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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EDITORIAL 20.10.09

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month october 20, edition 000328, 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. TERROR FINDS NEW VICTIMS
  2. CHINESE CHECKERS
  3. A STEP TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. NO HOMECOMING FOR SRI RAM - SHRIDHAR PANT
  5. GO FOR DOMESTIC MARKET - GAUTAM MUKHERJEE
  6. POLITICS OF TOKENISM - CP BHAMBHRI
  7. INDIA SCORES ON MANY FRONTS - SHIVAJI SARKAR
  8. DROUGHT OF VISION STALKS BUNDELKHAND - SACHIN KUMAR JAIN

MAIL TODAY

  1. GET PF SCAM ACCUSED DEATH PROBED BY CBI
  2. PREVENT FIASCO
  3. SENSITIVITY NEEDED
  4. CHINA HAS UPPED THE ANTE WITH INDIA - BY KANWAL SIBAL
  5. PATNA DURBAR  - GIRIDHAR JHA
  6. ASTHANA'S DEATH A BLOW TO PF CASE

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TALKING CLIMATE
  2. FARM FRESH
  3. NEED TO SOLDIER ON -
  4. PUT THE RHYME TOGETHER AGAIN
  5. CHANGE IT TO SUIT THE CHILD'S NEEDS -
  6. HARD-WON VICTORY -
  7. EQ VERSUS IQ -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. QUICK CHANGE IN CLIMATE
  2. MADE TO ODOUR
  3. DARKNESS AT NOON LEFT HAND DRIVE -  S I TA R A M YEC H U RY
  4. DISINVESTMENT IS BACK ON TRACK - GAURAV CHOUDHURY IN NEW DELHI
  5. INNER VOICE - A SAINTLY GLIMPSE - M.N. KUNDU
  6. GOA BLAST - HINDU OUTFIT DENIES CHARGE; GOA MULLS BAN, PROBES FOREIGN LINK

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. LIKE THIS ONLY
  2. EXPLOSIVE CHARGES
  3. COUNTRY PROFILE
  4. MAKING SENSE OF CHINA - K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. THE OCTOBER STAKES - SUMAN K JHA
  6. NUMBERS TO THE RESCUE –  SHYLASHRI SHANKAR
  7. WAR WITHIN - TARIQ OSMAN HYDER

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. STILL MANY HOLES IN WHOLESALE
  2. TALES FROM RAJ
  3. LET'S HAVE UNSTABLE THOUGHTS - AJAY SHAH
  4. FIVE MYTHS, FIVE LAWS OF ECONOMY - YOGINDER K ALAGH
  5. LIRIL MINUS ITS GIRL - LALITHA SRINIVASAN

THE HINDU

  1. PAKISTAN'S BIG BATTLE
  2. PLANNING FOR BETTER CITIES
  3. NEW SECURITY CONFIGURATION IN THE CAUCASUS  - VLADIMIR RADYUHIN
  4. THE TREATY OF DISCORD - MEENA MENON
  5. CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CONSERVATISM  - MICHAEL TOMASKY
  6. TWITTER AND A NEWSPAPER UNTIE A GAG ORDER  - NOAM COHEN
  7. BALLOONBOY AFFAIR A HOAX  - EWEN MACASKILL

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PAK ISI & TERROR: IRAN SAYS IT TOO
  2. GLOBAL IMBALANCES - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  3. LOVE-HATE THY NEIGHBOUR - BY S.M. SHAHID
  4. I PRAY FOR HUMANITY - K. MASHA NAZEEM
  5. CAN INDIA FACILITATE A US-IRAN DIALOGUE? - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

THE TRIBUNE

  1. DEATH WRAPPED IN MYSTERY
  2. THE WAZIRISTAN STRIKE
  3. WHEN SAVIOURS DIE
  4. FIGHTING THE MAOISTS - BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  5. THE COLOURFUL SPECIES - BY SARVJIT SINGH
  6. AFGHAN WOMEN DREAD THE RETURN OF TALIBAN REGIME AND REPRESSION - BY WAZHMA FROGH  -
  7. WHY VOTES VANISH - BY LALIT MOHAN
  8. NOBEL FOR OBAMA GOOD NEWS FOR INDIA?

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. DAM ACROSS TSANGPO
  2. EMPLOYEES' SALARY
  3. JASWANT SINGH'S MISADVANTURE WITH HISTORY - ARIJIT BHATTACHARYA
  4. FOOD SECURITY AND INFLATION - SATYA RANJAN DOLEY

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. AFTER THE DELUGE
  2. LEVELLING THE WAR
  3. HIDDEN HOPES
  4. REFUGE OF THE LAW
  5. DEFENDING HATE SPEECH
  6. WELCOME NEW PRICE INDEX
  7. GALLEON'S LESSONS
  8. MINING RARE EARTHS FOR A HI-TECH FUTURE - ABHEEK BARMAN
  9. CENSORSHIP ON A COSMIC SCALE - MUKUL SHARMA
  10. ARE NELP CONDITIONS ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH?
  11. ADDRESS INVESTOR CONCERNS BEFORE MOVING TO OPEN ACREAGE SYSTEM
  12. POLICY OVERHAUL IS THE ONLY ANSWER TO OIL MAJORS' DIFFIDENCE
  13. RESCUE PLANS: JURY IS STILL OUT - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
  14. 'PHARMA, INFRA & BANKING LOOK VERY ATTRACTIVE'

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PAK ISI & TERROR: IRAN SAYS IT TOO
  2. CAN INDIA FACILITATE A US-IRAN DIALOGUE? - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. BANKS HAVE NOTHING TO BANK ON YET  - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. GLOBAL IMBALANCES - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  5. BEHIND THE 'WIMPY KID' PHENOMENON  - BY TARA PARKER-POPE
  6. LOVE-HATE THY NEIGHBOUR - BY S.M. SHAHID

THE STATESMAN

  1. RAILWAY REVIVAL
  2. DIWALI DECIBELS
  3. SAYING YES, BUT...
  4. CHARLES UNDER FIRE OVER PLANS TO BUILD HOMES ON FARMLAND
  5. THE ENDANGERED BRINJAL

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. ALL THE HOOPS
  2. FREE WITHIN
  3. GOVERNMENT AS A SERVICE - ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. A WARMTH THAT BRINGS COLD FEAR
  6. THE DERAILMENT OF A DREAM

DECCAN HERALD

  1. INDEFENSIBLE ACT
  2. DEADLY DEEPAVALI
  3. STICK TO BASIC TASKS - B G VERGHESE
  4. NEED TO RECAST INDIA'S HR POLICY - SUDHANSU R DAS
  5. ORDERLY DISORDER - A N SURYANARAYANAN

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. AMBUSH IN BALUCHISTAN
  2. BORDERLINE VIEW: RETHINKING OUR NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES - DAVID NEWMAN
  3. NO HOLDS BARRED: RABBIS - THE ULTIMATE LIFE COACHES - SHMULEY BOTEACH
  4. RIGHT OF REPLY: AN OPEN LETTER TO MY ISRAELI FRIENDS - USUK ULUTAS
  5. HOLOCAUST OVERLOAD - MENACHEM Z. ROSENSAFT
  6. THE GOLDSTONE MISSION VS. THE PEACE PROCESS - DANNY AYALON

HAARETZ

  1. INTEGRATE HAREDIM VIA ACADEMIA
  2. A LOST FACTION - BY YOEL MARCUS
  3. BUYING THEIR WAY TO POWER  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  4. REQUIEM FOR THE BUND  - BY MOSHE ARENS
  5. THE GOVERNMENT ALSO HAS RIGHTS  - BY RUTH GAVISON

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. TALKING TO SUDAN
  2. DEBATE IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
  3. HOW TO WASTE MONEY AND RUIN THE CENSUS
  4. RIGHTS WATCHDOG, LOST IN THE MIDEAST - BY ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN

 I.THE NEWS

  1. BATTLE JOINED
  2. NEW DISPLACEMENTS
  3. BOMB IN IRAN
  4. WAZIRISTAN -- THE MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. 'WHY DO PEOPLE HATE YOU?' - AZIZ AKHMAD
  6. DISTORTION OF FACTS - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  7. THE WAY FORWARD - HAMID MIR
  8. TERMS OF FRIENDSHIP - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. WATER WARS - KHALID KHOKHAR

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. MYSTERIOUS AIRLIFTING OF TTP LEADERS
  2. CENTRE'S GRIEVOUS MEDDLING IN AJK POLITICS
  3. COMMERCIAL USE OF RESIDENTIAL UNITS
  4. ATTACK ON FOUNTAINHEAD OF TERRORISM - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. FARMERS SUICIDES SCAR INDIA - MAMOONA ALI KAZMI
  6. MILITARY ACTION REQUIRED - AIR (R) MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN
  7. NEVER UNDERRATE THE ENEMY - SHAIMA SUMAYA
  8. SEDATED HUSBANDS..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 THE INDEPENDENT

  1. WELCOME REJECTION
  2. PSI COMPANIES
  3. LOSING OUR DEAD PARTS...!

 THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. HAMFISTED? THAT'S NOT THE HALF OF IT
  2. REAL SHARING THE KEY
  3. CHALLENGE FOR IRAN

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. PUT A LID ON THE PLANNING HONEY POT
  2. THE DEFLATING REALITY OF TV
  3. RUSH TO THE NEXT ELECTION HAS OVERLOOKED GLOBAL WARMING

 THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… OCTOBER 1989
  2. PRISONER SWAPPING: TRADING IN VULNERABLE LIVES
  3. AFGHAN ELECTION: A FRAUDULENT AFFAIR

 DAILY EXPRESS

  1. WORK TILL 70 IS THE FUTURE
  2. MANAGEMENT AND UNIONS MUST FIND A RESOLUTION
  3. FAT PEOPLE HAVE NO NEED OF LEGAL HELP - BY VANESSA FELTZ
  4. A PLAYBOY PRINCE OF COMPASSION

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. JEJU EDUCATION CITY
  2. PYONGYANG SUMMIT?
  3. OCT. 24: A DAY FOR PLANETARY JUSTICE - PETER SINGER

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. AN IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD
  2. WESTERN MEDIA STOKING CONFLICT - BY GREGORY CLARK
  3. MISTRUST CARRIES ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES - BY HOWARD DAVIES
  4. POLITICAL HORSE TRADING AND CLIMATE CHANGE - BY NOREENA HERTZ
CHINA DAILY
  1. HASTEN IMF REFORM
  2. TWISTED ARM OF THE LAW
  3. WAYS TO KEEP ECONOMY VIBRANT
  4. THE WAY TO LOW-CARBON ECONOMY

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

TERROR FINDS NEW VICTIMS

IRAN GETS A TASTE OF PAKISTAN'S JIHAD


The suicide bombing in Iran's south-eastern Sistan-Balochistan region on Sunday that left 42 personnel — including six commanding officers — of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards dead and dozens more injured is more proof of perfidious Pakistan's determination to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. The attack has been blamed on Jundullah, a local Sunni-Balochi insurgent group that claims to be fighting against Shia 'oppression' perpetrated through Iran's state machinery. But what is interesting to note is in the aftermath of the attack, the Iranian Government, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has accused Pakistan of aiding the terrorists. In fact, Mr Ahmadinejad has said that the attack was plotted on Pakistani soil with the help of Pakistani 'agents' and that the terrorists had come into Iran from Pakistan. He has further asserted that it was Islamabad's responsibility to quickly bring the perpetrators to justice. The chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has also blamed Pakistani security officials for helping the terrorists carry out their murderous mission. Predictably, Islamabad has issued its standard response. While condemning the terror strike in Sistan-Balochistan, it has flatly denied any involvement whatsoever. Nonetheless, Tehran's allegations are not without merit. It would certainly not be making such serious allegations without proof.


The truth is Pakistan has been increasingly feeling threatened by Iran's rise in the region. More so since the Obama Administration decided to adopt a more conciliatory approach to Tehran. Iran is also part of a consultative contact group under the US AfPak policy. It is no secret that at the moment the US sees Iran as a more constructive force in Afghanistan than Pakistan, which it views as part of the problem. This is clearly not in Pakistan's interest which treats Afghanistan as its own backyard. Hence, there is no denying that the influential role that Tehran has been playing of late in Kabul has left many fuming in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Sunni-Balochi insurgent groups militating against Tehran can easily be tapped by the ISI to safeguard Islamabad's strategic interests. After all, this is something that Pakistan is quite adept at: Train terrorists to do the dirty work and then feign complete ignorance with a dead-pan expression.


What Iran is discovering today is something that India has long faced and has been trying to get the international community to recognise. So deep-rooted is Pakistan's policy of using terror groups to further its strategic interests that there is little that the country's civilian leadership can do about it. True power lies in the hands of the Pakistani Army-ISI combine which is a state unto itself. It might make a show of moving against the Taliban at the behest of the US and for more American dollars in aid, but it knows how to use terror groups to maintain its favourable position. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari might claim to want peace and stability in the region and an end to all terror activities. But he is not the one who gets to decide. It is high time that the international community recognises Pakistan for what it is: A rogue state with an ineffectual civilian leadership. Unless this reality is accepted and all policies vis-à-vis Pakistan framed accordingly, the cancer of Pakistani terrorism will continue to spread unabated.

 

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THE PIONEER

CHINESE CHECKERS

INDIA CAN PLAY THE GAME TOO


It is entirely possible, as has been claimed by the Government of India, that China's recent belligerence is aimed more at its own people than those of this country. It could, however, be argued that pandering to the "more nationalistic post-Tiananmen Square generation" does not necessarily mean China upping the ante vis-à-vis India by being needlessly aggressive and seemingly callous to sentiments on this side of the McMahon Line. Beijing must realise that just as it has 'domestic compulsions', so does New Delhi. Indeed, the Government of India's domestic compulsions would be far greater given the nature of our democratic polity which is vastly different from that of China. To that extent, the reason cited by the Government of India to explain China's perceived hostility does appear misplaced if not specious. Be that as it may, there is no reason to indulge in meaningless sabre-rattling in response to China's provocative words and deeds. Diplomacy must get precedence over all other options to smoothen ruffled feathers in both India and China; to think otherwise would be downright foolish. Bilateral relations between the two neighbours has been on a more-or-less even keel over the past decade and the impetus provided by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's skilful negotiations still obtains. This is evident from the fact that trade between the two countries has touched the $ 50 billion mark and further growth in economic cooperation is inevitable unless things go horribly bad, which is most unlikely.


This is not to suggest that India should be seen to be allowing China to trample over it or ride roughshod over our concerns, especially to do with regional security. Having asserted in unambiguous terms that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and its status is non-negotiable, the Government should now busy itself with doing what should have been done long ago — developing the physical infrastructure of that State. It is hogwash to blame the lack of development on the State's difficult terrain as modern technology takes care of such impediments. What is required is political determination which has been woefully lacking; mere visits by the Prime Minister to Itanagar are clearly insufficient. Equal importance has to be given to the development of infrastructure in Ladakh. If the Chinese can do it on occupied territory in Aksai Chin, India can surely do it on its own land. That, and not hollow words, would amount to true assertion of sovereignty. We must also actively pursue, at all available fora, the issue of China erecting a dam on Brahmaputra; the rights of India as the lower riparian state cannot be wished away by Beijing. Meanwhile, the Government has done well not to be deterred by China's objections to the Dalai Lama's coming visit to Arunachal Pradesh. It is for New Delhi to decide who can visit where in India. If that bothers Beijing, so be it.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

A STEP TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY

A SURYA PRAKASH


It needed more than a nudge from Justice DV Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court and protests in Parliament from across the political spectrum to get the Supreme Court to eventually declare that the statements of assets of judges of the apex court would be made public. The slow response of the judges of the Supreme Court to the demand that they publicly declare their assets is in line with the resistance within the higher judiciary to bring in a transparent system for appointment of judges and a more credible system to probe charges of misconduct and impropriety levelled against judges.


It is indeed an irony that the Supreme Court allowed the initiative to slip out of its hands after having laid the ground rules over 12 years ago when it unanimously adopted a charter called the 'Restatement of Values of Judicial Life' at a full court meeting held on May 7, 1997. This charter, popularly known as the 'Code of Conduct for Judges', began with a lofty declaration which said, "Justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done. The behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people's faith in the impartiality of the judiciary." It then went on to lay down the parameters for judicial conduct in a fairly elaborate manner.


The full court meeting also adopted two other resolutions. The first one said that the Chief Justice of India should devise an in-house procedure "to take suitable remedial action against judges who by their acts of omission or commission do not follow the universally accepted values of judicial life including those indicated in the 'Restatement of Values of Judicial Life'."


However, despite this pious declaration, the apex court has not been able to stem the decline in standards caused by the innumerable controversies surrounding members of the higher judiciary in recent years. Primarily there are two reasons for this. The first of these is that mere declaration of good intentions is not enough. A code of conduct has to be enforceable with a credible and transparent mechanism in place for the same, like the judicial councils that exist in the US.


The second reason pertains to the second resolution that was adopted at this full court meeting. In this resolution, the court declared that every judge should make a declaration of all his/her assets in the form of real estate or investments (held by him/her in his/her own name or in the name of his/ her spouse or any person dependent on him/her) within a reasonable time of assuming office and in the case of sitting judges within a reasonable time of adoption of this resolution. The resolution required the Chief Justice also to make a similar declaration for the purpose of record. However, much of the advantage that would have accrued to the judiciary was lost when the resolution said that such declarations made by the judges or the Chief Justice "shall be confidential".

Frankly, there is no need for any organ of state to look beyond the borders of India for inspiration in regard to probity in public life. We have global icons like Mahatma Gandhi who have set exemplary standards and inspired many generations across the world. Yet, should our judges need ideas in regard to statement of principles and modes of enforcement, they can certainly draw from the experience of judges in the US.


A comprehensive code of conduct for American judges was adopted at a judicial conference held in April, 1973. Since then, the judicial conference, which meets biennially, has revised the code seven times. The code contains an elaborate list of dos and don'ts and says a judge "must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety". This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct.

Earlier this year, the judicial conference felt the need to elaborate on the meaning of "appearance of impropriety". This was incorporated in Canon 2 of the revised code effective July 1, 2009. It says an appearance of impropriety occurs "when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge's honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired".


American judges have not just strung together some words for public consumption. The code is backed by a law made by the US Congress to establish judicial councils to probe complaints against federal judges. If there is merit in a complaint, the council reports to the judicial conference, which in turn makes a recommendation to the House of Representatives for removal of the judge in question.


In India we are still a long way off in regard to evolving a system that commands public confidence to investigate impropriety among judges and to remove those who through their conduct render themselves unfit for judicial office. Probably, we have just taken the first step to deal with such issues by lifting the shroud of secrecy surrounding the assets of judges. Justice DV Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court set the ball rolling by declaring that the statements of assets of judges should be made public. Opposing the confidentiality clause that devalued the entire exercise, he declared his assets on a website and said that "it is high time that any such impression (that judges are reluctant to publicly declare their assets) is immediately removed".
Some other High Court judges followed the example set by him and this eventually forced the Supreme Court to take a decision to put the statements of assets of all its judges in the public domain. Probably, the opposition of MPs across the political spectrum to a provision in the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill, which said that the declaration of assets need not be made public, also influenced the apex court. The MPs contended that the Constitution does not envisage special treatment of judges.


Given the recent controversies surrounding several judges, the higher judiciary can still regain the initiative if it has its ears close to the ground and suggests measures for the appointment and removal of judges which command wider acceptance.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NO HOMECOMING FOR SRI RAM

SHRIDHAR PANT


On October 17 we celebrated the festival of light — Deepawali. Kartik amavasya is the darkest night of the year and it is said that it was the day when Sri Ram, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, came back to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile after killing the demon king Ravan. The residents of Ayodhya welcomed Sri Ram by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dipa). Since then it is celebrated year after year.

 

One may question that since the temple at the spot where Sri Ram was believed to have been born has been destroyed, what is there that delights us. Apart from Ram Mandir, Ram Setu, the bridge built by Sri Ram and his army of vanaras, is in jeopardy. When Hindu hearts are suffering in the darkness why all this illumination? Light means knowledge (gyan). When the country's Government does not even accept the existence of Ram then where is the light?


On one hand, the festival of light is spreading worldwide, while on the other, India is losing its relevance. Not only India's former rulers celebrate it by lighting up the famous Trafalgar Square in London, Diwali is now being celebrated in the White House too. Christians too join in on the celebrations. But Muslims, who falsely claim to be descendants of Babar, oppose the reconstruction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. In fact, they are converts from Hinduism and have the same ancestry. At the same time no Muslim of the world will permit any vestige of another religion in their holy land Mecca.


For Hindus, Sri Ram has very broad connotation. He means the eternal light that permeates all creatures in the universe. So deepawali is unison of ones light with the cosmic light. The lighted lamp (deepak) is treated as gyan (knowledge). It is this enlightenment that comes in unison with the supreme effulgence and leads to emancipation of the self or attainment of the eternal light or joy.


On Sri Ram's homecoming it is this glorious joy that reveals the internal joy enjoyed by the Ayodhya residents in the form of deepmalika or deepawali (rows of lamps). In fact deepawali is the triumph of truth over untruth and destruction of injustice over justice. Although the Hindu-majority India is said to be independent, will it ever be able to enjoy the restoration of Ram temple? Will they ever feel that justice is being bestowed to them?

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THE PIONEER

OPED

GO FOR DOMESTIC MARKET

WE NEED ROBUST POLICIES THAT ARE FRAMED TOWARDS DEVELOPING OUR DOMESTIC MARKET WHICH ACCOUNTS FOR OVER 80 PER CENT OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMY. IF OUR DOMESTIC MARKET WITH ITS VAST POTENTIAL IS TAPPED, IT CAN TRIGGER HUGE STRATEGIC GAINS. DOES GOVERNMENT HAVE THE DETERMINATION DO SO?

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


Thought for the day on Vikram Samvat 2066? The key to improving India's security perception and the trimurti of its politics/economics/diplomacy is wrapped up in its treatment of the domestic market.


This is the engine of India's growth. If the domestic market is accelerated due to robust Government policy, the knock-on effect on all our other concerns would be substantial.


It is the domestic market that makes India important to the world. Because, rather uniquely, India's domestic growth path can be largely self-driven. It rides, from education, health and agriculture, to manufacturing industry and services, on the demand generation of our billion-plus population.


India also has a wealth of indigenous raw material, including a great deal of the world's thorium, that can, given a dedicated burst of further R&D, substitute for scarce uranium in our nuclear reactors.


We don't, alas, have 70 per cent of the petrocarbons we need. But we do have self-sufficiency and periodic surpluses in food, and sufficient arable land mass and river/monsoon water to do very well. Given, that is, some better management by way of irrigation/dams and recharge/reforestation, to get us out of the clutches of perpetual drought/flood.


Ironically, we did not choose to be an overwhelmingly domestic-led economy. But years of Nehruvian non-alignment followed by a nationalistic self-reliance under Mrs Indira Gandhi resulted in what we have become. But, by the same token, we did not plan on becoming the most prominent exporter of software, or the global hub for the manufacture of small cars and automotive components either!


Both consequences resulted from our multi-pronged approach to policy making in combination with shifts in global forces beyond our control. This has put us in a happy place where we need not sacrifice our exports to the domestic market.


India accounts for a negligible proportion of the world trade and there is much room to grow. But here too improving our domestic capabilities can only upgrade our exports, which account for 12 per cent of GDP now. This might also make them less price sensitive and vulnerable to a strengthening currency. But more significantly, when the rupee strengthens, it benefits our substantial import bill.


If the Government concentrates on developing our domestic market which accounts for over 80 per cent of the economy, India can trigger huge strategic gains. New facilities sprouting where none exist today will meet huge pent up demand. And improved roads, ports, airports, power generation/distribution, oil and gas exploration/development/refining/distribution; scientific agriculture plus a slew of food processing industries; enhancement of military and nuclear-oriented manufacturing capacity etc will multiply our options manifold.


India can, by doing this aggressively, not only boost GDP with the investment involved, but ensure access, availability, ease, and the removal of bottlenecks that presently bedevil our competitiveness and rate of progress.

Twenty years like this will transform the India proposition, as it has done for China.


India will have the sophisticated but saturated economies of the West, as also the resource rich economies elsewhere, all making a beeline for India. It may well make the difference between survival and extinction for many among them.


Consider that China rescued the iconic Humvee from extinction. Harley Davidson is looking to prospective India sales and low import duties, to pull itself out of the doldrums. In the past, we saved Bofors and Westland helicopters and Jaguar aircraft in their home countries. And at present, we are doing it for Land Rover and Jaguar cars too.


Our upcoming defence purchases are expected to be among the largest global opportunities in this sphere.


Our domestic demand scenario is already good. But the clincher is perhaps the unique Indian blend of management expertise and careful husbandry of resources demonstrated by Laxmi Mittal after taking over one ailing steel mill after another around the globe.


We also have inexpensive labour and the impressive ability to each buy a little to yet make up a humongous total. This is a formula for viability in present times, when much of the West has lost its ability to be thrifty.

 

Besides, we are, even now, the second fastest growing economy in the world.


It is no coincidence that $ 13 billion has come in via FII this year completely wiping out the amount pulled out during the downturn of 2008. FDI too is pouring in at unprecedented levels once again. But this FDI can be enhanced by multiples of the $ 90 billion that has come in between 2000 and now, if the Government were to lift restrictions and bans in many sectors.


It is also true that much of Indian business is not in the public domain. Besides, listed companies, some 7,000 in number, of which only about 1,000 are actively traded, are often closely held by their promoters, with very little tradeable stock.


This needs to change with more listings from the private sector and venture capital/private equity universe, via IPOs. The huge value locked up in the better performing and near monopolistic PSUs could also substantially enlarge and deepen our stock markets. The Government-administered pension funds invest very little, even of the 15 per cent of their corpus they have now been permitted to place in the bourses.


Leading investment player Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, reacting to the present dominance of FII money in the bourses, repeatedly made the point that the amount of domestic money waiting to be invested is such as to render the FII component insignificant.


Statistically, this is true enough, with just six per cent of the savings making its way to the stock market in both equity and debt segments. It is also true that like China, India has a gross domestic savings rate in excess of 30 per cent.


But Indians are not great fans of financial instruments. They prefer gold, silver, diamonds and real estate. This is no bad thing in itself, and can all be leveraged for part of their value if made easier and publicised properly.


Besides, real estate development benefits the national growth story quite substantially. This was borne out over the last two years when new construction ground to a near halt, hurting a slew of industries and services from cement and steel to sanitaryware.

As in real estate so in the real economy, money moves. Boosting the engine drivers with better policies and huge funds may be the best thing we could do for ourselves in Vikram Samvat 2066.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

POLITICS OF TOKENISM

TO REGAIN UP, CONGRESS IS WOOING DALITS, MUSLIMS

CP BHAMBHRI


The image of the Congress suffered a major setback when its much-touted programme of party leaders from Uttar Pradesh visiting Dalit homes on October 2 proved to be a sham affair. Interestingly, these leaders were asked by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi to spend a night at Dalit homes. But to the utter surprise to the heir apparent, State Congress leaders indulged in farcical activities while they were expected to live like Dalits.


The moot question is: Why is the Congress making efforts to reach Dalit constituencies in Uttar Pradesh? Why is Mr Gandhi making every effort to revive the Congress in the country's largest State?


Historically, the Congress has dominated the political scene in Uttar Pradesh both before independence and also during the post-independence years till 1980. But after that the party not only lost its supremacy in Uttar Pradesh, the impact of the erosion of its political strength was also felt at the Centre where the Congress lost power because out of the 84 Lok Sabha constituencies in undivided Uttar Pradesh, it could win in only a few of them in general elections after 1989-90.


The decline of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh led to its defeat not only in successive State Assembly elections but also at the Centre and it is only in the 2009 Lok Sabha election that the party can claim to have won a reasonable member of seats in the State. The Congress would like to consolidate its electoral support base in Uttar Pradesh and this is precisely why it is trying to win over its traditional supporters among Dalits and Muslims.

The Congress dominated Indian politics for about 40 years on the basis of support from higher castes, Dalits and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, and it lost its appeal because Muslims walked away from it to Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. Since 1995, Dalits have shifted their support to Ms Mayawati's BSP. If the Congress has to regain its hold over Uttar Pradesh, it has to contest against Ms Mayawati and Mr Singh and win back its traditional support base of Dalits and Muslims.


Unfortunately, while trying to do so, the Congress does not seem to have learnt from its past mistakes and is repeating its old story of 'tokenist' approach to win back the support of Dalits and Muslims. Is the Congress not responsible for the economic backwardness of the State? Dalits identified themselves with Ms Mayawati and abandoned the Congress in favour of their 'own' leader. The Congress, when in power, had put on the statute book a stringent law on atrocities committed against Dalits but it was implemented in a very half-hearted manner. The situation of Dalits under Ms Mayawati has not improved dramatically, however they have a subjective feeling of identification with their 'own' Dalit leader.


If Dalits were earlier disillusioned by the hollow promises made by the Congress Government in the State, they are still captivated by illusions about the idea of 'our' Government by Ms Mayawati and the Congress is finding an opening in the growing level of disillusionment with Ms Mayawati's shallow dramatic programmes. Hence, the Congress is serious in winning back the loyalty of Dalit voters and it is not without reason that Mr Gandhi is trying to revive the organisation in Uttar Pradesh.


An underdeveloped economy, Uttar Pradesh is a populous State where poverty is quite widespread among Dalits. Plight of Bundelkhand, a sub-region located between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, shows how due to complete neglect of successive State Governments during the last 60 years the poor have been compelled to sell their womenfolk for their livelihood and survival. Some regions of the State are extremely backward and in such a situation voters are shifting their support and loyalty to one party after another so that the party in power can provide them with better amenities.


In this multi-polar politics Congress has identified Dalits and Muslims as its potential supporters. Uttar Pradesh voters have tried the Congress, the BJP, the SP and now the BSP and through a method of trial and error, they have settled down on the fractured politics of caste versus caste. In these circumstances, is there any hope for non-sectarian politics in the State?


Uttar Pradesh has seen more gimmickry in politics than any other State and if on the one hand Mr Gandhi-led Congressmen are expected to win over Dalits by identifying with their daily living situation, on the other, Ms Mayawati for the last two years has played her cards by erecting statues and monuments. The Congress and the BSP are competing against each other on the basis of empty shell of political drama and neither has presented an alternative model of economic development to the Uttar Pradesh electorate.


The Congress is trying to woo the Dalit voters in the State by using old tricks but has forgotten that much has changed since when it used to be power and now the voter is not ready to re-elect a party which is seen as a 'cheater'. The party should remember that political appeal during one election cannot bring political dividends in the next election if the party in-power or in-opposition has not implemented in a concrete manner the promises made during the elections.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

INDIA SCORES ON MANY FRONTS

THE UN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT, WHICH HAS RANKED INDIA 134TH AMONG NATIONS, DOES NOT STATE THE ENTIRE SUCCESS STORY OF AN EMERGING ECONOMY

SHIVAJI SARKAR


The United Nations Human Development Report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, despite ranking India low in terms of human development index suggests that it is doing better than many other countries and possibly even China in some respects.


This is not to say that growth patterns are at par and there is no disparity. Since 1980, the report claims, India has been making progress in the indicators that decide the HDI and it has edged past many countries. In 1990, Nepal and Pakistan had similar HDI values as that of India. During 1990-2007, India performed relatively better.

Between 1980 and 2007, India's HDI rose by 1.33 per cent annually from 0.42 to 0.61, the report says. The country ranked at 134 among 182 countries and Indian growth pattern matches that of West Asia and is slightly lower than that of East Asia and Pacific region countries.


The report lauds that India has better system for free migration within the country than many developed countries. In China people are not allowed to emigrate without the sanction of the state, which severely limits the rights of its people. On the contrary, the Indian system ensures democratic movement and freedom to select the work one wants to do. This has led to growth of almost 4.2 crore Indians — branded as internal migrants — who migrate within the country contributing immensely to the growth of region they move in.


Though this freedom and democratic system is considered a great merit of the Indian system, there is no mark for such achievements. The HDI that takes into cognisance the purchasing power parity as its basis and includes dimensions of human development: Life expectancy, adult literacy and gross enrolment, etc.


However, the measure is not a comprehensive index of human development as it does not include important indicators such as income inequality or more difficult concepts like human rights and political freedoms. The index merely views the human progress in terms of income and well-being.


Besides this, another lopsided approach in deciding the rankings is the comparison of highly-populated India with countries that have lesser population like Bhutan, Guyana, Nicaragua and Luxembourg. The complexities and diversities of a country like India are not taken into account and comparing it with these countries, which are far less diverse and socially less complicated, is not a justified approach.


Moreover, discrimination against the migrant population is highest in Europe. Unemployment rate is the highest among them because of discrimination and limited access to opportunities. In the US, the children of migrant workers encounter racism and have to depend on their own ethnic group to get jobs that would help them survive.

Recent micro-analysis of 10 Latin American countries has found that internal migrants of indigenous origin face severe discrimination in urban areas. Bolivian women in Argentina were found to be discriminated. Mongolian migrants in the Czech Republic face discrimination while violence against immigrants is common in Malaysia and South Africa. While such countries are not negatively marked, India having a better tolerance and acceptance record is not given any positive assessment to help it achieve a better world ranking.


Further, when it comes to human poverty index, where with a value of 28 per cent (considered at least medium sized), India ranks 88. This brings out the contrast in respect of poor HDI ranking. If the per capita income on the basis of GDP at $ 2,800 is taken into account, possibly India could have a higher ranking.


By itself the HDR or its indices may reveal only limited developments taking place in a country but it does not state the reality in its entire paradigm.


The noise about HDR is political in nature as its forces a country to take appropriate steps for a positive world outlook.

The writer is a senior economic affairs journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DROUGHT OF VISION STALKS BUNDELKHAND

OFFICIAL APATHY HAS MADE LIFE MISERABLE FOR PEOPLE IN THIS REGION, WRITES SACHIN KUMAR JAIN


Over the last two years 343 farmers have sold their lands and moved out from Niwadi block of Tikamgarh district in Bundelkhand. Instead they have purchased autorikshaws, which they are now plying to earn a living. The lands that sustained them and their previous generations have become barren, making it difficult to to earn a livelihood through agriculture.


What has gone terribly wrong in a region famed for its prosperity that year after year it now faces drought, eating into the vitals of what once was a robust agricultural community?


Probably the biggest factor for the perpetual crisis of water in the region is that Bundelkhand receives less then 950 mm of rains every year. Yet the region flourished because people here knew how to conserve the scarce resource and sowed traditional crops which required less water. But it is another man-made factor which has caused this region to plummet towards disaster.


Over the last 25 years, a class of farmers, driven solely by the profit motive, has promoted the cultivation of water-fed cash crops like soybean and cotton. The practice of this kind of agriculture has sucked the land dry. Ground water has been over-exploited and traditional water bodies suffered damage. The water level in the region has fallen to 600-750 feet. The land today is parched. Forests have been degraded and the agricultural cycle, which was smoothly in place for centuries, has got disrupted.


The need to first acknowledge, then identify the structural causes of drought is required. A credible diagnosis of the current situation is called for, urgently. But far from attempting to get to the root cause, policy level efforts only skim the surface. A reluctance or perhaps the inertia to delve into Bundelkhand's history is palpable and this is proving to be detrimental.


Meanwhile as the crisis deepens, it is breaking the backs of those who still showed some resilience, a deep but sadly unrealistic desire to make their lands yield a harvest. Recently 151 families from Dewri village in Tikamgarh district were forced to purchase seeds and fertilizer on credit. Following crop failure, the debt of Rs 17.80 lakh rupees is now crippling for the hapless farmers.


Migrations have followed. Recently, 90 people from these families left their homes and lands for Ahmedabad, Chittorgarh and New Delhi in search of livelihood. What is more alarming is that several small and marginal farmers are opting for permanent migration, in effect cutting off their links with the land. Since 2007-08, three each in Dewri Nayak and Bahera and four in Namapura have taken this route. It may be a trickle now, but if it becomes endemic, what does it portend for the region, its very survival as a cultivable land? Over the last 10 years, the agriculture production has gone down by 55 per cent and the productivity of land has reduced by 21 per cent. The systems for water protection and structures that uses surface water have been demolished in systematic manner by those who wield influence at the local level. Only 129 out of 1,640 beautifully constructed big and medium water bodies of Bundelkhand are alive. Others are depleted and full of silt.

While this dance of destruction — both natural and willful — continues, authorities remain in denial. As input cost of agriculture is galloping, the lack of structural support is pushing small farmers deeper into debt and further away from a point of recovery.

Left to themselves, villagers would know what to do, to break out of this quagmire. According to renowned environmentalist Anupam Mishra, local panchayats in Bundelkhand would punish a villager for an anti-social act by asking the accused to dig a pond. This reflected an innate sense of common good, an understanding and appreciation of the preciousness of natural resources.


They possess the wisdom to restore their lands and lives to productivity and prosperity. They could take steps for the revival of forests, of water structures and could give valuable inputs into policy and planning. The agri-cycle can be restored. But their ideas are not being sought let alone considered for policy planning and implementation.

According to the Central Ground Water Board, water level in wells of Bundelkhand is dangerously low, falling continuously every year by 2 to 4 metres. Only 15,000 million cubic metre water of the total 70,000 mcm water received through rains get recharged into ground.


Unfortunately, the answers from within are not finding expression. Answers from those who run the affairs of the state sorely lack the vision needed to lift the burden off this beleaguered land. The State Government is in a process to approve cement industries, water processing industries, and mineral mines, whose effects on the sensitive environment of Bundelkhand are further set to deteriorate the situation.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

GET PF SCAM ACCUSED DEATH PROBED BY CBI

 

EVERYTHING about the death of PF scam prime accused Ashutosh Asthana is suspicious. The sudden death of a middleaged man with no medical history is reason enough to closely examine the case.

 

Asthana had expressed apprehensions about his life being under threat because he was the key witness in a high- profile corruption case so the possibility of foul play in the man's death is very real. As it is, the Dasna jail in which he was lodged has a notorious reputation, with a murder accused being poisoned to death there in the recent past.

 

We are told that a medical board comprising five doctors had carried out a postmortem examination but could not come up with conclusive findings. While the viscera has been sent for further examination which should reveal if Mr Asthana died due to poisoning, it must be said that the authorities have bungled again by allowing the body to be cremated. Forensic examinations in India, as the Aarushi murder case and the Shopian case in J- K highlighted, cannot always be treated as conclusive, with non- specialist doctors often being made to conduct the exercise.

 

If the first autopsy did not reveal the cause of death then the CBI which was investigating the PF scam should have been informed and the body preserved for further examination by forensic experts from, say, the AIIMS. After all, Mr Asthana was the vital link in the case involving a sitting Supreme Court judge, 12 high court judges and several others from the lower judiciary. His death is bound to hamper the prospects of the guilty being convicted. In the circumstances, it may be a good idea for the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into Mr Asthana's untimely death.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

PREVENT FIASCO

 

WHAT price the hosting of the Commonwealth Games? In a startling revelation, the former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said on television that India had spent $ 7.2 million ( Rs 38 crore) in guarantee money to national Olympic associations of the Commonwealth member countries to ask them to vote in New Delhi's favour ahead of Canada, which pledged $ 3.8 million.

 

It is nobody's case that India should not spend money to get hosting rights of big international events such as the Commonwealth Games. What has annoyed the nation is that despite spending this amount, India has given the rest of the world the distinct impression that we have botched it up.

 

The latest mudslinging between the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairperson Suresh Kalmadi and the Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper is not helping matters either.

 

The guarantee amount is seemingly small, but it is the money that India has spent afterwards — at the taxpayers' expense — that could have been easily channeled for the right causes. The government's expense for the event was budgeted at more than Rs 5000 crore, but even that amount needed a revision earlier this year and the Union budget allocated more than Rs 2000 crore extra for the Games.

 

If even after this Mr Kalmadi and his team are unable to showcase India with a worldclass event, then it would not only be a national shame, but our chances of hosting any other big- ticket event in the near future will be in jeopardy.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

SENSITIVITY NEEDED

 

FAROOQ Abdullah's startling charge that some disgruntled rivals were responsible for the Karnataka police interrogating Parvez Rasool, an under- 22 cricketer, in Bangalore on the suspicion of carrying explosives deserves to be investigated thoroughly. But there is also the possibility that the Kashmiris were a victim of racial profiling. A private security company's electronic explosive detector had reportedly " sniffed" explosives in the cricketer's bag.

 

But the Karnataka Police now says there was no trace of any explosive in the bag and that the explosive detector machine may have been faulty. If this is the case the police, who subjected the cricketer and his colleagues to a five- hour long interrogation, must apologise to them.

 

We need to walk the extra mile to show people of Jammu & Kashmir that they are not being unfairly targeted by our security services.

 

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MAIL TODAY

CHINA HAS UPPED THE ANTE WITH INDIA

CHINA'S POSTURING ON THE BORDER ISSUE IS BECOMING MORE OFFENSIVE.

BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

Its diplomatic presumption in publicly protesting against the Prime Minister's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh is astonishing. It is unclear what larger political purpose lies behind this ratcheting up of tensions with India on Arunachal Pradesh. On several occasions it has already stated that it considers Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory.

 

Its Ambassador absurdly claimed on the eve of President Hu Jintao's visit to India in 2006 that the whole of this area belonged to China. India overlooked this provocation because of its larger national interest in engaging China. China's protest against the Prime Minister's first visit to Arunachal was more discreetly handled, but this time even though he visited Arunachal Pradesh in connection with state elections and no particular political signal directed at China was in India's mind, the Chinese protest has been more head- on.

 

What does China hope to achieve through this attempt at diplomatic brow- beating? Will Indian political leaders cease visiting Arunachal Pradesh in order to stave off Chinese displeasure? And if each time a visit is made and China protests and India dismisses the objection as unwarranted, acrimony will increase without yielding any additional political advantage to the Chinese.

 

Unless, of course, China has a specific action plan that it thinks will enable it to successfully re- open bilaterally and internationally the legal status of Arunachal. Perhaps it has begun to believe that its growing international stature, its entry into the big league and the deference paid to it by other powers, big and small, because of its financial strength gives it room to become more demanding towards India without losing international sympathy? Its decision to multilateralise the bilateral border issue by opposing ADB funding for two small irrigation projects in Arunachal Pradesh could flow from such thinking.

 

DISTORTION

Its success in preventing the Arunachal projects, although approved as part of the country programme for India by the ADB Board, from being mentioned in the organisation's web site, could well encourage it to challenge India on the state internationally as circumstances warrant. The facile explanation given by the over- exposed new Australian Ambassador for his country's unhelpful position in the ADB ( and reportedly that of Japan) points to the weight China exerts now in the region and the antagonistic strands in Australian policies towards India.

 

China's hardening position on Arunachal Pradesh shows that it has no interest for the present to settle the border issue with India. The 2003 decision to nominate Special Representatives to find a solution on the basis of agreed political parameters was intended to be a practical and pragmatic exercise.

 

Distorting its purpose, the Chinese are exploiting the new forum to make substantive additional territorial demands on India. Our belief that we had limited the import of the reference to " meaningful" border adjustments in the guidelines by excluding from their ambit settled populations discounted the Chinese proclivity to interpret texts unilaterally. The new twist China is giving to the border issue is dangerous. It has begun referring to Arunachal Pradesh as southern Tibet, cynically extending southwards the historical frontiers of Tibet even as it has hived off extensive parts of truly historical Tibet and merged them with neighbouring Han Chinese regions both to shrink Tibet to a smaller size, divide the Tibetan population and accelerate the process of their Hanisation.

 

To rebut the argument that the population of Arunachal Pradesh is in its vast majority not of Tibetan stock, Chinese commentators have started falsifying facts by accusing India of changing the state's demography by settling a million outsiders there. By first incorporating it with an artificially created notion of " southern Tibet", the Chinese commentators are projecting their " offer" to leave us half of Arunachal Pradesh ( the other half lying already in Tibet) as China's " concession" to India that we are supposedly construing as their " weakness". China's claim to have successfully settled borders with all other neighbours except India, insinuating thereby that India is recalcitrant, is highly misleading.

 

The reality is that Russia was too powerful for China to obtain concessions and other neighbours were neither seen as serious long term rivals nor was Tibet a core issue with them.

 

Even so China secured no worthwhile territorial concessions from them, whereas it demands major concessions from India. China's official mouthpieces are now chiding us for deliberately stirring up trouble and poisoning the negotiating atmosphere by the Prime Minister's provocative visit to Arunachal Pradesh and spurning of China's desire to settle the border issue peacefully with us!

 

HEGEMONISM

When China arbitrarily ended in 2002 the mutually agreed exercise to exchange maps delineating the line of actual control ( LAC) as perceived by the two sides and we, in our anxiety to end the impasse, proposed a " political approach" to the issue in 2003, we walked unwittingly into China's trap. China moved away from the LAC delineation approach as it would have boxed the eventual settlement within the ground realities of actual control, with some limited adjustments to remove anomalies.

 

The legal basis of the negotiations would have inevitably shifted from historical/ legal evidence to actual control, precluding Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh/ Tawang.

 

China cannot be so naive as to think that any Indian government, however much wedded to normalisation of relations with China, will cede Tawang to China. By persisting with such a demand and raising the political stakes on Arunachal Pradesh, China is hectoring India.

 

For Chinese commentators to accuse India of hegemonic thinking towards its neighbours, and in a swipe at us on Pakistan's count, of deriding us for assuming " pretentious airs" towards that country, reflects China's own hegemonic ambitions in Asia and its pretentious and arrogant policies towards India.

 

DISDAIN

China seeks to treat a big country like India in much the same disdainful way as we supposedly treat our much smaller neighbours. The traditional hubris of China, bolstered by its spectacular economic growth today fuelled by US indulgence, presents a real threat to the world. The display of military might by China in ceremonies to mark the 60th anniversary of the Communist take- over of the country is a foretaste of the dangers ahead.

 

India is right in emphatically rejecting China's protest over the Prime Minister's visit to Arunachal and reiterating forcefully that the state is an integral part of India. It is equally right in underlining that the Dalai Lama, who plans to visit Tawang in November, is free to visit any part of India. He has visited Tawang before as part of his five earlier visits to Arunachal. Chinese obstreperousness may have been encouraged by Obama's decision not to meet the Dalai Lama before his own visit to China in November. The spectacle of the head of the most powerful country in the world blinking in the face of China's demands cannot but encourage the Chinese leadership to intimidate weaker countries like India.

 

India is also right to remind China about its funding of major economic and strategic projects in Pakistan occupied Kashmir in total contradiction to its position on external financing for projects in Arunachal.

 

These developments should spur us to accelerate the build up of our defences against a mounting threat from a " peacefully rising" China.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary ( sibalkanwal@ gmail. com)

 

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MAIL TODAY

PATNA DURBAR

GIRIDHAR JHA

 

CRITICISM FROM RSS NO THREAT TO THE GOVT

 

THE STINGING criticism of the Bihar government by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) at its recent national working committee meeting at Rajgir may have delighted chief minister Nitish Kumar's opponents but it is unlikely to unsettle the coalition government in the state.

 

The RSS categorically stated that the Nitish government had been pursuing a policy of minority appeasement, saying it was not in " national interest". The Sangh's criticism came in the wake of several " pro- minority" decisions taken by the Janata Dal ( United)- Bharatiya Janata Party government over the past four years.

 

Ironically, Nitish chose to announce a plan to introduce teaching of Urdu and appoint Urdu teachers in all the government- run schools in the state on the eve of the Sangh's three- day conclave in Bihar. It could be a moot point whether it was a sheer coincidence or through design on his part but Nitish has been unapologetic about his stand. This is in spite of the fact that his government's survival has hinged on the support of the BJP. Nitish made light of the RSS' criticism, too. He did not specifically mention the name of any organisation but he made it clear that his government was not pursuing a policy of minority appeasement as such. " We believe in inclusive development and our government is committed to developing each and every section of society," he asserted. " There is nothing wrong if the backward sections have been given special attention in the process." But while Nitish was guarded in his rebuttal of the Sangh Parivar's charges, his party came out hammer and tongs in his defence. JD- U's national spokesman Shivanand Tiwari, as if on cue, said that any talk about minority appeasement was not in ' national interest'. He said that attempts to uplift the deprived sections of society could not be called ' minority appeasement'. The JD- U is apparently aware of the fallout of the RSS' criticism on Bihar's politics. It does not want to be seen as being intimidated by the Sangh Parivar's posturing. Despite being an electoral ally of the BJP, Nitish has made significant inroads into the Muslim vote bank of Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad. He cannot afford to squander it away just to keep his electoral partner and its " guardian angels" in good humour — that too when the state assembly elections are due in about a year.

 

With the Opposition already intensifying its campaign against his government after the RSS conclave in the state, Nitish has made it clear that the coalition government is being run on a common minimum programme.

 

In the past also, he has amply highlighted the fact that the JD- U and the BJP differ on issues like construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370.

 

The BJP, on its part, has preferred to keep mum on the issue. It is said to be mulling its future options in view of the guidelines that its leaders received from the RSS. Thankfully, the Sangh has also made it clear that it does not interfere in the working of a political party.

 

In other words, it is not binding on the BJP to follow its " suggestions". It is, therefore, least likely that the BJP will even weigh the option of opting out of the Nitish government — with or without its " minority appeasement" policy.

 

Renouncing power can be tougher than attaining it, many would say.

 

DARBHANGA ESTATE LOCKER A TREASURE TROVE

THE erstwhile estate of the Maharaja of Darbhanga in Bihar was known not only for its opulence but also as a patron of scholars during the Mughal and British era. This is why all eyes were riveted on its locker when it was recently opened in the presence of experts from the Bihar State Archives and other government officials. But there was a problem: one of the keys of the Englandmade double- lock locker had been lost. The locker could thus be opened only after a lot of efforts.

 

Inside it was a treasure trove which throws ample light on the importance of the Darbhanga Raj during the Mughal- British era. Several costly paintings and documents, including a firman of Mughal king Alamgir II inscribed in golden letters, an original copy of Ain- e- Akbari in 12 volunes, written by a calligrapher named Alauddin, and the original ' family tree' of 21 generations of Maharajas were recovered.

 

Some letters written during 1880- 90 suggest that the Maharaja of Darbhanga had provided financial support for the 1857 rebellion against the British raj.

 

The records of Darbhanga Raj were transferred to the state government in 1977. It is unfortunate that no efforts were subsequently made for their documentation.

 

CHILDREN'S FILM FESTIVAL IS A BIG HIT

 

BIHAR'S school children, especially those from the " poor", government- run institutions, never had it so good. The State Information and Public Relations department, in collaboration with the Children's Film Society of India, organised a children's film festival in Patna last week which featured several refreshing movies like Bhago Bhoot and Anokha Aspatal made exclusively for kids. It featured the kind of films which do not reach the theatres of small towns.

 

Both chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi turned up at the inauguration ceremony which was attended by scores of school students.

 

Modi, himself an unabashed film buff, suggested that such a festival should be organised every year in Bihar. The department had not only chosen the best cinema hall in the state capital as the venue of the festival but also made the entry free for students. It had also arranged for transporting students along with their teachers from their schools.

 

With two back- to- back movies shows in a day, the fiveday festival turned out to be a veritable treat for children who sought its extension. But then, the festival had to move on to other cities like Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur and Gaya where other children were waiting with bated breath.

giridhar.jha@mailtoday.in

Seema.Kamdar@mailtoday.in

 

FOREIGN tourists on a 14- day river cruise from Kolkata to Varanasi had a whale of time during their stopovers at different towns in Bihar recently. The travellers drawn from different European, American and Australian cities visited the ruins of ancient universities and imposing monuments in towns like Bhagalpur, Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Buxar and Patna, giving them glimpses of Bihar's cultural heritage. But what impressed them the most was the hospitality extended to them by people across the state.

 

A variety of cultural shows based on different folk traditions of the state were organised in their honour. In fact, folk songs and dances from the Mithila, Bhojpur and other regions moved the tourists so much that they often joined the local artistes in their performance. Though the first- ever river cruise through Bihar had its fair share of problems like a technical snag that slowed down the boat's speed considerably, it was an " incredible experience" for most of the travellers. Many of them said they had visited India a number of times in the past but had no idea that Bihar could offer so much. Now the onus is on the Bihar government to boost the tourism sector in the state.

 

BIHAR may be one of the poorest states in the country but there is no dearth of people buying automobiles here. This year too, the state witnessed a huge rush of car buyers on the ' auspicious' Dhanteras day. In Patna alone, altogether 1,447 four- wheelers, including SUVs, rolled out of showrooms in a single day. The Maruti Udyog Limited sold the maximum number of vehicles followed by Mahindra and Hyundai.

 

According to car dealers, more than 2,000 people had booked their vehicles in advance, which was 15 per cent more than last year. But since almost all the buyers wanted the delivery of their cars on Dhanteras, dealers had to stop booking after a point. Buyers had to stand in queue for hours to get their vehicles.

 

THE success of Patnabased mathematician Anand Kumar in grooming children from underprivileged sections for the joint entrance test for the Indian Institutes of Technology ( IITs) through his pioneering coaching institute called Super 30 continues to inspire film makers. After the Discovery channel showed a documentary made by an acclaimed British film maker last year, a German television company — ARTE — wants to make a documentary on Super 30. The success formula of Kumar's, who once sold papads made by his mother to eke out a living, has helped nearly 150 poor students crack the difficult IITJEE. His story is definitely worth many documentaries, if not a biopic.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

ASTHANA'S DEATH A BLOW TO PF CASE

 

I WAS deeply shocked by the mysterious death of Ashutosh Asthana, the prime accused as well as kingpin in the infamous Ghaziabad multi- crore provident fund scam involving members from all three tiers of the judiciary.

 

Notwithstanding what would eventually emerge from the autopsy/ inquiry which has since been ordered by the concerned authorities to ascertain the cause of Asthana's death in Dasna jail in Ghaziabad, one thing is crystal clear — his sudden demise will weaken the investigation.

 

The case, which is currently being handled by the CBI, is also being periodically monitored by the Supreme Court.

 

The agency has submitted four status reports so far to the Apex Court, and it ought to expedite its task of extracting the real truth undeterred by this latest development.

 

The allegations levelled against 34 judges — including a sitting SC Judge — are far more serious.

 

The citizens of the country are awaiting early outcome of the case and any deviation or a lackadaisical attitude at this stage would probably derail the credibility and the faith the people have in the higher judiciary.

 

The SC ought to monitor the case much more aggressively so as to take it to its logical conclusion, and mete out exemplary punishment to those found guilty, no matter who they are.

 

Hemant Kumar via email

 

KALMADI- HOOPER SPAT NOT A GOOD SIGN

YOUR editorial ' IOA stand augurs ill for the Games' ( October 19) was timely, as the ongoing public spat between Indian Olympic Association and the Commonwealth Games Federation ( CGF) will do more harm to the 2010 Games than good.

 

Due to tardy progress of various ongoing projects, Mike Fennell, the chairman of the CGF, had warned recently that time is now our enemy, and this holds good even for now.

 

In the backdrop of the time constraint, it would be appropriate that instead of raking up the unnecessary issue of removal of CEO of CGF, the country adopts the best international practices to finish all the projects within the stipulated deadline. As the country's prestige is at stake, the massive egos of individuals need to be kept in check, as one simply cannot afford to be at loggerheads with the CGF. The best course of action at this juncture to save the Games would be to put Union sports minister M. S. Gill at the helm of affairs so that the pending work takes place at the full speed.

 

L. K. Chawla via email

 

USE WEB TO MAKE DISBURSEMENT PUBLIC

MAIL TODAY 's front page story ' Mystery death jolts judges' scam probe' ( October 19) exposes the provident funds scam and shows that even the custodians of law and order are not beyond reproach. The fabric of society has been shattered by the very people whose primary job is to hold it intact.

 

Kudos to CBI judge Rama Jain who conducted a fair inquiry without fear and greed.

 

There is inherent flaw in the system where disbursement of public money is involved.

 

Like in this case, crores of rupees from the general provident fund could not have been siphoned off had the name of each and every beneficiary was put up on a web site.There should be a law stating that any disbursement of public funds has to be made public via the Internet.

Manjula Pal via email

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

TALKING CLIMATE

 

Scrapping well-considered positions at the eleventh hour when the UN conference on climate change is to convene in Copenhagen in December is a rash thing to do. But that's just what Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh appears to propose. His confidential letter to the prime minister proposes a reversal of India's stand, which had been reiterated as recently as earlier this month at the Bangkok UN climate change talks.


All along, India has been firm that as a developing country and with a per capita emission figure that is almost 20 times less than that of the US, it will not be bound by compulsory emissions targets set by any protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). India has stressed the importance of assigning historic responsibility to those (developed) countries that now enjoy high economic standards as it is they that really ought to now reduce their carbon footprint. This view was also in keeping with the common but differentiated responsibility guideline of the UNFCCC.


That's also what the 1997 Kyoto Protocol sought to do, assigning such targets to Annexure-I (developed) countries. Other signatories like India were to be encouraged to set their own targets voluntarily, as their urgent need is to alleviate poverty and hunger, and put in place a gradual shifting towards cleaner development with funding and technology transfer from developed countries. By seeking to delink clean development from technology transfer and financial assistance from the developed world, and arguing that mitigation efforts need to be undertaken in the country anyway since it is in our best interests to do so, the minister is only weakening India's position at the negotiations. After all, even if India cuts emissions (from already low per capita emissions levels) while developed countries with far greater resources are spared such cuts, that won't mitigate climate change. All that it would achieve is a form of environmental apartheid whereby nations which have emitted more greenhouse gases in the past will have the luxury of having their cuts indexed to their higher levels of emissions into the foreseeable future.


While mitigating climate change is a necessity, that can't be achieved at the cost of forestalling development and perpetuating mass poverty in India. Any successful deal on climate change will need to back the principle of common but differentiated responsibility with concrete commitments of financial and technology transfers in sufficient quantity from developed nations, rather than junk the principle altogether and punish low emitters by imposing greater costs on them. That ought to be non-negotiable when India goes to Copenhagen.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

FARM FRESH

 

India's Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), working under the commerce and industry ministry, has said exports of organic products could grow by leaps and bounds in future. That's good news for a country catering to a healthy world demand. The catch is, it also entails conserving the 'made in India' brand. In this context, India can't afford doubts commonly voiced about the genuineness and safety of items labelled organic. Only recently, APEDA received complaints about certain accredited certifying agencies certifying farms without inspecting them. This undermines its own credibility. As a nodal agency, APEDA has to ensure product quality meets global standards.


APEDA now plans a pan-India system to ensure food product traceability. This will monitor both organic farmers and certifiers. Details provided by them as well as traders and exporters, and placed online, would allow problem products to be traced back to source farms. Importers and consumers could access information about farming practices, and even check out farmland coordinates. Given India's export stakes, the idea is smart. Despite designating organic farming a major thrust area, India accounts for only $123 million in a $40 billion global organic food market. Promoting transparency and accountability, a traceability mechanism will build confidence internationally, particularly in Europe where nearly 70 per cent of our exports go.


Plugging certification loopholes and creating more agencies must go along with encouraging stakeholders in the sector, another stated APEDA goal. Countless small farmers are described as practising organic farming "by default" because they can't afford to invest in chemical fertiliser-reliant agriculture. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if they can gain from it with greater access to training for skills upgrade, awareness about marketing opportunities and even absorption into big, scientifically run farms. With greater official support, more and more players can benefit from the lower input and running costs as well as higher prices that organic farming represents compared to conventional farming.


The problem is that, while big commercial entities thrive, a time-consuming, costly certification process disadvantages small farmers. A community-based certification system based on local criteria has been thought a solution. But, not being foolproof, this system is perhaps more suited to satisfying a domestic market. Consumers abroad won't compromise on standards. So while pursuing export-friendly strategies, the authorities must think of innovative ways to ease the certification process. Making universally recognised accreditation simpler and cheaper for small organic farmers to acquire is the first step to increasing their formal participation in the sector.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

NEED TO SOLDIER ON

 

A second attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in just over a year recently highlighted the security disaster looming over hapless Afghanistan. The situation there is the result of two extreme episodes of hubris. In 2001, the Taliban decided most foolishly to fight like a regular army and defend cities and towns. The 12,000 Pakistani Pathan troops in mufti, manning its tanks, artillery and aircraft, had been withdrawn under US pressure. The Taliban presented concentrated targets and was decimated by the US air force. The Northern Alliance simply mopped up in the wake of devastating US air strikes and captured Kabul.


Easy victory led to hubris in the Pentagon. The new gurus of "effect based operations" jettisoned years of classical military theory. Lt Gen Tommy Franks decided to keep the US footprint in Afghanistan very small (10,000 men), supported by massive airpower. This was ostensibly to obviate local hostility against US troops as occupiers. Over time, indiscriminate use of airpower to protect this handful of troops caused significant collateral damage, alienating the population. Occupation and pacification of a country need boots on the ground. The tiny US military footprint bred a long-term disaster. There was no Afghan army to secure the country post-Taliban. The US had to rely on unpopular warlords, undercutting the legitimacy of Hamid Karzai's government.


The Taliban, meanwhile, had learnt its lessons. It initially fled to sanctuaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP) in Pakistan. America now diverted attention and resources to Iraq. Underfunded and under-resourced, Afghanistan was left to its own devices. The Taliban simply seeped right back in. The Quetta shura led by Mullah Omar was ensconced by the ISI in Quetta. It targeted Kandahar. The Haqqani shura based in Waziristan targeted the Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami made NWFP its base for targeting the Afghan provinces of Nangrahar, Nuristan and Kunar.


The ISI revived the golden crescent's narcotics empire to pay for this insurgency. Nine per cent of the Afghan population had been killed, 33 per cent had fled abroad and 11 per cent were internally displaced. Most of the cultivable areas were strewn with mines. The labour-intensive traditional system of Afghan agriculture had broken down and the Afghans had reverted to poppy cultivation. This opium economy has fuelled the Taliban war since.


International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops have proved surprisingly effete. They focused primarily on force protection through indiscriminate airpower that distanced them from the Afghan people. The Taliban has been relying on large-scale use of improvised explosive devices and stand-off fire to inflict casualties. The 68,000 US troops and 32,000 ISAF/North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops are far too thin on the ground for a proper counter-insurgency (CI) campaign. The best answer to the Taliban is a strong Afghan army. Yet the Americans are planning an Afghan army of just 134,000 and a police force of 82,000, far too small for a country of Afghanistan's size and ruggedness. The pre-Soviet era Afghan army was 350,000-strong. The Soviets rebuilt the strength to 550,000. This is the optimal size. Anything less means imminent collapse after a US withdrawal.

The US troop surge in Afghanistan has seen an induction of 17,000 additional combat troops and 4,000 trainers. The US 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade (over 130 helicopters), the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (8,000 troops) and the 5th Stryker Brigade have commenced heavy fighting in Helmand province, the key opium growing belt. British troops in particular have taken fairly heavy casualties. Is the surge too little too late? Proper CI operations require a far higher committal of American troops. The US commanding general in Afghanistan, Lt Gen McChrystal, has asked for 40,000 additional troops and a doubling of the envisaged size of the Afghan army and police.


Reportedly there is considerable debate and scepticism in Washington concerning these militarily sound, common sense recommendations. Vice-president Joe Biden has reportedly proposed an alternative strategy focusing more on al-Qaeda and less on Taliban. That means reducing troops and relying more on airpower and precision strikes by Predator UAVs. In purely military terms, there could not be a more surefire prescription for disaster.

As in Vietnam, ultimately the war in Afghanistan would be won or lost in opinion polls back home. Political sensitivity to casualties will be the key factor moulding American will to stay the course. CI operations are manpower-intensive and the Afghan campaign has been drastically under-resourced for far too long. If the Americans are serious about pacifying the region, they will need to commit enhanced resources and stay the course for at least one to two decades. Anything less will lead to a regional disaster with grave security implications for India. Curtailment of ammunition resupply is the key component of the defeat mechanism. Effective border fencing helps achieve this effect; it had drastically curtailed terrorism in Punjab and later J&K. The money the US is throwing at Pakistan could be better spent by constructing a fence on the Durand Line.

The writer is a retired major-general.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

PUT THE RHYME TOGETHER AGAIN

 

It's enough to make a cow jump over the moon. In the latest drive to sanitise every aspect of children's lives, the BBC has decided to spare kids the trauma of Humpty Dumpty never being put together again and instead give him a happy ending. Similarly, the rather feeble Miss Muffet will no longer run away scared from the spider, but will instead befriend it. This is ridiculous.


The BBC maintains that the reasoning behind this baffling move was purely creative. But the undercurrent is, as one politician suggested, that kids find Humpty Dumpty's demise horrific and scarring and so should be shielded from the imagery of the original rhyme. As if it wasn't enough that a section of educationists and policymakers think cartoons like Tom and Jerry are too violent! And as if well-intentioned but somewhat deluded civil society groups haven't already hurt children's education with a surfeit of political correctness.

Set aside the fact that whole generations of kids were reared on the original, supposedly gruesome version of Humpty Dumpty and apparently managed to escape lasting mental trauma. It must be asked if it is better for children to be made aware, in the least threatening way possible, that life is not all a bed of roses and that 'happily ever after' is not always possible, than to grow up believing that life is all fluffy animals and candy and that its disappointments will ultimately resolve themselves in a satisfying manner. Kids growing up with such delusions are far more likely to be dysfunctional than children who know how to deal with the hard knocks life metes out.

 

It is also time for adults to stop underestimating children and their ability to comprehend the less-than-pleasant aspects of human existence. Children are surprisingly perceptive and are smart enough to notice when stories are being sugar-coated for their consumption. Combine that with a child's curiosity, and hiding nasty things that can happen can be much worse than exposing kids to the original Humpty Dumpty.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTER VIEW

CHANGE IT TO SUIT THE CHILD'S NEEDS

 

Studies have revealed that nursery rhymes play a pivotal role in a child's education. Not only do these influence the phonological abilities of the child but also shape his thinking. Nursery rhymes are not innocent ditties; they talk to the child. That's why they are part of pedagogy in pre-school classes. These instill a sense of rhyme in the child, prod him to explore the world of songs and stories, and shape perceptions and attitudes. That being the case, we need to be serious about the content of the rhymes taught to our children. And, if these are not as innocent as they seem, we need to change them. That's what the BBC programmers have done with the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. There's nothing wrong with that.


Let's not be under the presumption that nursery rhymes are just rhymes and nothing else. Presuming innocence of folk tales, songs and nursery rhymes is misplaced. They are the products of their times. Social values of the time, which include racial, class and ethnic biases, not to mention notions of fear and superstition, have left their mark on these rhymes. Some of these have violent content that may scar children. Of course, some of them have survived the test of time and are fine specimens of culture and language. They need to be taught to every new generation. That, however, could be done without having to pass on the baggage of prejudice inbuilt in them. A tweak here or there to make them correspond to the present is fine.


Most of these rhymes have been handed over as part of an oral tradition. The texts may have changed with time and may have been influenced by the likes and dislikes of the singer/story-teller. We need to see nursery rhymes as evolving texts and not as relics of a past time. Edit them as one may need to while keeping the rhyme and rhythm to make them appealing to the ear. The point is to keep the child happy. If that calls for the King's Horses to make "Humpty Dumpty happy again" rather than fail to "put Humpty Dumpty together again", so be it.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

MOVIE MISADVENTURE

HARD-WON VICTORY

 

The word football evokes mixed memories for someone who grew up playing the game on an abandoned tennis court. That was four decades ago and the place was Bikaner. For icons, we soccer-crazy mohalla urchins of Maaji Sa Ka Baas had Chain Singh and Magan Singh, two strikers from Rajasthan Armed Constabulary, who played for the national team then. On most Sundays, we would have a match on a slightly bigger field nearby, with boys from Hanuman Hathha, the adjoining locality. At stake would be the mohalla pride and the kingly sum of 11 rupees collected by team members from their pocket money. A bruised knee cap or a knock on the shin was a small price for the pure joy of such bouts. Unfortunately, the boys from Hanuman Hathha rarely ever let us win. But on a lucky Sunday, they were minus their star player. Well, we made the best of the opportunity and managed to lick them. Question arose as to how to splurge the hard-won prize money. Our leader suggested that we watch Rajesh Khanna's film Aradhana, which was running at the nearby Ganga theatre named after the illustrious Maharaja Ganga Singh of the erstwhile princely state of Bikaner. ''My parents won't allow me!'' someone squeaked. "Forget about the permission. And no one will tell!" The leader said so authoritatively that we all fell in line. He was veteran of many solo adventures of this type but to be on the safer side, he made us take an oath of honour.


Soon the excited group was heading for the theatre, humming 'Mere sapno ki raani kab ayegi tu...' As we neared the cinema, the sapno ki rani was still in the realm of dreams when we saw someone else coming from the other side our leader's tough-looking mother, who was returning from the market carrying a shopping bag. Our leader panicked. But before he could do anything, she was upon us. "Why are you loitering around here?'' she asked tweaking our leader's ear. The lion-turned-lamb tried to mumble an excuse but she paid no heed. Instead, she dragged him homeward leaving us confused like an army whose commander had just been captured. Well, we too beat a hasty retreat. All our joy was gone and its place taken by trepidation. What if she sneaked to our parents? Well, she did nothing of that sort and we survived.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

EQ VERSUS IQ

 

Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan only the seventh person of Indian origin to have won the honour has tellingly highlighted the frequently unbridgeable chasm between emotional intelligence (EQ) and traditional intelligence (IQ). His recent statements, after receiving the Chemistry Nobel, underline the inverse ratio between IQ and EQ and do no credit to his obviously outstanding intellectual equipment.


Ramakrishnan is reported to have expressed disgust at the outpouring of fan mail received by him from India, especially from Tamil Nadu, after the conferment of the Nobel. On two issues, his anger is understandable, though perhaps expressed at the wrong time, the wrong place and in the wrong manner. He may be right in pointing out that several teachers have suddenly discovered him as their student in his school/college days in India, while he remembers none of them. Secondly, he has expressed resentment at being contacted by persons who had chosen to ignore him for decades but started expressing new-found love after the Nobel win.


Both sentiments are understandable, may even be justifiable, though Ramakrishnan can scarcely believed to be innocent of the universal creed and global phenomenon, not at all peculiar to India, that success has many fathers while failure is an orphan. That this universal phenomenon should surprise Ramakrishnan is surprising. He would surely have encountered enough of it in the American and European cultures in which he has worked for decades to not treat it as uniquely Indian, as his observations suggest.


But these parts of his statement are not the subject of this critique. What is deplorable is Ramakrishnan's equation and linkage of something as lofty and noble as patriotism and nationalism with something as banal and ridiculous as the clogging of his e-mail accounts and a general disgust at being troubled by his countrymen. When a Rajasthani, or a fellow citizen from Jodhpur, gets an outstanding international award, i feel a wee bit extra joy and exhilaration than my other Indian compatriots, because i was born in Jodhpur and hail from Rajasthan.

When an Indian gets a prestigious global award, all Indians feel proud, and even jingoistic, whereas the same award to a foreigner is merely another statistic in a newspaper. This is not to suggest that we are, or i am, casteist, regional or practising false nationalism. Patriotism can be distorted and misused as the "refuge of the scoundrel" but, at its core, it has an intersection of noble values which, in this case, appear to have completely escaped the mind of a brilliant Nobel laureate.


These are the values of link and affinity with a culture, a people, a territory and a national identity. It is this sentiment alone which connects India and Indians, despite this country being the greatest aggregation of diversities on this planet.


Yes, Mr Ramakrishnan, the place and nation of your birth may be "accidents of history", as you put it, but you are woefully and grievously wrong to suppose that the overwhelming tidal wave of affection for you from fellow Tamilians and Indians can be seen or explained merely as an accident of history. Your comments illustrate not merely an absence of EQ but the arrogance of relative youthfulness and an assumption that you can see and analyse everything from the mind while deadening your heart. I can wager a bet that when you grow old (maybe over 75 by western standards, but 65 by Indian standards), you will hark back and hanker for the peace, tranquillity and cultural affinity of the same Chidambaram town, whose eulogising e-mails you are currently castigating.

The writer is an MP and national spokesperson of the Congress party.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 QUICK CHANGE IN CLIMATE

 

Just a week after Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told a climate change conference in Copenhagen that India is not "obligated" to take on legally binding emission reduction targets, comes news that he has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh advocating a shift in India's long-standing position on the issue. Mr Ramesh, according to a report, has written to the PM that New Delhi should junk the Kyoto Protocol, de-link itself from the 131-member bloc of developing nations and take on emission reduction targets minus any counter-guarantees from the developed world on the finances needed for clean-up and technology. A global summit in Copenhagen in December will try to agree on a climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

 

Mr Ramesh has consistently said that India would go to Copenhagen as an "interested party" and a "deal maker, not a deal breaker". He has also talked about being "pragmatic" and "realistic" on reaching a deal there. But whether being "realistic" and "pragmatic" means giving up India's long-held positions is debatable. If the only justification for changing India's stand is to get the US into the mainstream on the climate issue, one wonders whether it will achieve anything. At this stage, any position India takes that lets the developed countries off the hook will not be seen kindly by many, including the countries India is leading. Strategic goals can only be achieved from positions of strength and the Kyoto Protocol provides that. Abandoning it can only weaken India. A robust climate deal is in India's interest, in the interest of the country's poor. For India, unlike the US, emissions are not a luxury but a question of survival. Any shift in position that does not take into account these issues will not be in India's interest. And, if that is done, the government must explain what prompted this shift in stance.

 

India's offer of setting up "nationally accountable mitigation outcomes," which Mr Ramesh described as domestic legislation mandating fuel efficiency standards, stricter building codes and clean coal technology, are forward- looking steps. But moving away from the 'polluter pays principle' and accepting emission curbs cannot be an option. The polluter pays principle has political acceptance now. So getting away from it must be accompanied by similar political consensus. There's a growing demand among parliamentarians that a US-style scrutiny of multilateral agreements must be put into place in India as well. With the climate deal becoming one of today's most hotly contested issues, such a change in procedures will be a welcome move and put an end to controversies like the current one.

 

The Commonwealth Games 2010 is still a long way off the starting block. But the Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi is the undisputed winner of the controversy prize. In a recent broadside against the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) CEO, Mike Hooper, Mr Kalmadi described the former as useless and an impediment to the committee's functioning. Tempers have been running high over allegations that the Games are running behind schedule. But to suggest, as an Indian Olympic Association board member has done, that criticism of the preparations smacks of imperialism will do nothing to enhance India's image.

That the president of the CGF, Mike Fennell, has come out in support of Mr Hooper further diminishes the credibility of Mr Kalmadi and his supporters. It is inexplicable that Mr Kalmadi should want to open a can of worms by demanding Mr Hooper's expulsion at this late stage with officials raking up how much Mr Hooper is costing the committee to buttress their claims. India has already received a considerable amount of negative publicity both within the country and outside on the slow progress of preparations for the Games. This is the time to hunker down and get things moving as fast and smoothly as possible with the minimum distraction. The latest controversy has only focused more attention on the Games and the many lacunae in its completion so far. Differences among the many organisers should be sorted out in private and not aired in public.
Though comparisons are odious, we ought to have learnt a lesson from the Chinese whose planning and execution of a mega event like the Olympics went off as smooth as silk.

From the word go, the Commonwealth Games 2010 has been mired in misunderstandings and controversies.
Even if these disputes are resolved and the Games go off well, there will be a lack of confidence in India's ability to host such events in future. The public would be happier with a regular update on the progress of the infrastructure for the Games than be subjected to such mudslinging. The attack on Mr Hooper conveys the impression, whether rightly or wrongly, that Mr Kalmadi is looking for a scapegoat. This is hardly an advertisement for a country that claims that it is up there with the best of them in any arena.
Clearly, it is time to show a little more sporting spirit if we are to get the Games off the ground without further hitches.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MADE TO ODOUR

 

The sights and smells of India draw millions to its shores. A glimpse of the Taj is incomplete without the whiff of ammonia from the nearby public conveniences. But a less Incredible India is planning to take the latter out of the equation. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi intends to install some new-fangled loos that don't overflow, and don't stink. Much is changing for the Commonwealth Games, the smelly urinal too shall pass. For the old India hand whose adventure began at the airport john, modern medicine holds out some hope. They've discovered, among other interesting trivia, that smell is man's longest memory.

 

Enter the abiotic piss-pots. The technology is fairly simple: a biodegradable seal stops bacteria from coming up for air and undertaking their redolent activity. Some sceptics will be wondering whether the tried and tested water closet — better known in the subcontinent as the WC — was not designed to achieve just that result. Yes, but the critical assumption here is that the waterloo has water in it. What hope, then, that the redoubtable MCD will manage to keep up a steady supply of the pricier degradable seal? Or that the aam aadmi will relinquish his birthright to irrigate the nearest wall?

 

Despair not, all ye who pass through Indian customs. The odours of millennia will not waft away in a hurry. A nation that reveres not only its cattle but their excrement as well will not turn its back on human piss.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DARKNESS AT NOON LEFT HAND DRIVE

AS THE TWO INDIAS CONTINUE TO HURTLE IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS, ONE FEEDING OFF THE OTHER, STATE INTERVENTION TO RESCUE OUR POOR IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR

 S I TA R A M YEC H U RY

 

There is considerable euphoria in official circles over the 10.4 per cent growth in the index of industrial production (IIP). From the prime minister downwards, everyone is generating an impression that the worst of the global recession is behind us and India is slated to re-enter its high growth trajectory. The IIP had grown by just 1.7 per cent on a year-to-year basis last year. Hence, the current high growth rate is based on very low levels. This is like a political party claiming a 300 per cent increase in its influence when its representation in Parliament grows from one seat to three.

 

While everyone wishes robust economic growth leading to an improvement in the livelihood of the people, the grim ground realities cannot be ignored. The recently released UN Human Development Report has shown that India's ranking in terms of the Human Development Index (HDI) is a miserable 134 out of 182 countries. In 2007, India ranked 126 among 177 countries.

 

Today, we are sandwiched between Laos and the Solomon Islands.

 

The data base of this report is for 2007. Thus, it fails to capture the ruination of millions due to the current global recession. Nevertheless, its hard data on India negates the expectations of the euphoria of a high growth trajectory, reflected in the grandeur of an `emerging economy' rubbing shoulders with the `mighty' at the G-20 high table.


It only confirms that there are two Indias in the making -- a `Shining' for the few and a `Suffering' for the many.

 

India has registered a decline in all the parameters used to measure the HDI, other than adult literacy. Per capita income, adjusted to purchasing power parity, declined from $3,452 to $2,753 from last year. Life expectancy at birth declined from 63.7 years to 63.4 years. The combined gross enrollment ratio in schools declined from 63.8 per cent to 61 per cent. While considering this parameter, the HDI does not take into account the rate of drop-outs that is very high in India. Of the 100 students that enter Class 1, only 31 reach Class 10. Of these, only around 16 pass Class 12. Of these, only about nine enter the portals of higher education.
Once a student enters school, unlike in many other countries, things do not proceed automatically in India.

 

This, in a way, captures the fact that India's HDI, which stood at 0.427 in 1980, is now marginally higher, after nearly three decades, at 0.612.


That India's growth story does not translate to the vast majority of its people is yet again confirmed by HDR 2009 that shows that 41.6 per cent of our people live on less than $1.25 a day and 75.6 per cent live on less than $2 a day. This latter figure, in purchasing power parity terms, confirms the findings of the prime minister-appointed Arjun Sengupta Report that 77 per cent of Indians survive on less than Rs 20 a day. At the same time, this negates the fanciful estimates of the Planning Commission on sharply declining poverty levels in India.

 

Further, the HDI rankings show that India is six rungs lower than its ranking on per capita income based on purchasing power parity. Compare this with our neighbouring countries where the HDI ranking is considerably higher than their per capita income ranking. In Bangladesh, it is nine rungs higher, China 10, Sri Lanka 14, Nepal 21 and Myanmar 29. This once again confirms that the benefits of higher growth have only been confined to a few and have not contributed to the rise in the overall quality of life for the vast masses of our people.

 

More shocking are the figures released by Save the Children last week. One-fifth of the children dying in the world are Indian. A total of 2 million die before their fifth birthday. One child dies every 15 seconds due to neo-natal diseases. More than 4,00,000 new-borns die every year within a day of birth. One in three malnourished children worldwide are Indian, while 46 per cent of our children are underweight. This is the fate of our future.

 

In a survey of 29 countries battling hunger, antipoverty agency Actionaid ranks India at 22. Apart from Socialist China and Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana and Malawi constitute the top five that have achieved reasonable successes in battling malnutrition that has grown by 20 per cent globally since 2005, pushing an extra 170 million people into hunger. All these countries retained or reclaimed a central role for the State in agriculture to ensure the production and distribution of staple foods. Within six years, Brazil reduced child malnutrition by 73 per cent and child deaths by 45 per cent through concerted State intervention.

 

Clearly, such interventions, rising above rhetoric, are required urgently by us in India. Instead of the current situation where `Shining' India exists because of `Suffering' India, a meaningful inclusive growth focusing on the aam aadmi can come about only through vastly expanded public investments that will, on the one hand, generate jobs and build the much-needed social and economic infrastructure on the other, will be accompanied by concrete measures for ensuring food security. Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

DISINVESTMENT IS BACK ON TRACK

BULL RUN THE STOCK MARKETS ARE IN FOR SWINGING TIMES AS THEY CAN LOOK FORWARD TO 20 FRESH PUBLIC OFFERS FROM STATE-OWNED FIRMS

GAURAV CHOUDHURY IN NEW DELHI

 

gaurav.choudhury@hindustantimes.com When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee unveiled the annual budget in July, the stock market was disappointed because the proposals did not include a timetable for disinvestment.

 

Cut to October, the government's plan to offload stake in public sector companies is turning out to be the next trigger for an extended bull run on Dalal Street.

 

Monday's decision by the Cabinet to clear 5 per cent stake sale in National Thermal Power Corporation and another 10 percent in Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd is being seen as the revival of the disinvestment programme that would only get bigger in the months to come.

 

Plans to divest government stake in state-run companies were grounded during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of 2004-09 because of opposition from powerful leftist allies. The scenario changed as the UPA returned t power without the support of the communist parties and optimism gained ground that the UPA government in its second term would be proactive on market-friendly measures.

 

Already two PSUs -- National Hydro Power Corp and Oil India -- have been listed on the stock exchanges, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that the government is keen on encouraging them to raise resources by listing on the bourses.

 

Though no target has been set for disinvestments this year, the government can generate upwards of Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) -- enought to set up a 5,000 MW power plant -- annually through minority stake sales.

 

The Economic Survey has said it in as many words and it is not difficult to understand why.

 

There are 214 centrally owned PSUs, of which 160 are profit-making. Of these, only 44 are listed on the stock exchanges, accounting for 24 per cent of the Bombay Stock Exchange's market cap.


Of the top 10 listed companies on the exchange, five are state-owned.

 

"First, it goes to show that the government is serious about the disinvestment of public sector undertakings," said N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. "Also, it would attract private investment, thus increasing profit generating activities..." Public listing of companies could also help improve efficiency. A tighter scrutiny of market players, both local and global, imposes a higher discipline in boardrooms and makes political interference a shade less pervasive.

 

"To make it inclusive and participatory, part of the government shares would be offered to the employees of the state-run firms," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said.

 

This time around, the government is armed with a stronger mandate to enable companies to raise capital without affecting the shareholding pattern of majority state-ownership.


There are several PSUs which despite posting operational profits, have failed to execute salary revisions recommended by the Justice Jagannadha Rao pay panel.

 

Operating many of these companies through annual budgetary support would be a drain on the exchequer.

 

"There is a shipping company whose order book is full and growing. It is a profit-making company, but is in dire need of capital to fulfil its order book obligations. What is the harm in allowing this company to raise capital from the market through fresh equity," said a government official. Besides follow-on public offers of already listed companies, if the government goes ahead with its plans to list profitable central governmentowned public sector companies each with a net worth of over Rs 200 crore, the stock markets can look forward to at fresh public offers of at least 20 such companies. As and when the government unveils a disinvestment roadmap, it would effectively mean reverting to January 2005, when the government decided, in principle, to list large, profitable public sector companies and to selectively sell a minority stake in listed, profitable firms while not disturbing the public sector character of the companies.

gaurav.choudhury@hindustantimes.com When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee unveiled the annual budget in July, the stock market was disappointed because the proposals did not include a timetable for disinvestment.

Cut to October, the government's plan to offload stake in public sector companies is turning out to be the next trigger for an extended bull run on Dalal Street.

Monday's decision by the Cabinet to clear 5 per cent stake sale in National Thermal Power Corporation and another 10 percent in Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd is being seen as the revival of the disinvestment programme that would only get bigger in the months to come.

Plans to divest government stake in state-run companies were grounded during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of 2004-09 because of opposition from powerful leftist allies. The scenario changed as the UPA returned t power without the support of the communist parties and optimism gained ground that the UPA government in its second term would be proactive on market-friendly measures.

Already two PSUs -- National Hydro Power Corp and Oil India -- have been listed on the stock exchanges, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last week that the government is keen on encouraging them to raise resources by listing on the bourses.

Though no target has been set for disinvestments this year, the government can generate upwards of Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) -- enought to set up a 5,000 MW power plant -- annually through minority stake sales.

The Economic Survey has said it in as many words and it is not difficult to understand why.

There are 214 centrally owned PSUs, of which 160 are profit-making. Of these, only 44 are listed on the stock exchanges, accounting for 24 per cent of the Bombay Stock Exchange's market cap.
Of the top 10 listed companies on the exchange, five are state-owned.

"First, it goes to show that the government is serious about the disinvestment of public sector undertakings," said N.R. Bhanumurthy, professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. "Also, it would attract private investment, thus increasing profit generating activities..." Public listing of companies could also help improve efficiency. A tighter scrutiny of market players, both local and global, imposes a higher discipline in boardrooms and makes political interference a shade less pervasive.

"To make it inclusive and participatory, part of the government shares would be offered to the employees of the state-run firms," Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said.

This time around, the government is armed with a stronger mandate to enable companies to raise capital without affecting the shareholding pattern of majority state-ownership.
There are several PSUs which despite posting operational profits, have failed to execute salary revisions recommended by the Justice Jagannadha Rao pay panel.

Operating many of these companies through annual budgetary support would be a drain on the exchequer.

"There is a shipping company whose order book is full and growing. It is a profit-making company, but is in dire need of capital to fulfil its order book obligations. What is the harm in allowing this company to raise capital from the market through fresh equity," said a government official. Besides follow-on public offers of already listed companies, if the government goes ahead with its plans to list profitable central governmentowned public sector companies each with a net worth of over Rs 200 crore, the stock markets can look forward to at fresh public offers of at least 20 such companies. As and when the government unveils a disinvestment roadmap, it would effectively mean reverting to January 2005, when the government decided, in principle, to list large, profitable public sector companies and to selectively sell a minority stake in listed, profitable firms while not disturbing the public sector character of the companies.

The course of Indian politics is likely to be determined after the results of the three assembly polls are declared later this week. The possibility of new alignments and, perhaps, a major revamp in the Congress party is on the cards. Of the three states, the outcome of Maharashtra is vital to the relationship that exists among various coalition partners. There are enough indications that there may not be a clear winner in this poll. The next government may have to be formed with the help of either independents or smaller parties.

The outcome is also eagerly awaited because it will show how Sharad Pawar behaves with the Congress. He has been licking his wounds all this while and could spring a few surprises if the Congress tally is less than the Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP). In the run-up to the polls, he was repeatedly humiliated and will want to get his own back. But Pawar is a thoroughbred politician and it is difficult to predict how he will react to uncertain situations like this. If he parts company with the Congress, he will certainly calculate its consequences. If he takes such a decision, he and his other party colleagues may have to leave the central government.

The ramifications of a break-up in the Maharashtra coalition will be evident in the national arena. Whether he will want to sit with the rest of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha is a call he will have to take. But he will definitely not allow the Congress to lead the state government if his party emerges with better numbers. The situation is such that whether one likes it or not, Maharashtra politics is Pawar-centric. He is the tallest leader of the state. He knows how to manipulate things better than anyone else.

Old timers will recall that in 1978, he had toppled the Congress (S) and Congress (I) coalition, led by Vasantdada Patil, along with his mentor, the late Y.B. Chavan. In doing so, he outwitted a politician of the calibre of Indira Gandhi. So, he can easily get the better of the current Congress politicians if the dice is loaded in his favour.

The Congress is also split in several camps. Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is backed by a powerful section of the high command, has dreams of becoming the chief minister for the third time. Ashok Chavan, who was handpicked by Rahul Gandhi, will also hope to retain his chair. Narayan Rane rightly or wrongly believes that he has every right to be the next CM. Sushilkumar Shinde who had a very successful but brief tenure is apparently more content being at the Centre. There are others too. But everything depends on the final numbers.

The game is wide open. The Shiv SenaBJP combine is also keeping its fingers crossed. This combination is expected to do better than the ruling coalition in many areas. The coalition has its share of problems but the leadership question will be settled once it is known who has the larger tally. At this stage, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could demand its pound of flesh and play a role that is detrimental to the Shiv Sena's interests.

In the BJP, the leadership tussle is likely to become sharper as Gopinath Munde and N. Gadkari may be locked in a battle.
In the Sena, Bal Thackeray will want the coronation of Uddhav during his lifetime.
Raj may try to prevent this by throwing in his lot with the Congress-NCP.

On the other hand, the Congress-NCP alliance will face a dilemma if it does not get the numbers on its own since that would mean that the mandate is against it. But in politics the rules of the game are determined by the one who holds the aces. In this case, the aces may be in Pawar's hands.
Between us.

pvohra@hindustantimes.com

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

INNER VOICE - A SAINTLY GLIMPSE

M.N. KUNDU INNERVOICE@HINDUSTANTIMES.COM

 

Sometime ago, I found a photo of Shirdi Sai Baba near South Block in New Delhi. I picked it up and kept in my pocket, thinking it be a significant omen. Such a thing had never happened to me before. I thought Sai Baba might have taken some pity on me.

 

These led me to reading books on Sai Baba, which were full of miracles confirming super human healing and remedial powers of the saint. I was in search of some spiritual solution to the enigma of life and all-pervading suffering. But I was not spiritually inspired by reading.

 

And then in the World Book Fair recently, I found a glossy hard cover on Sai Baba. My eyes got stuck to the following words inside, "I do miracles to the deserving people so that their faith in the supreme power is awakened thereby and they become anchored in the Divine for deeper meaning of life." As if the lines were written as an answer to my question. I purchased the copy to find some more wonders awaiting me.

 

While reading I found 16 pages of the book were missing. The publisher did not promise immediate replacement. I could, however, contact the writer, a Principal of a reputed public school in Delhi on phone. She was profusely apologetic and promised me a fresh copy.

 

In addition, from her, I got the opportunity to know about many incredible miracles, how she was attracted to Sai Baba, being saved after a fatal accident, how she refused to write the book due to paucity of time; and subsequently an unavoidable medical leave enabled her to write etc.

 

During our first trip to Sai temple at Lodhi Road in New Delhi, we found no place for parking. Suddenly a beggarlike man in white clothes showed us a place. My wife took out a two- rupee coin to give it to him, but he was nowhere there. No one had seen him too! We remembered that Sai Baba sought two symbolic coins: reverence and forbearance and nothing else.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

GOA BLAST - HINDU OUTFIT DENIES CHARGE; GOA MULLS BAN, PROBES FOREIGN LINK

 

The Hindu outfit blamed for the October 16 Goa blast has denied the charge even as the government talked of a possible ban on it and a probe into its foreign links.

 

The Sanatan Sanstha said on Monday it was "against any violent or unconstitutional act".

 

"We are not the LeT (Lashkar-e-Tayyeba) or the Naxalites. We're not a terrorist organisation that should be banned," spokesperson Abhay Vartak said at a press conference in Panvel, 22 km from Mumbai, on Monday.

 

Earlier, state's top legal official Subodh Kantak had said, "We are examining whether the outfit can be banned."

 

A man was killed and another injured when explosives they were carrying on a scooter exploded on a street in Margao, a town in south Goa, 35 km from state capital Panaji.

 

Vartak accepted that Malgondi Patil, who died in the blast, was a Sanstha member but denied that Nishad Bakhle, who the scooter allegedly belonged to, was linked to the organisation.

 

The government is also probing the foreign links of the Sanstha. "Some foreigners often visited the ashram at Ramnathi...
They were not even submitting their C forms to the police," Home Minister Ravi Naik was quoted as saying by the PTI.

 

Reacting to reports that Jyoti Dhavalikar, wife of the state transport minister, was a Sanstha office-bearer, Naik said the police would examine all links with the Sanstha' The police have said there were similarities between the Margao blast and those at Thane and Panvel in 2008.

 

Some Sanstha members, suspected to be involved in the Margao blast, were arrested by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad for the 2008 blasts. "But it is premature to say the same people or organisation is involved," said Ravindra Yadav, Goa's deputy inspector general of police.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LIKE THIS ONLY

 

As the public spat between Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi and Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper has commandeered attention, one should not forget that the matter at hand is graver than mere public disagreements. And that is that Delhi looks starkly unprepared for the 2010 games.

 

Other countries too have faced similar constraints when hosting events of such magnitude, constraints usually country-specific. As we're already seeing with Rio's successful Olympic bid, and the focus firmly on whether that famously crime-ridden city can secure its streets in time, big sport events can focus attention on a country's raw nerve, serving as an assessment of how the host can remake its image. Take, for instance, last year's Beijing Olympics. The image Beijing wanted to portray was of a China that had arrived as an economic superpower; the backlash to this was widespread criticism of China's stifling of dissent. The big story on the eve of the Games was whether the media centre had unfettered freedom to surf the internet. Similarly there are the examples of Olympics in Tokyo and Seoul. Tokyo had won the 1940 Olympic bid and would have been the first Asian country with the honour of hosting the Olympics — except that its 1937 invasion of China resulted in a backlash, and the bid was passed to Helsinki. (The Games were not held eventually because of the war.) It was only after reform had taken place in Japan that it was deemed an appropriate location for the event, in 1964. Then there was the case of Seoul in 1988. The intention of South Korea's autocratic government was to display to the world that one of the Asian Tigers had accomplished astronomical growth; it would also serve to cement Chun Doo-hwan's regime. Fortunately for the South Koreans, the media glare and international attention allowed protests to rock the streets, ushering in electoral democracy.

 

It is then not surprising that, when it comes to Delhi 2010, the focus has been on construction delays and trouble in streamlining procedures (for accreditation, etc). These are, after all, India's longstanding weaknesses. Apprehension as the date nears is natural, and remarks that Delhi looks like a "construction site" may well continue. However, rather than taking part in the blame game, those concerned need to focus on the macro issue. The games were, and still are, India's chance to rebrand itself.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

EXPLOSIVE CHARGES

 

Imagine you are from a state with a bitter history of secessionist violence, a state in which many terrorist outfits operate. You participate, however, in that most visible sign of "national integration" — playing cricket with a team from another Indian state. And imagine now that on arrival at that state's capital you are arrested for terrorism, only to be later declared innocent and released. What will anyone think of benign India's secularism, of its federal and plural claims?

 

The arrest of 20-year-old Parvez Rasool and the interrogation of his room-mate Mehrajuddin by the Bangalore police may have been a genuine mistake. Rasool and Mehrajuddin were in Bangalore as part of the J&K under-22 cricket team.

 

Reports suggest that the new mechanised explosive detection system at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium led the police astray. Detailed tests revealed that the device had picked up a wrong scent, and so had the police; the bag-owner was promptly released from custody. Adding to the chance of error is Union Minister (and President of the J&K Cricket Association) Farooq Abdullah's theory that a crank call by disgruntled state cricketers could have put the police off-track. Whatever be the initial provocation, the rectification seems to have been quick. The young cricketer was promptly released, and the Karnataka State Cricket Association has apologised to its J&K counterpart. In a sign that the controversy is perhaps past us, the cricket match has not been abandoned. Parvez will be back on the field.

 

The larger issue is one of terror management. With security becoming such a major concern, the police are right in taking any threat seriously. Whether from physical screening or telephonic leads, it is the police's job not to leave anything to chance. But the police must be sensitive in following these leads: arrest need not be the first step, it is the last. And if the technology turns out to be faulty and the calls hoaxes, the authorities must come clean to prevent any slur on the individual's character and as a meaningful way of apologising. For the political message must be loud and clear: when it comes to terrorism, being cautious and being callous are not the same thing — and that the Indian state does not, will not, condone acts of profiling.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COUNTRY PROFILE

 

What is it about Botswana? It has just concluded a parliamentary election and thereby asserted its unique record of uninterrupted democracy in a politically turbulent continent. As a diamond-rich African country, it is also seen as a counter to the suggestion that diamond reserves are typically exploited in troubled lands. Most recently, American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed Botswana for using its diamond wealth sensibly to create infrastructure. And even though the country has one of the highest rates of HIV infection, taking a great toll on its economy, its record in sustaining high economic growth is a favourite story with critics of the Washington Consensus like Joseph Stiglitz on how governments should own the reform process. Though you can be sure that neither the World Bank nor the IMF has been lacking in praise for Botswana, either.

 

But if familiarity with the sights around Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, and the correct way to address a woman of a certain age (Mma) is rampant around the world, put that down to the amazing popularity of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels. McCall Smith, who admits to inspiration from R.K. Narayan, writes about the life and cases of Precious Ramotswe, traditionally-built and given to long meditations on her country's natural beauty and the innate goodness of her people and national leadership. A coincidence that he chose this celebrated country to situate his good-natured detective, or did a socio-economic inquiry yield the choice?

 

McCall Smith may not tell. But as Ian Khama wins a five-year term to lead Botswana, raise a cup of red bush tea, Mma Ramotswe's comfort drink, to a country that continues to intrigue.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

MAKING SENSE OF CHINA

K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

The editorial in the People's Daily of October 14 attacking India's alleged hegemonism took the memories of senior citizens and Sinologists back to 1959-60, when polemical articles attacking Jawaharlal Nehru appeared in the Chinese media. In those articles Nehru was accused of taking an aggressive line on Tibet in the expectation of aid from the US. Nations tend to see other nations as extensions of their own self-image. There are serious cultural problems in the Chinese interpretation of India and Indian foreign policy.

 

Whenever a major power emerges the rest of the international system voices concerns about the aggressive nature of that power. The rise of Britain, France, Germany, US, Japan, Russia and Communist China itself have been viewed with apprehension by other powers, and in most of those instances there were wars. Though today all those nations, other than China, are democracies, they were not so at the time of their emergence as powers, except for the US. Even the US, with slavery, was only a partial democracy. The foreign policy of a country is mostly an extension of its domestic values. Since most of the nations listed emerged as powers before they became full-fledged liberal democracies their non-democratic internal values got projected in their external policies, often resulting in aggression. Once nations get fully democratised, their mutual animosities tend to fade as witnessed in Europe with the formation of the European Union.

 

China expects to overtake the US as the nation with the highest GDP in the next two to three decades. China today has the world's highest foreign exchange reserves and the highest economic growth rate. They already talk about a G-2 arrangement, sharing world financial dominance with the US. Proposals are afloat in the Chinese strategic community about dividing the Pacific Ocean into spheres of influence between China and the US. Their military modernisation programme is being pushed ahead rapidly, and is not transparent. Consequently there is concern all over the world that a non-democratic China wants to become the untethered hegemon first of Asia, and then of the world.

 

There are no such fears about India. At an April 2008 conference in Delhi held by the International Institute of Strategic Studies the emergence of India was greeted as a uniquely non-threatening phenomenon, unprecedented in history. It is no surprise, since India's emergence as a global player has come about decades after India adopted a democratic and pluralistic constitution. It is a widely-recognised fact that democracies do not fight each other. Today all major powers except China are democracies. Once upon a time it used to be said that socialist countries did not initiate wars. But China's own experience with India, the Soviet Union and Vietnam disproves it.

 

China is far ahead of India economically, militarily and — in some sectors — technologically. Still, why are they picking on India, creating terrorism- and nuclear-related problems through their surrogate, Pakistan? Why are they applying pressure on India and trying to keep it off-balance on the border?

 

In the editorial India has been accused of having followed a "befriend the far and attack the near" foreign policy. This perhaps is a reference to India's wars with Pakistan and China. History has recorded that in all these cases India did not initiate the attack but was subjected to attacks by Pakistan and China. Pakistani attacks have been meticulously described by Shuja Nawaz in his book Crossed Swords and a detailed account of Chinese planning of the 1962 attack using Chinese documentation has been made available by the American Sinologist, John Garver. At the same time it cannot be overlooked that China also attacked the USSR at Ussuri in 1969 and Vietnam in 1979. After conducting annual "hate America" campaigns, pontificating on the antagonistic contradictions between capitalism and socialism, and promoting the strategy of "countryside surrounding the cities", China made a complete U-turn and befriended the far-off US in 1971, gave it bases to monitor Soviet missile tests in 1979 and allowed free access to US multinationals. Its trade surpluses were not utilised for the benefit of the Chinese population but invested in US bonds to enable further credit expansion in the US and higher spending by US consumers. Which country in recent history has done so much for a far-off friend? Deng Xiaoping, who talked of seeking truth from facts, should be spinning in his grave.

 

The Indian government discouraged jingoist views in the media. The Chinese ambassador in India wrote an article advocating further cooperation between the two countries pointing out that it would be in mutual interest of both countries. That cannot be faulted. In those circumstances why should the Chinese Communist Party embark on these provocations, with such wholesale misrepresentation of facts? Dr Manmohan Singh was not the first prime minister to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Previous prime ministers had been there without evoking such protests. We are only left to speculate on possible reasons for this provocative behaviour.

 

Since the protest and the editorial came at the time of the Pakistani prime minister's visit to Beijing, could it be an attempt to show solidarity with the Pakistanis at a time when they are having serious problems? Or is this a follow-up to the successful forestalling of the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Obama? If it is an attempt to bully India away from developing a closer relationship with either Russia (which the prime minister is due to visit in December) or the US (which is hosting a state visit for him in November) nothing could have been more foolhardy. Russia has reasonable worries about Siberia and Central Asia. The Indian defence minister just had a very fruitful visit to that country. The US is keen on sustaining its pre-eminence in a world where China has reduced the gap between itself and the US in the aftermath of the recession.

 

Having recorded all this to clarify the misrepresentations by the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, it must be recognised that India and China together constitute 40 per cent of mankind, yet face common international challenges such as climate change, trade, energy, food security, etc., on which they have a significant mutuality of interests. They have a fast-growing trade and technology relationship and their leaders have had a number of cordial interactions. There are certain problems involving nearly a century-old status quo which need to be handled with delicacy and care. Slanging exercises of the type witnessed in recent weeks do not help, when indeed more steps to promote confidence-building are called for.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst (express@expressindia.com)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE OCTOBER STAKES

SUMAN K JHA

 

It's hard not to miss the belligerent tone in RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's speeches, post-Vijayadashmi. After having started on a reformist note — he repeatedly invoked Abdul Kalam and Verghese Kurien in his first few speeches after taking over as RSS sarsanghachalak early this year, to explain "his idea of an inclusive Hindu way of life" — Bhagwat has been overtly political in his pronouncements lately.

 

He spoke about a "swayamsevak chief minister setting an example for others" (Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's "statue diplomacy" with his Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi); stressed the need to restore the "pre-August 15, 1947 map of the Indian Union"; and last week, like a veteran demagogue, warned China against "its designs on India". "India has the wherewithal to divide China into three parts, were such a need to arise," he reportedly said.

 

Some may be tempted to read Bhagwat's speeches as the usual RSS stuff. There is, however, a pattern discernible. After his three days in Delhi this August, when every single BJP leader of note knocked on his door, Bhagwat asked them to "behave and function like a team". Seeing no signs of his "shape up or ship out message" getting through on the ground, the RSS chief, it appears, has arrogated to himself the demagogic role that had made the BJP president proud until a few months ago (one of the favourite themes of BJP president Rajnath Singh has been on "how India should deal with Pakistan and POK").

 

Bhagwat's message, evidently, has gone down well with the BJP cadre. The IIT-educated Goa BJP leader Manohar Parrikar, whose name has been discussed as a "future prospect", often likes to temper his speeches with "his being a bal swayamsevak". Some of the central party's lawyer-turned-spokespersons, too, spare no effort in convincing others how "they are thoroughbred swayamsevaks".

 

The party has taken Bhagwat's "sampurna desh ko sanghmaya banaeyin" ("the RSS should permeate the nation's consciousness") message, given in his Delhi Vijayadashmi speech, a tad too seriously; the original project to restore and protect the autonomy of the BJP thus has taken a severe beating.

 

In one of his finest moments, L.K. Advani, in his by-now-famous 2005 Chennai speech, had warned against the perception that the RSS interferes in the day-to-day functioning of the BJP. With Advani considerably weakened, there's little to show that the coming weeks will see order returning to the BJP, and with it resolve to fight the Sangh's tightening grip.

 

Consider this: The BJP lost the election in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Haryana even before the match began. Its best-known face, and someone who acted as Advani's point man in the North-East, Kiren Rijiju, left the party — after being declared its chief ministerial candidate in Arunachal Pradesh. In Haryana, the party's strategy vis-à-vis Chautala and the Haryana Janhit Congress, is often decided by the factional feud between powerful central leaders.

 

In Maharashtra, it struggled to nuance is position on "outsiders"; under severe pressure from Raj Thackeray, and then its own ally, the Shiv Sena, it stopped just short of supporting a permit-system for outsiders coming to the state — leaving its allies outside the state squirming. In the name of "winnability", the party nominated the kith and kin of powerful satraps, after earlier setting an example elsewhere. The party is, however, resigned to a Congress-NCP comeback, when votes are counted on October 22 here as well.

 

Thus, when the BJP's Parliamentary Board meets after the results, it will probably, again, discuss the Vasundhara Raje episode rather than the elections. This highlights what ails the party. Raje's fight — essentially between the Centre's arbitrariness and the State's right to have its own say in deciding its fate — has been converted into yet another slugfest between the warring groups in the central BJP.

 

The decision on October 22, and even in the coming weeks, therefore, is unlikely to help. A new team, as also a new party president, will be in place by year-end, or early next year. This interregnum, till that new order is established, will be used by every single player in the party to protect their own little turf. In all probability, Advani would have made his future plans — on distancing himself from day-to-day affairs in the party — public by then too.

 

It's unlikely, however, that the new order will be able to redeem the BJP, given the systemic collapse it has suffered, especially after the recent parliamentary elections. The vacuum in the organisation will likely only help the Sangh tighten its stranglehold. The BJP's vision of defining the second pole of Indian politics will lie severely compromised in the process.

 

suman.jha@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NUMBERS TO THE RESCUE

SHYLASHRI SHANKAR

 

Popular perception of NREGA's performance is as much a victim of unscrupulous sarpanchs, block and village officials and local politicians as of analysts. While tales of greed and corruption have become a staple of media reports, analysts have found an easy target, one vulnerable to revealing a barrage of averages of how unsatisfactory its performance has been and the meagre consequent trickle of benefits to the poor segments of the rural population. Yet the juggernaut of NREGA continues to roll in an ever expanding political constituency. While the underlying economic rationale of workfare gets diluted or blatantly ignored through hikes in NREGA wage rates and substitution of private assets for public assets, the financial commitments have grown by leaps and bounds. Whether the distribution of benefits has become more skewed in favour of the relatively affluent and must therefore be corrected is an issue that is submerged in the official rhetoric of empowerment and course corrections through social audits. A deeper probe is timely, going well beyond largely descriptive statistics that inform the public discourse, but fall short of policy insights. Our analysis, based on a large survey of households and other stakeholders in three states (viz. Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) conducted in 2007-8 is motivated by this concern.

 

Let us first consider the targeting accuracy in terms of participation.

 

The poor and non-poor (using the official poverty line) were equally distributed among the NREGA participants in Rajasthan (50.22 per cent and 49.78 per cent, respectively). Note that per capita income used here is net of NREGA earnings. Given the poverty cut-off point of Rs 450, those with monthly incomes below Rs 300, i.e., 24 per cent of the participants, are classified as acutely poor. At the upper end of the distribution, i.e. those with incomes exceeding Rs 700 per capita, are classified as relatively affluent. About 20 per cent of the participants were thus relatively affluent. It is surmised that this is a direct consequence of high NREGA wages (relative to agricultural wages) that weakens the self-selection of the poor in workfare.

 

In Maharashtra, the participants were overwhelmingly non-poor (71.78 per cent), based on a poverty cut-off point of Rs 436. The acutely poor were a tiny fraction (about 11 per cent) while the relatively affluent were a staggering 37.68 per cent.

 

Targeting in Andhra Pradesh was dismal too, with the non-poor accounting for 69.50 per cent of the participants, based on a poverty cut-off point of Rs 352. Acutely poor were a bare 9 per cent while the relatively affluent were more than a quarter (26.50 per cent) of the total participants.

 

We used the distribution of days worked, to analyse the skewness of the distribution of the benefits of NREGA.

 

In Rajasthan, among the non-poor participants, about 40 per cent worked less than 30 days, about 37 per cent worked 30-60 days and about 23 per cent worked more than 60 days. Thus less than a quarter of the non-poor came close to accomplishing the legislated limit of 100 days per household. Among the poor, a slightly lower share (about 36 per cent) worked less than 30 days, a much higher share (about 44 per cent) worked 30-60 days, and a lower share (about 20 per cent) worked more than 60 days.

 

In striking contrast to Rajasthan, large majorities of both non-poor and poor participants (81 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively) worked in the lowest range (less than 30 days) and negligible fractions (1.3 per cent and 0.60 per cent) in the highest range (more than 60 days). So more than moderately high shares worked in the middle range (30-60 days), with the share of the poor (about 30 per cent) just under twice as high as that of the non-poor (over 17 per cent). So the markedly lower participation of the poor was partly compensated for by the longer participation of a segment.

 

In Andhra Pradesh, distributions of days worked were similar between the poor and non-poor. Just under half in both cases (about 48 per cent of the poor and about 46 per cent of the non-poor) worked less than 30 days, well over one-third (about 36 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively) in the middle range of 30-60 days, and remaining moderate shares in the highest range (more than 60 days).

 

Whether NREGA made a difference to the poor can be assessed in terms of poverty outcomes. In the three districts of Rajasthan in the sample, the head-count poverty index registered a reduction of 5-7 percentage points; in Maharashtra, a reduction of 2 percentage points, and in Andhra Pradesh of about 9 percentage points.

 

In conclusion, while far from impressive, NREGA is not an unmitigated failure.

 

Raghbendra Jha is Rajiv Gandhi Chair Professor of Economics, Australian National University; Raghav Gaiha is Professor of Public Policy, Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi; Shylashri Shankar is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WAR WITHIN

TARIQ OSMAN HYDER

 

There is a surge in terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The most audacious being the precision assault on the Pakistan Army Headquarters followed by the coordinated triple attack on security establishments in Lahore. The Army is now the principal target after its largely successful operation in Swat, and because of the major offensive in South Waziristan. The Swat operation was a milestone in the counter terrorism campaign. It was made possible only by the buildup of public, political and media support, on which the sustainability of the effort depends.

 

For the outside world and Pakistan, these spate of attacks raise a number of questions. Is the security situation deteriorating and will the military, paramilitary and police forces be put on the defensive with heightened public insecurity eroding public morale? What is the response strategy? The US media has criticised the Army's security for not stopping the attack at the outermost security cordon perimeter. To analyse what the present situation portends, one must view this struggle between the forces for a progressive Pakistan and the militants' vision of a theocratic Pakistan in the context of national dynamics, international parallels and of the timescale and resources required to win this battle for the soul of Pakistan.

 

As far as the Pakistan Army is concerned, while lessons should be learnt, the attack on its HQ was contained and took time to end only because of the hostages. America, the most advanced country in the world was unable to prevent 9/11. The Mumbai attack virtually took another metropolis hostage. Despite massive military and monetary intervention in Iraq, the security situation has forced America into an exit strategy. While even more resources and troops are being poured into Afghanistan, attacks against civilians and the military are far higher than in the much larger Pakistan .

 

Pakistan, like most developing countries including South Asia, is a fractured society with significant gaps between the haves and have-nots. Developmental efforts have not been well planned or competently administered due to a lack of political stability or good governance and deteriorating state institutions. The hegemonistic ambitions of India and its unwillingness to move on the Kashmir dispute necessitated large defence expenditure. The erosion of the government's public education system has divided the youth into three streams: those who are attending private schools and reap benefits; those going to government schools who are at a grave disadvantage; and the resources-less multitude attending the Madrasas, which had a revered place in Muslim education, but since the American sponsored Afghan Jihad have become the driving force for discontented youth.

 

The battle against the militants has become multi-dimensional. In the border regions, military counter insurgency coupled with re-establishing administration and development, will predominate. In settled areas, urban warfare with the terrorists using asymmetrical acts of explosive violence and precision attacks against the symbols of the State will have to be dealt with through different tactics, including better intelligence gathering and coordination to more aggressively utilise existing military and civil resources.

 

The strength of the militants and their access to arms from Afghanistan is dependent on funding. Some comes from drug money and hostile intelligence agencies across the border. A small part is raised within Pakistan. However the largest amount is received by transfers using both banking and illegal channels. This is borne out by the fact that some seven billion dollars a year comes from overseas workers remittances; another four come from remittances from other parties. Pakistan must forcibly address this problem with known conduit countries and by activating its investigative and regulatory mechanisms. Certainly the United States has the muscle to do more on this vital external funding front.

It will take five to ten years to defeat the militant threat. The East Punjab insurgency in a far smaller area took ten years to overcome, the LTTE thirty years. It will take a generation to reverse causational social conditions. That is the scale on which to assess whether or not the security situation in Pakistan is deteriorating. The militants have been hard-hit and are fighting back to break public and governmental resolve. Military operations in South Waziristan and elsewhere will lead to increased terrorist attacks, but the losses they inflict should be far less than what is meted out to them.

 

While democracy must be strengthened, the army remains the strongest and most cohesive force in Pakistan which can tackle the terrorist threat. Its counter-insurgency and surveillance capabilities must be improved. Equally important, socioeconomic development has to be accelerated.

 

The Kerry-Lugar bill contains some clauses which should have been modified. However the controversy misses the main point that if America and its Western allies are serious about defeating terrorism, the assistance must be at least three to five times more in order to help Pakistan overcome this threat — part of a global terrorist network strengthened by their occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan must also diversify incoming assistance and value add to its exports to generate its own resources.

 

Without adequate multinational economic and military equipment support and also action by the 'extra-regional forces" to control the border from the Afghan side, the battle in Pakistan will take far longer. It is also in India's interest to fully live up to its declared objective of wanting good relations with a stable Pakistan.

 

The writer is a former Pakistani diplomat who headed Pakistan's delegations in Nuclear and Conventional CBMs talks with India from 2004 to2007

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STILL MANY HOLES IN WHOLESALE


Cabinet approvals for monthly release of wholesale price index data and a new weekly index of primary commodities look like a big step in remodelling an old statistical product. But this conclusion is much like those drawn on the basis of current weekly WPI—an exaggerated claim based on misleading evidence. The truth is that the Cabinet decision is a very small and unsure step forward in what should be a very big and critical change. The government has said switching to monthly price data brings India in line with global best practices. True. But the fuller story is more complicated. The weekly index was rapidly losing its credibility. Think about it: prices for more than a third of the commodities in the current basket were calculated on the basis of one to three quotations. That should appal any empirical statistician. As pointed out by the working group on WPI reform, the trade-off was between using frequent, less reliable data and less frequent, but more reliable data. The Cabinet okaying another official weekly price index, which concentrates on primary commodities, seems like going against the spirit of the working group's recommendation. It is, and it is not a good thing. The government seems to be responding to arguments from the finance ministry and RBI, which insisted on collection of weekly figures that, they said, helped reduce the response time for policy decisions related to politically-sensitive food and fuel prices. But, surely, this will only add to the confusion. A monthly price index of all commodities and a weekly one of primary articles plus three consumer price indices (CPI) that already exist—how will this help in better policymaking? Already, WPI and CPI seem to tell different stories. We may have two WPIs telling two different stories soon. Incidentally, CPI is even more outdated than WPI. Plus, do we really need a weekly index for policy response? If food prices are increasing, say, does the government make policy every Thursday—when weekly inflation data is released—or does it look at a trend and make a one-time policy? Monthly data should be enough.

 

The base of WPI has been revised from 1993-94 to 2004-05. But it took a long time—the Abhijit Sen committee was set up in 2003, it took five years to submit its report and it took the government one year to implement the base year change. India's official statistical system in general is hopelessly creaky. A statistical commission is supposed to take charge of things and bring data reporting and processing into the 21st century. The option of outsourcing data collection to credible and properly incentivised private agencies exists. But it's not explored seriously. And there seems to be no de jure admission officially that the whole system of year-on-year data processing is flawed, anyway. If moving closer to global best practices is the goal, India should move to a seasonally-adjusted, month-on-month data processing system for all the economic indicators.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TALES FROM RAJ


The latest joust rousing Wall Street features a South Asia-born vs South Asia-born. Arrested in a case of insider trading, billionaire manager of the Galleon hedge fund Raj Rajaratnam holds both US and Sri Lankan citizenships. Leading the charge against him is Punjab-born Preet Bharara, whom President Obama recently appointed the new Attorney for Manhattan in New York, perhaps the most significant federal prosecutor's post outside Washington. Bharara oversees a team of more than 200 lawyers who handle some of the most prominent cases in the US, including Bernard L Madoff's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The latest one extends all the way to Silicon Valley, Moody's, McKinsey and India. For example, arrested McKinsey director Anil Kumar is on the executive board of the Indian School of Business. Hilton Hotels, Google, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Akamai Technologies are among the other companies concerning whose mergers, acquisitions or earnings the accused obtained non-public information to generate profits exceeding $20 million. Bharara says this is not a garden variety case. But we would disagree. In its listing of Rajaratnam as one of 400 richest Americans this year, Forbes said his best ideas came from frequent visits with companies and conversations with executives who invested in his fund. Everyone who has written about Galleon acknowledges that it made its name by getting exclusive information about corporate earnings, hot IPOs and so on. Making around 1,000 trades a day today, when it was charged with creating "sham transactions" in 2005, it got away with just paying a fine, without admitting any charges. In a 2001 book, Rajaratnam said, "I want to win every time. Taking calculated risks gets my adrenaline pumping."

 

In short, perhaps the US regulators should have caught up with his shenanigans sooner than they did. Now that they have, what's the lesson for India? The Rajaratnam case has unfolded almost like a mob bust, thanks to the wiretapping at its heart. The taps caught, for instance, New Castle hedge fund portfolio manager Danielle Chiesi saying: "I'm dead if this leaks. I really am—and my career is over. I'll be like Martha (expletive) Stewart." Oh wait, she bounced back. So, let's not assume that this bunch will suffer time in jail. It was only thanks to telephone tapping that they were caught. But as per the antiquated Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885, financial regulators here at home would have to go through the cumbersome process of obtaining written orders of the home secretary. It's time to give our financial regulators a separate and speedier channel to tap telephones. Some big boys in the lam may dissuade many more—that's a powerful trick in combating white-collar crime and it's a trick that India doesn't see often.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LET'S HAVE UNSTABLE THOUGHTS

AJAY SHAH


In India, it is being claimed that the role and function of RBI, as it currently stands, is the right way to address the goal of financial stability. It is argued that after the crisis, the world will discover the merits of the RBI model. In recent days, Ben Bernanke has articulated the position of the US Fed, and the European Commission has adopted draft legislation, aiming at responding to current issues. Neither of them proposes a structure like RBI.

 

Financial stability is now in focus. The traditional tasks of regulation and supervision of financial markets and firms are termed "micro-prudential supervision". The key phrase that is being emphasised is "macro-prudential regulation". This is different from the traditional functions of regulation and supervision of financial markets and firms.

 

Macro-prudential regulation is about looking at the financial system as a whole. It emphasises interconnections between firms. It is about symmetrically varying capital requirements across business cycle conditions. It is an emerging area where full clarity on the issues and policy instruments will only settle down in a few years.

 

As Charlie Bean (deputy governor of the Bank of England) emphasises, the instrument of monetary policy is fully used up in delivering low and stable inflation. Financial stability is a distinct goal which requires a corresponding distinct instrument (which has yet to be fully devised). The world is right now planning how this function will be executed.

 

On October 1, Ben Bernanke summarises his position as five key elements. First, he says that all systemically important financial firms should have consolidated supervision. In other words, for a multi-firm organisation like ICICI or HDFC, there should be a unified financial regulator who is able to see all dimensions of the business. Through this, the biggest firms would face a UK-style unified regulator, even though the US (like India) has numerous financial regulators.

 

Second, he proposes an oversight council made up of all financial regulatory agencies, which should be charged with worrying about financial stability—while each regulator uses the tools at its command to further this goal.

 

Third, he emphasises the importance of the legal mechanism through which troubled firms, like Lehman, can be closed down by the government. Fourth, he says that all systemically important payments, clearing and settlement arrangements should be subject to consistent oversight. Finally, he says that all consumers should be protected from unfair or deceptive practices.

 

In Europe, on September 23, it is proposed to create a new European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB) to work on financial stability. In addition, a European System of Financial Supervisors (ESFS) is sought to be setup to bring greater coherence to micro-prudential supervision.

 

These developments are in striking contrast with recent speeches at RBI. RBI has claimed that now that financial stability is a concern, the old role and function of RBI should be defended. A convoluted argument is made, at the end of which it is argued that nothing is wrong with RBI, and that recent committee reports which have called for RBI reform should be rejected.

 

The arguments would have greater credibility if they were less self-serving. It would also be quite a remarkable accident, for an Act drafted in colonial India to be optimal for the India of 2009. Looking outside the country, at the active field of financial stability, we see a very different picture as compared with that being put out by speechwriters at RBI.

 

The phrase 'financial stability' is easy to bandy about. In India, it is generally taken to mean preventing financial crises through any means possible. That it not what the phrase means in the international discourse. It has a technical meaning: it is about examining the interconnected set of financial markets as a whole, and not just the safety and soundness of financial markets or firms taken one at a time.

 

At present, RBI does the work of micro-prudential regulation of the currency and bond market. This is a unique arrangement, by world standards. Barring one exception, in all OECD countries and emerging markets, the regulation and supervision of all organised financial trading is housed in a single financial regulator. Central banks do monetary policy, and sometimes do banking regulation, but they do not do regulation and supervision of financial markets. The fresh focus on financial stability has not changed anything about this issue, which is one of micro-prudential regulation and not macro-prudential regulation.

 

In summary, an international consensus is developing around four propositions, which are consistent with the direction of policy reforms being mapped out in India over recent years: (a) Even if multiple financial regulators exist, the largest financial firms should face unified supervision; (b) Micro-prudential regulation of all organised financial markets should be unified into a single agency; (c) A committee of all financial regulators should look at financial stability; (d) Nowhere in the world is anyone moving towards the RBI model.

 

The author is an economist with interests in finance, pensions and macroeconomics

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FIVE MYTHS, FIVE LAWS OF ECONOMY

YOGINDER K ALAGH


There are five myths about the Indian economy which hold back our reform process. The trick is to turn them around and move faster. These are, first that India has started growing only recently and its growth is fragile; second, that its economy is not undergoing any structural changes, particularly in employment; third, that it is not urbanising; fourth that it is not diversified; and fifth that its population is largely poor, now being stated at 80-90%. The flip side of all these myths generated by very influential institutions gives us the five laws of growth.

 

There were outliers like Arvind Virmani and your columnist who have been arguing from the mid-nineties that India has been growing at a respectable rate from the eighties, but even in the first part of this decade the country was seen globally as a basket case. Its growth story really hit the world around five years ago but it would be wrong to accept that it cannot grow at around 9%. Its savings rate is already respectable and the growth of factor productivity should go up from around 3.5% to 5%. The first acceptance of this was in the PM's speech to small and medium industry where he said that the technology focus of the National Manufacturing Competitive Council has to be implemented. V Krishna Murthy has also given a roadmap for India's manufacturing technology policy, which every fast growing Asian economy has. Unfortunately, the Eleventh Plan ignores this aspect and fails to build targets of productivity growth in addition to savings growth. It is easy to ask households and companies to save more but difficult to support them to produce more with less inputs.

 

Influential analysts will say that 70% of India's workforce depends on agriculture. Some will say 60%. But those who read the statistics know that 70% of India's labour force depended on crop production in the sixties. This figure has gone down to 54% by 2000 and is still falling. There are states which account for more than 50%, and were below 45% in the beginning of the decade and are now lower. We have argued this out from nineties onwards. It is the HDI report which has highlighted that migration has been growing for a period and is one of the cornerstones of India's growth and change. We should accept this and move on to help the poor to move from a poor village to a more prosperous larger one or towards larger towns and the metros, MNS permitting. Reform and migration are the single largest sources of growth and competitiveness for the Chinese economy. In India, it is the mindset which needs to change. This is particularly so since NREG and the food security policy will give a floor to encourage the poor to do better by moving where the larger opportunities are.

 

Outliers like me and SR Hashim kept on arguing that the economy would urbanise faster and 55% of the urban population target would be reached almost a decade earlier than the official projections. Rakesh Mohan had sympathy with us but was sceptical. Two years ago, the UN system came out with a bang and showed that on a definition comparable to the OECD definition, India was more than 90% and in terms of the Brazilian definition more than two-thirds urban. Further, they gave a satellite picture showing that India's spread of settlements is much greater than other countries. This urbanisation is the flip side of the migration story and we need policies to support it in a big way.

 

India's economy is diversifying in ways we have not imagined earlier. The FAO is quite right in arguing that when you grow beyond a per capita income of $3,000 in purchasing power parity terms, non-cereals and non-crop based agriculture grows at a much faster rate and past elasticities of demand, read experience, become irrelevant. The shortsighted nature of macro policies for the food sector concentrating only on the urban consumer is causing havoc. Little has been done for infrastructure, markets and communication and for partnerships between producers associations, cooperatives, corporates and the farmer.

Finally, it is rubbish to say that more than 80% of India's population is poor and more than 90% if $2.5 a day is taken as the poverty line. The World Bank which says this has done very little work on purchasing patterns among India's rural and poor people. Its estimates are based on the consumption patterns of rich countries. Chairman of our Statistical Commission R Radhakrishna in his younger days had built up separate price indices for the rich and the poor for rural and urban areas. They need to learn from this work. Our own poverty and hunger estimates are much better. The food security programme, if wisely done, will make a major dent. There is the fact of rising aspirations of our population. This can be structured only in a larger vision of growth and not by branding more people as poor.

 

The author is a former Union minister

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LIRIL MINUS ITS GIRL

LALITHA SRINIVASAN


Many TV viewers have been wondering why the Liril girl has just disappeared from the brand's TV commercials. The answer is simple. In the face of India's changing consumer tastes, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), India's largest FMCG company, has decided to say goodbye to the 'Liril girl', the company's mascot for over three decades.

 

Remember Karen Lunel who tirelessly sang "Come alive with Liril Freshness," in Liril's TV commercial for over 12 years (1975-87)? In fact, Liril has been a launch pad for many peppy young beauties who danced their way to stardom in Bollywood. After Lunel, HUL introduced a bevy of young beauties who went on to become successful film stars —like Preity Zinta and Deepika Padukone. But with the disappearance of the Liril girl, Bollywood producers need to scout for fresh faces across the country.

 

What's the rationale behind HUL's move to do away with the Liril girl? With increasing competition, the market dynamics in Rs 6,200 crore branded toilet soaps have changed dramatically in the last two years. With the entry of ITC, it's quite tough for HUL and Godrej Consumers Products to hold on to their market share. In a bid to reach out to a wider target audience, HUL has relaunched its Liril with value additions. The company has also revamped its advertising strategy to woo family audiences. Godrej has relaunched Cinthol, and is beaming a high-voltage campaign featuring none other than Hrithik Roshan.

 

According to HUL, the brand needed a makeover to become relevant to the new generation. So, the company has rejuvenated the brand with the launch of Liril 2000 which is supported by aggressive mass media campaigns. To woo consumers, HUL has now opted for the route of building a bond with the family. With the tagline "Liril 2000 refreshes all the 2000 parts of the body," HUL's new campaign stresses family intimacy in its communications.

 

But the million dollar question is: Will Liril's makeover and new ad campaign bring in volumes in the branded toilet soaps industry in India? Will it be able to revive the old magic without waterfalls and lissome girls?

 

lalitha.srinivasan@expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S BIG BATTLE

 

Pakistan has finally begun a long overdue military offensive against the Taliban in the South Waziristan tribal region. The decision to take the battle into the Pakistan Taliban heartland came after the militants made clear they are now in a full-scale war against the state. The Army has hesitated to go into South Waziristan, evidently apprehensive of getting bogged down in what has sometimes been described as an 'unwinnable' war. Previous offensives in the tribal region ended with the military making peace deals with the militants, abandoning the area to the Taliban, and allowing them to entrench themselves there. It was also that the military did not seem entirely convinced of the threat posed to Pakistan by the Taliban. In 2008, the Inter-Services Intelligence chief, Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, famously referred to the Taliban leader, Beithullah Mehsud, who was killed two months ago in a U.S. missile strike, as a "patriotic" Pakistani. But the recent attacks on the Pakistan Army headquarters and in Lahore left the military with little choice but to act against a wellspring of unrelenting terrorism within Pakistan. From the time the Taliban virtually took over Swat earlier this year, public opinion has favoured an all-out military operation. The United States too was eager to see the Pakistan Army launch the operation. The violent agenda of the South Waziristan militants is aimed more at Pakistan, but it is clear that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan does the bidding of the al-Qaeda — providing it and the Afghan Taliban important back office support from its stronghold while receiving arms and money from them.

 

Can the military offensive succeed? The Pakistan Army declared victory in Swat, but it is widely believed that the militants simply melted away into the mountains. Very few of the Swat Taliban leaders were caught. South Waziristan is a larger area with an estimated 10,000 battle-hardened militants and a terrain more treacherous. The other question is whether an operation in South Waziristan is sufficient in itself. In the last few terror attacks, the Taliban's alliances with a number of militant groups based in South Punjab, including anti-India groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed, have emerged in clear light. Predictably, the Army has downplayed the significance of these linkages, emphasising that South Waziristan alone is the 'centre of gravity of terrorism.' It is quite conceivable that the country's security establishment remains reluctant to root out the jihadist militants who have served as its allies against India. What it needs to realise is that it can no longer afford to overlook this threat to state and society.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PLANNING FOR BETTER CITIES

 

Urbanisation is a positive phenomenon provided the cities are able to harness its potential. A recently published UN-Habitat global report on human settlements shows that not many cities in developing countries such as India have managed to do this. Indian cities struggle to manage the swelling numbers: they tend to have inadequate infrastructure, poor mobility, and a lack of affordable housing. The challenge they face is twofold — efforts to distribute growth across urban centres have been inadequate and the urban planning practices are outdated. Much attention is paid to mega cities, leaving the smaller cities largely unattended. Of the 5,161 urban centres, as the Eleventh Five Year Plan points out, only 1,500 have some form of a plan to manage their growth. With quality of life suffering in the smaller cities, more people tend to move to the metros, burdening them further. Although the need for developing small and medium-size towns was highlighted as early as 1988 by the first National Commission on Urbanisation, not much has happened on that front. As for the bigger cities, the additional attention and the presence of a master plan have not necessarily meant improvement.

 

Managing a city through a single unified master plan has failed to deliver. The reason for this, aside from poor implementation, is that the plans are conceptually flawed. Indian cities are complex composites. Alongside the formal city exists a large and an equally important informal city inhabited by the poor. Even the formal city is composed of many parts such as the historical core, the colonial enclave, and new areas of post-Independence growth. Notwithstanding these differences, the master plan tends to paint the city with a single brush, favouring the new formal areas and ignoring the informal. This has fragmented cities further and skewed development in favour of new areas. The recommendations in the UN-Habitat report do offer a way forward. The suggestion to implement the strategic spatial planning system should be immediately adopted. Unlike the master plan, such innovations recognise the intra-city differences better and help focus on priority aspects or areas. They should help eventually to mitigate spatial inequalities, integrate infrastructure, and evolve compact city forms that will optimise travelling within the city. Simultaneously, the institutional framework for planning should be strengthened with an emphasis on people's participation and regional networking. Earnest implementation and regular monitoring of the plans are equally vital for reaping the benefits of planning.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

NEW SECURITY CONFIGURATION IN THE CAUCASUS

NORMALISATION BETWEEN TURKEY AND ARMENIA AND AN IMPROVING OUTLOOK FOR A SETTLEMENT BETWEEN ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN WILL REMOVE THE LAST ROADBLOCKS TO REGIONAL SECURITY IN THE CAUCASUS.

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

 

The milestone accords Turkey and Armenia sealed this month to normalise their relations after a century of hostility have dramatically changed the geopolitical configuration in the Caucasus. They have opened the way to a new security arrangement in the region on the basis of the emerging Russia-Turkey alliance.

 

At an October 10 ceremony in Zurich, the Foreign Ministers signed protocols setting a timetable to establish diplomatic ties and reopen the border, which has been closed for 15 years. The importance of the event was underlined by the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the European Union's Javier Solana.

 

The accords, subject to ratification, however, face formidable opposition in both Turkey and Armenia. The Turks are angry at Armenia continuing "occupation" of 14 per cent of the territory of Turkey's ethnic ally Azerbaijan in the predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which split from Azerbaijan in the wake of an inter-ethnic conflict in the early 1990s. In 1993, Turkey sealed the border and severed all contacts with Armenia over the conflict. For their part, the Armenians are angry over Turkey's denial of the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1919.

 

Bad feelings on both sides may slow down the normalisation process, but will hardly derail it as Turkey and Armenia have vital stakes in ending their historic enmity. Turkey stands to gain influence in the Caucasus and it will smoothen its path to membership in the European Union. Landlocked Armenia, blockaded by Turkey, on one side, and Azerbaijan, on the other, will gain through trade links with Turkey, a large economy closely tied to the EU. It would also become a transit trade route from Central Asia to Turkey and then to Europe.

 

Reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia is likely to facilitate the settlement of the territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The presence of the top diplomats from the U.S., Russia and France — the co-chairs to the OSCE Minsk Group, which mediates in talks on Nagorno-Karabakh — at the signing ceremony was quite symbolic in this regard.

 

Both Russia and the U.S. are interested in the Turkey-Armenia settlement. Russian business, which effectively controls the economy of Armenia, will benefit from the opening of the Turkish border with Armenia, as Russia is also the biggest trading partner of Turkey. In another gain for Russia, the role of its foe Georgia as the main transit route for Armenian trade will greatly diminish once Turkey opens up its border. Russia has already reaped the first benefits on the energy front. Within days of the Turkey-Armenian agreement, its gas monopoly Gazprom signed a contract with Azerbaijan's state energy company SOCAR on Azerbaijani gas supply to Russia. The deal came as Baku denounced the Turkey-Armenian pact as running "completely against the national interests of Azerbaijan," because it was concluded without a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. It is for the first time that Azerbaijan will sell its gas to Russia, which could undermine the West's plan to build the Nabucco pipeline to ship Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe bypassing Russia.

 

The U.S. hopes that Turkey opening its doors to Armenia would help wean it away from Russia. Today, Armenia is Russia's only strategic ally in the Caucasus. It is a member of the Russia-led defence pact of six former Soviet states and hosts a major Russian military base on its territory. For U.S. President Barack Obama, the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement offers a way out of a tight spot he put himself in during the presidential campaign when he promised support to a proposed Congress resolution denouncing the slaughter of Armenians during World War I as "genocide." This would have damaged U.S. relations with Turkey, which is of strategic importance to America as the only NATO country bordering the Caucasus.

 

Russia has its own game plan for the region. Last year, Moscow readily embraced Ankara's proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. The CSCP, based on Turkey's concept of "zero problems with neighbours" policy, is promoted by Ankara as a mechanism for political dialogue, stability and crisis management in a region covering Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. For Turkey, the plan is an instrument to win a bigger foothold in the Russian backyard. Russia further consolidated its position as the dominant player in the Caucasus, signing last month defence pacts with Georgia's breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, whose independence it recognised after routing Georgia in a five-day war in August 2008. The agreements allow Russia to station 1,700 troops in each region for the next 49 years, with the option of extension for five-year periods thereafter. Nevertheless, Moscow seems ready to cede some of its influence to Ankara in order to achieve a bigger strategic objective: create a regional security mechanism that would exclude outside players, above all the U.S. and the NATO, whose poking only creates trouble, as it happened last year when the U.S.-armed and trained Georgian military attacked South Ossetia.

 

Even though Turkey is a NATO member, Moscow has appreciated Ankara's independent foreign policy in recent years that runs counter to U.S. interests on a range of regional issues. Ankara would not let the U.S. use its territory for the war in Iraq and refused to join the West's Russia-bashing over the war in South Ossetia. Turkey's ambitions of a regional superpower clash with the U.S.' aggressive push in the Caucasus. Turkey does not want the Black Sea to become a NATO lake and has resisted U.S. pressure to renegotiate the 1936 Montreux Convention, which restricts the passage of non-Black Sea nations' warships through the Bosphorus Straits. During the Russian-Georgian conflict, Turkey invoked the Montreux Convention to block two big U.S. warships from sailing into the Black Sea on the pretext of delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia. While officially Turkey continues to support Georgia's territorial integrity, it has quietly moved to develop contacts with Abkhazia, with a senior Turkish diplomat visiting the regional capital Sukhumi last month.

 

When Turkish President Abdullah Gul paid a state visit to Moscow earlier this year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a straightforward proposal to set up a Russian-Turkish axis. "The August crisis showed that we can deal with problems in the region by ourselves, without the involvement of outside powers," Mr. Medvedev told a joint press conference. The Turkish leader effectively agreed, pointing to "substantially close or identical positions" the two countries took on "an absolute majority" of international issues.

 

In a joint declaration adopted at the summit, Russia and Turkey expressed support for Turkey's CSCP initiative, noted the "identity of view" on security and stability in the Black Sea region and reaffirmed their commitment to the Montreux Convention.

 

There is no denying that Russia and Turkey are historical rivals in the Caucasus, having fought 11 wars lasting 44 years in the past. They are still competing for influence in the region, but shared interests make them allies too. Russia meets 80 per cent of Turkey's natural gas needs through the Blue Stream pipe laid on the seabed across the Black Sea. Turkey has backed the Russian proposal to build a Blue Stream-2 pipeline, which, together with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, would make Turkey a major energy transit hub for Europe and Israel.

 

A distinct cooling in Turkey's relations with the U.S. over Iraq and the Kurdish problem, and with Europe over its granting EU membership to Cyprus and refusal to admit Turkey has further pushed Ankara towards Moscow.

 

Normalisation between Turkey and Armenia and an improving outlook for a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan will remove the last roadblocks to a regional security set-up on the basis of the Turkish CSPC proposal. Moscow is already looking to extend its cooperation with Turkey on regional security beyond the Caucasus. On a visit to Istanbul last year, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointedly emphasised that Russia and Turkey shared similar views on "what needs to be done for a conclusive settlement in Iraq" and on "the necessity of peaceful political resolution of the situation regarding the Iranian nuclear programme."

 

Chances of the new regional security configuration in the Caucasus becoming a reality will greatly depend on whether the U.S. goes along or tries to torpedo the project by encouraging its allies, Georgia and Azerbaijan, to reject the initiative.

 

In joint Russian-U.S. efforts to promote normalisation between Turkey and Armenia there are grounds for optimism. Mr. Medvedev hailed it as a "good example of our [Russian-American] coordination in international affairs." The very possibility of the ongoing reset in relations between Russia and the U.S. being projected to the Caucasus will enable Moscow to play on Turkey's fears of being left in the cold and help get the best deal from both.

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED  

THE TREATY OF DISCORD

THE RATIFICATION OF THE LISBON TREATY WILL ASSURE THE EU A GREATER SAY IN WORLD AFFAIRS, BUT ONE MAN IS HOLDING THE ENTIRE PROCESS TO RANSOM.

MEENA MENON

 

If there were a treaty to change the weather in Europe, especially in rain-sodden Brussels, there would be unanimity, jokes Geoffrey Meade, a journalist with the Press Association, the British news agency. Mr. Meade should know, having lived in the Belgian capital for over 28 years. However, he is not so confident about the Lisbon Treaty, aimed to revamp the European Union's Constitution and give it an edge in world affairs. "One man is holding it up," h e says with unkindness evident in all his references to Czech President Vaclav Klaus who has refused to sign the Treaty.

 

The Lisbon Treaty is the result of eight years of reform debate since the Nice Treaty of 2001-2003. There is no mention of the Constitution, while there is continuity with the Constitutional Treaty and the main amendments reflect its content. The European Council will have a permanent President with a two-and-a-half-year mandate apart from a highly placed representative in charge of external relations. He or she will be assisted by a European External Action Service. Decisions in the Council of Ministers will be based on a majority basis instead of a consensus. There will be no reference to the European Constitution, no flag and no anthem.

 

The Lisbon Treaty, when it comes into force if Mr. Klaus agrees eventually, will give the EU the much needed edge in world affairs. In a sense, Mr. Meade puts rather dryly, it is just a change in the club rules. Even Ireland which initially opposed it has voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty with 67 per cent in favour in a referendum to amend the Irish Constitution held on October 2. Even though the Czech Parliament has voted in favour, Mr. Klaus is opposing the European Charter of Fundamental Rights which will become binding once the Lisbon Treaty is approved. He is also hoping that the Conservatives will come to power in Britain and he will secure the support of Eurosceptics like David Cameron. However, according to the British newspaper Telegraph, Mr. Klaus says he will no longer wait for the U.K. elections. But he will have to wait for the verdict of the Czech Constitutional Court on the treaty's compliance with the Czech Constitution. This is expected on October 27.

 

There is a consciousness that the countries of the EU are more visible and dynamic than the EU as a bloc. The U.K., Germany and France have major stakes in world affairs. But the EU as a conglomeration of European nations is upstaged by the U.S. in world affairs. Which is why the Lisbon Treaty assumes so much importance and Mr. Klaus' bad boy image is growing by the day.

 

Albert Maes, Honorary Professor at the University of Namur and a former EU ambassador, says the Lisbon Treaty will take the unity of 27 sovereign nations forward and create a diplomatic representative of the EU. While the visibility of the EU will increase and there will be continuity, the inherent weaknesses will be there, he feels. The biggest problem in the EU is attaining a balance in policies, most of which are still left to individual nations to decide. The Lisbon Treaty could lead to a smoother functioning of the EU. And the scope for common policies will be marginally enhanced, apart from a pooling of sovereignties. The EU is a global leader in issues related to climate change, trade and development and it is looking for a stronger role on the political and strategic scene. A single President could help in that. A more crucial issue is the need for a focussed approach in South Asia, feels Shada Islam, senior programme executive, European Policy Centre. After the Lisbon Treaty, things may improve with a single Foreign Minister. The EU's role in Afghanistan raises many questions, she adds, and there is confusion over this mission. A stronger foreign affairs leader could change things.

 

India is not the only country that has an "on paper" strategic partnership with the EU, she points out. There is a real lack of dialogue and India and the EU face the prospect of being sidelined by the U.S. and China in the new world order.

 

The Joint Action Plan and Strategic Partnership with India needs a lease of life and it is time to move way from rhetoric and summits. Can the Lisbon Treaty pave the way for these changes? Only time — and perhaps President Klaus — can tell.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CONSERVATISM

LIBERALS LOATHED GEORGE BUSH BUT DID NOT INVOKE FANTASTICAL FABRICATIONS OR ROOT ARGUMENTS IN METAPHOR LIKE THE CONSERVATIVES' TAKE ON OBAMA.

MICHAEL TOMASKY

 

More evidence of our great American divide arrived last Friday in the form of some focus group studies undertaken by Stan Greenberg (Bill Clinton's pollster in 1992) and James Carville. They oversaw conversations with a group of hard-shell conservatives in Georgia. The fascinating results explain a lot about my country's political tensions and shed light on the question of what makes contemporary American conservatism — well, unique, let us call it.

 

They found that conservatives "stand a world apart from the rest of America" in terms of how they view Barack Obama and how they see politics. There is a continuum, in other words, in U.S. politics, running from those on the left who have already concluded that Mr. Obama is a sell-out, to mainstream liberals who are basically happy with him, to moderates who are approving but with reservations, to centre-right folks who are unconvinced but pulling for him to succeed, for the country's sake if nothing else.

 

Then there are committed conservatives. They are off the continuum, in three basic ways. First, they fundamentally question his legitimacy as President. Second, they believe a successful Obama presidency would destroy the country and are "committed to seeing the President fail". And third, they think he is "ruthlessly advancing a 'secret agenda' to bankrupt the U.S. and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism".

 

Big deal, conservatives will say to liberals. You people loathed George Bush. What is the difference? It is a fair question. But I think there is a difference. It has to do, I think, with the different ways liberals and conservatives define their relationship to their country.

 

On the first point, liberals questioned Mr. Bush's legitimacy, too. Of course, there were solid empirical bases on which to do so. His campaign stopped the vote recount in Florida, and the Supreme Court, not the voters, put him in the White House. Around Mr. Obama's victory there were no such vexations. And the questions that do exist about Mr. Obama's legitimacy — his citizenship and religious affiliation — are fantastical fabrications. Be that as it may, let us be generous and acknowledge simply that legitimacy issues have been raised on both sides.

 

It is also true many on the liberal-left wanted to see Mr. Bush fail. To some degree that is just politics. Matters get trickier when one discusses Mr. Bush's wars, because that raises questions about whether wanting to see him fail crossed the line into wanting to see America lose a war, however illegitimate that war might have been in liberal eyes. Most Bush opponents tried not to cross that line, but I cannot say it was never crossed. So let us be gracious and call this one a wash too.

 

The third point is where the difference enters the picture. As much as liberals despised Mr. Bush, people never

thought (except maybe on the fringes) that he was secretly out to destroy the U.S. We felt some of his administration's principles were not American as we understood the concept (the arrogation of executive power, or the approval of torture). But there was none of this Manchurian Candidate business. Liberals assumed that Mr. Bush was doing what he, his team and their supporters believed was the right thing based on their understanding of American values.

 

Conservatives do not believe this about Mr. Obama. Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Carville stress that race was not a factor in their all-white Georgia focus group, and while I would agree that conservatives' problems with Mr. Obama are far more ideological than racial, I have to believe that race is a subliminal factor of some sort. But it also has a lot to do with history.

 

One often hears conservatives speak of how Mr. Obama is destroying "my country". They use the "my" because conservatives tend to feel a type of ownership regarding the country that liberals do not. They are certain that they represent "real" American values, and that liberals represent alien values.

 

There is a long history here, which is bound up in everything from the two sides' different definitions of patriotism — "my country right or wrong" versus "I want to improve my country because I love it" — to religion to militarism to cosmopolitanism to a thousand other things. Every American presidential campaign, on some level, is about the Republican trying to frighten people into believing that the Democrat does not share "your values" and the Democrat trying to reassure people that he does. So, for conservatives, Mr. Obama is not just a guy whose views they vehemently disagree with. He is an ideological Typhoid Mary, a carrier of unknowable and barely comprehensible infections. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

(Michael Tomasky is Editor at large, Guardian America)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS   

TWITTER AND A NEWSPAPER UNTIE A GAG ORDER

THE GUARDIANWAS FORBIDDEN TO REPORT THAT IT HAD BEEN GAGGED FROM REPORTING A MAJOR INDUSTRIAL HAZARD, BUT THERE WAS NO STOPPING TWITTERSPHERE ONCE THE INFORMATION LEAKED INTO CYBERSPACE.

NOAM COHEN

 

Twitter has been credited with helping to organise political protests and shine a light on abuses around the world. At the same time, the ubiquitous service has been criticised for disrespecting the sanctity of once-private halls of deliberation — whether a criminal jury's chambers or an NBA locker room.

 

In the rarest of cases, apparently, Twitter can do both. That is the view of the Editor of The Guardian in London, Alan Rusbridger, who, after prevailing in a legal fight over the publication of secret documents, wrote that "the Twittersphere blew away conventional efforts to buy silence," as a headline on his column put it.

 

Last month, a British judge ruled that material obtained by Guardian journalists about a multinational corporation had to be kept secret. Unlike other such injunctions, however, the "gag order" applied to the existence of the injunction itself. That is, The Guardian was forbidden to report that it had been gagged.

 

Thus, we have a Kafka-esque experience that, fittingly, has been imposed an unknown number of times by the courts, according to the British newspapers.

 

The documents involved in the superinjunction could not have been more serious.

 

In August 2006, an independent shipping company, Trafigura, paid a local operator in Ivory Coast to dispose of waste from the treatment of low-quality gasoline. The operator dumped about 400 tonnes of the "slops" — a mixture of petrochemical waste and caustic soda — in open landfills around a large Ivorian city, Abidjan.

 

In the weeks afterward, according to a New York Times account from the time, 85,000 people sought medical attention, "paralysing the fragile health care system in a country divided and impoverished by civil war". Eight died from exposure to the waste, the article reported.

 

In 2007, Trafigura paid the Ivory Coast government about $225 million related to those events, without admitting liability. And last month, the company settled a class-action lawsuit in Britain on behalf of 30,000 Ivory Coast residents by agreeing to pay $1,500 a person while asserting "that it did not foresee, and could not have foreseen, the reprehensible acts" of its contractor.

 

Given the legally charged conditions, a preliminary scientific analysis of what might have been dumped — ordered by Trafigura's lawyers — could have significant ramifications. And when a copy of that analysis fell into the hands of a reporter for The Guardian, Trafigura asked a judge to protect it, saying it was a confidential communication with lawyers for the company. Furthermore, Trafigura argued, any statements the report contained had been superseded by later, more reliable testing.

 

The superinjunction was issued on September 11. "Presumably the reason for this expansive intrusion into liberty is the theory that in the Internet era any clue to the origin of information will lead to the information becoming available and easily accessed," James Edelman, a media law expert at Oxford University, wrote in an e-mail message.

 

 

THE LEAK

Even with the superinjunction, the report appeared on the whistle-blower website Wikileaks three days after the injunction. Last week, a Member of Parliament asked a question about the case and, by mentioning the Trafigura scientific report, forced a legal crisis of sorts. The court order ran against the British tradition that what is spoken in Parliament is beyond censorship.

 

Sparked by a teasing article in The Guardian about the newspaper's being prevented from identifying the Member of Parliament— and Mr. Rusbridger's tweet about it — readers discovered the question on a government website and set about broadcasting it on the Internet.

 

In addition to using Twitter, these sympathetic readers used a new tool from Google — SideWiki — to post comments alluding to the controversy on the websites of Trafigura and its law firm, Carter-Ruck. Furthermore, Wikipedia, with its main servers safely sitting in the United States, freely linked to Wikileaks, giving coverage that was more comprehensive than anything a British news consumer could find.

 

In the face of the online campaign, Trafigura agreed to allow The Guardian to report on the parliamentary question, but insisted that the documents remain enjoined. That led to some Twitter trash-talking, including calls for civil disobedience by British journalists, asking them to re-tweet (RT) its link to the report. The Guardian's technology Editor, Charles Arthur, wrote early Friday morning, "Oh Wikileaks, I would so love to RT you, and would get into so much trouble if I did."

 

On Friday night, Trafigura relented on the release of the report, simultaneously issuing a statement from the managing director of the testing company, who said that it was an "initial desktop study" and that he now agreed with the conclusion that the dumping "could at worst have caused a range of short term low level flu like symptoms and anxiety".

 

There is a danger in overpraising a tool like Twitter at the expense of the words it amplifies — in essence, extolling the chisel rather than Michelangelo. But last week's events show that a variety of Internet projects, including Twitter, are making it harder for the traditional gatekeepers to control of the flow of information.

 

Certainly, The Guardian was in full celebratory mode last week. "Twitter's detractors are used to sneering that nothing of value can be said in 140 characters," Mr. Rusbridger wrote about his initial tweet. "My 104 characters did just fine." — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

BALLOONBOY AFFAIR A HOAX

EWEN MACASKILL

 

The parents of a six-year-old boy who sparked a 50-mile chase by U.S. emergency services across Colorado after an escaped hot air balloon are facing criminal charges, after the Sheriff's department said on Sunday the affair had been a hoax aimed at securing a television reality show deal.

 

The charges carry prison sentences of two to six years and fines of up to $5,00,000.

 

The saga began on Thursday when a homemade helium balloon was spotted in the sky and rescue services were scrambled, amid fears that the Heenes' son Falcon was aboard. After hours of live television coverage, Falcon, who had been hiding in an attic, was found.

 

The event had been planned for two weeks, the police said. Police believed the parents were genuinely fearful for their child, but they subsequently learned the couple met at acting school. The police became suspicious when Falcon said on CNN that he had hidden for a "show". The four possible charges are: conspiracy, improperly influencing police officer, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and falsifying a report. The couple could also face a bill for the cost of the rescue services. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PAK ISI & TERROR: IRAN SAYS IT TOO

 

 While details are sketchy, the suicide bomber who on Sunday killed several high-ranking officials of Iran's elite force, the Revolutionary Guard, in the country's Pishin district which borders Pakistan, could just be the link that confirms a key regional reality: that all of Pakistan's immediate neighbours — India, Afghanistan and Iran — are by now under Sunni jihadist assault from terrorists that receive inspiration and sustenance from quarters in that country. This is hardly a coincidence, and speaks of the social, political and military processes that have tainted and ruined Pakistan over the past three decades. The bomber is thought to belong to the Jundollah group which had carried out a similar attack in a Zahedan mosque, killing 25, in May this year. The technique of suicide bombing is used exclusively by the Taliban and Al Qaeda in this region. There has been a degree of unrest in Iran's Balochi-speaking area in recent years, although it is not thought to be as severe as in Balochistan on the Pakistan side. Also, Baloch nationalists on the two sides are not known to have organisational links. Nor have the Balochis in Pakistan come under the sway of the Taliban. As such, Taliban or Al Qaeda influence over the Baloch population in Iran's southeast should be a matter of concern for Tehran.

 

When we look at the expanse of territory in which the Taliban and Al Qaeda have established a steady presence over time, it does look apparent that elements of the long-cherished Islamic emirate the world Sunni jihadists have already come to cohere. The large area in which this has occurred encompasses great swathes of Pakistan's tribal belt, in particular north and south Waziristan, the areas of Pakistani Balochistan north of Quetta (where the Baloch nationalist movement is not preponderant), and now seemingly Sistan-Balochistan (on the Iran side). Geographically, this is hard country, where the social organisation is tribal, and development indices are low. In short, it is tailor-made for primitive practices and way of life favoured by takfiris such as Taliban and Al Qaeda. Influential quarters in Tehran have blamed the "Great Satan" (America) and its ally Britain in the context of the Pishin killing of its top Revolutionary Guard commanders. But notably, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called up Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to demand appropriate action, virtually pointing a finger at the nexus between official circles — and specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence — and jihadists in Pakistan. The Iranian leader has reason to be angry. Some time ago, when the United States was thought to be contemplating military strikes against Iran, it was widely believed that then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had got fifth columnists to soften up the Iranian Balochistan area to curry favour with Washington. Iran is cognisant of the danger posed to it by Al Qaeda and its allies in the region. In the wider context of the debate in the West, notably the United States, about withdrawing from the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre in the not too distant future, regional players themselves will need to find meaningful answers to the conundrum thrown up by the Islamist movement that now looks like threatening Pakistan itself.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

GLOBAL IMBALANCES

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

The US economy has been running large current account deficits for several decades now, but they were typically offset by surpluses of other developed countries like Japan and Germany, as well as by oil-exporting countries of West Asia. In the most recent period, that picture has changed in a significant way. The huge US balance of payments deficit is now being substantially financed by developing countries and not largely by the surpluses of other developed countries or the surpluses in the oil exporting countries.

 

For example, in 2007 Japan and Germany accounted only for 30 per cent of the aggregate surplus of all surplus earners, and Germany's surplus tends to be counterbalanced by deficits in other countries of the Euro area. Meanwhile, developing countries and countries in transition became important sources of surpluses to finance the US deficit. The aggregate surplus of the top ten developing and transition economies accounted for 95 per cent of the US deficit. The top 10 among non-oil surplus developing countries accounted for 72 per cent of the US deficit. China's surplus was equal to 51.1 per cent of the US deficit.

 

The transformation of the developing world's current account deficits into surpluses occurred in the mid-1990s. While this was true initially of a set of countries in Asia, they have since been joined by countries in West Asia, Africa and Latin America, though not Central and Eastern Europe. However, developing and emerging market countries outside developing Asia have also been recording a surplus as a group, because of the contribution made by oil exporters in West Asia.

 

As a consequence, the bulk of the increase in the US current account deficit was balanced by changes in the current account positions of developing countries, which moved from a collective deficit of $109 billion to a surplus of $492 billion — a net change of $601 billion — between 1996 and 2007.

 

There are two sources of accretion of surpluses in the balance of payments of the developing countries, epitomised by China and India. In China's case, these surpluses have been substantially "earned" in the sense that they reflect its export success and a surplus on the current account of its balance of payments. This has been added to with inflows of foreign direct investment, and more recently foreign portfolio investment. In the case of India on the other hand, its surpluses have been "borrowed", in the sense that they accrue because small deficits or small surpluses on the current account of its balance of payments in recent years have been accompanied by huge inflows of capital, especially portfolio capital. If capital inflows are largely borrowed and are of the portfolio kind, the pressure to accumulate reserves is greater, because of the danger that these flows could be reversed, as happened in Southeast Asia in late 1990s.

 

There is another reason why a significant, even if not dominant part of the recycling of these surpluses to the US occurred through the central banks of these countries. Under liberalised exchange rate regimes, large dollar inflows (whether due to surpluses on the current or capital account) exert an upward pressure on the domestic currency of the countries that receive those foreign exchange inflows, raising the value of the domestic currency against the reserve currency. To prevent such appreciation and shore up the competitiveness of the recipient country's exports, the central bank steps in to stabilise the currency to buy and mop up the excess foreign exchange. This results in the accumulation of large reserves. Data from the US Federal Reserve relating to US government agency bonds held by foreign official institutions shows that they increased by $119 billion in 2007, although in the wake of the crisis in 2008 they fell by $31 billion. In the first seven months of 2009, they fell by another $31 billion.

 

However, not only was the contribution of non-oil exporting Asian countries even more significant, it actually continued to be positive even in 2008. Thus, Asian holding of US public bonds increased by $131.6 billion in 2007 and $32.4 billion in 2008, while the corresponding figures for China and Hong Kong taken together were $103.7 billion and $40.3 billion. Even in the first seven months of 2009, total Asian holding of US government bonds remained largely stable, with a small increase of $2.3 billion by West Asian oil exporters and a small decline of $2.5 billion for all other Asian countries.

 

So, while US profligacy results in the huge deficit on its balance of payments, it does not need to make the adjustment to correct for global imbalance. Instead, in a remarkable reversal of past experience of other countries, the countries accumulating surpluses, whether "earned" or "borrowed", are the ones making the adjustment. They continue to invest their surpluses in safe and liquid international securities among which US Treasury securities predominate. And that adjustment is not without cost. Large reserves create huge problems for monetary management, and central bank efforts to sterilise foreign exchange reserves to manage money supply have adverse implications for fiscal policy. Moreover, the returns received on reserves invested by central banks are much less than the returns earned by those who bring the foreign exchange into these countries in the first place.

 

This is quite directly related to the shift in policy regime in favour of less regulated, more market-friendly and obsessively export-oriented regimes across the world. When successful exporters record current account surpluses, this threatens an appreciation of their currencies that could reduce export competitiveness. To prevent this, they accumulate foreign exchange reserves to prevent appreciation, in turn necessitating the investment of these surpluses in safe assets. Much of this investment moves to the home of the reserve currency, where the value of the assets is presumed to be more stable.

 

Meanwhile, neo-liberal fiscal reform imposes fiscal conservatism and deflationary fiscal practices, which have balance of payments effects that imply either a reduction of current account deficits or the emergence or increase of current account surpluses. Capital account liberalisation can lead to inflows that cause currency appreciation. It also increases the pressure to accumulate reserves to guard against the reversal of capital flows that could follow any surge in inflows.

 

These consequences of liberalisation contribute in no small measure to the global imbalance that is otherwise rooted in the uneven development characteristic of capitalism. Perversely, they also strengthen the position of the reserve currency, by creates an influential global constituency against the depreciation of the US dollar.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

LOVE-HATE THY NEIGHBOUR

BY S.M. SHAHID

 

"Do you have neighbours?" Babboo asked. "What a silly question! Of course I have neighbours. I am not living on Mars. I live in Defence". "Oh, really? You sound as if Defence is a better place than Mars. Do you meet them?" he asked.

 

"Meet whom?"

 

"Your neighbours — in DEFENCE!" Putting emphasis on the word "defence", he added, "I understand in Nazimabad and Liaquatabad people do mix up with their neighbours".

 

"In Defence it is different", I said.

 

"How can you call them your neighbours then?"

 

"Because they ARE my neighbours".

 

"But you don't meet them. For all practical purposes you don't exist for one another".

 

"Of course we exist. If we did not meet, it was because discretion was the better part of neighbourly relations. Secondly, who has the time to experiment befriending strangers? It's an established fact that neighbours become enemies rather quickly for, as you know, enmity comes naturally to them".

 

"What a strange thesis! Don't you believe in good neighbourliness?" I said.

 

"History teaches us that there is no such thing. Can you give me any example of good neighbourliness? Is India a good neighbour of Pakistan, or vice versa? Are Iran and Afghanistan good neighbours? Were Korea and Japan good neighbours ever? Have Russia and China been good neighbours? Is the United States a good neighbour of Cuba?"

 

"Stop it yaar! You shouldn't take kajj bahsi to such ridiculous extremes. I thought we were simply discussing neighbourhood or neighbourly relations at a personal level. Tum Cuba aur Amreeka pahaunch gaye".

 

"Waisay ek baat hai", said Babboo with a twinkle in his eyes.

 

"What?"

 

"A neighbour is a more convenient enemy — if not a better one! If you were to choose your enemy you should look for him in your neighbourhood. In most cases this enmity can be more deep-rooted and lasting and is not based on maslehat… I mean, on impulse".

 

"What?"

 

"There are many ADVANTAGES of making neighbours your enemies. Having lived together, and possibly belonging to the same stock, you know them — some wise man has said, "know your enemy" — you are familiar with his habits, his strong and weak points; you have better accessibility and can manoeuvre your way through his territory as you know the terrain etc. Above all, it is cost effective and less time consuming — beside other logistical advantages…"

 

"Jo moonh mein aata hai buk detay ho. Do you realise what destruction you cause, how much collateral damage you inflict upon your neighbour when you go to war with him?"

 

"Part of the game!" said Babboo.

 

"Anyone with any modicum of decency would spare at least his neighbour", I tried to invoke some compassion in his heart for neighbours.

 

"Spare the neighbour? You mean I should go thousands of miles to make complete strangers my enemies? Height of stupidity! Have you forgotten how Lyndon Johnson made a fool of himself in Vietnam? In recent times, George Bush, who turned out to be a greater Lyndon Johnson, went to far off Iraq and Afghanistan to make enemies. Can you beat it? Na Khuda hi mila na wisal-i-sanam; Na idhar ke rahe na udhar ke rahe!"

 

"According to this logic, Russia, who made her next door neighbour Afghanistan her enemy was equally foolish. A few centuries ago, Babar, who invaded neighbourly Hindustan and established the Mughal Empire was equally stupid. Far or near, making enemies is not a good idea, yaar! Who told you one can't live without an enemy?"

 

"How would there be any progress, then?" argued Babboo.

 

"Progress! What progress? Progress through making enemies? What the hell do you mean?"

 

"No country has prospered without making enemies. If you don't make enemies your progress is stalled. Not only the people become complacent and timid, new opportunities for scientific and industrial development are lost too. Look at Germany and Japan — how they progressed after the World War II!" "But at what cost?" I screamed.

 

"Cost is immaterial", said Babboo calmly. "You have to pay a price for everything. Nothing comes for free. Was the Roman Empire established without paying a price? Was Rome built in a day?" "In this insane animosity racket, only innocent people suffer", I said sadly.

 

"Being innocent is the worst thing. Innocent people always suffer. It's an irony that a large number of them are exported to planet earth with this defect. They must suffer for this manufacturing defect".

 

"Stop it yaar! For people like you Ghalib has already said: Huey tum dost jiske dushman uska aasman kyun ho!"

 

By arrangement with Dawn

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

I PRAY FOR HUMANITY

K. MASHA NAZEEM

 

My mother taught me the importance of God and prayers when I was five. Since then, I have been praying to God for at least 10 minutes everyday. I started doing the regular thozhugai (Tamil for namaz) last year. Now I also read five pages of the Quran everyday.

 

Whenever I think of a new innovation, I pray to God that it proves to be useful to humanity. Whenever I have some difficulty in my research, I turn to God. It is patience and remembrance of God that delivers me during my moments of crisis.

 

Prayer is a constant activity and I am always pray. If it is the beginning of a project, I pray to Him that it should be successful. The moments of recognition like the ones when former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam felicitated me and Tamil Nadu governor Surjit Singh Barnala felicitated me, also lead to prayers.

 

I pray to God that talented students who are suppressed should also get recognised for their talent like me.

 

I pray that India stands tall in the world arena. I pray for happiness, peace and well-being of one and all in the world. I never lose heart and keep praying when things don't work out. My prayer to God is that I should be able to make the country proud in the world of science through my inventions.

 

(As told to Peer Mohamed)

 

— K. Masha Nazeem has seven inventions to her credit, including a high-tech train toilet, and many awards, including a recent one from the National Innovation Foundation.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

CAN INDIA FACILITATE A US-IRAN DIALOGUE?

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

Does Iran have a clandestine nuclear weapons programme? The question comes almost straight out of a television script, but without any prizes for the correct answer, because there are none as yet, only indications, suspicions, and speculation blowing in the wind. Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, refutes the charge completely even as the inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric of its leadership contributes to the escalation of tensions, while the United States and its associated chorus of Western governments seem sure that such a programme does exist, and are raising a storm over it within and outside the United Nations.

 

Russia and China, both founder-members of the Nuclear Five (also permanent members of the UN Security Council), maintain a facade of bland ambivalence, while India, not in the same league, nurses its own apprehensions and concerns over such a possibility but is discreetly silent for the present. How comfortable would India be with a nuclear-armed Iran? Again, no definite answers, but it can be assumed that the prospect of another Islamic republic (this time Shia) controlled by hardline ayatollahs acquiring nuclear weapons would undoubtedly create substantial unease in this country.

 

But in another context, India is also aware that its own long-term strategic interests and aspirations for a significant presence in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond, requires a positive engagement with Iran because of the strong and pervasive influence the latter exercises in the Dari-speaking Farsiwan regions of western and northern Afghanistan around Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and with Shias in the Hazara belt, where the Pashtun-based Taliban do not have local support. (Dari is closely akin to Farsi, the official language of Iran, and is spoken by 50 per cent of the population of Afghanistan). India has to rationalise its misgivings about a nuclear-armed Iran and chart its course accordingly, because unlike Indo-Russian relations during the Soviet era, or Indo-US relations at present, Indo-Iran relations could never progress beyond a certain level mainly due to misgivings about the tone and tenor of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979, and perceptions of its distinct tilt towards Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, and also in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). However, as a Shia state, Iran also has its own scars to show from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Pakistan-based Sunni terrorist group Jundullah. Among these are the abduction and subsequent murder of 11 Iranian consular staff in Mazar-e-Sharif after the Taliban entered the city on August 8, 1998, and attacks on Iranian forces, political personalities and government infrastructure along the Balochistan-Iran border. There seem to be sufficient common interests between India and Iran for jointly addressing the threat to both countries posed by radical jihadi organisations like Al Qaeda, which have a major anti-Shia agenda as well.

 

With direct surface access to Afghanistan and Central Asia blocked by a hostile Pakistan and China respectively, it is imperative for India to create viable alternate routes to the resource-rich regions of Central Asia, for which the Persian Gulf littoral is vital. India has, therefore, done well to enter into a strategic relationship with Iran to develop the port of Chahbahar on the Gulf of Oman and its associated road network, to connect onwards at Zaranj in Afghanistan with the Soviet-built necklace highway through the 218-km Delaram-Zaranj link road from the Iran border recently constructed by India through its Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the teeth of armed attacks by Taliban forces sponsored by Pakistan, which views any Indian presence in the region with extreme disfavour, as the second car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul recently reconfirmed so resoundingly.

 

But at another level Iran has been, and still is, in the crosshairs of the United States long before President George W. Bush designated it as one of the components of the so-called "axis of evil". The mutual ill-feeling between the two countries remains undiminished since 1979 when the dethronement and expulsion of the pro-American Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomenei, and its accompanying purges in the American-trained Iranian military generated a wave of anti-American feeling in the country, and resulted in the prolonged siege of the US embassy in Tehran and the hostage crisis. For the United States, attitudes on the Iran nuclear issue are seen as the touchstone for determining the credentials of its relationships with all other countries, creating a dilemma for India, which is strongly engaged with the United States and has successfully concluded a fairly unique and unprecedented bilateral agreement after an extended bilateral strategic dialogue which accepts India's requirement of civilian nuclear technology and also makes place for India's strategic nuclear programme outside the scope of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The hard choices in this context were highlighted in September 2005 when after considerable agonising India threw in its vote along with the United States and against Iran on the issue of international inspection of nuclear facilities in the latter country by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), and subsequently again to further refer the matter to the Security Council when the IAEA failed to resolve the issue. (It is instructive to note that both China and Pakistan, India's constant opponents on every international issue, decided to abstain on both occasions).

 

Close interaction with both the United States and Iran is, therefore, inescapable for India because of multiple compulsions, strategic as well as regional. Relations with both countries have to be harmonised, and whatever be the state of our relations with the United States, India has to remain engaged with Iran to best advantage. Indo-Iran-US equations are a tough test for Indian diplomacy, but can the outcome of the recent US-Iran talks in Geneva perhaps create a role for India as a mutually acceptable facilitator between the two countries? That is a possibility which might be worth exploring.

 

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEATH WRAPPED IN MYSTERY

THE GUILTY IN PF SCAM MUST BE NAILED

 

Undoubtedly, the death of Ashutosh Asthana, the prime accused in the judges' expenses and PF scam, who was in custody at the Dasna jail in Ghaziabad, on Saturday is simply intriguing. It certainly casts a shadow over the CBI investigation into the case. Though his safe custody in the jail was very important for the fair trial and bringing the guilty to book, the jail authorities have abdicated their responsibility in ensuring his safety. Preliminary investigations suggest that Asthana died of food poisoning. If this were found to be true, this would not have happened without the collusion between the jail staff and those who were bent on sabotaging the case. Only a fair and impartial inquiry can help ascertain the circumstances leading to Asthana's death. Proper autopsy has to be done by unimpeachable sources and those behind the mysterious death (or murder?) deserve exemplary punishment.

 

It is a high profile case with as many as 36 judges, including those from the Allahabad High Court and a Supreme Court judge, allegedly involved in it. Between 2003 and 2007, over Rs 23 crore was siphoned off by the officials from the general provident fund of Class III and IV employees of the Ghaziabad court. Asthana, the mastermind behind the scam, reportedly distributed expensive gifts like sofa sets and air-conditioners to the judges. He had also provided the relevant documents to the CBI which has so far filed four status reports to the Supreme Court's three-member Bench.

 

Opinion may be sharply divided over the fate of the case following Asthana's sudden death. However, there is no cause for worry. As the Supreme Court is directly monitoring the case, the nation can hope that the guilty cannot go scot-free. Moreover, the case is based on circumstantial evidence which can be established by documents, details on the withdrawal of money from the GPF accounts, money spent on gifts and questioning of the people involved. More important, Asthana, under Section 164 of Cr PC, had confessed before a magistrate accusing 36 judges of benefiting from illegal withdrawals from the treasury. This can still be admissible as evidence and the culprits nailed.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE WAZIRISTAN STRIKE

PAKISTAN MUST WIPE OUT TERRORISM

 

Pakistan's fresh offensive against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in South Waziristan has come soon after the Taliban struck at security forces in Kohat (NWFP), Rawalpindi and Lahore, taking the lives of over 50 people last week. The Taliban obviously wanted to send across the message that the militant movement had the capacity to strike at will, anywhere in Pakistan and Islamabad should not try to touch it after the recent Swat operation by the military. But the Pakistan Army has gone ahead with its operations. Over 28000 troops have been deployed to take on some 10,000 Taliban fighters, some of whom are believed to be foreigners. How far the Pakistan Army goes to eliminate the menace remains to be seen.

 

The Pakistan Army's half-hearted approach during the Swat operation did not demoralise the Taliban. Despite the death of Baitullah Mehsud, who led the Taliban in Pakistan, the militant movement has been showing signs of remaining as active as ever. Hakimullah Mehsud, who has taken over as the new chief of the TTP, has been flexing muscles with little fear of the army. His men have started a fund-raising drive at various places in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), which includes South Waziristan and six other tribal agencies. They are demanding cash from people to carry on their resistance, and this is besides what they already extort from businessmen and others. The Taliban, it seems, are preparing to keep the Pakistan military engaged in a long battle. Despite Islamabad's claim that madarsas no longer have Taliban supporters, there are reports of young men moving out of the madarsas to join the Taliban insurgents to fight against the Pakistan Army.

 

The Pakistan authorities need to do more to destroy the support bases of the Taliban. Deploying a few thousand soldiers to eliminate a well-entrenched enemy is not enough. A well-coordinated drive against all kinds of militants, including those working against India like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, is needed to immobilise the monster of terrorism which has emerged as a major threat to Pakistan itself. This requires not only the dismantling of their training camps and communication networks but also a thorough overhaul of Pakistan's policy against the jihadis. An approach that favours one set of militants and disfavours another cannot bring out the desired results.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WHEN SAVIOURS DIE

NATION IS ILL-PREPARED TO FIGHT FIRES

 

Avoidable deaths during every Diwali are a grim reminder of how poorly prepared the country is to fight fires, accidental or otherwise. This year, too, has been no exception with 32 people, including shoppers and workers of a firecracker factory, killed in a fire in Tamil Nadu and six firemen asphyxiated in a Mumbai suburb. Initial reports suggest that the firemen got into a lift to reach the 14th floor of the building when the lift stalled. The unfortunate men trapped in the lift died after inhaling the toxic fumes. While an inquiry alone will establish if the lift stalled due to a mechanical fault or because electric supply to the lift was switched off by the people who were not aware that the lift was being used, the tragic accident has once again highlighted how shabbily the firemen are treated even in Mumbai, where barely a year ago they had so heroically fought the blaze set off by terrorists at the Taj Hotel and the Oberoi.

 

Yet, the firemen at Thane on Sunday morning did not have some of the basic equipment and the residents lent torches. The firemen trapped in the lift did not have even mobile phones and their absence was detected only after the blaze had been put out. Nor did the firemen have breathing apparatus, which would have helped them cope with the toxic fumes. It is callous, if not criminal, to expose firemen to death without adequate protective gear.

 

As a nation, we need to put our act together to fight fires. A much more concerted effort is required for fire prevention and creating public awareness. At the same time, service conditions of firemen need to be improved radically. In view of the occupational hazards which require them to routinely put their lives at stake and be available round the clock, they need to be given higher allowances and an adequate insurance cover.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

FIGHTING THE MAOISTS

CENTRE PICKS UP THE CHALLENGE

BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

Two facts stand out as the Central Government wrestles with the problem of the growing Maoist menace: the beginning of a coherent strategy and the willingness of the authorities, with a competent Home Minister at the helm, to beef up an antiquated, creaking system to undertake meaningful action.

 

Two high-level arrests of Maoist leaders are one indication of a new resolve as is the new approach to disabusing the urban intellectual of the romantic connotations of rebellion by demonstrating the murders the Maoists have committed and their systematic destruction of infrastructure, the sinew of modern life. Mr P. Chidambaram, in any case, is quite clear about what needs to be done.

 

There can be no quarrel with social activists and human rights groups diagnosing the problem as one linked to widespread poverty and deprivation in large parts of the country, particularly in backward and tribal areas. Governance does not often reach down to the needy and such symbols of authority that do exist often tend to be venal and cynical.

 

In her intra-party struggle for power, Indira Gandhi had set the trend by demanding a committed bureaucracy, symbolised by the unfortunate Emergency period. The civil service system, basically inherited from the British, was professedly non-political, but once the bureaucracy became involved in political power games, with promotions dependent upon loyalty to politicians rather than merit, the rot set in.

 

Combined with this erosion of principles of good governance, the police force was subverted by politicians demanding partisan conduct. The weak and opportunists among the police force were willing to play the game, with disastrous results for the morale of the force and its relationship with the citizen. Recently, Mr Chidambaram equated politicians at the state level manipulating police officers with political football. Mass transfers seem to be the rule with a new chief minister taking office, disregarding the basic rules of governance. This leads to demoralisation in the police force and a colossal waste of public money in cash-starved states.

 

The vaunted steel frame of India no longer does justice to its original reputation although the number of police and other Central civil servants performing their tasks with distinction, despite the odds, is remarkable. But as a rule, the authorities must work with the somewhat demoralised and depleted ranks of civil and police officers. The first task, which the Home Minister seems to be undertaking, is to infuse new confidence in the police force, in addition to getting them the modern weapons they need to fight the Maoists increasingly arming themselves with more sophisticated arms.

 

The chicken and egg argument on whether development should go hand in hand with fighting the Maoist forces continues to dominate urban discourse. But Mr Chidambaram seems to have resolved the dilemma for himself and his forces. His premise is that there can be no development of any kind, whatever the origin of deprivation that made people hospitable to Maoists in the first place, unless the territory that has been unlawfully seized from the state in what is billed as a revolution to overthrow authority by force is taken back. In other words, any development, whether in building roads or digging wells, can come only after defeating the Maoists in an area.

 

The Prime Minister has wisely decided not to use the armed forces for fighting Maoists. Already, the forces are called to the aid of civil authorities far too often, impairing their preparedness for the country's defence and affecting their morale. Rather, fighting insurgency, however vicious, must be the task of well-equipped police and paramilitary forces.

The 2002 tragedy in Gujarat was an extreme example of the failure of the police to perform its essential tasks

without being suborned by the political authorities. Mr Chidambaram's writ does not often run in the states, but to the extent he can infuse discipline and loyalty in the central paramilitary forces, particularly trained commandos, he would have won half the battle.

 

No minister, however competent, can change the habits and customs of people overnight. Sloppiness and lack of discipline are among our national failings. They are inevitably reflected in the work of the police force, as in other areas. Only the armed forces have the training regimen to put men and women through the paces and instil precision and discipline in their tasks.

 

Next only to training and equipping forces is the urgency of coordination among the states. Successes in the anti-Maoist campaigns have come when states' forces have worked in tandem. Andhra is a good example of the training and coordination of anti-Maoist outfits to good effect. For the daring of the Maoist outfits is not to be sneezed at. The spectacular attempt on Mr Chandrababu Naidu's life during his tenure as chief minister is but one example of Maoist planning.

 

There is the controversial question of civilian militia, particularly the Salwa Julum, being armed to fight the Maoists. The Supreme Court has given a clear verdict and it is self-defeating to enlist unorganised civilians in undertaking what amounts to revenge killings to get even with Maoists. To begin with, the concept is open to political abuse and can lead to bloodletting and settling of personal scores, as is evident in such states as Jharkhand. As a rule, proportional force to subdue incipient revolutions must be applied by the legitimate authority.

 

Mr Chidambaram has his work cut out to battle the Maoists in the coin of force they understand and respect. The entire second five-year term of the United Progressive Alliance government would be insufficient to complete the task. Rather, he can only initiate the processes that would lead to a long-term coherent plan to undertake meaningful development after restoring territory to authority by posting competent and dedicated civilian officers. Such officers do exist. The remedy is to give them leeway to undertake imaginative programmes to help the poor and the needy. What the people really need is good governance. They immediately recognise it when they see it.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE COLOURFUL SPECIES

BY SARVJIT SINGH

 

At the outset my apologies to those who may choose to identify themselves with some of the characters in the fiction that follows, but I can no longer bear the weight of thought that my system is pregnant with and is kicking hard to be delivered.

 

Lunch time being the best to socialise if you want to keep the evenings to yourself, I find myself sharing a meal with one friend or the other at least once a fortnight in one of the various restaurants of Chandigarh that are different apparently, but alike basically.

 

One cannot help but notice the flocks of women perched in any of these restaurants in any season. Irrespective of the age and shape one can see them wrapped in attires imagined and unimagined, the ingenious cuts trying desperately to make the bulges look aesthetic. With the facial lines, shallow or deep, filled with thick foundation, the darkest to the lightest shades of lipsticks painted with great precision, designer bags held out prominently as they step out of the cars, with one hand on the carefully chosen goggles and eye on the designer watches; one can often see them rushing in, lest they are late for the important 'meetings'.

 

The agenda of the meetings that every other visitor to the restaurant, willing or not, is made privy to, lest two such meetings proceed in parallel, making it impossible to decipher anything in that case, invariably has the new gym or the new suit-sari store or a jewellery shop on it. The chatter on the agenda items is punctuated by tornadoes of laughter that rattle the entire place periodically.

 

As the meetings warm up, one can see the talk of diet and weight control go haywire. One can sometimes spot one going almost breathless with the mammoth effort of chewing large quantities of food, followed by even strenuous act of lifting the entire body weight from the chair and then making a round of the buffet table.

 

Eventually, as the 'great sporting event' draws to a close, one can sense calm descending as a result of exhaustion, as they puff the sweat oozing out of the foundations with tissue paper and reward themselves with ice cream or gulab jamun with rabri or both before waddling like penguins to the doors of the cars held open by the chauffeurs.

 

Every time, I witness this phenomenon, I am compelled to think why they are so anxious to eat when they have already built enough reserves to last a famine of an year at least and marvel at their profound foresight and planning. Then remembering the maxim that everything on this earth has a purpose, I ponder how would, the restaurants of Chandigarh survive without the patronage of this 'Colourful Species'.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

AFGHAN WOMEN DREAD THE RETURN OF TALIBAN REGIME AND REPRESSION

BY WAZHMA FROGH

 

As an Afghan woman who for many years lived a life deprived of the most basic human rights, I find unbearable the thought of what will happen to the women of my country if it once again falls under the control of the insurgents and militants who now threaten it.

 

In 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, the liberation of Afghan women was one of the most important justifications for military intervention. Has the world now changed its mind about Afghan women? Is it ready to let them once again be killed and tortured by militants? Does the world no longer believe in the principles it supported in 2001?

 

Handing over Afghanistan to those who intend to keep the country centuries behind most of the world — to men who do not view women as human beings — would not only call into doubt the global commitment to human rights, it would also raise questions about the commitment of Western democracies to such rights and to democratic values.

 

Bearing in mind how fragile the Afghan government is at this moment, it will not take long for the country's women to come under attack again. The consequences will be worse this time because no matter how limited our success, we have at least managed to act in the forefront of public life in Afghanistan. We have had a taste of what it's like to have rights.

 

And it is not us alone. On my way to Kabul's international airport recently, I noticed a crowd of taxi drivers sitting under a tree at the airport taxi stand. They were mourning the deaths of Italian troops and Afghans in the suicide attack on Sept. 17 near Kabul. As I talked with them, I realized that they were not only saddened by the deaths but frightened by what they might mean.

 

"Today, after eight years, if the foreign troops leave ... we will go back to the same Afghanistan that seemed like a funeral every day," one of the drivers said. "This time, the loss will be huge, because during the past eight years we have made significant progress in becoming part of the rest of the world, so much so that our enemies despise us for it."

 

There has been progress in Afghanistan, as many such people will tell you. But can it be maintained if Washington and its allies shift their focus solely to dismantling al-Qaida while regarding the Taliban as a lesser threat? The answer to that question will be a life-or-death matter for many thousands of women in my country, and men as well.

 

The fact that it is even being considered makes me wonder: Have people forgotten that it was the Taliban that put the lives of millions of Afghans at risk for the sole purpose of protecting Osama bin Laden — thus making it clear that their loyalty was to him alone? What is to stop this from happening again under Taliban rule?

 

Afghans understand the need for international assistance, both for the country's development and for the strengthening of its military. This is especially evident now that the insurgency and the violence are less their own creation than an unwanted gift from the other side of the border with Pakistan.

 

We see some of NATO's allies rapidly losing interest in Afghanistan, even though they admit that if the country is left to the insurgents, the consequence will be many more incidents like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

They are being persuaded by a propaganda war on the part of insurgents who seem to have convinced much of the world that they are winning the war. But in fact the enemy will win only if the international community allows itself to be influenced by this propaganda campaign.

 

The question to keep in mind for all parties involved is, what motivated them to come to Afghanistan in the first place? The answer: global security and the protection of human rights in Afghanistan. Are these two purposes no longer valid?

 

Afghans do not want to rely forever on such help. They want to take ownership of the war against terrorism and insurgents. History has proved that we have always fought in defense of our sovereignty, and that is why patriotism is central to this war.

 

With good training and adequate weaponry, the Afghan army can win the trust of villagers, who will support it in protecting villages from suicide attackers and insurgents. To achieve this goal, the international community should work with the Afghan government as an ally and avoid creating a parallel government competing with that Afghan government.

 

It would be helpful to hold an international conference in Afghanistan to allow the government and parliament to come up with common solutions for all parties to adhere to. Such international engagement inside Afghanistan would give a sense of ownership to Afghans, offering a change from the international conferences of the past, where Afghans rarely found an opportunity to express their opinions and offer solutions.

 

At this time of violence and anxiety, it is important for the international community and the United States to reaffirm their commitment to Afghanistan rather than questioning whether it is worth defending an entire people against those who would install another brutally repressive regime under which women cannot be educated or seek to improve their lot, where "justice" is meted out in mass public executions, where repression is the rule — and where new terrorist plots will inevitably be hatched to attack the United States and its allies.

 

The people of Afghanistan, and most fervently its women, desire a long-term and consistent relationship with the United States and European democracies. We do not want to become another Vietnam. We want to be an example of the success of global commitment to making the world a better and safer place for everyone, from New York to London to Helmand.

 

The writer, a graduate student at Warwick University in Britain, is the recipient of the US State Department's 2009 International Women of Courage Award for Afghanistan

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHY VOTES VANISH

BY LALIT MOHAN

 

This time the authorities in Gurgaon made a serious attempt to set right the anomalies in the voters' list, but were let down again by the system. The saving grace was the helpdesk they set up, which made it easier to trace the vote – if it still existed.

 

There were complaints galore in the last Lok Sabha polls about names missing in the electoral roll. On a personal note, I voted, but my wife, who had been doing it all these years, could not because her name disappeared from the roll. We have been living at the same address for 19 years, have contiguous voter card numbers. Our names were verified again when a re-check was done during a survey earlier this year. My son's name appeared twice in the list. My daughter, whose name was missing the last time, learnt that it had magically reappeared without any effort on her part. On the flip side, I know of people who have passed away, or shifted residence, but were, despite 'door-to-door verification', still listed as voters.

 

After the Lok Sabha election a special effort was made to get at least the missing names back on the list. I live in a colony of 373 houses on Mehrauli Road, Gurgaon. About 130 new voters' cards were issued. And all of them arrived with addresses on one 'Champa Road' which is about three km away. The name of our colony was omitted altogether. This happened to residents in several other group housing condominiums in the town. It seems that in each such case, after the names had been entered, to save time and effort, a common location was entered through one simple all-encompassing command.

 

As proof of identity these cards were useless, but the election office said that they could still be used to vote and to facilitate this they set up a special voting centre in our colony.

 

On the Vidhan Sabha election day we found that, as assured, my wife's name was in the list, even if the address

was incorrect, but this time mine was missing! It was only after contacting the help desk that I learnt that most of the original voters' names had been transported en bloc to another block quite distant from our booth.

Something is very wrong with the system. Watching this happen over the years one gets some idea of why this happens. In the area where I live in Gurgaon, one housing condominium, and parts of a 'plotted' colony and a village comprise a common list and vote at the same centre. Each locality has its unique numbering scheme for houses. But when all addresses are entered together into a computer in their alpha-numeric sequence, they get totally jumbled. And when this mess is translated from English characters, which are normally used to list houses, to Hindi, the confusion gets confounded further.

 

The enumerators all too often fail to exercise due diligence while entering house addresses. They abbreviate them without following any consistent rule. Even a simple error can, in the computer's almighty churn, transpose any house to another part of the constituency. This is why, even if the name is listed, it takes an effort to find it.

 

The problem gets compounded when the election office updates the original data. Checking staff are sent from house to house for verification. They are given an already messed up list as the basic data. If an inspector goes strictly by this, he would start with one house, but find that the next one listed is streets away. Not many can resist the temptation to randomly remove or retain the names printed in the given roll. If one raises an objection later, the reply given is invariably: "Our staff went to your house, but found nobody there." Then why should a name appear twice? But it is their word against yours. Or, you could be told, "You should have come here and checked the list in good time," which is ridiculous because if you have not moved house, there is no reason why you should.

 

It is possible that the problem is more serious in towns like Gurgaon where demographics are changing rapidly and constant revision is required. To get it right, this exercise has to commence from scratch. Start with the addresses first. List the houses and colonies or roads in some recognizable order. This should be the base. Then fill in the names and other details. Checking will then become easier and the voters' cards will give the full and correct identity.

 

And it will facilitate locality or ward-wise break up of the roll, which is how the list of local bodies' voters is drawn up. At present there are two separate lists for their and the legislatures' elections. The qualifications of the electors are the same in both cases. With the improved format one list will serve the purpose of two. The cost and the time saved in preparing and revising rolls will be an added bonus.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

DELHI DURBAR

NOBEL FOR OBAMA GOOD NEWS FOR INDIA?

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lost no time in sending a congratulatory letter to President Barack Obama after he was named as the Nobel Peace Prize winner. The next day, Manmohan Singh even called up the US leader to congratulate him.

 

However, Indian officials have a different take on Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Their apprehension is that since Obama has won the prize for his efforts aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, he would start exerting pressure on India to sign the NPT, which New Delhi considers discriminatory.

 

The fear is that Obama may start working on India as early as next month when Manmohan Singh visits Washington as the first state guest of his administration. Just last month, Obama had convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council on non-proliferation which was clearly seen as an attempt to bring countries like India under the NPT regime.

 

Obama's gestures such as celebrating Diwali in the White House have certainly increased his fan following in India but his non-proliferation agenda may well turn out to be a sticking point for the two countries in the coming days.

 

If gold glitters, silver too shines

 

The effect of global recession wore off the Indian market this Diwali as was visible from the brisk business that traders did during the days preceding the most important Indian festival.

 

Among the precious metals, even though gold saw a decline in sales mainly due to the high price it has been trading at, it was silver, the cheaper between the two, which saw high demand.

 

A visit to some of the big jewellers on the 'Dhanteras' day revealed that by the late afternoon they had run out of silver coins and were only offering gold coins.

 

South Block wakes up to China threat

 

Just a month ago correspondents covering the ministries of Defence and Home  were blamed for fanning "anti-China" feelings with their reports on Chinese intrusions into Ladakh and also China's military exercise involving the movement of some 50,000 troops.

 

A noted columnist even called these media reports as "war mongering". Last week when China protested against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, an official grudgingly admitted "had it not been for the media, certain things may have never been highlighted in India".  

 

China's recent aggressive posturing, particularly on Arunachal Pradesh, is being seen in the South Block as a move aimed at hard bargaining in border talks with India. Much will depend upon a possible meeting between Prime Minister Singh and his Chinese counterpart in Thailand later this week on the fringes of the ASEAN submit.

 

Contributed by Ashok Tuteja, Girja Kaura and Ajay Banerjee

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DAM ACROSS TSANGPO

 

In a curious geographical phenomenon, within about five degrees difference of latitude, the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China possesses the sources of a number of rivers, not the least being the Tsangpo, known as Siang-Dihang in Arunachal Pradesh and Brahmaputra in the Assam valley. This was primarily the reason why Tibet was annexed by China in the first place, for control of water resources is the key to economic growth and global power in the future when, as warned by experts, water would become a scarce commodity. Apart from providing life sustaining drinking-water, rivers have numerous other uses, providing alluvium and generating electricity being but two of these. The so called Brahmaputra Valley is the perfect example of an eco-system absolutely dependent on a mega-river and its tributaries, its soil fertility being the biggest tribute to their capacity to sustain societies and help erect civilisations. Thus the denizens of the valley have reacted with trepidation at the news that China might have commenced building a number of dams on the main-stream of the Tsangpo. Worse still, media reports have suggested that China is planning to divert the course of the river to its own advantage, at the Gyala Peri – Namcha Barwa section, where it makes a dramatic U-turn and, rather than flow on towards China, enters Indian territory at Arunachal Pradesh.


The Chinese have so far categorically denied that there was a plan to divert the course of the river. Rather than diversion, even if China attempts to harness the Tsangpo by building dams across it, the Brahmaputra valley may have to bear the brunt of such tinkering with Nature. The hydrologic changes which might be brought about by large scale human interference upon the river-system remain unknown and there is real danger that the downstream impact might prove to be detrimental to the people living in the valley. Arunachal's own plans of building dams on the Dihang and some tributaries might not come to fruition as a consequence of upstream harnessing of their flow by the Chinese. As reported in this paper, Chinese media has claimed that the Gezhouba Group Corporation has already been given a contract to build a 510 MW hydroelectric project on the main stream of the Tsangpo, and other similar projects are on the anvil. If true, this is serious news indeed, but the Indian Government does not appear to have realised its gravity. Not only is it yet to verify whether China, in fact, has started construction, but also India appears to be displaying overt faith on the 2006 protocol whereby both countries agreed to establish an Expert Level Mechanism to discuss trans-border river issues in an institutional way. Given China's history of betrayal, such faith might be misplaced. and 1962 might be repeated albeit in a different way!

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EMPLOYEES' SALARY

 

With the Sixth State Pay Commission recommending pay parity with Central scales for State government employees, and the State Government endorsing the suggestions, the decks have been cleared for fulfilling a long-standing demand of the employees. The new pay scales would entail an additional expenditure of Rs 4,500 crore annually, raising the percentage of spending on salaries by ten per cent. As announced by the Chief Minister, the State Government has already made a budgetary provision of Rs 3,382 crore for the purpose, and the pay panel recommendations could be implemented within the current fiscal year itself. If all this materializes as is being conceived, it would indeed be a memorable occasion for the State Government employees. The State Government must be given due credit for showing genuine concern to a legitimate demand of the employees. With inflationary rise in prices of essential commodities, especially foodstuff, a substantial hike in the salary of the employees has long been overdue. While price rise has severely affected the lower and middle income groups including the salaried class, its impact has been even harsher on the marginal agriculturists, daily wage earners and all those toiling in the unorganized sector. The State Government would do well to bring in effective interventions for providing some succour to these people, especially in matters such as health care, subsidized food grains, education for children, etc.


Now that enhanced monetary benefits are more or less assured for the State government employees, the beneficiaries cannot escape the obligation of putting in a matching effort towards honest and diligent discharge of their duties. About the prevailing work culture in our government offices, the less said the better. In fact, this is precisely the reason why the government employees' agitation for better perks had failed to elicit much public sympathy over the years. Anyone even remotely conversant with the ways of government offices is unlikely to mince words on the sheer lackadaisical attitude of a majority of employees in discharging even the routine works. It is for the employees themselves to redeem their lost image, which is one of inefficiency and callousness. The employees' organizations, the SAKP in particular, should place this at the top of their agenda. They should chalk out an action plan for ensuring a vibrant work culture and checking corrupt practices. Right and responsibility cannot be viewed in isolation since they are two sides of the same coin.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

JASWANT SINGH'S MISADVANTURE WITH HISTORY

ARIJIT BHATTACHARYA

 

After 62 years of independence, when the real problems of India remain to be social and economic inequalities, deep rooted corruption and unemployment and the real reasons behind these actual troubles are mal-distribution of income, and unequal ownership of resources, and the actual concern and anxiety of the political and bureaucratic leadership remain in ensuring two square meals to fill the belly, arranging clothes to cover privacy and providing roofs for millions of people, some of India's opposition leaders like LK Advani and Jaswant Singh at different times for their selfish political gains, engaged themselves in tracing the role of individual leaders in the partition of India in 1947 that gave birth to India and Pakistan. Resultantly, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who sowed the seeds of division of India by evolving the two– nation theory citing the ground that a Muslim homeland in Indian sub-continent was the only way of safeguarding Muslim interests and the Muslim way of life, is being viewed by these leaders as a secularist and they have on different occasions attempted to prove that Jinnah is being wrongly demonised in India for the partition. When in reality, Jinnah apprehended that the Muslims in independent India would be deprived from all prospects of advancement after transfer of power to an organisation dominated by majority Hindus. Jinnah, however, could not anticipate that the serene and secular Hindu society would be so tolerant, compassionate, and loveable to co-exist in an environment of religious and linguistic diversity. As such, to safeguard the interests of the Muslims, Mohammad Ali Jinnah carried on nation-wide campaign and converted the Muslim League into a powerful instrument for unifying the Muslims into a nation.


The idea of formation of a new Muslim State of Pakistan was evolved by the Muslim League in its Lahore Meeting on March 22-23,1940 and subsequently across the Indian sub-continent echoed the same in the minds of the middle class Muslims who became jubilant about the idea. However, at a time, when the idea of formation of Pakistan captured the imagination of the Muslims, it was initially ridiculed and then tenaciously opposed by the Congress Party which was spearheading the movement of Indian independence. In the given circumstances, Jinnah emerged as the most dependable friend of the British rulers and an undisputed leader of an embryonic Muslim nation in Indian sub-continent. The joint opposition of MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru could have helped in reversing the growing euphoric environment among the Muslims who delineated themselves from the majority Hindus. The growing environment of suspicion and hatred between these two communities was further aggravated by the skillful handling of the situation by Mahammad Ali Jinnah, who whole-heartedly supported the British during World War-II, at a time when the Congress Party refused to co-operate with the British in repelling the Japanese attack on the sub-continent in 1942 and insisted the British to leave the Indian soil. The Indian nationalist group led by Subhas Chandra Bose also fought on the Japanese side in Burma and India that further antagonized the British who fostered the policy of divide and rule and loved politics of division as their long cherished political ideology.


Accordingly, India was partitioned in 1947 into two States of India and Pakistan to create a homeland for the Muslims, during which process more than one million people lost their lives in the communal violence that followed. Sikhs and Bengali Hindus were being driven out of towns and villages fallen in the newly formed Pakistan's territory of western Punjab, Eastern Bengal and some parts of Assam uprooting over 17 million people mostly Sikhs from Western Punjab and Bengali Hindus from East Bengal and parts of Assam. However, the uprooted Sikhs and Hindusof East Punjab made it sure that the exodus of the Sikh and the Hindu refugees was not going to be a one-way traffic. They drove out Muslims from East Punjab but that was not happened in West Bengal and Assam where exodus of refugees remain a one-way traffic. The event of uprooting of population during India's partition was the most catastrophic event in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, however, due to vastness of India's size, the devastative impact of partition was not felt in most parts of the country. The majority of the people did not realize the feeling of the pain of partition, the grief of abandoning ancestral home, desertion of birth place, defamation of being rootless, anxiety of displacement and resettlement, tumultuous pain for leaving behind the loved ones, impatient feeling of getting warm touches of the missing-closed-ones and the sweltering taste of growing in the midst of myriad problems, only with the strength of courage, commitment and conviction and by trusting the illustration of the noble, the pious and the honest people.

Consequently, in the changed socio-economic environment, for most of the
people, it does not matter whether Muhammad Ali Jinnah or Jawaharlal Nehru was behind the cause of partition of India. As such, praising Jinnah would neither serve the purpose of making BJP a secular party among the Indian Muslims nor reverse the history of India's partition. But it would definitely alienate the Hindus and Sikhs from the BJP and cause rift and division in the party. The process of India's partition was planned and favoured by the colonial British rulers who were supported by Jinnah. By accepting Jinnah's two nation theory, Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi, who awakened the sleeping Indians by means of his Satyagraha to assert their right to self determination, turned himself into a hapless spectator of the most ugly and heinous expression of hatred and social divide created by Jinnah's act of unifying Muslims into a nation State and playing politics with caste, creed and religion. Gandhiji also could not resist the imprudent proposal of ceding the district of Syhlet from Assam that has created the problems of illegal infiltration and population explosion in the state, for which even after six decades of indepence Assam continues to suffer from the twofold affects of loss of territory and unending flow of illegal infiltration with a genuine threat of confronting demographic change.


By conceding to the two nation theory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Indian leadership of Gandhi-Nehru combine ceded one-fourth of Indian-soil to the newly form State of Pakistan but to prove their secular identity they did not compel 80 per cent of Indian Muslims, who supported creation of the Islamic State of Pakistan, to move to that country. Similarly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah also did not take any effective measure to stop deliberate and systematic extermination and killing of innocent Sikhs and Hindus residing in the territories which were fallen into the newly formed nation of Pakistan. Garnering support for creation of the Muslim State of Pakistan by inciting religious sentiment of the Muslims and not taking all the Muslims into the territory of their dreamland of Pakistan, Jinnah caused injustice to them and left many more million of Muslims in India with an unvanishing stricture of mistrusted minority for which one could find that at any point of agony and grief caused by communal misgivings, the national flag of Pakistan is hoisted in many parts of India dominated by the Muslim community that reflects a clear expression of their feeling of deprivation during partition and a confused assertion to find a new found-land for them.


Similarly, Gandhi Nehru duo also deprived the Hindus who maintained irrefutable faith on them and made them indisputable leaders, but in return they put all those Sikhs and Hindus who were fallen into the territory of Pakistan into an uncertain future, an one hand, Nehru-Gandhi duo caused uprooting of all those Hindus who did not vote for partition of India and made them refugees only to flee for protection from danger of life and safety and on the other they did not allow those Muslims who wanted partition for creation of the Muslim State of Pakistan to move to that country after its formation merely to consolidate their identity as secular leaders and made them mistrusted minority only to vote for a particular political party during election abandoning their individual choice.


Muhommad Ali Jinnah was not a religious minded person but he used certain Islamic slogans to mobilize the Muslims of Indian sub-continent against the Hindus as a political force for acquiring political power for himself, occupied the post of President of Indian Muslim League, caused partition of India with Muslim dominated western and southeastern parts of India, created Muslim land of Pakistan and became Prime Minister but could not retain the new-found nation's political and physical position intact even for 30 years. It is this incitement of communal passion and propagation of extreme degree of hatred and dislike in the minds of the Muslims of Indian sub-continent against the Hindus by Muhammad Ali Jinnah that is responsible for everything that has happened over the last 62 years – territorial row over Kashmir, three wars between India and Pakistan, nuclear arm race, demolition of Babri Masjid, Godhra and post-Godhra riots.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FOOD SECURITY AND INFLATION

SATYA RANJAN DOLEY

 

Human being needs food for survival and the question of food security, therefore, arisesing this context. World Development Report (1986) defined food security as "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life." Another definition of food security was given by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO,1983) as "ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to basic flood they need." At household level, food security implies having physical and economic access to food articles that are adequate in terms of quantity, quality and affordability.


The Indian planners felt the need of self sufficiency in food grains right from the beginning of'planning period. Most of the food–surplus countries be capable dominating other countries using it as a weapon. Our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in one of his broadcasts to the nation stated very candidly, 'we have sought help from abroad .... and we shall continue to do so under pressure of necessity, but the conviction is growing upon once more forcefully than ever how dangerous it for us to depend for this prime necessity of life on foreign countries . It is only when we obtain self sufficient in food that we can progress and develop ourselves. Otherwise, there is the continuous pressure of circumstances, there is trouble and misery and there is sometimes shame and humiliation.'


There are some components of food security and the main components of these are: Firstly, promoting domestic production to meet the demand of the growing population and reduce under nutrition among quite a large section of population. Secondly, providing minimum support prices (MSP) for procurement and storage of food items. Thirdly, operating a public distribution system (PDS). Fourthly, maintaining buffer stocks so as to take care of natural calamities resulting in temporary shortage of food and to act countervailing mechanism against dishonest businessman.


In India, majority of the people are poor for which they can not afford to purchase even the essential commodities. Keeping in view, the government of India introduce the public distribution system and adopted dual price mechanism to help the poor sections. At the PDS outlet, the issue price of food articles was kept lower than the market price to enable the poor to purchase subsidised food. But the PDS has been unable to yield the desired result.


This year, many States were hit by drought for which the country's food production likely to slump by million of tonnes in the coming days. We have already witnessed the price rise of essential commodities. The prices of all essential commodities have gone up many times, thus, affecting the poor adversely. This phenomenon is termed as inflation. Inflation is statistically measured in termed of percentage increase in the price index per unit of time (usually a year or month).


The price of essential commodities rose exorbitantly on yearly basis fueling inflation to 0.37 during the second week of September from 0.12 per cent a week ago. Overall price of raw food items climbed by 15.67 per cent during the week ended September, 12 year on year driven mainly by 44.85 per cent rise in vegetable prices. The essential commodities rise include potatoes turned costlier by 75 per cent, pulses by 21 per cent, rice by 17 per cent, processed food items were up 12.68 per cent on year basis as sugar turned dearer by 43.35 per cent. This has left option with the Government but to take steps to bolster supplies because of drought conditions in most part of the country.


The Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) remarked that the whole sale price index (WPI) inflation could hit 6 per cent by the end of the fiscal year in March, above the Central Bank's July forecast of around 5 per cent. Economist have said inflation could reach as high as 8 per cent by the end of March.


The Agricultural Ministry of India issued statement asking all the states to explore the possibility of increasing coverage under wheat, summer rice and pulses. According to the statement, "since wheat contributes over 73 per cent of rabi crop, production stress is being laid on increasing wheat production substantially. One effective measure suggested for raising wheat yield is early sowing, by the end of November and the other is to bring maximum area under high yielding and high temperature tolerant varieties. In the case of rice, the second most important rabi crop, stress is on planting in new areas, adoption of an improved package of practices and planting hybrids that have high yield potential."


Globally, there is need to shoot up the global food output from the present level because of growing population. The present production is not sufficient to feed the growing number of the population in the distant future. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) "the global food production must hike by 70 per cent to be able to feed an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050." Therefore, feeding a world population of 9.1 billion in 2050 from the current 6.8 billion would require overall 70 per cent surge in food production.

The policy makers of India including the world need to give thought on the at this juncture. The production of food is related to environmental issue. hence, everyone has to be cautious the present climate change due to global warming.


(The writer teaches in DHSK Commerce College, Dibrugarh).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

Through the third eye

AFTER THE DELUGE


The recent floods in Andhra Pradesh have virtually washed away the challenge to CM K Rosaiah from the strong lobby that has been campaigning for elevation of YSR's son Jagan to the top slot in Hyderabad. Assessment of the state's flood relief requirements has also revealed that the state's finances are not in great shape. This has prompted Rosaiah's backers in Delhi to stress that the state now needs expert handling of its financial situation and the former FM is the right man for the tough job. As a result, supporters of YSR's son now feel the young aspirant might have to settle for a compromise. Jagan might be accommodated either at the state level or at the Centre, but Rosaiah's chair certainly doesn't seem to be up for grabs for now.


LEVELLING THE WAR

Quite a multi-dimensional campaign is on in Kerala's Kannur for the assembly by-election. In this ground zero of Kerala's violent political battleground, both the Congress and CPI-M have unleashed an all out fight for supremacy. For the Marxists, especially for Pinarayi Vijayan, wresting the seat from the Congress is a prestige issue. So, Pinarayi's trusted lieutenant M V Jayarajan has been fielded to fight former party MP-turned-Congress nominee A P Abdullakutty. But shadow play is at work. In reality this is a war between Pinarayi and local Congress strongman K Sudhakaran — who vacated the seat to rock the Marxist citadel in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress has always alleged that state home minister and CPI-M Kannur heavyweight Kodiyeri Balakrishnan unleashed police power on rivals, but this time the Congress has got a level playing field with its junior minister at the Union home ministry, Mullappilli Ramachadran, too spending a lot of quality time in his home-ground. This is one complicated fight!


HIDDEN HOPES

While the AICC is generally exuding confidence about a comfortable win for the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress in Haryana, some partymen are hoping against hope that voters will make Team Hooda struggle this time. No, we are not talking about the sulking anti-Hooda leaders in the Haryana Congress. Ironically, many of Hooda's own caste and party members in neighbouring Rajasthan are praying for a jolt for their party in its quest for a second-term in the 'Jatland'. The logic? Well, some entrenched Jat leaders of the Rajasthan Congress, denied berths in the Union Cabinet and feeling uneasy under Ashok Gehlot's chief ministership, are hoping a scare in Haryana would prods the high command to pay them some attention. And if their hopes are dashed? Then, most likely, they'll probably be shaking a leg at Hooda's victory dance.


REFUGE OF THE LAW

Though there's been much talk, periodically, on the influx of refugees from various countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Nepal, India does not have a comprehensive policy on refugee rehabilitation. This gap is now being filled through a new law with the government preparing a Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Protection) Bill to seek Parliament's approval. Surely, with India's neighbourhood dotted with trouble spots, such a policy was needed. Well, Third Eye learns the proposed law will discourage illegal influx of refugees and provide adequate scope for those who seek asylum in India on valid grounds. After all, with the sort of strife going on in Pakistan, perhaps a day may come when India has to deal with refugees from across the western border too!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEFENDING HATE SPEECH

 

Just how, in our benighted land, do we control the umpteen rabble rousers, the peddlers of hate and acrimony so often found to be gracing our airwaves and much else? Well, for once, perhaps we could pay attention to a blazing row on much the same question that's raging in Ol'Blighty. At the centre of the controversy is the BBC's decision to invite Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP), to a prominent television debate. Problem is the BNP happens to be a downright racist party. White supremacist and all that.

Its 'rise' was accompanied by sundry attacks on minorities, immigrants and gays, and whose 'constitution' openly bars Black, Asian and Jewish people from being members of the party. If they would want to is a different issue, given that the BNP envisages Nazi-style disenfranchising the whole lot. Given the UK's race-relations regulation, the party could, possibly, be banned. Retorting to which Nick Griffin has stated his party would amend its rules. Which, again, would make for a curious situation. The issue for now, however, is that old debate whether freedom of expression can extend to people who openly advocate hate and bigotry. The 'yeas' aver that suppressing any ideas can yield worse results. The naysayers say giving the odd fascist any space already spells trouble. The furore is on, with Downing street, the entire political class, the Beeb itself, not to mention various activist groups and individuals all blazing away at each other.


Now, however they resolve the issue over there, one does ponder why we don't seem to be so touchy on the issue. We do certainly have all sorts of fundos and madcaps in our midst. Seriously extreme views are commonly expressed through our media. Do we then, unconsciously, recognise a need for free expression, whatever it may be? Are we that good? Or have we institutionalised just one sort of hatred? Or is it plain acknowledgement of some inherent, and pan-Indian, bigotry? Should we try to learn something from the current row in the UK, or should they learn from how we manage things? Well, that's one for individual thought. But, as someone said, invective can be fine as long as it's not directed at you!

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WELCOME NEW PRICE INDEX

 

The government has decided to release data for manufactured goods in the wholesale price index (WPI) with a monthly frequency, even as data on primary goods and fuels would continue to be released every week. Further, the revamped WPI would cover about 900 items instead of 435 at present, and the base year is being brought forward from 1993-94 to 2004-05. These changes would make the price index more reliable as a policy guide. However, the government needs to press on with its agenda of price index reform: a producer price index, several and combined services indices, and an expanded consumer price index that better reflects today's urban consumption.

There is little sense in releasing manufacturing price data on a weekly basis, when only 16-20% of the WPI items are updated. For the rest, the common practice has been to repeat the data of the previous reported week, as companies continue to be indifferent on reporting price data on a weekly basis. The Collection of Statistics Act is yet to become operational law, shielding truant companies from penal action. So price data have been subject to high volatility: the revised numbers come eight weeks after the provisional ones and often look vastly different, too. The monthly release of inflation data should give the Office of the Economic Adviser, attached to the department of industrial policy & promotion, enough time to improve reporting to cover perhaps 60% or more of manufactured products.


Shifting to the new series was overdue, after nine-and-a-half years. Ideally, price series as well as other series such as the ones for industrial production must be revised more frequently, say, every five years, to capture the changes in the economy, industrial activity and the consumption basket. India is notoriously backward on this count. For instance, prior to shifting to the 1993-94 series for WPI in April 2000, the reference year was 1981-82. The efficacy of the new index would be proven only if the margin between the revised numbers and the provisional numbers is narrowed.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GALLEON'S LESSONS

 

Contrary to widespread belief, insider trading is depressingly commonplace. But not surprising, given the number of entities — investment banks, commercial banks, rating agencies, consultants, staff, board of directors — that are privy to information that is not publicly available. The temptation to use or rather misuse such information is bound to be high, especially when the stakes are so huge and the chances of being caught and punished so low (as evidenced by the abysmal record of regulators in nabbing the guilty).

 

Hence it is significant that US tycoon of Sri Lankan origin Raj Rajaratnam and five others including two people of Indian origin have been charged with insider trading, based on wiretapped evidence. According to US prosecutors, Rajaratnam, founder of Galleon Group, a US-based hedge fund used insider information from sources inside hedge funds, public companies, Moody's Investors Service and an investor relations firm to trade ahead of earnings announcements, acquisitions and joint ventures. What is new are both the quantum involved — $20 million, which makes it the largest to date involving hedge funds — and the use of wiretaps, normally reserved for organised crime and deployed only after court authorisation.

 

To the extent wiretaps violate a zealously guarded, hard-won right — citizens' right to privacy — they raise disturbing questions about the means used.We have always been wary of allowing the state the usurp citizens' rights as that could well be the thin edge of the wedge when it comes to interference in other areas as well. But in cases such as insider-trading that are notoriously hard to fix — in the present instance, too, it is doubtful if the prosecution would prove successful if a whistle-blower does not turn up — there could be some justification for suspending such niceties. With white-collar crime becoming increasingly frequent — Kenneth Lay, Madoff, Conrad Black, not to mention our own Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parikh and more recently Ramalinga Raju — the battle against such crime has to be carried to a new level if it is to have any success.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MINING RARE EARTHS FOR A HI-TECH FUTURE

ABHEEK BARMAN

 

What's the connection between the latest Sony Playstation, the Chinese government's recent attempts to curb some exports and a vicious war in Central Africa? Two little known minerals called, columbite and tantalum, which Africans collectively call coltan.

 

Both are metals, found in very small amounts on Earth, essential for all the smart technologies that we can't live without. Columbite (or niobium) and tantalum are only two of the many minerals called 'rare earths'. As the name suggests this stuff is thin on the ground. Unlike minerals like iron ore, or coal or bauxite, some of these are so rare that their appearances are measured in parts per million, rather than percentages. But that doesn't mean they're useless, far from it.


Many of these are essential ingredients in mobile phones, video game machines, computers and even green technologies. For example tantalum, a shiny, blue grey metal, can make batteries smaller even while storing more power. It also goes into modern nuclear reactors and lethal smart bombs. Tiny amounts of two other rare earths dysprosium or terbium might soon be used in electric cars: they let batteries work at high temperatures.


For many years, India was the world's largest producer of these rare minerals, mined from coastal sand. But that leadership is long gone. India now is largely a coal and iron ore mining country, regulated by rules that are more than 50 years old. Few here know, or care, about the minerals of the future. If we don't wake up now, we'll lose the race to develop technologies of the future.


Rare earth is still mined here by small companies, many of which are fronts of state politicians or local mafia, with primitive technology and scant regard for safety or environment rules. This anarchy shows up in market share: till 1948, India was the world's largest producer of rare earths. Today, it's nowhere.


Now, one country controls 95% of these minerals of the future: China. From the 1980s, when China started growing its electronics businesses, Deng Xiaoping predicted rare earths would be the petroleum of the future. It increased production, expanded into new areas like Mongolia and bought out assets whenever it got a chance.


China's control over rare earths can give it enormous clout over supplies and prices. Its first move has been to try and hoard the stuff. The world's most aggressive exporter makes one exception to the rule: rare earth minerals. Taxes from 6% to about 40% have been slapped on exporters of the stuff. In some cases stringent quotas have been slapped on how much of these exotic minerals can be shipped overseas.


America, whose military industry is tech-savvy, has caught on. Recently, a journal called Defense News wrote, "Now armed with its monopoly, China is jacking up prices by cutting production and exports and pressuring high-tech manufacturers to set up shop in China, where supplies are more plentiful." It added, "The combination of rising costs and tighter control on exports, however, is alarming companies worldwide, including US weapons makers and Pentagon officials."


The production of energy efficient materials and high performance compounds is expected to grow fast in the west. Demand for rare earths is expected to surge and along with that, prices. Global investors have smelled windfall gains. Media reports say that an index of stocks of 12 companies that mine rare earths is up over 500% this year. Is that a bubble out there?

Never mind, projections of soaring demand have producers across the world scrambling to find new sources of these exotic minerals. The new exploration targets are Canada, where the chances of finding high-value "heavy" minerals are high, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.


Thankfully a few African countries have fallen off the exploration map. From the mid-1990s for nearly 10 years, about 80% of the world's production of coltan came from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at terrible cost. A nasty civil war raged through the country, with the most intense fighting in places where the minerals were found. After more than four million deaths, organisations like the UN cracked down and DRC's coltan became the new "blood diamond." Despite rampant smuggling, the DRC's share of rare earth production is now less than 1% of the world's total.


So where does all that leave India in the race for the minerals of the future? Last year, the government wrote a new policy promising to clean up regulations that hobble organised mining in a mass of red tape. It is now drafting a law to replace one written more than 50 years ago, a law overwritten with so many ifs-and-buts that it's nearly incomprehensible.


The new law will streamline the process of mining, from exploration to extraction. Potential miners will have to bid for mining leases in auctions, a departure from today's opaque practice of getting mines "allocated." States will get more powers but will be accountable for results.


Most of this stuff deals with major minerals. There's little or no attention devoted to rare earths. That, from what we've seen so far, could be a huge blunder. The rest of the world is off and running to corner those resources. India has to act now.


You can find stuff like coal or iron ore in large amounts in a relatively small area. That's unlikely for rare earths, whose deposits are likely to be scattered across many states. So India's mining rules, which give some powers to states, some to New Delhi and yet others to both, could become a huge roadblock for serious exotic mineral investors.


Studies have proved that miners face the biggest hurdles in states, where rules are often ad hoc and tend to change the minute you cross a boundary into another jurisdiction. That leads to confusion, delays and as we've seen in the case of Jharkhand, ultimately to graft.


If India has to become a significant player in tomorrow's technologies, it needs to draw up special rules for rare earths. These rules should insulate investors from the clutches of state politicians and bureaucracies. And it'll require New Delhi to draft special provisions for rare earths in its draft mining legislation. Exotic they may be, but rare earths are also essential.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CENSORSHIP ON A COSMIC SCALE

MUKUL SHARMA

 

 Is there a limit to what we can know about the universe or the nature of reality? Not a limit in the sense that we might never have the devices or brains to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos but a knowledge boundary we're not "permitted" to cross by an external agency. Such ideas don't necessarily spring from the minds of religious fanatics or the lunatic fringe but even from the writings of our great scientists. In 1992 the world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking posited a conjecture saying that going back in time may be forever forbidden because "...there is a chronology protection agency which prevents (this) and so makes the universe safe for historians."

Now comes an even more audacious suggestion from two distinguished physicists, Dr Holger Bech Nielsen and Dr Masao Ninomiya from Denmark and Japan, concerning the Large Hadron Collider which is about to become functional later this year. They say their maths proves that the hypothesised Higgs boson — or so-called "God particle"— which scientists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one. Something like a time traveller going back in time to kill his grandfather. "In the case of the Higgs and the collider," writes Nielsen, " it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus."


For the record, the multi-billion-dollar machine, built over almost 20 years by the European science agency CERN, was set to launch in 2008 but broke down after it overheated during a test run. The relaunch was then pushed back to late 2009 as more and more parts had to be replaced. Then, recently, CERN was scandalised when a leading LHC scientist was found to have approached al-Qaeda for work!


Are these convenient coincidences or is the troubled collider being sabotaged by its own future — a cosmic censor? According to Nielsen, all Higgs-producing machines will have bad luck. "One could even almost say that we have a model for God," he writes. "That He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them." Before we make up our minds it might be interesting to note what Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum theory, once told a colleague: "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct."

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARE NELP CONDITIONS ATTRACTIVE ENOUGH?

 

The customary post-mortem after each New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) round should not be just to find scapegoats, but to introspect seriously on the malaise underlying our hydrocarbon policy.

 

Undoubtedly, the geological data we are purveying are far from adequate. India has the world's lowest drilling intensity and the data packages need considerable improvement in collation and presentation, apart from supplementation of information from originators, which might have been withheld by accident or design. The sporadic efforts through exercises like speculative surveys have not helped in data enrichment. It is too early for the national data depository to have any significant impact. Recycling such blocks without significant improvement is not of much help.


The days of easy oil/gas are over and only technology-intensive companies can find them. What bidding criteria enable deployment of such technologies ? It is well known that PSUs are forced to pick up fields against their technical judgement to show numerical success. In one NELP round, a PSU offered the entire 100% profit to the government, out-bidding all others. Such frivolities should have no place in any bidding process. The bogey of recession also does not bear scrutiny. By all accounts, world economy appears to be recovering. Oil prices have remained buoyant and oil company profits robust even during recession. Further, E&P investment is a long-term game extending over a period of 15 to 20 years and cannot be derailed by a receding recession.

Global oil majors cannot invest here due to their internal policies . Many majors have a policy of reserve replacement ratio (RRR) for which our fields do not measure up. Their share values depend on the reserve accretion they do. Being integrated companies, they also operate across the entire value chain and look beyond E&P to downstream/marketing areas, rendered out of bounds for them by our hidebound policies.


The high profile dispute of the KG basin gas is also not a reason. The real culprit is the faulty and partisan policies, drowned in the media hype over the dispute. Right from the nineties when the sector was opened up, there are several arbitration cases going on without anyone noticing them. But the government's unhealthy interest in a private dispute has raised its stakes for all. Worrisome to investors are the policy somersaults each day. Investors look for a stable policy, not necessarily an ideal one.


The recent instances of denial of tax holiday to gas, enforcing a gas allocation policy late in the day only for one field, price control on gas within a declared policy of marketing freedom, outsourcing price discovery to a favoured contractor, incentives for past investments benefiting only one corporate instead of incentives for future investments, have all thrown serious doubts on government's non-discriminatory role in its dealings with investors. As the western media have put it, this sort of 'policy capture' by domestic vested interests deters high risk investors.


The policy environment needs to be cleaned up first which looks unlikely under the ineffectual UPA government. As we are likely to continue with the current muddled policies, our best bet would be technology savvy independents, lean and mean oil companies, who aggressively explore. Many of them do not manage the discovered fields, but sell them away and go for new pastures. We should be targeting them, not chase majors or super majors.


The eighth round of NELP bids did not attract the kind of interest that the ministry of petroleum and natural gas had hoped for. The number of bidders was substantially lower than the last round and once again, there was little tangible interest shown by the global majors, such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, etc. This was not unexpected, since in the past as well, the big global players seem to prefer large, already discovered fields.

However, what was worrying was that just over 50% (36 out of 70) blocks received any bid at all. In the last round (NELP-VII), 181 bids were received for 45 blocks out of the 57 blocks offered. Once again, ONGC, walked away with the lion's share, mostly in partnership with other domestic firms. The noteworthy foreign participants were BHP Billiton, Cairn and BG. Why this tepid response?


Many reasons have been cited ranging from corporate disputes to bid-conditions to global meltdown and uncertainties to quality of geological data. Given the complexity of the issue, it would not be appropriate to pin-point the blame on any single aspect.


To start with, some bidders , both foreign and domestic, had some concerns over marketing rights and freedom, pricing and related conditions in the production sharing contract (PSC). In particular, there was a perception among some foreign players that the government has retained disproportionate powers on the allocation of gas and its pricing. In addition, there was news that the ministry is reportedly considering uniform pricing of gas across the country. Although merely a proposal at this stage, ambiguities persist over the pricing issue, which worried investors. They look for long-term clarity and consistency over government rules and policies.


There were certain tax-related concerns as well. Recent clarifications over the definition of 'undertaking', whether the production of natural gas qualifies for tax exemptions, etc. have not completely addressed the concerns of operators.


And there was also the global slowdown to contend with. As the ministry itself pointed out, auctions in other countries also failed to attract the kind of interest that was seen in previous years, when oil prices had reached historic highs. With constraints over access to finance, global E&P companies are probably opting for investments in already proven basins and producing fields, rather than more risky, unproven or frontier areas. Some basins in India, such as the Andaman one, are considered as 'frontier' territories. In the past, investors have asked for special terms to be given for exploration in such territories, since they involve greater risks.


Some investors blamed their poor interest on what they described as the lack of robustness in the data for some of the blocks. This only added to the risk perception. Plus, some of the blocks were recycled ones, which had been offered in previous rounds as well, and were not seen as very prospective.


All the above factors put together seemed to have resulted in subdued investor interest. The ministry may well choose to move to an open acreage system in future; this is being debated internally. Before doing that, the government needs to make sure that the concerns that investors have over data, both of the geological and seismic nature, is addressed.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ADDRESS INVESTOR CONCERNS BEFORE MOVING TO OPEN ACREAGE SYSTEM

 

The eighth round of NELP bids did not attract the kind of interest that the ministry of petroleum and natural gas had hoped for. The number of bidders was substantially lower than the last round and once again, there was little tangible interest shown by the global majors, such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, etc. This was not unexpected, since in the past as well, the big global players seem to prefer large, already discovered fields.

 

However, what was worrying was that just over 50% (36 out of 70) blocks received any bid at all. In the last round (NELP-VII), 181 bids were received for 45 blocks out of the 57 blocks offered. Once again, ONGC, walked away with the lion's share, mostly in partnership with other domestic firms. The noteworthy foreign participants were BHP Billiton, Cairn and BG. Why this tepid response?


Many reasons have been cited ranging from corporate disputes to bid-conditions to global meltdown and uncertainties to quality of geological data. Given the complexity of the issue, it would not be appropriate to pin-point the blame on any single aspect.


To start with, some bidders , both foreign and domestic, had some concerns over marketing rights and freedom, pricing and related conditions in the production sharing contract (PSC). In particular, there was a perception among some foreign players that the government has retained disproportionate powers on the allocation of gas and its pricing. In addition, there was news that the ministry is reportedly considering uniform pricing of gas across the country. Although merely a proposal at this stage, ambiguities persist over the pricing issue, which worried investors. They look for long-term clarity and consistency over government rules and policies.


There were certain tax-related concerns as well. Recent clarifications over the definition of 'undertaking', whether the production of natural gas qualifies for tax exemptions, etc. have not completely addressed the concerns of operators.


And there was also the global slowdown to contend with. As the ministry itself pointed out, auctions in other countries also failed to attract the kind of interest that was seen in previous years, when oil prices had reached historic highs. With constraints over access to finance, global E&P companies are probably opting for investments in already proven basins and producing fields, rather than more risky, unproven or frontier areas. Some basins in India, such as the Andaman one, are considered as 'frontier' territories. In the past, investors have asked for special terms to be given for exploration in such territories, since they involve greater risks.


Some investors blamed their poor interest on what they described as the lack of robustness in the data for some of the blocks. This only added to the risk perception. Plus, some of the blocks were recycled ones, which had been offered in previous rounds as well, and were not seen as very prospective.


All the above factors put together seemed to have resulted in subdued investor interest. The ministry may well choose to move to an open acreage system in future; this is being debated internally. Before doing that, the government needs to make sure that the concerns that investors have over data, both of the geological and seismic nature, is addressed.

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

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

POLICY OVERHAUL IS THE ONLY ANSWER TO OIL MAJORS' DIFFIDENCE

 

The customary post-mortem after each New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) round should not be just to find scapegoats, but to introspect seriously on the malaise underlying our hydrocarbon policy.

 

Undoubtedly, the geological data we are purveying are far from adequate. India has the world's lowest drilling intensity and the data packages need considerable improvement in collation and presentation, apart from supplementation of information from originators, which might have been withheld by accident or design. The sporadic efforts through exercises like speculative surveys have not helped in data enrichment. It is too early for the national data depository to have any significant impact. Recycling such blocks without significant improvement is not of much help.


The days of easy oil/gas are over and only technology-intensive companies can find them. What bidding criteria enable deployment of such technologies ? It is well known that PSUs are forced to pick up fields against their technical judgement to show numerical success. In one NELP round, a PSU offered the entire 100% profit to the government, out-bidding all others. Such frivolities should have no place in any bidding process. The bogey of recession also does not bear scrutiny. By all accounts, world economy appears to be recovering. Oil prices have remained buoyant and oil company profits robust even during recession. Further, E&P investment is a long-term game extending over a period of 15 to 20 years and cannot be derailed by a receding recession.


Global oil majors cannot invest here due to their internal policies . Many majors have a policy of reserve replacement ratio (RRR) for which our fields do not measure up. Their share values depend on the reserve accretion they do. Being integrated companies, they also operate across the entire value chain and look beyond E&P to downstream/marketing areas, rendered out of bounds for them by our hidebound policies.


The high profile dispute of the KG basin gas is also not a reason. The real culprit is the faulty and partisan policies, drowned in the media hype over the dispute. Right from the nineties when the sector was opened up, there are several arbitration cases going on without anyone noticing them. But the government's unhealthy interest in a private dispute has raised its stakes for all. Worrisome to investors are the policy somersaults each day. Investors look for a stable policy, not necessarily an ideal one.


The recent instances of denial of tax holiday to gas, enforcing a gas allocation policy late in the day only for one field, price control on gas within a declared policy of marketing freedom, outsourcing price discovery to a favoured contractor, incentives for past investments benefiting only one corporate instead of incentives for future investments, have all thrown serious doubts on government's non-discriminatory role in its dealings with investors. As the western media have put it, this sort of 'policy capture' by domestic vested interests deters high risk investors.


The policy environment needs to be cleaned up first which looks unlikely under the ineffectual UPA government. As we are likely to continue with the current muddled policies, our best bet would be technology savvy independents, lean and mean oil companies, who aggressively explore. Many of them do not manage the discovered fields, but sell them away and go for new pastures. We should be targeting them, not chase majors or super majors.

 

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

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RESCUE PLANS: JURY IS STILL OUT

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH

 

What was the market response to bank rescue packages announced after the collapse of Lehman Brothers? A BIS paper* assesses the impact of rescue packages announced in October 2008 in six countries - US, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. It measures the market reaction of bank CDS spreads and stock prices for 52 banks 50 trading days before and after the announcement in each country.

 

It finds that while government interventions protected bank depositors and calmed financial markets, they were less successful in restoring market confidence in the banking sector. Though average bank CDS spreads for each country narrowed around the time of the announcement in all cases, bank stock prices underperformed in all countries except the US where the generous terms of the government support allowed bank stocks to outperform the market. In fact stock prices of banks receiving direct government support did worse than banks not receiving government capital.


Bank access to private sector capital remained restricted through the end of the year, with little or no access to private borrowing or equity markets. Instead, banks remained dependent on government-guaranteed debt issuance and capital injections, with some banks being taken into government ownership. While government interventions avoided further bankruptcies and bought policymakers valuable time, continued weakness in bank stocks and the need for more such interventions suggests that bank shareholders did not view rescue packages as a buying opportunity. Rescue packages were essentially designed to avoid the default of systemically important banks while restoring confidence in the financial system. The immediate objective was to avoid a repeat of the Lehman bankruptcy of 15 September 2008 with its dramatic and destabilising impact on markets and investor confidence. The medium-term objective was to restore confidence and stability in banks and the financial system in order to restart the supply of credit to households and businesses.


Unlike the European experience, US rescue packages were well received by both creditors and shareholders. Non-convertible preferred shares issued under the Capital Purchase Program were favourably priced, offered little dilution of existing shareholders, and did not impose material constraints on bank management. In contrast, bank shareholders in the UK saw their equity diluted and their future income stream reduced. Shareholders in other countries did not receive much benefit from the injection of hybrid capital. Not only was this capital expensive, it did not offer shareholders any protection from future losses. Overall bank stocks underperformed the market on average following government interventions, suggesting government capital injections did not restore market confidence in the banks. The response is not unexpected. Rescue packages were not designed to protect shareholders; on the contrary, shareholder capital is designed to bear losses.


The positive response of creditors suggests that government intervention reduced the risk of a default across all banks. Judged from this perspective, the fact that only a few institutions were nationalised suggests government interventions were successful. In brief, the October rescue packages provided governments with time to assess the situation and formulate their policy responses. At the same time, these policy interventions did not represent a buying opportunity. In fact bank stocks in most countries studied bank stocks under-performed the broader market. This assessment does not consider the counterfactual case in which governments did not intervene to support systemically important banks. While a market disruption similar to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was avoided, a number of banks were taken into government ownership and further actions were needed to restore investors' confidence in the institutions concerned.


The paper concludes it is too early to assess the impact of rescue plans on restoring the flow of credit to businesses and households. Given the weakness in bank stocks through January 2009 and the limited access to bond markets without a government guarantee, it is not obvious that banks were in a position to extend more loans.


Time to buy or just buying time? The market reaction to bank rescue packages Michael R King BIS Working Papers 288

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'PHARMA, INFRA & BANKING LOOK VERY ATTRACTIVE'

 

A steep correction looks unlikely, given that there has been no reckless build-up of positions this time, says Sunil Singhania executive vice-president (equities), Reliance Mutual Fund. At the same time, investors should be extremely choosy about the new issues they are investing in since many overpriced offerings have been hitting the market, says Mr Singhania. In an interview with ET , he says pharma, banking and infrastructure are the sectors to watch out for. Excerpts:

 


You are known for your aggressive cash calls, sometimes as high as 35% of the portfolio value in a few schemes. Isn't that a risky bet in a rising market?

Past 2-3 months have been very challenging in terms of identifying the right stocks. And it looks as like it will remain that way for some time. We have to deploy money knowing fully that near-term valuations are stretched, and that risk on the downside is higher. We have cut down our cash positions significantly, though they differ across schemes. In diversified schemes, we are sitting on cash of between 4-14%. In banking and pharma funds, it is 3-4%, in the power fund it is 16-17%, while in the infrastructure fund, it is 2-3%. But the cash component should not be viewed in isolation. We deploy a fair bit of it in (stock/index)options, which helps us ride the volatile phase of the market, and even beat the market.

 

Which are the sectors that you are bullish on?

We are very bullish on infrastructure. There is huge latent demand for infrastructure. Also, the government is realising that good infrastructure is becoming an election issue. From a foreign investor's perspective, this is a sector where one can investment a sizeable sum and get decent double-digit returns. We are also positive on banking. Notwithstanding short-term concerns over rising g-sec yields (and therefore falling bond prices), banking services are underpenetrated, and valuations of bank stocks are cheap compared with allied financial services players. Within the sector, we like PSU banks. We are positive on the pharma sector, and see huge opportunities locally as well as globally. Total pharma sales in India are about Rs 30,000 crore, while sales of Pfizer's drug Lipitor alone are around Rs 50,000 crore.

 

What is your outlook on the market from a 3-6 month perspective?

We are cautiously positive on the market. Valuations are not cheap any longer, and big gains look unlikely near term. At the same time, we do not expect any drastic correction either. Investors have been very cautious this time around. Most mutual funds have used the recent rally to book profits. There has been no reckless build-up of positions by traders, as was the case in the previous bull run. Also, traditionally, the October-December period has been good for the Indian stock market.


What should the investor be cautious of? Any factor(s) that could trigger a deeper-than-expected correction?

There are some worrying signs, especially on the capital raising front (qualified institutional placements/ initial public offerings). Lot of poor quality paper is finding its way into the market. Also, many IPOs are being mispriced at the upper end.

The global economy is still not out of the woods. There is a lot of liquidity sloshing around at the moment, which makes everything appear good. But what happens once central banks across the world start pulling out the stimulus money? That is the key question. Some people may argue that a weak recovery in the global economy is good for India, since it will also keep oil prices low. Yet, one must remember that the Indian market had its best phase when oil was climbing from $27 to $150 a barrel.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PAK ISI & TERROR: IRAN SAYS IT TOO

 

While details are sketchy, the suicide bomber who on Sunday killed several high-ranking officials of Iran's elite force, the Revolutionary Guard, in the country's Pishin district which borders Pakistan, could just be the link that confirms a key regional reality: that all of Pakistan's immediate neighbours — India, Afghanistan and Iran — are by now under Sunni jihadist assault from terrorists that receive inspiration and sustenance from quarters in that country. This is hardly a coincidence, and speaks of the social, political and military processes that have tainted and ruined Pakistan over the past three decades. The bomber is thought to belong to the Jundollah group which had carried out a similar attack in a Zahedan mosque, killing 25, in May this year. The technique of suicide bombing is used exclusively by the Taliban and Al Qaeda in this region. There has been a degree of unrest in Iran's Balochi-speaking area in recent years, although it is not thought to be as severe as in Balochistan on the Pakistan side. Also, Baloch nationalists on the two sides are not known to have organisational links. Nor have the Balochis in Pakistan come under the sway of the Taliban. As such, Taliban or Al Qaeda influence over the Baloch population in Iran's southeast should be a matter of concern for Tehran. When we look at the expanse of territory in which the Taliban and Al Qaeda have established a steady presence over time, it does look apparent that elements of the long-cherished Islamic emirate the world Sunni jihadists have already come to cohere. The large area in which this has occurred encompasses great swathes of Pakistan's tribal belt, in particular north and south Waziristan, the areas of Pakistani Balochistan north of Quetta (where the Baloch nationalist movement is not preponderant), and now seemingly Sistan-Balochistan (on the Iran side). Geogra-


phically, this is hard country, where the social organisation is tribal, and development indices are low. In short, it is tailor-made for primitive practices and way of life favoured by takfiris such as Taliban and Al Qaeda. Influential quarters in Tehran have blamed the "Great Satan" (America) and its ally Britain in the context of the Pishin killing of its top Revolutionary Guard commanders. But notably, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called up the Pakistan President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, to demand appropriate action, virtually pointing a finger at the nexus between official circles — and specifically the Inter-Services Intelligence — and jihadists in Pakistan. The Iranian leader has reason to be angry. Some time ago, when the United States was thought to be contemplating military strikes against Iran, it was widely believed that then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had got fifth columnists to soften up the Iranian Balochistan area to curry favour with Washington. Iran is cognisant of the danger posed to it by Al Qaeda and its allies in the region. In the wider context of the debate in the West, notably the United States, about withdrawing from the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre in the not too distant future, regional players themselves will need to find meaningful answers to the conundrum thrown up by the Islamist movement that now looks like threatening Pakistan itself.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CAN INDIA FACILITATE A US-IRAN DIALOGUE?

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

Does Iran have a clandestine nuclear weapons programme? The question comes almost straight out of a television script, but without any prizes for the correct answer, because there are none as yet, only indications, suspicions, and speculation blowing in the wind. Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, refutes the charge completely even as the inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric of its leadership contributes to the escalation of tensions, while the United States and its associated chorus of Western governments seem sure that such a programme does exist, and are raising a storm over it within and outside the United Nations.

 

Russia and China, both founder-members of the Nuclear Five (also permanent members of the UN Security Council), maintain a facade of bland ambivalence, while India, not in the same league, nurses its own apprehensions and concerns over such a possibility but is discreetly silent for the present. How comfortable would India be with a nuclear-armed Iran? Again, no definite answers, but it can be assumed that the prospect of another Islamic republic (this time Shia) controlled by hardline ayatollahs acquiring nuclear weapons would undoubtedly create substantial unease in this country.

 

But in another context, India is also aware that its own long-term strategic interests and aspirations for a significant presence in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond, requires a positive engagement with Iran because of the strong and pervasive influence the latter exercises in the Dari-speaking Farsiwan regions of western and northern Afghanistan around Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and with Shias in the Hazara belt, where the Pashtun-based Taliban do not have local support. (Dari is closely akin to Farsi, the official language of Iran, and is spoken by 50 per cent of the population of Afghanistan). India has to rationalise its misgivings about a nuclear-armed Iran and chart its course accordingly, because unlike Indo-Russian relations during the Soviet era, or Indo-US relations at present, Indo-Iran relations could never progress beyond a certain level mainly due to misgivings about the tone and tenor of the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979, and perceptions of its distinct tilt towards Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war of 1965, and also in the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). However, as a Shia state, Iran also has its own scars to show from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Pakistan-based Sunni terrorist group Jundullah. Among these are the abduction and subsequent murder of 11 Iranian consular staff in Mazar-e-Sharif after the Taliban entered the city on August 8, 1998, and attacks on Iranian forces, political personalities and government infrastructure along the Balochistan-Iran border. There seem to be sufficient common interests between India and Iran for jointly addressing the threat to both countries posed by radical jihadi organisations like Al Qaeda, which have a major anti-Shia agenda as well.

 

With direct surface access to Afghanistan and Central Asia blocked by a hostile Pakistan and China respectively, it is imperative for India to create viable alternate routes to the resource-rich regions of Central Asia, for which the Persian Gulf littoral is vital. India has, therefore, done well to enter into a strategic relationship with Iran to develop the port of Chahbahar on the Gulf of Oman and its associated road network, to connect onwards at Zaranj in Afghanistan with the Soviet-built necklace highway through the 218-km Delaram-Zaranj link road from the Iran border recently constructed by India through its Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the teeth of armed attacks by Taliban forces sponsored by Pakistan, which views any Indian presence in the region with extreme disfavour, as the second car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul recently reconfirmed so resoundingly.

 

But at another level Iran has been, and still is, in the crosshairs of the United States long before President George W. Bush designated it as one of the components of the so-called "axis of evil". The mutual ill-feeling between the two countries remains undiminished since 1979 when the dethronement and expulsion of the pro-American Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomenei, and its accompanying purges in the American-trained Iranian military generated a wave of anti-American feeling in the country, and resulted in the prolonged siege of the US embassy in Tehran and the hostage crisis. For the United States, attitudes on the Iran nuclear issue are seen as the touchstone for determining the credentials of its relationships with all other countries, creating a dilemma for India, which is strongly engaged with the United States and has successfully concluded a fairly unique and unprecedented bilateral agreement after an extended bilateral strategic dialogue which accepts India's requirement of civilian nuclear technology and also makes place for India's strategic nuclear programme outside the scope of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The hard choices in this context were highlighted in September 2005 when after considerable agonising India threw in its vote along with the United States and against Iran on the issue of international inspection of nuclear facilities in the latter country by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), and subsequently again to further refer the matter to the Security Council when the IAEA failed to resolve the issue. (It is instructive to note that both China and Pakistan, India's constant opponents on every international issue, decided to abstain on both occasions).

 

Close interaction with both the United States and Iran is, therefore, inescapable for India because of multiple compulsions, strategic as well as regional. Relations with both countries have to be harmonised, and whatever be the state of our relations with the United States, India has to remain engaged with Iran to best advantage. Indo-Iran-US equations are a tough test for Indian diplomacy, but can the outcome of the recent US-Iran talks in Geneva perhaps create a role for India as a mutually acceptable facilitator between the two countries? That is a possibility which might be worth exploring.

 

Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief ofArmy Staff and a former Member of Parliament

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BANKS HAVE NOTHING TO BANK ON YET

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, maybe not literally the worst, but definitely bad. And the contrast between the immense good fortune of a few and the continuing suffering of all too many boded ill for the future.

 

I'm talking, of course, about the state of the banks.

 

The lucky few garnered most of the headlines, as many reacted with fury to the spectacle of Goldman Sachs making record profits and paying huge bonuses even as the rest of America, the victim of a slump made on Wall Street, continues to bleed jobs.

 

But it's not a simple case of flourishing banks versus ailing workers: banks that are actually in the business of lending, as opposed to trading, are still in trouble. Most notably, Citigroup and Bank of America, which silenced talk of nationalisation earlier this year by claiming that they had returned to profitability, are now — you guessed it — back to reporting losses.

 

Ask the people at Goldman, and they'll tell you that it's nobody's business but their own how much they earn. But as one critic recently put it: "There is no financial institution that exists today that is not the direct or indirect beneficiary of trillions of dollars of taxpayer support for the financial system".

 

Indeed: Goldman has made a lot of money in its trading operations, but it was only able to stay in that game thanks to policies that put vast amounts of public money at risk, from the bailout of AIG to the guarantees extended to many of Goldman's bonds.

 

So who was this thundering bank critic? None other than Lawrence Summers, the Obama administration's chief economist — and one of the architects of the administration's bank policy, which up until now has been to go easy on financial institutions and hope that they mend themselves.

 

Why the change in tone? Administration officials are furious at the way the financial industry, just months after receiving a gigantic taxpayer bailout, is lobbying fiercely against serious reform. But you have to wonder what they expected to happen. They followed a softly, softly policy, providing aid with few strings, back when all of Wall Street was on the ropes; this left them with very little leverage over firms like Goldman that are now, once again, making a lot of money.

 

But there's an even bigger problem: while the wheeler-dealer side of the financial industry, aka trading operations, is highly profitable again, the part of banking that really matters — lending, which fuels investment and job creation — is not. Key banks remain financially weak, and their weakness is hurting the economy as a whole.

 

You may recall that earlier this year there was a big debate about how to get the banks lending again. Some analysts, myself included, argued that at least some major banks needed a large injection of capital from taxpayers, and that the only way to do this was to temporarily nationalise the most troubled banks. The debate faded out, however, after Citigroup and Bank of America, the banking system's weakest links, announced surprise profits. All was well, we were told, now that the banks were profitable again.

 

But a funny thing happened on the way back to a sound banking system: last week both Citi and BofA announced losses in the third quarter. What happened?

 

Part of the answer is that those earlier profits were in part a figment of the accountants' imaginations. More broadly, however, we're looking at payback from the real economy. In the first phase of the crisis, Main Street was punished for Wall Street's misdeeds; now broad economic distress, especially persistent high unemployment, is leading to big losses on mortgage loans and credit cards.

 

And here's the thing: The continuing weakness of many banks is helping to perpetuate that economic distress. Banks remain reluctant to lend, and tight credit, especially for small businesses, stands in the way of the strong recovery we need.

 

So now what? Mr Summers still insists that the administration did the right thing: more government provision of capital, he says, would not "have been an availing strategy for solving problems". Whatever. In any case, as a political matter the moment for radical action on banks has clearly passed.


The main thing for the time being is probably to do as much as possible to support job growth. With luck, this will produce a virtuous circle in which an improving economy strengthens the banks, which then become more willing to lend.

 

Beyond that, we desperately need to pass effective financial reform. For if we don't, bankers will soon be taking even bigger risks than they did in the run-up to this crisis. After all, the lesson from the last few months has been very clear: When bankers gamble with other people's money, it's heads they win, tails the rest of us lose.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

GLOBAL IMBALANCES

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

The US economy has been running large current account deficits for several decades now, but they were typically offset by surpluses of other developed countries like Japan and Germany, as well as by oil-exporting countries of West Asia. In the most recent period, that picture has changed in a significant way. The huge US balance of payments deficit is now being substantially financed by developing countries and not largely by the surpluses of other developed countries or the surpluses in the oil exporting countries.

 

For example, in 2007 Japan and Germany accounted only for 30 per cent of the aggregate surplus of all surplus earners, and Germany's surplus tends to be counterbalanced by deficits in other countries of the Euro area. Meanwhile, developing countries and countries in transition became important sources of surpluses to finance the US deficit. The aggregate surplus of the top ten developing and transition economies accounted for 95 per cent of the US deficit. The top 10 among non-oil surplus developing countries accounted for 72 per cent of the US deficit. China's surplus was equal to 51.1 per cent of the US deficit.

 

The transformation of the developing world's current account deficits into surpluses occurred in the mid-1990s. While this was true initially of a set of countries in Asia, they have since been joined by countries in West Asia, Africa and Latin America, though not Central and Eastern Europe. However, developing and emerging market countries outside developing Asia have also been recording a surplus as a group, because of the contribution made by oil exporters in West Asia.

 

As a consequence, the bulk of the increase in the US current account deficit was balanced by changes in the current account positions of developing countries, which moved from a collective deficit of $109 billion to a surplus of $492 billion — a net change of $601 billion — between 1996 and 2007.

 

There are two sources of accretion of surpluses in the balance of payments of the developing countries, epitomised by China and India. In China's case, these surpluses have been substantially "earned" in the sense that they reflect its export success and a surplus on the current account of its balance of payments. This has been added to the inflows of foreign direct investment, and more recently foreign portfolio investment. In the case of India on the other hand, its surpluses have been "borrowed", in the sense that they accrue because small deficits or small surpluses on the current account of its balance of payments in recent years have been accompanied by huge inflows of capital, especially portfolio capital. If capital inflows are largely borrowed and are of the portfolio kind, the pressure to accumulate reserves is greater, because of the danger that these flows could be reversed, as happened in Southeast Asia in late 1990s.

 

There is another reason why a significant, even if not dominant part of the recycling of these surpluses to the US occurred through the central banks of these countries. Under liberalised exchange rate regimes, large dollar inflows (whether due to surpluses on the current or capital account) exert an upward pressure on the domestic currency of the countries that receive those foreign exchange inflows, raising the value of the domestic currency against the reserve currency. To prevent such appreciation and shore up the competitiveness of the recipient country's exports, the central bank steps in to stabilise the currency to buy and mop up the excess foreign exchange. This results in the accumulation of large reserves. Data from the US Federal Reserve relating to US government agency bonds held by foreign official institutions shows that they increased by $119 billion in 2007, although in the wake of the crisis in 2008 they fell by $31 billion. In the first seven months of 2009, they fell by another $31 billion.

 

However, not only was the contribution of non-oil exporting Asian countries even more significant, it actually continued to be positive even in 2008. Thus, Asian holding of US public bonds increased by $131.6 billion in 2007 and $32.4 billion in 2008, while the corresponding figures for China and Hong Kong taken together were $103.7 billion and $40.3 billion. Even in the first seven months of 2009, total Asian holding of US government bonds remained largely stable, with a small increase of $2.3 billion by West Asian oil exporters and a small decline of $2.5 billion for all other Asian countries.

 

So, while US profligacy results in the huge deficit on its balance of payments, it does not need to make the adjustment to correct for global imbalance. Instead, in a remarkable reversal of past experience of other countries, the countries accumulating surpluses, whether "earned" or "borrowed", are the ones making the adjustment. They continue to invest their surpluses in safe and liquid international securities among which US Treasury securities predominate. And that adjustment is not without cost. Large reserves create huge problems for monetary management, and central bank efforts to sterilise foreign exchange reserves to manage money supply have adverse implications for fiscal policy. Moreover, the returns received on reserves invested by central banks are much less than the returns earned by those who bring the foreign exchange into these countries in the first place.

 

This is quite directly related to the shift in policy regime in favour of less regulated, more market-friendly and obsessively export-oriented regimes across the world. When successful exporters record current account surpluses, this threatens an appreciation of their currencies that could reduce export competitiveness. To prevent this, they accumulate foreign exchange reserves to prevent appreciation, in turn necessitating the investment of these surpluses in safe assets. Much of this investment moves to the home of the reserve currency, where the value of the assets is presumed to be more stable.

 

Meanwhile, neo-liberal fiscal reform imposes fiscal conservatism and deflationary fiscal practices, which have balance of payments effects that imply either a reduction of current account deficits or the emergence or increase of current account surpluses. Capital account liberalisation can lead to inflows that cause currency appreciation. It also increases the pressure to accumulate reserves to guard against the reversal of capital flows that could follow any surge in inflows.

 

These consequences of liberalisation contribute in no small measure to the global imbalance that is otherwise rooted in the uneven development characteristic of capitalism. Perversely, they also strengthen the position of the reserve currency, by creates an influential global constituency against the depreciation of the US dollar.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

BEHIND THE 'WIMPY KID' PHENOMENON

BY TARA PARKER-POPE

 

This is a big week for the grade-school set. Greg Heffley, the crude and clueless protagonist of Jeff Kinney's wildly popular book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, is back.

 

Like the first three books in the series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, chronicles the misadventures of Greg and his best friend, Rowley, two middle-school students who try to navigate adolescence, home life and the social pecking order at school, all by putting forth as little effort as possible.

 

Like the others, it is filled with Mr Kinney's easygoing first-person narrative and his artfully artless drawings.

 

Its plot revolves around the slapstick, laziness and ethical lapses that have engaged millions of 8-to-12-year-old readers and left parents scratching their heads.

 

Dog Days is already the best-selling book on Amazon.com, ahead of the likes of Dan Brown and Glenn Beck. Early interest has been so strong that the publisher, Abrams, increased its initial print run to four million copies, from three million.

 

The Internet is filled with testimonials about children who were frustrated readers until they got their hands on a Wimpy Kid book. But some parents have been less enthusiastic.

 

"The words 'moron', 'jerk', 'dork' and 'hot girls' are used in the first five pages," complains a reviewer on Amazon of the first book. "This is a poor choice for good character building in your children."

 

But given the books' powerful appeal among both girls and boys, child development experts say parents have a lot to learn from Greg and company.

 

While books like the Harry Potter series create an imaginative fantasy world, the Wimpy Kid books give us a rare glimpse into a child's ethical mind.

 

"It really captures the struggle of a child that age trying to figure out what it means to be a person," said Dr Joshua Sparrow, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. Dr Sparrow read the first Wimpy Kid book after a young patient told him about it.

 

"I think it can help parents tune into what kids know and how they think," he went on. "It captures what a child is able to get and what's beyond their reach, and how you have to adjust your expectations because they are still a work in progress."

 

Dr Lawrence Rosen, a pediatrician who founded the Whole Child Centre in Oradell, New Jersey, says he has talked about the series with his third-grade daughter, who says she likes that the main character is "not perfect".

"The power of the book is about the wimpy kid, a regular kid with regular problems, just dealing with what life brings him," Dr Rosen said. "For parents, I suppose reading the books or at least discussing them with our kids will give us a more realistic idea of what their lives are like, the struggles they face every day."

 

Mr Kinney says he originally wrote the stories for adults, aiming for funny and nostalgic recollections of childhood, and "never imagined" them as children's literature.

Rather than offering moralistic lessons, he focused on the humour inherent in the misguided decisions that children often make.

 

In one much-talked-about scene from the first book, Greg, who is in middle school, benefits from a case of mistaken identity: because he happens to be wearing Rowley's jacket when he terrifies a group of kindergarteners with worms on a stick, his best friend is the one who faces punishment.

 

Greg's mother senses he is struggling with a moral dilemma and advises him to "do the right thing".
After tossing and turning, Greg concludes, "I decided that the right thing to do was to just let Rowley take one for the team this time around."


In the end Rowley is punished, and Greg's mother, who mistakenly believes he's made the right choice, rewards him with ice cream.


"Greg really does think he's done the right thing, and thinks he's learned his lesson," Mr Kinney, who is 38 and has sons six and four, told me.


"You're expecting at any moment that an adult is going to set things straight, but none ever does."


Mr Kinney says most of his feedback comes from grateful parents who say the books have turned their children into readers. But a few parents do complain that Greg sets a bad example.


"I have complete respect for that position, and I've been shocked there hasn't been much more of it," he said.
"If there is a lesson in the book, it's to do the opposite of what Greg does. Even my kindergarten child understands that Greg is being naughty, and that he shouldn't act like him."


In Dog Days, Greg starts a lawn business, but cuts the grass haphazardly and complains when his customers won't pay. His father remows a customer's lawn free of charge, but Greg insists he's done nothing wrong. "I'm trying to find a way to earn money without doing any actual work," he explains.


Dr Sparrow says part of the book's appeal is that it doesn't moralise. "If you had an omniscient voice saying, 'Do the right thing', kids would tune that out," he said. "It leaves room for the child to be challenged to decide what he or she thinks."


Questionable behaviour aside, there is no question that kids love these books.


When my fifth grader learned I had scored an early copy of Dog Days, she wrestled it away from me and began to devour it. Upon finishing, she closed the book with great satisfaction. After a moment, she opened it and started reading it again from the beginning.

 

By arrangement with theNew York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LOVE-HATE THY NEIGHBOUR

BY S.M. SHAHID

 

 "Do you have neighbours?" Babboo asked. "What a silly question! Of course I have neighbours. I am not living on Mars. I live in Defence." "Oh, really? You sound as if Defence is a better place than Mars. Do you meet them?" he asked.

 

"Meet whom?"

 

"Your neighbours — in DEFENCE!" Putting emphasis on the word "defence," he added, "I understand in Nazimabad and Liaquatabad people do mix up with their neighbours."

 

"In Defence it is different," I said.

 

"How can you call them your neighbours then?"

 

"Because they ARE my neighbours."

 

"But you don't meet them. For all practical purposes you don't exist for one another."

 

"Of course we exist. If we did not meet, it was because discretion was the better part of neighbourly relations. Secondly, who has the time to experiment befriending strangers? It's an established fact that neighbours become enemies rather quickly for, as you know, enmity comes naturally to them."

 

"What a strange thesis! Don't you believe in good neighbourliness?" I said.

 

"History teaches us that there is no such thing. Can you give me any example of good neighbourliness? Is India a good neighbour of Pakistan, or vice versa? Are Iran and Afghanistan good neighbours? Were Korea and Japan good neighbours ever? Have Russia and China been good neighbours? Is the United States a good neighbour of Cuba?"

 

"Stop it yaar! You shouldn't take kajj bahsi to such ridiculous extremes. I thought we were simply discussing neighbourhood or neighbourly relations at a personal level. Tum Cuba aur Amreeka pahaunch gaye."

 

"Waisay ek baat hai", said Babboo with a twinkle in his eyes.

 

"What?"

 

"A neighbour is a more convenient enemy — if not a better one! If you were to choose your enemy you should look for him in your neighbourhood. In most cases this enmity can be more deep-rooted and lasting and is not based on maslehat… I mean, on impulse."

 

"What?"

 

"There are many ADVANTAGES of making neighbours your enemies. Having lived together, and possibly belonging to the same stock, you know them — some wise man has said, "know your enemy" — you are familiar with his habits, his strong and weak points; you have better accessibility and can manoeuvre your way through his territory as you know the terrain etc. Above all, it is cost effective and less time consuming — beside other logistical advantages…"

 

"Jo moonh mein aata hai buk detay ho. Do you realise what destruction you cause, how much collateral damage you inflict upon your neighbour when you go to war with him?"

 

"Part of the game!" said Babboo.

 

"Anyone with any modicum of decency would spare at least his neighbour," I tried to invoke some compassion in his heart for neighbours.

 

"Spare the neighbour? You mean I should go thousands of miles to make complete strangers my enemies? Height of stupidity! Have you forgotten how Lyndon Johnson made a fool of himself in Vietnam? In recent times, George Bush, who turned out to be a greater Lyndon Johnson, went to far off Iraq and Afghanistan to make enemies. Can you beat it? Na Khuda hi mila na wisal-i-sanam; Na idhar ke rahe na udhar ke rahe!"

 

"According to this logic, Russia, who made her next door neighbour Afghanistan her enemy was equally foolish. A few centuries ago, Babar, who invaded neighbourly Hindustan and established the Mughal Empire was equally stupid. Far or near, making enemies is not a good idea, yaar! Who told you one can't live without an enemy?"

 

"How would there be any progress, then?" argued Babboo.

 

"Progress! What progress? Progress through making enemies? What the hell do you mean?"

 

"No country has prospered without making enemies. If you don't make enemies your progress is stalled. Not only the people become complacent and timid, new opportunities for scientific and industrial development are lost too. Look at Germany and Japan — how they progressed after the World War II!" "But at what cost?" I screamed.

 

"Cost is immaterial," said Babboo calmly. "You have to pay a price for everything. Nothing comes for free. Was the Roman Empire established without paying a price? Was Rome built in a day?" "In this insane animosity racket, only innocent people suffer," I said sadly.

 

"Being innocent is the worst thing. Innocent people always suffer. It's an irony that a large number of them are exported to planet earth with this defect. They must suffer for this manufacturing defect."

 

"Stop it yaar! For people like you Ghalib has already said: Huey tum dost jiske dushman uska aasman kyun ho!"

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RAILWAY REVIVAL

SHUNT OUT THE POLITICS


WELCOME indeed is the Prime Minister directing the Planning Commission to develop a reform plan for the Indian Railways ~ to call it a "road map" would be self-defeating ~ so that it assumes a greater role in economic affairs, does not rest content with being the largest mover of freight and passenger traffic. For those figures can deceive: the plethora of pollution-belching long-distance trucks that clog every highway, burn up largely imported fuel, actually reflect the railway's lost opportunities. Most of the tonnage it boasts is "bulk" freight ~ coal, cement, iron ore, wheat etc; little has been done to attract other manufactured goods. Progress on dedicated freight corridors remains pathetically slow. In terms of both speed and assured-deliveries the road-transport sector offers more. The railways make much of a paucity of resources constraining major projects, but little has been done to improve the quality of existing services: the general impression being that the white flag has been waved when competing with private truckers. Things appear marginally better on the passenger front, but remember only a very limited section of the populace finds even discounted air fares affordable, yet a move to buses is evident among those journeying short distances. Senior railway officials might feel slighted at the proposed reform being entrusted to the Planning Commission, contend they are not short of professional capabilities but have been denied budgetary support to get the job done. The physical distance between Rail Bhawan and Yojana Bhawan is not much; will the mental distance be bridged?


In some ways the task being handed over to the Planning Commission could be construed as ducking reality, not biting the bullet and getting the railway minister to deliver. Who can deny that over the past few decades no ministry has been more politicised? An infamous chain links Ghani Khan Choudhury, George Fernandes, Lalu Prasad etc, and in addition to nursing her several constituencies (not merely geographical) Mamata Banerjee has added distractions ~ trying to disprove all the claims of her predecessor, and getting thrilled because Bengali-style fish curry is now an option on the New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express. Rather than cite the Chinese example of railway upgrade, Dr Manmohan Singh must seek to inject administrative competence into his ministerial colleagues. But does he have the clout to eject their political pettiness?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DIWALI DECIBELS

AND THE TRAUMA OF THE NEWBORN


IT was almost a celebration of torture this Diwali. That Mr Jyoti Basu's residential staff had to complain to the police station or that Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had to step out of his residence close to midnight to upbraid the police are of relatively lesser moment than the reality of the newborn at the crib being tormented at Kolkata's BC Roy Sishu Hospital. It was a disgrace no less to the memory of a former chief minister, who contributed more to health care than all his successors combined. Seldom in the past, and never since 1997, when the Pollution Control Board was directed to monitor the decibel level, has there been so flagrant a violation of rules. Not that the board didn't measure the volume of sound as fireworks lit the sky and bombs and crackers ~ many on the banned list ~ burst on the ground. The rules were violated and violated with impunity. The police were palpably inactive. That the decibel level around the "silence zone'' of the children's hospital was a whopping 90 ~ double the prescribed measure ~ is a testament to the callous indifference of the PCB as well as the law-enforcement authorities. Thus it was that an explosion cracked the window of the hospital's neo-natal centre, jolting the newborns out of sleep. The authorities failed even to ensure the sanctity of the "silence zone".


The torment of the newborns is a collective shame for the administration, inhumanly insensitive as parents complained that their children were shivering in the overwhelmingly ear-splitting din. And these children included a four-day-old girl battling an acute respiratory problem. The fact that no action was taken despite parental complaints is testified by the statement of the special officer appointed by the High Court to monitor the sound pollution. The facts and figures are in place and the failure of both the PCB and the police is established. Both took leave of their senses. The government need not go through the motions of a routine inquiry. If the Chief Minister is distressed over the vandalism in Palm Avenue, he ought to fix the accountability with urgent despatch at Phoolbagan as well. The suffering has been borne from the five-day-old to the 95-year-old!

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SAYING YES, BUT...

... MEGHALAYA U-ISSUE FAR FROM SETTLED


THE ruling Meghalaya United Alliance has endorsed its 25 August Cabinet decision to go ahead with the Rs 209-crore first phase pre-project development to be undertaken by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) on 422 hectares in the West Khasi Hills. But this does not necessarily mean the end of the nearly two-decade-old controversy over the uranium mining issue. Members of the United Democratic Party, one of the partners of the government, are already divided, arguing that since the UDP represents the state's indigenous people they must develop a deeper understanding among themselves before "blindly supporting" the government's decision. But party parliamentary leader and former chief minister JD Rymbai has said they have reached a consensus that infrastructure development should cover the entire West Khasi Hills and not remain confined to the mining areas alone.


The fiercest opponent to uranium mining so far has been Hopinstonstone Lyngdoh, leader of the Hill State People's Democratic Front, also part of the government. He had all along taken the stand that uranium mining would cause "radiation-induced ailments" and similar health hazards and was least impressed by UCIL's offer of constructing a hospital of international standard, new schools and improved roads in the area. Now he says he will "gladly accept" development of 422 hectares on the condition that this will not be a prelude to ultimate mining. But chief minister DD Lapang has made it clear that the pre-project development will "ultimately facilitate" uranium mining. It would be naïve to expect the UCIL to spend so much if it is to merely engage itself in development work which is not its responsibility. Another opponent is the powerful Khasi Students' Union which, after the expiry of its ultimatum to the government to cancel all deals with UCIL before 15 September, is now resorting to night road blockades ~ already six government vehicles have been torched ~ and seems determined to intensify its agitation. Unless an understanding with it is reached, UCIL may not find it smooth sailing.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHARLES UNDER FIRE OVER PLANS TO BUILD HOMES ON FARMLAND

 

LONDON, 19 OCT: Prince Charles, who is said to have positioned himself as a champion of the countryside, has come under fire from residents of a British village over his plans to build 2,000 new homes on nearby fields and farmland.


Villagers are astonished that the Prince's Duchy of Cornwall estate, which owns most of the village near Bath, is even considering concreting over greenfield land, the British media reported.


The Duchy has appointed consultants and is working on the plans with Bath and North East Somerset Council, which is seeking sites on which to extend Bath to meet housing targets set by the government. The Prince of Wales plays an active role in the management of the Duchy, and the proposed development could yield an estimated 100 million pounds, many have claimed.


In fact, residents of the village have accused Prince Charles of abandoning his commitment to protecting rural Britain. Dozens of tenants have sent letters to him complaining about the proposed scheme and have joined forces under the banner of the Newton St Loe Conservation Group.


Ms Jane Giddins, the chairwoman of the parish council, was quoted as saying: "There are people in the village who feel let down by the Duchy's position. They could have said this plan to extend Bath on greenfield sites is wrong." ~ PTI 

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE ENDANGERED BRINJAL

 

There has been widespread and well-justified criticism of the recent decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee to approve Bt brinjal for release. Dr. Pushpa Bhargava, eminent scientist who was appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the functioning of GEAC, has expressed shock at this rushed approval. He has called it a 'disaster' and 'unethical'. Fortunately, the government can still take steps to prevent its commercial release in the market.


Maximum caution has to be exercised in the introduction of not only Bt brinjal but all Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Genetically Modified (GM) crops. There is increasing evidence of serious health and environmental hazards of GMOs/GM crops.


This evidence was reviewed by the independent science panel, which consisted of senior scientists from 11 countries. It concluded that many GM crops contain gene products that are known to be harmful. For example, the Bt proteins that kill pests include potent immunogens and allergens. Food crops are increasingly being engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, drugs and vaccines in the open environment, exposing people to the danger of inappropriate medication and their harmful side effects.

 

AFTER-EFFECTS
Herbicides tolerant crops ~ accounting for a majority of all GM crops worldwide ~ are tied to the broad spectrum herbicide glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium. These have been linked to spontaneous abortions, birth defects and other health problems for human beings, animals and soil-organisms. GM varieties are unstable, with the potential to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and disrupt gene function in animal and human cells.


Earlier, several prominent scientists in the USA, including Nobel laureates, had formed the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists. It pleaded for caution in the commercial introduction of new genetically engineered products. The UCS released a study by Dr Jane Rissler and Dr Margaret Mellon which warned against the possibility of new viruses and diseases as well as proliferation of weeds. The risk increases in direct proportion to the number and variety of these crops. The fact that a transgenic crop has been approved as safe in the USA does not mean that risks do not exist in other countries and in different environment conditions.
The study titled 'Perils Amidst the Promise' by the UCS concluded that no company should be permitted to commercialise a transgenic crop in the United States until a strong government programme is in place. This programme must ensure risk assessment and control of all transgenic crops. It must give adequate attention to the centres of crop diversity in the USA and elsewhere in the world. The appropriate United Nations organisation should develop an international bio-safety protocol, which is necessary to ensure that developing countries, especially those harbouring centres of crop genetic diversity, can take protection against the risks of genetically engineered crops.


ETHICAL DILEMMA

Several scientists involved in studying the implications and impact of genetic engineering got together at the international conference on 'Redefining of Life Sciences' organised by the Third World Network at Penang, Malaysia. They issued a statement (the Penang Statement, or PS) which questioned the scientific basis of genetic engineering. It observed: "The new biotechnology based upon genetic engineering makes the assumption that each specific feature of an organism is encoded in one or a few specific, stable genes, so that the transfer of these genes results in the transfer of a discrete feature. This extreme form of genetic reductionism has already been rejected by the majority of biologists because it fails to take into account the complex interactions between genes and their cellular, extra-cellular and external environment that are involved in the development of all features. It is impossible to predict the consequences of transferring a gene from one type of organism to another in a significant number of cases. The limited ability to transfer identifiable molecular characteristics between organisms through genetic engineering does not constitute the demonstration of any comprehensive or reliable system for predicting all the significant effects of transposing genes."
A technical report by Dr Charles Benbrook, former Executive Director of the board on agriculture of the US National Academy of Science, examined US agricultural data over a span of nine years. It concluded that the spread of GM crops actually led to an increase in the use of pesticide instead of the projected reduction.
Besides, there is the ethical dilemma faced by vegetarians who may find it difficult to select food when animal genes are introduced into plant genes. The choice becomes even more difficult ~ and not just for vegetarians ~ when even human genes are introduced into food crops, including rice. This dilemma is most difficult to resolve when GM foods are not specifically labelled, and in fact GM food companies try their best to avoid any legal requirement of specific labelling.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

ALL THE HOOPS

 

Genetic modification has opened up exciting opportunities, but human reactions to them vary enormously. Americans run trials for utilization risks more or less simultaneously with the development of a modified organism. Europeans shun genetically modified products like the plague. Indians have their own homegrown way of confronting the novelties. They set up a pyramid of committees, all the way from run-of-the-mill biologists to the Grand Union Cabinet, and make a GM product run a hurdle race across them. The committees beyond the lowest couple are pointless; they are populated by ignoramuses who more or less rubber-stamp the decision of the lowest committees. But the structure addresses four inbuilt Indian principles. The first is not to trust anyone. The second is to diffuse responsibility amongst as many people as possible. The third is to take everything to the highest level. The last is to take as long as possible over everything. All these desiderata have been fulfilled four times over, and Bt brinjal is kosher at last.

 

The only other product, which jumped through all these hoops, Bt cotton, has transformed the Indian cotton landscape. India was a marginal producer of mostly second-rate cotton. The advent of Bt cotton enabled India to triple its production, and to find a market abroad. India has not derived as much benefit from it as it might have because the country's textile industry is spineless. But Bt cotton has been a godsend for farmers. Bt aubergine will not be such a record-breaker. The annual output value of aubergine is a fraction of cotton's; and it is not exported at all. Bt aubergine is more resistant to pests; so its adoption will lead to a doubling or tripling of output even if the area under it does not increase. But aubergine is not such a prized vegetable; nor does it have close substitutes. As its costs come down, its price will collapse; but that will not lead to a significant expansion of its consumption. It may find a small market in the Middle East where there is a large Indian population; that apart, the prospects of export are not bright. So the most likely outcome is shrinkage in area under brinjal.

 

However, that will open up an opportunity for innovation. Who knows what undiscovered properties reside in and what promising chemicals can be extracted from aubergine? If it were to be found to contain an anti-cancer drug, it would find a vast market. Now is the time for bright young scientists to gird their loins and set about working on brinjal. Meanwhile, the example of aubergine illustrates a more general principle, that the more open the world's agricultural markets are, the greater the promise of innovations like Bt products. India should reverse its traditional opposition to the liberalization of world agricultural markets and stop being an ally of such protectionists as Europe and Japan.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FREE WITHIN

 

Gaining brains is the new challenge for the Union human resource development ministry. Who is to get them and how to woo and keep them: these are some of the questions being debated. First, the University Grants Commission, and now a few other universities and institutions, have demanded that the green signal to compete for foreign faculty should be given to all universities and not just to the 14 chosen ones. And the HRD ministry seems to be on its way to complying with this demand. There are some niggling anxieties (what if all the NRI burn-outs end up in India?), but everybody continues to accept unquestioningly that the ministry will run the show. It is this fundamental assumption that needs to be challenged now so that wooing foreign faculty can become freely, and therefore truly, competitive. The government's role is to remove all the bureaucratic and political barriers to bringing in quality academics from all over the world to teach and do research in India. Once that is done, then the ministry should stand back and watch as the institutions compete among themselves to get the best people.

 

The ministry could let the competition begin at home, before it goes global. And this should include playing full tilt at poaching quality faculty from institutions within the country. It should be possible to imagine the institutes of technology at Kanpur and Kharagpur vying with each other to work out the best offer for a brilliant candidate in the country. The universities can do this among themselves because they are governed by their own acts. But the Centre continues to keep the IITs under its wing in these matters, and it is now time to shed this kind of overseeing and controlling mindset. The creation of quality infrastructure that would catch the global eye is not just a question of fiscal liberties, but calls for a larger habit of freedom that must begin at the top.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

GOVERNMENT AS A SERVICE

THE POVERTY DISCOURSE HAS TURNED INTO A TOWER OF BABEL

ASHOK V. DESAI

 

If a country's national income is rising, someone in the country must be getting richer. Unless income distribution is changing, all income classes must get richer at about the same pace. If a constant standard of living is defined to classify everyone below it as poor, then as incomes rise, the proportion of the poor so defined must shrink, eventually to zero. If income grows 5 per cent a year and income distribution remains unchanged, the income of all classes will double in 15 years. If it grows at 10 per cent, it will double every eight years. This is simple, exponential arithmetic.

 

A rise in incomes does not lead to a proportional fall in poverty. But if we know the income distribution and can assume that it will remain constant, it is possible to predict when a particular fractile would cease to be poor. Hence it would be possible to predict the percentage of the population below the poverty level at any future point of time. If incomes rise and distribution does not change, the proportion of the poor in population will fall progressively with time. So if it is the objective simply to reduce poverty, it requires no special policy. Growth will not remove poverty amongst those with inadequate earning power — the unsupported young, old, disabled, mentally disturbed or ailing. They would require special subsidies. But the rest would cease to be poor at some point in time.

 

All organizations that have measured poverty with a constant poverty level have confirmed the fall in the proportion of the poor. According to the World Bank, the proportion of Indians living on less than $1 a day, equal after correction of price levels to Rs 17.20 in towns and Rs 11.40 in villages in 2005, fell from 42 per cent in 1981 to 24 per cent in 2005. The proportion living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 60 per cent to 42 per cent in the same period. Similar calculations using an Indian 'expert group's' poverty line give a fall from 54.9 per cent in 1973-74 to 19.3 per cent in 2006-07.

 

This decline has nothing to do with 'trickle-down'. The idea behind trickle-down is that the rise in incomes goes first to the rich and then trickles down to their servants, hangers-on, suppliers and so on. The reason why poverty goes down with growth is that incomes of all earners rise in relation to prices, or conversely, prices fall relatively to incomes. And the reason this happens is that a rise in income per head is by definition a rise in productivity per head. So with growth, the cost of inputs per unit of output falls; and if the share of wages in income does not fall, then income per unit of labour will rise. In other words, wages will buy more goods and services.

 

They will not buy more of all goods and services to the same extent. The ratio of prices of some goods to income will fall more than of others, and people will consume more of the goods whose relative prices fall more. Mass production and substitution of cheap plastics for expensive leather have made footwear much cheaper; so while sixty years ago most poor people went barefoot, most have some footwear today. On the other hand, the cost of middle-class housing close to town centres has gone up much more than incomes. So a higher proportion of people live far from town centres and from their place of work; and those who can afford accommodation on Marine Drive in Bombay, in Jor Bagh in Delhi or in Alipur in Calcutta today are much richer, relatively, than sixty years ago.

 

People will not consume more only of those goods and services that have become cheaper relatively to income. They save money on what becomes cheaper, and can transfer those savings to other goods and services. So as they get richer, they will consume more even of goods that have become more expensive.

 

The government runs many aid and relief programmes only for poor people; for them it has to identify the poor. The ministry of rural development does so every five years. It did so first in 1992. It defined the poor as those belonging to families getting less than Rs 11,000 a year. It got a number far larger than Planning Commission's estimates. Obviously, taking family income led to inclusion of small non-poor families with income below Rs 11,000 and exclusion of large poor families with income above Rs 11,000; the first effect predominated. The criterion should have been in terms of income or consumption per head.

 

So in 1997, the ministry adopted the Planning Commission consumption limit. And it excluded families with more than 2 hectares, or a pucca house, or expensive consumer durables, or a member earning over Rs 20,000 a year. The new criterion naturally led to a figure for the poor lower than the Planning Commission estimate.

 

That was too low for the ministry. So in 2002, it gave families marks on each of 11 criteria such as land holding, quality of house, number of clothes, number of meals a day, type of latrine, consumer durables etc. That gave each family a score. The ministry asked every state government to choose a cut-off score which would give them families below poverty line equal to the number estimated by the Planning Commission. Many states chose far more families than they were supposed to, so there was mayhem.

 

So in 2007, the ministry appointed a committee to define the poverty level. This committee, chaired by N.C. Saxena, suggests exclusion from the poor of those with twice the average district landholding, a three- or four-wheeler, farm equipment, an income-tax payer or someone earning over Rs 10,000. It proposes automatic inclusion of tribals, extremely scheduled castes, beggars, households headed by minors, single women, disabled people or bonded labourers, and homeless households. The rest should be given marks based on caste or tribe, certain occupations, lack of education, certain ailments, and aged heads of household. The scores should be so used as to count half the population as poor.

 

Thus in the world of rural development policy, poverty has been transformed from simple lack of purchasing power to a many-headed animal. The more the heads, the greater the scope for variation and dissension; nine of the committee's 17 members wrote personal notes of dissent. The poverty discourse has turned into a tower of Babel.

 

The poverty community never even mentions that the resources of the state are limited and that the personnel the government uses for identifying and subsidizing the poor are extremely corruptible. A poor country will have many poor people; a state that tries to abolish poverty with subsidies is a Sisyphus. It cannot abolish them; but it can incidentally generate enormous corruption. The national rural employment guarantee programme has done so; a study done by Anil Sharma for National Council of Applied Economic Research has provided evidence. The only people the government should try to help are the destitute and vulnerable — those who lack enough earning power. For the rest, it should maximize productivity growth, for that is what removes poverty.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE

MALVIKA SINGH

 

Historic buildings — monument sites, forts and palaces — need to be viewed in a manner that ensures that they are infused with life and a future which connect them with the generations that follow. That, and that alone, will keep the ethos of our multi-faceted and diverse culture alive and relevant, as well as ensure that people feel they are an intrinsic part of the greater culture. All the strident positions about throwing ropes around monuments and preserving them as sterile edifices have no place in the contemporary environment. To conserve correctly requires participation by every stakeholder, and not just by government babus and by the other administrators of these properties.

 

Take the Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta. Here is an ideal historic building that sits in a space that could be devised with care and made into a hive of cultural activity. Exhibitions, a café, a shop selling products related to the raj, all of these would bring in regular revenue to meet the basic conservation needs. The gardens, too, need to be restored. An effective and working example of this approach to a historic monument is the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Fortunately, it remains in the hands of a private trust and, therefore, is a modern, vibrant and beautifully conserved property, which is clean and welcoming and generates large resources that are ploughed back for its upkeep. The trust is now identifying indigenous plants and shrubs in an effort to turn the slopes down from the rampart green.

 

Sadly, in India, we have a band of 'committed' people who want to cover past legacies with a veil in the belief that 'protection' of this nature will keep the culture intact. Unfortunately, the opposite happens. Our man-made heritage is in an abject state of deterioration. This is the sad reality. It is compelling, albeit inadvertently, a new and young generation to ignore its desperate needs because the task of convincing those who call the shots is difficult as they are unaware of fresh strategies related to conservation.

 

MORE FLEXIBLE

This we-know-it-all attitude, laced with fake patriotism that gets excited about breaking out of old, musty and corroded parameters within which the management of our culture has operated thus far, has to change radically.

Private-public partnership is the first step, and it needs to be brought into play immediately if we are to restore and reinvent our institutions, historic monuments and sites, museums, archives and libraries, forests and rivers and so on. Only then will we begin to regenerate something that has been craving for a fresh injection of oxygen for decades. I know how difficult it is to try and find material on the building of New Delhi, and, in comparison, how simple and efficient the same task could be in Britain.

The old and traditional must engage with the contemporary. If the two fail to do so, and if we, because of archaic conservatism, do not fight for change in this area of social activity, our history and its invaluable traditions will wallow in confusion and gradually destroy themselves.

 

National pride is an essential ingredient for stable socio-economic growth and change. Therefore, cultural policy and the attitude of the establishment that formulates the rules and norms, which determine how we manage our legacy, are of utmost importance. The static positions have to give way to a more flexible set of dos and don'ts.

 

Individuals manning these treasures must not be people who are merely marking time, looking forward to a quick transfer. The government must extend itself to concerned and creative people from the public domain who believe that they would like to participate in the process of infusing life into our 'monuments'.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A WARMTH THAT BRINGS COLD FEAR

TO DO THEIR BEST, WRITES JAYANTA BANDYOPADHYAY POLICIES TO ARREST GLOBAL WARMING WILL REMAIN UNJUST TILL INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES AGREE

 

During the last century, the average temperature of the atmosphere at the earth's surface has gone up by about 0.7 degrees Celsius. This global warming has now become a source of great risk for life in general and economic activity in particular. The future course of human advancement, the technological options that would ensure sustainability, depend very crucially on how we address the challenge of global warming and its diverse impacts.

 

Since the middle of the last century, many initiatives have been taken by scientists to identify the reasons behind the warming. To arrive at an understanding of this process, a conference was held in Austria in 1985. Two years later, a resolution by the 10th World Meteorological Congress and subsequently by the United Nations environment programme led to the establishment of the inter-governmental panel on climate change in Geneva.

 

The IPCC has been examining the causes behind global warming and its different impact over various parts of the world. The panel has produced four assessment reports which relate this warming to the large increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases from anthropogenic emissions. Among the various GHGs, carbon di-oxide emitted by the burning of fossil fuels is the most significant. The concentration has been the cumulative result of fossil-fuel use by the industrializing societies, initially of Europe, and later of other parts of the world. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has gone up from 280 parts per million (by volume) in pre-industrial times to about 360 ppm by the end of the 20th century. Changes in the level of GHGs altered the atmospheric radiation balance and caused warming.

 

This amount of warming would have been less worrying had it not been accompanied by the thermal expansion of the ocean waters that makes the sea-level rise, inundating large areas along the coasts and threatening small islands with submersion. Higher temperature of the atmosphere would also lead to the melting of polar ice-caps and mountain glaciers that raise sea-level further. Melting of glaciers would change the flow of many rivers, reducing the lean-period water-availability downstream. The flows in Himalayan river systems like those of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus are expected to undergo crucial changes, causing major social and economic disruptions in the densely populated Indo-Gangetic plains.

 

The less direct, but probably more serious impact of global warming comes in the form of climate change. Warming would change the pattern of global circulation, affecting temperature, rainfall pattern and timing, frequency of cyclones and so on. Prediction of new climatic conditions is urgently needed. The global circulation models are not very accurate for application on smaller but more necessary spatial scales, like river basins. Such models need to be refined.

 

If atmospheric warming is not arrested and reversed, the possibility of the atmosphere getting heated catastrophically remains, posing a direct threat to life. Human economic activities in the past centuries in parts of the world have exposed all humans to grave risks, the nature of which is not clearly known. This is climate injustice, for which the non-industrialized world is seeking redress.

 

To face the challenges, a framework convention on climate change was adopted in the Rio Earth Summit held in 1992. It recognized the urgent need for an early reduction in the emission of GHGs and put the responsibility directly on the industrialized countries, whose emissions in the past are at the root of global warming. Thus came the idea of historical responsibility of the industrialized countries towards the global commons. In 1997, an attempt was made to tighten the FCCC into the form of the Kyoto Protocol that allocated GHG emission quotas for all countries.

 

The position of the United States of America regarding the Kyoto Protocol has been disappointing. The greatest emitter of GHGs today was unwilling to ratify the protocol. The US distanced itself from it mainly over the issue of commitment to emission-capping by rapidly growing economies like China and India. There is now the talk of a post-Kyoto global climate policy that could be the outcome of the December conference of the parties to the FCCC in Copenhagen. Barack Obama's speech at the UN climate conference in September indicates a greener position of the US in terms of meeting its own reduction commitments. But Obama was equally clear about the US demand for a broader commitment from the growing economies. This is the core of the challenge that environmental diplomats of the world will have to address in Copenhagen.

 

The large populations of China and India suggest low per-capita GHG emissions. Statements from the Indian prime minister have always reiterated India's commitment to limit its per capita GHG emission to below that of the industrialized countries. Although about half of the Indian population has historically not emitted any significant amount of GHGs, it will face the greatest impacts of global warming and related climate change. The question of delivering climate justice at the intra-national level is equally significant.

 

The rich in India should not seek protection behind the vast numbers of the poor to present a low per-capita emission figure. India's demand for climate justice at the international level can be more authentic if steps are taken within the country to advance climate justice and equity.

 

There is another important dimension to the politics of climate change. While the progress in mitigation of GHG emissions has been alarmingly slow, many international donors and NGOs have been promoting adaptation to climate change in poorer countries. Adaptation needs to be seen as a liability pushed on the poorer countries through climate injustice, it cannot be a panacea. If serious commitments to mitigate GHG emissions are not made by the industrialized countries, adaptation measures in the poorer countries will at best remain marginal. Whether in the Himalaya with melting glaciers or in the Sunderbans facing rising sea-levels or in the plains subject to increasingly uncertain climates, the solution to the problem lies in mitigation. The primacy of mitigation needs to be repeatedly asserted as the central element of global climate justice. Conferences on adaptation that do not demand early mitigation are part of the problem, not the solution. They divert global attention from the urgent need for mitigation. Since the Rio Earth Summit, humanity has lost a lot of time by continued GHG emission. There is no more room for developing cold feet over mitigation in addressing global warming.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE DERAILMENT OF A DREAM

THE DURONTO EXPRESS MUST NOT BE MADE TO FOLLOW THE EXAMPLES SET BY ITS PREDECESSORS

SLOW TRAIN COMING

 

The Duronto Express, billed as the 'fastest' and a 'non-stop' train between Calcutta and New Delhi, ended up being 20 minutes late in its maiden journey. The delay surely is a sign of things to come. The adjectives used to describe the train will mean little if it fails to meet the people's expectations.

 

In October 1956, the Poorva Express, then known as the Vestibule Express, had been described as the fastest train with the least number of stoppages. It soon became the favourite mode of journey between the capital and Calcutta. Unfortunately, the nascent political system got the better of the grand tradition of the railways and increased the number of halts as well as the distance and the time of the journey. Today, the train takes anywhere between 25 and 26 hours to cover the route, a few hours longer than the 22-hour ride in 1956.

 

Thirteen years later, the Rajdhani Express began its dream run. The train was the brainchild of the legendary railways' engineering officer, the late B.C. Ganguli, who was loved, feared and hated for his professionalism and probity. The Duronto Express can be considered as the successor of the Rajdhani Express.

 

However, the Duronto Express is likely to face infinitely tougher challenges. The history and the tradition of the Indian railways show that virtually every fast and express train has declined in terms of speed and the quality of service. The Amritsar-Mumbai Central Frontier Mail is a shadow of its former glorious self. The same holds true for the Toofan Mail, now the Toofan Express, the Amritsar-Mumbai Central Frontier Mail, the Howrah-Delhi-Kalka Mail and the Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express.

 

To make matters worse, fast-moving trains have to contend with the threat posed by illegal mining in the colliery belt stretching from the Gomoh-Dhanbad sector to the Andal-Waria belt. The movement of express trains puts pressure on the track, compelling the line engineers to work harder to maintain their trackworthiness.

 

Moreover, the Howrah-Delhi Grand Cord line is one of the busiest owing to both passenger and freight traffic. This makes trains less punctual.

 

Despite the existing hurdles, the overall track record of the Indian Railways continues to be awe-inspiring. However, the unpredictability of the Indian political establishment still poses a tough challenge for the railways. Any railways minister is capable of shattering a dream project into smithereens.

 

With a 1.4 million strong work force and a separate budget of its own, the railways is the country's economic workhorse. Little wonder then that the occupant of the office of the Rail Bhavan continues to be the star attraction of the nation. The performance of the railways is a key component to demonstrate political success or failure.Both the Poorva and the Rajdhani were success stories to begin with. But the important thing to remember is to maintain the standard of service and upgrade the technology of such trains. The Duronto Express must not be made to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, which started with a bang but lost their gloss and glitter after getting sucked into the mire of India's democratic cauldron.

 

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

INDEFENSIBLE ACT

"KALMADI'S PETULANCE DOES NOT SERVE INDIA'S CAUSE."

 

Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi's attack on Commonwealth Games Federation representative in New Delhi Mike Hooper is in bad taste and totally indefensible. It is well-known that the preparations for the Games, to be held in Delhi in 2010, are well behind schedule, with some constructions yet to start, when the entire work should have been over by May this year. Many in India, including the Comptroller and Auditor-General, have pointed out the delays and the prime minister's special attention has been drawn to it. It was Hooper's responsibility to take note of the situation and report on the status of the work to the CGF and he has done just that. CGF president Mike Fenner, who was in Delhi last week, observed that time was Indian authorities' enemy now in hosting the meet, and announced the setting up a committee to monitor the progress of the work. He has also rightly rebuffed Kalmadi, by rejecting the demand for Hooper's withdrawal.


Kalmadi's argument that the idea of a monitoring committee points to a 'colonial' attitude and would compromise India's sovereignty is ridiculous. It is not a professional response but a poor political reaction from a bygone period. It is either naivete or a malicious disrespect for people's intelligence on the part of Kalmadi that made him think that such an imputation would carry any credibility. The right response should have been to accept the criticism in good spirit and promise to make amends. It is not Hooper but those in charge of the many bodies which are responsible for the preparations for the Games who need replacement.


The unpleasant spat between India's sports authorities and the CGF cannot enhance the country's prestige. The conduct of the Commonwealth Games is expected to improve Delhi's infrastructure and raise India's standing in the world. Till now it has only exposed our inability to plan and execute major projects in time. The latest developments have also shown our lack of respect for the rights of others who have a legitimate stake in an international event like the Commonwealth Games. The existence of different agencies which have worked without co-ordination has not helped. There is the need for a central authority, as in the case of the Asian Games of 1982, directly reporting to the prime minister, to ensure that the remaining months are best spent so that the country does not lose its face.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

DEADLY DEEPAVALI

"SAFETY NORMS MUST IN DEALING WITH FIRECRACKERS."

 

Deepavali has been marred by firecracker-related tragedies this year as well. A blaze in a firecracker godown in Pallipattu village near Chennai has left at least 32 people dead. Only a few days ago, a 10-year-old child died in a fire that broke out in a cracker market in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr district. There have been several accidents too in various parts of the country where people burning crackers sustained injuries and had to be rushed to hospital. Once synonymous with fun, fireworks have increasingly come to be associated with explosions, deadly accidents and burns injuries. They are taking the joy out of celebrating Deepavali. At every step, from their production and transport to their sales and use, crackers are proving dangerous. In July-August this year, explosions took place in at least five firecracker production units in Sivakasi, the centre of India's fireworks manufacturing industry. More recently, fireworks being illegally transported by train set off an explosion at Sholavandan railway station near Madurai killing two and injuring several others.


It is well known that over half the manufacturing units in Sivakasi and other places are not licensed and function with the full knowledge of local authorities. Many licensed manufacturers outsource work to people producing fireworks at home. In the Pallipattu incident too, it appears the godown where the fireworks were

stored was not licensed.

 

While licensing is essential, this alone will not prevent accidents. Many licensed units flout safety norms. It is important therefore that manufacturing units, godowns and shops are regularly inspected. In recent years, authorities have restricted sale of crackers to a few areas in cities. This is a welcome step. However, sale of fireworks is allowed through the year by some shops that have been issued permanent licenses. Often these shops are located on busy streets. A spark from a cigarette or a short circuit can set off a blaze.


Such sales must be stopped. Besides, there is a need to put in place stern punishment for violating safety regulations. Often those caught violating rules are let off with a light rap on their knuckles. This is not enough. Those whose wanton negligence has resulted in the death of people should be tried for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Stern action will prompt those engaged in the fireworks trade to respect safety standards and human lives.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

STICK TO BASIC TASKS

THERE'S TOO MUCH MEDIA HYPE ABOUT ALLEGED CHINE-SE DESIGNS ON INDIA BY PROJECTING GROWING CAPABI-LITIES INTO MALEVOLENCE.

B G VERGHESE


Why are the Chinese so nervous, huffing and puffing away over something as innocuous as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's election-related visit to Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's spiritual journey to the revered Buddhist monastery in Tawang? These demarches were preceded by a gratuitous statement that Arunachal is part of China and India should best back off from there.


This bluster, sometimes expressed though the columns of party journals, targets India for not responding to China's boundary 'concessions' and for adopting a hegemonistic attitude towards its neighbours, Pakistan and Nepal included. The Sino-Indian boundary is still 'disputed' and while negotiations are in progress, the matter has not been settled and hence the status quo ante, as perceived by Beijing, must prevail.


The facts are otherwise. China has dragged its feet on boundary demarcation, refusing to exchange sector maps as settled through talks so as to avoid inadvertent incidents of innocent trespass. It has also blandly gone back on one of the agreed principles of understanding, namely, that settled border areas shall not be brought into question during the boundary talks. It has violated this seminal principal by claiming 'possession' of all of Arunachal, particularly Tawang, and adopting ludicrous rhetorical positions.


India does not need to be unnerved by such conduct that betrays a sense of uncertainty and anxiety over the situation in China's borderlands in Tibet and Xinjiang which remain restive. Arunachal went to the polls once again and registered a 75 per cent vote in a democratic process that Communist China does not understand and deeply fears.

 

China has done remarkably well in many ways. But it is replete with inner contradictions and social disharmonies. Economic liberalism and modernisation do not go well with a tight party dictatorship, the suppression of religious freedom and rural-urban and regional disparities. All monoliths are solid until they crack.

There has, however, been too much media and right-wing hype about alleged Chinese designs on India by projecting growing capabilities into malevolence. This mix of jingoism and fear is immature. Chinese military modernisation and technological displays are impressive but India has no need to match either of these in numbers or idle showmanship.


Ours is not an aggressive posture and the Chinese have a shrewd idea that 1962 is ancient history and adventures are best avoided. This does not mean that India should not improve its border infrastructure and connectivity and uplift living standards in all outlying regions.


TALKS WELCOME

If Manmohan Singh meets the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Bangkok on Oct 23 on the margins of the East Asian summit, this should offer opportunity to iron out recent wrinkles in bilateral relations. Among these is a new red herring being dragged across the trail as a result of reports that the Chinese plan to dam the Tsangpo river at Zangmu with an installed capacity of 450 MW.


Even if this be true this is probably a modest run-of-the-river hydro project with little consumptive use and no hint  of diversion northwards. Such a project would be fully within China's right to build.

Indian news reports continue to be singularly ill-informed about Tibetan geography, topography and hydrology. The water resources ministry must take the rap for such national ignorance, which has deeper roots in the downgrading of geography as an educational discipline. For one thing, the Tsangpo (Siang/Dihang in Arunachal) is confused with the Brahmaputra (which is formed in Assam after the confluence of the Siang, Luhit, Dibang and Noa Dihing, all substantial rivers in their own right). So the 'Brahmaputra' is not being diverted anywhere and will not 'run dry.' In any event more than 70 per cent of the run-off of the Brahmaputra is generated south of the Himalayas.


Reference is made to a report by Li Lung, 'Tibet Water Plan to Save China' (2005), through the Great Western Route Project, by diverting over 200 billion cubic metres of water from Tibet to North China, 120 BCM of this coming from the 'Brahmaputra basin.' This diversion is proposed at a far higher latitude in Tibet.


The possibility of harnessing the great U-Bend of the Tsangpo as it drops into India from Tibet is also confusingly discussed as a possible source of pumping power for moving water north. While many old time generals and ideologues have commended the Great Western Diversion Project, a number of technical experts, economists and ecologists have panned this a fantasy.


So while India keeps a wary eye on water resource developments in Tibet, it does not need to become hysterical and thrown off balance and diverted from the real tasks of diplomacy and development. Earlier reports of floods form extreme river surges in Arunachal and in the Sutlej Valley were mistaken for Chinese mala fides. They were in fact the result of debris/glacial lake outbursts in remote Himalayan Valleys.


These, with glacial and permafrost melting and aberrant weather, is going increasingly to impact the entire Himalayan-Karakoram region on account of climate change. Cooperation in meeting this common challenge is what India and China should be talking about.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

NEED TO RECAST INDIA'S HR POLICY

OVER THE YEARS, THE FOCUS ON CRICKET HAS CREATED MASSIVE IDLE ENERGY IN THE CRICKET PLAYING NATIONS.

SUDHANSU R DAS

 

According to the recent UNDP Report 2009, India ranks 134th position in Human Development Index trends. Countries like Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Botswana and some parts of Pakistan have people with better quality life than Indians. Though India's revenue gain had doubled to Rs 5.88 lakh crore in 2007-08 since 2004-05, its effect has not percolated to improve the quality of life of majority of people in this country. The UNDP's Asia Pacific Human Development Report says trade has increased inequalities not only between countries but within national borders, among different areas, sectors and households. Half of the country's population still live with $1.25 a day. In India, approximately 2.4 million child death occurs every year due to simple diseases like measles, diptheria, diarrhea, malnutrition and water borne infections, etc.


Former Finance Minister P Chindambaram, while presenting the Union Budget in 2007-08, expressed we have no dearth of fund but we lack in deliverance. The glaring example of poor deliverance is our urban centres which have become black holes to suck public expenditure. Urban chaos attributes to mindless urban planning which has destroyed water table, rivers, ponds, open space and water bodies and made cities unlivable.

EASY LIFE

Quality human material does not mean educated techno savvy people but people with discipline, integrity, courage, sympathy for fellow human beings. Over decades, the country has neglected the physical and moral well-being of the young generations. The young generation is delicate, weak and much pampered, said Mahatma Gandhi when he was 61-year-old. The situation has worsened further. The disappearance of playgrounds and low cost indigenous games force children to spend time before computer, TV, in pubs and restaurants. Horrific computer games, adult movie DVDs and internet sources are easily accessible to our children. A leading council of USA's largest medical group has found psychiatric disorder among children playing violent video games.


The children's loss of interest in outdoor games can be attributed to the disappearance of outdoor games infrastructures and growing pressure on children to get into professional courses. Job growth in a few mono sectors leave little choice for children.


Every urban centre must provide a public playground within every two kilometre radius. There is a need to popularise low cost indigenous games which once provided the much needed stamina, courage and enthusiasm for a happy, healthy and cohesive society.


Sports effectively cement the social division in the society. Rajashtan government's recent efforts to revive traditional rural sports: namely malkhamb, satholia, rassa-kassi, rumal jhupatta, bullock-cart race and camel-cart race, etc is laudable.


Over the years, the focus on cricket has created massive idle energy in the cricket playing nations. According to the centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), Britain's economic productivity worth $521 million has been lost due to cricket World Cup in 2007. Though no such study has been conducted in India, the productivity loss due to cricket could be a massive sum.


INDIAN ROOTS

The countries which have become rich after the Second World War have the ability to fine tune their HR policy on the basis of long and enduring research. Today, the west source our moral science material like Jataka Tales, Panchatantra, The Ramayana, Yoga and Pranayam to shape young minds. According to a market survey made by an US yoga journal, yoga is a $30 billion business in USA, which includes yoga accessories, DVD, apparel, mats and other equipments. The average yoga practitioner in US spends $1,500 per annum. Americans spend $2.95 billion a year on yoga classes and on yoga products.


There is a reversal of the core principle of market economy "maximising profit by any means." The new MBA oath taken by graduates of Harvard Business School reads "the goal of a business manager is to serve the greater good and no advancing of own narrow ambition at the expense of others." Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his budget speech, said the institutions must provide high quality public services, security and the rule of law to all citizens with transparency and accountability. This could be possible if India recasts its HR policy and groom a few generations of physically and morally strong people with finer human values from school level. There is no point in reforming the existing people in the system as it would be like straightening the tail of a dog.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ORDERLY DISORDER

PEOPLE WITH ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE FIND THE GOING TOUGH.

A N SURYANARAYANAN

 

On the Alzheimer's Day last month, I read about Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder (AAADD): A 'senior' citizen suddenly remembers he has to wash the car; moves to the garage; notices mail on the table; goes through that first; keeps car keys on the desk, to discard junk mail into trash-can; finds it full. So, keeps bills on the desk; takes trash-can out … to go near the mailbox anyway; so why not pay the bills also?


Where is the cheque-book… only one leaf? Yeah, more in the desk; leaves trash-can in situ; then sees the half-drunk Coke on the desk. Now why not put the Coke away from the computer... wait, why not in fridge? So heads towards kitchen; notices flower-plants need watering. So places Coke on the counter, when he eyes 'forgotten-where-specs'; puts them away safely.


Lunch-cum-nap intervenes! Net result by evening: car isn't washed; bills are unpaid; trash stays in; Coke continues on kitchen counter; flowers are half-watered; cheque-book still has only one leaf! But, where are the car keys? While that is figured out, thinks back how come at day's end, nothing got done? Senior is baffled because he had been busy all day! Realises it's a serious condition; must get help. That will be tomorrow; so why not check e-mail?


Cut to real life. Bala and wife, at Golconda go to Abid's by scooter. First halt: for a pant-piece. After many inspections pieces get piled high, with helmet hidden underneath! Take the parcel; but forget the helmet. Next halt: bakery for a cake. Cake has to be held straight; so wife takes it and Bala runs across the busy road to get torch-cells; result: pant-piece-parcel is left in the bakery!


Crossing back, he looks straight at the scooter, kick-starts and leaves. Wife is yelling but traffic noise is high! Stops at secretariat traffic-light; seeing the police, he tells the absent-wife why she didn't remind him about the helmet. Shock: wife is not there! So, returns to the bakery and gets a mouthful. She asks him about the helmet, hoping he has the cells and the pant-piece. Realisation dawns. Tracing the way back, collects all items including the wife and drives back!


Don't let this happen to you!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

AMBUSH IN BALUCHISTAN

 

Iran's ruling clique is blaming the US and Britain for having a hand in the assassination of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) deputy commander, his provincial deputy and up to 40 others in two coordinated bomb attacks Sunday.

 

Although Persian Shi'ites dominate Iran, they comprise only 51 percent of the population. Among the persecuted minorities battling the mullahs are the Baluchis in the border region with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The IRG officers had travelled there to parlay with tribal elders when they were ambushed by Jundullah, an Islamist, Sunni, Baluchi outfit.

 

Discounting statements from the US State Department, British Foreign Office and the president of Pakistan denouncing the attack, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani promised retaliation. But it is the threat from the Guard's top commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, that deserves special attention. He claimed to have proof of Jundullah's "direct ties" to America, Britain and "unfortunately" Pakistan. Jafari: "There will have to be retaliatory measures to punish them."

 

As proof of US complicity, the Iranian media is pointing to a May 2007 London Sunday Telegraph report which asserted that the CIA was clandestinely backing Jundullah, and to a May 2008 ABC News story that US intelligence officers frequently advised Jundullah leaders.

 

Plainly, the realm where espionage, ethno-nationalism, narco-terrorism and Islamist ardor meld is frustratingly murky. For all we know, Jundullah may indeed have links with al-Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban, and even Western intelligence - just as Iran claims.

 

WHAT MATTERS most at this stage is that Sunday's attack has drawn needed attention to the Revolutionary Guards - also known as the Pasdaran. Founded in 1979 to protect the revolution, some of its charter members had received training in Palestine Liberation Organization camps in Lebanon.

 

Over the years, the IRG metastasized from a Praetorian Guard to an evil empire in its own right. Today, in addition to keeping Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in power, the Guards fields a shadow army, air force and navy.

 

It used the civilian vigilantes of its Basij subsidiary to crush opposition protests to the rigged June presidential elections. It is responsible for Iran's nuclear facilities, controls its strategic missiles, trains Hizbullah and Hamas, and conducts espionage out of Iran's diplomatic missions worldwide. That's not all.

 

The IRG has accumulated control of 30 percent of Iran's economy with interests in import/export, engineering and manufacturing. And as if that were not enough, it has also cornered the black market on alcohol, gasoline and tobacco.

 

The Guards is not just the glue that holds the regime together; it is its nucleus. Abbas Milani of Stanford University theorizes that the Guards' power may now exceed that of the supreme leader.

 

YESTERDAY in Vienna, Russia, France, the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency began technical talks with Iranian experts on how to implement Teheran's proposal for shipping uranium to Russia and France for conversion to reactor fuel. In keeping with the mullahs' duplicity, Iran hinted it was rethinking its offer. But Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA chief who has been flacking for Teheran, came out of the session to tell reporters that things had gotten off to a smashing start.

 

There will be another - technical - session today. A meeting in Geneva is also scheduled for later this month between Iran and the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. Whether Iran will allow the IAEA to conduct an inspection at the Qom plant on November 25, as promised, is anyone's guess. What is perfectly clear is that Iran continues, successfully, to play for time while much of the civilized world dawdles.

 

WHAT SHOULD inform the international community as it tries to negotiate with Iran is that its "government" is in reality a sophisticated criminal syndicate. For Iran's essential character is reflected not only in the theocratic visage of Khamenei and the mad-hatter mug of Ahmadinejad but, more revealingly, in the shadowy role of the Guards.

 

The sobering reality of what lies at the core of the regime ought to impel the civilized world, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, to act with all deliberate speed to stop the Iranian bomb. Not only for Israel, but also because this twisted regime is a menace to its people, its neighbors, the region, and beyond.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

BORDERLINE VIEW: RETHINKING OUR NATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES

DAVID NEWMAN

 

The festival period is over and it is that time of year when many of the younger generation start new lives. Like tens of thousands of other Israeli families from all strata of life, one of my children will commence his university studies this week, following a five-year period of army service and additional voluntary social work with his committed school friends. Another child, having recently finished high school, is beginning two years of National Service, working with blind students as an auxiliary assistant.

 

Young Israelis are required to give the best years of their lives to the service of the state before they can get on with getting a profession and earning a normal living. By the time they reach university, or simply get involved in the job market, students here are some four or five years older than their counterparts in most Western societies. They are older, more mature and in a rush to succeed and move on in life. Some of them have already experienced responsibilities and experienced dangers of which young adults and students in Europe or North America have little understanding.

 

But the concept of national service for all has changed during the past 60 years. Although the army remains an obligatory stepping-stone in the transition from childhood to adulthood, it no longer commands the collective ethos that it did in the past. Not only have those groups who are exempt from service, such as Arabs and haredim, experienced significant demographic growth, but there has also been a substantial growth in the number of young people who are liable for service but have found ways of avoiding their national responsibility.

 

The real numbers are not publicized for fear that the trend will increase but it is a sad fact that many are prepared to let others take on the heavy responsibilities of national service while they simply get a head start with civilian life.

 

The ethos that the army is the people's army is only a partial truth today. While the mantra of army service for all remains part of the national ideology, the IDF simply does not need vast numbers of young people as cannon fodder in an era when it has become a highly technological and capital-intensive fighting force. But this also cannot be stated publicly for fear that it will give legitimacy to a system in which only those who want to serve and make a contribution will do so.

 

BUT THERE is an alternative - the system of National Service (Sherut Leumi) which is mostly undertaken by girls within the religious Zionist world. Unlike their haredi counterparts, these girls understand the need to contribute to society at large, despite having been socialized into the belief that an army is not the place for a religious girl. Those who do serve, and there are many that do, have to be prepared for the pressure from their teachers, rabbis and even parents, to stand up for themselves and their own beliefs - and they are to be commended.

 

But for those who do not go to the army, the alternative National Service has proved to be a major contributor to society. Many of the girls work in a diverse range of institutions, hospitals, old age homes, hostels for disadvantaged or orphaned children and take on a whole host of essential jobs as auxiliary workers which the State is unable to provide for. Working through a system of non-profit organizations, such as Bat Ami, Aguda Lehitnadvut, Shlomi and Aminadav, the National Service system has become transformed into a semi-official appendix for the overstretched welfare and education services.

 

Today's National Service includes non-religious youth and has also, in recent years, expanded to take on a limited number of men who are unable to serve in the army for bona fide medical reasons.

 

It has often been argued that this alternative form of National Service should be made obligatory for all those who are exempt from regular army service for either religious (haredi) or national (Arab) reasons.

 

But these groups have, in turn, constantly refused to consider such an idea because they see it as a form of acquiescence to political pressure.

 

In their constant refusal to adopt some form of national service, the leaders of these communities are not serving the best interests of their constituents. For those who are afraid to go beyond the walls of their self-imposed segregated ghettos, national service could be arranged in such a way that they could work within their own communities. Both the haredi and Arab communities are among the poorer sectors of society, and it would be to their benefit if thousands of their young adults were to spend two years in their own hospitals, welfare institutions and schools as auxiliary workers.

 

For as long as these growing communities do not take on some of the burden, for as long as they are perceived as only taking but never giving, they will never succeed in becoming more integrated or accepted in society than they are now. There will always be residual resentment that while some of our young adults give anything from two to five years of their lives to the state, there are those who do not undertake the same commitment.

 

Within the haredi world, it may be possible to convince people that full-time yeshiva studies (to an extent that was unheard of in the heyday of prewar Eastern Europe) is their own equivalent form of service, but this will never be understood or accepted by the majority of society.

 

IT IS time to change the way National Service is organized. Given the changing needs of the army, the two forms of service should be on equal footing and part of a single national system. Everyone should be required to make their contribution, according to the needs of the state on the one hand, and the ability and willingness to serve on the other. Alternative National Service should be expanded to cater to men, not just women. There are many social service, welfare and educational needs which require male workers, just as there are many army jobs (including combat soldiers and fighter pilots) which are now open to women.

 

By diversifying the definition of what national service constitutes, the state will be able to become even more inclusive, drawing in those who have not served in the past, or those who are increasingly searching for ways of avoiding military service. Not everything will be equivalent to the sacrifice and bravery of those who undertake the most dangerous and difficult jobs in the army, and this should be reflected in a differential system of student grants and mortgages given to those who do the more dangerous jobs.

 

But equally not everyone is cut out for those jobs , and it is better to get them to give two or three years of their lives to something that they can make a real contribution, rather than to have them sitting in offices making coffee for their officers and becoming disgruntled.

 

For as long as we expect our young adults to give of themselves to society, we need to seek ways through which as many as possible will want to be part of the collective effort. After 60 years of the people's army , it is time to rethink the way in which we do national service.

 

The writer is professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion University and editor of The International Journal of Geopolitics.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

NO HOLDS BARRED: RABBIS - THE ULTIMATE LIFE COACHES

SHMULEY BOTEACH

 

Speaking at a recent rabbinical conference in the American South, I made myself instantly unpopular by pointing out how irrelevant we rabbis have become. How many parents push their kids to be rabbis?

 

Sure. If the kid flunked science and math. Perhaps. But to choose it over law or a job at Goldman Sachs?

 

And how many people turn to a rabbi aside from the obvious life-cycle events like bar mitzvas and weddings or, more ominously, during tragedies like illness and funerals. And to the extent that we rabbis are becoming more popular with our communities it seems to be precisely when we act as though we're not rabbis but just one of the boys.

 

How often have I heard friends tell me, "We have the coolest new rabbi. We call him by his first name. He plays poker and basketball with us. He's amazing."

 

All of this is, of course, quite kosher. But this kind of popularity is hardly the stuff of leadership.

 

And if we're becoming less relevant in the Jewish community, we never had any real relevance outside our community to begin with. While evangelical pastors like Rick Warren have an appeal well beyond Christians, rabbis remain almost completely unknown in the United States beyond their synagogues. Not that popularity or renown is any kind of meaningful barometer of success. It's not. But as a gauge of the degree to which rabbis are impacting the mainstream culture, it's clear that we remain mostly marginalized.

 

AND IT'S our own fault. We have relegated ourselves to mainstream irrelevance by allowing ourselves to mostly become synagogue quarterbacks and ritual rule-givers. The rabbi is the man who runs the synagogue service. He makes announcements like, "Will the congregation please rise" and "Please turn to page 250."

 

He is the person you come to with questions like "What time do Kol Nidrei services begin" and "Are my tefillin still kosher?" Now, let's not trivialize these absolutely vital functions of the communal rabbi.

 

Let us also, of course, never trivialize the importance of every person whom rabbis affect, comfort and inspire, each of whom, according to our Talmud, is an entire universe. But let us also not pretend that any of these functions will ever bring rabbis or Judaism to have a mainstream impact on a culture crying out for redemption.

 

What could change all this? A radical transformation in how rabbis view themselves and how they are viewed by their communities. The principal purpose of a rabbi is not to present a leather-bound Bible to a bar mitzva boy or even to eulogize a righteous grandmother upon her passing. Rather, the rabbi's main objective is to serve as a guide for life to his congregants. Simply put, as a supreme repository of the splendid wisdom contained in Judaism, as rabbi is the ultimate life coach.

 

The rabbi once was, and should again be, the main person you come to when you want advice as to how to make your marriage passionate, how to learn to talk to your teenage kids, how to wean yourself off materialism and greed and how to learn to become a deeper and wiser person. But when these question pop into our heads the personalities we turn to are Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Phil and Marianne Williamson.

 

But aren't rabbis wise? Are they not students of an ancient tradition that kept families intact and communities whole for generations? Are we not the teachers who can best explain how Joseph learned to forgive his brothers and are we not the heirs of Hillel who practiced patience even through the most outrageous provocations? So why are we teaching so little of this? We rabbis ought to have owned the self-help revolution that had millions searching for mastery over their lives.

 

I RECENTLY was joined on a panel by Elie Wiesel, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mayor Cory Booker to discuss Jewish values that can heal America. Each of the panelists spoke with great eloquence. Joining in the audience of more than 1,000 was Jon Gosselin from TLC's Jon and Kate Plus Eight whose life has become a tabloid parody but who is now searching for redemptive purpose and asked a very important question about values he can employ, as a single father, to raise healthy children.

 

Mayor Booker said, "Be a moral example to your children." Dr. Oz said he must teach his children to always show others respect. And Prof. Wiesel, eloquent as always, said education was key and his children must love learning. I advised him to wean his children off the attention that comes from TV viewers and substitute it instead with the kind of unconditional love that can only come from focused parenting. But the significance of the exchange was that a man whose family has been significantly damaged by the all-American obsession with celebrity is searching for meaning within the well of Jewish values.

 

About a year ago I had a meeting with a television executive about a family values program. I was warned ahead of time that although the executive was Jewish, he was extremely secular and I should be careful not to bring up religion. Yet, as soon as I walked in he asked me, "Do you watch Joel Osteen?" I said that I did, on occasion, and found him to be an effective and inspiring communicator.

 

As I walked out it occurred to me that his question was somewhat tragic. Not because the Jewish executive watched a Christian pastor to receive spiritual uplift. Rather, the tragedy lay in the fact that Osteen mostly quotes from the Hebrew Bible as opposed to the New Testament. His sermons focus on the Jewish patriarchs, Moses, King David, Jeremiah and Isaiah for guidance.

 

What he doesn't do is announce, "Will the congregation please rise" or content himself with quarterbacking a service. Rather, he provides guidance for life. And he does it from our Torah. Surely we rabbis who devote our lives to its mastery can recapture our historical occupation of sharing its wisdom with those who seek to lead lives of moral grandeur and spiritual purpose.

 

The writer is the founder of This World: The Values Network. He has just published The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation. www.shmuley.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

RIGHT OF REPLY: AN OPEN LETTER TO MY ISRAELI FRIENDS

USUK ULUTAS

 

Prof. Efraim Inbar - whose works on Turkish-Israeli relations deserve much credit - recently wrote an op-ed piece "An open letter to my Turkish friends" in The Jerusalem Post in which he paints a grotesque picture of Turkey's new foreign policy vision and domestic political developments. It misleadingly confines the multi-dimensional Turkish foreign policy vision to politics of ideology that is reminiscent of the Cold War years.

 

Turkish-Israeli relations, which had been kept at a minimum level for decades since the latter's establishment, gained momentum with the end of the Cold War. The increasing volume of relations, the countries' parallel views about the Middle East, and, most importantly, the perception of a common enemy (Syria, Iraq, Iran), carried Turkish-Israeli relations to a "strategic partnership."

 

Both states then perceived themselves as being surrounded by the same hostile "rogue" states; and this perception motivated both to accept the other as a valuable strategic partner in a generally hostile political environment.

 

HOWEVER, SINCE the early 2000s Turkish foreign policy has experienced a fundamental change; and Turkey's regional and global role, its relations with the countries of the Middle East, and its long-lasting international disputes have been redefined. Examples of this ongoing process include Turkish emphasis on its full membership to the EU, rapprochement with Syria and Armenia, friendly relations with Iran, official signing of the Nabucco project, energy agreements with Russia, overtures toward a solution to the Kurdish and Cyprus issues, and increasing interest Middle Eastern affairs and the Arab-Israeli peace talks.

 

Turkey's "zero-problem-with-neighbors" policy has so far paid off by creating new diplomatic and economic venues, strengthening its regional and global standing considerably, and helping it to get a more active role in world affairs through its memberships in the UN Security Council and the G-20. Even though this process has caused the Turkish-Israeli "strategic partnership" to lose some steam, it was shaped not by Islamic impulses, but by purely rational diplomatic and strategic choices. As a result of this process, Turkey has not only become a more Middle Eastern country, but also a more European, a more Mediterranean, and a more Caucasian one.

 

Turkish-Iranian relations can best be explained by rational economic and strategic motives, and particularly Turkey's growing energy needs. Correspondingly, Turkish interests lie in a peaceful Iran (in a peaceful region) which is ready to engage in business with Turkey, and, therefore, a possible military confrontation in the region is in direct contrast with Turkish economic interests.

 

That is exactly why Turkey has been encouraging a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, warning Iran - when Ahmedinejad visited Turkey - from building nuclear weapons and getting into a war with the United States and Israel.

 

In addition, Turkey has been supporting the idea of finding ways to include Hamas in the peace talks to ensure the sustainability of Israeli-Palestinian peace track. The ultimate aim of the Turkish strategy concerning Hamas is to find a sustainable solution to the Palestinian problem; and it is clear that the helping hand of Turkey could have been instrumental on several issues, including but not limited to freeing the captive Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit.

 

As Prof. Inbar argues, Turkey's position vis-à-vis Israel during the Operation Cast Lead cannot be simply explained by Turkish domestic public opinion needs alone.

 

There is of course another side to it: the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as later documented by the Goldstone report.

 

If you do not engage in diplomacy, it is highly probable that you will not reach a sustainable solution. This is Diplomacy 101, and not only true for the Arab-Israeli conflict or Iran, but also for Sudan. In this framework, Turkey hosted Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, and conveyed its worries about the genocide in Darfur. Parallel to what Turkey did before, the American administration has recently initiated their policy of engagement with the Sudanese government.

 

ANALYZING CURRENT Turkish domestic politics within the framework of Islamism is deeply wrongheaded. Islamism is an outdated phenomenon for Turkey, as it is for the world. It died more than a decade ago with the post-modern coup d'état in 1997. The subsequent ban of the Welfare Party (RP) in 1998 and the Virtue Party (FP) in 1999 brought an end to the era of strong Islamist politics in Turkey. It was not the fervor of Islamism but an emphasis on conservative democracy and liberal economy that brought the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to power in 2002; and again a strong emphasis on democracy made sure of the AK Party's victory in the 2007 elections.

 

The rumor that establishes negative correlation between sipping a glass of raki and receiving government contracts is as reliable and correct as the rumor that claims every unobservant Jew is stoned by the haredim in Mea Shearim. For the Dogan Media Group tax evasion case, it is rather naïve to jump into hasty conclusions by portraying it solely as an attack on the freedom of press. Media sector constitutes no exception when governments fight with corruption and financial crimes. The Ergenekon affair is a judicial process which every democratic state in the world, including Israel, should support wholeheartedly, as they did in the Operation Gladio in Italy. Israel, which lost one of its most estimable prime ministers to a political assassination, should empathize with Turkey while the latter tries to unearth a very complex terrorist organization.

 

The world has been changing, so has Turkey. Such discussions as Islamist politics, economic isolationism, and policy of non-engagement have ended for Turkey, so have the deep identity crises. Turkey has started to enjoy its multiple identities which it believes strengthens rather than weakens it.

 

My Israeli chaverim [friends] should know that a strong Turkey is a great asset to the peace process in the Middle East and particularly to Israel, and should not worry about the direction it has taken.

 

The writer is the coordinator of the Middle East Program at the SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Washington.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

HOLOCAUST OVERLOAD

MENACHEM Z. ROSENSAFT

 

One key difference between US Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) and the editor-in-chief of the Polish Catholic newspaper Gosc Niedzielny ("Sunday Visitor") appears to be that while the former has apologized for saying that the absence of adequate health care has resulted in a "Holocaust in America," the latter stands by his unseemly comparison of abortion to the annihilation of European Jewry during World War II.

 

Grayson made his Holocaust analogy on September 30 following his equally controversial remarks the day before that "The Republican health care plan is this: 'Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.'"

 

Grayson, who is Jewish, has since written to the Florida regional director of the Anti-Defamation League that he did not "mean to minimize the Holocaust," and that "I regret the choice of words, and I will not repeat it."

 

In contrast, after a Polish judge late last month fined Gosc Niedzielny $11,000 for comparing a woman's desire to have an abortion to medical experiments perpetrated by Nazi war criminals at Auschwitz, and ordered its editor, Father Marek Gancarczyk, and the Katowice Archdiocese as the weekly's publisher, to issue an apology, Gancarczyk defiantly declared "we will continue to voice views which we hold, as our conscience obliges us to."

 

Gancarczyk is far from alone. Rush Limbaugh's predictable response to the Grayson flap was, "If there is a holocaust in this country, it is abortion."

 

This past March, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife, Brazil, decried abortion as a "silent Holocaust" in his defense of his recent excommunication of doctors who had performed an abortion on a nine-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather.

 

Another hyperzealous pro-life activist, Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, said that billionaire Warren Buffett "will be known as the Dr. Mengele of philanthropy unless he repents" for supporting Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups, referring to the notorious SS doctor who sent thousands of Jews, including my mother's sister, to the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

 

In 2007, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, then a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, told a conservative Christian audience that "more than a million people... would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."

 

NOR IS such exploitation and trivialization of Holocaust imagery limited to the abortion controversy. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel has long decried the worldwide "general de-sanctification of the Holocaust."

 

President Ronald Reagan's 1985 description of Nazi soldiers buried in the German military cemeteries at Bitburg as "victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps" was an early milestone in a succession of glib, inappropriate, and historically inaccurate analogies.

 

Some years ago, PETA circulated an exhibit of posters entitled "Holocaust on Your Plate" that juxtaposed images of animals about to be slaughtered with photographs of Nazi concentration camp inmates. In May 2007, radio talk-show host Glenn Beck mocked efforts to fight global warning by saying, "Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however."

Speaking at a Holocaust commemoration in New York City's Madison Square Garden in April 1985, Dr. Norman Lamm, the president of Yeshiva University, referred to assimilation, the weakening of Jewish identity, and intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews as a "spiritual Holocaust" and a "bloodless Holocaust." "From the point of view of a massive threat to Jewish continuity," he said, "the Holocaust is open-ended." He then proceeded to ask, "Who says that the Holocaust is over?"

 

And of course, Arab propagandists have a grim history of equating Israeli soldiers to Nazis and Palestinians to Holocaust victims. Never mind that the Israeli soldiers in question are defending civilians from Palestinian rocket attacks. Never mind that Muslim suicide bombers murder innocent men, women and children in the name of a fanatical theology of unfettered hatred.

As Representative Grayson has acknowledged but the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, and Fathers Gancarczyk and Euteneuer have not, using Holocaust terminology and imagery for shock effect or to score political points is offensive, often bordering on the obscene. Comparing a woman's always painful decision to terminate a pregnancy for health reasons to the mass murder of Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka and

 

Majdanek demeans the suffering and brutal deaths of millions, as does even the suggestion that intermarriage bears any relationship whatsoever to Hitler's Final Solution.

 

The Holocaust was the greatest carnage ever perpetrated. It looms as the epitome of all that is worst in the human condition, and led to the codification of genocide as a crime against humanity. As such, it must be studied so as to prevent future atrocities, not reduced to insensitive, throwaway punch lines.

 

The writer is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE GOLDSTONE MISSION VS. THE PEACE PROCESS

DANNY AYALON

 

For eight years, while Hamas indiscriminately shelled Israeli civilians with rockets provided by its patrons in Iran, the UN stood silent. Only when Israel, after years of restraint, moved to put an end to the terror, did the Human Rights Council act - by condemning Israel. This one-sided body passed a one-sided resolution calling for a one-sided investigation. Last month, the results of this "investigation" were presented by Justice Richard Goldstone to the HRC. Yet instead of dealing responsibly with the report, HRC members engaged in yet another anti-Israel travesty, which even Goldstone acknowledged as one-sided.

 

There have been dozens of international inquiries into events in the Gaza operation, and Israel has cooperated fully with almost all of them, including one undertaken by the UN Secretary General. Only in those instances where it was clear beyond any doubt that an inquiry was motivated by a political agenda - and not concern for human rights - did Israel decide not to cooperate. Unfortunately the HRC's Fact-Finding Mission was one of these.

 

Sadly, what was clear to Israel from the outset, has only now become clear to Goldstone. He is now trying to distance himself from the results of his own handiwork.

 

Last Friday he discussed his disappointment with the action taken by the HRC, telling the Swiss daily Le Temps: "This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel, there is not a single phrase condemning Hamas."

 

WE MUST now deal with the consequences. The council's adoption of the Goldstone report constitutes nothing less than a prize for terrorism in more ways than one.

 

First, the resolution adopted Friday perverts the reality of Hamas criminality, blaming the victim, rather than the true perpetrator of war crimes in Gaza. For the HRC, it was totally irrelevant that Hamas committed grave war crimes by openly calling for Israel's destruction, purposely firing thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians, endangering Gaza civilians by firing from populated areas and abducting Gilad Schalit.

 

It was likewise irrelevant to the HRC that Israel had a responsibility to protect its citizens, made every effort to avoid confrontation and did all that it could to minimize civilian casualties. The only relevant consideration for the HRC was the fact that an opportunity had presented itself to demonize Israel in the international arena.

 

Second, the resolution undermines moderate Palestinians who are interested in peace with Israel. There is a power struggle going on within Palestinian society. It is a zero-sum game, in which any gain for extremism comes at the expense of support for moderation. When the Hamas "tail" is allowed to wag the Middle East "dog," the Palestinian street takes heart and the entire region takes heed. In our neighborhood, everybody loves a winner. So when an international body upholds Hamas's atrocious behavior and exploits it once more to bash Israel, Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority loses face, moderate Arab states lose ground and the Hizbullah-Syria-Iran axis gains strength.

 

Thirdly, the resolution creates a new obstacle in the global battle against terrorism. A new form of warfare has emerged, in which terror groups launch attacks against "enemy" civilians from behind a shield of "friendly" civilians. This resolution grants immunity to the terrorists and prevents law-abiding states from defending their citizens. With the blessing of the HRC, this tactic will be repeated by terrorists throughout the world, to the detriment of all other democracies struggling against terrorism, putting millions of innocent civilians in danger.

 

FINALLY, AND most tragic, this whole episode has led Israelis to doubt the underlying assumptions that have guided them until now in their internal debate on how best to achieve peace. Most Israelis supported the willingness of their leadership to take calculated risks to advance the peace process, with the understanding that the "world" would support such efforts and "hedge their bets." Israelis assumed that if, after making compromises, things didn't work out, they would at least retain the right to defend themselves and the world would support them in their struggle.

 

Yet now, a nightmare has come true. After taking the tangible risk of leaving contested territory for the sake of advancing peace, Gaza was turned into a lawless enclave of Hamas-led, Iranian-backed terrorism. Yet, when Israel was forced to defend itself, the world reacted not with support and understanding, but with accusations of "crimes against humanity." Damned when they do and damned when they don't, Israelis are now asking themselves "Was the sacrifice worth it?"

 

While Israelis consider their options, the Goldstone snowball is threatening to gain momentum. From Geneva, the issue has now been passed to the UN General Assembly in New York for further action. But, it is still not too late. An international rejection of the HRC's treatment of the Goldstone report would signal to the Israeli public that the world indeed supports its compromises toward peace.

 

The writer is deputy foreign minister.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

INTEGRATE HAREDIM VIA ACADEMIA

 

About half the students in first grade are Arabs or ultra-Orthodox. This figure heralds a profound change in Israel's social make up and presents the state with a great challenge - integrating the two groups into the job market to ensure long-term economic growth.


The Arabs' and Haredim's part in the work force is smaller today than their representation in society, which is on the rise. If this trend continues, the Israelis who work, pay taxes and support society's dependent groups will have to bear an increasingly heavier burden.


The ultra-Orthodox have privileges, such as exemption from military service and allowances for children and yeshiva students, which they obtained via their political power.

 

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Their schools refuse to teach core studies, which would equip their students with basic mathematics and English skills. Without the core studies, Haredi graduates have difficulty finding work in the modern labor force and contributing their share to the general population's economic growth and welfare.


To ensure a fairer distribution of the social and economic burden, the state should revoke the ultra-Orthodox community's privileges and compel their education systems to teach core studies. But when the secular majority and its representatives in the Knesset and cabinet recoil from confronting the Haredi community, prefering instead to buy its political support, other channels are needed to integrate the Haredim into the work force.


In these circumstances, the increase in the number of Haredi students enrolled in ultra-Orthodox higher education programs is to be commended. Ofri Ilani reported in Haaretz Sunday that 2,000 students will study in Haredi colleges this year, four times more than in 2005.


In addition, there are projects to integrate Haredi students into the Air Force's technical division, after they make up their deficiency in mathematics and sciences.


The integration programs were created in cooperation with social entrepreneurs, government funds and young Haredim hungry for knowledge. The number of participants is still far from fulfilling the economy's future needs, though, and the Haredi academic programs are still tailored more to the ultra-Orthodox community's needs than to bolstering exportable industries.


But these programs' expansion reflects a positive development that will facilitate Haredi youngsters' entrance into the work force, without causing a political clash that could end with failure.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A LOST FACTION

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

On his modest days, he thinks he's Yitzhak Rabin. On his more pompous days, he thinks he's David Ben-Gurion. In between, he's behaving like a Rockefeller. He lives in a Tel Aviv apartment worth NIS 40 million, and from which, on a clear day, he can see Jerusalem. On his sentimental days, he's vaguely reminiscent of Leonardo Di Caprio, standing at the bow of the Titanic with his new love and roaring into the wind, "I'm the king of the world!"


He dresses and accessorizes in items bought from luxury shops, even if his suits often seem so big on him that only his fingertips can be seen protruding from the sleeves. I won't repeat here the list of his travels abroad, or the magnificent suites he stayed in at the taxpayer's expense. The establishment of the state runs through hotel rooms: The Biltmore hotel earned its place in history when the top ranks of the Zionist movement met there and decided to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.


Ben-Gurion stayed twice at the Warldof Astoria - the first time to close an agreement with then chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the fruits of which we enjoy to this day, and the second time to meet with president John F. Kennedy, who for the very first time asked an Israeli leader whether Israel had a nuclear program. Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol stayed at the posh Hotel Le Bristol in Paris, but with a minuscule entourage and never in a royal suite. Yitzhak Rabin once stayed at the Plaza in New York, but never returned: The few aides he had brought along couldn't sleep for the cockroaches roaming their rooms.

 

Ehud Olmert's hedonism as mayor of Jerusalem brought him where he is today - the dock. And Ehud Barak needs to be utterly insensitive to anoint himself, on the very day his extravagance was starring in the headlines, as chairman of the ministerial ethics committee in place of Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog.


But what we are witnessing here is not the disease; it's a symptom. Or, as an observer from within the party recently put it, Barak is a catastrophe both for Labor and for good government. MK Daniel Ben Simon, who resigned yesterday as party whip, gave a harsh picture of the Knesset faction's state and of what its leader is doing to it.


"At the first faction meeting, where I was elected to the position, 12 out of 13 MKs were present, and I haven't seen them since," he said. "Often I would sit at the table on my own, waiting for the MKs to arrive. Only two people witnessed this - Yitzhak Rabin from one wall, David Ben-Gurion from the other. Two of the labor movement's prime ministers who, if they could speak, would cry out loud."


Ben Simon will not be joining the "rebel" MKs, but he is no longer standing with Barak. This leaves the Labor chairman with seven MKs, all of them ministers or deputy ministers. When he became party chairman, Labor had 19 Knesset seats. In the election that he himself instigated, the number fell to 13. Now he has brought it down to seven. "He's beginning to look like a caricature of a leader," a Labor source said.


Barak brought down the Labor Party because he sees himself as a gift of God, indispensable and irreplaceable. In real life, however, he couldn't care less about leadership - he only wants to be minister of defense. He does not see himself as the ideological leader of a movement. He is, in fact, little more than a technocrat, who has brought his party to rock bottom.


Barak appears to realize he is nearing the end of this phase of his career, which is probably the reason he has been steering ever more to the right. The promises to improve Israel's standing in the world were never kept. "Israel's international standing is suffering a heartrending retreat," said Ben Simon. "We broke our promise to evacuate outposts, we broke our promise to freeze settlements, we broke our promise to do everything possible o restart the peace process."


In private talks with his MKs, Barak says that it isn't our fault, it's the Arabs. That they want our home. It reminds me of how a few years ago, Barak told me that the plot of land on which the Haaretz building stands once belonged to Arabs. They want the 1948 borders, he said; there's nobody to talk to. His inner right-winger has finally emerged.


Barak knows he will never be prime minister again. For this reason, he is trying to ally himself with Benjamin Netanyahu, or maybe even to outflank him on the right - anything to stay defense minister. Who knows, maybe when the Labor Party is beyond all hope, we will see those two becoming running mates.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BUYING THEIR WAY TO POWER

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

After five successive years of rapid economic growth, 2009 ended with zero growth. This is not the best piece of news out there, but relative to the state of the global economy, it is also not the worst.


What is discomfiting, however, is the state of the budget. The European Union, which has 27 member states, issued a warning to eight of those countries - Italy, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia - due to their high deficits. These countries were told to get their acts together in light of the lessons learned from the global economic meltdown. European economists believe the budget deficit should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product.


We, too, would receive such a warning if we were members of the EU, since we, too, have a budget deficit that exceeds 3 percent of GDP.

 

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This year, the global economy can be divided into two: Europe versus the United States. In Europe, Germany and France instituted a responsible policy, in stark contrast to the hundreds of billions of dollars that U.S. President Barack Obama poured into the economy, a move that is pushing the United States into an unprecedented (since World War II) deficit of 12 percent of GDP. It is not by chance that the U.S. dollar is weakening against the euro.


Fortunately for us, we did not duplicate Obama's error. At the height of the public panic, the tycoons, banks, provident fund managers and even the Bank of Israel demanded that the Finance Ministry pour in tens of billions of shekels to "rescue" the capital market. But standing in their way was a tough finance minister, Roni Bar-On, who protected the public coffers.


But now, those who are driven by their own private interests are once again pressuring the government to increase state expenditures. Last month, the cabinet voted to spend an additional NIS 2 billion, yet the budget cuts that are supposed to finance the expenditure have yet to win Knesset approval. The government gave in to the Education Ministry over an NIS 280 million cut, and the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), is opposed to reducing funding for yeshivas. The result: No cuts.


Moreover, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz instructed Accountant General Shuki Oren to immediately transfer NIS 40 million to the national service program, "even though there is no budgetary coverage for such an expenditure." This is an unprecedented move that makes a mockery of the budget, as well as of the rules of proper governance. If this is how the finance minister conducts his affairs, what will the backbenchers in the Knesset and the special interests say?


Indeed, Shas is already demanding an advance on the promised increase in child allowances, and MKs have submitted a long list of "socially conscious" bills. Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini and Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh are demanding that the treasury increase funding to help exporters and establish an additional fund to assist marketing. They also want the treasury to cancel the increase in the value-added tax and to lower payroll deductions for the National Insurance Institute. For this is the atmosphere the prime and finance ministers have created: There's plenty of money, come and get it!


The latest demands come against the backdrop of encouraging data showing that the deficit is likely to hit 4.5 to 5 percent by the end of the year, and not the planned 6 percent. Rather than ending the year with a deficit of NIS 43 billion, we will finish it with a deficit of NIS 33 billion. That is how we emerged with a "surplus" on which everyone has now set their sights.


But this is not a real surplus. It is simply a lower deficit, which in any event is still too high. Take a look at the European model. A lower deficit means that the accountant general can subtract NIS 10 billion from the sum he needs to raise on the capital market. Then there will be more sources of funding for the private sector and long-term interest rates will fall. This is the best possible shot in the arm for the economy, growth and the war on unemployment.

Moreover, if we borrow less money, our public debt will be smaller, so Israel's risk level will be lower and its credit rating will be higher.


Now, as the economy is beginning to emerge from the crisis, is the appropriate time to cut NIS 3-4 billion from the budget, rather than augmenting spending. Such a cut would provide more breathing room for the private sector, allow for tax cuts and expedite economic growth.


Yet it appears that in the current political climate, one in which Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu is ready to do anything in order to preserve his political alliances, there is not much chance of this happening. Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice everything he believes in to keep Eli Yishai and Ehud Barak happy. He is ready to spend NIS 180 million annually on unnecessary ministerial posts - ministers without portfolio and deputy ministers without utility - just to buy some political calm. He is even willing to turn a blind eye to the Defense Ministry's scandalous trip to the Paris Air Show just so Barak will not get angry.


Netanyahu and Steinitz have bought their way to power. And they have done so on our dime.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

REQUIEM FOR THE BUND

BY MOSHE ARENS

Marek Edelman was laid to rest in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery alongside his comrades from the Bund. That is were he had asked to be buried. The last of the Bundists. It was a grand funeral, attended by the leading personalities of Poland, including President Lech Kaczynski and former president Lech Walesa. It started at the memorial to the Warsaw ghetto fighters, erected over the bunker at Mila 18, where Edelman's commander Mordechai Anielewicz and many of his fighters perished on May 8, 1943, and continued in a procession thousands strong, led by a jazz band, to the Jewish cemetery.


It was not only Edelman who was buried that day. The Bund, which commanded his loyalty to his dying days, was also laid to rest. Edelman's coffin was draped with a Bund banner, which stated in Yiddish, "Bund - Yidisher Sozialistisher Farband," and the Bund anthem, "Di Shvueh," was sung by a choir while all stood at attention. It was a farewell to a great movement, which had a massive following among Polish Jewry before the war, and had led all other Jewish parties in the last Polish municipal elections held before the war.


It was a time when many in the world believed in the solidarity of the working classes. The Socialist Zionists believed in the solidarity of the Jewish and Arab working classes in Palestine. The Bund believed in the solidarity of the Jewish and Polish working classes. Along with the Polish Socialists, a Socialist Poland would be built, they insisted, and there the Jews of Poland, maintaining the Yiddish culture and the Yiddish language, would find their rightful place. Zionism and emigration to Palestine was anathema to them. And so was the religious Jewish community. They reserved special hatred for Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, who called on the Jews of Poland to leave for Palestine in the years before the war, and negotiated with the Polish government to achieve that goal. Addressing Polish Jewry in 1938 he said, "I warn you without respite that the catastrophe approaches." They, like many others, did not believe him. They called him a Fascist and a "paper general." The Bund's lofty ideals took precedence over reality. And cruel reality put an end to the Bund.


Wiktor Alter and Henryk Erlich, the leaders of the Polish Bund, fled Warsaw and reached the Soviet Union as the German army approached in September 1939. There they were shot on Stalin's orders. The Bund continued its educational and cultural activities in the ghettos of Poland. In the Warsaw ghetto they refused to join Jewish resistance organizations at first, their leadership insisting that resistance to the Germans had to be based on a united front with the Polish Socialists. Only after more than 270,000 Jews, including many of their followers, had been sent to Treblinka, and Polish Socialists showed no willingness to assist an uprising in the ghetto, did they join the organization led by Anielewicz, nevertheless insisting that they could not join the political committee overseeing the activities of the military organization, but rather would participate in a special coordinating committee set up to meet their demands. Their dislike for Jabotinsky's adherents probably was decisive in preventing the two Jewish resistance organizations in the Warsaw ghetto - one led by Anielewicz, and one led by Pawel Frenkel - from uniting. Years later Edelman insisted that Frenkel's organization was no more than "a gang of porters, smuggler, and thieves" - "fascists."


In the end, Zionism prevailed over the Bund. That was not because most Polish Jews deemed its ideology superior, but because the human base of the Bund was exterminated, along with the rest of Polish Jewry, by the Germans during World War II. Those very few who survived, like Edelman, remained fiercely loyal to the Bund, an organization that had ceased to exist, a loyalty that sustained them during the war years, and gave them the courage to heroically fight the Germans along with other Jewish fighters, outnumbered and outgunned, in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE GOVERNMENT ALSO HAS RIGHTS

BY RUTH GAVISON

 

In its October 5 editorial, "Don't split up the AG's role," Haaretz takes an unequivocal position against splitting the powers of the attorney general, which it believes "weakens the rule of law." The editorial states that the current situation - in which the attorney general is responsible for enforcing laws, offering "binding" legal counsel and providing exclusive representation - grants him the power to be a thorn in the side of politicians seeking immunity.


This simplistic view is mistaken. At least some supporters of dividing the attorney general's powers justify their position by citing their intention to strengthen the authority of the state prosecutor, who in their view will not have a direct link to senior elected officials, and therefore won't treat them with kid gloves.


Those same supporters are also aware of the fact that the attorney general's current multiplicity of roles compromises his ability to fully execute one of them - namely, ensuring that laws are enforced. That is why they support the division of his position through the creation of a strong, independent "general prosecutor" who would have authority over the state prosecutor.


These individuals believe that the rule of law itself justifies the separation of the different roles contained within the position of attorney general, and is preferable to "unified command," in the words of the editorial.


Proponents of bolstering the state prosecutor's authority (as well as opponents) often fear the weakening of law enforcement over senior government officials, and ignore the other two important functions of the state legal system headed by the attorney general: providing legal counsel to public officials and representing them in court.

The pursuit of the attorney general's complete independence in all of his capacities undermines the concept of the division of powers, and the clear distinction between the justice system and politics. The critical interest of all of us is that the government have a fair attorney general who can allow it to decide how to operate, based on a clear understanding of the law's limits and how to advance the goals of government.


The current state of the justice system - in which the attorney general can obligate the government to accept his "recommendations" even before a matter goes to court, and threaten not to represent the government if they don't follow him - is unacceptable. The ideal arrangement is hardly dismissive of the rule of law, and the government and ministers will be hesitant to work against the advice of a respected attorney general.


In the rare cases in which the government wishes to go against the attorney general's counsel, it will be viewed as both its right and duty to operate according to its own considerations, and a court will ultimately rule on the matter.

For many years, strong attorneys general have worked in a variety of roles, in the full spectrum of the position's complexity. They demanded, and received, full independence in their specific decisions on indicting public figures, but also recognized the basic principles of government culpability for its actions, and of the right of state bodies to full representation in court, so that it is the court, and not the attorney general, which ultimately issues the ruling.


These were esteemed attorneys general whose independence was respected, and did not pretend to rule in the name of the law on issues under the jurisdiction of the political echelon. They created the institution of a strong attorney general, but were careful to place limits on their own power.


The situation in the legal system that has taken form lately, and which the editorial praises, does not express such caution over the limits of power. It has created a position whose modus operandi must be changed to meet basic legal principles.


The important point is not division versus unity. There are legitimate arguments for keeping all these powers with a single individual for the sake of "unity of command," and there are also legitimate arguments for dividing these powers.


The key is understanding the variety of responsibilities and the differences between them, and ensuring that not only the public interest and the state prosecutor, but also legal counsel and the representation given the state, be complete and professional.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

TALKING TO SUDAN

 

President Obama is offering Sudan's leaders an opportunity that they do not deserve but is necessary. The administration will replace a punishment-heavy approach with one that is more balanced. Khartoum, he said, can look forward to rewards if it brings stability to Darfur and South Sudan and to tougher sanctions if it does not.

 

We have difficulty accepting the idea of any outreach to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for directing the genocide in Darfur. Washington officials insist that they will not work directly with Mr. Bashir but will try to negotiate with other Sudanese officials.

 

We are skeptical that any of Mr. Bashir's henchmen can be trusted to keep their word. But complete isolation wasn't working, not least because other countries — most notably China, which buys oil from Sudan — were never willing to cut their ties.

 

The violence in Darfur — where some 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million driven from their homes — has lessened. But the situation remains dire. Refugees in camps must be protected and a way must be found for them to return home and rebuild their lives. Sudan must declare a cease-fire and engage rebel groups in serious negotiations.

 

It must also implement a fragile north-south peace agreement that ended a devastating war in 2005 by preparing for national elections next year and passing a law governing a 2011 referendum on self-determination in South Sudan.

 

In announcing the new policy, Mr. Obama also cited the need to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe haven for terrorists — that important goal cannot absolve Khartoum of the horrors it has committed.

 

Before Monday's announcement, President Obama's special envoy to Sudan, Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, seemed to suggest that the new policy change would stress only incentives. So we were relieved when Mr. Obama promised to renew existing sanctions on Sudan, which include a trade embargo and freeze on assets of the government and individuals held responsible for the violence in Darfur. (We were somewhat less reassured after aides said that details on the new policy are concealed in a secret annex to the strategy document.)

 

Incentives, including a gradual lifting of sanctions, must be granted only for measurable progress. Mr. Obama also must be prepared to fulfill his other promise: to persuade other countries to increase pressure on Khartoum if it continues to abuse its people.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEBATE IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

 

The Obama administration has dropped its ham-handed attempt to stop health insurers from warning buyers of private Medicare Advantage plans that their extra benefits might be cut under pending health care legislation. The administration modified an order that relied on technicalities to stop those companies from joining in the vigorous and necessary national debate.

 

The administration stepped in after Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, charged that the industry was engaging in unfair scare tactics. But an inquiry by the government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had to stretch facts to the breaking point to make a weak case that the insurers were doing anything improper.

 

The centers accused Humana of distributing "potentially misleading materials." The only thing mentioned was a statement on the envelope that said, "Important information about your Medicare Advantage Plan, OPEN TODAY!" That, the centers correctly judged, implied that it contained material relating to the beneficiaries' own insurance, not to a legislative matter.

 

Beyond that, the centers were unable to point to anything misleading in the enclosed letter, which warned beneficiaries that if subsidies are cut to Medicare Advantage plans, many of them could face higher costs or reduced benefits. That may happen (the government currently pays Medicare Advantage plans, on average, 14 percent more for the same services than it pays traditional Medicare) unless the insurers are willing to accept lower profits on the plans.

 

The centers also suggested that the insurers might be violating federal regulations by using lists of enrollees generated through Medicare to send out political material unrelated to the administration of benefits.

 

After a storm of Republican complaints and threats to hold up the confirmation of nominees for health posts, the centers have issued a clarification that will allow the insurers to mobilize their beneficiaries if they follow certain procedures. They must not use any federal money for the purpose. And they must first get permission from beneficiaries before sending them information about pending bills or urging them to press their legislators. That seems like a satisfactory conclusion to a sorry attempt to stifle debate.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW TO WASTE MONEY AND RUIN THE CENSUS

 

With the start of the 2010 census just a few months away, Senator David Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana, wants to cut off financing for the count unless the survey includes a question asking if the respondent is a United States citizen. Aides say he plans to submit an amendment to the census appropriation bill soon.

 

As required by law, the Census Bureau gave Congress the exact wording of the survey's 10 questions in early April 2008 — more than 18 months ago. Changing it now to meet Mr. Vitter's demand would delay the count, could skew the results and would certainly make it even harder to persuade minorities to participate.

 

It would also be hugely expensive. The Commerce Department says that redoing the survey would cost hundreds of millions of dollars: to rewrite and reprint hundreds of millions of census forms, to revise instructional and promotional material and to reprogram software and scanners.

 

During debates in the Senate, Mr. Vitter said that his aim is to exclude noncitizens from population totals that are used to determine the number of Congressional representatives from each state. He is ignoring the fact that it is a settled matter of law that the Constitution requires the census to count everyone in the country, without regard to citizenship, and that those totals are used to determine the number of representatives.

 

(The Census Bureau already tracks the number of citizens and noncitizens through a separate survey.)

 

Adding a new question about citizenship would further ratchet up suspicions that the census is being used to target undocumented immigrants. That would discourage participation not only among people who are here illegally but also their families and friends who may be citizens and legal residents. That leads to an inaccurate count.

 

And since census numbers are also used to allocate federal aid, undercounting minorities shortchanges the cities and states where they live.

 

Advocates for the census say that Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, has also raised the idea of another bad, last-minute change. Under current practice, the only people living abroad included in the census are military personnel and federal civilian employees, and the families of both, stationed overseas. Mr. Hatch, these officials say, wants to include certain other Americans living abroad temporarily, a definition that would be tailored to include — you guessed it — Mormon missionaries.

 

There seems little doubt that the goal would be to increase population numbers for Utah — to try to garner another Congressional seat. As of Monday, Senator Hatch's office would not say whether he plans to pursue the idea. He shouldn't.

 

Both of these changes would be discriminatory and ridiculously expensive. If Mr. Vitter and Mr. Hatch wanted to argue their cases, they should have done it 18 months ago — or wait until after this count.

 

Changing the survey now would be a disaster for the census and for American taxpayers. The Senate should defeat any and all attempts to alter or delay the 2010 count.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITOTRIAL

RIGHTS WATCHDOG, LOST IN THE MIDEAST

BY ROBERT L. BERNSTEIN

 

AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group's critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.

 

At Human Rights Watch, we always recognized that open, democratic societies have faults and commit abuses. But we saw that they have the ability to correct them — through vigorous public debate, an adversarial press and many other mechanisms that encourage reform.

 

That is why we sought to draw a sharp line between the democratic and nondemocratic worlds, in an effort to create clarity in human rights. We wanted to prevent the Soviet Union and its followers from playing a moral equivalence game with the West and to encourage liberalization by drawing attention to dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, Natan Sharansky and those in the Soviet gulag — and the millions in China's laogai, or labor camps.

 

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

 

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

 

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world — many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch's Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.

 

Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

 

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch's criticism.

 

The organization is expressly concerned mainly with how wars are fought, not with motivations. To be sure, even victims of aggression are bound by the laws of war and must do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties. Nevertheless, there is a difference between wrongs committed in self-defense and those perpetrated intentionally.

 

But how does Human Rights Watch know that these laws have been violated? In Gaza and elsewhere where there is no access to the battlefield or to the military and political leaders who make strategic decisions, it is extremely difficult to make definitive judgments about war crimes. Reporting often relies on witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage or because they fear retaliation from their own rulers. Significantly, Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an expert on warfare, has said that the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

 

Only by returning to its founding mission and the spirit of humility that animated it can Human Rights Watch resurrect itself as a moral force in the Middle East and throughout the world. If it fails to do that, its credibility will be seriously undermined and its important role in the world significantly diminished.

 

Robert L. Bernstein, the former president and chief executive of Random House, was the chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BATTLE JOINED

 

The tides of war now wash across Waziristan. Operation Rah-e-Nijat is underway and the first battlefield reports are coming in along with claims and counterclaims from both sides. This is a complex conflict, not a simple case of 'baddies' versus 'goodies'. The patchwork of tribal allegiances and rivalries is going to colour and influence the outcome of the wider battle. The Ahmedzai Wazir tribe has been able to convince Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir to stay neutral and not to throw in his lot with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's new leader Hakimullah Mehsud. This is an important move as he controls Wana and southern areas of the Agency, but his neutrality came at a price. The NWFP government has agreed to several demands made by the Ahmedzai Wazirs, including the reopening of blockaded roads and the launch of several high-value development schemes in their areas. Deals with tribal groups in this area are notorious for their fragility, but for now we have to accept the neutrality of the Ahmedzai Wazirs at face value. Clearly they have no wish to jeopardize their own considerable vested interests, and watching from a position of armed neutrality from the sidelines allows them the luxury of watching their rivals suffer at no cost to themselves. From the military perspective it means they can lower their concerns about their southern flank if the deal with the Ahmedzai Wazirs holds, and they will be seeking something similar with Hafiz Gul Bahadar in the North Waziristan Agency.


After twenty-four hours of fierce fighting the army are saying that sixty Taliban have been killed (but have not offered a shred of evidence to support this) for the loss of five of our own men plus eleven wounded. We are beginning to get an insight into just how well-armed the Taliban are, as on Sunday the air force is said to have destroyed six anti-aircraft guns being used by them. These would present little or no threat to jet aircraft, but could be extremely effective against slow-moving helicopters. A check post has been established in Mandana and our forces now control Nawaz Kot. For their part the Taliban are issuing statements that they are pushing our troops back to their bases and inflicting heavy casualties on them. There is nothing to support their claims and we have no reason to believe them. These are early days in an operation that could last months. Not only is the conflict complex but so is the terrain. As we have seen in Swat, it is one thing to take the ground, another to hold it. And putting it all back together post-conflict in a place where the writ of the state has never been more than diaphanous is going to make Swat look like a walk in the park by comparison.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NEW DISPLACEMENTS

 

The trickle of people leaving South Waziristan has grown to resemble something of a flood. Nearly 200,000 are now estimated to be displaced. It is possible that others who have moved away have not registered with authorities. As in previous waves of displacement from the northern areas, most of those leaving their homes have opted to move in with relatives or to rented accommodation – mostly in the Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts which neighbour South Waziristan. It is possible that the scale of this latest displacement will not be as formidable as the one we saw over the last few months. Compared to Swat, Waziristan is sparsely populated. The territory of South Waziristan stretches over 11,585 square kilometres and is inhabited by around 500,000 people. We may not witness suffering of the magnitude that we saw previously. But this is no reason to be complacent. International humanitarian efforts fell short in the case of Swat. Many of the 2.5 million IDPs faced weeks of misery. The speed of the displacement and the numbers involved made it almost impossible to offer an adequate response. But that experience taught us a great deal. This must be used to the benefit of the IDPs from Waziristan.

The displacements can also be seized upon as an opportunity – even if it is one that arises from the most unfortunate of circumstances. For well over a decade, the people of Waziristan have been in the grip of the Taliban. Their region has been described, in the context of global terrorism, as the most dangerous in the world. They will need to be incorporated into any effort to build a brighter future. The presence of so many IDPs offers a chance to communicate with them, bring them closer to the state and persuade them that it can meet their needs in terms of education, health and employment. It is no coincidence that Waziristan is among the most underdeveloped areas in the country. This has been a factor in the growth of militancy among its rugged hills. With these people, a partnership needs to be built – so there can be hope and the IDPs feel they have something to look forward to once they are able to return home.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BOMB IN IRAN

 

Even as Pakistan continues to face accusations from India of having harboured on its soil terrorists who played a part in the attacks in Mumbai, similar accusations have come in from another neighbour. Iran claims that there was involvement of agents based in Pakistan with elements inside Iran in the suicide bombing on Sunday in the town of Pisheen, near the Pak-Iran border, which killed seven members of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran and 42 other people. The use of a suicide 'belt' laden with explosives reminds many of attacks in Pakistan. But this is of course not enough to pin any theory on. The tactics of terrorism are learnt quickly and any group can mimic strategies seen elsewhere.



Our envoy in Tehran, summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry, has acted correctly in extending assurances that all efforts will be made to secure borders and track down anyone who may be involved. But Islamabad needs also to keep in mind that the new charges from Iran will add to the perceptions that we are a nation unable to control the militancy that has sprung up in our midst. The continued turmoil in Balochistan of course adds to the problem. This is an issue we need to bring under check. Terrorism needs to be thwarted. Otherwise we will continue to face embarrassing accusations and a consequent increase in tensions in the region.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WAZIRISTAN -- THE MOTHER OF ALL BATTLES

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI


The long-awaited "do-or-die" battle for South Waziristan has begun.


Pakistan's armed forces started the air and ground offensive after months of preparations, during which the areas inhabited by the Mahsud tribe and controlled by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were blocked from all sides and artillery shelling and air strikes using jet-fighters and helicopter- gunships were carried out to "soften" Taliban positions.


In fact, bombing of the militants' strongholds had begun a few months ago and there were reports the pilots had bombed almost all known targets depending on the inadequate intelligence available with the military. South Waziristan, or precisely the Mahsud territory, was a "black hole," in the words of a senior military commander, due to the fact that the government didn't have any intelligence assets in this area. Most of the intelligence information, subjective and often unreliable, came from militants and tribesmen opposed to the late Baitullah Mahsud's TTP and loyal to the dissident commanders Turkestan Bhittani and Misbahuddin Mahsud, brother of slain militant commander Qari Zainuddin and cousin of the late Abdullah Mahsud, once a comrade of Baitullah.


There were occasions when the government and the military suffered embarrassment by depending too much on the dissidents' account of events, including the false claim that the new TTP head Hakimullah Mahsud was killed and his supposed rival Waliur Rahman injured during a clash between their supporters in a meeting convened to appoint a successor to Baitullah following his death in a US drone attack on the night of Aug 5. Hakimullah and Waliur Rahman waited for a few weeks to let ministers and civil and military bureaucrats repeat those claims before meeting a group of journalists in their lair in Srarogha in South Waziristan and photographed to show they were not only alive but also united.


The military authorities have been quoted as saying that six to eight weeks would be required to complete the ongoing action in South Waziristan. If this doesn't happen, the military operation would be judged in the light of this timeline and termed a failure or half-victory. In Swat the deadlines for accomplishing victory had already proved unachievable.


As was the case before the military operation in Swat and the rest of Malakand Division, the military leadership again received political support just a day before the attack in South Waziristan. Among the parties backing the government policy and the army action was Maulana Fazlur Rahman's JUI-F that is sometimes critical of the military option and even now is offering its services to initiate talks with the TTP. Army chief Gen Parvez Ashfaq Kayani and ISI head Lt Gen Shuja Pasha were there to brief the politicians on the security situation. Only the Jamaat-e-Islami and Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf are opposed to the policy and both are unrepresented in the Parliament after having boycotted the last general elections.


The media too is already on board. It fully backed the military action in the Malakand region, built up public opinion against the Swat Taliban, motivated people to help the internally displaced persons and even restrained itself while covering stories about extrajudicial killings and use of excessive force in Swat and elsewhere in the area. The media is again at the beck and call of the military as it tackles the Taliban militants who are carrying out bombings in public places and mercilessly killing innocent civilians.


For a while during 2004-2006, the Pakistani Taliban enjoyed support among religious-minded Pakistanis for sending fighters to Afghanistan to fight the US-led coalition forces and giving refuge to members of Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Also, there was this feeling that Pakistan was fighting America's war and that the US drone attacks, bombings by Pakistani warplanes and other tough tactics used against the fiercely independent Pakhtun tribes inhabiting the tribal areas had turned the population against the government and the military and thrown them into the lap of the militants.


Though anti-US sentiment is strong as ever and some of the concerns remain valid, more and more people in the NWFP and the tribal areas have turned against the militants for having destroyed the peace of their towns and villages and for depriving them of the peace of their minds. The militants have lost whatever little public sympathy they had, because of their tactics of imposing their will on the hapless population in areas controlled by them, eliminating opponents, fighting the Pakistani state and its security and law-enforcement forces, carrying out suicide bombings and beheadings, and kidnapping people for ransom.


The recent wave of terrorist attacks including spectacular raids on the Army's headquarters in Rawalpindi and police installations in Lahore, Peshawar and Kohat, which killed more than 175 people forced the military's hand to expedite plans to storm the militants' strongholds in South Waziristan. The approaching winter also prompted the military to begin the onslaught and try to finish it or achieve most of its objectives before the snow starts falling in the mountains of Makeen, Ladha, Kaniguram, Badar, Srarogha, Kotki and other militant strongholds.

The military action is confined to parts of South Waziristan that are populated by the Mahsud tribe and have no border with Afghanistan. The 30,000 or so troops advancing into the heart of Mahsud territory have marched from three sides--i.e., from Razmak in North Waziristan towards Makeen in South Waziristan, from Wana and Shakai towards Serwakai tehsil on the way to Kaniguram and from Jandola to Spinkai Raghzai, Kotki and Srarogha.

In fact, the military commanders should be familiar with the terrain as these were the routes taken during the previous three inconclusive, or, rather, failed, military operations against Baitullah's men from 2005 to 2008. Failure to defeat the TTP commander and the capture of up to 300 soldiers by his fighters forced the government and the military to make peace deals with him in February 2005 and also subsequently.


In the first few days of the fighting, the military is claiming to have killed more than 60 militants and occupied some strategic mountain heights near Razmak. It is conceding the loss of 11 soldiers, which is fairly high and explains the tenacity of the tribal militants and their foreign guest fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and, possibly, Al-Qaeda. There have been few reports, and that too in the Western media, that some Al-Qaeda militants and even Osama bin Laden could be present in South Waziristan. It appears that they would be disappointed once the battle is over because there has never been any sighting of bin Laden or his deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Waziristan or anywhere else in Pakistan or Afghanistan. TTP spokesman Azam Tariq has admitted the loss of only one Taliban fighter and claimed inflicting losses on the army troops trying to move into Mahsud areas from three sides.


There is no way to independently verify these claims, but military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas has conceded that the troops' advance has been slow due to stiff resistance and landmines. The battle would take a familiar course with both sides claiming battlefield achievements as was the case in Swat until the militants start losing territory and men and withdraw to their mountain fastnesses, retreat to remote places such as the Shawal valley in North Waziristan or scatter to other places in the tribal areas such as the Orakzai, Kurram, Khyber tribal agencies to survive and regroup.


It is certainly going to be a lot harder and longer than the battle for Swat. There will be more fighting and casualties, the displaced people already nearing 200,000 will need immediate and long-term help, and those stranded in their villages will have to be protected and supplied food and medicines if the idea is to isolate the militants and deprive them of support. People displaced in the past from South and North Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai, Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand, Darra Adamkhel and other tribal areas have been complaining, with justification, that they weren't given the kind of support provided to the IDPs from Swat and Malakand. Their grievances should be removed and those getting displaced now also must be looked after because no military action could succeed if it doesn't enjoy public support.


The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

'WHY DO PEOPLE HATE YOU?'

AZIZ AKHMAD


"Why do people hate you" was the question a nine-year-old fourth-grader asked President Obama at a town hall meeting last week in New Orleans. Obviously the boy must have been exposed to the mounting criticism on TV piled on Obama these days by Republicans, the right-wing media and other quarters who are not happy with his healthcare plan, the unemployment and recession that doesn't seem to go away and his handling of the Afghan war.

The question the boy asked temporarily silenced the crowd, but Obama, the wordsmith that he is, flashed a broad smile, hugged the boy and skilfully turned the question into a teaching moment, not only for the young student but also for the audience at large. Addressing the boy as if he were talking to an equal, he said: "Well, first of all, I did get elected president, and not everybody hates me; I got a whole lot of votes. If you're watching TV lately, everyone seems mad all the time. Some of it's just what's called politics. One party wins, the other party feels it needs to poke you to keep you on your toes. You shouldn't take it too seriously. People are worried about their own lives, losing jobs, healthcare, homes, and are feeling frustrated. When you're President of the United States you've got to deal with all of that." The audience largely cheered the president and the boy later told the reporters that the president's answer made him feel good.


Handling difficult questions in a credible manner and turning them to one's advantage is a skill that can be learnt, that is, if one tries. But the right kind of education and conviction of one's political beliefs also helps. Watching Obama's performance, I wondered how some of our Pakistani top leaders, if confronted with a similar question, would have answered it. As a fun exercise, I asked some of my Pakistani American friends -- a doctor, a banker, a professor and a marketer -- who keep a close watch on the political scene back home. We brainstormed for a while and came up with the following hypothetical answers.


Musharraf: (glowering at the boy) "Who says people hate me? This is not true. I am 120 per cent certain people love me. In fact, they want me to come back and be their president once again. And, I will! I am not a coward. I always kept national interest uppermost... (raising both his fists in the air) sub se pehlay Pakistan!"


Zardari: (breathlessly) "My party has made huge sacrifices for democracy. Shaheed Bibi gave her life. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave his life. I spent 11 years in jail. But I always said, 'Pakistan khappay'. We did this for Pakistan. Democracy is the biggest revenge. Now, my army is fighting the terrorists in Waziristan. We have to defeat these hate-mongers. I don't believe people hate me. Every other day I see large ads in newspapers, with portraits of my whole family, put out by my ministers and advisors, congratulating me for what I am doing for Pakistan."

Nawaz Sharif: (with a pained smile on his face) "Beta, who told you this? This must be a rumour spread by the enemies of Pakistan. How can they hate me? I stood up to US pressure when no one could. One phone telephone call from Colin Powell and Musharraf went down on his knees. Bill Clinton called me five times... yes, five times! I was counting. But I went ahead and did the dhamaka, anyway. And don't you remember I also sacked a serving army chief when he opened his mouth when he shouldn't have? Who else could do that? In fact, if you study history, the only other person who sacked a senior army general was President Truman of America. He fired General MacArthur for bragging publicly. Truman was a tough and stubborn man, like myself -- he made difficult decisions. He also did a dhamaka over Japan.


"I believe in the supremacy of democratic civilian government. That's why I signed the Charter of Democracy. I hate the self-serving politicians and lotas hob-nobbing secretly with the army generals. I have also told Shahbaz sahab not to meet the generals secretly anymore. If he has to, he should meet them openly in public kutcherries -- or in some tikka joint. I might join them too, if barbecued quails or sparrows are on the menu.


Why am I silent about Musharraf? Don't worry about him. I will bring him back to Pakistan and try him under Article 6. I don't talk much about him anymore because my big brother advised me not to. It's always good to listen to your big brother. He can always come in handy. That is what I tell Shabaz sahab, too."


Imran Khan: (with a grimace) "You see, you have got to understand the root cause of hate. It is all because of the American presence in Afghanistan. I have travelled extensively throughout FATA. I know those people better than anyone else. Even if I don't understand their language, I can read their mind. They are my people.

Don't be confused by their rhyming names -- Baitullah, Hakimullah, Fazlullah. They are basically good people, harmless as cows. All they want is to have a jirga system and Nizam-e-Adl established throughout Pakistan, with one of them running the system. No parliament, no judiciary, no nonsense. Once that is achieved, every one will love each other."


Chaudhry Shujaat: (wearing dark glasses) "Ugah, mugah, wugah, Jerry Luger, Looter, wugah, ugha, mitti paao, ugah, mugah, phoomph!"


The writer is a human resource consultant currently based in Philadelphia. Email: azizakhmad@gamil.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DISTORTION OF FACTS

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Acknowledging the good work of others is a rare occurrence in Pakistan. It is also a common practice that whenever a change in government takes place, some professionals or so-called "experts" would criticise and demean the good work of the out-going regime, hoping to get a high-profile job in the new setup. Such people can be acceptable to the new regime, only if they paint a horrible picture of the economy and also belittle the success stories of the out-going leadership even if it stares them in the face. In doing so, they misguide the government, which, in turn, continues to drive its car by looking at the back mirror with slogans such as "we inherited this mess". Such attitude paints a picture of a government that is not working and is creating risks rather than reducing them.

 

Yearning to become acceptable to the new regime, the so-called "experts" would not hesitate to distort the facts and embarrass the government. This includes the poverty estimates that have already been highlighted in this newspaper. Despite every effort made by the World Bank and the Poverty Centre, the Planning Commission has refused to release the numbers for 2007-08. This article highlights yet another deliberate attempt by the 'experts' to distort the facts.


It is well-known that Pakistan's economy experienced the longest spell of growth during the years 2000-07. Economic growth averaged 5.6 per cent per annum during this period and almost seven per cent in 2002-07. A combination of generally sound economic policies, structural reforms and a benign international economic environment were mainly responsible for this robust economic growth.


With a view to positioning themselves after the change in government, the experts, while accepting the growth number grudgingly, were not willing to give credit to the policies. On the contrary, they raised the following questions: (i) the strong economic growth was based on flawed policies; (ii) the growth, in fact, was a service-led; (iii) both industry and agriculture were ignored; (iv) the country's industrial base was destroyed and as such, it performed poorly; and (v) the new regime would pursue a production-led growth strategy. Such a stance was contrary to the facts and was nothing but downplaying the achievements of others.


What are the real facts? How did the industry perform during the period? Is the present government pursuing a production-led growth? The performance of large-scale manufacturing during 2000-07 has been unparalleled in the country's history. Large-scale manufacturing grew at an average rate of 11 per cent per annum during the period with growth reaching as high as 18.1 per cent in 2003-04 and 19.9 per cent in 2004-05. When viewed against an average growth rate of 9.9 per cent in the 60s, 5.5 per cent in the 70s, 8.2 per cent in the 80s and 3.6 per cent in the 90s, only the insane with political motives would argue that industry was ignored during 2000-07.

As a result of sustained growth in large-scale manufacturing, its share in the commodity-producing sector (agriculture and industry) increased from 19.3 per cent in 1999-2000 to almost 28 per cent in 2006-07 – an increase of 8.7 percentage points in eight years. Similarly, its contribution to GDP increased from 9.5 per cent to 13.4 per cent – an increase of almost four percentage points in the same period.


These can also be judged by the fact that while the services sector grew at an average rate of 5.8 per cent per annum, industry in general and large-scale manufacturing in particular registered average growth rates of 7.5 per cent and 11 per cent respectively during the period. Agriculture, on the other hand, grew at an average rate of three per cent per annum during the period – more or less in line with historical growth rate for the sector.

Should the so-called experts still claim that economic growth during 2000-07 has been a service-led growth? Is this government pursuing a production-led growth, with large-scale manufacturing registering a negative growth of 8.2 per cent, overall industrial growth contracting by 3.6 per cent and commodity-producing sector (agriculture and industry) remaining flat in 2008-09? What service to the nation have these experts done by misguiding the political leadership?


Structural transformation is an integral part of economic development. A rural/agrarian economy transforms into a modern/industrial society with the passage of time. Accordingly, the share of agriculture in GDP declines while those of manufacturing and services increase. During eight years (2000-07), the share of agriculture declined from 25.9 per cent to 21.9 per cent (a decline of four percentage points). This decline in agricultural share was compensated by a three and one percentage point increase in the shares of industry and services, respectively.

The performance of industry in general and large-scale manufacturing in particular during 2000-07 was the result of a variety of factors, including consistency in policies, existence of strong domestic and external demand, stable exchange rate, low inflation, on-going structural reforms, relatively stable political and security environment, frequent interaction of the government and private sector, resolution of their problems in a relatively shorter period of time, and overall conducive business environment. As a result, the capacity of many key industries increased during the period. If flawed policies can provide such impressive results, let us follow the same now.


Facts speak for themselves. As professionals, we should not distort them and misguide the political leadership.

The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School in Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nims.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE WAY FORWARD

HAMID MIR


Many Pakistanis still remember the prediction of a US military advisor, David Kalcullin, in March this year. He claimed that Pakistan may collapse in the next six months and Taliban will take over Islamabad. Six months passed in September 2009. Pakistan is not only intact but Pakistani security forces defeated Taliban in Swat. Now Pakistan Army has started a new operation in South Waziristan but misunderstandings about Pakistan are still visible in Washington. This time US policy makers fear a military coup against Zardari-led government in Pakistan. They think that a successful operation in South Waziristan will give more credibility and popularity to Pakistan Army, which will further undermine the authority of Zardari government in Pakistan. Very few people in Washington realise that tension between Pakistan Army and President Zardari were actually created by Kerry-Lugar Bill.


US Congressman John F Tierney is the one who led the efforts to include several controversial provisions in the Kerry-Lugar Bill. He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs in the US Congress. He tried his level best to defend the Kerry-Lugar Bill in a conference on US-Pakistan relations in Harvard University the other day. Harvard Extension International Relations Club organised the Conference. The US ambassador of Pakistan, Mr Hussain Haqqani, PML-N secretary information Ahsan Iqbal, myself and some other experts were also invited to speak there. This conference provided an excellent opportunity to the students and academia of Harvard to listen the arguments from both sides but unfortunately there was no consensus that how to move forward jointly in the right direction. Ambassador Haqqani rightly said that the only way forward is democracy. US must support democracy in Pakistan. When I raised a question why the US is not listening to the voice of democracy in Pakistan coming through an elected parliament? There was no answer from US side.


No doubt that the US is the most controversial country in Pakistan and Pakistan is the most misunderstood country in the US. There is a huge mistrust on both sides but even then both countries need cooperation of each other because they are facing some common threats. Pakistan lies in one of the world's most important geopolitical regions surrounded by Afghanistan, Iran, China and India.


One must admit that many international players want to turn Afghanistan into another Vietnam for US. These international players will take advantage of the mistrust created by Kerry-Lugar Bill between Pakistani military and US. I don't doubt the intensions of Senator John Kerry because he really wanted to help Pakistan but weak public diplomacy of Obama administration became a big problem for Senator Kerry. US Congress tried to remove misunderstandings through an explanation but many questions are still there.


Many Pakistani legislatures felt that once again the US Congress ignored the concerns raised about the Kerry-Lugar Bill in their parliament. The Pakistani parliament has adopted unanimous resolution against US drone attacks in the past but US just ignored the voice of Pakistani parliament and increased the drone attacks. Increase in drone attacks has increased suicide bombings in Pakistan. Today US and Pakistan need a joint strategy to defeat terrorism. How can we form a joint strategy to defeat terrorism in the region?


First of all US must stop its drone attacks in Pakistan. US is using drone with a justification that Taliban and Al Qaeda militants are using Pakistani tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan. If this is the case then why is the US not interested in securing the 2,500-kilometres-long border between Pakistan and Afghanistan? Why is there no fencing and no proper border check posts? There are more than 350 illegal entry points on the Pak-Afghan border. Every day more than 20,000 vehicles and 45,000 people cross the border without proper documents. How can we stop the cross-border movement of militants if the border is not properly secured?


Secondly the US must give a roadmap for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. Remember that US President Obama won his election in the name of peace. He opposed the adventurous policies of Bush administration but today he is just following the policies of Bush by sending more and more troops to Afghanistan. Does Obama have any substitute of US troops in Afghanistan? Yes, Obama can give a strong role to UN in Afghanistan. UN peacekeeping forces from countries like Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt should replace US and NATO troops. People of Afghanistan and Pakistan will have more trust in the neutral peacekeeping forces of UN. Replacement of Western troops with Asian troops will weaken Taliban and Al Qaeda. They will lose justification that they are fighting against crusaders.


Thirdly, international community must start immediate efforts to turn Afghanistan into a neutral country like Switzerland. All the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan are interfering there. They are fighting their proxy wars in Afghanistan. A contact group of countries like Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, India, US, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Japan should be created under UN umbrella. This group must chalk out a plan to stop foreign interference not only in Afghanistan but also in the whole region. US must realise that its presence in the region is the root cause of the problem. Nobody can deny the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan have become unsafe after the arrival of US troops in the region.


Many people ask the question why there was no insurgency in FATA and Balochistan province before 2002? Many people rightly or wrongly say that the Baloch insurgents are getting training and arms from Afghanistan, which is actually controlled by the US. The US is always concerned by the alleged presence of Taliban in Quetta, but why has the US administration not expressed any concern about