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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

EDITORIAL 14.10.09

 

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month october 14, edition 000323, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. GIVE IT MORE TEETH
  2. COMMON-STEALTH GAMES
  3. TIME FOR SOME QUICK THINKING -  ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. INDIA GETS SERIOUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE - SUNITA VAKIL
  5. PLAYING THE TAMIL CAUSE - SWATI DAS
  6. POLITICS OF NECESSITY - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  7. REWARD FOR AN EXPIRED PEACE - GWYNNE DYER
  8. RUSSIA FOR UNIFORM SECURITY POLICY IN EUROPE - VLADIMIR RYZHKOV

 

MAIL TODAY

  1. WHAT HAS THE PMO BEEN WAITING FOR?
  2. REFORM A MUST
  3. EXPERTISE WILL HELP
  4. EXPENDING CAPITAL - BY MANOJ JOSHI
  5. DECCAN BUZZ - A. SRINIVASA RAO
  6. JUDGES' SELECTION IS INHERENTLY FLAWED

 

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. STUDY IN CONTRAST
  2. INDUSTRY ON A HIGH...
  3. ESTABLISHMENT COSTS -
  4. 'STUDENTS ARE NO LONGER INTELLECTUALLY ROBUST' - BY ANY OTHER NAME
  5. DICTATOR DEMOCRACY - JUG SURAIYA 

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. ASININE, ISN'T IT?
  2. THE TUNNEL BEFORE A LIGHT
  3. HUNGRY FOR THE RICH - SAGARIKA GHOSE
  4. JUST ANOTHER KIND OF BIGOTRY - NAVI PILLAY
  5. CHOPPER AUSTERITY - JAISRI

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. THEIR WAY OR...
  2. I, ME, MINE
  3. POST-POST-MANDAL - SEEMA CHISHTI
  4. GROWING TECHNOLOGY - VIBHA DHAWAN
  5. DID YESTERDAY CHANGE ANYTHING? - MALA LALVANI
  6. WIDEN THE BASE - C. RAJA MOHAN
  7. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G
  8. WHY THIS COLUMN DESERVES THE NOBEL - OGER COHEN

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. YEAR IS A LONG TIME IN ECONOMICS
  2. THE CITY AND THE PROMISE
  3. ECONOMICS OF GOING PLACES: LET THEM COME - JEFFREY S HAMMER
  4. WILL A SUPER REGULATOR BE SUPERIOR? - KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN
  5. ALL THE BEST, BLUE - SUDIPTA DATTA

 

THE HINDU

  1. END LASHKAR'S IMPUNITY
  2. A WELCOME MOVE
  3. EXPAND AND RE-ORIENT NREGA - P.S. APPU
  4. CLIMATE CHANGE LESSONS FROM A NOBEL PRIZE WINNER - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
  5. COURT RULING OPENS A NEW FRONT AGAINST BERLUSCONI - VAIJU NARAVANE
  6.  'TOO EARLY TO SAY HOW SUSTAINED THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC TURNAROUND WILL BE' - P. VENUGOPAL

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. GAMES 2010: STOP DRIFT, TAKE CHARGE
  2. HOW ORISSA MOVED GANDHI - MURLIDHAR C. BHANDARE
  3. RSS, HERE I COME - JAVED ANAND
  4. LET AIR FORCE GUN FOR NAXALS, QUICKLY - ANIL BHAT

 

DNA

  1. POTENT WEAPON
  2. BENGAL BATTLE
  3. CM SETS AN EXAMPLE - E RAGHAVAN 
  4. TOUGH CHOICES –  PRAKASH SINGH 
  5. DOLLAR BEARS ARE MISLEADING THE WORLD - VENKATESAN VEMBU 

 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. WITH AGNI AND PRITHVI
  2. HARYANA DOES BETTER
  3. UNDER THE SCANNER
  4. THE POKHRAN BLAST - BY S.K. SHARMA
  5. HOCKEY AT LAHORE - BY V.K. KAPOOR
  6. PUNJAB'S INDUSTRIAL POLICY - BY UPINDER SAWHNEY
  7. SARKOZY FACES NEPOTISM STORM - BY JOHN LICHFIELD
  8. LOSS OF POWER POTENTIAL - BY PADAMJIT SINGH

 

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. PAK UNDER SIEGE
  2. NREGA IMPLEMENTATION
  3. EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
  4. GUJARAT, GODHRA AND GANDHI - SAIKH MD SABAH AL-AHMED
  5. IMPACT OF MARKET ECONOMY ON SOCIAL VALUES - RABINDRA NATH SARMA

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. JUDICIAL REVIEW IS WELCOME
  2. TELECOM CONSOLIDATION
  3. MOONSTRUCK OVER WATER?
  4. VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE WITH SENSIBLE SOCIAL CODES, BEST CSR POLICY
  5. POLITICIANS SWIM IN WEALTH, BUT SHY AWAY FROM BOURSES
  6. WHAT A FALL FOR OBAMA & NOBEL! - BY: PRATHAP SUTHAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CHEIL
  7. PHARMA COS LIKELY TO EMERGE STRONGER IN Q2 - KIRAN KABTTA SOMVANSHI
  8. GOLD SCALES A NEW PEAK OF $1068/OZ AS DOLLAR DIVES
  9. DECONSTRUCTING DHARMA - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  10. 'IMPLEMENTATION OF GST WILL HELP INDIA ENORMOUSLY' - RASHMI PRATAP

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. GAMES 2010: STOP DRIFT, TAKE CHARGE
  2. WRITING IN SEARCH OF HOPE THAT ENNOBLES - BY ROGER COHEN
  3. LET AIR FORCE GUN FOR NAXALS, QUICKLY - BY ANIL BHAT
  4. HOW ORISSA MOVED GANDHI - BY MURLIDHAR C. BHANDARE
  5. WHERE WAS RSS THEN? - BY JAVED ANAND
  6. TO CATCH THE TOMB RAIDERS - BY ROGER ATWOOD

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. GAMES' MONITORS
  2. SHUT UP, PLEASE
  3. LIVING IN AN AGE CRIPPLED BY TECHNOLOGY
  4. THE ZERO-SUM GAME - BY SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE
  5. BJP OR THE REST?
  6. LIVING IN AN AGE CRIPPLED BY TECHNOLOGY
  7. THE ZERO-SUM GAME - SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. COMMON CAUSE
  2. FACE IT
  3. PEACE AND ITS DEBRIS - K.P. NAYAR
  4. WITH THE PEDANTS  - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. FARM SECTOR NEEDS BETTER CREDIT FACILITY - BY BANKS.
  2. PRABHAKAR KULKARNI
  3. JAI JAWAN - D K HAVANOOR

 

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. SEE A WAR CRIME IN THE MAKING? REPORT IT
  2. THROWING CHILDREN TO THE WOLVES - GREER FAY CASHMAN
  3. THERE MUST BE AN END IN SIGHT - ALON BEN-MEIR
  4. A WOMAN WHO KNEW HER WORTH - DANIEL DORON
  5. NO HOLDS BARRED: DECLINE AND FALL OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE - SHMULEY BOTEACH

 

HAARETZ

  1. CHILDREN AS HOSTAGES
  2. BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL
  3. PLEA BARGAIN - BY ALUF BENN
  4. 0WHERE'S THE FIRE? - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  5. WHY BARAK WENT TO BARAK - BY NIVA LANIR
  6. NOBEL FOR OBAMA RULES OUT U.S. STRIKE ON IRAN - BY REUVEN PEDATZUR
  7. LET THE FOREIGN WORKERS STAY LONGER - BY AVRAHAM PORAZ

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THAT PROMISED FINANCIAL REFORM
  2. A CLEARER LOOK AT DRILLING
  3. ONE PROTECTION FOR PRISONERS
  4. FAITH-BASED DISCRIMINATION
  5. DAISY CHAIN OF CHENEYS - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. NOT GOOD ENOUGH  - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. WALL STREET SMARTS - BY CALVIN TRILLIN

 

I.THE NEWS

  1. THE DETAIL
  2. WAVE OF VIOLENCE
  3. WIDENING CIVILIAN-MILITARY RIFT - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  4. PASHTO IN PENNSYLVANIA - AZIZ AKHMAD
  5. THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN - ASIF EZDI
  6. SPLITTING OF THE MOON - DR A Q KHAN
  7. THE GOOD WIFE – (PART II)ANJUM NIAZ

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. FUTURE OF KERRY-LUGAR BILL
  2. NEW WAVE OF TERRORIST ATTACKS
  3. WHERE IS SUGAR?
  4. GHQ ATTACK & INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. LEGAL FRAMEWORK ORDER - PROF LAEEQ A KHAN
  6. WHO IS BEHIND GHQ ATTACKS? - ALI SUKHANVER
  7. A TOUGH CHOICE TO MAKE - I A KHANZADA
  8. CLOSE THE OFFICE, SHUT THE MALL..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. CHALLENGE WITHIN
  2. RASU THE RIPPER
  3. GOOD LOOKING…!

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. RUDD'S REALITY CHECK ON ASYLUM-SEEKERS
  2. BEWARE INFLATION GENIE

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE NUCLEAR MERRY-GO-ROUND
  2. BULKING UP LIGHT RAIL
  3. EXPORT PROJECT UNDERMINES THE CLEAN-COAL VISION
  4. TOO MANY CHILDREN FALLING THROUGH THE KINDER GAPS

 

THE GURDIAN

  1. PARLIAMENT AND FREE SPEECH: THE RIGHT TO KNOW
  2. IN PRAISE OF… MICHAEL SANDEL
  3. LAW AND ORDER: THE FANFARE AND THE FACTS

 

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. KOREA, CHINA, JAPAN
  2. SWEDEN'S LESSONS ON FINANCIAL CRISIS - URBAN BACKSTROM
  3. FIRSTBORN, SECOND BORN, OR LAST BORN? - KIM SEONG-KON

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. NOBEL INVESTS HOPE IN LEADERSHIP
  2. NEW CONCERNS BRING FRESH HOPE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY - BY KANDEH K. YUMKELLA

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. BARRY'S SNUB
  2. THE NOBILITY OF "NOBEL" RECIPIENTS - ANAND KRISHNA
  3. NATURAL DISASTERS FROM A GENDER PERSPECTIVE - INDRASWARI

 

CHINA DAILY

  1. EXPO COUNTDOWN
  2. RIGHTFUL PUNISHMENT
  3. TAP POTENTIAL FOR MORE TIE-UPS
  4. CONFIDENCE IN CHINA'S DEMOCRACY

 

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE DAM BUCK STOPS NOWHERE - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. A NEW WAVE OF PRIVATIZATION, RUSSIAN-STYLE - BY MARTIN GILMAN

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

GIVE IT MORE TEETH

RTI MUST BE MADE MORE EFFECTIVE


Coming shortly after the fourth anniversary of the enactment of the Right to Information Act, the Government's decision to introduce amendments to this landmark legislation to make it more effective needs to be applauded. The proposed amendments are mainly aimed at making it easier for Non-Resident Indians to seek information under the Act, reducing the number of Government organisations presently exempt from furnishing information and making it mandatory for Government departments to voluntarily disclose certain types of information. It must be said that making these amendments into law will certainly go a long way in strengthening the RTI Act, which has proven to be a potent tool in the hands of the people to crack down on corruption within the system and provide for better and transparent governance. At present NRIs in particular have a tough time seeking information under RTI. This is because there is no proper system in place in our Embassies abroad to help them exercise this right. This problem needs to be solved at the earliest. Apart from the above mentioned amendments, there are several other areas that need to be improved upon. According to Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, the Government machinery has still not been fully adjusted to make RTI as vibrant as it should be. On several occasions RTI applicants have to appeal to the Central Information Commission, the final appellate authority under the RTI Act, to get access to information that should have been furnished to them without a fuss by the concerned Government department. As a result, the CIC is fast building up a backlog of cases. This is not the way RTI is supposed to function. If the CIC has to issue directions to each and every Government department to disclose routine information, the entire purpose of the RTI Act gets defeated.

It is because of this reason that development of e-governance is extremely crucial to the proper functioning of RTI. Computerisation of Government databases and automation of dissemination of routine information is something that the Government must work towards in earnest. This will not only enhance the people's accessibility to information but correspondingly also reduce the number of appeals that presently have to be filed. However, there is a flip-side to the problem. It is also true that a large number of RTI applications filed are completely frivolous. There has to be a mechanism that weeds out such applications right at the primary level. The same mechanism could also be used to spike those applications that are motivated by things like corporate rivalry. In short, the entire system needs to be far more efficient and streamlined than it is today.

But all this will not amount to anything if awareness regarding RTI is not created. Unless people know how to use RTI to their advantage they won't be able to use it for the betterment of the society at large. It is unfortunate that RTI awareness in rural areas is particularly low, while awareness in urban areas is not what it is supposed to be either. The Government must do far more to educate the people about RTI than it is presently doing. School and college students should be made special target groups for this purpose. By catching them young we will be able to empower the next generation in this crusade for greater accountability on the part of the Government and strengthen the flame of democracy in this nation.

 

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THE PIONEER

COMMON-STEALTH GAMES

FENNELL CAN'T FORCE PROTÉGÉS ON INDIA


The case of the Commonwealth Games gets more and more curious. The Organising Committee for the 2010 Games, to be held in New Delhi, certainly has a lot to answer for. It has spent the past six years — since India won the bid for the Games in 2003 — doing precious little and not mobilising adequate technical expertise and human capital for the event. All of this expertise and capital, it must be emphasised, is available in the country. In recent weeks, following 'warning bell' reportage in the Indian media and international scrutiny, the Organising Committee has woken up and had its arms twisted by the Government. Some urgency is finally being shown. The Commonwealth Games Federation Assembly, which took place in the capital this past week, was preceded by representatives of every participating country being escorted to Games venues and being given detailed presentations on the state of preparedness. By all accounts, India did a reasonable job. True, there are still gaps to fill and some of the infrastructure will be ready only weeks, rather than a whole year, before the opening ceremony. Yet, with the Union Government stepping in and giving its own set of assurances, the CGF had reason to be satisfied. Given this backdrop, the last-day, last-minute boorishness displayed by Mr Mike Fennell, CGF president, has left a bad taste in the mouth. Far from being gracious and acknowledging India is well on its way to delivering on its Games promises — albeit with some delays — Mr Fennell sought to promote his private agenda. He announced a monitoring committee of so-called 'international experts' will play super-watchdog and submit monthly reports on the progress of Games-related plans. In the past two weeks, as a guarantee of responsible behaviour almost, Mr Fennell has inflicted a series of high-paid foreign employees on the Organising Committee, to take over such tasks as ticketing, transport, venue operations and technology. More overseas recruits have been promised. A huge bill is being saddled on the Indian tax-payer.


Just who are these global experts without whose supposed expertise India cannot be trusted with the Commonwealth Games? A number of them represent an Australian-led cartel that has been going from Games venue to Games venue since the admittedly successful Sydney Olympics of 2000. Mr Fennell has been pushing their case for a long time. To ordinary observers, it does seem a little ridiculous that an IT powerhouse such as India needs to outsource technology operations, or that a society that can put together spectacular sports extravaganzas such as the Indian Premier League suddenly doesn't have the human resources for the Commonwealth Games. Has Mr Suresh Kalmadi, chief of the Organising Committee, just not been able to put together the right team? Is the CGF hierarchy driven by ulterior motives? The truth is probably a confluence of these.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TIME FOR SOME QUICK THINKING

ASHOK K MEHTA


Just as India-Pakistan relations appeared to be on the mend, suicide terrorism struck a second time in 15 months at the Indian Embassy in Kabul. While the attack was claimed by the Taliban, Afghan authorities said the strike was from across the border with the Afghan Ambassador to the US, Mr Said Jawad, naming the ISI. Pakistan expectedly condemned the attack. Routinely, India merely hinted at Pakistan's involvement, all part of a familiar story. The Pakistani Taliban has inflicted mayhem in North-West Frontier Province, unleashing four suicide attacks in the last one week as reprisals for the killing of Baitullah Mehsud. The weekend attack on GHQ Rawalpindi was the most daring, demonstrating the ease with which terrorists could penetrate the sanctum sanctorum and create a hostage situation. Pakistani commandos captured Aqueel, alias Dr Usman, the equivalent of Mumbai's Kasab whose initial interrogation has revealed the close link between Pashtun Taliban and Punjabi jihadis.


With the mask of good and bad jihadis off, ISI's Lt Gen Shuja Pasha will have to locate a new and bona fide strategic asset. Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Peterson has been warning that "you cannot tolerate a viper in your bosom without getting bitten". Fears that this viper could infiltrate Pakistan's nuclear complex and steal bombs or nuclear material have been rekindled in Washington, DC, though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has discounted these threats. The new leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud, has been threatening retaliation against the Pakistani Army if it launched its planned offensive in South Waziristan. He said the Taliban had nothing against the Army but the US occupation forces in Afghanistan at whose behest military operations against his outfit are planned.


A confused situation after a 22-hour commando operation led the embarrassed Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik to accuse India of exporting terror to Balochistan. Not losing his cool, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded to the charge by saying India had no role in promoting terrorist activity. "The people of Pakistan and the Government jolly well know it". Former Pakistani Ambassador to India Humayun Khan said it was not proper for Pakistan to raise the Balochistan issue especially after Mr Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh had generously agreed to discuss it. According to Pakistan's former Ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand, who was in New Delhi at the time of the Kabul and Rawalpindi attacks, elements in the Afghan Taliban alienated from Pakistan could have masterminded the bombing to exacerbate relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and between India and Pakistan. He added that such attacks would only reinforce India's resolve to hold its ground rather than be intimidated. Gen Stanley McChrystal's strategy paper on Afghanistan suggests that India's presence and increasing influence are likely to fuel regional tensions and attract Pakistani counter-measures. This view is peppered by the Pakistani consultant to the US military in Afghanistan, Mr Ahmed Rasheed, who says that Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban is for countering Indian influence and having an alternate force in the event US forces leave Afghanistan.


Afghans are impressed with the constructive role played by India in their country in its socio-economic development as part of the $ 15 billion assistance package. It seems the Obama Administration has told New Delhi that it did not see Indian assistance in Afghanistan as a source of regional tension. This is one more point of conflict between the US civilian and military strategies. Isn't it time that India and Afghanistan told the Americans that Pakistan cannot define the quality of relations between them?


Pakistani analysts believe that the US is coming around to appreciating Pakistan's security outlook and that it has to convince India to scale down its interest in Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan believe that the US backs its policy in Afghanistan though there is a clear difference between the civilian and military establishments in the US over India's role in Pakistan's backyard. India is doing some quick thinking beyond its purely soft-power imprint in Afghanistan towards a more subtle role in political and security activities. Hints of this were found last week in Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's concluding remarks at an international conference on Afghanistan. New Delhi must be prepared to meet any challenge posed by Pakistan's proxies in Afghanistan.

The India-Pakistan battleground has visibly shifted to Afghanistan with Pakistan accusing Indian consulates of exporting terror to NWFP and Balochistan. Pakistan has reciprocated India's two-decade-old charge of cross-border terrorism in the same coin. Improved relations between New Delhi and Islamabad are key to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region and for enabling Pakistan to fight with full vigour its war against terrorism.

The well-being of Afghanistan is more rooted outside than inside the country. Clubbing Pakistan with Afghanistan (AfPak) reflects the complexity of the situation. The US has managed to compel and cajole Pakistan to fight the Taliban, admittedly selectively. India has to register the frequent stabs of suicide terrorism in Rawalpindi and Lahore, close to its border. While a jihadi attack on India has providentially not happened since Mumbai, a fresh terrorism strike will make it unimaginably difficult for New Delhi not to respond militarily. Pakistan's courts have set free Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The Kabul attack has deepened distrust and taken bilateral relations into a hole. It is most unlikely that the composite dialogue will be resumed anytime soon. The US Kerry-Lugar Bill of economic and military assistance to Islamabad makes clear that civil-military relations are still suspect and uneasy. The conditionality in the Bill of more effective civilian control over the Pakistani Army has raised the hackles of the military. Is there a way by which the US can calibrate its long-standing military-to military ties with Pakistan to ease the ISI out of its shadowy games?


Bilateralism between India and Pakistan has failed to work given the operational autonomy enjoyed by the military and intelligence establishments. Non-engagement with Pakistan is not an option either. However unpalatable, it is time to bring in the US which for once has good relations with both India and Pakistan. The Chinese have made an offer to help in the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Former President Bill Clinton said last week that improvement of relations with Pakistan is key to India overtaking China. New Delhi should tell Islamabad it is ready to discuss Kashmir, Balochistan, Afghanistan and terrorism. Washington, DC, which has for long wanted to be a facilitator, can be brought in to justify Mr Barack Obama's Nobel Prize.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

INDIA GETS SERIOUS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

SUNITA VAKIL


As the countdown to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen gets underway, India is fast positioning itself as a resourceful and responsible leader ready to meet the climate change challenges head on. The fact that the country has already set up a Ministry to promote alternative sources of energy and has targeted to cut carbon emissions by 2020, demonstrates that it takes the climate change issue seriously. By focussing on the issue from the perspective of both adaptation and mitigation, New Delhi is coming out with a strong climate agenda to strengthen its position as a negotiator at Copenhagen in December.


Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has spelt out a series of measures that are slated to go some distance in reducing India's emissions. These include a mandatory fuel efficiency cap in 2011, an energy-efficient building code to start by 2012 and an increase in electricity produced from renewable sources to 20 per cent by 2020. The Government also remains committed to stepping up efforts to stop deforestation, raising its target for tree cover to 15 per cent by 2020. This positive approach could mean that the country has upped its own profile for Copenhagen, a fact that has been reiterated by British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband who hailed India as dealmaker and not a dealbreaker in the chances of a comprehensive global warming deal.


It goes without saying that global warming presents one of the greatest challenges of our time having catastrophic repercussion for humans. Indeed, the global warming may be taking place at a swifter pace than initially thought. In fact, a report recently released by the World Wide Fund For Nature indicates that the summer sea ice in the Arctic ocean could completely disappear between 2013 and 2040. This could lead to disastrous rise in sea levels as well as snow fed rivers which will in turn displace thousands of people living in hills. Even the rate of retreat of Gangotri glacier has almost doubled from around 62 feet per year between 1935 and 1971.


Though the rapidly receding Himalayan glaciers, stagnating agriculture yields, increasing dry spells and unpredictable monsoon make the country vulnerable to climate change, the good news is that it is taking concrete action to counter the menace. India has demonstrated that it fully understands the consequences of climate change by drawing up a micro action plan for an all-out war on global warming.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PLAYING THE TAMIL CAUSE

THE DMK GOVERNMENT'S MOVE TO MAKE TAMIL REFUGEES RESIDING IN INDIA PERMANENT CITIZENS HAS NOT EVOKED ANY REACTION FROM THE REFUGEES. INSTEAD, IT IS BELIEVED THAT THE PROPOSAL WOULD ONLY GIVE THE LANKAN GOVERNMENT A CHANCE NOT TO FULFIL THE PROMISES MADE TO TAMIL REFUGEES IN INDIA

SWATI DAS


The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu has pitched in for a permanent resident status to the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees residing in India, sparking off heated political debates and created a new dimension to the Tamil refugee issue.


Tamil refugees are residing in Tamil Nadu and other States on the premise that when peace returns in the island country they too would return home to rebuild a new life and society as enjoyed by the citizens in India. The repeated promises by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa of speedy rehabilitation and equal rights had given them big hopes of returning to the properties they own, instead of living a camp life here.

However, the process of rehabilitation promised by Mr Rajapaksa for internally displaced persons or IDPs itself has become a cause for worry, especially the lack of freedom of movement for those 'detained' in camps. "President Rajapaksa has made repeated promises on rehabilitation and a federal political set-up. But the process has been extremely slow. It is so slow that we fear the promises may not take effect at all," says SC Chandrahasan of OFERR, an NGO working for the welfare of the Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu since he fled Sri Lanka in 1983.


Reports from Sri Lanka indicate that the Rajapaksa Government seems extremely nervous about releasing the refugees. Screening process of the inmates of the closed congested camps has been so intensive that it has drawn flak from international communities. There are alleged lack of transparency and the inmates are hardly told the reason why they are detained and denied release. The monsoons have been bad and life in tents for the IDPs was miserable in August. The promise of rapid rehabilitation by Mr Rajapaksa is said to have suffered a delay of six months.


The Sri Lankan Government's argument is that the process of clearing the mines laid by the LTTE has delayed the process. They claim that the mines have been planted in fields, playgrounds, schools and many public places in the northern peninsula. The second claim of the Sri Lankan Government is that the houses have to be rebuilt before people could return. However, the delay is making the IDPs living in cramped camps restive and unsure about their promised freedom.


The rehabilitation process has begun and 34,000 IDPs out of about 2.65 lakh have been released from the internment camps. They include elderly persons and pregnant women. The Government has also offered to release those IDPs whose relatives or friends are willing to accommodate them. The IDPs have been housed in 33 camps and some are undergoing treatment in nine Government hospitals.


There have been instances of some IDPs being allowed to leave, but were detained in another camp. The Lankan authorities make no bones about the fear of LTTE cadres creating mischief and claimed that two LTTE agents were caught while entering a camp. On September 26 evening some of the refugees in Cheddikulam camp were fired at by the camp security, who claimed that they were attempting to leave the camp without permission. But their claim is controversial. The injured in the firing included women and children.


While the rehabilitation process is slow, the political will exhibited by Mr Rajapaksa to bring about a federal linguistic structure in the country and citizenship for the Tamils seem to have eased. Refugees, both in India and in the island, fear that the Government may go back on this assurance.


Under prevailing conditions in Sri Lanka, the DMK Government's goodwill gesture to make Tamil refugees permanent citizens has not evoked any reaction from the refugees or their representatives. Refugees are weighing the option. If the Rajapaksa Government does not deliver on its promise, it would be prudent for them to settle down in India. Security and safety is more important than the materialistic advantages, some feel.


But there is more hue and cry from politicians who believe that the DMK proposal would only give the Rajapaksa Government a chance not to fulfil promises made to Tamils settling in Tamil Nadu, the ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka would lose their ancient land to Singhalese people


From the feedback in the camps in Tamil Nadu, over 80 per cent of the refugees want to return to their land, while about 15 per cent feel that settling in India is a better option. In Mandapam, for instance, one of the two largest camps with a capacity of 7,500 inmates, debates are on even within families whether to return or not.


There are over one lakh refugees in Tamil Nadu living in 115 camps or other Government shelters. Since the civil war began 26 years ago the refugees came and went many times. The influx has been in four phases — 1983-87, 1989-91, 1996-2003 and since January 12, 2006. Many of these refugees are rich farmers or fishermen who have large property holdings in the northern districts of Sri Lanka. In 1992 refugees were sent back in batches. Those who went back not only got back their property, but were given financial assistance by the Sri Lankan Government.


Despite adverse reports emanating from Sri Lanka, some of these refugees still believe that peace will prevail ultimately and the Rajapaksa Government would deliver on its promises.


But question of rehabilitating Indian refugees would come up only after the IDPs have been settled. And, this process can be hastened only if the Sri Lankan Government deals with the IDPs with more trust and less fear.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

POLITICS OF NECESSITY

EVEN AFTER SILIGURI, MAMATA IS TO STAY WITH CONGRESS

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


Rarely has a ruling regime involuntarily gifted 'vacant possession' of the space it once dominated to the Opposition as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has in West Bengal, despite a spectacular win in the 2006 State Assembly election and an unbroken run in power from 1977. Yet, the Opposition seems to lack the confidence to step in and occupy it.


Not even the Trinamool Congress's politically wayward leader, Mamata Banerjee, is willing to venture forth without back up. Irrespective of irritants, demands and disputes, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress keep jostling against each other, almost as though it is safer to be together rather than face the other side alone.


Therefore, even if she lashes out at the Congress, apologises to voters in Siliguri for the party's betrayal and threatens to go it alone, Ms Banerjee has not declared the pact initiated on the eve of the Lok Sabha election null and void. Neither has the Congress. As of now, the Congress has studiously avoided questioning Ms Banerjee's credentials, despite provocative incursions including her spirited and repeated defence of insurgency in Lalgarh which she describes as an uprising by the "Adivasis," thereby denying the legitimacy of the operations sanctioned by the Union Home Ministry and the arrest of Chatradhar Mahato, as well as the labelling of Maoists as the greatest internal security threat and at par with imported terrorism.


Evidently, the parliamentary Opposition in West Bengal feels it safer to indulge in the familiar codes within which haggling is routinely conducted, every time by-elections or even civic elections are announced. Therefore, when the Trinamool Congress declares, speaking in one voice, namely Ms Banerjee's, that West Bengal is its domain the Congress goes through the motions of listening to her, attentively. Even though there are rumblings within the Congress in the State, at party headquarters the willingness to accommodate Ms Banerjee's demands remains as enthusiastic now as it was before the Lok Sabha election.


This time, however, Ms Banerjee seems less sure of how much the Congress will concede, even though her claim to nominate seven out of the 10 seats where by-elections are scheduled in November is strong. Why else would she be fishing in every possible political pond for whatever additional votes, no matter how small the bloc, she can get. In a pattern that was set when she was in agitation mode in Singur and Nandigram, she is making placatory overtures to elements on the political fringe, particularly the Maoists.


Having started off with defence of Chatradhar Mahato, Ms Banerjee has now gone further than ever before. She has offered to broker talks with the Maoist leader Koteswar Rao, alias Kishenji. This is intriguing. How will Ms Banerjee establish contact with Kishenji and why would he respond? Apart from the declaration by Kishenji that he would like Ms Banerjee to be the next Chief Minister and his view that the Trinamool Congress under her leadership is an acceptable 'bourgeois' instrument to promote the Maoist cause, what else gives her the confidence to make the offer?


Clearly Ms Banerjee is far more suspicious of the CPI(M)'s politics than she is of the Maoists. In her universe, the CPI(M) distributes "leaflets" in the guise of Maoists to misinform the "people". In her world, it is appropriate for the Centre to search out from among the Maoists well meaning persons who do not approve of murderous politics.


The frequency with which Ms Banerjee has, albeit indirectly, defended the actions of the Maoists in West Bengal, by blaming the CPI(M) for creating the conditions for them to flourish is odd. As is the Congress's willingness to ignore her protective utterances and eat crow in any seat adjustment tussle.


Even though the Trinamool Congress is invading Congress turf in Arunachal Pradesh, it is not as yet as politically significant, for instance, as the Nationalist Congress Party, for this vast tolerance to make sense. The Congress has a solid support base in West Bengal and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's stature has grown so large that he would win any election without the support of the Trinamool Congress.


It is the Trinamool Congress that needs the Congress and the berths that it has provided Ms Banerjee and her colleagues in the ministry to continue the winning spree. Bluntly put, Ms Banerjee despite her popularity, minus the back up from the Congress, cannot fill the vacuum created by the CPI(M)'s disorderly evacuation of the political space it dominated from 1977 till it began crumbling post the election triumph of 2006.


It could be argued that the Congress needs Ms Banerjee to maintain the coalition at the Centre. Or that the Congress does not want to make an enemy of the Trinamool Congress leader. In that case it makes Ms Banerjee almost indispensable to the Congress and so safe from accounting for her peculiarly post-modern, proto-subaltern politics even as she throws her weight around in West Bengal courtesy the railway portfolio.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

REWARD FOR AN EXPIRED PEACE

THOUGH BARACK OBAMA PRETENDS THAT THE PEACE PROCESS IS STILL ALIVE IN WEST ASIA, HIS PLEAS HAVE FAILED TO EXTRACT ANYTHING EITHER FROM ISRAEL OR FROM THE PA

GWYNNE DYER


Anyone who says that within the next few years an agreement can be reached ending the conflict (between Israel and the Palestinians) simply doesn't understand the situation and spreads delusions," said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last week. But US President Barack Obama does say that. In fact, they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize for saying it, didn't they?


Speaking in a radio interview, Mr Lieberman added: "There are conflicts that have not been completely solved and people have learned to live with it, like Cyprus... We have to be realistic. We will not be able to reach agreement on core and emotional subjects like Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees." And he said all this just as Mr Obama's pointman for what we used to call the "peace process", George Mitchell, arrived in Israel.


Undaunted by Mr Lieberman's comments, Mr Mitchell gabbled the usual nonsense about how "we're going to continue our efforts to achieve an early relaunch of negotiations ... because we believe that is an essential step toward achieving a comprehensive peace." Doesn't he understand that the "peace process" has been dead for years? It is no more. It has expired. It is an ex-peace process.


Yes, of course he knows, but it was Mr Lieberman who went off-script, not Mr Mitchell. Every Israeli Government since 2000 has believed what Mr Lieberman said and acted accordingly, but has colluded with the United States and various well-meaning Europeans in pretending otherwise.


The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas also pretends that the peace process is still alive. Indeed, it did so even in the last years of Yasser Arafat's life. It has to go on pretending, because if the PA admits that the peace process is dead, then it becomes no more than an Israeli instrument for indirect control of the Palestinians. As it often is, in practice.


We had a vivid demonstration of this recently, when Judge Richard Goldstone submitted his report on last winter's three-week war in the Gaza Strip to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The 575-page document reported that both Israeli forces and Palestinian militants had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, and a resolution was put before the Council that could ultimately have led to prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


Israel launched a propaganda blitz to discredit Goldstone's report, and together with the US it mounted a diplomatic campaign to postpone any formal consideration of the report until next March. By then, it would be old news. Standard tactics, but here's the bizarre bit: The PA also supported delaying the vote by six months.


What possible reason could the PA have for doing such a thing? Well over a thousand Palestinians had been killed in the conflict, and only 13 Israelis. The only Palestinians accused of war crimes were the militants of Hamas, who rule the Gaza Strip, and they are the sworn enemies of Mr Abbas, his Fatah movement, and the PA. It was a no-brainer, and yet the PA went along with the Americans and the Israelis.


Unsurprisingly, this public evidence of the PA's subjugation to American and Israeli policy caused a great outcry among Palestinians even in the West Bank, and Mahmoud Abbas ordered a "probe" into who had made such a wicked decision. (Hint: His initials are MA.) The truth is that the Palestinian Authority is just as complicit in the charade of a continuing peace process as the Israeli or American Governments, and cannot afford to abandon it.


Only the radical Islamists of Hamas, from their besieged enclave in the Gaza Strip, openly acknowledge the same reality that Mr Lieberman describes (although from a very different perspective). There is no peace process, and the "two-state solution" on which it was built is all but dead. So what they offer Israel, at best, is a long-term truce — but only if the Palestinians get their pre-1967 borders back now.


A long-term truce ("like Cyprus") is all that Mr Lieberman is offering, either — and even that is not going to happen because he has no intention of returning to Israel's pre-1967 borders. Neither does his boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although he wraps his refusal in more diplomatic language.


All of Mr Obama's pleas have failed to extract from Mr Netanyahu even a promise to freeze the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, let alone to negotiate a withdrawal from them. He has not moved from pleas to actual pressure because the Israelis effectively control the US Congress on this issue, and he will not risk alienating Congress over Israel while he is trying to get legislation through on health care, climate change, and other urgent issues.


He cannot even order the Israelis not to attack Iran. They will do it if they want to, even if the bulk of the Iranian retaliation would fall on American bases and forces in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan.


Still, there is no doubt that Mr Obama's intentions are good. So are mine. Where's my prize?


The writer is a London-based independent journalist

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

RUSSIA FOR UNIFORM SECURITY POLICY IN EUROPE

NATO'S CLAIMS TO PLAY THE ONLY GUARANTOR OF SECURITY IN EUROPE ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE TO MOSCOW, WRITES VLADIMIR RYZHKOV


At the recent UN General Assembly in New York, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated last year's proposal to draft and sign a comprehensive treaty on European security.


In the last few years, Russia has been frustrated by the international organisations in which it holds membership. They have been near idle, as with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or have reduced their activities to what Moscow considers interference in the internal affairs of Russia and other countries. The Council of Europe and, again, the OSCE have been monitoring elections, human rights, freedom of speech, etc.


These actions have been accompanied by Nato's eastward expansion, deployment of new weapons and renunciation of commitments under the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (for instance, the recently abandoned US plan to deploy missile defence in Poland and the Czech Republic). In Moscow's opinion, these are attempts to guarantee one's own security at the expense of Russia and other countries.


Russia cannot accept Nato's claims to play the role of all but the only guarantor of security in Europe, the OSCE's reluctance to do anything regarding the first and second "baskets", or the unilateral policy of the United States, which has ignored not only the UN Security Council, but often even its own allies in Europe in the last few years.


Mr Medvedev urged all concerned parties to draft and sign a legally binding treaty based on the principle of indivisibility of security, which would secure, in part, a commitment "not to guarantee one's own security at the expense of others." At a forum on international security in Evian, France, he suggested that the parties of the proposed treaty should assume the following commitments:

 

·  Reaffirm basic principles of security and interstate relations in the Euro-Atlantic space;

 

·  Consider the use of force or its threat in international relations unacceptable;

 

·  Provide guarantees of equal security for all;

 

·  Not to allow any state or international organisation to have an exclusive right to the maintenance of peace and security in Europe;

 

·  Establish basic parameters for arms control and reasonable sufficiency in the military strength.

These general principles suggest that Moscow wants the US and the West in general to give it legal guarantees on the following:

 

·  Cessation of Nato's expansion towards Russia's borders, primarily, Ukraine and Georgia's non-admission;

 

·  Renunciation of the deployment of new military hardware and facilities in Europe, imposition of ceilings on armaments, which can be changed only by agreement between the parties;

 

·  Legal and practical delimitation of the zones of responsibility (or spheres of influence) between major security organisations in Greater Europe — Nato, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, OSCE and probably the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation;

 

·  Limitation of US unilateral activity in the region, including in those countries which Moscow considers its "sphere of vital interests."


Speaking about the format of the new treaty, Mr Medvedev suggested OSCE modernisation, vesting it with new authority. He believes it should concentrate on the first "basket". In this case, as a pan-European organisation, which includes Russia, OSCE could break Nato's emerging monopoly, and pursue a uniform security policy in the entire region. In other words, Mr Medvedev suggested a Helsinki-plus agreement.


However, there are doubts that this most meaningful Russian initiative in the last few years will find enough supporters and be carried out, for a variety of reasons.


First, many countries do not share Moscow's opinion on the inadequacies of the existing security system. To the contrary, it fully suits the majority (not only the US, but most of the European countries). Statements to this effect have already been made by the US, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and by other high-ranking officials. They suggest more active use of existing mechanisms, such as the Nato-Russia Council, OSCE, and a permanent dialogue between Russia and the European Union.

Second, it does not seem worthwhile to establish a new organisation, when members of the existing ones violate their commitments (recognition of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia's failure to comply with its commitments in the Council of Europe, Nato's unilateral actions, etc.)


The main problem is not the structure of these organisations but the lack of trust and mutual understanding between their participants. This often blocks decision-making in the UN Security Council, paralyses the OSCE, and the Nato-Russia Council, and obstructs dialogue between Russia and the EU and in the Council of Europe. Any new organisation could also be paralysed in much the same manner.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

WHAT HAS THE PMO BEEN WAITING FOR?

 

THE PRIME Minister's Office has clarified on the matter of government officials allegedly taking bribes from American companies, but this clarification has come a bit late in the day.

 

In a letter dated May 12 2009, the Indian ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar, had communicated to T. K. A. Nair, the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, that several American companies had pleaded guilty to bribing Indian officials and have already been fined under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and has asked that India should initiate action against officials found to have received those kickbacks.

 

The bribes were paid over six years between 2000 and 2006 and continued over two regimes — the NDA led by the BJP as well as the UPA led by the Congress. The PMO clarified on Tuesday that action was initiated immediately after the government received the ambassador's letter and that much of the corruption took place when the NDA was in power.

 

While the swift action is indeed commendable, a few questions remain. For instance, when this newspaper sought to highlight the matter on Monday, why was there no comment from the PMO — either from the official spokesperson or from Mr Nair if the inquiries had already been instituted? The PMO's official response on Monday was that it had only received the letter. Secondly, if there are departmental inquiries initiated against those officials, and in one specific case — the bribing by Dow Chemicals — a CBI inquiry was instituted, what is the status of these cases? The public has the right to know especially after the Prime Minister's advice to the CBI in August that it should go for the " big fish" when dealing with corruption cases. The PMO's decision to give out information on these corruption cases only on a need- toknow basis is a bad precedent when it comes to similar inquiries in future cases of graft.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

REFORM A MUST

 

THE vice- president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board ( AIMPLB), Kalbe Sadiq, deserves praise for speaking out in favour of 30 per cent reservation for women in the body. Though the AIMPLB is concerned primarily with marriage, divorce and inheritance laws of the Muslim community, in all of which women are primary stakeholders, its views are overwhelmingly shaped by men. There are just 25 women in the 251- member body.

 

Considering that aspects of Muslim personal law are in dire need of reform, this is hardly conducive to change of any sort.

 

This state of affairs has less to do with Islam than its interpretation and practice in India. For instance the laws of marriage relating to women are more forward- looking in Pakistan, though it is an Islamic republic. Likewise the provisions of divorce in India can be questioned on the basis of practices followed in Islam centuries ago.

A greater representation for women on AIMPLB is not going to be a panacea, but it will definitely be a step in the right direction.

 

Hopefully it will lead to greater empowerment of Muslim women, dulling criticism from quarters that cite discriminatory provisions in Muslim personal law to seek a uniform civil code. However, for this to happen, those who take it upon themselves to be the self- appointed guardians of the Muslim community have to initiate change from within rather than opposing it tooth and nail.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

EXPERTISE WILL HELP

 

THE Commonwealth Games Federation's decision to involve more foreign experts in preparations for the 2010 Games is a welcome one. With less than a year to go for the big event to be hosted by India, preparations are undoubtedly behind schedule.

 

There is need for greater professionalism in organisational aspects relating to ticketing, accreditation, accommodation and medical cover for the athletes and officials.

 

No doubt, Indian officials are feeling slighted as more foreigners being roped in means their own roles could get diminished.

 

But if one looks at the macro view, the CGF is keen to have a good Commonwealth Games and has given an assurance the event will not be shifted out of India.

 

From now on, every minute counts and the Organising Committee, headed by Suresh Kalmadi, needs to ensure the pace of work on all fronts is speeded up.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

EXPENDING CAPITAL

PM SHOULD KEEP PAKISTAN ON THE BACKBURNER AND FOCUS ON KEY DOMESTIC ISSUES INSTEAD

BY MANOJ JOSHI

 

ON MONDAY, the Lahore High Court decided that the police had no case against Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e- Tayyeba. In the process, they tossed the ball back into New Delhi's court. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to now decide whether he wants to persist with the peace process with Islamabad, or wait till there is some clearer indication that Pakistan has decided that it will no longer be a state sponsor of terrorism.

 

Insiders say that in a month or two, freed from the burden of public opinion, the PM intends to re-initiate the peace process and the composite dialogue with Pakistan. He has a clear window of about a year before the Bihar assembly polls in 2010 and he hopes to make full use of it. Perseverance in the cause of peace is praiseworthy, even heroic and statesmanlike. It is the kind of stuff that garners Nobel Peace prizes. On the other hand, persistence in the face of sure failure is foolhardy, and possibly vainglorious.

 

In the case of Pakistan, persistence may be a virtue, but so would prudence. The PM's approach to Pakistan is betraying a stubborn persistence with a policy that is proving to be unworkable. Over the past several months, or actually the year since Pervez Musharraf was forced out of office, it has been clear that the Pakistan problem is not easily amenable to solution.

 

CONTAINMENT

As it is, the twists and turns in the PM's policy have been bewildering. In Russia, inadvertently or otherwise, he snubbed the president of Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.

Then, three months later, he veered to the other side and agreed to the impugned Sharm- el- Sheikh statement.

 

The peace process has a two decade old history.

 

Despite the thousand- year war fulmination of V. P. Singh, the onset of the rebellion in the Kashmir Valley in 1990 persuaded India to push for peace with nuclear- armed Pakistan.

 

Despite Islamabad's continous support to terrorism and separatism, New Delhi sought to promote peace through a slew of confidence building measures among which was the composite dialogue, first proposed by J. N. ( Mani) Dixit in 1994.

 

The dialogue envisaged a step- by- step approach to solving small problems first, building confidence, and then resolving the big ones — the Pakistani support to terrorists in India and Jammu & Kashmir.

 

However, what the process has revealed is that the big problems have held the resolution of the small ones hostage. In fact, the composite dialogue has become a meaningless talking shop.

 

As for the peace process, it remains a triumph of hope over experience.

 

After a quarter century of trying to make peace with Pakistan through dialogue, even while the latter has thrown armies of terrorists and saboteurs against us, the time has come for a change. Not only are there limits to what we can achieve with our neighbour, but those limits have been reached.

 

The situation demands a policy of flexible containment.

 

This requires India to build an unambiguous deterrent capability vis- àvis Islamabad, and also set our own house in order.

 

It is not that there are none in the Pakistani establishment who want to make peace with India. Unfortunately, they are weak and divided. Their ambiguous response to the Mumbai carnage and their handling of its aftermath are the best indicator of their weakness and confusion.

 

KASHMIR

The political window that is going to open up after the Maharashtra elections is not exclusively for peace with Pakistan. It may be more fruitful for the Prime Minister to pursue a variety of outstanding issues — economic reform, the Maoist challenge, China, peace in Jammu & Kashmir, removal of institutionalised discrimination of the Muslim community in the country.

 

The last two issues — the internal negotiation with separatists in Kashmir and the Sachar committee recommendations — are begging for attention. Success there could yield enormous dividends, not in the least in the country's Pakistan policy.

 

After the victory of the Congress- National Conference in the state assembly elections last year was confirmed by their sweep in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, there have been expectations that the Union government would quickly resume the dialogue with the separatists suspended since 2007.

 

It would also move on the issue of autonomy of the state in relation to the Union government. The separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the new chief minister Omar Abdullah have both called for a resumption of the dialogue.

 

At the time the centrestate and centre- separatist dialogue failed to move ahead because it was said that the government in New Delhi was too " weak" to make a deal with the moderate separatists. Since then the government in Delhi has become " strong" but the dialogues remain elusive.

 

In the meantime, the ground situation has become distinctly brittle.

 

While violence has declined to its lowest levels, separatists have found it convenient to use incidents of alleged rape, molestation and police high- handedness to stoke street protest against the authorities. This year infiltration from Pakistan has again gone up sharply. These militants have not yet displayed their hand, but it is a matter of time before their presence impacts on the ground situation.

 

Therefore, it is imperative that the government take up the issue and move ahead on it. To wait for the Pakistan end of the peace process to deliver before settling with domestic separatists would be futile.

 

The second issue, too, is one that is of great importance.

 

There may be a post- Mumbai lull in terrorist actions in India. But this is at best temporary. Attacks are likely to resume as soon as the Indian Mujahideen networks disrupted last year are replaced.

 

The struggle against violent Indian Muslim extremists is a challenge of an enormous magnitude. The government should not mislead itself by the fact that the mainstream Muslims remain firmly committed to the path of democracy.

 

After all, it just takes a couple of hundred radicals to create a security nightmare.

 

But these extremists are sheltered and nurtured by a larger pool of unhappy people. It is the government's task to take up the gauntlet of the Sachar Committee recommendations and move ahead.

 

Sachar No doubt the BJP will seek to capitalise on any move to address the issue of institutionalised discrimination against the Muslim community in the country.

 

That is what makes the challenge of addressing the issue so difficult. But the outcome could pay the Congress party substantial political dividend, and the country's security would get a payoff by reducing the vulnerability of its minorities to blandishments of radical ideologies and Pakistani agent provocateurs.

 

The almost continuous cycle of state and national elections are distorting the country's governance processes. There have been many voices pointing to the need for simultaneous elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha.

 

But the problem is unlikely to be resolved given the nature of parliamentary democracy. So, politics and governance will remain hostage to the election processes whenever and wherever they occur.

 

Just how important the cycle is apparent from the manner in which the Prime Minister shifted his post- Sharm el Sheikh Pakistan stance with an eye on the Maharashtra elections. Now he has one clear year in which to act. But he would be better advised to focus on issues that are ripe for resolution rather than chase the will o' the wisp.

 

The economist- turnedpolitician has to understand that politics is eminently the art of the possible.

 

manoj. joshi@ mailtoday. in

 

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MAIL TODAY

DECCAN BUZZ

A. SRINIVASA RAO

 

TRS CLAIMS GOVT'S HAND IN FLOODS IN THE STATE

AS THE flood- ravaged areas of Andhra Pradesh are limping back to normal, political parties have begun their politics of mudslinging.

 

While Telugu Desam Party, CPI, CPI ( M) and Praja Rajyam Party have been targeting the state government for the tardy relief and rehabilitation efforts, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi has kicked up a major political controversy by attributing the devastating floods to Jalayagnam, a massive irrigation mission launched by late Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy as chief minister.

 

The ruling Congress party, which is already embroiled in a deep crisis over the leadership issue, has gone completely on the defensive, unable to come out with a strong rebuttal.

 

According to TRS president K Chandrasekhara Rao, the flooding of Kurnool town, Nandyal and parts of Kadapa in the Rayalaseema were the fallout of YSR's brazen move to divert Krishna water to Kadapa, his native district. Irrigation experts from Telangana, too, say that the floods could have been avoided had the government not resorted to excessive storage of water in Srisailam reservoir to provide water to " illegal irrigation projects" in Rayalaseema.

 

According to former Central Water Commission member R Vidyasagar Rao, the Srisailam reservoir was originally meant for storing water not for irrigation purposes, but for power generation.

 

In 1983, the then TDP government headed by N T Rama Rao proposed the Telugu Ganga Project based on the surplus waters of Krishna river, over and above the assured water allocated to Andhra Pradesh by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal.

 

The project was aimed at providing irrigation to the parched lands of Rayalaseema and supplying 15 tmc ft of drinking water to Chennai.

 

As part of the project, a head regulator on the backwaters of Srisailam reservoir at Pothireddypadu village, with a discharge capacity of 11,000 cusecs, was constructed during the subsequent Congress regime. For this purpose, the minimum draw down level ( MDDL) from Srisailam reservoir was fixed at 854 ft, below which water was not to be released from the Srisailam dam to Krishna delta and other irrigation systems, through the Nagarjunasagar dam.

 

However, in 1996, when the then Chandrababu Naidu government proposed to construct the Srisailam left bank power project, the World Bank which was to fund the project suggested that the MDDL of Srisailam reservoir should be fixed at 834 ft and that release of water to Rayalaseema projects should be the last priority.

 

Accordingly, the government issued a government order ( G. O. No. 69), much to the opposition of the Rayalaseema leaders.

 

When YSR came to power in 2004, he not only restored the MDDL at Srisailam to 854 ft, but also proposed to expand the scope of Pothireddypadu regulator to releasing 44,000 cusecs so as to provide irrigation to Kadapa, particularly his Pulivendula constituency. The new design was also aimed at linking Krishna basin to Pennar river basin in Kadapa, so that more and more areas of Rayalaseema would get irrigation facilities. A number of projects like Gandikota, Owk and Handri- Neeva were contemplated in Rayalaseema as part of this scheme.

 

This is what KCR is pointing out now. He is arguing that had the YSR government not raised the MDDL of Srisailam, the irrigation engineers would not have impounded more water in the Srisailam reservoir, but emptied it much earlier, preventing floods in Kurnool.

 

He challenged minister for major irrigation Ponnala Lakshmaiah for a public debate to prove his point. He even demanded a CBI inquiry into the entire " Jalayagnam." The minister and Chief Minister K Rosaiah refuted KCR's allegations and said the floods were not a man- made calamity, but a product of nature's fury.

 

Besides the claims and counterclaims, the floods have once again kicked up a debate on the desirability of more and more major irrigation projects. For instance, the mighty Polavaram project across River Godavari in West Godavari district is now causing apprehensions over what would happen if there are similar floods in the future. It would inundate not only several areas within the state like the famous temple town of Bhadrachalam and Papi Hills, but also hundreds of villages in Orissa and Chattisgarh.

 

In short, it would be a veritable disaster for people in those areas!

 

YSR'S POINT MEN GET THE BOOT

IT'S MORE than a month since K Rosaiah took over the reins of the state and gradually, he is coming out of the shadow of his predecessor Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and putting his own stamp on the state administration.

 

By shunting out Director General of Police S S P Yadav from the post and suspending a few officials cherry- picked by YSR, Rosaiah has sent out a clear signal to all those officers who were ruling the roost till now that he is not a temporary chief minister and means business.

 

With the CMO hinting that there would be overhauling of bureaucracy, several IAS officers and top cops are making a beeline for Rosaiah's office to lobby for plum postings. A seasoned politician that he is, the Chief Minister is not revealing his cards, but it is being said that all those officials who were running around Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy thinking that he would become the chief minister, would be shown the door to loop- line departments!

 

THE heavy floods that wreaked havoc in the state have come as a godsent opportunity for Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu to bounce back and regain the confidence of the people.

In the last two weeks, Naidu has made people wonder if he was still the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. Right from day one, Naidu has been extensively touring the flood- hit areas, covering even interior villages. He was the first person to make an aerial survey of the flood- affected areas, much before chief minister K Rosaiah did it.

The TDP president held teleconferences with his party leaders across the state and motivated them to participate in the flood- relief operations. At the same time, he has been in constant touch with the officials of the affected districts, giving them suggestions and instructions.

Since he has had the experience of tackling similar floods and cyclones in the past, officials took his views seriously.

Interestingly, Naidu initially refrained from attacking the government, instead preferring to reach out to victims before the Congress leaders. His strategy was to make the people feel that the TDP was preferable to the Congress. Once the relief operations began on full scale, the

THE unprecedented floods have deprived pilgrims of their favourite dish in the temple town of Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateshwara. Last week, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams board stopped serving dal and ghee at " Srivari Annadana Satram" where thousands of pilgrims are provided meals free of cost every day.

According to TTD deputy executive officer Chenchu Lakshmi, the two commodities — red gram and ghee — are sourced from Kurnool and due to the heavy floods, food contractors have stopped acquiring fresh supplies.

The existing stock is being used to make sambar.

At present, the menu comprises rice, a curry and sambar. Incidentally, TTD has been keen on reducing the quantity of " dal" served ever since the prices of red gram went up, but the move did not find favour with members on the trust board.

 

THOUSANDS BID ADIEU TO K BALAGOPAL

TILL the other day, not many people in Hyderabad knew much about human rights activist Dr K Balagopal.

 

It was only after his death last week did they realise how much respect Balagopal had commanded among the poor, downtrodden and the oppressed people. His funeral procession from Mehdipatnam to Punjagutta crematorium could well have been a politician or film star's. Thousands of people from all parts of the state descended on the state capital to have a last glimpse of the person who fought for their rights with courage and conviction.

 

There was not a single issue concerning the common man that Balagopal did not take up, whether it was child trafficking, displacement of people on account of mega irrigation projects and special economic zones, issues of environmental concern such as uranium mining or exploitation of tribals in agency areas.

 

Despite being a mathematical genius of sorts and having the opportunity to become one of the top- rated academics of the country, Balagopal preferred to be a human rights activist, standing by the poor and the oppressed. No award or recognition can quantify his immense contribution to society!

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

JUDGES' SELECTION IS INHERENTLY FLAWED

 

THE RECENT saga of Karnataka's chief justice P. B. Dinakaran's selection to the Supreme Court has brought ignominy to the Indian judicial system. It is important to remember that the clamour against selection of Justice Dinakaran to the apex court was raised not only by the Bar Association in Bangalore but also by eminent jurists like Ram Jethmalani and Shanti Bhushan.

 

For the time being, the Supreme Court collegiums have put Justice Dinakaran's appointment on hold in order to review the report on his personal assets.

 

Even if the collegiums ultimately decide to uphold Justice Dinakaran's nomination, the tarnished image of the judiciary that resulted from the present fiasco will likely stick in people's minds.

 

Justice should not only be done, it must also appear to be done.

 

Elevating Justice Dinakaran to the Supreme Court at this stage in order to affirm that the Apex Court collegiums made a right choice cannot appear as justice for the public at large.

 

Like all accused persons, Justice Dinakaran has denied all allegations and claimed that the he possessed the excessive assets only because he hails from a wealthy family. There must be many judges across India who have inherited wealth from a rich family. In the eyes of an impartial outsider, there can be no reason for the members of the legal community to bring a serious charge of corruption against a judge simply of his affluence.

 

The most puzzling aspect in this sordid episode is that how the CJI and the collegiums were not aware of the allegations of excessive wealth of Justice Dinakaran, which was common knowledge to the entire Bar Association in Bangalore and other eminent jurists.

 

The stance of the Union Law Minister, Veerappa Moily, in this regard is equally deplorable.

 

Even after the advocates sought his intervention in this serious issue, like a seasoned political leader, he has chosen to wash his hands of this controversy.

 

There is little doubt that the process of selection of judges in India is inherently flawed.

 

Even for the Supreme Court in India, judges are selected by a handful people without any public hearing. In the US, while the Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president, he/ she has to go through rigorous questioning in public by both Houses of Congress.

 

Many candidates for the US Supreme Court have been rejected after failing to pass the cross- examination by the members of the Congress or Senate.

 

India should adopt a similar policy for appointment of judges because only through a rigorous public examination under oath, the real character of a nominated person may be truly evaluated.

 

Kunal Saha from Columbus, Ohio

 

Centre is jumping the gun on Maoists

WITH reference to the Question of the Day ' Will the Centre be able to overcome Naxalism through police action alone?' ( October 13), it is important to know that the Central government is totally wrong in understanding the Naxal problem.

 

The Naxal problem is a problem not of revolution but fundamental development.

 

The government must attack not the people but the reasons for the people taking up violence.

 

If we aim to foster true democracy, then New Delhi must call the Maoists to the negotiating table and listen sympathetically to all their concerns and then announce a programme to solve them.

 

Sanjeeb Sengupta via email

 

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IMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

STUDY IN CONTRAST

 

The three states that voted on Tuesday have few things in common. But a lot is at stake for the Congress since the party heads the government in all the three states and is expected to retain office in at least two of them. It is difficult to predict the outcome in Maharashtra, though the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance hopes that the divided opposition will enable the combine to overcome anti-incumbency and win a third term in office. The Congress is relatively better placed in Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, mainly on account of its record in office.


The record of the incumbent governments influenced the thrust of the campaigns in the three states. In Haryana and Arunachal, the Congress sought votes for its record in office. The positive tone of the Congress campaign theme in Haryana aisa pehli baar hua hai is revealing. The campaign highlighted the achievements of the Hooda government. A divided opposition has further boosted the party's confidence. However, it's a different story in Maharashtra. The two main political fronts, the Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, hope to win on negative votes. The Congress and the NCP won a majority of the seats from the state in the general election and leads for assembly segments gave the ruling combine a distinct advantage over the BJP and the Shiv Sena. The Congress-NCP alliance contends that the split in the Shiv Sena and the emergence of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) will help it as it did in the general election.


The BJP-Sena combine hopes that the ragtag third front comprising Republican Party factions and the Left parties and rebels will divide the 'secular' votes and help them overcome the impact of the MNS. In short, the two fronts hope for a favourable verdict not on account of their own virtues but due to voter fatigue with rivals. Such a cynical approach doesn't make for constructive politics. There was no shortage of civic issues to debate, but political parties opted to skip any meaningful discussion on these. Agrarian distress and power shortage have ravaged the state, but did not receive adequate attention during the campaign. No party was willing to challenge the chauvinistic tone and tenor of the MNS campaign.


It is important that political parties seek to win the trust of voters on a constructive agenda. The absence of a positive vision of governance dampens the enthusiasm of citizens in electoral democracy and mainstream political parties. That can leave a dangerous vacuum in the public sphere, which is likely to be exploited by fringe groups with exclusivist agendas. Disillusionment with mainstream political parties is a major reason for the emergence of Raj Thackerays and Maoists. The worst outcome from the Maharashtra elections would be a government in which the MNS has a significant say.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

INDUSTRY ON A HIGH...

 

Growth in factory output, as measured by the index of industrial production (IIP), touched a 22-month high of 10.4 per cent in August. Understandably, there's feelgood everywhere, in government, industry and the bourses. Of particular note is the broad-based nature of the apparent industrial revival: manufacturing, mining and electricity clocked double-digit growth. With 14 of 17 industry groups on the uptrend, intermediate, basic, consumer and capital goods have all expanded. Within the consumer goods ambit, consumer non-durables put up a weak show, possibly reflecting cramped rural spending thanks to the uneven monsoon. But this has been offset by the robust 22.3 per cent growth in consumer durables.


The effect of coordinated fiscal and monetary stimuli has been kicking in for a while. The Sixth Pay Commission bonanza has buoyed consumer spending, and the arrears now being released will hold up demand for consumer durables, more so in the festival season. The performance of capital goods may not be as impressive but does indicate that industry, hit badly last year by the credit crunch and fall in exports, is making investments. Overall, August's better-than-expected numbers came on the back of an upwardly revised July IIP figure, triggering hopes that the talked-about recovery in the economy is indeed for real.


The finance minister has added to the cheer, suggesting that second quarter GDP growth is likely to be higher than forecast. Growth estimates for this fiscal could be revised upwards as well. Which leads to the inevitable question: is it time to harden fiscal and monetary policies? The Planning Commission deputy chairman dismisses the possibility, and the government should stick to that plan. For starters, the August data, though heartening, reflects a low base effect: factory output growth in August 2008 was just 1.7 per cent. Again, there aren't serious inflationary pressures on the economy to warrant tightening monetary policy. Nor has the combined impact of the patchy monsoon, drought and floods been assessed yet.


Finally, economic activity continues to be buoyed by fiscal sops and the low interest rate regime. For the economy to be past any danger of relapse, private demand must, on its own steam, keep up the growth momentum. Given persisting sectoral variations in industrial performance, we're not quite there as yet. So far, industry has responded well to stimuli: consider the visible green shoots of the auto, cement, steel and construction sectors. Premature withdrawal of incentives could, however, affect the pace and strength of recovery.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

ESTABLISHMENT COSTS

 

While international attention remained focused on the siege of its army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan was engulfed by an unseemly power struggle between the elected government, headed by President Asif Zardari and its army establishment led by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Zardari has been determined to bring the army under civilian control and clip the ISI's wings. He is known to be opposed to the army's practice of arming and supporting radical Islamic groups seeking to undermine the Hamid Karzai government in Afghanistan and promoting terrorist violence in India. The army thwarted his efforts to bring the ISI under civilian control. Zardari has also found himself at loggerheads on these issues with his own prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, for long a protege of the army establishment.


These differences became public over the provisions of the Kerry-Lugar Act passed by the US Congress, authorising $7.5 billion of economic assistance to Pakistan. A statement issued last week by the army headquarters, after a meeting of its corps commanders presided over by Kayani, alleged that these provisions violated Pakistani sovereignty. The statement called on the country's parliament to decide whether the Act's provisions should be accepted.


This army intervention was intended to create a rift between Zardari, a supporter of the US legislation, and Pakistan's parliament. It came after an unprecedented meeting in Rawalpindi between Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab chief minister and brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was accompanied by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan, on the one hand, and army chief Kayani, on the other. Chaudhury Nisar is spearheading the opposition to the Kerry-Lugar Act in parliament.


Responding to the army's insubordination, Zardari's spokesman noted that it was inappropriate for the army to comment publicly on such a sensitive issue and that its concerns should have been placed before the cabinet's defence committee. Under pressure from the army and Gilani, Zardari is now reportedly being asked to fire his spokesman. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif remains in London, professing good intentions to the Americans even while inciting opposition to the Kerry-Lugar Bill through his party's parliamentarians.


Pakistan is now returning to the 1990s era, when it was ruled by a 'troika' comprising the president, the prime minister and the army chief. During that period, the army chief, General Mirza Aslam Beg, arranged to oust Benazir Bhutto and bring in an alliance of right-wing parties headed by Sharif to power in 1990. The next army chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakkar, forced both President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Sharif to resign, in 1993. Sharif, who entered politics with General Zia ul-Haq's patronage, was again ousted in a coup staged by General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, even though he enjoyed overwhelming parliamentary support.


Recent developments have dismayed the Obama administration. The furore in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar Act, fomented by Kayani, is largely contrived, as the Pakistan army was kept informed about its provisions when the Bill was being debated in the US Senate. No one denies that the cash-strapped country desperately needs foreign economic assistance. Like past US aid legislation, the Kerry-Lugar Act reflects American and international concerns about Pakistan. It requires the secretary of state to certify that the Pakistan government has acted to prevent "al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed from operating in the territory of Pakistan, including carrying out cross-border attacks, into neighbouring countries".


There are also provisions seeking certification that entities in Pakistan are not involved in nuclear proliferation, that the Pakistan army is under effective civilian scrutiny and control and that all support for terrorist groups from "elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence services" has ceased. All these provisions are in consonance with the publicly proclaimed policies of the government of Pakistan.


Pakistan is going through turbulent times. While the Americans remain concerned that the ISI is continuing to support Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan, they nevertheless support the measures the Pakistan army is taking to clamp down on radicals headed by the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and his Uzbek allies in South Waziristan. The army has no option but to take on these militants in South Waziristan, who together with their allies in southern Punjab, pose a threat to the capital Islamabad and even cities like Lahore. These military operations will be prolonged and bloody and could well create resentment amongst Pashtun soldiers within the army.


Further complicating this situation is the squabbling within the ruling 'troika', with an ambitious Sharif waiting in the wings for developments that could force early general elections. Pakistani politicians appear to have learnt no lessons from past military takeovers.


India and the international community will have to keep a close watch on the emerging scenario within Pakistan. There is already concern on the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, accentuated after its army failed to prevent militants from storming and entering the hallowed precincts of its headquarters in Rawalpindi.


The writer is a former high commissioner to Pakistan.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'STUDENTS ARE NO LONGER INTELLECTUALLY ROBUST'

 

Peter McLaughlin took over as the headmaster of the Doon School in July 2009. He was a lecturer in modern history at the then University of Rhodesia, a post-doctoral research fellow at London School of Economics and, from 1983, a teacher, housemaster and headmaster in several British public and international schools. Most recently, he was the headmaster of Casterton School, the 180-year-old academic boarding school in England attended by the Bronte sisters. Malini Sen spoke to McLaughlin :


What is the biggest challenge in school education in India?

The quality of primary education, which is the building block for secondary and higher education, is the biggest challenge today. However, the Right to Education Act 2009 is a positive move towards the right direction. Research across the world shows that formal education need only start from the age of six. Prior to that, children should be allowed to learn through fun and games so that they find learning an enjoyable experience.


What is the role of education?

The role of education is to ensure that children become lifelong learners. Today, a narrow and stifling academic curriculum in most countries has led students to disengage themselves from the testing regime of the education system. Students are no longer intellectually robust. We need to create a critical mass of thinkers. True learning often takes place outside the classroom. I, therefore, encourage my students to excel in sports, arts, also recently we launched the Model UN, and so on.


What is your vision for the Doon school?

It is to create thinking individuals. I would request parents to come to us only if they want to develop their child's character and creativity. On the way, we will also help the child to get decent grades. It is important to remember that your life is not over if your academic scores are not high.


Does the school's demography reflect India's diversity? Or has the student population become more local in the last few years?

Though we have students from across India as well as NRI students, the majority is from the north of India. In order to draw talent, we are making a conscious effort to offer scholarships and bursaries to students who may not be able to afford the fees. The Doon School was founded to serve Indian students and i would like to retain that identity, otherwise it would lose its relevance. We do not want another international school.


In the past there have been discussions to make the school coeducational. What is your view?


I am a strong supporter of single sex schools and the environment it creates to tap every individual's potential.


What inspired you to join the teaching profession?

I loved history and i wanted to tell everyone about it. History is the world's greatest and longest running soap opera. Being Irish, i enjoy story-telling and teaching helped me to do that.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

ATOMIC KITTEN

BY ANY OTHER NAME

 

Ahmedabad might miss its 600th birthday bash. The Gujarat government is reportedly reluctant to celebrate the occasion, which is in 2011, because the name has a Muslim connection. This is not the first time the issue has caused a controversy. In the early 60s, John Kenneth Galbraith, US ambassador to India, too got into trouble because of it. While on a tour of Gujarat with his family, his sons were gifted a pair of Siamese kittens in Ahmedabad, one of which was named after the town itself. Later, the name was shortened to 'Ahmed', which also happens to be one of the names of Prophet Mohammed. Galbraith recalls in his memoir Ambassador's Journal that later, when news about the feline's name appeared in a US news magazine, all hell broke lose. Windows of the US consulate in Lahore were smashed, a jeep carrying American personnel was overturned, a student strike was called and "mullahs inveighed against us and, in their prayers, arranged for me an especially ghastly posthumous reception". Through some tactful handling, the crisis in that country passed soon enough, but back in India the matter continued to haunt Galbraith wherever he went. Finally, at the end of a hot and weary day in Patna, when he was asked at a press conference: "Would you tell us about the name of your cat?", he replied rather tersely, "I will answer once more, [but] it is the last time."


"Here are the facts. First: It was not a cat but a kitten. Second: It was not my kitten but my children's kitten. Third: My children did not name the kitten Ahmed after the Prophet, but Ahmedabad after its birthplace. Fourth: Ahmedabad was not named after the Prophet but after Sultan Ahmed Shah, its founder, in 1411 A.D. Fifth: So that no one's feelings could possibly be hurt, my children have renamed the kitten Gujarat." After a short pause, recalls Galbraith, a tall dark man rose in the back of the room and in a formidable voice, said: "Mr Ambassador. My name is Ahmed. I am a Mussalmaan. I find your explanation satisfactory". He was never asked about the kitten again. The Galbraiths were thus able to get out of a jam by changing the name. Perhaps Narendra Modi would love that option, too?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

DICTATOR DEMOCRACY

JUG SURAIYA 

 

Can democracy be a democracy and a dictatorship, both at the same time? Yes, it can, if it's Indian democracy. The Maharashtra government decreed that when the state went to assembly polls, Mumbai would forcibly be shut down shops, restaurants, schools, offices, factories, all closed so that people, with nothing else to be distracted by or to do, would be forced to vote.

 

The reason for this drastic measure to force-feed democracy or at least elections to Mumbaikars is that the otherwise 'can do' city is notoriously 'can't do' or 'won't do' when it comes to voting. This was evident in the last Lok Sabha polls in which the voter turnout was just over 40 per cent. The fact that the polls coincided with a long weekend which lured many Mumbaikars to out-of-town holidays was deemed to be largely responsible for the poor showing. However, sarkari concern was voiced over the seeming political apathy of a city which had just suffered a murderous terrorist attack and should have been all gung-ho about manning the barricades of democracy as represented by the ballot box, instead of swanning off on holiday.

 

To preclude the possibility of the assembly elections also proving a non-event in terms of turnout, the authorities reportedly issued orders that anyone failing to comply with the shutdown diktat was liable to face arrest under Section 135-B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. To ensure compliance with this closed-door policy, special squads patrolled the city to make sure that no one was subverting democracy by trying to sneak into a school, or an office, or a factory, or a shop, or a restaurant. Go to vote. Or you might find yourself in jail: that was the message, willy-nilly, that officialdom sent out not just to Mumbaikars but to all of us who are citizens of this democracy.

 

Mumbai's case is symptomatic of a fundamental problem of our democracy. Democracy is supposed to be about empowering people, the common citizens, and helping them to get on with their daily lives as best they can (by going to schools, offices, factories, etc). But our sarkar seems convinced that democracy is only about empowering itself, at the expense of the people and their day-to-day needs.

 

India's political class and the successive governments that it forms, and which often comprise the strangest of bedfellows sees democracy only in terms of elections. It doesn't really matter which party comes into power, for in the end as a number of blatantly opportunistic alliances and coalitions have shown they are all fundamentally the same: cynical exploiters of the people.

 

Or at least that's the message that all our political parties have over the years been communicating, consciously or otherwise, to an increasingly sceptical electorate. The way our political parties, all our political parties of all shades and stripes, appear to see it is that the function of our democracy is only to hold periodic elections in which voters will, forcibly if necessary, vote one or other, or several, of these parties into power. Having fulfilled that basic duty (of having voted a politician into power) the voter can go jump. The voter's and the politician's democratic responsibility is over. Elections are the end all and be all of our democracy. And never mind what happens in between, never mind the persistent hardships and despair that citizens continue to face in their daily lives.

 

This is the real meaning of the Mumbai bandh on polling day: in our democracy the voter has no right of education, employment, earning a livelihood, whatever other than the right to vote. Indeed, as the Mumbai authorities would have it, the voter's right to vote is not just a right but an enforceable obligation. In other words, you've got to vote, whether you like it or not, whether you feel it's going to better your daily life in any way or not.

 

Jai ho to the democratic dictatorship of India that is Bharat.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ASININE, ISN'T IT?

 

The donkey, as it turns out, is not a holy cow. Its position in the hierarchy of popular perception being what it is — the phrases 'as lazy as a donkey' and 'you stupid donkey!' being quite representative — it comes as no surprise that Delhi's donkey population is now being told to clip out. The municipal corporation officials are very clear about the problems that the Equus africanus asinus create in a civil society like Delhi's. Not only do these slow-moving creatures without any tail-lights or exhaust pipes create congestion on the roads of the Old Delhi area, but they also 'give it an unpleasant look'.

 

In keeping with the strictly scientific process of debraying Delhi, the municipal corporation will conduct a survey to find how many donkeys exactly inhabit this glorious city whose name will resound all across Earth — or at least 53 countries that are part of Queen Elizabeth's special club of ex-British colonies. This will actually be a confirmation of a previous headcount conducted where "more than 150" donkeys were spotted in one particular area. For the political capital, that makes sense.

 

So are the Delhi Donkeys up in hooves? Have they at least got sympathy from the people who after looking into their sad eyes tell TV reporters that they want to take the 'Save the Donkey' campaign right up to the PM? Not yet. But the feeble protests that can be heard are coming from tonga owners who use the blessed beast to pull their carriages. A policy is under consideration to shift these donkeys to a sanctuary. Like the beggars on the streets who also give the venue of the 2010 Commonwealth Games such an "unpleasant look".

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE TUNNEL BEFORE A LIGHT

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's hope that Pakistan would take at least token action against the head of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and, thus, allow Mr Singh to restart dialogue between the two countries has been belied. It was no surprise that the Lahore High Court dropped the charges of incitement — that were poorly framed by Islamabad — against Mohammad Hafiz Saeed. As Saeed's lawyer argued, the incitement charge had been designed to "appease India" after the more substantive charge of masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack foundered. In the earlier case as well, there was discernable apathy among the Pakistani authorities about collecting evidence against Saeed.

 

There can be many arguments as to why Islamabad is seemingly prepared to sacrifice dialogue with India and, more importantly, ignore pressure from Washington. One school is that the civilian and military arms of government are at odds.

 

So, despite the best of intentions, there is little that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari can do about bringing Saeed and his cohorts to book. Another school is that the Pakistani establishment continues to see the Lashkar as one of the shrinking circles of militants who still obey Islamabad and, therefore, can be used to leverage against India. Others say that the domestic political cost of fighting the so-called Pakistan Taliban and allowing the United States to carry out drone attacks on Pakistani soil makes it impossible for Islamabad to take on the Lashkar. The truth is probably a combination of all three — and other factors that remain unfathomable. What matters is the end result: that those responsible for Mumbai are likely to escape any punishment other than having their photographs taken repeatedly outside a courthouse.

 

The other consequence is that Mr Singh's policy towards Pakistan, still tainted by the Sharm el-Sheikh fiasco, continues to float several metres above the ground realities of Pakistan. Mr Singh's belief that the two countries need to find a new basis for dialogue is based on a mutual acceptance that Pakistan's domestic strife is the region's overriding threat is sound. The problem is that there is no evidence — in fact, there is much to the contrary — that suggests that anyone on the other side of the border is in a position to share and implement his vision.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

HUNGRY FOR THE RICH

SAGARIKA GHOSE

 

Two seemingly unconnected events point to our most urgent contemporary dilemma: how should the rich behave in a country of the poor? A week after Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid asked CEOs not to take 'vulgar' salaries, Naxals beheaded police officer Francis Induvar in Jharkhand and around 200 Naxals attacked a police station in Gadchiroli. Four Indian CEOs recently made it to the Forbes list of 10 wealthiest CEOs in the world, yet almost half of India lives on less than a dollar a day.

 

Today, many rich Indians are indeed vulgar and arrogant and the poor are no more content with their 'god given' lowliness and have taken up the gun. India and Bharat are on a collision course as never before. The government's response of a crackdown on Naxals is only a treatment of the symptom rather than the disease. If Naxalism is defined as a violent response against perceived inequality, then it's not just occurring in the Red Corridor. There are versions of it going on all over India.

 

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has made a number of valid arguments as he embarks on his fight-to-the-finish with the Naxals.

 

Abjure violence, let the administration function and, above all, join the democratic process. Maybe Naxal support is only growing because Naxals pay village youth a stipend to join their army, as reports say they do. Maybe they are foreign-funded. But the fact that Naxalism exists and attacks are becoming fiercer should become a reason for introspection.

 

The fact is, an insidious elitism is growing in both our politics and our economy. Elitism, which can be described as a closing down of the avenues of upward mobility; elitism that is based on money power rather than on talent. Some of our gigantic development projects are creating a class of neo-zamindars. Often crony capitalism between government and corporates results in parceling out land between themselves without first engaging in respectful negotiations with those who are its original owners. Policymaking is becoming a condescendingly elitist exercise where policymakers sit in air-conditioned cocoons, swapping jargon-laden solutions for 'inclusive growth' and 'counter-insurgency strategy'. But what they forget is that it is human beings who will have to bear the brunt of their policies.

 

Policymakers shun public debates. Public consultations at the grassroots are often ignored in the haste to push through forward projects. In fact, our development process is still not creating a sense of individual empowerment down the line.

 

Chidambaram has advised Naxals to shun violence and participate in democracy. But is competitive politics anymore open to the poorest of the poor as it once was? Has the iron grip of dynastic succession and the rising need for big money destroyed the one legacy handed to us by the dreamers of 1947 — namely making it possible for any John, Jaani or Janardhan to become a leader, provided he had the skill? Sushilkumar Shinde, for example, from Maharashtra was a court constable who has risen to become a high Congress grandee. What a tragedy that instead of safeguarding party politics, as that unique method of upward mobility as it has always been, he has now perpetuated his own dynasty by ensuring his own daughter Pranati Shinde contests from Sholapur seat in the Maharashtra assembly polls.

 

Soon politics will be the monopoly of 400 families and in order to find political space, aspiring politicians might well be forced to become Naxals or take to violence to get their voices heard. Can the netajis hear the faint creaking of a door? It is the sound of the doors of democracy closing on the poor.

 

Elitism is not just growing within the political democracy, our economic structure is equally lopsided. Industry reacted with outrage to Khurshid's statement on vulgar salaries. Yet, is there elitism in the way industry is cutting its costs in this recession? Corporate governance may be working in some companies. But in many companies across India the so-called independent directors are cronies of promoter-CEOs who hand themselves huge pay packets that often end up impoverishing the company. No doubt salaries are determined by demand and supply and must keep pace in a highly competitive job market. But surely there is an element of irrationality in maintaining many top level salaries, even as the salaries and work conditions of blue-collared company staff are pushed into the abyss.

 

We cannot allow our social future to be one of gated communities, private gunmen and fortified buildings. 'Inclusive growth' is a great idea but still too much of an administrative formula. The government hasn't been able to push it forward in innovative ways. One magnificent old man knew about inclusion. If he had been alive, he would have walked to Gadchiroli in his loincloth and sat on a fast for peace and justice for both Naxal and cops.

 

But, alas, the great reconcilers are gone and we are left with a polarised debate. Naxalism should become a spur to make our systems more open than they are and to start massive initiatives of social, cultural and economic outreach.

 

Interestingly, perhaps the one politician talking the language of bridging the India-Bharat divide is Rahul Gandhi. But is the party and the government he is 'born to lead' ready to take the message forward? The farce enacted on October 2 when Congressmen snoozed in Dalit homes armed with ACs, coolers and private meals was only a cringe-worthy demonstration of the same elitism they were supposedly trying to overcome. It's an elitism that could end up destroying the very idea of India.

 

Sagarika Ghose is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN (The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUST ANOTHER KIND OF BIGOTRY

NAVI PILLAY

 

A group of representatives from Asia's caste-affected communities recently gave me a piece of brick from the wall of a torn down latrine. It symbolised the global struggle against the degrading practice of making members of a 'lower caste' clean public toilets with their bare hands.

 

This practice, which persists in many places despite prohibition, is not the workers' choice. Rather, they inherit such tasks because of their social origins and descent. These discriminated individuals then get trapped in a generational cycle of social exclusion and marginalisation.

 

Today caste-affected communities and civil society activists are hoping to tear down the bigger invisible wall of discrimination by trying to promote new international standards of equality and non-discrimination.  I have tremendous respect for their determination and courage. As a woman of colour from a racial minority growing up in apartheid South Africa , I know a thing or two about discrimination.

 

'Untouchability' is a social phenomenon affecting around 260 million people worldwide. This type of discrimination is usually associated with the notions of ritual purity and pollution and is a global phenomenon. Caste is the very negation of the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination. It condemns individuals from birth and their communities to a life of exploitation, violence and social exclusion.

 

'Lower caste' individuals are frequently confined to hereditary, low-income employment and are deprived access to agricultural land and credit. They often battle high levels of indebtedness — or debt and labour bondage — which is a contemporary form of slavery. Child labour is rampant in descent-based communities and children of 'lower castes' suffer from illiteracy. For women, caste is a multiplier that compounds their experience of poverty and discrimination.

 

Laws and policies have been put in place in many countries to combat this scourge. Constitutions prohibit caste-based discrimination and 'lower caste' members have been elected to the highest offices of the land. Special legislation has been enacted to provide affirmative action in education and employment, and protection from violence and exploitation.

 

Judiciaries have sought to enforce laws and provide relief to victims. Dedicated institutions monitor the conditions and advocate on behalf of 'lower caste' groups.

 

At the international level, the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination explicitly lists descent as a ground of racial discrimination. The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted at the World Conference on Racism in 2001, recognised descent-based discrimination. It also provided a comprehensive roadmap to combat it, which was reaffirmed by States in April this year.

 

Yet, it is imperative to implement education programmes that can change systemic, cultural and social prejudices and customs, beliefs and traditions based on descent, power and affluence. Caste-affected communities must be given a voice and participation in the development, implementation and evaluation of strategies aimed at empowering them.

 

This action to stem an abhorrent form of marginalisation and exclusion is long overdue. We owe it to those 'lower-caste' families, which were forced to leave village because they dared to vote in a parliamentary election against the favoured candidate of the upper caste. We owe it to the villagers belonging to the lowest social class starving to death because they were not able to benefit from the public services that they were entitled to. All caste-victims demand and deserve remedies. Their plight can neither be justified as age-old traditions nor regarded merely as a 'family business'.

 

The Human Rights Council — the premier intergovernmental body for the protection and promotion of human rights — should promote the 2009 Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent.

 

This study complements existing international standards of non-discrimination. All nations must rally around and endorse these norms.

 

The time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste. Like slavery and apartheid, the international community should come together to tear down the barriers of caste too.

 

Navi Pillay is United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CHOPPER AUSTERITY

JAISRI

 

Naxals are freely killing out policemen because the latter don't have helicopters for logistical support. But choppers are freely available to netas to fly over flood-hit areas of the country. A problem of priorities, perhaps?

The VIPs see miles of water that look the same, whether six inches or six feet deep, from the sky. A map could have been marked to show the depth of the waters in different areas, their population densities, accessibilities and proximity to roads, railways and relief camps. But that wouldn't make for a media dhamaka, would it? In any case, one doubts whether netas can map-read, care to discuss relief plans with the local district magistrate and superintendent of police, and make visits to relief camps. An aerial tour seems to do the trick.

 

Fiddling while the area drowns — to mix a metaphor — and flying high over the destitute can only make them feel more miserable. A real leader would wade through the slush to a relief camp, check out the living conditions, and eat out of a common pot the way Sam Manekshaw did in such conditions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'one-night stand' as "a single performance of a play or show at a particular place". Rahul Gandhi's one-night stands have yielded great PR dividends. Strange that his troopers have not stormed the relief camps where huge 'captive audiences' (Dalit or non-Dalit) are freely available.

 

In faraway Afghanistan, the Russians had found that even helicopter-gunships couldn't help them defeat the highly motivated mujahideen. Our intrepid policemen are fighting the Naxals with jeeps and archaic rifles. When they do SOS for a helicopter to evacuate the wounded, the State takes four hours to respond. By then, of the 40 commandos heroically battling 300 well-armed Naxals, 17 were dead.

 

I wish our netas bon voyage when they go on their next disaster tour. If they have the heart, they could even lend out their helicopters who could use them for a more desperate purpose.

 

Jaisri is a Delhi-based writer(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THEIR WAY OR...

 

Tuesday's news that Maoists in Jharkhand have attacked several rail installations, cellular towers and block development offices in Bihar should come as little surprise. After all, the Maoists, for all their talk of representing the poor and excluded, have consistently focused on maintaining the exclusion of the poor from India's growth. Monday's news, that Maoists had laid siege to the Grand Trunk Road near Giridih and Dhanbad in Jharkhand (as well as to NH-77 elsewhere in the state), was even more shocking. All reports from the scene stressed that the violence was protracted, that it disrupted traffic across a distance as well as for some time, and that a mob of about a hundred Maoists burned trucks and attacked their drivers.

 

Such stories are all too common, and certainly not limited to the Maoists. The truth is that immature politics is causing our highways to be increasingly insecure. Since the Amarnath and Gurjjar agitations, there has been an upsurge in the level of violence on India's roads. Yes, the big-name agitations get noticed a lot; but they are far from alone. A blockage, and the fear of violence, imperils road-users regardless of whether the Maoists, the VHP, or some less-organised mob is carrying it out. Consider western Uttar Pradesh, the industrial hinterland of the national capital. In September alone, there were half a dozen incidents in which major arteries were blocked by various mobs. Towards the end of the month, for example, a DTC bus was set afire and motorists stoned by people protesting the reopening of the government school where five girls had been killed earlier that month in a stampede. A week earlier highways across the area were para-

 

lysed by lawyers demanding a local high court bench for Western UP. Earlier, UP government employees had similarly held to ransom traffic on highways around Kanpur. This is a pattern repeated across the country, even in supposedly "business-friendly" states. Gujarat has seen some of the most sustained attacks, and appears especially prone to seeing road-blocking as a tool of protest, whether in Saurashtra against the price of fertiliser or even, recently, against the "biased" admission decisions of MS University in Baroda.

 

This, never a legitimate form of protest, cannot be allowed to gain greater acceptability. But it appears that cave-ins to agitations that have used such means have emboldened pretty much everybody with a grudge. It is always difficult to try a mob; but the individuals who obstruct and vandalise must be called to account, and held responsible for the damage. Our highways must keep moving.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

I, ME, MINE

 

Rule 52(A) of Directions by the Speaker might sound like inconsequential legalese. It is not. It states that members of a parliamentary committee who have a "personal, pecuniary or direct interest" in any matter to be considered before that committee must disclose their interest. It is this rule that is being invoked by the panel chief of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Undertakings in asking that members

 

of Parliament on a PSU panel disclose their business interests. Given the dangers to which a conflict of interest can lead, this is a welcome development. That the committee in question deals with public undertakings is doubly important. Government control has led to a spoils system where PSUs are milked and sought to be influenced to benefit associates.

 

In a perverse way, this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in privatising these PSUs — a carefully designed system of patronage will then collapse.

 

Requiring that MPs on PSU panels disclose their business interests is necessary, but the principle should be more widely enforced in Parliament. In recent years, a sense of disquiet has been expressed over the presence in Parliament of businesspersons as well as politicians with myriad business interests. As a recent controversy attests, this can sometimes invite demands that these persons be kept away from the legislature. This is neither feasible, nor is it advisable. Legislatures benefit from the variety of backgrounds and interests of MPs. What is important, however, is that for this diversity to truly deepen parliamentary debate, oversight procedures and the deliberations of parliamentary committees, there must be complete transparency.

 

Therefore, disclosure requirements need to be more stringent and encompassing. Conflicts of interest that are both direct as well as indirect (such as family stakes, which rule 52(A) doesn't mention) can thereby be avoided, in much the same way that declaring the assets of politicians and now (hopefully) judges provides a climate of transparency that breeds accountability. The Parliamentary Committee on Public Undertakings has set an example that must serve as a starting point.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

POST-POST-MANDAL

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

The wheel of politics in the Hindi heartland was duly noted as having turned, when in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections the RJD/ LJP combine got a drubbing in Bihar, and in Uttar Pradesh the BSP and SP were suitably chastened. The general feeling was that the parties that had made hay on the post-Mandal OBC consolidation (in Mayawati's case, the Ambedkarite consolidation of Dalits) had run out of magic potion, and now that the deal was to "develop" the states, parties which stood for that would win.

 

However, events in UP and Bihar are now threatening to reveal more complexity — something still in progress, before assembly elections due in Bihar next year, and in UP in 2012.

 

First, in both states, while it seems to have been generally understood that the Mandal tide may have ebbed, the "M-Y" (Muslim-Yadav) factor which helped the Samajwadi Party and the RJD is cracking, and the battle seems to be for castes and communities absolutely at the bottom of the social ladder. In UP, the contest is for Dalits, while in Bihar for the extremely backward castes, so far out of the pale of the political battle, as they were hard to campaign to, to organise and keep close. Thus there are new and unique problems parties are encountering, paradoxes and shadows of the old way of doing things, of new communities being stuffed in retrofitted bottles.

 

UP's case is straightforward. Twenty years ago, there was the old Congress formula which served them well, putting the upper castes (a larger proportion of the population than in other states), Muslims and Dalits together, creating a reasonably "stable" polity. However, the forces unleashed by Mandal brought suppressed inter-caste anger and rivalry to the fore — so OBC leaders, led by the Yadavs, took on the upper castes and even Dalits, who now had a party of "their own" to vote for, the BSP. This split the Congress's social coalition, splintering the polity, with Muslims terrified at the BJP's rise on the back of communal polarisation, unsure of where the Congress stood, cycling off with Mulayam Singh Yadav.

 

However, 20 years of assertion of different caste combinations (UP has seen the BJP, SP and BSP in power at different times) have apparently yielded a phase when tough questions are being asked about what, if anything, they have got other than symbols of empowerment (Lohia or Ambedkar parks/ memorials, hardly any schools, not even better-regulated garbage collection). New industry has not got a foothold, and old industries, whether in western UP, Kanpur or Mirzapur, appear to be in grave decline. Hence, the Congress, which has now much at stake having registered an unexpected tally of 21 Lok Sabha seats, is out to wrest the Dalits' confidence back from Mayawati on the promise of materially delivering and offering solidarity. It is easy to laugh at the "Dalit tourism" of Congress MPs, but it is only the surface of the battle to recover the loyalty of those who have, despite reservations being a constitutional fact of life, been pushed to the edges. How this plays out will decide the political and economic and social future of UP.

 

Bihar is more complicated, as a Dalit/ Ambedkarite consciousness has never been the predominant fact of politics here. Caste "combinations" and hard-core land interests (upper caste and empowered OBCs) have polarised politics. Lalu Prasad accepted the "izzat" formula (pretty close to the Self-Respect movement in Tamil Nadu, but much less radical) but snarled at the word "development". When, again analogous to UP, this ran out of steam, the people voted in Nitish Kumar, who dwelt on the need to "develop".

 

Nitish Kumar, riding the upper-caste vote (via the BJP alliance), himself a backward icon, was able through skilled management of overtures to Muslims too to creatively take off from where Lalu's politics seemed to peter out and offer a new paradigm. However, as was clear in his first two years at least, he wanted to create more of an awakening among the most or extremely backward castes in Bihar — the Mahadalits. That deepening of the political process has resulted in violent expression — the recent killings of Kurmis (apparently by people of an extremely backward Musahar community) have highlighted the extremely entangled problems that emerge when other communities feel outraged at even a whiff of the old order changing. So much so that Nitish Kumar's government keeps restating, especially to those in his powerful landed base, via his BJP deputy, that his government has no intention of any land transfer to "bataidars" (share-croppers), the unfinished and controversial business related to the abolition of zamindari in the mid-'50s. His government had commissioned a report under a key West Bengal officer at the time of Operation Barga in the '70s; it was even laid on the table in the Vidhan Sabha in June, but it was followed up with repeated statements on how the status quo would be maintained.

 

In essence, in both states the effort is to get new groups, caste and other interests, aligned with your coalition. But the Lok Sabha election showed a marginalisation of the pure old caste argument, and there is opportunity to craft new alliances. On the face of it they are two different processes. Nitish Kumar is trying to "create" a Mahadalit base (a political space in opposition to both Lalu/ Paswan and the BJP's traditional base) but masking all this under what he would want to be classified as "development" politics. In UP, the Congress is trying to talk of a change in paradigm (Rahul Gandhi's speeches peppered with talk of "the poor" shorn of any other identity) but resorting to obviously courting the Dalits back from Mayawati.

 

The challenge for all ambitious parties in UP and Bihar is not just to devise a new way of doing things but also to find new constituents. The coming assembly elections are an obvious deadline by which all parties hope to mop up fresh support — a difficult call in areas which are deeply political, politicised and caste-ridden. Channelling the restlessness in the electorate, characterised by a complex and complicated demand for political and material empowerment and respect for the rule of law, is key for any political party which wants to get ahead. In the face of deeply entrenched "interests" in these states, this would call for immense political courage, craft and imagination.

 

seema.chishti@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

GROWING TECHNOLOGY

VIBHA DHAWAN

 

The initial failure of the monsoon in large parts of India, and the subsequent floods in the South, are seriously affecting production of our major crops. Sugarcane is expected to decline by nearly 30 per cent in Maharashtra.

 

Incomes of small rain-fed farms in semi-arid Andhra Pradesh could decline by 20 per cent under harsher climate, forcing farmers closer to the poverty line. Today, approximately 20-30 per cent of our production is affected due to extreme weather conditions.

 

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme events in ways that are outside the realm of experience. So farmer subsidies, debt waivers, relief measures and so on may provide immediate help but may not necessarily be sustainable, particularly if droughts and floods concomitantly become more frequent and severe.

 

Does India lack the capability to bring in world-class agricultural technologies? Are our farmers not smart enough to adopt new technologies, or are we not providing an enabling environment?

 

One of the key inputs to higher productivity is seed innovation. While seed constitutes up to 10 per cent of the input cost, it can improve up to 40 per cent of the crop yield. Take the example of cotton farmers who continue to get value from adopting biotech-improved, insect-protected cotton seed (commonly known as Bt cotton). Today, over four million cotton farmers cultivate Bt cotton seeds, gaining higher yields and more savings in pesticides — resulting in higher income and access to a lifestyle that perhaps they had earlier only dreamt of. Today, India is the second largest producer of cotton in the world; once an importer, it is now the second largest exporter. This is the power of technology. Imagine, if we had failed to adopt this technology, the impact of declining global cotton prices on the poor farmer!

 

Today, India is investing millions and making remarkable progress in space research, nuclear power research and pharma bio-technology. But why not in agriculture, the backbone of its economy? While the Department of Biotechnology was established way back in 1986, the total R&D budget only witnessed a significant increase in the 11th Five Year Plan (Rs 6,400 crore). And even then, the allocation for agriculture bio-tech is smaller than for pharma.

 

Other places are trying to pick up the slack. Approximately 24 universities, 37 research institutions and 45 companies are investing in researching about 30 crops. They're researching traits related to tolerance to insects, fungal/ bacterial/ viral diseases; drought; nutritional factors, salinity and alkalinity, and so on. Drought-tolerant traits are being added to crops to decrease demands for irrigation and increase productivity in dry conditions. Scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are field testing Sahabhagi Dhan, a drought-tolerant variety of rice which does not display drought stress or curls leaves when there is no water.

 

Globally, other drought-tolerant crops are expected to be commercially available within the next few years, and regulatory application has already been made for a drought-tolerant corn. Investment is also being channelled towards the development of crops that can survive in highly saline soils or very hot conditions. Indian farmers need more of these technologies to address food security and other issues in situations arising due to climate change.

But even if there's research, is the present-day regulatory regime creating an enabling environment for developing and commercialising new technologies? Are public sector institutes well-equipped to develop world-class high-yielding technologies, and when will the farmers eventually get access to these crops? Even if the government wants the best for the farmers, does commercialisation work best in public sector institutions, or should we encourage more public-private partnerships?

 

The Union Budget this year made agriculture a key focus. While it announced some good news for the fertiliser industry, there is still a long way to go for the seed industry. While arable land cannot be increased, knowing the way that climate change is affecting supply of water, we need to build more check dams, bunds and reservoirs to ensure that water is used efficiently and harvested, not just for irrigation, but also for charging the water table. This will come to our rescue in times of droughts. We should re-look at the existing germplasm to choose and develop varieties that are more water efficient. A fresh look at technologies, which were once discarded (maybe due to lack of proper equipment), such as conservation tillage farming, etc, may help in maintaining soil moisture and reduce water run-off.

 

We need to move away from a debt-relief-centric to a more proactive and inclusive growth approach. There is an urgent need to create better market linkages, better facilities in post-harvest storage, easy access to credit, removal of controls, a strong risk mitigation system, and, most importantly, to introduce agricultural and rural reforms, like those in the IT, chemical, and pharma industries.

 

The writer is at TERI in New Delhi express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DID YESTERDAY CHANGE ANYTHING?

MALA LALVANI

 

Regional imbalances in Maharashtra have been discussed and debated endlessly in almost every kind of forum. The demand for Vidarbha as a separate state, which is an old one and the more recent demand for Mumbai as a separate state, are both reflections of the persistence of regional imbalances. Way back in 1984 the fact-finding committee under Dandekar gave us 'backwardness' indicators which sought to capture the regional discrepancies that prevailed in the state. The glaring skewness is only too apparent from the fact that in 2006-07, the share of Mumbai alone in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) was seen to been around 23 per cent; Mumbai, Nashik and Pune division together contributed almost 60 per cent to the GSDP while Amravati division's contribution was a mere 6 per cent.

 

The regional variation in the political clout wielded by the different regions is well known. Each of these administrative regions, apart from their distinct features, also have a predominant caste composition, which has an important bearing on electoral outcomes. With Assembly elections being closer home, these factors play a more significant role here than in the national elections. Consequently the recent delimitation — which has re-drawn political boundaries and created some turbulence in the traditional strongholds — is bound to have an important bearing on the forthcoming Assembly elections' outcome. Post delimitation, the seats available to Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra (Congress-NCP strongholds) have reduced — both Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra have 4 seats less each (Vidarbha now has 62 and Western Maharashtra now has 58) while that of Konkan (BJP-SS strongholds) has risen from 65 to 75 as have the seats for Mumbai Suburban (an increase of 9 seats to 26), a stronghold of the Sena-BJP. This scenario seems to suggest that on paper, the Sena-BJP may have an edge over the Congress-NCP combine. However, if the Lok Sabha election results are to serve as a pointer, then the silver lining for the Congress is the MNS factor! A natural question which then arises is: should the balance of power tilt once again in favour of the Sena-BJP coalition in the forthcoming Assembly elections, how would this affect economic policies and investments in the state? One can venture to answer this question by computing annual growth rates of GSDP for the years of the Sena-BJP and the INC-NCP coalitions (see table).

The period 1994/95 to 1998/99 was the phase of the BJP-Sena regime and the 1999/00 to present has been the Congress-NCP regime (Elections held in February 1995 and September 1999). The average growth rate during the Sena-BJP regime was higher than has been noticed during the Congress-NCP regime. The averages however, do conceal the fact that the growth situation has significantly improved since 2004-05 and that 2006-07 was a particularly good year with the state as a whole registering a 11 per cent growth rate. The essential point here is that growth oriented policies are certain to continue irrespective of the coalition/ party that forms the next government.

 

As regards the regional imbalance, the numbers (see table) reveal an interesting feature: the Konkan and Nagpur divisions are the most neglected and Nashik and Pune divisions are the highest achievers under the Congress-NCP regime. Given that the Congress derives its political strength from the Western Maharashtra region (Nashik and Pune Divisions), this result comes as no surprise at all. Similarly, in case of the Sena-BJP regime Konkan and Nagpur were the best performing regions. Thus, clearly pork-barrel politics is a reality of democracy and is invariant across party lines!

The writer is professor at the department of economics, University of Mumbai

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WIDEN THE BASE

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As China and India struggle to stabilise their wobbly relationship — the latest bump comes from Beijing's protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh — there is one big missing link. It is the absence of sustained engagement between their political classes.

 

Bilateral trade may have risen more than fifty-fold over the last ten years, but there is little contact between the leading cadres of the Chinese Communist Party and the Indian political parties. It is in the interest of neither country to have its political class view the other through the distorting prism of media and internet chatter.

The CCP has indeed reached out to both the Congress and the BJP by looking beyond its traditional ties to the CPI and CPM. There is also growing academic exchange between the Chinese think tanks and their Indian counterparts.

 

Nevertheless, from the perspective of China's expansive international interaction, Beijing's outreach to Indian civil society is rather thin. And Delhi's penetration of China's political universe, in turn, is shockingly shallow.

The Indian communists could have been a natural bridge between the two societies; but their ideological blinkers have prevented them from becoming the interpreters of either the complex Chinese realities to India or Delhi's political sensitivities and domestic compulsions to Beijing.

 

There is no substitute then for greater contact and communication between the CCP and India's many political parties, especially its younger leaders who can relate to a globalising China far more easily than their elders.

The transformation of India's relationship with the United States began only when Delhi and the Indian American community reached out to the political establishment in the United States. India must do the same with China by breaking out of its current narrow interface with a small section of Chinese bureaucracy.

 

When Rahul Gandhi traveled to China along with Sonia Gandhi to Beijing in August 2008 to witness the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, he signed an MoU with one of China's rising political stars, Xi Jinping, to promote interaction between the Congress party and the CCP. One has not heard much of a follow-up since then.

 

Xi Jinping

Talking of the younger generation of political leaders, all eyes are now focused on Xi Jinping, currently the vice president of China and tipped to succeed Hu Jintao as the General Secretary of the CCP and Chairman of the all powerful Central Military Commission. Having completed two full terms, Hu Jintao will step down at the 18th party congress in 2012.

 

There is some speculation about Xi's political fortunes when he was not promoted to a higher position at a central committee plenary last month. Xi was widely expected to be appointed as a member of the CMC. That decision would have all but confirmed Xi's position as the successor to Hu.

 

Reading the tea leaves in Beijing has never been easy and it is premature to come to conclusions about Xi's political future. Xi is widely seen as the leader of the 'Princelings' faction (privileged children of the revolutionary veterans) in the CCP.

 

Xi has also built a reputation for integrity and helped the party clean up many corruption scandals in recent years. Xi demonstrated his efficiency as the organiser of the 2008 Olympics and in governing the coastal states that have driven China towards superpower status.

 

Xi represents the fifth generation of the CCP leadership that is at once highly educated, more exposed to the world and fully conscious of the grass-roots challenges. He has a doctorate in law and had to work on the factory floor in a remote province when his family was victimised during the Cultural Revolution.

That Delhi has so many problems, some old and some new, with Beijing is the very reason why India should reach out to the new generation of Chinese leaders.

 

Seychelles again

China's special interest in Seychelles continues. Since President Hu's visit in 2007, China has maintained the momentum in deepening the engagement with the strategically located Indian Ocean state. The latest is a million dollar gift from China to the island state for training and maintenance of defence equipment.

 

Announcing this at the end of a recent trip to Seychelles, the head of the Chinese delegation, Gen. Qian Lihua said, "We have been providing military assistance to Seychelles. We provide logistics assistance and free education and training in China, which have laid a good foundation for the future development of our bilateral and military-to-military relations."

 

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

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

HDR SHAME

In the light of India's continued downward slide in the ranking of the Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, the latest editorial in the CPI(M) mouthpiece People's Democracy argues that this slip has only confirmed that the benefits of economic growth have been confined to a few. "India's performance negates the expectations generated by the euphoria of a high growth trajectory in the recent decade. All grandeur of an 'emerging economy' rubbing shoulders with the 'mighty' at the G-20 high table simply evaporates when the hard data of HDR 2009 is confronted," it says. "In a way this only confirms that the benefits of economic growth in India have been confined to a few of the 'shining' India while the rest are consigned to the 'suffering' India," it claims.

 

Pointing out that the data base for the HDR report is that of 2007, it says it is "important to note that the ruination of millions of people globally, many more in developing countries, due to the worst capitalist crisis leading to the current global recession is not captured in this report." "HDR 2009 clearly confirms what many of us have been stating about the abysmally low levels of quality of life of the vast majority of the Indian people. No amount of aam admi rhetoric and platitudes of 'inclusive growth' can improve the situation unless the UPA government is forced through popular struggles to vastly expand public investments that will generate jobs on the one hand and build the much needed social and economic infrastructure in the country," it adds.

 

LALGARH TRUTHS

The edition carries an article giving the details of the confessions made by the arrested Peoples' Committee against Police Atrocities leader Chatradhar Mahato during his interrogation by the West Bengal police, with a claim that several truths have been exposed now. So what are the truths? Firstly, it says "the 'Peoples' Committee against Police Atrocities' was formed by the Maoists, primarily to cordon off an area out of the bounds for police and administration."

 

Secondly, "the mine-blast was designed to kill the chief minister when he was returning from the stone-laying ceremony of the proposed steel plant in Shalboni. Chatradhar Mahato revealed that top Maoist leaders of the area were present in the meeting where the committee was formed," it says.

 

"Gradually, the committee followed the dictums of the Maoists and expanded its work from digging roads to attacking CPI(M) cadres and sympathisers. The Lalgarh agitation was not at all any spontaneous outburst of the tribals, as it was depicted in a section of the media; it was, rather, a well-planned disturbance to create a conducive atmosphere for the Maoists to consolidate their own base," it says.

 

The committee acted as a comfortable platform for the Maoists and Trinamool Congress to work together. In almost every village where a "branch" of the committee was formed, both the active members of the Maoists and TMC worked in unison, it claims.

 

Fourthly, the article states that the committee and Chatradhar himself had regular contacts with a section of the anti-CPI(M) intelligensia and even participated in a number of secret meetings in Kolkata too. "Though it was not so 'secret' to any observer, this revelation has apparently unnerved some of the intellectuals who, for some months now, have already been rewarded abundantly by the railway minister. These intellectuals have tried their best to claim that they had no inkling of Chatradhar's Maoist links," it says.

 

AIR INDIA'S FAILURES

Another article by CITU President M.K. Pandhe says the strike by executive pilots of Air India could have been avoided had the Air India management not "arbitrarily and unilaterally" reduced their productivity linked incentive. "The 20 to 50 per cent cut imposed on their PLI payments had to be ultimately kept in abeyance by the Air India management, which was the cause of the strike action by the pilots."

 

He says the losses suffered by Air India — which increased from six to seven thousand crores — was not because of any fault of the employees but due to several wrong decisions taken by the management and the ministry of civil aviation. "The financial bungling by the management could be seen from the fact that the balance sheet of the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) for the year 2008-09 could not be finalised till the end of September 2009," he says.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY THIS COLUMN DESERVES THE NOBEL

OGER COHEN

 

Beautiful thoughts, wondrous words. What more is needed?

 

IWANTthiscolumntobegood.I want it to be so good, it wins a prize.Oneofthosebigprizes,like the ones they hand out every year in Stockholm.

 

I want it to be subtle and full of goodness and infuse all humankind with hope. Let me be clear:Iwantittobeuplifting,conciliatory and bold. In fact I want it to carry some miraculous quality.

 

I've traveled the world, seen the forgotten silos on the plains, the rusting railroad cars, the forbidding watchtowers, the scavengersinthegarbage,thefatiguesmudged faces, the refugees sprawled on the school room floor, the lonely lingerers, the freighters hardening the horizon, the beautiful and the damned.

 

AlongthewayI'velearnedthis: We deny our connectedness at our peril. Let me be clear: This is the 21st century.

 

I've heard the infant's cry, the sobbing of the bereaved, the old man's sigh, the whispering of the valley, the stirring of desire, the echo of war, the village bells, the ram's horn rising, the muezzin's pre-dawn call to prayer.

 

That's a lot of different sounds.


So let me be clear: As children of Abraham we are all responsible for one another. This is the age of responsibility.

 

I'veknownthewallsthatdivide us, the propaganda of hate, the crops that wither, the seas that rise, the networks that go down, the tires that go flat, the light bulbs that go out, the subways that stop and the delays at O'Hare Airport.

 

That's a lot of different problems. And I want there to be no doubt: The problems we face can only be solved together.

 

I want this column to advance peace,tobanishthespectreofnuclear winter, to spread solar energy, to stop ice caps melting, to halt pandemics, save energy, spare lives, reconcile Arabs and Jews, and let's not forget the Persians.

In fact, I want so much from this column, I thought about not writing it, so that what would be left was a beautiful blank space that readers could fill with their most cherished fantasies. I thoughtaboutjustthinkingabout it.

 

But, on further reflection, that struck me as too Rive Gauche for someofmyAmericanreaders,although certainly not for my good friends in Stockholm (peace be upon them).

 

A virtual column, waiting to be written, poised atop the vortex, is one filled with infinite possibility.
With each word I write I am confining it. The way reality encroaches on fantasy is terrible to bear. But that's the human condition we share whether we are black, white or -- increasingly -brown.

 

Let there be no doubt: I want Turks and Armenians to embrace, something good for South Ossetia, and peace sans pygmies -- forgive me, sans persecutions -- in Pyongyang. May the spirit of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad -- peace be upon them -- too spread in the Holy Land.

 

Some will say I'm a dreamer.

 

Some might find themselves unable to engage with these engaging aspirations even if this is the age of engagement. But there is no alternative to engagement except,perhaps,divorce,alienation, separation, enmity, competition, rivalry, envy, misunderstanding, threats, intimidation and rage -all of which I reject on principle.

There have always been doubters, skeptics, losers -- and Republicans. But I say to them: Thehopefulwillinherittheearth.


And I say to them: Read my mass e-mailings or see me on Twitter.

 

I know, Philip Roth writes more than two dozen novels and can't get a Nobel. But I'm sure I think more beautiful thoughts. If my thoughts were dark I might want to be a novelist rather than a columnist.

 

I know, Nelson Mandela spent more than two dozen years imprisoned and he did get a Nobel.
But, well, I've lost my train of thought.

 

What I know is this: The hypothetical is worthless in history.


And I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves: It's just fine and dandy hoping for all these wonderful things, but what about deeds, actions, achievements, results?


Forgive me, but that's so 20th century. We live in a virtual age.


We are the Wii-players of history! Our medium is thin air. We don't have to get our fingers dirty for thingstomoveinthedirectionwe desire.

 

In conclusion, I know this column has fallen short. I am aware of its shortcomings, its banality and its immodesty. I am humbled by all the great practitioners of this820-wordcraft--"art"would be going too far -- in whose illustrious footsteps I tread. But I know this: If I've given momentum to some global fantasy, my time has not been wasted.

 

You know, I love Sweden. It's the anti-Denmark. I love its glistening lakes and its countless Iraqi refugees. The lakes remind us of the beauty of the planet we all share. The refugees express theagonyofthehumancondition -- but forget that. Hope trumps experience every time.

 

Finally, let me be clear: All prize money is payable to me.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

YEAR IS A LONG TIME IN ECONOMICS


These columns have argued for changing the way official economic data is processed. For example, we argued that month-on-month, seasonally-adjusted data gives a more realistic picture of current industrial growth—healthy, but not exuberant and, therefore, requiring more support. But month-on-month seasonally-adjusted data has abiding significance in all areas. The following simple example will make this clear. Suppose for good A, the production in month X in 2008 was 100 units and in the same month in 2009 was 110 units. The way government processes data—year-on-year—this will be interpreted as a 10% industrial growth rate. But how has the production of good A been recently? That's what policymakers should want to know. Did the 100 units to 110 units change over 12 months come because production rose quickly, then declined sharply and then stayed steady? Or did production of good A remain steady until, say, a quarter before month X, 2009 and then start moving up steadily? The two scenarios say very different things about recent trends in production. The first one suggests that there was a sharp spike early in the 12-month period, but that recent growth momentum is weak. The second suggests that things are looking up in recent months. These have very different implications—for policymakers, for independent economists and for media analysts. When we focus on production on a year-on-year basis, as we tend to do in India, we miss out on the process described above.

 

The way this problem has been addressed in developed countries is to, of course, focus on monthly changes. There is, however, one problem with monthly changes. If there is seasonality in the data, it might suggest there is a rise in production and we might start taking policy action, such as reversing the monetary and fiscal stimuli provided to the economy. But that would be a mistake. So, while economists like to focus on monthly production, they do so after seasonally-adjusting the data. Some of the simplest techniques available to do this are nearly 100 years old. The latest techniques are ubiquitous now; software packages to apply them are available for free download on the Internet. A small team of 10 to 15 economists with training in econometrics and computer programming can do this on a regular basis for most of the important macroeconomic data available. Statistical departments in advanced countries release seasonally-adjusted data, in addition to the raw data. These numbers are then picked up by the central bank for policy analysis and by the government for its communication with policymakers. The media in the West uses the same data. There's no earthly reason why official data processing here can't change. So, can we see that change?

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE CITY AND THE PROMISE

 

Since Mumbai and Maharashtra have voted, let's recall the tallest of encomiums and the biggest of promises made. Sonia Gandhi has declared that her party, in the state and at the Centre, is determined to make Mumbai an international financial centre. But this is not substantially different from what a report of the high-powered committee declared two years ago. Even at that time, according to one report, Mumbai occupied a lowly 209th spot among 215 world metros in terms of quality of life. What have the Mumbai headlines screamed since? Attacks on migrants (whose contribution is a big factor in the cultural and economic narrative of the metropolis), the ritual of monsoon rains bringing the city to a standstill and perhaps India's worst-ever terrorist attacks. The one photo-op to add upbeat colour to a bleak scenario has been the country's first ever sea bridge—much delayed, not yet completed, but a pretty picture nonetheless. Whatever the shortfalls in delivery—power shortages, housing issues, storm-water drainage systems yet to be fixed, public transport deficits and so on—people, in India and across the world keep putting their faith in Mumbai.

 

Earlier this year, Forbes—based on the fact that the bulk of the wealth that was created in India as its per capita income grew by over 400% over the last 25 years, based on purchasing power parity, came from urban centres like Mumbai—declared India's financial capital will play a centrestage role among the dynamic global cities that will shape this first truly urban, global century. Per capita income in Mumbai is already striding ahead of the national average. Now, Sonia and her cohorts are promising to pull it up to Rs 1 lakh a year. This is not beyond the city's reach. Remember, this is home to Dharavi, where 6 lakh people squeezed onto 500 acres have managed to churn out respectable profits from recycling used cardboard, glass, plastic and so on. But, let's get real. Let's face the ground realities. Let's look governance challenges in the face. Take the airport example: the Chhatrapati Shivaji facility founded six decades ago is struggling to make do with just 2,000 acres to cope with 25 million passengers a year, traffic that Kuala Lumpur services with 10,000 acres. Meanwhile, the Navi Mumbai international airport keeps getting delayed, as different ministries wrangle over it. So, however well-intentioned the encomiums to Mumbai and Maharashtra may be, they seem completely out of sync with real-time governance. Will the next government, please, please start doing something substantive.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ECONOMICS OF GOING PLACES: LET THEM COME

JEFFREY S HAMMER


Usually the annual appearance of the Human Development Report is not an event worth noting. These are, after all the people who brought us the concept of 'jobless growth' (a bad thing, I guess), identical to what everyone else defines as 'productivity growth', the only long-term way to improve the wellbeing of poor people.

 

They are also the people who gave us the execrable 'Human Development Index' that values a year of life (not earning capacity—value of a life) of a Norwegian at over 80 times that of someone in Niger, an American 16 times more valuable than an Indian. How they get away with, and even get accolades for this obscenity is beyond me.

 

However this year is different (except for maintaining the index). This year's topic is migration—internal and international —and gets everything important pretty much right. The report comes out courageously for encouraging more migration of both sorts and does a good job refuting many of the objections of those in both the recipient and originating countries.

 

Just as freedom of movement of commodities via trade potentially benefits all, so does freedom of movement of people. The report might underplay a few genuine concerns for advocacy purposes but this is a minor problem on economic and wellbeing grounds. It may be a bit more serious on political grounds.

 

For India, there are three big lessons to take away. One is familiar ground and much less contentious than it used to be —that the 'brain drain' argument is much less a problem than previously thought. In fact, on balance, it is not a problem at all but a distinct source of benefits to India. The second is less generally discussed here, is more a technical issue and should not be seriously controversial. This is that internal migration is a huge part of the total picture—much larger than international migration. Movements within India and China are huge fractions of global migration and the report might have provided a fuller discussion of these specific countries. The technical issue is simply "how are urban areas going to deal with the current and easily predictable numbers arriving every day?" Third, almost never discussed in a positive light in India, is the benefit to the recipient countries of migrants from elsewhere (read, Bangladesh). This would be much more controversial if it were ever discussed seriously. The least bit of consistency of arguments for the beneficial effects of peoples' movements would require us to honestly accept the symmetry that policies that would aid Indian citizens moving abroad applies to those coming into India for work.

 

On the 'brain drain': the HDR shows evidence that originating countries get many more benefits than just remittances. New ideas, new technologies, better perspective on the value of tradition and modernisation and other benefits of opening minds as well as opening markets. Would India's high-tech revolution have been possible without the intellectual interaction of Indian engineers with others in Silicon Valley and the two Cambridges? Some might say "sure, that's what the IITs were for". I say "bunk". Ideas grow when shared and India has contributed to this sharing in both directions. Financial flows helped, too. Also apparently in both the directions.

 

On internal migration, there are serious policy challenges for us to take to heart. Transport systems guide industrial development much more effectively than direct intervention could ever do. More difficult is the degree of planning needed to make sure that urban growth accommodates newcomers safely and hygienically.

 

Difficult, but essential for sustained growth of industry and business services. On this, India could take a few lessons from China. The HDR report gives examples of China's foresightedness and sensible planning. While China can get away with a lot of things that are not possible in India's democracy, there are many publicly defensible actions improving urban life that a true democracy can accomplish.

 

Finally, there is the hard case of allowing immigrants as well as demanding accommodation of India's emigrants from richer countries. As far as I can see, all the benefits that Europe and North America have received from immigration are available to India, too. Allowing free flow of people is efficient and moral. It applies here as much as anywhere else. On purely financial benefits, a major objection of rich countries to immigration is that poorer people strain their expensive and high quality public services.

 

The children of migrants go to better schools and get better healthcare at public expense. This has a surface plausibility in the case of rich countries but, as the report persuasively argues, while there might be a minor cost attributable to the first generation of immigrants, future generations more than pay for themselves. The initial cost is due to the expensive, high quality public services. Before any such argument could be conceivably plausible in India, we need to have reasonable services for our own people.

 

Until then, India should argue for an open world for immigration whenever it can. And accept that the argument is justifiable in all directions.

 

The author is Charles & Marie Robertson visiting professor of economic development, Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, Princeton University

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WILL A SUPER REGULATOR BE SUPERIOR?

KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN

 

A few weeks back, we had initiated our analysis of the Finance Ministry's proposal to have a super regulator for the financial services industry. In this second part, we will examine one key benefit derived from having a super regulator—the ability to respond to a financial system comprising financial conglomerates and products that span the banking, insurance and pensions sectors.

 

To understand this benefit, it is crucial to recognise that an effective financial regulatory structure consists of three essential components: (i) rules pertaining to business conduct that should serve to protect investors and promote efficient and transparent capital markets; (ii) prudential regulation that should ensure the safety and soundness of institutions; and (iii) an overarching focus on financial stability which translates into prudential oversight of the macro economy.

 

Each of these three components is brought into the limelight by the increasing interconnectedness across different segments of the financial markets. Over the last decade, many banks and financial institutions in India have transformed into financial conglomerates that are involved in banking as well as securities and insurance markets. Similarly, the financial products that have evolved have features that overlap across these markets. One such product is a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP), which combines the insurance and investment features together in one product. While mutual funds allege that ULIP's success emanates from insurance companies that have an unfair regulatory advantage, insurance companies deny any such advantage whatsoever.

Without taking sides about who is right in this instance, we should recognise the fact that such a dispute arises because this product straddles two markets that are regulated by different regulators. While apprehensions regarding competitive neutrality originate from the presence of such products and financial conglomerates, a more serious concern emerges from the risks engendered by such interrelatedness across market segments. Given the interconnectedness, the risk assumed by a financial conglomerate as a group may be higher than the sum total of risks assumed by its affiliates/subsidiaries. Far more importantly from a systemic perspective, connections between financial conglomerates considerably accentuate the systemic risk faced by the financial system.

 

Currently, regulatory supervision remains specialised to each market segment, which raises several concerns. First, as voiced in the report submitted by a recent Committee on Financial Sector Assessment, concerns remain with respect to regulators' ability to take a consolidated view and assess the overall risk a financial conglomerate is taking and, in turn, the systemic risk that the economy is exposed to. Second, the presence of financial conglomerates increases the importance of having a regulatory and supervisory framework that is consistent and free of gaps. Third, regulators need to respond on a conglomerate-wide basis should serious problems occur in any part of the conglomerate. While regulators attempt to make sure companies create firewalls between their different businesses, the effectiveness of such firewalls could be low in the event of financial problems.

 

To address these concerns, first, the supervisory bodies must have an effective system of information sharing with each other for each institution. Second, the supervisory bodies must develop a close working relationship that avoids turf wars and ensure that regulatory gaps are identified and closed. Third, for each institution, a clear agreement should be made that one supervisor takes the lead both in forming an overall risk assessment and forming a regulatory response should problems arise. Although the issues outlined above could be resolved by close cooperation of sectoral supervisors, an integrated supervisor may be in a much better position to address them. The received information may be more smoothly exchanged in one institution and more quickly and effectively utilised. By becoming the only contact point for all regulatory and supervisory issues, the additional burden associated with fragmented supervision may be minimised for the conglomerates. This can be done by minimising overlap and duplication in reporting and oversight, and simplifying the process of decision-making.

With respect to competitive neutrality, an integrated supervisor may be better equipped to ensure that similar financial products receive comparable regulatory treatment, levelling the playing field for all financial sector participants.

 

The author is an assistant professor of finance at Emory University, Atlanta, and a visiting scholar at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ALL THE BEST, BLUE

SUDIPTA DATTA


If Bollywood has to tide over its box-office blues and the lousy year it's been having, not least due to IPL, a two-month strike, swine flu and poor content, it will hope three of the big-budget films releasing this Friday have a fabulous opening. In the race are Akshay Kumar's Blue, the most expensive film made this year with whispers that the budget would have crossed Rs 100 crore but for the meltdown, Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor's Main Aur Mrs Khanna and Ajay Devgun's All the Best.

 

But with Bollywood in price correction mode, all big-budget films have struggled to get distributors, and with films having a poor run at the BO, producers are fretting about returns on investment. Take the case of Blue: producers Shree Ashtavinayak couldn't find a distributor till the last minute because of the high price and had to settle for individual distributors per territory, selling the north rights to PVR Pictures for Rs 10 crore. If Blue, which has a saleable star like Akshay Kumar in the lead, it will send shivers down everyone else waiting in the wings. There's Vipul Shah's London Dreams (Rs 50 crore), shot largely in the UK and France, Sujoy Ghosh's Aladin (Rs 45 crore)—both releases are on October 30 — and Rajkumar Hirani's 3 Idiots (Rs 75 crore) on December 25 and a host of small and medium releases in between. The reason why everyone's praying for a grand opening is because now more than ever producers and distributors are depending on box-office collections for most of their returns.

 

The rates for satellite and TV rights, music and DTH rights are still low due to the recession and the industry is hoping too many films releasing together don't take the audiences away. This year, barring New York, there hasn't been a single super hit film. Not surprisingly, analysts are already downsizing growth figures. Revenues are likely to be flat, if not lower, this year as opposed to last year when it grew 13.4% to Rs 10,000-odd crore. Will Blue and the other biggies manage to recover their money? The promos and music of all three releasing this Friday, barring underwater shots of Blue, haven't scorched either.

sudipta.datta@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

END LASHKAR'S IMPUNITY

 

It has been apparent from last December that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar-e-Taiba's parent organisation remains defiant and unfazed by the sanctions imposed upon it by the United Nations Security Council, with its leaders brushing aside the international condemnation, asserting that it would have little effect on their activities. It is becoming evident that the defiance was well-founded. On Monday, a Lahore court dismissed the First Information Reports filed relu ctantly by the Pakistani authorities against JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, holding that the organisation was legal and his pursuits were therefore legitimate. Just in August, the Pakistan government had told the National Assembly that the JuD was among the 25 organisations it had proscribed. It is now clear that the assertion was untrue. Global pressure had mounted on Pakistan to act against the JuD after the November carnage in Mumbai. On December 10, the UNSC imposed sanctions against the JuD, as well as four of its key leaders. Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, promised his country would comply by proscribing the JuD and freezing its assets. Nothing was done. Pakistan's investigation of the Mumbai November attack has been half-hearted. Key Lashkar operatives — among them Muzammil Bhat, the military commander who organised it — remain at large. More important, the group's training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Punjab are still functional.

 

Pakistan's reluctance to act against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as well as other anti-India jihadist groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad, appears made up of two distinct elements. First, the jihadist organisations reared by Pakistan's covert services to wage war against India have developed formidable patronage networks that include schools, seminaries, and hospitals. Few in Pakistan's strategic establishment see reason to take on organisations which many in Pakistan see as pious patriots. Secondly, Pakistan's military continues to believe that anti-India jihadist groups — unlike the Tehreek-e-Taliban or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — are assets, not enemies. Neither argument is, on point of fact, sustainable. The charitable operations of jihadist groups have an unacceptable price-tag: a climate of hate and violence that has driven Pakistan to the edge of the abyss. Nor has the jihadist campaign against India delivered security to Pakistan; quite the contrary, it has further endangered internal security. Islamabad clearly needs to engage in some serious introspection. Given the Lashkar's global reach, the world has an interest in pushing that process along — and in ensuring that the impunity the feared terrorist group enjoys in Pakistan comes to an early end.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A WELCOME MOVE

 

The lack of credible information makes property transactions difficult, hazardous, and at times traumatic for the buyers. To remove the information asymmetry, protect consumer interests, and make real estate transactions easier, the government has proposed to make registration of all real estate projects (meant for sale) mandatory. It has published a draft legislation — Model Real Estate (Regulation of Development) Act — that provides for a Regulatory Authority for the purpose. The registration process will require disclosure of information of a project and this in turn will be made accessible through the Authority's website. The developers may view the creation of one more authority and more procedures as time-consuming and cost-escalating. But when market fails to self-regulate and exploitative practices abound, the state has a responsibility to intervene and put in place a regulatory system. The urgent need for bringing about greater accountability in this area is highlighted by the fact that a recent survey of 82 real estate markets in the world placed India at as low a rank as 50 in respect of Tier 1 cities.

 

The draft law also represents a significant step forward in safeguarding the interests of buyers. Under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, buyers can seek redress for defective delivery of apartments, deficiency of services and such other lapses. But this relief is available only towards the end of the life cycle of the property transaction. Nor does it significantly enhance transparency in the real estate sector as a whole. On the other hand, the proposed legislation not only provides for a system of compensation and penalty where buyers are victims of unscrupulous builders. It also stipulates that the buyers be given property information packets early enough so that they could take an informed decision before the costs are incurred. In this, it has taken the cue from the practices adopted in countries like the United Kingdom and the emirate of Dubai. For the attempt to regulate the real estate market to succeed, however, a whole lot of related systems — land records management, property registration processes, and so on – have to be rationalised and improved. Ideally, a system of the kind in vogue in the United Kingdom — where the National House-Building Council, an independent body comprising consumer and industry representatives, offers a 10-year warranty to buyers of apartments in projects registered with it — is what one should aim at. Till such a system is evolved, state-initiated regulations are necessary to protect consumer interests.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

EXPAND AND RE-ORIENT NREGA

THE RECESSION IS A PROMISING MOMENT TO EXPAND NREGA WITH GREATER EMPHASIS ON BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL IN A BIG WAY.

P.S. APPU

 

Soon after assuming office, the first UPA government took an impressive step for the alleviation of rural poverty by launching the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. It was, indeed, a wise move to insulate the programme from the vicissitudes of electoral politics by enacting the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The implementation of the programme has been uneven. A large number of articles have appeared in the press pointing out the defects in impl ementation. On September 19, The Hindu published an article by Professor Jean Drèze, "Employment guarantee or slave labour?" It reveals a sorry state of affairs. Every effort should be made to remove the shortcomings and ensure better implementation. Despite all its failings, the NREGA has proved to be a boon to the rural poor. It is now necessary to expand and re-orient the NREGA. That is the theme of this article.

 

The NREGA evolved into its present shape by building on past experience in designing and executing schemes for providing employment. The new programme is an improvement on its predecessors. There is greater flexibility and the implementing agencies have freedom to start new works according to necessity. Though the main emphasis is on providing employment, the law also aims at the creation of durable productive assets. The present recession is a promising moment to expand the programme with greater emphasis on the second objective of building social capital in a big way.

 

Great scope for building social capital on a massive scale. More than half a century ago, Ragnar Nurkse, the distinguished Cambridge economist, had pointed out that capital starved over-populated countries could build social capital in a big way by employing the surplus labour on a variety of projects. He had listed schemes concerning irrigation, drainage, roads, railways, housing, etc. In his view, the only danger was the onset of inflation caused by the increased demand for food and other wage goods. Though the Indian planners were aware of Nurkse's prescription, they could not have implemented the idea in the pre-Green Revolution era of precarious food supply. Now we have ample stocks of food grains. And our industry will welcome the enhanced demand for consumer goods. We can, therefore, employ the surplus labour for building social capital in a big way without incurring any risk.

 

National Rural Development Board. There is considerable scope for absorbing vast quantities of human labour in well planned projects of soil and water conservation, rain water harvesting, irrigation and drainage works, flood control, watershed development, de-silting and maintenance of numerous water bodies, both manmade and natural, and an ambitious programme of afforestation aimed at restoring green cover throughout the country. In that enormous programme, governments' efforts should be supplemented by suitable NGOs, co-operative societies, joint stock companies and so on. The present ad hoc approach aimed at providing immediate employment should yield place to a systematic, well planned, well co-ordinated effort.

 

Such an ambitious programme would necessitate the setting up of a National Rural Development Board clothed with adequate statutory powers. It should be a lean organisation responsible for policy and overall guidance. Under the Board there should be a well staffed regional office for each major river basin to handle planning, formulation of projects, co-ordination between major watersheds, technical guidance and supervision, maintenance of the assets created and so on. The valley of a big river will naturally include a number of major watersheds. Every major watershed should have a small office for coordinating and supervising the work within that watershed. The Panchayati Raj set up should handle the work within the district. The expanded programme will generate employment on a large scale, both for skilled and unskilled hands. The afforestation project will absorb a large number of rural workers, many on a permanent basis.

 

Two basic suggestions for better implementation: The fatal weakness of NREGA is poor implementation. The main reasons for shoddy execution are the decline and degeneration of the administration at all levels, particularly at the block level, and the lukewarm, half-hearted approach to democratic decentralisation. As I am out of touch with field conditions, I am unable to present a comprehensive proposal for setting things right. However, as a Collector in North Bihar five decades ago I had closely observed the robust functioning of the block administration. In 1981-82, I had occasion to see the sorry state of the block set up in several States that I visited as Director of the National Academy. As far as the Panchayati Raj is concerned, I had the privilege of serving on the review committees set up by two States, Karnataka and Kerala. Relying on these slight exposures I have mustered the courage to make the following radical suggestions.

 

Induct Block Development Officers of a higher calibre. The responsibility of the BDO is so onerous that it should be held by an officer of a much higher calibre. I suggest that after the completion of their training, all IAS officers should serve as BDOs for at least three years. The implementation of this suggestion will provide only about 300 officers. The country would need some 6000 bright young men and women to work as BDOs.

 

I put forward three suggestions for getting the required number of officers. The annual recruitment to the All India and Central Services may be stepped up by 50 per cent. After six months' training, the new recruits should serve as BDOs for two years. Thereafter the required number may be allotted to the different services on the basis of their performance, aptitude and choice. The rest may continue as BDOs. A two-year stint as BDO will prove to be an invaluable experience even for those joining the foreign service.

 

The second suggestion is that short term contracts may be offered to the products of IITs, Regional Engineering Colleges, national law schools and so on. They could be posted as BDOs after being trained for six months. At the end of the contract some may be absorbed in government service and the others may move on to jobs of their choice elsewhere. Companies in the public and private sectors may be persuaded to offer them suitable employment giving credit for their service in the Block.

 

A third possibility is to depute young officers from the State services and public sector banks to work as BDOs for fixed periods after a short orientation course. The matter, of course, calls for a more thorough consideration.

 

The District Officer to be the Chief Executive of the District Panchayat. Thoroughgoing democratic decentralisation is the only way in which this sprawling country of great diversity can be governed efficiently. The Seventy Third Amendment to the Constitution providing for the creation of panchayats at the district, intermediate and village levels was a giant step forward. The State governments have, however, been reluctant to empower the panchayats. Their approach has been half-hearted and lukewarm. Even so, in the larger public interest, the States should be persuaded to delegate adequate powers to the panchayats.

 

After considerable introspection, I have come to the conclusion that the District Officer, variously designated as Collector, Collector and District Magistrate, or Deputy Commissioner, should be the Chief Executive of the district panchayat. This single step will go a long way in strengthening the Panchayati Raj. The District Officer should, of course, have under him at least four senior officers to handle work relating to law and order, land revenue, development and Panchayati Raj. Initially there will be many hitches and irritants. A sub-clause should be added in Article 243-C of the Constitution spelling out the powers of the Chairperson and the Chief Executive.

 

Such a clear demarcation of powers and responsibilities will hopefully reduce friction and promote mutual respect, understanding and cooperation between the two functionaries. Furthermore, hand-picked officers of 10-12 years of service should be appointed District Officers and the Chairmen should be seasoned public persons. I hope that in due course, the relationship between the Chairperson and the Chief Executive will settle down to resemble that between the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary. In the initial stages, however, the relationship could be like that between the non- executive chairman and the managing director of a large company. I know that this proposal is highly controversial. It will be opposed both by politicians and bureaucrats. However, in my considered view, this radical step will facilitate the better implementation of the re-oriented NREGA.

 

The massive effort in building social capital outlined in this essay could trigger higher productivity of land and

labour, diversification of agriculture and faster industrial growth. It would also mitigate the suffering inflicted by chronic drought and flash floods.

 

What I have presented is not an action plan or a project report for reorienting NREGA. It is only the rough outline of a fond vision I have been nursing for a long time. I shall be happy if this article provokes purposeful discussion.

 

(P.S. Appu is a former Chief Secretary of Bihar and former Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. He can be reached at: psappu@hotmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

CLIMATE CHANGE LESSONS FROM A NOBEL PRIZE WINNER

AVERTING THE TRAGEDY OF THE ATMOSPHERIC COMMONS WILL REQUIRE BINDING, EQUITABLE ARRANGEMENTS BETWEEN COUNTRIES, BIG AND SMALL. IF ONLY THIS YEAR'S PEACE PRIZE WINNER LISTENS TO THE ECONOMICS RECIPIENT.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

 

One of the winners of the Nobel prize for economics this year, Elinor Olstrom, is a pioneer in the study of the economics of the 'commons' — common property resources which, by virtue of being available to everyone free of cost, tend to be over-exploited. Thus, fish stocks may be over-harvested, meadows overgrazed, rivers polluted, the ozone layer depleted. All are examples of resources where 'market' mechanisms like 'price' do not operate to restrain consumption by individuals.

 

Given the focus of neoclassical economics on the optimal allocation of scarce resources, it is perhaps not surprising that the commons became a distinct field of study within the academic discipline only in the late 1960s, following Garret Hardin's seminal 1968 article in Science, 'The Tragedy of the Commons.'

 

Hardin argued that freedom in a commons brings ruin to all, whether one is speaking of simple herdsmen grazing cattle on a meadow or factories emitting effluents or smoke into a river or the skies. "The rational man finds that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the commons is less than the cost of purifying his wastes before releasing them," he wrote. "Since this is true for everyone, we are locked into a system of 'fouling our own nest,' so long as we behave only as independent, rational, free enterprisers."

 

The implications of Hardin's work were politically controversial. Anthropologists argued that the problem, though cast in the framework of the rural or pastoral economy, was actually a manifestation of modernity and industrial capitalism. That the tragedy was not of the 'commons' but of the 'moderns,' who did not respect traditionally evolved norms that allowed for the maintenance of harmony between human beings and the environment. However, economists and governments were quick to seize on the implications of Hardin's work; devising rules and institutions to limit the overconsumption of common resources became something of a cottage industry. Most argued, like Hardin, in favour of privatisation and the assignment of property rights; others made a case for nationalisation or the use of taxation. But most academic approaches to the commons dealt with the problem as a local one with a limited number of essentially homogeneous players.

 

Prof. Olstrom was perhaps the first economist to seek to harmonise this field of study and to emphasise that there was no "single, best way" of preventing the inevitability of the 'tragedy.' She also insisted on the study of commons problems where the number of actors is scaled up and their nature is heterogeneous. She demonstrated theoretically and empirically that privatisation or government regulation or management of common property resources often produced outcomes inferior to locally managed, self-regulated common property regimes. She then abstracted a set of design principles necessary for such arrangements to work.

 

But while compact communities and states have had reasonable success in finding solutions within their jurisdiction, the international community is not very well-equipped to deal with its single biggest resource problem today: the future of our atmospheric commons.

 

As Prof. Olstrom put it in a 2008 article co-authored with other economists, emitters have every incentive to overuse the atmospheric commons as a repository for the wastes associated with burning fossil fuels since the immediate cost to them of this factor of production is zero and the long-term, marginal cost is also less than what an emitter might have to spend by himself to use a different production technique that limits his greenhouse gas emissions. This is, of course, the classic Hardin problem. "But the present and future costs to society of this practice are enormous. Estimates of these costs vary. But there is compelling evidence that the eventual costs will exceed the cost of changing our current practices to limit emissions of greenhouse gases by a large margin."

 

NO CLEAR PREDICTIONS

With a national regulator, it is not difficult to devise rules of the road to deal with this problem, or even to enforce the 'national' share of an internationally agreed solution as conceived by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. But in a world marked by the unequal distribution of power, reaching an agreement internationally is proving difficult. "One of the problems we face when we move up to the global level is that unanimity is required for most international treaties," Prof. Olstrom wrote in a 2002 journal article. "While we have all sorts of chances to learn from experiments in local commons, we have only one globe and the risks of experimentation are much greater." In sum, she concluded rather pessimistically, "we do not have clear predictions for beating the tragedy of the commons at a global level."

 

When it comes to the atmospheric commons, the problem of regulation is compounded by the heterogeneity of the international system. The benefits and costs of either maintaining the 'business as usual' status quo or aggressively reducing GHG emissions are unevenly distributed across nations. By a quirk of geography and economics, those countries least responsible for climate change have the most to lose from it — tiny Maldives is all set to disappear as sea levels rise because of global warming — while the biggest culprits have the least incentive to do anything about it. A case in point being the United States, which refused to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol and even today is trying its best to avoid shouldering its historic responsibility to cut its GHG emissions.

 

"The bad news," Prof. Elstrom wrote, "is that when users cannot communicate, don't have trust, can't build it, and don't have rules, we have to expect the tragedy of the commons to occur." This is the fate which awaits the world if the forthcoming U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen ends without the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases agreeing to significant cuts in their emissions.

 

But if diplomats can engage in direct discussion and — crucially, have the autonomy to change some of their own national rules — "they may be able to organise and overcome the tragedy," Prof. Olstrom concluded. With seven weeks to go before Copenhagen, the signs are not looking good. The Bangkok climate change talks which ended on October 9 saw the developed countries advocating the U.S. model of watered down domestic targets rather than the kind of internationally binding GHG reduction targets embodied in the U.N. process so far. Without which the tragedy of the atmospheric commons will never be averted.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

COURT RULING OPENS A NEW FRONT AGAINST BERLUSCONI

CRACKS ARE BEGINNING TO APPEAR IN THE ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER'S CONSERVATIVE COALITION.

VAIJU NARAVANE

 

The Constitutional Court, Italy's highest judicial authority, struck down last week a law that granted four top representatives of the state — the Prime Minister, the President and the speakers of the National Assembly and Senate — immunity from prosecution while in office.

 

The law, which was written into the statute books with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's economic and legal interests in mind and passed in 2008 when his conservative coalition had a thumping majority in parliament, was used by the Italian Premier to avoid being charged on several counts of corruption, forgery and fraud.

 

But Mr. Berlusconi, who has been embroiled in sex scandals these past months, described the court's decision to strike down his immunity as "absurd" and said he and his government would "forge calmly ahead" in the face of this new crisis. Calling the trials "false, laughable, absurd," Mr. Berlusconi said: "I will show this to Italians by going on television, and I will defend myself in the courtroom and make my accusers look ridiculous and show everyone what stuff they are made of and what stuff I am made of."

 

The Constitutional Court was "politicised," Mr. Berlusconi said, attacking in the same breath Italy's respected President, Giorgio Napolitano, who, he said, was "biased" against his government. The ruling means that criminal trials against the premier for bribery, embezzlement and fraud will resume in the coming months.

 

For years, Mr. Berlusconi has used every trick in the legal book to fend off prosecution. But the Court's decision comes at a particularly delicate and difficult time for the septuagenarian prime minister. He is now particularly vulnerable because Italy's influential Catholic Church has expressed its displeasure at his alleged sexual shenanigans at a time when ambitious younger men from his own coalition are chafing at the bit to grab the mantle of power. The judges' decision opens a new front against the beleaguered Mr. Berlusconi.

 

Despite the brave face he has put on his recent political and marital troubles, scoffing at charges that he used the services of prostitutes as a cabal against him concocted by the media, a predominantly hostile, left-wing judiciary and opposition politicians, cracks are beginning to appear in his conservative coalition.

 

And the knives are being sharpened. Mr. Berlusconi's top ally, Gianfranco Fini, the co-founder of the prime minister's People of Liberty party criticised him for attacking the Constitutional Court and its ruling, underscoring a widening rift within the ruling coalition. But other allies expressed unqualified support for their leader since the ruling.

 

"The trials aren't going to be enough to force him to resign," said respected commentator Paolo Romani, "but his image has been unbelievably tarnished. Italians want a government that can seriously run the country, not a prime minister who spends all his time fighting court cases and fending off criticism and his allies may be coming to the same conclusion."

 

Stefano Folli, a political columnist for the financial daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said: "This is the most difficult day for Berlusconi since he entered political life. The government won't fall over this, but as prime minister he is weaker than he has ever been."

 

The Constitutional Court struck down the immunity-while-in-office for Italy's top four on the grounds that it violated a clause in the Constitution granting citizens equality under the law. It was a short, six-line ruling but one which has suddenly made the 73-year-old Prime Minister's economic future and political survival decidedly clouded.

 

Many Italians have applauded the court's decision. In successive opinion polls a majority of Italians have said they considered the law granting immunity "outrageous." By overturning the law, the Constitutional Court upheld the fundamental democratic principle that no one, however rich or powerful, can stand above the law, despite the immunity granted by a pliant parliament. "The fact that the opposition doesn't exist has given the courts the absolutely inappropriate role of opposition," Mr. Folli said.

 

It is unclear how the Court's decision will play out and if it will prevent Mr. Berlusconi from serving out the rest of his term. The court's decision revives three pending cases against Mr. Berlusconi. In one, a British lawyer has already been convicted of accepting $600,000 to give false testimony to shield Mr. Berlusconi in two corruption trials. In another, the prime minister — who is also one of Italy's wealthiest men — is accused of tax fraud in connection with the expansion of his private media empire. In the third and weakest case, he is accused of trying to bribe members of Parliament to join his ruling coalition.

 

Mr. Berlusconi has repeatedly accused Italy's judiciary of being left wing and therefore viscerally hostile to him. Late Wednesday, Mr. Berlusconi went on television to insist that he would serve out his mandate until 2013, calling the Constitutional Court "not an organ of guarantee, but a political organ" and once again trotting out his familiar accusations against the magistrates.

 

Unfortunately, there appear to be no truly competent and credible politicians in Italy today who could win a sizeable majority and steer the country towards economic reform and pull it out of a deep recession. The centre-left is both fractured and demoralised while Mr. Berlusconi's own coalition is rife with internal dissent.

 

Although still popular with his fellow citizens, Mr. Berlusconi's ratings have been on the decline. His popularity, which was as high as 62 per cent a year ago, fell to 47 per cent according to a survey published on September 16. But despite these setbacks he continues to remain Italy's most popular politician.

 

Other European nations are concerned over Mr. Berlusconi's buffoonery, its effect on Italy's image and Italy's poor economic performance. With Mr. Berlusconi's repeated gaffes, Italy is becoming a bit of an embarrassment to its EU partners. Italy's well-wishers are waiting impatiently for the day when Italians will wake from their prolonged love affair with a man most see as self-serving, amoral and corrupt. "When oh when will the scales fall from Italian eyes?" sighed writer Marc Lazar, a keen observer of Italian society.

 

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THE HINDU

INTERVIEWS

 'TOO EARLY TO SAY HOW SUSTAINED THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC TURNAROUND WILL BE'

INDIA MAY HAVE TO WATCH OUT FOR FURTHER DECLINE IN REMITTANCES FROM INDIANS WORKING ABROAD BECAUSE OF THE LAGGED IMPACT OF THE RECESSION, SAYSVINOD THOMAS.

P. VENUGOPAL

 

Vinod Thomas , Director-General and Senior Vice-President, Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank, spoke to The Hindu, during a recent visit to India, on why it was too early now to expect a quick and sustained turnaround of the global economy, despite signs of the recession having ended.

 

In this interview, he says that, with China, India and a few other emerging economies leading the recovery, changes are bound to come in their roles in the global economy and in institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As an economist and international development expert, he says that what India will have to watch out for in the year to come may be a further decline in remittances from Indians working abroad because of the lagged impact of the recession. He says that Kerala's initiatives to take care of those returning home jobless from a broad and provide conducive conditions for the flow of remittances are positive, but such initiatives have to be pushed further, not only by Kerala, but also the other States similarly affected by the crisis.

 

The World Bank has generally been more pessimistic than the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in reacting to this crisis, often downgrading its earlier growth forecasts. Should there be such a divergence in the approaches of the two Bretton Woods twins?

Of course, there can be differences in perception. However, if you look at it closely, there is no significant divergence in the assessment of the crisis and the recovery process; the direction indicated by both institutions is the same. The IMF has forecast three per cent growth for the global economy in 2010 and the World Bank a little less. There are also technical reasons for this difference. In its growth forecast, the IMF uses what is called purchasing power parity figures, whereas the World Bank uses the Atlas method. The combined share of the economies of India and China in the overall global economy is larger in the former case than in the latter. The IMF's method takes into consideration the lower cost of living in India and China, which pushes up the real income and thence the size of their economies. The World Bank's method relies on dollar exchange rates and not rates adjusted against the cost of living.

 

The IMF, in its latest update to the WEO (October 1), has said that the global economy is out of recession and that world output has turned positive. How do you see that from the World Bank's perspective?

Although the global economy is turning around at the moment, it is too early to say how quick and sustained the turnaround will be. The assessment is that the global economy will shrink by about one per cent in 2009, followed by a growth of little less than three per cent in 2010, driven mostly by China, India and some other emerging economies. China is expected to return to its pre-crisis growth rate of eight - nine per cent and India to six-plus per cent. The growth of industrial countries will remain low. Even with the signs of recovery, however, the unemployment situation continues to be serious. Unemployment reached nearly 10 per cent in the United States this month. The labour market is still not confident. And global poverty has increased by 90 million because of the crisis. So the overall global situation, which will impact India also, is still a matter of concern. And the banking crisis that had inflicted severe damage on the economies of the West needs time to evaporate. The loose regulatory regime that had brought in the banking crisis is being tightened everywhere, wiser by the experience. Also, with more regulations now, its ability to hit a quick turnaround too has been curtailed intentionally. The cleaning up of the old bad portfolios is bound to take time. Part of the reason for the present recovery trend is the increased government spending everywhere. The world economies combined have increased their fiscal deficits by five to six per cent — something unprecedented in history — to stimulate themselves out of the depth of the recession. This cannot go on. Because, increased expenses mean deficits and debts that you have to pay later. Last, but not the least, is the issue of consumer confidence. Consumers are wary; they would rather wait for some more time.

 

An important outcome of the G20 Summits, especially the last one at Pittsburgh, is the agreement to democratise the World Bank and the IMF. There will be a rebalancing of the quotas in the IMF to give India, China and others five per cent more voting rights. Do we see the emergence of a bigger picture in which developed countries cede their overwhelming influence over the two institutions? Do you see a Chinese or an Indian at the helm of IMF or World Bank in the foreseeable future?

Changes are happening. You know, India and China combined now account for 16 per cent of the world economy. China is now the second largest economy in the world and India, the fourth. The G20 in which they belong is now more influential than the G7, the club of the most developed. The rebalancing is bound to happen. But, with the rebalancing, new responsibilities too will come. Contributions will have to increase. The positions they take on issues such as global poverty, global warming and global trade will all have to evolve. The question of a bigger role for emerging economies should not make us lose sight of the need for greater representations for the poor countries too.

 

Migrants' (workers') remittances to India have been a major source of strength for India's balance of payments. According to the World Bank, remittances worldwide are likely to decline from $328 billion in 2008 to $304 billion in 2009. How significant is this reduction, which, in any case, is smaller than the decline in private capital flows?

A reduction in remittances can be very significant for India. Developing countries are affected in different ways by this crisis. It can be from decline in trade volumes, private capital flows, remittances, or all these. For instance, China is affected more by trade decline than a decline in private capital flows. I fear that there may be a lagged effect in the year to come, a further reduction in remittances, because many migrants who had lost jobs are somehow managing to keep the flow going, doing part-time jobs or something, waiting for the crisis to blow over. India's remittances in 2008 calendar year was $52 billion, which is 4.3 per cent of India's 2008 GDP of $1,218 billion. You see, there is a serious social angle too in the issue of remittances from migrant workers.

 

As you know, workers' remittances have benefited the economies of Kerala and a few other States. What steps should the recipient States take to bolster these remittances? The downturn in West Asia has caused job losses especially at the lower end.

Very true. Job losses at the lower end are a real problem. I feel that the recipient States and the country can put in mechanisms for smoother flow of workers' remittances from abroad. The governments should also probe ways to ensure productive investment opportunities for the use of the remittances. Both the money and the skills of the returnees should be used effectively. Kerala has made certain promising initiatives in these directions by announcing new schemes for the returnees to start self employment ventures and small and medium enterprises. Kerala's efforts to use financial instruments to attract remittances for financing profitable projects are also very promising. This is a direction along which Kerala, and also the other States facing the same problem, can go even further.

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

GAMES 2010: STOP DRIFT, TAKE CHARGE

 

It might have been more fruitful if the implied tongue-lashing administered by Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, to the Suresh Kalmadi-led organising committee now racing against the clock to put up even a passable show in October 2010, had come a year earlier. Perhaps then there might have been reason to be sanguine that arrangements will not suffer in quality. It is doubtful now if anyone who knows the working of the Indian system, and its dubious record in erecting and maintaining public infrastructure, can be a hundred per cent certain. At the end of a six-day review of the state of preparations for the forthcoming New Delhi Games, the CGF chief, in India along with delegates from 71 countries, did not fail to announce the setting up of a technical committee comprising international experts that will give monthly reports. "We can't afford any more slippage", Mr Fennell declared. How much nicer if the admonition had come from the highest levels within the country, and such an expert group constituted, after the CGF president addressed a letter to our Prime Minister about a month ago expressing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. In words that will sting for a long time, Mr Fennell told a New Delhi press conference: "When it was two years to go for the Delhi Games, I told the OC that time was not its friend. With one year to go, now I say that time is your enemy."

 

Mr Fennell has aptly said the CGF can "express its concerns and offer its advice, but it is the OC, along with the governments of India and Delhi, who have the responsibility of organising the Delhi 2010 Games". This is a call to arms for the Centre as well as the city government. In reality, it is India's prestige that is on the line, not that of the OC, whose lackadaisical attitude so far cannot inspire confidence. For protocol and technical reasons, the OC perhaps cannot be jettisoned at this stage. But it's time an effective way is found to take the day-to-day responsibility of making and supervising arrangements out of its hands. Perhaps a group of dedicated administrators, contractors, architects, multi-discipline engineers and other technical experts has to be rigged out of thin air and given a mandate from the highest levels to ensure that lost time is made up and India delivers the Delhi Games not only on schedule but to the satisfaction of India itself. The OC can be asked to provide the formal signatures. The defeatism of Union sports minister M.S. Gill just won't do. He has been reported as saying: "This is not Melbourne, this is not Glasgow. Delhi is a city of 15 million people... It has all the problems that great cities have..." While we break a sweat trying to reconfigure ourselves to deliver a product we can be proud of, we cannot fail to be unmindful of design and aesthetics. Shera, the Games mascot, which has passed muster with the OC, is not fit to be classified even as kitsch.

 

The bureaucracy, police and other administrators in charge of running Delhi's affairs can't even fix a drain, a manhole, a traffic signal. Any new ideas they have offered in recent years on roads, flyovers and traffic have been poorly functioning eyesores. The second-rung politicians who have grabbed plum positions on sports bodies have brought to the task at hand their slipshod culture, and loads of emphasis of venality, favouritism, factionalism, and fixing. Excellence can never be a byproduct, whatever the midgets may believe. Mr Fennell has done us a favour by reminding us of that.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

HOW ORISSA MOVED GANDHI

MURLIDHAR C. BHANDARE

 

Today, we are living in a world of human rights, where all human beings are born free and equal. We have this freedom because of the years of relentless struggle of our freedom fighters, who believed in human dignity and human values. Among them, Mahatma Gandhi stands out as the greatest human being of the last century. He guided India to its goals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity with absolute dignity. The Satyagraha he launched in South Africa to abolish Apartheid and the Non-Violence Movement he led in India to free the country from British rule has served in ridding our society from injustice and exploitation to quite an extent. Indian Independence signalled the collapse of colonial rule in the world and paved the way for the independence of several nations.

 

Between 1921 and 1946, Mahatma Gandhi visited Orissa eight times. These visits had an electrifying effect on the people, who took active part in the struggle against British rule. Students gave up their studies; professionals gave up lucrative careers and many courted arrest. Ordinary people displayed extraordinary courage and did not hesitate to risk their lives for freedom. Gandhi, for the first time, visited Orissa in 1921. Accompanied by Kasturba Gandhi, he arrived in Cuttack on Dola Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, the March 23, 1921. A huge crowd had gathered at the Cuttack railway station. People had positioned themselves almost everywhere — roadsides, treetops and building terraces — to have a glimpse of the Mahatma.

 

Mahatma Gandhi addressed the first meeting of the day at Kadam-i-Rasool, where topics such as the Khilafat Movement and Hindu-Muslim unity were discussed. In the afternoon, he addressed a meeting of women at Binod Bihari, where he exhorted women to give up wearing ornaments and donate the same to the cause of freedom struggle. It was learnt that women donated jewellery weighing nearly 60 to 70 tolas and worth a thousand rupees.

 

That evening, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a mammoth public meeting on the riverbed of the Kathjodi. Addressing the crowd, he said the reward for cooperation with the British during World War I was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Now non-cooperation was the only choice left. He called upon people to give up everything that was British. When he said that Western education was doing no good to Indians, a member from the audience questioned the stand taken by him. How could Mahatma Gandhi consider Western education harmful when he himself had received the same? No sooner did he finish his words that Gandhi replied that great men like Buddha, Chaitanya, Shankara, Kabir and Nanak were strangers to this Western education. It would have been much better if he had not been a product of this system.

 

Gandhi travelled to Bhadrak, Sakshigopal and Puri, where he also addressed people. Accompanied by Gopabandhu, he left for Berhampur on March 29, 1921. Gandhi's second visit to Orissa was brief. On the request of Madhusudan Das, Gandhi came to Cuttack on August 19, 1925, and visited Utkal Tannery. This time he visited a lepers' asylum in the afternoon and addressed a meeting in the Town Hall in the evening.

 

Mahatma Gandhi's fortnight long tour of Orissa for the propagation of khadi started on December 4, 1927. On December 18, he reached Cuttack. The whirlwind tour adversely affected his health and he rested in the house of Madhusudan Das. After he fully recovered, he left Cuttack on December 21 to attend the All-India Congress session at Madras.

 

In 1934, Gandhi began his celebrated padayatra with the mission of harijan upliftment and abolition of untouchability. He visited Orissa twice in this connection. He again visited Orissa on March 25, 1938. He was accompanied by Kasturba, Durgaben, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad, Acharya Krupalini, Mahadev Desai and many other leaders. The occasion was to attend the fourth annual conference of Gandhi Seva Sangha and the Utkal Khadi and Village Industry exhibition at Berboi, near Delang in Puri district.

 

On January 20, 1946, Gandhi passed through Orissa on his way from Calcutta to Madras. He made brief addresses at Cuttack and Berhampur. This turned out to be his last visit.

 

The people of Orissa loved Gandhi. They walked miles to get a glimpse of the Mahatma. Some even believed that he was an incarnation of God. A group of students pawned a friend's gold chain to pay for the bus tickets that would allow them to get a glimpse of the Mahatma.

 

Right from his first visit to Orissa, Gandhi had realised that the people of this part of the country were poor but large-hearted. He was deeply moved when in response to his appeal to contribute to the Tilak Swaraj Fund, hundreds of thousands of famine-stricken people of Puri contributed a paise or an anna. He once said, "The famine-stricken skeletons of men and women in Orissa haunt me in my waking hours and in my dreams. Whatever can be useful to those starving millions is beautiful to my mind. Let us give today first the vital things of life and all the graces and ornaments of life will follow".

 

Gandhi's message is even more relevant today than it was 60 years ago. Hunger and malnourishment still plague several parts of the world. Violence is spreading in different parts of the world, particularly through terrorism. Even in Orissa, violence is raising its ugly head through Maoism and Naxalism. Gandhi's message of non-violence and peace is, therefore, very relevant. There is no way to peace, peace is the way. Gandhi has shown us this way.

 

It was a great coincidence that Gandhi's ashes were preserved in Orissa for a long time. It was almost a forgotten chapter in history that an urn containing some ashes was kept in the Puri Raj Bhavan premises from February 12, 1948 to June 27, 1948, a fact which was highlighted during my first year in Orissa when the book on Raj Bhavan was drafted. From Puri, the ashes were brought to Cuttack and preserved in the Imperial Bank of India till finally these were handed over to his great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, in 1997 for immersion in the holy Ganges at Sangam on the Mahatma's 49th death anniversary.

 

A few days ago, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, said that if he had the choice to have dinner with anyone, it would be with Mahatma Gandhi. If Mr Obama's wish were to come true, he would have had to fly to Orissa to dine with Gandhi, probably in a dalit's humble hut.

 

Murlidhar C. Bhandare is governor of Orissa

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

RSS, HERE I COME

JAVED ANAND

 

Adarniya Sarsanghchalak Bhagwatji,Saadar Pranaam!

 

I am deeply moved by your humko bhi parkho Dussehra Day invite sent out to Muslims and Christians to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). So, the Sangh Parivar, here I come. Please treat this letter as my application for entry into the fold for your kind consideration. I understand from the media that all you want is for the likes of me to accept that "all Muslims in India were Hindus in the past... who have only changed their method of worship".

 

I hope I make it since I more than fulfil your benevolent requirement. For starters, I am not too strong on the worship front. Even otherwise, I have no difficulty in accepting the obvious — Hindu past — for I doubt if my forefathers could be Sikhs, Jains, or Buddhists. The former are easily discounted for they arrived too late on the scene. Jains? No way, they are not interested in Mughlai cuisine. As for Buddhists, I am unable to see what possible incentive there was for them to abandon their faith.

 

But converting from Hinduism is conceivable. I have been told since childhood that we are Siddiquis. That's big if you are talking hierarchy — being part of the extended parivar of none less than the closest companion of Prophet Mohammed and the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr. But this "Arabisation" drive, Bhagwatji, I suspect is quite like Sanskritisation — in search of respectability, status and imagination at work. It's quite likely that my forefathers were Hindu and "untouchable".

 

Imagine Islam's appeal to one who is constantly told he is too "impure" to be allowed entry inside a temple. Imagine the doors of a mosque being flung open to him with an invite — Come, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us. No hierarchy here, no caste, no class, no race: Sab ka maalik ek! Who says you are too impure to enter a holy space or hold a holy text? Here's the Quran, it's yours as much as anyone else's: Touch it, hold it, read it, kiss it, hug it, store it in your heart and mind.

 

Imagine, Bhagwatji, does this not sound like celestial music to outcastes such as my forefathers quite possibly were? But all this is in the past, no hurdle in the way of my intended gharvaapsi. You may not know it, but afflicted by fickleness of faith, the subcontinent's Muslim is forever being pulled in four different directions: dar-e-Habeeb, maikhana, butkhana, Kaaba. The sound of the sankh or the temple bell continues to mesmerise many a Muslim as much as the call of the muezzin. Nowhere is it more evident than in Urdu poetry, a treasure house which the parivar sadly disowns.

 

Here, for example, is poet Mir Taqi "Mir","Mir ke deen-o-mazhab ka, poonchte kya ho unne to kashka khaincha dair mein baitha kab ka tarq Islam kiya" ("What can I tell you about Mir's faith or belief a tilak on his forehead in a temple he resides, having abandoned Islam long ago").

 

Even more interesting is Mohammed Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who unfortunately started with "saare jahaan se achcha..." but ended up with the idea of Pakistan. Here he is, however, in conversation with shama:

 

"Yek been teri nazar sifat-e ashqaan-e raaz, meri nigaah maya-e ashob-e imtiyaaz kaabe mein butkade mein yaksaan teri ziya main imtiyaz dair-o-haram mein phansa hua".

 

(For you all truth seekers are alike I am accursed with a malady, seeking differences You shine in the Kaaba as you glow in idols' abodes I am trapped in my mosque-temple distinction).

 

(Noor, shama, diya: in all faiths remember, Light is among the attributes of the Divine).

 

No major problems, Bhagwatji, I'll come running to Hindutva's headquarters. My only problem is a little insecurity, that little voice which keeps telling me I am being naive, gullible and silly. It keeps jolting my memory, asking awkward questions. Perhaps you can help me with some answers.

 

I eagerly await your assurances.

Saadar.

Javed Anand is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

LET AIR FORCE GUN FOR NAXALS, QUICKLY

ANIL BHAT

 

A major issue that has emerged during the period of celebrations of the 77th anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF), beginning with the first interaction which the newly appointed Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik had with the media, is that of protection of air crew and aircraft against Naxalites targeting them from the ground.

 

With aid to civil power being a major role of the Indian Air Force during peace time, its fixed wing transport aircraft helicopters invariably remain at the forefront of tasks like flood and disaster relief, casualty evacuation, aerial survey, transporting Army, police or paramilitary military personnel, their senior officers and political leaders and officials for elections. Some of these tasks can be quite prolonged, involving flying many sorties stretching over at least a few weeks.

 

It was while undertaking the unenviable task of supporting the electoral process supervised by the Election Commission this year, for which two IL-76, four AN-32 transport aircraft, 25 medium-lift helicopters and four Chetak helicopters of the IAF were pressed into service, that some of them were fired at by Naxalites.

 

Helicopters drawn from 13 different IAF air bases across the country were provided to 14 states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

 

While flying over most areas for poll-related duties may seem routine, sorties over Naxal-affected regions for some pilots proved to be no less daunting than being in the battle zone. For Squadron Leader R. Dhobhal and Flying Officer K. Prakash, flying a Mi-17 helicopter on election duty, it was a close shave when Naxals opened fire at them.

 

The incident occurred on April 16, at Binagonda in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, bordering Chhattisgarh. Tasked with airlifting a polling party of five members and electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Mi-17 crew was airborne from nearby Aheri to pick up the election officials from Binagonda and drop them at Laheri, a mere five minutes flying time. "The additional superintendent of police, Laheri, Mr Jayakumar, and I were overseeing the loading of the men and EVMs when I heard the burst of fire through the din of the rotating rotors," said Squadron Leader Dhobhal, captain of the flight. and a veteran of two UN missions where he had honed his skills in dealing with such scenarios. "Getting away quickly for the safety of the crew, passengers and the aircraft was all that was on my mind. In less than 15 seconds we were clear of the helipad," he added.

 

A closer inspection on landing revealed a hole made by a 7.62 mm calibre bullet in the tail boom of the helicopter. The aircraft was repaired and safely ferried back to Nagpur. No major damage was done owing to the quick response of the vigilant crew, averting what could have resulted in a major mishap. It may be recalled that on November 14, 2008, the IAF lost an air crew member when Maoist rebels fired at their Mi-8 helicopter during a similar poll-related flying task at Pedia, in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

 

By the end of the last phase of elections on May 13, the IAF had altogether flown a total of 930 sorties over 780 hours for tasks that included airlifting 6,792 passengers, 137 tons of election material and 436 EVMs. In an unprecedented airlift effort undertaken by the IAF's transport fleet, two IL-76 and four AN-32 airlifted 3,234 central paramilitary forces alone from Imphal to Kalaikunda in three days, from April 26-28.

As in the past, and this time all the more so, the significant role of IAF helicopter pilots came in for some high praise and their contribution was acknowledged from various quarters, including those from the ministries of defence and home as well as the state governments. Mr N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner, just before his retirement on April 20, also appreciated the important contribution of the IAF in the conduct of the 2009 elections.

 

So far the IAF has been operating strictly on passive defensive measures only. These include using lightly armoured helicopters like MI-8s on relatively "safe" routes and timings. This needs very reliable real-time intelligence, which has been in short supply considering the rate of attrition of police and paramilitary personnel in anti-Naxal operations.

 

The need of the hour is to provide all aircraft operating in Naxal-threatened areas the means to protect their crew and craft. While the IAF has so far been fortunate not to lose any men or aircraft with the desperately offensive mood the Naxals are in now, and their lethal arsenal of sophisticated weapons, including mortars, the government may be well advised to consider even limited use of the IAF's small arms to neutralise confirmed Naxal concentrations and camps or structures.

 

But the government's policy on vital aspect of the protection of air crew and aircraft when they are fired at by "misguided elements" of our own country still hangs fire, pun intended. Defence minister A.K. Antony said last week the government would grant the Indian Air Force permission to fire back at Naxalites in self-defence once detailed procedures for the same are put in place.

 

In the interest of the protection of the IAF's assets and effective deterrent against Naxal insurgents-turned-terrorists, a decision should be made earliest.

 

Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

POTENT WEAPON

 

The Right to Information (RTI) is one of the most powerful tools of a successful contemporary democracy and it was a triumph for the people when this landmark act was passed by the UPA government four years ago.

 

Potentially, even with all the restrictions and the grey area over the Official Secrets Act and the usual bureaucratic obfuscations, a well-used RTI application can create panic and damage in the hearts and lives of the inefficient and corrupt.


Yet, a survey to mark four years of the RTI in India has seen that this is a weapon about which there is just not enough awareness. Only 13 per cent of the rural population and 33 per cent of the urban population are even aware of RTI.


What is revealed in this survey, commissioned by the Department of Personnel and Training, is not too edifying. RTI came about after a sustained effort by citizens and non-governmental organisations, in order to force government to disclose how and why it operates the way it does. If people are as yet ignorant about the existence of the act then this is a major disappointment.


RTI can be very useful and does not always have to be about major corruption scams and enormous irregularities. If you want to know why the promised water pipeline has not yet reached your neighbourhood, RTI is an effective way to discover where the blockages are and why there are obstacles along the way.

There are other problems as well. Those who used the RTI often were largely disappointed with the quality of response and the fact that they had to make several attempts to get the information out.


This is in spite of the fact that officers who delay have to pay a penalty from their salaries. RTI activists have been screaming themselves hoarse over this lack of cooperation, long before this survey as it happens. In many instances, the officers in charge even discourage people from filing applications.


But these can be considered inevitable teething problems. Governments, especially in India, are very reluctant to be held accountable or up to scrutiny and RTI does both. In spite of the best intentions of the information commissioners, many states delayed appointing information officers.


More shocking is this complete lack of awareness about the act. More effort is needed at both governmental and NGO level to increase public participation and make RTI a well-used and vigorous weapon. The positive side is that people have begun at least realising this.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

BENGAL BATTLE

 

By backing the efforts of West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to fight the growing Maoist presence in his state, prime minister Manmohan Singh and home minister P Chidambaram have amply demonstrated that on this vital issue there will be no compromises.


Political differences will not come in the way in the larger effort to combat these armed insurgents and if the affected state is not ruled by the  Congress, so be it. Bengal is among the more troubled states as far as Maoist violence is concerned and the Centre has agreed to back it in every possible way. That is welcome.


There is a sub-text to this alliance. Bhattacharjee has found the opportunity to score a point against his party's bete noire Mamata Banerjee, railway minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) president.


The Centre's backing cannot but annoy Banerjee whose single point agenda is to fight the CPM government. She loses no opportunity to hit out at them; to see Bhattacharjee cosying up to the Congress is a red rag to her. But Banerjee's fulminations against Bhattacharjee seem to be of no avail. He has just shrugged them off and further snubbed her for being 'juvenile'.


At a more serious level however both Banerjee and Bhattacharjee have to deal with the real and difficult issues confronting the state. The Maoist challenge is one of them. The TMC leader can criticise the chief minister for not being effective against the Maoist threat, but she cannot take this issue casually. She cannot be seen to be sympathising with the Left extremists in order to snub the Marxists. As it is there are fears that Maoist elements have infiltrated the agitations she has led against the CPM government.


The people of the state are looking for an alternative to the jaded CPM government but they would not appreciate populism of the TMC kind. More than that, there is need for a mature handling of the issues and threats that confront the state.


The Bhattacharjee-Banerjee sparring makes for good sound bytes but the substantive issues are not to be forgotten. The rising danger of Maoist groups is definitely one of them. There is a need to call off this pointless name calling.


The CPM needs to get on with the job at hand, now that it has the backing of the UPA government while Banerjee perhaps could do with some sane and sober counsel of her coalition elders so that she can allow this crucial job to proceed for the sake of West Bengal.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

CM SETS AN EXAMPLE

E RAGHAVAN 

 

This is no joke, but still very difficult to comprehend. The unfortunate farmer whose crop was washed away in the recent floods will not get anything over Rs12,000 as compensation. Anyone receiving this level of compensation would actually be among the more fortunate lot because those who did not grow grapes or other such horticultural crops would receive half or a quarter of this.

 

He may not be able to even clean up the lands, now filled with slush, with the Rs800 compensation that he will receive for every acre of dry land he owns, that too subject to a ceiling of Rs4,000. Or, can you imagine anyone rebuilding a completely damaged house, a pucca house at that, with just Rs35,000?

 

That is the level of compensation that those ravaged by the recent deluge in northern Karnataka will receive, because the state has decided to stick to the norms of the calamity relief fund; a very archaic norm that disregards ground reality. That would mean an outgo of Rs800 crore on account of cash compensation for crop losses if you were to treat all crop that is lost in about 55 lakh acres, as crop on irrigated land, or much less probably Rs600 crore, if the assessment is based on correct classification of land.

 

Forget the big numbers; what do you expect a farmer, who receives about Rs4,000 as relief, to do other than commit hara-kiri. This is the stark reality of the state's mindset and the limits to which it can go, no matter how often its leaders walk around with hats in hand to raise money for the distressed. The joke is as cruel as it can be.

 

None of the plans announced by the chief minister over the last few days suggests anything that is long lasting except building permanent houses for those affected. While a number of institutions have promised money specifically for this purpose, the road map the state has for this is still not clear. If loss of houses is to be compensated, then what happens to the plan to build new houses and how will the beneficiary be chosen? Will those who receive compensation become ineligible?

 

Many of the affected, for instance, have indicated a reluctance to move out of their current moorings, and would prefer to live there because of proximity to the land they own or work on. The government, on the other hand, wants to shift them to safer zones. But that would create for the flood victims other kinds of problems and has the potential to become an emotional issue at some point. These are issues that need a lot more than sympathy and concern.

 

There are many other issues that still need immediate attention. Food supply, for instance, seems to be inadequate if you go by reports from various districts. Schooling, shelter, even temporary shelter, roads, broken bridges and culverts are all crying for immediate attention. These would require more than a mere diktat that government servants should work for more hours.

 

This is also a wonderful opportunity for the establishment to settle an issue that has been bothersome for a long while. Many leaders from northern Karnataka have often complained of discrimination between the northern and southern parts of the state by successive regimes.

 

That is not true, because no regime has deliberately practised such discrimination and some, in fact, have bent backwards to accommodate the needs of the northern parts more than the rest of the state. But the perception that the north, which is relatively backward, is neglected, remains.

The kind of public response the state has received towards the plight of people in the northern districts is quite overwhelming, and should settle the issue at one level in some measure. Public contributions for relief operations have poured in so extensively, that leaders from north Karnataka can no longer complain of an emotional disconnect. What remains is providing better infrastructure and raising the human development index to acceptable levels. That is always a bit of a tall order, given the backwardness of the region for historical reasons.

 

The stoicism with which people in those parts have borne the brunt of the calamity is truly remarkable. Reporters who've travelled to the affected areas, where people waited for up to a week for some semblance of relief have brought back stories of how they are still patient and hopeful. They deserve the level of commitment the state government has so far displayed.

 

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DNA

TOUGH CHOICES

 PRAKASH SINGH 

 

The Naxal movement in the country seems to be spinning out of control.  The Union home minister admitted recently that various Naxal groups have pockets of influence in 223 districts in 20 states across the country.


Violence perpetrated by the Naxals has been at a high pitch. The year 2008 witnessed a total of 1591 incidents of Naxal violence resulting in the death of 721 persons.  This year, till the end of August, there have already been 1405 incidents resulting in 580 annihilations.  


The casualties among the security forces personnel have also been quite heavy; 231 lives were lost in 2008 while 270 security forces personnel have been killed this year so far.  


The beheading of Jharkhand special branch inspector, Francis Indwar was surprising as well as shocking — surprising because Naxals had never indulged in this kind of modus operandi against policemen in the past and shocking for its barbarity. 


In the late 1960s, when Girijan insurgency was at a peak in Srikakulam, there were instances of landlords being killed and beheaded. However, such a treatment was never meted out to any policeman.  Indwar's was the first instance of its kind.


A police informer was beheaded in Gadchiroli also.  It is not clear if these brutal incidents have the approval of Naxal leadership or are being carried out by local activists.  In any case, one thing is clear — that at least a section of the Naxals have developed criminal traits comparable to the tactics of the Taliban. 


The Naxal ideology seems to have gone haywire. The Naxals claim to be champions of the poor, and yet more than 80 per cent of the people being killed by them belong to these very sections. They pretend to be great protectors of the tribals, but they decapitated Francis Indwar, a tribal, because government was holding on to Ghandy, Yadav and Mahato, all non-tribals.  


The trajectory of Naxal violence has left the government with no option but to undertake comprehensive police operations against them. Unfortunately, certain sections, in their keenness to sensationalise the developments, are painting the government response in gory colours. 


The proposed action is being described as "war" on the Naxals while some say that it is the beginning of a "civil war" in the country.  There is no question of a war being waged. 


The point is that no government worth the name can remain a mute spectator to its authority and writ over a territorial area being challenged.  It has to take action.  Besides, how can you tolerate a group which is attacking police stations, ambushing patrols, extorting money, blowing up schools, disrupting the construction of roads, demolishing communication towers?   This is not two groups of civilian population fighting each other. 


This is a confrontation between the forces of law and order and armed Naxal dalams seeking to bring about a "democratic revolution", the meaning or implications of which they do not comprehend.  


This is, however, not to absolve the government of its blame — its inefficiency, incompetence, corruption, and failure to alleviate poverty, provide gainful employment and minimise the alienation of land from the tribals. Is it not a sad commentary on our planning process that, as admitted by the Planning Commission in the Eleventh Five Year Plan document, "60 years after Independence, over a quarter of our population still remains poor"?  Is it not regrettable that the progress on land reforms has been "dismal"?  Is it not a matter of shame that, as observed by an expert group, the tribals of the country are feeling "totally exhausted, impoverished, and traumatised"?

Can the government deny that we have the worst bureaucracy in Asia and a corrupt police force which does not enjoy the confidence of the people? There is talk of reform and we have valuable reports of the Administrative Reforms Commission, but is anyone bothered?  The Supreme Court issued comprehensive directions on police reforms, but the majority of states continue to drag their feet in the matter of implementation. 


What is worse, the delinquent states think they can get away with their defiance.  No wonder then that the aam aadmi does not get a fair deal from either a callous bureaucracy or an insensitive police. A significant section of the population gets alienated in the process and then, in the absence of any other alternative, gravitates to the Naxals, who welcome them with promises of social equality and economic justice.  


Poor governance is at the root of the naxal problem. And the government is entirely to blame for this.  There is adequate justification for the planned police offensive against the Naxals. 


However, there is no justification for the socio-economic malaise which still afflicts the country.  If these factors — of poverty, land reforms, unemployment, corruption and alienation of tribals — are not addressed, police action would be a temporary palliative only.


The writer was a member of the Planning Commission's Expert Group to study the 'Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas'

 

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DNA

DOLLAR BEARS ARE MISLEADING THE WORLD

VENKATESAN VEMBU 

 

Last week, the global currency markets were rattled by the detonation of what some analysts saw as a monetary nuclear bomb of cosmic proportions.


A report in a British newspaper claimed sensationally that Gulf oil-producing states were in secret talks with China, Russia, Japan and France to end the pricing of oil in US dollars and move to a basket of currencies. 

Such a move, which would tie in with long-nursed concerns about a weakening US dollar and the pile-up of excessive US government debt, would (if confirmed as true) signal the beginning of the end of the dollar's status as the preferred currency of global trade (or the global 'reserve currency').


The report was denied by all the principal players, but given these uncertain times, it sounded plausible to many, and the dollar fell in response. Countless other doomsday scenarios for the dollar abound, and not a day passes without some over-the-top hyperbolic pronouncement by 'dollar bears' about the 'coming collapse of the dollar'.

The perception that even the US administration, skating on thin ice economically and politically, seems to favour a weak dollar to rebalance its economy has amplified the bears' growls. Yet, the conspiracy theories about the imminent erosion of the dollar's status as reserve currency and the emerging alternatives are wide off the mark and low on economic and realpolitik wisdom.


'Reserve currencies' do not come about as a result of political negotiation among a few players, in the way the British newspaper report implied; they come about organically over years, perhaps decades, on the strength and financial depth of the underlying economy, the convenience of using that currency, and the network effect of many others using it. 


One economist likens it to using the Windows operating system for your computer; sure, it's expensive and has bugs, and sure there are freeware alternatives, but it's more convenient to use Windows because 'everyone else is using it'. And like Windows, reserve currencies enjoy an 'incumbency advantage': unless a new currency can demonstrate that is offers vastly superior benefits, it cannot dislodge the entrenched one. 


The choice of a reserve currency also comes with an implicit bargain: the underlying economy has to run trade deficits and current account deficits to provide liquidity to the rest of the world.


It must also open itself up to the risk of seeing hostile governments or traders short-sell your currency for political or economic reasons, as is happening with the dollar today. Not everyone wants that responsibility and the headache: just ask China, which is clamouring the loudest for a change from the dollar standard. 


Most of the 'dollar bear' growls you hear today are motivated by power politics or profits. In China's case, its concerns over the dollar have forced US policymakers to tone down their rhetoric on China's currency manipulation and its human rights record. 


Similarly, the most extreme 'death to the dollar' chants come from 'bullion bulls' who expect to gain from higher gold prices when the dollar weakens. Every uptick in the price of gold in US dollars is celebrated, despite the fact that against other currencies like the Australian dollar, gold prices have actually fallen over the past six months.

Even in India, it's true that gold prices have appreciated about 45 per cent  since their recent low in October 2008. But over the same period, the Sensex has returned 70 per cent, which puts the 'gold rally' in perspective.


All this is not to say the dollar won't weaken in the short term; it will. And over time, as other economic powers rise and US' share of the global economy shrinks, other reserve currencies could organically emerge.


But the only ones who are profiting from short-term volatility driven by market hysteria of a 'dollar collapse' are dollar bears and bullion bulls who are looking to make jackasses of us others.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WITH AGNI AND PRITHVI

PAK NUCLEAR CHALLENGE HAS TO BE MET

 

THE successful launch of two advanced versions of the Prithvi-II nuclear-capable missiles on Monday with a strike range of 350 kms marks another achievement for scientists. The two missiles hit their respective targets with clockwork precision. This, though heartening, is only a small step in gaining parity with the recalcitrant Pakistan which, taking advantage of clandestine import of nuclear missile technology from China and North Korea is being seen as having stolen a march over India in recent years in this field. Evidently, the Nuclear Command Authority set up in 2003 with the Prime Minister and the tri-service Strategic Forces Command to ensure proper command and control structures, has fulfilled a long-felt need for a unified strategic initiatives structure. With the 700-km Agni-I and 2,000-km-plus Agni-II ballistic missiles still to be inducted into the armed forces, the advanced version of Prithvi is currently the mainstay of SFC and consequently, its progress is vital to India's missile programme.

 

Pakistan reportedly possesses between 30 and 70 nuclear warheads, as well as short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. In addition, it is currently developing nuclear-capable Ghauri-3 intermediate-range missiles, which are designed for long-range strikes against civilian and military targets deep inside India. Recently, the US had accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets in India. It has also emerged time and again that Pakistan has been a 'rogue state' trading nuclear technology with states like North Korea, Libya, Iran and China. In the circumstances, it is imperative that the world takes notice of nuclear proliferation by Pakistan and the US stops looking the other way with Pakistan pursuing its designs.

However, India can ill afford to leave its flanks uncovered while placing undue reliance on other nations. Work on the Agni programme needs to be speeded up alongside the development of Prithvi missiles so that we are duly prepared for any adventurism by Pakistan with China's overt or covert encouragement.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HARYANA DOES BETTER

BUT MAHARASHTRA VOTERS REMAIN INDIFFERENT

 

Tuesday's elections in Haryana, Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh were by and large peaceful. Except the continued Naxalite disturbances in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district and stray incidents in Ambala City, Kaithal and Meham in Haryana, elections in the three states passed off peacefully, reflecting once again the people's maturity. According to tentative figures, Haryana, which will elect 90 MLAs, recorded nearly 65 per cent of polling. One has to wait for the final figure to examine whether Tuesday's turnout has surpassed the 67.9 per cent polling in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and 71.9 per cent in the 2005 Assembly polls. Arunachal Pradesh has registered a record 72 per cent polling.

 

The voter turnout in Maharashtra, which will elect 288 representatives, was disappointing. It was over 45 per cent — not a healthy sign for a vibrant and enlightened democracy. The turnout in Mumbai continues to be poor. The Mumbaikars are indifferent though Mumbai is said to be the progressive and modern metropolis, apart from being India's commercial capital. In other cities such as Nagpur, Nashik, Nanded and Aurangabad, polling was poor. Encouragingly, in Gadchiroli, despite the Naxalite threat, people turned up to vote.

 

Poor turnout owing to the voters' apathy is not a new phenomenon in the country. However, disturbingly, this trend is spreading to more and more states in recent times. The Mumbai voter is as usual apathetic showing no sign of improvement in the turnout this time. In the last Lok Sabha elections, it was only 41 per cent. The onus for this squarely lies more on the urban rather than on the rural voters. They seem to have abdicated their democratic duty. After 26/11, they came to the streets and made a hue and cry about the need to teach a lesson to the politicians for their failure to provide security to the people. However, when it is election time, very few turn up to cast vote. For the success of democracy, people ought to exercise their franchise in large numbers and they should not fritter away their right to do so.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

UNDER THE SCANNER

CHANDIGARH NEEDS A CHIEF COMMISSIONER

 

THE Tribune had highlighted many glaring anomalies in the allotment of land to certain IT companies at the Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park. These have now been validated by the audit report on the Chandigarh Administration prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs. It has uncovered glaring inconsistencies and given instances of undue favours to certain IT companies. While farmers were paid a low price for their land, rules were bent to favour IT majors. All this underlines the sad fact that under the present system of having the Punjab Governor as Chief Administrator of the Union Territory, the administration has become unaccountable and inaccessible. In short, the administration has been malfunctioning in the absence of proper checks and balances. Such a muddle would be bad in any part of the country. It is particularly unfortunate in a small union territory, not bigger than that of a sub-tehsil.

 

The controversial IT project is only one instance of the disconnect between the public and the administration. The mismanagement strengthens the case for revival of the post of Chief Commissioner. It is imperative that the administration should be headed by a person directly in charge of the bureaucracy. Only then can the grievances of the public be addressed in an effective and timely manner.

 

The Chief Administrator system was in place till the 1980s. The Punjab Governor was made Chief Administrator only to ensure better coordination between the police forces and the administrations of Punjab and Chandigarh during the terrorism days. Now that terrorism is no longer there, there is no justification for persisting with this odious legacy, which has had several negative side-effects. The open confrontation between the Governor designated as UT Administrator and his Advisor was more than unseemly. A Chief Commissioner would not only be able to provide hands-on administration, his actions would also be open to necessary scrutiny. The perceived constitutional protection that the Administrator has tried to invoke in his capacity as Governor has led to a lack of transparency and flawed decisions.


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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE POKHRAN BLAST

LET'S NOT BELITTLE OUR SCIENTISTS' ACHIEVEMENTS

BY S.K. SHARMA

 

Controversies in science are as old as science itself. This is due to unending quest of scientists to unravel the mysteries till their solution is universally accepted. Scientific literature is full of controversies. As a result, there are genuine differences of opinion, professional rivalries, religious dogmas or political compulsions. However, truth has always prevailed.

 

Surprisingly, Mr Santhanam, who had hailed the nuclear triumph at the first press conference held after the nuclear tests in 1998, has suddenly questioned their validity after 11 years. In the process, he is undermining India's indigenous efforts to design cutting edge advanced nuclear weapons in contrast to our neighbors, who have either borrowed nuclear technologies from their strategic partners like China or used covert operation to steal nuclear technology from western countries.

 

The only partial failure acknowledged after tests was the improper sealing of the tunnels, a task supervised by Mr Santhanam, as the team leader of Site and tunnel preparation task during nuclear tests. The leakage from the improper sealed tunnels can result in improper formation of the cavity, an evidence put forward by him to prove the partial failure of hydrogen bomb test itself.

 

In the process, he is undermining the stupendous efforts of by the Thermonuclear weapon development team lead by Dr Satinder Sikka and project team led by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Dr R. Chidambaram and Anil Kakodkar. They had made the country proud by exploding the bombs within a month of the green signal by the political leadership. The urgency to test nuclear weapons was triggered by the testing of nuclear delivery missile Ghauri by Pakistan on April 6, 1998 and declaration by Dr Qadar Khan, international nuclear proliferation czar and head of Pakistan's nuclear weapon programme, on April 15.

 

In all five tests were conducted in two groups with great care and preparation to validate the future road map of India's nuclear deterrent, based on indigenous resources in raw material, hardware and software. Three tests were conducted on May 11, 1998 and two on May 13, 1998. The first group of nuclear tests named Shakti I, II, III consisted of two stage thermonuclear device of 45 kilotons (fusion hydrogen bomb), pure fission tactical bomb/missile war head of 15 kilotons and a fission device of 0.3 kilotons for use as fusion booster.

 

The 0.3 kiloton device was an experiment to test boosted fission device, which could use reactor grade Plutonium. This test was designed to prove India's expertise in controlling and damping a nuclear explosion to achieve a low (sub-kiloton) yield and demonstrate ability to produce advanced complex designs of miniature nuclear weapons. Such devices could be used as a tactical weapon in different theaters of war. This test demonstrated the ability to use lower grade plutonium from India's large number of KANDU power reactors plutonium stockpile and reactors not covered under nuclear deal. Thus, delinking the Indian strategic programme from research reactors at BARC for producing weapon grade plutonium.

 

These successful tests gave the Government of India the confidence to sign the Indo-US nuclear deal and agreeing to phase out research reactor at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. This test coupled with 15 kiloton device test appears to have validated the computer model for upscaling the weapons up to 200 kilotons, which is extremely vital for a potent nuclear deterrent.

 

In contrast to hydrogen bombs designed by other countries, where first stage is an atomic bomb, the first stage of Indian controversy similar to one raised by Santhanam was also raised in 1999, when some international scientists predicted low yields of Indian nuclear tests. Their inference was based on seismic measurements of body wave magnitude, a method frequently used to predict the yields of nuclear tests.

 

However, subsequent analysis by other scientists showed that results by this method are dependent upon the site geology and calibration accuracy and a number of other uncertainties. As a result, calculated yield can vary over a factor of at least six, even when there are no unusual compiling involved.

 

In the case of Indian tests, it was observed that the complete signature of surface waves did not propagate to the international seismic station in Nilore Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan due to a seismic barrier (Himalayan fault) between Indian plate and these international seismic stations.

 

In addition, three nuclear tests were conducted on May 11 simultaneously in tunnels which were separated from each other by a distance of only 1 km. This may have resulted in interference of waves from different explosions. Three nuclear tests on May 11 were conducted simultaneously in the tunnels which were separated from each other by a distance of only 1 km. This may have resulted in interference of waves from different explosions and may be responsible for prediction of low yields.

 

In a peer reviewed paper, Dr Sikka, Dr Anil Kakodkar, Dr Chidambaram and others scientists at BARC, have justified the Indian claim based on regional waves data and accounting for destructive interference in seismic waves caused by simultaneous explosions, which has not been rebutted scientifically as yet. Subsequently, international scientists admitted that the combined yield of 50-55 kilotons, as claimed by Indian scientists, is possible.

 

Another analysis method used to predict the yield is based on the comparison of surface topography after the test with that of earlier tests. These tests depend on geological characteristics of the site and the depth at which explosions are carried out. Mr Santhanam is questioning the success of the fusion test based on this evidence.

 

Improper sealing of tunnels and depth of the charge interferes with the cavity formation. A detailed analysis of the crater carried out by Dr Sublette, taking in to account all the parameters, also supported the Indian claims. The Federation of American Scientist (FAS), a prestigious independent think-tank, has also predicted yields closure to Indian scientists.

 

Some analysts claim that deliberately undermining the Indian tests was a ploy to get more information regarding design of Indian weapons, as no nuclear weapon state has given information on their tests. Surprisingly, Mr Santhanam, an old RAW official who had played an important role in uncovering Pakistan nuclear programme, could fall into this trap by asking peer review of the most sensitive data on our nuclear devices design.

 

Creditably, Pokhran II nuclear tests were not routine explosions but technological marvels because the five tests evaluated the performance of critical bomb components and validated the simulation computer model and a number of advanced nuclear weapon design concept for both fission and fusion bombs, for which over 50 tests would have been required in regular practice. That's why, the planned sixth test was not conducted and the government was informed that no future tests are required.

 

Unnecessary controversy has undermined the spectacular achievements of our dedicated scientists who have given India the capabilities of a potent deterrent by developing the cutting edge technology to exponentially increase the number of weapons using reactor grade plutonium. These tests also validated technology and simulation model techniques to produce miniature tactical weapons as per threat perception from close quarters.

 

Use of primary boosted fission primary for fusion device is another feather in the cap of our scientists. Successful experiments during the tests to control the yield will help India develop different sizes of hydrogen bombs to suit various missiles delivery systems and targets. Validation of computer simulation for design of fusion and fission weapon system has put us at par with the most advanced nuclear weapon countries.

 

We should be proud of the fact that Indian nuclear scientists have created simulation design capabilities using local know-how and India made super computer Param because the United States and other countries had denied the export of their super computer to India to thwart its simulation work on design of nuclear devices. These days most nuclear weapon countries refine their bomb technology through computer simulations.

 

The writer is Professor Emeritus, Panjab University, Chandigarh

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

HOCKEY AT LAHORE

BY V.K. KAPOOR

 

I was deputed by the MHA to accompany the Indian hockey team to Lahore for the World Cup in 1990. The security concerns were high.

 

We reached Lahore by a PIA flight. From the tarmac, we were driven straight to the hotel, where we were to stay for 15 days. The officer in charge told me that it was a "commando operation" as he handed us our passports. Normal immigration formalities were waived.

 

Next day, I met DIG, Lahore, and expressed my security concerns asking for a foolproof security for the team. The formal atmosphere melted once we started talking in Punjabi. He told me not to worry.

 

In subsequent meetings we talked about the dislocation and pain of partition. He told me that his mother was from Amritsar. I told him my wife was from Sialkot. We both laughed. On personal level I found them very warm and hospitable.

 

The day the Indian team was to play, the galleries were packed. The moment the play started, the people started performing "Siapa" by beating their breasts. They were shouting slogans insulting to Indians. It was a hatred as pure as the hatred of one animal for another, free of subtlety and treachery.

 

Young school children, sitting next to the VIP galleries, too did the same.

 

In old walled city, I found some interesting posters from the recently held elections. Mian Nawaz Sharif was the Prime Minister. A poster targeted Benazir Bhutto. Benazir posters targeted Sharif.

 

I found the system feudal, ethnic and tribal. Aristocrats and big landlords ruled the country. At a reception by Gen Tikka Khan, the Governor of Punjab, I was sitting next to a former minister. There was a lot of nostalgia and the conversation was in Punjabi. I asked him, how he kept himself busy.

 

He replied casually "Kujh zamina ne" (I have some lands). "How much" I asked. "Panj, Chee, railway station lagde ne". There are five six railway stations touching my lands.

 

At the reception by Mayor of Lahore, he talked about Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiat. He was very bitter about partition and said it was all 'Siasat' (Politics). Had India remained together, the Prime Minister would have been from Punjab. Now your PMs always came from UP. He said the "Quaid" (Mr Jinnah) became disillusioned with the machinations of 'UP wallahs'. As we were getting up, a scholarly, looking man summed up the situation with a Urdu couplet:

 

Halat Se Larna, Mushkil Tha, Halat Se Rishta Jod Liya,

 

Jis Raat Ki Koi Subhah Nahin, Us Raat Se Rishta Jod Liya.

 

Many years later, after the final meeting with the Pakistani delegation on the Delhi-Lahore bus, I told a delegate that the bus will qualitatively improve Indo-Pak relations. He said, "Insha Allah" and recited a couplet:

 

Mumkin Nahin Halat Ki Guthi Suljha Saken

Allah-Danish Ne, Bahut Soch Ke Uljhai Hai.

 

After sometime, Kargil happened, and the bus was withdrawn. I admired the main insight in the Indo-Pak affairs.

 

Jaswant Singh's book has revived the ghosts of Pakistan and partition. Many a times the decisions of few affect the destiny of millions and change the boundaries of countries. The pain and anguish persist.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PUNJAB'S INDUSTRIAL POLICY

IMPLEMENTATION IS THE KEY

BY UPINDER SAWHNEY

 

THE 2009 industrial policy of Punjab has come long after it was discussed and promised by the Government of Punjab. It seems that either it has been announced to meet a compulsion of coalition politics or in response to pressure from various industrial bodies in the state.

 

Punjab has a separate document for every provision made for facilitating industrial development in the state in the new policy. The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board is the nodal agency for public private partnerships.

 

Punjab Information Technology Policy, 2001, is available for boosting the IT sector in the state. There is Tourism Policy 2003, Special Economic Zones Policy, 2005, and, to top it all, there exists the Punjab Industrial Facilitation Act, 2005.

 

Therefore, what Punjab needed was not a new policy for facilitating industrialisation but a serious effort towards implementing the earlier policies in letter and spirit.

 

It is a pity that to carry out its commitments made to various sections of society, a Punjab Social Development and Governance Reforms Commission has been set up to improve governance and the delivery system in the state. This fact has been reiterated in the industrial policy, thus admitting that governance is not up to the mark and hence a need for such a commission.

 

A lot of emphasis has been laid on constituting boards, core groups and committees for the implementation of certain aspects of the policy. Also, it is an open-ended document, spelling out no time-frame for the completion of infrastructure projects, viz., airports, specialised agri-infrastructure etc.

 

In so far as the ease of doing business is concerned, Udyog Sahayak and a single window clearance system have been in place for many years, but the ground reality is very different. The bureaucratic red tape has deterred both domestic and foreign investors from investing in Punjab.

 

No specific measures have been suggested for attracting foreign direct investment in the state. The idea of reviving the Goindwal industrial estate makes one wonder what had prevented the government from working on its revival since the end of militancy in the state.

 

The uninterrupted availability of power is a pre-requisite to development in Punjab — both agricultural and industrial. The mention of power sector reforms undermines the credibility of the document as it is very well known that the government has not kept its commitment on this front despite pressure from the central government and the enactment of legislation for the same.

 

In the case of VAT, it is not the time period of refund which has bothered the industry so far but the failure of the government to actually refund the money as its financial condition is too weak for anyone to be optimistic on that front.

 

Therefore, whether it is 60 or 90 days, what is important is whether the government can actually keep up its commitment as its track record is nothing to be proud of.

 

There are various types of subsidies and sops announced in the policy, which can again not be delivered because of the poor financial health of the state.

 

One of the most worrying aspects of the policy is to allow an indiscriminate use of agricultural land for industrial purposes and for mega projects. As the returns from agriculture are falling and land is becoming more and more expensive, anyone, especially small farmers, will be tempted to sell their land as soon as they are given an option.

 

But the government seems to have overlooked the food security issue and the fact that once farmers lose their land, they are not trained for any other economic engagement to earn their livelihood. There would be serious socio-economic implications.

 

Secondly, mega projects for Punjab have so far meant only housing projects, whereas other states have successfully invested in mega power projects, specialised industrial parks etc.

 

Punjab has failed to avail of opportunities thrown open by the Government of India under the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act of 2005 or the Scheme for Integrated Textiles Parks (SITP) so far.

 

There had been instances in the past of land having been allotted for industrial purposes but being put to other commercial use. This trend must be arrested and the land not utilised for the purpose that it was given must be resumed.

 

The industrial policy is completely silent on an amendment to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) Act which limits the ability of the private sector to buy and sell agricultural crops direct from farmers or to set up new markets. It was clearly suggested in the report commissioned by UNIDO on which the present policy is based.

 

It is not the content of the industrial policy that matters, but the capability of the polity and the bureaucracy to implement not only this policy but several other commitments made to the people of Punjab to improve the quality of their lives as also to arrest the deceleration of the state economy.

 

This requires an enabling environment, including investments in technological and organisational capabilities of the state.

 

The much talked-about e-governance, put to effective use by other states, is far from being attempted in Punjab.

 

Accountability for performance is also needed, not just by government organisations, but also by other stakeholders, including the corporate sector, the civil society and the NGOs.

 

There is a huge potential for industrial and service sector growth, particularly agro-industrial development in Punjab if the government implements certain decisions which may seem harsh in the short run but will accelerate the pace of growth of the economy and will confer political dividends in the long run.

 

The writer is the Chairperson, Department of Economics, Panjab University, Chandigarh

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

SARKOZY FACES NEPOTISM STORM

BY JOHN LICHFIELD

 

THE possible – or even probable – appointment of a 23-year-old Paris law student to run Europe's largest office development has generated a storm of protest and mockery in France, including an 8,000-name petition on the internet. According to his critics, the student has only one qualification to become the next political boss of the lucrative, prestigious but floundering La Défense business district west of the city centre. The student's name is Jean Sarkozy, the son of the President of the Republic.

 

According to the President's political party, Jean Sarkozy, who is in his second year of a law degree at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, is "the most legitimate" candidate for the job. A taller, blonder, more handsome version of his father, he said modestly: "I am not more legitimate than other candidates but nor am I less legitimate."

 

Mr Sarkozy Jnr already leads his father's centre-right party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), on the council of Hauts-de-Seine, the wealthiest département in France. He is, in theory, a shoo-in for the party's nomination to be the new head of La Défense's public management body later this month, and for the final appointment in December.

 

But the prospect of a 23-year-old being catapulted into such a powerful, if unpaid, position has raised howls of fury and derision. The former presidential candidate, François Bayrou, accused the "Sarkozy clan" of taking France "back to the days of imperial Rome", when the Emperor Caligula appointed his horse as consul. Other critics have spoken of the "Berlusconisation" of France or of political behaviour worthy of a "banana republic".

 

The criticism comes not only from the President's usual opponents on the left and centre. The online forums of Le Figaro – a centre-right newspaper which supports President Sarkozy – were packed with angry messages condemning the latest move in the fast-track career of "Sarkozy fils". One typical message reads: "My grandson is in the second year of kindergarten and loves aeroplanes. Do you think he has a chance of becoming boss of Air France next year?"

 

Jean Sarkozy shot to prominence soon after his father's election in 2007. He supported a renegade candidate for the President's original fiefdom as mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy western surburb of Paris. Last year, soon after marrying an heiress, he ran successfully for a county council seat and was elected as leader of the UMP group on the Hauts-de-Seine council.

 

Observers of the tangled and poisonous web of Hauts-de-Seine politics say it is too simple to suggest that President Sarkozy has pushed his son forward. They say the President, who himself became mayor of Neuilly at the age of 28, has been both fascinated and exasperated by the depth of his son's hunger and ambition (although he has done little to curb them).

 

An internet petition has been launched by Christophe Grébe, an investigative journalist turned centrist politician, who has acquired a large following with his criticism of the political and financial management of La Défense in recent years.

 

More than 8,000 people had signed the petition last night. It reads: "Presiding over such an organisation requires competence and experience. Jean Sarkozy, we invite you to complete your law studies and do a few work experience placements in business, before – who knows? – trying again for your father's old job one day."

THE PRESIDENT'S PROGENY

 Jean Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa, who turned 23 last month, is the younger of two sons of Nicolas Sarkozy's first marriage. When Mr Sarkozy left the marriage to live with his future second wife, Cécilia, Jean was two years old and was largely brought up by his mother, Marie-Dominique Culioli. The president is said by friends to be exasperated by his son's youthful ambition but unwilling to stand in his way, partly because of a sense of guilt at the collapse of his first marriage.

 

* Jean's quieter, older brother, Pierre, 24, is an independent rock and hip-hop music producer.

 

* President Sarkozy has a third son, Louis, 12, who lives in New York with his mother Cécilia Ciganer-Albeniz, the president's divorced second wife.

 

* Sarkozy's third wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, has an eight-year-old son, Aurélien. His father is the French writer, Raphael Enthoven. Aurélien lives with his mother and her new husband in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

 

 By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

LOSS OF POWER POTENTIAL

BY PADAMJIT SINGH

 

Despite the late revival of the monsoon the reservoir levels of hydro projects in the region are substantially lower than last year, as on September 21, which is considered as the end of filling season.

 

The Bhakra level this year on September 21 was 1636. 78 feet, which is 43.98 feet lower than the last year level of 1680.76 feet. The storage deficit is 8.14 lakh cusec days.

 

At Pong as against the last year level of 1387.75 feet, this year level was 1339.36 feet, the gap of 48.39 feet being equivalent to 12.9 lakh cusec days.

 

At Ranjit Sagar the level was 501.91 metre this year which was 12.88 metre lower than the last year level of 514.79 metre, resulting in a reduced storage of 2.74 lakh cusec days.

 

The overall reduction of water storage was thus 23.78 lakh cusec days. This quantum of water is sufficient to sustain a canal of 10,000 cusec for nearly eight months.

 

The reduced energy potential is assessed on the basis of shortfall in storage at the dam and the consequent loss of generation in the canal power houses located downstream.

 

The reduced energy availability this year as compared to last year at Bhakra is 672 MU (Million Units), 644 MU at Pong and 158 MU at Ranjit Sagar.

 

The corresponding energy loss to Punjab will be 308 MU at Bhakra, 160 MU at Pong and 151 MU at Ranjit Sagar.

 

The consequential loss of energy availability at the downstream canal power houses will be 244 MU at Anandpur, 553 MU at Mukerian and 82 MU at UBDC Pathankot.

 

The total loss of energy to Punjab will be 1499 MUs out of which 469 MU is from BBMB and 1030 MU from PSEB Hydro stations.

 

The lower availability of 1499 MU will have to be compensated by a combination of increased power cuts and higher power purchase.

 

In case the entire shortfall is to be made up through extra power purchase, the cost would be around Rs 900 crore, taking the average purchase price as Rs 6 per unit.

 

The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission in its tariff order of 9-10 has worked out the hydro energy availability on the basis of the past three years average. The loss of hydro energy availability to Punjab, 1499 MU, works out to 16.7 per cent of the commission figure of gross availability of 8988 MU.

 

In case of BBMB, the shortfall of 469 MU is 10.1 per cent of the availability figure taken by the PSERC and in case of the PSEB's own hydro stations the deficit of 1030 MU is 22 per cent of the PSERC figure of 4665 MU.

 

The PSEB in its ARR filed before the PSERC had given a power purchase cost of Rs 7,264.61 crore, which the commission reduced to Rs 4,746.59 core. The total revenue gap given by the PSEB as Rs 8,546.44 crore was assessed by the commission as Rs 1,300.08 crore (at the existing tariff).

 

There is a strong ground for the commission to review its order of September 8, 2009, to allow additional power purchase to offset the loss of 1499 MU from hydro sources.

 

The writer is a retired Chief Engineer of the PSEB.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAK UNDER SIEGE

 

Pakistan is in total disarray and serious doubts have emerged about its ability to control the terrifying situation in the wake of relentless attacks by Taliban well within the country. In a span of nine days, the Taliban launched four deadly strikes, the most daring being the one on the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10, which left 20 people dead including high-ranking officers. Pakistani people barely got over the shock of seeing one of the world's most secured zone under siege, there was another suicide bombing on October 12 which again killed 40-odd people. The Taliban is on the rampage and more attacks are likely in near future, as the militia led by Hakimullah Mehsud seems hell-bent on avenging the death of Baitullah Mehsud in US drone attack. Hakimullah made this intention clear while interacting with the media prior to the attacks, but the onslaught also constitutes a warning to the Pakistani government which is planning an offensive in Taliban stronghold South Waziristan. The government, in the face of this reign of terror, seems to have lost its bearings and not surprisingly, has tried to deflect the attention from these attacks and the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul, by accusing India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan.


It is clear that the long dependence on tacit support to terrorism as a policy against India is now proving to be Pakistan's own nemesis. It is not only losing control over the 'weapons' it created, but finds itself in their line of fire, like a man attacked by his own swarm of bees. Pakistan did taste some successes in recent times in the battle against Taliban militants, but this time it has found itself on the backfoot. Judging their ability to carry out deadly attacks, the Pakistani Taliban seem very well-organised, and taking their links with al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and other terror outfits into consideration, it is increasingly being feared that the nuclear weapons might soon fall into the hands of terrorists. The assurances allaying such fears notwithstanding, the never-ending instability in Pakistan does heighten this grim possibility. Pakistan's support to the war against terror is at odds with its hypocritical soft-pedalling on the issue of terrorism concerning India. We do not, however, need any proof of ISI's role in the two Indian Embassy bombings in Kabul, to speak of Pakistan's covert strategies against India. The exoneration of Hafeez Sayeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack, well betrays Pakistan's lack of sincerity in solving an issue that troubles India the most.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NREGA IMPLEMENTATION

 

Corruption is now so all-pervasive that many well-intentioned government projects with a potential to bring about lasting changes to the lives of millions of underprivileged have come a cropper. The job guarantee scheme under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is one such illustration of how public money is being misused to suit the personal interest of a few responsible for implementing the project. There have been widespread media reports on corruption and misuse of NREGA funds in the State – developments that have severely undermined the efficacy of the project. The charges levelled are many, and the most serious relates to showing of exaggerated figures for drawing more funds from the Centre that are never utilized. Then, the NREGA workers are getting wages at the rate of Rs 80 a day despite its fixation by the Centre at Rs 100. Add to it the fact that the workers are getting very few days of work, the very purpose of the legislation which is supposed to play a key role in ameliorating rural poverty stands frustrated.


Tardy implementation of the NREGA is a major concern in some States. But given the fact that it has been successful in several South Indian States such as Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, it can indeed be a tool to address rural poverty provided the State governments, administrations and voluntary organizations join their hands to ensure its foolproof execution. There is an urgent need for eliminating the scope for corruption in implementation of the NREGA. The State Government needs to take serious note of the perturbing developments and put in place a mechanism of transparency and accountability. Those found to be involved in corruption should be prosecuted forthwith. Since the entire project is funded by the Centre, it too has an obligation in ensuring proper monitoring. Voluntary organizations and the media can play a key role in checking corruption by exposing anomalies in its implementation. If the sincerity is there, there is no reason why the success of South India cannot be replicated in Assam and other parts of the North-East. The North-East has a high incidence of rural unemployment, and properly implemented, the NREGA can go a long way in addressing rural poverty and empowering communities. Effective use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act can also help the communities in keeping greater vigil on the functioning of the government machinery, especially with regard to implementation of development projects.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

 

In 2007, the governments and scientists who contributed to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agreed that global warming was unequivocal, already happening and almost surely due to human activity. Since then, a range of scientific studies have updated some of the IPCC findings, showing that the pace of climate change, at least in terms of increasing carbon dioxide emissions, melting Arctic ice and warning in Antarctica, might be faster than the scientists initially estimated.


"If you look at new observations," Christopher Field, Director of the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University in California, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GUJARAT, GODHRA AND GANDHI

SAIKH MD SABAH AL-AHMED

 

One of the major, contemporary and recurringly-spiralling unresolved problems bequeathed by the 1960's (or may be, even earlier), which has been perennially and perilously dangling over the somewhat cretaceous Indian social milieu like a sword of Damocles is the gory spectre of communal pogroms. This brazenly-grotesque ineffaceable and ineluctable anti-national reality of communal pogroms seems to be in one way or the other, directly proportional to the much larger behemoth-like menace of communalism. Consequently, as a natural corollary to this stiflingly-loaded hypothesis, it's been both adduced as well as acquiesced beyond any reasonable iota of doubt that 'communalism', taken both at its face value as well as its diverse and distorted horizons, stands at the vertex of the social fabric of India-, like a gargantuan "Goliath", it threatens to gobble up the very sanity of humanity, both human as well humane.


Communalism reverberates with a profuse smattering of Laodicean ramifications, symptomatic of an outlandish type of secular-alopecia, socio-ethical degradation and decadence being its imminent and immediate characteristics. Communalism thus fans out as an obdurately-obstinate giant, perched atop the highest echelons of India's incredulous gum-tree-like national mindscape. Self-ingrained with an adamantly-potent sclerosis syndrome of a deep schism of sorts, communalism seems to have successfully jettisoned the very notion of communal harmony, which forlornly remains relegated to a mere utopian catchphrase, in an otherwise diverse India, where the hallowed notion of 'unity' seems more of an exception rather than the prescribed norm. Communalism has led to the opening up of a plethora of deep and hollow social-crevasses in an overall brittle sociopolitical, socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-religious India. The contours of communalism are paradoxically both distinct as well as blurred.


Coming, back to the more infamously-famous blight of communal pogroms or communal riots to be more precise, this famous land of 'unity in diversity' seems to have set an embarrassing example by leading the way, it has perhaps witnessed the largest number of macabre communal pogroms, more so after the 1960's. In such a 'land of contrasts', the western coastal State of Gujarat stands out as the most communally sensitive State in India. Strategically located on the West Coast of India, Gujarat is also a gateway to the rich land-locked northern and central vicinity of the country. It is a State in northwestern India, on the border with Pakistan and Rajasthan in the north east, Madhya Pradesh in the east, and Maharashtra and the Union territories of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli in the south The Arabian Sea borders the State both to the west and the south-west. Gujarat also proudly spearheads the Indian march for the "Global Economic Super Power" status with access to all major port-based countries like UK, Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the Gulf countries. It is the most industrialised State in India. It attracts the cream of domestic and multinational investment in the leading sectors of the economy.


Gujarat is also a 'Land of Gandhi'. It's the 'Land of Legends' who go down in history to leave behind impressions with footprints on the sands of time. Since time immemorial, Gujarat has always been inspired by great legends. Gujarat, again, is also the 'Land of Godhra'. Godhra, the very name that reminisces ugly scenes of a burnt train, half burnt human bodies, charred limbs and subsequent clashes that turned out to be uglier by any figment of human imagination, magination. The year 2002 saw the worst of communal riots in modern Indian history, perhaps, next only to those witnessed during the ugly days of partition in 1947. It could be safely assumed that the sum total of relationship between Gujarat vis-a-vis communal pogroms, is both spiraling as well as skewed.


Dissecting Gujarat a bit further, the central Gujarat district of Ahmedabad hitherto remains a communal potboiler. The district headquarter, Ahmedabad is the largest city in Gujarat and seventh largest urban agglomeration in India. Ahmedabad is an industrial hub for textiles and is popularly known as the 'Manchester of India'. Once famous as the adopted home town of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and nonviolence Ahmedabad today is perhaps the most communally sensitive city in the country. What an irony!


There seems to be a problem in Gujarat, but at the same time, things haven't happened here overnight. It all started in the 18th century. When the British established their rule, there were riots in Surat as early as 1788. The only difference in the riots before 1850 were that the riots occurred between two neighbourhoods who happened to be Hindus and Muslims. It was never between the two societies, meaning all Hindus or all Muslims were not united to fight each other. The concept of Indian nationalism that emerged later, profusely polarised Gujarati society. Hindus, gripped with a make-believe sense of 'Islamophobia', started having stereotypical images of Muslims in Gujarat. The brazen encounters of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and 19-year old Ishrat Jahan really speak for themselves. The 2002-riots were also State-sponsored, to say the least. Who else could forget the Best Bakery slaughter and burning alive of septuagenarian Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri at his Gulbarg Society residence?

Independence finally came in 1947.
Communal riots too, soon followed suit. Among the plethora of communal riots that literally lacerated a fledgling nation, mention may be made of Bhiwandi-Jalgaon (1970), Firozabad (1972), Aligarh (1978), Moradabad (1980), Nellie (1983), Meerut (1982 & 1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Mumbai (1992 & 1993) just to name a miniscule few. Compared to these somewhat randomly selected all-India statistics, Gujarat seems to be a step ahead. Starting with Ahmedabad (1969, 1980's, 1992, 1993, 2002), Vadodara (1982), Godhra (2002), communal pogroms seem to have been ensconced in its very fabric. This unfortunately though, is an indelible reality!


The series of riots in Gujarat, though an echo of trouble elsewhere in the country, were also a consequence of problems peculiar to Gujarat. The immediate cause seems to be the institutionalisation of Saffron rule in Gujarat, more so, after Narendra Modi became its Chief Minister on October 7, 2001. Hindutva for a change, seems to have been replaced by a somewhat new-age Moditva This 'Saffron renaissance' was an outcome of a slow, gradual process. In the September-October 1969 riots in Ahmedabad, the then Chief Minister Hitendra Kanaiyalal Desai was ill-equipped to control these riots. The Jan Sanghis, who later merged to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were allegedly involved in these riots. The entire process of polarisation along communal lines was complete by 2002, when almost entire Gujarat was engulfed in communal riots.

The BJP has communalised
Gujarat in the name of nationalism. It has been successful in selling communalism by merging it with nationalism. The growth of hardline Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal in Gujarat in the last 20 years has also antagonised the situation. Narendra Modi's saffron grandiloquence has paid him rich dividends; his shrewdness and his sense of perfect timing of when to play the 'development card' and when to play the Hindutva-Moditva card has catapulted him to a demi-God status in Gujarat, stopping just short of overshadowing LK Advani. Gujarat thus perennially remains susceptible to communal riots.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IMPACT OF MARKET ECONOMY ON SOCIAL VALUES

RABINDRA NATH SARMA

 

Among other things, pursuit of economic gain is human nature. In the earliest period of human habitation, people subsisted on whatever was freely available in nature. Transition from nomadic life to permanent settlement enabled people to acquire knowledge of agriculture, animal husbandry and many other trades, a step further in material gain and economic welfare. Some people excelled others in some trade and began to have production in excess of their raquiremment. This compelled them to look for disposal of their surplus production. This led to the growth of some elementary market where trade was carried on a barter system. Along with the growth of market, there developed specialisation and division of labour for augmentation of production.

In course of time there developed a common medium of exchange with standardised measure, that is money. With its accompanying development of factors like fund, investment instruments like equity, bonds, debentures and institution of stockmarket, it led to
the growth of a comprehensive market economy. Now the market economy has assumed global dimention and the gamut of economic activities has become market oriented. Thus, the market economy is a stage in the process of economic growth, an evolution over the ages leaving a wide range of fallouts in the sphere of social behaviour of man.


Market oriented commercial exploitation of human and material resources has been the cause of many social discontent. If we measure the benifits of market economy towards human welfare, as against the social tension that it may generate at best it would be at balance.


In the context of the above references, it is worthwhile to give some thought to the other side of economic wellbeing that a market economy may lead us to. We may recall that during the British days, in certain parts of our.country, cultivators were induced to cultivate indigo under a system known as 'Dadan', (payment in advances against future crop). In consideration of short term cash gain, cultivators switched over to the cultivation of this cash crop. This was not favourably received by the people in general. There were some clamour, but it did not lead to any significant movement. Compared to this, the Chipko movement, which originated in Chamoli district of North West India was a more intensive movement against the exploitation of forest wealth. The movement was started in the year 1972-73 against commercial exploitation of self renewing, self-generating forest system of the area which preserved food, fodder and water resources on which the village people of the area were dependent. The movement was spearheaded by the womenfolk of the area who prevented the axe-man from felling the indigenous trees by hugging the trees. The word Chipko means hugging. Another such movement known as 'Narmada Bachao Movement' was against the Narmada Valley Development project where Sardar Sorabar Dam constituted the main thrust. The project when fully carried out, would displace 2,00,000 Adivasi villagers and nomadic forest dwellers. The main complaint against the project was that it was intended to substitute the self-renewing, self-sustaining naturally grown forest by widespread planting of non-indigenous, monocultural plants like eucalyptus and pine to meet the market oriented commercial demand. After living in close proxinity with the naturally grown forest for centuries, the people around developed deep kinship with the local plants and the values and charms of the forest have become woven in the fabric of the local culture. After a long campaign, the Narmada Bachao movemet could convince the World Bank about the adverse human and environmental impact and the Bank withdrew funding of the project. However, the matter did not stop there. The Supreme Court had to give a ruling dismissing the NBA's. attempt to block the project. The Government of Gujarat announced that it would contribute the fund. From this solitary instance one may imagine the magnitude of social discontent associated with the restructuring of the basics to suit the market oriented damand.

The market oriented exploitation of both human and material resources may, if not resorted to with adequate pragmatism, land us in a situation where the very purpose of social welfare, a better life for the people in general, may ne defeated. In our own State, Assam, wanton felling of trees, denuding the hillocks, unplanned cutting of earth from the hillocks, filling up of depressed land which used to serve as reservoir for excess rain water in urban areas assumed such proportion that a small shower would lead to artificial flood submerging the main thoroughfares in the urban areas.


Market oriented exploitation and restructuring of natural resources have led to widespread protest in other parts of the globe as well. For example, reference may be made to the resistance movement against the destruction of 'Amazon Rain Forest' and also 'Green Belt' movement in Kenya, started by 'Wangari Maathi'. The Green Belt movement has now spread to other African countries and also around the world. Such movements are relevant at the present juncture when the whole globe is confronted by the problem of global warming.


After the globalisation of our economy our corporate people have found themselves in the midst of a whirlpool of intense competition – where they are compelled to put up their most and the best or they perish. But, inspite of all the constraints that we may have to encounter in our social order there cannot be any going back in the process of globalisation and liberalisation of our economy. The apprehension that globalisation and liberalisation of our economy would make a dent in our industrial bastion and jeopardise our growth has turned out to be unfounded. In the successive years following globalisation, our economy has recorded a growth varying from 6 per cent to 9 per cent per anuum. Globalisation has enhanced our economic standing in the international forum. Given a level playing field, our corporate people, it seems, have enough ingenuity to takeup the global challenge headon. Now is time for the State to stepin in a big way by providing such social services like adequate care for old and infirm people, good and easily accessible health care, meaningful education for all together with food and livelihood security to all. Dent in our social values may be mitigated to a large extent by educating the people about living with the changing social values. When the whole world has been changing in response to the forces of market economy, India in its midst cannot remain an island.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUDICIAL REVIEW IS WELCOME

 

The Supreme Court's directive to the government of Uttar Pradesh to stop using public funds to install myriad statutes of Dalit leaders including chief minister Mayawati herself can't be faulted. The court also has rightly followed through with prompt strictures on the state government's putative violation of its own undertaking to stop construction. Yet, few would think that the SC applies the same yardstick or reacts with the same alacrity to all cases of wastage of taxpayer's money or other administrative wrongs.

 

Where and how far the courts can go in reviewing administrative actions is an open question. Most modern democracies wholly or partly allow courts to appraise the merit of administrative acts with public interest as the touchstone. Equipped with the power of judicial review, the apex court can indeed admonish a government that forsakes duty or exercises its powers arbitrarily.


There have been instances where India's highest court has made full use of the power of judicial review and invalidated government policies or even laws made by Parliament for their incompatibility with the Constitution. The Chief Justice of India is on record saying there is a limit not to this power of the court but only to the grounds for its use.


Judicious scrutiny of legislative-executive wrongs helps restore at least a semblance of faith in our rotting administrative system. In such a situation, judicial activism is but natural and a necessary adjunct of judicial function. However, that would not justify incidents of what could be considered judicial overreach and court orders that, in effect, dilute the authority of the legislature and the executive.


After all, conservative court reviews, too, have come in the way of the political executive's progressive policies aimed at correcting differential treatment of social groups or providing equal opportunity to all. Courts do make mistakes. That is why we now have a diluted contempt of court law that permits justification by truth as valid defence and moves to set up a judicial commission to oversee the conduct of judges. The Indian judiciary is acutely conscious of its independence and image. It is only fair that it gives other wings of the government their due.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TELECOM CONSOLIDATION

 

TRAI's decision to review the merger and acquisition regime for the telecom sector and permit trading in wireless spectrum is timely. Easier M&A rules would encourage consolidation, helping operators obtain spectrum and build scale through acquisitions. The policy review suggestion comes when telecom companies are stepping up their battle for market share and serious slippage in call revenues. The prospects of revenue erosions, estimated at 15-20% by analysts, has already caused share prices of telecom companies to plunge.

 

Consolidation is seen as one way of providing some pricing power to telecom companies. This is flawed reasoning, although there is no doubting the need for consolidation. The industry must bear the consequences of the price war it is fighting. Even the per second pulse proposal by Trai does not dictate prices. It merely wants the subscriber to pay for the amount of time he uses the airwaves; the service provider is free to fix the tariffs for such plans.


The logic for consolidation is more from the resource perspective. Each telecom circle already has 8-9 players and by the end the year at least three more are likely to roll out services. Yet more will come through the 3G route. Many players now have the minimum 4.4 MHz spectrum and would need more as they add subscribers. Too many players in a circle mean overcapacity of telecom infrastructure, an avoidable resource loss.


The current M&A regime is too restrictive to encourage consolidation. For instance, the acquirer does not get the entire spectrum available with the acquired operator. It would have to return the spectrum that is deemed extra as per the current subscriber-linked norms. These restrictions would have to be removed.


Besides, the government must also henceforth allocate all spectrum through auction and not other criteria such as subscriber numbers, which are open to dispute and manipulation. The market-based pricing of spectrum would encourage consolidation, as telecom companies would then be open to getting more spectrum through acquisition and not wait for cheaper spectrum as per the subscriber-linked norms.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

MOONSTRUCK OVER WATER?

 

Bombing the moon would have sounded like an improbable episode from A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, if it wasn't true. A bunch of serious NASA scientists actually sent off a Centaur rocket to detonate a crater near the Moon's barren, pock-marked south pole. This sophisticated scientific manoeuvre was expected to set off a plume of moondust containing globules of water which would help sustain future manned lunar missions. Right.

 

India's hand in this sci-fi adventure — the bombing was apparently prompted by the late lamented Chandrayaan-I's 'discovery' of water on the surface of the moon just before it conked out — may have lent the gambit a veneer of credibility, but that has not stopped the theorising. If the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh's take was that "...this could set up a retaliatory attack! You know, wait 'til the meteorites organise when they hear about this, folks...", the average American Joe was thinking, "Whatta load of moonshine!"


Indeed, why should anyone want to prospect for minute quantities of vapour on an airless ball of orbiting rock when 2/3rds of the Earth is covered with water? Are scientists actually finetuning a big missile that can travel long, really long, distances ? We will rule out the really improbable theories like the bomb's mission was to destroy a secret Martian surveillance bunker or to dispose of the much-dissected bodies of the extra-terrestrials who crashlanded in Roswell, New Mexico many moons ago.


How about the contention, then, that it was an experiment to find a long-term solution to the perennial terror of tidal flooding, by weakening that "outpost of tyranny", the moon. That, of course, would make the spinning orb an "axis of evil" in this climate-conscious world... But those are phrases coined by ex-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and ex-President George W Bush, respectively, and as such hardly likely to inspire the newly-enNobelled incumbent... What are scientists really over the moon about?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE WITH SENSIBLE SOCIAL CODES, BEST CSR POLICY

 

May be it's due to technology, the global economy or the revelations about corporate behaviour as one company after another, melting down and asking for taxpayer aid, has laid bare the truth behind their balance sheets. Layman and businessman alike have come to realise that the old taboos surrounding ways of behaviour in the business world no longer work — or perhaps worked inefficiently at best.

 

The way of life, modelled on Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street, and adopted his clarion call of "greed is good," is all but gone.


H Landis Gabel, emeritus professor of economics and management at INSEAD, explains that there used to be two models of social responsibility, "one in which the company is good to its employees, is well-regarded by society and makes lots of money for its main stakeholder — the shareholders. This would have made Milton Friedman happy. In the second model, the [chief executive] allocates resources — that is, wealth — to the various stakeholders and the shareholders are just one part of that group; the others might be the employees, the suppliers, etc. But I don't know of any CEO who could stand up at an annual meeting and say he's reducing the value of his company in this way."


Gabel has a third model: voluntary compliance with social codes — the use of socially aware groups to bring about corporate social responsibility, or CSR. Not hard laws and regulations, but rules of behaviour. "The kind you learned at your mother's knee," he says.


"Corporate social responsibility is moving into an area where laws and regulations are ineffective or do not even exist to handle circumstances," says Gabel. "Because of globalisation and the past two decades or more of deregulation, there are more and more interrelationships between companies and countries that don't fall into existing legal codes." This creates a strong case for socially responsible interest groups that can galvanise corporations into taking the right actions, often using shame as a weapon — not unlike the "shunning" used as a behavioural tool in colonial America and elsewhere.


"CSR can make visible the shortfalls of a multinational and shame them into correcting that behaviour," says Gabel. "This promotes voluntary compliance with sensible social codes. For example, a US-based multinational may have to police its manufacturing operations in a foreign land because the host country can't do it. The consumer may shame the multinational into taking this step by making visible the shortfalls of the company. No company would want to be alone in this position, but if all are forced to police their foreign manufacturing, then the playing field is level and no one is at a disadvantage."


And the consumer is happy, believing he is getting what he pays for, which means the corporation can make money... which goes to the roots of capitalism in America, to Adam Smith. "It's not to the benevolence of the baker, the butcher, the brewer that we owe our evening meal, but to his self-interest," Gabel says, adding he doesn't question the role of, or the need for, self-interest in corporate society; he wonders where the reigns are. "Creating harmony between the pursuit of self-interest and the pursuit of social welfare depends on the constraints on self-interest." Constraints can come from society exercising choices.


Filipe Santos, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at INSEAD, says Adam Smith knew this and wrote about it in his book Theory of Moral Sentiments as a professor of moral philosophy. "Smith believes that decisions are better made in a decentralised way by people, rather than dictated by one person or one central group," adds Santos. "Instead of relying on the government for the allocation of resources, Smith believed it was better to let widespread market forces do it. The problem today is not Adam Smith's philosophy, but the way in which a few of his ideas have been enacted by the business community as dogma."


There are laws, of course, and regulations to force compliance. "Many laws are onerous to business," says Gabel. "And the latest financial crisis makes that eminently visible. There is tension between the 'we need more laws and regulations' and the 'we simply need a different kind of behaviour than we've had in the past' groups." Gabel admits we are likely to see more regulation in the coming months, though this is an expensive way to force compliance. "Compulsory laws and regulations are an extremely expensive way of controlling self-interest," he says. "The best model for CSR is to promote voluntary compliance with sensible social codes."

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

POLITICIANS SWIM IN WEALTH, BUT SHY AWAY FROM BOURSES

 

Politicians rank among the richest in the country. But contrary to popular belief, most of them have steered clear of the stock markets, as can be seen from the affidavits filed by them during the general elections. Deepak Bhardwaj, the 58-year-old hotelier from Delhi, who contested the Lok Sabha polls from West Delhi, has personal assets worth Rs 604 crore. Mr Bhardwaj made his money in real estate in Delhi and by selling his motel chain in Canada. A leader of BSP, Mr Bhardwaj only has Rs 16 crore (self and spouse combined) in shares and debentures, marking just 2.6% of his net assets.

 

Fifty-three-year-old Khimjibhai Harjivanbhai Patadiya, the independent candidate from Surendranagar, Gujarat, has only Rs 22 lakh in shares and bonds out of the Rs 515 crore worth of personal wealth. Kanwar Singh Tanwar who contested Lok Sabha elections (on a BSP ticket) from south Delhi is worth Rs 155 crore. Mr Tanwar has invested just over Rs 1.65 crore in markets and bonds — the remaining being in land and buildings. Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi, who contested from Mumbai North-West, has only Rs 4.5 crore in bonds & shares out of his Rs 124 crore worth of personal assets.


There are several instances of rich politicians maintaining their assets in real estate and fixed deposit instruments. SHCIL bonds, RBI bonds, G-secs, state government bonds and small-savings instruments (NSS & postal savings schemes) — all yielding coupon rates in the range of 6-8.5% — are amongst the top investment asset classes of politicians. Many of them have huge investments in privately-held companies as well.


"Most politicians come from semi-urban or rural background, as a result of which they have a lot in property or fixed assets. A good portion of their movable assets falls into bank deposits or small savings pool," said ace investment advisor PN Vijay of PN Vijay Financial Services.


"Politicians do not understand stock markets; they perceive it as a risky proposition. Moreover, there is a stigma attached to politicians investing in stocks. They're scared of rivals accusing them of unholy links with businessmen and punters," Mr Vijay added.


Much more than the veterans, it is the younger lot who are gradually increasing their investments in stocks and bonds. Though their portfolios are heavily skewed to government bonds and other such instruments, a few of them have decent investments in the market, opine wealth management experts.


Youth leaders such as Murali Deora, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, Mumbai North-central MP Priya Dutt, Vishakhapatnam MP D Purandareshwari and Amritsar MP Navjyot Singh Sidhu have significant investments in stocks and bonds. Among the stalwarts, Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary, Chhindwara MP Kamal Nath (whose wife holds investments in around 49 companies), Bangalore Rural MP HD Kumaraswamy, Navsari MP CR Patil (investments in SBI, Gujarat Gas, RIL, GACL and Hindalco), Madha MP Sharad Pawar, Chennai Central MP Dayanidhi Maran and Pune MP Suresh Kalmadi have significant investments in the stock market. While Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi, Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi and Ajmer MP Sachin Pilot have meagre investments in shares and bonds.


Though the EC has mandated contestants to reveal their assets and investments, wealth managers are not very sure about the quality of investment disclosures by politicians. Incomplete or partial declarations and possibilities of benami accounts cannot be ruled out; tracking politicians' investments could be a difficult task as many of them do not even hold a PAN card, they say.

"That is not really true," said Kirit Somaiya, the BJP candidate who contested the Mumbai North-east Parliamentary seat. "The election commission is striving hard to bring about transparency in the system. The affidavits filed are send to the I-T department for cross scrutiny. Their disclosures will be as good as declarations made by listed companies," he added. Ignorance about finance or stock markets are forcing politicians to stay away from high-yield equity investments, he said.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT A FALL FOR OBAMA & NOBEL!

BY: PRATHAP SUTHAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CHEIL


Let's face it. Their meeting hasn't been pretty. Most people have had question marks than exclamations. And across the unfettered blogosphere, reactions have been more brickbat, and less bouquet.


I personally think that the Nobel Prize Committee has done President Obama a huge disfavour by awarding him. It's been a double whammy. They are both losers. The inspirational Obama brand suddenly looks shallow, and the inscrutable Nobel brand seems to have traded its halo for something uncharacteristic.


For reasons other than commonsense, they both stand to lose their ultimate plinth. Credibility. The most precious value that any brand could afford to give up.


In one swift Norwegian move, two of the world's most incorruptible brands have been effectively blemished. And from now on, it will only continue to get tarnished by public imagination.


The brand Nobel isn't something that was created yesterday. Since 1901 it has stood for inflexible standards. Unwavering. Unquestionable.


So, why did this organization change course? If there was no one else, why couldn't they have given it to the most deserving nominee ever – Gandhi. It's not as though after nominating him five times, he still cannot be posthumously awarded. I would also have thought Michael Jackson stood a chance. His music unlocked boundaries.

He welded people together. His funeral was pan Earth. What about the man who Imagined? Lennon himself. And if I were to think a little lateral, why couldn't they have given the Prize to the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible or the Koran? They are the very philosophies of peace.


The fact is, questions will be asked. Controversial as well as ridiculous. The Nobel Prize, as we have all grown to respect, is a reward for achievement – both past and present. Not for future possibility.
None of the Nobel Laureates won the Peace Prize on the basis of a few rousing speeches. Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Yunus, and Martti Ahtisaari won the Prize because they stood dauntless and delivered manna.


I have nothing against President Obama. I have the highest regard for him. I have been inspired and moved by his sincerity, integrity, leadership, energy, and by his brilliant speeches.


I think the Nobel Prize has come too soon for him, and it will weigh him down. For a man who was on his way to create a brand new path, he has been unfortunately shackled with a moral ball and chain. He has been paid upfront. Lifetime bonus. And now it's going to be a devil on his back.


Worse, I think Norway just made America weaker. What if America is suddenly held hostage and they have to go in for a punitive or even a pre-emptive strike? Will the Peace Prize get in the way of his judgement? What if tomorrow Obama is physically incapacitated? Or worse, if someone does a JFK on him?


By loading him up with the Prize, the Nobel Committee has inadvertently made him bulletproof, cancerproof, Lewinskyproof, etc. for life. They have overlooked the very essence of what makes man fallible. They have dictated the Obama brand. He hasn't been given a chance to prove that he deserves it.


To me, the mortal struggle against all odds, the perseverance over humanly impossible barriers, and the ultimate sweaty conquest of them all is the true mettle that merits the Prize. Nothing less ought to be eligible. Obama can now no longer be a human being. Fraught with frailties, or human imperfections. He has to perform. The problem is that he has won the gold medal at the beginning of the race. And he has no other option but to win. However, as the most inspirational leader that I have ever heard, and the one person who has the power to make the world a better place for all, how I'd love it if he turns down the Prize.


On December 10, he has the opportunity to stand up and take a step towards being greater than ever. In one magic moment, he can heal himself, redeem himself, and become bigger than the Nobel Prize.


From the least accomplished Nobel Prize winner, he could actually be on his way to become the most celebrated brand and human being of all time.


Yes you can, dear President.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PHARMA COS LIKELY TO EMERGE STRONGER IN Q2

KIRAN KABTTA SOMVANSHI

 

The pharma sector is poised to emerge as one of the best-performing sectors in terms of its performance for the September quarter. With no new surprises on the forex side, lower raw material costs and the slow recovery in the US economy, the sector is likely to register strong earnings growth.

 

Average estimates of the seven leading pharma companies by ETIG and eight other broking houses indicate a strong double-digit growth of 77% in aggregate net profits during the quarter ended September 2009, against the corresponding quarter last year. The earnings figures have been further boosted by expectations of a profitable show from Ranbaxy, which had reported a loss of Rs 394.5 crore in the same quarter last year.


However, the aggregate net sales are expected to be poor at 3% Y-o-Y. The stunted net sales growth is due to Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy which are expected to report a drop in sales. With the growth in earnings not being impacted, net profit margin is estimated to increase by 580 bps to 14% for the second quarter of the fiscal.


The swine flu, along with the monsoon season, is expected to lead to healthy growth in the domestic formulations business for most companies. DRL and Sun Pharma are expected to register a pick-up in their domestic formulations business. The rupee has largely remained range-bound last quarter, which should be beneficial to many pharma firms. With economic conditions improving in the US, most companies are likely to witness good growth in their US business.


Companies such as Cipla and DRL may emerge as outperformers, while Ranbaxy may show signs of revival.


Ranbaxy is expecting to receive US FDA clearance for its Dewas plant. Most firms, except Sun Pharma, are expected to report a rise in their earnings and revenues. Sun Pharma's earnings would suffer a Y-o-Y drop of 38.5% in net profit and 21% in revenues on account of a high base-year effect and a possible inventory write-off following the US FDA seizure in the preceding June quarter.


Mid-cap pharma firms such as Lupin, Cadila Healthcare and Ipca are also likely to report a good performance for the quarter. A good show in emerging markets as well as the US would be a key growth driver. Recovery in the CRAMS business will lead to positive performance for Piramal Healthcare, Jubilant and Divi's Labs.

Going forward, the next few months are likely to determine the ability of Indian companies to meet the US FDA norms. Currency stability will also be a key factor for companies with forex liabilities. Firms with diversified derisked business models would prove to be a much better option for the investors in this scenario.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOLD SCALES A NEW PEAK OF $1068/OZ AS DOLLAR DIVES

 

MUMBAI: Tracking overseas gold, whose price has been catapulted by dollar weakness and fears of inflation, the precious metal in local markets shattered previous records on Tuesday. The prices jumped by Rs 130 to touch a historic high of Rs 16,385 per 10 gm in Kolkata, while Delhi saw a gain of Rs 25 to Rs 16,120, the metal rose by Rs 150 before ending the business at Rs 16,070 per 10 gm in Chennai.

 

Mumbai, the largest market for gold in India, however, stayed away from the party as the market remained closed for the Maharashtra assembly elections. In European market, gold scaled a new peak of $1,068.30 an ounce on Tuesday as the dollar's tumble to 13-month lows against the euro fuelled buying of the precious metals. At the time of going to press, gold eased back slightly to $1,059.20 an ounce, still higher from Monday's New York close of $1,055.25. It has rallied 12% since the beginning of September.


However, demand for gold jewellery has reduced substantially as the current prices are unaffordable to consumers. "The high price has taken a toll on demand, which at the peak of the current festive season is 60% below last year's level," claimed Rajesh Mehta, chairman of Bangalore-based Rajesh Exports, the country's largest wholesaler and exporter of gold jewellery. "We know that the demand is that much lower because we are the largest wholesalers of gold jewellery. I have been proved wrong on the price front for one month now but I think prices ought to correct to between Rs 14,000-15,000 for demand to pick up."


Says Mehul Choksi, MD, Gitanjali Gems, "In terms of value rupee gold prices will catch up (with international prices), but I expect volumes in this year's festive season to be 15% lower from last year's level." Choksi feels that overseas gold is headed to the $1,200-an ounce level. "We have seen a weak dollar providing momentum to gold prices but we still have to witness gold catching up with the inflation story...and that is just beginning to pan out as highlighted by high oil prices," he added.


On the futures market too, gold tested an all-time high with the near-month contract touching Rs 16,040 for 10 gm after gold for December delivery made an intraday high of $1068.40 an ounce. Futures market participants like Nitesh Kothari of VDC Jewellery in Zaveri Bazaar that were it not for the rupee's rise MCX gold should have hit Rs 16,400. But he expects MCX gold to trade between Rs 16,220 and Rs 16,240 range in the short run should the rupee fall below 47 to the dollar and Comex to $1,053.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DECONSTRUCTING DHARMA

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

\In 2002 when Gurcharan Das decided to go on an academic holiday, the former MNC-head-honcho-turned commentator had no idea of the minefields of the mind that he would have to traverse. Das began his odyssey at the Regenstein Library of Chicago University renowned for its rich collection of South Asian texts. "I would pull down from the shelf a volume of the Mahabharata's critical edition," the author told your columnist recently in Mumbai during the release of his labour of love, The Difficulty of Being Good: on the Subtle Art of Dharma.

"With Whitney's grammar on my right and Apte's dictionary on my left, I would read a small passage," he added. Although it was extremely hard going, by the end of the first year Das found himself inextricably hooked by the epic "which," he writes, "is in many ways an extended attempt to clarify what dharma is — that is, what exactly should we do when we are trying to be good in the world."


During the quest, Das tried to imagine the look of shocked incomprehension on Yudhishthira's face when the Pandava Prince loses his kingdom and his wife in the dice game and this happens soon after his greatest triumph when he is consecrated 'King of kings'. "He could only suppose that his world had gone awry," Das explains.


"Gradually, I began to realise that the dice game may be symbolic of the quixotic, vulnerable human condition in which one knows not why one is born, when one will die, and why one faces reverses on the way. The only thing certain, the Mahabharata tells us, is that kala (time or death) is 'always cooking us'."


That reminded your columnist of another great line from the text — which followers of a latter-day prophet like Karl Marx would rediscover with catastrophic consequences for some of their constituencies: this is delivered by grandsire Bhishma as he lies mortally wounded on a bed of arrows: Man is slave of money (arthasya purusho dasah).

Yudhishthira also has equally memorable lines, Das reminded his readers at the inaugural: "Could one depend on dharma to protect one in this uncertain world," he asked rhetorically. "If so, how does a person go about finding dharma?" When the prince is asked this very question in a life and death debate, he "confronts the possibility that the universe might not care about dharma".


That makes Yudhisthira's commitment to truth, dharma and compassion (anrishamsya) all the more admirable.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'IMPLEMENTATION OF GST WILL HELP INDIA ENORMOUSLY'

RASHMI PRATAP

 

Express and logistics major Deutsche Post DHL is keenly waiting for the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India. The move will boost the global giant's business, with India expected to contribute more to DHL's kitty in the years ahead. ET caught up with DHL's global CEO Frank Appel , who spoke about the impact of the global slowdown on the industry, changing dynamics of international trade and the importance of supply-chain management for India Inc. Excerpts:

 

How has the slowdown impacted DHL and the global logistics industry?

I think the sector suffered from the slowdown. We support the view that we can't escape the global slowdown, but we have reduced our cost positions around the world. This helped us to have a reasonable second quarter. We have not seen so far (in July - August) a very strong recovery in the economy. At least it is not reflected in our numbers.

 

Once things start looking up, what will it translate into for DHL? It is still going to be a slow recovery.
In December I said we will have a 'V' shaped recovery, and I was the only one who said that. The downturn was so rapid and deep that if we have the first signs of recovery, everybody will run in the opposite direction. If that happens, we will see a steep increase. I think the predictability of the future is becoming less and less possible. So, you have to prepare the organisation for permanent change. You have to take the costs out as much as you can. There are signs that there might be a fast recovery.


What kind of "permanent changes" are you preparing DHL for?

First of all, you should honestly tell the organisation that predicting something is very difficult. That apart, you train your people by challenging them on their day-to-day job and move them around, so that they are used to a different environment constantly. That prepares people for change.


In large export-focused economies like China there is an increasing focus on domestic markets. How would it affect you?

First of all, if domestic demand is going up, it's a strong signal that wealth is spread more evenly... more and more people can afford to buy goods. We want to be a part of that and China and India are huge countries. If you compare the size of India, it has more population than Europe. These are huge continents and we would be crazy not to try to participate in that domestic growth.


What growth opportunities you see in India? And how important is India for DHL?

Our operations in Europe and the Americas are still larger than that in Asia. We earned $6 billion in revenues from Asia, but that will change in the next few years. We see a huge growth potential in India, be it warehousing and distribution, or even freight business or express business. We are in a leading position in India already. Implementation of GST will help India enormously. There will be an enormous demand for high-quality, reasonable-cost services in the logistics sector, if tax legislation changes. That will give us huge opportunities to leverage our global skills in logistics.

 

Any investments planned for India? Who are the biggest users of your services?

We don't have a clear investment outlay, but we are following the needs of our customers. If there are changes in legislation, consumers will consolidate from small warehouses to large facilities. And we are prepared to make the investments required. If we see more growth for Blue Dart business in India, we are definitely prepared to extend our fleet. Whatever is needed, we will do that and there is no financial limitation to doing it. But it does not mean we will globally increase our capex after we reduced it in the past 12 months.


Indian companies require improvements in supply-chain management. How do you see it?

The relative spend on logistics is high in countries like India because infrastructure is a key constraint. India's airports, roads and ports are very busy already. But the government has understood that there is need to invest in infrastructure. And that is why we say that we can bring a lot of value.

 

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EDITORIAL

GAMES 2010: STOP DRIFT, TAKE CHARGE

 

It might have been more fruitful if the implied tongue-lashing administered by Mr Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, to the Suresh Kalmadi-led organising committee now racing against the clock to put up even a passable show in October 2010, had come a year earlier. Perhaps then there might have been reason to be sanguine that arrangements will not suffer in quality. It is doubtful now if anyone who knows the working of the Indian system, and its dubious record in erecting and maintaining public infrastructure, can be a hundred per cent certain. At the end of a six-day review of the state of preparations for the forthcoming New Delhi Games, the CGF chief did not fail to announce the setting up of a technical committee comprising international experts that will give monthly reports. "We can't afford any more slippage", Mr Fennell declared. How much nicer if the admonition had come from the highest levels within the country, and such an expert group constituted, after the CGF president addressed a letter to our Prime Minister about a month ago expressing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. In words that will sting for a long time, Mr Fennell told a press conference: "When it was two years to go for the Delhi Games, I told the OC that time was not its friend. With one year to go, now I say that time is your enemy."


Mr Fennell has aptly said the CGF can "express its concerns and offer its advice, but it is the OC, along with the governments of India and Delhi, who have the responsibility of organising the Delhi 2010 Games". This is a call to arms for the Centre as well as the city government. In reality, it is India's prestige that is on the line, not that of the OC, whose lackadaisical attitude so far cannot inspire confidence. For protocol and technical reasons, the OC perhaps cannot be jettisoned at this stage. But it's time an effective way is found to take the day-to-day responsibility of making and supervising arrangements out of its hands. Perhaps a group of dedicated administrators, contractors, architects, multi-discipline engineers and other technical experts has to be rigged out of thin air and given a mandate from the highest levels to ensure that lost time is made up and India delivers the Delhi Games not only on schedule but to the satisfaction of India itself. The OC can be asked to provide the formal signatures. The defeatism of the Union sports minister, Mr M.S. Gill, just won't do. He has been reported as saying: "This is not Melbourne, this is not Glasgow. Delhi is a city of 15 million people... It has all the problems that great cities have..." While we break a sweat trying to reconfigure ourselves to deliver a product we can be proud of, we cannot fail to be unmindful of design and aesthetics. Shera, the Games mascot, which has passed muster with the OC, is not fit to be classified even as kitsch.


The bureaucracy, police and other administrators in charge of running Delhi's affairs can't even fix a drain, a manhole, a traffic signal. Any new ideas they have offered in recent years on roads, flyovers and traffic have been poorly functioning eyesores. The second-rung politicians who have grabbed plum positions on sports bodies have brought to the task at hand their slipshod culture, favouritism, factionalism, and fixing. Excellence can never be a byproduct, whatever the midgets may believe.


Mr Fennell has done us a favour by reminding us of that.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WRITING IN SEARCH OF HOPE THAT ENNOBLES

BY ROGER COHEN

 

I want this column to be good. I want it to be so good, it wins a prize. One of those big prizes, like the ones they hand out every year in Stockholm.


I want it to be subtle and full of goodness and infuse all humankind with hope. Let me be clear: I want it to be uplifting, conciliatory and bold. In fact, I want it to carry some miraculous quality.


I've travelled the world, seen the forgotten silos on the plains, the rusting railroad cars, the forbidding watchtowers, the scavengers in the garbage, the fatigue-smudged faces, the refugees sprawled on the school room floor, the lonely lingerers, the freighters hardening the horizon, the beautiful and the damned.
Along the way I've learned this: We deny our connectedness at our peril. Let me be clear: This is the 21st century.


I've heard the infant's cry, the sobbing of the bereaved, the old man's sigh, the whispering of the valley, the stirring of desire, the echo of war, the village bells, the ram's horn rising, the muezzin's pre-dawn call to prayer.
That's a lot of different sounds. So let me be clear: As children of Abraham we are all responsible for one another. This is the age of responsibility.


I've known the walls that divide us, the propaganda of hate, the crops that wither, the seas that rise, the networks that go down, the tires that go flat, the light bulbs that go out, the subways that stop and the delays at O'Hare Airport.


That's a lot of different problems. And I want there to be no doubt: The problems we face can only be solved together.


I want this column to advance peace, to banish the spectre of nuclear winter, to spread solar energy, to stop ice caps melting, to halt pandemics, save energy, spare lives, reconcile Arabs and Jews, and let's not forget the Persians.


In fact, I want so much from this column, I thought about not writing it, so that what would be left was a beautiful blank space that readers could fill with their most cherished fantasies. I thought about just thinking about it.


But, on further reflection, that struck me as too Rive Gauche for some of my American readers, although certainly not for my good friends in Stockholm (peace be upon them).


A virtual column, waiting to be written, poised atop the vortex, is one filled with infinite possibility. With each word I write I am confining it. The way reality encroaches on fantasy is terrible to bear. But that's the human condition we share whether we are black, white or — increasingly — brown.


Let there be no doubt: I want Turks and Armenians to embrace, something good for South Ossetia, and peace sans pygmies — forgive me, sans persecutions — in Pyongyang. May the spirit of Moses, Jesus and Mohammad — peace be upon them too — spread in the Holy Land.


Some will say I'm a dreamer. Some might find themselves unable to engage with these engaging aspirations even if this is the age of engagement. But there is no alternative to engagement except, perhaps, divorce, alienation, separation, enmity, competition, rivalry, envy, misunderstanding, threats, intimidation and rage — all of which I reject on principle.


There have always been doubters, sceptics, losers — and Republicans. But I say to them: The hopeful will inherit the earth. And I say to them: Read my mass emailings or see me on Twitter.


I know, Philip Roth writes more than two dozen novels and can't get a Nobel. But I'm sure I think more beautiful thoughts. If my thoughts were dark I might want to be a novelist rather than a columnist.
I know, Nelson Mandela spent more than two dozen years imprisoned and he did get a Nobel. But, well, I've lost my train of thought.


What I know is this: The hypothetical is worthless in history. And I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves: It's just fine and dandy hoping for all these wonderful things, but what about deeds, actions, achievements, results?


Forgive me, but that's so 20th century. We live in a virtual age. We are the Wii-players of history! Our medium is thin air. We don't have to get our fingers dirty for things to move in the direction we desire.


In conclusion, I know this column has fallen short. I am aware of its shortcomings, its banality and its immodesty. I am humbled by all the great practitioners of this 820-word craft — "art" would be going too far — in whose illustrious footsteps I tread. But I know this: If I've given momentum to some global fantasy, my time has not been wasted.


You know, I love Sweden. It's the anti-Denmark. I love its glistening lakes and its countless Iraqi refugees. The lakes remind us of the beauty of the planet we all share. The refugees express the agony of the human condition — but forget that. Hope trumps experience every time.


Finally, let me be clear: All prize money is payable to me.

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LET AIR FORCE GUN FOR NAXALS, QUICKLY

BY ANIL BHAT

 

A major issue that has emerged during the period of celebrations of the 77th anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF), beginning with the first interaction which the newly appointed Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik had with the media, is that of protection of air crew and aircraft against Naxalites targeting them from the ground.


With aid to civil power being a major role of the Indian Air Force during peace time, its fixed wing transport aircraft helicopters invariably remain at the forefront of tasks like flood and disaster relief, casualty evacuation, aerial survey, transporting Army, police or paramilitary military personnel, their senior officers and political leaders and officials for elections. Some of these tasks can be quite prolonged, involving flying many sorties stretching over at least a few weeks.


It was while undertaking the unenviable task of supporting the electoral process supervised by the Election Commission this year, for which two IL-76, four AN-32 transport aircraft, 25 medium-lift helicopters and four Chetak helicopters of the IAF were pressed into service, that some of them were fired at by Naxalites.


Helicopters drawn from 13 different IAF air bases across the country were provided to 14 states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


While flying over most areas for poll-related duties may seem routine, sorties over Naxal-affected regions for some pilots proved to be no less daunting than being in the battle zone. For Squadron Leader R. Dhobhal and Flying Officer K. Prakash, flying a Mi-17 helicopter on election duty, it was a close shave when Naxals opened fire at them.


The incident occurred on April 16, at Binagonda in Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra, bordering Chhattisgarh. Tasked with airlifting a polling party of five members and electronic voting machines (EVMs), the Mi-17 crew was airborne from nearby Aheri to pick up the election officials from Binagonda and drop them at Laheri, a mere five minutes flying time. "The additional superintendent of police, Laheri, Mr Jayakumar, and I were overseeing the loading of the men and EVMs when I heard the burst of fire through the din of the rotating rotors," said Squadron Leader Dhobhal, captain of the flight. and a veteran of two UN missions where he had honed his skills in dealing with such scenarios. "Getting away quickly for the safety of the crew, passengers and the aircraft was all that was on my mind. In less than 15 seconds we were clear of the helipad," he added.


A closer inspection on landing revealed a hole made by a 7.62 mm calibre bullet in the tail boom of the helicopter. The aircraft was repaired and safely ferried back to Nagpur. No major damage was done owing to the quick response of the vigilant crew, averting what could have resulted in a major mishap. It may be recalled that on November 14, 2008, the IAF lost an air crew member when Maoist rebels fired at their Mi-8 helicopter during a similar poll-related flying task at Pedia, in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.


By the end of the last phase of elections on May 13, the IAF had altogether flown a total of 930 sorties over 780 hours for tasks that included airlifting 6,792 passengers, 137 tons of election material and 436 EVMs. In an unprecedented airlift effort undertaken by the IAF's transport fleet, two IL-76 and four AN-32 airlifted 3,234 central paramilitary forces alone from Imphal to Kalaikunda in three days, from April 26-28.
As in the past, and this time all the more so, the significant role of IAF helicopter pilots came in for some high praise and their contribution was acknowledged from various quarters, including those from the ministries of defence and home as well as the state governments. Mr N. Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner, just before his retirement on April 20, also appreciated the important contribution of the IAF in the conduct of the 2009 elections.


So far the IAF has been operating strictly on passive defensive measures only. These include using lightly armoured helicopters like MI-8s on relatively "safe" routes and timings. This needs very reliable real-time intelligence, which has been in short supply considering the rate of attrition of police and paramilitary personnel in anti-Naxal operations.


The need of the hour is to provide all aircraft operating in Naxal-threatened areas the means to protect their crew and craft. While the IAF has so far been fortunate not to lose any men or aircraft with the desperately offensive mood the Naxals are in now, and their lethal arsenal of sophisticated weapons, including mortars, the government may be well advised to consider even limited use of the IAF's small arms to neutralise confirmed Naxal concentrations and camps or structures.


But the government's policy on vital aspect of the protection of air crew and aircraft when they are fired at by "misguided elements" of our own country still hangs fire, pun intended. Defence minister A.K. Antony said last week the government would grant the Indian Air Force permission to fire back at Naxalites in self-defence once detailed procedures for the same are put in place.


In the interest of the protection of the IAF's assets and effective deterrent against Naxal insurgents-turned-terrorists, a decision should be made earliest.

 

Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HOW ORISSA MOVED GANDHI

BY MURLIDHAR C. BHANDARE

 

Today, we are living in a world of human rights, where all human beings are born free and equal. We have this freedom because of the years of relentless struggle of our freedom fighters, who believed in human dignity and human values. Among them, Mahatma Gandhi stands out as the greatest human being of the last century. He guided India to its goals of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity with absolute dignity. The Satyagraha he launched in South Africa to abolish Apartheid and the Non-Violence Movement he led in India to free the country from British rule has served in ridding our society from injustice and exploitation to quite an extent. Indian Independence signalled the collapse of colonial rule in the world and paved the way for the independence of several nations.


Between 1921 and 1946, Mahatma Gandhi visited Orissa eight times. These visits had an electrifying effect on the people, who took active part in the struggle against British rule. Students gave up their studies; professionals gave up lucrative careers and many courted arrest. Ordinary people displayed extraordinary courage and did not hesitate to risk their lives for freedom. Gandhi, for the first time, visited Orissa in 1921. Accompanied by Kasturba Gandhi, he arrived in Cuttack on Dola Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, the March 23, 1921. A huge crowd had gathered at the Cuttack railway station. People had positioned themselves almost everywhere — roadsides, treetops and building terraces — to have a glimpse of the Mahatma.
Mahatma Gandhi addressed the first meeting of the day at Kadam-i-Rasool, where topics such as the Khilafat Movement and Hindu-Muslim unity were discussed. In the afternoon, he addressed a meeting of women at Binod Bihari, where he exhorted women to give up wearing ornaments and donate the same to the cause of freedom struggle. It was learnt that women donated jewellery weighing nearly 60 to 70 tolas and worth a thousand rupees.


That evening, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a mammoth public meeting on the riverbed of the Kathjodi. Addressing the crowd, he said the reward for cooperation with the British during World War I was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Now non-cooperation was the only choice left. He called upon people to give up everything that was British. When he said that Western education was doing no good to Indians, a member from the audience questioned the stand taken by him. How could Mahatma Gandhi consider Western education harmful when he himself had received the same? No sooner did he finish his words that Gandhi replied that great men like Buddha, Chaitanya, Shankara, Kabir and Nanak were strangers to this Western education. It would have been much better if he had not been a product of this system.


Gandhi travelled to Bhadrak, Sakshigopal and Puri, where he also addressed people. Accompanied by Gopabandhu, he left for Berhampur on March 29, 1921. Gandhi's second visit to Orissa was brief. On the request of Madhusudan Das, Gandhi came to Cuttack on August 19, 1925, and visited Utkal Tannery. This time he visited a lepers' asylum in the afternoon and addressed a meeting in the Town Hall in the evening.
Mahatma Gandhi's fortnight long tour of Orissa for the propagation of khadi started on December 4, 1927. On December 18, he reached Cuttack. The whirlwind tour adversely affected his health and he rested in the house of Madhusudan Das. After he fully recovered, he left Cuttack on December 21 to attend the All-India Congress session at Madras.


In 1934, Gandhi began his celebrated padayatra with the mission of harijan upliftment and abolition of untouchability. He visited Orissa twice in this connection. He again visited Orissa on March 25, 1938. He was accompanied by Kasturba, Durgaben, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad, Acharya Krupalini, Mahadev Desai and many other leaders. The occasion was to attend the fourth annual conference of Gandhi Seva Sangha and the Utkal Khadi and Village Industry exhibition at Berboi, near Delang in Puri district.


On January 20, 1946, Gandhi passed through Orissa on his way from Calcutta to Madras. He made brief addresses at Cuttack and Berhampur. This turned out to be his last visit.


The people of Orissa loved Gandhi. They walked miles to get a glimpse of the Mahatma. Some even believed that he was an incarnation of God. A group of students pawned a friend's gold chain to pay for the bus tickets that would allow them to get a glimpse of the Mahatma.


Right from his first visit to Orissa, Gandhi had realised that the people of this part of the country were poor but large-hearted. He was deeply moved when in response to his appeal to contribute to the Tilak Swaraj Fund, hundreds of thousands of famine-stricken people of Puri contributed a paise or an anna. He once said, "The famine-stricken skeletons of men and women in Orissa haunt me in my waking hours and in my dreams. Whatever can be useful to those starving millions is beautiful to my mind. Let us give today first the vital things of life and all the graces and ornaments of life will follow".


Gandhi's message is even more relevant today than it was 60 years ago. Hunger and malnourishment still plague several parts of the world. Violence is spreading in different parts of the world, particularly through terrorism. Even in Orissa, violence is raising its ugly head through Maoism and Naxalism. Gandhi's message of non-violence and peace is, therefore, very relevant. There is no way to peace, peace is the way. Gandhi has shown us this way.


It was a great coincidence that Gandhi's ashes were preserved in Orissa for a long time. It was almost a forgotten chapter in history that an urn containing some ashes was kept in the Puri Raj Bhavan premises from February 12, 1948 to June 27, 1948, a fact which was highlighted during my first year in Orissa when the book on Raj Bhavan was drafted. From Puri, the ashes were brought to Cuttack and preserved in the Imperial Bank of India till finally these were handed over to his great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi, in 1997 for immersion in the holy Ganges at Sangam on the Mahatma's 49th death anniversary.


A few days ago, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, said that if he had the choice to have dinner with anyone, it would be with Mahatma Gandhi. If Mr Obama's wish were to come true, he would have had to fly to Orissa to dine with Gandhi, probably in a dalit's humble hut.

 

Murlidhar C. Bhandare is governor of Orissa

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHERE WAS RSS THEN?

BY JAVED ANAND

 

Adarniya Sarsanghchalak Bhagwatji,

Saadar Pranaam!

 

I am deeply moved by your humko bhi parkho Dussehra Day invite sent out to Muslims and Christians to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). So, the Sangh Parivar, here I come. Please treat this letter as my application for entry into the fold for your kind consideration. I understand from the media that all you want is for the likes of me to accept that "all Muslims in India were Hindus in the past... who have only changed their method of worship".


I hope I make it since I more than fulfil your benevolent requirement. For starters, I am not too strong on the worship front. Even otherwise, I have no difficulty in accepting the obvious — Hindu past — for I doubt if my forefathers could be Sikhs, Jains, or Buddhists. The former are easily discounted for they arrived too late on the scene. Jains? No way, they are not interested in Mughlai cuisine. As for Buddhists, I am unable to see what possible incentive there was for them to abandon their faith.


But converting from Hinduism is conceivable. I have been told since childhood that we are Siddiquis. That's big if you are talking hierarchy — being part of the extended parivar of none less than the closest companion of Prophet Mohammed and the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr. But this "Arabisation" drive, Bhagwatji, I suspect is quite like Sanskritisation — in search of respectability, status and imagination at work. It's quite likely that my forefathers were Hindu and "untouchable".


Imagine Islam's appeal to one who is constantly told he is too "impure" to be allowed entry inside a temple. Imagine the doors of a mosque being flung open to him with an invite — Come, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us. No hierarchy here, no caste, no class, no race: Sab ka maalik ek! Who says you are too impure to enter a holy space or hold a holy text? Here's the Quran, it's yours as much as anyone else's: Touch it, hold it, read it, kiss it, hug it, store it in your heart and mind.


Imagine, Bhagwatji, does this not sound like celestial music to outcastes such as my forefathers quite possibly were? But all this is in the past, no hurdle in the way of my intended gharvaapsi. You may not know it, but afflicted by fickleness of faith, the subcontinent's Muslim is forever being pulled in four different directions: dar-e-Habeeb, maikhana, butkhana, Kaaba. The sound of the sankh or the temple bell continues to mesmerise many a Muslim as much as the call of the muezzin. Nowhere is it more evident than in Urdu poetry, a treasure house which the parivar sadly disowns.

 

Here, for example, is poet Mir Taqi "Mir",
"Mir ke deen-o-mazhab ka, poonchte kya ho unne tokashka khaincha dair mein baitha kab ka tarq Islam kiya"


("What can I tell you about Mir's faith or belief a tilak on his forehead in a temple he resides, having abandoned Islam long ago").


Even more interesting is Mohammed Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who unfortunately started with "saare jahaan se achcha..." but ended up with the idea of Pakistan. Here he is, however, in conversation with shama:


"Yek been teri nazar sifat-e ashqaan-e raaz,meri nigaah maya-e ashob-e imtiyaaz
kaabe mein butkade mein yaksaan teri ziyamain imtiyaz dair-o-haram mein phansa hua".


(For you all truth seekers are alikeI am accursed with a malady, seeking differencesYou shine in the Kaaba as you glow in idols' abodesI am trapped in my mosque-temple distinction).


(Noor, shama, diya: in all faiths remember, Light is among the attributes of the Divine).


No major problems, Bhagwatji, I'll come running to Hindutva's headquarters. My only problem is a little insecurity, that little voice which keeps telling me I am being naive, gullible and silly. It keeps jolting my memory, asking awkward questions. Perhaps you can help me with some answers.


Tell you what, Bhagwatji, let's forget the past and look to the future. Your Dussehra speech also assured Muslims that if they accepted they were Hindus once, "there will be no clashes". Just two short questions: Is this a promise or a threat?


And, in the next communal carnival will anything other than my name (you know which part) and my missing foreskin matter to the storm-troopers of your sangh?


I eagerly await your assurances.

 

Saadar.

 

Javed Anand is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TO CATCH THE TOMB RAIDERS

BY ROGER ATWOOD

 

AS United States troops begin withdrawing from Iraq, we should take stock of the staggering damage that Iraq's ancient archaeological sites have suffered from looting over the last few years. After the 2003 invasion, swarms of looters dug huge pits and passages all over southern Iraq in search of cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals. At Isin, where a Sumerian city once stood, I watched men sifting through tonnes of soil for 4,000-year-old objects to sell to Baghdadi dealers. It was mass pillage.


The worst of the looting appears to be over, say the experts who monitor archaeological sites with armed inspections and aerial photographs. With security improving, Iraqi authorities now have the chance to bring long-lasting protection to what's left of the country's ancient heritage. They could take some pointers from an unexpected place: Peru.


In 1994, residents of eight villages in north-western Peru — a region of deserts and oases that looks much like Iraq — organised citizens' patrols. The patrols weren't out to stop house burglars or cattle rustlers. They were looking for looters, who, for several years, had plundered the area to feed the robust international market for pre-Inca artifacts.


I spent a few days with one of these patrols in the village of Úcupe in 2002. The members were unarmed and well organised, and they knew the terrain as well as you know your dining room. When they spotted looters digging up the overgrown ancient burial mounds that dot the landscape, they surrounded them and called the police. In this way, I saw the patrols apprehend three potential looters without firing a shot.


Last year, archaeologists excavated an intact tomb at Úcupe that contained the remains of a lord who ruled during the Moche civilisation around AD 450. He was buried with golden head-dresses, war clubs, silver rattles and opulent jewellery. If sold piecemeal on the black market, these objects could have fetched millions. Instead, their discovery opened the door to a new understanding of how power was exercised in the Moche world.
Without the civilian patrols, this tomb would certainly have been emptied by looters. The people of Úcupe will now benefit from the archaeological tourism that often follows such discoveries and that, in Peru, is booming. They protected a community asset, and it paid off.


This kind of grassroots organising — where local officials, police officers and archaeologists join forces with local residents — is the best way to combat looting and protect sites from being swallowed up by the illicit antiquities trade.


A similar strategy has proved effective in Mali, a country that has little in common with Peru besides a rich archaeological heritage. It would work in Iraq and elsewhere.


Surprisingly, though, relatively few governments have focused on getting rural people involved in protecting threatened sites. Most spend their energy pressing museums in the United States or Europe to repatriate looted artifacts, instead of focusing on safeguarding the archaeological riches still in the ground.


Repatriation is a valuable goal, but an immense amount of historical information is lost whenever looting occurs and sites are damaged, even if the objects are later recovered. The government's time would be better spent expanding the patrols to prevent looting in the first place.

In Iraq, the authorities could start by inviting provincial museums and archaeologists to work with local governments and police departments on organising residents who live near key ancient sites. Rural citizens' patrols aren't expensive — they need binoculars, cellphones, maybe a few dirt bikes and some basic training.


Financing could come from international conservation and community development organisations and should include money for education to encourage people to see the ruins in their midst as valuable community assets as much as potable water or clean streets.


Once organised, the patrols need to be lightly armed if armed at all, and they have to be well regulated by the police. But as the good citizens of Úcupe have shown, they work.

 

Roger Atwood, a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine, is the author of Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers and the Looting of the Ancient World

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GAMES' MONITORS

 

SPLIT hairs as much as you will about whether "monitor" equates with "supervision" or "control", there can be no two opinions that the Commonwealth Games Federation's appointing a panel of experts to regularly take stock of the progress in preparations for next year's festival equates with an expression of no-confidence in Suresh Kalmadi, MS Gill, Sheila Dikshit & Co. Small comfort can be drawn from Mike Fennel's declaration that the 2010 Games would be held in Delhi (which other city could step in at this late stage?), and the President of the Federation's talk of the event being successful if instructions were followed strongly implies that a flop was in store if the professional managerial expertise he wanted inducted was ignored. That he should talk of how the IOC's direct action salvaged the Athens Olympiad is ominous. The string of cautions and advisories that flowed during his media session constitutes a more powerful indictment than the document he circulated a month ago. And this time around the misgivings were endorsed by delegates from several Commonwealth nations. To pick up the odd compliment about Indians being good hosts, and to wave that as a "certificate" is as indicative of desperation among the local organisers as one of them accusing the CWGF delegates of coming here with an "unfair agenda". Only failures cry "foul". A not-to-be-trivialised sideshow to Fennel's press meet is to call the bluff of those who over the past five days had been issuing statements on how satisfied the delegates were. Spin-doctors have been exposed as quacks.


Time is not the only "enemy" that the CWGF chief diplomatically limited himself to mentioning. It is so apparent that, as for the Asian Games of 1972, the Central government will have to undertake a rescue mission. True that will divert attention and resources away from a host of pressing public issues, but CWG 2010 is more than a sporting extravaganza. History will confirm how "emerging" nations use such events to boost their international image, showcase their credentials to secure a place on the global stage. India's stakes are high ~ a greater say in re-defining the world's economic structures, a permanent place in the UN Security Council, to mention a couple. Those aspirations cannot be permitted to be negated by the incompetence of the CWG Organising Committee. There is no alternative to Dr Manmohan Singh stepping up to the plate. He just cannot sit this one out, nor must he lend himself to suggestions that matters are being pushed to the brink so that a certain office-bearer of his party can emerge heroically to pull government's chestnuts out of the fire.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SHUT UP, PLEASE

 

CONSIDERING the magnitude of the Maoist challenge and the nature of the offensive on the anvil, the competitive exchange of invectives is sickening even as a sideshow of the political class. Across the spectrum, leaders are confronted with issues of far greater import; short of the military's involvement, the blitz against the Left radical may turn out to be quite the most drastic manifestation of internal policing. Neither any head of government nor an opposition leader has countenanced so awesome a scenario. At a juncture such as this, verbal skirmishes can only deflect attention from the core issue. And it would be no over-reaction to submit that West Bengal's Chief Minister as much as a representative of the CM-in-waiting have spoken the unparliamentary language of overgrown juveniles.


That said, there is no denying that there was a provocation for Monday's outburst by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee; his performance in Delhi is almost invariably more robust than it is in Kolkata. Truth to tell, there was no call for Mamata Banerjee to demand his dismissal and arrest. Nay more, that Bengal would burn if any "intellectual" ~ the most loosely used term in the English vocabulary ~ was touched. Any chief minister would have had his dander up in the face of such outrageous statements by a union minister. The CM ought to have been restrained, he was not. His diagnosis of Mamata as a victim of "juvenile disorder" has been countered by Trinamul's Partha Chatterjee, with the barb that the Chief Minister is suffering from "mental disorder". The CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress owe the state a lot more than this nauseating slanging match. Is it possible that the railway minister is peeved over the fact that the Chief Minister has had his way in his interaction with the PM ~ "an honourable man" ~ and the home and finance ministers? As on Monday, the Centre has acceded to the state's demand that joint operations against the Maoists would continue.


Unwittingly or otherwise, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has extended the use of the trademark invectives ~ beyond Jyoti Basu's description of Mamata Banerjee as "a 420" in the context of her claimed Ph.D, to Anil Biswas's "even the devil wouldn't touch her", to Subhas Chakraborty's "if Mamata can become chief minister, hair can grow on my bald pate". Enough is enough. Let there be a scintilla of sense and sensibility in West Bengal.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LIVING IN AN AGE CRIPPLED BY TECHNOLOGY

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


LONDON, 13 OCT: The dependence on the Internet and mobile phones seems to have become profound. When cut off from these modern-day technological innovations, people tend to become anxious rather than feeling liberated, says a study.


Researchers have found that staying in a place with no mobile phone coverage, or suffering from the Internet going down, is a cause of high stress and anxiety for an increasing number of people.
The study, undertaken for Virgin Media by the analysts Future Laboratory, is based on a survey.


As many as 85 per cent of full-time mothers always have the Internet turned on at home, while a third of people said they no longer felt any sense of guilt about always being "connected" either by having their mobile phone or computer turned on, the survey found.


The results indicated that 36 per cent of people were anxious about keeping in touch with their family if they were disconnected, compared with just 29 per cent who felt they're liberated, The Daily Telegraph reported.

 

When it came to work 29 per cent cent said they were anxious when cut off, compared with 28 per cent saying they felt liberated.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE ZERO-SUM GAME

NO WINNERS IN THE PRE-PARTITION CONTEST OF POWER-POLITICS

BY SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE


I CONGRATULATE The Statesman and Dainik Statesman for reviving the debate on Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the context of Jaswant Singh's recent book. I entirely agree with Rajinder Puri (19 August) that Singh's verdict was based on "incomplete truth".


MA Jinnah (1876-1948) started as a liberal, cultured nationalist Congressman who was trained by Dadabhai Naoroji and Gokhale. Sarojini Naidu remained his lifelong friend, but was reportedly unwilling to marry him. She once described him as "the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity". He strongly supported Tilak and Annie Besant on the Home Rule movement along the Irish pattern. For a long spell, a hesitant Jinnah retained his dual membership of the Congress and the Muslim League.


It is true that Mahatma Gandhi preferred Jawaharlal Nehru, a fact that enabled the latter to easily win the race for the top Congress leadership. Jinnah's other major contender whom Gandhi preferred was Maulana Mohiuddin Ahmad, better known as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was very close to the Muslim masses as editor of the Urdu paper, Al Hilal. Jinnah was extremely ambitious. He felt slighted when the Mahatma ignored him, and gradually distanced himself from the Gandhi-led Congress which had a galaxy of Muslim leaders. As the historian Mushirul Hasan wrote in his biography of Dr Ansari: "These staunch nationalist leaders scrupulously refrained from identifying themselves with a region or community, an almost irresistible temptation in the murky world of local and provincial politics."


CARDINAL MISTAKES

JINNAH'S cardinal mistake was his attempt to be the sovereign spokesman of the Muslims of India. In fact, he envied Azad's elevation as the youngest Congress president in 1923. And more so after 1939, when Azad succeeded Subhas Chandra Bose as the Congress president. He continued as president during the crucial negotiations with the British leaders for the final transfer of power.


During his visit to England in 1932-34, Jinnah was first acquainted with the concept of the "two-nation theory". It was popularised by one Rahmat Ali, a young Muslim student in England. Jinnah welcomed it as a readymade doctrine to afford a theoretical base to his idea of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal, the poet and philisopher, had already used it while calling for the creation of Pakistan in his presidential address to the Muslim League in 1930.


Jinnah had also wanted to use the Conservatives, led by Churchill, to canvass for Pakistan, even risking the possibility that he might be outplayed by them. In the elections of 1937, the Congress was able to form a government in seven provinces. Led by Nehru, it violated the provisions of Hindu-Muslim parity under the Lucknow Pact of 1916, with no Chittaranjan Das to uphold it. Chowdhury Khaliquzzaman, the liberal Muslim leader, wanted a coalition cabinet in UP. The Congress rejected the offer. Still more disastrous was the party's refusal to form a coalition in Bengal with the Krishak Praja Party leader, Fazlul Huq. A frustrated Huq then had to form a coalition cabinet in Bengal with the Muslim League.


These developments made Jinnah more adamant. At the Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1940, he not only incorporated the Pakistan demand in his "14-point proposals"; he also had his Pakistan resolution moved by AK Fazlul Huq, the chief minister of Bengal. The Muslim League thus secured a firm foothold in Bengal. The daredevil escape of Subhas Chandra Bose from India in 1941 to set up the Azad Hind government in Singapore with Japanese assistance, meant that there was no powerful contender to challenge Nehru in the race for Congress leadership. Vallabhbhai Patel lacked Nehru's charisma.

Meanwhile, an adamant Jinnah rejected the Cripps proposals of 1942 that rejected his demand for Pakistan. This provoked Gandhi's rather desperate "Quit India" slogan, against which Jinnah raised the counter-slogan, "Quit India after dividing it".


Gandhi was arrested in 1942. After his release in September 1944, he wrote to Jinnah: "Please do not regard me as an enemy of Islam and the Muslims." But he failed to appease Jinnah. 


The Labour Party won the parliamentary elections in Britain in 1945. A defeated Churchill was looking forward to an opportunity to discredit Labour by attacking its pro-India or pro-Congress policy. He was determined to use Jinnah to upset the Labour government's plan to conclude a deal that would be favourable to the Congress.
Jinnah was furious after the Cabinet Mission's "pro-Congress" proposals of 1946. It rejected his Pakistan demand on the ground that the Hindu and Muslim populations were inextricably linked.


DREAM SHATTERED

ON 27 July 1946, a desperate Jinnah provoked the killing of innocents. He called upon Muslims to observe 16 August 1946 as "Direct Action Day". Communal violence followed. CR Das's dream of Hindu-Muslim unity was shattered. The Communists had already supported the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan on the basis of their right to self-determination. The growth of Bengali sub-nationalism, leading to the birth of the sovereign republic of Bangladesh in 1971, was an offshoot of Jinnah's two-nation theory.


Jinnah's Direct Action Plan backfired because an overwhelming number of Hindus of West Bengal and Sikhs in East Punjab agitated for their own security. They wanted to be separate from Pakistan.

 

Shyamaprasad Mukherjee took up their cause. He helped Bengali refugees in the absence of Netaji. 


Gandhi committed two grave mistakes. He did not pay sufficient attention to the riots between Nambudri Brahmin landlords and Mopla Muslim farmers in Kerala, lest they upset the Khilafat. Further, when Jinnah was forced to have "a moth-eaten Pakistan", Gandhi advised the Congress to boycott the referendum in Sylhet and North West Frontier Province. It turned out to be a walkover for Jinnah. But he was outplayed by Churchill and his other Conservative followers. Jinnah didn't get the full Pakistan as he had conceived.
On 11 August 1947, Jinnah, as Pakistan's first Governor-General, assured non-Muslim minorities, "You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state." This about-turn is perplexing. Did it indicate a belated revival of Jinnah's secular conscience and his credentials as an erstwhile Congressman?


Game-theorists like Karl Deutsch and Lieber might identify Partition as a "zero-sum game" in which none of the players in power-politics emerged victorious. On 15 August 1947 was celebrated the first Independence Day of the Indian Republic in a mood of subdued, albeit mellow, fulfilment. Jinnah had to accept a "moth-eaten" Pakistan.

The writer is retired Professor of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BJP OR THE REST?

 

THE position of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a coalition partner in Bihar was scarcely enhanced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's choice of Rajgir for the weekend conclave. On the contrary, the damage-control exercise mounted by the RSS footsoldiers at the conclusion of the meeting points to the overwhelming confusion within. Unmistakable is the anxiety to deny what the chief, Mohan Bhagwat, had said rather than to clarify his actual statement. There appears to be a flutter within the parent party, and the BJP's silence on the controversial statement suggests that the rift may have widened. Mr Bhagwat is reported to have told RSS cadres that they were free to endorse any political party on the basis of its policies and programmes in the national interest. In other words, there is no compulsion to support the BJP. At its face value, the disenchantment ~ short of a parting of ways - between the two entities is virtually complete after this unwitting expression of the democratic spirit. The statement has come from the highest level and at a critical juncture ~ two days before the elections in Maharashtra, Haryana ~ where the BJP's stakes are high ~ and Arunachal Pradesh. 


If he has been misquoted, Mr Bhagwat, more than his spokespersons, owes us a clarification if only to ensure his credibility. The claim of Ram Madhav, the RSS spokesman, that the "turmoil in the BJP will end soon and that it will become a major force with renewed vigour" is essentially for public consumption. It is neither here nor there, indeed more in the nature of wishful thinking. Small wonder why Atal Behari Vajpayee, fighting age and illness, has issued a pre-election appeal to boost the party's prospects in Maharashtra. Almost invariably, the actual words of a politician, if controversial, tend to get obfuscated by rhetorical verbiage. The RSS is suffering from this typical syndrome of Indian politics. It has shifted its focus further afield to a perceived "international move to equate caste with race", a claim that is at once pregnant and unsubstantiated. Of far greater moment is the ferment within the Hindutva forces.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LIVING IN AN AGE CRIPPLED BY TECHNOLOGY

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


LONDON, 13 OCT: The dependence on the Internet and mobile phones seems to have become profound. When cut off from these modern-day technological innovations, people tend to become anxious rather than feeling liberated, says a study.


Researchers have found that staying in a place with no mobile phone coverage, or suffering from the Internet going down, is a cause of high stress and anxiety for an increasing number of people.


The study, undertaken for Virgin Media by the analysts Future Laboratory, is based on a survey.


As many as 85 per cent of full-time mothers always have the Internet turned on at home, while a third of people said they no longer felt any sense of guilt about always being "connected" either by having their mobile phone or computer turned on, the survey found.


The results indicated that 36 per cent of people were anxious about keeping in touch with their family if they were disconnected, compared with just 29 per cent who felt they're liberated, The Daily Telegraph reported.

 

When it came to work 29 per cent cent said they were anxious when cut off, compared with 28 per cent saying they felt liberated

 

***************************************


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE ZERO-SUM GAME

SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE


I CONGRATULATE The Statesman and Dainik Statesman for reviving the debate on Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the context of Jaswant Singh's recent book. I entirely agree with Rajinder Puri (19 August) that Singh's verdict was based on "incomplete truth".


MA Jinnah (1876-1948) started as a liberal, cultured nationalist Congressman who was trained by Dadabhai Naoroji and Gokhale. Sarojini Naidu remained his lifelong friend, but was reportedly unwilling to marry him. She once described him as "the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity". He strongly supported Tilak and Annie Besant on the Home Rule movement along the Irish pattern. For a long spell, a hesitant Jinnah retained his dual membership of the Congress and the Muslim League.


It is true that Mahatma Gandhi preferred Jawaharlal Nehru, a fact that enabled the latter to easily win the race for the top Congress leadership. Jinnah's other major contender whom Gandhi preferred was Maulana Mohiuddin Ahmad, better known as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He was very close to the Muslim masses as editor of the Urdu paper, Al Hilal. Jinnah was extremely ambitious. He felt slighted when the Mahatma ignored him, and gradually distanced himself from the Gandhi-led Congress which had a galaxy of Muslim leaders. As the historian Mushirul Hasan wrote in his biography of Dr Ansari: "These staunch nationalist leaders scrupulously refrained from identifying themselves with a region or community, an almost irresistible temptation in the murky world of local and provincial politics."


CARDINAL MISTAKES

JINNAH'S cardinal mistake was his attempt to be the sovereign spokesman of the Muslims of India. In fact, he envied Azad's elevation as the youngest Congress president in 1923. And more so after 1939, when Azad succeeded Subhas Chandra Bose as the Congress president. He continued as president during the crucial negotiations with the British leaders for the final transfer of power.


During his visit to England in 1932-34, Jinnah was first acquainted with the concept of the "two-nation theory". It was popularised by one Rahmat Ali, a young Muslim student in England. Jinnah welcomed it as a readymade doctrine to afford a theoretical base to his idea of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal, the poet and philisopher, had already used it while calling for the creation of Pakistan in his presidential address to the Muslim League in 1930.
Jinnah had also wanted to use the Conservatives, led by Churchill, to canvass for Pakistan, even risking the possibility that he might be outplayed by them. In the elections of 1937, the Congress was able to form a government in seven provinces. Led by Nehru, it violated the provisions of Hindu-Muslim parity under the Lucknow Pact of 1916, with no Chittaranjan Das to uphold it. Chowdhury Khaliquzzaman, the liberal Muslim leader, wanted a coalition cabinet in UP. The Congress rejected the offer. Still more disastrous was the party's refusal to form a coalition in Bengal with the Krishak Praja Party leader, Fazlul Huq. A frustrated Huq then had to form a coalition cabinet in Bengal with the Muslim League.


These developments made Jinnah more adamant. At the Lahore session of the Muslim League in 1940, he not only incorporated the Pakistan demand in his "14-point proposals"; he also had his Pakistan resolution moved by AK Fazlul Huq, the chief minister of Bengal. The Muslim League thus secured a firm foothold in Bengal. The daredevil escape of Subhas Chandra Bose from India in 1941 to set up the Azad Hind government in Singapore with Japanese assistance, meant that there was no powerful contender to challenge Nehru in the race for Congress leadership. Vallabhbhai Patel lacked Nehru's charisma.

Meanwhile, an adamant Jinnah rejected the Cripps proposals of 1942 that rejected his demand for Pakistan. This provoked Gandhi's rather desperate "Quit India" slogan, against which Jinnah raised the counter-slogan, "Quit India after dividing it".


Gandhi was arrested in 1942. After his release in September 1944, he wrote to Jinnah: "Please do not regard me as an enemy of Islam and the Muslims." But he failed to appease Jinnah. 


The Labour Party won the parliamentary elections in Britain in 1945. A defeated Churchill was looking forward to an opportunity to discredit Labour by attacking its pro-India or pro-Congress policy. He was determined to use Jinnah to upset the Labour government's plan to conclude a deal that would be favourable to the Congress.
Jinnah was furious after the Cabinet Mission's "pro-Congress" proposals of 1946. It rejected his Pakistan demand on the ground that the Hindu and Muslim populations were inextricably linked.


DREAM SHATTERED

ON 27 July 1946, a desperate Jinnah provoked the killing of innocents. He called upon Muslims to observe 16 August 1946 as "Direct Action Day". Communal violence followed. CR Das's dream of Hindu-Muslim unity was shattered. The Communists had already supported the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan on the basis of their right to self-determination. The growth of Bengali sub-nationalism, leading to the birth of the sovereign republic of Bangladesh in 1971, was an offshoot of Jinnah's two-nation theory.


Jinnah's Direct Action Plan backfired because an overwhelming number of Hindus of West Bengal and Sikhs in East Punjab agitated for their own security. They wanted to be separate from Pakistan.

 

Shyamaprasad Mukherjee took up their cause. He helped Bengali refugees in the absence of Netaji. 


Gandhi committed two grave mistakes. He did not pay sufficient attention to the riots between Nambudri Brahmin landlords and Mopla Muslim farmers in Kerala, lest they upset the Khilafat. Further, when Jinnah was forced to have "a moth-eaten Pakistan", Gandhi advised the Congress to boycott the referendum in Sylhet and North West Frontier Province. It turned out to be a walkover for Jinnah. But he was outplayed by Churchill and his other Conservative followers. Jinnah didn't get the full Pakistan as he had conceived.


On 11 August 1947, Jinnah, as Pakistan's first Governor-General, assured non-Muslim minorities, "You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the state." This about-turn is perplexing. Did it indicate a belated revival of Jinnah's secular conscience and his credentials as an erstwhile Congressman?


Game-theorists like Karl Deutsch and Lieber might identify Partition as a "zero-sum game" in which none of the players in power-politics emerged victorious. On 15 August 1947 was celebrated the first Independence Day of the Indian Republic in a mood of subdued, albeit mellow, fulfilment. Jinnah had to accept a "moth-eaten" Pakistan.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

COMMON CAUSE

 

Running a government is very different from running a political party. Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), can afford to forget this, but not Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, whose duties and functions as West Bengal's chief minister must take precedence over his loyalty to the party. Mr Karat may delude himself by engaging in supposedly ideological battles with the Congress and the government it leads at the Centre. Mr Bhattacharjee, by contrast, has a state to govern and cannot afford to waste his time in political brinkmanship. He has, therefore, done the right thing in moving in step with the Centre in tackling the Maoist threat in West Bengal. Some leaders in the CPI(M) are believed to be hesitant about taking a tough line on the issue. The chief minister's refusal to submit to party sceptics suggests that he is prepared to put governance before politics. If the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has agreed to continue the anti-Maoist operations by Central forces in Bengal, it is clearly an endorsement of Mr Bhattacharjee's strategy. The chief minister has reasons to be satisfied also with the Centre's decision to launch similar operations in Jharkhand. The battle against the Maoists should not be reduced to a partisan one aimed at scoring points over political rivals. It is a national issue, and the Centre and the state governments should make a common cause of tackling it together.

 

The same attitude to Centre-state cooperation should help Mr Bhattacharjee in other areas too. His industrialization campaign has been in disarray since the violent opposition to it by his political rivals, especially Mamata Banerjee. Three of India's biggest corporate firms — Tata Motors, Wipro and Infosys — had to step back from their plans to set up new units in West Bengal. These new units could have substantially changed the economic face of the state; their withdrawal now captures the deepening despair of potential investors. It looked in recent months as if the chief minister too had given up hopes of renewing his industrialization drive. He now says that he is trying to get things back on track. Given the current trend in the state's politics, it is no easy task. Mr Bhattacharjee's best bet is to get New Delhi's support for his industrialization initiative. A friendly Centre can help him do his job better. More important, this is in West Bengal's interest.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FACE IT

 

It is obscenely evasive or delusional of successive governments in India not to be able to make up their official minds, for more than four decades now, about whether or not the caste system exists in the country. Since 1965, India has maintained wildly contradictory positions and reports on caste at the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination. It has swung between acknowledging in an international forum that caste exists as a form of discrimination amounting to the violation of human rights, and getting mindlessly defensive by wanting to remove caste from the UN Convention on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. In the latest UN Human Rights Council — concluded this year on the birthday of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi — Nepal has somewhat spoilt this long Indian habit of equivocation by endorsing the formal inclusion of caste among forms of discrimination based on descent and work. Caste is too unambiguously real and unacceptable for the Indian State to reduce it to a semantic issue or a question of national autonomy or international prestige. India should come absolutely and officially clean, admit to the existence of caste-based discrimination, and cooperate with the international community in tackling it. Treating it duplicitously as a dirty, and an open, secret is a sordid and dishonourable option that the government should avoid being associated with.

 

Almost all governments and political parties, Central and regional, take the existence of caste as a vital element in their electoral strategies and practices, and several generations of Indians have grown up under the shadow of reservationist policies that have remained fundamentally unquestioned by almost every government. So when the Indian State has never thought twice before reaping every kind of political advantage from the persistence of the caste system, in all its subtle as well as cruder forms at every level of society, then pretending to the world that it is a phenomenon of dubious validity or a matter of merely national concern is hypocrisy of a particularly shameful sort. Being in denial, with its psychological overtones, is too kind an interpretation of this bureaucratic doublespeak in a world forum like the UN. Caste violates international human rights law, and there is a long and robust tradition of fighting it within the country. The government cannot wish away either fact.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PEACE AND ITS DEBRIS

HOW OBAMA BLEW HIS CHANCE TO MAKE A COURSE CORRECTION

DIPLOMACY -K.P. NAYAR

 

In their more reflective moments in the White House residence, the East Wing, Barack and Michelle Obama must have considered the meaning of the messages they received this month from Copenhagen and Oslo. The message that was conveyed by the Nobel committee was that its members, who are self-appointed keepers of some of the world's most cherished ideals, like what the president of the United States of America stands for and are willing to put their reputation on the line by investing him with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. The message from the International Olympic Committee, on the other hand, was that although they were charmed by both the US president and the first lady in Copenhagen, like much of the world, the committee was not yet ready to reward the US as a country in any way after the colossal damage wrought on the world by eight years of George W. Bush.

 

In recent weeks, Obama had the chance of a presidential term to make a significant course correction and demonstrate to the international community that Washington was changing its ways of dealing with the world: in particular, with smaller and weaker nations over whose destiny it has a huge influence. But he blew it, and the debris that his ambivalence has left behind does not make a pretty picture.

 

With the Indian embassy in Kabul coming under a terrorist attack for the second time in 15 months, it should deeply concern New Delhi that an American with considerable influence and pedigree attempted a regime change in Afghanistan which would have brought that country once again under the complete tutelage of the US. It is obvious that the attempt by Peter W. Galbraith, until recently deputy special representative of the United Nations secretary-general in Afghanistan, had the cloak-and-dagger support of a section of the Obama administration. A clique within the Obama administration that wanted to replace the president, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul, irrespective of the outcome of the recent presidential election, also attempted to disguise its coup d'etat as a constitutional transition. This was to give it legitimacy within Afghanistan and among those abroad, including India, who are doing whatever possible to assist Afghans on the path to a better future.

 

Fortunately for everyone, the attempt at regime change, misusing the United Nations, was firmly nipped in the bud by the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. Two weeks ago, Ban fired Galbraith, the mastermind of the plot. Belatedly, the Obama administration has stepped up and acted in support of Galbraith's boss, the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, the Norwegian, Kai Eide. Last week, Obama's envoy in Kabul, Karl W. Eikenberry, called a meeting of resident ambassadors in the Afghan capital to insist that the US was backing Eide. On Sunday, key players in the international community rallied in support of Eide. Along with Eikenberry, the British, the French and the German ambassadors as well as the European Union special representative and Nato's senior civilian representative in Kabul were present at a press conference called by the Norwegian to explain the UN's role in the Afghan election process.

 

But Obama could definitely do more. Indeed, he should do more to support the UN secretary-general's actions on Afghanistan because when the ongoing assessments on Afghanistan, which are now in full swing in Washington, are over, it ought to be plain to Obama that Galbraith is doing as much damage as the Taliban to US goals in Kabul.

 

Galbraith has not quite given up. Using sections of the American media, which are willing to swallow hook, line and sinker his version of the developments in Afghanistan surrounding the elections, Galbraith is now trying to discredit the poll process irredeemably, which will install the next president in Kabul. Having lost his battle against Eide, at least for now, Galbraith's current mission is to inflict as much damage as possible on the UN and dent its credibility. Sadly, as a practitioner of diplomacy, it does not seem to concern Galbraith that he is cutting off his nose to spite his face.

 

The story of the attempted regime change in Kabul actually goes back to a period well before the appointment of Galbraith to the Number Two post in the UN set up in Afghanistan. Joseph Biden, now vice- president, had lost trust in Karzai as early as February 2008, when he and two other US senators found the Afghan president to be evasive and unaccountable on corruption and governance in a country where a significant portion of the Western, and Indian, development aid was going into a black hole. It soon became clear that with Obama as president, Karzai would no longer have the luxury of cosy fire-side chats with the US president.

 

Enter Richard Holbrooke as Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, resentful that his chance to have another go at the Nobel Peace Prize by 'solving' Kashmir had been thwarted by India, which conveyed a message to Obama through the back channel that no visa would be given to Holbrooke to travel to New Delhi if his mandate included India. With India out of his purview, Holbrooke decided that he would 'sort out' Afghanistan. It is an open secret in Foggy Bottom, the seat of the US state department, that it was Holbrooke who proposed Galbraith's name for the Number Two slot at the UN in Afghanistan. On the face of it, there could not have been a better choice if anyone wanted to shake up a complacent Karzai administration.

 

But like the proverbial leopard that cannot change its spots, Galbraith is incapable of sticking to the straight and narrow path. As ambassador to Croatia in the 1990s, when Holbrooke was brokering peace in the Balkans, Galbraith, it was alleged by the CIA station chief at his own embassy, was abetting — or at least turning a blind eye to — an arms smuggling operation by Iran for Bosnian Muslims in defiance of a global weapons embargo. Indians know Galbraith as a close friend of Benazir Bhutto from their years at Oxford and Harvard: that friendship considerably complicated Indo-Pakistan equations later because of Galbraith's partisan actions as a senior staff member on the US Senate foreign relations committee when Benazir became Pakistan's prime minister.

 

In Afghanistan's case, Galbraith's solution for the malpractices in the recent presidential election was to persuade Karzai, who won 54.6 per cent of the votes, and Abdullah Abdullah, who garnered 27.8 per cent, to step aside in favour of a third candidate: an economist formerly with the World Bank, Ashraf Ghani, who got a mere 2.7 per cent of the vote. It would seem that the phrase, 'a cure that is worse than the disease', was invented for Galbraith's actions.

 

According to senior UN officials, Galbraith offered to go to Biden and get the Obama administration's approval for such a regime change which would have been a recipe for disaster in Afghanistan. Long before the election process started in Afghanistan, there were whispers in Washington that the US would somehow install Ghani, whose reputation in Afghanistan is that of a stooge of the Americans.

 

Nobody, including Eide, is saying that the Afghan presidential election was completely free or fair. But the question really is how free or fair was it? Last month, India's external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, hit the nail on its head when he reminded a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, who tried to corner Krishna on the outcome of the Afghan poll, about the election malpractices in Florida in 2000. Krishna said that it happens in many elections that the results are questioned.

 

If Karzai had got 98 per cent of the votes at least in Pashtun areas, Saddam-Hussein-style, there would have been a case for annulling the poll results. Eide is doing not only Afghanistan but also emerging democracies everywhere a great service by insisting that reports of malpractices should be verified and not be arbitrarily used against Karzai simply because Galbraith and Holbrooke do not like, say, the Afghan president's distinctive Karakul sheepskin cap.

Eide's action in refusing to go along with Galbraith's plans to disenfranchise many Pashtun supporters of Karzai by closing 1,200 of the 7,000 polling stations will be appreciated by many Indians who recall that the determination many years ago of India's Election Commission to keep polling stations open at great risk in India's insurgency-hit states like Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir was what ultimately saw the triumph of popular will in those states and dealt a blow to violent extremism.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WITH THE PEDANTS

WORDCAGE -STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

I wrote two weeks ago that the choice of the right preposition was one mark of idiomatic English. I've seen ample proof in recent months that the nation which invented that language does not actually know it very well.

Often my source has been the London Times — not that it's worse than other dailies, I suspect, but it is the one I read; a once-great paper whose subediting has followed its general slide down-market. I've found mitigate for militate there; in its book section, nay, I've even found a reference to the poets "Haussman, Shakespeare and Milton". Not a matter of grammar, I grant, but the paper's (highly literate) books editor must have groaned to see that someone further down the heap was illiterate enough not, it seems, to have heard of A.E. Houseman.

 

Back with prepositions, the villain of the piece is often the invasive to. British sports journalists now almost habitually write Chelsea's defeat to Wigan, when they mean by; though, happily, they haven't got round to Wigan's victory to Chelsea, where over still rules. Last Saturdays' Times brought a novelty weird even by sportspeak standards: cricket's obsession on being the new football, to join fed up of and bored of. Poor old with.

 

Equally, I've met A being a substitute to B, in place of for. And quite often phrases such as the secret to good cooking is good ingredients, rather than of. But here the subtleties begin. It's perfectly correct — don't ask me why — to write there is a secret to good cooking. Equally, you can say there must be a solution to this problem. In both these latter cases, of would be wrong — even though you would normally (but not invariably) say the solution of the problem was...

 

Such subtleties are common. Did Graham Greene write a novel called The End to the Affair? Of course not, he used of. Yet his heroine decided to put an end to the affair — and no other preposition would be right in such a phrase.

 

There are oddities of spelling too. I once knew a style book which declared that into must always be so spelt, in one word, but on to always in two. Nonsense, twice over. Witness phrases such as he handed his paper in to the invigilator or we drove onto the tarmac, quite a different notion from we drove on to the lake, meaning until we reached it. The basic rule here is that if in or on really belongs with the verb, then split them from to; if they naturally belong with to, as part of a single preposition, join the word up. He ran into his father means one thing; he opened the door and ran in to his father means another.

 

Beside (that is, close to) and besides (that is, in addition to) are often confused. In old English, indeed, beside often did duty in either sense. But these days the two are best kept distinct. Americans love prepositions. Britons head a group or free a space; Americans head up and free up. A Briton may beat his wife and perhaps beat up her lover; an American might beat up on both. The Briton will then stand outside the house (or if he's a keen Scot, outwith), the Yank outside of it; though both, in colloquial Britspeak and often in America, could well run out the front gate, as against out of it. A New York building is on 42nd Street, a London one in Regent Street — though the American on is rapidly gaining ground in Britain.

 

Like a lot of Americanisms, that on today sounds fine to many of my compatriots, but it's not fine by me. And in my youth it wouldn't have been fine for any Briton trying to please some well-read examiner. For once — though not at once — I'm with the pedants; on their side, that is, though not at it.

thewordcage@yahoo.co.uk

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

FARM SECTOR NEEDS BETTER CREDIT FACILITY

INTEREST CONCESSION TO FARM LOANS PROVIDED BY GOVT IS NOT VOLUNTARILY EXTENDED BY BANKS.

PRABHAKAR KULKARNI

 

The banks in the nationalised, private and co-operative sectors are under the regulatory authority of the RBI which has statutory control under the Banking Regulation Act. While deciding the policy of loan disbursal and relevant facilities, there should be a sort of uniformity so that no sector is disproportionately benefited or neglected and the constituents of all sectors will have an equal opportunity to develop in their respective fields.


The banks focus more on the corporate sector in general and industries in particular, which are also pleading for facilities. Immediately after the budget, the bankers had approached the RBI governor with a demand to extend the period for restructuring of loans with regard to big accounts as also seeking credit from a consortium of banks.


The fact that such credit facilities are given to these sectors is itself indicative of the leniency as compared to other sectors in general and the farm sector in particular.


Banks have not considered various products and credit schemes for the farm sector as they have done in case of car loans, consumer loans as also loans to small and medium industries. Kisan credit cards and other products attracting clients in the farm sectors are either not specified or nor focused in the banks' public announcements and public relations campaigns.


LIMITED RELIEF

The significance of the farm sector is again stressed by policy makers as revealed in the recent budget. The amount of credit flow has been increased and the banks and financial institutions are expected to come forward with various products and schemes for the benefit of farmers.


This is more so because according to the new policy, the loan waiver scheme is modified in so far as those getting 25 per cent waiver and expected to pay the remaining 75 per cent, are now getting an extension of the period up to end of this year due to delayed monsoon and adverse effect on the current crop yield. But if the situation is so adverse and uncertain about the quantum of crop and cash value it may fetch, how is it possible for farmers to pay 75 per cent amount at one go even at the end of the year? This question is not considered either by the Union government or the RBI or the banking sector. Any relief is expected to be felt as relief by the beneficiaries and not as a conditional and partial 'relief'.


The relief should be total irrespective of land holding as was the basic demand put forth by almost all political parties as also the farmers' organisations. Payment of 75 per cent of the amount is certainly a burden in view of the uncertainty of both the crops and the seasonal market situations. Hence restructuring of farm loans is the right alternative and this should be considered by both the Union government and the RBI.


In fact, the bankers should have included farm loans for restructuring while demanding restructuring facility for other sectors and extending period for the same. What bankers have demanded is extension of period for restructuring of big loans. This means that such big loans are restructured whenever demanded by the concerned constituents and this practice is routinely followed by nationalised banks and other financial institutions.

Then why is this facility not given to the farm sector? Banking facility should not be the monopoly of a certain sector and bankers should extend all or similar facilities to all the constituents in the national economy. Agriculture should not be disposed of as insignificant while considering extending facilities and relevant services and concessions including restructuring of pending loans to the industrial or corporate sector. The RBI is expected to see that banks follow same or similar practices in deciding policy in sanctioning and restructuring of loans without any discrimination.


While the pending loans to be paid by farmers at the end of the year should be restructured if the farmers are unable to pay the total amount; and normal facilities which are given to other sectors should also be extended to the farm sector. If bankers change their mindset and consider the farm sector as much important as other sectors, they may come forward with various schemes in farmers' interests. When that happens, the vast farming community's depressed mood may also change for the better.


While the government has provided interest concession to farm loans, the same is also not found to be voluntarily extended by the banks without any hesitation or delaying tactics. Now that the government has been formulating policies favourable to the farmers, after realising the harsh realities of life in the rural areas and the significance of the farm sector, the  bankers also should take initiatives to respond to the government's policy decisions without any hesitation.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

JAI JAWAN

EVEN UNEDUCATED JAWANS HAD A UNIQUE WAY OF EXPRESSING THEMSELVES.

D K HAVANOOR

 

Till the mid-70s, the Indian Army used to recruit uneducated or poorly educated youth into the infantry. Although, I was sympathetic towards them, it was amusing to work with these innocent boys from the Punjabi countryside. When asked about educational qualification, an uneducated jawan would say, "unpadh hainji", while the ones who attended elementary schooling would say, "primary padhe hainji".


Similarly, the ones who had studied up to seventh, would say "middal padhe hainji" and those who had studied up to eighth standard would say "high school padhe hainji". One who had studied up to ninth standard would say "under matric hainji".


Those who attended even a single day of tenth standard would say, "non matric hainji" and while those who had passed the 10th standard (matriculation) belonged to the elite group of jawans in my Sikh unit and would say, "Asi paade hain ji". I am a proud retired officer of a Sikh light infantry unit which had all dalit men.


While I spent most of my service tenure in field areas, I came up with new methods to keep my men engaged the entire day, lest the monotony created problems of discipline. One such method/idea was arranging an inter-platoon volleyball match on the hilltop company post, because the space available there allowed only this game.


If we ventured to play football, a powerful kick could easily launch the ball into Pakistan-occupied territory. As only a handful of the men could play the game, the others were kept busy cheering their team-mates. The 'elite' jawans who had studied above 'middal', were appointed to referee the match and keep the score. The bottom-rung 'unpadh' were content with lugging water or serving tea and pakodas to the spectators and the only VIP ie, me.

As the match started, listening to the counting of the score was more amusing than watching the game. When the scorer thought he wasn't being given enough attention or when he thought it opportune, he'd scream the scores out loud, 'saven' (seven), 'sikkas' (six), 'servace containoas' (service continues) or 'alevan' (eleven), 'naayan' (nine) or 'service change'. When the match ended, the grand finale came with a 'non-matric' jawan exclaiming "ghip ghip hurray!"

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

SEE A WAR CRIME IN THE MAKING? REPORT IT

 

What if you looked out of your window and noticed a group of men on a nearby roof training what appeared to be shoulder-held anti-aircraft launchers at jetliners approaching the airport? Or what if you had good reason to suspect that the new upstairs neighbors had transformed their apartment into a makeshift explosives laboratory?

 

Plainly, you would call the police - out of a sense of both obligation and self-preservation.

 

Likewise, the same moral, legal and commonsense rules would prevail if you were to stumble upon a group of heavily armed men fleeing down a flight of basement steps in your hospital, or sneaking crates marked "Danger Explosives" into your local mosque.

 

So here is a revolutionary idea: Apply these same principles in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

 

INTERNATIONAL humanitarian law obligates parties to an armed conflict, including non-state actors, to take every feasible precaution to protect civilian populations against attack. Clearly, the overriding obligation is not to place military targets among civilians. The intentional use of civilians to render certain areas immune from attack is illegal under international law. For instance, taking over a family's house and transforming it into an arms cache is a form of human shielding, and illegal.

 

It is true that international law permits retaliating against homes, places of worship, hospitals, schools and cultural monuments which are illegally being used by terrorists. But there ought to be a better way.

 

Why not encourage - perhaps somehow even obligate - the denizens of southern Lebanon and Gaza to conduct themselves as if they lived in Liverpool or Chicago or Barcelona? When you see a war crime in the making, report it.

 

The need for some fresh thinking on this score is made urgent not just by the patently inequitable Goldstone Report, but by the deaths late Monday of Said Nasser Abdel Issa and his son (along with three others, according to Arab media reports) when the arms cache in their home blew up.

 

The incident took place in the village of Tayr Filsay, on the southern bank of the Litani River, about 10 km. from the Israeli border. Hizbullah identified Issa as one of its "brothers," so, in this instance, the homeowner was party to the placement of the explosives. Israeli authorities know there are hundreds of weapons stores in other homes, mosques and commercial properties throughout southern Lebanon.

 

The explosion came on the heels of the explosion on July 14 of the Hizbullah arms depot in Khirbat Salim, which ignited a fireball seen miles away. Both incidents illustrate that Hizbullah, which controls southern Lebanon and is a powerbroker in Lebanese politics, continues to flagrantly violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the basis of the cease-fire being observed by Israel.

 

OF COURSE, Shi'ites in southern Lebanon and Palestinians in Gaza sympathize with the respective goals of Hizbullah and Hamas. But even those who may oppose using UN facilities, school, hospitals, ambulances and private homes to stage their "resistance" against Israel can't simply pick up the phone and call the cops - without reaching the bad guys themselves.

 

That is why the civilized world needs to set up a mechanism, something akin to an Interpol hotline, which could handle tips in anonymity and, perhaps, even offer a witness protection scheme. It makes no difference if the affected civilians sympathize with the goals of those who have commandeered their dwellings, or if they have been cowed into collaborating. Standing by with folded arms while your neighbors smuggle weapons into a tunnel below the village square is wrong.

 

Islamist extremists employ attacks against enemy civilians while shielding themselves among their own people - a sort of 21st-century poison gas. This leads to retaliatory attacks - as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and here in our region - costing the lives of innocent noncombatants.

 

One way the civilized world can preserve its values as it confronts "militants" who have no compunction about flying airliners into skyscrapers or sending suicide bombers to blow up buses is to reduce the chance that civilians will be injured in retaliatory strikes. And the best way to do that is by encouraging the local population to start taking some responsibility for its own safety.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THROWING CHILDREN TO THE WOLVES

GREER FAY CASHMAN

 

Why would anyone with even a pretense to moral values want to throw a child to the wolves? That is what our government is preparing to do. The cruelty has been compounded by a seeming reprieve.

 

Children of foreign workers who have been designated for deportation are being permitted to complete the school year. That sounds like a magnanimous concession.

 

But how can they concentrate on their lessons when they have such a cloud of uncertainty hanging over their heads? How does the fear of separation impinge on their lives?

 

How would we react if the children of Israeli or Jewish workers in another country were treated as we plan to treat 1,200 innocent children whose only sin is that they were born to foreign workers in the State of Israel, the country bequeathed to its citizens through biblical testimony? That same Bible exhorts us to be kind to the stranger within our gates.

 

Is deportation or the threat of it a kindness? What has happened to our moral values?

 

MUCH AS I would love to say that this government does not speak for me, if I believe in a democratic system then I have to acknowledge that this government does speak for me, even when I disagree with its decisions.

 

If this government goes ahead with child deportation, it will taint me forever. As a citizen of Israel, I am no less guilty of a moral crime than if I myself were to sign the deportation order. It makes me ashamed to be Israeli.

 

There are some who might call me a self-hating Jew. Indeed, the allegation has been thrust in my direction for daring to suggest that not all Israelis have been fair or decent in their dealings with Palestinians.

 

My answer is just as there are good and bad Israelis, there are good and bad Palestinians, and to tar everyone on one side or the other with the same brush demonstrates a lack of rational thinking.

 

The general tendency in Israel is to adopt an ostrich policy - to bury those things which are unpleasant in the sand - or better still to bury our heads in the sand, so that we will not see the evils perpetrated around us by some of our own people.

 

Heaven forbid that we should admit that Jews in general - and Israeli Jews in particular - are capable of dastardly deeds.

 

Perhaps that's why the crime rate in Israel keeps climbing, and why there is so much violence of late.

 

We talk of tikkun olam - fixing the world - but we look only at what needs to be mended outside. Anything inside the fence is deemed okay.

 

Well, it's not and it won't be until we accept accountability for our own ills and make a concerted effort to effect a cure.

 

Dropping the deportation order for foreign children born and/or raised in Israel might be a good start.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THERE MUST BE AN END IN SIGHT

ALON BEN-MEIR

 

The ongoing deliberations among US President Barack Obama's national security team and congressional leaders are necessary to determine the best possible means of successfully conducting the war in Afghanistan. But what must guide these discussions and take precedence for all parties involved is a thorough understanding of the objective and a clearly outlined mission.

 

Obama needs to define his goals candidly when it comes to counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and nation-building, especially as he considers sending additional troops to bolster these efforts. For example, does the United States want to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban, or does it want to eliminate al-Qaida as a terrorist organization and find some modus operandi with the Taliban?

 

Only when the objective is fully understood by the White House, State Department, Pentagon and Congress can Obama shape the overall war strategy and assemble the resources necessary to wage a successful campaign.

 

As critical as this process is to achieving a positive outcome in Afghanistan, America's national security interests are being compromised by the ideologues from both parties, who have polarized this war for petty political gain. What should be an in-depth analysis of American military strategy has become a partisan talking point for media outlets and congressional leaders to spar over.

 

Is it just a coincidence that every single Republican congressman favors the immediate dispatch of an additional 40,000 American soldiers as requested by Gen. McChrystal, even before the exact purpose and placement of the troops is known? And that each of their Democrat counterparts, including Vice President Joe Biden, has rejected the expansion of troops before a consensus is made as to the objective of the war?

 

One thing is clear, however; following the initial success of overthrowing the Taliban in 2001, the "war of necessity" in Afghanistan was neglected as focus was shifted to the "war of choice" in Iraq. This negligence allowed the Taliban and al-Qaida to regroup and remobilize as they entrenched themselves in the tribal areas in Pakistan.

 

As the attention now shifts back to Afghanistan, it is essential this time that the goals be realistic and attainable, with an exit strategy in mind. This war is undoubtedly dangerous and complex, so anything less than a full consideration of the options would put thousands of lives at risk.

 

OBAMA IS correct in trying to gather advice from those on all sides of the spectrum on a US strategy to carry out a perilous war of this magnitude. He should not be rushed into make a decision.

 

It is equally important to emphasize that this is not just an American war. In the final analysis, the Afghan people and their government - and the same can be said about Pakistan - must learn how to deal with insurgents and terrorist groups that are out to undermine their government just as much as they want to undermine American and allied efforts.

 

The surge took place in Iraq when it became abundantly clear that additional troops would turn the tide of the war. Moreover, what has succeeded in Iraq is the building of the Iraqi military and internal security forces to the level that allows the US to decide on a time line for withdrawal.

 

In addition, the US was able to persuade the Iraqi insurgents to join the political process. This is not the case with the Taliban and is not likely to change with the current policy. The war in Afghanistan has outlasted the war in Iraq and we are not anywhere near having an exit strategy.

 

For this reason, the US must focus on a number of key issues essential to its security and the well-being of the Afghan people.

 

The first is a targeted counter-terrorism strategy. The Obama administration's approach has been very successful, inflicting substantial losses on al-Qaida, and rendering the group considerably weaker than it has been in many years.

 

Because the Taliban are indigenous and there is no realistic possibility of eliminating them, to deal with them in the long term the US must fashion a strategy that could lure the non-ideological majority to give up the fight and join the political process.

 

Next, the reconstruction needs of the Afghan people must be addressed on a community level. One of the best ways to deter the Taliban is to provide Afghan villages with jobs and resources so that people have a stake in their communities.

 

American efforts in this capacity, through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams and work with local NGOs, have so far been successful, and more importantly they are welcomed by the people.

 

In his March address of US strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama stated, "To advance security, opportunity, and justice...we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers. That is how we can help the Afghan government serve its people, and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs."

 

In this respect, the US needs to devote aid and resources to the NGOs and Afghan initiatives that have been effective in impacting the communities and building up the economy.

 

TO SUSTAIN these initiatives and to allow the US to settle on a realistic exit strategy, it must increase its efforts on training the Afghan military and internal security forces. These forces need to be significantly increased so that they will be capable of facing and effectively dealing with the threats ahead. The current Afghan military, with only 93,000 soldiers, should be tripled in size, as should the police force.

 

However difficult, expensive and time-consuming the build-up of the Afghan security apparatus is, it remains an absolute necessity. Without it, there is no hope that the United States can extract itself from the war in Afghanistan with any certainty that al-Qaida and the hard-core Taliban fighters will not reconstitute themselves. This is where the Obama administration, along with its international partners, especially the EU, ought to allocate the training personnel and necessary funding.

 

The Afghan and Pakistani people do not want to see their countries ravaged by an endless war, nor do they want to see hundreds of thousands American troops effectively occupying their land. They need both military and economic assistance, but these should certainly not be provided on an open-ended basis.

 

The US and its allies must see to it that the money is spent for the right purpose and that any troops sent over have a clear-cut strategy in mind.

 

Whatever decision Obama makes must be one that is clearly defined with an end-game in sight.

 

The writer is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. www.alonben-meir.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

A WOMAN WHO KNEW HER WORTH

DANIEL DORON

 

You could feel right away, in conversation with Rose Friedman - who died in August at 97 - that this petite lady with the twinkling eyes and sweet smile was responding to every word. But as she kept interjecting her razor-sharp, yet ever so gentle objections to seemingly rigorous propositions, you were startled by the realization of what a giant intellect this unassuming lady possessed.

 

It is a tribute to her great economist husband Milton that he treated Rose as his intellectual equal, a true partner, even as he was sometimes discomfited with her insistence on questioning what seemed like self-evident truths. Rose never accepted any assertion, even Milton's, as revealed truth. This constructive skepticism was no doubt her great contribution to the refinement of Milton's ideas. Milton seemed to think so.

 

That Milton's acceptance of Rose as his full partner was rather exceptional is a testimony to the fact that despite the great advances made in men's attitudes toward women, women are still not fully recognized as equals (though different, thank God). Rose must have had a strong sense of self, and did not seem to pay much attention to how she was perceived by the public. She fully, if modestly, knew her worth.

 

USUALLY IT is opposites that attract. But in the case of this exceptional couple, it was the similarity. "Milton has grown up," Rose related, "as I have, in a small town. He was not exposed to many things that other kids were exposed to. He was more intellectual than I, but not too much… that is what drew us together. We came from the same background and therefore our ideas were the same".

 

When they were seated next to each other in an economics class (arranged by alphabetical order) their affinities blossomed into full love. "She is a wonderful person," Milton said, "very warm and thoughtful, and very much concerned with other people's welfare rather than with her own."

 

This was surprising praise by a thinker who seems to have assumed that people act out of calculated self interest.

 

Former secretary of state George Schultz pointed out in one of the last public celebrations of Milton Friedman's birthday that in our era it was Milton whose ideas had the greatest beneficial impact on the wellbeing of humanity.

 

His indefatigable and effective advocacy of free markets, his fashioning of the instruments (floating exchange rates) that made free international trade easy, his discovery of the monetary origins of runaway inflation that made it possible to control this devastating plague (in Germany it spawned the rise of Nazism) his ability to convince leaders in American, Britain, China and India (and yes, even in Israel to an extent) that the market economy, despite its obvious imperfections (which, alas, afflict any system devised by homo sapiens), is by far the most successful economic system ever spontaneously evolved by mankind - helped transform the world.

 

Milton explained that not only is the free market the most powerful engine for the creation of wealth and wellbeing, its incessant innovation and encouragement of competition also resulted in the spreading of wealth and human welfare ever more widely, albeit not equally. Market economics has enabled billions of people, Milton reminded us, to overcome grinding scarcity and hopeless penury. It liberated them from the bondage of material and political slavery. It gave billions their first chance to participate in the pursuit of happiness and to start realizing what is human in mankind.

MILTON HAD a rare gift for translating complex economic issues involving sophisticated mathematical calculations into easily understood (though fiercely resisted) policy propositions. But he could not have made these propositions so widely known and understood without Rose, the co-author of their seminal work Free To Choose (the film series, and the book).

 

It was this collaboration that enabled their ideas to have a great impact. Milton fully shared the credit for this daring intellectual undertaking that has transformed the economic understanding of billions of people, helped elect Ronald Reagan and consequently brought such huge benefits to so many people, especially in less developed countries.

 

Gertrude Stein famously characterized "rose is a rose is a rose" uniquely, sublimely, poetically so. This particular Rose Friedman was more than the multi-leaved, many-hued and variously-scented outcropping of bounty that we name a rose. She was a rare amalgam of a quintessentially American optimism, of feminine grace and courage, and of Jewish loving-kindness. It was at the root of everything she did. It showed in her special concern for Israel, and in her affection for the Jewish people.

 

Perhaps this is why it was difficult to discern her great intellect. Indeed this may also be the case with another star in the firmament she shared with Milton, her outstandingly creative brother, Aaron Director, one of the greater economic innovators of our era that too few appreciated. They both lacked, it seems, a definable academic status that makes for easier recognition.

 

This did not have the slightest effect on Rose, as far as one could see.She persisted in being a rose, no matter what.

 

The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress (ICSEP)

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

NO HOLDS BARRED: DECLINE AND FALL OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

SHMULEY BOTEACH

 

Alfred Nobel must be spinning in his grave. How could five Norwegians have so screwed up his great prize?

 

I grew up in awe of the Nobel and its noble recipients. This award was an acknowledgement on the part of our civilization that peace is humanity's greatest goal. I read books about the prize and its recipients. I gave my kids quizzes on the winners.

 

I went so far as to establish an annual lecture at Oxford University that could only be delivered by Nobel laureates. Endowed during the 1990s by philanthropist Edmund Safra, the lecture was delivered to capacity audiences by such luminaries as Elie Wiesel, winner in 1986, Joseph Rotblat, winner in 1995, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, winners in 1994, and most significantly Mikhail Gorbachev, winner in 1990.

 

I used to wait expectantly for the Friday morning in October when the Peace Prize was announced. And as a teenager, when I dreamed of what achievements my life might bring, the Nobel Peace Prize was at the top of the list, even ahead of the presidency of the United States.

 

But what a drag the past few years have been! For me it began when the prize was awarded in 1994 to Yasser Arafat, the godfather of modern terrorism, whose lasting legacy is the army of suicide bombers he launched against the Jewish state to dismember pregnant women and disembowel helpless children.

 

That such a cold-blooded killer could win the world's highest award for peace turned the prize into a farce. At Oxford, I hosted Kaare Kristiansen, who bravely resigned from the Nobel Peace committee as a result of the Arafat debacle. But one bad apple, I said to myself, could not ruin a prize so majestic in its ambition and scope.

 

But then more strange choices followed. Strange, not because the recipients lacked virtue, but because their achievements had little to do with peace.

 

The whole purpose of the prize is to promote peace as humanity's most noble objective. So what did that have to do with Al Gore and climate change, important as the issue is?

 

And why award the prize to Jimmy Carter, whose legacy is not peace between nations but an almost irrational penchant for championing strong-arm dictators at the expense of their oppressed people, including praise offered for such international criminals as Kim Il Sung, Marshal Joseph Tito, Nicolas Ceausescu and Raul Cédras?

 

Indeed, after the prize was awarded to Muhammad ElBaradei in 2005, it seemed it had simply become a tool with which to bash the Bush administration.

 

IN LIGHT of these developments, the night before the prize's announcement last week, I told a friend that I bet President Obama would receive it.

 

My friend was incredulous. "But he hasn't done anything."

 

"Yes," I said, "but he's not President Bush."

 

To be honest, even as I said it I didn't completely believe it. Surely the members of the Nobel Peace Committee did not hate Bush enough to destroy their prize by using it as a stick yet again.

 

But the next morning the unthinkable happened. A man in office only nine months, who has not resolved a single global conflict and who has yet to disarm the Iranian nuclear menace, won the prize.

 

Don't get me wrong. I am not an Obama basher. Our president is a man of rare eloquence. I have supported him through the good he has done and criticized him for the missteps I think he has taken.

 

But come on. Peace is not simply a great speech, and universal harmony is not merely a collection of words.

 

Martin Luther King was arguably the finest American orator of the 20th century. But he won the 1964 prize for his marches, rather than his words. It was his courageous action throughout the American south, defying attack dogs, powerful water hoses and determined assassins, that earned him the prize. It was the change he brought in ending segregation and Jim Crow that made him a global hero of peace.

 

Indeed, the speech King gave in accepting the prize in Oslo is considered to have been among his most lackluster addresses - appropriate perhaps in highlighting that it was what he did, rather than what he said, that mattered.

 

And this is where the real guilt of the Nobel committee lies. They have conveyed the mistaken message that what a man or woman says is as important as what they do. And while we need eloquent words to make us march, until those feet start astompin', the speeches remain empty rhetoric.

 

No doubt had our president been given some time, he might have earned the prize outright, based on real achievements confronting Iran, shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling democracy, and perhaps even disarming North Korea. He might have earned the prize by bringing an end to some of the 30-odd civil wars in Africa where so much of his family still lives.

 

But this prize will now be seen for what it has sadly become - a political statement against Republican US governments.

 

I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, preferring to utilize my God-given intelligence to choose my own position on the issues. But my value system comes from Judaism, which has always promoted peace as life's supreme goal. Indeed, our religion says one of God's names is Shalom, peace.

 

The president should of course accept the prize; it is not his fault that the committee awarded him something he has not yet earned. But it would be noble if he utilized his speech in Oslo to tell the world that when it comes to people dying and cities being pulverized, words are never enough.

 

Condemning the darkness is not the same as saving the dying, and repudiating the aggressors will never protect the innocent.

 

The writer, founder of 'This World: The Values Network,' has just published The Blessing of Enough and The Michael Jackson Tapes. www.shmuley.com

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

CHILDREN AS HOSTAGES

BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL

 

The ad hoc ministerial committee on deporting foreign workers, which is chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, decided on Monday to once again postpone the deportation of some 1,200 children of foreign workers - which was originally scheduled to take place in another two weeks - and allow them to finish out the current school year. But when the school year ends, Israel intends to deport them back to their parents' countries of origin.


This is a cruel decision. It means holding the sword of deportation for months over the heads of hundreds of children who were born in Israel, and for whom Hebrew is often their only language and Israel their only country. In effect, the panel decided to "give" them another year - to hold them here as hostages - and then, in the end, to send them shamefacedly away. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has emerged as the most extreme nationalist and xenophobe in the cabinet, was quick to boast and threaten that the children "have bought time, not [legal] status. If the prime minister wants to give them status, let him take the Immigration Authority away from the Interior Ministry."


It is impossible to accept the government's obsequiousness in the face of pressure from Shas. And it is assuredly impossible to agree that these children's fate should be determined by a party that advocates a closed-off, nationalist Israel. Admittedly, the Prime Minister's Office did say that the decision is not final, and there will be further discussions of the children's fate in the coming days. But experience teaches that the prime minister is liable to give in to his ultra-Orthodox partner on this issue - a deeply important matter of ethics and principle - just as he has on other issues.

 

Israel could easily absorb another 1,200 Israeli children of foreign origin. It will have much greater trouble absorbing another immoral, inhumane decision such as the decision to deport them at the end of the school year. Cabinet ministers ought to decide in favor of allowing these children to remain permanently in Israel, either as citizens or as permanent residents, in the context of a one-time amnesty deal. They will only add to Israel's fascinating cultural and social mosaic. And deporting them to countries with which they have almost no connection is nothing less than iniquitous.


A country that was founded by the children of refugees and migrants is obligated to show an extra degree of sensitivity - especially when it comes to children. The prime minister must immediately put a stop to the abuse of these children and ensure that they can remain in this country permanently and unconditionally.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

PLEA BARGAIN

BY ALUF BENN

 

Listening to the speeches by our country's leaders in the Knesset on Sunday, I found myself increasingly worried. Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni all spoke like leaders of a defeated country, not of the Middle East's strongest power. Instead of offering the public a vision, optimism and hope, they expressed profound anxiety over Israel's survival.


Netanyahu is perturbed by the Goldstone report, which he fears set out to weaken Israel and prevent it from defending itself. He is so anxious he even gave the names of three people liable to find themselves accused of war crimes - Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni - and made clear he would not extradite them for trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, as if they were Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic. But Netanyahu is wrong if he thinks Goldstone is out to get only the previous government's senior members at the helm during Operation Cast Lead. The report harshly condemns the siege of Gaza, which Netanyahu is continuing, so he too is a suspected offender against international law.


Peres and Livni are worried about the demographic threat that will turn Israel into a binational state and bring about the end of Zionism. The president called for a "peace of no alternative" and the opposition leader wants accelerated negotiations on a two-state solution. Both are very critical of Netanyahu, whom they believe is sitting on the fence and avoiding decisions, but like him, Goldstone worries them.

The British military theoretician B.H. Liddell Hart wrote that battles are "usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not in the bodies of their men." Discussing Germany's defeat in World War I after its generals lost their composure, he observed that the psychological aspect was decisive. He believed that the key to winning lay in the "indirect approach," in the concentration of forces to undermine the enemy's confidence and throw him off balance, not in storming fortified positions.


But today, Israel's leaders are conveying confusion and distress. Goldstone and his threats to have Israelis tried as war criminals have frightened them much more than special U.S. envoy George Mitchell and his abortive attempt to freeze the settlements, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's centrifuges, Hezbollah's rockets and Hamas' Qassams.

The true cause for anxiety in Jerusalem, however, is not Goldstone, but U.S. President Barack Obama, who has taken an indirect diplomatic approach against Netanyahu. Instead of coming out publicly against the prime minister with a demand that he end the occupation and get out of the territories, and wasting political energy on a quarrel with Israel's friends in Congress, Obama has simply made Netanyahu understand that American support is not axiomatic, that if Netanyahu looks over his shoulder he may not see Obama there covering him.


That has been enough to shake the prime minister's confidence. In his Knesset speech, Netanyahu quoted Obama's promise to block the Iranian nuclear bomb, and asked the international community to stand together against Iran. He was speaking like someone unsure that his allies would come to his aid in the hour of need, someone trying to tie them down in advance.


Netanyahu was signaling for a plea bargain: Amnesty for Goldstone's suspects and action against Iran's bomb in exchange for ... for what then? Another withdrawal from the West Bank? A Palestinian state? Partition of Jerusalem? Netanyahu did not speak of the right of Jews to live anywhere in the Land of Israel, or about expanding the settlements. He never even mentioned the Land of Israel or Judea and Samaria, just the right to self-defense and his demand for Palestinian recognition and disarmament.

Obama, who is already turning out to be quite indecisive, won't be in a hurry to respond to Netanyahu. He'll wait for the prime minister to feel pressured, soften up and agree to pay more for American backing in The Hague and in Natanz. That's the way the Soviet Union folded - when it lost the Cold War after the United States launched a successful diplomatic flanking movement. Netanyahu may turn out to be an Israeli Gorbachev who came to save the empire but in the end dismantled it. Either way, that's better than being a Bar Kochba, whom Netanyahu cited in his speech on Sunday as a model to be emulated.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

 

WHERE'S THE FIRE?

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

Have you noticed that the firefighters are on strike? If you haven't, probably nothing's burning at home, fortunately. It may be assumed that anyone who has not been so lucky and in whose home a fire suddenly breaks out will notice. And if they live in an area without a fire station, like Be'er Ya'akov, Nesher, Elad or certain communities in the central Arab Triangle region, and firefighters are called in from a distant station where sanctions are in place, it's unlikely anything will be left to pick out of the ashes.


But that's not only the case during a strike. Even when the Firefighting and Rescue Commission is working at full capacity, our firefighters are collapsing under an unbearable burden. In most cases they manage to put out fires thanks to their skill and diligence, but luckily, disastrous fires have not broken out in Tel Aviv's huge residential towers, for example. If such a calamity does happen, the investigative committee to be established afterward will reveal what every rookie firefighter already knows: Israel is not prepared in any way for large-scale civilian disasters, even less so in the realm of firefighting.


The United States has one firefighter for every 1,000 people. In Israel that number is one per 10,000 - unless that firefighter has been called to reserve duty. That's what happened during the Second Lebanon War, when more than 30 firefighters were called to their military units just when communities in the north needed them most. The commission tried unsuccessfully to get them released. The Israel Defense Forces did not recognize that fire stations are an essential service in a state of emergency.

 

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Actually, the government has approved another 250 firefighting positions, but they cannot be filled because of budgetary problems. Moreover, the much-needed structural overhaul in the firefighting and rescue services has been delayed; it has been promised since the 1980s and is supposed to untangle the division of responsibilities among various authorities and funding between the central and local governments. And now the Finance Ministry has decided to cut 20 percent of the commission's funding in the coming years.


The firefighters are not asking for higher salaries or better labor conditions. They also know that the division of responsibility among the various stations has to be streamlined - a difficult task as long as their legal status has them answering clumsily to various authorities. They also understand that as long as no disaster happens, no one will heed their warnings.

 

And yet people still call the fire emergency number 102 begging to have a firefighter come get a cat out of a tree, rescue a child from a pit, open a locked apartment or find out where in the world some black smoke is coming from. And they get a response. Meanwhile, mass public events that require a permit from the fire and rescue service continue to be held; the ushers, hired by human resource companies, have had some practice with fire extinguishers, instead of firefighters being on hand. At best, this is neglect. At worst, it's breaking the law. Not that in Israel anyone cares about such infractions. That is, as noted, until the next disaster.


The situation gets worse the further you get from the center of the country. Some areas have no fire and rescue stations at all such as western Be'er Sheva, the Tel Mond region in the center, the area around Ad Halom Junction in the south, the central Arab community of Baqa-Jatt and Mghrar in the Galilee mountains. Other places like Umm al-Fahm, Tiberias and Kiryat Shmona lack dozens of firefighters to fill positions. But even in the center, every time a fire breaks out in a tall building, mayors find themselves in the absurd situation of having to call the ladder truck from a neighboring council. Even then, most fire trucks are more than 20 years old.

Using the permanent excuse of security needs, Israel is showing criminal neglect in its attitude toward the welfare and well-being of its citizens. And while other countries treat their firefighters as an elite unit of civilian heroes, Israel has its fire and rescue services working with dangerously low resources. Because after all, where's the fire?

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHY BARAK WENT TO BARAK

BY NIVA LANIR

 

The prime minister has once more leveled a barrage against the Goldstone report, denouncing it for undermining Israel's right to defend itself, encouraging terror and endangering peace. This matter, soon to be taken up at the United Nations, is becoming knottier and knottier. Was Benjamin Netanyahu's Knesset speech a signal that he and his top ministers are pulling back from the initiative to set up a panel to examine the events of Operation Cast Lead?


Three ministers have appealed to former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak to help the government disentangle itself from the thorn bush in which the report has landed it. Defense Minister Ehud Barak consulted the former chief justice about how to handle the report, and suggested that he head a panel to look into its allegations.

Two other ministers, both lawyers, met with Barak with the consent of the prime minister. They are familiar with the material and are aware that after the operation and before the publication of the report, hundreds (some say 2,000) claims by Palestinians piled up at the Justice Ministry. They know that no carpet is big enough for all the complaints to be swept under. The two discussed with Barak the possible judicial repercussions of, and the practical steps toward, setting up a panel. Their impression was that Barak would accept if the government decided to launch an inquiry and invited him to head it.

 

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This could prove to be brilliant move. No one is better or more suitable than the country's most senior judge, a man with an international reputation, to navigate a complicated confrontation with the results of a military operation. The decision alone would go some way toward lowering the flames ignited by Goldstone. Why hasn't it happened? The cabinet discussed the subject but decided not to decide, and it is inclined not to initiate a probe, reporters have been told. We know what happened next. The Palestinians moved to have the report taken up by UN institutions, had second thoughts under U.S. and Israeli pressure, then had third thoughts, this time with the backing of the UN secretary general.


According to sources close to the defense minister, the Barak-Barak meeting was no more than an initial attempt to put out feelers, after which the minister briefed Netanyahu and the chief of staff. Leaking it to the media the day before the cabinet discussion was apparently meant to torpedo the proposal. The defense minister's basic position, it was stressed, remains as it was: The Israel Defense Forces investigates itself very effectively, the Goldstone report should a priori not be accepted, and establishing a panel would be interpreted as at least partial agreement with its conclusions.


This text has a subtext. The defense minister has obligations toward the IDF, and the IDF says it has already investigated enough. So why did Barak go to Barak, and why didn't he first finalize things with the military? Odd. And why did the cabinet discuss the matter at all? Did Netanyahu and Barak mean to enlist the former chief justice to develop rules for warfare against terrorists operating under cover of a civilian population? And if the leak did halt the initiative, whose interests did it serve?


A senior reserves officer said this week that such rules are essential for the IDF and Israeli society, and that it was not the army's job to formulate them. He was mainly addressing complaints voiced early in the operation about Israel's use of white phosphorus munitions. If we had investigated these complaints earlier, the officer said, maybe we could have spared ourselves the Goldstone report.

But a more important question is whether it's still possible to rescue the idea that the Netanyahu government, as it continues to grumble about the report, will appoint Aharon Barak to disentangle the knots. It doesn't look like it.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

NOBEL FOR OBAMA RULES OUT U.S. STRIKE ON IRAN

BY REUVEN PEDATZUR

 

In giving the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama, the members of the Nobel committee effectively closed the lid on the American military option in Iran. The prestigious award ties the president's hands; even if he had planned to order a U.S. military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities in the event that diplomatic negotiations failed, now he will have to forsake this option. It is clear that someone who has just been crowned a champion of world peace cannot take military action against a state that did not attack his country. We may also regretfully conclude that the Nobel Peace Prize is Iran's secure ticket to nuclear arms. If there was still a chance that an American military action could end the Iranian nuclear project, now the members of the Nobel committee have sentenced that project to life.


The Norwegian decision should force policy makers in Jerusalem to acknowledge that the likelihood that Iran will acquire nuclear arms in the near future has grown considerably. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, convinced that he returned from Washington with a U.S. promise to prevent Iran from going nuclear, must now accept the loss of the American military option. And the chances of a successful Israeli strike against the Iranian facilities have always been low. The natural conclusion is that Israel must prepare for a new Middle East in which it is no longer perceived as holding nuclear hegemony.


The first important step is to stop scaremongering. Statements claiming that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons means Israel's certain annihilation are damaging and unnecessary; if the true assessment is that Iran will use such weapons against Israel, the best thing Israelis can do is to start packing. Attempts to convince the public that it is necessary, and possible, to defend ourselves against nuclear weapons are tantamount to deception. Nuclear shelters cannot be built for everyone in the country, and the talk about hiding in the tunnels of Haifa's Carmelit railway or the basements of the New Tel Aviv Central Bus Station are pure fantasy. Relying on an antimissile system such as the Arrow is also wrong, because no such system can provide hermetic defense, and if just two nuclear missiles get through the price would be unbearable.

 

So what to do? If Israel indeed has nuclear weapons, we should approach the new Nobel laureate and agree on Israel losing its nuclear ambiguity and becoming a full-fledged member of the nuclear club. Obama's toleration of the end of Israeli ambiguity will spare us international pressure and the sanctions the U.S. administration is legally obliged to apply to a country crossing the nuclear threshold.


An Israeli declaration that it possesses nuclear weapons, if it does, would completely change the regional rules of the game. It would enable the introduction of a reliable early warning system between Israel and Iran, when Iran acquires nuclear weapons of its own. Policy makers in Tehran understand only too well the meaning of Israel realizing its military option, and the meaning of American backup for Israeli warnings.


A clear Iranian recognition that any attempt to attack Israel with nonconventional weapons will lead to the certain demolition of Iran as a modern state should prevent its rulers from even thinking about using their nuclear arms . Rulers, even strict Islamic ones, do not commit suicide with their states. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his followers may not be particularly nice, but they are certainly very rational.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

LET THE FOREIGN WORKERS STAY LONGER

BY AVRAHAM PORAZ

The issue of foreign workers who are in Israeli illegally has returned to the limelight, as it does every so often, following the government's decision to postpone the deportation of 1,200 children of foreign workers living in Israel.

Several facts and figures ought to be taken into consideration before expressing an opinion on this delicate subject.

Most of the "illegal workers" are not people who secretly crossed the border from Egypt, or entered Israel on tourist visas and stayed, but people who have come here legally and remained after their visas expired.

 

The law provides that a foreign worker can stay in Israel for a maximum of five years and that he can change jobs only during the first four years. Thus, for example, a foreign worker engaged in nursing whose employer dies during his fifth year here must leave the country.


Many foreign workers pay exorbitant sums for the right to work in Israel. The broker fees can total thousands of dollars. Consequently almost all the workers' wages during their first year here go to the brokers.


The workers cannot suffice with only three years' wages and therefore, when their legal employment ends, they stay in Israel and continue to work, now illegally.


Meanwhile new foreign workers arrive and many of them will eventually become illegal too.


When I was interior minister I managed to amend the law and allow workers engaged in nursing to stay with their patients for as long as there is a proven dependence between the patient and the foreign worker nursing him. All my other proposals to let foreign workers stay for longer periods were thwarted, partly because of the argument that they would lead the workers to settle here.


I think a foreign employee should be allowed to work in Israel for 10 years and instead of bringing new people, the present workers should be allowed to change jobs.


There are several advantages to such a move and one must remember that a veteran worker usually knows more Hebrew and the help he can provide the family of a person who needs nursing care, and of course the patient himself, is much greater.


I am not ignoring the fact that consequently we might have to find permanent solutions, in Israel, for some of those workers. However, most of the foreign employees are married, have children and support families in their home countries. There is no danger that they would settle in Israel.


As for the unmarried people, who might have children in Israel, a way should be found to let them stay here.


Israeli society will only benefit from extending Israeli citizenship to the children of foreign workers who will serve in the Israel Defense Forces even though they are not, and will not be, Jewish.


I remember that one of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon's bodyguards was a man who looked as though he was of Far Eastern origin. When I asked Sharon, during my campaign for the foreign workers' children, who that man was, Sharon told me he was the son of one of the Vietnamese families that were granted asylum in Israel by Menachem Begin in 1977. That boy served in a combat unit and then became the prime minister's bodyguard.

To those who fear such a move would harm Israel's Jewish identity, it must be said that the number of foreign workers wishing to stay is not great.


A significant extension of their legal stay in Israel would not only help solve the problem of the distressed workers and their children but would also reduce the number of new foreign workers and decrease the scope of the problem of the illegal workers.


The illegal workers who are now in Israel should be given legal permits to stay here for three more years. Their visas could be issued on the condition they deposit some of their wages in a bank. They would be paid a monthly salary via a "Payment Card" and the bank's stamp would automatically extend their visas.


An employee who leaves the country at the end of his legal employment would get the deposited money while the deposits of whoever fails to leave could be confiscated subject to a judicial order.


This way most of the workers will willingly leave the country without any need for detentions and deportations.

The writer was a Interior Minister under Ariel Sharon from 2003 to 2004.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THAT PROMISED FINANCIAL REFORM

 

Pretty much everyone agrees on the causes for the country's desperate financial mess: predatory lenders, weak regulations, even weaker regulators, and risky nigh unto incomprehensible financial instruments.

 

Congress's willingness to address those problems will have its first real test on Wednesday when the House Financial Services Committee puts finishing touches on what could be essential reform legislation — or a major disappointment, depending on what they do.

 

At the top of the committee's agenda is regulation of the largely unregulated and dangerously opaque multitrillion-dollar derivatives' market. Next on the agenda is the creation of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to oversee the consumer-credit offerings of banks and other financial firms — including mortgages, credit cards, overdraft "protection" and payday loans.

 

Both reforms are crucial, and we fear both are in danger of being irreparably weakened.

 

Derivatives are supposed to help investors and businesses manage risk, but their unchecked and unregulated use led — directly and indirectly — to the financial crash and subsequent trillions of dollars in taxpayer interventions.

 

Congress should require that all derivatives' dealers and users — including banks, hedge funds and corporations — conduct their trades on exchanges where they would be subject to considerable regulation and public scrutiny. Regulators could create exceptions for customized contracts that are negotiated one on one for truly complex and unique circumstances. But most derivatives contracts are highly standardized and can be, and should be, exchange-traded.

 

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation has too many loopholes and exemptions. For example, many corporations and hedge funds would still be able to trade standardized derivatives privately. That may protect bank profits — without transparency, there is no chance for comparison shopping — but it would put taxpayers at risk of a repeat calamity.

 

Like the banks, some corporate investors in derivatives resist exchange trading. They argue that more regulation would raise their transaction costs to hedge any given risk. That's debatable because greater transparency is likely to reduce costs. But even if true, somewhat higher costs would be a small price to pay for systemwide stability.

 

The threats to the consumer protection agency are even more blatant. To curry favor with the banks, several lawmakers are intent on amending the proposed legislation so that no state could impose its own — tougher — consumer protection laws on banks.

 

That would be a mistake because in the past, many states have demonstrated the will and the expertise to protect consumers. But federal rules were issued in 2004 that basically barred states from enforcing their laws over national banks and their subsidiaries. That short-circuited state efforts to control, among other things, the subprime lending that sparked the financial crisis.

 

Some lawmakers are also intent on weakening the proposed power of the new agency to examine the books of the banks and firms that it would regulate. Current bank regulators have that power, but they have not used it with a sole focus on protecting the best interests of consumers. Routine inspection of an institution's books is essential to understanding the institution's products and practices. Without such knowledge, consumer protection would be compromised.

 

Time and again over the last year we have heard lawmakers vow to protect the American public. We suspect most of them even meant it. But the lobbying power — and contributions — of the banks and the rest of the financial industry can be hard to resist.

 

The House Financial Services Committee and all of Congress must resist and deliver robust reform. That is the only way to protect consumers and taxpayers, and the entire financial system, from another disaster.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A CLEARER LOOK AT DRILLING

 

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to freeze oil-and-gas development on 60 drilling sites in Utah is one more sign that the Obama administration will take a more sensible approach to energy exploration on public lands than its predecessor's drill-now, drill-everywhere policies. Mr. Salazar faces even tougher calls ahead.

 

The Utah decision, announced last week, involves parcels leased in the waning days of the Bush administration without proper environmental review or full consultation with the National Park Service. The service was particularly disturbed by the prospect of drilling on fragile lands near two national parks and a national monument. Mr. Salazar condemned the Bush administration's "headlong rush" to lease the sites.

 

Days before heading out the door, the Bush administration also proposed a five-year offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan that would expand drilling in America's Arctic waters by nearly 80 percent, including millions of acres in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Mr. Salazar has been reviewing this plan as well — and rightly so.

 

Drilling in the unforgiving Arctic environment is risky business. Oil spills would be hard to contain, and the ecological damage to some of the world's richest fisheries could be staggering.

 

The idea of opening Alaskan waters to drilling has powerful support in the oil-and-gas industry and among most Alaskan politicians, including Gov. Sean Parnell, Sarah Palin's successor who made a special trip to Washington last week to lobby Mr. Salazar.

 

Most scientists, however, are urging caution. And last week 70 members of the House called on Mr. Salazar to set aside the five-year plan and defer all leasing and drilling in the Arctic until a "science-based analysis" can determine where such activities can safely occur.

 

Their letter also urged him to restore protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay, the most productive fishery in American waters. President George H.W. Bush declared the bay off-limits to drilling after the Exxon Valdez disaster — a moved reversed by President George W. Bush.

 

Mr. Salazar has repeatedly promised a better balance between the country's energy needs and the preservation of its fragile environments. Rescinding the Utah leases honors that promise. Doing all he can to protect the Arctic would honor it as well.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONE PROTECTION FOR PRISONERS

 

The practice of keeping female prisoners in shackles while they give birth is barbaric. But it remains legal in more than 40 states, and advocates of prisoners' rights say it is all too common. A federal appeals court has now found that the shackling of an Arkansas inmate may have violated the Constitution — but the margin was uncomfortably close.

 

Shawanna Nelson, a nonviolent offender, was 29 years old and six months pregnant when she arrived in Arkansas's McPherson Unit prison in 2003. When she went into labor, she was taken to a civilian hospital. Although there was no reason to consider her a flight risk, her legs were shackled to a wheelchair, and then, while she went through labor, to the sides of a hospital bed.

 

Ms. Nelson testified that the shackles prevented her from moving her legs, stretching or changing positions during the most painful part of her labor. She offered evidence that the shackling had caused a permanent hip injury, torn stomach muscles, an umbilical hernia that required an operation and extreme mental anguish.

 

In a suit against prison officials, Ms. Nelson charged that her Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment had been violated. She won an early ruling from the trial court, but a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit rejected her suit. Now the full appeals court has reversed that decision, ruling, with a 6-to-5 vote, that a jury could find that Ms. Nelson's shackling was unconstitutional. The court relied in part on a 2002 Supreme Court holding that Alabama's practice of tying prisoners to a hitching post violated the Eighth Amendment.

 

The ruling should help persuade other courts and state legislatures that the shackling of pregnant prisoners is unconstitutional. Several states have already made the practice illegal under certain circumstances — including New York, which did so this year.

 

Elizabeth Alexander, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's prison project, called the circuit court's ruling "thrilling," given how conservative the federal courts have been on prison issues. It is clearly an important victory. Sadly, it is also a sign of how low the bar has been set for the humane treatment of prisoners.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FAITH-BASED DISCRIMINATION

 

President Obama promised in his campaign to preserve President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative aimed at helping social service programs sponsored by religious organizations win federal grants and contracts. He also promised a vitally important change: groups receiving federal money would no longer be allowed to hire employees on the basis of their religion.

 

The idea was to prevent discrimination and preserve the boundary between church and state. But Mr. Obama has not made good on the promise. His February executive order revamping the White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs left untouched a 2002 presidential directive authorizing religious-oriented programs that receive federal financing to hire and fire on religious grounds.

 

Also left untouched was a constitutionally suspect 2007 memo concluding that the government cannot order religious groups not to discriminate as a condition of federal financing — even in programs like Head Start, where religious discrimination is outlawed. The memo, based on a far-fetched interpretation of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was produced by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. That is the same outfit that wrote the memos authorizing torture.

 

A coalition of 58 religious, educational and civil liberties groups is now seeking to reverse the 2007 memo. A group letter last month to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. asked him to direct the current Office of Legal Counsel to review and withdraw the memo. Mr. Holder should do so, and Mr. Obama should revise his February executive order to include the anti-discrimination language that he omitted the first time around.

 

As a candidate, Mr. Obama drew the right line. Effective social service programs should not be ineligible for federal dollars just because they have a religious affiliation. But they should be required to abide by the same anti-discrimination laws as everyone else. Public money should not be used to pay for discrimination.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DAISY CHAIN OF CHENEYS

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

I imagine that if you called the new consulting firm of Cheney, Cheney & Cheney and got put on hold, you'd hear the "Ghostbusters" theme:

"If there's someone weak,

if you've sprung a leak,

if the world looks bleak,

if you hide and seek,

who ya gonna call?

 

OBAMABUSTERS!"

 

It's hard to believe that the Bush dynasty, which limped away in disgrace after smashing our economy and the globe, has spawned another political dynasty.

 

But Jason Horowitz reported in The Washington Post that Mary Cheney, the younger daughter of the former vice president, is starting a consulting firm modeled on Kissinger Associates.

 

Since it involves the Cheneys, it's shrouded in unnecessary secrecy. But Mary's friends say her plan is to make it Cheney cubed, bringing in her dad and big sister, Liz, when those two finish cleaning out the Augean stables of Dick Cheney's legacy for his memoir.

 

Horowitz wrote that Mary, who is expecting her second child with her partner, Heather Poe, next month, may be hanging the shingle for the "gruff clan who speak in dour unison when bashing the current president, second-guessing the previous commander in chief and chiding wayward G.O.P. leaders."

 

The influence-peddling firm will be wildly successful, no doubt, because if anyone has shown a golden touch, it's Dick Cheney. And there are bound to be oodles of clients who want coaching on how to make things look totally the opposite of what they are.

 

Saudis, right-wing dictators and Bernie Madoff calling for image makeovers? Scooter Libby calling to see how to get his career back after taking the fall for his scheming boss? Rush Limbaugh calling to strategize about how to buy an N.F.L. team with black players as he says offensive things about blacks? Rupert Murdoch seeking tips on how to merge Fox and NBC into Brian O'Hannity?

 

You can hear a receptionist chirping: "Cheney, Cheney & Cheney. Who would you like to target today?"

 

Regarding bipartisanship with the same contempt as multilateralism and multiculturalism, the Cheneys have led the charge against Obama, painting him as a wishy-washy loser who has turned America to mush. On Fox News last Sunday, Liz Cheney — who still talks about having "liberated" Iraq — called Obama's Nobel Peace Prize a "farce" and suggested that he "send the mother of a fallen American soldier to accept the prize on behalf of the U.S. military."

 

The blonde 43-year-old lawyer, a mother of five hailed by her fans as "a red state rock star," teamed up this week with Bill Kristol to start a new group called "Keep America Safe." Kristol, of course, was the chief proponent of the wacky notion that Dan Quayle, and later Sarah Palin, could Keep America Safe, which somewhat undermines the urgency and gravity of the group's moniker.

 

And Liz's dear old dad was the one who made America less safe by straining our military to the breaking point while carrying out his knuckleheaded theory of pre-emptive war. Still, Liz hopes her new enterprise will energize opponents of President Obama's "radical" foreign policy, as she has tried to do so volubly on cable shows, and raise money by presenting the president as a callow, wobbly, golf-playing appeaser whose foreign policy will "make us weaker."

 

The Web site features a daily Willie Hortonish detainee feature, profiling one of the scary swarthy prisoners at Gitmo. And it will also have all kinds of fun reading, like memos by Bush lawyers on enhanced interrogation. (Or, as it's more commonly known outside the gargoyled gates of Cheneyville, torture.)

 

The "Keep America Safe" mission statement says that "the current administration too often seems uncertain, wishful, irresolute, and unwilling to stand up for America, our allies and our interests."

 

It's evocative of an earlier effort by conservatives to prod a Democratic president to man-up, hectoring him about his "inadequate" foreign policy and his course of "weakness and drift."

 

That was a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton from the Project for the New American Century, with signers such as Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and John Bolton, urging a strategy that "should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power." (Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby signed the project's statement of principles.)

 

Kristol joked to Politico's Ben Smith that the venture might serve as a launching pad for Liz to run for office. (A Senate bid from Virginia, where she lives, or Wyoming, which she still calls home?)

 

That raises the terrifying specter that some day we could see a Palin-Cheney ticket, promoted by Kristol.

 

Sarah would bring her content-free crackle and gut instincts; Liz would bring facts and figures distorted by ideology. Pretty soon, we're pre-emptively invading Iran and the good times are rolling all over again.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

If President Obama can find a way to balance the precise number of troops that will stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan, without tipping America into a Vietnam there, then he indeed deserves a Nobel Prize — for physics.

 

I have no problem with the president taking his time to figure this out. He and we are going to have to live with this decision for a long time. For my money, though, I wish there was less talk today about how many more troops to send and more focus on what kind of Afghan government we have as our partner.

 

Because when you are mounting a counterinsurgency campaign, the local government is the critical bridge between your troops and your goals. If that government is rotten, your whole enterprise is doomed.

 

Independent election monitors suggest that as many as one-third of votes cast in the Aug. 20 election are tainted and that President Hamid Karzai apparently engaged in massive fraud to come out on top. Yet, he is supposed to be the bridge between our troop surge and our goal of a stable Afghanistan. No way.

 

I understand the huge stakes in stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, our top commander there who is asking for thousands more troops, is not wrong when he says a lot of bad things would flow from losing Afghanistan to the Taliban. But I keep asking myself: How do we succeed with such a tainted government as our partner?

 

I know that Jefferson was not on the ballot. But there is a huge difference between "good enough" and dysfunctional and corrupt. Whatever we may think, there are way too many Afghans who think our partner, Karzai and his team, are downright awful.

 

That is why it is not enough for us to simply dispatch more troops. If we are going to make a renewed commitment in Afghanistan, we have to visibly display to the Afghan people that we expect a different kind of governance from Karzai, or whoever rules, and refuse to proceed without it. It doesn't have to be Switzerland, but it does have to be good enough — that is, a government Afghans are willing to live under. Without that, more troops will only delay a defeat.

 

I am not sure Washington fully understands just how much the Taliban-led insurgency is increasingly an insurrection against the behavior of the Karzai government — not against the religion or civilization of its international partners. And too many Afghan people now blame us for installing and maintaining this government.

 

Karzai is already trying to undermine more international scrutiny of this fraudulent election and avoid any runoff. Monday his ally on the Electoral Complaints Commission, Mustafa Barakzai, resigned, alleging "foreign interference." That is Karzai trying to turn his people against us to prevent us from cleaning up an election that he polluted.

 

Talking to Afghanistan experts in Kabul, Washington and Berlin, a picture is emerging: The Karzai government has a lot in common with a Mafia family. Where a "normal" government raises revenues from the people — in the form of taxes — and then disperses them to its local and regional institutions in the form of budgetary allocations or patronage, this Afghan government operates in the reverse. The money flows upward from the countryside in the form of payments for offices purchased or "gifts" from cronies.

 

What flows from Kabul, the experts say, is permission for unfettered extraction, protection in case of prosecution and punishment in case the official opposes the system or gets out of line. In "Karzai World," it appears, slots are either sold (to people who buy them in order to make a profit) or granted to cronies, or are given away to buy off rivals.

 

We have to be very careful that we are not seen as the enforcers for this system.

 

While visiting Afghanistan last July, I met a key provincial governor who every U.S. official told me was the best and most honest in Afghanistan — and then, they added, "We have to fight Karzai every day to keep him from being fired." That is what happens to those who buck the Karzai system.

 

This is crazy. We have been way too polite, and too worried about looking like a colonial power, in dealing with Karzai. I would not add a single soldier there before this guy, if he does win the presidency, takes visible steps to clean up his government in ways that would be respected by the Afghan people.

 

If Karzai says no, then there is only one answer: "You're on your own, pal. Have a nice life with the Taliban. We can't and will not put more American blood and treasure behind a government that behaves like a Mafia family. If you don't think we will leave — watch this." (Cue the helicopters.)

 

So, please, spare me the lectures about how important Afghanistan and Pakistan are today. I get the stakes. But we can't want a more decent Afghanistan than the country's own president. If we do, we have no real local partner who will be able to hold the allegiance of the people, and we will not succeed — whether with more troops, more drones or more money.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WALL STREET SMARTS

BY CALVIN TRILLIN

 

"IF you really want to know why the financial system nearly collapsed in the fall of 2008, I can tell you in one simple sentence."

 

The statement came from a man sitting three or four stools away from me in a sparsely populated Midtown bar, where I was waiting for a friend. "But I have to buy you a drink to hear it?" I asked.

 

"Absolutely not," he said. "I can buy my own drinks. My 401(k) is intact. I got out of the market 8 or 10 years ago, when I saw what was happening."

 

He did indeed look capable of buying his own drinks — one of which, a dry martini, straight up, was on the bar in front of him. He was a well-preserved, gray-haired man of about retirement age, dressed in the same sort of clothes he must have worn on some Ivy League campus in the late '50s or early '60s — a tweed jacket, gray pants, a blue button-down shirt and a club tie that, seen from a distance, seemed adorned with tiny brussels sprouts.

 

"O.K.," I said. "Let's hear it."

 

"The financial system nearly collapsed," he said, "because smart guys had started working on Wall Street." He took a sip of his martini, and stared straight at the row of bottles behind the bar, as if the conversation was now over.

 

"But weren't there smart guys on Wall Street in the first place?" I asked.

 

He looked at me the way a mathematics teacher might look at a child who, despite heroic efforts by the teacher, seemed incapable of learning the most rudimentary principles of long division. "You are either a lot younger than you look or you don't have much of a memory," he said. "One of the speakers at my 25th reunion said that, according to a survey he had done of those attending, income was now precisely in inverse proportion to academic standing in the class, and that was partly because everyone in the lower third of the class had become a Wall Street millionaire."

 

I reflected on my own college class, of roughly the same era. The top student had been appointed a federal appeals court judge — earning, by Wall Street standards, tip money. A lot of the people with similarly impressive academic records became professors. I could picture the future titans of Wall Street dozing in the back rows of some gut course like Geology 101, popularly known as Rocks for Jocks.

 

"That actually sounds more or less accurate," I said.

 

"Of course it's accurate," he said. "Don't get me wrong: the guys from the lower third of the class who went to Wall Street had a lot of nice qualities. Most of them were pleasant enough. They made a good impression. And now we realize that by the standards that came later, they weren't really greedy. They just wanted a nice house in Greenwich and maybe a sailboat. A lot of them were from families that had always been on Wall Street, so they were accustomed to nice houses in Greenwich. They didn't feel the need to leverage the entire business so they could make the sort of money that easily supports the second oceangoing yacht."

 

"So what happened?"

 

"I told you what happened. Smart guys started going to Wall Street."

 

"Why?"

 

"I thought you'd never ask," he said, making a practiced gesture with his eyebrows that caused the bartender to get started mixing another martini.

 

"Two things happened. One is that the amount of money that could be made on Wall Street with hedge fund and private equity operations became just mind-blowing. At the same time, college was getting so expensive that people from reasonably prosperous families were graduating with huge debts. So even the smart guys went to Wall Street, maybe telling themselves that in a few years they'd have so much money they could then become professors or legal-services lawyers or whatever they'd wanted to be in the first place. That's when you started reading stories about the percentage of the graduating class of Harvard College who planned to go into the financial industry or go to business school so they could then go into the financial industry. That's when you started reading about these geniuses from M.I.T. and Caltech who instead of going to graduate school in physics went to Wall Street to calculate arbitrage odds."

 

"But you still haven't told me how that brought on the financial crisis."

 

"Did you ever hear the word 'derivatives'?" he said. "Do you think our guys could have invented, say, credit default swaps? Give me a break! They couldn't have done the math."

 

"Why do I get the feeling that there's one more step in this scenario?" I said.

 

"Because there is," he said. "When the smart guys started this business of securitizing things that didn't even exist in the first place, who was running the firms they worked for? Our guys! The lower third of the class! Guys who didn't have the foggiest notion of what a credit default swap was. All our guys knew was that they were getting disgustingly rich, and they had gotten to like that. All of that easy money had eaten away at their sense of enoughness."

 

"So having smart guys there almost caused Wall Street to collapse."

 

"You got it," he said. "It took you awhile, but you got it."

 

The theory sounded too simple to be true, but right offhand I couldn't find any flaws in it. I found myself contemplating the sort of havoc a horde of smart guys could wreak in other industries. I saw those industries falling one by one, done in by superior intelligence. "I think I need a drink," I said.

 

He nodded at my glass and made another one of those eyebrow gestures to the bartender. "Please," he said. "Allow me."

 

Calvin Trillin is the author, most recently, of "Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE DETAIL

 

Gradually the complexity and boldness of the Taliban raid on GHQ is being exposed – somewhat quicker than usual for these events, which is a welcome relief from the smokescreen that usually surrounds them. The operation was planned not in southern Punjab as speculated by many, but in South Waziristan. The attackers sought to take hostage senior officers and use them as leverage to gain the release of up to 100 of their comrades in arms, demand the trial of General Musharraf and an end to American use of our airbases. Whilst most of the population would not accede to their demands for the release of their comrades, there is probably a majority of the population who would support their call for an end to American use of our bases and the drone strikes, with perhaps a smaller proportion wanting to see Musharraf tried. It is also clear that there was some element of electronic intercept of the conversations between the various components of the assault group. On the morning of the attack a conversation between TTP commander Waliur Rehman and 'another person' revealed that the attack had its origins in South Waziristan and that this person was asked to 'pray for the Fedayeen attacking the GHQ'. If nothing else this suggests that our ability to conduct elint operations has advanced and would seem effective. It would not seem to be matched by capacity of the humint side of the equation that would allow the marrying of human and electronic intelligence into a real-time actionable picture. The much-vexed matter of whether there had been a security lapse was sidestepped by the adroit footwork of DG ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas. He said that the terrorists achieved less than 10 per cent of their objectives, that the majority were stopped at the perimeter and that the army response as the siege developed was both appropriate and timely, taking into account the need to preserve the lives of the hostages. It was announced that a further three SSG commandos had died of their wounds overnight bringing the military death toll to 14; with nine terrorists killed and one captured – a ratio that will bring little comfort to the military high command.


However the event is dressed up by the government and the military itself, this is a huge embarrassment that is not going to fade quickly. A group of well-armed and well-trained men were able to fight and spoof their way into the heart of the military command structure. They sowed confusion with their camouflage and exploited their knowledge of the layout of the building they were attacking. Their reconnaissance and intelligence were good enough for the job in hand and they had logistical support in place around the area of operations. Once again we have to stress the competence of the enemy we face. Because of their very unconventionality they appear to be somehow 'less able' than more conventional forces, but this is a dangerous assumption. Events of last Saturday and Sunday morning should be proof enough of that. There is a flexibility and adaptability about the way in which the way the Taliban conduct their war-fighting that suits both terrain and context well. They have moved into the cities, spread into the countryside and over many years developed an infrastructure and base of 'fellow-traveller support' that grants them concealment. They have moved into higher education and created a cadre of highly-educated ideologues who will be their downstream planners, commanders – and scientists, the weapons developers of the future. They have become the enemy that is both within and without. Never underestimate them.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WAVE OF VIOLENCE

 

The new wave of violence unleashed by militants continues, with the third major attack in four days. This time, a military convoy passing through a bazaar in the Alipuri area of Shangla district was targeted, apparently by a bomber aged around 14 years. He becomes like those killed as a result of his actions, another child victim of terrorism. At least 41 people, including four soldiers and three policemen were killed. The latest attack seems to mock the insistent statements from the interior minister that the militants are on the run. At present they seem to be running nowhere at all but firmly holding their ground. It is becoming apparent that for all the claims, the operation against them cannot be termed the final triumph against militancy. There have been some assessments pointing out that key militant leaders, such as the 'Dr Usman' held at the GHQ, are now themselves coming forward. This could be a sign of desperation on the part of the militants, a desire to demonstrate they have not yet been beaten. But this of course is mere conjecture. We do not really know what is happening or how the Tehrik-e-Taliban and its allies are thinking. What we do know is that the optimism of ordinary people is fading. The jubilation that came with the sense that militancy was on its way out and the terrifying bomb blasts we have witnessed over the past few years could be a thing of the past has receded. Fear again walks with us. Messages sent over texting services warn of more blasts to follow and advise people to keep away from busy places.


Our government needs to act quickly to ensure triumph is not snatched away from us. The militants have in recent months felt the weight of public opinion bear down on them. The pressure must be kept up. To ensure this, we need to see a continued demonstration of a will to defeat militancy. Action in South Waziristan is one way of keeping up the momentum and moving forward. But the war will not be over even if there is victory here. The consequences of years of inaction are now apparent. Groups in Punjab have aligned themselves with the Taliban. Claims that persons from across the border are involved are absurd. No one believes them. The fighting will have to move here, into the heart of major cities, and drive out the terrorists who have set up bases everywhere. This is not an easy undertaking. The events of the past few days have shown just how difficult it is to fight militancy and win. But there is no option but to continue and to widen the operation against all kinds of terrorists, everywhere in the country. Otherwise we will continue to see the meaningless violence that has already claimed far too many lives and is now resulting in yet more spilled blood.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WIDENING CIVILIAN-MILITARY RIFT

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


The wide gulf between the democratic government in Islamabad and the military leadership in Rawalpindi has been exposed by the Kerry-Lugar hysteria. Such exposure is bad enough, as it is. What is more worrisome is that this exposure highlights the unchanging undercurrents of Pakistan's institutional dynamics. Ten years after Gen Pervez Musharraf engineered a military operation against another legitimate democratic government in October 1999, and over a year since the same Gen Musharraf had to step down from the office, nothing has changed. The unstable and tenuous relationship between the elected civilian government and the Pakistani military continues to be governed by mistrust.


The weak and fragile equilibrium between the military and civilian government is often projected as a conflict between heroic politicians fighting for democracy and the aspiring autocrats that run the military. But this binary presentation of the dynamic between the military and the civilian leadership is deeply flawed. In truth, Pakistani democracy is plagued by a more complex problem. It is subject to rules of the game that have been undemocratically instituted to serve the interests of an undemocratic system of presidential privilege, at the expense of what is the natural state of Pakistan's Constitution--a parliamentary democracy.


Pakistan's parliamentary democracy was constructed around a Constitution that was consistent with the configuration of a British post-colonial structure. In its natural state, the pinnacle of executive authority in Pakistan is the prime minister--with a cabinet to share executive responsibilities, and answerable to Parliament. The president, in this scheme is a statement of the federation, and is wholly symbolic.


Constant military interventions in Pakistani public life have required repeated alterations of the parliamentary system to suit a free-flowing, laissez-faire presidency in which all power is concentrated. This is why, every time the military takes power, it authorises a mutilation of the Constitution that ensures two things. First, that the president has overarching authority over all major executive decisions, and second, that there are no real instruments available to Parliament to contain or moderate the president's behaviour.


When it needs to run the country, the mutilation of the Pakistani Constitution (and thereby of Pakistani democracy) comes naturally to the military. Responsibility for a mutilated Constitution does not lie solely with the military, but is shared by those that have enabled the process of mutilation. The enablers of the Legal Framework Order of 2002 that lies at the heart of Pakistan's currently mutilated Constitution are the Q-League, and the religious parties. It was their assent that enabled Gen Musharraf to concentrate executive authority in the office of the president. By mutilating the Constitution to resemble a presidential system, Gen Musharraf was simply actualising both the institutional instincts of the military and the individual instincts of a military officer--for whom amorphous is nothing, and command structures are everything.


The PPP's newly discovered addiction to this mutilated Constitution is not unexpected. Given the personal trials (undeserved), and political tribulations (deserved), that the president has gone through, his affinity for a souped-up version of the presidency was entirely predictable. A mutilated Constitu