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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

EDITORIAL 07.10.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 07, edition 000317, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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































































The Congress, as is its wont, is fast turning hollow sloganeering into a farce. There was never anything subtle or sublime about the Congress's austerity campaign, nor was it meant to be a sincere effort by the party's leaders to identify with the masses. Just as Mrs Indira Gandhi never quite meant her slogan, 'Garibi Hatao', to result in a national effort to abolish poverty — if the poor were to cease to exist, the Congress would face a severe existential crisis — those who lead the party now have found it convenient to indulge in bogus austerity to demonstrate that the aam admi is not far from their concerns. Union Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Salman Khurshid's finger-wagging at firms which pay handsome salaries to their chief executive officers is of a piece with his party's faux asceticism. "I think when we are working on this (austerity), we can hardly say that we (will) shut our eyes on what salary the CEOs are going to take," Mr Khurshid has been quoted as saying, "I don't think anyone in India today, in politics or outside politics ... has reached the level of liberalism where vulgarity is also a fundamental right." It would not be incorrect to assume that Mr Khurshid finds CEO salaries to be 'vulgar'; nor would it be wrong to presume that the Government could soon initiate measures to monitor, if not curb, CEO salaries. Even if that were not to happen, there is sufficient reason to cavil at Mr Khurshid's warped notions of who should be paid how much by private sector firms. It would also be in order to point out to the Minister that not only have we long discarded Nehruvian socialism whose sole contribution was the creation of a licence-permit-quota raj that bred corruption among the priveleged and poverty among the masses, but have robustly embraced market economics which now decides, to a large measure, salaries and perquisites in the private sector. Therefore, little or no purpose is served by taking recourse to a language that has long gone out of fashion.

There are other reasons, too, why Mr Khurshid has erred in describing CEO salaries as 'vulgar'. First, unlike politicians, especially those who belong to parties in power, CEOs are accountable for their actions. While Ministers and politicians are entitled to pay and privileges irrespective of the level of their performance, CEO salaries are entirely performance-linked — if they can't produce profits for shareholders, they get booted out, which, unfortunately, does not apply to non-performing politicians. Second, the Government cannot appropriate the 'fundamental right' to decide how much private sector firms should pay their CEOs or staff, so long as they adhere to laid down criteria for minimum wages. To even remotely attempt such an appropriation would fly in the face of market economics. Third, CEOs come with a set of skills which are acquired at a cost. These skills command a market value and depending on demand and supply, the value rises and falls. The appointment of CEOs by private sector firms is quite unlike the appointment of babus to head public sector units; the two should not be confused. A last point that merits mention, if only to highlight the fact that the ongoing debate on austerity is utterly spurious, is the UPA Government's gift to babudom by way of implementing the Sixth Pay Commission's recommendations after topping them up suitably. The enormous pay hike for Government employees, which also applies to teachers and healthcare staff, comes without any rider that they must deliver. Private sector would never, ever do that.







The recently-created National Ganga River Basin Authority's decision to approve of a new project called Mission Clean Ganga to clean up the most vital river in the plains of north India is something that is bound to be received with mild enthusiasm. For starters, the new, ambitious project comes after the dismal failure of big river conservation projects like the Ganga Action Plan I and II, and the Yamuna Action Plan, in all of which a whopping sum of Rs 2,000 crore was spent without bringing about any change in the deteriorating quality of the waters of either Ganga or Yamuna. Even though the estimated investment in Mission Clean Ganga is slated to be a gargantuan sum of Rs 15,000 core over a period of 10 years, there is every possibility that the project will give back little in terms of cleaning up and preserving the river unless there is proper planning and management. It is because of lack of accountability leading to poor implementation that earlier river conservation projects have failed. If the new project is to succeed, there has to be a comprehensive system of review and auditing in place to ensure that policy decisions are actually translated into practice at the ground level.

That said, there must also be a change in approach towards river conservation in general. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has suggested that attention be given to the development of river-front areas and catchment treatment of wastes flowing into Ganga along with the traditional sewage treatment plants. This thinking is in line with the emerging philosophy of integrated river basin management which espouses that river conservation projects should focus more on the preservation of the entire river basin ecosystem rather than on individual town or city specific projects centred on sewage treatment plants. This is because individual projects do nothing to mitigate the problem of harmful effluents that flow into the river upstream or downstream. It is only when the entire river basin is taken as one single unit for conservation that this problem does not arise. For good integrated river basin management it is imperative that there be a significant degree of cooperation between the States through which a river flows. In the case of Ganga, the States are Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, all of which are members of the NGRBA. Apart from inter-State teamwork, there should also be sufficient decentralisation in the implementation of Mission Clean Ganga, and those living in and around the river basin must be empowered to help clean up their stretch of the river. To accomplish all this it will take a great deal of political will and determination. A lot of hope rides on Mission Clean Ganga. This is our last chance to save the sacred river. Failing to do so will have catastrophic consequences.



            THE PIONEER




The G-20 Summit, held recently in Pittsburgh, USA, did not have the rainbow hue of leadership that the United Nations General Assembly had. But even at the UN, the novelty factor of listening to a maverick Muammar Gaddafi or a recalcitrant and shrill Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad has long since worn out. These worthies do not have the magnetism of a shoe-thumping Nikita Khrushchev or a long-winded but charismatic Fidel Castro. Therefore, at this year's UN General Assembly, Col Gaddafi and Mr Ahmadinedjad ranted largely to an inattentive hall filled with junior delegates.

One had expected better from Pittsburgh where US President Barack Obama was holding the centre stage at the G-20 meeting. He was no longer tentative as he had appeared sometimes at the London Summit; then he was new to the world stage and the financial meltdown was threatening in its enormity. Since then he has grown in experience; he is almost arrogant now.

Look at the way he rejected five requests for a meeting from Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown. And despite French President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempts at familiarity, Mr Obama kept him at an arm's length. His wife Michelle was hardly effusive towards a fawning Carla Bruni. But she reserved her biggest snub for Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi whom she refused to kiss, fearing perhaps his reputation for misdirection.

Still, it was a reasonably youthful lot of leaders who had collected at Pittsburgh, and you can't put it past Mr Sarkozy or Mr Berlusconi or even Mr Obama to exchange a naughty aside. It is quite possible that they may have been in such a cheerful mood when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chanced by them. It may or may not have happened in fact, but had it been the case they would have reacted sheepishly at the sight of an approaching grim-looking uncle.

Despite that outward show of deference, the substance of the deliberations and the substantially overwhelming part of the agenda was set by the West.

As a matter of verifiable fact the German Chancellor is the only leader who is mentioned by name in the Summit document. It says; "Building on Chancellor Merkel's proposed Charter, on which we will continue to work, we adopted today Core Values for Sustainable Economic Activity, which will include those of propriety, integrity, and transparency, and which will underpin the Framework."

This is high praise, and a tribute indeed to Chancellor Angela Merkel's vision. That paragraph is the essence of the document, and a clear signal of the direction that they wish the G-20 to follow. The other leader whose stamp is clearly visible on the deliberations is Mr Sarkozy who had threatened to walk out of the summit unless there was a clear and categorical message reforming the Compensation Practices. The result is a detailed mention on the issue.

It is also true that the developing countries got their due. The summit document states the desire to shift by five per cent the quota share in IMF from the over-represented countries to the under-represented countries.

But there is a catch. This increase in the developing countries' quota does not make them equal to the developed world. The West will still have a decisive say in the affairs of IMF with its 51per cent quota. Moreover the real struggle will start now as China manoeuvres to get for itself a large portion of the five per cent quota and India finds itself holding the crumbs once again.

If there was any doubt as to where the Western preferences lie, the proof of it has been provided in a move that may lead to the formation of a core group within the G-7. This limited group is likely to include China, besides the US, EU and Japan. Clearly China has entered the big league leaving India behind.

The other reality that we have chosen to ignore is that the nature of the international financial system is likely to remain unchanged. In our anxiety to beat the triumphal drums over the designation of G-20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, we have glossed over many inconvenient facts.

We have ignored for one the fact that G-20 will be merely one of the many fora available to the US and EU, and that their crucial, agenda setting confabulations will continue to be held among the familiar and the few, rather than in the debating forum of the annual G-20 Summit.

We have also glossed over the intrusive agenda that has been set through the mechanism of the Financial Stability Board. This G-20 Summit decided "to include (in FSB) major emerging economies and welcome its efforts to coordinate and monitor progress in strengthening financial regulation." In sum it means that India will have to open its financial regulatory regime to external oversight.

It is natural for the delegation accompanying a leader to be lyrical about the successes, imagined or otherwise, of an overseas trip. But a real success is one that stands the test of time, and one that finds an echo in impartial outside voices as well. On both these scores there is room for doubt. Our cheer may be pre-mature.

A real and fundamental change in the international economic system is still many decades away. Till then, there will be daily reminders of who really calls the shots. Just try and transfer through the banking channels some money from Delhi to Paris; even if it is a small sum of $ 100, at least a good $ 20 will have to be paid to an American bank for the transfer to come through. That is how loaded the system is in favour of America.

China has more or less breached the glass ceiling and it will be invited increasingly to the inner councils that set the financial tone for the world. We still have a long way to go. In the interim we should continue to watch our flanks, so that we don't get buffeted by the next financial crisis.

Such a crisis, many say, is sure to happen because nothing has been done over the last 10 to 12 months that addresses the fundamental malaise which led to the financial meltdown of 2008. The next G-20 Summit may well have to tackle that basic issue.

The writer is a former Ambassador.







This refers to the report "SC contests judge claim, says CJI outside RTI ambit" (October 6). One wonders why the Supreme Court has taken such an adamant stance even though it had earlier agreed to put information about judges' assets on its official website.

Disproportionate accumulation of wealth by a judge is a serious issue which demands a thorough investigation in order to maintain public trust in the judiciary. In this regard, the Delhi High Court's historical ruling that information about judges' assets cannot be kept secret and that it must be disclosed to any citizen under the Right to Information Act is a welcome move. Several eminent jurists across the country have supported this view while many judges of the High Courts have come forward and declared their assets in line with the Delhi High Court's verdict or even before that.

However, on Monday the apex court has told the Delhi High Court that the office of Chief Justice of India does not come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act and challenged its order. It must be understood that the primary purpose of the RTI Act is to prevent corruption in public services at all levels. Therefore, the amount of wealth that a public servant like a judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court has amassed is information within the ambit of the Act. Even political leaders are required by law to declare their assets before contesting elections.

The earlier contention of the Supreme Court that any law regarding compulsory declaration of assets under the RTI Act may cause harassment to judges and undermine their independence, which is essential for adjudication of legal disputes, doesn't hold water. Why would a person occupying the highest position in the judicial system feel any untoward pressure to deliver a fair judgement just because he has declared his assets? All judges must be honest in the strictest sense of the word and should never fear to declare their wealth.

The higher judiciary, which is the repository of the principles of jurisprudence, is putting itself on the wrong side of public opinion by contesting the Delhi High Court's ruling that upholds transparency and accountability.

Despite phenomenal growth and progress, a significant portion of our population still lives in abysmal conditions primarily because of the all pervasive corruption that plagues our society. It's time we freed the nation from the clutches of corruption. Let judges be the beacon of inspiration.








Recently I watched a re-run of The Aviator, the acclaimed film on the life of maverick American billionaire Howard Robard Hughes Jr, visionary, inventor and entrepreneur extraordinaire. And I wondered afresh, and not without envy, about a political system and business environment that let entrepreneurship have full play without any significant hindrance.

Competitors, in all his different fields of endeavour — making independent movies, running commercial airlines, designing and manufacturing military planes, making tool bits — were allowed their say, and the effect of their lobbies. They did all they could to retard or stop Howard's progress but not, it is seen, with much success.

The US Government investigated and harassed Hughes also, partially at the behest of his competitors, and partially because they had some difficulty comprehending his audacity even if he did epitomise the 'American way'.

But, through it all, they let Hughes fight back hard, and let the nation hear his counter arguments. By the time he died in 1976, there was, for all to see, a wonderful flowering of enterprise, invention, daring and robust accomplishment. Howard Hughes enriched not only the quintessential American experience but much of the world at large, owing to the fact that he lived and worked his vision in a proven "land of the free and home of the brave".

Actor Leonardo di Caprio's fairly recent rendering of Hughes reminded me of another great American media pathfinder, crusader and newspaper baron, William Randolph Hearst, immortalised in Orson Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941). These men are both great American stereotypes, and there are dozens more, such as Henry Ford of Model T mass production, and "you can have any colour as long as it's black" fame.

That is not to say things were stage-managed for any of them. It doesn't work that way in 'melting pot' America. But the dynastic way does bedevil and stultify most of Europe, South America, large swathes of Asia and Africa, and some of what goes on here in this country.

In such places, the tug of the past, caste, rank, order of birth, gender, feudal position, family money, tribe, religion, loyalty, patronage, ideology, cadre, and so on, exert a greater, if static pull, than the merits involved, and the beckoning of an uncharted future, however exciting.

So, almost axiomatically, men without the right background and connection are rendered ineligible. Of late, however, during the last two decades, the top 10 corporations in India have given the partial lie to this 'tradition', by a kind of Darwinian evolution, as opposed to anything pre-ordained by the existing establishment.

Dhirubhai Ambani came from a no-name village in Gujarat notwithstanding his highly educated and capable sons at the helm today, and Sunil Mittal and his brothers, though their father was a businessman already, were modest bicycle parts manufacturers in their hometown Jullundur a scarce 20 years ago.

The Mittal brothers went on to create a telecommunications behemoth and storm into top 10 corporate entities in India, going to over $ 5 billion in turnover with dizzying speed, and then doubling it again (market value today is over $ 33 billion). And till very recently, they stood at the edge of effecting a $ 23 billion merger with South Africa's MTN that would serve 200 million customers.

That our homegrown Mittals, Ambanis, Azim Premji, NR Narayana Murthy and company, the Singh brothers of Ranbaxy, the Mahindras, etc, have done it in a politically suspicious, highly regulated and uncomprehending bureaucratic environment, is all the more creditable.

Other fabled second and third generation players like the Tatas and Birlas have also accomplished much, given a cautious and controlled step-by-step approach to market reforms at all times.

And of course, NRI steel baron LN Mittal has demonstrated what can be done by a second-generation businessman without the fetters of Indian command and control to hamper things.

I find myself wondering what might our entrepreneurs have done already with the brakes off! Of course there have been subversions and scams, big ones since 1991, but just because some will abuse a liberal market-centric approach, how can we refuse to play?

Mr Sunil Mittal and his brothers are stymied elsewhere as well. Bringing in the most successful "pile it high and sell it cheap" mass-marketer in America, namely Walmart, as partners in their retail venture, is viewed by our policy-makers not with the joy it should elicit, but with trepidation.

Instead, they favour a self-serving nationalist lobby in favour of reserving retail for domestic players even though it is doubtful if they have access to either the massive finances required or the necessary expertise for organised retail on a grand scale.

Most of our other big companies are facing similar governmental blocks on what they can and cannot do on top of a highly taxed environment riddled with infrastructure bottlenecks and shortages.

All in all, if we are to face up to the demands of the future we cannot continue to make deliberately dwarfish policy. If we are not yet ready for universal foreign exchange convertibility on the capital account, we might consider devising a second track for our top 10 corporate players at least. We should grant them special privileges and backing by way of a soft launch of capital account convertibility.

We can monitor progress to see how it works in a limited context before enlarging the space on a phased basis for others just as we have done already on the current account. This shouldn't be anathema because we have already declared that we will go in for a convertible currency in much less than a decade.

The Government, in which the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have already pronounced themselves in favour of the Bharti-MTN deal, should now take the lead in reviving it on South Africa's terms. After all what they wanted is to be able to trade in one of their biggest corporations on their own bourses. How can we fault them for that? Would we like to see a Tata or Reliance bought-over or merged with a foreign entity without that option?

Let us remember we only liberalised in the face of a World Bank ultimatum in 1991 when we were practically bankrupt. But we haven't done badly because of it since. Maybe it's time to act of our own volition this time.







The European Union has at long last received a new birth certificate — the Lisbon Treaty on its reform has been approved by the 27 member states.

The biggest problem was Ireland, which held two referendums on the issue. The first referendum, last year, blackballed the treaty, but the referendum on October 2 approved it by a majority of 67 per cent of voters against 33 per cent. The Irish took a positive decision after receiving detailed explanations of the benefits the treaty offers and the losses they will sustain if they reject it.

The reform became a life-or-death matter in 2004-2007, when the number of the EU members increased from 15 to 27. The new member states, most of them former communist countries, added to the EU elements of dissatisfaction with their former 'parent state' — the Soviet Union/Russia, a desire to get a taste of European prosperity, many people seeking jobs, poor understanding of life in the western parts of the EU, and the arrogant belief that they can freely use their newly acquired ability to vote for or block any internal EU decisions.

Since all the crucial decisions are taken by consensus in Brussels, Old Europe — first of all France and Germany, but also Italy and Spain — soon saw that they are no longer regarded as the old-timers who have a right to be "more equal than the others" simply because they were the first to come.

Indeed, it is absurd that a country with a population of four million people can block any decision in a community whose aggregate population exceeds 500 million people. That drawback of the European bureaucracy had to be remedied, and this has been done very elegantly.

The Lisbon Treaty stipulates a new 'double majority' voting system that rebalances voting weights to bring them closer to population size.

Under this system, to pass a decision by a qualified majority normally requires the double hurdle of at least 55 per cent of member states while representing at least 65 per cent of the population of the EU.

The treaty also lays down a two-and-a-half-year term for a full-time president of the European Council, the body that represents member nations.

The trouble the treaty encountered on its way to approval shows that the EU will have to halt the admission of new members. Croatia and Iceland will be admitted, but Ukraine and Turkey are unlikely to join the Union in the next 15-20 years, the duration of the Lisbon Treaty.

Infighting is already underway for the two key posts — president and High Representative for Foreign Affairs, as well as for commissioner portfolios.

Before the Irish referendum, the leading candidate for the post of president was Mr Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of Britain, but now his victory is not 100 per cent guaranteed. Much will depend on the stands of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


It has always been like this in the European Union — you needed the approval of Paris and Berlin (previously Bonn) to get a high post. According to French and German analysts, Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel have not yet decided if they should support Mr Blair, whose reputation has been tarnished by his Euroscepticism. Besides, Mr Blair is disliked in the European Parliament for supporting the US war in Iraq.

At present, the European Parliament should approve the appointment of the EC president.

Mr Blair is both a good and a bad candidate because he is a world-scale politician. Brussels believes that the EC president should have enough political weight to be able to talk as a peer with the leaders of the United States, Russia and China. On the other hand, some people in Europe do not want the EC president to overshadow European Prime Ministers, Chancellors and Presidents.

So far, the powers of the EC president have not been written down in detail, which means that the first presidents will be able to formulate them to their liking. Success in this undertaking will depend fully on their political experience and aggressiveness.

In 1994, Schauble shocked Europe by putting forth the idea of a "two-speed" Europe led by a pioneer group with Germany and France at its heart. According to that idea, all the other EU countries could continue to lag behind the pro-integration group or join it on the group's conditions. That idea has been given a new lease of life under Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel.

The writer is a political affairs columnist based in Moscow







No security force — not even the Army — has the capacity to carry out these tasks on the necessary scale. Even if financial resources are expended to create this capacity it would fundamentally distract them from their core competence.

The solution, therefore, is to create a new form of civilian capacity with the specific purpose of tackling counter-insurgency at the fundamental level. Civilian capacity is both relatively cost-effective and better suited to delivering governance and development. Placing counter-insurgency management under civilian command will accord greater legitimacy for the mission — it will not be seen as an 'occupation' by Central security forces — and facilitate eventual handover of the area to the local administration.

If India is to break from the vicious cycles of the past — where insurgencies are never quite extinguished — the Central Government must create a new, dedicated statutory organisation to engage in the endgame of counter-insurgency. We shall use the acronym CIMPCOR, or Civilian Military Partnership for Conflict Resolution to describe it. It will enable the Government to extend its non-military authority and lay the foundations for the rule of law and basic governance in areas cleared of Maoists.

Mandate: CIMPCOR's mandate should be to fill the gap between emergency humanitarian assistance and longer-term development assistance. It should be charged with the responsibility to put in place the building blocks for sustainable development, by building basic infrastructure, delivering basic public services and unleashing economic freedom. It should have institutional mechanisms to partner with the security forces, the local political and community leaders and specialist Government agencies engaged in agriculture, education, power, telecommunications and water resources development.

Governance: Administratively, CIMPCOR should be placed under a revamped Home Ministry — but with senior-level staff drawn from various Ministries and the Planning Commission. At the present time the Home Ministry has too much on its plate to be able to devote its resources towards internal security, leave alone development in conflict situations. The case of the National Disaster Management Authority — which remains a fledgling years after its formation — suggests that merely creating a new specialised agency is not the full answer: The Ministry must re-orient itself towards the new priorities. If this is not possible for any reason, the next best alternative is to place CIMPCOR as an autonomous agency under the Prime Minister's Office.

Staffing: CIMPCOR's staffing could be drawn from three streams: First, a core staff charged with building and maintaining the capacity to engage in short to medium-term interventions anywhere in India. Second, its deployable resources could be 'lend-leased' from the armed forces, Central paramilitary forces, Government departments, NGOs and some public-sector units (banks, for instance). Third, it could draw from a reserve of individual specialists — with expertise in various domains and experience in various regional contexts — employed through a system of call-down contracts.

To ensure co-ordination with the security forces engaged in the Hold stage, CIMPCOR should have adequate representation of serving and retired security forces personnel at all levels. To use the 'Rotterdam principle', CIMPCOR "should be as civilian as possible and as military as necessary." Where circumstances dictate that the security forces play a key role in executing development tasks — like the road through the Red Corridor — their role would be clearly defined, with the transition process identified. In any case, the responsibility for carrying out the development work should rest with CIMPCOR.

If insurgencies in general and Maoism in particular are the biggest threats to internal security, then it must follow that CIMPCOR must be staffed and led by exemplary individuals — from Government and private sectors.

Readiness: In terms of operational readiness, CIMPCOR should be capable of deploying planning teams within 10 days and project execution teams within two months.

It must have the capability to conduct assessments; design, implement and evaluate development programmes; provide local administration; manage contractors and funding agencies; and provide consultation and training to State Government departments to facilitate early transition to local control. Its role should be catalytic — by providing staff and trainers — in rejuvenating State Governments' agencies and personnel.

Deployment terms: CIMPCOR's deployment could vary from six months to two years, but should be capped — perhaps at no more than three years. This is important: For a long-term deployment of CIMPCOR would undermine the very purpose of creating an institution; the aim being to facilitate a quick and smooth return to normalcy, without affecting the development goals while preserving the military success achieved by the security forces against the insurgents. An exit strategy should be written into CIMPCOR's charter, mandating the transfer of responsibilities to the State Government to start within one year of its deployment.

There are several areas in India where CIMPCOR is needed today. In the future, it is conceivable that as India's global role expands in tandem with its economic and geopolitical interests, CIMPCOR might even have to be deployed in foreign contexts. Investing in a robust, competent and professional final-stage counter-insurgency force is not only be timely, but will be forward-looking as well.

In his book The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done about It, economist Paul Collier has shown that only economic growth decisively reduces the risk of a return to civil war. This does not mean that insurgencies are only about economics but that an upward growth trajectory makes a recurrence of war less probable. Indeed, Mr Collier found that the higher the post-war growth rate was, the harder it was to shatter the peace. Thus, growth and development, alongside security for the population, has to be the utmost priority of any counter-insurgency campaign.

If the struggle against Maoists is not to be Sisyphean, India cannot be flippant about the endgame of counter-insurgency. It can be said with confidence that given political will and leadership, India's security forces are competent enough to succeed against the Maoists in the military space. Without adequate capacity to rebuild the lives, livelihoods, communities and societies ravaged by the Maoists and the war to eliminate them, successes will be ephemeral. India needs CIMPCOR now.

Courtesy: Pragati — The Indian National Interest Review








FOR Air India, an airline that is already grappling with the prospect of a possible shutdown, this is one controversy too many.


The latest storm resulted from two pilots in command of an international flight fighting with the cabin crew, while leaving the controls unattended. Both the pilots as well as the cabin crew broke all rules of decorum and professional behaviour by engaging in a midair brawl with each other, thus endangering the lives of more than 100 passengers on the Sharjah- Delhi IC- 884 flight.


After a certain height, airline captains do put the plane on autopilot mode, but the rules clearly warrant that at least one of the pilots has to be present inside the cockpit at all points in time.


Commendably, after a quick enquiry, Air India has suspended both the pilot, Capt Ranbir Arora and the flight purser Amit Khanna for their unruly behaviour. Yet, the real truth can only be made public if the management is transparent enough to admit errors and move ahead.


This incident only points to a deeper malaise within the airline. Its management — as pointed out by this paper on several occasions — has not been the ideal role model for its staff to follow.


In a recent strike by the airline's executive pilots, during which the airline faced more than Rs 100 crore in losses due to grounded flights, the minister of civil aviation did not even make an attempt to reach out to the pilots or to the customers, or to the media for three days. It was only when the Prime Minister intervened did the minister address the issue frontally.


This is possibly the worst ever phase that India's national carrier has gone through in all its years of exceptional service. If it ever needed any solid leadership from its management, it is now.







THE interim order of the metropolitan magistrate that Major Chandrashekhar Pant of the Indian Army pay maintenance to Sabra Ahmadzai, the woman he deceitfully married in Afghanistan, is a step in the right direction.


It also somewhat redeems the honour of the Indian Army. We say " somewhat" because the Army as an institution has done little or nothing to undertake any redemption at all. Good conduct and honour are things that are highly prized by the army.


Yet in the case of this hapless woman from a poor, war- torn country, the army has failed to live by its own rules. " Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman" was enough to warrant a court- martial in the past, but today it seems to amount to little.


It is even now not too late for the Army to act against a person who has blackened the name of the country, as well as of the institution he works for.


The Indian presence in war- torn Afghanistan is not just any other mission.


The workers and officials who serve there do so at great personal risk. The reason they do so is that they are playing a vital role in the security of the country and the region. Therefore it is all the more important that they are seen by the Afghans as people of impeccable integrity.


Hopefully the higher judiciary will not waste any time in upholding the interim judgment of the metropolitan magistrate.








IT's a pity that even as Indian tourists flock to amusement parks in the west to have a glimpse of sea dolphins, our indigenous dolphins are close to extinction, with little or no efforts made so far to save the species. Less than 2,000 of them survive in our rivers today. It is for this reason that conservationists will welcome the declaration of Gangetic dolphins as the National Acquatic Animal by the Ganga River Basin Authority on Monday.


It hardly needs to be pointed out here that the ecological ill- health and pollution of the Ganga has a lot to do with the depleting numbers of river dolphins, though poaching is also partly responsible for the phenomenon. Hopefully with the launch of the Mission Clean Ganga which aims to clean up the river by 2020, the minimum ecological flow necessary for the dolphins to survive will come to be maintained.

This must be accompanied by concerted efforts aimed at conserving the species.










POPULAR CINEMA in general, and the Indian film industry in particular, is frequently accused of caricature. The critics are not wrong: with its song and dance routine; muddled story lines; and escapist fare, popular cinema of which Bollywood fantasy dramas represent an apogee frequently bear little semblance to reality.


Unrealistic and simplistic as Bollywood may be, its exaggerations are still reflective of the prevailing social norms. The evolution of Amitabh Bachchan, easily the tallest Bollywood star over the last few decades, reflects the changing milieu of Hindi cinema, which, in turn, draws inspiration from how the Indian society has evolved.


In a typical potboiler of the 1970' s, Mr Bachchan, the " angry young man", frequently played characters, who, despite being poor, were generally happy; mouthed the best dialogues; and wooed the prettiest heroines.


Satisfied with their station in life, their angst was directed against the archetypical ' system' which denied them the happiness their poverty provided. In contrast, the rich industrialist might live in chandeliered houses, and drive opulent cars, but was left alone, broken and lonely, till he realised the error of his ways.


A visitor from outer space could be forgiven for thinking that poverty was a blessing in disguise, while being moneyed was an unmitigated disaster.


Mr Bachchan, the aged superstar, has travelled a fair distance from those apocalyptic days. Now in movies expressly made for the nostalgic Nonresident Indians ( NRIs), he plays the stern patriarch, presiding over joint families who despite the riches have not forsaken their Indian roots and traditions. Money is no longer a matter of scorn or derision, but of admiration.


The two extremes of Mr Bachchan's oeuvre capture the distance India has travelled: From an extremely poor, cynical, and angry country to the post- liberalisation India, which, despite its poverty, has acquired a sense of confidence and self- worth and indeed, perhaps even cockiness.



But despite its celebration of entrepreneurship and wealth creation, there remains a hesitancy — particularly among the political and intellectual elite — to openly embrace the idea of a consumerist culture. A romanticised vision places self- denial — howsoever hypocritical and meaningless — at a higher pedestal vis- àvis those who find nothing abhorrent about individuals who choose to spend their wealth as they deem fit.


Perhaps, the angst stems from India's traditional ethos which has always eulogised the idea of abnegation.

Or perhaps it is due to the fact that India remains an extremely poor country — as the critics ask: In a country where millions go hungry, should ' vulgar' displays of wealth be condoned? It would be useful to examine the recent public debate on the UPA government's austerity drive in this light. While the government has argued that its emphasis on austerity merely reaffirms its pro- poor credentials, the critics have dismissed it as a symbolic exercise — after all, the savings accrued from ministers traveling in economy class are hardly substantial enough to deserve the brouhaha.


Others have pointed out that the government's stand is hypocritical: Shashi Tharoor and SM Krishna were virtually hounded out of five star hotels when the entire cost was reportedly being borne by the aforementioned ministers while government denizens continue to live in regal bungalows in Lutyens Delhi at the taxpayers' expense.


While valid, these criticisms miss the larger point. The Indian government can hardly be accused of efficiency; the opulent ministerial houses are merely a small manifestation of it. And as Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research has pointed out, symbolism has its own value in polity and in shaping of public opinion — after all, even the grand 26th January parade is only a symbolic celebration of the Indian Republic.


The fundamental problem with the austerity drive and its glorification in certain quarters is that like Mr Bachchan's movies from the 1970' s, it legitimises poverty. The clarion calls for return to days of Gandhian socialism might be mere sloganeering but it still represents the idea that poverty is an elevated state of consciousness, attaching to it an illdeserved moralistic value.


Now that large swathes of India are enveloped in the darkness of poverty is undeniable. Whether couched in terms of " inclusive growth" or " growth with human face", the Indian growth story needs to embrace hundreds of millions who continue to live in poverty.


But an essential pre- requisite for a successful war against poverty is its recognition as a debilitating and dehumanising experience for those who are really poor.



As long as Indian society remains comfortable with the idea of poverty, the policy prescriptions will remain statist in nature designed not to pull people permanently out of poverty but to make their stay in their preordained state a little more comfortable: the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ( NREGA), currently the flavour of the season after the UPA government's spectacular electoral victory in the 2009 general elections, is a classic example of this muddled thinking.


Unsurprisingly, the representative of this regressive line of thought, Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi tells David Miliband, the visiting British foreign secretary, that the rural hinterlands of Amethi represent the " real India", willy- nilly arguing that those with access to comforts which money provides are not part of the republic.


Admittedly, the nouveau riches can be frequently be crass and offensive to aesthetic sensibilities; others may find Epicurean lifestyles morally troubling. But ultimately what constitutes excessive consumption and what is merely meeting the basic necessities of life is a subjective judgment best left to the individual.


Moral outrage which is necessarily the function of idiosyncratic attitudes and experiences should not guide public policy. In any case, is not lack of class preferable to deification of poverty? Or to borrow from Shiv Vishwanathan's idiom, is not conspicuous consumerism better than debilitating poverty?



Those naturally inclined to prefer a simple lifestyle — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, for instance — can continue to do so. The operative word here is " naturally". The celebration of austerity merely insults the poor. After all, what comfort is it to a poor struggling man in a remote village if the marriages in New Delhi are less ostentatious? Or if Sonia Gandhi flies economy class and the young Gandhi scion takes the train? Indeed, much more column space and television sound bytes have been devoted to these spectacles vis- à- vis the tragedy of the drought- hit Indian farmer. Yes, as already conceded, symbolism is an important part of public life.


But it is merely means to an end; it should not become the end itself for that results in feel- good policies which do little except provide succour to some ' concerned' souls. The former American ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, once described the Nehruvian commitment to public enterprise as " postoffice socialism for it operated at no profit, hopefully no loss, with no particular efficiency and with no other clear purpose in mind." Replace public enterprise with austerity, and Galbraith's pithy comment wonderfully captures the import of the austerity drive: a meaningless, self- serving and ultimately dangerous exercise.


the writer is associated with pragati- the indian national interest review







REBELS could well play kingmaker in the assembly polls this time.


Though the Congress virtually swept the Lok Sabha polls, most parties are apprehensive about not getting a majority as people vote differently in state polls, a point Sharad Pawar has been repeatedly making to his smug Congress colleagues.


The NCP and Congress are facing over 50 rebels each across the state, a fact that has given leaders of both parties sleepless nights. Both parties now appreciate the importance of ethics in public life. They lament the decline of party discipline in politics, and a poll climate vitiated by clandestine patronage by rivals.


The Congress, in particular, has reason to worry because it is nursing the ambition of becoming king for the third time running and, yet, doesn't have a handle on the feisty rebels. It is another matter that the party itself is not above playing dirty when it comes to serving its own ends.


Insiders talk of how Narayan Rane hijacked an aggrieved Shiv Sena MLA, Sada Sarvankar, and rushed him to the election office at the last minute after the Sena denied him a ticket. In a move that alarmed the Sena as much as some old- timers in the Congress, the Congress pushed aside its declared nominee, Ajit Sawant, and fielded Sarvankar.


Later, someone in the Congress realised that Sarvankar was not even a primary member of the party. He had had no time to join the party. So, in a much- resented departure from rules, Sarvankar was made one after his candidature was declared.


Sawant is now raising uncomfortable questions in Congress circles. Though there is no doubt Sarvankar made for a stronger candidate, many like him increasingly feel there is no room for loyalists in the Congress. Oldtimers, who were earlier appreciated, though not valued, for being harmless, are now being assigned to the sidelines. They feel uncomfortable with the way the newcomers in the party, reared in a non- Congress environment, are bringing in a new culture at the cost of the way loyalist Congressmen see things.


The latest crack in the party, still not visible and only subliminal, is triggered by the charge of the north Indians. The rapid rise of city unit president Kripashankar Singh, MPs Sanjay Nirupam and Gurudas Kamat in the political sweepstakes has ruffled many feathers. Out of 28 seats in Mumbai, Congress has given about 18 seats to non- Maharashtrians. And the pro- Maharashtrian lobby says that about six of the 10 seats with Maharashtrian candidates are weak ones.


" There is a strategic move by non- Maharashtrians to ease us out. They are deliberately keeping the good seats for themselves and fielding us from hopeless places so that they grow in power," says one aggrieved Congressman.


Evidently, Raj Thackeray is not the only one to be miffed with the north Indians.








THE wedge in the Dutt family may just have been driven deeper. Sanjay Dutt went out of his way to campaign against a family aide in Mumbai, Baba Siddiqui, who is supported by his sister, Priya. A day after he campaigned for the Samajwadi Party candidate standing against Siddiqui, Priya set out to undo the wrong and pitched for Siddiqui in a pronounced declaration of a sibling divide.


As Samajwadi Party's general secretary, Sanjay hit the road for the party's candidate, Rizwan Merchant, in Bandra West. He apparently flew down to Mumbai specially to campaign for the SP candidates from Bandra West and Bandra East.


Siddiqui is a former minister and long- time associate of the late Sunil Dutt and has had close relations with the younger Dutts as well. That did not deter Sanjay from going on a padyatra for Merchant and inaugurating his campaign office in Khar, near Bandra.


Siddiqui, who was the right- hand man of Dutt Senior, is considered part of the family. He took over the mantle of managing Priya's political career after Sunil Dutt's death.


Incidentally, Sanjay had not campaigned for Samajwadi Party in Mumbai North- Central Lok Sabha constituency during the general elections ostensibly because his sister was contesting the seat for the Congress.


He had no such qualms this time and neither did Priya.


Realising that Sanjay's canvassing could damage Siddiqui's prospects, Priya did exactly what her brother had done. She too went on a padyatra with Siddiqui.






AT a press conference to announce the joint Shiv Sena- BJP manifesto, Uddhav Thackeray made a faux pas that went mostly unnoticed by the otherwise hawkish news channels. One of the issues in the manifesto pertains to extending the Bandra- Worli sealink southwards to Nariman Point. In a slip of the tongue, Uddhav promised to take the bridge right up to Versova instead, which lies to the north of the sealink. Bemused partymen promptly began studying the floor to avoid eyecontact with frowning reporters.




AFTER a large number of Shiv Sainiks flocked to the MNS when it was created in 2006, a reverse exodus is now under way. Out of 17 general secretaries in the MNS, four joined the Sena recently. Three of them — Shweta Parulekar who polled one lakh votes in the Lok Sabha polls, Satish Pradhan who was a Sena MP, and Sanjay Ghadi, a local heavyweight — are former Shiv Sainiks. The last one, Prakash Mahajan, is the brother of the late Pramod Mahajan. He left the party after not getting an audience with Raj over a public spat with a co- worker.


Sanjay Ghadi was known for wielding considerable influence in the dense pocketborough of Magothane in Mumbai. He has joined the Shiv Sena along with his wife.


Scores of activists, cadres and senior officebearers are walking back to the parent fold after being disappointed with Raj Thackeray. The steady stream of desertions does not appear to have bothered him much but political observers say it affects party morale.


Most leaders have a similar story to tell.


They complain of Raj's high- handedness with his own leaders, his inaccessibility and increasing intolerance





ELECTION- TIME makes strange bedfellows. Two pairs of leaders, who traditionally have pulled faces at each other, have now been caught smiling for the camera. Narayan Rane appears to have buried the hatchet with his sworn foe, Vilasrao Deshmukh. Unbelievably, Rane campaigned for Deshmukh's son, Amit, in Latur. Rane possibly doesn't see Deshmukh as a threat any more now that the latter is no longer CM and also because Deshmukh pushed for giving tickets to some ex- Shiv Sena men who joined at Rane's behest.


Similarly, political expediency has made two warring leaders of the BJP clan, Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde, smile into each other's eyes. The two leaders launched the party's poll campaign after a joint visit to the Bhavani temple at Tuljapur.


Munde has been appeased after his daughter, Pankaja Palve, and his niece, Poonam Mahajan, were given tickets.








THIS refers to the Question of the Day, ' Is Congress and Rahul Gandhi's wooing of the Dalit community only a sham?' ( October 5). Rahul Gandhi's wooing of Dalits in Uttar Pradesh is politically- motivated and aimed at gaining mileage in the community.


In fact, Dalits were a major part of the Congress' vote- bank until the Bahujan Samaj Party emerged as an enabler for the community. It was only then that the Congress lost their Dalit votes to the BSP. Having said that, the Congress' success in Uttar Pradesh in the recent Lok Sabha elections where it won 21 seats has made the party believe that Rahul Gandhi's visits to Dalit villages helped. Buoyed by this success, Rahul decided to bond with the Dalits by eating food prepared by them and by spending nights in their huts.


After all this, is there any doubt whether the Congress general secretary is resorting to such gimmicks only to win Dalit votes? Meanwhile, I have a few questions of my own: Why has Rahul chosen only UP to speak to Dalits? Surely it is not the only state where Dalits live in large numbers? On what basis is the Congress blaming the Mayawati government for Dalit miseries, when the Congress itself could not help the community? The Congress governed the state for more than four decades, but did the condition of the Dalits improve during this period? In fact, from the looks of it, it only worsened.


In my view, the worst condition of Dalits is in Tamil Nadu where powerful backward castes such as the Thevars still inflict atrocities on them. Will Rahul raise a voice against that in a state that is ruled by its alliance partner? Why doesn't Rahul visit Maoist- affected areas across four eastern states where Dalits are destined to live in abject poverty and inhuman conditions? But my biggest question is this: why only Dalits? Congress should have a larger vision.


Manoj Parashar via email




APROPOS of minister of state for corporate affairs Salman Khurshid wanting a cap on CEO salaries, I am reminded of similar advise from the Prime Minister a couple of years ago.


This is shocking, coming from such erudite people. Even a fundamental study of economics would tell us that controls for dealing with socio- economic disparity can backfire.


Looking at this issue from the other side, if each aspect of top- management packages in the government or public sector is monetised, then these are far greater than what top executives earn on average.


For example, bureaucrats in the Central government live in bungalows that would attract a market rent of a few lakhs per month, but they are typically charged a negligible fee. Official cars are often used for personal purposes, and all of the expense is billed to the exchequer, that is, the tax payer.


What about the dedication and effort put in by a person to reach the top level in a private firm, even at the cost of ignoring his or her family? In a free economy, remuneration should be governed by demand and supply. If individuals choose jobs that let them earn highly, it will be in the interest of society and the nation.


Mahesh Kapasi via email








When not forced by tragic circumstances, as in the case of India's partition, migration has a beneficial effect. Leaders of the French Revolution, for instance, owed a debt to exiles who had brought back British notions of political freedom to the Ancien Regime, ideas that underwent a process of native germination. The course of India's freedom struggle might have been different had Gandhi not undergone a profound moral and intellectual awakening in South Africa. There, faced with injustice, he discovered the power of protest. There are countless examples in history of the transformative nature of border crossings, within and between nations. In contemporary times, migration continues to contribute to global society by generating prosperity and reducing poverty. The cultural exchange and enrichment it facilitates also foster global understanding.

This year's Human Development Report, just released by the UNDP, corroborates this view. Migration, it suggests, is a force of positive change, benefiting migrants, their home countries and host nations. Migrants constitute almost one billion of the world's population. The majority around 740 million are internal migrants; 214 million have ventured abroad. The growing mobility of populations is a heartening trend. Moving from village to city or one country to another, migrants see rise in incomes, improved standards of living and greater access to health and education.

Contrary to popular belief, only 37 per cent of global migration is from developing to developed countries. Developing-to-developed country migrants, however, are the biggest gainers, India's IT professionals being a case in point. Success in greener pastures rebounds on regions or countries of origin as remittance flows. In 2007, the money Indians abroad repatriated made up about 3.1 per cent of GDP. Funds routed home by global migrants outstrip official development aid by around four times in most developing nations, barring in Africa. As for host nations, we know they benefit from cheaper labour or inflow of high demand skills, both boosting their economies. The contribution of Indian medical practitioners in Britain's health industry or Indian software professionals in America needs no recounting. As the report suggests, migration could also help stem the negative economic impact of shrinking and ageing populations, notably in Europe.

Migration isn't a surrogate for development. But, as the report's author asserts, it's an important complement. India, for instance, needs Bharat Nirman and NREGS. It also needs its successful and influential diaspora, and that would go for most nations. With the global slowdown having renewed immigration-related fears in many parts of the world, UNDP's report is a timely reminder of the urgent need to remove popular misgivings, to reform policies and lower costs in ways that ease legal migration. Deciding where to live, it says, "is a key element of human freedom". We couldn't agree more.







Over the last century or so, advances in technology and medical science have meant that the human race has improved the longevity and quality of its collective existence, while eradicating certain diseases altogether. But cancer remains frustratingly incurable. Despite all the progress made in understanding the human body, a consistent explanation of how and why certain cells turn cancerous continues to elude us. That is, until now.

New research has not only shed light on the origins of cancer, but related work has produced significant advances in cancer treatment. The American trio just awarded the Nobel prize for medicine conducted research that points the way for an eventual cure for cancer. They solved a puzzle that has long baffled scientists how chromosomes are prevented from fraying whenever cells divide. The tips of chromosomes are protected by telomeres, which are like caps and are built by an enzyme called telomerase. Normal adult cells keep track of how many times they divide, and after reaching a certain limit, they die. Overproduction of telomerase allows cells to divide without limit, making them effectively immortal. But that immortality comes at a high price. When cells divide ad infinitum and don't know when to stop, they become cancerous. It is one of nature's greatest double-edged swords.

So, how does this mean we're any closer to a cure for cancer? That's because if telomerase encourages cells to divide, it follows that the unchecked division growth of cancer cells can be stopped if a drug or gene therapy that inhibits the production of telomerase is found. Several companies are now working on drugs that target telomerase in cancer cells. Initial experiments performed on mice have been encouraging, though the challenge of attacking cancer cells while not destroying healthy ones still exists.

Other treatments are also being tested. Drugs that treat a malfunctioning human protein meant to attack and kill damaged cells before they can divide and spread are beginning to produce results. An even more radical approach involves literally cooking cancer cells as if in a microwave oven. Microscopic iron particles would be placed inside the tumours, which would then be heated up using a wand of sorts. A cure for cancer is arguably the holy grail of modern medicine. Thanks to human curiosity, we are now closer to finding one than ever before.







Once upon a time, a queen was deceived by her brothers into breaking a rigorous fast, as a result of which her husband died; a woman accidentally killed a cub and lost her seven sons; a man murdered a child gifted to his barren wife by Lord Hanuman. These tales of human helplessness have been related during Karva Chauth, Ahoi Ashtami and Mangalvar vrat for centuries, as have hundreds of other such kathas during the varied vrats observed by Hindus. By explaining the origin of a vrat or describing incidents that prove its efficacy, vrat kathas have been an integral and indispensable part of the institution of ritual fasting. With an astonishing ability to fascinate, frighten and compel, they have kept the tradition of vrats alive for generations.

Vrats are deeply embedded in the spiritual lives of Hindus, offering a means of communicating with the gods, of altering divine forces, protecting loved ones and fulfilling desires. A vrat is a religious ritual observed with strict discipline for a fixed period of time, usually a day, during which the devotee, in addition to partial or complete fasting, undertakes the worship of a deity and hears a relevant katha. Vrats have been passed down over generations, capturing the imagination of Hindu children through fairytale-like kathas, being romanticised by elders in the family, glamourised by Bollywood, and embellished with clothing, jewellery and gifts. Hindus undertake fasts routinely, often with little understanding of their own motivations, driven by custom and a vague notion of being able to earn spiritual brownie points through them.

It is likely that vrats originated in folk religion and primarily amongst women. The practice was transmitted orally and largely ignored by male ideologues until the 5th century A.D., when vrats suddenly begin to appear in late Puranic literature. Thereafter, they are extensively codified in the Dharmashastras and the Dharmanibandhas, indicating Brahmanical recognition of these practices and an attempt to standardise and regulate them. Priestly mediation is introduced and vrats now become the primary vehicle available to women within orthodox Hinduism to pursue religious duties and achieve spiritual liberation.

According to scholar Mary McGee's study of vrats in the Hindu law digests compiled between the 12th and 18th centuries, the Dharmanibandhas, the fact that vrats delivered not only spiritual liberation but also a whole host of more immediate, worldly fruits gave these rites an optional character. Women could choose to undertake them based on their desire to fulfil certain aims. However, McGee's study of women in modern India reveals that while women most certainly undertake vrats with material goals aimed at marital and familial happiness, they do not consider them to be optional. They consider vrats to be a part of their stridharma or spiritual duties as women, as well as a ready means by which to protect the welfare of their families.

In a patriarchal society, it is not difficult to understand why vrats would have emerged, gained popularity and persisted for centuries. Having access to a rite aimed at fulfilling their desires would certainly give women a (possibly false) sense of control. It is no wonder then that the Dharmashastras forbid women from performing vrats without the express permission of their husbands, fathers or sons. Undertaking a vrat creates a debt and an expectation, from one's husband on Karva Chauth, from one's son on Ahoi Ashtami, and from God every time. Even if they did not feel indebted to their women for making sacrifices on their behalf, men would certainly be unnerved by women gaining a powerful and mysterious agency that could affect the destinies of them all.

Does the modern Hindu woman need to believe in this powerful, mysterious force that is on her side? Sometimes, she finds the spiritual power of a fast to be unconvincing and supplements it with a rational explanation. Fasting can clean out the system, she says. It builds willpower, self-control and moral character. Such arguments are dubious, of course, for the scientific benefits of fasting can be debated. Even Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the greatest modern exponent of fasting, wrote in his autobiography that if fasting is not accompanied by a powerful spiritual longing, it can in fact stimulate one's passions, lower one's self-restraint and "end in hypocrisy and disaster".

A modern rationalisation is usually exactly that: a rationalisation. It is never the driving force behind the observance of vrats. To find the motivation, one needs to search backwards in history, within the powerlessness of women and the promises made by reassuring vrat kathas.

Is this a powerlessness that modern women want to stay associated with? It is time to understand the exploitative, repressive character of fasting and be done with this antiquated tradition. The modern Indian woman need not put herself through an agonising, humiliating and ultimately harmful ritual that she no longer needs in order to fulfil her desires. After all, this was a ritual born of a hunger for some influence over her own life and, in a rapidly equalising world, there are other means to feed that hunger.


The writer is a novelist.







Having seen plastic bottles, polythene covers, kerosene cans, human waste and artillery shells strewn around on the white snow and 800 army personnel, including his friends, fighting frostbite and guarding against unknown enemies, Harish Kapadia has started a new mission a peace park at Siachen. The 65-year-old mountaineer tells Sruthy Susan Ullas about his passion:

Why do you want to set up the peace park?

Peace parks are solutions for regions of dispute between two countries. There are 170 such parks around the world today, where the area is given for rejuvenation and for tourists to visit. The best way to end the Indo-Pak dispute is to withdraw the army from the land and make it a peace park. The park will come up at the Sino-Indian border to be extended till the Siachen.

Besides resolving disputes, what is the objective of setting up this park?

It is the recent degradation of the land that requires immediate attention. The pollution level will come down once human habitation goes down.

How about the pollution in other areas of the Himalayas? Don't mountaineers also play a role in it?

In other areas, villagers themselves are responsible for the pollution rather than the mountaineers. Their changing lifestyle is becoming an increasing menace. If a family was using one bottle of kerosene earlier, now it uses one can. They throw the empty can down the nullah, which joins the rivers. This year there is a dangerous water shortage in the mountains. All the streams have dried up due to the absence of afternoon rains and lack of snowfall. The rivers are of not much use to villagers as they flow down into the valleys and villagers depend on the streams.

How do you plan to change these?

In order to sensitise villagers, a three-day workshop was organised for them in the last week of August with experts from Canada training them. I go up to the mountains regularly to keep an eye on the changes. Mountains have been a part of my life since i was 14. It disturbs me when i see them in such a pathetic stage. I'm travelling across the world and speaking on the need to set up the peace park. I began with the Cannes film festival and covered over a hundred meetings. I write about it regularly in the Himalayan Journal. I've also spoken to the environment secretary and government officials.

What is the hindrance to the park project?

he real problem is the lack of trust between the two countries. Given the current political scenario in Pakistan, we do not even know who to talk to. There have been talks earlier, but nothing worthwhile has come out of them because of the zero trust.









Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has endorsed the warning issued by corporate affairs minister Salman Khursheed that the sarkar is thinking of regulating the 'vulgar' salaries and perks currently enjoyed by some private sector CEOs in India. The minister added that the allegedly overpaid fat cats of India Inc should take a tip from the sarkar and learn a few lessons about austerity, the official new buzzword in official circles. So, should the salary slips of India Inc be slashed? The workmen must be worthy of their wages. But are they, in this case? Mukesh Ambani reportedly paid himself a salary of Rs 44.02 crore in 2007-08, his brother Anil, lashed out Rs 30.02 crore for his own salary over the same period. Other top salaried CEOs were Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel (Rs 22.89 crore), Pawan Munjal of Hero Honda (Rs 15.73 crore) and A M Naik of Larsen & Toubro (Rs 8.39 crore).


Compared with these figures, sarkari salaries including those drawn by ministers do seem laudably modest at first squint. Your average mantriji gets an MP's basic salary of Rs 1,92,000 per annum, plus Rs 24,000. In addition, however, a minister gets a slew of perks: a bungalow in the poshest part of city, plus allowances which, together with salary, reportedly total up to some Rs 11 lakh per month. Plus a personal staff of between 16 (for cabinet ministers) and 13 (for deputy ministers). Plus security guards, a fleet of at least three cars (with petrol thrown in, naturally), and unlimited domestic and international phone calls. Plus free train and air travel. That's a lot of pluses. Even taking into account the political charade that has downgraded air travel to economy class, our mantrijis live on the saturated fat of the land. Particularly so when you consider that none of these perks which frequently include a Lutyens' bungalow, which at an estimated market value of between Rs 150 and Rs 200 crore would command a rental upward of Rs 60 lakh a month, minimum invites the fringe benefit tax that the private sector is obliged to pay when it provides comparable facilities to its employees, including CEOs.


But unarguably the biggest perk enjoyed by ministers and MPs is that of unaccountability. A private sector CEO is accountable to shareholders and to the laws of the marketplace: if the company goes bust, for whatever reason, the CEO is out of a job, and that's an end to all pay and perks. This is not the case with our sarkari CEOs, our mantris. No matter however badly managed and unprofitable it is, sarkari India can never go bust: all it has to do is add to its already humungous fiscal deficit (the difference between earnings and outgoings) which in January 2009 was an estimated Rs 2,10,000 crore, and counting.


That's the perk literally beyond price which sarkari CEOs enjoy and private sector CEOs don't: freedom from fiscal accountability. Of course, in a democracy particularly one such as India's where the so-called anti-incumbency factor is particularly assertive sarkari CEOs who are deemed by voters to be bad managers can and are voted out of office. But this, generally speaking, happens only once in five years. And five years in politics, particularly Indian politics, is a long time: according to the National Election Watch, in five years Haryana MLAs, on an average, each added five crore to their net asset values. In the meantime, the projected revenue deficit for Haryana (i.e. the loss the state will make) for 2009-10 is over Rs 3,380 crore. Nice going, guys. Bankrupt the state, while filling your own pockets. That's the biggest perk of sarkari office.


So, should private sector salaries and perks be regulated by the sarkar? Sure. But only after the sarkar has learnt to regulate its own inestimable perk of unaccountability, which allows it to live so hugely beyond its means. And till you can do that, mantriji, please perk down about others' salaries and perks.






I learnt that the magi came out of the orient guided by a star to pay homage to the child Christ to offer him, among other things, gifts of gold. The pure gold casket of Tutankhamen, weighing a staggering 240 pounds, amply illustrates the vast quantities of gold commanded by the Egyptian pharaohs. I fail to understand, however, how gold, a dud metal, an emblem of absolute tokenism, of value only because it is rated highly, can have such a hold on people's concept of power and wealth. Gold's twin uses as adornment and currency call for a brand new economic history. As the adage of capitalism goes, as a principle of private property, ye who owns the gold, makes the rules. I am eager to know, like many others, what makes gold the pivot of the global economy. The wealth of many western countries is based significantly around the gold reserves they hold. The 'humiliation' of Indian gold reserves being placed in hock to London bankers to maintain foreign exchange liquidity, that finally led to the unshackling of the Indian economy, is still fresh. Mortgaging gold is an unmistakable sign of bankruptcy.

Peter L Bernstein's book The Power of Gold recounts how gold has inspired art, battles, conquests and discoveries, including Columbus's trip to the New World, where he hoped to secure enough gold to buy back the Holy Sepulchre from the Muslims. Much attention is paid to historical trivia, like a massacre by Spanish invader Pizarro, whose small band of men vanquished the formidable army of Emperor Atahualpa, "through more duplicity than military skill", or the tale of the Gold Coast natives of Timbuktu, who "willingly" traded their gold for much-needed salt, ounce for ounce. Gold and silver played a crucial role in the rise of Rome. The Romans established vast mining works to smelt copper ores rich in gold and silver which provided the economic foundation of their empire. Gold has been a faithful register of human greed and ruthlessness down the centuries. I hum the memorable opening song 'Old Turkey Buzzard', sung by Jose Feliciano in the film Mackenna's Gold, which goes like this: 'Gold, gold, gold they just gotta have that/ Gold, gold, gold they'll do anythin' for gold!












The world is on the move. So is India. Nearly 1 billion of the estimated 6.7 billion people in the world are migrants — that's one in every seven persons. Out of this number, some 740 million are internal migrants — moving within various parts of their own country. One in every three Indians is a migrant. According to the United Nations Human Development (UNDP) Report 2009 that was released on Monday, migration can have a significant impact on reducing poverty. Yet the poorest segments of society, who can benefit the most by seeking a better life elsewhere, face barriers thanks to legal, social and financial hurdles. Instead of viewing internal migration as a problem, the UNDP report suggests that governments ensure 'access and treatment' to forced migrants.


This, especially in the Indian context, will be easier said than done. Even as India rapidly urbanises, the infrastructure and resource challenges are enormous. With more and more people moving into areas of economic growth, there will be enormous pressure on already stretched resources. Increased movement of people for job opportunities could not only mean choked civic services, but also a Shiv Sena-Maharashtra Navnirman Sena-style politicisation of the issue — despite figures showing that more people in India move about within their own state than migrate to another. How the government harnesses this demographic movement for greater economic good remains to be seen. Policies as well as mindsets have to be changed. Low-skilled migrants, for instance, have to be seen as a potential human resource, not a burden on society.


While migration might be good, we must also look into the causes that propel 'distress migration'. All kinds of migration, as plenty of evidence in our cities shows, do not bring benefits for migrants. The benefits of migration are often offset by the initial financial outlays and the risks involved in setting off. Movement of people will increase in the coming years. Ensuring that migrants get the same benefits as those available to other citizens will be a challenge. Internal migration is an effect of unequal growth, at least in India. Developing the hinterland, spreading the fruits of growth and ensuring job opportunities in backward regions will stop unwanted migration. But migration itself is the sign of a nation's dynamism. Just one rule should apply: to find the proverbial greener pastures.







The ICC Champions Trophy got over late on Monday night. The Champions League Twenty20 kicks off tomorrow. So we thought we'll take this tiny window between the two tournaments to give our two-paise bit on the golden goose that's today's cricket. For starters, if you breathlessly followed the Champions Trophy that took place in South Africa, then you're either a retired cricket nut who's doing a late PhD titled, 'The 50-overs game: cricket at the molecular level', or one of the New Zealand or Australian cricketers who actually played in the final match. More excitement was generated about the so-called 'manual' of the Indian cricket team, a plague of flying ants on the field during the Australia-England encounter, and whether this would hammer the first official nail in the coffin of the one-day format of the game.


As for the upcoming 16-day Champions League — the latest grazing grounds of 12 'non-national world class teams' — the buzz is already inaudible. Perhaps once the circus comes to town, with the opening match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Cape Cobras ('who, what, howzzat?'), things will get noticed. But a day before Day 1, the big story is about, er, Wasim Akram's 'non-inclusion' in a commentary panel. One hopes for the sake of the organisers, the sponsors and, oh yes, the players that on Diwali night, we will stop everything and watch at least one of the two matches that will take place in Bangalore.


One advantage that the Champions League Twenty20 has over the ICC Champions Trophy is that we don't have to stay awake till the wee hours of the night. The disadvantage: coming two days after the latter, the golden goose of cricket is getting seriously squeezed out of that narrow, bouncy strip of our attention.









In 20 years of studying Gandhi, I have had as friends and advisers, three brothers who grew up in a flat in Connaught Place owned by the Hindustan Times (of which paper their father was then the editor). They all went to the same school (Modern) and college (St Stephen's), and all had a deep scholarly interest in the life and legacy of Gandhi. Fortunately for me, and the world at large, they approached him from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives. One analysed him as a philosopher, another as a historian and biographer, a third as a student of literature and language.


These brothers were named Ramchandra, Rajmohan and Gopalkrishna. Their surname, as it happens, was Gandhi. However, unlike scions of other freedom-fighters, they never exploited or abused the name of their grandfather. Where the direct descendants of other famous Indians have acted as if they were owed something — or a great deal — by India, these three brothers always asked themselves what they could do for India. Their lives have been marked by an exemplary devotion to their country, and to the principles of its founding figures. In promoting (and practising) inter-faith harmony as well as inter-generational justice, they have learnt as much from Nehru, Ambedkar, Tagore, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Lohia, JP, Acharya Kripalani, MS Subbulakshmi and Rajagopalachari, as from Gandhi himself.


For these three brothers, 'grandson of Gandhi' has been, at best, a tertiary identity, and one never advertised by themselves. As for their primary identities, Ramchandra was a much loved teacher (in, among other places, the universities of Delhi, Rajasthan, Hyderabad, and Viswabharati), Rajmohan a brave and respected editor (of the weekly Himmat and the daily Indian Express), and Gopalkrishna an outstanding public servant (he founded the Nehru Centre in London, and also served with distinction as our High Commissioner in South Africa). Their secondary identities are as scholars and students of Gandhi's ideas and practice.


As a philosopher, Ramchandra Gandhi explored how Gandhi was a product of — as well as a departure from — the long line of modern Hindu spiritualists that begins with Ramakrishna and includes such figures as Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharishi. As a historian, Rajmohan Gandhi has underscored how this foremost critic of the British Empire was in many ways shaped by it. Meanwhile, as a biographer, he has also paid special attention to Gandhi's relationships with his followers (Nehru, Patel, et al), and with his critics (notably, Jinnah and Ambedkar). Meanwhile, as a multi-lingual Indian himself, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has studied this Gujarati's relationship with other provinces (such as West Bengal), while also producing a superb anthology of his writings.


It is well to recall the career of these accidental Gandhians now, when a professional Gandhian has been much in the news for his ringing endorsement of the expensive 'Gandhi' pens issued by the Montblanc company. For Tushar Gandhi's only identification is 'great grandson of the Mahatma'. Unlike some of his kinsmen, he has made steady and cumulative use of the genes he shares with Gandhi. In the past, it was merely publicity. Now, it appears, it is something more, with Montblanc gifting his Foundation some Rs 72 lakh, which, despite the inevitable disclaimers, is clearly a quid pro quo for his support of their scheme.


Let us move the discussion beyond Gandhi relatives whether honourable or opportunistic. There is a man in Ahmedabad who is about the same age as Tushar. He shares a mother tongue, Gujarati, as well as a lifelong engagement with Gandhi. This man is the author of a landmark study of the literary landscape of 19th century Gujarat, and of a fine-grained analysis of the differences between the two editions of Gandhi's autobiography. He is also an accomplished translator, who has rendered into English the moving biography by Chandubhai Dalal of Gandhi's rebellious son, Harilal. This past week, his English translation of a four-volume biography of the Mahatma by Narayan Desai was released in Ahmedabad.


I have not mentioned the scholar's name, in keeping with his own understated personality, and since an interested reader can go to a decent bookshop and find out anyway. But let me say something about Narayan Desai, who is arguably our greatest living Gandhian. Narayan is the only child of Gandhi's secretary and effective second-in-command Mahadev Desai. Growing up in the ashram, he went to jail in the 1942 movement. After Independence, he spent decades doing work on land distribution and social peace. Now in his 80s, he spends his time touring Gujarat performing a 'Gandhi Katha', a monologue in prose and poetry that conveys the religious and cultural pluralism of Gandhi to an audience used to hearing other — and opposed — messages from their Chief Minister.


While Montblanc may be laughing all the way to the bank, Gandhi's name and reputation can stand any amount of distortion or perversion. However, the current controversy has served a purpose — at least a certain 'great-grandson' has finally been outed as a racketeer. Perhaps reporters and TV anchors will now be wiser than to presume that he, in anyway, represents Gandhi. As for understanding Gandhi, help is at hand, in the form of the just released biography by Narayan Desai. Knowing the author, and his translator, I can assert that one page of the book will tell you more about the Mahatma that 500 sound bites by a certain opportunist who happens merely to be descended from him.


Ramachandra Guha is a historian and the author of India After Gandhi








Age was no deterrent to his passion and determination. Till he lost to cancer on September 12, Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug relentlessly fought his arch enemy, the rust fungus, which had engaged him since he first landed in Mexico in 1944 to breed shorter, straighter, stronger wheat which were to liberate the world from hunger over next decades. His brilliance of pulling India out of 'ship-to-mouth' existence is well known. The rust fungus that had helped him achieve 'more than anyone else in the 20th century' did not allow him to rest: it reappeared as Ug99 in 2000.


Borlaug could foresee the threat posed by the new stem rust, making a global food crisis imminent should the governments fail to carry out any rescue mission. His greatest worry was that not only was the pace of research lagging behind the speed with which the winds were blowing away the fungus, but that the rust could erase the footprints of his green triumph in India.


Uncompromising in the pursuit of his conviction, Borlaug's agricultural philosophy was rooted in fighting hunger at any cost and with any technology. Such was the blind faith in the technology that he promoted, scientists refused to see the flip side: deterioration of the plant ecology and destruction to the environment.


In their recently published book Enough (largely a Borlaug hagiography), Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman argue that his efforts to boost grain yields did result in a flood of cheap grain but not without the problems that won't be easily solved.


In India, the legacy is even more mixed. In less than 40 years after Borlaug's work, the water table in Punjab has been completely tapped out by irrigation projects, farmers are in severe economic crisis, and cancer rates, seemingly related to agrichemical use, are high.


Borlaug obsession with chemical fertiliser and pesticides was obvious, his celebrated 'dwarf' varieties would not grow without plenty of water and lots of synthetic nitrogen, and facing serious pest pressure, would require heavy pesticide doses. No wonder, he considered Rachel Carson an evil spirit and reacted to her monumental work The Silent Spring as "coming from one who did not want to eradicate hunger".


All solutions give rise to more problems, but it's scary to imagine what the world would have been without what Borlaug's science started. For him, the complexities of poverty and hunger could be reduced to a single problem: not enough food. From there, the answer was simple: grow as much as possible, using whatever technology available. However, riding on the phenomenal success of his efforts, Borlaug did ignore the cumulative impact of generating high yields to his own peril.


Thurow and Kilman argue that Borlaug's main intent was to "help poor farmers", that smallholders remained in a state of severe crisis for more than a generation slipped his attention. No wonder, rural migration, urban poverty and malnutrition remain persistent — both in India as well as in Mexico. The 'immigrant crisis' in the United States is better viewed as an unresolved agrarian crisis in Mexico.


In the later part of his distinguished career, Borlaug faced severe criticism. While famines may have become history, hunger persists in its diverse manifestations. Critics contend that the vast majority of increases in grain yields didn't feed hungry people — it went to feed livestock. Without doubt, self-sufficiency in food grains has been achieved at the cost of being dependent on inputs (seeds, fertilisers and pesticides) from transnational corporations. Borlaug's blindness to political dynamics — his refusal to consider the power relations at work in the countries whose hungry he set out to save — undermined his legacy.


The point isn't that Borlaug is a 'villain' and that crop yields don't matter; rather, it's that boosting yield alone can't solve hunger problems. Farmers' economic well-being, biodiversity, ecology, local knowledge, buy-in, and food traditions — all these things matter, too.

Sudhirendar Sharma is Director, The Ecological Foundation, New Delhi








By the time you read this, you've set off to buy Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's novel set in Tudor England, or Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger, a spooky story set in post-World War II England, or Adam Foulds's The Quickening Maze set in a mid-19th century English asylum, or JM Coetzee's Summertime, about a biographer researching on the late writer JM Coetzee, or Simon Mawer's The Glass Room, set in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.


One of them has already won the 2009 Man Booker Award. With that will come a two thumbs up that will convince us that his or her book is a damn fine one. To a lesser extent, the books already shortlisted will also be recommended reading for all of us. I have total respect for the choice(s) made by the Booker jury. It's still one of the best ways to go about things — rather than the squabble between readers over whether Ian McEwan's 1998 Booker-winning Amsterdam is better than his 1997 non-Booker-winning Enduring Love. I have no issue with Booker decisions, or those by juries of other awards. And no, I don't only read books set in my own surroundings of history or geography. Most of my favourite books have nothing to do with India.


But I am a bit puzzled about the practice of Indian editions of books available here — including those originally published in India — of overwhelmingly carrying blurbs and lines of praise from foreign reviews. The edition will have a roster from the Times, London, the New York Times, the Independent, or other such worthy publication. The desi lines of praise about a desi edition of even a desi book don't seem to matter much.


Is this because Indian readers of books in English have no clue about what's a good book and what's a crap one until we are told by the 'only real experts' who are published in Western papers? Or is it because our publishers know that what really matters for us desi book-buyers is what the verdict is from London-New York.


Either way, there may be a case to try out a novel experiment: print a smattering of blurbs from Indian reviews along with the foreign ones. They may also be able to win the hearts and wallets of Indian book-buyers. Who knows, maybe an Indian blurb can provide a different and equally engaging hookline for many of us who are not necessarily bewitched by the NYT bestseller list or other sacred recommendations.











Francis Induwar, an inspector in the Special Branch of the Jharkhand Police, had gone to Hembram market in Khunti, barely 85 km from Jamshedpur, on the afternoon of September 30; there, in full view of shocked shoppers, a number of men overpowered him, beat him up, and dragged him away. And now news comes that Induwar's body has been recovered from Raisha Ghati, 12 km from Ranchi. He had been beheaded.


We are being told that the Maoists of India's hinterland are "learning from the Taliban". That misses the point. We are so accustomed to shaking our heads in concern about how close the Taliban have come to Pakistan and Afghanistan's cities, how many kilometres away they are from India's borders; where is the similar outrage, the horror that our own home-grown nihilists are striking with impunity at government officers 12 km from the centre of a state capital? Or in broad daylight, in a crowded market, steps from a police station? Where is the condemnation, the warlike anger at the murderousness of those who would behead a hostage, who would hold to ransom the lives and livelihoods of the world's poorest people till the backward-looking and barbaric tenets of the faith they call an ideology are satisfied? The time for equivocation is past. These are terrible people who do terrible things, there are no redeeming qualities to the thuggery they call a "movement", and we need to stop pretending otherwise.


Some will say that Inspector Induwar was murdered because the government did not consider a "prisoner swap" of the inspector for three of their arrested leaders, including Kobad Ghandy. (Who is currently busy telling a court that he isn't a Naxalite at all.) Home Minister P. Chidambaram has correctly shot down this sort of foolish rationalisation: Ghandy is held by the duly constituted legal authority, subject to the courts, whereas Induwar was abducted by murderous outlaws. Talk of "swaps", and you begin legitimising Maoist violence. Let Francis Induwar's senseless death mean this much: the soft sympathy towards Maoists means and ends must be discredited. There is nothing good about the violence, nothing natural about the barbarity, nothing laudable about the ends. Supposed "intellectuals" whose fuzzy half-informed pronouncements defend any of those need to be engaged with to show how empty is their reasoning.







No man is permitted to be judge in his own cause," is one the basic principles of natural justice (Nemo iudex in causa sua). It is a principle that could be put to the test in the world's most powerful court. For the Supreme Court is challenging the Delhi high court judgment holding that the Right to Information Act applies to the Supreme Court Chief Justice's office, raising the possibility of the appeal eventually reaching the apex court itself.


The initial reluctance of Supreme Court judges to make their assets public formed the basis for this case. Many judges felt that this would expose them to slander and weaken the impartiality their office must at all times exude. But political and public sentiment, not to mention divergent opinions within the higher judiciary itself, spurred Supreme Court judges to finally agree to post their asset details online. Their contention against the high court verdict, however, is that it seems to make this voluntary declaration compulsory. In its appeal, the apex court also criticises the high court for delving into "irrelevant" issues like "the role of judges in society". But does not deciding whether the chief justice's office is exempt from the Right to Information Act hinge on quantifying the privileges their lordships are entitled to? The Supreme Court also wants to know if "all" the information available to the chief justice can be publicly accessed. It would be an important clarification to know, for instance, whether the high court ruling covers more than judicial assets and also collegium notings.


There have been many voices in praise of the Delhi high court judgment, including former Chief Justice J.S. Verma, who presided over the 1997 Supreme Court resolution that judicial assets would be declared to the chief justice. How the case goes from here is likely to have ramifications beyond simple procedural issues of how declarations of judicial assets are filed or made available to the public. The higher judiciary in India has been a key, and importantly credible, participant in bringing about institutional transparency and accountability. It is in this context that issues of transparency with regard to judges will be assessed.










Hard times have fallen upon sections of our political class. The Congress party, for instance, has imposed austerity measures on its members. MPs and MLAs have taken a salary cut to assist the exchequer in this dire financial phase. Ministers are folding themselves into airline seats to fly — as one amongst their own joked — "cattle class" as an expression of solidarity with India's crisis-stricken millions. And having shown that exemplary solidarity, it seems, they would like some company. So it is that Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed put it to Indian business that they should avoid "vulgar" salaries to senior staff.


Remuneration has been such a contested issue in the long year since the global financial crisis set in that the minister's remark must be engaged with for more than the hypocrisy that sustains the edifice of the austerity debate — a connect between conspicuous austerity, without a political push to reform, and GDP growth is too suspect to be lingered on. The trouble with such political rhetoric — of politicians being divested of any entitlement that spells comfort and of asking the private sector to put ceilings on salaries — is that it breeds a culture of doublespeak, of "don't show, don't tell".


Blaming the well-paid is not going to get India's GDP growth to pre-crisis levels, nor is it going to free up credit flows to fuel the business cycle and create jobs. And a country still rectifying issues of corporate governance — by getting companies to clean up their account books and be accountable to their shareholders — should be wary of incentivising hidden salary structures. It also smothers the nuance in the wider global debate about how to clean executive remuneration of clear conflicts of interest.








The Human Development Report (HDR) for 2009 (with data till 2007) has been published. Too often, there is fixation with India's rank, which happens to be a not very respectable 134th out of 182 countries, wedged in between Lao and Solomon Islands. This rank is based on HDI (human development index), computed on three criteria: PPP per capita GDP, health (life expectancy) and education (adult literacy rate, combined gross enrolment ratio). It is sometimes argued there should be many other indicators of human development and deprivation. HDI is too narrow. HDR has other measures too. But that apart, one reason why HDI and HDR have been so influential since the launch in 1990 is the virtue of simplicity.


Most other variables one thinks of will be correlated with the three core sets. It is not the case that India's HDI value has not improved over time. In 1980, India's HDI was 0.427 and now (meaning 2007) it is 0.612. Shortly after the 1991 reforms, we moved from low (less than 0.500) human development to medium. By 2025, we should hope to cross from medium to high (more than 0.800) human development. However, ranks are relative.


For instance, India's non-PPP per capita income is $1046. Taken in isolation, one doesn't know whether that is high or low. But it is sobering to know Luxembourg's non-PPP per capita income is $103,042. That's non-PPP, and PPP (purchasing power parity) transformations generally increase per capita incomes for developing countries and lower them for developed ones. Consequently, India's PPP per capita income is $2753. But even then, Luxembourg's happens to be $79,485.


To return to the point, it isn't that India has not improved absolutely. But India has improved less than other countries. Historically, though not from HDR 2007/08 to 2009, India's rank has also been affected by inclusion of more countries. To understand what explains India's human development, or its lack, as represented by the HDI, one should look at the three components. Other than PPP per capita income of $2753, there is life expectancy at birth of 63.4 years, adult literacy rate of 66.0 per cent and combined gross enrolment ratio of 61 per cent. Just so we have the benchmarks right, HDR 2007/08 reported PPP per capita income of $3452, life expectancy at birth of 63.7 years, adult literacy rate of 61 per cent and combined gross enrolment ratio of 63.8 per cent.


Except adult literacy, that's a decline in all other variables from 2005 to 2007. Without defending the state of human non-development in India, the point is we do have data problems and these affect ranks. For instance, PPP conversions require exchange rates and those are based on price data. The IMF has revised these, scaling down PPP incomes in developing countries. There are question marks about whether data on gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education are good enough. Let's also mention a figure invariably quoted from HDR, though not part of the HDI. The head count ratio (poverty ratio) is 28.6 per cent below the national poverty line (this is 2000-2006, not 2004-05), 41.6 per cent below $1.25 a day and 75.6 per cent below $2 a day. The Gini index is reported as 36.8, higher than what NSS expenditure shows.


There are some additional points to be made about India's HDI story. First, subject to what was said about PPP and exchange rates, improvements since 1991 have largely been driven by income growth. Second, education indicators have improved. The literacy rates used in HDR are for adults, that is, for those above 15. So they don't match with Census literacy figures and there is a substantial amount of adult illiteracy in the pipeline. There have also been improvements in gross enrolment ratios in primary education, including for girls. Once adult illiteracy is out of the pipeline and better gross enrolment moves up the scale to secondary and tertiary (with reduction in gender bias), a big bang improvement in education should occur. Third, education improvements aren't matched by improvements in health indicators, perhaps because outcome improvements in health are more complicated. West Bengal should take heart from what's happened in Bangladesh. Though not strictly comparable, data from West Bengal's 2004 HDR can be contrasted with data from Bangladesh. HDRs aren't only about data and ranks. Had that been the case, they would soon have run out of steam and become boring. Therefore, each HDR has a focus, 2009 being on human mobility and development. Better economic opportunities have driven human migration since the days we left Africa. Thus, if human development is a determinant for migration, we will soon have illegal migration from West Bengal to Bangladesh.


Therefore, there is a fourth point. There is wide variation in human development across India's states and regions. The all-India picture is too aggregated. If India's human development is to improve, it has to improve in the badlands of backwardness and misgovernance, and inadequate and inefficient delivery of public goods and services characterises these. There are now state HDRs and district-level ones have started. But these are restricted to those geographical confines and do not permit inter-state comparisons. The Planning Commission's National HDR is dated, it goes back to 2001. There is a case for updating the National HDR. Since Montek Singh Ahluwalia launched the UN report in Delhi, perhaps that may happen. On the focused item of migration, this can be both international and internal. HDR tells us India has a stock of 5.9 million international migrants, with a net migration rate that is negative. The best indication for India's development is for the net migration rate to turn positive. Both capital and labour will then wish to move to India. International migration attracts a lot of attention because it is more visible and data are better. It figures in debates about protectionism and remittances. But there is a substantial amount of internal migration in India too. Between 1990 and 2005, HDR reports internal migration of 42.3 million for India, with a migration rate of 4.1 per cent.


Most successful countries have higher internal migration rates. There is certainly a data problem. HDR captures migration between states and the bulk of Indian internal migration occurs within the state, often within the district. Roughly 30 per cent of India's population doesn't live in the place of birth. Because of the hukou system, Chinese data on internal migration are better. Having said this, there are barriers to internal migration in India. For example, migration doesn't occur without capacity to bear threshold transaction costs. Migration is one vent for lack of human development in backward states and districts.


The writer is a Delhi-based economist (








 Sunil Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Indora, Laxman Jagtap, Sampat Singh, Tukaram Gadakh, Pradeep Jaiswal. The list seems endless. More has been written about these contestants in the current round of assembly elections than probably at any point of time in their political career. Who are they and why have they attracted so much attention? They are rebels. They form a peculiar tribe: they are not contesting on party platforms that they have been long associated with but are fighting as independents or on tickets of other parties.


Rebellion, the refusal to obey collective decisions of the party, could have different causes; for example, it may not have nominated them (every election has added its share to this category). The question is: are rebels always disgruntled elements or do parties also purposefully create them, especially when there are incentives to "rebel"?


Most popular explanations for rebellions focus on the internal life of parties as organisations. The logic is simple: the more open and decentralised the nomination and candidate selection process, the more democratic the party is. The less centralised the decision-making, the greater the space for diversity of opinion, the lesser the possibilities of rebellion.


Sunil Deshmukh is a classic example. It was game over for the two-time MLA from Amravati and incumbent Maharashtra minister once the party decided to nominate Rajendra Singh Shekhavat from Amravati. His or the local unit's views were not sought; fire-fighting began only after he filed his nomination. Sampat Singh's decision to join the Congress in Haryana sends a similar message. Despite being a member of the Janata family for more than 30 years, he claimed that his position was constantly being undermined and there were no leadership positions available in the family-controlled INLD. On almost similar lines, three-time Kolhapur MP Sadashiv Mandlik accused Sharad Pawar of being a dictator when he quit the NCP to contest as an independent in the Lok Sabha elections in May.


Centralised decision-making explains a lot, but not everything. NCP leader Laxman Jagtap, for instance, has been a perennial "rebel"; he contested the legislative council elections from the Pune local self-government constituency in 2004 despite the Congress-NCP alliance. In this case, the NCP did not withdraw his candidature despite the seat being allocated to the Congress. Today, Jagtap is contesting from Chinchwad, again against a Congress candidate.


"Rebels" like Jagtap and others like Digvijay Khanvilkar and Anil Tatkare are not rebels of the Sampat Singh, Mandlik or Deshmukh variety. They are running a challenge as independents in constituencies officially allocated to another party in the alliance, and are creations of strategic party behaviour under particular conditions.


So why do we have rebels? One reason is India's first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, which lets candidates cultivate a personal reputation — and a chance of being elected without party support.


(In other systems candidates are more dependent on the party organisation.) In FPTP systems, representatives have very often acted in multifarious capacities to build a personal rapport with their constituency in order to ensure re-election.


Parties have also encouraged this to a certain extent. Deshmukh for instance was also "guardian minister" for Amravati district; this meant he could "invest" heavily in his constituency and is thus "credited" with changing the face of the district. Once a personal rapport has been established, party labels matter less, entire local units often moving with the candidate.


Second, the incentive to rebel is greater when candidates believe that in the post-election scenario their tribe would be in demand. This of course depends a great deal on the nature of party competition. Haryana presents a sharp contrast to Maharashtra. While numerous Congress rebels in Haryana withdrew their names before the last date, there are, in sharp contrast, more than 100 estimated rebels from different parties in the fray in Maharashtra. This is based on the expectation that post-election there will be no space for "others" in Haryana as compared to Maharashtra.


Third, how rebels have been dealt with in the past counts. In Maharashtra, in the 1995 assembly elections, more than 40 elected independents had past links with the Congress. The Congress not only took their help in the legislative assembly but in subsequent elections many of them returned to the party. It has also been the practice to co-opt independents as "associate members" and then gradually absorb them. Given these "traditions", rebels know that they can get away lightly if they win.


Finally, there is not only competition between alliances, but also within alliances. Parties have often unofficially supported "rebels" to undercut allies and increase their own bargaining power post-elections. The NCP wants to snip the "big-brother" attitude the Congress adopted post-Lok Sabha elections.


To sum up, in a competitive multi-party system, the strategic interests of political parties could encourage "rebels" — and all rebels are not discontented elements unhappy with the working of the party.


The writer is with the department of Political Science, Punjab University, Chandigarh(










Elizabeth Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in medicine for her discovery of Telomarese, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere (a protective structure at the end of chromosomes). Her work has huge implications for the study of cancer and human longevity. Extracts from a Walk the Talk interview with Shekhar Gupta, aired on NDTV 24x7 on February 16, 2009.


Shekhar Gupta: If stem cells, cloning, cancer research, molecular biology are considered the frontier areas of today's medical science, then my guest this week is its superstar. In fact, she's been called the queen of that business. Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, welcome to Walk The Talk.

 Elizabeth Blackburn: Thank you. I'm thrilled to be here.


Shekhar Gupta: You have an added distinction, you've been fired by President Bush.

Elizabeth Blackburn: For just doing what I do, which is to say "get the science right, get the science right." That wasn't a very popular attitude in the Commission or the Council that I was serving on as an advisor.


Shekhar Gupta: The Commission on Bioethics.

Elizabeth Blackburn: The President's Council on Bioethics, a federal commission whose mandate is to advise on National Science policy. So I thought it was very important to get at least the science right, and then one makes decisions after that. So it was very interesting and I believe, quite characteristic of other aspects of this past administration, that there was this wish not to get the science right and that of course is very antithetical to how scientists feel.


Shekhar Gupta: Of all the interesting possibilities we talk about, one is your own favourite enzyme — Telomerase. Tell us more about it, because you've discovered this enzyme and looks like it controls everything in our life from disease to ageing.

Elizabeth Blackburn: It's certainly lying at the heart of decisions of cells whether they'll self-renew or not. I wouldn't be so grand and invite hubris to say it's at the centre of everything but it does seem to be an important aspect.The essence of the problem is that our genetic material which is in chromosomes which are linear bodies, they have DNA, long DNA that makes up the chromosomes and the ends of the chromosomes have to be protected as they wear down through life as cells and our tissues renew.


Shekhar Gupta: So that's ageing?

Elizabeth Blackburn: It's a sort of ageing, it does occur as cells and tissues renew throughout life but Telomerase, the enzyme, has the job of building them back up and the funny thing about humans is that for whatever evolutionary reason, we're talking about Darwin, but Darwin's evolutionary processes weren't happening on the now more-ageing population. Now we live longer because we've overcome a lot of infectious diseases, things that used to kill people. So now we live longer and most societies now have many older people.


Shekhar Gupta: Yet if I read some of the research right , forgive me if I'm wrong, if you get too much Telomerase that causes..

Elizabeth Blackburn: No, it doesn't cause cancer.


Shekhar Gupta: That encourages cancer? What happens?

Elizabeth Blackburn: You've read it right but the important thing is that in a normal cell in the body there isn't excess Telomerase but cancer cells, which have so many other things that have gone wrong, that make them just deaf to signals to stop multiplying, to stay where they should be. Cancer cells have had so many other things go wrong with them, genetic, non-genetic changes, that those cells, one of the things they then get selected for is that they have lots of Telomerase because now the telomeres in those cells get maintained. That's when the high Telomerase is a menace because it does let the cancer cells multiply.


Shekhar Gupta: And if we could control that, that could slow the growth of cancer tumours?

Elizabeth Blackburn: Yes, and that's something that's being tested but there's no drugs out there yet.


Shekhar Gupta: That's what you are working on?

Elizabeth Blackburn: We're interested in that, among other things, but also very interested in non-cancer cells, the normal cells of the body which have such low amounts of Telomerase. And we're very interested in that dangerous area of Telomerase where there's not quite enough sometimes, and this is just because it's an accident of evolution . And so now the interesting question is — if there's not quite enough we see consequences , there's genetic evidence that that has consequences. So how can one make more? That's what we're trying to understand, what actually goes on in humans.


Shekhar Gupta: And if you could make one more then you could slow down ageing?

Elizabeth Blackburn: I don't know, that's a big claim.


Shekhar Gupta: It's a possibility.

Elizabeth Blackburn: It might affect certain aspects of ageing, there are so many different aspects of ageing. Ageing is so many different things and cells being able to self-renew is part of the picture but not all of it.


Shekhar Gupta: Old age is more complex than youth..

Elizabeth Blackburn: Much more, and it's more complicated than just tissue renewing — but that's an important aspect of it. So we work on that aspect because it was actually by observing what happens in humans that you could see that there's this borderline limiting amount of Telomerase. But we don't think and claim that that's going to affect every part of ageing. That's multi-faceted.


Shekhar Gupta: You were one of seven siblings and reading about you I'm fascinated that when you were working insane hours as an associate professor at Berkeley, you got pregnant and the same week they made you a full professor. That's so inspirational for young women who want to work.


Elizabeth Blackburn: Well, that's just the way it worked. I wouldn't necessarily say to people that delay having your family. It just happened to be my life trajectory. But what was interesting was that I found out I was a full professor and then later that week that we would have our baby, and the two emboldened me to feel I could say to people 'Hey, I can have a family. You can't tell me I can't have a family ' which is a sort of social pressure that people will feel. And on the other hand, yeah, I'm not sure how the other way round worked but.


Shekhar Gupta: I think many women will find your words inspirational, even more than the entire scientific community. It's been wonderful having you on Walk the Talk. Keep coming back to India.








In a recent speech in London, President Asif Ali Zardari stated that a solution for Afghanistan lay with regional actors. The 'Friends of Democratic Pakistan', he suggested, could serve as the platform to craft such a settlement. As NATO capitals agonise over the Afghan insurgency, such suggestions will get sympathetic hearing. But they will scantly accord with India's interests in Afghanistan.


After all, the Af-Pak policy initially sought to adopt a regional approach. By inducing India to parley with Pakistan on Kashmir, the Obama administration hoped to convince the Pakistani military that the real threat was not India, but the insurgent groups operating out of western Pakistan.


This specious linkage sat well with Islamabad's desires. And it has been repeatedly presented as the acme of strategic wisdom by liberal Pakistani commentators like Ahmed Rashid. Zia ul-Haq was altogether more candid when he said that Pakistan had the right to have a friendly government in Kabul. Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan has been driven by its desire to acquire a client state. But it has veiled this intent by nicely obfuscating its Afghan policy with its India problem.


Islamabad's contention has been wholly swallowed in most NATO capitals. The recent strategic review by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, explicitly links India's role and Pakistan's trepidations. While accepting that "Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people", the review warns that "increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India." Clearly Pakistan's continued invocation of the Indian bogeyman has led the US military to conclude that India's profile in Afghanistan needs to be diminished. The tail is wagging the dog.


In this scenario, it is imperative that the Indian government seriously ponders its interests and options, particularly the merits of working within the interstices of American policy towards Afghanistan.


The first, perhaps obvious option is to maintain the status quo. Continue to help build roads, provide development aid, train limited sections of the Afghan government and security services, and keep relations with President Karzai in good repair. The problem with this option is that while Indian activities are perceived favourably by the Afghans, even in the Pashtun areas, these are largely reliant on the continued presence of Western security forces.


The ongoing debate in Washington and London makes it abundantly clear that western forces cannot sustain the current tempo of operations in Afghanistan beyond 18-24 months. Thereafter, US forces will be focussed on the major urban centres and on subsidiary non-combatant activities. This draw-down of troops is likely to create a security vacuum in the hinterland, leaving India with the option of either suspending its activities, or approving the deployment of its own paramilitary forces. The latter option will entail a larger commitment than the existing Indo-Tibetan Border Police contingent of about 400 troops, which safeguards Indian construction workers in the Nimruz province. Persisting with the current approach, then, will lead to tough and possibly unpalatable choices a couple of years hence.


The second option is to accept the underlying premise of the Af-Pak policy. Temper Indian involvement in Afghanistan, enter into dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir, hoping all the while that doing so will draw India closer to the US. The Americans, in turn, might be able to facilitate a limited Indian presence in the north and west of Afghanistan along the border with the energy-rich republics of Central Asia, and Iran.


The problem with this option is two-fold. First, it is increasingly apparent that the US cannot promise, let alone deliver, anything significant in Afghanistan. Kabul rather than Washington will be our most crucial partner. Second, and perhaps more importantly, working along these lines with the US is likely to backfire both in India (witness the row over Sharm el Sheikh) and in Afghanistan. The McChrystal review rightly observes that western forces' legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people has been 'severely damaged'.


The third option is to craft a genuine regional approach outside the current American framework. India's key interest in Afghanistan is to forge closer relations not just with the government but also with the populace. Opinion polls and surveys indicate that India enjoys a good standing with the Afghan people. To maintain and strengthen these links, it is essential that India considerably steps up its developmental assistance for Afghanistan. Security for these efforts, in the aftermath of an American draw-down, can best be ensured not by beefing up our troop presence but by enabling the creation of a capable Afghan National Army (ANA). India, with its long experience of a multi-ethnic yet national force is best poised to help in this regard. Its extensive experience in counterinsurgency will prove equally handy.


This two-pronged approach of simultaneously increasing developmental and security sector assistance should be coupled with wider diplomacy involving our longstanding partners in Afghanistan: Iran and Russia. Oddly enough, the McChrystal review considers these countries' roles through the lens of Pakistan's 'strategic interests' in Afghanistan. China too may not be averse to such a big-tent approach. Beijing's increasing concerns about extremism in Xinjiang are matched by its growing unease with the situation in Afghanistan.


New Delhi should leave the door open for Islamabad's participation; yet Pakistan should harbour no illusion that its 'special interests' in Afghanistan will be privileged over the rights and welfare of the Afghan people. In the long run it will be desirable to reach a multilateral agreement guaranteeing the territorial integrity and neutrality of Afghanistan. But it is naïve to hope that this can happen without the ANA gaining ascendancy over the Taliban: only then will Pakistan forsake its prize protégé.


To be sure, such an approach will invite Pakistani 'countermeasures'. The Americans too will resist India's efforts in this direction. But Indian policy can ill afford to be held hostage by such concerns, especially when the payoff for solicitude will at best be paltry. New Delhi should set its own terms for deeper engagement with Afghanistan.


Rudra Chaudhuri is Lecturer, Department of War Studies, King's College London; Srinath Raghavan is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi








A curious little storm made its way through Pakistan recently without much notice in India. It was about an alleged decision by Islamabad to let India move goods to Afghanistan through its territory.


Delhi has long been interested in transit trade through Pakistan, which allows a few Afghan items to come through the Wagah border but does not let India export in the other direction. In Pakistan there has been significant opposition to such a move — especially from the Army.


When the Obama administration got Presidents Asif Zardari and Hamid Karzai to consider a regional transit trade arrangement with India and the Central Asian states, there was a political furore in Pakistan.


It was surprising then to see reports quoting Pak commerce minister Makhdoom Fahim Amin as saying that Islamabad had agreed, in its talks with Kabul, to offer India transit trade facility. There was a quick denial by Islamabad which said no arrangement on transit trade with India could be "contemplated until the composite dialogue starts".


So was all the talk of transit trade just a case of misreporting? Not so fast. As the controversy over transit died down in Pakistan, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna was quoted as saying that he was surprised by Pakistan's interest in 'working together with India' in Afghanistan!


That sentiment seemed completely out of step with the massive Pakistani campaign in the US and the West against Indian presence in Afghanistan. When it comes to India-Pakistan dialogue, nothing is what it seems.


If and when the Indo-Pak dialogue does resume, a trilateral transit arrangement with Afghanistan would hopefully emerge at the very top of the agenda; such an arrangement would help not only the three countries but the entire subcontinent. One would assume if New Delhi gets the right to export goods to the West through Pakistan, it would let Islamabad do the same to the East through India.



If you think problems of civil-military relations are a very special feature of the developing world, think again. Since the leak of his report seeking an additional 40,000 troops for Afghanistan, the American commander of US and NATO Forces, Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been at the centre of a Washington controversy on civil-military relations.


Speaking at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London last week, Gen. McChrystal was frank enough to say some of the ideas emanating from the White House for a limited involvement in Afghanistan were 'short sighted'.


American liberals who want an early exit from Afghanistan say Gen. McChrystal has crossed a line by trying to put public pressure on President Barack Obama who is the commander in chief of the US armed forces. Conservatives direct their criticism at President Obama for ignoring the professional military advice of his theatre commanders.


The Republicans want Gen. McChrystal and CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus to come testify before the Congress at an early date on the Afghan situation. The Democrats, who know it will be unpopular to disagree with the generals in public, want the White House to lay down the line before they come before the Congress.


Both the National Security Adviser, Jim Jones, a former general of the Marine Corps and the Defence Secretary Robert Gates, ticked off Gen. McChrystal for airing his views in public, rather than sending them through the proper chain of military command.



The principal source of financial support for the Taliban, besides the lucrative opium trade, is said to be foreign donations. The Obama administration estimates that Taliban leaders and their allies received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan.


According to the General Accounting Office of the US Congress, "Saudi individuals and Saudi-based charitable

organisations continue to be a significant source of financing for terrorism and extremism outside of Saudi Arabia." US officials do not blame the Saudi government, which has been a major partner of the U S war on terror.


Since 2003, Riyadh has had a ban on charities transferring money outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but the GAO says this has not prevented Saudi-based charities with branches abroad from serving as funding sources for terrorists groups.


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








CPM mouthpiece People's Democracy splashed out on the Chinese revolution's 60th anniversary. What stands out, however, is CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat's article accusing the "lobbies" within India seeking a strategic alliance with the US of working against India-China friendship. He rejects reports of Chinese hostility as "either baseless or highly exaggerated."


"The rising economic power of the two Asian giants — China and India — is presented as a source of conflict between the two. In strategic terms, China is sought to be pitted against India. Those dominating the world economic order would like nothing better than a relationship of rivalry and conflict between China and India," he says. He says there is "active lobbying" to buy arms from the US and quotes a Washington Post report which claimed that retired admirals and generals from the US armed forces who now work for defence firms are lobbying to secure defence deals. "The recent efforts to create complications in India-China relations must be seen in this context," he said.



Another article says India should follow the Chinese model of development. "If India and China join hands, they may well dominate the world economy for decades. But India is missing the chance. What do we gain by China-bashing now?" it says. "Today, the Chinese economy, and particularly its manufacturing sector, has grown to such a level that is beyond our comprehension. Most the Indians are unaware of the size of China's production capacity; and the grumbling that China "is becoming" too strong signifies a delayed understanding. China has already become too strong to be compared with India," it claims.


Curiously, it compares the production of steel, cement, coal, cars, power and foodgrains by the two countries to argue that China was way ahead of India. "There is still time to emulate the Chinese model of development; after all, the old dictum says: "Either lead or follow." There is no the point in grumbling," it adds.



Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may be upbeat about the G8 decision to surrender economic dominance and push the G20, including India and China and other emerging nations, into the centrestage, but the CPM says there is nothing to cheer in the development.


The lead editorial says "the transition from G8 to G20 as the manager of global capitalism has not signified any basic shift in the global order. Neither does the G20 represent, contrary to the claims being made, the interests of the developing countries across the world." Further, "the absence of major economies like Iran, Venezuela and countries from the African continent (only South Africa is included) robs the new grouping of a truly representative character," it says.


"The global imbalance characterised by the US running huge trade deficits by borrowing large sums of money from the rest of the world, remains unaddressed," it adds.


"The G20 summit represents more continuity with the economic order underlying globalisation than any substantive change. In fact the way US President Obama used the occasion to step up rhetoric against Iran's civilian nuclear programme, along with the heads of state of Britain and France, shows how little things have changed," it says.






Australia has become the first major economy post-crisis to see a rise in the short-term interest rate and given all the conversation about exit from stimulus-creating policy regimes, the move is bound to raise questions in other big countries, including in India. India's central bank chief told an audience in Istanbul recently that inflation is a concern; he had also said previously that exit from easy monetary policy will not be at the cost of recovery-nurturing. Whatever the Australian central bank's calculations in raising the short term rate—most economists following that economy seem to have been caught by surprise—the imperative for India's central bank remains the same: continue with the easy policy regime for now. There are in fact three kinds of questions RBI should ask itself before moving on interest rates. First, if it is concerned about inflation, does it know the nature of inflation? Year-on-year WPI or the various CPIs are unreliable indicators of inflation. RBI is a prestigious institution with key policy-making responsibility; it should access and analyse month-on-month seasonally adjusted inflation data, never mind what the government is doing about reforming inflation indices. Second, if proper inflation data shows food prices are increasing somewhat sharply, should RBI exit from its current policy? No. India has already paid for this in 2007-08, when high food prices caused by global/local supply side factors led to high interest rates. The victim was growth; inflation came down only when supply side factors moderated. RBI simply can't repeat the same experiment again. With recovery at a nascent stage, the impact will be even worse than earlier.


The third question is also key: has RBI decided on its stance on the rupee? If the stance is that the rupee will not be allowed to appreciate (presumably because exports have to be encouraged) then the central bank will make inflation-fighting a lot more difficult and because of the sterilisation-liquidity infusion implications of this stance, will make interest rates harder than they need to be. This folly was also executed in 2007-08 and again, this time, because the economy is in recovery mode, the costs will be bigger. RBI needs to appreciate that the last time it raised rates, Indian industry was in a boom and debt-equity ratios were very healthy. This time, industry is fighting out of a difficult situation and high lending rates at the wrong time (and, worse, for the wrong reasons) will have a deeply negative impact. The time India needs to exit its easy monetary policy is at least more than a few months away. If RBI reckons otherwise, Asia's third largest economy will get one of the world's worst monetary policy decisions.






India's land acquisition woes continue to extract a heavy price. Now LN Mittal's Arcelor-Mittal seems set to pull out of two greenfield steel projects in Jharkhand and Orissa citing problems in acquiring the necessary land for building the steel plants which would have had a capacity of 12 million tonnes per year. Interestingly enough, the damage done from a potential withdrawal will be minimal for Arcelor-Mittal—they have invested precious little money so far, as construction was yet to begin. Also, with the glut in global steel markets, this is hardly the best time to add capacity. Remember that the MoUs were signed at a time when the global economy was still in a boom. Unfortunately, the proposed withdrawal is terrible news for Jharkhand and Orissa, two of India's most backward states, at least in terms of industrialisation. There is no particular reason that these states should be industrially backward, especially since they are rich in natural resources. But the failure of governments to provide the enabling conditions for industrialisation is quiet startling. Jharkhand's governance has been dismal even under President's rule. There was much hope pegged on improved governance after the state was carved out of Bihar. That hope doesn't seem to have materialised.


But the issue of land acquisition extends well beyond Orissa and Jharkhand, and the Centre really needs to sort it out urgently. The new land acquisition and rehabilitation Bill is languishing because of opposition from Mamata Banerjee. And the Centre seems happy to continue with the stalemate. That is simply not good enough. If we are to grow at 9%-plus for some years and create jobs, then we need a big industrialisation drive. There is no substitute for such a drive in promoting manufacturing. That is precisely why China has been so successful and why Brazil is slowly catching up. In India, we seem to be going backwards because of land acquisition issues. It is for the government to persuade farmers to sell their land at an appropriate price in the larger interest of industrialisation. It would, of course, help if the government gave some assurances to farmers that industry would come up on the land that they sold and they would get adequate compensation and rehabilitation in reasonable time. A single authority which would acquire land and resettle people would be a good institutional mechanism to ensure more efficiency. And Kamal Nath's idea of vesting land back to farmers if no industry comes up in reasonable time is also a good way to shore up the government's credibility. UPA-II cannot afford to dither on the crucial issue of land acquisition any more.







This is turning out to be the festival season with less than joyous news. While the minister for corporate affairs, Salman Khurshid, has created a controversy about limits to executive pay without any reason, the state governments of Jharkhand and Orissa, India's richest mining states have given LN Mittal a convenient excuse to cut down on an investment which he will be only too pleased to do.


Let's look at the salary bill controversy. There is no doubt some CEOs get paid more than what their company would warrant. But then the stock markets often sort them out. Section 19A (2) of the Companies Act clearly states that a company has to obtain shareholder's approval before setting the pay for the CEO and other members of the board. The annual report of the companies has to list the salaries of executive directors and the sitting fees (at board meetings) for non-executive directors.


All this information is, therefore, public knowledge and available to each shareholder of a company, including those who hold even one share apiece. In addition, each change in compensation packages is conveyed to stock exchanges by listed companies. Since we are not obviously considering the possibility of the entire citizenship of a country voting on the salary levels of the employees of each company, it is difficult to fathom the reason why the minister has spent so much of yard space on the subject.


Even in the proposed new Companies Act shareholder supremacy will continue, as it must. The only impact of the changes is to create uncertainty about whether the government of India is planning to resuscitate its old habit of making companies rush to Delhi to obtain approvals for the same, and therefore the attendant consequences. Just a rider; the supposed fat salary of CEOs in India has not created any of the biggest corporate scams in the country's recent history, including the Satyam one.


Far away from the world of CEO salaries, Jharkhand and Orissa have blundered their way of a $20 billion deal with steel major Arcelor Mittal. Interestingly, Jharkhand has been quite even-handed between Arcelor Mittal and public sector giant, Sail.


For three years, Sail has been negotiating with the state government to get it to approve supply of iron ore from the Chiria hills that have approximately 2 billion tonnes of iron ore. Sail wants a large part of the reserves to feed its smelters as it plans to ramp up capacity to 23 million tonnes by 2010. But even on Monday the talks between the two broke down costing the state an investment of Rs 70,000 crore.


Arcelor Mittal had among other things projected a land requirement of 11,000 acres for its steel plant of 12 million tonnes in Jharkhand, which it did not get. The same story got repeated for about 7,000 acres in neighbouring Orissa. The Jharkhand project is hanging fire since 2005, the Orissa one since 2006. The interesting part of the exercise is that Arcelor Mittal has been facing a huge excess capacity in its steel plants and wants to cut back its investment. The company has projected global steel demand to rise by 10% in 2010, but has characterised it as bumpy ride. The company as well as other steel majors are running at half their capacity in 2009. Just a couple of days ago the company announced it had shelved a plan to build a 4,00,000 tonne capacity plant in Mozambique on the back of the closure of another smaller plant in the same country.


But whereas in the Mozambique story Arcelor Mittal cited economic slowdown—an acceptable corollary of business cycles, the Jharkhand and even Orissa plans can be foisted on the slow pace of government policy moves.

While the Mittal MoUs must have included a force majeure clause, it is unlikely that the company would invoke it; but if it did both the states would have been hard pressed to defend themselves. The price of mis-governance! While the Orissa government has, on at least one occasion, told Lakshmi Mitttal's company that it was slipping back on the performance of the MoU milestone, that cover is not available for Jharkhand's government.


Weak governance is a pervasive phenomenon. In this context is it surprising that both the states have such abysmal governance records for the social sectors. World Bank data shows female literacy in Jharkhand is at 32%. The percentage of underweight children is 54 in the state against 47 for the all-India average and 40% of the children in the state in the age group of 6 to 14 years are out of school.


A track record of this sort is also a recipe for second best decision making—the bane of good corporate governance. Orissa is just a shade better.







Years ago, I had a colleague in a development financial institution who clearly did not have his heart on the job. While chatting with him one day, I found out that he was a former judge in a muffasil town in Madhya Pradesh. One evening, just before the judgment day on an open-and-shut family land dispute murder case, a group of visitors from the defendant's side of the family showed up at his home with a sizeable bribe.


On refusing he was issued a life threat—a very credible one from all evidence and appearance. After a sleepless night he rushed to Bhopal to meet the Chief Justice to request protection beyond the lone guard-cum-cook-cum-servant he had, but to no avail. Finally, unable to decide whether to sacrifice his life or his values, he resigned from the state judicial service and later ended up in the organisation where I met him.


The government's recent thrust on judicial reforms is absolutely laudable and long overdue. Report after international report has pointed out that our overloaded judiciary and the non-enforceability of contracts act as a huge drag on the economy and the corporate sector and are among of the biggest obstacles to greater FDI inflows. The primary issues are doubtless enhancing judicial speed and removing backlogs and reducing litigation times. Increasing supply of judicial services is a no-brainer here.


The challenge lies in enhancing supply without reducing quality—true in any context but particularly true when so much may depend on the "character" of judges. The Law Minister has hailed the overall quality of Indian judiciary with the exception of a few erring judges.


That observation is certainly reassuring. It would have been even more convincing if more transparency could be available in these matters. For who is to say that our bureaucracy and police, not to speak of politicians do not deserve such certificates? After all, nowhere is corruption universal or wholly absent.


At the end of the day one must recognise that judges, not to speak of public prosecutors, are not a breed apart—they are ordinary mortals in extraordinary roles, with similar motivations and values as the rest of the populace.


Raising supply without compromising quality therefore means not just reforming the legal education system—which is doubtless necessary—but changing fundamentally the incentives and risks associated with the roles at all levels. It is only normal for judges (and yes doctors and teachers too) to care about their careers and pay and the security of their persons and family in making decisions about donning the gown or even entering law school in the first place. Certainly public service matters, but up to a point.


To all this add the difficulty in judging judicial quality in the first place and few would envy Mr Moily his job. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer has underlined the issue in a recent book* I edited, in words that find new resonance after the Justice Dinakaran controversy. Trashing the idea of judicial collegiums as "an egregious fabrication, a functioning anarchy", he says: "(He) who appoints the judges, invigilates their behaviour and performance and determines their destiny in cases of proved delinquency holds the Everest of State Power.


An occult forensic trinity, a novel collegium of the Apex Court judges accidentally senior, a robed mystery good on the Bench but marginally qualified as selecting agency sans investigative professionalism, sans guidelines and where to look for information on character, antecedents, bar practice, legal scholarship and methods of interrogation and written tests and what not, sans training in professional parameters for judge selection will never fill the bill. What a cult is such a modus? To be a judge is not a substitute for versatile genius. The court is under the Constitution and not over it and cannot invent institutions and vest Constitutional authority on itself by a Bench majority."


If this is how difficult things can be when it comes to appointing an apex court judge with a handful of candidates, imagine the situation in the lower courts. Just goes to show how hard Mr Moily's task is, particularly when one considers large scale recruitment of lower court judges.


The government's focus on numerical targets like litigation time and age of pending cases is well-founded—particularly in absence of any evidence that judicial delays actually improve fairness of judgment even at the obvious cost of its relevance. It is, however, equally important to revamp and reform the review and evaluation process of judges so that it can cope with the higher volumes and ensure judicial standards. Going from a state of 'justice denied' to 'justice buried' (not to speak of justice for sale) would hardly count as improvement.


The author teaches Finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad







There's a thin line between regulation and over-regulation. In the context of our regulators while the intention seems to be of regulation, in practice it ends up a case of over-regulation. Take Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) chairman talking about making per-second pulse billing mandatory as one of the tariff packages on offer by mobile operators. While nobody can suspect J S Sarma's intent, which is pro-consumer, there is a bit of overstepping of jurisdiction. It is going back on what the regulator has already put in practice since the Indian telecom market has matured—forbearance—meaning that operators do not need a prior approval of the regulator before finalising tariff packages but can do so in a week of implementing them. Indians today enjoy the lowest mobile tariffs available in the world. A dipstick survey among any urban grouping would reveal that hardly anyone remembers which tariff package one subscribes to. This best describes the coming of age of the Indian telecom market and subscribers. Obviously a mature and competitive market would offer a plethora of tariff packages rather than just a standard one, that's the basic rule and function of marketing. What Trai should bother itself with is whether such packages have any hidden charges, which a consumer may have missed. That's the task of the regulator. Of course, quality of service is another and bigger concern of the regulator but more of that later.


What goes unexplained is why the Trai chairman got excited with pulse-second billing now. Certainly Tata DoCoMo (the GSM services) came out with a tariff package on these lines recently but the same was offered by Tata Indicom (the CDMA services) quite sometime back. The right approach would be to let the market forces determine its success, sustenance or failure.


Finally, endorsement of any tariff package of any operator, and making it a standard package for the industry erodes the credibility of the regulator. One hopes that better sense prevails on the chairman and he stops at just making the statement and not following it up by action.







The award of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak certainly came as no surprise. It was more a question of when, rather than whether, these three American scientists would win the coveted prize as their seminal collaborative research solved one of the greatest mysteries of our time — how chromosomes are protected from degradation as they divide continuously. The trio discovered that telomeres, the protective caps found at both ends of the chromosome, prevent it from degradation. While Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Szostak discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres, found in all organisms from amoeba to humans, protects the chromosomes, Dr. Blackburn and Dr. Greider found that the enzyme telomerase is responsible for restoring the length of the telomeres as they get worn out. But as humans grow older, the activity of the enzyme decreases, and hence its ability to maintain the length of the telomeres is compromised. This leads to a shortening of the telomeres, and ultimately to cellular senescence. While enzyme activity is high in the cells of newborns and stem cells, and is at a detectable level in many normal adult cell types, it is highly active in nearly 90 per cent of human tumours. Ironically, the higher activity in many malignancies seems responsible for maintaining the telomeres' length and for delaying cellular senescence.


Apart from providing a powerful insight into the cellular mechanism, this scientific breakthrough has opened up a vast field of research aimed at finding ways to fight cancer. Several studies are in progress to find therapies and vaccines that would reduce the enzyme activity of cancer cells. Contrary to the earlier assumption that maintaining the level of telomerase activity in normal cells would delay the cellular aging process, and by extension, the aging of an organism, research has shown that the aging process is far more complex. One of Dr. Blackburn areas of collaborative research with interdisciplinary features reveals the effects of an external factor in telomere shortening. A landmark study found otherwise perfectly healthy pre-menopausal mothers of critically ill children who were more stressed, objectively and subjectively, than a control group had shorter telomeres. As a reviewer points out, the finding that prolonged and major stress, in and of itself, predicts worsening of some key cellular biomarkers of aging is of tremendous significance. Can meditation and other lifestyle interventions turn the clock back on telomere shortening of a morbid kind? We don't know yet but there is an obvious advantage in exploring such interventions as they cost little in terms of money and time.








In a clear expression of the United States President Barack Obama's intentions, a senior State Department official held talks with Cuban officials in Havana last month. A wide range of issues was discussed under the ostensible topic of a resumption of direct U.S.-Cuban mail services, which the U.S. had suspended in August 1963. The recent exchanges, amounting to the two states' closest dealings for 27 years, took six days in all. The U.S. envoy, Bisa Williams, an acting deputy assistant secretary of state, met the Cuban deputy foreign minister, Dagoberto Rodriguez, and other officials. In talks described by Josefina Vidal Ferreira, leader of the Cuban delegation, as "wide-ranging and useful," topics covered included migration, drug-trafficking, and diplomatic practicalities. Ms Williams also met 15 prominent dissidents and attended a huge pop concert dedicated to peace. While this is the highest-level encounter between the two countries since President George W. Bush suspended contact in 2003, the hostile language used particularly by Republican U.S. presidents conceals the fact that U.S.-Cuban contacts have never ceased completely. Since 1963, the Swiss embassies in Havana and Washington have respectively hosted a U.S. and a Cuban Interests Section, and the Ford and Reagan administrations both met Cuban officials, including Fidel Castro on one occasion.


President Obama is keeping the tone subdued, so as to minimise opposition in the U.S. Three Cuban-born members of the House of Representatives have already criticised the talks. In fact Mr. Obama has signed a one-year extension of the Trading with the Enemy Act 1917, to maintain sanctions on Cuba. However, on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago in April, Mr. Obama said that the U.S. seeks "a new beginning" with Cuba, and he has ended the Bush administration's block on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans. The U.S. stands to gain from a normalisation of U.S.-Cuban links, which could mark a new beginning in its foreign relations, particularly in its attitude towards the developing world. Cuba has maintained extensive contact with almost all other states; it has aided other developing countries in their liberation struggles militarily and with its own highly-trained medical staff, and is rich in natural resources like nickel, cobalt, and oil. There is no doubt that Mr. Obama initiated the recent contact because he thinks it is the right thing to do. It is to be hoped that this laudable move will lead to the re-establishment of full relations between the U.S. and Cuba.










Things in Honduras were going from bad to worse. Finally, Brazil decided to take the bull by the horns and exercise the sort of leadership needed to find a solution to the crisis. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has indicated that deposed President Manuel Zelaya, who recently returned incognito to his country and made it into the Brazilian Embassy, can stay there "as long as it is necessary." He also responded to the 'ultimatum' delivered to him by the Honduran government (giving him ten days to either surrender Mr. Zelaya to the police or provide him with political asylum) by saying that he does not negotiate with coup mongers.


Brazil has received some flak for this. Jorge Castañeda, in a long interview in the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo, has stated that, in so doing, Brazil is acting more like a "dwarf" than a "diplomatic giant", taking on minor battles for "a country that is not decisive." In his view, this would hardly correspond to Brazil's aspirations to join the United Nations Security Council as a permanent member. The former Mexican Foreign Minister is wrong. Indications are that Mr. Zelaya's return and Brazil's stance have led to a turnaround in the stalemate that existed until now. Talks between the de facto regime and Mr. Zelaya seem to be in the offing.


Why is Honduras so critical? Why is it that the fourth poorest country in Latin America, with a per capita income of a mere $ 1900, about half the regional average, the one that gave rise to the term 'banana republic,' has turned into the most urgent matter on the inter-American agenda? Why is it that, in the past half century, no other single event in the Americas has been rejected as emphatically as the one that took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009?


What does the suspension of this country from the Organisation of American States (OAS) by a unanimous vote tell us?


The instant and unanimous reaction to the Honduras coup must be set against the background of what has been a long and protracted struggle to construct and consolidate democracy in Latin America over the past 20 years, something on which enormous progress has been made. However, given the shallowness of these democratic roots and the enormous inequalities that mark these societies, this tender plant called democracy needs special caring and nurturing.


In the age of globalisation, respect for democracy has ceased to be merely an internal matter. In an interdependent world, in which countries can obtain significant benefits from international trade, FDI and tourism, to mention only a few items, the international community also demands that, to continue to be part of this 'club', certain requirements are fulfilled. A large number of democratic monitoring mechanisms have thus emerged.


In no part of the world have these mechanisms been as institutionalised as in Latin America. The Inter-American Democratic Charter, approved in Lima, Peru, on September 11, 2001, was, from a legal point of view, the culmination of this process. To that we should add the many regional and sub-regional agreements that include a democratic clause, according to which the moment the democratic continuity of any given member state is interrupted, the latter's membership is suspended.


Since then, there have been cases in which elected heads of state have ended their terms prematurely and abruptly. But in none of them did we see anything similar to what happened in Honduras: a President taken at gunpoint out of his home in the early hours of the morning, put on a plane, and flown abroad. If that is not a military coup, what is?


If the inter-American system is unable to restore democracy in Honduras, one of the weakest countries in the region, it will not be able to do so anywhere. Honduras puts into question 20 years of democratisation in Latin America. What would the European Union do if tomorrow there was to be a coup in, say, Greece? To ask the question is to answer it. To allow the precedent of the Honduras coup to stand would have serious consequences. That is why over the last three months different entities, groupings, and governments have attempted to undo the effects of the coup. These go from the members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), led by Venezuela, to the OAS, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, the United States, and now Brazil. The EU, and Spain in particular, have taken very clear stands on the issue.


Given the realities of power in the hemisphere, many expected that the leadership to solve the crisis would come from Washington. However, despite its ostensible commitment to multilateralism and the cause of democracy in Latin America, the administration of President Barack Obama has indicated that, even though it condemns the coup and has instituted sanctions, it is not prepared to take a leadership role in overcoming the current stalemate. In fact, on the occasion of the NAFTA Summit in Guadalajara on 9 August, Mr. Obama, with some irony, stated that it seemed odd to him that the very same people who in the past denounced Yankee interventionism, were now clamouring for Washington to do precisely that. The Republican opposition to Mr. Obama in Congress has also managed to paralyse U.S. policy towards Latin America at this critical point by holding up key diplomatic nominations.


Admittedly, the United States has several carrots and sticks to make Honduras return to the straight and narrow. Some of them have already been used. Coup regime head Roberto Micheletti, his Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez, and the 14 judges of the Supreme Court who have backed the 'de facto' government have had their U.S. visas revoked. Mr. Micheletti's daughter, posted to the Honduran Embassy in Washington, has been deported. Partly as a result of U.S. pressure, both the World Bank and the IMF have suspended their loan programmes to Honduras, including the $ 150 million allocated as part of the $ 250 billion global stimulus package managed by the Fund.


But this may be the chance for Latin America to learn to use its own carrots and sticks. In the course of the past decade, Latin America has started to play a more significant role in international affairs, diversifying its markets and its diplomatic links. This has gone hand in hand with a noticeable drop in U.S. influence in the region. At the same time, intraregional political cooperation has increased exponentially, with the growth and development of many new collective entities and their summits. This significant asset is now being put to the test. If Latin American presidents cannot resolve this crisis, which ones can they solve? If not now, when?


A recurrent criticism of Brazilian foreign policy during the Lula presidency has been that it has paid too much attention to global issues (the Doha Round, IBSA and BRICS, and UN Security Council reform) and not enough to regional affairs. Now that Brazil has taken seriously the task of resolving the impasse in Honduras, the argument is reversed: it is that by getting involved in such a regional issue, Brazil would be harming its broader aspirations. This is nonsense. Brazil is the great Latin American regional power and it projects its influence around the world from the region. A regional power with global aspirations that is unable to resolve crises in its own surroundings will not be taken seriously elsewhere.


By taking on Honduras as a foreign policy priority, Brazil is expressing a Latin American consensus. The notion that this could somehow damage Brazil and its global objectives is mistaken. If Brasilia makes a contribution towards resolving the issue, and thus take that particular monkey off Washington's back, it would have started to exercise the sort of leadership the region has long been waiting for.

(Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario. His latest book (with Andrew F. Cooper), Which Way Latin America? Hemispheric Politics Meets Globalization, is published by the United Nations University Press.)









In a week when the Indian government sought to lay the ghost of the Bofors scandal by deciding to drop charges against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Rs. 64-crore pay-offs case, Britain was wrestling with its own "armsgate" in the form of a multi-million pound bribery scam involving BAE Systems. Indeed, in terms of its global scale and the size of the alleged kickbacks, the BAE case is even more serious than Bofors.


The BAE Systems is Britain's biggest arms manufacturer with close links to the government and a history of controversial trade practices. Three years ago, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair caused a political storm when he intervened to stop an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that the company paid upto a billion pounds in bribes to secure a £43-billion defence contract with Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. Mr. Blair claimed the decision was taken on grounds of "national security" as the Saudis had threatened to stop sharing terror-related intelligence if the inquiry was not halted. The real reason, though, was believed to be the Saudis' threat to scrap a pending multi-million pound arms deal with BAE if the investigations were to go ahead.


While that row continues to rumble with demands for the case to be reopened, BAE is at the centre of another headline-grabbing bribery scandal spanning six countries across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and West Asia. After six years of investigation, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Britain's anti-corruption body, claims that it has sufficient evidence to press criminal charges against BAE.


The company was offered an American-style plea bargain that included a £500 million fine and an admission that it was guilty of corruption but it is said to be playing hardball saying the proposed fine is too high. Although the SFO's deadline for a settlement expired on September 30, behind-the-scenes haggling is still going on. The SFO has, meanwhile, announced that it intends to go ahead and seek the Attorney-General Baroness Scotland's consent to prosecute BAE for "offences relating to overseas corruption."


Briefly the case against BAE is that it paid upto £100 million in backhanders to push arms deals in Tanzania, South Africa, Chile, Romania, the Czech Republic and Qatar. According to the SFO, some of these payments were routed through a company based in the British Virgin Islands, a tax-haven, an allegation denied by BAE.


The most controversial deal relates to Tanzania which was sold an air defence radar system worth £28 million in 2001 on the back of an alleged £9 million bribe to a local agent from a secret Swiss bank account. The deal was opposed by the then Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short on grounds that Tanzania, a recipient of British aid, was too poor to afford such an expensive system (the cost amounted to nearly half of what the country received in debt relief annually from foreign donors) but she was overruled by Mr. Blair prompting the then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to comment that the BAE bosses appeared to "have a key to the garden door of No 10."


Last year, a Tanzanian minister, accused of receiving kickbacks, was forced to resign after a large sum of unaccounted money was found in his offshore accounts though he denied it came from BAE. The Tanzanian government is reported to be considering launching its own investigation.


The SFO's hardline is seen as its "revenge" for having been forced to drop investigation into the Saudi case and this time it is said to be determined not to give into any political pressure. Sources in SFO have been reported as saying that they felt so humiliated over the Saudi episode that they decided to look more closely at other BAE deals.

"Serious Fraud Office, dismayed at this political interference [into the Saudi case], immediately set to work on the myriad other probes into BAE's activities in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. The agency, according to one lawyer familiar with what went on, 'took other cases off the back burner and began to look at them various seriously and actively,'" The Financial Times reported.


The allegations against BAE are as embarrassing for the company as they for the British Government — and not simply because it involves a British firm but because London is a signatory to the OECD's (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) anti-bribery convention which makes it illegal to bribe foreign officials. Besides, Britain never tires of lecturing other countries on the need to crack down on corruption. It has often been accused of double-standards, especially by African countries, for preaching the virtues of transparency to others while failing to attack corruption in its own backyard.


"I think this is a political scandal as well as a corporate scandal. We've got to establish why the government was in such incestuous relationship with this company," said Norman Lamb, a senior Liberal Democrat MP and an anti-arms campaigner.


But Britain is not the only European country where corporate corruption is a "way of life," as The Guardian put it pointing out that some of the biggest names in European corporate world such as the French oil firm Elf Aquitaine and the German industrial giant Siemens had been accused of paying bribes to win contracts.


According to the Tax Justice Network, an independent think tank which promotes transparency in financial affairs, much of the corruption in developing countries is sponsored by western companies paying bribes, dressed up as "commission," to push through business deals.


Meanwhile, BAE denies any wrongdoing and says that it is cooperating with the investigation.


Whatever the truth, the claim that Britain plays with a "straight bat" is becoming increasingly thin.









Rukinga ranch in southern Kenya prides itself on the immense herds of elephants, giraffe, lions and wild dogs that have made a home among its 32,000 hectares of acacia trees in the decade since cattle were banned. But the wildlife sanctuary's guards, who risk their lives to defend the animals from poachers, face an even greater danger.


Rukinga is on the frontline of global deforestation: every month, dozens of gangs of commercial charcoal-makers are caught cutting down trees and building fire pits to make cooking fuel for the port city of Mombasa 150 km away. No one knows how many thousands of tonnes of trees are lost a year, but there are forecasts that the reserve could be like much of the land between it and the coast — semi-desert, treeless and devoid of animals — within 20 years.


This grim prediction could change this week if countries holding talks in Bangkok this week agree to back a U.N. plan to preserve the world's forests by allowing owners to trade the carbon stored in endangered forests on condition the trees are not felled.


If the ranch's owners can show that Rukinga's trees and shrubs are under threat, and independent scientists can calculate the amount of carbon in its forest, the ranch could qualify as an international Redd (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries) project, attracting millions of dollars of carbon credits. The carbon saved would be traded on the growing market for voluntary carbon permits and, after 2012, when the successor to the Kyoto treaty should come into force, Rukinga could qualify as an official Kenyan government Redd scheme, attracting public money from Britain and other rich countries seeking to offset emissions they have legally committed to cut.


A British conservationist, Rob Dodwell, and a California-based dotcom millionaire, Mike Korchinsky, the ranch's two main shareholders, say they have spent $400,000 in six months measuring Rukinga's trees and getting a Redd application validated. Despite concerns about how open to fraud Redd projects are, they are determined to show it can be done properly. The carbon stored has been provisionally estimated at about 160 tonnes an acre (64 tonnes a hectare). At the present world price of carbon, that could earn Rukinga nearly $2m a year — a big return for land bought only 10 years ago for about $10 an acre ($4 a hectare). Dodwell and the 50 local community shareholders of Rukinga will continue to earn money from eco-tourism and cattle, but hope to earn a lot more from farming carbon.


"We calculate that one third of the money earned from carbon will go to protect the forest," said Dodwell. "One third will be cash, like dividends for shareholders, and one sixth will go to the carbon broker. The rest is profit. About $600,000 would go back into the environment every year to protect the trees. It would secure the jobs of the 150 people who already work on Rukinga and it could lead to 100 more jobs.


"The local shareholders who own 10 per cent of the ranch would earn a lot of money. The wildlife would benefit from the habitat protection and it would cut climate change emissions."


The local communities were at first bemused, but are now delighted. "When the idea was proposed, we thought, how can you earn money from air? We asked how you could harvest carbon. We wondered if you needed containers," said Alphonse Mwaidoma, the chairman of nearby Kasigau ranch. "Now, everyone realises it will change everything. Some we would put to long-term development of the community and scholarships."

Dodwell and Korchinsky are also planning to get a 730,000 hectare (1.8m acre) tract of virgin Cameroonian forest classified as a Redd project, potentially earning themselves and 10,000 forest pygmies who live there nearly $10m a year. They say they want local people and wildlife to benefit, but they accept the Redd system is open to abuse by organised crime and corrupt governments and businesses.


"There's a great worldwide scramble going on to find land that would qualify for Redd schemes," said Dodwell.


"Redd has the potential to be fantastic for communities but also to go horribly wrong. Logging companies may turn into carbon companies. In most countries in Africa you can do what you like, log out the trees, put in roads, do anything. There is little or no monitoring. The rewards could be 99 per cent for me and 0.5 per cent for the communities."


There are signs that nascent Redd projects are already leading to social conflict, possible fraud and worsening land disputes. In July, the director of climate change in Papua New Guinea was suspended following allegations that unofficial carbon credits worth $100m had been issued from 39 potential Redd projects by an Australian-based carbon company. Landowners claimed they had been forced to sign over the rights to their forests by "carbon cowboys." The scandal is embarrassing because Papua New Guinea, which has a history of illegal logging, is leading world efforts to have Redd schemes backed at the U.N. climate change talks, which culminate in Copenhagen in December.


In Indonesia, where 40 million people depend on forests, potential Redd projects are in limbo because much of the forest has never been surveyed and land ownership is fiercely disputed.


Communities are supposed to earn a share of Redd credit sales to pay for health, education and alternative livelihoods but, out of 144 Redd projects analysed by the International Institute for Environment and Development, only one included a proposal to make community-managed forests or indigenous peoples' rights a binding part of Redd.


Hans Brattskar, the director of Norway's forest and climate programme and whose country is funding the U.N.-Redd programme, said he envisaged some difficulties could be overcome by hi-tech surveillance mixed with on-the-spot monitoring by indigenous peoples. "We know that Redd will need new laws, land reform and new institutions," he said. "But if countries do not perform they will not be paid. The consequences if we fail are enormous."








Redd — Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation — would allow countries that can reduce emissions from deforestation to be paid for doing so.



Papua New Guinea and nine other countries proposed it in 2005 at a U.N. climate meeting. It is now likely to be one of the cornerstones of any agreement at the Copenhagen climate conference in December. It would start in 2013, and could eventually channel tens of billions of dollars a year from rich to poor countries.



Countries would have to show — from historical data, satellite imagery and direct measurement of trees — the extent, condition and carbon content of their forests. Verification, reporting and monitoring would be done by communities that depend on the forests or by independent organisations. Protected trees would have to be shown to have been threatened.



There are several proposals. Countries could either be paid by "voluntary funding" — rather like existing official aid given by one country to another — or cash could be linked to trade in carbon credits.



No. There are 32 Redd proposals, from countries, groups of countries and NGOs. The two gaining most ground are from Brazil. Once a model is agreed upon, many problems will remain. There is as yet no agreed way to accurately measure the carbon content of different kinds of forests. The rights of the tens of millions of people who live in forests could be at risk if carbon companies move in, valuing the forests more highly than them. And land ownership is often a difficult issue to resolve — and ownership of trees, even more so.










It is debatable if freer, and increased, movement of people in search of a living can really hasten a global economic recovery, as the authors of this year's UN Human Development Report claim. But it is undeniable that migrants leave a profound impact, usually for the better, not only on communities they go to but also the ones they leave behind (through remittances home). The UNDP report, noting that a billion of the world's 6.7 billion people — one person in every seven — are migrants, seeks to dispel the myth that most relocate from poorer developing countries to richer developed ones. In reality, the vast majority move internally within countries or within their own regions. Both internal and international migrants could face a degree of hostility in host communities. Especially when jobs are scarce, there could be regressive and discriminatory legislation and other forms of unfair treatment. HDR 2009 says this is not only harmful to those at the receiving end, but in the long run does considerable damage to communities and nations engaging in such practices. Appropriately enough, the document urges governments around the world to liberalise immigration policies to offer migrants a "new deal".


There are legitimate fears about this in India and other nations plagued by unchecked illegal immigration. But Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who released the report in India, made it clear that the benefits outweighed the costs. He said India would make a strong pitch for the free movement of workers across the world at the forthcoming WTO talks. Indeed, all governments would do well to heed the UNDP's call to implement a "core package" without delay: reducing transaction costs (passport, visa, recruitment fees — which usually hit the poor hardest), liberalising entry channels so that more can emigrate, host countries ensuring new entrants can enjoy basic rights, healthcare and schooling for children, newcomers are not denied equal pay for equal work, decent conditions at the workplace, and (very important for millions of Indians in the Gulf) that laid-off migrants be given an opportunity to hunt for another job or at least wrap up their affairs properly before being forced to return home.


Three-fourths of all migrants move internally — such as millions in this country who go from villages and small towns to big cities in search of jobs — and they have their own problems. While India, unlike China and some other countries, does not have laws impeding such movement (indeed moving freely throughout the country is a fundamental right), internal migrants are often forced to live in vast urban slums without healthcare or basic services, face the constant threat of eviction, and are often — as seen recently in Mumbai — victimised by chauvinistic forces who perceive them as a threat. In this context another suggestion in the report could be useful: if the newly-arrived were promptly allowed to transfer voting rights to where they live and work, political parties would compete to secure benefits for them instead of targeting them.


Other than the status of migrants, there is a sobering message for this country in HDR 2009. India has stagnated at the 134th rank out of 182 countries in human development terms, which takes into account life expectancy, primary education and standard of living. Even Bangladesh and Pakistan have moved up. China has done spectacularly, moving up seen notches in a year. For India, this should be a wake-up call.








Think of a journalist on a dangerous assignment and the classic image that flashes in one's mind is the war reporter in the flak jacket dodging snipers' bullets. Big international names like Rageh Omar, Christiane Amanpour and our desi versions dripping glamour and star power. The arc of risk, however, is widening. Today it embraces a new breed of war reporters whose territory is the environment around us. His/her glamour quotient is lower than the familiar battlefield veterans but the risks are just as high.


A recent study by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), the Paris-based media watchdog, suggests that it isn't always bombs and bayonets, conflicts or clashes that put journalists at risk. As the world's population grows and the scramble for dwindling supplies of natural resources gets more fierce, exposing deforestation, pollution and environmental damages can be exceedingly dangerous in many countries.


The report — "The dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues" — draws attention to 13 cases of journalists and bloggers who have gone missing (probably killed), savagely assaulted, jailed, threatened or censored simply because they were trying to turn the spotlight on destruction of the environment.


Why is covering ecological damage becoming such a hazardous activity? The short answer: there is a lot at stake in the environment today. Reports on the state of the resources, the way they are used, and by whom, can potentially create problematic situations for many companies, organised crime groups, governments and middlemen who profit from the environment. Curious journalists probing environmental concerns and their fallout on communities are seen as roadblocks, even enemies to be physically eliminated.


In most cases, the report notes, the violence is the work of thugs in the pay of criminal entrepreneurs or corrupt politicians. In some countries, paradoxically enough, the local population often supports those responsible for plundering the forests or polluting factories although it is the most direct victim. Those who get rich ravaging natural resources buy community support by tossing a few crumbs — this inevitably comes in the form of work for the desperately poor. Not surprisingly, anyone alerting the outside world about deforestation and pollution is seen as an unwanted menace.


Journalists reporting on the environment are not at uniform risk everywhere. Some live more dangerous lives than others. But the violence to which many are subjected concerns us all. Depletion of natural resources is an increasingly sensitive issue everywhere.


The RSF report talks of journalists like Maria Nikolaeva who works for the Sofia-based weekly Politika and wrote a story about an illegal real estate development project in the Strandzha National Park, Bulgaria's largest nature reserve. The day the story appeared, two men went to Nikolaeva's office and told her: "You know full well you shouldn't write things like this. And you know what happens to curious journalists, they get acid thrown at them".


Brazilian journalist Vilmar Berna, editor of the Niterói-based environmentalist daily Jornal do Meio Ambiente, which exposes clandestine overfishing and threats to protected marine life in Rio de Janeiro Bay, is a constant target of threats and intimidation attempts. A bloody, half-burnt body was dumped outside his home in May 2006. As if the meaning of that "message" was not sufficiently clear, an anonymous woman caller then warned him he could be killed soon. He filed a complaint with the Niterói police and hired two bodyguards. But he could not afford to keep paying them and no longer has protection. These are two randomly selected examples from the report.


Journalists covering environmental issues in India are no doubt better off. They may be unwanted, but they are unlikely to be liquidated. For most, the daily challenge is a disinterested boss who likes more entertaining stories.


The caricature of the "environment reporter" as a disgruntled jholawala, a perennial nag, wired to oppose all manner of development in the country, however, is no laughing matter. As the fight for natural resources gets more edgy in a society with deep fissures and inequalities, communities find themselves pitted against corporations. Those without power or privilege find it tough to get themselves heard, and those writing about such uncomfortable truths, learn about occupational hazards the hard way.


Veteran journalist Darryl D'Monte, chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India, says that journalists face enormous threats when they travel in remote areas to investigate cases of environmental destruction. D'Monte was assaulted around a decade ago when he was trying to reach the Baphlimali plateau in Kashipur block, in the tribal district of Rayagada in Orissa, where bauxite is located.


Goa-based reporter Frederick Noronha had to deal with dirty tricks when writing about tourism-related pollution on the Goa beach belt. "Local hoteliers tried to arm-twist the owners of the website which I used to write for. They managed to get that website to pull the article off the site, though there was nothing wrong with it. I was outraged and made sure it appeared in more prominent space".


Sunita Narain, the fiery editor of Down to Earth, the environmental magazine brought out by the Centre for Science and Environment, has been at the receiving end of pickets, legal notices and even obscene cartoons. Groups of men have come and stood outside her office, chanting offensive slogans and waving placards following reports in the magazine about the pesticide industry and the impact of its harmful practices on the health of communities. One of the persons found picketing was later found to be a lobbyist for the plastic and pesticide industry.


Just about every cub reporter in the Indian capital knows that one: the rites of passage is to do an expose of the illegal mining and stone quarrying that goes on at Delhi's southern border with Haryana — and to get threatened by goons at the spot.


Environmental controversies are growing in India as elsewhere. And uncovering inconvenient truths remains the journalist's job. Sadly, most journalists are on their own when it comes to defending themselves. As the going gets tough, the tough will get going, but there is a need for allies.


The RSF report is a timely reminder about the need to give greater visibility to the threats journalists encounter while taking on vested interests and to mobilise public opinion in their support.


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on contemporary development issues, and can be contacted at










A few days ago, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar compared Lal Krishna Advani to a "pickle that had turned rancid" and said that the party president must make way for younger leaders in the BJP. He also observed that Mr Advani's political innings is more or less over. There was nothing new in Mr Parrikar's statement. Many BJP leaders, both young and old, have been saying this after the BJP's poor show in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.


However, what was new and quite surprising about Mr Parrikar's call was the biting language he chose to express his views on Mr Advani, one of the founders of the Jan Sangh and a respected politician who had been enthusiastically acknowledged by the rank and file of the BJP as the most suitable person to lead the party after the exit of Atal Behari Vajpayee, just five years ago in 2004.


It is important to remember that Mr Advani came under sharp attack from his own partymen only after the BJP's miserable show in the 2009 elections in relatively large states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and others. He was reminded of the truth of the saying that "nothing succeeds like success" when many of his erstwhile followers and admirers started their vituperative attacks on him.


Till recently Mani Shankar Aiyar had been credited with the most pungent quote of criticism against Mr Advani. When Mr Aiyar was asked to comment on Mr Advani's resignation after the Jinnah controversy in 2005, he said, "I am not bothered about him, he is politically dead". This was a remark by a Congress leader known for his wit and humour.


But in Mr Parrikar's description of Mr Advani as "rancid pickle" there was neither wit nor humour, only an overdose of ridicule. One is tempted to remind Mr Parrikar, a former chief minister of Goa, that when a political party loses power in a state, the losing chief minister is also expected to gracefully own up his share of responsibility for the debacle. Mr Parrikar also needs to be reminded that use of strong language does not make a statement stronger.


But it will be useful to examine how Mr Advani suddenly found himself at the receiving end of such sharp criticism from some of his own partymen. Firstly, this is not the first time Mr Advani is facing criticism. It is, of course, a first for him that it is now coming from his own party people.


In 2005, during a visit to Pakistan, Mr Advani hailed the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and faced severe criticism for the first time in his half-century of public life. Though none of the statements from his partymen matched the severity of Mr Parrikar's language, he tendered his resignation immediately on return from Pakistan. But Mr Advani's senior colleagues had come forward to defend him and to express their full faith in his leadership. No political leader could have hoped to receive such strong expression of support and loyalty as Mr Advani received from his party then.


If I am to make an assessment of the various statements Mr Advani had made while in Pakistan, I will say that the words inscribed by him in the visitor's book at Jinnah's mausoleum in Karachi led to genuine unhappiness in the minds of even his admirers in India, though many refrained from joining his critics out of respect for him. Mr Advani had referred to a few of Jinnah's pronouncements, and statements by others on Jinnah, that showed the changes in Jinnah's stand on secularism at different stages of his political career. Such statements, including references to Jinnah's oft-quoted speech of August 11, 1947 at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and Sarojini Naidu's tribute to him as the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity", reflected different facets of his political philosophy and career. It is a well-known fact that even after his 1947 speech, Jinnah announced that Pakistan was and would continue to be an Islamic state. Probably, if Mr Advani had not referred to Jinnah in the words he chose to use in the visitors' book at Jinnah's mausoleum, the reaction would not have been so severe.


The election reverses of 2009 would not have been so hurtful to Mr Advani if his prestige had not been dented in June 2005. But even being in this relatively vulnerable position should not have encouraged a senior colleague like Mr Parrikar to resort to the present level of attack.


The exit of top leaders from positions of power and influence in the government or the party is a common phenomenon in democratic countries. There have been several reasons for such exits. Normally poor health, as in the case of Mr Vajpayee, can be justified for the exit of certain political leaders. In some cases, allegations of corruption, nepotism and favouritism have been reasons for the exit of top leaders from their leadership positions. Mr Advani, in his long period of public life, has never been accused of any conduct even remotely associated with corruption or nepotism.


Mr Advani is one of the very few top leaders of India's political parties who have maintained their reputation for impeccable integrity. If such a person decides on his own will to unburden himself of his political responsibilities, the least that one should expect from one's partymen is not to add insult to injury by the use of unkind words.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra











The Supreme Court has rightly issued contempt notice to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary for violating its order on stoppage of work at the construction sites for the statues and memorials of BSP founder Kanshi Ram and other Dalit leaders including Chief Minister Mayawati herself in Lucknow. A Bench consisting of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Aftab Alam has made out a "strong prima facie case" for initiating contempt proceedings and summoned the Chief Secretary. The Bench, which has been hearing the validity of the Rs 2,600-crore memorial structure, took strong exception to the state government's willful and deliberate flouting of its instructions. Surprisingly, though the government had given an undertaking to the apex court on September 8, it had gone ahead with the construction work and thus committed contempt of the apex court.


While hearing the case on Monday, the Bench slammed the Mayawati government for not complying with the court's order and objected to the manner in which it was trying to pass off some of the constructions as "cleaning" operations. Newspaper reports clearly revealed how the government had split the projects into 24 sites and tried to show that they were not covered under the court's restraint order. "Don't play games like (you do) with the Opposition in the Assembly. You are treating this court like an adversary. What differentiates democracy from majoritarianism is the Constitution and the rule of law. As a democratic government, you should have stopped construction after we passed the order", Justice Alam said.


The Bench aptly rejected the government's argument that construction was under way only outside 75 acres of the 105 acres where the disputed memorials and statues were coming up. The judges pointed out that the government undertaking (not to carry out the work) was "in respect of all properties". Undoubtedly, at a time when the state is facing drought and resource crunch for taking up development programmes, the state government has been squandering away crores of rupees of public money on statues and memorials. As this project is a huge burden on the state exchequer, this needs to be scrapped and the government taken to task for flouting the apex court's restraint order.








In India, rivers are supposed to be a sacred life-sustaining entity. The Ganga is the holiest of them all. Yet, today it is among the 10 most endangered ones in the world. But the misuse of the river as a carrier of municipal sewage and industrial effluents has made its water dangerous for use. Under the circumstances, a 10-year project to rejuvenate the river is not only welcome but also a crying need. As much as Rs 15,000 crore is to be spent under the project so that by 2020, no untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluents flow into the Ganga. At present, only 20 per cent of municipal sewage flowing into it is treated.


The money allocated for the massive project is a tidy sum, but it will be successful only if it is meticulously planned and faithfully executed. There is need for extra caution because the country has been spending extensively to clean up rivers in the past also. Between 1985 and 2009, Rs 916 crore was pumped in to help the Ganga Action Plan I and II take off. But the river is dirtier today than it was in 1985. When the Environment Minister himself asks "where the money has gone?" there are bound to be question marks about the new project also.


It is true that while the previous plans followed a town-centric approach, the ambitious Mission Clean Ganga will take a basin-centric approach. Yet, there is need for extreme caution, lest the money again goes down the river. Total Centre-State coordination would be needed. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has described the proposed institutional framework of the National Ganga River Basin Authority as "weak". All such feedback should be taken into account by rising above routine political considerations. The Ganga belongs to everyone, after all.







The annual Human Development Report released on Monday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) indicates that India has slipped six points on the Human Development Index over the previous year while China has moved up by seven points at the same time. Comparisons are odious and rankings, India at 134 and China at 92, do not always tell the full story. It would not have made much difference either if India were to move up by a few points, because the stark reality is that even 62 years after Independence, we have not succeeded in ensuring a basic minimum quality of life for the citizen. Despite a better GDP growth rate and remarkable progress in several areas, large sections of people continue to wallow in poverty, remain illiterate, suffer from poor health and are deprived of jobs. The country's progress is grossly ill-balanced.


The thrust of the report has been on migration and it makes the timely point that migrants all over the world have benefited themselves and also the community they served. UNDP studies call the bluff on age-old beliefs that migrants are parasites and hijack job-prospects of the local population. It is an interesting point in the context of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance's electoral promise to impose restrictions on the movement of people to Mumbai and other urban centres. The report also establishes that contrary to popular belief, much of the migration world-wide is taking place within the same country and not from the developing to the developed countries.


The UNDP report has been an annual feature since 1990 and seeks to remind nations about the key challenge of focusing on people. As the report itself describes it, " Development is about people realising their potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value." Previous UNDP reports had warned about a drop in agricultural production in the country as a result of changing rainfall pattern and also predicted increased exposure to droughts, floods and storms that it feared would destroy opportunities and reinforce inequalities. Its worst fears seem to be coming true but the new report would hopefully be a wake-up call.
















As the anti-Maoist operations of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) in Chhattisgarh show, the Centre has finally woken up to the need for a proactive policy aimed at confronting the Maoists head-on. This change of stance is a welcome departure from its earlier dependence either on state governments for tackling the menace presumably because law and order is a state subject, or on the lawless salwa judum vigilante groups.


Both these approaches underlined an inadequate appreciation of the ideological nature of the threat posed by the Maoists. They were initially thought to be little different from the gangs of petty criminals which the state police forces were capable of controlling with a stick-and-carrot policy. When the task proved to be more difficult because of the dogmatic commitment of the Maoists, the states assumed that enlisting the help of paramilitary forces such as the CRPF should be enough. When even these measures proved to be inadequate, there was a recourse to perhaps the worst remedy of all — that of setting up the salwa judum groups to tackle the rebels.


Yet, it is one of the basic guidelines of anti-insurgency operations, dating back to the British operations against the Communist guerrillas in Malaya in the 1940s, that the government must not fight an internal battle with the help of civilian groups. The reason is that the latter soon become a law unto themselves and begin to terrorise the local people.


Caught between the two lawless groups — the insurgents and the vigilante units — the locals tend to side with the rebels because they occasionally provide a modicum of justice in their kangaroo courts. Therefore, the task of battling the radicals should always be restricted to the law-enforcing agencies.


The formation of a special unit like COBRA is a sign that the government is now following the right track. Perhaps the partial success of the anti-Maoist offensive in Lalgarh in West Bengal sent the message that instead of camping like sitting ducks, the paramilitary forces should go after the militants. When this was done, the rebels melted away into the jungles, abandoning Lalgarh town which had been in their control for several months. There is every possibility that if there are simultaneous drives against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and elsewhere, the Centre should be able to scatter and eliminate them as has already been done in Andhra Pradesh.


In the process, the fond dream of the Maoists that they are implementing Mao Zedong's theory of surrounding the towns with "liberated" villages will be shattered. It has to be remembered that the present tactics of the Maoists involving the building of bases in the forested areas is a relatively new one. Although the movement originally began among a section of peasants in Naxalbari in West Bengal and secured a foothold in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, it soon became an urban insurrection.


The reason was that the CPM, like the CPI before it, was essentially a party of the working class, deriving inspiration from the Bolshevik uprising which took place in the towns. Classical Marxism had little time for peasants or the "idiocy of rural life", in Marx's words. So, the Naxalites, who broke away from the CPM in the late Sixties, remained rooted in their urban habitats. Although some of them did move to the villages in accordance with Mao's dictates, it was mainly to escape the police dragnet.


Their policy, however, of killing lower level policemen in towns and landowners in the countryside remained mostly anarchic, which attracted criticism from even their mentors in Beijing. It wasn't surprising, therefore, that like the anti-British revolutionaries, who lacked an organisation based on mass support, the isolated Naxalites, too, became an easy prey to police surveillance and elimination in fake encounters. Their fate was not unlike that of another group of insurgents, the Khalistanis, who also lacked popular support.


The lesson which the Maoists learnt from the failure of their mainly urban activities — Charu Mazumdar was caught from one of Calcutta's busiest localities — made them move into the jungles of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc. It was the inability of the intelligence agencies and of the political class to anticipate their game plan which enabled them to become the biggest internal threat, according to the Prime Minister.


Even when the danger posed by them was becoming apparent, the politicians were confused about ways to deal with them. While some of them described the Maoists as "our boys", others believed that an emphasis on development, mainly in the tribal areas, would weaken them. In the event, neither did the "boys" respond to the government's overtures, nor was development undertaken with enough purposefulness to wean away the impoverished tribals from their grip.


There is another factor which perhaps explains the government's earlier lack of seriousness. It is the belief that no insurgency in India can succeed in the long run. The country's experience with militancy in Kashmir, the north-east and Punjab has seemingly convinced the rulers that the basic stability of the democratic system undermines the influence of the rebels in course of time.


Since the people know that political change is possible via the ballot, not many of them are enthusiastic about an armed struggle. In addition, age, illness and disillusionment erode the credibility and sustaining power of any rebel group over a longish period.


Perhaps they also realise that the paramilitary forces are too strong to be easily defeated. The revolutionary dream of the Maoists, therefore, of defeating the state in an armed confrontation can never be fulfilled. It was possible in Russia and China because of the chaotic conditions created by war and civil unrest. The two countries were also undemocratic. But such a scene cannot be replicated in India.


However, the government's earlier lackadaisical approach may have fostered an illusion among the Maoists that they have been able to "liberate" the so-called red corridor.


Similar fantasies were entertained by the Naxalites in the late Sixties and early Seventies in some of the outlying areas of Calcutta like Tollygunge or Kasba or Baranagar where they created a virtual reign of terror with their home-made bombs and pipe-guns. But their control lasted only as long as the police did not intervene with the licence to kill.


It is undoubtedly the same with the red corridor. Once the paramilitary forces act with determination to smash their hideouts, there is little doubt that the Maoist menace can be eradicated. The difficulty, however, is that the government may not be prepared to act with sufficient ruthlessness since innocent lives are bound to be lost in such operations. If that happens, the civil libertarians will be up in arms in condemning the government for its "anti-people" policies.


As is known, film maker Aparna Sen and others visited Lalgarh during the anti-Maoist operation to express their solidarity with the suffering of the ordinary people. Although they did urge the Maoists to give up violence, few believed that the appeal would be heeded. Similarly, a few years ago, the police in Andhra Pradesh allowed a group of Maoists to escape because, as the then chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, acknowledged, a "senior Naxalite leader" would have been killed "if we had gone ahead".

The result of such misplaced generosity has been the deaths of several hundred policemen at the hands of Maoists and their attacks on railway stations and transmission towers. Thankfully, the government seems to have realised the folly of its earlier charitable policies.








ABOUT 14 years ago I wrote a book on the lives and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. When my son finished reading it, he turned to me and said: "After Guru Gobind Singh — what?"


It was a moot question.


I had researched the period up to the Great Guru's death and was vague in my knowledge of the period after that. I decided to do something about it. The result was "The Legend of Banda Bahadur". While researching the book I visited many sites connected with Banda Bahadur's life and exploits and Chappar Churi was one of them.


Today Chappar Churi is a nondescript village like thousands of other villages of Punjab. But its 'maidan' had, on May 22, 1710, been the site of a decisive battle between Banda Bahadur and Wazir Khan, the Moghul governor of Sirhind. Banda Bahadur had personally led an ill- equipped, undisciplined host of men against Wazir Khan's larger, well-disciplined, well trained and well-equipped army. Wazir Khan's army had been defeated and had fled the battlefield: Wazir Khan himself had been killed by Bhai Fateh Singh.


No sign of that glorious and triumphant battle remains but if one looks closely at the maidan and the rivulet flowing past, it is possible to imagine the way it must have been. I closed my eyes and heard the sounds of steel striking steel, of horses neighing and elephants trumpeting, battle cries, the boom of canon. I smelt the gunpowder, the sweat and, the blood, both human and animal. It was possible, even after all these centuries to conjure up the battle, savour Banda Bahadur's victory and revel in the glory of my proud heritage.


Now Chappar Churi is in the news again. In the Master Plan for Greater Mohali it is to be the site of an artificial lake that will put the Sukhna Lake in the shade and of a designer golf course.


I went back to Chappar Churi again a few days ago. But this time when I closed my eyes I saw the tranquil green of a world class golf course, smelt flowers and newly mown grass on the breeze. In the distance I heard the faint laughter of tourists on the lake. It was, in its own way, a beautiful vision.


Development is essential and the golf course and lake will not only generate employment and income for the local population but also bring Mohali onto the world tourist map. But at the same time there is regret at the loss of a heritage site. It is possible, at the moment, to synthesis the two — to create that beautiful and essential lake and golf course and to protect this important part of the Sikh heritage.


Chappar Churi could be declared a heritage village and a plot of land set aside for a suitable memorial to Banda Bahadur's famous victory which will also add to the tourist potential of the place. Thus history and progress could exist together.









I had the privilege of knowing and working with Norman Borlaug — who has been aptly described by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee as the greatest hunger fighter of our time — for nearly 50 years. I first heard him in 1953 outline an innovative strategy for combating wheat rusts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


From 1963 onwards, he visited India in March every year to see the wheat crop. During his extensive travels by road, he used to stop frequently, talk to the farmers, and examine the state of the health of the plants. Plants and farmers became his life-long friends and companions. Eliminating the wheat rust menace became his unrelenting mission.


Dr. Borlaug started his research career in agriculture in Mexico at a time when the world was passing through a serious food crisis. During 1942-1943, nearly two million people died of hunger during the Great Bengal Famine. China also experienced widespread and severe famine during the 1950s. Famines were frequent in Ethiopia, the Sahelian region of Africa, and many other parts of the developing world. It was in this background that Dr. Borlaug decided to look for a permanent solution to recurrent famines by harnessing science to increase the productivity, profitability, and sustainability of small farms.


The work he did in Mexico during the 1950s in breeding semi-dwarf, rust-resistant wheat varieties and its extension to India, Pakistan, and other countries during the 1960s brought about a total transformation in the atmosphere for the possibility of achieving a balance between human numbers and the human capacity to produce food. Developing nations gained in self-confidence in their agricultural capability. He disproved prophets of doom like Paul and William Paddock and Paul and Anne Ehrlich — who even advocated the application of the 'triage' principle in the selection of countries that should and should not be saved from starvation through American assistance.


The introduction of Mexican semi-dwarf varieties of wheat in India in the early 1960s not only helped improve wheat production but also led to the union of brain and brawn in rural areas. The enthusiasm generated by the new technology can be glimpsed in the following extract from an article I wrote in 1969 for an Indian magazine:


"Brimming with enthusiasm, hard-working, skilled and determined, the Punjab farmer has been the backbone of the revolution. Revolutions are usually associated with the young, but in this revolution, age has been no obstacle to participation. Farmers, young and old, educated and uneducated, have easily taken to the new agronomy. It has been heart-warming to see young college graduates, retired officials, ex-armymen, illiterate peasants and small farmers queuing up to get the new seeds. At least in the Punjab, the divorce between intellect and labour, which has been the bane of our agriculture, is vanishing."


The five principles Dr. Borlaug adopted in his life were (to use his own words): give your best; believe you can succeed; face adversity squarely; be confident you will find the answers when problems arise; then go out and win some bouts. These principles have shaped the attitude and action of thousands of young farm scientists across the world. He applied these principles in the field of science and agricultural development, but I guess he developed them much earlier in the field of wrestling, judging from his induction into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004.


Having made a significant contribution to shaping the agricultural destiny of many countries in Asia and Latin America, Dr. Borlaug turned his attention to Africa in 1985. With support from President Jimmy Carter, Ryoichi Sasakawa, Yohei Sasakawa and the Nippon Foundation, he organised the Sasakawa-Global 2000 programme. Numerous small-scale farmers were helped to double and triple the yield of maize, rice, sorghum, millet, wheat, cassava, and grain legumes.


Unfortunately, such spectacular results in demonstration plots did not lead to significant production gains at the national level, owing to lack of infrastructure such as irrigation, roads, seed production, and remunerative marketing systems. This made him exclaim: "Africa has the potential for a green revolution, but you cannot eat potential." The blend of professional skill, political action, and farmers' enthusiasm needed to ignite another Green Revolution as in India was lacking in Africa at that time.


Concerned with the lack of adequate recognition for the contributions of farm and food scientists, Dr. Borlaug had the World Food Prize established in 1986, which he hoped would come to be regarded as the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture. My research centre in Chennai, India [the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation] is the child of the first World Food Prize I received in 1987. Throughout his professional career, Dr. Borlaug spent time in training young scholars and researchers. This led him to promote the World Food Prize Youth Institute and its programme to help high school students work in other countries in order to widen their understanding of the human condition. This usually became a life-changing experience for them. When Mahatma Gandhi died in January 1948, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: "The light has gone out of our life, but the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. A thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country, the world will see it, and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented the living, eternal truth, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking humankind to freedom from hunger and deprivation." The same can be said of Norman Borlaug. His repeated message that there was no time to relax until hunger became history will be heard so long as a single person is denied the opportunity for a healthy and productive life because of malnutrition.


Norman Borlaug was a remarkable man who was supported by a remarkable family —wife Margaret, son William, and daughter Jeanie. To my mind, Margaret who died in 2007 is the unsung heroine of the Green Revolution. Without her unwavering support, Dr. Borlaug might not have accomplished nearly so much in his long and demanding career. Dr. Borlaug was not only a great scientist but also a humanist full of compassion and love for fellow human beings, irrespective of race, religion, colour, or political belief. This is clear from his last spoken words on the night of Saturday, September 12, 2009. Earlier in the day, a scientist showed him a nitrogen tracer developed for measuring soil fertility. His last words were "Take the tracer to the farmer." This life-long dedication to taking scientific innovation to farmers without delay set Dr. Borlaug apart from most other farm scientists carrying out equally important research.


I was present when he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. He pointed out that between 1960 and 2000, the proportion of "the world's people who felt hunger during some portion of the year had fallen from about 60 per cent to 14 per cent." But the latter figure still "translates into 850 million men, women and children who lack sufficient calories and protein to grow strong and healthy bodies." So he added: "The battle to ensure food security for hundreds of millions of miserably poor people is far from won."


This is the unfinished task Norman Borlaug leaves scientists and political leaders worldwide. It will be appropriate for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture to become the flagship of the movement for a world without hunger.


(Adapted from the Norman Borlaug Memorial Address given by the author at the Rudder Auditorium, Texas A&M University, USA, on October 6, 2009.)







Spartans! Prepare for, well, embarrassment. It seems that far from being elite, noble warriors, each worth 1,000 of any rival soldiers, King Great? A mummy's boy: in fact, his mum was a better fighter by a long chalk and died a soldier's death on the battlefield.


They and other figures from antiquity are to have their reputations shattered by a new British study which reveals the "truth" behind long-established legends. Michael Scott, a classicist at Cambridge University, points to evidence that could change the way we think about our classical heroes.


The heroic Spartans of Thermopylae, whose valiant standoff with an enormous Persian army is immortalised in the Hollywood film 300, are unmasked by Dr Scott as little more than war-mongering bullies of the ancient world who policed Athens with near-mindless violence, destroying anything they took a dislike to.


Alexander the Great, remembered for his conquests across the known world and spreading Greek civilisation to the east, is dismissed was a "mummy's boy" whose endless stream of letters from the battlefield to his mother Olympias infuriated his generals.


Despite the fact that Alexander was recently voted the greatest Greek of all time by in a poll in Greece, Dr Scott charges that his successes were merely opportunistic exploitation of foundations laid by his father, Philip II.


Olympias, sympathetically portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the film Alexander, was a violent and fearless warrior to put her son to shame, according to Dr Scott.


It's even suspected that she may have murdered her husband, Philip of Macedon. She was finally captured in battle and put to death in 316BC by Macedonian comrades of those whom she had slain in battle.


The Greek philosopher Isocrates also suffers under scrutiny. Until now he was thought a steadfast believer in democracy in Athens and is widely believed to be one of the greatest orators and political commentators of his time. But, late in life, Isocrates realised democracy no longer worked in Athens and threw in his lot in with Philip of Macedon when Philip became king.


Even the great "Golden City" of Athens itself is not spared a kicking from Dr Scott. He argues that its early successes have, over time, obscured a darker history that mirrors societal problems in 21st-century Britain. Far from being a major world player, fourth-century BC Athens imploded under the weight of a crippling economic downturn, while politicians embroiled themselves in fraud. Meanwhile, they sent the army to fight unpopular foreign wars and struggled to cope with a surge in immigration.


"If history can provide a map of where we have been, a mirror to where we are right now and perhaps even a guide to what we should do next, the story of this period is perfectly suited to do that in our times," Dr Scott said yesterday.


"It shows how an earlier generation of people responded to similar challenges and which strategies succeeded. It is a period of history that we would do well to think about a little more right now—and we ignore it at our peril."


By arrangement with The Independent







WASHINGTON — Lawyers, lobbyists, librarians and concerned citizens, rejoice: As of Monday, it is much easier to access the Federal Register.


The de facto daily newspaper of the executive branch publishes approximately 80,000 pages of documents each year, including presidential disaster declarations, Medicare reimbursement rates, and thousands of agency rulings on policies ranging from banking to fishing to food. It's a must-read for anyone with business before the federal government or concerned about regulatory decisions, including academics and good-government advocates.


Issues dating to 2000 now are available at in a form known in the Web world as XML, which allows users to transport data from a Web site and store it, reorganize it or customize it elsewhere. Officials suggested that the move puts readers, rather than the government, in charge of deciding how to access the Register's reams of information.


"In much the same way that newspapers have looked at making content more accessible by changing the print and typeface, we can now do the same thing by making the Federal Register available such that people can manipulate it and customize it and reuse the content to make the information even more accessible," said Beth Noveck, director of the White House Open Government Initiative.


Monday's launch is the outgrowth of President Obama's first executive order, which mandated greater transparency in federal government.


The Office of the Federal Register publishes the Register each business day. The first issue, in 1936, had 11 pages; Friday's had 157. According to the White House, the Register totaled 79,435 pages in fiscal 2008, with 31,879 documents, its largest year ever. Online readers downloaded more than 200 million Register documents in fiscal 2009, the White House said.


The Register may be the ultimate record of the business of the executive branch, but it is universally recognized as a difficult document to navigate.


Monday's release should make it easier for users to find their specific topic without having to wade through volumes of unrelated material. Government officials expect information-hungry users to make the most of the new access. The technology will allow users, including Web site designers, to quickly gather data and manipulate the information with tools such as mapping software, word clouds, spreadsheets and e-mail alert systems, White House officials and government observers said.


"It makes it much easier to follow a specific topic area or look at specific regulations from a specific agency or search within a geographic area," said John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, an open-government advocacy group. "It's not going to be useful for everyone, but if you're looking at making government processes more efficient, this view across the government will be very useful."


Mary Alice Baish, director of government relations for the American Association of Law Libraries, said members are "delighted" about the move. "This is a win-win situation for business, the regulatory community and consumers," she said.


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








The anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) once again started an orgy of violence and killing of innocents by gunning down at least 12 persons in Bhimajuli and Balichand areas of Sonitpur district on October 4 and all sections of people of Assam including political parties and non-political organisations should strongly condemn such killings. On its part, the police and security forces must launch an all out offensive against those involved in such dastardly acts and efforts should be on to prevent escalation of the situation following such acts of violence. Extortion bids by the militant group is believed to be the main reason for the killings as it has been reported that the NDFB launched an extortion drive in that area and demanded money from all sections of people, while, the local people resisted such attempts by the militants and bravely refused to meet the demands. Of course, it is not possible for the Government to provide security cover to each and every village located in the remote areas of the State, but with reports of extortion bids by the militants in that particular area, the security forces should have been more careful. The people of that particular area of Sonitpur district even held a meeting recently and decided not to meet the demand of the NDFB and in view of such brave resistance by the unarmed civilians, the Government should have taken adequate precautionary measures in that area and an all out offensive against the militants should have been launched.

It is a fact that in recent months, police and security forces achieved considerable success in counter-insurgency operations against members of the anti-talk faction of the NDFB and the militant outfit will definitely try to hit back and the forces should remain on alert to prevent any more attacks by the members of the outfit. Efforts should be made to strengthen the intelligence network of the Police and security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Assam and the vulnerable areas should be identified to take adequate precautionary measures. The areas where the NDFB tried to launch extortion drives should be identified so that additional forces can be deployed in such areas to prevent attacks on innocents like the one on October 4. The police and security forces should also keep in mind the serial blasts triggered by the NDFB militants on October 30 last year, which killed nearly a hundred persons and the vulnerable locations where the militants can trigger explosions should be identified. Efforts must be made to bring the men in uniform closer to the common masses to give more teeth to the counter-insurgency operations and to prevent blasts as in the past, timely information by common people helped in preventing a number of blasts.







Australia deserved to retain the 2009 Champions Trophy as they dished out a thoroughly professional performance throughout the tournament. While the so-called favourites like India and South Africa suffered ignominious exits early on, Australians marched ahead convincingly, removing every side out of their way.


Their victory in the final has capped a marvellous run in the recent past which included a drubbing of England in the one-day series. On Monday, the Aussies, chasing the modest target set by New Zealand, did go through a tense phase when Shane Bond and Kyle Mills put them on the backfoot claiming two quick wickets, including that of skipper Ponting. What followed was a dour batting display by Watson in the company of Cameron White. At one stage, even the 201-run target looked tall as Watson and White ploughed on against Bond and Mills, who looked like getting them out in every delivery. But the second-string Kiwi pacers could not maintain the pressure and allowed the Australians to come on top. In the end, it was an easy six-wicket win for the Kangaroos, with Watson belting out another century, his second on the trot.

Given the circumstances, credit must also be given to New Zealand for reaching the final alone, as they battled injury problems throughout the tournament which resulted in five of their top performers being sent back. Captain Daniel Vettori, who carried his injury into the semifinals, could not turn out for the match that mattered most. Yet, the depleted Kiwis showed grit to ensure that the trophy did not go to the Aussies on a platter. As for India, this year's Champions Trophy had been a forgettable experience, and what Dhoni's men should do right now is go back to the drawing board and try to get their game right. Pakistan and England did well in the tournament to reach the semifinals, but while England had to face the awesome Aussies, Pakistan could not get the better of the injury-hit Kiwis. In fact, as things turned out, the semifinal has now come under ICC scanner for the manner in which Pakistan lost the match. The anti-corruption unit of the ICC is particularly probing skipper Younis Khan's dropped catch at a crucial juncture, when the semifinal was evenly poised. Younis Khan, as he puts it, might have tried to protect his wounded finger while attempting the catch. But the controversy nevertheless reminds us of the time when cricket came under the shadow of match-fixing. It is hoped that match-fixing does not raise its ugly head again in cricket, or else the so-called gentleman's game will have to wage another battle to save its reputation.








Twentieth Century witnessed spectacular development in different spheres of human life. It has further been accelerated in the 21st century. To cope with these changes the administrative system of a country needs radical changes in structures and contents. This is more so in India where governance as a whole is grossly inadequate to meet the new emerging challenges, needing reforms in the entire system of administration.

India can boast of having one of the three most developed ancient public administration systems- the other two being China and Iran. Arthasastra, the magnum opus of political scientist and statesman Kautilya, who authored this book 400 years before the Christ was born, is a landmark in this direction. According to Kautilya, to ensure good governance there must be a properly guided public administration, where the ruler should surrender his likes and dislikes in the interest of his subjects, and the personnel running the Government should be responsive and responsible. Kautilya further emphasised that for citizen friendly good governance there should be uniformity in the administrative practices as well as competent ministers and officials possessing qualities of leadership, accountability, intellect, energy, good moral conduct and physical fitness, capable of taking prompt decision without allowing things to drift. The administration system prescribed by Kautilya accepted and implemented by Chandra Gupta, Ashoka and subsequently adopted by the successive empires was well knit public administrative system designed for the security of the State and welfare of citizen.

At the time of independence, India inherited a very meticulous administrative system, though the system was designed at the dictate of colonial regime. After independence, there had been a significant endeavour to bring about structural changes in administration to fulfil the aspiration of people and Committees and Commissions were set up by the Union Government to examine and advise on different aspects of public administration. In 1949, N Gopalswami Ayyenger suggested improvement in the method of transaction of Government business, and Government of India created Organisation & Method Division in pursuance of Ayyenger's recommendation "to keep continuous watch over the performance of the administrative system and to improve the standard." Then came AD Gorwala's Report (1951) pointing out that clean, efficient and impartial administration was the first condition of the success of democratic Government and therefore the administrative machinery needed reorganisation to ensure greater speed, effectiveness and responsiveness. In 1953 and again in 1956, Pandit Nehru, the First Prime Minister of India commissioned the renowned American expert of Public Administration Paul H Appleby to advise Government of India on reforming Indian administrative system. Paul Appleby particularly emphasised the need of human resource development in public administration and on the basis of his recommendation Indian Institute of Public Administration was set up. Similarly, Asok Chanda Committee of 1954. T T Krishnamachary Committee of the same year as well as K Santhanam Committee (1964) examined different aspects of public administration and made recommendations to the Union Government. In 1966, a high powered Administrative Reforms Commission was set up under the Chairmanship of Morarji Bhai Desai to ensure higher standard of effectiveness and integrity in public service, to make public administration a fit instrument for carrying out the social 'and economic policies of the Government and achieve social and economic goals of development. Administrative Reforms Commission of 1966 submitted 20 Reports on different aspects of Public Administration and on the basis of the recommendations there were many major changes in the Central Government.

In 1983, the Economic Administrative Reforms Commission under L K Jha indicated the need for accountability so that greater importance was given to performance than mere adherence to rules and procedure. In recent years, increased thrust has been given to administrative reforms and the conferences of Chief Secretaries as well as Chief Ministers were held to discuss at length regarding effective and responsive administration in the states. It has been recognised that governance has to extend beyond conventional bureaucracies and to involve actively citizens of all levels to empower and inform the public and the disadvantaged groups so as to ensure service delivery and programme extension through autonomous elected local bodies. Citizen's Charter, a British system for redressal of public grievances was also introduced in India, but with little success.

The Government of India set up Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2005 under the Chairmanship of Veerappa Molly, former Chief Minister of Karnataka who is at present Law Minister of India. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has so far submitted 15 reports covering different aspects of administration.

While outlining the development strategy for the Tenth Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission stated that an important aspect of redefinition of strategy that is needed relates to the role of government, and this redefinition is necessary both at the Central and State government level. It is generally recognised that government in the past tended to take on too many responsibilities, imposing severe strains on its limited financial and administrative capabilities and also stifling individual initiatives. This is not to say that government has no role to play or only a minimalist role in promoting development. On the contrary, government has a very important role indeed, but a different one from that envisaged in the past. There are many areas like social sectors, infrastructure development etc. where government role may have to be expanded and restructured. Planning Commission has also emphasised the need of governance reforms for successful implementation of development programme, as the government requires adequate fund, appropriate policy framework, formulation of suitable plan schemes and effective delivery machinery. To a large extent the task of the development administration would become easier if steps are taken to make available information as a matter of right to the citizen. Other aspect of the reforms must cover civil service reforms, reforms in fiscal sectors, introduction of e-governance as well as radical improvement of transparency, accountability, efficiency, fair play and honesty procedural reforms for public-government interface. Planning Commission highlighted that good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in achieving the objectives of the Five Year Plans.

It has been realised all over the country that public service capacity to deliver services to citizens has declined considerably. In fact some of the writers have termed this decline as "Administrative Poverty", in the line of "Economic Poverty" "Intellectual Poverty" etc. The causes of this decline have been identified as —resistance to reforms, inexperience in bureaucratic leadership for management and facilitation of change, weak management decision making, government officials are not prepared to take decisions, civil service is input focused and therefore, not result oriented, public service managers including top bureaucrats heading the government departments are not held at accountable for performance, management system is either inadequate or ineffective, (in some areas 'nil') and appointment of wrong people in critical positions. These causes coupled with poor skill base, corrupt behaviour, negative image of the public service and culture of blame have made the government delivery system ineffective.

Administrative reform is a continuous process for improving the quality of governance. World Bank has defined governance, as the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development and good governance is synonymous with all round balanced development. In broader sense, the term 'governance' encompasses all aspects of the way a country is governed, including its economic and social policies as well as regulatory framework.

In a democratic country like India, open democratic and accountable system of governance based on respect for human rights and rule of law is a precondition for sustainable inclusive development and robust growth. Poor governance is clearly detrimental to economic activity and welfare. Therefore, for good governance ingredients like; accountability of people in charge of governance, particularly of the Civil Service, redefining attitude and functional goals of government departments, agencies and personnel manning the departments and agencies, improvement in systems and work methods, rationalisation of civil service, pragmatic and most objective performance appraisal system, human resource development strategy, transparency and right to information and most importantly quick- redressal of public grievances, are must.

Change as it is, is not a very easy task. It is more so in case of administrative reforms. To go for reforms in governance in Parliamentary Democracy like India, there must be strong political will having commanding ability, backed by a dynamic bureaucracy having proactive and innovative mindset committed to welfare of citizens.








Ayesha was only nine-year-old when her father (34), a rickshaw puller, sent her as a domestic worker in a family in South Delhi. She was paid boarding and Rs 500 every month. However, in February 2006, Ayesha was sadistically tortured and killed by her employer.

Sujata Saha comes from a very poor family in West Bengal. Her father spends his earnings as a daily wage earner on drinking alcohol and gambling. Sujata was brought to Kolkata by an older woman from her village at the age of 10 to work as a domestic help. She worked in a household in Kolkata's Babu Bazar area. Sujata was given Rs 350 a month and made to work more than 14 hours a day. She was also beaten regularly by her employer. Sujata had never been to school.

Joya Nath (12) was brought to Guwahati from a South Kamrup village by her poor father to work as a domestic worker. Her father found work for her in a family of Lachit Nagar area of the city. Joya too had never been to school. Joya was paid Rs 400 a month and made to work more than 14 hours a day. In March 2008, one evening, Joya was sexually assaulted by her employer. Luckily, Joya was rescued by the neighbours and was sent to a shelter house of the city.

It is significant that millions of men, women and children – India's large force of domestic workers, or 'servants' as most people call them remain unseen, undervalued and denied right that all workers deserve. For decades, groups like the National Domestic Workers' Movement have campaigned for recognition of domestic work as a form of labour. The diligence and persistence of such groups has resulted in some States initiating legislation. For instance, both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have included domestic workers in the legal provisions for minimum wage. Tamil Nadu has included domestic work in the Manual Labour Act and in January 2007 set up the Domestic Workers' Welfare Board. Kerala has taken some step in this direction, as have Bihar and Rajasthan. The Central government has made provision for domestic workers under the Unorganised Sector Workers' Social Security Act that was passed in January 2008. And lately, the Maharashtra Domestic Workers' Welfare Board Bill was passed by the State legislature during its winter session in December 2008.

Surprisingly, most labour laws face the challenge of implementation but among the most difficult must surely be the ones linked to domestic work. To begin with, there are no clear statistics of the number of people working as paid labour in people's homes. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), "A domestic worker is someone who carries out household work in a private household in return for wages." The estimated number of domestic workers in India is 90 million, but this is probably an underestimate as there has been no systematic study to document such workers throughout the country. From the data that exists, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of domestic workers are women and minor girls.

As estimated 20 per cent of domestic workers are children below 14 years of age. Under Child Labour laws. these children should not be employed. Yet, those who do employ them, get around the law by claiming that they are "looking after" these minor children when in fact it is the children who look after them, usually with little or no pay. Such child workers slip between the cracks of labour laws as most laws cover workers over the age of 18. The recently enacted Maharashtra law, for instance, addresses domestic workers between the ages of 18 and 60 who are now eligible to register themselves at district welfare boards.

In India, every day, changes in the economy and developmental policies are pushing more people into domestic work. With extended families being replaced by nuclear ones, there is increasing demand for domestic workers. Moreover, the increasing number of infrastructure projects and special economic zones (SEZs) are displacing millions of people particularly from rural areas. These are the women and young girls, especially, who are now joining the growing force of domestics in Indian cities and towns.

Slavery would be considered a harsh term by most Indians who employ domestic workers. But the reality is that even today, in many homes, the domestic workers, especially those who work full time, are often no better than slaves. Many of them are in debt to their employers and work their whole lives to pay off the debt. In fact, generations work to pay off the debt! And it never really ever gets paid off. And they can never ever dream of freeing themselves from such bondage. Laws cannot intervene in such cases. Naturally therefore, things can and will change only if those who employ domestic workers accept that these workers are first of all "workers" and not "servants".

Laws are necessary but those relating to domestic workers can only be effective if there is a change of attitude in the people who employ them. Such a change of attitude cannot be legislated.

(The writer is former Principal, Mangaldai College).








The research for which three American scientists have been awarded the Nobel prize in medicine, on the so-called "immortality enzyme" which helps cells multiply without damage, has huge implications for the future of humankind. That's the level of impact that Nobel committees look for, presumably, when they draw up their shortlist. But even that august body may not have contemplated the sheer breadth of the impact of this discovery.

The winners themselves — Elizabeth Blackburn, professor at the University of California in San Francisco, Carol Greider, professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and Jack Szostak, professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston — may not have realised the ramifications either, beyond the fillip their work on the enzyme called telomerase will give to cancer research. It is believed that inhibiting this enzyme can prevent cancer cells from multiplying endlessly; the flip side, of course, is that it can have the same effect on healthy cells too.

Our DNA codes are contained in chromosomes capped by telomeres that get smaller every time a cell divides, unless it also contains the telomerase enzyme. When its telomere cap becomes too small, a cell cannot divide so it dies. That is what we simply call ageing. Intriguingly, though the telomerase enzyme is hardly found in normal cells (which therefore eventually stop replicating themselves and die) it has been found in cancer cells which reproduce ad infinitum till they overwhelm healthy cells.

Pharma companies are hard at work developing telomerase inhibitors, but consider the reverse. If this enzyme prevents shortening of telomere caps in normal cells, no one will age any more. Mortality rates would plummet. The cosmetic industry would convulse. Anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle creams will vanish, the market for plastic surgery, hair dyes, vitality pills and rejuvenating clinics will shrink, even oldage homes and medicare and life insurance companies will feel the pinch. Healthcare, vacations would rise. And the gods won't be the only immortals any more!







Many of India's notified special economic zones (SEZs) want to exit, downsize or postpone their SEZ-specific obligations. Blame it on flaws in the basic SEZ policy itself, and not just the slowdown. Though India's SEZ policy was inspired by global examples of government-industry efforts to cut costs and multiply forex earnings, in practice, the compromises made to adapt the model to Indian situations have undermined its viability.


The Comptroller and Auditor General's performance-audit of some of the functional SEZs reveal domestic earnings are larger than exports for most of them. According to an OECD study, domestic sources account for 75% of the capital formation in Indian SEZs.

The real problem is that SEZs are a half-baked solution to the rapidly rising demand for urban spaces generated by India's fast growing industry and services. With the number of new urban dwellers over the next 15 years expected to be at least 200 million, India needs full-fledged new towns, not the townlets represented by SEZs: the size of an SEZ is capped at 50 sq km, whereas the additional demand for urban space to accommodate 200 million plus new urbanites would run to tens of thousands of sq km.

India needs hundreds of new townships equipped with world-class infrastructure to accommodate large-scale migration of newly skilled workmen from rural to urban areas. That requires new urban planning, innovative policy to release farm land and reskill people. Merely hoping that the private sector would build the urban infrastructure the economy needs, if they are given tax sops just won't do.

SEZs that enjoy liberal tax-incentives practically become a huge drain on the exchequer. True, export growth has been higher from SEZs than from the domestic tariff area. However, harm done to DTA industry by the unequal competition from SEZ units offsets such gains. In the final analysis, a policy framework that is non-discriminatory in providing (full) indirect tax concessions for exports and minimises import tariffs would prove to be a better bet.









Telecom regulator Trai's decision to seek billing of mobile telephone calls on a per second or actual use basis is undue micro management in an extremely competitive market. Trai should concentrate, instead, on removing obstacles to internet telephony or VoIP and a quick roll out of number portability.

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The government could also auction off 3G spectrum at the earliest so that telecom companies could move up the value chain and depend less on voice revenues. Trai's tariff initiative comes even as companies such as Tata DoCoMo and Shyam Sistema already offer plans on the basis of seconds of usage. Each telecom circle now has close to ten players and more are joining the fray. Some operators offer 50 paise per minute, some others meter calls, not minutes per call.

In such a competitive environment, all operators are likely to offer use-based plans soon, but that would be a commercial decision based on business logic. In contrast, Trai's regime would be a forced one, which could well be premature and may not be in the long-term interest of the industry or consumers. Analysts estimate that industry revenues could drop 10-15% if the per second regime is imposed on operators. Share prices of telecom companies have already crashed following the news.

Reduced profitability and lower valuations in a Trai-imposed pricing regime would impair the industry's ability to raise funds for expansion. We have still long way to go in obtaining our basic telecom penetration goals and then there is the large fund requirement for infrastructure in 3G and broadband services. The industry should, therefore, be allowed to evolve without any unwarranted regulatory shocks.

Telecom companies are themselves under competitive pressure to de-risk their business by reducing reliance on low-value voice services and migrate to a business model with diversified revenue streams from multiple value added services. The government and the regulator need to facilitate the transition by making more spectrum available for 2G services and holding the 3G spectrum auction at the earliest. Using the idle USO funds for spreading broadband services, of which voice would be a part, should be the other priority. Tariffs should be left to the markets.








At the World Economic Forum's summer conference which was held — where else but — in China its president Klaus Schwab announced that China would lead the world out of economic recession. This was not a pro forma obeisance to a host country: Schwab was being utterly sincere. One single statistic will tell us why. In the first eight months of 2009, yuan-denominated lending by China's banks rose by 8.15 trillion ($1.65 trillion). This is a rate of fiscal expansion that far outstrips even Obama's in the US.

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Sceptics may point out that all of this is not 'new' lending. Some increase would have taken place anyway to meet normal working capital needs. In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics itself pointed out that the increase in lending this year over the increase in the same period of 2008 is "only" 5.04 trillion yuan. But how much of the increase can one assume to be 'normal' when a country is in the grip of recession, exports have fallen by a quarter, profits have nose-dived, and slackening domestic demand has pushed down the wholesale price index by 7.1%?

No. Let us not fool ourselves. At least three quarters of it, possibly all of it, is a product of China's fiscal stimulus package. And, as was mentioned in an earlier column, unlike the UPA's fiscal stimulus package the lion's share is going into investment, i.e., building the future, and not into consumption, which alleviates stress in the present. Proof of this is the phenomenal rise in its urban fixed assets in the past eight months. These have increased by 3.8 trillion yuan ($550 billion)!

This is three times the entire fiscal stimulus package, regrettably going into consumption, that India will release in 18 recession-hit months till March next year.

Such an explosive rate of growth of investment is neither economically nor politically sustainable. It is being financed by a carte blanche to China's 80,000-plus cadre-manned investment agencies to borrow whatever they want from the state-owned banks with little or no thought about its economic viability. No country, least of all India, should follow China's example blindly. But that does not mean that we cannot learn a great deal from the way in which it has happened.

The secret of the new Chinese 'miracle' is the way in which the planning of investment has become decentralised in a highly centralised state. The first part, the decentralisation, took place over a three-year period at the beginning of the reforms, roughly between 1980 and 1983 when Beijing wound down centralised planning and allowed much of the power to invest to slip into the hands of the local governments. Following a near-decade of anarchy during which a race to invest, between the central and local governments, pushed investment up by as much as a third in several of the years, Beijing began reining in the local governments through a succession of taxation and banking reforms, the first of which occurred in 1994.

However, these reforms were only partially successful. Having developed an appetite for investment, the party cadres that man China's local governments continue to dream up projects first and look for ways, fair or foul, of financing them. This struggle has created the paradox of an authoritarian state with a top-down power structure in which investment is largely planned from the bottom upwards.

When the global recession hit China all that Beijing had to do was release the brakes on borrowing from the banks that it had imposed in order to curb the uncontrolled boom of the previous six years. Within six weeks of announcing its 4 trillion yuan fiscal stimulus plan, the State Reform and Development Commission was inundated with 25 trillion yuan worth of project proposals. Since then its problem has not been of promoting investment but preventing it.

India represents the opposite paradox, for it is a democratic state with a bottom-up political structure in which economic power — specifically the power to sanction investment — still remains concentrated largely at the very top. In the heyday of the mixed economy, despite the fact that industry was a state subject, New Delhi exercised complete control over non-agricultural investment. But after 1991, when it progressively wound up its own planned fixed investment, it did not transfer the power to sanction such investment to the state governments. This left a vacuum that no one has been able to fill.

The vacuum occurred in the infrastructure. While the Centre all but ceased to invest, it nevertheless retained the power to sanction such investment. Left out in the cold, the states found themselves having to do the dirty work of acquiring the land and raising tariffs on essential services. More and more are balking at doing so.
Today if 95% of the Indian stimulus package has gone into consumption (while 91% of China's has gone into investment) it is not because the UPA is indulging in populism, but because there is little else that it can do. For over the last 18 years the Centre has forgotten how to invest. This became apparent when, in an attempt to fight the industrial recession, NDA finance minister Yashwant Sinha set up an infrastructure development fund in 2000, with a seed capital of Rs 10,000 crore. A year later most of the money remained unused, because the ministries 'did not know how to spend'.

If there is any thing that India needs to learn from China, it is the benefits that will accrue from transferring the final power to sanction investment completely (subject to infrastructure clearances) to the state governments and to retain direct sanctioning powers only for inter-state projects. The competition this will unleash between them will not be unlike the race to invest between the central and local governments in China and will have many of the same beneficial results.

Unlike China, India will not face the peril of over-investment, because unlike China the bulk of the investment will be made by the private sector. India also has a professionally-run banking system intent on making profit, a well developed and regulated money market and an exceptionally able and vigilant central bank. This reform will also make it possible for the central government and the Planning Commission to focus on building the infrastructure of backward states so that they don't get left behind, and providing expert advice to the state governments as they come to grips with their new responsibilities.








There is a story of a little girl who was on the beach one day after the tide had rolled out. On this beach hundreds of fish washed up on the shore.


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The little girl was picking them up one at a time and throwing them back in, when a man approached her saying, little girl, you can't make a difference for there are thousands on the beach. She looked at him as she threw another one in and said it made a difference to that one.

The Bible says: "Unless you are honest in small matters, you won't be in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities." Most of us tend to think it's big things that make a big difference, but when we trace the sequence of events in our day-to-day life, we will find that eventually what leads to that big opportunity is the result of a lot of little things being done. If we look at all the little things that we did, we will see the invisible train that leads to our big breaks. A journey of thousand miles begins with one step, including downwards treks.

Sound mind in a sound body. We may earn good grades in our studies but at the same time if we do not take care of our health and our mental well-being, all is futile. We need to manage our time in such a way that we find time for exercise, that we eat at the right time and that we get sufficient sleep. All this daily routine looks small but if not followed, the consequences could be colossal.

Peter F Drucker, the management guru, says: "Man's most perishable resource is time and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed. Each minute is a little thing and yet, with respect to our personal productivity to manage, the minute is the secret of success."

How do we maintain our relationship with our friends, our parents? Do we take time to remember some of the simple courtesies that are so important in our effort to build personal regard and graciousness in relationship with others? Do we remember the smile, the compliment, the positive note and the word of encouragement?

We should do these important little things without reserve. They should be a part of our everyday manner as we groom ourselves socially in the critical young-adult years. One quality of character most needed in this world is compassion for other people. One of the urgent lessons of life is to learn how to deal with imperfections in ourselves and in others. And if we are not altogether pleased with us, it should be easy to understand why we are not altogether pleased with others.







We talked at length about the kind of buying that is coming in in dips in yesterday's trade of course, today the market cues at least the global cues are pretty positive, you think today's session could be the one which could show some upsides for the markets and probably even for the telecom space?


I think after the initial burst of the gap up due to global cues, I do not see a major movement in the Nifty today. A lot of the short covering or the bounce that had to happen has happened yesterday. I think maybe after the first half an hour it could get a little more stock specific action.

Some of the stocks that did show some momentum yesterday, some new stocks, BHEL, L&T that have not really participated are getting attention, I mean people are now looking at the capital goods sector. The other one Reliance Infra has been mentioned, I think that probably above Rs 1285 is heading to about Rs 1340, that is again a new stock that has not really done much but I will go the other way around on IT.

I think maybe the smart guy is already booking profits not so much from the results but just looking at the way the rupee is appreciating. So, after the initial burst you could see few stocks going up, maybe even banking going up but IT could witness some more profit booking just based on the rupee sort of sentiment with the rupee appreciating so much that is not so good for the IT pack. So I think I will be little careful on the market.

If you look at the overall chart, sure, there is nothing to suggest that the top has been made or market has fatigued out but you will look out for signs. We saw volatility yesterday. If it continues to be volatile then there maybe indication that we are topping out but if it was just a one off yesterday and we start to rally again then you can forget about that one day volatility.

The stock picks that you have given for today, all the four are on the buy side?

If you look at the stocks that have been battered in the last few sessions, they are a little oversold and should give a trading bounce. If you remember Unitech clearly given a sell call on your channel when markets were very bullish at that time at Rs 110 and that time you expressed a surprise that somebody is giving a short call but the target was about Rs 95 and now that it has hit that I just feel that it not so much a buy from a whole but maybe just an oversold trading bounce should come into the stock. So I think with the stop of yesterday's low of Rs 94 it could be a trading buy for a bounce back to Rs 104-107.

The other one is very interesting, Hindustan Oil Exploration, it was the darling stock in August, went up some 140%. Now, everybody seems to have forgotten the stock, it has come down from Rs 400 all the way to Rs 290 odd. I think it is due for a trading bounce normally after such a big 25% correction. So, I think in this band between Rs 295 and Rs 280 it can be bought for a pullback at least Rs 315-325-335 sort of levels. So I mean it might need some base building out here but it is a stock that you feel since the market is so high, you have a well defined stop loss and you are buying a stock that has come down so much. So you still can see a trading bounce.

The other one has been a favourite of mine, Central Bank, I think every fall has been a fantastic trading buy for a pullback and the fact that it has made a new high at Rs 164 and is corrected I think it will give you a trading bounce back to about Rs 150-153. So that is the third pick today.

One word, we have spoken about it but Bharti, how do you play the stock today?

Its a little oversold on maybe the extreme short term charts like let us say an hourly chart, so a trading bounce yes but the damage has been done and I think the bounces are going to be shallow and at least in the short term you will get enough supply on every bounce, so yes, it can bounce back to Rs 370 sort of level but it is a stock that maybe again needs some sort of soul searching base building at lower levels.








After the Bharti-MTN deal fell through, Sunil Mittal, in his first exclusive interview to the media, spoke to ET NOW on a wide range of issues, including Trai's proposal for per-second tariffs, telecom stocks and life after MTN.

Telecom stocks have crashed on Tuesday. What do you make of Trai's plans for per-second billing and its impact on price wars and tariffs?

Well, I think stock prices go up and come down and I am not going to comment on it. I think its for market experts to read into movements on stock price. At Bharti, we don't focus on where the stock prices are. We only focus on the market place. At ITU in Geneva, everybody is singing praises to Indian telecom model. We offer the lowest tariffs in the world. We had a system for forbearance for years now. The regulators and the government should let it remain like that and let market forces decide.

Is there scope for further tariff cuts and rising competition? What will be the impact of the tariff wars on your margins and bottom line?

We look at the market place. We are not obsessed with EBITDA margins. Margins and market cap is an outcome of what we do with the customer. My company's focus remains on the customer. We don't put margin numbers on the table to work. Margins are an outcome. Is there room for more cuts? I think very little but given the competitive intensity and with new operators failing to pick up revenue, they have to work hard towards attracting customers. There is no hard and fast rule on the lowest-pricing level but at the end of the day, it has to make economic sense. Large operators with volume and scale should be able to hold ground and as a leading operator in the country, our cost of production is the lowest and so we need not worry about whether we can compete with some of the new offerings. New operators, who do not have revenue streams or scale, how are they going to manage? And this will have to be tested out in the market place over a period of time and let's not get too distracted and worried in the short term because of special offers or tariff reduction.

Turning to MTN deal, why do you think the South African government did not approve the deal?

It is the prerogative of the South African government whether to give approval or not. We had enough from our side and in deals of this size, one cannot predict anything till it is done.


What happens to Bharti now?

There is nothing negative for us that the deal fell through. Not the end of the road for us. All this is a part of the process. At Bharti, we have been working to expand globally, especially in the African market. When you consider a deal such as this, challenges always build up, new ones (challenges) keep coming up. Bharti and MTN had worked out in agreement after months of talks, we worked hard on it and had reached a stage where both companies were all set to sign the deal. Till the last minute, both sides had held out hope that it could be signed.

Are you disappointed by the MTN failure?

Absolutely, one works hard to make such a large deal happen. If it doesn't happen, we will move on and that's where we are. It's back to business as usual. We have lots of things to do hopefully, there will be other opportunities.

Did you underestimate the concept of duel listing?

This is not an issue that we could have anticipated. Say, if you are seeking FIPB nod for MTN to pick up a stake in Bharti, you can anticipate what will happen since you know the process. But in the case of DLC, we could not anticipate what will happen. End of the day, we respect and bow down before the South African government, its regulatory authorities, its national treasury on this issue. MTN is their national champion, and they wanted to keep it that way.

Is this the end of the chapter vis-a-vis MTN?

For the time being, yes. Will it open again? Who knows, nobody can tell. This time they stretched their hands and we held it, held on to it firmly. But, we are confident that we will be invited by companies for acquisitions and partnerships in the future. Everybody knows, we are out there looking for opportunities. But, for the moment, we are taking a break. Let us rest for a while before we venture out again.

Are you bidding for Millicom's Sri Lankan assets?

I will not be able to comment. Its going on for several months, a team has been working on it. It comes within our existing business in Airtel since it is not a new territory. I am sure it must be progressing in its earnest.

Are you talking to Zain?

I would avoid any speculative talks. We are not engaged in any talks with any player with Africa or any part of the world. When the time comes, we will certainly share it with media.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It is debatable if freer, and increased, movement of people in search of a living can really hasten a global economic recovery, as the authors of this year's UN Human Development Report claim. But it is undeniable that migrants leave a profound impact, usually for the better, not only on communities they go to but also the ones they leave behind (through remittances home). The UNDP report, noting that a billion of the world's 6.7 billion people — one person in every seven — are migrants, seeks to dispel the myth that most relocate from poorer developing countries to richer developed ones. In reality, the vast majority move internally within countries or within their own regions. Both internal and international migrants could face a degree of hostility in host communities. Especially when jobs are scarce, there could be regressive and discriminatory legislation and other forms of unfair treatment. HDR 2009 says this is not only harmful to those at the receiving end, but in the long run does considerable damage to communities and nations engaging in such practices. Appropriately enough, the document urges governments around the world to liberalise immigration policies to offer migrants a "new deal". There are legitimate fears about this in India and other nations plagued by unchecked illegal immigration. But Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who released the report in India, made it clear that the benefits outweighed the costs. He said India would make a strong pitch for the free movement of workers across the world at the forthcoming WTO talks. Indeed, all governments would do well to heed the UNDP's call to implement a "core package" without delay: reducing transaction costs (passport, visa, recruitment fees — which usually hit the poor hardest), liberalising entry channels so that more can emigrate, host countries ensuring new entrants can enjoy basic rights, healthcare and schooling for children, newcomers are not denied equal pay for equal work, decent conditions at the workplace, and (very important for millions of Indians in the Gulf) that laid-off migrants be given an opportunity to hunt for another job or at least wrap up their affairs properly before being forced to return home. Three-fourths of all migrants move internally — such as millions in this country who go from villages and small towns to big cities in search of jobs — and they have their own problems. While India, unlike China and some other countries, does not have laws impeding such movement (indeed moving freely throughout the country is a fundamental right), internal migrants are often forced to live in vast urban slums without healthcare or basic services, face the constant threat of eviction, and are often — as seen recently in Mumbai — victimised by chauvinistic forces who perceive them as a threat. In this context another suggestion in the report could be useful: if the newly-arrived were promptly allowed to transfer voting rights to where they live and work, political parties would compete to secure benefits for them instead of targeting them. Other than the status of migrants, there is a sobering message for this country in HDR 2009. India has stagnated at the 134th rank out of 182 countries in human development terms, which takes into account life expectancy, primary education and standard of living. Even Bangladesh and Pakistan have moved up. China has done spectacularly, moving up seen notches in a year. For India, this should be a wake-up call.








A few days ago, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar compared Lal Krishna Advani to a "pickle that had turned rancid" and said that the party president must make way for younger leaders in the BJP. He also observed that Mr Advani's political innings is more or less over. There was nothing new in Mr Parrikar's statement. Many BJP leaders, both young and old, have been saying this after the BJP's poor show in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

However, what was new and quite surprising about Mr Parrikar's call was the biting language he chose to express his views on Mr Advani, one of the founders of the Jan Sangh and a respected politician who had been enthusiastically acknowledged by the rank and file of the BJP as the most suitable person to lead the party after the exit of Atal Behari Vajpayee, just five years ago in 2004.

It is important to remember that Mr Advani came under sharp attack from his own partymen only after the BJP's miserable show in the 2009 elections in relatively large states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and others. He was reminded of the truth of the saying that "nothing succeeds like success" when many of his erstwhile followers and admirers started their vituperative attacks on him.

Till recently Mani Shankar Aiyar had been credited with the most pungent quote of criticism against Mr Advani. When Mr Aiyar was asked to comment on Mr Advani's resignation after the Jinnah controversy in 2005, he said, "I am not bothered about him, he is politically dead". This was a remark by a Congress leader known for his wit and humour.

But in Mr Parrikar's description of Mr Advani as "rancid pickle" there was neither wit nor humour, only an overdose of ridicule. One is tempted to remind Mr Parrikar, a former chief minister of Goa, that when a political party loses power in a state, the losing chief minister is also expected to gracefully own up his share of responsibility for the debacle. Mr Parrikar also needs to be reminded that use of strong language does not make a statement stronger.

But it will be useful to examine how Mr Advani suddenly found himself at the receiving end of such sharp criticism from some of his own partymen. Firstly, this is not the first time Mr Advani is facing criticism. It is, of course, a first for him that it is now coming from his own party people.

In 2005, during a visit to Pakistan, Mr Advani hailed the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and faced severe criticism for the first time in his half-century of public life. Though none of the statements from his partymen matched the severity of Mr Parrikar's language, he tendered his resignation immediately on return from Pakistan. But Mr Advani's senior colleagues had come forward to defend him and to express their full faith in his leadership. No political leader could have hoped to receive such strong expression of support and loyalty as Mr Advani received from his party then.

If I am to make an assessment of the various statements Mr Advani had made while in Pakistan, I will say that the words inscribed by him in the visitor's book at Jinnah's mausoleum in Karachi led to genuine unhappiness in the minds of even his admirers in India, though many refrained from joining his critics out of respect for him. Mr Advani had referred to a few of Jinnah's pronouncements, and statements by others on Jinnah, that showed the changes in Jinnah's stand on secularism at different stages of his political career. Such statements, including references to Jinnah's oft-quoted speech of August 11, 1947 at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and Sarojini Naidu's tribute to him as the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity", reflected different facets of his political philosophy and career. It is a well-known fact that even after his 1947 speech, Jinnah announced that Pakistan was and would continue to be an Islamic state. Probably, if Mr Advani had not referred to Jinnah in the words he chose to use in the visitors' book at Jinnah's mausoleum, the reaction would not have been so severe.
The election reverses of 2009 would not have been so hurtful to Mr Advani if his prestige had not been dented in June 2005. But even being in this relatively vulnerable position should not have encouraged a senior colleague like Mr Parrikar to resort to the present level of attack.

The exit of top leaders from positions of power and influence in the government or the party is a common phenomenon in democratic countries. There have been several reasons for such exits. Normally poor health, as in the case of Mr Vajpayee, can be justified for the exit of certain political leaders. In some cases, allegations of corruption, nepotism and favouritism have been reasons for the exit of top leaders from their leadership positions. Mr Advani, in his long period of public life, has never been accused of any conduct even remotely associated with corruption or nepotism.

Mr Advani is one of the very few top leaders of India's political parties who have maintained their reputation for impeccable integrity. If such a person decides on his own will to unburden himself of his political responsibilities, the least that one should expect from one's partymen is not to add insult to injury by the use of unkind words.








I'd like to introduce you to two friends of mine, Mr Bentham and Mr Hume.
Mr Bentham knows everything. He went to Stanford, then to the Kennedy School before getting a business degree. He's got multivariate regressions coming out of his ears, and he sprinkles CBO reports on his corn flakes for added fibre.

Mr Hume is very smart, too, but he doesn't seem to make much use of his intelligence. He worked on Wall Street for a little while, but he never could accurately predict how the market was going to move tomorrow or the day after that.

Mr Bentham is a great lunch partner. If you ask him to recommend a bottle of wine, he'll reel off the six best vintages on the wine list, in ranked preference. Mr Hume can't even tell you which entree to order because he doesn't know what you like.

If you put Mr Bentham in charge of the government, he'd proceed with confidence. If you told him to solve a complicated issue like the global-warming problem, he'd gather the smartest people in the country and he'd figure out how to expand wind, biomass, solar and geothermal sources to reduce CO2 emissions. He'd require utilities to contribute $1 billion a year to a Carbon Storage Research Consortium. He'd draw up regulations determining how much power plants would be allowed to pollute.

He'd know about battery efficiency and building retrofit programmes, and he'd give you a long string of dazzling proposals. So then you'd ask him to solve the healthcare mess.

He'd say we have to cover the uninsured without bankrupting the country. He'd design a set of insurance policy regulations to make sure everybody gets uniform care. He'd get out his magnifying glass and help pay for expanded coverage by identifying waste in Medicare.

Then, he'd say, we've got to change the way government reimburses providers. He'd set up a $1 billion-a-year Innovation Centre within the department of health and human services. He'd organise a superempowered Medicare commission to rewrite regulations and hold down costs. He'd set up comparative effectiveness research centres with teams of experts who would determine what treatments work best. He'd encourage doctors to merge their practices into efficient teams because he'd seen successful pilot programmes along that line.
Mr Hume, I'm afraid, wouldn't be so impressive. If you asked him to take on global warming, he'd pile up reports on the problem. But if you walked into his office after a few days, you'd find papers strewn in great piles on the floor and him at his desk with his head in his hands.

"I don't know the best way to generate clean energy", he'd whine, "and I don't know how technology will advance in the next 20 years. Why don't we just raise the price on carbon and let everybody else figure out how to innovate our way toward a solution? Or at worst, why don't we just set up a simple cap-and-trade system — with no special-interest favourites — and let entrepreneurs figure out how to bring down emissions?" On healthcare, he'd be much the same. He'd spend a few days reading reports. Then one day you'd find him in the foetal position, weeping. He'd confess that he doesn't know enough to reorganise a fifth of the economy. He can't figure out which healthcare delivery system is the most efficient. "Why don't we just set up insurance exchanges with, say, 12 different competing policies? We'll let everybody choose a policy, and we'll let people keep any money they save. That way they can set off a decentralised cascade of reform, instead of putting all the responsibility on us here". And then Mr Hume would beg you to leave him alone.
I've introduced you to my friends Mr Bentham and Mr Hume because they represent the choices we face on issue after issue. This country is about to have a big debate on the role of government. The polarisers on cable TV think it's going to be a debate between socialism and free-market purism. But it's really going to be a debate about how to promote innovation.

The people on Mr Bentham's side believe that government can get actively involved in organising innovation. (I've taken his proposals from the Waxman-Markey energy bill and the Baucus healthcare bill.)
The people on Mr Hume's side believe government should actively tilt the playing field to promote social goods and set off decentralised networks of reform, but they don't think government knows enough to intimately organise dynamic innovation.

So let's have the debate. But before we do, let's understand that Mr Bentham is going to win. The lobbyists love Bentham's intricacies and his stacks of spending proposals, which they need in order to advance their agendas. If you want to pass anything through Congress, Bentham's your man.








Think of a journalist on a dangerous assignment and the classic image that flashes in one's mind is the war reporter in the flak jacket dodging snipers' bullets. Big international names like Rageh Omar, Christiane Amanpour and our desi versions dripping glamour and star power. The arc of risk, however, is widening. Today it embraces a new breed of war reporters whose territory is the environment around us. His/her glamour quotient is lower than the familiar battlefield veterans but the risks are just as high.

A recent study by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), the Paris-based media watchdog, suggests that it isn't always bombs and bayonets, conflicts or clashes that put journalists at risk. As the world's population grows and the scramble for dwindling supplies of natural resources gets more fierce, exposing deforestation, pollution and environmental damages can be exceedingly dangerous in many countries.

The report — "The dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues" — draws attention to 13 cases of journalists and bloggers who have gone missing (probably killed), savagely assaulted, jailed, threatened or censored simply because they were trying to turn the spotlight on destruction of the environment.

Why is covering ecological damage becoming such a hazardous activity? The short answer: there is a lot at stake in the environment today. Reports on the state of the resources, the way they are used, and by whom, can potentially create problematic situations for many companies, organised crime groups, governments and middlemen who profit from the environment. Curious journalists probing environmental concerns and their fallout on communities are seen as roadblocks, even enemies to be physically eliminated.

In most cases, the report notes, the violence is the work of thugs in the pay of criminal entrepreneurs or corrupt politicians. In some countries, paradoxically enough, the local population often supports those responsible for plundering the forests or polluting factories although it is the most direct victim. Those who get rich ravaging natural resources buy community support by tossing a few crumbs — this inevitably comes in the form of work for the desperately poor. Not surprisingly, anyone alerting the outside world about deforestation and pollution is seen as an unwanted menace.

Journalists reporting on the environment are not at uniform risk everywhere. Some live more dangerous lives than others. But the violence to which many are subjected concerns us all. Depletion of natural resources is an increasingly sensitive issue everywhere.

The RSF report talks of journalists like Maria Nikolaeva who works for the Sofia-based weekly Politika and wrote a story about an illegal real estate development project in the Strandzha National Park, Bulgaria's largest nature reserve. The day the story appeared, two men went to Nikolaeva's office and told her: "You know full well you shouldn't write things like this. And you know what happens to curious journalists, they get acid thrown at them".

Brazilian journalist Vilmar Berna, editor of the Niterói-based environmentalist daily Jornal do Meio Ambiente, which exposes clandestine overfishing and threats to protected marine life in Rio de Janeiro Bay, is a constant target of threats and intimidation attempts. A bloody, half-burnt body was dumped outside his home in May 2006. As if the meaning of that "message" was not sufficiently clear, an anonymous woman caller then warned him he could be killed soon. He filed a complaint with the Niterói police and hired two bodyguards. But he could not afford to keep paying them and no longer has protection. These are two randomly selected examples from the report.

Journalists covering environmental issues in India are no doubt better off. They may be unwanted, but they are unlikely to be liquidated. For most, the daily challenge is a disinterested boss who likes more entertaining stories.

The caricature of the "environment reporter" as a disgruntled jholawala, a perennial nag, wired to oppose all manner of development in the country, however, is no laughing matter. As the fight for natural resources gets more edgy in a society with deep fissures and inequalities, communities find themselves pitted against corporations. Those without power or privilege find it tough to get themselves heard, and those writing about such uncomfortable truths, learn about occupational hazards the hard way.

Veteran journalist Darryl D'Monte, chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India, says that journalists face enormous threats when they travel in remote areas to investigate cases of environmental destruction. D'Monte was assaulted around a decade ago when he was trying to reach the Baphlimali plateau in Kashipur block, in the tribal district of Rayagada in Orissa, where bauxite is located.

Goa-based reporter Frederick Noronha had to deal with dirty tricks when writing about tourism-related pollution on the Goa beach belt. "Local hoteliers tried to arm-twist the owners of the website which I used to write for. They managed to get that website to pull the article off the site, though there was nothing wrong with it. I was outraged and made sure it appeared in more prominent space".

Sunita Narain, the fiery editor of Down to Earth, the environmental magazine brought out by the Centre for Science and Environment, has been at the receiving end of pickets, legal notices and even obscene cartoons. Groups of men have come and stood outside her office, chanting offensive slogans and waving placards following reports in the magazine about the pesticide industry and the impact of its harmful practices on the health of communities. One of the persons found picketing was later found to be a lobbyist for the plastic and pesticide industry.

Just about every cub reporter in the Indian capital knows that one: the rites of passage is to do an expose of the illegal mining and stone quarrying that goes on at Delhi's southern border with Haryana — and to get threatened by goons at the spot.

Environmental controversies are growing in India as elsewhere. And uncovering inconvenient truths remains the journalist's job. Sadly, most journalists are on their own when it comes to defending themselves. As the going gets tough, the tough will get going, but there is a need for allies.

The RSF report is a timely reminder about the need to give greater visibility to the threats journalists encounter while taking on vested interests and to mobilise public opinion in their support.


n Patralekha Chatterjee writes on contemporarydevelopment issues, and can be contacted at [1]








If you believe, as Maurizio Seracini does, that Leonardo da Vinci's greatest painting is hidden inside a wall in Florence's city hall, then there are two essential techniques for finding it. As usual, Leonardo anticipated both of them.

First, concentrate on scientific gadgetry. After spotting what seemed to be a clue to Leonardo's painting left by another 16th-century artist, Seracini led an international team of scientists in mapping every millimetre of the wall and surrounding room with lasers, radar, ultraviolet light and infra-red cameras. Once they identified the likely hiding place, they developed devices to detect the painting by firing neutrons into the wall.
"Leonardo would love to see how much science is being used to look for his most celebrated masterpiece", Seracini said, gazing up at the wall where he hopes the painting can be found, and then retrieved intact. Seracini was standing in the Palazzo Vecchio's grand ceremonial chamber, the Hall of 500, which was the centre of Renaissance politics when Leonardo and Michelangelo were commissioned to adorn it with murals of Florentine military victories. In July this year it was the political hub, as evidenced by the sudden appearance of Florence's new mayor, Matteo Renzi who was rushing from his office to a waiting car.

The scientific lecture ceased as Seracini moved quickly to intercept the mayoral entourage. He was eager to use the second essential strategy for retrieving a Leonardo painting in Florence: Find the right patron.
That has always been a good tactic in the home of the Medicis and bureaucrats like Machiavelli, a friend of Leonardo's who signed the contract commissioning the battle mural. Seracini, an engineering professor at the University of California, San Diego, had spent years in bureaucratic limbo waiting to try his neutron-beam technique, but he saw this new mayor as his best hope yet for finding Leonardo's work.

The quest had begun more than three decades earlier with a clue fit for a Dan Brown novel. In 1975, after studying engineering in the United States, Seracini returned to his native Florence and surveyed the Hall of 500 with a Leonardo scholar, Carlo Pedretti. They were looking for The Battle of Anghiari, the largest painting Leonardo ever undertook (three times the width of The Last Supper). Although it was never completed — Leonardo abandoned it in 1506 — he left a central scene of clashing soldiers and horses that was hailed as an unprecedented study of anatomy and motion. For decades, artists like Raphael went to the Hall of 500 to see it and make their own copies.

Then it vanished. During the remodelling of the hall in 1563, the architect and painter Giorgio Vasari covered the walls with frescoes of military victories by the Medicis, who had returned to power. Leonardo's painting was largely forgotten.

But in 1975, when Seracini studied one of Vasari's battle scenes, he noticed a tiny flag with two words, "Cerca Trova": essentially, seek and ye shall find. Was this Vasari's signal that something was hidden underneath?
The technology of the 1970s did not provide much of an answer. In 2000 Seracini returned to the hall with new technology and a new financial patron, Loel Guinness, a British philanthropist. By taking infra-red pictures and laser-mapping the room, Seracini's team discovered where the doors and windows had been before Vasari's remodelling. The reconstructed blueprint, combined with 16th-century documents, was enough to locate the spot painted by Leonardo.

It also offered a potential explanation for Michelangelo's failure to do anything more than an initial sketch for his mural: He must have been miffed that Leonardo had been assigned a section of the wall with much better window light. "This room is huge, but it wasn't big enough for both Michelangelo and Leonardo", Seracini said.

The new analysis showed that the spot painted by Leonardo was right at the "Cerca Trova" clue. The even better news, obtained from radar scanning, was that Vasari had not plastered his work directly on top of Leonardo's. He had erected new brick walls to hold his murals, and had gone to special trouble to leave a small air gap behind one section of the bricks — the section in back of "Cerca Trova".

But how could anyone today know what lay behind the fresco and the bricks? How could anyone peer six inches into the wall without harming the historic fresco on the surface?

Seracini was stymied until 2005, when he appealed for help at a scientific conference and got a suggestion to send beams of neutrons harmlessly through the fresco. With help from physicists in the United States, Italy, Netherlands and Russia, Seracini developed devices for identifying the tell-tale chemicals used by Leonardo.


One device can detect the neutrons that bounce back after colliding with hydrogen atoms, which abound in the organic materials (like linseed oil and resin) employed by Leonardo. Instead of using water-based paint for a traditional fresco in wet plaster like Vasari's, Leonardo covered the wall with a waterproof ground layer and used oil-based paints.

The other device can detect the distinctive gamma rays produced by collisions of neutrons with the atoms of different chemical elements. The goal is to locate the sulphur in Leonardo's ground layer, the tin in the white prime layer and the chemicals in the colour pigments, like the mercury in vermilion and the copper in blue pigments of azurite.

Developing this technology was difficult, but not as big a challenge as getting permission to use it. Seracini kept running into political and bureaucratic dead ends. So when he saw the new mayor dashing across the Hall of 500 that July afternoon, Seracini rushed to appeal to Renzi, a fan of the project.

With the politesse of a Medici, the mayor paused and listened, then promised to further this artistic endeavour.


"My dream is to see this discovery very soon", Renzi said. "Soon" can be a highly relative term in Italian bureaucracies, but the mayor did indeed go on to restart the approval process and meet with one of the current patrons of the project, the National Geographic Society. Last week, the mayor said he expected it to proceed shortly.
Once he gets permission, Seracini said, he hopes to complete the analysis within a year. If The Battle of Anghiari is proved to be there, he said, it would be feasible for Florentine authorities to bring in experts to remove the exterior fresco by Vasari, extract the Leonardo painting and then replace the Vasari fresco. Of course, no one knows what kind of shape the painting might be in today. But Seracini, who has extensively analysed the damages suffered by many Renaissance paintings, said he was optimistic about The Battle of Anghiari. "The advantage is that it has been covered up for five centuries", he said. "It's been protected against the environment and vandalism and bad restorations. I don't expect there to be much decay".

If he is right, then perhaps Vasari did Leonardo a favour by covering up the painting — and taking care to leave that cryptic little flag above the trove.


By arrangement with the New York Times








Is British Prime Minister perpetually out of his brainbox on powerful psychotropic substances, as everybody now seems to believe? Does he stagger out of bed and say: "Aw, Sarah, I've got a meeting with Harman in half-an-hour. Light up the crack pipe, will you?" Looking at the man, you would not think so. That strange, strangulated smile, the ever encroaching brow — this is not the demeanour of a man who, for example, mainlines camel tranquillisers every morning. If he is scoring regularly, then I suggest he changes his dealer, because he's being ripped off. Mandelson, meanwhile — well, there's another issue.

The BBC's Andrew Marr is in a spot of bother because he asked Gordon Brown straight out if he was a druggy, having already asked him if he were about to go blind. I quite like the idea that the country is being led by a severely visually impaired Dennis Hopper; it has a certain rapturous end-time beauty about it. But Labour MPs are now in revolt and may boycott Marr's fine Sunday morning chat show as a consequence of this impertinence; they have been jabbering about it endlessly in the bars at Brighton. Well, boys, you have about seven months for that threat to contain even a modicum of force, so enjoy it while you can.

Most people seem to be agreed that Marr was on good ground talking about Brown's eye problems, but on decidedly dodgy ground when he brought up the drugs. Certainly, there has been fury from Labour, with even perfectly sensible people insisting that the question was inappropriate. There has been spite and malevolence too, from Alastair Campbell. On a blog, the former spin doctor castigated Marr's approach and suggested that there were certain things which Andrew Marr wouldn't like to be asked about in an interview in front of millions of people.

There have been no rumours about Andrew Marr which, even if proven to be true, would remotely affect his ability to do his job. And secondly, Andrew Marr is a mere journalist, not the Prime Minister. Even for those who, with some justification, dislike the double standards employed from time to time by our trade, there is a difference.
Another theory doing the rounds is that Marr felt sort of compelled to ask the question because he is perceived by the Right to be, at best, an unaligned wet liberal and, at worst, a card-carrying activist of what is still referred to, by some foaming maniacs, as the Blair Broadcasting Corporation. And thus, in a wish to be truly rigorous, he was pushed towards an area of questioning which even a hardline Tory would consider de trop.

And finally, the sort of moderate, considered view is that Marr overstepped the mark by asking about prescription drugs, but was within his rights when referring to Brown's eyesight. Of all the points of view we've examined this seems to me to have the least to commend it. Brown has been blind in one eye for a considerable period of time; the only evidence to support the thesis that his other eye is now playing up comes from the blogosphere. "You need hard evidence before you ask the Prime Minister something like that", I was told, in reference to the drugs. But where's the "hard" evidence for Brown's recent problems with his eyesight? It's a false dichotomy. The Labour Party has insisted that the only references to Brown's alleged reliance on prescription drugs comes from "extreme Right-wing" bloggers. But that's not true: Right-wing columnist Simon Heffer alluded to it in his column for the Daily Telegraph, and the (sorta) Left-wing columnist Matthew Norman mentioned the same thing in passing in one of his own columns. In fact, Matthew actually wrote that if the Prime Minister wasn't taking prescription drugs, he should be. In any case, the prescription drugs business had been established in the mainstream press every bit as much — if not more — than those worries over Brown's eyesight. I suppose people consider it ruder to ask someone if they're going whacko than if they're going blind.
Ten years ago, a Right-wing maniac came into my office at the BBC and told me that Tony Blair was a kiddie-fiddler, and he had the paper evidence to prove it. He was deluded and mad and there was no truth to the charges. But it is the sort of thing which these days would be a staple on the Right-wing (and far Left-wing) blogs — and quite possibly would leak, one way or another, into the mainstream press, the columnists for which scour the blogs for titbits.

My guess is that 99 per cent of the stuff that swills around the blogosphere is certifiable rubbish written by paranoid idiots and that we all, in the deadwood press, have a duty to disbelieve unless we find compelling evidence to the contrary. But in the meantime we flail around, desperate to believe one or another rumour, the more unlikely and bizarre the better, because one in a hundred, and probably the least likely (John Major and Edwina Currie, anyone?) will turn out to be true. It seems hard, then, to attack Andrew Marr simply for asking the questions at a time when the blogosphere is, bizarrely, trusted as a conduit of information.


By arrangement with the Spectator









WITH a Congress victory in the 13 October Arunachal Pradesh assembly election considered by many to be certain, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week addressed an election rally at Pasighat and, in the context of the disturbing rumblings from the North, it was only appropriate he took time off his busy schedule to assuage public concerns. He promised speedy development and should this come to pass then Arunachalese can look forward to a better way of life. He said that by 2013 the Rs 125-billion 1,840-km Trans-Arunachal Highway will be ready. And when rail and air connectivity and the construction of two small hydel projects are complete, many in the remote areas will benefit. The highway, which the Union ministry of shipping, road and transport has notified as NH-229, will start from Tawang, along the Chinese border, and cut through 11 districts to end at Saikhowaghat in Assam. This apart, Itanagar will get a facelift when a green airfield and the Rs 156-crore rail link between Itanagar and Harmuti in Assam is completed by 2011. By that time, Bharat Nirman will link 500 villages. Only last year, during his visit to the state, the Prime Minister had announced a Rs 24,000-crore package for development and infrastructure projects. With Arunachal Pradesh being the most undeveloped state in the region, this is well-deserved.

Before elections, politicans would have voters believe that they would work for their welfare but distance themselves once elected. The Centre might have prioritised the development of roads in the North-east. But let alone new roads even some of the existing ones are in such a sorry state that last week alone transporters in Nagaland were forced to withdraw services on an imporant route. In Manipur, tribal students even blockaded the highway to pressure the government to implement repairs.







THE United Nations mission in Afghanistan appears to be as fractured as the country. For the comity of nations, this must be the astonishing message of the recall of the senior American diplomat who was the UN's deputy special representative in Kabul. The Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon's somewhat drastic action in removing Peter Galbraith exposes the sharply divergent perceptions within the world organisation of the spurious mandate that has reinstalled Hamid Karzai to the presidency. Whether or not the head of the UN received Barack Obama's nod can only be a matter of conjecture. Suffice it to register that Galbraith's ouster underlines the cross-currents the USA and its allies have to contend with in this exercise in international policing. The action brings to a head the differences between the UN's No. 2 man in Kabul and Kai Eide, the Norwegian diplomat who heads the mission. True, Galbraith had supervised the 20 August election. It is a measure of the fraudulence that he had insisted on a full investigation into the ballot-stuffing, a no-nonsense stand that brought him into conflict with Eide. As head of the mission, the latter had advocated a more cautious and less confrontational approach. While this verged on diplomatic evasion, Galbraith's stand had made him almost persona non grata vis-a-vis the Karzai government. It was a clash of both the style and substance of diplomacy in a tormented part of the world. Ban Ki-moon's action illustrates his support for Eide. By all accounts, Galbraith may have wanted to upset a dubious applecart, a rocking of the Afghan boat that neither the Secretary-General nor his chief envoy thought would be desirable. This is evident from his recent interview: "The disagreement has been about how active the UN should be in promoting the goal of free and fair elections."

Galbraith's removal, unwittingly perhaps, confirms the victory of the incumbent President. For all the electoral fraud and the dissatisfaction of the USA and its allies with Karzai, it is now only too obvious that the world body wouldn't risk a parting of the ways. Significantly enough, the removal follows the consensus of the USA and its NATO allies to accept Karzai as the President for the next five years. Which at once relegates the possibility of a run-off election, at any rate unlikely during the harsh winter. The focus will inevitably be on the war against the Taliban. This is the larger message beyond the split in the UN mission in Karzai's Kabul.







SMALL indeed is the solace Air India's spokesman offers in asserting that there was no danger to passengers on its Sharjah-Delhi flight when the commander roughed up a member of the cabin crew. True the airline is in the process of taking disciplinary action, as are the Delhi police and the National Commission for Women, but in denying the risk factor (even if in response to media speculation) the airline is betraying its current mindset. The plane with 106 passengers on board landed safely: so it's not as big and bad a deal as is being made out, after all the conduct of the crew of the Capital's infamous Bluelines is not awfully different. The same kind of thinking that influenced its executive pilots into a strike (if a private carrier's flyboys got away with that so will we). And who cares if rats run around the cabin, are they are not uncommon in some homes too? Few would care to recall Indira Gandhi opting for an Indian Airlines short-haul jet, involving many technical halts en route to Europe and back, after rats had been spotted on the Air India plane earmarked for her trip. String these incidents together and the picture confirms the collapse of not just managerial systems and authority, but also the work ethic and professional pride that the national carrier had retained even after it became a sarkari entity.


Nobody can deny that the airline wilted under competition, feasted on the ethnic Gulf traffic (was that because the loos had a familiar stench?), and allowed itself to be run to the ground, particularly under the present political dispensation. The merger was anything but seamless, AI insisting that IA ate its cake and has it too. And now just about every staffer is convinced that the rot is being perpetuated as a precursor to privatisation ~ no radar is required to plot the links between a couple of private players and the supremo at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan. A not-too-hard political decision is required if Dr Manmohan Singh/Sonia Gandhi do not wish to administer the last rites to the first Indian brand to acquire international repute. And in the short term, now that AI is the "official" carrier of CWG 2010, maybe the Games' mascot could be asked to depute some lesser cousins to protect its aircraft!







IN the years preceding the formation of WTO, some developed countries had the benefit of subsidies to help them export goods at cheap rates. But the developing countries could use the protection of quantitative restrictions as well as high tariffs. In the post-WTO regime, the developed countries maintained their huge subsidies and occasionally even increased it. The developing countries were asked to give up quantitative restrictions; they are now being asked to rapidly reduce tariffs. In consequence, developing countries such as India are becoming far more vulnerable ~ compared to the pre-WTO days ~ to cheap imports.
The Human Development Report states: "The problem at the heart of the Doha Round of the WTO negotiations can be summarised in three words ~ rich country subsidies. Rich countries spend just over $ 1 billion a year as aid to developing countries' agricultural sector and just under $ 1 billion a day in support of their own agricultural systems."

It warns, "At the WTO itself, new threats are emerging. Instead of addressing the fundamental challenge of removing market distortions, developed countries have embarked on an elaborate subsidy re-packaging exercise. The danger now is that an agreement at the WTO will leave intact the very distortions that the Doha round was tended to remove, in the process undermining the prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals."


THE decade preceding the establishment of the WTO had seen a rapid drift towards the concentration of the world's seed industry in the hands of a few large multinational companies. They were gaining increasing control over the collection of germ plasm, much of which had been collected from developing countries. These seed companies also had huge interests in pesticides and herbicides. Through genetic engineering, they tried to develop seeds that could absorb large doses of herbicide developed by the same company.

It was in such circumstances that the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights  was introduced in the Uruguay round. Thus were the seed companies able to extend their control over the seeds sector of almost the entire world. The USA and the EU have interpreted WTO rules to allow for stronger patent protection of plants and animals. Patents have also been awarded in the USA and Europe for product processes used by and known to farmers in developing countries. Farmers' control over seeds is a basic requirement for food security and bio-diversity, but this may be lost by the patent laws and new seed laws.

The TRIPs agreement is certain to lead to a rise in the price of medicines. One estimate pertaining to India suggested that the costs to households associated with higher prices for medicine will increase by some $670 million, almost double the current spending on all anti-bacterial medicines. The rise in the price of the next generation of drugs is coming at a time when microbial resistance has reached alarming proportions. In most developing countries the bulk of the burden of the rise in the price of medicines will have to be borne directly by households.

A leading expert on trade issues, Bhagirath Lal Das, argued before the Hong Kong Ministerial: "The WTO negotiations on industrial tariff (more technically called Non-Agricultural Market Access or NAMA) can have a profound impact on India's labour, particularly those who have limited capacity or opportunity for shifting from one sector to the other. Drastic and rapid lowering of Customs duty will reduce the prices of imported products, which can offer stiff competition to domestic products. If the imports increase, our industries may close down, thus resulting in the loss of employment and wages."


As for what actually happened at the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the WTO, Martin Khor states: "These NAMA commitments extracted from developing countries are unprecedented in the history of the multilateral trading system. When implemented they will have severe de-industrialisation effects."


SIMILARLY, the excessive concessions made in the services sector, increasing the possibility of a higher role for profit-motivated transnationals in such essential sectors as water and health, can have an adverse impact on the poor.

As the HDR has pointed out, the Doha Round of WTO was billed as a 'development round' and rich countries promised practical measures to achieve a fairer distribution of benefits from globalisation. But "four years later, nothing of substance has been achieved. Trade barriers remain intact, agricultural subsidies have been increased, and rich countries have aggressively pursued rules on investment, services and intellectual property that threaten to reinforce global inequalities."

The WTO-regulated international farm trade presents an alarming scenario for developing countries and their farmers. The problem of dumping is ever more threatening, but the protection from this is being rapidly withdrawn.

The scope of reviving the Doha negotiations should be examined in the wider context. A concession or two should not be allowed to conceal the reality of a fundamentally unjust trade system unleashed by the WTO regime. Of course, talks are necessary. But any interaction must assess whether the world has actually moved towards a just and fair international trade system. These basic questions must include a complete reappraisal of the earlier agreements and rules that have violated justice and fair trade.












Getting past the Thackerays is a crucial test of creative cunning for film-makers in Mumbai. Karan Johar, together with the lead actor in his latest release, has now proved himself clever at it. Mumbai can only be called by that name, and to refer to the city as Bombay several times in a film is an offence. Wake Up Sid has committed that offence, so its maker must apologize to those who oversee such things in the city. And this is what Mr Johar did on a sort of politic reflex. But what kind of precedent does this set, and what kind of endorsement does this give to Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena? The thing to do, as Mr Johar has shown, is to be quick, abject and public in one's apologies to the man and his men. Since Mr Johar was dealing more with muscle than with a mind, he also had to mouth some platitude about realism, and then hope for the best. But not a word, in all this, about 'freedom of expression', a phrase that begins to have a quaintly archaic ring to it in all this cutting-edge pragmatism. Such freedoms are not what are at stake here. The real disaster averted by Mr Johar's prompt apology is a purely commercial one. A high proportion of the film's revenue comes from the Mumbai area, and not being allowed to show it there would have cost its producer several crore of rupees. So, never mind if the film-maker looks cut down to size, the politician triumphant and the Indian democracy a bit dented — it is enough that the film is being shown unchanged. And the free radicals of India should think twice before scrambling up their high horses. Is it not supposed to be the most important thing for the artist to be allowed to show his work, no matter what the means are to that end?


But what happens to Mumbai, and to Maharashtra, in the process? For Mr Thackeray and the MNS are speaking on behalf of all Maharashtrians, however that may be defined. 'Other' visitors from north India, Bihar or any other state have been made to understand repeatedly, and often violently, that they have no business to tarnish the purity of the Maharashtrian economy by exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to live and work anywhere in the country. The state government and its law-and-order machinery make sure, with their pragmatic passivity, that the MNS and its leader get away with this sort of thing every time.








The suggestion of the Tamil Nadu chief minister, M. Karunanidhi, that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India be granted citizenship has touched a raw nerve. Mr Karunanidhi has not only been accused of borrowing ideas, but also charged with undermining the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. Any move towards a permanent settlement of Sri Lankan Tamils in India, it is being argued, would weaken the cause for Tamil nationalism and encourage Sri Lanka to push more Tamils out of its territory. The political party arguing this idea most forcefully is the Bharatiya Janata Party. Given its troubled engagement with the subject of refugees, the BJP's reaction is expected. Less so that of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, whose leader, J. Jayalalithaa, had stridently espoused the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils in the last elections. Ms Jayalalithaa writes off Mr Karunanidhi's suggestion as another of his diabolical plans. She also raises the question of the status of the other refugees in India — the Tibetans, the Myanmarese and the Bangladeshis. The AIADMK leader fears that these peoples too may claim citizenship if Sri Lankan Tamils are granted such rights in India.


It is typical of the nature of politics that such a large humanitarian issue as the welfare and wellbeing of displaced populations should be reduced to a narrow contest between rival politicians. It is impossible to dismiss entirely Ms Jayalalithaa's fears of the refugee issue being manipulated by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam to suit its purpose. In West Bengal, the ruling Left has successfully combined refugee welfare with a vote-enhancing gambit. It is perhaps this, and not so much the aggrandizing of the Tibetans, Myanmarese and Bangladeshis, that bothers Ms Jayalalithaa. But like her, many others refuse to see that it is not the helplessly uprooted people, but electoral politics that complicates the Indian demography. The settlement, or lack of it, of Sri Lankan Tamils in India should be treated as an issue different from the resettlement of the internally displaced people within Sri Lanka. In any case, the delay in Sri Lanka over IDPs should not be regarded as sufficient reason for India to confine people in tin shacks. Mr Karunanidhi's suggestion, however impractical, should be treated as a way of returning to the difficult and much-reviled question of how to define and treat refugees on Indian soil.









It is not easily comprehensible why those who have held positions of responsibility and trust in our atomic energy and defence establishments should have been so unmindful of the national security repercussions of the public controversy they have stirred up over the status of our 1998 thermonuclear test. This is not an academic debate, a professional wrangle between scientists about the correct interpretation of complex technical data from some experiment with only in-house implications — however the conflicting arguments are settled.


The issue raised touches the core of India's national security. It is so sensitive that even the initiation of the debate by scientists associated with Pokhran-II on whether the country has, in fact, the kind of nuclear deterrent it officially claims to possess has profound external ramifications. India is building a nuclear deterrent to meet real threats to its external security, not as an addition to its internal security armoury. The government has maintained for 11 years that the thermonuclear and other tests were fully successful, that no further testing is required, that India now has the wherewithal to build a broad spectrum credible minimum deterrent, and on that basis a nuclear doctrine has been enunciated. The dissenting scientific voices, by publicly disputing this official position, are sowing internal confusion and giving comfort to our adversaries.


They imply that senior figures of the department of atomic energy, by their unwillingness to entertain outside technical evidence of the test's failure, and by insisting on their own evaluation of diverse data based on information about weapon design, material content and so on that they alone possessed, are guilty of wrongly certifying to the country's political leadership, and the nation, that the test was successful, whereas it was actually a "fizzle".


If, as is claimed, a Defence Research and Development Organisation report on the purported failure of the test was presented to the government end-1998, it is unimaginable that if it contained clinching arguments an internal review would not have been ordered, with efforts being made by the government to ascertain the factual position.


If the argument is that having once rejected the dissenting view, the then government was obliged to suppress the truth, then it needs to be asked whether the matter was raised afresh with the United Progressive Alliance government, in the reasonable expectation that it would appraise the issue with an open mind. If it wasn't then it must be explained why not. And if it was, and the new government reached the same substantive conclusion as before, then the evidence that the test had failed was inconclusive. It is well to remember that the tests were projected as a great national security achievement by the National Democratic Alliance government, as opposed to the pusillanimity of the previous Congress governments on the issue of testing, and therefore the UPA government would have had the incentive to nail fraudulent thermonuclear claims. And, even if for the sake of national interest, the findings could not be made public, at least the cabal of scientists responsible for hiding the truth and duping the country through technical obfuscation, could, at the very least, have been moved out.


If the intention in publicly raising a controversy over the issue now is that the door for testing is likely to be

soon closed definitively with the Barack Obama administration's zeal to bring the comprehensive test ban treaty into force, and that India should therefore test while there still is opportunity to do so and have a reliable thermonuclear weapon in its panoply, then it must be said that such advocacy is as ill-timed as the "disclosure" about the failed test. Why was this revelation not made when the issue of India's right to test was at the centre of the acrimonious debate on the nuclear deal? The debate lasted three years, and so ample opportunities were available to critically intervene in it to protect the freedom of action to test that has suddenly become so important now.


If the argument is that India can take the risk of scuttling the nuclear deal by unilaterally testing now, then why was not any attempt made earlier to scuttle the negotiations on the deal by divulging the failure of the thermonuclear test and generating public pressure on the government to reject the test-connected "right to return" provision of the negotiated accord, as mandated by United States of America's nuclear legislation? The consequences for the nuclear deal and relations with the US apart, unilateral testing by India could threaten to unravel the global non-proliferation regime, isolate India internationally, expose it as an irresponsible power with lasting political consequences for its ambition to play a more prominent international role, invite a slew of sanctions and damage its economic prospects. The hubris of over six per cent growth at a time of global recession should not blind us to the realities of our situation.


The demand for a peer review of the data from the thermonuclear test may sound reasonable, but it is hardly workable in practical terms. This demand implies the rejection of government claims, reiterated recently, that several such reviews have been undertaken in the last 11 years. A proper, independent peer review is demanded, but what does it mean in effect? Would it entail sharing sensitive information with experts of high public standing in diverse test related disciplines, after they have been sworn to secrecy? Would any government concede an outside review and indirectly acknowledge it had mishandled a vital matter until now? But would such a review necessarily efface the damage already done?


Naturally, if the findings of any workable peer review were to uphold the government's position, they could be made public, but the sceptics could still say that the government had too much at stake not to arrange a whitewash. But would any government publicize a negative finding and open itself to accusations of compromising national security by not taking action at the right time, lying to the nation, and invite demands for fixing responsibility? Would it be wise in such a case to officially expose the gap in our nuclear deterrent and give unsolicited comfort to our enemies?


One might have hoped that after the initial deplorable indiscretion, wiser counsel would have prevented any further damaging debate. Regrettably, the clarifications by the national security adviser — functionally the appropriate authority to pronounce on the current controversy — have been scoffed at in personally pejorative terms. The argument that he lacks the scientific credentials to make a judgment would apply to the prime minister too. The recent briefing by Anil Kakodkar and R. Chidambaram should normally suffice to end a self-defeating debate, but when egos and rivalries are at play one cannot be sure. Unfortunately, the present controversy is symptomatic of the growing breakdown of consensus in society.

The author is former foreign secretary of India










The recent by-election results in Bihar have a political message for the state, and perhaps for north India as a whole. In fact, there are two messages, one positive and the other negative. The positive message lies in the defeat of all those who had ditched Lalu Prasad and his Rashtriya Janata Dal and joined the ruling Janata Dal (United). Their rejection by the people may be interpreted by Prasad as the people reposing their faith in him once again. But the real truth is that defection is not being taken kindly any more.


North Indian politics has always witnessed people switching sides for electoral gain. But the Bihar by-elections have put a question mark on this practice and politics in India is likely to gain as a result of this. Both the ruling and the major Opposition party in Bihar should now think twice before engineering shifts in loyalty in the run-up to the assembly elections next year.


The negative message is that Bihar, and north India as a whole, are still not prepared to allow any changes in land-holding patterns. The chief minister, Nitish Kumar, had initiated steps towards land reforms and his party's poor showing is being attributed to these measures. The wealth of Bihar stems from its fields, and the owners of these vast tracts, often held in contravention of the law, are unwilling to have sharecroppers and labourers eating into their pie. Soon after the results were declared, the chief minister announced that he was not going ahead with land reforms. This may help him win back support but the state will emerge as the big loser.


Feudalism has been allowed to prevail, along with its accompanying evil, casteism. Bihar's land owners — many of them Rajputs — must have been angered by the possibility of not only losing land but also losing it to the lower castes. After this aborted attempt at land reform, claims by leaders like Kumar and Prasad to be champions of social justice in the Hindi- speaking belt are bound to sound hollow. In a primarily agrarian society, there cannot be any social justice without land reform.



Prasad has emerged as the principal winner after the by-elections but does not seem as jubilant as one would expect him to be. He is aware that the chief minister's chair may elude him if the vote against the JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party is allowed to be split. This means he must win over the Congress to his side, but that party seems more inclined to go on its own. When Lalu Prasad and his current ally, Ram Vilas Paswan, present their cold arithmetics, the Congress may have to think twice, not only in Bihar but also in adjoining Jharkhand where it is time to end Central rule. However, even if the alliance of 2004 were to be revived, will the people be able to forget the bitter fights among the parties in the intervening period? Prasad wants to patch up, but is there any guarantee that in the event of success coming his way he will not turn high and mighty once more?


On the other hand, the BJP in Bihar should be in a happier frame of mind. Its leaders in the state have always felt uncomfortable about Kumar treating them as poor cousins, and they had nearly revolted once. Now with Kumar coming second to Yadav, the BJP will most certainly seek to make it clear that in a coalition allies must be shown the respect that is due to them. With the Opposition still very much a divided house, the chief minister, a clever politician, will realize the need to present a picture of greater cohesion. Unless, of course, all the talk about him being an able administrator has clouded his judgment. That will be unfortunate, both for him and the state. For in the last four years, he has given Bihar an administration that was not there in the previous years.










Pulses occupy an important place in the Indian diet. A wide variety of pulses are available and acceptable to all sections of the society. They used to serve as a low-cost protein food for common people. But it is no longer the case as the prices have zoomed.

Our pulses output in 2008-09 has declined to 14.18 million tonnes from 14.76 million tonnes in 2007-08. Their output in 2009-10 is projected to decline further due to deficient monsoon rainfall this year against the present demand of 16.77 million tonnes.

There is a big gap between demand and supply. The demand may touch 23 million tonnes by 2010. The country has had to depend on their import every year to meet a part of their shortage, and thereby spend crores of rupees in foreign exchange. The country imported 25 lakh tonnes of pulses during 2008-09 at zero duty. We should plan to produce around 25 million tonnes of pulses to meet the dietary protein needs of our rising population.

Worse still, the per capita availability of pulses has gradually declined with the increasing population and production remaining more or less stagnant. It has declined from 70 gm in 1956 to 26.4 gm against the recommended norm of 80 gm.

India being the largest pulse producing country in the world occupies the largest area under pulse cultivation; the next largest pulse growing country is China. India's contribution to the total world pulse production is around 24 per cent. During the last four decades, its production and area have remained more or less stagnant.

The contribution of pulses to the country's food production gradually declined from 16.6 per cent in 1950-51 to 10.9 per cent in 1970-71, to 8 per cent in 1990-91, to 7 per cent in 1999-2000 and to 6 per cent in 2008-09.

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Bihar are the major pulse producing states. Bengal gram and arhar are the two major pulses accounting for 63 per cent of the total pulse produce. Their present productivity in terms of yield per hectare is around 600 kg per hectare, which is quite low in comparison to that of the USA (1612 kg/ha) and other countries.

There have been a number of constraints leading to their low productivity. The area under pulses remained constant because of better returns from high-yielding cereal seeds. Pulse production did not increase due to non-availability of improved technology, and high-yielding seeds.

Also, many of the seeds have been susceptible to pests, diseases and weather fluctuations. Application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has been low. These pulses are mostly grown under rainfed conditions. Pulse production has also not been remunerative as there have been no incentive to farmers. Besides, traditional processing for dehusking and milling of pulses into 'dal' give low yields.

Inadequate facilities to store pulses have made their cultivation less profitable. Insect and rodent infestation and mold growth during post-harvesting handling, storage and distribution of pulses cause substantial losses, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Birds and rodents account for considerable losses during drying and storage.


The pulse beetle causes heavy destruction of pulse seeds to make them unhygenic because of the presence of excreta. Insect infestation decreases the nutritive value of pulse proteins and reduce their milling yields. A combination of fumigation and post-proofing of bags preserves the seeds in sound condition for about six months.

Some short duration strains of moong, urad, arhar and bengal gram have been developed, which can be cultivated in the normal cropping pattern as well as in non-traditional areas. There is scope for bringing additional area under pulses through cropping system manipulation, crop diversification and multiple cropping system, and introducing pulses on reclaimed soils and rice-fallow lands.

Improved agronomic practices, use of chemical fertilisers, rhizobium culture, pesticides and development of water conservation and harvesting techniques are expected to augment their production.

A green revolution in pulses is badly needed for a quantum jump in their production to achieve self-sufficiency. Pulse farming is being promoted in Bihar and Assam after the harvest of paddy crop. Raising pulse productivity, developing high-yielding strains, making their cultivation more profitable and economical to the farmers and consumers and improving their storage facilities are most important.

Development of sustainable pest management and control of insect infestation and microbial infection are equally required. Raising pulse production would have a great impact on the Indian agriculture and economy to save foreign exchange, and also on the nutrition and health of the people.









When I was young enough to be easily bribed by life to be happy, I was hooked by the 1000 island dressing in a tasty salad in America. I began to describe every awesome kind of joy arriving as the 1000 island dressing. And then, even the smallest triumphs over adversity or bullying or any bad behaviour not to be tolerated, became a sip out of that salad dressing and got written up in my sky blue diary.

Now I seek this healthy and comforting dish when I'm clobbered by one of life's bullying, burst open times of loss and less and even lesser! I made one bowl of it the other day in two BMTC buses when both the conductor and the driver in a Pushpak bus gave me extra change to deprive me of my ticket. I stood up to the rudeness and the bullying and got my tickets and ate up my salad. It was as if Puccini's heavenly music was pampering my ears.

I also taste this salad which seems to be a combination of crisp cauliflower, fresh green peas, fat potatoes, corn and assertive green palak when I firmly deal with vampirism posing as friendship in my personal affairs. But it comes out of the micro wave of living less often when I can convince my cats to make up their minds about coming in or going out of the door instead of dilly dallying like I do with solving my most pressing problems, being too meek or  lazy. It seems to me that the problem unsolved, is more interesting and often spawns a poem or a story which seems richer than the loss I am enduring!

Luckily this permanent dressing can be cooked up with the smallest of ingredients such as picking up the 10 or 12 or even 20 fallen cuttings of the portulaca plant in my favourite nursery, which are always lying there waiting to be collected honestly and innocently and safely, (since no one will arrest you) to be turned into six new pots for free.

Portulaca planting is like refurbishing a rose without expertise — this baby rose never demands expertise or dreadful competition — my kind of flower! And life's most enthralling moments are made up of small helpings which add up to a 1000 and more blessings and the recipe is home made and inside us. Often under the grime and around the gruesome trolls that lumber over us and even growl! When the non-essentials and the trolls have been packed off or scraped off, this salad of sense and sensibility cooks itself into the most awesome and addictive treat!








Just when Israelis thought we had a respite from the harmful repercussions of the profoundly unfair Goldstone Mission Report, it transpires that Hamas is insisting Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas push the Security Council to consider Richard Goldstone's bill of particulars against Israel (during Operation Cast Lead at the turn of the year) - or else the deal due to be signed between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo on October 26 will be in jeopardy.


Abbas is also under withering pressure from within his own movement to exploit Goldstone for all its worth. That would have been Abbas's natural inclination too, but the Fatah chief bowed to US pressure to allow the report to be shelved at least until March 2010.


The Obama administration appreciates that if Goldstone monopolizes the daily agenda, Binyamin Netanyahu's government will be too preoccupied to conduct meaningful talks with the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, a toxic environment dominated by Goldstone will sap any popular support within Israel for further compromise with the Palestinians.


Indeed, even very dovish Zionists, former Haaretz editor David Landau for instance, think Goldstone is "misguided." Centrist theoreticians such as Yossi Klein Halevi, meanwhile, posit that the report might compel a fundamental shift in Israeli security strategy - one that simply will not tolerate a Hamas enclave in Gaza because it is "legally" impossible to protect Israeli civilians from such an enemy.


GOLDSTONE - as by now everyone knows - would apply fanciful notions of international legality to stymie Israel from protecting its people.


Fortunately for the US-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan-Pakistan against the perpetrators of 9/11 and their supporters, the Goldstone principles have not been unleashed on it. And, providentially for Western civilization, there were no Goldstone principles to inhibit Roosevelt and Churchill when they confronted fascistic fanaticism in their day.


Put aside the barefaced anti-Israel bias of Goldstone which allowed the report to find that Hamas did not use hospitals for its command posts; did not commandeer Red Crescent ambulances to transport its rockets; did not shoot from within UN-operated buildings; and did not use mosques as ammunition depots. Forget how comparatively little space Goldstone spent worrying about whether Israeli children were returning from school, or whether the streets of Sderot were crowded with people going about their daily business when Palestinians unleashed their rockets. Ignore the long swaths of the report which have nothing to do with Gaza, but gave the jurists an excuse to pontificate about "Palestinian Occupied Territories" and the relentless repression of free speech within Israel.


Focus instead on how the Goldstone precedent would limit other democracies from defending themselves against terrorist organizations specializing in anti-civilian warfare. Goldstone would make quarantining enemy territory illegal. A last-resort embargo on Iran to block it from fielding an atom bomb? That would be illegal because Iranian civilians would suffer.


Imprisoning captured terrorists? Illegal. Using sophisticated weapons against a less well-armed terror infrastructure? Illegal. Bringing non-lethal pressure to bear on non-military targets - such as flour factories, sewage treatment or roads - to hasten the end of a conflict? Illegal.


Heaven help Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy if even prima facie evidence turns up to suggest that their militaries deliberately inflicted suffering on enemy civilians.


Because of "structural flaws" in the Israeli legal system, Goldstone has given this country just months to set up a process that basically self-enforces the emasculation of our army - or our leaders could, ultimately, be hauled before an international tribunal as war criminals.


To add insult to injury, Goldstone expects Israel to pay reparations to Hamas for the damage caused when we tried to get them to stop violating our border.


OF COURSE, we're supposed to give Goldstone credit because he's a friend of Israel; because his daughter lived here for some time; and because his name appears on the stationery of a number of worthwhile organizations here. Moreover, didn't he ask Hamas to release Gilad Schalit "on humanitarian grounds?" And didn't he give Hamas hell, too?


Well, actually, he originated the convoluted idea that attacks against Israeli civilians "would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity." In any case, Hamas is so plainly unconcerned that anyone will understand such prattle as blame that it is using the Goldstone Report to batter the hapless Abbas.


And it's too early to assess how much damage the judge's work will yet do....








Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, passed away on Friday in Warsaw, Poland, aged 90.


Edelman entered Poland's political life as a member of the youth section of Bund, General Jewish Trade Union, which back then merged Jewish left-wing political organizations on Polish soil. Since the death of his mother when he was 15, he had largely had to fend for himself.


During World War II, he was a Jewish Combat Organization commander and in 1943 he took part in the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto against the Germans, but after its breakdown he managed to flee to the Aryan side of the city. Once he was there, he immediately joined the ranks of the Polish underground resistance. In 1944, he participated in the Warsaw Uprising, another failed attempt at liberating Poland's capital from German occupation.


According to those who loved and respected him, Marek Edelman was a man of tough character, unafraid of expressing unpopular judgments. Without doubt, the life that he had lived imposed many difficult choices on him; still, Edelman had always despised following guided paths, even if that led to exposing himself to difficulties or danger.


After WWII, when the majority of those from his generation who survived the Shoah chose to go to Palestine, Edelman decided to stay in Poland. In 1946 he moved to the city of Lódz, where he married Alina Margolis, a nurse he met at the Warsaw ghetto hospital, and later graduated from medicine, specializing in cardiology.


In 1967, after having worked for years in the Sterling hospital in Lódz, he was made redundant without explanation. The same thing happened a year later, when Edelman was sacked from the military hospital where he worked. It was back then that the dark remnants of the past haunted Poland, once again, and the country's remaining Jewish community found itself in the middle of an anti-Semitic "witch hunt." Their peril was unleashed in 1968 by the Communist authorities as part of an internal struggle for power.


WHILE EDELMAN'S wife decided to emigrate to France with their two children, he was determined to stay in Poland. Why? He had always refused to answer similarly formulated questions, accusing them of over-simplifying a complex issue; nevertheless, he once responded with the same openness that had characterized him during his whole life: "Someone had to stay with all those who died here."


Marek Edelman's political engagement earned him widespread respect in contemporary Poland. In the 1970s, while still pursuing a career in cardiology, he became engaged in the dissident Workers' Defense Committee, which gave birth to what was later known as the first major pro-democratic movement behind the Iron Curtain - the Solidarity Trade Union. For a short period he was an intern of the regime, along with other oppositionists, and in 1983 he refused to participate in the Ghetto Uprising's 40th anniversary honorary committee, set up by the Communist authorities.


Hanna Krall, a chronicler of the Polish Jews' past, perpetuated Marek Edelman's lifetime record in her world-acclaimed book, Shielding the Flame. The opus' reflects Edelman's afterthought on the nature of his medical profession. "God wants to dim the candle's light, and I have to shield it quick, before he notices," he described his craft as a doctor.


Awarded a degree honoris causa by Yale University and Université Libre de Bruxelles, he had always treated Poland as his homeland, even at times when the country's authorities remained hostile and mistrustful towards its Jewish citizens. In the 1970s, when the anti-Semitic hysteria ended, Edelman resumed to work as a doctor. The innovative method of treating heart diseases that he had developed saved many lives in Poland.


Marek Edelman's legacy is of dedication and compassion to those in need. A witness of the 20th century's greatest atrocities, he never lost his faith in humanity and remained loyal to his beliefs. Whether struggling against the Nazis in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto or curing his patients' illnesses, Marek Edelman would not let the light dim, shielding the flame by all means. It is how he should be remembered.


The author is a freelance writer who divides his time between Warsaw and Istanbul.










On September 29, Richard Goldstone presented his report on the Gaza conflict to an enraptured UN Human Rights Council. The Council, in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power, commissioned his report. Goldstone promoted his 575-page smear campaign against the State of Israel by parading his Jewishness and then analogizing his work to his prior efforts to combat apartheid.


At its core, the report repeats the ancient blood libel against the Jewish people. Or as Goldstone casts this abomination for a modern audience, Israel "deliberately…terrorize[d] a civilian population;" Israeli "violence against civilians w[as] part of a deliberate policy."


The report claims to be a human rights document but never mentions the racist, genocidal intent of the enemy which Israel finally confronted after years of restraint. It invents laws of war which never mention the "right of self-defense," and it relies on testimonies from witnesses speaking under circumstances that gave rise to "a fear of reprisals" from Hamas should they have dared to tell the truth.


After the report was presented, the Council resembled an assemblage of vultures moving in on their prey. But instead of adopting a resolution intended to implement the report's recommendations, on October 1, the matter was tabled until the following Council session in March 2010.


REPORTS INDICATE that the American administration told the Palestinian Authority to back off. So the delay is not an indication that the hysterical Goldstone report went too far even for the UN. After all, this lead human rights body is populated by the likes of China and Saudi Arabia.


What is less clear, however, is what the breathing space will mean. Does President Obama plan to use the opportunity to extract concessions from Israel in exchange for putting the Goldstone report permanently to rest? Or does he appreciate that there can be no peace progress so long as Israel's alleged "peace" partners are bent on gutting its right of self-defense, and the phrase "living side-by-side in peace and security" is meant to apply to a party of one? Initial signs are worrying.


The Bush administration refused to lend the Human Rights Council any credibility. While aware of the fact that the Council had adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all other 191 UN member states combined, the Obama administration reversed course. The United States joined the Council and took its place as a full member for the first time at this latest session.


Given the Council's preoccupation with Israel, participating and lending it legitimacy handed the Obama administration new leverage - against its ally. In the past, Canada insisted that anti-Israel resolutions be brought to a vote, rather than railroaded through by "consensus," and courageously voted against.


But when the United States came on board, Canada rotated off the Council, thus creating a dynamic in which Israel became dependent on US proclivities.


The Goldstone report, however, has forced the Obama administration to recognize that the leverage over Israel presented by Council membership is not cost-free. No Israeli administration is going to take a seat at a negotiating table that its "peace partner" has festooned with a sword of Damocles.


So the report presents the president with a dilemma: how to avoid alienating his new friends in the Arab and Muslim world while keeping the peace process percolating? Moreover, sooner or later the Goldstone "rules" of engagement could well be turned against American action in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.


The Obama administration needs to make a policy decision on the Goldstone report quickly. There are likely to be various attempts to insert references to the report at the UN General Assembly this fall.


Goldstone himself can be expected to continue seeking the limelight. In September, he made the unprecedented move of commandeering the UN Headquarters' press room in New York to release his report, even though it had been authorized by a Geneva institution and was due to be considered shortly. Having made recommendations to continue the witch hunt, including at the Security Council, Goldstone is very likely to attempt to turn the report's "implementation" into a permanent meal ticket.


The president, therefore, should be under no illusions. Waxing eloquent about multilateral engagement will not make the report and its progeny all go away - if that was ever his game plan.


UNFORTUNATELY, IT appears that the president may have a different agenda. Speaking at the Council in the presence of Goldstone, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner said that the United States was ready "to engage in discussion of this report," and the US takes Goldstone's allegations against Israel "seriously." Posner was well aware that the report found that violence against Palestinian civilians was part of a deliberate Israeli policy, and yet could only manage to respond: "The report makes negative inferences about the intentions of Israeli officials… on the basis of a limited factual record." The only problem with referring the allegations to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court, according to Posner, was that "then the role of the Human Rights Council would be dramatically different."


In language similar to Goldstone's trashing of the Israeli judicial system, Posner asked the Council to adopt a resolution telling "Israel to investigate and address allegations through a credible domestic process." It therefore appears that the Goldstone report will continue to fester and that administration officials may be preparing to use its threatened revival as a bargaining chip.


Now is the time for concerned Americans and members of Congress to demand that this scandalous report be buried permanently and immediately, and that it not become a weapon in behind-the-scenes struggles between Israel and the United States on vital issues. The right of every democracy to defend itself against a fanatical enemy who is prepared to put its own people in harm's way depends on it.


The writer is a professor at Touro College, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the editor of









For years I have been active in Israel-Turkey relations, traveling often to that beautiful country, writing about it and acquiring many good friends there. The Begin-Sadat Center (BESA) for Strategic Studies, which I direct, pioneered Israeli-Turkish academic dialogues and made it its business to educate Israelis about the nature and the strategic importance of Turkey by organizing symposia and lectures. Turkish academics, journalists, and political and religious leaders were always welcome at BESA. I believe that the Israeli-Turkish strategic partnership is of utmost importance and value to both countries, and to the West. As result of being a philo-Turk, some Israelis even have called me "Mr. Turkey."


AS A true friend of that country, I am today greatly concerned. The Turkey I have learned to admire seems, unfortunately, to be sliding in the wrong direction.


In contrast to many in the West who were suspicious of the Islamic credentials of the ruling AKP party, I welcomed the ascendance of the AKP in Turkish politics. I argued that traditional Kemalist secularism needed a religious corrective to help Turkey find a delicate synthesis between rich religious tradition and modernity. I believed that an AKP-led Turkey had the potential to become a true model of moderate Islam for the Islamic world; a world that is grappling, mostly unsuccessfully, with the challenges of modernity.


Looking today at AKP foreign and domestic policies I am coming tentatively to the unpleasant conclusion that I was wrong.


Turkey under the AKP is increasingly succumbing to Islamic impulses; relegating its political and cultural links to the West to a secondary priority. For example, Turkey welcomed the despicable President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, for a formal visit in August 2008. No Western country has issued such an invitation to the Iranian leader.


Moreover, in contrast to its Western allies, Ankara announced recently that it is not going to join any sanction efforts aimed at preventing Iran from going nuclear.


Similarly, Turkey has deviated from the Western consensus by inviting Sudan's President, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, who was charged with war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Befriending such international pariahs, Ankara's moral stature is deeply hurt.


Turkey's defense of Hamas, a terrorist organization, also indicates that Turkey has sacrificed its moral compass for a very primitive Muslim brotherhood. Even the Arab pro-Western states supported Israel's struggle against Hamas. The Turkish premiere's vehement and deeply insulting denunciation of Israel during Operation Cast Lead also grates heavily on my ears. We cannot simply chalk up his criticism to cynical domestic public opinion needs.


At home, traditional Ottoman and Turkish tolerance is gradually being replaced by pressure to conform to Muslim mores and by intimidation to comply with government policies. Several friends in the business community confessed that sipping a glass of raki (the Turkish equivalent of ouzo or arak) in public could be very bad for receiving government contracts.


A sensational trial of former officers, government officials, journalists, businessman and academics, accused of plotting against the AKP government (known as the Ergenekon affair), continues to occupy Turkish attention since 2007, and seems to play a role in intimidation of political opponents too.


Similarly, the recent huge fine of $2.5 billion imposed by the tax authorities on the Dogan Media Group, which dared to adopt a critical attitude toward some government-sponsored activities, smacks of an attack on the freedom of press. Colleagues in academic institutions speak openly about leaving the country if the situation gets worse.


THE AKP-led government is still playing mostly by the democratic rules of the game. It garnered only about 35 percent of the popular vote and it could be replaced if the fragmented Kemalist camp puts its house in order and comes up with a decent political leader. Such a scenario is unlikely, however, in the immediate future, despite decline in support for the AKP in the March 2009 municipal elections.


The current negative tendencies in Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy orientation push it away from the West. Does Turkey really want to become more similar to Middle East countries? It is the job of my Turkish friends of all political hues to put a stop to this.


Turkey is amidst the throes of an identity crisis, trying to find a successful accommodation between its Muslim roots and the challenges of the 21st century. It is at a historic crossroads. Hopefully it is not too late to choose the right path, despite the many signs that Turkey is slipping into Islamist retrogression.


I sympathize with my many Turkish friends - secularists, traditional and religious - who are fully aware of the dangerous waters their government is navigating through. Hopefully, Turkish democracy is strong enough to choose the progress and prosperity that only a Western anchor can grant. The "loss" of Turkey to Islamism would be a great strategic blow to Israel and the West. But first and foremost it would be a tragedy for Turks.


The author is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the Director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.









I recently sat with four friends, 20-somethings lately returned from a six-month backpacking trip to India.


One of the highlights of their "amazing time," they told me, came in Northern India, near the border with Tibet (to the east) and Kashmir (to the west), where they bicycled down the "highest motorable road in the world": the 18,380 feet (5,359 meters) of the Khardung La pass in Ladakh province.


For one of them, at least, it was a scary prospect. She knew how to ride a bike, but didn't often do so. It felt risky.


"We started at 8 a.m. from the town of Leh. The booking agency took us and our bicycles and helmets up to the top in a jeep - slowly, because of all the dangerous bends. It took more than an hour.


"The weather at the top was freezing even though it was August. We had layers of clothes on. Our guide said we had to get going because the air was very thin, and there was a danger of altitude sickness if we hung around.


"I didn't want to do the bike ride at first," she said, "but then I decided that I would take it slowly and see how it went.


"Riding down took about three hours; the jeep followed us. At the beginning, the road was stony and really bad; if you went too quickly, you could fall off. Then it got better, so you went quicker - but then, of course, you could go too fast.


"Traffic passed us, and Indians are reckless drivers; but worse was seeing car wrecks at the side of the road, like a warning.


"Slowly it got warmer, and the scenery was fantastic: desert and snow in the same place. It was unique, majestic and beautiful. Incredible.


"At the end, my whole body was aching: but I had a feeling of achievement. I had done it in spite of being scared. It gave me a good feeling about myself - that I was stronger than I had thought. I felt more confident about what I could do."


She had taken a risk, and it had helped her grow.


WHILE most of us will not be pedaling down Khardung La anytime soon, we face a level of risk (read: danger) every day. Whether we embrace risk or not, it's an unavoidable part of the human condition, present in almost everything we do. It was there when primitive man left his cave to go and hunt down his dinner; it's inescapable today when we get in our cars to hunt down our dinners in the supermarket.


It was there for me last week in Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, when I drove to the outskirts of the village to attend a wedding.


Parking in the street parallel to a private home, I reversed a few feet to avoid blocking the entrance - then found, when I walked around the back of the car, that the roadside (such as it was) had simply ended about three inches beyond my back wheel and fallen away to become a flight of stone stairs leading down to another house. Had I backed up just a little more... well, better not to think about that.


I wasn't totally unnerved, but I did take time out to reflect on the "very narrow bridge" of life we find ourselves traversing; and I offered up a short prayer of thanks.


THE leader of a self-awareness seminar I took some time ago concretized risk in a way that was quite helpful. After asking group members what kind of eventualities they feared and collecting an impressive range of possible calamities, he drew a "life-risk continuum" on the blackboard - basically a straight line. He labeled one end "Total Risk," and the other end "Zero Risk."


"Think about it," he told us. "Both of these extremes are irrational. Life is never totally risky; nor is it totally risk-free."


Marking an X somewhere mid-line, he pointed out that this was a truer reflection of reality, and advised: "Some risk - with possible bad outcome - is inevitable, but it shouldn't be exaggerated. When you start thinking about all the terrible things that could happen when you step outside your front door, imagine this continuum with its 'risk meter' hovering in the middle, and get on with the business of living.


WRITING in the Irish Times last month, in an article titled "Irrational fear of risk lessens our enjoyment of life," William Reville, associate professor of biochemistry at University College Cork, noted that "we tend to react in an exaggerated and sometimes irrational manner to rare and unfamiliar risks and to be blasé about familiar risks and about natural risks.


"What might you feel concerned about when driving to the airport to travel by aircraft? You might worry that the aircraft will crash or be blown up by terrorists, but you probably don't even think about crashing the car, which is a far more likely eventuality than an air crash or a terrorist incident."


Other examples of "familiar risks" that tend not to bother people too much, Reville says, are sunbathing, climbing ladders, riding bicycles without helmets - and smoking cigarettes.


Despite the message of danger from cigarettes "pounded into our heads incessantly for the past 20 years," a high percentage of people carries on smoking nevertheless, while worrying about things "from which, under normal circumstances, there is little or no danger: radiation from mobile phone masts, radioactive emissions... immunization [vaccination] of infants, air-travel, 'germ-laden' domestic surfaces... and so on."


IS RISK better avoided? I'm convinced there are areas where it needs to be actively embraced.


It seems clear that our lives would be very unrewarding if, for example, we never opened ourselves up to others or reached out to strangers from fear that they might reject us; if we never took up a challenge out of worry that we might fail.


I think we need to accept that both rejection and failure are real possibilities but, at the same time, tell ourselves that we'd get over them. And anyway, why be pessimistic when success is no less of a possibility?


Like that young traveler in India, we may find out that once we dare to take a risk, we become aware of strengths we didn't know we had. We grow.


A friend put it like this: "If you sit on the sidelines while the game is going on, you'll be quite safe; you can't lose. But if you don't get out onto the playing field, you'll never win, either."


In the game of life, the players take risks; the spectators follow the action.


Many olim, had they listened to people who exclaimed, "You're moving to Israel? Isn't that dangerous?!" would have stayed where they were and missed out on the great Jewish adventure of our time.


I BELIEVE that taking measured risks - meeting challenges - is one of the best ways of staying young, never mind what the numbers say.


I've always pictured the mind as one of those old-fashioned filing cabinets, into which we put a fresh file every time we get up the courage to try something new. When we stop adding files is when we start getting old.


Look around you next time you're in any group, and search for a person whose face is alive, whose eyes sparkle with interest, whose manner is like an open door inviting new things in.


You'll be looking at someone who's aware that risk is part of life, who is meeting it head-on - and who knows that there's really no other satisfactory way.










BRITISH AMBASSADOR Tom Phillips and his wife Anne had a reunion of the four-legged variety this week when Daisy the Labrador - a guide dog they had fostered for over a year - popped round with puppies Romy and Rocko to pose for a family photo. Romy and Rocko have just started guide dog school at the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind in Beit Oved, outside of Tel Aviv. Training lasts for six months, after which Romy and Rocko will be fully employed as seeing-eye dogs.


The photo was taken ahead of a special event to be hosted by Phillips at his Ramat Gan residence on October 15 to raise awareness about the use of seeing-eye dogs in Israel. Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog will join the ambassador in addressing the guests and will watch the dogs go through a special obstacle course in which they will lead blindfolded people. There will also be musical performances by Israeli singers Danny Robus and Nili Zeidel, who is herself a guide-dog user. There are around 26,000 people currently living in Israel who are registered blind or partially-sighted, including 1,200 children. This number grows by an additional 2,000 every year.


  Although their embassies and their residences (except in the cases of consulates located in the capital) are far removed from Jerusalem, many diplomats candidly admit that they prefer Jerusalem to other parts of the country and find many reasons to visit the holy city. Not the least of these is to dine at Spoons, the picturesque restaurant in Ein Kerem run by Australian immigrant Hila Solomon. Several years ago, when Solomon started her initial restaurant venture in Yemin Moshe, it was out of her home. Patrons loved the concept of being in a homey rather than a commercial environment. The genuine ambience added to the intimacy of the occasion, and Solomon always found time to step away from the stove to mingle with her guests. But popularity has its price. Solomon's gourmet cooking attracted people no less than the surroundings in which it was served, and soon the house in Yemin Moshe proved too small to meet the demand. Solomon relocated to even-more-picturesque Ein Kerem, where her beautiful house in the Ein Kerem hills is surrounded by a small orchard and looks out on a broad panorama of magnificent views. Many diplomats have found their way there, sometimes declining invitations to more official events in favor of relaxing in Solomon's dining room or in her garden. Some have come by invitation so they can get to know the place, and others who are already familiar with the premises and the cuisine come with delegations from their countries, or simply for private dining with spouses and friends. Many business people looking for somewhere discreet to conduct negotiations over dinner have also found Spoons conducive to their needs.


On the eve of the holiday period, Solomon hosted a diplomatic lunch for Australian Ambassador James Larsen and his wife Antoinette Merrillees; Mexican Ambassador Federico Sallas; Thaddeus Hamoy, chargé d'affaires and vice consul for the Philippines, and Attaché for Trade, Tourism and Cultural Affairs Chester A. Omaga Diaz; Italian Consul-General in Jerusalem Luciano Pezzotti; Austrian cultural attaché Gabriele Feigl; and Giorgia De Parolis, first secretary - political affairs at the Italian Embassy, Tel Aviv, as well as a couple of foreign correspondents and sculptress Kristin Jai Klosterman. To add to the spice of the table talk, Solomon also invited her friend, master musician Idan Raichel, to talk to her guests about his project. Although some of them had heard him in concert in the past, there was a special quality in sharing a table with him - chatting, sharing jokes and hearing him discuss his work. Already looking ahead to next year, Solomon plans to launch a series of Friday-morning brunch events next spring and summer with concerts, and opera talks and performances. She's also considering supper parties with late-night film screenings in the garden. Her guests have included Cinematheque personalities such as Lia van Leer and Ilan de Vries, so getting hold of films for screenings should be relatively easy.


  PEOPLE WHO were on the invitation lists of a series of Turkish ambassadors are wondering whether there will be a Turkish national day reception this year. Turkish Ambassador Namik Tam concluded his tour of duty last week, and his deputy followed him only a few days later. Certainly someone of a lower diplomatic rank can host a national reception, but it doesn't carry the same weight as when it's hosted by an ambassador or a charge d'affaires.


  ANYONE WHO may have wondered why Mabat news presenter Merav Miller suddenly disappeared from the small screen should be aware that it has something to do with a change of status. Toward the end of last week - in fact, the night before Succot - Miller became a married lady when she linked her future with that of Eyal Sherman. TV personalities among the 400 guests included her on-screen partner Yinon Magal, as well as Uri Levi, Ayala Hasson, Lilach Sunin and Yigal Ravid. Following the reception, the newlyweds headed for the Daniel Hotel, Herzliya, where they were given a newly installed suite which in all probability will be advertised in future as a bridal suite. In addition to the upgraded décor, the couple received wine, exotic fruits, bathrobes for each of them, and, of course, spa treatments. Not a bad way to start off a marriage.


  HIS FATHER Abba Eban was renowned for his oratory, and clarinetist Eli Eban is renowned for his music, both as a soloist and a member of a chamber music ensemble. When his childhood friend, conductor and violinist Prof. Robert Canetti asked him to participate in a benefit concert for musically talented youngsters who represent Israel around the world, Eban immediately agreed. After all, diplomacy is a matter of communication in which speech does not necessarily have to be the key.


  IT HAS become an annual custom for representatives of Chabad to deliver an etrog and lulav to Beit Hanassi. The items presented last Thursday to President Shimon Peres by Chabad rabbis Binyamin Lifshitz, who is the chairman of Kfar Chabad, and Gershom Ohana were not imports, but grown in Israel. According to Lifshitz, the etrog and all the components of the lulav were grown in Kfar Chabad.


  ISRAEL AND Lithuania have a common hero in the person of professional basketball player Sarunas Jasikevicius, who was a member of the Maccabi Tel Aviv teams that won two Euroleague titles as well as national Israeli titles, Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Degutis told Peres when he presented his credentials last week. Because of changing borders and political situations in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, all four lay claim to Peres as a native son, and Degutis, as a representative of his country, was no exception, though he was careful not to push the matter too hard. Unlike fellow heads of diplomatic missions whose residences are mostly in Herzliya Pituah and Kfar Shmaryahu, Degutis and his wife Nida (who bears a striking resemblance to MK Anastasia Michaeli) have chosen to live in Tel Aviv because they are enamored with its readily accessible cultural offerings, such as the opera and the theater. The personable Degutis had previously met with some of the Beit Hanassi staff and had made an excellent impression. Vilna-born Yona Bar-Tal, the deputy director-general of Beit Hanassi, was particularly excited to meet him, since he represents the capital of her native country - even though she has been living in Israel since she was three years old. According to Bar-Tal's mother, she's a descendant of the Vilna Gaon.


There was also excitement around Bernardo Greiver, the ambassador of Uruguay. Foreign Ministry photographer Isaac Harari is from Uruguay, so he was happy to be on hand for the occasion, especially since Greiver, his wife and their children are Jewish. Jerusalem Post photographer Ariel Jerozolimski was even more excited because he and Greiver had attended the same Jewish school in Montevideo, though not at the same time. Jerozolimski's sister Jana Beris, who represents the BBC's Latin American service in addition to working for media outlets in Chile and Spain, was also on hand, though she rarely covers such events. Although she brought her tape recorder, she was there more as a personal friend of the family, having hosted them in Jerusalem over Rosh Hashana. There was also a certain degree of excitement over French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, who had previously served in Israel as deputy chief of mission and who is well known to Israeli officialdom. Bigot has maintained contact with the Schalit family ever since his return to Israel and has pledged that France will do everything in its power to secure captive soldier Gilad Schalit's release. Following the screening of the video clip in which Schalit sent a message to his family and the government, French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Gilad's father, Noam Schalit, to express his joy that the family had finally received a sign of life.


  WRITERS FOR The Jerusalem Post Group of newspapers and periodicals have frequently been among the prize-winners in the Search for Common Ground awards. It happened last year, and it's happened again this year. Mona Eltahawy, whose interview with Dr. Isseldine Abouelaish was published in English in the March 2 edition of The Jerusalem Report, as well as in Arabic in Qatar's Al-Arab newspaper, has been named the recipient of the Eliav-Sartawi Award for Middle East Journalism. Conceived by veteran American journalist Zel Lurie, whose own reporting of the Middle East began during the British Mandate, the Eliav-Sartawi Awards are named for internationally recognized peace activists Dr. Issam Sartawi, who was assassinated in Portugal in 1983, and Aryeh "Lova" Eliav, a veteran Israeli diplomat, politician and educator. The awards are meant to encourage journalism that contributes to better understanding and ongoing dialogue between peoples of the Middle East. Eltahawy's sensitive interview with the Palestinian physician from Gaza, who lost three daughters when Israeli shells struck their home during Operation Cast Lead, depicts a remarkable human being who, though grieving, does not allow the tragedy to embitter him to the point of hatred. Abouelaish, whom Eltahawy calls "the loneliest man in the world," remains dedicated to showing the humanity on both sides of the Gaza-Israel divide.


  IT'S RARE for the true heroines of a movie to be in the audience when the movie is screened, especially when the story on which the movie is based took place more than six decades earlier. But Holocaust survivor Marga Spiegel, now 97, and Anni Richter-Aschoff, whose German-Catholic family and their immediate friends saved Spiegel, her husband Mene and their daughter Karin from the Nazis, were members of the full-house audience at the premiere at the Jerusalem Cinematheque of Saviors in the Night. The still-spry Spiegel - who has lectured widely on the Holocaust, has brought numerous groups of German youth to Israel and has made a point of taking them to Yad Vashem - insisted that the film be shown in Israel before its German screening this week. Award-winning film director Ludi Boeken, the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Holland, agreed with her. It was important, he told the audience, that the film be screened in Jerusalem first. Aside from financial difficulties which held up the production of the film, there was considerable opposition in Germany, of all places, to making a film that showed that there were also good Germans during the war who drew red lines between humanity and inhumanity and who chose humanity even at the risk of their own lives and those of their families. Boeken noted that celebrated actress Veronica Ferres, who plays Spiegel in the film, had actually called him after reading a newspaper article about production difficulties, saying that she had been moved by the story and that she wanted to be part of the production. Her voice breaking with emotion, Ferres confirmed the story, saying that three or four years ago she had read a newspaper article about a movie that should have been made 10 years ago.


"I am German. I am not proud to be German," she said. "But if with our profession we can help people to learn history, this is the biggest success and fulfillment. Marga has enriched my life and that of my family."


Spiegel, who sat holding the hand of Richter-Aschoff, said of Ferres: "Nobody could play my life as well as she."


Also present were actresses Lia Hoensbroech and Margarita Broich, who played Anni and her mother in the film; other members of the cast; and the production team, including producer Jan von Mengershausen, director of photography Dani Schneor and Israeli associate producer Noemi Ben-Natan Schory. For Ben-Natan Schory, who is the daughter of Asher Ben-Natan, Israel's first ambassador to Germany, this was the closing of a circle. It was her father who presented the Yad Vashem medals of the Righteous Among the Nations to the families who had saved the Spiegels. Naturally, the group also visited Yad Vashem.


  HIS UNSWERVING loyalty to his Bundist philosophy precluded Warsaw Ghetto hero Marek Edelman, who died this week, from ever receiving an honorary doctorate from any Israeli institution of higher learning. Although he visited Israel on several occasions, Edelman opted to remain in Poland after the war and was highly respected, even in an era of rampant anti-Semitism. He was one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising leadership. Another is Jerusalem-based Simcha Rotem (born Szymon Rathajzer), known as Kazik, his nom de guerre. Rotem and Edelman maintained a close friendship until the end. Rotem last year accompanied Peres to Poland for the 65th anniversary commemoration of the uprising. In 1993, Stefan Grayek, who had been the long-time chairman of the World Federation of Jewish Fighters, Partisans and Camp Inmates, and who was also one of the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, accompanied then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to Poland for the 50th anniversary of the uprising. Both Grayek and Edelman had initially been scheduled to speak, but Edelman refused to share a podium with Grayek, claiming that he had not participated in the uprising. In the end, neither of them spoke at the ceremony, though Edelman did accompany president Lech Walesa when the latter laid a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto monument. Grayek died in June last year at age 92 in Tel Aviv. The feud with Edelman was never resolved.


  MOUNT SCOPUS College, one of the largest Jewish day schools in the southern hemisphere, and indeed in

the world, is celebrating its 60th anniversary not only in Australia but also in Israel. Current principal Rabbi James Kennard will be in Israel next month to preside over a November 3 reunion of former students and staff at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. The first school captains (then called prefects) were Peter Medding, Daniel Lew, Felicity Bartak and Louise Goulburn (now Louise Israeli), who took office in 1951. Medding and Israeli live in Israel. Lew used to live in Israel and was honorary consul-general for Papua New Guinea. Hundreds of Mount Scopus Old Collegians from the school's first class to last year's graduates have made their homes in Israel, living in kibbutzim and moshavim as well as in urban areas, and contributing to the nation's development in many spheres. Perhaps the best-known Mount Scopus Old Collegian is Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.


  AMERICAN FRIENDS of Magen David Adom mounts blood drives in major hotels and in public squares, thus making it easy for passers-by - both tourists and locals - to give a unit of blood that may help to save an Israeli life. MDA is conducting a Succot blood drive this Thursday, October 8, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. To date, AFMDA blood drives in 2009 have resulted in donations of more than 1,400 units, reflecting a 40-percent increase over the same period last year. Toward the end of September, American diplomats and business leaders, along with hotel staff, participated in a blood drive at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv.


David Intercontinental general manager David Cohen set the pace for hotel staff members. Donors from outside the hotel came from various American business enterprises operating in Israel and the US Embassy.


Noah Miller, sales and marketing manager for Ford Motors in Israel, stated: "We want to do our part to help raise awareness about the ongoing need and responsibility to give blood in Israel. Ford is proud to have an important role in Israeli society, and many of Israel's ambulances are Ford vehicles. If every Ford owner in Israel were to give blood just twice a year, we'd make a great impact. There is no better way to give back to the community than giving the gift of life."










The growing tension surrounding the Temple Mount threatens to undermine the calm Israel has enjoyed for the past few months. Some of the incidents of the past few days have been routine, such as Jews and Muslims worshipping and the annual Jerusalem March; others not, such as the visit by French tourists to the mosque area and the rumor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having dinner in Silwan. Either way, they underlay the recriminations and mutual threats, the diplomatic intervention by Jordan and the United States, and the street protests by masked Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The confrontation escalated yesterday with the arrest of the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Ra'ad Salah.

The Israeli government and "the security infrastructure" accused the Palestinian Authority and Salah's organization of attempts to incite their constituencies during the Sukkot holiday, when large numbers of Jews make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The PA, Salah and Muslim clerics in Arab states, for their part, tried to rally the international community and public opinion against the "Judaization of Jerusalem" and what they described as an attempt to do injury to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

For the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Jerusalem and its sacred sites are a guaranteed means of inflaming national passions and creating tension and confrontation in times of political duress. Both the violence around the opening of the Western Wall tunnels in the summer of 1996 and the second intifada, which began in 2000, started in the Temple Mount area.

Netanyahu's government played up its efforts to populate East Jerusalem with Jews while standing up against the U.S. demand for a freeze on construction in the settlements. The PA, under President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, calls for "saving Al-Aqsa" while facing stiff criticism from within its own ranks for not pressing discussion of the Goldstone report in the United Nations.

Both sides must show restraint and focus on renewing negotiations toward a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict instead of igniting a fire at this sensitive site and risking another violent confrontation. Israel has a unique responsibility due to its control over Jerusalem, and it must use utmost caution and avoid provocations and insensitive remarks such as that by Jerusalem District police commander Aharon Franco, who accused the city's Muslims of being "ungrateful."

The capital's police force has thus far succeeded in preventing an escalation of the conflict. This attitude must guide the cabinet as well in the days to come.









Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an admirer of Winston Churchill and views him as a role model, not only because of the cigar smoking, the love of history and the hobnobbing with millionaires. Netanyahu admires Churchill because of his warning against the rise of the Nazis, which isolated Churchill politically and branded him as an extremist warmonger during Britain's conciliatory period toward Hitler. Netanyahu identifies with the feeling of being a small minority that is right, warning against the danger while being ignored by the majority, which goes about enjoying itself until he is called from the political sidelines to save his people.

Netanyahu compared himself to Churchill when he opposed the Oslo Accords and earned the hostility of the Israeli "elites" who supported the Oslo process. He saw his election in 1996 as a mission to save the nation and stop Oslo, as Churchill was appointed prime minister after his dark prophecies came true in World War II.

During his decade out of power, Netanyahu found his Nazi Germany in Iran. He stood at the head of the people warning against the terror of Iranian nuclear power in the face of the indifference of the Israeli public and international community. When he declared two years ago that "the year is 1938 and Iran is Germany," the hidden message was "Ahmadinejad is Hitler and I am Churchill." When he returned to power, thwarting the Iranian threat was for Netanyahu a central aim.

The wars in Lebanon and Gaza helped Netanyahu adopt another aspect of the Churchill legacy, the bombings of German cities. When Israel is criticized for bombing Beirut and Gaza, Netanyahu responds by mentioning Dresden and Hamburg. He commonly says Britain and the United States killed many more German civilians during World War II than vice versa, yet it is clear who was the aggressor and who was the justified side in that war. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu mentioned how Churchill had warned that he was not heeded until the threat actually materialized, and alluded to him as the bomber of Dresden.

Churchill was great as a leader in war and an artist in public relations and marshaling public opinion. But even the greatest leader cannot tilt the balance of power only by virtue of his charisma. Churchill understood this well and did not delude himself that Britain alone would overcome Hitler. So he made enormous efforts to bring the United States into the war.

Like Netanyahu, Churchill also believed in "if they give, they'll get" as a fundamental principle of statecraft. The American support he received came at a price: the dismantling of the British Empire. Franklin D. Roosevelt opposed British colonialism, and in his first meeting with Churchill, when the United States was helping Britain but had not yet entered the war, the two signed the Atlantic Charter, which promised self-government for all peoples.

The surrender of the empire was not easy for Churchill, who deeply opposed the liberation of the colonies, especially granting independence to India. He called Mahatma Ghandi "a seditious ... lawyer, now posing as a fakir ... striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace." But that was when Britain was at the height of its power. As it lay exhausted and wounded before the Nazi enemy, and Churchill desperately needed American assistance, he retreated from his position. Three months after Pearl Harbor, Churchill dispatched the popular minister Stafford Cripps to India with a proposal for phased independence in exchange for Indian support for the war against the Nazis and Japanese.

The mission failed - Ghandi and the Hindi leaders refused to support Britain, and only the Muslims agreed - but the offer of independence could not be withdrawn. "India is lost," Churchill said at the end of the war. Only his defeat in the elections after the war released Churchill from taking apart the his beloved empire with his own two hands.

In Netanyahu's view, the Iranian threat against Israel resembles the Nazi threat on Britain. Like Churchill, Netanyahu hopes for American help to lift the threat; like Roosevelt, U.S. President Barack Obama demands the dismantling of Israel's little empire in the territories and the liberation of the Palestinians from occupation. It will be interesting to see whether Netanyahu also learns this lesson from the leader he admires, or whether the analogy ends with bombing.









The sweeping electoral victory won by George Papandreou, leader of the Greek socialist party Pasok, surprised the pollsters. They were all convinced that Papandreou would beat incumbent prime minister Kostas Karamanlis, who heads the rightist New Democracy party, by no more than 6 percent, and that he would fail to win a parliamentary majority. Instead, the Greeks gave Pasok 44 percent of the vote (compared to 34 percent for the right) and an absolute majority of 160 of their parliament's 300 seats.

Papandreou can now get to work. And, indeed, on Monday, he formed a cabinet, announced that he would reduce the number of ministers in his government to 15 and expand certain ministries, and stressed there is not a moment to lose. Unlike his predecessor, he did not ask the public to demonstrate restraint; instead, he urged it to mobilize behind a common effort. The ordinary citizen, he said, will be at the heart of his agenda.

Five years after the leftist government in which Papandreou served as foreign minister lost power - leaving behind a country in good shape, including a successful Olympic Games that boosted both the economy and the national morale - it is getting back an exhausted country in terrible shape. The economy is in recession; unemployment has risen to 9 percent; the deficit exceeds the 3 percent ceiling set by European Union rules, and economists predict it could rise as high as 10 percent; the cost of living has risen. And all that is just part of the picture.

The most destructive factor in Greek life is corruption, and that is what ultimately toppled the outgoing government. Serious incidents that were whitewashed - a minister close to the outgoing premier who was accused of taking a bribe from the owners of a shipping company, another minister who was involved in selling church property - persuaded the Greeks to elect someone else. And the recent fires, which looked like a repeat of the fires in Peloponnesus two years ago (in both cases, police are investigating the possibility that at least some were set deliberately, to facilitate the sale of public lands), tipped the scales decisively.

Israelis, who view the cradle of Western civilization mainly through the panoramic views of the Greek isles, are generally unaware of how deep Greece's socioeconomic problems are, or of to what extent, despite its deeply rooted democratic tradition, the constant dangers of anarchy on one hand and a violent, anti-democratic coup on the other hover over it. Now Greece is giving Israel a lesson: It has proven that the system of two big parties, one left and one right - which, here, has degenerated into micro-parties representing the right, center-right and center-center - actually works, and that even a fat, bourgeois socialist party, which in the past was plagued by corruption, can use clear leftist language and offer an agenda utterly different from that of its conservative rival.

Karamanlis, as is the way of the right, tried to divert the campaign into discussions of diplomatic tensions and threats of an economic crisis. But Papandreou, a sociologist who specialized in migrants' rights, insisted on talking about society. Karamanlis promised austerity and a wage freeze; Papandreou - who as education minister allocated reserved spots for Muslims in academia and founded the Open University, and as foreign minister was responsible for a major improvement in relations with Turkey and Albania - promised to increase taxes on the rich, reduce them for the lowest deciles, streamline the civil service, increase transparency and more.

The challenges he faces are enormous. And even though the EU will support him, his ability to effect change, given Greece's cumbersome, corrupt bureaucracy and its fragmented society, will immediately be put to an onerous test. But so far, he is radiating the calm confidence characteristic of this son and grandson of former great leaders. And that provides another interesting lesson for Israel: One could describe the top ranks of Greece's government as a paradise for nepotists, but one can also understand this phenomenon, given the tradition that obligates the elites to obtain an education, be socially involved and engage in public service. Papandreou absorbed political ideology and tactics with his mother's milk. He is not deterred by hard work, nor is he eager to "earn money for his family."

If Papandreou succeeds, Greece will be rescued from the political and economic isolation to which its previous government sentenced it. With enthusiastic support from the American president, and in conjunction with the socialists in Spain and Portugal - as well as with the EU, which speaks in the clear language of human rights - he will provide Israel with another reminder that the Bush era, in terms of both foreign and economic policy, is over.









The Goldstone report has rediscovered an old truth: The security forces do not conduct reliable and prompt external inquiries into suspected departures from norms. The damage from the absence of such inquiries is twofold: We don't draw lessons and cannot ensure a certain level of performance, and we don't enforce accountability when such enforcement is both essential and justified.

The Israel Defense Forces' opposition to an external inquiry is natural but wrong. No entity should investigate itself. The military advocate general and the Military Police's investigations department are important and professional, but they do not suffice because only an external independent body can carry out an effective and reliable investigation. If we had such a body and tradition that combined inquiry (what happened and how improvements can be made) with investigation (examining enforcement of accountability), Israel would be able to deal more effectively with the sharp criticism, part of which has not yet been adequately rebutted.

The Goldstone report raises significant questions. Some touch on accountability, discipline and conduct in wartime, but some have to do with policy and strategy. A judicial commission of inquiry would not be the appropriate instrument for handling either of these categories. Appointing one would look like an attempt by "Goldstone's accused" to appeal against his conclusions. Such a panel would not effectively respond to the report and its repercussions, and an inquiry might point out strategic and political topics that need to be clarified, resembling an admission that Israel's judicial machinery is no more than a fig leaf. Here we must distinguish between the types of accusations.

An external investigation, prompt and trustworthy, is essential when it comes to the war-crime allegations such as abuse of civilians, shooting civilians carrying white flags, using human shields or willful destruction of water sources and a flour mill. However, the Goldstone report's flaws illustrate the problems inherent in commissions of inquiry. The Or Commission did not fix criminal accountability for the events of October 2000, so the Arab community still wants to see justice applied fully to "the murderers."

This will be repeated even more starkly with a commission examining complaints and findings of external factors, some of them not professional, regarding dozens of incidents in geographic areas that are not under Israel's control. Such an investigation will be protracted, but the wielders of universal authority will not wait and will act to have Israelis brought to trial abroad. Ultimately, a report will be a source for allegations against Israel, and will seem like an admission of guilt.

More grave are the findings in the Goldstone report that the planning and goals of Operation Cast Lead included many fundamental breaches of international law and the laws of war, as well as the statement that here too the enforcement of criminal accountability should be examined. The result of these findings is that the entire operation, and even the Gaza blockade, are not legitimate means in Israel's fight against terrorist acts emanating from the Strip. From Goldstone's point of view, not only the soldiers who took part guilty, but so are the politicians who did the planning and the legal advisers who approved the objective and modi operandi that Goldstone describes as war crimes.

These issues are not purely judicial ones, and they certainly do not require an investigation. We must give a political and professional response, including a clarification of appropriate strategies for the challenges of defense and international law. Goldstone wants to deny Israel the alternatives of comprehensive military operations, and even of blockades, against territory from which the enemy attacks from among a civilian population. The report does not state what Israel is allowed to do to defend its citizens from firing by members of organizations operating among a civilian population whose semi-elected government is ideologically committed to Israel's destruction. That is the question up for debate, and the reply will not be found in a further investigation.









Israel's schools are in a bloody mess, and everyone seems to be seizing this situation to rehash their favorite educational theories. Let's just beef up Zionist content, say, or do away with it altogether, and all the system's ailments will be cured. But what the system really needs is simply to do away with schools altogether.


In this hyper-technological age, schools - at least secondary schools - are superfluous. High school students no longer need to appear at a certain place at a certain time and remain there for a certain number hours to acquire an education. They can do it better at home. True, opponents may say, but schools have other functions: teaching values and socialization. But the facts show that schools cannot do the former, and as for the latter, it would be better if they just left it alone.

Contrary to prevalent concepts, it isn't Miss Stern-and-Straitlaced, or even Miss Softhearted-and-Caring, who is a student's main educator, but Miss Reality, plain and simple. Education for positive values won't make even a tiny dent as long as Israeli society is ruled by its three favorite modes of behavior: rudeness, militancy and chicanery. Against this background, education for values makes a school detached and ludicrous in the eyes of its students.

Socialization? The latest findings indicate that the social agent with the highest standing in our schools is violence. Socially, it seems, schools are doing students more harm than good. Clearly, we have to come up with something to replace schools, and a likely substitute could be flexible study centers with curricula that students could learn at home, with auxiliary lessons in all subjects and at all levels that students would attend if they needed and wanted to. And in the time that's left over, students would be required to perform genuinely social activities, like helping the aged.

Apart from eliminating the damage that schools do to students, study centers would achieve other important goals. They would do away with the advantages that rich kids enjoy over poor ones, because when all students can study at any time any subject they want, free of charge, the widespread current practice of buying expensive private lessons would fall by the wayside. The social activities would inculcate a sense of social solidarity far deeper than that engendered by chattering about positive values in a classroom. The vast waste of resources entailed by all those ineffective teaching hours would be eliminated, and the money saved channeled to really important purposes.

This model will doubtlessly soon replace traditional schools in progressive countries. Will Israel be among the first to adopt it, or will it yet again follow its perverse custom of waiting to imitate others and trail behind ignominiously?

The writer, who teaches 20th century history, is the author of "Romantically Incorrect".







When the Supreme Court takes up a religion case, it often prompts overheated charges: There is a war against Christianity under way; or civil liberties groups are trying to turn this into a secular nation. The court is scheduled to hear arguments on Wednesday in a case that raises none of these issues — even though Americans may well be treated to another round of scare stories.


The narrow question is whether a large cross that has been placed on federal land violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the founders' direction that there must be a wall of separation between church and state. The court should rule that it does.


The Veterans of Foreign Wars erected a cross in 1934 in San Bernardino County, Calif. — in what is now the Mojave National Preserve — to honor America's war dead. Since then, the cross has been replaced several times, most recently around 1998. Its religious significance is clear, but the National Park Service has not allowed other religions to add symbols. In 1999, the park service denied a request by an individual to place a Buddhist memorial in the area. The cross has also been the site of Easter sunrise services for more than 70 years.


Frank Buono, a former assistant superintendent of the preserve who said that he still visits regularly, sued to challenge the display's constitutionality.


The case comes to the Supreme Court in an unusual form. When a Federal District Court ruled that the cross violated the establishment clause, Congress transferred the property under it to a veterans' group in exchange for other property. In a second round of litigation, a Federal District Court ruled that the land transfer continued the constitutional violation. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, affirmed.


The Supreme Court will first consider whether Mr. Buono has standing to challenge the cross. The cross's supporters argue that he has not really been injured and, therefore, should not be able to sue. But as someone who was in contact with the cross and was offended by its presence, he was injured. More precisely, though, in this case, Mr. Buono has won a court injunction against the cross, and Congress's land transfer interferes with his injunction. He has a right to challenge the transfer.


On the merits, the appeals court was right that the cross must come down. By allowing a Christian cross, and not symbols of other faiths, on federal land, the government was favoring one religion over others. Also, Congress has designated the cross as a national memorial, which means that it continues to have official government endorsement.


The land transfer was mere window-dressing. Bypassing normal procedures for disposing of government land, Congress gave the land to an entity it understood would keep up the cross, and it provided that the land would be returned if it was not used as a memorial.


Religious symbolism of this kind on government land is, by its very nature, exclusionary. Allowing only a cross to stand over the memorial sends a message to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others that their sacrifices, and their family members' sacrifices, are not appreciated or mourned.


It also sends a message that state and church are intertwined. A single cross does not, by itself, mean America has an established religion, but if the Supreme Court stops caring that the government is promoting a particular religion, we will be down the path toward having one.







Last month, some major banks announced minor changes in their overdraft policies. They were hoping to head off new federal regulation of a business that is designed to ambush ordinary people and siphon off as much money as possible. We were unimpressed with those steps at the time, and a recent study by a nonpartisan research group confirms that the banks have grown addicted to the easy billions they reap from these policies.


They clearly will not renounce them unless the government forces them to do so.


In the new report, the Center for Responsible Lending estimates that banks and credit unions raked in nearly $24 billion in overdraft income in 2008, a jump of 35 percent from two years earlier. The author, Leslie Parrish, suggests that the take will be even bigger this year.


The banks have managed this feat by driving up overdraft charges to an average of $34 per

incident, removing caps on the number of charges that may be incurred in one day and charging additional fees to accounts that remain overdrawn for several days. In general, cardholders are not notified that they have been charged $34 each for purchases as innocuous as a cup of coffee, a bottle of aspirin or a magazine until it is too late.


When asked in a national telephone survey, about 8 in 10 people said that they would rather the bank deny the transaction than charge them a fee. But banks typically do not inform people at the point of purchase that they are about to be overdrawn.


The banks typically enroll customers in these euphemistically named "overdraft protection" programs without their knowledge and often make it difficult for them to escape. American families now spend more on overdraft fees every year than on books, breakfast cereal or fresh vegetables and only slightly less than they spend on major appliances.


The charges are especially onerous for students, who practically live on debit cards, and for Social Security recipients, who can unknowingly eat up their meager incomes buying food, medication and other essentials.


Federal regulators, who have failed the country in so many other ways, have yet to rein in these practices. So it is up to Congress, which should pass a bill introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat of New York, that would require people to opt into these programs. Banks would also have to warn the customer of the pending overdraft and give them the option of canceling the transaction. Beyond that, Congress should create the strong consumer protection agency that was proposed by the Obama administration, which would prohibit not just the overdraft abuses but other scams that will surely arise in the future.







The recession has dealt a heavy blow to low-income families. Many have had to move in with relatives; those still lucky enough to live on their own typically are spending too much of their meager incomes on rent and utilities, which places them at clear risk of homelessness. The problem will only get worse as more people who have lost their homes to foreclosure flood into the rental market, driving up rents and putting even more pressure on lower-income families who are barely making ends meet.


Congress could help rescue these struggling families by putting money into the National Housing Trust Fund, which was signed into law in 2008 but has never been financed.


Modeled on state-level programs, the National Housing Trust Fund would provide subsidies and incentives to developers who preserve, rehabilitate and construct housing, primarily for extremely low-income families. Under this system, a developer who earmarked, for example, 10 percent of units in a market-rate building for the lowest-income families would receive a subsidy proportionate to that investment. In addition to providing homes for the most vulnerable families, this money would help stimulate the construction of multifamily buildings at a time when the credit markets are still uncertain.


When Congress set up the trust in 2008, it was expected to eventually generate about $500 million a year — with the money to come from the government-backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Their implosion meant that the money never arrived.


New bills pending in the House and Senate would set aside $1 billion for the trust fund from the profits that the government will reap from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which invested in struggling banks in the depths of the financial crisis. Lawmakers should move quickly to approve this legislation. Washington should do more to help struggling families find decent, affordable places to live. Investing in the National Housing Trust Fund is an important step.









The standard cartoons about evolution always look forward: A fish emerges from the sea and begins to walk more and more upright; or a row of primates strides ahead, each one more erect and human in appearance. We take it for granted that, in evolutionary terms, time's arrow points ahead.


But, until recently, scientists had never really tested the biological law — first proposed in 1905 — that evolution couldn't run in reverse. No one expects whole organisms to mutate back into their evolutionary antecedents. But what about the proteins we're made up of? Under the right circumstances, can they find their way back in time?


The answer, it turns out, is no.


A University of Oregon research team has tried, in essence, to return a protein — called a glucocorticoid receptor — to one of its ancestral states by reversing the mutations that produced the modern version of the receptor. They discovered that the mutations happened in two stages — two separate groups of mutations. The trouble, they report in the current issue of Nature, was that each separate cluster of mutations produced a dead receptor, no matter which one was chosen first. In other words, there was no way the protein could select a preferable state that would lead it, in nature, toward its ancestral form.


Evolution opens gateways into the future. But it appears to close them — firmly — behind it as well.








Some things have changed since the "Mad Men" era.


The elevator operator isn't the only black face in the building. Executives no longer sip amber highballs and puff Lucky Strikes all day long.


And other things have not changed.


Some women still wriggle into girdles (now called Spanx). And some men still gravitate toward interns, nannies and secretaries (now called personal assistants).


A few years ago, I wrote that 40 years of feminism had done nothing to alter the fact that older men often see young women in staff support as sirens. For some men, it's the very inequality of the relationship that's alluring, the way these women revolve around them and make life easier, the way they treat Himself like the sunrise and sunset of their universe.


In terms of evolutionary biology, it could be rooted in the fear that aggressive females would be more likely to cheat and the males could end up raising offspring that were not their own.


In romantic terms, it could simply be the erotic pull of proximity. You covet what you see every day, as Hannibal Lecter said, and it can be seductive to get involved with someone who's already orbiting around you, bringing you pizza with your favorite toppings late at night.


Office romances abound in life and art ("The Office" has its interoffice wedding this week), and sometimes young staffers are attracted to the boss, and vice versa. Les Moonves, who heads CBS, and Robert Iger, who heads ABC as the chief of Disney, both married lovely young correspondents on their networks. Barack Obama fell in love with a superior mentoring him at his law firm.


On his last late-night show, Jay Leno brought out all the kids spawned from "Tonight Show" romances.


In an ideal world, bosses would refrain from sleeping with subordinates, so as not to cause jealousy and tension in the office. But we're not in an ideal world. Otherwise, we'd already have health care for everyone and Glenn Beck wouldn't have any influence over the White House.


After David Letterman acknowledged that he'd had flings with young assistants, some commentators talked about it in the same breath as Roman Polanski, who drugged and sodomized a 13-year-old. That's outrageous.


Sexual harassment entails pressuring or penalizing a staffer or making the office atmosphere hostile. Despite the blustering of the attorney of the alleged execrable extortionist, Joe Halderman, there's no evidence yet that Letterman was guilty of that.


Working for a boss as anti-social and self-critical as Letterman, whose world is circumscribed by his show, would not be easy. (The man is obviously not joking when he goes off on his self-loathing shticks; otherwise, he would have dated some of those gorgeous actresses flirting with him on air over the decades.)


But we haven't heard that the curmudgeonly comedian, who has never lost his streak of Midwest primness, forced any staffers to listen to tales of pubic hairs on Cokes or Long Dong Silver.


From what we know so far, and that may not be everything, the women who got involved with Letterman were not pressured. One former intern, Holly Hester, said she had wanted to marry him but that he broke it off because of their age disparity.


Stephanie Birkitt, his former lover and assistant, described herself as his best friend. She was not punished but rewarded with a recurring on-air starring role — despite the fact that she wasn't funny or charming. As usual, Letterman was living out loud on the show, showing the audience his crush. His company footed the tab for Birkitt to go to law school, a loan she has now paid back; it says it did the same for some other staffers who wanted to pursue higher education.


On Monday night, when Letterman joked that he might be the first talk-show host to be impeached, Birkitt's name was still listed in the show credits.


Letterman's talent doesn't give him a free pass — he described his own behavior as "creepy" — and his wife (a former staffer at NBC) has a right to be deeply hurt and furious.


But it's absurd to compare a jester (unmarried at the time) to Bill Clinton and other philandering pols. Officeholders run as devoted family men upholding old-fashioned values. They have ambitious public agendas and loyal acolytes whose futures depend on whether these leaders succumb to reckless dalliances.


As Craig Ferguson, whose show is produced by Letterman, joked: "If we are now holding late-night talk-show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I'm out."


The main thing Letterman and Clinton had in common was that the danger of a secret affair exploding is enhanced when the staffer is immature enough to scrawl confessions in her diary, as Birkitt did, or go prattling to a prat like Linda Tripp.


Unlike Clinton, Letterman trusted the public — and his bond with them — enough to tell the truth.








I am a 56-year-old baby boomer, and looking around today it's very clear that my generation had it easy: We grew up in the shadow of just one bomb — the nuclear bomb. That is, in our day, it seemed as if there was just one big threat that could trigger a nonlinear, 180-degree change in the trajectory of our lives: the Soviets hitting us with a nuke. My girls are not so lucky.


Today's youth are growing up in the shadow of three bombs — any one of which could go off at any time and set in motion a truly nonlinear, radical change in the trajectory of their lives.


The first, of course, is still the nuclear threat, which, for my generation, basically came from just one seemingly rational enemy, the Soviet Union, with which we shared a doctrine of mutual assured destruction. Today, the nuclear threat can be delivered by all kinds of states or terrorists, including suicidal jihadists for whom mutual assured destruction is a delight, not a deterrent.


But there are now two other bombs our children have hanging over them: the debt bomb and the climate bomb.


As we continue to build up carbon in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels, we never know when the next emitted carbon molecule will tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event — like melting the Siberian tundra and releasing all of its methane, or drying up the Amazon or melting all the sea ice in the North Pole in summer. And when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger unpredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.


The same is true with America's debt bomb. To recover from the Great Recession, we've had to go even deeper into debt. One need only look at today's record-setting price of gold, in a period of deflation, to know that a lot of people are worried that our next dollar of debt — unbalanced by spending cuts or new tax revenues — will trigger a nonlinear move out of the dollar and torpedo the U.S. currency.


If people lose confidence in the dollar, we could enter a feedback loop, as with the climate, whereby the sinking dollar forces up interest rates, which raises the long-term cost of servicing our already massive debt, which adds to the deficit projections, which further undermines the dollar. If the world is unwilling to finance our deficits, except at much higher rates of interest, it would surely diminish our government's ability to make public investments and just as surely diminish our children's standard of living.


Unfortunately, too many conservatives, who would never risk emitting so much debt that it would tank the dollar, will blithely tell you on carbon: "Emit all you want. Don't worry. It's all a hoax." And too many liberals, who would never risk emitting too much carbon, will tell you on emitting more debt: "Spend away. We've got plenty of room to stimulate without risking the dollar."


Because of this divide, our government has not been able to put in place the long-term policies needed to guard against detonating our mounting debt bomb and climate bomb. As such, we're in effect putting our kids' future in the hands of the two most merciless forces on the planet: the Market and Mother Nature.


As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say, "Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics." That's all she is. You can't spin her; you can't sweet-talk her. You can't say, "Hey, Mother Nature, we're having a bad recession, could you take a year off?" No, she's going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, based on the amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere, and as Watson likes to add: "Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats a thousand."


Ditto the market. The market is just a second-by-second snapshot of the balance between greed and fear. You can't spin it or sweet-talk it. And you never know when that balance between greed and fear on the dollar is going to tip over into fear in a nonlinear way.


That is why I was heartened to see the liberal Center for American Progress stating last week that, while the stimulus is vital to rescuing our economy, the size of projected budget deficits demand that we also start thinking about broad-based tax increases and reductions in some spending and entitlement programs supported by liberals. I am equally heartened when I see Republicans like Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging his party to start taking climate change seriously.


But we also need to act. If we don't, we will be leaving our children to the tender mercies of the Market and Mother Nature alone to shape their futures.


This moment reminds me of an image John Holdren, the president's science adviser, uses when discussing the threat of climate change, but it also applies to the dollar: "We're driving in a car with bad brakes in a fog and heading for a cliff. We know for sure that cliff is out there. We just don't know exactly where it is. Prudence would suggest that we should start putting on the brakes."








O UR latest quarterly chart has, for the first time, data on three of the four countries along what might be called the "axis of anxiety" stretching from Iraq to Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan.


First, a word on Iraq. It may surprise many Americans that more United States troops remain there than in the rest of the Pentagon's Central Command zone combined. But despite several worrisome developments this year, including the twin car bombings in Baghdad on Aug. 19 that killed well over 100 people, violence has not worsened this year on balance. The country remains between peace and war, closer to the former if still very troubled.


In Afghanistan, the top American commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has delivered sober assessments of the deteriorating security environment there and asked for more troops. Indeed, the Taliban and other armed groups are now active in at least 140 of Afghanistan's 368 districts, whereas they had been present in at most a couple of dozen a few years ago. While deaths among NATO and Afghan forces have increased, civilian fatalities, fortunately, have not — at least relative to 2008.


Pakistan is probably doing better than Afghanistan this year. Pakistani forces last spring drove out a majority of Pakistani Taliban from the Swat Valley. Combined American and Pakistani intelligence efforts led to the fatal strike in August against Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud. But to use the lexicon of American counterinsurgents, while there has been some clearing and some holding, there has been little yet in the way of building up viable state structures in the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and the tribal areas.


Jason Campbell is a research analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Michael O'Hanlon and Jeremy Shapiro are senior fellows at Brookings. Amy Unikewicz is a graphic designer in South Norwalk, Conn.








IN Afghanistan's Logar Province, just south of Kabul, the geopolitical future of Asia is becoming apparent: American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. While some of America's NATO allies want to do as little as possible in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, China has its eyes on some of world's last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems, and is willing to take big risks in one of the most violent countries to secure them.


In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan's metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China's geopolitical position will be enhanced.


This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America's military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.


But what if America decides to leave, or to drastically reduce its footprint to a counterterrorism strategy focused mainly on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border? Then another scenario might play out. Kandahar and other areas will most likely fall to the Taliban, creating a truly lawless realm that wrecks China's plans for an energy and commodities passageway through South Asia. It would also, of course, be a momentous moral victory achieved by radical Muslims who, having first defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, will then have triumphed over another superpower.


And the calculations get more complicated still: a withdrawal of any kind from Afghanistan before a stable government is in place would also hurt India, a critical if undeclared American ally, and increasingly a rival of China. Were the Taliban to retake Afghanistan, India would face a radical Islamistan stretching from its border with Pakistan deep into Central Asia. With the Taliban triumphant on Pakistan's western border, jihadists there could direct their energies to the eastern border with India.


India would defeat Pakistan in a war, conventional or nuclear. But having to do so, or simply needing to face down a significantly greater jihadist threat next door, would divert India's national energies away from further developing its economy and its navy, a development China would quietly welcome.


Bottom line: China will find a way to benefit no matter what the United States does in Afghanistan. But it probably benefits more if we stay and add troops to the fight. The same goes for Russia. Because of continuing unrest in the Islamic southern tier of the former Soviet Union, Moscow has an interest in America stabilizing Afghanistan (though it would take a certain psychological pleasure from a humiliating American withdrawal).


In nuts-and-bolts terms, if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible.


Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.


Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.


But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the "long war," history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.


Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for The Atlantic.










On the day that a man wearing a FC uniform strolled into the WFP offices in Islamabad and then detonated himself, Hakeemullah Mehsud was entertaining a select band of journalists in Waziristan. He looked like he had put on a little weight since we had last seen him but was otherwise fighting fit and made the obligatory poses for the photographers. The meeting was in the open air and there were no drones in sight, nor police or any other representative of the agencies that are supposedly hunting him. His close allies – friends, indeed – were accompanying him, so we had at least four of Pakistan's 'most wanted' wandering around in broad daylight, happy to be interviewed and vowing to bring death and destruction to the government. Meanwhile, the government in the form of Messrs Zardari and Gilani was giving a press conference of its own. They spoke of an impending operation in Waziristan and claimed that the appropriate equipment, including helicopters, was now in place. Both repeated the oft-heard mantra of 'we will defeat the terrorists' – whilst almost simultaneously Hakeemullah was telling the world that if the Pakistan army made a move on Waziristan …"it would be resisted with full force."

There is now no doubt that the Taliban, far from being defeated or cowed down, are as strong as and perhaps even stronger than they were before the death of Baitullah Mehsud. There is some sort of unity in their ranks, fragile perhaps, and the resources that they command are formidable. They may have made a tactical retreat from Swat, but this has had the effect of concentrating both their minds and their personnel in the Waziristans, where they have run a parallel government for years anyway. The writ of the government has never run there and we may assume that if there is to be a fight then it will be ferocious. It will also be in the winter if it happens in the next month or two, and winter conditions in mountain areas are rarely conducive to effective war-fighting by conventional armies. If the operation is delayed until next spring, however, the Taliban will have six months to further consolidate their position – and the government is thus caught on the horns of a dilemma. The fight for Swat is not yet over and the quasi-peace that is there today has yet to prove its durability. Could our army – with India indulging in a little saber-rattling to the east – fight and win in the Waziristans? The best we can say is that it's a 'definite maybe'. While we await an answer Hakeemullah's suicide bombers are ready to sacrifice themselves and as many of us as they can take with them. Taliban on the run? A definite 'NO'.







The issue of visas and the current backlog at the British High Commission, where thousands of passports lie, dominated talks during the visit of the UK home and defence secretaries. Both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani raised the question of visa policy during their separate meetings with the delegation. To his credit, the home secretary in fact made an apology over the inconvenience to visa applicants – though he stopped short of saying what his government intended to do or if Prime Minister Gilani's call for processing of applications to be resumed in Islamabad rather than in Abu Dhabi was to be taken heed of. It is rare for matters such as visas to be taken up at so high a level. Members of our own government indeed so often seek favours from embassies and high commissions that they prefer not to raise less pleasant matters with them. The fate of ordinary citizens is of course rarely a concern for ministers, advisors or bureaucrats. But this time round, the whole issue has become too big to ignore. On top of that, visas had, the grapevine says, been denied to people in important places, leaving our Foreign Office rather red in the face.

Even as the British ministers visited Islamabad, hundreds of Pakistani students waited desperately for visas. Some faced the loss of places at universities where they had obtained admission, with terms in the UK having started last month. As things stand at the moment – many visas remain unprocessed even after months. Business people and others have found themselves virtually trapped, unable to move without their passports. Even passport retrieval can take weeks. Some passports, it is said, have been lost. In such a situation, the chances of student visas being processed in under a month were always remote. The British government must put in place measures to prevent students suffering any further. As the prime minster and the president pointed out, grave damage to the British image has already been caused. In addition, the secretaries who will now have a clearer picture of the anguish caused by the visa crisis must inquire into what criteria their staff in Abu Dhabi is using to approve applications. People who have travelled many times over decades – and duly returned home – are being refused. They include professionals, academicians, musicians and writers. Something quite obviously has gone very badly askew with visa policy. Urgent rectification is needed.









Conspiracy, conjecture and clandestine meetings are it seems a fundamental part of politics in our country. Our failure to do away with them is one reason why we face so much uncertainty over democracy and almost constant rumours of change. This of course only adds to the problems we face, with economic grievances tied in with social and political turmoil as the rupee continues to struggle to retain its ground and investors refuse to bring money into the country.

The meeting between General Kayani, Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that, according to the media took place recently, is the latest example of this. The meeting will only add to speculation about plots against the government, with more talk about mid-term polls. Such an environment makes it almost impossible for the government to work. There are of course those who would argue it is not working anyway and that its own failures have added to its weakness. What is important is that governments should be removed by the people. It is this act that will alone allow democracy to gain ground. Public opinion in the country has today turned against the government and the president. But throwing them out through extraconstitutional means could only create unrest in smaller provinces and work against the cause of democracy and good governance.









Jus days before the US President Barack Hussain Obama will be signing the Kerry-Lugar bill thus turning it into law, Pakistan's political parties have woken up to the problems that it may pose -- a late awakening to say the least. For the past one year, the controversial contents of the Kerry-Lugar bill have been widely known. Equally, in the recent months, it was clear that the House and Senate were not quite biting into Pakistani criticism of the bill. Throughout this period, the government seems to have made no transparent attempt to force a change in the text of the bill. The issues that the text of the bill raised and ones that were to negatively affect the Pakistan-US bilateral relationship were neither discussed in any cabinet meeting, defence committee of the cabinet nor in the parliament. Even the opposition, other than making rhetorical statements regarding the bill never brought up the issue properly.

Government attempts were made at an individual level – for example, Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington, Hussain Haqqani -- to lobby for change in the bill. However, such attempts did not really help. The government argues that the removal of the words 'India' and 'A Q Khan', through Pakistan's lobbying, from the text must be appreciated. Other relative 'pluses' in the bill , government representatives argue, include the bringing down of the level of certification, on the conditionalities clause, from the president to secretary of state. From Pakistan's perspective, this is an inconsequential change as long as the certification clauses remain. Also we are told that the waiver clause means that the US President can waive conditions. Yes, but those conditions will be waived in US's national interest, and not when Pakistan needs it, as was done in the case of the Pressler Amendment.

On the removal of the demand that the US government has "direct access" to A Q Khan, the fact is that it has been replaced by a wider net of "direct access to Pakistani national associated with such networks." Significantly, the bill goes beyond supplier networks and factors in involved in "networks relating to acquisition of nuclear weapons related materials." This could include those working to acquire nuclear technology for Pakistan's own nuclear programme.

Similarly, the conditionality on combating terrorism goes into intrusive details of what Pakistan is required to do. Pakistan's battle against terrorism cannot be designed according to Washington, New Delhi and Kabul's threat perception. The bill essentially declares Pakistan the hub of terrorism that has hit the entire region and puts the onus of fighting terrorism on Pakistan.

The strategic plan mentioned in the bill highlights Pakistan as the hub of terrorism in the region by stating that US President Obama will, along with Delhi and Kabul, side with Islamabad on its counter-terrorism policy. Clearly instead of dealing with the problem and the causes simultaneously to make headway in regional cooperation and fighting terrorism, the bill essentially pampers the Indian position on terrorism. Such a bill encourages India to continue with its rejectionist approach to bilateral dialogue.

As for democracy, if the bill had stated aid cut-off in case of a coup, it would have been an acceptable clause but to assign to Washington the role of monitoring if the Pakistan army is interfering in the country's judicial and democratic process is unacceptable. The issue is genuine but the mandate illegitimate.

Another interesting defence for the bill came from the deputy chief of the US embassy who said that the conditionalities only apply to military aid. Whatever the internal power dynamics, Pakistan should be one unit as it engages with external powers. Hence, the opposition to such extreme conditionalities is unacceptable whether applied to military or economic aid. The bill can also trigger a new round of potentially destabilising power dynamics within Pakistan. Ultimately viewed from Pakistan's internal power dynamics, the bill also reflects the civil-military trust deficit. The widely held view among opposition parties and security institutions is that a section of the ruling political leadership went along with, if not actually encouraged, the inclusion of the conditionalities that target Pakistan's security institutions and policies.

There are indeed lingering problems within Pakistan's internal power structure -- its security policy faces road bumps and the chronic problem of often unaccountable and non-transparent exercise of executive and bureaucratic authority aggravates the crisis of governance. However, the message to all of Pakistan's foreign friends during the 2007 Peoples' Movement was that a home-grown movement for democracy was the only legitimate way to rid the country of the curse of military rule. Indeed, in 2007 Washington's view of General Pervez Musharraf's indispensability in leading the Pakistan front on the war on terror had trumped its concerns for its democracy; as had been the case in the 60s and 80s when Washington supported two military dictators. In 2007, the people of Pakistan charted their own democratic journey. Aid bills cannot do that.

Similarly, in the security arena, external diktat mostly works. Only local players can legitimately contest over competing threat perceptions. External players at best can share their wisdom on security matters. The arm twisting delivers results only when a blundering state becomes vulnerable, as Pakistan did during Kargil. Threat perceptions, often grounded in a potpourri of historical facts, myths and fears are not susceptible to arm-twisting or counter-threats. Hard work on bilateral relationships which yields increased cooperation, progress towards resolution of outstanding problems and trust building, can alter threat perceptions.

Aid bills also can't dictate the direction and development of Pakistan's critical military security asset, that is, its nuclear programme. That will be determined by strategic developments in the region. The attempt to curtail Pakistan's nuclear programme by disallowing it to use its own funds that may be untied from projects that US aid may fund is a non-starter way of influencing a state's security policies.

The onus now is on Pakistan's legislature, the national assembly and senate. As custodians of the national interest of a sovereign state, these elected representatives must pass a unanimous resolution on the bill. While appreciating the objectives laid out, the resolution must firmly yet calmly enumerate the unacceptable portions of the bill.

The operative aspect of the resolution should be that in keeping with the demands of Pakistan's national interests and with the requirements of a responsible member of the international community, the parliament and Government of Pakistan will remain committed to four national goals as reflected in Pakistan's policies and laws. One to parliamentary democracy, two to fighting terrorism, three to non-proliferation and four to establishing good relations on the basis of mutual interest and respect with its neighbours, especially Afghanistan and with India.

The resolution must also reiterate the basic principles of sustainable bilateral relations including non-interference, sovereignty, autonomy and mutual respect. The resolution must recognise the United States as an important friend and ally, acknowledge the help it has given in the past and acknowledge its desire, as reflected in the Kerry-Lugar bill, to help Pakistan in future. Finally, the resolution must state that while Pakistan values its relationship with the US, its parliament will be constrained to advise the government to decline US support given the existing conditions.

The ball is now in the court of Pakistan's elected legislators. As they formulate a response they must recognise that if Pakistan faces a financial crunch, the United States faces a strategic one. For the US to walk away from Pakistan is a virtual impossibility at this juncture. It is far more unaffordable for them since Pakistan occupies more than 50 per cent of the space in their strategic calculation. Meanwhile $1.5 billion accounts for roughly three per cent of Pakistan's federal and provincial annual budgets.

If Pakistan's legislators are able to rise to the occasion and craft a consensus response to the Kerry-Lugar bill, they will have proved their worth as men and women who are capable of promoting and protecting the interests and dignity of the citizens of the country. Otherwise, whether democracy or dictatorship, Pakistan's parliament is merely a rubber stamp which follows the will of a handful of individuals who exercise their authority overlooking constitutionally defined institutional mechanisms like the Cabinet, defence committee the parliament.

The writer is an Islamabad-based security analyst. Email: nasimzehra@








The government has committed the tariff in dollar terms (although the billing will be in local currency). It has also guaranteed the power producers against upward revisions in the price of fuel and any additional costs that may have to be borne by them as a result of changes in any laws--almost akin to a constitutional amendment in their favour! In other words, all financial and attendant risks, including those pertaining to market demand, are being underwritten by the government. If producers are to be compensated for all changes in input costs, then where is the legendary efficiency of the private sector? This is in sharp contrast to the market conditions faced by other private investments. For example, there are no guaranteed off-takes in the case of consumer goods or durables.

Isn't it unnatural that while the rest of the economy is barely afloat--with a growth rate just ahead of population growth, foreign investment, which is generally shy of investing in other sectors, is relatively keen to sign up IPPs or rental-power agreements, concerns about the government's ability to make timely payments (the experience of the circular debt) notwithstanding. Could it be that the incentive/reward structure is far too attractive and unrelated to market principles?

In this writer's opinion the incentives are distorting market signals, inducing a switching of investments from other sectors into the power sector, especially with the commitment that the IPPs can borrow at KIBOR plus 3 per cent, almost creating a floor for the price of long-term private-sector credit!

It has also been a mistake to invite foreign investment in generation, when the problem lies with the distribution side of things (the bad experience with the KESC privatisation notwithstanding). In the opinion of this writer, the efficiency of the DISCOs with their massive theft simply cannot be improved: you cannot change a mule into a zebra by painting stripes on it. The only solution is the introduction of the private sector in the distribution system by inviting competitive bids on tariff ceilings, efficiency improvements and reduction in distribution losses. It should also be obvious that as long as distribution systems are rickety and not financially viable, foreign investors will demand a variety of measures to mitigate their risks, which automatically gives primacy to their looking at generation rather than distribution.

The government's defends its decision to invite RPPs based on shortfalls in supply and projections of demand for electricity. This writer, for one, would argue that the growth rate in demand for electricity is likely to be lower than envisaged by the government following the phased 31 per cent revision in its price over the next six months or so. The capability of the end-consumer and the slowly growing economy to absorb such costs remain to be seen. And if exports are not robust, will we be able to earn the foreign exchange required by WAPDA to meet its foreign-currency obligations? One of the key imponderables of the energy policy concerns the materialisation of such hopes.

However, the most disturbing feature of the power-purchase agreements signed between the government and the private power producers is the secrecy in which they are shrouded. That the terms of the agreements were revised from those set out in the tender documents is being hidden, unnecessarily raising questions about the potentially "sinister nature" of the underlying motive and doubts about the transparency of the process of the award of contracts. We therefore demand that all such agreements should be open to public scrutiny. To illustrate this point take the case of the tariff ranging from 2.5 cents to 3.6 cents negotiated for rental power plants a handful of weeks before the installation into office of this government, compared with the tariff ranging from 4.18 cents to 5.98 cents agreed in recent days for 1,500 MWs, which for the supply of roughly 10 billion units a year translates to an additional payment of at least $200 million a year--to say nothing of the grant of a 14 per cent mobilisation advance that was not mentioned in the bidding documents. Information on the "real sponsors" of the RPPs with which agreements have been signed will go a long way in explaining these revisions, especially in the tariff structure, and the commitments made to supply a scarce resource, such as gas!

Therefore, in the short term, the government should a) eliminate the circular debt immediately, even if it means cutting down the development programme drastically; b) revise the electricity tariff structure so that the issue of circular debt does not re-emerge; and c) help WAPDA collect its dues from government departments and agencies so that it can carry out urgent repairs of its plants and machinery and upgrade the generation capacities of some of its stations as a much cheaper option.

In the medium to long term, we should exploit our resources of coal and water. The latter through small hydel projects, by putting Kashmir on the backburner and initiating discussions with the Indians on a joint strategy for the efficient utilisation of this scarce resource: water. Next, we should privatise the DISCOs and stop cross-subsidising the more inefficiently organised distribution companies, a policy that unnecessarily penalises consumers meeting their obligations regularly.

Finally, the best way to help poor households using up to, say, 100-150 units would be to install solar panels for katchi abadis. The initial capital cost could be high, but the running cost of such an arrangement would be nominal, the tariff structure would not have to be distorted to cross-subsidise these lifeline consumers and WAPDA would be spared the agony of installing meters, hiring meter-readers and printing bills, thereby substantially reducing its transaction and operational costs.


The writer is a former finance minister of Punjab. Email:









Some time ago I was having a conversation with one of my friends, a renowned professor settled abroad. He is internationally known for his academic work and books published in Britain and Germany, which are reference works in most of the world's best universities. He is a Pathan and is proud of the fact that he is a Bangash. He correctly pointed out that most of our social and other maladies are due to the disappearance of ghairat.

His father, a Bangash from Hangu, went to England decades ago, from where he obtained a FRCS degree and then returned to his area. He then started treating many of Faqir Epi'S warriors fighting the British colonialists. Once, my friend asked his father the meaning of ghairat. His father jokingly replied that a nation that was bereft of ghairat would not have that word included in its dictionary. He had a point there. Our current national character testifies to that. We are now universally looked down upon as beggars. We are now totally devoid of that golden trend we used to be famous for. Prof Muhammad Al-Ghazali has drawn my attention to this important topic and has helped me with useful input.

Ghairat is an Arabic word that has no equivalent in any other language. It has been adopted in both Persian and Urdu. In Urdu we use this word in a much narrower sense than its original meaning. In Arabic it embraces the sense of self-esteem, courage, chivalry, honour, bravery and loyalty to one's highest values, and readiness to sacrifice everything for the sake of these values.

The Arabs, even before Islam, were known for ghairat. One of the greatest poets of all times in Arabia, Amr bin Kulsoom, had killed the king of his time, Amr bin Hind in his own court when his queen had insultingly addressed the poet's mother. They were invited by the king to test the level of their ghairat. In a tone as if she were speaking to a maidservant, the queen asked the poet's mother to fetch a spittoon. Thereupon the poet's mother called for help. As soon as the poet, who was with the king in his chamber, heard his mother's cry for help, he took out his sword and decapitated the king there and then. It was on this occasion that he recited his famous ode (qaseeda) extempore. This ode is included in the best collection of poetry known as Muallaqat. In English this qaseeda is known as "Seven Odes" and has been translated by the famous scholar of Islamic history and literature who also translated the Holy Quran, Prof A J Arberry.

Muslims, their great leaders, trusted rulers and popular heroes, always displayed the quality of ghairat at all crucial moments of history. The conquest of Sind by Muhammad bin Qasim was itself a consequence of the feeling of ghairat by Hajjaj bin Yusuf. A group of Muslim traders travelling on the Arabian Sea were attacked by some local pirates who looted them and insulted the women who were on board. One of these Muslim ladies called for help. She was addressing Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the Umayyad governor of Iraq. Some of the Muslims who managed to escape the pirates conveyed this woman's call for help to Hajjaj. He was very angry and with a feeling of ghairat, he immediately dispatched an army under the command of his young nephew, Muhammad bin Qasim. He came to Daibal (Karachi) and after a fierce fight defeated Raja Dahir, the local Hindu ruler who took the side of the criminals. After some time bin Qasim, who had become quite popular for his heroic help to those victims, annexed Sind to the Islamic Empire.

In fact, all great events and achievements have been possible only because our elders were full of self-esteem, faith, courage, chivalry, honour, bravery and an unlimited capacity for sacrifice. On every page of our golden history there is a story of a great achievement. These series of achievements made it possible for our rich culture, civilisation, state and society to progress, expand and advance in the face of all challenges and difficulties. These challenges were far greater than what we face today. However, the present difficulties seem to be insurmountable to us because we are devoid of that courage, honesty and commitment that were the hallmark of our forefathers.

At this time what Muslims in general, and Pakistanis in particular, need most is ghairat. We should remember that our great leaders and heroes of Muslim India, to whom we owe our present existence as an independent nation, were all embodiments of ghairat. All the great men who made history and shaped our destiny, were paragons of the great qualities of leadership – Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmood Ghaznavi, Shihabuddin Ghauri, Tipu Sultan, Sirajud Daula, Sayyed Ahmad Shaheed, Shah Ismail shaheed, Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam -- all of them did what they did by a great impulse of ghairat. Their inspiring lives provide us with clear evidence.

Ghairat is transmitted from generation to generation through proper education, upbringing and, above all, through inspiring examples set by the elders. If someone does not receive this quality from his family, environment and education, then he/she cannot acquire this quality by any intellectual effort. Either one is ghairatmand or one is not. Some people reading this might find it difficult to appreciate. But there will be many who, having a tradition of life based on these values, inherited from their ancestors, teachers, mentors and other exemplary characters, will find in their hearts an echo of the thoughts expressed here.

The feeling of ghairat is not to be confused with anger and a reaction thereto. It is a positive quality, not a negative one. It helps a person overcome the inner baser impulses for sin and wrong-doing. It also provides the energy for action when one's moral values are threatened. When this quality assumes a collective trait, it provides society with a great deterrence against external threats to undermine prestige, honour and other vital interest of that society.

The difference between a self-respecting and a self-debasing person is that of ghairat. The former maintains his/her honour at all costs and reacts whenever there is any threat to this honour. The latter digests all threats on account of cowardice or greed or just lack of sensitivity. What is the main distinction between a prostitute and a chaste woman? It is none other than ghairat. In the eyes of the former, honour has no value. In the estimation of the latter, it is the highest value that must be protected, whatever the cost, and it can never be bartered away for any gain, however high. For a free man, his freedom is more valuable than whatever might be offered in terms of compensation for purchasing this freedom. However, for a slavish man, freedom could be sold for any immediate material gain.

Ghairat is the greatest capital of a nation. Once this capital is lost, then no amount of prosperity, affluence or material wealth can bring back the lost honour and prestige. Poets, leaders, opinion-makers, teachers, men of letters, thinkers, philosophers, etc., of a nation constantly strive and exhaust their potential to protect and maintain their nation's honour and prestige in the world. Like all valuable things, honour and prestige is acquired with tremendous effort but lost with negligence and omission. The nation's collective awakening and awareness guards itself against such disasters. I ponder, hope and pray that our nation finds this lost treasure. Am I asking for the moon?







The country has been caught up in a sequence of controversies such as the alleged Blackwater presence in Pakistan, the Kerry-Lugar Bill with its attending conditionalities and the emerging prospects for the incumbent PPP leadership in the wake of the detailed judgment released by the Supreme Court (SC) with regard to the annulment of the November 3, 2007 proclamation. Coming soon after the nauseating revelations by a host of intelligence spooks, the unfurling scenario paints a grim picture of the prospects over the coming days.

I have written extensively about the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) being a document that was in direct conflict with the cardinal concept of basic human rights. No legislation can be enacted that would facilitate the grant of carte blanche reprieve only to a select number of beneficiaries while, at the same time, denying it to the remaining bulk of the national population. In the presence of this inherent contradiction, it came as little surprise when the SC demanded of the government to place all legislations promulgated between October 3-November 15 (2007) including the NRO. This meant that all cases that had been written off earlier as a result of the promulgation of the NRO by the then sitting dictator would stand revived in the courts of law. That raised a host of dreaded prospects for a large number of people who occupy seats of power today including President Asif Zardari. The critical question that is being debated in the annals of power is that, in the event the government fails to place the NRO before the parliament and lapses on November 30, 2009 at the expiry of the 120-day-deadline given by the SC, what would be the position of Zardari with regard to his eligibility to have become the president of Pakistan in the first place? There is also the question regarding the fate of those benefits that were accrued after February 5, 2008, when, ostensibly, the NRO had lapsed at the end of its stipulated legislative life?

To compound matters further, there are patent indications that the establishment has not responded positively to the inclusion of two clauses in the Kerry-Lugar Bill that pertain to Pakistan's nuclear programme and the purported non-interference of the military in judicial and political matters. While the former may be an extension of the deep-seated US paranoia about Dr A Q Khan and his alleged role in having contributed to nuclear proliferation, the latter is being perceived as a grave provocation that has been included in the bill on the behest of the ruling political hierarchy led by its erstwhile proponent in the US, Hussain Haqqani. It is unprecedented in nature as well as a grave departure from any parallel enactment with regard to setting pre-conditions facilitating the release of economic assistance by one country to another. Consequently, it comes as little surprise that it is being perceived as a direct infringement on the concept of national sovereignty perpetrated with the active collusion of the ruling political clique.

At a different level, it could also reflect the deepening fear syndrome that the PPP leadership seems afflicted with in the wake of the restoration of judiciary on March 15 to avert a possible bloody march in the capital by the charging hordes of political activists representing a vast cross-section of national conscience. It is again the PPP leadership that precipitated the crisis by repeatedly reneging on its verbal and written commitments made in full glare of the beaming cameras with regard to restoration of the judiciary. It, therefore, had little ground to blame any outside elements for a predicament that was entirely of its own making. What seems worse is that it has failed to come to terms in dealing productively with a restored judiciary that is proclaiming the rule of law for all. The inherent contradictions that bedevil the fate of the NRO and its possible repercussions for an array of the PPP leadership are the ingredients that contribute to its erratic response, much to its own angst and consternation. But, there is no escaping the fact that it has to come to terms in dealing with the new realities on the block.

Confronted with a similar situation, the former dictator Pervez Musharraf had resorted to dismissing the judiciary en bloc and imposing emergency on November 3. This set a chain reaction in motion that, in spite of his having been the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), ultimately led to his ouster in 2008. To quell the emerging crisis, will the PPP contemplate similar adventurism? Does it enjoy the requisite support among the other pillars of the state as the former dictator thought he did? And what would be the possible consequences for Pakistan if the concept of self-preservation was given an over-riding preference over national interest? The prospects may make for an all-consuming palate over the coming weeks and months, but one reality must be kept in perspective over and above all other contentions -- nothing can be a credible replacement for the lack of legitimacy that plagues the incumbent PPP leadership at this point in time. Unless corrective measures are taken immediately, it stands exposed to remedial steps that may be initiated by other forces.

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. Email: raoofhasan










The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

This is a two-part tale of family honour; domestic abuse; incompatibility; male dominance; misguided Islamic values; callousness of a Pakistani community towards a homeless mother and her infant son; a world-famous hospital's refusal to get involved in family squabble; unfavourable immigration laws for the battered wife, a non-Muslim's act of compassion; APPNA -- Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America's disconnect and one Pakistani cosmetic surgeon's solo search for justice.

In many ways the story has a similar thread that runs through a Bollywood movie Provoked in which Aishwarya Rai plays the role of a battered Indian wife. It's a true story of a Punjabi woman named Kiranjit Ahluwalia who leaves India to marry a London-based guy, only to be badly abused. She ends up in prison for murdering her abusive husband. The story of 'A' that I unfold has an unfinished script. It has yet to reach an end, though in the words of the 'Dr Good' (the Pakistani cosmetic surgeon) who has come to her aid "the wheels of justice turn very slowly even here in the USA. The ACLU--(women's abuse division) and every other human rights organization in America have been informed."

Domestic violence among South Asians in America is endemic. In New Jersey alone (where I live) the police reported 75,651 cases of abuse in 2005. Muslim girls especially are a target of false Islamic values engendered by the community. Often the brutalization of the husband is encouraged by the community in the name of religion. While wives of visa holders are legal residents of the US, but they are not allowed by the law to work or to self-petition for legal permanent residency in the country. 'A' is a victim of this discriminatory law. "These policies violate basic human rights and must be changed for the US to demonstrate a commitment to eliminating policies that increase women's risk for violence," say Anita Raj, a professor at Boston University. Family law attorneys and social workers testify to the fact that an angry or demanding husband might threaten to "call immigration" and have the wife deported. Pamela Constable has profiled young Pakistani wives in a column in The Washington Post imprisoned in abusive marriages, unable to fight the gossip and shame that come with defying their culture and religion, isolated from help that is just a three-digit (911) phone number away.

"Many batterers manipulate Islamic law or use its perceived authority to control their wives. A man who has the power to divorce can really twist the knife," says Mazna Hussain, an attorney for abused women at the Tahirih Justice Centre in Falls Church. "Muslim women want to be faithful to their religion, and the idea that you cannot disobey the word of God is very compelling, even if you are in an abusive relationship."

In June this year, 'Dr Good' living in the Midwest gets a long-distance phone call late at night. The voice at the other end is sobbing and making no sense. He gets his wife to talk to the caller. Mrs Good recognizes the voice. It's the young Pakistani wife 'A' living in an abusive relationship for two years. Her physician husband, who is in America on a 'J' visa, given to professionals, has kicked 'A' out of the house along with their son. Dr 'S' has also called the police with a concocted story about his wife's attempt to kill him and the child. The police refuse to buy his story, seek out the abandoned wife sitting outside her home on a pavement and offer her shelter. She either goes to the official shelter for the abused or spends the night at the county jail. 'A' desperately calls the Pakistani community only to be told that they don't want to get involved. Finally a Hindu friend of Dr Good living in the area agrees to take 'A' and her baby in.

Two days later, 'A' is invited for dinner by a Pakistani woman 'Mrs Z' with a promise to help. When 'A' arrives, she discovers a group of men from the local mosque along with the man of the house. 'Mr Z' does the talking. "To our mind you're already divorced based on Islamic Law since your husband threw you out of the house, even though no papers have been served or legal briefs filed."

The battered wife faces five hostile men who try intimidating her with statements like this: "All your husband has to do is to say that he divorces you three times. He can write what he has said in front of two witnesses and from a Shariah stand point you are divorced." Has he done that? Asks 'A.' "He has told us that he has," replies 'Mr Z.' If he's already done that then why do you wish to talk to me? Asks 'A.' "Because we want to help you put your life together. We feel that you must not get involved with the local police and legal system. I think you made a mistake by calling 911 for police help. You should not have done that. But you can still help by withdrawing the abuse charge that you have placed against your husband. I do not think the abuse charge will help you at all. It will only hurt the good name of the Muslims in this town and I am sure you do not wish to do that. You and your son should go back to Pakistan immediately and live there with your parents. Your husband will then send you the Islamic divorce with the haq meher etc and the matter would be amicably settled. This will be a very decent act on your part and Allah will reward you."

What about all the beatings, spitting on my face and profanities? Asks 'A.' "Sometimes people say and do things in anger, which they do not mean to do. I am sure your husband is very sorry for such behaviour. He has asked us to mediate on his behalf. His conditions are: you drop all charges against him; opt for an out-of-court settlement for separation; return to Pakistan and if you don't he'll withdraw your spousal visa and you will be declared 'illegal'; your son will live half the time with his (her husband's) parents in Pakistan; He will not provide you with any support of any kind."

These so-called Muslims who denied shelter to a helpless woman from their country have the temerity to tell 'A' that she should not have gone to a Hindu's house. "They are our enemies and they wish us bad."

On the night when 'A' is thrown out, she's working on her laptop. Being a computer expert, she knows her only weapon against her abusive husband is to record his beatings and abuses. She records the husband yelling, screaming, beating, slapping and spitting. In the background is the terrified cries of the child. 'A' is equally aggressive and argumentative. She's demanding her visa that allows her to stay in the US as a dependant of her husband. He wants to divorce her and send her back to Pakistan.

The judge hearing the case issues an 'order of protection' against the husband and gives 'A' the custody of her son. The cosmetic surgeon and his wife, living 400 miles away from the scene of action, are the only Pakistanis coming to 'A's' rescue. They drive back with her and offer to keep her until the matter is resolved.

(Next week: Before condemning Dr 'S,' we must hear his side of the story)

(To be continued)Email: &







The rioting outside the Harrow Central Mosque on Sept 11 was a forewarning of confrontations between Muslim groups and far-right organisations such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE).

The incident--the two organisations' commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by way of a demonstration against "Islamic extremism"--was underplayed by the government and the media to maintain a socially congenial image of multiculturalism. It was aborted by Unite Against Fascism (UAF), a nationwide campaign which was launched last year in response to the threat posed by the extreme-right British National Party.

The EDL, which attracts neo-Nazis, football hooligans and people sharing antipathy towards Islam, was formed in March 2008 and since then has organised anti-Muslim rallies across the UK.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who chairs the UAF, said in a statement after the incident: "People should wake up to the fact that protests outside mosques are taking us back to the fascism of the 1930s when fascist thugs marched against Jews and their places of worship. These demonstrations should be condemned and banned on the grounds of blatant religious discrimination and a threat to public order.

"If anyone were to call a demonstration outside a synagogue or church, this would rightly provoke a national outcry. There should be exactly the same response from the government, politicians, all religious faiths and the media to the call for a demonstration outside a mosque. The only possible meaning of this event is a protest against Muslims and Islam."

Amin, a resident of Harrow, accused the British government of trying to homogenise society on the pretext of upholding universal principles of freedom. "How can the applicability of universalism appease a truly multicultural society? Why should we as Muslims have to stand in defence of a mosque from racist hooligans? We're put on the back foot to defend our identity as Muslims and accused of anti-state activities for doing so. The British government needs to redefine what it means by multiculturalism."

According to academic and scholar Tariq Modood, the Britain of today is facing a shift from "a colour divide to one that has been identified by cultural racism and Islamophobia." In his Multicultural Politics, Modood writes that it is only after the Sept 11 attacks that the British government has shown some politically inclusive urgency towards its second-largest faith group, Muslim, who were nearly two million according to 2001 estimates.

An acceptance of multiculturalism as a matter of policy would amount to accepting "difference" instead of trying to create a homogenous society by encouraging pre-formulated core values. A report published by the Institute of Race Relations in 2007 criticised the British government's attempts to upstage British values at the cost of multiculturalism by insisting on English-language proficiency, an oath of allegiance, introduction of ID cards, forbidding certain religious clothing, surveillance of foreign students and control of mosques and imams. The report stated: "we are importing the worst of European race relations instead of exporting the best."

The Harrow incident should not be dismissed by the British government as a seasonal racial undercurrent. The creation of organisations such as the EDL and SIOE are reminders of the dangers of universalising political concepts of liberalism, nationalism and individualism to create a false consciousness of multiculturalism. If fascism means the same as it did in World War II, the social and political space occupied by far-right organisations in Britain bodes ill for the concept of multiculturalism.

The writer has a degree in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics. Email:








IN a very sad incident, a suicide bomber targeted offices of the World Food Programme (WFP), a UN subsidiary, in F-8 sector of the Federal Capital killing five people and injuring several others. As a reaction, the UN quickly decided to close down its activities, albeit temporarily, in the country, sending depressing and wrong signals about ground situation in Pakistan.

It is quite obvious that the objective of such dastardly acts is to defame and destabilize Pakistan. There are different accounts of how it happened but one report suggests that the attack took place immediately after an important meeting of the US officials with the UN staff, no one knows for what purposes. No one can condone or justify acts of terrorism and that is why the entire Pakistani nation is one in condemning all such incidents. These gory happenings also explain why the law enforcing agencies are fighting the war against terrorism and extremism with the full backing of the nation. But apparently the suicide bombers or master minds of such activities must be having, from their point of view, some cogent reason for carrying out attacks on UN targets, which might not be, strictly speaking, engaged in UN related activities alone. It is alleged that some of the UN offices in Islamabad, like many many other houses which are apparently meant for harmless purposes but a deeper look reveals that these are misused by the US/CIA for operations of various sorts. There are authentic reports that Americans are operating from at least two hundred houses of the capital. It is widely believed that blue flames from fifth floor of a five star hotel in Islamabad, which became target of a deadly terrorist attack, alluded towards mysterious activities of foreign agents. Similarly, it is an open secret that Americans had been using PC Hotel in Peshawar as headquarters of their questionable activities and that is why it was attacked by militants. We would, therefore, urge the capital administration to carry out a minute investigation into mysterious activities of foreigners entrenched in residential sectors of Islamabad. Their presence and activities are not only adding to the day-to-day problems of inhabitants of these sectors but also threaten their very lives. We would also urge people in Islamabad and other cities to keep a strict vigil on their neighbourhood and inform the law enforcing agencies if they suspect any negative activity.












REMITTANCES in developing countries have been identified as a key source of development funding, sometimes outpacing official development assistance, and a lifeline for poor families. Millions of Pakistanis are working abroad and their remittances back home cater for a substantial portion of our import bill, which is on the constant rise while the exports are not showing the matching increase.

To create a balance in inflows and outflows of foreign exchange, it is of utmost importance for Pakistan to explore all the options and give incentives to attract maximum inflows for their utilisation in the development of the country and betterment of the toiling masses. It is heartening that realizing the significance of contributions being made by the expatriates, Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Dr Farooq Sattar has announced to launch "Pakistan Remittances Initiative" in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and State Bank of Pakistan. This initiative is very timely as the country is in dire need of external resources at this critical juncture. It is because of Pakistan's critical financial needs that humiliating conditionalities have been attached with the Kerry-Lugar Bill that promises provision of meagre $ 1.5 billion annual US economic assistance. We are convinced that millions of overseas Pakistanis are more Pakistanis than those living within the country and they feel very strongly for the economic plight of their motherland. If properly persuaded and encouraged, these patriotic Pakistanis would be more than willing to repatriate their income to Pakistan and the country would not need to look towards others. Dr Farooq Sattar's statement that the Remittances Initiative would enable the country to get around $ 12 billion remittances from next financial year is very encouraging. The hallmark of Minister's leadership qualities is that he feels for the poor and the Overseas Pakistanis have full confidence in him. To make the scheme a success, he should personally visit the Gulf, Europe and USA where there are large concentrations of Pakistanis, brief them about the new initiatives and we are confident that he would succeed in bringing in the required remittances. The need is that the transfers of these remittances through traditional banking channels be expedited so that expatriates give up the practice of repatriating their hard earned money through Hawala or Hundi system.







BUOYED by the maddening race in the West to enter into strategic nuclear partnership with India, planners and policy-makers in New Delhi seem to be building a case for more nuclear tests in the near future. It is understood that preparations must have started years back but the establishment-sponsored debate in the country about effectiveness of the Pokhran tests of 1998 is aimed at creating conducive atmosphere for yet another adventure.

This has been confirmed by the Washington Post, which has quoted two former nuclear scientists of India as saying that more tests are needed to master the weapon and to ensure that the country has a credible nuclear deterrent in its arsenal. It is intriguing that the Indians are embarking on the path of more tests at a time when the international community was moving towards signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Only recently, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution to promote the objective of nuclear non-proliferation and in this background Indian preparations amount to making mockery of the international public opinion. In fact, Indians want to strengthen their nuclear capability to lay claims on mini superpower status. Of course, like any other sovereign country, India too has a right to pursue a policy that suits its national interests but New Delhi must be fully alive to the serious implications of the move for the world in general and Pakistan in particular. So far as Pakistan is concerned, from the very beginning its nuclear programme has remained a reaction to Indian policies and intentions and it is obvious that Islamabad will have to respond to any provocation by New Delhi. We hope that our policy-makers, relevant organizations and scientists/engineers will keep a strict watch on the fast moving developments in the region that could threaten our national interests.












In a recent statement the US Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan Gerald Festine has pointed out the presence of two Al-Qaida leaders Mulla Umar and Usama Bin Laden in Pakistan. According to him the presence of these two leaders was certified by the American intelligence agencies. He also claimed that Taliban's command system exists in Quetta. He demanded that the government of Pakistan should take stern action against the terrorists within its territory. In other words he has again started singing the most favourite American song, passionately composed for Pakistan, "Do More and Do More". Now people of Pakistan are expecting a fresh and more vital series of trials and tribulations, regarding the so-called war on terror. A new ground is being prepared, the match is about to begin, the opening batsmen are proceeding to the field.

God Knows better why the US authorities are always under the influence of a misunderstanding that Pakistan is the only land where terrorists are brought up and nurtured. They simply ignore the fact that Pakistan itself is the worst victim of terrorism. That is the reason that it has always condemned all forms of terrorism. Radical elements and extremists are the real enemy of peace loving nations like Pakistan. It is making all possible efforts to fight the menace of terrorism both internal and at external levels. The whole nation is united in its resolve to fight the menace of terrorism. But our dear American friends are ever insistent upon declaring Pakistan as a terror-supporting country.

Pakistan has never supported any force which has any type of terrorist inclination. Let us see back to the Mumbai Blasts. Pakistan was the first country which condemned this terrorist activity. When India blamed that some non-state actors are taking shelter in Pakistan, the government of Pakistan did its best to search for the culprits. Later on, after detailed investigations, this fact came to light that the names mentioned by the government of India had nothing to do with this cruel activity. Moreover some of the Indian news resources confirmed the involvement of Indian nationals in this heinous activity. Pakistan knew very well that its name is being dragged into this affair for nothing but even then the government of Pakistan provided full co-operation to the government of India in this respect. .The philosophy behind was simply to discourage terrorism at every level.

Same is the case with the Kashmir issue. Pakistan is of the opinion that the Kashmiris must be given a freedom to live their lives according to their own will and desire. Human rights violation is also a form of terrorism. Since the Indian forces are depriving the Kashmiris of their basic rights, Pakistan has a soft corner for the poor Kashmiris.

And unfortunately that is the root cause of the non-friendly relations between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is surely and certainly a peace loving country. It knows very well that a peaceful atmosphere is in the interest of both these countries. Although Pakistan has been trying its best for a long time to resume the peace process through dialogue yet it has not succeeded in its effort because of stubborn attitude of India. On the other hand India has always discouraged and crushed every kind of effort leading to peace. It is really something very astonishing that the US authorities are well aware of all these realities but even then instead of supporting Pakistan's efforts, they are blaming Pakistan for providing hide-out to the terrorist like Usama and Mulla Umar. Pakistan has nothing to do with such type of terrorists who are nothing more than a blob of shame and disgrace on the face of humanity.

Terrorism is an international phenomenon and Pakistan recognizes it as the most horrible and terrible trend or development. The situation in Balochistan is although not very encouraging yet this situation of unrest has nothing to do with Usama and Mulla Umar. The so-called separatist movement in Balochistan is not an indigenous one. The local people of Balochistan are at no level a part of such movement giving birth to unrest. It is no one but India which is trying to aggravate the situation there through the agents of Raw; same is its role in FATA.

India is obviously providing support to militants in Balochistan and FATA. The weapons and other equipment recovered from the militants who were either killed or arrested during various operations by the security forces in FATA and Balochistan provides sufficient evidence that India is involved in destabilizing efforts against Pakistan. If India stops such dangerous games and concentrate to control dozens of insurgencies and freedom movements within Indian union, every thing shall be alright. USA must try to analyze the scenario reasonably and sensibly. The US intelligence agencies know it very well that Usama and Mulla Umar are not in Pakistan; If they are alive, they might be somewhere in India because India knows well how to take care of them and what to do more for them.









War is a game with no probable draw. Everyone is a loser and of course there is no winner. Afghanistan war is nothing but destruction. All sides seem fed up but no one accepts his mistake or guilt committed. Eight long years have not taught them any lesson. Many lives have been lost, people are in distress, mothers and children are crying, yet their leaders are insisting to go beyond a draw. People are suffering, loss of jobs, America and England in grave recession, their banks are falling apart and the business is drowning. The world economic system has almost crumbled. The people of Afghanistan have nothing else except precious lives to lose for the last twenty-five to thirty years. They are left only with foreign troops and a possible light at the end of the tunnel.

I was fed up with listening and reading about the killing of hundreds everyday and witnessing coffins of my officers and soldiers coming from tribal areas of Pakistan. I decided to runaway to seek peace, harmony, and calmness for a few days. I have an inborn affinity with London, and decided to avail a break to get away from sadness and heartaches. After a few days of relief I started witnessing the same traumatics of coffins of British soldiers from Afghanistan rolling out of the Military aircraft's tail. It is almost a daily affair since I have come to London. The same pathetic scenes because of which I had run away from Pakistan, where I saw many such coffins of my sons like officers and soldiers coming from Afghan-Pakistan border and being buried by their relations. I could feel the depth of their grief, while they were speaking of being proud of their deeds in service of their country. Exactly in the same manner, the English parents were giving interviews of the loss of their children and the wives of their husbands.

Their small children totally feeling-less of what had happened and completely unaware of their future, were looking bewildered to see their fathers lying in coffin whom they had bade farewell a little while ago. It was the same pain and frustration in London as was in Pakistan. The same emotional speeches from the leaders about the sacrifices they had done for the country and cause. Mr. Bush led Tony Blair to Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda because of 9/11. Then they involved all the NATO countries for the same purpose. Pakistan was forced under duress to join the war, basically to be a party and cushion for future escalation. No one from all these leaders questioned about the alternative available to avoid the catastrophe of such attack on a small group of people and the poorest country of the world. This could have probably been done with a mere threat, to discuss on the table. After fighting so many unsuccessful wars they have not yet learnt something more rational and appropriate to sort out the mutual differences. The war in Afghanistan has now transformed from personal vengeance into a global conflict. For America and the West, it appears to be a matter of prestige where as it is a life or death for Pakistan.

9/11 was basically an instigating factor to attack Afghanistan. Taking irrational action in haste and that also by the powerful is conceivable but continuation of the folly is totally incomprehensible. Osama Bin Laden under protection by the Taliban government was considered responsible for the attack on Twin Towers; however, the cause of this action could have been perceived later to put an end to such incidents in future. All characters allegedly involved were Arabs and they must have a strong cause to commit this insanity against a super power with nuclear capability of unlimited strength, capable of destroying small and big sized targets, at will. It had to be a desperate moment for them, "to be or not to be", to commit this crime.

The cause is known to every proclaimed authority and the people but unfortunately they behave hypocritical when it comes to facing the truth. They go round and round without stopping at a confirmed moral rendezvous. They are more worried to protect their neutrality than to stand by the truth. They are the real culprits of this so called global village, where every neighbour protects only the other neighbour of wealth and authority. No one talks of poor Palestinians, the majority of whom are living as outcasts outside their own country, and those living in their own country are no better than the untouchables. 9/11 might have been the stunt of Palestinians or their Arab associates but it was definitely because of this unfortunate country occupied illegally by Jews, exported by the West from Europe to establish a country of Israel. The reality is for the history to dig out the truth about the 9/11.

After World War II Hitler was punished and Germany destroyed. Holocaust was one of the reasons for all the debris shifted to Palestine. However, if it was paramount to do so, there must have been some safeguards and adjustments made between the natives and the imported elements. That very debris has now come up as beautiful buildings, shopping plazas, dwelling palaces, and fascinating cities in Palestine. The unfortunate part is the original owners shunted out to inhabit tent cities in the neighbouring countries or shoved in the different corners of their own country. Hopefully one day there is some realization by the new settlers to accept the real owners to come and live together to cherish mutual peace and tranquillity. Have separate worship places but enjoy happiness together, otherwise these very debris maybe heading back one day as a fate accompli of the history. The Jews contribution of this area is recognized beyond doubt but for this you cannot destroy the country and establish new units. Both the communities should be absorbed in a way to keep the original identity of the country and the entire population including Jews to form a democratic entity and exist like blacks and whites in South Africa. This would create harmony and affinity rather than everlasting feud and enmity. Defacing Palestine is the cause which created the 9/11.

Afghanistan war is becoming very serious. It is no more a war with Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden; it is a war between the people of Afghanistan and America, England, and NATO. You may call them Taliban or the Tribals of Pakistan-Afghan border origin, they are the same kind of people and have been living and fighting as friends and brothers against out-siders. I hope after these eight long years of war, the West has viewed the future strategy to end this calamity. "To talk or rot is the only option". Talking indeed is the only recipe. The British commanders have complained about the quality of weapons and equipment. I wonder if that would help in any turnround. Taliban have no compatible weapons to fight nor do they have any factories to develop them. They only have the spirit and that I am afraid is picking up more momentum with the passage of time. The plan to shift the war to Pakistan has not succeeded. However, for a few weeks there was quite a bit of respite in Afghanistan while Pakistan was burning. The author of this strategy thought that they had hit the bull's eye but Pakistan proved stronger than was expected. Its forces showed their metal to subside the so called revolt arranged by the friends of Pakistan. However, they still need some time to control the situation fully. I feel some civilian elements in Pakistan still hold a motivating influence and have the capacity to steer Taliban leadership in Afghanistan to focus on a peaceful path which will not embarrass the allies nor cause humiliation to the Taliban and other Afghans. Government of Pakistan is unable to play a part in this task because they had already burnt their boats by joining the janta. The janta still has a chance to change, if only they stop acting like a godfather in the case. The civilian elements maybe solicited to help stop this small conflict growing into a big war.

The World War I and II lasted for almost nine years with millions of causalities. The Afghan war in 9th year is a matter of serious concern for all concerned. 9/11 seems to be a forgotten story now. It has now changed and become a war of women liberation and democracy. Irrespective of Karzai brand democracy or any other trade mark, no name is good enough to justify the continuation of this senseless war. The American commanders have spoken; the British commanders have endorsed the same, Pakistan is crying to wrap up. Majority of American and British people are in favour of its termination. The leaders have to wake up to the call of their people. Let them not behave like American leaders who always told their people that losing Vietnam would be losing the entire South East Asia. That was a lie, and today the apprehension of the leaders that the safety of United States and West lies in fighting the terrorism in Afghanistan is vague and a bigger lie.

This wicked war in Afghanistan must stop otherwise I personally feel that there is no shelter to avoid seeing such miseries anywhere in the world. I decided to return to Pakistan and stand by my own people to share their grief and make efforts to end this wicked war to provide relief to our brothers and sisters in England and America to receive happy soldiers coming back, to share their joys, not the coffins to increase their pain.







Of late, Barack Obama has decided to cancel plans to build missile defense bases in Czech Republic and Poland. This sudden decision has rankled some of its Washington's allies but delighted Moscow. Zbignew Brezezinski thinks that this decision had made practical sense as in his words, the bases "were to use unproven technology against a threat that does not exist." As things stand, the decision carries risks too. For instance, Obama will feel perplexed if Moscow fails to reciprocate by cooperating or stopping Iran's nuclear programme. There is also a chance that Russia might face triumphant but US could be threatened with abandoning its NATO allies. However, regardless of the outcome, Obama's decision makes a watershed in Europe's relations with former cold war adversaries.

Obama hopes that Moscow's delights at the cancellation of the much loathed bases will end up into closer US-Russian cooperation on stopping Iran's nuclear programme. However, in view of ground realities, Obama's new approach will not be tested for a few more months. Presently the US and Russia pursue similar policies on Iran. However, President Obama has recently accepted Iran's offer of wide-ranging negotiations. These, the White House says, will be allowed to run at least until the end of this year. By then, the US would be able to decide whether Iran is serious about stopping its nuclear programme or whether it is merely buying time to build nuclear weapons. Further course of action would then be decided in view of latest developments.

Interestingly in certain quarters, the recent decision to scrap the system has raised many eye brows. For instance, the American neo-conservatives interpret that as capitulation to Russia. But people on the other side feel that this decision may be difficult to interpret. However, in all probabilities, his main target seems to prevent Iran from becoming armed with nuclear weapons. Judging by the statement made by Obama during his Prague visit in April this year, he linked the missile system issue to the Iranian nuclear programme. In that context, he suggested that Iran will not be pressed hard. Mark his words: "If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have strategic bases for security and the driving force for missile defence construction in Europe at this time will be removed."

The fact that the US scrapped this system the day after Mededev's statement further backs the theory that a deal was made, especially since Russia backing for sanction could eliminating the Iranian threat as Obama put it. And in case, Russia deserts Iran's side and joins the West. China would find itself standing above. Under such circumstances its leadership could also decide that the cost of supporting Iran four outweighs the benefits.

This could mean that the US would achieve two goals with one move. Dilating on the subject DAWN (19 September 2009) brings out that strategic moves are determined by local considerations and conversely they affect political ties as well. Viewed in this context, it seems that the politics of the missile shield has been set aside. Obama's softer image may help tone down the rhetoric of the post cold war years. To recapitulate: President Obama has made a sound strategic decision scrapping former President Bush's technologically dubious plans to build a long range missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Instead, the Pentagon decided to deploy a less ambitious but more feasible system of interception first on ships and later on land.

By the time, this article goes in prints; President Obama must have met Russian President Medvedev. Hopefully, he must have made it clear that this decision is not a pay off for Moscow bullying and that are improvised relationship will depend on Russia's willingness to treat its neighbour and its people better. It is difficult for us to believe Moscow's claim that the Bush system had posed a threat to its thousands of highly sophisticated missiles. The Russians repeated it so often that they may have begun to persuade themselves. In addition to the above mentioned agenda, the two leaders have a lot more to discuss including negotiations, deeper cuts in their nuclear arsenals and agreement on a strategy to Iran's nuclear programme. The Russians will be watching Obama closely for any signs of weakness. He must be prepared to press Medvedev hard on all these issues.







Mr B A Malik in his article titled," Myth and Reality of Pakistan" (P. O. 28-9-2009), has specified certain myths, which according to him, have" DEFINED the psychology of the nation since its inception" .Every one has the right to express his opinion on any issue of his liking. Mr. Malik has done so on certain " major myths", as he has put it, in his said write up .I would like to avail this opportunity to offer my point of view on some of his perceptions that I do not find in consonance with the realities on ground.

Democracy: It is not correct to say that, " Pakistan is unfit for democracy because people don't understand this concept....". On the other hand, you will hardly find people who do not favour a democratic system for Pakistan. However, the bone of contention is which type of democracy suits the genius of its people? West Minister Abbey style democracy which was a legacy of our past British rulers, has failed to click over here. Other varieties of democracy experimented here like basic democracy, mixed or quasi-democracy etc. too have failed to deliver. A number of elections under the afore-said systems held since 1947,also have not produced the desired results .The greatest impediments in the way to establishing a genuine democratic rule in this country, are (1):rampant illiteracy among the populace and (2): the feudal system which has been in vogue here since 1947. The feudal elite having complete hold over great majority of impoverished and ignorant masses, have invariably hampered their right to free franchise .In view of the same, It is being increasingly felt, that what Pakistan needs is a democratic system that is tailored according to its peculiar circumstances and needs.

Constitution v/s Country: I am of the firm opinion that country gets preference over its constitution. Constitution is framed for the country and not the Vice a Versa. It is as simple as that. So if the two are somehow tied up, the country must get the priority. The much maligned, "Doctrine of Necessity", acts as a rescuer in such Mix Ups.

Media Freedom: It was acknowledged even at international forums, that the media freedom allowed by the previous Govt. was unprecedented in the annals of Pakistan. To term that achievement as " Non Sense" and " dictatorship and press- freedom do not match", is a slander.

GENERALS: No body has claimed that the Pakistani generals Alone are real champions of national interests,. It seems as if here the writer's imagination has run wild. The charge is too flimsy to merit serious consideration.

Ayub's and Musharraf's books :on going through the books authored by Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf,I failed to find any Worth While distortion therein. Rather, the texts of the books depict a fairly realistic picture of the then prevailing conditions. To call the contents of the books as, "historical distortions with abandon", is a distortion in itself.

Pakistan"s Dismemberment : To deny the stark reality, also so recognized internationally, that India dismembered Pakistan in 1971,no sane person, least of all a patriotic Pakistani, can subscribe to Mr. Malik's contention ,that " India did exploit the opportunity of the century but our own blunders primarily led to this colossal debacle". I wonder, if he is not unwittingly, legitimizing India's said despicable act?

Kashmir dispute: Even the big powers namely ,U.S.A.,Great Britain , who have all along been siding with India, have after long last , admitted openly that peace in South Asia is not possible without an amicable settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Mr. Malik calls this issue as, "out-dated stereo-type" How strange!

Nuclear Arsenel: That it is a guarantee for Pakistan's security has been amply proved by the year-long stand off of the million strong Indian and Pakistani armed forces at the Pakistan border in 2001-2. India was hell- bent to invade Pakistan, but it is latter's nukes that thwarted her nefarious designs. But Mr. Malik has the temerity to say that nuclear arsenal provides no such guarantee. American Interference :His outright denial of' continually increasing American interference in Pakistan's affairs is beyond our humble comprehension. How can he remain ignorant of this widely known development? Finally, he has acclaimed the performance of the incumbent Govt., lawyers, judiciary and others, which I feel, is the result of his misplaced optimism. Frankly speaking, during the last one year and half that the present rulers have been at the helm of affairs, Pakistan has degenerated into its worst ever crises in all spheres of national activity. I don't want to go into details as all are well aware of it. Suffice it to say, that all economic indicators that were made positive during the previous Government's reign ,have become negative now.

Proverbial begging bowl that was broken by the previous regime, is again in the hands of the present Govt.'s emissaries who are trotting around the world seeking more and more alms but which are hard to get by as the credibility of the incumbent Govt. has touched rock bottom. And lately, Pakistan has been relegated to the status of one of the failed States of the world. In the face of all this, Mr Malik's lambasting the previous "dictatorial" regime (which, in fact, had done a great deal for this country), and offering accolades to the present one that has put to naught all that had been achieved earlier, is something beyond one's comprehension.







Something pretty silly happening in several states throughout the country are political parties trying to bring in a permit system to prevent 'outsiders' from working in a city which they have not been born into. I foresee a situation like the one below as a migrant steps down from a train somewhere in India:

Your permit please!" "What permit?" "Work permit, travel permit, residential permit?" "What are you talking


Sir, the state government has decried that you can't reside in this city, or work here unless you have a permit!" "Arty!" "Who are you calling sir?"

My friend Arty! Ah here he is! Arty this man says I can't reside or work over here without a valid permit!" "Tell him to leave you alone!" "Arty says to leave me alone!"

Sir we don't want any trouble, all we insist is that you get back onto the train on it's return journey and go back to where you've come from!"

Sir my friend Arty is shaking his head!" "Yes I can see that, but it's no use, you have to abide by this state decree!" "Sir my friend Arty is still shaking his head!"

I am not bothered what your friend Arty does, just get back onto the train. You cannot work here or reside here!" "Sir you are making my friend Arty very angry!"

Please get back on the train!" "Sir I beg you not to annoy Arty! Do not touch me!" "I have to physically take you back, I'm sorry, but with the powers vested on me by the state government I now push you back, whoa, whoa, what is your friend Arty doing? He has picked me up, and thrown me across the platform and to the yard outside!"

Come on Arty lets go, sorry sir, that my friend Arty had to do this to you, but he had to when you tried to enforce your silly rule!" "I am hurt, I can hardly walk; Arty is a very rough person!"

He is very rough when it comes to defending me!" "Who is this, your friend Arty?" "His pet name is Arty which stands for Article 19 of the Constitution of India which gives every citizen of this country the freedom to travel, work and reside anywhere in the country! Arty stands by the basic fundamental right of every Indian, enshrined in the sacred constitution of our land!"

What muscle! What strength!" moaned and groaned the permit checker, "Why did I ever try and fight someone as strong as Arty..!"













Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the National Children's Day and Child Rights Week-2009 on Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assured all possible support for the greater welfare of children with special emphasis on creation of facilities for the physically and mentally challenged among them. Days and weeks dedicated to the causes of children usually turn ritualistic with rhetoric dominating. Such colourful functions simply bypass those children who live in misery and abject poverty. Instead of making the wish list longer, a few concrete measures, such as arrangement for mid-day meal or regular health check-up in schools, can make a real difference in the lives of millions of children.

The prime minister has spelt out her government's plan to modify the existing child laws and charters enacted in 1974 with the aim to give greater benefits to the physically and mentally challenged. Sure enough, recent focus on this issue was missing way back in 1974 and therefore new legal provisions are needed to address it. But at the same time, children of the disadvantaged segments of society need special care to bring them out of the poverty trap. Because they constitute the major part of the child population, a lot depends on how society and government institutionally back their case. To produce quality human resources, there is no alternative to a comprehensive plan for the entire population right from the reproduction stage to education and employment.
The overwhelming emphasis on population control through the 60s, 70s and 80s exposed its weakness in the late 90s and today the emphasis is on both mother and child health. If clinical delivery of babies can be ensured with monitoring of mothers' health during pregnancy, child mortality can be drastically reduced. Once this is ensured, the status of child health can also be improved significantly. This acts as a guarantee for keeping the family size small. Add to this some government incentives or benefits for single-child families, and half of child welfare will be achieved. The rest can be taken care of gradually. 









In a country where good news is scarce, the latest index report from the United Nations' Human Development (HDI), has something for the entire country to cheer. It says that Bangladesh has moved two notches up and entered the category of medium-developed country - a much-desired goal of the nation. The news is all the more encouraging as it is not the first year that there has been an upward movement in this category. Hopefully, the trend will continue in the years to come.

The current rating, based on the data of 2007, is slightly backdated. It is likely that data from the current year will show even further improvement. The key indicators used to determine the HDI rank are longevity, education and standard of living. Although all these are in many ways dependent on the general economic conditions of the country, they pose a big challenge. The report has several other important observations. For instance, it was observed that migration, both within and without, helps alleviate poverty. It says that as migration to other countries is cumbersome and expensive migration even within one's own country alleviates poverty

The study also says that the annual remittance sent to Bangladesh is three times the amount of foreign aid that the country receives, annually. If current data were used then it would be almost five times. But it is quite evident from the countries on the HDI list that the relationship between social and economic development is very important. Countries, like the Maldives, for example, have done very well. India, despite its phenomenal economic growth has not done that well but remains slightly above Bangladesh. The progress made on the HDI count shows if we stay on course, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) may not be as tough as is thought in certain circles.









"It's raining!"

"Yes it is son!" said a voice in the thunderclap. "But it's October Lord! You're supposed to send rain during the monsoons, not in October!"

"Didn't you pray for rain?"

"Yes I did!"

"Did you tell me. 'Send it only during the monsoons?"

"No, we needed water!"

"Why? Didn't you have enough water during the monsoons?"

"Not like before, when the lakes overflowed, sluice gates were opened and water gushed through our taps!"

"And you wasted it?"

"Yes we did!"

"But you had enough these monsoons, didn't you?"

"Yes Lord!"

"But not enough to waste, right?"

"And then you got worried about what could happen after the monsoons and prayed? You didn't have your excess so you worried about tomorrow?"

"Yes Lord!"

"Isn't that with everything you do, Bob? If you have just enough in the bank you worry about the future and when you have plenty you waste it on things you don't need!"

"That's true, Lord!"

"Same thing here. You had enough rains, just enough to take care of your needs, but that got you worried and you prayed!"

"I did!" 

"So I sent the rains now!"

"Feels a little strange these showers now. Lord!"

"What's strange to you is my timing. isn't it? That I answer prayers at my own time even in October?"

"Yes Lord!"

"People pray; I hear their voices rising up to me and I hear every one of their prayers, every one Bob. But when I don't answer those prayers when they want, they feel either I haven't heard or I'm too busy or they say there is no God!"

"So true Lord, so true!"

"So Bob!"

"Yes Lord?"

"Look up at the rain clouds, though it is October, and tell people that God answers their prayers when God knows it's the right time to do so…!"

"Yes Lord!" I said and watched happily as a cloud let fall a shower onto my joyous face.









THE good news in yesterday's interest rate rise is that Australia is recovering strongly from the global financial crisis, with the Reserve Bank predicting growth will return to trend next year. The bad news is the Reserve has acted while Canberra is still spending billions of dollars to encourage economic activity. Fiscal and monetary policy are now acting against each other, with the government using borrowed money to accelerate the economy while the Reserve is applying the brakes. The problem is by no means severe. At 3 per cent, official interest rates were at a half-century year low, set to stop the global financial crisis strangling growth altogether. But yesterday's 0.25 per cent rise is the first of a likely run of rises intended to return rates to levels suited to normal conditions rather than a severe slump. And while ministers are keen to tell us times are still tough, the Reserve's decision reflects all sorts of evidence that the economy is improving. This week, job advertisements have jumped ahead and August retail sales were up by 0.9per cent, almost double market expectations. While people enduring unemployment would prefer a job offer to a rate rise, the signs in the economic skies are more benign than they were in the middle of the year.


This puts Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan in a difficult position. If they cut back on the bulk of the stimulus spending still to come and unemployment - always a lagging indicator - increases, they will be condemned by the tradespeople who are the beneficiaries of the school building program. But they will not be thanked by families with home loans and business borrowers if rates rise because of government spending designed to contain a crisis that has passed. Last week, Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said that if $20-$30 billion of the remaining stimulus were cancelled, it would lead to interest rates staying lower for longer. The question for the government is whether we are there yet, whether the emergency is over. On the Reserve's evidence yesterday, there is a good chance we are.


If so, it is time for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to consider implementing "Plan B", the one that should have been prepared in parallel with the stimulus strategy. The one that Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who understands the importance of the government's 2 per cent spending cap, will probably be itching to introduce. This is the document that details how to slow spending on facilities schools do not need and other make-work programs using skilled workers in short supply, before they start to delay private sector projects. Canberra has already abandoned the December start date for primary school projects, and it is time to consider cancelling job-generating projects. This does not mean the government was wrong to commit an enormous amount of money as the dimensions of the global financial crisis became clear. While we will never know the relative role of the stimulus and the resilience of the economy in saving us from the slump, Mr Rudd had to act last year. Certainly the infrastructure spending should go ahead - the need for massive improvements to roads and railways pre-dated the slump - but as times change, so should strategy. It would be a wicked waste if Canberra kept spending money because it did not know how to stop. Mr Tanner wants the budget review process to commence early this year. If there is no plan to slow spending, he should ask his officials to prepare one - fast.








ELIZABETH Blackburn, is an outstanding advocate for a profession at which Australians excel. Her Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine should inspire keen students to forge careers in science, which Professor Blackburn, 60, described yesterday as "a wonderful process" with "the intellectual excitement, the collegial interactions, the intellectual community, that's the real point".


For the person in the street, Professor Blackburn's following her nose and trying experiments simply to satisfy her curiosity may, one day, mean the difference between suffering the ravages of ageing or not. She is not promising to reverse the clock, but her discovery, along with two American colleagues, of an enzyme, telomerase, that protects the genes from wearing down throughout life "sort of translates into a fountain of youth", she said yesterday. It prolongs the years of healthy living "like the tips at the end of the shoelace stop the shoelace from fraying away". The implications range from cancer and heart disease treatments to preventing blindness and extreme frailty. The finding is also relevant to the impact of stress and mind-body connections on illness.


Like many outstanding Australian scientists, including 1945 Nobel laureate Howard Florey and 1996 laureate Peter Doherty, Tasmanian-born Professor Blackburn has built her career overseas. She completed her PhD in Cambridge and teaches at the University of California, San Francisco.


International experience is important in cutting-edge scientific research. And larger budgets and wider scope have long drawn some of Australia's best scientists abroad.


These days, however, such mobility is more of a two-way street. More of Australia's best researchers, including 2005 Nobel laureates Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who discovered heliocobacter pylori, the bacterium that causes gastritis and peptic ulcers, have made their breakthroughs in this country. And some of the best scientists from overseas, such as cervical cancer vaccine creator Ian Frazer, have been drawn to our shores by excellent opportunities and facilities.


Australia's 11th Nobel laureate, Professor Blackburn is the 10th rewarded for scientific and medical breakthroughs. Such a proud record reflects the quality of much of our science teaching for generations, and is a good reason for reinforcing the rigour of the curriculum. Unfortunately, while career opportunities for scientists have improved, Australia suffers severe shortages of scientists and qualified teachers. It remains to be seen how effective cutting HECS fees for maths and science students proves to be.


Professor Blackburn, who has a strong record of mentoring young scientists, is concerned about the rate at which women are leaving the profession at relatively senior levels, even after completing doctorates, graduate training and postdoctoral research. Married with an adult son, she once wrote that the most memorable week of her life occurred at age 37 when she became a full professor and discovered she was to become a mother, so she understands the challenges. While academia and research can be flexible, the hours are long. Improving conditions, including childcare to accommodate parents working outside standard business hours, must remain a priority.


One of the most encouraging aspects of Professor Blackburn's win is the excitement it has generated across the nation, from classrooms to the media. Slowly but surely, Australians are beginning to admire our scientific heroes as much as, or even more than, our sporting stars.








PERHAPS people worried by nuclear weapons will listen to one of their own when he advocates storing spent Australian uranium at home after it has finished producing power overseas - but they probably will not. Opposition to expanding uranium mining is strong on the Labor Left and green extreme and the idea radioactive waste can be safely stored in remote Australia is opposed by everybody who believes their backyard encompasses the continent. So they will not be impressed that Gareth Evans, head of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, suggests that as Australia sells uranium, it should take responsibility for its residue.


Never mind that as foreign minister Mr Evans advocated nuclear disarmament and still opposes proliferation. And never mind that his argument makes sense. Uranium's enemies dug themselves an ideological hole on nuclear energy long ago and are not interested in climbing out.


But everybody else should listen to Mr Evans's argument. That Australia has about 40 per cent of the world's known uranium makes it as selfish as it is silly to refuse to sell as much as can be mined. And if we are prepared to sell it, we should be willing to store its radioactive remains in the vast tracts of Australia that are geologically stable and uninhabited. Nuclear energy is the only alternative to coal that can produce the vast amounts of base-load power the developing world wants, and storing radioactive waste would do more for the environment by reducing greenhouse emissions than building windmills ever will.









The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens's, statement that the risk of a serious contraction in the Australian economy has now passed is a welcome one. Emergency averted, everyone. And so interest rates must rise from emergency lows.


But this is not the time for the Federal Government to start cutting back its planned stimulus, as the Opposition argues it should. First, the stimulus is already scheduled to wind down over time. The biggest stimulus is already behind us - with spending worth 1.5 per cent of the entire economy in the first six months of this year. This will wind down to stimulus of 0.5 per cent of GDP in the second half of next year. These figures are no secret to the Reserve Bank, which will take them into account when raising rates in months to come.


Australians are fortunate to be served by two economic policy masters, wielding two very different macroeconomic policy tools: the Reserve Bank with interest rates and the Federal Government with spending and taxing decisions. These two tools have different features that make them better suited to different tasks.


The interest rate policy lever changes the incentives for individuals and businesses to spend now or save for later. But though interest rates change quickly, people take time to respond to the changed incentives, so that monetary policy works with a lag of between six and nine months. The advantage is that it is very easy for the Reserve board to adjust interest rates regularly at its monthly meetings. So it is right, and normal, for the Reserve Bank to take early policy action and in increments.


The fiscal policy lever is generally a lot slower. Cash handouts, as we saw this year, are like a sugar hit to the economy - they work immediately. However, spending on infrastructure takes much longer. Decision-making on fiscal policy is also less timely, usually occurring only once a year with the budget.


Rather than cancelling remaining stimulus projects in schools and public housing, as the Opposition would argue, it would be more prudent to simply slow the pace of implementation. It is hard to argue that schools and public housing do not need the money.


But the Government now has more time to ensure the spending is not wasteful, as has been in some cases where schools have been given a duplicate hall or unnecessary classrooms. Deadlines for worthy applications should be waived. The urgency to get money out the door has passed, so there is no excuse for reckless spending now.







FRANK SARTOR is right. The former planning minister - ejected by Nathan Rees from his ministry and now an observer and possible aspirant for the leadership - has told the Herald that senior planning bureaucrats, and specifically the head of the Planning Department, Sam Haddad, should not be meeting lobbyists working on behalf of developers. Lobbyists should advise clients on the best approach to government to gain approval for a project; they should not be the point of contact between businesses and politicians or the bureaucracy.


Sartor was commenting, of course, on some of the revelations that have followed the murder of Michael McGurk. Since McGurk's death there has been a lot of publicity concerning the links between McGurk, his business contacts, the Labor Government and the NSW planning bureaucracy. For example, it has emerged that the former Labor politician Graham Richardson has lobbied Haddad, personally on four separate occasions over various projects, apparently without the knowledge of the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally. It took a parliamentary inquiry to elicit this information. Haddad, when asked initially by the Herald if Richardson had lobbied him, appeared to have forgotten what had happened five days earlier.


Some, notably Keneally, appear to believe that the whole business is a dreadful beat-up designed by Labor's enemies to smear the party and discredit the Government in the eye of the public. Keneally likes to spell things out. Lobbying, she told The Australian Financial Review, is l-e-g-a-l. That is true, and no one is denying it. But the fact that Keneally feels the need to emphasise it so heavily shows she is conscious that the way things have been managed on her watch looks not quite right. Haddad's reticence suggests he feels the same. And indeed it does not look right. Like much of the relationship between this Government and the development industry, with its intricate web of political donations and unappealable ministerial zoning decisions, it lacks the essential ingredient for public trust: transparency. To use language Keneally will understand, it looks d-o-d-g-y.


To judge from her arrogant stonewalling thus far, Keneally is not about to disinfect NSW's murky planning processes with a little more sunlight and openness and ensure that things not only are above board, but are seen to be so. Someone will have to tell her to act. That will have to be the Premier. Over to you, Mr Rees.










AUSTRALIA is an island continent, but it is anything but an island economy. The global economic crisis hit home, and only the most aggressive monetary and fiscal responses - a cut in the cash rate from 7.25 to 3 per cent in seven months and massive government spending - averted the deep recession that hit other major economies. This decade, the Reserve Bank of Australia has distinguished itself among central bankers in making the right calls, but yesterday's 25-point increase in the cash rate, to 3.25 per cent, was unnervingly bold.


The International Monetary Fund predicts growth of 0.7 per cent in Australia this year, making it the only advanced economy to expand, but the outlook is still clouded. Unemployment is forecast by the IMF to hit 7 per cent - a jump from the most recent figure of 5.8 per cent - and a continuing fall in working hours is also eroding incomes. The adrenalin shot of the fiscal stimulus is wearing off, too, as handouts have been spent and home buyer grants have been cut. The transition from a period of extreme policy stimulus has just begun and we have yet to see how housing and construction, business investment and consumer spending cope with the withdrawal symptoms, let alone with higher interest rates.


Some indicators are encouraging: retail sales rose 0.9 per cent in August and job vacancies grew last month, for a second time, after 15 months of decline. But new vehicle sales fell 3.5 per cent last month and were 13.1 per cent less than a year ago. An Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey illustrates the gap between rising expectations and ''own business'' conditions, where the index, on a trend basis, hit 51.6 per cent - the lowest since the survey began in 1998. ACCI director of economics and industry policy Greg Evans said: ''We are waiting to see expectations converted into actual improvements in trading conditions, and that hasn't actually happened yet.''


In the biggest economy of all, the United States, latest data lend weight to the IMF's warning that any recovery in advanced economies will be weak and a second slump is possible. The US unemployment rate rose again to 9.8 per cent - the highest level in 26 years - as 263,000 jobs were lost last month, the first time since January that the rate of job losses has increased. Manufacturing was also weaker than hoped. European Union unemployment rose to 9.1 per cent in August, while Japan remained near record highs at 5.5 per cent.


A worrying development in Japan, the world's second-largest economy, is that the fall in consumer prices is the worst in three decades and wages have fallen 15 months in a row, fuelling fears of a deflationary spiral. What this means for Australia is that three of its four most important trading relationships are in deep trouble. (China is the exception that has helped shield our economy.) Three-quarters of all sales dollars spent in the world are in rich developed countries. As long as spending is on the slide in the US, Europe and Japan, Australia's recovery is not assured.


As RBA Governor Glenn Stevens noted yesterday, Australia benefits from its ties to Asia, with China and South Korea set to lead the recovery. Even so, export industries would not welcome the jump in the dollar as a result of the rate increase - only Israel has moved earlier. Mr Stevens recently conceded that moving too soon could ''abort the recovery''. In that event, debt-laden governments won't be able to repeat the stimulus. Most face years of budget austerity.


The reason for the RBA's desire to lift the cash rate from its ''emergency setting'' of the past five months lies in the origins of the recession, the subprime mortgage bubble in the US. After the shocks of 2001, the Federal Reserve did not lift rates until 2004. Cheap money fuels asset price bubbles. Australia's underlying inflation rate is higher than desirable, but the interest-sensitive property and construction sectors are vital to recovery. Even with near-record population growth, building activity has been flat and house prices are just 3.8 per cent higher than in February 2008. Home lending growth has settled around 7 per cent a year (it hit 20 per cent in the mid-2000s) and lending to investors is weaker.


The Opposition yesterday stuck to the simplistic mantra of high interest rates bad, low rates good, as it blamed ''reckless'' Government spending for pushing up interest rates. Those rates must be tailored to circumstances, however, and the Reserve Bank believes the economy is on the path of sustainable recovery. Arguably, it should have waited a month to assess the impact of the easing of stimulus spending on September-quarter inflation and tomorrow's labour force figures. The Reserve chose not to wait, judging that the risk of an economic relapse has passed. That is a big call, and one can only hope it is the right one.

Source: The Age







BY MOST reckonings, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, who this week was declared a co-winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, is Australia's 11th Nobel laureate. But as the keeper of the tally, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, acknowledges, the number chosen depends partly on how ''Australian'' is defined. Another eight laureates have some link to Australia. Dr Blackburn, however, will forever stand out on anyone's count. She is the first Australian woman to win a Nobel Prize, and one of few women of any nationality to have become a laureate: of the 793 individuals awarded a Nobel Prize since 1901, only 37 have been women.


The award that Dr Blackburn - a University of Melbourne graduate who works at the University of California, San Francisco - shares with Carol Greider and Jack Szostak, is for their ''discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase''. Their work raises the prospect of medical breakthroughs in cancer research, and in dealing with the ageing process. Dr Blackburn's success continues a disproportionately strong representation of Australians among Nobel laureates in medicine and the sciences. It is also, however, a reminder of the international character of science, and of the fact that Australian researchers so often have to leave this country to excel. Dr Blackburn, who has worked at the University of California for 30 years, holds joint US-Australian citizenship. Indeed, of the 11 laureates on the DFAT list, fewer than half were born in Australia, educated to tertiary level here, and performed the work for which they were awarded the prize in this country. Whether these things are true of future ''Australian'' Nobel laureates will depend in considerable part on whether this nation is willing to fund research appropriately.









Most people do not live to work, but work to live. They find it galling to hear Westminster insiders with interesting jobs hectoring them about grinding on for longer. George Osborne's call yesterday for a rise in the pension age is likely to be taken that way, even though it embodies a cold logic. That logic first led the Turner commission to recommend the rise which the shadow chancellor now wants to speed up.


Pensions once supported people for two or three years, but now it is more like two to three decades. Mr Osborne sometimes talks about "the fruits of economic growth", and – once recovery arrives – these might have been banked on to cover the costs, were it not for the new cross-party consensus for restoring the link between pensions and earnings. That will give pensioners their fair share of rising prosperity, but will also consume all the available fruits. Extending longevity will therefore entail either new taxes or working for longer. State pension costs are the biggest chunk of the welfare bill, at £63bn a year. Raising the qualifying age by a year might shave 3%-6% from that total, far more than would be got by a full-frontal assault on smaller benefits paid to the poor. In theory, at least, it should also carry a less devastating social cost.


In practice, however, everything depends on the steps taken to protect the vulnerable – detail we heard little about yesterday. Life expectancy has, after all, risen faster in rich communities than in poor ones, as David Cameron pointed out in the days before financial conservatism overshadowed the compassionate strain. Asking dispossessed older people, sometimes w