting in Beijing in December 1978. A collective leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Deng Xiaoping at its core emerged from the meeting and a critical decision was made to turn away from chaotic class struggle and to focus instead on reconstructing China's economy. From that point on, economic pragmatism would trump ideology.

Deng publicly explained China's new direction by observing: "It doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse."


The transition to a somewhat decentralised and entrepreneurial economy began in 1979 with the creation of four Special Economic Zones in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen. These would eventually provide sceptics with tangible proof of the effectiveness of a market economy. Deng called the idea "Crossing the river by feeling the stones."


A number of innovative approaches came from provincial leaders — often in contradiction with the rules laid down by the central government. Deng's contribution was to open the door to make experimentation possible. Reforms that succeeded spread quickly.


Deng followed up with agricultural reform in January 1982, which authorised farmers to sell surplus crops in the open market, resulting in a surge in agricultural production. A companion reform in 1984 authorised town and village enterprises to do the same. Price reform was carried out by establishing a dual track system with state subsidies reduced over an extended period of time.


The second stage of Deng's reform began in December 1986, with the phasing out of state-owned industry, a policy that popularly referred to as "Breaking the iron rice bowl". It was a difficult process. According to Chinese statistics, China's state-owned enterprises eliminated 15 million jobs by 1998, and then laid off another 30 million workers between 1998 and 2005. Sixty percent of China's workforce was forced to find alternative employment. By the time that the 10-year transition had ended, China's industrial base had been fundamentally changed. Some form of state ownership still exists in sectors such as financial services, energy, commodities and infrastructure. While the transition meant enormous pain for workers losing their jobs, it dramatically increased revenues, created a surge in productivity and unleashed China's entrepreneurial spirit.


The Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989 frightened and alienated the international community. It raised questions about China's ultimate intentions. Growth dropped under 5% in 1989 and 1990, but Deng soon made it clear that he had no intention of deviating from the transition to a market economy. In early 1992, he travelled to southern China and declared: "To get rich is glorious." The statement signalled that more than ever China was open for business. Foreign investment began pouring in again.


China's next major step was to join the World Trade Organisation in 2001. This forced China's newly privatised economy to meet international standards. Instead of holding China back, the WTO accession made Chinese companies more attractive to international markets and far more competitive, while foreign companies could better access the Chinese market. China's growth has soared since then, helping it further become a world power that will play a major role in defining the 21st century.


Add all these major historical events together and what do you get? China's National Bureau of Statistics notes that the Chinese economy in 2008 is nearly 67 times larger than it was in 1979. According to the 2009 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, per capita GDP has gone from $578.11 in 1995 to $3,295.92 in 2008. Surely China has its many challenges ahead. But there is indeed a good reason to pause and celebrate these remarkable economic achievements.

(Nie is professor of Operations and Service Management and Lu, Research Associate at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

IS INTEREST COST INDUSTRY'S REAL BANE?

M Y KHAN

 

Both Marx and Keynes argued that the rate of profit emerges in industrial circulation, whereas the rate of interest emerges in financial circulation. Both of them hold interest is out of profit and the rate of interest is entirely a monetary phenomenon.


In other words, low or high interest rate is the responsibility of the monetary authority. It is basically a validation of the concerns expressed by Indian business on the tight credit policy during 2007-08 and interest cost, both of which were held responsible for the deceleration in demand for industrial goods, housing and investment activity, though many industries faced a profit dip because of declining exports.


Statistically speaking, in Q2 of 2008-09, industry had to forego more than 21% of profits to pay the interest cost. Interest played havoc with industries like sugar (47%), textiles (82%), wholesale and retail trade (58%) and rubber and rubber products (73%). Transport and equipment spent more than 50% of profits towards interest payment. Interest obligations swallowed 82% of profits of textiles. Have these industries been treated harshly by the monetary authority?


It is observed from the data that interest as a percentage of total outstanding borrowings of large public limited companies, on an average, was only 5.9% in 2005-06, which fell to 5.6% in 2007-08 and might have been still lower during 2008-09, following the soft interest rates policy.


Interest cost incidence can also be examined in terms of value of output. It is noticed, on the basis of RBI studies of large public Ltd companies, that interest cost was just 2% of value of output during the years of 2005-06 to 2007-08. It was around 2% in 2008-09 also.

 

The hue and cry on high interest cost is unjustified as there are many other factors which have adversely affected industrial profits and its growth. Again we cite the RBI study of the finances of large public limited companies (January 2009). The industries which sacrificed a relatively large part of the profit to pay interest reported very high debt-equity ratio.


Industries like sugar, textiles, edible oils, iron & steel recorded more than 100% debt-equity ratio. Whereas in the case of hotels & restaurants and wholesale & retail trade the debt-equity ratio hovered above 70%, it was nearly 200% in the case of transport and equipment.


There are several other industries where debt-equity ratio increased during 2008-09. Clearly, high levels of debt eats away the profits. Hence the companies have to mobilise funds by way of equity rather than borrow funds. another reason for the rise in interest ratio to profit has been the decline in growth rate of gross profit due to increase in cost of industry.


Thus, interest rates may be partly responsible for the depressing performance of industry and the economy but other factors as discussed above are equally important. The RBI has again focused on further lowering of interest rates and maintenance of the supply of credit to meet private sector demand, including demand for investment.

However, it has not talked of passing on the benefit of a reduction in interest rates to the prices of essential commodities, which have shown a spurt in recent months.


Industry needs to reduce manufacturing costs, which worked out to nearly 90% of the value of output. It is observed from RBI studies that the manufacturing cost increased at a higher rate than the growth of revenue due to raw material cost and power tariff.


During the first half of 2008-09, revenue increased by 32% but expenditure increased by 37% resulting in a negative growth of profit during the second quarter of 2008-09. This led to an increase in the incidence of interest cost on profit.


According to the RBI’s First Quarterly Review 2009-10, profit margins measured in terms of the ratio of gross profit to sales and profit after tax to sales came under pressure largely due to high input costs in the first half. It is observed from the same statistics that interest to sale formed only 2.1% in 2008-09.


To conclude, the industry needs to reduce production costs rather urgently, rather than pressurise the monetary authority to lower the interest rate structure. Moreover, industry should resort to the equity mode for financing.

Today, equity capital forms only 6-7% of the total funds with industry and this ratio has shown a declining trend. No doubt, the companies will have to improve their corporate governance practices and financial reporting to protect the interest of shareholders. What is needed on the part of corporates is accountability, transparency and due diligence in the use of funds.


(The author is Former economic advisor to Sebi.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SELF-CONTROL PROVIDES THE GREATEST SECURITY

ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA

 

Fear and intimidation would have run rampant in the world, if there were no self-control. A turbulent river becomes harmless if it is bound by two banks. Human life, like the turbulent river, has got to be controlled by self-discipline, otherwise social life would become impossible.


The bridge built across a river enables all kinds of vehicles and pedestrians to cross the river without any clash. This disciplined passage of traffic shows the value of self-control in life.


The Gita praises the disciplined behaviour of the tortoise who knows how to hide its head in its shell. By doing so it saves itself from the beasts of prey. Bhagwan Mahavira and Buddha spoke of the value of self-control in the same language: "Control your arms, legs, speech, sense organs and mind."


Everyone seeks his own security. Self-control provides the greatest security. It is not germs but self-indiscipline which is the cause of a large number of diseases. Self-indiscipline is more injurious than weapons. The police binds a smaller number of people than self-indiscipline. Self-indiscipline is more fatal than death.


Specialists in physiology tell us that half the quantity of food we consume provides jobs to the physicians. We eat not to satisfy our hunger, but to satisfy the palate. If delicacies were abandoned, we would need only half the quantity of food which we are now consuming. We forget our intrinsic needs by placing a higher premium on articles of food. That is what is happening today. Gluttony and not the shortage of food has created the greatest problem for us.


India is poor in resources. It is a pitiable situation in which a handful of people enjoy gluttony and millions starve. Lack of self-discipline is to a very large extent responsible for such a situation.


Self-control is capable of solving many of our problems. Our economists think that increased production alone can solve our material problems. But a large number of problems are man-made and they can certainly be solved by exercising self-control.


For this we expect our religious leaders to expound religious discipline in a scientific way so that self-control may be relied on for solving our mental as well as material problems. Religion becomes lifeless when the rules of conduct laid down by the scriptures are given priority over self-control and it becomes a reality when self-control is treated as more important than any rule of conduct.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES WILL ULTIMATELY DIFFERENTIATE AXIS FROM THE REST'

ASHWIN PUNNEN

 

AXIS Asset Management Company, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Axis Bank, recently got the regulator's approval to launch its funds. Axis AMC plans to draw on its strong client base of the bank to build the asset management business, says Axis AMC MD & CEO Rajiv Anand in an interview. Excerpts:


How soon do you plan to launch your funds, and how will Axis AMC distinguish itself and grow in this already crowded market?

 

We have received regulatory approvals for two schemes — Axis Liquid Fund and Axis Treasury Advantage Fund. And these schemes will be launched in the first week of October. Axis Bank has a presence in over 525 Indian towns through 861 branches and has over 75 lakh customers. Our gameplan is to leverage these strengths.

We want to build our business on three strong pillars, i.e., investor-oriented communication, forging long-term relationship and enduring wealth creation as opposed to just short-term opportunistic wealth creation. These guiding principles will ultimately differentiate Axis from the rest.


Is there any scope for further product innovation?


As the Indian investor evolves and our markets develop further, there will be product innovation opportunities. We are, for example, very interested in creating retail debt products, which can deliver superior tax-adjusted returns with low volatility.


Having said that, with current levels of penetration of mutual fund products in India, what we need is more innovation in communicating the benefits of the product and telling retail investors how mutual funds fulfil an investor's needs.


Do you have any plans for inorganic growth? Do you intend to bring in a foreign partner?


We are open to inorganic growth. However, the fit — especially from an investment philosophy perspective, should be right. Needless to say the price has to make sense. Currently, we have no plans to bring in a foreign partner.

What is your view on equity market? Are you comfortable with valuations after the recent run-up?


It is difficult to assess markets in the short term, more so in an environment where asset classes across the world are moving synchronously on low-opportunity cost of funds. We believe that the current low interest rate environment and relatively high growth in the Indian economy justifies current valuations. Going forward, markets should deliver returns in line with the profit growth of Indian companies.


This we believe should be in the vicinity of 15% over the next three years. We believe that corporate profits drive stock prices over the medium and long term and hence, we anticipate similar growth from equities over this period. While stock markets are no longer cheap after the sharp run-up seen in the markets, investors would do well to maintain their targeted equity allocations and benefit from this long-term appreciation opportunity.

What is your view on the interest rate scenario in India?


From a policy perspective, RBI will continue to balance growth and inflationary expectations. RBI will also have to consider expansionary fiscal policy and its impact on long-term rates. Further, global interest rates, specifically in the US, are expected to remain low for an extended period of time.


As far as the gilt curve is concerned, we believe the long-end prices factor in most of the negatives, including inflation at 6% by March 2010, fiscal issues and likelihood of monetary tightening. However, the shorter end may see some upward movement if RBI acts to remove some of the excess liquidity in the system.

Debt schemes are doing well. Do you recommend pure debt schemes or hybrid funds such as MIPs to investors?

Investors must build their portfolios based on risk assessment. What this means is that investors must understand their investment holding period and ability to take losses.


For investors with low-risk appetites, hybrid funds provide a very good option as the fixed income component cushions the volatility of equities while over long periods equities provide significant capital appreciation.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OSCAR GIRL FROM VARANASI

LEENA MULCHANDANI

 

Eight-year-old Pinki, from Varanasi became the talk of the world when her story was told through a short documentary — Smile Pinki — won Megan Mylan, the Oscar in the Short Documentary category earlier this year.

Sadly, it seems to have been forgotten just as quickly. While the organisation which provided the life-changing surgery for Pinki, saw a spurt in the number of patients post the award, Satish Kalra, regional director-South Asia, Smile Train, says that it was just temporary, as the number has dwindled.


To bring the cause back into focus, a host of corporates have decided to support the cause and the film. The film will see a limited release, starting October 1 in Mumbai, then move to Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi and finally culminate in Varanasi where it was shot. Megan Mylan, the director of the film, recounts her experience of making this documentary and explains her unique style of film-making.


What compelled you to make this documentary?

Initially, when the Smile Train organisation asked me to make a film, I assumed that they wanted me to make it like a social advertisement film, so I declined. But they had seen my documentary, The Lost Boys of Sudan and really liked it. So they came back and explained that they wanted me to make an independent documentary about their story, which is a great one and that's when I decided to go ahead with the film, specially because they assured me full creative control.

 

Good stories with a social purpose don't come often. This was one of those lucky combinations. There's compelling drama, which also informs the viewer of how a child with a cleft lip can get it corrected for free. It explains to people that there's nothing wrong with having a cleft, it's no curse and also busts the myth that the child got one because someone was cutting vegetables during an eclipse!


How would you explain your style of film-making?


I have a hands-off, subtle style. It's an all-observational style. There's no narration, no interview and it doesn't hit you on the head with the message. It lets you experience the life of the protagonist of the film and the reality. My aim is to reach the audience emotionally and intellectually.


So I try to connect and I try to get people to connect. I want everyone sitting in the audience to understand what it feels like to be in that village for a few days. For a moment you are walking in someone else's shoes. I found things everyone may have in common with Pinki. For instance, we all wake up in the morning and choose how we do our hair and we all started out with a mother and a father. I think that's a very powerful style of film-making. They refer to it as cinema verity but it's simply observational.


You visited India for the first time to shoot this documentary. What was it like?


We shot the first part in February 2007 and then came back five months later to shoot the after-surgery part. But I haven't seen much of India other than Varanasi and the surrounding areas. I think there's something unique about a newcomer's vision of a place.


When I go back home to New York, I don't see Manhattan the way I would if it was the first time I landed there because its home — it's all normal. I think Pinki's village is what I call a 'real world fairytale' because it is ideal in some ways. It's where every child should live, you can run up the hills and there are goats, though it is definitely poor. That's why it's a 'real world' fairy tale.


Adding to the whole fairytale is the wild happy ending Pinki had. Her first ‘happy ending', probably the most significant came when her cleft was corrected and second when at the Oscars she became a media darling.

Why did you decide to release the film here?


It is India's story and we needed to bring the Oscar back to India. Also, if we're able to build an audience for documentaries, then as a filmmaker, it makes me very happy. Even though the film has a strong message, it is a good story and I hope people will come out of the film entertained. I think people should go to the theatre not because it is the right thing to do, but because they want to be entertained.


Has there been more interest in your work after the Oscars? Are you getting more offers from producers?


The documentary world is very different from the fictional world. I have had many inquiries from commercial producers for advertisements and I may take up some of that because I believe advertisements can be very powerful as well. But in the documentary world, it hasn't been a game changer.


I've been doing documentaries for a while, so it does give a little push. For instance, people will probably return my calls now! I'm sure the struggle of documentary filmmakers in the US is same as here — very few dollars and very few outlets.


But it's not a game changer because in the studio world there are deals, there's nothing like that here. Honestly, I would not mind if it was a little simpler, but in some ways I appreciate the challenge because it helps you set the bar really high for the stories you want to tell. You have to be willing to hear 'No' a lot more than you are willing to hear a 'Yes!'.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BHARTI-MTN: LET IT BE A WAKE-UP CALL

BY OUR CORRESPONDENT

 

The collapse of the proposed Bharti Airtel–MTN merger is akin to the flop of a big-banner movie, with equally devastating sentiments. The actors were marquee names, with Bharti the biggest telecom player in this country and MTN a jewel in South Africa’s crown which that country was simply not prepared to sever links with. There is considerable speculation about business competitors having floated the demand for “dual listing” of the merged entity (in both Indian and South African exchanges) when the deal was believed to be going smoothly, because from that point on it was evident that there was no way it could go through. “Dual listing” would require India to change its laws and regulations on capital account convertibility — virtually impossible as it would mean jettisoning the phased roadmap in that direction and put the country at financial risk. More important, there was no way the Indian government could change the laws overnight for the sake of one company, no matter how large. It is, however, because some very big players were involved in the collapse of this mega-merger that it should serve as a wake-up call for the government, the financial institutions and Corporate India on the urgent need to modify and finetune our laws in line with the needs of changing times.

 

Cross-border deals are inevitable not just because of globalisation, but also as the relative positions of Indian entrepreneurs and their overseas counterparts is rapidly changing. Due to their intrepid thinking, ability to think big, global ambitions and the financial health of their companies, Indian entrepreneurs are better placed than ever to take over foreign companies that may be equally big or bigger but are in a financially weaker position. We have seen this in the spectacular instances of the Tatas taking over the steel giant Corus, and later iconic brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover. There was also Lakshmi Mittal taking over the ailing European steel giant Arcelor. All these deals happened amid huge emotions, which often took on racial overtones. The world now has no choice but to accept that Indian businesses are in a position to reverse the old order, where only the Anglo-Saxons did all the taking over and were never themselves taken over by Indians. They are still fighting the takeover of iconic brands by the Arabs, Japanese and now the Chinese. With Indian businessmen now on the prowl, there is yet another dimension to their woes. Issues such as “dual listing” to maintain the national identity of companies, capital account convertibility and global footprints require an understanding of the laws in each country, particularly where governments have a large role to play. All these issues now require a different approach. Changes in national laws must, of course, be in each country’s interest, for no government can take the risk of endangering its financial system. The financial collapse witnessed in the United States and Europe in the past year, which had devastating consequences for the rest of the world, is a warning signal about the direction not to go. “Dual listing” could well open a Pandora’s box, going far beyond the matter of capital account convertibility. There would be the question of regulatory oversight: the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), for instance, would not enjoy any jurisdiction in South Africa in the event of anything going wrong. Entrepreneurs, therefore, will need to finetune their merger and acquisition strategies. It’s not as simple as it looks, and not just a matter of give and take. And it is not only in emerging economies like South Africa that emotion can play a decisive role.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GRIEF & LOSS WHEN DEATH DO US PART

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 “If religion is the opium of the masses

Superstition is its ganja”

From Das Dasguptal

by Bachchoo

 

All one’s life one comes to terms with death. None of us have the privilege of being the young Siddharth, protected by his dad’s diktat from seeing old age, sickness and death. We are beset by these horsemen of the human conditional apocalypse and one contemplates their foreboding in different ways at different times. One hopes to attain something of the tranquillity or the peace of the Buddha before the reaper hits you with his scythe. These thoughts are prompted by my attendance for two days at the Catholic Masses and the funeral of a friend with whom I grew up and have known for all my life.


The death of Dara, Darius Francis Cama, was not the stuff of tragedy, not a shock, not generative of the desolation and waste one feels at the death of someone cut off in their prime. He was 68-years-old. He died of cancer which started in his tongue and spread to his oral cavity and then upward and downward to anatomical locations I couldn’t bear to enquire about. It was a painful death and a lingering one. Towards the end he had a funnel pierced into his stomach through which the medical staff would pour doses of pain-killing morphine and the nourishment to keep him alive.


My mother died peacefully, my father, 20 years before her, probably even more peacefully. He dropped dead while walking the streets of Isfahan, Iran. No, he wasn’t a professional street-walker. He was in Iran as a contract worker and was on his way to the local hospital to visit a sick friend. My mother and younger sister had gone on ahead and my father, following them on foot, spoke in his scant Farsi to the shopkeepers on the High Street and collapsed during the conversation. They called the ambulance and he was brought to the hospital where my mother and sister were waiting for him — but he was dead.


I was in England and got the news by phone.


I am now trying to remember or gauge the quality of my distress at the time. I certainly felt that he had more of a life to live even though he had lived a lot, seen and done a lot in the time he lived. My mother died when she was nearly 90. Her memory was going and she was quite frail. She would sit for hours on a sofa in my sister’s lavish drawing room and play Patience at a small table. I would on occasion find a card or two that had slipped from her uncertain shuffle and dropped by the sofa and would pick it up and tell her that she could never win a game with a card or two missing. She would look at me uncomprehendingly. It doesn’t matter, it’s not about winning, she would say. One may not hold all the cards — it was an attitude to living a life and to departing it.
The first death I experienced was my grandmother’s. I was eight. She died of a heart attack with two renowned Parsi doctors of Pune in attendance. I was deemed old enough to follow the bier to the Towers of Silence, clad in white and was acquainted then with the funereal ritual of exposing the body to the vultures, which seemed barbaric then but must be classified as ecologically desirable now.


Her death left a gap in my fledgling existence but it was not the same when a childhood friend, Sunder Wadhwani, perhaps four or five years older than me, who was the leader of our gang of youths, joined the Indian Air Force and died in a MiG crash during training. He had married young Maureen when he got his commission and she was pregnant when he plunged to his death. She died of a broken heart soon after. This was the tragedy of my teenage, the nightmare of the crash, the literal breaking of the heart of someone I knew, the horror of the unborn baby dying inside her. There was gossip in the town. Did he make a mistake? Was he trying one show-off manoeuvre too far? Did the MiG fail him because it had been inadequately maintained? The circumstantial and political questions faded. The horror, the loss, the void of a life cut short remained.
Then there was Anil Madan, again part of the later group of friends in Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune. We used to meet every day — in college, out of college and at weekends. Graduation and the pursuit of higher studies or jobs scattered us. I came to the UK and heard, a few years later, that Anil had done a masters degree in science and had migrated with his new wife to Boston. We kept in touch.


He died in a car crash at a road intersection in the late 70s. I was writing a book, a “novel” or concatenation of stories, about our boyhood and he haunted the writing. Poona Company is dedicated to him and I still see his gentle and penetrating eyes perusing the prose. He would have smiled and said a kind word had he actually read it.


Dara’s death was so different. He came to England, worked at odd jobs and very early on in his sojourn converted to Catholicism and then became a priest. He spent 10 or 12 years in Bolivia doing missionary work among the rural population of the Altiplano. He would write to me about it. Then his Order recalled him to serve as a priest in one diocese after another in England.


There were 600 people at his funeral and 55 Catholic priests. A bishop presided. I stayed two days in Swindon and Gloucester to make a gesture of representing his friends and family from that boyhood life, but found over those days and at the Mass and the funeral that he had won the affection of a whole community.
I was the only one there who didn’t share the certainty that he had gone to heaven. They sang, they prayed, they commended his soul to their God, they praised him — and they believed it. I spent a few quiet hours looking through his books in his simple suite of rooms and at the funeral, in representative respect rather than piety or belief, I recited a Zoroastrian prayer over his coffin as they buried him.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RECESSION: MISSION NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Stocks are up. Ben Bernanke says that the recession is over. And I sense a growing willingness among movers and shakers to declare “Mission Accomplished” when it comes to fighting the slump. It’s time, I keep hearing, to shift our focus from economic stimulus to the budget deficit.


No, it isn’t. And the complacency now setting in over the state of the economy is both foolish and dangerous.
Yes, the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration have pulled us “back from the brink” — the title of a new paper by Christina Romer, who leads the Council of Economic Advisers. She argues convincingly that expansionary policy saved us from a possible replay of the Great Depression.


But while not having another depression is a good thing, all indications are that unless the government does much more than is currently planned to help the economy recover, the job market — a market in which there are currently six times as many people seeking work as there are jobs on offer — will remain terrible for years to come.

 

Indeed, the administration’s own economic projection — a projection that takes into account the extra jobs the administration says its policies will create — is that the unemployment rate, which was below five per cent just two years ago, will average 9.8 per cent in 2010, 8.6 per cent in 2011, and 7.7 per cent in 2012.
This should not be considered an acceptable outlook. For one thing, it implies an enormous amount of suffering over the next few years. Moreover, unemployment that remains that high, that long, will cast long shadows over America’s future.


Anyone who thinks that we’re doing enough to create jobs should read a new report from John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute, which describes the “scarring” that’s likely to result from sustained high unemployment. Among other things, Mr Irons points out that sustained unemployment on the scale now being predicted would lead to a huge rise in child poverty — and that there’s overwhelming evidence that children who grow up in poverty are alarmingly likely to lead blighted lives.


These human costs should be our main concern, but the dollars and cents implications are also dire. Projections by the Congressional Budget Office, for example, imply that over the period from 2010 to 2013 — that is, not counting the losses we’ve already suffered — the “output gap,” the difference between the amount the economy could have produced and the amount it actually produces, will be more than $2 trillion. That’s trillions of dollars of productive potential going to waste.


Wait. It gets worse. A new report from the International Monetary Fund shows that the kind of recession we’ve had, a recession caused by a financial crisis, often leads to long-term damage to a country’s growth prospects. “The path of output tends to be depressed substantially and persistently following banking crises”.


The same report, however, suggests that this isn’t inevitable: “We find that a stronger short-term fiscal policy response” — by which they mean a temporary increase in government spending — “is significantly associated with smaller medium-term output losses”.


So we should be doing much more than we are to promote economic recovery, not just because it would reduce our current pain, but also because it would improve our long-run prospects.

But can we afford to do more — to provide more aid to beleaguered state governments and the unemployed, to spend more on infrastructure, to provide tax credits to employers who create jobs? Yes, we can.
The conventional wisdom is that trying to help the economy now produces short-term gain at the expense of long-term pain. But as I’ve just pointed out, from the point of view of the nation as a whole that’s not at all how it works. The slump is doing long-term damage to our economy and society, and mitigating that slump will lead to a better future.


What is true is that spending more on recovery and reconstruction would worsen the government’s own fiscal position. But even there, conventional wisdom greatly overstates the case. The true fiscal costs of supporting the economy are surprisingly small.


You see, spending money now means a stronger economy, both in the short run and in the long run. And a stronger economy means more revenues, which offset a large fraction of the upfront cost. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the offset falls short of 100 per cent, so that fiscal stimulus isn’t a complete free lunch.

 

But it costs far less than you’d think from listening to what passes for informed discussion.
Look, I know more stimulus is a hard sell politically. But it’s urgently needed. The question shouldn’t be whether we can afford to do more to promote recovery. It should be whether we can afford not to. And the answer is no.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PUTTING AN AUSTERE RING AROUND PAUCITY OF IDEAS

BY DILIP CHERIAN

 

Hypocrisy has a definite place in public life, as seen in the rediscovery of the virtues of austerity by the government. The political class is making a huge noise about this and odious comparisons are being made with babus. Of course, our political leaders have immediately taken a cue from the highest quarters in the land and embraced the new mantra, though as we saw in some highly-publicised instances, extremely reluctantly.
After all, let us not forget that political correctness is more often than not a coded cover for hypocrisy; a rhetorical device to escape some unpalatable truth(s). And even in a nation such as ours whose polity, much as anything else, rests on the timeless values of sacrifice, austerity and renunciation, there comes a time when people begin to see such acts as empty gestures devoid of any substance.


So the cynic may be forgiven for assuming that the missive that emanated from the finance ministry’s expenditure department — advising babus to shun first-class air travel, discourage use of five-star hotels, foreign travel, and “other administrative expenses” — should be viewed in the light of the forthcoming state elections. The political class is “sensitive” to those hapless ones in the citizenry who have been buffeted by the worst ill-effects of the economic slowdown. For sure, a certain frugality in the sarkar and its minions would not be amiss in a recessionary climate. But this is not the first time that such austerity drives have been announced, and going by past record, it can be safely stated that it would be highly optimistic to expect any great gains from the current one.


The thing is that austerity means different things to different people. The difference is in the semantics. What the politicians call austerity is what everyone else knows as cost-cutting. And while cost-cutting is eminently practical, it does lack the resonance of “austerity”, which has a haloed air around it, thanks to its socio-cultural and historical linkage.


Gandhi is the overused excuse and the new Congress mantra of being as far Left as convenient is a long-term positioning strategy that ends up with just this approach. Surely, one may ask, if an austerity-stricken government is serious about cutting costs, not to mention bureaucratic inertia and inefficiency, it needs to trim “government”. There is simply too much of it around. The fault lies not in babus but in the fact that we have too many of them. And it is a bit thick for the government to advocate austerity when the babus had barely laid their hands on to the Rs 12,500 crores largesse in the form of salary hikes and arrears from the Sixth Pay Commission! And this is just for the more than 3.5 million Central government employees, excluding defence personnel. The states have even more. Under pressure from their employees, they too have substantially jacked up salaries of babus in their respective states. According to an estimate, the combined budgetary deficit of all states is a staggering Rs 116,000 crores!


Let me illustrate with a recent example: Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Akali cohorts never tire of complaining about the fiscal crisis in the state. Most recently Mr Badal asked the Central government to release funds to compensate drought-hit farmers in the state. Still, the so-called paucity of funds has not stopped the Badal government from giving hefty pay hikes and salary arrears to babus and mantris alike.
Consider the fact that though babus in several other states are yet to get the second instalment of arrears recommended by the Sixth Central Pay Commission, officers in Punjab have, without waiting for the Union government notification, pressurised the chief minister into ordering the release of the arrears in advance. Clearly, austerity is something that you only impose on others when you are on the top. So it’s best imposed downwards and minimally imposed, but maximally imposed when you’re on the top. Therefore, the same set of babus and mantris are opposing release of Rs 4,800 crores arrears (recommended by the Fifth State Pay Commission) for state government employees, citing lack of funds!


After such knowledge, what forgiveness!


Simplicity and austerity should not be reduced to a one-line formula of mode of travel or class of travel.

 

Austerity should be a sum total of babus employed. Travel, whether by babus or netas, forms a minor percentage of the government’s expenses although it does make for headline-grabbing reports in the media. A 10 per cent cut in all expenses of babus, as advised by Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, or donating a miniscule percentage of ministers’ salaries for drought relief will not win any brownie points for the advocates of austerity. The real culprit is “Big Government”. We need to start downsizing it after countless years of budget speeches and reports of various pay and expenditure reform commissions.


Do we need 50 ministries (there were 18 at the time of Independence) apart from nearly a score of independent and attached departments and countless commissions and panels? Downsizing the government massively would be the real sign of austerity that is meaningful. Only once the Centre does it, can it tighten the screws on the states who anyway tend to be more profligate.


This means not only more administrative reforms and less discretionary government controls, but more transparent rules. Eschew the tokenism. That may also mean owning up and dealing with the bothersome equation between political leaders and babus. Ultimately, it should mean fewer government employees.
And could we do the same with netas, too?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

AAM AADMI SERVED UP AS ART IN LONDON

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

The best part of a London life is the constant buzz of events and exhibitions. You are spoilt for choice over theatre, cinema, art, discussions, book readings — and, of course, these days there has been the “Indian summer”: literally a brief warming up before the cold winter sets in. So while we have been treated to sunny days, coincidentally, on the streets of London there is a desi invasion, partly to do with the increase in the number of Indian events. Therefore, it was fun, just last week, to be walking between these “happenings” at various locations and bumping into old friends such as Suhel Seth and Malavika Singh on Piccadilly Street — all of us celebrating the spirit of India in London.


So is London now increasingly receptive to “Indian” events? It certainly appears to be. Till last year, I have to admit, I was troubled by the fact that there were many more exhibitions and events related to China — especially Chinese art. Even the auctions, where a Hussain or a Souza made headlines in India, were generally ignored by the mainstream media in London. And, in fact, at most exhibitions by Indian artists here would be only the usual suspects — there has been a Lakshman rekha which has carefully divided the “mainstream” art and the “other” artists, such as those from India. Which is why last week has been particularly delightful: there have been two major exhibitions by artists of Indian origin — and if the opening reception of artist Subodh Gupta’s exhibition is anything to go by, Indian art seems to have arrived in a big way.


Both the artists, Subodh Gupta and Anish Kapoor, are exhibiting in Piccadilly across the road from each other. Whilst Anish has a major exhibition on at the Royal Academy, Subodh just opened this week at Hauser and Wirth — with his very Indian tongue-in-cheek exhibition called “Aam Aadmi”. It may not exactly warm the cockles of the Congress Party heart to see its slogan so depicted — but it bears all the makings of a confident, flamboyant artist who has arrived.


My favourite piece of art by Subodh (not at this exhibition) is of course “A Very Hungry God” — an amazing sculpture of a skull made entirely from ordinary kitchen ware from the aam Indian kitchen. It is stunning in its complex design and simplicity of execution. As they say, it blows you away. In this exhibition he has carried his reputation of being an “idol thief” to a new dimension. Again using ordinary material — tiffin boxes, steel spoons, plates, and even shoes — he has managed to imbue a sense of belonging, nostalgia and memory in disparate elements. One immensely beautiful installation is something we all have seen in our dilapidated family homes — or in khandahars which abound in India: the roots of an ancient tree growing out of a wall. But apart from this realistic depiction, Subodh also plays with the world of ideas: his aam aadmi, for instance, are painted bronze mangoes in hay, lying inert in a wooden crate on a wood and iron table. Does it remind you of anything familiar — or is it more polite not to mention it?


Perhaps even more irreverant are his phallic prints framed like delicate and rare calligraphy on an entire wall of white. It would be difficult to find a better representation of the aam aadmi than that! (As I mentioned earlier, a certain political party may lose its fragile sense of humour over this, once again.)


Yet there are also more sweeping and grand installations: for instance, the clever creation of a huge gleaming steel thali in which coins shine through a haze of oil. An Indian version of the fountain at Trevi in Rome. This seems almost like a recognition of the aam aadmi and his aspirations — as well as the economic rise of India as a global giant. And yet in another large, equally gleaming silver thaali nearby lie, ironically, a collection of worn out shoes… the smoothness of the steel is almost an unnerving contrast to the worn out texture of the broken footwear: could these be the trampled, discarded men and women trampled in our race for aggrandisement and personal profit? Like all exhibitions, it is much more interesting if the art allows you the space to ponder — and while we quaffed our champagne and mulled over the transformation of the aam aadmi into art, it was also a moment to celebrate. In the crowded gallery, not only were desis present in full flow — there were also art critics and gallery owners sizing up the event and the opportunities.


Meanwhile, at the Royal Academy Anish Kapoor, an artist of Indian origin who already has an increasing number of acolytes, has opened to reviews which will guarantee an intrigued audience. Anish too has been exploring the explosive world of ideas and his installations and sculpture are even more interactive than those of Subodh Gupta. Starting from right outside the gallery where reflective balloons fly up giving distorted views of the entrance, to rather more playful (and yet again phallic!) representations inside, critics and viewers have claimed to be both enchanted and startled at the use of materials, colour and form. Reviewers have excitedly written about the colours which appear to assault you, and how the show “begins drilling down to our next level, the subconscious, where it starts probing indelicately in the psycho-sexual area…” (review by Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times). The critic goes on to talk about a “crudely masculine spectacle” of an “immensely phallic cannon”. He also compares Anish to Antony Gormley saying he cannot make out who is Britain’s more successful public sculptor, since both are masters of “sexy audience manipulation”. It is the last lines of the review which proved to me that Indian art has arrived. According to Januzczak, in Anish’s exhibition, “The biggest penis in the world was shagging the Royal Academy. That’s how weird a sculpture it is. That’s how good a show it is”.


It is well known that as a country’s economy booms, so do its art and artists: let us hope this psycho-sexual titillation of the British audiences continues to prosper!

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE WIZARD OF BECK

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Let us take a trip back into history. Not ancient history. Recent history. It is the winter of 2007. The presidential primaries are approaching. The talk jocks like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the rest are over the moon about Fred Thompson. They’re weak at the knees at the thought of Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, they are hurling torrents of abuse at the unreliable deviationists: John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Yet somehow, despite the fervour of the great microphone giants, the Thompson campaign flops like a fish. Meanwhile, Huckabee surges. Limbaugh attacks him, but social conservatives flock.


Along comes New Hampshire and McCain wins! Republican voters have not heeded their masters in the media. Before long, South Carolina looms as the crucial point of the race. The contest is effectively between Romney and McCain. The talk jocks are now in spittle-flecked furor. Day after day, whole programmes are dedicated to hurling abuse at McCain and everybody ever associated with him. The jocks are threatening to unleash their angry millions. Yet the imaginary armies do not materialise. McCain wins the South Carolina primary and goes on to win the nomination. The talk jocks can’t even deliver the conservative voters who show up at Republican primaries. They can’t even deliver South Carolina!


So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as The Wizard of Oz, of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.
But, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by this story. Over the past few years the talk jocks have demonstrated their real-world weakness time and again. Back in 2006, they threatened to build a new majority on anti-immigration fervour. House Republicans like J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, both of Arizona, built their re-election campaigns under that banner. But these two didn’t march to glory. Both lost their seats.


In 2008, after McCain had won his nomination, Limbaugh turned his attention to the Democratic race. He commanded his followers to vote in the Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton because “we need Barack Obama bloodied up politically”. Rush blared the trumpets, but few of his Dittoheads advanced.
Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.


But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavour by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the GOP. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.


So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.
They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.


The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the GOP. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.


By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MISSING THE POINT

 

UNLESS Delhi addresses the NSCN(IM)’s main demand for the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, there is little chance of the ongoing peace process making much headway. Nothing substantial has emerged after more than 50 rounds of talks spread over 12 years between the Centre and the collective NSCN(IM) leadership. Delhi is apparently in a dilemma ~ placating the Nagas would mean upsetting others in the three states and vice-versa. But if the peace process must continue, the Centre cannot skirt this sensitive issue. Having said that, some weeks ago ~ as if to wriggle out of this ~ the Union Home ministry announced that a fresh peace package would be sent to all Naga groups in November offering them financial largesse and devolution of more powers under the Constitution. Significantly, no mention was made of the Nagas’ territorial claim. Only low-level bureaucrats are capable of such ideas. The Nagas already enjoy facilities under Article 371F. Little wonder then that even before the Centre could go ahead, the Joint Working Group, formed for Naga reconciliation and comprising the NSCN(M), the Khaplang faction and the Naga National Council, rejected it. It also opposed the formation in early September of the Naga Common Forum by the Naga Consultative Meet in Kohima. Supported also by overseas Nagas, its objective is to prepare a common platform for Nagas to speak in one voice. The NSCN(IM) has questioned the very credibility of the Naga Hoho, the main group behind this. If the Forum for Naga Reconciliation ~ A Journey of Common Hope, which has been working for more than a year, claims the support of all shades of Naga politics, there does not appear to be any need for the Naga Common Forum. It is well known that the NSCN(IM) has already torpedoed the reconciliation process the Hoho initiated in December 2001. The need of the hour is unity of purpose. It, however, needs to be repeated that Naga peace hinges entirely on a change of heart.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RANCID HONEYMOON

 

THE message is fairly resonant. The Congress has been uncharacteristically assertive that the rules of engagement with the Trinamul Congress shan’t invariably be on the terms of the splinter entity. The outcome of Siliguri’s mayoral contest is a testament to the inherent fragility of the Congress-Trinamul patchwork quilt. With 15 councillors each, the offices of the mayor and chairman ought ideally to have been rotated between the two parties. Arguably, a compromise in the face of Congress assertiveness would have punctured the currently inflated ego of the Trinamul. In the event, Thursday’s contest served to underscore the patent distrust. The Left Front quite plainly has exploited the undercurrent of discord to the hilt by voting for the Congress candidates. It is of lesser moment whether the high command was privy to the local arrangement. Or whether the RSP minister, Kshiti Goswami ~ who has called the vote “unethical” ~ was aware that his party councillor had backed the Congress under CPI-M instructions. The bitter irony, within three weeks of the opposition’s momentous victory in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation elections, has visibly and quite totally bamboozled Mamata Banerjee. The wholly unanticipated jolt has decidedly neutralised the convincing inroad made by the Trinamul in north Bengal. The raptures of Deepa Das Munshi, the Congress MP from Raiganj, confirms the rift in the lute.


At another remove, the cross-voting will scarcely shore up the image of the CPI-M, smarting in the wake of the loss of the corporation after 28 years. Having severed its engagement with the Congress at the national level, it is all too obvious that it has sided with the party in Siliguri merely to upstage the Trinamul. Equally, the victory, ironically once more, will erode, rather than enhance, the credibility of the Congress as a dependable alliance partner. Clearly, the CPI-M has been driven by short-term considerations. The Congress mayor and the chairman have won on the strength of the Left vote and may well have to function on the CPI-M’s terms. Nothing could have been more stinging anathema for Mamata. The jolt, moral as much as material, comes at a particularly critical juncture for an ascendant politician. The nub of the matter must be that the CPI-M has managed to drive a wedge between the Congress and the Trinamul. Despite Mamata’s diplomatic statement that she will continue her engagement with the UPA, the alliance is quite palpably under a cloud. It has been a rancid honeymoon; the denouement, not too long after the Lok Sabha performance, fits into the CPI-M’s possible gameplan for 2011.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RETURNING FIRE

 

FUNDAMENTAL issues relating to using the defence forces on internal security duties arise from the Chief of the Air Staff going public on seeking government’s permission to fire in self-defence on Maoists who have been targeting IAF assets and personnel ~ one flight-engineer has been killed ~ as it plays an essentially secondary role in the country’s most lethal insurgency. In the immediate context, Air Chief Marshal VP Naik’s “request” re-reconfirms that there has been no comprehensive “thinking through” of the military dimension of the counter-naxal action plan (this newspaper has already commented on the home ministry flip-flop over deploying the army’s special forces). For, not to automatically authorise an armed force to protect itself is to cripple it. While armchair experts in New Delhi might pontificate that using helicopters on ferry and casualty-evacuation missions is “non-offensive”, it would be silly to assume the Maoists would concur. To them the IAF would be the “enemy”, a valid target in their skewed mindset. Surely the strategists in the corridors of powers ought to have realised that before seeking IAF assistance, and built self-protection provisions into the game-plan ~ at least sanitising the helipads the choppers would use. It would be worth noting the air chief’s pointing to severe difficulties in playing a more pro-active role because difficulties in target-identification raised the possibility of severe collateral damage. Also worth recalling is the reluctance of a predecessor to immediately respond to the army’s call for air support in the initial phase of the Kargil incursions. Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis had cautioned that employment of air power was always “escalatory”. That must be borne in mind, for given the lack of progress on the ground appeals for aerial assistance to flush out the Maoists would be tempting.


Going beyond the Maoist menace, it is time for an all-encompassing policy review on using the defence services where the paramilitary and police should suffice. It not only dilutes their capacity to thwart external threats, it often causes them to forfeit local sympathy and support, it has corrupting influences too. Nothing prevents the paramilitary from being equipped with helicopters and heavier weaponry, and there would be less fuss if they counter-punched hard ~ as opposed to the cacophony that follows “army action”. Nor would disputes arise over the AFSPA etc. As the Air Force anniversary approaches, much food for thought has been laid on the table.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NEW WORLD ORDER

RAJINDER PURI


South Asia’s regional three-day meeting of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament has started in Delhi. On September 29, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy had said that global non-proliferation should be universal and non-discriminatory and linked to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. He iterated India’s commitment to total nuclear disarmament. Fine sentiments! Brave words!


But how to ensure that these words move towards achieving their purpose instead of dissolving as hot air? The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, Mohammed ElBaradei, who also addressed the conference described India as the world’s leading advocate for nuclear disarmament. Very flattering! But how might that praise be justified?


ASIAN DETERRENCE

TO genuinely move towards total nuclear disarmament bold and unconventional thinking is required. Presented below is a concrete five-point plan to achieve total nuclear disarmament that prevails over a feet-dragging world.


1) The first need is to draw a roadmap for making Asia a nuclear free zone which then might pressure Europe and USA to accept total nuclear disarmament. That plan would require joint nuclear deterrence for all Asian nations till the West is compelled to accept total nuclear disarmament. Joint nuclear deterrence implies not only a unified nuclear command under the nations that accept the plan; it would also require a plan for phased world nuclear disarmament. That in turn would require the IAEA under the aegis of the UN to create a routine mechanism for periodically inspecting nuclear facilities worldwide. Until the plan is accepted worldwide the nations that embark on the road to achieving it must consent to this provisional arrangement with the IAEA. 
2) India must initiate quiet diplomatic persuasion with its immediate nuclear-seeking neighbours, Pakistan and Iran, to join in this venture. This would be the hardest part. If it does not succeed nothing is lost. There does remain a chance, however, that Iran might come on board to share nuclear defence under this plan. If that happens Pakistan too would be tempted. If even one nation is willing to come aboard India can move to the third step.


3) India should then formally move ahead with the goal of making Asia a provisional nuclear free zone as the first step towards total nuclear disarmament. It should announce an Asian conference to formalize this plan and invite China, North Korea, Japan and Israel in addition to Pakistan and Iran to attend its deliberations. Even a two-nation or three-nation attendance would indicate the start of the movement. Those invitees that decline to attend the conference or to accept the plan after attending it would be the ultimate losers. Global public opinion would overwhelmingly support concrete measures to achieve total nuclear disarmament.
Pressure the West


4) Once a core Asian group has been formed to further total nuclear disarmament there will be created leverage to pressure the West and also those Asian nuclear or potential nuclear nations that do not associate with the plan. This leverage will be created by the core group propagating the plan among all the non-nuclear nations of the world and exerting pressure in the UN.


5) Even before all the nuclear powers accept total disarmament the core group should finalize the draft plan for the transfer of authority to monitor nuclear inspection and disarmament to the UN which could oversee the IAEA working directly under its supervision. There would be serious technical problems arising from the need for safe destruction of existing nuclear weapons, the transfer of all the residual nuclear weapons worldwide to the control of the UN, and the UN authority sanctioned by all its members to exercise such control. Clearly, such arrangements imply revamping and reforming the UN itself to bring it closer to the concept of a world federal government. Total nuclear disarmament, therefore, would be a catalyst for taking a giant step towards shaping the New World Order. But that need not concern the founding nations of the movement at the primary stage. The movement would have to take one step at a time.


This five-point plan may appear wildly impractical and filled with reckless ideas to critics. The critics could be right. But for six decades the world has tried to move forward sensibly and safely towards avoiding nuclear disaster. It has failed miserably. Nuclear proliferation has increased, global terrorism has spread, and nuclear aspirations among nations have mounted.


To obtain successful results, therefore, why not try some unconventional ideas for a change?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS MEN

 

He was arrested more than three decades ago, when he was in his mid-forties, for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, possibly after drugging her. He pleaded guilty and then fled the law to another country. Since then, he has been a fugitive from one country’s laws, and was arrested again a few days ago in a third country under an international warrant. The matter would have ended there, and with the sense of a just ending. But it has not, for the man, before his offence and throughout his fugitive decades, has made several outstanding films. To many, he is one of the great filmmakers, and most of his peers — directors, producers, actors — are outraged that an artist of such calibre and seniority should be arrested in a country where he came to collect a lifetime achievement award.

 

Roman Polanski’s recent arrest in Switzerland has had a deeply divided response. His most memorable films — Knife in the Water, Rosemary’s Baby, Macbeth — play dark and compelling havoc with conventional moral responses to sexuality, violence, unreason and evil. Those who have been affected by these films over the years, or have been involved in their making, are either unequivocally against his arrest or find it difficult to take up absolute positions for or against it. But most popular polls are on the side of his not being above the law and want to see him in prison. And the president of France — of which Polanski is a citizen and whose extradition agreements with America had protected him from arrest — has now ordered his government to drop its support for Polanski. Clearly, even with something as universally condemned as the rape of a minor, the judgments become far from absolute and unanimous when the offence has been committed by an artist of Polanski’s stature. If Polanski had been a businessman or politician, would the question of his arrest been an equally open one? So why is art allowed to weave a magic circle around itself, within which there are no simple answers to questions that shoot off in different, irreconcilable directions towards the moral, the legal and the aesthetic? A few days after Polanski was arrested in Switzerland, Scotland Yard prevented the Tate Modern in London from showing a nude photograph of 10-year-old Brooke Shields as part of its exhibition of Pop Art. No society that fails to protect the vulnerability of children deserves to call itself civilized. But a society that does not allow conflicting opinions and public debate on censorship of the kind faced by the Tate also forfeits the right to call itself civilized.

 

So, why are art and artists let off the worst crimes in the name of civilization? Is it that the best of them exercise a strange sort of power over human beings that goes straight to the deep heart’s core, with its wealth of darkness that jails and lawcourts try in vain to regulate, dissipate or contain? This is danger and damage of quite another kind from what policemen are armed to tackle. No wonder that the opium-sodden poet’s two words of advice against his kind were “Beware! Beware!”

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

OF GOOD AND EVIL

THE COMMUNITY ASPECT OF THE DURGA PUJA DWARFS THE DEVOTIONAL

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

The Calcutta Club presidential candidate who canvassed for votes with the plea that it was one of only three assets left to Bengalis — the high court and Kalighat being the other two — was wrong. Club, court and temple can be sacrificed but not the razzmatazz of the uniquely Bengali festivities that have just ended.

 

It’s easy, therefore, to understand the anger and anguish over the farce in Rome where, thanks to Italian officialdom, Durga Puja was an on-again- off-again event. The eternal city’s municipal authorities first demanded that the puja be relocated to another park and then, last Thursday, withdrew permission altogether. Apparently, something like that happened last year too. The emotional injury compounded by wasted time, money and effort — for no one can deny the monumental organization that the festival entails — must have been especially galling because it was abroad. Expatriate Indians are so much more fervent in their displays of patriotism and ritual. It’s almost as if they feel compelled to indulge in ostentatious demonstrations of Indianness to compensate for escaping the rigours of life in India.

 

My friend and former colleague, Kanchan Gupta, who broke the news, reports that vigorous lobbying by India’s ambassador, Arif Shahid Khan, ensured that permission was finally granted. At last count, Khan was due to inaugurate the Pujas a day late. But, clearly, all’s not well that ends well. Gupta’s lament that Hindus are “humiliated, harassed and hounded by city officials who happen to be pious Christians” suggests that Hindus are the latter-day Christians lurking in Rome’s catacombs and scratching furtive signs in the sand with their walking sticks. That image of persecution may seem plausible since Italy has gained notoriety in recent months for horrendous racist attacks on gypsies as well as on Indian and African immigrants.

 

The incident has provoked indignant demands on the internet for action against Christians and churches in India. It has also prompted fulminations against the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which calls itself an independent bipartisan federal government commission. The USCIRF criticized the killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and of Christians in Orissa last year and has placed India on its “watch list”. What was barely reported here was that the Indian government refused visas to a USCIRF team last summer. “India’s democratic institutions charged with upholding the rule of law, most notably state and central judiciaries and police, have emerged as unwilling or unable to seek redress for victims of the violence,” said the chairman, Leonard Leo. “More must be done to ensure future violence does not occur and that perpetrators are held accountable.” It’s a view that all reasonable Indians must endorse though some might regard it as presumptuous for foreigners to say so.

 

By that same token, immigrants anywhere are expected to abide by the norms of the country they have chosen to live in for their economic betterment. If they find bans on hijabs and turbans irksome, they are free to return to the country of origin. It’s pointless arguing they bring benefits to the host country for that is never the motive for migrating. However, Christian observance in India is an indigenous phenomenon. Even if Kerala’s Syrian church is not the world’s oldest, Christianity has been here long enough to be classified as Indian. It is too much part of the Indian scene to be compared to an occasional exotic Hindu rite in Rome.

 

The Italian officials who told the Puja organizers, according to Gupta, that the difficulties they raised were “retaliatory action against the persecution of Christians in India” did not grasp this difference. They also made the typical Western mistake of confusing a folk festival with a religious service. Durga Puja commemorates the epic battle between dharma and adharma with its profound moral symbolism. But most sarvojanin organizers are far more interested in the material dividend the event yields. The crowds are drawn by the competitive glitter, food stalls and general festive excitement. I have recorded before that the only remotely devotional comment I ever heard in many years of childhood association with what has become a major barowari puja was an elderly man asking the purohit mashai who Saraswati’s husband was. The purohit mashai didn’t know.

 

The report that Khan would inaugurate the Rome puja highlighted the fundamental difference between a social event and religious observance, not because he is Muslim but because he is a VIP. Here, Mao Siwei, China’s consul-general, had a similar role in some pujas. So did Sanjay Wadvani, Britain’s deputy high commissioner. Beth A. Payne, the American consul-general, told a Calcutta audience she had “participated” in a Kali Puja. These events gained in prestige from roping in foreigners, and diplomats at that. Similarly, politicians patronize pujas with an eye to the votes of lakhs of visitors. Mao Siwei was being diplomatic when he said, “Durga Puja is not only a religious festival but a popular cultural and social event.” Otherwise, he would have acknowledged that it is more social and cultural than religious and also included the adjective political.

 

The tension in some Maharashtra towns during last month’s Ganesh festival confirmed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s belief that “those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is”. The nexus was broadcast when worshippers decorated the arch they erected on the route to the immersion with depictions of Shivaji killing Afzal Khan, the Bijapur sultanate’s commander, at the battle of Pratapgad in 1658. Some might hold that the killing portrayed did more dishonour than honour to the great Maratha hero, but such niceties are irrelevant to fanatical devotion to a cause. Shivaji and Afzal Khan being the two poles round which Maharashtra’s Hindus and Muslims still rally, the police removed the arch, prompting Ganesh worshippers to postpone the immersion and provoking violence and death.

 

The modest puja I remember was fun precisely because it was so far removed from any kind of spirituality. It was also an essay in self-help for we collected donations, borrowed flower pots and decorated the pandal for an amateur do-it-yourself occasion where only the images were bought and the priest hired. Now, of course, Durga Puja is an extravagant carnival epitomizing the triumph of commerce and advertising. That’s the trend everywhere. The founders of Calcutta’s august clubs, who spoke of trade with averted head and a handkerchief to the nose, would turn in their graves to see these establishments plastered with liquor advertisements like low drinking dives. Given half a chance, the worthies who have taken over the management would bedeck clubs with all the garish décor of puja pandals.

 

Two comments, both by foreign women, are pertinent.

One, the English wife of a prominent Bengali barrister once invited the wrath of her orthodox in-laws by suggesting in an article in the Amrita Bazar Patrika that it would be economical to pool resources and hold fewer barowari pujas, of which there were reportedly more than 3,000 this year. However, that otherwise sound advice overlooks the human element. Being basically secular, each puja highlights a well-defined local identity that flaunts creative skill and competitive pride. The community aspect dwarfs the devotional.

 

Two, what the American consul-general had to say about extending the puja effort bears reiterating in this crumbling city. Beth Payne was impressed by the “amazing annual feat of community commitment and organization” whereby neighbourhoods and clubs throughout Calcutta spend at least six months working out the logistics of their puja — “raising funds, holding meetings, deciding themes, organizing entertainment and then hosting safe and enjoyable pujas for a week”. It made her wonder “what type of city Calcutta could be if everyone devoted the other six months of the year to revitalizing the city”.

If only there was a way of finding out!

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

BORLAUG REVOLUTION

IT WOULD NOT BE TOO MUCH OF AN EXAGGERATION TO SAY THAT BUT FOR NORMAN BORLAUG MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE THIRD WORLD WOULD HAVE DIED OF STARVATION. WHAT HE DID WAS NOT IN HIS COUNTRY’S INTEREST BUT FOR HUMANITY.

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

American farmers made handsome living by exporting wheat to countries which were in need, including India and Pakistan. They profited by shortages elsewhere and would have liked the state of affairs to continue. That was not good enough for a man like Borlaug. He was an agricultural scientist and regarded increasing agricultural output as a sacred duty. Most of his research was conducted in Mexico, which was also facing prospects of famine. He spent years developing hybrid varieties of wheat which yield more and are immune to rust which did enormous damage to crops. He succeeded in his endeavour.


Borlaug came to India and Pakistan both of which were in deficit and were spending vast amount of foreign exchange to import wheat from the United States. Within a couple of years he succeeded in turning both countries into agriculturally prosperous states. The produce of wheat per acre was quadrupled.


Similarly, hybrid variety of rice was evolved and rice production increased seven-fold. Those who have survived an impending calamity have much to thank for to Borlaug. The Nobel Prize which he won in 1970 was a meagre acknowledgement of his truly  pioneering work. We Indians owe him special gratitude. He was a frequent visitor at the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana.


Many of our agricultural scientists like M S Swaminathan were closely associated with him in his research work. He was honoured with a Padma Vibhushan. To call the phenomenon the Green Revolution will not tell future generations about the person who brought it about: we should rename it the Borlaug Revolution.


POLICING PARKS

A couple of weeks ago in another column I wrote about people who make feeding and care of stray dogs a part of their daily routine. I was pleasantly surprised by the readers’ response.


Since a good portion of my column was about do-gooders whose focus of attention is Lodhi Gardens and elite localities around the Delhi Golf Club, they had a lot to say about some of skull duggery they come across. I can vouch for some of it as till recently I was a regular visitor to Lodhi Gardens and spent my summer afternoons in the Golf Club swimming pool.


Lodhi Gardens has regular police presence to see no one misbehaves. However, that does not apply to the policemen on duty. After doing their two-hour stint they change into plain clothes and go round harassing young couples in secluded spots holding hands. They question their marital status, threaten to expose them till they shell out money. They do the same to vendors of soft drinks, ice-cream and peanuts who do small business at the parks entrance gates. They are no better than parties of ‘hijdas’ who do much the same by clapping hands, gyrating and singing in male voices around lovers seeking solitude till they are paid off.


In elite bungalows, the scene is different. The rich keep pedigree dogs as status symbols. They don’t have time to create bonds with pets they own. That is left to the servants, who also take them out for airing and a little exercise. Many have iron cages near their entrance gates in which their dogs are kept most of time to be seen and heard barking when an outsider appears. It is cruelty of a different type: an elitist indifference to an animal which deserves to be talked to and loved.


Khap khap

The rich, shortsighted Haryanvi

Does sorely lack in sympathy

For those who tie the knot

In gurudwaras, temples or court

In defiance of the Khap panchayat’s dictat.

What’s all that gupahup

About freedom to love and be loved

We are living in 2009 AD.

But the minds of the khap panchayats are locked in 2009 CE.


(Courtesy: N E K Nandi Gobindgarh)


THE MIGHTIEST

Four Catholic men and a Catholic woman were having coffee. The first Catholic man tells his friends, “My son is a priest. When he walks into a room, everyone calls him ‘Father’. The second Catholic man chirps, “My son is a bishop. When he walks into a room, people call him ‘Your Grace’.” The third Catholic gent says, “My son is a cardinal. When he enters a room everyone says ‘Your Eminence’.”


The fourth Catholic man chirps, “My son is the Pope. When he walks into a room people call him ‘Your Holiness’.”

Since the lone Catholic woman was sipping her coffee in silence, the four men give her a subtle, “Well...?” She replies, “I have a daughter. She is slim, tall and 36-24-36. When she walks into a room, people say, “Oh God!...”

(Contributed by Vipin Buckahey, New Delhi)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WORTH EMULATING

THE OLD MAN WAS ONLY GIVING BACK TO THE SOCIETY WHAT HE GOT FROM SENIORS.

BY PADMA GANAPATI

 

Walking down CMH Road some time ago, I was aware of an odd feeling of nakedness. At first, I couldn’t understand what gave rise to that feeling. But when my eyes focussed on one tree stump after another, I realised that the road had been stripped of all its greenery. It was bereft of trees. In the name of progress ( this was the prelude to the arrival of the Metro), the big, beautiful, shady trees that lined either side of the road had been ruthlessly felled. A little ahead, I noticed an even more pathetic, heart-rending sight. The stumps had been savagely uprooted and cast aside. At least the stumps might sprout, if given the chance. But the uprooted stump was a carcass, incapable of regaining life.


This sad sight brought to mind a story that I had been told as a child.

An old, old man, with a body that must have been sturdy in his youth, was digging a row of small pits in the ground. The recent rains had softened the soil. This made his work a bit easy. He placed a sapling in each pit, and with his gnarled hands shovelled the damp soil around the root. Then he tied a supporting stick to each slender sapling. He fetched a watering can and gentled sprinkled a little bit of water around the saplings. Having completed his task, he surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction. A small smile creased his wrinkled face.


A young boy, who had been watching all this fascinatedly, approached the old man. “Please tell me, Sir, why have you planted these saplings?” he asked.


“Several years from now, these sapling will grow into large, shady trees under which people can shelter from the sun’s harsh rays,” he explained.


“But you won’t be alive then!” exclaimed the boy, in the blunt way that children sometimes speak. The old man laughed aloud. This puzzled the boy. “Why are you laughing, Sir?”


The old man pointed to  some trees in the distance. “Do you see all those trees over there?” he questioned.

“Yes,” said the boy.


“Well, they were planted decades ago by men who are no longer alive. But we are enjoying the fruits of their labour. In the same way, long after I am dead and gone, future generations will enjoy the beauty and shade of the huge trees these saplings will have grown into.”

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEGOTIATING WITH TEHRAN

 

Buyer beware has to be the rule when dealing with Iran and its nuclear ambitions. For years, Iran has cheated and lied and made just-in-time concessions to sidestep any real punishment.

 

So we are skeptical about Tehran’s offer this week to send most of its stock of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into reactor fuel. It could be good news — delaying the day when Iran would be able to build a nuclear weapon and, we hope, quieting calls in Israel for military action.

 

But that would only be true if Iran isn’t hiding more stocks of enriched uranium somewhere else. And one must not forget that Tehran is continuing to churn out enriched uranium at its plant in Natanz — in direct defiance of a United Nations Security Council order.

 

The United States and the other great powers that resumed negotiations with Iran this week are going to have to push Iran’s leaders hard to fulfill this promise and to finally open up their entire nuclear complex to rigorous international inspection.

 

At the talks — the first with the Americans fully involved — Iran also said it would open the uranium-enrichment plant it is building near Qum to international inspection in the next two weeks. Of course, Iran didn’t even acknowledge that it was building a plant near Qum until last week after it was caught red-handed.

 

Iran has long insisted that it must be able to do all of the steps in nuclear fuel production — from uranium mining through enrichment and fuel fabrication. It argued that that was the only way it could be sure it would have an uninterrupted fuel supply for its nuclear power plants.

 

Most of the rest of the world suspected that what it really wanted was to be able to make the fuel for a nuclear weapon.

 

That said, there are good reasons to continue negotiating — and to continue testing Iran’s intentions.

 

Odds are Tehran is just playing for more time. But given all of the political ferment in the wake of June’s stolen presidential elections — and the disclosure of the Qum site — there is a chance that Iran’s leaders are getting nervous about their future and their ability to avoid or withstand tough international sanctions.

 

We are encouraged that more talks are set for later this month. But this is no time for complacency or wishful thinking. The United States and its partners must push Iran to open all of its declared nuclear facilities and allow inspectors to interview any Iranian scientist they choose to — the only way to figure out what else Iran may be hiding. The leading powers must also be ready to impose tough sanctions if Iran resists or if negotiations go nowhere.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BOTCHED EXECUTIONS

 

Ohio’s attempt to execute Romell Broom last month by lethal injection was the death penalty at its most barbaric. Even after that horribly botched failed execution, the state wants to continue putting people to death, starting next week. Ohio should at the very least call a moratorium so it can ensure that it has the technical competence to put people to death humanely. But every state should use this shameful moment to question whether they ought to be putting people to death at all.

 

The execution team in Ohio spent about two hours trying to access a vein on Mr. Broom’s arms and legs. They stuck him with a needle about 18 times, returning to areas that were already bruised. In one case, the needle reportedly hit a bone. Mr. Broom tried to help, pointing to veins, massaging his arms to keep a vein open and straightening tubes. At one point, some witnesses suggested he was crying.

 

Mr. Broom’s case is extraordinary because his execution was actually halted and he was returned to death row. Botched executions, however, are far too common. The Death Penalty Information Center has a harrowing list on its Web site.

 

In an Alabama electrocution, flames erupted from the electrode attached to a prisoner’s leg, and even after his flesh burned, doctors found a heartbeat. In Florida in 2006, a prisoner required two lethal injections to die. After the first, he seemed to grimace and mouth words.

 

The Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Kentucky’s use of lethal injection last year, but it left open the possibility that lethal injection could be cruel and unusual in some circumstances. The record in that case was thin, but Ohio’s use of lethal injection raises more obvious concerns. In the last four years, it has had three botched executions, including one in 2006, which took nearly an hour and a half and left the prisoner’s body with 19 puncture wounds.

 

We have long believed that capital punishment is wrong in all cases, but even those who support it should not accept cruel procedures.

 

Ohio should halt any further executions until it conducts a comprehensive study of what is going wrong in its administration of lethal injection and what can be done to ensure that a travesty like Mr. Broom’s attempted execution does not happen again.

 

Ultimately, every state should pause and consider that ending the life of a healthy man or woman is no simple matter and that even in the 21st century, executioners do not have their job down to anything like a science. No government should put people to death until it can show that the condemned person will not be racked with pain, catch on fire or prove so difficult to kill, as in Mr. Broom’s case, that the executioners are forced to try again another day.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SCIENCE AND LOBBYING AT THE F.D.A.

 

The Food and Drug Administration, newly energized under the Obama administration, has now admitted that it capitulated to political pressure when it approved a knee-repair device in the waning days of the Bush administration.

 

The agency acknowledged that “extreme” pressure from four members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven Rothman, all Democrats — influenced a decision that was supposed to be made on scientific grounds.

 

The admission shines much-needed light on the insidious ways that politicians can influence regulatory decisions — and the insidious influence of money in politics. All four politicians received significant campaign contributions from the device maker within a few months of their intervention.

 

The device, made by ReGen Biologics Inc. of Hackensack, N.J., is intended to repair a torn or damaged meniscus, a pad of tissue that acts as a shock absorber and stabilizer in the knee. Marketed as Menaflex, it is supposed to cushion stress in the joint and encourage regeneration of tissue. But a clinical trial in the 1990s failed to show that it worked any better than standard surgery and raised some concerns about safety.

 

The company subsequently applied for approval under a fast-track procedure that does not require proof of safety and efficacy; instead it allows approval of devices if they are “substantially equivalent” to others already on the market. When the F.D.A.’s scientific reviewers found that other devices were not equivalent, the company complained of unfair treatment and prodded the four New Jersey lawmakers to lean on the agency.

 

An investigation by top agency officials has now concluded that several “deeply disturbing” departures from normal practice “raise serious questions about whether the integrity (as well as the quality) of the review process was compromised.”

 

It found that Andrew von Eschenbach, the agency’s former commissioner, after meeting with company officials, became involved in decisions typically handled at lower levels. The agency ultimately ruled that the device was substantially equivalent to others already marketed, based largely on judgments rendered by a panel of outside experts who, at the company’s request, were not allowed to hear directly from the scientific reviewers.

 

The F.D.A. has now wisely decided to review its decision to approve Menaflex. It has also said it is revising its internal procedures to ensure that decisions are properly documented and follow standard protocol, and it has asked the Institute of Medicine to review the process by which medical devices are approved.

 

This shabby episode carries an important warning for policy makers as they debate health care reform. Decisions on what treatments work best have to be insulated from political lobbying. Otherwise there will be little hope for reining in spending on unproven treatments that may be ineffective or harmful.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS DREAM

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

It is the obligation of every American to have a dream. The bigger the better.

 

One of my personal dreams is that we should have a public health insurance option. To tell you the truth, this was not on my list at the beginning of 2009. But so many really irritating people have been announcing that a public option is impossible/wrong/possibly treasonous that now I yearn for it night and day.

 

And if we’re really going to get the economy rolling again, everybody is going to need a lot more dreams involving very large plasma TVs. Plus new cars and maybe a really snazzy espresso machine.

 

The White House had a dream of getting Chicago the Olympics. Didn’t work out. At all. And some people feel it was sort of weird for Barack Obama to throw himself into the fight with such ardor. They may have a point. But if the president is going to take a flier on an improbably and possibly delusional quest, I would prefer that it involve lobbying the Olympic committee rather than, say, invading a country.

 

As a nation we seem to be overstocked on dreams involving fame and fortune, particularly the ones that come untethered to any plans for actual achievement. Every time a TV show holds auditions for a new singing or dancing or top-modeling competition, the streets are stacked with people who appear to have no particular talent or training but are confident that they can make it to the top, thanks to the critical dream factor.

 

And maybe they have a point. When President Obama told the nation’s schoolchildren that success requires hard work, a reality TV star named Spencer Pratt retorted that it was actually quite easy. He makes millions of dollars every year playing himself on “The Hills” and attending a large number of nightclub openings. This was not something Pratt had to study for.

 

Sarah Palin has not been setting a very good example, either. This week her publisher announced that Palin had produced a 400-page memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life” in only four months. This is exactly the kind of facility that many nonwriters who dream of best-sellerdom imagine they could summon once they got the right title and dedication page.

 

First-time writers generally only achieve this kind of stupendous productivity when somebody else does the actual writing. Palin was channeled by Lynn Vincent, who has worked with a number of other conservative celebs, including William Boykin, the general who got into hot water by suggesting that his God was better than the Muslims’ God. (Boykin’s “Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom” was widely acclaimed for the length of its subtitle.)

 

In an ingenious spin on the co-author strategy, Stephenie Meyer, who wrote the “Twilight” novels, said that her vampire hero appeared in a dream and then dictated the first book as fast as she could type. He did not demand a percentage of the advance. This does sound like a great strategy, and I understand that millions of American women currently have a dream of having that dream.

 

Then there is Tom DeLay and “Dancing With the Stars.”

 

 

I promise not to bring this show up again, unless they surprise us with a guest appearance by Mitt Romney doing the hustle.

 

However, it is the perfect example of our theme since it is packed with people who had once briefly achieved stardom and now yearn to recapture lost glory by doing something for which most of them have no actual talent whatsoever.

 

“Dancing With the Stars” calls DeLay “arguably the highest-ranking star we’ve ever had,” which really translates into “was once more important than Donny Osmond.”

 

DeLay’s dream appears to be to remake himself into a person who is famous for something other than transforming the Congressional Republican caucus from cost-cutting reformers into lobbyist-loving back-scratchers in less time than it took Sarah Palin to deliver her first chapter. He looked terrifyingly cheerful during that cha-cha last week but was far more somber in the second competition. He looked, in fact, as if the House ethics committee had just plunked itself down at the judges table.

 

It turned out that he was suffering from what the announcer described as the agony of “toe trouble” or a “pre-stress fracture.” It wasn’t entirely clear whether it was the stress or the fracture that was imminent, but DeLay vowed to carry on despite his suffering.

 

“I’ve worked too hard and even though my foot hurts, nothing’s going to stop me from doing this dance tonight,” he said grimly, in a quote that we really hope will go down in Texas political history, right under whatever Davy Crockett said before the battle of the Alamo.

 

Then he almost dropped his partner on her head. What can I tell you, people? Dreams die hard.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

EPHEMERAL COMFORT OF CONSERVATISM

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

After November’s Republican rout, and after Republican Party identification hit a record low and the party’s approval rating reached a near-record low, many liberals openly hoped that the G.O.P. and its conservative tenets would go the way of the Whigs. Au contraire.

 

A series of recent Gallup polls has actually detected an uptick in conservative sentiment across a broad range of measures. For example:

 

•The party identification gap between Democrats and Republicans is now the smallest it has been since 2005.

 

•There is a “renewed desire” for government to promote traditional values.

 

•An August report saw a marked increase in the number of people who want to decrease immigration.

 

•A June report found that conservatives are now the largest ideological group, outnumbering liberals 2 to 1. And another June report found that while there was no change in the number of people who thought that Republicans were too conservative, there was an uptick in those who thought that Democrats were too liberal.

 

•A May report found that for the first time since Gallup began asking about abortion in 1995, more Americans are now anti-abortion than supportive of abortion rights.

 

Is this a reaction to a new Democratic administration in general or to President Obama in particular? Maybe it’s the manifestation of something more deeply rooted in our behavior.A hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln framed conservatism thusly: “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?” It was and still is. Conservatism for some is a collective mooring against the waves of change. It is a reflexive reaction to uncertainty.

 

The Obama administration’s response to the financial and automotive crises and its pursuit of a wide range of reforms is the epitome of new and untried. Major change has come much too quickly for far too many. The response: retreat to a cocoon of conservatism.Nothing illustrates this better than the health care reform debate. Fear of change and the uncertainty it brings is driving a large portion of the opposition. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released on Tuesday found that the top three words selected by those in favor of reforms to describe their feelings were “hopeful,” “optimistic” and “positive.” On the other hand, the top three words used by those opposed to reforms were “frustrated,” “confused” and “angry.”

 

This fear and frustration put feet into the streets. Some simply protested the health care reforms, but others vented their cumulative angst. It was a conservative catharsis.

 

I believe that fear is fleeting and anger subsides. The question is: Where are we along the arc of anxiety? If it persists, it could spell real trouble for the Democrats a year from now.

•I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CRACKS IN THE FUTURE

BY BOB HERBERT

 

While the U.S. has struggled with enormous problems over the past several years, there has been at least one consistent bright spot. Its system of higher education has remained the finest in the world.

 

Now there are ominous cracks appearing in that cornerstone of American civilization. Exhibit A is the University of California, Berkeley, the finest public university in the world and undoubtedly one of the two or three best universities in the United States, public or private.

 

More of Berkeley’s undergraduates go on to get Ph.D.’s than those at any other university in the country. The school is among the nation’s leaders in producing winners of the Nobel Prize. An extraordinary amount of cutting-edge research in a wide variety of critically important fields, including energy and the biological sciences, is taking place here.

 

While I was roaming the campus, talking to students, professors and administrators, word came that scientists had put together a full analysis and a fairly complete fossilized skeleton of Ardi, who is known to her closest living associates as Ardipithecus ramidus. At 4.4 million years of age, this four-foot tall, tree-climbing wonder is now the oldest known human ancestor.

 

Give Berkeley credit. The school’s Tim White, a paleoanthropologist, led the international team that worked for years on this project, an invaluable advance in human knowledge and understanding.

 

So it’s dismaying to realize that the grandeur of Berkeley (and the remarkable success of the University of California system, of which Berkeley is the flagship) is being jeopardized by shortsighted politicians and California’s colossally dysfunctional budget processes.

 

Berkeley is caught in a full-blown budget crisis with nothing much in the way of upside in sight. The school is trying to cope with what the chancellor, Robert Birgeneau, described as a “severe and rapid loss in funding” from the state, which has shortchanged Berkeley’s budget nearly $150 million this year, and cut more than $800 million from the higher education system as a whole.

 

This is like waving goodbye to the futures of untold numbers of students. Chancellor Birgeneau denounced the state’s action as “a completely irresponsible disinvestment in the future of its public universities.”

 

(The chancellor was being kind. Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes watching the chaos of California politicians trying to deal with fiscal and budgetary matters would consider “completely irresponsible” to be the mildest of possible characterizations.)

 

Berkeley is laying off staffers, reducing faculty through attrition and cutting pay. Student fees will no doubt have to be raised, and the fear is that if the financial crisis continues unabated it will be difficult to retain and recruit the world-class scholars who do so much to make the school so special.

 

Chancellor Birgeneau said he is optimistic that Berkeley will be able to maintain its greatness and continue to thrive, but he told me candidly in an interview, “It’s hard to see when we are going to get back to a situation where we can start rewarding people properly.”

We should all care about this because Berkeley is an enormous and enormously unique national asset. As a public university it offers large numbers of outstanding students from economically difficult backgrounds the same exceptionally high-quality education that is available at the finest private universities.

 

Something wonderful is going on when a school that is ranked among those at the very top in the nation and the world is also a school in which more than a third of the 25,000 undergraduates qualify for federal Pell grants, which means their family incomes are less than $45,000 a year. More than 4,000 students at Berkeley are from families where the annual income is $20,000 or less.

 

More than a third are the first in their families to attend a four-year college.

 

Berkeley is aggressively pursuing alternative funding sources. The danger is that as public support for the school declines, it will lose more and more of its public character. Substantially higher fees for incoming students would be the norm, and more and more students from out of state and out of the country (who can afford to pay the full freight of their education) would be recruited.

 

This would most likely hurt students from middle-class families more than poorer ones. Those kids are caught between the less well-off, who are helped by a variety of financial aid programs, and the wealthy students, whose families have no problem paying for a first-class college education.

 

The problems at Berkeley are particularly acute because of the state’s drastic reduction of support. But colleges and universities across the country — public and private — are struggling because of the prolonged economic crisis and the pressure on state budgets. It will say a great deal about what kind of nation we’ve become if we let these most valuable assets slip into a period of decline.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NOBODY LIKES US? WHO CARES?

BY JOHN R. MILLER

 

IN 1926, a time of peace, Edwin James wrote in The Times Magazine: “Of all the peoples in the world, the Americans are the least loved. That is one way of saying that the United States of America is the most unpopular nation on the face of the earth.”

 

This should help put into perspective current American concerns about negative international public opinion. The United States’ standing in the world has always been relatively low and that overall negative trend is unaffected by the fact that much of the world celebrated the election of President Obama, or by polls indicating that at least some Europeans are pleased with Mr. Obama’s leadership. Public opinion, it seems, is driven less by current events or decisions than by a deep resentment of America’s powerful status.

 

This helps explain the negativity (mostly in Western Europe) that James sensed in the 1920s. One informal survey from that time showed that just a few years after the United States helped France to fight a war with Germany, the French people called the United States their least favorite among nations, Germany included. French mobs marched on the United States Embassy and threw rocks at buses carrying American tourists.

 

Americans were bewildered. Hadn’t the French always loved us, as evidenced by their giving troops and loans to help the American Revolution? And hadn’t we just sent troops and loans to help the French in the war? Why were the French so angry?

 

The answer is simple: Major world powers attract envy and resentment. Nations, like individuals, would much prefer to be seen as the generous benefactor rather than the dependent beneficiary — especially of a nation that was once far less powerful.

 

Perhaps demonstrating this point, a curious change occurred in the late 1920s and ’30s. As the United States retreated to a more isolationist stance, Western European public opinion seemed to change for the better. Gallup surveys in 1939 showed that, even as Americans tried to stay aloof from the war in Europe, the French and British public, both by a sizable margin, regarded the United States as their favorite foreign nation.

 

After we joined Britain and liberated France, public opinion toward the United States swung again. A Gallup survey in 1945 showed a dip in feelings toward America after liberation, with 54 percent of the French expressing disappointment with America. As for Britain, in wartime essays at the end of 1943, George Orwell wrestled with the fact that while British officials were careful to offer nothing but praise for the United States, the British public had developed a very low opinion of the Yanks.

 

One would think that at least the Marshall Plan, through which the United States offered economic aid to help rebuild Europe after World War II, would have brought some good will. But Europeans seemed to be resentful of these gifts: Secretary of State Dean Acheson was concerned at the time about growing anti-American public opinion in Western Europe.

 

To be sure, opinion toward the United States today is not overwhelmingly negative, thanks to widespread approval of President Obama. A recent survey from the German Marshall Fund suggested that positive opinion of the United States had skyrocketed in Europe. Likewise, a Pew survey showed that approval of America has jumped to 75 percent in France and 69 percent in Britain. But the comparable figures were 63 percent and 75 percent, respectively, in the second year of George W. Bush’s administration, and we all know where the numbers went from there. It merely may be that new American presidents tend to enjoy a honeymoon in foreign opinion.

 

Given these mixed signals, which surveys should President Obama pay attention to — the ones that suggest approval of his leadership or the more negative appraisals? The answer is neither. His only concern should be whether favorable public opinion abroad will help him achieve America’s own goals, and there is little evidence that that is the case.

 

Rather, history suggests that there is only one sure way for President Obama to ensure the popularity of the United States abroad: reduce the power of the United States or simply don’t exercise it — either militarily, economically or even diplomatically. The world simply distrusts the big guy on the block, and the only way to address this is to stop behaving like a superpower. A much better option, of course, would be to pay less attention to foreign opinion surveys and more to our own ideals and interests.

 

John R. Miller, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, is a former Republican representative from Washington and the former State Department ambassador at large on modern slavery.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

QUETTA QUESTION

 

The rumours about key Taliban leaders lurking in Quetta are not new. They have been around for months, even years. Some claim that at one point big meetings of the Taliban were held quite openly at a set location each week and attended by hundreds if not thousands. Vague claims of the sighting of the one-eyed Mullah Omar have surfaced from time to time. The presence, in the Balochistan capital, of Taliban elements is also borne out by the fact that last year women were barred from certain restaurants whose owners were warned not to serve them. Against this background it is hardly surprising that a brand new controversy has sprung up. The Pakistani government, in response to an interview given to the US media by Anne W Patterson, US ambassador to Pakistan, has insisted there is a disconnect between her and Washington. The ambassador's claim that the Taliban are orchestrating anti-US operations from Quetta has been vehemently denied. Once more Islamabad has emphasized zero-tolerance policy against militancy. This is all very well. We hope it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. However we must point out that a crisis of credibility has existed in the past. Given this, we must ask why so many stories about the Taliban activities in Balochistan persist, if there is no truth to them at all. News reports with no substance tend to wither and die away. It is also a fact that these accounts have appeared in the media from many different sources. It is questionable if they can all be entirely inaccurate.


A point of crisis is now approaching. Washington is adopting an increasingly belligerent tone, combining praise with demands for more action. There has been mention in the media of proposals to send drones to strike targets in Quetta. The city is clearly emerging, as much as Waziristan, as the focal point of attention. Pakistan has every right to be angered by false charges. It must also oppose the strikes over cities with all the force it can muster. The very thought of bombs and missiles dropped over urban centres is just too terrible to contemplate. It must never happen. Washington itself must realize this. We hear there are officials there who have spoken out against the idea. These voices of sanity must prevail. But Pakistan too, while issuing its denials, needs to look into the facts. Its officials need simply to explore the Internet or articles written in past years about Taliban gatherings in Quetta. The reasons for the conviction that key members of the Afghan Taliban are indeed present in Balochistan need to be examined. The province after all neighbours Taliban strongholds and has been used in the past too as a place of refuge by those fleeing Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai was once among the safety-seekers. There may be others who have followed the same route. This possibility must not be ignored. Islamabad must build credibility and persuade the world that it is ready to hunt down the Taliban wherever they are based. In this strategy lies its own future safety and good standing in the international community.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SUGAR AND THE SC

 

The apex court has rebuked the Punjab government for filing an appeal against an LHC decision that sugar be sold at Rs40 a kilogram and stressed it should have focused on ensuring this happened instead of challenging the verdict. During an unusually long hearing, the court came down still harder on the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association whose chairman, in the court's view, might have submitted a fake document. The messy running of the PSMA as they were revealed before the court gives us some insight into the manner in which the cartels which control prices are run. Given this, the court orders that sugar be sold at Rs40 till a commission can rule in the matter is welcome. The question of whether courts should attempt to micro-manage economics and the government is an open one. This after all is not their job. But then the sight of people waiting for hours to buy a small amount of sugar is not acceptable either.


From the court hearing a means to impose rationality may emerge. It has suggested that the Competition Commission of Pakistan, whose function it is to prevent monopolies from exploiting people, submit its proposals. There is also a suggestion that the CCP fix sugar prices rather than leaving the issue to market forces, thus saving people from ruthless sugar barons. Certainly, there is a need to regulate prices more effectively. This is not the first time we have seen a sugar crisis unfold. And unless concrete measures are taken it will not be the last either. That the courts at the level of the SC have needed to intervene in such matters is testimony to the terrible state of governance. That cement cartels nearly succeeded in getting rid of the CCP chairman who had acted to control their activities is another. Fortunately he was reinstated following an angry outcry. The CCP can now play a role in setting sugar rates. But the real success will come when we see in place more mechanisms to regulate prices in a routine way and thus protect consumers from exploitative forces out to maximize profits.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THUMBS UP!

 

The ICC award conferred on Aleem Dar is indeed an honour. He was voted Umpire of the Year by the ten captains of Test playing nations and a panel of elite umpires. The choice was based on decision statistics for 12 months. Dar has, in recent years, stood out as an umpire able to rule the ground with the calm authority characteristic of all the great umpires of the past. With this ability – and of course the judgment that all umpires need – comes respect from the playing teams. The well-deserved award for Dar also breaks with an unfortunate tradition that possibly has its origins in the 1955-56 tour to Pakistan by the MCC. A local umpire, the unfortunate Idris Baig, was accused by the tourists of a string of unfair verdicts, and was manhandled by irate players off the field. In some versions of events he had iced water poured over him. In others his arm was broken. Since then, in Pakistan other men in the white coat have been accused of bias towards their home team. The era of TV and neutral umpires has helped end this. There is much to celebrate in this. But Dar has broken new ground in terms of excellence and professionalism. For this he needs a round of whole-hearted applause.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FAHEEM HUSSAIN -- AS I KNEW HIM

PERVEZ HOODBHOY


It was mid-October 1973 when, after a gruelling 26-hour train ride from Karachi, I reached the physics department of Islamabad University (or Quaid-e-Azam University, as it is now known). As I dumped my luggage and "hold-all" in front of the chairman's office, a tall, handsome man with twinkling eyes looked at me curiously. He was wearing a bright orange Che Guevara t-shirt and shocking green pants. His long beard, though shorter than mine, was just as unruly and unkempt. We struck up a conversation. At 23, I had just graduated from MIT and was to be a lecturer in the department; he had already been teaching as associate professor for five years. The conversation turned out to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Together with Abdul Hameed Nayyar - also bearded at the time - we became known as the Sufis of Physics. Thirty six years later, when Faheem Hussain lost his battle against prostate cancer, our sadness was beyond measure.


Revolutionary, humanist, and scientist, Faheem Hussain embodied the political and social ferment of the late 1960s. With a Ph.D that he received in 1966 from Imperial College London, he had been well-placed for a solid career anywhere in the world. In a profession where names matter, he had worked under the famous P T Mathews in the group headed by the even better known Abdus Salam. After his degree, Faheem spent two years at the University of Chicago. This gave him a chance to work with some of the world's best physicists, but also brought him into contact with the American anti-Vietnam war movement and a powerful wave of revolutionary Marxist thinking. Even decades later, Faheem would describe himself as an "unreconstructed Marxist". Participating in the mass anti-war demonstrations at UC had stirred his moral soul; he felt the urge to do more than just physics. Now married to Jane Steinfels, a like-minded soul who he met in Chicago, Faheem decided to return to Pakistan.


Faheem and Jane made an amazing couple. Fully immersed in the outstanding causes of the times, they seemed to have a limitless amount of revolutionary energy. Long before I knew them, they had been protesting against the Pakistan Army's actions in East Pakistan. As Faheem would recount, this was a lonely fight. Many Marxists in those times, inspired by Mao's China, chose to understand the issue in geopolitical terms rather than as a popular struggle for independence. Some leftists ended up supporting the army's mass murder of Bengalis.

With Bangladesh now a reality, things moved on. Bhutto's rhetoric of socialism and justice for the poor had inspired nascent trade union movements to sprout across Pakistan's cities. Many, however, quickly turned into organizations for labour control rather than emancipation. There were genuinely independent ones too, such as the Peoples Labour Federation (PLF), an independent Rawalpindi based trade union that saw through Bhutto's shallow rhetoric. In the early 1970s, Faheem and Jane were highly influential in this organization, sometimes providing security and cover to its hunted leadership. Iqbal Bali, who passed away in the middle of this year, would vividly recount those days.


Very soon, I joined the small group of leftwing activists that looked up to this couple for instruction and guidance. We formed study groups operating under the PLF, both for self-education and for spreading the message through small study groups of industrial workers. Some, including myself, branched out further, working in distant villages. Gathering material support for the Baloch nationalists, who were fighting an army rejuvenated by Bhutto, was yet another goal for the group. The dream was to bring about a socialist revolution in Pakistan. All this crashed to an end with Bhutto's death by hanging in 1979 and the subsequent consolidation of General Ziaul Haq's coup. Pakistan's Dark Age had just begun. Although Bhutto's regime had turned repressive and violent in its last desperate days, it was gentle in comparison with what was to follow. With dissent savagely muzzled, the only option was to operate underground. On Nov 3, 1981, three of our QAU colleagues and friends were caught, imprisoned, and savaged by the military regime. Jamil Omar, a lecturer in computer science and the "ring leader" - was tortured. Two others – Tariq Ahsan and Mohammed Salim – were also imprisoned and their careers destroyed. Their crime was involvement in the secret publication of "Jamhoori Pakistan", a four-page newsletter that demanded return to democracy and the end of army rule.


Although Faheem was not directly involved in "Jamhoori Pakistan", we knew he was being closely watched by the intelligence agencies and could have chosen to hide. Instead, with characteristic fearlessness, he did all that was possible to help locate the abducted teachers, and then to secure their release. But the struggle took its toll. By the mid 1980s, Faheem was in the doldrums. Situated in an academically barren environment, he was able to publish little research of worth. Politically, there was no chance of doing anything significant in the climate of repression. Things had gone downhill in personal terms as well – his marriage with Jane was coming apart. To the great sorrow of their friends, the couple parted ways and Jane returned to America. Encouraged by Faheem, she had written school books on Pakistani history that are still sold and used today. In 1989, Faheem left QAU formally but his involvement in academic and political matters had already dropped off in the year or two before that.


From this low point in his life, Faheem struggled upwards. Initially in Germany, and then elsewhere later, he now concentrated solely upon his profession and was able to learn an impressive amount of new physics. Professor Abdus Salam, who by now had received a Nobel Prize for his work, invited Faheem to become a permanent member of the theoretical physics group at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy. Faheem remained there until his retirement in 2004. Getting this position was no mean achievement: theoretical physics is a fiercely competitive and notoriously difficult subject. Faheem was the first Pakistani to publish a research paper in one of its most challenging areas – superstring theory.


With a cheerful and positive disposition, and an abiding concern for the welfare of others, Faheem quickly became popular at the ICTP. His laughter would resonate in the institute's corridors. With time, he took on administrative responsibilities as well and was instrumental in setting up a "diploma programme" that admits students from third world countries for advanced studies in various areas. Now married to Sara, a beautiful and even-tempered Italian woman, he was equally comfortable with Italians and Pakistanis or, for that matter, Indians. To Faheem, a cultural amphibian, differences between nations carried no meaning. And then came retirement time. What to do? I wrote to Faheem: come back! He agreed. Finding money was not a problem – Pakistan's higher education was experiencing a budgetary boom. But his old university, plagued by base rivalries and a contemptuous disdain for learning, refused. Specious arguments were given to prevent one of its own founding members, now one of Pakistan's most distinguished and active physicists, from being taken on the faculty. Initially at the National Centre for Physics in Islamabad, Faheem was eventually offered a position at the newly-established science faculty of LUMS in Lahore.


Faheem's unpretentious mannerisms and gentleness of spirit ensured that LUMS too was enamoured of him. Asad Naqvi, one of Pakistan's leading physicists and a faculty member at LUMS, wrote to me upon hearing of Faheem's death: "I am lost after hearing this. I only knew him for about five years, and in that short time, I had grown really fond of him. We are all poorer today, having lost such a lovely person who touched us so deeply."


Surely, there shall be many other such tributes from Faheem's many friends. But, to be true to him as well as my own self, I must admit that in later years we did disagree on some important things - "unreconstructed Marxism" to me is an anachronism, a relic of the 1960s and still earlier, meaningless in a world that has become far more complex than Marx could have possibly imagined. Nor can I reflexively support today's so-called
"anti-imperialism" of the left that ends up supporting the forces of regressive fundamentalism. But let these issues stand wherever they do. Why is it necessary for friends to agree upon everything?

From atoms to atoms – death is inevitable, the final victory of entropy over order. Meaningless? No! To have lived a full life, to have experienced its richness, to have struggled not just for oneself but for others as well, and to have earned the respect and love of those around you. That is a life worth living. Faheem, my friend, you are gone. May you now rest in peace, with a job well done.


The writer teaches physics at Quaid-e-Azam University.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THREATS TO THE STATE

FARZANA BARI


The multiple crises the state is faced with today bring home the stark realisation that the policies pursued by the state elite over the last 62 years for national security in Pakistan were incorrect and misplaced. The territory-centered state security paradigm has resulted in a lack of human security that is now posing the biggest internal threat to the country. Massive economic insecurity, illiteracy, rising unemployment, inflation, energy and water shortages, food insecurity, inaccessibility to social sector services, militancy, sectarianism and extremism, rampant kidnapping and killing for ransom and the complete breakdown of law and order are some of the real existential threats to the security of the state today.


Pakistan appears to be crumbling down not because of external threats but from the internal crisis intensified by the competing forces within the state elite and institutions. The contemporary crisis of the state and its internal contradictions can only be understood in its historical and colonial context.


Pakistan inherited internal and external security dilemmas from the colonial rule as part of independence. The major internal threat to the state stems from the very ideology of Pakistan itself. In the absence of a commonly shared notion of nationhood, the post-colonial state establishment started using Islam as a unifying force to keep the ethnically and culturally diverse population together. The state was Islamised through the Objectives Resolution in 1949. Thus, the ideology of Pakistan created a need for a strong centre. Despite the initial contract between the centre and the various federating units that the latter would be sovereign and autonomous, the centre refused to grant provincial autonomy to its federating units in the successive military and civilian governments for the last 62 years. The over-centralised state created tension between the federal and provincial units. The independence of Bangladesh was a nail in the coffin of the ideology of Pakistan.


However, no lessons were learnt. The centre continued to exploit provincial resources, refused to abolish the concurrent list and did not work out a power and resource sharing formula between the federal and provincial governments. As a result of this, the national question emerged as one of the most serious threats to the state security. Some of these nationalist forces are now turning into secessionist movements.


Another major threat to the state is from rising religious militancy and extremism. After independence, Pakistan inherited the disputes of Kashmir with India and Durand Line with Afghanistan. To respond to these perceived security threats from neighbouring countries, the Pakistani establishment crafted the policy of support to non-state actors and trained Islamist militants who were fighting in Indian held Kashmir. The annexation of the Objectives Resolution with Pakistan's first constitution was followed by declaring Ahmadiyya sect as non-Muslims in 1974. The policy of appeasement of religious forces was at its peak during the military dictators of Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf's military rule.


Ziaul Haq nurtured Islamist militants with the support of the US to fight Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The radical Islamists were given tremendous financial and political support to establish religious madaris to produce and train militants for Afghan jihad. Musharraf's regime secured the electoral victory of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) through manipulation of elections in NWFP. During the five-year-rule of MMA (2002-2007) in NWFP, radical militant groups in FATA became strong.


In the post-9/11 scenario, the Pakistani establishment was forced by the US to withdraw traditional state support to these militant groups who then turned against the country. Today, the rise of neo-Taliban insurgency in the shape of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) is posing a threat to the state.


Rising poverty, illiteracy and disease are other formidable threats to state security. In the name of territorial security, the state provided justification to spend a bulk of its financial resources on defence and the development of nuclear capability. Investment on education, health and creating employment opportunities lagged far behind the ever-rising defence budget. The state compromised human security and failed to diverge from state centric to people-centric security paradigm. Today nuclear Pakistan is unable to provide personal security to its citizens from rising extremism and Talibanisation, sectarian violence, suicide bombing, kidnapping and killing, crushing poverty and disease.


The criminal neglect of human security concerns and lack of investment in human capital by the self-serving state elite is the most serious threat to Pakistan -- not external but emanating from within the national borders.

To save the country from contemporary traditional and non-traditional security threat, the new social contract is the need of the day. The key element of this new contract must include the separation of religion from state, complete provincial autonomy, balance between the security needs of the individual, community and state, massive investment in human capital, inclusion of citizens in governance, gender equality and an independent foreign policy.


The writer is acting director of the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University. Email: farzana @comsats.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE FOREIGN HAND

ASIF EZDI


Zardari's remarks in an informal conversation with some journalists on Sept 14 that Musharraf had resigned in August last year as part of a negotiated settlement guaranteed by "international and local powers who have stakes in the region" had no other purpose than to draw in foreign countries and the Army on his side in the current debate on the question of Musharraf's trial. Although he did not say so explicitly, Zardari suggested strongly that the deal included a promise that Musharraf would not be prosecuted under Article 6 for high treason.

The international players Zardari was referring to are clearly the United States and Saudi Arabia, though Britain would also probably like to claim the honour. And although Zardari avoided naming the Army and Gen Kayani, no one was left in any doubt which "local power" he was pointing to.


Farhatullah Babar's denial two days later is believed to have been issued at the behest of one or more of these "stakeholders." Kayani had a meeting with Zardari on the day following Zardari's remarks and it is very likely that the army chief raised the matter.


Despite Babar's denial, Zardari's claim will continue to be believed, unless these "stakeholders" themselves distance themselves from it. The US has already done so. The American ambassador said in a TV interview on Sept 19 that Washington had pressed for a "graceful retirement" for Musharraf, but forcefully denied that Washington was exerting any pressure to give him immunity from trial under Article 6. Musharraf now belonged to the past, the ambassador said, and Washington had no position on this question.


Although Gilani had declared on Aug 15 that the military had nothing to do with Musharraf's trial and was not creating any hurdles, a clear statement by Kayani himself on this issue would be very much in order in view of Zardari's claim that the Army was a party to a safe-exit deal. In his desperation, Musharraf too has been claiming that Kayani, then director general of the ISI, as well as the nine corps commanders, were equally responsible for the assault on the Constitution.


A statement by the Army on Musharraf's trial would once and for all put a stop to Zardari's efforts to use its name in his political games and to Musharraf's attempt to escape justice by dragging Kayani in. It would also silence those political parties which have been insinuating that Kayani will not allow Musharraf's trial because of his own involvement in the decision to declare the "emergency."


Zardari and Musharraf have also attempted to involve foreign countries in the question of the former dictator's trial. Of course, there is a long and shameful history of Pakistani rulers looking to Washington's backing in pursuit of their ambitions. Half-a-century ago, President Iskander Mirza sought America's prior blessing for the coup d'état in October 1958 which only three weeks late toppled him from power.


The appointment of Benazir Bhutto as prime minister following the parliamentary elections in 1988 took place after Washington's intervention. Although the PPP emerged with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, the military and other powers in the establishment were unwilling to hand over power to her. She became prime minister only under some gentle US pressure, including a letter from President Reagan. It is therefore no wonder that when the establishment tried to topple her in 1990, she turned to President George H W Bush for support.

In July 1999, when Nawaz Sharif felt threatened by an army coup, he sent Shahbaz Sharif to Washington to seek American backing. At Nawaz's request, the State Department issued a warning against a military takeover. He then precipitated matters by his incredibly harebrained scheme to remove Musharraf.


The most blatant instance of Pakistani leaders seeking America's support to achieve their political ambitions is without doubt the Washington-brokered deal two years ago for power-sharing between Musharraf and Benazir. The nauseating spectacle of the country's current president and a former prime minister trying to outdo each other in the bid to win Washington's favour must go down as one of the most disgraceful episodes in our history. Both vied with each other feverishly in trying to convince Washington that its interests would be better served if they were in power in Islamabad.


While Benazir promised to do Washington's bidding in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and to allow the interrogation of Dr A Q Khan by the IAEA, Musharraf sold out the country's long-standing position on Kashmir, and refrained from pressing the case for Pakistan's access to civilian nuclear technology. Later, following the emergency, they both looked up to officials of the administration of George W Bush in making their political moves.


Musharraf's successor now hopes to retain Washington's goodwill by continuing his policies, while also in addition fulfilling Benazir's promise to do more in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, without regard to the consequences for Pakistan. Zardari would also have no qualms about handing over A Q Khan to the Americans if he could do it without jeopardising his own hold on power.


Saudi Arabia, the other major foreign "stakeholder" to which Zardari was referring, has been closely involved in our domestic politics since 1977, when Saudi ambassador Riadh al-Khatib tried unsuccessfully to mediate between Zufikar Ali Bhutto and the PNA in the aftermath of the electoral fiasco in March that year. Then in 2000, following Musharraf's coup, the Saudis arranged to have Nawaz Sharif sent into exile in return for his agreement to stay out of the country's politics for ten years.


The, in September 2007, Saudi intelligence chief Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz came to Pakistan at Musharraf's request and declared at a press conference at Army House that the agreement made by Nawaz Sharif to go into exile took precedence over the Supreme Court ruling less than a month earlier that the former prime minister had an inalienable right under the Constitution to enter and remain in the country.


Musharraf is again pinning his hopes on the Saudis. Having met King Abdullah on Sept 1-2 to plead for Saudi intervention to save his skin, Musharraf claimed in a TV interview on Sept 14 that he had received assurances from the Saudi monarch that Nawaz Sharif would not press for a trial under Article 6. Ishaq Dar, who attended Nawaz's meeting with Abdullah the same morning, has said that the issue of Musharraf's trial was not discussed. There are other reports that Abdullah asked Nawaz to adopt a reconciliation policy, avoid "controversial issues" and help in steering the country out of political instability. We have not heard yet from Nawaz himself about this meeting. But if it turns out that he has agreed to soft-pedal the demand for Musharraf's trial, our political class will have hit another low.


Outside meddling in our domestic politics takes place because our own leaders are lacking in character, stature and self-respect, and because they have no scruples in inviting, encouraging and tolerating foreign interference if it will help them in pursuing their narrow and selfish political and personal aims. The foreign hand through which outside intervention occurs lies in our midst.

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: asifezdi@ yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TERRIBLE TIMES

TALAT FAROOQ


The ongoing spy vs spy blame game and perpetual bickering among the politicians has turned into a circus with civilian politicians baying for blood to settle personal scores and ex-military officers adding fuel to fire. As the show progresses, an exhausted nation burdened with inflation and load-shedding watches with dismay. The political elite and the common people of Pakistan exist on two diametrically opposing levels of existence. The ever increasing number of poor is once again manifested in the long queues for a bag of flour or sugar on the roads of the Pakistani cities. If this cannot force the rulers and the opposition to hang their heads in shame, nothing will.


The chronic gap between the rulers and masses has grown exponentially over the last six decades. The fundamental flaw in this relationship pertains to lack of contact between the two at the grassroots level. The social contract is workable only if it is based on mutual trust. Unfortunately, politics in Pakistan has always been marked by trust deficit primarily because it is based on a feudal mindset that perpetuates a system of patronage favouring cronies and loyalists. While the medieval definition of feudalism is not applicable to the entire Pakistani society, the feudal mindset continues to flourish at the rural and urban levels. It has perpetuated poverty and deprivation besides contributing to poor governance and corruption.


This particular frame of mind is not only the domain of the powerful landowners but also that of the industrialists and business class in politics as well as the military dictatorship. Be it civilian or military, when in power, the Pakistani leadership tends to resort to the feudal way of conducting the affairs of the state. It is, therefore, not surprising that their stints are characterised more by struggle for control of state resources than any sincere effort toward people-friendly policies and their implementation. The politicians' response to the on-going sugar and flour crises and reports of rampant corruption at the highest level once again reflect their feudal leanings.

The quality of the relationship between rulers and the ruled determines the functionality of a social system. If the relationship is lopsided, it leads to the kind of socio-economic subjugation that persists in our society after more than 60 years of independence. The political movers and shakers of Pakistan continue to control the masses and in the absence of strong democratic institutions, the masses continue to allow them to prosper.


Despite one-and-a-half year of political power, the politicians, both in government and opposition, are unable to do away with the 17th Amendment. The feudal mindset is again at play -- the possibility of a strong parliament goes against the grain of our feudal lords. It is too much to expect that the political feudals will voluntarily relinquish control or that the masses will stand up for themselves. It is we, the educated and the well-to-do, who can and should fight for them. But are we any different from the rulers?


It is not often that one hears us question our own mindset pertaining to our personal responsibility as citizens. Have we not, in general, empowered the feudal dispensation by sticking to our closed mindset? Instead of rising against the status quo, we have found it more convenient to apply it to our daily lives. Take any sector, public or private; cronyism and nepotism are usually promoted at the cost of professionalism and merit. Be it access to a menial job, admission to an educational institution, corporate post or inclusion in a national sports team, nothing can ensure a more positive response from the higher-ups than knowing the right people. By showering undeserved favours, the bosses can ensure loyalty from their juniors and can exercise control over the lives of others within the parameters of their individual fiefdoms. What is exercised at the top of the ladder is usually copied at the middle and bottom rungs.


In an era of information explosion and telecommunication, we are certainly more politically aware than the previous generation. Yet we continue to adhere to personality cults because it suits our short-term, selfish goals. We vote into power people whose parties have no internal system of democratic traditions and then expect them to bring democracy to the masses. Is it then surprising that what passes as democracy today in Pakistan is hardly more than a ritual? Democracy without a democratic mindset can never flourish in letter and spirit. True democracy will come to Pakistan only if we learn to vote for a system and not a face.


In our day-to-day lives, we exercise the feudal attitude with as much abandon as the rulers in their palaces. As parents, teachers, colleagues and bosses we have the tendency to slip into the feudal mode while dealing with those younger or junior to us. On the road, our traffic is a reflection of our non-democratic approach to life. By refusing to take personal responsibility for our lives, we contribute to the perpetuation of the status quo. And while we are learning to speak up for our own rights we still have a long way to go.

 

The lower income group and poor are suffering, and it is up to us to help alleviate their miseries. Different NGOs, human rights organisations, intelligentsia and those more fortunate than others should come together to form non-political pressure groups to press for the rights of the under-privileged. There should be protests and sit-ins to galvanise the government into action. At the moment there are no such groups in sight even as the life of the weak and the poor becomes harder by the day. The media is playing its part but a more mature approach to national issues should replace hysterical sensationalism. The media can contribute toward nurturing a democratic mindset in the people only through objective analysis. The feudal mindset can never change; it can only be replaced with a democratic outlook. The ball is in our court.


The writer is executive editor of the magazine Criterion, Islamabad. Email: talat farooq11@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

REPOTTING?

ANJUM NIAZ


We like our houseplants to grow. So we repot them into bigger pots. We water them, fertilise them and even talk to them, giving them a little 'TLC.' Prime Minister Gilani's 'tender love and care' that he has showered on the newly shuffled, promoted and favoured bureaucrats is a giant leap in repotting. He has done well to shed the old dried rehires (Ashfaq Gondal and Kamal Shah); snip those whose branches were getting too big for the plant which is the prime minister himself, and rearranged and brought forward those willing to bend the way the Zardari-Gilani combo deems fit. The big question being thrown out is why the luxuriant shower of fertiliser on 51 officers inured with the highest rank civil servants dream of.


Are they tall enough to stand on their own or are some the home-grown variety incubated by the PPP government?

A few from the PPP incubators are still fledglings. They got promoted to grade 21 this year and now they are in grade 22! The star among them is the prime minister's acting principal secretary, Ms Nargis Sethi. She has clinched the top grade along with three others from her batch. There was a time when the post of principal secretary was handled by the senior most civil servant. His track record and not personal friendship with the rulers won him this coveted position. But when Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif became prime ministers twice, they cherry-picked officers they knew would deliver. These men were senior civil servants with years of outstanding administrative experience behind them (unlike Ms Sethi). But when a government fell, the principal secretary would be the first to be marched off to the clinker, even tortured on a slab of ice to squeal against his former boss!


The post of principal secretary presently considered 'first among equals' should be abolished. It has done more dishonour to the service than any other post. And nor should we have an information secretary. Only because we do not need an info department. Yes we have a brand new information secretary whose efficiency can be better utilised than planting stories in the media or fattening his Rolodex with phone numbers of a pliable press rewarded with junkets abroad. Mansur is indispensable to his bosses. He served twice as the press consular in New York with extensions. Still, I maintain the nation is better served were his talents exploited elsewhere.

Now back to Gilani's pick of fifty-one. We're told the prime minister did his due diligence by making sure he selected officers from all the four provinces – urban and rural as well as from services other than the DMG (district management group), the jewel in the civil service crown. If and if only these officers were promoted on merit and on the professional advice of the Federal Service Commission, we salute the prime minister. Is that what happened? We'll soon find out who among the 51 are duds, lackeys and geniuses.


Meanwhile inheritors of power, as the law of primogeniture bequeaths on the DMG for virtue of being firstborns in the bureaucratic hierarchy, has played havoc with their egos. "Of all the breed of men I've come across in Pakistan, l find the DMG tribe the most despicable and arrogant," says someone from a lesser service. "At the DMG campus in Lahore, it's instilled in them that they are the rulers of Pakistan. In my personal interactions with these officers in their offices, I found them haughty and full of hot air. Boys aspire to join DMG to use it as a tool for social mobility and not for the purpose of serving the country. They stink from top BPS 22 to bottom BPS 17. My hatred for them stems from their arrogance and their inaccessibility to the common man." Phew! His angst is genuine.

No column is complete without a mention of America: was the bureaucratic shakeup meant to bring a smile on Obama's face when Zardari met him recently?

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

COURT'S EPIC JOURNEY

BABAR SATTAR


Even lawyers accustomed to deciphering legalese for a living hardly expect to stumble into a lengthy legal text the reading of which could itself be deemed a source of pleasure. But mulling over the 379-page judgment rendered in the PCO Judges Case was simply exhilarating. This judgment endeavors to clean up our rotten constitutional jurisprudence and lay down a solid legal foundation to support a constitutional and political structure rooted in rule of law and ethical values. It is no less than a watershed in the history of our nation that has been struggling for 62 years to embody the spirit of constitutionalism. Whether viewed as the end of a volatile phase of our rule of law movement or the starting point of a born-again independent court that is translating the rhetoric of democracy and rule of law into practical reality, this ruling must be a source of pride and reassurance for all the starry-eyed dreamers whose conviction in the ability of ordinary right-thinking people to engineer progressive change actually resulted in a miracle.


The parts of the ruling making headlines include (i) the candid declaration that General Musharraf is a usurper liable to be tried for treason, (ii) reasoning that extinguishes any room for excuses that the still-serving PCO judges might have been conjuring up since the short order to avoid impeachment proceedings before the Supreme Judicial Council, and (iii) the mechanism laid out to gauge the validity of Musharraf's last-minute treacherous legislative measures including the NRO. But the most lasting contribution of this ruling will be the fact that our apex court has finally authored a clear doctrine of democracy entrenched in the principle of constitutionalism that excludes all theoretical arguments permitting adventurism in the name of necessity. And this doctrine is braced not by noble intentions of the judges presently serving on the bench, but by the unequivocal declaration that the Constitution grants not even the Supreme Court the authority to declare an extra-constitutional action as valid.


While reading the initial part of the judgment that summarizes our convoluted constitutional history and reflects on the Zafar Ali Shah case, one has a sinking feeling that the court might try and justify the shameful circumstances in which the bench validated Musharraf's coup of 1999 – especially as Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, who has authored the present ruling was also a member of the bench that ruled on the Zafar Ali Shah case. But what one finds instead is neither self-effacing defensiveness nor self-congratulating aggression born out of guilt and aimed at laying the blame of the erstwhile injudicious demeanor of the court elsewhere; rather a clear admission of mistakes in a tone of objective self-censure meant to recognize the errors committed in interpreting the Constitution and marked with an aim to move forward with a sense of purpose.


"A wrong was committed in 1954 by the Federal Court with its decision on Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan's case, given not on merits, but on a purely legal – rather hyper-technical question, continued to be perpetuated every now and then under the garb of different theories and doctrines," states the ruling and adds that, "had the court adopted a constitutional approach in the very first case, and followed the same in just one or two more cases if such an occasion arose, the course of history would have been certainly not the one that this nation has treaded all along." Admission of past juridical errors seems to set the court free to chart out a principled course for the future, and this is has been accomplished by formulating the twin doctrine of democracy and constitutionalism.


Tracing the democratic history of Pakistan's independence, the ruling states that "the people of Pakistan are committed and dedicated to preserving democracy achieved by their unremitting struggle against oppression and tyranny, as duly voiced and recognized in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan", and that, "military rule, direct or indirect, is to be shunned once and for all … let it be made clear that it was wrongly justified in the past and it ought not to be justified in future on any ground, principle, doctrine or theory whatsoever." The theory of democracy rests on explicit provisions of the Constitution and highlights the mandatory nature of civilian control of the military under Pakistan's fundamental law. "In the course of the discharge of his duties" the court explains, "a soldier is obligated to seeing that the Constitution is upheld, it is not abrogated, it is not subverted, it is not mutilated, and to say the least, it is not held in abeyance and it is not amended by an authority not competent to do so under the Constitution."


While holding that Musharraf "failed to abide by his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution", the court rules out the ridiculous notion that there can arise circumstances where the Constitution provides no solution and thus the logic of necessity must kick in. "The Constitution was framed to continue to be in force at all time," states the court and that, "by Article 6, an in-built mechanism was provided to safeguard the Constitution from its abrogation or subversion by anyone." Thus highlighting that Article 6 is no dead letter of the law, the court concludes that, "it is hereby firmly laid down that the holding in abeyance of the Constitution or any other act having the effect of discontinuing the operation and the enforceability of the Constitution for a single moment in a manner not authorized under the Constitution is nothing but an overthrowing of the Constitution, so to say, subversion of the Constitution and thus constitutes the offense of high treason."


But this time around the court's support for constitutionalism, democracy and civilian control of the military is not grounded in noble aspirations of judges, but their interpretation of nature of legal authority as exists under our Constitution. "We lay it down firmly that the assumption of power by an authority not mentioned in the Constitution would be unconstitutional, illegal and void ab initio and not liable to be recognized by any court, including the Supreme Court," states the court, and further that "a judge playing any role in the recognition of such assumption of power would be guilty of misconduct within the ambit of Article 209 of the Constitution." The sanction prescribed for usurpers (under Article 6) and for judges abetting subversion (under Article 6 and 209) is not just a product of the ire provoked by the misconduct of PCO judges after Nov 3, but flows from an elucidation of the source and nature of legitimate authority in a polity such as ours that is governed by a written constitution.

The most welcome aspect of the PCO Judges Case ruling is its candid statement that the Constitution is the source of all authority in Pakistan and the organs of the state can only exercise such authority as delegated to them under the Constitution. No institution or individual can lay claim to power not so delegated and no institution can validate or condone such a claim to power. Highlighting this doctrine of limited powers, the ruling states that, "amendments made by an authority not mentioned in the Constitution cannot be validated by any court including the Supreme Court," and "that neither the Supreme Court itself possesses any power to amend the Constitution, nor can it bestow any such power on any authority or any individual," was unfortunately done in the Zafar Ali Shah and Tikka Iqbal cases. In simple terms the court has held that (a) semantics will not work anymore and call subversion by any name – extra-constitutional, supra-constitutional or temporary abeyance, it will remain unconstitutional and subject to penalty under the law and the Constitution, and (b) being a creature of the Constitution itself with enumerated powers, the Supreme Court cannot give anyone what it doesn't have: the right to step outside the bounds of the Constitution.

(To be continued)


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CHINA’S NATIONAL DAY’S CELEBRATIONS IN PAKISTAN

 

CHINA observed its 60th anniversary with spectacular and jubilant national celebrations Thursday beginning with flag raising ceremony, an impressive parade of the defence forces with fighter jets passing over the grand parade and culminating in a glittering fireworks display that lit up the skyline above Tian’anmen Square. The celebration highlighted the fact that, in six decades, New China had evolved from a war-torn, economically devastated “failed state” into the world’s third-largest economy.


It is worth mentioning that in Pakistan too, people from different shades of opinion joined the celebrations by holding seminars, cultural functions and exhibitions in a show of solidarity with their Chinese friends. The Government of Pakistan issued commemorative coin of Rs 10 and a postal stamp to mark the historic occasion while newspapers published special reports highlighting China’s multi dimensional progress and ever increasing cooperation between the two countries in diverse fields. An important function in this connection in Islamabad was the launching of a Think Tank “Pakistan-China Institute”, a brainchild of the very energetic scholar and strong supporter of close Pak-China relations, PML-Q’s Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Syed. In his address on the occasion, the Chinese Ambassador Luo Zhaohui, who is much sought after diplomat these days, made a very pertinent remark by saying “Pakistan is the only country on which China can rely”. Mushahid Hussain Syed who rightly believes that inputs by this Think Tank can contribute a lot in further cementing relations in different fields, expressed his confidence that the two countries would play more significant role at regional and global levels in the days and years to come. We are of the firm conviction that the security and welfare of the two countries and their peoples is inter-linked and the relationship of trust augurs well for further consolidation of relations in economic, defence, and other fields for the good of the people of not only the two countries but of the entire region and the world at large.

 

 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NISAR’S EMPHASIS ON HIGH MORAL STANDARDS

 

EVASION of taxes is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan as majority of big business houses, particularly those owned by politicians used their clout and denied the national exchequer of hundreds of billions of rupees. Such malpractices come to light when these people are out of power corridors but it rarely happens that such disclosures come to light against a person when he is holding a high office.


One such case came up before the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly on Thursday when the startling disclosure was made that a company owned by the Punjab Governor was allegedly involved in the tax evasion of Rs 320 million. Chairman PAC Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, wondered that if a politician fails to pay a bill of only Rs 500 he is declared disqualified to contest election and no action has been taken against this huge tax evasion. Another leader of the Party Ahsan Iqbal while commenting on the issue of NRO stated that it could not be endorsed under any constitution, law or procedure as it was a discriminatory law. The emphasis of the statements of the two PML-N leaders was that in politics it is essential to maintain high moral standards as the politicians are role models and their acts and deeds come under scrutiny. Those at the helm of affairs should always be conscious that they are accountable to the people and in this connection glorious traditions had been set by Caliphs when they were questioned by the people and made to clear the misperceptions about them. One may also mention that some of the Western countries have also set high moral standards and leaders had either to resign or gone through tough questioning for their certain acts, including former US Presidents Nixon and Clinton. In this connection media always played an important role to highlight the wrongdoings of the rulers or public representatives. It is unfortunate that in Pakistan, due to corrupt practices of a few or unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against the opponents, politics has earned a bad name. We appreciate Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for exposing those who are indulging in corrupt practices by exercising their influence and hope that a thorough inquiry would be conducted into this and other such cases. It is time that we follow the traditions set by the founding father Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and avoid misuse of a single penny of the public money for personal matters and honestly utilize the national resources for the good of the people and the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WHY US INSISTS ON TALIBAN’S PRESENCE IN QUETTA?

 

OF late the US leadership, its diplomats in Islamabad and media have started a wilful campaign insisting that Mulla Umer and other Taliban leadership was operating from Quetta and there were even between the lines threats of drone attacks on their alleged hideouts.


The US Ambassador in Islamabad Anne W Patterson and her Deputy Chief of the Mission in separate interactions with the media claimed that the Taliban leadership was coordinating anti-US operations from Quetta. The Foreign Office and the Interior Minister Rehman Malik have vehemently denied the allegations and asked Washington to provide real time information to Pakistan if they have any so that action was taken by our own security forces. Malik pointed out that during President’s meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Director CIA, Richard Holbrooke and other dignitaries, nothing of the sort was raised. However we may point out that American intelligence officials have been making deliberate leaks to the media about the presence of Mulla Omer in Quetta. These statements have created a great deal of resentment among the people in Pakistan and they fear that after FATA, the US might be considering to target Quetta and other places in Balochistan. Diplomatic observers in Islamabad are of the opinion that there could be many reasons behind this sudden surge in US propaganda. Either they want to divert the attention of their people from casualties being suffered at the hands of Taliban, put pressure on Pakistan for meeting their more demands or to further de-stabilize Balochistan and create the situation as we are witnessing in FATA where there is no writ of the State and local and foreign enemy agents are enjoying a free hand. We would caution the Government to be on the high alert and foil designs of those who had been working since long to draw new borders.

 

 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AMERICA’S REAL INTENTS?

MOHAMMAD JAMIL


There is something sinister being played around Pakistan. A story was planted in The Sunday Times, according to which the United States threatened to launch air strikes on Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership in Quetta. It also quoted senior Pakistani officials in New York having revealed that the US had asked to extend the drone attacks to Quetta but Pakistan was averse to the idea. An effort was also made to convey an impression that there is difference of opinion between President Asif Zardari and Pakistan’s military. The paper claimed that the former was committed to wiping out terrorism whereas Pakistan’s powerful military did not entirely share this view. It added that suspicions remain among US officials that parts of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the ISI, are supporting the Taliban and protecting Mullah Omar and other leaders in Quetta.


This is not the first time that Pakistan’s army and the ISI are being accused of providing safe haven to Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives but it is unfortunate that such conjectures come at a time when Pakistan’s armed forces have demolished terrorists’ network in Swat and Malakand Division, and at the same time softening up militants in Waziristan. There is every possibility that Osama bin Laden has been killed but the US and the West wish to keep him ‘alive’ to advance their imperialist agenda. Of course, the remnants of Al-Qaeda may be there as leftover groups whereas the backbone of Al Qaeda appears to have been broken. Nevertheless, inside Afghanistan the struggle is indigenous as the people of Afghanistan are fighting against foreign forces to get their territory freed from occupation. After increase in American troops, Taliban are fighting with more ferocity. The perception is gaining currency that America is losing the war in Afghanistan.


To understand American mindset and its designs, one should recall 1970s. When America was losing war in Vietnam, its leadership was forced by American public and the world to withdraw from Vietnam. It thus started propaganda against Cambodia and Laos for providing sanctuaries to Viet Cong guerrillas. They bombed Cambodia flat and also destroyed infrastructure of Laos and reportedly dropped napalm bombs and used chemical weapons. At the present all indications are that America is losing war in Afghanistan due to its mistakes rather blunders. It has become a very unpopular war and there is a pressure from American public to withdraw from Afghanistan. US General McChrystal and other NATO Generals have lost the war in their minds before the final defeat on the ground. European Union is also recommending for a political solution in Afghanistan.

But for the super power the problem is that of the image, and to maintain its image, the US needs a whipping boy and a scapegoat. To announce its ‘victory’, it could bomb Quetta and then declare that Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership has been eliminated and then withdraw from Afghanistan. It is in this backdrop that they have ‘invented’ Quetta Shura, and according to them top Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership is holed up in Quetta. Reportedly, a new strategy named Overseas Contingency Operations is taking shape to eliminate the top leadership and sanctuaries of extremist organizations; using special forces, drone and other smart technologies and by depending on local and indigenous forces including public support. It further envisaged involving and appealing to the interests of the regional and global players, to find a solution for Afghanistan.


The world also remembers the ruses and lies of US leadership before attacking Iraq. The US and western media had unleashed propaganda that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, stockpiles of biological and chemicals weapons and had imported uranium from Nigeria. After destroying Iraq’s infrastructure and killing thousands of Iraqis, it later transpired that there were none. Out of all international media, the New York Times had the courage to apologize over its misleading reports. But it was to no avail, as the damage had already been done. On the pretext of bringing armed forces under civilian control, efforts are being made to advance American agenda to which Pakistan’s armed forces are considered a stumbling block. It is an open secret that America wants out of Pakistani leadership a) to forget about Kashmir and accept India as a dominant power in the region and 2) to subject Pakistan’s nuclear assets to international control on the basis of unfounded fears that Pakistani nukes could land into terrorists’ hands.


Anyhow, Pakistan would not allow any drone attacks in Quetta because already Balochistan is in the throes of fractious maelstrom of ethnic and tribal violence and faces resistance by the centrifugal forces. The problem is that President Barack Obama had earlier declared that war on terror in Afghanistan is winnable. But today American public is against this war. Even Democrats do not approve of sending more troops and allocating more funds for the war, which is un-winnable. In other words it is an unpopular war. Now under pressure from fellow Democrats not to intensify the war, the Obama administration is rethinking its strategy. Vice-President Joe Biden has suggested reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan and focusing on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. It needs to be reminded that Osama bin Laden was the collaborator of the US in its proxy war against the former Soviet Union, and the US and the West had actually supported the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden against the soviets.


But when Bin Laden later turned against the US after it stationed 40000 troops on Saudi Arabian soil during Iraq war, the US planned to kill him by bombing in Afghanistan. So the ongoing conflict between Al Qaeda and the US is not over good and evil, or against the western values, or between freedom lovers and “enemies of freedom” as was asseverated by former President Bush in his 20th September 2001 address to the US Congress because till that time Osama bin Laden had not uttered a word about Jihad against the US; however he was against Israel’s occupation of Arab lands and the US domination of the Arab world. In other words, Osama bin Laden was motivated and inspired by Arab nationalism; of course later on, Muslim radicals also joined him.

America and its allies have to understand that terrorism as a phenomenon may never go away but if it is to be contained then the first step is for the US to at least acknowledge that it shares the planet with other nations and abandon the avidity to control the world’s resources. It should also acknowledge that all other human beings on the planet have equal rights and their lives are as much precious or priceless as those of Americans. The US leadership should also stop harbouring desire to run the world to its whim and fancy. Last but not the least, it should pay heed to General McChrystal’s warning of India’s influence in Afghanistan. It looks like that Pakistani leadership either does not understand the real intent of America, or like previous governments wishes to curry favour with America to stay in power. But our leadership should not forget the fate Shah of Iran, Suharto and other American lackeys had met who were thrown in the dustbin of history.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

END OF AN IDEOLOGY, END OF A DREAM?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

After 62 years of trial and error our rulers have finally compromised in mortgaging the country to the lowest bidder who for > their own reasons happens to be the US. We read in an Urdu newspaper recently that > US goras are driving rowdy-like in the capital of Pakistan and threaten Pakistani citizens with dire consequences; this is the first glimpse of the infamous additional non-military aid to our country voted for by this government who have consented without realizing its consequences to the country. This unfortunate Kerry-Lugar bill was tabled after more then 9 months before the Senate with many stringent conditions attached to it, which was passed by the US Senate at a time when President Zardari arrived in the US to project it as an extra achievement. We have not forgotten the earlier visit of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to the US in February-March 2009 when the Biden-Lugar bill was unanimously passed by the Foreign Relations Committee of US Senate in July 2008, at the time of Mr.Gillani official visit to US it was described as heralding a new era in bilateral relations and the bill was dubbed as the boosting of ties with Pakistan. As per statement of Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington the previous Congress could not find time to pass this bill in 2008 and he hoped that this new bill will be adopted in a few days time now so that honey and milk promised since 9/11 to Pakistan starts flowing in our rivers.


Whatever may be the reason for urgency to pass this bill - the fact remains that United States keeps shifting its policy according to the need of time and it was clear that the US administration was not treating it a priority legislation due to their own vested interests in the region, while our leaders are now owning their proxy war as ours in a hope to get this aid, people at large are not interested in any aid or extension of friendship, in compromising their sovereignty even despite the financial woes of Pakistan, which the American want to avail on their own requirements and agenda. By doing so they have given Pakistan the final death knell by mortgaging the country and its sovereignty out to the US who already behave as if they were at home: they bomb us when they feel like, they rowdy in our streets, they schoolmaster us with their never-ending wisdom and they tell us what to do when to do it and how. In fact this aid package is to change our culture and traditions they do not realize that the civilizations are not changed with dollar. What is left to serve the country?

The current Pakistani government has perhaps built its political fortunes upon aid money promised to flow into the country generously from the US and other “friends” of Pakistan, the way it had been more or less- under the previous government of Gen. Musharraf. Mr. Zardari and his PPP thought that they deserve it so much because they have made all deals with US by pushing them into, they have provided them access to Pakistan for drone attacks without even the formality of protest, for Blackwater and hundreds of US marines and have faithfully played the genuine democracy election- game according to the rules put up by the West. President Zardari now feels that he has done all he could and wants his rewards: 100 billion of rupees in aid or grant not loan of course, which has surprised the West, this amount he needs because that is the money he has to invest into buying the loyalty of his own ministers and those of the coalition partners and sometimes even of the opposition who continue to play along with him. There was never any explanation from his side why 100 billion and not 120 or 80 billions be given to him, what are the resorts that are going to be given the money for which projects because that is the amount, which is for the greasing of the machinery to keep it running. The consequence of this sell-out will be the end of Pakistan as a sovereign state. But ignoring this consequence has never undone it. And even Transperancy International is rightly bashing Pakistan. With the NRO in place corruption has risen in this country, because there is no check on it any more. The NAB of Gen. Musharraf which was not doing across the board accountability, but was involved in selective accountability on the side lines of plea bargain gimmick, was at least doing something.The new govrnment has made the NAB inactive and has no replacement for it even just to keep the look of accountability. That is why Mr. Zardari was left to leave with empty hands by his “friends” of Pakistan forum. From their point of view this is very understandable. The economic crisis is on and they just had to bail out their banks and insurance companies by giving taxpayers money but that is different, it is to save their own skin. And even then we expect help from the famous ËœFriends of democratic Pakistan forum who are nothing but second fiddlers to US agenda.


When will our leaders finally learn that there is no friendship in international affairs; there are national or regional interests at best, nothing more then that! That is exactly what the recent meeting of the Ëœfriends of Pakistan forum has proven again: not a single penny for Pakistan because there is nothing like friendship in that realm. Tell us exactly where the money will go, how the spending will be controlled and how you will pay back or what we get in exchange. That is the way it works, we have given all top positions in financial sector to American trained bankers, who must be doing their jobs well. If we had a proper government they would know that this is not in our national interest. What can be done? Is there any saviour of the nation in sight who can bail us out from this mess? Many years ago in France when the country at was at stake and almost 80% territory was taken over by the enemy a young girl by the name of Jeanne was born in 1412 at Domremy in Champagne she claimed to receive divine messages to help the king to liberate France from its enemies the Burgundians in alliance with the English,. At the age of 13 she was offering her sacrifice to liberate her country. The King allowed her to train her force and she was fighting and defeating the enemy and restored her country almost completely and the King of France was again crowned as King by the Vatican. At that point she was told to finish her mission and return to her normal life by providence but the King wanted her to liberate the remaining area also, so she was wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy in the last battle. On 29 May a court of thirty-seven judges decided unanimously that the Maid must be treated as a relapsed heretic, and this sentence to burn her alive was actually carried out the next day (30 May, 1431). Some 480 years later her sacrifice was acknowledged by the church and St. Joan was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV .by declaring her a saint.

Unfortunately, those times seem to be gone when saviours were available. Today it seems there is no such choice available to us and the only fighters we have are the brave people in FATA and other areas, who wrongly dubbed as Talibans. Let FATA and tribal area be governed under their tribal jirga system, peace will return soon. Forget about American aid and dollars package this is the biggest curse, which now is designed to be roped throw IMF-World Bank sponsored Trust Fund, which will turn the situation more volatile in the days to come because of vested interest of donors. The idea of creation of a trust has been inspired by those people who had earlier faced a humiliating defeat from brave Pathans fighters.


Lord Macaulay is said to have written in a bid to saving their face described the characteristic of people of this area in his book that to establish your own rule Salute the Baluchi, Bribe the Pathan and Beat the Punjabi My belief is that any such American dreams will also remain a dream un-fulfilled and fears of President Obama of losing the war without whole hearted Allied support in Afghanistan will prove as be True.Then why our rulers are shy in not declaring Pakistan’s National Interest without linking to any foreign aid package and then adhere to that Strategy whole heartedly. Pakistan will regain its lost ideology.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

A THORNY BUNCH OF FLOWERS

ALI SUKHANVER


Obscurity generates fear; disinformation disables best of our abilities; darkness crushes the very inside of us; nights could be pleasing but for a very short chunk of time. That is why most of the people keep on waiting for a new sun every night. The first step to defeat your enemy is to make him feel you are stronger even than his imagination; you win if you keep him in dark. Successful are those whose vision is not blurred by darkness. Propaganda and misinformation are the most powerful tools which play the most effective role everywhere in every type of war.


Unfortunately, for the last many years Pakistan has been the worst target of these modern war-tools. Everyday, every moment there is something startling and upsetting, whizzing around painfully, circling viciously the innocent people of Pakistan; not only the people of Pakistan but also the friends of Pakistan. America is no doubt ‘My Best Friend” of Pakistan; a friend who is ever ready and ever eager to help in every moment of distress and turmoil but there is always a lack of confidence and trust hidden somewhere behind this cordial relationship. America embraces Pakistan but sometimes it seems an unwilling-hug and a kiss without passions. This atmosphere of distrust and misunderstandings is certainly the result of agonizing hue and cry raised by those who are not in favour of the Pak-Us friendship. Recently the US senate has passed the Kerry-Lugar Bill which promises $1.5 billion aid every year, over the next five years for Pakistan. Commenting over the bill, President Obama has said “The United States is firmly committed to the future that the Pakistani people deserve, a future that will advance our common security and prosperity.” The said Kerry-Lugar Bill has no doubt won the hearts of the people of Pakistan but on the other hand the situation is not very much pleasing for India. The Foreign minister of India SM Krishna said “We have always been cautioning our friends, the USA, that please, please for heaven’s sake make sure that the aid you are giving to Pakistan is not directed and misappropriated to be used against India, a friend of yours.” He further said that he would emphasise the point when he meets US secretary of state Hillary Clinton next week .He would also voice India’s disappointment over Pakistan not prosecuting Lashkar-e-Tayyaba founder and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed despite the six dossiers of proof given by India.


No doubt, India must have its own reservations regarding the international political scenario but it has not right to ‘cry wolf’, when there is no wolf. Though the Indian hi-ups have very cunningly chosen the time to pay off old scores with Pakistan but all their efforts seem go waste; the US authorities are not willing to pay any attention to these false accusations. At present the USA is annoyed at the Indian rude and stubborn behaviour regarding the CTBT. For the last few months India has been planning for more nuclear tests by claiming that the tests nuclear tests in May 1998 were a mere failure. The Indian nuclear scientists are churning out the ready-made statements tailored by the Indian government that India needs more thermonuclear device tests and it must not rush into signing the CTBT. This situation is certainly not very comforting for the USA. India is trying to spill water over the US efforts against the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world. In short, India is not in a position to distort the friendly relationship between Pakistan and USA.


The Kerry-Lugar Bill would surely bring the two countries closer in spite of the fact that some of the clauses of this bill are not acceptable for Pakistan. It is being highlighted in the media that through this bill, USA intends to increase its influence and interference in the purely internal affairs of Pakistan; but such trivial issues could be easily settled through negotiations. The most important need of time is that America must root out the factor of distrust and suspicions hidden behind its relations with Pakistan. The drone attacks by the US troops in the tribal areas of Pakistan are one of the few elements which may widen the gulf between the two countries. The government of Pakistan has always protested against these drone attacks but the US authorities are not trying to understand and analyse the situation. Recently some of the American policy makers have suggested that the drone attacks must not be limited to the northern tribal areas of Pakistan.


They have pointed out the presence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements in Balochistan and advised the US government to hit these elements there in Balochistan. If unfortunately the US government accepts such foolish suggestions; the situation is going to be more unpleasant for America. It is a fact that at present America is the only country which is trying its utmost for the stability and strength of Pakistan, but it has yet not succeeded in winning the hearts of Pakistani people.


Most of the people in Pakistan are of the opinion that America is responsible for the worst law and order situation in their country. They think that America is playing a double game; on one hand it is supporting the miscreants and on the other hand it is asking Pakistan to crush them. As a result of this double game Pakistan has become a battlefield .Moreover the information regarding the presence of the Black Water force in Islamabad, Peshawar and some other cities of Pakistan has added more hatred to the anti-American feelings. In such a grim scenario the drone attacks in Balochistan would flare up the feelings. The American hi-ups must try to review the situation .If America desires to keep a upper-hand in the region , it would have to win the sympathies of the Pakistani people.


Pak-America friendship is something very deep rooted. It won’t be a misjudgment if Pakistan is considered the most sincere supporter and promoter of the US policies in the South Asian region. Without the moral and military support of Pakistan, the USA would never have been able to fight against the menace of terrorism. It is only Pakistan who remained the most important ally of the USA in the war against terror since the very first day. As a result of this support Pakistan had to face very grievous consequences. It had to sacrifice hundreds of it soldiers in the northern tribal areas, its economy had to bear serious setbacks and its innocent people had to face the reaction of the extremists in form of horrible suicidal attacks. But in spite of all these trials and tribulations, Pakistan never backed out of its support to the US mission against terrorism. The present Kerry-Lugar Bill may be taken as an acknowledgement to Pakistan’s help and support to the US efforts against terrorism. Pakistan and America are most trusted and tried friends; this present bill is surely like a gifted-garland from a sincere friend; but America must try to dispel the feelings that this garland is of thorny nettles.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INDIAN ATROCITIES CONTINUE ON KASHMIRIS

WAQAR AHMED


Under the new puppet regime in the occupied Kashmir, atrocities on the innocent Kashmiris by the Indian security forces continue unabated. Perennial tactics of state terrorism such as curfew, firing, killings, rape and arrests could not reduce the strong determination of the people of the Valley, calling for freedom of their land. In the recent past, Indian police, military and paramilitary troops massacred a number of people protesting against the death of three Kashmiri women who were raped and murdered. In another event, Indian military troops kidnapped some freedom fighters and assassinated them near the Line of Control in order to show that they died during an encounter with the forces. More than 300 innocent people in the Indian occupied Kashmir have been killed by the Indian forces since the current phase of Kashmir struggle began on August 12, 2008 when Indian security forces killed Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz and five other persons who were protesting against the government decision to give land to the trust that runs Amarnath, a shrine of Hindus. On the same day, more than 200000 Kashmiris marched towards the Martyrs Graveyard to participate in the funeral of Sheikh Abdul Aziz. The police killed 18 innocent Muslims by firing while extremist Hindus started violent protests and economic blockade of the Muslims, emulating the Israeli siege of Gaza which had resulted in starvation of thousands of innocent Palestinians.


In 1989 when Kashmiri people lost faith in the international community, which persisted in ignoring their liberation and when it became obvious that the Indian occupation forces would not vacate the controlled areas through political means by implementing the UN resolutions, the people had no choice but to resort to armed struggle. Since then, India has intermittently been using all possible techniques of state terrorism to maintain its alien rule. Indian atrocities could be judged from the fact that last year, more than 1000 graves of the unmarked Muslims in the 18 villages of Indian occupied Kashmir were discovered. Recently, a human rights group has discovered several unmarked graves containing about 1,500 unidentified bodies in held Kashmir Valley. The All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) and other organizations, while expressing serious concern over the discovery of unnamed graves in the occupied Kashmir, have demanded international probe into the matter. Reports suggest that these are the dead bodies of those Kashmiris who were tortured to death by the Indian security agencies, especially RAW.


The silence of the West broke when in 2008; European Parliament while taking cognizance of the unmarked graves passed a resolution condemning Indian atrocities in the held Kashmir. Contrary to the past, this time Indian occupied Kashmir has become a special focus of world’s attention including India itself. For example, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who visited New Delhi and Islamabad in the aftermath of Mumbai-terror attacks pointed out that complete de-escalation of situation between Pakistan and India was fully linked to resolution of Kashmir issue saying that New Delhi should cooperate with Islamabad in this respect. Even Indians have started realizing that, there should be an end to the sufferings of Kashmiris. It gravity is evident from the fact that even Indian intellectuals have favored the independence of occupied Kashmir. On 17 August 2008 in its editorial, the editor of The Times of India wrote “On August 15, India celebrated independence from the British Raj. A day symbolizing the end of colonialism in India became a day symbolizing Indian colonialism in the Valley”. The editor further elaborated, “We promised Kashmiris a plebiscite six decades ago. Let us hold one now, and let Kashmiris decide the outcome, not the politicians and armies of India”. It was admitted that state elections were also rigged in support of leaders nominated by New Delhi. On August 16, 2008, Hindustan Times wrote: “Nothing has really changed since 1990s. A single spark such as the dispute over Amarnath land can set the whole valley on fire—Indian forces are treated as subjugators. New Delhi is seen as the oppressor”. The paper further indicated, “The current crisis in Kashmir is a consequence of Indian establishment raising the confrontation to a new level”. The world looks at us with dismay”. This Indian newspaper clearly suggested a referendum in the Valley, writing, “Let the Kashmiris determine their own destiny—whatever happens, how can India lose? If you believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right of self-determination is the correct thing to do”. It is of particular attention that demanding immediate withdrawal of Indian Army from the Indian controlled Kashmir, a renowned Indian author and book prize winner, Arundhati Roy, while criticizing the Indian media had already pointed out that New Delhi has failed to highlight the plight of Kashmiris who are exposed to brutalities perpetrated by the Indian Security Forces. As regards Indian delaying tactics in the solution of Kashmir dispute, it has become fashion to blame Pakistan and its intelligence agency ISI for infiltration, using it as a pretext to crush the Kashmiri’s war of liberation which is indigenous as now recognized even by Indian media. Under the cover of ISI, New Delhi wants to distract the attention of the West from her atrocities on the Kashmiris. Various sources have accused Indian RAW of the custodial killings of the Kashmiri people through brutal methods. Since 1989, India has deployed more than 500000 troops to quell the freedom movement of Kashmiris, but it cannot eliminate it at present as it could not do so through many years of oppression. Instead, a study report, prepared by Indian Government revealed that Kashmir violence has affected the psyche of Indian forces. In this connection, the report has disclosed that disturbances in Jammu and Kashmir have had adverse psychological problems found especially among the officers and Jawans such as short tempers, quarrelsome attitude, mental disorders and abnormal behavior.


Sometimes, the situation leads to suicide attempts or attacks on their seniors and colleagues. Nevertheless, setting aside all internal and external implications, Indian military troops are using inhuman tactics of ethnic cleansing to disturb the majority population of the Kashmiris, which had been practiced by the Serb forces on Bosnian Muslims in the past and recently by Israel on the Palestinians. New Delhi must understand that if in the last five decades, it could not reduce the strong determination of the people of the Valley, calling for freedom of their land, how could it do so now? Meanwhile, in the past, ‘composite dialogue’ between India and Pakistan took place on a number of occasions, but produced no results, prolonging the agony of the subjugated people of the occupied valley due to Indian intransigence. At present, India is acting on a deliberate policy of delaying tactics in relation to the solution of Kashmir and implementing similar strategy under the pretext of Mumbai carnage.

Despite Islamabad’s insistence, New Delhi wants to talk on the issue of terrorism alone and refuses to discuss any other issue. While the world is rapidly advancing towards modern trends such as renunciation of war as a state policy, peaceful settlement of disputes and economic development, India continues its suppressive policies in Kashmir.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IRAN AGAIN: IS EVERYONE BLUFFING?

IMMANUEL WALLERSTEIN


Iran is back in the forefront of public diplomacy. President Obama, jointly with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, held a press conference in which they seemed to give Iran one more ultimatum: Conform to their demands, what they called the demands of the “international community,” by December of this year or face new sanctions. Mr. Obama said that Iran is “breaking the rule that all nations must follow.”


The immediate occasion was the fact that Iran announced — or, in the view of the three Western leaders, “admitted” — that it is constructing an installation near Qum in which there will be 3,000 centrifuges to enrich uranium. According to President Obama, this is far too small a number for the ostensible purpose — electricity generation — but of the right size to produce material for nuclear warheads. Ergo, Iran is lying about its intentions. It seems that Western intelligence discovered the existence of the construction some time ago. The Western view is that Iran announced the existence of this construction only because it became aware that the West was about to reveal this fact to the world. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran is only required to announce the existence of such construction six months before it becomes operational, and that is why he announced it only now. In any case, Mr. Obama is making a big thing of it, and is using this new, agreed-upon fact as the basis on which to obtain further U.N. sanctions on Iran. He is evidently hoping this new fact will be enough to persuade Russia and China into either supporting or at least not opposing new sanctions. The U.S. political right and the Israelis are saying in effect, “we told you so.” In their view, Iran has always been lying, is lying now, and must therefore be seriously punished. So, are we on the verge of further sanctions, or of bombing Iran — either by the United States or by Israel with the tacit consent of the United States? I don’t think so. I think what is happening is a gigantic bluff by all and sundry.


Let us start with Iran. I have always agreed with the U.S. right and the Israelis that Iran intends to achieve the status of a nuclear power. My difference with them has simply been that this seems to me normal, inevitable, and not at all a geopolitical disaster. From Iran’s point of view, there are three nearby nuclear powers — India, Pakistan and Israel — who not only have never signed the nonproliferation treaty but actually have nuclear weapons, many nuclear weapons. They are not, however, being accused of violating the norms of the “international community.”


So, the Iranians say, why pick on Iran? Iran has, unlike these three nearby countries, signed the nonproliferation treaty, and has up to now not violated its specific provisions. Nonetheless, it is being denounced for a far lesser violation of international norms than that of the three other countries. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil points out that Brazil is also enriching uranium and sees nothing wrong with Iran doing that. Why did President Obama make his announcement just now if he has known for some time that Iran was building this plant? He claims he just wanted first to be absolutely sure of the quality of his intelligence. But it is also clear that Mr. Obama is under attack from the U.S. right for his health care proposals and for his seeming hesitation to send more troops to Afghanistan. Talking tough to Iran protects his right flank. The same might be said for Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad, like Mr. Obama, is having some internal political difficulties. Talking tough to the West is obviously something that enables him to tap nationalist sentiment, especially if the West obliges him by talking tough back. Russia and China have always argued that tougher sanctions would be counterproductive. They also don’t want to go too far in antagonizing the United States. So they will probably continue to move slowly and ambiguously. As for military action, consider the following: Mr. Obama is being faced with a demand for a significant escalation in U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan.

Given the situation in Afghanistan, who in the United States is going to support real military action against Iran? And the Israelis, whatever their anxieties and wishes, will not be accorded the necessary overflight rights. So, where does all this leave us? It leaves the world in a stalemate. Lots of words and very little action. Is that what Mr. Ahmadinejad wants? Probably. Will the U.S. right and the Israelis denounce it? Probably. Can Mr. Obama do anything to change the situation? I don’t see what. Hype is not the same thing as reality. —The New York Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

ANTI-DENGUE DRIVE

 

Under two-pronged attacks from dengue and swine flu virus, the city in particular, has more reasons to be concerned about any possible epidemic. But so far there is hardly any indication that the two diseases might turn an epidemic form. Swine flu so far claimed only three lives out of about 600 cases of attack. Comparatively the fatality remained very low, thanks partly to the good response from the government and the public awareness.


 Now dengue comes to the fore with the number of patients crossing the 300 mark by Wednesday. But reassuring for us is the fact that no death from dengue was reported in the past two years. True to its character, the Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) ignored the initial reports on the spread of dengue but happily now it has taken note of it. From today the DCC is due to launch a three-day special cleanliness drive to arrest any 'further spread' of the disease in the city. Whether the drive will check the disease altogether or not largely depends on how effectively the campaign is carried through. The DCC mayor has indirectly tried to send the ball into the court of the inhabitants of Dhaka by hinting that DCC men have no 'access to Aedes-breeding spots inside private houses.' As if the DCC has left no stone unturned to destroy all possible breeding grounds of Aedes and now the private houses are to blame!


True, Aedes mosquitoes thrive in clean and stagnant water collected in pots, tyres, flower vases and coconut shells and an awareness campaign may yield good results. But that campaign has been missing until media recently reported new incidents of dengue cases in the capital. Now that the DCC announced its three-day special drive at the field level against dengue is reassuring news. There is need for an awareness campaign on a sustained basis and the cleanliness drive must be directed to potentially dangerous spots regularly.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT

 

Although the impact of global warming has been evident for some time, successive governments have persistently shelved the issue. According to a World Bank map published in 2000, even a rise of one-metre in sea level will put half of our paddy lands under water. And if the Earth is warmed by just one degree Celsius, 11 per cent of Bangladesh would be submerged, putting many lives and habitations at risk. With most scientists expecting a two-degree increase, how the people of Bangladesh will be able to cope is hard to imagine given our low economic capacity, inadequate infrastructure and high dependence on a natural-resource base. The most damaging impact will take the form of floods, salinity intrusion and droughts. A report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) tells us that 25 million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to the effect of climate change. This study is the most comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate change on agriculture to date.


More than 60 per cent of the economically active population and its dependents rely on agriculture for livelihoods. Therefore, the future of Bangladesh looks decidedly bleak. Gerald Nelson, IFPRI senior research fellow, said without new technology and adjustments by farmers, climate change will reduce irrigated wheat yields in 2050 by around 30 per cent. Irrigated rice yields will fall by 15 per cent and rice prices are projected to increase by 121 per cent then. Small-scale farmers will suffer the most, according to Mark Rosegrant, director of IFPRI's Environment and Production Technology Division and the report's co-author. However, the study finds that this scenario of lower yields, higher prices and increased child malnutrition can be avoided if timely preventive actions are taken.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

BOB’S BANTER

WHISPERING WOODS, BATHTUB ROOMS…!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

Now the family be thinking and thinking aloud that maybe this Diwali we should go for a vacation, so I take the paper to look at that particular page where the hotels in and around the city they be advertising: 'Flash of Excitement this Diwali' says first one and I be thinking to myself that maybe there need be more than just one flash to keep the family happy. "Manager is there only one flash of excitement?" I ask very polite like. "Many sir,  many!" says the manager sahib or his assistant who sound like the manager sahib, "In the morning sir you put on the hot water tap and you get cold water!"


"Very exciting!" I shiver. "And in the evening madam screams with excitement because the cockroaches come in the window and door and balcony and..." I put down the phone and look for next ad: "Whispering Woods!" it whispers to me and I ring and speak in a whisper, "Manager!"


Manager, "Speak louder will you!" I, in normal voice, "Sorry manager, do the woods actually whisper?"

 

Manager still shouting asks, "What woods?"


"The whispering woods!" I say still whisper like. "There are no whispering woods!" says the manager. "But you call your hotel so," I say. "We built the hotel with those woods," says man at the other end, maybe the manager, "Now they creak and groan in the night because the hotel is very old." I put down the phone quickly not wanting to die under a whispering wood collapse.


"Sing in the Rains, Dance with the clouds!" says next. "Helloooo!" I say singing into the phone, "Is there anybody at the reception? I want to book two rooms for the monsoon!"


"Please have your bath at home and come sir!"


"Why?"
"Water shortage, sir!"


"Then how will I sing in the rains?"


"Last year's ad sir, we didn't change it sir, no budget for new copy!"


"AC Rooms with bathtub, TV, microwave," screams a huge advertisement in the middle and I call, "Hello is there anything else you can offer?"


"Sir, would you want anything else than what we have offered?"


"Ah no!" I tell him as the wife rushes in, "Where have you booked us in?" she shouts. "The whispering woods don't whisper anymore, those flashes of excitement may not be too exciting to you, and there are no rains to dance in or rain clouds to sing with! But there's one with AC, tub, TV, gas and microwave!" Shouts the wife, "Whoopeee! And where is that?" I tell her, "Right here at home!" And now I be searching for an old folks home or orphanage for middle-aged men, as the family have decided to vacation in the one with AC, gas, tub, microwave and TV, without me…!

bobsbanter@gmail.com 

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

RARE OPPORTUNITY IS NOT TO BE WASTED

SOCIOECONOMIC EQUALITY CAN HELP PRESERVE INDIGENOUS CULTURE

 

A PROPOSED liquefied natural gas plant in the Kimberley to process at least 30 years' supply of offshore reserves from the Browse Basin has vast potential to strengthen Australia's economy as a 21st century energy superpower. For local indigenous residents supporting the project, it represents much more. It is their chance to shift from the economic margins to the mainstream, assisted by compensation worth more than $1billion, including health, education, housing and employment support.

 

The lessons from indigenous policy failures over four decades are irrefutable. Only participation in the real economy, made possible by improved education, will close the gap between Aborigines and the rest of the nation. The proposed gas hub north of Broome offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The traditional owners, with the Kimberley Land Council negotiating on their behalf, have given conditional support, provided environmental conditions are honoured. KLC executive director Wayne Bergmann and his people are right "to grab this bull by both hands" and free future generations from welfare dependency.

 

Their good sense contrasts with the head-in-the-sand Save the Kimberley push by rock stars and other fly-in fly-out conservationists, whose incomes are mostly far removed from the region. The group, which ignores many local voices and pitches for $500 donations on its website, disregards the urgent need to redress Australia's biggest social justice issue - the deprivations suffered by thousands of remote Aborigines. The hollow campaign also ignores the benefits of LNG, which is cleaner than coal.

 

The Kimberley LNG precinct will create local jobs that will be sustained for decades, offering local people a chance to prosper in their traditional lands. This should open the way to what lawyer Noel Pearson describes today as "the optimal future scenario" for indigenous communities - socioeconomic equality and biculturalism, grounded in economically sustainable homelands. In his essay, Mr Pearson cites the descent into passive welfare as a major factor that has weakened Aboriginal culture and languages, which he warns are under threat and deserve government support. Lack of education, employment, substance abuse, poor health and gambling have deprived his people of the ability to retain and pass on their culture to the young in a globalised world, he notes. Advocating that Cape York children reach and exceed national benchmarks in English literacy and advance to university, Mr Pearson also demonstrates that it is vital for them to learn and appreciate their indigenous culture, including native languages, outside regular class time.

 

Mr Pearson's Cape York Welfare Reform Trial is concentrating on the building blocks towards socioeconomic equality - curbing alcohol abuse and boosting school attendance. By embracing welfare quarantining as a last resort when parents refuse to send their children to school, the Cape York Families Responsibilities Commissions have drawn criticism from indigenous academic Chris Sarra, for being overly "punitive".

 

But in noting that "children and parents engage school positively when respectful partnerships exist" Dr Sarra, who like Mr Pearson wants the best education possible for his people, endorses the very principles which have made the commissions a success. Those principles, community engagement and responsibility are also to the fore among the people of the Kimberleys as they prepare to grab their chance at better lives.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

BUDGET CUTS TO COME

PAYING FOR AN AGEING AUSTRALIA WILL REQUIRE STRINGENT SAVINGS

 

WHILE warnings that the budget will take a battering from lower income tax collections due to the trend to part- time work demonstrate the dangers of shrinking revenue, they are not the only problem the Rudd government faces as the economy returns to growth. As The Weekend Australian's George Megalogenis has long argued, even without the global financial crisis the days when governments could reward key constituents with new spending in every budget are gone for the foreseeable future. This is not to argue against Kevin Rudd's stimulus packages - even with the questionable economic efficiency of the school building program, the spending helped to save Australia from the severe slump being endured by most members of the G20. But the stimulus aside, Australia will face major budget problems even when the economy returns to growth - problems that can only be contained by rigorous controls on public spending. And the time to prepare for an austere future is now.

 

The immediate priority for Kevin Rudd is to return the budget to surplus and to deliver on commitments to hold spending increases to 2 per cent once the economy returns to long-term trend growth of 3 per cent. But a redistribution of spending will be necessary within existing portfolios, which will mean cuts to existing programs. The reason is the unavoidable increases in health and welfare costs that will come as Australia ages. Certainly the country is enjoying a baby boom, with the birth rate up from 1.7 to 1.9 in the past four years, a figure not seen since the 1970s. But even if this is sustained - and the slump will surely serve as a contraceptive - it will not reverse the long-term trend towards an older Australia. We saw the shape of the future in the middle of the year, when the health sector replaced retailing as the nation's top employer. And spending on healthcare is accelerating, rising 9.1 per cent in the past financial year, the same rate as the one before. Certainly the news is not all grim. As Australians live longer and healthier lives, more will stay in the workforce well after they turn 65, paying taxes that will help to fund more of the health and welfare services they use. But there is no denying the inevitable increased costs of an ageing Australia and its impact on the budget. In the absence of a minerals and energy rush that never ends, generating ever-increasing tax revenues, governments will need to reallocate resources and improve productivity to keep the budget in surplus.

 

Starting with the next one. Key government ministers understand that to accomplish this they need to start work now. Wayne Swan talks of "reprioritising" rather than increasing overall government spending. Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has called for the budget spending review to commence four months earlier than normal this year. This review is independent of the one-off stimulus spending, and will examine recurrent outlays. Inevitably it must address areas dear to many ministers' hearts, including the assistance for the automotive sector that Industry Minister Kim Carr champions and the universal welfare benefits doled out by Families Minister Jenny Macklin. Hacking into government outlays while stimulus spending is still in place will send confusing signals to the electorate, but the government has no choice. The impact of the global financial crisis will be gone in a few years, but the structural problems in our economy caused by demography are permanent and unavoidable.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

SAYING NO TO NANNY

PEOPLE HATE BEING TOLD HOW THEY MUST LIVE THEIR LIVES

 

THE voters heard the message in last month's National Preventative Health Taskforce report and it made some of them feel ill. Released by Health Minister Nicola Roxon, the report recommended tackling health problems caused by smoking, obesity, and alcohol by taxing people into behaving better. But a survey for the Spirits Industry Council found Australians unimpressed. While the council obviously has an interest in the issue the awareness of the Taskforce report it identified demonstrates people are uncomfortable with its ideas.

 

The Taskforce proposes slugging the price of smokes so a packet of 30 cigarettes would cost $20 by 2013. It suggests a standard price for alcohol, increasing the cost of beer and cask wine to discourage excessive drinking. This was the approach the government used when it increased the impost on alcopops and tried to disguise a tax grab as a health measure. And the Taskforce raises banning fast food advertising on television before 9pm and tax incentives for exercise.

 

This approach is from the "nudge" school of public policy that holds people need encouragement to act in their own interests. But the Taskforce's plans nudge less and shove more and the vast majority of social drinkers and occasional fast food eaters do not like to be bossed. And smokers already pay more in tax than they receive in treatment for tobacco-related illness. The Taskforce's members know a great deal about health but they obviously do not understand Australians like to make up their own minds.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BUILDING A TRANSPORT SYSTEM ON THE RUN

 

THE Premier, Nathan Rees, moved quickly this week when it was suggested his Government might have pre-empted the findings of an inquiry into extending light rail services. The State Government and affected local councils including the City of Sydney are looking at whether to extend light rail along the existing former goods line to Dulwich Hill. The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, is also backing a separate plan to build a light rail loop from Central to the Circular Quay along George Street and around Hickson Road. The Transport Minister, David Campbell, ruled out considering this on Wednesday, but Mr Rees ruled it back in a day later - and rightly so. We should not, however, expect to see light rail in central Sydney under this Government.

 

The episode is emblematic of the chaos in transport planning for Sydney. Light rail along Hickson Road would service admirably the Hungry Mile development now being planned. But it would compete with the Rees Government's pet project - the CBD metro. The latter, being underground, is vastly more expensive, and less convenient for commuters because it has one stop there where light rail would have several. Yet for the Rees Government, heir to a decade's dithering over transport by its predecessors, more dithering is political death. Giving up on the CBD metro is akin to Stalin abandoning Stalingrad to the Wehrmacht - completely, utterly, absolutely unthinkable. Everything must be sacrificed to it - commuter convenience, taxpayers' money, future expansion of the CityRail network, everything. Let us make a prediction. The council's light rail study will recommend the Hickson Road extension, and the Rees Government will then rule it out. Thus will due process be observed in Sydney transport planning.

 

The Rees Government has been criticised - not least by the Herald - for its reluctance to plan Sydney's transport. But in fact, of course, it is reluctant because a rational plan would show up the shortcomings of so many of its transport decisions. Worse than just despair at the apparent incompetence is the pervasive suspicion that Government decisions are based on a hidden agenda. Recently the Herald revealed the Rees Government wanted to change the law so that the land reserved for disused rail lines could be diverted to other purposes and the tracks removed. At a time of growing anxiety about petrol prices, dwindling oil supplies, and the environmental cost of petrol- and diesel-engine road transport, this would seem short-sighted, to say the least. According to the Transport Minister, David Campbell, though, the move is in response to the urging of community groups that want to turn the tracks into cycling and walking trails.

 

Now, that is an attractive idea. Victoria has many such trails where railway lines once ran. They make excellent long-distance cycling routes because of their relatively gentle gradients, and attract tourists to the state. The same could happen in places in NSW. It might even be done around Sydney's suburbs, where disused railway lines could help segregate bicycle traffic from car traffic and, where they are available, entice more people to use bicycles for trips over short and medium distances. But cycling, worthy transport mode though it is, should not be given priority over the need for rail transport.

 

In this state, moreover, the distrust is so deep that it is immediately assumed something else is afoot. Why would a Government that has never put much store by cycling and cyclists in the past suddenly be so keen to accommodate them? Might it not, in fact, be a smokescreen for something else - to enable the Government to exploit prime development sites which just happen to have old railway lines on them? The disused Lilyfield marshalling yards may be one example. Another may be the old line through central Newcastle. As we report today, railway land near Byron Bay is a third.

Transport is - or should be - a serious matter, planned rationally for all parts of society in an independent and impartial way. That is why the Herald's independent public inquiry into transport matters - because it is performing a function that this State Government has abandoned. And the community is responding to the need for action on transport. Well-attended community meetings, now complete, and submissions numbering in the hundreds that are still coming in from individuals, businesses, business groups, unions and local councils all attest to the importance the community places on this public undertaking. The public is speaking; it is time the State Government started listening.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ONE MASTERPIECE A DAY WITH MEALS

 

EDUCATION authorities are starting to worry that students are taking drugs to boost their performance in exams, and are wondering whether they should start testing them. As readers would expect, the Herald finds the whole business deplorable and yet further evidence of the general decline in standards affecting education and everything else. On the other hand, though (to add some balance), we have to confess to hankering after a drug of a slightly different kind. If only someone would invent a pill we could take which would insert great classics effortlessly into our memory. Instead of having to slug our way through War and Peace, for example, forgetting the characters' names before we were half-way through, we would take one pill before bedtime, and bingo - we would have all 1400 pages in our head. And not just Tolstoy, of course, but Shakespeare, Homer, all six series of Sex and the City - you name it. Think of it: a whole library in your bathroom cupboard.

 

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THE GURDIAN

EDITORIAL

OLYMPIC BIDS: GOING DOWN TO RIO

 

Barack Obama was in Copenhagen yesterday. As the Greenpeace slogan said: "Right city, wrong date." Mr Obama was not in Denmark to save the world from climate change, but to promote Chicago's Olympic bid. His wife, Michelle, and Opah Winfrey were also there. They were not alone: King Juan Carlos of Spain, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama all pressed the flesh for their cities. Note, not their countries. Yes, Tony and Cherie Blair started the inflationary spiral by going to Singapore to help win the 2012 Olympics for London. But has this ritual got out of hand? Mr Obama was the first sitting US president to attend the International Olympic Committee's jamboree. Was it appropriate for him to do so?