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Thursday, October 8, 2009

EDITORIAL 08.10.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 08, edition 000318, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






















































































The barbaric killing of Inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand would have convinced India that the Maoist insurgency is not the work of misguided do-gooders but of criminals motivated by a perverse and perverted ideology. Induwar was kidnapped while on surveillance duty in a market in Arki block of Khunti district. The Maoists announced he was in safe custody and demanded the release of some high-profile Left-wing guerrillas who have recently been arrested — included the infamous Kobad Ghandy in Delhi and Chhatradhar Mahato in West Bengal. It was a preposterous demand. Instead of climbing down, the Maoists responded with unusual bestiality and beheaded Induwar. His mutilated body was flung on the National Highway just 20 km from Ranchi. Inspector Induwar has not died alone. The murder of a policeman on duty is an assault on the Indian state and a provocation that cannot go unanswered. It is perhaps comparable to the gunning down of DIG AS Atwal in 1983. Atwal was coming out of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, with karah prasad in his hand. He was vulnerable and unarmed; Khalistani terrorists shot him in the back. This brutal assassination finally awakened India to the danger that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his occupation of the Golden Temple posed. Likewise, the manner of Induwar's killing — beheading a human being is accepted practice only among such medievalists as the Taliban — has the potential to turn the disquiet against the Maoists into a surge of anger. It is for the Government of India to use this opportunity and hit back hard. The public mood will both demand and sanction strong action against the Left's private armies.

A Maoist with a gun or a bomb or a rocket launcher is a clear and present danger and needs to be exterminated. Maoist accomplices — often white collar professionals or members of the so-called intelligentsia — present a different problem. It is not always easy to distinguish a lay sympathiser from a co-conspirator, one who provides monetary and other support to the Maoists, or helps set up communication lines. The case of Binayak Sen in Chhattisgarh is well known but, as is now apparent, it is not an isolated one. In Kolkata, the police has identified and questioned self-proclaimed thinkers and activists who have been funding and providing logistical aid to the Maoist militia. These people are no different from the managers of 'Islamic charities' in Saudi Arabia who end up bankrolling Al Qaeda and its fraternal organisations. It is vital to block the economic arteries of terrorists. If this means arresting high-profile fellow travellers who masquerade as writers and activists, so be it.

Forty years after the previous one, India is at the edge of a second Maoist quelling. After the wasted Shivraj Patil period — Home Minister from 2004 to 2008, Mr Patil was singularly unable to gauge the depth of the Maoist challenge and allowed it to grow into the monster it is today — there is a welcome unanimity of political opinion on the ultra-Left threat. India must not lose this chance. If nothing else, the Congress owes it to YS Rajashekhara Reddy, the stalwart Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh who died recently. In his five years in office, he destroyed the Maoist network in his State. Now the YSR agenda needs to be made a national mission.







Understanding the life and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi is no easy task. One might dedicate his or her entire life to studying Gandhi and yet only grasp a fraction of that which made Mohandas Karamchand a Mahatma and a revered figure all over the world. So when a direct descendant of the Father of the Nation, claiming to represent his legacy, ends up besmirching Bapu's name and the principles he stood for, it is a matter of outright shame. For, this is precisely what Mr Tushar Gandhi — the great-grandson of the Mahatma — has done by endorsing Mont Blanc's exorbitantly-priced, limited-edition pens that have an image of Bapu engraved on their gold and silver nibs, and has been doing over a period of time through what can be best described as a self-aggrandising campaign centred on exploiting his identity as a member of the Gandhi family. It must be said that none of the Mahatma's descendants apart from Mr Tushar Gandhi have ever done anything to try and cash in on their identity. Many of them have gone on to become noteworthy scholars, writers and activists. But they never did any of those things on the basis of the surname they held. Like the Mahatma himself, they have tried their best to give to the country without ever thinking of asking anything in return.

It is in this respect that Mr Tushar Gandhi stands apart from the rest of his kinsmen and should rightly be criticised for it. The fact that Mont Blanc 'donated' Rs 72 lakh to his Mahatma Gandhi Foundation for his endorsement of their limited-edition pens and that he would be receiving an additional sum of Rs 50,000 for each one that is sold is completely contrary to the basic values that the Mahatma represents. To begin with, it goes against Gandhi's fundamental principle of austerity. The Mahatma would have never approved of manufacturing and selling pens worth lakhs of rupees when millions in this country and around the world can't even afford two square meals a day. Second, the very idea of a corporation selling an ordinary commodity at an outlandish price in the name of the Mahatma is sacrilege. No matter how much Mont Blanc tries to explain that its scheme is borne out of reverence for Gandhi, at the end of the day it is selling the Gandhi pens for its own financial profit. Its action amounts to reducing Gandhi to a mere commercial brand. But what really leaves a bitter taste in the mouth is that Mr Tushar Gandhi is consenting to all this in the name of 'keeping the Mahatma alive in the 21st century'. Perhaps we shouldn't have expected anything better from a man who had earlier agreed to the use of Bapu's image in an advertisement for a credit card company. Hopefully, this time around he has been exposed for the fraud he is.



            THE PIONEER




China must worry and inspire India in equal measure. Worry, for one obvious reason: China's military modernisation and preparedness. While India has been dismissing recent Chinese incursions into its territory as "routine" or mere "navigational errors," it can ill-afford to ignore China's massive infrastructure build-up across the Himalayas, the extent of which India will easily take a decade to match. This is not to raise the specter of a military conflict in the foreseeable future. Indeed, the road to China's superpower destination by 2020 does not, and cannot, pass through its borders with India. The geopolitical fabric of the world and the position India and China occupy in global politics and economy today clearly preclude a 1962 repeat. Yet, India needs to worry about dealing with the psychological game China is playing.

Here, the issue is not about irritating incursions into Indian territory which China has long practiced and perfected. What is worrisome is the fact that while China can deploy troops to the border in a matter of hours, a similar exercise will take India weeks if not months because of the pathetic infrastructure leading up to our outposts, an obstacle India is only now waking up to. China's psychological edge in this disparity is apparent; it has rail, road and air heads, all capable of rapid troop movement, right up to the borders. Admittedly, our armed forces have heightened patrol along the sensitive borders. However, ill-equipped soldiers, limited air options and lack of all-weather roads and logistical support are hardly the stuff psychological wars are made of.

Nearly five decades since China humiliated us militarily, India has still to complete the various road projects proposed for Ladakh, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, all-weather roads that were meant to be logistical bolsters for our troops. The Border Roads Organisation, entrusted with the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North East, has now been given a 2013 deadline. The upgrading of 40 identified airbases, mostly in the North-East, will be complete only in the next five to seven years. So far, there are only four airbases in Ladakh. Indeed, what should have been completed at least a decade ago shall easily take another five years. Till then, China will continue to twist the psychological knife into India.

If indeed China is such a huge source of worry for India, how can it possibly inspire? It ought to inspire us to set targets, and meet them. National security interest and strategy have long dictated that India should be extremely wary of China and its ever-increasing military might. China has always remained focused on India as a regional and global rival. In the past five decades, however, virtually nothing has been done in response to China's much-publicised rapid infrastructure build-up across Tibet. While Pakistan has continued to obsess our policy-framers since 1947, there has been a woeful lack of foresight or even hindsight on China. Despite a bloodied nose in the past, successive governments in New Delhi have failed to evolve a China policy that looks at and beyond a military engagement. Although former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a promising start in engaging China on equal terms (it finally accepted Sikkim as an Indian State in 2003), the NDA's exit from power only saw India's border disputes with China grow more acrimonious. All these decades while Beijing made noises about willing to settle the border dispute through negotiations, it identified India as an impediment in its superpower aspirations and duly pumped in millions of dollars into infrastructure build-up at the border and strategic inroads into India's neighbours. A similar initiative would have stood India in good stead.

China and its phenomenal ascent, not simply militarily but also economically, politically and strategically, is indeed an inspiring story. Many fallaciously argue that China could achieve this only because it is not a democracy. Admittedly democracy is a political ideal every country must aspire to. But does the lack of democracy impact a nation's will to dream big? Back in 2000, China made a bid alongside Turkey, Japan, France and Canada (incidentally, powerful democracies all) to host the 2008 Olympics, and won. The manner in which Beijing and its nation were to transform in the next seven years was for the world to marvel at. Not only did the Beijing Olympics become one of the most widely watched event in the Games' history, the countdown years from 2001 witnessed the most magnificent infrastructure build-up any country can boast of in recent times. Much of what was created for the Games is now showcased as a legacy that the Chinese will relish for many years to come.

And, the Chinese dream did not stop at merely winning the bid and hosting the Games. They captured a record 51 gold medals at the event. In fact, when ace shooter Abhinav Bindra, India's gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics, in a panel discussion on television recently argued that before bidding for the 2020 Olympics India ought to draw lessons from China on how to create a sports infrastructure that could get us that many gold medals, he was rebuffed by a senior journalist who felt China could achieve this because it was not a democracy. Now when did sporting excellence of a nation become a factor of its political system? A world class sports infrastructure is for any nation, democratic or otherwise, to dream of. India needs to dream that big but our decision and policy makers are yet to. Before staking claim to the 2020 Olympics we must seriously debate the tardy infrastructure development currently underway in the national Capital for the 2010 Commonwealth Games as also quality control. A much awaited underpass at one of the city's busiest intersections had to be closed to traffic within hours of its inauguration on Tuesday because a water pipe burst and the newly built road got flooded!

China's impressive economic trajectory in the past three decades can consume many more words. So will its evolution as the first serious contender to dethrone the world's sole superpower. Suffice it to say that democracy or the lack of it does not affect a country's will to become a superpower, one of the world's largest tourist hubs, a sporting giant or indeed the most influential economy. Of the two most powerful countries in the world today one is a democracy, the other is not. India, a vibrant democracy with superpower ambitions, needs to crack the code.







It is highly gratifying that singing maestro Manna Dey has been awarded the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest honour in Indian cinema. Although the award has come his way rather late, it is most welcome.

But my greatest regret is that arguably India's most versatile male playback singer Mohammed Rafi, whose talents have been unmatched in the musical firmament of Bollywood for four decades, hasn't got either the Bharat Ratna or the Dada Saheb Phalke Award both of which he deserves. Though fate snatched him away from us at the early age of 55, his discography exceeds 20,000 songs in 20 languages. Besides, he is also credited for a large body of non-Bollywood renderings. Imagine or choose any occasion and you will find a Rafi number absolutely suiting it. Be it bhangra, ghazal, qawwali, romantic songs, lullabies, classical, folk songs, patriotic songs, bhajans or even hard-to-find rukhsati songs, the magic of Rafi's voice holds the listener in ethereal thrall.

Rafi had an extremely versatile voice which appeared to flawlessly suit every actor. He made Rajendra Kumar a jubilee star and he imparted to Shammi Kapoor his sui generis style. He sang for Johnny Walker in his unique thin voice by belting out Mein Bambayi ka babu (Naya Daur). He crooned for thespian Dilip Kumar Mujhe Duniya Walon Sharabi Naa Samjho (Leader) so meticulously that it is hard to believe that during his lifetime Rafi never touched alcohol.

If any, his only match is the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar. Individually, they are masters but together they were magical and divine. Rafi was a one-stop, single-window shop for all music composers, film directors, producers, lyricists and actors.

Laxmikant Pyarelal remarked on Rafi's death that earlier when they composed a tune they used to search for singers who could sing it. But when Rafi came on the scene he put a challenge before them that you try and compose such a tune which he could not sing. He was a perfectionist to the core and his usual was so much better than the best around him. We are indeed spoilt for choice when we look at his awe-inspiring repertoire.

The least the Government could do is to confer both the Bharat Ratna and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award on Rafi posthumously. The nation owes him a stupendous debt of gratitude.








The last few weeks have witnessed much heat and passion generated over the India-China border. The righteous indignation of the Indian people has — for once — been channelised through the media. It has, unfortunately, been dubbed as "sensationalism" by the Government which prefers to describe incursions as "transgressions".

It is often advanced by the Chinese that the LAC is neither clearly defined nor identifiable and, therefore, these incursions take place. This is a line which is frequently echoed by our Government also, principally to cover its own inadequacies along the border. While violations of the LAC take place by both sides, it is the frequency and brazenness of the incursions from the Chinese side and the systematic manner in which they take place is what is a matter of serious concern and cannot be wished away.

In terms of the high level Agreements, signed in 1993 and 1996, "no fly zones" and "no military activity zones" within 10 kms of the LAC have been laid down. Even undertaking of routine explosions for construction purposes within two kms of the LAC without intimation has been prohibited. Thus, how can such restrictions apply if the Chinese are not at least reasonably clear about the precise location of the LAC? It should be clarified here that the Agreements referred to do not state that the restrictions apply within the stipulated distance of "each other's LAC claim lines".

There are other instances of Chinese duplicity which have formed an integral part of their negotiating technique throughout the 13 rounds of talks India has had with China.

For example, the Agreement on the political parameters and guiding principles for the settlement of the India-China boundary issue signed on April 11, 2005 during the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is a classic case in point. Articles IV, V, and VII, in particular, are of special importance in this context.


  Article IV reads as follows: "The two sides will give due consideration to each other's strategic and reasonable interests, and the principle of mutual and equal security."


  Article V states the following:"The two sides will take into account, inter alia historical evidence, national sentiments, practical difficulties and reasonable sensitivities of both sides, and the actual state of border areas."


  Article VII is another important point and goes as follows:"In reaching a boundary settlement the two sides shall safeguard due interests of the settled populations in the border areas."

The overall impression gained so far is that according to the Chinese interpretation of these articles, only they (the Chinese) have strategic and reasonable interests and the principle of mutual and equal security seemingly represents only their concerns in this regard. Apart from this China is quite clearly going back on the principle on which the border is to be settled, already agreed to by them in 2005 in New Delhi.

Simply because the sixth Dalai Lama was born in Tawang is not reason enough for the Chinese to claim it. Moreover, while it is true that in British times the entire region that presently comprises Arunachal Pradesh was a loosely administered territory, it is nevertheless for the country concerned to decide to do so and such a decision is entirely its prerogative and, in no way, implies a dilution of its sovereignty over that area. It is well known that China has strange ways of claiming a territory as its own. For example, one of the arguments advanced for their claim to the Spratly Islands, in the SW Pacific Ocean is that their commercial ships used to sail past these Islands a few centuries ago.

The Chinese claim to Arunachal Pradesh as well as to the areas claimed by them in Kashmir is based entirely on their claim that Tibet is a part of China.

This claim itself is highly shaky and untenable. A peep into history would assist in debunking this claim. Countries, including India, have gone too much by the claim of Chinese 'suzerainty' over Tibet. The British colonial power while going by the 'suzerainty' theory would also go out of its way to emphasise Tibet's independence for all practical purposes. Preoccupied as they were with Tsarist Russia's expansionist zeal towards the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, it suited them to play up the 'suzerainty' angle in order to keep Russia away from Tibet.

In the process what was ignored was a Treaty concluded between Tibet and China in 821 AD. Actually, even before this Tibet already had Treaty relationship with Siam and the Caliphate apart from at least seven bilateral treaties with China. Furthermore, the 821 AD Treaty was in the nature of a peace treaty and aimed at ending about two centuries of war with China.

The text of the Treaty was recorded in both Tibetan and Chinese languages, on three pillars, namely, in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, the then Chinese capital, Chang'an, and at the border at Gigu Meru. The text on the pillars says:

"Both Tibet and China shall keep the country and frontiers of which they are now in possession. The whole region to the east of that being the country of great China and the whole region to the west being assuredly the country of great Tibet; from either side of the frontier there shall be no warfare, no hostile invasions, and no seizure of territory".

The Chinese find the presence of the Dalai Lama on Indian soil irksome and very difficult to digest. This is in conformity with Chinese habit of expecting countries to respond positively to their diktat. It must accept that no self-respecting country would ever agree to a humiliating condition.

Moreover, China cannot be unaware of the fact that India and Tibet have always had close and cordial ties. Not only are they bound by ties of geography, but also by history, culture and religion. It is therefore highly unrealistic to expect that India and its people can be indifferent to the fate of Tibet and its people. The Dalai Lama and his people are honoured guests of the Government and people of India and are here in accordance with the time honoured traditions of hospitality of our country.

Coming back to Articles IV and V of Agreement on the political parameters and guidelines signed on 11 April 2005, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on principle like mutuality of interests, of security etc. If China is serious about this and about a border settlement, and keeping in mind that at various stages earlier they have proposed an "as is where is" settlement of the border, it is submitted that even this would amount to an imposed (by the Chinese) settlement.

In order to establish cordial relations and an honourable settlement for the future, four thing are necessary:

i) The Government of India should cease forthwith displaying too much concern for Chinese sensitivities.

ii) The autonomy of the TAR must be respected and human rights violations ceased. Talks must commence on the basis of the Dalai Lama's "Middle Path" proposal.

iii) In a proper and fairly negotiated settlement, apart from the "as is where is" formula — that is the LAC of 1962 — the Chumbi Valley lying between Bhutan and Sikkim must be transferred to India.

iv) Removal of missiles based in Tibet and pointing towards India, immediately.








Bad losers tend to lash out and the extent of collateral damage caused depends on their appetite for spreading havoc. Ms Mamata Banerjee, even if she has very good reasons for being angry, is a bad loser.

Having been outmanoeuvred by the joint efforts of the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) over the Siliguri Mayor election, Ms Banerjee is on the warpath. Angry with the Congress, she has accused her ally of betrayal, cheating and mala fide intentions. By identifying the CPI(M) as her enemy number one, she has by implication described the Congress as her enemy number two.

Because she is angry, Ms Banerjee has threatened a "Lanka kand" by setting the State on fire. Her cause is not acts of omission or commission against her party or her colleagues. She has threatened a conflagration if even a hair of any one of the brigade of anti-CPI(M) intellectuals was damaged in the mop up action by the State Police after Chatradhar Mahato began revealing names of people who had given him and the Maoists moral and material support.

Less theatrical, but far more sinister is Ms Banerjee's deliberate endeavour to mislead and create mischief. According to Ms Banerjee, those intellectuals, as per her classification, did not support either the Maoists or Chatradhar Mahato. These intellectuals were sympathetic to the manner in which the State's police had coerced tribals following the landmine blast targeting the Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's convoy.

Ms Banerjee is thereby denying the dramatic visuals that appeared when a team of intellectuals, with filmmaker Aparna Sen sporting a red bandana, trekked through inhospitable terrain in Lalgarh after the security operations had started, to show of solidarity with the resistance led by Chatradhar Mahato. The Lalgarh operations began only after the Maoists were declared terrorists by the Centre and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had called on West Bengal to authorise use of the Unlawful Activities Prevent Act against them. The Act was designed to handle anti-terrorist operations.

The collateral damage of the Siliguri Mayor's election is likely to spiral unless Ms Banerjee decides to call a halt. That she is in no mood to do so is evident, because she is determined to aggressively proceed down the path of confrontation. Her defence of Chatradhar Mahato and his associates and admirers, her bid to forcefully deny the Maoist connection, her threat to set West Bengal on fire if the State Government and the Centre fail to confirm her version of the Lalgarh or any other story is a signal that Ms Banerjee has moved from mere belligerence into intransigence.

In this dangerously volatile mood, Ms Banerjee is unlikely to be appeased, except on her own terms. The Congress, despite making soothing noises, is also not in a mood to accommodate every demand that Ms Banerjee makes. Within the Congress, voiced by some of its senior leaders in West Bengal, there is a move to set itself apart from the ally, the Trinamool Congress. Based on the good old principle, a man is known by the company he keeps, the Congress is working to create a distance between Ms Banerjee and the party.

Congress leaders in West Bengal have publicly voiced their apprehension about the company that Ms Banerjee keeps and her indiscriminate use of "tools" to serve her purpose: Destroy the CPI(M)'s credibility and capture power in the State. Congress leaders have quoted Maoist leader Koteswar Rao, alias Kishenji, to explain the connection between Ms Banerjee's high-pitched protests over the Siliguri Mayor election and Maoist plans to create a base in north Bengal.

With by-elections to 10 assembly constituencies announced for November, tempers are not going to cool down. Of the 10 seats, two are in north Bengal and the Trinamool Congress, according to some reports, has already announced its plans of claiming both. In other words, Ms Banerjee has not waited to consult ally Congress. This suggests that Ms Banerjee is determined to drive home the point that in West Bengal, only her writ shall run. In the context of the Siliguri mayor election, Ms Banerjee had said that in West Bengal the Trinamool Congress is the leader while at the Centre the Congress leads the alliance. Given the claims that Ms Banerjee has made and the fact that she will nominate her favourites for the remaining south Bengal seats, the Congress will have to either eat crow or fight it out.

The Congress could beat a strategic retreat to save the opposition alliance in West Bengal. It could concede to Ms Banerjee whatever she demands. By doing so, the Congress would lose face, but save the idea of a combined opposition acting in unison. Whether that sacrifice would be sufficient to appease the lady from Kalighat is doubtful, because it does seem that she wants everything for the Trinamool Congress and expects the Congress to provide it; the Railway Ministry and its Budget to distribute largesse to woo voters, every Assembly seat and elected office and a servile attitude to boot.








The Congress-initiated austerity drive, lately evident in Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed's advice to trim CEOs' "vulgar" salaries, has been greeted with disbelief. A few politicos travelling economy class on planes, or hobnobbing with Dalits are not sufficient to convince the electorate that the party, which became synonymous with corruption during its years of undisputed power, has actually mended its ways. The constant harking back to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration is indeed ludicrous, given the fact that the leader, known for his frugal ways, never lived long enough to see the swift transformation of influential Congressmen into power brokers and pashas, with an opulent lifestyle, rivalling that of business tycoons. This set the precedent for other parties and their leaders.

The fault perhaps lies in the state's provision at the outset of handsome perks and privileges for political representatives in elected bodies and Government, as well as lack of transparency in policy-making and use of public funds. More austere arrangements should have been the order of the day in a newly independent India instead of the "vulgar" trappings of power that the Congress dispensation adopted. It left an onerous legacy, whereby housing, transport, telecommunication facilities, travel and office expenses come free of cost, with generous allowances for various works. Pending dues, as for excessive use of electricity and telephones, are rarely known to have been cleared. Costs for renovation of houses by inmates are also foisted on the Government.

The unwritten bond between members of the political class ensures that these privileges are zealously guarded, and pay and perks enhanced whenever they want. And austerity be damned. So it is that security, of varying grades, now swells the army of flunkeys and lackeys, attendant on middle level and senior politicos. And supporting the political apparatus has become increasingly costly for tax-payers even as the chasm between them and their representatives in Parliament and state legislatures widens as a result of such elitism. They remain plebeian while their representatives comprise an oligarchy, supported with public funds. In these circumstances, to break bread with a poor Dalit in his hut, or sleep on his cot one night are mere acts of self-indulgence. Protestations of austerity would be meaningful if the governing class dispensed with most of its perks; moved into modest housing; and used public transport whenever possible. But that would be an ordeal.

For most people elected/nominated to legislative bodies or holding party posts, a career in politics proves to be so tempting that rather than viewing it as a grave commitment, they want to contest elections again and again, or be accommodated in some fashion so as to gain entry into the hallowed portals of privilege. The phrase, 'living off the fat of the land', is truly meaningful in the context of our polity. Lutyens' Delhi is a case in point. This swathe of the capital, earmarked for power-play, houses politicians, bureaucrats, judges and other Government functionaries. Sprawling bungalows, amidst sylvan surroundings, and the tree-lined avenues make it one of the most up-market and congenial localities in the world. And it is the state that picks up the bills of those who live there.

Therefore, for Mr Khursheed to advise industry on reducing CEOs' salaries as a cost-cutting measure is all the more absurd. He seems to have taken a cue from the recession-hit First World, where there is a move to regulate CEOs' salaries. But the private sector surely knows better how to cut costs. Industrialist Satish Bagrodia rightly observes that CEOs' salaries have to be commensurate with their worth. This principle need to be applied with greater urgency to those who purport to run the country. The Government should first set its own house in order by curbing wasteful expenditure of public money on lavish housing and perks for politicos and officials, including of public sector undertakings. The argument that Lutyens' Delhi is a heritage zone, and so, cannot be touched is a specious justification for allowing people to live in solitary splendour on tax-payers' money. Just maintaining the President's estate, to cite an example, is a ruinous exercise. This is especially so in view of the fact that the President is meant to hold a tertiary post.

Mr Khursheed is reported to have said that "Our solution is that we can solve the issue by example". He and his colleagues could set an example if political office is divested of most trappings of power: Sprawling homes; the entourage of attendants; convoy of cars; foreign jaunts et al. But that would require true conviction about the value of simplicity.






It is one year since the last reported terrorist attack (in New Delhi in September last year) by the Indian Mujahideen and its mentor, the Students' Islamic Movement of India. Not only has there been no jihadi terrorist attack in Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir attributable to the IM for a year now, there has been no propaganda offensive by the IM either during this period. There was no evidence of IM involvement in the terrorist attack launched by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba of Pakistan in Mumbai from November 26-29 last year. A message purporting to be from one Deccan Mujahideen claiming responsibility for the Mumbai attack had originated from Pakistan at the time of the attack, but it was believed to have been sent at the instance of the LeT set-up in Pakistan to confuse the Indian security agencies. The period between November 2007 and September 2008 saw repeated terrorist strikes with timed improvised explosive devices by a group of jihadis originally belonging to the SIMI, which claimed to be operating as the Indian Mujahideen. These explosions, with many human fatalities, took place in three cities of Uttar Pradesh on the same day in November 2007, in Jaipur in May 2008, in Bangalore and Ahmedabad in July 2008 and in New Delhi in September 2008. Messages purporting to be from the IM received by some media organisations claimed responsibility not only for these explosions but also for some others which had taken place before November 2007, such as the explosions targeting suburban train passengers in Mumbai in July 2006.

The attacks between November 2007 and September 2008 were well-planned, well-orchestrated and well-executed and indicated the involvement in their planning and execution by some well-educated members of the Indian Muslim community, some of whom had attended the so-called secular educational institutions. Some of the educated Muslims involved and arrested by the Mumbai Police were adept in the use of information technology. One of them was reportedly working for a reputed IT company.

Indian intelligence agencies and police of the affected States, which were taken by surprise by these attacks, mobilised their resources and succeeded in arresting many of those involved. The investrigation brought out that long before launching these attacks, the SIMI had been holding training camps for jihadis for these attacks in different parts of Indian territory, including in Kerala and Gujarat. The investigation also brought out that prompt follow-up action by the police of different States on the revelations about these training activities contained in the reports of the Madhya Pradesh Police on the interrogation of some SIMI cadre arrested by the police in the beginning of 2008 might have prevented at least some of these attacks. Unfortunately, the interrogation reports were allegedly not widely disseminated and no alert was sounded. The details of the planning and training came to be known only after the Ahmedabad explosions.

The credit for the one-year lull since September 2008 should go to the Indian intelligence agencies and the police of all the States. They have not allowed their preoccupation with detecting and neutralising the cells of the LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and other Pakistani organisations come in the way of their hunt for the remnants of the IM and the SIMI, which have escaped attention and arrest so far. Many suspected cells of SIMI and IM in Kerala and other places have been detected and neutralised during the last one year.

The details out of these detections and arrests as reported by the media periodically indicate that the SIMI and the IM have been re-strategising their operations for the future and biding their time before striking again. The one-year lull in the terrorist strikes of the IM and the SIMI should not be interpreted as indicating any set-back suffered by them. The arrests made during this period of lull indicate continued planning and training for more attacks.

The IM and the SIMI continue to be as serious a threat to our internal security as they were in 2008.

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







THE execution, by beheading, of Francis Induvar, a police officer, by the Communist Party of India ( Maoists) is as clear a declaration of war as can be expected.


There was no threat or demand by the Maoists in relation to Induvar; he was simply abducted and executed.


The Maoists wanted to send a message and they have sent it. The government of India has been taking tough about the need to crack down on the Maoists for some two years or so now. With this coldblooded act, the Maoists have picked up the gauntlet.


The coming battle cannot be won by the Maoists. They are on the wrong side of history. With such an advantage, the government has only itself to blame for not being able to crush this menace once and for all. This is not a task that a vigilante group like the Salwa Judum should undertake. Providing security is the monopoly of the state and it should not cede it to such groups, or for that matter the Maoists themselves.


But is the government ready? Or, does it still feel that the " misguided" people should be brought back to the negotiating table. Given their " revolutionary" ethos, the Maoists are not the kind of people you negotiate with. That can happen only with reasonable people who understand that negotiations imply compromise. The Maoists wish to overthrow our system by the use of violence and so there should be little ambiguity about the fact that their threat needs to be defeated, unless you wish to commit national suicide.


Without further ado, the Union government and the Maoist- affected states should create a unified command and get the counter- insurgency operations under way. But this action should be closely supervised by the civil administration to ensure that the hapless tribals who live in the Maoist- affected regions are effectively separated from the fallout.







IT is about time that the Congress party's high command stepped in and stopped the farce where Congressmen are seeking to emulate their general secretary Rahul Gandhi in mingling with the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh.


Just about every Congress MP from the state, along with MLAs and senior local party functionaries, has converted a Dalit house visit into poverty porn — by bringing along sycophants, catering services, fans, crockery, mineral water and not to mention TV cameras with them.


To counter this, the High Command has now come up with a guidebook or a set of commandments on how to behave while in Dalit territory. This sounds just like a bandaid solution to something deeply wrong in the idea of making poor people celebrities for a day, and then forgetting about them for the rest of the five- year tenure in power.


If the Congress' heart truly beats for the Dalit community, its MPs across the nation — and not just in UP — would do well to create a sustainable growth and development programme that uplifts them from utter poverty. That would be real bonding.








NOTHING illustrates the manner in which non- cricketing sportsmen are treated in this country than the shoddy treatment meted out to former track queen P T Usha by the Sports Authority of India in Bhopal.


Visiting the city for the 49th National Open Athletics meet, she was kept waiting at the airport for hours with no one there to pick her up. Later, she was asked to share a room with participating athletes, a scenario humiliating enough to reduce her to tears.


If this is how we treat the greatest woman athlete that this country has produced, then there is little reason to hope for a turnaround in our sporting prospects in the near future. Also, when P T Usha, very much a celebrity, can be accorded this treatment it is only to be imagined what struggling athletes have to go through on account of official crassness and apathy.


As pathetic as the incident is the blame game that has broken out between the SAI and the state government over the matter.


Yet, in a sense, this sorry state of affairs should not surprise us. After all we have a Union Sports Minister who has given a clean chit to his officials without conducting any inquiry.










DEMOCRACY, as Abraham Lincoln famously declared in his Gettysburg Address, is supposed to be " of the people, by the people and for the people." In India its definition is being rewritten. It remains by the people, but whether it is still of the people, or even for the people is a moot point.


The trend was first noticed in Karnataka where the mine barons of Bellary began to gather attention, though in all fairness, the sugar lords of Maharashtra have been influential in politics for a long time. Last week, in these columns, Bharat Bhushan has detailed the way things are going in Andhra Pradesh. Now we are hearing about Haryana where an NGO says that the average worth of a Congress candidate is Rs 5 crore and that of an Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Jan Congress candidate around Rs 3 crore each.


Ever since it became mandatory for candidates to declare their wealth the realisation has dawned that our representatives are not quite like us; to paraphrase Hemingway's comment to F. Scott Fitzgerald, " they're richer."



India is regressing from a democracy to a plutocracy featuring the disproportionate presence of the wealthy in our governance systems and the capture of political machines by their families.

This is the end of the grand experiment launched by our founding fathers when they decreed in 1950 that every Indian would henceforth be entitled to a vote. Considering that most people were illiterate and poor, this was a stupendous act of political faith. This was a time when countries like the US, Switzerland and Australia did not have universal adult franchise.


There was a heady atmosphere in the country about its future. And, the founding fathers were certain that India would take a unique developmental track, one imbued by the values of the freedom struggle and its leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhimrao Ambedkar.


We have a very good idea of how well it worked.


When the first prime minister of the country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, died in 1964, his will was made a public document. He gave away his sole fixed asset — the Anand Bhavan in Allahabad to the nation. The only thing his daughter inherited were the royalties from his books.


The wills of our leaders are no longer public documents.


Given their affluence, which in many cases follows a spell in public office, there is every reason for them to keep such a document secret.


The Association of Democratic Reforms and the National Election Watch have calculated that some 15.5 per cent of the candidates in this year's Lok Sabha elections were worth more than Rs 1 crore. Not surprisingly the largest number were in the Congress followed by the BJP, but even the humble Bahujan Samaj Party had a substantial number of them, as did the avowedly socialist Samajwadi party.


Some 61 per cent of the candidates had not submitted their PAN cards, so we must also take into account an additional percentage of undeclared millionaires who keep their properties in a benami ( nameless) fashion.


According to the NGO, as many as 300 crorepatis were eventually elected to the Lok Sabha, a 94.8 per cent increase over the previous house. The Congress may not have a majority of its own in the house, but the millionaires do.


There is nothing wrong in rich people participating in politics. Indeed, there are many who argue that a greater participation by the middle and upper- middle class professionals would work wonders for the Indian political ambience.


Well off people are often not just creators of wealth, but good managers and stewards of it, and they would definitely be assets for any government or legislature.


The problem arises when the rich who enter politics use their background and managerial talent to enrich themselves, and to skew the institutions of the state for their own benefit.


Instead of acting like the representatives of the people, the richer individuals seek and get favoured treatment from institutions like the government and the judiciary.


This explains the coincidence of the phenomenon of criminals entering politics.


Where politicians once used criminals to win elections, now mafia dons have themselves become neta s.


There has been a steep rise of criminals in our Parliament and state assemblies.


The study cited above noted that 16 per cent or 909 of 5573 candidates had criminal records, of which 402 were charged with heinous crimes.


Criminal- legislators manage to get " better" justice because they are able to subvert the police and administration with impunity. The record shows that even if they are convicted of heinous crimes, they are able to persuade the politicians to let them off the hook by misusing the power of commutation and pardon.


Actually in India the plutocracy is degenerating into something even worse — a kleptocracy. Most democracies suffer from the vice of greed and corruption.


But the great virtue of democracy — indeed its greatest — is that it has a self- correcting mechanism. But in India those mechanisms are not working. The police and administration have teamed up with the politicians and constitute the plutocracy.


Bad money has succeeded in driving away the good. Representatives of the subalterns like Ms Mayawati and, before her, Lalu and Mulayam Singh Yadav decided to enrich themselves in the name of social justice. As a result all face " disproportionate assets" charges, while the lives of those that they claim to lead remain unchanged.


The existence of a plutocracy offers an explanation for the persistence of illiteracy and poverty in the country sixty years after independence. Tens of thousands of crores have been spent on public health centres, irrigation systems and schools, yet, 40 per cent of Indians remain illiterate, 80 per cent rely on private healthcare systems, the highest in terms of proportion in the world, and the bulk of our agriculture continues to be rain- fed.


This is not because of the incompetence of government managers or their venality, but structural issues. In other words, the plutocratic system requires people to remain illiterate and poor.


Is there any remedy? Or are we doomed to wallow in this slush forever? There are some obvious ways and means to make politics cleaner — keeping out those charged with heinous crimes legally, or introducing a transparent process of election funding.


Structural changes like introducing a proportional representation system, too, could help in ending the zero- sum political outcomes.


But any change requires the agency of good men. It is not that the system is without them. Our Prime Minister, for example is known to be incorruptible.


But, he also tends to be pusillanimous and compromising on issues like structural reform of the bureaucracy, one of the bigger causes of the problem.


Our real problem is the silence of good men, or to be precise, their passivity.


manoj. joshi @ mailtoday. in








IN A globalised world, new ideas and innovations hold the key to achieving technological prowess. Many countries — including India — have realised this, but perhaps they don't fully appreciate that innovations can't flourish without basic research. The Max Planck Society of Germany follows a unique model of doing basic research in a fast- changing, competitive world.


It runs a string of 80 basic research institutes — known as Max Planck Institutes — in diverse fields such as medicine, biology, chemistry, physics and the humanities. Since its founding in 1948, the society has produced 17 Nobel laureates. Under the Max Planck model, institutes are built up solely around leading scientists picked up from around the world. Once chosen scientific director, these scientists are provided all facilities including generous funding, they define their research agenda and are free to select junior scientists to work with. The society follows a system of constant renewal — new ones are set up and old ones are closed down. It is this system that helps Max Planck Institutes remain on the cutting edge. Perhaps our own scientific research councils have a lesson or two to learn from this.


The society's outlook is global.


As its President Dr Peter Gruss says, " competing with United States and the emerging Asian countries such as China, India, Singapore and South Korea, we must ensure that we continue to attract outstanding scientific researchers from all over the world". Over 6000 foreign visiting and junior researchers work at various Max Planck Institutes. A third of the institute directors and half of the PhD students are non- Germans. Among post- doctoral research students, almost 80 percent are foreigners. Every tenth doctoral student is an Indian. Among foreign nationals who hold the position of institute directors are scientists from the US, the UK, Austria and Switzerland.


Now an Indian too has got the honour. Computer scientist Rupak Majumdar will join the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems as its Director in June 2010. The institute conducts high- risk, high- impact research related to the design, analysis, modelling, implementation and evaluation of complex software systems.


Majumdar is currently a faculty member in the computer science department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Majumdar had graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur in 1998.


Majumdar works in a highly specialised software research area called ' formal verification' — which has applications in hardware design, software systems and embedded as well as real- time systems ( NASA has dedicated formal verification teams). He says he decided to move from the US to Germany for two reasons: the Max Planck funding model is better suited to perform long- term, foundational research; secondly, Europe — particularly Germany — has taken a lead in formal verification research.


He says he is already in touch with Indian institutes working in related areas to encourage exchange of students and researchers as well as set up collaborative projects. Another institute — the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science — is planning to set up the Indo- Max Planck Centre for Computer Science — a joint research centre with the Indian Institute of Technology ( IIT) Delhi.







ALBERT Einstein — a German and a Jew — may have never returned to his country which he left in the 1930s because of the Nazis, but he remains a much remembered man in Berlin.


He finished much of the work on the Theory of Relativity in Berlin while the First World War was raging.


Berlin was also the city where Fritz Haber developed the poison gas to which thousands of soldiers fell victim in 1915. Not very far from the house where Haber lived in Free University of Berlin, is located the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Chemistry where Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission in 1938 — which ultimately led to the development of the atomic bomb in America a few years later.


A plaque commemorates the event but does not mention the name of Lise Meitner — Hahn's fellow researcher who played a key role in the discovery.


Several decades later an additional plaque was placed mentioning that Meitner too had worked in this building.






BEHIND Germany's drive to attract science and technology talent from all over the world is the looming shortage of young technical and scientific personnel not only in Germany but all over Europe in the next few years. It is estimated that there will be 50,000 fewer university graduates in 2030 compared to the situation in 2005. The shortage of junior researchers is already being felt in natural and engineering sciences. Germany is already short of about 60,000 specialists in various fields of science and technology and thousands of junior scientists are required every year to replace the specialists who retire.


So, all state- funded agencies like the Max Planck Society, the Humboldt Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Service are trying to attract talent from India. The terms they offer are excellent.


For example, visiting researchers from India are paid Euro 20,000 per annum for five years to pursue their own area of research. They just have to spend one year in a Max Planck Institute; the rest of the time they can spend back in their parent institute in India and attending conferences.


Similarly, post- doctoral researchers get paid Euro 3000 per annum for four years as travel grants to visit institutes in Germany and other countries.


As one official put it, these are really grants with no strings attached.






THE ONGOING focus on climate change is bringing people from different disciplines together because this is a subject that cuts across different sectors.


The Humboldt Foundation has launched a new climate protection fellowship that is open for people from government, businesses and non- governmental organisations.


Every year, it is planned to sponsor up to 20 fellows who will come to Germany for a year to conduct a project on the exchange of knowledge and methods together with a host. This will encourage the creation of a network in which German and foreign experts will collaborate on a sustainable basis to combat climate change.


NUCLEAR protestors are back on the streets of Berlin after a gap of over two decades. The trigger for the fresh wave of anti- nuclear demonstrations is the composition of the new government. Though Chancellor Angela Merkel has returned to power, she has a new ally, the right- wing and pro- business Free Democrats. A shift in the nuclear energy policy seems likely. The change could mean that nuclear power plants that were to be decommissioned over the next few years as per the schedule mandated in a 2000 law get a fresh lease of life.


Merkel could not have pursued this change in her previous tenure during which she was being supported by the Left. Even now she would find it difficult to reverse the decision, given adverse public opinion and strong opposition from the Green Party.


One option could be a stagger closure schedule under which only the older plants are shut down, giving the nuclear industry a few more years of reprieve.








The gruesome murder of Inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand is yet another indication of the brutal side of Maoist politics in India. Maoists kidnapped Induwar a week ago and his body, along with the severed head, was found on Tuesday. As Union home minister P Chidambaram said, "the cold-blooded murder is simply not acceptable".

The Induwar murder comes in the wake of a series of attacks launched by Maoists on public officials, machinery and infrastructure in recent months. CPI (Maoist), a banned outfit, has been on the warpath since the general elections. It tried to derail elections in its strongholds in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by attacking polling officials and candidates. And it has available a handy pretext, the failure of the government to address the needs of people in this poverty-stricken region. The political mainstream here appears interested in the spoils of public office and has not shown much inclination towards providing security or public services to the people. Maoists have capitalised on these factors to build their zone of influence and launch a guerrilla war on the Indian state.

The frequency and ferocity of the attacks must compel both a security and political response from the government: either one in isolation will fail. Maoists are indeed a security threat, but their challenge is also political. The legitimacy and effectiveness of democratic politics to address the concerns of the people must be established so that the rebels don't get to regroup even after a military defeat. However, inflicting that military defeat is also necessary, for which state governments must act in coordination with the Centre as well as with other states.

On both counts, the Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh governments have failed to deliver. State police forces are not sufficiently manned, properly trained or equipped to counter the guerrillas. In Chhattisgarh, the government, instead of revamping its force, has outsourced policing to militias overriding strictures from the Supreme Court. The region has been overtly militarised with Salwa Judum volunteers and Maoists terrorising villagers. The current move to involve paramilitary agencies, which are not trained to police civilian populations, is unlikely to improve the situation. A well-trained and equipped police force should be able to deal with Maoists, as the experience of Andhra Pradesh shows. And policing must be backed by government intervention to build public infrastructure and utilities, especially in education and health care. As for Maoists, they must recognise that the cause of the people is best served in a democracy. If the idea behind beheadings is to borrow a leaf from Taliban tactics, they must recognise that the brutality of such tactics has alienated even those populations that may in other circumstances have been sympathetic to the Taliban.







One in five households worldwide will have access to broadband internet by the end of this year, according to a recent survey. India, however, accounts for only a small number of those households. Not only is broadband penetration very low in the country, access to the internet itself is limited largely to urban areas. India's phenomenal growth in mobile phone adoption has camouflaged how far behind it lags in terms of broadband penetration. The broadband subscriber base was a mere 6.8 million in July this year, in a country of more than a billion.

Why must India focus on broadband? Because it is a truly transformative technology that has the potential to accelerate growth and facilitate socio-economic change by making services easily accessible to those who need them the most. Barack Obama was on to something when he spoke of the "digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together" and pledged billions of dollars to increase the number of households and businesses with high-speed connections. Given that the Indian government defines broadband as internet connectivity of speeds at or higher than 256 kbps a generous definition by most standards India's low numbers are particularly shocking for a country that prides itself on its IT prowess.

3G, which is about to be rolled out, provides an excellent opportunity to offer enhanced data and video services on a mobile platform. Telephone connectivity took off in India when it went wireless, and the same story could be repeated in the case of internet. Some measures are being taken to address the gap. The government's universal service obligation (USO) fund, which was set up with the idea of providing affordable communication services in rural and remote areas, was recently expanded to include mobile services and broadband connectivity in these areas. BSNL and HCL Infosystems have announced that they would take advantage of USO funds to sell subsidised computers with broadband connectivity in these areas, a move that should provide increased access to consumers in rural areas.

However, significant growth in the broadband subscriber base is unlikely unless infrastructure is substantially upgraded, which requires innovative policies from the government. The cost of laying down cables and erecting towers is prohibitive, and the government needs to step in and help out private actors, or at least make it worth their while to go to rural areas.







News headlines can be confusing. When talking about China, for example, they can alternate between wake-up-and-smell-the-Mandarin because at 60, the People's Republic of China is everywhere and alarmist reports which suggest that this seemingly unstoppable juggernaut has us squarely in their sights. What are we to make of all this? More important, how can we retain equanimity in the face of this media assault?

Whether Indians talk about an accommodating or aggressive stance towards China, it's clear that China manages to push our buttons. The West had its China moment during the Korean war of 1950-53, when the Chinese intervened on the side of North Korea and fought US and UN forces aiding South Korea to a standstill. On that occasion, it was all too easy to revive images of the ''yellow peril'' initially used to describe the supposed threat posed by 19th century Chinese immigrants to the US and the West to indicate the nature of the challenge from China.

In 1911 G G Rupert, an influential religious figure in America, published a book named `The Yellow Peril; or, Orient Vs Occident', which claimed that China, India, Japan and Korea were attacking Britain and the US, but Jesus Christ would stop them. Influenced by pan-Asian philosophies which also set up an artificial divide between Oriental and Occidental cultures (famously criticised by Edward Said), India stood with China in the first flush of independence and nationhood. But the shock of the 1962 war made Indians internalise 'yellow peril' images as well, which exaggerated both the malignity and the potency of the Chinese challenge.

Internalising the yellow peril can lead to two sorts of reactions among Indians, which may coexist in schizophrenic ways. First there's defeatism, which suggests that in any contest between the two nations India will inevitably be squeezed out. Among the Indian Left, this translates into the doctrine that China is always right and India is always wrong.

Then there's an exaggerated assertiveness, which plays up routine incidents and incursions across a border that's yet to be defined. If one were to ask whose fault it is that the two nations haven't yet been able to arrive at a common definition of the border, the blame can't be laid entirely at Beijing's door. In 1980, when Deng Xiaoping was ushering in China's second revolution by radically reorienting internal policies, he also came up with the reasonable proposal that the Indian border should be settled roughly along the lines of actual territorial control. This meant that in return for Indian recognition of Chinese control over Aksai Chin in the west, Beijing would be willing to abandon claims over Arunachal Pradesh in the east.

New Delhi rejected the offer outright. If, instead, it had probed Beijing's offer and a settlement had eventually been arrived at, that could have radically overhauled India-China relations. A settlement of the border issue would not only have reduced huge pressure on the Indian armed forces, New Delhi could have persuaded Beijing not to offer a crutch to Islamabad in every circumstance, substantially reducing Islamabad's incentive to export jihad to India. The subcontinent would have been a different place.

Would New Delhi lose much from such a deal? During the 1962 war Chinese forces speedily established dominion over the Aksai Chin plateau, an almost uninhabited desert area over which no Indian administration has historically exercised much jurisdiction. China also occupied Arunachal Pradesh which is populated, but Chinese forces withdrew from the area (that's why it's in Indian hands today). Aksai Chin links two of China's most troubled provinces, Tibet and Xinjiang. While it holds no value for India, it's of great strategic importance to China. The chances of New Delhi ever being able to persuade Beijing to hand over Aksai Chin are zilch.

Why, then, the insistent Indian claim over Aksai Chin? The answer to that question shows up the pitfalls of territorial nationalism (which we call jingoism when exhibited by other nations). The Indian government published official maps during 1953-54 which showed a clearly defined and unambiguous boundary. This boundary includes the Aksai Chin. But the Chinese have never agreed to this definition.

To be sure, it's quite possible that Beijing may not be willing to make the kind of concessions today that Deng offered in 1980 for the sake of a secure border. But there's a lesson here too. China has by now far outstripped India in terms of national resources and power. And that's not just through exercising dictatorship, as many in India like to believe. Taiwan is a democracy which has done even better than China. And the Chinese are unable to subdue or bully tiny Taiwan, even though they have a far greater interest in that country than they do in subcontinent-sized India.

We have to admit that the Chinese (or Taiwanese) got certain economic policies right, such as the attention they paid to education, health and labour-intensive industry. Although India cannot follow exactly the same growth strategy as China, greater attention to these sectors would get India places too. Not to mention that China, and the world, would treat it with greater respect.







If there ever was an absurd brainwave to aid voter turnout on election day, the Maharashtra state labour commissioner's idea has to be top of the pops. On October 13, the day the state goes to the polls, all commercial and industrial establishments, hotels, malls, multiplexes and restaurants will have to down their shutters.


Why? Because this would presumably leave people with nothing to do and drive them out of their homes, straight to the polling booth. Only essential services like public transport, fire brigade, police, press, hospitals and continuous process industries - power and water supply, for instance - are exempt from this hare-brained scheme.


All employers have been instructed to give their employees a day off on October 13, failing which the employers are liable to be arrested under, ironically, the Representation of People Act (1951). This is democracy through coercion. The logic, supposedly, is that Maharashtra - especially Mumbai - has witnessed poor voter turnout during the last couple of Lok Sabha elections. The financial capital fares particularly poorly, with only 41.24 per cent Mumbaikars turning out to vote in the last general elections. In a democracy, citizens have the right not to vote as much as they have the choice of casting their ballot.


Coercing them to vote - either by making it compulsory as in Australia, or by issuing diktats like the labour commissioner has, goes against the grain of free will, which is the very basis of a democracy. If citizens feel like opting out of the electoral process, so be it. And that is not to mention the economic losses caused by the forced shutdown.


In any case, there is no way of ensuring that just because people do not have to show up at work, and have no entertainment hub to go to on voting day, they will automatically land up at the polling stations. If someone has decided to not vote, she will not, no matter what the incentive. People might just count this as a bonus holiday, get together and have a rollicking house party. Now are you going to arrest them too, commissioner sir?








The state government has been left with few options. When the country's financial capital and one of its largest cities has as abysmal a voting record as Mumbai does 41.24 per cent voter turnout in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and a slightly higher but still sub-50 per cent turnout in the 2004 assembly polls it is time to take remedial steps. And in that context, the closure of hotels, shops, multiplexes and the like on voting day is both eminently sensible and well calibrated.

Those criticising the move for being too draconian or somehow violating democratic norms are making baseless arguments. One aspect of the decision should be made clear here; there is no compulsion involved. The state authorities may have stated that they hope the move will boost voter turnout, but they are in no way compelling citizens to turn up at the voting booths. And as for the closures, they are both ethically and legally justified.


After all, all government sector employees and most private sector ones either have the day off or the option to take time off from the working day in order to vote. Why should service industries be exempt? And more importantly, this move is nothing more than the enforcement of an existing legal provision that provides for a paid holiday on polling day, but has not been strictly enforced until now.

The correct way to look at the issue would be to see the state authorities' move as upholding the principle of universal adult suffrage. By ensuring that a section of employees who may otherwise have been forced to work on election day now have the opportunity to vote, they are safeguarding their constitutional rights. And for those who insist on caviling, here is a question to think on.


In Australia, voting is legally mandatory, yet no one questions the credentials of the country's democratic structure. Why, then, should aspersions be cast on Indian authorities when they are merely taking the far less radical step of enabling all citizens to vote?








Must politicians always do things just naam ke vastey? Will the heavens fall, the lakes dry up, the reviled builder lobby concretise the whole city, and every noble vada-pav turn into a villainous Mcburger if a handful of film characters says 'Bombay' instead of 'Mumbai'? Does Maharashtra's pride stand or fall on a name?


Yes. Especially if it involves a Thackeray. That name, of course, continues in its absurdly Anglicised form even as the father, son and holier-than-thou nephew continue to make a career out of the Marathification of everyone and his signboard.


It was scary to see Karan Johar grovelling before Raj Thackeray, not because Karan is too superior to grovel, but because the city is. Mumbai's self-anointed defenders should be fighting the real dragons instead of tilting at the windmills. Chitre, Date, Quixote, all Maharashtrians only, no?


And no, it's not only the election, stupid. The Mumbai-Bombay non-issue is a handy headline grabber, pulled out every time that anyone has the audacity to thus sully the honour of Marathi manoos. The latter should object to being burdened with as trivial an insult.


Thackeray Bappa changed Bombay to Mumbai in 1997, but his nephew has hijacked this agenda along with all things Balasahebesque. In any case, he always saw himself as the true inheritor of his uncle's mantle right from the days when he was a little cub gambolling near the tiger's paws at Matoshree.


Now his lieutenants leap to their feet and start rattling their wannabe Bhawani swords at this ersatz atrocity. Crowd us like cattle in commuter trains, suffocate us with pollution, force us into tenements, deprive us of varan and water, but never ever dare to humiliate us by calling us 'Bombay'.


Did the audience rise to a man (and militant mahila) to pelt the screen with popcorn or singdana as soon as the reviled 'B' word was pronounced? Or had they not even noticed till the MNS hit them on the head with a poll plank to point out this cultural molestation?


It doesn't happen only when a celeb can be turned into a sitting Bombay duck. It happens even when a panelist in a TV discussion commits such lese majeste. Earlier this week, i went for a TV discussion on the forthcoming assembly elections. Having been verbally lynched on the same anchor's show a couple of years ago, i assiduously minded my M's and B's. But 'Tony' Jethmalani, who is patently a Bomboy rather than a Mumbhai despite his BJP's poll alliance with the Sena, slipped up, and immediately got it in the jugular by our MNS co-panelist, Vageesh Saraswat.


For the record, the born-again Vageesh-bhau started life as a UP bhaiyya, his own party's Mumbai Enemy No.1, and the 'outsider' that even the BJP-SS combine has manifestoed to keep out. Bombay was built by a mongrel of communities, but 'pure-bred' Mumbai could well become the pariah of exemplary urbanisation.


As ironically, the old name would have died a natural death if its self-anointed killers didn't keep reviving it so aggressively. Today 'Bombay' is more label than clothing. Its flag-bearers are those who shimmied through it in the 60s; now in their own 60s, they are still seen but not as heeded. It may remain a metaphor for all that made this the coolest and hottest place to be, but, Karan Johar notwithstanding, even the SoBo young have begun using 'Mumbai' as routinely as they do 'Bombay', if not more so.


However, every time the MNS and its ilk make it into a Them and Us issue, GenNext is class-bound to thump it back to life. The attack on Wake Up, Sid will be yet another shot in the arm for the idea of Bombay.






I was hired by a fancy hotel one Christmas day to play Santa Claus at their sprawling, leafy premises as a model/actor. I was transformed in a red costume and flowing whiskers, handing out goodies after the guests' children said they'd been good. I was offered the festive five-star Christmas spread come lunch time turkey, trimmings, pudding, cover price Rs 2000, but free for me but oh woe! I went hungry, because the white whiskers were stuck on.


I couldn't open my mouth enough to tuck in. I was to portray a golfer at the country club for a Nepalese beer ad shoot another time. As beer was not allowed to be imported, the empty-labelled Nepal bottle was filled with local beer and placed on a table on the green. The shot composition with reflectors and thermocol sheets and me on chair with beer, took half an hour. They were ready to shoot me, pouring the beer, sipping and showing delight.

The beer had gone stale and the bottle looked dry, so they sprinkled droplets of water on it. To show that there was a 'head' to the beer, some salt was put in the open bottle, and the stale beer foamed up. I had to pour, take a sip, and show pleasure. After each sip of the stale, warm, salty beer, it took all of my willpower to give a wide grin for the shot. I went 'phooosh' as soon as they said 'cut', spitting out the awful stuff. There were three retakes, with me going sip-smile-cut phooosh, sip-smile-cut phoosh. How the dickens can one shoot ice cream for promoting the product in an ad film? Make a lovely sundae all pink and green with fruits and nuts, place it on a suitable setting with flowers, use the bright lights and focus your camera lens and compose the shot?


No way. Before you can do any of that, the heat of the cameras' lights melts the ice cream. Intrepid as we were, however, we found a way to shoot that confounded ice cream. We used mashed potatoes. They readily took the shape of scoops of ice cream and retained their shape under lights. Chocolate sauce was poured on the potatoes. The TV viewers didn't know that, of course, so when aired, they became bright eyed and slurped at TV screens watching potatoes topped with chocolate sauce.














The jury is still out on whether the 600 per cent above normal rainfall, which led to the widespread floods in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, was due to climate change. No matter what the final verdict is, there's no denying the fact that the Centre and two state governments have been caught napping once again. The result: more than 300 people have been killed, 1.5 million have been displaced and property worth Rs 16,500 crore has been damaged.


The scale of devastation could turn out to be much more once the relief commissioners release their figures. Along with the loss of lives and property, standing crops of paddy, onion and sugarcane have been damaged. This will push up prices. In the midst of a festive season and a recession-hit year, this is bad news for everyone.


Two issues are evident from the crisis: first, there's a lack of transparency about how we manage our dams, and second, the communication failure between the two states and the Centre.


The Central Water Commission chairman has already pointed out that Andhra Pradesh was told in 1990 to increase the spillway capacity of the Srisailam dam from 13.5 lakh to 25 lakh cusecs. They sat on the report and when Karnataka released freshwater from Almatti dam to save its own towns, the inflows exceeded 25 lakh cusecs.


Will we ever get to know why, for 19 years, Andhra Pradesh sat on this directive? Or whether there was any communication between Andhra and Karnataka before the latter released water? If there was any, then why was no proactive measure taken to ensure that loss of life and property is minimised? We can be sure that very little of this information will ever be available in the public domain.


Likewise, why is it that there's no information available to the public on the daily inflow and outflows of the dams or about those who are responsible for managing them? Moreover, when a short-term rainfall forecast was available, why wasn't it taken into account to anticipate the crisis?


Hazards in India get converted to disasters far too easily. These floods are no different. As floodwaters recede, there will be an outbreak of diseases and a drinking water crisis. These need to be tackled on a war footing and as a priority.


However, as long as the answers to the above questions, and more, remain unanswered, we are certain to get caught on the wrong foot again in the future.







Do forgive us for having misled you, dear readers. We have told you time and again that the Commonwealth Games are a bit off kilter and have raised doubts in your mind on whether we will be able to meet the deadline. Well, now comes a travel advisory from the Delhi police that a large number of busy thoroughfares must be avoided today as they are required to facilitate the passage of Commonwealth delegates.


We have no problem with all this, we are pushed off the roads regularly for all manner of important people. But, we thought that the Commonwealth Games were still a glimmer in the eye of the Delhi government and the thought that delegates are already whizzing across the capital is news to us.


Several questions arise here. Are the delegates under some kind of threat perception that you and I have to be held up for hours from trying to reach our workplaces and do an honest day's work? What on earth will these delegates actually inspect, considering that the Games stadiums are barely half complete? Is this an exercise in public relations that the authorities don't want us, the general public, to be in on? All that can be said is that we have problems enough just navigating our way to work and back — what with being held up for hours thanks to VIP traffic — so anything more would be the last straw on the camel's back.


So, if you don't see your favourite piece of writing in this space tomorrow, please bear with us. We will try with might and mien to reach office to churn out these nuggets for you. But if Commonwealth delegates are so overwhelming in their desire to inspect the rather dismal dug-up sites, well, you will excuse us. Oh, we forgot, for those of you determined to reach your destinations, there are public transport services. What's that, did you say?









Does the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) care for Indian cricket? More pertinently, should it care for Indian cricket?


Not according to its senior counsel and advocate KK Venugopal, who, five years ago in the Supreme Court, made a statement that shocked cricketers and cricket fans throughout the country when he said, "If India plays England, it is a match played by the official team of BCCI and not the official team of India…We do not even fly the national flag nor do we use any national emblem in the activities of the Board." Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and the rest play for the official team of the BCCI, Venugopal went on to add, and not the official team of India.


A group of former 'India' players expressed their sense of outrage and hurt in a joint letter to the BCCI president. They claimed they had always felt honoured to represent the country and were now distressed by the Board's stand. One is not aware if the Board bothered to respond to them.


The International Cricket Council (ICC) has recently introduced the playing of the national anthem before each match in their tournaments including the Champions Trophy in South Africa. The sight and sound of foreigners beautifully rendering 'Jana Gana Mana' with the 'Indian' team proudly standing to attention was one of the few highlights of another disappointing tournament for our cricket fans.


Perhaps it is time for the BCCI to inform the ICC that India's national anthem should not be played before their matches and the BCCI could pay a handsome fee to AR Rahman for the use of 'Jai Ho' instead of 'Jana Gana Mana'. Or else the Indian government may be forced to intercede on this matter considering the BCCI's stated legal stand.


The inaugural Champions League, to be played between the top 12 Twenty20 teams from around the world (excluding Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) is the latest bogus tournament that the BCCI has cooked up to fill its coffers.


Last month it introduced the Corporate Cup — more or less a 50-over version of the Indian Premier League (IPL) — which had little or no impact on the public and the media.


The BCCI/Indian team's performance in ICC tournaments after 2003 — excluding the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007 that it won — has been abysmal. But is the BCCI really bothered as long as it rakes in the billions, and officials, agents, sponsors and select players line their pockets?


IPL tsar Lalit Modi had recently said on a TV channel that the League had produced "the greatest cricket display in the history of the game". Yet both team coach Gary Kirsten and captain M.S. Dhoni have stated that the IPL is nothing but a low-grade domestic tournament and should not be the basis of selection for international cricket.


Here is a question for the BCCI and cricket fans: can you name one Indian cricketer in the last two seasons who has excelled in the IPL and then gone on to make a mark in international cricket? The answer is plain and simple: not a single one. But the coach and captain whose opinion should count — and not Modi's — have promptly been gagged by the Board. The truth, after all, hurts.

What the IPL has succeeded in doing is create a new generation of half-baked players with faulty techniques who strut around like superstars based on their dubious performances in the IPL.


This year in South Africa, Manish Pandey became the first Indian player to score a century in the IPL. He is nowhere in the 'national' reckoning. But in a recent interview he glibly explained how he has attained celebrity status due to that century -- and proudly stated how he now wears tight shirts with buttons open, low-waist jeans, and spikes his hair.


Last year after the first IPL season, Dhoni skipped the Test series in Sri Lanka that immediately followed, citing fatigue. Would the BCCI or any of the IPL franchises allow such leeway to one of its star players if he wished to skip an IPL or Champions League tournament on the same grounds? For that matter, would any player dare risk such a move, considering the huge loss of earnings that would entail?


Yet the 'Indian' team now has to grapple with its top players missing out on international cricket due to injuries picked up in the IPL. And the Board, the IPL management — and its band of embedded journalists — desperately initiate 'Operation Cover-up' whenever this occurs.


The Champions League begins today, two days after the Champions Trophy ended. Next year's World Twenty20 begins five days after the end of IPL Season III. This despite Kirsten's plea to give more time for rest and recuperation. The BCCI has not slotted a single Twenty20 international for 'their' team between the last World Twenty20 held in June and the next in April-May 2010. They believe IPL III is preparation enough.


The captain and coach disagree. But then, who cares for 'Indian' cricket? Certainly not the BCCI.


The views expressed by the author are personal.








Once again the silly season is upon us. This festival season, and like the hero in Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, we Indians have begun to chant, "Mainu chaida, chaida, chaida" (I want, want, want). So dear reader, if you live in Delhi's high society and are considered one of its 'Lukky' (read: VIP) members, this Diwali you may receive the much talked about white gold Gandhi pen from the house of Montblanc as a corporate (tax deductible?) gift.


Each of these limited edition pens (241 pieces only, to mark the number of days Gandhi spent on the Dandi march) has a Gandhi etched on its 18-karat solid gold rhodium-plated nib, khadi chadar, bamboo lathi and all. The 925 sterling silver mountings on its cap and cone are shaped to resemble Gandhi's humble spindle, and the silver has been treated specially to make the texture look like handwoven khadi. Price: Rs 11.3 lakh only. Nice.


As the landless daily wage workers in rural and urban areas of India begin to use mobiles, and as knowledge and information expand as never before even into the tiniest hamlets, Indians seem to have decided that desire deserves to be encouraged rather than controlled.


Greed is good. As is stained clothes — 'daag achhe hain' — because both will help sell products. Not self-control but the morning after pill; not goat's milk but a fortified commercially bottled yogurt drink; not khadi but designer khadi are must-haves. Mainu chaida chaida chaida!


As neo-converts, Indians are fast relearning what they want and how to get it — not just at home but also in schools and the IITs and IIMs, at the paanwallah who also sells sim cards, at the chai shop that also keeps condoms, at malls and multiplexes where the government has opened licensed vends for selling booze.


During the last general elections, while all major political parties were busy co-opting Gandhi by making him speak for their manifestoes, some forecasters — most of them advertisers and political publicists — began feeding the media with the kind of stories about the 10 (or 20, or 50) most powerful, best dressed, most iconic women in India.


There was soon going to be, we were told, a new emergence of 'Woman Power' in India's political firmament. What they meant by this was not quite clear though. Were they 'divining' the arrival of yet another pantheon of new market-friendly deities, or just inventing another clever cover story (like 'India's Best B Schools') to rake in advertising for various goods and services?


Were they suggesting that the numbers of women parliamentarians were going to swell dramatically and create

the critical mass Gandhi and feminists had been dreaming of? Or were they simply taking us for suckers and suggesting we buy Sonia-Priyanka-like clothes, Jayanti Natrajan-Sushma Swaraj-like traditional jewellery, and, of course, diamonds that are being touted as reflective of a woman's true self-image by film stars?


In any event, as soon as journalists set out to look up hard facts and gather evidence, it became clear that the answer was a clear 'no'. No political party was risking allocating 33 per cent tickets to women, not even those headed by women supremos.


The size of party funds and profiles of fund-givers remained unchanged — and male. The lists of candidates for the soon-to-be-held assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana confirm this trend yet once again. Why should you, Tharoor sahib, mourn the vanished power of the usual Gandhi?







Have you heard? We now have a new National Aquatic Animal. Ever heard of the Ganges River Dolphin?
No. But don't we already have a national animal? Tiger, is it?

Of course. But it seems the government has finally responded to a call from the deep. And by that I don't necessarily mean Bihar, where dolphin hunting has been banned forever.


Oh. Still, why do we need yet another national animal?

Actually, marine life was feeling a bit blue, what with Maneka Gandhi roaring on about tigers and monkeys.


I see. But aren't these the same poor dolphins that are on the verge of extinction, with only some 2,000 of them paddling around in our muddy waters?

Exactly! And that's the ingenious crux of a grand new strategy. You see, the government thinks these rare creatures have magical powers. So, an increase in their numbers is going to be used as the "one and only yardstick" to gauge the Ganga cleanup.


Now, don't be so cynical. The salmon's back in the Thames, innit? So, you never know...By the way, don't we already have fish as our national cuisine?

Tsk. Tsk. How many times do I have to remind you that the Hilsa and its cousins are not our national cuisine! Besides, the dolphin is a mammal.


Sigh. So you mean we can't go fishing in the Ganges next week?

Do say: Let's hope these little guys can swim to safety.

Don't say: Hmmm... how might they taste steamed?


Have you heard? We now have a new National Aquatic Animal. Ever heard of the Ganges River Dolphin?
No. But don't we already have a national animal? Tiger, is it?
Of course. But it seems the government has finally responded to a call from the deep. And by that I don't necessarily mean Bihar, where dolphin hunting has been banned forever.

Oh. Still, why do we need yet another national animal?
Actually, marine life was feeling a bit blue, what with Maneka Gandhi roaring on about tigers and monkeys.

I see. But aren't these the same poor dolphins that are on the verge of extinction, with only some 2,000 of them paddling around in our muddy waters?
Exactly! And that's the ingenious crux of a grand new strategy. You see, the government thinks these rare creatures have magical powers. So, an increase in their numbers is going to be used as the "one and only yardstick" to gauge the Ganga cleanup.

Now, don't be so cynical. The salmon's back in the Thames, innit? So, you never know...By the way, don't we already have fish as our national cuisine?
Tsk. Tsk. How many times do I have to remind you that the Hilsa and its cousins are not our national cuisine! Besides, the dolphin is a mammal.

Sigh. So you mean we can't go fishing in the Ganges next week?
Do say: Let's hope these little guys can swim to safety.
Don't say: Hmmm... how might they taste steamed?









The facts speak for themselves, and they unambiguously expose the Maoist insurgency for what it is: a brutal, murderous, illegal war against the state of India. It is moulded in utter cynicism, so lacking in common human sympathy that it destroys those it purports to champion and negates the logic of "moral support" that certain sections of urban civil society may tend to profess towards it, whether the environs of a Kobad Ghandy or sundry "intellectuals". For years now, Naxalites have been killing security personnel and civilians continuously and consistently, with a ruthlessness that doesn't culminate in the beheading of Jharkhand Special Branch Inspector Francis Induwar on Tuesday, but one that is epitomised in that act of murder and that could exert itself even more ferociously if it is not countered urgently. Maoist violence is not about any ideology or socio-economic cause. It is the country's gravest law and order problem. Let there be no equivocation on that.


As Home Minister P. Chidambaram stated last month, left-wing extremism affects 20 states, and over 2000 police station areas in 223 districts in those states. He also catalogued that, in 2008, 1591 incidents of Naxalite violence resulting in 721 deaths were reported. By end-August this year, that figure already stood at about 580. While 231 security personnel were killed in Naxalite violence in 2008, 250 had already died this year at the time of the home minister's statement. Induwar was the 339th policeman killed by Maoists in Jharkhand since 2003. If those figures don't speak up for the thankless, risky job that security personnel do — how they burn both ends left beyond a doubt by the Nalco siege of April in Orissa, when their squalid living conditions made headlines — then what will? And figures of civilian deaths closely mirror those of security personnel. This is a war against the idea and existence of the democratic Indian state and its people — and that includes the poor tribals and farmers in whose cause the Maoists claim to fight.


A word here for those taken in by the quasi-state institutions provided by Naxals to those without them — such institutions delegitimise the state even more, and that's to say nothing of the kangaroo courts. There is nothing redeeming about this creed of bloodshed. The battle against Maoists is total and must be fought to the only conceivable end — the end of the Maoist insurgency.







Two recent pieces of news are likely to cause some concern to those thinking hard about India's economic recovery and its return to a high-growth path. The first is word from the southern hemisphere: the central bank of Australia has taken the plunge, becoming the first G-20 economy to raise short-term interest rates. In an environment where influential voices in economics have started worrying about an exit strategy from loose money, this might be viewed by some within India's monetary policy establishment as a sign that India's own monetary stance could do with a change. The policy establishment will be similarly tempted to tinker in the foreign exchange market, if history is any guide, given the news that the rupee's price vis-à-vis the dollar is responding strongly to uncertainty about the Reserve Bank of India's future policy stance.


But responding in this manner would be a decided error. The point has been made, and the argument won, that — particularly in this time of crisis — the RBI risks too much if it tries to do too much. It must not attempt to intervene to protect India's currency, or the special interests of either its exporters or importers. Instrumentally, of course, an appreciating rupee is easier for the RBI if it is looking for a reason not to raise interest rates until the contraction of external demand eases.


But is the RBI looking for such a reason? It would be useful if it were. After all, the conditions in each G-20 country are different; and India's interest rates remain high by world standards, and the sources of any conceivable inflationary pressure in India are distinct from what they might be elsewhere in the world. Lessons on the timing of monetary policy exit strategies therefore need to be drawn with care. But the fear is that the institutional culture of the RBI will not allow such sensible thinking to come to the fore. The RBI governor recently spoke in Istanbul, and though he made the requisite noises about how inflation was a concern, he also said that India's recovery to a sustainable high-growth path would not be held hostage to an "exit strategy".







Betty or Veronica? News that Archie Andrews' choice is still not made comes along with reports that Archie Comic Publications is considering setting up its first office outside of the US — in India, with its publishers seeing this as one of their most promising markets. That market is being kept abuzz, and presumably growing, by sustained suspense about which of his two long-time women friends Archie will marry. Inspiration for the plot is said to have come from Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" and the Hollywood blockbuster Sliding Doors. The ploy has evidently worked, sales are up — but it is not quite clear whether they will remain once the Riverdale redhead's marital future is determined.


While the writers have tried to keep Archie's anecdotes current, with environmental issues, for instance, now an abiding concern, there is nonetheless a period feel to the comics. To read these comics is very much an act of nostalgia — just as it is with that other old hero who's made a comeback, Tintin. (Of course, the superheroes are always current.) To re-read old comics is also to understand how far the medium has come, with graphic novels now crowding into the "literary fiction" shelves at the bookstore. In the past decade, writers like Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi have taken the graphic novel out of its cult-like following to a wider, global readership. So, what space and readership could old bubble-gum comics now get in this increasingly serious space?


Archie's creators have the idea of adding new characters to keep newer generations of readers interested. Will it work?








There is an abiding paradox in Indo-US relations that calls for deeper reflection. From India's point of view, those whom we think of as liberals within the American spectrum seem much more difficult to deal with than conservatives. This was not always the case. During the fifties the conservatives were miffed at India's reluctance to be at the frontline of anti-communism, while liberals were trying to garner support for India. Now liberals are less enthusiastic about India.


At one level, this is easy to explain. Contemporary conservatives believe in a straightforward calculus of power, shorn of any moralistic pretension; you can engage with them straightforwardly on that terrain. American liberals pretend to greater idealism. They therefore have higher moral demands: they want countries to be the perfect environmentalists, fair traders, human rights activists, and renounce nuclear weapons. India is a problematic case for them because India's position has been simple. India will go along with this version of internationalism only if it applies to all powers, including the major powers.


But this is where American liberals run up against two of their own limitations. First, their version of liberalism is not about replacing American hegemony with some equitable conception of world order; it is about using the language of liberalism and multilateralism to preserve and prolong American pre-eminence. Even as thoughtful and influential a document as the "Princeton Project on National Security", that aimed at "Forging a World of Liberty Under Law", could barely disguise the undercurrent that its commitment to a global rule of law was not for intrinsic reasons, but because it could enhance American power. But rather than owning up to its own limitations and its powerlessness against American double standards, American liberalism needs an object on which to assert its ideological identity. Since they dare not take on China, India is the easier target. Certainly there is something quite bizarre about the extraordinary construction of India as an "obstructionist" state that still permeates discourse in the American liberal establishment on almost every issue.


Certainly this construction of India as obstructionist is in stark contrast to the contemporary representation of China. There is no question that the liberal establishment is cosying up to China in unprecedented ways. One could explain this away simply as a consequence of the realities of power: the US needs Chinese cooperation desperately; China simply matters a lot more. But there is still something odd about the repeated calls in the liberal establishment that India should take more responsibility, while China is let off lightly. All the liberal non-proliferationists still bear a grudge against India, while the biggest proliferators are still excused. But there is maybe another, less conscious dynamic at work: the liberal allure of difference. China still serves the function of an exoticism in a way in which India does not. India, by virtue of its political system, is all too familiar. It has to be said: in the US liberal establishment there is a bit of suppressed admiration for the way China manages to create order. India is still chaos.


But the attraction of difference also explains a rather curious mystery about the American establishment, one that crosses party lines: its extraordinary ability to be bewitched by the Pakistani establishment.


Despite the direst constructions of the Pakistani state, the Pakistani ruling establishment still has an odd allure. Its generals — even the ones that let the Taliban lose, and brought their own country to ruin — are often described as "professional". And there is often a barely suppressed fascination with the aristocratic character of the Pakistani elite, compared with India's decidedly more humdrum, middle-class public face. Even though India and Pakistan are in a sense de-hyphenated, Pakistan still remains a source of American liberal ambivalence in relation to India. In some ways, American liberals are receptive to the argument that despite all that has transpired in the last couple of years, Pakistan needs some reassurance against India. It is India's responsibility to ensure that it is not up to funny tricks in Afghanistan, it is India's responsibility to reassure Pakistan by withdrawing troops. India's policy of self-restraint is prudent, but there is something distinctly odd about the way in which liberals sanctimoniously counsel it. Richard Holbrooke is a prime example. The implicit construction of India as a "threat" is still prevalent; the liberal establishment still has not entirely got over its protective instincts about Pakistan.


There may also be another curious social dynamic at work. It is fair to say that by and large Indians (and those who work on India) in the humanities and social sciences, who have access to the public discourse, in the East Coast are left-liberals. This reinforces the two dynamics mentioned above: a culturally protective instinct on Pakistan (the Hindu-Muslim question is still centrally conflated with the Pakistan question), as a manifestation of their own liberalism, and a more relentless questioning of India. And second, a refusal to see India in a comparative geo-strategic frame. So what is excusable in China is not excusable in India. In short, a free culture of self-criticism of India is made to feed easily into a discourse of putting India on the defensive.


Some of this is all to the good. It is a backhanded compliment to be held to higher standards. Indeed, India should hold itself to higher standards than other powers. But we should be under no illusions about who our real friends and supporters are going to be. We should not take it for granted that there is some objective necessity that will now drive the US to favour India. India is risking a structural dependence on the US; one that will be greatly exacerbated if India does indeed place its impending single largest order of aircraft with the Americans. Till now the risks have not been great, but it may be too premature to lock us into long-term commitments. India is by no means perfect. But there is still something disquieting about the degree to which it is being put on the defensive on a number of issues, from climate change to proliferation — and now even potentially on Arunachal. Foreign policy, we know, is not just governed by the cold calculus of interests. It is governed by an amalgam of prejudgments, cultural representations, and ideological constructions. India needs to watch out for the fact that the "liberal" construction is likely to gain ascendancy, posing challenges for how we carve a place for ourselves in the world.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi(








Much of the public imagination on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has been focussed on stories of corruption and conspiracy theories, with most public policymakers still debating over the merit of entitlement vs direct cash transfer, I would like to raise the stakes, perhaps a little audaciously. The truth is that the fate of NREGA and democracy in India are intertwined. In fact, NREGA is locked in an eccentric paradox: its promise to secure rural livelihood is embedded in the decentralisation of state power, but its implementation is unfortunately driven by a multilayered, centralised, bureaucratic mode of governance.


Take one example. Section 16(3) & (4) of the act clearly states that "every Gram Panchayat shall prepare a development plan" but the strangulating hold of district programme coordinators in the name of scrutinising the adequacy of works has suffocated the spirit of Panchayati Raj. The resurgence of an imperial bureaucracy, one that treats every Gram Panchayat as a den of vices and views every sarpanch as suspect, is hampering the NREGA's success. Consider the bureaucratic impunity granted by the act. In the era of widening and deepening of democracy in India, Section 30 of the act boldly states that "no suit, prosecution, or other legal proceedings shall lie against the District Programme Coordinator, Programme Officer or any other person who is deemed to be a public servant." For stark, ironic contrast, read Section 25, which states, "whoever contravenes the provisions of the act shall on conviction be liable to a fine which may extend to one thousand rupees"!


It is no surprise that almost no one in the bureaucracy, including bank and post office staff is hauled up for delayed payment or non-payment of employment allowances or cases of fraud. Check the status of complaints compiled by the rural development ministry. Mostly, replies are awaited for want of action taken by state governments. In short, NREGA suffers from a governance deficit and not from a resource deficit or lack of ideological commitment. (This doesn't mean, of course, that NREGA has failed or it needs to be replaced.)


With the reconstitution of the Central Employment Guarantee Council, the time has come to infuse new life into the scheme. Its first task should be to develop a durable and robust mechanism of decreasing bureaucratic control over procedural aspects of implementation and monitoring. This can be done by setting up a NREGA Mission, in which civil society actors could play a significant role. Next, we must strictly follow the provisions of NREGA with regard to the autonomy of Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats in planning, implementation and social auditing. Bureaucratic Rip Van Winkles must wake from their self-induced slumber and re-imagine the implementation of NREGA by genuinely devolving funds, functions and functionaries. In this context, the recent declaration of 2009-10 as the year of the Gram Sabha by the Panchayati Raj ministry is a recognition of the institution's growing importance as a genuine deliberative and participatory space.


Next, we need to move away from surrogate and ad hoc solutions by vigorous and timely implementation of the District Ombudsman provided for by section 27(1) of the act for grievance redressal and ensuring disciplinary and punitive action against erring persons in a time-bound manner. Selected through public verification among persons of standing and integrity with at least twenty years experience in public administration, law, academics, social work or management, ombudsmen are expected to be independent of central or state governments. Armed with powers to initiate proceedings suo motu within his/her jurisdiction, ombudsmen has the potential to consolidate NREGA in a big way.


One of the long-lasting multiplier effects of the NREGA is new, fast-evolving architecture for financial inclusion in rural India. Yes, bank and post-office accounts too can be manipulated, and we have not solved the dilemmas of delays in payments; but this should not deter us from deepening the banking in rural India. Since opening branches in all rural locations is difficult, we need to use what is called the Business Correspondent Model — where individuals act as agents for banks — prudently. We should consider examining and extending bank correspondents and facilitators. In a joint initiative with the State Bank of India, the Orissa government has recently decided to cover all the state's Gram Panchayats through correspondents. This also requires the participation of women in banking activities in the villages; I am hopeful that it is the women who would be ultimately "game changers". The success of NREGA lies in this transition from inertia to activism, despair to hope, tradition to innovation.


The writer teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Science in Mumbai and is a member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council (








As the Central and state governments initiate a major campaign — Operation Green Hunt — against the Naxalite movement, two challenges stand out.


First, the Naxalites and their sympathisers will launch a psychological counter-offensive to weaken the political commitment to the campaign by trying to delegitimise it in the public mind. Security forces will be accused of human rights violations, and a dubious moral equivalence drawn between the damage chemotherapy causes and the cancer it treats. Celebrity activists will find a new cause to express their outrage in prize-worthy eloquence. Even genuine human-rights activists will become the Naxalites' unwitting instruments — to the extent that criticism of the government's conduct will be projected as an implicit vindication of the Maoist agenda.


It did not help that in its first term, the UPA government's response to the Naxalite movement involved a mixture of denial, accommodation and neglect. As the Naxalites expanded their area of operations into what has come to be known as the "Red Corridor", the Central government had no real response. The absence of political resolve and policy stewardship from New Delhi left the already weak states to fend for themselves. Their unsurprising choice of ineffective, often ham-fisted methods or counter-productive ones — like the raising of armed militias like Salwa Judum — means that Operation Green Hunt starts with a badly overdrawn public goodwill account.


To get out of this hole, the government must release accurate and factual information to the public with unprecedented timeliness. In this age of inexpensive technology and connectivity, there is no excuse for the home ministry to be unable to release reports, photographs and video footage from the field. Paying for advertisements in the national media will only take it so far—-unless the UPA government implements a sophisticated public communication strategy, it will find its political will sapped by the Naxalite propaganda machine.


It is often argued — especially by the Left-leaning intelligentsia — that the role of the media and civil society is to hold the government's feet to the fire. This they restrict to human-rights activism targeted at security forces. It is equally important for watchdogs to ensure that the government implements the counter-insurgency campaign with complete resolve and adequate resources.


This brings up the second challenge: India does not have the capacity to conduct the vital endgame of counter-insurgencies.


With the right political leadership, India's security forces are capable of prevailing over the Naxalite movement in the military space — they can decimate the Naxalite cadre, recapture territory and hold it against the insurgents.They cannot, however, rebuild communities and livelihoods devastated by the counter-insurgency campaign. They cannot fill the governance vacuum that the Naxalites came to exploit.


Pulling security forces out risks a slide back into social unrest and insurgency. Keeping troops beyond a certain period risks the entrenchment of a conflict economy where vested interests have incentives to keep the conflict endlessly alive. Neither of these outcomes is desirable. Yet, this is the story of how India has handled most of its insurgencies — despite periodic military successes, insurgencies never seem to come to a permanent end.


After any serious surgery, there is usually a brief period of convalescence in the hospital before the patient is discharged into the care of the general practitioner. India does not have the capacity to take an area that has been cleared of insurgents, build institutions of governance before discharging it to the state government. Unless this capacity is built, the successes of Operation Green Hunt will remain ephemeral.


Delivering governance in the immediate aftermath of conflict requires hybrid civil-military capacity. A new organisation must be raised by the Central government, under a restructured home ministry, to lay foundations for the rule of law, economic freedom and property rights in areas cleared of Naxalites. We call this the CIMPCOR or Civilian Military Partnership for Conflict Resolution model.


CIMPCOR could be comprised of a core staff — drawn from serving and retired members of the security forces, other ministries and the Planning Commission — charged with planning, resource mobilisation and operational readiness. In addition, it should use "lend-lease" arrangements to draw on wider human resources in the public and private sectors in specialist disciplines. It should, however, have a limited deployment term, no more than three years, before a complete handover to the state government.


CIMPCOR is needed in many counter-insurgency theatres in India today — and might well be needed for foreign deployments as India plays a bigger global role in the future.


The alchemy of Naxalism lies in the transformation of millions of quotidian grievances into disaffection and rebellion against the Indian state. Green Hunt rightly focuses on security first; but it will only be complete when good governance eliminates those quotidian grievances.


Nitin Pai & Sushant K. Singh are editors of 'Pragati - The Indian National Interest Review', a publication on strategic affairs, public policy and governance








This time, it was different. This time, they had to fight for it.


Over the last eight years, Australia had blown Pakistan away for 132 at Lord's, punished India for 359 at Wanderers, bundled out West Indies for 138 at Brabourne, and hammered Sri Lanka for 281 in 38 overs at the Kensington Oval.


But as Shane Watson tried to hold back the tears on Monday night, it was clear that what his team had managed to pull off wasn't just another one-day title in their long list of triumphs. They remained undefeated during the Champions Trophy, but this had been a whole new experience for a team who are no longer the dominant force in world cricket.


When Watson discussed his resurgence as a match-winner, captain Ricky Ponting, sitting next to him, couldn't help but bring up Australia's record as a big-game hunter. "How many games have we lost in the last couple of World Cups and Champions Trophies? One game," he said.


This victory, however, wasn't about an Australia in which Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist opened the batting, and Glenn McGrath opened the bowling. It was about an Australia made up of Tim Paine and Callum Ferguson, James Hopes and Cameron White, Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz; about an Australia still coming to terms with the gap left by a spate of superstar retirements.


Unlike the Australia of old, this team did not have players made for every situation; they had to discover them over the course of the fortnight.


In the first match against West Indies, Mitchell Johnson reasserted himself as an all-rounder to rescue them from 171-7 with a fiery 73. Against India, Tim Paine led the way after Watson fell early, and set the stage for Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey to carry the burden. It was down to Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz to weather the storm against a relentless Pakistan bowling attack. And finally, the "real" Shane Watson flexed his muscles — first with Ponting as his guide against England, and then as Cameron White's mentor in the final against New Zealand.


Ponting believes his young players have laid the foundation for the next Australian team to be built on, and

though it's still early days, a Champions Trophy title during the rebuilding process is a sign that the finish line

may be closer than many experts had anticipated.


Surprisingly (since they win everything anyway) the victory for Australia was, for several reasons, also a triumph of sorts for one-day cricket, which had been desperate before the start of the tournament for a sign that would prove its viability in the long run.


First, the ICC got the format just right — perhaps simply because they had already tried every other permutation. There was enough time for teams to recover from a loss, like New Zealand, and not enough to wake up too late in the day, like India.


Second, the wickets had something in them to retain the charm of bent backs and vertical seam positions. The tournament, therefore, was not a video-game simulation in which the ball went soaring into the stands four times an over. Cricket without cheat codes is so much more fun.


Finally, and most importantly, for once one-day cricket managed to retain its unpredictability right through the event. There was a premium on performance on the day — on reinventing and recovering. The mathematical code that ODIs have been reduced to wasn't cracked with a scientific calculator; the problems were worked out meticulously, with lots of rough work outside the margins of the answer sheet.


One-day cricket is at its best when it's down and dirty, and there is every chance the format will get more of a boost when Australia come here this month for seven matches. This is India, so the stands will be full; hopefully the pitches won't be all flat.









A news item titled "Don't copy the West: Mohan Bhagwat" in the latest issue of the Organiser says: "Addressing his maiden Vijayadashami speech from the historic Reshambag grounds (in Nagpur), the RSS chief suggested a five-pronged strategy to combat and tackle the menace of terrorism and Maoism in the country. This included elimination of terrorist activities through simultaneous tough action by the government and the administration; strengthening the security forces by modernisation and empowerment; enhancing the capability of intelligence agencies; extensive training and awareness programme for the entire population on security of the individual and society; and freeing society from unemployment, exploitation and corruption". The RSS sarsanghachalak also stressed on evolving a model of development based on our own requirements and needs, and not to copy the western model of development blindly and wantonly".


The news item adds: "In his address, the chief guest, young spiritual guru Bhaiyyuji Maharaj urged the youth to be proud of the motherland and contribute to the amelioration of the problems of the society. Earlier, Bhaiyyuji Maharaj accompanied by Sarsanghachalak Dr Bhagwat, Vidarbha Prant Sah-Sanghachalak Shri Ram Harkare, Nagpur Mahanagar Sanghachalak Dr Dilipji Gupta and Mahanagar Sah-Sanghachalak Shri Laxmanrao Pardikar performed the shastra poojan. The swayamsevaks performed various physical demonstrations like vyayam yoga, yogasana, etc."


The news item concludes: "Large number of followers of Shri Tarun Sagarji Maharaj also attended the morning ceremony. In his speech the Jain saint declared in most unequivocal and unambiguous terms that those who loved this land as their motherland, they are all, irrespective of they being Jains, Sikhs, Arya Samajists, or Buddhists, Hindus. Those who accept this land as their motherland, the culture as their own culture, they are Hindus, he thundered. The learned Jain saint said that he was more impressed by the discipline and nationalism of the RSS. He said that the world gets influenced by Tarun Sagar but Tarun Sagar gets influenced by the RSS. Taking a cue from the chorus song Charaiveti, Charaiveti.... presented by the RSS volunteers, the Jain saint called upon the audience to understand their duty towards the country and society".



The editorial in the latest issue of the RSS organ titled "CBI, 19 years after FIR, closes Bofors case unresolved" says: "Quattrochhi will now be an honourable guest in India. The UPA has informed the Supreme Court that it has decided to withdraw all the cases of corruption pending against him. It has even said it would file a closure report in the lower courts where a case is pending against him, which is coming up for hearing on October 3. The Red Corner Notice issued by the CBI 12 years ago was withdrawn a year ago. Quattrochhi was right when he told the media that this good news should have come long ago. In spite of clinching evidence, successive governments in New Delhi did not redeem their national commitment to put the guilty behind bars. Now he has expressed his interest in visiting India . 'I would love to visit India since my family and I have spent some of the best years of our lives in the country,' he told The Indian Express ."


It adds: "The most affected party in the closure of the Bofors case would be the officers in the CBI. They cannot wrangle any more foreign trips in the name of 'collecting evidence' for the case. The crores of public money spent on this case, which came to nothing, needs to be accounted for. In fact an RTI on the expenditure on the case proceedings, including the foreign jaunts by CBI officials and politicians could reveal that it is many times more than the kickback amount. The NDA which was in power for six years did precious little in the case. It also sent several teams — investigative and legal — to various countries. The non-Congress governments before NDA too had not pursued the case with a heart. While the Bofors case has always evoked maximum decibels in Parliament, the political rhetoric never translated into action. We can hope to witness one more round of ruckus over the issue, whenever the next Parliament session begins".









I AM a 56-year-old baby boomer, and looking around todayit'sveryclearthat 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 asiftherewasjustonebigthreatthatcouldtriggera 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 threebombs--anyoneofwhichcouldgooffatany 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 whenthenextemittedcarbonmoleculewilltipover 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.Andwhenoneecosystemcollapses,itcantrigger unpredictablechangesinothers 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 US 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 wouldtankthedollar,willblithelytellyouoncarbon: "Emit all you want. Don't worry. It's all a hoax."


And too many liberals, who would never risk emittingtoomuchcarbon,willtellyouonemittingmore 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 mostmercilessforcesontheplanet:theMarketand 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 asWatsonlikestoadd:"MotherNaturealwaysbats 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'tspinitorsweet-talkit.Andyounever know when that balance between greed and fear on the dollaris going to tip over into fearinan on linear way.


That is why I was heartened to see the liberal Centre 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,useswhendiscussing 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."









The director general of hydrocarbons is no stranger to controversy, and one is swirling about at the moment. There's a straight conclusion from this colourful history of DGH—upstream oil companies must have a statutory, legislation-backed independent regulator, just as stock markets, telecom, insurance, electricity and pension (when the pension law is passed, as it will hopefully be in the winter session of Parliament) have. DGH is in the same position as DGCA (director general of civil aviation)—a pure executive branch creature whose weaknesses are inherent in the very nature of the set-up. The set-up being acutely vulnerable to all the pulls and pressures that high stakes games subject the executive branch to; needless to say both hydrocarbon and civil aviation are high-stakes games. India's hydrocarbon profile is likely to get bigger—gas find potential is being revised upwards—KG basin is not the last word. Without a truly independent regulator, it will also be much messier. If the government doesn't realise this and act on it now, it would be doing—the cliche is justified here—a great national disservice. An efficient change in India's hydrocarbon profile can really fire up the economy. When DGH was set up in 1993, its mandate was to monitor upstream business after the sector allowed private entry. DGH was formed via a resolution passed by the oil and natural gas ministry. It has taken hugely important and big money decisions—awarding exploration blocks, executing production contracts, judging on results. Specialists from oil PSUs have been drafted in to serve at DGH. But DGH has completely and utterly failed to signal the kind of lofty independence that's crucial if a bunch of people are to seem like taking credible calls on issues that affect private profits. DGH doesn't even signal credibility as much as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), the downstream hydrocarbon monitor.


How a DGH that's a product of a legislation and armed with statutory powers can make a difference is clear from DoT and Trai. Before Trai, and after telecom was thrown open to private entry, DoT was a regulator of everyone's nightmare. It's not as if post-Trai, telecom hasn't seen controversies, including of the kind that have corporate battles as the source. Neither is it the case that even the telecom appellate authority, TDSAT, has satisfied objective observers. But full satisfaction is never guaranteed in complex economic sectors that need regulation. The point is that separation from the concerned ministry and legal backing made Trai the most successful economic regulator after SEBI, which of course was a huge improvement on the late and unlamented Controller of Capital Issues. The oil ministry has not been terribly enthusiastic about a statutory regulator replacing DGH. It would be surprising if this has nothing to do with fears of loss of considerable power. The government must treat these fears as a non-issue and instead ask itself why a group of ministers must decide on gas pricing. That should be a proper regulator's job. GoMs don't decide telecom tariffs. Trai does. Oil needs a proper regulator—and soon.






The gruesome beheading of a Jharkhand police officer by Maoists is yet another stark reminder of the menace of Naxalism, which the government continues to grapple with, with only limited success. The arrest of Kobad Ghandy may be of symbolic importance but it is unlikely to be the game-changer in the battle against a group which has no hesitation in using the most brutal tactics to further their 'cause'. While the top functionaries of the UPA government still insist that there is a development dimension to the problem, it is increasingly obvious that as long as the Maoists are armed and capable of violence, it will be difficult to tackle the development dimension at all. It is therefore absolutely necessary now to respond to Naxal violence with sufficient force to crush the insurgency, or at the very least greatly weaken it.


It is undeniable that Maoists are the strongest in those geographical areas which also happen to be the poorest on the development dimension. It is regrettable that the State abdicated even its basic duties in these regions and allowed the Maoists to occupy the space vacated by the State. But it would now be obvious to people in the Maoist-infested areas that the Maoists are no saviours or providers of development. Their sole objective seems to be unleashing senseless violence on innocent people, with the entirely improbable hope of overthrowing the state apparatus and capturing power. It is entirely in the interest of the Maoists to ensure that their sphere of influence remains underdeveloped. It is not surprising therefore that some of the main targets of their violence have been economic—mainly mines but also power lines, telephone lines and schools. If development comes to these areas then the Maoists lose their most basic raison-d-etre. So while the administration at the Centre and in states can talk about addressing neglect and under-development of these regions, there is little that will change on the ground until the Maoists are defeated by force. As long as they are freely able to disrupt economic activity in their strongholds, there is no reason to expect the Maoists to change track. Given how far the Maoists are from the mainstream in their ideology, strategy and tactics, it is unlikely that they will give up arms and join the mainstream anytime soon. The UPA government must realise the futility of trying to bring these extremists into the mainstream. The only solution to the problem of security and underdevelopment in these regions is to root out the Maoists first and then begin development works in earnest.







The aborted cross-border deal between India's largest mobile services company Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN has thrown up many issues India's policy makers will have to grapple with in the years ahead. The most significant aspect of the Bharti-MTN talks was the pointed intervention by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who told the South African President on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburg that the deal must not face any discriminatory treatment at the hands of the South African regulators. This is welcome as it marks a big shift in the attitude of the Indian State vis-à-vis its own big business class.


Visiting delegations headed by the US President or the British Prime Minister are routinely known to lobby the Indian Prime Minister against discrimination in tax laws against Fortune 500 companies headquartered in their countries. For instance, top US politicians visiting India in the past have routinely sought bringing Coke and Pepsico to a much lower excise duty slab. They constantly argue for strengthening the intellectual property rights of businesses to safeguard innovations in their country. Of course, this sort of engagement between the political class and wealth creators happens when capitalism matures to a stage where big business becomes integral to a nation's identity as a rising global power.


Is India on the threshold of such a robust engagement between politics and big business? There are some early signs of that happening, seen against the prospect of the long term decline in incremental wealth creation in the developed economies. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention with the South African President could be seen in this broader context.


This is a definite change in mindset because India's foreign policy establishment traditionally has been loathe to speak on behalf of domestic businesses. This was essentially born out of a certain deep-seated suspicion of big businesses. All of that suspicion is not gone yet but there is a certain recognition at the popular level that wealth creators are integral to nation building and to India's growing strength in international politics.


This process will only mature as we go forward. Policymakers and legislators will also respond to this maturing of the engagement between the political class and wealth creators within a democratic framework.


The one issue that the Bharti-MTN talks highlighted was that Indian laws and regulations are not entirely in tune with those of the other developed and developing nations. This was also seen when the Tatas were buying out European steel major Corus. Tata Sons could not offer its own shares of Tisco in lieu of cash to the Corus shareholders because the Indian laws and regulations did not permit that. Similarly, Bharti-MTN deal also came up against regulatory issues such as capital convertibility, Sebi's take over code as well as company law provisions which made things difficult.


The Indian government obviously could not change regulations to suit Bharti Airtel alone. But in the years ahead many companies like Bharti would face such hurdles. As a rising economic power, India will then have to do a comprehensive review of its policy and legislative framework.


The move towards greater convertibility on the capital account is currently not so popular because of the recent memory of global capital moving in and out of countries post the global meltdown. However, increasingly this risk seems to be mitigating simply because western capital has nowhere else to go. A certain minimum quantum, whether through equity or debt, has to stay with fast moving economies like India and China that are generating returns that any global investor would salivate over.

In the decade ahead, a critical mass of global capital will come to stay put in India. It is for us to create conditions, through robust reforms, for absorption of such increased capital flows. The main argument RBI had made against the recommendations of the committee on capital account convertibility two years ago was India did not have the capacity to absorb big doses of capital flows. Theoretically, it is correct to argue that in the absence of adequate absorptive capacity in the real sector, large doses of capital could cause massive asset price bubbles which would burst at some time or the other, playing havoc with the real economy.


The solution to this problem then is to create the necessary absorptive capacity through the next round of reforms so that the money being pumped into India by global investors is used to create real assets which increases income and consumption on a sustained basis. Doing reforms to enhance the absorptive capacity of the economy is clearly the responsibility of the Central and state governments. Are they alive to this responsibility yet? There are some signs, but there isn't enough focus on this larger problem.


It is not clear whether the doubling of the government's gross tax revenues in the boom years after 2003 resulted in the Centre undertaking focused and productive spending that would result in the crowding in of private investment. True, the Centre needs to put in a larger framework of policy reforms to help absorb a quantum leap in domestic and foreign capital in the years ahead. It will then be justified in pressuring RBI to make necessary changes in laws and regulations that align with the rest of the world. The Centre and RBI are currently caught in a chicken and egg syndrome.







Government agencies in the telecom sector seem poised to take several 'game-changing' decisions. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) might soon require operators to offer consumers the option of being billed in units of second instead of the current typically one minute 'pulses'. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is reportedly planning to fix licence fees for all types of telecom services. Any day now, it might announce a new date for auction of spectrum for 3G and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) service. The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) is reportedly extending its subsidies from rural phones to broadband services as well.


If these agencies can rely on best practices to take these decisions , telecom sector could go "auto-pilot" with markets largely securing the agenda of consumers and operators.


The pending decisions relate to key regulatory concerns. Consumer interest in low prices and transparent billing is obvious. Robust competition between players in the market place is key to lower prices and better quality service. Technology neutrality in regulation ensures that no technology is favoured—for example through lower licence fees, better and cheaper access to resources like spectrum. Competitive neutrality in rules for subsidies—e.g. for rural communications—ensures that those doling out subsidies do not distort markets by playing favourites.


Trai's advocacy of per-second billing is right and does not signal return of price regulation. It stopped setting phone rates ten years ago, once competitive markets made it unnecessary. Making it mandatory for operators to offer one tariff plan with per second billing need not in any way curb their freedom to offer multiple plans or set their own prices. Consumers will welcome.


If Trai, after its usual consultation, prescribes an additional billing format. It would make it easier to choose from the scores of tariffs on offer, which experts and regulators privately admit baffle them too. Operators will hurt initially when users pay for actual time instead of the full pulse. However, many users might still prefer the freedom and predictability of fixed cost packages over pay-as-you-use options as internet usage shows. The current differential rate of 6-10% of revenues for mobile telephony depending on service area, 6% for long distance services , nothing for basic internet services, is hurting competition and hurting government revenues. Some mobile operators allegedly disguise their revenues as those from internet service. They save money and hurt their rule-abiding rivals. It is difficult for government to enforce service specific rules since operators use the same infrastructure to offer multiple services. However, basing licence fee on an operators' revenues—much like basing taxes on incomes—can encourage some to fudge figures. Also, the uniform 8.5% increase the burden on smaller and niche players—e.g one who targets the less developed C circles. This is regressive since most major regulatory regimes have replaced- service licensing with simple authorisation with nominal fees to cover administrative costs. Trai also recommended this in 2003. Licence fees make little sense if monopoly or exclusivity is not on offer. Internationally, companies pay governments market prices for scarce resources like spectrum, which encourages efficient use. If government must levy fees, it is better to tie them to overall sector revenues rather than operator revenues.


This is also why the delay in holding 3G and BWA spectrum auctions is so damaging. First, it hurts the already poor growth of broadband in India. The delay hurts work on solutions for


rural areas. However, the necessary spectrum and regulatory incentive to develop data services is missing. This encourages the current scramble for voice subscribers.


Secondly, these auctions are key to reform of spectrum management in India. Current rules allow wireless operators who add subscribers indiscriminately to receive more spectrum than the more efficient ones. The 3G/BWA auction will be a transparent way to allocate and price spectrum based on its value . It will help us design an appropriate auction for 2G spectrum and end the many current disputes.


The USOF has huge resources to expand rural and broadband services. Unfortunately, except for mobile infrastructure—it has largely funded large operators to deploy fixed infrastructure. Technology and business models are best left to operators. USOF must deploy quality resources to design a transparent framework to include support for hardware, software and end user applications, which are often serious bottlenecks for growth of services, especially rural.


The opportunities are huge. If Trai, DoT and USOF get these decisions right, they can catalyse an entirely new phase of telecom growth and leave little room for future controversies.


The author is a telecom consultant







The government recently launched the eighth round of bidding for hydrocarbon blocks under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).


The regulations under the current round (NELP VIII) have shown some marked modifications over the regulations under NELP VII, which was held last year.The bids of the investors are evaluated on various parameters including technical capability of the bidder, fiscal package offered to the government, and minimum work programme committed by the bidder. In the current round of bidding the government has increased the weightage of the work programme as compared to the previous round by 10 points in all types of blocks offered. This is expected to result in higher levels of commitment towards exploration. Another key change brought about in the current round of bidding is rationalisation of criteria for the biddable minimum work programme (MWP). The criterion of other exploration surveys/activities has been dispensed with and the same has been restricted to 2D surveys, 3D surveys and exploratory wells. Damages payable by the bidder(s) in the event of inability to complete the MWP will be indicated by the government beforehand to obviate defaults.


In order to bring clarity on the quantum of the payable bank guarantee for exploration and production companies, successful bidders will now be required to deposit a one-time bank guarantee at the time of signing the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with the government to the tune of 7.5% of the overall value of the MWP. This process has been simplified as compared to the previous round, which required depositing of guarantees on an annual basis.


As a move to attract only serious bidders, the bidders will be required to submit a nominal bid bond ranging between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 20 lakh. The amount of the bid bond will be payable as per the category of the block for which the bid is being submitted and will be valid for a period of one year. Some of these changes are expected to have a positive impact on the NELP-VIII bidding round.


This article is co-authored with Akhil Sambhar. The authors are senior tax professionals with Ernst & Young, India. Views are personal







"The masters of light" is how the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences described Charles Kuen Kao, Willard Sterling Boyle, and George Elwood Smith to whom it awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Kao wins half the prize for his role in the development of optical fibres that have revolutionised communications across the world. Drs. Boyle and Smith share the other half for their invention of an imaging sensor known as the CCD (or charge-coupled device). Working at the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in the U.K. in the 1960s, Shanghai-born Dr. Kao began studying how light could be harnessed for long-distance communications. It was known that glass fibres could carry light. But the problem was that 99 per cent of the light put in at one end of a fibre was dissipated by the time it travelled just 20 metres. Dr. Kao and his small team set themselves the goal of extending that distance to at least one kilometre. The bottleneck was not imperfections in the fibre, as was thought to be the case, but impurities in the glass. Dr. Kao and his co-workers showed that glass fibres made from fused silica had the purity needed for optical communications. These days, more than 95 per cent of the light is left even after being carried one kilometre in a modern optical fibre. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic at the famed Bell Labs in the U.S., Drs. Boyle and Smith were trying to come up with a better electronic memory. The device they produced — the CCD — became instead a way of electronically capturing images.


Optical fibres, carrying once unimaginable amounts of information, have made the world a far smaller place. Cables that contain thousands of glass fibres, each thinner than a hair, straddle the globe. The worldwide fibre optical network already has a total length of over one billion kilometres, sufficient to encircle the globe 25,000 times — and is growing every hour. These fibres link continents, countries, and communities, carrying valuable data and telephone conversations. The optical fibre is the backbone of the Internet, taking web pages, emails, chats, Skype calls, YouTube videos, and much else instantly across the globe. The video and images that are being transmitted in this fashion are likely to come from cameras equipped with a CCD or a similar device. Photographic film has vanished; instead there are mobile phone cameras that work using a CCD. The magnificent pictures taken by the space-orbiting telescopes like the Hubble and powerful ground-based ones too rely on such sensors. So do cameras on spacecraft that orbit Earth and go out into space. In his will, Alfred Nobel declared that the prizes in his name should go to those who "shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind." This year's Nobel Prize in Physics certainly meets that criterion.








In its most recent update, the International Monetary Fund has confirmed that global economic outlook has turned positive after a deep recession, which is by far the most categorical assertion by any major institution. Other forecasts including an earlier one by the IMF had pointed to the recession ending. But all those have been less clear about global economic growth setting in. For instance, in mid-September U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke had said that even the U.S. — among the most affected countries — was coming out of recession, but stopped short of putting out figures for a recovery. Mr. Bernanke's statement made on the eve of G20 Summit at Pittsburgh had hinted at a tapering off of the monetary and fiscal stimulus packages. However, the consensus at the G20 meeting was on the stimulus continuing until signs of recovery are more clearly discernible across the globe. In what was seen as the biggest challenge to their domestic public finances, it was agreed that individual countries, despite their soaring deficits, spiralling debt, and the threat of inflation, would not do anything to stop the recovery in its tracks. Even the latest IMF forecast does not recommend a reversal of policies that have helped them prevent a much deeper crisis on a global scale.


The IMF, which has generally been less pessimistic than its peers — notably the World Bank — has forecast global activity to expand by about 3.1 per cent in 2010 after contracting by about one per cent in 2009. Advanced economies which are estimated to contract by 3.5 per cent this year will post a modest growth of 1.25 per cent in 2010. Economic rebound is driven by China, India and a number of emerging Asian economies, notably Indonesia. For both China and India, the IMF has revised its earlier estimates upwards to 9 per cent and 6.4 per cent respectively. Countries in West Asia are predicted to grow by 4.2 per cent in 2010, more than double the projected rate for 2009. The IMF has admitted that the pace of recovery is slow and economic activity remains far below the pre-crisis levels. For recovery to be sustained and more broad-based, there has to be a rebalancing of the global economy. The broad principles for reforming financial regulation agreed upon must be implemented vigorously. Despite the slight improvement in the global outlook, there is no room for complacency, for there is no guarantee that the large financial players will not revert to their old ways.










Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's call for restraint, however mild, on the CEO feeding frenzy at the compensation trough, seems the least objectionable statement made by a Minister in months. (Contrast this, for example, with the Agriculture Minister's warning that people should accept a further rise in food prices and blame it on drought. Or with a senior member of the Union Cabinet grumbling about the Prime Minister's austerity drive. How much money will it save if we give up first class air travel, he wanted to know.) But Mr. Khurshid's words were enough to spook the captains of industry into whines of protest which will steadily get stronger.


"We can hardly say we will shut our eyes to the salaries the CEOs are going to take," said Mr. Khurshid, hoping that companies would refrain from handing out vulgar salaries. An equally mild wish expressed by the Prime Minister in 2007 saw the media come down on Manmohan Singh like they never had before. "The Prime Minister wants CEOs to create wealth for the nation. Then he wants them to take pay cuts." That was a slogan put up by a Mumbai newspaper on huge hoardings.


This time, the media were slow off the blocks in going after Mr. Khurshid. After all, between Dr. Singh's faux pas and Mr. Khurshid's mild protest was a Great Recession. And to say "the Market will decide" isn't enough, any more. In 2008, the Market decided to jump off a cliff taking much of the world with it. That didn't stop CEOs in the United States from taking home billions in bonuses in a year they ran the globe into the ground. In fact, more CEOs got hikes rather than cuts in 2008, as an AFL-CIO study pointed out in April this year. In India, while millions lost their jobs and livelihoods, CEOs didn't fare too badly. (How can they, in a country where the Union budget alone gives the corporate world subsidies of Rs.700 crore every day in tax write-offs and concessions? See The Hindu, August 15, 2009). It wasn't the market which decided that $6 million of public money be gifted to the corporate sector each hour on average, it was the government. The government can though, with few qualms, cap the daily wage paid to hungry workers at NREG sites at Rs.100. That, for 100 days only — and those days to be shared by the members of each household.


So the clichés of the Market lack that warm, righteous glow they had before the meltdown. But as big business re-asserts itself, the media will find their voice. Mr. Khurshid is about to find out whose voice that is, loud and clear, if he didn't already know. And he surely knows the power of corporate links to large sections of the political class. The two highest-paid CEOs in the country managed to save Dr. Singh's previous government from falling in the July 2008 trust vote. And only recently, much of a whole session of Parliament went to discussing the fight between the same two CEOs. Mr. Khurshid's comments, however, at least make for a debate on 'austerity,' its practice by the political class and big business — and the ever-closer bonding between the two.


Growing numbers of elected representatives fund their poll campaigns with corporate backing. And growing numbers of people with a big business background have ventured directly into the electoral arena. The links get stronger, the reps get richer. And there is much entrepreneurial joy and success.


While the CEOs top the charts by miles, the vulgarity Mr. Khurshid fears also consumes much of the political class. Take for instance, the 42 MLAs re-contesting this time in Haryana's polls. On average, their assets have increased by around Rs.48 million each since 2004. A nice 388 per cent leap. That is to say, each of them added Rs.800,000 a month to their wealth in their last term. Or over Rs.1,100 for every hour that they were MLAs (for five years). A healthy rate of growth. Maybe we need a constitutional amendment requiring every Indian to serve as MLA for one term at least. It could be the biggest poverty reduction programme ever undertaken. (I mean across all States. It might be slightly chaotic if every citizen was required to be a member of the Haryana Assembly.)


These and other fascinating insights abound in the reports put out by the National Election Watch on the Assembly polls in three States. (October 13 is the voting day.) NEW is a coalition of over 1,200 civil society groups across the country that also brought out excellent reports on these issues at the time of the Lok Sabha polls in April-May. Its effort to bring such data to the voting public is spearheaded by the NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).


Those who won the last time and seek re-election have led by example. The 388 per cent rise in assets per MLA in Haryana is but an average. Break it up and you find some stirring success stories. The top four MLAs clocking the best growth rates, all of them from the Congress, saw their assets increase by over 800 per cent. Imagine what they might have achieved had there been no austerity drive. The numero uno in this list has a rags to riches story. Starting from humble beginnings of less than a lakh, his wealth has risen 5,000 per cent. Inspiring. And perhaps one of the reasons — together with a love of democracy — why far more have been inspired to contest this time in this State than five years ago. The number of candidates is 20 per cent higher than it was in 2004.


Of 489 contestants whose poll affidavits NEW was able to study, 251 — 51 per cent, or every second candidate — was worth well over Rs.10 million. Though it must be conceded that those at the lower end of the crorepati chain see their assets swollen by crazy real estate rates. And as yet, these are just candidates. The crorepati ratio will go up after the results, when much of the plebeian element gets weeded out. This is not to say the austerity school has no following in Haryana. Some candidates have declared stunningly low assets. A couple of them say they're worth less than Rs.3,000 and one, poor lamb, has declared zero assets of any kind.


In Maharashtra, compared to 2004, there has been a 60 per cent increase in political parties contesting elections. Also, a 33 per cent increase in candidates. NEW has thus far studied the affidavits of 880 of over 3,500 candidates seeking election to the State legislature. It found that almost one in every four candidates is a multi-millionaire. (Here too, though, there are a daring few claiming zero assets.) NEW has so far seen less than a third of candidate affidavits — and already located 212 crorepatis. Over half of these are from the four major parties, with the Congress (42) heading the austere list. The BJP, the Shiv Sena and the NCP all have 29 each among candidates surveyed. The MNS (21) and the BSP (11) don't do too badly either. All these numbers will swell when all their affidavits are studied.


Around 52 per cent of Haryana's 90 sitting MLAs were multi-millionaires. That beats rich Maharashtra where just over one in three (37 per cent) makes the cut. But Maharashtra outclasses Haryana in the number of sitting MLAs with pending criminal records: 45 per cent to 31 per cent. (It might be worthwhile for NEW to correlate criminal records with crorepati status. Even if that takes more time).


And finally, there are those who get elected to serve the CEO cause, bringing us back to the political class-corporate nexus. The present government of Maharashtra, for instance, has handed over 5 airports (including 601 hectares of land) for Rs.63 crore to a single corporation, as Imtiaz Jaleel's excellent report on NDTV shows. A price so low that even most of the State government's own departments opposed it. It would likely be difficult to get 601 hectares in the desert for that sum. The government's brilliant defence is that it has not privatised an inch — just leased out the airports. Yup, for 95 years for that pittance, to the Anil Ambani group. Work out the math yourselves. I hope it doesn't get any more austere than this, though.








For years, Pakistani politicians, media and civil society have screamed themselves hoarse about how the U.S. never supported democracy in Pakistan, that it preferred to bankroll military dictators instead of strengthening the hands of civilian dispensations, and that this is why the country is in such a mess.


Now that it seems the U.S. want to do just the opposite — pour money into a democratic Pakistan in order to stabilise the economy and the civilian government — there is now an outcry that the aid package jeopardises the country's national interests, and that it is an insidious plan by the U.S. to encroach on Pakistani sovereignty by undermining the powers of the military.


The Kerry-Lugar Bill, which was passed into law by the U.S. Congress last month, and is awaiting President Barack Obama's signature, has become a hugely contentious issue in Pakistan, despite its promise of $1.5 billion annually in non-military aid — triple the amount it has been receiving so far — over the next five years, and a separate undetermined amount in security assistance.


New Delhi's contention is that the U.S. has been too generous with the money and has not attached stringent conditions to it, and that Pakistan will divert the aid into beefing itself up militarily against India.



But the exact opposite view prevails in Pakistan. There is a rising tide of protest against the conditions. Pressure is building on the government to reject the aid, which many have described as "peanuts," if the conditions are not dropped. The Pakistan Army too has revealed its hand, making it known through select media outlets that it opposes the conditions.


The conditions are spelt out in the text of the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Enhanced Co-operation Act, and even though the U.S. has said they apply to security-related assistance, it has not helped to soothe ruffled feathers.


The assistance has been linked to an annual certificate from the Secretary of State that Pakistan is co-operating in nuclear non-proliferation efforts including "providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks."


Though A.Q. Khan is not mentioned by name, the wording of the clause has been taken to mean a thinly veiled demand for access to the internationally disgraced scientist, who has lived under restrictions since 2004, after his confession to selling nuclear secrets abroad.


The Secretary of State must also certify that Pakistan remains committed to combating terrorism, and shown progress in ceasing support, "including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist terrorist groups" that have conducted attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan or against the territory of "neighbouring countries."


Again, India is not mentioned, but that has offered no consolation, as the terrorist groups mentioned in the text are not just Al Qaeda, Taliban, but also Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are seen as India-focussed jihadi groups. The text also mentions Muridke, a town close to Lahore where the LeT/Jamat-ud-dawa headquarters are located, as a base for terror groups, along with Quetta, where the American believe Taliban leader Mullah Omar is hiding.


The PEACE Act requires a monitoring report every six months routed through the Secretary of State, that will assess, among other things, progress by Pakistan on the same terror-related issues.


It must also include an assessment of whether assistance provided to Pakistan has directly or indirectly aided the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.


Importantly, it will also include an assessment of the extent to which the civilian government exercises control of the military, including on the issue of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.


The Pakistan People's Party-government and a handful of other supporters of the legislation are arguing that the money is just what Pakistan needs, as the aid is focussed on the country's economic and social development, which in turn will help strengthen the hands of present and future civilian dispensation.


As for the conditions, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoor Qureshi, and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira have pointed out that they do not contradict any of Pakistan's stated official positions, so conforming to them cannot go against the national interest. Pakistan does not support proliferation and is battling terrorists, so where is the problem, they ask.


But the critics, who far outnumber the supporters, have described the conditions as outrageous and say Pakistan would do well to reject the whole package. Even if the conditions do not go against Pakistan's stated policies, critics have called them accusatory in tone because they make it clear that Pakistan has individuals who have indulged in nuclear proliferation, that it has harboured terrorist groups that have carried out attacks against neighbouring countries, and that it must cease such activities in order to qualify for the aid.



The government, despite its stout defence of the U.S. legislation, has been put on the defensive after the Pakistan Muslim League (N) threw its weight behind the protests against it. Party leader Nawaz Sharif, who is at the moment away in Saudi Arabia, has been quiet, but leader of the Opposition Chaudhary Nisar raised the issue in Parliament earlier this week, accusing the government of compromising the national interest and ceding sovereignty to the U.S.


As a result of the all the protests, the government has agreed to a full-fledged debate on the issue in the National Assembly.


Surprisingly, the condition that seems to have caused the most anger is the one about the civilian government's oversight on the military, including in the matter of promotions, even though the PML(N) should have welcomed this as Nawaz Sharif was himself a victim in 1999 of the military.


The News, a daily newspaper, has run a series of reports questioning U.S. intentions in wanting to alter the balance in favour of the civilian government, even suggesting that certain sections of the present government may have secretly lobbied for it in order to clip the Pakistan Army's wings. The newspaper has repeatedly pointed an accusing finger at Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, for not lobbying enough against the conditions.


President Asif Ali Zardari has asked his party's parliamentarians to spare no effort to defend the bill in parliament. But with the Pakistan military too now appearing to be weighing in against it, the isolation of the Pakistan People's Party government on the issue now seems complete.



Quoting "military sources", Pakistani newspapers reported that Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani feels the conditions attached to the bill are "instrusive" and an "insult" to the military.


Gen. Kayani is reported to have conveyed this to General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the international forces in Afghanistan, at a meeting at the Pakistan military headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. The Pakistan Army chief is also reported to have given much the same message to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Sunday.


Observers have found it intriguing that all those opposed to conditions in the legislation, including the Pakistan Army, seem to have woken up only after it was passed by the U.S. Congress, even though the text has been around since at least June. No attempt was made in these months by any of Pakistan's "stakeholders" to modify these conditions.


But the hue and cry has rattled the government completely, and has added to the rumours and speculation about "imminent changes" in the governing hierarchy. It has to be one of the biggest ironies that a plan to strengthen democracy in Pakistan is now threatening to destabilise the country's first democratically government in a decade.









On a sun-drenched Sunday after a weekend in the country with his wife and two colleagues, Diego Angemi drives from the Sipi Falls in eastern Uganda towards the capital, Kampala. He has travelled this stretch of road many times before but this time there is a dramatic turn of events. A hit-and-run accident has left a boy lying unconscious at the side of the road.


They rush the boy to a regional hospital in Mbale, a village about 200km north-east of Kampala, in the hope that they can save his life. Their hopes are soon dashed. In the hospital's emergency room, apathetic staff must be persuaded even to investigate the boy.


"Unbelievably, the doctor seemed almost annoyed by the fact that we had brought the boy in," Mr. Angemi recalls.


The reason for the staff's apparent numbness, however, soon becomes clear. There is no equipment in the department, not even for basic resuscitation procedures. The emergency room has neither oxygen nor equipment for monitoring blood pressure. There is not even a simple penlight to investigate eye movement. "While we sat waiting and hoping that the doctor would take responsibility we realised that the boy's hands were turning cold and that his pupils were dilating. He died right there in front of us," Mr. Angemi says.



Although the emergency room of this local hospital is dysfunctional, right next door is a newly-erected building belonging to Taso, a Ugandan AIDS support organisation, which houses medicine and hospital equipment worth millions of dollars. Nearby is an arm of the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), the self-governing state institution which researches HIV and AIDS. JCRC is the largest provider of anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. Both these organisations are recipients of multi-million dollar support from the U.S. One of the main American funders is Pepfar — the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief.


In 2008 alone, funding from Pepfar reached $283.6 million — an amount which easily exceeds the entire annual budget for Uganda's Ministry of Health. "It makes you wonder whether this assignment of funds is justified when the most frequent cause of death in Uganda is, in fact, malaria," says Mr Angemi.


The Ugandan health ministry acknowledges the imbalance. "Since ARV medicine is very expensive and HIV testing equally so, expenditure on HIV completely overshadows what is otherwise available in the health system," says the state's head pharmacist, Martin Oteba.


After many trips throughout Africa, Harvard's Daniel Halperin, who has been researching the disease for 15 years, has made the same observations. "Many people in the West believe that all Africans are impoverished and infected with HIV. Yet the reality is that many countries have stable HIV statistics of under 3 percent," he says. But in spite of this, the vast majority of support, particularly from the U.S., is given specifically to the war on AIDS. "This is because it is a disease that we ourselves have dreaded and have therefore placed it at the top of the global agenda."


Sometimes African health ministries become over-burdened with the huge deliveries of ARV medicine which they do not have the time, finances or manpower to distribute. "The healthcare systems cannot keep up," says Esben Sonderstrup, chief health consultant for Danida, the Danish international development agency. "Then, there is the serious risk of medicine expiring and becoming unusable."


For Mr. Halperin, it is completely mindless to target aid with such a narrow focus on a single disease. "Why then should foreign donors continue to multiply Aids spending but use small change on projects which, for example, provide safe drinking water?" he asks.


Last year, according to Mr. Halperin, the U.S. spent $3 billion on AIDS programmes in Africa but invested a mere $30 million on safe drinking water. Mr Halperin cites other examples. One fifth of the world's diarrhoea-related deaths occur in just three countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria, all of which have relatively low HIV statistics. Yet diarrhoea, which is relatively straightforward to combat, is largely ignored by donors in favour of AIDS programmes.



At the main Taso centre in Masaka, southern Uganda, there is a new building with a bright, newly furnished office stocking an excess of campaign materials. Martha Nakayma, a 26-year-old public-relations assistant, relays the demands of a district which has an estimated 80,000 HIV-positive inhabitants.


Already more than 25,000 people have received help from the centre. Aside from doctors, nurses and social workers, personnel at the Taso centre include nine information technology assistants and two marketing people.

Pepfar is Taso's main donor, providing approximately 60 percent of the funding. "We are always able to offer the right medicine to our patients. It has never been necessary to turn anyone away," says Ms Nakayma. She explains that one day each week is reserved for home calls to those who live far away.


A skills development programme for patients means the hum of sewing machines is often heard. In addition, there is a theatre group for productions on HIV-related topics. "We also offer massage and special aromatherapy which can help to alleviate pain," she says. Elsewhere, there are local general medical clinics like the Ssekiwumna Health Centre situated on a dirt track off a main road outside Kampala. On an average day, up to 30 patients visit the clinic, typically with conditions like malaria, skin infections or diarrhoea. Its annual budget is just $3,500.


One of the biggest problems in institutions like this is the unreliable delivery of medicine and the lack of transport facilities, says Charles Mugyenyi, a health worker at the centre. His dream is to purchase a motorcycle for the small clinic. All this stands in stark contrast to the large sums pumped into AIDS' centres by international donors.


"Of course a lot of money goes to HIV/AIDS because it is a terrible illness, but more should go to programmes like vaccination campaigns, tuberculosis and family planning," says Mr Mugyenyi.


So what do the representatives of Pepfar make of the criticism?


Premila Bartlett, Pepfar's coordinator in Uganda, says they have nothing to apologise for. She argues that, unlike many other international organisations which had "lofty goals" to get people on treatment, Pepfar has actually committed resources to the disease and in doing so has made things happen. Pepfar, she says, is certainly not trying to undermine the existing system but rather to repair something which "in many cases is in pieces." One of the problems is government commitment. "If that isn't there, the system isn't going to get fixed and the people won't get the services they need."








U.S. regulators have tried to impose some order on the wild west of the blogosphere by introducing rules that force bloggers to disclose any payments or free goods they receive from firms they are writing about. Anyone failing to do so could be fined up to $11,000 per violation.


The changes are the first in almost 30 years to the guidelines on endorsements issued by the federal trade commission, and take into account the rapid growth of bloggers reviewing products and services online. The new rules also apply to social media such as Twitter and Facebook.



Alive to the growing influence of bloggers, companies are spending increasing amounts on "social media marketing," with some influential bloggers admitting they are inundated with free products.


The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, an industry group for social and viral marketing specialists, says $1.35bn was spent on social media marketing in 2007, and that will reach $3.7bn by 2011.


"Consumers are increasingly dependent on the internet for purchase information," said Jack Gillis, a spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America. "There is a tremendous opportunity to steer consumers in the wrong direction."


Under another shake-up in the rules, celebrities who endorse products in traditional advertising will be equally as liable as the companies they are promoting, if a commercial makes false or unsubstantiated claims. Celebrities will have a duty to disclose any relationship with advertisers if they make endorsements outside commercials, such as on their own websites.


In addition, advertisers have to make it explicit if they feature a testimony from a consumer that is not a typical result of using their product.


© Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009









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 Centre 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."


© 2009 The New York Times News Service









IT is no longer enough to merely condemn the dastardly killing of the unarmed police inspector Francis Indwar by underground Maoists in Jharkhand. The perpetrators, who abducted the police officer while he was out shopping and kept him hostage for several days before beheading him, must be tracked down so that they face the consequences of their barbaric act. The Maoists' killing-spree has not spared anyone. In Lalgarh in West Bengal, where the Maoists have murdered over two dozen unarmed and innocent people in the past few months, they have even gone to the extent of entering the classroom in a school and killing the teacher, merely because he happened to be a CPM activist. The only deterrent against such senseless violence is to be unsparing.


Demoralised policemen in Ranchi demanding greater security for themselves is the last straw. It was a near-rebellion in the city when policemen initially refused on Monday to allow an autopsy of the body of the slain inspector. Even after they were persuaded to return the body to the medical college, the policemen threatened to pull out of rural areas, where Special Branch officers like Indwar are deployed to gather intelligence but are not allowed to carry personal firearms lest they fall into the hands of the rebels. While the state government is likely to review the strategy, it is a matter of concern that men in uniform are being forced to seek armed escorts to carry out their routine work. Restoring confidence in the police rank and file has to be the foremost priority and as Indwar was abducted from the marketplace and in full view of hundreds of villagers, it should not be such a difficult task to go after the culprits.


While delivering the sixth Nani Palkhivala lecture in Mumbai on Monday, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram did well to rule out the possibility of any exchange of prisoners for hostages held by Maoists. " We are governed by the rule of law and prisoners are under the custody of court," said the Home Minister while responding to reports that the Jharkhand inspector was killed because of the government's reluctance to release three prominent Maoist leaders arrested in the recent past. It is time for making the rebels realise that those who live by the sword also die by the sword. If they fail to respond to the state's call for peace, they must be ready to face what the Maoists themselves describe as annihilation.








IT is ironical that while India happens to rank second in the world in the production of fruits and vegetables, its share in the world food trade is less than even 2 per cent. The main reason is that food processing facilities are woefully lacking here. While developed countries process 60 to 80 per cent of their produce, in our country, the processing happens to be as low as 6 per cent. Anybody who has seen mounds of kinnows begging for customers on the roadsides of Punjab in season can appreciate the plight of the growers. This despite the fact that government exhorts them to break away from growing wheat and paddy and patronise fruits and vegetables and other cash crops instead. Addressing the food processing ministers of various states in Delhi on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed the hope that India can be a global leader in food processing. But given the tardy progress made during the past, it seems the Centre and the states will have to make a big effort to achieve targets.


Food processing has been called a sunrise industry for more than two decades now but nothing much has changed on the ground. In this period the IT industry has grown tremendously. Dr Manmohan Singh put his finger on the pulse of the problem when he said that there was need for changes in the tax structure. Multiple levies have discouraged the whole industry. The small and unorganised sector is particularly vulnerable.


The country had adopted a "Vision 2015 Strategy and Action Plan" in 2005 envisaging the enhancement of the level of processing of perishables from 6 per cent to 20 per cent, increase in value addition from 20 per cent to 35 per cent and enhancing India's share in global food trade from 2 per cent to 3 per cent. If the deadline is to be met, there is need to put in place adequate infrastructure at the earliest across the country, particularly in the agriculturally strong states. 







BANKS are often driven by commercial interests and tend to disregard their social responsibility. They pay minimum possible interest on public deposits and charge the maximum on loans. The vast difference between their rates of borrowing and lending covers up their bad loans, frauds and administrative inefficiency. They discriminate against old and new customers. There are hidden and processing charges, which are imposed or waived at will. Since even some public sector banks indulge in unethical practices, customers virtually have no choice. Legal action becomes difficult since no rules or laws are violated.


One latest example of unethical banking to surface is about banks charging prepayment penalty. If a customer wants to repay his loan in advance, banks charge 2 to 3 per cent penalty on the remaining loan amount. Instead of appreciating such customers as repay their loans before the due date, banks penalise them for depriving them of interest income. This is patently unfair and unjust. There are willful loan defaulters. Influential people take huge amounts as loans and refuse to pay back, engaging banks in prolonged litigation. Banks are either forced to waive bad loans or reach a settlement on clients' terms. Instead of rewarding good customers and punishing bad ones, banks do the opposite.


The Reserve Bank of India is aware of various malpractices banks indulge in, but it has limited its role to cautioning them or circulating lists of dos and don'ts, which banks conveniently ignore. Responding to a query under the Right to Information Act the RBI has admitted that it does not "approve of charging penalty" on the prepayment of loans. But instead of telling the banks to stop this practice, it has left the issue at the discretion of banks with an advisory. Fortunately, consumer courts are coming to the rescue of customers who are forced to pay foreclosure charges to banks. But why make customers do the rounds of courts for justice?









WITH a new United Nations climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December, the developed world and the emerging economies are trying to bridge their differences on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The US wants developing countries like India and China to agree to control the emissions being produced by their rapidly galloping economies by setting specific targets. India argues that this would hurt its economic growth and wants the industrialised world to curb its pollution as well as fund new technologies in the developing world by underlining that it has one of lowest emissions per capita. Even as both agree on the need for an agreement at Copenhagen, India has made it clear that it cannot accept legally binding limits on carbon emissions.


Though around 80 per cent of world growth in carbon emissions is coming from fast growing economies like India and China, New Delhi has argued that even if India's economy continues to grow at current levels for the next decade or two, its per capita emissions would still be below those of the developed countries. A recent bill passed by the US House of Representatives seeks to impose tariffs on products from countries that do not undertake emission-cuts targets. This has elicited a strong negative reaction in India which views such tactics as non-tariff barriers. This is largely viewed as a protectionist measure imposed by the developed world to shield its businesses from the costs of its own national emission targets.


One of the major stumbling blocks in global negotiations on climate change has been the reluctance of the developed world to make adequate transfers of finance and enabling technology to the developing world, thereby helping the developing world reduce emissions without incurring as many out-of-pocket costs. India is seeking a bilateral arrangement with the US on this issue with an understanding that this can serve as a model for an agreement between the developed and developing world at Copenhagen.


A number of obstacles remain to be overcome before the crucial climate change negotiations at Copenhagen in December. The US under the present administration has also made a commitment to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990. Japan's new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama also outlined that his country will reduce its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020. As a consequence, the emerging economies are now under increasing pressure to demonstrate their commitments to tackle climate change even as they continue with their efforts to reduce poverty. It is, therefore, significant that China and India have given positive signals at the recent summit on climate change at the United Nations in New York.


It became an iconic image of India's defiance on the issue of climate change when during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to India in July, India's Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, publicly asserted, "India's position is clear and categorical that we are simply not in a position to take any legally binding emissions reduction." As the global climate change negotiations to be held in Copenhagen in December have come nearer, there has been growing pressure from the developed world on countries like China and India to accept quantifiable targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. India has been steadfast in underlining that there is no case for any pressure given that it is among the lowest emitters per capita. Moreover, India has expressed its strong disapproval of the threat of carbon tariffs on its exports being talked about in the West.


It now seems, however, that India is gradually changing its position as exemplified by the remarks of Mr Ramesh at the recently held high-level Climate Change Summit at the UN Headquarters in New York. He suggested that India "cannot hide behind any excuses and we (Indians) have to be aggressively taking on voluntary mitigation outcomes." While accepting binding targets internationally still remains out of question, India is now underlining that it is important for it to take on national commitments so as to enhance its global credibility.


This change of heart is a result of two inter-related factors. One is the evolving Chinese response on climate change. China has declared that it is pursuing its National Climate Change Programme that includes mandatory targets for reducing energy intensity and discharge of major pollutants as well as increasing forest coverage and share of renewable energy during the time period of 2005-2010. India was caught unawares by the specific measures that China announced at the UN General Assembly recently and is now planning to follow suit. Toward this end, India plans to conduct regular dialogue with China to exchange views on their respective action plans on climate change.


The other factor driving India's new approach to climate change negotiations is a sense among Indian strategic elites that a rising India should engage the world on its own terms and with a degree of confidence that befits its stature as a rising power in the international system. In tune with this assessment, India agreed at the Major Economies Forum meeting in Italy about two months back that all countries would work to reduce emissions in order not to let global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees above the pre-industrialisation level. The critics argue that this will restrict India's diplomatic space in the Copenhagen Summit. Yet India hopes that such steps will help it in overcoming its traditional image of a deal-breaker in global negotiations.


India has committed itself to a mandatory fuel efficiency cap to begin in 2011, a change in its energy matrix whereby renewable sources will account for 20 per cent of India's power usage by 2020 as well as announced an ambitious solar energy plan. India does not want to be seen as a spoiler in the climate change negotiations and would like to bolster its image as a responsible global actor ready to offer constructive help in mitigating global problems rather than being a persistent nay-sayer.


Despite this, its far from clear if the climate change negotiations will succeed as the developing countries want to be supported financially and through technology sharing with the rich industrialised world. That commitment has not been forthcoming so far. Without any financial and technological assistance, states like India will not be willing to open their efforts at greenhouse emission reductions to international verification.


Climate change talks not only involve competing economic interests but also raise matters of broad principle for the West's relationship with developing nations. India has shown itself ready to lead coalitions of developing nations in the past, vetoing those global agreements they see as discriminatory. The issue of the West's "historical responsibility" for atmospheric pollution is being seen as a case in similar terms and the Indian agreement will be hard to secure.


Yet the fact that India has started to gradually change its approach towards one of the biggest challenges facing the international community portends well for the future.


The writer teaches at King's College, London








CAN we borrow your boat", asked one of the six doctors on the embankment. He had a stricken look on his face. They had been there for the past 48 hours, treating people marooned on the embankment which stood up like a long, thin island in the middle of an ocean of water. But unlike the villagers who had taken shelter on the barely 20-feet wide embankment, they were unable to relieve themselves in public. They badly needed to go to the toilet.


He pointed to a building at a distance. It was almost completely submerged in water with only the roof sticking out. "That is the village secondary school," the doctor groaned, "Please allow us to row the boat there." The request could have been comic but for the scene around us. Thousands of villagers had taken shelter on the embankment with whatever they could salvage. Men, women and cattle huddled together, braving incessant rain, eating, weeping and shitting together. The pregnant among them delivered babies there with tattered saris held up as a screen.


The team of junior doctors was obviously a harried lot. They hoped for a fresh team to arrive and relieve them. In the middle of the inclement weather, they had only their waterproofs and tarpaulin sheets to help them cope with the situation. They examined patients in the rain, arranged saline and glucose to be fed through the veins with some of them holding the bottles with raised hands while villagers chipped in by holding up a tarpaulin sheet over the patient.


In contrast, we had arrived for a "dekho" in relatively royal comfort. We boarded the country boat just outside the civil surgeon's office. To our surprise we found a cot with a mattress and pillows on the boat, placed for a comfortable ride. There were water bottles and a few oranges too. It looked too good for a visit to the flood-affected areas. Our amusement turned to consternation, however, when we found two teenagers joining us with each holding a utensil. The boat leaked, we were casually informed, and the boys had been drafted to collect water from the boat and pour it outside.


Soon we were silently cursing our "misplaced" sense of adventure. Boats roll in water and if you are not used to it, it can be quite frightening. It was fascinating to see the road, fields etc. 15 to 20 feet below us. None of us spoke. I am sure most of us were praying quietly to the Good Lord above. As the embankment came into view after an hour or so, the water level started receding. Soon we could see villagers wading through neck-deep water, the tip of the lamp posts jutting out of the water at places. The water was placid, still but frightening.


Floods occur almost every second year in north Bihar. Flood waters cause untold misery and devastation, often forcing men and snakes to take shelter on branches of the same tree. They sweep away roads, houses and cattle along with tender plants and crops even as experts debate on the feasibility of flood-control measures and environmentalists blame the 'dams' and the failure to desilt rivers for the catastrophe.


The voice of an old lady is what rings in my ears every time I read about floods.


"We have witnessed floods even when we were children," recalled the octogenarian, "but flood-waters then would come slowly like a cat on the prowl." But these days, she shuddered while saying, they pounce like a tiger, giving us little time to scurry for safety.








IT is essential, in the first place, to comprehend insecurity. The dictionary meaning is fear or anxiety stemming from a concrete or alleged lack of protection. It could relate to individual or collective insecurity, could be self-centered, state-centric or society-centric. Its manifestations and sources could be multifarious. It could emanate from natural or human causes. For purposes of today's analysis, our focus would be on collective insecurity that affects particular segments of the population or even society as a whole. A typology of insecurities, present and anticipated, thus needs to be developed. This takes us to the very purpose of being in a society.


Hobbes depicted the pre-society stage as one in which life of a person was "nasty, brutish and short". Others dwelt on an essential implication of being in society. "The strongest man", said Rousseau, "is never strong enough to be always master, unless he transforms his power into right, and obedience into duty". Hence the need for an association which takes upon itself the obligation to, in Rousseau's words, "defend and protect with the whole force of the community the person and property of every associate." Furthermore, fear is not a correlate of underdevelopment and, to use Ashis Nandy's felicitous phrase, is to be found "in the interstices of anxiety" even in the most developed societies.


Consequently the community encapsulated in a territorial state seeks collective and, by implication, comprehensive security and, in today's world, does so without wishing to be homogenised and deprived of identities within its fold. The same would hold for the global community.


An observation made in the Report of the 6th ARF Security Policy Conference held in May 2009 is indicative of some new thinking. Noting that as a result of globalisation the international community has become more vulnerable to non-traditional security threats, it underlined the importance of "a whole-of-society approach" to respond to these questions. It observed that "both traditional and non-traditional security threats need to be balanced in terms of setting priorities and policy planning."


What then should be the priorities for the world of tomorrow in terms of elements of insecurity and the imperative to address them?


It is evident that given the structure of the international system, traditional and more recent norms of state security would remain in place in the foreseeable future and make ever increasing demands on resources of individual states.


Going beyond the traditional security paradigm, the ambit of discussion does not remain confined to maintenance of state sovereignty and territorial integrity. Once we begin to address other threats, two characteristics rapidly emerge. We find, in the first place, that the initiating actors and eventual recipients are states as well as individuals and groups; secondly, because the latter do not always fall within the ambit of a single state, it necessitates departures from the traditional structure of command and compliance. The latter, in effect, would often depend upon demonstrated good rather than its a priori acceptance. Both, together, necessitate a paradigm shift.


Another aspect is the nature and diversity of challenges. Together they demonstrate the inefficacy of unilateral action and the imperative of a comprehensive and cooperative approach. The terms of this cooperation, and their equity, remain work in progress.


A case in point is terrorism. It has domestic and external dimensions that are not mutually exclusive. Some states indulge in it as an act of policy to conduct, what Kautilya called, "secret war".


Globalisation and technology has made it trans-national in organisation and reach and devastating in its impact; hence the approach, mechanisms, and commitments developed through various Security Council resolutions as also the innumerable bilateral and regional arrangements that are unevenly implemented. These are essentially focused on preventive or punitive steps, on the dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism, and do not deal sufficiently with the mental orientation that leads to terrorist acts. The latter emanate from a radicalisation of the mind induced by an ideological or faith-based impulse and propelled by a perceived grievance. Combating terrorism thus becomes a sociological and political effort as much as a security one.


Another threat of trans-national dimensions is pandemics. Their impact on societies is and would be devastating, apart from the havoc they bring about in terms of loss of human lives. A Princeton University Project in 2006 visualised the scenario in the wake of an apocalyptic pandemic.


The report recommended that "we must broaden our understanding of national security so that health and development experts are included at every stage of the threat assessment and decision-making processes and not just consulted after the outbreak of a crisis."


Similar arguments hold for environment and climate change. These too are not coterminous with political units. At the national level and despite the good work done by a number of dedicated environmentalists, public awareness is still in its infancy and there is merit in Vandana Shiva"s observation that "the environmental movement can only survive if it becomes a movement for justice." Official efforts, on the other hand, have often sought to strike an uneasy balance between competing pressures.


Despite frequent articulation of principles, especially at Kyoto and Bali, the harsh reality is that individual nations and particularly those in the developed world are dragging their feet on implementing their commitments.


Two conclusions emanate from these examples of dimensions of insecurity, transcending national frontiers and beyond solutions in the traditional security paradigm. They suggest that solutions have to be sought in a multilateral framework of equals; they also have to be equitable. The process would be tortuous and slow and would depend on the speed with which the gravity of the emerging threats sinks into public perceptions and governmental action.


Insecurity clearly goes beyond challenges to state sovereignty and its territorial integrity. It is also evident that comprehensive security needs to focus on citizens and their right for a dignified existence. This does not limit the role of the state; instead, it changes it. The responsibility of the citizen and of the civil society is to keep the state glued to its purpose. This, in our case, is inscribed in the Preamble of the Constitution.


From this emanates the imperative, at the conceptual level, to redefine the social purpose: to ensure that each citizen is assured freedom from fear and from want so that he/she is able to partake of all other activities open to a citizen. Such an endeavour at the national and global levels would help bring forth a new world, more in consonance with a sustainable existence in tune with human rights and the environment.


The need for a new approach to comprehensive security is underlined by a survey of both the traditional and non-traditional threats faced by us in the past three decades.


Adapted from the Vice-President"s 14th Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa Memorial Lecture at DRDO Auditorium, New Delhi on October 7.








THE price of gold is surging on world markets amid fears that the old economic order, based on the supremacy of the US dollar, could be breaking. A new spike has sent the cost of the precious metal to a level not seen before. The dollar slid sharply after yesterday's report in The Independent that Gulf Arab states are secretly planning to stop trading oil in dollars, and a senior UN official said that the US should be stripped of its position as the main source of currency reserves for other countries.


The developments come on top of speculation that the Obama administration is operating a policy of benign neglect of the dollar, engineering a devaluation that could help repair some of the economic damage caused by the recession. Not since the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 has gold been treated as the equivalent of a world currency, but The Independent reported that it could form part of a basket of currencies that would be used for oil trading by the end of the next decade.


The dollar index — which measures the greenback against other currencies — fell 0.7 per cent yesterday and the dollar was lower against all major currencies except the British pound.


The US government's $11.86 trillion debt would be easier to repay if the value of the dollar was lower. There is growing concern among economists that the Obama administration could be content to see the currency fall. That would make US exports more competitive and could spark a manufacturing jobs revival.


Overseas governments are in a bind because they hold trillions of dollars as currency reserves. The situation is particularly sensitive for oil-producing nations, who are paid in dollars for their exports and therefore hold particularly high dollar reserves.


Gulf Arabs have begun planning n along with China, Russia, Japan and France n to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.


Secret meetings have been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme.


The revelation was met with public denials yesterday. The Saudi central bank governor, Muhammad al-Jasser, said: "The future is in God's hands. Today, the conditions are good for the arrangement we have."


The Japanese Finance Minister, Hirohisa Fujii, said he "doesn't know anything about it". Dennis Gartman, the US investment guru who writes the daily Gartman Letter, said that no one should be surprised to hear denials.


"We are certain that spokespeople for every single nation will be brought to the fore to deny that any such meetings have occurred, that no such decisions have been made, that it is not in anyone's interest to have held such meetings or made such decisions," he told clients as The Independent's story broke.


"The market will care not a whit." Simon Johnson, the IMF's former chief economist, said the countries involved would calculate it was not in their interests to drive the dollar down. " It would only be great news for the US. They have to pay lip service to the strong dollar policy, but if someone else were to engineer a devaluation, that would be lucky break for the US."


 By arrangement with The Independent







Psychiatrists struggling to draft a new manual to diagnose mental illness haven't agreed it's a mental illness yet. But mental health professionals are already gauging, parsing and analyzing Internet addiction, which bears all the hallmarks of addictive behaviour.


And they are asking, as Washington University's Drs. Dimitri Christakis and Megan Moreno did in a commentary published in the Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine on Monday: Will Internet addiction becomes a 21st century epidemic?


If there were a medication for it, this process of declaring Internet addiction a true illness would probably go faster. But for now, there's little more by way of treatment than pulling the plug. We live in a world where going online has become as essential and inescapable as, say, eating. And pulling the plug isn't much of an answer.


So prevention becomes a pretty important strategy. And if professionals are to prevent Internet addiction (if it exists), they must know who is most likely to fall prey to the affliction, so they can, perhaps, intervene early to avert it.


A two-year study tracked more than 2,000 young teens in 10 middle schools across southern Taiwan, and found that 233 subjects —10.8 percent — could be classified as having an addiction to the Internet. Males were more likely to fall into that category. Those who played online games were more vulnerable. And teens who used the Internet every day and/or 20 hours a week or more were more likely to be deemed addicted.


And what other features did potential Internet addicts show? For boys, those with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and those who exhibited significant hostility were more likely to have a dysfunctional dependence on the Internet. For girls, having ADHD and hostility also heightened the risk of Internet addiction. But two more groups of girls — those with social phobias and those suffering depression — also were at greater risk.


ADHD had the strongest association with Internet-addicted behaviour. And no wonder, observed the study's authors: "Internet behaviour is characterised by rapid response, immediate reward and multiple windows with different activities, which may reduce feelings of boredom or delayed aversion in adolescents with ADHD."


The study was conducted by psychiatrists from Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan.


 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








If there is one crucial area of governance left so shamelessly unaddressed by the State Government, it is the abnormal and unprecedented rise in prices of foodstuff. Even potatoes are being sold at Rs 26 a kg in the city. The chaos prevailing in the markets – run as per whims of the trading community – exposes the total surrender of the Government before the unscrupulous traders' lobby. All along the Government has done precious little to restore some semblance of order in the market other than maintaining that the current price rise has been an all-India phenomenon. No doubt, prices have registered an increasing trend all over the country but nowhere has it been so bizarrely abnormal as in Assam. This is because the government authorities have chosen to turn a blind eye to such a vital issue, giving the traders a free run. Can the Government explain why the price of the same commodity and of the same quality varies noticeably in markets within the city? This betrays total lack of monitoring and enforcement on the part of the Government and the administration. While any increase in petroleum prices invariably causes a spiralling effect on prices of commodities, the reverse was not seen when petroleum prices were slashed substantially some time back. While the much-repeated explanation of price rise at source is reasonable to some extent, the fact stands that the corresponding rise in prices in the State is far from being commensurate with the hike at source. Besides, how can one explain the unusual rise in the prices of locally-produced common vegetables and fruits?

The Food and Civil Supplies Department -- supposed to keep a watch on the prices of essential commodities and verify the traders' justifications for effecting a hike -- has been reduced to a white elephant. The corruption-riddled public distribution system (PDS) that could have provided much succour to the common man lies in total doldrums. The failure to crack down on unauthorised 'tax' collection from goods coming from outside is also a factor fuelling price rise. Government inaction apart, equally condemnable is the resounding silence of the opposition parties and other so-called mass organisations which are habituated to raising a hue and cry over every trivial matter but lack the sincerity to pursue real issues concerning the people. A mass consumer movement has been a dire need to check arbitrary and unreasonable price rise but that is not happening. Those professing to uphold the causes of the people should take the lead in building up a consumer's campaign because mass resistance can be a potent deterrent to any whimsical price rise.







The saying, 'justice delayed is justice denied,' because of its recurrent prevalence, has become a hackneyed cliche in the Indian judicial context. The various courts of the land, from the lowest to the highest, are overwhelmed with enormous backlogs of pending cases, so much so that the Prime Minister has had to urge the judiciary to initiate reforms before the state of affairs become frighteningly unmanageable. The most pathetic scenario is in the realm of civil lawsuits, which take decades to be disposed off, and often original litigants do not get a verdict during their lifetime. Such a state of affairs serves as inducement to tenants to default on their rent well knowing that it would be many years before a lawsuit against them would be disposed off. Delayed justice also encourages illegal encroachment of land and misappropriation of property, the reason why many owners prefer to keep leaseable property under lock and key rather than give it on rent. Though criminal cases are disposed off more quickly than their civil counterparts, the speed is not quick enough. There have been numerous well publicised cases where the accused, due to inordinate delay in the judicial process, had been given ample time to bribe or terrify witnesses into changing their statements, leaving the prosecution in the lurch and giving the presiding judges no option but to set them free.

Now, however, a start is being made to expedite the process of judicial scrutiny by setting up 71 additional special courts in the country, including two in Guwahati, exclusively for the trial of CBI cases in various States. This is a highly welcome development for, as things stand now, the number of CBI cases pending trial is increasing every year on account of the huge gap between the annual institution of CBI cases and their disposal by the courts. Most CBI cases tend to be of the high profile type and court judgements on them often have wider reverberations making deep impact on the social fabric. Lethargy in disposal of such cases, particularly those relating to bribery and corruption in public life, tends to take them away from the limelight, thereby diluting the impact they make. It is also expected that the functioning of these special courts would differ from the existing conventional ones, in that they will hold day to day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments, thereby reducing trial length to months instead of years. Manned by competent and experienced Special Public Prosecutors, the special courts are expected to serve as models to conventional courts and, hopefully, initiate-a change in the way the latter currently function. It is imperative that the Government takes similar expediting steps in the various courts of the land even as it undertakes reformation in the mechanism itself before India's judicial system descends into anarchy.








The 13th Finance Commission was constituted on November 14, 2008 in pursuance of the provision of the Article 208 of the constitution with V L Kelkar as Chairman. Under the said Article the Finance Commission is required to make recommendations to the President in respect of (a) the distribution of net proceeds of taxes to be shared between the Centre and the States and determine the allocation of share of such proceeds among the various States of the country, (b) the principles which should govern the grants in aid by the Centre to States out of the consolidated fund of India, (c) the measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and the municipalities in the State on the basis of recommendation made by the State Finance Commission and (d) any other matters referred to it by the President in the interest of sound finance.

Article 208 thus, clearly shows that the basic mandate of the Finance Commission is to recommend a fair distribution of resources between the Centre and the States and also among the States. In the light of the present global economic trends and their ramifications of the Indian economy, the 13th Finance Commission (FC) should look at the fiscal space available with the States. The term 'fiscal space' can be defined as the availability of budgetary room that allows a government to provide resources for a desired purpose without having any impact on the sustainability of a government's financial position. Thus the provision of fiscal space argues for adequacy in provisioning of devolved funds which is an important element of quality of expenditure that the 13th FC has been asked to pay attention in its terms of reference.

Offsetting the 'vertical imbalance' is another mandate of the Finance Commission. It may be noted that in federal finance system, the Central government has great access to tax resources, whereas the State governments have to face grater burden of delivery of 'public goods'. This creates an imbalance which may be called vertical imbalance. So the 13th FC needs to develop some criteria so that the devolution share of the States can be enhanced in consistent with their demands for public good. However, it is a difficult task, though not impossible to estimate the 'rational quantum' of resources needed by the States to perform their duties properly. The 13th FC also look into the terms of references (TOR) while formulating its recommendations. These include (i) analyzing the impact of implementation of goods and service taxes (GST) announced in the Union Budget 2009-10, (ii) measures required to improve the quality of expenditure to obtain better output and income, (iii) management of ecology, environment and climate change consistent with sustainable development, (iv) the implications of ecological management and climate change, (v) measures needed to ensure commercial viability of irrigation projects and departmental and non-departmental public enterprises. No doubt, these tasks are very important, but the question is : Is the finance commission a right body to resolve all the issues specified in the TOR? How does the FC look into the problems of environmental degradation or ecological disturbances? Moreover, the analysis of the implications of GST by the Commission is also a difficult task, because the design and methods of the new tax structure is yet to be settled. Thus the implementation of the proposed GST in 2010-11 may lead to serious impediments in the conduct of business and tax administration, and if it happens, it will have an adverse impact on overall revenue growth.

Another important issue before the 13th FC is the fractured nature of polity. The emergence of coalition government at the Centre and regional parties in different States have significantly altered policy perspective. Policy making has shifted to the short run from more long term structural issues. The absence of holistic perspective has led to poor planning, inefficiency and waste in implementation and lack of accountability in public delivery system. The matter of inclusive growth and fiscal disabilities of the poorer States also need to be looked into. The past Commission perhaps avoided the responsibility, but the present Commission is required to focus attention on this issue in view of the large and growing economic disparities among the States. It is important to design the transfers that would help to improve fiscal discipline at the margin, and should at least ensure that the States have resources to equalise basic services. However, any approach that is adopted by the Finance Commission should be simple and by and large acceptable to the Centre and States.

It may be noted that the social sector expenditure which includes revenue expenditure pertaining to social services, rural development, food-storages and warehousing, capital outlay and loans and advances by the State governments declined quite steeply during 2003-07 for all the States except-Goa. This is perhaps due to the fiscal consolidation process and restructuring measures being undertaken by almost all the States under the behest of the 12th Finance Commission. The introduction of Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBM Act) imposed on the States is an important measure to maintain fiscal discipline on the State government finances. Other institutional measures initiated by the States included implementation of the value added tax (VAT), establishment of consolidated sinking fund for redeeming the outstanding liabilities of the State governments, setting up of a guarantee redemption fund and ceiling on guarantees being imposed. These reforms have improved the fiscal position of the State governments in terms of improving deficit indicators, augmenting our revenue resources and decreasing the debt burden. However, the fiscal performance varies across the States. Some States like Kerala, Panjub, Jharkhand and West Bengal still maintain revenue deficit from 2006-07 to 2008-09. The revenue account of almost all the States witnessed deterioration except for Bihar and U.P. The quantum of outstanding liabilities for the State governments has continued to impede the progress made on fiscal restructuring of the States. The special category States, except Assam have recorded very high debt GSDP ratio, indicating the burden of debt in these States is increasing substantially over the years. The 13th FC must look into all the issues.

There has been sluggish growth of the Indian economy in recent years perhaps due to the ongoing recessionary trends in the global economy. The growth rate of the Indian economy has declined by almost 3 percentage points, which is a serious issue before the 13th FC. While formulating recommendations, the Finance Commission should look into the following major issues:

(a) The revenue receipts of the States are likely to come down due to economic slowdown (b) To mitigate recession, the States will be required to increase public investment in social services and public goods which will require larger resource mobilisation. (c) The implementation of the sixth Pay Commission recommendation will inordinately increase salary bill and pension bill of State government employees. (d) Owing to the decline in revenue resources of the Central government, both tax devolution and non plan grants by the Centre have declined significantly for the year 2008-09. (e) The growing disparities across the States compounded with the recessionary trends, is also a serious issue to be considered by the Finance Commission.

(The writer teaches Economics in Gauhati University)








The World Health Organisation (WHO), defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Hence, patients need to be seen as whole persons and not as diseases. A whole person is one who has physical, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions. Ignoring any of these human aspects leaves the patient incomplete and even interferes with healing. According to WHO, spirituality is categorised under four headings: transcendence, personal relationships, codes to live by and specific beliefs. Though spirituality is a globally acknowledged concept it has never reached a consensus. In spirituality one is fundamentally looking at the ways in which people fulfil what they consider to be the purpose of their lives which again is very subjective hence, the definition varies. Human being is considered to have two realms of existence, the outer and inner realms. The outer realm consists of person's interaction with the world, whereas the inner realm is the individual's interaction with the transcendental. This may be a divine being or ideals through experience such as beauty, awe and love.

In Monotheistic faith one acts justly to know God, whereas in Buddhism one acts justly to be released from suffering. Some patients may define their problems as spiritual rather than religious. By spiritual they mean a transcendental relationship between the person and higher being – "A quality that goes beyond a specific religious affiliation". Mind, body and spirit/soul are integrally connected. Traditionally religious issues were considered as irrational, outdated and dependency forming by mental health professionals. Freud defined religion as "universal obsessional neurosis" But with the advent of time the spiritual dimension to "whole person therapy" has gained importance. Recent attempts at empirical assessment of the relationships between religion, spirituality and mental health have suggested that religion may promote better mental health. Spirituality is intimately related to the mental processes ie the mind and affects the psychic functions of an individual. As we go through the annals of history of mankind on our planet, it appears that the spiritualism in its various forms had been in existence since eternity and what happens after one's death has been the query in every mind. The spiritual aspect is something that our patients want and expect as part of our caring for them. In times of illness questions surrounding life and death loom more strongly within a patient's consciousness. Recognising patient's spiritual concerns is viewed as an essential part of "patient-centred" medicine and high quality patient care.

Some spiritual practices are: Belonging to a faith tradition and community, ritual practices and other forms of worship, pilgrimage and retreats, meditation and prayer, reading wisdom literature and scripture, sacred music, selfless and compassionate actions, other secular and spiritual practices including deep reflection, engaging with and enjoying nature, maintaining stable family relations, friendships of high levels of intimacy and trust, some types of regular co-operative and group activity involving a special quality of fellowship.

Doctors, psychiatrists and clinicians are healers primarily through the caring relationship they form with patients. Caring includes calling on an individual's inner strength. A more in-depth understanding of the patient's need is essential. The clinicians should employ a variety of spiritually informed therapeutic tools to facilitate the patient's coping ability thus enhancing well-being and recovery. There is evidence that many seriously ill patients use religious beliefs to cope with their illness. High intrinsic religiousness predicts more rapid remission in depression. Many people experience better mental health and adapt more successfully to stress if they are religious.

Knowledge about patient's spirituality and religious beliefs is the first step that the doctors need to know especially by the mental health professionals where emotional pain and grief are encountered so frequently. There is evidence that cognitive therapies and spiritually augmented cognitive behavior therapy has been shown to be associated with improved treatment adherence, higher satisfaction in patients with schizophrenia who had recovered from psychosis.

There are certain issues to be kept in mind by every physician and mental health professional ie religious beliefs should not be prescribed for health reasons and doctors own religious views should not be imposed, initiation of prayer without the knowledge of the patient's religious background and the appreciation for such activity is strongly discouraged, psychiatrist shouldn't provide the in-depth-religious counseling something that is best done by the clergy or religious heads. Doctors should acknowledge and respect the spiritual lives of patients and keep interventions patient-centred. American College of Physicians suggested four simple questions that seriously ill patients could be asked – Is faith (religion/spirituality important to you? Has faith been important to you in other times in your life? Do you have someone to talk to about spiritual or religious matter? Would you like to explore religious or spiritual matters with someone? This can send an important message that enhances the patient-physician relationship, the cornerstone of medical care and may increase therapeutic impact of intervention. There are also lots of other spiritual assessment tools to gather the knowledge of religious and spiritual issues of patients.

At times it may be necessary to take the help of religious professionals or chaplains for mental health problems and there is a need for collaboration between religious and mental health professionals. Some harmful effects of religion are: to be come victim of persecution, adverse effects on metabolism and medication use of devotees when fasting, scriptural influences resulting in people stopping necessary medication, risks involved in people failing to seek timely medical care, risks when people seek alternative and unsuccessful religious treatment, faith healers etc could have negative effects on psychological health associated with a person's belief in a distant or intolerant deity.

Our calling as physicians is to cure sometimes, relieve often and comfort always. The comfort conveyed when a psychiatrist or mental health clinician supports the core that gives the patient's life meaning and hope which many patients miss in their encounters with mental health professionals. Considering such issues approaching questions of spirituality and religiosity with patients would only improve patient care and patient-doctor relationship, but at times may well come to be seen as the salvation of bio-medicine.

(Published on the occasion of World Mental Health Week)








The period between Dussehra and Diwali is when the festive season peaks and marketers talk in terms of a pan-India consumption-push. The weather is congenial — neither too hot nor too cold — and just about right for the tourist season to commence as not just people belonging to the country but foreigners embark on their very own discovery of India and take in the sights and the sounds, the festivals and the food.


South Indian snacks — idlis and dosas, washed down with coffee — are always a draw, especially in Bangalore which has graduated from a pensioner's paradise to the status of India's IT/BPO hub over the last two decades. Money has never constrained the desire for coffee in Bangalore and this explains why some of the city's older eateries still offer one-by-two or one-by-three coffee for those who can't afford more than one cup and would like to share it with their friends. Bangalore is not just the capital of Karnataka which grows two-thirds of India's coffee beans but is also the city with a heart where a cup of coffee can still be shared by friends.

This period between Dussehra and Diwali would logically be the right time to stage the Third India International Coffee Festival (IICF-2009) in Bangalore. In the wake of the unprecedented loss of lives and property due to the heavy rains and floods in Karnataka, AP, Maharashtra and Goa, the steering committee of the IICF (organised by the Indian coffee industry and the Coffee Board) will tone down the festive aspects of the 2009 do and concentrate on the business side which will focus on global trends and the opportunities in the domestic market.

The steering committee has also decided to donate Rs 10 lakh to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund from the revenues derived from the IICF which will see the participation of 500 delegates representing not just the Indian but the global coffee industry. Hopefully, IICF-2009 will be able to recapture that one-by-two, one-by-three spirit of Bangalore!







The Centre's decision to undertake an annual employment survey has not come a moment too soon. Much has been written about the poor quality of our statistics and how any attempt to framing right policies is defeated when the data on which it is based is suspect and very often dated. But even by the admittedly low standard of much of our information base, the sad reality is when it comes to employment (and its obverse, unemployment) we have virtually no data worth the name, only guesstimates.


The only official data on employment comes from the quinquennial Survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). The latest employment numbers that we have, for instance, relate to 2004-05 when the last survey was conducted. Since then the macroeconomic environment has undergone a sea change — GDP growth is down from a heady 9% to little over 6%. But we have no authentic information on how this has affected employment. There is anecdotal evidence of job losses, especially in export-related sectors, but try asking for a number and you come up against a wall.

The Annual Survey of Industries covers only the organised sector — about 7% of the labour force — and here too since labour laws impose onerous responsibilities (on paper) on employers, they have an incentive to under-report the numbers employed. The net result is that the government is often batting in the dark when it comes to formulating ameliorative measures.

Contrast this with the US where one of the most closely tracked numbers on the health of the economy is 'jobless claims', reflecting the numbers thrown out of jobs and hence claiming unemployment benefits. These numbers help the US government tailor its policies suitably. If jobless claims are rising, persist with stimulus measures. But if they are not, then it is time, perhaps, for a rethink.

The Indian government has no such props to aid policy formulation. In today's rapidly changing world, five-year-old data is of no use. In areas as vital as employment, we need to know on a regular basis whether government policies are working or not, if they need to be redirected. Policy can only be as sound as the underlying data.







We condemn the beheading of a Jharkhand police inspector held hostage by Maoists. This is bloodyminded thuggery, not class struggle. Such acts tend to discredit all forms of agrarian resistance to exploitation — the latest Human Development Report underlines India's rural distress — and strengthen the votaries of violent state reprisal against Maoists.


But rage and revenge cannot tackle the wider social malaise that creates ready recruits for the wrong-headed ideology of Maoism; nor can they guide the response of a democratic polity to actions that challenge democracy itself. Democracy and its intrinsic imperative to respect the rule of law abhor not just Maoist excess but also the calls to quell Maoism with counter-violence and to bring within the 'anti-Maoist sweep' sundry intellectuals, human rights activists, and those working with tribal/indigenous people.

This paper has for long argued that dealing with Maoism solely as a law-and-order issue is, if not part of the problem itself, wholly counter-productive. Even the prime minister echoed that view at a recent conference of top police officers. He called for a nuanced strategy to tackle left-wing extremism, observing that Maoism retains influence among significant sections of civil society. Yet, the government seems to have formulated a plan to initiate large-scale military action in various Maoist-affected states. Is it ensured that such action will not involve more suffering for the regions inhabited by the poorest of India's poor? Or that land-grabbers will not free-ride anti-Maoist operations to corner rich natural resources?

There is no doubt that Maoist violence needs to be combatted, but force alone will not do. We also need an attendant political programme that delivers inclusive development, which can mitigate the underlying causes that have enabled Maoism to take root and spread. Visibly, Maoists represent a crisis of sovereignty of the state, but they also reflect failure of Indian democracy in the affected regions. The Maoists, with their unyielding dogma and total reliance on violence (quite unlike their Nepali counterparts) are still a political challenge. We are yet to see a response to that.







Worry is a deeply embedded pattern in us. It happens independently, without any valid reason to justify it. Worry is like an addiction. Any addiction happens because we try to maintain our patterns. It becomes our nature.

We should understand that the mind is like a piece of hardware programmed with the software called 'worry'. If, for example, we experience depression or worry every morning due to work pressure, then even on holidays we will experience a disturbance in our mood around the same time because our mind is a programmed hardware.

Worry is a deeply embedded pattern in us. It happens independently, without any valid reason to justify it. Worry is like an addiction. Any addiction happens because we try to maintain our patterns. It becomes our nature.

We should understand that the mind is like a piece of hardware programmed with the software called 'worry'. If, for example, we experience depression or worry every morning due to work pressure, then even on holidays we will experience a disturbance in our mood around the same time because our mind is a programmed hardware.

The stress of suffering or worrying becomes part of our being. If the worry or stress is taken away from us, we feel lonely. We feel we are missing something. When we fall into this software, this worry, again and again, we often end up in a dilemma.

The dilemma happens when thoughts move back and forth while making a decision. There are so many thoughts inside us trying to put their signature on our final decision. These thoughts clash with each other when a decision has to be made because they were recorded at different times and circumstances. This conflict becomes our dilemma. For each person, the dilemma is different as there are no standards or rules for a dilemma.

We become so used to our inner software that we end up like an island that is cut off from the fragrance of the mainland. We are cut off from the fragrance of Existence because of our worries. We miss the miracles of Existence continuously happening around us. We forget to appreciate and remember only to complain. We forget bliss and remember stress. Remembering these negative things becomes a habit. Bringing deep awareness to our being is the solution to this distorted software of the mind. Deep awareness is like a benign virus, if such a thing exists! Once awareness enters our system, the more we work with the mind, the more the awareness gets into the worry software and destroy it!

Awareness is nothing but bringing our focus to exactly what is happening in and around us. Anything that we watch with awareness, whether it is physical pain, mental pain, worry, etc, will dissolve. That is the power of awareness. When we watch with awareness, we stop the conflict somewhere within us. We start moving with the natural flow of things.

When we watch worry with awareness, we focus light on exactly how worry is created, how it exists. Once this happens, the worry starts to dissolve and clarity starts happening. Be Blissful!








Opportunity in adversity is an old maxim. Probably Bharti should find banking in its failure to acquire South African telecom major MTN. Just as Bharti stands to gain by acquiring a banking licence in India, India's unbanked masses stand to gain by India's largest mobile telecom player extending to banking the fine art it has mastered of making big money from millions of small transactions. 

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India is a badly under-banked country. Bank lending as a proportion of GDP is less than half of what a decent market economy without hyper-inflation should have. Only a small percentage of households have bank accounts. And even those who have bank accounts do not find it easy to access credit from banks — physical distance of the bank branch, procedural complexity in filling forms and perhaps mobilising a guarantor, delays in getting a loan sanctioned, etc, come in the way. Thanks to such hassles, private moneylenders and a host of non-banking finance companies thrive in the country.

Things did not change dramatically when the government ordered banks to open 'no-frills' accounts for India's hoi polloi and exempted these accounts from the stringent 'know-your-client' norms that make it difficult for the poor, in general, and migrants, in particular, to open bank accounts. A spurt in the number of bank and post office savings accounts happened when the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme sought to transfer wage payments directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

But the reality is that banks do not really know how to operate a large number of tiny accounts without losing money. They open these accounts only because the government wants them to.

This is in direct contrast to how our mobile telecom operators function. India has some of the cheapest call rates. The average revenue per user is tiny. Yet, a company like Bharti makes huge profits by acquiring more and more rural customers. Why should a mobile service provider get into banking? For three reasons. One, it is already taking deposits from people, storing the amount in a card and running it down over time for the depositor's use and, besides, has the capacity to move these deposits around the country. Two, a mobile phone operator has the technological capability and the commercial acumen needed to handle small ticket credits and debits by the million; and, three, commercial banks lack precisely this ability badly needed to extend banking to the entire populace.

Most new phone connections in India are pre-paid mobile connections. A pre-paid Sim (subscriber information module) is a stored value card, apart from being a technological marvel that uniquely receives the signals meant for it and sends out signals to other Sims over wireless and wireline networks. The value stored in the Sim card is run down when the subscriber uses the phone. It is only a regulatory limitation that prevents this stored value in a Sim card from being used for any transaction other than telecom transactions. If this regulatory bar is removed, Sim cards could be used for making all kinds of payments and for transferring money across regions.

In Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, such use of mobile phones for elementary banking is widespread. So is the case in the Philippines as well.

Just imagine the convenience inter-state transfer of money using mobile phones would bring to our migrant workers. The latest UN Human Development Report puts the number of internal migrants in India at 42 million. According to another estimate, 307 million people work in a place different from where they were born. A sizeable proportion of these migrants would require sending money home. The Post Office is the most reliable form of sending money. But the money order costs a bomb: 5% of the amount sent, not taking into account the postman's baksheesh at the delivery end.

Let's see how Airtel could do the same thing for next to nothing. It has a huge network of airtime vendors around the country. Currently, they take deposits from consumers and store them on cards. If allowed, they could do the reverse as well. A migrant worker Lallan in Surat could charge his wife Laxmi's phone back home in Purnea (this is already possible) and the vendor in Purnea could deduct the charge from Laxmi's Sim and hand over cash. All it takes is Bharti's existing payment infrastructure, a few short messages and the regulator's approval.

Why does the banking regulator, RBI, prevent such transactions? Suppose Lallan in Surat charges Rs 1,500 on Laxmi's phone in Purnea and the vendor is willing to give Laxmi Rs 2,000 provided she pays back Rs 2,250 three months later. Credit would have been crated. Credit creation is tightly controlled by the RBI and it doesn't want anyone without a banking licence to do this. (The newspaper vendor or friendly neighbourhood grocer who gives you credit for a month — you pay the bill after a month's supply has been consumed — is outside the RBI's control but the RBI has learnt to live with them).

The solution is for the RBI to give a telecom company a banking licence. This will work, but for a bank to acquire the capability to interface with and make money from millions of small customers the way a telecom company does would be next to impossible. Given our demographic profile and fast economic growth, the number of people who will enter the workforce and need a banking account is huge. Our existing banks just won't be able to handle the load. We need more banks. The RBI must shed its inhibitions on granting new banking licences.

Phone connections are growing faster than anything else in India. Phones will also lead the way to rural India's access to the internet. It makes sense to tap the full social utility their technology permits. Banking is one.

Airtel is as good a candidate as any, and better than most. If Airtel's example succeeds, others could be given banking licences as well.

Airtel could be given, to begin with, the licence to do a truncated range of banking services. Or it could be allowed to acquire an efficient private sector bank, or create a joint venture with a trusted public sector bank. All these actions depend on the RBI's consent. Many options are open. What is not is the status quo.







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Based on what the charts are showing what is your expectation? Any stocks that you would recommend trading for the morning?

Well, first of all the market did end well yesterday, but, Asia is really going to determine what happens here today and so far Asia is up but not very strong. So I think we probably we will be in for two way moves, individual stocks some making a good move and others continuing to decline. So bit of a mix bag ahead today may be a slightly bullish bias, so ending with gains at the end of the day.

Now, stocks that could go down are other ones which have been continuously falling to two month, three month close stocks like Jayprakash Hydro, IFCI, Suzlon these have been weak for a while, even Reliance Power. These are stocks to look out for weakness. Stocks which are strong -quite a few of those and since it is a bull market- there is always more of those. IDBI Bank in fact all the other banks should be doing quite well. They are the hot stocks right now and besides those one or two Pharmas are showing some sense of strength like Ranbaxy, Orchid Chemicals. These could be the dark horses for today.

Reliance Industries on the charts do you think we can cross Rs 2200 decisively in today's session and if we do that then what you would advise clients and investors to do at this juncture book out at 2200 plus or stay put for more gains?

Well traditionally the market has always got quite excited about a bonus and one-to-one obviously will help the sentiment, but, overall if you look at Reliance it has not really done very much in the last month or two. It has been more or less sideways. So the tendency could be -even if there is a good move- for it to come back towards these levels, between Rs 2100-2200. Without the bonus I would say there is nothing much happening in the stock. It has to be seen how the market reacts to the bonus.

Looking at your stock picks if you have not talked about that already couple of them are kind of momentum counters and IDBI Bank is the third one which people have recommended, your own sense on banking as well?

On the banking space the market is looking like it should recover now because Asia is doing okay and if there is even the slightest trend of a rally the banks should be doing extremely well. So I would go with the banks for trading even if there is say a 40-50 point stronger opening that should be sufficient to launch the banks into a bigger move.







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Reliance Industries, as a fund manager, what would you do with the company because the bonus issue is a statement of strength as most people are toubting it to be but there are concerns on the earnings of the company going forward?

In fact, this news surprises the market totally yesterday, which had come after the market hours but at this moment, whatever management has decided is a complete confidence in the servicing the entire expanded equity what they expect to do after bonus. So, certainly Reliance will be a good buy even at this moment. We do not expect substantial downfall even in the earnings case and whatever talks have been made with respect to sops or even a bonanza but it is showing a substantial strength of the management in the entire results what we expect.

We have spoken about Reliance and IT but Monday marks the beginning of the banking numbers as well. How would you look at the banking space currently?

Banking we are really bullish. As such, there is not a much trigger for the banking but to a large extent, we do not see substantial downgrades in the earnings for the banking, profitability will be substantially good, credit growth is improving, so as such banking has shown substantial strength for so many trading days, so banking will be performing much better than any other sector as such now.

Telecom, what would you do, I mean if there are reasons to buy that space right now?
Certainly, we will go ahead with the Bharti at this moment because market has been too much pessimistic with the news of the ratings, but, immediately we do not expect this much downgrading is required for the telecom as such and Bharti being the leader of the telecom's sector, Rs 350 certainly it is a good buy.







The minister for road transport & highways spoke on issues pertinent to ambitious plans to expand the country's road network. Excerpts:

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You have a challenging job at hand. Has the situation of a slowness in road building changed after you took over? Also, what are the plans for the next two-three years?

The network of national highways in India is 70,500 km long at present. Single lane to eight-lane roads are there in this network. Though this is just 2% of the country's entire road network, traffic on highways accounts for 40% of the total road traffic in the country. India's road network carries 70% of the freight traffic and 85% of passenger traffic. We need rapid expansion of the road network to meet the growing needs of the economy, which is on a high-growth trajectory.

It's a daunting challenge for the government to ensure that expansion of road network keeps pace with the phenomenal surge in vehicle population. (Traffic on roads is growing at 7-10% while vehicle population is growing at 12%). One must note that there is a huge gap between the two, causing traffic jams that not only slow and impede economic activity, but also adversely affect quality of life. While we address this challenge, we would also be simultaneously making a stellar contribution to the effort to bridge the country's infrastructure deficit.

We do have a definite plan of action. In the last four months after I took over, the pace of road building has accelerated. We built highways of 10 km a day in July; the slippage in August was nothing but the seasonal one due to monsoon. Our plan is to add 20 km a day (over 7,000 km a year) to the highway network, which I think is the minimum required to make a visible difference on the ground. For this, we should have work in progress for 20,000 km at any given time. In line with this work plan, we will be awarding contracts for building 11,928 km of highways this year, entailing investment of Rs 1 lakh crore. To put that in perspective, that would be larger than the additional highway network built during the entire tenure of the NDA government.

How do you plan to raise such large amount of resources?

We are mobilising funds through all legitimate means possible—Public Private Partnership (PPP), borrowings from external and domestic financial institutions, FDI, capital grants up to 40% of the project cost, the central road fund created out of fuel cess, user charges, betterment levy etc. We are also planning to raise additional funds through issuance of tax-free bonds under Section 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act. Further, there is a proposal for an increase in fuel cess by Re 1 per litre of HSD and petrol and dedicate the proceeds entirely to the National Highways Development Programme (NHDP). Together, all seven phases of the 53,639-km NHDP would involve the largest PPP project in the world. The World Bank will also be a source of funds for NHDP projects.

In my recent road shows in Europe, I could meet different kinds of investors including private equity funds and pension fund managers. Their responses have been truly encouraging. We need to raise $70 billion in the next three years, of which private money could be of the order of $40 billion, including $ 1 billion FDI. I'm quite confident that finding resources would not be a constraint.

To expedite the highways programme, we're also designing a clutch of mega projects of 500 km and more each (costing over Rs 5,000 crore each). I'm sure these projects will attract many foreign investors. The locations of these mega projects are being identified. With all this, we will be building more roads than any other country in the world in the next two-to-three years.

The Cabinet has recently cleared the BK Chaturvedi committee proposals for relaxing the PPP norms in the highways sector.

The changes in model concession agreements and request for qualification/RFP norms would enthuse bidders. The Chaturvedi committee will further deliberate on aspects like capacity building at National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), dispute resolution and also tax and company law issues.

Is land acquisition a problem?

Unlike in other sectors, land acquisition is not a combative issue in the road sector. People are willing to part with part of their lands for reasonable compensation as they are convinced that once the road is constructed, the value of the remaining land will go up. We have also made it clear that if any project is abandoned after the land is acquired, then the land will be vested back with the original owner. State governments are hungry for road projects and are co-operating with us. Many states have set up land acquisition units. Now that the National Highways Authority has been recast with creation of regional offices, acquiring land has become easier.

Huge delays at checkpoints (state borders) coupled with sundry taxes and levies add to the cost of the Indian industry.
True. Seamless travel is very important. I am convening a meeting of state transport ministers shortly to discuss these issues. There is a need to harmonise tolling technologies and safety norms (our road accident rates are one of the highest). We are toying with the idea of harmonising transportation taxes. The idea is to have a single type of road tax throughout the country. One will be able to pay the tax at any one point of travel and obtain a certificate which will be recognised by all states.








Hindusthan National Glass & Industries, one of the largest container glass manufacturers in India, chose to acquire companies to gain size.


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Over the years, it bought out Owens Brockway's Rishikesh and Puducherry glass manufacturing units, L&T's Nasik unit and Haryana Sheet Glass' Neemrana unit. HNG's joint managing director Mukul Somany told Anuradha Himatsingka that the company is looking for more assets to buy. Excerpts:

How large is India's glass container packaging industry? What makes glass containers a preferred choice of packaging for some industries?

Container glass industry is estimated at 6% (Rs 4,500 crore) of the roughly Rs 67,500-crore packaging industry. Though the industry offers several packaging alternatives, container glass is preferred as it is healthy, hygienic and eco-friendly. Other packaging materials score over glass due to its fragility and bulkiness, but this character of glass sometimes overrides the broader and long-term concerns like health and environment. The beer and spirits segment account for nearly 55% of the total demand for glass containers followed by the food & beverages industry and the pharma industry which account for 15% each. The cosmetics and perfumery account for 10%.

Will the growth of organised retail industry drive demand for glass container packaging materials?
The packaging industry has experienced a spurt in growth driven by the growth of organised retail. New forms of packaging products have been introduced. We expect glass packaging sector to grow 7-8% annually, thanks to the lifestyle changes, growing consumer consciousness about health, hygiene and eco-friendly products, rapid Indian economic growth, growing export potential and improved technology.

What factors deter the growth of India's glass container packaging industry?

The glass packaging industry is facing problems such as non-enforcement of BIS standards, availability of cullet (broken glass) which constitute about 25-30% of the total batch composition and price volatility of inputs. Due to non-enforcement of BIS standards, alternative packaging options are used in a number of sectors compromising on quality of products and consumer's health. Studies indicate every 10% increase in cullet component results in 17% reduction in carbon dioxide and 2.5% reduction in electricity and natural gas. Cullet usage is low due to unhygienic and illegal reuse of bottles.

Rising prices of furnace oil and soda ash — raw materials for the industry — have also caused much concern. Though glass industry did not raise prices from 2003 to '07, manufacturers were compelled to share the rise in cost with customers over the last 18 months.

How has the emergence of newer packaging solutions affected your business?

Emergence of newer packaging solutions may appear to be a challenge. However, the pie has got bigger. We have been able to grow by 10-15% every year. We have introduced various technologies such as NNPB (narrow-neck-press and blow) and hot-end and cold-end coating technology to address the bulkiness and fragility of the glass. At a time when waste, pollution and contamination of food by chemical reactions are major concerns, we expect the Indian consumer to understand and react accordingly in the near future.

What steps has Hindusthan National Glass taken to turn around the loss-making units acquired over the years?

Our managerial expertise and introduction of state-of-the-art technology in plants have enabled us to convert the acquired manufacturing units into strategic and successful businesses. We have been able to achieve this by undertaking initiatives such as relining of furnaces, optimisation of workforce, implementation of latest booster production systems at the manufacturing units. We have upgraded facilities with an outlay of over Rs 500 crore to improve process efficiency and reduce wastage elimination.

Do you plan to acquire some more units in the near future?

The company intends to become one of the largest providers of glass container solutions globally. We plan to achieve sustainable development through operational efficiencies and introducing revolutionary concepts. HNG is investing more than Rs 350 crore for brownfield expansion and technology upgradation in plants. We are also looking at global acquisitions to strengthen our footprints.







Navin Agarwal, chief executive officer of institutional sales at Motilal Oswal Securities, says large-cap stocks are fully valued at current prices. In an exclusive chat with ET NOW, Agarwal identified auto, telecom and infrastructure as sectors that will create wealth for investors.


What are your expectations for Q2 earnings?

In terms of the earnings season, this will be the last quarter of year-on-year decline in earnings for the universe that we track. We expect about a 12% decline in corporate profits, excluding the oil-refining and marketing companies. On a quarter-on-quarter basis, profits will be higher by around 5%. We expect positive surprises from the banking sector; and the overall result season should be pretty good, given that the next 4-6 quarters will be extremely strong in terms of corporate profitability.

Apart from banking, which other sectors can surprise markets with positive earnings?

We expect auto will be the biggest gainer, followed by cement.

Given that there is an evident price war in the telecom space, why are you still bullish on telecom?

The tariff plan announced by Reliance Communications came in as a surprise to us. I think we will wait for the reaction of some of the other incumbent operators such as Bharti to see what they do with their tariff plans. We believe that even if Bharti were to respond to the tariff plan of RCom, they would clock an EPS of around Rs 24-25 in FY11; and after the sharp drop in price, the stock is trading at 14-15 times of the worst-case EPS that we expect from Bharti. We think that Bharti remains one of the best players for investors to play telecom from a long-term perspective in India.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Those who take heart from democracy and the rule of law as a cardinal principle of civilised rule and the basis of statehood, no matter how imperfect their practice in our country, will honour a brave Jharkhand woman, Sunita, who would be widowed within days of enunciating a sentiment that would do high officials of a modern democracy proud. The wife of police inspector Francis Induwar, who was captured by CPI (Maoist) activists in the forests not far from the highway that links the two major industrial centres of Ranchi and Jamshedpur on September 30, courageously told the media that seeking the release of her husband in exchange for arrested Naxalite leaders ought not to be effected as a way to extricate him from Maoist captivity as he was an official of a legitimate government and believed in doing his duty honestly. An assertion so stirring, by one so intimately related to a captive held by elements who decry our Constitution and political structure, has not been heard before. Indeed, the Indian state is known to have capitulated more than once to demands of terrorists on prisoner swaps. Inspector Induwar was beheaded by his captors without warning earlier this week. He wasn't the first policeman to die in the line of duty, but his Talibanesque killing can be said to be easily the most gruesome of all the cold-blooded murders committed by those claiming to be revolutionists. The credo of violence that comes naturally to the Maoists has not advanced the cause of the poor and the landless one inch in the past half-century that the Naxalites have been around. It is reasoned debate in the legislatures that has influenced policy. As for the Maoists, their violence without limit against innocent people — recently they shot an eight-year-old child through the head — has earned them rebuke even from the writer Mahasweta Devi, who is known to stand up against violence by the state. Like the Taliban they appear to follow in some ways, the Naxalites appear to be laying siege to ungoverned spaces, especially in forested territories, through the use of intimidation tactics against local residents, who are usually poor tribal people. The aura and the myth sometimes built up about Naxalism and the Naxalites — presenting them as preservers of land rights of the unprotected — appears more than a little overblown. A long time ago there was among the intellectual elite some romanticising of this. This has dissipated long since. News reports suggesting that a leading Naxal operative recently captured by the West Bengal police is the master of insurance policies worth around Rs 1 crore can only undermine any positive image the putative followers of Mao may have once had. Other than mindless violence directed against low-level state functionaries and innocent rural and forest people who like to keep their own counsel, it is not clear what goals the Naxalites espouse. They seem to have no visionary aim, and no theory to subserve even the platitudes that are mouthed. Their slogans may deceive, but their practices are indistinguishable from those of plain criminals who chose the path of terrorism. Like the Taliban, the Naxalites have become destroyers of any signs of development intended for the poor, such as roads, schools, medical facilities. Naxalites prosper only when every vestige of development is effaced. It is not just the state that needs to move with energy against them, but the political system as a whole.








Was the recent German general election a benchmark in the country's turbulent history and its worldview? The short election campaign was lacklustre to the point of boredom, with the two main protagonists, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival and coalition partner Frank-Walter Steinmeier, politely debating issues in the television studio. Yet the result, giving Ms Merkel a new term, was a personal triumph for her even as her party, the CDU-CSU combine (Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union), lost a percentage point of votes while the Social Democrats (SPD) had their worst showing at 23 per cent.

The big winners were the pro-business Free Democratic party (FDP) and its flamboyant and openly gay leader Guido Westerwelle, cornering an amazing 14.6 per cent, an increase of nearly five points. The Social Democrats lost to parties on their Left, the Linke and the Greens. Ms Merkel has got her wish to team up with the FDP to form a Centre-Right government abandoning the awkward alliance with the SPD although Westerwelle will drive a hard bargain.

But Ms Merkel, having been brought up in the once Communist East, is a cautious politician and there will be no wild Rightward swings in policy, with radical tax cuts, the FDP mantra, having to wait till Germany moves out of the trough of the world economic crisis. The real significance of the election result is that as the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, Germany has finally surmounted its post-World War II angst to take its rightful place in the world as Western Europe's most populous and industrialised state.
Germany is divided down the middle between the Left and the Right, but a consensus has emerged that the country can no longer be held hostage to history and that it has amply proved its credentials after its defeat in the last World War. There was a phase in which Germany, then a divided country, enthusiastically espoused the European Economic Community (EEC, the present European Union) to prove its European credentials. For Britain and France, in particular, tying it down to the European mast was a guarantee against adventurism. Of course, it suited France to trade on Germany's past in order to assume the political leadership of Europe.
German troops in Afghanistan became a late election issue after the air strike in Kunduz called by a German officer killed scores of civilians, but like other European troop-contributing countries, it remains an unpopular war. Mr Westerwelle is on record as suggesting a timetable for troop withdrawal. But the FDP has been in the opposition for 11 long years. The present leader's mentor, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, was the long-serving foreign minister, the immovable German object during the days of intense diplomatic activity leading to the reunion of the two halves.

Despite the new German coalition, Ms Merkel is unlikely to abandon its two pillars of foreign policy: seeking to maintain good relations with the United States and Russia. During the difficult days of the George W. Bush presidency, she essentially continued the policy of her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, in maintaining a special relationship with Moscow. This flows from the level of trade between the two, Germany's dependence on Russian gas supplies and the geopolitical necessity of good working relations with the giant on EU's periphery even in its present diminished form.

The view from Washington and Berlin on Russia is often strikingly different because even before President Barack Obama sought to "reset" relations with Moscow, there were few takers in Europe for consigning the Russian Federation to an "axis of evil". Mr Westerwelle, who has sobered down considerably from his days as a playboy taking part in a German reality show, is as much a part of this consensus as others in his country and Europe.

Although Germany has sought to secure permanent membership of the UN Security Council together with India and Japan, among others, it has acquired something of an honorary membership on some issues in the format of P-5 (five permanent members) plus Germany. Berlin is aware that adding Germany to already lop-sided European-dominated Council would present insurmountable problems, with the demand for a single European Union seat growing in volume.

The European Union has, in any event, entered a somewhat lacklustre phase, with its efforts aimed at consolidating the organisation, rather than dramatically expanding it. Although the Lisbon Treaty, when it comes into force, will enhance its world profile, the heavyweights have downsized their ambitions. The days of Jacques Delors envisaging a brave new world with Europe emerging as a main player on the world stage in the post-colonial era are now a distant memory. The EU's projected rapid reaction force remains a paper tiger, and the accent is distinctly on employing soft power.

In one respect, Germany still bears the scars of the past. Despite constant expressions of remorse from the highest in the land over Nazi Germany's conduct during the war and erecting an extravagant symbol of expiation in Berlin, Israel retains its ability to exercise moral blackmail over Berlin's policies in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ms Merkel is unlikely to change the almost reflexive German policy of titling towards Tel Aviv even in the face of totally unjustified Israeli actions.

Otherwise, Ms Merkel will cut a more confident figure on the European and world stage as a second-term Chancellor. In the European Union, Germany will exercise its prerogative of the largest contributor to try to cut costs and call laggards to account. But a possible area of conflict will involve balancing Europe's Atlantic relationship with the compulsions of maintaining reasonably cordial relations with Moscow. Despite President Obama's effort to build a less contentious relationship with Russia, Germany's views will diverge from Washington's. Although Ms Merkel's rhetoric will be softer than her predecessor's was over the American invasion of Iraq, she will stand up for her country's interests even when they diverge from Washington's.








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 non-linear, 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 non-linear, 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 non-linear 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 non-linear move out of the dollar and torpedo the US 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 non-linear way.

That is why I was heartened to see the liberal Centre 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 governor 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".











The recent calls for regulating CEO compensation in India have to be viewed in the right perspective. No doubt compensation to CEOs has gone up over the last few years, but so have company profits. These compensation figures are generally far below international levels.


Under Section 198 of the Companies Act, compensation to directors cannot exceed 11 per cent of the net profits of the company computed as per Section 349/350 of the Companies Act, and compensation of all wholetime directors, including executive chairman, cannot exceed 10 per cent of the profits. Managerial remuneration here includes salary, perquisites and commissions. The formula for calculating profits is also prescribed. Actual managerial remuneration in most large corporations is usually well below this limit. In case of inadequacy of profits, Central government approval is required if payment is to exceed a certain amount. However, the terms of employment, including remuneration, is approved by the shareholders through a special resolution. The directors or the promoters cannot unilaterally decide their own compensation.

Talent in any field, private or public service, has to be recognised and compensated appropriately. We witnessed the phenomenon of "brain drain" in earlier decades when our best and brightest left India as they got opportunities to earn many times more in foreign countries, particularly in the West.

India is emerging as a base for talent — both for managing domestic and global business. This talent has to be compensated adequately. India's best brains, especially those coming out of IITs/IIMs, are now at the helm of many global corporations. They are now willing to work in India as the compensation has improved. If restrictive provisions on CEOs' salaries are put in place, Indian companies may see a flight of talent from the country.

Any effort to artificially clamp down on CEO compensations will lead to malpractices. It is better for the nation if people accumulate wealth in a transparent, above the board, manner. It is worth keeping in mind that those who earn this money also pay taxes, usually at the highest slabs.

To my mind there is a difference between earning money and spending it wisely. While undoubtedly it is human nature that people will spend money to attain a better lifestyle, wealth must also be reinvested for growth generation. Indian business sector is replete with examples of how earlier generation of businessmen lived in a restrained manner and used a part of their wealth for construction of schools, hospitals and temples. Ultimately it is one's values and conscience that matter most in how one spends. Restricting income is hardly a solution.


Harsh Pati Singhania, director, JK Organisation, and

president, Ficci





The spirit of the corporate affairs minister's statement is laudable. In a country like ours, which is grappling with the problem of poverty, unrestricted display of affluence becomes repulsive and should be eschewed.
This does not mean that remuneration of corporate executives should be tightly regulated by the government. It is for the corporate sector to take a call on this.

No one disputes the fact that industry needs to pay well to attract the best talent, but even then they should take into consideration the realities of this country.

It is the responsibility of the managements — as shareholders rarely come into the picture — to strike the right balance between attracting the right talent and to keep the overall sensitivity of the masses in view.
In India we have seen the example of Ratan Tata who has taken only Re 1 as salary. I recognise that we should not expect commercial organisations to run on charity, but the fading away of the concept of giving back to the society is a matter of concern. In the yesteryears the affluent class and industrialists generously contributed to the society at large. They built temples, schools, hospitals and dharamshalas, and engaged in other forms of charity.

In the West, numerous wealthy persons have set an example by contributing a large chunk of their wealth towards public good. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet come to mind. One hopes that CEOs of India Inc. take a lead and become trendsetters for others to follow.

Although there is lack of comprehensive data in the public domain on this, there are instances where promoter CEOs are paid excessively fat but unjustified packages compared with a professional in the same sector, regardless of the performance.

Shareholders' approval cannot act as a preventive measure as this is a mere formality. Promoters hold majority of shares in listed companies.

To give an example, one of the promoters of a major agriculture equipment manufacturing firm, which makes high-end products, was appointed managing director on a basic salary of Rs 10 lakhs per month, plus perks, allowances etc. as per the company's policy, but not exceeding 200 per cent of the basic salary.

On a rough estimate, this package may amount to about Rs 3.60 crores per annum while the company incurred losses — in a boom phase — of Rs 37.58 crores and Rs 5.19 crores in the preceding two years and did not pay any dividend to its shareholders. Such instances underscore the need to review the carte blanche proposed as managerial remuneration in the Companies Bill, 2009.


Virendra Jain, president, Midas Touch Investors Association








The Emergency of 1975-77 still rankles those who stood for freedom and democracy, while the post-Emergency generation has no clue as to what happened during those "days of darkness". During this period of 21 months, India's democracy degenerated into a nauseating dictatorship. But when the opportunity came in the form of general elections in early 1977, people routed Indira Gandhi's Congress and restored freedom and democracy. At the centre of this fight was Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP.

Typical of the happenings during the "dark days" was the content of an explosive open letter written by JP during the election campaign, which said: "Suddenly, on November 5, 1975, I was informed that both my kidneys had stopped functioning. I could not understand how and when I became a victim of the kidney disease. I was taking all the medicines prescribed to me at Chandigarh. I was also sticking to the diet given to me in detention. So the total collapse of my kidneys was beyond my comprehension… But this much is certain that I was released only when the Indira Gandhi government was convinced that I would not survive for more than a few days".

Soon after assuming power, the Janata government appointed a commission of inquiry into the matter to bring out the truth. This was subverted from the very beginning. Nevertheless, Dr Nagappa Alva, the one-man commission, persisted and submitted a damning interim report in February 1978: "The dysfunction of JP's kidneys, though detected on September 15, 1975, was left uninvestigated. This led to deterioration without proper diabetic control and total mismanagement in the treatment of the case as a whole… The commission finds that steps were not taken soon enough to investigate and correctly diagnose the main disease of diabetic nephropathy… The diagnosis of kidney disease in Mr Narayan was kept a secret for a considerable time…"

This raised a ruckus in Parliament and outside. There was demand to place the report in Parliament. But Prime Minister Morarji Desai blocked this move and the whole matter was pushed under the carpet.

Be that as it may, during the Emergency people moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the goings-on. Grovelling intellectuals sang paeans of glory to the Emergency rulers! Higher echelons of the judiciary decreed that under the Emergency citizens did not even have the "right to life". But politicians of all hue and colour, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine. There was gloom all around and it looked as if the drift towards dictatorship was irreversible.

Through this all, JP continued to stir in agony, for the first few months in captivity at Chandigarh and later attached to dialysis machine at Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital and a spartan house at Patna. But, when election was announced, he struck by putting together an assorted group of political parties and restored freedom in India.
This was not the first time for the old warrior. On the Diwali night of November 8, 1942, he had made a daredevil escape from the high security Hazaribagh Jail that inflamed the Quit India Movement launched on August 8 that year by Mahatma Gandhi. A massive manhunt was launched by the British to capture him, "dead or alive".

Post-Independence, when people scrambled for the loaves of office, JP politely turned down Jawaharlal Nehru's repeated invitations to join his Cabinet. Instead he dedicated himself to Gandhiji's sampoorna swarajya. In 1954, he blended himself with Vinoba Bhave's Sarvodaya Movement, gave up his property and withdrew from all political activity. Even Nehru's suggestion in the late 1950s that JP could be his successor did not lure him back to politics.

But, JP returned to active public life at the ripe age of 73 when student unrest against corruption, unemployment and high inflation was spreading like wild fire. In the face of terror and repression unleashed on the students by the Bihar and Gujarat governments, JP took charge and thus was born the JP Movement.

Riding the crest of a popular upheaval against all that was rotten in governance and public life, JP declared at a massive rally in Patna: "This is a revolution, friends! …After 27 years of freedom, people of this country are wracked by hunger, rising prices, corruption... oppressed by every kind of injustice... it is a total revolution we want, nothing less!"

Indira Gandhi moved fast, imposed Emergency and incarcerated JP and all frontline leaders of the Opposition. JP was a special target. And all I could do was to create a crisis-like situation in the PMO and get JP released within a week of my coming to know of his kidney failure. And he lived to lead the Janata to victory over the Congress, as he had promised.

The Janata government crafted by JP collapsed in mid-1979 due to egos, intrigues and betrayals. JP passed away in October 1979 and the Congress returned to power in January 1980. Despite being a crucial chapter of India's post-Independence history, JP's movement and the Emergency were blacked-out from school-texts, forums and other avenues, denying the new generations any knowledge of this sordid saga.

Shortly after the fall of Janata government, I visited JP in Patna. That he had taken the Janata Party's collapse to heart was evident when he said, "Devasahayam, I have failed yet again". The hard-boiled revolutionary, who almost single-handedly won India's second freedom, died few weeks!

The best tribute to JP is to reiterate the words of Leo Tolstoy: "It is by those who have suffered that the world has been advanced". Indeed, India has!


 The writer is a former IASofficer who was districtcommissioner, Chandigarh, when JP was in detention there







IT is not often that a Chief Minister is rapped on the knuckles by the Supreme Court twice in the course of a month. Yet Mayawati's withers remain unwrung as she refuses to abide by the judiciary's directives and apply the brakes on the statue erection spree. Which quite palpably has now provoked the Bench (coram: BN Agrawal and Aftab Alam, JJ) to direct contempt proceedings against the UP Chief Secretary for "flagrant" violation of its orders to stop construction of statues and memorials in Lucknow. The contempt notice follows Monday's stinging observation: "You were imprudent. Any prudent government would have stopped work. You force us to look at you with suspicion." The UP administration's response continues to reek of contempt, most particularly after the court ruling on 11 September: "Don't play hide and seek with the court. You are trying to play with fire." Only an exaggerated sense of self-importance explains why the UP Chief Minister has repeatedly reneged on her government's assurance to the court that work would be stopped at the seven sites where statues have been planned. The pretext of maintenance is merely a figleaf; in reality successive court orders have been "brazenly flouted", to quote the words of the Bench in September. Once again has the court called Mayawati's bluff; orders to stop construction have been flouted under the pretext of "cleaning and maintenance". The state has been directed to "put down the hammer and chisel" totally with the warning: "Don't play games. You are treating this court like an adversary." Altogether a severe indictment of a government that resolutely wants its perceived worthies, past and present, to be immortalised in stone... impervious to the drain on the public exchequer and the violation of forest laws.

What could the reasons for the defiance be? Mayawati may have intended to present a fait accompli to the court, with the hope that the judiciary would only impose a fine and not order a demolition. That presumption itself was contemptuous, and an unruffled administration has gone ahead with its Chief Minister's agenda. The repeated defiance of the judiciary by the executive is as much a cause for concern as the stubbornness inherent in the erection of statues. The Chief Secretary is on notice.







THE CPI-M Politburo's two-day meeting in September discussed the steps necessary to improve the working of the party and bring about a change in the lifestyles of its leaders. The process of declaration of income and wealth by senior leaders will now be extended to the lower levels. This is in the nature of a ritualistic soul-searching that has been packaged as a "rectification campaign". It has acquired an added urgency in the wake of the serial defeats in the panchayat, parliamentary and municipal elections and more recently after the scam at Vedic Village.

The party is confronted with the dangerous cocktail of money power, skullduggery and moral decline. The leadership is desperately trying to get out of the mire.

The phenomenon is not particularly new for the party. It bears recall that in 2008, Biman Bose attributed the defeat of the Left in the panchayat election to arrogance and corruption among a large section of its members. He told a meeting of the cadres at Sutahata in East Midnapore district, "You did not have a cycle once, but you now flaunt cars and houses. Where did you get the money? Funds are provided for the benefit of the people.


You should look at yourselves in the mirror and compare what you were like. What you see reflected in the mirror now is your own blackened and mud-spattered face."


HOWEVER, the CPI-M state secretary took a different line when villagers at Dharampur demolished the brand new two-storied building of Anuj Pandey, secretary of the party's Binpur zonal committee, on 14 June this year. Mr Bose sympathised with Pandey, claiming that the latter did not amass money through corrupt means, but possessed ancestral property. His uncle, Sudhir Pandey, promptly denied the claim, saying that his nephew did not inherit any such property.

That the leadership was aware of the goings-on within the party was evident from the confidential report placed at the 19th party congress in Coimbatore last year. The lavish lifestyles and corruption at different levels were identified as threats confronting the CPI-M. The assets of some party members are disproportionate to their known sources of income. Disclosures are inaccurate. Some members follow caste and religious rituals. Some have even benefited from the dowry system. They throw ostentatious parties for birthdays, weddings and construction of new houses. A fair amount of money is collected from the tainted.

The report exposed the fact that some members do not even pay the levy. They furnish information about their income simply to pay a lower levy. It regretted that the directive asking its members to submit details of their income to the party had yielded little or no result. The congress called for a "rectification campaign", urging the members to lead simple lives and follow the "disciplinary lifestyle prescribed for communists".

Have the leaders set an example for their followers? Are they known for the kind of austere living that was practised by the Communist leaders of the fifties or sixties? Ministers, MPs and MLAs are no longer known for probity. As often as not, they are directly or indirectly connected with shady deals that envisage wealth and the good things of life. Vedic Village symbolises that greed, one that has had a harmful influence on the younger generation.

Several NGOs are benefiting from their proximity to the CPI-M leaders. A central committee member from West Bengal has been charged with misuse of funds worth several crores. It had been collected from the villagers for a Central micro-credit scheme. There was no proper accounting of a Rs 4-crore Microsoft grant to the NGO run by this member.

In Haldia, the king of the ring, who has now been dislodged, had leased out 37 acres of land in the heart of the industrial town to the Indian Centre for Advancement of Research and Education (ICARE), an NGO run by him. The rate: one rupee per acre!


THE luxurious party buildings in the districts are standing examples of corruption. They couldn't have been constructed from the meagre donations that party activists once used to collect in small containers. In Burdwan town, the CPI-M has 30 buildings which house its zonal office, a number of local and branch offices and various other frontal organisations like the Krishak Sabha, the CITU, DYFI and so on. Very few of these hubs have been taken on rent. Almost all of them are owned by the party.

The party's income-tax returns from 2002 and 2006 confirm the amount of wealth and returns from the stock market. It appears that a substantial part of the income came from interest and dividend in 2006 ~ a year when the market was bullish and the Sensex had crossed 14,000. The party's fund was richer by Rs 1.92 crore that came from interest and dividend alone. This must be reckoned as a tidy sum considering that the party has a base in only three states.

The Politburo's sermon to the members does not apply to the leaders. According to the CAG report, Kerala had lost Rs 374.50 crore on account of the SNC Lavalin deal. The CBI has chargesheeted Pinarayi Vijayan, the then power minister and the party leader. But he has been let off after a mild reprimand. In effect, a leader charged with corruption has been protected by the party. This is the dominant public perception.

Whether it is the party congress or a Politburo meeting, the "rectification programme" is referred to as a continuous process. Whether it has impacted the party in any way is a different matter altogether. It is a pity that the armchair theoreticians of Gopalan Bhavan ~ obsessed with their ego and divorced from ground realities ~ are yet to fathom the extent of the CPI-M's isolation from the people. Central to the crisis is the wealth and arrogance of its functionaries, and at all levels. Serious introspection and a ruthless purge may yet save the party.






NEVER is the difference between fiction and fact more pronounced than in the domain of espionage. Out there in the real world of intelligence-agents there are none of the James Bond trademarks: fantastic shoot-outs, fast cars, faster women ~ indeed even little of the wondrous gadgetry that so tickles the imagination. And while 007 may return to a welcome of sorts from "M" and Moneypenny, and George Smiley retires from "the firm" with adequate superannuation benefits, most agents find themselves ignored and unwanted once they have outlived their utility. In an Indian context their fate is even more precarious: should their cover be "blown" when operating abroad their existence is virtually denied by their controllers. Confirmation of that comes from the Delhi High Court recently directing a compensation-payment of Rs 500,000 to Bougal Ram who had been recruited as a source for Military Intelligence, at a niggardly Rs 2500 a month, and then spent over seven years in a Pakistan jail. Worse, it took him close to a decade to secure judicial redress; as is customary his employers were reluctant to acknowledge him. This is the third instance of a court stepping in, so it would be fair to assume that there are several cases of such unfair treatment. While it is true that no agent will be "owned" when he is in trouble, it is disturbing that even thereafter they are shunned. When the army makes so much about a soldier facing the enemy squarely because he is confident his family will be looked after, why cannot it extend the principle to its spies?

This, however, is not any re-telling of sob stories. It should serve as an eye-opener to those who claim to be committed to revamping the snoop agencies in the wake of the 26/11, Kargil and a host of other fiascoes that have come to be accepted as intelligence failures. The message holds good for both internal and external intelligence ~ why would a lowly constable be inclined to infiltrate a terrorist outfit and thwart its viciousness unless he was completely confident that his services would be duly recognised? Far too much of the post-Mumbai action is top-heavy, perhaps even publicity/politically-oriented. That newspapers carry reports of ex-spies having to go to court for compensation is surely a disincentive: and criminal is the message ~ not the messenger.







London, 7 OCT: Palaeontologists have unearthed in France the world's largest dinosaur footprints, belonging to a cousin of the diplodocus, which could offer new insights into their behaviour at the end of Jurassic period.
A team of fossil hunters has discovered the "colossal" prints, left by giant sauropods weighing up to 50 tons, in the tiny French village of Plagne in the Jura plateau, near the southeastern city of Lyon.
"Not only are the footprints exceptional because of their size but they cover a very large area, so we will potentially be able to study the tracks over a long distance," the British media quoted team leader Pierre Hantzpergue of Lyons University as saying.

According to the fossil hunters, the tracks discovered in the Jura mountain range in eastern France ran to hundreds of metres, "considerably longer" than the current record of 147 m, near Fatima in Portugal. The prints are believed to have been left by a herbivorous sauropod, probably a diplodocus, which measured more than 25m long and weighed between 30 and 40 tonnes. ; PTI 







IN parallel with its enthusiasm to monitor functioning of the institutions of higher learning, the Centre has almost as a matter of policy resolved to turn the clock back on an admittedly sensitive segment. Today's policy negates yesterday's. Less than a fortnight after the HRD ministry decided to redraft the Central Madrasa Board Bill, minister Kapil Sibal would rather the government proceed cautiously so as not to ruffle the feathers of the theocratic fringe. As much is clear from his statement after last Saturday's meeting with Muslim MPs. He has effected a swingback in the planned composition of the Madrasa Board, most importantly to include eminent academics in addition to the clerics. The representation of academics ~ with proven contribution to the pure sciences and the social sciences ~ was intended to impart an academic approach to learning in place of the decidedly theocratic one. Significantly enough, this decision was taken at the behest of liberals within the community, those who had legitimately wanted to broadbase the composition of the Central Madrasa Board, the apex body that regulates instruction in this segment of schooling. The minister's latest announcement almost signals a retreat to theocracy. Just as the liberal school within the community had prevailed upon him two weeks ago, so too have a section of MPs.

From the Bengal Left to the Congress national government, the fear of upsetting the electoral applecart is pronounced. It is no disrespect to the clerics to submit that Mr Sibal has deferred to the theocratic lobby when he declares: "I assured the MPs that if the community does not want it, we can drop the idea altogether." It would be pertinent to recall that Javed Akhtar, a nominated member of the Central Board of Secondary Education, had questioned the composition of the madrasa board. Hopefully, the unusually proactive minister will follow up his appeal to the MPs to suggest an alternative composition within a month. At stake is a dramatic change in instruction and curricula; in other words, to make madrasa education more meaningful than it is today. The system as a whole needs to be rationalised and safeguarded.








It was once fashionable for French communists to note Vladimir Lenin's affinity to Maximilien Robespierre. The use and rationalization of terror are common to all extremist ideologies. But from Lenin to Joseph Stalin to Mao Zedong, communist leaders have treated terror not only as a virtue but also as an instrument of State policy. Shocking though it is, the beheading of a policeman by Maoists in Jharkhand fits into the communist tradition. Its likeness to the Taliban's ways of killing its enemies is more than incidental. Both pose as liberators and seek to justify terror and violence as necessary means to supposedly higher ends. Such ideologies have their appeal to sections of both the common people and the civil society. As the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, noted, the battle against the Maoists in India has to take into account these sections' moral and intellectual support to the rebels. The Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, has now appealed to human rights groups to condemn unequivocally the brutal killing of the policeman in Jharkhand. A failure to condemn what he called "cold-blooded murder" will mean an abject surrender to not just the Maoists but all other groups that want to thrive on terror.


Mr Chidambaram has also offered to open talks between the government and the Maoists if the latter give up violence. It is a valid offer because the spread of Maoism in India has much to do with the issues of poverty and socio-economic backwardness of large sections of the people. The government has reasons to worry about why large masses of people, especially among the tribal communities, find the Maoist rebellion more attractive than the benefits of democratic politics. It is time to ponder seriously how to reach the fruits of democratic development to those living on the margins. But the government's offer of talks must not be seen as a sign of its weakness. Andhra Pradesh has periodically banned the Maoists and negotiated with them. But the Maoists have used peace overtures and ceasefires to regroup and re-arm themselves. For all their complaints about social and economic oppressions, communist rebels everywhere aim at taking over State power. New Delhi and the governments in Maoism-affected states, therefore, cannot afford to lose the battle against the rebels. Democracy has its flaws, but a totalitarian ideology is no alternative.







Now that the flood waters have started receding from the river basins of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the magnitude of the devastation is revealing itself, together with the sorry tale of human culpability. In a flash, the floods in the South have claimed hundreds of lives, unsettled millions of people and destroyed valuable property and crop — the collective cost of which the nation is likely to go on counting till the next disaster strikes. But what will be missed, as usual, in all such calculations is the ugly truth the flooding of the Krishna once again uncovered — 'natural' disasters of this kind can be prevented from assuming proportions of a "national" calamity and there is something fundamentally wrong with the way rivers and watercourses in India are being managed and controlled. In the specific instance of the Krishna floods, for example, it was bad planning and the complete lack of coordination between the state authorities that made it impossible for the state administrations to deal with the contingency of sudden and prolonged rainfall. Karnataka, with its own ideas about restricting the flow of Krishna water from its reservoirs (a bone of contention with Andhra Pradesh), was unable to cope with the surge in the volume of water following unprecedented rain. And Andhra Pradesh, which had to bear the brunt of the overflows from Karnataka, had no infrastructure in place to either contain the water or proceed with rapid evacuation. This is not surprising given that the work to increase the spillway capacity of the Srisailam dam is still pending and the Central Water Commission has complained that its flood warnings are being ignored repeatedly by Andhra Pradesh. The brunt of this incompetence is being borne by the people.


The management of droughts and floods — Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh suffer from both — requires coordination and an interdisciplinary approach in order to understand why such misfortune plagues this country year after year. Like the Krishna, the Kosi floods last year too made evident the need for an evaluation of the policy of managing water through the building of dams. This, together with more concentrated efforts at containing deforestation, promoting water conservation and de-silting of the waterways could minimize the effect of natural disasters. For now, of course, it is necessary to concentrate on relief and resettlement, with as little haggling as possible.









A market's charm, leaving out cases of distress sale, lies in the fact that it ensures for individuals the right to refuse unacceptable transactions. This observation, though pedestrian, has implications for the controversies surrounding the use of agricultural land for industrial growth in Bengal. Indeed, many — the present author included — have argued in favour of land acquisition through markets, for it avoids coercion, subject to the caveat that the government succeeds in creating a market-friendly atmosphere. The latter condition had not been satisfied by the Vedic Village deals. However, even if idyllic circumstances had prevailed, would the story have reached a happy ending?


As per Section 14M of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, 1955, no raiyat (that is, a person or an institution holding land for any purpose whatsoever) can possess more than seven standard hectares, or 24.05 acres of non-irrigated land. Excess land will vest in the government, which reserves the power to take possession of such... land by using such force as may be necessary (Section 14SS). The fairness of the act notwithstanding, it engendered many agricultural landowners in the state, mostly owning plots whose sizes are way below the stipulated ceiling.


As opposed to this, Section 14Y specifies that persons intending to establish a tea garden, mill, factory... or Township in a Planning Area as may be permitted... under the West Bengal Town and Country Act, 1979... may, with the previous permission... of the State Government... acquire and hold land in excess of the ceiling area. A potential industrialist in Bengal, therefore, is a single large buyer in the land market, facing a multitude of small sellers.


It is tempting to conclude, therefore, that a land market in the state is at best a euphemism for a happy hunting ground for hoodlums hired by the rich to exploit the poor. The line of thought, though corroborated by grisly events, misses a logical point. In a market dominated by a large number of small-plot holders, land is normally bought sequentially and as more and more of it is transferred to the buyer, the owners of yet to be acquired land begin to raise their reserve prices. This is unavoidable, since the expected development work in the area pushes up land price. Owners tend to hold on to their land till the price rises sufficiently.


The outcome of such behaviour runs counter to one's intuitive understanding of the virtues of a free market. Those who manage to pocket a higher price by holding out are made better off, and this very knowledge reduces the well-being of the early birds. In other words, some end up happy and others utterly miserable. Economists who believe that markets are the best route for land acquisition, provided the government has a dependable police force at its disposal, may therefore not be entirely correct in their assessment.


The problem could be avoided, of course, if all sellers were to quote their prices simultaneously. This possibility is ruled out by the fact that they form too huge a group to collude and concur. On the other hand, it is obviously irrational for any single farmer to be the first one to sell his land. And the symmetry of the situation implies, therefore, that it is irrational for anyone at all to be the first seller. In other words, logically speaking at least, a free and fair market as envisaged for West Bengal will fail to operate altogether. This does not suggest that the government should employ gangsters. However, any law that is framed in support of market transfers would fail to deliver unless it solves this challenging problem.


Can the difficulty be resolved by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894? What are the salient features of the act?


First, it allows the government to acquire land compulsorily, either for itself or for a company, in pursuit of a public purpose (Part II, Section 4). As far as companies go, Part VII, Section 40 of the act states that the government needs to be satisfied that it will use the land for the construction of buildings for industrial use, or merely that the construction will benefit the public. However, it lists the erection of dwelling houses for workers or related amenities as public purposes too.


Second, Part II, Section 16 empowers the "Collector" (after public notification of the government's intent) to take possession of the land, which shall... vest absolutely in the Government, free from all encumbrances. Third, while it allows for objections by owners regarding measurement of the area, compensation (calculated on the basis of the prevailing market price at the time of notification plus a 30 per cent solacium in view of the compulsory nature of acquisition) and so on (Part III, Sections 20-23), it states unambiguously that any increase in the value of the land... likely to accrue from the use to which it will be put will not form the basis of the reward (Part III, Section 24). The same section states that any disinclination of the person... to part with the land acquired will be ignored. In other words, the act doesn't respect the notion of an "unwilling" farmer.


Fourth, Part VIII, Sections 46 and 47 state the nature of penalty for obstructing the acquisition (imprisonment not exceeding one month and/or a fine not exceeding Rs 500) and authorize the "Collector" to appeal to the magistrate or the police commissioner if impeded from taking possession of the demarcated territory. Also, according to the 2004 Supreme Court verdict on the "State of Kerala versus Bhaskaran Pillai" case, land once acquired under the act can be used only for a public purpose or auctioned off at the highest possible price in public interest, since any sum the government acquires in the process would be used for a public cause.


Clearly, there is a great deal of unfairness built into the 1894 act. These call for rectification. In spite of its despotic nature though, it is more functional than the market paradigm, given that it avoids sequential transactions, depending as it does on a government diktat. The market solution, though less autocratic in appearance, is unlikely to be workable, unless the number of agricultural landowners were to be significantly reduced, which, needless to say, is an infeasible proposition.


It is unclear, then, whether the movement that sounded the death knell for the Tata project should be viewed as a resistance to the 1894 act itself or a verdict against the government that used the act, especially so since the act as it stands does not accommodate "unwilling" farmers. Of course, the government doesn't deserve accolades either, if, as reported, it had precipitated violence in the process of implementing the act.


According to media reports, a section of the members of parliament has opposed the draft amendments to the same Land Acquisition Act. First, they have demanded a buyback provision under which land losers can repurchase their land if not utilized within a stated period. Second, they do not wish the government to play a role in the acquisition. Third, there should not be any forcible acquisition and lastly, all farm lands must be excluded from the ambit of the act. If these reports are true then they amount to a demand that the act be repealed altogether and land transactions carried out through markets alone.


We have already argued, however, that economic laws, as opposed to laws enacted by the parliament, predict that the markets in question will be indistinguishable from stillborn babies. And this means in turn that the lawmakers are caught in a Catch-22 paradox. A law that could have worked is dictatorial, whereas a law that respects freedom will not work.


The author is former professor of economics, Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta








The ruling of the Delhi High Court in the CPIO versus S.C. Aggarwal case and the open letter by a group of jurists to the Chief Justice of India have brought to focus critical issues of transparency in the judiciary. In this connection, a few points need to be kept in mind.


'Corrupt' is not an adjective like fat, inefficient or incompetent, but a legal word which qualifies proscribed acts. Hanlon's Razor succinctly captures the point, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". Therefore, before condemning a judge as 'corrupt', let's appreciate the significance of the term. 'Corrupt' has not been defined in the Prevention of Corruption Act, but acceptance of "gratification" (not necessarily "pecuniary") other than "legal remuneration" is an offence under the act.


Irrespective of the merit of the high court judgment, the moot point is, to what extent does declaration of assets address corruption and transparency? Judges may disclose their income-tax returns and/ or a statement of assets, perhaps along with that of their spouses, though the high court judgment opines otherwise on this point. It is rather naïve to believe that gratification other than legal will be only in the form of money and also that such gratification would be reflected in the income-tax returns or statements of assets. As per the judgment of the Delhi High Court, the asset declaration made by judges to the CJI is "information" under the Right to Information Act. How is a citizen to use this information, forward queries or complaints to the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Central Vigilance Commission or to the income-tax department? Daring and spirited citizens can, of course, file public interest litigations, risking strictures and cost.



What we have is access to information with which we cannot do much. Disclosure of assets may not tangibly address corruption and transparency in the judiciary. Whether the decision to disclose assets by the CJI engenders faith in the public is debatable. In September, a group of counsels raised concerns regarding a certain Supreme Court justice nominee and, ironically, the allegations relate to "huge assets" acquired by the nominee. Lawyers from the state high court echoed these apprehensions. These concerns bring to focus the need for a mechanism to address allegations of corruption in the judiciary. The letter proceeds to request the CJI to take steps to "initiate a thorough enquiry into all the allegations" and take "appropriate action thereafter". This leads to two questions: if the concerned judge was corrupt, why was he promoted to the high court bench in the first place? Secondly, would the allegations of corruption have had the same effect if he was not considered for the Supreme Court judgeship? Unfit to be a Supreme Court judge, but fit enough to be a high court judge? The existing mechanism of addressing acts of impropriety by judges (impeachment as per the Constitution) has been wholly unsatisfactory. The parliament's response to this serious issue is hardly inspiring.


So, how are allegations of corruption against a judge to be handled, if disclosure of assets isn't going to take us any further? A start can be made by ensuring that judges of integrity and competence are appointed through a more transparent system. A hearing, along the lines of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Supreme Court nominees, would help address the issue of transparency. But a more permanent mechanism for pursuing allegations of corruption within a legal framework needs to be evolved. We cannot hope to have judges with integrity if an opaque appointment system continues alongside a non-existent prosecution mechanism. The law minister should use his experience in the Administrative Reforms Committee to address these issues.











At a time when China is celebrating its 60th anniversary of founding of the Republic, it is important to bear in mind that the idea of China like the idea of India is a continuum. If there cannot be Republic of India without the great Harappan civilisation or the Indus Valley civilisation or the Vedic civilisation, similarly there cannot be Republican China without great Chinese civilisation of thousand years of history and philosophy of Confucius. The rising China which we witness today is a continuum of a timeless civilisation and of a great culture.

Ever since the Communist China assumed power on Oct 1 1949, defeating its rival KMT — whose leader Sun Yat Sen fled to Taiwan — there had been momentous events in China both domestically as well as externally. While much is talked about China's economic rise, its military might, very little is mentioned about its world diplomacy.

Over the years, the way it has morphed and arrived on world stage with consummate diplomatic skill is remarkable by any reckoning. The acquiring membership of the UN in place of Taiwan in 1971 and subsequently membership of the Security Council was perhaps the first major diplomatic victory of China after its political consolidation.


The US derecognition of Taiwan and acquiring the membership of UN with the help of the USA facilitated establishment of diplomatic relationship between China and the USA in 1972. The US, however, formally recognized People's Republic of China in January 1979 when Deng visited USA. Its courage and fortitude to deal with a super power in its own terms at a time when its economy had not developed to the extent as it is today, was awesome to say the least.

China not only mended fence with the USA, it also started a rapprochement with Moscow with whom the relationship had soured during 1969-1979. History was rewritten on May 15, 1989, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorvachev and Chinese President Deng Xiaoping met in Beijing.

After striking a fine balance between the two super powers, Beijing tuned attention to restore sovereignty over Hong Kong, then a capitalist enclave under British rule.

After protracted negotiations and diplomatic parleys which begun in 1984, Hong Kong reverted back the Beijing after long spell of tutelage under British rule on July 1, 1997, through the novelty of 'one country, two systems' where China retained sovereignty over Hong Kong while allowing its economic and political system to continue for 50 years from July 1, 1997.

A year later China also regained sovereignty over the Portuguese enclave Macao, adjacent to Hong Kong through the modicum of 'one country, two systems'.

While China has been successful in regaining sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao, the on going thaw between China and Taiwan holds much promise of a comprehensive engagement between China and its estranged sibling. A landmark event in the relationship between China and Taiwan was the historic meeting between the General-Secretary of Chinese Communist Party (CPC), Hu Jintao and the Chairman of KMT Wu Poh-hsiung at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28, 2008. To what extent the 'one country, two systems' can be replicated in case of Taiwan is a hazardous guess.


Its diplomatic foray into Africa with which China has historical and traditional friendship is very pronounced. Beijing launched a $1 billion fund in June 2007 to finance trade and investment by Chinese companies in Africa as part of efforts to nurture commercial ties with resource rich continent.

In the ASEAN forum, China is already ahead of India in forging a free trade regime with the countries of the region. In the Gulf region also, Beijing had made a dent, thanks to Pakistan, China's all-weather friend.  There has been steady interaction between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council for quite some time.

Crossing the Asia and the frontiers of the West, Chinese diplomacy has made its presence felt in the far off Latin America as well. In fact in November, 2008, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid visits to Costa Rica, Cuba and Peru. China has increased its diplomatic engagement and investment in the region in recent years with eye on natural resources and developing markets for manufactured goods and even arms.

China's growing stature on the global stage can also be gagged from the fact that it stole the lime light at the G-20 Summit held in Pittsburgh and earlier at London.  Besides, China has been playing a very prominent role in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and Brazil-Russia-Africa-India-China (BRIC) forum. On issue relating to climate change both China and are also poised to play a defining role.









My husband was away in Moscow in 1995. It was the pre- cell phone/internet era and one day, as I received the long distance call, I was surprised to hear a lilting hello. A lady in heavily accented English asked me to hold on while she connected me to my husband. The connection didn't materialise and as the telephone operator tried explaining what was happening, I envisioned a smart Russian at the other end.

Russia had fascinated me for long. The genesis is perhaps a primary school lesson, which talked of the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. As a kid, I had loved the lady's achievement and name. While I was growing up, USSR had always appeared more fascinating than US. The country was enigmatic. Cold war and iron curtain were terms one often heard. Then Gorbachev happened, Soviet Republic got splintered and we heard the terms Glasnost and Perestroika and these Russian words sounded exotic. Raisa Gorbacheva added to the allure.

My fascination for things Russian was not just confined to their names. Their children's literature (translated into English) had simply bowled me over. While trying to pick up books for my daughter I had stumbled upon books published in the former USSR. I literally picked up a treasure trove at throw-away prices. We have spent and continue to spend many happy hours pouring over those books.

So, when I heard this lady at the other end, I wanted to say Valentina! (Much the same way Indians are greeted with shouts of 'Gandhi' or 'Amitabh' in some countries.) I wanted to tell her that I had even considered naming my daughter Svetlana (Then of course, I chickened out), about Raduga Publications and to ask her whether they were worse off after the break down.

Obviously I couldn't say all that. I just managed to ask her name. I recall her ringing laughter even though I've forgotten the name. "It is a beautiful country but very cold", she said as we made small talk.

On his return, my husband told us about Moscow and Uzbekistan, about the hard working people and their drinking. Old ladies selling their wares on the streets of Uzbekistan apparently used a small abacus to do rapid calculations. He spoke about a people once proud and well-off, reduced to a bad shape. Things have perhaps changed for the better now but these are the memories that get triggered every time I read something about Russia.








Israel isn't spoiled for friends in the non-Jewish world, not even among the Christian mainstream. Organized Christianity might be expected to demonstrate solidarity with a Jewish state that stands on the frontline against extreme Islamist expansionism and aggression. This doesn't always happen.


As part of a well-orchestrated campaign to boycott Israel and employ a variety of punitive discriminatory sanctions against it, certain Protestant churches, including some of the most established and prosperous, are increasingly promoting "divestment from Israel." Foremost among denominations dabbling on-and-off in divestment agendas are some of America's Presbyterians and Methodists. For a while their leaderships - often alienated from the actual membership - led the entire divestment-from-Israel onslaught in the US.


The United Church of Christ hasn't lagged far behind. In Britain, the Church of England has sometimes been far from helpful.


The zeal some of these churches expend on anti-Israel drives fits snugly into the framework of spiraling anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism worldwide, the sort which conforms to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky's 3-Ds test - delegitimization of Israel, demonization and the application of double-standards.


So finding warm, genuine and long-lasting Christian friendship in this near-noxious atmosphere is a rare source of comfort. For 30 years, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) has lavished affection upon the Jewish state. Indeed, comfort is its raison d'etre. It was founded in 1980 as an evangelical response to the anti-Israel hostility already rampant. Its inspiration: Isaiah 40:1-2 - "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…"


THIRTY YEARS ago Israel's legitimacy in Jerusalem was under intense diplomatic assault, as 13 embassies left the capital to protest the Knesset's adoption of the Jerusalem Law. In a countermove, over 1,000 pilgrims from 40 countries decided to establish a Christian embassy in Jerusalem to affirm the 3,000-year-old immutable Jewish bond to the Jewish capital.


On Succot that year, Jerusalemites were for the first time treated to week-long celebrations of the Feast of Tabernacles by Christians convening from all over the world. This annual convergence was held year in, year out since then, even when suicide bombings on buses, in markets, at malls and in restaurants made Jerusalem a tourist-free zone for just about everybody else.


This year, the potential deterrent was financial, but even the worldwide recession could make no dent in the outpouring of support. Thousands of Christian pilgrims, from an estimated 100 lands, have thronged Jerusalem to ease any sense of isolation.


While certain Jewish groups loudly denounce their ostensible hidden agenda, experience clearly indicates that they are here altruistically. The ICEJ does not engage in proselytizing and discourages pilgrims from disseminating literature and from other activities which could be construed as attempts to win over converts. As distinct from hostile efforts in the past and the present to force or lure Jews away from Judaism, these thousands of Christians congregate here to realize the Prophet Zechariah's vision (14:16) of all nations gathering in Jerusalem during Succot.


The $12-15 million injected annually into the Israeli economy via this largest of all tourist events is a happy by-product. Most important is the visitors' profound identification with an often beleaguered and defamed Jewish state and its capital.


In an op-ed article in The Jerusalem Post last week, the ICEJ's executive director, Malcolm Hedding, wrote: "Jerusalem was the Royal House of Israel long before London or Paris had regal palaces, and before Berlin or New York even existed. Yet it is these capitals in their arrogance that seek, almost daily, to disinvest the Jewish people from their ancient, biblical claim and connection to Jerusalem."


Hedding, whose ICEJ partners The Jerusalem Post in producing our monthly Christian Edition, also recalled that, "The Psalmist of Israel, King David, looked over the walls and ramparts of Jerusalem and wrote, 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love her.' His great prayer was for peace and joy to rain down upon the city as the Jewish worshipers gathered to celebrate their prescribed festivals and as the nations also came to this 'house of prayer for all peoples.' This is our prayer as well," Hedding declared.


We wholeheartedly endorse it. And we commend the ICEJ for 30 years of unswerving friendship.








With police mobilizing to secure Jerusalem following days of Palestinian rioting, it is instructive to offer some context for clashes that have been taking place on the Temple Mount and at scattered sites throughout east Jerusalem.


On Sunday, Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and bottles at police after Israel barred men between the ages of 18 and 45 from ascending the site. That restrictive order was imposed in response to Palestinian Authority calls for Arabs to flood the holy site to protect Al-Aksa Mosque from so-called Jewish extremists.


The following day, Palestinian and Israeli Arab unrest continued with rock-throwing incidents throughout Jerusalem's Old City and with the stabbing of an Israeli border guard in Shuafat.


The unrest, however, is not spontaneous and is not occurring in a vacuum.


The riots are being directly incited by the PA, whose official media outlets and institutions are stoking Arab flames by claiming right-wing extremist Jews are attempting to threaten Al-Aksa Mosque - a decades-old blood libel that should be easily dismissible in light of heavy Israeli restrictions on Jews and Christians from ascending the Mount during most hours of the day, whereas Muslims are usually free to access the site 24/7.


Indeed, Israeli law prohibits Jews and Christians from praying on the site. If any so-called extremist Jew attempted to enter Al-Aksa, he or she would likely be immediately removed from the Temple Mount by Israeli police, who follow Jewish tour groups very closely and coordinate with the Wakf, the Islamic custodians of the site.


The PA is not just inciting violence; its officials also assist the riots. On Monday Israeli security forces released from custody Jerusalem's senior PA official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, who had been detained on suspicion of inciting riots. The PA-aligned Islamic Movement is reportedly even sponsoring buses to transport young, riled-up Israeli Arabs to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from Umm el-Fahm.


In a conversation earlier this week, Dimitri Diliani, the spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party in Jerusalem, did not deny his group's involvement in the riots. "Palestinian political factions, including Fatah, are firm on defending the political, national and religious rights of the Palestinian people," Diliani said, "and it's evident now we will continue defending Al-Aksa Mosque as well as our rights in Jerusalem as a whole."


WE KNOW from history that riots emanating from the Temple Mount traditionally are pre-planned and are part of a larger Palestinian nationalist strategy. For example, in September 2000, the Palestinians started the second intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshippers after prime-ministerial candidate Ariel Sharon visited the site. At first, the Palestinians claimed the stone-throwing riots were spontaneous. Later, top PA officials, including Yasser Arafat and his deputy, Marwan Barghouti, admitted the Temple Mount clashes were pre-planned.


So why the current clashes?

This all actually began two weeks ago, immediately following a meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama had hoped the meeting would initiate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state within two years.


During his speech to the UN General Assembly days before the riots, Obama used strongly worded language to call for the creation of a "viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967."


The term "occupation" routinely is used by the Palestinians as well as some countries hostile to the Jewish state in reference to Israel's presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is unusual for US presidents to use the term, although Jimmy Carter once famously called Israel's presence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem "illegal."


It seems the PA, emboldened by Obama's speech, may be using the riots as a pressure tactic to send a clear message to Israel - if negotiations do not create a state in the near future, expect another intifada. The PA under Arafat was notorious for negotiating on the one hand while leading a violent campaign against Israel on the other.


Already, some of Obama's policies have hardened Palestinian bargaining positions. Most notably, the PA is now demanding a complete halt to Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem in line with the US president's same demand. The PA never before set a settlement freeze as a prerequisite for talks.


ANOTHER FACTOR may be at play in sparking the recent Jerusalem clashes. The PA's involvement with the Mount riots come after the Palestinian public expressed disapproval with a decision by Abbas to call for the delay of a UN Human Rights Council vote regarding a UN report that accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during Israel's defensive war in Gaza in December and January.


That UN report, authored by South African judge Richard Goldstone, has been slammed here as anti-Israel. The report equates Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, a terrorist organization that utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.


Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Abbas likely was in part using the Temple Mount clashes to incite against Israel and deflect Palestinian outcry, including from Hamas, stemming from his agreement to delay the UN vote.


The writer is Jerusalem bureau chief for and is author of the recently released The Late Great State of Israel: How enemies within and without threaten the Jewish country's survival.








There is a direct flight from Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to Teheran that takes about four hours and 20 minutes. Given that the Iranians first disclosed to the IAEA on September 21 their previously secret uranium enrichment plant at Fordu, near the holy city of Qom, it remains puzzling why its inspectors could not be on a plane within days to inspect the facility.


The P-5+1 group, representing the US, Russia, France, Britain, China and Germany, gave the Iranians two weeks to open the enrichment plant. However, on October 2, the State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, seemed to relax that demand when he said: "I don't think that there's a hard-and-fast deadline." He added: "I don't know that it's written in stone necessarily." The Iranians then managed to push the first inspection off to October 25, more than a month after the Fordu plant came to light.


WHAT DOES timing matter with the Iranians? Back in March 2004, the IAEA was convinced there was incriminating evidence about the Iranian nuclear program at the Lavizan Technological Research center near Teheran. The Iranians managed to postpone the IAEA visit for about 30 days, and in the meantime they razed several buildings at the facility and even dug out two meters of the earth where they had previously stood in order to make it more difficult for inspectors to take soil samples that contained radioactive materials.


By delaying the IAEA visit to Lavizan, the Iranian government concealed what its scientists were doing there. Teheran was off the hook from any crippling sanctions. Moreover, Lavizan was the location of the Iranian weaponization group which designed and constructed nuclear warheads.


Former Israeli intelligence sources believe that the Iranians simply used the time they gained in dismantling Lavizan, after they were caught, and moved their weaponization work to another site. Time allowed Iran to not only cleanse Lavizan, but also to transfer valuable equipment elsewhere.


There was an even longer delay for an IAEA inspection during the previous year, when the UN nuclear watchdog sought to inspect the Kalaye electric facility. The Iranians managed to get a delay from February to August 2003. In the meantime they retiled and repainted several suspected rooms before the IAEA teams arrived. Their purpose was to prevent the inspectors from obtaining any incriminating evidence from swipes of the walls that radioactive materials were ever present. Another Iranian technique was to permit the IAEA to take environmental samples near some buildings but not close to others; Teheran adopted this method when the IAEA came in 2005 to inspect, after yet another delay, the Parchin Military Complex, where conventional high explosives had been tested that could be used for detonating a nuclear device.


Looking back at past precedents for inspections of suspected nuclear sites in Iran, it is clear that time matters, for the leadership in Teheran has a proven track record in exploiting time to its advantage every time there was a contest of wills with the West.


GAINING TIME was clearly one of the purposes of Iran during its October 1 meeting in Geneva with the P-5+1. Prior to that meeting the Iranians were facing rising international pressures, that could have resulted in immediate, severe sanctions, after their Fordu enrichment plant came to light. There were reports that the Russians might join the West with new sanctions against Iran. Something had to be done to burst the balloon of pressure that Iran was facing. Besides delaying an IAEA inspection, the Iranians raised the possibility of transferring a portion of their inventory of low-enriched uranium outside of Iran to Russia, for further enrichment up to just within the maximum permitted civilian levels of U-235.


The Western press largely praised this proposal as a groundbreaking act. But was there a solid agreement here? The UN secretary-general's spokesman, Michele Montas, called it a "nuclear fuel supply concept." He added that "the concept" will be discussed at a technical meeting at the IAEA on October 19. Who knows how much time will pass until the concept becomes a detailed agreement, if at all? The main point was that with a seemingly forthcoming proposal that may end with nothing, Iran was slipping off the hook in many important circles of international opinion.


The main question is how all this activity will affect decision-making in the US Congress which is considering severe sanctions against Iran, including an embargo against gasoline imports to the Islamic republic. Since 2006, Iran has been defying at least five UN Security Council resolutions which call on it to halt all uranium enrichment. For that purpose, Congressman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) have introduced the "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act."


But will the bill be reported out of committee to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote, while the post-Geneva discussions with Iran continue? There will be an effort to delay any Congressional action as long as the parties are talking. Meanwhile, the centrifuges in the main Iranian enrichment facility at Natanz will continue to spin, producing more enriched uranium and enlarging the potential arsenal of Iran's atomic weapons.


HALTING A nuclear Iran is a very urgent matter. The disclosure of a clandestine uranium enrichment plant in September created a real sense of common purpose across the whole Western alliance. But Iran's diplomacy has managed to reverse that sense of urgency and reinvigorated the idea that the nuclear problem can be resolved by diplomatic engagement alone. And should Iran manage to rid itself by October 25 of any incriminating evidence at its Fordu enrichment plant near Qom, then it will be hard to motivate the West to take new action. As Iran succeeds in breaking every deadline that has been issued, its resolve only increases.


It is still possible to avert Iran's last sprint to the nuclear finishing line. But it will require even greater determination on the side of the West, especially in Washington, to move forward on crippling sanctions. The world needs to recognize the truth: the regime in Teheran is seeking at all costs to achieve nuclear weapons. The Obama administration must let Congress move immediately to draw an economic line in the sand, that has not be drawn until now, and not wait for more negotiations until it is too late.


The writer is the author of The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009). He is the President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.








Since the deadly 1929 riots, the struggle over Jerusalem has been at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and, as recent events show, nothing has changed. For the Palestinians and their supporters, any Jewish presence in Jerusalem that is not under Arab control is not only unacceptable, but seen as threatening. And every ancient text, archeological find or property claim that validates the 3,000-year Jewish historical and religious heritage in this most sacred of cities, is angrily rejected as "Judaization." These allegations are used to promote and justify violent attacks, from rock-throwing to mass terror.


In the language of game theory, Jerusalem - more than any other dimension of this extremely complex conflict - has been and remains a zero-sum situation. This means any concessions from one side are necessarily victories for the other, making compromise not only difficult but inconceivable. In a zero-sum world, there is no room for different voices and opinions, and compromise based on acceptance of different perspectives is impossible. Thus, for the Arabs, recognition of the history and legitimacy of Jewish claims is a threat to their own narrative and legitimacy, particularly for the Muslims. Trapped in this social rubric, shared control based on mutual acceptance and recognition, as imagined in many peace programs, is impossible.


THE LATEST round of Arab violence in Jerusalem, fanned by competition for the prestige gained by the most extreme voices highlights the lack of movement on this core identity issue. For most Palestinians, and indeed, much of the surrounding Arab and Islamic world, there is absolutely no readiness to acknowledge even the most basic historical facts that would require compromise on Jerusalem.


In July 2000 at the Camp David summit, Yasser Arafat shocked and angered president Bill Clinton by rejecting any discussion of joint control over Jerusalem. Clinton and his advisers, who had been shepherding the Oslo negotiations for many years, should not have been surprised. Arafat's position reflected and reinforced the dominant view of most Arabs and Muslims.


Similarly, the efforts by NGO officials who claim to promote mutual acceptance and compromise on Jerusalem, and are funded by European governments, have sharpened the zero-sum framework. For example, political NGOs like Ir Amim only criticize Israel. The film Jerusalem Moments was described in The Jerusalem Post as an "incendiary Palestinian propaganda onslaught" and "an exercise in the bludgeoning documentation of Palestinian victimhood and of allegedly mindless Israeli cruelty and aggression."


For Palestinians, support from these Israeli NGOs is used to reinforce the zero-sum position, and reject compromise. (Ir Amim and similar political NGOs also address foreigners, including journalists and diplomats, and take groups on highly distorted "educational" tours of Jerusalem and the security barrier in the effort to press their positions.) By their nature, zero-sum situations are not confined to one side of the conflict; when one participant rejects all compromise, the others are forced into the same strategy. Thus, the Palestinian and Arab position that erases all Jewish links to Jerusalem leads to escalation of Jewish defensive moves, designed to prevent a return to the 1948-1967 situation of total exclusion and desecration.


For Jews, the total failure to implement the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement guaranteeing, on paper, free access to sacred sites, remains a traumatic memory. Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Arab occupation, the Jewish Quarter, including synagogues and cemeteries, was systematically desecrated, and the "international community" did nothing to enforce the agreement. Since then, the periodic waves of Arab violence in Jerusalem revive the concerns that agreements based on shared sovereignty or "international control" would lead to the same unacceptable situation. With no sign of movement towards a realistic compromise, Jewish Israelis worry that unless their presence in the city is strengthened, they will eventually be pushed out, yet again.


In the zero-sum cycle, the Jewish responses to this history and ongoing threats are denounced by the Palestinians and their supporters as more "occupation" and "Judaization" of Jerusalem. This feeds the escalating violence and reinforces the sense that there is no sense in talking, as no one is listening or willing to compromise.


TO MOVE towards even minimal mutual understanding that can contain and prevent outbreaks of violence, the first goal must be to open Palestinian and Arab society to hearing the Jewish version. This would allow for the transition from the zero-sum black-and-white conflict framework to what is known as a "win-win" framework, which allows for coexistence and equality, despite basic differences in narrative and ideology.


This is where the various would-be peacemakers and NGO funders, particularly from European governments, should put their money and focus their activities. As long as the Arab and Muslim position slams the door to block Jewish history, Jerusalem will remain a battleground in which the Jewish nation will have no choice but to use force when necessary to defends these rights.


The writer heads NGO Monitor and is on the political science faculty of Bar-Ilan University.








Virtually all of Israel is now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report, against any attempt to blame us over the war in Gaza. We've honed our message to a sharp point and, inspired by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's performance at the UN, we're delivering it with just the right tone of outrage:


How dare anyone deny us the right to self-defense! How dare anyone deny us the right to fight back against terrorism!


Very nice. Puts everyone else on the defensive. The right to self-defense is up there with motherhood and apple pie - who's going to come out against it, especially for us, for Israel, for the Jews, for the people of the Holocaust?


The right to self-defense - perfect.


But I'd like to ask: Do the Palestinians also have the right to self-defense?


We probably wouldn't admit it out loud, but in our heads we would say - again, in one voice - "No!"


This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We're entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.


That's the way it's always been, that's the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.


AND THERE are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as "disproportionate." We can blockade Gaza, we can answer Kassams with F-16s and Apaches, we can take 100 eyes for an eye.


We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.




After all, we're acting in self-defense. By definition.


And what right do the Palestinians have to defend themselves against this?




Why? Because we're better than them. Because we're a democracy and they're a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they're out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.


One look at the ruins of Gaza ought to make that plain enough.


Here is our idea of the "laws of war": When Israeli bulldozers rolled across the border into Gazan villages and flattened house after house so Hamas wouldn't have them for cover after the IDF pulled out, that was self-defense. But if a Palestinian boy who'd lived in one of those houses threw a stone at one of the bulldozers, that was terrorism.


The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.








Ever wonder where the report claiming IDF soldiers kidnap and kill Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for transplants originated? Palestinian Media Watch provides the answer. It was lifted in toto from the December 24, 2001, edition of Al Hayat Al Jadida, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper.


Donald Bostrom, the reporter for Sweden's Aftonbladet who disseminated this fabrication, has said of his handiwork, "Whether it's true or not, I have no idea. I have no clue." Given his indifference to truth, what further "scoops" can we anticipate from Bostrum? Again, Palestinian Media Watch provides the answer.


Here are just some of the charges one could have read in the official Palestinian press or heard from leading Palestinian Authority officials in recent years: Israel will pay NIS 4,500 to any Palestinian who can prove he is a drug addict; Israel produced and distributed to Palestinians 200 tons of drug-laced bubble gum designed to destroy the genetic systems of Palestinian youth; it also distributes carcinogenic food and fruits for Palestinian consumption and children's games that beam radioactive x-rays. And don't forget the HIV-infected Jewish prostitutes whom Israel unleashed on Palestinian youth. Or Suha Arafat's accusation to Hillary Clinton that Israel poisons Palestinian wells.


As the above accusations make clear, demonization of Israel is alive and well in the Palestinian Authority. In every agreement since the onset of Oslo, the Palestinians have solemnly pledged to end the incitement against Jews and Israel in the Palestinian media and to purge it from Palestinian textbooks. And each such undertaking has been promptly ignored.


THE FAILURE to curb incitement has been so constant, so long-standing that it barely elicits a yawn today. But that apathy reflects a profound misunderstanding of the significance of that incitement.


Shimon Peres once remarked, "I don't care what the Palestinians say, only what's written in the agreements." But what the Palestinians say to one another, and particularly what they teach their children, is far more important than what's written in peace agreements.


Incitement and demonization are not just one more treaty violation. They reflect the failure of the Palestinians since the beginning of Oslo to create a constituency for peace with Israel, to educate the Palestinian population to the idea of living side-by-side with a Jewish state or to make clear that peace will also require concessions on the Palestinians' part.


That has never happened. Even worse, there has been no education to accept the existence of Israel in any borders or to renounce once and for all the dream of throwing all the Jews into the sea.


The Palestinian Authority has gone out of its way to make heroes of the most vicious terrorists - not exactly the way to encourage thoughts of reconciliation and peace. Mahmoud Abbas sent his warmest congratulations to child-murderer Samir Kuntar, upon his release from an Israeli jail, and commissioned festive celebrations in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, the mastermind of the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in which 38 Israelis were murdered.


At the first Fatah Conference in two decades last month, the young and old guard competed as to who could be more intransigent with regard to peace negotiations with Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh. The resolutions passed included demands that Israel accept the "right of return" for all 1948 refugees and their descendants and hand over to the Palestinians all Jewish neighborhoods built in Jerusalem since 1967.


Other resolutions by the conference accused Israel of having murdered Yasser Arafat, urged exploration of a strategic alliance with Iran, and called for the upgrading of the status of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, the Fatah militia most involved in anti-Israel terror. For good measure, Muhammad Ghaneim, an extreme hard-liner who opposed the Oslo Accords, was the top vote-getter for the Fatah Central Committee and is now Abbas's heir apparent.


The effect of decades of incitement to destroy Israel is fully reflected in Palestinian polls. A June 5-7 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that three-quarters of Palestinians reject any possibility of reconciliation with Israel in this generation, even if a final peace agreement were signed and an independent Palestinian state created.


YET IN "The mother of all missed opportunities," (The Jerusalem Post, September 10) Larry Derfner professes to find in the decreasing rates of terrorism from the West Bank and the round-up of thousands of Hamas activists indications of a new peaceful intent among West Bank Palestinians. But the round-up of Hamas activists reflects only Fatah's desire to secure its control of the West Bank, not a new attitude towards Israel.


And the main reason for reduced terrorism from the West Bank remains the persistent IDF operations and clampdowns on suspected terrorists. To the extent that reduced terrorist attempts are a function of Palestinian Authority efforts, they result from the determination not to provide Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with ammunition to fend off pressure from US President Barack Obama.


In a recent article for the Hudson Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh argues that no matter how much the Palestinian economy improves, it "won't change Palestinians' negative attitude towards Israel, especially not when anti-Israel incitement and fiery rhetoric continue."


The conflict, he writes, is "political, national and religious" in nature, and its resolution depends on "accepting Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people."


Such acceptance cannot take place without creation of a Palestinian peace curriculum to replace the current incitement and demonization. That is why an end to incitement is not another meaningless and unenforceable promise to be included in a final peace agreement, but rather a necessary pre-condition for peace, without which all negotiations about boundaries and the like, are besides the point.


Until he recognizes that, Derfner will remain rattling his cage from the inside.








In Pirkei Avot one of the many statements of wisdom claims "the more maidservants, the more lewdness, the more manservants, the more thievery." It might just as well be said that "the more ministers, the more falls through the cracks."


The current Israeli government has more ministers than any other before it. In fact each of the last governments has added to the number of portfolios in the cabinet.


There is one ministry called the National Infrastructure Ministry. It was created in 1977, taking over duties of what was once the Development Ministry. It is currently run by Uzi Landau. Some of its duties seem to overlap with the ministries of Transportation and Economics and Planning.


There is no doubt that the Israeli transportation system and infrastructure related to it have undergone huge improvements in recent years.


However, the trouble that remains is not a question of national planning or large projects, but rather numerous small projects, many of them the responsibility of local councils and municipalities, that are handled in a chaotic and wasteful manner.


Consider the eyesore-cum-museum of dejection that is Tel Aviv's "new" Central Bus Station, which was completed in 1993.


It has 23 escalators and 13 elevators, many of them in a state of extreme decay. Unlike Jerusalem's Central Bus Station, it has no baggage screeners which means that each piece of luggage entering the station must be individually examined.


The bus station appears to have been designed as some sort of cross between a Rube Goldberg device and an M.C. Escher drawing. The decay and the area around it are an embarrassment. It has no direct pedestrian connection to the nearby Hahagana railway station. It reminds one more of bus stations in Africa than in a developed country. It has come to the point that most of those traveling frequently to Tel Aviv prefer to use the Arlozorov bus terminal and its Tel Aviv Central railway station (which conveniently are adjacent).


\ALTHOUGH JERUSALEM'S bus station is clean and efficient and has modern security screening devices, the city in which it is located is full of planning boondoggles. There is no need to dwell on the continued embarrassment of the Light Rail. Suffice it to say that the Jaffa Road portion has recently been paved over (apparently the cheap asphalt put down can be easily removed from the railway tracks) so that buses can traverse it. But can anyone excuse the junction at Jaffa Road and King George Avenue, which is an endless snarl of traffic?


But lo and behold, if one drives out to Pisgat Ze'ev he can see the light rail trains waiting to use the tracks that may never be ready for them. Furthermore, the train stop at French Hill is already finished, complete with advertising billboards, as if to tease people. But where is the connection between that stop and the university? Will that stop end up being serviced by ugly, crammed sherut taxis?


Few recall what the city did to Kikar Zion when it first built a raised hexagonal center in it to sit on and then destroyed it when it became a gathering point for drunks. Then there is the strange sign that appeared on Rehov Keren Hayesod six months ago that appears to digitally show how much time there is until the arrival of the next bus. The sign worked for a few weeks and people could count down the minutes before the 21 or 74 arrived. Then the sign was switched off and now announces that this is a "forthcoming project." Is it? There are no other such devices at bus stops in Jerusalem.


The situation in Jerusalem around the new Mamilla mall is yet another example of terrible planning. A new mall was erected but the parking lot spills out onto a crammed road so that during rush hour those trying to exit the underground parking lot sometimes wait for more than 40 minutes without moving, in an increasingly carbon-monoxide-filled concrete car park. There are six stop lights between Damascus Gate and the Mamilla junction, meaning that during rush hour the entire stretch becomes needlessly clogged.


All this chaos after the city invested huge amounts of money in a tunnel beneath Kikar Tzahal (which abuts the Mamilla project) so that traffic could avoid this problem. Why are there two stoplights near New Gate for pedestrians when pedestrian bridges could have been constructed?


Israel needs to have elected officials who actually ride public transport in the nation's two major cities, which should be showcases to tourists and the world. Any mayor, council or Knesset member will be embarrassed to witness the situation now prevalent in and around the central bus station in Tel Aviv and the entire area from Jaffa Road to Mamilla in Jerusalem.


It is not a matter of saying "we are building something new here." These are not projects akin to Boston's "Big Dig" fiasco (which cost $14 billion although originally budgeted at $2.8 billion). Most of the problems are not about the project themselves but the Mickey Mouse chaos around them, the half-baked ideas that harm public transport, cause inefficiency and redundancy and waste public money.


Israel needs an infrastructure minister who will clean up the chaos and city councils that will drain the swamp of thoughtlessness.










During his first term as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to appoint a new attorney general based on political reasons (and other alien considerations that disappeared into a black hole) was thwarted. Two days later his candidate, Roni Bar-On, who later went on to great success in the Knesset and cabinet, was appointed but resigned/was fired (hitputar, which combines both actions). One byproduct of the affair was the institution of a search committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court justice and whose members were to include a former justice minister and representatives from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, law schools and the Israel Bar Association.

The committee is supposed to interview the candidates for attorney general, recommend three and submit the names to the cabinet, which is to choose one. The justice minister's recommendation of one of the three has great weight, even if it is not binding. Almost six years ago the, government of Ariel Sharon appointed Menachem Mazuz, one of the three recommended by the search committee, based on then-justice minister Yosef Lapid's recommendation.

At the time, Sharon's connections to developer David Appel, including the Greek island and the Ginaton lands affairs, were under investigation. Mazuz was harshly, and justifiably, criticized for rushing to close the Sharon-Appel case, even if he did so in good faith. Mazuz also closed the case against Reuven Rivlin, a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee, who allegedly was asked by Appel to take action against a judge. When Elyakim Rubinstein was attorney general, this investigation kept Rivlin from being appointed justice minister.


Now, just before the appointment of a successor to Mazuz, Appel's connections have again spread a shadow over the selection process. According to a report by Gidi Weitz in yesterday's Haaretz, a decade ago Appel spoke with Yariv Levin, at the time the deputy chairman of the Israel Bar Association and now an MK and member of the search committee, and discussed Levin's support for Appel's candidates for religious court judges. Even if Levin did not carry out Appel's wishes - as he claimed, just as Rivlin claimed he did not do Appel's bidding when he himself was on the Judicial Apointments Committee - the impression that he would do so is enough to disqualify him from the search committee.

The attorney general must be beyond reproach, and so must those choosing the three final candidates for the post - as well as the ministers who will vote for one of them. It is inconceivable that there is not a single such representative in the entire Knesset who can replace Levin, who clearly must resign.









Nobody knows yet when the next war will break out. Maybe in a decade, maybe in a year, or maybe even next month. It is also not clear where the next war will erupt - perhaps on the Gaza border, perhaps the West Bank, or maybe in Jerusalem.

But it is already clear what the next war's name will be - the Goldstone War. It will be the war brought upon us by the Goldstone report, Judge Goldstone and his Goldstoner followers.

It's a simple story. In the absence of peace in the Middle East, deterrence prevents war. Israeli deterrence has been eroded considerably by two Lebanon wars, two intifadas and two unilateral withdrawals. Thus Israel is incessantly subjected to terror attacks.


To prevent the region's deterioration into complete chaos, Israel must exercize force once every few years. These limited demonstrations of power do not achieve a decisive military victory or a breakthrough in the peace process.

Their entire purpose is to stabilize the violent relationship between Israelis and Arabs. Thus they create a temporary, strong-arm balance that subdues the conflict and ensures calm for a few years.

For better or worse, Operation Cast Lead created such a balance. It weakened Hamas and deterred it, at a terrible human cost. It strengthened the moderate Palestinians and enabled them to grow, at an intolerable moral cost.

Cast Lead granted Israel's southern residents a rare time-out. Brutal as it was, the operation created an infrastructure of stability on which it was possible to build - layer by layer - a new, sober peace process.

However, in recent weeks the balance has been disrupted. Hamas is rearing its head while the Palestinian moderates are becoming more radical. A trickle of Qassam rocket fire has resumed in the south, while the embers on the Temple Mount are glowing red-hot.

This is no coincidence. The Goldstone report and the Goldstone spirit are causing a situation in which the deterrence that was achieved for such a high price at the beginning of the year could expire prematurely. They are bringing the next round of Israeli-Palestinian war closer.

More than enough has been written about Richard Goldstone's double standard. However, today it is clear that Goldstone is not only guilty of a double standard (see Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Tibet...), but of a double political crime.

With one hand he pushed peace further away, by making it clear that even after Israel withdraws to the Green Line it is not permitted to defend its citizens and its sovereignty. With the other hand he brought war closer, by binding Israel in a straitjacket that prevents it from exercising its power in the future.

On the one hand Goldstone played into the Israeli right wing's hands (by increasing the risks of withdrawal). On the other hand he inflamed Palestinian extremism (by burning Israel at the stake).

The Palestinians see Goldstone as a sort of Delilah, who found the Israeli Samson's weakness and sheared off his tresses. This can lead to only one outcome - violence and more violence, more and more violence - up to war.

The problem isn't just Goldstone. The problem is the Goldstoners. For decades the Goldstone bunch has been conducting an insane incitement campaign against Israel. Israel contributed its part to this campaign with the occupation, the settlements and its arrogance. But the Goldstoners are not driven by an honest attempt to divide the land, create peace and establish universal justice that would apply to all nations. They are driven by a deep need to isolate Israel, condemn it and destroy it.

Although some of the leading Goldstoners are Jews and Israelis, they don't recognize Jewish history, the Jewish tragedy and the difficult circumstances in which the Jewish state is trying to survive. They treat Israel like a wicked, omnipotent power that is responsible for all the conflict's sins and the region's ills.

The Goldstone report would never have been written without the joint work, joint bias and joint Israel-hatred of all the Goldstoners. Thus the report reflects both the Goldstoners' holy fury and their complete belief that the Palestinians can do no wrong.

That belief is now endangering not only Israel but calm and stability. In their fanaticism and extremism, Goldstone and the Goldstoners have brought us closer to bloodshed.








Is the discourse we are conducting - if indeed we are conducting any discourse among ourselves and with our interlocutor - legitimate at all? Ever since the territories were occupied a public debate has been going on here about their future and what is being done there. The questions have come and gone, all of them in the same cursed vein: To give? To concede? Under what conditions? In exchange for what? The settlements - yes or no; the roadblocks - yes or no; the assassinations, the arrests, the starving, the closure, the encirclement, the curfew, the exposure, the torture, the freedom of movement, the choice or the ritual - yes or no.

An excellent example was provided this week by Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco, who said that the city's Muslims were "ungrateful." For what? We gave them - here we have that word "gave" again - permission to pray at the Temple Mount and they replied with violence.

Indeed, we do not have any moral right to conduct this discussion. First of all, it's a lie that we have given the Muslims permission to worship - only men over 50. But more importantly, who are we to "give" them rights to which they are entitled in a way that is taken for granted in every democracy? Is it imaginable that we would prevent young Jews from going to the Western Wall? Can Palestinians, too, dream of holding a "Jerusalem March" of their own?


Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his spokesmen are boasting of having taken down a number of roadblocks, and the deputy director general in charge of frequencies at the Communications Ministry is considering whether to "give" the Palestinians a second mobile telephone network after the government has piled up conditions - Goldstone in exchange for Wataniya, the cellular phone operator.

Where does this right come from? Just as a rapist does not have the right to discuss carrying out his nefarious scheme, and the robber cannot haggle over the conditions under which he will return his loot, the occupier, the taskmaster, the jack-booted soldier and the exploiter cannot discuss the conditions under which they will carry out their deeds. This is a blatantly immoral discussion. The discussion by free people of the fate of other people under their rule is just as legitimate as the discussion by slave-runners or human traffickers. The only legitimate discussion is one that intends to end the situation, immediately and unconditionally.

This starts from the top. The Supreme Court deliberates on various matters. Is torture legal? Are assassinations permitted? Is it permissible to take land away from a farmer? Is it permissible to impose a siege on hundreds of thousands of people? Is it legal to imprison people for years without trial? Is it possible to prevent people from getting medical treatment? Is it legitimate to prevent children from getting to school? The mere fact of raising these questions in court, as if there weren't already a conclusive answer to them, is the most depressing proof of the moral nadir to which we have declined.

Of course, this illegitimate discussion seeped long ago into every walk of society. On television, learned commentators discuss whether the siege of Gaza is "effective." Over a can of Red Bull, soldiers argue about whether Operation Cast Lead wasn't stopped too soon and when "we'll stick it to them" again. In their cafes, over a cup of iced java, young people sit and discuss whether "we should give the Palestinians a state," as if this were a question at all and we "give" states. But these discussions, too, monstrous as they may be, have in recent years given way to repression (in the psychological sense), silence, complacence and indifference.

About an hour's drive from us, the unbelievably cruel reality continues. Everything is done there in the name of us all, supposedly, and in the name of security, supposedly. And here among us there is either distorted discourse or non-discourse.

Nothing will change as long as this state of affairs continues. A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs draws a shocking picture of what is happening in Gaza. For example, 75 percent of its inhabitants, more than 1 million people, are suffering from nutritional deficiencies, 90 percent must live through power blackouts for four to eight hours every day, 40 percent of those who apply to leave for medical treatment are refused by Israel and 140,000 inhabitants are unemployed.

All these figures reflect a situation that has degenerated badly over the past year, and all of them stem from the siege in its third year. How many of us know this? How many of us does this touch at all, between the bar and the gym? And above all, where did we get the gall to decide the fate of another people?








As usual during the Jewish holidays, the Israeli public has been inundated with reports of "amazing discoveries" in excavations in Jerusalem. One might dismiss them as a combination of public relations and the need to fill the holiday newspapers, but in fact they attest to a worrying process whereby archaeological research in Jerusalem is being made shallow and subordinated to narrow interests of time and place.

After a period of official and programmatic archaeology following the unification of the city in 1967, it appeared that Israeli archaeology had found the correct balance between the desire to uncover and protect the city's antiquities and the demands of modern scientific research. The symbol of this balance was Yigal Shiloh's excavation project in the City of David.

Now this balance has been disrupted and most of the archaeological research in Jerusalem is being driven by pressures from politically interested groups and individuals with the aim of "proving" our historical rights in the city or clearing an area for construction. The outcome is "fast archaeology" that satisfies the consumer's hunger but damages archaeological assets under Israel's responsibility.


The best archaeology, the kind practiced at the world's leading archaeological centers, is slow archaeology that gives excavators time to deepen their familiarity with each site's unique problems and digest the results of their actions so they can repair and improve. Every excavation is planned and documented destruction, so the destroyer has a great responsibility. Therefore, the most advanced archaeology is also transparent and open to criticism, undertaken in an atmosphere of openness. And here and now, in the Israel of 2009, the opposite is the case.

Much of the archaeology in the center of Jerusalem's "holy basin" is fast archaeology, swallowing up more than it is capable of digesting. It is no coincidence that the top archaeologists from this country's leading institutes are refraining from taking part in excavations in Jerusalem. I would not send my students to apprentice there.

This archaeology is being carried out under time pressure and is subordinate to the desires of landlords who are not scholars; usually these are religious, ideological or tourist organizations, or contractors. The work is carried out nonstop, without pause for researchers to understand their findings. Thus, for example, most of the Antiquities Authority's archaeological activities around the City of David's water system have been delegated to a duo of archaeologists who have not yet published a serious report on these excavations.

Moreover, for several years now, excavations in these areas have been carried out in tunnels in horizontal digs - contrary to every accepted practice. During the excavations, many tons of dirt are discarded along with a considerable part of their archaeological contents (and this comes as, with trumpet blasts, an expensive project is underway to sift dirt the Waqf is taking out of the Temple Mount). There is no external oversight of the excavators: The Antiquities Authority is both carrying out the work and supervising it.

Near the Western Wall, too, excavations have been completed recently that went on for three years without pause, and, for more than a year now, extensive excavations have been going on beneath the Western Wall tunnels in accordance with a demand by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

These excavations are being carried out under secret agreements with the various authorities, without comprehensive planning and external oversight.

A shallow archaeology is developing in Jerusalem that is giving Israeli science a bad reputation. After 40 years of controlling the city, we are digging as if there were no tomorrow.

The writer teaches archaeology at Tel Aviv University and has worked on the City of David excavations.








"Armed struggle theater" - that's the disparaging way Amira Hass referred to the armed Palestinian struggle ("Mahmoud Abbas' chronic submissiveness," October 5). That's the tone she usually takes on this issue: Palestinian fighting is depicted as a display with nothing much to it, much ado about nothing, certainly not something that can threaten Israel or justify harsh steps that might be justified if a real threat were involved.

Such descriptions are intended to persuade the Palestinians to adopt other means of struggle, chiefly the "popular struggle." However, they also avoid taking a clear moral stand against the intentional murder of civilians by the Palestinian terror groups - murder that is an inseparable and central part of their fighting method. Direct rejection of indiscriminate terror may be found in Hass' writing here and there, if you search well. But much more frequent is the belittling of Palestinian combat and the minimizing of its ill effects.

There is no practical justification for this scorn. During the second intifada, the Palestinian armed struggle killed more than 1,000 Israelis - more than the number of Israelis killed in the first and second Lebanon wars together, or in the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition or the Sinai Campaign. That is neither theater nor child's play.


A bus is not blown up for show. The balance of power between terror and guerrilla groups, and the state against which they are fighting, is not measured by the type of weapons at their disposal. That is a false presentation of the matter, contrary to all experience. Who does not know that terror and guerrilla groups (especially those that enjoy the support of states and powerful entities) fight effectively against modern armies and have defeated them more than once? On the one hand, we hear that the war against terror and guerrilla groups is lost from the outset. On the other, the "armed struggle" is presented as something that is not really dangerous. The conclusion in either case is the same: A terrorist must not be disturbed while doing his job.

How should a person whose attitude toward Israel is critical or negative relate to indiscriminate Palestinian terror? Perhaps we may take the example of Marek Edelman, the Bundist, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who died recently. All his life he was a staunch opponent of Zionism and a harsh critic of Israel and its policies. A few years ago he wrote an open letter to the Palestinian "partisans" - a name that angered many. However, Edelman did not tell the Palestinians that murdering civilians was "theater." Rather, he said it was a cruel crime that could not be justified under any circumstances. He wrote that the Warsaw Ghetto fighters never turned their weapons against a helpless civilian populace.

Here is an example of an ideological adversary of Zionism who takes a truly universal and moral stand, and does not hide behind tactical and aesthetic arguments. Neither was he influenced by the fashionable theory that "partisans" may do anything they want, and we must not censure any cruel act they commit because they are weak and oppressed. If these "enlightened" warrants for murder had no place in the Warsaw Ghetto, they have no place anywhere in the world.







Three high-profile provisions of the USA Patriot Act are about to expire. That should be a chance for Congress to give serious consideration to curtailing some of the excessive powers it granted to the executive branch during the Bush years — without enough consideration in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and later.


Instead, Congress is headed toward renewing the provisions — including expanded authority to search financial records, conduct roving wiretaps and track "lone wolf" terrorist suspects — without adequate oversight or safeguards or touching other problematic areas of the new surveillance and intelligence framework.


Consider last week's gyrations in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was to consider a bill prepared by the chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Although not as comprehensive or protective of civil liberties as it could have been, the measure contained some strong fixes to the overly expansive snooping regime.


But there was a last-minute switch. In the committee session, Mr. Leahy's base bill was tossed in favor of a significantly weaker substitute that he hammered out with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Most disheartening, that substitute dropped language that would have allowed the government to secretly obtain Americans' business records or "tangible things" only where there is some connection to terrorism or espionage. Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, proposed an amendment to require a terrorism connection, but it failed.


The substituted bill contains some improvements over current law. It augments audit and reporting requirements for warrantless searches using often-abused "national security letters." And an amendment successfully offered by Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat of Wisconsin, shortens the period that law enforcement agencies may delay in giving notice to subjects of so-called sneak-and-peek searches. Although enacted as part of the USA Patriot Act, the sneak-and-peek authority, which gives government agents extraordinary power to break into people's homes without telling them, is most often used in drug cases and only rarely in terrorism cases, according to a recent report.


Still, over all, the measure taking shape in the Senate committee is far too weak to restore essential constitutional checks and balances. Mrs. Feinstein has suggested, without offering any real evidence, that it was necessary to water down the Leahy bill to avoid interfering with the government's investigation of the case of Najibullah Zazi.


The issue has never been whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists; no responsible person is suggesting that. The question is what powers the government really needs and how best to balance them with the rights and liberties on which this nation was founded. It is hard to see how the Zazi case, or any other terrorism probe, could be hurt by requiring that use of augmented surveillance powers be related in at least a tenuous way to terrorism.


To a troubling extent, the debate is happening in the dark. Several senators have asked the Obama administration to release classified information that would inform the discussion without harming national security. It has largely been ignored. Mr. Feingold says that if some of the needlessly classified information were made public, it would "have significant impact on the debate."


Chances are fading for an expansive and searching review of the USA Patriot Act, which was the whole point of having some of its central provisions expire. The Judiciary Committee's deliberations are scheduled to resume on Thursday. It is one more critical chance to add missing civil liberties and privacy protections, address known abuses and trim excesses that contribute nothing to making America safer.







Trying to recover from past mistakes, the Pentagon has initiated a third competition for a new Air Force midair refueling tanker. After two bungled attempts, defense officials, contractors and Congress really need to get it right this time.


President Obama and his administration have pledged to reform the way the Pentagon buys billions of dollars worth of weapons, and the tanker program will be their biggest test. The initial purchase is $35 billion for 179 planes, but the contract could be extended for decades and eventually cost $100 billion for 400 or 500 planes — making it one of the most expensive deals in the Pentagon's history.


In 2003, Congress quashed an agreement in which the Air Force would have leased (without bidding) 100 tankers from Boeing after it was discovered that a top Air Force official negotiating the deal was also negotiating a job with Boeing.


On the second try in 2008, Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European company that makes the Airbus planes, won a contract. Boeing challenged the deal charging that the evaluations were unfair. A scathing report by the Government Accountability Office accused the Air Force of breaking its own contracting rules. One example: the Air Force told Boeing it wouldn't give credit for a bigger jet and then gave extra credit for just that to Northrop Grumman.


This time, Pentagon officials say they are running a fair and open, "best value" competition in which bids are to be judged on 373 mandatory features. They will sensibly look at both the tanker's immediate production cost and long-term operating costs. And they are insisting on a fixed-price contract in the development phase, which could rein in expenses. Independent review teams will examine how well the Pentagon is handling the bidding process. While complicated, the new approach seems sound and far less vulnerable to abuse.


Nevertheless, Boeing and Northrop Grumman-EADS, their lobbyists and lawmakers from states where the contractors have production plants are already faulting the process. Given the amount of money and jobs at stake, we fear neither side will ever accept a decision that lets the other win.


Another unresolved competition is definitely not in the country's interest.


The new tankers are needed to replace the current Eisenhower-era planes. With the United States engaged in two wars and countless other missions around the globe, the Obama administration, Congress and defense contractors must ensure that, this time, a fair and open bidding process produces the best tanker at the best price to meet the Air Force's needs.







The Legal Services Corporation was created to help provide essential civil legal services to low-income Americans. In the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled Congress imposed sweeping and unwarranted restrictions that continue to hamper the work of local legal services offices.


One egregious rule bars legal services providers from representing clients in class-action lawsuits — even though such suits can be an efficient way to obtain relief for problems affecting a large number of people. Another eliminates one deterrent to consumer fraud against the poor by preventing attorneys paid by legal services from claiming or collecting fees from opposing parties.


In coming days, the Senate is expected to pass a Justice Department appropriations bill that would allow legal services offices to use money raised from other sources to provide these and other important services to clients. Such offices often get the bulk of their financing from private foundations, wealthy individuals and state and local governments. Congress certainly has no business dictating how that money is used.


Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat of Maryland, has tirelessly championed this reform in the Senate. The House version of the Justice Department spending bill lifts the class-action ban but leaves in place the restriction on how legal services providers can spend non-federal money. Once the measure clears the Senate, Ms. Mikulski and the White House will have to work hard to ensure that the final version includes the Senate provision.


The House bill does have one clear advantage: It provides $440 million to pay for legal services — $40 million more than the current Senate version.


In these difficult times, the demand for help is so high that legal aid offices around the country are being forced to turn away at least half their potential clients. Congress needs to make sure that the Legal Services Corporation is well financed, and it must lift these restrictions so lawyers can fully represent their clients.









Between present humans and our earliest prehuman ancestor, there is a direct genetic and evolutionary link, a clear map of descent that includes the earliest common ancestors we share with other primates. We just don't know what it looks like yet. Whether paleontologists will ever be able to fill in all the details on that map depends on discoveries like one made by a team of scientists led by Tim D. White from the University of California, Berkeley — the fossils of a species called Ardipithecus ramidus, or Ardi for short.


According to a report in the journal Science, Ardi pushes the hominid story back to 4.4 million years ago and to a site in the Afar Rift region of Ethiopia. She (the most complete skeleton is probably female) also pushes the human story into a different ecosystem than Australopithecus, the grassland ancestor who lived, in various subspecies, as long as 3.7 million years ago. Ardi, who was discovered in 1992, lived in a "woodland with small patches of forest," a discovery that downplays the importance of open grassland to human evolution.


Like Australopithecus, she walked upright without most of the characteristic postures of chimpanzees and gorillas. Her skull is smaller than Australopithecus, about the same size as that of a bonobo.


Paleontologists are not looking for a "missing link" between humans and present-day primates closest to us — gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos. What they're hoping to find is the earliest common ancestor from which the separate lines of development leading to humans and modern great apes emerged. Ardi is not that common ancestor. If anything, this find helps demonstrate how quickly early hominids moved down a separate path of evolution. It also suggests that living primates do not represent some primitive stage of a shared ancestry but are, as the scientists write, "highly specialized, but through very different evolutionary pathways."


These are tremendously important discoveries, recasting the story of hominid evolution and making us eager for the next chapter.








Republicans in the House of Representatives attempted to remove Charles Rangel as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, arguing that Rangel's current ethics controversy has "held the House up to public ridicule."


In my capacity as a person who has held the House up to public ridicule on numerous occasions, I would like to go on record as saying I do not need any 79-year-old committee chairman to help me do it. Really, it's a breeze. Although perhaps slightly harder than before Tom DeLay dropped out of "Dancing With the Stars."


The Republicans are, however, completely right about Rangel. Whenever a powerful committee chairman has so many problems that you need a timeline to keep all the allegations straight, he is a liability. When those problems revolve around things like failure to pay taxes, it is not a good plan to have him be in charge of tax policy.


I say this with great sadness because Rangel is my congressman. My neighbors and I have heard about the totally ludicrous benefits that are showered upon the constituents of a powerful committee chair. Ever since he took control of the Ways and Means Committee, we have been waiting for our ship to come in. Perhaps bearing a special subsidy for families who live near a large number of pigeons. Or an extra lane on the West Side Highway that only residents of the 15th Congressional District are allowed to use.


Despite my great stake in keeping Rangel in his current post of power, I'm not prepared to argue that you can have a chairman of the tax-writing committee who failed to declare $75,000 in rental income on a Caribbean villa on his tax returns. Or one who seems to think you can turn yourself into a resident of two different cities if it gets you cheaper housing — and that the House only requires its members to list their financial assets beginning with the letters F through M.


The Democrats made no attempt whatsoever to defend Rangel when the Republican resolution came up in the House. They just swiftly and sullenly referred it to the ethics committee, which is currently embarked on Year Two of its Charles Rangel investigation.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims the current Congress is the most ethical and open one in history. And given what's gone before, who knows? Pelosi actually has instituted some reforms, and punished some bad apples, or at least nudged them out of critical posts.


But this is a test of whether the Democrats will follow through when it's really, really hard.


We already know that Pelosi will not fail to act if one of her members gets caught with $90,000 in marked bills hidden inside his freezer. We don't know whether she'll be as firm if a popular guy who also happens to be the co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus gets caught doing a laundry list of things that are totally outrageous but not necessarily grounds for a major criminal indictment.


Rangel is certainly not going to step down without a push because he doesn't seem to feel as if he has done anything all that wrong. He did apologize for the failure to pay taxes and settled up with the I.R.S. But when a man who represents a district that is about 50 percent Hispanic says he was unable to figure out whether he had rental income because his agent in the Dominican Republic kept speaking in Spanish, you can presume he is not exactly bowed down with grief and shame.


Rangel's friends say he was just sloppy, but it's more likely that he just feels he's too important to be bothered with the rules. He's treated like a king in New York, where he does not mind being referred to as "the Lion of Lenox Avenue." And, of course, in Washington, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee practically gets carried down the street in a litter.


Here's a Rangel story: During the Democratic convention in Denver in 2008, city police got carried away and unleashed pepper spray at some demonstrators and every innocent bystander in the vicinity. The refugees poured into a hotel lobby, coughing and teary. Some middle-aged women were in particularly bad shape, and their friends wondered whether to call 911 as they bent over, hacking and gasping.


Suddenly, in breezed Rangel. It was a moment in which an important politician could have scored a lot of points just by being slightly solicitous. The Lion took in the scene and boomed: "I'm outta here! I'll send you cigarettes!"


There are tons of people in Congress who have huge egos and an impatience with the minor irritations of life. If the Democrats made Rangel step down, it would be a reminder that holding public office means you have to be more conservative about drawing the line between proper and improper behavior than your humblest constituent.


It would be worth it even if my neighborhood never does get a bridge to nowhere.








Let me offer a modest proposal: If Congress fails to pass comprehensive health reform this year, its members should surrender health insurance in proportion with the American population that is uninsured.


It may be that the lulling effect of having very fine health insurance leaves members of Congress insensitive to the dysfunction of our existing insurance system. So what better way to attune our leaders to the needs of their constituents than to put them in the same position?


About 15 percent of Americans have no health insurance, according to the Census Bureau. Another 8 percent are underinsured, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy research group. So I propose that if health reform fails this year, 15 percent of members of Congress, along with their families, randomly lose all health insurance and another 8 percent receive inadequate coverage.


Congressional critics of President Obama's efforts to achieve health reform worry that universal coverage will be expensive, while their priority is to curb social spending. So here's their chance to save government dollars in keeping with their own priorities.


Those same critics sometimes argue that universal coverage needn't be a top priority because anybody can get coverage at the emergency room. Let them try that with their kids.


Some members also worry that a public option (an effective way to bring competition to the insurance market) would compete unfairly with private companies and amount to a step toward socialism. If they object so passionately to "socialized health," why don't they block their 911 service to socialized police and fire services, disconnect themselves from socialized sewers and avoid socialized interstate highways?


I wouldn't wish the trauma of losing health insurance on anyone, but our politicians' failure to assure health care for all citizens is such a longstanding and grievous breach of their responsibility that they deserve it. In January 1917, Progressive Magazine wrote: "At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without universal health insurance." More than 90 years later, we still have that distinction.


Theodore Roosevelt campaigned for national health insurance in 1912. Richard Nixon tried for universal coverage in 1974. Yet, even now, nearly half of Congress is vigorously opposed to such a plan.


Health care has often been debated as a technical or economic issue. That has been a mistake, I believe. At root, universal health care is not an economic or technical question but a moral one.


We accept that life is unfair, that some people will live in cramped apartments and others in sprawling mansions. But our existing insurance system is not simply inequitable but also lethal: a very recent, peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health finds that nearly 45,000 uninsured people die annually as a consequence of not having insurance. That's one needless death every 12 minutes.


When nearly 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, we began wars and were willing to devote more than $1 trillion in additional expenses. Yet about the same number of Americans die from our failed insurance system every three weeks.


The obstacle isn't so much money as priorities. America made it a priority to provide tax breaks, largely to the wealthy, in the Bush years, at a 10-year cost including interest of $2.4 trillion. Allocating less than half that much to assure equal access to health care isn't deemed an equal priority.


The plan emerging in the Senate is no panacea. America needs to promote exercise and discourage sugary drinks to hold down the rise in obesity, diabetes and medical bills. We need more competition among insurance companies. And conservatives are right to call for tort reform to reduce the costs of malpractice insurance and defensive medicine.


But those steps are not a substitute for guaranteed health coverage for all Americans. And if health reform fails this year, then hopes for universal coverage will recede again. There was a lag of 19 years after the Nixon plan before another serious try, and a 16-year lag after the Clinton effort of 1993. Another 16-year delay would be accompanied by more than 700,000 unnecessary deaths. That's more Americans than died in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq combined.


The collapse of health reform would be a political and policy failure, but it would also be a profound moral failure. Periodically, there are political questions that are fundamentally moral, including slavery in the 19th century and civil rights battles in the 1950s and '60s. In the same way, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to die each year because they are uninsured is not simply unwise and unfortunate. It is also wrong — a moral blot on a great nation.








THE precursor to Gourmet, and the first truly successful American food publication, was founded in the 1890s and titled The Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. It eventually changed its name to American Cookery and then died in 1947, forced under, in part, by the founding of Gourmet in 1941 by Earle MacAusland, who had patterned his new brainchild on the catalog-magazine of a famed Boston food purveyor, S. S. Pierce. It was the end of domestic science and food economy and the beginning of the era of the gourmet, "the honest seeker of the summum bonum of living" as set forth in the charter issue. MacAusland's recipes made few accommodations to reality; he even suggested that subscribers save the issues and use the recipes once rationing had ended.


Now, 68 years after its founding, Gourmet has followed American Cookery, ending a long and masterful turn at the helm of the food publishing world. This, hard on the heels of the death of Julia Child in 2004, makes one tremulous about the future. Is American magazine publishing on the verge of being devoured by the democratic economics of the Internet? Has the media industry fully become an everyman's playing field, without the need for credentials or paid membership? Or, to ask the questions that every media executive is really whispering, "Will I have a job next year?"


My first experience with Gourmet was a head-on collision. In 1990, 10 years after I had founded Cook's Magazine, Condé Nast purchased Cook's and then immediately shut it down, Gourmet swallowing up our subscribers. It was the triumph of the American magazine model, one driven by lifestyle rather than nuts and bolts, and floated by the billions of advertising dollars that poured through a narrow spigot into the magazine industry, controlled by a select few, the chauffeured, hard-charging publishers of New York's powerhouse magazine corporations. It was a top-down, winner-take-all proposition, an oligarchy of sorts, a business with a huge barrier to entry and no welcome mat for the upstart entrepreneur. In a serendipitous turnabout 19 years later, Cook's is today alive and well (I restarted the magazine in 1993) and Gourmet has foundered. The difference? We abandoned advertising in 1993 for a 100-percent subscriber-financed model, including a thriving paid Web site.


Yet the media world was not without charm, as I learned in 1985 during my first meeting with S.I. Newhouse, the chairman of Condé Nast. (Mr. Newhouse had just purchased The New Yorker, a magazine that already owned a controlling share in my Cook's Magazine.) It was 7 a.m., his favored meeting hour, and I discovered him shoeless, stuffed into a baggy gray sweater, and shuffling about, half-swallowing his words in a manner that spoke of humility and intellect, rather than New York arrogance. Here was a guy, I thought, who really loves the magazine business. He poured his fortune into his magazine properties and his editors, even when the prospect of return seemed dim. His was a world of philanthropic publishing.


Gourmet, then, was not just a piece of editorial flummery; it represented the hopes and dreams of its owner, a respect for those who had earned the chops, as it were, who had a lifetime of good breeding and experience in order to stand at the cultural helm. One is reminded of M. F. K. Fisher's "Alphabet for Gourmets," published in 1949; the noted epicure Samuel Chamberlain, one of the magazine's first stars; or culinary luminaries like James Beard, who was a frequent contributor. Both the economic and editorial models were in sync; advertisers had to pay premium prices to join the club and editors, like Ruth Reichl, had to become stand-alone cultural icons, not mere backroom scribes.


The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.


To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google "broccoli casserole" and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.


Julia Child, one of my Boston neighbors, epitomized this old-school notion of apprenticeship. As her dinner companion one evening, I watched as she became frustrated by the restaurant's dim lighting, grabbed a huge watchman's flashlight from her pendulous satchel and proceeded to illuminate her main course. She wanted to investigate her food before eating it, the waiter's recommendations notwithstanding. This act of spontaneous journalism evolved from a lifetime love of education and reverence for true expertise. Her first question upon meeting a young chef was always, "And where did you train, dear?"


Christopher Kimball is the publisher of Cook's Illustrated magazine.








NOT long ago I was approached by a brilliant marketing firm. Their proposal: using any means necessary, could I convince America that a certain youth-appealing president, whose name rhymes with The Rock o' Llama, favored a specific brand of attire?


I considered the possibilities — planted C.G.I. videos on YouTube? A Bangalore-based army of blog commenters? Faked paparazzi shots? Hacking this particular president's Twitter? — and then declined the very lucrative opportunity. Sad. Dignity, as you already surely know, is unimpressive to one's landlord. Perhaps a year of someone else's rent was paid in this fashion.


These are the amazing new methods that the persuasion industry has developed. And running behind this wild new world of marketing like a Pomeranian racing for a bullet train, the Federal Trade Commission has now promulgated guidelines that compel celebrities and bloggers and those horror hybrids, blogger-celebrities, to reveal when they are compensated for any association with products.


Think of poor Gwyneth Paltrow! Her weekly GOOP newsletter is filled with heartfelt recommendations of services, products, experts and restaurants. This means one free garganelli at Babbo and, blammo: the F.T.C. may clap her in what are most likely non-hypoallergenic shackles. Every product-related Twitter comment and blog post must now be annotated with legalese. (By the way, I am eating some very delicious Wheat Thins even as I type. A paid placement? Check my F.A.Q.)


Unfortunately, whole careers, both online and off, are built upon stealth endorsement. Consider the very successful career of a celebrity dresser, whose business is obtaining free clothing — which quite often displays a large designer logo — and placing it on and around famous people for the purpose of red-carpet photography. What is that if not a complex, triaged endorsement relationship? Indeed, these disclosure rules will go into effect just as Hollywood's award-show attendees will begin planning outfits — what will the F.T.C. do? Come the Golden Globes, will our nation's most important celebrities be forced to wear disclaiming signage?


Speaking of Hollywood, I was treated recently to a screening of "The Road," a grim film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's book. In it, a man and a boy travel the devastated, treeless blue highways of post-apocalypse America, fleeing cannibals and rapists. During their struggles, they stop not only once for a delicious, fizzy Coca-Cola, but also later for a long, empowering guzzling of that company's VitaminWater. Presuming that Coke paid for this placement — or was it the other way around? — where was the disclaimer? Who will prevent these man-eaters of commerce from persuading me that my personal escape from Thunderdome must not be Pepsi-fueled?


Now that we are all on Facebook, we are each a sole proprietor. We are all perpetrators and victims of promotion (for the most part that promotion is tediously of the "self" variety). That every consumer is now a retailer is capitalism's ultimate and most logical evolution. Regulating every last one of us in our tiny, imaginary boardrooms (in my mind, mine is mahogany-paneled and has a Häagen-Dasz fountain) is as ludicrous as not skipping past the advertisements on one's DVR.


Stealth marketing, direct advertisement and product placement work only on the clueless, and our immersive, hippo-like wallowing in the marketplace serves only to make us resistant to these viral contagions. Because the more we are sold to — and, believe it, we are being pitched every minute — the more immune we are to it all.


Choire Sicha is the co-founder of








The civilian government and the military are now quite openly at odds over the conditions included in the Kerry-Lugar Bill. The military top brass has reportedly been angered by those provisions which state that the effectiveness of control of the government over the military establishment is to be assessed. The military has also expressed strong reservations to its US counterparts. However right the vision of the civilian government exercising control over the military may be (and indeed the failure to realize this vision lies at the root of most of our political woes), it is only natural that the instance of a foreign power telling a sovereign country what to do with itself is found irksome. To be fair to General Kayani and his men, the language of the bill is harsh and unnecessarily crude at various points. A more gracefully phrased piece of legislation would have done everybody good.

Having said that, we hasten to add that we must move beyond the present reality of Pakistan where the military cannot be questioned, criticized or held accountable. Elected governments must have control over the army and the agencies. The dichotomy of power that exists at the moment makes the smooth functioning of the setup almost impossible. In any system there needs to be a clearly defined chain of command and authority and the concept of democracy is clear about where the greater say lies. This concept has to turn into the real spirit behind the political process in Pakistan if we are to get anywhere as a nation in the 21st century with honour and dignity. The impression that the military is reluctant to play a role subservient to that of that government remains strong. There are obvious dangers in this. Already warnings are coming in of a potentially dangerous clash arising in the coming weeks. The president, the prime minister and the foreign minister have all strongly defended the Kerry-Lugar Bill as a triumph of their policies and called on members of their party to back it. But what they have failed to acknowledge is the impact of the bill on Pakistan's sovereignty and the fact that it will strengthen the idea that the US is dictating terms. As always happens when rifts open up, there are elements at work who seek to exploit them. We can see this happening today. The need is for rationality and good sense to kick in. Pakistan would benefit from the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the aid offered under it, but portions of it could do with a redraft. All parties should sit together, carefully ponder the issues and remember that the interests of the country must come before all else. General Kayani has said on more than one occasion that he will stay clear of politics. The time may be coming for him to prove that he is willing to hold true to this pledge and to allow the role of institutions to be redefined.







Much gets written and said about 'the trust deficit' that exists between Pakistan and just about any other nation with which it has a significant relationship. Very little gets written or said about the positive aspects of our relations with others, and thus we are pleased to note that the visit by the British Home Affairs Secretary Alan Johnson appears to have gone some way to sorting out the visa problem and mended a few fences elsewhere as well. Of particular interest is that the UK is to assist Pakistan with setting up what is being called a 'national security agency'; with the British government prepared to second people to help with the setting up of a counter-terrorist unit. Welcome as it is the move is not driven entirely by altruism. A majority of the terrorist activity carried out or detected and foiled in the UK has a link back to Pakistan. The creation of an agency that will detect and interdict those links will feed through to our own efforts to combat extremism and terrorism; and feed through as well into the global intelligence bank essential to fighting what has become everybody's enemy.

The creation of the new agency and the willingness of the UK to support it is going to be a tool vital to both nations. We have a common interest in reducing or eliminating terrorism from within our respective borders. Terrorism knows no borders or boundaries and its complexity and diversity mean that one nation alone cannot combat it. Creating agencies and structures that allow collaborative working and the passage of intelligence that is in the mutual benefit of all parties, is a powerful confidence-building measure. We are also acutely aware that there is a linkage between the counter-terrorism debate and visa issuance that cannot be ignored; and taking a multifaceted approach to what is a common problem can only be in the interests of both nations. There is no 'sovereignty' issue involved, this is no attempt by a foreign power to subvert or deceive is, this is a piece of bridge-building that serves us both well.









The Balochistan High Court's order to book former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf, his PM Shaukat Aziz and others for killing Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti is the first substantial move to open up contentious issues which the present PPP government has hitherto avoided. The court's order may force Musharraf, now in self-exile, to consider hard whether to return to Pakistan, but it also has the potential to pitch the newly assertive judiciary against the civil and military establishment. Parts of the political spectrum, including the opposition parties, will welcome the order, yet it may seem easy for a judge to order Musharraf's trial for murder, but it would be harder for the government to comply.

If the judiciary persists with the pressure and forces the executive to act, an unfortunate situation of confrontation may develop. But to correct the massive distortions in our political and judicial systems, such bitter pills have to be swallowed. Somewhere, someday, somebody will have to start the process. Though it may appear impractical now, the FIR against Musharraf and others must be registered and action must be initiated, to the extent possible. If the PPP government drags its feet, governments to come later can pick up the thread. But the process must begin. Musharraf must be booked and tried.









So great is the disarray in Pakistan that anyone who is not confused doesn't know what is going on. Though we are at war we do not have a sense of the enemy, only of impending disaster. Who, after all, is the enemy? President Zardari is confident that it is the Taliban. He discounts the Indian threat and touts the Americans as benefactors. The military the enemy is, has and will forever remain, India. To them the Taliban are a side show, menacing and powerful no doubt.

For the religious parties and other political groups, their choice of the enemy can vary. The former invariably point the finger at the US and India and the latter towards one or all three, depending on the audience or the interlocutor. Nawaz Leaguers are especially adroit at speaking out from both sides of the mouth. They support the diffident stance of their leader because, as a former Prime Minister once explained, "he would rather be an opportunist and float then go to the bottom with his principles around his neck."

The Americans too have nothing to offer but their own confusion. While they are certain of the identity of the enemy, they are at sixes and sevens about the strategy to deal with him. Should America take the fight to the Taliban or stay and protect the population? General McCrystal has his ideas with which Biden disagrees, Gates is unsure and Obama clueless. All conveniently forget that the Afghan population whom they seek to protect wish to be rid of them. Meanwhile, as American forces await orders from Washington, they are marking time and counting causalities.

The European posture on Afghanistan is not only confusing but weird. They have sent soldiers, almost 30,000 of them, with instructions not to engage the enemy except in self-defence. Hence, their forces hardly venture out of their armed redoubts and, not surprisingly, their profile in Afghanistan is all but imperceptible and their impact on the battlefield non-existent. Yet European leaders are vocal in proclaiming the importance of the outcome of the war for world security, forgetting that not even in European history has a war been won without fighting.

Pakistan's stance must also appear confusing to an outsider. The preponderant number of our forces is located near the eastern border with India. A border that is relatively quiet whereas the western border is aflame battling the Taliban. However, the military, encouraged by its victory in Swat, does seem finally to be getting off its haunches and by all accounts, action against insurgent bases in Waziristan is now imminent.

India's tactics when it comes to Afghanistan has been to muddy the waters and add to the confusion. Far from strengthening the coalition it has weakened it. General McCrystal, in his report, alluded to the negative role of India in the ongoing war. He said, in so many words, that by arousing suspicion and creating mischief India has harmed the coalition's efforts in engaging the Taliban. If, in the portions of his report that were leaked, he appeared somewhat guarded in his references to India it was because it was America and America's creature, Hamid Karzai, who by his offer of uninhibited cooperation had enabled India to return to Afghanistan, and revive her perennial effort of outflanking Pakistan by establishing alliances with those, like the Tajiks, for whom Pakistan is an anathema. Perhaps to make amends, McCrystal has suggested that India close some of the spy nests it operates in Afghanistan. But he may as well be asking for the moon. India is a creature of habit; she has but one idea directing much of her strategy in the region, the trouble is that it is the wrong one.

The major beneficiary of such machinations and the ensuing confusion has been the Taliban/Al Qaeda combined. In contrast to their adversaries, they have a clear idea of the enemy and their own tactics and strategic goals. And, judging by the progress that they are making on the battlefield, the Taliban have every reason to be pleased with themselves.

The question often asked is whether the Americans can prevail. On the military front, we already have the answer which, thus far, is an emphatic no. The singleness of purpose, the ruthless determination and merciless discipline of the Afghan militant has few equals. Rather than ideology or religion what motivates them is xenophobia. This is why before the advent of Islam, as much as afterwards, no foreigner has prevailed. Hence no strategy that envisages foreign forces remaining in Afghanistan will work. The Americans may have all the power but they will lose the war.

The second question, therefore, is whether a political solution predicated on an American withdrawal is possible and here too the omens are not good. There are too many factors each negating the other and too many players within Afghanistan, and some without, whose agendas are basically irreconcilable.

Within Afghanistan the Tajiks who comprise a quarter of the population will surely never again consent to direct rule from a Taliban-controlled Kabul. The assassination of their revered leader, Ahmed Shah Masud, at the hands of the Al Qaeda/Taliban has dashed any hope of reconciliation. The Taliban and Tajiks seem to agree on only one issue -- both want Kabul. Besides, Tajik dominance of the Afghan National Army gives them a decisive say on any agreement that may eventually emerge. While the Afghan Army may comprise a motley collection of the unemployed, with suspect loyalties, it is well positioned to play the role of a spoiler under its Tajik commanders.

As for the Afghan Uzbeks, their slaughter of thousands of Taliban soldiers after the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif in 2001 lingers in the collective memory of the Pashtun nation and which the Taliban have sworn to avenge. Conversely, the Hazara shias have not forgotten the betrayal and butchery of their leaders by the Taliban. Visiting retribution is likely to keep them occupied and apart for generations to come. All of which bodes ill for peace in Afghanistan.

Of Afghanistan's neighbours, Iran and Pakistan are the two that count the most. Iran, which has an innate loathing of the Taliban will find it difficult to countenance their return to power and, if they do, Tehran is uniquely placed to destabilise Afghanistan. Tehran is presently quiescent because it is preoccupied by the American-Israeli threat and because its friend of yore, the Northern Alliance, is ensconced in Kabul. But if riled Iran will fight to safeguard its interests in Afghanistan through proxies if need be, much as it did in the 90s.

Islamabad, on the other hand, would like the Tajiks replaced by a Pashtun dominated dispensation in Kabul. And if that means the Taliban back in power, so be it. In fact, so great is Pakistan's distaste of the Northern Alliance that even Karzai, a Pashtun puppet of the Tajiks, is preferable to his Tajik rival. Like Iran, Pakistan too is unlikely to accept passively a hostile dispensation in Kabul.

As for the Americans soon, or some bloody years hence, they will settle for any regime, regardless of its ethnic hue, in their eagerness to escape from the Afghan quagmire. Of course, Washington will insist that any future Afghan dispensation have no truck with Al Qaeda. It is entirely possible that such a condition may be acceptable to their Afghan opponents. But all such possibilities are as yet a considerable while away. Before that there will be much fighting and dying, tragically to no avail, because what negotiations will achieve then, imaginative diplomacy can achieve today.

Pakistan's test as a coherent multi-national entity will begin in earnest once the Americans leave and Afghans have resumed control of their country. Pakistan's Pashtuns have thus far shown nothing but contempt for the antediluvian mind set of the Taliban and their vicious creed. They stand as a bulwark against the Taliban and if they continue to do so the latter will remain isolated, confined to southern Afghanistan and the hills and ravines of the Hindukush. If, on the other hand, they are inveigled to join the Taliban, their fellow Pashtuns, then Pakistan's existence may be in jeopardy.


"May you live in interesting times" is a Chinese curse. "Interesting times," it seems, may soon be upon us.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:







The sacrifice rendered by this country since 1979 because of Afghanistan is a matter of record. Gen Zia-ul-Haq dismissed the initial figure of $300 million offered by President Carter as "peanuts." Though this figure went up substantially with Reagan as US president, what we have received since then from the US in aids and grants, barring a decade-plus of sanctions during the 90s (because of the Pressler Amendment and the nuclear explosion in 1998). Since 2001, US financial and material support has been substantial, but never enough to compensate the nation.

While being grateful to Senators Kerry and Lugar for the intent, purpose (and efforts thereof) to bring necessary succour through the passage of the bill in the US Congress, the whole exercise will likely become counter-productive in terms of fostering goodwill among Pakistanis for the US. This is not only unfortunate but tragic. The economic side (Title I), $1.5 billion every year for five years, benchmarks notwithstanding, is most generous and welcome to an impoverished and almost bankrupt country, the conditionalities attached to the Security Assistance portion (Title II), of which the figure is not known but is believed to be cumulatively close to $1 billion per year, It is downright insulting, and would be unacceptable to any self-respecting nation. Acquiescence would mean Pakistan tacitly accepting being actively engaged in "cross-border terrorism." The sequence of the conditionalities spelt out is coincidentally strikingly similar to the charge-sheet against us by Indian leaders. This is not the language of the US government, the hand of the Indian lobby was certainly manifest in the drafting of the bill.

The building of the Aswan Dam by the Russians got them undying love from the Egyptians because it impacted positively on their lives and destiny. Similarly, the US should have focussed on a couple of huge dams and power projects--e.g., the Mangla Dam. Cheap electricity and available water is badly required by the people of Pakistan. Allocating funds for purchase of aircraft for a black hole like PIA, instead of dams and power projects, is mind-boggling! As for the unacceptable conditionalities in the Security Assistance portion, we should politely say "thanks, but no thanks," and consign it to the dustbin.

There must be a paradigm shift in our thinking. Pragmatic policies must adopt international practices. One thing is clear, we cannot afford a Taliban-jihadist success in Afghanistan, we have a vested interest in the US succeeding. The Afghanistan war is possible because US and NATO logistics are mostly transiting through Pakistan. Certainly there are other routes to landlocked Afghanistan by road but the distances to be covered are fairly large, logistically difficult and far more costly in comparison to the Karachi-Kandahar and Karachi-Kabul routes. Russia's gas pipelines to Europe are subject to service fees for the transportation of gas from the source through to the various countries consumer, Russia and Ukraine had a very public spat about "service charges" when Ukraine asked for an increase in the charges for the right of way. Our roads and bridges are being subjected to heavy and constant wear and tear. Charging fees for the transit of supplies is our right. The quantum of fees maybe negotiable, the right is not. Locally, transportation charges for Pakistani exporters and importers have gone up substantially because in the US pays fairly high freight charges to the transporters. This increases our import bill, our exports have become costlier and thus less competitive, overall affecting our balance of trade adversely.

One can always depend upon the reliable Dr Farrukh Saleem for correct statistics; he is impeccable about the figures he quotes. His best estimates about US money being pumped into Afghanistan, about $6 billion per month on US and NATO forces and about $1.5 billion per month ($18 billion annually) in support of the Karzai government and the Afghan army. If we take $72 billion annually (for US forces alone), the conservative estimate is that about $50 billion (65 percent) is meant for supplies, like ammunition, fuel and rations. International practices for transit fees range from 15 to 20 percent--i.e., other the actual freight charges within Pakistan. Taking the lower figure of 15 percent, this comes to about $7.5 billion annually. Without resorting to ultimatums, we should negotiate a figure of about $ 6-7 billion annual "transit fees" per year from the US for a period of three years, and renegotiate again if the requirement is still there after three years. In relative terms this would still be about 30 percent of funds doled out to Afghanistan directly and only 6-7 percent of the total outlay annually, in population terms 18-20 times more for each Afghan than for every Pakistani despite Pakistan suffering three to four times more military and civilian casualties and far more material damage than all of Afghanistan annually. Pakistan should rightfully earn "transit fees," and not hold out a beggar's bowl, prosecuting its own "war against terrorism" and fighting counter-insurgency at its own will "on an as-required" basis. Morally speaking, why risk a developing country like Pakistan for the quagmire that is Afghanistan?

The Musharraf regime did negotiate reimbursement for use of our air bases, direct military costs, etc., but its failure to drive a hard bargain stemmed mainly from fear for Musharraf's own survival. This set the stage for the economic predicament we are in, frittering away the funds to keep the population happy (feel-good environment) by supporting a consumer-oriented economy instead of using the money wisely by investing in socio-economic projects of substance. Funds meant for the military were diverted to supporting consumer imports, all adding to our deficit fuel and electricity.

Dr Farrukh Saleem holds that perhaps we could perhaps have succeeded earlier. We lack the strength (and the political courage) to negotiate such an arrangement now. Despite being in desperate economic straits, our political leadership must stand up and be counted as the leaders of any sovereign nation should. Or stand aside and let this nation get on with its existence.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:










The following will show that while Zardari was making commitments to the whole nation to restore the chief justice, the PCO judges were diligently working for his benefit, rightly having no doubt that Zardari had no intention of restoration of the chief justice, if only they delivered. On Feb 15, 2008, Asif Zardari filed his Constitutional Petition before the Sindh High Court asking that the federal government and the NAB be ordered to immediately give him the benefit of the NRO by withdrawing all listed cases against him. On Feb 18 the elections were held. On Feb 28, Dogar directed the courts to give the NRO benefit "expeditiously." The very next day, in compliance with the Supreme Court direction, the Sindh High Court issued the required direction to the NAB and federal government.

In the meantime, Zardari held several meetings with Nawaz Sharif and, just to keep the pressure on PCO judges, on March 9, the infamous Murree Accord was signed between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. The 30-days deadline was thus not a commitment to the nation but, in fact, a deadline to the PCO judges to deliver.

Four days later, on March 12, the SGS Cotecna case was disposed of. It was the same case in which, after the Supreme Court had set aside the conviction by Justice Malik Qayyum on April 6, 2001, the case had gone back for retrial, which was underway. On March 14, 2008, on the application of Zardari's counsel Farooq H Naik and with the consent of the opposite counsel Danishwar Malik, the Accountability Court No. 3 in Rawalpindi proceeded to acquit Ali Zardari in the famous BMW case. The presiding judge was Sagheer Ahmed Qadri who, in his order, expressly stated that as the case fell outside the scope of the NRO, the acquittal was being ordered under general law.

Interestingly, it was the same case in which, after hearing Zardari' counsel Aitzaz Ahsan's lucid arguments, a full bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry granted bail to Asif Zardari. It was on the basis of that order of the Supreme Court that Asif Zardari was released on bail and left Pakistan.

In the meantime, Zardari's counsel Shahdat Awan filed an application for the acquittal of Zardari in the case of the double murder of Justice Nizam and his son. On March 24, 2008, another Sindh High Court PCO judge, Sofia Lateef, with the consent of special public prosecutor Naimat Ali Randhawa, proceeded to acquit Zardari. Again, this acquittal had nothing to do with the NRO.

On April 8, just a day before the expiry of the 30-days time deadline given in Murree Accord, another PCO judge, Pir Ali Shah of the Sindh High Court, acquitted Zardari in the Murtaza Bhutto murder case. This acquittal too had nothing to do with NRO.

On April 9, as the 30-days deadline expired, Zardari sought another ten days time from Nawaz Sharif for implementation of the agreement. On the other hand, on April 15, Zardari's counsel Yousuf Leghari moved an application before the district and sessions judge of Hyderabad for the acquittal of his client in Alam Baloch's murder case. On April 16, within one day of the application being filed, the court acquitted Zardari.

As the ten days' time expired Nawaz Sharif waited in Islamabad, Asif Zardari invited him to Dubai for talks for restoration of the judiciary. By now, everyone in Pakistan was confused about the real reason for Zardari's excuse and delay. And after marathon sessions in Dubai, on May 9 and 10, Nawaz Sharif and Zardari held further discussions on this matter in London.

On May 13, another PCO judge of Sindh High Court, Binyamin, acquitted Zardari, along with the current Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hassan, from the criminal case involving charges of smuggling out eight crates of artefacts, antiques and other contraband items to Britain, without paying any customs duty or air freight to PIA. This acquittal order was also not based on the NRO.

On May 19, Additional Session Judge Ejaz Hussain Awan in Lahore acquitted Zardari in the drug smuggling case. According to record, when the judge asked the state counsel, Aazar Latif Khan, he replied: "I will have no objection if the court accepts the acquittal plea of the accused." This order, too, was not based on the NRO.

As for the question why Malik Qayyum was retained as attorney general, obviously it would not have looked proper if both the counsel of the accused and the attorney general were from the PPP. After Malik Qayyum and his subordinate, Deputy Attorney General Salman Butt, had done their duty in giving their consent to all the acquittal applications, Malik Qayyum was promptly replaced with Lateef Khosa as the government's new attorney general. By this time, whatever advantage could have been taken on the basis of the NRO, or by pressuring insecure and desperate PCO judges, had been taken and Zardari, now free of all criminal cases, was free to become head of state of Pakistan. The only problem now was that Musharraf was still occupying that office.

On Aug 7, 2008, Zardari entered into another agreement with Nawaz Sharif committing himself to the restoration of the judiciary within 72 hours of the impeachment of General Musharraf. Once again, Nawaz Sharif failed to see that he was being used and he signed the agreement. But on Aug 18, when Musharraf, under tremendous pressure on account of the deadline given by both parties, resigned, Zardari refused to abide by his commitment and instead proceeded to become president of Pakistan. The Muslim League (N), now realising how they had been manipulated and used, did not vote for him.

In its judgment just delivered by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, the issues that I sought to raise on behalf of Review Petitioner Advocate Nadeem Ahmed stand fully addressed as the Honourable Court has left it in no doubt that the PCO was void ab initio, did not have any legal effect and that the Supreme Court has no authority to exercise any legislative powers by seeking to keep the NRO on the statute books when, by the requirement of Article 89 of the Constitution, it stood repealed on the 120th day of its promulgation.

In the wake of the Supreme Court's judgment, especially paragraphs 179, 184, 185, 186, 187 and 188, the NRO is to be treated as repealed from the 120th day of its promulgation--i.e., Feb 2, 2008, a date by which not a single person had drawn any benefit under that statute. It is incumbent on all the courts of Pakistan now to recall all their acquittal orders, at least those that were based on the NRO.

All the above sordid detail about how the PCO judges were used and pressured into paving the way for Mr Asif Zardari's becoming President of Pakistan also raises serious questions about his eligibility for that most prestigious office in our country.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Email: akramsheikh







The United States is Pakistan's major development partner, the largest market for Pakistani products, an important source of workers' remittances and a major investor in Pakistan. It has played a critical role in encouraging the IMF and the World Bank to bail out Pakistan from default in external payment obligations. The United States has decided to establish a long-term economic relationship with Pakistan, which is embodied in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, spreading initially over five years but extendable for another five.

The Kerry-Lugar Bill is under intense debate in Pakistani print and electronic media. The opposition parties in the Parliament and political analysts and experts on national security are voicing particular concerns over it. The major criticism is that this bill is against Pakistan's national security, and that the country would lose its national sovereignty, and also that it creates a gulf between the civilian government and the Armed Forces.

I am not an expert on these issues, so this article does not deal with the implications of the bill in terms of Pakistan's national security. It deals with the financial and economic aspects of the bill and its implications for Pakistan's economy.

In particular, this article analyses the adequacy of the amount authorised in the bill. Most importantly, it raises the following questions: is the amount under the bill consistent with the level of commitment that Pakistan has exhibited in the War on Terror, and the level of sacrifices that the Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan have made? Is this amount consistent with the cost that Pakistan has so far incurred due to its involvement in the War?

Before I delve into the details of these questions, a few words on the language of the bill are in order.

Firstly, the language used in the drafting of the bill leaves much to be desired, as it fails to take into account the sensitivities of the people of Pakistan. At times it sounds insulting and condescending. Secondly, the bill, in theory, represents the viewpoint of the United States, but practically, it also incorporates the interests of other nations as well. Finally, the Bill recognises Pakistan as a most valuable partner in the battle against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. However, do valuable partners need conditionalities in meeting a common threat? I leave it to the experts of national security to answer this question.

Let me now turn to the adequacy of the amount committed in the bill. Out of the $1.5 billion per year promised to Pakistan, $200 million is earmarked to sustain US infrastructure to monitor the assistance programme in Pakistan. Pakistan will thus be receiving $1.3 billion, or Rs108 billion per annum, provided that this amount is channelled through the government of Pakistan. Assuming that the entire amount is disbursed through the official channel, this would translate into $8, or Rs650, per person per year. Can we improve the lives of the people of Pakistan with a Rs650 per-annum assistance?

On the contrary, the United States has so far spent $941 billion in Iraq and $223 billion in Afghanistan. This translates into $1,824 and $2,931 per person per annum there, respectively. Is this amount consistent with the level of commitment, the sacrifices and the costs that Pakistan has incurred so far in the War on Terror? Is this comparable to the assistance provided to Afghanistan and Iraq?

Further analysis suggests that the $1.3 billion per annum economic assistance is roughly 0.7 percent of Pakistan's GDP, 3.8 percent of its total expenditure, and 5 percent of its total revenue. The US assistance is only 16 percent of the amount that expatriate Pakistanis send back to their country; it is only 3.7 percent of Pakistan's total foreign-exchange earnings and it could finance only 14 percent of the costs that Pakistan bears in fighting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The Pakistani economy has been subjected to enormous direct and indirect costs over the last eight years. Pakistan has thus far incurred a $34.5-billion cost for the War. This cost has been rising with the intensity, duration and dimension of the War. Does the $1.3 billion--or $8 per person--per year assistance justify the cost that Pakistan is bearing? The United States intends to use this money to help improve the socio-economic conditions of the people of Pakistan. It is making an elaborate arrangement to monitor the effectiveness of its assistance. What socio-economic conditions of the people of Pakistan does this arrangement intend to improve when it spares only $8 per person annually? Is this elaborate monitoring arrangement commensurate with the level of assistance being provided?

I suggest that the United States review the language of the bill. The good intentions of the US to help Pakistan may be lost in the inappropriate language used in the bill. The level of assistance needs to be reviewed. While reviewing the assistance bill the US government should consider including a clause on preferential market access for Pakistani products in to the US market with a normal growth per annum. The US needs to separate its own interest in the region from that of others. The US assistance must be routed through the official channel and concerted efforts made to strengthen the institutions of Pakistan.

Finally, friends, allies and valuable partners fighting for the same cause, that is, to make the world a safer place to live, do not impose preconditions on each other. Friendship and partnership cannot flourish under preconditions.

The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School in Islamabad. Email: ah







Less and less can be kept secret or private in today's increasingly public world. The Pakistani army has been discovering this, as it is confronted by the appearance of a ten-minute video showing men in military uniform brutally kicking and whipping men who it is assumed are militant suspects. The footage, posted on the social networking site Facebook and on the video site YouTube is in some ways similar to the clips of Taliban figures apparently flogging a burqa-clad girl in Swat that surfaced in April this year. The images of the girl screaming in pain caused widespread revulsion. Some say it may have altered the way people looked at Taliban rule and played a key part in the swing of opinion away from them.

The authenticity of that video has been disputed. Some insist it was fabricated. Views vary even among filmmakers and other experts. The Pakistani army too has, through the ISPR, stated that in the case of the latest video it is engaged in an inquiry and that action would be taken against the culprits taking part in the violence if they were determined to be guilty. However, the fact that at least some sites carrying the footage have been blocked, presumably by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) which has control over internet traffic, suggests that the military is not amused by the images that have been widely circulated.

But it may find that shutting off access is not easy at all in the internet age. In this, of course, lies the tremendous power of the medium and its capacity to change much of the world as we know it. Even after several days, the video clip can be found – through one means or the other – somewhere in cyber space.

Institutions – such as the Pakistani military – which have in the past frequently hidden behind the cloak of secrecy, may also find this is getting harder and harder. Indeed, in a world where the internet rules, there is very little that is private. Facebook, a site that allows people across the globe to reach each other, is now the number-one activity undertaken on the internet – overtaking porn. It has added over a million users in less than nine months, one out of eight US couples who marry now 'meet' on Facebook and if it was a country, the site would be the fourth-largest in the world – after China, India and the US. These are not statistics to be disregarded. It took TV and radio years to amass a similar hold over people.

The figures also offer some indication of the power of the social media. Every day, every minute, it continues to grow. A video placed on it can reach tens of thousands in minutes. The heat the ISPR spokesman suddenly faces originates in this. There is no way of saying immediately if the footage is genuine. But there is no doubt at all that the brutal scenes played out, as soldiers on the command of a major fall upon their victim, are not unusual. Indeed, the footage seems to have created more waves outside the country than within it, because almost all of us know such things – i.e. abuse of civilians by security forces personnel -- happen all too frequently, particularly at our police stations. The international outrage is a reminder that we must not accept these occurrences in our society and must recognise them as being evil, in more ways than one.

Already – the disclosures about military conduct in Swat, the instances of suspected militants being tortured and beaten – has reduced the perception of the security forces among many people to the same level as the Taliban. The moral authority that should have been won after the action against the men of Maulana Fazlullah has been lost. The new video simply proves that the security forces, or at least some elements among them, to be as uncivilised as those they have defeated. People in Swat say they fear both almost as much. A chance to establish the state as a saviour of the people has been lost as a result of the failure to recognise the need to fight a bigger war – one that went beyond guns and grenades and bombs but also involved winning over people.

Perhaps they will be a realisation that in the new world we live in – where cameras on mobile phones or other devices can record every minutes of life – nothing can be kept hidden. These clips can be sent out to millions at the push of a few buttons. The tech-savvy Taliban discovered this to their huge advantage. The military response to the scenes depicted in the video is being awaited. Perhaps it can pioneer a new path forward by making a true effort to discover where the events recorded took place and who was involved. There is no evidence of this in the clip, although the victims of the torture speak Pashto, implying Swat could be the location. Punishment for those who ordered the violence may also help the army win some points – though of course the system of endemic torture built into the structure is what needs to be tackled, whether it is the police or the military that is responsible.

As our military PR people try to find answers to the questions the international media continues to ask, the wider issue of relations between civilians and the military need to be considered. For all the mottos containing words derived from the verb "to serve" that hang at the offices of regiments and the entrances to military institutions, citizens are aware of the military role as masters. For this they are despised, not respected. The expressions on the face of shopkeepers who have served a swaggering officer, eager to throw around his power, show us this. The contempt with which our most recent military dictator spoke of civilian politicians did not go un-noted during his years in power and the moral high ground the military so often claims is one we are familiar with.

Censorship offers no solution. Already, savvy teens and their parents too have sent out hundreds of messages with the video attached. It has begun going out to over mobile telephones. It can simply not be held back. Indeed the rather clumsy blocking of the websites simply adds to the determination to see the clip. There is little to be gained by attempting to hide it away. Secrecy is pointless in an increasingly public world. It is important to accept this, to make the adaptations necessary, to usher in reform so that there is less to hide and to work towards relationships built on mutual respect and the equal application of the rule of law to all citizens.









The long running stand-off between the US and Iran on the latter's nuclear ambitions has shown signs of easing with unexpected developments. Iran's nuclear programme and US suspicions that it is weapon-oriented led to serious international crises during the last few years of Bush's presidency. Iran was declared a part of the axis of evil and "an outpost of tyranny." The UN Security Council was moved for sanctions against Iran and the crisis reached flash-point with media reports of US and Israel considering an aerial blitz against Iranian nuclear sites.

The Bush administration, dominated by neo cons, maintained diplomatic pressure and coercive measures as manifested by five resolutions passed by the UN Security Council (SC), approving a range of economic sanctions against Iran. President Bush, in his State of the Union address of his second term, denounced Iran as the "world's primary state sponsor of terror."

EU countries also shared apprehensions regarding Iran's clandestine programme. To address these fears, Iran agreed to hold talks with the EU represented by France, Britain and Germany. To ward off hostility from the EU countries and to disarm critics, Iran, in November 2006, agreed to freeze all activities related to uranium enrichment. It was a brilliant stroke of diplomacy as it frustrated Washington, which publicly frowned on the EU-3 dialogue.

With the inauguration of Obama's administration, the policy towards Iran has been relatively soft. Over the last couple of months, there have been a series of reports from the US and Israeli leaders of Tehran continuing with its enrichment of weapon-grade uranium and their determination not to let Iran acquire a weapon-oriented nuclear programme. While maintaining its rhetoric against the US and Israel, Iran has quietly pursued dialogue through IAEA. To provide momentum to the talks, Iran agreed to pursue negotiations with Soviet Union, US China, France and Britain. These talks were held in Geneva on October 2. It was a rare event as the US had bilateral meetings on the sidelines. Prior to these meetings, revelations that Iran was building a second uranium enrichment plant in Qum raised a storm and Iran was asked for "immediate and unfettered access to IAEA inspectors." Iran agreed to the demand and El Baradei, Director General of IAEA, visited Iran on Oct 3 to arrange inspection. During the Geneva talks, Iran agreed to a deal under which it will send most of its enriched uranium to Russia for further processing.

This unprecedented development has led to a major breakthrough and has provided a degree of reassurance for improved atmospherics. The flexibility shown by Iran in these negotiations has disarmed its enemies. The success of the Geneva talks is likely to continue. The first-ever bilateral, high-level official meetings between the US and Iran offer tantalising prospects. The visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister to Washington and his meetings with two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are promising signs of an evolving thaw between Tehran and Washington. The subtlety and sensitivity with which Iran has handled the diplomatic stand-off is impressive and offers an opportunity of an early normalisation of relations with the US.


The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui








PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has indicated adoption of the right approach to handle and sort out crucial and complex but controversial issues. Speaking at the parliamentary party meeting of the PPP and allied parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday, he declared that the Government was not hesitant in bringing any bill of national importance before the House including Kerry-Lugar (KL) legislation and National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

No one can deny that Parliament is supposed to be a supreme institution in a true democracy and that is why policies are first debated threadbare at that forum before their finalization in civilized societies. We too have long been hearing about supremacy of the Parliament but on occasions the Governments not only ignore this platform but also pay little attention to implementation aspect once policy guidelines are given by the Parliament on critical issues as was done by the Parliament in the case of recommendations of the National Security Strategy. In the present-day context the issues of NRO and Kerry-Lugar Bill have become subjects of heated debates and deserve to be critically examined by the Parliament. NRO is fundamentally flawed one-man legislation imposed on the nation, which is perceived to have jolted the very moral fabric of the society. It is a bitter reality that through this notorious ordinance corruption has been legalized, bringing bad name and shame to the country in the comity of nations. There is unanimity of views that the benefits accrued under the yankee ordinance have no legal validity and they needed to be rolled back. There is also a legal argument that the ordinance has lapsed. Therefore, it would be in the fitness of things that the issue is debated in the Parliament and a decision is taken on that basis to scrap it before the courts do so. Similarly, acceptance of the humiliating conditions of the Kerry-Lugar Bill are, generally speaking, perceived to be bartering away of national sovereignty. The ignominious conditions and degrading observations should not be acceptable to any self-respecting nation at any cost. In this perspective, it is encouraging that the National Assembly has already taken up the issue where Opposition Members scrutinized the Bill from their point of view and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira came out with an eloquent, argumentative and well-thought-out response on different clauses of the Bill. We hope that the debate would be result-oriented, giving clear-cut direction to the Government on how to proceed further on the controversial issue.








WITH less than normal monsoon rains during the year and upstream illegal storages constructed by India, Indus River System Authority (IRSA) has forecast 33 per cent water shortfall for the upcoming Rabi season. Already warnings have started coming out of Sindh that water deficiency will make barren one million acres of land in the Province.

A former Federal Food Minister and MNA Nawab Yusuf Talpur while speaking in the National Assembly demanded of the Government to go by 1991 Water Distribution Accord and ensure due share of water for every Province. It is a tragedy that a country having adequate water resources is unable to meet its demands mainly due to poor planning and mismanagement. Setting aside this year's poor monsoon rainfall, normally Pakistan receives heavy rains during July-August and most of the water goes waste to the Arabian sea and then in the following months we start crying for the shortage of irrigation water. The answer is simple that successive governments have failed to build water reservoirs to store the surplus water and then utilize it for our agricultural needs. The entire life of people of Sindh and economy depends on irrigation water as there are no rains particularly during winter and shortage of water would no doubt have an adverse impact on Rabi crop. Irrigated agriculture is and will remain in future the backbone of Pakistan's economy. Nature has blessed Pakistan with abundant surface and subsurface water resources. Though the present Government plans to construct small reservoirs in all the Provinces but with crop intensity and increasing population, the country needs mega water storages. A big technical failure of the public sector institutions is to realise the consequences of water shortage. The water issues of Pakistan and selective political sensitivity demand the need to go down to the community and users levels and make an inventory of the challenges faced by them, then up-scale their issues to the national level with a futuristic vision. The major policy challenge is to protect the future water security and save our fertile land, particularly in Sindh from going baron. This can be achieved only by ensuring livelihood-oriented water availability for future generations and by conserving and improving existing water resources of the country.







WITH the passage of time the clientele of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has squeezed to a great extent and presently only a handful of countries including Pakistan are seeking support from the institution. Majority of countries have distanced themselves away from the IMF due to harsh and tough conditions attached to the aid and dictation on a host of internal and external policies.

It is a fact that the IMF has become an instrument in the hands of donors to force recipients of the loans to follow policies that suit their agenda. This is considered to be a sort of colonization of the Third World countries. It is also a fact that most of the countries that agreed to and implemented the IMF-sponsored economic policies, ultimately landed in deeper economic crisis. It is because of all this that the proud Turkish people are violently protesting over holding of annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Istanbul. The otherwise unfortunate incident of shoe throwing at the IMF chief symbolizes deep hatred against the institution. In Pakistan too, the IMF has highly negative perception because of its highly intrusive policies. No doubt, Pakistan has received unprecedented loan from the Fund just in one year that has helped stabilize the economy but it is also a reality that its conditions have forced the Government not to pass on due relief of falling international oil prices to the consumers and to increase frequently the power tariff despite the fact that it is already higher than all the regional countries. We believe that instead of allowing exploitation of the poor countries by the IMF, the UN should institute a fund for provision of soft loans to bail out economies in trouble.








The powers-that-be are slowly but surely proceeding to convert the (once) beautiful capital Islamabad into a virtual giant laboratory rat maze. The citizens are being confronted with lethal road blocks and the traffic is being directed round and round the mulberry bush (to quote the nursery rhyme). Hardly a voice is being raised in protest. As if this was not enough of an aggravation, the residents of the capital are struggling to come to terms with the gigantic commercial billboards that blight the city's skyline, sprouting all over much like wild mushrooms in the rainy season. One need hardly be surprised, though. With all the commercial hype that is threatening to take over our lives, these billboards were bound to materialize sooner or later. As one looks around, one discovers to one's horror that the civilized (?) world has been well and truly engulfed by 'commercials'.

No one can escape the impact of larger-than-life 'ads' that are all around and all embracing. Take the visual media, sports arenas, the roadways or what you will, it would be a futile exercise to even think of evading the wretched things. Like it or not, commercials are upon us like an epidemic. They appear to have become an inseparable part of life itself. Can one logically complain, though? Apparently not! This is the price man has perforce to pay for the march (?) of civilization. Take the case of what happens to be undoubtedly the most popular entertainment media of today television. It goes without saying that the advertising industry shamelessly exploits the vast captive audience that this media enjoys. Not that one does not make allowance for the financial constraints that make the airing of commercials necessary, but is it cricket for the godfathers of commercials to make a bid to virtually take over the electronic media? One can even go to the extent of showing understanding when a popular programme is snuffed out all of a sudden for what is euphemistically termed as a 'commercial break'. What gets one is that these 'breaks' are ominously getting not only longer and longer but also more frequent. More often than not, by the time the commercial break finally comes to an end, one has all but forgotten the context of the narrative that was so rudely interrupted.

In the United States of America, where commercials have acquired an almost reverent character all their own, popular programmes have been virtually deluged. There are viewers there who complain - not without reason - that they are now being obliged to watch a series of commercials, interspersed occasionally by some entertainment, rather than the other way round. The urge to sell – and sell in a hurry – is fast reaching a stage where it appears to pervade all else. It has assumed the form of a never-ending vicious cycle. As sales soar, so does the urge to advertise. Newer and newer methods of entrapping the hapless consumer are being devised all the time. The objective of the commercial is to put the consumer through a learning process of sorts. He or she emerges from the exercise thoroughly brainwashed and raring to go for just any product.

Sale of the advertised product apart, advertising itself is big business. The advertising agencies themselves earn millions in their campaigns to enable their clients to rake in even more millions. At the receiving end, as always, is the poor consumer, who ends up footing the bill for both the product as well as the advertising. Another and longstanding complaint against advertisers is the way they exploit the captive audience of children. Children obviously are in no position to exercise objective judgment as to the quality and/or utility of the advertised product. The overtly aggressive and, at times, unethical way in which commercials aimed at children are devised leaves a lot to be desired. The accent appears to be on appealing to the minors' immature minds in such a fashion that they are brainwashed into forcing their parents' hand into purchasing products that may or may not be either useful or, indeed, suitable for the children.

Honesty in advertising can hardly be taken for granted. Commercial campaigns are extremely economical with the truth. Agencies have little qualms about making outrageous and outlandish claims to push up the sales of the products they have been contracted to advertise. In the absence of any consumer protection organization they all have a field day. The end, so far as the agencies are concerned, justifies the means. Far fetched claims are openly made that have little or no basis in reality. And yet our advertiser friends carry on merrily as if it is all part of the game. What is more, they get away with them with impunity.

Let us take an example at random, if you will. What can one say about the way fashion shows are organized to sell so-called designer clothing? A selected bevy of svelte fashion models - who after spending years starving themselves and twisting acquire wispy figures that are hardly the norm by any standards - are provocatively paraded in front of prospective buyers.

The joke is that these buyers –all having surplus money (not to talk of fat!) to throw around – are actually deluded into believing that they would look equally glamorous in the clothing being modeled by the wispy models! What makes matters worse is the complete absence of a quality-control mechanism in the advertising field. The need for an overseeing body is being keenly felt. And now to the fundamental question that presents itself, begging for an answer: is advertising at all justified or, in deed, necessary? The advertising agencies would naturally have us believe that it definitely is so. In justifying their existence, these advertising companies claim that commercials help afford to the consumer "the right to choose".

The critics, on their part, argue that commercials make the consumers yearn to reach out for products that they could very well do without. The consumers, in effect, end up not only paying a jacked-up price for the advertised products but also end up purchasing a lot of stuff they did not need in the first place and which they would not have bought had it not been for some clever – and misleading - advertising. It would hardly be fair, of course, to condemn commercials, per se. Advertising does help, in a way, to make the world go round. All in all, commercials, their negative aspects notwithstanding, are evidently not devoid of positive features. And - needless to point out - they do add a bit of glamour to what would otherwise have been a dull and drab existence.









Soldiers always remember and feel pride over the time spent with their comrades in the training establishments, units, and field. Therefore, the feelings of unexpected meeting of war buddies always take them back in the past and pour fresh blood in old body. The sentiments of old associates are unforgettable and cannot be revealed in few words. In real sense good memories are assets of the units on which soldiers feel proud. However materialistic approach drastically changed the culture of some of the Armed forces. In this context, the Indian Armed forces are on the top of the list. The corruption in officer's lot has converted it into rogue armed forces, which really shattered the soldiers' confidence over their commanders. According to the old timers the Indian Army is now the most corrupted organization in India. Unfortunately, in most of the cases officers (including senior officers) are involved in the cases of sexual harassments, bribe, selling military secrets, terrorizing, kidnapping, sabotaged activities against minorities, abduction of scientists, smuggling of enriched uranium and other nuke equipments.

The young Indian married officers hesitate in attending family functions with their wives since in most of the functions seniors officers found losing their senses due to excessive drink. Few years back a senior Indian Air force officer assaulted the wife of a junior subordinate officer (the name of the officer has not been mentioned to conceal the identity). The culprit officer had not been taken on task and the intelligence agencies hushed up the incident to save the senior officer. In July 2008 Captain Poonam Kaur of the Army Supply Corps (ASC) alleged her three colleague officers for mentally and sexually harassment. She also narrated that she had been confined illegally when she resisted their advances. On her complaint, the army authorities constituted a court of inquiry whereby all three officers denied the allegations. However later on the alleged officers have been declared clean and complainant lady officer was convicted on at least 20 counts, including leveling false charges against her senior officers. Indian Army authority has dismissed the lady officer instead taking actions against the male officers. The irony of the case was that the court was headed by a male officer who became party to the alleged officers.

Indian Army did not even respect the country's courts of law. On August 31, 2009 in a recent report, Hindustan times revealed that former judge advocate general of Indian Army Maj. Gen. Neelendra Kumar said: "The army has a standing policy that every case of serious nature invariably goes to the military court. The Supreme Court guidelines are not applicable as we have the Army Act."

On the other hand, the Army Act 1950 cannot deal the cases of sexual abuse. Thus the lady officer has been deprived with the justice and thrown out of the army for complaining against her colleague officers. As per the newspaper currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the army, 784 in the air force and 252 in the navy. As per media 45 cases of sexual harassment have been reported during the last seven years. In fact Indian armed forces are men dominated forces and never liked to see flourishing of females in the forces. In a case of female recruitment, on September 18, 2009 while addressing of Delhi High Court, Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium has submitted before Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that the granting of permanent commission to women officers on short service commission in the Indian Army is not possible.

It is notable here that Indian government herself is promoting prostitution profession in the female troops deployed in border areas. Earlier on April 10 2007 CNN revealed in a report that Twenty-three-years old Smriti and 26-years-old Suhag are Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constables on duty in strife-torn Kashmir found involved in prostitution profession. Both were educated, sharp and dedicated towards their [prostitution] profession and equally eager to keep healthy and perhaps that explains why they are all ears during an AIDS awareness session that was held. A month back the daily mail also reported that now 200 professional prostitutions have been inducted in the armed forces.

Probably, all such types of inductions are the brain child of notorious Indian intelligence agency (RAW). The aim of suggesting, planning and launching such kind of unethical employment in the forces is to attract the freedom fighters and malign Muslim soldiers in unlawful activities . Thus, increase of unhealthy activities has made the soldiers psychologically sick. The suicidal cases and disciplined problems in the units deployed in Kashmir have been many folds. The excessive dinks and involvement in sexual activities with colleague's female officers has become the cause of spreading AIDS in the forces.

Assam Military Units Commander Colonel Bhopinder Singh also admitted in a side meeting that the death toll because of AIDS is much higher than that of casualties in the clashes. It is quite evident from the reports that more than 200,000 troops deployed in northern Indian and Kashmir are confronting with separatist groups, freedom fighters and a hard hitter enemy "AIDS". Vice-Admiral V.K.Singh, Director-General of Armed Forces Medical Services, has said that we consider HIV as our enemy No. 1. As per reports so far 415 soldiers including officers had been expired as result of this killing disease and more than thousand cases of AIDS are under investigation. Families of the sick soldiers are actually main sufferers. The increase in divorce/separation cases have also been noticed by the reputed circle of the masses but unfortunately Indian top and military brass are not interested to lessen the worries of poor soldiers and their families.

Indian Army is considered to be the world's second largest army with 1.2 million troops. According to Indian National Human Rights Commission, there were 1,039 cases of human rights violations (which include rapes, terrorizing, abduction & killing of innocent women, children youngsters & communal violence) by the security forces from 1990 -2009, an average of 110 per year. I would also like to reveal here that no downward trend in crime ratio have been noticed so far. The indecent activities against the innocent agitators almost raised 100%. If we consider that it reduced by 50 % even then figures will be quite alarming for the international community. Indian Ministry of Defence reported that it filed 17 rape cases against army personnel whereas media reported 20 cases of rapes from 2003-2004 and by adding 50 % per annum will make this figure 80 till December, 2008. There are reports that only two or three rape cases have been concluded so far in a guilty verdict. In the remaining cases, the investigations are still in process or terminated because of tremendous pressure on the presidents of the court of inquiries, investigating officers or on the eye witnesses.

As per Indian press, one serving Lt General Sahni, one Lt General (Retired) S K Dahiya, four Major Generals, two Brigadiers and eight officers are being charred for various irregularities in relation to procurement of "certain items of dry rations" for soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. The names of Sahni, Dahiya, four Maj-Gens, nine Brigadiers, a Navy Commodore, two Commanders a Lt-Commander, an IAF Group Captain and a Coast Guard DIG have figured in a list of 21 senior officers facing corruption charges tabled by defence minister A K Antony in Parliament. In the past too opened the Pandora Box of corrupt Indian Generals.

Coming back to the discussion, I must say that world second army is now become the highly corrupt force. The troops do not have confidence on their immediate commanders .Senior officers do not enjoy good reputation amongst their subordinates. The deployed troops are playing with the lives of innocent children and women. Young local girls and female colleague officers are being victimized by the soldiers and their comrades. World community, organization of human rights and so called civilized western society should visit border areas of Kashmir to know the actual worth of Rouge Indian Armed Forces.







Islam places great emphasis on justice tempered with compassion. God commands men to be firm in justice with kindness. The following versus of the Quran comprehensively cover all important aspects of human rights, justice and supremacy of law for ensuring proper and effective enforcement of laws and justice dealings with all in conducting human affairs. "O ye who believe stand out firmly for justice, as witness to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents or your kind and whether it be against rich or poor. For God can best protect both. Do not follow the lust of your hearts".

If analysis is carried out with unbiased mind, one tends to assume that the downtrodden, poor people of the country today are facing serious difficulties as a result of conflicts, suppression, oppression, discriminations, hunger, diseases and exploitation of man by man. One of the major causes of all these is a lack of justice and compassion in the conduct of human affairs. Our conduct and behaviour today is generally not in accordance with Allah's commands which is obviously the reason for us being financially and socially so far behind.

In our society, some people are rolling in wealth and a vast majority living a life of poverty and squalor. It is worth noting that in our country, more than 43% people are living below the poverty line but our well to do people are least pushed about their distress which is considered as a despicable act in Islam. The disparity and exploitation of have-nots by the haves is reaching a point when exploited will explode like a volcano. Holy Quran clearly prescribes that "what you wish for yourself, wish for others and what you do not wish for yourself, do not wish for others"

Justice is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam because Quran is the dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethnics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world. It is therefore bounden responsibility for every Muslim not to make this sacred book as a show piece and keep it at home but to read and understand and practice in daily life. This is the best way to earn blessings of Allah for here and hereafter. One would agree that the life span in this world is very short and after death it has no limit meaning thereby that it has not been defined. We Muslims have to have unflinching faith on it and conduct our life accordingly.

The regrettable aspect of the situation is that in our society, word justice is only meant and applicable on poor people who have no "Safarish" and/or unable to meet expenses to approach court of law for seeking justice. On the contrary, all big fishes of the society are exempt and enjoy immunity. Their all unlawful acts/omissions and coercive action are ignored.

They amass wealth illegally to secure their future at the cost of national ex-chequer and lead a luxurious life. They are forgiven under one pretext or the other. Islam condemns any preferential treatment as they would cut very root of quality, justice and fair-play. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) preached and practised justice in all spheres in human affairs. He further preached that Allah will not bless a nation which does not protect the rights of the weak.

Over 160 million people have witnessed that due to wrongdoings, undesired, unethical and immoral acts, twice assemblies were dissolved on corruption charges of both political parties of the country for which entire nation had to face consequence besides bad name brought to the country, but people did not take lesson.

The principal reason of which is illiteracy and sense of justice. It would not be out of place to quote an instance that recently in Karachi, about 18 poor women and children lost their lives in stampede who had gone to collect Atta at concessinal rate or free of cost offered by a charitable organization. But on the very same day in the evening government spent substantial amount on iftar/dinner party. Is it justifiable for a poor country like ours surviving on financial help. To sum up, we need to be God fearing and inculcate the habit to be tolerant/sympathetic and beseech Allah (the Almighty) to bless us with Emaan bestow His mercy on us.







Even after eight years of foreign military presence led by the US under the banners of ISAF, NATO and US Army, Taliban control better part of Afghanistan and are rather increasing their hold therein. The problem is threefold: firstly, the US led coalition does have capability (machines versus men and drones versus donkeys) but manifestly lacks requisite level of will; secondly, military strategy dominates the political strategy and guidelines.

Polity is rather looking towards the military commanders to deliver; thirdly, strategic oratory and rhetoric is not supported by tactical gains, something that is the hallmark of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla warfare. The American forces seldom come out of their hides to meet the Taliban guerrillas in the rock-strewn battlefields.

Poses of small raids on houses and mosques notwithstanding, has anyone ever heard of any major offensive by the US forces in Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban or since the Americans were virtually free from their business in Iraq in 2004? A blatant NO indeed! While the US soldiers are crossing their respective dates of tenure on the calendar in their steel-hard bunkers, Taliban are openly strolling across the streets in better part of Afghanistan and may start a quick march to Kabul if the situation does not improve. Yet, the US officials, media and academic circles continue to point their metaphoric blame-gun towards Pakistan, something that has always been detrimental to prerequisite of Pak-US partnerships under bleak security environment.

The predicament facing Pakistan is comprehensible. Before US attack on Afghanistan following the episode of 9/11, the phenomenon of suicide bombing was not known to Pakistani populace. In the aftermath of fall of Taliban, US forces came under tremendous pressure from dozens of resistance groups mainly from Afghanistan but some even from across the border owing to their ethic relationship.

To ward off US apprehensions, Pakistan started chasing Taliban guerrillas inside Pakistan and sealed its 2250 kilometres mountainous border with Afghanistan employing over 0.1 million troops. Taliban had and still have a clear warning to the Pakistan's government to either stop siding with the US or else face the brunt of suicide bombing. Till date, over 2000 Pakistani officers and soldiers, some of them quite senior officers have lost their lives in the war that ensued. How many did the US lose on the north-western side of the hill? Even the general officers of Pakistan Army are present up on the front with helmet on their head, bullet proof jackets round their chest and personal weapon hanging with their shoulders.

The story is different on Afghan side. To my knowledge, at least one three-star general, one two-star general, a number of one-star generals and junior officers have embraced martyrdom alongside countless troops. Above apart, Pakistan had been oft-blamed for not doing enough and Pakistan Army for hesitating to gun down own people despite that they were the known militants. Of course, such passions do reign high when you are fighting a war on your own soil.

The case of the US is different. It is fighting a war some 11927 kilometres away from its border. Even a direct flight from the US reaches Afghanistan in over 15 hours after carbon emission of 2,777 lbs CO2. Pakistan, on the other hand, was found itself in the heart of the battlefield, courtesy its alliance with the US. The other important factor delaying a full military response was the public opinion within Pakistan. Having cultivated the public opinion, Pakistan launched Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat Valley. It was a success from all angles, whether political, military, moral or ethical.

Pakistan Army has reportedly recalibrated its guns for launching a decisive winter offensive name Operation Rah-e-Nijat in Waziristan in order to meet the political ends. The operation is likely to conclude before the dawn of summers the next year. Reports suggest that the support of the locals has also been dovetailed political and military leadership. The moral build-up was certainly vital alongside military build-up before the operation. Moral legitimacy for US forces in Afghanistan is surely far from probability, to say the least.

Pakistan's success in the operation is question might lead to another dilemma for the US forces in Afghanistan. If someone analytically glances through the 66-page assessment report submitted by General McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, to the US Department of Defence, it would become evident that earlier in a state of strategic stalemate, the American forces are now on the road to reverses. McChrystal has rather put the Obama Administration in a dilemma.

Henry Kissinger rightly opined in his write-up titled Deployments and Diplomacy published in Newsweek on October 3, 2009 that in case he is not provided with more troops as asked for by him, it would be widely interpreted as the first step toward withdrawal and in case he is, it would be taken as Obama's War by his opponents. I would tend to add to Henry Kissinger's view that in case the force level is not increased, it would loosen the joint between political and military strategy and if it is, it would smell of political strategy dancing on the tunes of a virtually failing military strategy.

All apart, the dawn of 2010 would bear evidence to what all happened on the two sides of the hill (Hindu Kush Mountain Range). Nevertheless, the US polity needs to dispassionately consider that they need to bring to fore an all-inclusive political strategy using military strategy merely as means to meet the ends. Failing this, the north-western side of the hill would remain under the tremors of militancy. They need to do this at the earliest before it gets too late even for an honourable exit.

The writer is fellow National Defense University, Washington D.C.







Many, many years ago my favourite book was the Sears-Roebuck mail-order catalogue my father had brought back from the US! It was a catalogue of everything I didn't own, and I could spend days poring over it drooling over the items and wishing I possessed all the things pictured there. I imagined a fairy coming up to me while I was engrossed in the book asking, "What do you want Bob?" "You mean you can give me anything?" "Anything! Just look at the pictures, make a wish, it's yours!" "And what do I have to give in return?" "Your soul!" "That's all? Just my soul in exchange for that trumpet, those model planes, that Polaroid camera? Take it!"

Today there's hardly a thing, which you can't get here and which I don't have at home! So what do people shop for? "Today's advertising," said a friend of mine who owns an ad agency, "Is to make you fed up with what you already have, so you'll throw it out and buy something better!"

I'm not fed up with what I have!" I tell him grinning, "So you're advertising's failed!" "Have you seen the latest split AC?" "I don't need to," I say, "I'm quite happy with what I've got!" "What?" "I said I'm quite happy with…"

Can you speak a little louder!" "You seem to have a hearing problem," I tell him, "I'm already speaking at the top…" "What? Let's go outside! Now I can hear you, what a relief! You should get a split AC, even a whisper can be heard!" It was towards evening that the wife asked, "Why haven't you put on the AC?" "It makes too much noise!"

Not that I've heard any!" "Yeah!" "What yeah?" "I heard you!" "You mean you haven't all these evenings I've been speaking to you?" "I told you the AC makes too much noise!" "And here I thought you were listening to all my jabber everyday?" "Did notice you were moving your lips!" It was at the mall later in the evening I met same friend again, "What are you both doing here?" he asked pleasantly, "Not coming to buy an AC by any chance are you? Shopkeeper this is the couple, I told you they would be coming today, they'll be wanting a split AC, send the commission to my agency!" "Hey I'm being conned into buying an AC when I don't need one!" I shouted as my friend guffawed, "That's the way shopping works today Bob," he said, "We make you feel terrible about something you own even if there's nothing wrong with it!"

Where can I shop for a new husband?" asked the wife later with the old AC on. "What?" I asked as she threw a pillow at me.









The parliamentary standing committee on power, energy and mineral resources has sounded a note of urgency for signing production sharing contracts (PSCs) with foreign companies. It is worried, and genuinely so, that any delay in entering into such a contract will deprive Bangladesh of its potentially huge gas and oil reserves under the seabed. The parliamentary standing committee's arguments are tenable because of the progress made in similar offshore gas and oil exploration by both India and Myanmar. In the first place, Bangladesh have already made a long delay in this venture. Had it leased out its undisputed gas blocks earlier, say about 10 to 12 years ago, no controversy would have arisen over the control of many of the gas blocks now disputed.
Against such a background, it is incumbent on the government to clinch a deal in the interest of the nation as soon as possible or the blocks, many apprehend, would be left empty when the neighbours start extracting oil and gas from their blocks in close proximity. If the blocks are dry, there is no point undertaking the venture and the foreign companies will definitely lose their interest in doing the exploration. The earlier their involvement with the task can be ensured, the greater the stake for them. So, the parliamentary standing committee has put forward the right suggestion. In the light of our energy crisis and our limited or non-capacity for offshore oil and gas exploration, we have not many options either.

Therefore, it would be in the fitness of things to press for allaying the fear of those who are opposing the deal, complaining that the gas to be found would be entirely exported. PSCs the world over follow more or less the same rules. If the 50-50 production-sharing contract also has the provision for giving priority to the host country in case of gas sale, it is quite acceptable. More so because in case of any delay, the likely scenario is no gas or oil extraction at all from the blocks. This also means an end to establish any further rights to gas blocks that may be found in the future.







Three American scientists, two of them women, have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine, this year. The trio -- Elizabeth H Blackburn, Carol W Greider and Jack W Szostack -- have been awarded the prestigious award that carries a value of one million Swedish kroners or 1.4 million US dollars - for their pioneering work on telomeres and telomerase that prevent chromosomes from fraying and shortening. It is believed that their research has opened up a totally new area of medical science and may help people to combat many diseases including cancer, AIDS and ageing.

In 1982 Blackburn and Szostak discovered that a unique DNA sequence in the telomeres protects the chromosomes from degrading. In 1984 Greider and Blackburn identified telomerase, the enzyme that makes telomere DNA and prevents chromosomes from shortening and becoming unstable. As telomeres shorten each time, a cell divides and the process contributes to cell ageing. But when the telomerase is very active, the telomere length is maintained - giving the cell eternal youth.    

The research of the three have unravelled the fundamental mystery of life and the telomeres they have identified are the caps on the end of chromosomes, which carry the genetic code that is written in our DNA. When cells divide and replicate, the DNA molecules must be copied. However, during division, the ends of the strands of DNA can degrade. But after what the three scientists have done, it may be easier to stop this process. And the telomeres can be used to increase human life and fight off many diseases, particularly those of a hereditary nature. By awarding them the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, this year, the Nobel Committee has not only recognised their work but also lent its support to this endeavour.







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!" Passenger, "What permit?" Permit checker, Work permit, travel permit, residential permit?" Passenger, "What are you talking about?" Permit checker, "Sir, the state government has decried that you can't reside in this city, or work here unless you have a permit!" Passenger, "Arty!" Permit checker, "Who are you calling, sir?"
Passenger, "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!"

Passenger, "Arty says to leave me alone!" Permit checker, "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!" Passenger, "Sir, my friend, Arty is shaking his head!" Permit checker, "Yes, I can see that, but it's no use, you have to abide by this state decree!" Passenger, "Sir, my friend, Arty is still shaking his head!" Permit checker, "I am not bothered what your friend Arty does, just get back onto the train. You cannot work here or reside here!" Passenger, "Sir, you are making my friend Arty very angry!"

Permit checker, "Please get back on the train!" Passenger, "Sir I beg you not to annoy Arty! Do not touch me!" Permit checker, "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!" Passenger, "Come on Arty let us 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!" Permit checker, "I am hurt, I can hardly walk; Arty is a very rough person!" Passenger, "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...!"









ONLY a year after gaining office, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett wants to shift the focus of the state's Corruption and Crime Commission, formed in 2003, from the public sector and government on to organised crime. Given the commission's record, and the erosion of similar bodies in other states, The Australian agrees with commissioner Len Roberts-Smith QC's argument against any reduction in his organisation's scrutiny of public servants and members of parliament.


Mr Barnett has legitimate concerns about organised crime and motorcycle gangs. But with the CCC's budget set to increase only modestly from $30million to $35m by 2013, it is unlikely to be able to fulfil both roles with the same intensity it has brought to its oversight of the public sector.


WA political history, including WA Inc in the 1980s and the CCC's exposure of the influence of former premier Brian Burke and business partner Julian Grill on the Carpenter government, shows the importance of independent scrutiny. Mr Barnett should understand this after campaigning so strongly at the last election on issues of integrity.


Former premier Alan Carpenter sacked three ministers after the commission exposed their links to Mr Burke and Mr Grill. And in January last year, Australia's highest-paid public servant, the former director-general of WA Health, Neale Fong, resigned his $565,000-a-year job after the CCC found he had lied about the extent of his relationship with Mr Burke.


The Liberal and Nationals parties were major beneficiaries, politically, of the CCC's exposure of the machinations of the WA Labor mates' network. But Mr Barnett's government would not be the first, on winning power, to try to blunt a watchdog's teeth to curb the chances of embarrassing revelations emerging in future.


Mr Barnett says he expects the CCC would still investigate the most serious public sector misconduct allegations. A similar shift has also happened in post-Fitzgerald Queensland. Greater responsibility for public service integrity has been devolved to individual government departments, while the Criminal Misconduct Commission retains responsibility for serious matters. The flaw, however, is that seemingly minor misconduct can be indicative of more serious problems at higher levels. Lack of oversight also erodes the all-important deterrent effect, eventually leading to more lax standards overall as public sector agencies are responsible for investigating themselves.


In WA, the CCC has been criticised for smearing the reputations of people later cleared or never charged. But its conviction rate - 42 convictions from 51 commission-related charges completed - is impressive. Mr Roberts-Smith believes the commission, which has special powers to compel witnesses, tap phones and homes and conduct secret hearings, could make a significant impact in the investigation of organised crime. If it is to do so, its resources must be expanded sufficiently so its oversight of the public sector is maintained.








DESPITE the Reserve Bank's prediction that growth will return to trend next year, there were mixed statistics yesterday. The construction industry expanded for the first time in 19 months in September, but while residential building improved, commercial construction remained weak and apartment development fell for the 20th straight month. A 2.2 per cent fall in home loans in July, followed by a decline in borrowing by first-time buyers in August, shows demand is skittish. These mixed signals pose a problem requiring fine judgment for Wayne Swan. He says he will not starve the economy of the stimulus it still needs by cutting spending programs commissioned in the depths of the global financial crisis. But as conditions improve, it is important that the spending to come funds infrastructure that will contribute to productivity and provide resources that meet real community needs. While the Treasurer says the stimulus is designed to wind down next year, with $18 billion spent or committed between February and June, there is still a great deal of money in the $42bn crisis kitty. The government expects to be still spending about 0.7 per cent of GDP in the second half of next year, when the RBA estimates the economy will be back at trend growth.


The case for pushing ahead with spending on ports, roads and railways is strong. The need for extra transport spending existed long before the global financial crisis and will grow greater as the economy improves. Delays in loading coal for export at Dalrymple Bay in Queensland cost ship owners $500 million a year. And transport ministers warn railways must carry much more freight. Despite this, the stimulus plan allocates only $1.9bn to expanding transport. This contrasts with $800 million for community works and nearly $1bn for domestic solar hot water and ceiling insulation now being spent.


All these programs are dwarfed by $14.7bn for new and improved school facilities, many of which are still on the drawing board. The purpose of some of this enormous amount of money is beyond question. With Australia facing a shortage of scientists and engineers, $1bn for science and language classrooms is important. But as The Australian has reported for months, the need for speed and bureaucratic bullying by the states has imposed projects on schools they neither want nor need, simply to ensure the money is seen to be spent on schedule. While the stimulus program will continue, the original rationale for spending money as quickly as possible is passing. The government understands the need to contain recurrent spending, promising a 2 per cent cap when growth returns to trend. But this does not mean the stimulus package should escape scrutiny. It is time to consider what schools need rather than what they can be given quickly. The issue now is less the quantity as the quality of the stimulus.








NO law can guarantee parents love their children, or even behave decently to them. Most parents do, but when children are endangered, authorities must be proactive in protecting them. It is too early to comment on the committal hearing of Arthur Freeman, the man accused of throwing his daughter, Darcey, off Melbourne's West Gate Bridge on her first day of school in January. But justice was well served when the cruel and irresponsible parents of Ebony, the seven-year-old girl who starved to death at her home in NSW's Hunter region in 2007, were jailed for lengthyterms.


Far from being the end of a shameful saga, however, it appears NSW government agencies still need to put their shambolic house in order. Five agencies failed to protect Ebony, the alias given to the girl by the NSW Supreme Court. NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour reviewed the interactions of workers in community services, education, disabilities, housing and police. Ebony's case, he concluded, "illustrates very clearly what can go wrong for children when agencies fail to work effectively, fail to work together and fail to take shared responsibility for the care and protection of children".


From 1993 onwards, 17 separate reports by concerned neighbours, teachers, doctors and others were lodged with the Department of Community Services about the dysfunctional family. Thirteen of the reports were lodged from 2005 to 2007. Yet during these last two years of Ebony's life, she received no help. Such neglect was unconscionable, especially in light of DOCS's "intensive involvement" with the family between 2001 and 2003.


Several details uncovered by Mr Barbour demonstrated the dangerous incompetence of DOCS. An inadequate summary of Ebony's case made by a work-experience student in July 2007, for instance, meant that from that point onwards, DOCS helpline workers failed to grasp the seriousness of her predicament. Relying on such a summary by a student was inexcusable.


And it beggars belief that DOCS failed to act three months before Ebony's death when the family moved house and the department was tipped off about Ebony's room at her old home being boarded up and the house smelling of excrement. The report was filed as "information only".


Another major weakness highlighted by the report was the failure of evidence presented by DOCS to convince the Children's Court to remove Ebony from her parents. In some cases removal is essential to save children's lives.


As Mr Barbour said on Tuesday, Ebony's was "a particularly significant death and one that galvanised public concern". It must also galvanise authorities to force cultural change within bureaucracies to ensure no other child suffers the same fate.








Recently the Herald has published a series of articles by Linton Besser on Sydney's notorious taxi industry. They suggest residents are as poorly served by taxis as by our other inadequate means of transport.


Here, too, the failure is largely a failure of government: the Department of Transport, over many years and under various names and different governments, has failed dismally in its responsibility to ensure Sydney has a first-rate taxi service.


Following the Herald's articles, this week cabinet approved what at first glance seems like a major reform package. Versions of the package have been in existence for years, and it's tempting to greet its acceptance with relief. But a history of reform failure suggests any such joy will be short-lived, and that in a year it will still be as difficult as ever to get a taxi that arrives when you want it and is driven by someone who can take you to your destination by the shortest route.


The biggest problem with Sydney's taxis is that there aren't enough of them. The latest reform proposes to fix this by providing licences to operate extra taxis, for an annual fee. The key question is how much the licence will cost: if the price is low, there will be lots of takers and we will have reform. If it is too high, there will be little take-up and the reforms will fail, although yet more time will pass before this becomes evident.


Our concern is that the licence fee will be set high, in order not to hurt people already holding licences, which are tradeable and worth almost $400,000 each at the moment. Their owners arguably have a right to see this value protected, or to receive compensation if it is substantially reduced. The problem is that there appears to be no other mechanism for doing this in the reform package, hence our concern that licence fees will be used for this purpose. This could effectively neuter any serious reform, because there would be few operators willing to buy licences if they were too expensive.


This week the Government said it did not yet know how the fee would be calculated, or how many new taxis the reforms might put on our roads. These black holes suggest that for a long time yet it will be business as usual for the small number of people making a lot of money from Sydney's dysfunctional taxi service.







TELSTRA shareholders are being urged to take up their pens and join a letter writing campaign to voice their concern over the Rudd Government's proposal to separate the company's retail and wholesale arms.


The Government has a moral, if not necessarily a legal, responsibility to listen to them. Many are shareholders only because previous governments encouraged them to buy shares in the first place.


A deal must be brokered which gives adequate compensation to Telstra, and by extension its shareholders, for the break-up and use of its infrastructure assets by the new national broadband network.


The Government has a duty to taxpayers to ensure that the cost of its new broadband network is not prohibitive. The whole idea behind separating Telstra's wholesale network, and using it as part of the network, is to unleash competition in the sector and reduce the cost of telephony and internet services for consumers.


The argy-bargy has already begun over how much Telstra will get. According to newspaper reports, Telstra is considering the idea of putting any deal to a shareholder vote at an extraordinary general meeting. Telstra has a responsibility to seek the best deal for its shareholders. The more noise they make, the harder it will be for the Government to ignore them.


Telstra shareholders are no ordinary shareholders. The bulk are individuals, and not as sophisticated in investing as their institutional counterparts.


Letters sent to a Senate inquiry on the proposed separation, released this week, reveal the shareholders' growing anger. They talk of being ''both financially and emotionally'' damaged by the Government's decision. They talk of buying Telstra shares ''in good faith'' and now feeling ''bewildered'' by the ''immoral'' actions of the Government to ''destroy value in my company''. ''As a long-suffering shareholder of Telstra I am amazed at the 'spiteful' way in which this government is attacking shareholders,'' one writes.


In fact, all Australians have a stake in Telstra's future, thanks to the investments made by their superannuation funds or the Government's substantial holding of shares in the Future Fund. But it appears many smaller investors did not digest the warning in successive share offer prospectuses of the ''regulatory risks'' flowing from the communication minister's broad power to impose new conditions on Telstra. ''These regulatory discretions could, in Telstra's opinion, be used with a significant adverse effect on Telstra,'' the T3 prospectus said.


The Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, has the power to force Telstra to separate. This is in the interests of all consumers, but to the detriment of Telstra shareholders.


A balance must be found.








FOR most of Malcolm Turnbull's tenure of the Liberal leadership, he would no doubt have been happy to hear that Peter Costello was about to quit Parliament. He certainly seemed relieved when the former Treasurer announced in June that he would not contest the next federal election.


Mr Costello's announcement yesterday, however, that he intends to resign as member for Higgins when Parliament resumes on October 19, forcing a byelection, must have been less welcome news. With the Coalition in disarray over the emissions trading scheme legislation and sinking in the polls, Mr Turnbull now has two imminent byelections to worry about - the other will be for Brendan Nelson's seat of Bradfield - while the future of his leadership remains in doubt.


It can at least be said that Mr Costello's timing of his departure from Parliament is utterly in character. Having spent most of the years after the Howard government won office in 1996 waiting for the Liberal leadership, and with it the prime ministership, to be handed to him without a contest, he chose to sit on the backbench when the leadership finally became available after the Coalition's defeat in 2007. The role of opposition leader did not appeal. Mr Costello said that he preferred to act as a mentor to younger MPs, and declined to leave Parliament because, he said, he had to fulfil his obligation to the electors of Higgins.


He appeared oblivious to the fact that, in a dispirited party, his mere presence as perennial leader-in-waiting was likely to undermine whoever held the leadership. Or perhaps he was indifferent rather than oblivious: when he informed the House of Representatives in June that he would not contest the next federal election he joked that ''it is just possible that both sides of the dispatch box are happy with the decision I have made''. And now, even the supposed obligation to the people of Higgins appears to have been let slip. Is Mr Costello leaving early because he has a better offer? If so, he should declare it.


The Age several times urged Mr Costello to quit politics entirely if he did not wish to take up the reins that John Howard relinquished on election night two years ago, naming him as his successor.


He should have gone early for the sake of his party, to allow the rebuilding of the credible Opposition that democracy requires. Instead he has chosen to go too late, creating one more headache for the Opposition Leader and thereby further hampering the task of that rebuilding. It is one of the great mysteries of Australian politics that a man whose early career was bright with promise, and who as Treasurer presided over more than a decade of sustained economic growth, should have chosen to leave elected office in a way that will forever cast a shadow over the quality of his judgment.


The legacy that shadow will partly obscure is not limited to the nine surplus budgets Mr Costello introduced as Treasurer, eliminating government debt, nor to the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, and with it the most comprehensive overhaul of taxation since the introduction of the uniform income-tax system in 1942. The most enduring Costello legacy will perhaps stem rather from his championing of the G20 group of leading economies as a forum for dealing with global issues. The status of the G20 has been enhanced enormously by the global financial crisis, which has taken place on another government's watch. In using the G20 as a means of exerting Australian influence, however, the Rudd Government is building on work begun by its predecessor.


That may in itself be a bitter twist for Mr Costello, but a man who has been in Parliament for 20 years will not be surprised by the vicissitudes of fortune in public life. He will also know that his influence will not entirely disappear from the federal parliamentary Liberal Party, even when it no longer includes him. The parlous state of the Coalition may well result in a swing against the Liberals in the forthcoming byelection for Higgins, but it is unlikely that the party will lose this blue-ribbon seat. So Mr Costello can expect to be succeeded by the endorsed Liberal candidate, Kelly O'Dwyer, a protege whose preselection campaign he supported. In his announcement yesterday Mr Costello described Ms O'Dwyer as ''an outstanding candidate'' who ''will be part of the renewal the Liberal Party needs to undertake''. More than a few of his party colleagues, however, will ruefully wish that the renewal were beginning in better circumstances.


Source: The Age








Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize winning novel Wolf Hall brilliantly recreates a Tudor world of power, frustration and betrayal. Sir Richard Dannatt slipped into it yesterday. The good news for Gordon Brown was that his troublesome former army chief was dispatched to the Tower. The bad news was that he was handed the gold master-keys by the Lord Chamberlain. Inaugurated, in London, as the 159th constable of the Tower, he was inaugurated in Manchester, too, as a Conservative adviser, future peer and possible minister.


Faced with such conduct, Henry VIII would have ordered Sir Richard's head to be severed. Mr Brown can only seethe with justified anger. A military commander who, until he retired in August, was privy to every secret and strategic dilemma of the Afghan war has trumpeted his disrespect around broadcast studios and into the pages of the Sun. He may think he is standing up for his former troops in Afghanistan at a time of danger and indecision. Instead, his noisy rebellion is coming close to demeaning the forces. Commanders have a legitimate duty to speak out when they think the military is being misused. They should defend the conditions of servicemen, as Sir Richard has done. But above all they must take every care to ensure that the services remain outside politics, especially when the country is losing a war, six months before a general election.


A partisan military will in the end become a less respected one – and retired commanders making frequent complaints will find their impact diluted by repetition. Former soldiers, sailors and airmen have every right to make their opinions known. Many have served in parliament, and there is no rule determining how long they must wait before joining a government. The former first sea lord, Lord West, was appointed by Mr Brown only a year after leaving the navy. The lack of politicians with military experience may have contributed to the catastrophe of Iraq, and misjudgments in Afghanistan


But this is not the same as a recently retired commander repeatedly confronting the prime minister with whom he served. It is an unequal battle. Sir Richard is telling the truth when he says Mr Brown refused to send 2,000 extra troops to Afghanistan. But Mr Brown can hardly respond in kind, pointing out why it was proper for him to refuse the request. Sir Richard is protected from the fray by the uniform he once wore, but acts like a politician. The general's anger is real, and his case strong, but he is making it badly. No one thinks Mr Brown has dealt with the military well. The fury he faces is partly of his own making. The army has been left waiting too long for confirmation that extra troops are being sent to Afghanistan. In the meantime servicemen are having their tours of duty extended. The prime minister's refusal to admit obvious realities – such as the lack of helicopters – is infuriating and dangerous. Sir Richard has an additional reason to feel aggrieved: Labour's attempt to smear his name by suggesting his expenses were excessive . But it is dismaying that the confrontation has escalated to such a public level. In America, the problem of political generals is also being demonstrated. Yesterday President Obama was forced to defend General Stanley McChrystal for speaking out on troop levels . Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has pleaded for the president to be given "time and privacy" to make his decision. That is wise advice for Britain too.


Sir Richard's warnings on Afghanistan run with the grain of the national mood. No one is asking for him to be gagged, but he should avoid recklessness. He has every right to serve with the Conservatives, if he wants to (the alliance is more than the gimmick described by Chris Grayling yesterday). But by launching such a loud campaign he is politicising and so harming the armed services whose interests he understandably, and honourably wants to defend.






Emerging from two decades of war and displacement, the bronze-age trowels, 11th-century incense burners and fabulously engraved marble blocks on show yesterday in two rooms of Afghanistan's national museum, represent what their greatest chronicler, the US historian Nancy Hatch Dupree, calls the inner strength of the Afghan nation. They have had quite a journey. Looted during the 1990s, spirited abroad, and impounded by customs officials at Heathrow over an 11-day period in 2004, they have had to wait another five years before the museum was deemed secure enough to house them. It still is not safe enough for the Bactrian Gold hoard, a collection of bracelets and jewellery from the first century BC, which were hidden in the presidential palace and managed to evade the attentions of the Taliban during their period in power. None of the pieces on show are part of the museum's original collection. The truth is more prosaic. Most of the items are thought to have been looted, because no one in government paid any attention to their cultural heritage. What matters now is that the display prompts museum curators from around the world to start returning the original pieces. It was once one of the greatest collections of antiquity in the world. Restoring and protecting it should rank high on the list of priorities of western governments. They can not unpack democracy from the ramp of a Chinook. It is in their gift, however, to restore a proud nation's cultural heritage.







Our story today on Royal Mail losing a vital contract with Amazon arrives with a great thud and terrible timing. There is a direct link between Royal Mail losing its second-largest customer, and another event due today – the likely announcement by the Communication Workers' Union of a national strike. That would follow months of regional stoppages which have left Himalayan backlogs in deliveries and a deepening sense that the postal service is undependable.


In an essay last month for the London Review of Books, a postal worker (sporting the splendid pseudonym Roy Mayall) attacked the prevailing assumption that mail volumes were dropping: "Bills and bank statements and official letters still arrive by post; plus there's all the new traffic generated by the internet: books and CDs ... DVDs and games ... clothes and gifts and other items ... bought at any time of the day or night, on a whim, with a credit card." Yet rival delivery companies are wooing away the biggest, most lucrative contracts.


On public display is the ebbing away of the UK's only universal mail-delivery service, a much-loved national institution and a publicly-owned utility to boot. This ought to be top of the political agenda, yet it has been notable by its absence during party-conference season. Peter Mandelson's attempt to flog a stake in Royal Mail failed this summer, which is irksome for David Cameron who would rather not grasp this particular poisoned chalice. Meanwhile, the Royal Mail management continues its long tradition of cutting investment and staff.


This situation cannot hold. Either the government pushes ahead with privatisation (which can probably only be done by the taxpayer shouldering the pension deficit of £9bn or so), or it admits what should have been obvious all along – that the Royal Mail is a public utility that should remain in public hands.


Business secretary Peter Mandelson can argue that he is only riding the deregulatory wave coming from Brussels – although he is doing so with great alacrity and relish. But there is something deeply troubling in a Labour government's persistent, wilful neglect of anything resembling the public realm. Many Royal Mail workers see what they do not just as a job, but as a service. In his LRB essay, the pseudonymous postal worker talked about "Granny Smith" the pet name for customers, "particularly every old lady who lives alone and for whom the mail service is a lifeline". At a recent staff meeting to discuss changes to Royal Mail's practices, a worker asked what this all meant for Granny Smith. "'Granny Smith is not important,' was the reply. 'Granny Smith doesn't matter any more.'"








More than 30,000 suicides have been committed in Japan in each year since 1998. Although the number of suicides in 2008 dropped by 844, or 2.6 percent, from 2007 to 32,249, this year's trend is troubling. From January through August, 22,362 people took their own lives, a rise of 971 or 4.5 percent from the same period of 2008.


This year, the number of suicides in each month through August was greater than in the corresponding months last year. The economic downturn is believed to be fueling this trend. If the current rate continues, the number of suicides in 2009 will approach the most ever recorded in a year, 34,427 in 2003.


The National Police Agency has reached conclusions about contributing factors in 23,490 of the suicides committed last year. The most frequently cited factor was depression (27.6 percent), as in the previous year. A government panel on measures to prevent suicide says that many suicide victims suffer from depression, have developed a dependence on alcohol or have a strong sense of guilt about something.


Prevention and treatment of depression should be the main pillar of countermeasures against suicide. Such factors as loss of employment, business bankruptcy, overwork, divorce and the death of loved ones can trigger depression.


One problem is that most people do not have sufficient knowledge about depression. Efforts should be made to educate ordinary citizens about depression and ways of coping with it. It is also important to train doctors, nurses, teachers, local government workers, counselors and corporate personnel workers to identify signs of depression early on, and ensure sufferers receive proper medical and psychiatric treatment.


Often those who are driven to commit suicide suffer from more than one problem. Therefore, the central and local governments should make a coordinated effort to develop measures that can treat a variety of issues. For their part, companies should strive to create a positive working environment in which employees can feel good about their jobs, and offer support to those who are experiencing difficulties.









The government in principle bans combining medical treatments that are covered by public health insurance with treatments that are not. Patients usually pay 30 percent of medical fees for treatments covered by public insurance. But if they receive different treatments concurrently, they must pay the full amount for all drugs and therapies.


In November 2007, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of a kidney cancer patient who filed a lawsuit against the state after he had to pay the full amount for his treatments — which involved an insured interferon treatment and a noninsured treatment using his own lymphocytes. But the Tokyo High Court on Sept. 29 reversed the earlier decision, thus upholding the ban.


The health ministry and the Japan Medical Association oppose mixed treatment on the grounds that doctors may see it as an opportunity to test new treatments whose safety has not been proven or whose efficacy has not been established; that patients will bear a large financial burden since new treatments tend to be expensive; that inequality will arise in medical services since low-income individuals will not be able to afford these additional expenses; and that the public health insurance system could collapse if many people who want to receive new treatments buy private health insurance policies.


Unfortunately for people who are suffering from potentially fatal diseases, medicines and therapies that are routinely used abroad are often not available in Japan. Before new treatments can be covered by public health insurance, they must undergo clinical tests in Japan and comply with government procedures. The average time between the start of new drug sales abroad and their approval by the Japanese government is four years.


The government should speed up the approval process to increase the availability of new treatments under the public health insurance system. In exceptional cases, the government, under the principles of safety, efficacy and equality, should consider allowing the use of new treatments that are likely to be safe and effective together with treatments covered by public health insurance.








Two policewomen with children work part time. While one is on duty, the other looks after the children of both families. When education authorities learn of this arrangement, they forbid it, as neither policewoman has a certificate allowing her to act as a child minder. Unless they have one, they are committing an offense.


A "lunch lady" at a primary school sees a girl of 7 being tied up and bullied in the playground by other children at the school. She reports the incident to the parents. The lunch lady is dismissed by the school for breach of confidentiality.


These are just two recent incidents that have aroused anger and frustration over bureaucratic rules that are applied without flexibility and common sense. But they are not unique. Because of a few cases of pedophilia and some unfortunate accidents, rules on health and safety have been tightened and extended.


Some of the new rules are probably desirable, but others are silly and unnecessary. For instance, children must not be touched by teachers or carers to forestall development of an undesirable relationship. In theory, therefore, an adult should not hold the hand of a child other than his/her own when crossing the road. On a school outing a parent assisting the teachers should not help a young child go to the toilet unless she/he is the parent of that child.


A teacher may not give a child a reassuring or consoling hug if the child is hurt or upset. The health and safety rules covering excursions and events are often seen as so stringent that they have to be canceled because the cost of insurance against accidents is too onerous for the organizers.


The current British government takes as their watchwords "change" and "reform." Certainly there are many things that might benefit from change and reform, but not everything is awry.


Politicians too often forget the old adage "if it's not broke, don't fix it." They pride themselves on the number of new acts of Parliament they have passed and often seem to believe that the best way to solve a problem is to pass new legislation.


As a result, a large number of new offenses have been "created" by the current British government. Ignorance is no excuse in law, but even some of the authors of new legislation seem unaware of the contents of the laws that they've sponsored.


In a recent case, the attorney general, the chief law officer of the Crown, was found to have employed an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper. She had to pay an administrative penalty of £5,000 because she had not kept a copy of her employee's passport and work permit.


It emerged that while she was a minister in the Home Office, she had been responsible for overseeing the drafting and passage of new legislation that imposed obligations on employers to check the eligibility of their employees to work in the United Kingdom and to retain photocopies of the documents submitted by the employees. She probably forgot about this provision, or she may never have studied the details of the law that she had sponsored.