media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month october 10, edition 000320, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper's Editorial at one place.
- MEANWHILE IN KABUL
- LAGGING WAY BEHIND
- A CULTURE OF DECLINE - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
- SURRENDER IS THE ONLY WAY TO LOVE - SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
- INEVITABLE US MILITARY CATASTROPHE IN KABUL - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
- THE LONG WAR IN PAKISTAN MALLADI RAMA RAO
- BUT THE US STRATEGY IS FOUND WANTING - SAMUEL BAID
- GET THE ANTI- MAOIST CAMPAIGN RIGHT
- ATTACKED AGAIN
- TO KENISM IN SCHOOL REFORM - BY ARUN KAPOOR
- CAPITAL TALK - POORNIMA JOSHI
- ARMS AND THE BOGEY MAN
- GO INTO THE ART OF THE MATTER -
- WELCOME SHIFT FROM IDENTITY POLITICS
- ACCEPT THAT CASTE CAN'T BE IGNORED -
- I LOVE NEW YORK -
- NOBEL WINS AN OBAMA
- LISTEN TO YOUR ART - KAUSHIK BASU
- DESTINATION WELL-KNOWN - PRATIK KANJILAL
- BECAUSE HE CAN?
- IGNORING THE LINES
- A MADRASA IN MIND - JAVED ANAND
- WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? - HARSH V. PANT
- SANCTIONED BY STATUE - ARVIND P. DATAR
- WHOSE CITY IS THIS? - KC SIVARAMAKRISHNAN
- 'IF THE NAXALITES ACCUSE ELECTED GOVERNMENTS OF CAPITALISM, LAND GRABBING, DISPLACING TRIBAL PEOPLE... WHAT PREVENTS THEM FROM WINNING POWER THROUGH ELECTIONS AND REVERSING CURRENT POLICIES'
- A LIBRARY TO LAST FOREVER - SERGEY BRIN
- INFY AND AFTER
- 'MISUNDERESTIMATING' THE PRIZE
- WHY DON'T WE GET IT ABOUT DEVELOPMENT - MADAN SABNAVIS
- STILL CEMENTED TOGETHER - MG ARUN
- A FULL PRIZE FOR POLICIES HALF-COOKED - C RAJA MOHAN
- KEEP OUT THE ARMED FORCES
- GREECE TURNS LEFT
- COPING WITH RISING CHINA - K. SUBRAHMANYAM
- THE NOBEL AND THE AUDACITY OF HOPE-GIVING - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
- CLIMATE TALKS FAIL TO MAKE BREAKTHROUGH
- KABUL BLAST
- MAOISTS IN MAHARASHTRA
- SECONDARY EDUCATION
- COUNTERFEIT CURRENCY
- INDIA HAS NO WAY BUT TO ACT TOUGH - BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
- A QUESTION OF LEGACY - BY SIMRITA SARAO DHIR
- MENTAL HEALTH CARE - BY N. N. WIG AND R. SRINIVASA MURTHY
- NO PEACE IN SWAT VALLEY - BY ANNA HUSARSKA
- WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC FATIGUE - BY STEVE CONNOR
- THE NOBEL INDIAN
- BAMBOO CONGRESS
- DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT AND EMOTIONAL INTEGRATION - DR DEVDAS KAKATI
- VALUE EDUCATION: NEED OF THE HOUR - DR GAGAN CH BARUAH
- IT'S SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
- IMPORTING RICE: NEEDED, RATIONAL PRODUCTION INCENTIVES
- RISING RUPEE POSES TOUGH POLICY CHOICES
- IT IS FAITH THAT ULTIMATELY MATTERS
- VITHAL C NADKARNI,
- A PRIZE FOR GIVING HOPE TO THE WORLD - BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
- UK PARTY CONFERENCES MISS BIGGER QUESTIONS - BY BY FARRUKH DHONDY
- INVEST IN EDUCATION, BUILD A STRONG FUTURE - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
- THE NAXALS IN OUR MIDST - BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
- FIRST WIVES' CLUB - BY KISHWAR DESAI
- HEALTHCARE: US NEEDS CHOICES - BY DAVID BROOKS
- 'STALIN NEVER KILLED ANYONE'
- CURIOUS REFUTAL
- VISA REGIME
- LAME DUCK CRIPPLED
- AMERICA IS A PUSHOVER - RAJINDER PURI
- ANYTHING WHATEVER
- NETAJI VERSUS PANDITJI - RAMACHANDRA GUHA
- FESTIVALS AND FILTH - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
- A LAUREL TO THE LUNCHBOX - BY SNEHLATHA BALIGA
- THE PEACE PRIZE
- WRONG ADVICE
- TOXIC HAMBURGERS
- ANY BONDS TODAY?
- THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER - BY GAIL COLLINS
- NO MORE SUFFERING IN SILENCE - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
- IGNITING THE GROWTH OF JOBS - BY BOB HERBERT
- WANTED: MAMMOLOGISTS - BY ANN V. BELL, MARK PEARLMAN AND RAYMOND DE VRIES
- PESHAWAR BLEEDS
- CONFIDENCE OR FEAR?
- US-PAKISTAN: A TORTURED RELATIONSHIP - DR ADIL NAJAM
- GRATUITOUS ADVICE, OPPORTUNISTIC POLITICS - GIBRAN PESHIMAM
- DEBATING KERRY-LUGAR - BASIT RIAZ SHEIKH
- PAKISTAN'S 'OTHER-PEOPLE'S-MONEY' PROBLEM - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
- KERRY-LUGAR RAUCOUS - BABAR SATTAR
- GO DYNCORP GO! - ANJUM NIAZ
- GOVT SHOULD BE ON EXPLANATORY, NOT ACCUSATORY PATH
- PUNJAB WELCOMES ALTAF WITH OPEN ARMS
- UAE'S GIFT OF HOSPITAL
- CHINA IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR - NOSHEEN SAEED
- RESURRECTING FROM RUINS - FARUK ASHRAFEEN
- WAS JINNAH SECULAR? - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
- NAXALS: THE POOREST PEOPLE OF INDIA - MAMOONA ALI KAZMI
- BLOOD BROTHERS NO MORE? - ARIEL COHEN
- MARITIME BOUNDARY
- CHANGES TO CONSTITUTION
- CLOSE THE OFFICE, SHUT THE MALL ! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
- NOW FOR THE TOUGH TASK ON THE ECONOMY
- A DIGITAL REVOLUTION
- A TALE OF TWO BEACHES
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- A BILL OF RIGHTS WOULD REWRITE THE RULES
- RECYCLING THAT STICKS TO THE RIBS
- NOBEL PEACE PRIZE: A CALL TO ACTION
- IN PRAISE OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
- POLITICS: THE CASE LABOUR MUST MAKE
THE JAPAN TIMES
- PYONGYANG SHOULD RETURN TO TALKS
- A VICTORY FOR BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES
- EU MAKING THE WORLD SAFER - BY JAVIER SOLANA
THE KOREA HERALD
- JOINT HISTORY TEXTBOOK
- INCENTIVES FOR SERVING
- SKEWED REWARDS FOR BANKERS, CEOS - JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ
- MACROECONOMISTS MUST CONNECT WITH HISTORY - J. BRADFORD DELONG
THE JAKARTA POST
- WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, FAUZI?
- A TOO PRAGMATIC, ELITE COALITION: FOR WHOM? - TATA MUSTASYA
- INDONESIA'S FIRST-100-DAY SYNDROME (PART 2 OF 2) - SATISH MISHRA
- DON'T THROW IN THE TOWEL, YET
MEANWHILE IN KABUL
THE NOBEL LAUREATE'S UNFINISHED AGENDA
It is ironical President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the day after a suicide bomber attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul and on the day another bomber killed over 40 people in downtown Peshawar. Both attacks have been blamed on factions of the Taliban, the intricate mix of militia that lives and kills on both sides of the Durand Line. The bombing in Kabul was reminiscent of a similar assault on the Indian Embassy in July 2008, which killed two senior diplomats. The latest attacks make a mockery of growing opinion in sections of the American establishment including the upper echelons of Mr Obama's Administration that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are somehow distinct, that some sort of workable peace is possible with the Taliban and that the Taliban leadership is motivated by local grievances and not necessarily the Osama bin Laden type of global jihad. Indeed, in contradicting his own AfPak strategy unveiled earlier this year, it saw Afghanistan and Pakistan as a composite problem and in not granting his key General the additional troops that the military commander in Afghanistan has requested Mr Obama has indicated vacillation that is not usually the hallmark of quality leadership. There is an enormous difference between striving for peace and not taking hard decisions that may be unpopular in the short run. Mr Obama has not entirely understood this distinction. He has allowed a delay in making up his mind and the multiplicity of opinions and advisers available to him to create the impression that the West's spirit is weakening. This has boosted the morale of the Taliban and their allies and propelled them towards increasingly provocative responses. The bombing in Kabul has to be seen in this context.
What does India take away from this crazy week, when one of its most important diplomatic missions has been targeted by Islamist radicals and when the American President has received a 'man of peace' accolade that will only increase the pressure on him to live up to his new bauble and deescalate his military engagement in Afghanistan? It has to prepare for a long war, one in which its strategic goals may not quite match those of the Americans. For one, New Delhi recognises the truth that Washington, DC, is unwilling to address that the key to Kabul's security is in Islamabad. Ultimately, there is no getting away from the fact that it has to become expensive for the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Pakistani Army to continue to target Indian facilities and personnel in Afghanistan, whether directly or, as is more likely, through proxies in the Taliban. How does India impose costs on Pakistan? The building of covert capabilities within that country, the encouragement of Baloch nationalism and the active promotion of a Pashtun-Punjabi schism have to be central to India's Pakistan policy.
The real message is for the Nobel Peace laureate for 2009. No doubt, he is guided and perhaps even confused by the variety of information and inputs at his disposal. However, he would do well to dispel one perception: That he believes the Taliban are in any way amenable to reason and is, in its present form, part of the solution. The 17 martyrs of the October 8 Kabul bombing deserve that categorical homage from the White House. Anything less would amount to betrayal.
LAGGING WAY BEHIND
INDIAN VARSITIES MUST BOOST THEIR RESEARCH FACILITIES
It is disappointing that not a single Indian university has figured in the QS/Times Higher Education rankings of the world's top hundred universities. The rankings are based on the assessment of the universities' research facilities, teaching quality, and ability to recruit staff and students. The list this year is yet again dominated by varsities from the US and the UK with the American Harvard University retaining its top spot. Nonetheless, there has been a noteworthy rise in the number of Asian universities from 14 last year to 16 this year making it to the list. So much so that many top British universities are worried that if their funding is not sufficiently increased, they might be overtaken in the rankings by their Asian competitors. Japan's University of Tokyo is the highest ranked Asian varsity this year, securing for itself the 22nd spot. So why is it that not a single Indian university has been deemed worthy of being branded as one of the top hundred in the world? It is not that there aren't any good universities in India. Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Delhi are two varsities that come to mind that have over the years produced quality students and teachers alike. Still they are never mentioned in the same breath as Princeton or Oxford.
The main reason for this is the way our universities are set up. Any university worth its salt will have quality teaching staff. Therefore one cannot discriminate among varsities on this count. And all good universities will invariably have successful alumni. But where Indian universities really lose out is in the research department. Research facilities even in our topmost universities pale in comparison to the research infrastructure available in, lets say, the Ivy League colleges in the US. Consequently, the kind of funding that is available for research here is meagre to say the least. It is precisely because of this reason that our students who are interested in research look for greener pastures abroad. In that sense, the lacklustre research facilities available here is one of the main driving forces behind brain drain. This is especially true with respect to the sciences, particularly in modern fields such as bio-technology, bio-informatics, etc. Whichever way one looks at it, the mark of a top-notch university is its research facility. And it is because Indian universities lag way behind on this score that they aren't considered one of the best in the world. We need to re-orient of universities and transform them from institutes that churn out graduates by the thousands every year to centres of academic excellence with a strong research core. Since the ancient times India has been at the forefront of the knowledge revolution. Keeping with that tradition our present-day universities should aim to be the best and boost their research infrastructure.
A CULTURE OF DECLINE
Talking about sports, this writer is often reminded of Clint Eastwood's famous words, "You win some, you lose some." Though uttered in a very different context, they perhaps reflect the basic reality underlying all competitive ventures. It is no different in the case of cricket which, however primeval the emotions it unleashes, is not war by other means even when it is played between India and Pakistan. Hence, there is a strong case for not getting too worked up about India's rather ignominious ouster from the Champions' Cup trophy.
Cricket, or for that matter any other game, however, is played in a cultural and societal context which defines the public's attitude toward it. It is this which warrants three questions being asked. What is the nature of the Indian public's attitude toward cricket? What does it reflect about the society at large? What impact does it have on cricket in India?
People often talk proudly of India's 'passionate interest' in cricket, how life virtually comes to a standstill in many parts when an important Test match or a One-Day International is played, particularly between India and Pakistan. The dividing line between 'passion' and 'hysteria' is, however, thin and easily crossed. Watching mobs getting worked up to a frenzy when the third umpire gives an unpopular run-out in an India-Pakistan match, one is reminded of movies showing hysterical spectators baying for the death of a fallen gladiator in Rome's Coliseum. Of course, what is at stake in one case is the dismissal of a batsman in one single innings and the life of a human being in another. But the intensity with which both are demanded and the third umpire condemned is almost identical, if not fully so. Quite possibly, those baying for the batsman's wicket or the third umpire's sacking, would have done so as, or even more, vehemently, for the lives of the two if these were at stake.
Many would no doubt dismiss the comparison as unwarranted and cite the vast difference in the circumstances in which cricket is played in modern societies and gladiatorial combats were held in Rome and elsewhere in the Roman empire. One would have agreed with them had cases of frenzied mob violence not been alarmingly on the rise in India and had anger/hatred not been the dominant presence the tumultuous emotional outbursts that occur when a batsman is given or not given out in a marginal decision. The fact is that frenzy is a state of mind to which one is genetically inclined, environmentally conditioned and circumstantially driven, and which, once aroused, can lead to serious and unpredictable consequences.
Of course, sports lead to frenzy, and even violence, in other countries as well. British soccer fans are notorious and disliked all over Europe for their rowdiness. Nor are riots caused by explosions of fury unknown in other countries, including those labelled developed. That, however, does not condone similar burst of violence here. Besides, such eruptions are exceptions rather than the rule in these; in India, they are on the rise. In fact, as reflected in phenomena like road rage there has been here a sharp increase in the incidence of spontaneous violence which indicates the presence of pent up anger waiting for an opportunity to explode.
The accumulation of such anger is going to be increasingly widespread because of two reasons. The first is the displacement, dispossession, exploitation and pauperisation of vast numbers that is implicit in the pattern of economic growth the country has chosen and the thoroughly corrupt character of its bureaucracy and political class. The second is the galloping spread of the consumer culture, the cutting edge of market capitalism, on the wings of advertising which, along with entertainment, has emerged as a high profile industry. The purpose of advertising is to sell commodities. This is done not only by projecting these as desirable and valuable in themselves, but their possession as a measure of one's worth. One is known not for one's virtues but for one's possessions. Those who cannot possess items considered desirable suffer from a sense of deprivation, worthlessness, and lack of social status if they do not enjoy it by their eminence in a particular field.
If this leads to resentment and social tension, the association of status with possession and the latter with worth, leads to a desperate quest for the resources to sustain compulsive consumption. Money, and not humankind, becomes the measure of all things and if one cannot access it through legitimate means, one does through crime, often violent. Thus a rising crime graph is set to compound a situation of low-intensity anarchy created by eruptions along the country's many faultlines ethnic, regional, communal, caste and linguistic over the next decade or so.
The way to stop a rapid slide toward such a situation would lie in a radical change in the developmental path, making for a more inclusive and equitable pattern of growth, and a rolling back of the consumer culture. This, however, is unlikely to happen given the market-oriented approach that now dominates India's developmental discourse. And this will remain the case as long as fundamental questions pertaining to the kind of society one wants in India are not seriously debated in the public domain. Unfortunately, the latter has become moribund and media, which is expected to contribute significantly to the process, has by and large become a tool of both advertising and entertainment industries.
This is because, as Neil Postman writes in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, "Entertainment is the supraideology of all discourse on television." The music, advertisements with attractive visuals, the soap operas and films shown by the various channels, all add up to a communicative ambience which trivialises not only discourse but tragedy. Not surprisingly, many watched television coverage of a devastatingly tragic event like 26/11 as one would watch a movie.
Here is a culture that threatens to cretinise the country and destroy the spirit of sports by turning it into an entertainment enterprise. It prioritises success and money over the sense of honour and undermines achievement by distracting from the single-minded and prolonged application that alone can sustain excellence. Tragically, not many are even aware of this.
SURRENDER IS THE ONLY WAY TO LOVE
SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR
How can we experience infinity? It is possible only through love. Love is the only thing you cannot think about. If you think about it, it ceases to be love. When thinking stops, love begins. Lovers talk silly things, they say the same things over and over again a thousand times. They are not thinking. Their reasoning mind is transcended.
With whomsoever we fall in love, we are really falling in love with ourselves. The truth is that we do not realise it because we are caught up in the name and form, love is formless. Names and forms can kindle love in you, but then it takes you beyond the name and form to the true nature, which is pure energy.
Surrender and love are synonymous. Whomsoever you love, you surrender to them. It's not a doing but a state of being when the mind is free of doubts and troubles. The word 'surrender' is frightening because we have heard it in one context - when an army loses, it surrenders; a defeat is understood to be surrender. It is not submission. Only the brave, the knowledgeable and the wise can surrender.
Surrender is realising that everything belongs to the divine. 'I' am not in control - that is surrender. This little mind realises that it is not in control; the entire universe runs on its own and it does not matter whether you exist on this planet or not, things will happen. In the same way, you realise, that your life is happening and that you are happening in this ocean of consciousness. Your heart beats by itself, your breath moves by itself, sleep comes, you feel good and bad. With this realisation comes a deep relaxation, a feeling of trust and being at home, that is surrender.
Only through love can one experience infinity without the hindrance of lust and attachment. Love is coming together closer, merging together and dissolving. But the only way we have known the emotion through our lifetime is through sex.
The more one fights lust, the less he is able to win over it. If you are angry, or have fought with somebody, they occupy your mind more than someone you appreciate, honour or respect. Lust means all desires. When a desire arises, you worship it, recognise it and offer that desire to the divine. Desire that arises in you is Shakti (energy). Knowledge or wisdom is again the energy. Divine knowledge, the power to act, to perform, is the energy.
When you have the desire (Iccha) and the knowledge (Gyaan) but you cannot act (Kriya), it means there is no Kriya Shakti. When you recognise these desires that arise in you and honor them, you will be relieved of them in the most natural manner.
INEVITABLE US MILITARY CATASTROPHE IN KABUL
SATURDAY SPECIAL THIS WEEK IS PROMPTED BY SEVERAL LANDMARK DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES' AFPAK EXPERIENCE WHICH HOLDS OUT PORTENDS FOR THE ENTIRE SOUTH ASIAN REGION'S SECURITY. WE ASKED OUR INSIGHTFUL AND EXPERIENCED COLUMNISTS, MALLADI RAMA RAO (MAIN ARTICLE) AND SAMUEL BAID (OTHER VOICE) TO LEND THEIR PERCEPTIONS WHICH ADD UP TO A PRETTY GRIM PICTURE, NOT JUST FOR THE ALLIES, BUT FOR THE VICTIMS OF TERRORISM TOO
SWARN KUMAR ANAND
The US AfPak policy, the term which since its inception has been resented by many Pakistanis who see Pakistan as in a different league than the devastated Afghanistan, has struck a roadblock. Now when the Western allies of NATO want a safe exit from Afghanistan due to rising cost of war and more importantly inevitable loss of face, the US and the UK are looking for a successful and honourable retreat.
However, the task seems to be very extraordinary. In the complex geopolitics of the region, and with anti-US forces like China and Russia looking for a stake, the consequences of withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan can't be smooth. Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman has urged that disengaging from Afghanistan could destabilise Pakistan and even "guarantee" a future attack on the US from the region a sentiment that is shared by other regional experts, such as AfPak Channel editor Peter Bergen, who has said, "The United States can neither precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan nor help foster the emergence of a stable Afghan state by doing it on the cheap; the consequences would be the return of the Taliban and al-Qaeda."
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British foreign secretary's special representative for Afghanistan and a former British ambassador to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, emphasised the crucial role of the US and said: "Walking away would destroy everything that has been achieved... The pullout option is not one that any government could responsibly follow."
The AfPak policy, which US needed to salvage some prestige it lost during war against Iraq, lays down two essential priorities to secure Afghanistan's south and east against the al-Qaeda, and to strengthen the Afghan forces so that this enable the US wind down its own combat operations. However, the biggest US problem has been lack of understanding of the issues in war-torn region, and unrealistic goals and a no clear 'exit' strategy. The US administration has meandered from eliminating al-Qaeda, to remaking the West Asia, to liberating the Afghans and making Kabul the thriving capital of a democratic state, waging a global war on terror, to surrounding Iran, to taking over Central Asia, to preventing Russia and China from resurrecting its empire in Central Asia, to preventing attacks on the homeland.
But the fact that the AfPak policy stresses on tackling al-Qaeda and not the Taliban only creates the impression that the policy is tactical and not strategic as it does not seem to define how the Taliban, who hold sway over 80 per cent of Afghan territory, will be handled. If there had to be an AfPak policy, it should have been a consistent and an unambiguous al-Qaeda-Taliban policy. The American predicament has been that it is unable or unwilling to recognise of the source of the problem.
Taliban, the making of Pakistan, is a gift to Afghanistan. It gained prominence from the destructions of the Bamian Budhas, religious obscurantism of the worst kind and the spread of the narcotics and endless misery on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The US policy of keeping India away from the Afghan affairs also proved futile for the US. India contributed billions of dollars as humanitarian aid focused on infrastructure building. This helped India gain some favour among the Afghans. Even as ABC opinion poll said 74 per cent of Afghans see India as a friendly country and 86 per cent consider Pakistan as playing a negative role in their country, yet, the US, in a reflection of its incongruent policies, continues to be solicitous about appeasing Pakistan's sensitivities.
There was a time when US diplomats were interceding on Pakistan's behalf to reduce India's role in Afghanistan building. Despite US engagement in Afghanistan, Taliban have permanent presence in 80 per cent of Afghanistan, up from 54 per cent last year, according to the International Council on Security and Development (ICSD). These figures may be open to interpretations but the fact, however, is that the manner and the pace of takeover only suggest that unless the Taliban are stopped or defeated, they will eventually take up the rein of the entire country. Seen in that strategy, recently the Taliban said they pose no threat to the west. The statement apparently intended to influence the debate over the future of the war in Afghanistan. But the US policy to differentiate between al-Qaeda and Taliban could only aggravate the case.
In search of quick policy options, the US considered opening negotiations with a section of the Taliban, described for the sake of expediency, as good Taliban. But, this new strategy defeats US purpose, as it is like negotiating with weaker adversaries in the event of having failed to military contain it. Pakistan, by being truculent and duplicitous, with its main benefactor, plans to achieve its strategic ambitions. But if that happens, India would be the biggest geo-strategic loser in the region.
NATO forces may be able the defeat the Taliban in the individual battles, but they are not able to hold territory, much less clear, build and develop the Afghanistan. There are several problems in tackling the evolving situations in the country.
Firstly, the troop-insurgents ratio is adverse and there is very little likelihood that this can improve in the near future. Secondly, havens in Pakistan extend not only to the al-Qaeda, but to the various Taliban councils from Quetta to Swat. The bigger difficulty has been Pakistani ambivalence in its dealings with the Taliban. As the creator of the force, it is difficult for the Pakistan establishment to see it destroyed without achieving its primary objectives in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has consistently undermined US efforts in Afghanistan. The unintended consequence has been the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan and the actual ceding of territory and sovereignty to the radical Islamists west of Indus. The Swat peace deal was dubiously easy and it is difficult to accept that the provincial Awami National Party (ANP) Government in Peshwar would go ahead with such a significant without approval from Islambad.
The vote-rigging in Afghanistan presidential election has now forced the US to rethink its strategies. However, the Obama administration kept itself aloof from the whole affairs fearing that interference might backfire. But on the other hand the White House faced allegation of backing a man whose regime is seen widely as ineffective and corrupt.
The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer
THE LONG WAR IN PAKISTAN
THE END-GAME IS NEARING FOR PAKISTAN AS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS MORE OR LESS DECIDED TO EXTEND DRONE OPERATIONS IN PUNJAB, THE LAST FRONTIER OF THE EMPIRE OF LIES AND TERROR
MALLADI RAMA RAO
Whatever the dilemma on the Afghan front, the United States has every reason to sport a smile on the Pakistan theatre. American drones have eliminated Tahir Yuldashev, a dreaded militant commander with close links to the al-Qaeda. Tahir is no ordinary catch. A founder of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), he had closed ranks with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. His IMU fighters, numbering around 4,000, have given an edge to the Pakistani Taliban in the North and South Waziristan for the past two years. Within Afghanistan too, the IMU is active in Taliban-dominated northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan.
With the killing of Tahir on September 28, (the death was confirmed seven days later on October 4), the US has notched up a fantastic success rate. There were 78 air strikes in the past 32 months. As many as 35 'wanted' and 'most wanted' al-Qaeda, Taliban leaders and commanders were killed. Five prize catches came between August and September. First to go was Baitullah Mehsud, who fell on August 5 to the drones while getting a massage on the roof of his father-in-law's house.
Others eliminated were Ilyas Kashmiri, the operations commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami and the operations chief of Brigade 313; Najmuddin Jalolov, the leader of the Islamic Jihad Group, a breakaway faction of IMU, and, Mustafa-al-Jaziri, a senior commander of the al-Qaeda who sits on the dreaded organisation's military Shura.
The CIA got Baitullah Mehsud after a tip-off came from the Pakistani Army. Like many other militant leaders in Pakistan, he was a creation of the ISI. But he had fallen foul of his handlers and, therefore, had to pay the price.
On the other hand, the Uzbek terrorist warlord was willing to buy peace with the Americans if only he could get a freehand in his native Uzbekistan. He did not get that trade off. Moreover, his supreme confidence did him in. As his bodyguard lamented later, the IUM supremo was staying at a house which was bombed by the pilotless planes in August. Why he had forgotten the elementary precaution of not staying at a place known as a target for the Americans in their search for terrorists in the Pakistani tribal belt? Bombs dropped from the drone tore his arm and a leg. Doctors at a hospital in the Zhob district of Baluchistan, where he was rushed from his hideout in South Waziristan, could not save his life.
The death of Tahir Yuldashev is certainly good news for President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. He can afford to breathe a little more comfortably because Tahir is the second IUM top brass to be killed.
Earlier, a co-founder of IUM, Jumaboi Ahmadzhanovitch Khojaev, had been killed by US air strikes. A former Soviet paratrooper who had converted to Wahhabism while on duty in Afghanistan, Khojaev saw 'duty' in Chechnya like Yuldashev. The goal for both was establishment of Islamic Caliphate comprising Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Muslim majority China's Xinjiang province.
From an Indian perspective, the strong blow to IMU is significant. Firstly, the fall of Yuldashev has confirmed that the IMU had been working in Pakistan's tribal areas. For some time it had been known that it had been running training camps in North Waziristan. Secondly, the talk about Talibanisation is not an empty threat because when it comes to fundamentalism, the IMU mullahs and warriors are far more dangerous than the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its clones who are somehow moderated by their military handlers in Rawalpindi. The next forward post of Talibanised Pakistan is South Punjab. It's for this very reason that the US is now mounting pressure on the Pakistanis for an operation in South Punjab as well.
As a fallout of Tahir Yuldashev's death, the Pakistani Army and ISI may find it extremely difficult to explain away the IUM phenomenon in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. The IUM fighters have been targeting NATO supply lines through Pakistan to Afghanistan and from Tajikistan to Northern Afghanistan with devastating affect. Besides IUM, its break away group Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is also active in Waziristan region. Whether IUM and IJU have been propped as terror BPOs is a moot question. Such a possibility cannot be ruled out because the presence Chechnya returned Jihadis helps Pakistan to project the fight against terrorism as a borderless war, which indeed it is.
Both IMU and IJU have links with the al-Qaeda. IMU is a member of the International Islamic Front (IIF) since 1998. The Islamic Jihad Union, which also calls itself Islamic Jihad Group (IJG) for no apparent reason, is closely aligned with the one-eyed mullah Mohammad Omar and Maulana Samiul Haq, who heads a splinter group of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan. The links forged by Pakistani Taliban with other militant groups inside and outside Pakistan are a matter of public knowledge.
It will be interesting to study the influence of leaders of the IMU on the so-called Waziristan accords and the peace jirga of the Pakistani Army. A report inthe Long War Journal discloses that Tahir Yuldashev was present at the signing of the Waziristan Accord on September 5. Islamabad has always claimed the peace jirga is an outcome of the tribal belt's craving for peace. The government is only a facilitator, not sponsor of the process. At least that's what the military spokesman never fails to tell the media.
But details now emerging show that the Waziristan Accord had the direct and indirect involvement of the al-Qaeda. In a sense they could have manipulated the accords as a ploy to get some breathing space. The credibility of these accords has always been at a discount. The area has no regular police system to keep a watch. The Army is an occasional guest and that too most reluctantly. So much so, the agreements are not worth the paper these are written on and they offer no more than a talking point.
Viewed against this backdrop, reports that Pakistani authorities had smuggled many hardcore al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters to the Gulf countries after the fall of Kabul to the United States-led allied forces in 2002 become significant. And lending credence to the theory that there is consistency in the complicity of Pakistan with terrorist groups as a matter of State policy.
Iranian Balochistan-based human traffickers were used for ferrying these war hardened militants, according to a report in The Nation, a Lahore daily. The report based on background interviews and discussions with senior security officials, diplomats and Taliban in FATA said, "Most of the fugitives were Arabs and Afghans. They used Jiwani, a Pakistani fishing town on Pakistan-Iran border to send the 'human cargo' by sea route, which appeared as the most feasible option to evade the US-led terror on war in Afghanistan".
The writer is editor of the Asian Tribune and a frequent contributor to Saturday Special
BUT THE US STRATEGY IS FOUND WANTING
IT'S ONE THING TO IDENTIFY A PROBLEM AND ANOTHER TO DO SOMETHING WITH IT. THE US, AS APPARENT FROM GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL'S REPORT, IS STILL GROPING IN THE DARKNESS CREATED BY THE ISI
General Stanley A McChrystal's, the US commander in Afghanistan, has come out with a frank assessment of the military situation which he prepared for the White House. It is candid on the failures of the International Security Force (ISAF) and of the Hamid Karzai government. These have been alienating the Afghan people and conversely strengthening the hold of insurgents. In his suggestions he has repeatedly talked of the need to change the present strategy to make it holistic and more people-oriented.
Gen McChrystal writes that the Afghan population is one of the principal actors in the present conflict. The population is a source of leverage and, above all, it is the objective. But corruption and abuse of power by various government officials and errors of the ISAF have alienated large segments of the population. They do not trust their government to provide their essential needs security, justice and basic services. Then there is lack of economic and educational opportunities. All this helps insurgency.
For many years, the US and Allied intelligence have focussed on insurgent groups but have not sufficiently studied the needs of the Afghan people, identity problems and other grievances which vary from provinces to provinces and valley to valley.
In his assessment, the General avoids mention of 'commitment failures' of the US administration in Afghanistan and their squandering of the goodwill of the Afghan people. The Americans and their allies had earned the love and respect of the people when US-led forces liberated them from the brute, backwardising control of the Taliban in 2001 and gave them a hope of secure and progressive future.
But what happened subsequently? The American commitment first became suspect when the allied forces allowed thousands of Talib, including their leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda activists including Osama, to escape to safe havens in Pakistan. This was obviously done to show respect to Pakistan's sensitivity about Taliban.
Secondly, the Americans diverted their attention from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 leaving President Karzai high and dry and thereby giving Taliban a chance to reorganise and re-establish their control in some pockets.
Thirdly, the allied forces have alienated the people throughout Afghanistan by indiscriminate bombings. They have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children.
McChrystal identifies three major insurgent groups all linked to Pakistan. They are: the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), the Haqqani Network (HN) and the Hezb-e-Islamic Gulbadin (HIG).
The Quetta Shura revolves round Taliban's supremo Mullah Omar. Everybody knows that Mullah Omar has been living in Quetta and directing the insurgency in Afghanistan from there. But Pakistan denies it and the US has not brought enough pressure on Pakistan to take action against him. According to Gen McChrystal, the Quetta Shura has two primary objectives: "controlling the Afghan people and breaking the coalition's (allied force's) will. Their aim is to expel international forces and to supplant GIRA (Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan). At the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Omar announces his guidance and intent for the coming year."
The Haqqani Network has links to the al-Qaeda and other Pakistan-based insurgent groups. Most of its funding comes from Pakistan and Gulf networks. Gulbaddin Hikmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami has bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan too. He has worked for Pak intelligence agencies since the early 1970s.
Gen McChrystal writes: "Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported by Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, and linked with al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI."
His reference to the good work of India in Afghanistan is cryptic. He writes: "Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to
exacerbate Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India."
This is very strange. About 30 per cent of this assessment lament the loss of the people's trust in their Government and the allied forces because they have not bothered about the Afghan population. Instead of appreciating the Indian contribution to the needs of the Afghan people, Gen McChrystal seems to be more concerned about the twisted sense of security of a country which the Americans have often accused of cheating as a partner in the war on global terrorism.
The reference to India has elated Pakistanis. Commenting on this assessment, Dawn wrote an editorial reflecting the Army/ISI ideology. "Peace in Afghanistan cannot prevail unless the interests of the Pakistani State are taken into account. And from that perspective, enhanced Indian interests in Afghanistan are inimical to peace in the region. Lest there be any doubt about this, McChrystal has stated in his report ".
There is a point of view that if the USA quits Afghanistan, Pakistan may want to re-establish its influence in that country by reinstalling Taliban into power in Kabul. If that happens, we will see terrorism in a more horrid form than 9/11.
The author is Media Director, YMCA
GET THE ANTI- MAOIST CAMPAIGN RIGHT
THE government of India cannot simply stand by and watch our police personnel get massacred by the Communist Party of India ( Maoist). Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is out of date when he suggests that the Maoists lay down arms and come for talks. The Maoists have been broadcasting their reply with repeated massacres of security personnel and brutalities against so- called class enemies.
Now, with this latest killing the third major attack in Gadchiroli district this year they have re- confirmed that they do not want to negotiate anything.
The repeated instances of police parties being wiped out by the Naxalites suggest that the security forces' tactics and strategy are hopelessly out of date. The Maoists are able to maneuver large groups of 200- 300 people to take on the patrol parties that are usually the size of a platoon or two. Either the number of police personnel sent on patrol needs to be increased, or better, they should be provided firepower to take on a large number of attackers.
This latest strike came on the day that the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the launching of major anti- Maoist operations across the country.
These operations are likely to be led by Central forces though the assistance of the states is vital. The challenge of armed extremism is no longer limited to the actions of some " misguided" youth. The Naxalites are now a full- fledged army of well- trained and equipped personnel.
What the counter- insurgency forces need is a comprehensive plan along with a single operational commander. Of course, the forces need the best equipment and training that is available.
Yet, it would be hazardous to go into the anti- Maoist battle with only a military plan in hand. There is need to ensure that the force, when applied, is appropriate neither too much, nor too little and never indiscriminate. The battle will be of hearts and minds not merely guns. Our police are admittedly not the best in this department.
The Maoists are a formidable foe and it would be hazardous to underestimate their abilities.
THE Taliban bomb attack near the Indian embassy in Kabul in which 17 Afghans died was shocking, but not an altogether surprising event. Over the last few years, India's mission in Afghanistan has been one of the most successful among all its missions around the world, and has helped India become one of the major players in the warravaged country's rebuilding process.
Therefore, to counter the so- called growing influence of India in its internal affairs, the Taliban always had India and Indians on its terror radar. That has come to pass twice in the last 15 months, in July 2008 when 58 persons died, and now in the second attack perpetrated on Thursday.
Aided by Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence, the July 2008 attack was a clear indicator of our neighbour's growing insecurity over Afghanistan's dependence on India.
Also, Pakistan, a country that funded and trained the Taliban at a time when India supported the Northern Alliance, has a bone to pick with New Delhi.
With uncharacteristic foresight, India had taken adequate precautions after the July 2008 attack to fortify its embassy. It was this due diligence that saved the mission from Indian casualties this time around.
A knee- jerk reaction to the attack would have been to take two steps back and critically assess Indian involvement in Afghanistan. But that would be playing directly into the Taliban's hands.
Afghanistan's geo- strategic importance cannot be gainsaid, and with the country's border with Pakistan becoming increasingly porous, it is only India's confidence building measures funding hospitals and schools, building the Parliament complex, multibillion dollar aid that can help us connect with the Afghan mainstream.
A top priority of the Indian administration now should be to ensure the safety of Indians in Kabul and elsewhere in the region even as the thrust for the development of Afghanistan continues. In a country that has very little by way of educational infrastructure, very few hospitals and heartrending poverty, India would do itself a lot of good by providing these to the Afghans. It is this cooperation that may eventually help India to ensure its borders are safer than ever.
TO KENISM IN SCHOOL REFORM
THE GOVT IS SO OBSESSED WITH PRIVATE SCHOOLS THAT IT HAS IGNORED THE NEED TO IMPROVE ITS OWN SCHOOLS
BY ARUN KAPOOR
THE EDUCATION space in India is in the midst of major evolution today. Some big ticket issues are the implementation of the Right to Free Education Bill, the shifting focus from universalisation of Primary Education towards universalisation of Secondary Education and the emergence of Public Private Partnerships.
Within these are embedded very ambitious goals that will transform the country and give us a global advantage but the realisation of these goals requires a range of measures from development of a 5 year implementation programme to appropriate statutes to ensure enforcement.
Further, within each of these issues there are multiple dimensions that need to be resolved as in the case of Public Private Partnerships should these partnerships be for profit or not for profit? Should the focus of these be Elementary education or Secondary education or University education? In the case of Primary and Secondary education there are many dimensions related to the learning structure such as the inclusion of students with special needs and the awareness that every student is a special needs student. In the case of secondary education, should not Vocational Education be an integral part of the curriculum so that students are able to walk out of school directly into rewarding careers?
Then there is the issue of reform. Today, there exist many buildings and structures that call themselves " schools". These organisations are a travesty of what schools ought to be. An institution in order to acquire the title " School" must achieve certain benchmarks. But how are these benchmarks to be decided and enforced? Does there need to be some method of accreditation? Unfortunately what seems to have caught the attention is the 25 per cent reservation in private schools for children from the Economically Weaker Sections of society. The perception created is that this act of reserving 25 per cent seats is somehow going to magically elevate the plight of 25 per cent of the school going age children of our country. What they have failed to mention is another set of numbers.
It is not widely known that the private schools of this country provide only 7 per cent of educational services that the country needs.
As much as 93 per cent is provided by the Government schools. Thus by reserving 25 per cent of the seats in private schools, it is only 25 per cent of the 7 per cent that the private schools cater to. In other words, of 100 children who go to school, 93 go to Government schools and only 7 come to private schools.
By reserving 25 per cent seats in private schools, all that we are doing is transferring 2 children from the 93 of the Government schools to add to the 7 children of the private schools.
So now there will be 91 children in Government schools and 9 children in private schools. How has the problem been solved at all? By this 25 per cent reservation we seem to be papering over the real problem that exists which is of rejuvenating the Government school system. If the time, effort, energy and money that will go into monitoring the private schools and the implementation of the 25 per cent reservation was to be spent instead on monitoring and improving the Government school system, much greater good would be done to the children of our country.
The 25 per cent reservation will hit the numbers of the private schools which are already reeling under the huge expenditure demands created by the Sixth Pay Commission.
While nobody denies that the teachers need to be paid more, the Government in its attempt to be seen to be doing something has denied the private schools the right to raise their fees to deal with the rising costs of run- ning a school. Teachers' salaries make up at least 75 per cent of the running costs of any school. The Sixth Pay Commission caused at least a 60 per cent rise in this 75 per cent leading to a completely lopsided budgetary exercise. The 25 per cent reservation ( which in effect is a 25 per cent reduction in fee payers) has come together with a 60 per cent raise in 75 per cent of the budget. This really gets the private schools in a vice like situation which it seems the powers that be are really enjoying tightening.
The process of admission of children into private unaided schools is also controlled by the Government.
The autonomy of the unaided private schools which has been provided for by the Delhi School Education Act and Rules, 1973, is slowly but steadily being taken away from them. The private schools are buffeted along whenever someone from the Education Department wants to be seen to be doing something for the education sector.
In a situation like this, why would anyone in their right senses start a private school? The education sector is the only sector now where the Government is tightening its control while in all other sectors it is loosening its controls.
When we talk of public- private partnership, I wonder what it means. In the 7 per cent space that the private schools are occupying, the government seems to want to squeeze them out there too.
The 93 per cent ( or 91 per cent) is what requires complete focussed attention of the Government. Though the few children who come into the private schools will definitely benefit, it is finally great to read in the newspapers how the Government is planning to rejuvenate the Government schools system rather than constantly reading about how the Government is succeeding in hammering the private schools into the ground.
In clause 18( 5) and 19 of the ' Right to Education Bill', which talks about norms and standards for schools, punitive action is only mentioned for Private schools not maintaining standards while no such punitive action is specifically laid out for government schools not complying with the norms set out.
Only when all schools whether government or private are expected to live up to certain norms will we be able to bring quality education into the lives of all the children. When over 90 per cent of the children are serviced by the Government schools, it is the Government schools that should be the focus of the HRD Minister rather than the Private schools which seem to be the targets all the time. " Minister, leave us private schools alone".
The writer is the Director of Vasant Valley Schoo
A VOICE OF SANITY THAT WILL BE MISSED
WHILE the Maoists enter a new terrain of barbarism and brutality and the government plans a major offensive, it is a tragic coincidence that one of the most credible voices of sanity and scholarship that constantly reminded both sides that their ' line' is wrong, was suddenly silenced.
K. Balagopal, scholar, visionary and civil rights lawyer based in Hyderabad, died of a heart attack on Thursday.
No one can imagine that such a cardiac attack could visit him, because this stoic man lived frugally, neither drank nor smoked, was seriously disciplined and lived in a bare, clean home strewn with chunks of papers, reports and files pertaining to cases that he would be constantly fighting. He would travel in buses and sleep on railway platforms or in small rooms of friends and students while he traveled across the country to meticulously document human rights violations from Kashmir to Dantewada to Kashipur
in Orissa. And his reports and conclusions, under the Human Rights Forum, were trusted by all. This is because they were meticulously documented, painstakingly researched and measured on the paradigm of objectivity and truth, with absolute lack of prejudice, propaganda or partiality. It was because of this that the media, intelligentsia, lawyers and judges, and even politicians and the government in Andhra and Delhi took his word seriously.
The long pieces he wrote in the Economic and Political Weekly ( EPW ) against the mindless violence perpetrated by both the State and Maoists, were not only a rigorous critique with empirical evidence, they were also read by students and academics across the best universities in the world.
His essay written after YSR's victory in 2004, deconstructed the ' mafia- like' multi- million apparatus created by YSR, his father, and the Reddy landlord- warlord factions in Andhra Pradesh. It was till recently being widely circulated on the net.
And when he spoke, so softly that even microphones would fail to catch his voice, he was as lucid and cerebral
as he was when he wrote those deeply sensitive and researched articles.
So much so that when Balagopal wrote a few pieces on post- modernism in the Telegu media some years ago, it sparked off a virtual debate in the intellectual corridors of Hyderabad and Vishakapatnam.
Balagopal and his comrade, eminent lawyer KG Kannabiran,
were the first to stand up against fake encounters by the police in the 1980s. They exposed these encounters, including the killing of civil rights activists by invisible ' death squads'. Even Balagopal was attacked and almost killed. They opposed Naxalite violence in equal measure, even while saving several of them from inevitable encounter deaths by filing habeas corpus petitions. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Group ( APCLC) became a public phenomenon with Balagopal at the helm, with massive popularity in civil society, universities and the legal community. Even the political class had no option but to take them seriously.
Predictably, Balagopal and his friends were thrown out of APCLC, because another group loyal to Maoist hardliners staged a coup.
Balagopal's relentless argument was a simple one: that this mindless violence is unacceptable, that human rights belong to everyone and not only to the Naxalites, that there is life and scholarship beyond indiscriminate killings.
He argued for a bigger debate on democracy and social justice, women's empowerment, rights of the poorest, cultural and political freedom, and the pursuit of a just and egalitarian society. In that sense, the injustice of it all cast a continuous spell of sadness on him.
In recent times, the Maoists, despite the grudging respect they had for him, hated him for his guts because he
criticised their methods and mindset publicly.
And finally, the barbarism of a police officer's beheading might have broken his heart.
MPS BLOCK SIBAL MOVE ON MADRASA BOARD
KAPIL SIBAL'S valiant attempts to rope in Muslim MPs in the bid to set up a madrasa board have so far been unsuccessful.
The board is a suggestion of the Sachar Commission that felt that the functioning and modernisation of the madrasas should be supervised by a body that has more academics than theologians.
But a powerful section of the Muslim MPs, especially the ones supported by the influential Deobandis and the Jamiat- e- Ulema- e- Hind, are resisting all moves to modernise the madrasas.
Mahmood Madani, an MP and leader of the Jamiat, has come up with an ingenious argument: " Only two per cent of the Muslim students study in madrasas.
The government should let the community take care." By " community", Madani implies a section of the clergy headed by him and fellow Maulanas. This is the same group that has so far blocked all attempts to let women have a say in the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
The minister has said that unless the Muslim MPs evolve a consensus over the matter, the project cannot move forward. The subtle understanding in the ministry, however, is that while the smaller madrasas want the board, the bigger ones led by the Deobandis are opposing it because it breaks their monopoly. The minister is believed to be willing to give them a long rope before he initiates a dialogue with the theologians himself.
MURLI MANOHAR ON INTELLECTUAL MISSION
IN THE saffron circles, Murli Manohar Joshi is regarded as an intellectual. And he has done much to earn the respect of his peers at Jhandewalan; having shaken the roots of India's education system by his saffronisation campaign and permanently throwing out textbooks by " left wing" Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, R. S. Sharma, Satish Chandra et al. Thankfully, the worthies such as Makhan Lal and Hari Om whom Joshi handpicked to replace the professional historians, have now been relegated to the oblivion. But the campaign certainly endeared the veteran leader to the knickerbockers brigade forever.
So, while the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was busy playing peacemaker to the BJP's querulous GenNext, he took care to visit Joshi at his Raisina Road residence. Joshi apparently discussed the decline of the BJP and the direction in which the party was headed and then appropriately decided to embark on an academic journey to Rhodes. The band of his admirers in the saffron circles has grown as Joshi is at present preoccupied with the higher pursuit of explaining the impact of globalisation on culture.
TIMES OF INDIA
ARMS AND THE BOGEY MAN
"I never apologise!" exclaimed Sergius, a character in G B Shaw's play Arms and the Man. Jamshed Dasti, Pakistani MP, is no Sergius. The bomb he dropped about match fixing has turned out a dud. Now sorry, he denies accusing Pakistani cricketers of sinking a Champions Trophy game against Australia to spite arch-rival India. Was his cartwheel inspired by gymnast Musharraf? The ex-prez recently sang about Pakistan's aid diversion towards (jihadi?) Arms and the Jackbooted Man. Then, he hit denial mode. So, who made up the match-fixing story? Pakistani officials, not to worry, have exposed India's malevolent media as the conspirator. Was any whodunnit ever cracked with such deductive finesse?
Hell, yes. Take Pakistan's 'mystery' semi-finals defeat against New Zealand. A minister from Sindh blew the lid on this so speedily it would shame Miss Marple. India, he declared, avenged their Champions Trophy exit by turning umpires against Pakistan. This made coach Intikhab Alam ask: why play at all with plotters against our boys? Pakistan's generals and snoops may bowl a similar googly at dis-Armed and Invisible Man Zardari: why do jaw-jaw with a neighbour accusing us of forcing Taliban to choose between jail and jihad? Aren't we busy fighting Uncle Sam's wars (and stingy US senators Kerry & Lugar besides)?
If only conspiracy theorists on both sides of the border would stop squinting at the wrong places. With countless international plots yet to be unravelled, who better to help than the subcontinent's habitual and highly specialised sniffers of skunk? For starters: an Israeli-Palestinian intrigue concerning aphrodisiacal Arms and the Woman. One side is accused of targeting the other with progesterone-filled bubble gum for schoolgirls. Imagine the Mideast peace dividends if Indo-Pak sleuths burst that bubble. There's also the mystery of Bio-Arms and the Lab Man. AIDS to H1N1, all are suspected to be genocidal schemes of CIA sickos, closet KGB, Sino-sneaks and the like. Dig for truth, and the planet may be cured of jitterbugs.
Then, instead of squabbling over LoCs and nukes, the neighbours could jointly find snappy answers to profound questions. Like: was man on the moon an optical illusion generated by evil space racers? Is Hollywood menaced by ET-worshippers whose takeover mission isn't impossible (prime suspect: Tom Cruise)? Is fried chicken the Ku Klux Klan's secret weapon? Finally, was conspiracy researcher David Icke right in saying we're ruled by reptilian humanoids from the constellation Draco? Everybody, he warned, is one of 'Them', from British royals to America's political sweethearts. Ickes!
Wanted: subcontinental Bond-ing to save the world. Any light on these protean bogeymen will cure more angst worldwide than exposing queered pitches in a cricket tour that wasn't even big on TRP. Let the good neighbours ask each other: if we're both victims of Draco-nian Arms and the Lizard Man, whose side are you on?
TIMES OF INDIA
GO INTO THE ART OF THE MATTER
Some months ago, much before Mayawati's memorial-building spree encountered rough weather, a Delhi architect, a Dalit himself, had proposed a 30-storey statue of his leader to be built as a centrepiece of a memorial in central Lucknow. The monument was 340 feet high, and if built would have dwarfed not just the tallest building in Lucknow but the Statue of Liberty as well. All 30 floors contained a variety of spaces: two museums to Dalit history, another to Ambedkar and fourth to Mayawati's life story all encased in an outer structural steel and concrete shell depicting Mayawati holding her favourite handbag. With an entrance near her toes, the building's two elevator banks rose up Mayawati's legs to a series of mid-level restaurants in her stomach, past offices in the chest area, and emerged into the museums located inside the head.
The detailed plans secret though they were reveal a careful working out of all the services: air conditioning, garbage disposal and plumbing, all concealed within the UP chief minister's body, a body which served a dual purpose: enthralling the public on the outside by the sheer size of her presence, and enclosing the weight of her intellectual message inside, in museums, research libraries and restaurants.
The plans of Mayawati in the form of a building are safely secured in the drawers of an architect's office. The work, thankfully, will never be built. But the sheer audacity of its scope demonstrates not just the exaggerated possibilities of public expenditure but the grotesque magnitude of political power gone to seed. The mere fact of its conceptualisation also raises larger questions of urban appropriateness and the public's view of politics as art.
Naming roads, renaming railway stations, changing Connaught circles into Rajiv squares, have led every elected government down the path to urban sycophancy. Yet names by themselves are never as effective as physical representations of the hero. In a culture which reveres cardboard cut-outs of politicians, the search for an extravagant expression for a national icon invariably leads to a larger than life manipulation of statuary.
It has taken the Maharashtra government three centuries since Shivaji to finally come up with a Mayawati-like commemoration of the Maratha warrior: 309-foot high, set a mile into the Arabian Sea on a plinth containing a multi-utility complex, the statue, says the government spokesman, will be India's Statue of Liberty (a reversal of the original message: Don't give me your tired and hungry, i have enough of my own...). What in the present scheme of things stirred the state into this decision is of little consequence; but there is enough opposition to it from serious and qualified quarters for the government to reconsider its decision.
The moral stand is easily the weakest, and those who cited high expenditure in a time of drought were only given to the age-old reasoning that you can send men to the moon, but you can't provide a square meal to every Indian. In times of religious polarisation and identity politics, it doesn't hold water. Also, the fact that Mumbai's sizeable Muslim minority has no say in the selection of a Maratha icon is drowned in a sea of Hindu voices that see Shivaji's presence as a vindication of all the recent ills that have plagued the city.
In India, the standard response to public deification is a form of exaggerated monumentalism. To take an individual or an idea and build it tenfold; in so doing, convert a serious intent into a Disney cartoon. A 300-foot Shivaji on a horse out in the sea not only denigrates the serious philosophy of the man but casts it, Bollywood style, into the realm of the unreal and fantastic. That Shivaji worked with ordinary people, peasants, and had a humane policy towards his administration and army is made entirely irrelevant. Moreover, the political purpose implicit in such public art denudes the piece of all artistic merit. That a political party endorses it in its manifesto and is willing to shower funds for its construction reduces Shivaji to puny irrelevance. The Maharaj as just another party worker, needing sponsorship.
Where the public plays no role in the selection of its public art, the art is naturally second-rate. How different is the Shivaji statue from the statues of Lenin put up by the Russian communists? Indeed, what are the rules for selecting the artist? Are chief ministers qualified to make artistic selections, or should such decisions fall on a national jury of varied artists?
In France, as in many western countries, all publicly funded art or architecture is selected through national competitions. In fact, Jerusalem goes a step further and subjects all government-funded buildings, monuments or art works to public scrutiny. Displayed in the city museum, the general public is encouraged to record its reactions before any work is realised. Isn't that a just and democratic way to select public art?
The writer is an architect.
TIMES OF INDIA
WELCOME SHIFT FROM IDENTITY POLITICS
It was bound to happen. The Nehru-Gandhi scion's visits to poor households in poverty-stricken villages have come under fire from opponents for being political stunts exploiting caste sentiments. Given the jaded grammar of politics in our country, it is not difficult to see why they would think so when the households that Rahul visited happened to be Dalit. But he has defended himself vigorously, stating that he does not believe in the caste system, and that he sees the issue from the perspective of economic deprivation. This is a necessary move, which has been supported by some of the UPA government's initiatives. Caste needs to be de-emphasised in the country's political discourse.
Granted, caste issues are a reality in rural areas. But, while the perception of caste does exist in urban areas as well, it's economic issues which hold the key there. And a look at population projections reveals that the share of the urban population in India is expected to reach 40 per cent by 2021. By as early as 2011, urban areas could contribute around 65 per cent of GDP. This is why it becomes necessary to frame the question of poverty and social backwardness in economic rather than caste terms. Given the overlap between economic backwardness and caste in rural areas, focusing on the former will chip away at the foundations of discrimination based on the latter as well.
Whatever one might feel about the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme launched by the UPA government, one of its virtues is that it breaks free from the obsession with caste. But while the political strategy of the Congress's main opponent in UP, Mayawati, is based on caste, Rahul's efforts have been based within an economic framework. Identity politics may have run its course, and caste-based social engineering is likely to yield diminishing returns at the political box office. Perhaps the cynicism prevalent in our political system makes it difficult to believe a genuine attempt to break away from caste politics. But Rahul deserves the right to make new political experiments.
TIMES OF INDIA
ACCEPT THAT CASTE CAN'T BE IGNORED
Rahul Gandhi's attempt to explain his visits to Dalit homes in UP in class terms is least surprising. Most of our political parties claim that their politics override caste and similar identities but formulate tactics, especially during elections, by working out the caste arithmetic. This duplicity is, perhaps, a leftover of the dominant political paradigm of the Nehruvian era that refused to recognise that caste was the primary marker of social identity in Indian society.
In some cases, the preference for this paradigm is due to ideological reasons, as in the case of communist parties. They argue that caste can be explained in class terms. But many others refuse to admit the presence of caste as the most important category in determining political power because such an admission would inevitably force them to confront existing social hierarchies. It is impossible to admit the influence of caste and argue for a status quo in power relations. One way to preserve social privileges determined by caste is to argue that economic factors alone are responsible for an unjust social order. However, it's no more possible for political parties to argue this line. Since the Mandal revolution, caste has emerged as the main instrument for political mobilisation.
The Congress was the biggest loser as ground rules of politics, particularly in northern India, changed in 1990s. It is now in the process of rebuilding the social coalition that helped the party dominate Indian politics for decades. This coalition, in the party's heyday, included many upper castes as well as Dalits and tribals. But to attract them back to the Congress, the party has to look beyond old forms of patronage politics where the leader gave some sops and got back loyalty to the party in return. Rahul Gandhi's trips to meet and dine with Dalits are clearly part of a concerted effort to regain the trust of erstwhile loyal and now estranged social groups. It is more than a coincidence that most of the poor he is meeting are also Dalits. There's nothing wrong with all this. The point is to admit that caste is at the centre of all such political strategies. And, that's only being honest about the Indian reality.
TIMES OF INDIA
I LOVE NEW YORK
NEW YORK: No it's not just a slogan that you would find on tee shirts that tourists buy from the streets of this fascinating city. I truly love and admire New York.
It's a cliche that New York exists on a different planet. But when you get to know this place and its inhabitants, you wonder whether it indeed does spin around the sun all by itself. With its throbbing day and night life, its range of stuff to do and see, its global variety of people and food offered by thousands of cafes and restaurants, its superb museums, its soaring skyline, and, above all, with the desire of its citizens to try out anything innovative to make life interesting, it is a unique place.
I came to New York last Saturday on a bit of work, but mainly to spend some quiet time with my younger daughter who lives with her husband in Brooklyn, a borough of New York. Well, it wasn't going to be quiet. Early on Sunday morning, we were off to a hotel in Manhattan to attend our first class of the day at the One-Day University, a private education company, which hauls in professors from top universities for a day to give hour-long lectures to anyone willing to pay a modest fee.
Professor Michael Rose of Vanderbilt University was our first lecturer. Apart from teaching, he is a composer of classical music. And his topic was: 'The Beatles and Beethoven: Hearing the Connection'. Trust my loving daughter to have booked this class for her Beatlemaniac dad. To my pleasant surprise, there were at least 300 New Yorkers jamming the hall, ranging in age from my daughter's to well above mine.
Four drumbeats, the opening of Beethoven's Ninth, reverberated through the hall as the talk began. A moment's silence and then: "One, two, three, faw!..." The audience began tapping feet and nodding heads to the frenzied voice of Beatle Paul McCartney belting out 'I Saw Her Standing There'. The two openings were similar, weren't they, asked the professor. We nodded uncertainly, wondering whether this was the connection between Beethoven and the Beatles that the professor was going to explain. But, no. It was just a smart way to grab our attention.
In an hour-long display of brilliant talk and startling histrionics, Professor Rose took us through the creation of the Ninth and of the Beatles' 'Hey Jude', McCartney's ode to joy, composed to console John Lennon's son, Julian, who had been heartbroken by his parents' decision to divorce. 'Hey, Jules' had become 'Hey, Jude' along the way to becoming one of the 20th century's greatest musical compositions by a man who didn't even know how to read music but could combine chords and crescendos to match Beethoven's genius, the professor showed. Both compositions were about lifting the spirit from sadness to joy. By the end of talk, we could only feel joy.
We attended two more lectures, one by a professor from Brown University on President Obama's performance thus far, the other by a professor from Harvard on the science of positive psychology. It was a Sunday morning well spent, we thought, as we strolled down Manhattan along Fifth and Sixth Avenues, past a throng of Polish-Americans celebrating Poland Day or something, past aromas of East Asia wafting from restaurants in Koreatown, through a block of Indian stores and restaurants, on to Chinatown for late lunch in a cafe where everyone, except us, was of Chinese origin. It was a day in the life of New York.
Sitting in a cafe in leafy Brooklyn, my mind wanders back to an evening two weeks ago, to a gathering of Bengali NRIs celebrating Durga Puja in Washington. A song and dance show, led by 17-year-old Sanchita from Kolkata, had just ended. She had done a range of pop and Bollywood numbers to rocking music. And she had demurely begun the show with Rabindrasangeet 'Ami Chino Go Chini' wearing an open-collared white shirt, tight blue jeans and knee-high boots.
She was frivolous," said several middle-aged and elderly persons, shaking their heads as they left. I sighed. And silently hummed, "Well, she was just 17...".
NOBEL WINS AN OBAMA
Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". Going by the Nobel jury that sat over some salmon and schnapps in Oslo (this award being the only Nobel that's decided by Norwegians instead of Swedes), if the trust put in Mr Obama translates into action, he should easily win the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize also. Usually, an award marks an institution recognising the worth of an individual or entity. But there are occasions (usually flagged under the overused term, 'historic') when the institution itself can bolster its own standing or should we say public image by awarding someone whose clout in terms of brand equity is much larger than its own. The Nobel Committee's decision to award Mr Obama this year's Peace Prize can only be explained along these lines.
Even in 'traditional' circumstances, the Peace Prize is considered the doctored Vegas slot machine among all the Nobel categories. The fact that past winners have included missionaries of peace like Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, makes the Nobel Peace Prize the darling of the op-ed pages. Mr Obama is yet to generate such controversy. In fact, he is yet to prove anything. In office as the leader of the (still) most influential nation on Earth for less than a year, his reputation has preceded his actions. One would have thought that the nuanced and noble jury of the Nobel Committee would wait for a while before deciding whether Mr Obama makes the grade. It seems they have preferred the pre-emptive method. His campaign for nuclear non-proliferation finds mention in his Nobel citation. Many in India would like to see whether the prize will now nudge him to get more proactive on this front and thereby make New Delhi think seriously from now on about posting lobbyists in Scandinavia.
We congratulate Mr Obama. After all, it is no fault of his that he's been foisted with an award that he doesn't deserve at least, not yet. If nothing else, the Nobel Peace Prize now can be seen for what it is: a brand-building exercise for the Nobel Committee. The award also makes us understand at last, even if indirectly, why Mahatma Gandhi, among a few others, did not get the precious honour.
LISTEN TO YOUR ART
Whenever I happen to be in Delhi in March I make it a point to visit the annual exhibition of the Delhi College of Art, when paintings and drawings by the students of the college are opened to the public. What one sees takes one's breath away. The talent on display is phenomenal. This is true not just of Delhi. One finds the same looking at art by little-known artists in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. One cannot but marvel at the skill and imagination that India's young and unknown artists bring to their work.
What is true, however, is that a vast number of these extraordinarily talented people will ultimately be compelled to abandon their craft to make ends meet. This is even more true for those living in small towns and villages. There is not even the college exhibition where one sees the talent on display before it is extinguished. India clearly needs to do more to promote its own culture and the arts.
The reason for this sub-par performance is rooted in mistakes on both the left and the right. The first mistake is to suppose that art has nothing to do with markets and, so, to overlook the fact that, for art to flourish, we need a thriving market. The second mistake is the one of supposing that a market thrives only when it is left completely to its own devices. The truth is that markets need to be nurtured by the government and institutions. This is true of markets in the US, Japan and China; this has been true of markets at the time of Adam Smith and is true now.
If we wish the celebration of Indian art (in India and abroad) to reach beyond the few whose works now regularly make it to London and New York Syed Haider Raza, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jogen Chowdhury, MF Hussain and one or two others we need deliberate action on the part of the government and our media.
There is a lot that the government can do to promote art and art appreciation. One idea, which will need some initial investment but can in the long run pay for itself many times over, is to build in India a Museum of Contemporary Art from Developing Economies. Buying the works of top artists from the United States or Britain or France can be prohibitive. Not so for some of the finest artists from Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, Russia, Sri Lanka, Mexico and China.
Some contemporary Chinese artists, such as Wang Guangyi and Zhang Xiaogang, may command prices like those of the most expensive Western artists but, in general, it is within India's reach to build up a museum that is known globally for being the best collection from the developing world. This would not only increase tourist traffic to India and raise the profile of India in the world, but it can, in turn, increase interest in Indian art and culture and thereby open new doors for our own poor artists.
Also, once one such major international gallery comes up, the market for art would pick up on its own and smaller galleries would sprout up in and around this one big effort.
A visit on any random day to Delhi's National Gallery of Modern Art, housed in the magnificent premises of the Jaipur House, can be a dispiriting experience. The art, with large collections of the works of Amrita Shergill, Abanindranath Tagore, KG Subramanyam and others, is impressive. What disappoints is that so few people visit the museum. On my last visit I felt guilty that the guards were getting disturbed.
This is where the Indian media comes in. There ought to be more coverage of the arts, music and even science and mathematics in our newspapers, magazines, radio and television if we are to have a more learned and productive citizenry.
I am aware that this is a two-way street. The media clearly have an interest in supplying people with what they are interested in. This explains the excellent coverage of what is happening in the lives of Megan Fox and J Lo. This is understandable and one can see why no single newspaper will want to take away that space and turn it over to more educational matters.
The fear of competition can, however, be partly curbed if there is a collective effort on the part of all major newspapers and television channels to devote a small amount of space to nurturing interest in the arts and the sciences. After all, corporations, despite their commitment to profits, do, nowadays, make some concession to 'corporate social responsibility'. The CSR movement has led companies to agree to take small cuts in profit in order not to pollute the atmosphere and to uphold minimal labour standards even when that is costly. They need to do more; but it is interesting that they at least do something.
Likewise, we need to promote the idea of what may be called "media cultural responsibility." A commitment to MCR will mean that a newspaper will devote a small amount of space, say 5 per cent to start with, to promote the arts and culture, and interest in science. This will not increase sales and will not, therefore, help with advertisement income, but this small cost, borne by all newspapers, can make a huge difference to the promotion of the arts and sciences in India, and can speed up development by creating a more enlightened and productive citizenry.
Kaushik Basu is Professor of Economics and Chairman, Department of Economics, Cornell University.
They say that Bihar carries India on its back. Its migrant labourers make huge contributions to the economy but when we discuss migration, we invariably think of hotshot Kannadigas in Silicon Valley, not the Bihari porters and construction workers who fuel our growth.
This is one of the many misconstructions about migration thrown up by the 2009 Human Development Report, which explores this hallmark of globalisation. For instance, it finds that the volume of internal migration in China and India rivals the volume of all international flows. And it reminds us that many countries have fewer people of foreign origin today than they did during the last wave of globalisation, during the colonial era.
A purely economic analysis cannot explain migration. People also move to acquire prestige ("My son is in the US.") or to escape traditional hierarchies like caste ("My name is Bharati. Just Bharati."). And migrants face hostility that has no basis in economic reality: they actually contribute to the growth of host economies and do not significantly burden their social budgets. The report also dismisses the perception that migration typically proceeds from less developed to more developed economies. Migration flows within these categories are also very large, despite the huge prosperity gap between them. One hopes that this report is taken note of by First World negotiators at the World Trade Organisation, who are obsessed with enabling the movement of capital across borders while disabling the movement of labour.
The report also questions one of India's leading myths that of remittance-led development. In a number of underdeveloped countries, the volume of remittances is greater than that of official aid. But it might also be observed that within India, Bihar has lived on remittances far longer than Kerala. Bihar remains a basket case, while Kerala's held up as an exemplar of development. Let's celebrate our NRIs by all means, while remembering that remittances create wealth, but not necessarily development.
And yet, there is something missing here a satisfactory analysis of the causes of migration. People move out of choice or compulsion, but these are only two clearly defined endpoints on a long continuum of mixed motivations. Free choice is intrinsically good and compulsion is intrinsically vile, but how does one evaluate real-world choices made in the grey area in between? Unless you're Jean-Paul Sartre's astral body, you probably recognise that what passes for free choice in everyday life is often conditioned by necessity.
In different degrees, the Narmada oustee, the Bihari labourer and the white-collar worker who relocates for preferment are under some compulsion to move. The idea of compulsion doesn't sit easily in the generally happy discourse of globalisation, but we must accommodate it.
The report celebrates migration as a great liberator, with a nod to the pathbreaking Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who identifies freedom of movement as one of the capabilities which reflect the quantum of individual liberty. But in countries like India, where people routinely move out of necessity rather than choice, there are other issues too. People generally better their lot by moving, but should they be compelled to do so? Wouldn't it be best for society at large if they could choose to stay home, and not have to carry India on their backs?
Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine
BECAUSE HE CAN?
Talk of the triumph of hope over experience. In a breathtaking turn of events, the Nobel Peace Prize, that most politic of prizes, has gone to the 44th president of the United States Barack Obama. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention," said the citation, lauding him for his commitment to multilateral diplomacy. After years of enduring a self-willed, arrogant America, Europe (or at least the five committee members elected by Norway's parliament) is clearly, desperately grateful for Obama's preference for "dialogue and negotiation".
For the rest of the world, Obama's win is a stunning endorsement of... well, we don't quite know what. He's been in office for less than nine months. Even if it's not a "why him", it's definitely a "why now". The prize is mandated to be given to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses". This comes at a time when the US is unable to get a grip on its, and the world's, biggest security challenge, the so-called Af-Pak mess. It is true that, rather than always capping a long career of peacemaking effort, the Nobel committee often wields the peace prize as a hammer to shape events. More often than not, the prize is awarded to encourage winners to see the effort through, sometimes at crucial moments. But in Obama's case, that glimmer of progress is so faint that few outside the Nobel committee can definitely attest to its existence.
Yes, Obama has called for nuclear disarmament (like many before him), and seized upon an approach that expands areas of international agreement: but surely, Russia's newfound cooperation may be put down to its own interests as much as to Obama's persuasiveness. He said fine, uplifting things about engaging with the Muslim world, about his willingness to "extend our hand if you unclench your fist". There's a hint that the Nobel is meant to encourage Obama's efforts in the Middle East if he brokers a solution for a problem as gnarled and intractable as that, then he deserves the prize several times over. But so far there's no sign that anything's changed. There's nothing to say that he won't redeem his promise, but really, after the Nobel Peace Prize, what personal milestone does Barack Obama have to live for any more? And how, in his remaining years in power, will he ever live it down?
IGNORING THE LINES
On a map of Maharashtra, Gadchiroli district is the bit in the extreme east of the state that juts downward, like a spike between Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Its location is crucial to understanding its recent troubles troubles once again brought disturbingly to the fore by the shocking ambush of a 25-man police patrol in Bhamragarh by what could have been as many as 200 Naxalites. On one level, this is another reminder of the laziness that has marked the attitude of the Congress/ NCP government in Mumbai to all Maharashtra's pressing problems, and explodes the myth the Congress has been quietly peddling that left-wing extremism is a real problem only in opposition-ruled states. On another level, what shouldn't be missed is that Gadchiroli nominally being ruled from Mumbai means little on the ground; lines on a map have little tangible reality in the trackless forests of India's interior.
Yet our politics and our institutions have not changed to reflect this basic truth. The Naxalites who murdered these policemen might well melt away across state lines to safe havens in Dantewada or Bastar districts. But their pursuit across those lines will not follow with such ease. After all, law and order is a state subject, as former Home Minister Shivraj Patil notoriously said in 2005 as he dissolved the Joint Co-
ordination Committee between the six most affected states. But that sort of myopic, visionless thinking is what has brought us to this moment, when every day the policemen we send out to keep the peace have to worry that they have become, instead, targets.
At the very least, information-sharing and close coordination is required. Most "red corridor" states now have specialised anti-Naxal units within their state police. At that level immediate changes can be brought in to allow useful data to be exchanged and expertise to be shared. The Union government cannot be a silent spectator any further. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has, unlike his predecessor, not minced his words about the threat of left-wing extremism, and has acted upon them. The Centre must nuance an overall solution for a problem that doesn't respect state boundaries.
Had it not been for Nicolae Ceausescu, Herta Mueller, who has just won the Nobel for literature 20 years after the fall of communism in Europe, would perhaps never have become a writer. Her theme a life behind the Iron Curtain, hounded by the state security apparatus, worrying every morning whether one would be alive that evening, fear of the gulag approximates life in communist East Europe. It was in 1989 that an unprecedented, unpredicted wind of change swept through the former East Bloc, tearing down the authoritarian edifice in state after state. It was the same year that China forcefully put down the Tiananmen Square protests, but that self-assertion of the regime would find no reflection in Europe, except for a brief spectre of firing in East Germany, ensuring that communism died in East Europe without bloodshed,
except for Ceausescu in Romania.
Mikhail Gorbachev helped. But what 1989 did to global geopolitics and history was not determined by an individual. A brief calendar June 4: Solidarity won Polish elections; September 10: East Germans crossed Hungary's borders into Austria in droves; November 9: the Berlin Wall fell; November 24: Velvet Revolution succeeded in Czechoslovakia; December 25: Ceausescu executed. The "Autumn of Nations" lasted only a few months; in its aftermath, two Germanys reunited, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended.
It began with Solidarity's roundtable talks in Poland, became irreversible with Hungary lifting the Iron Curtain and the citywide Leipzig protests exactly 20 years ago this Friday. But the fall of the Berlin Wall remains its most enduring symbol. Such societies that came in from the cold are far from perfecting their politics, but work such as Mueller's is an enduring testament to the courage of the millions who faced down totalitarian regimes in the biggest revolutions since 1917.
A MADRASA IN MIND
To those who might have concluded from media reports that Indian Muslims are not interested in the HRD ministry's proposed bill to give madrasa students access to subjects like mathematics, science and maybe English, here's some Breaking News: a significant section of Muslims, including maulanas and maulvi sahibs, are very keen. But the number of "Ayes" is difficult to assess because in this respect at least Muslims are more like Hindus than Christians: there is a great deal of decentralisation and there is no universally accepted hierarchy among the ulema even within the same sect.
We also have another problem on hand. Even in the ranks of the interested there are many who have serious issues with the draft bill the Central Madrasa Board Bill 2008 currently in circulation. This is because it does not adequately address legitimate concerns about autonomy, non-interference and corrupt babus.
Responding to strong objections raised by several delegates present at the October 3 all-party meeting in New Delhi, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal gave a categorical assurance that if the Muslims do not want it, there will be no central madrasa board. The assurance, paradoxically, has the pro-board maulanas really worried. Their fear is that for the lack of a well-conceived draft, what in principle is a most welcome idea might be prematurely buried. This column, however, is not concerned with offering advice on how to revise the draft. Rather, the intention is to address the objections of that section of the ulema who will continue to object no matter how satisfactory the revised bill.
Though they are not the only ones, in the forefront of the opposition to the idea of a board is the Darul-uloom Deoband, arguably India's largest and most influential madrasa. Deoband's objections were well encapsulated in the inaugural address of its rector, Maulana Marghub ur-Rahman, at a massive all-India meeting of the ulema convened in late 2008. For reasons of space, of the many anti-arguments, let's deal with the two most important ones:
The conspiracy argument: The Government of India is trying to please its Western masters who have hatched a "sinister conspiracy" to dilute or destroy the Islamic character of madrasas through a variety of strategies. The "madrasa modernisation" call is but a part of this devious game-plan. Why should the Western powers, the US particularly, be targeting madrasas?
Because madrasas have historically been "a major hurdle in their expansionist and imperialist designs".
Comment: Interesting! But then, what was Deoband doing when in the '80s innumerable madrasas in Pakistan and Afghanistan that proclaimed Deoband-lineage ganged up with "American imperialists" (in addition to Pakistan's General Zia-ul-Haq and the Saudi regime) to transform what would have been a legitimate war of national liberation against the occupying Soviet forces into a "Holy War" (Islamic Jihad?) against the Evil Empire? There is more to be said on the subject but leave that to another day.
The hypocrisy argument: The Sachar Committee reports that only 4 per cent Muslim children go to a madrasa for education, the remaining 96 per cent depend on secular education. Why doesn't the government concentrate on the education of the 96 per cent instead of losing sleep over the future of 4 per cent?
Comment: Good point. How our secular UPA government responds to this is its business. But I for one have a serious Islamic objection to raise against this compartmentalised method of learning.
You might have heard of Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, who converted to Islam and whose English translation of the Quran is considered to be among the most authentic by Muslims. In a 1924 public lecture in India, bemoaning all the damage the sub-continent's ulema had done to Islam in Allah's name, he recalled a tradition of Prophet Mohammed: "To acquire knowledge is the sacred duty of every Muslim (male) and Muslimah (female)".
Reminding his Muslim audience that in Islam "all knowledge is sacred", he added: "Islam teaches us that the man with the widest knowledge and experience of life is the man best qualified to expound religious truths to resolve the problems which arise among Muslims in connection with the practice of religion. I deny the right of men with limited knowledge and outlook to exclusive interpretation. I deny their conclusions and I also deny their premises".
Lest you dismiss his words as the ranting of a neo-convert ignoramus, please recall that in the heydays of Islam, a Muslim from Baghdad, Bokhara, Cairo, Damascus, Samarkand and elsewhere learnt his theology in the same madrasa (educational institution, literally) where he was also taught science and mathematics, logic, philosophy and mysticism, music, literature and architecture.
You adore Imam Ghazali; consider his to be among the most respected names in the field of Islamic theology. But do you teach in your madarsas what Imam Ghazali did: "He who has never doubted is not a true believer", or that every ayat (verse) of the Quran can be interpreted in 60,000 ways? Do you tell them ever that this highly learned Imam believed that Allah has prescribed two basic texts for the ummah: one, the Quran, the other is His "open book", otherwise known as the Universe/ Cosmos. And that the Quran itself repeatedly asserts that to even begin to fathom Divine Intent, in addition to imaan (faith) you need aql (intellect) and ilm (reasoning).
A rounded education for the 4 per cent is critical, for it is they from whom the 96 per cent learn their Islam. Because of the compartmentalised, fragmented, insular and sectarian nature of his education, the Maulvi Sahib's ignorance of the world he inhabits is tragic and the Mr Muslim's knowledge of Islam pathetic.
But of course, Muslims must be part of the battle against the neo-cons, the neo-colonialists, the uncritical Westophiles and the diehard Islamophobes. The good news is that there is a growing tribe of Muslim men and women who are engaged in this battle for hearts and minds and I can rattle off a long list of names. Sadly, or maybe not, almost all of them occupy distinguished positions in the top universities of the West. They are proud of their Islam which is different from yours and the West is listening with interest and respect. A pity not one of them will find a place in any madrasa or university in the Islamic world.
To end, more Breaking News: A fortnight ago, Saudi King Abdullah cut the ribbon opening the gates of a multi-billion dollar, co-educational, postgraduate university. A fatwa on Deoband's website declares this to be strictly "unlawful".
On October 8, the Grand Mufti of Egypt and head of Al-Azhar university, Sheikh Mohammed Syed Tantawi, issued a fatwa against the niqab. (Ideally, says a Deoband fatwa, even a woman's eyes should not be seen.) Strict instructions have been issued that no woman draped in a head-to-toe burqa will now be permitted to enter the university or any of its affiliated institutions. Al-Azhar, among the oldest madrasas in the Islamic world, is also "old-fashioned": it seems to treat all knowledge as sacred.
The writer is co-editor, 'Communalism Combat', and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy email@example.com
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
HARSH V. PANT
Nobel Peace Prize is indeed a surprise. The Nobel prize committee announced in Oslo, Norway, that it had awarded its annual peace prize to Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" less than nine months after he took office more specifically, for his work to improve international diplomacy and rid the world of nuclear weapons.
"He has created a new international climate," the committee said in its announcement. With American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama's name was hardly on anyone's mind even as speculation centred on human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa.
The prize was announced as the Obama administration wrestles with global crises from the Middle East to Iran to North Korea, and the White House is considering whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. The announcement does little to further the myriad challenges he is facing at home and abroad; Obama so far has made little concrete progress in achieving his lofty and ambitious agenda.
At home, his popularity ratings have been falling, with Americans unhappy about rising umemployment; his flagship effort at revamping the healthcare system is becoming unpopular with each passing day.
Globally, the woes have kept on piling up, too. On Afghanistan there is no clarity; he is vacillating in accepting the advice of his military commanders to put more American troops on the ground even as the Democratic base wants him to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Nearly 800 American lives have been lost since the 2001 invasion began. While pulling out is not an option, putting more Americans at risk is also becoming politically difficult. Next door, in Pakistan, Obama is looking for a way to motivate the government to try harder. He has chosen the well-trodden path of giving more US money. But news has also come in that Pakistan's military are questioning the proposed $1.5 billion a year for five years as potentially meddlesome. The Pakistani public wants its country to have nothing to do with the US.
So is finding a way to deter Iran from taking the final steps to production of nuclear weapons a goal Iran denies but most of the world does not doubt it is pursuing. If Iran does not negotiate a settlement, and the prospects appear dim right now, its power to intimidate would be expanded, and might even be used.
Lurking in the background, meanwhile, is the unresolved Middle East conflict. Obama seems persuaded that Israel should give ground to the Palestinians to build a state next door, risky as that proposition might be. Militants, taking a break right now, might seize new opportunities to strike their despised target. The fighting would be costly and hard to contain.
Meanwhile at the grand strategic level, America's Asian allies are complaining that the Obama administration is too beholden to China, even refusing to meet the Dalai Lama, now a fellow Nobel Laureate. There is worry that Obama is ceding the strategic space in Asia-Pacific to China without articulating any meaningful response to the emerging changes in regional balance of power. And Obama's decision to shelve a plan for installing an anti-ballistic missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland may have mollified Russia but it has created panic in the eastern European states and raised questions about credibility of America as the guarantor of their security.
Given this scenario, it is not a surprise that many are questioning the motives behind awarding the Nobel prize to Obama so early in his tenure as president. The last US president to get this award, Jimmy Carter, is widely viewed by Americans as one of their most ineffective presidents.
Obama will have to show greater resolve and tenacity if he is not to go down Carter's route. He will have to show that there is more to him than just lofty rhetoric and achieve some of the goals that he has outlined in his various speeches. And this Nobel prize will not be of much help when it will come to resolving some of the most pressing global problems.
The writer teaches at King's College, London firstname.lastname@example.org
SANCTIONED BY STATUE
ARVIND P. DATAR
Mayawati's ambitious plan to change the landscape of Uttar Pradesh with massive statues has been temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court. The immediate question is whether UP can afford such spending. But the larger question is whether the Supreme Court and the high courts can interfere in decisions of elected governments to spend money in any manner they like. What is the constitutional foundation for judicial interference against wasteful expenditure? Article 282 of the Indian Constitution is an important provision that has seldom been invoked. It enables the Union or state governments to make grants for any "public purpose". But who decides whether an expenditure is for a "public purpose" or not? In a democracy, can courts sit in judgment over the expenditure proposed by the ruling party?
In the US case of State of Missouri v Forrest Smith, the state Supreme Court was concerned with Article X of its constitution which provided that taxes could be levied and collected for public purposes only. It held that the primary objective of public expenditure should subserve public purposes and must not promote private ends. It also observed that if "public purpose" is set up as a mere pretext to conceal actual private purpose, the expenditure would be illegal and fraudulent.
A decision from United Kingdom in 1995 is even more remarkable. A consortium of British construction companies sought British government aid for the construction of a dam and hydro-electric power project in Malaysia, which was estimated to cost GBP 316 million. Officials of the Overseas Development Administration had concluded that it was an economically unviable project and there were cheaper ways of producing electricity in Malaysia. Despite this report, the foreign secretary went ahead and approved the aid on the ground that any withdrawal of economic assistance would adversely affect the United Kingdom's political and commercial relations with Malaysia. This decision was challenged in a British public interest litigation by a non-partisan group, whose object was to improve the amount and quality of British aid to developing countries. Section 1(1) of the Overseas Development Act, 1980 permitted granting of aid for the purpose of "promoting the development" of a developing country or territory. Could the British Government's decision to grant aid be questioned before a court of law? In a superb judgment, the Court of Appeals held that it was a matter for the courts to examine the evidence and then decide whether a particular decision was or was not within the statutory purpose. It went on to hold that if the development of a project, on the evidence, was economically unsound then spending of public money for the project was not justified. On the facts, there was nothing that would justify the use of public money for the Malaysian project. The Court of Appeals held that the secretary of the state for foreign affairs had acted unlawfully in granting foreign aid! It is noteworthy that this decision was rendered in a country where the parliament is supreme.
Back home, our Supreme Court has held that courts can examine whether a particular purpose can constitute a "public purpose" or not, but so far the courts in India have never interfered in profligate political decisions. The DMK party, as part of its successful election strategy, had promised free colour television sets to any person who did not have one. The scheme was not restricted to persons below the poverty line. Lakhs of colour television sets have been distributed under the scheme resulting in serious allegations of misuse. The Madras High Court dismissed a PIL challenging such wasteful expenditure, but the Supreme Court has admitted the appeal which is still pending.
The question that arises is whether the free distribution of washing machines, refrigerators or even 50 cc motorcycles can constitute "public purpose"? Is the free distribution of essential commodities a "public purpose"? Can the court interfere with the proposal to set up a statute of Chatrapathi Shivaji costing Rs. 300 crores? Where does one draw the line?
The Constitution was drafted on the assumption that our elected leaders would act with a sense of sagacity and public duty. The conflict arises where elected leaders assume that the purpose of their political party becomes synonymous with "public purpose" just because they have gained a majority for the time being in Parliament or in the state legislatures.
This is a golden opportunity for the Supreme Court to lay down guidelines for what constitutes "public purpose" under Article 282. An important yardstick could be to determine whether the expenditure is relatable to any of the Directive Principles of State Policy under Part IV of the Constitution. The Courts must step in when politicians throw caution to the winds and splurge scarce public money on grandiose, wasteful projects.
The writer is a Senior Advocate of the Madras High Court
WHOSE CITY IS THIS?
The Maharashtra Assembly elections have once again brought on to the surface the old controversy about migration, and 'outsiders' swamping Mumbai. At the other end of the spectrum, the recently released UNDP Human Development Report asserts quite clearly that migration is not a whimsical move but is a carefully thought out economic decision which boosts economic output at little or no cost to locals.
Leaving the theories of migration aside, it is important to be clear about the quantum of migration within India and who is going where. During the intercensal period 1991-2001, the total number of people who moved was no more than 98 million. Out of this 'rural to rural' was more than half, amounting to 53.3 million. Farm workers moving from Bihar or UP to Punjab or Haryana or from Orissa to Andhra are examples. The 'rural to urban' component was only 20.6 million; 'urban to urban' was another 14.3 million making a total of about 35 million people.
Out of this number, about 12.5 million moved to the 34 major urban agglomerations. The 2001 Census does carry information about what portions of these migrants are from within the state and the number from outside. There are only 7 metropolitan cities where migrants from outside the state are more than the migrants from within. Delhi, of course, tops the list with 94 per cent from outside, but since the original settlers of Delhi are miniscule, it should be taken out of reckoning in a migration analysis. Of the remaining 6, it is Faridabad that tops the list for migration from other states with 83.6 per cent and not Mumbai as is commonly believed where the share of migrants from outside the state is much less at 63 per cent. Jamshedpur, Ludhiana and Dhanbad have percentages ranging from 71 to 64.
Of course in absolute numbers, Mumbai received about 15.7 lakhs during the 1991-2001 period, but in other cities of Maharashtra the proportion of migrants from within the state was much more such as 79 per cent in Nashik, 66 per cent in Pune and 54 per cent in Nagpur. Should the demand of some political leaders to close the doors against outsiders be invoked against the 13 lakhs people who moved into these 3 cities from within Maharashtra? Who is the insider, who is the outsider and how long should the label stick?
The UNDP report also highlights the fact that most migration takes place within the region of origin. The choice before a migrant is harsh and what he will face in the destination city is even more so. Assuming he does get a job on arrival, the migrant has to find his way through a complex web of illegality and extraction from ration card to shelter, enduring severe lack of basic services. The migrant also needs a minimum contact point at the destination city; a nail perhaps to hang his shirt on and after a few months, an outlet to charge his cell phone. But he does not usually traverse long distances and he ends up within his state or region. About 80 to 90 per cent of the migrants moving into Rajkot, Vijayawada, Madurai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad or Patna are all from within the respective states.
The tirade against migration, especially from other states, also conveniently overlooks the simple fact that the economy and well-being of most of the destination cities depends on their access to the all-India market. The increase in employment in big cities also requires a steady supply of labour. The net domestic product and per capita income has been conspicuous in its increase in a few states. The 2006 per capita income figure for Maharashtra is about Rs 30,000/- and the net domestic product of Rs 386,000 crores is a five-fold increase over the past 10 years. So it is with Andhra or Tamil Nadu. It is also worth noting that Maharashtra has a little over 13 per cent of the country's factories and employment. Tamil Nadu has 15 per cent of both and Andhra 11.3 per cent of the factories and 10.7 per cent of the employment.
These are parts of the country's economic engine and not to be regarded as the fragmented and exclusive preserve of the respective states. It is pointless to argue that investment, capital and goods can move without hindrance, but not people. The compulsion for striking political postures are understood, but they should not imperil the economic integrity of the country.
The writer is Professor and Chairman of the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
'IF THE NAXALITES ACCUSE ELECTED GOVERNMENTS OF CAPITALISM, LAND GRABBING, DISPLACING TRIBAL PEOPLE... WHAT PREVENTS THEM FROM WINNING POWER THROUGH ELECTIONS AND REVERSING CURRENT POLICIES'
"THE EMERGING CHALLENGES TO CIVIL SOCIETY"
I am honoured and deeply grateful for the invitation to deliver the Sixth Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture. I do not know in what capacity of mine the trustees thought that I was qualified to deliver the lecture. Nani Palkhivala was a legal giant, a successful business leader, a diplomat and a powerful advocate of noble causes. I am no longer a practising lawyer, I have never tried my hand at business, I have never been a diplomat, and I often find myself as a target of advocates of noble causes. The last of course, is the occupational hazard of being a minister. Nevertheless, I shall try to do justice to the confidence reposed in me.
On the midnight of August 14-15, 1947, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of India's "tryst with destiny." That has become the most commonly used phrase in our social and political discourse. Whenever we dream of the future or we speak of the challenges that we face from time to time, we refer, in a matter of fact manner, to India's tryst with destiny. Did Jawaharlal Nehru believe in a destiny? By all accounts, he was an agnostic and could not have believed in a pre-determined destiny. I read the speech again and I think what he had in mind was a destination rather than a destiny. In fact, it would be appropriate to say that his emphasis was on the journey to the destination rather than a fixed destination; and he was preparing the nation for the challenges that we would face during that journey.
The starting point
On that day, or at about that time, India's population stood at 320 million. 83 per cent of the people were illiterate. Life expectancy was 32 years. There were few schools, fewer colleges and only a handful of universities. The total number of students enrolled in colleges and universities was 238,398. India had 54,916 kms. of railway track and 400,000 kms of roads. The number of automobiles was 306,000. The country's installed capacity of power was 1362 mw and it generated 11.16 MUs a day. Only 1500 villages had electricity. Practically, none of them had protected drinking water or sanitation. A lesser man would have been overwhelmed by the challenges and a government of lesser men and women would have crumbled under the weight of poverty, disease and deprivation.
That did not happen. The journey since 1947 has been long and arduous; yet we have overcome many of the challenges that faced India at that time. Poverty still afflicts many millions of Indians, but many millions have been lifted out of abject poverty. Diseases are prevalent, but we have wiped out plague, kala-azar, elephantiasis and small pox. The war against illiteracy has been long drawn out, but we seem to be on the final battlefield now, with only 8 million children out of school. The abiding lesson of the 62 year journey is that there is no challenge that cannot be overcome, no goal that cannot be achieved, and no system that cannot be reformed and made to deliver better results.
Nani Palkivala the ultimate defender
Early in the journey we crossed a historic milestone when the people of India gave to themselves a Constitution. The Constitution was and remains despite 94 amendments a remarkable living document. While there have been many milestones during our journey as a nation, I cannot think of any other of more enduring value than the adoption of the Constitution. Even as we crossed more milestones, we also stumbled and fell on occasion. Two occasions come to mind immediately: the first, the utter lack of preparedness, both at the policy and at the practical levels, that led to the humiliation of the India-China war in 1962 and, the second, the misguided adventure into amending the Constitution in 1976. On both occasions, we were pulled back from the brink by a band of patriotic men and women, too numerous to be recalled here. Yet, two names stand out. One was Sam Manekshaw and the other Nani Palkivala. It is a strange but delightful coincidence that they shared a common faith and, in a sense, common ancestors. We are gathered here to pay tribute to Nani Palkivala. My lecture is a humble contribution; what is more important and heart-warming is the presence of so many distinguished men and women from different walks of life. If Dr. Ambedkar was the creator of the Constitution, Nani Palkivala was its ultimate defender. The best tribute to him is to never forget that the Constitution is the ultimate protector of our Republic and our way of life.
The foremost challenge: The Idea of India
That Republic and that way of life faces many challenges today. In my talk, this evening, I wish to focus on some of the emerging challenges. Foremost among them is the challenge of the idea of India. Does not each one of us have an idea of India? We do, and we draw that idea from our own circumstances birth, family, upbringing, education and the like. That idea is also shaped by our experiences like success and failure, joy and sorrow. It is also influenced by others such as family members, friends, adversaries, colleagues and superiors. Ultimately, each one of us forms an idea of India. In the case of most people, the idea of India is vague, undefined and with barely visible contours; yet with a little prodding, it is possible to draw out every person to define his or her idea of India. Given the fact that we are 1.1 billion strong, it is not at all surprising that there is a bewildering range of ideas that compete for the pride of place as the idea of India. Thus, we have believers and apostates. We have secularists and religious supremacists. We have democrats and those who believe in armed liberation struggle. We have liberals, conservatives and primitives. We have capitalists, conservatives, free marketeers, social democrats, socialists, communists and Statists, and many who fall between two shades of opinion. It is perhaps ambitious or naïve to expect that we can fashion an idea of India that we can all share. But, I am afraid, without such an idea of India, and without a shared idea of India, it is not possible to build a modern and strong India. However many and deep-rooted our differences may be, it is imperative that we identify common strands that will bind us together as one nation and one people.
Why is it important to share a common idea of India? Because, without a shared view, it is not possible to advance any of the noble principles enshrined in the Constitution. Let me take one example: equality. It is enshrined in the Preamble which speaks of equality of status and of opportunity. Equality finds a mention in Article 14 and in many other Articles. It is also implicit in many Articles. Of all the pillars that hold up the democratic system, I cannot think of anything more important than equality of status and of opportunity. Yet, to my dismay, our social, economic and political systems continue to deny equality of status and of opportunity to millions of our fellow citizens. Any attempt to correct this distortion is met with stiff resistance. What is reservation in educational institutions and jobs if not an instrument to correct the historical denial of opportunity to many sections of the people, especially dalits, scheduled tribes and the backward classes? Reservation may be a blunt instrument, but no one has suggested anything better. When we found that reservation had an unintended consequence of limiting the opportunities for meritorious students and decided to expand the capacity of our institutions manifold, even that was opposed on the dubious ground of dilution of the so-called excellence of our institutions. Reservation in jobs is opposed on the ground that it is antithetical to merit. This is a fallacious argument. How can merit among vast sections of first generation job seekers be discovered if they are denied the opportunity of holding jobs? Reservation for women in elected bodies is opposed. Special provisions for dalits, scheduled tribes and minorities are opposed. The result is that we remain an unequal and divided society. It is the persistence of historical inequalities that have led to so much conflict and tension in our society.
One of the emerging challenges that we will face in the 21st century will be the challenge of keeping nearly 1.5 billion people as one nation. Equality of status and of opportunity alone can bridge the many divisions in our society. My idea of India is that India must be an inclusive nation; India must celebrate its diversity; and all Indians must be encouraged to develop an Indian identity even while each Indian is free to be proud of his or her language or religion. My idea of India is an India where we make a conscious effort to make our society more equal and more united. It will not be easy. It will mean that those who have enormous wealth must be willing to share with others who have little or nothing. It will mean that those who have large incomes must be willing to pay more taxes. It will mean that we frown upon ostentation and vulgar display of wealth and endorse austerity and simplicity. It will mean that we amend the rules to accommodate more dalits, scheduled tribes and minorities. It will mean that we consciously forsake any claim to a religion or language or caste being superior to any other. It will mean that each one of us has to give more before we ask for more. Please reflect on what I have said. Despite what your first impressions may tell you, the challenge of the idea of India is actually more acute and formidable.
The Challenge Of Inclusive Growth
The second challenge is the challenge of inclusive growth. One would have thought that, in a poor country, the imperative of inclusive growth is a self-evident truth. Alas, it is not. Although the 1980s witnessed an average growth rate of 5.5 per cent, the first real trigger to high growth was the reform and liberalisation programme that was launched in 1991. In the early years of reform, as expected, the annual growth rate was uneven. This was due to the structural constraints in the economy. As these structural constraints were eased, growth picked up. For example, the repeal of Sections 20 to 30G of Chapter III of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act encouraged companies to scale up their operations and to leverage the strengths of group companies. The repeal of the Foreign Exchange (Regulation) Act and its replacement by the Foreign Exchange (Management) Act contributed to increased inflows of foreign exchange. The decriminalisation of violations of export-import regulations gave an impetus to foreign trade. However, not all structural constraints have been removed yet. The worst thing that we can do is to bask in the glory of 9 per cent growth during a 4-year period and go back to lazy reforms. As the second fastest growing large economy in the world, this is our opportunity to press the accelerator on reforms especially in foreign direct investment, mining and exploration, education and the financial sector.
In the post-1991 period, we saw that greater economic activity generated more investment, more jobs, better incomes, more savings, the last leading to more investment and thus completing the virtuous cycle. However, greater economic activity took within its embrace only those who had the means and the opportunity to participate in the freer market. Millions, however, remained outside the market economy, and do so even today. Among them are landless peasants whose labour is often under-priced. There are small farmers who have little or no surplus produce and hence cannot benefit from higher prices for agricultural products. There are artisans like potters and cobblers, blacksmiths and goldsmiths, and weavers, whose products are replaced by the products of organised industry. And, finally, there are the millions who live on the margins of society such as forest-dwellers, the disabled and the destitute. Besides, a free and fiercely competitive market may drive many people to the margins and beyond. As there are success stories in the era of liberalisation, there are as many failures too.
At the turn of the century India was poised for high growth. Crucial decisions that promoted greater investment, higher productivity and carefully targeted social expenditure took the Indian economy to a new plane of growth beginning 2004. A higher rate of growth is, however, not a panacea. Growth does not automatically trickle down to those at the bottom of the pyramid. It is necessary to modulate the growth process so that the very poor can be a part of the process rather than wait for a pot of rice at the end of the process. That is the compelling argument in favour of inclusive growth.
While we may have understood the need to promote inclusive growth, I wonder whether we have fully understood the obligations that go with it. Inclusive growth, especially in a country where the number of poor runs into millions, means that we must subsidise food, even if the pundits disagree. The alternative is that many poor people will go without food, especially cereals, and many more millions will be malnourished. We must subsidise fuel, especially fuel for transport. Otherwise, millions of people cannot travel even by public transport and their ability to participate in the market economy will be severely constrained. Inclusive growth will entail many such obligations and call upon the government to take many unorthodox measures. Last year we wrote off the loans of farmers to the tune of Rs.65,000 crore. It was resisted, initially, by the bankers. It was severely criticised by the economists. It was lambasted by the opposition as a populist and vote-catching measure. Few among them paused to ask the question how many crores of rupees of non-performing loans were written off for big industries. Let me give you the answer. Between 1999 and 2004 alone, banks wrote off Rs.47,123 crore that had been given to industries. It benefited a few hundred industrialists and maybe a few thousand jobs too were saved. On the other hand, the much criticised loan waiver scheme benefited 36.8 million farmer families and lifted a huge burden off their shoulders. It turned out to b e a prescient move for, within a year of the write-off, India faces a 23 per cent deficiency in rainfall. Mercifully, many farmers do not have any accumulated debt. Orthodoxy has no place if it is our intention to promote inclusive growth. For example, in an economic downturn, conventional wisdom will urge business persons to lay off or retrench workers. An unconventional business person would use the downturn to freeze wages, retrain the workers, cut back costs, improve efficiency and productivity, and remain prepared when the upturn begins. I know of a software company that did not layoff or retrench anyone but actually hired 2800 new workers during the critical 18 months beginning April 2008. Public Sector Banks also hired many thousands of people during this period.
Inclusive growth will also mean that the government must have more resources to promote such growth. That means and when I say this I know it will make me unpopular in this audience given the capacity to pay, people must pay more by way of taxes. After five years of high growth and after fine tuning the tax laws and tax rates, we were able to raise the central taxes:GDP ratio from 9.2 per cent in 2003-04 to 12.6 per cent in 2007-08. If we take both central and state taxes, the ratio rose from 15.0 per cent to 18.9 per cent. That might appear to be a dramatic jump, but it is not. In most developed countries, the tax-GDP ratio falls between 30 per cent and 40 per cent. Who pays more taxes? More income tax is paid only if one has more income, and even after paying more tax he or she will retain 70 paise in the rupee. More excise or customs duties are paid only by those who consume more goods and services. So, why grumble?
Inclusive growth will also mean that no one should ask for a disproportionately large share of the pie and, if he or she does, he or she must pay more for that share. In Delhi, in what is known as the Lutyens zone, the per capita availability of water is 310 litres per day, whereas in the resettlement colony it is 200 litres per day, but even that is a questionable estimate. In the same Lutyens zone, the per capita consumption of electricity is 500 units per month, whereas for all of Delhi the per capita consumption is 150 units per month. What is wrong therefore in asking those who have a larger share of the pie to acknowledge that it is disproportionate and to either consume less or pay more for their consumption?
As the economy steams ahead in full throttle and high growth rates become a regular feature, the demand for inclusive growth will become louder and more insistent. As a nation, we must be prepared to respond to the legitimate and anguished cry of the very poor and disadvantaged sections of the people. Hence, we must make larger allocations for education and health care; for rural infrastructure such as rural roads; for drinking water and sanitation; for subsidies on food and fuel; and for cash support to certain sections of the people such as the aged and the disabled. Inclusive growth is a not-so-glamorous process that has the average poor person at the centre of all policies, but that is what we will need for the next 40 years or so if we are to win and retain support for economic reforms and liberalisation.
The Challenge Of Internal Security
The next and perhaps the most formidable challenge is the challenge of internal security. Over the years, old problems have festered and new problems have erupted. The challenge of internal security has two dimensions. The first is the state of our police system. That system is completely outdated and our police forces are ill-trained, ill-equipped and ill-paid. Adding to these woes are the short-sighted policies followed by governments with the objectives of control and patronage. Let us take the average constable. He is perhaps the most used, misused and abused person ever to wear a uniform. He works, on an average, 12 14 hours a day; generally 7 days a week, and throughout the year. Since he is drawn from the common stock of people, his behaviour and attitude reflect that stock: only a feeble attempt is made to improve his behaviour or change his attitude. When he travels from his home (in 80 per cent of the cases, it is not official accommodation) to the police station and back to his home, he transits from one cultural milieu to another. At the end of the day, he brings the culture of his home and neighbourhood to his work place. He is perhaps the most reviled public servant in India. From a violator of traffic laws to a rich man whose family member has run over several hapless persons sleeping on the pavement, everyone assumes that the average policeman can be cajoled, bribed, bought over, threatened or bullied into submission. The people's estimate of the average policeman is low; the self-esteem of the average policeman is even lower. It is this police force that is our frontline force to provide internal security and it is this police force that we have to work with. Nevertheless, it is this police force that rises to great heights in a time of crisis. How many of you still remember Thukaram Ombale who grabbed the barrel of the gun and took the bullets on his chest in order to help his fellow policemen overpower Ajmal Amir Kasab? In the first eight months of this year alone 320 men and women belonging to the security forces have laid down their lives in the course of discharging their duties. Let us spare a thought and a prayer for these brave-hearts and their sorrowing families.
If the state of our police system is one dismal dimension, the other dimension is that the challenges to internal security continue to grow at a steady pace. Firstly, there is the challenge of insurgency in the North Eastern States. It is out of abundant goodwill for, and faith in, the numerous tribes in the North Eastern States that we carved out six States and gave the people Statehood. We recognised the regional aspirations of the people. We went a step further and recognised that different tribes living within a State also have aspirations for self-government. Thus, special provisions were made in the Constitution for customary law and procedure; administration of civil and criminal justice according to customary law; ownership and transfer of land and resources; delimitation and reservation of constituencies; and autonomous district councils and regional councils. Nevertheless, insurgent movements have entrenched themselves, particularly in the States of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. Thanks to India having an international boundary with Bangladesh and Myanmar, many leaders of the insurgent groups hide in sanctuaries in these countries. The number of cadres in most groups is quite small. A few, however, continue to recruit new cadres and their ranks have swelled. These groups are able to acquire arms from abroad and bring them via Myanmar and Bangladesh. They indulge in extortion and kidnapping; they kill alleged police informers; they kill each other in inter-insurgent group clashes; and not all of them have formally given up the demand for an independent and sovereign nation. In recent years, Government has been able to persuade many groups to sign a Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement but, more often than not, this has only provided the group a cover for continuing clandestine recruitment and acquisition of arms. More recently, Government has changed tack. Government has made it clear that there will be no SoO agreement with any group unless it drops the demand for secession and abjures violence. Government has also offered to talk to any insurgent group that will abjure violence, lay down arms and move its cadres into designated camps. The first big success of the new approach is the agreement reached between the DHD(J) group and the Government of Assam three days ago when 370 cadres surrendered their arms.
It is my sincere wish that more groups will follow the example of the DHD(J). I am glad to note that the Naga groups, after many years of ceasefire, have signalled a willingness to hold talks. Government is preparing for these talks which I hope will lead to an honourable and equitable settlement. Meanwhile, the security forces will continue to apply intense pressure on the leaders and cadres of defiant insurgent groups until they give up secession and violence. We could achieve better results if the hiding places of their leaders in Myanmar and Bangladesh are exposed and they are forced to return to India.
The other dangerous source of threat to internal security is an adversary that first reared its head in the 1960s in a non-descript village called Naxalbari in West Bengal. That movement attracted a number of genuine ideologues, including some who even merited the description of intellectual. The rise and fall of the Naxalbari movement were rapid; ultimately, it found a solid base only in Andhra Pradesh. However, in the last 10 years, the naxalite movement has grown both in its area of influence and its capacity for violent actions. It is a sad fact that some sections of civil society continue to romanticise the left wing extremist movement. It is seen as a friend and defender of the poor. It is seen as incorruptible and motivated by the highest ideals of service. It is seen as a bulwark against capitalism and neo-colonialism. There may be some truth in these perceptions, but the few grains of truth must be seen in proportion to the mountain of deceit, violence and exploitation.
The naxalites or the CPI (Maoist) as they call themselves make no secret of their political goals and methods. In an extraordinarily frank document issued by the politburo of the CPI (Maoist), they have made it clear that they regard elections as 'a meaningless, irrelevant, pseudo-democratic exercise.' They have declared that their goal is 'seizure of political power and establishment of base areas' and their method will be 'expanding our guerrilla war to new areas on the one hand and intensifying the mass resistance in the existing areas; to intensify the war in the States; and expand the area of struggle.' The document holds out the ominous warning that 'this time the fight will be more long drawn and more bitter than the one against the British imperialist army.'
Kobad Ghandy, a member of the politburo, who was arrested a few weeks ago, has stated on record that the naxalites will never participate in the mainstream of politics. How can a country that is democratic and republic accept these pronouncements? The Government of India and the Governments of the States are not colonial governments; they are governments elected by the people. The only way in which an elected government can be deposed is through the ballot box. If the CPI (Maoist) has, as it claims, the support of the people, why does it not contest elections and win the right to form the government? In neighbouring Nepal, for instance, the CPN (Maoist) contested the elections and its leader, Mr Prachanda, held the office of Prime Minister for some months. If the naxalites accuse the elected governments of capitalism, land grabbing, exploiting and displacing the tribal people, denying rights of forest-dwellers etc., what prevents them from winning power through elections and reversing current policies and putting in place policies that they think will benefit the people? We have not heard a logical answer to these questions not from the naxalites, not from left-leaning intellectuals, and certainly not from the human rights groups that plead the naxalite cause ignoring the violence unleashed by the naxalites on innocent men, women and children. Why are the human rights groups silent?
The naxalites' claim that they are pro-development is a hollow claim. In 2009 alone, they have caused 183 violent attacks on economic targets including railway tracks, telephone towers, power plants, mines, school buildings and panchayat bhavans. How do these facts square with the claim that the naxalites support development? In fact, there is irrefutable evidence that the naxalites are anti-development and, in order to sustain their misguided movement, they keep development away from the poor people, especially the tribal people.
Government has made it clear that it does not view the confrontation with the naxalites as a war against the naxalites. The naxalite leaders and cadres are Indian citizens. The poor tribals and non-tribals they mislead are also Indian citizens. No government of a civilized country will wage war against its own people. What we ask is that the naxalites should abjure violence. If they represent the poor or the tribal people of a State, certainly the Government of that State would be willing to talk to them on their demands, listen to their genuine grievances, include them in the process of redressing the grievances, implement development schemes in the backward and neglected areas, and bring the poor and the tribal people into the process of inclusive growth. I hope that this statement will be read by the leaders of the naxalite movement and by their supporters. I also hope that leaders of civil society will prevail upon the naxalites to abjure violence and take the road of democracy and dialogue.
Another source of threat to internal security is terrorism from cross border terrorist groups as well as terrorist cells and modules based in India. India has been a victim of terrorism for many years long before 9/11 when the world woke up to the spectre of global terror. Hundreds of families in India have felt the pain of terror. Last year, this vibrant city was witness to the most horrific terror attacks. 166 persons were killed on those four fateful days. All countries in the world have declared zero tolerance to terror. So has India. Every day, every week and every month we are adding to our capacity to deal with terror. But there is a not-often-noticed significant flaw in our approach to terror. While there is no ambiguity or doubt in anyone's mind when it comes to cross border terrorism, when we apprehend home grown boys who are suspected to have committed terrorist acts, to my great dismay, I find that civil society is divided into two camps. On the one hand, there are people who will pronounce them guilty even before a trial and, on the other hand, there are people who will spring to their defence even before the investigation is completed. Both are wrong. Both take apparently righteous positions even without knowing the facts. It is these fundamentalist and righteous attitudes that come in the way of fighting terrorism. Terrorism cannot be fought through pre-judgements. It can be fought only through better intelligence, better investigation, better policing, better prosecution and better trials in courts. There is a civilised way to battle terrorism and I am convinced that the civilised way will eventually overcome terrorism.
62 years after the journey began, India is a stronger and more prosperous nation, but it is not yet a nation that has found peace and harmony. Nor is it yet a fair and just society. India is not unique in this respect and, therefore, there is no need to shrink in mortification. Every challenge tests the will and determination of the people. The US emerged stronger from a civil war. Winston Churchill led the British people in the defence of their island against a powerful enemy and vowed "we shall never surrender." Japan rose from the ashes to become a world economic power. Belying all predictions, the Wall was brought down and Germany was united. The peaceful rise of China is liberating millions of people from poverty. India is no stranger to the "can do" spirit; it was best exemplified by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi who said "Be the change that you want to see." Our challenges formidable as they are can be overcome. We can forge a united vision of India. We can succeed in our unique model of inclusive growth. We can vanquish the forces that threaten our internal security. That is my belief, and I ask you to share my optimism and belief.
A LIBRARY TO LAST FOREVER
GOOGLE'S CO-FOUNDER ON DIGITISING ALL OF THE WORLD'S BOOKS
THE vast majority of books ever written are not accessible to anyone except the most tenacious researchers at premieracademiclibraries.Books written after 1923 quickly disappear into a literary black hole.Withrareexceptions,one canbuythemonlyforthesmall 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 in1980,butthisbookitselfisno longer available.
Because books are such an important part of the world's collective knowledge and cultural heritage, Larry Page, the co-founderofGoogle,firstproposedthatwedigitiseallbooksa decade ago, when we were a fledglingstartup.Atthetime,it wasviewedassoambitiousand 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 over10millionandcounting.
The next year we were sued by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over the project. While wehavehaddisagreements,we have a common goal -- to unlock the wisdom held in the enormous number of out-ofprint books, while fairly compensatingtherightsholders.As a result, we were able to work together to devise a settlement that accomplishes our shared vision.Whilethissettlementisa win-winforauthors,publishers and Google, the real winners are the readers who will now have access to a greatly expandedworldofbooks.
If Google Books is successful,otherswillfollow.Andthey 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 obtainpermissions.Whilenew 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 serveasaprecedentfororphan works legislation, which Google has always supported and will continue to support.
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 theLibraryofCongress,where a fire in 1851 destroyed twothirds 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 theworld'sforemostlibraries,it is effectively lost if no one can access it easily. Let's not miss this opportunity.
(The writer is the co-founder and technology president of Google)
INFY AND AFTER
Corporate results for the second quarter ended September kicked off on Friday with Infosys Technologies reporting 2.8% sequential growth in its topline. The IT bellwether has been able to maintain margins, increased guidance, added 35 new clients, given pay hikes and promotions and hired new employeesmaking it an all-round good performance. Globally, there are signs of recovery and IT companies would have to wait for the next Budget cycle to get a better feel of how it is going to pan out. IT companies are reporting easing of pricing and stability in volumes and new geographies consistently performing well ahead of the US and Europe, along with pent-up demand. However, the key challenge for the sector as a whole will be the volatility of rupee which is appreciating against the greenback. Overall, corporate results for the quarter ending September are expected to show an improvement in topline backed by the fact that the advance tax paid by companies in the second quarter of the financial year increased 15% year-on-year as compared with a decline of 4% in the first quarter. Sectors like auto, cement, IT and FMCG are expected to post stellar results and earnings divergence is expected in sectors like telecom, power and banking. The dampener would be the rise in prices of commodities and strong upward movement of base metal prices which will impact the topline of metal companies. For auto companies, low interest rates and improved consumer sentiment helped to push up volume sequentially from the first quarter onwards. Most notably, commercial vehicles which saw decline in sales for over eight months are now reporting uptick in sales indicating revival of demand of goods and services across the country. The retail sector is expected to report increase in topline as footfalls have started increasing resulting in an increment in the sales per square feet of the retailers. For banks, the overall profitability is expected to be moderate as credit growth remained low at 14% during the quarter. Consequently, net interest margin is expected to remain flat in the quarter with repricing benefits being marginal.
Companies have discounted the impact of weak monsoon as low interest rate and adequate liquidity with banks will ensure resurrection in consumption demand. Also, with various government schemes like NREG and Bharat Nirman estimated to collectively spend about Rs 85,000 crore in this fiscal, it would supplement income in rural India. As confidence in domestic and global recovery grows further, and liquidity conditions remain easy, analysts expects the upgrade momentum to sustain over the coming two quarters as well. Various estimates put out by analysts show the consensus earnings growth for Sensex companies for the fiscal has recovered from -3% in July to 5% now. The current interest rate scenario and improved consumer sentiments would help continue the strong domestic momentum.
'MISUNDERESTIMATING' THE PRIZE
Is Barack Obama an extraordinary politician? The answer is yes, even after his US popularity ratings have taken a plunge and some weaknesses in style and substance have emerged. Has Obama done enough in 9 months to be declared a confirmed bringer of peace in parts of a violent world? No, and that is understandable, you can't do that in 9 months. Is Obama's job as US president necessarily to work for peacethat is, always avoid conflict, or always bring conflicts to an endto the exclusion of all other national-strategic aims? The answer is no again, even though it might offend those whose undoubted good intentions come at the cost of understanding harsh realities. Questions two and three are just some of the many that indicate why the Nobel committee's decision to award this year's Peace Prize to Obama is distinctly odd. You get the distinct feeling that Obama got it because he is not George Bush and he came after George Bush. But are those good enough reasons to award a Nobel Peace Prize? Obama is a ruling politician, not a leader of a non-government peace movement, and ruling politicians should be judged by their work, not by the emotions engendered by their predecessor. Talking of Obama's predecessor, European admirers of the US president are perhaps missing out on American Left's increasing chagrin at what they see as Obama's insufficient non-Bushness
Guantanamo hasn't been shot down, some prisoners there have been judged as too crucial to be allowed to walk free, even though due process wasn't followed. Yes, Obama has shut down US-sponsored, non-US based interrogation centres. Yes, Obama went to Cairo and made a nice speech to the Islamic world (although, he didn't say much actually). Yes, he has made softer noises on Iran. But Mikhail Gorbachev won the Peace Prize because he helped end the Cold War, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat got it because of the Oslo accord, Henry Kissinger got it because he negotiated the end to Vietnam conflictwhat, by these standards, has Obama done? The decision to honour Kissinger looked strange to those on the Left, and they had a point. The decision to honour Obama looks stranger, whether you politically belong to the Left, Right or Centre.
Therefore, while the Nobel Peace Prize may or may not burnish Obama's presidency, it will almost certainly raise more questions about the Nobel Peace Prize committee. Few famous awards are greeted with universal approbation. But few seem as driven by pop-politics as the Nobel to Obama seems to be. The committee, to borrow a word from the George Bush lexicon, has grossly 'misunderestimated' what the prize is supposed to be.
WHY DON'T WE GET IT ABOUT DEVELOPMENT
In the early 1980s it was quite common to see Rajiv Gandhi on TV, talking convincingly to a large gathering of presumably illiterate villagers about the great strides which the Congress party had taken in building the information technology highway and the different allocations for mega power projects in the Plan and so on. While the speech was in Hindi, these achievements would be uttered in English as the peasants nodded away in appreciation. He went on to win the elections and become PM.
Things are not very different today where successive governments speak eloquently on how the Indian economy is one of the fastest growing nations, which has withstood the financial crisis and will be growing by 6%, or 7% or even 8% this year. The stock markets react buoyantly and there are several interviews with the PM, FM, Planning Commission etc, where these numbers are explained.
The two situations are similar because in both the cases we are looking very narrowly at the economy and the performance of the government and probably feeling good about it without pausing to see if life around us has really improved. UNDP's recently released Human Development Report is an eye-opener as it comes at a time when we are in this mode of self-praise, and brings us back to reality.
Looking at growth numbers is passé today and the French President Mr Sarkozy has spoken of a happiness index to gauge the real success of an economy and Joseph Stiglitz is a part of the committee that will be looking at conceptualising these alternatives. Now, the HDI (Human Development Index) has been doing this for some time. The HDI basically looks at four parameters such as life expectancy, adult literacy, enrolment rate and per capita income and scores the nation out of 1. India has got a score of 0.612 and comes in the lower half of the medium range of human development countries and is ranked 134 out of a set of 184 countries. This is disappointing because it clearly shows that our performance is pathetic in the area of social development, which is missed when we talk of our growth story.
The curious part is that while we are better than countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, we are lower than Botswana and Bhutan. Clubbing India as part of the Bric group looks odd considering that Russia and Brazil are ranked 59 and 75 and come under the high human development group, while China is ranked in the upper half of the medium development group with a rank of 92 and a score of 0.772. It is not hard to guess that the countries which are ranked lower than India are generally located in Africa (over 35 of the remaining 48 nations).
Quite clearly, there is a lot of housekeeping that needs to be focused on before we take our growth numbers seriously. In fact, the report also does a check on the rank of a country with respect to human development and the same in per capita income and the difference is presented. India has a negative number here. It is time that we did focus on the quality of development and not get carried away by purely growth indicators which camouflage the true picture.
This report is significant as it comes a month or so after the World Bank and IFC brought out the Doing Business Report for 2010. This report talks of the basic environment provided by the government for industry to operate. It talks in some detail on the ranking of countries in terms of the ease of doing business and has ranked India 133 in a list of 183 countries. Once again we seem to be falling short of expectations and it indicates to an extent the difficulties that industry faces when doing business in India. Quite expectedly the African countries and certain Central and Latin American countries fare lower than India. Some of the sub-ranks that we have are 182 in enforcing contracts, 169 in taxation, 175 for construction permits and 138 for closing business.
This means two things. The first is that even in terms of facilitating industrial growth, we have not done much and we make things difficult for industry to operate. The impediments are high, which means that despite the sounds made on economic reforms and liberalisation, life is still tough for those who operate within our boundaries. The second is that enterprise in India has to be lauded for doing this well despite tough operational conditions. We evidently can produce better numbers if we are able to bring about improvements in our mindsets.
The two reports, hence, do expose considerable frailties in bringing about quality growth in the country and clearly show the distance between the developed and developing nations. More significantly, even within the developing nations our approach can be improved substantially to deliver superior results.
The author is chief economist of NCDEX Ltd. These are his personal views
STILL CEMENTED TOGETHER
Aditya Birla group officials and bankers present at a media meet last week to announce Grasim's demerger of its cement business were hopeful of the company's stock recovering from a 5% fall in the days preceding the announcement. But that was not to be. The company's shares were down by more than 9% on Friday, compared to last week. The demerger news and UltraTech board's in-principle approval for a merging of the demerged Samruddhi Cement with itself, still refused to cheer up the stock. While it can be argued that a company cannot take strategic decisions just to shore up market sentiments, the pressure seen on the Grasim shares reflect a few concerns of investors. One is the perception that Grasim will eventually become just a holding company for the cement business, holding a majority stake in the final, consolidated cement entity. A few brokerages have incorporated a holding company discount into Grasim, and see a drift by investors more towards UltraTech. Also, Grasim's other business, VSF, has been historically funding the cement business. Now that cement will have its own internal means to fund growth, investors are keen to know how cash flow from VSF would now be invested.
Bankers who advised Grasim on the deal, are still confident and ascribe Grasim's current lacklustre performance on the bourses to the overall damp sentiments in the market over the last few days. Grasim has outperformed the market in the last six months, they say, and over a period of time, sentiments will revive. Eventually, the consolidation will create India's largest company, with a total capacity of more 48 million tonnes. With Grasim and UltraTech having completed their major expansion plans, the free cash flows generated will be used even for inorganic growth. Moreover, the consolidation will give greater flexibility for raising equity capital, and a larger balance sheet to leverage on. Domestic cement consumption has seen around 13% growth in Q2 FY10, despite a poor monsoon, and prices have been stable in most parts except the south. The cement story, therefore, looks good, and should reward investors in the medium to long term.
A FULL PRIZE FOR POLICIES HALF-COOKED
C RAJA MOHAN
The Nobel Peace Committee is no stranger to political controversy; its idiosyncratic decisions and non-decisions on what arguably is the world's most famous award do tend to defy conventional wisdom.
The Nobel Committee's choices invite acute political contestation when it rules in favour of serving presidents and prime ministers. And when the winner is the President of the world's most powerful nation, there will be no dearth of political cynicism.
To be sure, Barack Obama is no ordinary political leader. That he has won the Nobel Peace Prize even before he completed nine months in the White House and served barely two years on the national stage prior to that, underlines the huge impact President Obama has had on political imagination in the US and in the world.
Obama's decision to end the war in Iraq, reverse US opposition to climate change negotiations, reach out to Muslims in the Middle East, question some Israeli policies, offer negotiations to Iran, propose a re-set in the relations with Moscow, pull back from the missile defence plans in Europe, commit the US to a future elimination of nuclear weapons have clearly made a big impression on chattering classes in Europe, where the Nobel Committee resides.
Nevertheless, the committee's announcement to give the 2009 Peace Prize to Obama is bound to generate controversy, in no place more than the US.
There is no question that the decision is a huge surprise, given reports that Obama was not of the original short list of candidates for the Nobel this year. If the International Olympics Committee snubbed the US President who flew through the night to Copenhagen and made a personal pitch in favour of his hometown Chicago which wanted to host the 2016 Olympics, the Nobel Committee seems to have more than compensated.
America's people are bound to be proud at their President getting the Nobel. But the reaction of the deeply divided political class will underline the current polarisation in the US.
The Democrats will hail Oslo's decision as a vindication of president's determination to reverse the negative policies of his predecessor George W. Bush. They would also argue that if America was reviled in much of the world during the Bush years, the Nobel Prize to Obama is restoring the attractiveness of America's soft power in the world.
The Republicans will dismiss the prize as a pathetic attempt by the Europeans to celebrate Obama's presidency for being simply 'un-Bush' in its approach to the world.
Given the extraordinary power the United States wields over the world, it is entirely understandable that much of the world wants to express its preferences within the US political debates. In the end the outsiders have no vote in American politics and the external interventions at best feed into American political divisions.
The very reasons that Oslo cites to justify the prize the contribution to internal diplomacy and cooperationare strongly questioned in the United States. What European liberals find endearing in Obama's foreign policy angers American conservatives.
American critics of Obama's foreign policy argue that the president has been too apologetic about America's past conduct. Even more seriously, they insist that Obama is subordinating the US national interest in the name of a wooly-headed internationalism.
Worse,they suggest Obama my be endangering American security by underestimating its enemies and letting other major powers like Russia and China squeeze the maximum of America's presumed weaknesses under the Obama Administration.
Beyond the partisan arguments in the US, Oslo is certainly vulnerable to one genuine criticism. That it has rewarded the international promise of President Obama rather than his performance.
At this moment many of Obama's international initiatives are not even half-cooked. It is by no means certain that Obama will be able to deliver on any of his major promisessuch as those on global warming, nuclear disarmament, and peace in the greater Middle East.
No other chief executive of any large nation is as constrained by the internal political structures as the US President. The system of constitutional checks and balances means the US Presidents have a hard task creating domestic consensus on foreign policy.
Despite the general endorsement of Obama by the American people and the rare simultaneous control of the Congress by his own party, every major international initiative of Obama faces massive political hurdles at home.
Obama may deliver on some of his promises and fail on many. It would have been prudent then for the Nobel committee to wait for an assessment of the outcomes from Obama's policies rather than their intentions. After all, Obama is facing criticism from many of his liberal supporters for failing to keep his promises.
But the Nobel Peace Committee is nothing if it is not a political beast that loves joining the fray and picking up winners who it would like to succeed.
The writer is Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC
KEEP OUT THE ARMED FORCES
An intelligent response by the Indian state to Naxalite violence must necessarily be multi-dimensional, dealing with the problem in all its aspects. Long-term strategies to address the socioeconomic roots of the problem must be combined with short-term tactics of firmly combating kidnapping, murder, and targeted violence. However, the suggestion to use the Air Force to counter the threat holds disturbing implications. For a start, it sends out a signal of desperation. The Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, did well to clarify that the IAF did not intend to carry out any Rambo-style operations against the Maoists. The IAF had only asked the Defence Ministry for permission to open fire in self-defence following the downing of a helicopter during the Chhattisgarh Assembly election last year. The request was to ensure that the IAF could quell fire aimed at its helicopters on relief missions. According to the IAF chief, the Garud Special Forces unit would be present in the helicopters involved in rescue work in areas under the influence of Naxalites, and would defend personnel and equipment against any attack. But there will be no bombing or indiscriminate firing against targets, real or imagined, in the countryside. As a rule, the armed forces ought not to be involved in dealing with internal security issues; and bombing of civilian areas cannot be contemplated by any civilised society.
True, the state is constitutionally and legally empowered to use instruments of violence. But the rules and norms governing such use have to be placed on a higher plane than the standards adopted by extremist forces, which do not hesitate to target innocents. There are times when the state needs to use its inherent powers to intervene quickly and effectively to protect citizens. But every instance of unjust use of violence, including sponsored vigilantism of the Salwa Judum kind, erodes the state's credibility, legitimacy, and authority. It is a betrayal of the trust reposed in it by the people. Naxalites, and indeed armed extremists of all hues, thrive by provoking state violence and inviting repression not just on themselves but on the civilian population as a whole. The Indian state must not lose sight of the long-term goals of addressing social and economic inequities, and achieving development targets. Providing social opportunity, tackling unemployment, and ensuring sustainable livelihoods are the ways to deal with extremist organisations that seek to alienate the people from the state by taking up these very same issues. The last thing democratic India needs is a spiral of violence, counter-violence, repression, and further extremist provocations.
GREECE TURNS LEFT
On October 4, Greek voters gave the Panhellenic Socialist Party (PASOK), led by George Papandreou, a resounding mandate for change. In the mainly-proportional electoral system, PASOK won an outright majority with 160 seats out of 300, on a vote share of 43.9 per cent. This marks a huge defeat for the incumbent New Democracy party and its leader Kostas Karamanlis. He had called a mid-term election in face of the perceived challenges such as the economic crisis, high-level corruption scandals, and widespread rioting over the police killing of a 15-year-old boy in Athens in December 2008. The incoming government inherits a situation in which the national debt is greater than the GDP, a budget deficit at about 6 per cent of economic output, extensive tax evasion, and public institutions noted for wasteful spending. Mr. Papandreou's political inheritance he is the third in his family to become prime minister will be one of his assets. But in the present context, he has other and probably stronger ones. Born in the United States and educated at the London School of Economics and Harvard, Mr. Papandreou prefers to work for a consensus on most issues, and in general has a manner and style closer to that of Northern European or Scandinavian social democrats. He also has a record of political achievement; as foreign minister in the 1990s, he brought about major improvements in Greece's long-troubled relations with Turkey and Albania. In addition, his position within PASOK has been greatly strengthened by his victory in a fierce leadership dispute that followed a second successive election defeat in 2007.
The new prime minister promises to clean up and reform government, to crack down on tax fraud, and to deal with illegal immigration. Mr. Papandreou also has the larger task of restoring trust in public life and institutions, and much will depend on the success or otherwise of his 3 billion stimulus package. He will, however, be under pressure. The European Union may grant the two-year extension he seeks in order to reduce the budget deficit by 50 per cent, but will demand pension reforms which will need assent from powerful public-service unions. Secondly, corruption and waste are endemic in Greek political life irrespective of the party in government. But other recent developments may well help PASOK. The party has regained votes on its left; and, in September, the centre-left Portuguese prime minister, José Socrates, held on to win the general election. Mr. Papandreou can draw strength from the fact that Southern European voters are looking left for stability, probity, and leadership.
LEADER PAGE ARTICLES
COPING WITH RISING CHINA
THERE IS NO REASON TO ASSUME THAT INDIA'S RAPIDLY RISING NEIGHBOUR, SET TO BECOME THE WORLD'S LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE NEXT TWO DECADES, WILL NOT PLAY THE NORMAL GAME OF NATIONS. BUT THE CURRENT HAWKISHNESS AND JINGOISM IN SECTIONS OF THE MEDIA AND STRATEGIC CIRCLES IN INDIA IS WITHOUT BASIS AND UNCALLED FOR, ARGUES A VETERAN STRATEGIC AFFAIRS SPECIALIST.
In the last few weeks a number of accounts have appeared in our media of 'incidents' on the Indo-China Line of Actual Control (LoAC) that portrayed China as exerting military pressure on India. There were also reports of China objecting to the Asian Development Bank loan to a development project in Arunachal Pradesh on the ground that it is a disputed territory and issuing stapled instead of stamped visas for travellers, of Kashmiri residence to China.
Very hawkish articles appeared in the media on both sides. In China, an analyst repeated the argument of the 1960s that India cannot stay united. In India, the ghosts of 1962 were resurrected and there were predictions that there was likely to be a Chinese attack on India by 2012. The retiring Naval Chief's sober assessment that militarily India is not in a position to catch up with China on equality of forces and equipment in the conventional sense and therefore India should consider technological solutions to cope up with, and not confront a rising China, was misinterpreted as defeatist sentiment in certain media and strategic circles.
It is no doubt significant that while all this tension generation is in the media of the two countries the two governments have sought to reduce the tension and discourage the hype in the media. Some political parties, ex-service officers, and strategists have drawn totally inapt comparisons with 1962. I am one of the few surviving senior citizen civil servants who were in the Ministry of Defence at that time. I functioned as a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee from November 1962 till December 1964.
Year 2009 is not 1962. In 1962, China was isolated from the international system. It was conducting a 'Hate America' campaign annually and also denouncing the Soviet leadership as revisionists and capitalist roaders. The Chinese attack on India was launched to coincide with the Cuban missile crisis to make sure that the two superpowers would be preoccupied with each other and not be able to apply pressure on China. The Chinese also promptly withdrew from the Arunachal Pradesh territory they occupied back to the McMahon line.
At that time under the advice of American Ambassador J.K. Galbraith the Indian leadership did not use the Air Force for fear of superior Chinese retaliatory capability. The truth, which we did not know at that time, was that the Chinese Air Force was totally grounded as the Soviets had denied them spares and aviation fuel not because of the attack on India but because of the ongoing ideological dispute. The debacle in Sela-Bomdila happened not because the Indian Army was outgunned and outmanned but because the divisional commander did not fight and attempted to withdraw from a well entrenched position due to sheer panic. There are books on the 'unfought war' by people who were there at that time. Since then the Indian Army has faced the Chinese under valiant leadership and acquitted itself very creditably.
China of today is not the Maoist country that argued that power grew out of the barrel of a gun and that even if 300 million Chinese perished in a nuclear war 300 million would survive to build a glorious civilisation. Times have changed since the ideology of countryside surrounding the cities was advanced during the Cultural Revolution. 'Dig tunnels deep and store grain everywhere' was the Maoist slogan in preparation for a nuclear war. China of the 1960s was an isolated country and today it is one of the largest trading nations of the world. Those who build skyscrapers and Three Gorges dam will not be thinking of war in the same way Mao did. China is energy-import dependent and its energy transit lanes through the Indian Ocean and Malacca Straits are very vulnerable
China has a much greater stake in Taiwan than it has in Arunachal Pradesh, which it totally vacated after occupying large sections of it in 1962. It has not risked a war on Taiwan over the last 60 years. It has been extraordinarily patient about it since it understands the risks involved in using force on Taiwan recovery. There was a time (the whole of the 1950s and 1960s) when U.S. aircraft and warships would violate Chinese airspace and Chinese territorial waters regularly. China issued the relevant 437th and 593rd serious warnings to the United States. That continued until it allied itself with the U.S. in 1971 faced with the perceived Soviet nuclear threat. Ideology did not stand in the way.
There are valuable lessons for India in China's patience and purposive response, untrammelled by ideological
baggage or the overburden of memory. When Henry Kissinger started his secret trip to make up with Beijing, he
told the doubters that the Chinese were pragmatists.
China is a rising power and is most likely to overtake the U.S. as the country with highest GDP in the next couple of decades. It wants to be the dominant power of Asia in the immediate future and that will mean an unequal relationship with other major Asian powers. The only nation that is perceived to have the potential to challenge China, not in the short run but over the longer period, is India with a comparable population, a similar civilisational heritage, and the advantage of a younger age profile. While a meaningful challenge from India to China is not likely to come for at least a couple decades, India is in a position to play the role of a balancer in the ongoing rivalry between China and the U.S.
Chinese policies towards India have subtle elements of sophisticated coercion to attempt to prevent a closer partnership developing between India and the U.S. China may also have plans to shape a final settlement of the Tibetan issue on the passing of the present Dalai Lama. The pressure on Arunachal and procrastination in finalising the border may be a part of a long-term strategy to compel India to accept a post-Dalai Lama dispensation in Tibet and bring the matter to a closure.
China asserts that it will be rising peacefully. There is no disputing that peaceful rise is in its interest. But that does not preclude the normal practices in the game of nations of pressure, influence, and dominance economically, politically and even militarily but without recourse to the actual use of force. That has happened all through history and there is no reason to assume that China will not practise the normal game of nations.
India has to learn to cope with this challenge without getting hysterical. Nor should it hamper in any way the growing trade relations between the two countries. There is, in fact, a good case to develop mutual dependencies in a globalised world, with due care to ensure that the dependency does not become unfavourably one-sided against our interest. The most effective way of doing it is to step up our economic growth to 10 per cent by exploiting all available favourable factors in the international economic and political system, as China is doing; develop rapidly our border infrastructure; augment our military capability without delays; and attempt to develop stakes for all major powers in our growth and security.
While doing all this, there is no need to indulge in jingoistic rhetoric. There can be firmness in dealing with the LoAC or other issues where there are attempts at exploiting unequal advantages in situations. India has arrived at a stage in international politics when it has to demonstrate maturity in playing the game of nations.
(The author, a retired civil servant, is an internationally known strategic affairs specialist and commentator.)
THE NOBEL AND THE AUDACITY OF HOPE-GIVING
THE WORLD IS SO ACCUSTOMED TO AMERICAN PRESIDENTS WAGING WAR THAT THE FIRST INCUMBENT TO PROMISE DIPLOMACY GETS TO WIN THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE DOES.
Whether it was a nave, Nordic leap of faith in Obamamania or the burning desire to pre-empt the betrayal of hopes that the new U.S. president has aroused, the Nobel committee's decision to give its coveted peace prize to Barack Obama is likely to leave the world at large not to speak of the American people puzzled, bemused and more than a little sore.
The reason for this is not because the world dislikes or distrusts Mr. Obama. Many may or do, but global sentiment towards the new president of the United States still runs largely positive. What is upsetting, however, is the intellectual laziness and political timidity with which the Nobel committee appears to have gone about its exertions.
After eight years of George W. Bush as American president, the victory of Mr. Obama was widely welcomed across the world. And so far, he has done well to talk the right talk on virtually every major issue of war and peace. He has said he will shut down the notorious U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo, end the practice of torture and bring the war in Iraq to an end as soon as possible. On Iran, he has reiterated his campaign promise of dialogue and diplomacy and even followed through by authorising his officials to interact with their Iranian counterparts in Geneva earlier this month. He made a stirring speech in Cairo on the need for justice in the Middle East and another at Prague on a nuclear weapon free world. He is, of course, threatening to ramp up the Afghan war but his generals have said they will use force in a more intelligent way than the U.S. has so far done in that country.
Had Mr. Obama delivered on even a quarter of these promissory notes, the Nobel peace prize would have justly been his. But all the Norwegian committee seems to have gone by is the down payment of words. Nominations for this year's prize apparently closed on the 12th day of Mr. Obama's presidency. Those who nominated him clearly couldn't be bothered to wait and see whether he came good. But the Nobel committee, in reaching its decision, should at least have factored in those elements of actual presidential policy that actually run counter to his stated agenda.
Take peace in the Middle East, for example. The Israeli government spared Mr. Obama the embarrassment of having to endorse its aggression in Gaza by ending the war just before the new president's inauguration. This was a war in which the Israeli military and political leadership committed war crimes, according to the authoritative investigative report authored by Judge Richard Goldstone for the United Nations. But for Mr. Obama and his team, the report is irrelevant. Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama told the Israelis they would have to stop their illegal policy of expanding the presence of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. But when Tel Aviv rejected the demand, our Nobel peace prize winner quietly went along.
On Iran, it is far from clear that Obama's Washington has foreclosed the so-called military option. The Geneva meeting went well between Iran and the P5+1 went well, producing an interim confidence building measure that belies the Western hype about the imminence of Tehran's nuclear threat. But the preparations for war are proceeding side by side. The administration has quietly sought and received funding for the proposed massive ordnance penetrator the so-called bunker buster that the Pentagon says it needs to destroy Iranian nuclear sites which have been buried underground.
As for the vital global issue of climate change where Mr. Obama promised radically to depart from the Bush administrations ostrich-like approach, it is becoming increasingly clear that diplomatic engagement is merely a different means to achieving the same end: evasion of Americas historical responsibility drastically to cut its emission of greenhouse gases.
The problem with the Nobel committee awarding Mr. Obama the peace prize is that it sends out an entirely negative signal: that it is all right for a U.S. president to ignore global concerns on the environment, take the side of a regime like Israel that is accused of serious war crimes or to consider coercive or even military means for the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
Mr. Obama still has time to come around to a more pacific course on these and other issues. The urge to live up to the international recognition he has already received might be an incentive. But with the Nobel peace prize already under his belt and the weight of well-entrenched lobbies, interests and policies bearing down on his worthy shoulders, the chances of him actually doing so have probably just got narrower.
CLIMATE TALKS FAIL TO MAKE BREAKTHROUGH
The latest round of United Nations Climate Change Talks in Bangkok wrapped up on Friday without clarity on finance and mid-term emission reduction targets, both crucial elements for a new deal to be reached on December's Copenhagen climate change conference.
Although a will has emerged in Bangkok to build the architecture to rapidly implement climate action, "significant differences remain," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, who chairs the talks starting from September 28.
There's no significant political progress being made in this round of talks, the UN's top climate change official told Xinhua, adding that the two key issues remaining unsolved are the commitment by developed countries on their mid-term emission reduction and the finance that developed countries should provide to developing ones to adapt and mitigate the climate change. "It is time now to step back from self interest and let the common interest prevail," said de Boer at the press conference on the last day of the talks.
The talks, which attracted more than 4,000 delegates from 177 countries, managed to trim the 200-page negotiation draft text for Copenhagen down by half, Yvo de Boer said.
PAK HAND BEHIND TALIBAN HANDIWORK
Casualties in Thursday's suicide car bomb blast outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul could have been as high as those in a similar explosion there in July last year (60) but for a reinforced perimeter wall erected recently. The intensity of the blast and the mode of its execution make it clear that the heinous crime, in which at least 17 Afghans were killed, was committed by the same group which was behind last year's outrage. American intelligence officials had found that Pakistan's intelligence agencies had helped to plan last year's attack. The way Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid quickly issued a statement owning responsibility for the suicide bombing this time was a clear giveaway that he was trying to keep the ISI out of scrutiny. But the smokescreen does not fool anybody. A senior Kabul police official said as much: "I can announce clearly that the phenomenon that is causing us trouble is being organised from the other side of the border."
This was the fifth suicide strike in Kabul in two months. The road on which the car bomb exploded also houses the Afghan Interior Ministry and some government departments. The Indian embassy was clearly the target. That the terrorists could succeed in causing mayhem in such a high-security area is a reflection on the American security apparatus as well. Perhaps the Taliban are emboldened by arguments of some US administration officials that they (Taliban) do not pose a threat to the US. What they refuse to acknowledge is that a Taliban takeover in Kabul can help Al-Qaida launch more attacks. This time it was an Indian establishment; the next time it may be an American one.
Under the circumstances, India will have to strengthen its defences even more. Its engineers, doctors and other workers are engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction work in Afghanistan. That has earned India a lot of goodwill, and Pakistan has been uneasy over this development. If the US does not help end Islamabad's perfidy, it will only be compromising its own war on terror. It must not let the attack influence the debate in the US on what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan.
MAOISTS IN MAHARASHTRA
OUTLAWS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO HIJACK DEMOCRACY
The regularity with which Maoists have been ambushing police patrols in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra reflects the utter failure of anti-Naxalite operations in the area. Friday's ambush, which left 17 policemen dead, was the third such strike in the district this year. As many as 15 policemen were killed in one of the encounters in February and 16 more, including five women constables, lost their lives in May. The district, bordering Abujhmath area of Chattisgarh, has been a Maoist stronghold for several decades and Maoist ideologue Kobad Ghandy, who was arrested in Delhi last month, is said to have been active in the area. The ambush on Friday also coincided with Maoists beheading a suspected police informer and setting a panchayat bhavan on fire in the same district. The renewed burst of Maoist attacks appear designed to mock the Union Home Minister's offer for talks-before-annihilation and claims by Maharashtra police that Maoists would not be able to enforce their poll-boycott call in the district. It is also possible that Maoists are flexing their muscle to mount pressure on the government to ensure that their arrested leaders are treated well in custody, even if they are not released.
Coming barely five days before the Maharashtra Assembly election, the ambush is bound to cast its shadow on polling in the three Assembly constituencies in the district. The Maoists' poll-boycott call has already had an impact on campaigning. Political parties and candidates, who in any case had abandoned the area since long, have refrained from venturing into remote areas despite considerable security provided to them. An apprehensive administration has already requisitioned 7,000 additional policemen and two helicopters for transporting polling personnel. And while polling in the district will end at 3 pm, two hours before it does in the rest of the state, it is already clear that if it takes place at all, it will be rather low in Gadchiroli.
Politicians and policemen have been busy looking for alibis though. Maoists, they claim, are more in number than policemen. The rebels were armed with sophisticated arms, they have added, and there were several Nepali-looking men among them. They also claim to have killed 15 Maoists though not a single body of a slain rebel has been recovered. None of this is really convincing because Gadchiroli has been a hot-bed of Maoist activities since long and Maharashtra police raised an elite commando force to deal with the outlaws. The strategy certainly needs to be revised as none of the steps appears to have stamped the authority of the state in the district. Maoists simply cannot be allowed to hijack democracy.
INDIA CANNOT AFFORD TO IGNORE IT
Just when the HRD Ministry was patting itself on the back for giving education the much-needed impetus, here comes a dampener. A World Bank report has described India as an "under-performer" in secondary education. The gross enrolment rate of India at the secondary level lags behind East Asia and Latin America. Even nations with lower per capita incomes like Vietnam and Bangladesh fare better. Clearly, when it comes to what the World Bank has called a "forgotten middle", India needs to brace up and universalise access as well as improve the quality of secondary education.
The right emphasis on primary education is evident from India's spending on it, the recent passing of Right to Education Act and the thrust given to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Yet, it is secondary education alone that equips young people for both the job market and higher education. Secondary education is thus the crucial link that can play a major role in helping youth break the poverty barrier. However, as things are secondary education in India is marked by inequities. While the state wise disparities are glaring with both Punjab and Haryana doing poorly there is unequal enrolment between urban and rural areas and a gnawing gender gap too. Secondary education is marred by uneven distribution of school infrastructure and lack of trained teachers and 27 per cent of India's districts have less than one secondary school for every 1,000 youth, aged 15 to 19 years. Nearly one- third of villages lack schools within the prescribed radius.
India must pay heed to the words of Sam Carlson, Lead Education Specialist, World Bank and rise up to three-pronged challenge of equity, access and quality. The Centre's newly launched Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan to address both the issue of access and quality is a step in the right direction. The RSMA aims to provide good quality education to all young people in the age group 14-18 years by 2020. Clearly, there is an urgent need to look beyond numbers and focus on quality as well. To capitalise on its demographic advantage, India has to ensure its youth is employable, educated and skilled.
INDIA HAS NO WAY BUT TO ACT TOUGH
BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
Virtually every human action is the product of a mens rea (intention) and cause. Hence it is important that one takes note thereof if a person, under the impression of his being the sole representative of his country, acts hostile against India with an additional impetus emanating from his religion and god. Understandably, one's focus is on fake Indian currency note (FICN) and the source of origin thereof, Pakistan.
Though FICN could have several printing press, multiple entry points, myriad distribution centres, cunning circulation managers, dynamic marketing executives, professional carriers, naive, needy and greedy Indian consumers eager to make quick buck, and the battery of ISI mastermind, management gurus and its agents, let us face the reality.
FICN has caught the imagination of a section of Indians who are being ruthlessly exploited by (some are conniving and colluding with) India's congenital hostile neighbour, dialogue or no dialogue. Indeed Pakistan could never have had found such a vast and readymade market to tap and an opportunity to trip a rising Indian economy on its doorstep.
The Pakistani game plan starts with the western sector of India with the rail gateway of Munabao (in south-western Rajasthan) through which passes the weekly Thar express. Further north is the road and railhead at Wagah/Attari through which pass the Samjhauta Express, Lahore-Delhi bus service and the Indo-Pak freight service. Up north is the third point Chakan da Bagh in Kashmir which is the entry/exit gate for commodity trade between the two Kashmirs of India and Pakistan where law is slightly more liberal in lack of its application and less harsh for its gross violation.
In this background, a cardinal principle followed by the Pakistani guards, Rangers, intelligence and operational outfits is to ensure smooth penetration of the international border by the Pakistanis or any willing, hostile foreign mercenary. The unwritten code is a tacit understanding between the guards and goondas. "We will help you in every possible way to cross over to Hindustan to create chaos, confusion and hell; but in case you are caught, we will not come to your rescue and if shot we will not claim you. You are welcome to take the risk and reap the benefit of our collective enterprise."
One is constrained to recall the identical Pakistani mischief and modus operandi being resorted to during the Soviet-Afghan war of 1980s which have been vividly described by Shuza Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords: "the Afghan bureau of the ISI was selecting 'volunteers', often Pashtuns from the regular Pakistani army who were fluent in Pashto and Dari and were infiltrated into Afghanistan to guide the Mujahideens...Such soldiers were under strict instruction not to reveal their identity. If captured, Pakistan would deny that they were from the Pakistani army."
ISI traditionally got the cue and command from its army chief-President Zia-ul-Haq. Thus the bleeding USSR's forces in Kabul upset the Soviet leader Gorbachev so much that at the meeting of the secretaries of the central committee of the Soviet communist party on March 15, 1985, he spoke about his meetings with various foreign leaders who had earlier come to Moscow:
"President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan is one cunning politician. He constantly wanted to assure us of his friendly
feelings, his good neighbourliness, and that he himself was a victim of a situation where there were about three million so-called Afghan refugees in Pakistan. In general, it was pure demagoguery with the perversion of fact. I told Zia-ul-Haq directly...you are a military man yourself and understand very well that we know in the most precise way what is going on in Pakistan right now, where and what kind of camps are functioning that train the dushman ('enemy' in Farsi, and used by Soviets to refer to the Mujahideens), who is arming the bandits, and who is supplying them with money and all other necessities. Thus, overall, we put quite serious pressure on Zia-ul-Haq, and he left the room clearly unhappy".
The tradition of mischief and roguery continue as "operations" begin by the organising country "targeting" India. As for the "channel couriers", they need to be identified and suitably briefed. Thus the ISI agents get the full list of the Indian passengers coming to Pakistan, and those of travelling from Pakistan to India, in advance. Thereafter a careful categorisation and classification are done to identify, track, catch (and if need be train) the carriers of FICN to India.
Essentially, the target couriers are divided into Pakistani and Indian. The former is chosen with great care as he needs to complete the mission unharmed and undetected. However, there could be some minority Hindu Pakistanis too who would be "allowed to get caught" to make a double-edged political and diplomatic manoeuvre without much effort.
Thus when an old Pakistani Hindu couple get caught with FICN on entering India by land route, it transpired that the ISI operators handed over FICN/took away Pakistani currency at 10:4 ratio, which translates into Rs 1 lakh FICN and Pakistani Rs 40,000. Thus the Pakistani army/ISI duo succeeded in eliminating a property owning, wealthy minority couple from its soil, replenished their coffer with genuine Pakistani currency 40,000 and gave away Rs 1 lakh FICN for purchasing landed property along the Indian side of the Indo/Pak border at a price higher than the existing Indian market price through a currency which has neither any value nor any use. Yet, if caught, both the men and the money will ultimately hit the Indian economy.
Indeed, if undetected over a longer period, the continuous land grabbing by the Pakistanis, of the Indian soil, during the course of time can turn it into an extension of Pakistan deep into the Rajasthan districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer.
As regards the Muslim carriers, the safest are the poor and illiterate women who, even if caught, will be of no use to India's law enforcement agencies. They will surely go to jail for carrying FICN from Pakistan to India, but they can neither throw any light about the origin or the supplier thereof in Pakistan nor can they say anything about FICN's "distributor, consumer or beneficiary" in India. Hence the helpless women lose the money as well as liberty as they proceed to prison for an indefinite period without trial.
Amongst the non-Muslim conduits, a section of Sikhs who visit the shrines in Pakistan is under the Pakistani radar owing to a mixture of ignorance, opportunity and greed of a few under the garb of religious trip across the border. Here too some unwise Indians have got into the lucrative, yet avoidable, act born out of an urge for quick buck. The pattern of operations vis-a-vis Muslim and non-Muslim carriers and conduits between the suppliers and end-users is somewhat similar and can rarely be differentiated by the common people.
The FICN is now a low-risk, high-profit business like drugs and the flourishing white collar crimes resorted to by some Indian experts. However, one important difference is that the people caught in FICN travelogue virtually go to jail without trial and are likely to continue to rot there. Perhaps rightly! For, in case FICN outstrips the circulation of legal tender in the currency market, the entire edifice of Indian economy will come down with a thud. Suspicion will lead to refusal of acceptance of currency. Discovery of FICN at the conclusion of a contract will lead to court battle and possible bankruptcy. There could be myriad imponderable scenario and all are potentially disastrous.
All Pakistanis arriving in India must be checked thoroughly, the way the US does it to foreigners (especially those from suspected and risky countries) at airports and ports. Everyone, legal or illegal, arriving from neighbouring countries too need to be checked along with their cargo, baggage (accompanied and unaccompanied). All sensitive entry/exit points need to be strengthened. Profiling of passengers too will be necessary to combat an economic disaster. Unfortunately, India's progress is bound to catch the devil's imagination for an evil design. Hence, India has no way but to act tough.
A QUESTION OF LEGACY
BY SIMRITA SARAO DHIR
WHILE Oslo is the throbbing fiscal heartbeat of Scandinavia, it is also culture. It is at once Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, the Vikings and the scintillating philharmonic music.
Today, however, Oslo is perhaps best known for being the home of the Nobel Peace Prize. One of the highlights of my year thus far has been a visit to the Nobel Peace Center, which is a marvel of technology and a testament to the enduring and original legacy of Alfred Nobel.
In his lifetime, Alfred Nobel was best known for inventing explosives, most notably, dynamite. When his brother, Ludvig Nobel died in France in 1888, French newspapers mistakenly reported the death of Alfred Nobel instead of his brother. One obituary stated, "Le marchand de la mort est mort" The merchant of death is dead. The newspaper further commented, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."
Nobel was shaken by the erroneous obituary. He did not want to be remembered as an exterminator. It was then that he decided that his legacy would be the Nobel Prizes to honour intellectual efforts in the service of humanity.
And what a legacy it has been. The Nobel Peace Prize in particular has been Nobel's way of compensating for his invention of explosive devices. Over the years, the Nobel Peace Prize has come to embody tremendous social prestige and is the most controversial of all Nobel Prizes.
At the Nobel Peace Center, I was dazzled by the Nobel Field which introduces all the Peace Laureates and their trail-blazing work via 96 movement-controlled screens against the backdrop of atmospheric music. I was overwhelmed to learn about the laureates, all of whom chose to break away and seek a different path.
The Nobel laureates come from widely diverse backgrounds because the very concept of peace has continued to evolve since the time of Alfred Nobel. It was very interesting for me to note that the laureates include heads of state as well as revolutionaries, pacifists as well as military generals, thinkers as well as pragmatic men of action from all over the world.
While the sub-continent claims its laureates in the 14th Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and Muhammad Yunus, the absence of Gandhi, the international icon of peace is enormous. Gandhi was nominated for the Peace Prize in1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and also prior to his assassination in 1948. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has chosen never to comment on speculations as to why Gandhi was not awarded the prize.
While the legacy of Alfred Nobel and the Noble laureates shines with remarkable glimmer across the world's only digital wall paper at the Nobel Peace Center and inspires numerous people on a regular basis, it also impounds everyone with the all-intrusive question: What will YOUR legacy be? It is time perhaps for reflection and introspection.
MENTAL HEALTH CARE
NEED TO EXPAND ITS REACH
BY N. N. WIG AND R. SRINIVASA MURTHY
The PGI, Chandigarh, was one of the two centres that took up the integration of mental health with general health services in 1975. While working in the outpatient department of the PGI, we were struck by the high dropout rate of patients who took consultation and its relationship to the distance the patients had to travel to come to the clinic and the chronicity of the illness. We recognised that the main way we can address delays in seeking treatment was to take services to the doorstep of patients.
In the late 1970s public health interventions were still the predominant service model. The medium we chose both in Chandigarh and Bangalore was to integrate mental health with general health services.
This was done by identifying four priority conditions and giving focussed training to general health workers and doctors.
These initial experiences from Raipur Rani, Haryana, and Sakalawara, near Bangalore, were so positive that it was taken up for further extension by the ICMR and eventually in 1982 the National Mental Health Programme was formulated.
The district mental health programme (DMHP), which should have been the foundation of mental health care, has been a relative failure in its implementation. Though the programme has been extended to 125 districts, the implementation has ignored the original goal of taking services to the people.
The most important failure is the low involvement of health workers and doctors in care. Instead, in almost all of the centres the programme has become' extension clinics' where psychiatric teams visit once a month or so and conduct clinics.
Unfortunately, even after 10 years of the expanded DMHP all that we have is a total number of patient contacts. Crucial information about the duration of illness at contact, the number completing treatment, the response to treatment, the need for referral support is not available. Even in the recently concluded evaluation, the measures were indirect ones like the attitude of the population and not clinical care.
India has a rich and proud tradition of family movement in mental health care. Starting with Dr Vidya Sagar of Amritsar and the mental health centre, Vellore, families have been included as partners in care.
A number of family groups like Amend in Bangalore, Asha in Chennai and Roshni in Delhi have taken the family empowerment and advocacy to high levels of activism.
However, again financial support has not come from the government. If we have to preserve, protect and support one Indian approach to mental health care, it has to be the family support to mentally ill persons. We have to develop specific supports (financial, professional, emergency) to families without delay.
The growth of the private sector has happened mostly in the last one decade. There have been todate no specific mechanisms to involve and integrate private-public health sectors in the mental health programmes.
Given the limited state infrastructure and the spread of the private sector in the country, there is no way mental health programmes can make progress without the active involvement of the private sector.
There are major changes in the attitudes of a community. As practising psychiatrists, we see a widening of mental health issues that come to us for professional help and mental health is discussed and debated on the radio, TV, newspapers and periodicals. The challenge is to meet the heightened expectations of the population.
We always felt ashamed of the extremely inhuman conditions in which the mentally ill were treated in mental hospitals and of scandals like in Shahdra hospital, Ranchi hospital, Pune hospital or that of the Trivandrum hospital during the 1980s. During the last 10 years, thanks to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), there have been changes in the functioning of these institutions.
However, the areas that have not received necessary attention are (i) UG medical education in psychiatry is grossly inadequate; (ii) DMHP needs a rethink; (iii) there is gross unevenness across states; (iv) monitoring and evaluation has not been part of the programmes, and (v) structures for the mental health programmes to function well have not been put into place.
The DMHP has to be given the central place in the planning of the mental health programme. Taking services close to people's houses has the greatest potential to provide care to the ill population. The current "extension clinic" approach has to be replaced with true integration of mental health care with primary health care personnel (similar to that of TB, leprosy etc). There is an urgent need to develop specific indicators to monitor the DMHP.
Similar is the need to enhance technical inputs to organise the programme the training of PHC personnel, essential medicines, support and supervision of health personnel by private sector mental health professionals, administrative support needed to monitor and periodically evaluate the programme and public mental health education.
There should be technical advisory committees at the national and state levels to guide the DMHP on a continuous manner. There has to better public-private partnership. Private sector involvement can range from their support to train the personnel, monitor the work locally, take up specific care programmes like the maintenance care of chronic patients, sharing of information of their clinical work so that the state/country statistics reflect the total country and not only that of the public sector. A serious dialogue and identification of funded activities should occur in the coming years.
Support for NGO initiatives, especially in the areas of (i) setting up of self-help groups of patients/families;(ii) undertake public mental health education to reduce stigma; (iii) providing financial and technical support for setting up a spectrum of rehabilitation facilities such as day care, half-way and long stay homes, sheltered workshops, income generating activities by patients and families.
Increasing public awareness about the commonness of mental disorders, understandability of mental disorders as illnesses, treatability, the importance of acceptance by the family and the community and rehabilitation. India has a tradition of giving importance to mental health in the Hindu philosophy. Yoga, meditation, spiritual ways of understanding adverse life situations are part of the day-to-day life of Indians. There is need to disseminate new knowledge, strengthen helpful practices so that persons in need feel free to take help.
In conclusion, the story of mental health care is an unfinished one. There has been much that has occurred during the last three decades. However, there is much more to be done to complete the story.
Prof. Wig is Emeritus Professor of Psyschiatry, PGIMER, Chandigarh, and Prof Srinivasa Murthy is a retired Professor of Psyschiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosis, Bangalore
BY ANNA HUSARSKA
The drawing shows three boys in traditional Pakistani long shirts, shalwar kameez, crying and holding banners that read "We want peace," "Not the peaces (sic) of human bodies" and, in Arabic script, "Aman" Pashto for "peace." On the left of the group, two hooded men (members of the Taliban, one presumes) carry swords; on the right, two figures in uniform carry guns (Pakistani army, one guesses). In the foreground, a hooded figure holds down a person who is pleading, "Please let me go; I have small children."
This was a drawing by a schoolgirl named Sheema for an end-of-Ramadan competition in Mingora, the main
town of Pakistan's Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier province. The scene depicting her hometown this spring civilians caught between the militants and the army illustrates the huge human cost of the operation by the Pakistan army against the Taliban.
And the suffering is far from over. After a week of talking to people living in the Swat Valley, displaced from Swat or working in Swat, I can attest that Sheema got it exactly right.
The tragedy of more than 2 million people being displaced in less than two months may have vanished from the headlines, but the civilian drama continues. If there is less attention to their needs, it's partly because it's still hard for anyone other than the armed forces or a native Swati to reach most of the district north of Mingora.
The army can take foreign journalists on periodic tours of the "cleared" areas in the south but rarely in the north, where the situation remains uncertain. One thing is obvious: Beyond Mingora, the Swat Valley is still an insecure place.
The Pakistanis themselves have concerns for the collateral damage that the offensive has caused: A visit by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan resulted in a strongly worded report about mass graves and extrajudicial "revenge" killings.
And last week, the Pakistani daily Dawn and others reported that a 10-minute video apparently showing Pakistani soldiers beating men detained in anti-militant operations had surfaced on the Internet. The army is investigating.
If the restrictions caused by emergency army administration such as curfews and checkpoints are a nuisance and add risks for civilians, anger against the militants is rising, too. The displaced return to areas promised to be "cleared" of militants, only to find it might not be so.
People fear that if they are seen during daytime (from the hills where the militants tend to hide) having contact with any army or government personnel, the Taliban will come down at night to exact a heavy price on them.
Close to Peshawar, in Mardan, I met with some of the displaced people who have found temporary shelter there they number more than 1,000. Fourteen of the families are redisplaced i.e. they tried to return home and found it impossible to live there.
What 35-year-old Selma mentions is typical: Before the army's action, her daughters could not go to school because of Taliban-imposed rules, and one brother's shop was judged un-Islamic for selling clothes catering to women and destroyed.
Now the daughters cannot go to school because of the army-imposed curfew, and the army told her brothers to dismantle the homes of suspected militants (which exposes them to revenge). So after one month spent back in Charbagh, a former Taliban stronghold, the family opted to flee yet again.
By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC FATIGUE
BY STEVE CONNOR
Scientists say they have made a dramatic breakthrough in understanding the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome a debilitating condition affecting 250,000 people in Britain which for decades has defied a rational medical explanation.
The researchers have discovered a strong link between chronic fatigue syndrome, which is sometimes known as ME or myalgic encephalomyelitis, and an obscure retrovirus related to a group of viruses found to infect mice.
Although the published data falls short of proving a definitive cause-and-effect, one of the scientists behind the study said on Thursday night that she was confident that further unpublished data she had gathered over the past few weeks implicated the retrovirus as an important and perhaps sole cause of the condition.
Chronic fatigue syndrome has blighted the lives of an estimated 17 million people worldwide because its
symptoms, long-term tiredness and aching limbs, do not go away with sleep or rest. Famous sufferers have included the author and yachtswoman Clare Francis, the film director Lord Puttnam, the pop singer Suzanne Shaw and the Labour politician Yvette Cooper, who has made a full recovery.
The condition initially generated much controversy in the 1980s, when it was known as "yuppie flu", because some medical authorities even doubted whether it was a genuine physical illness. In the absence of a proven cause, many scientists have questioned whether there could ever be one reason behind so many different symptoms, so the latest research showing a strong link to a single virus has generated intense excitement among experts.
The study, published in the journal Science, shows that the virus, called murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV), was found in 68 of 101 patients from around the US with chronic fatigue syndrome. This compared with just eight of 218 healthy "controls" drawn at random from the same parts of the US, the scientists said.
But the senior author of the study, Judy Mikovits, director of research at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, Nevada, said further blood tests have revealed that more than 95 per cent of patients with the syndrome have antibodies to the virus indicating they have been infected with XMRV, which can lie dormant within a patient's DNA. "With those numbers, I would say, yes we've found the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. We also have data showing that the virus attacks the human immune system," said Dr Mikovits. She is testing a further 500 blood samples gathered from chronic fatigue patients diagnosed in London. "The same percentages are holding up," she said.
If the findings are replicated by other groups and the XMRV virus is accepted as a cause of chronic fatigue syndrome then it could be possible to treat patients with antivirals, just like treating HIV, or to develop a vaccine against the virus to protect people from developing the condition, said Dr Mikovits.
"We now have compelling proof that a retrovirus named XMRV is present in more than two-thirds of patient samples with chronic fatigue syndrome. This finding could be a major step in the discovery of vital treatment options for millions of patients," she said.
The genetic structure of the XMRV virus indicates that it has evolved from a similar virus found in wild field mice. Dr Mikovits suggested it could have jumped the "species barrier" from mouse to man like many other human viruses, such as HIV, another retrovirus, which is thought to have infected humans from monkeys or apes.
XMRV was originally found in men suffering from prostate cancer and it was this discovery that led Dr Mikovits and her collaborators at the US National Institutes of Health to test blood samples stored from patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. "The discovery of XMRV in two major diseases, prostate cancer and now chronic fatigue syndrome, is very exciting. If cause-and-effect is established, there would be a new opportunity for prevention and treatment of these diseases," said Professor Robert Silverman, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who worked on the fatigue syndrome study.
However, other researchers emphasised that the numbers published so far are too small to conclude anything about the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome.n
By arrangement with The Independent
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
THE NOBEL INDIAN
Yet another Indian has done the nation proud! Tamil Nadu born Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, currently senior scientist and group leader at the Structural Studies Division at Cambridge, has been awarded the 2009 Chemistry Nobel along with Yale professor Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath of Israel. Strangely enough all three scientists had been working separately towards the same objective, production of an atom by atom map of ribosomes, the protein-making factories within cells, using X-ray crystallography. The cumulative impact of their research, which shows how some antibiotics block the function of bacterial ribosomes, has been to bring about a revolution in the development of new antibiotics. By showing the way to tackle drug-resistant bacteria and minimise the side effects of antibiotics they have, as the Nobel Academy says, been instrumental in "directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing human suffering." Though Ada Yonath had been a pioneer in this field of research and Thomas Steitz had been the first to have published a crystal structure of a large part of a ribosome Ramakrishnan's work in the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge too had made enormous contribution. Since the inputs of the trio complemented each other to offer a holistic insight as to how proteins are produced by ribosomes, it was apt that the Nobel was conferred jointly on all three of them.
However, one might question as to how much of the credit for the award conferred on Ramakrishnan goes to the country of his birth. After all, he had only studied in the University of Baroda up to MSc level, completing his PhD in Physics from the Ohio University and Post-doctoral studies from the Yale University. His research and teaching career were in the University of California, San Diego, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Utah, while currently he is a fellow at Trinity College. Thus, in effect, he had been out of this country for over three decades and is now an American citizen. Careers might point out that had he not been empowered by the research facilities available abroad, he might have never attained the heights of scientific achievement meriting a Nobel Prize. This is true to some extent for, apart from C V Raman, all Indian Nobel laureates in science, medicine and economy including Hargovind Khorana and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, have had the benefit of study and research in the West. While this does reflect on the paucity of scientific research facilities in India, it in no way detracts from the truth that Ramakrishnan is as indebted to his motherland as his adopted country. It had been the all important grounding that he had received in school, college and university stages in India that proved to be the steps to higher things and our nation can justifiably be proud for having produced another Nobel Indian.
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
The three-day world Bamboo Congress of 16-18 September, 2009 held at Bangkok appears to have shifted its focus from the long-time centre of attraction, China to South Asian countries and more particularly India. Since around 70 per cent of India's bamboo resources originate from north-eastern region, it is the latter which is slated to be the major beneficiary from this conference. The World Bamboo Organisation (WBO) holding the event with exports from all over the world has explored the possibilities of mass utilisation of bamboo as replacement of timber to play its role as a harbinger of climate change and has, on the concluding day, rightly declared September 18 as the World Bamboo Day. Different workshops held by the Congress during these three days explored the possibilities of product application in architecture and construction, plantation management, landscape design and regional reports. The event also organised demonstration relating to bamboo propagation, sustainability and environmental properties alongwith economic development. It is important to note that the north-eastern region is already known for its bamboo technological expertise. The Director of UN Industrial Development Organisational Centre for South-South Industrial Co-operation, one year back, visited Assam to get acquainted with the bamboo technological excellence of north-eastern region. Bamboo could emerge as a viable alternative to wood and could effectively revive the plywood factories of Assam. China has already fixed its eyes on developing bamboo industry in Nagaland which is equipped with 46 bamboo varieties. Nagaland at the eighth WBC at Bangkok has happily taken the lead in the fight against climate change to help global efforts in this front.
The ASEAN Secretary General, Surin Pituswan who inaugurated the conference thinks that the world would like to hear and know more from north-eastern region and more particularly Nagaland on the success of bamboo cultivation. On climate change, the State's Chief Minister, N Rio who led a powerful delegation unfolded that more than 10,000 hectares of land have already been converted from the primitive tribal system of jhuming to bamboo cultivation in Nagaland and that the experience could be extended in other areas of North East which happens to be the wettest place on earth and is facing drought like situation. Bamboo plantation which could be the strongest tool to fight climate change against the losing battle of green gas effect due to carbon emission has a vast possibility in the region to develop more as an agricultural product than a forest product with assured economic gains. This is because the raw resource of the region presently valued at Rs 5,000 crore may give rise to an annual turnnover of around Rs 10,000 crore if suitable methodology is applied to it. One would certainly hope that the focus of World Bamboo Congress in Bangkok would culminate into promotion and sustainable bamboo development in the Brahmaputra-Mekong Valley and north-eastern region in near future.
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
DIVERSITY MANAGEMENT AND EMOTIONAL INTEGRATION
DR DEVDAS KAKATI
Emotional integration should be an explicitly stated national goal and imaginative Diversity Management the method to achieve this.
Every morning as one scans through any of the major newspapers, one finds a racial face of India popping up here and there, with few exceptions. We feel embarrassed, hurt or worried. Unpleasant reports come from many different regions of the country of conflicts of various forms that can be traced to racial origin. It is very unfortunate. A stark question that confronts us: "Can't India tolerate her own differences?"
Democracy is structurally and inherently non-racist. The commendable success of Indian democracy may be taken as a measure of the proof of non-racism of the Indian State; her Constitution is the best testimony of her non-racism as a State. A recent press report of an alleged comment of a political leader from the northeast part of India on racism caused some murmur. The constitutional position was however not debated by the leader. As a matter of fact, the northeastern region of India is known to be India's most liberal area in respect of discriminations in terms of caste, race and gender.
Paradoxically this itself is seen to have put them at a disadvantage sometimes. It is unfortunate that at some individual and at some group levels, a racial-quotient exists across the country and these people in some way or other express a racist mindset. This is so, because emotional integration of the nation is still far from being complete, in spite India's commendable success in diversity management at the country level. The comment on racism is therefore contextually important, because it is a measure of the gap Indian leadership has left unfilled in our task of emotional integration of the nation.
India's stability comes from her heterogeneity and its coherent management. Democracy is a suitable political order for this, and is the preferred political order in all developed or developing societies. Each democracy has its own characteristics or brand, with some common features, such as elections and governance by a constitution. The fact that India with her enormous heterogeneities in practically all aspects of social existence, e.g. language, religion, culture, is still hanging together as one country, this in itself is the best evidence of the success of Indian democracy. This is in spite of all criticisms of the systems and their performance. Whatever be the criticisms of the recent 2009 general elections, the results have been a genuine reflection of what the people of India (in spite of various races), desire.
India's governance is a massive exercise in diversity management on a countrywide scale. In this, India in spite of her many failures, has been immensely successful. From being a fragmented country, we have worked through very difficult circumstances and emerged as a one nation country after the colonial era and have remained so. The Constitution of India with all its reservation policies is designed for diversity management. Government did many things that were in the right direction. At the end of the day however, now it is seen that much of these Government programmes did not deliver the promised results. And therefore they could be easily misconstrued as mere exercises in image building. The policies and programmes for the Dalits are in the forefront of Government's determination for successful diversity management, but the very recent report on the state of affairs in this field appearing in a section of the press makes dismal reading.
Diversity Management techniques are to be used to produce coherent results when applied to diverse situations, not homogeneity among them. The enthusiasm in the country to bring a new wave of educational reformation pinned on a single board examination throughout the nation has its goal to bring in homogeneity in both methods and results. This homogeneity may not be feasible nor a desirable goal. India is too diverse in cultural and developmental levels in different regions or states or communities. Different States or communities will not be comfortable if they are all herded into the same system. What we should desire is coherence in the methods and results, not homogeneousness. That needs more imagination and more skill in planning and implementation. In a country of diversities like India, people should ideally have access to diverse choices. Nothing is wrong with experimentation; and till the problem is solved our job is not done. But, to expect to solve the problem once for all will be wrong.
In a country of so many multivariables as India, diversity management becomes a complex affair as it has to work through many types of social situations. For example, tribals form an important part of the populace and they are characteristically simple people. Now, should some people regard simplicity as a deficiency, or an aspect of a better quality life? Do we conceive our civilization as one that says: "No place for simplicity."? Or do we want to promote a culture that is intolerant towards simplicity? Tribals are endemically liberal in their own ways that needs to be understood properly, for this may be quite different from the liberalness of an advanced society. This simplicity and liberalness should not be perceived as a disadvantage. Occasional small acts of omissions and commissions or casual behaviour are also reflections of a culture and they become manifested because they are built into the fine fabric of the culture as so many nuances. They too need to be treated seriously.
A question may arise that can a Government concern itself with such details and individual lapses? Government involves itself in religious matters and personal matters like marriages and divorces to give only couple of examples. Thus Government is seen as acting like a social engineer all the time. Therefore Government will naturally be expected to build in good practices in its approach to good diversity management. India can be the finest place on earth to live in, a place that was described once as "where the gods aspired to die."
Sixty years back we started nation building on a scale and scope for which we did not have any previous experience. Today, we have the advantage of sixty years of unique experience of nation building behind us. Members of the young generation that is moving into national politics now are at a much greater advantage today than their grandfathers and great grandfathers for the task in hand. So what are we waiting for?
The deficit in internal emotional integration equates to an emotional vacuum. When this happens, people would be naturally prompted to seek external emotional support, and hence the quest for roots outside in ancient history begins. Professor Jonathan Friedman of the University of Lund in an article published by the American Anthropological Society (1992) has dealt with the process of identity much of which is relevant in our situation. Friedman maintains that self-definition occurs in a world already defined "and therefore it invariably fragments the larger identity space of which its subjects were previously a part", and claims a fragment for the concerned self-defined group in new terms. "The construction of a past in such terms is a project that selectively organises events in a relation of continuity with a contemporary subject, thereby creating an appropriated representation of a life leading up to the present, that is, a life history fashioned in the act of self-definition. Identity, here, is decisively a question of empowerment." This very precisely summarises our position. This is the origin of the politics of identity vis-à-vis emotional integration of the nation.
Most of the ethnic strifes of the North East would neatly fit the theoretical framework of Friedman. Let us take the example of a very small community like the Laloongs of central Assam. Throughout last one millennium, the dominant powers of Assam did not do anything for them. The governance, if any existed, meant only some occasional visits to collect revenue of some kind. Now that the world has opened up due to improved transportation and communication as well as some access to education has been available, some among such a hitherto un-noticed community begin to feel their lack of empowerment that they soon trace to the lack of self-identity. So the quest for identity begins, with it begins efforts to build up a historical past, legends and myths begin.
It is a matter of pride that our country has put up a brave and bright front in some spheres. There is however still a lot to be done in the country's own backyard. We shall realise the full potential of our country's diversity only when we make emotional integration of the nation an essential part of our diversity management. This can be achieved by reducing racism to a minimal level and innovative efforts must be made for people to people integration for this to happen. Until and unless we are successful in the emotional integration of the country, our work of nation building will not be over.
(The writer is a former Vice-Chancellor of Dibrugarh University)
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
VALUE EDUCATION: NEED OF THE HOUR
DR GAGAN CH BARUAH
The vast and rapid development in the scientific and technological fields has changed the life-style, attitude and social outlook of the common people today, The information explosion brought about by the Information Technology has shrunk the whole world into a small global village. As a result we are put into acute global competitions in almost all spheres of our life. We now like to be recogniged as a citizen of the global village rather than as a member of a particular place or a society. We are hankering after development with some ambitions that are too much vulgar. Our aim in life frequently changes with changes in the global development scenario. As a result we have become so much materialistic and self-centred that we do not have leisure to even peep to our neighbours if they are by some way hit or affected by our race for progress and development. We have least concern for the nature and the environment around us. Such a development sought for by the individuals at the cost of the comfort and well-being of others can in no way be termed as a real development. Moreover, in the race for development, the softer human qualities are pushed backward. Love, compassion, regard, friendliness, brotherhood and tolerance are slowly vanishing now. Such a life enriched by so called development will be a crude one devoid of basic requirements and mental peace and charm of life will never be obtained.
Man is a social animal. We, the human beings, always need a society to live in. A society has some definite customs, rituals, traditions, ideals and most important a sense of brotherhood. We can share our sorrows and pleasures with other members of the society to make our life endurable and peaceful. The society in turn expects every member of it to possess a sense of belonging to the society so that each and every member can lead a peaceful life and can contribute something to the betterment of the mankind. If we can educate ourselves with these qualities and inculcate in us the requisite norms of the society, our life on this earth will definitely be flourishing and peaceful.
Education is one of the most important tools to bring about socioeconomic and cultural progress of the people. Education provides us with lots of information about the world, about many things. Education helps us to mould our lives according to our capability and aim. But simply imparting coaching to get through different examinations with good results to get some good jobs is not proper education. Use of the information we gather from different sources within the framework of a spectrum of ethical values is the proper education. This may also be termed as value education, which includes human values, social values, professional values, religious values, national values, aesthetic values and environmental values. It induces awareness about national pride, national integration, community development and environment.
Formal value education may be imparted in different phases. The basic phase is awareness. In this phase the students should be made aware of different values to be inculcated and the role of these values in making our life suitable, comfortable and sustainable in this world. After being apprised of the values, the students will orient themselves towards these values and try to analyse critically the role of the values in their own lives. This phase of analysis followed by the next phase of selection of values are the most crucial phases in value education. The students should have a positive outlook for different values and then only they will be able to associate their day-to-day or overall activities and thoughts with these values. After properly analysing the values, a student will select those values which are most suitable and effective in his/her activities, behaviour and life. Once the values are selected properly, the students will be closely involved in them and all their activities will be governed under the purview of the values. Thus they will be committed to act within the framework of the values only to make their lives decent.
In olden days value education was basically verbal. Every person in the society had ample leisure time and almost all the families had some elderly persons well experienced in life. The elderly persons, grand-father, grand-mother etc.,imparted these values to the youngsters by way of story- telling in the leisure time. Moreover, respect and regard to the seniors prevailed in those families. The youngsters followed the activities of the seniors and the moral reflected by their activities without much hesitation and contradiction. In this way value education passed from generation to generation informally and verbally.
Now, most of the families have few experienced elderly persons due to the compact and individualistic pattern of the family. Every person in the present society is so busy in his own life that nobody finds any leisure time to attend to such smooth verbal communications based on value education. Moreover, lack of regard to the seniors has put some hindrance in following some of their value- based activities by the youngsters. Hence book-based system of' value education should be adopted for our new generation either formally in schools and colleges or informally by social workers or organisations.
In our childhood days, there was a subject 'Neetisiksha' in school curriculum. This was an effective step towards value education. Later on this course was abandoned. Now-a-days aiso, in most of the English medium schools Moral Science is included in the course of study. It is some sort of value education. But in Assamese medium schools there is no such subject like Moral Science.
This negligence on the part of our policy makers has caused big harm to the society and a chaotic situation is coming up in our society. So, it is high time to give proper attention to value education in order to prevent social degradation or to eradicate social pollution.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
IT'S SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
The announcement this week of the closure of a famous food magazine in the US, the world's oldest, has several lessons for the wider world. The magazine had for years been the staple food for the eclectic eater, for the food sociologist, the culinary trendspotter an upmarket, cosmopolitan bible for the gastronome. That its younger sibling, which built up a solid reader and advertising base amid the more modest, down-home foodies, was spared the axe, clearly shows which way the cookie is crumbling.
The just-released results of Zagat's 2010 New York City restaurant survey, covering more than 2,000 eateries, in fact, gives a whiff of what's been cooking in the past year. Thanks to the ongoing financial turmoil, the survey of 38,868 diners shows a distinct fall in eating out, particularly corporate dining. New Yorkers are eating out three times a week, down from 3.3-3.4 times a week earlier.
More significantly still, when people are dining out, 43% are showing more price-sensitivity: 41% are choosing cheaper places to eat, 21% are sticking to one main course and omitting starters and/or dessert and 19% are ordering less alcohol. Strangely, the average cost of a dinner has risen 2.5% in the past year to $41.81 (which is, incidentally, still much cheaper than Tokyo's average of $93.33, Paris' $78.82 or London's $65.63) but a whopping 68% of respondents want low-fat/low-carb/heart-healthy options on menus!
Given these numbers, it's not surprising that a magazine that offers smart home-cooking options and belt-tightening basics rather than flights of abstract food fancies, has got the thumbs up from the owners. The legions of food writers and chefs who are now singing a requiem for the departed magazine, must also be seeing in its demise a portent of things to come: critique and ranking of restaurants are increasingly becoming online efforts and are therefore turning out to be mass-based rather than individual-driven. In order to survive, the mantra for magazines and the entire food chain now seems to be: moderate appetites.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
IMPORTING RICE: NEEDED, RATIONAL PRODUCTION INCENTIVES
After being a major supplier in the global rice trade for over two decades, India is likely to import rice, as local production is expected to fall by at least 10 million tonnes in the current kharif season following drought early in the monsoon season and now floods in the south. The government would do well to assess the situation quickly and facilitate imports.
Large, sudden demand could cause international prices to spike given the smallish global trade in rice. In fact, even as we continue to seek protection for our farmers at the WTO, the country needs to be more flexible in its approach to export/import of farm goods to protect the interests of local consumers and producers. Our ad-hocism and delayed response cause us to pay an unduly high price for imports and export at a loss.
The crux of the problem is the complete politicisation of the concept of minimum support price (MSP) and its use to address multiple goals price stability, adequate returns to farmers and food security that are often at odds with one another. The MSP needs to be seen and established as the base price to prevent farm distress that the government will offer if farmers fail to get even that from the market.
This price should take into account all costs and a reasonable mark up. The government should procure grain for the public distribution system (PDS) and the buffer stock from the open market or even import. Such delinking of procurement prices from MSP would protect farmers in the event of a glut but allow the market to function under normal circumstances. It would also address the issue of ever-rising MSP for wheat and rice discouraging production of other crops.
However, over a longer time frame the country needs to seriously address the issue of farm sector productivity. Given the large domestic consumption, we cannot be too dependent on imports. Our surplus in rice is already declining rapidly following tepid production growth. Investment in irrigation, linking the hinterland to markets to improve returns and greater availability of finance and risk mitigation solutions are the obvious challenges that need to be tackled. Finding funds is not difficult if we can find the courage to do away with wasteful subsidies.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
RISING RUPEE POSES TOUGH POLICY CHOICES
The rise of the rupee vis-a-vis the dollar is likely to sustain, hurting exports and raising the danger of higher inflation or higher interest rates as the RBI tries to rein in the rupee by buying up dollars. The measures that were actively debated prior to the onset of the financial crisis, to discourage excess inflows, such as putting a ban on participatory notes of foreign institutional investors, need to be put in place without wasting time.
On Thursday the rupee rose to its highest in more than a year, closing at Rs 46.34 to the dollar, a gain of over 3% in just four sessions. Though it pared some of those gains on Friday, the broad trend is likely to be of rupee appreciation vis-à-vis the dollar. This is an inevitable corollary to the influx of dollars into an economy whose absorptive capacity has not kept pace with its needs, combined with a weakening dollar.
Appreciation of the rupee hurts exporters by making Indian exports less competitive vis-à-vis exports from other countries. To the extent the rupee strength is due to the dollar's weakness causing many other currencies also to appreciate, Indian exports might not be hit too hard. But a significant part of the appreciation is due to dollar inflows, both direct and portfolio, and this is India-specific.
In-bound foreign direct investment has touched $9.5 billion in the first quarter of the current fiscal, more than the amount received in the previous six months while portfolio flows that were negative last year have turned hugely positive ($12.8 billion in the calendar year to date).
At a time when exports have declined for the 11th consecutive month (though the pace of decline has moderated) and there is evidence of job losses and human distress in export centres, a rising rupee would do more damage. Unfortunately, any steps to mitigate this disaster the RBI buying dollars and pumping in rupees could well be an invitation to a bigger problem.
It would add to money supply at a time when there is already surplus liquidity and aggravate inflationary pressures. The solution is for the RBI to go back to its tight-rope walking: balancing inflation and the exchange rate.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
IT IS FAITH THAT ULTIMATELY MATTERS
VITHAL C NADKARNI,
As the sky blushed with pre-dawn light, the seeker from the Land of Lady Liberty sat absorbed in meditation on the edge of a still lake in Janakpur. After some time, he noticed another presence by his side. As he looked around with a semi-opened gaze, he noticed a handsome sadhu dressed in spotlessly clean robes.
"Beware of scorpions in the guise of butterflies!" the yogi growled to the first aspirant who was thoroughly rattled out of his meditative calm by now: the stranger's speech rang with accents of Queen's English. "Why are you saying this?" the sadhaka asked the enigmatic sadhu who went on to stare back intently without saying anything for long.
"Don't open yourself to demons in the disguise of holy men or you may discover your life in ruins, only when it's too late".
The handsome sadhu whose name turned out to be Vasudeva invited the American seeker to travel with him on foot for three days to reach an obscure holy place. The pair begged for food while journeying through the countryside. Each day they would receive some rice and dal which Vasudeva would cook with an artist's finesse. Whomever the duo met along the way seemed to be charmed by Vasudeva's gentle nature.
"But something puzzled me," the Chicago-born seeker who later became known as Radhanath Swami told your columnist during the recent launch of his autobiography, The Journey Home. "Behind a mask of cheerfulness, I sensed my learned friend (a professor with a Ph D belonging to a wealthy family in his pre-sanyas days) was a tormented man." It turned out that he was being pursued by a Tantrik Guru who was alleged to be adept in the so-called black arts.
"I knew from what I had observed in India that many gurus had strong powers, including the power to sway followers to do whatever they asked," Radhanath Swami added. "I was more terrified of what my companion had revealed to me than I had been of the pack of rabid dogs (which had attacked the American Swami just a few weeks earlier). The dogs I had at least been able to see and fend off. But how does one fend off forces of evil menacing seekers of the spiritual path?"
Soon after he'd left Vasudeva, Radhanath Swami saw a big Yankee being terrorised by monkeys into dropping his groceries. Seconds later he also saw a skinny Nepali boy chasing the simians away. The moral was clear: Only fear fear. Ultimately it was not the size but the fight in the boy and faith that had won the day.
A PRIZE FOR GIVING HOPE TO THE WORLD
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
In 1993, as the Cold War came to a close, historian Samuel Huntington predicted an oncoming "clash of civilisations". The cold warriors, frustrated at having no urgent business at hand, latched on to the idea. As the new millennium dawned, events seemed to move in the direction Huntington had predicted. The September 11, 2001 attacks on America, the wars which followed in Afghanistan and Iraq and then US President George W. Bush's simplistic, and alarming, philosophy "you are either with us or against us" added to global pessimism and gloom. Then came Barack Obama. Born of a Kenyan father and a white mother and treasuring a life experience spanning three continents, his legacy itself uniquely positioned him to be the man of the moment. In addition, he also seemed blessed with sagacity and intelligence. When the US President took the stage at Cairo University earlier this year and referred to a "concert of civilisations" in a remarkable speech, there were stirrings of hope once again. It was for this lighting of hope in an otherwise troubled world that the Swedish Academy has conferred this year's Nobel Peace Prize on Mr Obama the fourth American President so honoured, the third while still an incumbent at the White House. It is a fact there are no remarkable achievements to speak of in the past nine months he has been in office; if anything, he faces trouble at home and appears bogged down with the war in Afghanistan. But at a time when nations big and small, as well as political and religious forces are sniping at one another, spewing venom, breeding suspicion, hatred and divisiveness, Mr Obama's simple gesture of stretching out his hand becomes an act of heroism and reason to celebrate. It is this reaching out from the most powerful office in the world that the Swedish Academy refers to in its Peace Prize citation as "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". Mr Obama has moved forward, slowly, in all crucial areas: ending the strife between the West and Islam, peace in West Asia, creation of a nuclear arms-free world and reversing climate change. The problems are acute, but he has to move slowly if he is to take others with him. In his landmark Cairo speech, Mr Obama had said: "It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path." It is this attitude of America's President that appears to have appealed to the Nobel committee. In the citation, it says it is Mr Obama's "worldview" that is being recognised. "We would like to support what he is trying to achieve," said Nobel committee head Thorbjoern Jagland. The United States, under Mr Obama, has the opportunity to be seen once again possibly after decades as a constructive superpower and a force for good in the world. That is because he is able to think beyond crude stereotypes about nations and peoples. "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace," he had said. The crux of his diplomacy consists of "values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population," as the Academy put it. Decades ago, British writer and champion of democracy G.K. Chesterton had pithily remarked: "The things common to all men are more important than things peculiar to any men." Mr Obama, more than any other leader in the world now, appears to work on the principle of this common humanity. For that he surely deserves the Nobel.
UK PARTY CONFERENCES MISS BIGGER QUESTIONS
BY BY FARRUKH DHONDY
"They prayed that God would hear their prayer,
Which one did they mean?"
From Socrates Kaa Baap
October is the season of party conferences in Britain, when the Liberal Democrats, Labour and then the Conservatives hold their annual policy-exposing parleys. It used to be that the conferences were occasions for power-broking, for horse-trading votes on resolutions to promote or bring down a leader, to change the constitution of the party, to challenge unpopular policies and to elect the committees that would wield backroom power. This sort of activity was most evident in the Labour camp because Labour has always been a party of coalescing interests, of trade unionists and capitalist-roaders living in an uneasy symbiosis. The sort of deals and trades that would be made in the Labour Party annual conference in the 60s, 70s and 80s would have made any dastardly Uttar Pradesh politician blush, such was the subtlety and, sometimes, shamelessness.
No longer. Since the advent of New Labour and the vastly increased influence of TV in the early 90s, the party conferences have been about PR. They are ways of presenting the future policy and determinations of the parties to the public of Britain. As such they are carefully orchestrated and planned.
This year the PR exercise was particularly relevant because the voters, who will go to the polls early next year, have a sort of final focus on assessing the parties for whom they will vote or not vote. Britain has run up, through its measures for bailing out the failing banks, £175 billion of debt and the electorate certainly wants to know how any future government intends to get rid of such a debt. It was a big question and one which dominated every comment on the conferences and it was predictable that it would never be adequately answered. No party was going to go before an electorate and predict the wholesale slaughter of public services or indeed the raising of taxes through any ceiling of tolerance. They didn't. Each party said it had to implement cuts and raise taxes but they were all mealy mouthed and reticent about where the axe would fall and which sections of the population would suffer increased burdens.
Such was the dominance of this fiscal factor of public policy that everything else became subsidiary and some very important subjects were spoken of and went unnoticed, or were not given priority on the platform. For instance, Britain's involvement in the war in Afghanistan needs a completely radical rethink. Why is Britain there; is it serving the purpose of keeping Al Qaeda from terrorising the mainland of Britain, as politicians claim? Isn't this an absurd contention?
One aspect of policy that has been neglected over the years and begs discussion is the government's lack of policy towards the ethnic settlements of Britain.
The 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century saw the settlement of colonial and ex-colonial people from India and Pakistan, the West Indies (islands which were in the process of becoming independent) and from Africa. These populations, largely from Bangladesh, Pakistani and Indian Punjab and Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, came to Britain as imported labour.
The British governments of the time recognised the need for such labour but made no concessions to its needs or its presence. The neglect and, indeed, the market factors of low wages, the cheapest housing, the proximity to work which the white working classes were abandoning en masse led to the establishment of "separate communities" within which the most regressive features of the religion and culture of the ex-peasant communities were reinforced and thrived.
This presence and spread of this distinctively un-British segment of the population, its habits, convictions and religious practices gave rise to racial tensions and very often to a clash with the prevailing ethics and norms of British institutions. At its mildest this clash emerges as a demand by Sikhs to wear turbans instead of caps when driving or conducting buses. In more strident vein it resulted in certain communities defying the rules of uniform laid down by British schools on real or exaggerated religious grounds.
The liberal tradition of Britain, in which all the political parties are complicit, in answer to the fissiparous tendencies of the new communities which challenged the prevalent social norms, formulated "multiculturalism". It was at best a policy seeking feeble forms of reconciliation through understanding and cultural exchange and at worst a capitulation to the most backward imported norms and practices of immigrant communities.
The tensions within this multiculture of Britain became evident in the Salman Rushdie affair in which the novelist's freedom to write was challenged by book-burning mobs from the Muslim community who wanted the book banned and, in the extreme case, the author killed, for alleged blasphemy.
There were other monocultural uglinesses the oppression of women and children, arcane marriage customs and open hostility to long-held and hard-won traditions such as freedom of speech.
The fissures in the multicultural society grew into the terrorism of young Muslim fundamentalists who, as the Urdu phrase goes, turned "namak haram" and set about to kill masses of their fellow citizens for ideological convictions nurtured in the "multicultural" communities of Britain.
And now the prevalence of home-grown terrorism is possibly the worst manifestation of this multicultural gestation. Apart from intelligence and police work and heavy-handed measures such as detention without trial, no party has any social or cultural solutions to this deep schism in British society.
Now a new book by Rumy Hasan challenges the absence of policy over the years. In Multiculturalism, Some Inconvenient Truths, Hasan has studied the growth and gestation of this socially-destructive phenomenon in a comprehensive, if at times overly academic, way. He has given us the first history of the growth of this sentimental and destructive veneer which seeks to hide the ethnically-broken society of today's Britain.
Hasan traces the tensions caused by cultural alienation, giving it a historical context when he tells the story of the early 20th century mathematician Ramanujan, a Brahmin vegetarian transported by his genius to the Cambridge of the First World War. Hasan's book takes a step-by-research-step journey through the history of settlement to take apart the notions of multiculturalism and, for the first time, study its discontents.
The study concludes with a chapter of "solutions" which Gordon Brown and David Cameron would profit, even after the season of conferences, from reading.
INVEST IN EDUCATION, BUILD A STRONG FUTURE
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 behaviour 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 Labour 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, aka 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 realise 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.
THE NAXALS IN OUR MIDST
BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
All hail!! India has found a new enemy and it isn't our neighbour it is us! The latest hate word is "Naxal", and it is almost amusing to monitor how frequently it pops up and how obsessed the media is with this new menace. Night after night, we find Arnab Goswami and others getting apoplectic over the newest, most horrific murder committed by the "Naxals". Now the Naxal has a face Kobad Ghandy's. We know exactly what the enemy looks like. And horror of horrors, he looks like us! I mean Kobad? Aapro Kobad? A well brought up, well-heeled Parsi gentleman, who should be listening to operatic arias in a book-lined den pulling gently on a pipe? What the hell is he doing with those junglees in that jungle you now those tribals? It is impossible to reconcile the visual of this effete-looking person who claims to be a writer (hello, that is a factoid we can handle), but now stands accused of the most heinous crimes against the state. How could someone like Kobad get mixed up with something like this? Cherchez la femme. Of course, it had to be a woman. Kobad's late wife is the one the media is nailing as the instigator who pushed the Mumbai man into a life on the run. A dangerous and terrible life that has led to the grisly murders of innocents. What an extraordinary story and so unbelievable.
Such is the power of stereotyping, that we refuse to accept "someone like Kobad" could get mixed up with a movement that is threatening to cause mayhem in gigantic swathes of our country. Ideology of this nature is something one associates with hard-core unshaven Leftists, carrying jholas, dressed in shabby kurtas and scurrying around shanty towns causing trouble. Kobad does not fit into this grid. Kobad belongs to the elite world of Willingdon Club types the burra sahibs who drink beer on Sunday afternoons after a leisurely round of golf. Kobad and Naxals? Baap re baap. What next? The reason why this bizarre story has captured the imagination of mediawallas is because of these crazy contradictions. Parsi revolutionaries are somewhat rare. I have never come across a Parsi who would walk away from a life of refinement and comfort in Mumbai, and devote long years to working for the upliftment of desperately poor, disenfranchised tribals. As the Kobad story unfolds, more and more information is emerging that is adding to the mystery. The nugget revealed his extensive travels in five countries. This piece of "breaking news" emerged in the wake of the Red Ultras' beheading Francis Induwar, the Jharkhand police officer, "Taliban-style" (making me wonder whether the Taliban killers have a patent on this "style" of butchering victims).
Police spokesmen are calling Induwar's murder a revenge killing linked to Kobad's arrest. Across channels, clips of the cop's young son making a heart-rending call to his younger brother's school teacher, informing the person about his "papa's" death have been played over and over again. Juxtapose that with the clips of a calm and composed Kobad in police custody, and it is easy to whip up public outrage. But towards what end?
For all we know there are several other Kobads hiding in our midst. Your neighbour could be a Kobad. Or the guy you have a drink with at your favourite watering hole. Your tennis companion may be Kobad's best buddy. So could the mild-mannered librarian you discuss Tagore's poetry with. There are Kobads everywhere, if one is to go by the present hysteria. And they have just one agenda to destroy India.
The scariest part of the Kobad phenomenon is that one can be so easily fooled so effortlessly misled. Our conditioning prevents us from looking beyond the obvious we have a readymade picture of what a terrorist is supposed to look like (thank you, Bollywood/Hollywood!). So How does one crack the façade? Look beyond the mask? Bewildered by the Naxal war that is being waged against the state, we don't know how to react. We can understand the threat Pakistan represents. We can gear ourselves (albeit, clumsily) to handle the Chinese intrusions, we can deal with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and pretend we are winning the separatist war in Kashmir. We delude ourselves that we have the 26/11 terrorists on the run because we have Ajmal Amir Kasab in jail. But what we have consistently failed to acknowledge is the seething unrest that has been gathering force right under our noses for so many years in the form of the Naxals in our midst.
Kobad did not suddenly spring up out of nowhere. Had we bothered to notice him (and people like him) earlier, our "haalat" would not have been this bad. By refusing to acknowledge there was a problem and that mega trouble was brewing, we allowed a mouse to grow into a monster. For decades, those who have had to deal with Naxal uprisings have warned authorities about the potential danger of ignoring their presence. We shut our eyes, buried our heads in sand, and hoped they'd go away. But, guess what? They didn't! And today, they are in our backyard, and we don't know what to do either, with them or ourselves.
This is exactly what Kobad and his comrades have been counting on. By patiently waiting for the somnolent state to finally wake up and take heed, the Naxals have won part of the battle. They have consolidated their presence in several states, and made significant inroads into the heart of the political process. We can ill-afford to wish them away marginalise them. Experts tell us more than one-fifth of India is under Naxal control. Perhaps, they exaggerate. But only a bit Kobad is one hell of a foxy dude. He ain't singing. That leaves us with P. Chidambaram thundering away on television, warning the Naxals to lay down arms or face war. "As long as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) believes in armed liberation struggle, we have no option but to ask security forces to engage them". Yeah, right on, bro. A bit late in the day to be issuing this dhamki. But, koi baat nahi. Listening to all these warnings, Naxal bosses in China must be giggling away in glee. Perhaps, this Diwali will see Indian skies lighting up with Chinese crackers.
Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com 
FIRST WIVES' CLUB
BY KISHWAR DESAI
Finally, will it be said that it was "the shoes wot won it?" It is the political party season here in the United Kingdom and as each party lays out its stall and policies for next year's general elections, the battle occasionally gets stuck in trivia.
In the colourful history of British politics, a turning point is remembered, 12 years ago, when the popular newspaper Sun turned from the Tories to the Labour Party. Rather cheekily claiming credit for the Labour victory, post elections, the newspaper declared, "It was the Sun Wot Won It". So there was consternation in the Labour ranks last week when the Sun declared, in the middle of the Labour Party conference, that "Labour's Lost it". The Rupert Murdoch-owned paper has finally turned its back on red and gone blue. In fact, the very next day after the Prime Minister's speech in Brighton to his party stalwarts, the paper showed a wilting rose (the Labour Party symbol) and said, "I'm feeling blue" the colour of the Tory Party. It sent shock and dismay through the Labour Party which is certainly not looking forward to the election next year. It is widely acknowledged and the opinion polls support the sentiment that a Conservative government, led by the young David Cameron (he is only 43), is on its way in.
The switching of allegiance from the Labour Party was even more shocking because Sarah Brown, the charismatic wife of the distinctly uncharismatic Gordon Brown, had just been featured in several photographs rubbing shoulders with Mr Murdoch's wife Wendy at a dinner in New York. Suddenly, wifely power is being used all over the place and even more tellingly it was used during the Labour Party conference, to a rather embarrassing limit.
Mrs Brown had been a huge success in the Labour Party conference last year when she came on stage and told us how much her husband loved his country and how much he strove for our welfare and how much she loved him. It was a heartfelt and, many staunchly maintained, unrehearsed plea to see Mr Brown as a nice man and not the bully he had been painted to be. Most of us bought the idea because Mrs Brown is genuinely liked.
However, as has been subsequently pointed out, we must never forget that Mrs Brown comes from a public relations background and, therefore, there may be few moments which are not carefully choreographed. Yet, despite that health warning, I have to say, we have all fallen under the spell of the pretty Mrs Brown. Except this year, the magic formula of the little wifey introducing the misunderstood brainy husband did not go down as well. From the spontaneity and simplicity of it all, this year her introduction to Mr Brown looked, unfortunately, rehearsed. It was also little too saccharine: most wives, of course, would try to say nice things about their husbands (in public, at least) especially if their careers depended on it... But to call your husband "My Hero!" in front of a gobsmacked audience was something you would expect to see in the popular TV drama Eastenders, and not on a highly-charged political platform. So Mrs Brown tempered her adulation with the fact that Mr Brown could be messy and loud but she loved him nonetheless. And by some convoluted logic, therefore, we should all love him and vote for him.
It was an interesting display of wife power because, unlike the Americans who have grown up on Oprah Winfrey and now, of course, the types of David Letterman confessing their love affairs on TV, the British are far more restrained. Mrs Brown's advisers were no doubt looking across the pond at a far more successful First Lady, Michelle Obama, who during the course of the presidential campaign itself had begun to talk about her husband's foibles. She had been warned that he was far too remote and people had to connect with him. Mrs Obama has been convincing because she is a pioneer in the art of presentation and everything she does is uncharted territory so far and, therefore, real. She is also an extremely savvy, well-educated career woman and knows instinctively how much the public will be ready to buy. If she makes too much of the President, people will sigh and reach for the remote.
Yet her success with her twittering, her organic plant patch in the White House, her "right to bare arms", her eclectic wardrobe, have made her a personality in her own right, and she has her own followers. But to adapt that show-window transparent lifestyle requires a measure of understanding that the American press and the British media are very different. Mrs Obama's credibility is high since she has played hard ball in the real world and talks about policy matters with confidence, as indeed she did during the election process. Mrs Brown, while trying to emulate her success, therefore, cannot get away by simply assuring the British that her husband is a great guy. They need some more convincing than that they need her intellectual side revealed as well. And many women were left wondering if this performance of a supportive wife who abjures policy and does not have a real job in the real world is actually giving a negative image to women. Will it push women back towards the kitchen sink, wrapped up in husband adoration? Should endorsements of a husband's heroism be confined to the bedroom?
The backlash, therefore, has come in many ways. Several women commentators have spoken up about the false note it struck in the conference and still others have commented, far less subtly, about Mrs Brown's wardrobe. The Jimmy Choos she wore (over £300) and the dress more than £600. Could that be affordable by the middle class working woman in a recession is the deep question now being asked. Therefore, when Samantha Cameron, the stylish wife of Mr Cameron , appears in public now, a lot of discussion takes place around her shoes.
Given the fact that there was such a negative reaction to Mrs B's wardrobe, Mrs C's wardrobe has been carefully constructed also because, don't forget, the Tories are notoriously the party of the rich Rightwingers. So Mrs C appeared in casual trousers, even jeans! and her shoes are from Zara, not more than £30. Everyone has approved not only is she wearing the (much) cheaper shoes she is not blindly emulating Mrs O and doing the warm up act before her husband's speech!
Using family members to get votes is a double-edged sword it worked for Mr Obama, but in middle England, it's probably the shoes that wot will win it!
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com 
HEALTHCARE: US NEEDS CHOICES
BY DAVID BROOKS
The longer the healthcare 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 Sen. Ron Wyden is the best vehicle for this sort of change. The Wyden approach 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 healthcare 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 healthcare choice now is between the status quo and the bill primarily authored by Senator Max Baucus that is emerging from the Senate Finance Committee.
The Baucus bill centralises power, in contrast to the free choice approach, which decentralises 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 rationalise 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 disorganised young to the politically organised 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 Centres you put in the department of health and human services. The bill will retard innovation by using monopoly power to squeeze costs.
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 cuts Medicare benefits by hundreds of billions. It raises taxes on the upper and middle classes in many necessary ways.
The bill will not really be budget neutral, but the authors have taken fiscal responsibility. They've earned that good score from the Congressional Budget Office.
Most impressively, the Baucus bill includes many provisions to make government-run healthcare 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 per cent 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.
'STALIN NEVER KILLED ANYONE'
Moscow, 9 OCT: Hearings began yesterday in a libel case brought by the grandson of Joseph Stalin against a prominent Russian newspaper. Mr Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, the Soviet dictator's grandson, took offence at an article published by the liberal paper Novaya Gazeta that accused Stalin of personally signing death warrants for thousands of people. The article referred to declassified documents which, the author claims, bear Stalin's signature. Mr Dzhugashvili, who did not appear in court yesterday, says that this is a lie and denies that his grandfather ordered any murders. He is seeking 10 million Roubles in damages from the newspaper and demanding the retraction of several quotes published in the article.
Shaun Walker / The Independent
IS NEW DELHI CONFUSED?
INTRIGUING indeed is the home minister's opting to write off as "baseless" and "speculative" media reports quoting unnamed senior officials in the security set-up as observing that rather than choke their prisons, the Pakistani authorities were encouraging captured or surrendered Taliban fighters to join the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. While the "jail or jihad" terminology may have been sensational and exaggerated it is possible to discern much truth to the contention ~ and not merely because more than one major newspaper reported that development. History will confirm that whenever pressure is mounted on the Taliban the level of militant activity in J&K increases: and who can deny things have been "hotting up" in recent weeks. Also undeniable is the role of the ISI ~ despite what is conveniently projected it serves to execute Pakistani national policy ~ in bolstering both the Taliban and the so-called jihadis in Kashmir. Rather loosely used is "Taliban" to describe young men who were initially indoctrinated into believing that their religion was in danger, and who then found the gun offering a way of life: a factor applicable to almost all the terrorists Pakistan exports. So there is valid reason to suspect that the ISI is switching its "irregulars" from one flank to another, perhaps exploiting violence to attract the yankee dollar.
Chidambaram is much too intelligent not to perceive that angle, so why the denial? It might even appear somewhat out of character since he seldom backs off from an opportunity for Paki-bashing. A possible explanation is that New Delhi remains wary of taking the jihadi-line to the extreme and dubbing the insurgency as another edition of the militant Islamic fundamentalism that has the western world running scared. The reason for such soft-pedalling is not hard to determine ~ risking the substantial "Muslim vote" across the country. Obviously it would be despicable and unwarranted to slam an entire community as militant-supporting, yet it would be self-deception not to acknowledge that facet of J&K violence. The "freedom fighter bluff" must be called once and for all. Is all that barking up the wrong tree? And is the home minister merely playing altruistic ball with a state government leader who has appealed to New Delhi against grave portrayal of conditions in the Valley lest that ruin the autumn tourist season?
FOR THE BANGLADESHI AND CHINESE WORKER
THE union home minister's decision to tighten the visa regime for Bangladeshi workers is an indirect confirmation that such permits have been doled out over the years to the predominantly fake. The contours of the new procedure, as spelt out by P Chidambaram last week, indicate that job permits will not be granted to unskilled and semi-skilled workers whose number now runs into thousands since the quiet influx began in the late seventies. They are almost to a man illegal migrants engaged in odd jobs and also, as it turned out very recently, in operating as hatchetmen of the real estate lobby.
The minister's statement presupposes that some of them boast visas and work permits, itself a damning indictment of the functioning of the chancery in Dhaka. Having resolved to turn the screw, Mr Chidambaram ought also to review the system of citizenship cards for both the fake and the genuine citizens in the states bordering Bangladesh. To an extent, a seemingly insurmountable problem might be tackled if the minister can translate the tough talk to action. Specifically, that India will go ahead with fencing on what they call the "zero-line". Circumstances must make the deviation from the Indira-Mujib accord imperative. The provision that "no defence structure can be constructed within 150 yards of the zero-line" has been clarified terribly late in the day.
Mr Chidambaram's assertion that "fencing is not a defence structure" effectively trashes Dhaka's convenient perception.
The minister will, however, be less than fair if he brackets the 25,000 Chinese ~ working in India with business visas ~ with the Bangladeshis. The fact of the matter is that they are not illegal migrants fortified with visas. Nor for that matter are they "semi-skilled", still less "unskilled" workers. The nature of their work should make this only very obvious, engaged as they mainly are in the power, gas and steel sectors. Mr Chidambaram has spelt out the distinction between the skilled and the unskilled, with the assurance that those with "specific skills" will be allowed to function. The new visa regime must also distinguish between the work permit of a skilled Chinese and that of an illegal and unskilled Bangladeshi visa-seeker.
LAME DUCK CRIPPLED
BERLUSCONI STRIPPED OF LEGAL IMMUNITY
A LAME duck Prime Minister has been crippled further still with Wednesday's decision of Italy's highest court to strip Silvio Berlusconi of legal immunity. The controversial law that had granted that dubious privilege has been struck down, by itself a watershed development in the country's constitutional history. It bears recall that soon after he took over as PM for the third term, Berlusconi had enacted the "Alfano law" to exempt himself and leading office-bearers from prosecution. Consequent upon its rejection, Italy's Prime Minister is now particularly vulnerable to face prosecution on charges of corruption. Mr Berlusconi, however, remains remarkably defiant, to the contemptuous extent of branding the constitutional court as "red toga-wearing tools of the Left". He has decided not to resign, a measure of defiance that could deepen Italy's constitutional and political crisis ~ "We must govern for five years, with or without the law." It is not clear though whether the ruling will compel the Prime Minister to quit and call snap elections. He may have been emboldened by the moral support lent by Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, Berlusconi's coalition partner. "If the court throws out the law we could go into action, mobilising the people." At another remove, the PM has been warned by his political opponents to "stop making laws for his personal use and step down".
Clearly, the knives are out in Italy, a country that has been witness to frequent changes of government. The court has dealt a severe blow to Berlusconi's moral authority to rule. And should he cling to his tainted authority, he will erode whatever is left of his credibility. His plea that he has been a victim of what he calls the vendetta of the Left-wing magistrates sounds contrived, and is unlikely to be generally accepted. Aside from the standard offences of the ruling class such as tax evasion and false accounting, the striking down of the immunity law could reopen quite the most critical case, one in which the Prime Minister was accused of giving the British lawyer, David Mills, estranged husband of British Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, a bribe of $600,000 to lie in court about overseas slush funds for his television empire. Berlusconi has his back to the wall despite a convincing majority in parliament.
AMERICA IS A PUSHOVER
ONLY KARMA THREATENS CHINA
IN the use of political strategy, China is running rings around America. Robert Kaplan recently wrote in the New York Times that while America faced mounting casualties and expended blood in Afghanistan, China reaped advantage by exploiting that country's rich mineral resources. The Taliban have little reason to dislike China. Mullah Omar would recall how the People's Liberation Army (PLA) signed an MOU for building Afghanistan's telecom system on the 9/11 day itself when he headed the Kabul government.
How did America come under China's grip? America's political corruption and corporate greed succeeded in subverting it to create a rival superpower in the bargain. The tortuous sequence of events that led to this situation needs to be deconstructed to understand how this came about.
For several decades America encouraged a five-to-one adverse balance of trade with China. Beijing converted its dollars into US Treasury bills. Over the years it has accumulated Treasury bills worth trillions. Instead of earning and saving to neutralize this debt, America got into wars that cost billions of wasted money. Now it is under a huge debt, enmeshed in costly wars from which it cannot extricate itself, and economically a virtual captive of China.
IT is instructive to note how America got into these wars. On 9/11/2001, on the day that Mullah Omar and PLA signed their MOU, the Twin Towers in New York were hit by terrorists and thousands died. US Intelligence almost immediately nailed Al Qaida based in Afghanistan as the perpetrator of the attack. But the neo-conservative advisers of President Bush convinced him that President Saddam of Iraq who had weapons of mass destruction was the real mastermind behind the terrorist attack. This blatant chicanery so infuriated the Chairman of America's Counterterrorism Security Group, Richard Clark, that he resigned from office and wrote a book exposing the rot.
US military succeeded in driving the Taliban government out of Kabul with relative ease. But it failed to eliminate the Taliban from strongholds in the countryside. Instead of focusing on this primary task the neo-conservative advisers prevailed on Bush to divert attention from Afghanistan by launching an invasion against Iraq . Subsequently it was found that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
This diversion of US military strength allowed the Taliban and Al Qaida to regroup and consolidate their strength. Meanwhile, America had got bogged down in Iraq. With escalation of Taliban and Al Qaida strikes in Afghanistan, America got bogged down in Afghanistan too. Now it is stuck in two wars which it does not know how to end. It may be recalled that Newsweek columnist, Fareed Zakaria, had pointed out that the biggest political gainer from the US intervention in Iraq was China . Before 9/11 President Bush had followed an anti-China approach by supporting Taiwan. But 9/11 changed that. The subsequent US involvement in Iraq not only took the heat off China's friend, the Taliban, but also changed the US priority from supporting Taiwan to combating Saddam's forces in Iraq .
The biggest irony is that America launched two wars that benefited China by borrowing money from China and getting deeper into its debt. The mounting debt of trillions of Chinese held US Treasury bills enable America to finance its wars. The Afghanistan war theatre is further complicated by the devious role of China's premier stooge, Pakistan. With America in a deep hole, and with the Indian leadership pathetically incapable of formulating an adequate response, China seems to be in an unassailable situation.
However this might not be the case. Being too clever by half, Beijing may well succeed in creating a crisis for itself. China leans heavily on Iran for its future energy supplies. To coddle the Iranians the Chinese supplied arms to Shiite insurgents who were operating in Iraq . The Washington Times quoting official sources reported this. Chinese aid to Shiites infuriated Sunni-led Al Qaida. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of Al Qaida and in charge of its overall strategy, reversed his friendly attitude to the Chinese. He was reputed to be the mentor of Baitullah Mehsud who led the Punjabi Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah's deputy Hakimullah Mehsud was credited with organizing the murder of Chinese engineers working in Pakistan. This temporarily strained relations between Beijing and Islamabad. To placate, China Musharraf launched the attack on the clerics of Islamabad's Lal Mosque who owed allegiance to Mehsud. This in turn created a rift between the Pakistan government and the Pakistan-based Taliban.
Baitullah was killed. Hakimullah who was first reported dead is very much alive. Now he leads the Pakistani Taliban. It remains to be seen what attitude this former killer of Chinese engineers will adopt. Overall signs are not particularly encouraging for China. Abu Yayha al-Libi, who is reputed to be the commander of the Al Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan, announced through a video released on Wednesday, October 7, that Muslims must launch a holy war against China in response to the massacre of Uighurs in western China. Referring to the Uighurs he said: "Thousands of Muslims were killed, and no one knows about them." A holy war against China is a far cry from the brotherly ties that Al Qaida displayed towards China on 9/11 and subsequently.
Something else also happened on Wednesday, October 7. President Obama's officials said that the US national security team might revise its war strategy by focusing only against Al Qaida. They argued that the Afghanistan Taliban does not pose a direct threat to the United States . What might have induced this reappraisal? Quite likely it was Mullah Omar's message on Eid.
Mullah Omar said: "We consider the whole region as a common home against colonialism and want to play our role in peace and stability of the region. We assure all countries that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as a responsible force, will not extend its hand to cause jeopardy to others as it does not allow others to jeopardize us Our goal is to gain independence of the country and establish a just Islamic system there on the basis of the aspirations of the Muslim nation. We can consider any option that could lead to the achievement of this goal." According to some analysts this was a tacit acceptance that the Taliban had overreached by providing sanctuary to Al Qaida prior to 9/11.
Mullah Omar's olive branch, US revision of policy, Al Qaida's announcement of a holy war against China, the re-emergence of Hakimullah Mehsud ~ all these could indicate a change of fortunes for Beijing triggered by its reckless policy of arming terrorists. Beijing's strategists have outsmarted all rival nations. How will they deal with the Law of Karma?
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist
The end will be like the beginning. There will be the Word. That word will be Whatever. The Book of Genesis got it right: language is the perfect companion to nothingness. But that was god's own nothingness, full of things about to happen, turning into men, women, snakes and apples with the uttering of the Word, followed by sweet, happy sinning. The rest is history, and literature. But the nothingness of Whatever is another story altogether. It will be not only the end of language, but of everything else that comes with language. The great void will be full of the sublime indifference of Whatever, the ghost of a shrug and an everlasting yawn. The boredom of it would kill the most die-hard nihilist, for so much of nihilism is pure talk.
A tiny survey, conducted by an American college with 938 adult Americans, has found that nearly half the people questioned said whatever was the word that got on their nerves the most. Close on its heels came you know, anyway and at the end of the day. What is it about the word that annoys even the Americans? Perhaps it stands for a kind of urban cool that the iPodding, netting, texting, chatting, not-so-bright young thing has perfected to a First World stereotype: a bored and sullen teen shading into a virtual, chat-engine avatar, indifferent to the pleasures and responsibilities of nuanced verbal communication. The link with America and the First World is only historical. Whatever rules the world. A Singaporean soft drink is called Whatever (the other brand is called Anything), and Oasis has a song called "Whatever", which goes, "I'm free to be whatever I/ Whatever I choose I'm free to say whatever I/ Whatever I like "
Another little survey, also made in the West, is relevant here. Among finalists in genetics at London's Imperial College, the British students were found to make three times as many errors in their English compared to their overseas classmates from China, Singapore and Indonesia (surprisingly, there seems to have been no Indian in that class). This is a different bracket of youngsters, more Facebook than iPod, more expensively educated and among the toppers in their specialist subjects (usually in the sciences or technology), but their language skills woefully inadequate. Perhaps this has got more to do with modes of competitiveness in the global higher-education scenario, and in the way English becomes the primary vehicle of such competition. For native speakers, English is the language in which they make themselves understood to one another, primarily in conversation or through means in which the niceties of spelling, grammar or vocabulary do not matter. But for overseas students in the Anglophone West, good English is a matter of survival and, increasingly in Britain, of integration. They cannot afford to shrug it all off with the hated W-word. Whatever is still not Whoever.
NETAJI VERSUS PANDITJI
WHAT IF SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE HAD RETURNED AFTER THE WAR?
I have been reading Philip Roth's The Plot against America, a magnificent novel by a magnificent novelist. This sets up an intriguing counter-factual: what if, in the American presidential election of 1940, the celebrated aviator, Charles Lindbergh, had stood against the incumbent, Franklin Delano Roosevelt? And what if he had won? Proceeding on the assumption that this is indeed what happened, the novelist sketches a portrait of what America would have looked like under a Lindbergh presidency. The story is told as so often with Roth from the perspective of a little Jewish boy growing up in the town of Newark, New Jersey. The novel moves deftly between the life of a single family and the life of the nation as a whole. Personal anxieties are juxtaposed with political transformations, as Lindbergh in this imagined 'history' makes a pact with Hitler, keeps America out of the war, and induces feelings of paranoia among the Jews of the eastern seaboard.
Roth's plot encouraged me to think of comparable counter-factuals in the Indian case. I hope, in future columns, to try out a few hypothetical scenarios, to imagine what our country would have looked like if this or that individual had lived longer or made a different political choice. Let me begin here with a question which doubtless has often been asked by Indians, and not all of them Bengali. What if Subhas Chandra Bose had returned home sometime after the conclusion of the World War II?
It is believed that Bose died in an aircrash over the island of Formosa (as Taiwan was then known) on August 18, 1945. What if the plane had not crashed? Earlier in the same month, atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompting the Japanese to surrender to the Allies. Had Bose not taken that plane or had it safely landed, what would he have done? Surely, he would have come back to the country for whose freedom from British rule he had dedicated his life. Perhaps he would not have returned straightaway, choosing to seek temporary refuge in a non-Western country, such as Russia or China. But sooner or later, he would have wended his way back home.
By the late summer of 1945, the British were in no mood to prolong their stay in India. They were exhausted and drained by the war besides, a Labour government committed to Indian independence had replaced the regime of the arch-imperialist, Winston Churchill. The viceroy, Lord Wavell, had brought the Congress and the Muslim League to the hill town of Simla to discuss the modalities and means of the transfer of power. The question that was now on the minds of the politically alert was when precisely would the British quit the subcontinent, and when they did, would they leave behind a single nation, or two?
After the defeat of Japan, many members of the Indian National Army did return home. Ordinary soldiers were allowed to return to their villages, but some senior officers were accused by the raj of being deserters, since they had left the service of the British Indian army to join the enemy. The trial was conducted in the precincts of the Red Fort, and attracted much attention, not least because leading Congressmen, including Jawaharlal Nehru, had volunteered to defend them.
What if Bose himself had come back in 1945 or 1946? The British could not have charged him with desertion, since he never was part of their army. Would they have accused him then of 'treason'? That, for instance, was the charge levelled against John Amery, who had fought on the Axis side despite being the son of a senior British politician. The younger Amery was hanged for betraying his country could the same have happened to Bose? This is unlikely, for, as a colonial subject, Bose was emphatically not British. (At the same time, he wasn't legally 'Indian' either, since India did not then exist as a nation.)
Had Bose returned to India at the conclusion of World War II he would have placed the British in a bind. The rulers had at first wished to make an example of the INA officers to sentence them to long prison terms or even to deportation for life. But a massive public outcry forced a retreat. In the end, the officers and soldiers were released. However, the British persuaded Nehru and other nationalist leaders to disallow former INA men from joining (or rejoining) the regular Indian army.
Would the British have tried Bose? Unlikely, for Bose was a patriot who already commanded the admiration of millions of his compatriots. A trial would have merely increased his popular appeal. Perhaps he would have been allowed to quietly re-enter politics. Would he then have rejoined his old party, the Congress, or would he have sought instead to renew his newer party, the Forward Bloc? The decision would have depended as much on personal equations as on political calculations. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi would have effected a reconciliation, persuading Bose to work alongside Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel in dealing with the British and the Muslim League. On the other hand, Bose might have not have forgiven the slights and wounds of 1939, when he was forced to give up the presidency of the Congress and left with no alternative but to leave the party itself.
The return of Bose is unlikely, however, to have materially affected the transfer of power itself. The British would have still left India in 1947, and Partition would still have happened. Now comes perhaps the most intriguing question what, in an independent India, would have been the politics and programme of Subhas Chandra Bose?
Even if, in our hypothetical scenario, Bose had returned to India and rejoined the Congress, it is unlikely that he could have remained long in that party after Independence. He was too proud and independent-minded to have conceded the top spot to Jawaharlal Nehru. What then might he have done? He could have started or re-started his own party, or he might have joined with other former Congressmen in nurturing a left-wing alternative to the ruling party. Such an alternative was in fact forged in the 1950s, when Acharya Kripalani, Jayaprakash Narayan, and Rammanohar Lohia came together to form a new party of socialists whose raison d'être was that they were more egalitarian than the Congress as well as more patriotic than the Soviet-inspired Communist Party of India.
In history, as it actually happened, the socialists could not make a dent in the Congress hegemony. In history, as it might have happened, a Bose-led Socialist Party would have mounted a serious challenge to Nehru and his colleagues. The legacy of the freedom struggle would still have carried the Congress to victory in the first general elections, and perhaps even the second. But after that the voter would have begun to look for alternatives. Now Subhas Chandra Bose had greater countrywide appeal than Kripalani, Lohia, et al. A party led by him might, by 1957, and definitely by 1962, have given the Congress a real run for its money. The fact that Bose was a full eight years younger than Nehru would have also worked to his advantage.
Whether Bose would have made a better prime minister than Nehru we do not know. What we can say is that had his plane not crashed in August 1945, the history of our country would possibly have been very different, and certainly more interesting.
FESTIVALS AND FILTH
EIGHT YEARS AGO WHEN MY WIFE DIED, WE DECIDED TO IMMERSE HER ASHES IN THE YAMUNA.
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
She had lived most her life in Delhi and the Yamuna was as sacred to us as the Ganga. So my son and daughter took her ashes to Majnu-Ka-Teela Gurudwara on the banks of the river. They found it very filthy and decided to look for a cleaner patch to deposit their mother's remains. As they went down the river bank to Nigambodh Ghat and further to the railway bridge, the river got filthier and filthier. They decided to bring the ashes back home. Then took them to Kasauli and scattered them in the garden in which she used to spend her summer months.
A scene which has never left my mind is the Yamuna flowing past the Taj Mahal at Agra. I was gazing at the river when I saw two pariah dogs swimming towards what looked like a red shroud. It was a human corpse. The dogs dragged it across to the other bank and started eating it. It brought vomit to my throat.
Why are we such a filthy nation? We take great pains to further foul our rivers on religious festivals. We immerse idols coated with poisonous paints in rivers, lakes and the sea. Millions of fish die of food poisoning. We throw all our debris in rivers; we empty our sewers carrying human excreta in rivers.
Is it not surprising that the very rivers which are our life-lines have became breeders of disease and death. Are our preachers of religious rituals unaware of what is going on under their noses, but refrain from saying anything on the subject for fear of losing their following? shame on them!
While touching the topic of polluted rivers, I thought of pollution in cities during religious festivals because the festival season is on us. I refer to the practice of taking out huge processions through the most crowded parts of the city and bringing life to a halt. Shops en-route are forced to close; vehicular traffic brought to a stand-still. Hindus and Sikhs are prone to the disease I call processionitis. I complimented my Muslim friends for not indulging in this wasteful exercise as a religious duty.
I withdraw my compliments. Last Eid-ul-Fitr the Delhi-Gurgaon highway was blocked for many hours because thousands of Muslims were offering namaz on the road. The same thing happens in many of our cities which have a sizeable population of Muslims.
JAIN'S RECIPE FOR ETERNAL YOUTH
I first met J K Jain in 1980 and continued meeting him on semi-regular basis for the next six years. Both of us were Members of the Rajya Sabha: he, elected by the Congress, I a nominated one. As an elected member he had a lot more to say than I. He was voluble on every issue that came up for debate.
J K Jain's repartees with Piloo Modi often roused laughter in the House. Once he kept interrupting Modi and made him lose his cool. "Stop barking," shouted Modi. Jain protested to Speaker Hidayatullah: "Sir, he is calling me a dog." Hidayatullah ruled out the word bark, "that will not go on record," he ordered. Not to be outdone, Modi yelled, "then stop braying." Neither Jain nor Hidayatullah took objection to it and it was recorded in the Rajya Sabha proceedings.
J K Jain did not get Congress support to get another innings in parliament but he continued to work for the party. He told me how he had canvassed in losing constituencies and turned the tide in favour of the Congress. He is obviously very pleased with himself. He has published a massive tome 'J K Jain: A Golden Heart', containing compliments paid to him by people who matter.
He showed me pictures of himself with six Presidents of the Republic and another with six Prime Ministers of India. Also, chief ministers, senior politicians, industrialists and everyone else who matters. Each copy must have cost him over Rs 2,000. He is evidently a man of considerable wealth. He had forgotten that he had a copy sent to me earlier through my son, so I have two extolling the greatness of J K Jain.
"What are you doing now?" I asked him.
"As before working for the Congress. But now things are different." He confided: "Now only those people close to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi matter. People like you and me no longer count."
"I was never counted amongst men who matter and I am not close to anyone who matters," said I. "I am too old to harbour worldly ambitions."
"Never!" he assured me. "I give you the surest way to regain your youth and remain the chief topic of society.
Have yourself photographed with four or five of the prettiest girls who come to see you and publish it in your column. Then see the miracle."
I could keep his advice in record.
The first testicular guard was used in cricket in 1874; the first helmet was used in 1974. It took cricketers a hundred years to discover that the brain was as important as their private parts.
(Contributed by Amarinder Bajaj, Delhi)
A LAUREL TO THE LUNCHBOX
PACKING A PERFECT DABBA IS A CHALLENGE EVEN FOR THE BEST COOK.
BY SNEHLATHA BALIGA
Prince Charles, it is said, was so impressed by the 'dabbawallas' of Mumbai during his visit that he invited their representatives over to his place.
Of course, the way they deliver lakhs of dabbas (lunchboxes) day in and day out traversing the length and breadth of the mega city to the right owner during lunch time and returning it to the right door steps in the evenings is a stupendous task. Yet, it is those silent hands toiling behind these boxes that I salute.
For, packing a perfect dabba is never an easy task. Being a unique chapter in culinary science, it is a challenge even for the best cook. Its outcome depends not only on the culinary prowess of the cook but a host of other factors to get things just right inside the dabba. Besides being a good cook, she should be conversant with the rudiments of physics, chemistry and even meteorology. The heat from the container could make chapattis in the next container soggy, summers could turn delicious curd rice sour while winters could leave it unfermented.
Menus for the lunch boxes have to be planned in advance keeping in mind consistency and (packability).
The nuance of a fresh and hot lunch box is never a stale topic when ladies meet. Following are a few of the interesting episodes and views that I picked up along with relevant recipes and hints during such sessions. For one lady, the lunch carrier is a show piece of the family's honour and pride. That in turn depends on the number and quality of items packed because the lunchbox is under 'public' scrutiny when it is shared with friends. Another narrated how she once filled only the lower most container of her husband's lunchbox with food, leaving the others empty on an All Fools Day.
The lunch box gives a peek into the morning kitchen. Once back from his KG class, my son whispered: "Rajaram brought Bournvita on his bread today". Rajaram, his classmate, had working parents and his grandmother might have run out of jam that day.
If good food is the best way to a heart, lunchboxes are delectable ways towards national integration. Look at the Murthy family feasting on mooli parathas during lunch breaks and how the Khannas have learnt to prepare and enjoy hulianna and bisibelebath for their lunchboxes.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE PEACE PRIZE
President Obama responded to the news of his Nobel Peace Prize the right way. He said he was humbled, acknowledged that the efforts for which he was honored are only beginning and pledged to see them through, not on his own but in concert with other nations.
There cannot have been unbridled joy in the White House early Friday. Mr. Obama's aides had to expect a barrage of churlish reaction, and they got it. The left denounced the Nobel committee for giving the prize to a wartime president. The right proclaimed that Mr. Obama sold out the United States by engaging in diplomacy. Members of the dwindling band of George W. Bush loyalists also sneered with absolutely no recognition of their own culpability that Mr. Obama has not yet ended the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
Certainly, the prize is a (barely) implicit condemnation of Mr. Bush's presidency. But countering the ill will Mr. Bush created around the world is one of Mr. Obama's great achievements in less than nine months in office. Mr. Obama's willingness to respect and work with other nations is another.
Mr. Obama has bolstered this country's global standing by renouncing torture, this time with credibility; by pledging to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; by rejoining the effort to combat climate change and to rid the world of nuclear weapons; by recommitting himself to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and by offering to engage Iran while also insisting that it abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Obama did not seek the prize. It is a reminder of the extraordinarily high expectations for any American president and does bring into sharp focus all that he has left to do to make the world, and this country, safer.
In Iraq, Mr. Obama is still a long way from managing an orderly withdrawal that does not leave a power vacuum and inflame a volatile region. He must decide, soon, on a strategy for Afghanistan that will do what Mr. Bush failed to do defeat Al Qaeda and contain the Taliban without miring American and allied troops in an endless unwinnable conflict.
To make real progress toward Mr. Obama's declared goal of a world without nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must both agree to deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals. If, as we suspect, Iran refuses to give up its illicit nuclear activities, Mr. Obama will have to press the rest of the world's big powers to impose tough sanctions. He must come up with a more effective strategy to roll back North Korea's nuclear program.
While he has made an excellent start on climate change with new regulations that finally begin to grapple with carbon emissions, the United States has to lead the way to a global agreement.
Mr. Obama is going to have to overcome narrow-minded opposition in Congress to keep his promise to close Guantánamo and deal with its inmates in a way consistent with the Constitution and American values. He has much more to do to erase the worst excesses of Mr. Bush in detaining prisoners without charges and flaunting the Geneva Conventions.
Americans elected Mr. Obama because they wanted him to restore American values and leadership and because they believed he could. The Nobel Prize, and the broad endorsement that followed, shows how many people around the world want the same thing.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The de facto Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti is listening to the wrong people. Since the military deposed the president, Manuel Zelaya, in June, Mr. Micheletti and his aides have received two American Congressional delegations all Republicans and they are getting additional free advice from former Republican officials who are clearly nostalgic for the cold war.
Those days are over. Mr. Micheletti should instead pay attention to what he is being told by every democratically elected government in the hemisphere: President Zelaya must be reinstated to office. Nothing else will do.
Mr. Micheletti and his backers argued that they did everybody a favor by removing an erratic populist who was all too cozy with Hugo Chávez's Venezuela. Now they think they can stall through next month's presidential election, hoping that the arrival of a new president will mean an end to sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
"You don't know the truth, or you don't want to know it," Mr. Micheletti angrily told a group of envoys from the Organization of American States, the United States, Canada and several Latin American governments who were in Tegucigalpa, Honduras's capital, this week on an unsuccessful mission to solve the impasse.
But it is Mr. Micheletti who refuses to understand. Coups against democratically elected leaders, once the norm in Latin America, are no longer acceptable.
There are signs that continued pressure may convince the de facto government to reinstate Mr. Zelaya under terms negotiated by the Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias. The deal would grant an amnesty to both sides and guarantee that Mr. Zelaya would do nothing to tinker with the Constitution or try to hang on to power.
The leading candidates for president including the one from Mr. Micheletti's party have held talks with Mr. Zelaya, who sneaked back into Honduras and is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.
Business leaders are getting especially antsy about the country's increasing isolation. The leader of the Honduran Manufacturers Association has called for restoring the deposed leader with limited powers while granting Mr. Micheletti a lifetime seat in Congress. A former finance minister who backed the coup is saying that he would support Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement, after the election, so he could finish out his term that ends in January.
Time is running out. If Mr. Micheletti and his backers expect the next Honduran government to be recognized as legitimate by the international community, it must restore Mr. Zelaya to office now.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Eating a hamburger should not be a death-defying experience. Too often it is. As Michael Moss wrote in The Times recently, E. coli sickens thousands of people annually, including a young dance teacher named Stephanie Smith, who was paralyzed after eating a contaminated hamburger. Her case offers a poignant reminder that President Obama and Congress need to quickly fill the safety gaps in food production.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who called Ms. Smith's case "unacceptable and tragic," said his department has stepped up inspections of meat facilities and planned to establish new rules to help trace any tainted ground meat more swiftly. There is a lot more to do.
Hamburger is no longer a simple patty created by grinding up cuts of beef from one cow. It is a mix of meat and other parts, often from a variety of slaughterhouses around the world. Testing is done in meat-production facilities, but Mr. Moss found troubling instances when slaughterhouses refused to sell their meat to producers or companies that wanted to do extra testing for the particularly dangerous E. coli that paralyzed Ms. Smith.
Costco, for example, routinely tests hamburger and other foods as they come into their plant and before they are mixed with products from other suppliers. As a result some hamburger producers refused to sell to Costco for fear it would start a major recall.
More companies should follow the best practices used by Costco and others. In the meantime, it should be illegal to discourage such additional safety precautions. So far, Congress and the Department of Agriculture have failed to take that important step.
Congress must also give the Agriculture Department more authority to recall foods as needed or to shut down plants that keep sending out contaminated products. And the administration should nominate a strong undersecretary for food safety. That vacancy leaves a huge gap.
Already too much of the burden for food safety falls on consumers who are advised to cook hamburgers into shoe leather to kill off any dangerous germs. But even that is not enough because it is too easy for raw ground beef to leave behind toxic traces in the kitchen. Ground beef is a major part of the American diet. Consumers should not have to fear that their hamburger comes with a trip to the nearest emergency room.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
ANY BONDS TODAY?
In 1941, as the nation confronted the challenge of World War II, a propaganda cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and a patriotic ditty by Irving Berlin promoted the savings bond drive to pay for the cost of waging war. Uncle Sam was tunefully summoned forth: "The tall man with the high hat and the whiskers on his chin/ Will soon be knocking at your door and you ought to be in."
In an astounding response, an estimated 8 out of 13 Americans bought bonds in denominations ranging from $25 to $1,000 and raised more than $180 billion for the Treasury. Bond rallies held by movie stars such as Lucille Ball and James Cagney blanketed the land. Bonds were sold by milkmen on their routes and bartenders in roadhouses as the jukebox played the Andrews Sisters singing Berlin's "Any Bonds Today?"
That question will soon resound again in federal court when a group of states sue to tap into the war's forgotten treasure: $16.7 billion worth of the old bonds that were never cashed in. That's good money lying unclaimed in these fresh hard times and the states, looking for a cut, argue that they have the means to track down bondholding taxpayers and ease their pain.
The bonds went unclaimed for the usual reasons of mortality and forgetfulness a process made likelier by their 40-year terms until payoff. The states complain that the Treasury had lists of the buyers but never sent out notices to them or their families when the bonds were redeemable.
The Treasury Department has powerful counterarguments, including "sovereign immunity" precedents against state challenges. But Senator John Rockefeller IV proposes a compromise: that the states, with their specialists in unclaimed property, be paid $30 for each owner or descendant they track down.
As the trial nears in United States District Court in New Jersey, that tall man with the high hat and the whiskers on his chin is knocking once again. The federal government is entertaining queries from potential claimants on its Web site, TreasuryDirect.gov. It's high time that someone up the money and give new meaning to the old bond-drive lyric: "Scrape up the most you can/ Here comes the freedom man."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
BY GAIL COLLINS
Our question for today is whether it's fair for a politician to point out that his opponent is fat.
This involves the New Jersey gubernatorial race, where Gov. Jon Corzine has been running ads showing extremely unflattering shots of the Republican contender, Chris Christie, and claiming that Christie "threw his weight around" when he was stopped for traffic infractions.
While Christie is certainly a large guy, the more interesting factoids in the ad would seem to be that he is a large guy who is a bad driver. A bad driver who was given to loudly pointing out that he was the U.S. attorney when he was stopped for things like speeding, driving without a car registration, or whoops! running into a motorcyclist while going the wrong way on a one-way street.
However, the weight issue is the one that has caught all the attention. Patrick Murray, the poll director at Monmouth University, told David Halbfinger of The Times that he thought Corzine was trying to send a "subliminal message" that Christie was reckless about his health and, therefore, might be reckless about, say, the state budget.
During a debate among candidates for N.J. lieutenant governor, the Democrat, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, was asked whether she felt Christie is overweight. "I don't think that there are too many of us in this race who could make it into 'The Bachelor' or 'The Bachelorette,' " she responded.
This was an extremely discreet answer, although now that we have seen how much attention Tom DeLay got for "Dancing With the Stars," I suspect that the networks would have no hesitation whatsoever in tossing a couple of lieutenant governors into a serial dating show.
It is definitely true that you do not see many overweight people in Washington these days. The Obama administration is so pathologically fit that I have developed a truly unexpected affection for Larry Summers.
But I would really hate to see national anti-fat standards move into state government. For one thing, it would totally ruin my hopes of becoming the next person to be appointed lieutenant governor of New York when something untoward happens yet again in Albany.
Also, one of the best things about state capitols is that they are places where people who have most of their teeth and some of their hair can count on feeling pretty darned attractive.
Some commentators have come down hard on Corzine for the "weight" ad. However, it's hard to blame his campaign for focusing on matters of girth. The state is a mess, his party members keep getting indicted and his personality is what we always like to politely term "abrasive." All he's really got is his ability to run a 10K. Corzine can't even dwell on Christie's terrible driving record given the fact that he spent the first part of his administration incapacitated because of an unfortunate decision to mix speeding with failure to buckle one's seat belt.
Other people have argued that the ad will backfire and elicit sympathy for Christie among the multitudes of overweight voters even in the relatively fit state of New Jersey. (And God help the candidate who tries to pull this kind of thing in Mississippi.)
That's happened in the past. Like the time Mitt Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate during one of Kennedy's particularly unslender periods. The Romney camp ran film of Kennedy struggling to squeeze behind a table. (Subliminal message: Too much fat in the budget.) Kennedy responded with workers who had been laid off after a factory takeover engineered by Romney's firm. (Subliminal message: How do you like downsizing?)
Of course, Kennedy cleaned his clock. This is my second-favorite Mitt Romney story. I couldn't figure out any way to bring up the one about him driving to Canada with the family dog strapped to the car roof.
I think we can all agree that William Howard Taft would not have made it into the White House if there had been YouTube in 1908. But George W. Bush gave fitness such a bad name I really expected the next president to be someone like Hillary Clinton, who does not seem to regard her treadmill as an integral part of the family circle. Instead, we elected a guy who's so attractive that the Nobel committee couldn't resist giving him a Peace Prize before he ever did anything. It was sort of like one of those greeting cards that say: "Thank you for being you."
If the anti-fat bias among voters gets too intense, we are going to get in trouble eventually. The number of overweight Americans keeps going up, and pretty soon there are only going to be about six people in each state who are qualified to run for the U.S. Senate. The presidency may have to become a monarchy.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
NO MORE SUFFERING IN SILENCE
BY CHARLES M. BLOW
Last Saturday, actor, playwright and impresario Tyler Perry posted a heart-rending message on his Web site recounting the abuses of his childhood. It was hard to read it without welling up.
His father had constantly belittled and savagely beaten him. Perry wrote that one beating was so merciless that "the skin was coming off my back." When he was about 10 years old, while trying to leave a friend's house, Perry wrote that the friend's mother made lewd and disgusting suggestions and pulled him on top of her.
At another point, Perry wrote about a man from church who had molested him.
Coming on the heels of the arrest of Roman Polanski for his 1977 crime of plying a 13-year-old girl with Champagne and Quaaludes before raping and sodomizing her, and the revelation from Mackenzie Phillips that she had had a 10-year "consensual incestuous" relationship with her own father that she believes began when she was a teenager, it raises the question: How pervasive is child sexual abuse and how often do these crimes go unreported?
The statistics are sobering.
According to a 2000 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 70 percent of all sexual assaults are committed against children. While the age with the greatest proportion of assaults reported was 14, more than half of all child victims were under 12. And of those under 12, 4-year-olds were at the greatest risk.
According to a Unicef report released this week, "5 to 10 percent of girls and up to 5 percent of boys suffer penetrative sexual abuse." Up to three times of those numbers experience some type of sexual abuse.
The good news: Reports of sexual abuse in the United States seem to be sliding. The not-so-good news: Reports and prevalence are not the same, and it's not conclusive that they move in concert. The bad news: If up to 3 in 10 girls and 3 in 20 boys are still being assaulted, these are epidemic proportions. And, if most cases are never reported, it's a silent epidemic.
Like Perry, most child victims scared, confused and ashamed tell no one. Instead, they shunt the unsavory secret into a dark corner of the mind, where they try, alone, for years to make sense of it.
We must do a better job of helping these children realize that they are not alone, not at fault and not powerless, that there is hope and help and healing.
We need a public education campaign that speaks directly to children on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, at the beginning of G-rated movies, on classroom bulletin boards, everywhere. Nothing graphic, just something simple: "If it feels wrong, it's wrong. Say something. It's your body."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
IGNITING THE GROWTH OF JOBS
BY BOB HERBERT
Think of this recession as a monstrous hurricane that swept through the job market and is still wreaking havoc. The latest unemployment rate for California is a knee-buckling 12.2 percent, the highest since World War II.
The job market nationwide is the worst it has been in 70 years, noted Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, during one of several conversations that I had with him over the past week. He dismissed the upbeat talk of "green shoots" sprouting in the devastated economic landscape and the dreamy notion that recovery is no longer just around the corner, it's here.
The economy may have recovered technically, he said, "but this is not a real recovery."
The Obama administration's stimulus package has mitigated the damage, but it was not big enough or targeted enough toward job creation to halt the continued hemorrhaging in employment. (Incredibly, some 40,000 teachers have lost their jobs over the past year, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)
Without jobs, you don't have a genuine recovery. And with consumers tapped out and business investment hamstrung, it's up to the government to develop creative approaches and make the investments necessary to start putting people back to work in large numbers.
There are plenty of serious proposals available that are both doable and affordable.
Mr. Reich, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, is among those who favor a tax credit for small businesses that create jobs. This is tricky. Policy makers have to make sure that the credit is given only for net new hires, as companies will attempt to get a tax break for hires they would have made anyway.
"Under normal circumstances," said Mr. Reich, "I would never recommend this. It's a very blunt instrument. But these are not normal circumstances."
A virtue of the tax credit, which reportedly is being considered by the administration, is that it could get significant Republican support.
Another promising approach is substantially increased federal aid to state and local governments, above and beyond what is already occurring. Local governments from one coast to the other are facing budget meltdowns and are slashing services and personnel.
"When states cut programs or raise taxes, that slows the economy down," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "You can prevent that if you give them aid, and that means state employees, and employees of local governments that depend on state assistance, don't get laid off."
That's the beginning of an important ripple effect that spreads to the private sector jobs in firms that do business with state and local governments. The federal aid can help keep these folks on the job and contributing to the economy until a real turnaround occurs.
"We estimate that half the jobs that are created by fiscal relief to the states are private-sector jobs," said Mr. Mishel. "No one thinks about that."
More controversial but increasingly important is the idea of direct government job creation. The recession has absolutely crushed employment opportunities for unskilled, undereducated young people not just in big cities and rural areas, but in suburban communities as well. Without direct government intervention, the recession is never going to end for them.
During the first half of this year in Illinois, to take one wretched example, just one in four black men in the age group of 20 through 24 had a job.
Nationally during that period, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, "the employment rate of males 16-19, 20-24, and 25-29 were at their lowest values over the past 61 years for which national employment data are available." That's for men of all ethnic groups.
"The past," as William Faulkner told us, "is not dead. It's not even past." The lessons of the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s are right in front of us, ready to be studied, analyzed, updated and applied to the present-day needs of the country.
If we're serious about getting the U.S. back on track economically, we will have to take our heads out of the sand at some point with regard to the nation's infrastructure. America has to be rebuilt, modernized and re-energized from its water and sewer systems to its schools to the smart grid and the alternative energy sources that so many are talking about and beyond. That's where the jobs are for the long term, and that's the only route to a truly flourishing future.
These investments would be costly and require vision. Seeing them through would take an enormous collective effort by politicians and the public alike. But some variation on these themes is absolutely essential if the U.S. is to pull itself out of the economic quicksand and its long-term, potentially very tragic consequences.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
BY ANN V. BELL, MARK PEARLMAN AND RAYMOND DE VRIES
OCTOBER is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but what is it we need to be aware of? We know that for women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and, after lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death. This month, pink ribbons and yogurt containers will remind us of the need to find a cure. But equally important is improving access to life-saving therapy for women already living with breast cancer many of whom don't even know it.
Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer measured from the first health care consultation for a breast complaint to a diagnosis of cancer is the most common and the second most costly medical claim against American doctors. Moreover, the length of delays in breast cancer diagnosis in cases that lead to malpractice litigation has been increasing in recent years. According to a study by the Physician Insurers Association of America, in 1990 the average delay was 12.7 months; in 1995 it was 14 months. The most recent data, from 2002, showed the average delay had risen to 16.3 months.
Why are there such long delays, even for women who get regular examinations? The insurers association identifies five causes: a misreading of the mammogram, a false negative mammogram, findings that fail to impress the doctor, the doctor's failure to refer the patient to a specialist and poor communication between providers. Four of these five are preventable human errors (a false negative mammogram is a machine failure) and two failure to make a referral and poor communication are products of the way we organize health care.
The breast is something of an orphan in our health care system. We have cardiologists, nephrologists, hepatologists, proctologists and neurologists but we have no "mammologists." How did the breast get lost?
To answer this question we need to look at the division of labor in medicine and the history of specialization. In 1940, 24 percent of doctors were specialists; by the late 1960s, nearly 90 percent of medical graduates were entering specialty residencies. In the 1930s, obstetrician-gynecologists attempted to define themselves as surgeons specializing in women's reproductive organs. But general surgeons had long considered all things surgical their exclusive turf, so obstetrician-gynecologists instead created a niche for themselves as "women's doctors," a kind of primary care specialty. They became the point of entry to health care for most women. Some were able to diagnose breast problems, but treatment of the breast remained for the most part with general surgeons.
When radiologists specialists who can also diagnose breast cancer appeared on the scene, another caregiver became involved in treatment. And radiologists were followed by radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, reconstructive surgeons and medical geneticists.
Women with breast cancer get lost in the mix, forced to make several different appointments, sit in various waiting rooms and see multiple doctors. In most cases, a woman with a breast problem will start with her obstetrician-gynecologist, who will then refer her to a surgeon (for a biopsy) or a radiologist (for a mammogram). The referring obstetrician-gynecologist may never see or hear from the patient again, and may not know if she kept her appointment or got adequate care.
Contrast this with the care given to women with gynecologic cancer. Because there is a subspecialty of gynecologic oncology, women see the same doctor from diagnosis to post-surgery follow-up. Breast malignancies outnumber gynecologic cancers 10 to one, and yet we have no subspecialty for breast care.
Why don't more obstetrician-gynecologists perform the initial, minimal surgery required to diagnose breast cancer? The answer lies in the training of medical residents. Three organizations oversee the education of future obstetrician-gynecologists: the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. All three have different requirements regarding training in breast care. At the end of their years as residents, some obstetrician-gynecologists have a great deal of experience with the minimally invasive diagnostic procedures needed to respond to breast complaints and others do not.
Women with breast cancer need obstetrician-gynecologists who have learned how to diagnose breast cancers and breast care specialists devoted to shepherding them through surgery, therapy and healing. Given the haphazard growth in medical specialties and varied training programs for obstetrician-gynecologists, it is no surprise that there is a mismatch between patient needs and caregiver skills. Campaigns to raise awareness of breast cancer must do more than push for a cure. They must also seek to improve the way we organize care for those who suffer from this illness.
Ann V. Bell is a graduate student in sociology at the University of Michigan. Mark Pearlman is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the director of the Breast Fellowship Program at the University of Michigan Medical School. Raymond De Vries is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and bioethics there.
I. THE NEWS
There was a depressing, appalling, familiarity about the news that a car bomb had exploded in the busy Khyber bazaar area of Peshawar around noon on Friday. Friday; a time of prayer and peaceful reflection and celebration of the Muslim faith across the country, but seems to be the favourite day for those whose deadly business is to terrorise us. At the time of writing there are at least 42 dead and 54 injured with an estimated twenty of those injured being in critical condition. The numbers of dead and injured will inevitably rise. Rescue services are calling it the 'worst blast we have ever seen'. Interior Minister Rehman Malik was swift to condemn the atrocity and said that the long-promised operation in Waziristan was 'imminent'. Local business men speaking on private TV channels spoke of their frustration and anger at the way in which their lives and livelihoods were being destroyed and of their desire to leave the city as attempting to carry on business was pointless and carried with it an unacceptable level of risk. There is understandable confusion about the type of device that caused this carnage, but the opinion seems to be that it was a suicide bomb, probably carried in a car which may have been moving at the time of the blast and the Khyber bazaar may not have been the intended target.
There will be entirely predictable statements that there has been a security lapse or failure and this that or the other agency has failed in its duty to protect the public. The bombers should have been spotted at any one of the numerous checkpoints that ring the city. Intelligence should have been better. CCTV cameras should have recorded them all will be cited as a failure of the systems set up to protect the citizenry. All will miss the point that NWFP is a war-zone, not merely the site of what may euphemistically be termed an 'insurgency' but an area where a fully-fledged war is being fought. It is a war fought by combatants who in one case may have signed the Geneva Convention on the conduct of warfare but have little care for it; and in the other the Geneva Convention is something they have never heard of. Civilian casualties are as much a part of the war in NWFP as were the thousands of refugees who died when the Allies firebombed Dresden in the Second World War or the civilians who were fried to a crisp in Hiroshima.
This is a war being fought with a ferocity that is increasing by the day and short of putting the entire city on lock-down there is probably little the civil or military authorities can do to stop the carnage. Realistically, there will be intelligence successes that we may not hear about, and operations that net the bombers and terrorists, but there will always be one that gets through. Such is the nature of warfare. This is a war that we cannot afford to lose no matter the attrition. It is our war, no matter how it gets 'dressed up' for political purposes. Ours to win and ours to lose. Now is the time for us to stand against the bombers and the gunmen, to expose them, reveal their dark plots and evil designs. More of us will die doing so, but stand we must.
I. THE NEWS
CONFIDENCE OR FEAR?
The US State Department has put its own twist on the controversy raging over the Kerry-Lugar Bill in Pakistan. The assistant secretary of state for public affairs, responding to queries from the media, insists that the legislation has not caused major problems in Pakistan. Indeed, officials say, there is a new-found confidence from the democratic government which has decided to assert itself to a greater extent. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the way the government itself sees matters. In Islamabad, urgent discussions have been continuing over the possibilities that arise following the army's straight-talking criticism of the bill. Criticism from the Opposition too pours in, adding to the mounting pressure on the government. In an attempt to release some of it, the Foreign Office says the clauses are not binding anyway. Significantly, the US Ambassador to Pakistan has described the clauses in the bill referring to the army as 'a big mistake'. This will do nothing to build confidence. Meanwhile the presidency is said to be determined to defend the legislation.
The US State Department assessment of a government keen to move into a higher gear seems to be based, at least partially, on wishful thinking. We would indeed all want a government willing to work for the interests of the people and to combat forces that work against it. But in this, officials in Washington appear to miss a crucial point. To succeed in any internal struggle of power, especially one which defenders of the Kerry-Lugar Bill say is intended to benefit citizens, there must be support from the masses. It is this crucial factor that has, in other places, enabled popularly chosen leaders to survive attempted moves from autocratic forces to remove them. But we all know that President Zardari and the PPP government lack that backing. Most are disillusioned, even disgusted, by the performance they have seen so far. Allegations of massive corruption add to this. In such an environment it is easier for critics of the bill with media support to whip up sentiments against the legislation and the perceived threat it poses to sovereignty. There has been little attempt to assess the bill fairly and rationally.
The questions of sovereignty being raised ignore crucial issues. Since the 1950s, Pakistan's sovereignty has been limited. It has repeatedly and sometimes blindly followed US dictates. The entry into the Afghan war after 1979 is one example of this. The army's role in all this has not strictly been in accordance with the notion of sovereignty and it has rarely acted with the consent of the people. There needs also to be a debate over the benefits of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which triples aid for education and health. Isn't this what people need most of all? It is the government's task to put these issues before people and move the discussion beyond the rather meaningless notions of an 'insult to the army' or a 'humiliation for the nation'.
I. THE NEWS
US-PAKISTAN: A TORTURED RELATIONSHIP
DR ADIL NAJAM
The debate over the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar Bill - The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act - passed by the US Senate late September seems to have generated great confusion, bemusement and frustration, sometimes, all at the same time.
The headlines in The News two days ago tell us, for example, that the Pakistan Army considers the bill to be an "insult," that Pakistan's Prime Minister sees it as a "big success for democracy," that India is "upset" about it, and that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is chiding the bill's critics to "read it first." Even as the entrepreneurial classes in both Washington and Islamabad dream of big plans and salivate at the impending windfalls, it is difficult to tell whether it is the political pundits in Washington who feel more insulted or those in Islamabad. Suffice to say, both are seething with anger even when it is not at all clear why.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a five-year commitment for up to $7.5 billion for developmental assistance, with up to $1.5 billion available each of the next five years, which amounts to a tripling of the US civilian assistance to Pakistan. Responding to what has been a call of many Pakistanis over many years, it directs this assistance towards civilian and not military aid. It also tries to respond to the fears about corruption by the bureaucracy and politicians by asking for strong oversight over-use and effectiveness.
So, what is there not to like about the Kerry-Lugar Bill?
Speak to the bill's proponents in Washington and they will ask you: "Isn't this exactly what you guys have been asking for all along? More money? Money for civilian development projects. Money that will be accounted for and used properly. So, why aren't you all dancing in the streets and hugging us in gratitude?" Many Americans are clearly feeling insulted because they see it as a case of their generosity not being appreciated.
For its critics the answer is straight-forward and can be summarised in one word: conditionality. The critic's wrath is not really about what the Kerry-Lugar Bill promises; it is about what the bill demands. Call it concerns about sovereignty, imperialism, national pride or whatever else, but many Pakistanis are clearly feeling insulted because they think they have been presented with a bill of demands and are being asked to sell out cheap.
One can dissect things deep in search of hidden meanings and clues. Too many people are already doing that and it really does not help. The problem is deep. But it is not hidden.
The debate we are now seeing is one more manifestation of the deep deficits of trust that have marked all US-Pakistan relations. In the absence of trust, Pakistanis -- even those who might otherwise support this Bill -- simply refuse to accept that America could possibly be interested in Pakistan's interests. For the very same reasons, Americans -- even those who strongly wish to see a stronger Pakistan -- simply refuse to acknowledge the intensity with which Pakistan has always sought "friends, not masters."
The fact of the matter is that if the US had any trust whatsoever in the Pakistani state or the Pakistani people, this bill would not have been crafted in the language it is. By the same token, if Pakistanis had any trust whatsoever in the United States their reaction would not have been what it is even if the bill were written as it is.
The US-Pakistan relationship is a most reluctant, even tortured, relationship. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a good example of this. Here is support that the Americans would much rather never have been 'made' to give to Pakistan. Here is support that Pakistanis would much rather never have been 'made' to accept.
And herein lies the real problem of the Pakistan-US relations. Neither trusts the other. Each can give many reasons why -- and some of them, in each case, are very valid -- but that matters little. The result is a tainted and tortured relationship.
When I visit Pakistan, I am often asked: "What do Americans think of Pakistan?" In USA, I am often asked, "What do Pakistanis think of America?" The answer to both questions is exactly the same: "They think of you exactly what you think of them. They don't really like you, they certainly don't trust you, but right now they think they need you."
It is no surprise, then, that there is no US-Pakistan 'relationship'; there are only US-Pakistan transactions.
Here is a Bill that should have been, and still could be, used as a means to build that trust, without which this relationship will forever be tainted, reluctant and prone to constant frustration. If the two sides (and it really is about what both sides do) continue to look at this as a transactional episode -- of services provided and paid for -- then five years from now, Americans will find themselves asking what the point of spending ('wasting') all this money was, and Pakistanis would be heard questioning whether they would have been better off never having accepted this largess. Both have been there before and both are likely to end up being there again.
On the other hand, if -- and this is as big an 'if' as you will ever find in international relations -- the two sides really do get past the ugliness in the discourse right now and use this opportunity to move from transactions to a relationship then, as Humphery Bogart said in the movie Casablanca, this could well become "the start of a beautiful friendship."
But for that to happen, too many things would first have to change in both Islamabad and Washington. At this point, unfortunately, it is not clear at all that either party is interested, or capable, of those changes.
(This article first appeared on the writer's blog www.pakistaniat.com. This version is exclusive to The News.)
The writer is the Frederick S. Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy and Director of Pardee Centre, Boston University.
I. THE NEWS
GRATUITOUS ADVICE, OPPORTUNISTIC POLITICS
The Army's public statement openly questioning the intentions and policies of the civilian government in regards to the lucrative Kerry-Lugar Bill, while not surprising, is disappointing because it comes so early in yet another era of democratic revivalism. The bells of conspiracy and subterfuge are ringing again; the gyre, as Yeats would put it, is turning and widening. We are spellbound listening to the catchy chorus of political opportunists cashing in on the controversy. They smell blood. We know this tune the opportunist sonata. It is the one that, laced with cacophonies of "national interest" slogans, crescendos in interventionism and upheaval.
This impasse is an indication of yet another democratic civilian government being unable to take policy decisions autonomously as well as the continued unwillingness of the establishment to let go, even if only for the time being as is usually the case every decade or so. What is even more disappointing is that there has been rabid support for the army's "concerns," rather than condemnation. In other countries, even India, an army chief would have been dismissed for something like this. Whether or not the army high command was consulted is inconsequential because in a pure democratic setup, a civilian government is not bound to consult the army at all. So what if contentious clauses were, as is being alleged, inserted in the Kerry-Lugar Bill through a conspiracy by a few civilians to tame the army's influence, or to control their funding?
That we are giving the Army's 'concern' so much importance is essentially a reflection of a contradiction that Pakistan has struggled with since inception. Whether we admit it or not, the deeply-embedded nationalist psyche of the country dictates that the armed forces are the definitive authority in protecting the identity, and hence the very existence, of Pakistan. Questioning this authority has always been anathema, which is why the armed forces get away with almost anything: they are equated with our sovereignty and ultimately with our independence. Questioning the army, more importantly its top brass, has for too long been equated with questioning our sovereignty. Yet, intervention -- direct and indirect -- by the armed forces is also cited by politicians and intellectuals as the main hurdle to political development democratic sustainability.
Today in Pakistan, many are championing Gen Kayani for something that is the polar opposite of what he was praised for only a few months ago i.e., non-interference. The same people in the media, political circles and civil society who were rabid critics of the army's intervention in politics and policy-making just a few months ago, are now its reservations to put pressure on the current government regarding the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Medically, Pakistan would be called schizophrenic. When it really matters, no one seems to remember army intervention is a problem, not a solution; this is why the marching boots are cheered into the capital every once in a while, only to be sent packing a decade later.
It should be no surprise that the Army has opposed the Kerry-Lugar Bill on the grounds that it was not consulted. The armed forces have historically been the principal figure, and indeed the principal beneficiary, when it comes to relations with America. The civilians have never been given a chance to work with US largesse possibly because this is exactly when they can actually make democracy work. When the US and Pakistan's relations were on a high in the late 50s and 60s, the early stages of the cold war, Pakistan went through its "Golden Era of Capitalism" under Ayub Khan. Pakistan's military government got into America's good books in exchange for modelling policies along free-market capitalist lines instead of being protectionist like India. By doing this, we were giving their ideology preference and credibility over local, independent economic models that China and the rest of Asia were following. We are economically non-existent in the global sphere today.
When Washington went on a spending spree in the 80s, Pakistan was under Gen Zia and his regime received tons of money and aid in exchange for fighting a proxy war against the Soviets. Also, where was the army's concern for sovereignty when the military handed over hundreds of its nationals to the US for interrogation in Guantanamo Bay after 9/11?
Moral of the tale? Aid with strings was fine as long as the khakis had a direct say in it and there was a soldier in the Presidency. If today the US is supporting Pakistan financially under a civilian setup, in the same way, why shouldn't it be allowed? Shouldn't we at least give it a try? Or does the army fear that the civilians might just make this work which will be a huge step to break away from the vicious cycle of military interventionism?
This is not about how corrupt Asif Ali Zaradri is or is not. He is a nonentity in the larger quest for democracy. This is about defending those who follow him i.e., in becoming democratically elected leaders of Pakistan. Nor is this about aid or the Kerry-Lugar Bill; this is about civilians' right to stand up for themselves and determine their own policies without the army's godfathering however well-intentioned it may be. If we argue that the problem lies with a controversial president, then we should be ready to have all our future leaders walk the tight rope of army support, shaken publicly by a mere ISPR press statement.
The army is an important institution that has its own place but that place is not in the realm of policy-making. Otherwise, we should forget civilian sovereignty, and instead equate sovereignty with only the military's right to dictate policy shifts something that will see us stay put, on edge, for another 62 years.
The time to set the ground for a paradigm shift is now. The smallest signs of interventionism must be nipped in the bud. Be warned: Kerry-Lugar today, a whole lot more tomorrow.
The writer is city editor of The News, Karachi. Email: gibran.peshimam@ gmail.com
I. THE NEWS
BASIT RIAZ SHEIKH
Our political landscape has caught another blaze. Strangely enough, this time the raging fire doesn't feature the habitual villains: the Musharrafs, the NROs, the drones, etc. The latest bashing toy is the Kerry-Lugar Bill. In simple terms, it is nothing but a question of $1.5 billion to be given each year by the US to the democratic government of Pakistan for the next five years for non-military purposes--i.e., education and health-care reforms, infrastructure development, energy sector, and rehabilitation of internally displaced people. But over the last few days, a concerted effort to paint the Kerry-Lugar Bill as an attack on our national security seems to be gathering considerable momentum within Pakistan.
Let's start with Gen Kayani's articulation of Pakistan's national security: "Pakistan is a sovereign state and has all the rights to analyse and respond to the threat in accordance with her own national interests." Reading the complete text of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, twice, I couldn't find a single instance or clause that negates, either implicitly or explicitly, the notion of our national security as put forth by the honourable army chief. The most critical aspect of our national security is our nuclear weapons and missile defence programme, but the bill does not ask us to roll it back or cut down on its capacity.
The other key clauses of the bill require the government to dismantle any terrorist outfits operating within its geographical boundaries, to prevent any nuclear proliferation, and to strengthen counter-terrorism and anti-money-laundering laws. None of these provisos are in conflict with our national interest. Since our goals and that of our ally are the same, it only makes it a win-win situation. In the past, our political parties and civil society activists have criticised the US for supporting dictators and usurpers of our democratic institutions. The US has been repeatedly urged to forge a bond with the people of Pakistan and not just with its establishment. However, isn't it ironic that now when the US seems to be doing precisely that, it is blamed for impinging on our sovereignty? One clause reads that the security forces must not subvert the political or judicial process and that the civilian government should exercise complete administrative and budgetary control of the armed forces. This is exactly the role our Constitution envisages for both the civilian leadership and armed forces. It has to be said also that the PML-N's stance on the whole issue has been utterly disappointing, especially since they are the ones who have been most vociferously pressing for complete civilian control of the army since Musharraf's coup. But all the mighty claims of principled politics vaporise immediately with an opportunity to push the PPP government into isolation and to earn some brownie points from the men in uniform.
Those making uproar about the bill greet the drone attacks in our tribal belt with deafening silence. There cannot be a more explicit and glaring breach of our sovereignty than the drone strikes, but my memory fails to recall any recent ISPR statements condemning those strikes. The sudden uproar of national sovereignty is quite confounding. In my view, it has nothing to do with national security. It boils down to one ultimate theme in our politics, that our establishment cannot contemplate playing second fiddle to a civilian, elected government and any attempts to tame our establishment by any civilian leader, be it Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari will be blocked by any means possible.
Gen Kayani has been a notable exception so far and has played a commendable role in keeping the army out of politics. The army's recent apolitical role has earned it much praise. The armed forces are the guardians of our freedom and any civilian administration is duty-bound to acquire their input in matters relating to national security. But such an input must never come at the cost of suppressing our Parliament's sovereignty. This is the onus that rests on Gen Kayani's shoulders, and if anyone is capable of fulfilling this momentous responsibility, it is he.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is not a perfect piece of legislation. Sadly, the bill fails to acknowledge Pakistan's courageous efforts in the war against terror. Also, it would have been much better if certain conditions were left unsaid. But we must try to understand the reasons behind such strict measures. Until the Swat military operation, the Pakistani army had been a reluctant ally in the war against terror. Musharraf's dubious policies led to a trust deficit between the two countries, which widened more with the findings that most of the military aid to Pakistan for counter-insurgency operations was instead spent on acquiring fighter jets and military equipment more suited for a conflict against India. The whole A Q Khan saga of nuclear proliferation further worsened matters. It was only natural that any future financial assistance had far more stringent conditions.
The bill seeks to provide us financial assistance in areas of social reform where not a dime has gone before. It is a commitment of one democratic ally to another. The nature of our strategic partnership entails that we iron out our differences now rather than later. To achieve that end, both allies must remain flexible to others legitimate concerns. The US must appreciate that Pakistan's immense sacrifices in the war against terror deserve not only far more financial assistance but also opening up of bilateral trade between the two nations. Pakistan must realise that our biggest enemy is the evil of terrorism, which we must shun out completely by working together with the US.
The writer is a PhD student at Cornell University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
PAKISTAN'S 'OTHER-PEOPLE'S-MONEY' PROBLEM
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is about giving Pakistan money. For the Americans, the legislation may have evolved into becoming an instrument of democratisation, an instrument of imperialism, or an instrument of development--and it may even be possible that it is all three, or none of the three. But for Pakistan, the bill has always been about one thing: money. The debate and discourse it is stimulating today is peripheral to that central issue, and it conceals the realities of the incentives that drive the Pakistani elite's behaviour. Military, feudal or capitalist, the elite have always had a serious thing for other people's money.
The Pakistani military loves other people's money. It has sustained a reputation as an important investment for American power by perpetuating its role as a frontline force that acts as a guardian against evil things, for example, Communism throughout the Cold War, peaking in the 80s and then the lull in business from 1989 onwards, followed by the swinging 90s. And then in 2001 came the violent extremism of Al Qaeda.
The Pakistani capitalist loves other people's money. The country's capitalist elite has always sided with the almighty dollar. Not the almighty rupee, but the almighty dollar. And capitalist Pakistan is as knee-deep in elite patronage politics as the PPP is. While recent indicators may suggest that the PML-N has turned a corner -- with its unequivocal support for the lawyers movement -- its history is no secret. Moreover, Nawaz Sharif's genesis as a political entity during the Zia years is not a solitary tale of the military's patronage of big business-cum-big politics. Dozens of heavy-weight politicians that inhabit all versions of the PMLs today (particularly those of the PM- Q) owe their monetary and political fortunes to favourable notifications emerging from the corridors of power during the military regimes of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf.
The Pakistani feudal loves other people's money. It has cemented a reputation as an important investment for American power by perpetuating its role as a victim of the Pakistani military. But strangely, feudal Pakistan has always been a willing and able partner of the military in all its campaigns against democracy, and the predictable and stable civilian institutions that should underpin it. The feudal centrifuge of Pakistani politics, the PPP, has shed blood in service of democracy, but its record is far from pristine. It has been enabled by and has been an enabler of the military's power plays throughout history. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto rose to prominence as a trusted stud of Field Marshall Ayub Khan. So while his heroism for standing up to Zia's deception and having the courage to live and die by the sword can never be questioned, his political genesis has an unquestionable khaki shade. More recently, while Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto perpetuated the Bhutto family's legacy of making the ultimate sacrifices for their politics, her return to Pakistan was negotiated with Pakistan's military. May God rest her soul in peace, but she too left a khaki tint on the proud red, black and white flag of the PPP's now largely feudal colours.
Within this political culture -- a culture in which other people's money is a fundamental and existential element of strategy, tactics and operations -- the Pakistani elite have been operating in synchronicity with their attendant political conditions.
The military elite, personified by the Corps Commanders meeting at the General Head Quarters (GHQ) on Wednesday, struck first and struck hard, playing to public sentiment and "standing up" for Pakistan. This was a perfect pill for the military. It has been desperately seeking to re-establish its credibility, its legitimacy as a major centre of political power in Pakistan, and by extension its political bona fides. It is understandable that it would seek these things, having had its image dragged through the mud by the fag-end of the Musharraf years, as he alienated and antagonised millions with his bullying of the Chief Justice, and his contempt for civilian institutions.
The capitalist elite, guided by crony capitalism, is a two-faced monster. It is personified by the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) on one hand, and by the opposition parties on the other. The KSE element helped sway the market downward, signaling to investors everywhere that Pakistan is such a sorry stack of cards that it will collapse into a Taliban hell, if the US taxpayers don't send that $1.5 billion -- public outcry be damned. The political opposition element helped to ratchet up the temperature, in lock-step with the military elite, mind you. Tellingly, none have had the gall to reject the money -- only the conditions.
The feudal elite, personified by the obduracy of the president and the audacity of the foreign minister, has chosen to cheerlead for the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Much anger and hysteria is focused on Husain Haqqani but the ambassador, despite his considerable supernatural powers, is not the cause of the PPP's addiction to other people's money. Other people's money is part of the very DNA of feudal politics in this country. How else will the PPP pay for the public sector's expenditures? Expenditure that the PPP itself has caused to grow through opaque vote-getting schemes (like the Income Support Programme being run by that vaunted economist, Farzana Raja). Expenditure, for which concurrent domestic revenues will never be raised -- because doing so would entail taxing the only group left in the country that doesn't get taxed through the nose -- the feudal elite. And what kind of feudals would tax themselves?
Feudal, military or capitalist, the Pakistani elite love other people's money. The country's perennial indebtedness and unquenchable appetite for other people's money however, is not inevitable. Contrary to the conventional wisdom peddled by Citibank salesman pretending to be economists, and World Bank economists, pretending to be human -- Pakistan can survive without bailouts. Reduced public sector expenditure, increased revenue mobilisation and a government held accountable at the local, provincial and federal level are not just mantras -- they matter. Their absence, systemic to an elite patronage system of governance, is the reason Pakistan seems to be aid dependent. But it is not.
On October 28, 2008 (almost exactly a year ago), I argued that Pakistan must default in order to break out of a cycle that sustains the elite's largesse to itself. Sadly, instead of forcing the Pakistani state to confront administrative, structural and strategic demons, the international community's response to the Pakistani elite's poker-faced bluff has been to raise the stakes.
Pakistan's elite have already won this round, once again. The Kerry-Lugar Bill discourse in Pakistan is characterised by patriotism and greed or both, but it is not guided by reason. No one, neither the military nor the capitalist elite have questioned Pakistan's seemingly limitless appetite for financial assistance, which is the basis for the formulation of the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Instead, there is elite consensus around the need for other people's money. The only disagreement is about how to cash in.
The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. He can be reached through his website www.mosharrafzaidi.com
I. THE NEWS
The Kerry-Lugar Bill is a mirror that projects the ugly reality of Pakistan as a financially impoverished state that has neither attained the desirable level of sovereignty nor democracy. The outrage being witnessed in Pakistan is a consequence of being confronted with certain realities of our existence that we either wish to deny or ignore. The clear language of the bill has amplified the gapping hole between our self-image as a responsible sovereign democracy and our outward perception as a poor unstable country swinging between civilian and military rule as a state and between moderation and fundamentalism as a nation that needs to be coerced and cajoled at the same time to emerge as a responsible nation-state. It is this gap between our self-perception and our reality that is hurting our dignity and pride, and the anger being provoked by this realization is presently being directed at the mirror for contriving an ugly image as well as those defending the image as pretty. But there is virtually no discussion on what must be done to change the reality itself.
There are at least three sets of issues raised by the Kerry-Lugar bill that deserve comment. First and foremost is the issue of Pakistan's sovereignty linked to our economic policy. As a nation we have consistently failed to balance our books and live within our means. Our security issues have given our elites another excuse to seek alms instead of implementing sustainable self-reliant fiscal discipline. The budget of 2009 made it abundantly clear that we will continue to beg, borrow and steal to meet our financial requirements while also indulging in opulence. Given that there is no radical policy shift in finding ways to expand our resource base and there is only so much that remains to be stolen from the financially strained masses, we must rely on borrowing and begging. We have fallen back into the IMF's lap and have also been scrounging for a free meal from the 'friends of democratic Pakistan' and the US. How do our political parties and khaki saviours, opposed to US pittance, propose to balance the budget? Should we blame our patrons for being uncharitable if we are unwilling to pay the price of economic independence? Do we not understand that beggars can neither be choosers nor have the luxury to assert their pride?
Second, once we have determined that will live off foreign handouts, and in the midst of the Afghan war and the fear of creeping Islamic fundamentalism we have agreed to function as a nation of mercenaries, the remaining question is how we will price our services. That is part of the criticism being attracted by the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Many in Pakistan are enraged at the miserly price quoted for purchase of our subservience and dignity. This is where comparisons of amounts being spent by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq come into play. The argument seems to be that if we are willing to surrender our self-esteem and our soul it must not be for chump change. Many argue that the PPP government has offered our obedience to American diktat as a bargain in return for continuing US support for the Zardari regime. This is partly due to the suspicion that in case of a conflict between American interests and those of Pakistan our elites will sell out our interests in return for seeking personal gains from the US. The PPP might be blameworthy for selling us on the cheap, but how can a nation ever price honour or the cost of foregoing its perception as a self-respecting sovereign people?
Third, there is the issue of conditions attached to the continuing receipt of US baksheesh. This is the area that has attracted extensive debate within Pakistan, which unfortunately has been a combination of rhetoric and drivel. The conditions attached to the aid are neither against Pakistan's stated policies nor inimical to Pakistan's national security interests. There are three problems with the text however. One, the conditions include allowing the US access to Pakistani citizens involved with nuclear proliferation. There evolved an implicit understanding between the US and Pakistan after the AQ Khan nuclear scandal that Pakistan will clamp down on proliferation and the network but will not grant any foreign agency access to involved Pakistani citizens. Given that this condition has found its way back into the Kerry-Lugar Bill sends a message that US is deliberately including a safety valve in its law to enable it to choke off the aid at whim, knowing fully well that Pakistan will never hand over Dr AQ Khan or others involved in the proliferation mess.
Two, the requirement that Pakistan not allow its territory to be used for attacks against neighbours and the explicit mention of Muridke makes it clear that allaying Indian concerns will remain a condition for continuing US aid. This cannot be shrugged aside simply as Pakistan's diplomatic failure or corresponding success of Indian lobby in Washington. Even those with a tertiary understanding of South Asian politics understand the level of Pakistan's sensitivity when it comes to India. In this context it doesn't matter that we are publicly committed to improving ties with India or cleaning up Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jash-e-Mohammed and Muridke in our national interest. What the US law has put in black letter is the fact that the future of Pakistan's transactional and tactical relationship with the US will be contingent on how Pakistan behaves toward India. And three, the tone of the bill makes it obvious that US legislators do not feel the need to even camouflage the hierarchical nature of US relationship with Pakistan. This ties in with the issue of compromising sovereignty that will accentuate our psychological sense of disempowerment: we are accepting aid on terms that grant a foreign power the license to lecture us on all aspects of internal governance and bend our ear whenever needed.
If the Kerry-Lugar bill was conceived with the intent of improving the relationship between the people of Pakistan and the US the object already stands frustrated. The bill has failed the public opinion test in Pakistan. The PPP's vociferous defence of an unpopular American legislative instrument is not only calling into question its political sense, but also highlighting the sorry state of representative democracy in Pakistan where elected governments continue to treat foreign patrons as a more important constituency than the people of Pakistan. But notwithstanding the problems with the bill or the PPP's imprudent attitude, why are our khakis arrogating to themselves the ultimate right to define and defend Pakistan's national security interests? There is so much wrong with the press release issued by the ISPR wagging a finger at the civilian government over the Kerry-Lugar Bill that one doesn't know where to begin. Do we even know the terms on which drone attacks were allowed, airfields leased and citizens handed over to the US during eight years of military rule under Musharraf?
Where do our khaki saviours derive the moral authority to lecture anyone over a cheap deal with the Americans when they themselves surrendered the entire house for free over a midnight phone call? Whence do corps commanders assume the legal authority to reprimand a civilian government over its conduct of foreign or economic policy? Is the concept of civilian control of the military not mandated under our Constitution? Do we not continue to criticize US administrations for lionizing successive military dictators at the expense of our democracy? Is it then not welcome that for the first time in history the US legislature is legally binding its executive branch to deal directly with the lawful civilian government of Pakistan? General Kayani and his fellow officers have a right to disagree with the choices being made by the PPP government. But they can either counsel the government in private, or exercise their rights in public as ordinary citizens once they retire or resign. The civil society, the media and the people of Pakistan are capable of holding their representatives accountable. We are done with self-proclaimed saviours.
I. THE NEWS
GO DYNCORP GO!
Are the Americans too clever by half in creating a wedge between Zardari and Kayani? If so, their plan has already backfired because Kayani and his generals are roaring. The Pakistan army has become an outspoken and blunt defender of the country's sovereignty. Well, it was about time Remind me again who ordered the raid on the security company guarding the Americans in Islamabad. It wasn't Rehman Malik for sure. The ISI? Yup!
So now, you don't have to read between the lines to find out what's going on between the presidency, GHQ, the American embassy in Islamabad and the White House. The four-way relationship is obviously flailing after Zardari's assent to the Kerry-Lugar Bill still to be signed by President Obama. Stories ranging from the New York Times and the Washington Post to Pakistani newspapers quoting unnamed sources; from personal blogs of people known to have close links with the agencies to leaks in the PPP hierarchy, the print and electronic media is boiling over with anti-American sentiment. One guy who posts his views in his own blog has gone so far as to demand the expulsion of the American ambassador and her deputy. Both the American diplomats have turned their guns on the Pakistan army blaming them for protecting the Taliban's so-called 'Quetta shura.' An angry rebuttal has come from none other than General Kayani warning that the Pakistani military will never allow US drones to bomb Quetta. Earlier his ISI chief, Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, sat with David Ignatius of the Washington Post in Washington and gave his viewpoint on how America should proceed if it wants to defeat Al Qaeda.
Ignatius's op-ed piece was later picked up by the New York Times under the headline 'A voice worth heeding on Afghanistan.' In sum, both the papers, the two most influential in America, projected Pasha's perceptions fairly. They advised Obama to open his ears and listen. Wrote the Times: "It can be reliably reported that this (Pasha's views) also reflects the views of Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, who wants more emphasis on the economic and political development in the region. The Pakistanis are very encouraged by recent congressional action in approving a measure co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, providing $7.5 billion of economic aid over the next five
So what has happened between last week and this week for the tables to be turned? Perhaps our ambassador in Washington should be asked. Surely Husain Haqqani knew of the 'insulting clauses' in Kerry-Lugar Bill and the mischief they create.
Another news report that warrants our notice is from the New York Times correspondent based in Islamabad. Bounced off from The News International first-paged firecracker, the Times story comes on its heels: "The Pakistani military and the intelligence agencies are concerned that DynCorp is being used by Washington to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan, officials and politicians close to the army said." DynCorp has raised red flags in Islamabad ever since its affiliate, Inter-Risk Security Company, was seen to possess contraband weapons. Islamabad residents, according to Pakistani officials, have been 'roughed up' by beefy, plainclothes American men bearing weapons, presumably from DynCorp. "Pakistan's Foreign Office had sent two formal diplomatic complaints in the past few weeks to the American embassy about such episodes", according to the Times, but while the embassy acknowledged receiving complaints, it denied a demarche from the FO.
Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar threatens to expose 'certain elements' putting the kibosh on the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It's like the Lilliputians trying to nail Gulliver.
Email: email@example.com & www.anjumniaz.com
GOVT SHOULD BE ON EXPLANATORY, NOT ACCUSATORY PATH
IT is extremely disturbing that various Government functionaries have adopted a course of action on Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) that runs 180 degree against the mood of the nation. In a democratic set up things are never taken as granted and everyone is fully entitled to have an opposing point of view on any issue. This helps crystallize public opinion on important national issues and keeps the Government on the right track.
It is, however, regrettable that on the issue of Kerry-Lugar Bill, the Government has adopted a damn care attitude towards sentiments of the people that should matter much for a dispensation that claims to be truly representative of the masses. Politicians are supposed to have the pulse of the public opinion but unfortunately the Government is not realizing the severity of the situation as far as the acceptance of the highly controversial Kerry-Lugar Bill is concerned. There are serious apprehensions and misgivings amongst almost every segment of the society about certain clauses of the bill especially with regard to those concerning national security. It is widely believed that acceptance of the aid on these humiliating conditions would amount to bartering away of the vital national interests, which no proud country would do at any cost, lest for the sake of paltry 1.5 billion dollars, an overwhelming part of which would also go back to the US in the form of payments on account of machinery, equipment, consultancy and other overhead expenses. Columnists and foreign policy experts opine that the KLB is a card for intervention in the purely internal policies of a sovereign state and this would turn Pakistan into a virtual client State. There is so much polarization on the issue of KLB that even coalition partners of the PPP are either speaking against its intrusive clauses or have opted to keep mum for obvious reasons. Even Pakistan Army, which is custodian of the national defence, has openly criticized some security related clauses of the Bill. In this backdrop, in our view, the Government functionaries and spokesmen should have adopted an explanatory and not confrontationist approach towards the controversy. If they genuinely believe that the bill doesn't impinge on our sovereignty and is in our national interests then they should convince others through arguments and not accusations. The most appropriate forum for the purpose is the parliament where Foreign Minister is likely to wind up the debate on the issue and hopefully he would do so. We would also caution against the suicidal path which some individuals like Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali have adopted. Despite the fact that he is a former Foreign Minister of the country, he was not careful in selection of words and language during his speech in the National Assembly and made highly condemnable remarks against national hero Dr A Q Khan. We hope the Government leadership would sit together to come out with a cohesive and appropriate strategy to handle the ticklish issue.
PUNJAB WELCOMES ALTAF WITH OPEN ARMS
MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has declared that his party is coming to Punjab with full political force along with its political thought and philosophy. Addressing a seminar under auspices of Thinkers and Writers Forum at Lahore Press Club by phone from London, he said MQM will jumpstart a full-fledged struggle for the rights of suppressed people of Punjab.
It is perhaps for the first time that the MQM leader and for that matter any politician from smaller provinces has made remarks that are reflective of the ground realities. An overwhelming majority of people of Punjab, like majority in other provinces, is confronted with numerous problems that remained unresolved during the last six decades. But unfortunately Punjab is made target of undue criticism by politicians and as a consequence parties originating in other provinces do not get any foothold in Punjab. We believe that the MQM has the potential to gain ground in the province to its own advantage and to the advantage of the downtrodden people of the entire country, as for any revolution to take place and succeed the support of Punjab is a must. We say so because there are a number of political parties operating in Punjab but they do not represent the layman in the stricter sense of the word. At the moment, PML (both factions) and PPP have meaningful presence in the province but none of them vouches for the politics of the middle class. PML, on the whole, is a conglomerate of privileged class where the poor have almost no representation. Peoples Party, during tenure of its founding father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, did touch hearts and minds of the people but presently it is somewhat totally detached from the masses and has become a party of the elite. In this perspective, MQM, which established itself in Karachi and brought forward middle class leadership can certainly take advantage of the situation to make its presence felt in Punjab. MQM has already changed its nomenclature from 'Mohajir' to 'Muttaheda' and it can become a national party by distancing itself from parochial politics.
UAE'S GIFT OF HOSPITAL
PEOPLE of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir observed on Thursday the fourth anniversary of the devastating earthquake of October 2005 that left about seventy-three thousand people dead, many more injured and 3.5 million homeless. Functions and ceremonies were held in different parts of the country and especially in the quake hit areas to mark the day and analyse progress made towards rehabilitation of the affected people.
Relief and rehabilitation was indeed a Herculean task but it was made easier due to unprecedented united effort made by the entire nation and the generous assistance of the international community. Different countries of the world provided assistance of various sorts but some of them would always be remembered by people of Pakistan and the affected people because of their special concern for the country. One of them is the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that not only provided large-scale assistance during relief phase but is also instrumental in restoring the destructed infrastructure in the affected regions. On the occasion of the fourth anniversary, the UAE gifted a state-of-the-art hospital to the people of Azad Kahsmir, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hospital built with UAE cooperation at a cost of Rs 2.24 billion would help promote the cause of health and serve as a symbol of Pak-UAE friendship. We appreciate this gesture of the UAE, which has always helped Pakistan during periods of trial and tribulations.
CHINA IS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
China celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with pomp and show displaying its phenomenal progress in national development with oozing national confidence. It certainly has much to celebrate! My visit to this great industrious country was a memorable experience that I shall cherish forever. On the invitation of her Chinese counterpart Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Fehmida Mirza led a delegation to China from the 21st to 27th April 2009. I had the honour of accompanying her. The visit programme included Beijing the political capital of China, X'ian the capital of China's Shaanxi province, a cultural, industrial and educational center and Shanghai, the economic hub and industrial port of China.
The success of the tour lay in the wisdom of Speaker Dr. Fehmida Mirza who was keen to cover as many places of interest as possible and turned a deaf ear to our pleas of all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Our engagements stretched all day, one after the other. Apart from our scheduled meetings with Mr. Wo Bangoo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of NPC, Madame Chen Zhili, Vice Chairwoman of National People's Congress Standing Committee, Huang Qingyi, Vice President and First Member of All-China Women's Federation, Mr. Jia Quinglin, Chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Zhaq Dequan, Vice Chairman of Provincial People's Congress, Huang Wei, Vice Chairperson of Shaanxi Province in Xian and Chairman of Shanghai Municipal People's Congress; the itinerary included touring Beijing National Stadium, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China a defense against invaders, City Wall in X'ian, the Museum of the Terra-cotta Warriors, a breathtaking cruise and cultural show; followed by enlightening trips to Yangling, an agricultural hi-tech zone, ZTE, the leading global provider of telecommunication equipment and network solutions, the largest Farm in China, Qinchuan water saving site, high-tech pharmaceutical enterprise and Yangling university. The delegates were enthused to follow their never tiring and enthusiastic leader Dr. Fehmida Mirza who the Chinese officials were delighted to receive as the first female Speaker of Pakistan and the Muslim world.
For the delegates the visit was not only a learning experience but a golden opportunity to interact with an important global player and the world's largest rapidly developing country that has become a role model for not only developing nations but developed ones as well. To be a strong nation one needs a strong economy; less of politics and more of economics; less dependence on foreign aid and emphasis on generating internal wealth; capacity building in human, scientific, technological, organizational, institutional and resource capabilities and sustainable utilization of resources. That's what China did! It mastered the art of turning its weakness into strength and challenges into opportunities. Being the largest population in the world, China turned its Achilles' heel into its might and its economic encumber into a profitable boon, by utilizing its rich human resource (HRD) and its development, by equipping individuals with education, knowledge, skills, training and access to information, in all fields, from telecom to agricultural education. The Chinese government also gave local businesses carte blanche to assemble and expand their facilities which were able to employ the vastly unemployed. Today China has a gigantic workforce and has become the sole powerhouse for global manufacturing and industrial production. Today it is acknowledged the world over as a "manufacturing superpower." While the West has gutted their manufacturing industries a bulk of consumer products are manufactured and exported to the world by China. China's economy, once ranked eleventh on the globe has grown into the world's third largest and its economic boom helped it to amass the largest reserves in the world, a staggering $US 2 trillion in foreign exchange. If world superpower status is closely connected to economic superiority China has already become the economic super power of the 21st century.
Curious to know how China measures up to the global economic slowdown, it was heartening to hear, recession spells opportunity, "We see more opportunities than challenges." I couldn't help admiring the competitive, goal-oriented, strong-willed and focused spirit of the nation. It wasn't surprising to see China being the first major economy to recover from the global recession. China's success cannot be attributed to its Open Door Policy or economic development alone; it is positively based on the reality that it not only believes in peace and harmony within China but peaceful and harmonious globalization. External aggression is very much against the common Chinese philosophy of peace, harmony, stability and economic prosperity.. China is respected globally because it nurtures no expansionist designs, respects sovereign equality of nations; believes in peaceful coexistence; doesn't encroach on the territories of others; never intervenes in the internal affairs of other countries and as a regional power has provided continuous "all weather" friendship and support to its neighbours, without any strings attached.
China seeks equal partnership, mutually beneficial cooperation and sharing of tangible benefits in the region and attaches great importance to regional and international peace, stability, development and cooperation. In his message on the national day of China, H.E Lou Zhaohui, Ambassador to Pakistan aptly stated, "We firmly pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and a win-win strategy of opening-up. We share development opportunities with other countries and work with them to meet challenges and build a harmonious world of durable peace and common prosperity."
In 2006, Chinese President Hu Jintao described Beijing's relations with Pakistan as being "higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the Indian Ocean and sweeter than honey." On another occasion he called Pakistan and China good neighbours, close friends, dear brothers and trusted partners. Truer words were never spoken! The warmth and affection showered upon us was unprecedented; one immediately felt at home, among brothers and close friends. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the delegation was accorded the "red carpet" treatment. The delegates were exempted from airport security checks and allowed to enter and exit without any hassle. Dr. Fehmida Mirza's request for enhancement of parliamentary contacts, collaboration among women legislators, cooperation in areas related to women development and Mother & Child Healthcare programmes, formation of a joint Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, alliance between the Women's Parliamentary Caucus and ACWF, learning exchange programmes among the clerks of the two parliaments, a review of the existing projects in the telecom, agricultural, hydro-power, energy areas, enhancing Students' Exchange Programme and scholarships, promotion of people-to-people contacts through education, culture and sports, boosting of economic and commercial ties at all levels, taking the present US$7Billion trade to a mutually balanced position, setting up of trans-boarder economic zones, construction of an Engineering University in Pakistan, human resource training in various professional areas, assistance and vocational training in agro-based industries like animal husbandry, citrus plants, food preservation and conservation, direct air links between Lahore and Xian, revival of sick IT units in Pakistan like TIP etc were received with an encouraging response.
They say one who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure. Pakistan found one "all-weather" "time tested and true" "traditional ally" decades ago. It now needs to further expand collaboration in multi-dimensional sectors and upgrade Sino-Pak strategic partnership, comradeship and neighborly common concerns to an even higher level. Pakistan's future lies in continuous alignment with China.
The writer is an MNA.
RESURRECTING FROM RUINS
Four years have passed. It was the day of October 8, 2005 Ramadan's mysterious Saturday morning when at 8:52 the worst ever earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit the region of AJK and parts of NWFP, causing 87,350 deaths, leaving 200,000 injured and rendering 4 million people homeless. The world at 8:53 am turned out to be altogether different from that of the world at 8:51 am. The large-scale devastation caused in just less than a minute needed years of non-stop efforts to rebuild the life afresh over the ruins and rubbles. The task at the first sight seemed to be insurmountable. It was insurmountable. Only a miracle could make it materialized. Thanks to the will and willingness of the entire Pakistani nation and undeterred determination of the Pakistan Army, and that too of the Army Aviations, Engineers' Corps, Medical Corps and many others now the ruins have turned into reason and rubbles rounded into rebuilding. Miracles don't happen but the miracle has happened.
Imagine, the disaster occurred and damage caused at such a large scale the thick dwellings reduced to ruins, the well-knitted roads and communications infrastructure fallen to foray and this was added by huge landslides and blockades it was almost impossible to reach the affected areas and rescue the survivors trapped under the tonnes of debris. The unprecedented motion of earth along the fault line was continuously releasing tremendous amount of energy as hundreds of aftershocks followed. Pakistan Army being part of the nation's mainstream was duty-bound to rush towards the gigantic task of rescuing the trapped and giving relief to the traumatized. Its movement on ground was obviously hindered by the complete collapse of roads' network and communication links. So the Army Aviation and Engineers Corps were the only options to be used in its full capacity, mobilising all available resources. The Army Aviation helicopters immediately after the deadly disaster started air-dashes to the affected areas rescuing the thousands trapped, shifting them to hospitals or safe areas and providing them relief.
It was the swift response that the first group of the critically injured people, after rescuing them from tonnes of rubbles, was airlifted to the Combined Military Hospital Murree within first 70 minutes of the devastating earthquake. The first evacuation of the most critical from Muzaffarabad to CMH Rawalpindi was taken place within the first two and half hours. Pakistan Aviation, with the active assistance of US, NATO and other countries' helicopters, flew 19,000 hours, making 30,000 sorties, evacuating 17,000 casualties and dropping 31,000 tonnes of relief goods and food items in the affected areas.
Pakistan Army Engineers and the Frontier Works Organization started major work of opening main supply routes. They were later joined by the international community, including the NATO force, US Engineers, a number of NGOs and hundreds of volunteers from the width and breadth of Pakistan. Under the envisaged plan, the task was prioritised in three phases. They tirelessly worked day and night and in all weather conditions. This resulted in establishing major links in just first one to three days. The road were opened and maintained for use of traffic by regular clearance of slides, erecting makeshift bridges and other supports. Over all they cleared around 6,000 km of major roads, main links, sub roads and arteries in Neelum Valley, Leepa Valley, Jhelum Valley, Allai Valley, Kaghan Valley, and along the Karakurum Highway till end of November. They restored 12 bridges and eight bailey bridges stretched at the 484 km-long roads. Moreover the Engineers removed 8.6 million cubic feet rubble clearing streets, collapsed buildings and damaged structures. Valuables worth Rs 937 million were recovered and handed over to the owners. Water was provided to the population over 40 million litres. Around 1.9 million shelters were constructed while Rs 0.75 million CGI sheets were provided to locals. This is noteworthy that all the foreign contingents only assisted Pak Engineers as and when required under the direct supervision of Pakistan Army. Their assistance, however, will be remembered as a major source of encouragement in this hour of trial.
At the same time the most crucial and gigantic challenge was how fast medical aid is provided to the around one hundred thousand injured people. Around 65 field hospitals and 86 medical teams treated the patients day and night in quake-hit areas. Army Medical Corps after providing medical treatment operated upon around 20,000 amputees, paraplegics and provided 3,000 tonnes of medicines. The biggest quandary was of the mental health care of 20,000 orphans, 6,000 widows and 4,000 disabled persons. This could only be materialized with the help of young doctors, volunteers from medical colleges, paramedical staff, thousands blood-donation contributors, NGOs and social organizations. One of the orthopaedic surgeons at the Rawalpindi Combined Military Hospital reportedly remained continuously in the operation theatre for 90 hours. The dedication of Pakistan Army was also widely acknowledged by the rescue teams from various foreign countries, who reported back to their newspapers especially the story of Station Commander Brigadier Ehsaan whose son died under the rubble and he refused to offer his son's janaza for the sake of saving others' lives. And that of Major, now a days posted in Peshawar, whose wife and son died in the collapsed building and he, instead of mourning their deaths, continued working tirelessly in removing debris and evacuating the trapped. And that of the Station Commander of Bagh who himself got injured daughter died and other family members got trapped, did not opt to take out family to his native town and remained there working day and night rescuing the people.
After four years, the rehabilitation and reconstruction work has mostly been completed. Working at government, non government, private and corporate institutions, educational institutes, business hubs, transport centres and market places is as usual as in other cities of the rest of country. It seems as if there is a rebirth from the ruins and the new era is being resurrected from out of the rubble. One may appreciate the role of volunteers from all over the country, Pakistan Army, our engineers, doctors, jawans, officers, pilots and helpers, NGOs and above all dozens of foreign teams, which they duly deserve the most, but background interviews and expert opinions suggest that there is a need for an organization which can manage disaster, and ensure proper coordination and control of activities.
There is also a need to rejuvenate all civil departments to undertake works falling within their domains. The experts also stress upon proper and timely assessment, capability of working with communities, targeting and monitoring, logistics, appropriateness of response, gender equality and protection, psychological support, coordination and partnership, linking relief, recovery and development, staff support, advocacy and active media response, community-based disaster preparedness, good construction practices and appropriate technologies, etc.
It is a matter of satisfaction that this nation, its engineers, doctors and experts have great potential to turn such disasters into an opportunity. This cannot be done unless we are prepared to respond to such disasters under a well-thought-out plan envisaged on long term basis. The rebirth from ruins must not be destined to another disaster.
WAS JINNAH SECULAR?
Ask the common man whether Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was secular or otherwise, he would plainly say that he was the one who got a separate homeland for the Muslims - Pakistan. A great majority of the people admires him, adore him and take his name with reverence. There are self-styled critics and writers who in the name of intellectual discourse distort or misinterpret the sayings of the Quaid to create confusion and to criticize him. Unfortunately, sometimes men of learning also get involved in unnecessary polemics and among other point one is whether Jinnah was secular? Bhartiya Janata Party's leader and former foreign minister Jaswant Singh's book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah provided yet another opportunity to pseudo-intellectuals to toss around author's statement that the Quaid was secular. He in fact tried to prove that Quaid-i-Azam had differences with the Congress over principles but did not hate Hindus. As matter of fact, there is a lot of confusion about the term secularism because of the translation in Ferozesons English to Urdu Dictionary, which wrongly translates secularism as ladiniyat (Atheism).
According to Webster's encyclopedia "Secularism is the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without introduction of a religious element". However, actions of some states that claim to be secular are in fact contrary to the principles of secularism. India for example claims to be a secular state but the treatment meted out to the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and even Dalits the low-caste Hindus goes to prove that secularism is a façade behind which intolerance and hatred against other religions exist. During 15th and 16th centuries, the theories of the medieval philosophers were challenged. Machiavelli, a Florentine politician, pushed aside Christian idealism in favour of realistic power politics. One can disagree with his discourse but he was downright mundane and expressed his perception of the causes of the political events and happenings. If one goes by Ferozesons dictionary's translation of secularism as atheism then the Quaid was not secular. But if it means tolerance of other religions as enunciated in the Holy Quran in Surah 2 verse 256 stating that "there is no compulsion in religion", and Muslims have to protect the rights of minorities as enunciated in Islam then the Quaid was secular. The Quaid's understanding of nation-state would be obvious from an excerpt from his 11th August 1947 speech before the constituent assembly in Karachi: "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State...We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State...I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."
It is unfortunate that Quaid-i-Azam is criticized by some liberal, secular and religious scholars on one pretext or another. The Quaid had made it clear that Constitution would be framed by the representatives of the people, and they would seek guidance from eternal principles of Islam. But the problem is that Pakistan was hijacked by those religious parties that had opposed Pakistan on one pretext or another. Instead of establishing egalitarian society, we see widening disparity between the rich and the poor. Instead of genuine democracy we have a plutocracy dominated by feudal and industrial robber barons and bureaucratic elite. While the rulers have luxurious living, building obscene palaces and keeping ill-gotten wealth in foreign banks and invested in real estate in rich countries, the masses have been impoverished and majority of them lives below the poverty line. Whereas the opulent classes can enjoy all the best things of life, for indigent classes it is difficult to keep their body and soul together.
Some pseudo-intellectuals who try to belittle the importance of the Quaid cannot digest that he was once ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, and that he did his best to get the rights of the Muslims within the framework of united India for decades. Lord Wavel's Cabinet Mission Plan was accepted by the Congress and Muslim League and constitutional guarantees were agreed upon.
But Nehru gave a statement that constitutional guarantee or no guarantee the Parliament would decide all the issues pertaining to the provinces. Jaswant wrote in the book: "However, it has to be said, and with great sadness, that despite some early indications to the contrary, the leaders of the Indian National Congress, in the period between the outbreak of war in 1939 and the country's partition in 1947, showed in general, a sad lack of realism, of foresight, of purpose and of will." He thus blamed the Congress for being adamant, but that in no way belittled the importance of the struggle waged by the Muslims of the undivided India under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam to achieve a separate homeland for Muslims. After the launch of his book, Jaswant Singh said in an interview: "Nehru believed in a highly centralised polity. That's what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity. That even Gandhi accepted. Nehru didn't. Consistently, Nehru stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India." In other words, Nehru was for strong centre and Jinnah stood for decentralization whereby more powers should be given to the federating units. After the partitions, the Congress government framed the Constitution within two years whereas Pakistan remained without constitution for nine years. And when one was framed in 1956 it was not according to the aspirations of the people.
If our leadership of 1950s had followed Quaid's vision, Pakistan would not have been disintegrated, because strong-centre syndrome had provided an opportunity to centrifugal forces to foment trouble in NWFP and now especially in Balochistan. Formation of One Unit in 1956 was the basic reason for contradictions between the people of the smaller provinces and the centre. But once provinces were restored in 1969 and since then provincial governments are in place, Baloch leaders should have focused on the development of their province. Instead of fighting for their share of profit in the assets of Balochistan and their privileges, which they are getting, they should have taken steps to provide basic necessities of life like education and healthcare to the people of Balochistam. Even now, ruling and opposition parties, instead of drawing political mileage can convince nationalists that their actions to destabilize the country could cause harm to the country and to them as well, and they would get nothing out of it. As regards debate about the Quaid whether he was secular or religious man should end because Jinnah was proud of being a Muslim and wished to take guidance from the eternal principles of Islam. There were many Muslim leaders like Maulana Hasrat Mohani who believed that Islam was secular so far as equality of human beings is concerned.
NAXALS: THE POOREST PEOPLE OF INDIA
MAMOONA ALI KAZMI
The people in India's mineral heartland are tribals, who are the poorest of the poor, and the government's war against India's indigenous people is a frightening and unjust one says writer-activist Arundhati Roy. Recently, a newspaper advertisement published by the Indian government reads "Naxalites are nothing but cold-blooded criminals". This advertisement is part of the government's intensified campaign to combat Naxalite activities in the country. It comes a few weeks after the Prime Minister's declaration that Naxalite activities are the single largest threat to India's security. Naxalites in India have repeatedly resorted to violence, and their armed campaigns have resulted in loss of life and property. Ever since 2005, India has been witness to an average of 1,500 incidents of Naxal violence, resulting in the death of over 750 people i.e. five incidents of Naxal violence every day and sixty killings every month.
Naxal movement is gaining momentum with the passing time. It has spread to both urban and rural areas, ranging 160 districts of India, particularly affecting the entire eastern corridor; the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Orissa, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. All this raises the suspicions that whether Naxalites are irrational people causing so much damage to life and property without any reason. In reality, Naxalites are active in the areas where the poorest of the poor live. Primary government facilities like schools and health care centers are practically absent in the Naxal infested areas. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world in the region, owing to malnutrition and hunger. Estimates suggest the infant mortality rate to be at 47 percent in the Naxalite affected regions of the country, a condition worse than Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to ShankkerAiyar, "Each of the 80 worst Naxal affected districts have no schools, poor heath care, exploitative feudalism, no employment opportunities, pathetic social infrastructure". Over three lakh villages have no road connectivity. For example Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh is on the list of 100 worst districts list for the past two decades. So despite well aware of the reasons that are behind the rise of Naxalism Indian government is only depending upon force to end that problem. It is paying no heed to the problems that gave rise to Naxalism. In fact in the mind of Indian administration Naxalism is a war that has to be tackled through force. It most of the time forgot that Naxals are alienated Indian citizens and once their grievances will overcome Naxal movement will come to an end.
India's Naxal problem is complex and tends to find its justification in the deep-rooted and centuries-old exploitation of the poor, particularly the tribal community, by local landlords and corrupt politicians. There is a high incidence of crimes committed against the tribal community. These include bonded labour, rape of women and girls, and silencing any opposition or dissent by murder and other violence. The landlords who commit these evils escape prosecution and punishment due to the support of corrupt and failing state agencies like the police. The Indian government has made no attempt to reach out to these citizens and address their problems, or to prosecute those who have committed crimes. The poor are systematically denied official assistance to address issues including food security, unemployment and the depletion of natural resources. Neither the state nor the central government has attempted to identify whether official schemes such as public food distribution shops or government health services are available to people in the region.
In addition to the failure of public welfare schemes, the government is also responsible for sponsoring indiscriminate mining and the destruction of natural resources in the region all in the name of development. In Chhattisgarh for instance, several large-scale mining operations have been commissioned in the past six years with complete disregard to the life and security of community members living there. A government website highlights the state's 'red-carpet' policy to private entities extracting mineral resources, but makes no mention of policies regarding people's loss of livelihoods and displacement, or the operations' environmental impact. It is thus clear that state governments in Naxalite affected regions have failed to address deep-rooted issues plaguing the population living below the poverty line. Haplessly, it is this deprived and oppressed population that falls prey to the Naxalite ideology.
Repression and violence against a population forms fertile ground for rebellious ideologies. The Naxalite movement is thus made up of individuals who believe in and justify defensive violence. It is unfortunate that the response by the Indian government has also been the use of force, often brutal. However it is an established rule that violence can neither resolve problems nor be a mode of communication. Any call for violence negates the premise of rule of law. Violence presupposes guilt and perpetuates disagreement. Moreover, it affects and diminishes the space for dialogue, an essential component in any democracy.
The land grab movement of Indian government in the name of development, industrialization and market-based economic activities adds to the alienation of the Naxals. Millions of common people, small and marginal farmers and Advasis and Dalits are ousted from their habitations. Rich landlords and their agents are aided and abated by the government's police force without much attempt to rehabilitate those who are being thrown out, not to speak of any attempt to negotiate with them the terms of land transfers. Grabbing land in the name of development has been going on in India for quite some time. But over the last few years there is a new consciousness among those who are being evicted. If they get together and fight, they can resist land takeover even in the most distant tribal areas where modernity is yet to reach.
A message has gone around that if they stand together and fight, which may occasionally mean killing their adversaries; they can protect their land and livelihood. Poverty only provides a fertile ground for Naxalite grievances to grow. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) has established that 77 percent of Indian population lives on less than Rs 20 per day, while less than five percent of population leads an ostentatious life of luxury. This naturally infuriates people who suffer or lag behind. But that may not be sufficient for them to take up arms in protest. It is only when these poor people also suffer the worst social discrimination, such as 88 percent of Dalits and 84 percent of Muslims living in abject poverty that the protests turn violent. The only way the Naxalite problem can be resolved is by genuine negotiations and trying to provide answers to their age-old problems.
BLOOD BROTHERS NO MORE?
Is President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia trying to come out from under the shadow of his long-time political mentor and former boss Prime Minister Vladimir Putin? So it would seem. At a meeting last month with the Valdai Club of Russia experts at his suburban residence in Novo-Ogarevo, Putin who had ceded the presidency to Medvedev and is now rumored to be planning to take it back insisted that there had been no competition with Medvedev for the office and that there would be none when the next election is held in 2012. "We will sit down and have a discussion," he said. "We are people of the same blood."
Putin may have been quoting from Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book," in which the hero convinces the jungle animals not to fight by appealing to their common blood. A few days later, however, Medvedev didn't sound enthusiastic about giving up the 2012 presidential prospects: "Maybe I will have to go and take a blood test to find out whether we do have the same blood type," he deadpanned. Just a few days before the Valdai meeting, Medvedev had published a manifesto, "Forward, Russia!" It read like an electoral platform for a second presidential term and included the first public disagreements with Putin. The president wrote that Russia had been on the wrong path for the past eight years. The article diagnosed severe ills in Russia's society and economy, including corruption, dependence on oil and gas exports, lack of economic innovation, lousy law enforcement and judicial and a demographic decline. Medvedev disagreed with Putin on Russia's approach to the much-delayed World Trade Organization membership; sanctions on Iran (Medvedev may support them; Putin opposes them); and the secrecy surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Moscow, apparently to discuss Iran (Medvedev would make it public).
The manifesto sounded like a liberal reformer's political platform. (Someone quipped that Medvedev took his talking points from Vice President Joe Biden, who had blasted Russia's social conditions at a press interview last summer. ) Some symbolic rifts have also surfaced. How one regards past reformers is a litmus test of political leanings in Russia. Medvedev has repeatedly criticized the reformer-czar Peter the Great as too heavy-handed, whereas Putin in the past has glorified the brutal autocrat, and has even had some good things to say about Stalin ("an efficient political manager who left Russia bigger than he received it"). Medvedev has also signaled his differences with Putin by giving interviews to liberal media, such as Novaya Gazeta (where the slain Anna Politkovskaya used to work) or Gazeta.ru, while Putin has preferred call-in marathons on the state-run TV channel. Medvedev also packed the Public Chamber, an advisory body created in 2005 to provide oversight of the government and legislature, with liberals.
The chamber, however, has no teeth. Nor do Medvedev's apparent supporters, most of them moderate economic reformers and lawyers. And he has been too close over the years to Putin to be fully trusted by committed democrats, who accuse him, for example, of failure to release Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed founder of Yukos oil company. Khodorkovsky is currently facing a second trial on what many believe are trumped-up charges. On the other side, Medvedev's opponents in an open election would include the rich and powerful oil lobby, some of the oligarchs, and the "siloviki" the powerful law-enforcement and secret service heads who are close to Putin, and who like things just the way they are. Reforms in Russia have traditionally succeeded only when Russia was militarily defeated, as in the Crimean War (1854-1855) or in Afghanistan (1979-1989). Reforms failed or were only partially successful when the reformers (Czar Pavel I, Nikita Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin) were perceived as weak. For now, Medvedev is weak. With all this in mind, Moscow political observers facetiously ask whether Medvedev should have focused his manifesto not on demographic decline, rampant alcoholism and an inefficient economy, but on "enemies of Russia" external and internal. It worked for his predecessors. But this is not Medvedev's style.
Still, it is possible that reforms in Russia can succeed without fear. But they clearly cannot succeed without improving relations with the West. Russia needs tens of billions of dollars of investment and modern management skills and technology to catch up. And they are sure to wither without clearly articulated support from the political elites and the broad public. Medvedev knows that. So do his political rivals, and that, hopefully, will shape their contest in the 2012 race, rather than blood. The New York Times
The government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina has made the right move by deciding to take the maritime boundary dispute with India and Myanmar to the UN arbitration tribunal for final resolution. This matter has been hanging fire for long 35 years and Bangladesh, obviously, cannot wait any longer. The dispute will now be referred to compulsory arbitration under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), making both India and Myanmar parties to the case. The move became inevitable after both India and Myanmar laid claims on the parts of the three gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal that Bangladesh recently decided to lease out to the US-based company ConocoPhillips and Irish Tullow.
The overlapping claims by India and Myanmar on Bangladesh's sea boundary has lent urgency to the issue. Since years of negotiations have failed to reach an agreeable settlement to the dispute, arbitration before a UN tribunal has become important. All three countries will, therefore, be under an obligation to accept the final award of the tribunal and the process may take four to five years to complete.
Had this move been initiated much earlier by any of the previous governments, the maritime boundary dispute would not have posed such a problem. Now that the matter would be placed before the UN tribunal, we can at least hope for an amicable settlement within a specific time frame. The foreign minister of Bangladesh Dr Dipu Moni has said that the option of negotiations with the friendly neighbours also remains open. If the dispute can still be settled through bilateral discussion, so much the better. But then the hearing at the UN tribunal will remain our last resort in case a negotiated settlement eludes the parties. In the interest of all, the territorial disputes should be settled once and for all. Like everyone else, Bangladesh reserves the sovereign right to explore and extract natural resources in and from its territorial waters.
CHANGES TO CONSTITUTION
Any Constitution may be subjected to change to keep it in line with the needs of a nation. It is quite feasible that the government may be planning to bring some new changes to the Constitution, provided they are new and in line with the expectations of the people. However any proposed change is subject to parliamentary approval and should be seen as such. Restoring the spirit of the Liberation War by reviving some of the major features of the 1972 Constitution such as secularism and nationalism may be what is needed but it must be debated in parliament on a common platform. The first four amendments to the Constitution were passed during the Awami League tenure immediately after independence, but not all were welcomed by the people; therefore when planning an amendment, the government must be extra-cautious.
As for the system of caretaker government, and curtailing the tenure of parliament, this too must be debated in parliament. While talking to reporters, law minister, Shafique Ahmed said his ministry is going to ask the Law Commission to make recommendations to revive some major features of the 1972 Constitution, specifically secularism and Bangalee nationalism as it was on this basis that the nation went to fight the occupation forces in 1971. The law minister noted that the original provisions need to be restored for the sake of good governance The law minister said everything regarding the constitutional amendments would be done in line with the Law Commission's recommendations.
The grand alliance government's huge majority makes it incumbent on the ruling parties to take into account the sentiment of the people including those who belong to the opposition. A national consensus is what is needed. The government should not find it difficult to build a consensus on such an important issue.
CLOSE THE OFFICE, SHUT THE MALL !
" Maharashtra state to shut down on Oct 13th: Shops, malls, hotels and offices ordered closed in bid to boost voting " TOI, Oct 7th
Cutting across party lines, politicians stared at one another aghast, "This is terrible," said a dark, thick moustached fellow with traces of tell tale black dye faintly etched on his lip and cheek, "We have spent crores of our own money on these elections, painted our faces on every poster, are looking down from every hoarding and billboard, printed millions of pamphlets, made thousands of calls " Continued a bearded colleague, "Distributed saris, handed out bundles of currency, given free booze!"
"Promised favours, curried favours, listened in the last week to every complaint!" Bearded colleague again, "And after doing so much we find the people aren't bothered who we are!"
"Aren't concerned whether we win or lose!"
"Scorn our existence!"
"Don't want to come out and vote for us?" Cutting across party lines the two politicians stared at one another aghast: "What is the point of the wealth we have amassed?"
"Of property we have bought?"
"What use driving around in a limousine?"
"What in having a mistress?"
"Of bringing them into our MLA hostel?"
"What use? If we are not acknowledged?" shouted the politicians cutting across party lines. And across the state cutting across party lines other politicians heard the desperate, distressed cry of the moustached fellow with traces of tell tale black dye faintly etched on his lip and cheek and the cry of his bearded colleague. "We have worked hard "
"In multiplying our wealth a hundred fold between the last election and this!"
"We have worked hard "
"In suppressing democracy and bringing in laws that only favour ourselves!"
"We have worked hard "
"In making commissions on useless projects that will benefit nobody!"
"And now!" enraged politicians, "And now! An electorate! A people! These voters! Actually don't want to come out and vote for us? Don't want to acknowledge us?" Politicians, "So, let us force them, let us " Close the office, Shut the mall! Lock the theatre, Bar the stall! No phone call or playing ball. No date with chick or Barbie Doll. Straight to the booth, ye old and youth, past our folded hands uncouth, My black moustache with tell tale dye, and sly eye of yon bearded guy. Will wag, wink and say today, we've been acknowledged on Voting Day. "He, he, he, ha, ha, ha!" laughed the politicians, "What a clever idea !"
NOW FOR THE TOUGH TASK ON THE ECONOMY
RESTRAINING PUBLIC SPENDING IS A PERMANENT PROBLEM
IT'S enough to swell Wayne Swan's head. Earlier in the week the Reserve Bank predicted growth would return to trend next year. On Thursday the economy added jobs, with employment increasing in September by 40,000, the biggest improvement since September 2007, when business was powering ahead. The resulting slight decline in unemployment, to 5.7 per cent, was an excellent outcome, especially given most of the growth was in full-time jobs. In NSW, long less the powerhouse than poorhouse of the economy, the jobless figure improved, offsetting some of the impact of a decline in Queensland. And yesterday the World Economic Forum ranked Australia's second of 55 financial systems and capital markets, behind Britain, based on factors including financial stability. Certainly Mr Swan and his boss Kevin Rudd have reason to be pleased. Australia is emerging from the global financial crisis earlier, faster and fitter than just about any other country. While we may never know the relative roles of the stimulus package, continuing demand for energy exports from China and the strength and stability of the financial system in saving us from a severe slump, there is no denying the government has done well.
But that was the easy part. While Mr Swan and the Prime Minister moved fast in assembling the stimulus, deciding how to spend $42 billion is a lot less difficult than managing the transition back to trend growth and ensuring the aftershocks of the emergency do not slow the economy. The challenge for the government is to know when the need for economic stimulus has significantly slowed and to ensure state spending does not overheat the economy, increasing interest rates and crowding out private sector projects. And ministers must ensure the Prime Minister's suggestions that only the state can save capitalism are not taken too seriously. As economist Ross Garnaut warns, once people expect the state to intervene in the economy, it is hard to stop. Managing the recovery will require economic as well as political precision. Yesterday Treasury secretary Ken Henry warned a Senate committee an immediate end to the stimulus package would knock 1.5 per cent off GDP in the next financial year and cost 100,000 jobs. Even with the stimulus strategy as it now stands staying in place Dr Henry says unemployment will increase, perhaps to 7 per cent. But with the economy recovering faster than anticipated by the budget time estimate -- when unemployment was expected to reach 8.5 per cent in 2011 -- it is time for the government to consider how to set up the economy for sustained growth when the crisis is gone for good. In the short term this means exploring ways to ensure the stimulus money still to be spent is used on productivity-improving infrastructure, rather to deal with unemployment which is now not expected to eventuate. And it means ensuring the culture of the big spending state catalysed by the stimulus does not lead to a blowout in government debt that takes us back to the days when deficits were the norm.
Mr Swan says the government will limit real spending increases to 2 per cent when growth returns to trend and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner talks about attacking waste. Good but not good enough. The long-term budget problems that were subsumed by the slump are still to be solved. We glimpsed the future in the middle of the year, when health replaced retail as the nation's biggest employer. With health spending increasing by 9 per cent plus last year, the same as the one before, it seems the only way Canberra can afford the medical and welfare bills of our ageing population is is by cutting costs in other areas. This will be hard, but not impossible.
The Howard government paid off the debt run up by the last Labor government and surely could have lived within its means had Mr Howard not spent the temporary benefits of the last mining boom on recurrent welfare spending. But perhaps the Treasurer's hardest task will be to contain the expectations unleashed by the stimulus and Mr Rudd's essays arguing for the economic authority of the state to spend on whatever ministers choose. From roof insulation installers to car yard managers people in business now have reason to assume the state will help when business is tight. The sooner they need to know that this assistance was a one-off the better. All these challenges must be met, even though it will mean headaches for the Treasurer.
A DIGITAL REVOLUTION
CHINA SHOULD BEGIN TO THINK OF ITSELF AS A GLOBAL MEDIA POWER
ON the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, a new revolution is under way as vital as China's decision 30 years ago to take its place in the global economy. As Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, publisher of The Weekend Australian, told the World Media Summit in Beijing, China had an opportunity to drive and lead the digital revolution, instead of simply reacting to it.
Chinese people, Mr Murdoch noted, were embracing new technology faster than almost anyone else. China's number of mobile phone users exceeds the population of the US. The Chinese search engine, Baidu, has eclipsed Google and the online shopping site, Alibaba, "has left eBay in the dust".
Mr Murdoch urged the Chinese government to open the digital door by allowing media companies to take advantage of new opportunities. In order to prosper, he said, modern infrastructure was vital to allow China to take advantage of the latest technology. The media needed to be able to give their customers what they wanted and companies needed to be able to protect their intellectual property legally. "If Chinese newspapers are to prosper, for example, others must not be allowed to steal their content," he warned. "If Chinese film and television is to take off, they need to protect their content from pirates. And if internet and other hi-tech firms are to serve the rest of the economy, they will need the ability to protect the investments they have made in software and other technological improvements."
For years, China has been reluctant to contain a surge in online piracy, including the illegal downloading of movies, music and books. In August, the World Trade Organisation ordered China to stop forcing US owners of copyrighted material to deal only with government-controlled distribution companies, which are a barrier to outside companies making money in a vast marketplace.
However, Mr Murdoch said he was heartened by China's recent decision to open up financial news and information to foreign companies. Allowing more firms to compete, he pointed out, would "help ensure better and more accurate and more timely information". As he said, digitalisation had made the old boundaries between local and foreign newspapers and television stations redundant. It had also provided a platform for China, if it takes advantage of the opportunity "to speak to the world in China's own voice".
A TALE OF TWO BEACHES
NOOSA IS MORE COMFORTABLE WITH ITSELF THAN BYRON
BYRON Bay and Noosa, two of Australia's most idyllic seachange centres, are 300km apart. But as Andrew Fraser reports today, politically and ideologically they are a world apart in managing one of their most precious assets, their seafronts. When major storms stripped bare their beaches, and many others, along the east coast in May, the respective councils' responses were telling.
The Sunshine Coast Regional Council quickly organised loads of replacement sand to rebuild Noosa beach. Noosa thrives, economically and culturally, on visitors, and the community recognises the importance of protecting the beach, and the main street, Hastings Street, beside it.
Byron's Greens-dominated council, under its "planned retreat" policy designed to encourage waterfront property owners to relocate, was proactive in a different way. It sought an injunction against a citizen who wanted to pay for a protective rock wall in front of his property.
Noosa, which has managed development carefully, is open for business. Byron has long been conscious of "raising the drawbridge" to preserve its idyllic quality of life. But its council has gone to extremes, trying to ban holiday lettings and strip property owners' rights.
Noosa seems welcoming and at peace with itself, but the debate over Byron's future has become so bitter that mayor Jan Barham has admitted: "For an area with a reputation for peace, love and brown rice, it must be the most angst-ridden, paranoid place in the world." She should do something to reverse this.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
A BILL OF RIGHTS WOULD REWRITE THE RULES
THE week that saw Hey, Hey it's Saturday return to television screens with a publicity-seeking skit of rare tastelessness also saw a federal advisory committee recommend that Australia adopt a bill of rights. These two events, about as far apart on the spectrum of seriousness as can be imagined, are linked - however distantly. Despite its mostly successful implementation of multiculturalism over the past three decades, a latent streak of racism remains in the Australian community. The blacked faces on television prove it and pander to it; the proponents of a bill of rights hope the measure they support will help stamp it out - along with other forms of discrimination and unfairness.
The committee's recommendation quite understandably supports a gradualist approach which would see a statutory bill of rights - not one enshrined in the constitution. The Government is equivocal about even that idea, awaiting public reaction, but the Opposition is firmly against it. The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, has called for a referendum on the measure. That is understandable: a bill of rights represents significant change. It alters the balance of power between the legislature on one hand and the judiciary and the executive on the other, to the detriment of the former. Even the statutory model, which the committee endorses, has this effect even though, as an act of Parliament, it can be repealed. It is important therefore that it not be the product of partisan politics, or the victory of one group over another. The whole community should decide.
Yet though a referendum would certainly let it do so, if the decision was to go ahead, the overwhelming authority of a referendum might well obliterate the idea of a trial, or a revocable measure. Once approved by a majority of voters in a majority of states, a statutory bill of rights - trial measure or not - might be impossible to repeal.
Most people will ask of a bill of rights, will it do what it is supposed to do? Will it in other words guarantee the rights Australians have consented to give themselves? Rights are never absolute: they are the product of community consensus. Some rights are claimed by interest groups, but not granted by the community - in Australia, the right to bear arms is an example. How will the conflicting claims to rights - freedom of expression versus privacy, say - be reconciled?
A question possibly even more important though is what happens when it fails - as every legal measure does to some extent. Are its failures on balance acceptable, given its benefits? Three areas where failure is likely immediately suggest themselves. The first is that elected governments will lose the power to act unilaterally, but will be subject to the supervening power of unelected judges. This will politicise the judiciary to some extent, as well as complicating even more the complexities of the political process, and muffle further the already barely audible voice of the voter.
The second is that the human rights culture, which the committee wants to see embedded in this country, might unnecessarily complicate law enforcement, hampering police and reducing their ability to deal quickly with circumstances in the field, with little in the way compensating benefits. Policing requires great sensitivity; police do not always possess enough of it, and certainly make mistakes and transgressions. But it is a moot point whether the standards of policing will rise, and the community will be safer, under a bill of rights.
The third area of failure is the likelihood that more and more energy will be channelled into legal action based on a bill of rights. The rule of law is important to a healthy democracy, but democracy's health is not measured in litigation.
Democracy is a messy business. Sometimes it works well; sometimes it does not. But its claim to legitimacy is strong, because at base its variable outcomes represent the will of the people expressed through elections. If things are bad, voters have no one to blame but themselves, and they can do something about it at the ballot box. By diffusing that inevitably untidy process - tidying it up according to internationally acceptable rules of judicially approved neatness - a bill of rights diffuses not only its effectiveness, but also its legitimacy.
If things go wrong, perhaps it was not the politicians' and the voters' fault after all. Perhaps it was the judges' and the courts' fault - people out of reach of the popular will. That is a novelty with real and obvious dangers.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
RECYCLING THAT STICKS TO THE RIBS
SYDNEY households put fresh food worth $600 million straight into landfill every year. This waste is, of course, deplorable, but we believe a solution may be at hand: recycling. The food should be put in specially marked bins and sent as aid to Germany's fashion industry. The entire German modelling industry is reeling from the shock disclosure that the popular women's magazine Brigitte is going to use normal women to model clothes - not professional models, who are too emaciated and put readers off. There have been outbreaks of thinnism of this kind sporadically in magazine publishing across the world, but this looks serious: Brigitte is Germany's most popular women's magazine. Clearly the outlook for that country's starving models is bleak, although we confess Brigitte's strategy appears to have a conceptual flaw: how will throwing the underfed out of work fatten them up? Yet this is not a time to cavil, but to open our hearts: let $600 million worth of superfluous sausages show Sydney cares.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE: A CALL TO ACTION
The day that Henry Kissinger picked it up, satire was said to have died. When the Nobel peace prize was awarded to Barack Obama yesterday something different expired the idea that the accolade is for achievement, as opposed to potential.
Mr Obama was sworn in as president on 20 January this year, a mere 11 days before the 1 February deadline which the Nobel Foundation sets for nominations. During that time the new man in the White House made positive noises on healthcare and Guantánamo, but any claim that the world had acquired a new prince of peace in these early days would have to have relied on Mr Obama's successful move to pacify the Democratic party, by bringing Hillary Clinton back into the fold. However deft that manoeuvre, it is hardly the sort of thing that is supposed to qualify a Nobel laureate.
Even if the nomination was ludicrously premature, it remains conceivable that something that has happened during the best part of the year that has subsequently passed would justify the Nobel committee's decision. Certainly, Mr Obama has shown himself to have pacific yearnings, emphasising jaw-jaw over war-war in all his speeches, bravely promoting nuclear disarmament and taking decisions as over European missile defence which tend to cool diplomatic relations. But if the Obama effect is making itself felt in ambassadorial armchairs across the world, it is conspicuous by its absence in chief theatres of real conflict or at least it is thus far.
Take the Middle East, where Mr Obama's Cairo speech in June was stirring in explaining how Palestinians had "suffered in pursuit of a homeland", but the desperate conditions in Israeli-blockaded Gaza have not since improved one jot. Indeed the president has failed to secure even a temporary pause in Israeli building in the occupied West Bank. The American standoff with Iran remains fraught, and potentially explosive. And then of course there is Afghanistan, where Mr Obama remains commander-in-chief of an army at war in a foundering campaign. The Nobel committee might have judged him on his plan for peace except he has not got one. He is currently trying to make his mind up about whether to step up or scale down the operation.
The reality is that the award is less a recognition of Mr Obama's achievements than a mark of thanks from the world for his not being George W Bush. Encouragingly, the president acknowledged this oddity yesterday when he said would accept the prize in the spirit of "a call to action". From the squalid streets of Gaza city to the blood-soaked fields of southern Afghanistan, it is a call the world needs him to heed.
IN PRAISE OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
It was established to break the stranglehold of Oxford and Cambridge, and today it is doing so once again. University College London was set up at a time when varsity was the exclusive preserve of wealthy Anglicans. Inspired by the great rationalist Jeremy Bentham whose clothed skeleton is still, bizarrely, displayed by the South Cloisters the great Scots liberal James Mill (father of the greater John Stuart) founded a seat of secular learning where nonconformists could study. Initially named simply as London University, UCL became known as such only after federating with King's to form the University of London in 1836. It has survived and sometimes thrived over 17 decades since, along the way becoming the first university to throw open its doors to women on the same terms as men. Rarely, however, has it been in finer fettle than it is today at least if Times Higher Education's new world rankings are to be believed. It outperforms Oxford as well as Princeton and Columbia to sit just below Cambridge, Harvard and Yale in fourth place in the mortar board premiership. Its rise has been extraordinarily swift it did not even make the top 30 a few years back and some grumble that a cash-driven focus on foreign students has bankrolled the success. But there can be no disputing that UCL produces great research which reaches into the real world. From the Constitution Unit to the wizardly economics department, the stress on practical application would have delighted its utilitarian fathers.
POLITICS: THE CASE LABOUR MUST MAKE
Margaret Thatcher declaring she was not for turning. Neil Kinnock taking on Militant. David Cameron besting David Davis. Party conferences can change the political weather; they can shake up leaderships and establish the terms of an argument. The past three weeks have not had such a dramatic effect, which is worse news for Labour (running some 17 points behind in the polls) than the Conservatives. What could have turned things around for Gordon Brown and his beleaguered government? Perhaps a thought experiment might help: what if venerable tradition had been overturned and this year's Labour conference had followed the Conservative gathering? How could Mr Brown have responded to his opposite number?
To start with the small things, Labour could have learned some obvious presentational lessons. The Tories did a much better job of establishing themes, with separate days devoted to "fixing our broken society", or "our broken politics" and of course "our broken economy". Whatever one thinks of these terms, they did at least ram home the central Conservative accusation that 12 years of Labour had wrecked everything, meaning that it was now time for a change. Coherence is always harder to achieve in government, but even so, Labour's clunky motto of "securing Britain's economic recovery" should never have got as far as a PowerPoint slide. It boxed Labour in yet again as the recession party and diminished the government's other achievements. Mr Cameron's other masterstroke was to outsource policy announcements to the rest of the shadow cabinet, leaving George Osborne and the rest to break the bad news of spending cuts and higher taxes and himself free to give the grand vision. In almost predictable contrast, the prime minister spent too much of his hour wading through policy treacle.
There was running through the Conservatives' week an economic argument which Labour did too little to anticipate and which it needs to counter. In his speech, Mr Cameron seemed to put the blame for the financial crisis squarely at the feet of the prime minister and his big government. Barely a word was spoken about reckless bankers and negligently run companies. After the greatest example of market failure since 1929, Mr Cameron did not even mention markets an almost unbelievable omission. Further, the Tory leader argued, unless there are drastic cuts in public services soon, the country would soon be bankrupt and the IMF would be knocking on the door. Mr Cameron appears to believe that voters have spent the year since the banking meltdown railing not against Fred Goodwin or bankers' bonuses, but big government. He obviously needs to get out more.
The Tory panic over Britain's debt crisis is not shared by mainstream economists. Most of them talk instead about the need for the government to take the strain on debt rather than stifle an economic recovery. True, politicians can get too fixated on fiscal stimulus, when the role of the Bank of England in pumping money into the financial system (so-called quantitative easing) is more important but that policy was opposed by Mr Osborne at the time, whatever his advisers say now. Still, Labour have not done enough to counter the Tory debt story.
Having assumed one indefensible position at the start of summer that this was a battle between Labour investment and Tory cuts Mr Brown and Ed Balls seem to be assuming another equally indefensible position now: that they can beat the Tories on the harshness of their spending cuts. This is not good enough. Labour should point out that the Conservatives' debt hysteria is overdone, and that while there is a need for tighter fiscal policy over the coming years, it should only be outlined now, but implemented much later. Were the Labour conference next week, that should have been Mr Brown's message. With parliament about to open, it is not too late for him to adopt it.
THE JAPAN TIMES
PYONGYANG SHOULD RETURN TO TALKS
In a meeting Oct. 5 with visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il expressed his country's "readiness" to hold multilateral talks, including the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear ambitions, "depending on the outcome" of bilateral talks with the United States. He also said that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was the dying instruction of his late father and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung.
Mr. Kim's latest statement goes further than the one he made in September when Mr. Wen's special envoy Dai Bingguo visited Pyongyang. At that time, Mr. Kim expressed his willingness to resolve the problems related to the Peninsula's denuclearization through bilateral and multilateral talks, without mentioning the six-party talks. There was no guarantee that North Korea would immediately return to the six-party talks, but Mr. Kim's remarks indicate a greater possibility of that occurring.
This is the first time that Mr. Kim has mentioned the possibility of the North's return to the six-party talks since its withdrawal from the talks in April, after the United Nations Security Council condemned its test of a long-range rocket earlier the same month. In May, the North carried out its second nuclear test.
Mr. Kim also said that the "hostile relations" between his country and the U.S. should be converted into "peaceful ties" through bilateral talks "without fail." The U.S. is likely to hold bilateral talks with the North under the framework of the six-party talks.
North Korea's agenda may include requests for a peace treaty to replace the armistice for the Korean War, and for a concrete road map for normalization of ties with the U.S. to be drawn up. But it should realize that unless it makes clear commitment to "complete and verifiable" denuclearization of itself through "irreversible steps," it will be impossible to establish peaceful ties with the U.S.
Japan, on its part, should make serious efforts to restart talks with North Korea to solve the issues surrounding the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents.
THE JAPAN TIMES
A VICTORY FOR BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES
The Hiroshima District Court on Oct. 1 ordered Hiroshima Gov. Yuzan Fujita not to issue a license sought by the prefectural and Fukuyama city governments to reclaim a portion of a bay in the scenic Tomonoura area for by-pass bridge construction. This is an epoch-making ruling. It has blocked a large public works project and asserted that the residents' right to benefit from the beautiful scenery deserves the protection of the law.
Fukuyama's Tomonoura area, with low mountains and a commanding view of islets in the Inland Sea, is a core part of one of Japan's first national parks. It has harbor facilities and buildings from the Edo period (1603-1867). A poem by Otomo-no-Tabito, who was touched by Tomonoura's beautiful landscape, is included in "Manyoshu," a mid-8th century collection of some 4,500 ancient poems.
More recently, Academy Award-winning director Mr. Hayao Miyazaki, inspired by the scenery of Tomonoura, stayed in a house overlooking the port for two months as he developed ideas for his animated film "Gake no Ue no Ponyo" ("Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea").
The Hiroshima prefectural and Fukuyama city governments' plan was to reclaim about 2 hectares of the bay and build a 180-meter-long bridge to reduce traffic congestion, as well as improve the sewer system. In April 2007, some 160 local residents filed a lawsuit asking the court to prevent the governor from issuing a reclamation license.
The ruling said that Tomonoura's landscape should not only be protected from the viewpoint of private law but also be considered an asset of the Japanese people, because it forms part of the beautiful scenery of the Inland Sea and has both historic and cultural values. It also pointed out that once the public works project had been carried out, it would be impossible to restore the scenery.
Heeding the ruling, the prefectural and city governments should consider tunneling under the mountains behind Tomonoura, an alternative proposed by residents. The area also has value as a tourism resource. One should reflect upon the relative value of public works projects, and the wise words of Mr. Miyazaki: "The bridge changes life but it does not necessarily bring hope."
THE JAPAN TIMES
EU MAKING THE WORLD SAFER
BY JAVIER SOLANA
BRUSSELS 2009 is a landmark year for the European Union's role in the world. It marks 10 years of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), during which the EU became a global provider of security, making a real difference to people's lives all over the world.
At the same time, we are on the threshold of a new era when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force and provides fresh impetus for our external action. In 10 years, we have deployed 20 operations on three continents to prevent violence, restore peace and rebuild after a conflict.
From Kabul to Pristina, from Ramallah to Kinshasa, the EU is monitoring borders, overseeing peace agreements, training police forces, building up criminal justice systems and protecting shipping from pirate attacks. Thanks to our achievements, we are receiving more and more calls to help in a crisis or after a war. We have the credibility, the values and the will to do this.
The EU was ahead of its time in 1999. The comprehensive, multifaceted nature of our approach was novel. And the EU remains the only organization that can call on a full panoply of instruments and resources that complement the traditional foreign policy tools of its member states, both to pre-empt or prevent a crisis and to restore peace and rebuild institutions after a conflict.
This is where the EU's unique added value lies. We combine humanitarian aid and support for institution-building and good governance with crisis- management capacities, technical and financial assistance, and political dialogue and mediation.
The EU's joint civilian-military approach makes us flexible and able to offer tailor-made solutions to complex problems. Today's conflicts demonstrate more clearly than ever that a military solution is neither the sole nor the best option, particularly during the stabilization of a crisis.
The ESDP first cut its teeth in the Balkans. When the Yugoslav wars broke out in the 1990s we watched as our neighborhood burned because we had no means of responding to the crisis. We learned our lesson and organized ourselves, acquiring a set of capabilities coupled with decision-making procedures and a security doctrine. In 2003, we prevented a fresh outbreak of hostilities in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia through our diplomatic efforts and then deployed Operation Concordia. In 2004, Operation Althea took over from the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, we are still deeply engaged in the Balkans, fighting organized crime and building up the institutions of law and order. For example, EULEX Kosovo is the largest EU mission to date, with some 2,000 staff, working in the police and judicial system and in mobile customs teams.
The EU's crisis-management and peace-building activities are not restricted to its backyard. We have made a real difference in Africa, helping, for example, to provide a secure environment for elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and protecting refugees and aid workers from the fallout of the Darfur crisis. Last year, we mounted EUNAVFOR, our first-ever naval operation, to combat piracy in the waters off Somalia. Who would have guessed 10 years ago that the EU would one day lead a taskforce of 13 frigates in the Indian Ocean that would cut the success rate of pirate attacks by half?
This year the EU has 12 operations running concurrently more than ever before. Since 2003, some 70,000
men and women have been deployed in 23 crisis- management operations. They come from EU member states
and non-EU countries that also take part in our operations, including Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, Turkey and
the United States.
Of these 23 missions, six have been military and the other 17 civilian. We deploy army or navy personnel when
and where they are needed but our business is peace-building, not waging war. The EU is not a military alliance. The solution to any crisis, emergency or conflict must always be political, and our ESDP actions are always firmly anchored in political strategies formed by consensus.
Our ESDP missions have taken us as far afield as Aceh, Indonesia, where we monitored the peace agreement reached after the 2004 tsunami, following decades of civil war. Working closely with the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN), we mediated between rebels and the government and oversaw the decommissioning of weapons.
As we gain experience and expertise we are mounting increasingly ambitious operations. Our success with Operation Artemis, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the EU intervened in 2003 after violent clashes and a humanitarian crisis in Bunia, helped prepare us to mount our EUFOR operation in Chad and the Central African Republic and EUNAVFOR Somalia, which South Africa has expressed an interest in joining.
Last year, we showed how rapidly we could mobilize when we deployed a monitoring mission to the Caucasus in less than three weeks to help defuse the crisis between Russia and Georgia, following the EU-mediated peace agreement.
As a member of the International Quartet, the EU is deeply engaged at diplomatic level in the Mideast peace process and when an agreement is reached between the Israelis and Palestinians we will be ready to help implement it on the ground. We already have a mission in the West Bank helping to build up the Palestinian civil police and criminal justice system. In Somalia, we are considering security-sector reform measures to complement EUNAVFOR Somalia and the humanitarian aid and political support that we are already providing.
To respond to the growing calls to help tackle regional and global security challenges, the EU must improve the efficiency and coherence of its external action still further. We currently have a gap between our ambitions and our resources that must be addressed. Clearer priorities and more sensible budgeting decisions are needed. And we need to strengthen our civilian and military capabilities and boost their funding in order to back up our political decisions.
The EU's unique, joint civilian-military approach must be further developed to make us yet more flexible. Our capacity to deploy rapid reaction forces also needs strengthening. In the second decade of ESDP, the Lisbon Treaty will put all this within the EU's grasp.
Javier Solana is EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). © 2009 Project Syndicate.
THE KOREA HERALD
JOINT HISTORY TEXTBOOK
Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada's proposal for a joint history textbook by Korea, China and Japan earlier this week is a positive step toward creating a way forward for the three neighboring countries in Northeast Asia.
In his speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Okada is reported to have said, "Ideally in the future, we need to have a common history textbook for Japan, China and Korea." As a first step, the three countries are to implement a joint study of history, he said. Seoul responded by welcoming the suggestion, but said it will take some time.
Indeed, such a situation would be "ideal" as Okada noted. However, if the efforts by a joint Korea-Japan research group on history formed in 2002 are any indication, the road to a jointly authored history textbook and even a joint study that precedes it will be fraught with difficulties.
The joint Korea-Japan committee finished its first round of studies, which covered ancient history, medieval history and modern and contemporary history, in 2005. A 2,000-page report presenting differing views on events involving their nations was published in June 2005. The second phase of the joint history studies was begun in 2007, charged with an additional task of looking into the history textbook issue.
This second round, expected to be completed at the end of this year, is currently stalled over differences on the
textbook issue. Japanese history textbooks have been charged with whitewashing Japan's actions during World War II, such as military sexual slavery. Another thorny issue that hampers progress in the joint studies is the dispute over the Dokdo islets.
The joint history studies since 2002 have confirmed numerous outstanding differences in how each country views history. Hence, three-way joint history studies involving Korea, China and Japan will be a Herculean task. Korea and China are in dispute over the history of Goguryeo, while the Japan-China joint studies are stalled over the different historical perspectives, particularly over modern and contemporary history. As ideal as a joint history textbook may be, it may take a very long time to arrive at one.
However, there have been precedents of former foes sitting down to write history textbooks together. Germany and France have done so, as well as Germany and Poland. But it took more than 70 years and 30 years, respectively, for the countries to complete the jointly written history textbooks.
We cannot move forward unless there is proper recognition and acknowledgement of our past. This is why a clear and accurate view of history is vital to the future of each of the three countries, as well as the future of the three as a collective. This is why a joint study of history is a valid proposition.
THE KOREA HERALD
INCENTIVES FOR SERVING
The Military Manpower Administration yesterday announced a package of measures to stem the growing tide of military conscription dodgers.
The plan focuses on imposing extended military service on top of criminal charges for those caught evading mandatory service and providing incentives to those who fulfill the military service requirements. However, the plan contains a number of controversial measures that need to be reviewed before it is implemented in full.
The first measure corrects the problem in the current system of penalties in which draft dodgers who are caught end up serving a shorter military service period than mandated. Currently, there is a bill before the National Assembly which calls for imposing a service term that is 1.5 times longer for draft dodgers.
Critics point out that this measure would penalize a person twice for the same crime by having him serve his sentence for draft dodging and then imposing another penalty of longer military service once the first sentence has been served.
Among the incentives that are being considered to reward those who complete their mandatory military service is awarding bonus points when they apply for jobs. This system of reward was struck down as unconstitutional in 1999 and has been a point of contention ever since.
The Military Manpower Administration claims that draft dodgers have been resorting to increasingly sophisticated methods to avoid the military service ever since the bonus points system was scrapped. It argues that reinstating the bonus system would be an incentive to serve.
However, women's rights advocacy groups counter that there is no basis for reviving the system since it has already been ruled unconstitutional. Furthermore, such a system discriminates against women, they argue. Indeed, better ways must be found to reward those who serve the nation than through reintroducing a system that discriminates against women.
In the last five years, some 530 draft dodgers have been caught. Many of them are sons of the wealthy and powerful, sports figures or entertainers, which has helped to create a sentiment that influential figures will evade national service if they can. Among some quarters, military service is seen as putting those who complete the duty at a disadvantage. After all, their studies or careers are often interrupted for more than two years.
To stem the trend of military service evasion, an atmosphere must be created in which those who fulfill their duties are rewarded for having done so. The latest plan by the Military Manpower Administration includes offering discounts on toll, National Park admissions and railroad tickets. But since the vast majority of Korean men have completed military service, this part of the plan seems rather ill thought out.
The Military Manpower Administration's plan for stemming draft dodgers needs to be modified for it to gain general approval and be effective.
THE KOREA HERALD
SKEWED REWARDS FOR BANKERS, CEOS
JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ
NEW YORK - The recent death of Norman Borlaug provides an opportune moment to reflect on basic values and on our economic system. Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in bringing about the "green revolution," which saved hundreds of millions from hunger and changed the global economic landscape.
Before Borlaug, the world faced the threat of a Malthusian nightmare: growing populations in the developing world and insufficient food supplies. Consider the trauma a country like India might have suffered if its population of a half-billion had remained barely fed as it doubled. Before the green revolution, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gunnar Myrdal predicted a bleak future for an Asia mired in poverty. Instead, Asia has become an economic powerhouse.
Likewise, Africa's welcome new determination to fight the war on hunger should serve as a living testament to Borlaug. The fact that the green revolution never came to the world's poorest continent, where agricultural productivity is just one-third the level in Asia, suggests that there is ample room for improvement.
The green revolution may, of course, prove to be only a temporary respite. Soaring food prices before the global financial crisis provided a warning, as does the slowing rate of growth of agricultural productivity. India's agriculture sector, for example, has fallen behind the rest of its dynamic economy, living on borrowed time, as levels of ground water, on which much of the country depends, fall precipitously.
But Borlaug's death at 95 also is a reminder of how skewed our system of values has become. When Borlaug received news of the award, at four in the morning, he was already toiling in the Mexican fields, in his never-ending quest to improve agricultural productivity. He did it not for some huge financial compensation, but out of conviction and a passion for his work.
What a contrast between Borlaug and the Wall Street financial wizards that brought the world to the brink of ruin. They argued that they had to be richly compensated in order to be motivated. Without any other compass, the incentive structures they adopted did motivate them - not to introduce new products to improve ordinary people' lives or to help them manage the risks they faced, but to put the global economy at risk by engaging in short-sighted and greedy behavior. Their innovations focused on circumventing accounting and financial regulations designed to ensure transparency, efficiency, and stability, and to prevent the exploitation of the less informed.
There is also a deeper point in this contrast: our societies tolerate inequalities because they are viewed to be socially useful; it is the price we pay for having incentives that motivate people to act in ways that promote societal well-being. Neoclassical economic theory, which has dominated in the West for a century, holds that each individual's compensation reflects his marginal social contribution - what he adds to society. By doing well, it is argued, people do good.
But Borlaug and our bankers refute that theory. If neoclassical theory were correct, Borlaug would have been among the wealthiest men in the world, while our bankers would have been lining up at soup kitchens.
Of course, there is a grain of truth in neoclassical theory; if there weren't, it probably wouldn't have survived as long as it has (though bad ideas often survive in economics remarkably well). Nevertheless, the simplistic economics of the 18th and 19th centuries, when neoclassical theories arose, are wholly unsuited to 21st-century economies. In large corporations, it is often difficult to ascertain the contribution of any individual. Such corporations are rife with "agency" problems: while decision-makers (CEO's) are supposed to act on behalf of their shareholders, they have enormous discretion to advance their own interests - and they often do.
Bank officers may have walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars, but everyone else in our society - shareholders, bondholders, taxpayers, homeowners, workers - suffered. Their investors are too often pension funds, which also face an agency problem, because their executives make decisions on behalf of others. In such a world, private and social interests often diverge, as we have seen so dramatically in this crisis.
Does anyone really believe that America's bank officers suddenly became so much more productive, relative to everyone else in society, that they deserve the huge compensation increases they have received in recent years? Does anyone really believe that America's CEO's are that much more productive than those in other countries, where compensation is more modest?
Worse, in America stock options became a preferred form of compensation - often worth more than an executive's base pay. Stock options reward executives generously even when shares rise because of a price bubble - and even when comparable firms' shares are performing better. Not surprisingly, stock options create strong incentives for short-sighted and excessively risky behavior, as well as for "creative accounting," which executives throughout the economy perfected with off-balance-sheet shenanigans.
The skewed incentives distorted our economy and our society. We confused means with ends. Our bloated financial sector grew to the point that in the United States it accounted for more than 40 percent of corporate profits.
But the worst effects were on our human capital, our most precious resource. Absurdly generous compensation in the financial sector induced some of our best minds to go into banking. Who knows how many Borlaugs there might have been among those enticed by the riches of Wall Street and the City of London? If we lost even one, our world was made immeasurably poorer.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University and winner of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize, served as chairman of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. - Ed.
THE KOREA HERALD
MACROECONOMISTS MUST CONNECT WITH HISTORY
J. BRADFORD DELONG
BERKELEY - If you asked a modern economic historian like me why the world is currently in the grips of a financial crisis and a deep economic downturn, I would tell you that this is the latest episode in a long history of similar bubbles, crashes, crises, and recessions that date back at least to the canal-building bubble of the early 1820s, the 1825-1826 failure of Pole, Thornton & Co., and the subsequent first industrial recession in Britain. We have seen this process at work in many other historical episodes as well - in 1870, 1890, 1929, and 2000.
For some reason, asset prices get way out of whack and rise to unsustainable levels. Sometimes the culprit is lousy internal controls in financial firms that over-reward subordinates for taking risk. Sometimes the cause is government guarantees. And sometimes it is simply a long run of good fortune, which leaves the market dominated by unrealistic optimists.
Then the crash comes. And when it does, risk tolerance collapses: everybody knows that there are immense unrealized losses in financial assets and nobody is sure that they know where they are. The crash is followed by a flight to safety, which is followed by a steep fall in the velocity of money as investors hoard cash. And that fall in monetary velocity brings on a recession.
I will not say that this is the pattern of all recessions; it isn't. But I will say that this is the pattern of this recession, and that we have been here before.
But if you ask the same question of a modern macroeconomist - for example, the extremely bright Narayana Kocherlakota of the University of Minnesota - you will find that he says that he does not know, and that macroeconomic models attribute economic downturns to various causes. Most, he points out, "rely on some form of large quarterly movements in the technological frontier. Some have collective shocks to the marginal utility of leisure. Other models have large quarterly shocks to the depreciation rate in the capital stock (in order to generate high asset price volatilities) ..."
That is, downturns are either the result of a great forgetting of technological and organizational knowledge, a great vacation as workers suddenly develop a taste for extra leisure, or a great rusting as the speed at which oxygen corrodes accelerates, reducing the value of large things made out of metal.
But modern macroeconomists will also say that all these models strike them as implausible stories that are not to be taken seriously. Indeed, according to Kocherlakota, nobody really believes them.: "Macroeconomists use them only as convenient short-cuts to generate the requisite levels of volatility" in their mathematical models.
This leads me to ask two questions:
First, is it really true that nobody believes these stories? Ed Prescott of Arizona State University really does believe that large-scale recessions are caused by economy-wide episodes of forgetting the technological and organizational knowledge that underpin total factor productivity. One exception is the Great Depression, which Prescott says was caused by real wages far exceeding equilibrium values, owing to President Herbert Hoover's extraordinary pro-labor, pro-union policies.
Likewise, Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago really does appear to believe that large falls in the employment-to-population ratio are best seen as "great vacations" - and are the side-effect of destructive government policies like those in place today, which lead workers to quit their jobs so they can get higher government subsidies to refinance their mortgages. (I know; I find it incredible, too.)
Second, regardless of whether modern macroeconomists attribute our current difficulties to causes that are "patently unrealistic" or simply confess ignorance, why do they have such a different view than we economic historians do? Regardless of whether they have rejected our interpretations and understandings or simply have built or failed to build their own in ignorance of what we have done, why have they not used our work?
The second question is particularly disturbing. After all, economic theory should be grappling with economic history. Theory is crystallized history - it can be nothing more. Someone observes some instructive case or some anecdotal or empirical regularity, and says, "This is interesting; let's build a model of this." After the initial crystallization, theory does, of course, develop according to its own intellectual imperatives and processes, but the seed of history is still there. What happened to the seed?
This is not to say that the macroeconomic model-building of the past generation has been pointless. But I do think that modern macroeconomists need to be rounded up, on pain of loss of tenure, and sent to a year-long boot camp with the assembled monetary historians of the world as their drill sergeants. They need to listen to and learn from Dick Sylla about Alexander Hamilton's bank rescue of 1825; from Charlie Calomiris about the Overend, Gurney crisis; from Michael Bordo about the first bankruptcy of Baring brothers; and from Barry Eichengreen, Christy Romer, and Ben Bernanke about the Great Depression.
If modern macroeconomists do not reconnect with history - if they do not realize just what their theories are crystallized out of and what the point of the enterprise is - then their profession will wither and die.
J. Bradford DeLong is a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. - Ed.
THE JAKARTA POST
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, FAUZI?
When Fauzi Bowo said he was the best person to lead Jakarta two years ago, no one doubted it. As a bureaucrat within the Jakarta administration for nearly 30 years, he was supposed to be an expert able to solve difficult problems of the capital city chaotic traffic, annual flooding, undelivered piles of garbage, poor public services, poverty and others. Therefore, it was no surprise to find him winning the 2007 gubernatorial election.
Fauzi and deputy governor Prijanto were sworn in on Oct. 7, 2007 after defeating Adang Daradjatun and his running mate Dani Anwar in the first-ever direct election in the city. Fauzi received support from nearly all political parties in the city, with the exception of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), during the election.
Two years after the election, unfortunately, Jakartans still cannot see any of the significant changes promised by Fauzi. Traffic congestion has got even worse compared to two years ago because of the stagnancy of projects aimed at easing traffic flow. Large tracts of the city are still under threat of annual flooding because of the sluggish progress of the East Flood Canal (BKT) project, the largest flood mitigation project in the city.
His failure to address these two problems is enough reason to give him a red ink progress report for his two years in office, because both have caused suffering to many city residents. Although it is surely unfair to demand Fauzi solve all of the city's complex problems within just two years, we Jakartans are frustrated to see the city administration has introduced no policies or programs to address these two major problems.
The governor has even failed to encourage motorists to shift to the existing Transjakarta busway because of the degradation in service quality. Busway users have to stand longer at bus stops and terminals because the city administration has failed to deploy an adequate number of buses along the busway corridors, and has even let several busway lanes go unused. Neither has it made any decision on the fate of the monorail project, the supporting pillars for which have stood idle for years.
While we appreciate the administration's wish to develop the 14.5-kilometer Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, we hope it will not ignore the existing public transportation projects which have greater potential to solve the traffic chaos in the city.
Governor Fauzi needs to complete the 23.5-kilometer East Flood Canal project as a matter of urgency. Upon completion, the project, the original design of which was drafted in the 70s, is believed to be able to ease flooding across a 270-square-kilometer area in the eastern part of the city.
The terrible state of the micro drainage systems that often spark the flooding on many city streets also needs attention as it make traffic congestion worse during rainy seasons.
We completely understand there are many other problems that need the equal attention of the city administration. But unfortunately, Jakartans have not seen Fauzi make any significant progress in other sectors over the last two years. It seems the governor has to move faster to prove he is really an expert on Jakarta. He has three more years to demonstrate his expertise, or voters will abandon him.
THE JAKARTA POST
A TOO PRAGMATIC, ELITE COALITION: FOR WHOM?
The Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) eventually joined the Democratic Party's (PD) wagon, following in the footsteps of other big parties. In the House of Representatives (DPR) Golkar's Priyo Budi Santoso got the House deputy speaker position.
Once questioning the fairness of the election, PDI-P chief patron Taufik Kiemas and the husband of party chief Megawati Soekarnoputri was elected as speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) with strong backing from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
There is broad concern that this development will undermine the check and balance mechanism as the government coalition comprises more than 85 percent of the 560-member House. There are concerns among the public the next government will be less democratic, for example with regard to press freedom.
There are possible worse consequences. This coalition has a tendency to exclude public interest in development programs because the political elite are preoccupied with their own agenda and interests.
Expected improvements in democracy in Indonesia, compared to the pre-1999 period, include that the government should be much more accountable as they need to compete in elections by offering programs to the voters.
In the political market, voters will decide "who is the most favorable candidate based on the candidate's program". It distinguishes the current situation with Indonesia's politics under Sukarno and Soeharto. During the Soeharto era, for example, elections were never conducted democratically.
The case of the recent power sharing in the MPR is a good example. The PDI-P along with the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) differentiated their position vis-a-vis the Democratic Party-led coalition in the last election.
The PDI-P criticized economic policies and its achievements those that had been conducted by the ruling government, which was identical to the Democratic Party. They even labeled the Democratic Party coalition "neoliberal". Issues like the still-low quality of farmers' lives and the large amount of food imports were raised as examples of the ruling government's failures.
Although the PDI-P coalition was unanimously defeated by the Democratic Party coalition, in fact, they successfully gained around 27 percent of votes. Conceptually, the voters had different preferences than the other 73 percent, because they believed the PDI-P proposed the best policy options compared to the others. It is truly unethical that both the PDI-P coalition and Golkar have betrayed their voters by joining the Democratic Party.
As argued by some scholars, Indonesia's party system is yet to be competitive. Instead, it seems there is cartel among the major political parties, regardless of their ideology and programs.
The parties contested in a competitive election to attract voters due to differences in ideology and programs and then decided to build coalitions in a very pragmatic way in other arenas.
An argument from the PDI-P and Golkar, as well as the Democratic Party, that the bigger the coalition the better is truly doubtful. The motive seems to be solely for power sharing rather than public interest.
It is not even just that, but also rent-seeking sharing. It dismantles the inconvenient reality that corruption still plays an important role in financing politics.
As a result, the choice to be an opposition party in this context for the PDI-P and Golkar is not strategic for fundraising. On the other hand, the Democratic Party badly needs the bigger coalition to pacify the checks and balances on how it exercises power.
Once again, public interests will be hampered. Bribery from the private sector to lobby for favorable policy, for instance, will raise production costs and create uncertainty and inefficient resource allocation. Eventually, it will hamper economic growth, employment creation and poverty alleviation.
To minimize the consequences in the next five years, there are two things to do. First, from the demand side, the public including, among others, civil society organizations, the private sector and the media should strengthen their control over government institutions, both executive and legislative. Dissemination of key information to the public is crucial.
Second, from the supply side, "champions" among the political elite can build informal coalitions to smoothly play their genuine roles of representing their constituents' interests.
This expectation, of course, is tough but can find opportunities in the 70 percent of new faces, among them young members, in the parliament and in their network of political parties.
The writer is a public policy analyst and a graduate of the University of Turin.
THE JAKARTA POST
INDONESIA'S FIRST-100-DAY SYNDROME (PART 2 OF 2)
Looking beyond the myopia of the first 100 days is a marvelous experience. It reveals a world that media tycoons and political adventurers never really see. This is a world in which most of the citizens of Indonesia live and work.
It is a world inhabited by a constant struggle for survival. It is a world in which, as if by some cruel sleight of hand, an autocracy is being transformed into a plutocracy by democratic means.
The 100 day theater hides more than it reveals. It compresses complex problems into binary choices. It signals a victory of statistics over reasoned response or guiding principle. It is a surface response to deep-seated structural problems engulfing the Indonesian archipelago. In case you remain unconvinced, here is a small sample.
Indonesian manufacturing has received little new investment since the mid 1990s. Capital stock and industrial infrastructure have aged and become obsolete. Agricultural productivity, especially of food crops, is locked on to a long-term path of stagnation and, at times, decline. Indonesia's institutions of higher learning are hopelessly inadequate to meet the demands of international competition.
The last decade has witnessed the dramatic rise of the "rest". The rise of India and China has driven up expected demand for both energy and food. They are also competing for new and nearer markets. Indonesia is a good destination on almost all these counts.
Being in such demand can give Indonesia international bargaining power. Indonesia, however, has become the victim of its own past neglect. Weak industry, a languishing skill base, negligible investment in research and technology are driving Indonesia toward a natural resource-based development strategy. The result is economic enclaves, social resentment and a real possibility of state capture especially of regional governments desperate for jobs and investment.
One answer to the growth question is to improve the investment climate. The hope is that a healthy dose of direct foreign investment will induce greater competition and efficiency. The problem is that nobody really knows what drives such investment.
Deregulation, security of property rights, legal access and fairness and the adoption of best international practices on corporate governance are all part of the reform menu. What is left out is the need to dismantle Indonesia's corporate monopolies.
Deregulation and faster company registration may reduce transaction costs but will do little to alter the central fact of business life in Indonesia. Open markets and open arms toward foreign investment are often negated by protected entry into particular markets. It is not just the defects in the present investment climate which are likely to deter an interested investor.
It is even more the on-the-ground difficulty of operating in a business environment in which existing competitors have close historical links with local and national government. The result is an endless stream of logistical and operational problems for new market entrants.
Indonesia's breakneck decentralization adds another layer of complexity to policy making. If China and India are anything to go by, future growth is likely be unequally shared. China has now joined the ranks of some of the world's most unequal societies. India is struggling to contain the political fallout of rising regional inequality. Indonesia is unlikely to be an exception. The days of fast growth with income equality are coming to an end. The age of miracles may be over.
Yudhoyono's second term must, therefore, face an extraordinary range of structural problems. They involve working through a daunting set of policy dilemmas: from growing faster to growing better, from balancing economic development with conservation of natural resources, from managing rapid urban growth to ensuring social cohesion, from participating in the global market to promoting equitable sharing of its costs and benefits, from braking free of the tutelage of a Cold War West to becoming one of Asia's new leaders, from being a business and military captured autocracy to a free market but compassionate democracy. The policy processes involved in working through such alternative choices are not amenable to intoxicating capsules delivered 100 days at a time.
The solution to such diverse problems lies in the fashioning of a new Indonesian state. Everyone understands that now. The reform of the state: its policy making system, the size and the structure of its civil service, the fairness of its laws and its courts, the effectiveness of its political parties, the participation of its citizens and the vigilance of its law keepers, its foreign allegiances and commitments, all constitute the lynch pin of Indonesia's future development.
The crux of the matter is clear. It is not targets for roads and electricity generation, schools and hospitals which will make the difference. A new, vigorous Indonesian state will. This may sound like an impossible dream. But it is not impossible for a second-term, hugely popular President. Winning the hearts and minds of Indonesian voters for such a critical enterprise is the most formidable challenge in the first months of the new administration.
The public trust gained by the President during the election campaign must now be used to create a shared dream based on a shared understanding of Indonesia's most pressing problems. Accountable policy processes and public engagement will contribute more to this common understanding than targets and schedules. We must know where we are going before we can start counting the milestones.
The writer is managing director of Strategic Asia Indonesia, an international consulting firm that provides high-end strategic policy and business advisory services.
THE JAKARTA POST
DON'T THROW IN THE TOWEL, YET
The initially ideal victory on Thursday of businessman-turned-bureaucrat Aburizal Bakrie as chairman of once the country's longest ruling political party, the Golkar Party, immediately turned into a nightmare for many (if not all) of us who are eagerly awaiting the return of a strong Golkar to balance the powerful President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party's (PD) grand coalition of political parties in the House of Representatives.
What triggered anxiety among the general public is none other than a statement by Aburizal himself, immediately after his chairmanship victory, that despite vowing to remain critical, "Golkar will not become an opposition ."
The move by Golkar, which came second to the Democratic Party in the April 2009 legislative election, only complements the already strong Democratic Party faction in the House.
The Democratic Party has secured support from a number of middle-ranking political parties since the pre-legislative election period and only recently won the support - though not publicly and obviously - of key elements in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the third winner in the April election.
There is a popular adage in politics and in economics: "If you can't beat them *your enemies or competitors*, then join them". And in boxing, there is a common practice that the coach can throw in the towel as a sign that his boxer concedes defeat and the match should be stopped immediately.
And these are exactly what Golkar (and Aburizal) are doing. But, the problem is that while Golkar and its new
chairman have not even attempted to challenge the ruling government and its coalition partners, they have already conceded defeat and declared that Golkar supports President Yudhoyono and his party.
Golkar's move is indeed a nightmare in the country's domestic political affairs as it apparently gives a blank check to the Democratic Party and its coalition partners, practically nullifying the necessary "control by the House" and leaving the President and the ruling government with almost absolute power to govern the country.
If that is the case, Golkar is partly responsible for such a dark chapter in the country's politics.
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