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Thursday, October 15, 2009

EDITORIAL 15.10.09

 

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month october 15, edition 000324, 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. DRAGON'S TEETH
  2. LITMUS TEST FOR US
  3. PAKISTAN IN FREE FALL - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. INDIA MUST BOOST DEFENCE CAPABILITIES - MANOJ PARASHAR
  5. GEARING UP FOR THE GAMES - SHAILAJA CHANDRA
  6. CHINESE RHETORIC - B RAMAN
  7. BRIDGE THE EDUCATION GAP - KHIMI THAPA
  8. EVEN WORDS CAN SHATTER GLOBAL MARKETS - LAD GRINKEVICH

 MAIL TODAY

  1. TURNOUT IN ELECTIONS A CAUSE FOR CHEER - RAHUL HAS A POINT
  2. MAKE MOST OF OUR NUMBERS
  3. BOOMTOWN RAP - MAX MARTIN
  4. STORY ON COUNCIL OF ARCHITECTURE NOT TRUE

 TIMES OF INDIA

  1. COME TOGETHER
  2. MISSING MIDDLE
  3. BULLISH IN CHINA SHOP -
  4. WE NEED TO MOVE ON
  5. WHY THIS NEIGHBOUR COUNTS -
  6. WHO'S THE BOSS? -
  7. LOSING BORDERS IN LAHORE - BACHI KARKARIA 

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. DON'T BE AFRAID OF GM FOOD
  2. HO HUM, PAKISTAN
  3. IDLE WORSHIPPERS - ABHIJIT BANERJEE
  4. KEEP OUR FINGERS CROSSED - SANCHITA SHARMA

 INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. HERE WE GO AGAIN?
  2. IT'S THAT SIMPLE
  3. VENKI'S LESSONS
  4. GREEN ROOTS OF RECOVERY - ILA PATNAIK
  5. THE SOCIAL SCIENCE PRIZE - KARNA BASU
  6. HAPPY DIWALI, COURTESY OUR KIDS - ABHA ADAMS
  7. HALF THE EARTH - PAMELA CHATTERJEE
  8. SADBHAVANA BAITHAKS 

 FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. BENCH THE CURRENT BENCHMARK
  2. PHONY BUSINESS
  3. FOR US IT'S VERY MUCH THE MARKET - MK VENU
  4. THE AMERICA ASIA ISSUE OF OUR TIME - MICHAEL WALTON
  5. NO GETTING AWAY FROM AMITABH, SACHIN, DHONI - ALOKANANDA CHAKRABORTY

 THE HINDU

  1. A STEP FORWARD ON IRAN
  2. MORE SIGNS OF RECOVERY
  3. INDIA MUST CATCH UP WITH U.S.-IRAN THAW - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. DOING SOME GOOD VS. DOING RIGHT - LIESL GERNTHOLTZ
  5. A TRIBUTE TO OBAMA, A DISCIPLE OF GANDHI - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  6. CHANGING THE WORLD USING CELLPHONES - D.C. DENISON
  7. JUST HOW MUCH TV SHOULD CHILDREN WATCH? - PATRICK BARKHAM

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. THE INDUSTRIAL INDEX PHENOMENA
  2. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
  3. MOTHER TERESA IS VERY MUCH OURS - ANTARA DEV SEN
  4. A HISTORIC ACCORD TO OPEN SEALED BORDERS - S. NIHAL SINGH

 DNA

  1. LAYING CLAIMS
  2. CHINESE CHECKERS
  3. THE ROT IN REALTY - R JAGANNATHAN
  4. SIGNIFICANT PHILOSOPHY - TOUCH OF A GENIUS
  5. WHY THE NOBEL IRKED BUSH AND CLINTON - MAUREEN DOWD
  6. MILITANT DEALS?

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. DIALOGUE, BEST WAY OUT
  2. CHINA'S POSTURE
  3. PAKISTAN IN TURMOIL
  4. ARMY CHALLENGES THE GOVERNMENT'S WRIT - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. FOOTBALLS ALL - BY RAJBIR DESWAL
  6. NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION - BY MICHAEL D. GORDIN
  7. WHY HARYANA WOMEN KEEP OFF POLITICS - BY S.S. CHAHAR 
  8. BORLAUG HAD BACKED 'GENE REVOLUTION' - BY ARABINDA GHOSE

 THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. REHABILITATION PACKAGE
  2. GROWING CRIMES
  3. CONFLICT SENSITIVE JOURNALISM - PATRICIA MUKHIM
  4. NREGA IMPLEMENTATION IN ANDHRA PRADESH - DR HK GOSWAMI

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. HANDS OFF BSNL'S FUNDS
  2. CHINESE BLUSTER ON ARUNACHAL
  3. RELATIVITY THEORY
  4. CAN BASEL-II MAKE SMES SMILE? - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYA
  5. BE SINCERE BUT NOT TOO SERIOUS - PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA
  6. ARE WE SEEING THE LAST OF ODIS?
  7. HOW TO RESPOND TO ASSET BUBBLES - TT RAM MOHAN
  8. CORRECTION EXPECTED, RETAIL INVESTORS WATCH OUT: VENTURA SECURITIES
  9. NEW RALLY IN WORLD MARKETS TO GIVE INDIA A BOOST TOO: DEEPAK MOHONI
  10. OTC MARKET CAN BRING MORE LIQUIDITY'
  11. 'DON'T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT NAMA NEGOTIATIONS WOULD DO' - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  12. 'THERE'S NO LOGIC IN ENTERING GREENFIELD INSURANCE' - GEORGE CHERIAN

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. THE INDUSTRIAL INDEX PHENOMENA
  2. A HISTORIC ACCORD WILL OPEN SEALED BORDERS  - BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  3. A RELIABLE AFGHAN PARTNER IS NEED OF HOUR  - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT  - BY P.S. AHLUWALIA
  5. MOTHER TERESA IS VERY MUCH OURS - BY ANTARA DEV SEN
  6. DAISY CHAIN OF CHENEYS - BY MAUREEN DOWD

 THE STATESMAN

  1. BEIJING'S SNUB
  2. AUSTERITY BLINK
  3. SPEED IT UP
  4. CHOCOLATE, WATER REDUCE PAIN: STUDY
  5. STATUS OF ARUNACHAL - BY RAJINDER PURI

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. STOP AND GO
  2. SOUND CHECK
  3. A MATTER OF SHOCK VALUE - BHASKAR DUTTA
  4. TIME TO HEED THE CALL - NEHA SAHAY
  5. WRONG FACE ON THE JAM JAR
  6. TRICKS OF THE DOUBLE HELIX
  7. IMPERFECT SYMPATHIES

 DECCAN HERALD

  1. CHINESE NEEDLE
  2. URBAN APATHY
  3. INDIA SHINING - VIKAS BAJAJ
  4. NOBEL TO OBAMA
  5. THAT COSMIC SLICE - LASYA SHASHIMOHAN

 THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. ARCHEOLOGICAL BARBARIANS
  2. IT LOOKS LIKE LAW, BUT IT'S JUST POLITICS -WARREN GOLDSTEIN
  3. FUNDAMENTALLY FREUND: INTRODUCING THE 'ZIONIST STIMULUS PACKAGE' - MICHAEL FREUND
  4. WASHINGTON WATCH: WHO'S IN CHARGE OF ISRAELI FOREIGN POLICY? - DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD
  5. LION'S DEN: CAIR'S INNER WORKINGS EXPOSED - DANIEL PIPES 

 HAARETZ

  1. GIVE BACK THE MONEY - BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL
  2. ISRAEL NEEDS LEGITIMACY TO WAGE WAR AND PEACE - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. THE GOLDA WARS  - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. SHARE THE TEMPLE MOUNT- BY ISRAEL HAREL
  5. THE RIGHT TO LAZINESS AND IGNORANCE - BY NA'AMA SHEFFI

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. REFORM AND YOUR PREMIUMS
  2. WHAT $100 MILLION?
  3. NEW YORK CITY AND THE HOMELESS
  4. DEMOCRATS AND SCHOOLS - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  5. TO BEAT THE TALIBAN, FIGHT FROM AFAR - BY ROBERT A. PAPE

 I.THE NEWS

  1. A DIFFERENT NOTE
  2. REWIND TO THE PAST
  3. RITES OF PASSAGE
  4. LA PATRIE EN DANGER -- TIME TO SPEAK - ROEDAD KHAN
  5. ATTACK IN RAWALPINDI - SALMAN MASOOD
  6. A JOURNEY OF HOPE  SADAF SHAHID
  7. SOVEREIGNTY OR SELF-PERPETUATION? - FAYYAZ ALI KHAN
  8. GHQ ATTACK -- BEYOND CONSPIRACY THEORIES - SHAKIR HUSAIN
  9. WAKE UP, PLEASE! - HAMID MIR

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PAK-CHINA GET STILL CLOSER
  2. PUNJAB TAKES THE LEAD
  3. INCENTIVES FOR SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS
  4. MAN OR MACHINE, THAT IS QUESTION! - KHALID SALEEM
  5. KERRY-LUGAR AND NATIONAL INTEREST - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. INDIA'S ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN - COL GHULAM SARWAR (R)
  7. TERRORISM IN KABUL, PESHAWAR & PINDI - RAY ALIF
  8. NOT GOOD ENOUGH - THOMAS L FRIEDMAN

 THE INDEPENDENT

  1. DHAKA'S MISERY
  2. SHIP-BREAKING
  3. CRIME FREE INDIA...!

 THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. TIME FOR HELICOPTER VIEW AT COPENHAGEN
  2. AVOID PROTECTIONISM
  3. FEELING OPTIMISTIC

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE DILEMMA OF THE BOATS
  2. SUPER NEEDS LESS FIDDLING
  3. POLITICIANS TOO READY TO REBOARD THE BAD SHIP BIGOTRY
  4. DOUBT RAISED ABOUT SPORTING LEGEND NEEDS TO BE RESOLVED

 THE GURDIAN

  1. MPS' REPAYMENTS: LOOK BACK IN ANGER
  2. THE BNP ON QUESTION TIME IS THE WRONG PARTY ON THE WRONG PROGRAMME
  3. IN PRAISE OF ... THE FOURTH PLINTH

 THE KOREA HERALD

  1. WARMING MOOD
  2. WHIFF OF IRREGULARITY
  3. 'AS YOU KNOW, THE MARKET IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT' - ANDREW SHENG
  4. SOCIAL STRUCTURE RESPONSIBLE FOR LOW BIRTH RATE - CAROL EUNMI LEE

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. POLICE INTERROGATIONS ON VIDEO
  2. FULL MILITARY DISCLOSURE
  3. AN ANGEL AMONG THE EVIL ENERGY RESOURCES - BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON
  4. JAPAN CAN LEARN FROM SILICON VALLEY - BY RAY K. TSUCHIYAMA

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THAT OLD SONG: INFRASTRUCTURE
  2. JUSTICE DENIED
  3. END OF MILITARY BUSINESSES? - USMAN HAMID
  4. NATIONAL OIL MANAGEMENT REFORMS IMPERATIVE - KURTUBI
  5. OBAMA, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE AND THE WORLD POLITICS - M. TAUFIQURRAHMAN

 CHINA DAILY

  1. MIGRANT WORKERS' PENSION
  2. IN LINE WITH CHINESE LAW
  3. LOTTERY IS FOR THE PUBLIC WELFARE
  4. TIME EAST ASIA LEARNT FROM UNITY PROVERB

 THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE AVTOVAZ FAIRY TALE - BY BORIS KAGARLITSKY
  2. CHINA SEES DIMINISHING RETURNS WITH RUSSIA - BY ALEXANDER LUKIN

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

DRAGON'S TEETH

CHINA WON'T WIN TAWANG, WILL LOSE INDIA


Beijing's preposterous remarks following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh are indicative of a growing aggression in the Chinese foreign policy establishment. In referring to Mr Singh's tour of the State — where he had gone for the Congress's election campaign — as calculated to "trigger disturbance" in a "disputed region", the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson was unusually hostile. Assembly elections have been held previously in Arunachal Pradesh and senior Indian Ministers have visited the State several times. What then has caused Beijing to respond in this manner? Sympathetic analysts have argued China is impatient at the lack of progress in border talks. The traditional Chinese position has been one of give and take — India acceding to Chinese territorial claims in the Western Sector (Jammu & Kashmir, part of which is under Beijing's occupation), and China making concessions in the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh). However, recent evidence would suggest this line of reasoning is no more valid. There is something new afoot, and it related to Beijing's long-term plans for Tibet, particularly in a post-Dalai Lama situation. The Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh is one of Tibetan Buddhism's most sacred shrines. It has traditionally had a filial relationship with the Dalai Lama's seat in Potala, Lhasa, and has been held in reverence by Himalayan Buddhists. On this basis, China is claiming suzerainty over not just Tawang but almost all of Arunachal Pradesh. It expects a war of succession after the current Dalai Lama passes on, and hopes to use its capacity to militarily wrest Tawang as a tool to win the hearts and minds of Tibetan Buddhists. It is a cynical game, but one China is playing determinedly. What has not helped it is that the Dalai Lama is likely to visit Tawang in November, has not made any territorial claims on it, and is happy to describe it as a legitimate part of India.


Despite the context, the Chinese provocation is not necessarily a repeat of the build-up to the war of 1962. A high-intensity conflict is not in Beijing's interest and will do it lasting economic and global perception damage. Even so, it does see a window of opportunity over the next two years or so and hopes to use this to exert pressure on India and force a settlement in the Eastern Sector on its terms. If nothing else, it would like to give India a bloody nose and make clear that it is the bigger power in Asia. With Western economies in the doldrums, with the United States distracted by its engagement in Afghanistan-Pakistan, domestic politics and an inexperienced President and with China's influence boosted by its robust dollar reserves, Beijing reckons it has unprecedented strategic autonomy. It wants to use this to put India in its place.


Despite its impressive economic achievements, China essential problem is its semi-authoritarian polity does not allow it to quite appreciate the role of civil society in shaping attitudes. It cannot read the message from Arunachal Pradesh, where 72 per cent of the electorate voted in the October 13 election. It is also oblivious of what it is doing to its image in the rest of India. Any talk of a so-called "Peaceful Rise of China" seems hollow when Beijing gives one-sixth of humanity the impression that it is a menacing, permanently aggrieved ogre.

 

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THE PIONEER

LITMUS TEST FOR US

ISLAMABAD PLAYS OLIVER TWIST


There is only one thing that the Obama Administration should tell Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi when he returns to Washington, DC, to seek assurances about the recently announced mega American aid package to Pakistan: "Tough luck". Mr Qureshi will be meeting top American leaders and policy-makers in an attempt to convince them that the conditions attached to the military component of the aid package must go. In fact, this is precisely the reason why Mr Qureshi was in the US capital last week. On that occasion he had come away gloating that the $ 7.5 billion in civilian aid and an unspecified amount in military aid did not have any strings attached. He had termed the American financial assistance 'a genuine symbol of friendship', affirming that his Government would never do anything to jeopardise the sovereignty of Pakistan. But it appears that Mr Qureshi might have overlooked certain clauses of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the sanctioning legislation behind the American aid package. Although the civilian aid component does not carry any specific obligations, the promised military aid does. A clause in the Kerry-Lugar Bill stipulates that the US Administration has to periodically certify that Pakistan is actively dismantling not only terror bases belonging to the Taliban and Al Qaeda but also those of terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Jaish-e-Mohammad for the military aid transfer to be possible. On top of this there are provisions in the Bill that seek to bring the Pakistani Army under the control of the civilian administration by asking for periodic proof of such civilian control in Army promotions, etc.


Not surprisingly, the Opposition party legislators and the Army in Islamabad have not taken these conditionalities lying down. They have been vociferous in their opposition and this is the reason why Mr Qureshi was forced to scurry back to Washington, DC. But the Obama Administration should remain steadfast. It is high time that the US stopped giving blank cheques to Pakistan. Already the civilian aid that is being doled out carries no riders. This is a mistake. This too should have been tied to specific requirements to make Pakistan stop sponsoring terrorism against India and destabilising Afghanistan. Indeed, the US should simply rebuff Mr Qureshi and tell him that Pakistan can either take the deal in its present form and fall in line or forget it. For, far too long has the US given Pakistan a long rope. It is time it puts Islamabad on a tight leash. It is nobody's case that Pakistan be allowed to fail as a state. An unstable Pakistan is not in the interest of the world at large. But it cannot be allowed to continue with the policy of duplicity that it presently practises vis-à-vis terrorism. American aid must be used effectively to arm-twist Pakistan to give up its nefarious designs.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

PAKISTAN IN FREE FALL

G PARTHASARATHY


The tranquillity around Pakistan's Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi, where the Army's X Corps, whose main claim to fame is its propensity to stage coups against civilian Governments, is also located, was rudely disturbed on October 11. A small group of militants clad in military uniforms from the Amjad Farooqi group of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan struck at the hallowed precincts of the Army Headquarters, killed Army personnel, including a Brigadier and Lieutenant Colonel and held the entire Headquarters of the Pakistani Army hostage for around 18 hours. A few days earlier, a militant dressed in the uniform of the predominantly Pashtun Frontier Constabulary carried out a suicide bomb attack on the UN offices at the very heart of the capital, Islamabad. The attacks had evidently been planned by people with inside knowledge of security arrangements in the most sensitive areas of the national capital.


These attacks came at a time when Pakistan was witnessing an unseemly tussle between the elected Government headed by President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, 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 after a meeting of Corps Commanders presided over by Gen Kayani, alleged the provisions of the US legislation violated Pakistani sovereignty and called on the country's Parliament to decide whether the provisions of the Act should be accepted. Interestingly, this Army intervention, quite obviously intended to create a rift between President Zardari, who is a supporter of the US legislation and the Parliament, came after an unprecedented meeting in Rawalpindi between Mr Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab and brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, accompanied by the leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Mr Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan, on the one hand and Gen Ashfaq Kayani, on the other. Mr Chaudhury Nisar is spearheading the opposition to the Kerry-Lugar Bill in Parliament. Responding to the Army's insubordination, Zardari's spokesman noted that it was inappropriate for the Army to comment publicly on a sensitive issue and that its concerns should have, more appropriately, been placed before the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.


The furore in Pakistan on the Kerry-Lugar Act, which has been fomented by Gen Kayani, is largely contrived. No one denies that the cash strapped country desperately needs foreign economic assistance. Reflecting American and international concerns, the Kerry-Lugar Act requires the Secretary of State to certify the Pakistani Government has acted to prevent "Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba 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 Pakistani Army is under effective civilian and Parliamentary scrutiny and control and that all support for terrorist groups from "elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence services," has ceased. These provisions for monitoring the role of Pakistan's military and its intelligence services have obviously rattled Gen Kayani and his cohorts. American displeasure at the ISI's support for Mullah Omar and Taliban military commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani, who are spearheading attacks against American forces in Afghanistan, has been frequently voiced.


The actions of the Pakistani Army suggest that while it may reluctantly take on Taliban groups which question the writ of the Pakistan State, like Maulana Fazlullah's supporters in Swat and the TTP led now by Hakeemullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan, it will continue to support Afghan and Pakistani Taliban groups waging jihad against the Americans in Afghanistan. For over three months, the Army has been preparing to attack the strongholds in South Waziristan of Hakeemullah Mehsud and his Uzbek allies from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which was led by Tahir Yuldeshev. Yuldeshev had close links with the ISI since the 1990s, when the ISI facilitated his links with the Taliban and Al Qaeda and used his Uzbek forces to target the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, led by Ahmed Shah Masood. Yuldeshev was reportedly killed in a US Drone attack on September 26. The Pakistani Army has now amassed around 28,000 soldiers for an assault, backed by air power and American drones, in South Waziristan. The assault by the TTP on the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi is a clear warning to the Pakistani military establishment that the TTP will hit at targets across Pakistan, if the Army targets it.


Past operations of the Pakistani Army in South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, have failed miserably. It remains to be seen whether the Army has the ability and courage to take on the TTP and its Uzbek and other allies in South Waziristan, successfully. Moreover, there had to be support from elements within the security forces, in recent terrorist attacks in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as the militants evidently had inside information on the vulnerabilities in the security structure. Can the Army and Frontier Constabulary now be sure that Pashtun soldiers, who hail from the tribal areas and constitute a substantial portion of the security forces, will remain steadfast in their resolve in operations that target the homes of their kith and kin? Moreover, while there was widespread political consensus within Pakistan, in Army operations in Swat, which is very close to the capital Islamabad, will there be a sustained political consensus if operations in South Waziristan are prolonged? Finally, the impending operations in South Waziristan are based on the assumption that Taliban groups elsewhere in the tribal areas will not come to aid of their erstwhile allies in South Waziristan. Is this a realistic assumption? As more and more groups once supported by the ISI turn against the Pakistani army, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson recently remarked: "You cannot tolerate a viper in your bosom without getting bitten"!!


Pakistan is moving into even more turbulent and troubled waters as its Army, given to dictating the national agenda, confronts new challenges. But, perhaps the most shocking aspect of these developments is that Mr Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in a military coup a decade ago, now finds it expedient to make common cause with Gen Kayani. Even the political establishment seems divided on the utility of terrorist groups in Pakistan's relations with its neighbours.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

INDIA MUST BOOST DEFENCE CAPABILITIES

MANOJ PARASHAR


Amid reports of repeated incursions of the Chinese Army in the Indian border, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik's recent comment that the Indian Air Force only has one-third the fleet strength of the Chinese Air Force raises a question whether we are capable to counter the confrontation with the Red Dragon. In August, former Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta too had admitted bluntly that India neither had the capability nor the intention to match up to China's military strength and that the former must cooperate with and not confront the latter.


Sensing our weak military position in comparison to China, the Manmohan Singh Government would have downplayed any threat from China and accused media of war-mongering


There is no doubt that China's quest for its defence modernisation has left India far behind. As far as the development of ballistic missile is concerned, now China is at par with the US. China is all set to test its two long-range ballistic missiles, the 8000 km DF - 31 and the 12000 km DF-41. The People's Liberation Army Air Force, PLAAF currently possesses 4,350 aircraft of these mostly are combat aircraft. Further, it is planning to buy AWACS aircraft from Russia and Su-27s and it is reportedly all set to acquire a total of 14 overseas naval and airbases and 27 regular military bases by 2020. Most of them are in our neighbourhood.


On the other hand, our defence modernisation is moving at snail's pace. Several military deals are held due to corruption allegations. But if middlemen are kept away, these deals get delayed. Due to delays at the level of decision-making authority, the cost of equipment increases manifold. India, for instance, took more than one decade in finalising the procurement of 66 AJT Hawk from the UK. This delay resulted in increase in its cost. In the meantime other countries too developed Jet trainers with more advanced technology.


Our leadership too is to blame for the slow pace of defence modernisation. Due to its commitment towards non-alignment after independence, India under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru declined the West's offer of permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Then China was made the Asian representative. Certainly, this membership clubbed China with other world powers. It is now when India is facing threats from its neighbours that defence modernisation has become a priority.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

GEARING UP FOR THE GAMES

WHILE PREPARING FOR THE 2010 COMMONWEALTH GAMES EVERY DAY WILL START WITH A FRESH CRISIS, BRINGING WITH IT UNANTICIPATED SETBACKS AND SYNCHRONISATION GONE AWRY. BUT BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, DELHI WILL SHINE AND THE GAMES WILL BE MAGNIFICENT ENOUGH TO CATAPULT THE CITY TO BID FOR THE 2020 OLYMPICS

SHAILAJA CHANDRA


When Delhi was bidding for the Commonwealth Games in 2003, I was the Chief Secretary of the State and the head of the bureaucracy. A high-powered delegation had come to appraise our potential and suitability to host the Games for which we had prepared our own minutely planned display of competence and hospitality.


When we were at the final stage of near acceptance, the Lieutenant-Governor hosted a lunch at the Imperial Hotel in honour of the visiting delegates. A long table was set out in the colonial lunchroom overlooking the lush green lawns outside. At one end sat the L-G and the other the Chief Secretary — your humble columnist. To my left and right sat four distinguished foreigners whom I regaled with my repertoire of Delhi stories, the picture of elegance in my navy blue crepe sari and a double string of pearls.


The conversation was spirited enough and the menu classic Mughlai. The liveried waiters waltzed around the table, announcing the name of the dish one by one. I heard a gloved waiter bending over one of the honoured guests announcing "kofta curry" which he then proffered from his silver tray. The announcement was received with smiles and gushes.


When my turn came, I said "no, thank you" but almost instantaneously felt something warm going down my back. Continuing the conversation, I put my fork down and slipped my hand over my back. It was wet, sticky and still warm. From the texture and odour I realised to my horror that the waiter who had least expected a "no" from me had gauchely sloshed the kofta curry down my back. I had the choice of making a trifle out of the situation and risking an unpredictable reaction from the very guests we desperately sought to impress, or slipping out quietly, hoping to control the damage. I chose the latter.


As I rose discarding my starched napkin nonchalantly behind me, I drew my sari's pallu around me and hurried to the women's restroom. I was furious with the Imperial Hotel management and the imbecile waiter in particular. If Delhi lost the bid for the Commonwealth Games, the Imperial Hotel would be largely responsible, I thought, still smarting from the gumminess on my back. I had hardly stepped into the corridor outside when two women in smart coats, black and gold nameplates, high heels and coiffured hair flanked me on either side and shepherded me into the restroom. Apologising profusely with every step we took in unison, they tried their best to mollify me with radiant smiles. The bungling waiter had been smart enough to pass the word to the management before I could.


Inside Imperial Hotel's restroom, glowing with red teak wood, shining mirrors and burnished brass, I was disrobed from top to bottom, and swaddled inside an enormous white dressing gown in a trice. Seated like an elderly mannequin before a mirror twice my size it was difficult to look angry as I observed my ridiculous reflection bundled up in layers of heavy toweling. The two women executives pleaded with me to relax for a few minutes and they would be right back. As the Chief Secretary of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, I had little choice but to comply, praying no member of the delegation would choose to visit the restroom just then.

Lo and behold, in less than 10 minutes, the two women were back carrying five pieces of clothing wrapped in discreet covers, freshly drycleaned and ironed to perfection. They dressed me up as though they had been professionally trained to assist hapless guests to tie saris to perfection. One helped me with the pleats while the other twisted my hair and fixed it with a clutch. In 11 minutes flat I re-entered the lunch room and slid into my Regency chair as though nothing had happened. Only the plate had been changed as the maitre d' personally served up the kulfi with an expert flourish.


And so it shall be with the Commonwealth Games. For the next 11 months we will see bedlam on the roads and at every Games site. Every day will start with a fresh crisis, yet another unanticipated setback and synchronisation gone awry. But by this time next year, the MCD would have magically carpeted the roads, painted and perfected the road berms, the NDMC would have resurrected Connaught Place to its former glory, the Metro would be gliding overhead and plumes of exotic foliage would have sprung up everywhere. The sports stadia would have received the Imperial Hotel treatment 10 times over. Every electric wire would be secretly tucked away and every scrap of rubble smoothened out of sight.


Schools and offices would be subtly encouraged to keep their wards at home. Miraculously Delhi's population oozing everywhere, jostling, honking, peeing away would vanish as it does on Sundays, preferring to watch the games or blockbuster movies from home. Delhi will shine, the Games will outshine and the grand finale will make history — magnificent enough to catapult the city to bid for the Olympics 2020. Imperially.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHINESE RHETORIC

BEIJING'S RECENT REMARKS SHOW ITS INCREASING FRUSTRATION

B RAMAN


As the time approaches for the proposed visit of his holiness the Dalai Lama to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh next month to inaugurate a hospital built with contributions from the Tibetan community in exile, China has stepped up its rhetoric against India. The recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh to canvass for the candidates of his party in the just concluded elections to the State Assembly of Arunachal Pradesh on October 12 has been used as a pretext for the renewed criticism of the Indian policy on Arunachal Pradesh.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh has been projected as his visit to the so-called Southern Tibet.


China never fails to bring on record its protests and concerns over the visits of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh for whatever purpose. The fact that it has done so after the recent electoral visit of Mr Singh should not, therefore, have been a matter of surprise and undue concern. What is disturbing is the kind of language used by a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Office in commenting on the visit and the even stronger language used by the Global Times, in an editorial on the subject on October 14. The Global Times is a sister publication of the Chinese Communist Party-controlled People's Daily.


The fresh campaign against India on the subject was triggered off by the comments of a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Mr Ma Zhaoxu, the spokesperson, was quoted by the Global Times as saying on October 13 that China was "seriously dissatisfied" by the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, who was accused of "ignoring China's concerns by visiting southern Tibet". The Global Times quoted the spokesperson as saying further as follows: "China and India have not reached any formal agreement on the border issue. We demand that the Indian side pay attention to the serious and just concerns of the Chinese side and not provoke incidents in the disputed region, in order to facilitate the healthy development of China-Indian relations."


There has been a difference in the translation into English of the spokesperson's remarks by the BBC and the Global Times. While the BBC quoted the spokesperson as telling India "not to trigger disturbances in the disputed region", the Global Times spoke of the spokesperson telling India "not to not provoke incidents in the disputed region."


The editorial of the Global Times titled "Indian PM's visit a provocative move" described the Indian Prime Minister's visit as a "provocative and dangerous move" and alleged that the visit was designed to put the area under India's de facto administration. It accuses India of encouraging the "immigration of more than one million Indians to the region" and warns: "India, however, will make a fatal error if it mistakes China's approach for weakness. The Chinese Government and public regard territorial integrity as a core national interest, one that must be defended with every means... The disputed border area is of strategic importance, and hence, India's recent moves — including Singh's trip and approving past visits to the region by the Dalai Lama — send the wrong signal. That could have dangerous consequences."


The conventional wisdom is that since any military confrontation could affect China's economic development and its aspirations of rising as a major power on par with the US, Beijing will restrict itself to angry rhetoric and will not indulge in any ground action in the Arunachal Pradesh area. This wisdom has some validity, but overlooks the fact that China is feeling increasingly insecure in its peripheral areas because of the recent violent uprisings by the Tibetans last year and the Uighurs this year. Its increasing nervousness and feelings of insecurity in its border areas could lead to irrational and unpredictable reflexes vis-a-vis the Arunachal Pradesh issue.

We should avoid countering China's renewed rhetoric with our own rhetoric. While maintaining our cool, we should press ahead with the construction of the infrastructure in the Arunachal Pradesh area and strengthening our defensive capabilities there without talking about them from the roof-top. We should not advise the Dalai Lama not to visit Tawang. When he visits Tawang, we should pay close attention to his personal security. The period before and after his visit to Tawang should call for extra vigilance from our side. China may not indulge in any ground action till the visit of President Barack Obama to China next month is over. What it might do after Mr Obama's visit is a matter which needs close monitoring.


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

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BRIDGE THE EDUCATION GAP

WHILE A LOT OF EMPHASIS IS BEING LAID ON ELEMENTARY AND HIGHER EDUCATION, SECONDARY EDUCATION REMAINS A FORGOTTEN MIDDLE. THIS IS BOUND TO HAVE ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES FOR THE COUNTRY'S FUTURE

KHIMI THAPA


Before declaring the Class X board examination optional, it would have been prudent for the Government in general and the Human Resource Development Ministry in particular to examine the present state of secondary education in the country.

 

Indicating that secondary education in India is in dire straits, a new report, Secondary Education in India: Universalising Opportunity, released by the World Bank has revealed that while primary education gets the lion share of Government spending — 52 per cent to be exact — secondary education, which plays an important role in building up a skilled workforce, gets only 30 per cent of the sanctioned finances.


"India has given importance to primary education in a big way in the recent years, while secondary education has been a neglected area. It has always been a forgotten middle", rued Mr Sam Clarison, leading education specialist, South Asian Human Development sector, World Bank, at the release of the report.


It is this neglect that acts as a bottleneck between elementary and higher education with at least 48 of every 100 students pursuing secondary education ever going beyond that level. India fares no better vis-à-vis its peers in terms of gross enrolment as at 40 per cent its GER at the secondary level is far inferior to that of countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh that have lower per capita incomes.

According to the report, the moribund state of secondary education owes its causes to insufficient and uneven distribution of school infrastructure, lack of trained teachers and inefficient teacher deployment, sub-optimal use of private sector to expand enrolment capacity and insufficient schooling opportunities.


This grim scenario is characterised by a stark reality: 27 per cent of India's districts have less than one secondary school for every 1,000 youth aged between 15 and 19 years possessing their class VIII diplomas.


Surely, this state of affairs will adversely reflect upon our future as it is estimated that between 2007-08 and 2017-18 there will be an increase of around 17 million students per year with total enrolment growing from 40 to 57 million students. This means that our secondary education infrastructure will not be able to keep pace with the growing number of students as most of these students will come from rural and lower income quintile groups who will be less likely to afford private, unaided secondary education.


Although education alone cannot eliminate poverty, it is key to socio-economic empowerment. It helps families move out of trans-generational poverty and provides the youth with the basic tools that are needed for democratic and civic participation. Reportedly, the percentage of malnourished children also dramatically reduces to around 18 for mothers with at least 12 years of education as compared to 46 per cent for mothers with less than five years of education. Therefore, India, an emerging superpower, needs to tackle the issue of secondary education head on.


Bearing in mind the high marginal rates of return in secondary education in terms of social benefits besides economic benefits, the Government must explore innovative public-private models to increase the number of schools, introduce double-shift system in urban schools, invest in curriculum revision and progressive pedagogy and decentralise teacher recruitment and ensure their accountability to keep pace with the rapid developments in society.

It is unfortunate that the Government has been neglecting the vital role that secondary education plays in bridging elementary education and higher education. It is time it realises that no country can progress without addressing problems that continue to fester its education system. This can only be possible if the Government gives equal priority to education at all levels.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

EVEN WORDS CAN SHATTER GLOBAL MARKETS

FOLLOWING RUMOURS ABOUT ARAB STATES PLANNING A UNIFIED CURRENCY, THE US DOLLAR TOOK A PLUNGE LAST WEEK, WRITES

LAD GRINKEVICH


A rumour reported by a newspaper last week created panic among global financial markets.


The Independent wrote on October 6 that Gulf states were in secret talks with Russia, China, Japan and France to replace the US dollar with a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council.


After that, the US dollar took a plunge, while gold prices soared. People were wondering if this story was published deliberately, as the stock market ran a fever for the second day.


This story is not unique. In the past two or three decades the world's stock markets have been knocked around many times by high-ranking officials saying the wrong word at the wrong time or by financial speculators who said what they wanted and when they wanted it.

The United States is generally regarded as the driving force of the global economy, and therefore its leaders' mistakes cost the world dearly.


During the G7 Summit in Venice in 1987, President Ronald Reagan provoked panic in foreign exchange when he said that it would be reasonable to bring down the value of the dollar compared to other currencies.


President George W Bush shook the Asian foreign exchange to the marrow with a clumsy phrase in 2002. After discussing Japan's economic problems with the Japanese Prime Minister, he said at a news conference that he and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had discussed the "devaluation issue" in their talks. As the yen sank, the White House quickly clarified that Bush had meant the "deflation issue."


Russian officials have also made their share of costly announcements.


When the city of Lensk and nearby villages in Yakutia (Russia' Far East) were flooded in the spring of 2001, President Vladimir Putin, who visited the city, said he could sign a decree to sell gold and diamonds from the country's international reserves to help the victims.


He corrected himself the next day, saying he meant the Government could allow Yakutia not to make its gold loan payments, but it was too late — the price of gold had fallen from $ 283.50 per ounce to $ 278.70.


However, investment speculators can shake up the market at least as thoroughly as top officials.


In 1992, famous financier George Soros initiated a bearish play to lower the British pound and won — the Bank of England withdrew the currency from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, devaluing the pound sterling by some 33 per cent, and Soros earned an estimated $ 1.1 billion in the process.


This move made market analysts believe that Soros could manipulate the exchange rate single-handedly, which was exactly what the financier wanted. Being of Hungarian descent, he said he would spare only the Hungarian forint.

Some analysts later blamed him for the Asian financial crisis in 1997.


One thing that can be said about a market panic provoked by unwitting or deliberate mistakes made by top officials and financiers — the "mistakes" must be in tune with current trends to be believed.


A case in point: The item in The Independent. It would not have caused much ballyhoo if not for earlier deliberation about the need for a new regional, if not global, reserve currency.

Facing economic problems, the United States decided to deflate the dollar in 2003. Soros criticised that policy but said he would benefit from it. The dollar lost 1.4 per cent overnight.


As China grew stronger economically and started playing a bigger role in the Asian Pacific region, more people suggested Asia should have its own regional currency. Adding impetus to the anti-dollar campaign was the announcement by Warren Buffet, the second or third richest man in the world — who said he would focus only on non-dollar assets.


A few months before the economic crisis last year, financial guru Jim Rogers, chairman of Beeland Interests Inc, said he was shifting all his assets away from the dollar and buying Chinese yuan.


As the crisis gathered momentum, only the lazy did not say the global financial system must be restructured and the dollar stripped of its status as the global reserve currency.


It is not surprising therefore that, although Russian, Saudi, Japanese and Kuwaiti authorities have denied the secret talks report in The Independent, analysts continue talking about the possibility of such secret talks and wondering which currency would replace the US dollar.


The writer is an economic affairs columnist based in Moscow


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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

TURNOUT IN ELECTIONS A CAUSE FOR CHEER

 

THE healthy turnout for the assembly elections in three states — Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh — points to a return of confidence of sorts for the electorate after a miserly showing during the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year.

 

The heartening factor in these elections was the 72 per cent polling that took place in Arunachal Pradesh, a state that has suddenly received global attention because of China's meddling and claim before the world community that it is a disputed area. That the chief minister Dorjee Khandu was elected unopposed from one of the constituencies in the very Tawang district that China considers as its own must have warmed the cockles of the ruling Congress Party.

 

With exit polls suggesting that constituents of the ruling UPA — especially the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party — may return to power in all three states, it appears that the Opposition found no stick to beat the ruling coalition with. And this could well be because the Opposition finds leadership coming at a premium what with the BJP in a state of disarray with the senior leadership not relinquishing their posts, preventing the younger leaders from stepping into their shoes.

 

Then, in Maharashtra, there is the curious case of a gentleman named Raj Thackeray who seems to have split the so- called " Marathi Manoos" vote with raucous and often belligerent opposition to the Shiv Sena executive president and his cousin, Uddhav Thackeray. This split alone could mean that the second- largest alliance at this stage — the BJP and the Shiv Sena — shall maintain status quo, and would not be able to regain power.

 

It is virtually the same story in Haryana where a weakened Opposition has meant that the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government is most likely to retain power.

 

This is not exactly a great sign for democracy no matter how much you like or hate a particular political party. A strong and credible Opposition acts as an effective check to the possible profligacy of the ruling party, and that, sadly is the missing link here.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

RAHUL HAS A POINT

 

IT IS a measure of the status accorded to Congress family scion Rahul Gandhi that everything he says makes news. For, his statements in Shimla on Tuesday about India giving more importance to Pakistan than it deserves should be obvious to all of us. Our neighbour can hardly be compared to India and this is not just to do with its far smaller geographic and demographic size. Whether it is politics, economics or its influence in the international arena, the contrast between the two nations is too stark to need elucidation.

 

India may yet not be many things but it is certainly a functioning democracy, and it has an economy that happens to be the second fastest growing in the world. Pakistan, on the other hand, is still struggling to free itself of the clutches of its military establishment and its economy has been kept going by financial bailouts from the international community.

 

Yet it is important that a politician of the stature of Rahul Gandhi spells out this fact.

 

For, to paraphrase Orwell, often the most difficult thing to see is what lies right under our nose. And who will deny that the ruling party Rahul belongs to has expended more energy on Pakistan than is worthwhile.

 

After the fiasco in Sharm el Sheikh the prime minister seems to be readying once again to set the composite dialogue with our neighbour in motion. This despite the fact that Pakistan has done precious little to address India's concerns on terrorism unleashed from Pakistani soil.

 

At the cost of sounding cynical, this is not likely to be of much avail. The UPA government would be better advised to focus on the internal problems that bedevil us as a nation. There is Naxalism and the underdevelopment that has proven its breeding ground, there is grinding poverty and our scores on human development indices are nothing to speak of. If the Centre does indeed want to ease the Pakistan problem it could restart the stalled dialogue with the separatists in Kashmir. Setting our own house in order in that state is likely to fetch more dividends than unrewarding diplomacy with our neighbour.

 

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MAIL TODAY

MAKE MOST OF OUR NUMBERS

 

The challenge before us is to maximise the asset value of India's large population while minimising its drag as aliability

 

THERE was a time when India's large population was seen as its worst liability. The chattering classes went on and on about how all our problems would be solved if only the poor people could be persuaded or, if necessary forced, to have smaller families.

 

The government bought this logic and launched one of the world's most ambitious family planning programmes.

 

Various aid agencies pumped large sums of money into these programmes.

 

Eventually it led to the notorious forced sterilisation programmes of the Emergency period.

 

The same attitude led China to adopt its ' one child' policy with disastrous consequences.

 

Today you hear fewer complaints about large populations as both countries continue to grow at very high rates despite the global financial crisis. However, the fundamental mindset has not changed. A large population is still seen as a liability rather then an asset. The truth is that a large population can be both a liability and an asset. It all depends on the context and the perspective from which the question of population size is addressed.

 

India's large population sets it apart from the rest of the world, along with China, as the only two countries with populations of over a billion each. This large population is a liability for some purposes, but a great asset for other purposes.

 

Let's look at the liability aspect first. Whenever India's population size enters the denominator of a statistic, the resultant per capita figure appears miniscule.

 

The recently released UNDP Human Development Report indicates that India's per capita GDP( PPP) of $ 1046 makes it one of the poorer countries, ranked 128 out of 182 countries.

 

Liability

 

This tyranny of the denominator works its way through to everything from the per capita availability of power or telephones to road, rail or airport capacity. It applies also to the availability of foodgrains, the allocation of public resources and the provision of education and health services.

 

Thus, the per capita availability of foodgrains has remained less than 500 grams per capita per day for the past fifty years. The consequent widespread malnutrition has resulted in 46 per cent of children under 3 years being underweight.

 

Similarly, very few countries spend as little as the $ 7 per capita ( PPP) that the Indian government spends on health care. The picture for education is similar. The billions of rupees the central and state governments have spent year after year on both development programmes as well as welfare schemes work to just a few rupees per head per year when divided by the population.

 

As a consequence, after more than half a century of growth in independent India, about 28 per cent of the population still remains below the national poverty line. And 76 per cent of the population still lives on less than about Rs 100 ($ 2) per day.

 

It is not surprising then that India's ranking as 134th in terms of the Human Development Index ( HDI) is even lower than its per capita GDP ranking.

 

However, when these same bleak per capita numbers are multiplied by population size to derive the gross figures, the picture is totally transformed.

 

Population size as a multiplier is a great asset.

 

ASSET

India is among the largest countries in the world in terms of power generation, the length of road and rail networks, or the stock of telephone connections. It is a country with one of the largest stocks of doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists and also the largest stock of graduates.

 

With a GDP of $ 1176.9 billion India was the 12th largest economy in the world in 1997, the last year for which comparative data is available. Only the G8 countries, China, Spain and Brazil were ahead.

 

When measured in Purchasing Power Parity( PPP) terms, which corrects for differences in the cost of goods and services across countries, India is ranked even higher, it's GDP( PPP) of $ 3096.9 billion being the fourth largest after China, USA and Japan.

Thus, from the perspective of the average individual, India is still a poor country. But India as a whole is already one of the world's largest and most powerful countries, the G20 which have now taken charge of the global economy.

 

The key to this paradox is of course India's large population. It is either an asset or a liability, depending on whether population size enters the numerator or the denominator of a particular calculation.

 

The question to ask is how best to maximise the asset value of India's large population while minimising its drag as a liability.

 

The larger the share of population that is productively employed, the lower will be the drag of population size.

 

The good news here is that the dependency ratio in India is declining. This is a ratio of the number of children and aged persons outside the workforce to the number of persons in the workforce. It has come down from 71.5 per cent in 1990 to 55.65 per cent in 2008. Thus a progressively larger share of the population is entering the workforce for productive employment. Moreover, the average age of the Indian workforce has also been declining, implying the emergence of a large and dynamic workforce.

 

This great demographic dividend of a large, growing and young workforce is one of the main drivers that is powering India's drive to prosperity.

 

EMPLOYMENT

However, to fully and productively employ this growing workforce, huge investments will be required in their education and training to ensure that they have the right skills. It will also be necessary to build up the required stock of plant, machinery and other equipment to meet the requirements of this workforce.

In other words, whether India's large population is only an asset or it is also a liability ultimately depends on whether or not a sufficiently high rate of investment can be sustained to absorb the entire workforce in productive employment.

 

The author is Emeritus Professor at the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy ( sudipto. mundle@ gmail. com)

 

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MAIL TODAY

BOOMTOWN RAP

MAX MARTIN

 

POST DELUGE COMES A HARVEST OF GOODWILL

 

BACKWATER blues are muting the Boomtown rap this fortnight as it happens during elections. North Karnataka, the drought belt of the state, is caught in the worst floods of recent times. The flood waters have receded, but tens of thousands of people are still stranded in public buildings, sheds and out in the open.

 

The government is contemplating an ambitious housing programme with a little help from this tech city and lots from New Delhi. Politicians are out to harvest hearts and minds in north Karnataka. Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa would like to live in a village for a week. He has also told ministers not to be seen too much in the Vidhana Soudha — just to be with the people.

 

Leaders of all hues are out there — carefully lifting their white trousers and dhotis to trek though all that slush. While this reporter toured the area, besides Yeddyurappa and former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, there were two aspiring CMs from the Congress fold — the leader of the opposition in the state assembly S Siddaramiah and the north Karnataka leader H K Patil.

 

Siddaramiah and Patil differ dramatically in the way they look and sound. During the tour, the former wore a white dhoti and white sports shoes. His hair is black and he seldom entertains strangers, including wannabe political correspondents. In contrast, Patil wore white ( of course) trousers, brown shoes and his hair is white. He can make you a friend instantly and talk eloquently.

 

Siddaramiah comes from a humble family of Kurubas ( a community engaged in sheep rearing) in Mysore in the south of the state. He still nurtures strong bonds with his community, beyond party lines. As the finance minister in the late 1990s, he revamped the state's tax system.

 

Son of a former minister, Patil belongs to a landed family in Gadag in the north. His family is known for promoting farmers' cooperatives. He was water resources minister and he has a good understanding of farming issues. He was coming back from up north when we met in Gadag, while Siddaramiah was moving in the opposite direction.

 

Sid and Pat — hope the leaders forgive these Boomtown BPO names — are two probes that the Congress uses to test the waters in north Karnataka. Strong caste bonds as well as more secular ways come handy for the party after suffering serious losses in recent polls. The party was perceived as a pro- rich, pro- globalisation entity that did not care for farmers in deep distress. Now, while a dyed- in- the- wool desi keeps the flock together, an urbane leader gives the party a more universal outlook.

 

In a sense, this will be a contrast that the Congress party here deftly handles, of late. There were other leaders too there — adding more colour and sound bites, trying to reap more souls.

 

 


 

NO LET- UP IN HOSPITALITY DESPITE THEIR WOES

 

PEOPLE in north Karnataka who took their leaders to the field were very generous in their hospitality. People were friendly in general and in a mood to talk as long as one wished. It did not matter that they had to walk in knee- deep water to meet the visitors.

 

On a whistle- stop tour of the flood- hit places, this reporter had a peek — and occasional taste — of the Congress hospitality. A late breakfast at the guesthouse of K H Patil Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Hulkoti — named after H K Patil's father — was sumptious with spicy puffed rice of the north Karnataka kind called churmuri , curd, dosas, upma, sweets and several accompaniments followed by fruits.

 

In a local train to a marooned village, the whole entourage travelling cattleclass was offered liberal doses of cut gherkins, guavas, roti rolls, bananas, and sweets — in that order.

 

After a visit to Hole Alur, regional leader Ummar Farooq insisted that all who came taste the local delicacy from one of the surviving shops near the railway station. It was churmuri , even more spiced up than the morning fare, accompanied by onions and chilli, two crops that Gadag district is famous for.

 

Eat it raw or fried in batter, but never, ever, bite the core of a Gadag chilli.

 

WHY WE DISAGREE ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

 

EXPERTS fear that climate change could bring more disasters like heavier rainfall, longer droughts and fiercer cyclones. People across the world are trying out ways to put a stop to global warming that changes the climate.

 

Mike Hulme, professor of climate change in the School of Environmental Sciences in the University of East Anglia, UK, thinks that the response to this global process is complex and difficult because people put too many ideas into a single basket. It is many things to many people, he argues in his book, Why We Disagree About Climate Change.

 

Climate change is framed in five different ways, Hulme said at the Indian Institute of Science here on Monday.

 

It is seen as a failure of the market, a technological hazard, global injustice, an issue of overconsumption and even as the planet's tipping point. As the problem is seen differently people try to find different solutions — economists try to solve it in the market place, those who think about justice give it a political tone and critics of consumerism say there are other ways to be happy than swiping the card.

 

What worries Hulme the most is the way some technocrats try to solve the problem and the acceptance they get back home. Some people want to pump megadoses of aerosols — small particles in the air, mimicking volcanic ash, dust and smoke — from huge towers in the oceans so that the atmosphere cools down. Others want to place millions of tiny mirrors up in the sky, so that part of the sunlight gets reflected back. " Who can take such risky decisions for the globe?" Hulme wonders.

 

max. martin@ mailtoday. in

In the flood- hit Bijapur and elsewhere, the personnel of the National Disaster Management Authority ( NDMA) were around, rescuing people from inundated villages.

 

The nodal central body is still trying to fix an old problem — reaching the last mile. Not in rescue, but in warning. How to tell people that there could be a disaster? The weatherman issues general warnings.

The local administration is informed in detail. Now how to get all this information across streams, hillocks and vast stretches or badlands? Cars fitted with loudspeakers have been a time- tested method — bullock carts and boats chip in too. Experts have tried mobile text messages and inserts in local television channels. But people often do not get these warnings. One idea being tested is to popularise community radio stations.

 

Radio has been tried out in drought- hit areas and storm- prone coasts for education and warning. Still a lot of work is needed in the message and the medium.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

STORY ON COUNCIL OF ARCHITECTURE NOT TRUE

 

THIS is with reference to a new story titled ' Council of Architecture brass under scanner' ( September 19). The report gives a one- sided story without seeking any views/ clarification on the same from the council and has been written in a judgmental manner based on communication of Ministry of HRD. We would like to point out the inaccuracies that have been published in the report.

 

The article alleges that Prof Vijay Sohoni, president, Council of Architecture, has been giving misleading information to the public regarding the status of Vidya Vardhan Institute of Design Environment and Architecture, Goa. In fact, as per our records, the said institution is imparting recognised architectural education under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

 

The intake of Guru Nanak Dev University was reduced from 40 to 20 by All India Council of Technical Education ( AICTE) and not by the Council of Architecture in 2003 under an MOU between the council AICTE. At present, institution's intake has been restored to 40 by the COA through a letter dated September 11, 2009.

 

There is no truth in the allegation that government institutions are being targeted by the council for de- recognition of qualification. The action against institutions named in the news report have been taken in accordance with the provisions of the Architects Act, 1972 and the regulations framed thereunder in order to ensure adherence of minimum standards of architectural education. Further, these matters are sub- judice and are pending before various courts, including the Supreme Court of India. Also, the council's website lists several government institutions that are imparting architectural education as per the minimum standards and have no grievance against it.

 

It is unfortunate and unethical to write a derogatory piece without our version. Just because a matter has been referred to the CBI does not mean that the council's office bearers are corrupt.

 

In fact, we are not even aware of any such CBI inquiry against the council or its members or its employees.

 

Our Principal Correspondent replies:

 

THE report's only motivation was public interest. The facts mentioned in the news report are based on a letter written by the chief vigilance officer of the human resources development ministry to the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI), elaborating the complaints received by the ministry and directing the CBI to investigate the matter.

 

The story is based not on arbitrary communication, but on a government document referring the matter to the CBI director.

 

The government, in fact, suspects that the Vidya Vardhan Institute of Design Environment and Architecture, Goa of which the Council of Architecture president Vijay Kumar Sohoni is director, has been providing " misleading information on the council's website" that it is " an institution affiliated to the IGNOU". On the contrary, the CVO has stated that there is a " categorical denial from the vicechancellor of IGNOU that this college is affiliated to IGNOU." The CVO further states that " this is tantamount to cheating the public especially parents and their wards seeking admission to the institution", adding that, " Vijay Sohoni is fleecing students by collecting fees though the college is not recognised as per the Architects Act 1972" and that " the position of president of COA is thus being misused by him with criminal intent." It is the Government that has alleged that the COA has " singled out" government institutions like the School of planning and Architecture, Delhi; Government College of Architecture Chandigarh for " punishment" while " private institutions are being patronised". The HRD Ministry also points out that " the Council of Architecture does not have any inherent power to increase or decrease the strength of intake or recognise or derecognise architectural institutions on its own." It has relied on the Architects Act 1972. I stand by my story.

 

Kavita Chowdhury Principal Correspondent

 

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IMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

COME TOGETHER

 

If the latest reports are to be believed, US president Barack Obama has authorised the deployment of 13,000 additional troops to Afghanistan above and beyond the 21,000 that he had already signed off on. It will likely add fuel to the ongoing internal debate in the US about ramping up troop levels as requested by General Stanley McChrystal, the man in charge of Af-Pak operations. Doubtless, attention will be lavished on strategic and domestic compulsions as the Obama administration decides on the feasibility of such a move. But in the process, another crucial aspect of the Afghanistan question is receiving short shrift.


Afghanistan is not entirely a US problem. There are countries that stand to suffer as much or more from any resurgence of the Taliban-al-Qaeda combine. India, for one, and Iran as well with the Sunni Taliban inimical to the Shia nation. Then there are China and Russia, both with fears about Muslim fundamentalists in their vulnerable regions. Lastly, of course, Pakistan has concerns. It is strange, given this, that there has been no comprehensive effort to bring together all the stakeholders to discuss a coordinated aid and reconstruction programme for the country.


This is precisely what a number of analysts including Henry Kissinger have suggested. It is time they were heeded. Any coming together of these countries will have its problems, but none that are insurmountable. If they come at it from an angle of pragmatic national interest, the US-Iran divide can be worked around. In fact it could become a template for their further engagement on the nuclear issue. Pakistan may have concerns about other countries acting in what it considers its strategic backyard, but a multi-nation consensus will make it that much more difficult for any sole nation that Islamabad might consider hostile to gain influence in the region. Besides, it would serve its interests as well. The tide has turned; the Taliban are no longer reliable clients for Islamabad. Given the links between the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and the fact that the latter two have turned on the Pakistani state any resurgence of Mullah Omar and his ilk is likely to be fraught with danger for Islamabad.


With its NATO allies ambivalent at best, going it alone is not an option for the US. If it is forced into a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, its security and perception among both allies and enemies will take a serious hit. A consensus among all stakeholders on both reconstruction and the neutrality of Afghanistan is the only way forward.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MISSING MIDDLE

 

Quite rightly, the ministry of human resource development has now focused on how to improve primary as well as tertiary education in the country. In doing so, however, secondary education can drop out of view, highlighted in a recent World Bank report which emphasises the importance of investing in secondary education in India. If India is to reap its demographic dividend, it is imperative that access to and quality of secondary education services are dramatically improved.


The numbers don't make for pleasant reading. India's 40 per cent gross enrolment rate at the secondary level is far inferior to countries in East Asia and Latin America. Even Vietnam and Bangladesh manage to outperform us in this regard. The report finds that access to secondary education is highly inequitable across states, gender and income groups. Specifically, there is a 20 percentage point gap between urban and rural secondary enrolment rates, which indicates an uneven spread of school infrastructure. There's also a 10 percentage point gap between secondary enrolment rates of boys and girls.


This is significant because secondary education has the capacity to break the vicious circle of poverty. Secondary education is also known to have an immensely beneficial impact on health, improving nutrition of children, and on the social status of women, by raising the marriage age of girls. The 12 million young Indians who join the workforce every year would be able to get better-paying jobs if they were equipped with the skills necessary to operate in a knowledge economy, thus driving economic growth. India faces the very real danger of falling behind its competitors in the economic stakes if it is unable to provide comprehensive schooling to members of its youthful labour force - all of whom cannot be given a college education.


The central government's recently launched Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan scheme is meant to address some of the deficiencies of the secondary school system in the country. But public schools have in the past suffered from a dearth of trained teachers and a lack of proper school infrastructure. That more than half of the secondary school system is privately managed is both an indictment of the inadequacies of public schools and proof of the willingness of parents to pay for their children's education when they have the opportunity. That doesn't mean that the government shouldn't invest in public secondary schools quite the contrary, in fact. But to encourage students to remain in school, issues of quality have to be urgently addressed.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

BULLISH IN CHINA SHOP

 

China is using its growing trade power to enhance its global influence, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia where it is perceived as an all-weather friend. Since opening up its economy in 1978, China's foreign trade has been growing by leaps and bounds. In 2008, its foreign trade volume exceeded $2.56 trillion 70 times more than what it was 10 years ago, according to the US-China Business Council. China has now become the world's largest exporter, beating Germany, reported the World Trade Organisation.


To fuel its booming export-driven economic growth that has been averaging 9 per cent for more than two decades, China desperately needs to access, on a long-term basis and with accelerated pace, oil, minerals and other natural resources. No wonder it has been establishing listening posts, bunkering facilities at friendly ports and in some cases developing altogether new harbours to protect ocean routes and sea lanes to ensure an uninterrupted flow of goods and materials with its trading partners especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

With $73 billion annual Sino-African trade, mostly with Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo and Sudan, for example, China is Africa's second largest trading partner next only to the US. African countries welcome China's low priced manufactured goods, foreign direct investment as well as development aid for building railroads, dams, schools, roads, hospitals and fibre-optic networks with no strings attached, no human rights questions asked.


China makes resource-rich countries offers so attractive that they just cannot refuse. These offers are long-term trade and development opportunities bundled in benign aid packages that invariably include diplomatic support for authoritarian rulers, arms sale and, occasionally, debt forgiveness. Today, Chinese multinational corporations are engaged in scores of hydropower, oil, gas and mining projects in Myanmar. In March, China signed a $2.9 billion agreement with Myanmar for construction of oil pipelines for transporting crude oil from the Middle East and Africa via Myanmar to China.


After a savage victory over Tamil Tigers in a long-drawn-out bloody civil war that resulted in the death of around 70,000 civilians, Sri Lanka's economic and diplomatic relations with China have seen a tremendous upsurge. Sri Lanka has granted China rights to develop an exclusive economic zone, the first for any foreign country. Recently, China signed two significant developmental projects worth $350 million with Sri Lanka for construction of the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway and the Hambantota Bunkering Project a major part of the multibillion-dollar Hambantota Port Development Project substantially financed by China. China is building the $1 billion port to use it as a refuelling and docking base for its navy to patrol the Indian Ocean and protect its oil supplies from the Middle East and Africa. Since March 2007 when the Sri Lankan government signed the agreement, China has given it all the necessary aid including arms and diplomatic support to crush the Tigers.

Addressing a ceremony to mark the completion of the first phase of a power plant built with Chinese assistance, presidential advisor Basil Rajapaksa, younger brother of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, called China "a major stakeholder" in the island nation's reconstruction and development. Interestingly, the ceremony was attended by a group of Chinese Buddhist monks from the Shaolin Temple including its chief priest Ven Shi Yongxin. A statue of the Buddha, another gift from China, will be installed at the plant. Diplomacy is the art of persuasion by all available means, regardless of what China says about the Dalai Lama.


Diplomatic relations elsewhere have not been that easy. Consider, for example, the announcement in August of the China-Australia $41 billion liquefied natural gas deal, which highlights China's economic importance to Australia. A month earlier the Chinese government had cancelled a scheduled visit by vice-minister He Yafei to Australia in protest against Canberra's decision to grant a visa to the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in the US and was scheduled to appear at the Melbourne international film festival and the National Press Club. Australia did not buckle under Chinese pressure, but it trembled in fear.


The point is that, as China pursues its trade-driven diplomacy, it simultaneously strives for other vital national interests whether it's Taiwan, Tibet or Xinxiang. Whatever it takes, naked bullying or tremendous buying muscle, China will not hesitate to intimidate others to submission. The case of Rio Tinto, a British-Australian mining giant, is an instructive example. When state-owned Chinalco's plan to acquire a major stake in Rio Tinto was blocked by public hue and cry, the Chinese government cried foul and accused some of the latter's executives of spying (the charge later changed to bribery). Rio Tinto's Shanghai-based executive Stern Hu was arrested along with three others.


Australia, like India, remains befuddled about how to deal with China, which uses massive bargaining power not only to have the best trade deals but also to advance its global diplomatic agenda, which is cultural, territorial and hegemonic.


The writer is professor, communications and diplomacy, at Norwich University, US.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

WE NEED TO MOVE ON

 

Rahul Gandhi is spot on with that statement. The fallout of our obsession with Pakistan is that India doesn't pay adequate attention to the rest of its neighbourhood. The Pak-centric vision of our foreign policy has also crippled India from realising its own place in global affairs. The time has come for New Delhi to shed its excessive focus on Pakistan and evolve a broad-based doctrine that locates India as a principal shaper of what looks like being an Asian century.


The Pakistan obsession has persisted for historical reasons. The wounds of partition have been allowed by interested parties to fester and debates ignited by the traumatic division of the Indian subcontinent have lingered on. The wars of 1965 and 1971 aggravated animosities between the two countries. Pakistan is not reconciled to the fact that Jammu and Kashmir continues to be part of a secular India. Unresolved border issues, Islamabad's overt support to insurgent groups and terrorist outfits have kept the governments and peoples apart. So, what has changed that compels India to look beyond Pakistan?

 

First, India and Pakistan have evolved a lot in the past two decades, though the trajectories of change are different. Second, the world, especially the outlook of the US, has changed. It no longer views Pakistan on par with India. India-US ties are on the upswing. A growing economy, the emergence of globally competitive software and manufacturing firms have changed the global perspective on India for the better. A reasonably robust democratic polity is mainly responsible for these positive changes. On the contrary, Pakistan today is a chaotic society that's a safe house for terrorists. It has become a cause of concern for the rest of the world.

Stabilising Pakistan, a nuclear power, is in India's own interest. In that sense, Rahul is overdoing it if his remarks suggest that Pakistan can be passed over. But we need to deepen our engagement with the rest of the world, looking especially at our eastern neighbours including the ASEAN bloc.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTER VIEW

WHY THIS NEIGHBOUR COUNTS

 

Rahul Gandhi mocks Indians for obsessing about Pakistan, adding that there's no comparison between India and its neighbour. His comments lack historical perspective, and contempt for history isn't what we expect from a youth icon. First of all, India and Pakistan as free nations were literally separated at birth. The rupture of partition came at great cost and suffering on both sides. Once part of a geographical, political and cultural whole, they remain connected in ways no internationally endorsed 'dehyphenation' can undo. Is it any wonder one haunts the other's consciousness, engendering conflicting emotions from bitterness and even hatred to longing for friendship and understanding?


Second, India's most intractable internal problem Kashmir is an offshoot of these beginnings. We can bash Pakistan for being fixated on the 'K' word. The fact is, the matter doesn't seem to have been settled with Kashmir's accession to India. Nehru himself considered taking the issue to the UN. Yes, Kashmir is the jewel in the crown of Indian secularism. But dispute resolution mandates talking with Pakistan. Suppose we were to implement Manmohan Singh's sensible idea of making borders irrelevant, India would need Pakistan's cooperation. Is it any wonder, again, that we can't demote Pakistan the way Rahul does?


Third, terror-sponsorship by certain forces across the border can't but cause concern, and concern isn't 'obsessing'. Even if they wanted to, Indians can't bury all their painful memories: Indo-Pak wars, carnage in Kashmir, the Parliament attack, 26/11. Must we deny that certain Pakistani elements have the power to hurt us, simply to thump our chests about India being bigger and more powerful? Yes, India is in the global big league. But is Pakistan a small fry? On the contrary. America has always coddled it as an ally against assorted enemies. The Europeans aren't unsympathetic to its Kashmir claims. China is chummy with it for strategic reasons. And it has nukes, giving the world a migraine at a time Taliban are running amok, attacking everything from hotels to army headquarters. Yet Rahul dismisses Pakistan as "just a small piece of land". Surely he must be joking.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

BEING SOMEBODY

WHO'S THE BOSS?

 

"I have come to seek your vote for re-election," said the scrawny, middle-aged man pompously, standing at the door to my house. "Vote for which re-election?" I muttered under my breath, irritated at the intrusion. "I am the president," he replied. I retorted, "But isn't Pratibha Tai the president?" "I have been the president of our resident welfare association (RWA) for the past several years," he said, flabbergasted, a tad angry and certainly deeply offended at my failure to recognise him and, worse, acknowledge his status. Although i recognised him, my inherent aversion to people who like to throw their weight around and flaunt appellations came forth. I salvaged the situation by promising my vote, and apologised for my failure to identify His Excellency, with the pretext that my better half is the face of our family for outside interactions, while i busy myself in mundane things, like reading and writing.


Dilliwallahs, sitting at the centre of power for centuries, have a deep-seated fascination for posts and titles, which proliferate dime a dozen, and take perverse pride in flaunting them. This is borne in roadside boards and car number plates, which often bear vague titles, such as 'Secretary, Youth Media Cell, ABC party, B-block, Village XYZ'. A consequence of the Mughal era and British imperial rule, perhaps, this a desperate shot at seeking the much desired VVIP status, at least in the circle one operates in. Thus, it is not unknown to find members of RWAs who run virtual fiefdoms in their associations, maybe as remuneration for the supposedly voluntary service they render by serving the community. The perks include free car washes and laundry facilities, use of funds near the residence where the self-styled maharajas live, et al. One can only speculate what would happen if this maniac lure invades the next, and perhaps the last bastion of community living, the home. Then, it would be no surprise to see name boards outside individual residences which read: Mr Malhotra, President, Flat No. 201. Mrs Malhotra, Vice President and Miss Malhotra, Secretary. In families with matriarchal tendencies, the designations could be reversed.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

LOSING BORDERS IN LAHORE

BACHI KARKARIA 

 

'On foot'. I'd never had to use this phrase on all the visa applications i had earlier filled. Guess this is because i wasn't a Partition refugee, and when my forefathers sought asylum a thousand years ago, they came by boat, and arguably never bothered with forms. But 'Mode of Arrival: On foot' was what we were instructed to write when we went to attend the first South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) conference in Lahore last weekend.

 

Our groups from the four corners of the country coalesced to become 'India' at the Attari checkpost. We were too early for the daily, dusk-time theatrics of the jackbooted squads of border guards of each side carrying out the Beating Retreat. Instead we found ourselves negotiating a procession of crate-laden trucks and a swarm of porters.

 

After Cokes, coffee and a clean loo at the BSF's spit and polish 'conference hall', we self-consciously stepped outside our own Ashoka-emblemed archway, and began walking the length of the no-man's land. We could not make out the features of the women waiting for us on the crescented side of Wagah. But we could sense their smiles, and the fragrance of the welcoming rose garlands.

 

We lined up at the solitary, outdoor 'Immigration Desk' positioned beneath a moving photo-painting of woe-begone refugees staggering on to the other side. It was signed 'Jimmy Engineer'. This personal link followed me to Lahore. Our conference was held in the Parsi-owned Avari hotel, and Pakistani delegates came up to tell me about their memorable Parsi teachers. The connecting threads aren't only those of the Punjabis and Sindhis.

 

But, on the coach into Lahore, we were busy stitching back our own partitioned professional lives, catching up with colleagues who had crossed over to other papers and media in the past 20-30 years.

 

Even though we had tanked up on lassi and aloo/'punneer de prawntthey' at Balle-Balle dhaba on the highway from Amrirtsar to Wagah, we attacked the 'high tea' at our hospitable Lahore hotel. Along with the cupcakes and chaat there was 'Chicken Chowmian'. You could fault the spelling but not the acculturation that food everywhere bends itself to achieve.

 

Begum Manchurian met us again later at the welcome dinner in the Chief Minister's bungalow. The pregnant domes were lifted to reveal fried rice and a singularly anaemic chicken in an allegedly Chinese sauce.

 

The rising hum of protest threatened to subvert South Asian solidarity before the first speech had been made. But then a hoarier divider bit the dustarkhan. In meaty Pakistan, the vegetarians came to our rescue. Our host realised that they'd been ill-served, so steaming tureens of earthy dal and stacks of roti materialised. The 'masla' was thus resolved to the satisfaction of both sides of the culinary barrier.

 

The lesson was quickly learnt. Henceforth our hosts laid on seedha-if-not-saada Lahori khana. At Peeru's, the culture cafe appended to the Peerzada family's puppet museum, at the Punjab governor's colonnaded mansion, and finally in a silken tent at the fortified Pearl-Continental where Pak TV showcased young talent in a night dedicated to the legendary Iqbal Bano. Mesmerised by those lyrics and melodies, it was also India once more.

 

Our present blood ties were more literally etched. Terrorists blew up a bus in Peshawar just as we were crossing Wagah, and, the next day, another set audaciously stormed the Army's GHQ in Islamabad.

 

But it was SAWM, remember? South Asia's other women Afghans, Bangladeshis, Bhutanese, Nepalis, Maldivians, Sri Lankans each had their unique issues despite being part of the sisterhood.

 

One image made it clear that this conference was uniquely about this region and this gender. Afghanistan's brave, articulate, boundary-pushing mediawomen had brought along their babies. They were breastfed and occasionally bawled during the proceedings.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DON'T BE AFRAID OF GM FOOD

 

The debate over genetically modified food crops unfortunately remains limited to two small groups: environmentalists and agricultural scientists. Yet, there are few things of greater import to the future of food security in India. Early versions of genetic modification led to two 'green revolutions' in the 1970s and 1980s and a four-fold increase in grain production in India. The gains from those years are now fading. Global population growth again began outpacing food production in 1990. The consequences are evident in today's sporadic grain shortages and steeply rising food prices. A third green revolution has become a matter of urgency. Gene transfer technology, or 'GM', is widely seen as the best of the existing options. Not only has it delivered further productivity increases, but it also holds out the promise of solving a host of agricultural problems including drought, salinity, pests and climate change. There is now voluminous evidence that wherever GM technology has been granted to farmers it has proven a winner.

 

Developing countries are big beneficiaries: the third largest GM crop grower in the world is Brazil and the country taking over the GM cotton seed market is China. Bitterly opposed when it was introduced seven years ago, genetically modified Bt cotton has been a runaway success in India. It has generated $3.2 billion in economic benefits much of which has gone to poor and marginal farmers who now constitute 80 per cent of Bt cotton acreage. On Wednesday, the government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee gave environmental clearance to Bt brinjal opening the doors for its commercialisation. The committee strictly adhered to existing regulatory requirements regarding transparency and safety while making its decision.

 

Bt brinjal has been tested repeatedly since 2002 and an approval to grow seeds is still many steps away from the dinner plate. The Indian government now needs to be cautious of ideologically-driven opponents who have become adept at using regulatory red tape and scare tactics to delay almost every new farm technology. As the father of the green revolution, the late Norman Borlaug, once noted, if his life-saving technologies had faced the kind of strictures GM faces today, "they would never have become available".

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

HO HUM, PAKISTAN

 

It seems that Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and we share the same opinion on 'India-Pakistan': Indians are a bit too obsessed about our neighbouring country. Interacting with university students in Shimla on Tuesday — the place where his grandmum and Pakistani premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the famous accord when Mr Gandhi was a two-year-old — the 39-year-old stated that far too much importance was given to Pakistan in India and that our un-neighbourly neighbour is "just a small piece in India's foreign policy," a line that in certain circles morphed into "just a small piece of land".

 

Generations of Indians, especially those north of the Vindhyas, have obsessed about Pakistan. This is, to an extent, understandable. Indians who felt the tremors of Partition, directly or indirectly, have looked at the country that Jinnah built with a strange proprietorial interest as if its existence was always a temporary plan. As a result, they have demonised as well as romanticised the country to the point that either Pakistan is a psychological rationalisation for all of India's ills or it poses no real problems at all considering, as the touching phrase goes, 'we're the same people'. Both pictures are exaggerated and don't help when it comes to conducting the real business of level-headed diplomacy.

 

When Mr Gandhi says that he doesn't have the time to "think of Jinnah for a second", his rhetorical statement — with a nudge to history-obsessed BJP men — comes as music to our ears. Pakistan is an important part of our foreign policy, considering it obsesses about India. But we have certainly moved on — or, at least, should — since the time when India-Pakistan ties were part of an emotive public discourse that cajoled and bullied foreign policy. Today's India is more obsessed about tying its own shoelaces than figuring out ways of tripping Pakistan or taking its shoe-size. That India-Australia cricket matches are bigger draws than India-Pakistan ones these days should tell you the story.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IDLE WORSHIPPERS

ABHIJIT BANERJEE

 

For the first time in the last 29 years, I spent Durga Pujo in Kolkata. And I must say, despite the suffocating crowds and the occasionally nauseating expressions of Bengali cultural narcissism, I felt quite elated by the experience.

 

Bengal has gone through so much, from deindustrialisation to reindustrialisation to fears of a new deindustrialisation; from communist hope to communist betrayal; from capitalist makeover to capitalist mess; from leaders trapped in their own misguided logic to leaders who have 'the courage to make no sense at all' (to borrow a phrase from my favorite political cartoonist, Gary Trudeau), that it's tempting to imagine it to be a defeated place, full of people dreaming of being elsewhere. It is, of course, a cliché to talk about how vibrant Bengal remains despite everything. But the last few days convinced me that it is not just wishful thinking.

 

Pujo, as Bengalis call it, is just better than I remember it. More creative, more fun, better managed. There is something entirely new, I think, about the impish irony that puts Spiderman in charge of guarding the Protector of All, or contrasts the slightly hysterical image of the goddess in brutal Mahishasur-mardini (killer) mode, with the calm of the giant owl that hovers over her.

 

And what about the cosmic cheek of trying to imagine what happens when the crowds are gone and the divine contingent gets to relax a bit? Lakshmi is cooking dinner, slightly dishevelled now, but make-up still on; Shiva lounges dissolutely on a nearby bench; Saraswati plays the veena; only the Mother and the demon are still rehearsing their roles, but her heart, quite apparently, isn't in it.

 

There is everything here — creativity, imagination, energy, humor, hard work, effective management — for the occasion one local team built a structure large enough to hold a 100 people (and the divine delegation) completely covered with living plants; another had faked an entire decrepit building, complete with defunct STD booths in brick and mortar. And they were all ready on time, ready to take the weight of the immense crowds that showed up (the entire population of several small countries walked through some of these structures over these few days without any major disasters).

 

What I kept wondering is when will all this talent and energy turn into something more — like for example, jobs for the semi-employed young men who are the mainstay of every Pujo. The prevailing impression seems to be that it is not exactly round the corner. The current government has a couple of years more to run but seems to be in a shell-shocked stupor. And the opposition, if and when (most people say when) they come to power, will not come with a lot of experience in making policy or running governments.

 

Moreover the Left, some might say with some justice, already feels that it got tripped up by pure oppositional politics just when it was trying to do something good; I fear that a lot of them may feel that it is time to pay the Trinamool Congress back in its own currency. And the fact that a lot of the money from government contracts that used go to Left Front supporters will now go to the other side, will do little to improve their tempers. A big fight, it seems, may be in the offing.

 

What is bizarre is that given that there is little disagreement about what is coming (but perhaps only among people I know) and how grim it all looks, that there is not more talk of what can be done. The Left Front, in particular, seems to have forgotten that two years is a long time in politics — a lot can change, but they need to wake up and try. This is not just a concern for the Left: the fact that many people want a change does not mean that they want the Left completely wiped out — a significant part of what is wrong with Bengal today has to do with the impunity CPI(M) cadres enjoyed for so many years. One thing we don't need is a reprise of that, with the party labels changed. Moreover, a Left Front that expects to be back in power soon is much less likely to set the state on fire than a Left Front that is hurt and hopeless. But who is going to bring them the smelling salts that they desperately need?

 

As for those not directly implicated on either side, this is the time to start thinking about the transition. Civil society movements have historically played an important role in transitions from dictatorship to democracy; we need something akin to that — to stand up for civility and order, for the primacy of the rule of law, to remind whoever wins that their goal needs to go beyond capturing all the local contractor's jobs for their party boys.

 

While that is easier said than done, let me offer one small thought on how to get started: How about a movement where groups of citizen commit to maintaining an impartial public history of every instance of serious political violence (say, involving murder or grievous hurt) in their neighbourhood-listing the party affiliations of those who got hurt and those, to the extent it is clear, who hurt them? Recording has a way of making things more salient, especially (but not only) for those involved in the recording, and might just pressurise the political parties to rethink the role of violence.

 

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics and Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, MIT(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

KEEP OUR FINGERS CROSSED

SANCHITA SHARMA

 

An experimental vaccine that reduced the risk of HIV, the virus that causes Aids, by one-third in the people immunised made headlines across the world a fortnight ago. Most people wondered why. Sure, the biggest ever Phase-III trial done to test the safety and effectiveness of an HIV vaccine on humans showed 31.2 per cent lowered the risk of HIV infection among 16,000 healthy men and women in Thailand. But far too many 'ifs' remained.

 

One, it was obvious that the vaccine was still experimental, and needed a lot of tinkering before it could go into production, if at all. Two, it did not offer protection to the majority — 68.8 per cent — of the people inoculated.

 

Finally, the vaccine is designed to offer protection against HIV-1 subtype B, predominant in the US and Europe, and subtype E, common in Thailand and South East Asia. At this stage, scientists admitted they could, at best, just hope for the vaccine to work against HIV-1 subtype C, found in Africa and South Asia, regions where new infections are the fastest-growing in the world. Till clinical trials were done among these populations, we would not know. And if the trials did take place, they would take years, just as the Thailand trial took six years.

 

The reason for the euphoric response was simple: the success in Thailand came after a series of failed vaccine trials that made many scientists question whether a vaccine against HIV was possible at all. The Thailand results showed that for the first time in 26 years a vaccine could prevent infection in many of the estimated 6,800 people who get infected with HIV every day.

 

There are 33.2 million people with HIV in the world; 2.1 million of them are children. Vaccines against HIV have, at best, shown no effect. At worst, one large international trial even indicated an increased risk of HIV infection among the people vaccinated. The past two years — 2007 and 2008 — have been particularly disappointing, with two large large clinical trails being abandoned.

 

"If there is one area of the science of HIV that is still quite problematic, that has to do with vaccines," said Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in 2008 when he announced the discontinuation of the ambitious vaccine trial called PAVE 100 that had planned to enroll 8,500 volunteers in the US, South America, the Caribbean and eastern and southern Africa. "We have a lot of money, we have a lot of brilliant people thinking about it, why is it so difficult? The reason is that HIV is different — namely, the natural [human] immune response to HIV is inadequate."

 

In 2007, the STEP HIV vaccine study was stopped after it was found that the experimental vaccine used (developed by Merck & Co. Inc) failed to prevent HIV infection or reduce viral load used to measure the severity of disease. In early 2004, the STEP trial had enrolled and vaccinated 3,000 healthy volunteers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru, Puerto Rico and the US. In 2007, an independent data and safety monitoring board said the STEP study vaccine did not prevent HIV infection or affect severity of infection in those who became infected with HIV. And some of the immunised volunteers were found to be at a greater risk of getting HIV infected if they were naturally exposed to HIV.

 

The Thailand vaccine worked differently, using as it did a two-vaccine combination in a 'prime-boost' approach. If the immune response for the Thailand vaccine could be successfully heightened, said scientists gleefully, the vaccine will take another five years to hit the market. And when it does, governments need to ensure it reaches those who need it the most: adolescents and young adults, who are at most risk. The stigma around Aids may make it difficult to reach them — more so in India, where many people still believe HIV infection happens to impure people and the bold and young need little more than prayer and yoga to protect themselves against nasty viruses such as HIV.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HERE WE GO AGAIN?

 

Arunachal Pradesh has a tradition of high voter turnouts, and Tuesday was no different. But as 72 per cent of the electorate showed up at polling booths to elect a new state assembly, Beijing appeared to strike a discordant note by objecting to the prime minister's visit to the state 10 days ago as part of an election campaign schedule. The foreign ministry in New Delhi duly filed its "disappointment and concern". Away from the irony of China emphasising the "disputed" status of Arunachal on the day its people cast their vote in large numbers, the incident serves as a reminder of what is becoming all-too-familiar a pattern. And it is not just that China is using every forum (the Asian Development Bank, for instance) and every cue (the prime minister's visit) to underline its official position on the status of Arunachal. It is that India must factor into its China strategy an expectation of such posturing.

 

This expectation has two dimensions. One, as the rolling hysteria over Chinese "incursions" in sections of the media last month showed, the government needs to be far more attentive to spin and information dispersal. Then, it took a statement by the prime minister to give enough weight to clarifications from the national security advisor, the foreign secretary and the army chief that aimed to scotch the scare-mongering. That extraordinary effort will remain an act of expedient fire-fighting if it is not followed up with a cohesive attempt to beget wider public understanding of the complexities of vast stretches of India's borders. The "dispute" on the border with China has a long history of one-two steps by Beijing to keep the border unsettled, and not necessarily to signal a declaration of hostilities. In addition, after the protests in Tibet before last year's Beijing Olympics and the subsequent tension in Xinjiang, China's statements are also seen to be informed by a domestic anxiety. However, a rationalisation of such behaviour does not imply business as usual. It calls for a far greater measure of diplomatic agility in shaving the spin and hysteria off the news headlines than New Delhi has so far shown. Else, as with the public statement by its spokesperson on Tuesday, Beijing will continue to flaunt its confidence in setting the tone on the border dispute.

 

Second, even in more tranquil circumstances borders breed comparison. But what added a charged edge to the recent scare-mongering over China's border "incursions" was an assessment of the formidable modernisation of transport infrastructure undertaken by China on its side of the border. Under-achievement by India on its side of the border cannot be blamed on anybody else.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IT'S THAT SIMPLE

 

Most forecasts for economic growth in the financial year 2009-10 seem to be converging between 6 per cent and 6.5 per cent. That's par for the course given the global economic climate. The important question though is whether the

 

recovery that has been achieved is vibrant and sustainable. And the answer is that though there has been impressive recovery, it does not appear as strong as those urging contractionary policies would have it. The latest figures for industrial production (for August) show a robust double-digit growth rate. But these figures, calculated on a

 

year-on-year basis, are somewhat inflated by taking a low base — industrial growth in the same month last year was just below 2 per cent. Also, if the figures are adjusted for seasonal variation, and month-on-month rates are looked at, industrial growth is relatively modest. And it isn't simply about the current growth rate either — to make it to 6.5 per cent for the year, this revival, in no small part driven by fiscal and monetary stimulus, needs to be sustained.

 

In the short term, therefore, a lot depends on the monetary policy stance adopted by the Reserve Bank of India. The government is already committed to maintaining the fiscal stimulus. Hopefully, the RBI isn't any less convinced about the need to continue with soft interest rates. If the concern is about rising inflation, food prices won't move because of monetary policy, short of effecting a massive demand crunch. By raising rates, we may return to the perverse situation — simultaneous stagnating growth and high food inflation — that we briefly witnessed in the summer of 2008, when the RBI raised rates in response to commodity price inflation.

 

However, the RBI can only do so much to foster the economy back to recovery. The longer-term goal has to be to grow at 9 per cent consistently. For this, the whole series of second-wave reforms is essential — in particular, reform of labour laws, modernisation of the financial sector, and further opening Indian corporates to the world. In UPA-II's first five and a half months, it has been lethargic in this respect. We should worry about this as much as we need to worry about the RBI's interest rate itch.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

VENKI'S LESSONS

 

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, one of the three researchers who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry this year, is certainly not letting the accolades go to his head. With admirable level-headedness, he has been gently letting down over-excited questioners, and re-injecting a sense of proportion to the discussion — even, recently, admitting that, as a molecular biologist, he would probably fail any reasonable undergraduate chemistry degree programme.

 

But in India, a lot of Ramakrishnan's response will come across as intensely puzzling. Here is someone of Indian origin who isn't following the script: who is not, following a major distinction, lapping up praise; who is not publicly despairing about the state of affairs in India in his subject; indeed, is so far successfully managing to avoid serving as an object of veneration for Those Left Behind. This is not for want of opportunities, though: he has complained in an interview of his e-mail inbox being clogged with e-mail from those re-connecting with him in a manner he deems as sudden.

 

Ramakrishnan has refrained from publicly judging those taking pride in his achievements; but he has expressed puzzlement at suddenly being the focus of so much adulation. The work he did still existed yesterday, he says. (And he has lectured recently at Madras University.) Ramakrishnan has probably been away from India for too long to observe how here communities, and sometimes the whole country, seize on achievements that should be personal and seek to twist them into affirming the importance of identity. To Ramakrishnan's achievements in decoding cell biology should be added others: of quietly standing up for individual accomplishment over group hysteria; and of keeping his head when all about him are losing theirs.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

GREEN ROOTS OF RECOVERY

ILA PATNAIK

 

Recent data on industrial production looks good and has encouraged suggestions that monetary policy can now be reversed. The data on exports, on the other hand, looks bad, and has led to media reports on how appreciation of the rupee needs to be prevented. Both data releases, which compare the scenario today to the pre-global financial crisis months, give wrong signals. Policy changes arising from ignoring the intervening months would be a mistake. More importantly, looking ahead, in the changed environment after the financial crisis, India needs to rethink its growth strategy. In the light of expected demand conditions in world markets, Indian policymakers need to focus on nurturing domestic markets. India needs a reversal of policy, away from subsidising exports towards reforms that support faster growth of domestic markets.

 

The year-on-year growth in industrial production seen in August fails to capture recent trends in the behaviour of production. To look at recent trends, and thus focus more on what happened in the last 12 months, rather than compare today to the month of August last year, we should look at month-on-month growth rates, seasonally adjusted to clean them of seasonal effects. Those show that while June saw a sharp recovery in industrial production, there has been only a gentle increase since, at an average rate of below 5 per cent. The critical message that comes from looking at the period after the Lehman crisis is that there is no reason to be euphoric. We do see a pick-up in growth, but not enough to begin a reversal of policy.

 

Indeed, what it suggests is that instead of a debate about a reversal of monetary policy, there needs to be one on how the nascent recovery in industrial production should be nurtured. The period from 2004 to 2007 witnessed very high growth rates of industrial production at a time when exports grew rapidly and domestic investment demand was high. Since circumstances are different, we need to discuss how to achieve high growth under the present conditions.

 

This brings us to the clamour on exports. While year-on-year data still shows negative growth rates — that is, it shows that exports today are lower than what they were in the pre-financial crisis period — data for seasonally adjusted month-on-month export growth shows a very strong pick-up with average growth rates of more than 50 per cent in the most recent quarter. This is not surprising as both world demand conditions, as well as trade credit availability, have improved compared to the period immediately after the crisis. However, with the year-on-year negative numbers, suggestions that the RBI should prevent rupee appreciation to help exporters are rampant. Some of these do acknowledge that it may be a difficult policy, given the problems the RBI could have with managing the impact of its intervention on monetary policy.

 

While that is an important point, the bigger question policymakers need to turn to is whether India should be attempting a policy of undervaluing its exchange rate. The RBI merely carries out the mandate of preventing appreciation if export promotion is an element in India's growth strategy. There is no reason it would put itself in this quagmire, were the growth strategy different.

 

Now turn to the role exports played in high growth in India. In the last business cycle upswing exports boomed on the back of rapidly expanding world demand. Part of the policy package for achieving rapid growth was to keep exports competitive by preventing rupee appreciation. India needs to revisit the policy of aiming for an undervalued rupee in today's changed environment. This policy, supported by economists like Dani Rodrik and Arvind Subramanian on the grounds that it results in high growth, has been popular with Asian economies, with China leading the way. India has, without much debate, accepted its merits, and monetary policy has been overwhelmed by trying to prevent rupee appreciation. It is important now to ask ourselves afresh whether, looking forward, this is the best way to achieve high growth in India.

 

The effectiveness of an export promotion policy option can be expected to be limited, most likely in the long run, but at least in the coming quarters. The US economy is currently on a path of correction, with a weakening dollar and slower import growth. With US unemployment in the next quarter being forecast at 10 per cent, and with households and banks both reluctant to increase consumer debt, a strategy based on rising demand from US households is unlikely to see success. Indian growth strategy needs to focus on domestic demand. This would require a reversal of the rupee policy. The rupee policy should not be guided merely by the difficulties that would arise in monetary policy if the RBI intervened in foreign exchange markets to prevent appreciation. A stronger rupee would make raw materials and capital goods cheaper for the bulk of domestic industry.

 

Apart from the immediate policy of not raising interest rates or curtailing liquidity to encourage domestic investment and production, the other important implication of this policy is to improve domestic market conditions in a number of ways. The laundry list of the reforms required is well-known. It includes free movement of goods across states and making India a single market through changing taxes, developing the domestic financial sector to make credit available to households and businesses, reform in agriculture such as in infrastructure, marketing and removing the cereal bias, and constructing roads.

 

In summary, while there is improvement in the data, policymakers should not assume that things will go back to being as they were before the crisis, and the recipes and policy prescriptions that worked before the crisis will work again. Before policy reversals are done, India needs to rethink its long-term growth strategy and reduce its focus on exports. Development of the domestic market and economic reforms must take priority.

 

The writer is a senior fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi (express@expressindia.com )

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE SOCIAL SCIENCE PRIZE

KARNA BASU

 

The 2009 Nobel Prizes in peace and economics had some features in common. For one, the results of both were completely unanticipated. More significantly, each award was designed to not just recognise achievement but to also influence the future. Barack Obama's peace prize makes the most sense when viewed as an attempt to promote peace by rallying world support for this well-intentioned president. 

 

The committee in charge of the economics prize has tried to influence events through a different channel. By awarding it to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson, it has changed the benchmarks by which achievements in economics are measured. While the recipients are no doubt major forces in their fields, the decision has generated some controversy and opposition from the mainstream. 

This is much less dramatic than the Republican response to Obama's award. The Nobel Peace Prize has been deemed irrelevant, just as the United Nations was a few years ago. It is peculiar that this definition of irrelevance does not require one to stop obsessing over these institutions, but that is a different matter.  

 

Economists, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of dismissing the Nobel Prize, since it remains the focal point of aspirations within the profession. This year, the theme was economic governance, the study of how behaviour is governed within institutions like firms, cooperatives, or even families. Might governance in these institutions be better than in the free market? Clearly, these are timely questions, and Ostrom and Williamson's careers provide some highly insightful answers. 

 

Elinor Ostrom, at the political science department of Indiana University, is the first female Nobel laureate in economics. She has demonstrated that the problem of the commons is more nuanced than economists believed. The original problem is the following: when individuals have shared access to a resource, they might overuse it (the actions of rational individuals can lead to inefficient outcomes). For example, self-interested fishermen will fail to account for the fact that killing one fish today eliminates an entire branch of a fish family-tree, which in turn makes life harder for future fishermen. 

 

Theoretically, efficiency will be restored by privatising or nationalising the resource. But nationalisation can result in other inefficiencies, and privatisation can generate inequitable outcomes. This is where Ostrom's work comes in. She has found that, in reality, resources are often used more efficiently under collective ownership than under government or private control. People are capable of responding to the problem of the commons by collectively establishing a credible set of internal laws governing use of the resource.

 

Oliver Williamson is well-known for his work on governance in firms. If we think of firms and markets as distinct institutions in which goods or information are exchanged, it is natural to ask why trades are sometimes carried out directly through the market and at other times within the structure of a firm. Williamson has argued that one of the answers lies in the institutions' different approaches to conflict resolution.  

 

Markets, by their decentralised nature, are not well-suited to resolving disagreements. This is particularly so when information is murky. For instance, a programmer and her client might disagree on the appropriate price for a piece of software that is yet to be written. Prolonged conflicts of this nature can lead to significant losses in output. (If programmers and clients start punching each other on the streets of Bangalore, then the 3-hour drive from the airport to the city centre will be the least of an investor's concerns.) In such environments, firms will be much quicker to resolve conflicts because of their hierarchical structures. Of course, as Williamson points out, these benefits have to be weighed against the disadvantages of a firm, such as the potential for abuse of power.

Given the economic crisis and climate change fears, it is tempting to think that the Nobel Committee's choices were motivated by the need to remind us that free markets are flawed. This might appear plausible except that the committee has frequently awarded those who have done fundamental work on the shortcomings of free markets — recently including Myerson, Kahneman, Akerlof, and Stiglitz. 

 

What really makes this year's prize novel is its implicit approval of non-mathematical methods in economics. In past years, the Nobel Prize has been heavily biased towards abstract theoretical work that is grounded in mathematics. This prize contests the notion that economics is best studied by discarding idiosyncratic cases. Ostrom's work in particular shows that careful case studies are essential to our understanding of how economic logic can apply in ways that abstract models simply overlook. 

 

Economists might fear that the Nobel Prize in economics is ultimately going to morph into a more general Nobel Prize for such research into the social sciences. But this might well be good for the field, which has been enriched recently through interactions with neuroscience, psychology and biology. It is time for economics to renew links with its more immediate academic neighbours.

 

The writer is associate professor of economics at Hunter College, New York express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HAPPY DIWALI, COURTESY OUR KIDS

ABHA ADAMS

 

The highlight of my day last week was when a seven year old came into the office proudly bearing a little box he wanted me to look at. Nestled inside was a little figure, made entirely of discarded sweet wrappers. Ingeniously he had used an old rubber band to outline the face and screwed up the toffee wrappers as eyes, nose, and mouth, complete with Beyonce-like tresses! "Its wealth from waste," he announced proudly. "We did it in class."

 

If there is any hope for our planet, it lies with our children. Credit for this must go to eco-conscious schools and supportive parents who have embraced and encouraged the environment friendly strategies that schools initiated. And it did start with the schools in the last 15 years.

 

As young children growing up in the late '50s we lived in an environment of shortages. We were the first post-Independence generation and grew up with rationing, recycling and reusing whatever we had — nothing was thrown away. Wrapping paper, string, beads, everything was stored away to be reused. There was a flourishing trade in "fixing things" — the tailor stitched, altered, made bags and cushion covers out of bits of material left over; the "kabariwallah" was a friend; life was one long saga of continuous repair and maintenance. Your car, fridge, television, phone, house, job and marriage were for life. In short, you threw nothing away.

 

Once the Indian markets opened up and we joined the global consumer rat race, the explosion of satellite television was grist to the mill for our advertisers. We changed our mantra of "reduce, reuse and recycle" to consume, consume and then consume some more! Children as consumers and a youth market were the prime targets and as essential resources became strained, schools initiated several environment campaigns.

 

Conservation of paper was one of the first followed by a highly successful "say no to plastics" campaign. This has been such a successful initiative. Schools devour paper. In an effort to reduce and reuse and recycle, many schools use paper on both sides for printing, one-sided paper that has been used is used to make scribble pads and when both sides are used they are put in cardboard boxes to be totally recycled. Boxes are placed in every classroom and the administrative areas and children are aware that all used paper needs to be carefully gathered and deposited in the boxes. Some schools have their own paper recycling units and produce lovely handmade sheets and others use the excellent services of NGO's like Vatavaran.

 

Children are zealous about campaigns and they insisted that we should review the school policy of covering exercise books with brown paper. What a sensible idea. Why did we cover books with brown paper? Search me! So it was out with the brown paper and in its stead came a hardened card with an absolute ban on lamination. Gift wrapping paper was substituted by cheerfully block printed newsprint that busy hands had made in art classes and then sold at the open days to raise money for their favourite charity.

 

"Say no to plastics" is one of the most successful eco campaigns, second only to "say no to firecrackers" at Diwali. Again, both of these were spearheaded by schools in conjunction with the Government of Delhi. Many schools became no plastic zones. We began by producing cloth bags to carry our meals, to help parents shop, paper bags to give away school books and uniforms and served tea in earthen "kulhars" and snacks in plates made of leaves.

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Children insisted that we should not have a bonfire on Lohri or burn the effigies on Dussehra. On one Dussehra they suggested toppling over the effigies made from waste materials since burning the traditional Ravana would add to the air pollution.

 

Over the years, children have been alerted to the human rights issue of child labour being used by exploitative firework manufacturers and of the environmental hazards of indiscriminate firework displays. Much to the chagrin of adults, children have refused to buy fireworks leading to tearful confrontations in families. Many parents went so far as to tell us that we were indoctrinating the children and they were becoming fanatical about environmental issues! If this is fanaticism then roll on. Why can't we arrange communal firework displays that bring together the neighbourhood and the festive spirit is shared and enjoyed by all? It happens in so many countries across the world. Why do we have to outdo each other in a flagrant and obscene display of wealth and bad taste?

 

This face-off on environment issues between adults and children is not limited to Diwali and patakas. I had a weary father who wanted to know just what it was we were doing in our environment programme that had resulted in his son insisting on a bucket bath; not letting him run the water while brushing his teeth; checking if he used a mug for shaving; crying if he jumped a red light; and getting really angry if he tossed wrappers out of the car window. Juxtapose this with the tearful face of an eight year old who told his classmates, "I tried telling Papa about not bursting crackers, but he just thinks I am stupid."

 

Many schools are "going green" and there are some marvelous strategies which include the use of environment friendly building materials, solar energy (expensive at the moment), recycling of waste water for irrigation and rain water harvesting. Segregating waste results in wet waste finding its way to compost heaps and vermiculture pits. Students can observe these worms assiduously converting their waste from the dining areas into rich manure that can be used by the school.

 

Schools with strong environment campaigns will produce young activists and we need a generation of eco-conscious, committed catalysts of change. So if this Diwali your children refuse to blow up your hard earned money and are conscious of the levels of air and noise pollution, say thank you — and join them.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based education consultant

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HALF THE EARTH 

PAMELA CHATTERJEE

 

 In this 2009 drought, — before the late monsoon rains in September, the River Kosi in Kumaun, Uttarakhand, had been reduced to a muddy stream.  The women of the mahila mandals in the villages around decided that conservation measures like check dams, gully plugs, ponds were needed to increase infiltration of water into the sub-soil. This was so that the flow of water in the river could be enhanced, at least to the extent that this was within their control. 

 

 In the adjoining Gram Sabha, the 'bahu pradhan' (father-in-law of the pradhan), arranges for the check-dam along the stream flowing into the Kosi, with National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) funds. While we watched, the women were carrying heavy stones in the hot sun, while the men were constructing the dam. The stream was so swift that a farmer working there said,  "We need to use wire netting to hold the stones in place". However the junior engineer told him, "The funds are not sufficient for wire netting for the four dams. But it does not really matter if the dams do not last, for after all the idea is to provide employment to people".  And sure enough with the first downpour, all four dams were wrecked and washed away.

 

In a programme involving crores of rupees to be delivered to crores of people, there are bound to be problems before it 'gets going'. From all accounts, NREGA has not worked well in some states and in others there have been massive frauds. But it has indeed worked well in some states. This just means that more serious efforts need to be made to make it work optimally, in every state, as the stakes are truly high for poor people in rural areas.

 

 A special point needs to be made on the role of women who have been accorded equal importance in the NREGA programme. Increased participation can be expected from them when they are organised in 'mahila mandals' as belonging and bonding in a group brings out their inherent strength. Not so long ago, a mahila mandal near the town of Kausani, in Kumaon, got together and took action against a local hotel. They had made gully plugs and had planted broad leaved trees, in the vicinity of the stream running through their village, so that the flow of water would be maintained. However, due to the shortage of water in the town, a hotel sent a truck to fill up water from the stream. In response to the women's protest, the hotel reported to the police and a posse of policemen were sent to intimidate them. The women stood linked with arms on the road and one spoke for them, "We have worked to conserve this water and it is our right. We will not allow you to take this water in your tanks, but you may come here and drink it." The hotel had no option but to withdraw and tap another source. This strength of the mandals can be used for giving impetus to NREGA.

 

 The various provisions of NREGA are not known to women, nor indeed to the pradhans themselves. In a small village in Kumaun, the women of the mahila mandal surrounded the pradhan saying: "We want job cards. We want work". He told them: "Only one adult member in a family, at a time, can work in the NREGA programme", and gave the job cards to the men. Moreover, the women also protested saying, "The programme for planting fruit trees in the village should not be done on land belonging to individual farmers." The women were silenced when the pradhan said, "The sanction has come from the Block office and had been recommended by the gram sevak and the earlier pradhan". It was no surprise, then, that after a few weeks there was not a tree to be seen.

 

  Employing the right media to communicate the working of NREGA in villages, will spread the message fast. We attended a 'nukkar natak' (street play) in a nearby village. The young women and girls of the mahila mandal performed in front of the gram sabha and had the audience in splits of laughter with the dominating attitude of the pati pradhan (the husband of the pradhan). Eventually, the woman pradhan took back the office seal from her husband, amid cheers from the onlookers — even men. And other anecdotes, enacted there, made everyone understand the provisions clearly.

 

 It is surprising how with the encouragement of the mandals, the ostensibly shy women are able to perform even in public. The mandals can turn out to be a firm base from which the message of NREGA  can spread to the men in the village and indeed to others concerned with the work.

 

The writer has lived and worked for over twenty years in a (village in Uttarakhand)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SADBHAVANA BAITHAKS 

 

A report titled "Sadbhavna meeting in Delhi: Our goal is to end all exploitation and deprivation — Mohan Bhagwat" by Pramod Kumar in the latest Diwali issue of Organiser, says: " 'There is a need to launch reformative and service activities among the deprived sections of the society on a larger scale so that none feel deprived and exploited,' said RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat. He was addressing a gathering of leaders belonging to various Hindu communities assembled at a Sadbhavana Baithak in New Delhi on October 3. A total of 54 leaders belonging to 32 communities participated in the meeting. Kshetra Sanghachalak Dr Bajrang Lal Gupt and Prant Sanghachalak Shri Ramesh Prakash Sharma also shared the dais. Bhagwat stressed on four points. He said there should be a feeling of mutual cooperation and goodwill in all the communities and all leaders should educate their community members about the need for cooperation and unity. He further said service activities should be launched on a larger scale in all the areas where they are required. He directed the sangh workers to pay adequate attention to the areas, which are neglected with regard to service activities. He pointed out that sangh swayamsevaks are today running more than 1.5 lakh service projects in remote areas".

The report adds: "He suggested that Sadbhavana Baithaks need to be organised at lower levels — block level in rural areas and basti level in cities — to spread the feeling of cooperation and to educate the people about the present challenges before the Hindu society. He emphasised that the frequency of such Sadbhavana Baithaks should be increased and more community leaders should be involved in them."

 

WATER CONSERVATION

A piece titled "A Gujarat Experiment: Rainwater harvesting" by Ballabhbhai Kathiria in the latest issue of the RSS journal, says: "The western area of Gujarat traditionally known as Saurashtra and Kutch used to have scanty rainfall leading to frequent droughts. Due to lack of drinking there was a huge migration of the young population to urban areas. The sea water penetrated upto 50-80 kms towards the land, making the agricultural land saline. Due to this, the whole area got barren. With the coming of the BJP in Gujarat, an era of change came. The Bharatiya Janata Party came to power under the leadership of Shri Keshubhai Patel in Gujarat. After becoming member of the Parliament, for the first term, I took the challenge of water crisis as my first priority. The concentrated work of the watershed programme was going on in one solitary village named Raj Samadhiyala. Observing the results, I took eleven villages of my constituency, where we started watershed programme movement with the help of karyakartas, NGOs and village people. The Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD) came to my rescue to finance the project. The beneficiary people were asked to volunteer for labour work and the material was supplied from either through MPLAD or from donations from the society".

 

He adds: "This activity turned up in a social movement popularly known as 'Check dam abhiyan' in Gujarat. Check dam is a water harvesting structure created in a river bed, more suitable [for the] topography of Saurashtra. Almost all methods of rain water harvesting were used as per local suitability such as well-recharging, farm ponds, check dams creating new ponds or deepening them. The concept of bori bandhs were made more popular by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP government of Gujarat is popular amongst people because of his welfare and socio-economic development measures in all walks of life and fields. That is why it was known as the government with good governance".

 

He concludes: "Our ultimate goal is to harvest, store and conserve rain water as much as possible... as per the local factors. I am not against major dams because they serve other purposes also like electricity and biodiversity. Similarly, interlinking of rivers may be undertaken considering the cost benefits and dire need of the area. Check dams or water harvesting structures are (however) preferred as they are low cost... no need of acquisition of agricultural or other land, no disputes, no migration, no rehabilitation, storage at multiple levels... in real sense decentralised control, against all reverse factors for major dams."

 

Compiled by Suman K. Jha

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BENCH THE CURRENT BENCHMARK


A revision of the concept of the benchmark prime lending rate (BPLR) has been in discussion for a while now. The BPLR was steadily becoming irrelevant as the benchmark for bank lending, negating the reason for its existence. Banks were liberally lending at 3-4 percentage points higher or lower than the BPLR, depending on the borrower. This also creates a huge transparency problem, as borrowers have no standard to refer to. In theory, therefore, it could lead to arbitrary lending policies by banks. Now, a committee set up by RBI has recommended doing away with the BPLR as it exists now. Instead, each bank will have a specific base rate linked to the one-year deposit rate. Incidentally, one-year deposit rates have been coming down steadily in recent months after the crisis broke, and are hovering at between 5% and 6%. The BPLR has failed to keep pace with that decline, as a benchmark lending rate ought to. The new base rate, which will be reviewed every quarter depending on the deposit rate offered by the bank, will overcome this problem.

 

Of course, banks will add their operational costs to this base rate before deciding on the actual lending rate. They may also add different risk weightages to different categories of borrowers. Overall, though, it will be a move to a very transparent system where lenders will be accountable to explain the rates they are charging borrowers and borrowers will have full information about banks' lending rates for different categories. Of course, this will still not solve the problem of certain borrowers, say, small enterprises, paying higher rates than large corporates. The risk weightage assigned will be higher. At the same time, the variance is likely to be reduced as the base rate will be defined by a minimum floor measure—banks can't lend at rates below the one-year deposit rates. That will be significantly different from the BPLR, which is much higher in the first place. What are the chances of this change in the reference rate for lending happening anytime soon? Fairly good, one would assume, given that the Indian Banks' Association was represented on the committee that decided this change. That presumably ensures that bankers' concerns were adequately met and that they will have no objection to doing away with the BPLR and its replacement with a base rate. In fact, RBI should consider announcing the change in the October 27 monetary policy announcement. The BPLR is a completely outdated aspect of the Indian banking system and againist the broader canvas of banking sector reform, it is a low-hanging fruit that should be grabbed immediately.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PHONY BUSINESS


Since the Reliance split was formalised in June 2005, shareholders have had cause to celebrate—value creation following the demerger hasn't been bad news for their coffers. The media has also gained plenty of drama from the unrelenting finger-pointing indulged in by the two siblings. The latest chapter in this drama, however, shows the limits of such spats creating value. Anil Ambani, for the nth time, is crying wolf. With RComm, India's second-largest mobile operator, accused of wrongdoing by a special audit commissioned by DoT, he is shouting foul play on the part of "corporate rivals". The facts exposed by the audit are simple enough: RComm inflated its 2006-07 and 2007-08 wireless revenues to shareholders and under-reported them to Trai. It sought to simultaneously hike valuation for one audience (stockholders) and reduce licence fee payment to another (government). The word going around is that the RComm case has opened a can of worms in the telecom sector. As this newspaper has reported, DoT has commissioned similar audits of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone-Essar, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices. No excuses can be made and none can be accepted for creative accounting, but the key point that needs highlighting here is whether current government policy incentivises "bad" behaviour. As one of our contributors on the Reflect page makes clear, it does.

 

The revenue-share fee for a unified access service licence is 6-10%, depending on the circle, the long-distance licence fee is 6%, while there is no licence fee on a non-Internet telephony licence. To even out such variations—again, as reported by this newspaper—a DoT committee recently recommended a flat licence fee of 8.5% for all services, which needs delinking of spectrum from licences. To understand the significance of this recommendation, flashback to 2003 when a unified access licence was mooted for providing fixed line and mobile telephony services, as opposed to separate licences earlier. It was all the way back then that the government promised to introduce a truly unified licence, which would be technology-agnostic and allow operators to offer services ranging from long distance to Internet telephony. This, of course, hasn't come to pass yet. Worse, we have had controversial spectacles like a flawed first-come-first-served 2G spectrum allocation that saw licences being issued in 2008 at prices fixed in 2001. Real estate developers Swan and Unitech reaped a bonanza of rewards, and offloaded their wins at whopping prices and at mega speed. Who suffered? The national exchequer. What the latest RComm imbroglio suggests is that the lesson hasn't yet been learnt. Multiple levies and opacity remain the order of the day. Business has a responsibility to stay clean. The government has a responsibility to make clean rules.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FOR US IT'S VERY MUCH THE MARKET

MK VENU

 

In recent times, the Nobel prize has gone to economists who have challenged the efficacy of markets by empirically outlining circumstances in which market failures can occur repeatedly. This year's winner Elinor Ostrom too has received the honour for showing how community management of natural resources such as water, forests, etc produce better results than if they were privatised. It is interesting to note that the Nobel Committee with its award seeks to drive new thought processes among the western political/intellectual classes. Just as it sought to bestow the Nobel peace prize on Barack Obama, who has embarked on some big initiatives like global nuclear disarmament, fixing Afganistan and constructive engagement with Iran, the awards for economics also reflect the need to look at things from fresh perspectives.

 

For instance, the economics awards in recent years have tended to focus more on the impact of social sciences and anthropology on collective economic behavior. This resulted from certain gaps in understanding, which economics alone could not fill. However, it is interesting to note that the timing of the Nobel awards, in terms of new thought processes that it seeks to generate, is always driven by Western concerns. And not surprisingly so. For instance, in the 1980s the discipline of economics engaged with the role of mathematics in anticipating rational outcomes in the financial markets. This was done to advance and refine capitalism's role in enhancing society's wealth. Trading in complex debt and equity derivatives was a result of these efforts. The Nobel Committee encouraged this until big market failures began to occur. Before the market failures started occupying mindspace, economists appeared to be an arrogant lot who did not give much quarter to social sciences and history as guides to collective behaviour. The currently raging battle between the two prominent intellectuals, Paul Krugman, an economist, and Niall Ferguson, an historian, is also reflective of this inter-disciplinary tension. But the point to note is such debate is confined to western academia. This is not surprising because the entire discourse is shaped by the academic institutions in the US or Europe.

 

It is also instructive that such debate in the West comes at the end of one big cycle—lasting many decades—in which the market has indeed played its role in the overall advance of capitalism and wealth creation. In fact, the same process has also resulted in the creation of state-driven institutions which created safety nets for workers in general. Europe has refined welfare institutions far ahead of America. Barack Obama is under renewed pressure to create such welfare institutions post the economic crises of 2008.

 

However, the search for new knowledge—aided by the Swedish Nobel Commitee—on how to avoid market failures should not worry emerging economies like India, China and Latin America. Simply because these societies are still at the beginning of the cycle where the evolution of market institutions are playing a big role in wealth creation. The institutions aiding greater wealth distribution will also follow. It will be a while before India, China or Brazil should need to worry about the nature of market failures that western academics are obsessing about.

 

In the interplay between the State and market institutions, the former clearly dominates in emerging economies. If anything, countries like India, Russia and China have their own versions of oligarchy where State institutions consciously aid the development of a few big businesses. This also results in sub-optimal outcomes because of the lack of competition inherent in crony capitalism.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sometime ago rightly observed that all societies go through the phase of crony capitalism. The United States also saw this phase in the early-20th century. But the trick lies in evolving and refining market institutions and independent regulation in a manner that a new level playing field is created for thousands of emerging small and medium businesses to be able to maximise wealth.

 

The current tensions among India's dozen top business groups over the use of natural resources—whether gas, coal, spectrum, iron ore, etc—merely shows that the State and market institutions are in the process of mutating to their new roles. The battle between the Ambani brothers can also be studied as a model example in this context. The positive outcome of the messy corporate war between the Ambani brothers is the realisation that the government must leave the job of encouraging competition and ensuring a level playing field for all businneses to independent market regulators. The government takes time to give up this power, as was seen in the case of telecom services sector where many players went through years of court battle, eventually settling for a semblance of independent regulation.

 

The interesting dialectic playing out here is that it is precisely the ills of crony capitalism and concentration of economic power in a few big businesses that is leading to tensions, which are in turn aiding a further refinement of market institutions. There is also currently a debate over the nature of regulation needed to align India's financial sector with global practices. Here, too, there is a need to ensure that India does not draw all the wrong lessons from the global financial meltdown.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE AMERICA ASIA ISSUE OF OUR TIME

MICHAEL WALTON


Globalisation needs to be managed, or things could get nasty. I f globalisation is associated with heightened insecurity or social injustice, apparently fringe sentiments could become mainstream. Think of the consequences of stalled globalisation between the two World Wars.

 

So what does the management of globalisation look like in the wake of the financial crisis? At first sight, surprisingly good. The crisis itself was a disaster. Yet the response, while far from perfect, had some genuinely positive features with respect to global management. There was impressively widespread adoption of expansionary fiscal-monetary policies to offset the crash, both in rich countries and in major developing countries, including China and India. The IMF moved swiftly to support contracyclical policies, consistent with its new aspiration to be an instrument of international collective insurance; and it quickly got additional resources to further this end. And the G-20 group of countries surged into prominence, with the G-7 increasingly (and hopefully) eclipsed in the realm of international management.

 

Two other things became clear as the crisis unfolded. First, as in Keynes' diagnosis of the Great Depression, there is not a fundamental crisis of capitalism, but a failure in its management. This requires better domestic and international instruments. Second, there was a symbolic push to the relative rise of Asia in the global economy. In the short run, most of developing Asia displayed impressive short-run resilience, even as rich country growth turned negative and exports were crashing.

 

It is, however, way too early to celebrate global coordination. Future management challenges will be a lot tougher. The crisis was unusual—the private interests of nations were largely aligned, and action was not crippled by the burden of inappropriate ideology, as it was in the 1930s. The decline of US dominance, and the relative rise of Asia, while surely good, greatly magnifies the coordination challenge.

 

Most problems of global action, whether in the area of financial regulation, trade, climate change or international terror, involve collective action to manage a common good (or bad). This week Elinor Ostrom shared the Nobel Economics prize for her work on the management of the commons. She has explored how sophisticated coordinatory mechanisms have often evolved for the governance of the local commons. But such local arrangements typically emerge from intensive social interaction over long periods of time, and can be particularly hard when participants are heterogeneous, with conflicting interests, and in the absence of a dominant actor. That's the essential insight on why managing globalisation is hard in general, and getting harder.

 

Take the seemingly relatively conflict-free area of economic management. The IMF has behaved very differently in the current crisis. But it is currently run by a politician-economist from the French socialist party, in Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In the future it may well revert to type, and countries will be appropriately cautious about putting their insurance eggs into that basket, absent fundamental governance changes. A countervailing Asian monetary fund may sound attractive, but it's hard to expect much, given the levels of mistrust between Japan and China or between China and India, not to mention resistance from the US and Europe.

 

If we look at a really hard area, such as climate change, the challenge is much greater. The prospect of a good agreement in Copenhagen over climate change looks dim, when failure to tackle that collective action problem could lead to a real disaster for the world, orders of magnitude worse than the financial crisis.

 

So the good news is the growing awareness that the balance of power in the management of globalisation has shifted. The bad news is that this is only the beginning of the problem. There are no obvious easy answers. The idea that nation-states will delegate power to global governance arrangements is utopian. The emergence of the G-2, of the United States and China, as a coordinatory arrangement, could be a good thing for shaping proposals, but does not solve the problem of collective action among heterogeneous nations. A first step is to recognise what is at stake. Globalisation is needed for the transformation from deprivation to prosperity. Global management is needed to sustain, and not destroy, this. If globalisation is ill-managed, in particular if it is seen to be a source of insecurity and injustice, the backlash could be severe. Tackling this is a central challenge of our times.

 

The author is at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Institute of Social & Economic Change, and the Centre for Policy Research

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

NO GETTING AWAY FROM AMITABH, SACHIN, DHONI

ALOKANANDA CHAKRABORTY


A market research agency has just released a report on celebrity advertising which goes on to say what a great job Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni are doing in the market for brand endorsements.

 

Some five years ago Pepsi in the US famously said that it was sick of celebrities stealing the limelight. So it was bye bye to Beyoncé, Britney, Pink and a motley crew of celebrity endorsers. Then there was Chrysler, which, after signing up singer Celine Dion on a three-year contract, said sorry, now it will refocus its communication on its cars and not on stars.

 

And we thought this is going to be a new trend in the world of advertising. Of course, that didn't happen and there is a good reason for it: celebrity endorsements have proved there is no better force multiplier in India. Celebrities can catalyse acceptance for a brand and provide the momentum it needs in a cluttered market.

 

Having said that, companies also know that they are taking a huge risk while associating with a celebrity, and are quick to drop endorsers when the celebrity is embrioled in a sticky situation. That's precisely why Magic Johnson lost all his endorsement deals in the early nineties when he came out with the fact that he's HIV-positive. Dell let Benjamin Curtis's contract expire after he was allegedly caught buying marijuana.

 

Problems are many but is there a better alternative for the advertiser? When Cadbury was caught in the middle of the infestation issue, it roped in Amitabh Bachchan to speak about all the things it was doing to ensure its products were safe. Sanjay Purohit, then marketing director of the company, said Bachchan was the only person who could deliver the company from the crisis because he enjoys unmatched trust in the mind of the average Indian.

 

So there you have it. Good old-fashioned trust. Can you trust all the messages on the media when the same set of advertisers slug it out on the floors of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission or the Advertising Standards Council of India hurling claims and counter-claims.

 

Where do you look? Of course, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

 

aloka@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A STEP FORWARD ON IRAN

 

The recent meeting in Geneva between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) is proof that a rational dialogue conducted without preconditions is a far better way of resolving a dispute than the issuing of threats and diktats. It is too early to say whether the corner has been turned. But Iran's willingness to send a major part of its accumulated stocks of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for further enrichme nt and ultimate use for medical purposes within the country is a major confidence-building measure. The Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) needs LEU enriched to 19.75 per cent for the production of molybdenum 99 (99Mo), a key isotope used in medical imaging procedures for cancer diagnostics. The fact that Iran has decided not to exercise its right to enrich uranium beyond the 3.5 per cent level currently being produced by its Natanz facility ought to help allay Washington's suspicions about the true nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. More than that, by agreeing to use its existing LEU as the feedstock for Russia's eventual supply of enriched uranium for the TRR, Iran is telling the west that its fears about some future diversion of Natanz throughput for weapons purposes are unfounded.

 

For those sections of the U.S. and Israeli establishments that were trying to build a case that the Iranian civil nuclear programme posed a clear and present danger to the region and the world, Tehran's willingness to send its LEU stocks out of the country should be an eye-opener. Iran has also agreed to the International Atomic Energy Agency's request for a speedy preliminary visit to the new enrichment facility being built near Qom. In exchange for these Iranian gestures, the U.S. has decided not to press ahead with fresh coercive moves for the time being, though its ability to get the UNSC, let alone the P5+1, to agree to more sanctions, is itself questionable. The Geneva meeting was also significant because it represented the first proper political contact between the Obama administration and Iran. A second meeting to tie up the arrangements for the TRR deal will take place later this month. Once that happens and the contrived urgency with which Washington was dealing with the Iranian issue abates, one hopes President Obama will come good on his campaign promise to engage Tehran across the full range of issues that have kept the two sides estranged for three decades now. The Nobel peace prize was awarded to him, in part, because of the welcome change his administration represents over that of his predecessors. Resolving 30 years of mistrust will not be easy for either side but a sincere start must be made, and made soon.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MORE SIGNS OF RECOVERY

 

There is little room for ambiguity in interpreting the recently released data on the index of industrial production (IIP). Industrial output recorded a 10.4 per cent year-on-year jump in August on top of a 7.2 per cent increase in July. It can be argued that the double-digit growth, the highest in 22 months, was partly due to the base effect: last year the IIP increased by just 1.69 per cent. However, a great deal of corroborative evidence is emerging that points to a cons olidation of the recovery phase that began in June. There has been a sequential growth since May when the IIP grew by just 2.1 per cent. The rate shot up to 8.21 per cent in June. It is noteworthy that both in July and August manufacturing, which accounts for 80 per cent of the index, grew at almost the same rate as the overall index. Mining and electricity output, both growing in double digits, were significantly higher than last year. All these suggest that the recovery is more evenly spread than what was previously thought. Further corroboration of that is seen from the fact that 14 out of the 17 segments of the manufacturing sector saw growth in August, seven of them by at least 10 per cent. Altogether during the three-month period, June-August, the increase in the IIP has been at a healthy 8.6 per cent, sharply higher than the 4.5 per cent last year.

 

There is also sectoral evidence confirming the consolidation of industrial recovery. For instance, the two important segments of manufacturing — transportation equipment, and machinery and equipment — grew by 13.8 per cent and 14.2 per cent respectively. There is a big spurt in passenger car sales, with many popular models available only after a waiting period. Textile products clocked an impressive 16.4 per cent growth mainly due to a surge in domestic demand ahead of the festival season. It is also noteworthy that exports of garments are recovering, albeit slightly. Textiles have been among the worst affected by the sharp contraction in exports. Consumer durables have continued their remarkable run, growing by over 22 per cent. The implementation of the Pay Commission award is said to be the main reason. For policy makers, however, the strong rebound in the IIP numbers notwithstanding, the time is not opportune to phase out the stimulus packages or to move towards monetary tightening. The economy grew by 6.1 per cent during the first three months and the expectations are that until it moves into a higher trajectory the stimulus measures will continue.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

INDIA MUST CATCH UP WITH U.S.-IRAN THAW

WHEREAS MOST COUNTRIES FORESAW A U.S.-IRAN THAW AND READIED FOR IT, THE INDIAN ESTABLISHMENT BURIED ITS HEAD IN THE SAND.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

What makes Barack Obama an extraordinary politician is the audacity and hope with which he has held out time and again when adversity hemmed him in. The U.S. opening to Iran carries the full stamp of Mr. Obama and has all the hallmarks of his presidency. The "thaw" has the makings of a historic breakthrough, the significance of which is comparable to Richard Nixon's overtures to China in 1972. The fascinating part is that Mr. Obama is laying a foundation with the bricks that were thrown at him.

 

The health care reform plan, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic crisis, the declining global influence of the U.S. (as painfully shown by the Olympic Committee's snub to Chicago's claim to host the 2016 festival) — the list is indeed lengthening in the politics of spite, as Paul Krugman put it, targeted at Mr. Obama. Also, when it comes to Iran, the powerful Israeli lobby invariably circles the wagons that would drain the urge out of the most determined U.S. President to talk to Tehran.

 

What needs to be factored in is that Mr. Obama senses that the time for the U.S.- Iran normalisation has come and the process may advance with a rapidity that is probably least expected. Already, there is an acknowledgement by American scholars that Mr. Obama has extracted more concessions from Tehran in flat seven-and-a-half hours — the duration of the talks between the "Iran Six" and the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, in Geneva on October 1 — than what the George Bush administration got in eight years of sabre-rattling. Mr. Bush refused to talk to Iran; deliberately racheted up tensions; dispatched two aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf; constantly threatened that "all options" were on his table in the Oval Office; and pressured the U.S. partners — including India — to atrophy friendly ties with Iran. And what he got to show for as he left White House in January was that during all of his eight years of adventure in the Persian Gulf, Iran went up from 0.2 to 3.8 per cent in being able to enrich and significantly increased its stock of centrifuges.

 

There is a strong urge in both Washington and Tehran to reconcile and compromise. Both are intensely conscious that normalisation between them at this juncture has a multiplier effect on their range of national strategies. Both are notoriously pragmatic (and ambitious) countries that refuse to be bogged down in ideologies when it comes to the pursuit of national interests. Mr. Obama has also been quick to learn that the U.S. plan to further sanction Iran is a road to nowhere. Tehran, on its part, has assessed that an open-minded and enlightened U.S. President like Mr. Obama is rare and his offer to bring about a "change" in the U.S. policies must be taken up.

 

Of course, the cool stocktaking in Washington is also that the Iranian regime has successfully withstood the avalanche of western pressure tactic. The latest American opinion poll conducted by Maryland University showed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's popular rating among the Iranian people coasts at an astounding 70 per cent and that he genuinely did win the election in June. The unanimous resolution passed by the Majlis on the eve of the Geneva talks, wholeheartedly endorsing the government's nuclear brief, underscores that despite the acute factionalism that perennially bedevilled Iran's noisy democracy, the nation clings together to the crucial nuclear file. Meanwhile, an influential body of American opinion is beginning to consider that what the Iranian nuclear programme most likely aims at could be the "Japan option" — to attain the capability to construct a bomb if the country comes under threatening attack. (An internal International Atomic Energy Agency report recently concluded that Tehran now has the data to construct a nuclear weapon.)

 

In sum, Mr. Obama seems to realise that demonising Iran has been something of a cottage industry and while it is politically risky to puncture the illusion of menace that the powerful Israeli lobby wants to create about Iran, credible American regional policies cannot be built on vacuous propaganda. The Iranian leadership on its part seems to estimate that the optimal moment has arrived to negotiate with Washington.

 

Thus, the Geneva talks made progress to a degree that most seasoned observers had not expected. Iran agreed to allow the IAEA inspectors to visit its newly-announced facility near Qom on October 25; the next meet of the "Iran Six" with Mr. Jalili has been scheduled for October-end; most important, Iran agreed to send most of its stock of low enriched uranium (3.5 per cent) to Russia for processing to the roughly 20 per cent degree of enrichment needed to run its small reactor producing medical isotopes. (Iran has about 3200 pounds of low-enriched uranium, and is willing to send 2600 pounds out of it to Russia.)

 

These are important confidence-building measures. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Obama scrambled to respond with cautious optimism within hours of the positive tidings coming from Geneva. He said: "If Iran takes concrete steps and lives up to its obligations, there is a path toward a better relationship with the United States, increased integration of Iran within the international community, and a better future for all Iranians …We [U.S.] support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear power. Taking the step of transferring its low-enriched uranium to a third country would be a step towards building confidence that Iran's programme is, in fact, peaceful."

 

"We are committed to serious and meaningful engagement," Mr. Obama added. The reverberations of the U.S.-Iranian normalisation will be far-reaching and random happenings have begun appearing already. The "breakthrough" following the visit by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Pyongyong is most certainly a signal that things are changing over the North Korean nuclear problem. Pyongyong said 'yes' to the resumption of multilateral talks — provided it could first talk to the Obama administration. Again, in retrospect, Mr. Obama's overtures to Russia on the ABM had an Iran dimension, although the overall "reset" of U.S.-Russia ties is still some way off. Surely, the three-day visit by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Damascus highlights that the Middle East is preparing for the U.S.-Iran normalisation. Syria too has embarked on a programme to rehabilitate its image in the Arab world after a four-year hiatus since the rupture with Riyadh in 2004. Turkey has undertaken a series of initiatives on the regional scene, especially the historic normalisation with Armenia on October 10.

 

However, these are only nascent signs of new stirrings. Once the U.S.-Iranian normalisation gains traction — there is already talk as to how Washington could make a "gesture" towards Tehran — the tectonic plates of the geopolitics of the region will begin to shift.

 

India needs to prepare a frank estimation of its own insipid regional policies with regard to Iran. Clearly, it has been a policy disaster of stupendous proportions that the UPA government allowed the U.S. (and Israel) to dictate the tempo of India-Iran relationship. Whereas most countries foresaw a U.S.-Iran thaw and readied for it, the Indian establishment buried its head in the sand. Belying all logic, India stopped supplying petroleum products to Iran a few months ago, anticipating a "tightening" of U.S. sanctions on Tehran. (China, of course, stepped in to meet Iran's needs.)

 

The government seems to be completely bankrupt of ideas on how to clear the heap of debris in Indian-Iranian relationship and make a fresh beginning. The minimum that should have been done was to depute a special envoy to visit Tehran after the new governments took over in India and Iran. Any serious student of geopolitics would say that unless you have a profound relationship with Iran, you wouldn't have optimal regional policies in several theatres — Central Asia and Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East or the Caspian.

 

Of course, where it is likely to hurt India most is when Tehran's new energy policies begin to unfold in the wake of normalisation with the West. This is not a matter for the Petroleum Ministry's opaque policies on gas pricing. It is about missing out on a historic opportunity to engage Pakistan in a regional project that might make it a stakeholder in regional stability. The government can learn by tapping into the creative energies in the chancelleries — Moscow, Beijing, Berlin, Ankara — as they prepare to come to grips with the U.S.-Iranian normalisation.

 

Equally, it is a sign of the sad depletion of intellectual resources in our country in the recent decade or two that precisely at such a formative period in contemporary world politics, the titans in our strategic community and the media are squatting with eyes cast across the Himalayas, hoping to hear the notes of war drums. The international community will never take us seriously as a regional power if we behave like morons.

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED  

DOING SOME GOOD VS. DOING RIGHT

DESPITE THE GOVERNMENT'S EFFORTS TO REDUCE MATERNAL DEATHS BY ENCOURAGING DELIVERIES AT HEALTH CENTRES, THE SYSTEM CONTINUES TO FAIL POOR WOMEN.

LIESL GERNTHOLTZ

 

I gave birth in the developing world, in South Africa, to be precise. South Africa was in the spotlight recently when a government-commissioned report showed a 20 per cent increase in the number of deaths from pregnancy-related causes between 2005 and 2007 over the previous three-year period. The report said that nearly 40 per cent of these deaths were avoidable.

 

I was lucky, and privileged enough, to be able to pay for private healthcare, which in South Africa is world-class. I saw my obstetrician every month during the first eight months of my pregnancies, and then every week. He did an ultrasound during each visit, and I was able to watch the healthy development of my children. I even had a 3-D scan, which showed my son sucking his fingers. When I went into labour, my husband drove me to the hospital.

 

I gave birth in a private delivery room in a hospital, with my obstetrician and two nurses in attendance. I had access to excellent pain relief and post-natal care. I may have given a fleeting thought to the risks of pregnancy and birth, but it never seriously occurred to me that I could die, that over half a million women do die every year worldwide from pregnancy-related causes.

 

India is a lot like South Africa — it has exceptional healthcare, if you can afford it, but an alarmingly high rate of maternal deaths. The Indian government, to its credit, has recognised this as a national crisis and has developed programmes designed to end preventable maternal deaths.

 

A cornerstone of the government's response has been to encourage women to give birth in health facilities, rather than at home. The Janani Suraksha Yojana, or literally Mother Protection Scheme, provides cash incentives equivalent to $28 to women who give birth in health facilities. In a country with a third of the world's poor, and where 42 per cent of the population lives on $1.25 a day, this is a significant amount of money. The programme appears to have had some success, with 20 million deliveries taking place in health facilities between 2005 and March 2009. The government uses this number as a measure of overall progress in maternal health.

 

There is no doubt that giving birth in a health facility is important. Research suggests that access to emergency obstetric care is one of the most important factors in reducing maternal deaths. The Indian government's efforts have no doubt brought some pregnant women with complications, to health facilities that could help them.

 

But these numbers do not begin to tell the story. The government does not collect sufficient information about the outcomes of deliveries in these health facilities. In fact, as Human Rights Watch recently conducted research on the high rate of maternal deaths in Uttar Pradesh for a new report that we issued on October 7, we found that this State does not even collect the numbers of pregnancy-related deaths.

 

We found many examples of how the system continues to fail women: K. Kavita, for example, delivered her baby in a community health centre under the Janani Suraksha Yojana programme. But when she developed complications after being discharged, she went from one hospital to another for five days trying to get treatment, and eventually died.

 

Our research showed serious gaps in services: Uttar Pradesh has fewer than half of the 1,097 community health centres the government says it should have. Less than a third of these have an obstetrician or a gynaecologist on the staff. Only one in 20 of these referral units offers caesarean sections, and one in a hundred has a blood storage facility. Given these shortcomings, it is unclear whether women actually receive better care than they would giving birth at home.

 

The fact that 20 million women give birth in these facilities also tells us little about their struggles to reach a facility that would provide them with an adequate standard of care. Human Rights Watch research documented cases of women who, in an emergency situation, were unable to pay for transportation to a hospital, who were turned away from several facilities that said they could not provide the required assistance and who died outside clinics that were not prepared to admit them.

 

If India's plans to reduce maternal deaths are to work, the government needs to make sure that all public health facilities are staffed and equipped so that they meet public health standards. It should monitor actual pregnancy outcomes, including by investigating maternal deaths, to identify and fix health system gaps and barriers to getting care so that in the future deaths can be prevented. The government also needs to improve the overall health of women, with attention to nutrition, access to contraceptives, and participation in health-related decision-making. And it should keep track of whether women with pregnancy-related complications can actually access the help they need.

 

At the end of the day, the Indian government should recognise that good healthcare, including maternal healthcare, is a basic right. It should pay attention to the painful cry of the families which witness such preventable deaths and their members who say, "Let this not happen to anyone else."

 

(Liesl Gerntholtz is the Director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch.)

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED  

A TRIBUTE TO OBAMA, A DISCIPLE OF GANDHI

BARACK OBAMA IS NO LONGER ONLY AN AMERICAN BUT A WORLD WONDER WITH A NEW VISION AND PROMISE OF PEACE ON EARTH.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

I salute you, Barack Obama, for winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. By winning it you have made the White House an eighth world wonder of peace and a point of pilgrimage for humanity longing for a new century of lasting tranquility on earth.

 

Our human universe is a divine creation, the celestial manifestation of happy habitation for all mankind. But by the accumulation of power and aggravation of development through science and technology, and intoxicated with power, man has converted the good earth into a vast crematorium of humanity, where progress spells carnage and human rights are alien to the new generation.

 

If each one of us be the abode of God, it is to preserve for the maker's project a dynamic philosophy of jubilation as against widespread destruction. The biggest power of nuclear disaster must undergo transformation by a magic of work, wealth and happiness. Such a metamorphosis is possible only if a million Mahatma Gandhis, a trillion revolutionary Jesus Christs and countless Vivekanandas and Obamas consecrate this planet. And now the biggest power on earth has produced in a decadent hemisphere and in a white country of white power an enigma in the shape of Mr. Obama.

 

Mr. Obama, you are no longer only an American but a world wonder with a new vision and promise of peace on earth. You are destined to convert great America into an inspiration for peace everywhere, even beyond the earth and the moon. A celestial power has whispered into the White House what Mahatma Gandhi would have deserved.

 

Mr. Obama, as an Indian at the age of 95 who is committed to cosmic peace, I plead with providence to give you the creative verve to be the divine engineer to save our morally declining planet controlled by the whites into a society free from race, colour, caste, communalism and corruption — so that all living creatures may feel a new biosphere where God is no myth but a live force that is materialist at the base and appareled in a moral structure. You be the prince and make the United States a land where God trod. You are great and often misunderstood, but you are a beam of light and harkened the dawn of an Advaita world. There may be critics, but truth is God and you will win at last.

 

Emerson wrote: "Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."

 

Your noble incarnation has a purpose — a passion for execution of the termination of terrorism, not by war or arms but by farewell to blood and iron.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

CHANGING THE WORLD USING CELLPHONES

AN MIT PROGRAMME SEEKS TO TAP THE EVER-GROWING POTENTIAL OF THE CELLPHONE FOR PROVIDING ESSENTIAL SERVICES IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES.

D.C. DENISON

 

It is an unlikely medical device: a sleek smartphone more suited to a nightclub than a rural health clinic. But it is loaded with software that allows health workers in the remote northernmost Philippines province of Batanes to dramatically reduce the time it takes to get X-rays to a radiologist — and to get a diagnosis for a patient being tested for tuberculosis.

 

The software, created by a non-profit organisation called Moca, is one of nearly two dozen cell phone-based projects that have sprung from NextLab, a course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is taught by Jhonatan Rotberg, who was sent to MIT by Telmex, one of Latin America's largest telecommunications companies, to bring cellular technology to the "90 per cent of people" who fall outside of the marketing plans of most phone companies.

 

Talking about his Telmex job, Mr. Rotberg made a peak with his hands. "We were dealing with the very top of the pyramid," he said as he sat in his office at MIT. "We spent most of our time trying to sell more phones and products to the middle class and the upper middle class."

 

So three years ago, funded by a grant from Mexican investor Carlos Slim's foundation, Telmex sent Rotberg to MIT to research methods for using cellphones to help "the resource-constrained countries, a.k.a, developing countries, a.k.a. low-income countries."

 

And when Mr. Rotberg settled into his research and teaching position at the Media Lab, he made a discovery: The same device that powers teenage texting in the United States can be adapted to help farmers in Mexico and illiterate women in India.

 

"Cellphones are inexpensive, personal, connected, and everywhere," he said. "They are also the perfect Trojan horse for social development, because you don't have to convince anyone to buy one."

 

In NextLab, Rotberg challenged students by asking, "Can you make a cellphone change the world?" And students have responded, creating nearly two dozen projects and three start-up ventures that have been working with communities in developing countries like India, Vietnam, and Mexico.

 

"It really kind of jumps out at you, the positive impact you can have with cell phone technology," said Zack Anderson, a recent MIT graduate who was on a team that started Moca.

 

"The next billion people who will be getting online will be using cellphones, not computers," Mr. Anderson said. "That gets you thinking about how you can leverage this."

 

Using Mr. Rotberg's course as a sounding board, the Moca team decided to focus on facilitating cellphone communication between health workers in rural areas and doctors, who tend to be in cities.

 

Last summer, Moca conducted a small pilot programme in Batanes, using cellphones to send X-rays to urban doctors for screening.

 

Leo Anthony Celi, a physician who recently completed a master's degree at MIT, has made three trips to the Philippines to field-test Moca.

 

"The Philippines actually adopted cell phone texting way ahead of the U.S., so there's already a platform in place that we can leverage," he said. "We started with X-rays, but there's no reason we can't also transmit ultrasound videos, echocardiograms, and other medical imagery."

 

Cell phones are well suited to what is known as telemedicine, networks that connect remote locations with sophisticated medical diagnosis and advice. But social entrepreneurs are also using cell phones to enable remote commerce and promote literacy.

 

Dinube, a NextLab spin-off that was tested in Mexico last summer, provides payment services to people who do not have access to traditional banks.

 

"One of the powerful things about cellphones in Mexico is that there is a 75 per cent penetration rate," said Jonathan Hayes, a cofounder of Dinube. "But only 25 per cent of the population has a bank account. So a cellphone-based system can fill a huge, important gap."

 

Two other NextLab projects show the mobile phone's range: CelEdu offers cellphone-based games and quizzes that have been used in India to teach basic literacy skills. Zaca — developed by students at MIT, Harvard, and Tufts — helps farmers make deals with buyers using their cellphones, bypassing expensive middlemen.

 

The cellphones also provide current crop prices and advice on growing practices.

 

MIT's Legatum Center, which supports a variety of entrepreneurial programmes to bring innovation to developing countries, has four cellphone-related projects in the works. That is not surprising, given that the centre's director, Iqbal Quadir, founded Grameenphone, a company that introduced low-cost cellphone service to Bangladesh in the 1990s. "For cellphones, it's really only the beginning," said Mr. Quadir, "because cellphones are becoming computers. Think about it: What are the limits of computers? Actually, there's no end to it."

 

To stay ahead of this rapidly evolving technology, Mr. Rotberg recently launched what he refers to as version 2.0 of NextLab. The spring semester course, hosted by the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, will be focused on creating a mobile phone-based platform for a broad range of projects.

 

"The magical part of this technology is that if we build something in one location, we can just tweak it and use it in another," Mr. Rotberg said.

 

"There's no question that the cellphone footprint will expand, and that phones will get cheaper, and that computing power will grow," he said. "The only question is, will we recognise that this is an opportunity for social good?" — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

 JUST HOW MUCH TV SHOULD CHILDREN WATCH?

AUSTRALIA IS PLANNING TO RESTRICT TV FOR TODDLERS BECAUSE OF ADVERSE EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN. HOW SCARED SHOULD WE BE?

PATRICK BARKHAM

 

"Get out of our living rooms. This country is in danger of becoming a politically controlled nation. That's all very well if you have three hours to wash the dishes, but some of us need to get things done. Gee, these toddlers are up to no good. What are they up to? Wait for it — they're watching television!"

 

The outrage that has greeted reports that the Australian government is to issue cautious guidelines advising parents and carers to prevent children under two from watching television seems remarkably acerbic. Across the world, however, the same debates flare up every time it is tentatively suggested that the electronic screens we began by placing in one room at home and now carry everywhere in our pockets may not be good for the development of children's brains.

 

Television is no longer merely the drug of the nation, it is the pacifier, babysitter, wallpaper and teacher for our children. Increasingly it intrudes on the very first months of their lives. In Australia, young children spend more time watching television than any other activity. The average four-month-old gazes at the box for 44 minutes every day. In the United States, under twos watch 1.2 hours a day on average. In Britain, older children have been calculated to spend five hours and 18 minutes watching TV, playing computer games or online each day, just over an hour less than the U.S. average.

 

Behind the fury about strictures suggesting television is bad for our children is guilt. Parents are uneasy about the effects television has on their children and are quick to get defensive about switching it on. "Whether it is the slack-jawed look their children have when they put them in front of the television or the tantrum when they turn it off, most parents have this unease about it but it's a battle they choose not to fight. They have enough battles getting them to eat the right food," says Dr. Michael Rich, director of the influential Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital.

 

We may now be highly tuned to what we feed our children's bodies but we are less careful about what we feed their minds. Academics researching the impact of television on the very young compare debates over its adverse effects with those over smoking a generation a half ago, or seat belts and cycle helmets more recently.

 

A draft of the Australian government's guidelines says that screen time for young children "may reduce the amount of time they have for active play, social contact with others and chances for language development", and may also "affect the development of a full range of eye movement [and] . . . reduce the length of time they can stay focused". Jo Salmon, associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University, was one of the researchers who informed the Australian government's draft guidelines. "Children aged six to 30 months who are watching television have less developed vocabulary, display more aggressive behaviour and have poor attention spans," she says. "Parents and childcare centres are not justified in encouraging children, under the age of two, to watch television." While there is no evidence that so-called educational programming is harmful, she would discourage under twos from watching it. "I really would not put my young one under two in front of a television. Generally, the evidence that's out there says it could be detrimental," she says.

 

We may sense TV is bad for young children but what evidence is there really? There is a booming market in educational computer games and DVDs, such as the Baby Einstein range, and if our modern multitasking lives are saturated in electronic screens, is not sitting children in front of them at least good training for the modern world?

Dr. Rich worked in the film industry before having a "midlife crisis" and retraining as a paediatrician. He is not evangelical about governments enforcing how television is used in homes but barred his own two young children from television and computer games before they were 30 months old. While there is good television that children can consciously learn from at a later age, he says scientific studies show young children are not able to consciously learn from television.

 

As Dr. Rich explains, humans have the most sophisticated brain on the planet because it is relatively unformed when we are born. Our brains triple in volume in the first 24 months. We build our brains ourselves, by responding to the environment around us. The biggest part of this is a process called pruning, says Dr. Rich, whereby we learn what is significant — our mother's voice, for instance — and what is not. "TV killing off neurons and the synaptic connections that are made in order to discriminate signals from 'noise'," he says.

 

Experts in child development have found that three things optimise brain development: face-to-face interaction with parents or carers; learning to interact with or manipulate the physical world; and creative problem-solving play. Electronic screens do not provide any of this. At the most basic level, then, time spent watching TV has a displacement effect and stops children spending time on other, more valuable brain-building activities.

 

Scientists concede that they do not yet know precisely how TV affects the cognitive development, not just in terms of understanding the inner workings of the brain but because the way we use television and other electronic screens is changing so rapidly that we do not know how it will affect people by the time their brains stop developing in their mid-20s. But the weight of evidence about the deleterious impact of TV on child's ability to learn is alarming — to say nothing of its impact on children's sexual activity.

 

The Australian government's advice is supported by the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that under-twos are not exposed to any television time. Dr. Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children's Research Institute found that for every extra hour watching DVDs, 8- to 16-month-olds learned six to eight fewer words than children who spent no time in front of the screen. Marie Evans Schmidt at the Centre for Media and Child Health found that even just having television on in the background while under threes play with their toys disrupted their attention span even when they appeared to pay little attention to it.

 

While there is a paucity of evidence that television is beneficial to early cognitive development, there are studies that show it is not as influential as the educational status and income of parents. Ms Schmidt found that an apparently negative relationship between TV viewing and cognitive development disappeared when she factored in the mother's educational status and household income — parents' education and finances mattered more. "TV viewing is an outgrowth of other characteristics of the home environment that lead to lower test scores," said Ms. Schmidt. Other research suggests these include less mother-and-baby interaction and less reading to children.

 

Unlike the Australians, the British government does not offer any guidance on how much television toddlers should be allowed to watch. It has introduced an "Early Years Foundation Stage" for 0-5s which implies that television should be part of children's learning. Carers, the guidance states, should help children become familiar with "everyday technology" and use it to support their learning. Only the French government has been brave enough to ban stations from showing programmes targeted at under-threes. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

(Additional reporting by Toni O'Loughlin.)

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE INDUSTRIAL INDEX PHENOMENA

 

The unexpected jump in the Index of Industrial Production figures for August 2009 to 10.4 per cent  from 1.7 per cent a year ago (in August 2008) seems spectacular on the face of it. Fourteen of the 17 industry groups registered robust growth. But a closer look at what is being labelled as a 22-month high will show that it is not as stellar a performance as the numbers project because this jump is on an extremely low base made at a time when the global economic crisis was nearing its peak. It is an issue of high base and low base and has to do with the numbers game. It is a numerical phenomena that proves that on a low base it is easy to show high growth and, conversely, on a high base it is easy to show low growth. This means that the September IIP figures could be lower as the base in September 2008 was six per cent. The capital goods sector, for instance, has done very well at 21 per cent in September 2008. Capital goods contributes nine per cent to the IIP. The point is whether for September 2009 it will be able to maintain this growth. The answer to this will show the real trend of growth in most of the sectors that have shown stellar performance in August. A more rational way to look at industrial production would be to take the actual growth between April and August this fiscal, which was 5.8 per cent, against 4.8 per cent in the same period the previous year. The manufacturing sector, which is the centrepin of the economy, is expected to grow by eight per cent, according to the Prime Minister's economic panel. Manufacturing contributes 80 per cent to the IIP. A heartening factor in August's IIP figures is the broad-based growth in the textile sector, which includes cotton textiles, textile products and manmade fibres which had suffered the most in the economic downturn. Along with the leather and diamond industries, this sector had seen lakhs of workers thrown out of employment because of low demand for exports from India.

 

The upturn in industrial production figures, especially in areas like consumer durables and non-durables, auto, cement and steel etc., augurs well for the economy if it can be sustained. What is interesting is that the offtake in credit has not kept pace with industrial production, which depends to a large extent on bank funding. This indicates that business is once again resorting to foreign funding, particularly from qualified institutional buyers or qualified institutional placements and private equity. Last year, when there was a global credit squeeze, foreign sources of funding had literally dried up and domestic banks had to bear the full brunt of the demand for credit from business and industry. There was an outcry that banks were not giving credit and industry was being squeezed. The banks maintained that there was a credit offtake, though on a smaller scale, and that industry was feeling the pinch as it expected banks to substitute fully for the foreign funding sources that had dried up. The credit offtake figures juxtaposed with the IIP numbers now indicate that the situation has reversed. This is an interesting situation in the light of the credit policy to be announced on October 27. Does this new situation mean that banks will be flush with even more funds? The government's borrowing programme is also nearing an end. This would mean more funds with the banks. If so, will the RBI have to impound some of this through an increase in the cash reserve ratio?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

 

The government is and must be free to utilise all resources, including defence forces, to suppress anti-national elements. However, the type and quantum of force required must be selected judiciously. At this point in time, it would be imprudent of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to get sucked into anti-Naxal operations.

 

The first consideration would be to assess the probability of success of air power in this type of situation. Air power is best deployed in the offensive mode, when you can strike the adversary at your time and place of choosing. But then, the targets have to be well-defined and easily discernible from the air. In the case of Naxalites, there are no target systems available — no training camps, no ammunition dumps, concrete structures etc. The targets are mostly humans who concentrate and scoot within the camouflaged jungle areas.

 

Collateral damage would alienate the ordinary citizen. Examples of Iraq and Afghanistan are before us. This could add to the swelling of Naxal sympathisers, more so among the poorer sections, and rural masses.

 

Offensive operations would require hard intelligence regularly and accurately. This may not be available to the extent required. Deployment of helicopters in the offensive mode is a possibility. But the inherent risks are large. Helicopters are vulnerable to small arms fire as also short-range shoulder-fired missiles. They also have limitations in terms of range and endurance. Induction of IAF will lead to sophisticated weapons (surface-to-air missiles etc.) being inserted into the area and raising the conflict tempo.

 

If the gains in the offensive operation role are limited, it is in the support role that air power would make a difference. Some of these are reconnaissance and surveillance, casualty evacuation, ferrying of troops, logistical support etc. Firing for self-protection is necessary and must be cleared by the government before induction.

 

The genesis of the Naxal movement lies in socio-economic issues. It would, therefore, need a political solution in the ultimate analysis. Use of air power signifies the highest instrument of military engagement. It is escalatory. Will it help in conflict resolution, or delay it? Using excessive force against one's own people, although misguided, would have its political fallout.

 

In our country, we have approximately 15 lakh personnel as paramilitary forces. Perhaps the right numbers could be comprehensively trained, motivated and suitably equipped to take on tasks such as anti-Naxal operations. Second, we need to have an organisation on the lines of the Air National Guards. Sufficient helicopters, UAVs, and other such resources could be made available and specifically trained for such special tasks.

 

Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia, former IAF Western command chief

 

AIR FORCE CAN LEND FOCUSED SUPPORT

The wording of the motion for debate already conveys a prejudice against the Air Force entering anti-Naxalite operations through the use of the expression "sucked into". It is as if an operation going out of control has already been visualised. Such pessimism is uncalled for.

 

First, it is the government's prerogative to use the military in any manner towards a purpose which obviously would be decided after due consideration. There is a difference between military employed against an enemy and that of serving a purpose in support of civilian needs. The Indian mindset often suspects Air Force operations to be escalatory, and worries about high casualty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Such apprehension stems from ignorance. This negative attitude has already cost the country.

 

Anti-Naxalite operation is not chasing and getting an enemy, but a focused police operation. It is about providing support measures — rounding up the misguided and the criminals, who are citizens of this country. It could also be an effort to correct those misguided through counter-propaganda and carefully calibrated coercion. It is about paving the way for development of neglected regions and protecting the innocent. It is not a battle to win.

 

The expectation from the Air Force in this contingency is not "fire power" but to provide support in the areas of logistics, transportation, communication, surveillance and medical support. Apparently, the Maoists are well organised and supported. The Air Force could possibly help in hunting the logistics support trail and help in destroying these. Helicopters equipped with loudspeakers, and transport aircraft, could help propaganda and help distribute pamphlets and leaflets over a wide area. Air Force could provide, where necessary, food and medical relief to affected people and strengthen confidence in the government. It is possible to provide support round the clock and with speed. Helicopters are ideal to move troops and material in a difficult terrain such as jungle. The Air Force has considerable expertise in this field.

 

Helicopters as well as troops on ground may at times need "protective-fire support" — typically in counter-ambush operations. It is possible to provide accurate fire from on-board helicopters either as a suppressive measure or for attack. Considering risks that this may pose to the innocents in the area, such missions would be carefully planned and executed.

 

Indian Air Force is a professional air-arm. It is necessary for those at the helm to understand the capabilities, and not hesitate to assess in a timely manner. It is time that we trust our Air Force. Other developed countries would not hesitate to use Air Force assets in a similar contingency. Nor would such a debate be necessary.

 

Air Chief Marashal

S. Krishnaswamy, former IAF Chief

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

MOTHER TERESA IS VERY MUCH OURS

ANTARA DEV SEN

 

In this wonderful season of love, fellowship and giving - with Diwali coming up and the warmth of Eid, Durga Puja and Navaratri fresh in our hearts - we suddenly find ourselves fuming and unable to give. No question, we snap, this is ours, you can't claim it, buzz off. We said it twice this week, to China and to Albania. With good reason.

 

The claims were not comparable. Albania, in an adventurous act worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, lay claim to Mother Teresa's relics. She's Albanian and we want her to be buried here, they demanded, so ship her remains back to us forthwith. Once we had got over the shock of this outrageous demand, we shut our gaping mouths with effort, and refused.

 

We were prompter with China, which had meanwhile expressed disapproval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, we said curtly once again. Like Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh has been disputed territory for long. China claims parts of this northeastern state of India, like Tawang. It has even refused visas to people from Arunachal (But they are Chinese! Why do they need visas to visit China?). On the northwestern border, China has started giving separate visas to people of Indian Kashmir, refusing to stamp on Indian passports. The China-India border dispute goes back centuries - the curious 1962 war only blurred the issue further - and our attempts to wish it away have failed.

 

So the two claims are not comparable. Except in the outrage they triggered among us. Arre bhai, our Prime Minister is visiting our own state, how dare the Chinese object? Next they will tell us how to run the country! The anger is genuine, but so is the lack of clear understanding of the issue. The inscrutable Indo-China border dispute has taken on a filmi patriotism. Meanwhile, the Centre's attempts at letting sleeping dogs lie doesn't work amidst threatening growls, especially when flanked by aggressive Right-wing barking about territorial integrity and mealy-mouthed mumblings from the Left. There is urgent need for more public information on the matter if we really want to resolve it.

 

On the other hand, Albania's claim on Mother Teresa is easily resolved. She was an Indian citizen and lived here for almost 70 years, from 1929 till her death in 1997. She was certainly Albanian by ethnicity, since her parents were Albanian. But Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became Mother Teresa in India, the country she came to as a teenaged nun and made her home. This was her country, where she had found her calling, the country that embraced her as Mother. She had become an Indian citizen back in 1948, right after Independence, much before she started The Missionaries of Charity. Besides, even deliberating Albania's claim would open a Pandora's box. For example, Italy could one day lay claim to one of our most distinguished citizens.

 

Most importantly, Mother Teresa regarded Kolkata her home. I was privileged to know her a little (in spite of her legendary kindness and simplicity, the bird-like lady was a hard nut to crack) and to her, home was Kolkata. And she said "aamaader desh" (our country) quite frequently, emphasising in Bengali the needs of poverty-stricken India. Of course, Mother Teresa finally belongs to the whole world. She is too big a personality to be restricted to any nation, too magnificent a human being to be squabbled over. But if there is a claim, it can be made only by her family, the Missionaries of Charity; and if there is a final resting place it is where she is right now, at Mother House, her home in life and death. As our government said, "Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country".

 

Albania has some cheek, asking for her remains now that she is on her way to becoming a saint. She was born in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of Macedonia. Sure, her parents were Albanian, but she was never treated as an Albanian citizen by the country that is now keen to claim her. In fact, she was not even allowed to visit her mother and sister, who lived in Albania. Later, when she had become a "living saint", Albania let her visit their graves.

 

Albania's claims on Mother Teresa began after the Nobel laureate's death. After the collapse of their communist regime, Albania has been hungry for national icons and Mother Teresa was an obvious target. They named their international airport after her in 2001 and from the time of her beatification in 2003, fought loudly with Macedonia, rubbishing her birthplace Skopje's claim on her. They declared the day of her beatification, October 19, as a national holiday and announced 2004 as Mother Teresa Year. But even as recently as 2006, the proposal to erect her statue in Shkoder, Albania, was nixed by the local council, apparently because it would hurt Muslim sentiments. Not in a public place, they said, if there is to be a statue, it must be in a Catholic space. So even now Mother Teresa is just a Catholic nun in Albania, not a national icon.

 

The fact is, you don't need to possess human remains to lay claim to a saintly figure. You just need to carry on their work. Albania could have gone that way. Especially because Mother Teresa never denied her Albanian ethnicity. As she said, famously: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus…"

 

And we too will do well to remember that. We can't claim her merely by citing citizenship, or by having her remains on Indian soil. We can't push her into a slot as a Catholic, because she believed that each one of us could serve our own God. And every time there is violence against Muslims or dalits or the underprivileged in the name of religion, we would do well to remember her words: "How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?" To keep Mother Teresa with us, we need more than a grave. We need to make space for her in our conscience.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

MOTHER TERESA IS VERY MUCH OURS

ANTARA DEV SEN

 

In this wonderful season of love, fellowship and giving - with Diwali coming up and the warmth of Eid, Durga Puja and Navaratri fresh in our hearts - we suddenly find ourselves fuming and unable to give. No question, we snap, this is ours, you can't claim it, buzz off. We said it twice this week, to China and to Albania. With good reason.

 

The claims were not comparable. Albania, in an adventurous act worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, lay claim to Mother Teresa's relics. She's Albanian and we want her to be buried here, they demanded, so ship her remains back to us forthwith. Once we had got over the shock of this outrageous demand, we shut our gaping mouths with effort, and refused.

 

We were prompter with China, which had meanwhile expressed disapproval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, we said curtly once again. Like Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh has been disputed territory for long. China claims parts of this northeastern state of India, like Tawang. It has even refused visas to people from Arunachal (But they are Chinese! Why do they need visas to visit China?). On the northwestern border, China has started giving separate visas to people of Indian Kashmir, refusing to stamp on Indian passports. The China-India border dispute goes back centuries - the curious 1962 war only blurred the issue further - and our attempts to wish it away have failed.

 

So the two claims are not comparable. Except in the outrage they triggered among us. Arre bhai, our Prime Minister is visiting our own state, how dare the Chinese object? Next they will tell us how to run the country! The anger is genuine, but so is the lack of clear understanding of the issue. The inscrutable Indo-China border dispute has taken on a filmi patriotism. Meanwhile, the Centre's attempts at letting sleeping dogs lie doesn't work amidst threatening growls, especially when flanked by aggressive Right-wing barking about territorial integrity and mealy-mouthed mumblings from the Left. There is urgent need for more public information on the matter if we really want to resolve it.

 

On the other hand, Albania's claim on Mother Teresa is easily resolved. She was an Indian citizen and lived here for almost 70 years, from 1929 till her death in 1997. She was certainly Albanian by ethnicity, since her parents were Albanian. But Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became Mother Teresa in India, the country she came to as a teenaged nun and made her home. This was her country, where she had found her calling, the country that embraced her as Mother. She had become an Indian citizen back in 1948, right after Independence, much before she started The Missionaries of Charity. Besides, even deliberating Albania's claim would open a Pandora's box. For example, Italy could one day lay claim to one of our most distinguished citizens.

 

Most importantly, Mother Teresa regarded Kolkata her home. I was privileged to know her a little (in spite of her legendary kindness and simplicity, the bird-like lady was a hard nut to crack) and to her, home was Kolkata. And she said "aamaader desh" (our country) quite frequently, emphasising in Bengali the needs of poverty-stricken India. Of course, Mother Teresa finally belongs to the whole world. She is too big a personality to be restricted to any nation, too magnificent a human being to be squabbled over. But if there is a claim, it can be made only by her family, the Missionaries of Charity; and if there is a final resting place it is where she is right now, at Mother House, her home in life and death. As our government said, "Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country".

 

Albania has some cheek, asking for her remains now that she is on her way to becoming a saint. She was born in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of Macedonia. Sure, her parents were Albanian, but she was never treated as an Albanian citizen by the country that is now keen to claim her. In fact, she was not even allowed to visit her mother and sister, who lived in Albania. Later, when she had become a "living saint", Albania let her visit their graves.

 

Albania's claims on Mother Teresa began after the Nobel laureate's death. After the collapse of their communist regime, Albania has been hungry for national icons and Mother Teresa was an obvious target. They named their international airport after her in 2001 and from the time of her beatification in 2003, fought loudly with Macedonia, rubbishing her birthplace Skopje's claim on her. They declared the day of her beatification, October 19, as a national holiday and announced 2004 as Mother Teresa Year. But even as recently as 2006, the proposal to erect her statue in Shkoder, Albania, was nixed by the local council, apparently because it would hurt Muslim sentiments. Not in a public place, they said, if there is to be a statue, it must be in a Catholic space. So even now Mother Teresa is just a Catholic nun in Albania, not a national icon.

 

The fact is, you don't need to possess human remains to lay claim to a saintly figure. You just need to carry on their work. Albania could have gone that way. Especially because Mother Teresa never denied her Albanian ethnicity. As she said, famously: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus…"

 

And we too will do well to remember that. We can't claim her merely by citing citizenship, or by having her remains on Indian soil. We can't push her into a slot as a Catholic, because she believed that each one of us could serve our own God. And every time there is violence against Muslims or dalits or the underprivileged in the name of religion, we would do well to remember her words: "How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?" To keep Mother Teresa with us, we need more than a grave. We need to make space for her in our conscience.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

A HISTORIC ACCORD TO OPEN SEALED BORDERS

S. NIHAL SINGH

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accomplished a unique feat, with help from his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian and Europe and the United States, in engineering an agreement with his neighbour burying the nearly century-old feud on whether the killing of Armenians towards the end of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. Historical memories run deep, and the commemoration of a tragic event had become a matter of faith and nationalism for Armenians and their powerful diaspora of 1,5 million in the United States. Turkish analysts are hailing the accord, signed in Switzerland, as an event of the century, but it is the most significant development since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

 

In 1993 Armenian troops went to the aid of ethnic Armenians in the Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno Karabach. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in solidarity with Azerbaijan and set two conditions: withdraw the worldwide campaign on declaring the tragedy of 1915 as genocide and withdraw troops around the enclave. Armenia has therefore had to live with closed borders on two sides, using Georgia as a transit route. It also became over-dependent on Russian goodwill to survive.

 

Enter Mr Erdogan and his assertive good-neighbourly policy, recognising that the ambitious wider role he envisages for his country required a friendly neighbourhood. He encouraged a new push to resolve the fractious division of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish Cypriots, made overtures to the restive Kurds in the eastern region of Turkey and set about meeting criteria for membership of the European Union. In fact, making peace with Armenia was also an EU condition for membership.

 

There were last-minute hitches before the signing of the agreement, with a posse of high-level personages, including US secretary of state and the Russian and French foreign minister and the EU envoy Javier Solana, choreographing the event. Apparently, the US objected to a Turkish post-signing statement, the solution being that neither side would make such a statement. In essence, the agreement envisages the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the opening of the shared border in two months. The genocide issue has been set aside by the appointment of a joint commission of historians while the Nagarno Karabakh issue will continue to be mediated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

 

Armenia's President Sarkisian, on his part, has shown courage in accepting the deal although he was under intense Western pressure, particularly after his crackdown on opposition supporters protesting against the allegedly rigged presidential election in 2008. His laconic comment on the agreement was: "There is no alternative to the establishment of relations with Turkey without any precondition, It is the dictate of the time". In fact, opposition to the treaty led to protests from the diaspora from Beirut to Los Angeles and at home. One party withdrew from the ruling coalition.

 

Mr Erdogan, who blotted his copybook recently by slapping a $2.5 billion fine on a media mogul's empire being critical of his Government for alleged unpaid taxes, has shown yet again that he is an astute politician who has his eye on the larger picture. Turks have traditionally viewed themselves as a regional superpower, but the Prime Minister's contribution has been to translate this vision into a coherent and consistent policy of wooing neighbours the earlier ostentatiously secular military-dominated regimes fought shy of. The Islamic orientation of the ruling Justice and Development Party has, of course, helped, but Mr Erdogan was quick to grasp the central fact that relying on the United States and Nato was good but had its limits. Although Turkey's prospect of membership of the EU seems bleak in the short term, the Prime Minister has used the membership issue to loosen the grip of the powerful military establishment by employing EU guidelines.

 

In view of ethnic Turkish links to at least some of the Central European countries, Ankara has always viewed the region, particularly after the break-up of the Soviet Union, as a natural area of influence. Normalisation of relations with Armenia would give it a new opening to the region. If Russia considers its "near abroad" as an area of privileged interest, Turkey feels that the ethic and linguistic linkages do provide the platform for maintaining special relations. For Armenia, the opening of the border with Turkey will come as a godsend in term of economic and trade relations and access to the considerable Turkish market and level of development.

 

President Sarkisian discovered for himself during his recent tour of countries with a large Armenian diaspora that descendants of the victims of those killed towards the end of the Ottoman Empire have neither forgiven Turks nor forgotten the tragedy. A website has already opened (KEGAHART.com) seeking support under the rubric: "We condemn the Turkish-Armenian Agreement".

 

And one Armenian has reacted to the signing of the accord with the comment: "The point is that the issue of the genocide is a natural demand, which should not be made an axis of state policy".

 

The agreement needs parliamentary approval in the two countries although both are expected to complete it on time. But the actual opening of the border will be the biggest symbol of change, if it does not get entangled in violent nationalist protests in Armenia. Obviously, Armenia has had to make greater concessions even though they relate to addressing issues of psychology that have blended into the Armenian psyche. It is danger time for President Sarkisian till the border opening. Once trade starts and people visit each other, the benefits will dull the pain of historical memories.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

LAYING CLAIMS

 

Indians are known to take credit for or at least joy in any achievement by any person with even the remotest Indian connection, from Sunita Williams who went up in space to a third generation American kid who wins the spelling bee.


Many explanations are given for this need to claim kinship with such achievers and in the final analysis, one could say the basis lies in the Indian saying: Vaisudeva kutumban, or the world is one family. The uncharitable would say it is the deep need to bask in reflected glory.


But our new Nobel Laureate of Indian origin, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, is not amused. It is not that he is being ungrateful; it is just that he feels the claims are excessive and unwarranted.


To say nothing of being bothersome — his email inbox is getting clogged with messages from strangers, mostly from India, wanting to establish some kind of connection with him. The net result is that his work-related emails have got buried in the avalanche. And Ramakrishnan is a serious gentleman, involved in minute and time-consuming scientific work.


He is also a bit of a rarity in today's world — a true boffin of the old sense it seems who is unwilling to be seduced by all the media hoopla around him. Immediately after being awarded the Nobel, he pointed out to reporters they would never have heard of him had he not been given this honour. The implication is clear: his research into ribosomes was significant even before this honour was conferred  upon him.


Ramakrishnan is particularly angry with the good citizens of Chidambaram claiming ownership since he left that town when he was three and with people at Annamalai university who say they have taught him. For the record, he studied at MS University in what was then Baroda.


Yet, is it also possible that while Ramakrishnan is right, he is being a tad churlish? It is true that random people, hangers-on, lion-hunters and name-droppers are trying to jump on to his bandwagon. But it is also true that many people will be genuinely happy for him and proud as well.


His outburst however serves as reminder to all of us who fall into the worst kind of jingoism trap when we try to give India's great and ancient civilisation credit for anything of note done by any person with an Indian connection. People like Ramakrishnan hold up a mirror to our insecurities.

 

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DNA

CHINESE CHECKERS

 

The contretemps over the Chinese protest on the prime minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh seems to be escalating. China rarely lets go of an opportunity to stake its provocative position on the state and India has to respond in strong language.


The latest round of Chinese statement and Indian counter-statement comes in the wake of Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh on October 3 as part of the state assembly poll campaign. The interesting fact is that the Chinese woke up to Singh's visit long after it was over and protested on Tuesday when large numbers of locals turned up for the polling. Maybe Arunachalis were sending out a message to China that they were definitely part of India.


The Chinese are indeed playing to their home crowd and India cannot but respond. External affairs minister SM Krishna and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee have once made clear the official position that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. India has also protested against China setting up businesses in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) and has made it clear that it will not issue any business visas to Chinese visitors.


This verbal skirmish should be also seen in the context of recent events concerning the two countries. Chinese troops have entered India and while these have been played down by the Indian government as "normal" and no more than what happened last year, there are fears that these could get out of hand. Subsequently came China's decision to give a visa to Kashmiris on a separate piece of paper rather than on an Indian passport, a definite provocation. The list of irritants is just growing.


The border talks between national security advisor MK Narayanan and China's Dai Bingguo have gone through 13 rounds. Border talks do not get resolved in a jiffy and both sides have taken care to ensure that the other parts of the relationship — trade, investment, tourism — continue as normal.


It is unrealistic to expect China to alter its stance over Arunachal Pradesh but that is not likely to change the position on the ground nor influence India in any way. The success of the elections in Arunachal is a vindication of India's stand. The PM visited Arunachal Pradesh as part of the democratic process — the Chinese must understand that.


Needlessly making provocative statements will not augur well for bilateral relations.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

THE ROT IN REALTY

R JAGANNATHAN

 

One of the biggest dreams we all share is the desire to own a home. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible for today's middle classes to even dream of owning anything that looks like a worthwhile home in any reasonable locality in any urban centre. In most metros, whether it is Mumbai or Bangalore or Delhi, a decent two-bedroom house even in a distant suburb can cost anywhere between Rs30 lakh and Rs70 lakh. This means only those in the salary range of Rs40,000-1,00,000 a month can hope to own one — assuming they can raise a 20-year loan. In the last 10 years, the market for housing — meaning the number of people who can afford a home in cities — has fallen from a few million to lakhs.


The reason is lack of affordable land, as HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh reminded prime minister Manmohan Singh the other day in Mumbai. His remedy is to speed up the availability of land freed from urban land ceiling laws. Most of this land is still stuck in legal disputes. It is difficult to see how the PM can do much about litigation.

Making more land available could conceivably ease prices in the short run, but it is not going to be a solution in Mumbai, or, for that matter, any other city. If this were so, higher FSI (floor space index) should also have done the trick. An increase in FSI from one to two should theoretically increase availability of land by a factor of two, but have we seen prices fall anywhere?


India's urban population is already 350 million and more, and is growing frenetically. Relative to population, urban land is always going to be in short supply and this is not going to change even if all the land freed from urban ceiling comes to the market.


So what is the solution? Before we look at that, we need to see the problem for what it is: while pressure of population relative to land supply is certainly the crux of the issue, there is also an institutional reason for it. Land has become the key currency of politics.


Wherever you look, if there is a land problem, there's politics behind it (Singur, Nandigram, the SEZs). Conversely, wherever you see politicians, you will find land being held hostage. Every politician worth his salt (and now, even some high court judges, it seems) is hoarding land.


Think of any major infrastructure project and you will find politicians buying up land in advance. Names like Sharad Pawar, Deve Gowda and the late YSR have invariably been linked to land and land deals in the media.


On the face of it, this is surprising. Unlike cash or gold or even shares, land gives you no anonymity. It's physical, and it can't be hidden. You have to defend it from encroachment, and you have to guard it from predators. So theoretically, politicians should hold less of their wealth in land, and more in anonymous assets.


But look closer, and this is the real picture. A close nexus has developed between politicians, criminals, bureaucrats, builders and businessmen whereby land is kept in benami names and held for mutual benefit.


Criminals are used to grab and guard the land, businessmen and builders develop it and add value, and politicians and bureaucrats help bend laws to skim the cream. The ordinary home buyer is, in the end, forced to pay a prince's ransom for his 800-sq-ft or less of private space.

This is the main reason why urban land ceiling laws never worked. The land cabal worked to keep land out of the hands of the law. Ironically, the original purpose of these laws was precisely to ensure the availability of cheap land for the poor.


Now we have done the opposite: abolished the ceiling laws to make land available cheap. But land is never going to be cheap as long as this unholy nexus between businessmen, politicians, goons and builders is broken decisively.

Is there a way out? Like anything involving politicians, there is no easy answer. But clearly we need to enact a national law — and similar ones at the state level — focused on achieving four ends.


First, one needs to find out actual ownership by recording the titles of whoever is currently shown as owner. This will force benami owners to come out of the woodwork. Second, owners will have to disclose the source of funding for land bought in their names. If they can't show it, the land should be confiscated for public housing projects.

Third, there could be a general amnesty scheme for all benami owners — their ownership can be regularised if, say, they surrender half their holdings — after a punitive tax is paid.


This will, at least, bring some of the available land out in the open. Fourth, stamp duties should be abolished or rationalised like they have been for shares. This will revitalise the market for property and bring down rates. Affordable housing for millions is years away. But we need to make a beginning somewhere.

 

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DNA

SIGNIFICANT PHILOSOPHY

 

Anekanta is a philosophy, a principle though which all the universal and transitory rules of the world can be explained. Some rules are universal. Some are changing. Some are fixed. Both kinds of rules go hand in hand because there is nothing on earth which has monopoly.  Everything has its limits.


Time has its importance but it does not have monopoly. Effort is also of great importance but it is not the deciding factor either. Destiny and karma play an important role. Nobody has monopoly. All of them are complete within themselves and incomplete outside them. The knowledge of limits lends balance.


This world is one of conflicting benefits, of conflicting interests and conflicting ideas. If there were not a balance everything would go topsy-turvy. The body works because there is balance in it. Two contradictory streams of energy are flowing within it. Pran or breath is contradictory to apan and vice versa. Man lives because of the balance between the two.


There are many glands in the body. They have different functions to perform and yet there is a mutual understanding and balance between them. As long as there is balance, the body is fine and once this balance is lost, trouble begins.


Balance is the bridge between two opposing claims.  It prevents a clash between opposites. Anekanta has clearly explained balance. In this world there are two principles; sentience and insentience.  Insentience or the gross objects are fixed.  Sentience is not fixed. 


Science explored the rules operating in nature and explained them. But till today science has not been able to explain sentience or consciousness.  That is because it is not fixed. Today a discovery is made tomorrow it changes and accordingly so do the rules. To explore the rules of the conscious is very difficult.

Acharya Mahaprajna as told to Lalit Garg

 

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DNA

TOUCH OF A GENIUS

 

The style alone is not enough, there has to be a personal touch. And that touch, literally, that made all the difference was a fingerprint. A chalk, pen and ink drawing of a girl on animal skin, which was bought in 1998 for a mere $19,000, and was considered to be a work "inspired" by the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci is now believed to be made by the master himself. Art experts found a left-handed fingerprint on the drawing that matched with da Vinci's . The price escalated after that to $147 million. The buyer is overjoyed; the seller's reaction is not known. But the world is richer for this discovery of a work by the man who painted the Mona Lisa.

 

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DNA

WHY THE NOBEL IRKED BUSH AND CLINTON

MAUREEN DOWD

 

When he heard the Nobel Peace Prize shocker on Friday, Bill Clinton went into one of his purple rages. He picked up the phone and dialled the one person on earth who would be as steamed as he was.
Clinton: Hey, man, it's me. This thing is plumb crazy. Can you believe it?


W: No way, Jose!


Clinton: First that prig Carter. Then that prig Gore. And now President Paris Hilton. The guy's in office three days and he gets the peace prize? He should have gotten the Nobel in chemistry, because chemistry's all he's got. Talk about a fairy tale. This ... is ... just ... wrong! It's killing me, man. I feel like my head's explodin'. First I had the vast right-wing conspiracy, and now I have the vast left-wing conspiracy.
W.: I hear ya, 42. As if his head wasn't big enough. This cat is all cage, no bird. He doesn't have a clue.


Clinton: Heck no.

W.: See, I'm the one who should be mad. It's just another way for the pinkos of the world to drop a cow patty on my legacy. All that garbage in the prize statement about how special La Bamba is for bringing back wimpy multilateral diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, the kind my dad and Scowcroft loved. Those Nobel ninnies are so lulu they make the UN look like a Fox jamboree. The rookie already got rewarded once for not being me when he got elected. Gosh, what would he do without me?


Clinton: Fine, but you never expected to win this prize. You were the quote-unquote war president and proud of it. I had to put up with a gazillion hours of Arafat's insanity, but I guess that still wasn't enough for those Oslo ice queens. I guess ending ethnic cleansing in Bosnia wasn't enough, or bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
W.: Calm down, bro. You gotta take care of that ticker.


Clinton: It was a case of premature adulation.


W.: Heh-heh-heh. Yeah, very pre-emptive, sort of like Cheney's pre-emptive war policy.


Clinton: If they weren't going to give it to me, they should at least have given it to the Chinese human rights movement or the Iranian protesters or AIDS workers in the Congo. Or even Bono.


W.: Yeah, man. Bono.


Clinton: Once again, action loses out to talk, just like with Hillary and Obama in the campaign. Nobel Prize for blah-blah-blah. Heck, I used to be considered a good talker myself.


W.: Everybody's laughing at La Bamba. He gets a Nobel for nada. Being loved by Europeans isn't gonna do him any good here in the US of A.


Clinton: The only peace Obama has made is bringing together the Taliban, Rush Limbaugh, the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree the guy is undeserving. It confirms everyone's suspicion that all this dude knows how to do is dazzle.


W.: He doesn't want to be a Decider. He wants to be a Transformer. He transformed, all right — from Miss America to Miss Universe. He's going to have to look over and see that big medallion hanging up there in the Oval, mocking him as an empty suit, a pretty boy beloved by the Blame-America-First crowd, whenever he has to send more troops to Afghanistan, or the Taliban act up, or Iran fires up for nukes.


Clinton: Maybe you're right, George. Some winners think the Nobel's the kiss of death. Any peace prize that goes to Henry Kissinger but not Gandhi ain't worth a can of Alpo. Heck, if Gandhi had known he was going to lose out to Henry the K, he could have had more time to eat french fries and chase girls.


W.: And finish getting dressed. Heh-heh-heh.


Clinton: Barack's going to give that $1.4 million away to charity. I got a charity. How 'bout he just signs it over to me? Speaking of money, we need to do another of those joint lecture things.


W.: I'm fairly footloose. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Go choke on a herring, Norwegia! —NYT

 

 

MILITANT DEALS?

A report in Dawn has suggested that the state has intensified 'back-channel efforts' to win the support of militants in north Waziristan against the Baitullah Mehsud network, now led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, in south Waziristan. The report is in keeping with the three-pronged strategy of the state in south Waziristan, that is, the use of blockades and aerial and artillery firepower against the Mehsud strongholds, encouraging rival factions within the Mehsud tribe to take up arms against the Baitullah Mehsud network, and attempting to win over powerful warlords such as Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir (south Waziristan). Thus far the state has had moderate success with its strategy. But a word of caution: Gul Bahadur and Nazir, who formed the United Mujahideen Council with Baitullah Mehsud, are unpredictable characters who have periodically attacked the security forces.


Nevertheless, in an area as fraught with danger as Waziristan, the state will have to hold its nose and strike 'deals' with some local elements. However, here too problems are apparent. For one, the use of tribal elders and jirgas as mediators is not necessarily viable any more. Second, militant leaders such as Gul Bahadur are believed to be involved in and supporting the insurgency in Afghanistan. Anything done by the state here that further entrenches Gul Bahadur in north Waziristan is sure to unsettle the US and Afghan governments and may worsen the already tense relationship between the three countries. Third, the state must ensure that it is not replacing one menace with another — just like Baitullah arose to torment the state after a rival Mehsud group fell out of favour, so may other groups create problems for Pakistan in the not-too-distant future. —Dawn (Pakistan)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DIALOGUE, BEST WAY OUT

INVOLVE ALL SECTIONS IN KASHMIR TALKS

 

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's categorical statement that the government will hold talks with every section of public opinion in Jammu and Kashmir through "quiet dialogue, quiet diplomacy" is a good augury because the solution to the intractable problem can be found only by involving each and every one who is willing to eschew violence and come to the negotiating table. If the process can be set in motion when the Prime Minister visits the Valley for the inauguration of the Anantnag-Qazigund leg of the Kashmir rail on October 18, it can overcome many challenges. Time is just right for such an initiative. Militant violence is somewhat at a low. The assembly elections in the state last year saw a record turnout. And the conditions within Pakistan are also causing a lot of disillusionment among the Kashmiris who have begun to question the motives of those sending infiltrators from across the Line of Control.

 

Such an initiative should not fall shy of addressing the genuine demands of the people considering that even a Prime Minister had said in the 1990s that when it comes to the question of autonomy, sky was the limit. Now is the time to put that precept into practice and discuss the limits and quantum of autonomy that can be given within the framework of the Indian Union. That should take care of the internal dimension of the problem. And with this flank covered, it will be much easier to tackle the Pakistani mischief.

 

Fortunately, positive signs have been emanating. While the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has called for a simultaneous dialogue with Pakistan and the political fraternity in the State, Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has also said that "we are ready for concrete and purposeful talks". However, Dr Manmohan Singh may like to take on board people from all walks of life. As a sign of its sincerity, the Centre should simultaneously expedite the functioning of the working group on strengthening Centre-State relations. This group headed by Justice S. Shagir Ahmed (retd) with a sensitive agenda of autonomy, self-rule, Article 370, etc. was arguably the most important, but has not been even meeting, let alone submitting its report. It should not be difficult for the former Supreme Court Judge to begin working on his report which could help search the solution of a problem which is not intractable. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CHINA'S POSTURE

INDIA CAN'T ACCEPT ITS STAND ON ARUNACHAL

 

THE expression of "strong dissatisfaction" by the Chinese government on the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month is an outrageous attempt to score more than brownie points. Though in a sense it is only an extension of the hawkish posture that the Chinese have been adopting in recent times on Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as its own, it shows that they are upping the ante on this. That India has vehemently opposed the Chinese statement is as it should be. Dr Singh's visit to Arunachal to elicit support for his party's candidates in the assembly election was perfectly in order. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna's prompt re-assertion that Arunachal is an inalienable part of India and that the Chinese statement does not help the process of ongoing negotiations on the boundary question is an appropriate and clear response to the games the Chinese are playing. That the turnout in the elections was an impressive 72 per cent only goes to show that the people of this region are emotionally integrated with this country and are partners of India's democratic system, like other citizens of the country.

 

Until some time ago, China's interest in Arunachal was limited to Tawang, given the spiritual links between Tibetans and the people of this area. But it now encompasses the whole state. Evidently, the Chinese are eyeing Arunachal's huge mineral deposits, its hydro-electric power potential, its scope as a tourist attraction and its use as an "eastern gateway" from the Brahmaputra valley to China's Yunnan province. In addition, Arunachal also offers strategic advantages in terms of providing a base to gain contiguity with Bhutan along its eastern flank as well as permitting access to the entire Southeast Asian market.

 

India, therefore, needs to maintain utmost vigil against Chinese attempts to label this territory as its own. Though the chances of India and China going to war on the issue are remote, the Chinese are apparently calculating to use this as a bargaining plank in border negotiations to extract major concessions from India in the western sector. That heightens the need for India to strengthen its defences all along the northern borders, even if there are no signs of the two countries going to war.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HEALTHY PICK-UP

ECONOMY SPRINGS A SURPRISE

 

THE better-than-expected double-digit growth in industrial production in August has lifted the country's economic mood. Spreading cheer all round, the BSE Sensitive Index shot up 384 points on Monday and by another 204 points on Wednesday. A strong performance by the European equity markets also contributed to the positive sentiment. The data released by the Central Statistical Organisation reveals that the growth has been led by three key sectors: manufacturing, mining and electricity. Particularly heartening is the turnaround in textiles, which has passed through a prolonged bad phase due to sluggish exports, resulting in massive job losses.

 

Three factors have chiefly contributed to the industrial recovery. One is what statisticians call the base effect. The pullback is sharp because industrial growth in August last year was quite low at 2.8 per cent. Two, the bounce back has happened due to the trickle-down effect of the government's stimulus packages. The growth is faster in areas which benefited from increased government spending than those left to fend for themselves. Three, the staff pay revision at the Central and state levels and the payment of arrears have spurred consumer demand for cars, two-wheelers and white goods. The spurt in demand has continued in the current festival season and may extend up to December.

 

However, there are four negatives which could possibly slow down growth. The 23 per cent less rain this season has pushed up food prices and dampened rural consumption. The government may have to spend more in rural India to shore up rural demand. Secondly, inflation is threatening to rise. This may prompt the RBI to raise interest rates and end the present era of cheaper loans. Thirdly, the Central government's finances are in disarray due to heavy borrowings. It is under pressure to control spending. In the absence of preventive steps, this may hurt the growth of government-dependent sectors like infrastructure. Finally, India's export revival depends on how fast the US and European economies recover. Despite all these the economic scene is throwing up a lot of hopeful signs.


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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PAKISTAN IN TURMOIL

ARMY CHALLENGES THE GOVERNMENT'S WRIT

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

THE tranquillity around Pakistan's Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi, where the Army's X Corps, whose main claim to fame is its propensity to stage coups against civilian governments, is also located, was rudely disturbed on October 11. A small group of militants clad in military uniforms from the "Amjad Farooqi Group" of the Tehriq-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) struck at the hallowed precincts of the Army Headquarters, killed army personnel, including a Brigadier and Lieutenant Colonel and held the entire Headquarters of the Pakistan army hostage for around 18 hours.

 

A few days earlier, a militant dressed in the uniform of the predominantly Pashtun Frontier Constabulary carried out a suicide bomb attack on the UN offices at the very heart of the capital, Islamabad. In both cases, the attacks had evidently been planned by people with inside knowledge of security, arrangements in the most sensitive areas of the national capital.

 

These terrorist strikes came at a time when Pakistan was witnessing an unseemly tussle between the elected government headed by President Zardari and the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani 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 Corps Commanders presided over by General Kayani, alleged the provisions of the US legislation violated Pakistani sovereignty and called on the country's Parliament to decide whether the provisions of the Act should be accepted.

 

Interestingly, this army intervention, quite obviously intended to create a rift between President Zardari, who is a supporter of the US legislation and Parliament, came after an unprecedented meeting in Rawalpindi between Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab 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, General Ashfaq 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 a sensitive issue with political overtones and that its concerns should have, more appropriately, been placed before the Defence Committee of the Cabinet.

 

The furore in Pakistan on the Kerry-Lugar Act, which has been fomented by General Kayani, is largely contrived. 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 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 and parliamentary scrutiny and control and that all support for terrorist groups from "elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence services" has ceased. These provisions for monitoring the role of Pakistan's military and its intelligence services have obviously rattled General Kayani and his cohorts.

The US has made no secret over its displeasure at the ISI's support for Mullah Omar and Taliban military commanders like Sirajuddin Haqqani, who are spearheading attacks against American forces in Afghanistan.

 

The actions of the Pakistan army suggest that while it may reluctantly take on Taliban groups which question the writ of the Pakistan State, like Maulana Fazlullah's supporters in Swat and the Tehriq-e-Taliban led now by Hakeemullah Mehsud, in South Waziristan, it will continue to support Afghan and Pakistani Taliban groups waging Jihad against the Americans in Afghanistan.

 

During the past three months, the army has been preparing to attack the strongholds in South Waziristan of Hakeemullah Mehsud and his Uzbek allies from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which was led by Tahir Yuldeshev. Yuldeshev had close links with the ISI since the 1990s, when the ISI facilitated his links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and used his Uzbek forces to target the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, led by Ahmed Shah Masood.

 

Yuldeshev was reportedly killed in a US drone attack on September 26. The Pakistan army has now amassed around 28,000 soldiers for an assault, backed by air power and American drones, in South Waziristan. The assault by the TTP on the army Headquarters in Rawalpindi is a clear warning to the Pakistani military establishment that the TTP will hit at targets across Pakistan, if the army attacks it.

 

Past operations of the Pakistan army in South Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan, have failed miserably. It remains to be seen whether the army has the ability and courage to take on the TTP and its Uzbek and other allies in South Waziristan successfully. Moreover, there had to be support from elements within the security forces, in recent terrorist attacks in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as the militants evidently had inside information on the vulnerabilities in the security structure.

 

Can the army and Frontier Constabulary now be sure that Pashtun soldiers, who hail from the tribal areas and constitute a substantial portion of the security forces, will remain steadfast in their resolve in operations, which target the homes of their kith and kin? Moreover, while there was widespread political consensus within Pakistan, in army operations in Swat, which is very close to the capital Islamabad, will there be a sustained political consensus if operations in South Waziristan are prolonged?

 

Finally, the impending operations in South Waziristan are based on the assumption that Taliban groups elsewhere in the tribal areas will remain not come to aid of their erstwhile allies in South Waziristan. Is this a realistic assumption? As more and more groups once supported by the ISI turn against the Pakistan army, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson recently remarked: "You cannot tolerate a viper in your bosom without getting bitten"!

 

Pakistan is moving into even more turbulent and troubled waters as its army, given to dictating the national agenda, confronts new challenges. But, perhaps the most shocking aspect of these developments is that Mr Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in a military coup a decade ago, now finds it expedient to make common cause with General Kayani. It was precisely such misguided opportunism that led to the destabilisation of democratic governments in the 1990s. Moreover, even the political establishment seems divided on the utility of terrorist groups in Pakistan's relations with its neighbours.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

FOOTBALLS ALL

BY RAJBIR DESWAL

 

Look, I am a senior cop and you need to salute me," "said Football One. "What an introduction buddy! You were a nice, round-faced, round bodied, roly-poly, rotund football. When did you become a cop, of all the silly things in the world?" asked Football Two.

 

"Didn't you hear PC telling the country's very senior cops in no uncertain terms and with unambiguous intent that they were all like footballs? Kicked from here to there!"

 

"PC? you mean Police Commissioner?" asked Football Two.

 

"Yes, he is the seniormost of them all and a well-meaning HM too," said Football One. "You mean His Majesty?" asked Football Two. "Yes, after all cops of the feudal vintage like to address him and his ilk like that only," replied Football One. "But how come PC said we were footballs? And if he had to refer to all that is round around us, and within, then he could have said, 'marbles' instead," quipped Football Two.

 

"Big people have big brains buddy! Great ideas take birth in them naturally. PC might have thought that footballs give a well-fed look. That is why perhaps he wanted to pamper the cops, likening them to something the calling of which is all too welcome!" said Football One.

 

Football Two still wanted to make a point, "No, but he didn't want to pamper them, rather give them a piece of his mind! But as I said, marbles would have best described the cops' calling. Don't the marbles hit, hammer and shoot at each other, and all those who are in their line of fire with a perfect aim in sight like the bull's eye (be they public, or rival politicians in the "Marble Cops" scheme of things)?

 

"But buddy, they always want to bend them like Beckhem." Football One tried to make another point, "And if it is not a football then what else will take the punch in. A cricket or a hockey ball or even a marble, may hit hard on ricocheting. It's only a football that is flexible and resilient, as if beseeching the kicker into "one more time, come on Sir, kick me one more time hard, and I may 'net' you a 'goal!" Football One tried to convince her friend elaborating on the various "Politico-friendly" traits of them all.

 

Football Two seemed to be convinced by now and quibbled with an eye to eye grin, "Look what happened when even the non-political, world famous French footballer, Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final! No political player ever would like to repeat Zidane's feat? And invite unnecessary trouble when the likes of us are there to oblige."

 

And to conclude and clinch the issue in favour of PC's calling the cops footballs, Football One quoted Shakespeare, "Hey Buddy know what? Even the most popular Roman king Caesar had wanted to 'have men about me that are fat, sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.'

 

"So as to let the thieves do their work. Footballs all! Jai Hind Sir!" greeted Football Two bending over backwards a little more than desired.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION

THE UN PUSHES THE IDEA AGAIN

BY MICHAEL D. GORDIN

 

Attempts to control or reverse nuclear proliferation come in two flavors: Either one tries to control nuclear material (uranium, centrifuges, superfast switches) or one tries to control nuclear information (blueprints, schematics, scientific expertise).

 

For most of the last half a century, the world has shunned the material approach in favor of controlling information. But information is extremely difficult to contain, as is made clear by the growing number of countries that have acquired nuclear weapons in the decades since the United States made the first atomic bomb, from the Soviet Union in 1949 to North Korea in 2006.

 

The United Nations started out with a materials-centric approach. Almost exactly a year after the San Francisco Charter established the United Nations in June 1945, President Harry S. Truman sent a special envoy there with a proposal to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

 

At the time — because the only nation with such devices was the U.S. — the move was patently directed at the Soviet Union in an effort to curb it from taking the steps toward nuclear proliferation.

 

Instead of relying on the standing representative to the fledgling body, Warren Austin, Truman sent Bernard Baruch, a financier and longtime adviser to Democratic presidents since Woodrow Wilson. On June 14, 1946, Baruch unveiled his plan to control nuclear energy, the centerpiece of which was the control of uranium ore.

 

The goal of the proposal, modeled on the ideas of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, as expressed in the Acheson-Lilienthal Report released earlier that year, was to stop proliferation at the source. Global uranium reserves would be internationalized, and scientists worldwide would be required to report clandestine nuclear activities to an international atomic energy authority. No uranium, no bombs. Period.

 

Global politics, in the end, prevented the Baruch plan from being implemented. But now, after decades of trying instead to control information, the United Nations has once again embraced the idea of controlling materials. Resolution 1887, passed unanimously by the Security Council last month, aims to secure nuclear materials around the world.

 

The Baruch plan has not fared well with historians and proliferation experts, mostly because it did not fare well with the Soviets. Baruch preserved the key insight of the Acheson-Lilienthal Report about the need to contain uranium ore, but he modified the original proposal in two very significant ways.

 

First, violators would automatically be subject to sanctions — "an international law with teeth in it," as he put it. Second, veto power in the Security Council — a privilege of the victors in World War II (the U.S., the Soviet Union, France, Britain and Republican China) that had been essential to persuade the Soviets to join the world body in the first place -- would be suspended only for matters pertaining to atomic energy.

 

This last provision made sense to Baruch and Truman: The Soviets were the most likely to violate the agreement, so allowing them to veto sanctions against themselves would surely be a case of moral hazard.

 

That change doomed the plan. The Soviet ambassador to the United Nations, Andrei Gromyko, earned the nickname "Mr. Nyet" for his forceful denunciation of the Baruch plan. Correctly sensing that the purpose of the plan was to stymie Soviet proliferation, Gromyko issued a counterproposal a few days later that inverted the order of the American plan: First, nuclear weapons would be abolished and any nuclear nation (that is, the U.S.) would have to destroy its stockpile, and then all uranium reserves could be internationalized.

 

As a non-proliferation strategy, the Gromyko plan made no sense. There was no political or military logic for the U.S. to voluntarily disarm without guarantees that other powers would be prevented from covertly arming.

 

There was no way the Americans would agree to his proposal, but Gromyko argued skillfully that the suspension of the veto would violate the U.N. Charter and tied the Baruch plan down in procedural debates until November 1949. By that point, the Soviets had the bomb, the issue was moot, and arms control went back to the drawing board.

 

An unintended casualty of the failure of the Baruch plan was to marginalize the idea of controlling proliferation through controlling nuclear materials. Uranium ore was no longer at center stage. Both superpowers had nuclear weapons, and arms control shifted to controlling the number of weapons and keeping a lid on the "know-how" of making bombs. But information tends to slip through cracks, and the rest, sadly, is now history.

 

The new U.N. resolution, and the approach it embodies, is tremendously encouraging. The most crucial issue now is not to replay the procedural quagmire of 1946-49, and bring the attention squarely and permanently back on materials.

 

Gordin is an associate professor of history at Princeton University and the author of the just-released "Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin and the End of the Atomic Monopoly."

 

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHY HARYANA WOMEN KEEP OFF POLITICS

BY S.S. CHAHAR 

 

THE issue of political empowerment of women has been on the agenda of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for over three decades. The first concrete step for empowering women was taken by the Narasimha Rao government when the 73rd and 74th Constitution amendments reserving 33 per cent seats for women in local bodies were passed.

 

This led to the introduction of the Constitution Amendment Bill, 1996, for reserving 33 per cent seats in Parliament and state legislatures. However, the Bill has been pending since then. On an average the representation of women the in the Lok Sabha is less than 6 per cent and 4 per cent in different state assemblies it is less than 4 per cent. However, in Haryana, it is 6 per cent.

 

In the 2009 assembly elections, 67 women of the total 1,222 candidates are in the fray involving 37 party nominees and 30 Independents.

 

A party-wise break-up shows that the Congress leads in putting up the maximum women candidates followed by the BSP, the BJP, the INLD, while the CPI, the CPM and the VHP occupy the lowest rank.

 

A group of about 10 women has been fielded repeatedly by major political parties. Interestingly, the women have contested in a pocket of 42 constituencies. Major political parties fielded their candidates mainly in a cluster of seven to 14 constituencies. However, in more than 50 per cent constituencies women have never contested the elections.

 

Despite the favourable Constitutional provisions, the rising female literacy, several welfare schemes started by the state government as well as changing lifestyles due to scientific and technological advancement, women's participation in the political process has been low.

 

Reasons for this phenomenon are social, economic and political. Women in Haryana become victims of rigid social customs and traditions, a gender bias and dowry, leading to domestic violence. Kept socially aloof, women are subjected to deprivation and exploitation.

 

Because of an increasing rate of criminalisation and commercialisation of politics, women feel reluctant to participate in political activity in the state.

 

The element of dynastic tendencies in nominating women belonging to royal and well-off families negates the participation of ordinary women in politics.

 

Political activities of women are also discouraged by a highly restrictive socio-economic system. They are forced to refrain from participating in the electoral process of the state as is evident from the fact that they constitute only 3.4 per cent of the 12,006 contestants in the ongoing 2009 assembly elections.

 

Each political party has stood for women's participation in the electoral politics in a big way. The political parties that feel shy of putting up women candidates promise them a reservation of seats in their in their respective 
manifestos.

 

But in practice they are not prepared to give adequate space to them except for mouthing political platitudes during the elections. Women are welcome as voters but not as representatives. Therefore, they could nominate only 215 nominees whereas 199 contested as Independents.

 

Women have to travel a long way before they can be equated with men, particularly in the political field. The questions which are linked to their increased political participation and thus need to be addressed are: how to reach women in the remote and backward areas, how to create awareness among men and women about their respective roles and responsibilities, how to make everyone concerned that a girl child is an equally important member of a family and how to get women's political role accepted in society?

 

For findings answers to these questions we need to put in concerted efforts. We need a sensitive judiciary and vigilant women's organisations. Women representatives in local bodies have to prove their worth for making their claims to the higher legislative bodies.

 

Women's participation in politics in proportion to their number is the most effective instrument of removing the inherent and deep-rooted inequality and bias against them in society.

 

The writer is a professor of political science at M.D. University, Rohtak.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

BORLAUG HAD BACKED 'GENE REVOLUTION'

BY ARABINDA GHOSE

 

AT the end of the Second World War in 1945, the UNO set up the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for rebuilding agriculture in the world. Its task was, and still is, to reshape agriculture and enable countries to produce sufficient foodgrains in order to feed the hungry millions.

 

A British dignitary, Lord Boyd Orr, was appointed the first Director General of the FAO. After taking charge of the Rome-based FAO, Lord Boyd Orr had made this famous statement: "You cannot build peace on empty stomachs"

 

Dr Borlaug, the only agricultural scientist in the world to have won a Nobel Prize, passed away on September 12, aged 95. A great friend of farmers, Dr. Borlaug was a frequent visitor to India and played a key role in ushering in the Green 


REVOLUTION.

The last time he came to India was in 2005 when he had presided over the Borlaug Award presentation ceremony on March 16 at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi.

 

Even when in failing health, Dr. Borlaug had sounded a warning about a catastrophe if "urgent steps are not taken to double foodgrain production in the world by the year 2050"

 

It is not generally known that the Green Revolution had come to both India and Pakistan at the same time and from the same batch of high-yielding semi-dwarf Lerma Rojo 64 and Sonora 64 seeds, the two new varieties developed in Mexico.

 

India had ordered 250 tonnes of these seeds and Pakistan 300 tonnes. Both consignments were loaded on to the same ship at Los Angeles and it was decided that the two consignments would be separated at Singapore port.

Just when this operation was to commence at Singapore, the Indo-Pakistan war broke out on September 1, 1965. The consignments were delivered after the war by the beginning of October that year.

 

By the time the seeds were received at the IARI, it was a little late for sowing, the ideal time being the first week of October. Nevertheless, the seeds proved to be very promising in the tests and Agriculture Minister C. Subramaniam and his capable Secretary B. Sivaraman ordered the import of more of these seeds from Mexico in 1966. The rest is history.

 

In his speech that day at the IARI Dr. Borlaug had paid tributes not only to Mr. C. Subramaniam, but also to Malik Khuda Buksh, Agriculture Minister of Pakistan, at that time.

 

Besides, Dr. Borlaug had paid tributes to Prime Minister Zhou-en-Lai of China, Deng Ziaoping , the father of economic reforms in China, and Ha Kang, China's Agriculture Minister (1978-79) for their vision in the adoption of new technologies for raising foodgrain production in their country.

 

Dr. Borlaug's speech, which he had delivered standing even at the age of 91 years, was entitled "From Green Revolution to Gene Revolution". He had said, in the context of some people objecting to the use of chemical fertilizers: "Use all the organic fertilizers available for cultivation, but then (chemical) fertilisers have to be used for raising production and for staving off hunger".

He had not only eulogized those who used Bt cotton, but said similar genetic manipulation would be needed for other crops too. "My biotechnology dream", he had said, "is to see such genes introduced in seeds of cereals such as wheat, maize, sorghum, barley etc.

 

Pleading for more investment in agriculture worldwide, Dr Borlaug had said that the world spent some $900 billion every year on armament, 56 per cent of this by the US alone while 800 million people in the world still suffered from hunger.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

REHABILITATION PACKAGE

 

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently announced that two battalions of Assam police would be created with surrendered militants, but the Government will have to clear several major hurdles in the way before doing so and the track record of the surrendered militants will have to be checked very carefully before inducting them into the force. The Chief Minister should have carefully examined the pros and cons of inducting former militants into the police force before making such a public announcement and since he has already made the announcement, he should now discuss the issue with all concerned including legal experts and senior officers of the police force and do the needful. The first major hurdle in raising two new battalions will be the financial implications and it will be better if the Government takes steps to fill up the existing vacancies in the police force before raising new battalions. The performance of the police force has been severely affected because of shortage of manpower and according to reports, more than nine thousand posts are now lying vacant in the force. The Government will not be able to fill up all the vacancies at one go as it will turn out to be a massive exercise and the training facilities available with the police department are not adequate to train up thousands of new recruits at one point of time and no recruit of police can be inducted into the force without going through the rigorous training for at least ten months. Moreover, the Government will have to adopt a policy decision to induct surrendered militants into the police force and the legal aspects will have to be examined carefully to ensure that such a decision is not challenged in the court.


It is also a fact that a good number of surrendered militants will not qualify for appointment in the police department as the persons having police cases against them cannot be appointed in the force. Even if the Government takes a policy decision and decide to withdraw the cases against surrendered militants, it will be a long process. Moreover, for appointment as police constable, a person has to clear the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination and a number of surrendered militants are school drop outs and they will not qualify for the job. The age restrictions will also prevent a number of surrendered militants from qualifying for appointment in the police department. The Government will have to clear all these hurdles before inducting surrendered militants into the police force and scanning each and every ex-militant will be a long and tedious process. As most of the surrendered militants will not qualify for appointment in the police department, if the Central and State Governments are really interested in luring militants back to the mainstream with attractive rehabilitation package, efforts should be made to chalk out a scheme to provide them with self employment avenues as majority of the members of the militant groups were forced to join the outfits because of unemployment.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GROWING CRIMES

 

The State capital Guwahati is fast becoming the crime capital of the region, with different criminal activities registering a rising graph in recent years. From petty acts of offence to more serious crimes, perpetrators of illegal activities are having a field day. The gravity of the situation should be gauged from the fact that a staggering 10,000 accused wanted in connection with different registered criminal cases in the city continue to evade arrest. Among these are over 4,000 against whom arrest warrants have been issued by different courts. Of late, dacoity has assumed serious proportions in the city, with a spurt in such cases since the past one month. The police itself has admitted that the dacoits are resorting to innovative modus operandi to evade the man in uniform and carry on with their nefarious activities. Unless a hard crackdown is made on the gangs, it could emerge as a far bigger menace in the coming days. Along with dacoities, another phenomenon that is assuming alarming dimensions is the looting of cash after it is withdrawn from banks by people. In the most shocking instance, miscreants waylaid a vehicle carrying Rs 80 lakh on the highway near Sipajhar on Tuesday, and looted the amount after gunning down a person. Snatching of money by motorcycle-borne goons after people come out of banks is quite common in the city.


While the crime graph is shooting upwards, police action is not meeting with much success. The situation – apart from jeopardizing the citizens' security – is emboldening the criminals to lose fear of the law and perpetrate their illegal activities with impunity. Murder and dowry-related deaths have also recorded a sharp increase in the city. Regrettably, many crimes, including murder cases, have remained unsolved, allowing the culprits a free run. Combating crimes is a fundamental responsibility of the police but the manner of functioning of the police only exposes its lax attitude in tackling routine crimes in the city. The growing gravity of the crime scenario warrants the police to equip itself in the best possible manner to take on criminals who are increasingly resorting to sophisticated modes of operation. Constraints relating to manpower shortage, training and low level of technological assistance besides lack of overall modernization of the forces need to be addressed at the earliest. The police-public relation too needs to be improved as it invariably hinders effective functioning of the forces. Then, the intelligence network should be boosted, as it is critical to the success of the police in both pre-empting acts of crime and pursuing investigations.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CONFLICT SENSITIVE JOURNALISM

PATRICIA MUKHIM

 

In a situation where the powerless who also are at the receiving end of guns and bombs are constantly being exhorted to stand up and speak out against militancy/insurgency, it is heartening to note that senior scribes are taking a stand against senseless killings which go by the euphemism of 'freedom struggles', resistance movements, fights for 'sovereignty' (leaving the definition of sovereignty ambiguous or semantic) et al. In Assam a section of media persons have been unequivocal in their stance against the diminishing returns of militancy. The media enjoy a certain amount of power to articulate the angst of the weak and voiceless. Besides, media persons are part and parcel of the larger society and it is in the fitness of things that they contribute to peace building measures.


A wag recently made a wisecrack that better media would result in less conflict. This phrase would of course require some extrapolation. Does it mean that bad media provokes conflict? And what exactly is bad media? Better still, is there a role for the media in conflict resolution? Before anyone answers this very ticklish question on our behalf, and I am sure there would many outpourings to these provocative questions, we in the media ought to make time and space for some reality check. This would also mean taking a fresh look at our own roles in the changing global, national, regional and local scenario.


But there is a bit of a problem here. Seldom ever have the media organised workshops/seminars or training programmes for themselves. The reason is simple. We have no time. Ours is a job that runs from one deadline to the next and by the end of every deadline we are totally washed out. Besides, there is a general ailment media persons suffer from and that is a sense of having 'been there,' 'done that,' and therefore knowing it all. We tend to feel there is very little that we can learn. Short of telling those who pontificate about the media, 'don't teach an old dog, new tricks,' our body language is like a picture that communicates a thousand words.


But can we be so complacent about everything? Much less, take things for granted? Do we know all there is to know about conflict in this region? Are there changing contours and road maps that we have misread? The possibilities of us having missed the woods for the trees are endless. And the reason is because we do not always report from ground zero. That is of course a tall order and not always possible in a profession with a deadline. But our over-dependence on sources can sometimes become a treacherous misadventure because we cannot rule out the possibility of those sources suffering from their own angularities and trying to sell us their view of a story.


The media is not a surreal drama where good nearly always triumphs over evil. In the real world we have to witness several disturbing events, including senseless killings, destruction of whole villages, an economic breakdown, before peace pipes are taken out of their sheaths. The truth about the media, particularly the electronic variety is that conflict sells. Dead bodies scattered hither and thither by a powerful bomb make good breaking news. The 'in your face' repetition of such gory incidents while it may be revolting, also creates a curiosity for a fresh set of audience who might have missed the scene earlier. The Mumbai attack which is soon getting to its first anniversary is exactly the kind of coverage that militants and agent provocateurs love. In a sense our media is promoting sadistic pleasure to some while it masquerades as a news provider.


Conflict sells because TRP ratings soar and newspapers make a kill the next day. Conflict resolution is boring news. It is a staid process that media prefers not to dwell on too much because there is no story. But even is there is one, we are unable to adequately embellish our peace stores the way we do our conflict narratives. So what do media do? We dramatise conflict and focus on points of differences and disagreements between warring parties. We highlight inflammatory statements made by the parties in conflict. Given our way we prefer to focus on win-lose situations because we would run short on story lines if suppose the guns are completely silenced.

Let us not for a moment delude ourselves that having taken to the profession of disseminating
news, media persons automatically transcend race, culture and all the 'isms' that afflict the ordinary citizen. The media is as good at 'othering' and 'demonising' individuals and communities. It takes a lot for a scribe from one community to really be objective and remove the jaundice from his/her eyes. This is more nuanced in the case of the North East where ethnic loyalty is all pervasive. Whether we do it consciously or through force of habit is a moot point but the fact is that the media does propagate intolerance and is guilty of disinformation campaigns and thereby manipulating the readers' mind.


This breach of journalistic ethics is more palpable in the vernacular media where the newspaper or television channel feels it owes its loyalty to the readers of the language in which it is published. One of the greatest human failings is the inability to be rigorously critical of ourselves. The smaller the ethnic community the greater seems to be the need to glorify our antecedents and our 'unique' histories which we want every other person to appreciate. The problem is that those outside our closely guarded paradigms see us as real people, flaws and all. Our inability to scrutinise our own actions makes us rely heavily on obsequiousness which a section of the media provides and which we then learn to patronise.


In a region embedded in conflict there is urgent need for conflict sensitive journalism. My own extrapolation of what this means is that we break away from stereotypical reporting and look for fresh angles in a conflict story. Conflicts are not static. Nor are the ideologies on which they hang. So how can our stories miss out the fresh perspectives that every conflict throws up? There is of course a category amongst us that believe in indolence and picking up stories from the trash basket. But there is also the hyper- active scribe who sees ghosts everywhere. We need to strike a balance somewhere.


The whole problem with the media is that we are a self regulating body. This is an extremely difficult situation because we are so used to being policed in every other aspect of our lives. Nevertheless we can try. For starters, let us explore the possibilities of getting ourselves trained in conflict reporting. I fail to understand why only academics are deputed for peace and conflict resolution trainings when they actually produce so little for public consumption and engagement. Food for thought, this surely!

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NREGA IMPLEMENTATION IN ANDHRA PRADESH

DR HK GOSWAMI

 

The passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is an important achievement of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre. But the report card on NREGA implementation throughout the country has generally been poor. While many States report high expenditure, independent enquiries reveal massive leakages in money reaching the poor. However, Andhra Pradesh, affords an extraordinary counter-example bucking this trend. What has happened in this State over the last two and a half years is unparalleled in the history of independent India.


Political support has, of course, been necessary but by no means a sufficient condition. Two other novel features have turned the tide in Andhra Pradesh. One, the use of Information Technology (IT) and the other, the role of civil society. All stages of NREGA work, from registration of workers to issue of job cards, preparation of work estimates, muster rolls (attendance sheets) and payments to workers have been computerised. With strong administrative backing and robust social audits, this Information Technology system frees information from the shackles of power and privileged access.


For instance, a major complaint from all over India is of delays and corruption in payment of fair wages under NREGA. By contrast, in Andhra Pradesh, NREGA labour payments are increasingly being made within a week of completion of the previous week's work. This has become possible because, by the sixth day in a week's work, the measurement sheets and muster rolls of the entire work are closed and reach the sub-block (mandal) computer centre. The next day, the muster data are fed into the computer. On day eight, the pay order is generated by the computer and the cheques are prepared. By day ten, the cheques are deposited into the post office accounts of workers. The next day, cash is conveyed to the post office so that on day twelve and thirteen, workers are able to withdraw their wages from their accounts. In Andhra Pradesh, all NREGA payments are made through the accounts of the workers. There are no payments in cash.


It is significant that the Andhra Pradesh government, quietly and unobtrusively, has achieved something quite remarkable; the conduct of the social audit for the NREGA using the RTI Act; and thereby sown the seeds for a nonviolent revolution in less than two years. The government does not conduct the audit; rather, it facilitates it, but does so comprehensively and with an eye for detail. One round has already been completed in all Gram Panchayats. There has been a tremendous impact, because the government has taken the responsibility; it has also gained credibility because of its transparency.


The procedure to conduct a social audit is simple. First, an application under the RTI Act is made to the Mandal Parishad Development Officer (MPDO). A Mandal consists of 15-20 villages. The MPDO is to provide the records of NREGA works in the gram panchayats. The records are obtained through a RTI application – as an assertion of the right to secure information and not as the benevolence of government. The audit team then examines the records including muster rolls, estimates, measurement book, papers of check measurement and expenditure. The works are also inspected and verified. Thereafter, the team conducts a door-to-door inquiry with all the labourer households, which is when discrepancies in payments, muster rolls and other irregularities come to light. This is an extensive exercise, completely transparent, and gives confidence both to the team conducting the survey and the labourer households, who feel they can actually communicate with the government. The centres of power in the village do not obstruct it since they know the government is behind the process. And the staff who misappropriated funds, find they are actually accountable.


For example, a social audit was conduct at Kollampalli village, Thimmapur sub-block, Karimnagar district. This was the first social audit in the village and all the works during 2006-07, 2007-08, and part of 2008-09 were verified. Kallampalli is a large village and had utilised almost Rs 1 crore for works like de-silting of irrigation tanks, construction of new tanks, excavation of agricultural field channels, horticulture plantations, land development, and irrigation wells on holdings of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and other small and marginal farmers. Six Village Social Auditors (VSAs) – all from agricultural labour families from the neighbouring villages were trained for the audit. All were young – four girls and two boys studying in degree colleges selected by the District Resource Person (DRP) who also trained them.


The audit report prepared by the team revealed that the village "'Sarpanch" was in league with the Mandal Parishad Development Officer in misappropriating, funds. Many of his supporters checked the social audit team's work and also tried to question them. But they did not obstruct the work. At one Ward meeting of about 100 people, the majority being Scheduled Caste women, who had worked under the programme, the audience participated actively and often vigorously, particularly when they discovered that the muster rolls records showed wrong names and amounts About Rs 20,000 were returned. Commitments and deadlines to pay back other amounts misappropriated were also made public.

 

(The writer is former Principal, Mangaldai College).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HANDS OFF BSNL'S FUNDS

 

Public sector telecom majors BSNL and MTNL together have cash in hand of Rs 42,000 crore. A fool and his money are soon parted, goes the proverb. Now, public enterprises are not fools. But they can be made to behave foolishly by clever men who have access to the political levers that control these enterprises.


This would seem to be the only explanation for the ongoing attempts to drag BSNL and MTNL into a consortium led by a company called Vavasi that has suddenly materialised out of the blue, as it were, with a proposal for the consortium to bid for a minority stake in Kuwaiti telecom company Zain at a valuation that would turn Shylock green with envy.


A four letter word would summarise this protracted transaction better: scam. The government cannot allow such a thing to happen right inside its nose. It should come forward to firmly quash all moves to transfer the public sector telecom enterprises' cash to foreign investors on whatever pretext.


The urgent action that the government needs to take with regard to MTNL and BSNL is to give them autonomy of operations so that they can run their businesses well in the fastest-growing telecom market in the world, which also happens to be the country these companies know and understand best, namely, India. At present BSNL and MTNL are the only operators to have obtained 3G spectrum and commenced 3G services, only to struggle to acquire customers.


BSNL earns more money as interest on cash deposits than from its operations, even as private sector operators refine, every passing day, the art of making big money from small transactions. This situation must change. There is no reason why the quality and efficiency of service provided by public enterprises should be inferior to what their private sector rivals deliver.


It is suboptimal for a company to sit on a huge pile of cash. If it has no use for the cash, it should return it to the shareholders. If it is kept as a war chest for sudden launch of moves that would take the competition by surprise, there has to be some sign of such business savvy. BSNL has a huge market that cries out for low-cost data connectivity. Its energies and funds should go to heeding that cry.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHINESE BLUSTER ON ARUNACHAL

 

The rather strong Chinese reaction to PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh highlights the complexity of the border dispute and the fact that it will take an arduous dialogue to settle it. But there is enough room to presume that such a settlement will eventually come about.

 

There is, of course, a certain danger that tensions on the ground might spark a skirmish of some sort, given the aggressive border patrols Chinese troops reportedly routinely conduct, and the increased militarisation of the area on both sides.


Indeed, the deployment by the Indian army of extra troops and munitions in the area partly stems from the desire to demonstrate that 1962 will not repeat itself. But in a broader sense, all that is part of a controlled brinkmanship between two rising powers with a certain amount of bitter history between them. And that very rise in economic and military prowess (though China leads on most indicators) can provide an alternative future. The two Asian giants did trade worth about $52 billion last year. Trade volumes are likely to go up. And a contemporary understanding of the world suggests that war between two countries with high levels of mutual trade is unlikely.


Sure, the Chinese regime's conduct is often unpredictable. And one could also argue that it isn't clear how far it is prepared to go in defence of claims on areas of 'historical sovereignty'. But it is also true that China has settled many of its territorial disputes with its various neighbours.


That process, though, was also a laborious one. Similarly, it might take many more discussions between India and China than the 13 rounds of talks they have had so far on the Arunachal dispute. Matters might deteriorate before they improve — what with the Dalai Lama now scheduled to visit the state. The way forward, however, would also need a redressal of a major shortcoming in bilateral ties: the abysmal levels of knowledge about each other's polity and society. The political class in both nations can make a start by initiating a serious and sustained engagement with each other — even as the border dispute talks grind on for now.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

RELATIVITY THEORY

 

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has been astounded by the discovery that success unleashes an immense magnetic field, centripetal force, or a variety of other inexorable pulls that have been codified by scientists down the centuries.


Perhaps the shift from physics to bio-chemistry and his current post in a biology laboratory has made him forget Newton's universal law of gravitation that begins with the statement that "every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the line of the centres..." A contemporary offshoot of that is the universal law of society, usually encapsulated in the cliche, "Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan."


Surely a professor of his erudition, despite his lack of exposure to the rough-and-tumble world outside his hermetically-sealed lab, should have known that the world is full of people who know famous people whom others want to know. Some, in fact, make it their business to know them, as their livelihood depends on making the right connections. It's called networking. In that context, the few who have surfaced as "friends" or "associates" of the latest Indian who left India and gained a Nobel, are quite harmless.


Some claim a connection through a university that Ramakrishnan says he never attended, others talk of his childhood in a temple town that he left at the age of three. Some of them could have been genuinely confused as the professor's name is not exactly an unusual one in southern India.


Besides, none of these people have sought anything more from the revelation of their connection than a few seconds of airtime or a few centimetres of newsprint. Even his email box getting clogged with wellwishers should not have flummoxed a man who was surely weaned on theory of relativity. It's just that in India, relativity takes on a somewhat different connotation. It does, however, also bend the time-space continuum but in ways Einstein would never have conjectured: relatives (and friends) emerge from blackholes at the speed of light.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAN BASEL-II MAKE SMES SMILE?

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYA

 

With the introduction of Basel-II norms stipulating that funding of firms by banks must be linked to ratings by independent agencies, banks can now justifiably claim to have a well-researched rule of thumb for initial filtering of SME loan-seekers. Now, many bankers can even insist that those small enterprises that do not necessarily come under the purview of Basel-II must also get their ratings. Considering the fact that credit accessibility is the sore point of the SME sector, the impact of compulsory rating on credit deserves careful scrutiny.

For SMEs, mostly operating under hard budget constraints, credit rating imposes additional costs and hence must bring tangible benefits to the firms. Logically, a high credit score improves the chances of securing external finance and also boost the confidence of the entrepreneur since a high score essentially confirms the soundness of the firm's internal systems and processes. In addition, a good score helps building reputation among buyers, suppliers and other stakeholders and thus enhances the firm's brand value.


The apparent benefits to the bankers for having credit scores of SMEs are quite obvious. Information about a firm's reputation for honouring or dishonouring its borrowing commitments conveyed through the credit score provides additional input for decision making. Considering that bankers are seldom rewarded for profitable investment decisions and often punished for bad decisions, a credit score from a reputed external entity confirming the capacity of the borrower to meet obligations can always act as a safeguard for a banker.


Though Basel-II can potentially assist the banks to increase their financial and operational risks-mitigating ability by providing better information on the SME, there is also a real danger that it may end up reducing credit flow to SMEs.


A good rating by itself does not ensure investment, because rating is not a recommendation to invest. Actual investment decision depends upon the combination of various factors including credit history, pricing, innovation, market volatility, etc., and both the creditor and the borrower must come to an agreement regarding structuring, monitoring or enforcing the exchange. It is quite possible that even after securing a high score (say, AAA) a borrower still may not be able to access cheap credit. The situation can be much worse for firms with low credit rating, particularly for those firms whose low score is not always a reflection of their actual potential.


Many of these firms come with their innovative projects with associated high uncertainties and ambiguities. A low credit rating can instantly goad an average risk-averse banker to look at the entrepreneur with a much higher level of suspicion from the very beginning and thus impose very difficult hurdle criteria.


As we are moving into an era of high uncertainty caused by rapid growth of disruptive innovations, often introduced by small firms without any credible credit history, increased difficulties for SMEs to avail credit can certainly undermine India's efforts to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. To avoid such a situation, bankers' tolerance for ambiguity and their ability to support innovative projects with high uncertainty will be critically important.


Besides the possibility of an adverse impact of Basel-II on SME credit flow, the system is also unfair to the SME sector. SMEs are now forced to get rated and provide their credit scores to the banks for further processing of their credit applications, whereas they are not provided with any independent rating or information about the expertise and performance of their prospective bankers.

If banks and SMEs are partners in the business then both must have enough information to make informed decisions about the choice of their partners. Entrepreneurs must be provided with independent rating of individual branches of banks, and even better, of individual credit appraisal officers. Ratings by reputed rating agencies reflecting the abilities, expertise and performance of individual branches of banks will allow the entrepreneurs to make the right selections of their bankers.


With relationship lending becoming the most preferred choice of lending to SMEs the world over, proper selection of the bank and its branch is quite vital for any cash-strapped entrepreneur. Once the entrepreneur, on the basis of independent rating, identifies an appropriate branch of a particular bank for his project finance, he can start making investments in time and money to establish high bandwidth interaction (such as personal or face-to-face interactions, invitations to special events, sites, etc) for creating a meaningful relationship with the potential banker.


Relationship developed through high bandwidth interactions, as opposed to low-bandwidth communications (such as e-mail, fax and letters) will ultimately create a high level of confidence and trust between both the parties. Therefore, the system must initially provide reliable data to the entrepreneurs on performance of individual bank branches and their appraisal officers, similar to the credit information available to the bakers on the firms and/or entrepreneurs.


A rating of the branches will also bring more competitiveness and innovations to the grass-root level operations of banks. If a branch manages to get high rating then the prestige and clout of the branch as well as its officers automatically get enhanced in the neighbourhood and relevant industry circles. This can then bring healthy competition not only among the branches within a bank but also among disbursing officers within a branch. Everyone will be automatically incentivised to locate innovative projects with high growth potential.


With the passage of time banks will gain more experience and generate more data to identify and measure various factors that go into the making of a successful credit appraisal officer capable of assessing innovative projects and tolerate associated risks. This data will help to design appropriate training programmes for the bank employees to develop specific human resources required to meet the challenges of credit delivery in an innovation-led economy.

(The author is dean, Globsyn Business School and director, Asian Institute of Family Business, Gandhinagar)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BE SINCERE BUT NOT TOO SERIOUS

PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA

 

Seriousness can be defined as paying undue importance to something, at the cost of everything else. It arises from the inability to see that all of life is just a drama that is unfolding every minute. Seriousness is the result of over-expectation from life.

 

In a Zen monastery, there was a competition among disciples over who had maintained the best garden. One disciple was of a very serious nature. He always kept his garden neat, clean, and well-swept. All the grass was of the same height. All the bushes were neatly trimmed. He was sure that he would get the first prize. On the day of the competition, the master went around all the gardens. Then he came back and ranked the gardens.


This disciple's garden got the lowest ranking. Everyone was shocked. The disciple could not contain himself and asked, 'Master, what is wrong with my garden? Why did you rank me the lowest?' The master looked at him and asked, 'Where are all the dead leaves? A garden maintained in such a way is no longer alive! It is dead.'

Seriousness kills spontaneity and destroys creativity. It closes your mind to the openness and freedom of life. It makes you dull and dead. When you perform a task in a relaxed and light manner, your thinking and decision-making capacity is automatically enhanced. The same task when performed in a serious manner dulls your mind. When you do something too seriously and are too concerned about the result, you are actually not allowing yourself to perform at the optimum level.


We should be sincere and sensitive which means being aware of everything. Understand, being sensitive does not mean being open to everything. Being unable to say 'no' does not mean sensitivity. That is actually ego! The person who is not able to say 'no' when he needs to is egoistic. Sensitivity is having the clarity about when to say 'yes' and when to say 'no' and having the sincerity and courage to follow that decision.


We should make plans and think ahead with sincerity, not with seriousness. Seriousness is not the same as sincerity. Sincerity is focusing on the task with enthusiasm and youthfulness while giving your best without worrying excessively about the result! When you are serious, you don't enjoy, you don't laugh. How can you laugh when you are serious?

 

We should understand our uniqueness but this does not mean that we should consider ourselves so special that we start taking ourselves too seriously.


Be Blissful!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARE WE SEEING THE LAST OF ODIS?

THERE IS PLACE FOR ALL THE THREE FORMATS OF CRICKET

 

Are ODIs dead? I have faced this question many a time and every time my reaction has been the same – there is a place for all the three forms of cricket, and to make such a call is not only premature but downright foolhardy. When the ODI revolution started almost three decades ago, a lot of people thought that Tests were dead.

Aren't we fond of Tests even today? When Australia and England or India and Pakistan lock horns, don't we enjoy the nail-biting action with the same intensity as any other format? Similarly, when India plays and wins ODI matches with stunning performances from our stars like Sachin, Yuvi or a Dhoni or a Bhajji – the entire country rejoices in unison.


Let me pose three questions for the Indian cricket fan:

 

-Did you feel sad when India lost to Pakistan in the recently-concluded ICC Champions Trophy?


-Were you not watching the Pakistan-Australia encounter praying to heavens that Pakistan score a win over Australia?

-Did we as a nation not rejoice when Sachin scored his 44th ODI hundred in Sri Lanka recently?


Well, I would imagine that the answer to all the three above mentioned questions would be 'yes'. I saw channels across the country following the Pakistan- Australia encounter publicly praying for a Pakistan win! And then when the same did not happen, we were back to the old debate--are ODIs dead?


It is critical to understand here that Test matches, ODIs and T20 are integral & yet different formats of the game. The skill required also differs in case a team wants to win a T20 or an ODI or for that matter a Test match. One cannot replace the other and to me a cricket fan continues to enjoy all three formats as long as the action is riveting and the quality of cricket is top notch.



FUTURE IS T20 FORMAT, BUT WILL DEPEND ON ODI & TEST

 

The repeated issue raised by media and industry pundits nowadays is the future of T20 versus the death of ODI. It's an interesting moment in the history of the sport. No sport in modern history seems to have been faced with this problem where the emergence of a new format is linked to calls for the death of another.


However, the issue is not as black and white as it seems. T20 is definitely the future of cricket and probably the best vehicle to actually grow the game globally. Irrespective of what the player community feels about the sanctity of Tests and ODI, the fans will surely want to follow T20, as has been demonstrated in the recent past.


There is just one small detail which begs attention though, which is, historically the Indian fan has been a follower of everything which is Indian cricket and, hence, the rejection of multi-country formatted events as a whole, except the India games, even in T20 tournaments. India has played only one bilateral T20 home game since the format was accepted internationally. The IPL was the first mass level exposure of the format.


It is an accepted fact that T20 became popular not because of the format alone, but because it was introduced in India by the stars of Indian cricket who had an existing fan base. The idea of watching Sachin, Dhoni and Gambhir among others is what made the IPL a success. One-season wonders of IPL will not help sustain the growth of the new format. Without the traditional form of cricket, it would be difficult to build players of stature who have the credibility to attract mass admiration which leads to fan following for the player and the sport in general.


The future definitely is T20 format, but to grow the game worldwide and to increase popularity among the kids, it will depend on the ODI and Tests to give it depth and quality of players for the next five years at the very least!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW TO RESPOND TO ASSET BUBBLES

TT RAM MOHAN

 

The housing bubble that burst in the US in 2007 has played havoc with the world economy. Elsewhere, stock market busts have been known to derail economies. How to respond to asset bubbles has, therefore, become a central policy issue.

 

The argument is often made that booms and busts or business cycles are integral to capitalism and it would be foolish to attempt to manage these. This view is most famously associated with the former Fed chief, Alan Greenspan.

Greenspan argued that it's hard to tell an asset bubble, that is, whether an increase in asset prices is driven by fundamentals or not. In responding to perceived bubbles, policymakers risked cutting off the benefits of high growth.

The only sensible thing for policymakers to do, therefore, was to clean up quickly once a bubble burst. In the period 2003-07, when the world economy boomed, this view prevailed and Greenspan was hailed as a visionary. Now, he is being reviled for not preventing the worst financial crisis of the last century.


Policymakers will hereafter find it difficult to adhere to this laissez faire attitude towards asset bubbles and ignore the possibility of large disruptions to the economy. The idea that asset bubbles must be managed is fast gaining ground. Remember, the idea of managing exchange rates was also once unfashionable but "managed float" is no longer sneered at.


The practical questions are three. Do we have reliable indicators of future busts? Is lax monetary policy the primary culprit in the present bust? And does it make sense for central banks to have financial stability as an objective in addition to the traditional objective of price stability? The IMF's World Economic Outlook (October 2009) sheds light on these questions.


The answer to the first question is: yes, we do have indicators of busts but they are not very reliable. The IMF finds three significant predictors: the ratios of credit, the current account and residential investment to GDP. But these predictors are not very reliable. In the post-1985 period, these predictors raised an alarm in advance of a bust only one-third to one-half of the time. Asset bubbles are hard to predict.


To what extent has monetary policy been responsible for the present crisis, as many have contended? The IMF's answer goes against the current wisdom: monetary policy, its analysis shows, "was not the main or systematic source of the recent asset price booms".


If that were the case, it would have showed in the behaviour of inflation and output. It does not. So, monetary authorities seem to have been quite successful in meeting the objective of price stability.


However, this has not helped prevent a first-class financial crisis. Which gives rise to the third question: should central banks, therefore, focus on financial stability and not just on price stability? Prior to the present crisis, economists tended not to favour multiple objectives for monetary policy. In India, the Raghuram Rajan committee argued as recently as in 2008 in favour of a focus on price stability.


The IMF's analysis suggests that it makes sense for central banks to respond to signs of macrofinancial risk. But this does not mean simply responding to sharp increases in asset prices, given that asset prices are not very reliable predictors of an impending bust. The IMF argues that you need to look closely at the drivers of bubbles: lax lending standards and rapid credit growth, overinvestment and deteriorating external balances. This seems like quibbling because you still have to work out what is rapid credit growth, overinvestment, etc.


So, the IMF's analysis suggests that it is all very well to have financial stability as a goal in addition to price stability. But this is difficult in practice because we do not have satisfactory indicators of macrofinancial risk. Still, in the near future, we should expect policymakers to respond to asset bubbles, using some rough indicators.

There are three reasons why this will happen even though the costs and benefits to such intervention are not clear. One, it has become evident that regulation by itself cannot prevent financial crises. Two, disruptions caused by banking failures are widely perceived as unfair and iniquitous and have fuelled popular outrage. In the present crisis, bank managers are perceived to have benefited from their reckless actions while shareholders and tax payers lost out.


Three, less developed countries cannot afford big setbacks to growth given their low per capita incomes. If India does not achieve a 10% growth rate, it will not been seen as a big disaster. But, if a banking crisis causes growth to fall to 4%, that will become an unmitigated disaster for whoever is in power. Politicians will see clear advantages to responding to asset bubbles. The theory of asset bubbles may take time to develop but practice is likely to lead theory.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CORRECTION EXPECTED, RETAIL INVESTORS WATCH OUT: VENTURA SECURITIES

 

Subramnayam Pisupati, President Ventura Securities told ET Now this morning that a 5-10% correction is expected and that retail investors should not get sucked in at this time. He is positive on SBI & Adani Power and feels that Pipavav is a mult-bagger. Here is the full transcript of what he had to say:

 

Earnings have been pretty much been in line with the estimates, you think there is a fair case of the market getting re-rated from here?

There should be a tinge of caution. I think the blow out rally is going to happen 52-52-50 whatever the case might be. I think we are running ahead not only as far as valuations are concerned, but, even expectations are running slightly ahead. I only hope the retail investors do not get sucked in at this point in time and hold the baby when see the Nifty correcting. If not anything else we expect certain amount of profit taking to come and with the 5% to 10% correction. So I will be very cautious, not only for today but for the next week or so.


You particularly are very bullish on State Bank of India. What are you building up as a scenario for SBI?

Honestly, State Bank of India is a no brainer. I mean it is a quasi for Indian economy, you are talking of a company which has got 25%-26% market share. It has got 11,000 plus in a physical outlets, this is a financial conglomerate across insurance, mutual fund, investment banking and of course general banking. And there has been a talk going on, the PMO writing to Planning Commission, RBI about giving some stake to strategic investor. I think any strategic investor would like to come and take a stake in SBI first thing up.


So, for me very clearly that every retail investor in our country should have some pie of State Bank of India. I think going forward hopefully in the December quarter- if the RBI does not go for a hike rates - we expect it to go across as all time high, I think Rs 2769 was all time high, I think it should reach before this financial year is over.

Power is another pocket that interests you a lot. While institutional investors of course buy into the story from a long term perspective the market, what do you make of the response to the listings of Adani Power and Pipavav Shipyard. What are you buying into these stocks?

Two companies in the power space we like more are Adani Power and Power Grid Corporation, I will take Adani first. Too much was made about the listing gains, people who go in for listing gains are different set of people. In Adani when you look at the execution capabilities over the next 18 to 24 months time, we expect all things to come into play and at this point in time when the market are at 5200, companies like Adani offer you minimum risk and if you calibrate the investment over a period of time, I think Adani should expect 20% to 25% going forward every year and I think hopefully you should double your investment in about three or four years' time, that's Adani Power.

 

Second is Power Grid Corporation, I mean like PTC it is government owned company and very few people know that this company is operating on a 33% net margin levels. If you take the last quarter, the last three quarters there was 27% net margin levels, it's a great story when the power reforms happen, when the grids have been strengthened, power transmission increases manifold, I think Power Grid Corporation is one more story which will play over a period of time. I think investors at this time have great amount of reward and less amount of risk as once again Power Grid.


Why would you buy Pipavav?

Once again, in the case of Pipavav, too much was made on the listing. When the Indian economy deepens, strengthens, expands and grows, I think company like Pipavav should do very well for the simple reason that it is a combination of say let us say an ABG Shipyard and L&T and BHEL, I think they have their hands in number of pies and going forward I think it's a multibagger, investors need to have some patience. See for the next two or three quarter how they deliver, once the revenue streams start to coming I think Pipavav going forward will do very well for the investors. Once again risk reward ratio the downside is limited at this point in time, they can take all the upsides as available.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW RALLY IN WORLD MARKETS TO GIVE INDIA A BOOST TOO: DEEPAK MOHONI

 

Deepak Mohoni, Director, trendwatchindia.com, spoke to ET Now this morning. He feels that investors must hold on for now considering the renewed strength in the global markets.

 

How would you trade the index this morning?

Long side, this is a new rally for most global markets. We had been going sideways for about three weeks and we have broken out, but, world markets have started a new rally and that will give us a boost, so given that situation it is very much a hold.


On the charts, the auto space, Bajaj Auto in particular?

It is a good set up for trading because the stock went down yesterday after going up for 3-4 days and it has had pretty good momentum for the last two or three weeks, so the stocks I have really picked today are those, which have not done anything yesterday, so rotation should give them a chance to start a new move. It is always better to get into the move at the beginning than when the stock has been going up 3-4 days. And now Bajaj Auto sort of falls squarely in that category, so that is the particular reason for picking it up.


Metals and the entire sector was very active in yesterday's session. Would you still buy it, Tata Steel and the likes?
Not today because if you take top metal stocks so far, it has been Sesa Goa, but if Sesa Goa has risen for six days in a row, so it is a little late getting in. You will have to wait for some little bit of a correction before getting in but if somebody is holding metal, then it is very much a hold. There is no reason to let go of it but buying right now, I think the bus started a couple of days back really.


What would you buy this morning?

 

would be on the lookout for stocks which have been very strong in the last three weeks but took a dip yesterday. Now, there are not too many of them because yesterday was a pretty good day for the market, so that's where Bajaj Auto came in and Pharma yesterday had a bit of a dip, so Lupin, which has been a pretty good performer has momentum on its side, that could be a stock to look for. Jindal South West stock is not really one that traders go for normally but it has been trading quite heavily last month or so and doing well, so these are three stocks, which did not do very much yesterday but the strategy would be to see what they do in the first half, if they are in positive territory and tending to go up, then they would be good buys for intra-day as well as swing traders and the logical stop loss would be the low that has been breached by the first half hour.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OTC MARKET CAN BRING MORE LIQUIDITY'

 

Gaurav PaiPramit Brahmbhatt leads India operations of the Alpari Group, providers of online foreign exchange trading services with presence in seven countries. He joined Alpari as a financial consultant in 2006 and proceeded to set up the financial structure and risk management system for the company. In an interview with ET, Mr Brahmbhatt who is now the CEO of the company discusses the prospects for the Indian currency futures market and its relevance for retail investors. Excerpts:

 

It's been over a year for currency futures. Do you rate the growth satisfactory?

Currency trading was launched in India in August 2008 and this market has grown from over Rs 287 crore in October 2008 to an average daily turnover of Rs 8,000 crore by September 2009 as far as exchange traded currency derivatives are concerned. This is definitely one giant leap for the RBI in the direction of making rupee fully convertible.


What measures are to be taken to make the currency market grow?

There are several factors that can help this market grow and to increase the participation of retail investors. First and foremost, we need to increase the market hours from 9 am to 5 pm to at least 9 am to midnight to coincide with the commodity market, as there is a huge correlation with currency movement owing to commodity price movements. The European and US markets are open for 24 hours, five days a week. If there is any price movement that impacts the US dollar, the Indian investors are on the backfoot — they cannot immediately manage risks against the price movements in the global market.


Do we need more products to trade?

Indian regulators should look at increasing the number of pairs for trading. We hear that the Reserve Bank is planning to launch EUR\INR and GBP\INR in the near future. It will definitely be a good move, but that alone is not enough. The RBI should also look at introducing most traded currency pairs such as GBP\USD, EUR\USD, EUR\GBP, USD\CAD, and USD\JPY.

 

These are the cross currency pairs and if we look at the history of Indian traders, investors, speculators and hedgers, these currency pairs will give them more opportunity to trade and earn due to nature of their movement and Indian investors can take advantage of trading in these pairs. International coverage is vital in developing currency future exchanges as a full-fledged currency exchange.

 

How does the OTC market impact the exchange traded futures market?

World over, the currency market is dominated by the OTC market. We should not be left behind. OTC market can bring more liquidity, more participation from all class of players, reduce cost and lead to decentralised trading.

How do you rate the role of regulation in the whole process?

Regulation is an important factor for growth of the currency market. It is imperative to operate this market under strict monitoring by the regulators till such time the market matures and understands all the aspects of business. But at the same time, it is also important not to take the charm out of the market with over-regulation and over interference. We have witnessed several instances where regulations have given support to the dropping rupee. Such instances may result real profit-making possibilities and opportunities for the investor/trader or cause unanticipated losses to him and dissuade him from participating in this market.


Do Indian investors understand currency derivatives adequately?

Investor education is the key to development of any segment of market and regulators definitely play a big role in this. No broking house or market mover can undertake continuous customer education programme with their limited means and resources. Even if they do, it will have limited sphere of operation and reach. Indian investors fear actively participating in markets due to the complexities attached to it.


Regulators and industry should come together to carry out investor education activities — guide investors to the core about the financial market system and the benefits they can derive by participating in it. It has to be a massive education effort by the regulators to get more people to participate in this market. That alone will ensure that our markets are not entirely influenced by other markets.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'DON'T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT NAMA NEGOTIATIONS WOULD DO'

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

Low, who holds a Phd from UK's Sussex University and has written widely on a range of trade policy issues, spoke to ET at the recent Salzburg Global Seminar, 'Confronting Protectionism: How Business and Governments Can Build Support for Open Markets.' Excerpts:

 

There's been a spurt in world trade in July. Your comments..

Well, it's only one month's data.What's certain is that the collapse in world trade started to bottomout around the second quarter of this year. And so we have reasons to believe that this trend will continue, although we cannot be completely confident untill we have more information. It's notable that the recovery is stronger in Asia than the rest of the world. So we see Asia coming out of the downturn faster than other regions.


What are the main explanations for the decline in world trade?

The overwhelming explanation for the decline in trade was the reduction in demand–not just for trade but overall demand–which came directly out of the financial crisis, and the resultant drying up of credit. In addition, the reduction to some degree is due to the way we measure trade, in gross terms. With production-sharing across frontiers, when the same input for final output crosses the border several times, there is double counting.


That makes trade expansion look bigger, and trade contraction also look bigger. It's very hard to estimate by how much, though. Another important factor was trade finance. I think that at the onset of the crisis, there was a real shortage of trade finance. Some estimates suggest that 10-15% of the decrease in trade was on account of it.


Did not the relative decline in commodity prices lead to decline in trade?

The decline in trade depends on how you're measuring. In nominal terms, commodity prices went very high in the first half of 2008. Since then, they have come down quite heavily and we did see some decline in trade...I am certain that commodity prices will go up again, when the recovery takes off.


What do you see as the outlook on world trade in the medium term?

Most prognostications now suggest that we will get small positive numbers for trade growth in 2010. They will be very different in different regions, of course. But I think it is reasonable to expect that for global trade, the strong negative numbers of 2009 would turn positive, but not that very much. So we'll still be struggling to get out of the recession in 2010. The other very worrying thing for many parts of the world is that unemployment–a 'lag' variable–would continue to rise in 2010 and in all probability 2011. My sense is that we are not really looking at safely having got over the crisis until September, 2011.


What is your latest estimate of the contraction in world trade in 2009?

In volume terms, corrected for price changes, I think we are looking at something a little over 10% in trade contraction this year. The WTO officially has forecast minus (–) 10%, but it may be nearer –11% or so.


Are we in a position to factor in quality improvements into trade data?

If you look at the obvious pieces of information–change in unit price embedded in a good–it could be that changes in market conditions take prices up or down. So you'd be very hard put to allocate any unit price change over time to quality improvement. This needs very, very micro analysis at the product level, in order to track quality improvements...am not aware of any literature which systematically factors in quality.

 

 

What are the prospects for the Doha Round?

Take products under Nama (nonagricultural market access). What's on the table is that the degree of variance in tariffs would come down. Particularly in developed countries, you'd get a remarkable decrease in tariffs.


For example, tariff into the EU on canned tuna fish is 24%. This rate, if the formula that's on the table is to be realised, would fall to about 7%. That's a dramatic reduction. So I don't think we should underestimate what the Nama negotiations would do. Tariffs in many industrial countries across the board will fall by a non-negligible amount. For developing countries, depending on what tariff formula is applied, it would mean significant reduction in the gap between bound and applied tariffs. And that's well worth negotiating. In services, we have not really started talks...once we have them there could be some results.


Do you feel trade ministers are equipped to focus on such services as financial services, or telecom or transport etc?
One of the problems in negotiating is that we increasingly rely on different branches of government. And governments don't always find co-ordination that easy. So that's an additional challange in negotiating trade in services. As for trade facilitation, it's an area where there could be agreement with mutual benefit. It would reduce deadweight costs. So the efficiency gains from trade facilitation, say in Nama (most trade takes place in Nama products) are an attractive proposition. But services associated with trade facilitation are also important.

 


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

'THERE'S NO LOGIC IN ENTERING GREENFIELD INSURANCE'

GEORGE CHERIAN

 

Axis Bank's new MD & CEO Shikha Sharma is quite clear that her bank is not going to get into the insurance space. She believes there's just too much untapped opportunity that the bank has in building out a top-quality full-service retail bank and believes that product innovation and service quality will have to go hand-in-hand if banks must improve customer satisfaction levels. In an interview with ET NOW, she outlines her plans for the bank. Excerpts:

 

You've been on board long enough to chalk out a vision for the bank. What will it be?

I came here with no preconceived notion. What I wanted to do and what I've focused on getting done in the past four months is to get a bare understanding of Axis Bank, its businesses, its people and its culture.


Thus, the intent is to take the core strengths of Axis Bank, marry them to the opportunities the economy provides and then see how we can create a sustainable, value-creating business, which in turn, creates value for customers, is a great place for employees and creates sustainable shareholder value.


Should one assume that your decision to stay out of life insurance is only because of the LIC of India?

One of the great things about Axis Bank is that it is truly a board-managed company and all shareholders, who are on the board, do participate with an intent to look at what is right for the bank. So, I haven't seen any of the shareholders come in with their specific agenda and say that this is good for SUUTI or this is good for LIC or for somebody else so this is what we should do. Thus, LIC is not constraining us in terms of what to do.


Why should Axis try to build out a greenfield life insurance business at this point. I think a lot of players are thinking to exit that business now, so I don't see the logic in entering into that, in terms of manufacturing. Will we be a key distributor of life insurance? Yes, we would like to be, if we want to be a great consumer bank then we want to leverage that retail liability franchise and see what products make sense to our customers. We would definitely be keen on a sustainable long-term partnership on life insurance distribution.


So, you do not intend getting into the manufacturing space in life insurance?

If we have to go out and invest in building an insurance business, whether it's in life or general... Is that the best use of my capital or am I better off deploying that capital in the bank and maximising shareholders' returns. But equally it's that there are so many things we're good at as a bank and there's so much more that needs to be done that how is it that I can best deploy the talent base of the bank right now. Form that perspective, general insurance is also pretty crowded, volatile in terms of returns. We would love to continue to be a distributor. But a manufacturer? I don't know if it makes sense.


So, life and general insurance... Axis is not getting into the manufacturing space.

No, we're not looking at that.


How about the businesses that you are in — private equity, investment banking – what are your plans there?


As far as other businesses are concerned... I'd said we would like to be a great retail bank, a great SME bank, a great corporate bank with a special focus on infrastructure and we'd like to grow our payments franchise. Now within that, if we have to grow each of our consumer propositions, then you have to look at more products.

So, asset management is something that we would look at as tightly integrated with the bank's strategy to see how we can service our retail and corporate customers better by providing them a wider suite of products, manufactured under the Axis brand. Any other business will also be looked at through the same lens... Axis has, in fact, been among the top two bond houses in the country for many years. We would want to continue that. That has been a part of the investment bank type services the bank has been providing, so we would look at other sets of products and services.


How about retail banking? Are you happy with the size of the business?


Axis Bank has a fantastic retail banking franchise, which reflects in the stable CASA deposits of the bank at around 40% for the past several years. The bank has been focused on ways of leveraging that retail liability franchise to provide more products and services to our customers. So, the bank, for instance, provide mortgages, we do auto loans, we've done personal loans . So, the focus would be on how do we become a full-service retail bank to our retail customers.


And as I said, the products could be manufactured by us or they could be sourced from other partners.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE INDUSTRIAL INDEX PHENOMENA

 

The unexpected jump in the Index of Industrial Production figures for August 2009 to 10.4 per cent  from 1.7 per cent a year ago (in August 2008) seems spectacular on the face of it. Fourteen of the 17 industry groups registered robust growth. But a closer look at what is being labelled as a 22-month high will show that it is not as stellar a performance as the numbers project because this jump is on an extremely low base made at a time when the global economic crisis was nearing its peak. It is an issue of high base and low base and has to do with the numbers game. It is a numerical phenomena that proves that on a low base it is easy to show high growth and, conversely, on a high base it is easy to show low growth. This means that the September IIP figures could be lower as the base in September 2008 was six per cent. The capital goods sector, for instance, has done very well at 21 per cent in September 2008. Capital goods contributes nine per cent to the IIP. The point is whether for September 2009 it will be able to maintain this growth. The answer to this will show the real trend of growth in most of the sectors that have shown stellar performance in August. A more rational way to look at industrial production would be to take the actual growth between April and August this fiscal, which was 5.8 per cent, against 4.8 per cent in the same period the previous year. The manufacturing sector, which is the centrepin of the economy, is expected to grow by eight per cent, according to the Prime Minister's economic panel. Manufacturing contributes 80 per cent to the IIP. A heartening factor in August's IIP figures is the broad-based growth in the textile sector, which includes cotton textiles, textile products and manmade fibres which had suffered the most in the economic downturn. Along with the leather and diamond industries, this sector had seen lakhs of workers thrown out of employment because of low demand for exports from India. The upturn in industrial production figures, especially in areas like consumer durables and non-durables, auto, cement and steel etc., augurs well for the economy if it can be sustained. What is interesting is that the offtake in credit has not kept pace with industrial production, which depends to a large extent on bank funding. This indicates that business is once again resorting to foreign funding, particularly from qualified institutional buyers or qualified institutional placements and private equity. Last year, when there was a global credit squeeze, foreign sources of funding had literally dried up and domestic banks had to bear the full brunt of the demand for credit from business and industry. There was an outcry that banks were not giving credit and industry was being squeezed. The banks maintained that there was a credit offtake, though on a smaller scale, and that industry was feeling the pinch as it expected banks to substitute fully for the foreign funding sources that had dried up. The credit offtake figures juxtaposed with the IIP numbers now indicate that the situation has reversed. This is an interesting situation in the light of the credit policy to be announced on October 27. Does this new situation mean that banks will be flush with even more funds? The government's borrowing programme is also nearing an end. This would mean more funds with the banks. If so, will the RBI have to impound some of this through an increase in the cash reserve ratio?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A HISTORIC ACCORD WILL OPEN SEALED BORDERS

BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

The Turkish Prime Minister, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accomplished a unique feat, with help from his Armenian counterpart, Mr Serge Sarkisian, and Europe and the United States, in engineering an agreement with his neighbour burying the nearly century-old feud on whether the killing of Armenians towards the end of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. Historical memories run deep, and the commemoration of a tragic event had become a matter of faith and nationalism for Armenians and their powerful diaspora of 1,5 million in the United States. Turkish analysts are hailing the accord, signed in Switzerland, as an event of the century, but it is the most significant development since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


In 1993 Armenian troops went to the aid of ethnic Armenians in the Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno Karabach. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in solidarity with Azerbaijan and set two conditions: withdraw the worldwide campaign on declaring the tragedy of 1915 as genocide and withdraw troops around the enclave. Armenia has therefore had to live with closed borders on two sides, using Georgia as a transit route. It also became over dependent on Russian goodwill to survive.


Enter Mr Erdogan and his assertive good-neighbourly policy, recognising that the ambitious wider role he envisages for his country required a friendly neighbourhood. He encouraged a new push to resolve the fractious division of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish Cypriots, made overtures to the restive Kurds in the eastern region of Turkey and set about meeting criteria for membership of the European Union. In fact, making peace with Armenia was also an EU condition for membership.


There were last-minute hitches before the signing of the agreement, with a posse of high-level personages, including US secretary of state and the Russian and French foreign minister and the EU envoy, Mr Javier Solana, choreographing the event. Apparently, the US objected to a Turkish post-signing statement, the solution being that neither side would make such a statement. In essence, the agreement envisages the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the opening of the shared border in two months. The genocide issue has been set aside by the appointment of a joint commission of historians while the Nagarno Karabakh issue will continue to be mediated by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


Armenia's President Sarkisian, on his part, has shown courage in accepting the deal although he was under intense Western pressure, particularly after his crackdown on opposition supporters protesting against the allegedly rigged presidential election in 2008. His laconic comment on the agreement was: "There is no alternative to the establishment of relations with Turkey without any precondition, It is the dictate of the time".

 

In fact, opposition to the treaty led to protests from the diaspora from Beirut to Los Angeles and at home. One party withdrew from the ruling coalition.


Mr Erdogan, who blotted his copybook recently by slapping a $2.5 billion fine on a media mogul's empire being critical of his government for alleged unpaid taxes, has shown yet again that he is an astute politician who has his eye on the larger picture. Turks have traditionally viewed themselves as a regional superpower, but the Prime Minister's contribution has been to translate this vision into a coherent and consistent policy of wooing neighbours the earlier ostentatiously secular military-dominated regimes fought shy of. The Islamic orientation of the ruling Justice and Development Party has, of course, helped, but Mr Erdogan was quick to grasp the central fact that relying on the United States and Nato was good but had its limits. Although Turkey's prospect of membership of the EU seems bleak in the short term, the Prime Minister has used the membership issue to loosen the grip of the powerful military establishment by employing EU guidelines.


In view of ethnic Turkish links to at least some of the Central European countries, Ankara has always viewed the region, particularly after the break-up of the Soviet Union, as a natural area of influence. Normalisation of relations with Armenia would give it a new opening to the region. If Russia considers its "near abroad" as an area of privileged interest, Turkey feels that the ethic and linguistic linkages do provide the platform for maintaining special relations. For Armenia, the opening of the border with Turkey will come as a godsend in term of economic and trade relations and access to the considerable Turkish market and level of development.


President Sarkisian discovered for himself during his recent tour of countries with a large Armenian diaspora that descendants of the victims of those killed towards the end of the Ottoman Empire have neither forgiven Turks nor forgotten the tragedy. A website has already opened (KEGAHART.com) seeking support under the rubric: "We condemn the Turkish-Armenian Agreement".


And one Armenian has reacted to the signing of the accord with the comment: "The point is that the issue of the genocide is a natural demand, which should not be made an axis of state policy".


The agreement needs parliamentary approval in the two countries although both are expected to complete it on time. But the actual opening of the border will be the biggest symbol of change, if it does not get entangled in violent nationalist protests in Armenia. Obviously, Armenia has had to make greater concessions even though they relate to addressing issues of psychology that have blended into the Armenian psyche. Itis danger time for President Sarkisian till the border opening. Once trade starts and peoplevisit each other, the benefitswill dull the pain of historical memories.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A RELIABLE AFGHAN PARTNER IS NEED OF HOUR

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

If President Obama can find a way to balance the precise number of troops that will stabilise 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 counter-insurgency 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 August 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 stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Stanley McChrystal, US 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 behaviour of the Karzai government — not against the religion or civilisation 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. On 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 US 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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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

BY THE DC DEBATE: IT WILL BE IMPRUDENT OF THE AIR FORCE TO GET SUCKED INTO ANTI-NAXAL OPS

INDUCTION WILL RAISE THE CONFLICT TEMPO

BY P.S. AHLUWALIA

The government is and must be free to utilise all resources, including defence forces, to suppress anti-national elements. However, the type and quantum of force required must be selected judiciously. At this point in time, it would be imprudent of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to get sucked into anti-Naxal operations.
The first consideration would be to assess the probability of success of air power in this type of situation. Air power is best deployed in the offensive mode, when you can strike the adversary at your time and place of choosing. But then, the targets have to be well-defined and easily discernible from the air. In the case of Naxalites, there are no target systems available — no training camps, no ammunition dumps, concrete structures etc. The targets are mostly humans who concentrate and scoot within the camouflaged jungle areas.
Collateral damage would alienate the ordinary citizen. Examples of Iraq and Afghanistan are before us. This could add to the swelling of Naxal sympathisers, more so among the poorer sections, and rural masses.
Offensive operations would require hard intelligence regularly and accurately. This may not be available to the extent required. Deployment of helicopters in the offensive mode is a possibility. But the inherent risks are large. Helicopters are vulnerable to small arms fire as also short-range shoulder-fired missiles. They also have limitations in terms of range and endurance. Induction of IAF will lead to sophisticated weapons (surface-to-air missiles etc.) being inserted into the area and raising the conflict tempo.


If the gains in the offensive operation role are limited, it is in the support role that air power would make a difference. Some of these are reconnaissance and surveillance, casualty evacuation, ferrying of troops, logistical support etc. Firing for self-protection is necessary and must be cleared by the government before induction.
The genesis of the Naxal movement lies in socio-economic issues. It would, therefore, need a political solution in the ultimate analysis. Use of air power signifies the highest instrument of military engagement. It is escalatory. Will it help in conflict resolution, or delay it? Using excessive force against one's own people, although misguided, would have its political fallout.


In our country, we have approximately 15 lakh personnel as paramilitary forces. Perhaps the right numbers could be comprehensively trained, motivated and suitably equipped to take on tasks such as anti-Naxal operations. Second, we need to have an organisation on the lines of the Air National Guards. Sufficient helicopters, UAVs, and other such resources could be made available and specifically trained for such special tasks.

 

Air Marshal P.S. Ahluwalia, former IAF Western command chief

AIR FORCE CAN LEND FOCUSED SUPPORT

BY S. KRISHNASWAMY

The wording of the motion for debate already conveys a prejudice against the Air Force entering anti-Naxalite operations through the use of the expression "sucked into". It is as if an operation going out of control has already been visualised. Such pessimism is uncalled for.


First, it is the government's prerogative to use the military in any manner towards a purpose which obviously would be decided after due consideration. There is a difference between military employed against an enemy and that of serving a purpose in support of civilian needs. The Indian mindset often suspects Air Force operations to be escalatory, and worries about high casualty. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Such apprehension stems from ignorance. This negative attitude has already cost the country.


Anti-Naxalite operation is not chasing and getting an enemy, but a focused police operation. It is about providing support measures — rounding up the misguided and the criminals, who are citizens of this country. It could also be an effort to correct those misguided through counter-propaganda and carefully calibrated coercion. It is about paving the way for development of neglected regions and protecting the innocent. It is not a battle to win.


The expectation from the Air Force in this contingency is not "fire power" but to provide support in the areas of logistics, transportation, communication, surveillance and medical support. Apparently, the Maoists are well organised and supported. The Air Force could possibly help in hunting the logistics support trail and help in destroying these. Helicopters equipped with loudspeakers, and transport aircraft, could help propaganda and help distribute pamphlets and leaflets over a wide area. Air Force could provide, where necessary, food and medical relief to affected people and strengthen confidence in the government. It is possible to provide support round the clock and with speed. Helicopters are ideal to move troops and material in a difficult terrain such as jungle. The Air Force has considerable expertise in this field.


Helicopters as well as troops on ground may at times need "protective-fire support" — typically in counter-ambush operations. It is possible to provide accurate fire from on-board helicopters either as a suppressive measure or for attack. Considering risks that this may pose to the innocents in the area, such missions would be carefully planned and executed.


Indian Air Force is a professional air-arm. It is necessary for those at the helm to understand the capabilities, and not hesitate to assess in a timely manner. It is time that we trust our Air Force. Other developed countries would not hesitate to use Air Force assets in a similar contingency. Nor would such a debate be necessary.

 

Air Chief Marashal S. Krishnaswamy, former IAF Chief

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MOTHER TERESA IS VERY MUCH OURS

BY ANTARA DEV SEN

 

In this wonderful season of love, fellowship and giving — with Diwali coming up and the warmth of Id, Durga Puja and Navaratri fresh in our hearts — we suddenly find ourselves fuming and unable to give. No question, we snap, this is ours, you can't claim it, buzz off. We said it twice this week, to China and to Albania. With good reason.


The claims were not comparable. Albania, in an adventurous act worthy of Ripley's Believe It Or Not, lay claim to Mother Teresa's relics. She's Albanian and we want her to be buried here, they demanded, so ship her remains back to us forthwith. Once we had got over the shock of this outrageous demand, we shut our gaping mouths with effort, and refused.


We were prompter with China, which had meanwhile expressed disapproval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India, we said curtly once again. Like Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh has been disputed territory for long. China claims parts of this northeastern state of India, like Tawang. It has even refused visas to people from Arunachal (But they are Chinese! Why do they need visas to visit China?). On the northwestern border, China has started giving separate visas to people of Indian Kashmir, refusing to stamp on Indian passports. The China-India border dispute goes back centuries — the curious 1962 war only blurred the issue further — and our attempts to wish it away have failed.


So the two claims are not comparable. Except in the outrage they triggered among us. Arre bhai, our Prime Minister is visiting our own state, how dare the Chinese object? Next they will tell us how to run the country! The anger is genuine, but so is the lack of clear understanding of the issue. The inscrutable Indo-China border dispute has taken on a filmi patriotism. Meanwhile, the Centre's attempts at letting sleeping dogs lie doesn't work amidst threatening growls, especially when flanked by aggressive Right-wing barking about territorial integrity and mealy-mouthed mumblings from the Left. There is urgent need for more public information on the matter if we really want to resolve it.


On the other hand, Albania's claim on Mother Teresa is easily resolved. She was an Indian citizen and lived here for almost 70 years, from 1929 till her death in 1997. She was certainly Albanian by ethnicity, since her parents were Albanian. But Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu became Mother Teresa in India, the country she came to as a teenaged nun and made her home. This was her country, where she had found her calling, the country that embraced her as Mother. She had become an Indian citizen back in 1948, right after Independence, much before she started The Missionaries of Charity. Besides, even deliberating Albania's claim would open a Pandora's box. For example, Italy could one day lay claim to one of our most distinguished citizens.


Most importantly, Mother Teresa regarded Kolkata her home. I was privileged to know her a little (in spite of her legendary kindness and simplicity, the bird-like lady was a hard nut to crack) and to her, home was Kolkata. And she said "aamaader desh" (our country) quite frequently, emphasising in Bengali the needs of poverty-stricken India. Of course, Mother Teresa finally belongs to the whole world. She is too big a personality to be restricted to any nation, too magnificent a human being to be squabbled over. But if there is a claim, it can be made only by her family, the Missionaries of Charity; and if there is a final resting place it is where she is right now, at Mother House, her home in life and death. As our government said, "Mother Teresa was an Indian citizen and she is resting in her own country".

Albania has some cheek, asking for her remains now that she is on her way to becoming a saint. She was born in Skopje, then part of the Ottoman Empire and now capital of Macedonia. Sure, her parents were Albanian, but she was never treated as an Albanian citizen by the country that is now keen to claim her. In fact, she was not even allowed to visit her mother and sister, who lived in Albania. Later, when she had become a "living saint", Albania let her visit their graves.


Albania's claims on Mother Teresa began after the Nobel laureate's death. After the collapse of their communist regime, Albania has been hungry for national icons and Mother Teresa was an obvious target. They named their international airport after her in 2001 and from the time of her beatification in 2003, fought loudly with Macedonia, rubbishing her birthplace Skopje's claim on her. They declared the day of her beatification, October 19, as a national holiday and announced 2004 as Mother Teresa Year. But even as recently as 2006, the proposal to erect her statue in Shkoder, Albania, was nixed by the local council, apparently because it would hurt Muslim sentiments. Not in a public place, they said, if there is to be a statue, it must be in a Catholic space. So even now Mother Teresa is just a Catholic nun in Albania, not a national icon.


The fact is, you don't need to possess human remains to lay claim to a saintly figure. You just need to carry on their work. Albania could have gone that way. Especially because Mother Teresa never denied her Albanian ethnicity. As she said, famously: "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus…"
And we too will do well to remember that. We can't claim her merely by citing citizenship, or by having her remains on Indian soil. We can't push her into a slot as a Catholic, because she believed that each one of us could serve our own God. And every time there is violence against Muslims or dalits or the underprivileged in the name of religion, we would do well to remember her words: "How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?" To keep Mother Teresa with us, we need more than a grave. We need to make space for her in our conscience.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

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 modelled 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 GOP leaders".


The influence-peddling firm will be wildly successful, no doubt, because if anyone has shown a golden touch, it's Dick Cheney. 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 strategise about how to buy an NFL 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 US 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 energise 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 website 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.


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 spectre 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.

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BEIJING'S SNUB

WILL THE PM AT LEAST BOB AND WEAVE?


IF Mr S M Krishna believes the way China has reacted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh is linked to voter turnout, he must be extremely naïve, or very poorly advised. Our north-eastern neighbour has remained true to the script it first wrote when the Communists came to power some 60 years ago, and in furtherance of which it, among other things, fought a war, effected several border skirmishes, denied a visa to a diplomat from Arunachal Pradesh and attempted to block aid from the Asian Development Bank. In short, the Chinese position has been consistent and it is that the line drawn by Sir Arthur Henry McMohan in 1914 after the Simla Conference attended by representatives of China and Tibet, is not binding on it. There are several reasons for China's continued intransigence, not the least of which is that if it accepts the outcome of the 1914 meeting as having determined the line separating the countries, it would by implication be giving weight to the claims of legitimacy made by the Dalai Lama's Tibetan government in exile. Arunachal Pradesh is of great strategic importance. Any resolution of the border dispute on Beijing's terms would not only give it control of valuable land; it would, through a redrawing of borders with Bhutan, help complete the encirclement of India, a country that ancient Chinese lore described as the Western Heaven. We must remember this process is well under way with Beijing's initiatives in Islamabad, Kathmandu, Dhaka, Yangon and Colombo.
Three events are slated to happen next month. The Dalai Lama is to visit Arunachal Pradesh in mid-November. US President Barack Obama is to visit Beijing in mid-November. And Dr Singh is to visit Washington a few days later. Mr Obama has already snubbed the Dalai Lama; he postponed a meeting until after his Beijing visit, leaving the Tibetan leader to be feted by American lawmakers. The US today needs China, more than China needs the US, and there are clear signs that Mr Obama will lean over backwards to accommodate Beijing, perhaps even on the question of Arunachal Pradesh. If this happens, Dr Singh should prepare himself for the patented American handshake that will massage his palm but twist his arm on the border question. Fifty years ago, the New York Daily News had headlined a story on China's territorial claims and India's response with these telling words: 'Nehru bobs, weaves but won't fight'. Our worry is that Nehru's successor might not even bob and weave.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

AUSTERITY BLINK

CAN GIMMICKS BE SUSTAINED?


PRANAB Mukherjee could be excused for deviating from the austerity-script he had authored when using a chartered plane to open the INTUC convention in Kochi. After all he had been done rare honour by the Congress' "supremo"; she asked him to fill her shoes since she was on the campaign trail. And under such circumstances no rupee is to be left unspent to satisfy Madam's wishes. It is another story that he used the same aircraft for the return journey. Maybe that was part of the hiring-deal, yet a minister with four officials and a four-man crew in a 15-seater must have ensured rather comfortable flights. That the political clan hasn't fully reconciled itself to travelling cattle-class is reconfirmed by reports (now disowned lest there be a backlash) from crew of the national carrier that MPs (some ministers too) frequently book themselves in economy class but insist on an upgrade as soon as they board. A few have even plonked themselves in 'J' class seats, and refused to move. Well aware that to physically eject them would constitute grave violation of parliamentary privilege. Maybe that would explain why the crew were not "complaining" ~ they were merely alerting their superiors in case they were hauled up for liberal upgrades that the management now frowns upon. What's the upshot? That the austerity drive is rooted in hypocrisy, and every opportunity to circumvent it will be fully exploited? The reality is that these gimmicks cannot be sustained once they cease to ensure a media splash. And in terms of savings they yield little: will the finance ministry publish the quantum of the expenditure-reduction and assess its impact on administrative efficiency?


In any case what is deemed lavish today can be totally accepted tomorrow: recall the furore when TV showed Rajiv Gandhi in a tribal village with a bottle of mineral water in his hand? Those bottles are now "standard" on every conference table. Taking aam aadmi for a ride has ever been political practice, almost a family trait. After the first oil shock Indira used a horse-drawn buggy from Safdarjang Road to South Block ~ the customary motorcade travelled some distance behind, the cars driving in low gear, burning up even more fuel than normal!

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SPEED IT UP

IBOBI SET-UP DRAGGING ITS FEET


THE judicial inquiry by retired Gauhati High Court judge BK Agarwal, which is inquiring into the circumstances that led to the death of a former People's Liberation Army activist, Ch Sanjit, while in Manipur police commando custody on 23 July, still has a considerable way to go before findings are submitted. It was appointed at the end of August in place of a magisterial inquiry, and has so far examined only one witness. This apart, the police is said to have failed to submit a report, prompting the Commission to issue orders to the superintendents of police of both Imphal West and Imphal East to be present when hearing resumes on 20 October. It also wants the submission of a copy of the magisterial probe. Valuable time has already been lost in conducting the investigation. The government is dutybound to provide all possible assistance to speed up the process.
Many are already sceptical about the government coming out with the truth, but it must ~ if not for anything than for the sake of restoring peace in the state. The 32-party umbrella organisation, Apunba Lup, is continuing to protest and call for chief minister Ibobi Singh's resignation on moral grounds, and punishment for those responsible for Sanjit's killing. Students have boycotted classes for more than a month. The government has caused the situation to deteriorate by booking some of the agitation leaders under the National Security Act. The Manipur Human Rights Commission is also conducting an independent inquiry (apart from Sanjit, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, Th Rabina, was killed in the cross-firing). A commission member alleged the state government had a "hidden agenda" in not offering any assistance. In fact, the government has always been treating it in a lackadaisical manner. There are some who feel that these inquiries are superfluous since the photographs of the entire 23/7 episode show Sanjit being escorted by the police and later his body being dragged out from a shop.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHOCOLATE, WATER REDUCE PAIN: STUDY

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


LONDON, 14 OCT: Experiencing severe pains? Fret not. Munching a bar of chocolate or sipping a refreshing glass of water can give your relief, says a new study.


An international team, led by Chicago University, has carried out the study and found that the distraction of eating or drinking for pleasure acts as a natural painkiller, even in the absence of hunger or thirst, the Daily Mail reported.


According to researchers, a part of the brain called the raphe magnus helps blunt pain when eating or drinking. The same area eases pain while sleeping or going to the lavatory. Although the findings come from studies on animals, researchers believe the same effect takes place in people.


Lead researcher Dr Peggy Mason said the study found that the rats were less bothered by pain if they were eating a chocolate chip or drinking water. "It's a strong, strong effect but it's not about hunger or appetite."
She added: "If you have all this food in front of you that's easily available to reach out and get, you're not going to stop eating, for basically almost any reason."

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STATUS OF ARUNACHAL

TIME CHINA GROWS UP

BY RAJINDER PURI


BEIJING objected to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh because it claimed that Indian state to be part of China. The Indian government responded with the following statement: "We express our disappointment and concern over the statement made by the official spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs since this does not help the process of ongoing negotiations between the two Governments on the Boundary Question."


What a pathetic response! The Chinese statement was not only impertinent. It was stupid. Beijing objected to the PM's visit to Arunachal Pradesh but did not utter a peep about recent elections in that state in which 72 per cent of the electorate cast their votes. Perhaps Beijing does not like to be reminded of democratic elections that are conspicuously absent in China.


The truth is that China is becoming a bore and a nuisance. Its economic and military prowess has given its government a bloated idea about its importance. Beijing's attitude with its warlord mentality is frozen in the nineteenth century. But the world has changed. People are interdependent and informed. Big powers can bomb nations and humiliate them. They cannot subjugate them. The 21st century man can fulfill Ernest Hemingway's 20th century comment: "Man can be destroyed, not defeated."


A DANGEROUS MISCALCULATION

AMERICA is more powerful than China. Iraq and Afghanistan are teaching America this painful lesson. One hopes that the abject approach of the UPA government does not lead China to make a dangerous miscalculation. The UPA government is not permanent. It in no way reflects the temper of the Indian people.


Beijing should wake up to some hard truths. In 1954 Pandit Nehru signed a Treaty of Friendship with China by which India recognized Tibet to be part of China. By signing that treaty Nehru thought that the boundary question with China was settled. It was a piece of thoughtless cynicism to buy peace with his bhai in Beijing at the cost of the Tibetan people. Successive Indian governments have behaved like prisoners of this treaty.


However, Article VI of the 1954 Treaty states: "The present agreement shall come into effect upon ratification by both Governments and shall remain in force for eight years. Extension of the present agreement may be negotiated by the two parties if either party requests for it six months prior to the expiry of the agreement and the request is agreed to by the other party." The treaty was neither renegotiated nor extended. It lapsed. India is under no legal constraint to consider Tibet to be part of China.


The uncivilized approach by the Beijing government in dealing with Tibet has brought to the fore the dispute regarding the status of Tibet . His Holiness the Dalai Lama with his idealistic commitment to peace had stated that Tibet could be considered as an autonomous region of China. Beijing refused to respond. It is unlikely that even the Dalai Lama's offer would be accepted by future generations of young Tibetans. Tibet is culturally and historically not a part of China. Tibetans want independence. It is not for India to take sides in this dispute. The Indian government should state unambiguously that the status of Tibet is disputed and India cannot recognize it as part of China until such time as Beijing can reach agreement with credible representatives of the Tibetan people.


The Ching dynasty of the Manchus had conquered China like the Mongols before them. They conquered the adjacent territories of the Mongols and the Uighurs. They annexed Tibet and Nepal to make them protectorates. In 1911-12 the Chinese revolted and overthrew the Ching dynasty to win independence. After the overthrow of the Manchus, Tibet may be considered as much part of China as Myanmar would be Indian because Burma was part of the British Empire.


COMMISSION OF JURISTS

IN 1959 the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) met in Geneva to study the status of Tibet. The commission after extensive research and study concluded: "The important point which emerges as a historical fact at this time is the ineffectiveness of the supposed Chinese authority in Tibet." Not surprisingly, the jurists affirmed: "Personal allegiance of the Dalai Lama towards the Manchu Emperor came to an end. Tibet's expulsion of the Chinese in 1912 can fairly be described as one of de facto independence and there are, as explained, strong legal grounds for thinking that any form of legal subservience to China had vanished."
Beijing, therefore, should stop being obsessed with Arunachal Pradesh. It should focus on Tibet and Xingjian. Both are disputed territories. The disputes pertaining to their status need to be resolved amicably through dialogue. India has a dispute on Kashmir which is half occupied by Pakistan. The Indian government's efforts to resolve the issue are unsatisfactory. But New Delhi is at least recognizing the problem and trying to defuse it through dialogue.


Beijing on the other hand is frozen in an unrelenting and rigid mindset. So is its favourite proxy in South Asia, Pakistan. Right now the Pakistan Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, is in China. The militant organizations in Pakistan are waging a war against their former patrons, the Pakistan army. The Al Qaida has urged a jihad against China for its repression in Xingjian. One deplores terrorism. But as many human rights activists repeatedly state with regard to Kashmir, should not the roots of the problems in Tibet, Xingjian, NWFP and Baluchistan be addressed to end terrorism? One does hope that all the bleeding hearts over Kashmir will support this demand.


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

STOP AND GO

 

To paraphrase Gary Schilling, the American economist, slowdowns are stop-and-go affairs; most have at least one or two really good months before they pick up again. The index of industrial production, an important monthly indicator of economic activity, showed a startling performance for August. It grew 10.4 per cent over the same month last year. Taking both July and August together, the IIP grew by 8.8 per cent, compared to 3.8 per cent in the same period in 2008. In GDP growth terms, the two month improvement translates into about an annualized 9 per cent. It is small wonder, therefore, that the stock markets have responded euphorically, going up by over 2 per cent on Monday. But before popping the champagne, consider three factors.

 

First, the impressive performance is a function of the low base effect: if you are starting from a low base in anything, initial improvements will be huge, but will get harder to achieve in successive months. It takes very little to create huge improvements. The IIP number in August 2008 was about 266.6 and rose to 294.3 in August 2009. However, that number is lower than the above 300 IIP level achieved in March 2009. So rather than looking at this as heralding a big economic recovery, it is more prudent to view it as normalizing from the strong economic contraction that took place over six months from January to June this year. Second, while many sub-indices — manufacturing, mining and electricity and petroleum products in particular — drove the overall 'stellar' performance of the IIP, consumer goods growth decreased from 14.3 per cent to 8.5 per cent for August. The improvements in some of the sub-indices were not similarly reflected in others: productive capacity utilization is still behind. Several sectors continue to report significant excess capacity: most traditional industries, food products, beverages, metal products and equipment and machinery. Capital investment, which usually follows such a jump in the IIP, may not materialize as quickly as many may expect, and it is fresh capital expenditures by companies that will take us back to 9 per cent GDP growth.

 

Third, if the improvements in the IIP imply an increase in overall demand, the prospects for an increase in inflation expectations will be higher. Already, consumer price inflation is shouting distance from double digits, and consensus forecasts suggest that wholesale price inflation is moving up more sharply than envisaged. But credit growth is still rather anaemic: at an estimated 17 per cent compared to the growth target of 20 per cent even though monetary conditions remain easy. While the IIP numbers for September may be satisfactory too, the October numbers will reflect the impact of rather inadequate monsoon rainfall. That glass is still slightly less than half-full.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SOUND CHECK

 

In Calcutta, sound and fury evidently signify a great deal. This must be the reason why traders are feeling so disgruntled with the ban on noisy firecrackers. The law, at present, puts a 90-decibel cap on sound-producing firecrackers — which means around 14 firecrackers from a list running far too long can be legitimately burst this Kali Puja and Diwali. But the makers and sellers of these items of 'festive cheer' are unhappy with this 'concession', and have put pressure on the police and the pollution control board for more leniency. Will the PCB and the police relent? One can never tell. A few weeks ago, the police had won kudos for efficient traffic management during the Durga Puja. But it would be premature to rest assured on that performance. The Calcutta Police is known for its inconsistency, so it may well decide to turn a deaf ear to noise pollution this year. That would mean a pretty pile for unscrupulous traders and a field day for unthinking revellers.

 

The larger issue around this absurd 'debate' over permissible limits of sound pollution has little to do with law. It must be a special kind of mind that finds pleasure in explosive firecrackers — it is a taste not many are privileged to acquire. As high-decibel noise can cause a range of physical distress — from loss of hearing to cardiac arrest — there can be nothing remotely mirthful about raising a din. Those who burst such firecrackers, and those who abet their manufacture and selling, are equally selfish and perverse, responsible for causing health hazards and answerable to those citizens who like to enjoy their festivals in peace. Why should a religious festival anyway be turned into an excuse for unruly behaviour? Why are firecrackers, noisy or silent, so indispensable for the celebration of Kali Puja or Diwali? Firecrackers are made of chemicals that emanate noxious fumes when burnt. This cannot be a good thing for any city. For Calcutta, already choked with vehicular pollution, it is nothing less than lethal.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A MATTER OF SHOCK VALUE

THIS YEAR'S NOBEL AWARDS IN ECONOMICS WERE SURPRISING

BHASKAR DUTTA

 

Nobel Prize announcements sometimes have great shock value. This year, the committees awarding the peace and economics prizes have set new standards on this score. Virtually everyone agrees that President Barack Obama's record so far does not merit the peace prize simply because he has not been in office long enough to make any difference to world peace. The economics awards to Oliver Williamson and Elinor Ostrom, the latter incidentally being the first woman to get the prize for economics, have similarly confounded most economists.

 

Both were rank outsiders with the betting firm Ladbrokes offering odds of 50-1 on either of them getting the prize. At least two of my colleagues in the economics department in Warwick, as well as a very well-known economist visiting us from the United States of America, had not heard of Elinor Ostrom. Williamson, on the other hand, was, until a few years ago, a highly-cited economist. But, he had receded from the mental horizon of most economists since his important work was done in the Seventies.

 

Ostrom and Williamson have been honoured with this year's prize for their work on "economic governance". This catch-all phrase refers to the study of the sets of rules or institutions under which individual agents interact with one another. The notion of "rules" also has to be given a somewhat broad interpretation. Rules could refer to the judicial system which influences the success with which property rights and legal contracts are enforced. They could be the rules that govern market transactions, or transactions within firms or between the government and private citizens. Research on economic governance attempts to analyse what can be said about the connections between different types of transactions and the appropriateness or optimality of specific rules. The two Nobel laureates have explored vastly different aspects of this extremely large field.

 

Ostrom's claim to fame is her work on the classes of problems labelled the "tragedy of the commons", this term incidentally having been coined by the biologist, Gareth Hardin. Consider any situation where individual property rights over a resource are not well-defined, making it a common-pool resource. For instance, the "resource" could be the stock of fish in the ocean, or groundwater or forests on public land. Then, traditional economic theory predicts that the absence of individual property rights will imply that more of the resources will be utilized each period than is socially optimal. So, too many fish will be caught resulting in a depletion of the fish stock, far too many trees will be cut down, and so on.

 

The underlying logic behind the overexploitation of common-pool resources is simple enough. Each individual, say fisherman, has an incentive to catch as much fish as he possibly can because his catch can make only a marginal dent in the future fish stock. The problem of over-exploitation occurs because the small dents of several fishermen add up to a large hole in the fish stock. This suggests that the optimal policy response in such situations is either privatization or nationalization of the common-pool resource whenever these are feasible options. The caveat is necessary because neither option may be feasible in international waters.

 

Ostrom challenges the conventional wisdom that the lack of well-defined property rights will result in a sub-optimal utilization of resources. Based on several case studies undertaken by her, she claims that the individual users of common-pool resources often evolve their own system of governance in order to promote the collective good. Of course, she is also careful to point out that there are several instances where the prediction of conventional theory turns out to be correct.

 

This raises the obvious conundrum. What distinguishes cases of successful versus unsuccessful governance? The methodology of case studies cannot help in solving this "puzzle". Unfortunately, neither Ostrom nor others have proposed any well-developed theory which can provide answers or explanations. Ostrom's own work presents us with an interesting set of facts, and she also makes some very interesting suggestions about designing an appropriate environment in which user groups can formulate rules to promote the collective good. But she has no definitive work, which is surely a reasonable requirement to be included in the most elite group of economists.

 

Williamson's work of the Seventies was certainly seminal and was instrumental in developing the modern theory of the firm. What is often not realized is that a huge volume of transactions take place within a firm. This implies that markets and firms are often competing institutions. An obvious question is what environment makes one a more efficient mode of governance than the other.

 

Both have their advantages. Markets are likely to work well if there are no impediments to implementing detailed or complicated contracts. Markets will also be relatively efficient whenever there is a large number of buyers and sellers. In such "thick" markets, the costs associated with the market — haggling or bargaining and the ensuing delay — will tend to be small. A buyer who tries to bargain too hard with a potential seller may find that some other buyer has offered a better deal to the seller.

 

Conversely, firms are likely to function more efficiently in thin markets. In such an environment, bargaining between divisions of a vertically integrated firm can be minimized because of the hierarchical structure of any firm — the CEO acts as the final arbiter and so can take matters in hand if there is excessive bargaining. The flip side of the coin is that authority can be abused, and this represents the costs of the vertically integrated firm.

 

Williamson also points out that a vertically integrated firm will be the efficient outcome if an agent on one side of a transaction makes relation-specific investments in either human or physical capital. For instance, consider a supplier who undertakes investments in, say, machine tools, in order to produce a very specific type of input for a customer. If this input does not have too many buyers, then the supplier and the buyer get locked into a relationship. Intense bargaining will result unless the two are integrated into a vertically integrated firm.

 

An important element of Williamson's work on the pros and cons of vertically integrated firms is that it results in a set of empirically testable propositions — one is more likely to see a vertically integrated firm if there is asset specificity or when the nature of the transaction requires complex contracts. There has been a lot of empirical work testing the validity of these propositions. The evidence is heavily biased in favour of Williamson.

 

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TIME TO HEED THE CALL

CHINA DIARY -NEHA SAHAY

 

The inscrutable Hu Jintao actually smiled spontaneously while watching the awesome National Day Parade on October 1. That was when the Beijing Women's Militia passed by — the last square formation to do so. The perfect square of red-mini-skirted slim marchers with long white boots and pert white berets was a sight for sore eyes. Leading them were two students, part-time models, whose dogged determination to march as well as the rest of the militia has turned them into national heroines. It helps, of course, that they are sexy.

 

The women's militia comprises ordinary citizens, part of the "people's militia" that Chairman Mao had set up, a kind of civil defence corps that works under the army. When it made its first appearance in 1958, it comprised peasants, workers and students. This time, it comprised women entrepreneurs, mothers, village officials, private sector employees and students, but no peasants and workers.

 

Many ordinary Chinese applied to be part of the National Day Parade. The selection was only the first step; what followed was arduous training in marching for four months. The army would measure with the help of strings the precise distance that the arms and knees of the marchers should move.

 

This is not new. Ten years back, the training for the 50th anniversary parade had lasted 10 months. Every stride of the marchers had to be 75 cm long and 25 cm high; they had to stand at attention for two hours every day. Even at that time, ordinary citizens were willing to make great sacrifices to be part of the parade. Competition was intense — only one in 500 applicants was selected. Liu Fulan cut off her long hair, 52 inches long, to comply with the requirements; she doesn't regret it. One lock of that hair is on display in the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution.

 

VAST CHANGE

So it is not surprising that Zhao Na and Zhang Xiaofei, who led the women's militia contingent, managed to achieve what at one point seemed impossible for these modelling students. Initially unable to stand at attention or at ease, their feeble kicks earned them the nickname "limp noodles". So they decided to go that extra mile: do 50 push-ups instead of the required 20 and practise on their own after the day's practice was over. Their teachers fretted as their complexion grew darker; after all, these two had already modelled for Audi, Mercedes-Benz and L'Oreal, and had also been hostesses in last year's Olympics. But the two seemed transformed.

 

Liu Jiaxin, aged 18 years, was the youngest in the contingent. Her transformation was equally drastic. Someone who couldn't fold her quilt to start with was, at the end of the training, washing her own clothes and sweeping the floor. Zhang Yuanyuan gave up her Singapore green card and a job that paid her 20,000 yuan a month to apply for participation in the parade. During the training, she suffered a stress fracture, but didn't drop out. Then there was the nurse who withdrew from the nationwide finals of the "Miss Tourism International" contest when she got selected for the parade.

 

Forty-six per cent of the women's militia comprises single children born in the late 1980s and early 1990s, described as the "strawberry generation" because of the privileged lifestyles they lead. The glamour of being part of the parade must undoubtedly have been a motivation, but what made them stick on? Simple old-fashioned patriotism, it would seem. "Coming here for the military review is like going to the battlefield. The call from the motherland must be answered with concrete action," the two models said. By the end of their training, 43 participants had joined the communist party. After watching the parade, many women decided they wanted to join the army.

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

WRONG FACE ON THE JAM JAR

 

Race, colour and sexuality give rise to the most intense prejudices and the choicest language. A closer look at a few such words and where they are to be found  In November 2008, when Barack Obama was still the president-elect, the deputy chief minister of Guernsey, Bernard Flouquet, while speaking about Obama's possible election to power, "joked" to journalists that "the Americans were looking for permission to use the sovereign's face on all their stamps and, in return, to show their appreciation, they would allow Britain to put the golliwog back on the jam jar". Before this, in July 2008, the American civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson, had said with reference to Obama on US Fox News that "I want to cut his nuts off", not knowing that his comment was being picked up by a live microphone. This was because Jesse Jackson had felt that Obama had been "talking down" to African Americans by giving them lectures on morality.

 

It is strange that two men, separated from each other by nationality and colour — Flouquet is a white Englishman and Jackson a black American — are suddenly brought together when they express their animosity towards a coloured man who would soon become the most powerful individual in the United States of America. It is significant that both men made their respective comments in the media and while one meant it as a "joke", not to be taken seriously, the other said what he said since he thought the microphone was switched off. Both are public comments, yet made somehow as asides, either to be overlooked as casual humour, or not to be heard at all.

 

It is perhaps this heady opportunity of simultaneous disclosure and concealment offered by the internet too that makes the cyberworld a place where people can freely express their darkest thoughts without being threatened with censure. It is not surprising then that such racially inflected terms as 'mulatto', 'quadroon', 'nigger' 'Latina' 'redneck' and others, long banished from polite speech for reasons of political correctness, thrive on the net. Google-search any of the above terms for images, and in all probability you will find a series of pornographic pictures with the accompanying articles loudly proclaiming the 'true' feelings of the anonymous writers about these stereotypes.

 

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines 'Latina' as the "feminine of 'Latino'", who is defined as a "Latin American inhabitant of the United States". This is how the Urban Dictionary on the net — which is the "dictionary you wrote" — defines the term: "The hottest women on the face of the earth. No other woman comes close. They have tan-mocha skin, dark black hair, the best a***s and curves ever. Not to mention some seriously addictive p***y." If you search for 'mulatto' in Google images, one of the pages will yield a photograph of Obama's white mother and himself as a child. Click on the accompanying site, and it will tell you why Obama "should promote his Mulatto credentials. Obama must become, unabashedly, a Mullato 'The Little Mule!' People love mules!" and so on.

 

But perhaps most appalling is what comes up if "Jew" is searched for in Images. One of the sites, which calls itself the Encyclopaedia Dramatica, has "Dirty F****** Jew!" spelt out in bold letters between blinking Swastikas. It tells you, among other unmentionable things, "How to spot a Jew" and equates Jews with "Niggers" (both are "bad news"). On the other hand, if you google Nazi in Images, you will find that most of the entries are laudatory, showing valorous men in uniform.

 

If these entries, for all their hideousness, evoke nervous laughter in us, we might recall what Freud said with regard to the relation of jokes with the unconscious. For Freud, jokes help release psychic energy by doing away with the mental censors that are powerful barriers to forbidden thoughts. In this sense, the internet serves a function very close to that of jokes by acting as a platform where repressed feelings can be voiced under the ruse of anonymity. The entries prove that racism is both normal and irrational — while being inconsistent with professed beliefs, it is embraced by each of us, albeit unconsciously. To see at what myriad levels our prejudices operate, this joke from JokesPrank.com might be instructive: "A little boy was learning about God in his church, and he was talking to his mother about it. She, not wanting to place prejudice in the little boy's mind, sat him and said: 'God is not a man or a woman, and God is not black or white.' To which the child responded, "Well, then is God Michael Jackson?"

 

ANUSUA MUKHERJEE

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

TRICKS OF THE DOUBLE HELIX

 

It was only after Shilpa Shetty had been called a "Paki" by the late Jade Goody on a British reality TV show that Indians at home and abroad took great umbrage. Yet, Asians must have faced racist remarks in the West for years, but after 9/11 and the London underground blasts, their supposedly thick brown skin (a source of much amusement for the white sahibs in colonial times) must have thinned considerably. And anyway, being called a Paki must be doubly ironic for Indians: it's bad enough to be called names, but to be identified with your historic 'other' (or, if you don't much care for such euphemisms, then simply, your long-standing 'enemy') must inspire a special kind of indignation.

 

But, whether they like it or not, South Asians most often end up being identified as one indistinguishable herd of "Pakis" in the West. As a student in Britain for a couple of years, I experienced some bizarre instances of racial labelling. It may sound almost proverbial, but once I had gone to a nightclub in London with a Bangladeshi and a Pakistani friend. As the evening wore on, the three of us started fooling around a bit too much for our own good. Imagine, then, our utter surprise when we were sneered at as "clumsy Pakis" after I had managed to spill my drink on a white guy and his date. For a moment, the three of us were too stunned to react; and then we started giggling uncontrollably. To me, it felt oddly liberating to be thus misidentified.

 

Taken for a Paki, I was suddenly facing the so-called 'other' as an innocuous mirror image of myself. It is not as if I had been schooled from my childhood to think of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as potential enemies. But in that moment, when our identities were confused and conflated into one inseparable whole, I realized, however fleetingly, the extent to which each of us must have been conscious of our distinct nationalities. It needed an outsider's ignorance to lighten up our tense self-awareness. We were laughing not only at the way we had managed to fool the young man so convincingly, but also at how we had been caught out.

 

All three of us had the same skin colour, a fact rooted in genetics that could not be wished away, however odd its implications. In India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, the difference in our nationalities may have mattered a great deal, but in a foreign land, we were all the same, however acrimonious the relations among our countries of origin — this is what is called 'racial profiling'.

 

As I spent more time in London, I realized that the subcontinent is too amorphous a mystery to be decoded to anyone's satisfaction. Travelling on the metro, for instance, I would come across women wearing hijab or burqa, or men in salwar-kameez and fez caps. It was not always possible to guess if they were Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. Sometimes they turned out to be neither.

 

In hindsight, I felt increasingly uneasy about the incident in the nightclub. Although a 'Paki' like any other in the eyes of a commoner on the streets of London, I knew the matter was not so simple. A few days before this incident, my Pakistani friend had had to spend a good four hours at the French embassy, struggling to get a visa, while my application for a Schengen visa at the German embassy on the same day had been processed without any fuss. In the eyes of the State and international law, each of us had been recognized for who we truly were, and slotted accordingly. My friend with his green passport and suspicion-arousing name had slipped out of the circle of trust, whereas my blue passport and harmless name did not ring any alarm bells.

 

But stereotyping, when inspired by benign ignorance rather than bad faith, can turn out to be amusing. I ended up drawing astonished stares and gasps of disbelief each time I explained to my white friends that being a Bengali did not necessarily make me a Bangladeshi. I felt sheepish when strangers I had met on trains or at a concert effusively praised my 'perfect English'. This was usually followed by a polite enquiry about the language I spoke at home. On learning that it was Bengali, the conversation turned, almost unfailingly, to Bangladesh.

 

My housemates would turn up their nose at the smell lingering in the kitchen after I had improvised something outrageously spicy to counter the daily blandness of roast and mushy potatoes. Salmon cooked in shorshe and kalo jeera was a delicacy I whipped up in no time, as my British friends sneezed their heads off and complained of the pungent odour. Served as "salmon cooked in mustard sauce and Indian spices", it turned out to be quite a hit, in spite of the volcanic effect it had on foreign taste buds.

 

SOMAK GHOSHAL

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

IMPERFECT SYMPATHIES

 

"I can't take Buggerage seriously," wrote a middle-aged Virginia Woolf to her brother-in-law, Clive. One of the delights of reading her letters is following the twists and turns of her ambivalence towards the numerous homosexual men who made up her brother's Oxbridge set and later her own circle of friends and family. Often addressing intimate friends, like Lytton Strachey, who were homosexual themselves, and interspersed with accounts of her own 'Sapphic' flights and plunges, these letters are pitiless, sharp and brilliantly entertaining. She is amused, for instance, by her husband's boredom at a party of forty young men waltzing with one another to the housemaid's gramophone, while "three lovely girls sat together flirting in corners": "he was then set upon by Eddie Sackville West, who is as appealing as a kitten, a stray, a mangy, unloved kitten; and this poor boy, after pouring forth his woes (all men confide in Leonard — especially such as love their own sex) sat by mistake down on the best tea cups. Being an aristocrat out of his element, he was considerably discomposed. Sweets and jams stuck to his behind, and Leonard had to dust him, pat him, and finally leave him."

 

All kinds of distance separate us today, as much in the West as in the East, from this register of writing, from the eye that informs it, and from the liberties and assumptions it is founded on. A great deal of the play of imperfect sympathies in the distinct, yet shared, gazes of husband and wife (Eddie was the brother of the woman who would soon become Virginia's lover) would be ironed out today by how we have learnt to accommodate 'alternative sexualities' or 'difference' in our social and private spaces and in language. The laws have changed (or are changing) and, with that, words, behaviour, attitudes and that elusive thing called 'identity', which has become so much easier to talk about and play with. And nobody in their right senses would feel wistful about the passing of the injustice and violence nurtured by sexual bigotry.

 

Yet, how uniformly nice and large and characterless our safe new words sound — alternative sexualities, difference, identity — compared to Woolf's Buggerage. This woman — herself of volatile sexuality and surrounded by sodomites and swingers — never thought twice before relishing her right to express a failure of empathy or sensitiveness, her right to be different from the different, or to be bored with the sameness of difference. Bugger and its cognates give her especial delight. My Seventies edition of the OED informs me that only as a legal term is it fit for "decent use". Otherwise, it is "low language", "a course term of abuse and insult", whose etymology straddles xenophobia, homophobia and religious orthodoxy. The word goes back to, of all people, 11th-century Bulgarian heretics and their abominable practices. But among the boys, the word could also mean chap or fellow, as we would often use it in school.

 

When Virginia uses it, she is caricaturing the tone of being one of the boys, a camaraderie that is at once rugged and bleak. Bleak, because it is full of a kind of droll, hard-hearted, self-ironizing wisdom about how odd and solitary people usually end up in life. Observing E.M. Forster's progress, she writes, "The middle age of buggers is not to be contemplated without horror." But her distance from the word narrows when she recalls a conversation with Forster about the difficulty of making new friends in one's middle years: "One cannot follow up human relations any more he said. There's Dante to read. Solitude — one's soul. He is half a monk. An elderly bugger is always something of a priest."

 

AVEEK SEN

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CHINESE NEEDLE

"INDIA SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR MORE PROVOCATIONS."

 

The upping of the ante by China on Arunachal Pradesh is a matter of serious concern for India and calls for a considered and firm response from New Delhi. China has always claimed Arunachal, which it calls lower Tibet, as its territory and has been needling India with its claims, as part of the wider border dispute, but the assertions have recently become more strident and aggressive. The protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the state is the latest. Earlier this year, China had unsuccessfully tried to block an ADB loan to Arunachal, taking the bilateral issue to a multilateral forum. Since then, Beijing has tried to put pressure on New Delhi on a number of issues. Border violations by Chinese troops have increased. China has not yet given a satisfactory explanation for issuing stapled visas to residents of Kashmir intending to visit that country.


China timed its expression of 'strong dissatisfaction' over the prime minister's visit with the elections in the state. It is also upset with the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama, persona non grata for Beijing, to the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, which India has cleared against strong Chinese objections. The protest against the prime minister's visit is the strongest to date in the recent past and even couches a warning against disregarding China's concerns and "triggering disturbances in the disputed region.'' New Delhi has rejected Beijing's objections and asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. It needs to go beyond routine rejections, look for the possible motives behind China's increasingly hostile postures and shape its responses accordingly. New Delhi has done well to convey to Beijing its unhappiness over China undertaking projects in PoK.


It is possible that China, Pakistan's best friend, is putting pressure on India when Indo-Pak relations are in a difficult phase. It might also be conveying its unexpressed apprehensions about India's growing relations with the US. China might also be viewing India as a future rival for influence in the immediate neighbourhood and the world. Its motives and tactics are often opaque. While India needs to try its best to settle the border dispute, it should also be prepared for more provocations and spoilers and a further souring of relations. Any sign of weakness will not serve India's national interests. Above all, India should not be found wanting in the eventuality of any qualitative escalation of the present situation.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

URBAN APATHY

"IT'S ONLY THROUGH BALLOT WE CAN BRING CHANGE."

 

Elections to state assemblies in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh have seen a respectable 66 per cent average voter turnout. Turnout in Arunachal was particularly heart-warming. Over 72 per cent showed up to exercise their franchise. By participating enthusiastically in the election, Arunchalis have reaffirmed their faith as Indians in a democracy. In doing so they have thumbed their nose at China, which in recent months has stepped up its territorial claims in Arunachal. The turnout in Haryana and Maharashtra has confirmed the urban-rural divide in this country. While rural voters came out in droves to the polling booths, urban voters were reluctant to vote. In Gadchiroli in Maharashtra 55 per cent of the voters showed up at the polling booth defying a Maoist call for a boycott of the polls. Gadchiroli was the scene of a deadly Maoist ambush last week that left 17 policemen dead only a week ago. But voters were not deterred by this or the violence on polling day. In neighbouring Gondia, which is a Maoist hotbed too, 68 per cent came out to vote.


But the people in Mumbai, Pune and Gurgaon did not have to vote in the shadow of Maoist guns. Still they did not show up at polling booths in sufficiently large numbers. While turnout was higher than in the recent general election, it was disappointing. Unlike their rural counterparts, voters in these cities did not summon the energy or find the time to exercise their franchise. In May, many blamed the scorching summer for their reluctance to vote. What was their excuse this time around?


Apathy in the urban electorate can be attributed in part to the poor quality of candidates that political parties put up. Voters feel that their representatives in state assemblies and parliament do little for the common man. This leaves them unenthused about participating in elections. Still voters need to realise that it is only through the ballot box that we can bring about change. The vote empowers us to determine who will represent us in parliament and the assembly. By not voting we are disempowering ourselves. Experience has taught people in Gadchiroli and Gondia the importance of democratic politics and the value of their vote. Educated, upper-class India needs to learn from them.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

INDIA SHINING

RISING FOREIGN INVESTMENT SHOULD HELP OFFSET SOME OF THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF ERRATIC MONSOON RAINS.

VIKAS BAJAJ, THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

Six months ago, it looked as if India was in for a bumpy recession. Factories were laying off workers and construction sites were grinding to a halt as foreign investment slowed to a trickle. But in the last few months India has hit a gusher, as investors around the world have turned away from the dollar, the global refuge during the crisis, and rediscovered their optimism in the world economy and India's place in it.


There is palpable optimism. Major stock indexes have roughly doubled from their March lows. Companies are advertising initial public offerings on television. And articles about bonuses and corporate expansion plans have started replacing news about layoffs and deferred projects on the front pages of newspapers.


Nearly $7 billion more foreign direct investment flowed into India than left the country in the second quarter, from April through June, nearly twice as much as in the previous six months combined.


Including cash invested in the stock and bond markets, India received about $15 billion in foreign investment, the most it has received in any quarter except the last three months of 2007, according to Macquarie Securities.

If the current surge continues — and sceptics doubt that it can — the Indian economy could start growing at 8 to 9 per cent a year as early as 2010, far sooner than forecasts by the IMF and many independent analysts.


"Clearly after the big shock of last year, things are back on track," said Surjit S Bhalla, who runs Oxus Research and Investments, based in New Delhi. "People are seeing the recovery to be lot more robust than what many of the naysayers are saying." While many say the good times are here to stay, some analysts worry that the renewed ebullience will be fleeting if global financial markets take another turn down.


Confidence in India's potential could also falter if the government does not address some long-standing problems, namely, improved infrastructure, investment in education and economic reforms, as it has promised to do to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.


Another big concern is that the foreign money might re-inflate bubbles in stock and real estate markets. Indian stocks are less than 20 per cent shy of their 2008 peak, even though corporate profits and the economy as a whole are growing more slowly now.


For a country that quarantined its economy from the rest of the world for much of the last 60 years, India has increasingly relied on foreign investment in recent years. It has helped bridge the gap between domestic savings and the growing capital needs of the private sector and the government, which is borrowing money to pay for welfare programmes and subsidies.


Rising foreign investment should help offset some of the economic impact of erratic monsoon rains. The agricultural sector makes up about 17 per cent of India's economy but sustains more than half its population.

India's economy lacks some of the handicaps present in other countries. For instance, domestic demand never collapsed to the extent it did in the United States, and yet consumer spending is picking up now. Car sales were up 13 per cent in the five months that ended in August, compared with the same period last year. Builders say sales of affordable apartments — priced from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 15 lakh — are up, too. Even retailers, who were forced to close hundreds of stores last year after overexpanding, are talking about opening new outlets.

Some western companies are eager to get a piece of this market. Last month, Ford Motor said it would build and sell a new hatchback here. McDonald's announced that it would open 120 more restaurants. And Baltimore-based T Rowe Price, according to local news reports, is in talks to buy a stake in an Indian mutual fund firm.


At the same time, thanks to strong overseas demand for Indian stocks and bonds, companies here are raising billions of dollars. In a recent initial public offering for Oil India, a government-owned company, demand outstripped available shares by 31 times.

"There is a large amount of liquidity in the world," said A Murugappan, executive director at Icici Securities. The money is flowing here, because "people see that India and China are the two growth areas."


Still, the rising flow of foreign funds poses challenges. India's currency has appreciated 11 per cent since early March, to Rs 46.13 to the dollar, because of rising demand for rupees and the broad decline in the dollar. That will make Indian garment and jewellery exports less competitive on the world market at a time when those industries are still recovering.


"That is a cause of worry," Vasant Mehta, chairman of India's Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, said about the appreciating rupee. "Profit margins are being squeezed, and in such a period we cannot expect to raise prices."


The governor of the Reserve Bank of India recently said that to control inflation, his central bank might have to raise interest rates before developed countries, where rates are at historic lows. But he said that doing so could encourage overseas investors to move even more money into India, driving the rupee even higher. And that could be too much of a good thing.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

NOBEL TO OBAMA: RIGHT TIME & PERSON

OBAMA'S GREATEST STRENGTH DERIVES FROM THE HOPE THAT HE AROUSES FOR A BETTER WORLD.

MARIO SOARES, IPS

 

The news was like a ray of sunlight that lit the entire world: "Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize!" It was unexpected, for many premature, and set off a wide range of reactions in every corner of the planet.


This is natural. In a world as dangerous and complex as ours today, changing with lightning speed, raging with aggressive competing interests, and whose course is uncertain and problematic, it is understandable that the news sparked such a wide variety of responses, from resounding applause, to treacherous reserve, open displeasure, and cautious doubt about the merits and motivation of the award.


The courage and timing of the decision by the Nobel committee has been corroborated by the controversy that the decision has stirred up. Obama is one of that rarest type of human who leaves no one indifferent. He is a part of the future of all of us, and because of this he is both loved and hated, in America as well as the rest of the world.

From my point of view, this most revered of all prizes could not have been awarded in a more timely and more appropriate manner. Some have criticised the decision, arguing that Obama has been in office for such a brief period that he has not had time to accomplish anything concrete, whether in the US, Iraq, or Guantanamo.


What has he accomplished? There is one remarkable feat: he has radically changed his country and the world.


ILL-REPUTATION OF THE US

The reputation of the United States under George W Bush was seriously debased by its grave violations of human rights and by brazenly lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He hobbled the United Nations, provoked two bloody wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and involved NATO in its first war ever, which was not only a fatal error but actually a crime. He encouraged a frenzy of speculative neo-liberal capitalism which was to provoke the global financial and economic crisis that we are now living through.


Obama put an end to the arrogant and aggressive unilateralism of the US, which, with the most powerful military on earth, assumed for itself the role of 'ruler of the world'. He believes in multilateralism, promotes dialogue among countries, has extended a hand to the Arabs, scrapped the plan to install an anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe, initiated talks with China, proposed a new relationship with Latin America on equal footing. As an African American he made a very important opening towards Africa, proclaimed before the UN the importance of dialogue, peace, and respect for the dignity of all peoples, proposed a programme of progressive denuclearisation, and at this December's meeting in Copenhagen will sign and relaunch the mechanisms of the Kyoto protocols to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions and initiate a policy to defend the planet.


Are these examples mere words, promises without meaning? Anyone who argues they are does not have a clear understanding how important the defence of ideas and good causes is, and has always been, to the progress of the world.


That said, no one has a magic wand that can instantly change the world, not even Obama. On the other hand, as a democrat and a humanist, Obama does not make use of threats or decrees. His approach is to propose and persuade. With realism and persistence he tries to get across his ideas and values and win support for his policies. This is his approach in seeking agreement on a negotiated peace with the goal of ending overt and latent wars, as part of a global vision that seeks a solution to this and other contemporary challenges.


Obama is not alone. He has the support of the majority of Americans, the young, the poor, and the intellectual, scientific, and artistic elites. They are against the major, entrenched interests, and the selfishness and unconscious egotism forged by a culture of violence and disinformation.


Obama's greatest strength derives from the hope he arouses for a better world, one with more solidarity and justice. This is not a new utopia. Today it is possible to take a major step forward, like those taken during other crucial periods of history.


In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation among peoples", the committee demonstrated both courage and lucidity.


Congratulations to Oslo! Do we want Obama to accomplish more in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Cuba? Yes, but we should remember that Obama negotiates, he doesn't decree. And as the Italians say, Rome wasn't built in a day.

(The writer is a former president and former prime minister of Portugal)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THAT COSMIC SLICE

WHO WAS THIS ENIGMA THAT I ENCOUNTERED TIME AND AGAIN?

LASYA SHASHIMOHAN

 

In this era where food for the soul seems to be in vogue, I too am acquainted with Rhonda Byrne's 'The Secret' with the universe as the paramount theme, sublime metaphysical writers like Paulo Coelho, Robin Sharma, etc. The late Judith Bennet's concept of the cosmic personality also had fired my imagination. Can such an individual exist or is the conception just an ideal, I wondered. I craved for a piece of the cosmos for myself; in any form — an ethereal experience, a cosmic chum, anything.


I was expecting my friend Ashley to come. Our camaraderie is as old as the hills. The door bell trilled. She walked in and unwrapped a sumptuous home-made chocolate cake. She cut me a piece which I bit into daintily.


Ashley didn't know any of my other friends and neither I hers. The time to ruminate on the inevitable had come. Who was this enigma that I encountered time and again? A stranger at the beginning of our amity, yet not a stranger. She was a patron of beauty — she seemed like Venus or Aphrodite, a saviour like Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa, a teacher in prudence and values. Ashley practiced detachment: she was immersed in the glory of the world yet not drowned in its tears. Was she a mirage or a medium of the occult? Was she a whiff of tantalising perfume or the silvery flow of river by moonlight?


Was she air, water, fire, earth or ether? Truth dawned on me. My friend was the most harmonious balance of all five magnificent elements of the universe. She had been my guiding star who had helped me learn the magic of aesthetics, love, empathy and detachment, leading through myriad examples. She could belong to any one of us — yet she was free. She was a cosmic personality.


"A penny for your thoughts", Ashley interrupted as she offered me another sliver of cake, smiling sweetly.

"No thanks, Ash", I said smiling back "I've already had a helping of the cosmic slice". Then I both laughed and cried indulgently at her puzzled expression.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

ARCHEOLOGICAL BARBARIANS

 

Last week's despoilment and devastation at the Negev's Avdat National Park, the most important Nabatean site after Petra, was shocking. UNESCO declared Avdat a World Heritage Site in 2005, but that distinction all too evidently did not bestow immunity upon it. Many of Avdat's ancient walls were daubed with black oily paint. Columns which had endured for nearly two millennia were smashed. Debris from shattered artifacts littered the compound.

 

There is a link between this incident of extreme vandalism and the recent seething unrest in Jerusalem arising from contentions that Israel aims to sabotage the mosques atop the Temple Mount via archeological digs. Though implausible by any rational yardstick, these accusations more than sufficed for rabble-rousing purposes.

 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took pains to stress that charges that Israel is conducting archeological digs under the Temple Mount are entirely spurious. The very need to stress what is self-evident even to the very inciters, who deliberately inflame passions, speaks volumes. Archeology is again being manipulated into a focus of contention. In these lands, a vital, fascinating, constructive academic pursuit is now intrinsically controversial.

 

Digging up this country's past is an act of universal value, and also one fundamentally associated with Zionist identity. The land is bound up with the Jews who for over 3,000 years made it their cultural-religious hub. Enemies of renascent Jewish sovereignty, therefore, habitually seek to frustrate any endeavor they fear might underscore the connection they seek to minimize or, as is lately the case, deny altogether.

 

Increasingly, archeological sites are being identified by Arab propagandists as places of Zionist interest. They are targeted for the same goals as anything deemed to be an Israeli interest in the economic, judicial and cultural spheres. Ironically the saboteurs sometimes fail to discriminate between the Jewish and non-Jewish. Avdat happens to be Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine. But the vandals' guiding premise is that there is justification to vent fury upon anything which Israelis esteem.

 

Paradoxically, those who would deny any ancient Jewish link to this land are precisely the ones who accentuate the connection. Perhaps that is why the hatred is so visceral and brutal.

 

THE WANTON destruction of untold archeological treasures by bulldozers on the Temple Mount is a case in point. The dumping in recent years of tons of uprooted layers of the Mount down the slopes as so much refuse was a calculated act of desecration - less immediately dramatic but arguably of no smaller significance that the Taliban's dynamiting of Afghanistan's giant Buddhist statues. Then there is the ongoing vandalism against tombstones on the Mount of Olives, a veritable Jewish pantheon.

 

Apologists will always find pretexts for each outrage and attempt to delink it from similar offences. Thus after two Beduin men were arraigned for the Avdat atrocity, it was argued by some that blame for the damage ultimately rested with Israel's law-enforcement: Shortly before the rampage, ostensibly provoking it, several illegally constructed Beduin buildings were demolished near Mitzpe Ramon.

 

Such reasoning is unacceptable. The legal process that leads to the demolition of illegal structures is complex and generally protracted. The authorities often turn a blind eye to unlawful construction in the Arab sector. The minority of cases pursued are interminably dragged through the courts, with appeal chasing appeal. Only after the arduous process has been completed do the police carry out court orders. Frequently, even when armed with all the legal paperwork, the top brass prefer not to press ahead.

 

To rationalize retaliation against the upholding of the law is to undermine the rule of law. And wrath poured on unique antiquities is altogether reprehensible, indefensible and unpardonable. Once mutilated, ancient sites can never be fully restored. They are civilization's treasure. Striking at them is a repudiation of civilization.

 

In practical terms, it's high time Israel's powers-that-be come to grips with the reality that even what might be considered most universally precious is not sacrosanct. And the fact that Israel might hold something dear, unfortunately renders it a target.

 

Archeological sites must henceforth be protected like any high-security area, and deterrent punishments enacted against barbarians who deface humanity's heritage.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

IT LOOKS LIKE LAW, BUT IT'S JUST POLITICS

WARREN GOLDSTEIN

 

Much has been written and said about the inaccuracies, shortcomings and the moral inversion of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Mission presided over by Judge Richard Goldstone and his three fellow members. Most critics have understandably addressed the political and military issues involved. It is important, however, also to deconstruct the Goldstone Mission's Report from a legal point of view.

 

This is so because the report uses the veneer of respectability that comes with legal methodology, and with the presence of an internationally respected judge, to gain credibility. Law is a very powerful weapon to give respectability to contemptible actions and opinions. The South African Apartheid Government was very legalistic in its approach to racial oppression, and was punctilious about promulgating proper laws, and about maintaining a fully functioning judiciary to give the façade of respectability to its repugnant policies.

 

The United Nations, through its various organs, but particularly through its Human Rights Commission, uses the superficial veneer of law and legal methodology to give credence and credibility to its anti-Israel agenda. The Goldstone Mission is a case in point. Careful analysis reveals that the legalities utilized are merely a cover for a political strategy of deligitimizing Israel. Judge Goldstone claims that the Mission "is not a judicial enquiry [but is] a fact-finding mission."

 

This is a distinction without a difference. The Mission's Report makes numerous factual findings, and some legal, just as if it were a judicial body.

 

The Report could have salvaged some measure of integrity had it stated that its findings, both legal and factual, were only prima facie. It did not do so.

 

Judges make factual and legal findings which have practical implications. There are very real consequences for Israel resulting from the findings of the Mission. Apart from holding Israel liable in international law to pay war reparations, Judge Goldstone refers the findings to the highest authorities of international law, including the United Nation's General Assembly and the Security Council, and he recommends the commencement of criminal investigations in the national courts of the state signatories to the Geneva Convention of 1949. Of course, the Report also inflicts very great and real harm to Israel's reputation in the court of world opinion. This has serious political, economic and military implications for Israel's future, and for its very survival.

 

Any civilized legal system requires that justice be done on two levels: procedural and substantive. The Goldstone Mission is replete with procedural and substantive injustices. From a procedural point of view, there are four main areas of injustice.

 

FIRSTLY, THE Human Rights Council's Resolution S-9/1 establishing the Mission expressly states that it "[s]trongly condemns the ongoing Israeli military operation [in Gaza] which has resulted in massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people," and in so doing pre-judges the guilt of Israel. The Resolution refers many times to Israel's guilt in a very lengthy document which is phrased in wide, undisciplined and aggressive language. Furthermore, it calls upon the Mission to investigate Israel's conduct and not that of Hamas. Although Goldstone and the President of the Human Rights Council purported to extend the ambit of the mandate, the legal basis for their doing so without the express authority of the Council is not clear.

 

The second procedural injustice is that the members of the Mission publicly expressed beforehand their opinions on this conflict. The most explicit in this regard, Professor Christine Chinkin, was one of the signatories to a letter published in the Sunday Times of London which stated that "Israel's actions amount to aggression, not self-defense, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary." The letter is published under the heading "Israel's bombardment of Gaza is not self-defense - it's a war crime."

 

The other three members, Judge Richard Goldstone, Hina Jilani and Desmond Travers, all signed a letter initiated by Amnesty International stating: "Events in Gaza have shocked us to the core." Thus, all four members of the Mission, including Goldstone himself, expressed public opinions concerning the Gaza conflict before they began their work.

 

Thirdly, the Goldstone Mission violated another basic principle of justice, audi alteram partem - let the other side be heard. At least due to the procedural injustices already referred to, the State of Israel correctly refused to cooperate with the Mission. Once it had done so the Mission ought, if it were objective and fair, to have accepted Israel's right to remain silent and then ought to have desisted from making findings whether factual or legal. But it did not do so, and as any lawyer knows unanswered allegations often prove unreliable and in almost all conflict situations there are serious disputes of fact, and often of law as well.

 

The Mission's findings were based on accepting the allegations of only one party to the conflict. The Mission did not try to cross-examine or challenge the witnesses in any real way. There is a lengthy, fascinating article by Jonathan HaLevi of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in which he analyses in detail the methodology employed by the Mission in respect of witnesses. He demonstrates that there was a lack of adequate cross-examination of the testimony of the witnesses. Unproven allegations of Hamas officials were accepted as established facts. Even the most basic questions were not asked; when, for example, allegations were made of Israel's bombing civilian installations, witnesses were not asked whether there were Hamas fighters or weaponry in the vicinity, or whether any attacks had been launched from the area.

 

There is a fourth procedural injustice which undermines the integrity and credibility of Judge Goldstone and the three other members of the Mission: There simply was not enough time to do the job properly.

 

Any lawyer with even limited experience knows that there was just not sufficient time for the Mission to have properly considered and prepared its report. One murder trial often takes many months of evidence and argument to enable a judge to make a decision with integrity. To assess even one day of battle in Gaza with the factual complexities involved would have required a substantial period of intensive examination. According to the Mission's Report, the Mission convened for a total of 12 days.

 

They say that they considered a huge volume of written and visual material running into thousands of pages; they conducted three field trips; there were only four days of public hearings; and yet in a relatively short space of time the members of the Mission agreed to about 500 pages of detailed material and findings with not one dissenting opinion throughout.

 

They made no less than 69 findings, mostly of fact, but some of law and within those 69 there were often numerous sub-findings.

 

All of this was quite simply physically impossible if the job had been done with integrity and care.

 

The fourth procedural injustice also demonstrates the total sham of this process.

 

THE SUBSTANTIVE injustices of the Goldstone Mission's Report are too numerous to mention in this article, but one illustrates how far the Mission was prepared to go, and that relates to the very important legal element of intent. Goldstone and his Mission impute the worst of intentions to the actions of the State of Israel, finding that Israel's conduct was motivated by a desire to repress and oppress, and to inflict suffering upon the Palestinian people, and not primarily for the purpose of self-defense. It does this without any evidence and then, without any supporting evidence, asserts that many of Israel's military operations such as that of Lebanon were motivated by the same goal.

 

The Mission fails to mention a modern leading military expert, Colonel Richard Kemp (the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan), who said, "From my knowledge of the IDF and from the extent to which I have been following the current operation, I do not think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when an army has made more efforts to reduce civil casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."

 

By contrast, on the Palestinian side, there is very clear evidence as to Hamas's intentions - the Hamas Charter openly calls for the destruction of Israel, irrespective of borders. It also calls for the murder of all Jews worldwide. Hamas's clear intention was to murder as many Israeli civilians as possible and to use its own civilian population as human shields. But not a word of Hamas's expressly stated intentions appear in the report.

 

One aspect of the evidence, presented to but not accepted by the Goldstone Mission, was that of Hamas leader Fathi Hammad, who said: "This is why we have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if we are saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death while you desire life."

 

These procedural and substantive injustices demonstrate the complete lack of integrity and fairness of the process. It looks like law, but it is not. It is just politics.

 

The Goldstone Mission is a disgrace to the most basic notions of justice, equality and the rule of law. And it is dangerous. Injustice will only lead to more death and destruction.

 

The Talmud says "The world stands on three things: truth, justice and peace." These three values are linked. There can never be peace without justice and truth.

 

The Goldstone Mission is unjust and wanting in truth. It has, therefore, harmed the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

 

The writer, who has a PhD. in Human Rights Law, is the chief rabbi of South Africa

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

FUNDAMENTALLY FREUND: INTRODUCING THE 'ZIONIST STIMULUS PACKAGE'

MICHAEL FREUND

 

A few months ago, the Jewish Agency was blessed with the appointment of a monumental figure to serve as its chairman, the heroic former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky.

 

It is the kind of inspired choice that almost renews one's confidence in the ability of weary and aging institutions to revitalize their agendas and reenergize themselves.

 

As both an impassioned aliya activist and a veteran politician, Sharansky combines the heart of a campaigner with the head of an administrator. And this is precisely the blend that is needed to inject some new vigor and discipline into the establishment charged with bringing Jews to Israel.

 

But the new chairman certainly has his work cut out for him. The financial crisis in the United States has led to a reordering of the Jewish community's philanthropic priorities, which were already becoming more locally oriented even before the recession hit.

 

And the political and diplomatic onslaught against the Jewish state abroad has, at least in some quarters, made it decidedly less popular to identify with the Zionist cause.

 

But perhaps Sharansky's greatest challenge goes straight to the core of what the agency is all about: how to bring more Jews to Israel at a time of sagging interest in aliya.

 

If I were working at the Jewish Agency, and I had sufficient temerity to offer advice to my boss, here is a memo that I might send to him:

 

Mr. Chairman, Earlier this week, buried away amid the torrent of headlines that regularly besieges us, was a small item that deserves a lot more of our attention.

 

According to data compiled by our friends over at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the decade-long slowdown in aliya unfortunately continues apace.

 

Indeed, if you thought the newspaper industry was in steep decline, you should see the latest figures for Jewish immigration.

 

The ministry's statistics show that in the first nine months of this year, the pace of aliya has actually slowed when compared to 2008, which as you know was far from being a banner year in the history of the Return to Zion.

 

From January 1 through September 30, just 11,939 Jews moved here from the Diaspora. At that rate, the total for this year may come in at around 15,000, which is even less than the number of people who think that US President Barack Obama deserved to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

And when we put this into historical perspective, the picture becomes even bleaker. For example, 76,766 Jews moved to Israel in 1999. That means there has been a drop of more than 80 percent in 10 years.

 

If the immigration rate had been a stock portfolio, we would have fired its managers long ago.

Clearly, we need to do something dramatic to turn this situation around. Just like big banks in America are considered too important to fail, the same holds true for aliya.

 

Israel, like the US Federal Reserve did, needs to implement a bailout.

 

Hence, I suggest that you call for the creation of a "Zionist Stimulus Package," one that would harness the necessary government and private resources for the purpose of kindling anew the Zionist revolution.

 

The first thing I think we need to do is to take a number of creative steps that will underline the centrality and importance of aliya as a core component of Israel's national mission.

 

These might include adopting some of the imaginative ideas put forward by that pesky columnist for The Jerusalem Post - I think his name is Michael Freund, or Freud, or something like that.

 

In any event, he has suggested a couple of ideas worth pursuing.

 

The first is to establish a National Museum of Aliya that would tell the remarkable story of the Ingathering of the Exiles. We could do that right here, at the Jewish Agency's massive headquarters on King George Avenue, right in the heart of Jerusalem. What a message that would send! And then there is another proposal that the bespectacled columnist made: to launch a National Aliya Day, full of pomp and ceremony, to reinforce Israeli society's appreciation for the significance of aliya.

 

You could utilize the occasion to offer an annual "Immigrants of the Year" Award, which would honor those brave souls who have made Israel their home and contributed in some way to making it a better place.

 

This should be followed up by an annual National Conference on Aliya, which would bring together all the private and public organizations that deal with this issue and spark an ongoing national dialogue on the subject.

 

TAKEN TOGETHER, these initiatives would return aliya to its rightfulplace at the heart of our national agenda.

 

And this guy Freund also had another interesting idea that I think you should consider.

 

He says that if we want to boost the aliya figures, then let's open the door for thousands of "lost Jews" around the world who are seeking to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

 

They include the 7,000 Bnei Menashe of northeastern India, descendants of a lost tribe of Israel; the 15,000 Subbotnik Jews of Russia, whose ancestors converted to Judaism two centuries ago; and the remaining 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia.

 

Right there you have 30,000 people who want to come here now. That is twice the number of immigrants that we will otherwise get this year.

 

At a time when the aliya rate is in steady decline, what could be more logical, and more Zionist, than to open our collective door and let them in? Sure, there are obstacles in the way, and our vaunted bureaucracy won't make it easy.

 

But you, more than anyone, Chairman Sharansky, have demonstrated that when it comes to making aliya, there is no hurdle that cannot be overcome.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

WASHINGTON WATCH: WHO'S IN CHARGE OF ISRAELI FOREIGN POLICY?

DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD

 

Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize puzzled everyone, even the president himself. Unlike other Nobel prizes, this one represents more anticipation than achievement. His supporters were proud, albeit also baffled, and his enemies predicted - hoped - it would backfire.

 

And it worried many in the Jewish community and in Israel, particularly on the Right, because they fear Obama will try harder to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians to prove he deserved the prize - which is pretty much how the president and the Nobel committee viewed it. In fact, the announcement came as Obama's special Middle East envoy was in Jerusalem trying to revive talks neither side has shown much enthusiasm for.

 

Shortly before meeting Sen. George Mitchell last week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio that a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians is "impossible" for the foreseeable future, and anyone who thinks otherwise - an apparent reference to Obama - "simply does not understand reality."

 

Washington feels it is urgent to resume negotiations, but Lieberman would like to apply the brakes and limit the scope of any peace process while downgrading US-Israel relations along the way.

 

That's part of a sweeping overhaul of Israeli foreign policy that Lieberman is proposing. A draft of the plan was published by The Jerusalem Post last week and confirmed in interviews with sources in Jerusalem familiar with the document.

 

LIEBERMAN THINKS Israel's "lone dependence" on the United States as a strategic ally is "unhealthy" and he'd like to reduce it by expanding ties to "neglected" regions of the world, such as Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa, areas he has recently visited.

 

Under his predecessors the agency was "becoming the 'Ministry for Palestinian Affairs,' with Israeli foreign policy almost entirely consumed by this single issue," he complained.

 

The US remains "without a doubt Israel's best friend in the world" but he thinks his changes "will expand and strengthen" Israel's international "circle of support" and be a "relief" for both Washington and Jerusalem.

 

Obama's goal of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian settlement is "preordained to fail," in Lieberman's view, and failure will create "disappointment and frustration" that will "damage our relations with the US and Europe and lead to a violent response from the Palestinians."

 

Europe and the US must be convinced that "the most that can beachieved" is a series of incremental steps while avoiding the core issues like Jerusalem, refugees and borders, in his view.

 

He might be able to sell that to many of his admirers, but it is likely to findfew buyers elsewhere.

 

The Lieberman plan reflects the parochial view of the foreign minister, who has been sidelined on the most important issues.

 

His only Washington visit produced what has been reported as a disastrous meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it was more of a courtesy call since the US is essentially off limits to Lieberman, which is good since he is held in low regard here.

 

The Washington portfolio is in the hands of Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their top deputies.

 

"The voice of the foreign service is unheard. We've been bypassed," said atop Israeli diplomat.

 

In a transparent, face-saving move Lieberman announced he was recusinghimself from handling the peace process because, as a West Bank resident,he had a conflict of interest.

 

His central focus is Russia. He had hoped that since he was born in the former Soviet Union and Russian is his first language, Moscow would embrace him as the go-to guy in Israel. But the Russians knew Netanyahu was the real foreign minister. Moreover, Lieberman's expectation that the Russians would be more forthcoming and cooperative for him proved unfounded.

 

THERE WAS a time when Israel had influential foreign ministers of international stature - Moshe Sharett, Golda Meir, Abba Eban, Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, Moshe Arens - but lately the job has been a payoff to political hacks like David Levy, Silvan Shalom and Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman's overhaul play may be moot since he is under investigation for corruption, money laundering, fraud and breach of trust, and could be indicted soon.

 

Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn recently called on Netanyahu to "do Israel a service and fire Lieberman. The damage that Lieberman is causing the country and its relations with foreign countries is getting worse."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly offered similar advice to Netanyahu during a private meeting in Paris several months ago.

 

The Lieberman plan is "an outcome of the fact that the minister is out of business in the US relationship. This is the reality Lieberman has to deal with, so what's left for him is to come up with something that marginalizes the US relationship from his perspective," said an Israeli expert on US relations.

 

"He's had his say, and we'll move on. In other words, it's safe to ignore Yvet [Lieberman's nickname]. That's what Bibi does."

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LION'S DEN: CAIR'S INNER WORKINGS EXPOSED

DANIEL PIPES 

 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has, since its founding in 1994, served as the Islamist movement in North America's most high-profile, belligerent, manipulative, and aggressive agency.

 

From its headquarters in Washington, CAIR also sets the agenda and tone for the entire Wahhabi lobby.

 

A substantial body of criticism about CAIR exists, some of by me, but until now, the group's smash-mouths and extremists have managed to survive all revelations about its record.

 

The publication today of Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America (WND Books) may, however, change the equation.

 

Written by P. David Gaubatz and Paul Sperry, the investigation is based largely on the undercover work of Gaubatz's son Chris who spent six months as an intern at CAIR's DC headquarters in 2008. In that capacity, he acquired 12,000 pages of documentation and took 300 hours of video.

 

Chris Gaubatz's information reveals much that the secretive CAIR wants hidden, including its strategy, finances, membership, and internal disputes, thereby exposing its shady and possibly illegal methods. As the book contains too much new information to summarize in small compass, I shall focus here on one dimension - the organization's inner workings, where the data shows that CAIR's claims amount to crude deceptions.

 

Claim 1: According to Ibrahim Hooper, the organization's communications director, "CAIR has some 50,000 members."

 

Fact: An internal memo prepared in June 2007 for a staff meeting reports that the organization had precisely 5,133 members, about one-tenth Hooper's exaggerated number.

 

Claim 2: CAIR is a "grass-roots organization" that depends financially on its members.

 

Fact: According to an internal 2002 board meeting report, the organization received $33,000 in dues and $1,071,000 in donations. In other words, under 3 percent of its income derives from membership dues.

 

Claim 3: CAIR receives "no support from any overseas group or government."

 

Fact: Gaubatz and Sperry report that 60 percent of CAIR's income derives from two dozen donors, most of whom live outside the United States. Specifically: $978,000 from the ruler of Dubai in 2002 in exchange for controlling interest in its headquarters property on New Jersey Avenue, a $500,000 gift from Saudi prince al-Waleed bin Talal and $112,000 in 2007 from Saudi prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad, at least $300,000 from the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference, $250,000 from the Islamic Development Bank, and at least $17,000 from the American office of the Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization.

 

Claim 4: CAIR is an independent, domestic human rights group "similar to a Muslim NAACP."

 

Fact: In a desperate search for funding, CAIR has offered its services to forward the commercial interests of foreign firms. This came to light in the aftermath of Dubai Ports World's failed effort to purchase six US harbors in 2006 due to security fears. In response, CAIR's chairman traveled to Dubai and suggested to businessmen there: "Do not think about your contributions [to CAIR] as donations. Think about it from the perspective of rate of return. The investment of $50 million will give you billions of dollars in return for fifty years."

 

COMBINING THESE four facts reveals a CAIR quite unlike its public image. Almost bereft of members and dues, it sustains itself by selling its services to the Saudi and United Arab Emirates governments by doing their ideological and financial bidding.

 

This in turn raises the obvious question: should CAIR not be required to register as a foreign agent, with the regulations, scrutiny, and lack of tax-deductible status that the designation implies? Data in Muslim Mafia certainly suggests so.

 

Looking further ahead, I expect CAIR's days are numbered. It's an institution that was founded by people with terrorist ties. Over the years, it has established a long record of untrustworthiness that includes doctoring a photograph, playing fast and loose with documentation of anti-Muslim hate crimes, and promoting suspect polling.

 

It has also intimidated critics via libel suits, and boasted of ties to a neo-Nazi. Eventually, close scrutiny of this outfit will likely lead to its demise.

 

That's the good news. Less happy is my expectation that CAIR's successor will be a more savvy, honest, respectable institution that continues its work of bringing Islamic law to the United States and Canada while avoiding the mistakes and apparent illegalities that render CAIR vulnerable.

 

In that sense, the fight to preserve the Constitution has just begun.

 

The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

GIVE BACK THE MONEY

BY HAARETZ EDITORIAL

 

They say the first thing former French president Charles de Gaulle did after taking office was to install water and electricity meters in his official apartment, so that his personal expenses would come out of his salary and not out of the presidential budget. It is a pity that when Defense Minister Ehud Barak went to the Paris Air Salon in June, he took a very different French leader as his model - Louis XIV.


The state comptroller's report on the cost of the defense establishment's delegation to the Paris event reveal that Barak stayed in one of the most expensive suites in Paris - meaning one of the most expensive in the world. While delegations from proper Western countries stayed in relatively modest hotels, Barak the First looked out over the Paris Opera House from the windows of his many rooms at Le Grand Hotel, occupying a suite where the wife of Napoleon III once stayed.


The cost of Barak's stay was 2,500 euros a night; the total cost of the junket was NIS 994,000. At least one-third of this stupendous sum could have been saved if the Defense Ministry had treated the taxpayer's money with greater respect.


The public norms of Israeli politicians have thereby reached a new nadir. As detached as the kings of France were from the masses, our ministers have become used to staying in fine hotels and sending the bill to the taxpayer. The same can be said of former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who, according to the state comptroller, stayed in a suite at the Bristol Hotel in Paris at a cost of NIS 11,000 a night.


The Defense Ministry quickly issued a response claiming that the minister has already appointed a team to examine "the flaws in reserving hotel rooms" and to take steps to prevent the recurrence of such flaws. The ministry stressed that Barak had "nothing to do with" reserving the rooms.


But there is no excuse for the blatant fashion in which Barak and Itzik squandered money on their trips abroad - and certainly not a sorry one like lack of knowledge. Minister Ehud Barak must send a personal check to the Finance Ministry's accountants this morning that will cover the difference between the reasonable cost of a business trip to Paris and the scandalous cost with which the public purse was in fact burdened. If either Barak or Itzik fail to do so, the state must demand the money from them without delay.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL NEEDS LEGITIMACY TO WAGE WAR AND PEACE

BY ARI SHAVIT

 

It seems as if everything is fine. Israel's borders are quiet, the state is stable, the economy is recovering.

 

Hezbollah and Hamas have been deterred, real estate prices are skyrocketing, and chemist Ada Yonath is on her way to Stockholm to pick up the Nobel Prize. Even Ra'ad Salah's attempt to ignite Jerusalem has thus far not succeeded: Palestinian sanity and Israeli discretion are still maintaining order. So it is not surprising that according to a recent comparative survey, Israel is one of the 30 countries in the world in which life is just fine.

With a strong shekel, relative security and temporary calm, life here really is good. Corruption and cynicism have both been hit hard, and today's Israel is cruising on still waters. Without major achievements and without major failings, without peace and without war, it seems as if things are all right. Not great, but all right.

But things are not all right - they really are not. Why? Because underneath those still waters on which Israel's ship is sailing lurks an iceberg.

 

The Goldstone report marked the iceberg's first appearance. Turkey turning its back on Israel was the second. Attempts by European courts to try Israel Defense Forces officers were the third; the boycott of Israeli products and companies in various places round the world was the fourth; and global indifference to the nuclearization of a regional power that threatens to wipe Israel off the map is the fifth. Every week, almost every day, the iceberg peeks above the surface. And when one takes a good look over the railing of this pleasure cruise, one can see exactly what it is: The iceberg is the loss of the State of Israel's legitimacy.


Ninety-two years ago, Lord Balfour sent Baron Rothschild a letter in which he recognized the Jewish people's right to create a national home in the Land of Israel. Sixty-two years ago, the United Nations recognized the Jewish people's right to establish a Jewish state. The 1917 Balfour Declaration and 1947 UN partition resolution gave Zionism the diplomatic foundation on which the Jewish state was established and perpetuated.


But over the past decade, that foundation has been worn away, and the idea of a Jewish state is now open to attack. The Jewish people's right to sovereignty and self-defense is now controversial. Paradoxically, as Israel gets stronger, its legitimacy is melting away. A national movement that began as "legitimacy without an entity" is becoming "an entity without legitimacy" before our very eyes.

 

The right is the primary culprit of Israel's legitimacy crisis. With the occupation, the settlements and brutality, religious nationalism has fed the destructive forces that seek to trample the natural rights of Jews and Israelis. But the left has also contributed its part to the legitimacy crisis. Those on the radical left did not always make certain that opposition to Israeli policies would not turn into reservations about Israel's very existence.


The right sinned by contaminating Zionism with the occupation, and the left sinned by abandoning the campaign over Zionism's justice. As a result, Israel lost not only its way, but its voice. The fundamental truths that brought us here, and which justify our existence here, have been lost and forgotten.


The campaign to renew Israel's legitimacy is a vital one. Without legitimacy, Israel will be unable to contend with Iran in any way, shape or form. Without legitimacy, Israel will not achieve peace, nor will it be able to wage war. Nonetheless, to give Israel back what it has lost, the prime and defense ministers need to do more than deliver speeches. They need to act.

On one hand, there is an urgent need for a creative, daring diplomatic initiative that would prove that Israel is truly and genuinely striving to end the occupation. Without such an initiative, the world will not listen to Israeli justice, which today remains a concept largely invisible to the world. On the other hand, there is a need to enlist Israeli and Jewish elites in the struggle to once again strengthen the foundations of Israel's legitimacy.


This diplomatic and moral effort is no less important than the struggles that produced the Balfour Declaration and the UN partition resolution. If such an effort is not launched immediately, and does not soon succeed, Israel will become an international pariah.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

 

THE GOLDA WARS

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

Those who are to blame for everything have been found: the "Goldstoners." Not the occupation, the settlements, Israeli aggressiveness or brutality; just Goldstone. According to Ari Shavit (Haaretz, October 8), the spirit of Judge Richard Goldstone will bring the next war upon us, and it will be called the Goldstone War.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week reiterated that sentiment in amazingly similar terms this week in his speech to the Knesset. Not since Golda Meir said she would never forgive the Arabs for making us kill their children have such self-righteous, infuriating and damaging statements been made.


It is fairly certain that the next war will break out at a time and place of Israel's choosing. That is the way it has been in all the wars since 1973. We have embarked on three unnecessary wars on Israel's initiative because of the "Golda spirit" of Shavit and those like him, who see war as a legitimate and even desirable weapon.

 

The next war will also be a "Golda war," like that accursed war in 1973, which could also have been avoided if not for the spirit of Golda. Shavit and the other Goldas, busy with self-deception and moral blindness, who incite, repress and lie, who reject every possibility of a just solution - they are the ones who will bring it, just like its predecessors.


The Goldas are doing everything possible to avoid a peace agreement. They whine and self-victimize.


"Israel is incessantly subjected to terror attacks," Shavit laments. Terror halted almost completely long ago, but that does not end the claim that it is continuing "incessantly."


David fired Qassams at Goliath, Goliath responded fiercely. You can also call a match between Mike Tyson and a 5-year-old boxing, but the proportions, oh the proportions.


They also ignore the siege on Gaza, the Goldas, as if that were not the main motive for the Qassams. And they are self-righteous.


"To prevent the region's deterioration into complete chaos, Israel must exercise force once every few years," Shavit writes, willfully concealing the fact that these wars are no more than maintenance wars of the occupation, wars for real estate. Yes, to maintain it one must go to war every few years.


Operation Cast Lead did not weaken Hamas, as Shavit states deceptively, it strengthened it. The temporary stability attained in its wake could have been achieved by a cease-fire agreement, without the terrible bloodshed.

But the hearts of the Goldas are hard when it comes to agreements. They want blood, fire and billowing smoke, preferably from white phosphorus bombs.


And who is it that is damaging the imaginary achievements of Cast Lead? The Goldstoners, of course. He is only an internationally esteemed judge, a courageous liberal and a fighter for human rights, a man of conscience who dared do here what he did in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.


There, they cheered him, while here, they accuse him of causing the next war. Slobodan Milosevic could not have said it better than Shavit. The president of Serbia also did not recognize the authority of the The Hague tribunal. He also had security and patriotic justifications, and he also blamed the Goldstoners for everything. But the Goldstoners are the real patriots, and the Goldstone spirit reflects Jewish history better than the Golda spirit.

The Goldstoners recognize the Jewish tragedy, and precisely because of it they believe Israel is committed to moral conduct. It is not Israel they want to isolate, denounce and undermine, but rather its path and its policy, which are leading it to the abyss.


Cast Lead is what is bringing down Israel's standing, not the reports written in its wake. Those are intended to prevent another Cast Lead, of the kind that the Goldas monstrously characterize as creating "an infrastructure of stability."

Nearly 1,400 were killed and tens of thousands were maimed and left homeless for an "infrastructure of stability," which is neither an infrastructure nor stable.


To the Goldas we say: Every shell that lands on a house in Gaza causes more damage than any report. Those who have isolated Isael are the government, the Israel Defense Forces and their demagogic cheerleaders.

Yes, we Goldstoners want a different Israel. One where war is its last option, one that puts an end to the occupation, that wants to be a source of pride to its citizens and not of terrible shame. If only there were more Goldstoners here and less Goldas, it could be possible.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SHARE THE TEMPLE MOUNT

BY ISRAEL HAREL

 

Sheikh Ra'ad Salah's calls for a jihad against Israel worked. At the last minute, the government was deterred from executing its plan to demolish the mosques on the Temple Mount and from exploiting the Sukkot pilgrimage to Jerusalem to lay the cornerstone of the Third Temple. For fear of Intifada III, the transfer of East Jerusalem Arabs to Umm al-Fahm was also put on hold. When Jews are accused of harboring the most absurd intentions, the world media chorus, joined by a few Israeli soloists, fans the flames without bothering to check the facts. And though inflammatory nonsense about diabolical plans has been repeated every few months over the past 40 years, it is of course Israel that is accused of playing with fire that can only lead to war between Islam and Judaism. MK Ibrahim Sarsur was a bit more modest: He merely warned of an impending world war.


The original sin came soon after paratroop commander Motta Gur radioed his historic announcement - "The Temple Mount is in our hands" - on June 7, 1967. Instead of accustoming the dazed Islamic world to a natural and understandable Jewish presence on the Mount, defense minister Moshe Dayan ordered that it be handed over to the Waqf, the religious endowment entrusted with looking after Muslim property. And when the Waqf saw that the Jews were not aware of the historical, religious and political significance of this concession, it transformed the Jewish people's holiest site into an autonomous Palestinian religious-governmental center and kept the Jews out. The rabbinic establishment then reinforced Dayan's historic folly by forbidding Jews from entering the Temple Mount compound for religious reasons. Thus the government and the rabbinate together bolstered the Palestinian Arab narrative, which maintains that the place is holy for Muslims alone.


The fact that the Muslim world has never responded to the frequent calls for jihad by Sheikh Salah and his cohorts has done nothing to alter the false Jewish idea that a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount would lead to a religious war between Islam and Judaism. This destructive notion has enabled the Arabs to do as they wish on the Mount and in other parts of Jerusalem, including running national and governmental centers in Israel's capital.

The most prominent of these used to be Orient House, about which a document submitted to a previous administration declared that taking control of it was "liable to set the Middle East alight." But when the Palestinians went too far, security forces did occupy the building, where they found weapons as well as intelligence documents. It was shut down, and apart from a poorly attended protest - where many of the demonstrators were Israeli Jews - the Middle East reacted the way it reacts to the cries of "Wolf! Wolf!" about the Temple Mount. And so Orient House dropped out of the headlines and fell into oblivion.


Dayan also left the keys of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the Waqf's hands. But in Hebron, the Jews refused to surrender their rights, so the government was forced - despite threats of a religious war - to grant equal prayer time to Jews and Arabs. And over the last 30 years, despite Baruch Goldstein's massacre of Muslims at prayer and other grave incidents, both Muslims and Jews have grown used to the status quo.

Even at this late date, it is essential to equalize Jews' status on the Temple Mount with that of Muslims (excepting, of course, the right to enter the mosques). The Arabs will threaten a jihad and condemnations will pour in from all sides. But in time, Jewish determination will make the Muslims and their Jewish backers get used to the new reality. And the police, thousands of whom are currently plagued by Salah's habit of stirring up trouble during the Jewish holidays, will be able to spend these festivals with their families, just like other Israelis do.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO LAZINESS AND IGNORANCE

BY NA'AMA SHEFFI

 

Making higher education accessible to all is a sublime idea, the implementation of which is rife with acts of folly. One example is the Students' Rights Law, enacted in May 2007 and amended in November 2008. Its headline is reminiscent of children who exclaim, after disobeying their parents, "but it's my right!"


The law's fundamental, much-needed purpose is to enable every person in Israel to apply for admission to an institution of higher education without facing discrimination on grounds of "ethnic origin, descent, socioeconomic background, religion, nationality, sex or place of residence." Apart from permitting educational institutions to set requirements for admission and for continuing on to the next year of study, as well as requiring applicants to submit relevant information, the law emphasizes prospective students' right to the means of obtaining education.


This refers to an equal right to receive scholarships, to be late due to army reserve service, to unionize and also to earn good grades. Students must be advised of final examination dates months in advance, have access to every examination or paper after it has been graded and be permitted to appeal grades and to take the exam on a second date without restrictions. These rights do not reflect the system's soundness. They merely reflect the lack of confidence between those in charge and their students. It is a pattern born not in academe but in earlier stages of Israelis' lives.


Parents dictate to kindergarten teachers, schoolteachers and army commanders what their children should do. Schoolchildren disrupt their classmates' studies and there is no way to restrain them. When they want to, they take makeup exams to improve their grades, and sometimes grades are even omitted from their diplomas.


Parents' involvement could have been welcome, had they accepted educators and commanders' authority and right to exercise professional judgment. True, not all educators and commanders have been blessed with common sense and sufficient education, but the sweeping statements about their stupidity must stop.


The same goes for fostering mistrust on the part of young Israelis toward those with professional authority who are supposed to educate them in university. Removing the restrictions from taking exams a second time and appealing grades fosters two ills. One is the tendency to study less. If demonstrating meager and shallow knowledge in the first exam gives students the right to appeal their grade and retake the exam, then why make the effort to begin with?


University teachers don't want to give exams that do not test knowledge deeply, so they are likely to give weak students a passing grade the first time around and add a few points to their grades and spare themselves the wretched prospect of holding the exam again. A more serious problem is the academic interpretation of "everything is justiciable." So what if the professor deemed a paper unacceptable? Perhaps on reading the student's appeal she will find reasons to accept some of the students' complaints, including "I meant to write" or "what I wanted to say was..."


A democratic state should protect its citizens' rights. But the price exacted by the Students' Rights Law is too high. The possibility of devaluing study and obtaining diplomas that conceal laziness and ignorance will permeate to other realms of life and to the education of future generations. The right to appeal every authority will also undermine the authority of the main bodies upholding democracy - the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of the government.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

REFORM AND YOUR PREMIUMS

 

After months of seeming mostly supportive of health care reform — and just before the Senate Finance Committee was set to vote on its bill — the leading industry trade group issued an inflammatory and utterly self-serving report alleging that the committee's bill would drive up premium costs for Americans by thousands of additional dollars a year.

 

The committee sensibly went ahead and approved the bill. But the anxiety raised by the report needs to be addressed head-on.

 

There are so many factors in all of the versions of health reform legislation that could affect the cost of insurance — driving it up or down — that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has been unable to offer an estimate of the net impact. A rigorous assessment must be made as the bills proceed through Congress.

 

Most analysts already agree that the industry's report was so deliberately skewed to produce frightening results that it deserves little credence.

 

The analysis was commissioned by the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a big accounting firm. It looked only at four components of the Finance Committee's bill that have the potential to drive up premiums while ignoring other components that would likely drive down the cost of insurance for huge numbers of people.

 

The report claimed that the hardest hit would be people without large group coverage — namely those who work for small employers or buy policies directly from insurance companies. It claims that their premiums would go up by 49 percent for individual purchasers and 28 percent for small employers — mostly because the proposed regulations would require insurers to accept all applicants without regard to health status, while the penalty for anyone who decides not buy insurance would be late and comparatively small.

 

As a result, the report argued, healthy people would find it easy to defer coverage, leaving only sicker people in the insurance pool, where their higher average medical costs would inevitably drive up premiums.

 

•We agree with the industry that the mandate — the requirement that nearly all Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty — should probably be stronger, and we wish the subsidies offered were more generous. But the rest of the argument is deeply flawed.

 

First, under the legislation, anyone who currently has a policy that turns out to be cheaper than those sold on the exchanges will be allowed to keep it.

 

An analysis by Jonathan Gruber, a respected health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using data generated by the Congressional Budget Office, demonstrates that even in its current form the Finance Committee's bill would actually save individuals and families who currently buy their own policies hundreds if not thousands of dollars in annual premiums.

 

This is because policies offered on the highly regulated, competitive exchanges would probably be cheaper than comparable coverage available on today's overpriced individual market.

 

In a particularly glaring omission, the industry report made no effort to factor in the effect of proposed subsidies that would help millions of people to buy their own insurance on those exchanges. The subsidies would help people earning less than four times the poverty level, or about $88,000 annually for a family of four.

 

The industry report also claims that Americans who currently buy their insurance through large employers would see their premiums rise by 9 percent to 11 percent, depending on the form of coverage. It blames most of that on a new excise tax on high-cost insurance policies. Under the Senate Finance Committee's bill, any insurance plan that costs $8,000 for individuals or $21,000 for families would not be taxed; any value above that would be taxed at a rate of 40 percent.

 

As much as Americans hate the idea of taxes, there is a strong logic to this approach. It is designed to encourage employers and their workers to buy less-expensive plans — and make a more rational calculation of what services they need versus what is "free" because it is covered — and encourage employers to shift compensation more toward higher wages.

 

The report does acknowledge that likely shift, but then it blithely calculates the impact of the tax as if no shift occurred.

 

•The report also claimed that new taxes on health insurers and drug and device manufacturers would drive up costs and then premiums. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the impact of those new taxes on the cost of premiums bought on the exchange would be about 1 percent.

 

And the report contends that the Finance Committee bill's sharp slowdown in Medicare payments to health care providers would cause those providers to charge more to privately insured patients, driving up premiums. That conclusion is disputed by many analysts, in part because many of the rate reductions are designed to prod providers to become more efficient and absorb the reductions without passing them on.

 

The report, notably if predictably, makes no mention of other valuable benefits from health care reform: the fact that all workers would benefit from greater security (knowing that they can buy insurance if they get laid off) and greater ability to change jobs without worrying about loss of coverage.

 

Finally, the report makes no mention of the legislation's efforts to find ways to rein in the relentless spiral of health care delivery costs — the main culprit in today's spiraling premium costs. In the long run, those reforms should reduce the cost of insurance for everyone.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHAT $100 MILLION?

 

Bankers will surely say "we told you so." Citigroup's sale of its profitable energy trading unit Phibro is exactly the kind of unintended consequence that the nation's financiers warned us would happen when the Obama administration set out to limit their pay.

 

We see it as a public policy success. Phibro is a high-risk, high-reward hedge fund. It has no place on the books of one of the nation's too-big-to-fail banks. If a policy to cap bankers' pay forces all banks to get rid of their hedge funds, it will be a winning policy.

 

Citigroup sold Phibro to Occidental Petroleum only to rid itself of Andrew Hall, its most successful trader — or, more to the point, Mr. Hall's promised $100 million compensation package.

 

Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by the White House to pass judgment on the compensation of top earners at the banks that benefited from public bailouts, probably could not have stopped Citigroup from paying the $100 million. That was determined by a contract signed before the bailout and not covered by the new rules. But the government does own 34 percent of the bank, and if Mr. Feinberg objected it would almost certainly have attracted unwanted attention from Congress.

 

Mr. Feinberg has more direct leverage over compensation deals negotiated after the bailout. He is threatening to slash executive pay at the American International Group if the company does not reduce the $198 million in bonuses granted to executives at the trading unit that brought the company to ruin. This month he is slated to issue recommendations on the top pay of all bailed-out institutions.

 

Meanwhile, he has done a good deed by getting Citigroup to sell Phibro. Compared with the havoc caused by investment banks like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley, hedge funds played a relatively minor role in this financial crisis. But they are in an explosive business that can cause enormous damage.

 

Mr. Hall's unit generated about $200 million a year in earnings over the past decade. But it also posted a $100 million loss in a single day: Jan. 16, 1991, when the United States started bombing Iraq and oil prices wrong-footed Mr. Hall's bets.

 

These kinds of ups and downs are reasonable, perhaps, for a hedge fund playing with the money of sophisticated investors. One lesson from this crisis is that banks — which play with depositors' money while covered by a big insurance policy financed by the taxpayer — shouldn't be playing in any high-stakes investment games.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW YORK CITY AND THE HOMELESS

 

New Yorkers in and out of government should be concerned by new statistics showing that homelessness has reached an all-time high and that 120,000 men, women and children resorted to the shelter system during the fiscal year that ended this summer. The spike in homelessness is especially troubling because it has arrived before the onset of winter, which typically drives people in off the streets, filling the shelter system to bursting.

 

The Bloomberg administration says it is fully prepared for the winter rush and has been adjusting all along for a rise in demand for shelter that began two years ago. Even so, the administration should keep looking down the road to determine if new populations are becoming vulnerable and if new policies might be needed to keep endangered families in their homes.

 

The city attributes most of the rise in homelessness to the economy. It says the problem is not as bad here as in other cities and would be worse if not for refinements in the system, including programs that channel people into permanent homes and that prevent at-risk families from becoming homeless in the first place. The administration points with justifiable pride to the fact that the shelter system is more humane than it was a decade ago.

 

Advocates for the homeless and the hungry, however, continue to be suspicious of the city's motives. They argue that the city has driven some vulnerable families to the brink with bureaucratic obstacles that make it difficult for qualified families to receive welfare and food-stamp benefits. A bone of contention between the advocates and the city dates to 2005 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended the practice of channeling shelter residents into apartments paid for by the federal Section 8 housing voucher program, which was then under attack by the Bush administration and in disfavor with Congress.

 

Under Section 8, people keep subsidies as long as they remain income eligible. In 2007, New York created a time-limited program under which working families get support services and rent subsidies that end after two years. The point was to get as many families as possible to stand on their own, but the advocates are predicting disaster when the subsidies run out and are calling for the city to return to the Section 8 strategy. The Bloomberg administration contends that this program has worked well and that only a tiny fraction of the families have reverted to homelessness. But the city should keep a close watch on these families as the subsidies phase out.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DEMOCRATS AND SCHOOLS

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

The Democratic Party has battled for universal health care this year, and over the decades it has admirably led the fight against poverty — except in the one way that would have the greatest impact.

 

Good schools constitute a far more potent weapon against poverty than welfare, food stamps or housing subsidies. Yet, cowed by teachers' unions, Democrats have too often resisted reform and stood by as generations of disadvantaged children have been cemented into an underclass by third-rate schools.

 

President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, are trying to change that — and one test for the Democrats will be whether they embrace administration reforms that teachers' unions are already sniping at.

 

It's difficult to improve failing schools when you can't create alternatives such as charter schools and can't remove inept or abusive teachers. In New York City, for example, unions ordinarily prevent teachers from being dismissed for incompetence — so the schools must pay failed teachers their full salaries to sit year after year doing nothing in centers called "rubber rooms."

 

A devastating article in The New Yorker by Steven Brill examined how New York City tried to dismiss a fifth-grade teacher for failing to correct student work, follow the curriculum, manage the class or even fill out report cards. The teacher claimed that she was being punished for union activity, but an independent observer approved by the union confirmed the allegations and declared the teacher incompetent. The school system's lawyer put it best: "These children were abused in stealth."

 

The effort to remove the teacher is expected to cost about $400,000, and the outcome is uncertain. In New York City, with its 80,000 teachers, arbiters have removed only two for incompetence alone in the last couple of years. We tolerate failed teachers — and failed arbiters — as long as it's not our own kids who suffer.

 

In another case cited by Mr. Brill, the union hailed its defense of a high-school teacher — who had passed out in front of her class, allegedly smelling of alcohol, with even the principal unable to rouse her. The union fought to secure her return to teaching, Mr. Brill wrote, until she passed out again, and her "water bottle" turned out to contain alcohol.

 

In California, we see the same pathology — as long as the students in question are impoverished and

marginalized, with uncomplaining parents, they are allowed to endure the kind of teachers and schools that we would never tolerate for our own kids.

 

A Los Angeles Times article this year recounted how a teacher rebuked an eighth grader who had been hospitalized for slashing his wrists in a suicide attempt. "Carve deeper next time," the teacher allegedly advised. He was even said to have added: "You can't even kill yourself." A review board blocked the termination of that teacher.

 

The Los Angeles Times investigation found that it is so expensive to remove teachers that the authorities typically try to do so only in cases of extreme misconduct — not for something as "minor" as incompetence.

 

Of course, there are many other obstacles to learning: lack of safety, alcohol and narcotics and troubled homes and uninterested parents. But there's mounting evidence that even in such failing schools, the individual teacher makes a vast difference.

 

Research has underscored that what matters most in education — more than class size or spending or anything — is access to good teachers. A study found that if black students had four straight years of teachers from the top 25 percent of most effective teachers, the black-white testing gap would vanish in four years.

 

There are no silver bullets, but researchers are gaining a better sense of what works in education for disadvantaged children: intensive preschool, charter schools with long hours, fewer certification requirements that limit entry to the teaching profession, higher compensation to attract and retain good teachers, objective measurement to see who is effective, more flexibility in removing those who are ineffective.

 

Unions are wary in part because school administrators can be arbitrary and unfair. Yet there are some signs that the unions are rethinking their positions in very welcome ways. The National Education Association has announced an initiative to improve teaching in high-poverty high schools, and the American Federation of Teachers is experimenting with teacher evaluation that includes student performance data.

 

Neither initiative reflects sufficient urgency. But let's hope this is a new beginning. I'm hoping the unions will come round and cooperate with evidence-based reforms, using their political clout to push to raise teachers' salaries rather than to protect ineffective teachers.

 

This is the central front in the war on poverty, the civil rights issue of our time. Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, isn't it time to end our "separate but equal" school systems?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TO BEAT THE TALIBAN, FIGHT FROM AFAR

BY ROBERT A. PAPE

 

AS President Obama and his national security team confer this week to consider strategies for Afghanistan, one point seems clear: our current military forces cannot win the war. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander there, has asked for 40,000 or more additional United States troops, which many are calling an ambitious new course. In truth, it is not new and it is not bold enough.

 

America will best serve its interests in Afghanistan and the region by shifting to a new strategy of off-shore balancing, which relies on air and naval power from a distance, while also working with local security forces on the ground. The reason for this becomes clear when one examines the rise of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.

 

General McChrystal's own report explains that American and NATO military forces themselves are a major cause of the deteriorating situation, for two reasons. First, Western forces have become increasingly viewed as foreign occupiers; as the report puts it, "over-reliance on firepower and force protection have severely damaged the International Security Assistance Force's legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people."

 

Second, the central government led by America's chosen leader, Hamid Karzai, is thoroughly corrupt and viewed as illegitimate: "Local Afghan communities are unable to hold local officials accountable through either direct elections or judicial processes, especially when those individuals are protected by senior government officials."

 

Unfortunately, these political facts dovetail strongly with developments on the battlefield in the last few years. In 2001, the United States toppled the Taliban and kicked Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan with just a few thousand of its own troops, primarily through the combination of American air power and local ground forces from the Northern Alliance. Then, for the next several years, the United States and NATO modestly increased their footprint to about 20,000 troops, mainly limiting the mission to guarding Kabul, the capital. Up until 2004, there was little terrorism in Afghanistan and little sense that things were deteriorating.

 

Then, in 2005, the United States and NATO began to systematically extend their military presence across Afghanistan. The goals were to defeat the tiny insurgency that did exist at the time, eradicate poppy crops and encourage local support for the central government. Western forces were deployed in all major regions, including the Pashtun areas in the south and east, and today have ballooned to more than 100,000 troops.

 

As Western occupation grew, the use of the two most worrisome forms of terrorism in Afghanistan — suicide attacks and homemade bombs — escalated in parallel. There were no recorded suicide attacks in Afghanistan before 2001. According to data I have collected, in the immediate aftermath of America's conquest, the nation experienced only a small number: none in 2002, two in 2003, five in 2004 and nine in 2005.

 

But in 2006, suicide attacks began to increase by an order of magnitude — with 97 in 2006, 142 in 2007, 148 in 2008 and more than 60 in the first half of 2009. Moreover, the overwhelming percentage of the suicide attacks (80 percent) has been against United States and allied troops or their bases rather than Afghan civilians, and nearly all (95 percent) carried out by Afghans.

 

The pattern for other terrorist attacks is almost the same. The most deadly involve roadside bombs that detonate on contact or are set off by remote control. Although these weapons were a relatively minor nuisance in the early years of the occupation, with 782 attacks in 2005, their use has shot up since — to 1,739 in 2006, nearly 2,000 in 2007 and more than 3,200 last year. Again, these attacks have for the most part been carried out against Western combat forces, not Afghan targets.

 

The picture is clear: the more Western troops we have sent to Afghanistan, the more the local residents have viewed themselves as under foreign occupation, leading to a rise in suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. (We see this pattern pretty much any time an "outside" armed force has tried to pacify a region, from the West Bank to Kashmir to Sri Lanka.)

 

So as General McChrystal looks to change course in Afghanistan, the priority should be not to send more soldiers but to end the sense of the United States and its allies as foreign occupiers. Our purpose in Afghanistan is to prevent future attacks like 9/11, which requires stopping the rise of a new generation of anti-American terrorists, particularly suicide terrorists, who are super-predators able to kill large numbers of innocent people.

 

What motivates suicide attackers, however, is not the existence of a terrorist sanctuary, but the presence of foreign forces on territory they prize. So it's little surprise that Western forces in Afghanistan have provided a key rallying point for the insurgency, playing a central role in the Taliban's recruitment campaign and propaganda, which threaten not only our troops there but also our homeland.

 

The presence of our troops also works against the stability of the central government, as it can rely on Western protection rather than work harder for popular support.

 

Fortunately, the United States does not need to station large ground forces in Afghanistan to keep it from being a significant safe haven for Al Qaeda or any other anti-American terrorists. This can be achieved by a strategy that relies on over-the-horizon air, naval and rapidly deployable ground forces, combined with training and equipping local groups to oppose the Taliban. No matter what happens in Afghanistan, the United States is going to maintain a strong air and naval presence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean for many years, and these forces are well suited to attacking terrorist leaders and camps in conjunction with local militias — just as they did against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in 2001.

 

The United States has a strong history of working with local groups, particularly the Tajiks and Uzbeks of the old Northern Alliance, who would ensure that the Taliban does not recapture Kabul and the northern and western regions of Afghanistan. And should more substantial threats arise, our offshore forces and allies would buy time and protect space for Western ground forces to return.

 

Further, the United States and its allies have made some efforts to lead Pashtun tribal militias in the southern and eastern areas to abandon their support for the Taliban and, if not switch to America's side, to at least stay neutral. For instance, the largest British gains in the southwest came from winning the support of Mullah Salam, a former Taliban commander who is the district governor of Musa Qala.

 

Early this year the United States started what it calls the Afghanistan Social Outreach Program, offering monthly stipends to tribal and local leaders in exchange for their cooperation against the Taliban insurgency. The program is financed at too low a level — approximately $20 million a year — to compete with alternatives that the Taliban can offer like protection for poppy cultivation that is worth some $3 billion a year.

 

One reason we can expect a strategy of local empowerment to work is that this is precisely how the Taliban is gaining support. As General McChrystal's report explains, there is little ideological loyalty between the local Pashtuns and the Taliban, so the terrorists gain local support by capitalizing on "vast unemployment by empowering the young and disenfranchised through cash payments, weapons, and prestige." We'll have to be more creative and rely on larger economic and political carrots to win over the hearts and minds of the Pashtuns.

 

Changing strategy does not mean that the United States can withdraw all its military power from Afghanistan immediately. As we are now seeing in Iraq, changing to an approach that relies less on ground power and more on working with local actors takes time. But it is the best strategy for Afghanistan. Otherwise we will continue to be seen and mistrusted as an occupying power, and the war will be lost.

 

Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is the author of "Dying to Win:

The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A DIFFERENT NOTE

 

The Pakistani foreign minister, currently in Washington to discuss the Kerry-Lugar Bill with US lawmakers and other senior officials, has this time round struck a discernibly different note. He has hardened his stance and, rather than welcoming the passage of the bill, has stressed that concerns over issues of sovereignty raised in Pakistan must be addressed. The contents of discussions between top members of the leadership in Islamabad have also been conveyed. It is quite evident of course that the PPP government – like its US counterpart – had not anticipated the degree of anger the provisions of the bill would incite, especially within top military ranks. The US response to Pakistan's pleas is becoming clearer. Senator John Kerry, one of the authors of the landmark bill, has emphasized a need to iron out misunderstandings rather than alter the bill itself. However US lawmakers seem to be gaining an understanding of the pressure the Pakistan government is under, and a joint statement is intended to calm some of the criticism coming in. There is some expectation that President Obama may issue a statement intended to soften the impact of the bill o