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Friday, October 9, 2009

EDITORIAL 09.10.09

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month october 09, edition 000319, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. MUDDY WATERS
  2. BLANK CHEQUE FOR PAKISTAN
  3. WORSHIPPING A FALSE GOD - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. BURQA BAN WON'T EMPOWER WOMEN - TRINA JOSHI
  5. LEFT RIGHT FOR CONGRESS - KALYANI SHANKAR
  6. A WAY OUT OF NO WAY - PRAFULL GORADIA
  7. UPHILL STRUGGLE FOR TIBETANS - KHIMI THAPA
  8. EASE THE OPERATIONS OF CAPITAL MARKET - VINAYSHIL GAUTAM

 MAIL TODAY

  1. NOBEL LAUREATE IS OURS TOO, CYNICS BE DAMNED
  2. SHE IS NOT BAGGAGE
  3. GOOD, BUT ALSO LUCKY
  4. WORRY ABOUT MINIMUM NOT MAXIMUM PAY - BY R. SRINIVASAN
  5. NAYSAYERS OF KERRY- LUGAR BILL MISTAKEN - BY NAJAM SETHI
  6. MONI MOHSIN
  7. CVC REVEALS GOVT SHIELDING CORRUPT BABUS - BY AMAN SHARMA IN NEW DELHI
  8. CUSTODY DEATH OF YOUTH IN J& K SPARKS FURY - BY ARJUN SHARMA IN JAMMU
  9. RAISINA TATTLE

 TIMES OF INDIA

  1. CONGRATULATIONS, BUT...
  2. A BETTER FUTURE
  3. AN URBAN LEGEND -
  4. 'WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE CANADIAN TECHNOLOGY LOCALISED'
  5. HAPPY PHALLUS - JUG SURAIYA
  6. THE SOUND OF MUSIC -

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE NEED TO RECAPTURE INDIA
  2. THE BAR'S TOO HIGH
  3. IN DEFICIT TERMS - N. CHANDRA MOHAN
  4. NOT A VOTE FOR CHANGE - SAEED NAQVI
  5. SOFT-PEDALLING AUSTERITY - SUHEL SETH
  6. RED SHADOW IS LENGTHENING - SUDEEP CHAKRAARTI
  7. CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE - EJAZ KAISER IN RAIPUR

 INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. KABUL AGAIN
  2. TOWARDS CLOSURE
  3. BURNING PAPER
  4. THE NOBELITY OF 2009 - DHANANJAYA DENDUKURI
  5. AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION - YOGINDER K. ALAGH
  6. REIGN OF TERROR - RK VIJ
  7. 'I CONDEMN THE BEHEADING... BUT WE HAVE TO SEE IT IN THE BACKGROUND OF STATE VIOLENCE' - VINAY SITAPATI
  8. AT THE MERCY OF THE STATE - T. R. ANDHYARUJINA
  9. THE MADRASA BOARD CONTROVERSY - SEEMA CHISHTI

 FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. DOCTORS, LAWYERS, ACCOUNTANTS
  2. CURRENCY CONUNDRUMS
  3. THIS IS NO TIME FOR RATE HIKE - ILA PATNAIK
  4. BOTTOM OF THE BARREL REGULATION - KAUSHIK RANJAN BANDYOPADHYAY
  5. THOSE CRAZY BOYS IN GREEN - DEEPAK NARAYANAN

 THE HINDU

  1. HOW CELLS MAKE PROTEINS
  2. NO AFGHAN SOLUTIONS FOR NATO
  3. COUNTING THE COSTS OF A VAUNTED DEAL - BRAHMA CHELLANEY
  4. FOCUS ON FOOD FOR THE FUTURE  - JACQUES DIOUF
  5. TIMES ARE TOUGH FOR THE 'TWEET-BEFORE-YOU-THINK' CROWD - LAURA M. HOLSON
  6. BLOGGER MARKS 10-YEAR MILESTONE  - MAGGIE SHIELS
  7.  'IT IS A MISTAKE TO JUDGE SCIENCE BY NOBEL PRIZES' - PRISCILLA JEBARAJ

 THE ASIAN AGE

  1. VENKI'S NOBEL IS TIME TO INTROSPECT
  2. MADRASAS: A TWO-SCHOOL THEORY - BALBIR K. PUNJ
  3. POWER TO CHOOSE - ROBIN SHARMA
  4. TIME FOR INDIA TO WAKE UP TO CHINA - ARUN KUMAR SINGH
  5. UN'S CASTE CHARTER IS A BOON, NOT LIABILITY - NITISH SENGUPTA

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. NOBEL FOR 'VENKY'
  2. SOPS FOR INDUSTRY
  3. IRAN AND N-WEAPONS
  4. PEACE IN NEPAL - BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)
  5. THE CIRCLE OF LIFE - BY ROBIN GUPTA
  6. CONGRESS OUT TO WOO MUSLIMS FOR SUPPORT - BY FARAZ AHMAD
  7. AT THE BECK AND CALL OF POLITICAL MASTERS - BY S.S. DHANOA
  8. RUSSIA'S WAR ON WORDS - BY K. ANTHONY APPIAH

 THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. RIVER LINKING
  2. HIGH DEMAND FOR TEA
  3. POPULATION POLICY AND QUALITY OF LIFE - DR RABINDRA KR CHOUDHURY
  4. PUBLIC HEALTH SCENARIO IN INDIA - DR ALAKANANDA GOSWAMI

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THE CLIMATE CONUNDRUM - MUKUL SANWAL
  2. BONUS FROM RIL: A STRONG SIGNAL FOR THE FUTURE
  3. CHALLENGE FOR SIBAL: CAN INDIANS IN INDIA GET A NOBEL?
  4. RECESSION: ARE WE OUT OF THE WOODS? - MANOJ PANT
  5. ROBIN AND SOME OTHER HOODS - MUKUL SHARMA
  6. VALUATIONS NOT VERY COMPELLING NOW: VIKRAM KOTAK - APURV GUPTA
  7. TIME FOR RETURNS FOR SMES INVESTED IN IT IN SLOWDOWN: RAJEEV MITTAL - PARTHA GHOSH & RAVI TEJA SHARMA

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. VENKI'S NOBEL IS TIME TO INTROSPECT
  2. UN'S CASTE CHARTER IS A BOON, NOT LIABILITY - BY NITISH SENGUPTA
  3. OBAMA'S US WILL WALK WITH THE WORLD, NOT LEAD - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. TIME FOR INDIA TO WAKE UP TO CHINA -  BY ARUN KUMAR SINGH
  5. LET DEATH PENALTY DIE  - BY I.A. REHMAN

 THE STATESMAN

  1. TALIBANESQUE
  2. BELATED, BUT DECISIVE
  3. PECKING ORDER
  4. WEST'S BITTER WAR - SANKAR SEN
  5. NASA DISCOVERS HUGE RING OF ICE ORBITING SATURN - STEVE CONNOR

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SQUARE WHEEL
  2. NO EXCEPTIONS
  3. NOSTALGIA  - ASHOK MITRA
  4. SAME AS BEFORE  - MALVIKA SINGH

 DECCAN HERALD

  1. INDIA ALTERING ITS TACTICS ON CLIMATE DEBATE - BY JIM YARDLEY
  2. A WALKER'S DELIGHT - BY MIRLE KARTHIK

 THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. THE GIRL FROM GEULA

 HAARETZ

  1. SCIENCE, FOR THE SAKE OF THE FUTURE - BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL
  2. IF HE WANTS TO HE CAN - BY YOEL MARCUS
  3. THE MINISTER WHO LITTERED  -  BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  4. ON PATRIOTISM - BY YOSSI SARID
  5. ACADEMIC VISION AND NIGHTMARE - BY DAN BEN-DAVID
  6. THE BEST, AND LAST, OF AN ERA - BY LAURENCE WEINBAUM
  7. FLIRTING WITH THE APOCALYPSE - BY DANIEL SEIDEMANN AND LARA FRIEDMAN
  8. 'AL-AQSA IN DANGER' - BY RACHEL LEVINE
  9. CELEBRATING THE GERMAN MODEL  - BY HAROLD JAMES

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. SINKING WITH MR. RANGEL
  2. ANOTHER KIND OF FORECLOSURE CRISIS
  3. THE LAW AND SILVIO BERLUSCONI
  4. VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
  5. THE UNEDUCATED AMERICAN - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  6. THE BAUCUS CONUNDRUM  - BY DAVID BROOKS
  7. A LIBRARY TO LAST FOREVER - BY SERGEY BRIN

 I.THE NEWS

  1. STORM BREWING?
  2. SANE SUGGESTION
  3. THE POWER OF SONG
  4. FOLLY BEYOND COMPREHENSION - AYAZ AMIR
  5. POLITICS AND THE ARMY - BASIL NABI
  6. SURRENDERED SOVEREIGNTY - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  7. DEEP BREATH, COUNT TO TEN, EXHALE - CHRIS CORK
  8. FALLOUT AND THE WAY FORWARD - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD
  9. SIDE-EFFECT - HARRIS KHALIQUE

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NOW REJECT HUMILIATING KERRY-LUGAR BAIT
  2. ANOTHER BODY BAG TO COME FROM INDIA
  3. OBAMA'S AFGHAN DILEMMA
  4. CONCILIATION, NOT CONFLICT: KING ABDULLAH'S VISION - M D NALAPAT
  5. IAF DEPLOYS FIGHTERS NEAR PAK BORDER - SULTAN M HALI
  6. ON ISLAM AND JEHAD - DR FARIDA KHANAM
  7. A SORRY SAGA OF SINDH! - HASHIM ABRO
  8. FIGHTING IN THE AIR..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 THE INDEPENDENT

  1. MIGHTY LANDGRABBERS
  2. BITTER SUGAR
  3. FUZZY, FUDDLED FRENCH…!

 THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. TURNBULL HAS TASK TO GET BACK ON TRACK
  2. CONFIDENCE SURGES
  3. JUST THE BILL FOR LAWYERS

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. CRACKS IN THE COALITION
  2. REALITY DAWNS ON HEALTH REFORM
  3. A DECISION THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE MUCH EARLIER

 THE GURDIAN

  1. DAVID CAMERON IN MANCHESTER: THE STATE WE COULD BE IN
  2. SILVIO BERLUSCONI: FACING JUSTICE AT LAST
  3. IN PRAISE OF… CANCELLING KINGSNORTH

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. IRAN OPENS DOOR TO INSPECTIONS
  2. BUDGET AND ECONOMIC REALITY

 THE KOREA HERALD

  1. KING'S STATUE
  2. HATOYAMA'S VISIT
  3. FINDING TIME FOR REFLECTION IMPORTANT - M.K. THOMPSO

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. DEMOCRATS TAKE THE LEAD IN DELIVERING DEMOCRACY - HS DILLON AND SR TABOR
  2. INCREDIBLE FOREIGN HELP
  3. INDONESIA'S FIRST-100-DAY SYNDROME (PART 1 OF 2) - SATISH MISHRA
  4. GEARING UP FOR `THREE-BLOCK WAR' - EVAN A. LAKSMANA

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

MUDDY WATERS

DOWN SOUTH, POLITICS DROWNS FLOODS


It is an unfortunate reality that in India even a natural disaster can and often has been politicised. In recent days, devastating floods have hit the neighbouring States of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. As the Chief Minister in Bangalore, Mr BS Yeddyurappa, has complained that while Union Government assistance to Andhra Pradesh has already crossed Rs 150 crore, that for Karnataka is a mere Rs 52.26 crore. It is possible that special funding mechanisms may be devised in the coming weeks and amends made, but the portents do not look good. The Centre's keenness to help Andhra Pradesh — a State that has recently re-elected the Congress to power — can only be contrasted with its "step-motherly" treatment, to borrow Mr Yeddyurappa's phrase, towards Karnataka, which is ruled by the BJP. Such behaviour, unfortunately, is not atypical. In 2008, after the cataclysmic Kosi floods ravaged Bihar, the Nitish Kumar Government was similarly disappointed at the level of Central assistance. In one case, a sum of money that had been advanced was sought to be taken back, and this was communicated to the Government in Patna just hours after polling ended in Bihar for the Lok Sabha elections of 2009. The resultant controversy proved severely embarrassing for the Congress and finally the Prime Minister had to step in and mollify an upset Mr Kumar. Given this backdrop, if a perception gains ground that the UPA Government is niggardly in helping NDA or Opposition party ruled States but is happy to open its coffers for Congress Governments, it will be profoundly disquieting. In the past decade and a half India's polity has became strongly federalised. In some cases — such as the United Front interregnum of 1996-98 — this has come at the cost of stability in New Delhi, but overall the process has empowered State Governments and transferred enormous autonomy to them. It would be undesirable if the Congress reversed this trend, and viewed its 200 plus seat performance in the general election as licence to return to the old, domineering ways. Certainly, in time of crises and calamities, such petty calculations are not expected of a Government led by a technocratic individual whose appeal is that he is above the fray.


While not quite related, the war of words between regional politicians on the flood situation has not been decorous either. Senior members of the Andhra Pradesh Government have openly blamed Karnataka for the floods. There is an intra-State element to the dispute as well. The irrepressible Mr K Chandrasekhar Rao, chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, has attacked the Congress Government for the deluge, claiming it was a result of pushing ahead with construction related to the Srisailam reservoir and so disrupting the ecological balance. The Srisailam reservoir is part of the Telugu Ganga Project, designed to augment water supply to Chennai city by interlinking canals and water bodies. Its essential principle — interlinking water bodies — has recently been questioned by Mr Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary, and by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, albeit in another context. Perhaps this has given Mr Rao a handle. It is nobody's case that such charges should not be made or investigated. However, decency demands delay. In the immediate aftermath of a calamity of this magnitude, when millions are rendered homeless and even National Highways are under water, could the political class, in the capital and in the States, please behave itself?

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

BLANK CHEQUE FOR PAKISTAN

AMERICA KEEPS PAMPERING ISLAMABAD


It is absolutely shocking that the Obama Administration, in spite of all its talk of evolving a new, inclusive strategy to deal with Pakistan, has decided to dole out more American dollars to Islamabad without any strings attached. The US Congress legislation that was passed last week will see Pakistan receive civilian aid worth $ 7.5 billion over a period of five years along with military aid of an unspecified amount. The aid package is ostensibly meant for democratic, economic and social development programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and diminishing the allure of Islamist groups among Pakistani youth. Had the Obama Administration really been serious about effecting a qualitative change in its approach towards Pakistan, this aid package represented a golden opportunity. But by clarifying that the aid was unconditional and, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry put it, a "real sign of friendship of the American people towards the people of Pakistan," the US has squandered away what could have been a key policy initiative. For all practical purpose what the aid package now boils down to is a blank cheque without any conditions or accountability. Islamabad can literally do whatever it feels like with the money and what policy-makers in Washington, DC, are saying is that they are fine with it.


Needless to say this is a perfect recipe for disaster. That Islamabad has been diverting American aid — civilian and military — to finance terrorism and arm itself against India is no secret. Neither can the argument be made that the US is unaware of this reality. When you have a former Pakistani President openly admit in a television interview that he had used American aid meant for fighting terrorism to strengthen his country's conventional military prowess vis-à-vis India, one would think that it would be adequate proof of Pakistan's nefarious designs. Yet the Obama Administration would like the world to believe that Pakistan can be reformed through nothing more than good old fashion TLC. The truth is Washington's latest unthinking policy initiative is symptomatic of the fact that President Obama and his team have painted themselves into a corner on their much-touted AfPak policy. With elections in Afghanistan not going according to plan and a Taliban that simply won't go away — as the recent bombing of the UN World Food Program office in Islamabad showed — the US feels obliged to keep Pakistan in good humour. So when Pakistani politicians made a hue and cry about the new US aid package seeking to subvert the sovereignty of their Government, the Obama Administration hurriedly made a slew of clarifications to reassure them that this wasn't the case. Unless and until Washington, DC, realises it is time that it adopts the carrot-and-stick policy for Pakistan, it cannot hope to reverse the surge in terrorism emanating from that country. Meanwhile, the world should brace for more terror attacks.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

WORSHIPPING A FALSE GOD

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


West Bengal's attempt to round up non-activist middle class supporters of the Maoist insurgency takes Mr P Chidambaram's decision to 'cleanse' affected areas a step farther. But as Mr Mahendra Kumawat, who retired last month as the Border Security Force's Director-General, warned recently, the "crackdown-first, development later" strategy will not yield results. The phenomenon of Mr Kobad Ghandy, who was remanded in police custody this week, is a reminder that both must be tried in tandem.


The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act alone cannot exorcise the phenomenon of the 58-year-old Parsi who symbolises the universal tradition (especially strong in India) of upper class idealists rejecting their own kind to join mass movements. The legends of service and sacrifice that marked the swarajist cause are responsible for today's obsession with austerity. Krishna Hutheesingh described how Motilal Nehru bequeathed Anand Bhavan to the nation and packed away their precious Dresden and Sevres when he joined politics.


Dr Jack Preger, the British doctor who devotes his time to caring for Calcutta's poor, told me that he repeatedly defied visa regulations only to go to jail. Citing Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, he claimed no one had achieved anything in India without being imprisoned. It was axiomatic that anyone who wanted to serve people had to give up comforts, live rough and court danger.


Some might think it sacrilegious to mention Gandhi in the same breath as Mr Ghandy but despite the latter's Anglicised spelling (which Feroze Gandhi also affected until he married Indira Nehru) it's the same name. The Mahatma's scanty attire and lifestyle would have passed unnoticed if he had been born to them and never known better. They were acclaimed because he abandoned his turban and smart three-piece suits to adopt them. Indians adored the notion of the son of the dewan of a princely state, a British-trained barrister-at-law and member of the Inner Temple in London, calling himself "a farmer and weaver".


Mr Ghandy's family, too, boasted antique furniture in Worli Sea Face and an ice cream factory and resort in Mahabaleshwar. His wife Anuradha, a teacher who died earlier this year, is said to have belonged to a Konkani coffee plantation family. Mr Ghandy himself is an old boy of Doon School, Mumbai's Elphinstone College and, apparently, some institution in London, all of which replicates an established pattern.


Rarely in history does a proletarian leader emerge from the ranks of the proletariat. Sri Aurobindo and Subhas Chandra Bose spurned the ICS. Indrajit Gupta preferred trade unions to encashing his Cambridge Tripos. Svetlana Alliluyeva's Communist husband, Brajesh Singh, was Raja of Kalakankar. Mr Kanu Sanyal of Naxalbari notoriety is of sturdy middle class stock. So is Dr Binayak Sen, now imprisoned in Chhattisgarh. Ms Brinda Karat's birth could not be farther removed from hoi-polloi.


This is not to support the methods Mr Ghandy reportedly espoused. As one of the 13 members of the CPI (Maoist) Polit Bureau, he must be held partly responsible for the massacres (as in Bihar's Khagaria district) that have turned India's so-called Red Corridor, stretching from the Nepal border to Kerala, truly red. If he also heads the party's publication division and sub-committee on mass organisations, as the police claim, he is in charge of that most dangerous of revolutionary tools — propaganda.


The Naxalite-Maoist's second-hand tenets of class warfare, dreams of igniting prairie fires, mobilising the countryside to encircle the cities and creating 'liberated zones' were never realisable in India. But the upsurge exposed social and economic abuses, first in Naxalbari and then in Bihar, that deserved far more serious attention even without India's great power aspirations. The land dispute behind the Khagaria violence underlines Mr Kumawat's warning that "development must go hand in hand with the fight against Naxalites" because "deprived people in the heartland cannot be expected to wait on their misery until the government is done with its long-haul campaigns."


Bihar's Government raised the Naxalite alarm in Arrah district in the mid-seventies. But going there, I found no trace of ideological commitment among Musahar villagers whose only food was sharing the hoards of grain that field mice had secreted and whom landlords did not pay even the minimum statutory wages. I also found prosperous Yadav village leaders demanding that the "forward castes" (a new term for me) should be entitled to own firearms and raise militias.


The law must take its course, despite organisations like the People's Union for Democratic Rights, the Committee For The Release of Political Prisoners and the People's Committee against Police Atrocities. But, tragically, the law itself is often illegally enforced in India. Leftist organisations are not alone in being sceptical about the number of political activists said to be killed either in custody or trying to escape. There are accusations that Mr Ghandy was arrested three days before the date the authorities give, tortured during that period of illegal custody and denied the life-saving medicines he needs. The police allegedly passing itself off as the media is a relatively minor transgression and may even indicate surprising ingenuity.


Many among the starry-eyed upper middle class youths from Calcutta's Presidency College and St Stephens in Delhi who became Naxalites in the sixties later abjured their faith. Many rose to the top of the corporate, administrative or academic worlds. Abroad, Mr Daniel Cohn-Bendit, infamous as Danny the Red, hero of the Paris barricades, is now a respected Green politician. Mr Ghandy is not among these turncoats. He cannot be compared to the ageing hippie who dared not emerge from his room because the world of Flower Power had changed beyond recognition. Nor is he like the six European writers who famously wore the sackcloth and ashes of ideological repentance in The God that Failed. The god he worshipped may have turned out to be false but apparently his faith remains undiminished.


There are reports of the Centre planning a major operation against Maoists in November after the elections in Maharashtra and Haryana when 200 companies of paramilitary forces will be released from poll duty. Several senior Maoist Polit Bureau members are the targets. The effort deserves to succeed but it will not unless it is carried out within the law and is accompanied by a serious attempt to rectify the rural abuses that gave rise to the insurgency in the first place.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BURQA BAN WON'T EMPOWER WOMEN

TRINA JOSHI


One would only agree with the objection to wearing a burqa that symbolises subservience and abasement. Amid cultural churning across the globe and a discourse on women liberation, the objection to the Muslim veil is timely. While in India certain colleges have outlawed the burqa, there is also objection to girls sporting western outfits. But along with raising objections to women's clothes, it is also time to question why their outfits come under the scanner time and again.


Recently, the principal of Vani College in Hyderabad allegedly banned the entry of girl-students dressed in burqas. A first year degree student in Mangalore faced a similar ban for wearing a head scarf to college. Some colleges in Uttar Pradesh tried to ban even western outfits for women on campus, but the decision was overruled by the State Government later.


Internationally, a city council in Belgium criminalised wearing burqa and the niqab in 2004. In June this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed to ban the veil for being an attack on the freedom and dignity of women. He contented that burqa-clad women were "prisoners behind a grill, cut off from all social life, deprived of any identity". In Sudan last month, a native woman was spared lashes but fined for wearing trousers at a party.


A veil may be a throwback to an archaic order. Against this background, Mr Sarkozy has rightly condemned the burqa for keeping women captive. But the women in bikinis are as much captive to the pressures of the global fashion industry. None is free! And if there is objection to Indian women wearing jeans, as it symbolises western culture, so it must be for men who have buried the traditional dhoti-kurta culture of India.


To say that a ban on the burqa will empower women is to take a very narrow view of the whole discourse on gender justice. Empowerment is a feeling that has to come from within. No one can empower women externally unless they feel empowered from within. Empowerment in real terms is possible only when girls are able to speak their mind with respect to their stand on the burqa.


The bottom line is that it must be left up to women to decide what they want to wear. Mrs Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto usually had their heads covered and yet wielded tremendous power. This explains that clothing does not hinder freedom; it is the mindset of a society that restricts the freedom of a woman. Women need empowerment not in terms of what they wear, but in terms of the freedom to make a choice about what they want to wear.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LEFT RIGHT FOR CONGRESS

THE CONGRESS GAMBLED IN TAKING THE LEFT'S SUPPORT IN THE SILIGURI MUNICIPAL BODY. THE PARTY IS WORRIED THAT THE 'MAMATA WAVE' MAY DAMAGE ITS PROSPECTS IN WEST BENGAL BUT IT ALSO WANTS TO SEND A SIGNAL THAT THE CONGRESS HAS NOT CLOSED ITS DOORS TO THE LEFT

KALYANI SHANKAR


Why should one raise an eyebrow at the recent dramatic turn of the Left supporting the Congress candidate for the post of mayor in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation? The Congress-Trinamool Congress break up only further justifies the hearsay that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. It is however surprising that the barely five-month-old alliance is showing signs of cracking so early when it was expected by political analysts to last at least til the 2011 Assembly elections in West Bengal!


One might ask why a mayor election is being seen as making or braking of an alliance. The answer to this lies in the fact that this election has come as a jolt to the fragile alliance, if not as a tremor. The ruling Left Front in the State has successfully caused a dent in the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance by helping the Congress candidate while the Trinamool Congress also staked claim for the same mayor post.


What led to such state of affairs? First of all, things were not hunky-dory as suspicion and distrust prevailed right from the beginning itself. As a senior partner of the combine in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress asserted its say in seat-sharing and all local issues, which was not palatable to the Congress Party. Even after the 2009 Lok Sabha election results proved that the alliance was a winner, the rumblings did not stop.

True, there was no problem between the two parties at the time of Government formation at the Centre as Ms Mamata Banerjee did not put pressure on the Congress by demanding certain Cabinet portfolios unlike other constituents of the UPA. But the trouble started soon when Ms Banerjee started doling out bonanzas to West Bengal as the Minister for Railways. She set up her camp office in Kolkata and began functioning from there. She did not bother to attend Cabinet meetings nor did she support some of the Government policies. For instance, she objected to the Land Reforms Bill and disinvestment proposals brought by the UPA Government. The Congress leadership yielded to her demands reluctantly out of political compulsion.


The crack became wider and apparent when the Congress claimed at least one of the Sealdah and Bowbazar seats by-elections to which were held on August 18, but Ms Banerjee got both the seats. Local Congress leaders are said to be wary of her style of functioning and claim that her temperament and tantrums make it difficult to deal with her party. The Congress is also worried about her growing political clout and is afraid that along with the Marxists the Congress may also get washed away in the 'Mamata wave' if she is not checked.

The Siliguri municipal election should be seen in this light as the Congress is unable to reconcile to the status of a junior partner.


So what options does the Congress have? By taking the support of the Left in Siliguri the Congress has sent a signal to the Trinamool Congress chief that if she has 19 MPs, the Left has 24 and the Congress can still do business with the Left and dump the Trinamool Congress.


It is beyond doubt that Ms Banerjee is on cloud nine after a streak of wins and support for her party is growing in the State. However, she will not take a minute to give up the Cabinet post if she is provoked. She quit the Narasimha Rao Cabinet and during the NDA rule she was in and out the Government at her will. Ms Banerjee has to make up her mind about what she wants and how well she can manage her moves in the run up to the 2011 State Assembly elections instead of taking impulsive decisions. She should also visualise the fallout of the Siliguri election that has provided possibility for a Congress-Left rapprochement. It has also signalled a reversal of Mr Prakash Karat's hardline policy of a complete breakdown in Congress-Communist understanding. Could this be a beginning of a new relationship for the Congress with the Left parties? Could they again come together despite their fundamental differences in their approach to economic and foreign policies?


It is too early to predict the Congress-Trinamool Congress divorce as both the parties are well aware of the mood for change in West Bengal. Both realise that together they can trounce the Left and Siliguri mayor election is a continuation of the anti-Left disenchantment that started rolling with the 2008 panchayat elections and may gather momentum during the civic polls in Kolkata and other districts. Secondly, all is not well in the CPI(M). Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is still sulking after being blamed for the poll debacle and has been avoiding the Polit Bureau meetings. There is also doubt about the prospects of his leading the CPI(M) in 2011 Assembly elections. The Left has been facing large-scale desertions from its ranks after this year's Lok Sabha defeat.

 

As for the Congress, the party pretends that the Siliguri mayor election was a local affair but it is obvious that the Left's support would not have come without taking in confidence party leaders in New Delhi. It remains to be seen whether the gamble played by the Congress pays off any dividend.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A WAY OUT OF NO WAY

POPULATION EXCHANGE MAY BE AN ANSWER TO KASHMIR ISSUE

PRAFULL GORADIA


Hardly a single segment of opinion supports the Government of India on the core 'issue' of Kashmir. Few Muslims in India, the Islamic countries, other countries of world or even Hindus agree with the Government of India. Any occasion is an opportunity for Islamabad to assert that the turbulence in Kashmir is part of the struggle for self-determination. Last week Pakistani President Yousuf Raza Gilani reiterated in Gilgit that peace cannot be established in this region until India resolves the Kashmir 'issue'. About the same time, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi told the UN General Assembly that Kashmir should be an independent state. Many more people in the world believe the Pakistani contention rather than the claim of New Delhi. For the world at large, Pakistan is Muslim and India is Hindu. The demand for partition was for a Muslim homeland.


The votaries of self-determination, human rights et al empathise with the view of India being unfair; holding back a people who do not wish to stay in India. Members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference side with Islamabad, no matter what the Indian Government has consistently contended. For the people of Pakistan the Kashmir dispute is restated by their Government, as it were, at every breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah touted Pakistan as the creation of a Muslim homeland. Yet neither he nor his successors gave a right-of-return to the Muslims of the sub-continent. Even the mohajirs who settled there in the early months of partition were unwelcome and in fact are resented even today. Contrast this attitude with the Israeli policy which continues to welcome any Jew from anywhere in the world. So much for the Pakistani stand, however hypocritical, and its surprising success in moulding public opinion.


It is difficult to come across Muslims in India who do not have sympathy for Kashmiri separatism. There are some who say in private that the Valley should be allowed to separate. In public they plead for autonomy. But they have no answer to whether the large subsidies given to Jammu & Kashmir should be stopped? They want two pradhans (premiers) and two samvidhans (constitutions) but only one taxation to be paid by the rest of the Indians, primarily Hindus. Autonomy supported by charity is an amazing feat of political logic. India has never exposed this home truth — obviously for reasons of minority appeasement.


The Independence of India Act passed by the British Parliament in 1947 gave the ruling prince of a state the exclusive privilege to choose which dominion, India or Pakistan, he would like to join. It did not envisage independence for any state. Technically, therefore, the Nizam of Hyderabad could have joined Pakistan but he wanted to be independent. It is true that the choice exercised to join Pakistan by the Nawab of Junagarh was countermanded by the local Arzee Hukumat whose volunteers rushed into the state and chased away the prince. The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir joined India and the Indian Army was used to vindicate his choice. It is, however, often overlooked that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh taken together were not as dominantly Muslim unlike Hyderabad and Junagarh which were predominantly Hindu.


Contrasted against the Pakistan's stand, India's articulation has been feeble. Jawaharlal Nehru and his Muslim bias confined India's stand to technicalities. That the accession by the Maharaja was legitimate. That no plebiscite could be held because Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops from the part of Kashmir it had occupied. With the advent of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the Ayub regime in 1965 attacked India with the intent to wrest Kashmir by force. A somewhat similar attempt was made in 1971 by Pakistan President Yahya Khan.


Phase III began about 1989 when terrorism was resorted to and agitation in the name of Nizam-e-Mustafa was instigated. The Kargil war was launched to boost the efforts of the terrorists and the Valley leaders who clamoured for azadi. All in all, Islamabad has been bold and blunt about its intentions. New Delhi, on the other hand, has consistently hedged the truth to the extent that many young Indians today do not know that their country was divided in response to a religious demand. Satyamev Jayate has been in name; in fact all our Governments have been scared of touching Muslim sensitivities. Calling spade a spade is overdue. Tell the world that if any Muslims wish to secede, let all the Muslims of India travel with them. The Kashmiris can have their way provided the unfinished agenda of Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah is consummated concurrently. Most Muslim League leaders wanted an exchange of populations.

 

According to their repeated statements in the Dawn in 1946, a journal founded by Jinnah and published at that time from Delhi, they wanted all Muslims to gather in their homeland. Reciprocally, they wanted all non-Muslims to come away to Hindustan. If the Muslims so wish to consummate this agenda, be it so. Let the Government of India have the courage to say so forthrightly. Let the Kashmir problem end one way or the other. All or none!

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UPHILL STRUGGLE FOR TIBETANS

BRAVING FROSTBITE AND HUNGER, TIBETAN REFUGEES IN MCLEODGANJ, WHO CAME TO INDIA FOR QUALITY EDUCATION AND A BETTER LIFE, STRIVE HARD TO MAINTAIN THEIR TIBETAN IDENTITY

KHIMI THAPA


She risked crossing the Himalayas to reach India from Tibet only to give birth to her child in India so that he receives Tibetan education and cultural and social upbringing in schools run by the Government in exile with no hope of seeing him again.


Hers is not the only story. The very aspiration of seeing their children learn Tibetan culture and language compels several Tibetans to take the risk of sending their children to India.

Tibetans, including teenage girls, I met at the Tibetan Reception Centre in McLeodganj, had travelled on foot over high mountains and dangerous terrains, without any food for several days. Braving frostbite and hunger, Tibetans who came for quality education and better life refuse to go back until Tibet is free.


More than 2,000 children, some as young as six months, live and study at the Tibetan Children's Village, a residential school, set up by Tsering Dolma, the elder sister of the 14th Dalai Lama, in Dharamshala.


The fact that the Tibetan community in exile has 87 schools all over India with an enrolment of 30,000 students is indicative of the restrictions that Tibetan children face in Tibet with respect to their education. Pre-1959 independent Tibet which was home to 6,000 monasteries and nunneries that served as centres of literacy, now has only 58 middle-level schools (in Tibet Autonomous Region).


A plausible indicator of the abysmal state of education that the Tibetan community has to put up with is China's fourth national census of 1990, according to which only 0.29 per cent of Tibetans had a college-level education, 1.23 per cent senior-middle level schooling, 2.47 per cent junior-middle schooling and 18.52 per cent primary school education.


Tibetans' access to education in China is limited: First, because the medium of instruction is the Chinese language, and second, education is very expensive.


"Undermining our culture and identity, the Communist Government is teaching what it wants to. Chinese-dominated education system and the massive influx of Chinese immigrants to Tibet are the ways to adulterate Tibetan culture. Unequal access to education and job opportunity has compelled Tibetan parents to send their children to India where they are culturally educated and raised as Tibetans," says Thupten Dorjee, general secretary, Tibetan Children's School.


"Many places are reserved for Chinese settlers as a part of the incentive package to encourage more Chinese to move into Tibet", he adds.


Devoted to imparting education that helps preserve culture and lets children function in the modern world, the Tibetan Children's Village school has Tibetan as the language of instruction till class V and after that students switch over to the CBSE pattern.


For a community in exile, education is not limited to academic knowledge and therefore, preserving language, literature and art becomes all the more important. Striking a balance between exposure to new cultural influences and preserving the ancient art, the Norbulingka Institute of Preserving Art, sited in a scenic valley, provides training, education and employment to the next generation of Tibetans in traditional arts like Thangka painting (scroll painting), appliqué Thangka, sculpture and wood work. Set up amid lush green gardens, the institute ensures sustainable livelihood for its students by exhibiting their work for sale.


I wondered how Tibetan children, especially those who are born in India, are extremely passionate about a country they have never seen. On that note, Mr Dorjee says, "Modern education and nationalism go parallel. These children are geared towards nationalism and faith in his holiness the Dalai Lama. They are raised as Tibetans, thus, confronting complexity of identity crisis is out of question. They know they are Tibetans."


Such unwearied manifestation of perseverance that sustains Tibetan identity merits commendation. Since the third generation of Tibetans in exile is equipped with traditional and modern education, time has come for China to do some thinking as its social progress cannot be envisaged without addressing the aspirations of its peoples whether in the country or in exile.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

EASE THE OPERATIONS OF CAPITAL MARKET

CLARITY IS REQUIRED BETWEEN PRINCIPLE-BASED AND RULE-BASED REGULATIONS

VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


Over the years, the role of private equity has acquired status and stature in India. Like hedge funds, a significant point, however, is to note that for the first time since 2002, private equity investment activity was reduced in India during the meltdown.


There are other certain aspects too which need to be appreciated.


The argument that since Indian companies did not have major investments in the US sub-prime mortgages, the US developments did not affect India, too much — is like many truths, a partial presentation of reality. The core of the matter is that decline in US investors confidence spread to other countries. Writing, as I do, these lines from Penang, it is important for me to mention that South-East Asia was particularly prone to being affected by this infectious 'lack of confidence' virus. Even so the South-East Asia case is a slightly different one for two reasons.

First, the conglomerate of South-East Asia is a variegated one essentially because there is very little in common, save geography, among several countries, say between, Singapore, Laos and Indonesia. Hence there is a case in South-East Asia, to look very carefully at the use of geography to understand economics. To that extent, India is far more homogenous in terms of economic philosophy. The second perspective which affects South-East Asia but not India so much is a fact that in Singapore there are headquarters of many multinational companies. They are encouraged by the philosophy of the Government there, to structure its corporate laws in a manner in which the multinational institutions get drawn to operate from Singapore. This, situation, politically and economically does not necessarily make them companies of South-East Asia. Indeed like India, many South-East Asian companies were also not investors in the US sub-prime mortgages.


This highlights the need to factor in consequences of regional economic variations.


In India, the nature of the capital market ensures that many sectors come out in favour of operating in the capital market proposition. In this insurance would certainly be one. India's great strength should be its stock market which has made its presence felt in the global arena. NIFTY index is being traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange and Sensex futures are being traded at Chicago! This indeed could be a source of drawing foreign funds in the Indian capital market.


Some would recall that the Standard Chartered was the first Bank to issue indent depository receipts. Subsequently other players followed them. The bald truth is that the case for the integration of National Stock Exchanges for better mobilisation of investors' wealth is still to be worked out with clarity. Similarly, a position needs to be taken on establishing SME exchanges for small and medium enterprises which are not able to go to the National Stock Exchanges in the country. Personally I think this is a route worth adopting. Indeed investment itself requires long-term perspective and for that a diversification process of capital market institution would be desirable.


There is always a reason for things to be what they are. The question is of trying to understand whether the reason which causes things to be what they are, are worth supporting or do they need changing. The FCA had a rule book which had well over 8,500 pages. This was because they had to cover insurance, capital market and related issues. The numbers got so large that they started moving over to principle-based regulations where various things were defined. The crisis at the beginning of this year changed all that and the propensity is now to change rule-based regulation into principle-based regulation. Many capital market of the West, London, for example, seem to be prone towards principle-based regulation.


In India, there is comfort with the regulator giving the detailed rules on even how to peel an orange! The rules provide comfort because it protects people in the system. If something goes wrong, it is difficult to find scapegoats unless he had moved out of that framework. But it stifles innovation and reduces flexibility.


For a resolution of the debate, in operational terms, between principles-based regulation and rule-based regulation, clarity of thought is required in a manner which makes sense, in the context of operations.


The fundamentals need to be sorted, out through a clear headed discussion and though the powers that be, following an internally consistent approach.


 gautamvinay@hotmail.com


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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

NOBEL LAUREATE IS OURS TOO, CYNICS BE DAMNED

 

THE debate around Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry is that he is an American citizen, and therefore we should not take ownership of his " Indianness". The sceptics do have a point; after all, Dr Venkatraman did leave India after he graduated from Baroda to study in the United States and decided to stay there along with his family.

 

In the US, members of ethnic minority communities — even if they have full American citizenship — are not referred to as Americans. Instead, they are Hispanics, Greek Americans, Chinese Americans, Indian Americans and suchlike. People tend to stay true to their origins even as they go about their life in a foreign land with a foreign passport. Migrants everywhere, especially those of the first generation, have multiple identities which are not always related to the passports they hold.

 

Therefore, to say that Dr Venkatraman is an Indian is not to forcibly appropriate his work and his new- found celebrity; instead it is simply a way of partaking in the joy of his achievement. In a nation terribly short of heroes in science, Dr Venkatraman's work on the extremely complex subject of ribosomes would be an inspiration for young students and scientists alike.

 

It would also, hopefully, spur Indian institutions — both government and private — to foster groundbreaking research by supporting scientific talent to stay back in the country by giving them financial and infrastructural incentives.

 

In that sense, Dr Venkatraman's work and achievement does not just have scientific significance, but it could also prove to be a catalyst in changing our socio- cultural approach to fundamental research.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

SHE IS NOT BAGGAGE

 

A UNICEF report on child protection has lent statistical credibility to what is common knowledge: that child marriages are very much the order of the day in 21st century India despite the legal provisions that prohibit the practice. We have a shocking 21.8 million girls being married off before the age of 18, accounting for one- third of the child brides in the world.

 

Why this socially retrograde practice needs to be checked needs no iteration.

 

Marrying off a girl before she has attained majority is a gross violation of her rights as a child, besides being a serious health concern.

 

It robs her of her childhood, deprives her of education and thrusts her into a world of responsibility that she is neither physically nor mentally in a position to handle. The practice stems from an age- old prejudice of the girl child being baggage that must be shed at the earliest — reflected in the yawning gap of more than 20 percentage points between the literacy rate for males and females in India.

 

It is a part of the larger milieu of discrimination against women which begins with female infanticide and ends with violence and abuse in the marital home. The latter is obviously made easier when the bride is young and immature. Again, there is the serious health hazard of becoming a mother at a tender age, which is also one of the factors responsible for the high number of neonatal deaths in India. This state of affairs cannot be changed with penal provisions alone. The authorities must take up awareness programmes to check this crime perpetrated in the garb of social practice.

 

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MAIL TODAY

CPMMENT

GOOD, BUT ALSO LUCKY

 

GIVEN the imponderables of war, Napoleon is believed to have sought out lucky generals, rather than competent ones. Cricket, of course, is better known to be a game of chance. That is why the Indian team's laurels are resting on the luck of the captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He was the right man at the right place when Rahul Dravid faltered and was thus propelled to the top slot in the short space of just a couple of years of being selected for the ODI team.

 

His combination of good looks, coolness and luck have now propelled him to edge out the much greater cricketing icon, Sachin Tendulkar from the top slot in celebrity rankings. Remarkably, Dhoni has also bested Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Amitabh Bachchan. The rankings are a good indication of the endorsements that can be expected to come his way. Captain cool is already a rich man, he is likely to get much richer.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

WORRY ABOUT MINIMUM NOT MAXIMUM PAY

BY R. SRINIVASAN

 

THE UNION minister f corporate affairs Salman Khurshid has launched a high- profile and high- decibel onslaught on the ' vulgar' salaries paid to Indian CEOs.

 

In the process, he has got hold of entirely the wrong end of the stick. The real problem in India relating to remuneration does not concern the wages — vulgar or otherwise — paid at the top. They lie at the opposite end of the scale — at the bottom.

 

A few kilometres outside Lutyens' Delhi, and hidden behind the glittering façade of malls and new- age apartment blocks, lies a vast industrial sprawl, which even today accounts for most of the economic output of the National Capital Region. Daubed on the walls of the brick shanties which house the tens of thousands of workers who power these industries, is the slogan: " nyoontam vetan lagoo karo" — implement minimum wages.

 

It is a stark reminder of one of the most glaring, yet least discussed aspects of the failure of governance in India. More than six decades after Independence, and just a stone's throw from the capital, workers — the same workers who have helped power the India Growth Story — are still forced to fight for the most basic and fundamental right of any worker — the right to be paid a living wage for his labour.

 

Clearly, Mr. Khurshid has not visited these locations. Or if he has, he has been far too busy looking at the overt symbols of economic achievement, visible in the form of steel and glass corporate towers in the foreground, to read the wall slogans, or acknowledge the inconvenient truth they represent.

 

LAWS

India has a plethora of Acts to ensure that labour gets a fair deal.

 

There is a Minimum Wages Act to ensure minimum wages in every conceivable industry, there is the Trade Union Act which allows workers in small units to form units, the Industrial Disputes Act, which allows workers to legitimately raise disputes on wages and even a Payment of Wages Act, to ensure redress in cases wages are not paid in time.

 

In fact, the numerousness and complexity of these regulations have often been cited as the biggest stumbling blocks for foreign investment in the country.

 

Labour reforms — which the government has interpreted to mean simplification and deregulation — largely favour employers.

 

Yet, all these laws have by and large failed to achieve their purpose.

 

With the exception of a small portion of the organised sector, minimum wages remain a distant dream for most workers. Nearly 93 per cent of all workers in the country anyway fall in the informal sector.

 

They work without the benefit of any formal employment agreement, fall outside the purview and the protection of most of the labour laws, and are victims of the vagaries of employer whims and economic cycles.

 

CEOs with bulge bracket salaries are not the real problem in India.

 

Although there is not much data in the public domain about CEO pay, informed estimates put those earning more than Rupees one crore — that is official, declared and audited income — at between 5,000 and 7,000 persons. That is not a huge number..

 

It pales into insignificance against the number of people in the informal

 

sector — over 32 crore.

 

In a country where more than 45 crore people fall below the newly redefined poverty line of $ 1.25 income per day, even a handful of people earning in crores does stick out. It is a glaring reminder of the inequalities in the system, and the extreme skew of wealth distribution.

 

But can one use this to draw a line, set a measure and say, " this much is too much"? That is much more difficult, and no answer will be the correct one, or even a fair one. India has had a system of capping executive pay. Not too long ago, no executive in the country could be legally paid more than the President of India.

 

That cap was thankfully axed, but replaced with a more generic one.

 

Even today, no public limited company can pay its board of directors, including its CEO, more than 11 per cent of its profits without obtaining government approval. Even that cap is proposed to be abolished in the new version of the Companies Act, which is pending in Parliament.

 

MELTDOWN

There has been a great deal of debate over executive pay in recent times, especially after the global financial meltdown revealed the extent to which many CEOs had been directly responsible for creating systemic risk in the pursuit of shortterm gain. Specifically, the million dollar pay and bonus packages of bank chiefs in the West has come under fire, when their governments have had to pump in billions of dollars to prevent them from going bankrupt.

 

The global financial crisis is an extreme example of well- intentioned moves ending up achieving unwelcome results. Executive pay, especially in the US and to a lesser extent in Europe, had become sharply skewed towards variable pay, with a bulk of the performance- based variable

 

linked to achieving results which were measured only over the short term.

 

So CEOs — and other top managers — stood to get huge bonuses for achieving quarter- on- quarter growth in sales, profits and increase in investor wealth, as measured by market capitalisation. These they duly achieved and earned their mega pay- outs.

 

What nobody anticipated was the extent of risks they were prepared to take to achieve this, especially those whose fallout would not be immediately visible. By the time the bills started coming in, it was too late.

 

The situation in India was never quite the same. The sharp upsurge in executive pay in recent years has been largely driven by market forces.

 

India has an acute scarcity of managerial talent, and when the economy started booming, demand pushed prices up.

 

TALENT

This in fact, has been true of talent not only at the CEO level, but up and down the line as well. India's IT sector became a global success story on the back of its pool of cheap talent.

 

While countries from where jobs were outsourced to India — predominantly the US and UK, in India's case — saw much criticism of ' cyber sweatshops', in India itself, India's growing army of techies had no complaints.

 

On the contrary, they were envied as an elite, extremely wellpaid sector, and a computer science degree became the most sought after course in universities.

 

Despite this newly minted upper middle class, it is true that there are sharp skews in pay between the entry level and the CEO level. Here too, there is a skew, with owner- CEOs — a growing trend in India's second and third- generation business houses — being paid much more than a pure professional, non- owner CEO. Nevertheless, to use a handful of mega pay packets to pillory CEOs as a class is foolish. India's managerial talent has been at the heart of the globalisation of Indian businesses, and the consequent emergence of India as a global economic superpower.

 

To actively disincentivise this talent pool would be cutting one's nose to spite one's face.

 

Highly paid CEOs — even overpaid ones — not the real problem. Workers at the bottom end of the scale are. If Mr. Khurshid is to concern himself with how much should be paid to whom, then it is these workers that deserve his attention and efforts.

 

r.srinivasan@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

NAYSAYERS OF KERRY- LUGAR BILL MISTAKEN

BY NAJAM SETHI

 

THE Kerry- Lugar Bill commits US$ 1.5 billion a year for five years from the US taxpayers' pocket to Pakistan.

 

But there is an uproar in Pakistan because of the conditions attached to it. Critics say these are an " insult" to Pakistan — no less than a " surrender" — because they violate its " sovereignty". But anti- American passion and rage aside — for which there is some justification on other counts — the Bill is nothing of the sort. Here's why.

 

The " objectionable" conditions, for which the US Secretary of State must provide certification to Congressional Committees, are as follows: ( 1) The Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons- related materials, such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks. This means that if Washington wants to question Dr A Q Khan and the GoP refuses access to him, the aid will stop.

 

BUT THE GoP under General Pervez Musharraf and under President Asif Zardari has already made a policy statement that this will not be allowed under any circumstances. So what's the problem? ( 2) The Government of Pakistan… has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups… including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as ( A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries; ( B) preventing al- Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar- e- Taiba and Jaish- e- Mohammed, from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross- border attacks into neighbouring countries, closing terrorist camps in the Fata, dismantling terrorist bases of operations in other parts of the country, including Quetta and Muridke, and taking action when provided with intelligence about high- level terrorist targets; and ( C) strengthening counterterrorism and anti- money laundering laws; and ( 3) the security forces of Pakistan

 

are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.

 

But the Obama administration has already praised the GoP's commitments in this regard. Indeed, far from materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan, the security forces of Pakistan ( the army and ISI) helped to restore the independent judiciary and avert a political crisis last March. They are also going after the Taliban and Al- Qaeda and have lost hundreds of soldiers in the military operations.

 

So what's the problem? A look at earlier US conditions on aid to Pakistan should put matters in historical perspective. The Symington Amendment in 1976 prohibited Pakistan from enriching nuclear equipment outside international safeguards. But that didn't stop Pakistan from going ahead anyway at Kahuta in its own national interest and the US " waived" the condition and gave aid to Pakistan from 1982- 90 in its own national interest. Similarly, the Glenn Amendment in 1977 prohibited countries receiving US aid from testing nuclear devices. Therefore it was applied to Pakistan and India in 1998 after both conducted nuclear tests. But the condition was " waived" for Pakistan by the Bush administration after 9/ 11 in the US national interest. Much the same applied to the Pressler Amendment adopted in 1985 which prohibited aid to countries outside the NPT ( like Pakistan) possessing nuclear devices or trying to acquire one. Again, it was " waived" for Pakistan from 1982- 90 in the US national interest.

 

The waivers for restoration of " economic assistance" were granted under the

 

Brownback amendments in 1998 and 1999. The most interesting US Bill was the 9/ 11 Commission Recommendation Act and Consolidated Appropriation Act which stipulated US aid to Pakistan from 2005- 2008. The conditions in it required Islamabad to ( i) close all known terrorist camps in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir ( ii) prevent infiltration across the LoC into India ( iii) stop transfer of weapons of mass destruction to third countries or actors ( iv) implement democratic reforms. When Islamabad said it was complying with these conditions, the US took it at its word and allowed the aid to continue.

 

If all those US conditionalities did not " violate Pakistan's sovereignty" under the military regimes of General Zia ul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf and were embraced by the national security establishment in Pakistan, why aren't the same sort of restraints acceptable under a democratic civilian government in Islamabad?

 

I NDEED, the Kerry- Lugar Bill is superior from Pakistan's point of view in two significant ways: first, it provides for US 7.5 billion in five years to the Zardari government compared to US$ 5 billion under the Bush administration to General Musharraf and US$ 6 billion to General Zia under the Reagan administration; second, the aid is non- military aid aimed at improving the Pakistan economy, alleviating poverty, promoting education, providing for social infrastructure and popular welfare rather than bombs and jets and missiles and tanks.

 

Isn't that what the popular demand in this country is all about, that we want bread and not guns, that we want economic development and not an arms race? Indeed, the US condition warning the military from " materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan" should be the most welcome of all. Isn't that what the heroic struggle for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleagues and the striking down of the military- imposed PCO of November 3, 2007, was all about? It is instructive to comment on the sources of the opposition to the Kerry- Lugar Bill in Pakistan. First, it emanates from those sections of the religio- nationalist media who were pro- Taliban and pro- Al Qaeda not so long ago and refused to accept the war against them as Pakistan's war. Second, it comes from the military establishment that is angry because the aid is exclusively for bread and not guns. The link between this military establishment and sections of the media that came to adulthood either during the Zia era or during the Musharraf years is well known. Third, it is most significant that the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, which is scrambling for a midterm election and drummed up the " Minus- Zardari" formula recently, thought fit to criticise the Kerry- Lugar Bill only after its stalwarts Shahbaz Sharif and Nisar Ali Khan met with COAS Gen Ashfaq Kayani recently!

 

The writer is the editor of Friday Times and The Daily Times ( Lahore)

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

MONI MOHSIN

 

BHALA guess what? Jemima Khan's writing a book. On Pakistan. On the politics and people and history, shistory of Pakistan. How do I know? A friend of Janoo's who was an Oxen like him at Oxford told us. How does he know? Bhai when Janoo graduated and came back to Lahore and went inside land he stayed in London and went inside books and now he's become a publication himself with his own big company and he knows everyone on the publishing scene in London and he called Janoo the other day and he couldn't stop laughing and he said ' bhala guess what? Guess who is about to opine now on the state of your country in a big fat book?' ' Hillary Clinton?' said Janoo.

 

' No.' ' Bush?' ' No. I don't think he can manage two paragraphs. Let your imagination run riot. Think female. Think British.' ' So it's an English woman who doesn't know a hell of a lot about Pakistan?' ' Yup.' ' Not Camilla Parker Bowles?' asked Janoo.

 

' Close. You're right about the spot light and the privilege but think more flash. Think St Tropez. Think mansion in Chelsea. Think best dressed list. Think Hugh Grant. Think Annabel's. Think snogging Kate Moss.' ' No! Not Jemima Goldsmith!' ' The very same. Except she calls herself Mrs Khan, doesn't she?' ' I don't care what she calls herself. What's she going to write on?' ' Oh the usual, I guess. Politics. Taliban. Army. Nuclear weapons.' When Janoo told me, I also burst up laughing. Bhai if Jemima can write all about Pakistan while attending parties in London, then I can also write sitting in my kothi in Gulberg. At least it's in Pakistan. Sort of. And at least I know a few Pakistanis. How many Pakistanis does she know, haan? Two? Three? No seven. Imran, his sisters and one two servants who worked in his house.

 

Otherwise tau in the 10 years of her marriage half the time she was in London. For the other half, she didn't meet anyone who hadn't been wetted by Imran first.

 

And has she ever been to bore bore places like Gujranwala or Faisalabad or Mardan? Tell? At least I went and stayed in Sharkpur for 10 endless days when the Old Bag's brother died. And I've done sauda a few times and I know the price of sugar and okay I haven't interviewed Musharraf but I know Salman Taseer from ever and we've had our car stolen at gun ka point and there was a bomb outside Kulchoo's school which broke his class room windows and killed the chowkidar and Mummy's driver's brother was shot by the Talibans and now his family is living in our quarters. What does Jemima know? ' I guess she'll make a few lightning trips to Pakistan,' said Janoo. ' And for the rest, she'll receive dictation from Imran Khan. As ever.' ' But why can't she leave us alone?' I asked Janoo. ' Why can't she write about London and her party scene and fashion, things she knows and loves?' ' I imagine she wants to be taken seriously. Beneath that £ 5000 Dior gown beats the heart of an earnest intellectual.' Crack.

 

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MAIL TODAY

CVC REVEALS GOVT SHIELDING CORRUPT BABUS

PROSECUTION SANCTION AGAINST 51 OFFICIALS IS PENDING FOR YEARS

BY AMAN SHARMA IN NEW DELHI

 

THE Central Vigilance Commission ( CVC) has finally released the names of 51 corrupt government officials against whom prosecution sanctions have been kept pending for three years.

 

Investigating agencies such as the CBI need permission from the government departments concerned to prosecute a public servant after a probe against him is completed. This sanction, according to CVC guidelines, should come within four months of an agency requesting for it. But the CVC list of long- pending prosecution sanctions, released only now, is an eye- opener on how such officers are being shielded.

 

The list has the names of five IAS officers, top officers of the BSNL and ONGC, an under- secretary in the defence ministry, assistant commissioners of excise and customs, income tax and an MCD deputy commissioner.

 

Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state for department of personnel and training ( DoPT), and CBI director Ashwani Kumar recently spoke about the CBI not getting prosecution sanction in time from government departments.

 

Ironically, 24 of the 51 pending sanction cases, according to the CVC list, are gathering dust with the DoPT — the CBI's administrative ministry. What's more shocking is that the CBI itself has kept the sanction pending to prosecute its own corrupt deputy superintendent, P. Balachandran. The agency caught him three years ago and a chargesheet was prepared.

 

For the thousands duped in Delhi's Co- Operative Societies Scam in 2006, the list offers disturbing revelations. The Centre, more specifically the DoPT, has kept the sanction for prosecuting 1984- batch IAS officer Rajesh Srivastava pending in as many as many as 20 cases relating to the scam. " The oldest sanction solicited against Srivastava has been pending since June 25, 2007," a CBI officer said.

 

The home ministry has kept the CBI's prosecution sanction demand against Srivastava's scam co- accused Krishan Kumar, then the joint registrar, pending.

 

The state government has also kept the CBI's demand for sanctions pending for over a year regarding five other officers associated with the scam.

 

Balachandran was arrested in 2006 for conniving with the accused in the housing scam. But the CBI has kept mum on the sanction to prosecute him pending since November 26, 2008.

 

The oldest prosecution sanction pending is with the DoPT regarding Ravi S. Srivastava.

 

The CBI had registered an FIR in a corruption case against the IAS officer, posted in Jaipur, and sought sanction from the DoPT to prosecute him on November 21, 2002. But the ministry has kept the CBI's request pending for seven years. Similarly, the DoPT has not given sanction to the CBI to prosecute IAS officer Sanjiv Kumar, involved in a corruption case in Haryana.

 

Chavan's ministry has also withheld the prosecution sanction for IAS officers L. V. Subrahmanyam and Manoj Singh pending for over a year.

 

The CBI had accused Subrahmanyam of corruption in the establishment of the Volkswagen car factory in Andhra Pradesh when he was the vice- chairman and managing director of the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation.

 

Singh is accused of allotting land and funds for a nurses' training centre and other projects in violation of norms during his tenure as the district magistrate of Pilibhit from 1998 to 2001.

 

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MAIL TODAY

CUSTODY DEATH OF YOUTH IN J& K SPARKS FURY

BY ARJUN SHARMA IN JAMMU

 

THE Jammu and Kashmir Police are in the eye of a storm over the death of a youth in custody which they tried to pass off as a case of suicide.

 

The victim, Rajneesh Sharma of Jammu, was picked up by the police from the Valley on September 30 on the charge of kidnapping a Muslim girl.

 

He was kept in Rammunshibagh police station in Srinagar and allegedly tortured.

 

He died on October 6.

 

Later, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The girl's father, Mohd Yousuf Haji, had actually filed a complaint of kidnap against Pawan, Rajneesh's elder brother.

 

Instead of Pawan, the Srinagar Police had arrested Rajneesh. Their Jammu counterparts had wrongly identified him as Pawan.

 

The police went into damage control mode as the incident sparked an outrage in Jammu. Srinagar SSP Riaz Bidar said two policemen had been suspended and a magisterial inquiry initiated in the case.

 

The deceased's family was shocked when it was found that the body brought from Srinagar was that of Rajneesh and not Pawan, whom the police had claimed to have arrested. Pawan is absconding.

 

Violence erupted in the Government Medical College, Jammu, when Rajneesh's body was taken there for a second postmortem. His relatives and friends smashed the furniture and windowpanes of the mortuary where his body was kept. His mother alleged her son was tortured in custody and his body bore bruises. The family is demanding action against the policemen who allegedly tortured Rajneesh to death.

 

They raised slogans against CM Omar Abdullah and DGP Kuldeep Khoda for failing to stop " police atrocities"

against innocents. They have demanded a CBI inquiry.

 

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MAIL TODAY

RAISINA TATTLE

 

BABUS' PLEDGE

TRUE, but hard to believe. Government officials will take a pledge to work unstintingly for the eradication of corruption as part of the Vigilance Awareness Week next month. A circular has been sent out by the Central Vigilance Commission ( CVC) to secretaries of various departments and ministries, besides chief vigilance officers and others, asking them to commence the vigilance week from November 3 with the pledge. A report on the way in which the vigilance week had been observed will have to be filed by each of them by December 1

 

The circular also asked each department to adopt more technological tools to fight corruption. The CVC asked them to publicise their department's technology services such as epayment facility.

 

NO- SHOW AGAIN

< no- Sonia's mother his of turn the was it Tuesday, on state in rally election cancel to had Gandhi Rahul After Pradesh. Arunachal supporters Congress gladden won't>

 

The Congress president's election rallies at Aalo and Daporizo in Arunachal scheduled for Thursday were cancelled because of inclement weather. CM Dorjee Khandu and APCC president Nabam Tuki apologised to the people for the cancellation.

 

Two days ago, party general secretary Rahul also had to cancel his rally in the state as his chopper failed to take off from Lilabari airport in Assam due to bad weather. However, Tuki and Khandu said the cancellation of the high- profile rallies would not affect the prospects of the ruling Congress in the October 13 elections to the 60- member state assembly.

 

RSS CONCLAVE

THE fragile relationship between Bihar's ruling coalition partners, the JD ( U) and the BJP, and chief minister Nitish Kumar's overtly minorityappeasement policies during his fouryear tenure may well come under the scanner of the RSS during its three- day working committee conclave in Rajgir, beginning on Friday. It is for the first time that the RSS is holding such a conclave in Bihar. Top functionaries of the organisation, including chief Mohan Bhagwat, have already reached the picturesque town, 120 km from Patna.

 

The conclave has fuelled speculation whether the RSS would touch upon " thorny" issues such as Nitish's seemingly aggressive agenda of pushing sops for Muslims to consolidate his base among the minorities and the rapid marginalisation of the BJP in Bihar as the junior coalition partner forced to toe Nitish's line because of political compulsions.

 

RANTING RAJ

IT COMES as no surprise when MNS leader Raj Thackeray speaks of radical measures.

 

Taking a break from trying to boot out non- Marathis from Maharashtra, the firebrand politician now feels there is a need for " overall change" in Maharashtra. But why? " Because, development has come to a standstill in the state," he says.

 

In the same breath, he criticises Union energy minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who had announced free power to the farmers. " In Maharashtra, nobody wants free power. Farmers and consumers are all ready to pay electricity charges but want uninterrupted power supply," Raj says. He, however, lauds the role of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in " ushering in a new era of development" in his state. Any hidden message?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

CONGRATULATIONS, BUT...

 

Congratulations are in order. Venkatraman ''Venky'' Ramakrishnan, an Indian-born structural biologist has shared this year's Nobel Prize for chemistry with two others. Ramakrishnan who is currently affiliated to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK shares the honour with Thomas Steitz of Yale University and Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Ramakrishnan, who hails from Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, took his graduate degree from MS University in Vadodara before exploring better prospects abroad. An accomplished scientist, he is also one of the rare few to have maintained close ties with Indian institutes of research and learning even after many years on foreign shores.


By any standards, this is an achievement that deserves a hearty round of applause. Predictably, the Indian media has gone to town with this happy story. But even as we rightly celebrate Ramakrishnan's moment of glory, it is imperative that we place his success in perspective. Let's get this straight: this is an individual achievement, Ramakrishnan's. His is another classic case of Indians achieving spectacular success when unshackled from the system here that often stymies merit.


Make a quick mental list of Indian success stories, which are at par or above global standards of excellence, in the recent past in the sciences or even in the humanities. You are bound to notice that many of those who feature on this list are those who have left India's shores, and flourished elsewhere. Be it Ramakrishnan, Subramanian Chandrasekhar or Amartya Sen, talented individuals have done very well for themselves when they have had access to an environment that provides ample opportunities, nourishes excellence and has mostly banished a stifling bureaucracy.


Indians are no less talented than people elsewhere in the world. But they are often boxed in by a system that is overstretched, riven by petty politics and is plain indifferent to merit. Beating the system here is a project for brave hearts. When excellence is not incentivised, it is only natural that those who seek to rise above limitations and don't want to navigate systemic pitfalls and loopholes at every step seek greener pastures. We often complain about the brain drain while ourselves having created the conditions for it. If India is to earn its place in the league of advanced nations, it must focus on creating an environment that promotes learning as well as entrepreneurship at every level. It's not impossible but this task requires a vision and drive that don't appear currently to be in sufficient supply among our leaders.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

A BETTER FUTURE

 

The numbers are certainly disgraceful. India, along with two other countries, accounts for 40 per cent of the world's under-five deaths, according to UNICEF. Save The Children, an international NGO, estimates that over four lakh newborns die in India in the first 24 hours after their birth every year, the highest anywhere in the world. But the very magnitude of such figures and the presumed cost of fixing the problem seem to have inured civil society from pressuring the government to enact effective policies to address the issue.


It is a tragedy that India, despite a sustained period of high growth, has been unable to check under-five mortality. But the experience of some of the world's poorest countries, including those in our neighbourhood, suggests that throwing money at the problem isn't enough. Public health spending in India is about 1 per cent of the GDP, much lower than the global average of 5 per cent. That's bad enough, but worse is that the spending is often ineffective. Leakages are high, and studies have shown that large centrally-sponsored schemes like the National Rural Health Mission and Integrated Child Development Services have improved access to health care, but have failed to make a substantial dent in child mortality rates.


But the cost of reducing the number of child deaths is not nearly as high as people think it to be. There are several affordable measures that the government can take to reduce child deaths by nearly 90 per cent. For instance, studies suggest that the major causes of death in the under-fives are malnutrition, diarrhoea and pneumonia, all of which are easily and cheaply treatable. Better neo- and antenatal care could also reduce infant mortality by up to 70 per cent. Earlier, the Accelerated Rural Water Supply and Swajaldhara programmes greatly improved rural access to potable drinking water, thus significantly improving child health.



By and large, though, the government needs to look beyond the one-size-fits-all approach. The most successful examples of government-sponsored health programmes were formulated in the local context and are community based. For instance, the Rajasthan government's Anchal Se Angan Tak strategy initiated a special action plan to tackle child malnutrition in 2005 and has been successful in improving the nutritional status of children under three. Progress can be accelerated even in the poorest environments, as our neighbours and some sub-Saharan nations have proven. Poverty can no longer be an acceptable excuse for inaction.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

AN URBAN LEGEND

 

The Maharashtra assembly election will be a complex and exciting affair due to many reasons. Apart from various 'political' factors that complicate the election scene, there has been some anxiety about how the 'urban' factor will operate. In 1995, the Shiv Sena and the BJP pushed the Congress out of power mainly by winning a large number of urban dominated constituencies. But after coming back to power in 1999, the Congress (and later the NCP) showed some signs of recovery in urban areas in 2004, in local municipal elections in 2007 and again in the Lok Sabha elections in April 2009. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is also expected to perform well in urban constituencies this time around.


In this background, it is useful to cut the urban myth to size. Everyone keeps mentioning the possible domination of urban constituencies in the coming election. Maharashtra is also described as one of the country's leading urbanised states: this is borne out by the 2001 census (42.4 per cent and second rank in urban population). However, the rate of urbanisation slackened between 1991 and 2001 compared to earlier decades. Urban growth is mainly concentrated in the cities of Nagpur, Aurangabad, Nashik, Thane and Mumbai. Outside these large urban centres, most so-called urban centres are small towns in size, less developed in terms of infrastructure and with a semi-urban ambience. These characteristics will definitely impact politics in urban areas.

It is interesting to assess the extent of urban impact on the coming elections. While much is being said about urban constituencies as a result of delimitation, only 93 (out of 288) constituencies can be called urban having at least 70 per cent urban population. Of these, 79 have 100 or near 100 per cent urban population. Sixty-four of these are located in the Mumbai-Thane-Pune-Nashik belt. This lopsided growth of urban centres has already created many contradictions and it is possible that the gap between the urban and non-urban areas has widened over the last decade. Therefore, it is a moot question whether the urban vote will seriously affect the outcome. Is it an issue projected by the urban media and observers?


It is somewhat of an exaggeration to say that representatives elected from urban centres will dominate the assembly. There cannot be more than 100 MLAs representing urban areas; they are not likely to come together on 'urban issues'; they will continue to be divided along party lines. It is also less than likely that a majority of the urban-based MLAs will belong to any one party (or alliance). However, historically, rulers of the state have always taken care of urban industrial interests even when most MLAs came from rural constituencies. That was the key to successful control over the (then) Bombay city. Of late, most MLAs from rural constituencies have business interests in urban areas. They have to develop a political base in the rural constituency for votes and yet pursue urban industrial and commercial interests. This duality is the cause of a tension that is difficult to resolve.

The political geography resulting from the new delimitation imposes a fragmented politics on the state. Rather than imagining an urban-rural divide, it may be useful to imagine three different kinds of politics in the near future: the politics of fully urban centres accounting for less than one-third of the assembly; the politics of entirely rural constituencies (145 constituencies have less than 25 per cent urban population so exactly half the assembly); and mixed constituencies where rural and urban populations are more or less evenly poised (50 constituencies).

In the fully urban centres, roughly half the population lives in slums and this produces a difficult social situation to handle. On one hand, schemes like slum rehabilitation and, on the other, slogans of nativism occupy the mental space of the urban dweller. In either case, this leads the politician to half-baked populism. At another extreme, rural constituencies await fulfilment of promises to address agrarian distress. No political party appears to be in a position to satisfactorily respond to these anxieties. Therefore, crass appeals to caste may be adopted as an answer to rural frustrations and deprivation. Setting one caste against another and defining social reality in terms of caste identity will thus occupy the rural political space.


Third, in semi-urban locations, while both strategies of populism and caste appeal will play some role, limited resources and pressure on land will induce the politics of crime. Local goons will find a place in the assembly an attractive proposition to escape their murky present.


Maharashtra prides itself as being a progressive and developed state. But it is trapped in stunted urbanisation and tension between rural and urban interests. This situation leads inevitably to the politics of populism, caste identity and mafiosi. As the decade comes to a close and the state moves further towards urbanisation, one fears that these traits will become even stronger.


The writer teaches political science at the University of Pune.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

'WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE CANADIAN TECHNOLOGY LOCALISED'

 

hugh macdiarmid , president of atomic energy of canada ltd (aecl), was in new delhi to speak at the peaceful uses of atomic energy conference. he spoke to vikram sinha about the scope for civil nuclear cooperation between india and canada:


How do you see the Indo-Canadian civil nuclear deal progressing?

I am not directly involved, but every indication i have is that we are very close to reaching an agreement. The number of issues to be resolved has been reduced to a very small number. And certainly, my understanding is that the progress is now being measured in weeks, not months. We are very hopeful that the deal will be concluded before the end of this calendar year.


Going by the Canadian experience, do you think growth in nuclear energy is sustainable given how capital-intensive it is?

That's such a hard question to predict. I also want to be cautious. But i think that sustaining that momentum requires development of the human resources and capabilities at all levels. It requires supply chain and the development of the infrastructure and the logistics to support it. But again, you have large, sophisticated organisations, AECL and others, investing in the coming competition in this market. That's a very healthy sign. There's no reason, fundamentally, that you can't achieve this. The alternative is to build a lot of coal plants and that would not be desirable environmentally.


There has been a strong focus on environmental issues from the G20 to the upcoming Copenhagen talks. What is AECL's approach in this context?

We have a convergence of energy policy and environmental policy; it is an area of great interest to Canada. Domestically we are very committed to ensuring that nuclear will be a significant part of our energy supply net. I think internationally we feel we want to be a significant nuclear vending country and participate in the marketplace in a number of different country markets.


What are the complementarities between Canadian technology and the Indian civil nuclear programme?
Our two countries have pursued parallel paths but with no point of interconnection for 35 years. We have the common foundation of the heavy water reactors and that forms a starting point for an exchange. Once the nuclear cooperation agreement is signed, a natural first step would be a technology exchange to see where we can help each other. Secondly, we have a very significant post-sales services business, supporting existing reactors around the world. There is no reason that we can't bring that expertise here. I will do that as a pure commercial venture to see if we can be competitive in providing services to the installed reactors here. And the third, naturally enough, will be whether there can be collaboration in building reactors that could be here or in third-country markets. We would love to find a way to have our Canadian technology localised.

 

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

HAPPY PHALLUS

JUG SURAIYA 

 

Bounding over boulders big as cars, the foaming river roars right through our room. Or so it seems. We are at the Kichu Wangdi Resort in Wangdi, Bhutan, the last Himalayan kingdom, fabled Land of the Thunder Dragon. In a globalised world that increasingly resembles sliced bread, Bhutan remains the exotic exception. It's like no other place on earth. Perhaps not even itself. Other countries measure themselves by their GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Bhutan measures itself by its GNH (Gross National Happiness). And in Bhutan there is much to be happy about, both for the citizens, and for visitors. Like our hotel at Wangdi, with the Ta chhu (chhu is Bhutanese for river) running so close beside it that we feel we have a room with a river attached. Or should that be the other way round: a river with room attached? As always in Bhutan, happiness is a two-sided coin. And what a wealth of it there is.

 

Endlessly forested hills swathed in silk-scarf clouds. A chant of lamas against a sky the infinite blue of the Buddha's eyes. Four-square dzongs the great fortified monasteries-cum-administrative centres dominating lush meadows or clinging like giant limpets to sheer rock faces. The searing spiciness of ema datsi, the national dish of red chillies cooked in a gravy of cottage cheese. Waterfalls clear as cascading crystal, and remote valleys secret and convolute as court intrigue. The murmuring flutter of prayer flags in the wind, and the whistle of arrows arcing to targets as men in traditional gho robes practise archery.

 

Yep. Bhutan has a high HQ (Happiness Quotient). And its happiness comes in double scoops. It is a newly established democracy which is also a monarchy, with not just one but two kings, popularly referred to as K4 (King 4) and K5 (King 5), K4 having abdicated two years ago in favour of K5, his first-born son. Both K4 and K5 are revered as monarchs. Happiness is a double-crowned democracy. The roads in Bhutan are of billiard-table smoothness and put to shame their potholed counterparts in India. Happiness is a smooth road. And to double that happiness, guess who pays for Bhutan's smooth roads? The Indian taxpayer. Who also pays for Bhutan's army, bureaucracy, Five Year Plans, and just about everything else.

 

Happiness is having a Big Brother who pays for the privilege of watching you. Nor is this a one-way street. Or rather, road. For in return, river-rich Bhutan supplies hydroelectricity to India, to the projected tune of 10,000 MW by 2020. Happiness is making Big Brother all the more powerful, literally, so that he can pay even more for watching you to see you don't fall into Chinese hands.

 

But perhaps the aptest symbol of Bhutan's happiness is a rampant phallus. You see it everywhere: painted on the walls of houses, on the backs of vehicles, jutting out from under eaves. They are a symbol of protection against the evil eye and are a legacy of the 16th century monk, Drukpa Kinley, the Divine Madman, renowned for the size and potency of his manhood, which he used to laudable effect to skewer the many evil witches who reportedly infested the country in those days. When a demoness attempted to flee his attentions, the monk would detach his appendage and send it hurtling after its victim like a guided missile.

 

Having done its job, the instrument of righteous wrath would boomerang back to its owner for future use. Happiness is a recyclable phallus. Which stands for more than the undoing of witches (who are thin on the ground these days) and is also a token of fertility. Women who have miscarried or failed to conceive go to Drukpa Kinley's temple to pray for the boon of a child. That the boon is frequently granted can be gauged by the number of people called Kinley in Bhutan (indeed, our driver was one). Happiness is a dead witch as well as a warm baby called Kinley. In short, happiness, Bhutanese-style, is a double-whammy phallusy.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

 

The appeal of music is universal. There can hardly be a soul untouched by some kind of music. Ever since Thomas Edison invented the tinfoil cylinder phonograph, there has been a constant endeavour to improve the quality of recorded music so that it would sound as close to the original as possible with minimum distortion. In that process, we have come a long way from the days of the two-song 78 rpm record and the gramophone to today's Apple iPod. It has been a remarkable journey. The present iPod generation would find it difficult to recognise the forefathers; the bulky gramophone and the 10-inch 78 rpm records, which, apart from the good old radio, were the only means of listening to recorded music of your choice in the convenience of your home till about 50 years ago. To play the record, the gramophone had to be wound up manually. Today, it is rare to see a gramophone in use, though there are some on display for their antique value. The gramophone was replaced by electrically operated turntables to be played through a set of amplifier and speakers.


In between came the tape recorder and the audio cassette. The Walkman became hugely popular with music lovers on the move. Along the way, a lot of refinements have been added to recording and playing techniques: from mono to stereo, from single to multi-track recording, noise reduction, AM to FM and hi-fi separates such as turntables, pre-amplifiers, amplifiers, speakers and graphic equalisers to ensure greater depth and clarity. Then, around 1980, digital recording methods were introduced and the compact disc was born. For many years now the CD has been the popular medium for the consumption of music. But the CD has recently begun to be overtaken by newer and better innovations. In this age of the internet and computers with huge storage capacity disks, unlimited music flows in and out of hard disks, flash drives and iPods in the form of MP3 files. However, many audiophiles believe that although digital media can store a huge amount of data, LP records still sound much better in terms of musical fidelity. Give me my old LPs and a good turntable and amp anytime!

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE NEED TO RECAPTURE INDIA

 

India is at war with its own people. It doesn't sound nice; it may even smack of exaggeration. But the truth is that under the flag of an extremist ideology, various factions of Naxalism had declared a war against the Indian State quite some time ago. Now it's up to the Indian State to take them on and rid the country of their violent actions, no matter what they deem to call this purging exercise. The murder by decapitation of Inspector Francis Induwar that came to light earlier this week has left the nation jolted. Without taking away an iota of the horror of this death, however, such instances of brutal violence against fellow Indians have failed to make the Indian State go after the Naxals on a war footing.

 

The guerrilla tactics of the Naxal extremists already make for an asymmetrical war in which the all-visible behemoth of the State and its various representatives are 'enemy targets' while the State finds itself fighting against a shape-shifting chimera. But to add to this disadvantage is the plight of our police force that is not only badly prepared to protect people, but ill-equipped to even hold their own ground. In the light of recent developments, Home Minister P. Chidambaram has hinted that the armed forces, till now kept largely out of this arena, could enter this battle — after an Indian Air Force helicopter was reportedly fired at by Naxal forces a few weeks ago in Chhattisgarh. The Naxals have already claimed that they are ready for the major offensive being planned by the Indian government. The statement from the extremists that they have set up special training camps and obtained sophisticated weapons — as so proudly displayed during the Maoist siege of Lalgarh, West Bengal, in June — is no standard wake-up call. It is a call to arms. After deliberations, the Indian Air Force has wisely said that it will not indulge in any 'Rambo operations'. The last thing the State needs at this crucial stage is to engage in knee-jerk operations or set the stage yet again for an underwhelming approach to tackling Naxal terror.

 

The cause for today's so-called 'ultra-Left' violent movement is some 60 years of the Indian State walking away from large swathes of its own territory and abandoning a generation of its own people. That vacuum was bound to be occupied by some kind of opportunistic group or the other, the vast disparities in development, rights and opportunities making one particular kind finding it relatively easy to take matters into their own hands. These lost tracts, as well as hearts and minds, must be part of the Indian success story. But first, they must be reclaimed.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE BAR'S TOO HIGH

 

The visitor's abiding image of Delhi is of two portly gents standing, drink in hand, next to their rather long cars, wives in tow and a bottle of Scotch perched perilously atop one of the said vehicles. On subsequent visits, the tourist learns he is prying into an alfresco drawing room around a euphemism known as the 'carobar'. Pity, some killjoys want to put an end to such genteel socialising. They're brandishing fines that would make even a mass murderer blanch. The cry has gone out: a city that will host the Commonwealth Games in a year from now needs to harmonise its drinking habits with the rest of the country, if not the world.

 

Now the Delhi local needs his tipple as much as the Joe in the next city but he's not stupid enough to pay an arm and a leg for it. The Capital's bars are frightfully expensive, pushing poor Vicky Kapur of East Patel Nagar to seek solace in his Pa's Santro. The habit sticks as Vicky graduates to a Honda City and then a Beamer. Alongside, the wife and kids learn to respect dad's gumption as he hoists that 18-year-old Macallan atop his Bavarian monster in the middle of Greater Kailash. With equal measure of chutzpah, acumen and bonhomie, that single act defines Delhi as no other. And they want to stop it!

 

That's a bit like like taking away someone's identity. Kolkata has its ilish and Mumbai its Marathi, let Delhi have its Scotch. After all, they drink more of it in the NCR than is produced in Scotland.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IN DEFICIT TERMS

N. CHANDRA MOHAN

 

'Chinese dragons don't breathe fire and don't have wings," stated a foreign ministry official in Beijing amid a growing sense of urgency to shift the focus from the disputed Indo-Chinese border to business. Closer engagement between India and China is a historic necessity. Boosting trade deserves priority as two-way volumes touched $52 billion last year. But further growth is not inevitable without sustained efforts and right policy choices, argued India's ambassador to China in his speech to a seminar organised by apex business chambers, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).

 

Forging a mutually-advantageous free trade agreement (FTA) might be one such policy choice, but is extremely controversial. India Inc is edgy regarding such an agreement as booming bilateral trade has been accompanied by large and recurring trade deficits. Its concerns are that the bilateral deficit reflects the dragon's non-transparent pricing mechanism and massive hidden subsidies. The Chinese yuan is also undervalued. For such reasons, India has been reluctant to grant market economy status to China, which is a necessary building block for an agreement.

 

Unfortunately, a fast-globalising India Inc doesn't exhibit greater self-confidence with the FTAs that the country has signed with other Asian countries either or in the immediate neighbourhood. India has entered into a framework agreement for a bilateral with Thailand. A Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with the city-state of Singapore is already operational. An economic partnership agreement with South Korea was signed last month. A week later, an FTA with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) was inked.

 

Most, if not all, of these agreements face domestic opposition, including from the ruling Congress Party, segments of which feel that such FTAs don't translate into electoral support in states like Kerala. The latter has a vibrant plantation economy and fears are rife that it might be impacted adversely by such trade deals, despite the prime minister's recent promise of supporting modernisation of the state's plantation industry. Domestic manufacturers, for their part, distrust these bilaterals due to the handicap of inverted duty structures where the duty on the finished product is lower than on raw materials. This acts as a disincentive as finished products can be imported at lower duties.

 

To be sure, economists are sceptical whether these FTAs have anything to do with free trade. Far from it, as they form an unruly mass of crisscrossing strings that Professor Jagdish Bhagwati of Yale University called a "spaghetti bowl" that hampers rather than facilitates free trade for those left out. Even if these are considered second-best options to a multilateral World Trade Organisation trade agreement, the basic point is that India is unlikely to derive much benefit from them if there is a sense of ambivalence regarding the potential gains among stakeholders like farmers and India Inc.

 

India Inc's diffidence has been fueled in large measure by the skewed trade balance in favour of Thailand after the FTA came into effect in September 2004. Much of the gains have, in fact, accrued to Thailand for the 82 items that secured tariff concessions under the Early Harvest Scheme (EHS), which includes items like colour picture tubes, auto parts and electronic goods. From 2004-05 to 2007-08, Thailand's exports to India under EHS tripled to $470.5 million while India's exports to Thailand rose by only 87 per cent to $90.7 million.

 

This bilateral trade pattern marks a sharp reversal from an earlier situation when India registered an overall trade surplus with Thailand till 2004-05. Under these circumstances, doubts are being fanned whether such agreements benefit India. Apex chambers like Ficci noted that in Thailand power was cheaper. Cost of capital, too, is lower. Inputs like glass parts for colour TV picture tubes can also be imported duty free while they attract a duty of 15 per cent in India. Unless these disadvantages are corrected, imports from Thailand will surge while India's exports languish.

 

India Inc has similar concerns over the CECA with Singapore and fears that foreigners (read: China) will misuse such agreements as a staging ground for cheaper exports to India. It considers the city-state to be mainly a trading rather than a manufacturing hub, although it hosts 7,000 plus MNCs. Although the CECA allays these concerns with clearly laid-out rules of origin norms, Indian industry's doubts nevertheless persist although there are huge potential gains from using Singapore as a base to expand in Asia.

 

Domestic opposition persists against India's FTA with Asean although it might well result in a boom in bilateral trade that can easily cross $50 billion by 2010. Asean's GDP of $1.5 trillion is not very different from that of India's GDP of $1.2 trillion. The FTA is bound to open a huge market for our goods. India can benefit from services trade with Asean. This FTA, thus, is likely to be our most ambitious trade agreement as it will spur India Inc's drive eastwards.

 

The upshot is that so long as we have a defensive mindset in trading off long-term benefits with short-term costs, we cannot leverage these FTAs. A closer engagement with the dragon on trade is unlikely. Neither is an economic partnership with South Korea if there is 'Seoul Searching' due to fears of a surge in auto part imports from that country. Indian business must be ready for a greater degree of openness to benefit from trade agreements.

 

N. Chandra Mohan is a Professor of Economics and International Business at the IILM Institute for Higher Education(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT A VOTE FOR CHANGE

SAEED NAQVI

 

A surge in troop numbers to deliver democracy, governance and security to Afghanistan? Or, as US Vice-President Joe Biden insists, a targeted elimination of the al-Qaeda and the Taliban on both sides of the now defunct Durand Line? This is the dilemma Washington is grappling with.

 

Neither course under consideration in Washington is likely to lead to a resolution of the Af-Pak problem. The dice is so loaded that whichever is adopted, only one side will be victorious. Neither is ready to accept defeat, unless the US-Nato combine imposes a peace of the grave.

 

The Iraq experience is of limited value. The US occupation created an organically new situation. For the first time, the world became aware of the new reality that 65 per cent of Iraq's population were Shias. Indeed, when Dick Cheney made a speech, coinciding with the pulling down of Saddam Hussein's statue on April 9, 2003, he thanked "religious leaders" for their help. These were Shia leaders in Najaf. Little wonder then that it was the Americans who renamed 'Saddam City', 'Sadr City', after a family of famous Shia clerics.

 

It is these Shias, dispossessed by Baathists for decades, who are now in power in Baghdad, with the Kurdish north and a restive Sunni centre playing supporting roles. In any case, the eventual Iraqi outcome is far from clear.

 

Where are the "dispossessed" in Afghanistan that the US-led coalition is trying to restore to power? Pashtuns, the overwhelming majority in Afghanistan and in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan were always in power, albeit fragmented into sub-tribes. They took the lead in ousting the Soviets and formed the Taliban encouraged by the US (with Indian acquiescence) to overrun Afghanistan in 1995. "We shall then control the Taliban," an official in the Clinton administration had told me. The Taliban maltreatment of women made headlines in the US. The policy was abandoned.

 

Since 9/11 it is the Taliban who are taking stick on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Apparently, as a sop to Pashtun sentiment, Hamid Karzai has been in power since 2001, confirmed by the Loya Jirga in 2004.

 

As soon as President Pervez Musharraf made a U-turn to lead the US's war on terror in December 2001, there has been an adversarial equation between Kabul and Islamabad, both eager to take the war into the other's territory. In fact, Islamabad would like the election results not to be tilted in favour of Karzai. This, roughly, was the stand of Peter Galbraith, who has abruptly left his job as the UN's Deputy Chief of Mission in Kabul. He was keen that the election fraud be exposed, a move which could end up showing Karzai the door.

 

Since Iran's presidential election was rubbished in the West, one would have expected Iran to point fingers at Kabul's fraudulent election. Ironically, Iran would be quite content with Karzai. An alternative could lead to turbulence Tehran can ill-afford in its neighbourhood. And now that the US and Iran are talking in Geneva, Iran's wishes cannot be totally ignored. New Delhi would like fair elections but, like Iran, is not averse to a pro-Karzai verdict.

 

Meanwhile, an Organisation for Islamic Conference special envoy has been unexpectedly appointed for Kashmir, while the Chinese are giving visas to J&K citizens on slips of paper.

 

It could well be building up to the only possible course: some sort of a regional conference on Af-Pak and the region. India would then have to take a call. The alternative is an unacceptable proposition — allowing Pashtun nationalism to hold sway on both sides of the Af-Pak border, leading to an autonomous entity.

 

Saeed Naqvi is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SOFT-PEDALLING AUSTERITY

SUHEL SETH

 

Mayors of cities are often among the most boring people you can meet. But London, last week, was surprisingly refreshing.

 

Rushing to meet a group of us was Boris Johnson, who struggled through London's evening rushhour traffic despite the flashing red light, which was on the back of his helmet and not atop any government car. So no one cared who this cyclist was.

 

Yes, Boris Johnson, the present Mayor of London goes to work on a bicycle and wears the statutory helmet with a red light, meant to warn other vehicles and not to assert authority. He is an accomplished intellectual, former Editor of The Spectator and one of the most prominent Tories in England. So it wasn't surprising to see people queuing up to take his autograph or to get clicked with him. There were no security guards around Johnson.
This is the heart of the matter.

 

Back in India, I laud what Sonia Gandhi has done as far as austerity is concerned. But austerity cannot be imposed. It must come from within, like it did for Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and B.C. Roy.
The problem with India is that austerity is often seen as de-linked from the supremacy of the office that people hold. The red-light syndrome is symptomatic of a lack of confidence that our politicians suffer from. I don't mind security covers for those who are on terrorists' hitlists. But for some of our MPs and bureaucrats to brazenly abuse the power they have is unforgivable.


And it will be more than an austerity drive that will change it.

 

The movement that has begun with the active participation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi cannot be allowed to transcend into tokenism if the attitude itself doesn't change. The attitude has a lot to do with the fact that the office you hold is defined neither by security cover nor the cavalcade of cars, which accompany politicians all the time. In that respect another role model is P.


Chidambaram. The fact that India's home minister is leading by example should be enough of a practice for most to follow.

 

Boris Johnson has gone one step further. He has advised David Cameron (tipped to be Britain's next prime minister) that all cabinet ministers of a Tory government shouldn't have official cars. Instead, there should be a carpool from which they can requisition one when they need it, and for official purposes. This will set an example and also conserve energy: both of which India desperately needs.

 

So may I suggest Mrs Gandhi that your next call should be to eliminate the concept of red-lights and white Ambassadors. Instead, create a car pool. For the younger lot in the Cabinet, prod them into riding a bicycle to work. This may force India's political parties to choose people who are young enough to ride a bicycle, if nothing else.

 

Suhel Seth is the CEO of Counselage, a Delhi-based brand and marketing consultancy The views expressed by the author are personal

Mayors of cities are often among the most boring people you can meet. But London, last week, was surprisingly refreshing.

Rushing to meet a group of us was Boris Johnson, who struggled through London's evening rushhour traffic despite the flashing red light, which was on the back of his helmet and not atop any government car. So no one cared who this cyclist was.

Yes, Boris Johnson, the present Mayor of London goes to work on a bicycle and wears the statutory helmet with a red light, meant to warn other vehicles and not to assert authority. He is an accomplished intellectual, former Editor of The Spectator and one of the most prominent Tories in England. So it wasn't surprising to see people queuing up to take his autograph or to get clicked with him. There were no security guards around Johnson.
This is the heart of the matter.

Back in India, I laud what Sonia Gandhi has done as far as austerity is concerned. But austerity cannot be imposed. It must come from within, like it did for Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and B.C. Roy.
The problem with India is that austerity is often seen as de-linked from the supremacy of the office that people hold. The red-light syndrome is symptomatic of a lack of confidence that our politicians suffer from. I don't mind security covers for those who are on terrorists' hitlists. But for some of our MPs and bureaucrats to brazenly abuse the power they have is unforgivable.
And it will be more than an austerity drive that will change it.

The movement that has begun with the active participation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi cannot be allowed to transcend into tokenism if the attitude itself doesn't change. The attitude has a lot to do with the fact that the office you hold is defined neither by security cover nor the cavalcade of cars, which accompany politicians all the time. In that respect another role model is P.
Chidambaram. The fact that India's home minister is leading by example should be enough of a practice for most to follow.

Boris Johnson has gone one step further. He has advised David Cameron (tipped to be Britain's next prime minister) that all cabinet ministers of a Tory government shouldn't have official cars. Instead, there should be a carpool from which they can requisition one when they need it, and for official purposes. This will set an example and also conserve energy: both of which India desperately needs.

So may I suggest Mrs Gandhi that your next call should be to eliminate the concept of red-lights and white Ambassadors. Instead, create a car pool. For the younger lot in the Cabinet, prod them into riding a bicycle to work. This may force India's political parties to choose people who are young enough to ride a bicycle, if nothing else.

Suhel Seth is the CEO of Counselage, a Delhi-based brand and marketing consultancy The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

RED SHADOW IS LENGTHENING

REBELS & THE STATE WHILE THE GOVERNMENT ACCUSES MAOISTS OF BEING ANTI-DEVELOPMENT, MAOISTS IN TURN CLAIM THEY WANT A DIFFERENT, MORE INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT

S U D E E P C H A K R AVA R T I

 

The beheading of Francis Induwar, a policeman, in Jharkhand earlier this week was horrific. Home Minister P.
Chidambaram has repeatedly termed this killing of a captive by Maoist rebels a cold-blooded murder.

 

Security officials have been quick to seize moral high ground. And, except a few security analysts, the remainder has contributed to this public relations charade.

 

The truth is: it's a war out there. Both Maoist rebels, and police and paramilitary continue to conduct it without compunction.

 

Maoists see India's political structure as deeply corrupt -- proven conventional wisdom. While the government accuses Maoists of being antidevelopment, Maoists in turn claim they want a different, more inclusive development, and accuse the government of usurping land in tribal and rural homelands to assure businesses mining concessions, or forcefully award them land to set up factories and economic zones. Rebels take heart from an idea of Mao Zedong. A revolution is not "a dinner party ... or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined ... kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous," Mao wrote in The Question of `Going Too Far', Report on an investigation of the peasant movement in Hunan. "(It is) an act of violence by which one class overthrows another." Also, that "it is necessary to create terror for a while" to "suppress the activities of the counter-revolutionaries" or "overthrow the authority of the gentry".

 

A key proponent of the derivative Naxalbari movement, Charu Mazumdar, said at the May 1970 Congress of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), in Calcutta that "only by waging class struggle -- the battle of annihilation --the new man will be created ..." This led to great blood-letting in parts of eastern and southern India. `Naxals' attacked and killed landlords, moneylenders and politicians in rural areas, and soon took their war to the police and other symbols of government authority in cities.


If they were vicious, so were the police and their political masters, leading to massacres in Calcutta, for instance, of rebels and innocents. The practice of torture, custodial death and faked encounters became more entrenched. The current phase of leftwing rebellion in India, led by Communist Party of India (Maoist), is carrying on a more planned movement than their peers of the late 1960s and early 1970s -- a fact readily agreed to by former and serving police and intelligence officials. It's a deliberate mix of rural and urban.
While the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army fights in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal -- and is attempting to expand operations in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu -city-based ideologues channel recruits and logistics for both underground operations and `over ground' activities through front organisations.

 

And, besides the usual business of battle -- we seem to forget that combat kills people -- each side has taken

 

extra care to destroy and demoralise the other.

 

At their feared `People's Courts', Maoists harshly treat suspected traitors, police informers, and the police involved in intelligence activities -- like Induwar. Heads, and sometimes limbs, are cut off. Rebels have left behind booby-trapped corpses of police and paramilitary, and so, have killed more.

In Chhattisgarh, central paramilitary, state police and state-abetted vigilantes -- of Salwa Judum -- have burnt homes to make a point. Women have been raped and killed. I came across an instance in Bijapur of forces bulldozing a suspected Maoist sympathiser and his preteen son. They beat the man, stabbed him, gouged out his eyes, cut open his chest, cut off his limbs, and smashed his head. His wife and two smaller children were made to watch. Of the older boy there's been no news since that day in October 2005.

 

I have seen the result of forced resettlement of tribals. A former chief of the Bijapur police district gave orders to shoot and kill journalists in his area at the peak of the Salwa Judum drive that began in mid-2005. In February 2007, I heard Chhattisgarh's Chief Minister Raman Singh boast to a room full of police and intelligence officials: "Salwa Judum is showing Gandhi is alive, showing non-violence is alive." He smoothly added: "Salwa Judum is like the fragrance of the forest in summer." Torture, custodial deaths and faked encounters of captured rebels and those suspected of helping them are recorded across Maoist-affected states. It breeds a terrible loop of action and reaction. Operations every week lead to rebel deaths, arrests or surrender.
Collateral damage -- innocent people -- are part of the deal. For their part, Maoists have heightened the call to arms after a meeting of its politburo in July this year. A document urged stepping up "tactical counter-offensives" and spreading these to "new areas so as to divert a section of the enemy forces from attacking our guerrilla bases and organs of political power".

 

It's a war that India has sired and festered, and helped to evolve and grow.


The key triggers for revolt -- skewed development, corruption, and social discrimination -- show few signs of lessening. And so, brutality on behalf of different perceptions of the greater common good will get worse.
Sudeep Chakravarti writes on issues of conflict in South Asia. He is the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

UNDER FIRE SPECIAL POLICE OFFICERS OF CHHATTISGARH BATTLE TWO FRONTS: THEY ARE TARGETED BY NAXALS AND FACE FLAK FROM HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES AND ROLES ARE SIMILAR TO THOSE OF POLICE OFFICERS, BUT THE SPOS ARE NOT REGULAR EMPLOYEES

 EJAZ KAISER IN RAIPUR

 

Linga Ram (22) used to drive private vehicles before he was allegedly forced to join as special police officer (SPO) in insurgency-hit Dantewada district, about 450 km south of Raipur.

 

His family, whose principal source of income is farming, had filed a petition at the Chhattisgarh High Court, seeking Linga Ram's relief from service.

 

The Court has acceded to the family's request, and directed the Dantewada police to allow him to relinquish his post.

 

The order comes amidst an escalating battle in the state between Maoists and the security forces.

 

His counsel Vivek Sharma told Hindustan Times that after Linga's reluctance to continue as SPO, the police detained him, following which his brother filed the petition.

 

However, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra told HT that Linga himself decided to become SPO though he resigned on Thursday after the court's decision.

 

"The police did not force him and in fact his decision to quit the job was influenced by his family members," Mishra said.

 

The Chhattisgarh police began recruiting SPOs as part of the antiMaoist operations in mid-2005. The hiring created controversy when it was alleged that the state police were recruiting teenagers.

 

Before the court's decision, Linga Ram's family members lodged a complaint with the Dantewada collector and superintendent of police (SP) to relieve him but nothing came out of it then. It was only after the high court served notice to the Dantewada SP that Linga Ram was produced before the court and his statement recorded.

 

Notable citizens like historian Ramachandra Guha and former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma challenged their hiring in the Supreme Court in May 2007 as being tantamount to the state arming civilians.

 

The police use these young tribals as informants, and rely on them to negotiate little-known and remote forested terrain, which are home to the Naxal guerrillas.

 

These young people are also the most vulnerable: in Bastar's sharply polarised landscape (where Dantewada is situated), over 150 SPOs have been killed in combat, or murdered.

 

SPOs are not in regular employment.


Around 3,000 of them in Chhattisgarh, deployed in the Naxal hotbed of the Bastar region, are in combat with Maoist rebels side by side with the regular state police and paramilitary personnel.

 

The court's directive, as interpreted by the legal circles here, was aimed to convey to the police that every young person has the liberty to take a decision about himself or herself and the police should not force them to become SPOs.

 

An SPO in Chhattisgarh gets a monthly pay of Rs 2,150, of which Rs 1,500 is reimbursed from the Centre's allocated security-related expenditure.

 

"The roles and responsibilities of the SPO are similar those of a police officer, in accordance with the provisions of the Police Act," said Pawan Deo, deputy inspector general of police (intelligence).

 

SPOs get arms training and weapons.

 

In the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, where jobs are very few, the tribals are encouraged to join as SPOs as they also act as feeders for the security forces involved in waging a battle against the left-wing extremists.

 

However, the SPOs continue to draw flak from human rights organisations even though their condition is no better than the loosely structured armed village squads, who suffered heavily in violent Naxal attacks.

 

This is for the first time that the judiciary has had to intervene on behalf of a tribal youth from a Naxal-infested area.

 

Over the years Chhattisgarh has trained SPOs from among the tribals in the Bastar region. The SPOs on various occasions formed part of Salwa Judum campaign.

 

The Salwa Judum is a loose antiNaxal unit comprising civilians, built up by the Chhattisgarh government.
This move has been criticised by the Supreme Court.

 

"Linga joined as SPO on August 27 this year. He informed the court that he hasn't got his salary so far," Sharma said.

 

However, the police remain keen to retain him. "Perhaps they believe Linga's reported acquaintance with Naxals would be of tremendous use to the security forces," Linga's counsel at the Court said.

 

"Our doors will remain open for him if he decides to come back," said Mishra.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly said the Naxal problem was the greatest security threat the nation was facing. The attitude of the state police bears him out on this. The state having to set up alternative units to deal with insurgency was unheard of so far.

 

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ejaz.kaiser@hindustantimes.com Linga Ram (22) used to drive private vehicles before he was allegedly forced to join as special police officer (SPO) in insurgency-hit Dantewada district, about 450 km south of Raipur.

His family, whose principal source of income is farming, had filed a petition at the Chhattisgarh High Court, seeking Linga Ram's relief from service.

The Court has acceded to the family's request, and directed the Dantewada police to allow him to relinquish his post.

The order comes amidst an escalating battle in the state between Maoists and the security forces.

His counsel Vivek Sharma told Hindustan Times that after Linga's reluctance to continue as SPO, the police detained him, following which his brother filed the petition.

However, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra told HT that Linga himself decided to become SPO though he resigned on Thursday after the court's decision.

"The police did not force him and in fact his decision to quit the job was influenced by his family members," Mishra said.

The Chhattisgarh police began recruiting SPOs as part of the antiMaoist operations in mid-2005. The hiring created controversy when it was alleged that the state police were recruiting teenagers.

Before the court's decision, Linga Ram's family members lodged a complaint with the Dantewada collector and superintendent of police (SP) to relieve him but nothing came out of it then. It was only after the high court served notice to the Dantewada SP that Linga Ram was produced before the court and his statement recorded.

Notable citizens like historian Ramachandra Guha and former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma challenged their hiring in the Supreme Court in May 2007 as being tantamount to the state arming civilians.

The police use these young tribals as informants, and rely on them to negotiate little-known and remote forested terrain, which are home to the Naxal guerrillas.

These young people are also the most vulnerable: in Bastar's sharply polarised landscape (where Dantewada is situated), over 150 SPOs have been killed in combat, or murdered.

SPOs are not in regular employment.
Around 3,000 of them in Chhattisgarh, deployed in the Naxal hotbed of the Bastar region, are in combat with Maoist rebels side by side with the regular state police and paramilitary personnel.

The court's directive, as interpreted by the legal circles here, was aimed to convey to the police that every young person has the liberty to take a decision about himself or herself and the police should not force them to become SPOs.

An SPO in Chhattisgarh gets a monthly pay of Rs 2,150, of which Rs 1,500 is reimbursed from the Centre's allocated security-related expenditure.

"The roles and responsibilities of the SPO are similar those of a police officer, in accordance with the provisions of the Police Act," said Pawan Deo, deputy inspector general of police (intelligence).

SPOs get arms training and weapons.

In the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh, where jobs are very few, the tribals are encouraged to join as SPOs as they also act as feeders for the security forces involved in waging a battle against the left-wing extremists.

However, the SPOs continue to draw flak from human rights organisations even though their condition is no better than the loosely structured armed village squads, who suffered heavily in violent Naxal attacks.

This is for the first time that the judiciary has had to intervene on behalf of a tribal youth from a Naxal-infested area.

Over the years Chhattisgarh has trained SPOs from among the tribals in the Bastar region. The SPOs on various occasions formed part of Salwa Judum campaign.

The Salwa Judum is a loose antiNaxal unit comprising civilians, built up by the Chhattisgarh government.
This move has been criticised by the Supreme Court.

"Linga joined as SPO on August 27 this year. He informed the court that he hasn't got his salary so far," Sharma said.

However, the police remain keen to retain him. "Perhaps they believe Linga's reported acquaintance with Naxals would be of tremendous use to the security forces," Linga's counsel at the Court said.

"Our doors will remain open for him if he decides to come back," said Mishra.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly said the Naxal problem was the greatest security threat the nation was facing. The attitude of the state police bears him out on this. The state having to set up alternative units to deal with insurgency was unheard of so far.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

KABUL AGAIN

 

The suicide bomber in Kabul on Thursday left no doubt that the target was the Indian embassy. As Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao indicated soon after, in intensity the blast bears similarity to that of July 7 last year. That attack left 60 dead, including a Foreign Service officer and a defence attache at the embassy. Then, investigators picked up enough chatter to indicate the involvement of the Pakistan-based Haqqani group, with possible participation of some of that country's intelligence agents. This time too, the Afghan foreign office has pointed to persons with "bases outside of Afghanistan", to those positioned against India-Afghanistan relations.

 

Investigators should get firmer leads soon. But the attack once again highlights the conditions in which Indian personnel are working in Afghanistan in myriad ways, to build long-term local capabilities in education, health and infrastructure (including a parliament building, roads, power, and telecommunication), besides undertaking humanitarian programmes to deliver food and medicine. Just recently, a 202-km-long transmission line was completed to get electricity to Kabul. Attacks like Thursday's highlight the security challenges that must be constantly re-assessed and acted upon to secure the kind of capabilities India is building in Afghanistan. Unlike other major powers assisting in Afghanistan, India's personnel are not military people, they are engineers, doctors, teachers, construction workers, all engaged in civilian activities and contributing to India's "soft" participation in nation-building there. Their induction and presence have nuanced Indian diplomacy in the region, and won local support. But this kind of strategic gain, as seen on Thursday, comes with huge risks to lives.

 

A comparison with last year's attack, however, shows that the security revamp undertaking after July 7, 2008 has improved protection at the embassy. But it also shows that India must brace itself for more challenges, especially at a time when Taliban violence is on the increase and political uncertainty is heightened by talk of eventual withdrawal of US troops. New Delhi will, per force, have to hunker down and follow up an investigation into the attack with dogged diplomacy. Of course, the good works being done in Afghanistan must carry on. Equally, it must be repeated that Afghanistan is a frontier in combatting the terrorism targeted against India.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS CLOSURE

 

Should the people have access to details on judicial assets? Yes, says the final version of the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, potentially ending a long, acrimonious dispute between the legislature and the judiciary, and within the judiciary itself. Within the judiciary, while Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had expressed concern that such publicly accessible details could be misused, some judges thought otherwise. And a Delhi high court judgment, by holding that the Chief Justice of India's office is within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, publicly disagreed with the Supreme Court view — in fact, so publicly that the apex court has appealed this decision. But the extent of disquiet led to judges agreeing to voluntarily make their asset details public.

 

More acrimonious was opposition from Parliament. The Centre had taken a middle-ground approach by formulating the Judges (Declaration of Assets) Bill, which required judges to declare assets to a "competent authority", but not to the public. Opposition came from MPs, including those of the ruling Congress, when the bill was brought to the Rajya Sabha. Their opposition forced the government to shelve this bill. Now, a changed draft of this bill is being merged into the new Judges (Inquiry) Bill. This new draft clarifies two legal uncertainties. First is the uncertainty around a 1997 declaration by the Supreme Court by which judges would declare their assets to their chief. The Supreme Court has since claimed that this declaration was non-binding, even going to the high court to defend this position. But with a law in place, the status of the 1997 resolution will cease to matter any more. The second uncertainty is the ambit of the RTI Act. With the law secretary stating on record that citizens will be able to use the legislation to access declarations on assets made to the chief justice, the judicial debate over this question, currently playing out in the Delhi high court, will hopefully come to an end.

 

The unseemly bickering over judicial assets — played out in court, in Parliament and in the public arena — risked muddying the hard-earned reputation of our higher judiciary. It is hoped that the current version of the bill, when passed, helps turn the page on this sordid chapter.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BURNING PAPER

 

India gets its chance to peer into the paperless future, as Amazon's game-changing e-reader hits the country next week. Inventive and useful as it is, the Kindle has also been cast as harbinger of destruction for publishing business-as-usual. Everyone invested in the current chain — publishers, big booksellers, readers and writers — will have to re-adjust, some more radically than others.

 

The Kindle, of course, is one of the most closed, control-freakish appliances — you can't lend your book around any more, you can't resell or share. You can buy books for Kindle only through Amazon. What happens if Amazon builds one gigantic vertical business from acquiring to wirelessly delivering — cutting out every link in the current chain? Right now, it only keeps a dollar on every Kindle book. But given greater girth and power, what's to say it, or some competitor, won't push a harder bargain? Not to mention the other nightmares of complete control over our libraries — we got a sneak preview when Amazon reached down and deleted George Orwell's 1984 from customers' Kindles, citing a business bungle.

 

That's not a public interest issue yet, given that there are emerging alternatives. While Amazon has a huge headstart, Sony Reader struck a deal with Google Books, and is actively evangelised by publishers like Hachette. Paper Logic has showed off a sleek new Kindle-killer to debut next year, Apple's working on its own answer to Amazon. Whether tethered, restricted platforms like Kindle and Sony or e-readers based on open standards, reading will go mostly digital, sooner rather than later. Which raises a whole set of questions — will digital availability mean that books will end up like music? The drudgery of page-by-page scanning and uploading protected books from piracy on a comparable scale, but once everyone's hooked on to e-reading, holding off the scofflaws might prove harder for publishers.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE NOBELITY OF 2009

DHANANJAYA DENDUKURI

 

Each year this time, the Nobel prize announcements capture news headlines bringing the world of science to public attention. The prizes focus our attention on scientists and consequently on research that has significantly helped enhance our understanding of nature or to alter the world around us. They provide glimpses into what our future may look like and help us appreciate the knowledge and technologies that we take for granted. This year brings particular cheer to India because one of our own, Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (albeit only of Indian origin), shares the Nobel prize in chemistry with two other researchers.

 

The Nobel prizes are also a way of discerning trends in scientific research. One such trend is the increasing prominence of research in the life sciences. In the last decade, as many as 60 per cent of Nobel prizes in chemistry have been awarded for work that has had a deep impact on biology and our understanding of the workings of life. If the 20th century was the century of physics, then the 21st century seems to be the century of biology.

 

The Nobel prize in medicine/ physiology was shared by three scientists who explained the role of protective pieces of DNA called telomeres in cell replication and in protection against rapid aging. Telomeres, from the Greek word for end-part, are small sequences of DNA that form a protective cap at the ends of chromosomes (DNA containing packages inside our cells). DNA, of course, plays a central role in life providing the blueprint to all its complex workings and its accurate replication across generations is vital to the sustenance of life. Telomerase is an enzyme that helps to accurately copy the telomeres. The absence of either makes cells age rapidly and eventually die. However, when this protection mechanism works "too" well, it leads to diseases like cancer where cells endlessly replicate without dying.

 

The discovery of the sequence and mechanism behind telomeres and telomerase by this year's Nobel winners is helping medical research formulate better therapies for cancer today. One possible solution is to selectively inhibit the telomerase in cancer cells, reducing their ability to divide and replicate. An interesting facet of the telomere is its existence and relative uniformity across species from plants to human beings. It is thus a fundamental mechanism that has helped in the propagation of diverse life forms which further highlights the importance of the research.

 

The Nobel prize in chemistry was again shared by three scientists who studied the structure and function of one of the key components of our cells — ribosomes. Ribosomes are responsible for translating the genetic blueprint into proteins, the real executors of tasks within our bodies. If accurate DNA replication is key to preserving life's code, proper translation of the DNA into proteins is the key to actually mapping the code to what we see as life around us. Ribosomes receive messenger RNA (that contains specific sequences of our genetic blueprint) and help translate the simple mRNA molecules into complex 3-D proteins like insulin, testosterone or haemoglobin.

 

This year's Nobel prize winners used a technique known as X-ray crystallography to study the structure of the ribosome. They painstakingly collected data that helped them piece together the thousands of atoms and their relative positions that make up the ribosome. Given the criticality of the task that ribosomes perform, it is essential that they have a low error rate during translation of mRNA to protein. One interesting facet that Dr Ramakrishnan discovered was the existence of a molecular ruler in ribosomes that measures the distance between atoms down to a few Angstroms (1/10000000 millimetre). If the distances between mRNA and the newly formed proteins are either too small or too large, indicating an incorrectly formed protein, the ruler detects it and helps eliminate proteins which could be dangerous to our survival.

 

An important practical application of the discovery of ribosome structure is that it will help design better antibiotics. Antibiotic molecules work by selectively destroying the ability of bacterial (as opposed to human) ribosomes to make proteins. Different antibiotics may bind to different parts of the ribosome, helping disable different functions in bacteria like the molecular ruler or simply the ability to release the protein after formation. Knowing the exact 3-D structure of the ribosomes is especially important in the context of dangerous, multi-resistant strains of bacteria that have proved resistant to several different antibiotic drugs. Understanding the structure of the ribosome will prove vital in the rational design of new antibiotic drugs that target specific portions of the bacterial ribosome.

 

An important reality about science today is highlighted by this year's prizes. Science is increasingly a team pursuit much like a relay race, where one group of researchers initiates work in an area and then develops it to a point. The baton passes on to another group which then makes further progress and so on. Each of the scientists who won the Nobel prize this year contributed to different pieces of the puzzle and it was only their integrated efforts that saw them reach a solution to the problem at hand. For every scientist that receives recognition in the form of a Nobel prize, there are others toiling away behind the scenes, who put together different pieces of the puzzle, that may never receive the sort of public attention that a Nobel commands. As Dr Ramakrishnan put it in a television interview, one doesn't join science to win awards but out of a basic curiosity to understand nature.

 

Looking ahead, biology, neurosciences, clean energy technologies and deeper investigations into the cosmos are at the forefront of human endeavour today. In addition, there are several other discoveries already known that are waiting for attention in the form of a Nobel.

 

The writer is lead scientist at Connexios Life Sciences (Bangalore express@expressindia.com)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

YOGINDER K. ALAGH

 

The unusual floods in the Krishna and Tungabhadra basins bring out the frailty of man vs nature and man in society. First, let's get some frail ideas out of the way. Consider: the flow in an ordinary Yamuna flood can be around 44,000 cusecs. So when the water accumulation leads to 20 lakh-plus cusecs you are talking of a one-in-a-10,000-year flood. Nobody has measured such a flood, because even five hundred years ago there were no such measurements — so hydrologists extrapolated recorded experience to measure extreme behaviour. Some have claimed the network of dams led to the floods. They're all wet. Even in the mid-'90s Andhra wanted the Almatti dam to be kept at a lower height, so that they would get more water downstream, and flood control was the argument for the present height. A smaller dam would have made matters worse, for it would have stored less flood water which would have caused more damage in Andhra. That the Andhra engineers should have kept empty capacity to accommodate the flow is a worse argument and bringing in the Surat collapse is a non-sequitur. In the Deccan plateau we always try to operate dams in a way that by mid-September we get a full tank. That way we get maximum water in the Rabi and summer. Of course, they didn't anticipate a one-in-a-10,000-year flood in design. (The Sardar Sarovar Dam was planned for a one-in-a-1000-year flood and then they said it wasn't enough so we redesigned it for a one-in-a-10,000-year flood. Then some nitwit said do it for a one-in-1,00,000-year flood. It turns out Gujarat wouldn't exist then so the dam at least wouldn't be the problem.)

 

Could they have done better in those few days? Only hindsight will tell. Maybe there is a case for an authority for the larger areas of the Krishna/ Tungabhadra basin, as in the Narmada. That could monitor in real-time and ensure quick and flexible responses in a difficult situation.

 

The laws of physics are no consolation for those who are beggared, or worse still have lost their near and dear ones; but they should give us a sense of proportion as we move urgently on rehabilitation.

 

My worry is more on how we anticipate disasters. For disasters are natural but coping with them is human, and the institutions to do so are man-made. It is there that we are growing fast, but not safely and that is bad. Twenty seven years ago I was caught in a cyclone devastating Saurashtra. There was an epic quality to the damage: trees uprooted, houses collapsed, cars and trucks destroyed and loss of life. Yet cyclones with half that intensity later have had much larger consequences. Why?

 

If you grow as fast as Andhra or Karnataka grows, most wealth or habitation-related indicators double in around six years. Other things remaining the same, damage would be at least four times as much if the same event repeated itself after a decade. Unfortunately for us other things don't remain the same. Natural drains in the flood plains are filled up in the name of construction and progress. Village-level water bodies, which store a part of the flood in the flood-prone zones, are encroached on by the local elite and in any case neglected. A large number of small water bodies can mean a not inconsiderable amount of storage of the flash flood. In most situations that would probably shave off around 10 per cent of the flow, which would be stored and used in the summer — when there can and probably will be in these areas a drought.

 

Also water management would train institutions at local levels to fight catastrophes.

 

We don't reward care. I had a soil test done when building a small house, and everybody made fun of me. The insurance premia gave me no credit for it. This mindset must change. Everywhere we should build at least one or two community buildings — a school, a panchayat ghar or a dispensary — which are flood-, earthquake- and cyclone-damage proof, built with topo sheets on relatively higher and safer spots in case of flash floods.

 

There must be practice drills on how everybody should learn to evacuate to safe buildings and spaces at short notice. In a catastrophe all suffer. Money is no good if there is no transport or food or drinking water.

 

It is good to grow fast. It is better to grow fast safely. Safety comes at a cost. Not very high if you have wise policies and anticipate problems. But there are costs and they have to be met.

 

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand (express@expressindia.com )

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

REIGN OF TERROR

RK VIJ

 

The inhumane and merciless murder of Inspector Francis Induwar of Jharkhand Police, by those claiming to operate hefty schemes like 'Janatana Sarkaar' (people's government), has exposed their real face once again. Many such instances have taken place in other Naxal-infested states. Until recently, before being pronounced as one of the most serious threats to the internal security of the country, Maoism was mostly downplayed by various actors of civil society including the media, irrespective of a higher death toll and the gruesome lynching of men as compared to other acts of violence. The list of martyred security men, which is read out on every 21st October (on 'Shaheed Diwas') is growing longer. Fearing the governments' more focused approach now, Naxalites are trying to spread waves of terror once again. Whenever their senior cadre are arrested or killed in exchange of fire or their very existence is challenged, they take recourse to brutality.

 

Inspector Hemant Mandawi of Jagargunda Police Station was killed when he was assisting the villagers repair an interior road in order to restore public transport. His feet were severed, as the Naxals wanted his shoes. In another incident, Central Paramilitary Force (CPMF) personnel's eyes were smashed with sharp weapons and hands cut to remove wrist watches. In the village of Kudur in Bastar district, policemen were ambushed with Claymore mines and then charred to death. In Ranibodli in March 2007, one of the rooms of the police camp was bolted from outside by the Maoists, and petrol bombs thrown inside towards the unaware, off-duty police personnel. Some escaping security men were targeted from tree tops, killing a total of 55 police officers including 36 Special Police Officers (SPOs). As if this couldn't pacify the Naxals quest for sadism, they laid down Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) all around the building to hinder even the evacuation of casualties. The charred bodies of the SPOs — who were all local residents of surrounding villages — could not be recognised even by their kin. Similarly, when a Chhattisgarh Electricity Board (CGEB) party was on its way to repair a blown up high tension tower near the dreaded 'Zhara Ghatee' of Narayanpur, its truck was blown up with an 80 kg plus IED, killing 3 civilians. The explosion was so intense that various pieces of their bodies had to be gathered from as far as 300 metres. These were handed over to their families in bag-shaped folded bed sheets, without us even knowing whether they belong to the same person or not. The law of the jungle applies to the public as well. On-the-spot killings of civilians in the name of dispensing quick justice in 'jan adalats' (public court) is an old-fashioned governance style of the Maoists. Tying hands behind and beheading with sharp weapons is the Maoists' favoured method. Showing disrespect to dead bodies is routine. Killing men and tying hidden IEDs to their dead bodies is yet another ploy to misguide the police and invite them to the scene of crime for inquest, leading to more explosions and more casualties.

 

Many seized documents have clearly shown that the birth of 'Salwa Judum'(meaning peace march) in June 2005 in South Bastar infuriated the Naxalites. The villagers were forced to flee due to continuous attacks and escalating fear. The state government, realising its constitutional obligations, promptly responded and created rehabilitation camps to provide people with basic amenities. Though Salwa Judum came up as a self-motivated people's movement in a response to the Naxalite atrocities, it was soon dubbed as a state-sponsored move. This is a well thought out propaganda by the Naxalites to malign the government. Quite a few times, the Naxalites have dared to attack even the rehabilitation camps. Though most of such attacks have been foiled by the police force, yet an attack on Errabore Rehabilitation Camp (situated on the national highway), left more than 30 killed and many injured. The fact is that the Naxalites were shaken by the increasing strength of the Salwa Judum and its commitment to re-establish peace in the area. The spurt of violence is due to the retaliation by the Naxalites in the face of the rising popularity of Salwa Judum, which led them to intimidate people so that they do not ever raise their heads.

 

Presently, there are about 3,000 SPOs, who assist security forces in the maintenance of order in Naxal-infested areas. These SPOs have played an important role in breaking and weakening the network of the Naxalites. Naxalites' brutality has not even spared the families of the SPOs. Many SPOs have been killed, only to discourage them from associating with the police.

 

The number of policemen who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty was about ten only until 2004, but this number shot up nearly eight-fold in the last four years. Similarly, the number of civilians killed by the Naxalites was less than 70 till 2004, but swelled to more than 200 in 2006. This further strengthens the fact that the Maoists were afraid of the people's resistance groups which had rejected their ideology in their own stronghold. The attacks on schools, panchayats and ashram buildings have unravelled their hollow talk of development. They are even opposed to developmental works. Schemes like 'Jantana Sarkaar' are being propagated only to hide their ugly face, smeared with cold blood. A country which was built on the edifice of non-violence cannot accept the ideology of armed struggle for class annihilation. Such mindless brutal killings by the Maoists must act as a wake-up call for civil society.

 

The writer is a senior police officer of Chhattisgarh

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'I CONDEMN THE BEHEADING... BUT WE HAVE TO SEE IT IN THE BACKGROUND OF STATE VIOLENCE'

VINAY SITAPATI

 

Chhattisgarh-based doctor BINAYAK SEN was arrested in May 2007 for his alleged links with Naxalites. Following a public campaign for his release, he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in May 2009. In this interview with VINAY SITAPATI, he speaks on the beheading of an abducted police inspector by Naxalites.

 

Inspector Francis Induwar was kidnapped and beheaded by Naxalites in Jharkhand recently. Whatever your ideology, is this not cold-blooded murder?

I condemn the beheading. It is absolutely unacceptable. There is no way I can approve of the killing. There are some questions about who has carried it out. If the CPI (Maoist) has carried it out, I condemn their action. Having said this, it is important to remember that the violence of resistance is a consequence, not a cause. We have to see it in the background of state violence.

 

But Induwar was in a market when he was captured and then later murdered. How can this be consequential violence?

I have already said that I condemn this action. It is murder and has no justification. But the general violence is a consequence of the state violence — both structural and direct. The vast majority of the poor people are kept in poverty because of the state. Today, the state violence and the violence of resistance are locked into a tragic cycle. This cycle needs to be broken. Both forms of violence need to be brought to a halt. We need to halt military engagement and start talking.

 

Naxalites have never executed a kidnapped police officer before. This seems to be much worse than the normal "tragic cycle" of violence and counter-violence you refer to. Has Naxalite violence reached a new level?

I hope this is an aberration. I would like to believe that this is an aberration. But I also don't think this kind of brutality is new for either side. I think similar incidents have occurred before.

 

For the record: Are you associated with the CPI (Maoists) in any way? Do you agree with their demands?

I am a member of the People's Union of Civil Liberties. That is my only affiliation. I am not a member of any other group. I don't condemn the Naxal demands for a just society. I am condemning their resort to violence and brutality.

 

You say state and Naxal violence are equally illegitimate. But state violence has some checks. In your case there is a judicial trial, you finally got bail. But the Naxals killed Inspector Induwar without any semblance of 'due process'. How can you equate violence by the state and Naxals?

I am not equating anything. I am holding all violence to be illegitimate. I don't want to get into the business of saying one is worse than the other. But this idea that state violence is more benign is not true. In south Bastar [in Chhattisgarh] lakhs of people have been displaced and hundreds have been killed by state violence. What happened to me is not as bad. Similarly, what happened to Inspector Francis is much worse that what the state has done to me.

 

You believe that Naxals feed on local grievances against state violence. But in that case why does not a single political party or mass movement support them. Even the LTTE had a mass base. Where is the popular base of Naxals?

This is not my area of expertise. But I don't agree with you. I don't think the Naxals could survive as a force if they did not have some local public support.

There is debate currently on whether the government should tackle the Naxals head on, or whether it should facilitate development first. Do you support the argument that development in these impoverished parts will end Naxal violence?

The definitions of development that different classes in society have are different. The kind of development that the ruling classes want is privatisation and widespread displacement. That may not be the idea of development that people living in these areas have. We cannot have a form of development which is a reassertion of the hegemony of a few.

 

You've been out on bail for several months now. How does it feel to be free?

Well, my trial is proceeding in Raipur. One more chargesheet has been filed by the Chhattisgarh government. It is as absurd as the earlier ones. At a personal level, my wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and my life is concentrated on getting her well. I am also in anguish over increasing state-Naxal violence. There doesn't seem to be any scope for dialogue. It is like watching two locomotives racing towards each other.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

AT THE MERCY OF THE STATE

T. R. ANDHYARUJINA

 

The home minister recently said that he would consider afresh the cases of 28 convicts awaiting the death sentence, whose mercy petitions have been lying with the president for years. The earliest such petition has been pending since 1998. Chidambaram said that the home ministry would examine cases turn by turn, and each would take 3 to 4 weeks for a decision. In effect, the decisions on these 28 cases would lead to a further agonising suspense for those on death row.

 

The home ministry exercise will not wipe out the inhumanity with which 28 human beings, even if they be convicted of murders, have been treated. Rather, it will compound the government's apathy and inaction of a type recognised as cruel and illegal by our Supreme Court and other courts in the world.

 

Amongst the 28 cases is that of Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court for his part in the Parliament attack on August 5, 2006. This is not simply a case of unexplained indecision, but one with political overtones. He was due to be executed on October 20, 2006, when it was stayed on a clemency petition filed by his family. Guru's mental agony is evident from his statement last year — "I really wish L.K. Advani becomes the next prime minister as he is the only one who can take a decision and hang me. At least my pain and daily suffering will ease then". Of the UPA's ambivalenc, he said "I don't think the UPA government can reach a decision. The Congress party has two mouths and is playing a double game".

 

In 1983, the Supreme Court observed that Article 21 of the Constitution would forbid a convicted person being put to the agony of suspense over his execution. The Court said "We must take this opportunity to impress upon the government of India and the state governments that mercy petitions must be disposed of expeditiously. A self-imposed rule should be followed by the executive authorities rigorously, that every such petition shall be disposed of within a period of three months from the date on which it is received. Long and interminable delays in the disposal of these petitions are a serious hurdle in the dispensation of justice and indeed, such delays tend to shake the confidence of the people in the very system of justice." This admonition of the Court has been ignored by governments.

 

On September 18 this year, the Supreme Court reiterated the inhumanity of such long agonising suspense, in a telling judgment. A bench of Justices H.S. Bedi & J.M. Panchal this time specifically referred to the relevancy of their observations on 26 pending mercy petitions — in some cases for more than a decade:

 

"We must, however, say with the greatest emphasis, that human beings are not chattels and should not be used as pawns in furthering some larger political or government policy... Consider the plight of a prisoner who has been under a sentence of death for 15 years or more living on hope but engulfed in fear as his life hangs in balance and in the hands of those who have no personal interest in his case and for whom he is only a name. Equally, consider the plight of the family of such a prisoner, his parents, wife and children, brothers and sisters, who too remain static and in a state of limbo and are unable to get on with life on account of the uncertain fate of a loved one. What makes it worse for the prisoner is the indifference and ennui which ultimately develops in the family, brought about by a combination of resignation, exhaustion, and despair. What may be asked is the fault of these hapless individuals that they be treated in such a shabby manner".

 

The moving words of the Court should rankle any government guilty of culpable indecision in deciding mercy petitions. There should be a sufficient justification for immediate commutation of the death sentences to a lesser appropriate sentence in the 28 cases pending with the president, instead of this prolonged decision-making exercise, which would only exacerbate the agony of these convicts on death row.

 

The writer is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE MADRASA BOARD CONTROVERSY

SEEMA CHISHTI

There has been much apprehension about the proposed Central Madrasa Board (meant to introduce a touch of modernism in these institutions for religious education). Rashtriya Sahara, in its lead story on October 4 headlined, 'Markazi Madrasa Board: qaum jo chaahegi wahi hoga' (whatever the community wants will be done) has reported the statement of HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, after his meeting with some Muslim MPs, where he had declared that action will be taken according to the wishes of the Muslim community. The minister is reported to have stated that the views of MPs for and against the formation of the Board were almost evenly divided: even those who supported pleaded for some changes in the proposed draft of the proposal.

Stating that the draft for the proposed enactment for a Madrasa Board that has been prepared without seeking the ulema's opinion is "against the Muslim temperament" and "unacceptable", Hyderabad-based daily Siasat (October 6) writes: "The government is concerned only about improvement of religious madrasas whereas it could have opened other alternative schools equipping them with modern wherewithal and imparting better and better education to Muslim students. But instead, it is using tactics like these to keep the madrasas under control."

PLACES OF WORSHIP ON PUBLIC LAND

Urdu papers have generally welcomed the Supreme Court's order that no place of worship should be constructed illegally at a public place. Kolkata and Delhi-based daily Akhbar-e-Mashriq, in its editorial (Oct 1) has welcomed it: Holding some sections of the majority community largely responsible for such constructions and enumerating many problems faced by the minority, the paper adds: "The government and the courts should also pay attention to these matters as well and get justice to the oppressed and the deprived. The ends of justice can't be met only by enacting new laws."

Jamaat-e-Islami's bi-weekly Daawat, in an editorial (October 4) writes: "There is another aspect of this issue... There already is a law in the country with the objective of protection of historical religious places. Places of worship that existed before 1947 have been given the status of historical buildings. This law was reiterated when the controversy about Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi was raised. Therefore, its respect is mandatory, because it is a national law... otherwise the said order will, instead of creating communal harmony, worsen the situation. The court should also see that state governments do not implement this order in a wrong manner."

THE MAOIST CHALLENGE

In its front page commentary on October 1, Daawat writes: "In spite of all efforts it has not been possible to control Naxalite violence and that is a matter of concern for us... Neither terrorism nor separatism are as big dangers as Naxalism, yet only the former is shown in an exaggerated manner ('unhin ka hawwa khara kiya jata hae'). If the statistics of loss of life and property are considered, what are described as terrorism and separatism are far behind Naxalite violence..." The paper adds: "Naxalite terrorism is ignored only because persons from the majority community are alleged in it and much noise is made and great energy is spent on fake terrorism (masnui dehshatgardi) in which members of the minority community are said to be involved."

 

Referring to the "unprecedented" newspaper advertisements depicting the faces of Naxalite violence Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial (Sept. 27), writes: "It is not very easy to defame the Naxalite movement (badnaam kar paana itna aasaan nahin hae) because they work on the lines of Robin Hood... Now the problem cannot be solved only by the solutions provided by the government. Participation of the entire country is necessary in this process."

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DOCTORS, LAWYERS, ACCOUNTANTS


It may now be a curious quirk of history, but certain non-corporatised service sector professions—law, medicine and accountancy—were allowed by Acts of Parliament to self-regulate through the Bar Council of India (BCI), Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). These bodies came up at a time when state control and state regulation were at their strongest. So, these professions were quite privileged to be allowed to regulate themselves rather than be subject to government regulation or even independent regulation. Unfortunately, these self-regulatory bodies haven't quite justified their special privilege over the years, and now may be the appropriate time to move towards the global best practice of independent regulation, even for these three professions.

 

Self-regulation is no different from normal regulation at least in terms of purpose. These regulatory bodies set the standards for entry into the profession. They set standards to maintain quality in the profession. And they set the rules for educational institutions in their respective fields. Sadly, the self-regulatory bodies seem to have failed on all counts. In terms of entry, these bodies have become representatives of entrenched vested interest and like the regulators of the old, see their prime duty as restricting entry, particularly from abroad. This has harmed the cause of competition and quality in these professions. Even on account of standards, self-regulation has fallen woefully short. The ICAI has struggled to come up with a coherent and credible response to the accounting scandal which surrounded Satyam almost a year since it broke out. The MCI has also failed to adequately ensure that the highest standards are met in the medical profession and that appropriate action is taken against those who violate standards often in matters of life and death. Doctors issue bogus medical leave certificates—take the pilots' strikes recently—with zero fear of reprimand, forget stronger action. But the self-regulators probably save their worst for the educational institutes they regulate, including entry, exit and curriculum. All three bodies stand guilty of lowering standards and promoting vested interest and parochialism in educational institutions that function under their remit. Unsurprisingly, they are completely opposed to medical and legal education being handed over to the proposed independent regulator for higher education. But surely they must, unless they are willing to give up their self-regulatory status and make these bodies truly independent regulators of their professions. At the moment, these self-regulators simply seem to act in the self-interest of members and spend most of their time and effort lobbying the government for various concessions. That's legitimate work in its own right but cannot under any circumstances be combined with regulation. The ICAI, MCI and BCI have reduced themselves to lobby groups. We need independent regulators.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CURRENCY CONUNDRUMS


What's happening to the dollar? And how should everyone, India's policymakers in our case, prepare? The US dollar index is showing two things: depreciation trend and a depreciation trend that's 'not enough' given the appreciation that happened because of the post-crisis flight to safety. The US government would like a steady and un-shallow dollar depreciation since that will allow what's called rebalancing—the US cuts down imports, increases exports, consumes less, saves more. But Washington would like to see this happen without being seen to be asking for it—that would be politically unacceptable for the Obama White House. The good thing for Washington is that markets are clearly starting to think about a weaker dollar, a phenomenon linked to the return of risk appetite among investors. Federal Reserve holding interest rates close to zero, the realisation by some governments and central banks in emerging markets that currency stocks are of limited value against external shocks, declining current account deficits in emerging markets after the fall in commodity prices—all of this has also helped. A depreciating dollar and slack appetite for imports have helped the US shrink its trade deficit and cut down the current account deficits to 2.6% of GDP in 2009, less than half of the huge 6% of GDP figure in 2006. The narrowing current account deficit has curbed American appetite for funds and helped Fed maintain its policy stance—there is no immediate pressure to push up interest rates to attract more foreign capital.

 

The not-so-good questions for Washington is whether 'enough' depreciation can be achieved without spooking dollar holders and, related to it, whether some of the dollar holders will cooperate. This, of course, means China, which seems officially in no hurry to let its currency appreciate. The world needs China to change its policy. The dollar is considered by many to be still overvalued—the 8.3% depreciation since April has been half of the 17.8% appreciation over the previous eleven months. But assuming everything goes okay—a big assumption—India must hold its nerve steady and not intervene in the currency market. The post-crisis sensibility shown by RBI when it allowed the rupee to depreciate must be replicated for rupee appreciation. The rupee has appreciated 3.3% in the current week. Soon there will be the usual lobbying for protecting exports. This must be ignored. The costs of manipulating the rupee are too great—a huge stress on interest rate policy, for example. If the rupee goes up against the dollar, RBI should watch, but not necessarily act.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THIS IS NO TIME FOR RATE HIKE

ILA PATNAIK

 

RBI governor D Subbarao has hinted at a rate increase sooner than that in developed countries. At the same time the Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates. It is the first G20 country to have raised rates. The question this raises is whether RBI will raise interest rates soon?

 

What are the factors that should shape RBI's decision on interest rates?

 

The most important factor is growth. Is growth back on track? There are three important aspects to this question. First, while 6-6.5% GDP growth might look high in comparison with growth in the US, UK and Europe, it is below India's decadal average. The Indian economy, as in the case of other emerging economies, does not witness business cycles around a zero percent growth rate. As a developing country, growth rates here are much higher and fluctuate around a long-term trend. While the issue of calculating this trend is difficult, and there is plenty of academic debate on it, one simple way of looking at it is to think of the trend as a decadal average. This, looking back, is roughly 7-7.25% for India. Further, if we think of this as a long term potential growth rate for India, then as long as we are growing below this growth rate, there is space to expand, and grow faster, and, when we are above this potential growth rate, policy makers need to watch out for signs of overheating and of inflationary expectations.

 

The second aspect that matters for growth in India is global conditions. While most people agree that the worst is over, the question of whether the recovery is U-shaped or W-shaped is still not on. It is not entirely clear that when the effect of fiscal stimuli of the G20 countries wears off, growth will contine, and if so at what pace. Until this unfolds, there will remain a significant amount of uncertainty in the world. Indian business cycles are highly sychronised with global, and especially, US business cycles. If there is a W shaped recovery in the US, we may find that the growth we have witnessed in the last two quarters may seen a downturn again. To take a concrete example, export growth of automobiles recovered thanks to the support offered by European and US governments. Will this growth be sustained after the concessions end? The answer is that it is too soon to say.

 

The third aspect to consider on the growth front is growth of non-food bank credit. Are businesses, especially small businesses, which are among the biggest engines of growth in the Indian economy getting access to credit. The disruption caused by the crisis to non-bank credit puts more of the burden on bank credit. Looking at month-on-month seasonally adjusted data we find that until the September 2008 credit crisis, non-food credit series was growing at above 20% on a monthly basis. In the period immediately after the crisis it slipped to below 10%. It is still below the pre-crisis levels, and below the RBI target of 20%. The growth of bank credit is normally coincident with economic activity and as long as this is below desirable levels, any action that could restrict this growth, would not be desirable.

 

One of the important factors that will shape RBI's policy of interest rates will be the impact of an interest rate hike on the exchange rate. Higher interest rates will increase interest differentials and attract foreign capital inflows. This will put pressure on the rupee to appreciate. As Governor Subbarao pointed out, this will raise questions about what the RBI should do: a) allow it to appreciate, b) prevent appeciation by intervening in forex markets and allow larger liquidity, or c) prevent appreciation and then sterilise its intervention. The first, i.e appreciation, could hurt exports. The second, i.e unsterilised intervention, could raise concerns about excess liquidity, and the third, i.e. sterilising its intervention would not only put further fiscal burden on an already stretched fisc, but it would also make the RBI's job of selling government bonds even harder. After considering how undesirable all of these outcomes are, the RBI would be reluctant to raise rates for fear of capital inflows.

And, finally, of course, there is the question of inflation. There is confusion on whether to look at core inflation (WPI inflation minus food and oil inflation), or to look at the CPI which is affected by flood and drought and could be tackled by better supply management, or to look at the WPI, which does not say anything about anybody's consumption basket. Further there are questions about the effectiveness of interest rate policy on inflation in India given the weak monetary policy transmission mechanism and other issues that Subbarao raised in a speech last month when he was arguing why the RBI cannot focus on reducing or stabilising inflation as its focus.

 

In summary, growth and credit conditions do not indicate that it is time for the RBI to raise interest rates and higher food inflation, by itself, is not a sufficient reason to do so.

 

The author is senior fellow, NIPFP

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BOTTOM OF THE BARREL REGULATION

KAUSHIK RANJAN BANDYOPADHYAY

 

The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) was set up under a resolution of Government of India in 1993 as a regulatory body for monitoring the upstream oil and gas sector which includes exploration, development and production of oil and gas. Additionally, the directorate is supposed to play a significant advisory role to Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) in technical matters pertaining to the upstream sector which includes monitoring of production sharing and other contracts. However, the credibility and transparency of both DGH and MoPNG have increasingly come under the scanner especially in light of the dispute between the Ambani brothers that began soon after their demerger. The recent string of allegations (made by RNRL) against DGH include favouring RIL by allowing them to pad the costs of exploration at KG-D6, and for receiving undue favours from RIL. These will probably be looked into. But the issue is bigger.

 

The upstream sector is capital intensive and fraught with risks and hence quite challenging in terms of monitoring. Thus, the sector essentially demands a mature statutory regulator, which should be independent and accountable to Parliament. However, DGH is effectively a technical wing of MoPNG and essentially an in house regulator. The crux of the problem lies there. In fact, the recent allegations regarding the conflict of interests in the evaluation of the inflated capital expenditure or investment have a lot to do with this in house status of DGH.

 

Interestingly, DGH claimed earlier that the approval of this investment has been validated by the CAG whereas the latter reportedly stated its delay in executing the auditing work due to limited access to data and information. It is quite understandable that RIL being a private company may not be inclined to hand over all its documents to a government auditor. So, questions are bound to be raised on the veracity of such validation. The only way to set to rest all these allegations was to disclose the CAG audit report. If all is well then there should not have been a problem with such disclosure. The question is whether MoPNG or DGH would actually be inclined to do so and come out clearly. Such a transparent move becomes all the more doubtful as MoPNG and DGH have already set enough precedents of acting in a non-transparent and untimely manner and a plethora of articles have already been written on the mess that they have created in the upstream sector, let alone the courtroom battle.

 

The most serious concerns have been raised about transparency of production sharing contracts (PSCs) under NELP. Neither the MoPNG nor the DGH has made public the model PSCs or bid evaluation criteria for the first NELP round. For the other rounds no official information is accessible about the winning bids and the final PSCs for any block. Beyond that, no clear information about actual discoveries of oil and gas or verified and validated reserves in various blocks as well as the expected rate of flow are made available either by DGH or MoPNG whereas DGH is supposed to come out periodically with such information. The way the MoPNG and DGH, which is also acting at the behest of MoPNG, are functioning and tweaking rules are bound to raise serious concerns about the prudency of capital expenditure or investment figures on blocks. Thus, the possibility of gold-plating an investment which leads to a higher return for the contractor and lower return for the government cannot simply be ruled out. In fact, it could very well imply a substantial delay in realisation of government's share of 'profit gas' till the contractor has recovered all the incurred costs.

 

Given the complexities of the upstream oil and gas sector and the geopolitics surrounding it, the role that has been assigned to DGH is of national importance. The Web site of DGH categorically states that it is "a body to promote the sound management of the Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Resources having a balanced regard for the environment, safety, technological and economic aspects of the upstream petroleum activity".

Unfortunately, however, the upstream regulator along with its nurturer MoPNG have failed to live up to that standard and allowed the energy security of the nation to be drawn into a mess. After this entire hullabaloo it is high time to explore if DGH could be made an independent statutory body that is accountable to the parliament.

 

Alternatively, MoPNG and DGH along with the contractors under NELP should be made to follow some international benchmarks for accounting transparency by adapting them to the Indian context. This would also facilitate in assuring Indian citizens that their energy security are not taken for a royal ride.

 

The writer is a senior fellow at the Asian Institute of Transport Development, New Delhi

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THOSE CRAZY BOYS IN GREEN

DEEPAK NARAYANAN

 

Each cricket team is attributed with certain qualities that make them successful. Pakistan is a team that seems propped up by a dozen clichés or more.

 

They could be impudent, bold, flashy, passionate, foolhardy, dynamic, outrageous and more. And all this in one 10-over passage of play, as they showed against Australia in the Champions Trophy. Any cricket fan you ask will tell you that they wished their team had a little bit of Pakistan because when on song, the only team that can beat Pakistan are Pakistan themselves.

 

They beat India convincingly in the Champions Trophy group game—only the second time at a global one-day competition that they had managed to trump their arch-rivals.They had booked passage into the semi-finals from a tough group and then played one of the tournament's most watchable passages of play as they pushed Australia the distance before falling to a last-ball defeat. They lost to New Zealand in the semi-finals, which was an upset, but isn't unpredictability allowed to visit a team that's made a business out of dishing it out? Apparently not. Because in Pakistan cricket, bizarre twists are not restricted to the action on the field.

 

Jamshed Khan Dasti, who heads the National Assembly standing committee on sports, accused Pakistan of throwing the matches against Australia—so as to keep India out—and then New Zealand (for which there really can't be a satisfactory explanation). Odd thing is, it's only in such scenarios that Pakistan cricket has brushes with consistency. Some furious denials later, Dasti has backtracked. All in a couple of day's work. For a team so full of surprises, it's amazing how humdrum the controversies can be. Infighting in the team used to be a favourite theme until Younis Khan's disarming smile convinced followers that all was fine. Former players are always asking for the head of the captain, and when that wish is fulfilled, they go after the coaches or the senior players. And when enough of a storm has been created, they ask for calm.But somehow, when they step out on to the field, the team manage to leave all that behind—to create some chaos of their own.

 

deepak.narayanan@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

HOW CELLS MAKE PROTEINS

 

This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognises the achievements of three scientists, one of them an Indian-born American, in painstakingly piecing together a detailed atomic model of the ribosome, a key component of living cells. All living organisms, from the simplest microbes to plants and animals, rely on ribosomes to turn the blueprints stored in their genes into the myriad proteins needed to produce and sustain life. The ribosome is an intricate molecular machine made up of hundreds of thousands of atoms. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz, and Ada E. Yonath have successfully mapped the position of each of those atoms. By laying out the detailed structure of the ribosome, their work provides a window into the complex process by which ribosomes assemble proteins. It reveals too how that machinery could be targeted by antibiotics. Mapping the atoms of such a complicated structure using intense beams of x-rays has been a daunting task. Indeed, at one time, many scientists doubted it could be done. Credit must go to Dr. Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel for her pioneering contributions. In 1980, she made crystals of the ribosome's large subunit, an essential first step for taking x-ray snapshots. But another 20 years would pass before she could generate images that allowed her to determine the location of each atom. Her work encouraged other scientists to enter the field.

 

Venki Ramakrishnan, who is now at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge, U.K., began working on ribosomes as a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale University in the U.S. Subsequently, he and his colleagues published the detailed structure of the ribosome's smaller subunit. Every protein is made up of combinations of just 20 different amino acids. If the genetic code was misread and the wrong amino acid incorporated, the resulting protein might not function at all or, worse, perhaps work in a different fashion. Dr. Ramakrishnan's work with the smaller subunit revealed a proofreading mechanism that is active during protein assembly in the ribosome. As a result, errors were limited to about one per 100,000 amino acids. Dr. Steitz cracked a key problem in how to go about interpreting the x-ray images. In addition, he and his collaborators showed how the chemical link between two amino acids was forged in the ribosome. Figuring out the details of the ribosomal structure has shed light on how many antibiotics work. But above all else this is a Nobel for outstanding science carried out by competing groups that has cleared up one more of Nature's countless mysteries.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

NO AFGHAN SOLUTIONS FOR NATO

 

The request by the United States and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for an additional 40,000 troops sharply highlights NATO's rapidly worsening problems. If President Barack Obama concedes Gen. McChrystal's demand, the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan will rise to 140,000, including 110,000 Americans. There is, however, a void at the centre of NATO policy on Afghanistan. The original plans were to find Osama bin Laden, destroy Al Qaeda, and overthrow the Taliban regime, which harboured bin Laden. All those plans have failed disastrously. The Taliban were driven out of Kabul in five weeks. But they have never relinquished Helmand province in the southwest, and are now resurgent in the north and east. They control Kunduz and have just taken Nuristan, inflicting serious casualties on U.S. forces. Politically, NATO has had to collaborate with non-Taliban warlords, whose attitudes and ways are often not very different from those of the Taliban. In addition, the civilian government of Hamid Karzai is corrupt, bereft of legitimacy, and in any case barely exists outside Kabul. Independent observers regard at least a third of the votes for him in the yet-to-be-settled presidential election as fraudulent. More than 31,000 Afghan civilians have died as a result of the NATO invasion, which occurred in October 2001. If the very recent suicide bombing near the Indian Embassy in Kabul is a guide, the Taliban may be re-establishing a presence in the capital. As to Osama bin Laden, he has never been found.

 

The issue of Afghanistan is now causing serious problems in several NATO countries, particularly the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Germany. The Obama administration has reproved Gen. McChrystal for making public his troop request. But it is not long since Mr. Obama himself castigated his predecessor George W. Bush for not listening to the military over Afghanistan and Iraq. Public support for the war is falling. Al Qaeda continues to be a global threat but the Taliban are clearly not. At most they are a regional threat and it is surely significant that it is Pakistan's armed forces that have dealt most effectively with that country's Taliban elements when they have been set that task. NATO, confused about what this 'global war on terror' is all about, cannot solve anything in Afghanistan. It is time for the world to move towards an enforceable U.N. agreement that ends the U.S.-led occupation and restores Afghanistan's tradition of strict neutrality, so that the region can find some semblance of stability and peace.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

COUNTING THE COSTS OF A VAUNTED DEAL

ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF ITS COMING TO FRUITION, THE MUCH-TRUMPETED INDO-U.S. NUCLEAR DEAL STANDS OUT AS AN OVERRATED INITIATIVE WHOSE CONCLUSION THROUGH PATENT POLITICAL PARTISANSHIP HOLDS SOBERING LESSONS FOR INDIA.

BRAHMA CHELLANEY

 

For United States President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the nuclear deal was a prized legacy-building issue. Mr. Bush ensured the deal wasn't a divisive subject at home by forging an impressive bipartisan consensus. By contrast, Dr. Singh's polarising single-mindedness on the ballyhooed deal and refusal to permit parliamentary scrutiny injected intense partisan rancour into the debate. Given that India may have to assume new international legal obligations on other fronts too — from climate change to the Doha Round of world-trade talks — the noxious precedent set by the deal must be corrected in national interest.

 

The deal indeed was a milestone, symbolising the deepening ties between the world's oldest democracy and

largest democracy. But on the first anniversary of its coming to fruition, the deal stands out as an overvalued venture whose larger benefits remain distant for India, including an end to dual-use technology controls and greater U.S. support in regional and global matters. The deal offers more tangible benefits to the U.S. While significantly advancing U.S. non-proliferation interests, the deal — embedded in a larger strategic framework — fashions an instrumentality to help co-opt India in a "soft alliance." It also carries attractive commercial benefits for the U.S. in sectors extending from commercial nuclear power to arms trade.

 

To be sure, the deal-making was a tortuous, three-year process, involving multiple stages and difficult-to-achieve compromises. At its core, the deal-making centred on India's resolve to safeguard its nuclear military autonomy and America's insistence on imposing stringent non-proliferation conditions, including a quantifiable cap on Indian weapons-related capabilities. Eventually, a deal was sealed that gave India the semblance of autonomy and America some Indian commitments to flaunt, best epitomised by the decision to shut down Cirus — one of India's two research reactors producing weapons-grade plutonium. No sooner had Congress ratified the deal package than the White House made clear the deal was predicated on India not testing again, with "serious consequences" to follow a breach of that understanding.

 

The more recent G-8 action barring the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) equipment or technology to non-NPT signatories even under safeguards is a fresh reminder that while New Delhi is taking on legally irrevocable obligations that tie the hands of future Indian generations, America's own obligations under the deal are unequivocally anchored in the primacy of its domestic law and thus mutable. If there were any doubts on that score, they were set at rest by the American ratification legislation that gave effect to the deal, the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-Proliferation Enhancement Act of 2008, or NCANEA. This Hyde Act-plus legislation unabashedly declares that the bilateral 123 Agreement is subservient to existing U.S. law and "any other applicable United States law" enacted henceforth.

 

That the U.S. has used the G-8 mechanism to deny India the "full" cooperation it bilaterally pledged shouldn't come as a surprise because the NCANEA obligates Washington to spearhead a Nuclear Suppliers Group ban on ENR transfers. Having formally proposed such a ban in the NSG, Washington got the G-8 to act first — a move that puts pressure on the NSG to follow suit and, more importantly, brings on board in advance all potential ENR-technology suppliers to India. Even on the unrelated and unresolved issue of granting India an operational right to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel, the U.S. government has notified Congress that such permission, while subject to congressional approval, would be revocable.

 

For years to come, the deal will generate eclectic controversies because it is rife with unsettled issues, ambiguities and the avowed supremacy of one party's variable domestic law. To help the beleaguered Indian government save face, some issues — ranging from a test prohibition to the political nature of fuel-supply assurances — were spelled out not in the bilateral 123 Agreement but in the subsequent U.S. presidential statements and NCANEA. As a result, the final deal gives America specific rights while saddling India with onerous obligations.

 

Politically, the deal was oversold as the centrepiece, if not the touchstone, of the new Indo-U.S. partnership to the extent that, a year later, New Delhi seems genuinely concerned about India's declining profile in American policy. Clearly, New Delhi had over-expectations about what the deal would deliver.

 

Still, there are some key lessons New Delhi must draw from the way it handled the deal. The first is the importance of building political bipartisanship on critical national matters. Had the Prime Minister done what he repeatedly promised — "build a broad national consensus" — India would have strengthened its negotiating leverage and forestalled political acrimony. Dr. Singh's approach was to play his cards close to his chest and rely on a few chosen bureaucrats. Not a single all-party meeting was called. Consequently, the government presented itself as deal-desperate on whom additional conditions could be thrust.

 

A second lesson relates to Parliament's role. Even if there is a lacuna in the Indian Constitution that allows the executive branch to sign and ratify an international agreement without any legislative scrutiny, a forward-looking course would be to plug that gap by introducing a constitutional amendment in Parliament, rather than seek to exploit that weakness.

 

Sadly, the government chose not to place the final deal before Parliament even for a no-vote debate before it rushed to sign the 123 Agreement on September 10, 2008, just two days after Mr. Bush signed NCANEA into law. This extraordinary haste occurred despite Dr. Singh's July 22, 2008 assurance in the Lok Sabha that after the entire process was complete, he would bring the final deal to Parliament and "abide" by its decision. But no sooner had the process been over than the government proceeded to sign the 123 Agreement without involving Parliament, although the deal imposes external inspections in perpetuity and leaves no leeway for succeeding governments. A year later, Dr. Singh has yet to make a single statement in Parliament on the terms of the concluded deal, lest he face questions on the promises he couldn't keep, including the elaborate benchmarks he had defined on August 17, 2006.

 

In the future, Parliament must not be reduced to being a mere spectator on India's accession to another international agreement, even as the same pact is subject to rigorous legislative examination elsewhere. In fact, when the government tables the nuclear-accident liability bill, Parliament ought to seize that opportunity to examine the nuclear deal and its subsidiary arrangements. The bill — intended to provide cover mainly to American firms, which, unlike France's Areva and Russia's Atomstroyexport, are in the private sector — seeks to cap foreign vendors' maximum accident liability to a mere $62 million, although each nuclear power station is to cost several billion dollars.

 

Yet another lesson is to stem the creeping politicisation of top scientists. This trend has drawn encouragement from two successive governments' short-sighted use of topmost scientists for political purpose. Such politicisation was on full display during the nuclear deal process. The top atomic leadership made scripted political statements in support of deal-related moves, only to be rewarded with special post-superannuation extensions beyond established norms. The current unsavoury controversy among scientists over India's sole thermonuclear test in 1998 — and the atomic establishment's frustration over the attention dissenting views are receiving — is a reflection of the damage to official scientific credibility wrought by the deal politics. All this only underscores the need to bring the cosseted nuclear programme under oversight.

 

If truth be told, national institutions have been the main losers from the partisan approach and divisive politics that the deal came to embody. The deal divided the country like no other strategic issue since Indian independence, with the deteriorating national discourse reaching a new low. Such divisiveness, in turn, seriously weakened India's hand in the deal-related diplomacy. A new brand of post-partisan politics must define India's approach in Copenhagen and the Doha Round.

 

A final sobering lesson: Key national decisions must flow from professional inputs and institutional deliberations, not from gut opinions in which near-term considerations or personal feelings and predilections of those in office prevail over the long view of national interest. The lodestar to avoid disconnect between perception and reality is to ensure that any agreement bears the imprint of institutional thinking, not personal fancy.

 

(Brahma Chellaney is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

FOCUS ON FOOD FOR THE FUTURE

RIDING ON THE MOMENTUM GENERATED BY THE RECENT FOOD CRISIS TO FOCUS ON LONGER TERM CHALLENGES, SOME 300 TOP INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS WILL MEET AT FAO IN ROME ON OCTOBER 12 AND 13 TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE ENOUGH TO EAT 40 YEARS FROM NOW.

JACQUES DIOUF

 

Over the next four decades, the world's population will grow by 2.3 billion and become richer. Meeting the demand of the world's 9.1 billion inhabitants in 2050 will require 70 per cent more food than we currently produce. So unless we take the right decisions today, we risk finding the global cupboard dangerously bare tomorrow.

 

All the more so as in the years ahead, the world food system must deal with the growing challenge of climate change which may reduce potential agricultural output by up to 30 per cent in Africa, and by up to 21 per cent in developing countries as a whole, but also with exacerbated transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases. At the same time, the sector will have to cope with a smaller agricultural labour force as some 600 million people move from the countryside to the cities, and with increased competition for land and natural resources, including from the bioenergy sector.

 

DECISIVE ACTION NEEDED

How we respond to these challenges will determine how well we can feed the world tomorrow. But, just as important, we must also see to it that people are fed today. That means ending the plight of the 1.02 billion people currently suffering hunger and malnutrition by acting decisively to eradicate hunger completely and rapidly.

 

With last century's Green Revolution, the world succeeded in averting a massive famine in Asia and Latin America in the 1970s by spending 17 per cent of development aid in building irrigation schemes, seed production systems, fertilizer and feed plants, rural roads and storage facilities.

 

In rising to a similar challenge today, the path we follow must necessarily be a different one – besides boosting investment in agriculture, we need to make more efficient use of energy, chemical inputs and natural resources, and focus more on the needs of smallholders and rural farming households.

 

In this connection, one significant challenge will be water as we will need simultaneously to expand the land area under irrigation while using proportionately less water. The key to squaring that circle lies in water-harvesting and techniques that improve water use efficiency and soil moisture.

 

As the rural and farm population is reduced, agriculture will increasingly become more capital- and knowledge- intensive to produce more and higher quality food for bigger and richer urban populations. Therefore substantial investments will be needed, including in research and development because future production increases must overwhelmingly come from sustainable yield increases and improved cropping intensity rather than from bringing more land into cultivation.

 

Farmers too will need to be better trained to take up the new methods and technologies, and that will require spending on education and agricultural extension. Most of those investments will come from the private sector and from farmers themselves.

 

However, to make private investments in agriculture attractive, substantial sums of public money must also be spent on infrastructure, education, technology and extension systems. Investments are needed in facilities and equipments. Outside of mere subsistence agriculture there is no point in producing food unless there are roads and vehicles to bring it to markets, unless there indeed is a market, and unless produce can be stored and kept from perishing.

 

But naturally neither funding nor record harvests will by themselves be enough to secure that everyone has the food they need. If people go hungry today it is not because the world is not producing enough food but because such food is not produced by the 70 per cent of the poor whose main livelihood is agriculture and who cannot afford to eat their fill.

 

Thus feeding everyone in 2050 will also require poverty reduction strategies, social safety nets for both poor producers and consumers and rural development programmes. It will need better governance and the establishment of the kind of socio-economic conditions that improve people's access to food. Also important is a reform of the agricultural trade system so that it is not only free but also equitable.

 

The High-Level Expert Forum on How to Feed the World in 2050 will inform the World Summit on Food Security scheduled in Rome on 16, 17 and 18 November 2009 when Heads of State and Government from FAO's 192 Member Nations will take important decisions on policies and strategies to ensure that everyone has enough to eat both today and tomorrow.

 

In 2050 what to eat will no longer be a problem for many of those of us already getting on in years. But I see it as my solemn duty, as it is surely ours as a global community, to do all we can to banish the spectre of hunger forever and make sure that our children and grandchildren can eat their fill and enjoy a healthy life.

 

(Jacques Diouf is Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.)

 

 Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

TIMES ARE TOUGH FOR THE 'TWEET-BEFORE-YOU-THINK' CROWD

ANGRY OUTBURSTS ON TWITTER PROMPT LENGTHY LEGAL DISCUSSIONS.

LAURA M. HOLSON

 

Courtney Love was sued by a fashion designer after she posted a series of inflammatory tweets, one calling the designer a liar and a thief. A landlord in Chicago sued a tenant for $50,000 after she tweeted about her moldy apartment. And Demi Moore slapped back at Perez Hilton over a revealing photograph of the actress' daughter.

 

A growing number of people have begun lashing out at their Twitter critics, challenging the not-quite rules of etiquette on a service where insults are lobbed in brief bursts, too short to include the social niceties. Some offended parties are suing. For others, extracting a public mea culpa will do. In some cases, the payback is extreme: Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association, was fined $25,000 for criticising a referee in a tweet after a game.

 

FEW PRESCRIBED SOCIAL NORMS

Blogs, of course, have long been rife with the discontented heaping abuse on foes. But academics and researchers who study online attitudes say that same behaviour has been less common on Twitter, in part, because many people use their real names. Now it is migrating to the service, attracting lawsuits and leaving users to haggle among themselves about what will be tolerated.

 

Complicating matters, there are few prescribed social norms on Twitter like those in more closed communities like Facebook. The service has attained mass popularity without much time to develop an organic users' culture. On top of that, with tweets limited to 140 characters, users come right to the point without context or nuance.

 

"It's the same reason why schoolyard fights don't start out with, 'I have a real problem with the way you said something so let's discuss it,'" said Josh Bernoff, a researcher and an author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. "You get right to the punch in the nose. Twitter doesn't allow room for reflection. It gets people to the barest emotion."

 

The same laws of libel and defamation that apply to traditional media and the Internet also apply to Twitter, according to free speech experts. (Defamation is when someone knowingly says something false that causes harm.) What is likely to shift, said Floyd Abrams, the well-known First Amendment lawyer, is what language is considered acceptable and whether it is deemed harmful. In the 1950s, he explained, it was libelous to call someone a Communist; today it is not. ``The basic law will be the same, but I would think that a defendant might argue that the language used on Twitter is understood to not be taken as seriously as is the case in other forms of communication," said Abrams, who has represented The New York Times. "We will have to wait and see how judges and juries figure out how to deal with this."

 

Bryan Freedman is the lawyer in Los Angeles who is representing Dawn Simorangkir, a designer who markets clothes under the Boudoir Queen label, and who sued Love for libel in March. The lawsuit contends that Love "became infatuated" with the designer, asking her to create costumes using vintage material the singer owned.

 

When Simorangkir asked to be paid, Love balked at the price. Simorangkir, in return, refused to return Love's vintage material, according to legal documents filed by Love's lawyers. The singer accused the designer of being a liar and thief (among other things) in a number of rambling, misspelled tweets.

 

"You will end up in a circle of corched eaeth hunted til your dead," read one tweet from Love in March.

Love and her lawyers, Keith Fink and Olaf Muller, declined to comment on the lawsuit. But in August Love's lawyers sought to dismiss the case, saying it would violate and inhibit her right to free speech. Freedman maintains, however, that Simorangkir's business has suffered because of Love. A hearing is set for this month. "I find with this kind of communication you will always end up saying something that will get you in trouble," Freedman said.

 

Freedman's perspective is interesting because he also represents Perez Hilton, the gossip blogger known for taunting celebrities with embarrassing posts. In September, Hilton got into a public spat with Demi Moore on Twitter after he posted a link on his Web site to a photo of Moore's 15-year-old daughter in a low-cut blouse. In a series of tweets, Moore accused Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, of flouting child pornography laws. Hilton went on the attack, posting tweets that said Moore was an inept mother.

 

Both parties' lawyers exchanged threatening letters. Through Freedman, Hilton accused Moore of defamation. On Sept. 4, Moore's lawyer, Marty Singer, responded in a letter calling Hilton "regularly crude, insulting and cruel."

 

No lawsuits were filed. As Stephen Huvane, Moore's publicist, put it, "No one wins in these situations."

 

 © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

BLOGGER MARKS 10-YEAR MILESTONE

MAGGIE SHIELS

 

In an age when online dialogue lasts no more than 140 characters, some have pondered just how relevant the business of blogging remains.Those running one of the world's most popular blogging platforms argue that this very personal way to share, sound off and express oneself has a healthy future ahead if the numbers are any guide. With a decade under its belt, Blogger boasts more than 300 million active readers and enough words to fill about 3.2 million novels. That equates to 270,000 words a minute or 388 million a day on Blogger.

 

"We are a product that lives and dies by the stories that the user tells using our platform. Without that, Blogger doesn't exist," said Rick Klau, Blogger product manager.

 

"Blogging has become part of the air on the internet. And I believe we will see a bit of a renaissance in blogging where whole new groups of people will understand this gives them a lot more control and flexibility in what they share and how they share it."

 

Industry watcher and founder of Salon.com, Scott Rosenberg believes most people will want to continue to tell those stories using blogs. "If you can express an idea in 140 characters, Twitter is great. But there are a significant number of ideas and stories that don't fit that format and blogs are simply a better outlet for that."

 

Blogger was started in 1999 in the midst of the dotcom boom as a side project by San Francisco start-up Pyra. One of its founders was Ev Williams, who is now one of the triumvirate behind the micro-blogging service Twitter. Blogger was created on a whim to aid in-house communication but the team opened it up to see if anyone else liked it. It quickly took off thanks to world events. "Blogging first emerged in the tech world," said Mr. Rosenberg, the author of Say Everything which chronicles blogging's rise.

 

"The next big milestone that helped take blogging further out into the world were the terrorist attacks of 9/11. People used blogging as a way to reach out, share their grief and debate what had happened. Journalists went there to find eyewitnesses and for information and quotes. Once they started writing about blogs, that of course published it to a wider world," said Mr. Rosenberg.

 

He also said that the New York attacks showed people the value of blogging and that it was no longer just for geeks. "There was always the dismissal of blogging as being about people telling you what they had for lunch but what 9/11 demonstrated, even to the sceptics, was that the ability to self publish to a large number of individuals had public value." Not long after, search giant Google recognised that value and bought Pyra for an undisclosed sum.

 

PERSONAL PRINTING PRESS

Industry commentators argue that blogging marked a change in how people communicated and what they were willing to share publicly. "It was unique at the time," said Mr. Klau, who began blogging himself in 2001.

 

"At the time we weren't yet used to interacting socially on the computer. The web was not about writing stuff and certainly not about sharing. It was not a personal place and Blogger, I think, really changed all that," he said.

 

"Blogging was truly born on the web," Mr Rosenberg told BBC News.

 

Women were one of the biggest groups to take to the format. "Women were used to writing journals, but they took this to another level where they were finding community," said Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer.

 

It is today's leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women reaching more than 15 million women every month. "The top three reasons why women blog are for fun, expression and to meet other people like them," she said.

 

"Today we are seeing a shift in the way people are leveraging blogs, finding new jobs, creating consultancies, and creating voices for themselves in ways they could never have done before. It's a personal printing press," said Ms Des Jardins.

 

 © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

 

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THE HINDU

INTERVIEWS

 'IT IS A MISTAKE TO JUDGE SCIENCE BY NOBEL PRIZES'

IT'S IMPORTANT TO GIVE YOUNG PEOPLE THE FREEDOM TO FOLLOW THEIR IDEAS AND PURSUE THEIR INTERESTS, SAYSVENKI RAMAKRISHNAN.

PRISCILLA JEBARAJ

 

He might have won the Nobel Prize this week, but Venkatraman Ramakrishnan still remembers the National Science Talent Scholarship he won as an Indian schoolboy as having spurred him into a career in science. In an email interview to The Hindu, he suggests that "instead of thinking about these prizes, what the government should do is concentrate on building a broad culture of respect for basic science and knowledge."

 

did you live in tamil nadu at all as a child? or spend any holidays here? do you still have any personal or family connections in tamil nadu?

I moved to Baroda in 1955 at the age of 3. I visited Tamil Nadu occasionally and until my mother's death two years ago, my family owned a flat in Madras, where my aunt used to live.

 

Did any teacher or class inspire you to become a scientist?

I had an excellent math and physics teacher in high school named T.C. Patel, and in the university, I had truly dedicated professors in both physics and mathematics who gave me a sound foundation with which to pursue graduate studies.

 

I was the recipient of a National Science Talent Scholarship which was specifically [meant] to encourage students to go into basic science (rather than medicine or engineering which usually grabbed all the best students). I hope such schemes still exist in India.

 

How did you shift from physics to molecular biology? Was your father [a former biochemistry professor at Baroda University] an influence in your decision?

No. I was more motivated by the fact that biology seemed a more open field with lots of possibilities for making significant contributions.

 

What do you think are the practical implications of your research work?

One important practical application is in the design of new antibiotics based on these structures (ribosomes), something being done in various companies, including a company called Rib-X that I consult for and which was founded by Tom Steitz, one of the co-winners.

 

What are your observations about the state of science and research in India? Why are there so few Indian citizens among the ranks of Nobel laureates, although there are more of Indian origin?

I think it is a mistake to judge science by Nobel Prizes. In the last decade or more, funding for science has improved a lot in India, and there are now many excellent labs in my field in various parts of India. Instead of thinking about these prizes, what the government should do is concentrate on building a broad culture of respect for basic science and knowledge.

 

What leads you to work with young scientists, and how do you spot the potential in them? How do you motivate young people to pursue research?

I think it's important to give young people the freedom to follow their ideas, and pursue their interests. I'm very grateful to have had many brilliant students and post-docs who have worked with me. Potential is often hard to spot, but a key factor is whether they express a genuine interest in the problem, and how they have thought about it.

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

VENKI'S NOBEL IS TIME TO INTROSPECT

 

The entire country is now toasting Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, an American citizen of Indian origin who was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu and graduated from Baroda's M.S. University before moving to the United States to do his Ph.D. — and make history. A shy, soft-spoken archetypal scientist, who shares this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry with fellow American Thomas Steitz and Ada E. Yonath of Israel, joins an elite club which includes Sir C.V. Raman, Dr Hargobind Khorana and Dr Subramaniam Chandrasekhar. Much is known now about how he loves Indian classical music and his visits to his hometown Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. But the thing to remember is that he is a US citizen and all of his research work had been carried on in American and British institutions. It would be interesting to conduct a "thought experiment" (as Albert Einstein used to say) on whether he could have clocked this landmark achievement had he stayed on in India. It is entirely possible he would have been relegated to some dead-end job and his passion shackled by red tape. Dr Venkatraman has proved, once again, that Indian scientists are second to none in diligent study and amazing discoveries provided they get the right opportunity. Herein lies the crux. India has always been a repository of knowledge, but the flip side is that, historians say, the last titanic Indian scientific figure was Bhaskaracharya, who lived in 12th century A.D. After that, we had to wait many centuries for C.V. Raman and others of his ilk. Perhaps there are historical and philosophic reasons for this. In Independent India, there was a flurry of interest in science thanks to our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But over the years, this interest flagged: if science was at all encouraged by officialdom it was only in relation to defence-related and space-related efforts. Pure science was almost completely neglected. The budgetary allocation for research labs is still pathetic, and the highest award given to a scientist is a laughable Rs 5 lakhs. Had things been otherwise, India could have produced many more Nobel laureates by now. As it is, scientists in India have no option but to leave for distant shores if they have to achieve anything on a grand scale.

 

And grand is the only appropriate word to describe Dr Venki's achievement. He has touched the very essence of life by unveiling the structure of ribosome, which can be termed the "agent of life" in cells. It is the ribosome that interacts, so to say, with the messenger RNA, which carries information from the DNA and creates proteins which run our lives. Ribosomes, in effect, translate the static messages of the DNA into action. For years, scientists have puzzled about the structure of the ribosome, which is about one-millionth of a millimetre in size. It was fellow laureate Ada E. Yonath of Israel who first mapped the atomic structure of the ribosome along with Thomas A. Steitz of Yale. Dr Venkatraman's great contribution was finding how the ribosome precisely translates genetic information. This has great practical value as antibiotics target ribosomes of bacteria to cure people of diseases. As the Swedish Academy pointed out, this can be put to practical and immediate use to design new antibiotics to cripple drug-resistant bacteria. It will save lives. The host of Indian leaders who rushed to congratulate Dr Venkatraman should also ponder deeply about the raw deal meted out to his compatriots back home. If such thoughts provoke action (apt when we are talking about the ribosome), we might still hopefully be able to produce some Indian Nobel laureates too, not just those of Indian origin.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

MADRASAS: A TWO-SCHOOL THEORY

BALBIR K. PUNJ

 

The Muslim community in India has rejected the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's proposal to have a centralised madrasa board to oversee the education of Muslims through these religious schools.

 

The government is keen to give official recognition to madrasa education and accept madrasa certificates as equivalent to the secondary board certificates. It is now waiting for a suitable law draft from the community. By giving a veneer of science and general knowledge to the religious education that is imparted to poor Muslim students in these so-called schools, is it possible to get the community to progress?

 

In the last few years, thousands of madrasas have sprung up throughout the country, especially in areas bordering Nepal and Bangladesh. Most of these are allegedly funded by the orthodox Wahabi kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Wahabi teaching, all other religions are downgraded, and what is taught as history are not necessarily facts.

 

Why should sections of poor Muslims go only to these archaic madrasas for education when there are several government and private educational institutions for schooling and most of them are free. However, it is true that two meals a day serve as an attraction for these impoverished Muslim boys. Though the story is the same among other religious groups, they send their wards to secular schools recognised by the government.

 

The argument that Muslims want to go only to a Muslim school as the emphasis there is strictly on religious education and secondary school subjects (not the nationally or state-adopted curricula) are just an add on is illogical. If the government thoughtlessly concedes this, as it is all set to do, soon education in India will be torn into isolated ghettos organised along communal lines, and only for communal education, with secular vanilla on top.

 

If young Muslim men and women do not get jobs, they blame "others". They don't realise that they were not sent to schools where the "others" were educated.

 

We may concede that there are more poor people among Muslims in India than among other communities. But is that a justification to tear the education system into two recognised streams?

 

The reason why a central madarasa board is being resisted is simply because they do not want the government to find out what is being taught in these madarasas. Is the government turning a blind eye to the repercussions of such thinking?

 

This communal division in education will amount to destroying the idea of a united India. It amounts to giving one particular community the privilege to teach anything it likes with just a thin layer of science and general education added on. Should this kind of education be considered equivalent to 10 to 12 years of secular education? Also it is expected to fetch this community government jobs. This narrowed down "education", in fact, is restricted to proficiency in Arabic and the religious texts in that language.

 

True, there are also schools of other denominations. But do they make religious education, and a curricula based on it, the heart of their teaching? No. They do impart religious instruction to the children of their community, but it is just two or three classes in a week and 90 per cent of the time they teach science, mathematics, general knowledge, history, geography etc with the same or similar texts written along internationally-accepted rules.

If political parties fail to read the writing on the wall just because they want to play votebank politics, civil society should not ignore this planting of a time bomb in our national educational field.

 

The government cannot convince anyone that Muslims have a right to education of their choice, ignoring the general education available to all others. Such a claim is another form of the two-nation theory that brought vivisection to India: it has promoted ghettoism, separatist thinking and led to jihadi groups finding shelter and inspiration among them. It congeals what the orthodox leadership of the Muslim community wants.

 

Just to play votebank politics, the Congress is going ahead with tearing the coming generation into two separate camps of Muslims and non-Muslims, and that too on a permanent basis.

 

Is it blind to the fact that madarasa-educated people will have a perception totally different from that of others? Is it blind to the fact that those who are educated in madrasas will not be able to compete with the rest in matters of general and technical knowledge and skills? Has it ever considered that this approach would create a permanent "victim mentality" in one community as they lose out on technical skills?

 

In Pakistan, madarasas have been recognised as a breeding ground for terrorism. It has ripped their society apart and weakened civil government.

 

Right from the days of Pervez Musharraf's presidency, attempts were made to get these communal cauldrons registered and brought under some control. Little success has been achieved, as noted in all US congressional reports about Pakistan.

 

In fact, the open confrontation that Mr Musharraf's government had in Lahore over madarasas as breeding grounds for terror should be a reminder to civil society here too. Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal must read the real meaning of the rejection of his proposal to set up a board to regulate these religious schools. If he refuses for political reasons, civil society must force him to read it and save India before his move does permanent and irrevocable damage to the fabric of our nation.

 

 Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at punjbk@gmail.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

POWER TO CHOOSE

ROBIN SHARMA

 

The most important of all of our human traits is the power we have to choose. To choose how we live. To choose what we will do. To choose how we will view and consider a circumstance.

 

I'm up here in the mountains on a quick ski trip with my kids. Yesterday it rained. We could have grumbled. We could have complained. We could have got frustrated. Instead, we stepped back, decided to make a better choice and then viewed the whole thing as a giant adventure. We got excited versus upset. We donned the plastic covers that the resort provided. Suited up. And skied like there was no tomorrow. Guess what? The skiing was actually amazing. Soft snow. No crowds. Clean runs. It's going to take me a week to wipe the smile off my face. Each day we have the opportunity to make choices. And the way we choose shapes our destiny. So don't get upset. Get excited. As author Paul Theroux once observed, "Only a fool blames his bad vacation on the rain".

 

Excerpted from The Greatness Guide 2

by Robin Sharma. Published by Jaico

Publishing House, jaicopub@vsnl.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

TIME FOR INDIA TO WAKE UP TO CHINA

ARUN KUMAR SINGH

 

On April 23, 2009, China held its first International Fleet Review (IFR) at Qingdao (Northern Fleet Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Navy). The Indian Navy sent two warships to participate in this event which was also attended by warships of 14 other nations. This Chinese IFR, coming shortly after the spectacular 2008 Beijing Olympics, was not better than the Indian IFR of 2002, which had a far greater international participation. The only difference was that the Chinese IFR showcased China's totally indigenous maritime capability (including nuclear submarines) while the Indian IFR was a mixed bag of indigenous and foreign equipment used by the Indian Navy.

 

Then on October 1, 2009, China held a huge military parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Watching this parade on television, I realised that it was not really in any way superior to our own Republic Day parades. The only difference was that while China showcased some five dozen indigenous conventional and strategic systems, India's military might is still reliant on massive military imports, while its strategic capability has to catch up with China for deterrence to work.

 

Yes, the Chinese are aware that while their military imports are restricted to only Russian equipment, India has the luxury of selecting the best from the United States, the European Union, Russia and Israel. The Indian military can have a qualitative edge, provided the government takes urgent decisions on long-delayed items like artillery, fighter jets, submarines et cetera.

 

These two events in China remind me of September 2000 when, as a two-star Eastern Fleet Commander, I led a formation of Indian Navy warships to Shanghai. The visit was to mark the 50th anniversary of Indo-Chinese diplomatic relations. Those days, the Indo-China border was peaceful, trade was growing and the Chinese went out of their way to make our visit truly memorable. China, in fact, took out a unique first-day cover to commemorate the event.

 

Now, of course, things have changed. China has become India's number one trading partner, has built strategic infrastructure along the border while India slept, despite 1962, and has begun its "pinprick" border incursions even as it supplies Pakistan with conventional and strategic hardware at "friendship" prices.

 

Since China and India are the world's two fastest-growing economies, it may be worthwhile to examine a few major strategic differences between the two Asian giants. Firstly, China has a strategic culture, long-term vision and a clearly defined national goal of meeting some milestones:

 

l by 2010, have military capability superior to its neighbours with whom it has territorial disputes;

 

l by 2030, have the military capability to fight limited modern wars against medium-sized opponents, and operate a blue water Navy;

 

l by 2050 achieve global superpower status, economic and military, on par with the US.

 

India has yet to declare its national objectives from which will flow its national and military strategies. Indeed, India has yet to realise that economic security is meaningless without military security. The era of dependence on the former USSR for security is history, and looking at America to "pull our chestnuts out of the fire" will not help. Even Pakistan has a national objective — of destabilising India.

Secondly, China, like many other nations, has a unified military command under a Chief of Defence Staff. Its military is truly integrated into government decision-making and strategic deterrence.

 

In India, the picture is completely opposite — a civilian bureaucracy is the sole adviser to the government on military affairs, while the Nuclear Command Authority and the policy of "recessed deterrence" (i.e. all warheads and missiles are kept separate, under different authorities) does not contribute to deterrence as has been witnessed by Pakistan's continuing India-policy of "death by a thousand cuts" and China's policy of "hundreds of border pinpricks".

 

In contrast, Pakistan has an unambiguous "first-use" nuclear policy, while China has a "no first-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states" policy.

 

China has traditionally put pressure only on one of its neighbours at any given time. Now that the present dispensation in Taiwan is seen as more "acceptable", Beijing has shifted its focus from Taiwan to its disputed 4,000 km-long border with India, since talks over the last 29 years have not shown any results and India is moving towards a strategic relationship with the US, after the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008.

 

China is aware that India's long-neglected military may complete its modernisation only by 2015, and hence this may be a good time to pressurise the Indian government into "agreeing" to a boundary settlement on terms favourable to China. The recent "stapling of Chinese visas" for residents of Jammu and Kashmir (similar to residents of Arunachal Pradesh) needs to be seen as another Chinese effort to ramp up pressure on the Indian government.

 

China certainly has major problems in Tibet and Xinjiang, not to mention the growing economic disparity between the rich eastern coastal provinces and the poor inland western provinces. In addition, China has major environmental problems of pollution and natural disasters. But these should be weighed against the political will of the Chinese leadership to achieve its national goals and objectives.

 

The challenges for India are clear. I doubt if any Indian government will have the political will power to change our stand on Tibet, or do a "tit for tat" by issuing "stapled Indian visas" to Chinese domiciles of Tibet or Xingjiang province. Our present democratic system needs to inculcate some accountability and responsibility, while the political leadership needs to encourage a strategic culture and declare our national goals and objectives till the year 2050, so that our economic, energy and military security go hand in hand. It's time to wake up as a nation.

 

Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

 

UN'S CASTE CHARTER IS A BOON, NOT LIABILITY

NITISH SENGUPTA

 

India's opposition to the draft of principles and guidelines published by the United Nations Human Rights Commission is somewhat intriguing. It pledges to work for the "effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent", which is a euphemism for caste inequalities that are prevalent in India.

 

Interestingly, Nepal, which is known to be more conservative in preaching and practicing orthodox Hinduism, has endorsed these draft principles, causing a certain amount of embarrassment to India.

 

The UN draft proposes to equate all discrimination on the basis of caste, occupation or descent as a violation of human rights.

 

By far, casteism has been India's biggest social evil. And it has, in a major way, obstructed the nation's growth like no other single issue has done.

 

Our national leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi, and leaders of the Indian renaissance movement, like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, were against this pernicious social evil and recommended its eradication.

 

Our Constitution, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles disapprove of the practice of caste system and its attendant evil — untouchability.

 

It is common knowledge that the caste system did not originate with our most ancient scriptures — the Upanishads and the Bhagwat Gita — except in the form of grouping people on the basis of their profession. Even in this context, there were several known cases of people who were born in one caste but were accepted into another on the basis of the work they did. Sages like Vishvamitra and Parashuram are two such examples.

 

Truly speaking, caste rigidity was set in India by the Manu Smriti, a scandalous document which is not only against lower castes but also against women in general. It should have been banned in India long ago.

 

The four castes — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras — that originated from the Manu Smriti and, thereafter, received sanction from rulers like Ballal Sen of Bengal, further got divided into a large number of sub-castes. The north-south divide between the people of Dravidian origin and people of Aryan descent led to further complications. But in the 19th century, a strong Indian renaissance movement arose when organisations like the Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj openly preached non-casteism.

 

By the time India became Independent, there was general acceptance that caste distinctions should gradually disappear, and this principle was incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Indeed, in the early days of our Independence, we forgot caste system in a broad sense. It is quite clear from the debates in our Constituent Assembly that the first-generation leaders of the Indian Republic totally disapproved of the caste system and wanted its gradual eradication from our society.

 

Although reservations were provided for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST), these were meant as affirmative action that was to be gradually done away with, as and when people belonging to SCs and STs progressed to the social and economic level of other castes.

 

Unfortunately, with the advent of parliamentary democracy and adult franchise, reservations created vested interests and the politicians, in general, wanted these special privileges to stay. The Constitution was amended from time to time to provide for more and more reservations.

 

Despite that, the caste system was on its way out, i.e. till the Mandal Commission, set up by the Morarji Desai government, made its recommendation for reservations of jobs for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The report was submitted in 1980. But both Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi chose to ignore it. Perhaps, they were suspicious of its dangerous consequences. But this report was revived by V.P. Singh in a jiffy in 1990, just to play one-upmanship on Chaudhuri Devi Lal.

 

The unfortunate series of incidents that followed, and how they affected our politics, are too well-known to bear repetition. The fact is that the caste system that was almost forgotten came back with a vengeance and has stayed with us since.

 

But it is amazing that we still reserve jobs on the basis of data that was compiled eight decades ago — statistics of various castes were compiled during the 1931 census. Those who favour reservations for OBCs maintain that the population of OBCs is about 52 per cent, whereas another recent estimate indicates that the proportion has fallen to 32 per cent. No one knows the truth but the fact is that the protagonists of the OBC reservation movement, who are politically important today because of their stand on this issue, are ensuring that caste reservations stay.

 

Presumably, it is pressure from politically-strong OBCs enjoying both muscle and money power, that their representatives are standing in the way of India adopting a rational and just position in relation to the UN's proposed principles and guidelines.

 

We have to accept the fact that the caste system is inconsistent with a free functioning democracy that is based on the principle that all citizens are equal. All democracies have accepted the position voiced with enormous clarity by the leaders of both the French Revolution and the American war of independence, notably Voltaire, Rousseau, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They all emphasised that there are certain rights and privileges that must be guaranteed to every human being. This was, indeed, the principle behind the Upanishads calling every individual "amritsya putra", or "child of the Immortal Being".

 

The recommendations of the UN Human Rights Commission are salutary and give us a chance to get rid of some of our social evils. We must fight all elements that oppose this and support all those who favour it. We should, therefore, persuade the Government of India to give up its opposition and fall in line with all other nations like Nepal and Sri Lanka. We should also learn what these nations have done in relation to the proposed principles and guidelines of the UN Human Rights Commission for effective elimination of discrimination based on either birth or occupation.

 

Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NOBEL FOR 'VENKY'

WHY CAN'T WE INVEST IN TALENT?

 

Now that Venkataraman Ramakrishnan has won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry along with two others, there will be a mad rush to eulogise his Indian-ness and to adopt him as an Indian icon. But the fact remains that he had to go to the US to do his pathbreaking work on ribosomes which might help in development of new antibiotics. The US has recognised, invited and nurtured many such outstanding minds while India has lost out on many. Whether it is Hargobind Khorana or others, they all bloomed overseas, while they were as good as ignored in their native land. Why is that we have to suffer such loss of home-grown talent? For the simple reason that we do not invest in talent. The whole atmosphere is so bureaucratic and suffocating that it only breeds mediocrity, not merit.

 

A common pretext is that India does not have the right resources required for doing cutting-edge research. That may be a contributing factor but is not at all the main cause. Many professionals have such strong affection for their mother land that they are willing to rough it out here for a fraction of what they can earn abroad. It is just that they are discouraged despite such selfless service and the "system" tries its best to contain them slotted in pay scales and seniority lists designed by babus.

 

The Knowledge Commission began to think of making amends, but the effort fell foul of the then Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh. The established order is in bad shape but is so well entrenched that whenever any attempt is made to reform it, it is seen as some kind of an affront and it hits back with all the brute force at its command. The loss is that of the country itself. The nation of over a billion people is not short of enlightened minds but these need to be nurtured the way Akbar patronised his "navratnas". Unfortunately, today's "navratnas" have to stand in the queue for the monthly salary slips.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SOPS FOR INDUSTRY

CONCESSIONS WHEN MONEY IS SCARCE

 

The state cow in Punjab has been milked dry by farmers as well as industrialists with the blessings of their political patrons. Once one incentive is given, they ask for more. And the list is endless. The snag is that Punjab's treasury is near empty. The latest industrial policy has dried up one more source of revenue for the cash-strapped government by waiving the change-in-land-use charges. Politics of appeasement continues. Industry Minister Manoranjan Kalia has not cared to quantify the burden the latest giveaway will put on the exchequer. That, perhaps, has been for the Finance Minister to figure out.

 

It was half in jest and half in desperation when Mr Manpreet Singh Badal remarked that the state got more tax revenue from a single multinational fast-food joint than the entire Ludhiana industry put together. The state apparatus, perhaps, still remains equally blind to the widespread theft of taxes. Unless taxes are imposed and collected honestly, there would be no money for development. If the government appeases one section, it cannot say no to another. Getting wind of how easily the Akali-BJP government in Punjab could be arm-twisted into yielding concessions, global tycoon Laxmi Mittal too has sought a Rs 600 crore sales tax waiver for the Bathinda refinery that the Amarinder Singh government had withdrawn.

 

In a case of short-sightedness the government has decided to ease pollution norms for big industries and outsource the inspection of industrial houses. This is shocking in view of the havoc already played with the quality of groundwater, Budha Nullah and river waters by untreated industrial effluents in the state. The start of a helicopter service from Ludhiana and Jalandhar may help some industrialists fly past chaotic traffic, but what they essentially want is power to run units and safe roads to reach home unhurt. Punjab cannot attract industry until infrastructure comes up to the required level, red tape ends (one-window concept has been hanging for years) and political and bureaucratic machinery moves in the desired direction. There is also a need to shed the practice of replacing tax evasion with tax concessions. It is better to raise revenue and develop.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IRAN AND N-WEAPONS

DIALOGUE IS THE BEST WAY TO TACKLE THE ISSUE

 

The Iranian nuclear issue has taken an interesting turn with Teheran allowing inspection of its Qom nuclear facility by UN experts on October 25. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed AlBaradei has described the development as a shift in the relations between Iran and the West, "from conspiracy to transparency and cooperation". Any development that can lead to the easing of tensions between the two sides must be welcomed in the interest of peace and stability. The Qom nuclear plant is under construction and it will be inspected to ensure that the facility is meant "for peaceful purposes" as claimed by Iran. The existence of the plant was made public a few weeks ago by Teheran.

 

The change in the Iranian stance has been appreciated by the world community, including the US. This is bound to strengthen the belief that a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue can be found through dialogue and diplomatic means. Iran has another nuclear facility at Natanz, which has been at the centre of a controversy because the world suspects that it is meant for making nuclear weapons, though Teheran denies the charge. Iran's refusal to dismantle its Natanz nuclear plant, as demanded by the West, has led to the imposition of UN sanctions on Iran. Efforts for more sanctions against Iran may now be given up. Iran has agreed that the low-enriched uranium it has stockpiled will now be shipped to Russia and then to France. The uranium will then be brought back to Iran after its conversion into fuel rods.

 

This, however, does not mean that Iran has given up its programme to acquire the capability of making nuclear weapons. It might be more confident to do so; hence the decision to allow the inspection of its Qom nuclear facility by IAEA. Whatever is the truth, the latest development has brightened the hope that the Iranian nuclear issue can be resolved through talks. The dialogue route should not be abandoned under any circumstances. If talks can succeed in the case of North Korea, it can lead to similar results in Iran also.


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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PEACE IN NEPAL

BRING BACK MAOISTS INTO MAINSTREAM

BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)

 

With China and Pakistan hogging the headlines, Nepal has slipped off India's radar. Five months after losing power, Maoists in Nepal are still shell-shocked. They refuse to accept the Madhav Kumar Nepal-led government as legitimate and have frozen the peace process through a protest campaign which has unleashed the Young Communist League to further erode their commitment to pluralism and non-violence. Maoists have not grown out of the guerrilla mindset, especially using their election victory as the people's mandate for the abuse of the parliamentary system in the name of civilian supremacy, the mask for recapturing power. In its latest report, the International Crisis Group has attributed the current mess in Nepal to Maoist inexperience in governance.

 

Jan Andolan III has been launched to recapture power through a United National People's Movement led by the

party's second-in-command, Mr Baburam Bhattarai, and a 144-member working committee. Mr Bhattarai declared: "We are the state. Singha Durbar is parallel one of the Maoist state". The Maoists have established a shadow cabinet and made a 45-point charter of demands, which, if not met, will lead to a new movement. On September 6, addressing his supporters in Biratnagar, Prachanda said: "We will provide weapons if required to restore people's democracy". Their strategy of threat, intimidation and psywar is not new — it is designed to "unbalance the illegal government" and form a Maoist-led national government.

 

The Maoists have threatened to launch the next phase of their civilian supremacy campaign by the end of October, after Tihar festival, unless a parliamentary resolution indicts the President over restoring former Army Chief Gen Rukmangad Katwal and a constitutional amendment removes the President from the chain of Army control. This will be a mere Band Aid.

 

While the budget has not been ratified by the House, Maoists continue to obstruct Parliament and black-flag the President and the Prime Minister.

 

The Gen Katwal episode was a strategic blunder and a turning point for the peace process leading to the breakdown of political consensus. Mr Prachanda was egged on by party hardliners to sack General Katwal to bring the Nepal Army under political control to facilitate the integration of Maoist combatants into a national Army. Mr Prachanda failed to factor the reaction to and consequences of the dismissal order. The Chinese are believed to have encouraged the Maoists to present a fait accompli, ignoring India's red lines. The heavy-handed police action against the Tibetans and the YCL attack on Indian priests at Pashupatinath also carry the Chinese stamp.

 

Ever since the Maoists won the elections in April 2008, the Chinese have substantially increased their activities, including establishing 24 China Study Centres, and renewed making pointed statements about upholding Nepalese sovereignty and territorial integrity. Speaking at the Carter Study Centre on September 5, Ambassador Quo Guohang said: "China will provide arms and financial and diplomatic support if any threat is posed to Nepal's territorial integrity". Such commitments were once the prerogative of the Indian state.

 

Although some of the 109 armed groups in the Terai have declared a ceasefire for the festive season, the government's new Special Security Plan which envisages additional raising of 12000 personnel in the police, the armed police and the National Intelligence Directorate, all under a Unified Command, has shown positive results. The government is also considering raising a Central Industrial Security Force for instilling security and confidence among business and industry.

The internal security situation is so bad that some people have suggested the formation of a Gorkhali militia consisting of the retired Gorkhas of the Indian Army. Such a force was constituted as part of the United Nations Interim Task Force to monitor the arms and camps of the Maoist combatants. A national security policy is under preparation by a task force comprising representatives from Home and Defence Ministries as well as the National Security Council. This will be the first document to scrutinise threat perspectives to evolve internal and external security imperatives. It could form the basis for the security sector reforms, including democratisation of the Nepal Army.

 

The new Army Chief, Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung, launched a national workshop on civil-military relations, emphasising "professional autonomy" while obeying strictly the orders of the civilian government. Relations between the Army and people and democratisation of the Army were discussed.

 

The recast Army Integration Special Committee and its Technical Committee have come up with a blueprint of a command and control structure of Maoist combatants. It is designed to shifting operational control of the PLA from the Maoist high command to the state. But before that can happen the 19,602 qualified Maoist combatants have to be integrated into the security forces. The integration debate has picked up with different players singing old and new tunes. Speaking for the Maoists, Mr Barshaman Pun is advocating total integration with the army, quoting the South African model where 47 per cent of the rebels and 53 per cent of the state forces were merged. The government is talking in two voices, one saying zero integration with the Nepal Army but integration with paramilitary forces. The other voice — integration into the Army of an unspecifieid number of PLA combatants which meets the Army's recruitment criterion.

 

Led by Lt-Gen Pawan Jung Pandey and supported by retired Generals, the Nepal Army has ruled out the South African model as their members are allowed to join political parties. Former UN Official Kul Chandra Gautam has mooted a compromise proposal of integrating 2000 male and 2000 female combatants into the Army. A token integration of two armies is key to the success of the peace process and should be endorsed by Indian interlocutors.

 

Progress in drafting the constitution is very tardy. Only five of the 10 thematic sub-committees have submitted their concept papers. Very thorny issues of state structure, federalism and devolution lie ahead and with such divergent ideas, between Maoists and other political formations, their harmonisation will not be easy as every article of the constitution has to have a two-thirds backing in the House. Mr Prachanda has said that not a word will be written which is not our word. Of the 57 meetings of the Constituent Assembly, he has attended only three.

 

Former lawyer and Maoist Khem Lal Devkota, who has become a spokesperson of his party in Delhi said recently that once a national government led by the Maoists is formed, the constitution will be completed on time by May 28, 2010. He said the 1990 constitution was written in three months and the interim constitution in three weeks though the final draft was ready in two months.

 

So, how does a national government led by the Maoists come in place when they don't have the numbers. The NC and the UML have challenged the Maoists to table an impeachment motion against the President and a no-confidence motion against the government. While the Chinese are waiting for a return of a Moist-led government, India wants the status quo. Foreign Secertary Nirupama Rao was recently in Kathmandu and met Maoist leaders except Mr Prachanda who left for Chinese Hong Kong. Mrs Rao is quoted as having advised the Maoists to being pragmatists like the Chinese Communists. While accepting Indian dominance in Nepal's internal politics, they suggested that India should play a constructive role. Senior Maoist leader KB Mahara, on his return from Hong Kong, told the media that unlike India, China has never tried to interfere in Nepal's domestic affairs.

 

The Maoists are able to whip up unprecedented anti-India sentiment which is horribly contagious, given the restlessness among Maoist combatants and the YCL, the intransigence of the Maoist high command and the absence of law and order. Breaking the deadlock over civilian supremacy will be easier than ushering back a Prachanda-led government.

 

Bringing back the Maoists into the peace process is fundamental to breaking the status quo.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

BY ROBIN GUPTA

 

MANY years ago while posted in Delhi, during the cold season, I often walked to office, a short distance away.  One morning I noticed a cadaverous young man braving the chilly winds under a leafless tree, clad in a translucent shirt and nondescript trousers, the stamp of hunger writ large on his countenance, with despairing eyes staring out ahead of him.

 

For no particular reason, I turned on my heel and asked him about his circumstance.  "My name is Chandan Singh", he said.  "We are Rajputs from Garhwal. My father served in the British Indian Army, returned home on pension, fought an election and lost all his money.  Our family is penniless and I have come here in search of a job". 

 

I heard him patiently and then looked at my watch remembering that I had several pressing engagements. 

 

Pointing to my house I told Chandan Singh to meet me on a holiday.  Hastening my step to office after a short while I stopped in my track struck by the thought that the boy must be on the verge of collapse. I asked Chandan Singh to follow me.  Having taken his application I took care to recommend his name for a job standing guarantor for him.  Perhaps it was my deep inner vacuity that directed  me  to  light  a  lamp  for  a wayfarer. 

 

Many years passed and I was posted to Eastern India while my elderly mother continued to live by herself, in Delhi when communications were erratic and uncertain keeping me in a state of perpetual anxiety about her welfare.  From time to time, I would request visitors to Delhi to enquire if she was well, for mother, an outpost of the British Raj, was stately and confident and required me to concentrate on my job in the moffussil and her standard reply to any inquiry about her well-being was "top of the world".

 

One winter day on impulse, I caught a flight to Delhi and on reaching home I found the front door ajar, the unlit chandelier ominously silhouetting old carpets and curios with gloom punctuating the overall abandonment. With a fearful heart, I walked into her room to find her lying on her bed breathing heavily under an oxygen mask.

 

Out of the chilly stillness, a young man walked in with medicine.  He touched my feet in salutation.  "I am Chandan Singh, sir.  I got the job three years back and have been coming to seek mother's blessings.  Two days ago, I found no one here.  Mother has been ill and I am looking after her".

 

Stupefied I fulminated: "No one informed me.  I do not know your address, your father's name, nothing about you, in fact".  Chandan Singh looked straight into my eyes and said, "Sir, mother is unwell.  I am here to serve her.  This is my identity card.  My father's name is Lance Naik Bishen Singh. He was in battle with your father in the 8th Army".

 

There was a faint smile of recognition on my mother's face.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CONGRESS OUT TO WOO MUSLIMS FOR SUPPORT

BY FARAZ AHMAD

 

Two significant events took place last weekend in the national capital. ANHAD, an NGO, organised a meeting on the plight of Muslims to show how they were victims of bias and prejudice of the state.

 

Muslims from across the country attending the three-day meet were critical and sceptical of the secular credentials of the Indian state and many went so far as to insist that the character of the Indian state is patently communal.

 

In a parallel development the UPA government decided to ignore the recommendations of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions to standardise and modernise Madrasa education by setting up a Central Madrasa Board for formalising and standardising non-theological madrasa education. Muslim madrasas are spread across the length and breadth of India, specially in the countryside.

 

Union Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal invited all the 59 sitting Muslim MPs to a meeting to discuss the proposal. Only 18 of them turned up. Four supported the proposal fully, 10 saw nothing wrong with it and generally went along with the proposal. Just four, including the lone Hyderabad-based Majlises Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi and two Trinamul Congress MPs and one other MP opposed the proposal, objecting to the government "interfering in the affairs of the Muslim community."

 

They wielded enough clout to make Sibal retreat and say: "If the community does not want it we can drop the idea altogether."

 

The MIM has all along been a bit of a mischief maker and the last we heard it assaulted noted Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen and journalists when she was being hosted by the Andhra journalists at the Hyderabad Press Club a couple of years back.

 

As for Trinamul, it is busy trying to wean Muslims from the CPI-M led Left Front Evidently, it is banking on similar fundamentalist elements , the self-proclaimed wholesale custodians and traders of Muslim votes. That is why perhaps the Trinamul MPs were most vocal in opposing any modernisation of madrasas.

 

But not far away from this Kapil Sibal meeting, for three days Muslims from across the country assembled at the Constitution Club and explained how they were being hounded and singled out, bundled into jails and false cases were trumped up upon them. They were not allowed to say their prayers even on the Eid day inside the jail.

 

Victim after victim narrated how there was nobody to appeal to and respond to their plight, how the police, the administration and even the judiciary, including the Human Rights Commission, was adopting two sets of standards when it came to dealing with Muslims.

 

The Batla House incident and the Ishrat Jehan killing came up for repeated mention to demonstrate how their attempts at getting justice even through the NHRC have failed. Accusing fingers were raised at the Central Govenrment too, both in relation to the Batla House incident and the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case, where the Central Government had enthusiastically supported the Gujarat government in labelling Ishrat Jehan and her companion Javed Sheikh as LeT activists gone to Ahmedabad to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

 

Modi and his government's role came as no surprise to anyone, in the light of what all he had been doing since the February 2002 Godhra incident. But the first affidavit the Union Home Ministry submitted to the Gujarat High Court on August 6, 2009 really shook all faith in the fairness of the Central Government and the policing agencies that are operating under it.

 

It has since revised the affidavit but without disowning the first and without fixing responsibility on the officers concerned for their blatant communal bias in the first affidavit.

 

Union Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed, who came to the Muslim meet, virtually raised his hands pleading that he could do precious little to alleviate the sufferings of thousands of poor Muslims across northern and western India who are being subjected to daily humiliation and torture simply because they bear Muslim names or happen to sport a beard or wear a cap on their head and often times the young boys picked up are not even sporting a beard or a cap.

 

The inference one can draw from these parallel developments is pretty simple. The Muslim community continues to suffer at the hands of a biased and prejudiced administration not just in the state of Gujarat run by Narendra Modi but the situation is hardly different in places like Delhi or UP, run by the supposedly secular governments led by the Congress in Delhi and the BSP and Mayawati in UP.

 

All the promises of the Congress and UPA government made not just before the 2004 general election but again in the run-up to the 2009 elections of giving a fair treatment to the Muslim community amount to nothing.

 

But on the other hand, when it comes to issues involving the progress and development of the community, the UPA government and the Congress party would not dare displease the so-called custodians of the Muslim community like MIM or a handful of obscurantist mullahs now aligned to Mamata Banerjee, whom Mamata would not like to annoy at this hour because she hopes to use them to win away all the Muslim voters from the CPI-M dominated Left Front and thus defeat the CPI-M in the next Assembly elections.

 

This when the recommendations for setting up a Central madrasa board did not come from a saffron body. Rather the NCMEI and its Chairman are all God-fearing Muslims and the Chairman is a respected retired High Court judge. Moreover, the move was inspired by the recommendations of Justice Rajinder Sachar in his now famous Sachar committee report.

 

When the Sachar report came Muslims were most enthusiastic about it and even MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi demanded immediate implementation of the report. In fact, modernisation and standardisation of madrasa education will only help Muslim youth in being considered for employment both in the government and other sectors once its certificate is granted a status equal to school pass.

 

And yet the government is reluctant to move, lest it annoys the self-appointed custodians of Muslim votes, who anyway have a vested interest in keeping the Muslims backward and ghettoised.

 

In effect, the Congress does not seem to have learnt any lessons from its past mistakes. It continues to encourage and appease wholesale traders of Muslim votes, unmindful of the real concerns of the community. This also has a few lessons for the Muslim community who rushed to the Congress in the hope that in its new avtaar it was different from the Congress of the 1980s.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

AT THE BECK AND CALL OF POLITICAL MASTERS

BY S.S. DHANOA

 

The direct rebuke to the top bosses of the police by the Union Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, at a national-level meeting of the Directors General of the Police is something that must have given a jolt to the dignitaries assembled there, particularly in view of the facts that prevail on the ground in almost all the states of India.

 

It is exceptional these days to find a Chief Minister who does not interfere in the internal management of the police force. The author was a witness when the DGP of Bihar had rushed into the office of Chief Minister to seek his clearance for postings of a group of police officers that included officers at the level of inspector in pursuance of a call from a Central minister on the eve of the expected general election.

 

The CM fell silent for a few moments before he told the DG to do what he thought was appropriate. The CM asked the author after the DGP left if it was appropriate for the DG to seek his clearance on something that concerned purely the area where the DG had full powers yet even he could not say no as an answer.

 

There is no doubt that the Home Minister had someone like the Bihar DGP in mind when he spoke at the conference. IPS officers are selected on the basis of a competitive examination conducted by the UPSC and they enjoy the same protection as is applicable to others under the Constitution.

 

However, the police officers are found generally carrying out the writ of the political masters more often than officers of other services, though IAS officers too in many states are not far behind in this regard.

 

The reason for this it seems to lie in the legal framework and the culture of the police services in India. Indian law has vested authority for the naked exercise of state power on a police officer in charge of a police station. He takes cognizance of offences listed in the Indian Penal Code and other laws and he investigates those cases as per the Criminal Procedure Code. He too is responsible for the prevention of crimes in his area for which literally he can take any citizen into custody for at least 24 hours.

 

The difference in this can easily be appreciated from the example of a secretariat noting where a proposal in the noting of a clerk initiating the file could be rejected by his superior officers but the arguments in the note of the clerk remained recorded which many times led to the expose of top officials when they had tried to oblige their superior political masters.

 

A commission of enquiry can lay bare such manoeuvres on the administrative side but such an exposure is not possible even if investigation in a criminal case had been similarly compromised. A recent book by a junior CBI official cites instances where the investigation of various important cases got compromised because of the interference by his departmental bosses.

 

Mr Joginder Singh, an ex-Director of the CBI, has recently gone public to say that the then Prime Minister prevented him from booking a prominent politician in the fodder scam.

 

There was safety in the old police Act where the overall responsibility for the maintenance of law and order vested with the District Magistrate. He could check a blatant partisan role of the district police because the district officer had powers to initiate the performance report of the district superintendent of police as also a right to be consulted in the transfer of the officers in charge of the police stations.

The district officers also received copies of the FIRs and supervisory investigation notes in important criminal cases. The district officers were required to inspect some of the important police stations under their jurisdiction. The system fell apart when the judiciary got separated from the executive and with the district officers getting more occupied with developmental, welfare and other duties.

 

The police forces in free countries got created and strengthened because of the need felt for the community. The police in free countries has to seek their acceptance in society by proving their usefulness to the community and by helping/serving the citizen.

 

The police force in India owes its existence to the need of the colonial authority for peace and order in the country. A police that could bend the law and tackle a threat to the colonial authority, was deliberately fostered and encouraged so that in times of threat to the colonial authority the need for recourse to the use of the armed forces was minimised.

 

Unfortunately, in India we have again and again after Independence turned to a similar illegitimate use of the police for restoring peace and order as happened in Punjab during the eighties.

 

It seems that the Home Minister and his team have to go to the roots of the problem rather than indulging in mere symptomatic treatment and castigating the helpless DGPs.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

RUSSIA'S WAR ON WORDS

BY K. ANTHONY APPIAH

 

Three years ago this week Anna Politkovskaya, a courageous journalist who exposed appalling human rights offenses in Chechnya, was shot five times as she entered her Moscow apartment building. She was not the first Russian journalist to be slain for performing the invaluable function of bringing buried truths to light. Sadly, there have been, and will be, more murders. And we all pay the price.

 

Westerners were inclined to think during the Cold War that a democratic Russia would be better for Russians and for us. Yet 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, hopes for genuine democracy in Russia remain unrealized. A major reason is the parlous condition of the Russian media.

 

In the United States, an investigative journalist who unsettles the powerful can win accolades; in Russia, such a journalist can expect to be gunned down. A liberal democracy depends on reporters who follow the story and publish what they learn. It cannot flourish when the pursuit of investigative journalism carries an informal death penalty.

 

This year alone has been terrible for the brave journalists who are continuing the work for which Politkovskaya gave her life.

 

In July the human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was kidnapped outside her home in Grozny, Chechnya; her bullet-ridden body was found hours later in Ingushetia, another of the troubled regions of Russia. Last October, Estemirova had received the first Anna Politkovskaya award from the human rights group Reach All Women in War.

 

In January, Stanislav Markelov, a leading human rights attorney and president of the Russian Rule of Law Institute, was fatally shot in Moscow as he left a news conference he had called to protest the release of a Russian officer convicted of atrocities in the Chechen war. Markelov, a close friend of Estemirova, was known for his work representing victims of torture and journalists, including Politkovskaya. Anastasia Baburova, a student journalist for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta (which had employed Politkovskaya), was also shot and died hours later.

 

It is not only those covering Chechnya who are at risk. Last November, Mikhail Beketov, the editor of a newspaper in Khimki (northwest of Moscow) who had been reporting on local government corruption, was beaten nearly to death and then left in the freezing cold; he lost a leg and fingers to frostbite. In February the editor of a local weekly in Solnechnogorsk (further northwest of Moscow) was found unconscious and bleeding. He had published articles critical of local politicians.

 

There is every reason to believe that the murders of these journalists are assassinations: politically motivated killings carried out or covered up by members of the Russian intelligence services, and ignored by a government whose first duty is to protect the lives and liberties of citizens. Sadly, what Estemirova said about Politkovskaya's murder is likely to be true of all such killings: "Even if we find out who pulled the trigger, the person who gave the order will remain unknown."

 

Russia no longer needs gulags to silence the opposition. The punishment for drawing attention to the sins of the mighty used to be a show trial and exile, possibly to a labor camp. Now journalists receive an anonymous but credible threat of violence to themselves or their families, a beating on their doorstep or, in some cases, execution in broad daylight.

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RIVER LINKING

 

This is certainly not the last time that we have heard about it, as no sooner had the present Government announced its decision to shelve the controversial river linking project, the Bharatiya Janata Party has cried foul. The main opposition party has reasons to be unhappy as it was among its flagship programmes that sought to connect some of the major rivers of India with the ultimate aim of judicious water distribution. The party believed, and continues to advocate the project with the argument that once complete it would have made water accessible to millions in water deficient regions while at the same time helped mitigate floods in other parts. Right from the time the project was announced it has had its share of support and criticism. While some States in South and Central India found the project appealing, in the North East it has been viewed with deep suspicion by people who perceive it as a ploy to deprive them of an important natural resource. A cross section of people, including the intelligentsia, would believe that flood mitigation is the lesser motive behind the project.


Here it might be apt to acknowledge the massive magnitude of the project that would have involved engineering and technological design and construction of a high order. And yes, it could have been a huge employment opportunity for people with very diverse skill sets, not to speak of the benefit to hundreds of contractors and suppliers both Indian and foreign. In such a situation, the interest of a few northeastern States could be of little consequence. But in reality the project implies something more significant: an intervention with the natural landscape at an unprecedented scale. The people behind the project know all too well that some of the rivers the project planned to connect were the results of a long and complex geological process. Common sense suggests it might not be a good idea to tamper with such a natural process. Good science may also support a similar stance of non-interference with a number of large water bodies knowing the myriad variables involved. Then there is the very real prospect of natural environments and ecosystems being damaged beyond repair. Political parties which advocate the project must do some soul searching before pressing for its revival. After all, the project might endanger more lives and living spaces in the future than any other development activities in the country so far. ?

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HIGH DEMAND FOR TEA

 

India–the world's second largest producer of tea, only after China, of late, has taken to increasing imports of the beverage fromforeign countries. Despithigh pricesof tea, our import has shot up by 28 per cent in July, 2009 as growing domestic consumption and fears of decline in output in coming months triggered the overseas purchases that touched 13.17 million kg in the period between January and July of the current year as against 10.3 million kg in the corresponding period of previous year. However, it is not only the robust domestic consumption but also the earnings of high profits from exports of value-added products that have prompted the traders to import larger quantum of tea even though the prices are higher than the last year's level. One more important reason might also be the fears of decline of domestic output of the country's largest tea-producing State, Assam, following its drought effects. This apart, the country's total production itself in the current year till July could not go beyond 461 million kg that falls short of the previous year's quantum by 16 million kg. India has, therefore, to gear up its production of tea to meet the increasing demand. Another important aspect of the international beverage market is that tea consumers are increasingly demandingorganic teain preference to agro-chemically produced product. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the globalorganic food marketgrew by 11 per cent in 2007 with a value of $ 44 billion and is projected to touch $ 67 billion by 2012. India should rise to the changed situation to capture the opportunity.


It is heartening to note that the State-run Export-Import (Exim) Bank has agreed to finance planters to the extent of 50 per cent to brand Indianorganic teain overseas markets by getting geographical indication (GI) certification which represents a specific location for products with certain qualities that are unique to their place of origin. Now that the tea plantation sector has come out of a prolonged cyclical down turn in the country, it will be in correct shape of the industry's future platform that Indian planters start taking aggressively toorganic tea and avoid using agro-chemicals reducing, thereby, cost of production at the same time. The Tea Board of India has obtained a fairtradeand G9 certification for organic Darjeeling tea to protect its unique quality and flavour and has also registered thetrademark "Nilgiri" for a special type of tea grown in Tamil Nadu, Assam and North East where this variety is grown in hill gardens. Yet another variety of organic teagrown in Sikkim is very popular in Europe and specially in Germany and the estate has applied for G9 protection. Arunachal Pradesh is also practising cultivation oforganic tea. There are ample possibilities oforganic tea cultivation in the whole of north-eastern region and more particularly in Assam where it is still in the nascent stage and the production barely accounts for 10 lakh kg of which 80 per cent is exported. The three most important reasons behind this scenario are lack of initiative from the authorities, the low-lying research and development (R&D) activities and lack of the venture among small tea growers.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POPULATION POLICY AND QUALITY OF LIFE

DR RABINDRA KR CHOUDHURY

 

Washington-based population Research Bureau in its recently published report on projected world population data puts India's estimated population at 1171 million in 2009 and warns that it is slated to reach 1748 million in 2050, surpassing the population-mostcountry China that would be estimatedly counting 1437 million then. What is of added significance the report carries is that thepopulation of Bangladesh growing at more than double the rate ofIndia has registered a 37 per cent rise in less than a decade to touch 162 million in the current year from 130 million in 2001 and is set to strike at 222 million in 2050 that might have a serious implication for our country in general and North-East India in particular, given the quantum of ongoing illegal infiltration from the neighbouring country due to its poverty, growing pressure on land and ballooning unemployment.

While this is a serious issue that needs to be looked into more closely, the annual growth rate of India's population in the context of its high income trajectory should reach the zero level as early as possible though it could not yet be brought down below 1.8 per cent. Thus, in the gap of 17 years between 1991 and 2008 for which the figures are available, India's population increased by more than 36 per cent. No doubt, the improvement in our health measures bringing down death rate from 9.8 per thousand to 7.4 in the period and infant mortality rate from 80 per one thousand live births to 55 on the one hand and life expectancy at birth rising from 55 to 63 on the other have contributed to the growth of populationin like manner.


In spite of India being recognised as the first country of the worldto officially adopt family planning programme in 1952 and many thousands of crores of rupees spent to limit the numbers, it is still nowhere near the rate achieved by emerging Asian nations like China, Taiwan and Indonesia even three decades ago. One might ask why in spite of declining fertility in India from 3.6 in 1991 to 2.7 in 2008 along with crude birth rate down from 29.5 to 23.1 in the period, the growth rate of population still hovers round 1.8 per cent per annum. The answer, however, is not far to seek. The mystic statistical average veils the glaring inequality persisting in distribution of fertility and birth rate as between poor and rich, the informed and uninformed or between empowered and unempowered women in society. In between these divides however, there are groups among whom birth rate has come down to zero or even come to count negative, while there are others whose reproductivity is so high as not only to compensate the decline but also to lavishly add to the numbers to push the growth rate to current average height.


Though India has adopted a number of legislative measures in the last few decades to restrain abuse of and cruelty to humanity while seeking to pursue policies to discourage demographic proliferation, much could not be done to wipe out the evils of child labour, child marriage, motherhood of pre-matured girls, prevalence of dowry and related deaths and, of course, a quite different crime of killing girl babies in the pregnancy period itself through pre-determination of sex among some affluent sections. There are stunning disclosures flowing from the figures of last census and subsequent hand outs of research organisations show how grossly is violated the government's legal stand.


The story of more than 12 million child labour neither presently finding jobs to help parents nor getting conducive situation to get enrolled in class room is perhaps not as stunning as the story of India's 300,000 girls under 15 years of age, who are not only married but who have already become mothers at least once if not more. Of these child mothers, 60 per cent have given birth to two children while the rest 40 per cent have one kid to their credit. The reproductive age on their account having already started even before they reach 15 will last for the period till they reach 45, i.e. for long 30 years. One could, therefore, imaging what fertility rate this class of women would achieve in contrast to the national average rate with which the statistician's population data is concerned. The break-up figures further reveal that within the group below 24 years of age, 2.7 lakh women had already given birth to seven or more children each, one lakh women had become mothers of six children, 2.25 lakh had five children and more than eight lakh women had four children born to each. What is contrary to general belief, as the census figures unfold, is that almost 30 per cent of the under-15 married mothers are from urban areas. It shows, therefore, that modern living with pursuit of small family norm of the urbanites to better enjoy the comforts of life fails to demonstrate lessons to this group of people who are mostly from poverty-striken slums and superstitions or prejudiced social surroundings.

Such negativity in India's demographic domain, however, flows from a number of perennial maladies. Poverty, of course, tops the list. Though the situation has much improved under planned programmes of decades, the latest NSS data puts India's poverty ratio at 27.5 per cent as in 2004-05. It means that population below poverty line still counts at 275 million in the country. Under the clutch of poverty, many parents want to get rid of the liability of a girl child by way of marriage as soon as possible. The fact could be verified from poverty-striken districts of Madhya Pradesh, Western Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, etc. Where child marriage is never a taboo. Immatured as they are, these girls have no say over what their parents decide for them.

Secondly, due to illiteracy and ignorance, neither the victims of child marriage nor even their own people can foresee the impact of immatured motherhood on their health and dignified living. This apart, lack of empowerment also limits their ability to express any opposition to such a destiny. Thirdly, the urge for having a large number of children amidst poverty is also due to high infant mortality rate that presently works out to 55 in 2007 as against 4 in France and Germany, 5 in UK, 7 in USA and 30 in China. 


The target for decline in birth rate fixed at 21 per thousand in 2000-01 could not be achieved and the rate accounts for 23.1 in 2007. It is not that all the states of the country have faltered in their score of family limitation. A review of census figures for India's major seventeen states shows that the growth rate of populationat least in seven states has been much larger than in the other ten states. It is again interesting to note that the more populous states are also the high-growth states. 


Since family planning programme is presently repositioned as the one for achieving "millennium development goals (MDG), it would be a powerful mechanism to achieve reduction in both maternal and child mortality including morbidity. Increase of marriageable age and spacing between births through intra-uterine device services are now the major interventions to achieve the objective. Apart from this, the government has come to increasingly rely upon two essential factors, viz, education and economic progress to act as powerful deterrents to population growth. Education, particularly female education, is a big force and research studies confirm that education and economic upliftment motivate small family adoptionand use of contraceptive methods in a number of States.


India with its share of 17 per cent of global population at the moment is still annually adding some 18 million to its strength due to her casual approach to implementation of control mechanism as can be seen from the incidence of repeatedly revised fixation of targets which are never achieved. Again, some of the steps like self-help groups at Panchayat level comprising mostly housewives to interact with health care workers, free and compulsory elementary education or compulsory registration of marriage and pregnancy including birth and death, etc. have failed to get general acceptance either because of poverty or casual attitude at all levels.


At the other end, a sickening development arising out of choice for small family in the tradition bound society of son-seeking parents has led to simply a heinous crime in the form of sex-selective female foeticide mainly among the urban educated and affluent classes as well.

There is an urgent need to relook at the population policy afresh. While the menace of female foeticide cannot be stopped without crushing the unholy alliance between unscrupulous doctors and sex-selecting parents, the other aspects can be tackled only with removal of poverty, spread of education, reduction of fertility and child mortality and enhanced empowerment of women. Since these are only long-term measures, some short-term steps like complete halt to child marriage and compulsion of contraceptive measures after two child-births have to be immediately taken up at any cost. Politicians of different hues must shed their differences with respect to achieving a zero growth rate of population sooner than later.

 

(The writer is former Head of Economics, Gauhati University)

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PUBLIC HEALTH SCENARIO IN INDIA

DR ALAKANANDA GOSWAMI

 

Health is now a major priority on the international agenda and is an imperative for development. The relationship between poverty and disease had long been acknowledged by public healthreformers. Progressive groups within the movement advocated reform and enlisted many inputs, namely, political, financial, social, cultural, engineering, science, educational, religious, and legal in addition to medical– to be part of efforts to improve the health of populations. The convergence of these disciplines is necessary for improvement in the health of populations. The public healthperspective, thus, draws on a variety of disciplines. Consequently, it is not a discipline in the traditional sense.


Successive governments in India have, over the past five and a half decades, proposed and implemented many schemes for the provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition, vaccination coverage, education, housing and employment. Yet, millions of people in India do not have access to these basic needs. Malnutrition is rampant among children especially 0-5 year age group, vaccination coverage is inadequate, elementary education second rate; and unemployment widespread both in rural and urban areas. Most States have pursued weak policies.

The public health revolutions in the West were completed before the introduction of antibiotics. They eliminated epidemics ofinfectious diseases through public health measures. However, the antibiotic era complicates issues in India. The role of antibiotics in the prevention of diseases in populations is negligible, and they worsen the situation by providing temporary relief to the suffering and allow the underlying causes for the epidemic to go untreated.


The rates of tuberculosis in the West decreased long before the advent of antituberculosis medication. The provision of adequate housing, the reduction of over-crowding, and improved nutrition was the ground on which this war was won in the western world. Singular reliance on the current curative approaches, for example, Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (commonly called DOTS) to problems that require long-term public health solutions will prove ineffective with the unchecked spread of infection.


The eradication of small pox through vaccination was an outstanding example of disease prevention. However, not all infections follow comparable patterns. The recent resurgence of polio in India is a good example. The eradication of polio will surely also involve access to safe drinking water and sanitation in order to prevent the spread of the virus. But both are inadequate in India.


India's public health efforts are being based on the assumption that medicine has all the answers. India's population control programme is an example. The programme has a solitary focus, a single solution, that is women's fertility and sterilization. It does not examine the multi-faceted interaction between livelihoods, social security, education, employment, and infant mortality, but continues to view sterilization of women as the only objective.

India, with its 1.17 billion people, must urgently catch up by formulating its own time-bound agenda for public health reform. An immediate stepping up of pubic expenditure on health to at least three per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) has become an imperative. By itself this will not transform health care across the country. But without such investment, there is no question of India responding well to the challenge of lowering the disease burden in rural and urban slums.

Meanwhile, delivering the Second Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) day lecture on "Revitalising Primary Health Care: From Evidence to Action" in New Delhi on March 28, 2009, Professor Andrew Haines, Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said : "India's National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) will have global significance if it achieves targets, and it will also have an impact on the primary health care systems across the globe if it fails". Professor Haines said primary health care could transform the lives of millions of people if it was backed by sufficient resources and focused on locally relevant problems. He said primary health care was especially relevant in a scenario of escalating burden of non-communicable diseases, which created new demands for long-term care and strong community support. It promoted a multi-sectoral approach to health that makes prevention as important as care.


Pointing out the immense potential in India to scale up the public health policy and strategies, Professor Haines said it had the power to deliver improved health outcomes, as demonstrated by a growing number of national and international experiences. However, supportive policies needed to be put in place in order to change traditional determinants of health. In this context, he appreciated the role of the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) employed under the National Rural Health Mission as an important link between the people and an institutional health facility in rural India.


Highlighting the importance of effective public health policies, Professor Haines said basic interventions and aggressive treatment could save many lives from non-communicable chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardio vascular ailments and tobacco-related diseases, and even mental disorders. "We are creating more vertical programmes by focusing on a single disease, whereas the results could be better if there was integration of progrmmes", he said.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE CLIMATE CONUNDRUM
MUKUL SANWAL

 

The Kyoto Protocol is dead; long live the Climate Convention. Developed countries have stated in the on-going negotiations that they will not take legally binding commitments to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases.

They do not want to impose any economic burden on their citizens, even if this amounts to a violation of international law. They also want to rewrite the Convention, something that we must prevent in the interest of the global environment and the poor. 


The spin is that new rules to secure action by China and India are needed to save the planet. It suits the European Union as their emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise. The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and is averse to taking on internationally mandated commitments. 


Collectively these countries have so far specified a reduction in their emissions of 11% to 18% by the year 2020, with respect to 1990 levels, against the scientific consensus of a reduction of at least 40%. Clearly their concern is not the global environment, but burden sharing. 


There is an impasse in the on-going negotiations because, as this is the first time since 1992 that developing country actions are being considered, the key issue for developed countries is the extent of responsibility that developing countries' accept, now and in the future. Developing countries focus on the close link between energy use and economic growth, and the policy issue for them is deep cuts in developed country emissions so that atmospheric space is available for their economic growth to industrialised country levels. 


According to Stiglitz, Nobel laureate for economics, the key problem is how to allocate emission rights, currently valued at about $2 trillion annually, which is 5% of global GDP. The only defensible principle is equal emission rights per capita, adjusted for past emissions. 


Even if this entails large redistribution, it is not clear why this should be treated differently than any other property right. Stiglitz argues that climate change will need a new economic model focusing on changed patterns of consumption and innovation , to ensure that the burden is not shifted onto developing countries. 


On the other hand, since developed countries have commitments to take measures to reduce emissions, the policy issue for them is the cost effectiveness of these actions. Recent analyses by the OECD show that the costs for them can be minimised through policy instruments, with a focus on carbon pricing, applied across all countries. This has led to country schedules identifying the most cost-effective interventions for bringing emissions down to sustainable levels. Not surprisingly, developed countries are pushing for inclusion of common actions, inscribed in schedules, in the negotiations. 


It is virtually impossible to base any policy decision on estimates of global costs and benefits, because of the uncertainty and highly subjective judgements involved. The current framework also avoids the ethical question of developed countries emitting greenhouse gases above their fair share of safe global emissions, and the immediate duty to reduce their national emissions without regard to global cost-benefit analyses and international agreements. So, what could be the contours of a political statement at Copenhagen? It is time for us to shape the agenda, to end the impasse. 

First, we should suggest that we agree to disagree on the implications of the historical responsibility of developed countries in causing the problem and role of the carbon market in finding solutions. The debate would then shift to developing rules that focus on demand-side management and new forms of international cooperation. 


Second, it is essential to maintain the balance of rights and obligations under the Climate Convention; otherwise existing inequities will be perpetuated. Therefore, the global community should reaffirm the provisions of the Climate Conventions that developed countries are to take the lead in modifying longer-term trends, and developing country actions are in the context of sustainable development. This differentiation would shape the shared vision, where all countries would cooperate to support transformation of the global economy and human activities in ways to ensure that patterns of resource use are common for all countries. 


Third, with the growing importance of the service sector and consumer demand worldwide, this approach points to the need for all countries to focus on demandside management, and for the developed countries to immediately reduce their emissions from the services, household and transportation sectors down to the global average. These sectors are projected to account for more than half of all global emissions in 2050. 


Fourth, there is a global consensus that a technological shift, unprecedented in the scale and speed of deployment, will be critical in meeting the challenge of climate change and its adverse effects. Global policy, therefore, needs to focus directly on jointly developing new energy technologies and drought resistant seed varieties, and their transfer to developing countries, rather than leave it to the market. 


Aggregate global efforts must also be continually assessed by matching international cooperation in joint research, development and transfer of technology in the industry, electricity generation and agriculture sectors with mitigation and adaptation results in all countries. 


Fifth, we should suggest that the major share of financial resources should be earmarked for the least developed countries. Six, the global goal of countries at different levels of development, per capita GDP as well as emissions, must have environmentally sustainable growth as the central objective, with carbon management as a result and not the other way round. 


Just changing the narrative may lead us into a trap as developed countries are rewriting the rules, and we really need to set the agenda. Rather than responding to demands that in subsequent reviews and commitment periods would shift the burden on to us, we should adopt a leadership role by proposing a new paradigm for long-term cooperative action. 


(The writer has worked at the policy level in the government of India and the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BONUS FROM RIL: A STRONG SIGNAL FOR THE FUTURE

Reliance Industries' decision to issue bonus shares after a gap of twelve years indicates the management's confidence in the company's future prospects and its ability to service the enhanced capital, even as the dispute over gas from its Krishna-Godavari basin continues. 

 

Bonuses, however, in themselves do not guarantee that shareholder wealth would go up. The bonus of one share for every share held (one-for-one) and a Rs 13 per share dividend follow successful completion of two big projects: development of the KG basin gas assets and the refinery at Jamnagar. 


Dividends are certainly a straightforward reward to shareholders but bonus shares work in a more subtle way. Bonus issues are essentially cash-neutral transactions in which the accumulated general reserves are capitalised, or converted into capital by issuing shares. 


A company's reserves also belong to shareholders. Capitalisation of reserves merely gives that ownership a more tangible form by converting reserves into equity and issuing shares against that to shareholders . There is no immediate material change because of capitalisation of reserves, as both cash flow and cost of capital, which determine shareholder returns, remain unchanged. 


However, the bonus issue does send out a strong signal, particularly in the case of a company like RIL. The equity heavy balance sheet is desirable for a core sector company as it gives comfort to the creditors. Besides, it also underscores the confidence the company has in its ability to service the permanently increased equity, perhaps even maintaining the per share dividend, implying better prospects for the company. 


Indeed, RIL is expected to report strong cash flow over the next few years as more of the KG basin gas begins to flow. Meanwhile, the drop in share price following the issue of bonus shares would allow more investors, in particular retail ones, to invest in the company. 


The wider ownership and larger number of shares would increase liquidity or, put differently, reduce volatility. And in situations where a bonus issue is not a gimmick, this could fetch a liquidity premium for the shareholders. RIL shareholders certainly have a lot to look forward to.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CHALLENGE FOR SIBAL: CAN INDIANS IN INDIA GET A NOBEL?

We're all proud that Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has won this year's Nobel prize for chemistry. We should hang our heads in shame that Indians have to flee India and work in a lab in a developed country to make a pathbreaking discovery that puts them on the Nobel shortlist. 

 

The first and the last time an Indian scientist won a Nobel prize while in India was when C V Raman won one in 1930. Since then, a lot of sewage has flowed down the Ganga. India ceased to be a colony. The new government of independent India laid much stress on nurturing science and technology in India. 


Independence also stripped the government of the facile expedient of blaming the colonial government for failing to nurture Indian talent or build domestic institutions that would allow creative research to flourish. And we created a bureaucratic, sclerotic science and technology establishment, the apogee of whose achievement is a thermonuclear bomb that might or might not have been a dud. 


Okay, that was uncharitable and undeserved. India has satellite and launch capabilities that are decent by any standards . Missiles and nuclear powered submarines shore up India's strategic capability. All this is fine. But these are developments in technology and its application to a specific end. We are yet to see any great flourishing of basic research. 


Very few institutions undertake that. Universities are, for the most part, teaching shops and examination conducting machines. Expanding the frontiers of knowledge is not a priority for Indian academia. Papers are published because that is how promotions are achieved. Very few of these papers are cited by other researchers around the world. 


A sharp cleavage exists between teaching, done in universities, and research, housed in specialised state research outfits. Universities and research organisations do not interact. Faculty pay is at a steep discount to what comparable skills would fetch in industry, ensuring that very few of those who fill academic posts embody first rate talent. 


Those who do, migrate to a few centres of excellence, leaving the bulk of Indian students to the tender mercies of mediocrity. Is it any wonder Indians have to flee India to win a Nobel?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RECESSION: ARE WE OUT OF THE WOODS?

MANOJ PANT

 

Text Box:  
OVER the last few months there seems to be some agreement among commentators that the world may have seen the end of the current recession. This is largely based on some evidence from the worst-affected areas like the US and the EU that the rate of decline in output is slowing down. This is also true for emerging countries where the rate of growth of GDP seems to be inching back to the 2007 levels.

 

Over the last one year or so I have been arguing in this column that the current recession has clearly Keynesian features. The stimulus which individual countries have been effecting over the last two years does seem to be guided by the same considerations. The attempt to keep trade non-protectionist through a series of global meets seems also to have been guided by the experience of the 1930s Depression when such policies accentuated the impact of the initial downturn and probably extended the recession by a few years. Very broadly, the lesson seems to be that the non-cooperation of the 1930s was something that countries must avoid today.

 

Academic work will continue to ascertain the typology of the current recession — was it Keynesian or simply a consequence of unregulated financial markets? However, it is clear that the period 2007-2009 shared one common feature with the Depression of 1930s: in both cases outputs and prices fell globally. This made this recession somewhat different from previous episodes in the early eighties and in the early years of this century. These were restricted to one set of countries (developed countries or East-Asian economies) and were set off by known causes like the oil price hike of the 1970s or the crony capitalism of the East-Asian economies. From a macro point of view the most important distinction from the current recession is that in the previous episodes there was no generalised fall of both prices and output.

 

Hence the previous episodes were more problems of structural change as compared to the clearly Keynesian nature of the current episode. An understanding of this distinction gives some indication of the task ahead for all countries.

 

It is interesting to note that the strict monetarists have already started bemoaning the increasing fiscal deficits in countries. This needs some consideration. If we accept that the current recession was Keynesian in nature then the fear of deficits is unjustified. In Keynes, the motivating factor was the breakdown of expectations on the part of both consumers and producers.

 

While I have discussed this in more detail earlier (ET, January 9, 2009) the essential element is a set of events which leads consumers to start 'saving for a rainy day' and producers then use this increased savings (reduced consumption) as an indication that demand is falling and hence cut production. This sets off a set of self-fulfilling expectations which can only be negated by the operation of a non-myopic agent (the government) which has to come in to 'pump prime' demand. This pump priming is what we now call government 'stimulus' in each country. Since in a recession falling incomes imply that government tax revenues will also go through a cyclical downturn, it is common sense that this 'stimulus' must come through higher fiscal deficits. In other words, the stimulus is the fiscal deficit itself. Hence, removal of this stimulus (reduction of the fiscal deficit) must imply that all parameters are back to the pre-2007 levels. This is not so clear.

 

First, we now know that the US demand was based on excessive consumption financed by excessive savings in the rest of the world. Yet, today it is clear that the 'zero savings' behaviour in the US is clearly not going to return. The US savings rate (out of disposable income) fell to around 1% in 2006 but is now up to around 5%.

 

In other words, someone in the rest of the world has to make up the 3-4% decline in savings if global demand is to return to the 2007 levels. It is not clear that the level of optimism in other countries (to negate Keynesian expectations) is near the required levels. It is often forgotten that the US accounts for about 25% of world demand so that the level of potential increased in consumption required in emerging economies like India and China is going to be insufficient. This is particularly true given that China has shown no inclination to reduce its huge trade surpluses of over $2 trillion.

 

Till structural changes in world demand work themselves out it is clear that the stimulus must continue. How long? Difficult to say. Wait till signs of optimism return. Positive inflationary expectations is probably as good an indicator as any.

 

(The author is professor of economics, Centre for International Trade and Development, School of International Studies, JNU)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ROBIN AND SOME OTHER HOODS
MUKUL SHARMA

 

A bank manager in the US routinely used depositors' moneys to help out others in times of need with up to $2,000 for things like car repairs, mortgage payments and taxes. She also reversed bounced cheque charges and sundry fees during her tenure because, as she put it, "I would take other people's problems and make them my problems." 

In all, she embezzled about $340,000 before being apprehended . Expressing repeated remorse during the trial, she was prepared to accept any penalty for her misdeeds but the judge decided to impose a minimum sentence of a year in jail saying, "Those Robin Hood days are long over." 


So, was the woman stealing? And if so, why did the judge let her off lightly? The answer to the first one is that going by the legal definition of stealing as taking the property of another without right or permission, of course she was stealing. 


The second question is a bit more tricky to answer and, in fact, undermines the culpability of the first, especially since she even had the option of being released early for good behaviour. Looks like the judge was overwhelmed by the "spirit" of the law and not only wanted justice to be done but "seen" to be done. After all, the manager was only helping "poor" people and doing the "good" Robin Hood thing which we all actually understand and secretly empathise with, right? 


Wrong. The Hood's contention was he was robbing from the rich and giving to the poor because the rich had amassed their wealth by robbing land and taxes and other stuff from the poor in the first place. But what if there was at least one rich person amongst them who had earned his affluence through honesty and hard work? Would his robbery be just collateral damage which we should also understand? 


The psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg who specialised in moral development said a child reasoning at a pre-conventional level might say that it isn't right to steal because it's against the law or someone might see you. At a conventional level, an individual might also argue that it isn't right to steal because it's against the law and laws are necessary for society to function. 


An individual at a post-conventional level might argue that stealing is against the law because it's immoral. To this we should add that at a para-conventional level the law has nothing to do with it at all; stealing is wrong, period. It's difficult to accept this but justice is not blind; morality ultimately is.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RECESSION: ARE WE OUT OF THE WOODS?

MANOJ PANT

 

Over the last few months there seems to be some agreement among commentators that the world may have seen the end of the current recession. This is largely based on some evidence from the worst-affected areas like the US and the EU that the rate of decline in output is slowing down. This is also true for emerging countries where the rate of growth of GDP seems to be inching back to the 2007 levels. 

 

Over the last one year or so I have been arguing in this column that the current recession has clearly Keynesian features. The stimulus which individual countries have been effecting over the last two years does seem to be guided by the same considerations. 


The attempt to keep trade non-protectionist through a series of global meets seems also to have been guided by the experience of the 1930s Depression when such policies accentuated the impact of the initial downturn and probably extended the recession by a few years. Very broadly, the lesson seems to be that the non-cooperation of the 1930s was something that countries must avoid today. 

 

Academic work will continue to ascertain the typology of the current recession — was it Keynesian or simply a consequence of unregulated financial markets? However, it is clear that the period 2007-2009 shared one common feature with the Depression of 1930s: in both cases outputs and prices fell globally. This made this recession somewhat different from previous episodes in the early eighties and in the early years of this century. 


These were restricted to one set of countries (developed countries or East-Asian economies) and were set off by known causes like the oil price hike of the 1970s or the crony capitalism of the East-Asian economies. From a macro point of view the most important distinction from the current recession is that in the previous episodes there was no generalised fall of both prices and output. 


Hence the previous episodes were more problems of structural change as compared to the clearly Keynesian nature of the current episode. An understanding of this distinction gives some indication of the task ahead for all countries. 

It is interesting to note that the strict monetarists have already started bemoaning the increasing fiscal deficits in countries. This needs some consideration. If we accept that the current recession was Keynesian in nature then the fear of deficits is unjustified. In Keynes, the motivating factor was the breakdown of expectations on the part of both consumers and producers. 

 

While I have discussed this in more detail earlier (ET, January 9, 2009) the essential element is a set of events which leads consumers to start 'saving for a rainy day' and producers then use this increased savings (reduced consumption) as an indication that demand is falling and hence cut production. This sets off a set of self-fulfilling expectations which can only be negated by the operation of a non-myopic agent (the government ) which has to come in to 'pump prime' demand. This pump priming is what we now call government 'stimulus' in each country. 


Since in a recession falling incomes imply that government tax revenues will also go through a cyclical downturn, it is common sense that this 'stimulus' must come through higher fiscal deficits. In other words, the stimulus is the fiscal deficit itself. Hence, removal of this stimulus (reduction of the fiscal deficit) must imply that all parameters are back to the pre-2007 levels. This is not so clear. 

First, we now know that the US demand was based on excessive consumption financed by excessive savings in the rest of the world. Yet, today it is clear that the 'zero savings' behaviour in the US is clearly not going to return. The US savings rate (out of disposable income) fell to around 1% in 2006 but is now up to around 5%. 


In other words, someone in the rest of the world has to make up the 3-4 % decline in savings if global demand is to return to the 2007 levels. It is not clear that the level of optimism in other countries (to negate Keynesian expectations) is near the required levels. It is often forgotten that the US accounts for about 25% of world demand so that the level of potential increased in consumption required in emerging economies like India and China is going to be insufficient. 


This is particularly true given that China has shown no inclination to reduce its huge trade surpluses of over $2 trillion. 

Till structural changes in world demand work themselves out it is clear that the stimulus must continue. How long? Difficult to say. Wait till signs of optimism return. Positive inflationary expectations is probably as good an indicator as any. 


(The author is professor of economics, Centre for International Trade and Development, School of International Studies, JNU)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

VALUATIONS NOT VERY COMPELLING NOW: VIKRAM KOTAK

APURV GUPTA

 

After surviving the global turmoil of 2008, Indian equities are trading at attractive valuations, says Vikram Kotak , chief investment officer, Birla Sun Life Insurance. He is sanguine that the rally in the markets will continue , as insurance companies are likely to invest large sums of money in the market. In an interview with ET , he says one should look out for the impact of the stimulus package and RBI's policy stance for direction. Excerpts: 

 

Text Box:
India has been among the best performing markets over the past several months. So is the worst behind us? 

The markets have come a long way since March 2009 and valuations are no longer very compelling. Stocks seem almost fairly valued in many sectors. The combination of surprisingly strong economic news and policy settings is a big catalyst. This may continue to drive equity prices higher. Markets are likely to deliver above average returns over the next few years. The improving risk appetite and increased capital flow into India will ensure sufficient liquidity flow into the country. 


India is in a sweet spot due to two key reasons, domestic demand-driven economic expansion and emergence of strong domestic institutional investors. As of now, retail investors are yet to totally return to the markets. The FIIs, however, have been furiously buying in India, they have almost 85% of what they sold in the financial year ended March 2009. The rally is expected to continue as insurance companies are likely to invest approximately $1.3-1 .5 billion a month till March 2010. 


Is the rally in global equity markets pricing in full fledged recovery? 

While the economic recovery has been generally priced into markets, investors appear to be discounting an unusually weak recovery in countries such as the US that have lagged the global recovery. Yet, the US is exhibiting all characteristics of a classic Vshaped economic recovery. The biggest risk is not global economic recovery faltering or slowing down, but the speed of markets to recognise it. I think recovery in the US and developed world is unlikely to falter although it will be slow recovery. 


With recovery in place, what kind of policy response are you expecting from government and the RBI? 

The government, I would understand, is facing a dilemma about continuing with the stimulus package. The decision will be a key variable for the speed of recovery. Two factors to watch out for are: will this government-driven recovery translate into sustainable private consumption as early as possible and RBI's policy on interest rate visa-vis growth going forward. The RBI faces a challenge on calibrating interest rates maintaining growth momentum and managing inflationary expectations. I think India will be first to tighten the policy rates, and will be followed by emerging Asian countries in the first quarter of 2010. 


While choosing a unit-linked insurance plans (ULIP), how should one approach the choice of fund options? 

It is critical to understand the nuances of long-term savings and protection. ULIPs provide a very good opportunity to plan for the long term. The first thing that one needs to do before selecting a plan is to set a financial goal, retirement, children's education or buying a house. Based on the defined goal, one can choose from a variety of fund offerings that provides long-term capital appreciation along with risk cover. Both pure equity and fixed income funds offer long-term capital appreciation, equity offering higher returns given the inherent nature of risk one takes. ULIP also provides blended fund option, investing in both debt and equity, thereby giving policyholder a choice of products depending on his risk profile. 

 

Is fresh money coming to ULIPs? What is the status of traditional plans? 
Insurance industry is showing healthy growth in new business and renewal premium income. There is a clear preference for investment in equity over debt; almost 70% of incremental flow is into equity funds. Clearly improved education and financial literacy backed by under investment in equities are the key reason why we continue to see more preference towards equity investments. Traditional plans are integral part of insurance business and we will continue to see new products on traditional segment on ongoing basis.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIME FOR RETURNS FOR SMES INVESTED IN IT IN SLOWDOWN: RAJEEV MITTAL

PARTHA GHOSH & RAVI TEJA SHARMA

 

Out of 4 million SMEs in India, barely 30%, or 1.2 million, own a PC. Of these, only 30,000 have a network. That throws up a huge opportunity for global giant Microsoft which is already generating more than 50% of its India revenues from SMEs. ET spoke to Rajeev Mittal , group director, small, mid market solutions and partners at Microsoft India to find out more about the company's plans. Excerpts: 

 

How is IT adoption among SMBs changing? 

The new generation taking over at many of these small and medium companies is more aggressive about IT. The adoption is increasing. There has been a phenomenal shift in ERP usage, moving away from the pure accounting packages these companies have been using. While many of the users of IT are in the Rs 25 crore plus category, a majority of those who are adopting technology are in the Rs 4-5 crore turnover bracket. The most important game changing movement will be in the SMB segment. 


How are you going about it? 

Many companies know IT is important. But they do not know what to use it for. Outside email, a business can start with basic productivity software and as one grows, in phase two, they can invest on networking for collaboration and data exchange internally. Phase three involves external connectivity– ERP, CRM to handle their supply chain, customers, employees, production, operation. 


At the moment, in India, for most SMEs, the maturity is of the first level. The software we offer has to be relevant to them. For this level, availability and reach is very important. For example, there is a Microsoft Office for SMBs which is tailor-made with limited functionality. Then there is the small business server, and ERP, CRM platforms for SMBs which costs 30% lower than the full service product. 


Does adopting IT mean giving up control in the company? 

Technology doesn't necessarily mean giving up control. In fact, it gives you much more control and visibility. SMBs need to realise that information is the key profit driver. Information can let you analyse what is profitable and what is not. A paint store, for instance, improved its profitability by 15% by implementing an ERP system inhouse. With the new data that the package threw up, they could track all the old stock in their warehouse, see what paint colour and size moved the fastest and which had no demand. 


How is project Vikas working? 

We have a PPP with the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council for improving competitiveness of industry clusters. Our goal is to see how we can improve IT adoption which is key to improving competitiveness. We work with partners who build applications on top of Microsoft's ERP platform. Our focus is on various industry verticals such as textiles, leather and auto. To develop applications for these verticals, we take inputs from various SMBs in these industry clusters. The partner network is being improves, from 6,000 at present to about 10,000 by the end of the year. 


How was business during the slowdown? How were you affected? 

Cost saving was the key during the slowdown. People adopted unified communications, CRM and ERP to save on travel and communication cost and to drive up efficiency. Interestingly, many progressive companies redid their IT infrastructure during the downturn. Management could now give enough time for successful implementation of the new infrastructure. What they want to see now is return on investment.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

VENKI'S NOBEL IS TIME TO INTROSPECT

 

The entire country is now toasting Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, an American citizen of Indian origin who was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu and graduated from Baroda's M.S. University before moving to the United States to do his Ph.D. — and make history. A shy, soft-spoken archetypal scientist, who shares this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry with fellow American Thomas Steitz and Ada E. Yonath of Israel, joins an elite club which includes Sir C.V. Raman, Dr Hargobind Khorana and Dr Subramaniam Chandrasekhar. Much is known now about how he loves Indian classical music and his visits to his hometown Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. But the thing to remember is that he is a US citizen and all of his research work had been carried on in American and British institutions. It would be interesting to conduct a "thought experiment" (as Albert Einstein used to say) on whether he could have clocked this landmark achievement had he stayed on in India. It is entirely possible he would have been relegated to some dead-end job and his passion shackled by red tape. Dr Venkatraman has proved, once again, that Indian scientists are second to none in diligent study and amazing discoveries provided they get the right opportunity. Herein lies the crux. India has always been a repository of knowledge, but the flip side is that, historians say, the last titanic Indian scientific figure was Bhaskaracharya, who lived in 12th century A.D. After that, we had to wait many centuries for C.V. Raman and others of his ilk. Perhaps there are historical and philosophic reasons for this. In Independent India, there was a flurry of interest in science thanks to our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But over the years, this interest flagged: if science was at all encouraged by officialdom it was only in relation to defence-related and space-related efforts. Pure science was almost completely neglected. The budgetary allocation for research labs is still pathetic, and the highest award given to a scientist is a laughable Rs 5 lakhs. Had things been otherwise, India could have produced many more Nobel laureates by now. As it is, scientists in India have no option but to leave for distant shores if they have to achieve anything on a grand scale. And grand is the only appropriate word to describe Dr Venki's achievement. He has touched the very essence of life by unveiling the structure of ribosome, which can be termed the "agent of life" in cells. It is the ribosome that interacts, so to say, with the messenger RNA, which carries information from the DNA and creates proteins which run our lives. Ribosomes, in effect, translate the static messages of the DNA into action. For years, scientists have puzzled about the structure of the ribosome, which is about one-millionth of a millimetre in size. It was fellow laureate Ada E. Yonath of Israel who first mapped the atomic structure of the ribosome along with Thomas A. Steitz of Yale. Dr Venkatraman's great contribution was finding how the ribosome precisely translates genetic information. This has great practical value as antibiotics target ribosomes of bacteria to cure people of diseases. As the Swedish Academy pointed out, this can be put to practical and immediate use to design new antibiotics to cripple drug-resistant bacteria. It will save lives. The host of Indian leaders who rushed to congratulate Dr Venkatraman should also ponder deeply about the raw deal meted out to his compatriots back home. If such thoughts provoke action (apt when we are talking about the ribosome), we might still hopefully be able to produce some Indian Nobel laureates too, not just those of Indian origin.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

UN'S CASTE CHARTER IS A BOON, NOT LIABILITY

BY NITISH SENGUPTA

 

India's opposition to the draft of principles and guidelines published by the United Nations Human Rights Commission is somewhat intriguing. It pledges to work for the "effective elimination of discrimination based on work and descent", which is a euphemism for caste inequalities that are prevalent in India.


Interestingly, Nepal, which is known to be more conservative in preaching and practicing orthodox Hinduism, has endorsed these draft principles, causing a certain amount of embarrassment to India.


The UN draft proposes to equate all discrimination on the basis of caste, occupation or descent as a violation of human rights.


By far, casteism has been India's biggest social evil. And it has, in a major way, obstructed the nation's growth like no other single issue has done.


Our national leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi, and leaders of the Indian renaissance movement, like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, were against this pernicious social evil and recommended its eradication.


Our Constitution, Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles disapprove of the practice of caste system and its attendant evil — untouchability.


It is common knowledge that the caste system did not originate with our most ancient scriptures — the Upanishads and the Bhagwat Gita — except in the form of grouping people on the basis of their profession. Even in this context, there were several known cases of people who were born in one caste but were accepted into another on the basis of the work they did. Sages like Vishvamitra and Parashuram are two such examples.
Truly speaking, caste rigidity was set in India by the Manu Smriti, a scandalous document which is not only against lower castes but also against women in general. It should have been banned in India long ago.


The four castes — Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras — that originated from the Manu Smriti and, thereafter, received sanction from rulers like Ballal Sen of Bengal, further got divided into a large number of sub-castes. The north-south divide between the people of Dravidian origin and people of Aryan descent led to further complications. But in the 19th century, a strong Indian renaissance movement arose when organisations like the Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj openly preached non-casteism.


By the time India became Independent, there was general acceptance that caste distinctions should gradually disappear, and this principle was incorporated in the Indian Constitution. Indeed, in the early days of our Independence, we forgot caste system in a broad sense. It is quite clear from the debates in our Constituent Assembly that the first-generation leaders of the Indian Republic totally disapproved of the caste system and wanted its gradual eradication from our society.


Although reservations were provided for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST), these were meant as affirmative action that was to be gradually done away with, as and when people belonging to SCs and STs progressed to the social and economic level of other castes.


Unfortunately, with the advent of parliamentary democracy and adult franchise, reservations created vested interests and the politicians, in general, wanted these special privileges to stay. The Constitution was amended from time to time to provide for more and more reservations.


Despite that, the caste system was on its way out, i.e. till the Mandal Commission, set up by the Morarji Desai government, made its recommendation for reservations of jobs for Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The report was submitted in 1980. But both Indira Gandhi and later Rajiv Gandhi chose to ignore it. Perhaps, they were suspicious of its dangerous consequences. But this report was revived by V.P. Singh in a jiffy in 1990, just to play one-upmanship on Chaudhuri Devi Lal.


The unfortunate series of incidents that followed, and how they affected our politics, are too well-known to bear repetition. The fact is that the caste system that was almost forgotten came back with a vengeance and has stayed with us since.


But it is amazing that we still reserve jobs on the basis of data that was compiled eight decades ago — statistics of various castes were compiled during the 1931 census. Those who favour reservations for OBCs maintain that the population of OBCs is about 52 per cent, whereas another recent estimate indicates that the proportion has fallen to 32 per cent. No one knows the truth but the fact is that the protagonists of the OBC reservation movement, who are politically important today because of their stand on this issue, are ensuring that caste reservations stay.


Presumably, it is pressure from politically-strong OBCs enjoying both muscle and money power, that their representatives are standing in the way of India adopting a rational and just position in relation to the UN's proposed principles and guidelines.


We have to accept the fact that the caste system is inconsistent with a free functioning democracy that is based on the principle that all citizens are equal. All democracies have accepted the position voiced with enormous clarity by the leaders of both the French Revolution and the American war of independence, notably Voltaire, Rousseau, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They all emphasised that there are certain rights and privileges that must be guaranteed to every human being. This was, indeed, the principle behind the Upanishads calling every individual "amritsya putra", or "child of the Immortal Being".


The recommendations of the UN Human Rights Commission are salutary and give us a chance to get rid of some of our social evils. We must fight all elements that oppose this and support all those who favour it. We should, therefore, persuade the Government of India to give up its opposition and fall in line with all other nations like Nepal and Sri Lanka. We should also learn what these nations have done in relation to the proposed principles and guidelines of the UN Human Rights Commission for effective elimination of discrimination based on either birth or occupation.

 

 Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S US WILL WALK WITH THE WORLD, NOT LEAD

BY ROGER COHEN

 

A Merrill Lyncher with good timing cashed out a while back and bought himself a modest cabin with breathtaking views of the aspen and pine forests rising toward the jagged peaks of the Rockies. The American West, empty enough in these parts, still holds something of the limitless promise of a virgin land.
Some time later, a former colleague who had laboured on and amassed a far greater fortune — as well as greater cares — came to visit and the two men went for a stroll. The cabin owner, by now a ruddy-faced Mr Mellow, gestured toward the snow-covered ridge and said: "The difference between us is you have everything money can buy and I have everything money can't buy".


When it comes to money, timing is everything. When it comes to life, it helps to have what the British explorer Richard Burton called "the wanderer's heart".


The United States, like some heavyweight who's taken one punch too many, is still groggy from the money fever of gutted pension funds, toxic securities and lunatic leverage. My sense is the world, like Merrill Lynch, was about three nanoseconds from complete meltdown.


That's been averted. But Americans are in a different mental place. They're paying down debt. They're not hiring. They've gotten reacquainted with risk. They're going to have to survive without Gourmet magazine.
The cabin in the woods is looking good after the era of the starter mansion. America hates scaling back. Its nature, hard-wired to the new frontier, is alien to retraction. But that's the zeitgeist President Barack Obama has inherited. The challenge he faces is how to manage reduced expectations.


In the vastness of southern Colorado, where mountain and mesa and meadow summon archetypal images of American possibility — and wasn't Obama's election precisely about restoring the mythology of that possibility? — I found myself pondering this tension between the idealism projected onto the President and the realism that is his obligation: the tension between America's exalted self-image and its current quandary.


The beautiful wild put me in mind of Gatsby: "For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder".


But Obama is talking down wonderment. In so doing, I suspect, he's setting the tone for coming decades that — whatever else they bring — will see America's relative economic power decline.


His words last month at the United Nations were important: "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone. We have sought — in word and deed — a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges".


Far more than an all-powerful America, Obama sees the constraints of interconnection.


This is a relatively new language for an American President. The notion of the United States as an exceptional power, a beacon for mankind, has resided at the core of the heroic American narrative. From Lincoln through Wilson to Reagan and Bush, the lexicon of American-inspired redemption has been recurrent. American exceptionalism has involved a messianic streak, the belief in a country with a global calling to uplift.
Obama represents a departure from this tradition. Tom Paine said, "The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind". The President avoids such resounding exhortations. He even steers clear of the Clinton-era characterisation of the United States as "the indispensable nation".


To the contrary, Obama admits American failings. He does not quite say America is just one nation among many, but he's unequivocal about the fact that America can't solve the world's problems alone or in its image.
He announced the US withdrawal from Iraq in this way: "What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathise with our adversaries".


He said Iraq should be "sovereign, stable and self-reliant" with a government that is "just, representative and accountable". Note the absent words here, quintessential expressions of US ideals: liberty, freedom, democracy.

 

Obama has no illusions about the exportability of democracy.


All this suggests to me that, as he manages expectations downward, Obama will be no more seduced by "the pursuit of the perfect" in Afghanistan than he was in Iraq. I suspect he'll punt for now on the agonising question of sending more troops, neither rejecting the military's requests out of hand, nor making a sizeable commitment. We won't be hearing too much from the President about Afghan democracy.


America, forced by circumstance, is cashing out. It's changing perspective, adjusting to a 21st-century world of new power centres. Obama's new discourse was needed. But unless he can embody possibility in retrenchment — "everything money can't buy" — I doubt he can carry the country with him.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TIME FOR INDIA TO WAKE UP TO CHINA

 BY ARUN KUMAR SINGH

 

On April 23, 2009, China held its first International Fleet Review (IFR) at Qingdao (Northern Fleet Headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Navy). The Indian Navy sent two warships to participate in this event which was also attended by warships of 14 other nations. This Chinese IFR, coming shortly after the spectacular 2008 Beijing Olympics, was not better than the Indian IFR of 2002, which had a far greater international participation. The only difference was that the Chinese IFR showcased China's totally indigenous maritime capability (including nuclear submarines) while the Indian IFR was a mixed bag of indigenous and foreign equipment used by the Indian Navy.Then on October 1, 2009, China held a huge military parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Watching this parade on television, I realised that it was not really in any way superior to our own Republic Day parades.
The only difference was that while China showcased some five dozen indigenous conventional and strategic systems, India's military might is still reliant on massive military imports, while its strategic capability has to catch up with China for deterrence to work.


Yes, the Chinese are aware that while their military imports are restricted to only Russian equipment, India has the luxury of selecting the best from the United States, the European Union, Russia and Israel. The Indian military can have a qualitative edge, provided the government takes urgent decisions on long-delayed items like artillery, fighter jets, submarines et cetera.


These two events in China remind me of September 2000 when, as a two-star Eastern Fleet Commander, I led a formation of Indian Navy warships to Shanghai. The visit was to mark the 50th anniversary of Indo-Chinese diplomatic relations. Those days, the Indo-China border was peaceful, trade was growing and the Chinese went out of their way to make our visit truly memorable. China, in fact, took out a unique first-day cover to commemorate the event.


Now, of course, things have changed. China has become India's number one trading partner, has built strategic infrastructure along the border while India slept, despite 1962, and has begun its "pinprick" border incursions even as it supplies Pakistan with conventional and strategic hardware at "friendship" prices.


Since China and India are the world's two fastest-growing economies, it may be worthwhile to examine a few major strategic differences between the two Asian giants. Firstly, China has a strategic culture, long-term vision and a clearly defined national goal of meeting some milestones:


l by 2010, have military capability superior to its neighbours with whom it has territorial disputes;


l by 2030, have the military capability to fight limited modern wars against medium-sized opponents, and operate a blue water Navy;


l by 2050 achieve global superpower status, economic and military, on par with the US.

India has yet to declare its national objectives from which will flow its national and military strategies. Indeed, India has yet to realise that economic security is meaningless without military security. The era of dependence on the former USSR for security is history, and looking at America to "pull our chestnuts out of the fire" will not help. Even Pakistan has a national objective — of destabilising India.


Secondly, China, like many other nations, has a unified military command under a Chief of Defence Staff. Its military is truly integrated into government decision-making and strategic deterrence.


In India, the picture is completely opposite — a civilian bureaucracy is the sole adviser to the government on military affairs, while the Nuclear Command Authority and the policy of "recessed deterrence" (i.e. all warheads and missiles are kept separate, under different authorities) does not contribute to deterrence as has been witnessed by Pakistan's continuing India-policy of "death by a thousand cuts" and China's policy of "hundreds of border pinpricks". In contrast, Pakistan has an unambiguous "first-use" nuclear policy, while China has a "no first-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states" policy.


China has traditionally put pressure only on one of its neighbours at any given time. Now that the present dispensation in Taiwan is seen as more "acceptable", Beijing has shifted its focus from Taiwan to its disputed 4,000 km-long border with India, since talks over the last 29 years have not shown any results and India is moving towards a strategic relationship with the US, after the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008.
China is aware that India's long-neglected military may complete its modernisation only by 2015, and hence this may be a good time to pressurise the Indian government into "agreeing" to a boundary settlement on terms favourable to China.


The recent "stapling of Chinese visas" for residents of Jammu and Kashmir (similar to residents of Arunachal Pradesh) needs to be seen as another Chinese effort to ramp up pressure on the Indian government.
China certainly has major problems in Tibet and Xinjiang, not to mention the growing economic disparity between the rich eastern coastal provinces and the poor inland western provinces. In addition, China has major environmental problems of pollution and natural disasters. But these should be weighed against the political will of the Chinese leadership to achieve its national goals and objectives.


The challenges for India are clear. I doubt if any Indian government will have the political will power to change our stand on Tibet, or do a "tit for tat" by issuing "stapled Indian visas" to Chinese domiciles of Tibet or Xingjiang province.


Our present democratic system needs to inculcate some accountability and responsibility, while the political leadership needs to encourage a strategic culture and declare our national goals and objectives till the year 2050, so that our economic, energy and military security go hand in hand. It's time to wake up as a nation.

 

 Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LET DEATH PENALTY DIE

BY I.A. REHMAN

 

The World Day against the Death Penalty will be observed across the globe on October 10. And this time Pakistan will not be in the dock as a keen upholder of capital punishment as no execution has been reported in Pakistan in 2009 (until September 30). In 2008 two developments regarding the application of the death penalty in Pakistan took place. The theme chosen for the Day against the Death Penalty by the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, the international alliance of organisations that campaign against capital punishment, was focused on Asia where more people had been executed than in the rest of the world. The record of six Asian countries was highlighted: India, South Korea and Taiwan received credit for progress towards the abolition of the death penalty. Pakistan was listed amongst the other three countries — along with Japan and Vietnam — for excessive application of the capital punishment.


But 2008 was also the year when the Government of Pakistan announced its intention to abolish the death penalty. As a first step it wanted to commute the death sentence awarded to several thousand convicts. Since no evidence of any practical step was available, it was assumed that the government's humanitarian zeal had got dissipated.


Human rights activists and others who stood for an end to hangings were dismayed at discovering that executions continued after the government's abolitionist plan was announced and that a Musharraf-period ordinance prescribing death penalty for cyber crimes had been reissued. One is now happy to learn that the government did not give up the idea of adopting a rational policy on the death penalty. The imposition of a de facto moratorium on executions is undoubtedly a great step forward and the government will receive acclaim throughout the world. It is, however, necessary to offer the pro-execution lobby the justification for this radical shift in policy.


The fact is that Pakistan's keenness to retain the death penalty for more than two dozen offences, as against only two (murder and treason) at the time of Independence, had become totally indefensible. For one thing, it was contrary to a growing worldwide trend in favour of abolition of the capital punishment.
A 2007 survey showed that more than two-thirds of the countries in the world had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Of these countries, 93 had abolished the capital punishment for all crimes; nine had done so for all crimes except for those committed in times of war; and 35 countries were classified as de facto abolitionists as no execution had been carried out for at least 10 years (although the death penalty was still prescribed in law).


The movement for abolition of the death penalty continues to gain new adherents year after year. This year Burundi, Togo and the US state of New Mexico have abolished the death penalty. For another thing, the five principal arguments advanced in the international discourse to repudiate the death penalty are more aptly applicable to Pakistan and similarly placed countries than others. However, prudence demands that the objections and misgivings of those who oppose the abolition of the death penalty should be properly addressed. These elements fall into two categories. The first category comprises the people who have been brutalised under the Zia-ul Haq gospel of retributive justice and public hangings or by their experience of executions by pseudo-religious militants.


The Council of Islamic Ideology has explained that the Islamic law does not prescribe death as a punishment for more than a couple of offences. The laws relating to these offences should be amended after a fair debate and consensus.

By arrangement with Dawn

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WEST'S BITTER WAR

AN INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

SANKAR SEN

 

THE war in Afghanistan is likely to get bitter and more expensive. To resist increasing political pressure in America, Obama has to stay the course and fashion a better strategy.


America and its NATO allies in Afghanistan are now facing the increasing prospect of failure. Large parts of southern Afghanistan are beyond the government's control. Disparate insurgency is gaining in strength and assuming the character of a widespread insurrection against the western forces and the elected government they are backing.


There is growing anger and opposition across the country, specially in the Pashtun south and east against the foreign-funded government of Hamid Karzai and the foreign force that protects it. Pashtuns constitute almost 43 per cent of Afghanistan's multi-ethnic population. There is considerable resentment too against the westerners (kafirs) in general. Eight years after the Taliban's ouster from power and after having spent more than $ 32 billion for Afghanistan's development and deployment of troops, the Western powers have failed to restore order and provide security. American and NATO forces are now struggling only to maintain their weak hold over the country.


CIVILIAN CASUALTIES

BECAUSE of the shortage of soldiers, American Generals often take recourse to air power, resulting in civilian casualties. This fuels the anger of the locals against foreign troops and the misdirected American strikes. Until 2006, there were only 300 American combat troops in the province of Helmand. Before long, the area became the nerve-centre of insurgency. The limited induction of British troops in 2006 did not improve matters. Many of them were killed in the suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban. Helmand valley is now the biggest centre for producing opium and the British troops have become unwilling pawns in the drug wars involving tribes, government officials and the Taliban. Indeed, a substantial portion of the Taliban's income comes from taxing the opium growers and others involved in the drug trade. American efforts to plough up the opium poppies have failed.


President Obama is trying to pursue the war in Afghanistan vigorously. He has brought about a change in military command. He has replaced General David Kierman with General McChrystal. The latter has emphasized that the main objective of the American troops should be to protect the Afghans and not to kill the Taliban among them. He is trying to ensure, though not always successfully, that air power is used only when there is significant risk of civilian deaths.


Efforts are also on to separate the Taliban resisters from the committed insurgents. American strategists feel that by soft tactics and reconciliatory policies, a large number of Taliban can be won over. Karzai is reportedly willing to sit with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, though the latter has not accepted the offer. He feels that time is on his side. Recent reports suggest that the Taliban  have become a more potent adversary than ever before with improved tactics and resources.


In the USA, the Afghan policy of Obama appears to be under public scrutiny. According to a new opinion poll, 53 per cent of the people feel that the US troops should get out of Afghanistan. Congress feels that the cost of America's huge, open-ended commitment may outweigh its benefits. If more and more Americans die, it will be difficult for Obama to pursue his Afghan policy. He may even be under political pressure to announce a timetable for withdrawal of troops. With more than 300 troops killed this year, the West is realizing the gravity of the situation and the need for a quick solution. General McChrystal knows that he has a year or less to show progress.


The main problem of counter-terrorist operations is that considerable time must pass before the new strategy can yield results. But as time passes and casualties mount, public support for the war wanes. The counter-insurgency timeline is unlikely to be in step with the political timeline at home.


SPURIOUS VICTORY

IN the recent presidential election, Hamid Karzai has won a spurious victory amidst allegations of rigging, ballot stuffing, intimidation etc. The supporters of Abdullah Abdullah are not likely to take it lying down if Karzai's victory is eventually formalised. Violence is bound to escalate. Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence has been killed by the Taliban. David Kilcullan, now a senior advisor to the US commander, said in Canberra recently: "The government is not just being out-fought, it is being out-governed. That is what is happening in Afghanistan".


Karzai has also become a difficult customer. Given the wavering foreign support, he has forged links with warlords, including Rashid Dostum. The Uzbek warlord has been responsible for the slaughter of 2000 Taliban prisoners. Under the Afghan constitution, a run-off election is mandated if neither side gets 50 per cent plus one vote. If Abdullah and his supporters foment civil strife, Karzai may move towards the Taliban, who are Pashtuns. 


In Obama's reckoning, the war is meant to defeat the Al Qaida and its extremist allies. But American troops are no longer fighting the Al Qaida in Afghanistan. If this militant group retains its operational capability, it is no longer solely dependent on Afghanistan to launch attacks. Therefore, this strategic rationale becomes tenuous.
As one columnist has observed, Afghanistan could be for Obama what Iraq was for Bush or even what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson.


The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, former Director-General, National Human Rights Commission, and former Director, National Police Academy

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

TALIBANESQUE
THE MAOIST UPS THE ANTE


P CHIDAMBARAM may have laboured the obvious when he described the beheading of Jharkhand's police inspector, Francis Induwar ~ with almost Talibanesque brutality ~ as "a cold-blooded murder and unacceptable". Sure it is. Yet the Union home minister has been remarkably swift in scotching speculation about the motives of the Maoists. There is no evidence that can arouse the suspicion they had demanded the release of the arrested comrades and tribals, notably Khobad Ghandy and Chhatradhar Mahato. This has even been denied by the district administration of Khunti. Such conjecture can only deflect attention from the primary focus as was sought to be attempted in Bihar's Khagaria till Nitish Kumar decided to take a call on the responsibility. Unlike in Khagaria, the killer Maoists of Khunti have left behind the standard giveaway posters that speak of "a retaliatory action against the killing of comrade Motilal Munda in a fake encounter". The responsibility as much as the objective are fairly unambiguous.


Induwar was unarmed. And this raises the critical issue of protecting the Special Branch personnel, assigned to gather Intelligence data. Induwar belonged to the SB as do many others; unarmed as they are, the risk to their lives in Maoist terrain is substantial. Small wonder that he had been abducted without a flutter from a thriving marketplace. This shocking lack of security has now turned out to be a mortal drawback, one that needs to be addressed as urgently as tracking down the culprits in one of the worst affected states along the Red Corridor. The harsh truth that the government in Ranchi must now face up to is that the Intelligence network is inexcusably ill-equipped. Blatant double-think comes through in the administration arming Special Branch personnel on VIP duty, but not those scouring Jharkhand's extremist-infested areas in plainclothes. Fatuously enough, the government proceeds from conclusion to premise when it argues that SB staff, gathering Intelligence, are not provided with arms "because that leaves the Maoists with a chance to loot weapons after killing them". The system of manual gathering of Intelligence is now open to question with the Special Branch IG's suggestion that sleuths ought to depend on intercepted calls. The Left radical has upped the ante before the contemplated offensive by the armed forces. The possible scenario is chilling even to imagine.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BELATED, BUT DECISIVE

A LOT HINGES ON THE FOLLOW-THROUGH


AT last, West Bengal's new transport minister has displayed a measure of decisiveness. Yet Ranjit Kundu's show of assertiveness on Tuesday can scarcely make amends for the government's lapse. It has taken 15 months to be seen to be acting on the Calcutta High Court's order against 15-year-old commercial vehicles. Having woken up to the overwhelming mess in urban transportation since 1 August, the transport department now appears to be going firm with a deadline ~ 31 October for submitting applications to replace commercial vehicles of 15-year dotage and more. The underlying message is equally firm ~ the government will assume that those who don't meet the deadline are not interested in remaining in the transport business. However remarkable the expression of no-nonsense assertiveness, things would have been different today if the government had initiated prompt action on the High Court order of July 2008. It was an order with a twin objective ~ to protect the environment against the belching buses and auto-rickshaws and make the modes of public transport more efficient. Indeed, Mr Kundu's announcement marks the first decisive move by the department in the context of the court's ban on polluting vehicles. Compliance has been as defiant as it has been pathetic. The transport department has thus far received 465 applications for replacement, against 3000-odd buses and minibuses that were scheduled to be phased out by 31 July. The awfully belated clampdown, in the manner of a knee-jerk response to the court's deadline, has served only to throw the network out of joint. Only a fraction of the polluting vehicles have been impounded. Since 1 August, Kolkata and the rest of the state have had to countenance the worst of both worlds ~ a depletion in public transport and scarcely any improvement in the environment. The outdated smoke-belching models of private buses are back on the roads.
One must give it to the new minister that by setting the 31 October deadline, he has at least made a positive move instead of protecting the unions in the transport sector. He ought now to expedite the purchase of buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. Barely 100 out of 1300 such buses have hit the road so far. Commuting, at the end of the day, must be comfortable, pollution-free and visually appealing. A lot will hinge on Mr Kundu's follow-through.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PECKING ORDER

MUST PLAYERS FIGURE LAST?

 

APOLOGIES to PT Usha. It is difficult to join the chorus of condemnation over her not being provided accommodation matching her track record at the National Open Athletics Championships in Bhopal. Had she protested poor living conditions for athletes there would have been absolutely no hesitation in endorsing her outrage, but what she ~ and those she sent into an atonement tizzy ~ has done is to reinforce an Indian stereotype: all are not equal, a skewed sense of "status" prevails. The same attitude sees MPs' cars ignoring traffic signals and Shah Rukh Khan throwing tantrums at Newark airport. Usha's argument that, "I have won medals for the nation. And see how I am being treated. If this is the deal I get you can well imagine what struggling sportspersons go through", rings somewhat hollow. If she was sincere about the plight of struggling sportspersons she would not have checked into a hotel, then transferred to a luxury one courtesy the state government, without simultaneously ensuring that the athletes under her wing had also been provided fitting accommodation. But not a word about their welfare has been heard in the din and blame-game she ignited. It is also worth noting that Usha went to Bhopal as a coach/manager, had she been treated better than other coaches another sort of resentment would have erupted. Rather than allow himself to be sucked into controversy over whether it was the Madhya Pradesh government or the Sports Authority of India that was responsible, sports minister MS Gill ought to have concerned himself probing whether the "real VIPs" ~ the participants ~ had been treated well.


Unfortunately, experience iterates that in terms of creature comforts athletes (cricketers, tennis players, golfers and a few others excepted) ever get the short end of the wedge. A glimpse at the dormitories at major stadiums, or the down-market hotels at which they camp will confirm it is miraculous that they actually perform as well as they do. The five-star facilities are reserved for politicians, federation bosses etc, and of course a handful of ex-athletes. Recall that for Asiad 82 the residential complexes near the Shivaji Stadium and Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium in the Capital were raised as accommodation for players ~ one is now a de luxe hotel, the other hosts the chief minister's secretariat. So much for "struggling sportspersons".

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WEST'S BITTER WAR

SANKAR SEN


THE war in Afghanistan is likely to get bitter and more expensive. To resist increasing political pressure in America, Obama has to stay the course and fashion a better strategy.


America and its NATO allies in Afghanistan are now facing the increasing prospect of failure. Large parts of southern Afghanistan are beyond the government's control. Disparate insurgency is gaining in strength and assuming the character of a widespread insurrection against the western forces and the elected government they are backing.


There is growing anger and opposition across the country, specially in the Pashtun south and east against the foreign-funded government of Hamid Karzai and the foreign force that protects it. Pashtuns constitute almost 43 per cent of Afghanistan's multi-ethnic population. There is considerable resentment too against the westerners (kafirs) in general. Eight years after the Taliban's ouster from power and after having spent more than $ 32 billion for Afghanistan's development and deployment of troops, the Western powers have failed to restore order and provide security. American and NATO forces are now struggling only to maintain their weak hold over the country.


CIVILIAN CASUALTIES

BECAUSE of the shortage of soldiers, American Generals often take recourse to air power, resulting in civilian casualties. This fuels the anger of the locals against foreign troops and the misdirected American strikes. Until 2006, there were only 300 American combat troops in the province of Helmand. Before long, the area became the nerve-centre of insurgency. The limited induction of British troops in 2006 did not improve matters. Many of them were killed in the suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban. Helmand valley is now the biggest centre for producing opium and the British troops have become unwilling pawns in the drug wars involving tribes, government officials and the Taliban. Indeed, a substantial portion of the Taliban's income comes from taxing the opium growers and others involved in the drug trade. American efforts to plough up the opium poppies have failed.


President Obama is trying to pursue the war in Afghanistan vigorously. He has brought about a change in military command. He has replaced General David Kierman with General McChrystal. The latter has emphasized that the main objective of the American troops should be to protect the Afghans and not to kill the Taliban among them. He is trying to ensure, though not always successfully, that air power is used only when there is significant risk of civilian deaths.


Efforts are also on to separate the Taliban resisters from the committed insurgents. American strategists feel that by soft tactics and reconciliatory policies, a large number of Taliban can be won over. Karzai is reportedly willing to sit with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, though the latter has not accepted the offer. He feels that time is on his side. Recent reports suggest that the Taliban  have become a more potent adversary than ever before with improved tactics and resources.


In the USA, the Afghan policy of Obama appears to be under public scrutiny. According to a new opinion poll, 53 per cent of the people feel that the US troops should get out of Afghanistan. Congress feels that the cost of America's huge, open-ended commitment may outweigh its benefits. If more and more Americans die, it will be difficult for Obama to pursue his Afghan policy. He may even be under political pressure to announce a timetable for withdrawal of troops. With more than 300 troops killed this year, the West is realizing the gravity of the situation and the need for a quick solution. General McChrystal knows that he has a year or less to show progress.


The main problem of counter-terrorist operations is that considerable time must pass before the new strategy can yield results. But as time passes and casualties mount, public support for the war wanes. The counter-insurgency timeline is unlikely to be in step with the political timeline at home.


SPURIOUS VICTORY

IN the recent presidential election, Hamid Karzai has won a spurious victory amidst allegations of rigging, ballot stuffing, intimidation etc. The supporters of Abdullah Abdullah are not likely to take it lying down if Karzai's victory is eventually formalised. Violence is bound to escalate. Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence has been killed by the Taliban. David Kilcullan, now a senior advisor to the US commander, said in Canberra recently: "The government is not just being out-fought, it is being out-governed. That is what is happening in Afghanistan".


Karzai has also become a difficult customer. Given the wavering foreign support, he has forged links with warlords, including Rashid Dostum. The Uzbek warlord has been responsible for the slaughter of 2000 Taliban prisoners. Under the Afghan constitution, a run-off election is mandated if neither side gets 50 per cent plus one vote. If Abdullah and his supporters foment civil strife, Karzai may move towards the Taliban, who are Pashtuns. 


In Obama's reckoning, the war is meant to defeat the Al Qaida and its extremist allies. But American troops are no longer fighting the Al Qaida in Afghanistan. If this militant group retains its operational capability, it is no longer solely dependent on Afghanistan to launch attacks. Therefore, this strategic rationale becomes tenuous.
As one columnist has observed, Afghanistan could be for Obama what Iraq was for Bush or even what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NASA DISCOVERS HUGE RING OF ICE ORBITING SATURN

STEVE CONNOR


WASHINGTON, 8 OCT: A giant ring so faint it is all but invisible to conventional light telescopes has been discovered around Saturn by the infra-red imaging instruments on board Nasa's Spitzer space telescope.
The ring extends much further out than Saturn's other rings, and is tilted at a different angle to the rest in relation to the planet's axis of rotation.


Saturn's rings are known to be composed of dust, ice and other debris caught up in orbit around the planet. Scientists believe the newly discovered ring is so tenuous because its particles of ice and dust are thinly dispersed in space. This means they do not reflect much light, making the ring hard to see.


Spitzer's infra-red camera was able to detect the "glow" of the band's cool dust, which only manages to reach a temperature of minus 193C. Even at such low temperatures, the dust gives off enough infra-red light to be picked up by Spitzer, the $800m space observatory launched in 2003. "By focusing on the glow of the ring's cool dust, Spitzer made it easy to find," said Anne Verbiscer, an astronomer at the University of Virginia. "(But) the particles are so far apart that if you were to stand in the ring, you wouldn't even know it. This is one supersized ring. If you could see (it), it would span the width of two full-moons' worth of sky, one on either side of Saturn."


Saturn's moon Phoebe is almost certainly generating the dust and ice grains that makes up the ring, which extends from between 3.7 million and 12 million miles from Saturn and is inclined at an angle of 27 degrees to the main ring system.

 

The Independent

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SQUARE WHEEL

 

The release of the United Nations Human Development Report 2009 — and the accompanying human development index — on October 5 raises an interesting conundrum: are socio-economic development and human development the same thing? When the HDI was first introduced in 1990, many economists — including T.N. Srinivasan of Harvard University — had called it another redundant indicator measuring aspects of development that had already been extensively examined and studied. Consider this year's HDI. If one looked at India's ranking on the HDI in 1999 and compared it to that in 2009, nothing much seems to have changed. India was ranked 132 out of 177 countries then, and is ranked 134 out of 182 countries now. China was ranked 92 then, and is ranked 92 now. Yet these two countries have consistently — in India's case over the last five years — been the drivers of global economic growth.

 

The HDI numbers seem to suggest that much of that growth has not translated into any improvement in 'human development' outcomes. The HDI is a composite of three factors: per capita income or gross domestic product, educational attainment and life expectancy. In absolute terms, the numbers — essentially a score between zero and one — have improved, from about 0.563 to about 0.617 today for India. But what is disturbing is that the ranking has fallen from 128 in 2006 to the present 134. The decline evoked a variety of responses, from official dismissal of the HDI assessment as flawed methodology to claims by non-governmental organizations that policy failures have increased infant mortality dramatically.

 

The charge of flawed methodology has come from other quarters too. Bryan Caplan, economics professor at George Mason University, Virginia, has said that given the current methodology, even rich countries cannot improve their rankings despite the scope for economic growth and greater longevity (the United States of America's rank dropped to 13). To quote: "A country of immortals with infinite per-capita GDP would get a score of 0.666 (lower than South Africa and Tajikistan) if its population were illiterate and never went to school." The HDR has a theme: the benefits of migration (both within countries and between them) and the enabling policy environment that can maximize its benefits. Even here, some points in the report have raised the ire of Indian officials, notably that of the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who had issues with some of the data used. Many policy proposals are familiar, having been aired in other reports and papers, including many by World Bank economists. Migration is a very sensitive political issue in today's global environment, as the report also acknowledges. Most governments are likely to see it as just another reinvention of a square wheel: it won't go anywhere.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NO EXCEPTIONS

 

Misrule looks the same all over the world. A few years ago, a military-general-turned-president in Pakistan, in a desperate bid to retain his executive power, had sacked the nation's supreme court bench, along with the chief justice, and suspended the constitution. After running the country in the spirit of a wayward cowboy for some time, the man was removed from the high chair through electoral defeat. The picture in the enlightened West, which swears by liberty, human rights and democracy, does not look much better. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, may not be the leader of his national army, but he is a business tycoon — and that goes a long way towards securing unlimited power in an under-educated country like Italy. Mr Berlusconi has so far singlehandedly determined what citizens of his country should watch on television (undermining the judiciary's intervention at times). So, as with North Koreans or Thais, Italians too have been served a steady dose of propaganda by Mr Berlusconi's centre-right party. They have been asked to admire the exalted motto of their prime minister — "God, the motherland and the family" — although a series of sex scandals, criminal cases and financial irregularities leave little reason for adulation. This state of affairs is not all that surprising: this is, after all, the land of Mussolini, a notorious womanizer and autocrat.

 

But at last Mr Berlusconi's brazen confidence seems to have been somewhat shaken. Italy's apex court has stripped him of immunity from prosecution (Mr Berlusconi had passed this law himself on coming to power). This is indeed a historic ruling. Not only does it uphold the equality of all Italian citizens before the constitution, but it also encourages absolute transparency and fairness in governance. India, where executive heads continue to enjoy many constitutional safeguards, and is presently in turmoil over the judges' assets declaration, should take heed.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NOSTALGIA

AN ANNIVERSARY YEAR FOR TWO EXTRAORDINARY JOURNALS

ASHOK MITRA

 

The year happens to be the anniversary occasion for two journals, both quite out of the ordinary. The formidable Economic (now Economic and Political) Weekly completed 60 years of its existence in January. September marked half-a-century of publication of that curiosum of a periodical, Seminar. The EPW's deft blending of serious academic thinking with incisive critiques of contemporary goings-on is non pareil in the world. Seminar too, in its own manner, stands out as a spectacular phenomenon. It presents in its pages diverse musings on a single theme, and each month it is a new theme. This has been the proceeding, month after month, across six hundred-odd issues. A further overlap between the EPW and the Seminar is that both started as cottage craft, a small-scale family affair. The EPW was a brainwave of two brothers, Sachin and Hiten Chaudhuri; Seminar, on the other hand, was the handiwork of a husband-and-wife team.

 

Lahore Government College, in the early 1940s, used to fawn on the boys and girls attending it from affluent, and perhaps not so affluent, families. They crammed its sprawling lawns, corridors and lecture rooms. Spring was always in the air: excited roaming in literature and political philosophy, intense discussion on the mysteries of the atom, loads and loads of Faiz's poetry, thrill at reports of heroic Soviet résistance, at Stalingrad and elsewhere, against the advancing Nazi aggressors. It was almost inevitable that Raj Malhotra and Romesh Thapar would be sucked into the Students' Federation and the proximity of the communist party. Romesh had a flair for writing, drawing and acting, his calligraphy was beautiful, Raj had elegance and, apart from her passion for art and aesthetics, was full of ideas. The sufferings and deprivation of the poor hurt their sensibility; the courting couple dreamed of a future exclusively dedicated to the cause of the people. The Indian People's Theatre Movement was then a vibrant, thriving organism. It was sheer joy to be part of it. It also taught Raj and Romesh the virtues of method and discipline.

 

With Partition, Lahore could no longer provide a base. They married early and moved to Bombay, possibly because it was the headquarters of the IPTA. Romesh had his hands full with writing, producing documentary films, acting, even performing cameo roles in one or two Bombay films. Raj did her comradely bits. The Ranadive phase brought an end to that chapter. The IPTA was in disarray, Raj turned to looking after the household and rearing the children, Romesh pottered around, contributing to this or that newspaper, producing an impulsive book on the national political scene, getting a shade disenchanted with films and plays. Then a thing happened. They befriended Sachin Chaudhuri, or it could have been the other way round. Sachin Chaudhuri was a beguiling guest in all seasons; Raj and Romesh were wonderful hosts. The format and contents of the Economic Weekly fascinated them. What about embarking on an adventure along the same direction as Sachin's, starting a journal which would be socially relevant and yet have a persona of its own, flaunting a predilection for intellectual rigour but not at all airy-fairy, and with a focus on concrete issues? A weekly publication invited a thousand headaches; why not, instead, a monthly publication? Choose for each month a particular topic and invite a dozen or thereabouts of knowledgeable people to expand their thoughts around it? In a university or college seminar, one speaker usually makes an introductory presentation, which is followed by comments from others attending, and, after some meandering, the discussion reaches a dénouement, or sometimes — no harm done — does not. The 1950s, it needs to be remembered, were the decade of panchsheel. Mao Zedong and Chou En Lai were much admired names in this country, Mao's edict of allowing a hundred thoughts to contend had bowled over the Indian middle class. Constituents of this class were, more often than not, wont to take themselves excessively seriously. Seminar did not mind, to each his or her ego. Seminar delightfully carried the burden of both naïveté and pseudo-sophistication in its issues. The strategy was to leave it to the readers to separate the wheat from the chaff. It had, however, something additional to offer: reviews of books touching on the month's theme and a carefully composed bibliography of relevant literature. Could one ask for more?

 

The range of subjects Seminar has coped with over these decades nearly takes one's breath away: politics, economics, international relations, Pakistan, the liberation of Bangladesh, anthropology, sociology, atomic energy, literature, sports, psephology, problems of individual political parties, national security, Kashmir, Centre-state relations, public finance, police reforms, public undertakings, globalization, the poverty level, urban planning, housing and architecture, the food crisis, agriculture and land reforms, trade unions, the Naxalites, the Green Movement, archaeology, global warming — one can go on and on. A new month, a new theme, now and then, return to an old theme at an interval of 10 or 15 years.

 

Like the Economic Weekly, Seminar too had its blooding in Bombay. While Sachin Chaudhuri and his weekly dug roots in Apollo Bunder, the Thapars soon moved to New Delhi where the climate was perhaps marginally less commercial, if marginally more bureaucratic. Because of their wide social connections, Romesh and Raj could afford not to worry over bureaucratic artefacts. In any case, everybody knew everybody else in New Delhi's upper layers; that social reality permitted Raj and Romesh to invite, with confidence, all and sundry to partake of the eclectic fare they served.

 

For it is not just the range of issues Seminar has expatiated on that overwhelms. Equally impressive is the range of people who have written for it: politicians (ministers not excluded), civil servants, major domos and prima donnas from different sections of the academia, economists, sociologists, physicists, mathematicians, anthropologists, defence strategists, film stars, art critics, danseuses, thespians, civil society activists, architects, city planners, diplomats, sports personalities, defunct and still active revolutionaries. Much of this was possible on account of the concept of Seminar which attracted persons with different backgrounds and experience. Romesh's grit and persuasive power, supplemented by Raj's charm, did the rest.

 

Both the Economic Weekly and Seminar were initiated as exercises in the small scale. The Economic Weekly, despite its founder's great reluctance, had to transform itself in the middle of life; the romanticism of running an enterprise on a shoestring basis needed to be abandoned; its social relevance called for that change. The EPW therefore broke out of the contours of cottage existence. Although it remains under the care of a private trust, it has increasingly accepted some of the constraints of a near-corporate entity even while jealously preserving its freewheeling left-liberal outlook. Since the Thapars had ample private means and it was only a monthly publication, Seminar did not have to take the EPW route. It is content to stay small-scale, it has changed neither its format nor its textual contents. Raj and Romesh are gone, the progeny has taken it over, the daughter and son-in-law duo run it with the same quiet efficiency that has been the hallmark of Seminar from the very first issue of September 1959.

 

It is, however, a new generation. While Seminar remains essentially the same, in some details it is a teeny-weeny bit different. The globalized environment provokes new challenges, which has to get reflected in the themes Seminar chooses to accommodate, it has to, to be contemporary. It has, therefore, both changed, and not changed; let it be left at that.

 

Seminar, of course, spells continuity. It would, however, be a very odd sort of obliviousness not to mention an interruption in its being. This happened during Indira Gandhi's Emergency. Romesh and Raj abhorred the idea of submitting matter intended for publication in Seminar to the queen's censure. They preferred to close down the journal. Not too many were prepared to follow their example. Seminar remains unique in that respect too.

 

For an old-timer, what at the end matters, though, is nostalgia, nostalgia which takes one back perhaps two score years, nostalgia for the neat little Seminar office on the first floor of Malhotra Building, its cool interior décor, Romesh, with his half-grin, half-grimace and rich baritone, commanding the visiting friend to take a seat and listen to his latest political grouse, Raj, ever full of tact, grace and affection, trying to rescue the friend from Romesh's overdrive and fill him with the most recent New Delhi gossip — or, better still, organize, right in the office premises, an impromptu lunch of luscious ravioli.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SAME AS BEFORE

MALVIKA SINGH

 

Haryana and Maharashtra are going to the polls next week and electioneering, laden with all kinds of promises, is going on at every corner. The Shiv Sena, led by Uddhav Thackeray, is desperately trying to speak in a language that is less strident about Maratha nationalism than before, articulating, in a slightly more sophisticated way what the grand old man of the Sena has being saying for decades. But there is, in fact, no difference in position, attitude or promise. Shivaji will rise out of the sea, and all political parties have found the words and rationale to support what they decry elsewhere. They all believe that to garner vote they have to have Shivaji present anywhere and everywhere on call. Nothing appears to have changed — neither the political rhetoric nor the manner in which the parties are operating this time. Lobbying, buying and selling, backbiting — all of it has come together yet again in this election season.

 

The outcome in Maharashtra is anybody's guess. No one really knows whether the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine will pull off an absolute majority, without which the state will falter in its movement forward and descend deeper into the reality of a failed, flagging region that was once an energetic hub of business and culture. Weak and personalized local governance, an inability to confront social realities and deal with them in an effort to cleanse the public space of all the irregularities, administrative ineptitude and corrupt practices, have generated deep disillusionment among the inhabitants of the state. Therefore, parties such as the Shiv Sena and their alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, gain ground with their fervent and emotional nationalistic rhetoric that hits a nerve centre that, in turn, produces a faithful throng of irrational followers. In the end, nothing changes.

 

BETTER MACHINERY

Nothing can truly change in a pluralistic society such as India's without political commitment to secular and liberal governance. Simple measures could begin to change the direction. The first and most important area that needs a radical overhaul and complete cleansing is the many municipalities across the country. They have collectively succeeded in making the public places in this subcontinent uninhabitable, filthy and polluted. There is absolutely no excuse in the book for this pathetic and unacceptable state of affairs. Nowhere in the world do you walk or drive through a town or a city that has muck piled high everywhere. It is shameful and needs immediate rectification. A clean, well-swept public space will instantly alter the social lethargy and helplessness that plague us as a society. This one move would trigger active public involvement in change and growth.

 

Citizen groups need to be empowered to work in collaboration with government bodies to devise the parameters within which civil society can operate safely. The confrontational attitude that the state takes towards citizens for whom it is mandated to function has to be done away with. A joint venture needs to be created that ensures the good of all. This is not a difficult thing to do if there is a political will that makes clear demands on its administration to deliver.

 

And so, the real priority is rapid and decisive administrative reforms. A vast collection of reports is gathering thick layers of dust because any attempt to introduce radical measures, which will ensure cleaner, neater and more effective governance, will rudely disrupt the cosy and cushioned existence of a moribund bureaucracy. This machine has to be overhauled, oiled and watched as it performs. It has to stop holding our nation to ransom. It has to aid the elected representative and deliver on the mandate. It must cease to act silently against the best interests of the people of India. It must be answerable to the Constitution of India.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

INDIA ALTERING ITS TACTICS ON CLIMATE DEBATE

CHINA IS A FAR BIGGER POLLUTER THAN INDIA. INDIA HAS ONLY ONE-FIFTH OF CHINA'S EMISSIONS.

BY JIM YARDLEY


When the United Nations convened its summit meeting on climate change in September, China and the United States, hewed to mostly familiar scripts, making promises without making too many specific commitments. Less familiar was the script followed by the third-most important country at the table, India.


India's public stance on climate change is usually predictable. But at the United Nations, India's delegation toned down its usual criticisms of the industrialised world, presented new plans to reduce India's emissions and sought to reposition the country, in the words of the environment minister, as a 'deal maker', not a deal breaker'.

The shift comes as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is pushing India to adopt a more internationalist posture on issues like climate change and trade as he seeks to expand India's global stature at a time when declining American influence is altering the geopolitical balance of power.


Singh's government has concluded that addressing climate change is intertwined with addressing domestic priorities like pollution, energy security and even national security. Moreover, analysts say, India's rigid, hard-line posture has backfired; the country has been typecast as intransigent, even as its putative ally on the issue, China, a far bigger source of emissions, has succeeded in creating the impression that the Chinese are more active and engaged.


NO COMPROMISE

"We cannot compromise our basic national position on protecting our prospects for growth, but we can see things that can be done," said Nitin Desai, a member of the prime minister's special advisory council on climate change.

With less than three months before final talks commence in Copenhagen, many analysts are deeply pessimistic that a comprehensive deal can be reached. But others are already discussing Plan Bs that might give credit for domestic programmes, like the one proposed by India, instead of creating a global set of binding limits like those in the existing, but faltering, Kyoto Protocol.


India's close alliance with China has been rooted in their shared interest in protecting economic growth and has created the impression that the two countries share a similar emissions profile, but, in fact, they do not. China is a far bigger polluter. India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said India had one-fifth of China's emissions, measured either in total or per capita amounts. Overall, China accounts for roughly 23 per cent of all global emissions, while India accounts for less than five per cent.


Those disparities are why some analysts say the relationship is subtly shifting. China has now overtaken the US as the biggest emitter in the world and is under pressure to assume responsibilities more in line with industrialised countries.


India is worried that it could face similar expectations, based on its population size and potential for future growth, even though its levels of economic development and emissions lag far behind those of China.

David G Victor, an energy analyst, predicted that the Indian and Chinese positions could gradually separate. As demands on developing countries increase, Victor predicted, their bloc will fragment. Low-per-capita emission countries, possibly led by India, may try to differentiate themselves from countries like Mexico, Brazil and China, which have more advanced economies and higher emissions.  "The Indians need to be very careful that they are seen as a different kind of country," said Victor.


Ramesh said China and India were closely coordinating their positions on the negotiations, but he also conceded that China was winning the public relations battle.


Ramesh said India's basic demands for signing an international accord were unchanged: that industrialised nations agree to significant emissions reductions by 2020 and also provide financial and technical assistance to the developing world.


But regardless of the fate of the agreement, he said, India was moving forward anyway. His ministry would soon submit legislation to the Indian parliament that would tighten fuel efficiency standards, set voluntary targets to improve energy efficiency, push ahead with solar power and expand the use of clean-coal technology in power plants.


"I want to be aggressive, because, frankly, we are a country that is climate-dependent," he said, alluding to the vulnerability of India to rising sea waters and potentially disruptive annual monsoons. He added: "Our prime minister's clear message to me was, 'India has to be part of the solution. We may not have caused the problem, but we have to be part of the solution'."

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A WALKER'S DELIGHT

A MORNING WALK USUALLY YIELDS A PLETHORA OF INTERESTING SIGHTS.

BY MIRLE KARTHIK

 

The luminous crimson rays of the rising sun cast a magical spell on a city that is just beginning to awaken. The early morning silence is punctuated by the shrill calls of the birds before they take off on their first flight of the day. It's time for the morning constitutional.


Gulping in lungfuls of the fresh air before the vehicle exhausts take over, I set off at a brisk pace. Feeling blessed to live in an area with a road earmarked as a walking zone, the eyes take in the familiar landscape. The big bungalows with large lawns and trees whose  branches meet overhead to form a green canopy, the smaller dwellings with a patch of grass, the parked cars on the roadside being cleaned by their drivers leaving pools of water are among other sights that offer glimpses into peoples' minds and workings.


The newspaper boys are among the first to come into sight. On their cycles and two wheelers, with their precariously perched newspaper bundles, they are to be admired for the precision with which they fling the rolled up paper into the houses, sometimes even to the first floor balconies, all from the roadside. Rain, shine or cold, they stoically do their jobs.


Then, the groups of middle aged ladies in sarees, chudidars, nighties with a shawl thrown on, discussing about the gold prices, the maidservants absence, the vegetable prices, etc. The group, besides providing company affords protection against chain snatchers. The younger ones, in jeans and tees, are too engrossed in listening to their i-pods and rushing to the aerobics class than to bother about life's trivialities.


The retired gentlemen with their sticks discuss about politics, the interest rates, the recession and the garbage collection while strolling leisurely. The 30s and 40s gentry with their designer shoes and trackpants vigorously march forward, while those with dogs chat away on their mobiles while the canines sniff and ease themselves. The owners then nonchalantly walk away, grumbling about the road's cleanliness. The religious ones chant their way to health.  All in a morn's walk!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE GIRL FROM GEULA

 

Thanks to Prof. Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot - who on Wednesday won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry - just about everyone now knows that "ribosomes" are protein factories for cells. Even those of us who can't get our heads around the Periodic Table can appreciate that Yonath's research helps explain why antibiotics work, and contributes to solving the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 

Science at this level of sophistication is where the brilliance and perseverance of the individual theorist needs the backing of an institution and its benefactors.

 

Not even Galileo, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi and Albert Einstein could have achieved their respective advances in astronomy, mathematics and physics without a support network. The same holds true for our Nobel laureates in the sciences and economics - Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Daniel Kahneman and Robert Aumann - as well as, now, Ada Yonath.

 

It detracts not a whit from the accomplishments of our winners that their prizes were shared with others. This year, for example, two Americans working independently, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz, share the chemistry prize, Yonath's trailblazing work notwithstanding.

 

YONATH has a special place in our hearts, of course. She is Jerusalem-born, and as unpretentious as she is luminous. Her father, who ran a grocery store in the capital's Geula neighborhood, died when she was only 10, leaving her mother as the family's sole breadwinner. After IDF service, Yonath attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and then went on to study at Weizmann.

 

Over the years, she told The Jerusalem Post, there were those who considered her line of basic research a fool's errand. But with Weizmann's backing, her hard work came to be widely recognized when she was awarded the Israel Prize in 2002.

 

Israelis have reason to kvell over Yonath's achievement - and in the eight other Nobels the country has garnered over its mere 60 years. But let's not be swept away by hubris. Jewish tradition teaches that excessive pride is akin to idolatry.

 

The prizes for science and economics reflect the nation's priorities 30 and 40 years ago. So we are coasting on those investments in our human resources, and on the indispensable financial support of Diaspora Jewry. Yonath would be the first to acknowledge that her work is more dependent on the generosity of New Yorker Helen Kimmelman than on the taxpayers of Israel.

 

We'd like to think there really is such a thing as "Jewish genius," but if so, it still needs to be tempered by good judgment. Rather than gloating, we Israelis owe a thank you to the Kimmelmans and other major overseas benefactors, who keep Israel's higher education research institutions afloat.

 

IT'S NOT that we spend less of our GDP on education than other developed countries; it's that we appear inept in spending it wisely. Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz could not bring himself to support the cabinet's budget plan. Regrettably, the government is committed to cutting rather than growing the education budget. Meanwhile, teaching has become a low-prestige vocation dominated by underpaid women.

 

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar recently told the Knesset: "We are very close to the bottom. International [rankings] show that Jordan's school children have passed us, and we are a little ahead of Syria and Tunisia, although more recent statistics might show that they have also surpassed us."

 

Rather than behaving triumphantly, Israelis ought to be asking themselves: Why has education become less of a national priority?

 

Let's pray this country continues to be blessed with a nucleus of very high-IQ students. Yet the good of society requires greater investment in the vast pool of average students.

 

Israelis can learn from the experience of Muslim and Arab civilization, which once kept the beacon of knowledge glowing only to see it dim because of an inability to come to terms with modernity. Looking around Israel today, we can see some of the same obduracy permeating Jewish society.

 

Large numbers of Israeli children are not even receiving a basic secular education. Which means that the chance of a girl born in Geula this year one day going on to university - much less to a Nobel Prize - is remote indeed.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SCIENCE, FOR THE SAKE OF THE FUTURE

BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL

 

The Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to Prof. Ada Yonath fills our hearts with excitement and pride.

Excitement, because of this outstanding scientist's enormous achievement, her curiosity and uncompromising determination, and no less than all this, her impressive personality. She is a modest, simple woman who never stopped working for a moment, even when she was told she had won the prize.


And our hearts are filled with pride because such a young, small country, with relatively few resources, has so far produced nine winners of the world's most important and prestigious prize, including several scientists who literally devoted their lives to scientific work. Indeed, as Weizmann Institute of Science President Daniel Zajfman wrote in yesterday's Haaretz, this is "a complete triumph of the human spirit, of the aspiration to better understand the world and our place in it."

 

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Prof. Zajfman is correct to stress that no one dictated the direction of these scientists' research or asked them "what benefit we will get from it." Admittedly, it is now clear that Ada Yonath's daring journey on the road to understanding the ribosome led her into revolutionary regions that are likely to help medicine overcome antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But there is no doubt she did not know this when she began her journey, and the same is true for everyone else - both those who tried to undermine her and those who encouraged her.


For that is the nature of scientific work: It demands huge quantities of time, money and manpower, along with a suitable research environment. Even years of inquiries that seemingly produce no "results" build a basis for succeeding generations.


But it is not for nothing that Yonath's colleagues are worried. Like Israel's previous Nobel laureates in chemistry, Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, Yonath is the product of an Israeli academia of the past - an Israel that nurtured the exact sciences, the social sciences and the humanities alike and put them at the heart of its values, and its economic attention.


In recent years, Israel's higher education system has deteriorated to dangerous depths. Or in the words of Roger Kornberg, the 2006 Nobel Prize winner, "Israel is living on borrowed time. It must double the number of university faculty positions within a short time if it wants to maintain its scientific and technological edge. That is the government's responsibility."


And indeed, only the government can guarantee a steady investment in science. But in fact, investment in research and development has fallen. There is admittedly a dispute among the experts as to what percentage of gross domestic product investment in research actually accounts for, but all agree that the gap between the ideal and reality has been growing steadily, and that Israel is being pushed to the bottom of the Western ladder in this field as well. Israeli students are ranked 39 out of 57 countries in science, and our education system views increasing the matriculation rate as a higher priority than long-term investment in the sciences.


This deterioration is worrying and weighs on both the excitement and the pride. In his speech of congratulations to Yonath, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said her contribution to science "has characterized the Jewish people and the State of Israel for many years." For the future's sake, he and his government must ensure that these achievements do not become a thing of the past.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

IF HE WANTS TO HE CAN

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

According to a statement by Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sedated for about 20 minutes when he underwent a colonoscopy. The difference between sedation and anesthetization is that the patient doesn't sink into a deep sleep. Although he doesn't feel the unpleasantness of the treatment - and this is not the place to describe it in detail - he is also not really cut off from his thoughts. People who have undergone this test know that sometimes you need another half an hour of rest after the test, and in that situation of twilight sleep, thoughts can certainly pass through your mind.


Did Bibi think during those minutes how right he was not to appoint himself a deputy of the kind Ehud Olmert was to Ariel Sharon? When he was partially conscious, did he laugh to himself that neither Silvan Shalom nor Moshe Ya'alon, who bear empty titles, will profit from his death, God forbid? In the worst case, the cabinet has to choose one of its members as prime minister. Nothing automatic. The question is which thought passed through his mind during those blurry minutes: What he has to do to be remembered as a historic leader, or what he has to do to placate his wife Sara during one of her caprices?


At the beginning of the Knesset's winter session, which starts on Monday, we will see Netanyahu at the height of his power, smiling at everyone and shaking hands. The medical test he underwent is not one of those traumas that change your life and political views. The speech at Bar-Ilan University, which was interpreted to mean he is ready for two states for two peoples on condition that the Palestinian state is demilitarized and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, aroused expectations at first. A word here and there, a reservation here and there, and he changed the subject to the Iranian nuclear threat, though I'm willing to bet that Israel, despite its threats, will not bomb Iran.

 

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Since U.S. President Barack Obama posed a challenge to the sane Arab world in Cairo, and the two sides ostensibly agreed, nothing has really changed.


For the Palestinians it is convenient to focus on Jerusalem and the perceived need to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Netanyahu, now as during his first term, is also heating up the atmosphere regarding sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Although successive U.S. administrations have decided to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, neither the United States nor any other country has transferred its envoys to the capital.


Someone who keeps close track of Netanyahu's work said he is not doing anything positive to promote an agreement. On the contrary, he is creating a "sour atmosphere." In Jerusalem they are going wild building neighborhoods and deepening the Western Wall tunnel. With superfluous statements, variations on "the Western Wall tunnel is the foundation of our existence" from his previous term, it's no wonder the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, is calling on Arabs to demonstrate to "save" the Al-Aqsa Mosque. And in this tense atmosphere someone will be stabbed and some hotheaded policeman will fire a volley into the crowd. And here you'll have an intifada breaking out on the most sensitive backdrop when it comes to a renewal of terror.


We know that the Palestinian Authority's current leadership believes that the terror weapon has become bankrupt. There is someone to talk to and something to talk about, and most important - there is an umbrella named Obama. They say he doesn't like Jews. That may be. President Jimmy Carter was not a lover of Israel either. But he brought about the Camp David summit and the peace with Egypt.


The problem, says the source close to Bibi, is that every day the prime minister celebrates that day's achievements. No important decisions are made on any issue. The events in Jerusalem are a symptom of how an unnecessary fire is spreading before our eyes. It's enough for one crazy person to do one crazy thing to ignite a political and security conflagration. Bibi, who has already been damaged once in Jerusalem, should know how to leave this burning issue for the end of the process, when there is no way back. That's what Menachem Begin did regarding removing the Jewish settlements in the Rafah Salient. Not I, he said, the Knesset will decide. He relied on Labor to vote in favor, and that's what happened.


Netanyahu's situation at the start of the Knesset's winter session is better than Begin's when he decided to withdraw to the international boundary in exchange for peace. He has a coalition based on 74 votes. With the support of Kadima and Meretz he has an absolute majority, on paper at least an assured majority. The first question is whether Bibi really wants to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, and whether they're ready for it.

The second question is whether the Obama administration can forge an agreement in the spirit and image of Camp David, with all the resources and wisdom needed to get the two sides to want an agreement. The third question is whether Netanyahu will have the strength of leadership to confront Tzipi Hotovely, Miri Regev and the other Likud extremists who will try to trip him up.


If he wants to, if he really wants to, he can.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE MINISTER WHO LITTERED

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

Sukkot is the holiday of outings and festivals. And indeed, masses of Israelis this week filled the parks and city streets, from Avdat National Park in the Negev to the land of streams in the far north. The people had a wonderful time, ate and rejoiced, but they were disappointed by the sight of the land littered with 1.5-liter family-size beverage bottles discarded on roadsides, floating in streams, thrown away on sidewalks and harming the environment. It takes 900 years for plastic to decompose.


What the masses of Israelis didn't see were the small beverage containers (plastic bottles or tin cans) of half a liter or less. They have vanished from the national litter map. The reason for their disappearance is the recycling legislation that came into effect in October 2001. At the time the Knesset promised that in the near future the law would be expanded to cover family-sized bottles as well, but this never happened. The soft-drink manufacturers fought the expansion and succeeded. Their business interest overcame the public interest.

It turns out that the minister's influence is crucial. This week the manufacturers convinced Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to hammer the last nail into the coffin of big, family-sized bottle recycling. Their influence is so strong that even environmental-quality experts kept silent. In the past they supported expanding the law, but now they have come down with a case of cowardice.

 

After meeting with Ron Kobrovsky, the head of Coca-Cola here, Erdan decided it was necessary to stop the legislative process that would impose a deposit on large bottles. The minister also agreed to decrease the extent of recycling of smaller bottles. The manufactures won in a big way. The public lost.


If Erdan were loyal to his role, he would have acted energetically in the opposite direction. He would have expanded the deposit law and repaired the flaws in the law so we could have a cleaner country and a healthier environment. But the people with the money are more important to him. They are more influential than all the green organizations and the country's citizens.


The upshot is that the manufacturers are demanding that far fewer small bottles be recycled, and the target for recycling large bottles is also dropping, from 85 percent to only 50 percent starting in 2014. Soft-drink manufacturers who have not yet met the law's targets and have not recycled 85 percent of small bottles, even though they are required to do so, are being awarded a prize: a decrease in the target to only 77 percent. A glorious surrender.


To compensate for the scandal somehow, the soft-drink manufacturers have promised to increase to 20,000 the number of metal cages on city streets for collecting bottles. Currently there are 8,000 such cages. But this is just compounding the injury, because the ugly cages harm the quality of the environment. They are already an environmental nuisance, concentrations for filth and rubbish of every sort, so adding more cages is a clear ecological hazard.


The successful experience with the collection of small bottles proves that money talks. The moment it's possible to get the deposit back, people and organizations will be found to collect bottles from every corner. It's a fact we only see large bottles in public areas.


Instead of surrendering to the manufacturers, Erdan should have faithfully represented the public and made the manufacturers themselves responsible for collecting all bottles, both large and small, to ease the recycling process. If they know how to store full bottles, they can certainly figure out how to store empty ones.


A strange angle in this story is the Shas party's objection to expanding the deposit requirement. They argue that the deposit would increase beverage prices and therefore be a burden on families with many children that buy large bottles. They are ignoring that it would be possible to recycle these bottles and get the deposit back.


And anyway, since when is it a good idea to encourage consumption of sweetened and expensive beverages by families that are barely able to make ends meet? It is neither healthy nor economical. It would be better to encourage the drinking of water.


Anyone who takes advantage of the beautiful fall days for outings around the country and sees the dusty, family-sized bottles littering every corner, park or stream and harming the environment should remember that Gilad Erdan could have rectified the situation but favored the people with the money.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ON PATRIOTISM

BY YOSSI SARID

 

The boycott on Turkey soon turned out to be an own goal, a Turkish goal actually, which is anything but a score. They've already considered producing a new television program - "Survivor Marmara" - which is a contest for the Patriot Prize between the Noodle Tribe and the Poodle Tribe.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was, as we recall, the first to shower fire and brimstone on Operation Cast Lead. He even demonstrated chutzpah toward the president of Israel during the Davos Economic Conference. His behavior was hard to tolerate. That's it; and all the rest is history.

 

In response, the masses of the House of Israel decided that Turkey could wait; our feet would not trod there.

 

A boycott would be imposed on Turkey that would teach them how to behave. And to think, it still wanted to be a peace mediator here.


It's not certain whether Israel, which is itself a target of ostracisms, should be the one to use this boomerang. But when patriotism goes to people's heads and fries their brains, their eyes no longer notice the double-edged sword or the glass house. In the end individuals and groups compete with one another as to who can be the biggest boycotter.


This week it finally became clear that the boycott is over: 70,000 Israelis in 500 flights streamed to Turkey during the intermediate days of the Sukkot festival, bringing back the good old days when Turkey was the Number 1 tourist destination for Israelis.


The anger is over and done with, so yallah, a reconciliation: Anyone who hasn't seen the joy of the water-drawing ceremony in Antalya has never seen true joy in his life. Turkey was and remains the last refuge of the patriot.

Even before we managed to hit a Turk in his pocket, we're already sleeping in his hotel. There's no place like Turkey to make you feel at home: We remember the fish we ate for free, the stuffed squash and the old-fashioned watermelons and the onions and the garlic and the Iskembe soup and the lentil stew. We love the kitschy palaces on the beach, the sadder-than-life films, the songs that are like balm to our souls.


Now we can confess: We were very hasty when we imposed edicts on ourselves that the public was unable to abide by. Turkey, we have returned to you for the second or third time, and you are as you were in the beginning.

The rage passed quickly. Patriotism is sometimes a luxury and it is overpriced. We actually tried to locate a Turkey-substitute, but we couldn't find the all-inclusive package deal. So we have reached the conclusion that you don't have to be fanatical or provincial, and that patriotism does not mean no matter the price.


And we recalled: The greatest patriots, according to all the surveys, are always the prisoners and the emigrants, and we do not belong with them. What are we, criminals? Who are we, weaklings? Not at all. We are loyal and decent citizens. We are the true patriots.


On the way to Turkey, in the air, we read an airport book by some Russian, Tolstoy, who wrote something quite interesting in "Patriotism and Government," which in his opinion is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires.


He wrote that it is the abdication of human dignity, reason and conscience, and a slavish enthrallment to those in power; that it is a surrender of human dignity, wisdom and conscience, and a despicable enslavement to those with power.


He added that this is a terrible thing to say, but there is not, and never has been, violence that was not exercised in the name of patriotism.


See, that Tolstoy is no fool, and it's as though he guessed where we are headed for Sukkot.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ACADEMIC VISION AND NIGHTMARE

BY DAN BEN-DAVID

 

There are four Nobel Prizes in the sciences: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine and Economics. Winning the prize in these fields is considered the peak of scientific achievement. There are around 200 countries in the United Nations. In only 20 of these are citizens who won a Nobel Prize in the sciences during this past decade. In only four of these countries are there more Nobel laureates than in Israel, with five citizens who have won the world's most prestigious science prize.


When the gauge is the number of Nobel science laureates per capita this decade, Israel is in a league of its own: The number of Israeli science laureates per million citizens is three times greater than in the countries that follow Israel in the rankings.


Israel's current Nobel laureates are the product of a distant system of higher education, from a past belonging to a generation with a vision of becoming a light unto nations. In 1950, this was a country with one and a quarter million people and just 138 senior faculty members. By 1973, two and a half decades after attaining independence, there were already seven universities with 4,389 senior faculty members - representing 134 researchers for every 100,000 citizens.

 

This was still a relatively poor country, with a 1973 GDP per capita of $15,331 (in 2008 prices), but with a clear vision of future needs. To attain this vision, that generation was ready to sacrifice considerably in other areas. Their investment prepared the country for the high-tech onslaught of the 1980s and 1990s. From the outset, they understood that this country in this neighborhood would not only need to reach the frontiers of human knowledge, it would have to physically move them. That insight led to investments that yielded the Nobel bounties of today.


What lies in store for the future? Since 1973, there has been a sharp turnaround in the public approach to Israel's research universities. Although standards of living in 2005 were 80 percent higher than in 1973, the number of senior faculty per capita fell by around 50 percent to 71 researchers for every 100,000 individuals. In the Technion, Israel's MIT, the number of faculty positions rose during this period by just one researcher - while the country's population doubled. In Israel's two flagship universities, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, there were respectively 14 percent and 21 percent fewer researchers in 2005 than in 1973.


This is no coincidence. Israel's national priorities underwent a seismic change. If in 1978 public expenditure per university student was 61 percent of GDP per capita, by 2005 this expenditure had plunged to just 29 percent of GDP per capita - which is about one quarter less than the average among OECD countries.


In the capital of the Nobel Prize for economics, the University of Chicago, it is common to say that there are no free lunches. Israel's founding fathers knew this, and the meal they prepared is the one we are receiving nourishment from today. But what will become of the next generation - the one that for years has been receiving the worst education in the Western world even before reaching the universities? Who will make the inventions that will compete with the industrialized world and the awakening giants? Who will invent the military advantages that compensate for Israel's numerical inferiority against those wishing to destroy it? Who will be the researchers who teach the teachers, engineers and scientists who lead the next generation?


Roughly half the senior academic faculty in Israel is over the age of 55. The country's labor laws mandate that they go home within one decade. Who will replace them?

Once there was a poor country with a gigantic vision. It exceeded all expectations. Those were the days.

The writer is executive director of the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel and an economist in the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE BEST, AND LAST, OF AN ERA

BY LAURENCE WEINBAUM

 

The death of Marek Edelman, on October 2, surely marks the end of an era. Although a handful of Warsaw Ghetto insurgents are still with us, Edelman was certainly the best known of them, and was the last surviving leader. He escaped through the sewers and returned to fight again in the abortive 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Edelman wrote one of the first accounts of the struggle of his comrades in the ghetto. Characterizing the Jewish resistance there, he said: "We fought simply not to allow the Germans alone to pick the time and place of our deaths."

After the war, he settled in Lodz and studied medicine, determined to play a part in the building of a new Poland founded on socialist principles, in which Jews would enjoy civil rights and cultural autonomy. This was, of course, not to be. For Edelman, like others, Jews and non-Jews alike, who genuinely believed in the socialist cause and in human rights, the so-called "People's Poland" proved a great disappointment. Over successive years, many voiced that disillusionment with their feet by leaving the country.


But Edelman remained in Poland, even when his immediate family chose to leave. "After all, someone has to stay here with all those who perished here," he repeatedly declared.

 

One can decry that stubbornness or admire it, but there is no denying that in electing to live in Poland, he became a thorn in the side of the communist regime - and a symbol of the Polish-Jewish symbiosis that many believed had perished in the gas chambers of Treblinka and, immediately following the war, in the bloodstained streets of Kielce.


True to his Bundist roots, Edelman never made his peace with Zionism, and was often a bitter, even vitriolic, critic of the Jewish state and its policies. In August 2002, he wrote a letter in support of those whom he called "commanders of the Palestinian military, paramilitary and partisan operations - to all the soldiers of the Palestinian fighting organizations." Although condemning the wave of suicide bombings that wracked Israel at the time, Edelman expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. In so doing, the ghetto veteran furnished advocates of the Arab case with potent ammunition.


Edelman's disenchantment with Israel arose out of his own sense of humanism. Above all, it was rooted in his belief in an ideology that has been relegated to the dustbin of history. Edelman was probably the last representative of a once-flourishing movement in Poland and throughout East Central Europe that believed in doikeit (Yiddish for "hereness"). Bundism rejected the idea that Jews should pick up and leave their native lands.

While neither religiously observant nor a Zionist, Edelman was a passionate Jew. Had he succumbed to the fleshpots of New York, Paris or Melbourne, perhaps his former ghetto comrades now living on kibbutz could have forgiven him. It was his decision to remain in the dilapidated city of Lodz, the former epicenter of the Shoah, that seemed so objectionable and even offensive - and an inexplicable, yet powerful negation of Zionist triumphalism.

Upon hearing of Edelman's death, Tadeusz Pieronek, a Polish bishop known for his liberal views opined, "I respect him mostly for the fact that he stayed in this land, which made him fight so hard for his Jewish and Polish identity ... He became a real witness; he was giving real testimony with his life."

Like many witnesses asked to describe events in which they had taken part, Edelman was an imperfect source of information. At times, his undisguised and intemperate distaste for his Jewish political rivals tainted the veracity of his testimony.


After the war, perhaps Edelman's "finest hour" was in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, when he joined the precursor of Solidarity and later the mass movement itself. During that time, he displayed courage and outspokenness in the face of the repressive policies of the Communist regime. He was even once briefly subjected to house arrest.


In 1983 he was invited to take part in a showcase ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the ghetto uprising. He refused to participate in what he saw as a shameless and transparent attempt by Communist authorities to deflect international attention from its attempt to stifle opposition. To appear at the event, he claimed, "would be an act of cynicism and contempt" in a country "where social life is dominated throughout by humiliation and coercion."

Edelman did, however, take part in the 1989 Round Table Talks that led to democratic rule and genuine national rebirth, and was elected to the Polish parliament, the Sejm.


Writing in Haaretz earlier this week, Moshe Arens, one of the commanding personages of the Revisionist Movement - for which Edelman, it must be said, had nothing but contempt - described his own failed attempts to secure an honorary degree for Edelman. "I ran into stubborn opposition ... in Israel. He had received Poland's highest honor, and at the 65th commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal. He died not having received the recognition from Israel that he so richly deserved."


Perhaps that graceful and generous display of recognition by one octogenarian for another, though on the opposite side of the political fence, is a most fitting obituary for the complicated and cantankerous Polish cardiologist and ghetto fighter - and the best testimony to his greatness.


Dr. Laurence Weinbaum is chief editor of the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, and co-author of a forthcoming book on the Jewish Military Union (ZZW) in the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

FLIRTING WITH THE APOCALYPSE

BY DANIEL SEIDEMANN AND LARA FRIEDMAN

 

Jerusalem has once again emerged in recent days as the focal point of dangerous tensions that threaten to erupt into violence or even a third intifada. Much of the media analysis has overlooked the fact that this situation did not arise out of a vacuum, but is the latest manifestation of tensions that have been steadily growing for months.


These tensions are in part a by-product of U.S. President Barack Obama's peace efforts. Fear that he may ultimately succeed in launching a peace process has driven various spoilers to undertake provocative actions, and Obama's failure thus far has emboldened these people to act even more recklessly and energetically, while noticing an opportunity to change the status quo - in particular in the Old City and the Holy Basin - and foreclose any chance for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

 

For anyone tracking the situation on the ground, it is clear that the potential for a violent conflagration in Jerusalem is greater now than at any point since September 2000, when then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, triggering the second intifada, the worst wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence since 1967. This is no coincidence: The current mix of destabilizing factors is hauntingly familiar.

 

Politically, the parallels are clear. An ambitious move stalls - Camp David back then, a settlement freeze and resumption of final status talks now - and this discredits the political process and gives rise to skepticism, if not contempt, about the peace process and its advocates.


The fact that Jerusalem is once again at the heart of the matter is no coincidence either. The city is the major fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and earthquakes have been triggered invariably by events in and around the volcanic core of that conflict: the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. It is precisely in this area - spreading from Sheikh Jarrah to Silwan - where events today have begun to careen out of control. The approval of a new settlement at the Shepherd Hotel, the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, the wounding of two Palestinians by settler gunfire in Silwan, a Supreme Court ruling allowing settler excavations under private Palestinian homes in Silwan while imposing almost punitive court costs on the Palestinian plaintiffs - all this has already led to manifestations of Belfast-like intercommunal skirmishing.


If the timing - in terms of the annual cycle - seems familiar, it is no surprise: Most eruptions in Jerusalem occur around the Jewish High Holidays. Recall the 25 Palestinians killed on the Temple Mount during Sukkot in 1990, the opening of the Hasmonean Tunnel during Sukkot in 1996, Sharon's Temple Mount visit on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in September 2000, etc.


Finally, there is no shortage of Muslim and Christian extremists fanning the flames. Witness Arab extremists like northern Islamic Movement leader Ra'ad Salah, touting fabricated reports of the imminent destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and failed U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on his "I Love Jerusalem Settlers" tour in August.


The pyromaniacs are out in force, weakening the forces of moderation and dictating the agenda. Tensions are high, and the stakes could not be higher. To make it through these delicate days with the city - and prospects for peace - intact, it is vital that all sides act with utmost restraint and responsibility.


For Israel, this means that early intervention - such as prevention, for the sake of public order, of any inflammatory event (Israeli or Palestinian) - should be the operational imperative. It also means no provocations: no new settlement activity, tunneling, demolitions or evictions. No symbolic or ceremonial activities on the exposed nerves of the conflict. Israel's actions in all these arenas will, perhaps more than any other factor, determine whether the current tension dissipates or escalates into a conflagration.


For the Palestinians and the Arab/Muslim worlds, acting responsibly means not stoking the fires of extremism with polemical rhetoric and hyperbole. This does not mean acquiescing to highly problematic Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa today is not in danger, but Palestinians in East Jerusalem constitute a community at risk, and the creation of an exclusionary settler hegemony around the Old City threatens to marginalize the Muslim and Christian presences in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority and forces of moderation in the Arab world can and should articulate genuine concerns, and demand that Israel act responsibly. Furthermore, they must also demand the same of all Palestinian factions, making clear that cynical manipulation of Jerusalem to gain domestic political points is not acceptable.


Finally, for the international community, acting responsibly requires engaging seriously and proactively, at the highest political levels. Making clear to all stakeholders that the world will not tolerate reckless Messianic games in Jerusalem. And making clear that the world recognizes that what happens in Jerusalem is not confined to Jerusalem: It has the potential for far-reaching and dire consequences across the region, including with respect to Iran and beyond.


Daniel Seidemann is a Jerusalem attorney and founder of Ir Amim, an Israeli nongovernmental agency. Lara Friedman is director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

'AL-AQSA IN DANGER'

BY RACHEL LEVINE

Last Friday evening, as the Sabbath descended and Sukkot began, I found myself surrounded by tens of thousands of worshipers, each with a personal supplication to the Lord on the lips. But they were not Jews, and the setting was not some vast outdoor synagogue. Rather, I was at Umm al-Fahm's Salaam Sports Stadium, where the 14th annual "Al-Aqsa is in Danger" rally was taking place before an audience of Arab Israeli citizens from all over the country.


Recent days have seen a rise in inter-communal tension over what Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims refer to as Al-Haram Ash-Sharif, or simply Al-Aqsa. When political stakes are raised among Jews and Muslims, and among different streams within each religious group, one can count on the focus moving to the Haram. But to learn what Israeli Arab citizens are thinking about Jerusalem, one would do well to listen to what they are saying in Umm al-Fahm, the de facto Arab cultural center of the Wadi Ara region.


Since the inception of the annual rally, one of its key personalities has been Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, who has been pushing the envelope for years with Israeli authorities via his rabble-rousing campaigns to protect Islamic holy sites. Salah has said that the event has two principal goals: first, to increase Islamic awareness about Al-Aqsa Mosque and its tragic circumstances (namely, alleged Jewish designs on it); and second, to encourage Muslims from around the land to travel to Jerusalem and pray in the

mosque.

 

At the rally, which opened with recitations from the Koran and public prayer, seating was gender-segregated, and every woman wore a veil. Of the staff, only female concession workers - including one pouring free cups of tea from an enormous, five gallon silver teapot - and charity-collectors were allowed in the women's sections.


The messages sounded combined a disturbing level of incitement with expressions of real grievances, namely, the increasing number of home evictions in Arab East Jerusalem. Many Umm al-Fahm residents fear that such moves, along with protracted settlement of the West Bank, are a continuation of the same historical processes that turned them into landless, semi-urban-dwelling, second-class citizens in a country not their own. Their rural, "farmer's" accents are testimony to their history. And the rally certainly played to these fears, emphasizing the importance of protecting Al-Aqsa from Jewish attempts to sabotage the structure.


Granted, Muslim accusations of Jewish designs on the Temple Mount as a vehicle for expressing greater territorial anxieties are nothing new, but Sheikh Ra'ad, who several days after the rally found himself banned by an Israeli court from visiting Jerusalem for a month, is relentlessly creative on the subject. Last Friday, he told his listeners that the "supposedly" historical Jewish Temple on Haram al-Sharif is a fairy tale and a lie. The demagoguery may be outrageous, but that doesn't mean it is not compelling and believable to an Umm al-Fahm resident who knows the history of his family and who is now watching the ongoing settlement enterprise.


The message was transmitted artistically as well as via speeches, with one highlight a minimalist political-theater piece depicting tzitzit-clad Haredim wreaking havoc at the Temple Mount and Western Wall plaza. These troublesome, if hapless, Hasidim had their work cut out for them, between praying all day at the Wall like robots, and spending their nights evicting Arab residents from their homes in Hebrew-accented Arabic. The skit ends - I'm going to spoil it for you - with the Haredim dancing around and tormenting a Koran-reciting young girl who reveals to the audience that she personifies none other than the endangered Al-Aqsa. Her head scarf falls off, and she screams, asking where the valiant Arab men are who will defend her. At which point her saviors enter from stage left, to send the Jews packing.


Inside the stadium, Sheikh Ra'ad addressed Prime Minister Netanyahu directly, roaring that "We are a nation that does not surrender ... From the Negev to the Galil ... As long as there is an occupation, we say 'Welcome' to martyrdom!" And yet, incendiary content aside, the rally was, in essence, an opportunity for parents to get out with the kids. People shared candy and food. Children ran around, oblivious to the proceedings, kicking soccer balls into the stands. This was Israel, as evidenced by the signs reading "Mivtza, 15 shkalim" ("Bargain, 15 Shekels," in Hebrew) on the clothing racks and concession stands outside the stadium. But at the same time, it felt like a different country, with its own self-contained set of customs and folklore.


It is easy to mock, or worse, react angrily, to the seeming absurdities of an Al-Aqsa rally. A more constructive response might be to avoid further provocations in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and to step up efforts to empower the Arab citizens of Israel, economically and otherwise. This, combined with the knowledge that no more of their brethren will be forcibly urbanized and disinherited, may be the only thing capable of keeping Sheikh Ra'ad's demagoguery at bay.


Rachel Levine is currently researching constitutions in Muslim-majority states. She is based in Jerusalem.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

CELEBRATING THE GERMAN MODEL

BY HAROLD JAMES

 

If anyone wanted evidence that we are not in the mental and political world of the Great Depression, the German election result and its outcome - a stable government of the center-right - should be a clincher.


In interwar Germany, the Depression destroyed democracy and led to the rise of Hitler and the National Socialists; in today's Germany, the most severe economic crisis since World War II produced the reelection of Angela Merkel. Conventional wisdom suggests that incumbent parties and politicians are punished by voters in times of economic distress. But this time, there was never any doubt about the position or popularity of Chancellor Merkel.


The interwar Depression led to the disintegration of liberal economic and political values. In Germany in 2009, not only was there was no swing to political extremism of the right: There was no sign of any support for a radical right at all. The real victor of the campaign, capturing 14.5 percent of the vote and a position in parliament that will determine the shape of the new coalition government, was the heir of classic German liberalism, the Free Democratic Party (FDP). It campaigned on a promise of tax reduction and deregulation meant to stimulate the economic growth that Germany needs to get out of the economic crisis.

 

The real losers of the election were the Social Democrats (SPD), with an unprecedented drop in support of 11 percent. Some on the left claim that the SPD's catastrophic result was the product of too close an engagement with liberalism and deregulation. According to this view, the party is now paying the price for chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's successful attempts at economic reform at the beginning of this decade. It seems more likely that the party was punished for its lackluster electoral campaign, and for the negativity with which it tried to present a center-right coalition as a threat to social peace in Germany.


In the interwar crisis of democracy, election participation surged as voters tried to protest against what radical parties denounced as "the system." In Germany in 2009, electoral participation fell by 5 percent, to 72.5 percent. Those voters who were disillusioned by politics simply saw no point in voting. The only point in common with the interwar results seems to be that economic crisis, then as now, strengthened the radical left.


But what a difference! Then there was a powerful Communist party, closely aligned with the Soviet Union. Now the party of protest is unambiguously the party of historical losers: The Left Party is a party with no coherent program, but rather a compendium of popular and nationalist slogans. It is a testimony to the responsibility and maturity of the German people that this miscellaneous alliance of the disaffected attracted only 12 percent of the vote.


If the election is clearly not a victory for political and economic radicalism, it would be equally misleading to interpret it as the triumph of the free market. Throughout the campaign, there was an eerie degree of consensus about the desirability of central features of a distinctly European, and more specifically, German, system of values: a social market economy, rather than unbridled market capitalism; an export economy built on a large and technically innovative manufacturing base; a large network of small- and medium-sized enterprises that is open to the global economy; a sense of environmental responsibility; and a suspicion of financially driven, Anglo-Saxon-style globalization and corporate capitalism.


Indeed, the sense that Germany had an opportunity to show off the unique strengths of the "German model" was a key to Merkel's appeal, and she repeatedly noted the tough line she had taken against the banks. In coming years, the German government is likely to be more vocal in European and global debates, presenting the German model as something that corresponds more closely to what the world needs in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Financial activity was concentrated largely in what the Europeans termed "Anglo-Saxon" economies: above all the United States and the United Kingdom, and a few small countries that tried, disastrously, to replicate a model of free-for-all finance, such as Iceland and Ireland. But the emerging markets that drive globalization in the early 21st century have a similar mix of export orientation and a prominent industrial base of small and medium-sized and frequently family-owned enterprises. They have the problem today of trying to reconcile dynamic growth and social cohesion that was the problem of Germany in the past, and to which the German social model was and is held up as the answer.


Merkel's new coalition will sit neatly alongside the new Japanese government of Yukio Hatoyama, which is also dedicated to finding a new and peculiarly Japanese model of economic growth. These new national visions of economics are not simply turning in on themselves, or embarking on aggressive campaigns driven by the xenophobic and racial nationalism. In the world of the 21st century, models of social organization have to persuade rather than conquer. The world looks for local or national solutions to global problems. Merkel won the election because she formulated a clear answer.


Harold James is professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University, and author of "The Roman Predicament." Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

SINKING WITH MR. RANGEL

 

It is time for Democrats in Congress — who once justifiably complained about the corruption of the Republican majority — to demonstrate to Americans that someone in that august body has ethical standards.

 

Instead, House Democrats have again shielded Representative Charles Rangel from his serial ethical messes and ducked their responsibility to force him from the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, maintaining her tunnel vision on behalf of a powerful colleague, led the majority to defeat the Republicans' latest call to depose the New York lawmaker. She does the nation no favor.

 

Two of her Democrats broke ranks and voted against Mr. Rangel, but far more need to face up to the obvious: the chairman's gavel weighs increasingly like a millstone as new disclosures surface about Mr. Rangel's ethical gaffes and official misdeeds.

 

The most recent was the congressman's postscripting more than $500,000 to his assets disclosure last summer, essentially doubling his net worth to somewhere between $1 million and $2.4 million. This joined a lengthy docket of bizarre-to-outrageous behavior that was supposed to have been fully investigated by the House by last January, according to Ms. Pelosi's initial estimate.

 

Mr. Rangel's accumulating missteps and Ms. Pelosi's refusal to force him to step aside only compound the spectacle. Here is the nation's chief of tax-writing legislation clinging to power even as his flaws as taxpayer and lawmaker grind slowly and mysteriously through the House ethics committee.

 

The congressman clearly violated House standards in using his official letterhead to solicit donations from scores of business and foundation leaders for a City College of New York center named for him to house "the inspirational aspects of my legacy." One oil executive pledged $1 million to Mr. Rangel, who insists there was no quid pro quo in his defending an off-shore tax loophole worth tens of millions to the donor.

 

Mr. Rangel admitted an "irresponsible" slip-up in his failure to pay taxes and disclose $75,000 in income from a Dominican villa on which he enjoyed an interest-free mortgage. Closer to home, the congressman was allotted four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem by a politically savvy landlord — a boon worth an estimated $30,000 a year. The ethics panel is supposed to be studying whether that violates House gift rules.

 

The Republicans, of course, were chortling at the electioneering value of their resolution that Mr. Rangel's problems have "held the House up to public ridicule." It's hard to blame them. But they better beware — public ridicule is as easily applicable across the aisle and across the Capitol, where Senator John Ensign's troubles in job hunting for his cuckolded former aide may eventually merit an ethics investigation.

 

Speaker Pelosi won her gavel with a promise to "drain the swamp" of the corruption afflicting the previous Republican majority. She has delivered on some of that promise, creating a new ethics oversight office. But protecting Mr. Rangel as chairman is a grave misstep that can only hand the ethics issue back to her opponents.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER KIND OF FORECLOSURE CRISIS

 

The foreclosure crisis is being made substantially worse by a shortage of lawyers for people whose homes are at risk.

 

According to a new study, an overwhelming number of homeowners who face foreclosure do not have legal help in protecting their rights. As a result, people are losing their homes who do not need to.

 

In 2008, more than three million foreclosures were filed, and the number keeps growing. By one estimate, more than eight million families may lose their homes in the next four years. Having a home taken away is devastating for the families involved. This churning of people out of their houses, and in some cases into homeless shelters or out on the streets, is also expensive and disruptive for the nation as a whole.

 

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that 86 percent of people facing property foreclosure last year in economically challenged Stark County, Ohio, lacked counsel. In Queens County, New York, 84 percent of defendants lacked full legal representation in proceedings involving foreclosures on "subprime," "high cost" or "non-traditional" mortgages — ones disproportionately targeted to low-income and minority populations.

 

The law of mortgages and foreclosures is complicated even for many lawyers. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a poor person with little legal knowledge to have to fight on his or her own to keep a home.

 

Homeowners often have legal defenses, but laypeople are unlikely to know what they are or how to use them. A lawyer can also persuade lenders to slow down foreclosure proceedings, or to renegotiate terms, by invoking the appropriate federal, state and local laws.

 

Foreclosures should not be allowed to go forward until, as the Brennan Center recommends, homeowners are at least given enough counseling to know whether they have viable legal claims.

 

Although budgets are tight these days, Congress and the states need to come up with more money for foreclosure legal assistance.

 

Class actions can be a powerful tool in challenging practices, like predatory lending, that affected large numbers of homeowners. Right now the Legal Services Corporation, which provides essential civil legal services to low income Americans, is barred by law from representing clients in class action suits. Congress should lift that and other unwarranted restrictions on legal service providers. Too many Americans urgently need help.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LAW AND SILVIO BERLUSCONI

 

Wednesday was a bad day for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but a good day for Italian democracy. Those are the only two things that are immediately clear after the country's highest court overturned an outrageous law passed after elections last year granting Mr. Berlusconi immunity from prosecution as long as he remained in office.

 

The Constitutional Court upheld the fundamental democratic principle that no one, however rich or powerful, can stand above the law, even if a compliant Parliament legislates immunity. Where those prosecutions will now lead and whether they will make it impossible for Mr. Berlusconi to serve out the remaining three and a half years of his term are, for now, unanswerable questions.

 

Mr. Berlusconi has spent his political career claiming that the judicial system has a left-wing bias and that Italy's independent magistrates conduct political vendettas against him. While the Italian justice system is slow and far from perfect, the courts are the least discredited part of Italy's government. After Wednesday's ruling they stand taller.

 

The court's decision revives three pending cases against Mr. Berlusconi. In one, a British lawyer has already been convicted of accepting $600,000 to give false testimony to shield Mr. Berlusconi in two corruption trials. In another, the prime minister — who is also one of Italy's wealthiest men — is accused of tax fraud in connection with the expansion of his private media empire. In the third and weakest case, he is accused of trying to bribe members of Parliament to join his ruling coalition.

 

Mr. Berlusconi's lawyers complained that the need to now defend himself in court will be a major distraction from his responsibilities. But he already seemed to be spending far more energy defending his controversial personal life than tackling Italy's overwhelming problems, including years of sub-par growth, pervasive corruption and a deficit and national debt that are among Europe's highest. Italy cannot afford more years of drift, but it can even less afford to have the rule of law hijacked to protect one man.

 

There are no obvious successors among Mr. Berlusconi's quarrelsome center-right coalition, or in a fractured and demoralized center-left unable to rally around any vision, leader or program. That is not an acceptable situation for Italy or Europe. The Berlusconi era has gone on far too long, with far too few positive accomplishments. It is time for both coalitions to develop a new generation of more constructive and competent leaders to put before the electorate.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE

 

Understanding the pace of our changing climate depends, to a large extent, on our ability to understand and model the climates of the past and their rate of change. These days we're barraged by weather and climate data. But that is only a comparatively recent phenomenon. Scientists did not begin to gather accurate meteorological data until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

And yet for the past couple of centuries and more there have been accurate weather recorders out on the high seas: ships' captains. There is now a new British initiative, spearheaded by the University of Sunderland, to digitize the meteorological records from some 300 ships' logs dating back to 1760, including logs like those of Robert FitzRoy, captain of the HMS Beagle.

 

What makes these daily logged observations especially valuable isn't just their precision; it's the fact that they come from all over the planet's oceans, which are the main drivers of global climate. Once the ships' weather records have been extracted and analyzed, they'll be added to the primary climate databases for further research, giving us a portrait of seas past.

 

This isn't the first time a collection of ships' logs has been used as a window into the past. In the mid-19th century, Matthew Maury used logs archived at the U. S. Naval Observatory to study winds and currents and to compile charts of whale migration. Similar charts — showing the species and location of whaling kills — were compiled in the early 20th century by Charles Townsend, who was director of the New York Aquarium.

 

There is a new urgency to this effort. Part of it is the need to preserve these old logs, which are gathered in libraries and archives and museums around the world. But the real impetus is getting a clearer vision of our planet's past in order to have a clearer vision of its possible future.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE UNEDUCATED AMERICAN

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

If you had to explain America's economic success with one word, that word would be "education." In the 19th century, America led the way in universal basic education. Then, as other nations followed suit, the "high school revolution" of the early 20th century took us to a whole new level. And in the years after World War II, America established a commanding position in higher education.

 

But that was then. The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered.

 

Until now, the results of educational neglect have been gradual — a slow-motion erosion of America's relative position. But things are about to get much worse, as the economic crisis — its effects exacerbated by the penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior that passes for "fiscal responsibility" in Washington — deals a severe blow to education across the board.

 

About that erosion: there has been a flurry of reporting recently about threats to the dominance of America's elite universities. What hasn't been reported to the same extent, at least as far as I've seen, is our relative decline in more mundane measures. America, which used to take the lead in educating its young, has been gradually falling behind other advanced countries.

 

Most people, I suspect, still have in their minds an image of America as the great land of college education, unique in the extent to which higher learning is offered to the population at large. That image used to correspond to reality. But these days young Americans are considerably less likely than young people in many other countries to graduate from college. In fact, we have a college graduation rate that's slightly below the average across all advanced economies.

 

Even without the effects of the current crisis, there would be every reason to expect us to fall further in these rankings, if only because we make it so hard for those with limited financial means to stay in school. In America, with its weak social safety net and limited student aid, students are far more likely than their counterparts in, say, France to hold part-time jobs while still attending classes. Not surprisingly, given the financial pressures, young Americans are also less likely to stay in school and more likely to become full-time workers instead.

 

But the crisis has placed huge additional stress on our creaking educational system.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that's no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that's exactly what we're doing.

 

There's no mystery about what's going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that's because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.

 

As a result, education is on the chopping block. And laid-off teachers are only part of the story. Even more important is the way that we're shutting off opportunities.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the plight of California's community college students. For generations, talented students from less affluent families have used those colleges as a stepping stone to the state's public universities. But in the face of the state's budget crisis those universities have been forced to slam the door on this year's potential transfer students. One result, almost surely, will be lifetime damage to many students' prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential.

So what should be done?

First of all, Congress needs to undo the sins of February, and approve another big round of aid to state governments. We don't have to call it a stimulus, but it would be a very effective way to create or save thousands of jobs. And it would, at the same time, be an investment in our future.

Beyond that, we need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nation's historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made America great; neglect of education can reverse the process.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE BAUCUS CONUNDRUM

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

The longer the health care debate goes on, the more I become convinced that the American system needs fundamental reform. We need to transition away from a fee-for-service system to one that directs incentives toward better care, not more procedures. We need to move away from the employer-based system, which is eroding year by year. We need to move toward a more transparent system, in which people see the consequences of their choices.

 

I've also become convinced that the approach championed by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, is the best vehicle for this sort of change. The Wyden approach — first introduced in a bill with Robert F. Bennett, Republican of Utah, and now pared down to an amendment to the current bills—would combine choice with universal coverage.

 

People with insurance could stay with their existing health plans. But if they didn't like the plans their employer offered, they could take the money their employer spends, add whatever they wanted to throw in, and shop for a better option on a regulated exchange. People without insurance would get subsidies to shop at the exchanges.

 

Americans would have real choices. The vigorous exchanges would reward providers and insurers that are efficient, creative and innovative.

 

But barring a legislative miracle, the Wyden approach was effectively killed in committee last week. The business and union lobbies worked furiously against it. They want to control their employees' and members' benefit packages. Many politicians support it in principle but oppose it in practice. They fear that if they try to fundamentally reform the system, voters will revolt.

 

So what we are going to get is health insurance reform, not health care reform. We'll be adjusting and expanding the current system, not essentially changing it.

 

At this point people like me could throw up our hands and oppose everything. But that's not what adulthood is about. In the real world, you often don't get to choose what your options will be. You have to choose from a few bad options. The real health care choice now is between the status quo and the bill primarily authored by Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, that is emerging from the Senate Finance Committee.

 

The Baucus bill centralizes power, in contrast to the free choice approach, which decentralizes it. The Baucus

approach aims to reduce costs, expand coverage and improve efficiency by empowering regulators to write a better set of rules. It aims to rationalize the current system from the top down.

 

This approach has many weaknesses. It entrenches a flawed system. It creates greater uniformity and rigidity. It redistributes income from the politically disorganized young to the politically organized old. It squeezes people into a Rube Goldberg complex of bureaucracies based on their income level. It will impose huge costs on people as they rise up the income ladder, distorting the whole economy.

 

The biggest problem is that it will retard innovation. Top-down systems just don't innovate well, no matter how many Innovation Centers you put in the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill will retard innovation by using monopoly power to squeeze costs. It will also retard innovation by directing resources toward current care (and current voters) and away from future technologies and future beneficiaries.

But the Baucus bill has some advantages over the status quo as well. It would insure an additional 29 million people, a social benefit critics never grapple with.

 

It is also more fiscally responsible than any other committee bill. It courageously cuts Medicare benefits by hundreds of billions. It raises taxes on the upper and middle classes in many necessary (and covert) ways. The bill will not really be budget neutral, but the authors have taken fiscal responsibility seriously. They've earned that good score from the Congressional Budget Office.

 

Most impressively, the Baucus bill includes many provisions to make government-run health care more rational. It would bundle payments to hospitals and encourage doctors to work in efficient teams. It would punish hospitals that have to readmit patients. It would create a commission to perpetually squeeze costs. It would improve information technology. It would measure the comparative effectiveness of different treatments. No one knows how much savings would be produced by these changes in payment method, but they could be significant.

 

If you asked me to compare the Baucus approach with the Wyden approach, the answer is easy. But if you asked me to compare it with the status quo, the answer is hard. The Baucus bill contains hidden bombs that could lead to a rigid bureaucratic system that still doesn't address the fundamental problems. On the other hand, it contains hidden experiments that could lead to new models that might spread across the system.

 

If I were in Congress, I'd figure there's an 80 percent chance of something like this passing anyway. I might as well get engaged as a provisional supporter to fight to make it better, or at least to fight off the coming onslaught to make it worse.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A LIBRARY TO LAST FOREVER

BY SERGEY BRIN

 

 "THE fundamental reasons why the electric car has not attained the popularity it deserves are (1) The failure of the manufacturers to properly educate the general public regarding the wonderful utility of the electric; (2) The failure of [power companies] to make it easy to own and operate the electric by an adequate distribution of charging and boosting stations. The early electrics of limited speed, range and utility produced popular impressions which still exist."

 

This quotation would hardly surprise anyone who follows electric vehicles. But it may be surprising to hear that in the year when it was written thousands of electric cars were produced and that year was nearly a century ago. This appeared in a 1916 issue of the journal Electrical World, which I found in Google Books, our searchable repository of millions of books. It may seem strange to look back a hundred years on a topic that is so contemporary, yet I often find that the past has valuable lessons for the future. In this case, I was lucky — electric vehicles were studied and written about extensively early in the 20th century, and there are many books on the subject from which to choose. Because books published before 1923 are in the public domain, I am able to view them easily.

 

But the vast majority of books ever written are not accessible to anyone except the most tenacious researchers at premier academic libraries. Books written after 1923 quickly disappear into a literary black hole. With rare exceptions, one can buy them only for the small number of years they are in print. After that, they are found only in a vanishing number of libraries and used book stores. As the years pass, contracts get lost and forgotten, authors and publishers disappear, the rights holders become impossible to track down.

 

Inevitably, the few remaining copies of the books are left to deteriorate slowly or are lost to fires, floods and other disasters. While I was at Stanford in 1998, floods damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of books. Unfortunately, such events are not uncommon — a similar flood happened at Stanford just 20 years prior. You could read about it in The Stanford-Lockheed Meyer Library Flood Report, published in 1980, but this book itself is no longer available.

 

Because books are such an important part of the world's collective knowledge and cultural heritage, Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, first proposed that we digitize all books a decade ago, when we were a fledgling startup. At the time, it was viewed as so ambitious and challenging a project that we were unable to attract anyone to work on it. But five years later, in 2004, Google Books (then called Google Print) was born, allowing users to search hundreds of thousands of books. Today, they number over 10 million and counting.

 

The next year we were sued by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over the project. While we have had disagreements, we have a common goal — to unlock the wisdom held in the enormous number of out-of-print books, while fairly compensating the rights holders. As a result, we were able to work together to devise a settlement that accomplishes our shared vision. While this settlement is a win-win for authors, publishers and Google, the real winners are the readers who will now have access to a greatly expanded world of books.

 

There has been some debate about the settlement, and many groups have offered their opinions, both for and against. I would like to take this opportunity to dispel some myths about the agreement and to share why I am proud of this undertaking. This agreement aims to make millions of out-of-print but in-copyright books available either for a fee or for free with ad support, with the majority of the revenue flowing back to the rights holders, be they authors or publishers.

Some have claimed that this agreement is a form of compulsory license because, as in most class action settlements, it applies to all members of the class who do not opt out by a certain date. The reality is that rights holders can at any time set pricing and access rights for their works or withdraw them from Google Books altogether. For those books whose rights holders have not yet come forward, reasonable default pricing and access policies are assumed. This allows access to the many orphan works whose owners have not yet been found and accumulates revenue for the rights holders, giving them an incentive to step forward.

 

Others have questioned the impact of the agreement on competition, or asserted that it would limit consumer choice with respect to out-of-print books. In reality, nothing in this agreement precludes any other company or organization from pursuing their own similar effort. The agreement limits consumer choice in out-of-print books about as much as it limits consumer choice in unicorns. Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice — fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks.

 

I wish there were a hundred services with which I could easily look at such a book; it would have saved me a lot of time, and it would have spared Google a tremendous amount of effort. But despite a number of important digitization efforts to date (Google has even helped fund others, including some by the Library of Congress), none have been at a comparable scale, simply because no one else has chosen to invest the requisite resources. At least one such service will have to exist if there are ever to be one hundred.

 

If Google Books is successful, others will follow. And they will have an easier path: this agreement creates a books rights registry that will encourage rights holders to come forward and will provide a convenient way for other projects to obtain permissions. While new projects will not immediately have the same rights to orphan works, the agreement will be a beacon of compromise in case of a similar lawsuit, and it will serve as a precedent for orphan works legislation, which Google has always supported and will continue to support.

 

Last, there have been objections to specific aspects of the Google Books product and the future service as planned under the settlement, including questions about the quality of bibliographic information, our choice of classification system and the details of our privacy policy. These are all valid questions, and being a company that obsesses over the quality of our products, we are working hard to address them — improving bibliographic information and categorization, and further detailing our privacy policy. And if we don't get our product right, then others will. But one thing that is sure to halt any such progress is to have no settlement at all.

 

In the Insurance Year Book 1880-1881, which I found on Google Books, Cornelius Walford chronicles the destruction of dozens of libraries and millions of books, in the hope that such a record will "impress the necessity of something being done" to preserve them. The famous library at Alexandria burned three times, in 48 B.C., A.D. 273 and A.D. 640, as did the Library of Congress, where a fire in 1851 destroyed two-thirds of the collection.

 

I hope such destruction never happens again, but history would suggest otherwise. More important, even if our cultural heritage stays intact in the world's foremost libraries, it is effectively lost if no one can access it easily. Many companies, libraries and organizations will play a role in saving and making available the works of the 20th century. Together, authors, publishers and Google are taking just one step toward this goal, but it's an important step. Let's not miss this opportunity.

 

Sergey Brin is the co-founder and technology president of Google.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

STORM BREWING?

 

The army has, unusually, made its feelings public. The terse press release issued after the corps commanders' meeting evoked immediate panic at the presidency and in government corridors, with no room left for doubt over what the military made of the Kerry-Lugar Bill. The statement expressed 'serious concern' over some of the provisions of the legislative bill and warned that these could affect 'national security'. Clauses referring to Pakistan's nuclear programme, cross-border militancy and civilian government control over military appointments and promotions are reported to have caused most agitation, given their implications for Pakistan's sovereignty. There will be many who say the military should not have gone to the media. That it has opted to do so will naturally raise to new heights the level of speculation about the fallout from the bill. But perhaps the army is eager too to put things before the public, and allow the matter to be thrashed out, rather than encourage the closed-door conspiracies that we are all familiar with. It must also be pointed out that one reason for the military ire is the failure to take it into confidence before the contents of the bill became public. Surely, it would have been wise to build consensus through talks beforehand rather than see the ugly conflict we are now witnessing.

As a result of the rapid developments in Islamabad, President Obama has delayed putting his signature to the bill. There are also suggestions of a new, three-way divide opening up, with Prime Minister Gilani stating parliament should decide the future of the bill and President Zardari's camp insisting that it must be defended tooth and nail. The presidency has also taken very personally the attacks on the legislation, insisting these are stabs at Mr Zardari himself. This appears to be another example of the paranoia we are becoming accustomed to seeing from the president. There can be no doubt the provisions of the bill are controversial, even though there is a great deal to be said for strengthening democracy. Mr Gilani's call for consensus seems the wiser course of action. The PM has also spoken of removing misunderstandings between the army and the presidency, making it clear that differences exist. The coming days will be crucial ones. Sides are already being taken by politicians, the media and other onlookers. It is becoming clear where the most weight lies on the see-saw. Perhaps this is a chance to correct the balance and create a new, more equitable equation between the civilian government and a military that must take orders from it. But this can happen only if our political leaders play their role wisely, move beyond sloganeering and seek genuine solutions.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SANE SUGGESTION

 

The Senate has been told the actual number of madressahs in the country far exceeds the 15,843 that have been registered. The largest number – over 11,000 – is located in Punjab. Only 507 madressahs have been provided assistance by the education ministry under the Madressah Reforms Package of the previous government. The vast majority remain well beyond the ambit of government control, with no means of ascertaining what is taught or how. The limited studies carried out suggest that even when madressah pupils are not encouraged to back militancy, they are brainwashed into believing women are inferior or that Indians represent a threat to Muslims. Such opinions have crossed over into the mainstream. The new educational policy announced by the PPP government incorporates many hard-line views and fails to take into account the possible presence of non-Muslim children in classrooms. We are told the government succumbed to pressure from the religious right to avoid tampering with 'Islamic' components of the policy – even though in most cases these have nothing to do with Islam and its focus on tolerance and peace.


Extremism continues to haunt us. It does so in part because we have consistently failed to heed the voices of sanity. An eminent religious scholar has suggested religious education be declared a 'speciality' and be pursued only after ten years or more of regular schooling. Other persons with religious learning have suggested that the views of Al-Azhar University, the premier institution of Sunni Islam, be promoted and followed more widely. Such counsel makes sense. It is time we adopted policies that could help us escape the nightmare of extremism into which we have been hurled as a result of the flawed policies of the past.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE POWER OF SONG

 

Songstress Humaira Arshad has produced a few discordant notes. The good lady had gone along with her husband - as is the right of every citizen - to register a complaint at the chief minister's complaint cell on Club Road in Lahore. It is alleged that the pair had set up a café in the city but they later discovered that the person who sold them the property was a fraudster and did not have legal title to the property. A common-enough complaint and not something that would attract much by way of media attention or indeed much by way of action by the officials concerned. But it is not every day that you have glamorous singers appearing at the office to register a complaint, so the extremely-concerned-especially-to-be-noticed officials rushed to the assistance of the wronged chanteuse and her husband.


The singer proceeded to register her complaint with Complaints Director Irfan Yousaf and was giving him the details when Shahid Qadir, another complaints director (There are two? There are so many complaints?), entered the office of his colleague and demanded that she make her complaint to him rather than Irfan Yousaf, who probably had not had a shower that morning or pressed his shirt properly. The two then proceeded to exchange what have been described as 'harsh words' and the matter quickly came to the attention of no lesser personage than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. True to form, he acted swiftly and both men were the subject of quick enquiry, found guilty and suspended, their offices sealed. The singer never got her complaint registered and left in some confusion. Perhaps to prevent future disturbances the complaints cell should create two customer windows, one marked 'Famous people' and the other 'People we are not interested in.' Problem solved.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FOLLY BEYOND COMPREHENSION

AYAZ AMIR


General de Gaulle, who did not have a very high idea of American astuteness, once proclaimed his faith in America's ability to commit follies that were beyond comprehension. The Kerry-Lugar Bill certainly does not come up to such historical folly as Vietnam and Iraq. But it is a minor testimony to America's ability to deliver things that defy understanding.


Where our American friends were trying to build bridges of friendship they have succeeded in laying a minefield which has ignited outrage and mass suspicion across the length and breadth of Pakistan's brittle political landscape. The bill's details are now a matter of secondary importance. A professor of linguistics can come and put a benign gloss on them but most Pakistanis will not be convinced.


The general perception fostered by some of the bill's language is that it is an affront to Pakistani dignity and sovereignty. No amount of eleventh-hour massaging or spin doctoring is going to alter this perception.

True, Pakistani dignity may be a pretty battered concept. If we run through our list of historical achievements, there may not be much to be proud of. Still, one can live with diminished dignity if one's nose is not rubbed in the dust. This bill's sublime achievement is to do precisely this. For it reads more like a sustained indictment of Pakistan than a charter of friendship.


And when the corps commanders -- still in the eyes of many Pakistanis, the highest court of appeal -- too weigh in with a public rebuke of the bill (in itself quite an unprecedented step) then it becomes clear that we have a storm on our hands and that the principal test of leadership at this critical juncture is to defuse it. Congressional sensitivities can wait. The disorder at home must be addressed first.


Why has army sentiment come to this boil? The Kerry-Lugar Bill is not something popping suddenly out of the skies. It has been a year and a half, if not more, in the making. What was the government doing? Was it not aware of this witches' brew being cooked, and the frogs and spiders being thrown into it?


There has been no shortage of American officials and congressmen visiting Islamabad during this period. After all it is not the ordinary people of Pakistan who have had the honour of being lectured by Mr Holbrooke and others of his kind. Granted we don't have the brightest of people manning the higher echelons of government -- and this includes everyone. But even certified dimwits should have had some idea of what was going on.


But if our paladins allowed themselves to be caught short, the blame cuts right across the entire ruling spectrum -- from the presidency and the prime minister's office to General Headquarters. All of them, and some of us, should have done some of our homework earlier.


But all this is past. We should now be making amends for what we failed to do. But President Zardari, Heaven's revenge for our many sins, continues to live in a world of his own. His insecurities are well known: some to do with his past and his person, some with his inadequacies when measured against the requirements of his present position. Were he a private person his personal failings would be his own business. But since, alas, he is not a private person, his personal failings become a matter of national concern, especially when they give rise to the suspicion that it is these failings which drive him so desperately into American arms.


But if he is a disaster at home can the US rescue him? The Americans stood by Musharraf as long as he delivered what they wanted. When he became a political liability at home they started looking for other options. The same logic holds true even now. Americans will look up to Zardari only insofar as he is master of his house. But if the army turns against him, and public opinion is up in arms, Americans are not fools to keep investing in him.


Doesn't he realize this? So why is he opening up a front against the army? Why are he and his minions championing the Kerry-Lugar Bill when the present uproar against it is enough to demonstrate that there is little chance that the Pakistani nation will swallow it?


So what is to be done? If we did not do our homework before we must do it now. A consensus must be developed on how best to deal with this Greek gift from Capitol Hill and we must do it fast.


The sensible thing would be to offer a prayer and let it go -- with as much grace as we can muster. Feelings no doubt will run high on Capitol Hill and we can expect our American friends to have something to say about Pakistanis not knowing what is good for them. But we should take these things in our stride. Our American alliance should not be damaged because regarding the wages of terrorism our interests, with some differences of emphasis, are broadly the same. For both our sakes, we should not lose sight of the larger picture.


The National Assembly must rise to the occasion and show a better quality of discussion than it has hitherto done on most issues. This should be no occasion to indulge in histrionics. This is something to be discussed calmly and dispassionately, for much is at stake. It bears remembering that if the political class had been more alive to its responsibilities the reaction coming from the corps commanders could have been pre-empted. Like it or not, they have entered where they saw a vacuum developing.


Of course we can go on and on and say that it is not for them to speak thus in an open manner. The army's reservations, if any, are best communicated through other channels. But when political procedures break down, or do not function as well as they should, and the political leadership abdicates its responsibilities, the army will flex its muscles. This is a hard fact of life which has surfaced time and again in our short and tempestuous history.

The point often lost on the political class is that the best way to keep the army in check is for the political leadership to deliver. But if politicians insist on conducting themselves like buffoons they won't be able to stop generals from teaching them their dancing steps.


The army's role in national politics should have been curtailed after the Feb 2008 elections. Instead we see it growing. Why? Because the political leadership is failing to come up to the expectations of the masses. Where radicalism of thought and action was called for they have settled for the politics of expediency and the status quo.

Pakistan's democrats have to realize that the margin of error for them is very small. Generals can afford to sow the seeds of disaster and get away with it. Politicians are not allowed the same luxury because they lack the army's divisions to support them in the error of their ways. The only safeguard for politicians is delivery and performance and if they falter in these, they forfeit their mandate and become fodder for military ambition. This is the way it has been and this, unhappily, is how it is likely to be unless our political masters rise to a higher level of conduct.


Democracy itself is no cure-all for anything. Russia had democracy and consider what it produced in the first flush of its enthusiasm: a clown in the form of Boris Yeltsin. American democracy in the recent past gifted the world George Bush and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Pakistani democracy has given us Zardari and Gilani and the many astonishing carpetbaggers who hang around them.

True, ISI and MI have made it one of their central tasks to conspire against politics and democracy. But why do politicians make it so easy for such conspiracies to succeed? Why are politicians so often their own worst enemies?

Zardari and the PPP government are climbing up the wrong mountain. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is not their salvation. Given the current state of public opinion it will destroy them. Why can't they read the writing on the wall?

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POLITICS AND THE ARMY

BASIL NABI


Without discipline the Army would just be a bunch of guys wearing the same- color clothing. -- Frank Burns

In recent days, one cannot help but notice some extremely disturbing and perturbing indicators in the political arena of the country. At the onset of this democratic era, many of us who had fought alongside the lawyers and the politicians hoped that our efforts would result in the army renouncing all participation in politics. And that, if nothing else, the politicians would not give them the excuse to dabble in political matters in the future. Although I am delighted at the lawyers and civil society achieving their goal of securing a determined judiciary trying to correct its previous follies, I unfortunately am not as glad as to the army's current role in our political system.

Ever since the democratic government came to power, there has seemed to be a power struggle of sorts going on between the GHQ and the PPP-led government. Unfortunately, at all crucial points, the army has shown its reluctance at the thought of being subservient to Parliament and the democratically elected government. This can be fathomed from various incidents which have taken place over this short democratic period.


The first indicator was when the government sent out a notification bringing the intelligence authorities within the control of the ministry of interior, which the army clearly found totally unpalatable. Although a silly idea to begin with, the reasons for its revocation rather than the revocation itself are a cause of concern. The fact that the notification was taken back within hours rather than days indicates the influence the army held within the political circles, and the degree to which the political government was able to control the army. The rumoured intervention of the army chief in the reinstatement of the chief justice of Pakistan, via the much trumpeted "Kayani formula," is also an indicator of the army's continued involvement in politics even at this stage.

Other than that, the fact that important foreign dignitaries or officials who grace Pakistan with their presence meet the army chief and discuss "various matters" in addition to talking to his political counterparts indicates the larger global role that the army has undertaken and retained despite the return of democracy. Much more recently, and extremely disturbing, is the meetings that the COAS has allegedly had with certain political leaders of the ruling and opposition parties, with the exclusion of the persons who make up the present government. And om addition to this, the press statement released by the ISPR which commented on the Kerry-Lugar Bill, despite its being a matter solely within the domain of the political arena, also has resulted in some eyebrows being raised.


Now let's be clear. Clearly, in addition to the army's role in politics, there are certain persons in the media and political circles who, intentionally or inadvertently, bolster the image of the armed forces at the expense of the political leadership. The army should be praised where it has done something commendable, but in an appropriate manner, and not at the expense of any other institution or pillar of the state. For example, certain people tend to claim that the army is solely to praise for the success of the Swat offensive, despite the fact that similar operations that took place under the leadership of Musharraf resulted in utter failure. The one difference between those previous operations and the present one was the political shrewdness of the ANP and other political parties which enabled the army to arise victorious by successfully cutting off all local support to the Taliban via the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation episode. But this element of the debate is usually overlooked.

All this does not bode well for this nascent democracy which has barely completed a year! The political government, despite its immense shortcomings and incompetent handling of administrative matters, must be given a fair chance. After all, if we can give dictators years on end, why can't we allow the democratic dispensation to complete its term? The people elected them for five years, and that is the time that it should be given. Perhaps people will then realise the true worth of their votes, and will cast them with a bit less reckless abandon, and much more caution.


Side Note: On a related matter, I find it astonishing how the ISPR so brazenly commented on the Kerry-Lugar Bill and its contents before the Parliament even had a chance to go over it! Clearly, this bill comes within the purview of the political leadership, which must conduct foreign affairs, among other things. An argument is made that the document deals with "national security" and hence can be analysed by the army but, then again, one wonders where was this argument when Musharraf was selling Pakistani citizens to America for some "well deserved" bounty, or when the first drone attacks took place in FATA, or when Musharraf started a full-fledged operation in Balochistan bringing the federation to its knees.


The writer is a graduate of Columbia University who is currently working as a lawyer in Karachi. Email: basil.nabi@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SURRENDERED SOVEREIGNTY

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL


Discounting Hillary Clinton's veiled snub ("the critics of the [KL] bill should read it" as a failed attempt to resurrect the dead lordship of the 19th-century imperialism over colonies, but seeing the package called KL-Bill in popular parlance from her country's perspective, one can safely say that her country has successfully negotiated a deal with a client regime. This can hardly be anything but a great success for the long-term geo-strategic interests of the United States in the region and at a price that is no more than a few bread crumbs.


Putting the much-touted new partnership with Pakistan's new deal in its historic context, one cannot help recalling that until 1979, the United States had consistently ditched Pakistan at every single important juncture of Pakistan's crisis-ridden existence: from the 1948 failed attempt to secure Kashmir's independence through the 1965 and 1971 wars with India and from immoral and illegitimate support for the ambitious generals-cum-dictators to its meddling in the internal affairs of the country, there is a long record of misdeeds committed against Pakistani people. The reason for this behaviour has been obvious: until 1979, the Unites States had no need of Pakistan; it had a secure base in Iran at almost no cost; the Shah was a trusted ally, Iran was a backward country of sleepy villages and one capital which aspired to be the Paris of Asia, and there was a very small ruling clique ideologically fully aligned with the overall worldview that governs much of public life in the United States. American bases were secure, Shah's regime was fully cooperative and Iran was like a second home to CIA and its operatives.


As the year progressed, however, 1979, served a most devastating blow to the American interests in the region: first the successful overthrow of Shah's regime by Mullas who had been given little importance by the czars of American foreign policy and then the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Both events targeted the large American footprint from the region; it panicked and in search of a quick solution, pumped billions of dollars into making of ad hoc alliances: it found the Mujahideen willing to fight its war in Afghanistan and found a military general in Pakistan willing to serve as a go-between even though he turned out to be a rather double gamer and demanded and extracted as much money as he could. Yet the deal was not too bad. After all, the nightmarish invasion of Afghanistan by the red Soviet Union was the greatest post-World War II challenge to the American hegemony and if there were thousands of disorganised small groups willing to fight the Red Army and die for American interests in the region which history had now aligned with their own need to regain the freedom of their homeland, it was still far less costly than sending the marines to that rugged land where no foreign army has ever survived.


This strategic partnership, however, did not change the basic paradigm of American relationship with Pakistan; the "thinking" remained the same: Pakistan was a state more like a condom rather than a respectable nation with whom America needed to establish any long-term relationship. When the Soviet Union collapsed, this entrenched thinking ditched the Mujahdeen as well as the go-between -- the General who had shaped Pakistan's responses to the American advances during the 80s, and whose sudden demise helped to relieve America of any further obligations, not that it had the moral imperative to fulfill any moral obligations. Thus, even though there was still a need for re-establishing American footprint in the region and Pakistan was still the only country where this could be done, but it was no more as urgent a matter as before and now that the Soviet Union had collapsed, the new strategic relocation could wait, especially because Oman and the other puppet regimes of the Gulf had provided the required foothold against Iran.


Pakistan basically floated in vacuum throughout the 90s, during which the general's double game paid dividends as proven by the successful atomic blast over Chaghai in May 1998. This added urgency to the reshaping of American policy toward Pakistan, but this urgency was not enough to change the basic thinking of that policy which had remained unchanged since 1947. Then came the events of 9/11, which further sealed this policy: now there was another general, wiling to bow and play the game at American behest in more or less the same manner as the previous general, only more readily available and more submissive.


All of this has changed once again with the faltering American moral in Afghanistan and with the looming failure to rule that unruly country. Now, the recognition that American footprint in the region can only be re-established on Pakistani soil has been recognised with full awareness of the lack of any other alternate option: Iran's gains the status of a looming threat with every passing day; India cannot be used as a client state, Afghanistan has neither the state structure nor the geostrategic potential and though the Gulf states are still easy prey, they do not provide a contingent geographical location; hence the new partnership with Pakistan and the K-L Bill.


In Pakistan, all the fuss has so far been about the price being received in exchange of surrender of Pakistan's sovereignty. The Jamat and a few other lonely voices notwithstanding, there is hardly any organised effort to rescue and reclaim Pakistan's surrendered sovereignty and in the absence of such an effort, the Americans have their pie and they can eat it too.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DEEP BREATH, COUNT TO TEN, EXHALE

CHRIS CORK


It is difficult to determine just how much 'outrage' the Kerry-Lugar Bill is generating outside the media, blathering politicians, the armed forces and the chattering classes generally. A canter through the TV channels would suggest that we teeter on the verge of revolution, such is the public dismay at the contents of a bill that is American in origin, has not yet been signed into law by the US President, and whose contents remain a mystery to the majority of the population who are illiterate anyway. How many of us have read the Kerry-Lugar Bill in its entirety? (I have; worthy but dull like most legislation.) And why have we got ourselves in such a lather about it anyway…is our sovereignty – and anybody care to give me a definition of 'sovereignty' – so compromised by it, are Blackwater (…or Xe or Xi or Pi) poised to take over the country, why does the President smile so much and is there anywhere that I can buy sugar for Rs40 a kilo?


To the ordinary mortal such as myself the principal problem with the Kerry-Lugar Bill seems to be that it puts in writing what had previously been a tacit understanding, and that the nod-wink-handshake way of doing business with Pakistan is now a thing of the past. It also seems to signal a sea-change in the way that America does business with us in a far wider sense. It is still a transactional document and there is very much the sense that we are having a finger wagged at us, but there are some subtle shifts. The American financial relationship with us hitherto has largely been focused on the military at the expense of development and infrastructure. The US has supported assorted unsavoury military dictatorships around the world – including ours – over the last 50 years in support of its own global hegemony, but the world is changing and America has to change with it. The priorities and preoccupations of the Bush years are not all the same as those of Obama.


After 9/11, the American foreign policy, not only in Pakistan but in many other countries as well, has become hugely unpopular. The Obama presidency is seeking to change the course of the American ship of state -- change course, not turn around, please note. America needs to re-brand itself, restore some of the confidence and popularity it once enjoyed, create 'signature' projects that polish its image and mollify its critics. In the case of the Kerry-Lugar Bill that means a marked shift in priorities, towards civilian projects and with an emphasis on bolstering governance and the democratic institutions.


Understandably, the military are less than delighted with this turn of events. They have enjoyed a pre-eminence for the entire life of the nation, have directly governed it for more than half that life and indirectly governed it for the rest. There is no sense that the military is or ever has been accountable to civilian bodies as it is in other democratic states, the military budgets are never published and are minimally discussed in the legislature. The Defence Ministry is little more than a front-of-house billboard and the armed forces conduct their business out of sight of civilian bureaucrats. All of the avenues of accountability have been closed off. Once again this is a state of affairs arrived at by the consistent failure of civilian governments and the civil service to deliver the goods to the population – the most recent evidence for this being the yet-unresolved 'sugar crisis' that was the product of a cabal of mill-owners who were also politicians fixing the markets to their own advantage – hardly the stuff of emerging democracy and unlikely to impress the military establishment as an example of what the civilians can do if left to their own devices.


The military has, over the years, colonised parts of civil space – banking and housing to name but two – and has a very different relationship with the nation than does the military elsewhere. It is because of the weakness of civilian governance that it has been able to do this; and if America now seeks to back a civilian dispensation against the long-established trend of backing the military then tension is inevitable at every point of contact between the two – a tension now exploited to the full by the polarised political parties who themselves are now busy with backchannel negotiations to ensure their own place at the front of the queue if the military decide to move the pieces around on the board again.


What the Kerry-Lugar Bill begins to do is redefine and reshape the relationship between the military and civil institutions, and military and civil-political reaction to it has generated more heat than it has light. It is not difficult to see such a move as a direct challenge to our sovereignty, a Trojan horse within which is hidden the seeds and agents of yet more micro-management of Pakistan by an external player. It is not difficult to interpret the wording of the bill in such a way as to see that there is a desire to influence, however indirectly, the internal dynamics of our governance and the civil/military relationship; and the bill will have been drafted in a detailed knowledge built up over many years of the personalities and institutions on which it will impact. It presents difficulties to the 'establishment' and the military like in that it may be a challenge to the status quo that has prevailed whatever the government in power – khaki or feudal.


At the end of the day as a past senior law officer said on a private TV channel on Wednesday night that "beggars can't be choosers". If we go cap-in-hand anywhere in the world seeking money with a track-record for corruption and lack of transparency such as ours then there are going to be conditionalities. We are always going to have that kind of transactional relationship with any donor no matter how 'friendly' – and a past ambassador to both London and Washington Maleeha Lodhi has said several times that there are no permanent friends in international political relationships. We are not friends with America, nor they with us. We are not friends with any of the countries making up the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group. We have a relationship with them that is determined by mutual interest, not by whether we like one-another or not. The Americans may dislike and despise us as we dislike and despise them, but being true friends is not the way to do diplomatic business. America has an interest in sustaining us not because it wants to see happy smiling Pakistani faces painted with American flags across CNN and Fox News, but because it suits their wider geopolitical agenda and regional interests. $1.7 billion a year for the next few years is, frankly, peanuts. Loose change. We may not like picking it up but we don't have much choice in the matter – short of walking away from it completely. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is not yet signed, and we need to take a deep breath, count to ten and gently exhale before we paint ourselves into a corner. Again.

 

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FALLOUT AND THE WAY FORWARD

SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

 

With the army expressing public reservations about the Kerry Lugar Bill, fissures in the power centres of the country have come out in the open.


This has consequence; for Pakistan-US relations because the Americans must feel that the teeth of their gift horse are being counted: for the economy, because any serious reduction in aid inflows will have an adverse impact, and for President Zardari, because he is seen as behind-the-scenes operator for the language in the bill targeting the military.


First, some words about the bill. It may be standard practice in the US Congress to include conditions and certifications before disbursement of aid, but it appears humiliating to the recipient.


And in this era of instant communication, nothing can be hidden. We have received aid in the past with tough conditions, but few noticed. This is not possible any more. Anyone with an internet connection can read the small print and react.


Then there is the question of language. While feeling upset about an outside party telling us how to behave, there can be little quarrel with the broad objectives of the stipulated conditions. Fighting terrorism, subscribing to non-proliferation and building a better democracy, are something the people of Pakistan want anyway. The problem is in the way they are being told to go about it.


There is a presumption of guilt in many of the clauses and specific targeting of the military. For example, on terrorism: "the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress in ceasing support, including any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups." This presumes that the Pakistan's government, and specifically its military, is giving such support.


Other clauses also have a similar message, whether it is regarding support and safe havens for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups or the issue of cross-border terrorism. Even on proliferation, the language is accusatory regarding supplier networks and the admonishment that the Pakistani government will continue to dismantle them.

On the unexceptionable broad objective of building democracy and civilian supremacy, the Kerry-Lugar Bill gets into details that are way beyond the acceptable. It first presumes guilt and then says that the military would not "subvert" the political and judicial process. It then gets into the military's internal functioning and seeks civilian control over military budgets, chain of command, promotions to senior ranks, strategic guidance in plans and related issues.


While these are steps towards a better democracy, it is something that the Pakistani people and its institutions have to work out for themselves. For an outside party, to go into such detail, is obviously a blatant interference in our internal affairs and more than embarrassing for the military.


It is also disturbing that the US is treating Pakistani institutions in the bill, such as the civil government and the military, as separate entities. Whatever our internal issues, and we have some way to go in bettering civil-military relations, it is not for an outside party to come and lecture us about it.

And this is where the problem lies. It is the visage adopted by the US of a stern schoolmaster, admonishing an unruly brood, which disturbs Pakistan's armed forces and people.


A debate has started in the National Assembly and it is far from clear whether the government will be able to persuade the legislators to endorse the Kerry Lugar Bill as is. It is more likely that after some give and take, a resolution will be adopted that is critical of it and the government will endorse it. It will then make a claim that national consensus has been achieved.


But the matter does not end here. Will such a resolution mean that we are saying no to US aid or merely that we will receive it with reservations?


The second is more likely because the government sees this brouhaha as a political issue and wants somehow to get beyond it. Whatever the Parliament says will be accepted, but in practical terms it will have no substance. This will seem the only practical solution to the government because it has very little capacity to seek changes in a US legislation that has taken so long to work out.


The US Congress has a tortuous process of creating bills. Both the houses first create their own versions and then reconcile through negotiations. All sorts of elements come into play in the process, including lobbies. To revisit this again, while not impossible, is difficult.


It is more likely that the current version, with all its faults, will be signed by President Obama and it will become US law. Then the ball will be in our court. It will take some courage to say no because it will sour relations with the US. It will also have a negative impact on the economy.


Some economists have argued that we don't really need these 1.5 billion dollars. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin thinks otherwise, because he has pitched his resource availability for the next financial year on aid inflows.

More importantly, any serious souring of relations with the US can also affect multilateral flows from the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Bank besides drying up the potential pipeline of the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan.


A confrontation with the US does not suit Pakistan. The challenge is to use whatever leverage we a have to ensure better and more honourable terms for the aid we get. The supply line to US-NATO forces is one such lever. It has not been used effectively in the past. Maybe the time has come to bring it into play.


In whatever manner this issue plays out the position of President Zardari has become very difficult. There are accusations in the media that his cohorts deliberately got the insulting language, particularly against the military, inserted in the bill. Whether true or not, this perception is rife and must be felt in the military too. How will this affect his future?


I said last week that there is little likelihood of any direct military intervention. But the public anger against Mr Zardari is growing. Besides issues of corruption, he is now becoming the object of widespread anti-Americanism in the country. This makes his position exceedingly shaky.

This does not automatically translate into his removal because no obvious mechanism is visible. Yet it creates the enabling circumstances, the necessary condition for it to happen. The halo of democratic legitimacy that his elected position held has begun to wear thin. This constructs the sufficient condition for his fall.


It is ironic that President Zardari predicated his survival in office on robust support from the United States. He bent over backwards to ensure that it does not waver. This very fact may now become a millstone around his neck. Simplistic notions do not always work.

 

Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SIDE-EFFECT

HARRIS KHALIQUE


The five grey, hollow and lifeless blocks of 12-storeyed Margalla Towers still stand on the outskirts of a busy neighbourhood in Islamabad. The sixth one fell with the attached staircase on October 8, 2005, killing 71 residents when a deadly earthquake struck northern Pakistan. In the last four years, these blocks have neither been razed nor is there a plan in sight to clear up the ground and put the land to some other use. The best use could be to build a monument, a park or a library in memory of those 80,000 innocent people who were killed in Balakot, Muzaffarabad, Islamabad and adjoining areas of Azad Kashmir and the Frontier province. Islamabad Public Library is yet to be built and the land allocated for the purpose is in the same sector. It is a small piece of land. A bigger, multi-storeyed, state-of-the-art public library can be built where Margalla Towers stand. But let's have a bet, my dear readers. The Capital Development Authority and other concerned government ministries will be contemplating a large commercial building on the land and perhaps that is the reason they are waiting for the memories to be razed from our minds before these blocks could be razed. Four years is a long time for public memory, particularly in Pakistan where it is shorter than anywhere else.


The architect engaged to conceive and design Margalla Towers has said on record that he objected to the corrupt and unscrupulous practices of the building company and its engineers when they were amending the design and choosing substandard material to maximise profit. He protested and left them. The builder went ahead and sold hundreds of apartments to middle-class Pakistanis. Now he is having a ball abroad. True to the tradition and spirit of the corrupt Pakistani elite, no international warrants were issued to arrest him and bring him to book. There is a rumour in the capital that he visited Pakistan some months after the incident, met some officials and then went abroad again.


It is also incumbent upon us today to remember more than 17,000 children who were killed while attending schools when the roofs collapsed and the walls fell upon them in affected areas. No FIR was ever lodged against the consultants, contractors and government officials responsible for using below par material and passing insecure building designs. It was interesting to note that in Muzaffarbad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, many private buildings still survived while no government building was saved from the tremors. Contractors in connivance with their counterpart government officials continue to do the same even today. No earthquake, no flood, no cyclone could change their resolve to fleece this nation and suck whatever is left in its shrinking veins. I am not sure how many small and large schools, health units, offices and other public buildings across Pakistan are being built which are earthquake-resistant, have adequate designs and follow the procedures so very well laid out in the documents of respective government authorities.


The only positive thing was the effective relief and early recovery work after the earthquake when the whole nation was galvanised and the international community came to support us. Soon the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) got established with its provincial chapters and their stated objective was 'Build back better'. The initial promise shown by ERRA has dwindled. Reconstruction is slow and marred by politicking in Azad Kashmir and inefficiencies on the part of those sitting in Islamabad. People are waiting.

 

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris@spopk. Org

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NOW REJECT HUMILIATING KERRY-LUGAR BAIT

 

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari still insists that the highly controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill was beneficial to the country and its passage by the US Congress was a major diplomatic achievement of Pakistan. In line with this thinking, he has taken into confidence senior leaders and some parliamentarians of his party for defence of the bill during debate in public as well as in the Parliament. The President and some other functionaries of the Government believe that the nation has not understood properly the importance of the bill.


The self-consoling perception notwithstanding, the fact remains that the entire nation is unanimous that the Kerry-Lugar Bill has injured sensitivities of 160 million Pakistanis and the ego of a sovereign State. Since the very first day of the adoption of the bill, which contains derogatory remarks and conditions, not only the civil society but also media and anyone who matters anywhere feels humiliated over language of certain clauses of the bill that impinge upon the sovereignty of Pakistan. As the nation stood up firmly against acceptance of such an opprobrious piece of legislation, Pakistan Army too has felt it necessary to air its reservations over the bill especially concern over security related clauses. Normally, after Corps Commanders' meetings, ISPR issues a two line customary press release but this time round it deviated from the practice and the hand-out in a brief but comprehensive manner commented upon the serious implications of such clauses of the bill. This is perhaps one of the rarest occasions that the Army has taken a public position on an issue over which it has also sent a formal input to the Government – as revealed by the Prime Minister that he has received a letter on the subject. If the Army top brass comes to the conclusion that the bill would have far-reaching implications for national security then it effectively means that there was a serious lapse on the part of those who were in regular interaction with the American officials on the issue of aid to Pakistan and especially the proper formulation of the language of the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It is surprising, rather shocking, that apart from nuclear issue, the bill also singles out Quetta and Muridke as areas where alleged camps of militants were located against whom Pakistan is required to take action. Americans have been voicing concern over so-called activities of Taliban's Quetta Shura and hence mentioning of Quetta but listing of Muridke in the bill is clearly at the instance of the Indian lobbies. This also belies claims of some governmental spokesmen who portray passage of the bill as a success in the face of intense lobbying by New Delhi. The differences over bill among coalition partners and between the Army and the Government also prove that the issue was handled by some inefficient and mentally bankrupt functionaries in exclusion of the vital organs of the State. Similarly, one wonders how Pakistan's


Ambassador in Washington thought it appropriate to defend the bill in a manner as if he is functionary or spokesman of the State Department and not representative of Pakistan. He had the cheek to make arrogant remarks "Don't take it if you wish so". Though speaking in the National Assembly, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani declared Wednesday night that the Government would like to build a national consensus over the bill but one fails to comprehend how he wants to achieve it with PPP still inclined to defend it and almost all other political entities opposing it tooth and nail. Leader of the Opposition Ch. Nisar Ali has already demanded of the Government to convey to the US that in its existing formulation the bill was not acceptable to Pakistan. Under these circumstances, we believe the Government is left with no other option but to reject the bill. Peoples Party claims to be championing the cause of the people, so it should listen to their unambiguous message on the issue. We may add that we do not advocate spoiling of relations with the United States or non-cooperation in the war on terror but the world and especially the United States must respect sensitivities and self-respect of the nation. We also hope that the ongoing debate in the National Assembly would conclude on a meaningful note and the house would adopt a unanimous resolution reflecting the will of the people and upholding honour of the State.

 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER BODY BAG TO COME FROM INDIA

 

IT has become a regular practice that tortured dead bodies of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails are despatched back home to the utter shock of their relatives. Pakistani citizens including women who go to the neighbouring country with valid visas are nabbed on frivolous charges, put behind the bars, kept in inhumane conditions, tortured and killed.

 

The latest case in point is the murder of a Pakistani prisoner Javed Kachchi on Wednesday who went to visit the Shrine of Haji Peer in March 2008, arrested on the charge of misbehaving with Police, kept in Rajkot Jail in Gujerat State where he was tortured and killed. Last year too several body bags of prisoners were sent to Pakistan including those of Rashida Bibi of Wazirabad and Muhammad Akram. What was more shocking was that Akram's heart, liver, lungs and kidneys were taken out from his body before handing it over to Pakistani authorities. According to reports more than 2000 Pakistanis are under the custody of security forces and there are apprehensions that they will also die owing to ruthlessness. The Indian supreme court in August last directed the government to complete the deportation process of all Pakistani prisoners who were still languishing in jails after finishing their sentences but no action has yet been taken. Different Pakistani NGOs which champion the cause of Indian prisoners including those spies who were involved in terrorist acts and killings of innocent Pakistanis and arranged visits of their relatives to Pakistan to meet them are observing criminal silence over these extreme acts of human rights violations. It is also regrettable that the Government also appears to be oblivious of the torture and sufferings of Pakistanis as it never ever tried to protest the killings in Indian jails. In view of the failure of the Government and the NGOs to raise the issue of custodial killings with New Delhi, we would impress upon the media outlets to highlight this all important humanitarian issue and expose the real face of India, which claims to be the biggest democracy, before the world as this might help mitigate some of the sufferings of Pakistani prisoners.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S AFGHAN DILEMMA

 

US President Barack Obama faces increased pressure on the Afghan front. A war, made the cornerstone of Obama's foreign policy, is now at the risk of being lost to the Taleban. In a stark and dismal assessment, top US military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has urgently called for additional forces in the range of 30,000-40,000. This is why Obama decided to meet with Congressmen, both Republicans and Democrats to strategise on how to deal with Afghanistan. Though a decision is yet to be taken, Obama has in the course of this meeting given some indication of the future direction. Boosting soldiers into hundreds of thousands is not an option and neither is downsizing the war. A smaller counterterrorism effort that entailed large-scale withdrawal of the present 68,000 US forces was also ruled out. This clearly means that Obama intends to take the middle ground. Precisely how many additional forces will be sent is still not clear, but it will have to be somewhere close to the military demands for countering the insurgency. As he braces to take a decision, Obama faces a critical choice. The question is, is boosting forces the answer? Arguments against sending additional forces call for a reread of history and the fate of a million-strong Soviet army that suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Afghan mujahideen. Despite the mujahideen receiving massive support from US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with vital resources of arms, finances and training, in the end it was the Afghans that fought on ground.


While Obama is likely to base his decision in the best interest of the country and not on the mood of the Congress, he faces a tough decision. With NATO allied states refusing to commit more troops, the US carries the biggest burden of a tricky and complex war. It is further complicated with the ongoing political instability in Afghanistan post-elections, whose outcome is to date undecided because alleged rigged votes are still being recounted. In case the US decides to boost its military presence, it faces the risk of fuelling further opposition from the Afghans already angered by presence of foreign forces, they see as occupiers. Trapped in a Catch-22 situation, the US should instead focus on political engagement with the insurgents, the only feasible answer in the long run. —Khaleej Times

 

 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CONCILIATION, NOT CONFLICT: KING ABDULLAH'S VISION

M D NALAPAT


Although demonized by many who are unaware of its tenets,the reality is that Islam lives up to its name by being indeed the Religion of Peace. The proof of this can be found in the Middle East,where in every country,people of different faiths work together. Had the overwhelmingly Muslim population in that region been exclusivist and against those of other faiths,they would have barred those of other faiths from participating in the wealth that has been bestowed on them by the Almighty. In both India and Pakistan, numerous families depend on incomes earned in the Gulf, as do their finance ministries. Within the Middle east - and indeed the wider Muslim world – the position of Saudi Arabia is unique,because of the country being the location where the faith was revealed nearly fifteen centuries ago, and where Mecca and Medina are situated.


The position taken by the Saudis - and in particular by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques - is critical in moulding attitudes within the 1.5 billion adherents of the faith. Since the previous century,there has been a (completely erroneous) perception that Islam enjoined believers to constantly battle the rest of society,even in ways that were violent. Several so-called religious teachers emerged,each with his own interpretation, the combined effect of whom was to mislead many into joining groups that indulged in acts of violence,often on a significant scale,the apogee of which was reached on September 11,2001 in New York and Washington.The Allah Almighty is described by the Holy Qur'an, as being "Beneficient and Merciful". These two words,which were revealed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), need to be noted, for it is these two virtues,together with the associated blessing of Compassion,that characterize the core of the Muslim faith ,and which should therefore be operationalised by each believer . Unless she or he has internalized these heavenly qualities and uses them in relations with the world, she or he cannot be said to have understood Islam, a word that itself means "Peace". As the poetess Kamala Suraiyya from India pointed out, " Allah Almighty embodies Beneficience and Mercy, not vindictiveness and rage. The faith is described by the single word. Peace, not by the alternative word conflict". How different the vision of the poetess about true Islam is from that of those who join groups that bomb and maim,kill and kidnap,all in the name of a faith that is the opposite of their dark vision.


Less than a hundred and fifty years after the Koran was revealed, the Golden Age of Islam began,and lasted for more than five centuries. During this time,the "weapons" used to spread the faith were not the implements of coercion but science,culture and literature. Those of other faiths were treated with respect, with the Jewish people,for example,being safe in the Muslim world in a way that they were not in places that were Christian. To return to the views of Kamala Suraiyya, who declared her faith after seeing a light in the dark pre-dawn more than a decade back, " Islam will indeed be the Religion of the Future, but this will happen not by violence but by the success (of Muslims) in gifting the world treasures of art and culture,science and technology. By Muslims setting an example for humanity of tolerance,beneficience and compassion."


It was to reset the Muslims on the true path,the way that led to the Golden Age,and away from the road that led to the present-day suffering and mistrust,that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia convened a council of the wise at Mecca last year. This select group of 500 Islamic scholars decided to hold an Inter-Religious Dialogue in mid-2008 at Madrid in Spain,a country with enormous historical resonance for its past as one of the jewels of the Caliphate and thereafter,as the cockpit of the Crusades. Religious leaders and experts from faiths as diverse as Jainism,Sikhism,Hinduism and Buddhism were invited along with representatives of the three Semetic faiths ( Islam,Judaism and Christianity). The Madrid Declaration embodied the collective wisdom of this high-powered group,and presented a clear and concise road map for harmony between different faiths. A subsequent such dialogue was held in New York, followed by the third at Geneva on September 30-October 1, to which this columnist had the honour to be among the 127 invited by the Muslim World League (set up under the direction and patronage of King Abdullah).


The Geneva Conference,held in the Intercontinental Hotel, stressed the commonality of human values between those of different faiths,and sought to reduce if not eliminate the roots of misunderstanding between them. This columnist pointed out the fallacy in characterizing the Hindu faith ( commonly known as Sanatan Dharma) as the philosophical opposite of the Monotheistic faiths, when in fact the core mantra of the religion,the Gayatri Maha Mantra, was clear that there was a single Supreme Being to whom the universe owed its existence.Because of the immense,the indescribable,complexity of the Supreme Being, followers of sanatan Dharma resorted to the expedient of separating facets of the One Divine Force and giving each a separate name, such as Kali for victory in battle, Saraswati for learning and Lakshmi for Wealth. Although the ancient texts speak of the trinity of the Creator (Brahma),the Destroyer (Shiva) and the Preserver (Vishnu),the reality is that the qualities of all three merge into the Supreme Being described in the Gayatri Mantra. Unfortunately,many Hindus are unaware of the principle of "Advaita" (Non-dualism) expounded by Sankara three millenia ago,which which describes the Supreme Lord ("Ishvara") as "all-perfect, omnsicent, ruler of the world, creator and destroyer, eternal and unchangeable". A reasonable description of the Almighty. Of course,the description of the Supreme. Being in Sanatan Dharma differs in several respects from the Koranic revelations. The Advaita philosophy also nullifies the concept of irredeemable sin, while Heaven gets replaced by Salvation,which is merger into the Divine. Also, there is much greater flexibility of ritual as well as conceptualisation of the Divine in Hinduism than is the case in Islam, but the fact remains that Sanatan Dharma too accepts a single Supreme Being,the way other major faiths do.There are far greater commonalities between faiths than differences,as indeed is implicit in the huge number of prophets who came before Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).


What links those of different faiths together is faith in the Almighty, and even those who do not believe in the Divine nevertheless fall within its ambit and its powers. Once those of different faiths see the enormous commonality in their core beliefs, much of the tension between them can be expected to end.This lowering of discord was,indeed, the intention of King Abdullah in holding these meetings,which are designed to formulate a common ground for dialogue between faiths.A harmony of civilisations rather than a clash.Indeed,these days, with a world that modern communication has shrunk, there are so many cultural strands in each modern human being that harmony already exists within each individual.For example, the people of India each have within their cultural DNA three strands: the Vedic,the Mughal and the Western.All three fuse to form the composite tradition that is the strength of India.


The largely Saudi members of the Muslim World league,ably led by Secretary-General Turki, were true to Arab tradition of being excellent hosts. Although from different faiths,the MWL made each invitee feel at home. There was even vegetarian food for Hindus,Jains and Buddhists,as well as a kosher section for Observant Jews. Although some cynics claim that this move on the part of the Custodian of the two holy Mosques is a "Public Relations Exercise", the fact is that by getting together Christian,Hindu,Buddhist and Jewish religious leaders with Muslim clerics, King Abdullah demonstrated his commitment to a world where believers will live peacebly alongside each other,whatever be the manner in which they show their reverence for the Divine Sadly,the European media paid very little attention to the Conference.


Had there been some discord,or some expressions of hatred, certainly several front pages would have carried the news of that. There seems to be an unconscious effort to feed into stereotypes of intolerance and hatred of the Muslim world,by playing up the few who are that way and ignoring the many who are the exact opposite. Hopefully, King Abdullah's international initiative will soon grow into a wave too strong to be ignored.Should he succeed in this mission,the world may see a Second Golden Age of Islam, when Muslims will once again enrich the world by cultural treasures and scientific discoveries.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IAF DEPLOYS FIGHTERS NEAR PAK BORDER

SULTAN M HALI


The Indian Air Force has stationed its MiG 29 fighter aircraft at Adampur near the Pakistani border to strengthen its air defense capabilities and minimize reaction time, according to news reports. There are two squadrons of the frontline fighters already present at the Adampur Airbase and the third squadron is on its way from Gujarat. 'We consider ourselves to be a strategic air power establishment of the IAF in the western sector, ever ready for operations. We are fully geared up to operate in any given time frame like any other Air Force stations of the country,' said Air Commodore HS Arora, Air Officer Commanding (AOC) of the Adampur air base.

To extend the service life of MiG 29 by 25 to 40 years, the RAC MiG aircraft corporation signed a contract with the Indian Ministry of Defense to upgrade over 60 fighters in service with the IAF since the 1980s. Six MiG-29 fighters are being upgraded and flight-tested in Russia and the remaining aircraft will be overhauled in India with the aid of Russian experts, IAF pilots and technicians are already undergoing training in Russia. The AOC claimed that the upgraded MiG 29 fighters will have better radar systems and avionics to help fighters, a new weapon control system, modernized RD-33 engines, which would increase the aircraft hitting capability from long ranges, will also be extremely helpful on any future attack on Pakistan. The first batch of upgraded fighters will arrive in the second half of 2010 and Russia will complete the upgradation of 60 MiG-29 fighters by 2013.


The IAF this year inducted one Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, and two more will come on line in 2010 to strengthen IAF's capability to see into Pakistan. In addition, the IAF is acquiring three midair refuelers, six C-130 transport aircraft, 80 medium-lift helicopters, Spyder air defense systems, medium power radars and low-level transportable radar. Earlier Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne had announced that the Indian Air Force is planning to deploy by 2011 two squadrons of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI multi-role strike fighters in the state of Punjab which borders Pakistan. Reportedly, the IAF is also upgrading six airstrips in Arunachal Pradesh to rapidly deploy troops and jointly developing with Russia fifth generation fighter aircrafts.


Pakistan should take this development in its stride and actually welcome it. India is so obsessed with it "Cold Start Strategy" and its fixation with launching its forces at minimum notice to gain the element of surprise that it is actually making Pakistan's task easier. With the Su-30 and MiG-29s within striking range of its second line fighters like F-7Ps, PAF would be conserving its hi-tech F-16s and JF-17 Thunders and yet manage to wipe out the IAF's hi-tech force with minimum effort generation. India's AWACS will be matched with the SAAB ERIEYE AWACS, which will commence delivery from this year, while the Chinese AWCAS are expected in the near future. Other force multipliers like air to air refuelers are also in the pipeline. Possible modification of existing C-130s and A-310, induction of KC-135 are distinct possibilities and hopefully Pakistani defense planners are contemplating these options. Meanwhile Indian efforts to browbeat Pakistan have taken sinister turns. It is not ready to face Pakistan on the dialogue table and is making various excuses despite its solemn commitment at Sharm-ul-Shaikh. Parrot like, it is repeating its demands to do more to nab those behind the Mumbai attacks.


So much so that reportedly the Indian PM is trying to miss the Commonwealth heads of governments meeting in Trinidad coming November so that he does not have to meet his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani after reneging on his promise to restart the dialogue process. Meanwhile, President Obama is moving a universal test ban proposal but India is sabotaging its attempt by asking for more nuclear tests. It is a clear call for browbeating Pakistan because readers may recall that only last month, Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor had declared that "Pakistan is stockpiling nukes over and above its genuine needs". Right after the Mumbai attacks, which now appear to have been stage-managed by India itself, Indian Air Chief prepared to launch surgical strikes against alleged terrorist training camps in Pakistan. It was deterred only by the instant retaliation and state of preparedness by PAF. Indian fighter aircraft violated Pakistani airspace in a probe mission but got the rude shock of nearly being intercepted.


On September 11, India launched rocket attacks on its own side of the border and claimed that Pakistan had fired the projectiles. On October 6, 2009, BSF (Indian Border security Force) Director General Raman Srivastava during his first visit to Punjab Frontier said that BSF would give befitted reply to each Pakistan's anti Indian acts. Addressing the media persons at Indo-Pak JCP (Joint Check Post) in Attari border Srivastava talked about recent rocket attacks on Indian border villages and cautioned Pakistan saying that in future such attacks from Pakistan would be replied in a befitted manner adding that 29 more BSF battalions would be positioned at the Pak-India border. It is not understood that after fencing the border as well as the Line of Control, India alleges that Pakistan is continuing cross-border terrorism. After spending millions of dollars on the state-of-the-art electronic fence, border patrols and ferocious watchdogs, India is now planning to enhance its Border Security Force by 29 battalions.


It is clear that India is trying to indulge in saber rattling and brow beat Pakistan so that attention can be diverted from the core issue of Kashmir as well as Indian supremacy and hegemony can be established in the region. To fulfill this desire, India continues to maintain the second largest standing army in the world, the fourth largest air force and the fifth largest Navy. With her potent conventional forces coupled with nuclear capability and a huge indigenous industrial base India aspires to attain the regional global power status.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ON ISLAM AND JEHAD

DR FARIDA KHANAM


A perusal of the Qur'an followed by a study of latter-day Muslim history will reveal a blatant contradiction between the two—that of principle and practice. Where recent developments in some Muslim countries bespeaks the culture of war, the Qur'an, on the contrary, is imbued with the spirit of tolerance. Its culture is not that of war, but of mercy. At the very beginning of the Qur'an, the first invocation reads: "In the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Beneficent. Throughout the Qur'an, God's name is thus invoked no less than 113 times. Moreover, Qur'an states that the prophets were sent to the world as a mercy to the people (21:107).

The word 'jihad' has nowhere been used in the Qur'an to mean war in the sense of launching an offensive. It is used rather to mean 'struggle'. The action most consistently called for in the Qur'an is the exercise of patience. Yet today, the 'Muslim Mujahideen' under unfavorable conditions have equated "God is Great" with "War is Great." For them, the greatest reward is to be able to wield a Kalashnikov rifle. In the light of on-going conflict, we must ask why so great a contradiction has arisen between the principles of Islam and the practices of Muslims. At least one root cause may be traced to historical exigency. Since time immemorial, military commanders have been accorded positions of great eminence in the annals of history. It is a universal phenomenon that the hero is idolized even in peace time and becomes a model for the people. It is this placing of heroism in the militaristic context which has been the greatest underlying factor in the undue stress laid on war in the latter phase of Islam's history. With the automatic accord in Muslim society of a place of honor and importance to the heroes of the battlefield, annalists' subsequent compilations of Islamic history have tended to read like an uninterrupted series of wars and conquests.


These early chronicles having set the example, subsequent writings on Islamic history followed the same pattern of emphasis on militarism. The Prophet's biographies were called 'maghazi', that is 'The Battles Fought by the Prophet,' yet the Prophet of Islam in fact did battle only three times in his entire life, and the period of his involvement in these battles did not total more than one and half days. He fought, let it be said, in self-defense, when hemmed in by aggressors, and he simply had no option. But historians—flying in the face of fact—have converted his whole life into one of confrontation and war. We must keep it in mind that the Prophet Muhammad was born at a time when an atmosphere for militancy prevailed in the Arab society. There being, in their view, no other path to justice. But the Prophet always opted for avoidance of conflict.


Another well-known instance of the Prophet's dislike for hostilities is his cessation of the campaign of Hudaibiya with a treaty which made more concessions to the enemies than to his own people. In the case of the conquest of Mecca, he avoided a battle altogether by making a rapid entry into the city with ten thousand Muslims—a number large enough to awe his enemies into submission. In this way, on all occasions, the Prophet endeavored to achieve his objectives by peaceful rather than by war-like means. It is, therefore, unconscionable that in later biographical writing, all the events of his life have been arranged under the heading of 'battles' (ghazawat). How he managed to avert the cataclysms of war has not been dealt with in any of the works which purportedly depict his life.


Ibn Khaldun, the celebrated 14th century historian, was the first to lay down definite rules for the study and writing of history and sociology. He followed the revolutionary course of attempting to present history as a chronicle of events centering on the common man rather than on kings, their generals and the battles they fought. But since war heroes were already entrenched as the idols of society, the caravan of writers and historians continued to follow the same well-worn path as had been trodden prior to Ibn Khaldun. When people have come to regard war heroes as the greatest of men, it is but natural that it is the events of the battlefield which will be given the greatest prominence in works of history. All other events will either be relegated to the background or omitted altogether. In the later phase of Islam, there came into existence a powerful group of Sufis—many of them great men, who exerted their influence on a multitude of people, their goal being to put an end to this contradiction between the tenets of Islam and Muslim conduct: they at least wanted to strike a balance between the two. But the Sufis failed in this, the principal reason being that they expressed themselves in terms of dreams and the realization of inspiration. The militant interpretation of Islam, on the contrary, was ostensibly based on history and knowledge. Dreams and personal realizations could, therefore, never adequately counter what had come to be regarded as hard facts.


Objective reasoning cannot be bested by subjective postulations, and so the Sufis failed to establish the equilibrium between precept and practice which they so ardently desired. In the past when the sword was the only weapon of war, militancy did not lead to the mass-scale loss of life and property as modern warfare brings in its wake. In former times, fighting was confined to the battlefield; the only sufferers were those engaged in the battle. But today, the spear and sword have been replaced by megabombs and devastating long-range missiles, so that killing and destruction take place on a horrendous scale.Demands for a reform in Islam are on the increase, as the 'old' version of Islam cannot apparently keep pace with the modern world.


The so-called Muslim Mujahideen have been exhorting their co-religionists to do battle all over the world. But the Qur'an says: '...and God calls to the home of peace' (10:25). It is up to right-thinking people everywhere to disregard the Mujahideen call, and to start seeing and accepting Islam as it is truly represented by the Holy Qur'an.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

A SORRY SAGA OF SINDH!

HASHIM ABRO


The world is a very bad place to live, not because of bad people but because of good people remain silent. These golden words of Albert Einstein prompt me to write a few lines about 'Sindh rural' and a plethora of chronic problems being faced by the people therein. Off & on, my work brings me to the rural parts of Sindh where I find people virtually dying of starvation and farmers committing suicides.


A number of recent reports, developed by different National and International NGOs, show that the Sindh rural has the highest percentage of anemic pregnant women in the country, it has an alarming percentage of malnourished children under the age of five, its agriculture has become stagnant and beyond reform, man-made-water crisis, created by corrupt irrigation officials and Irrigation engineers, have rendered hundreds of hectares of fertile land barren and infertile, livestock development is no where, there is no qualified doctor among hundreds of villages, drug supply is on a sharp rise.


Corrupt practices have put Sindh in dire straits and many of its institutions like the police, the administration and educational institutions are labeled as weak. Political corruption is a very gray area, regrettably, on a sharp rise in Sindh and it affects the common man. The Sindh Government needs to gear itself against rampant corruption and fraud. It is, indeed, the elimination of corruption and fraud which leads to economic independence and stability and entrepreneurship is the key to success. Indeed, worst is the plight of Sindh rural now. Regrettably, there is a silence among our policy-makers and politicians. What a mockery! One can see big boards of the "Sindh Rural Support Program" (SRSP) and other NGOs but these offer neither Support nor any Program to develop rural Sindh. In this gloomy scenario in the rural Sindh, the elected government is requested to step up investment to improve quality of education, health care, and livestock development so as to stop the degradation of human lives in rural Sindh and make life livable in the remote and neglected rural areas of Sindh. Delay in such initiatives means more chaos, more crime and more killings it means making there lives more miserable and hellish. A recent upsurge in tribal clashes in five districts of Sindh including Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Khairpur Mirs and Ghotki, indeed, economically rich districts of the province, have left hundreds of thousands of innocent people of all age groups, especially, innocent children killed and wounded.


Of course, deaths outnumber the wounded ones. Various reports published in different leading Sindhi dailies and broadcast by tv channels suggest that more than ten thousand people are killed so far, their standing crops worth millions of rupees and other movable and immovable properties are damaged and destroyed. Many villages are turned into virtual " No Go Areas" where people of one caste, one clan can not think of coming and going, if anyone dared, intentionally and unintentionally, then, has to visit a gruesome death. I could see more than 100 villages in all these five districts where the villagers, out of fear, out fear of counter attack of their enemy tribe, could not even offer their Eid-Ul- Fitar prayers. It is more than nine years, all schools are shut, shops are shattered, hotels are closed, traditional "Ottaqs" (sitting places) are deserted, buffaloes are dying of fodder, fertile and irrigated lands have become unfertile and unirrigated. "If we base it on what we have seen this year, clashes have been increased in intensity and frequency in all these five districts.


The present PPP-led coalition government has, indeed, taken several bold steps to wage war against terrorism and uproot all its forms and manifestations. However, the government is requested to take concrete steps to eliminate the 'No Go Areas' in said districts, deweaponize and disarm the villages, hook the blood suckers " tribal chieftains" and award exemplary punishment to those police personnel who aid and abet such anti- human elements. If this menace, the tribal killings, are left unchecked, will do great damage to humanity, their rural economy and turn this land of "peace and resources" into another " Sudan" and that, of course, in not in the interest of vibrant and democratic Pakistan as envisioned the Father of the Nation, the Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


The pres