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Thursday, October 29, 2009

EDITORIAL 28.10.09

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

 

month october 28, edition 000335, 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. INDIA'S HONOURED GUEST
  2. AS USUAL, BABUS TO BLAME
  3. WE MUST NOT LET CHINA BULLY US - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. SITA CAN READ TOO - KHIMI THAPA
  5. TOWARDS AN ASIAN CENTURY - GAUTAM MUKHERJEE
  6. WHAT AFTER BHUMIBOL? - GWYNNE DYER
  7. 'LOVE JIHAD' A DECEITFUL PLOY - VR JAYARAJ
  8. HAWKISH CHINA NOW TAKES ON RUSSIA - B RAMAN

MAIL TODAY

  1. A CRIME THAT MUST SHAME US ALL
  2. PAK BLACK HUMOUR
  3. BACK TO THE DESK
  4. NO STOPPING THE BJP'S STEADY SLIDE DOWNHILL - BY JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA
  5. DECCAN BUZZ  - A SRINIVASA RAO
  6. DECISION ON MCD IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

 TIMES OF INDIA

  1. MOUNTAIN TASK
  2. MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
  3. NEIGHBOURLY CAUTION -
  4. BEE MOBILE: SMS B FOR HONEY -
  5. 'ENERGY, EDUCATION AND TRADE ARE AREAS WE WANT TO EXPLORE'

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. ON STEROIDS FOR LONGER
  2. FUND OF INFORMATION
  3. SHE - MONI MALHOUTRA
  4. SHOW US THE MONEY, SAY STATES
  5. THE US SHOULD HELP INDIA FUND CLIMATE CHANGE

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ANOTHER WRONG TURN
  2. DUTTA'S BOSSES
  3. TIME WAITS FOR NOTHING - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. 'LIQUIDITY' AND OIL DON'T MIX - DAVID PAIS
  5. SOLD DOWN THE TIBER
  6. SALAAMS, MAULVI SAHEB - JAVED ANAND
  7. STUNTED TRIANGLE - C. RAJA MOHAN
  8. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G
  9. WHY THE WHIZ-KIDS DIDN'T BLOW IT  - ROY C. SMITH

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. WRONG MESSAGE, WRONG TIME
  2. LIQUID WITHOUT FROTH
  3. CHRONICLE OF TIGHTENING FORETOLD - JAHANGIR AZIZ
  4. SCRAP SLR & REMEMBER 07-08'S ERROR - BIBEK DEBROY
  5. TO THEIR CREDIT - SAIKAT NEOGI
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. AN ACUTE DILEMMA
  2. INFORMAL SECTOR AND INEQUITY
  3. ETHNO-NATIONALISM: THEORY AND PRACTICE - M.S. PRABHAKARA
  4. A WOMAN AMBASSADOR'S CAUSE - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  5. "THIS IS MY COUNTRY, WHERE DO YOU WANT ME TO GO?" ASKS INDIAN - HASAN SUROOR
  6. GLIMMER OF LIGHT FOR MYANMAR - SIMON TISDALL
  7. ON THE ROCKY ROAD TO SHAHR-E BOZORG - LYSE DOUCET

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PARANOIA APPARENT IN PAK RESPONSES
  2. FROZEN SMILES, LIMP HANDSHAKES - VIKRAM SOOD

DNA

  1. BREAKING NOISE
  2. POOR BUT RICH
  3. CHINA IS THE NEW BOGEYMAN OF THE MARKETS - VENKATESAN VEMBU
  4. SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL - JACK MA
  5. SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
  6. FRAGILE PEACE
  7. BETTER COMPENSATION
  8. THIRD INNINGS
  9. WRONG ALLEGATIONS

THE TRIBUNE

  1. LOANS TO REMAIN CHEAP
  2. REFORMING THE JUDICIARY
  3. EPICENTRE OF TERRORISM
  4. A TALE OF TWO OPERATIONS - BY SUSHANT SAREEN
  5. MASSAGE NETWORKING - BY VIVEK ATRAY
  6. POWER SHORTAGE IN PUNJAB - BY SUCHA SINGH GILL
  7. AIR APPARENT TO KYOTO - BY TIM FLANNERY
  8. EXTREMIST THREAT IN PAKISTAN - BY ANITA INDER SINGH

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. BONES OF CONTENTION
  2. CAUSE OF CONCERN
  3. ASSEMBLY POLL VERDICT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS - SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE
  4. SECTION 377 IPC AND ITS IMPORT - DR PROMOTHESH RANJAN DAS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. INDIAN REALITY TV: BIGG AND BIGGER BROTHER
  2. PHASE OUT KEROSENE SUBSIDIES, TOO
  3. RBI COULD RAISE RATES SOON
  4. LIKE A KING, CREATE SPACE FOR YOURSELF
  5. HIGH BETA STOCKS - WILL CORRECT IN SHORT TERM BUT GOOD LONG TERM BETS: ANTIQUE STOCK BROKING
  6. TOURISM GROWTH IN INDIA IS COMMENDABLE: EHL CHAIRMAN - SHRUTI AMBAVAT
  7. GOVT NOT TELLING ME TO TAKE ITS VIEW: RBI GOVERNOR - SUGATA GHOSH AND MAYUR SHETTY
  8. WIPRO BETS ON SHARED SERVICES TO PUSH GROWTH: JOINT CEOS -  P THIMMAYA & PANKAJ MISHRA
  9. STEEL DEMAND GROWING IN INDIA: TATA STEEL MD - MV RAMSURYA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PARANOIA APPARENT IN PAK RESPONSES
  2. IN EDUCATION DEBATE, GEOGRAPHY MATTERS - BY ASHOK MALIK
  3. GOVERNMENT CONCEIT AND CEO SALARY CHEQUES - BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. FROZEN SMILES, LIMP HANDSHAKES - BY VIKRAM SOOD
  5. AFPAK: UK RESOLVES, AMERICA PONDERS  - BY ROGER COHEN
  6. DEATH BY IDEOLOGY - BY ANEES JILLANI

THE STATESMAN

  1. DOLLAR WORSHIP
  2. MAHARASHTRA'S MESSAGE
  3. HACK THE FORESTS
  4. REVEALED: GENES THAT DRIVE YOU TO DRINK
  5. FAVOURITE RADICALS

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. ODISHA FILE
  2. PLAIN TRUTHS
  3. LOOK FOR THE METHOD - K.P. NAYAR
  4. PICK OF THE CROP  - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES
  5. SAVING THE ROCK OF AGES
  6. LEGAL FAQS

DECCAN HERALD

  1. AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY
  2. IMPASSE ENDS
  3. WHY NOT A DALIT PRIEST? - BY KANCHA ILAIAH
  4. ENERGY FEAR OVER NUCLEAR WASTE DUMPS - BY ALOK JHA,THE OBSERVER
  5. ACCEPTING FAILURES - BY SUDHA NARASIMHACHAR

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. LET PALESTINIANS CHALLENGE THEIR LEADERSHIP
  2. LION'S DEN: TURKEY: AN ALLY NO MORE - DANIEL PIPES
  3. GRAPEVINE: TALKING TURKEY - GREER FAY CASHMAN
  4. REMEMBER, THE TEMPLE WAS BUILT BY HEROD - ROBERT EISENMAN
  5. IT'S TIME TO DEAL SEPARATELY WITH GAZA - YOSSI ALPHER
  6. SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL? - ORLY NOY

HAARETZ

  1. A PLETHORA OF GAG ORDERS
  2. WHO DECIDED TO GO TO WAR IN GAZA AND WHY?  - BY ALUF BENN
  3. THE LAST LEADER - BY NIVA LANIR
  4. MERETZ'S SILENCE IS ONLY A SYMPTOM  - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  5. LOOKING FOR A BABYSITTER - BY KARNI ELDAD

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE FOG OF ETHICS IN ALBANY
  2. MICROCHIPS AND MONOPOLIES
  3. FOOD, HUMANITY, HABITAT AND HOW WE GET TO 2050 – BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  4. OVAL MAN CAVE - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  5. AFGHANISTAN VOTES, THE U.N. DITHERS - BY PETER W. GALBRAITH
  6. DO WOMEN NEED SUCH BIG FLU SHOTS? - BY SABRA L. KLEIN AND PHYLLIS GREENBERGER
  7. DON'T BUILD UP - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

I.THE NEWS

  1. TALKING THINGS THROUGH
  2. WARM WORDS
  3. SIMS SENSE
  4. HOOKED ON US AID - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  5. SOVEREIGNTY AND IMPERIALISM - PERVAIZ NAZIR
  6. BAYAZID BASTAMI AND THE - DR A Q KHAN
  7. BLACK OCTOBER - MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN
  8. LAST TANGO IN WASHINGTON – II - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. WHY THE FUSS OVER KLB? - MUHAMMAD YASIR KHAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. KEEP MEETING EVEN WITHOUT BREAKTHROUGHS
  2. PPP BALOCHISTAN TOO EXPOSES INDIA
  3. THE SWELLING NUMBER OF IDPS
  4. THE CLASSICAL CONUNDRUM - KHALID SALEEM
  5. WAZIRISTAN OPERATION - ALI SUKHANVER
  6. DECIDING MOMENTS FOR PAKISTAN - SYED ATIQ UL HASSAN
  7. WINNING WAR ON TERROR, BALOCHISTAN FACTOR - ALAM RIND
  8. BUILDING A MONSTER..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. SELECTION OF CEC
  2. DREDGING RIVERS
  3. ICE CREAM FOR KIDS...!
  4. IN INDEPENDENT BANGLADESH - ABDUL KHALEQUE
  5. TEN YEARS OF EUROPEAN SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY - JAVIER SOLANA
  6. ON LANGUAGES AND MINORITIES - NEHAL ADIL
  7. HASINA'S US VISIT: A SUCCESS STORY - AKHTER AHMED KHAN
  8. THE COMPLEXITIES OF HUMAN CLONING - SYLVIA MORTOZA
  9. LEARNING ON THE JOB-II - KHORSHED ALAM

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. STILL PICKING WRONG TELCO POLICY LINE
  2. TAXING OUR PATIENCE
  3. PREDICTING THE WORST

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. IRAQ'S DEADLY DIALOGUE
  2. LABELLING HELPS CONSUMERS DECIDE
  3. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, CLIMATE CHANGE CALLS FOR A PLAN B
  4. POLICE CHIEF'S CALL FOR CLARITY MUST GUIDE FIRE RESPONSES

THE GURDIAN

  1. ELECTRICITY LINES: POWER TO THE PEOPLE
  2. IN PRAISE OF… SHEILA BAIR
  3. SUPREME COURT: TANGLED UP IN FAITH

DAILY EXPRESS

  1. TONY BLAIR AS PRESIDENT OF THE EU IS ABHORRENT

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. FLU ALERT
  2. HWANG'S SENTENCE
  3. REDUCING SOVEREIGN DEBT IN U.S., EU - HANS-WERNER SINN
  4. WHY ARE WE SO VULNERABLE TO TRENDS? - KIM SEONG-KON

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MR. HATOYAMA STATES HIS POLITICS
  2. IT'S ITALY FOR AMERICA AND JAPAN FOR EUROPE - BY HANS-WERNER SINN
  3. FREE EXPRESSION UNDER FIRE - BY CHRISTOPHER LINGLE

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. FOREVER YOUNG
  2. LOGIC, CONSEQUENCES OF LANGUAGE BORROWING - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  3. SUCCESS STORY OF YOUNG INDONESIANS IN THE US - JENNIE S. BEV

CHINA DAILY

  1. PRINCIPLED TEACHING
  2. LIES AND CORRECTION
  3. IN SEARCH OF A TRULY REGIONAL COMMUNITY
  4. GOVT STIMULUS IS LIKE PLANTING GRASS ON A DESERT PLOT

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. INSIDE RUSSIA: ZYAZIKOV'S ENDLESS POWER STRUGGLE - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. THE LEADER OF THE CIS IS LONELY AND WEAK  - BY ANDERS ASLUND
  3. HOW TO KEEP IRAN NUCLEAR-FREE  - BY YEVGENY BAZHANOV

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

INDIA'S HONOURED GUEST

ARUNACHAL AWAITS DALAI LAMA'S VISIT


In clearing the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh on November 8, the Government of India has acted correctly and wisely. The spiritual leader is scheduled to travel to the Tawang Monastery — one of the most revered seats of Tibetan Buddhism — and also inaugurate a super-speciality hospital that will serve the people of India's easternmost State. In recent weeks the Dalai Lama's visit had become the subject of great controversy, with the Chinese authorities resorting to wild and objectionable rhetoric, making menacing noises and insisting that almost all of Arunachal Pradesh was actually China's territory by virtue of being part of the so-called 'Southern Tibet'. Having first annexed Tibet and offered only oppression and dubious historical evidence as clinching arguments, the Communist autocracy in China now says it also wants Arunachal Pradesh as a culturally contiguous region of a sacred habitat it is in occupation of. This is no ordinary millenarian fantasy and sits uneasily with the idea of a rational and coldly calculating regime in Beijing. It is obvious that China sees Arunachal Pradesh as an issue it can use to put India in its place. By claiming Tawang, allegedly on behalf of the people of Tibet, it is actually engaged in a game of one-upmanship with the Dalai Lama. The respected religious leader is absolutely comfortable with Tawang being a repository of Buddhist faith, the birthplace of a previous Dalai Lama, and yet part of a State that is integral to the Union of India. He has refused to entertain the idea that Arunachal Pradesh is somehow disputed territory. His very presence in the State will make Chinese claims on Tawang appear hollow, just as his credibility and Gandhian stature render Beijing's half-century occupation of Lhasa almost immoral. Obviously, despite China's prodigious economic achievements and statistical tabulation of its "composite national power", the fact is Beijing is deeply insecure and has monumental chips on its shoulder.


Dealing with such a neighbour calls for not just diplomatic skills but profound mastery of a number of other fields, from chess to clinical psychology. It is doubtful whether India has time for all of this. It can't spend its hours attempting to psychoanalyse the rulers of China, What it can and must do, however, is to put its foot down when Indian identity itself is questioned and even threatened. The Dalai Lama has his individual plans for the resolution of the Chinese-Tibetan question. India has its own perceptions as well, and these may or may not match those of the world's best known Buddhist monk. However, two things are clear. First, the Dalai Lama is an honoured guest of India and completely free to go to any part of the country that he feels like. Second, India cannot be bullied into taking a position on the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan political struggle merely because a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry gets carried away with obnoxious verbosity.


That is why the Union Government's decision to clarify matters and give permission to the Dalai Lama — being a foreign citizen and a diplomatic personage he needs official clearance — to visit a cherished and crucial border State is just so welcome. The Chinese are free to launch into another war or words, try and smuggle in more border patrols, buy paint for inscribing more boulders. India shall not be moved.

 

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THE PIONEER

AS USUAL, BABUS TO BLAME

11 MONTHS AFTER 26/11, LOOPHOLES REMAIN


It is unbelievable that even a year after the horrific 26/11 fidayeen attack on Mumbai, the Government's plans to boost the country's maritime security is still in limbo. The culprit: Bureaucratic red tape. One would have thought that having seriously exposed the country's vulnerabilities to terror attacks from the sea, 26/11 would have spurred speedy investments in security mechanisms and equipment to secure our vast coastline. But reports suggest that so sluggish has been the procurement process that agencies responsible for maritime security — the Navy, the Coast Guard and the State marine police forces — are yet to be properly equipped to carry out thorough, round-the-clock surveillance of our coastal waters. For example, at least 200 fast patrol boats are required by these agencies. But no deal has yet been finalised to either purchase or lease the patrolling equipment. Similarly, the installation of coastal radars to detect hostile or suspicious, small-sized marine craft is going on way too slowly. Even replacement of our present fleet of Dornier reconnaissance aircraft with the Navy and the Coast Guard is long overdue. Such a lackadaisical approach towards maritime security is inexplicable. It is as if the Government is waiting for another disaster to happen before it takes things seriously.

It is a matter of fact that many of our islands in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea do not have sufficient security mechanisms in place. Intelligence gathering of suspicious maritime activities is rudimentary at best. If one were to analyse the way in which terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab and his jihadi colleagues entered Mumbai via the sea route, it will be clear that it was only a matter of time before enemies of this country exploited our weak coastal security systems. That we haven't been able to remedy the shortcomings and plug the loopholes is a matter of serious concern. Though the Government has sanctioned the setting up of a Maritime Security Agency involving various security agencies and the Ministries concerned, the plan has still not achieved fruition due to certain co-ordination issues. It is vital that such command and control-related problems be resolved as soon as possible. The entire maritime security set-up needs to be strengthened and streamlined with the MSA serving as the nodal authority for effective synchronisation between the security agencies. Unless the MSA is up and running, our efforts to shore up coastal security will be directionless. On the other hand, fast procurement of naval surveillance equipment must be a made a top priority. For this, the snags in the procurement process should be immediately identified and mitigated without further delay. It should be borne in mind that if we are to successfully secure our coastline against our enemies, we cannot afford to lag behind in the technology race. Any delay could be at the cost of hundreds of lives.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

WE MUST NOT LET CHINA BULLY US

ASHOK K MEHTA


On being commissioned in the Army in 1957, one was told that while Pakistan is the short-term threat, it is China which was the longer-term threat. Three wars with Pakistan and one with China and 50 years later, the threat forecast has not changed. China and Pakistan have colluded against India with Beijing providing political, moral and material support to Islamabad. New Delhi not only failed to break this nexus but also its commitment enshrined as a parliamentary resolution to retake every inch of territory lost to China.


China has increased the infrastructure and capability gap with India that existed in 1962 manifold. Beijing has tied Islamabad around Delhi's neck. China is now India's greatest (and gravest) challenge is the rating given by the National Security Council. With China we have a border dispute and serious differences over the Dalai Lama and his Government-in-exile in Dharamshala. Also over irregular issuance of visas for residents of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir and for depicting this State on maps as an independent country and showing Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. Official and independent Chinese comments about India and its aspirations have been rather offensive and its opposition to India's inclusion in the UN Security Council and the India-US nuclear deal is well known.


Yet, rather incongruously, Delhi showcases its relations with China as a strategic and co-operative partnership. Had we not permitted the hard and soft power gap to become so unbridgeable, China would think twice before bullying India. It was astonishing to listen to Defence Minister AK Antony say recently that "India did not invest in military modernisation in the past". This is an admission of criminal neglect of national security.

China raised the ante over the recent spat about the Dalai Lama's coming visit to Tawang which was preceded by a war of words on other issues. On the eve of the Hua Hin meeting last week between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao, the People's Daily published a commentary, "Dalai Lama goes further down traitorous road", in which it accused "the Dalai Lama clique of co-operating closely with India whenever Sino-Indian border negotiations are being held or the Indian side is maliciously speculating over a border dispute".

During talks on the sidelines of the Asean summit, Mr Singh expressed India's intent to further strengthen the strategic and co-operative partnership without allowing the border dispute spilling into other areas. Mr Wen Jiabao reiterated his country's desire for a healthy and steady relationship with India. The next day Mr Singh, while briefing the media about his dinner dialogue with Mr Wen Jiabao, indicated the focus was on two issues: The Dalai Lama and border incursions.


On the Dalai Lama, Mr Singh told Mr Wen Jiabao that he was an honoured guest and a religious figure who was forbidden from indulging in political activities. On the border issue, Mr Singh and Mr Wen Jiabao reaffirmed the stock formulation: "The need to protect peace and tranquillity on the border pending a resolution of the border question." He clarified that other irritants like Chinese projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and irregular grant of travel visas did not come up. After the briefings, and interaction with Mr Singh the media went to town, claiming "PM tells off Wen" and "India talks tough and gives it back to China".


It is not India's diplomatic style to be offensive when dealing with China. Xinhua and China Daily have blamed the Indian media for raising tension. It is largely India's contention that the border dispute should be insulated from other co-operative activities for fear of opening another front. This is precisely the kind of delinking India has sought to forge between dialogue and cross-border terrorism with Pakistan with eminent failure.

As the border dispute is inextricably linked to Tibet and the Dalai Lama, it will keep resurfacing with the ebb and tide of dialogue, the Dalai Lama's presence in India, and more significantly, the assertive and sometimes provocative pattern of patrolling adopted by the PLA. Besides the aggressive patrolling on the border, bellicosity in editorial remarks and think-tank comments and sharper focus on Tawang as part of a shriller claim over Arunachal Pradesh which it calls 'South Tibet', China has shifted its stance over Jammu & Kashmir from one of neutrality to being pro-Pakistan.


The border infrastructure and connectivity of PLA posts and bases have improved substantially in all border regions and not specifically targeting India. Defence experts argue that the PLA is out to provoke a limited border skirmish to seize Tawang which it regards as politically and strategically vital for the religious and security gridlock of Tibet. China's most famous academic on South Asia, Prof Wang Dehua from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences says that "we have evidence to show Tawang belonged to China" and suggests trading Tawang and Aksai Chin for the rest of Arunachal Pradesh.


Since 2005, a border settlement has been attempted between the Special Representatives of the two countries based on 'Political Parameters and Guidelines' after abandoning the exercise in map-marking for a definition of the Line of Actual Control. As the Chinese realised that the principle of "actual control" would be disadvantageous to them in the eastern sector, they opted to explore a political solution.


Here too, they have run into a cul de sac of not disturbing settled population centres. China should be persuaded to revert to map-marking and defining its perception of the LAC. It is high time the two sides stopped hedging difficult issues, especially over Pakistan, and set a time-line for the boundary question. There is profound misunderstanding and spread of disinformation from independent and Government-controlled media. Track II wallahs have not helped either. Starting the dormant people-to-people contact will require imagination and resources.

The China Study Group, which is the highest policy-making body, requires new blood to reduce inbreeding. Self-censorship in the media and timely official rebuttals will ensure unintended signals are not sent across the LAC. Perceptions about China's signals and messages have to be deciphered into a realistic evaluation of its real intent.


We should not be intimidated by the daunting military and economic disparity. Rather it should encourage a focussed military and infrastructure modernisation in bridging the gap. The hotline between two Prime Ministers, when operational, must be put to use. Making this relationship work in conditions of strategic rivalry is the challenge

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SITA CAN READ TOO

KHIMI THAPA


The recent arrest of two students of a Government school near New Friends Colony for allegedly molesting a 22-year-old woman and that of an IIT PhD scholar for murdering a teenage girl from Nagaland after she resisted his amorous advances is a result of the failure of the education system to inculcate values of life. Last month, seven schoolgirls of a Government school in Delhi lost their lives in a stampede caused due to eve teasing. All these incidents prove that our education system lacks gender perspective.


It is must be realised that education is not merely a means to earn a livelihood but a process of learning how to live and let others live in a world characterised by pluralism and diversity.


Gender disparities are conspicuous in the enrolment girls' rates of girls but what is more dangerous, though subtle, is the stereotypical portrayal of women in school textbooks used. For instance, the Class I Hindi textbook reads: "Ram padh. Sita pani la." In a society where boys are still preferred over girls who are often considered a burden on their families, the latter bear the brunt of inadequate educational opportunities. It is the privilege of boys to get education. This very simple exercise of grammar very subtly indicates that boys are supposed to study while girls are meant to do household chores. It is the inheritance of social inequality that prevents men from treating women as equal partners with equal competence.


Even mathematics textbooks are not free from gender bias. In mathematical sums men are shown buying sporting goods, cars, land, etc, while women are shown buying sewing machines, hairpins and grocery. Our curriculum has clearly failed to represent the pressures of work and family women confront in their lives with the changing time.


As the Human Resource Development Ministry is keen on reforming the education system, it is time steps are taken to rid textbooks of gender bias and sensitise teachers and parents on gender issues.

 

Further, biased misconceptions, like girls are weak in science, need to be done away with by incorporating more chapters on the achievements of women like Kalpana Chawla, Chanda Kochhar, etc. An integration of life skills in education programmes from primary school to college ensuring gender sensitivity and parity can help bring about attitudinal changes.


What we need is emancipation of men from prejudices to create a socially just world.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TOWARDS AN ASIAN CENTURY

THE WORLD IS LOOKING AT INDIA AND CHINA AS GROWTH ENGINES OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY. DESPITE OUR SLOW PROGRESS ON INFRASTRUCTURE, GREATER CONSUMPTION NEEDS AND OTHER PRIORITIES, THE WEST SEES IT ALL AS GOOD ECONOMICS THAT WILL UPLIFT US AND SIMULTANEOUSLY COME TO ITS RESCUE AS WELL

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reportedly had a very pleasant meeting on the sidelines of the 15th Asean Summit in Thailand. They talked of the need to promote greater functional co-operation and not about the much-publicised and thorny cross-border issue. There is already some economic cooperation and convergence of views on climate change, but clearly nothing near a true alliance or partnership.


The two leaders dutifully agreed that India-China co-operation "is in the interest of the region and the whole world." They also reiterated that "for the Asian Century to become a reality, it is important that India and China live in harmony and friendship and enjoy prosperity."


This is indeed great news, and taken at face value, it is the right prescription for the Asian Century. Its chances of succeeding beyond pleasantries, however, are probably best described under the concept of détente or balance of power, much beloved of arch-hawk Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon's Metternich admiring Secretary of State. With détente it becomes impossible to exploit a perceived weakness for short-term gain or leverage, forcing reasonableness into all bilateral negotiations as a consequence. Unequals don't usually make good partners.


Meanwhile, in the West, the financial system is clearly back into profits for the second quarter in a row. Unemployment, among those still looking for jobs, will, however, stay near or above the 10 per cent mark for most of next year. This is because the return to profitability is not through the portals of manufacturing or retail servicing that employ great numbers at the lower reaches of the pyramid.


Right now, the economy is recovering because of a revival in business confidence, rebuilding itself from a standstill and lending again. Demand for money is picking up and so is the willingness to lend it. John Maynard Keynes' spirit is smiling.


And in the West, unlike India, where low lending rates mean rates ranging between nine per cent to 15 per cent per annum, there is still a benign low interest scenario of three per cent or under, without much threat of inflation apparent as yet.

 

And this, in a overall growth environment of not more than two per cent per annum anywhere in the large economies of Western Europe, America, Japan and Australia, is probably as good as it is going to get for the coming decade.


That is, barring unforeseen spikes in the price of oil owing to disruption, unrest, terror-strike or warfare in the large oil producing regions. And provided the world does move away from its dependence on the stuff as it constantly promises to do, in order to dampen down the ever-growing demand profile for petroleum and its derivatives.

But in the closing months of 2009, we can see banks, investment companies, insurance and mortgage lenders and their surviving white collar staff are finally over the hump. Threats of more bank closures and collapses are not getting the play they used to.

Something similar is happening here in India too, struggling to ratchet up from a slowed rate of GDP growth of around five per cent to maybe seven per cent in 2010, notwithstanding an inflexible unemployment and under-employment rate amongst eligibles in the 25 per cent region!


Here too, it is the banks and their activities that are perking up. And in India, with its perpetual pent up demand for infrastructure, the order book is filling up for capital goods.


In the US the Dow Industrial Average is again above 10,000 points. The Standard & Poor 500 is above 1,000 too. Newsweek magazine thinks it will go to 11,000 and S&P 500 above 1200 in 2010 and no back-sliding.

And the upswing will come, not so much in reflection of domestic consumption, as the expected profits earned by American companies from their international operations, particularly in India and China.


The Indian stock market too, with revived industry and foreign money pouring in, can expect a new all-time high in 2010.


The world today is indeed interconnected. America was saved from years of recession, if not depression, by a combination of massive Government stimulus spending and staunch financial confidence from China and the oil-rich West Asia. But then, saving the American economy has become tantamount to saving the international economy. And whatever goes for America goes also for the West as a collective, in a corollary sense.


India is not so important on the downside because of our anchoring in the domestic economy. And because our foreign exchange surpluses are not that grand. But it is highly interconnected on the upside as an engine for international recovery.


The same applies to China which may have been earning 30 per cent of its GDP from exports heretofore, but may have to concentrate on its domestic growth for the foreseeable future.


China has already revived to nearly nine per cent GDP growth on the back of its own stimulus programmes. More will come from domestic investment into its large and impoverished rural hinterland and its shiny, modern cities alike.


The Chinese, like the Indians, are split between those who think pouring money into the countryside will be so much money down the drain and those who think its exact opposite. The countryside, argue the former, cannot benefit substantially from improved infrastructure because it has nothing to sell beyond low yield agricultural produce. The cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, on the contrary, are capable of returning substantial returns on investment.


The catch is in the fact that some 60 per cent of the Chinese, like rural Indians, live in the countryside in more or less abject poverty. So not lifting these people up the economic ladder is asking for certain trouble.


In India, the proposition is less ambiguous because we are a democracy and all politicians are dependent on the rural vote. Besides, even amongst the 40 per cent in the towns and cities, there are many toiling migrant villagers, whose ties to and sympathies for the countryside are very strong.


But in the bigger picture that the world is looking at, India and China are growth engines pure and simple. The Asian Century, Thy Kingdom Come, they pray. We may be grappling with infrastructure development, greater consumption needs, and priorities. And all this on a massive, unprecedented scale because there is much left to do. But to everyone else, it's all good healthy economics that will uplift us and simultaneously come to their rescue as well.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

WHAT AFTER BHUMIBOL?

THAI KING'S FAILING HEALTH TRIGGERS SUCCESSION DEBATE

GWYNNE DYER


People get long jail sentences in Thailand for criticising the royal family, so the Thai media has been silent on the question of what happens after the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But the King is 81 years old and he has been in hospital for a month now, so there are widespread fears that he is dying. Last week the Bangkok stock market fell by eight per cent in a day on rumours that his health is worse than the Palace admits.


Bhumibol has been on the throne for 63 years and he is universally revered. Thailand is for three years into the worst political crisis it has seen since it became a more or less democratic country two decades ago, and the King is just about the only unifying and stabilising factor that remains. His death would make matters much worse.

The crisis is the result of democracy. Thailand has become a semi-developed country — average income has risen forty-fold since Bhumibol came to the throne — but most of the population is still rural and quite poor. Their votes used to be bought by powerful local politicians and delivered to whichever urban-based party paid the highest price, but no more.


As the people of the overwhelmingly rural north and north-east acquired more education and sophistication, they started using their votes to back politicians who promised to defend their interests and not just those of the Bangkok-based economic elite. In 2001, they elected a populist politician of humble origins called Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister.


Mr Thaksin had made a fortune in telecommunications, and he probably couldn't have won the elections if he wasn't rich. But he did govern in the interests of the poor, and he was re-elected with an increased majority in 2005. It was how you would expect a maturing democracy to work, for the poor always outnumber the rich.


But you would also expect a backlash from the traditional ruling elite, and it came in the form of the People's Alliance of Democracy, a yellow-shirted movement that actually aimed to roll back democracy. By provoking confrontations in the streets with Mr Thaksin's supporters (who took to wearing red shirts), the PAD created a pretext for its allies in the Army to seize power in a military coup in 2006.


Since then, Thailand has been in permanent crisis.


Mr Thaksin was convicted of corruption in questionable circumstances and now lives in exile. His political party, the Thai Rak Thai, was forced to disband after being found guilty of "electoral fraud" by the Constitutional Court, whose impartiality in this case is open to question. However, Mr Thaksin's supporters remain devoted to him, and when the Army allowed Thais to vote again at the end of 2007, a new party that was essentially a continuation of Thai Rak Thai won the election.


The voters had got it wrong again, so the crisis continued. Two successive Prime Ministers who were standing in for the exiled Thaksin were forced to resign by PAD demonstrations and occupations that included a blockade of both of Bangkok's airports. The new pro-Thaksin party was also forced to shut down by the Constitutional Court, and late last year a new Government was installed that was more to the taste of the yellow-shirts.

The PAD's urban, middle-class supporters can control the streets of the capital (with some help from the Army) and even overthrow Governments they don't like, but they cannot force the rural majority to abandon its own loyalties. The country is dangerously polarised and politically paralysed — and many Thais believe that only King Bhumibol can hold the country together.


Maybe it's true, although there are suspicions that he actively supported the 2006 coup rather than just acquiescing in it. (Again, that cannot be openly discussed in Thailand. A well-known former journalist, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison after she suggested in a public speech that the King had backed the coup.) At any rate, the King's death would greatly deepen the crisis, for his likely successor is not loved.


Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has led a turbulent personal life, including three marriages. His attitude has probably not been improved by living for 57 years in the shadow of his father. He would be a perfectly serviceable constitutional monarch in normal times, but the Thai people have decided, fairly or unfairly, that they do not like him very much.


Vajiralongkorn is so lacking in the respect that has enabled his father to play a mediating, calming role that there are those who quietly suggest that his sister, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, might perform the duties of the monarchy better. It's not impossible. Thai law has been changed to allow women to occupy the throne, and the Constitution leaves the final right to designate an heir to the 19-member Privy Council of senior advisors to the King.


They are unlikely to change the succession, but the mere fact that it could happen introduces another element of uncertainty and potential conflict into the equation. Which gives Thais another reason to pray for Bhumibol's recovery.

The almost daily reports from the Palace on the King's condition are always upbeat, but there have been references to a 'lung inflammation,' which is a delicate way of saying pneumonia. That is potentially a killer in a man of his age, and the worries of the Thai public are justified. Long live the King!


The writer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

'LOVE JIHAD' A DECEITFUL PLOY

THE AIM OF LURING VULNERABLE NON-MUSLIM WOMEN WITH 'LOVE' AND 'MARRIAGE' IS TO CONVERT THEM TO ISLAM BEFORE USING THEM AS COURIERS, COOKS AND SEX-SLAVES

VR JAYARAJ


The first signs of 'Love Jihad', a highly explosive campaign by Kerala Islamists to convert women of other religions to Islam through deceptive love and marriage, had come to public notice some three months ago after the parents of two missing girls approached the Kerala High Court with habeas corpus petitions. Soon, reports about several such incidents popped up in the media and police stations, and political parties and community organisations came out with appeals to the public to be on the guard against the evil programme and to the police to put an end to it.


Police officials probing 'Love Jihad' (aka 'Romeo Jihad') had estimated that as many as 940 women had gone missing in Kerala in the past five years in dubious circumstances. Reports that appeared in a section of the media in January last said 'Muslim Romeos' had converted more than 4,000 women in the State to Islam through love and marriage in the recent past. Naturally, a concerned Kerala High Court last month asked the State Director-General of Police and the Union Home Department to file their reports on the matter after thorough probes.


However, DGP Jacob Punnoose submitted a reply — termed by many as funny — to the court's directive on October 22 in which he denied presence of any organised campaign or outfit named 'Love Jihad' or 'Romeo Jihad' in Kerala specialising in the art of converting hapless women of other religions into Islam through love affairs.

But his reply explained that there was information that young Muslim men had been trying to convert women to Islam through love marriages. Still, there were no evidences for this too, he said. Again, he said such Muslim youth could be getting external financial assistance for expensive clothes, motorbikes, etc, to attract girls. The DGP also said that these young men could be getting legal assistance for staying out of danger. The Union Home Department also filed a similar reply in the court, based on reports of the Intelligence Bureau, that there was no proof of a 'Love Jihad' at work in Kerala and of its spread into other States.


Irked by the contradictions in the report, the Kerala High Court ordered the DGP to file a fresh report. Cornered, DGP Punnoose spoke to the media, saying he had submitted just an interim report as the probe was still on. Independent observers point out that the DGP's report claiming ignorance of the existence of 'Love Jihad' should be seen in the context of the November 7 by-polls in three Assembly constituencies in the State. Out of the three constituencies, Kannur and Alappuzha are known for their sizeable population of Muslim voters. Quite predictably, Mr PK Kunhalikkutty, general secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League, alleged that the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF in Kerala, with the help of its police, was coining new terms like 'Love Jihad' out of the Marxists' antipathy towards Muslims while several organisations said that the LDF regime was going soft on 'love jihadis' with an eye on the Muslim votes.


The two girls (one Hindu and one Christian), through whom the we first came to know about 'Love Jihad', had said that their Muslim lovers, allegedly activists of Campus Front, the students' wing of Islamist outfit NDF (presently Popular Front of India), had taken them to a shabby residence in Chelari near Kozhikode and forced them to convert into Islam and sign marriage contracts.


Reports also indicate that it is not just young women who are being lured into relationships with Muslim men resulting eventually in conversion. A young Christian from Kalamassery, off Kochi, had complained that his wife and three children were being detained by the Mounathul Islam Association, based at Ponnani, a place in Muslim-majority Malappuram district, known as a conversion centre, for religious conversion.


Experts point out that the objective of 'Love Jihad' may not be strengthening the Muslim population. The possibility could then be that the women converted to Islam through deceptive love could still be treated as "wretched", fit only for acting as couriers, cooks, and sex-servers for terror outfits in India and outside, the proofs of which are tickling in, according to some community outfits.


According to the Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, the women so converted to Islam are being used by male Islamist terrorists for satisfying their flesh needs in the camps in inhospitable areas from where escape is impossible. Officials in the State police often say that they can trace the presence of 'love jihadis' but are unable to lay their hands on them. What that means is anybody's guess.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

HAWKISH CHINA NOW TAKES ON RUSSIA

BEIJING'S MOUTHPIECE CRITICISES MOSCOW FOR IGNORING CHINA'S CORE INTERESTS, WRITES B RAMAN


An article by Li Hongmei, titled "How to respond to Russia's 'Ambiguous Diplomacy'?" carried by the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily on October 21 indicates that the newly-evident hawkish line in foreign policy matters reflecting some of the arguments, characterisations and rhetoric of the pre-Deng Xiaoping era has been directed not only against India, but also against Russia.


The article carries intriguing references to Russia as a fair-weather friend and as practising an ambiguous diplomacy. There has been targeted criticism of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for some of his economic decisions affecting China and Chinese illegal traders in Russian territory. A comparison of the criticism of India, which has been accused of nursing hegemonistic aspirations, with the criticism of Russia indicates different motivating factors.


The motivating factor of the criticism of India is with reference to its foreign policy — particularly its relations with the US — and its aspirations of emerging as an important power and the border dispute. Economic factors do not appear to be behind the criticism of India.


In the case of Russia, economic factors seem to be mainly behind the criticism. The Chinese disappointment that Moscow did not give preference to China in respect of the award of the contract for the Far Eastern Oil pipeline project is writ large in the article. The article says: "Chauvinism and double-dealing tactics, which set the basic formula for making foreign policies in its Soviet time, can still be found in today's Russian diplomacy. This can be clearly illustrated by the 10-year-long competition between China and Japan for Russia's Far East oil pipeline project. The usual economic considerations inherent in a strictly commercial competition do not apply in this case. Instead, geopolitical considerations far outweigh any and all commercial considerations. Within the context, Russia had been cast in the role of exploiting the China-Japan rivalry. By waiting for the highest bid, Russia was fascinated by its triumph in converting the pipeline courtship into the pipeline diplomacy, in which Russia benefited from both sides while manipulating from behind the scenes."


There is also ill-concealed bitterness over the June 29 decision of Mr Putin to put down the illegal trading activities of Chinese immigrants in Russian territory by closing down the Cherkizovsky Market, Europe's largest market place, located in Izmaylovo District of Moscow. Mr Putin had ordered it to be closed down on grounds of regulatory violations and illegal activities. The market, which was owned by a Turkish group, had thousands of traders from China and central Asian republics. Illegal traders from China constituted the majority in the market.


The need to pursue and enforce core Chinese interests — against India on the border issue and against Russia on economic issues — has been the underlying themes of the two recent articles on India and Russia. While the emphasis on the enforcement of core Chinese interests is understandable, the use of pre-1979 rhetoric and arguments indicates the growing assertiveness of 'China first' hawkish elements in the party and the PLA, who have no use for the reconcilatory language of the Deng era. What they are indicating is that the time has come for China to start using its military, diplomatic and economic muscles for enforcing its core interests.

What support these elements have in the party and the Government? It is difficult to answer this question, but the fact that the People's Daily has found it necessary to give voice to them in its columns shows that these elements are not insignificant.

 

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

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

A CRIME THAT MUST SHAME US ALL

 

THE alleged murder of a 19- year- old Naga girl from Manipur by a PhD candidate from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi is a grim reminder of the times we live in: We may have achieved a great deal in terms of material culture, but we are regressing in social and moral values.

 

Pushpam Sinha, whose brilliant academic track record belies the so- called ' perverse' feelings he had about the opposite sex, sometimes even about girls who were almost half his age — as the police claim — is a prime example of this steady decline. His case, if indeed he turns out to be a murderer, would be a failure on many fronts — parenting, a society that perhaps looks upon introverts as nerds thus forcing them to further go into their shell. Certainly we can fault a teaching system, where bookish knowledge is imparted with great enthusiasm, but education on moral or social issues is marked by its absence, especially for the young who need it.

 

In the 21st century, where nuclear families mean that parents could be out for the entire day and have little time to impart the values their children need, we need to look for larger solutions. Society needs to find ways to effectively mentor the young — by teachers, parents, senior colleagues, policemen and social workers — in a manner that they grow up respecting individuals and respecting the opposite sex and knowing what is wrong and what is right.

 

Spare a thought, too, for the victim who belonged to the North- east, a region which the country has yet to effectively integrate into its national mainstream.

 

The complaints of the community about the indifference of the authorities and the police to their physical security should shame us all because it tells us why the integration has not taken place. This is not the first incident of its kind. But it should be the last.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

PAK BLACK HUMOUR

 

REHMAN MALIK risks being placed in the same bracket as the then Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Said al- Sahhaf aka Baghdad Bob or Comical Ali whose fantastical claims on the Second Gulf War made him an international laughing stock.

 

Every two or three weeks or so, Mr Malik accuses India of backing the Taliban and other assorted terrorists in Pakistan. Were he an ordinary Pakistani, it would be one thing. But he is a former Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency officer, who is now the Interior Minister. Not only does the Taliban acknowledge the attacks it carried out, but Pakistan also has in its custody the leader of the Army GHQ attackers, one Dr Usman.

 

The simplest thing to do is to ask this gentleman as to who were his backers.

 

Mr Malik's allegations are black comedy.

 

Not only did Pakistan create and nurture the Taliban, it also established a jihadi army to carry out terrorist attacks against India, the most recent being the November 2008 assault on Mumbai.

 

Actually there is a darker design behind Mr Malik's seeming antics. That is to pull the wool over the eyes of the average Pakistani.

 

He is a follower of the late Dr Goebbels who is believed to have said: " If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." The aim of the lies is to prevent the Pakistani people from knowing the extent to which its own security establishment is responsible for its predicament.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

BACK TO THE DESK

 

ARUNDHATI ROY is a queer kettle of fish. Her claim to fame rests on a literary work but in the last decade or so since it appeared Ms Roy has devoted her energies to everything but literature. Her recent outburst, alleging that the Centre had launched a war against the Maoists on account of economic interests, is the latest in a long line of diatribes that portray the Indian state as nothing but an embodiment of evil.

 

And while many of the issues that Ms Roy raises have validity, it is difficult to overcome the impression that she is a celebrity in search of a cause. It doesn't help that though she rants against elitism, corporatism and globalisation, her own credentials rest on these very coordinates.

 

Ms Roy would be doing herself and her fans a favour if she returns to her calling, writing.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

NO STOPPING THE BJP'S STEADY SLIDE DOWNHILL

BY JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA

 

Mobs led by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal could only do short- term favours; for the long run the party needs citizen support

 

THE STATE of the BJP in recent weeks is like the Kauravas prior to the commencing of the Great War. Neither Duryodhana nor Karna wanted Bhishma to be the general of the Kaurava army.

 

He was far too old, out of touch with the art of warfare, secretly harboured a fondness for the enemy camp and was inflexible. But more significantly, despite his reputation as a great warrior, he had actually never fought a real war and had hardly won any significant victory. The Kauravas had to put up with his claims to leading the war because of his age, position in the family and his mystique.

 

L. K. Advani is the Bhishma of the BJP. Despite the popular perception often likening Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Bhishma, it is Advani who fits the bill more than Vajpayee. The parallel with the Mahabharata does not end here. Just before the war begins, Yudhisthira goes to Bhishma for his blessings. Bhishma says to him that though he knew that the war being fought was not a just war, he was tied to the Kauravas because of self- interest; all human beings are slaves to selfinterest, he says. Advani too clings on to self- interest in the manner of a Bhishma, even though the rhetoric is one of serving the party that he had built. What, in fact, is happening is the slow disintegration of the BJP, brick by brick.

 

Despite its posturing and its usual rhetoric as being the party that represents ' true' Indian nationalism, the BJP has been put in place by the electorate in the recent assembly elections. The official version within the party is that a few elections do not determine the fate or the future of a national party like the BJP. The only problem with this line is that it is one that has been recycled since May 2004 with boring repetitiveness.

 

There are those within the BJP who argue that the Congress was in a similar state after the exit of P. V. Narasimha Rao as prime minister but managed to bounce back into a force to reckon with in Indian politics.

 

These examples do not work in the case of the BJP.

 

PAST

The Congress revived because it sought refuge in the legacy of the Nehru-Gandhi family's ability to thwart individual ambitions and hold the party together, however tenuously.

 

In the BJP, staying a bit longer with the Mahabharata metaphor, every leader in the party hopes to become the general. There are many Karnas, but there is also Modi, the modern Ashwatthama, angry and vengeful, but consumed also by lust for power and glory. To repeat a cliché, the only thing that keeps the BJP together these days is the glue of power. Ironically, it must get power in order to be glued together.

 

Let us go back in time and remember the Janata Party days after the Emergency. The Janata experiment in 1977 began to sour soon after it began, partly due to the ambitions of individuals like Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram, but substantially over the issue of what was then called the 'dual membership' question of members of the Jan Sangh (the earliest incarnation of the BJP) and their loyalty to the RSS. All attempts to resolve the issue were futile and it became one of the main reasons for the fragmentation of the Janata Party and its government's eventual downfall.

In its modern avatar, the dual membership question has come back to haunt the BJP. The manner in which the BJP has evolved, the problem has now metamorphosed into one that is a triple membership question within the party.

 

There are those within the BJP who came into politics from the RSS in order to spread the message of the Sangh in the political arena. They were the recruitment agents of the parent organisation and swore total loyalty to the parent organisation and fidelity to its ideological premises. There are others who did not come through the RSS route, but were attracted to a version of Hindu nationalism on the one hand and a robust anti- Congressism on the other. These latter were already established leaders elsewhere who found place within the newly packaged BJP. But there is a last segment of the party which feels alienated and bereft. It is their disenchantment that is at the very foundation for the steady decline of the BJP.

 

ALIENATION

This last segment is composed of many ordinary men and women who were part of the Ramjanmabhoomi and shilanyas movements. These simple men and women sought to make their voices heard through the medium of religion, hoping that their lot would be bettered by articulating their grievances through metaphors that were largely religious.

 

It would be a mistake to include lumpens of the VHP and the Bajarang Dal as part of this third segment of people. Rather, these people sensed the existence of a moral high ground in the rhetoric of the BJP at that point of time and also a new politics.

 

While some of this was also a reaction to Mandal politics, weaving in its midst a complex of perennial caste prejudices and religious bigotry, the substantial motivation for them was to bring about change in the cynicism that Indian politics had fallen prey to in the 80s and the 90s. They threw in their lot with an outfit that called itself a ' party with a difference'. In 2009, this third segment has deserted the BJP. The question remains as to why this has happened.

 

Movements like the Ramjanmabhoomi and the shilanyas movements create a mob. Some of them are ideologically driven, some are part of it because they have nothing better to do, others join in because they see hope and optimism, and, lastly, there are others who are criminals who hope to make the best of a fluid situation remaining undetected.

 

After the movement was over, and after the BJP came to power at the Centre, it continued to treat this third segment as its cadre. They were never its cadre, but ordinary Indian citizens who hoped to see better days and were taken in by the promise of a ramrajya .

 

DEMOCRACY

The steady slide of the BJP down an interminable slippery slope is a consequence of this third segment, presumptuously seen as its cadre, abandoning it. No amount of arguing about new caste equations or vote banks can explain the decline of the BJP. This is also the salutary lesson that democracy teaches: a mob can render a short- term favour, but the citizen in a democracy knows best.

 

What the BJP is left with today is a motley crowd of disgruntled VHP and Bajarang Dal people, unhappy that the party is not radical enough, and a top leadership that is a bunch of municipal failures.

 

Its only hope for survival is to refashion itself, throw the RSS off its back, split, and hope to survive.

The writer teaches politics at University of Hyderabad

 

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MAIL TODAY

DECCAN BUZZ

A SRINIVASA RAO

 

SC ORDER ON CAPITAL GIVES TRS FRESH LIFE

IS HYDERABAD not a part of Telangana, but a separate entity by virtue of being the capital of Andhra Pradesh? This issue is now the most hotly debated topic across the state. And it has given a new lease of life to the Telangana movement, which had almost been buried after the debacle of pro- Telangana forces in the recent general elections.

 

The whole controversy began with a Supreme Court judgement on October 9, declaring that Hyderabad was not a part of Telangana but a free zone insofar as recruitments and postings in government went.

 

Therefore, the Supreme Court ruled, people from all parts of the state would have equal rights in jobs, postings and promotions there. It meant the people of Telangana, who have been enjoying local area status in Hyderabad with 70 per cent quota in government jobs all these years, would have to forego the benefit and now have to compete with people from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema for such openings.

 

Hitherto, the state government had been treating Hyderabad as part of Zone VI, along with Ranga Reddy, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad and Medak districts for the purpose of government recruitments, postings and promotions. There are five other zones in the rest of the state.

 

The Zonal system was created as part of Presidential Orders issued in 1975, based on the sixpoint formula worked out by the then Indira Gandhi government to undo the injustice caused to Telangana in recruitments, as a fallout of the historic Telangana movement of 1969- 72. But, the formula was violated more often than not, causing a lot of unrest among the Telangana employees.

 

In 1985, the then N T Rama Rao government issued a special government order ( GO 610) to repatriate all the employees recruited in the state in violation of the six- point formula.

 

But this GO, too, was flouted on a number of occasions. After the formation of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2001 reviving the Telangana movement, the Chandrababu Naidu government constituted a committee headed by retired IAS officer J M Girglani, who also ruled that Hyderabad was not a free zone, but part of Zone VI of Telangana. He said the Zonal system was applicable not only to state- level offices such as Secretariat, directorates, commissionerates and corporations and Group- I cadre recruitments; for the purpose of local recruitments such as in the Collectorate, police department and appointment of teachers, Hyderabad is part of Zone VI with locals entitled to a 70 per cent quota. S UBSEQUENTLY, the government started repatriating police constables and officers from Hyderabad to their respective zones.

 

Some of them first approached the State Administrative Tribunal and later moved the High Court, but both ruled that Hyderabad was part of Zone- VI in Telangana. Subsequently, they filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the HC order.

 

This has led to the Supreme Court declaring Hyderabad a " free zone." The SC order has triggered a lot of unrest among the Telangana employee associations, which fear that candidates from Andhra would grab their jobs in Hyderabad. Senior advocate S Ramachandra Rao observed that the Supreme Court order was against the spirit of the Presidential Orders of 1975, which had nowhere mentioned that Hyderabad was a free zone.

 

The Telangana Employees' Union president C Vithal said the verdict would lead to a further rift between Telangana and Andhra employees.

 

For the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which has been down in the dumps for the last six months, the order has come as a god- sent opportunity to revive the Telangana movement.

 

Within a week, the TRS organised a massive public meeting of Telangana employees at Siddipet in Medak district, where its president K Chandrasekhara Rao declared that he would wage a protracted struggle to achieve a separate Telangana state.

 

He gave the call of " Telanganawale Jaago, Andhrawale Bhago," evoking loud protests from Andhraites, and creating a tense atmosphere in the state.

KCR even called for a " Jail Bharo" programme on October 28 against the " Hyderabad- asfree zone" order.

 

The state government led by Chief Minister K Rosaiah held an all- party meeting last week to discuss the contentious " free zone" issue and decided to file a review petition in the Supreme Court.

 

JAGAN REDDY IN NO MOOD TO END TRICKS

 

DESPITE THE Congress high command categorically ruling out appointing Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, at least in the near future, he has given a clear indication to his detractors that he is not going to lie low. He has declared that he would continue to bring pressure on the Rosaiah government to implement the programmes initiated by his late father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.

 

He has dropped enough hints that he is going to lead an alternative power centre in the state Congress, while continuing to display his loyalty to the Congress high command.

 

In a way, Jaganmohan is following in his father's footsteps.

 

The late YSR was the most troublesome politician within the Congress in the ' 90s, one who desperately wanted to become the chief minister.

 

He allegedly instigated the 1990 communal riots in Hyderabad to pull down the then chief minister Dr Marri Channa Reddy; ran a campaign against the next chief minister N Janardhan Reddy in 1992 and engineered a chappal attack on the subsequent chief minister Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy in 1994. Yet, YSR had to wait for another 10 years to become the chief minister.

 

Jaganmohan, it appears, does not have so much patience. It appears he is planning to run a sustained campaign to defame K Rosaiah and prove him as an inefficient chief minister.

 

Jagan now plans to resign from his Kadapa Lok Sabha seat and contest from the Pulivendula assembly seat, represented by his father, in the ensuing byelections, so that he continues to be a thorn in the flesh for Rosaiah in the coming days.

 

REHMAN CASTS HIS SPELL ON CITY DWELLERS

 

IT WAS a rocking and rollicking evening for Hyderabadis on Saturday.

 

Music maestro A R Rehman gave a scintillating performance — " Jai Ho" — at GMR Arena near the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, the first show in the city after he won the Oscars.

 

Thousands of people, young and old, went into a frenzy as Rehman and his troupe belted out popular numbers from his latest Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films. The show was a mix of everything for everybody — fusion, Carnatic and Sufi.

 

The Mozart of Madras was assisted by 85 renowned artistes including Sivamani, Blaze, Chitra, Benny Dayal, Javed Ali, Aslam, Rashid Ali, Shweta Pandit, and Neeti.

 

The most memorable part of the show was Rehman's tribute to the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. As he sang " Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil me hein" while playing the piano, there was a pin- drop silence in the audience. He also made the audience observe a twominute silence for the victims of the recent floods in the state. The net proceeds of the incredible show were donated to the Chief Minister's Relief Fund for rehabilitation of flood victims.

 

THE ENTIRE Telugu film industry will go on a three- day holiday from November 5 to 7, in the wake of a Star- Nite programme at Gachibowli stadium on November 7 to mobilise funds for the flood victims of the state.

 

Former union minister and director- producer Dasari Narayana Rao, who is heading the Star Nite Organising Committee, declared that there would be a complete ban on shooting of films and television programmes during the three days and all artistes and technicians should cancel their engagements of this period to participate in the charity programme.

 

Even those who are abroad for film shooting should cancel their schedules and return to Hyderabad, he ordered.

What irked some senior artistes and film makers was Dasari's announcement that any artiste violating the three- day holiday rule would be banned from the film industry for six months.

 

The participation should be voluntary, rather than mandatory, as it would not only upset film schedules, but also cause heavy losses to producers, they argue.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

DECISION ON MCD IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

 

THIS refers to the news report, ' Sheila gets MCD powers' ( October 27). The Centre's decision to put the Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( MCD) under the Delhi government is against the spirit of 74th amendment of the Constitution that provides devolution of the state legislature of powers and responsibilities upon the municipalities for fulfilling its obligation of economic development and social welfare.

In addition, this move seems to be politically- motivated because the MCD is currently ruled by the BJP. For some time now, chief minister Sheila Dikshit has been accusing the MCD of inefficiency and demanding its control under the state government.

 

However, the truth is that it is not the MCD, but her own 10- year rule as chief minister that has made the common man's life miserable in Delhi. Her government has failed in providing any civic amenity including adequate water and electricity supply and better roads.

 

Both the Centre and the state government have failed to contain sky- rocketing prices of commodities. Despite the transfer of the Delhi Transport Corporation ( DTC), the DESU and Water Board from the MCD to the state government, there has been no significant change the functioning of these authorities.

 

How will her government maintain the 1600 km road network which is at present under the MCD, while the Public Works Department is unable to maintain 600 km road network under its control.

 

Ms Dikshit accused the MCD of delay in the completion of the various projects related to the Commonwealth Games 2010, but her own government is also responsible for these delays.

 

It would be better for both the Central and state governments to focus on completing the preparations for the Games instead of messing up the affairs in the Capital before the Games.

Manoj Parashar via email

 

THE SAME OLD STORY REPEATS IN INDIA

SEVERAL people lost their eyesight following a botched up medical camp for cataract surgery in Andhra Pradesh. While the outcome of many medical procedures is uncertain, there can be hardly any valid reason for a patient to go blind after a simple cataract operation.

 

And when many patients in the same camp become blind following the removal of cataract, there can be no doubt that these hapless people were victim of gross medical negligence.

 

Perhaps failure to maintain proper aseptic condition in the camp was responsible for this mass blindness after cataract surgery. Such horrific incidence is unfathomable in most developed nations.

 

Unfortunately for the hapless patients in India, this was not the first time that such an appalling medical fiasco occurred in this country and unless a complete overhaul is made in the present medicine regulatory system, it can be predicted with a great degree of conviction that this won't be the last of such incredible medical calamities.

 

As expected, in order to mollify the huge public outcry that generally erupts soon after the revelation of a gigantic medical failure, the health minister of Andhra Pradesh has promptly assured that they will conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and will take appropriate punitive measures against the culprits if there was medical negligence.

On the other hand, the doctors/ hospital that were involved with the dreadful medical camp, have already claimed that there was no negligence on their part, trying to shift the blame on the victims and their families.

It's just the same old story each time.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MOUNTAIN TASK

 

When the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the rest of the world got excited over the discovery of water traces on the moon, not many remembered that the search was impelled as much by fear as by the spirit of exploration. The fear that the taps would one day go dry on earth is not entirely unfounded. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that Polar ice and major water bodies including glacial systems in the Himalayas could disappear in a few decades. This would pose challenges not confined to just drinking water scarcity. It would compromise flora and fauna, impact the cropping patterns, pose risks of landslides, floods and droughts and force large-scale migration of populations.


The Himalayan ecosystem is common to several countries including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and China. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal to stakeholder countries for coordinated action as outlined in the Himalayan Ecosystem Mission of the National Action Plan on Climate Change is to be welcomed not only as a long overdue regional initiative but as a concerted effort by vulnerable countries to deal with what is essentially the result of resource misuse worldwide, particularly by the industrialised world.

 

It would be equitable therefore to involve major developed economies in restoration and conservation of the Himalayan ecosystem where glacial melt is being precipitated by their past and current economic activity. Mitigation activity does not work in isolation; it requires countries worldwide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve forests. Meanwhile, regional cooperation is valuable to promote policy that makes measures for adaptation a key feature of local administration.


ISRO will be sharing ground survey study results, satellite imaging and data with the Centre for Glaciological Studies. Information-sharing among stakeholder countries including Pakistan and China to protect the Himalayan ecosystem would be crucial to taking the mission forward. The mission ought to be seen as a good opportunity for making a paradigm shift in the way we perceive security threats in the region. Moving away from territory-centric power conflicts to challenges that face us all, would involve creating synergy in tackling jointly the security implications of a deteriorating mountain range system. The participation of local communities in this regard, with their rich source of traditional knowledge of conservation practices, will help make stronger people-to-people contact in the region. That would create an opportunity for peace to thrive grassroots up, rather than enforcing it through military presence. Placed in such a context, the proposal to convert Siachen into a peace park might not be far-fetched after all.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY

 

Ever wondered how a particular malted milk hot drink could supposedly make children, who gulp down a mug or two of it every day, grow taller than their peers who drink rival brands? Incredible as it may sound, this is the message some drink companies have decided to bombard consumers with via glitzy television ad campaigns. There's no mistaking the target audience these advertisers are playing to it's impressionable young children who fancy being taller, smarter and stronger than their contemporaries.


Now such ads and all food and beverage (F&B) ads will come under the government's scanner. Not amused by unsubstantiated claims made by F&B companies about the nutritive edge and health benefits their products bring to the table, the government is drawing up a code that will govern F&B advertisements. This proposed code is aimed at curbing advertisements that make tall claims about the effects of products on physical ability, nutrition, health and exceptional intelligence. About time too. Imagine sections of a generation growing up like they are now thinking that their intelligence comes packaged in a drink, or soup! Such ads are plain misleading, and harmful.


According to the proposed code, all nutritive and health benefits promoted in ads will have to be backed by scientific research. In case companies violate the code, the Food Safety and Standards Authority will step in. As an initial measure, it proposes to publicise the claims made by errant companies and the truth about their products to consumers. It also reserves the right to slap a monetary penalty against such companies. What the government here is proposing is a milder version of similar rules and regulations that exist elsewhere. For instance, in America, the Federal Trade Commission carries out a stringent scrutiny of food ads, especially those aimed at children, to see if they violate regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration.


All advertising involves some amount of exaggeration. That much the viewer knows. But there is a fine line that separates exaggeration and untrue claims, a line that F&B advertisers seem to be crossing frequently these days. The government must spell out regulations in no unambiguous terms and enforce them with a firm hand. Access to fair information is an unquestionable consumer right. And after all, in the marketplace, the consumer is supposed to be king.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

NEIGHBOURLY CAUTION

 

Rhetorical statements and ground realities indicated growing tensions between New Delhi and Beijing from the time ambassador Sun Yuxi claimed in November 2006 that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh was disputed territory. A series of incidents from then on led to the current levels of deterioration in relations. An estimated 270 border transgressions in 2008, logistical improvements in Tibet, a rise in China's defence budget (to a whopping $70 billion), its successful conduct of an anti-satellite test in 2007 and issuing of visas to Kashmir students have all coincided with India's decision to despatch 60,000 troops and deploy two squadrons of Su-30 MKI multi-role fighter aircraft in Arunachal Pradesh and construct 11 strategic roads connecting the trans-Himalayan border regions.


As tensions mounted, dilemmas emerged on what policy to adopt. A touch-me-not status quoist policy is not possible for India or China when both are emerging powers in Asia and beyond. Conversely, active engagement would be detrimental to a relatively weaker country subjected to asymmetries. Containment by any party in this age of globalisation could prove costly with the possible emergence of an arms race. New Delhi had proposed a stop-gap "enough-space-in-Asia" arrangement, but this is an increasingly unviable proposition. Conversely, the balancing that China has successfully done since 1962 offers possibilities.


The Chinese leadership appears to be following an ancient Chinese strategy: "do not attack in all directions" but judiciously counter only the perceived and prioritised primary contradiction. Today, India appears the main target, at least of the Chinese military and media, while moderate and constructivist Chinese voices are being curbed. According to a study, 90 per cent of netizens in China expressed strong resentment against Indian positions on the border dispute and the Tibet issue.


Chinese military constituents have stuck to old positions that India is a hegemon in South Asia, now rising and dominating the Indian Ocean. The suggested (and in many cases implemented) policies are to prop up Islamabad and actively enter the Indian Ocean. The Chinese naval commander reportedly suggested to the US Pacific Command that the Indian Ocean should be left to the Chinese navy.


Following its ancient strategy, China vilified and attacked Japan under Junichiro Koizumi. It also targeted Taiwanese leader Chen Shuibian, accusing him of furthering the independence movement. After the pro-unification Kuomintang came to power in Taipei in March 2008 and recently the Democratic Party of Japan in that country, Beijing's ire has increasingly shifted to New Delhi. It is not clear how long this rivalry between the two will continue but it appears that till New Delhi kowtows to Beijing, China is likely to use all leverages against India, from coercion to strategic domination, or even the US card.


However, despite current movements across the borders, it is unlikely the relationship will deteriorate into open conflict. The leaderships of these two rising Asian powers with vast strategic depth, would be loath to exercise conventional or nuclear military options though on the conventional front, India appears to enjoy a slight edge. The 1998 Pokhran II nuclear tests and the operationalising of ballistic missiles brought about strategic parity between the two countries, changing the nature of warfare between them. China's reported targeting of nearly 50-60 Indian strategic hubs or cities and the success of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation in testing intermediate-range missiles and a ballistic missile defence system point to the emergence of mutual deterrence. But it needs to be pointed out that conflict, even if subdued, did erupt between nuclear states: US-Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 or China-Soviet Union in 1969.

Open conflict between India and China has low probability as the leaderships plan to overcome misperceptions and act, if possible, through a proposed 'hotline'. At the Yekaterinburg meeting in June, this suggestion was mooted by the Chinese side and reiterated during special representative Dai Bingguo's visit to New Delhi in August. This is an important instrument in averting 'accidental' happenings and some, in fact, trace the 1962 skirmishes to misperceptions and lack of proper communications between the two sides.


Again, due to the relative economic interdependence of the two countries (with trade touching $52 billion last year), liberals suggest a softening in relations as stakes are created in each other's markets. This proposition needs to be analysed further given New Delhi's reluctance to open up the Indian market to the influx of cheap Chinese goods. Also, a free trade area proposal from China was rejected and Chinese investments close to security establishments in India were disallowed.


Finally, there appears to be a realisation that direct confrontation at the political, diplomatic or military levels could sap the two countries, making them miss the "Asian century". The costly wars Europe fought for more than 100 years brought it down from its high power pedestal by 1945. This is a clear, if jarring, reminder for both countries.


The writer is professor in Chinese studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

BEE MOBILE: SMS B FOR HONEY

 

I remember the day when seeing a blue backlight on my friend's mobile phone stupefied me. It seemed such a large step forward from the green backlight one saw on other phones. I'm today sending e-mails and watching video clips on my phone with a colour display that turns my TV red with embarrassment. However, not everyone is amused by the over-abundance of mobile phones and network operators. A recent study conducted by a group of environmentalists in Kerala concluded that honeybees are rather disconcerted by the rising number of network towers all over the place. Apparently, the electromagnetic radiations from these towers and our cellphones collide with the navigational capabilities of honeybees and prevent them from getting back to their hives, essentially destroying numerous colonies. Unfortunately for these bees they are not equipped with GPS or a map to give them directions once they lose their way. A couple of wrong turns and, they probably give up and tell themselves "We'll never get back home. Let's just sting some guy and kill ourselves."


Scientists who have devoted themselves to the study of bees believe that the alarming rate of decrease in honeybee population over the past decade or so is the forewarning of the doom of the human race. They believe the honeybee community is an integral cog in sustaining the balance of nature. And if you think about it, the behaviour of honeybees, to some degree, resembles human behaviour. The worker bees pick a queen bee who they hail, nurture, and revere for a particular period of time. Once the queen becomes old and relatively useless, they find a younger queen to venerate and subsequently engage in the methodical murder of the old queen. The phenomenon is called supersedure and a sizeable number of celebrities and social figures would vouch for its existence. The really bad news for the honeybees is that it is unlikely that cellphone usage is going to dip. We're constantly being informed about the various downsides of mobile phones. Frankly, if human beings are shrugging off threats of brain tumour and infertility, then the news of the imminent extinction of honeybees has very little chance of seeping through to their consciousness. Perhaps, someday in the future when we're craving for honey and we have none left, we'll start wondering what happened. And on that day the only thing buzzing would be our phones.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'ENERGY, EDUCATION AND TRADE ARE AREAS WE WANT TO EXPLORE'

 

Michael Russell is the Scottish minister for external affairs, culture and the constitution. While in New Delhi recently to sign MoUs with the government of India on increased cooperation between Scotland and India in the areas of education and renewable energy, he spoke to Yamini Lohia :


What are the key areas in which India and Scotland can cooperate?

Energy obviously is an important area, and what we have signed is, i think, the first such agreement between any part of the United Kingdom and India and that is very fascinating. Education and trade opportunities are also areas that we want to explore, and as minister of culture, i am interested to see what we can do in terms of culture.

What specifically are you looking at in terms of education?

At the university level there seems to be a particularly large-scale opportunity. You're going through a series of education reforms. There are a number of Indian students in Scotland already 13 per cent of the students from India in the UK study in Scotland. That's disproportionately high given the size of the Scottish population in the UK. We can increase that; we can find specialities within that.


There are also the Saltire scholarships, which are at the graduate level, to encourage the best minds and the best students to come to Scottish universities, which have the best reputation for research in the world.


I would like to see more Scottish students coming to India. India is a vast democracy and has many areas of specialisation. Scottish students need to recognise that and learn how they are going to benefit. The first stage of that is to set up formal partnerships of various types between universities, which is already under discussion.

What we're interested in here is a long-term relationship. The Scottish government is a devolved government. We don't have all the powers of a sovereign state because the UK is a strange, devolved settlement, which my government wants to change to full independence but at the present moment, it is a devolved settlement. Within that we have some clear objectives, one of which is setting up normal and close relationships with a lot of countries, including India.


How are India and Scotland cooperating on renewable energy?

There are very interesting similarities and dissimilarities. We use some solar power you're luckier in that resource than we are. It is my government's intention to move as quickly as we can so that renewables form the bulk of our power generation. We're building up our technical competence in several areas and we have some interesting new developments in wind energy, including offshore wind developments which may be the way forward for the world because it will provide better generation. We are particularly interested in tidal energy. We have developed the Saltire prize with the National Geographic magazine, which is a 10 million pound prize for innovation in tidal energy. We intend to take tidal energy forward in a big way.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ON STEROIDS FOR LONGER

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has begun unwinding its crisis-induced monetary policy with Tuesday's decision to raise the reserves banks need to hold in order to lend. Although the higher threshold is meaningless at this point because banks are sitting on government bonds in excess of the 25 per cent required, the signal from Mint Street is unequivocal that inflation is a clear and present danger as the base effect of last year's record global energy and commodity prices eases and food prices in India ratchet up after a drought year.

 

The central bank now expects wholesale prices will climb at least 30 per cent faster by end-March than its comfort level of 5 per cent. Inflation far less out of kilter has prompted central bankers in Israel and Australia to raise interest rates as early as August, but Governor Duvvuri Subbarao's latest assessment is in step with what Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee described as "the government's own thinking" on keeping the economy on steroids for a while longer.

 

Some of the worst-affected sectors have, however, been taken off life support. Special refinance facilities for credit and mortgage companies, mutual funds and exporters, necessitated by frozen international capital markets last year, stand withdrawn. This is an expression of

 

Mr Subbarao's confidence that the economy will grow at 6 per cent "with an upward bias" in the fiscal year to March 2010. The higher risk provisioning for loans to commercial real estate is consistent with the RBI's bank's long-held antipathy towards incipient asset-price bubbles, even at a time when the government is actively subsidising loans to home owners.

 

The status quo on the RBI's policy rates may flatter to deceive. The central bank has voiced its concern about arranging another Rs 1,20,000 crore of debt by February 2010 to fund the Rs 4,10,000 crore the government is committed to spending on social welfare this fiscal year. The easy money came in by September. Government borrowing in the second half of 2009-10 is exerting greater pressure on interest rates as credit demand from the rest of the economy picks up; however, not as vigorously as the central bank had anticipated.

 

The government may have to, sooner than later, accept higher interest rates as a fait accompli. Policy makers can debate the timing of an exit strategy only as long as the window of opportunity remains open.

 

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EDITORIAL

FUND OF INFORMATION

 

If one of us had said that India is funding the Taliban, the men in the white coats would be at the door. But when Pakistan's Interior minister Rehman Malik says so and claims to have full details, we must take him seriously.

 

But just to be on sure ground, we would like to know if Mr Malik is also prone to seeing little green men in his backyard on moonless nights. But, we jest. Mr Malik must know what he is talking about. We owe him a debt of gratitude for coming up with this idea and crediting us with it.

 

We can now develop on the Pakistan minister's thesis. The answer to all our problems was staring us in the face, all we need to do is fund the Taliban who, in sheer gratitude, will needle Pakistan while keeping their hand in by conducting a few well-aimed terror operations on Indian soil. But, and we are really warming to this now, one fine day the Taliban may decide to bite the hand that feeds it. By then, we will not be resting on our oars. We'll have propped up the Taliban Mark II to counter the originals and so on until we can't tell the MacMahon Line from the Radcliffe Line. In the bedlam and confusion, no one will know whom they are meant to kill.

 

Mr Malik deserves at the very least a bargain basement Nobel for his novel idea. Here is one man who knows what's good for the region. Instead of jumping down his throat, we ought to encourage him to come up more innovative ideas like this one. Then we won't need the Americans to solve our problems, we will have our own homegrown solutions at the ready.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SHE

MONI MALHOUTRA

 

A quarter of a century has passed since Indira Gandhi's death. Yet she lives vividly in the collective memory of millions of our people. Nothing is blurred. She was Indira Gandhi. Different, special.   


There was about her an indefinable aura, a feline grace, a restlessness and a sense of calm, a veil of mystery. Her silences sometimes spoke louder than her words. She was conscious of her high-pitched voice, and often joked about it. She was conscious about her nose, and always wanted to do something about it. She was very human.

 

She was a mix of daring and deliberation, of impulse and calculation. She was passionate about the causes she believed in. While a student at Oxford, she auctioned her bracelet to help the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War. She was down-to-earth and practical, with a sharp eye for detail. She tracked every ship and train carrying food to our drought-affected areas. She wanted Indian science to reach for the stars, but also to improve the design of the bullock cart.

 

She had style, an innate sense of beauty, of simplicity, of elegance. She was a gifted linguist who spoke several languages. But when she spoke to the people of India, she knew only one language: the language of the heart.

 

She loved books, music, theatre and the creative arts. The world of ideas fascinated her. She sought out thinkers, scientists, philosophers, artists, both in India and abroad. She enjoyed good conversation, wit and humour and the graces of civilised conduct. She could laugh at herself in a self-deprecating way.

 

She had an emotional bond with nature. She loved animals. When in prison during the freedom movement, she gave her meagre ration of milk to the jail cat and its kittens. She loved the seasons. When the monsoons broke, she would rush home from a cabinet meeting to walk in the rain, face to the sky.

 

Her doors were always open to an unending stream of people from all walks of life, rich and poor. She kept her hand on the pulse of India. She inspired love as well as awe. One ambassador, calling on her for the first time, was so dumbstruck to be in her presence that he could not utter a word.

 

She was at ease in the chancelleries of the world, speaking up for India and defending India's interests. She could be charming as well as charmless, and revel in both roles to advance her objectives. She would brook no patronising, either of herself or her country.

 

For much of her life, even when elected Prime Minister, she was undervalued and underestimated. She was shy, reserved and sensitive, a very private person not hungry for power. She did not appear cut out for the rough and tumble of political life. Yet, within a few years, she was politically dominant and a world figure.

 

Her childhood had been exceptionally difficult. As the daughter of Jawaharlal and Kamala Nehru, she was also a daughter of the freedom movement. Separated frequently from her imprisoned parents, often entirely alone, shunted from school to school, the young Indira had to cope with circumstances that would have crushed a lesser spirit. She learned to be self-reliant. Her beloved mother's protracted illness and premature death added to her tribulations and enduring loneliness. But it was a loneliness that fostered inner strength. "I am as tough as they come," she said later, "or I would have been dead long ago." And tough she showed herself to be.

 

Today, it is easy to forget Indira Gandhi's troubled inheritance. No prime minister after her has had to confront so many major challenges in such quick succession — a nation still demoralised after its defeat in the 1962 war with China, a Congress with an ongoing struggle for power, a country unable to feed itself and thus vulnerable to external arm-twisting, an economy increasingly dependent on foreign aid, droughts one after another, the burden of hosting 10 million refugees from Bangladesh, war with Pakistan, a world financial crisis and the skyrocketing price of oil. Tough decisions were needed. Indira Gandhi had the courage to take them.

 

Courage and patriotism came to her early, inspired by the conduct of her own family members in the struggle for freedom. During the Quit India movement, she held the Congress flag aloft despite coming under police blows. She flew to Assam in 1962 during the India-China war to reassure the people when the military situation was extremely dangerous and there was talk of evacuation. She rushed to Srinagar in September 1965 to put spine into the local administration in the face of Pakistani infiltration and the imminent outbreak of war. Throughout the nine-month long Bangladesh crisis, her courage, steadfastness of purpose and skill on the international chessboard steered India to victory. She taught India that salvation lay in relying on its own strength, not in expecting help from others. The legend of Indira as Durga was born.

 

Sensitive, as well as sensible

 

Victories in war attract admiration. They cannot inspire love. It was her deep sense of compassion that earned Indira Gandhi the love of India's millions. For her, poverty was not a matter of statistics. She had seen it face to face during her travels. It offended her sense of human dignity. It was Indira Gandhi who first introduced anti-poverty programmes, reaching out to the poorest and most destitute as no one had done before. The legend of 'Indira Amma', the carer and protector of the poor, endures.

 

To courage and compassion, she added the conviction that India was destined for greatness. No sacrifice was too great if it served this goal. She saw the world as it was, devoid of sentiment and emotion, tempering idealism with realism. She threw her full weight behind the Green Revolution to make India self-sufficient in food, freeing it from humiliating foreign pressures. India's atomic and space programmes explored new vistas. Ocean exploration was encouraged. India sent its first expedition to Antarctica. The Indian flag fluttered where it had never been before.

 

On the big issues of our time, such as the environment and man's relationship to it, Indira Gandhi was ahead of almost all her contemporaries in politics. Nature instilled in her a sense of wonder and a deeply felt experience of the unity of all life. She was a pioneer in urging a development agenda that gave primacy to removing poverty, but without assaulting and destroying nature, and in demanding an equitable sharing of environmental resources between the industrialised and developing worlds.

 

Without her decisive interventions, India would have lost even more of its forests and wild life, becoming a country of impoverished landscapes and denuded natural resources — and even greater tribal unrest. Had she been alive today, she would have been distressed at the lack of political will in protecting India's rich natural heritage. She warned that development did not mean imitation of the wasteful patterns of living of the affluent societies. Rather, India's design for development should be respectful of nature and in consonance with its own traditions and genius, defining where the line of satisfaction should be drawn. It is a challenge we have yet to answer.

 

No Prime Minister did more to conserve India's arts and combat tasteless urbanisation.


Indira Gandhi had her weaknesses. She was human and fallible. Some of her decisions to protect the nation's unity and stability were controversial. Some of her gambles failed. In the fullness of time, history will judge the totality of her endeavours. For the present, it is enough to remember that she was like a great lighthouse from which unflickering beams shone throughout her years in office.


India, she proudly proclaimed, was more than a country, it was an idea. And to this idea of Indianness, of the ancient and the new, of tradition and modernity, of unity and diversity, of the sacred and the secular, she bore unflinching loyalty.

 

How would she herself have wished to be remembered? By her consuming passion and love for India. It was as if some karmic thread tied her to India, and India to her, before and beyond her lifetime. Although written in a different context, Karen Harrison's poem 'Karma' eloquently expresses Indira Gandhi's feelings for India:

I have loved you before,

This meeting, this life, seems just another round:

One of thousands;

One of one, endless current,

In which new love is recognition:

Nothing more than a new shape

For two pieces of an ancient heart.

And I will love you again;

And toss my soul to the sea until it breaks upon the tide

As it will, as it must, to take shape again:

A limpet soul that clings to you.

For I would make this round a thousand times

To find your love in every life

Let that be her epitaph.

 

Moni Malhoutra served in the Secretariat of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1966 to 1973. The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

SHOW US THE MONEY, SAY STATES

 

 ON THURSDAY, CMs of Himalayan states will ask Centre to foot their green bills

 

Chetan Chauhan in New Delhi

chetan@hindustantimes.com At a time when India has sought global funds to adopt low-carbon technologies, the domestic global warming rhetoric has also got hotter with state governments asking t he Centret of oot thei rgreenbills.

 

The demand will be communicated to Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who will participate in a meeting of the chief ministers of Himalayan states starting in Shimla on Thursday.

 

Climate change is the effect of global warming, which is a series of increases in atmospheric temperatures.

 

Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and some north-eastern states, where melting of glaciers will cause enormous ecological damage, are seeking Central compensation for their forests, which act as carbon sinks for emissions.

The environment ministry estimat- ed in August that India's forests, which cover 23 per cent of the country's geographical area, can absorb up to 11 per cent of India's carbon emissions.

India spends 2.6 per cent of its gross domestic product of Rs 48 lakh crore on negating the impact of environmentaldamage.

In the plains, Punjab, Haryana and Bihar have sought funds to develop crop varieties that can cope with temperature rise, shorter winters and inconsistent monsoon--the offshoots of climate change.

Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal recently said at a conference of state chief ministers : "If the country thinks that Himalayan forests are India's natural resource, we need to be compensated for preserving them."

Ramesh said the XIIIth Finance Commission is considering awarding "green bonuses'' to hill states .

Uttarakhand wants restrictions on the entry of people into bio-diversity hotspots Nanda Devi National Park, the Valley of Flowers and the Gangotri glacier.

"We won't allow more than two annual visits by locals into these areas. For foreigners and Indians from other states, it will be once a year," Chief Minister Ramesh Nishank said. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has sought a policy to reduce pressure on the state's ecology without compromising the rights of the indigenous people to natural resources.

 

His Mizo counterpart Lal Thanhawla said the state needed money to conserve Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots. "Mizoram showed the way by going organic a decade ago."

 

Punjab is facing reduced wheat productivity due to rising temperatures.

 

Climate change would lead to a 30 per cent decline in agricultural output by 2030, said the Indian Council for Agricultural Research.

 

Till Central funds arrive, meeting the global warming challenge could be tough for the states.

 

 Inputs from Rahul Karmakar in GuwahatiandArchanaPhullinShimla

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE US SHOULD HELP INDIA FUND CLIMATE CHANGE

 

There are Indian electric vehicle manufacturers that are exploring US sites.
So climate change is an opportunity...
J E F F R EY S AC H S Economist, Columbia University

 

JEFFREY SACHS Anika Gupta anika.gupta@hindustantimes.com

 

As director of the Earth Institute at the New Yorkbased Columbia University, economist Jeffrey Sachs has advised prime ministers, scientists and United Nations diplomats on climate change.


Hindustan Times caught up with him for an interview in New Delhi. Excerpts: To be strong negotiators at Copenhagen, both India and the US will have to make a credible domestic commitment to fighting climate change. Do you think either nation has made that kind of commitment?


Neither of us has passed the main test, which is putting it through the parliament. In the United States the Senate is still divided over climate legislation. In India, Minister (Jairam) Ramesh has said that the government is going to put forward a climate action plan before parliament. But we're running out of time.
Should rich nations be paying for the adoption of low carbon technologies by developing countries such as India and China?


I am completely in favour of the United States helping to finance climate change mitigation in India. We should be helping India to pay the costs of India's solar mission, for example. In 10 to 15 years, when India reaches a higher level of income, then they'll be able to assume the costs themselves.

 

In the case of China, I don't think rich nations need to be paying for them. We feel China will be a leader in low-carbon technologies very soon, so there's a little bit of reticence (on the part of rich nations) to finance that leadership. I think it will cost around 1 per cent of global GNP (gross national product), every year, so we can definitely afford it.


You've supported a carbon tax in the past. Do you think developing countries should also have such a tax?
If the United States were to put price on carbon, say $15 a ton, they could transfer a percentage of that revenue to India so that India could compensate low energy users. But India too will need to find a way to put a price on carbon emissions over time that will tilt the market forces towards energy efficiency. If it remains completely free to put carbon up into the air then the incentives to control it won't be there.


We focus a lot on the economic costs of switching to low-carbon technologies.
How would this switch create opportunities for India?


Whenever we are in a period of technological change there is opportunity.

 

Countries that become technological leaders in green technologies will have a major global competitive advantage because these will be the products on sale all over the world for the next 30 years.

 

If India moves fast enough, it will be the exporter of these technologies. This is already happening. There are Indian electric vehicle manufacturers that are exploring US sites. So climate change is an opportunity for the next generation of technological leadership.

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER WRONG TURN

 

Is the Reserve Bank of India reading its own projections? There seems to be every indication that its left hand doesn't seem to understand what its right hand is doing. In the survey of the state of the Indian economy that the RBI released on the eve of the credit policy it came out with a gloomy forecast about India's growth path: it expected growth to be restricted to around 6 per cent for this financial year, which is considerably lower than the number that the government has put out as its official estimate. That is gloom in the real economy. Then there's the financial data that it has made public, which shows that credit growth continues slow. Indeed, the rate of credit growth, between 10 and 11 per cent, is much lower than it has been at comparable times of the season previously. There have been some optimistic numbers issued from various sources recently, certainly. But those are questionable when put in the right context; and, even if accepted uncritically, a single month of reasonable figures bang in the middle of a dozen months of gloom shouldn't signal a recovery to even the most optimistic of central bankers.

 

Yet the hard-headed numbers of the RBI seem to be completely ignored by the men at the top when it comes to the words and actions that they actually made public in the credit policy on Tuesday. In a shockingly disappointing approach, the RBI signalled that it simply didn't care about growth. Although the key policy rates were not directly tampered with, it hiked the "statutory liquidity ratio" or SLR by a percentage point; this is universally acknowledged as a clear signal of intent from the RBI to tighten monetary policy pretty soon.

 

This, is, simply put, an absurd direction in which to move. Of major economies, India's should be the last central bank to even consider exiting post-crisis monetary easing, not the first, simply because the price of capital for enterprises here remains much higher than it should be. Yet the RBI — desperate for continued plaudits, perhaps, as brave contrarians? — is the first to dump concerns about growth. This is short-sighted economics, a decision taken in an opinion bubble that admits no countervailing view. Yes, it is not too late to signal a course correction, and to let India's entrepreneurs and households know that a high-growth path will return soon. But without basic reform in how monetary policy in this country is discussed and decided, expecting such reasonableness from the RBI is perhaps too much.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DUTTA'S BOSSES

 

You could take a charitable view of Atindranath Dutta's twirl before television cameras. Liberation after a two-day captivity can be exhilarating. So, there he has been, changing his shirt six times a day to keep up with the television appearances, cheerfully recounting the story of his abduction by Maoists as the officer-in-charge of Sankrail police station, thanking his abductors for letting him go, and debating out loud when and why he'd like to join duty. However, to rationalise Dutta's cheerful engagement with television crew is not to imply that he is in any way being proper. And even as his seniors in the West Bengal police talk of evaluating his "role" in the police station during the Maoist attack last week, Dutta has become the chubby-faced symbol of all that is wrong with the state of Bengal.

 

It is easy to count Dutta's indiscretions, his failure to express regret over colleagues killed by the Maoists, his inability to affect the sobriety expected after a prisoner swap. But the political and administrative establishment in West Bengal has hardly been different these past days. The state's home secretary has flouted service rules by talking openly about the Dutta incident, freely imbuing his remarks with political content by referring to the Kandahar hijack. Dutta's seniors in the police are furious at his indiscretions, and privately even hint at questionable conduct during the attack on the Sankrail police station in which he has abducted, but in effect Dutta has been allowed a free run. The state government has presented a comic picture. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee thundered warnings, about how the Naxals had better watch out the "next time". This while his party boss, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat, defended the swap, and said that the police and the administration cannot fight the Maoists alone — the party, he actually said, will "mobilise people to resist them (the Maoists) and fight them back. We don't rely on the police and administration."

 

These last days have been a revelation of the administrative anomalies wrought by 32 years of Left rule, during which the lines between party and state have vanished, thereby handicapping the administration in taking on a security issue seen to have ideological colour. It is questionable whether this administration can take on the Maoists with the requisite focus and finesse.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TIME WAITS FOR NOTHING

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

A few days ago, the affable Swedish ambassador to India, Lars Olof Lindgren, recounted a strange story. Sweden was one of the leaders in nuclear technology till the 1970s, till the environment brigade struck. The country then decided to wear down its nuclear-fuel based power plants and build no more. This year, as Sweden sent its industrial sherpas to invite India to invest in the country, one of the things, he said, they could now learn from India was the know-how for the nuclear technology they had abandoned.

 

India's industrial adventure and often misadventure are often littered with several tales of misses too, but listening to the ambassador, I realised none were as dramatic as this one. One possible reason for this is the fact that the scale of our industrial units was too puny till about the year 2000 to make a significant difference in terms of opportunity lost or gained. That picture does not hold true any more. In the second half of 2009, the big question coming up for every regulator is the cost of foregoing an opportunity.

 

Or the benefits of getting it right, as in the case of expansion of bank branches in India. On Tuesday, as part of its credit policy, the Reserve Bank of India relaxed the license requirement for banks to set up branches in Tier 3 to Tier 6 level towns (basically villages). The step acknowledges how big the opportunity has become to tap the changing economic profile of the Indian small towns and villages. But the story would not have reached this point so soon, if in 2007 the RBI had not allowed banks to step outside brick and mortar branches, permitting their agents to reach target populations to offer savings and loan facilities — using the telecom backbone to stay in touch with their branch. Of course, it promptly made a mess of it by restricting this business correspondent model to a 15 km radius from the branch of a bank. Once that restriction was removed last year, the banking transformation truly began. In cities like Delhi daily wage labourers in Azadpur mandi have begun tapping into the new opportunity to preserve their earnings. These are the early indicators that could leapfrog credit from the banking sector, which finances less than 30 per cent of GDP on March 2009, to a global benchmark of 50 per cent.

 

There is an interesting corollary to this story. A senior finance ministry official said Tuesday's decision could have been rolled out quite some time ago, if the government had taken a pragmatic view on branch expansion. Each finance minister got tied up with a passion to get the banks to reach the poorest, which meant spending the limited resources of the banks to devise savings schemes that were too small to impact the banks or benefit the poor. In the process it left un-banked the lower middle class, who wanted to desperately get out of the shoddy cooperative bank system — they are often just fronts for political parties to raise money. None of the scheduled banks were able to offer any comparable access, necessary to neutralise these banks that fail about once every quarter every year or get their licenses revoked.

 

Another opportunity that has probably been well set up is the informal mini-ministerial on WTO. After a long delay that served us no good, the meeting gave India the chance to take the initiative in the trade talks that it had voluntarily buried.

 

Of course, the stories of opportunities lost number far more. The crudest are the mess states like Jharkhand and Orissa have made of their mining reserves. The companies that have shown interest are not going to hang around forever as the states try to make up their mind.

 

On a larger scale, it was the same opportunity cost issue regarding the Bharti-MTN deal. No country, it is true, has ever decided on capital account convertibility by hinging it to a deal; but then again, no country has ever taken so long to decide the question too.

 

The loss of opportunity was again evident in the global bids for the oil and gas exploration blocks (NELP VIII), where only 36 of the 70 blocks on offer received bids. This was the fallout of a government deeply unsure of how to act the fair umpire in the battle between the two Ambani brothers. It could be also be visible in the auction for 3G licenses in the telecom sector, scheduled for later this year.

 

Unfortunately this has rubbed off on the corporate sector too. In October, Reuters carried a report on how Indian IT companies risk falling behind in the global IT sweepstakes as their rivals like Dell, Oracle and Xerox develop large integrated operations that stretch from manufacture to outsourcing business-the one stop shop model. Those companies are doing it through aggressive mergers. But their Indian competitors seem to lag behind.

 

The Indian IT sector was always supposed to be hugely conscious of the global market — far more than their counterparts in most sectors. Thus, that this should be happening to them is a cause for concern. Sure, there is no reason why an Oracle presence in India should be any less useful than, say, that of an Infosys. But the larger question is that this revalidates the image of India as a good market for companies rather than a place for exciting entrepreneurial action.

 

In economics, opportunity cost is defined as the alternative use to which a piece of capital or labour could be put. For the investment to succeed, the returns that the capital or labour must generate in the current business should be at the minimum be at least equal to that alternative. On a national scale this will therefore translate as the benefits forgone from the decisions delayed.

 

Probably from now on, in New Delhi and Mumbai, regulators should write out the implications of the opportunities they demand the economy should forego, with each "decision" they take.

 

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

'LIQUIDITY' AND OIL DON'T MIX

DAVID PAIS

 

Oil prices have resumed their inexorable march towards $100 and beyond. Rather than just passively accept this and issue oil bonds to cover the resultant shortfall, the Indian government needs to be more assertive in international fora like the G-20 and tackle head-on the root cause of the problem which is the undue influence that financial markets have on commodity prices. At issue is not just the adverse budgetary impact, but the Indian government's broader, philosophical, approach to financial markets.

 

We knew six months ago that oil prices were likely to surge again as a result of global monetary efforts to re-inflate asset markets. At the time, in April, oil was trading at $52 and futures markets were pricing it at $59 for October. Last week they hit $80 and we could very quickly see a return to the stratospheric levels of last year as financial market participants benefit from renewed wind in their sails.

 

Regrettably, little has been done to address the dysfunctional state of affairs. The best-placed regulator is the US's CFTC. Under a new Obama-appointed Chairman, Gary Gensler, it has adopted a two-pronged approach: promising greater transparency and the threat of position limits. Despite Gensler's assertions that "economists have for decades recognized that transparency benefits the marketplace", the CFTC's attempts at transparency in recent months resemble something of a data striptease with the latest and apparently final instalment the most revealing.

 

The CFTC currently classifies market participants into four broad categories: producer/consumers, swap dealers (mainly investment banks), money managers (pension funds, hedge funds and so on) and all others. The data show that the actual producers and consumers of oil saw their share of trading actually drop from just under 30 per cent pre-crisis to 13 per cent today; with the big drop-off coming the week the crisis began (9 Aug 2007). Swap dealers currently account for roughly 45 per cent of oil trading and while some of it is on behalf of actual producers/consumers of oil, it would be naïve to believe that investment banks are only "providing liquidity". In fact, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were estimated to have made $7.5bn from "liquidity provision" in the commodities markets in 2007. While the data are highly indicative of an inflow of money from credit markets into commodities, it will not be possible to draw definitive conclusions unless the CFTC makes public the data by contract month, preferably with strike prices. This will not compromise trader positions and will provide some of the transparency which the markets clearly need.

 

But all this data perusal is subsumed under a more fundamental point. Commodities do not pay dividends like stocks, nor do they pay interest like bonds. They can only be consumed. They should therefore not be considered an "asset class". If regulators wish to provide liquidity, they should allow only "brokers", who match buyers and sellers over a day or so — and not "dealers", who take a longer-term risk on to their books and can therefore benefit from large directional changes in price. Allowing large financial institutions who do the latter to provide "liquidity", risks overwhelming the commodity markets with a tidal wave of money generated by excessively leveraged balance sheets. It is only a matter of time before the foolishly circular logic is redeployed, of "investors" buying commodities to protect against inflation only to drive up prices — thus causing the inflation they feared.

 

The CFTC's other prong, limiting the positions traders can take in energy markets, also appears to be getting whittled away. The financial services industry has mounted a sustained lobbying effort and warned that trading will simply move overseas. Last week, The Financial Times reported that the CFTC's "swing voter" made what could be construed as an abdicating plea for help: "It has to be something for the G-20 working with the FSB (Financial Stability Board) and Iosco (International Organisation of Securities Commissions). All of these countries should be concerned. I think it is something they need to bring up and talk about."

 

The stakes for India are huge. We consume roughly a billion barrels of oil a year, so the difference between oil at $50 and oil at $100 is Rs 250,000 crores or 30 per cent of Central government revenue.

 

The way forward is clear. In concert with other emerging and developed markets, India should demand much greater transparency and regulation of international commodity markets. The window of opportunity is fast closing, and the course we choose now will be indicative of the government's philosophical approach to finance. The rules and norms which will govern international finance for years, if not decades to come, are being written now and India needs to be more assertively engaged.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based strategic analyst (express@expressindia.com)

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

PRINTLINE

SOLD DOWN THE TIBER

POPE BENEDICT HAS FORGOTTEN FORTY YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP WITH THE ENGLISH CHURCH

 

IT is not an act of aggression," the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted as the Vatican's metaphorical tanks drew up outside Lambeth Palace on Tuesday. Not even his admirers quite believed him, and few saw Pope Benedict'sback-channeldealwithAnglo-Catholicsopposedtowomenbishopsas"notavoteofnoconfidence".Itlookedmuchmoreasifthe Pope had launched a small craft to ferry the disaffected back acrosstheTiber,amovetoasset-striptheAnglicancommunionof those bits the Vatican might find useful. It was an uncompromising recognition of the fissiparous state of Anglicanism and the failureofRowanWilliams'long,hardstruggletoholdittogether. ...Until the publication in February of the terms of the dispensation by which Anglican priests -- and perhaps their congregations too -- can be ad- mitted to Rome while retaining much of their own liturgy, it is impossible to predictwhatitsimpactwillbe.Theyalsohaveacasewhentheypointtothewild predictions of mass migration to Roman Catholicism after women were first ordained in the Church of England 15 years ago.... Lambeth was on dodgier groundtryingtoexplainwhytheVaticanshouldappeartorideroughshodover 40 years of ecumenical work, and why it was given only a fortnight's notice, leavingavisiblyuncertainArchbishopofCanterburytoleanontheprotection of the Archbishop of Westminster at their joint press conference. PopeBenedict'sVaticanisnotdiplomaticallysure-footed,asthe recent decision to readmit a bishop with a record as a Holocaust denier shows. The Pope is driven by an urgent search for unity againstliberalismandtherapidriseofsecularism.Butpreserving space for faith is one of Rowan Williams' central concerns, too. It lies behind the thoughtful and well-received speeches he has madeontheeconomiccrisisandtheenvironment,ashetriestoshowAnglicanism's potential to contribute to public debate. Now the Vatican has shakenthegroundbeneathhim,andbydiminishinghimrisksdiminishinghis power to persuade. From a leader in the London `Guardian'

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SALAAMS, MAULVI SAHEB

JAVED ANAND

 

A hundred and ten years after his death, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the man who was constantly reviled by the ulema of his time, is remembered almost with reverence by Indian Muslims. He is all over the Urdu media currently marking the 192nd anniversary of his birth. An email circulating among the alumni of Aligarh Muslim University — the institution whose foundation was laid by Sir Syed in 1875 — privileges his name with a prefix Rahmatullah Alaihe ('May Allah Shower his Blessings on him'), an honour reserved for holy saints.

 

In the aftermath of the failed rebellion of 1857, Sir Syed was the first to proclaim that in modern education alone lay salvation for Muslims who had sunk to the depths of ignorance, degradation and despair. To most ulema of his day, however, this was the surest road to hell. So they opposed him in every which way they could. One of them, Maulvi Ali Bakhsh, even got a fatwa from Mecca and Medina pronouncing death to the man unless he repented and recanted. Sir Syed was not to be deterred.

 

If the overwhelming majority of the ulema were his fiercest opponents, a few were among his staunchest supporters. Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, whose Hayat-e-Javed is considered to be the most authentic biography of Sir Syed, was one of them. Maulana Hali is best remembered for his Musaddas, a poet's cry from the heart exhorting his 'dead Quom (nation)' to awaken from slumber, do a reality check. (Sir Syed often said that if Allah asks him to name only one virtuous deed in his life, he would claim credit for getting the maulana to pen his Mussadas).

 

During my visit to the Aligarh Muslim University last year, a Muslim businessman presented to me a copy of Hayat-e-Javed with the words: "Please read it and see how even today Indian Muslims stand more or less where they did when the book was written well over a century ago". Having read the book I am inclined to agree. If truth be told, odd as it might sound, it was the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 that awakened north India's Muslims to a century-old message.

 

If it's a pity Indian Muslims took so long to acknowledge the debt they owe to Sir Syed, far greater the pity that even today they are blissfully ignorant of the existence of another man in robes who not only supported Sir Syed but who with his own reform mission was arguably a hundred years ahead of the modernist. Not surprisingly, even Sir Syed, who was not to be cowed down by the entire tribe of obscurantist ulema, balked at the sheer audacity of a solitary maulvi's agenda. Syed Mumtaz Ali Khan was the name of the man who was 43 years junior to Sir Syed. For now, let's call them Sir Syed and Maulvi Syed. When he heard of Maulvi Syed's plan to publish a book on the rights of women, well aware of where the maulvi was coming from, Sir Syed did all he could to dissuade him from such a "hazardous" enterprise. Above all, he feared that the storm that the maulvi's book was certain to raise within the community would further fan the flames that were already threatening to engulf his own education project. But the maulvi was not to be deterred.

 

If modern education of men from elite Muslim families topped Sir Syed's agenda, uppermost in Maulvi Syed's mind and closest to his heart was the question of women's emancipation. For Sir Syed, the time was not yet ripe to talk of the education of Muslim girls or women. For Maulvi Syed it was already far too late! Because he genuinely believed that men and women were equal before Allah, for him the ulema- endorsed subjugation and oppression of women was the ultimate heresy, a sinful subversion of Divine Intent. It is this deeply held belief that infused the good maulvi's agenda with extraordinary courage and the passion of a missionary.

 

In 1898, the year in which Sir Syed passed away, Maulvi Syed published his bold book, Huququn Niswan (Rights of Women), in Urdu. The very first chapter titled 'Male supremacy myth' said it all. Listing out the three 'logical' and five 'theological' arguments trotted by the ulema (they still do) in support of gender hierarchy, he proceeded to demonstrate the fallacy of their logic and their self-serving interpretation of holy text with precision and passion.

 

Huququn Niswan was published at a time when Muslim women were not supposed to be seen outside the four walls of their homes; inside their homes, they were meant to remain within the confines of the zanankhana (women's quarter). Undaunted by his milieu, for this maulvi with a mission, it was not enough to establish logically and theologically that women are in no way inferior to men. Citing the Quran and the Hadith, he proceeded to argue that the female sex is, in fact, the better half of the finest of Allah's creation: human beings.

Don't know enough but one can well imagine Maulvi Syed's book setting many a mullah's beard on fire. Even today, Huququn Niswan will among other things be a big downer for Muslim men because it punctures male fantasy about the gorgeous-as-gorgeous-can-be houris awaiting pious men in paradise! No such luck, argues the maulvi! All that Islam promises is a reunion of God-fearing husbands and wives! On the Day of Judgment all men and women will be resurrected, looking great and in the prime of youth. And those who make it to heaven will forever be young.

 

In his brief preface to Huququn Niswan, Maulvi Syed wrote he was well aware of the uproar his book would cause. But he couldn't care less, he said, concluding with the words: "If this humble effort of mine results in the protection of the rights of even a single old woman in the entire country I would consider my effort to have been worthwhile." Ah, Shahbano!

 

Huququn Niswan has very recently been resurrected. English translations of a few chapters of the book are now in circulation in India and in Pakistan while the bold Urdu daily, Sahafat, Mumbai, is serialising the book. Also in the pipeline are reprints of Huququn Niswan in Urdu, translation and publication in other Indian languages.

What will it take, how much longer, before this outstanding holy man is reclaimed by Muslim women and men as their own? That is difficult to tell, but to you Maulvi Saheb, my humble salaams.

 

The writer is co-editor 'Communalism Combat' and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

STUNTED TRIANGLE

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

The recent tension between Delhi and Beijing is not the only factor that is making the so-called strategic triangle — the grouping of Russia, India and China (RIC) whose foreign ministers met in Bangalore this week — increasingly irrelevant to the evolving great power relations. The uncomfortable truth is this: the faster the rise of China, the quicker the decline of RIC as a collective.

 

The concept of the RIC as a strategic triangle was invented by Moscow in the mid 1990s as it scrambled to prevent post-Soviet Russia's marginalisation in the international system. While Delhi could not say 'no' to its old friends in Moscow, Russia and China saw the RIC as a potential forum to balance the sole superpower in the international system — the United States.

 

Meanwhile a powerful new trend began to undermine the RIC even as it struggled to find its feet. Since the first trilateral meeting of the three foreign ministers took place in 2002, the balance of power within RIC steadily evolved in favour of China. Although Russia and India have increased their weight in the international system over the last decade, the rise of China has been too spectacular for either of them to match.

 

Thanks to the financial crisis and the advent of the Obama Administration in Washington, the United States is now tempting China with the prospect of a global Sino-US condominium or a 'Group of Two' that makes an utter mockery of the 'Strategic triangle'.

 

Japan's Kabuki

If Moscow and Delhi find it hard to understand that a rising China does not need either of them to increase its leverage with the United States, Japan is poised to give them a big knock on the head. Last week's public spat in Tokyo between the visiting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the new government in Japan led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on alliance management has shaken the world's assumptions about the US-Japan partnership that has been the one constant feature of Asian international relations since the end of the Second World War.

 

Although Hatoyama says that the alliance with the United States will remain the corner-stone of Japan's foreign policy, he has underlined the importance of greater 'equality' in the partnership. Hatoyama is asserting his new quest for equality by refusing to sign onto a critical bilateral agreement with the US on reorganising the deployment of American forces in Japan. Gates appealed to the new Japanese government not to reopen the negotiations and wrap up the agreement, a product of painful negotiations over a decade and a half. Hatoyama insisted, publicly, that the new government can't be hustled into concurrence just because Gates was in town and President Barack Obama would arrive in Tokyo next month. It is not often that Japanese leaders differ with their American partners, and that too in public.

 

Even as he 'stands up' to the United States, Hatoyama is making a big effort to reach out to China in the name of lending a new Asian focus to Japan's foreign policy. If Tokyo distances itself even a wee bit from Washington and signals the readiness to end its historic animosity with Beijing, the balance of power in Asia will undergo a revolution that few could have dared imagine even a few months ago.

 

Being conservative, the Chinese Communist Party is not ready to celebrate its incredible foreign policy luck in Washington and Tokyo, both of whom seem eager to cut separate deals with Beijing after sixty years of an alliance that was considered rock-solid. As it expresses scepticism about Japan's ability to pursue an independent foreign policy, Beijing would want to test how far Hatoyama is prepared to go.

 

Military diplomacy

Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission of the CCP, arrived in the US on Monday as part of a new effort to revive high level military exchanges between the two countries. On the eve of his meeting with defence secretary Gates, Gen Xu said, "The China-US relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Exchanges and cooperation between the United States and China are important for world peace and development", he said.

 

Gen. Xu is also likely to tell his interlocutors in Washington that any US decision to resume arms sales to Taiwan will have a damaging effect on bilateral relations.

 

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

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

For those BJP leaders who are worried about the growing assertiveness of the RSS post-Lok Sabha elections, they have a sympathiser in the CPI. For the Left party feels that the Sangh fountainhead's increasing political activism, if continues unchecked, will "badly restrict" the BJP's "legitimate" role. An anonymous article in the latest issue of CPI's weekly mouthpiece New Age says the RSS has heralded a new trend of hyper activism — where it gives opinion about every subject from international conflicts to caste and cow. Although the RSS' intention may be to expand its base, it is potentially threatening to the BJP, the article says.

 

To back its view, it reels out recent instances where the RSS openly differed with the BJP. Whether it is the open praise for Rahul Gandhi's village visits or the thumbs up given for Home Minister P. Chidambaram's anti-Naxal operations, the RSS, it says, is seeking to assert that it has the last word on policy matters.

 

"Traditionally, it leaves comments of topical issues to the political wing. The new assertion, RSS oldies say, is a clear signal for the BJP leaders to constantly keep the parent body in the loop on all emerging issues," it says concluding that if the RSS sets the policies on issues and the BJP is forced to toe the line, the latter will lose its political space as a party.

 

SP bonhomie

In the form of a news report, the edition surprisingly gives prominent coverage to the issues that are bound to be raised by the Samajwadi Party, which ditched the Left to join hands with the Congress in 2008, in the coming by-elections. The headline of the report itself tells the story. "Central forces be sent to UP: SP", it read. The article talks about each and every issue which the SP, Congress and the BJP may raise, deftly listing out the failures of the Mayawati government. The BSP was the Left's non-electoral ally in the last Lok Sabha elections.

It was only during the just-concluded Maharashtra elections that the Left gave first indications of a patch up with the SP, whose last minute switching of sides had angered the comrades not long ago. Both the Left and SP were members of the third front in Maharashtra although Left and SP leaders played down its significance.

 

Hostage swap

For CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, the 26 women who were freed by the West Bengal government for securing the release of a police officer abducted by the Maoists were "ordinarily people" mobilised by the Maoists and "not important cadres". But, the party's mouthpiece People's Democracy has a different version. Referring to the kidnap episode in an article, it says after taking the officer hostage, self-styled Maoist leader Kishenji appeared on television and "called for the release of all 'Maoist' activists held on such charges as murder and conspiracy to murder, from jail."

 

This is also at variance with what West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said justifying the deal his government had struck with Maoists. He had termed the demand put forward by the left-wing insurgents as "simple" which could be accepted.

 

Climate surrender

Another article in the edition criticised the contents of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's note on climate change. It says the points raised by Ramesh were a significant departure from India's basic positions on climate change. "A careful reading of his discussion note makes clear that this is not "some flexibility in India's stance" as he has argued in his press statement on this issue, within India's national consensus but an about turn. If the Indian government takes this position, it will not only be a complete betrayal of the people of this country but indeed of the entire developing world," it says.

 

It argues that Ramesh's arguments in effect aligned India's position with those advocated by the US. "The minister's proposals in their current form are only a thinly veiled proposal to barter India's energy and developmental future for a seat at the high table courtesy the US," it says.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY THE WHIZ-KIDS DIDN'T BLOW IT

5 MYTHS ABOUT WALL STREET PAY DAYS

ROY C. SMITH

 

The Obama administration's "compensation czar," Kenneth Feinberg, last week announced lans to cut the pay of top executives at he seven companies receiving federal upport through the Troubled Assets elief Program. In outlining the hange, Feinberg has had to grapple ith several misconceptions about Wall treet bonuses -- myths that have circuated since the beginning of the crisis.


. The Wall Street bonus culture led to the nancial crisis: here is absolutely no evidence to sup ort this. The crisis was caused by a ombination of lax monetary policy, oose regulation across the entire finanial sector, yield-chasing by institutional nvestors craving decent returns in a eak market and a vast global banking ndustry that turbocharged the whole rocess. The bonus system, which has lways been part of the securities indusry's DNA, may have encouraged riskaking by major banks, but it also enouraged risk management and other isciplined forms of corporate gover ance that are supposed to accompany he incentives. 2. Wall Street is totally indifferent to Main Street.


Wall Street is a sophisticated marketplace in which firms compete aggressively to secure trade orders and assignments from large corporations and financial institutions. The intense competition for virtually every trade lowers the cost of capital and widens access to financial markets for companies, institutions and governments all over the world. Collectively speaking, Main Street is Wall Street's client and generally has been very well taken care of. In this crisis, Wall Street professionals, through carelessness or errors, lost a lot more money than Main Street did, and probably more, proportionately, lost their jobs too. Wall Street didn't benefit from the market declines, and only in the past few months has it recovered some of what it lost.


3. With the job market like it is, Wall Street doesn't need to pay huge bonuses to retain key people.
Traders make up much of the top talent on Wall Street, and even now, the best ones who can produce a lot of income are being lured away by big offers from other firms (including foreign banks) trying to displace some of the wounded players in their top ranks. But the real competition for these hot shots is among hedge funds, or private equity shops, which until recently could afford to pay very big bucks to attract savvy experts. The firms can't afford to lose these people, but neither can they afford to lose their other key employees, such as corporate advisers, risk managers and thousands of support people.


4. Wall Street will never restrict its own pay.

The major Wall Street firms are all publicly owned companies with boards of directors subject to fiduciary duties and law. These boards have compensation committees that must justify their actions; they're subject to public scrutiny and potential litigation.


Mostly, Wall Street compensation is performance based, and most of it is paid in stock subject to market vicissitudes, so employees have long-term stakes in the firms they work for. Wall Street directors believe their compensation system, developed over many decades, provides the incentives they need to maximise performance for their shareholders. After an op-ed piece in the Financial Times this spring by Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' chief executive, Wall Street is working on a set of best practices for executive compensation. Several firms, including Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and UBS, have already announced major changes to their practices.


5. Wall Street pay is so out of line, only the government can fix it.

There is no reason to think that the government could devise a better compensation system for Wall Street, even if it could leave out the politics of its intervention (which it cannot). Certainly Feinberg's actions, though no doubt well intended, are not going to improve either the government's chances of getting its money back or the prospects of repairing these damaged companies.


Because of his recommendations, Citigroup agreed to sell its profitable Phibro unit at an extremely low price of only one or two times earnings in order to avoid having to pay a talented trader a $100 million contractual share of the profits he had earned. The most successful of the remaining employees of Citigroup, AIG and Bank of America have been given an incentive to leave their posts, and the firms will be constrained in hiring replacements. These firms need a lot of rebuilding to recover from their losses, but without fully competitive access to good people, they will be handicapped in doing so.

Washington Post

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WRONG MESSAGE, WRONG TIME


RBI has once again confirmed the widespread perception that it runs policy very differently from any other central bank. And not necessarily for the better. What else could explain the complete contradiction between the far-from-healthy economic picture painted by RBI in its survey of the economy on the eve of its credit policy review and the strangely hawkish tone of its credit policy statement a day later. RBI, in its survey, expects the economy to grow at only 6% for this financial year, half a percentage point lower than the government's official estimate. Its own data shows very slow growth in credit off-take as of October 9—a rate of growth (between 10% and 11%) 20 percentage points lower than in the same period in October last year. Surely, a combination of sluggish credit growth and low overall growth should prompt a central bank to loosen monetary stance, not tighten it. Yet, RBI in its credit policy review yesterday sounded more hawkish than dovish. Even though key interest rates were left unchanged, a hike in the SLR by one percentage point sends out a strong signal about the direction in which RBI sees monetary policy heading—clearly in the direction of tightening, and sooner rather than later. The SLR hike was actually unnecessary to mop up liquidity as banks already hold more than SLR requirements in government securities. But it is important as a signalling device and the signals coming from RBI are disappointing.

 

The only reason for RBI to sound hawkish is worries about inflation. However, as we have repeated many times in these columns, the current bout of inflation, mainly in food commodities, has its roots on the supply side, not demand side. When credit growth is so sluggish, how can RBI possibly believe that inflation is a result of overheating of the economy? Sure, by tightening monetary policy RBI may eventually squeeze demand enough to even push down food prices, but the price that the rest of the economy will pay for it will be too large. At this moment in time, growth should be of primary concern, not an irrational and misunderstood fear of future inflation. If RBI wanted to hedge its bets in a sensible manner it could have chosen to do nothing with any rate including SLR—that would have sent out a more neutral message. Now, instead of keeping the discussion focused on growth, RBI has chosen to shift the debate to inflation. From here on, any interest rate cuts are probably ruled out. And it's just a matter of time before rates are hiked. That's peculiar central banking in the circumstances, and the economy will pay a price.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LIQUID WITHOUT FROTH

 

RBI had issued draft guidelines for introducing credit default swaps (CDSs) in 2007. Then, the global financial crisis hit, and CDSs were accused of being a primary cause. With many economists and financial experts celebrating RBI's wisdom in having maintained a distance from these instruments—nicknamed weapons of mass destruction—one feared CDSs would be buried along with other financial reforms in India. But our central bank has sprung a pleasant surprise—it has proposed the introduction of CDSs, albeit with caveats. The proposed instruments will be 'plain vanilla', involving single-name CDSs for corporate bonds for resident entities, subject to appropriate safeguards. This is a not a bad thing. For it's a fact that derivatives formed the heart of the crisis maelstrom—think AIG, where each default threatened a chain of international corporate and economic failures. But it's also a fact that, as our columnists have argued, the problem was not with credit derivatives per se, but with lack of appropriate regulation and oversight.

 

The 2007 draft guidelines stated that credit derivatives can be used to reduce capital required to support credit risk exposures, release credit exposure limits to a counterparty, reduce concentrations by shedding exposures to a counterparty or to a sector, and assume exposures to a counterparty or to a sector to diversify risks or to fill gaps in the credit quality spectrum. In short, CDSs can help facilitate deeper and more liquid markets. But at its peak, the credit derivatives market was $62 trillion, more than the US federal debt, GDP, stock market, mortgage market and Treasuries market put together. Obviously, speculators were ruling the roost. Over-the-counter CDS trade was building up systemic risk. Chants in favour of banning it have, however, subsided into a whimper now. Dominant opinion has turned to demanding that all derivatives be traded on exchanges, just like stocks. And overturning the Clinton-era law that exempted them from oversight. Also, a year after the Lehman bankruptcy, one must note that CDSs seem to be losing their stigma. The Credit Derivatives Research's Counterparty Risk Index, which measures default swaps on 14 firms and which peaked on March 9 at a record 305.6 basis points, has now dropped to hang at around the 80-90 range. Clearly, the CDS market is once again making a functional contribution to the extension of credit, giving investors and lenders confidence. As the internal group that RBI is setting up to finalise the CDS operational framework in consultation with market participants goes to work, we welcome the fact of its introduction and RBI's initial caution.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CHRONICLE OF TIGHTENING FORETOLD

JAHANGIR AZIZ


In the yellow and dog-eared manual that central bankers keep locked in their desks, there is a script on what to do when an economy is coming out of a downturn. And the script goes something like this: in the initial phase of a recovery one can get very strong growth without much credit expansion. And this is because firms hunker down and cut costs during a downturn, sitting on quite a bit of internal savings. Nonbank financing is also relatively cheap as equity markets lead the recovery. But that does not mean credit growth is unimportant. It is virtually impossible to sustain the recovery without the interest-sensitive parts of consumption and investment picking up in due course. Thus, too early a tightening runs the risk of derailing the recovery. Too late a tightening can, of course, ignite inflationary pressures. But as a central banker you want to see evidence of a broad-based sustained recovery and inflationary pressures before doing anything brave.

 

This script appeared to be spawning a sub-plot since the July policy review as the RBI added emphasis to financial stability as an objective of monetary policy, over and above the standard growth-inflation trade-off. The focus on financial stability is a direct reflection of the RBI's (and to be fair other Asian central banks such as the Bank of Korea and the People's Bank of China) interpretation of the causes of the global financial crisis. Apart from global imbalance, their argument is that with nearly exclusive focus on inflation, which was benign due to large productivity gains, Western central banks maintained easy liquidity for too long a period, which eventually fuelled a sharp asset price (real estate) bubble that eventually burst and brought down the financial system. To avoid repeating the same mistake, financial stability needs to be added to price stability as a salient objective of monetary policy. And, therefore, the RBI could exit earlier than other countries (read the US Fed).

 

But the subplot has the potential of over running the main script. Even if inflation is almost entirely driven by food prices, which is not dependent on bank credit and, therefore, monetary tightening would be ineffective to curb it, and non-food inflation is still negative, and even if the very sharp upturn in non-agricultural activity still hasn't shown signs of sustaining, the RBI could still tighten. For example, if it feared that the excess liquidity in the banking system could fuel asset price inflation (read equity, real estate, and commodity prices). Relatedly, if the RBI did not exit after calling for an early exit, its credibility would be brought into question. The last thing a central bank wants to do is to call wolf too many times.

 

The RBI in yesterday's policy review did not let the subplot acquire life of its own. It stuck to the main script and kept policy rates and cash reserve requirement unchanged. In the current circumstances exactly the thing to do. The economy still needs a lot of hand holding as private investment, the main driver of growth in the 2000s, is still floundering. Nonfood inflation, the only part of the inflation that can be curbed by squeezing credit, is still negative given the excess capacity in the economy. And in probably the least disruptive a manner, the RBI kept its focus on financial stability alive and its credibility intact by rewinding a bunch of 'unconventional' liquidity measures introduced in the wake of the October crisis—raising the statutory liquidity requirement back to 25%, returning the provisioning for commercial real estate to 1%, removing the special refinancing facilities for banks. Apart from the increase in the provisioning requirement, the other measures are unlikely to have any significant impact given that they were not binding.

 

Apart from what excites us in the market, the RBI did make some important structural changes to the functioning of financial markets. To increase financial inclusion the RBI will now allow domestic banks to open branches freely in tier 3-6 cities and will allow exchange rate futures in currencies other than just the dollar. These measures are less sexy than policy rate hikes, but are important small steps in developing India's markets.

What happens now? My guess is that the threat of tightening has already had its desired effect in hardening rates and that the RBI's even tougher exit language should be taken seriously. Any sign of the excess liquidity seeping into asset prices will elicit a quick reaction, perhaps even before the next review in January. The RBI will keep a close watch on credit growth to detect any emerging sign of inflationary expectations taking hold. It has reduced its expected annual credit growth to 18% from 20%, but given that credit growth so far has been languishing, anything close to 15% would be remarkable. Chances are that the RBI will begin tightening around the January policy review by raising the cash reserve requirement, but not before industrial growth shows more evidence that it is on a sustainable path and the global recovery is less of a rumour and more of a reality. In other words, the dog-eared script is still the best bet on trying to anticipate what the central bank will do next.

 

The author is India chief economist, JP Morgan Chase. These are his personal views

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SCRAP SLR & REMEMBER 07-08'S ERROR

BIBEK DEBROY

 

What was the size of India's stimulus package after September 2008? It is impossible to give a clear answer. IMF documents mention a fiscal stimulus of 0.5% (or 0.6%) of GDP for calendar years 2008 and 2009, after stating that "headline" fiscal numbers are higher. PM and FM have talked about 3.5% or even 4% of GDP. The difference is due to definitions of the fiscal package. Do we only include what happened after September 2008 or do we include public expenditure through flagship programmes, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), farmers' debt relief and 6th Pay Commission for government employees, all of which pre-dated September 2008? The three fiscal packages introduced between December 2008 and February 2009 are insignificant in comparison. There are no firm figures on the size of fiscal multiplier in India, though it should be lower than that in developed countries. The point is that 6.7% growth in 2008-09 looked respectable because of 7.8% and 7.7% in Q1 and Q2. Q1 of 2009-10 shows 6.1%. That's the kind of trend we are on in 2009-10, around 6%. Despite so-called green shoots, there is no evidence of private consumption or investment expenditure having recovered. And till August 2009, the last month for which we have data, exports show no sign of revival. Growth prospects remain low, not significantly above the 5.8% in Q3 and Q4 of last year.

 

The direct impact of the fiscal stimulus has tapered off, as RBI also states. And though drought is no longer as serious as was once feared, it will have some impact. Consequently, it is premature to exit from stimulus packages. Fair enough, but stimulus doesn't mean only fiscal policy, there is monetary policy too. A good reason for tightening monetary policy would have been inflation, which RBI now thinks will be 6.5% in end-March 2010, not 5% as was originally expected, and higher than target of 4 to 4.5%. RBI has mentioned increases in prices of assets like stocks, real estate and commodities. However, inflation has been driven by food price increases, whether one uses WPI or CPI, with food weights higher under CPI than WPI. In its October report, PM's Economic Advisory Council (EAC) concluded: "Inflationary pressures on the food front will continue to be a major problem for policy formulation for the rest of 2009/10 and up to the beginning of the next monsoon season, which will hopefully be a normal one. The supply response will have to be a more co-ordinated release of stocks through the public distribution system combined with some open market sales of public stocks if the need is felt. Precautionary arrangements for importing some rice to replenish public stocks must be considered. Considerable attention needs to be paid to the rabi season to try and ensure a strong harvest which will be the surest antidote to food price pressures."

 

Fair enough. So one shouldn't make the mistake one committed in 2007-08, by using monetary policy to address what is a different kind of problem, be it increases in global prices or increases in food prices. We don't know whether RBI will continue to agree in January 2010, since it seems to be concerned about increased credit flows to real estate and NBFCs. But for the moment, in the growth inflation trade-off, it has erred on the side of growth, with key rates (repo, reverse repo, Bank Rate, CRR) left unchanged, though the provisioning requirement for real estate has been increased to 1%. This leaves the increase in SLR to 25%. What purpose does the SLR requirement serve, and are changes in it more than notional, since actual holdings are often more than minimum statutory requirements? The figure was 27.8% in March 2008. Here is the EAC again, explaining low credit off-take. "First, banks were cautious in making additional or new advances in a situation where leading global banks were teetering on the edge. Second, depressed economic conditions, big losses due to lower inventory valuations and foreign exchange derivative contracts made companies cautious. Third, many companies having raised substantial leverage prior to the crisis, were cautious about taking on additional loan liabilities in an atmosphere where the direction of change was as yet unclear. Fourth, retail demand for loans was down because home-builders and buyers of automobiles were uncertain about the economic outlook, in particular about how much more real estate prices would correct and how much interest rates would decline."

True, but the more important problem is mentioned elsewhere. "Banks have added to their holding of government securities, both in the second half of 2008/09 and in the current fiscal as well. In the second half of last year banks added Rs 1,73,000 crore of government securities and another Rs 1,84,000 crore in the current year (to date). This may be construed as a risk minimising response. But the counterpoint is the large supply of government securities during this period as a result of the much larger-than-expected fiscal deficit—both on account of the designed fiscal stimulus and as a consequence of higher civil service pay and oil and fertiliser subsidies." While we debate delinking of monetary policy from fiscal policy, we may as well scrap the SLR requirement.

 

The author is a noted economist

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

TO THEIR CREDIT

SAIKAT NEOGI

 

With rising defaults, banks have tightened the aggressive expansion drive of their credit card business. The latest Reserve Bank of India data shows that credit card outstandings during this year till August end fell by Rs 4,167 crore, a 14.3% decline as compared with the same period last year. Even the total number of outstanding cards fell to 196.68 lakh as compared with 267.33 lakh in the same month last year. In any case, credit cards are a low-margin business for banks in India because of low income per card and the high initial investments. In fact, Indians spend just 1% of their total purchases through credit cards, while the world average is around 12%.

However, the economic buoyancy in the past few years saw banks chasing all and sundry in order to increase their market share. They issued multiple cards to the same set of people under different branding without any proper due diligence. Still, the business until last year was growing at around 20% annually.

 

Now, with rising defaults, banks are becoming more vigilant. They are blocking transactions of all cards issued by the bank if the customer defaults on any one card. Many banks have stopped cash withdrawal facilities and have lowered the amount of credit limit on cards.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of repeat defaulters has risen from 15% in 2005 to about 25%. It may rise further. Transaction volume is also down because of a decline in private consumption demand. The increasing exposure to higher risk customers is mainly through personal loans and credit card receivables as these are unsecured. To reduce defaults, banks issuing credit cards will have to profile their customers more intensely and devise various cutomised pricing as done in other developed countries. Just tightening the use of credit cards will not be sufficient.

 

saikat.neogi@expressindia.com

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

REPORT CARD

 

There is a strong feeling that India is becoming very innovative, especially in the West. This study* takes the reader through the empirical evidence on whether this is indeed the case since the reform process of 1991:

 

India is definitely on a higher economic growth path. There is evidence to show that innovative activities in the industrial sector have shown some significant increases during the post-reform process. Hi-tech industries now contribute over 5% of India's GDP. The innovative activity is, of course, restricted to a few hi-tech industries. There is even some macro evidence to show that the productivity of R&D investments in India is higher than in China, although this proposition requires careful empirical scrutiny before firm conclusions can be reached. This rise in innovative activity is largely contributed by the domestic private sector if one takes into account all the indicators. Within the domestic private sector innovative performance is largely confined to the pharmaceutical industry. In short, India's national system of innovation is to a large extent dominated by the sectoral system of innovation of its pharmaceutical industry and as such this trait is not widespread. Increasingly, MNCs operating from India are also contributing to enhancing the country's innovative performance. This is very likely the consequence of ever increasing FDI in R&D. Most of the MNC patents are in the IT industry. In short, it may not be incorrect to draw the conclusion that India's pharmaceutical and IT industries are becoming innovative, although domestic enterprises are more active innovators only in the former industry, while it is the MNCs that are active in the latter industry.

 

Sunil Mani, Has India Become More Innovative Since 1991? Analysis of the Evidence and Some Disquieting Features, Working Paper 215, Centre for Development Studies, September 2009

 

 

This paper* studies long-term trends in the labour market performance of immigrants in the US, using the 1960-2000 PUMS and 1994-2009 CPS

 

A relative decline in immigrant labour market performance presents potentially troubling prospects. The skill composition of the immigrant population—and, particularly, how the skills of immigrant workers compare to those of native worker—is the key determinant of the economic impact of immigration in the US. First, it determines which native workers are more likely to feel an adverse impact of immigration on their labour market opportunities. As closer substitutes in the labour market, low-skill native workers are more vulnerable to low-skill immigration. Second, skilled immigrants may assimilate more quickly. They may be more adept at acquiring the country-specific human capital necessary for economic success, with consequences for their fiscal as well as labour market impact. Finally, the relative skills of immigrants determine the economic benefits from immigration. The US benefits from international trade because it can import goods that are not available or are too expensive to produce in the domestic market.

 

George J Borjas and Rachel M Friedberg, Recent Trends in the Earnings of New Immigrants to the United States, NBER Working Paper No 15406, October 2009

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

AN ACUTE DILEMMA

 

Making the trade-off between supporting growth and reining in inflation expectations, a perennial dilemma of monetary policy, was particularly pronounced as the Reserve Bank of India unveiled its second quarterly review. The central bank's action in keeping its policy rates — the repo and the reverse repo rates as well its key reserve ratio, the CRR — unchanged is above all a reflection of that intense dilemma. Economic growth, though picking up, is still far from robust. Professional forecasters surveyed by the RBI had lowered their GDP forecast for 2009-10 to 6 per cent from 6.5 per cent, estimated three months ago. The RBI too has not changed its July forecast of 6 per cent with an upward bias. That was more pessimistic than some other recent official forecasts. For instance, the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council had projected a rate of 6.5 per cent just a few days ago. The RBI notes certain trends that are not so positive. Agriculture is expected to register a decline due to poor monsoons. While the industrial sector has shown clear signs of revival in recent months, the two major demand components of the GDP — private final consumption expenditure and gross fixed capital formation — have continued to decelerate, following a trend that began last year. Despite abundant liquidity in the system, non-food credit has dropped significantly, with its growth rate falling to 11.2 per cent from 29.4 per cent recorded last year.

 

The RBI expects headline inflation to climb to 6.5 per cent by the end of the year. This is sharply higher than the five per cent it forecast three months ago. Food inflation is a big challenge to policy makers. The consumer price index (CPI) remains stubbornly in double digits. Moreover, the base effect that artificially depressed the headline inflation figures will soon start working in the opposite direction. The precise challenge for the RBI is to support the recovery process without compromising on price stability. A related challenge is to manage the exit strategy from easy money. Pointing out that India is among the few large emerging economies with such large fiscal and current account deficits, the RBI has once again urged fiscal consolidation. The exit debate here will have to be quantitatively and qualitatively different from that in many other countries because of the unique macroeconomic features. Growth drivers warrant a delayed exit, while inflation concerns call for an early exit. The RBI has already taken some steps towards the exit: it has tightened bank provisioning norms and made lending to commercial real estate more expensive. More than ever before, monetary policy will have to strike a deft balance among several conflicting objectives.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

INFORMAL SECTOR AND INEQUITY

 

The mismatch between the impressive growth rates of the recent past and the abysmally low living standards of the majority in the developing world is again in the spotlight, this time by a joint report of the World Trade Organisation and the International Labour Organisation focussing on conditions outside the formal economy. With estimates suggesting that states with above average-sized informal economies are three times more likely to suffer the adverse effects of economic shocks than those with lower rates, the all-important need to reduce labour market vulnerabilities in the context of global slowdown should be self-evident to policy makers and industry. In addition, low export diversification is a characteristic of large informal economies, a situation that advocates of greater integration of global trade would do well to bear in mind. Although the share of global trade, at 60 per cent of the gross domestic product in 2007, was more than twice the figure for the 1980s, there has not been a corresponding improvement in several indices of human development, says the study. About 60 per cent of employment in developing countries is concentrated in the informal sector of the economy, characterised by the absence of job security, meagre incomes, and the persistent lack of access to social benefits, education, and training opportunities. Conversely, there has been a noticeable increase in the premium on skills even in emerging economies because international investment from big corporations is strongly linked to the demand for highly skilled manpower. Moreover, the bias in favour of high calibre skilled personnel, driven by technological change, has marginalised the need for low-skilled labour and accentuated the adverse impact on living standards.

 

Leveraging the gains of globalisation is an imperative for developing countries that have to contend with chronic poverty, rising expectations and social inequity, not to mention the need to factor in the challenges posed by climate change, even as they strive to raise growth rates. The answers lie in addressing the prerequisites to absorb the effects from exposure to external economic shocks, especially vulnerabilities in the labour market. A greater impetus to enhance the quality of education at all levels is no less a priority. Governments should respond to these challenges without prevarication and foot-dragging. More of the requisite political will has to be displayed to create structures that will enhance the incomes of the workforce and provide social security.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ETHNO-NATIONALISM: THEORY AND PRACTICE

EXCLUSIONARY THEORIES OF SOVEREIGNTY AND SELF-DETERMINATION HAVE NEVER MATCHED THEIR PRACTICE. RATHER, THEY ARE ANIMATED MORE BY THE FEAR AND HATRED OF THE 'OTHER.'

M.S. PRABHAKARA

 

In the beginning it was Indian nationalism, an idea that took birth from the very forces in opposition to which it was mobilised: the European powers, principally England, that rapaciously colonised this land, and their more progressive ideological aspect, European Enlightenment, integral and causally linked to this colonial rapacity and cruelty to which, when necessary, it also provided rationalisations.

 

It is true that some ideologues of Indian nationalism maintain that the idea of an Indian nation, indeed the reality of a complexly structured and administered Indian state, goes back deep into history, to historical figures like Mauryan king Ashoka, if not to pre-historic figures of myth and legend like Ramachandra of Ayodhya. Gandhiji evoked Ramarajya as the ideal state for which a free India should aspire. While such nationalist mythology had its uses in the mobilisation of the anti-colonial struggle, in independent India the nationalist discourse has followed a far more complex path, especially in Assam and other borderlands in its neighbourhood where nationalism as an idea, and theory and practice, has sometimes been mobilised to advance what received ideas of nationalism in mainstream political thinking would consider distortions.

 

For instance, the very term 'nation' which, in much of the rest of the country, stands for the Indian nation state, the structure inherited from the British even if in a substantially curtailed form and zealously guarded by the post-1947 Indian state, has a rather different meaning and connotation in Assam where the expression, 'Assamese nation' (asomiya jati), exists in an ambivalent relation with 'Indian nation.' Jati, in Assamese, stands for 'nation' while its cognate, jat, is used to denote caste (and in some contexts, 'nationality') though standard Assamese dictionaries define the two terms to mean both 'nation' and 'caste.' The collection of several jatis, representing the numerous nationalities of India, constitutes the mahajati, the greater Indian nation, that is merely a sum of its parts without which it would be less than nothing.

 

Two of the most famous and popular songs of Assamese lyricist and singer Bhupen Hazarika, whose central metaphors are the river Brahmaputra and Bohag Bihu, the mid-April spring festival, both having profound spiritual and nationalist resonances for the Assamese, have contributed to an ideological construct of what Professor Sanjib Baruah in his book, India against Itself (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), terms 'Assamese national imagination' correlating 'Assamese nationalism' and 'Indian nationalism,' whose bottom line is that one cannot exist without the other. However, this idealised interdependent correlation between Mother Assam and Mother India has other nuances, affirming or challenging the 'Indian' identity at different points of time, reflecting the constant tensions, inevitable in the unequal relationship between the Indian state and its component parts that animate this relationship.

 

These tensions are not new, nor even unique to Assam and the borderlands of northeast. The assertion of distinct, even unique, regional identities by a people that have a continuous record of history and literature going further back in time to those of 'Aryavarta' was viewed in the early years of independence as not much different from separatism with the potential to become secessionist. Regional assertions were seen as reflecting merely 'fissiparous tendencies,' one of the greatest challenges facing the strong, centralised unitary state that the early leaders of independent India wanted to craft. Only this explains the resistance to the popular and democratic demand for the linguistic reorganisation of India, despite the fact that the Congress structured itself on a linguistic basis.

 

The reorganisation of States on a linguistic basis took the edge off strident regional assertions. However, regionalism has since taken other, more complicated, forms — some deriving and, in turn, contributing to other ideological and theoretical formulations. In Assam and its environs, regionalism as an idea almost inevitably evolved into demands for political autonomy and, in course of time, more militant forms of nationalist assertion.

 

The reasons for such evolution are rooted in both geography and history. Historical factors like late entry into British India through a prolonged incremental process involving both conquest and annexation (1826-95), and the realities of geographical isolation from the rest of India have influenced this trajectory. However, this too is a pan-Indian phenomenon, subdued in some cases, strident in some others, of which the Dravidian movements are not the only instance.

 

The debate in the pages of the Economic and Political Weekly in the early 1980s on the character of the anti-foreigner agitation in Assam brought in the concept of 'little nationalism' and 'great nationalism,' the 'little nationalism' of Assam seen in the context of the anti-foreigner agitation as turning 'chauvinist.' The unspoken sub-text of this reading was that 'great nationalism' of India would by definition not turn chauvinist, a formulation with which few 'little nationalists' or, for that matter, 'great nationalists' would agree.

 

Contributing to and, in turn, further amplifying this formulation was the reading that 'little nationalisms' were really little more than 'sub-nationalism' or, in a more learned language, part of a 'sub-nationalist narrative' that was only reclaiming the history of a people that had been subsumed by the 'great nationalist narrative.' The 'sub-nationalist narrative' evolved in due course as assertions of 'ethnic identity,' the reclaimed history now serving a political end. This is now being situated within a framework of 'ethno-nationalism' that is bound to evolve into 'ethno-nationalist' narratives.

 

These terms have evolved, or been created, to explain the past and provide a theoretical framework for future action, that is to mobilise popular discontent and press political demands. The demands vary greatly, from the modest and attainable through negotiations to those that are perhaps not even intended to be attained but are nevertheless pressed to advance other objectives. The attainable objectives include greater autonomy, modification of the existing identities of caste or tribe, protective discrimination, re-denomination of nomenclatures of historically recognised communities, creation of exclusive political spaces, extension of constitutional provisions like the Sixth Schedule applicable at present only to the tribal people inhabiting and indigenous to the two Hill districts of Assam, demands from some non-tribal communities for recognition as a tribe… one can go on. All such demands for varying degrees of autonomy, expansion of the existing territorial and political space, and reclassification of denomination and nomenclature can be, and in some cases are being, negotiated within the framework of the Indian state and the Constitution. One such instance is the compromise made on the demand during the agitation for the creation of Bodoland that the Bodo Kachari of Karbi Anglong be recognised as a Scheduled Tribe. Karbi political opinion was utterly opposed to the demand. Similarly, there is resistance from the existing tribal communities to extending what are perceived as privileges to non-tribal communities.

 

However, such compromise seems impossible in instances of sovereignty assertion, based on the 'inalienable right of a people for self-determination,' which in practice exclude the 'Other.' No wonder, the three major sovereignty movements based in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam are all split, some into several factions. That they are split has, however, not in the least mitigated the passion for, or virulence of, the sovereignty assertion. The splits reflect the reality of divisions within the people these structures claim to represent, the inherent flaws of such exclusionary nationalist assertions that by definition cannot be inclusive of all people in that territorial space, as well as efforts of the state to control the virulence, canalise the passion.

 

The dilemma facing these movements is that such exclusionary theories of sovereignty and self-determination have never matched their practice. Rather, these are animated more by the fear and hatred of the 'Other,' especially those that are part of the territorial and political space they claim as their own, than by any genuine democratic commitment to the theory and practice of self-determination. In essence, these movements of ethno-nationalism are no different from Hindutva movements that too are animated by fear and hatred of the 'Other.' Hence, too, the phenomenon of ethnic cleansing that is as much an integral part of such ethno-nationalist assertion as of the Hindutva movements.

 

However, while the murderous manifestations of Hindutva assertion are rightly condemned, corresponding manifestations of other exclusionary tribal or 'ethnic' nationalism do not evoke the same kind of sharp criticism.

 

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THE HINDU

OP-ED

A WOMAN AMBASSADOR'S CAUSE

C.B. MUTHAMMA HELPED UPHOLD GENDER JUSTICE IN THE INDIAN FOREIGN SERVICE.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

C.B. Muthamma, India's first woman ambassador, passed away on October 15 at the age of 85.

 

Frailty, thy name is woman, they say. That is not a true statement at all. So long as social justice is an integral part of our constitutional fundamentals and judges remain sensitive and not pachydermic, gender justice will remain a non-negotiable article of faith. Professional gender bias and discrimination have no place in the civilised scheme of things: those were traits of primitive societies. Unfortunately, our modern centuries are still often barbaric. Even some of our epics are not free from husbands having unjust authority over wives. The finer values of our cultural heritage accept brother and sister as equal. The culture of male domination is indeed seen in all religions.

 

The women of Arabia remained in large numbers in harems as sex commodities. Against this chaos, Prophet Mohammed fought and gave a legal persona to Muslim women. There are many misconceptions about Muslim women and divorce, which happened to be explained in detail in two of my judgments in the Kerala High Court (Souramma's case and Subaida Beevi's case). The great Prophet actually brought sanity into matrimony — as the judgments clarified.

 

Two statutes in the Travancore-Cochin State discriminated against Christian women in the matter of inheritance. These were struck down by the Supreme Court. On the whole, discrimination against women is unconstitutional in the light of Article 14 and 15.

 

In this background it is difficult to forgive the Government of India for the inequality that it had perpetuated in the Indian Foreign Service. This came up for consideration by the Supreme Court in Muthamma (1979 SC 183). She was brilliant, a topper in the All India Services examination. She was with the foreign service for long, but her case was overlooked when it came to posting her as an Ambassador.

 

She came to the court against her being denied the post on the ground of her gender. Solicitor-General Soli Sorabjee opposed the application saying that the rule overlooking women for ambassadorship was justified. The chances of leakage of confidential information of strategic significance was a dangerous risk, and so Muthamma's case to be made an ambassador was rightly rejected, he argued. Sitting on the Bench, I could not agree with this submission and quashed the discriminatory provisions governing foreign service personnel. If a man who is in the foreign service married, he need not resign. I asked Mr. Sorabjee how leakage of information was not a possibility if a man married. This was flagrant prejudice against women and I struck down the rule.

Under the circumstances, my judgment was critical of the Central government's partiality on the basis of gender, which was unconstitutional.

 

A few excerpts from the judgment are relevant:

 

"The written petition by Miss Muthamma, a senior member of the Indian Foreign Service, bespeaks a story which makes one wonder whether Articles 14 and 16 belong to myth or reality. The credibility of constitutional mandates shall not be shaken by governmental action or inaction but it is the effect of the grievance of Miss Muthamma that sex prejudice against Indian womanhood pervades the service rules even a third of a century after Freedom. There is some basis for the charge of bias in the rules and this makes the ominous indifference of the executive to bring about the banishment of discrimination in the heritage of service rules. If high officials lose hopes of equal justice under the rules, the legal lot of the little Indian, already priced out of the expensive judicial market, is best left to guess. This disturbing thought induces us to make a few observations about the two impugned rules which appear, prima facie, discriminatory against the female of the species in public service and have surprisingly survived so long, presumably, because servants of governments are afraid to challenge unconstitutional rule making by the Administration.

 

"That on numerous occasions the petitioner had to face the consequences of being a woman and thus suffered discrimination, though the Constitution specifically under Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and Article 14 of the Constitution provides the principles of equality before law...

 

"If a fragment of these assertions were true, unconstitutionality is writ large in the administrative psyche and masculine hubris which is the anathema for Part III haunts the echelons in the concerned Ministry. If there be such gender injustice in action, it deserves scrupulous attention from the summit so as to obliterate such tendency.

 

"If a married man has a right, a married woman, other things being equal, stands on no worse footing. This misogynous posture is a hangover of the masculine culture of manacling the weaker sex, forgetting how our struggle for national freedom was also a battle against woman's thralldom.

 

"Freedom is indivisible, so is Justice. That our founding faith enshrined in Articles 14 and 16 should have been tragically ignored vis-a-vis half of India's humanity, viz., our women, is a sad reflection on the distance between Constitution in the book and Law in Action.

 

"In the rat race of Indian official life, seniority appears to be acquiring a religious reverence. With characteristic fairness he has persuaded his client to agree to what we regard as a just gesture, viz., that the Respondent, Union of India, will shortly review the seniority of the petitioner, her merit having been discovered and her seniority to Grade II being recognised."

 

Consequent to this ruling, Muthamma became an ambassador. She retired as one in 1982 after 32 years of service. She was active ever thereafter. She kept in touch with me since we were on the same wavelength regarding matters of gender justice. She continued to be an activist into retirement, and in critical matters she sought my support. Her faculties were fine and sensitive, and I found her to be sharp and just.

 

Her exit has weakened the cause of women's claim for gender justice in India. I remember the Muthamma judgment being distributed at many a women's meeting in support of their struggle for equality.

 

A generation of great men are born only through a generation of noble women. Robert Ingersoll put it thus: "There will never be a generation of great men until therefore has been a generation of free women — of free mothers."

 

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THE HINDU

"THIS IS MY COUNTRY, WHERE DO YOU WANT ME TO GO?" ASKS INDIAN IMMIGRANT'S SON

HASAN SUROOR

 

Ultimately it was a simple question from an Indian immigrant's British-born and bred son that had Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party (BNP) stumped during his controversial appearance on BBC's flagship current affairs programme Question Time last week.

 

While Mr. Griffin's high-profile co-panellists (three leading political figures, including a senior cabinet minister, and a prominent playwright) argued over the details of BNP's fascist agenda, Khush Klare, a young professional from north London whose parents moved from India to Britain in the 1960s, had a basic question for him: "Where do you want me to go? I was born in this country. I love this country." And, then, suggested that it was actually people like Mr. Griffin who needed to be packed off to some "colourless" planet.

 

"You would be surprised," he told Mr. Griffin as the studio audience clapped, "how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket and your supporters... to go to the South Pole. That's a colourless landscape, it would suit you fine."

 

Mr. Griffin's stuttering attempt to justify his party's absurd policy which calls for wholesale repatriation of immigrants to their countries of origin was greeted with boos and jeers.

 

Mr. Klare's question would have resonated with every second generation non-white Briton — indeed with all minorities (immigrants or not) caught up in the majoritarian rhetoric of "us" and "them." It lies at the heart of the identity crisis that afflicts many among the second and third generation immigrants and which then leads to alienation — and often worse. Where can people like Mr. Klare whose parents or grandparents may have come from another part of the world but who were born and brought up in Britain and know of no other country they can call home go?

 

Mr. Griffin, of course, is an extreme racist but even high-minded liberals suffer from the "outsider-insider" syndrome. A question that almost every non-white Briton must have faced at some point is: "Where do you come from?" And when they say "London" or "Manchester" or "Leicester," the questioner persists: "Yes, but where do you come from...which country?"

 

A friend who did research on the subject for a book found that somewhere at the back of nearly native white Briton's mind was this idea of immigrant as an outsider.

 

In a sense, Mr. Griffin and his boys are a symptom of a deeper problem that the liberal London elite is loathe to acknowledge — namely covert racism that, despite a raft of anti-racist and equality laws, exists at all levels of British society. A new government survey, based on a sting operation targeting hundreds of employers across the country, found that job applicants with foreign-sounding names faced widespread discrimination. Researchers discovered that candidates with Asian/African names were turned down in favour of white applicants with similar qualifications and experience.

 

"They found that an applicant who appeared to be white would send nine applications before receiving a positive response … Minority candidates with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response," The Observer reported quoting employment minister Jim Knight as admitting the "shocking scale" of racial discrimination revealed by the survey.

 

On all social indicators — poverty, unemployment, education — whites are better-off. And, on the face of it, "white discontent" that the BNP taps into is a "puzzle," as The Economist pointed out. Yet it would be disingenuous to pretend that "white discontent" is purely a BNP invention. Sections of white working class, especially in the former manufacturing towns, do live in great poverty and feel neglected by the mainstream political establishment.

 

By settling asylum-seekers in some of the most deprived white areas the government has ended up exacerbating racial tensions. For, when unemployed white youths, trapped in kitchen-sink estates, see newly-arrived immigrants given houses and benefits they see red accusing them of "stealing" benefits that they say ought to have gone to them.

 

Enter Mr. Griffin posing as their saviour. He tells them that their plight is all down to "foreigners" and neither the government nor opposition parties are bothered about them. Only the BNP understands their concerns and is willing to help.

 

Liberal Democrat leader Chris Huhne, who appeared with Mr. Griffin on Question Time, correctly called it the "scapegoat politics" which saw Mr. Griffin's fascist predecessors blame the Jews in the 1930s, and Africans in the 1960s.

 

The BNP's electoral success (it got nearly one million votes in the European Parliament elections earlier this year and won two seats) is a result of a combination of racism; the government's failure to acknowledge, let alone address, white working class concerns; and of course right-wing propaganda. Simply dismissing Mr. Griffin and his supporters as the "looney fringe" or hoping that ultimately British "commonsense" will prevail is not the answer.

 

The unpalatable fact is that the BNP has significant electoral support which is what led the BBC to put Mr. Griffin on one of its programmes; and this support has a basis in "white discontent" even if it is exaggerated. As one commentator warned if political parties continue to "write off" sections of the electorate then there is no stopping groups like the BNP.

 

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THE HINDU

GLIMMER OF LIGHT FOR MYANMAR

WESTERN GOVERNMENTS MUST TAKE CARE NOT TO UNDERMINE MYANMAR'S PEOPLE.

SIMON TISDALL

 

Cautious optimism expressed by Asian leaders at the weekend that the situation of isolated, benighted Myanmar is taking a turn for the better may prove to be more than the usual diplomatic doublespeak. Recent, relatively positive signals from the ruling military junta do not amount to a change of heart; the generals are not about to put up a sign saying "Dun Dictatin'" and retire to their jungle palaces, officials say. But out of darkness, a glimmer of light shows.

 

One hopeful indication came when Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained opposition leader, was temporarily released from house arrest to meet foreign diplomats and junta functionaries. The regime is also tentatively re-engaging with western governments, including the U.S., which is to send a high-level delegation soon. And last month, the Prime Minister, Thein Sein, promised the U.N. that presidential and legislative elections next year would be "free and fair."

 

There are several reasons for the regime's shifting stance, western observers say. One is that the junta has begun to recognise it needs the legitimacy that only a relatively transparent poll process can bring. Domestically, the creation of regional legislatures may help defuse ongoing, historically violent tensions with the country's 16 ethnic groups; internationally, a respectable election could trigger an easing of sanctions and additional aid and investment.

 

Senior General Than Shwe, 76, head of the junta, is said to be hoping to stand down next year, for reasons of age and possible infirmity. He was committed to the regime's so-called "road map" to democracy and felt he had done "a good job" in holding the country together, one analyst said. Now Than Shwe wanted to secure his legacy by regularising Myanmar's relations with the west.

 

Another reason for taking advantage of Barack Obama's willingness to reopen dialogue is said to be a desire to counter China's growing influence. Harsh words from Beijing over the recent forced exodus of 30,000 mostly ethnic Chinese Burmese from Kokang into Yunnan province came as a sharp reminder that China, historically, was Myanmar's No. 1 enemy, and its security and commercial interests do not necessarily coincide with Yangoon's.

 

But U.S. officials stress Mr. Obama is not offering the generals an easy option; sanctions would remain in place until there was a quantifiable improvement in the regime's behaviour, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said last month. "We expect engagement with Myanmar to be a long, slow, painful and step-by-step process," said her deputy, Kurt Campbell.

 

Scepticism that this apparent shift will lead to anything more than a sham election, decked out with democratic window-dressing to deflect western critics and hoodwink international opinion, is natural, given the junta's record since it stole the 1990 polls. The evident risk for Mr. Obama, the U.N., and others is that they will be suckered into supporting the insupportable.

 

There's no doubt the 2010 election project is highly problematic. Myanmar's new constitution guarantees the continuing ascendancy of the military. New political candidates and parties will be vetted, Iran-style. Lack of free media, the absence of independent scrutiny, and intolerance of open debate do not sit well with the holding of "free and fair" polls.

 

And one deliberate side-effect may be the sidelining of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), the winners in 1990, whose ageing leadership now faces a cruel dilemma: either participate in the elections, thereby lending credibility to a possible political travesty, or hold back and risk irrelevance.

 

Any western policy aimed at bringing the generals in from the cold must be carefully calibrated to strengthen, not undermine, the legitimate aspirations of the Myanmarese people. Getting the balance wrong will risk prolonged darkness in a land where, as Kipling might have put it, it was the light that failed.

 

 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

ON THE ROCKY ROAD TO SHAHR-E BOZORG

THE BEAUTY AND PERILS OF ONE OF THE REMOTEST AREAS OF AFGHANISTAN.

LYSE DOUCET

 

"Badakhshan? It's no problem." Our security team was very pleased. Even when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, those hardened fighters did not make it to the furthest reaches in the north-east, the remote corner where the majestic Hindu Kush meets the soaring Pamir mountains. Our journey began as any Afghan journey should, sitting cross-legged on a carpeted floor, eating a Badakhshani breakfast — Shir Chai, a hearty brew of tea and milk, salt and walnut and enormous yellow biscuits as round, and I have to say, as hard as a saucer.

 

Ramin, an Afghan friend, peered at me. You are going to Shahr-e Bozorg? And then, raising a quizzical eyebrow, he asked, is there a road to Shahr-e Bozorg?

 

Ramin focused on his biscuit and barely suppressed a smile. Never mind, I thought, we are prepared. We set out from the regional capital Faizabad in the best four-wheel drive vehicle we could find with our driver, Azizullah, an intense young man with short cropped hair.

 

TYRE TRAUMA

Faizabad itself felt pretty remote, one paved road through the centre of a bustling market, a few hours of electricity a day, a bit of running water.

 

'And what about spare tyres?" asked Melanie, the producer. Unfortunately Azizullah had had a puncture the night before. There was one spare left. But never mind that, worry was soon eclipsed as we took to the so-called road, a bumpy track clinging to the mountainside, sweeping around blind corners, climbing higher and higher along hairpin curves.

 

We insisted Azizullah must honk the horn each time we rounded a bend, right on the edge of the precipice. We hurtled along, to the tune of our little mountain symphony, our loud gasps and sharp intakes of breath followed by Azizullah's honking. Then, a new sound, the rumbling of a tyre — another flat tyre not an hour outside the capital. Now we had no spares left.

 

Azizullah was not fazed. In the middle of nowhere, there emerged, like an oasis in the desert, an assortment of stalls, tarpaulin stretched across sticks of wood with mechanics busy inside, young men preparing tea with Turkish biscuits wrapped in bright foil.

 

DONKEYS GALORE

They soon made sure we had another spare, and peace of mind to fully absorb the breathtaking vistas, undulating mountains, a dappled carpet of camel brown and rusty red, flecked with gnarled pistachio trees and goats grazing on the scrubland.

 

And donkeys, everywhere, carrying white-bearded men, bundles of wheat, or women covered in burkas.

 

I remembered the story of how 6,000 donkeys had been pressed into service carrying ballot boxes in the last round of elections back in August. And the story of journalists who came to cover that quaint donkey story and ended up getting stuck in Badakhshan and missing the elections. It was to be four more bone-jarring hours before we reached Shahr-e Bozorg. Remote? It certainly felt it.

 

That night, we dropped off to sleep on thick mats laid out on the floor of a house in the village. But as the cock crowed at first light, someone shouted: "Fire! Fire!" A gas canister had exploded.

Huge plumes of acrid black smoke were rapidly engulfing our mud bungalow. We scrambled out the windows. All of the village soon converged on the house, swinging buckets of water.

 

'UNMENTIONABLE DISPLAY'

And even when we had retreated to a hillside ledge, young Afghans were still rushing inside the smoking house, fishing out whatever they could find to help these poor foreign guests, including, in full view of gawking bystanders, well, bits of clothing best kept out of public view. Our embarrassed Afghan colleague Shoaib, determined to defend our honour, started denying that certain garments dangling in the air had anything to do with us.

 

We felt terrible for our Afghan hosts but they brushed aside the incident. God had been kind. He kept all of us alive. More driving, to another village so remote, that all the village elders turned out to honour their rare visitors. But we could not stay long. "After all," I said knowingly to one man, "the roads are so bad here."

He looked at me blankly and I realised he did not understand what I meant. It was all just part of life here, so they bid us goodbye with the gift of a goat. Driving back, another breakdown, we ran smack into what cameraman Tony called animal rush hour, flocks of sheep, goats and cows all jostling for space on the dirt tracks, struggling like us to get home before dark.

 

Finally, driving back into the capital Faizabad, we felt a wash of relief. Just a minor earthquake that night and a cancelled flight in the morning. We were stranded for two more days. But by now we were as hardened as Badakhshani biscuits and as stoic as the Afghans who call this place home. Much to the relief of editors in London, we made it to Kabul in time for news that a second round of the presidential elections would soon be held. The donkeys in Badakhshan are back in business again.

 

 © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PARANOIA APPARENT IN PAK RESPONSES

 

India has always been concerned with the political and financial stability of Pakistan. Improbable as it may seem to those outside the subcontinent, irrespective of political parties it has been the standard formulation of the ruling establishment in this country that a stable atmosphere in Pakistan is in India's interest, not to say of the interest of the Pakistani people themselves. The reason is quite simple. When life in Pakistan is unsettled, that country's military establishment — which is its decision-making elite in every sense — tends to behave in an erratic manner toward India, and is known to attempt to whip up a nationalist fervour in order to paper over internal cracks or cover up acute domestic deficiencies. The Kargil conflict was initiated by Islamabad at a time of acute financial crisis in Pakistan. The 1971 war had as its backdrop the mahabharat that was being played out in that country's internal politics involving the Pakistan People's Party and the Awami League, a state of affairs that would end in secession, and preceding that cause an influx of millions into India from the erstwhile East Pakistan. If anything, the situation in Pakistan today is one of acute social and political nervousness bordering on paranoia, coupled with a rapidly deteriorating security outlook. Perhaps it is fair to say that at no time before has Pakistan suffered from the simultaneous occurrence of a grave security threat of an existential nature and financial inertia relieved only by benefactors' infusions from overseas. Credible media reports speak of preparations by people wanting to temporarily migrate in order to get out of harm's way on account of the war in the North-West Frontier Province and areas contiguous to it. In the event, this country has been compelled to issue an advisory to Indians to postpone travel to Pakistan unless they absolutely must, and avoid making even pilgrimages.

 

Unfortunately, the political establishment in that country has taken exception to notes of caution sounded by India. In what can only be called a knee-jerk reaction, the foreign ministry in Islamabad was swift to take umbrage at the expression of the Indian hope by the foreign secretary that the Pakistani nuclear establishment should be firewalled from jihadist depradations. Pakistan's interior minister Rahman Mailk has now gone a step further. In a quixotic response to absolutely nothing in particular, he has lashed out at New Delhi for being behind the Pakistani Taliban movement that has pitted itself against the Pakistan military. A more extraordinary suggestion cannot be imagined. From blaming India for its internal woes in Balochistan, a high official has chosen to accuse this country of cohabiting with the Taliban. Mr Malik, in some ways, calls to mind the village schoolmaster in Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village who "though vanquished, (he) could argue still". If Pakistan cannot get out of the mindset of blaming others for its internal loss of equilibrium, it is unlikely to take any meaningful steps to deal with the enormous problems that confront it.

 

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

THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

FROZEN SMILES, LIMP HANDSHAKES

VIKRAM SOOD

 

It was good to hear the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi speak of an irreversible China-India friendship. There have been manifest signs of improved ties with burgeoning trade, comprising our raw materials for shoddy Chinese manufactured goods, exchange of high-level visits, quadrilaterals in the form of Brazil, Russia, India and China and a trilateral mechanism with Russia and cooperation on climate change policies. The Chinese foreign minister is now in Bengaluru and Zhou Yongkang, standing committee member of the politburo, will visit India in November. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart in Thailand last Saturday. Quite obviously, the smiles were frozen and the handshakes limp as the Chinese spoke of functional cooperation, which is quite different from President Hu Jintao's formulation of a vision statement. This is one reality of apparent normality.

 

There is, however, another reality which cannot be ignored. There has been a gradual and a disturbing shift in the Chinese attitude towards India in the past few years and the voices that one has been hearing from Beijing in recent months have been less than comforting.

 

From an initial pretence of disdain about India's economic rise, the mood has switched to some irritation with India's new relationship with the United States, which the Chinese today probably evaluate as being more strategic than just relating to a civil nuclear deal. In recent months since August 2009, there have been increased intrusions into India, accompanied by a marked sharpness in tenor. The decibel of references to Arunachal Pradesh is higher — protests about the Dalai Lama's planned visit to Tawang and belated protests about our Prime Minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh even in the official People's Daily that reflects the Communist Party of China's official position accurately. This message was delivered while Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nepal Communist Party boss Prachanda were in Beijing. There have been other worrying signs, notably the practice of issuing paper visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby conveying that the state was disputed territory. All this underscores the reality that improved trade relations between neighbours do not necessarily mean improved political relations as long as there are undemarcated borders. Questions of demarcation have now been converted into territorial disputes, with the Chinese now repeatedly referring to Arunachal as "Southern Tibet".

 

There are international and domestic issues that may be worrying the Chinese. The Tibet disturbances of March 2008 and those in Xinjiang in July this year alarmed Beijing. The decline of Pakistan and the present situation in Afghanistan are both challenges and opportunities for the Chinese. Pakistan's instability means that an important plank of Chinese policy in the region, to contain India and secure access to the Arabian Sea, has become unsteady and may have an uncertain future. Apart from that, a weakened but Islamised central authority in Islamabad could have repercussions among the restive Uighurs of Xinjiang. The troubles in Xinjiang were serious enough for President Hu Jintao to leave the Group of Eight summit and head home. It is possible that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is now handling the situation both in Tibet and Xinjiang and the hard line from the Chinese foreign office on Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang may be a result of this change.

 

America's predicament in Afghanistan provides China an opportunity to raise its profile in Afghanistan/Iran and Central Asia. With a $3.5 billion investment in the Anyak copper project in Logar province, one of the world's largest copper deposits, China is today the largest investor in Afghanistan. China has also offered to build a railway line and a power plant which would treble its investment.

 

As India and China seek to progress there will be greater competition for resources, markets and influence. Cooperation will remain an ideal and both would want to avoid confrontation, or worse, conflict. In terms of military spending, India does not have the capability or even the intention to match China weapon for weapon, force for force. It is extrapolated that by 2050 China will be spending $775 billion on defence — three times India's defence budget despite our huge land and sea boundaries. The high drama in the Indian press that the Chinese were anxious about Indian plans to develop Agni 5 is just that. No Chinese general is too bothered about this considering that the PLA has already covered India and most of the world with its missiles. What irks them really are the graphics that accompany such reportage, showing Beijing as having been brought within range of Indian missiles.

 

Quite often, many ask if India will ever catch up with China. The figures of military spending, the size of the economies, the rate of growth, the amount of money spent by each country on infrastructure, electricity production, agricultural produce, research and development and reserves held, confirm that the gap is enormous. Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh in their latest book Chasing the Dragon: Will India Catch Up with China? make this quite clear. Even though Goldman Sachs predicts that China, the US and India will be the three largest global economies by 2050, it would be more realistic for India to aspire to be a global player whose voice will be heard rather than attaining the status of a superpower. The question we need to ask is can China afford to catch up with India's raucous democracy and still survive?

 

China has endeavoured to restrict India's influence to its borders. Only recently, it reminded our neighbours that India had hegemonistic tendencies while extending its "peaceful" relationship with them, while claiming "harmonious rise" in a wary neighbourhood. The prime example of this is the manner in which China has godfathered Pakistan's India-specific nuclear and missile capabilities.

 

China is our powerful neighbour and India and China are not in the same league. Pakistan refused to accept this reality in its relations with India and today finds itself adrift despite valiant US efforts to shore up its ally. It is best to accept the India-China reality and fashion our responses accordingly.

 

There is nothing to be gained either by becoming a hysterical tabloid nation when it comes to a bigger neighbour or a helpless flailing state when we have to deal with a smaller neighbour. We simply have to evolve a method of peaceful cohabitation; there is nothing to be gained by jingoism and everything to be lost by seeming to be weak and succumbing to pressure. It is quite likely that the Chinese leadership will glower at us from across the Himalayas; should that happen we should not blink — and it should not be that His Holiness suddenly develops a diplomatic illness! That would be most unfortunate because that would, in effect, give the Chinese a veto on our relations with His Holiness and decide who visits Tawang.S

Thus, we need to be able to protect our interests more effectively, at and inside our borders, in our neighbourhood, the seas that surround us and in Asia. Therefore, massive infrastructure development is required in the Northeast which is people-friendly and not simply meant to cater to our strategic requirements. There has to be two-way socio-cultural assimilation of the region with the rest of India. Instead of buying loss-making companies abroad, we should be adopting regions for development. It is in our interest to develop friendlier relationships with countries on China's periphery and strengthening relationships with the US and Japan is part of this policy. The armed forces — all three wings — need upgrading, with long-range strike aircrafts as well.

 

Diplomacy would need to be more nimble-footed and proactive rather than reactive. We have to look at 2050 and work accordingly. Short-term "band aid" solutions will not do. Until then it would be good to follow Sun Tzu's advice: "The side that knows when to fight and when not will take the victory. There are roadways not to be travelled, walled cities not to be assaulted".

Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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DNA

EDITORIAL

BREAKING NOISE

 

Relations between politicians and the media are sometimes cosy, often adversarial and occasionally hostile too. Both sides know they cannot do without the other but this mutual contract can become frayed if one accuses the other of unfair behaviour. Recently the president of the BJP, Rajnath Singh got offended by comments on a new channel and ordered his party men to boycott it, though no official announcement was made of course.

 

Singh is in good company. No less than the president of the US, the popular and much loved Barack Obama has come out against the media of his country. His peeve is mainly against the partisan television channel Fox News that makes no bones about its dislike for Obama and Democrats in general, but the rest of the media and its practices have come in for sharp criticism too. The gist of his plaint is: the media prefer conflict over cooperation and encourage bad behaviour and "weaken the ability of leaders to help the nation".

Politicians the world over will warm up this attack, since they feel that journalists are needlessly critical when they could be "constructive". But Obama's ire is somewhat surprising considering that not only has the media, in the US and elsewhere too, backed him from the moment he became a presidential candidate, but he too has exploited it to the full.

 

Apart from appearing on the news, Obama has gone on chat shows, held more press conferences in six months than his predecessors did in eight years and happily gives interviews. It's a comfy relationship. So what's changed? The burdens of office will have no doubt played a part as also the shift from the earlier gushy reportage to more critical analysis of his performance and policies. Journalists tend to treat a public official more cynically than they do a challenger. Obama must know its part of the job.

 

But while media hacks may bristle, Obama may also have a point when he criticised the trivialisation of news and comment. When he laments the rise of instant commentary on events, or points out that the 24-hour news cycle and blogs tend to focus only on extreme positions or even tells a crowd that "TV loves a ruckus", he may be echoing the views of not only politicians but also of many citizens and even of media practitioners. As we have seen in India, frenzied media coverage has replaced considered analysis and breaking news of the most trivial kind has emerged in place of well-researched and fact-checked stories. While giving no quarter to Obama, or any other politician, the media would do well to ponder over what he has to say.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

POOR BUT RICH

 

Usually in any comparative argument between India and China, India scores quite badly — especially when it comes to infrastructure development and "getting things done". 

 

That's largely because China can build dams and highways at full speed; the perception is that the country is largely unencumbered by "human rights", or even taking the opinion of the people, while in India's noisy democracy is full of obstacles. China's visible successes —  super-efficient SEZs, the glittering Beijing Olympics — are seen as examples of its superiority. This pro-China argument usually leaves out social unrest, Tibetans, Uighars, media gags and allegations of human rights abuses.

 

Now a survey by the Legatum Institute has judged the world on different parameters — a Prosperity Index — and has found that India scores substantially better than China. Suddenly, India has the advantages — democratic institutions, personal freedom and social capital, for which it comes in at number 45 out of 104 countries. China is at 75.

 

The Index was inspired by recommendations made by a committee set up by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose members included Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz. It looks at variables beyond GDP to track prosperity. So while China beats India on economic indicators, it cannot compete when it comes to categories which look at how citizens benefit from freedom and democracy.

 

Of course, all informed debates about India vs China will always look at democracy versus communism and regardless of how fast China can build a dam — although these are not without controversy — the fact is China is still a communist nation. Freedom — that vital breath of life — is missing.

 

While India's democracy and its institutions are to be cherished, we in India can hardly afford to either take our freedom for granted or rest on our thin laurels. Apart from the parameters mentioned above, we also need to look at social indicators like education and healthcare in which communist China has done exceedingly well, far better than India.

 

These represent the biggest failures of Indian state. The Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index gives us a good opportunity to review what is right with our society and why we are so lucky in India to be part of a vibrant democracy. But it also gives us pause to take stock of what's wrong too and to correct those anomalies.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

CHINA IS THE NEW BOGEYMAN OF THE MARKETS

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

There was a time, not long ago, when making money on the Indian stock market was a piece of cake. Market manipulators would spread the whispered word that a 'Big Bull' was buying into specific companies, arrange for the sotto voce whisper to be amplified by strategically placed market megaphones, and sit back and wait for the stampeding army of witless, coattail-riding 'investors' to "buy, buy, buy" and drive stock prices sky-high.   

 

The identity of the market-moving 'Man with the Midas touch' varied over time, from Harshad Mehta in the early 1990s to Ketan Parekh at the turn of the millennium. Given the herd mentality that characterises most 'investors', no rationale — other than rumours that Mr Moneybags of the Moment was buying — was required. Yet, there was no shortage of specious stock market theories. 

 

During Mehta's time, sky-high stock valuations were justified by the so-called 'replacement cost' theory: a company's stock must be valued not on the basis of its earnings but by estimating how much it would cost to set up a similar company at prevailing prices. Similarly, KP's stocks rode the dot-com bubble when, it was argued, productivity gains from the tech boom had made a monkey of traditional valuation parameters.

 

Much the same phenomenon is unfolding on a global scale today — from stocks to commodities to currencies. However, to move markets across such a vast spectrum, manipulators needed to conjure up a mythical moneybag of monstrous proportions. Just such an entity exists in the shape of China. 

 

Today, just three words are sufficient for operators to drive up any market: "China is buying." A fourth word - "secretly" - gets them more buck for their bang. From foreign companies to oil to gold to currencies to property, these Chinese whispers have tremendous market-moving potential, on the strength of fanciful arguments that validate the 'Greater Fool Theory'. 

 

Illustrative of this is what's happening to luxury property prices in Hong Kong ostensibly because new-rich mainland Chinese are rumoured to be snapping up real estate everywhere. Last fortnight, a developer sold a '68th floor' apartment in — I kid you not — a 46-storey complex for a world-record per-sq-ft price. So extreme was this deception that industry peers, who are not easily outraged, have broken ranks to criticise such methods.

 

Similarly, bullion traders invoke the China bogeyman to prop up gold prices and drive down the dollar by claiming that the Chinese government, looking to diversify away from the dollar, has secretly directed Chinese people to buy gold and silver. So secret was the directive that few Chinese people have heard of it. And the data for US Treasury auctions shows China accumulating even more dollar assets. 

 

Likewise, market manipulators tried desperately to prop up the Shanghai stock market, in the months leading up to the October 1 anniversary of modern China's founding, by claiming that the government would not allow the market to fall ahead of such an important anniversary.  But despite the diversion of mind-numbingly high bank loans to the stock market, the Shanghai stock index went into the anniversary holiday at its lowest point in months. 

 

The latest bugbear relates to reports of a 'flood' of Chinese outward-bound investments to "buy up the world", particularly commodities companies. There have, of course, been some investment outflows and strategic resource acquisitions by China in the first half of this year, but they are more a trickle than a flood. 

 

For China, hyperbole over its market-moving capability is a double-edged sword. On the plus side, it makes China seem more powerful than it is, which is useful. But it also pre-emptively pushes up prices of the very things that China is in the market for. It'll be a while, though, before brinjal and onion prices in your mandi go up because "Pssst…China is buying."

 

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DNA

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

WITH THE HELP OF INTERNET, SMALL BUSINESSES WILL NOW TAKE ON LARGE COMPANIES

JACK MA

 

The headlines of the past year about storied global corporations all but collapsing in the wake of the global economic downturn were not signs of the times, but rather a foreshadowing that a long-awaited business revolution is actually beginning. Many of these large enterprises are relics of the last century and the financial crisis was the last straw in exposing their inherent weaknesses.


We are at the beginning of a revolution where Internet-based technologies will forever shift the power dynamics between customers and businesses. Entrepreneurial small and medium companies around the world that take advantage of these new developments and emerging trends will be the ones that come out ahead.
Look at the example of big-box retailers who took control of the system and forced manufacturers, not just here in China but around the world, into mass runs of identical merchandise with only the narrowest of margins. In the coming decades, this will change dramatically, bringing potentially life-altering consequences for those who ignore the lessons of the past year.


In the coming decade, the Internet will make the long-awaited transition from a marketing channel into a virtual infrastructure that will allow smaller companies, which are really the major engines of innovation, to compete effectively with major corporations.


The ability to identify or create new business opportunities around the world will be limitless. For example, a business that starts in China or India will have ability to compete with one in Indiana. More importantly, the Indiana business that has the right attitude and global outlook will not only be able to compete with India and China, but also with bigger American and European corporations.


Three trends will power this change: new web-based technologies, a shift toward consumer control over product design, and the global distribution of capital. As a result of technological advancements, smaller companies now have access to tools and techniques once only afforded by major corporations. Customers, who in recent years have chafed at limited selection in big-box stores, will take advantage of the Internet's long-tail effect to demand personally tailored products and services. And capital, once concentrated only in a few countries and accessible mainly by major corporations, is now flowing toward more and more small companies across the world to fuel growth.


People talk a lot today about fixing things, but it is not the system that needs fixing. The problem is with so-called "conventional wisdom." Those who believe in carrying on with business as usual might as well suggest powering cars with a troika of horses.


For example, more than 1.1 million direct jobs have been created in China alone in the past three years by companies doing e-commerce across Alibaba's platforms, and we expect that this trend of company and job creation will accelerate globally in the next decade. The coming years will see an exponential global rise of Internet entrepreneurs, or Netrepreneurs, who do business only through the Internet, make products only for sale on the Internet and adhere to a set of principles that include the utmost respect for customers, work partners, the community and the environment, and a willingness to embrace and optimise new ideas. They will be at the forefront of this new revolution. They will work on small business online platforms. The entire Internet will be their marketplace, and theplatform will be their office or shop.


These Netrepreneurs will operate with minimal overhead, allowing for both lower prices and lucrative margins, as well as fair compensation for employees, suppliers, partners and themselves. Their primary task: focus on making customers happy and treating partners and other stakeholders fairly while the technologies of the platform take care of the rest.


By 2019, I believe that more than 1 billion people around the world will turn to these small online businesses for their everyday goods and services. Netrepreneurs will be the major engine of global job creation — the livelihoods of literally hundreds of millions of people around the world will depend almost exclusively on being a part of these virtual business organisations.


But there is a missing ingredient that can help realise this vision. While it's common for people to focus on big brand names, it's important to note that more than 70 per cent of the world's innovations have come from once small and medium-sized companies. That's why it's critical that policymakers and leaders devote more time toward encouraging the development of this sector of the economy. It needs greater support through financing, training programmes, tax policy and technology advancement. It's time to stop talking about supporting small businesses and take action to do so. —NYT

 

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DNA

SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

Why is it believed that spiritual practice is possible only within traditionally accepted limits and not outside them? Meditation, observance of silence and physical relaxation are indeed spiritual practices but are speaking, eating, drinking, sitting and standing not spiritual practices?


In a fragmented form spiritual practice does not bring liberation. The integrity of spiritual practice is questioned by those who insist that it is possible only in a particular place, at a particular time and through a particular activity. One of the incongruities of life is spending two hours in spiritual practice and the remaining 22 hours in non-spiritual pursuits. Anuvrat — giving up anything beyond the "I' — implies that there be no incongruity in life from the time one wakes up till one goes to bed. Anuvrat manifests the nature of spiritual practice.


In Sanskrit grammar, the word veepsa is used which means Vyaptumichcha, the desire to extend. In veepsa, saying the same word twice is not considered a fault. It is in this sense that the words 'spiritual practice' have been appended to anuvrat.


Meditation and yoga are necessary but by themselves they do not constitute spiritual practice. You need to remain spiritually alert in whatever you do throughout the day. It is pointless to believe in the possibility of doing meditation if your life is devoid of humane behaviour. It is a different matter if spiritual practice is viewed in a partial and fragmented manner.


Just as the old, traditional lamp has given way to the electric bulb resulting in the devaluation of the former, the intellect will also lose all its value the day, we become acquainted with the power of natural awareness.
Intellecutalism has made the indirect appear direct, simply because the senses do not have the power of direct apprehension.


By Acharya Mahaprajna as told to Lalit Garg

 

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DNA

FRAGILE PEACE

 

Whether the devastating suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad were the work of al-Qaeda, or unreconciled supporters of former Ba'athist dictator Saddam Hussein, there can be no doubt that they have inflicted serious damage on Iraq's fragile political infrastructure. When Obama announced that he wanted to withdraw the bulk of American forces from Iraq next year, there was always a risk that the move was too premature, and that Iraq's fledgling democracy needed more time to establish itself. And so it is proving.


The failure of the Iraqi parliament to agree which electoral system to use in the next round of elections, which are due to take place in January, is symptomatic of a deeper malaise that has taken hold of the country's politicians. Rather than arguing about what form the ballot papers should take, they should concentrate their efforts to ensure the elections actually take place. But, as with so many issues, such as the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, where Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen are in dispute over who should control it, or the need to address important constitutional issues, such as Sunni claims that they are being excluded from Iraq's post-Saddam political settlement, the political classes seem incapable of breaking the impasse. The blame for this sorry state of affairs lies with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, who seems more interested in protecting his Shia constituency than in genuine reform. But after all the sacrifices the West has made to get Iraq to a position where it can stand on its own feet, it is incumbent upon Maliki's government to end the dithering and provide decisive leadership. Otherwise Obama may find himself having to keep his soldiers based in Iraq for a lot longer. —The Telegraph (UK)

 

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DNA

BETTER COMPENSATION

The compensation of Rs5 lakh and the additional Rs10 lakh promised by Mamata Banerjee granted to the family of R Ramchandran, the motorman of the Kalyan-bound train which met with a mishap on Friday is a pittance considering his brave and timely action('Motorman makes his last journey', DNA.Sunday, October 25). A better recognition would be to extend his salary to his family till the time he would have superannuated.
Christopher Antony, Mumbai


THIRD INNINGS

Now that the Congress-NCP has come back to power again in Maharashtra, it would be interesting to see whether the Ashok Chavan government would give priority to construction of the Rs350 crore Shivaji statue in the Arabian sea and construction of free houses for the slum dwellers or will they give priority to improving the infrastructure problems. Expensive electricity, water shortage, transport problems and slow construction of the Metro are some of the issues being faced by Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra. It would be interesting to see how the Ashok Chavan government tackles the law and order problems which will arise from the Shiv Sena and MNS battle in Mumbai to gain sympathy of the Marathi manoos.

George D'mello, Mumbai

 

WRONG ALLEGATIONS

The allegation by Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik that India is funding Taliban ('India funding Taliban fighters: Malik', DNA, October 27) is a joke. The whole world knows that the Taliban is creation of the Pakistani establishment to wage a proxy war against India. It is being continuously nurtured and funded by the successive governments of Pakistan. Now that things are going out of control (the recent series of bomb attacks by extremists there), the Pakistani establishment has chosen to blame India for existence of Taliban.
KA Prasanna, Mumbai

 

GOOD RIDDANCE

The edit 'Wires crossed' (DNA, October 26), has rightly highlighted the political compulsions that had prompted the then UPA government, last year, to turn a blind eye towards the scandal involving 2G radio spectrum sale. Even then it was quite evident that the telecom minister, A Raja, had a big role in the scam. The DMK was quite certain that the UPA could not afford to put it on the dock. But now the scenario is quite different. The Congress Party and the prime minister are in a firm position to now call the DMK bluff. The CBI raids in the telecom set-up should be an eye-opener for the Congress's coalition partners that they cannot blackmail the Congress party any more.

 

Chandramohan, Mumbai

           

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LOANS TO REMAIN CHEAP

RBI WARMS UP FOR FIGHTING INFLATION

 

To insulate the Indian economy from the impact of the global meltdown last year, the Reserve Bank of India had eased interest rates and released more money in the system. The soft money scenario will continue for some more months. In its monetary policy review on Tuesday, the RBI kept all key rates unchanged except raising the statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) by one percentage point. It means banks will now have to invest more money in government bonds. This step will withdraw Rs 30,000 crore from the system. This is not a large amount and will not hurt growth. The system stays cash surplus.

 

Still, the BSE Sensex fell 387 points. Analysts interpreted the RBI measures as laying the groundwork to raise interest rates in future. The credit flow to commercial real estate can harden as banks will have to keep more money aside while lending to this sector. The RBI wants to save banks from piling up non-performing assets as this is a risky area for lending. Since the other key rates have not been changed, the banks will not raise the interest rates on home, education and auto loans.

 

Unlike the industry and the government for whom growth is a priority, the RBI is more concerned about inflation. In its latest survey, the apex bank has scaled down the growth forecast this fiscal to 6 per cent with an upward bias, but raised the inflation estimate from 5 per cent to 6.5 per cent. The tussle over growth vs inflation will pick up in the coming months. Low interest rates help growth, while stoking inflationary pressures. The rising food prices and the hardening of global commodity prices, especially oil, are signals that inflation will rebound. The present recovery is the result of the stimulus packages and a loose monetary policy regime. Will growth sustain once both these factors cease to operate? That is a worrying question and the policy-makers will be called upon to look for an answer. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

REFORMING THE JUDICIARY

DIRE NEED TO SPEED UP JUSTICE

 

Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily's Vision Statement on judicial reforms to clear the huge backlog of cases in various courts and speed up the dispensation of justice is well-intended. Introduced during a national consultation in New Delhi, it seeks to strengthen the judiciary through various measures like the creation of a National Arrears Grid (NAG), focus on selection, training and performance assessment of judicial officials and introduction of procedural changes. The NAG, to be headed by a sitting Supreme Court Judge, will analyse the number of arrears in each court and oversee reduction in pending cases in a time bound manner. It also envisages that courts function in three five-hour shifts for which 15,000 new posts of judicial officers — from among retired judicial officers and lawyers — will be created for a two-year period. One-year contractual jobs for retired high court judges and lawyers to hear cases on weekends and in the evenings are also on anvil.

 

Clearly, these proposals, if implemented properly, will hasten the disposal of cases and help the poor litigants. However, their success will ultimately depend upon the quality, integrity and character of the judges to be appointed. The present system of selection of judges leaves much to be desired. Of late, increasing cases of corruption and moral turpitude among the judges prove that the collegium system has grievously failed to select the right persons for the judiciary. Mr Moily has admitted that the collegium's increased strength has made the consultation process cumbersome. He also wants the government to have a say in the judges' appointment.

 

For the appointment of Supreme Court judges, the Centre is bound by the procedure in accordance with the Constitution Bench's rulings in 1993 and 1998. As Parliament is the proper forum for making necessary changes to the appointment process, the lawmakers should carefully deliberate over various suggestions and introduce a system that would choose the best and check the entry of malcontents from entering the courts. The Dinakaran episode has exposed the loopholes in the collegium system and affected the judiciary's fair image. Action against Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran and speeding up the elevation of four other high court chief justices brook no delay.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

EPICENTRE OF TERRORISM

WORLD MUST ENSURE PAKISTAN TACKLES EXTREMISTS

 

US Senator John Kerry's description of the situation in Pakistan is, indeed, alarming. A Washington-datelined report carrying his startling observations appears elsewhere in The Tribune today. He sees Pakistan fast emerging as the "epicentre of extremism in the world". In fact, Pakistan has already become the hub of global terrorism with Al-Qaeda having shifted its headquarters to Pakistan from Afghanistan. It is, therefore, not surprising if Pakistan has been rocked by suicide bomb attacks almost every day for some time. What is happening in Pakistan may become uncontrollable in the near future as Al-Qaeda is closely aligned with the Taliban. There is the danger of these outfits capturing the levers of power in Pakistan.

 

What Senator Kerry has revealed cannot be ignored as he heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also unsuccessfully fought the US presidential elections when Mr George W. Bush got a second term to occupy the White House. That the ISI-Taliban link continues to remain intact is understandable. The Pakistani external intelligence agency, which is credited with having created the Taliban monster, must be maintaining its connections with the Taliban with the blessings of the top Generals in the Pakistan Army. These Generals and others in the Pakistan establishment cannot think of any better way to protect Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan. It is not without reason that they are very guarded in their language while criticising the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

Pakistan's duplicity on fighting the Taliban poses a serious threat to peace and stability in South Asia and the rest of the world. The war against cross-border terrorism cannot be won unless the Taliban is defeated both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And this is not possible with Pakistan being insincere in taking on the terrorist monster. The ISI-Taliban link remaining unbroken also proves that Pakistan has not abandoned the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy. This is a very challenging situation. The world community must try to bear it on Pakistan that it must become serious about tackling terrorist outfits.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A TALE OF TWO OPERATIONS

PAKISTAN SHOULD LEARN FROM US EXPERIENCE

BY SUSHANT SAREEN

 

FLUSH with "victory" against the Taliban in Swat, and furious over the assault at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi, the Pakistan Army was left with no choice but to plunge into what is commonly perceived as the "mother of all battles" against the Islamist insurgents in the Waziristan area. If successful, the Waziristan offensive will certainly deprive the Taliban/Al-Qaeda a formidable redoubt from where they have been plotting and perpetrating terror outrages in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

Of course, success in Waziristan won't put a full-stop to terror attacks. The jihadi virus has spread far too deep and wide in Pakistan for this to happen anytime soon. On the other hand, if the Pakistan Army is unable to wrest control of this area, or if it suffers major reverses and has to stop its ground offensive for any reason, or if it gets horribly bogged down in this treacherous terrain, then there is a danger it might result in a domino effect that could severely destabilise the Pakistani state.

 

The Swat operation would have certainly raised the morale and confidence of the troops and lent a momentum to future military campaigns against the Taliban. It would, however, be wise to not go overboard in lauding the performance of the Army. In Swat, the Pakistan Army has only wrested physical control of the area from the Taliban. Psychologically, the Taliban continues to instil dread in the minds of the people of the area, more so since the bulk of the Taliban cadre has not only eluded the dragnet of the security forces, but is also able to frequently mount guerrilla attacks against both civilian and military targets.

 

Until now, the Pakistan Army has fought and won a conventional conflict and that too against an enemy who was heavily outgunned. Given its conventional superiority, the Pakistan Army was always going to win a set-piece battle against the Taliban, who would have found it impossible to stand an onslaught by a regular army using all the firepower at its command. This victory was the easy part, made even easier by the tactic of clearing out the civilian population from the entire area and then using overwhelming force against a lightly armed insurgent group without having to worry too much about collateral damage.

 

The more difficult part — keeping the peace and restoring a sense of security in the people by ensuring law and order and a terror-free atmosphere — is now going to start. In this new phase, conventional tactics will have to be replaced by counter-insurgency tactics, which in turn could embroil the Pakistan Army in a long and "dirty" sub-conventional war of attrition. As the Army clears out newer areas, the theatre of operation will expand and with it the requirement of troops needed to first hold and then sanitise these areas of the Taliban.

 

Perhaps this is the reason why the Pakistan Army has adopted measures that it believes will help in preventing a return of the Taliban. One of these measures is the setting of state-supported tribal vigilante groups — Lashkars — that not only defend the "liberated" areas but also assist the Army in hunting down the Taliban cadre. The use of vigilante squads is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their effectiveness in resisting the Taliban will really be known only after the Army withdraws. On the other hand, if they remain effective, it could lead to an anarchic situation and make the task of restoring law and order very difficult.

 

The second tactic being adopted by the Pakistan Army is to establish a balance of terror with the Taliban. The mass graves, the hurling out of choppers of captured Taliban cadres and the mutilated bodies of suspected Taliban members found hanging from lamp-posts are all allegedly the handiwork of the Army. It is believed that the Army is not only trying to make an example of the Taliban, but also getting its own back at them for the mutilation of bodies of soldiers who were captured by the Taliban.

For the moment at least, the summary executions of suspected Taliban activists are popular among those who have suffered at the hands of the Taliban. But soon the law of diminishing returns could set in because many innocent people will inevitably become victims if the mass killings continue. This will not only fuel resentment against the Army, but could easily lead to greater support for the Taliban. Worse, the execution of suspects will effectively close the doors to any negotiation or even surrender by the Islamists, thereby prolonging the conflict.

 

The security dimension is at best only a necessary condition for restoring the lost writ of the Pakistani state in places which had transformed into Islamic emirates. It is just as important to undertake the political, administrative and ideological measures necessary to isolate Taliban. Until now all these three aspects are missing from the strategy of the Pakistani state. But if law and order remains disturbed, the judicial system is inefficient, administrative delivery stays dysfunctional and the local economy doesn't recover, the people's sympathy could once again shift in favour of the Taliban.

 

Therefore, before they tom-tom their success in Swat and compare it with the imminent failure of the US mission in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis will do well to keep in mind the experience of the Americans in Afghanistan. When the Americans launched their offensive against the Taliban in 2001, they had everything going for them — overwhelming superiority, support of anti-Taliban forces and widespread revulsion of Afghans to the Taliban.

 

Within a couple of weeks the Americans has ousted Taliban from everywhere in Afghanistan. Like the Pakistan Army in Swat, the Americans enjoyed a lot of goodwill. Local communities and warlords collaborated with the foreign forces and helped in hunting down the Taliban activists and settling their scores with them. The air in Afghanistan was pregnant with expectations of the dawning of an era of development, prosperity and stability in that country. Hardly anyone imagined at that time that the Taliban would ever make a comeback.

 

Eight years later the tables have turned. The Taliban is once again a major force to be reckoned with in Afghanistan. There also appears to be growing public support for the Taliban. The renewed support for the Taliban is a function of many things: the disaffection with the Americans; the inability of the ISAF troops to provide security to local communities; a reaction to the failure of the international community to make any meaningful difference in the lives of ordinary Afghans; a result of the coercion by the Islamists; the continuing support and sustenance that the Taliban elements receive from official and non-official sources in Pakistan; and the natural proclivity of the people to support the side they think will win the war, a conclusion that many Afghans have reached because of the defeatist mindset of the Western forces.

 

Clearly, if the Pakistanis are to avoid a fate similar to that of the Americans in Afghanistan, they need to get their political, administrative and ideological act together. More importantly, the distinction being drawn between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban or between the Baitullah network of the Pakistani Taliban and other Pakistani Taliban groups (made recently by the Pakistan Army spokesman) need to end once and for all. Otherwise, Pakistan might well win the battle for Waziristan but lose the war to the Taliban.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

MASSAGE NETWORKING

BY VIVEK ATRAY

 

When the dreaded early morning bell wakes me up on Mondays, I groan and moan like no man has ever groaned and moaned. The massage man is never late, and he's never absent. To my sheer chagrin, he turns up week after week and even gives me a mild chiding for looking sleepy and reluctant when I let him in.

 

His mastery over his age-old craft is such, however, that once he gets to work, one feels rejuvenated with every passing minute and forgets all negativities that had earlier clouded the mind. He goes about his business, pushing, pulling, slapping and knocking me all over the place, with the result that almost every component of the body is woken up and beaten up in no uncertain terms.

 

If that had been all, life would have been quite simple. But that is not all. There is much more to the massage man.

 

His ability to double up as a barber is one factor. He insists on giving one a haircut every month. And then he tells one in graphic detail about how he undertakes about 50 such haircutting operations under his tree every day, apart from attending to a dozen home calls.

 

Many bureaucrats would balk at the idea of getting a haircut from an under-the-tree-barber. Not so the members of the large sarkari network that our man has established over the years. Legend has it, in fact, that our masseur-cum-barber makes his clientele look much better than any glossy and expensive parlour could ever manage.

 

The real excitement lies, however, in our hero's ability to handle this huge client network with aplomb, and even to mend strained relationships that sometimes develop between officers. Never has a harsh word escaped his lips, for anyone. He regularly quotes one Sahib ji to another and proclaims to the client at hand that the other Sahib ji has always been full of praise for him.

 

In fact one often fails to keep track of which particular Sahib ji he is on about, since it is not easy to be on the alert while feeling relaxed during a massage!

 

At times he takes a break from the action, calls up one of his favourite Sahib jis, and hands the phone to the poor Sahib ji at hand before he can resist, thereby breaking the ice between the concerned officers in no uncertain terms.

 

I for one have not come across a more self-assured and hard-working man in these parts. He could easily have been a top Sahib ji himself, such are his qualities of head and heart. In a way, he is the top boss even now, for he literally floors quite a few Sahib jis every week!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

POWER SHORTAGE IN PUNJAB

DEMAND MANAGEMENT IS NOT ENOUGH

BY SUCHA SINGH GILL

 

Punjab is currently passing through an acute shortage of power. The crisis is becoming more serious with every passing year. The shortage of power is expressed in terms of peak load deficit. It is defined as a percentage of excess demand over supply when the demand is on the peak.

 

The peak load deficit has been growing in the state. It ranged between 23.81 per cent and 32.65 per cent during 1994-95 and 2000-01. As per the 17th electric power survey conducted by the Central Electricity Authority, it was estimated that the peak load shortage would reach 50 per cent in 2008 and stay around this level by 2011-12. These estimates have proved nearly accurate.

 

The growing shortage is explained by the fast-growing demand over supply. The demand for power grows at a fast rate compared to the overall growth of the economy. The demand for electricity in India grows at 1.52 times of the growth rate of income. This is because of the growing energy/electricity intensity of economic and social activities.

 

As economic prosperity is experienced by the country, the energy intensity increases in household consumption as well as in industrial and commercial activities. This is evident from the fast-growing market of electricity-operated appliances such as TV sets, refrigerators, air-conditioners, microwaves, etc.

 

This is a reflection of the growing demand for electricity for household activities. In the same way the wave of automation in the industry and the service sector has considerably added to the demand for electricity. Several activities earlier dependent on human and animal power are now based on electricity.

 

In Punjab in 1970-71 the percentage of area irrigated by tubewells was 55 per cent which increased to 72.7 per cent in 2007-08. Earlier, more than 50 per cent tubewells were diesel operated, their proportion declined to 22.7 per cent in 2007-08. Fodder cutting was earlier completely based on human and animal power. Now it is done by power-operated machines.

 

Offices of officers are air-conditioned now and service companies have modern western style offices which are fully air-conditioned. These developments indicate the fast-growing demand for electricity for production of goods and services and the organisation of household activities.

 

Life has become highly dependent on electricity. Thus, the increased supply of electricity can unleash a large amount of productivity activities. But the shortage of power can paralyse many productive activities.

 

In a modern economy, the tripping off power brings economy activities to a grinding halt. Production stops the movement power goes off. Thus, the operation of the economy largely depends on the uninterrupted availability of power.

 

One of the methods of handling the shortage of power is known as demand management through power cuts to control the growing demand. Power cuts hit the hardest those producers who are small and the poor.

 

In this category a large number of tiny and small industrial units, repair shops or artisans are included who use power-operated machines. They are the producers who may be employing one or two workers who become idle when power remains switched off. They have to pay those workers who are employed on a time rate basis.

 

The use of inverter and diesel-operated engines is three to four times costlier than the rate at which electricity is supplied by electricity boards or companies. This makes activities of small producers costlier. This quickly makes them unviable paving the way for their being crowded out of competition by producers from the region where regular power supply is available.

 

The shortage can be managed by a sustained increase in the generation capacity in advance. This is known as the supply management method and is congenial for the development of the economy. It helps in making existing units viable and profitable. The availability of power is an important part of infrastructure which creates external economies for industrial and business units and overcome indivisibilities for future expansions. Thus, adequate availability of power is a factor which attracts new investment to a region from regions and areas chronically suffering from power shortage.

 

In this context the example of Gujarat can be cited in India in attracting most of investment in business and industry both from India and abroad. The availability of power and other infrastructure has made it an attractive place for investment by companies.

 

On the other side, Punjab is a negative example in this matter. The chronic shortage of power is driving away investment from the state. The recent reports show that power shortage has crippled the growth of textile and engineering units in Ludhiana.

 

The disadvantage created by the industrial package by the central government to J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal has been compounded by the chronic power shortage in the state.

 

The state could have overcome this disadvantage if it was able to create sufficient power generation capacity to convert itself from a power deficit to power surplus state. This could have been done by utilising the state's financial resources in a better way.

 

The expenditure on power generation would have attracted much more investment by the private sector in industries like agro processing where Punjab has a relative advantage and software where location does not matter as this is free from hassles of raw material transport. This could have doubled the multiplier effect in income and job generation.

 

People do make a comparison on the power situation in Panchkula, Chandigarh and Mohali to make this point and also with the rest of Punjab. This summer people in the urban areas of the state, like their rural counterparts, suffered power cuts of 7-8 hours. The sufferings of power cuts felt by domestic consumers and entrepreneurs arer driving investment in housing and industry in Punjab to other areas of the country.

 

Populism has gripped the major political parties in the state and they are not in a position to come out of it. They are not able to understand the simple logic of development and its trajectory. They are not bothered about the declining ranking of the state in the social indicators and per capita income.

 

This is the reason that when the rest of the country is growing at around 6.5 to 8 per cent per annum, the state is content with the growth rate of 4-5 per cent during the Tenth Plan and has fixed a target of growth rate at 5.5 per cent during the Eleventh Plan compared to the national average of 9 per cent.

 

The simple act of shifting electricity and food subsidy to investment in the power sector can change the gear of growth of the economy. Investment in power can be made in cleaner sources such as hydropower and solar power to save the fragile environment.

 

The per capita income of the state has become nearly $ 1,000 which displays a large taxable capacity compared to the 1950s or 1970s. A little effort at better tax compliance and an expansion in the tax base has the potential to generate enough resources for many useful neglected activities in the state.

 

It is hoped that the new young leadership is able to comprehend this logic and help the government in taking up problems of the people and the region seriously and resort to adding power generation capacity rather than demand management.

 

The writer is a Professor of Economics at Punjabi University, Patiala.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

AIR APPARENT TO KYOTO

BY TIM FLANNERY

 

The international climate negotiations that have been grinding on for years may have crossed a Rubicon of sorts. That's because a new model of engagement for some nations is receiving wide attention. It's shorthanded as "national schedules," and it could get incorporated into the next world climate treaty – the one that replaces the Kyoto Protocol – to be signed in Copenhagen in December.

 

Under the proposal, nations would list the steps they promise to take to deal with climate change and the reduced emissions they expect each step to result in. The model is drawn from international trade negotiations, in which nations schedule measures taken to free up trade.

 

There are very important differences between agreeing to Kyoto-type terms and agreeing to list actions on national schedules. Under Kyoto, developed nations are obliged to account for all of their greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce them to a pre-agreed cap by a certain year. Under a national schedules approach, however, countries select a subset of emissions sources to act on and fix, but they do not agree to account for and cap all of their national emissions.

 

The increased national autonomy this provides, and the simplified accounting resulting from having to deal with a self-chosen subset of emissions, is very attractive to some countries. But the downside is the lack of an overall emissions cap – and therefore the potential for greenhouse emissions to continue to grow.

 

Still, adding a national schedules option to the global climate treaty makes sense, especially because it could spur climate-saving action in developing nations, which have so far been given a pass by the Kyoto Protocol. India and China, for example, two hefty polluters, are not obliged to account for and cap their emissions. However, getting them to schedule specific actions to reduce some of their emissions could put them on track toward a total cap, not to mention contributing to lower emissions in the meantime.

 

It's tempting to believe that the proposed mechanism of national schedules may have played a role in the breakthrough announcement by India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, on Sept. 18 that India would accept some sort of limits on its carbon emissions.

 

And it may also have influenced Chinese President Hu Jintao's announcement on Sept. 22 that his country would mandate a "notable decrease" in carbon intensity by 2020. These surprising developments from the world's largest developing economies, which have long declined to engage meaningfully in climate negotiations, have had the effect of revitalizing the negotiations.

 

While national schedules could play a crucial role in re-engaging developing countries in the climate negotiations, they raise many difficulties. One of the most immediate is their effect on carbon trading – the buying and selling of emission allowances meant to put a (high) price on greenhouse gases.

 

The Kyoto Protocol, with its accounting of total national emissions, provides a clear mechanism for carbon trading. There's no obvious way for countries on national schedules to participate, so the overall market is likely to shrink. This is bad because it would lower the price of polluting, just the opposite of what is needed for clean-technology innovation.

 

There is, however, a much more serious problem with national schedules. If the model were to apply to the United States, it would represent a major step backward in controlling greenhouse gases. The U.S. remains the biggest per capita carbon emitter in the world and the only developed nation to have sidestepped Kyoto (Congress never ratified the treaty). It has made no commitment to a national emissions cap. Nor has it had the political will to pass legislation aimed at setting up a national carbon trading system.

 

If the U.S. is allowed to adopt a national schedule instead of finally agreeing to a national cap, it would almost certainly lead to the failure of Australia and Canada to abide by their agreements to cap emissions. And that in turn would leave the Europeans all but isolated in their adherence to national emissions caps, and the developed world without an overall greenhouse gas target.

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EXTREMIST THREAT IN PAKISTAN

BY ANITA INDER SINGH

 

The enemy has started a guerrilla war", said Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the wake of the recent spate of Taliban attacks on Islamabad, Lahore, Kohat, Peshawar and the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, Pakistan's former capital, threatening the very survival of the Pakistani state, and forcing the army to strike at the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan.

 

That statement could explain why and how at least three highly organised extremist groups – al-Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban and anti-India jihadists – linked to one another, have been able to carry out several sophisticated and coordinated strikes against the heavily fortified buildings of their military mentors, especially in Rawalpindi, while top commanders were on the premises.

 

For guerrillas do not make a headway without some local support. And training, it might be added, from Pakistan's army and intelligence services for years. Behind the scenes, Pakistani officials have admitted that many mosques, madarasahs and other buildings are havens for extremists throughout their country.

 

It is likely that individual members of the security forces, inspired by their particular version of Islam, colluded in the attacks as the militants found their way around their targeted areas in all four cities.

 

The silent majority of Pakistanis is against Taliban thuggery in their country. Public outrage over Taliban brutality in the north-western province of Swat, along with American pressure, spurred the Pakistani army into throwing militants out of the area.

 

But in the six decades of Pakistan's existence, a succession of weak civilian and illegitimate military rulers have always been quick to tell the public that Indians, Americans and Israelis are responsible for the country's problems.

 

So blame the infidel enemy for everything. That is one reason why the Muslim League, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by General Musharraf in 1999, has now joined forces with General Kiyani, the present army chief, in alleging that American attempts to exploit Pakistan's need for largesse to bring its military under civilian control reflects Washington's desire to weaken the army and increase Pakistan's vulnerability to a possible Indian attack.

 

But that sort of expediency glosses over the fact the army hardly has any counter-insurgency strategy because of its obsession with warding off an Indian offensive.

 

Meanwhile, the Taliban have never shown any inclination to compromise. Every truce between them and Islamabad broke down because it was used by them to regroup with a view to mounting fresh attacks.

 

Because extremists have now spread their tentacles throughout Pakistan, the army will find it hard to deliver the coup de grace. Nor can the Taliban deliver the army a knock-out blow. The army's inability to defend its own headquarters will raise eyebrows: in the long run its credibility will hinge on its ability to assure Pakistanis of their security.

 

Whether Pakistan's politicians and generals will overcome their history of getting bogged down in petty quarrels is an open question. They must learn to work in harness and unite their countrymen to foil the multifaceted extremist threat to Pakistan. Only then will Pakistan be able to extricate itself from the mess created by political myopia, stalemate and instability.

 

The writer is a Professor at the Centre of Peace and Conflict Resolution, New Delhi

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

BONES OF CONTENTION

 

The India-Asean summit and the East-Asia summit are basically economic forums for the fostering of greater co-operation in trade and commerce between India and some countries in Asia. The Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), for instance, comprising ten members of leading countries, offers a platform for discussion on greater economic integration of the region to include India and furthering people to people contacts in agriculture, science and technology. As spelt out by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh before leaving for the India-Asean summit in Thailand, India's enhanced engagement with the Asean lies at the heart of her "Look East" policy, one major step having been the free-trade agreement arrived at between the two in August this year. Working towards further co-operation, including similar concessions in the fields of services and investment, had been an objective of the latest India-Asean summit. Trade with Asean has been growing, being around forty-eight billion dollars in 2008, and the summit was to provide yet another opportunity to undertake newer initiatives at enhancement of the India-Asean partnership. The East Asia Summit, which brought together the Asean countries as well as India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, had discussed gravely important issues such as Asia's response to global economic recession, food security, energy and climate change.


It was thus expected that the focus, both of the media as well as the general public, would be on these aspects and not extraneous ones. However, with the bones of contention between India and China lately hitting the headlines not surprisingly political rather than economic matters have been of greater concern to us. Rather than the summits themselves, the eyes of the nation had been on meetings on the sidelines, particularly the one between Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao. The most contentious issues were, of course, the recent reiteration of the Chinese claim that Arunachal Pradesh is 'disputed territory', as also the alleged attempts by China either to divert the flow of the Brahmaputra or build a series of dams upon it. An offshoot had been the concern that the forthcoming visit to Arunachal by the Dalai Lama might act as a flashpoint for renewed hostilities among the two nations. China's reassurances on both accounts have, therefore, gone a long way to alleviate concerns, with the Indian Government's assertion that the Dalai Lama's visit is scheduled to go ahead reinforcing the impression that the issues have been resolved for the time being. However, given the fact that previous hostile encounters had taken place in the backdrop of "Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai" camaraderie, it is yet too early to breathe sighs of relief. The North-East will continue to be fated to sit on the razor's edge, unless permanent and recorded solutions are arrived at to tackle such bones of contention.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

CAUSE OF CONCERN

 

A spurt in kidnappings by the militants belonging to the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) has become a cause of serious concern as according to records available with the security forces , more than 30 persons have been kidnapped for ransom by the militants within this year alone and it is a well established fact that many kidnappings go unreported as the family members of the abducted persons prefer to pay the demanded money instead of approaching the police. The Government should chalk out a strategy to deal with the problem as such incidents will send wrong signals and seriously affect major development projects. In recent times, the militants kidnapped persons engaged in the East West corridor project of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and officers of the Railways. Such incidents will definitely affect the morale of the officials of the Central Government departments concerned and seriously affect major development projects. Moreover, if the contractors engaged in the major projects are forced to pay the militants, the quality of the work will suffer and from the recent activities of the militants, it has become clear that the militant groups are only interested in boosting their own coffers and not in development of the State. Moreover, such kidnappings of Government officials and contractors engaged in major projects will send wrong signals outside the State and it will be difficult for Assam to attract investors from outside, which is a must for industrialization of the State.


Of course, it is often difficult for the police and security forces to launch an offensive operation to secure the release of the kidnapped persons as such offensive can jeopardize the lives of the adducted persons. It may be noted that senior Food Corporation of India (FCI) officer PC Ram lost his life when police launched an offensive to secure his release from the captivity of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). That is why very often the police also prefer to allow the family members to negotiate with the militants to secure their release and in the process, the coffers of the militant groups continue to get a boost. It is not possible for the Government to provide security to each and every person considered vulnerable and to deal with the problem, the Government must intensify counter-insurgency operations against the militants involved in abductions and efforts must be made to bust the hideouts where they keep the abducted persons. The police can talk with the abducted persons after their release to get information about the areas where they were kept during captivity so that operations can be launched in those areas.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

ASSEMBLY POLL VERDICT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE

 

The outcome of the Assembly elections for three States Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh and Maharashtra has a special significance as far as the politics of the two main political parties of the country, the Congress and the BJP is concerned. It will certainly be one of the decisive factors of the future direction of Indian politics. For Congress it was a challenge to retain power in these states as the anti-incumbency factor was against the party. In the last general election. Congress had shown good performance in all these states. In Haryana. Congress won 9 Lok Sabha seats out of total 10 which indicate towards strong support of Congress in Haryana. In Maharashtra, Congress and NCP alliance wanted to repeat history third time by winning Maharashtra assembly elections in row. In Arunachal Pradesh also Congress made a clean sweep by winning 2 Lok Sabha seats. But for another reason this Assembly elections was seen as a factor to justify the policies and programmes of the UPA government in its second term in the office. The soaring prices of various commodities, especially of food items, increasing act of Naxalism, Belgaum issue, Sangli riots, Special Economic Zone in Raigad the surge in food prices, farmers' suicides in Vidarbha, anti–North Indian tirade and water-logging were the some key issues that posed challenge before the poll prospects of the ruling alliance. Although the Congress-NCP alliance successfully faced general elections after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, massive job losses and abysmal governance over the years were not exactly the best platforms to reach out to the voters in the state for the party. For the BJP this election was even more crucial as the party had to rise from the ashes of poll-debacles and internal crisis, had to convince not only the electorates but the party workers and coalition partners that the party had resolved internal crisis and the top leadership is speaking in one voice.


As far as the outcome of the Assembly elections in three States is concerned the results have confirmed the upswing in the fortunes of the Congress, which began with the general elections, and the continuing decline of the BJP. The Congress swept in Arunachal Pradesh, retained Maharashtra, but falling short of six seats to reach the magic figure of 46 in Haryana. In politics the weaknesses of the opposition are sometimes as important as the strengths of an ally. In Maharashtra, the Congress made the most of both, a disunited opposition and a formidable alliance, and is set to form the government for a third consecutive term. To the credit of the Congress, despite discomforts and irritants, the party nurtured its alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party through good times and bad. But the latest win would not have been possible without the fragmentation of the opposition. The anti-incumbency factor, rising farmers suicides and price rise notwithstanding, voters in Maharashtra chose to give the Congress-NCP alliance another go at governing the state for a third straight term. In Arunachal Pradesh while Congress contested all the 60 seats, Trinamool Congress, which tested its popularity for the first time in the state by putting up candidates at 26 places, won six seats. The NCP, which had fielded 36 candidates, emerged victorious at six places. But Haryana threw up a fractured verdict, as independents, who could play a crucial role in government formation, won seven seats, INLD, which made a significant comeback, won at 31 constituencies in the 90-member House. In his initial reaction MNS chief Raj Thackeray said BJP and Shiv Sena's failure to be an effective opposition in Maharashtra is Greater than ruling Congress-NCP alliance's failure to provide a good government. Raj's Maharashtra Navanirman Sena, founded three years ago after he left Shiv Sena, won 13 seats in the Assembly elections. Jubilant Congress said the assembly poll results showed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was losing its national stature and that people are increasingly aligning with the Congress across the country. As was expected the UPA leadership expressed in high rhetoric that the poll victory of the Congress was an indication that people supported the policies and programmes implemented by the State and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.


For the BJP the poll outcome was completely disappointing. The Bharatiya Janata Party, still unable to grow out of the shadow of the Shiv Sena, and yet to recover fully from the debacle in the Lok Sabha election, remained dispirited and uninspiring. In Maharashtra Raj Thackeray's Navnirman Sena (MNS), which played the role of spoiler to the Sena-BJP in 2009 Lok Sabha election, did the same this time and BJP-Siv Sena alliance failed to manage once again the split in the saffron alliances core Marathi vote in urban areas. The revenge drama has seen Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena demolish Sena's prospects by not only splitting the "Marathi" vote but emerging as the second largest party in Mumbai with six seats and a staggering 23.35% of the city vote.. For the BJP, the results are yet another reminder of its lack of direction since the Lok Sabha polls. How much the BJP is out of touch with reality was encapsulated in a senior party leader's statement blaming the poll debacle on the electronic voting machines. Wracked by in-fighting and leadership squabbles, the BJP has been rudderless for the past six months. Though the RSS has to share some responsibility for the Maharashtra defeat, since it had put in all efforts for a BJP victory, it would still want to prevail on BJP matters as the party seems unable to put its act together. BJP, which was seeking to wrest power in all the three States, said it was disappointed but not discouraged by the election results. But the BJP leadership initiated a new debate after the declaration of the poll results. The party sought to blame manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for its poor performance in assembly elections in three states but later backtracked saying there could be other reasons for the party's defeat. BJP election in-charge for assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines had led to Congress victory in these elections. The senior BJP leader maintained that not only his party but other political parties had raised doubts about the credibility of EVMs. When asked if EVMs were manipulated in the past in States like Chhattisgarh and Gujarat where the BJP had won, Naqvi denied accepting that. However, soon after he retracted on his statement, ostensibly after being pressurized by the party higher-ups.


The Assembly elections in three States clearly manifested the fact that the present Congress party is a rejuvenated organization with definite policies and programme that can address the issues related to the rank and file. For this the credit goes to the leadership of the party that rediscovered it and made relevant in this changed pulls of Indian politics. On the other hand, the election result confirmed the fact that at present BJP is an exhausted organization demoralized by successive election defeats. But this is not an encouraging sign for our democracy if BJP, being the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha fails to perform the role of a responsible opposition. So also, there is every possibility that the Sangh Parivar may come forward to rescue BJP once again that will ultimately mean that BJP is yet to evolve as a true national party.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

SECTION 377 IPC AND ITS IMPORT

DR PROMOTHESH RANJAN DAS

 

To understand Section 377 IPC which is much disputed in its implication, applicability and effect in India these days, it is always better to read it in the context of Sections 375 IPC and 376 IPC. Section 375 IPC lays down the definition of rape as an offence and Section 376 IPC provides for punishment of rape in the Indian Penal Code 1860. Section 375 IPC reads as – A man is said to commit 'rape' who except in the cases hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions (i) against her will, (ii) without her consent, (iii) with her consent when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt, (iv) with her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married, (v) with her consent when, at the time of giving such consent by reason of unsoundness of' mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent (vi) with or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of 'age'. There are two explanations also in this section viz: (a) penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape and (b) sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age is not rape. Section 376 IPC provides for punishment of rape of either description of a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term of ten years with fine.


Thus the vital point of rape here is the intercourse between a man and a woman and 'man' and 'woman' are defined in Section 10 of IPC as 'man' being a male human being of any age and 'woman' a female human being of any age. Again 'sexual intercourse' has not been defined in the code The offence of rape as defined in Section 375 IPC is punishable under Section 376 IPC. Apart from the old provisions of punishment in Section 376 IPC there have been additions of Section 376A (husband and wife intercourse during judicial separations etc, 376B (intercourse by public servant with woman in his custody), 376C (intercourse by Superintendent of Jail, remand home etc) and 376D (intercourse by any member or staff of a hospital).


From the aforesaid position it is amply clear that the offence of rape has been taken seriously in all its manifestations and women's security has been ensured in the society. With this background if we look at Section 377 IPC which defines in a way an offence 'similar to rape' with only difference that involved parties not of opposite sex to each other only resort to casual intercourse voluntarily and there is no place of 'will' or 'consent' as stipulated by Section 375 IPC and here also the penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence. This Section does not define the offence as 'rape' but as 'unnatural offences'. Are not unnatural offences more serious and condemnable than sexual intercourse defined in rape? These offences are against the order of nature – a man resorts to carnal intercourse with a man, a woman resorts to the same with a woman, or even a man resorts to carnal intercourse with an animal. There are instances that cows are delivering human shape calves. Is it not bestiality? Is there no liberty and privacy for animals? Or are we to dominate privacy, liberty and sex of animal kingdom. We shall respect privacy and liberty of animals nonetheless. We know animals are seasonal while men being rational animals are whimsical in sexual activities. Section 377 IPC punishes offences like sodomy, buggery and bestiality. The offence consists of having carnal intercourse against the order of nature. In Fazal Rab Choudhury Vs State of Bihar (AIR 1983 SC 632) the accused was charged for committing an unnatural offence upon a young boy. In view of the fact that no force was used the sentence of three years imprisonment was reduced to six months.


These arc instances of voluntary carnal sexual intercourse as provided in Section 377 IPC. It may be construed that these unnatural offences do not indicate any application of force or violence. It may be also that there is no apparent question of loss of virginity. But still these offences may bring in social disorder and indisciplined conduct even in family.


These days there are many opinions that Section 377 IPC curtails individual privacy and liberty in the sense that when parties want voluntarily carnal intercourse they should not be disturbed even though it is against the order of nature – so far so good. But the carnal intercourse with animals cannot be accepted in any form. Again the 'gay marriage' is another chapter which will humiliate the sacred institution of marriage. We cannot allow these things in our society. There will be disorders and demoralisations among the youngsters particularly those who are revolutionary in nature.


Of course, there are opinions whether basic human rights of privacy and liberty as they call it are to be mixed with religious faith and religious rights as professed by some Christians and Muslim leaderships. Here a question arises whether moral values or human rights shall get upper hand. This group of legalising the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders want to decriminalize the offences in Section 377 IPC which according to them negates Article 21 of the Constitution of India. But the judgment of the Delhi High Court on the subject issued on July 2, 2009, does not call for total amendment of Section 377 IPC. The court maintains – "We declare that Section 377 IPC in so far as it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private violates Article 21, 14 & 15 of the Constitution." Thus, the court is very clear in its verdict. The court has not struck down Section 377 IPC but has made certain observations which are bonafide and clear.


It may be that homosexual instincts are natural to some people because of their genetical 'order or disorder' over which they have no control. But the Medical literature does not contain any hard biomedical evidence, either genetic or hormonal, in support of homosexuality. It is an acquired alternate sexual orientation as a result of various psychosocial factors. Of course it is true that the quantum of punishment provided in Section 377 IPC is not proportionate to the offence described. Life imprisonment for the offence under Section 377 IPC is really disproportionate but punishment of simple imprisonment for two/three years may be enough.


(The writer is Inspector General of Police).

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIAN REALITY TV: BIGG AND BIGGER BROTHER

 

Fact according to the old adage is stranger than fiction. Unfortunately, he/she who coined that adage never had to contend with reality television that made-for-the-idiots, sorry idiot box, version of facts — which has taken stranger paths than fact could ever have dreamt of. The latest episode in this manufactured reality soap opera is one that literally is a twist in the knickers.

 


The information and broadcasting ministry, it seems, has issued a 'show-cause' notice to the makers of the Bigg (given the strange turn of events the extra 'g' could well stand for g-string) Boss. Bigg Boss it seems has offended Big Brother by showing a couple of B-Grade actresses pulling down the shorts of a C-grade comedian.

Big Brother now insists that the serial's 'short' sightedness will cause all the little Indian brothers and their families to squirm in their sitting room.
The producers, it seems, have violated Section 5 of the Cable Network Act which states that no programme offending good taste or decency can be beamed into the homes of the great Indian family. Little matter that such a definition would disqualify most of what is on air, including numerous politicians who populate the innumerable and incredibly inane chat shows that are on air.


The funniest part of this entire drama though are the views of MP Sanjay Nirupam, who incidentally participated in the second season of this show and was given a short shrift by the voting audience after a few episodes. Having got his two minutes of fame, or infamy as the case maybe, this gentleman now says that the show is nothing but obscenity and should be banned. But then politicians are known to have short memories for the promises they make and long animosities towards the reverses they suffer. Coming back to the show, we suppose the makers should have realised that every Bigg Boss has a Bigger Boss, in this case the I&B ministry, watching them.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PHASE OUT KEROSENE SUBSIDIES, TOO

 

The prime minister's call at last week's ministerial in Delhi that climate-friendly, environmentally-sound technologies

 be viewed as global public goods is unexceptionable. What's implied is that the intellectual property rights regime applied to such goods needs to balance rewards for innovators with the need to promote the common global good, as Dr Manmohan Singh rightly emphasised.


In tandem, what's surely required is that large, high-growth potential economies like India firm up policy initiatives to boost demand for green, environmentally-friendly technologies. Such policy action ought to remove rigidities on the supply side, and so rev up technology diffusion in a cost-effective manner. Consider, for instance, the open-ended subsidies on kerosene oil (SKO) supposedly meant for the poor, and billed at over Rs 10,000 crore per annum.


What's clearly required is a national plan to phase out grossly subsidised SKO — much of which is diverted for fuel adulteration — with solar lamps and cookers. In the process, it would bring about better allocation of resources for promising solar and other green technologies. Given the huge sums involved in subsidising fossil fuels, phasing them out-fast would mean more fiscal space for development. Ecologically, it would make perfect sense too.


The PM also called for appropriate financial arrangements to facilitate technology development, transfer and diffusion. Proactive policy and global co-operation would be key. The Delhi statement does call for the setting up of technology centres, for speedier absorption and follow through. As an energy deficient economy with low energy efficiency levels to boot, New Delhi does need to impress upon the global community to set up collaborative, nodal centres for green technologies in India.


The costs and benefits of such initiatives are likely to be optimal here, with the ready availability of human resources. Ultimately though, that's required is demanding customers and a conducive eco-system for nurturing innovative, green technologies. For example, now that Delhi is upgrading its bus fleet, using solar power for lighting and even air-conditioning seems an option to explore. With creative policy design, we could run entire transport fleets with green energy alternatives.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

RBI COULD RAISE RATES SOON

 

It is welcome that the central bank has not raised the policy rates. It is also welcome that RBI governor Subbarao has begun the task of breaking inflationary expectations, by withdrawing some of the extraordinary accommodation of credit needs innovated in the wake of the financial crisis.

 

Considering the trend in inflation, over 10% for consumer prices and poised to hit over 6.5% at the wholesale level by year-end, it is important that the central bank make it clear that it would rein inflation in. However, its growth expectation for the economy, at 6% this fiscal, is too conservative.


It is unlikely that growth would be any lower than the 6.5% estimated by the prime minister's economic advisory council. If a low growth estimate leads on to corresponding low estimates of credit growth, and policy is put in place to clamp down on credit growth in excess of that, that could prove damaging.

Fortunately, there is nothing automatic about the present estimate of growth and the central bank's actual policy on credit availability. The RBI has the flexibility, in both intellectual and institutional terms, to amend its policy stance to ensure that growth would not be choked off due to non-availability of credit. But for this flexibility and the ample liquidity in the system, the RBI's conservatism on growth would have been a source of worry.

More welcome is governor Subbarao's announcement that the central bank is willing to move ahead with introduction of new financial instruments, which would fill the gaps in hedging needs and make the debt market thicker and more mature.


Thus, the central bank is paving the way for the country to witness floating rate bonds, repos on corporate bonds, credit default swaps, STRIPS, forex futures for currencies other than the dollar and some more. Whether the monetary authority should continue to regulate these market instruments is part of a larger debate but the introduction of derivatives at a time when they are in bad odour around the world took courage. The RBI deserves kudos for this. As also for its contributions to financial inclusion: expanded eligibility for becoming a banking correspondent and allowing banks to collect service charges.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

LIKE A KING, CREATE SPACE FOR YOURSELF

 

Being proactive is among the great virtues of a king that Valmiki lists in Ramayana. "This is what the Sage termed agravashi, or the one who initiates conversation," writes Subroto Bagchi in his new book The Professional. "This self-confidence is not about who you are; it is about where the conversation could lead. What if (by initiating the conversation first) I end up committing to something?

 

 "What if you ask me for something I cannot give or do not have? Fear of commitment makes us stay put, keeping the hand and the words to ourselves," adds Bagchi whose latest designation is 'Gardner' for his role 'to repot, weed, fertilise, even clip the human sources' of his company.


According to him proactive individuals are genuinely interested in the well-being and welfare of the other person. Nor are they worried about creating work for themselves as an unwanted consequence of reaching out. Sometimes though being proactive can land one into trouble. But then what's a king who is afraid of trouble?
Being proactive is also the number one virtue in the list of Steve Covey's motivational
best-seller The 7 Habits of Effective People. This entails taking conscious control over your life, setting your own priorities and goals and working actively to achieve them rather than waiting passively for opportunities and merely reacting to events outside your control.


Even in the reactive mode, you aren't as helpless as you may think, says Covey pointing to the gap between stimulus and response. Within that gap — what Kashmiri Shaivite Masters also ubiquitously refer to as joint or sandhi — lies unimaginable potential for change.


Choosing or timing your response well would be relatively minor aspect of this change. It needs to be preceded by self-awareness: if somebody insults or accuses you, there's no 'law' on earth, except in tribal codes or in knee-jerk Pavlovian responses that says that you must respond likewise.


You can choose not to get angry. But you have to be conscious of your power of choice backed by the creative imagination to envision an alternative. This also calls for chutzpah, to be able to exercise the freedom to choose your own unique response.


Can you buck the pressure? Can you, like a real King, create the space for yourself to decide on your own terms? More important, can you accept the consequences without whining excuses or pointing fingers at others?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HIGH BETA STOCKS - WILL CORRECT IN SHORT TERM BUT GOOD LONG TERM BETS: ANTIQUE STOCK BROKING

 

Krish Shanbagh, Head of Research at Antique Stock Broking told ET Now on Wednesday that investors would like to encash gains in high beta stocks till the end of this year but, these stocks should be a part of a long term portfolio.


Do you think that the carnage or the worst is over for Banking for the immediate term?

I would look at it in an another way - all the high beta sectors are correcting, they rallied very-very sharply during the year and coming to the close of the year investors would want to perhaps have a more defensive portfolio than take high beta risks. So, in the medium term the high beta sectors like Banking would perhaps underperform till the end of the year. India is clearly showing characteristics of growth, the quarterly numbers which have come out so far indicate a growth of close to 30% which is back to the tops that we have seen in 2006-2007. So, in the short term yes, high beta stocks and sectors would perhaps underperform but over a longer term, maybe one to two years, they will start performing again given that growth is emerging back to markets.

How far do you think these high beta sectors specifically banking, maybe even real estate if you will, could go down in the immediate downtrend?

It is a very difficult guess to make but I would not rule a 10 to 15% correction even from these levels.


After the numbers is there a case that the premium Infosys has commanded and needs to narrow down?

Essentially if you look at the growth rates which different companies have demonstrated, the band has narrowed and Infosys used to be at significant premium on the growth rates consistently and that is why it got a premium to other companies. Now that the gap of growth is coming down, the valuation gap is also coming down.

Having said that what would be very interesting to see is the market is expecting given the kind of valuations that they are
trading at is expecting significant growth in FY11, so one would have to wait and watch whether Infosys pulls away from the pack and perhaps reports higher growths for FY11 compared to other companies. But, at current levels the market is seeing at least based on what performance has been for the last many quarters historically that perhaps this premium is not warranted and that is where other companies have caught up on Infosys.


Last time you were recommending your clients to buy Bharti but Bharti unfortunately from those levels is still off Rs. 50, it is at 300, are you still buying Bharti aggressively, if yes, why?

We would perhaps want to take a fresh call once results are out. The competitive dynamics have been very adverse in the last couple of weeks and we would just wait to take a call again on the stock once results are out.


What are you watching out for in the numbers that will come out today or which are the ones that you are more keen on?

Basically rather than sectors, we are looking at the big sectors now, like oil and gas is yet to report. So we are waiting for results in oil and gas. We had Idea but the large two telecom companies are going to report. So essentially we are looking at some large cap companies to report in the next couple of days because they form bulk of the earnings. So whatever growth we have seen so far it is centred an inflection point of what I told you earlier of 30% but these companies will determine what is the final earnings growth for the market for the current quarter and we just need to wait at some of the large companies to report just to see where earnings stack up.


One word on the metals space, how do you play these, some of the earnings have been disappointing, Tata Steel in particular, do any of these stocks warrant a look at in terms of their results that have come out?

I do not think they are disappointing because if one looks at a YoY impact, the market expected them to be down as much as they have reported close to 50%. But, on a quarter on quarter basis the metal sector is showing clear signs of improvement which is what we saw in first quarter of this year. Then for Tata Steel we are seeing some amount of stabilisation in the second quarter, so for metal and real estate sector, two sectors, the market knows that YoY numbers are going to be very weak but that is discounted in price and markets are looking at more of a quarter on quarter growth rather than a YoY number because the high base effects of last year will weigh on these companies and sectors.


What is in house recommendation at this point in time, what is it that you are advising clients to buy or sell?

We continue to maintain that, the growth momentum is back in markets and it has been proven as far as corporate results go, economic data which comes out goes etc. So there are clear signs that we are seeing a quarter on quarter growth in economy etc. The only one fundamental factor which is yet to show signs of improvement is credit growth and credit growth is slipping on every fortnight etc. But, if you have to position a portfolio in the long term you need to position in sectors which benefit out of the higher growth that India can produce and as a result of which we would recommend investors buy into high beta sectors.

           

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TOURISM GROWTH IN INDIA IS COMMENDABLE: EHL CHAIRMAN

SHRUTI AMBAVAT

 

With the revival in the Indian economy and outlook for the hotel industry looking bright, it is not surprising that global hospitality and hotel industry wants to participate in the $23-billion Indian hospitality sector. Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, a renowned hospitality school in Switzerland has an academic certification tie-up with Ecole Hoteliere Lavasa, a newly established hotel institute. EHL chairman Marco Torriani spoke on future of hospitality in India. Excerpts:


What makes Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne choose India for its educational expansion?

No rational organisation in the world can afford to ignore India and its potential — the future is in India. Indian hospitality industry consists of organised and unorganised sectors and both contribute immensely to the tourism industry.

Which segment of the Indian hospitality industry looks attractive?

While the hospitality industry was traditionally restricted to hotels and restaurants, the term is now embracing most other service industries. We are expecting our students to also work within event management companies, banks, theme parks, airlines, cruise lines, retail management and hospital management. Of the students who graduate from Indian hotel schools today, 40% join other service industries.


Do you think India is shaping well as a mega tourist destination like Malaysia, Thailand and others?

We believe India is a very interesting destination and globally competitive. It is not appropriate to compare India with any other country, as the conditions and cultural circumstances are unique. I would rather state that the Indian tourism growth is commendable. However, a lot more is still to be achieved.


What does India need to do to become a tourist haven?

India has already introduced several bold steps to spur the tourism sector. It has introduced several incentives including 100% FDI by foreign investors; earmarked land in many small and large town plans; investing in infrastructure to produce access, power and potable water. What's required are more professional human resources; proper public hygiene and sanitation and greater infrastructure planning. Additionally, India needs to ensure safety and security for all residents and visitors, and that there is no negative tourism publicity that is generated by its own people and government departments.


What is your outlook for the hotel industry in the near term?

While there were 2.2 million rooms in 2002, the number is expected to rise to 2.5 million rooms in 2010; and 5.8 million rooms by 2020. It must be noted that only 7% are classified hotels (i.e., given a star rating). Most expansion is happening in the semi-organised sector. This translated into human resources is 3.4 million people by 2020 at an annual demand of 39,000 qualified people. The present supply is only 25,000 trained personnel from all hotel schools.

 

What did you find is lacking in India?

India has introduced several incentives including 100% FDI by foreign investors. But, we cannot ignore that India is a developing country and faces several challenges. Tourism specifically would receive a great boost if there was easy access, cleanliness and hygiene within the public areas, improved quality of roads and all transport vehicles, and finally scheduling reliability within the public transport services.


What's your investment in Ecole Hoteliere Lavasa?

Our investment comprises of transferring all the knowledge and experience which we have gained over our past 116 years of existence and are presenting it to Lavasa in a structured, easy to implement manner.


What competitive advantage do you see for yourself here?

Ecole Hoteliere Lavasa is the only hospitality management institute in India and may be globally with all business hospitality models from budget hotels to luxury hotels, spas, wellness centres at its doorstep with immediate and unfettered access for our students.


Are you open to more tie-ups across India with other schools?

No. We will be focusing our energies on making EHL a success. This is a giant task in itself. If EHL becomes a new Indian benchmark, then the rest of the schools will follow suit.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOVT NOT TELLING ME TO TAKE ITS VIEW: RBI GOVERNOR

SUGATA GHOSH AND MAYUR SHETTY

 

Duvvuri Subbarao has completed a full monetary policy cycle. His first policy was in the aftermath of the global financial crisis in October 2008. A year later, when the focus has shifted to 'recovery management,' the governor has already picked up the art of managing to surprise the market by announcing a hike in statutory liquidity ratio requirement for banks. He has made it clear that RBI has never used and will not use the exchange rate as an instrument to fight inflation. In a candid interview, Mr Subbarao speaks about the thinking that went behind the policy and how he feels when the government and RBI speak in different voices. Excerpts:

A year ago RBI had bailed out builders. Now, those loans are coming up for rollover and you have hiked loan provisioning. Are you concerned there's a bubble? Is there a need for property prices to correct?

I wouldn't say there's a bubble, but I would certainly say that there is a need for correction of prices. We have discussed with banks and banks have told us that while there has been an adjustment of prices in the housing sector, there has been no correction in the commercial sector where lot of capacity is idle. That is one of the things that has prompted us to raise the provisioning cover for commercial real estate. Banks already distinguish between loans for housing projects and loans for commercial real estate. They have systems to ensure that their money is used on the specified projects


You have laid down a 70% loan provisioning coverage for all bad loans. This has not gone down well among bankers or in the market. Isn't it a little high?

This provisioning requirement is for non-performing assets and not for loans that are good. Second, there is a theory verified by practical experience that banks need to build buffers in good times ... counter-cyclical provisions. Even though the economy is recovering, banks have done very well and their profitability is good. This is the time to provide for what could possibly be bad loans.


Banks are putting more and more money in mutual funds. It's just money revolving within the system...

Yes, there has been a manifold increase in the amount kept by banks in debt mutual funds in the past six months. That is by itself not objectionable, but there are incentives in the system which drive that because income from MFs is exempt from tax. We only give 3.25% through the reverse repo window and MFs are giving more. And there is also some concern regarding regulatory arbitrage, in the sense what MFs are doing with the money. Some of the money is coming back to us, some going as credit. We want banks to lend directly. There is no concern over MFs, but there is concern over the circularity in money movement . We have requested banks to take the issue to their board and have some governance norms for their investment in debt MFs.

The compulsions of fiscal deficit and the government's increasing dependence on banks for funds could make PSU banks end up like public sector oil companies.

I don't think that fear is there. Our borrowing is all in the market. RBI does not finance the borrowing through the primary market. Therefore, I think interest rates are market-driven and there is certain transparency, and much before we hit a crisis level, the government and the system will make a correction. So, the possibility that we will hit a crisis without knowing about it is unnecessary.

 

SLR hike doesn't really serve any purpose and is not a substitute to HTM hike. When will you again reduce SLR?
Well, I was earlier saying that we will bring it down in the long-term, and in a lighter vein, I said the long-term is in a Keynesian sense. I am unable to put a timeframe on when we will start reducing SLR as a reform measure. What we have done is to revert to the pre-crisis level rather than a reform measure. It does not serve a purpose now when the government borrowing requirement is so high and banks have no demand for credit. But when credit picks up, SLR will become a binding constraint.


You spoke about open market operations to reduce liquidity. But since you don't have bonds, will market stabilisation bonds make a comeback?

I cannot say whether MSS will make a comeback. But if capital flows are far in excess, there will be the traditional question of managing the impossible trinity. Either we have to issue bonds under the market stabilisation scheme, or we have to let the exchange rate appreciate or we have to manage liquidity. We could also do a combination of all three. Our approach has been to use middle solutions and not corner solutions. That, I believe, will be the approach.


When you move to the next phase of exit... what are the key data points you will look at?

No mathematical formula, no exhaustive list of indicators, but we will be listening to people...We will look at inflation, particularly non-food inflation, growth indicators like IIP, export performance, and imports, especially non-oil imports.


Market continues to suffer from multiple voices. Even as you spoke about challenges of unwinding, different government functionaries said interest rates should not go up. Does this bother you?

It bothers me to the extent of managing market perception. There is a limit to which we can manage market perception. In a democracy there are differences of opinion and I believe they add value. So, in the government, they have a point of view, in the central bank we have a point of view, various analysts and media people have their points of view and I believe these differences have served us well. I am not going to tell the government to take a point of view and the government is not telling me to take a point of view. There are differences of view and the market has to live with that... I want to say that the media also has a responsibility... I don't speak to the public, I speak to you and you communicate.


RBI seems to have abandoned the central banking jargon...the language is more direct. Is it a conscious effort?
I come from the outside and I am learning. Wherever you go to a job you try to improve and there are lot of intelligent people in RBI who are also change agents, and together, we have taken a view to pay greater attention to communication, especially in difficult times, and I hope that has been valued.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WIPRO BETS ON SHARED SERVICES TO PUSH GROWTH: JOINT CEOS

 P THIMMAYA & PANKAJ MISHRA

 

BANGALORE: India's third-biggest software exporter Wipro announced better-than-expected third quarter revenues on Tuesday and said that while it expects customers to have flat IT budgets, spending is not going to plummet any further. Suresh Vaswani and Girish Paranjpe, the company's joint CEOs, told ET in an interview that Wipro's focus on non-linear growth and diversified geographic business is helping the company cope with lower demand. Excerpts:


How do you see demand for outsourcing over the next few quarters; is the worst over?

Paranjpe: Our third quarter guidance is based on volume growth and we are a bit more optimistic. We are seeing good momentum among the broad spectrum of clients across geographies and verticals. Though there are some sectors like telecom which are consolidating, we are diversifying our services without being dependent on any single service. Being a preferred vendor for Nokia Siemens Networks is one of the examples where we will be providing services beyond just engineering activity.


Vaswani: The new demand is different, and customers want you to take bold steps in terms of architecting newer delivery and engagement models. The new demand also comes at an increased risk, because it's about services and not necessarily people. We have domain expertise to address these opportunities. Also, if we can demonstrate a project like Aircel here, we can always do it anywhere.


Arresting linear, people-led growth has emerged as top priority for many software services firms. What progress have you made on this front?

Vaswani: Non-linearity is really on the top of our agenda. We are doing more shared services and platform-based delivery than ever before. While the revenues from such initiatives are not huge, it's going to be a very important journey for us going forward.


Paranjpe: Everybody is at an early stage and nobody can declare a success of it. We are taking a small step in saying how we could diversify through a combination of tools, automation or shared services. There are other services or platforms which could also provide the non-linearity. There are several ways we can achieve non-linearity, but I would say, we are still in early stages.


How do you see customers planning for their IT and outsourcing budgets?

Paranjpe: I think people are still on track and early indications are they will have kind of a flat budget. However, there would be provisions for M&A and special greenfield projects but only when these IT budgets are broken up into hardware, software and services, will we get a sense of things.


Vaswani: Customers are driving productivity across their assets, and we see a cost transformation role for us. The idea is to do more with less, and with the same budget

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STEEL DEMAND GROWING IN INDIA: TATA STEEL MD

MV RAMSURYA

 

Tata Steel's new managing director Hemant Nerurkar seems set to experience a baptism by fire. A slowing steel market in Europe amid growing resentment from labour unions, rising prices of raw materials, tackling local opposition jittery about an Orissa plant and battling environmentalists at a forthcoming port project, Mr Nerurkar has his plate full. But that is a familiar territory for this metallurgical engineer from Pune, who has been with Tata Steel for the past 27 years. Mr Nerurkar, who took charge of the Kalinganagar steel project in Orissa in 2004, when local opposition was at its peak, has faced varied challenges in his almost three-decade stint with the Tatas. Taking charge of the country's largest steel company, at a time when the steel industry is just about recovering from the downturn, Mr Nerurkar outlines his views in a first-ever interaction with the media after taking over as managing director.


The situation in the second quarter of this fiscal year is hugely different from that last year. While in 2008, Tata Steel saw record net profit aided solely by the more than doubling of steel prices, this year a sharp erosion in prices was reflected in the 50% fall in Q2 net profit. How would you describe the situation, and how long would it take for the sector to improve?

The situation in Europe is bad. According to global industry estimates, steel consumption in the US and Europe will fall back by seven years. Although the slide has stopped, recovery will take some time in those markets. But it isn't that bad in Asia. Steel demand is actually growing in China and India. But this growth in the sector is currently skewed. While it has fallen in Europe and the US and other western markets, the increase in steel demand in China and India and other emerging markets has maintained the overall consumption. There will have to be some tough measures and improvements in the way operations are done and the way markets are addressed.

Corus has hogged attention of late. And the unions too have been vocal in their opposition...

Strong measures can never be easy. It is very difficult to adopt such steps. But such things have to be done differently. Keeping the communication channels open and explaining the situation is very vital. You have to adopt a human approach in such situations. But, I don't want to say much, as Corus is scheduled to make an announcement next month.


The growth in demand has put pressure on raw materials. How would Indian companies cope in this rush for resource assets, especially as China has also been very aggressive, and so have been other countries?

Indian companies will certainly find it difficult, but I don't think there are other issues (such as Western interests thwarting moves by Chinese and Indian firms to own such assets). The only factor that is important here is the kind of confidence that the group has enjoyed. The Tatas have a reputation that is known worldwide. The rush for resources will definitely put a (upward) pressure on prices. So, that makes it all the more imperative to own such assets. Tata Steel has always operated with captive resources and that is the reason we have been lowest cost producers.


You have been in charge of Tata Steel's Orissa project. The opposition to the project has been strong and widespread...
There are about 1,200 families living at the site (of Tata Steel's proposed steel plant). Of these, only about 200 people are opposing the project. And that too on factors that don't sound convincing. It's surprising and mysterious because the same families have relatives in Sukinda and Noamundi (where Tata Steel has mines), where they've seen how the Tatas take care of displaced people. If you compare the condition of the people living at the site, it is certain that these people have been misguided. But we are sure things will change. The steel project is close to taking off.


The port project (at Dhamra in Orissa) has also seen lot of opposition from environmentalists, who have alleged that the project will destroy the turtle population.

It is unfortunate how such a myth is being spread. It is also unfair that in a joint venture, only one partner has to face the entire blame. (The port project at Dhamra is a joint venture between Tata Steel and L&T). We are working closely with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a premier body for conservation of wildlife. We have always been prepared to talk to environmentalists on the issue, but they have not been forthcoming. Sadly, nobody talks about the large number of turtles that get killed by fishing trawlers.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PARANOIA APPARENT IN PAK RESPONSES

 

India has always been concerned with the political and financial stability of Pakistan. Improbable as it may seem to those outside the subcontinent, irrespective of political parties it has been the standard formulation of the ruling establishment in this country that a stable atmosphere in Pakistan is in India's interest, not to say of the interest of the Pakistani people themselves. The reason is quite simple. When life in Pakistan is unsettled, that country's military establishment — which is its decision-making elite in every sense — tends to behave in an erratic manner toward India, and is known to attempt to whip up a nationalist fervour in order to paper over internal cracks or cover up acute domestic deficiencies. The Kargil conflict was initiated by Islamabad at a time of acute financial crisis in Pakistan. The 1971 war had as its backdrop the mahabharat that was being played out in that country's internal politics involving the Pakistan People's Party and the Awami League, a state of affairs that would end in secession, and preceding that cause an influx of millions into India from the erstwhile East Pakistan. If anything, the situation in Pakistan today is one of acute social and political nervousness bordering on paranoia, coupled with a rapidly deteriorating security outlook. Perhaps it is fair to say that at no time before has Pakistan suffered from the simultaneous occurrence of a grave security threat of an existential nature and financial inertia relieved only by benefactors' infusions from overseas. Credible media reports speak of preparations by people wanting to temporarily migrate in order to get out of harm's way on account of the war in the North-West Frontier Province and areas contiguous to it. In the event, this country has been compelled to issue an advisory to Indians to postpone travel to Pakistan unless they absolutely must, and avoid making even pilgrimages. Unfortunately, the political establishment in that country has taken exception to notes of caution sounded by India. In what can only be called a knee-jerk reaction, the foreign ministry in Islamabad was swift to take umbrage at the expression of the Indian hope by the foreign secretary that the Pakistani nuclear establishment should be firewalled from jihadist depradations. Pakistan's interior minister Mr Rahman Mailk has now gone a step further. In a quixotic response to absolutely nothing in particular, he has lashed out at New Delhi for being behind the Pakistani Taliban movement that has pitted itself against the Pakistan military. A more extraordinary suggestion cannot be imagined. From blaming India for its internal woes in Balochistan, a high official has chosen to accuse this country of cohabiting with the Taliban. Mr Malik, in some ways, calls to mind the village schoolmaster in Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village who "though vanquished, (he) could argue still". If Pakistan cannot get out of the mindset of blaming others for its internal loss of equilibrium, it is unlikely to take any meaningful steps to deal with the enormous problems that confront it.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IN EDUCATION DEBATE, GEOGRAPHY MATTERS

BY ASHOK MALIK

 

When the finger points to the moon, the idiot points to the finger. Old Chinese proverbIn many ways the debate, discussion and disputation following the human resource development minister, Mr Kapil Sibal's suggestion that school-leaving examination results be given greater weight when it comes to admitting students to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has focused on the inessentials. At present, a freshman at the IITs is required to make the shortlist after the joint entrance examination (JEE) as well as get a minimum of 60 per cent in his/her year Class 12 marksheet.


There have been suggestions this cut-off is too low and is encouraging IIT aspirants to neglect school examinations. The minister thought aloud and wondered if a minimum grade of 80 per cent was called for. The final decision has been left to a committee of technocrats and academics that will submit a report in early 2010.
Meanwhile, the "80 per cent" figure has triggered media hysteria. It has been called unrealistic and unfair. Politicians from Bihar have claimed the coaching institutes that send hundreds to the IITs every year — many of the successful candidates being from Bihar — are actually performing a task of social engineering. As such, Mr Sibal's focus on school examination results is "elitist". In all this, the crux of the issue has been quickly lost sight of.


What is the crux of the issue? It is simply this: Even for schoolchildren from similar backgrounds and with matching intellectual and academic accomplishments, the Indian college/university entrance system does not provide a level-playing field.


In theory, India is one country and any Indian can go to college anywhere in India. In practice, this is just not possible. There is no equal treatment under conditions of equality. The IIT entrance system is only a symptom of this. It is pointless arguing over the symptom — or even tackling the symptom — without understanding its wider framework.


India has over 30 school education boards. They represent different curricula, philosophies of pedagogy and cultures of examination and marking. For instance, the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) — which conducts the Indian School Certificate (ISC) (Year-XII) examination — and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have hundreds of students scoring 90 per cent or more. Other boards are miserly. The Maharashtra Higher Secondary Board is a case in point. In the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education examination, even 70 per cent was considered an exceptional score till some years ago.
Students from such state boards were put at a disadvantage. An ISC or CBSE topper with 95 per cent could walk into St. Stephen's College in Delhi. A good student from the West Bengal board would have been hard put to get his name on the third list at St. Stephen's.


The West Bengal Higher Secondary authorities recognised this shortcoming. In the past decade, they have become very liberal in their marking system, bringing it at par with the CBSE or ISC.


However, distortions remain. In Maharashtra, college authorities resort to positive discrimination in favour of state higher secondary board graduates, as against those from the all-India boards — CBSE or CISCE. An informal system of standardising marks has been worked out.


Obviously no such standardisation has been carried out for each of the other 30 odd state/regional boards. As such, if a higher secondary graduate from the Bihar or Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh board turns up at, say, Mumbai's Jai Hind College, the admission process will be very complex. College administrators will have to first determine how niggardly or generous the candidate's home board is with its marks — as compared to the Maharashtra board — and then take a decision.


There are other anomalies too. West Bengal has a strong tradition of technical education. The state has its own joint entrance examination for admission to engineering courses at Jadavpur University (Kolkata) and at institutions in Durgapur and Shibpur. The West Bengal higher secondary examination and the West Bengal JEE have a similar orientation. It is not unusual for top students of the West Bengal board (science stream) to also top the West Bengal JEE but not do as well in the IIT JEE.


The source code for the IIT JEE has been cracked elsewhere. Coaching institutes in, among other places, Kota (Rajasthan) and Patna send many students to the IITs every year. These institutes are run by diligent teachers who spend months studying the pattern of IIT JEE question papers and preparing their students for every possible query within that universe. Every few years, the IIT authorities change the JEE pattern. The coaching institutes work meticulously to understand the mysteries of the new pattern as well.


Consider the irony. An IIT JEE coaching institute in Kota can help you get into IIT Kanpur but not necessarily to do well in the West Bengal JEE and get into, say, the engineering school at Jadavpur University. On the other hand, the science stream of the West Bengal board can give you an advantage if you sit the West Bengal JEE but not necessarily if you take the IIT JEE.


In other words, where you are located — in terms of your higher secondary board or your coaching institute — determines which college you get into. Geography becomes more important than intrinsic ability and affinity for an academic or technical course.


Think about it: one good or bad examination could decide whether you access an engineering college of your choice or not. Your performance in that examination itself could be pre-determined by the state your parents chose to live in, the higher secondary board your school is affiliated to or the particular private tutor you put your faith in. It is the ultimate lottery.


Liberal arts colleges can find a way out by interviewing admission seekers and judging their aptitude for economics or history or philosophy. Engineering seats are much more competitively sought and there is little room for subjective calls by public-funded institutions. They will be accused of prejudice if they turn to anything but an "objective" statistical assessment.


How fair is such a system to someone who has not deciphered the source code of the relevant entrance examination but does otherwise have a distinguished track record at school? There is no easy answer — but at least Mr Sibal is forcing us to ask the question.

 

 Ashok Malik can becontacted at malikashok@gmail.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GOVERNMENT CONCEIT AND CEO SALARY CHEQUES

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Humans are overconfident creatures. Ninety-four per cent of college professors believe they are above average teachers, and 90 per cent of drivers believe they are above average behind the wheel. Researchers Paul J.H. Schoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave computer executives quizzes on their industry. Afterward, the executives estimated that they had gotten five per cent of the answers wrong. In fact, they had gotten 80 per cent of the answers wrong.


Fortunately, for those who study the human comedy, the epicentre of overconfidence moves from year to year. Up until recently, people in the financial world bathed in the warm glow of their own self-approval. Hubris in that world always takes the same form: The geniuses there come to believe that they have mastered risk. The future is an algorithm and they've cracked the code.


Over the past year, the bonfire of overconfidence has shifted to Washington. Since the masters of finance have been exposed as idiots, the masters of government have concluded (somewhat illogically) that they must be really smart.


Overconfidence in government also has a characteristic form: That of highly rational Olympians who attempt to stand above problems and solve them in a finely tuned and impartial manner. In moments of government overconfidence, officials come to see society not as a dynamic and complex organism, but as a machine, which can be rebuilt. In such moments, governance and engineering merge into one.


Examples of this overconfidence abound. But let us pick just one: the effort to cap financial compensation.
Back in the days of Wall Street overconfidence, the financial titans believed that they deserved to give each other gross domestic product-level pay packages, even though there is no evidence that such packages improve performance. Now in disgrace, Wall Street firms are rewriting their rules, but the Obama administration has decided it should take control of compensation reform. Nobody seriously believes high pay caused the financial meltdown; it was bubblicious groupthink. But cutting executive pay just polls so well.
Every great action can be done in a spirit of humility or in a spirit of overconfidence. Regulating pay in a spirit of humility would mean rebalancing the power between shareholders and executives, without getting government involved in micromanaging individual pay decisions.


But this is not a moment of humility. Treasury officials are now making individual pay-package decisions across an array of different companies — and they must have really big brains to understand the motivational psychology of all those different people. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, has decided to police banks and veto pay deals that lead to excessive risk. Those experts must have absolutely gigantic brains if they can define excessive risk years before investments pay off.


The best and the brightest in government are now rewriting existing pay contracts and determining that certain firms will be compelled to pay much less than their competitors. They're not levelling the playing field, as a humble government would do. They're making it less level in complicated ways.


Reality, of course, has a way of upending finely crafted plans. The effort to cap golden parachutes in 1989 perversely caused companies to increase their golden parachute packages right up to the legal limit. A 1993 law to cap CEO pay led to greater use of stock options and encouraged riskier behaviour.
In advance of the current new pay restrictions, 12 out of the 25 highest-paid executives have already left American International Group, and 11 out of 25 have left Bank of America. We'll never know how much future talent was dissuaded from working at these ailing firms.


Citigroup used to have a really high-performing energy unit. But under the new salary regime, the bank wasn't permitted to pay the chief of that unit what he thought he was worth. Citigroup was forced to sell that profitable unit at bargain-basement prices to Occidental Petroleum.


These rules probably won't even have a big effect on executive wealth. They'll just drive compensation into back channels and risk-taking into unseen parts of the market.


Again, the issue is not whether government acts, but whether it acts with an awareness of the limits of its knowledge. Sometimes we seem to have a government with no sense of those limits, no sense that perhaps government officials don't know how to restructure General Motors, pick the most promising battery technology, re-engineer the healthcare system from the top, or fine-tune the complex system of executive pay.
Furthermore, when extending federal authority, the Obama folks never seem to ask how Republicans will use this power when they regain the White House. The Democrats trust themselves to set private-sector salaries and use extralegal means to go after malefactors, but would they trust a future Dick Cheney? I hope they know what they're doing. Because when a future Cheney comes into office, I'm pretty sure he'll be coming after columnists' salaries first.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

FROZEN SMILES, LIMP HANDSHAKES

BY VIKRAM SOOD

 

It was good to hear the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi speak of an irreversible China-India friendship. There have been manifest signs of improved ties with burgeoning trade, comprising our raw materials for shoddy Chinese manufactured goods, exchange of high-level visits, quadrilaterals in the form of Brazil, Russia, India and China and a trilateral mechanism with Russia and cooperation on climate change policies. The Chinese foreign minister is now in Bengaluru and Zhou Yongkang, standing committee member of the politburo, will visit India in November. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Chinese counterpart in Thailand last Saturday. Quite obviously, the smiles were frozen and the handshakes limp as the Chinese spoke of functional cooperation, which is quite different from President Hu Jintao's formulation of a vision statement. This is one reality of apparent normality.


There is, however, another reality which cannot be ignored. There has been a gradual and a disturbing shift in the Chinese attitude towards India in the past few years and the voices that one has been hearing from Beijing in recent months have been less than comforting.


From an initial pretence of disdain about India's economic rise, the mood has switched to some irritation with India's new relationship with the United States, which the Chinese today probably evaluate as being more strategic than just relating to a civil nuclear deal. In recent months since August 2009, there have been increased intrusions into India, accompanied by a marked sharpness in tenor. The decibel of references to Arunachal Pradesh is higher — protests about the Dalai Lama's planned visit to Tawang and belated protests about our Prime Minister's visit to Arunachal Pradesh even in the official People's Daily that reflects the Communist Party of China's official position accurately. This message was delivered while Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Nepal Communist Party boss Prachanda were in Beijing. There have been other worrying signs, notably the practice of issuing paper visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir, thereby conveying that the state was disputed territory. All this underscores the reality that improved trade relations between neighbours do not necessarily mean improved political relations as long as there are undemarcated borders. Questions of demarcation have now been converted into territorial disputes, with the Chinese now repeatedly referring to Arunachal as "Southern Tibet".


There are international and domestic issues that may be worrying the Chinese. The Tibet disturbances of March 2008 and those in Xinjiang in July this year alarmed Beijing. The decline of Pakistan and the present situation in Afghanistan are both challenges and opportunities for the Chinese. Pakistan's instability means that an important plank of Chinese policy in the region, to contain India and secure access to the Arabian Sea, has become unsteady and may have an uncertain future. Apart from that, a weakened but Islamised central authority in Islamabad could have repercussions among the restive Uighurs of Xinjiang. The troubles in Xinjiang were serious enough for President Hu Jintao to leave the Group of Eight summit and head home. It is possible that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is now handling the situation both in Tibet and Xinjiang and the hard line from the Chinese foreign office on Arunachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang may be a result of this change.


America's predicament in Afghanistan provides China an opportunity to raise its profile in Afghanistan/Iran and Central Asia. With a $3.5 billion investment in the Anyak copper project in Logar province, one of the world's largest copper deposits, China is today the largest investor in Afghanistan. China has also offered to build a railway line and a power plant which would treble its investment.

As India and China seek to progress there will be greater competition for resources, markets and influence. Cooperation will remain an ideal and both would want to avoid confrontation, or worse, conflict. In terms of military spending, India does not have the capability or even the intention to match China weapon for weapon, force for force. It is extrapolated that by 2050 China will be spending $775 billion on defence — three times India's defence budget despite our huge land and sea boundaries. The high drama in the Indian press that the Chinese were anxious about Indian plans to develop Agni 5 is just that. No Chinese general is too bothered about this considering that the PLA has already covered India and most of the world with its missiles. What irks them really are the graphics that accompany such reportage, showing Beijing as having been brought within range of Indian missiles.


Quite often, many ask if India will ever catch up with China. The figures of military spending, the size of the economies, the rate of growth, the amount of money spent by each country on infrastructure, electricity production, agricultural produce, research and development and reserves held, confirm that the gap is enormous. Mohan Guruswamy and Zorawar Daulet Singh in their latest book Chasing the Dragon: Will India Catch Up with China? make this quite clear. Even though Goldman Sachs predicts that China, the US and India will be the three largest global economies by 2050, it would be more realistic for India to aspire to be a global player whose voice will be heard rather than attaining the status of a superpower. The question we need to ask is can China afford to catch up with India's raucous democracy and still survive?


China has endeavoured to restrict India's influence to its borders. Only recently, it reminded our neighbours that India had hegemonistic tendencies while extending its "peaceful" relationship with them, while claiming "harmonious rise" in a wary neighbourhood. The prime example of this is the manner in which China has godfathered Pakistan's India-specific nuclear and missile capabilities.


China is our powerful neighbour and India and China are not in the same league. Pakistan refused to accept this reality in its relations with India and today finds itself adrift despite valiant US efforts to shore up its ally. It is best to accept the India-China reality and fashion our responses accordingly.


There is nothing to be gained either by becoming a hysterical tabloid nation when it comes to a bigger neighbour or a helpless flailing state when we have to deal with a smaller neighbour. We simply have to evolve a method of peaceful cohabitation; there is nothing to be gained by jingoism and everything to be lost by seeming to be weak and succumbing to pressure. It is quite likely that the Chinese leadership will glower at us from across the Himalayas; should that happen we should not blink — and it should not be that His Holiness suddenly develops a diplomatic illness! That would be most unfortunate because that would, in effect, give the Chinese a veto on our relations with His Holiness and decide who visits Tawang.


Thus, we need to be able to protect our interests more effectively, at and inside our borders, in our neighbourhood, the seas that surround us and in Asia. Therefore, massive infrastructure development is required in the Northeast which is people-friendly and not simply meant to cater to our strategic requirements. There has to be two-way socio-cultural assimilation of the region with the rest of India. Instead of buying loss-making companies abroad, we should be adopting regions for development. It is in our interest to develop friendlier relationships with countries on China's periphery and strengthening relationships with the US and Japan is part of this policy. The armed forces — all three wings — need upgrading, with long-range strike aircrafts as well.
Diplomacy would need to be more nimble-footed and proactive rather than reactive. We have to look at 2050 and work accordingly. Short-term "band aid" solutions will not do. Until then it would be good to follow Sun Tzu's advice: "The side that knows when to fight and when not will take the victory. There are roadways not to be travelled, walled cities not to be assaulted".

 

 Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

AFPAK: UK RESOLVES, AMERICA PONDERS

BY ROGER COHEN

 

In Afghanistan there's the United States, Britain and then the rest. Britain has lost 85 soldiers this year, more than all other European North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies combined. For both countries the annual death toll has been rising steadily since 2006, and with it the drumbeat of public opposition to the war. In all, more than 1,100 US and British troops have died.


Special relationships are forged in blood; the US-British bond is no exception. So, as President Barack Obama hesitates, his decision on American troop levels ever "weeks away" as the weeks pass, the British view of the war offers as good an indication as any of what Obama will do. An hour-long conversation with David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, suggests reinforcements are on the way.


When I asked if the mission needed substantially more troops, Miliband said, "What I think that you can see from the Prime Minister's strategy is that we believe in serious counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency is a counter-terrorist strategy".


He continued: "The Taliban has shown what it means to provide safe space for Al Qaeda". Describing the fights against the Taliban and Al Qaeda as "distinctive but related missions", Miliband said "the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan are the incubator of choice for international terrorism", adding that, "Ceding ground happened in the 90s and then we all know what happened".


That's a clear rebuttal of the ever-larger school, most often identified with US vice-president Joe Biden, advancing the view that Al Qaeda is the real threat, the Taliban much less of one; and so the US should not commit more military resources to a nation-building struggle in Afghanistan that's an expensive diversion from core US strategic interests.


Wrong. Counter-insurgency in the "AfPak" theatre is indeed a counter-terrorist strategy. I see no workable distinction.
As Prime Minister Gordon Brown has noted, three-quarters of all terrorist plots uncovered in Britain in recent years had links to Islamic extremists in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The defence of the West begins in the Hindu Kush and Helmand. Would-be bombers must be kept off-balance. To believe otherwise is wishful thinking. But of course the campaign has to be smart. Miliband identified several things that have to change, among them governance, outreach and military strategy.


Whatever Afghan government emerges has to be "credible", where Hamid Karzai's administration has not been, and provide a new "offer to the Afghan people of security and economic development".


Miliband also called for "serious outreach to the insurgency to divide it", estimating that "70 to 80 percent of the foot soldiers are recruitable". The choice they are being given now is "fight or flight" where it should be "fight, flight or flip" because "an enduring settlement must be a political settlement in which conservative Pashtun nationalism has a place".


That's critical. The Taliban are a Pashtun movement. Pashtunistan straddles the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. Afghanistan has always been ungovernable without a Pashtun buy-in. Pakistan's strategic interest in that buy-in is non-negotiable. These are basic — but long ignored — building blocks of successful strategy.
Finally, Miliband argued for a different focus to military operations. "Occupying land for the sake of occupying land is not what counts", he said. "It's population. You need to make sure the major cities are secured and Kandahar is vital".


These were the convictions behind Brown's decision earlier this month to send 500 more British troops to Afghanistan, bringing the contingent to 9,500 — a decision the Prime Minister expected to be "consistent with what the Americans will decide".


The reinforcement was about one quarter of what British generals had requested. In the US case, General Stanley McChrystal has asked for about 40,000 more troops. Doing the maths on a "consistent" basis suggests a substantial American reinforcement short of McChrystal's request will eventually be announced by the White House.


I asked Miliband if Obama's protracted ponder worried the Brits. Miliband pondered in turn before saying, "No, I think it's a measure of the seriousness with which he takes the decision".


OK, but I still worry. If counter-insurgency is counter-terrorism, if this theatre is the "incubator of choice", if McChrystal is the most lucid product of America's crash post-9/11 course in counter-insurgency, then Obama should step up. Beyond Kabul I got these two nuggets from Miliband. Asked how worried he was about an Israeli military strike on Iran, he said: "I don't provide a running commentary on other countries' concerns or policies, but we are 100 per cent committed to a diplomatic resolution". Asked about a Mideast peace, he said, "It's very stalled and that's very dangerous". He said Israeli settlements must stop, calling them "illegal" and "an obstacle to peace". He said: "I profoundly believe that Israel's security depends on a two-state solution and I think that a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders plus or minus agreed land swaps, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, and a fair settlement of the refugee issue is the right basis for Israel's future as well as the Palestinians' future".


I have not heard President Obama be quite as candid. It would help.By arrangement with the
New York Times

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DEATH BY IDEOLOGY

BY ANEES JILLANI

 

Karachi, Pakistan

The five deadly gun and bomb attacks that killed a number of people on "Black Thursday" (October 15) in Lahore, Kohat and Peshawar should not have come as a surprise.


As the talk of launching a military offensive (now under way) in South Waziristan reached a crescendo, the pressure mounted, and the government machinery could do little in the face of this bloodshed. The people are now looking to the armed forces for saving them from this chaos.


Many including Pakistan People's Party supporters blame the military and the intelligence agencies for the present mess, and say that they should be clearing it. The critics fail to acknowledge that civilian regimes and politicians are equally to blame for this growing menace.


The Taliban began to establish themselves during Benazir Bhutto's first government. In the 1990s, the civilians remained in power but it has been observed that the export of terrorism both to Afghanistan and territory under India continued from our soil. We always denied it, saying that our support to the Kashmiri fighters was limited to diplomatic, political and moral support. One is fairly sure that the global community was not convinced of this claim, but it kept quiet either because it was disinterested in this part of the world, or because of its long-term strategic goals.


As we know, 9/11 changed everything. The irony is that despite Pakistan's joining the war on terror and calling itself a frontline state, it has failed to crush terrorists on its own soil. This failure may be partly attributable to Pakistan's poor counter-terrorism apparatus but is mainly due to a lack of political will. Even at present, all our energies are devoted to handling the problem of terrorism only on an administrative basis. We are launching operations against the terrorists in various regions, erecting innumerable check posts throughout the country and arresting and killing people. But there is no sign yet that this war is being fought at an ideological level. In other words, we are treating the symptoms rather than the disease. This approach is not going to solve the problem. It only goes to show our short-sightedness.


The nation should be asking itself why it has such a muddle on its hands as opposed to the other Muslim countries. Where else in this world can one so easily acquire explosives, guns, grenades, rocket launchers and even anti-aircraft guns? There may be far more committed Muslim fundamentalists in some of the other countries, but their access to arms and ammunition is limited.


Almost every other citizen in Pakistan knows about a terrorist base except for the concerned authorities who always deny its existence. For how long can we keep blaming General Zia-ul-Haq who died two decades ago and the Americans who stopped supporting the Afghan Mujahideen after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan? What have we done to manage the fundamentalists? It is about time the state, the government and the people of Pakistan realised that the threat from the fundamentalists cannot be eliminated through operations. We keep telling the Indians that the problem of resistance in Kashmir will never end with military operations but forget to heed this advice in our own case.

 

By arrangement with Dawn

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DOLLAR WORSHIP

MAMATA MUSTN'T FALL FOR IT


A PROPOSAL it is as of now, it must "progress" no further. Revolting and insulting to the millions of domestic travellers who sustain the Railways is the recommendation of the Passengers Amenities Committee that luxury coaches for the exclusive use of foreigners be attached to major trains to promote tourism ~ it is disgusting enough that a few tourist "specials" cater mainly to a dollar-paying clientele. Going into raptures over the suggestion, the committee's chairman, Shuvaprasanna, spoke to the media about coaches having more leg-space, ergonomically designed seats and toilets, wider berths and aesthetic interiors: "we want bigger window panes in these coaches like most foreign trains so that travellers can enjoy the country's natural landscape." Nobody can question a desire for creature comforts, but must Indians be denied opportunity to luxuriate? That brand of thinking goes beyond worshipping the dollar, it is discriminatory; and when viewed in the context of the Railways resistance to passengers' demands to junk "side-middle-berths" in some sleeper carriages it confirms an attitude that condemns aam aadmi to travelling "cattle class", or worse. If the proposal itself irks, what appalls is Shuvaprasanna's comment that "the railway ministry was very positive to the committee's recommendation". What about other members of the committee, do they concur with Indians being debarred from facilities in their own country? That practice, most folk thought, was scrapped when the Tricolour was raised at the Red Fort.


Nobody can deny the importance of the Railways attracting tourists, and their reservation quota is accepted without question or complaint. Upgraded tourist carriages on major trains are welcome ~ obviously the fare would be higher than the present top class ~ but they should be open to anyone willing to pay for that quality of travel. True there was a period when, to earn then-scarce foreign exchange, some privileges were extended to those paying in hard currency. But, to revert to some slang, that "sucked", even the "guests" were dismayed. It is difficult not to recall that the celebrated photographer, Tony Armstong-Jones (then married to Princess Margaret), enjoying the garden of a New Delhi hotel, returned a beer when informed he could not "split" it with a reporter of The Statesman who was interviewing him. Will Mamata wave a green flag for the return of a version of "apartheid"?

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MAHARASHTRA'S MESSAGE

AND THE UNCERTAINTY IN HARYANA 


QUITE the most striking feature of the Maharashtra elections is the resurgence of the parochial Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). However ominous the trend, it is as critical as the Congress-NCP holding on to what has been its turf for the past ten years and the not wholly unexpected trounce of the saffronite BJP-Shiv Sena. Not that the Congress-NCP performance has been particularly convincing; truth to tell, with 144 seats in a 288-member Assembly, the combine has made it by a whisker and there is little or nothing to boast about. While the Congress has gained 13 seats, there appears to have been an erosion in Sharad Pawar's base with his party losing nine. Sonia Gandhi has given the nod to Ashok Chavan as the next chief minister; he must consider himself fortunate that the anti-incumbency rhetoric hasn't clicked. Nor for that matter did the administration's inept handling of the 26/11 outrage and the crippling power situation lead to a swing in the vote. In the net, the election renews the mandate of a generally non-performing government; it is clear that the ruling combine has gained from the split in the Shiv Sena vote. Equally has this benefited the MNS despite its revolting record of parochial violence. In large part, the paradoxically robust performance of a provincial outfit can be attributed to Raj Thackeray winning over the new generation of voters in Maharashtra. It bears recall that during his days with the Shiv Sena, he had headed its student front, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena. The rejection of the BJP and the Shiv Sena is in keeping with the general predicament of the saffronite. In the context of Maharashtra, the BJP's kerfuffle with the MNS, indeed between the two cousins, Raj and Udhav Thackeray, was another factor that has done the party in.


Haryana has registered a fractured verdict. Here too the striking aspect is the impressive performance of Om Prakash Chautala's Indian National Lok Dal, which has palpably unnerved the present Congress chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had called for early elections. With 40 seats in a 90-member House, it may have emerged as the single largest party and Hooda is set to be the CM again. But political instability can't actually be ruled out because the combined Opposition of the INLD, the BJP and a regional outfit boasts 42 seats. If the formation of the next government hinges on the "eight others", the scenario may yet be a headache for the central Congress leadership. Otherwise, the three assembly elections post-Lok Sabha have served to reinforce the position of the party.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

HACK THE FORESTS

ON THE ROAD TO COPENHAGEN


IT is a disconcerting message two months before the climate summit in Copenhagen. Rainforests, an integral part of Nature that can neutralise alarming fluctuations in climate, have lost their protection. The vital clause against the practice of cutting them down has been dropped from the global deforestation treaty expected to be signed during the December summit. Those areas where rainforests are hacked to make way for oil palms will still be classified as forests. This is the critical aspect of the new terms of engagement between man and Nature, to be ratified at the summit. Theoretically, therefore, the countries are safe from environmental strictures. And in tangible terms, they will be entitled to the grants ~ running into millions of dollars ~ meant for the protection of rainforests. The countries will be assured of financial protection even after the destruction of rainforests. Which is perhaps the best of both worlds. Vast forest areas converted to oil palm do not a forest make. Such conversion is tantamount to a travesty of Nature.


It appears that the developed countries have started calling the shots even before the world leaders have gathered at the high table. Sunday's decision was hugely influenced by the European Union delegation, headed by Britain. This is conscious deforestation and it is cause for alarm that the EU has blocked the inclusion of a clause against conversion of forest land. Is the world's palm oil industry behind the move? Not improbable because this oil is used to manufacture biofuel. Hence the relentless campaign in favour of deforestation.
The fact of the matter is that a plantation is not synonymous with a forest endowed with its wealth of wild life and water. Above all, a forest has been likened to a storehouse of carbon dioxide, which can be emitted into the atmosphere when forests are destroyed. In the net, this can result in a dramatic climate change. If the EU, for one, has tentatively decided to defy Nature, it becomes difficult for the world at large to be optimistic about the Copenhagen summit. It could well be a flawed agreement two months from now. There is time yet to reinsert the clause on safeguarding forests. Otherwise, as Simon Counsell, the executive director of the Rainforest Foundation, put it so succinctly: "The agreement will be part of the problem, not part of the solution."

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

REVEALED: GENES THAT DRIVE YOU TO DRINK

 

WASHINGTON, 27 OCT: Your genetic make up may predispose you to drink more but may not increase your genetic risk for alcohol dependence, a new study has revealed. In their study, researchers at University of Colorado have pinpointed genetic pathways and the genes associated with levels of alcohol consumption, but not with alcohol dependence in rats and humans, the BMC Biology journal reported.


The researchers used rats to identify the genetic pathways affecting alcohol drinking behaviour. They found that the drinking behaviour of the animals was linked to pleasure and reward pathways in the brain and to some of same genetic systems that control satiety and appetite for food.


Next, they directly compared genes involved in these alcohol-associated pathways in rats with the human versions of these genes in two male study groups from Montreal and Sydney to identify common genetic factors linked to alcohol use across species. ~ PTI

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FAVOURITE RADICALS

WHY THE MIDDLE CLASS LOVES THE MAOISTS


Amulya Ganguli

IT is noteworthy that at a time when the Maoist presence in Lalgarh had grabbed West Bengal's attention, Aparna Sen was busy shooting her latest film, Iti Mrinalini, whose hero is a Naxalite. As a portrayal of the Seventies, when the Naxalites were very much in the news, her depiction of the central character cannot be anything other than sympathetic. The same romantic treatment of the radicals was also seen in Satyajit Ray's Seemabaddha, where the heroine, Sharmila Tagore's boyfriend is described as a revolutionary with a suggestion of being superior to the average person.


This love affair of the middle classes with the insurgents continues to this day. West Bengal is fairly vocal in this respect because a number of prominent writers, led by the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Mahashweta Devi, have been openly supportive of the Maoists. They condemn their violence, of course, but a hint that it is actually an outburst of the rage of the deprived masses mitigates their criticism. Besides, by equating the "violence" perpetrated by the state against the rebels with the latter's murderous deeds, the intellectuals tend to legitimise the depredations of the Maoists.


It is not difficult to understand why like the Naxalites in their day, the Maoists today and the Communists in general evoke a sense of admiration unlike, say, the fascists who are also believers in a one-party state. While the violence of the latter is seen to be directed at selected groups identified by their religion or place of origin and irrespective of their social or economic status, the aggression of the comrades is perceived to be in favour of impoverished people and directed at the state, which, in classical Marxist terms, represents the oppressive bourgeoisie. This context automatically makes the violence of the Reds more justifiable than the State's.
Role of ruling Left


ARGUABLY, the demise of the Soviet Union and the embracement of capitalism by China have dimmed the ardour of the intellectuals for the Maoists to some extent. In addition, the role of the Communist parties in power in India has negated their claims to honesty and to being the champions of the underprivileged. The deadly confrontations between the Marxists and the Maoists have also shown that the textbook generalizations about the segregation of the classes are not always valid.


The fact that many of the tacit supporters of the Maoists are former Marxists also indicates the belief that the former are really doing what the Marxists had originally promised to do, but had then either chickened out or succumbed to the lure of power in a bourgeois society. As such, the Maoists are believed to constitute a more idealistic breed than the Leftists who have accepted the status quo.


But whatever the disillusionment with the latter, or secret admiration for Maoists, the main adversary of this group of intellectuals remains the Indian state. From this standpoint, nothing has changed for them from the yeh azadi jhooti hai days immediately after Independence when the Communists, who were then more united than at present, saw India as a neo-imperialist power in alliance with the moneyed classes. Whether it is Aruna Roy or Medha Patkar or Binayak Sen, the present-day democracy is very nearly a fraud since it does not reflect the aspirations of the poor.


There is little doubt that this disavowal of the present system strengthens the case of the Maoists, who want to overthrow it in accordance with the standard Marxist doctrine. It is clear that to these intellectuals, the fact of the Parliament and state assemblies being elected on the basis of universal franchise means little. The presence of crorepatis and criminals in their precincts devalues them in their eyes. Although they do not say it, their preference is seemingly for a Chinese-style people's democracy.


It is the lack of regard for parliamentary democracy which robs the State, in their view, of the moral right to launch an offensive against the Maoists. Hence, the call for negotiations although the Maoists, like the Naxalites before them, have no interest in a dialogue. Their stance is not dissimilar to that of the Islamic jehadis. Both these groups live in a black-and-white Manichean world, where there are no shades of grey. It is a fight to the finish for them because each of them believes in an ideal world where there is no scope for compromise and no place for their enemies. Just as the jehadis cannot be expected to come to terms with those who do not believe in their version of Islam, the Maoists cannot reach a settlement with a bourgeois establishment, and especially one with close links with the American Satan.


If they cannot achieve victory, they are willing to give up the struggle, as veteran Naxalites like Kanu Sanyal and Suniti Kumar Ghosh have done, and live out their lives in the hope of a future generation of revolutionaries fulfilling the objective which they failed to do. But their faith in the ultimate success of the revolution remains undiminished. All that they are willing to do is to admit their tactical mistakes, as Ghosh did recently when he said that Charu Mazumdar's line of individual assassination was wrong. It prevented the Naxalites from building a mass base, which, he believes, the Maoists have been able to do.


Political imperative

APART from the support of the intellectuals, the Maoists have also received the surreptitious backing of politicians, as the ties between them and Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal show. These connections explain Banerjee's preference for a dialogue since all the Maoists are not "bad". Clearly, the political imperative of creating law and order problems for the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government matters more to her than the unabashed display of cynicism involved in siding with an essentially anti-national force. Even within the state government, the objections of Left Front partners like the CPI and the RSP to the use of the "draconian" Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act underline a desire to embarrass Big Brother.
The belief among Naxalites that the Maoists have been more successful than them in building bases may be partly true, but the fact remains that they have done it in the wrong century and the wrong country. What was possible in the early and middle parts of the last century is no longer possible today when the firepower of the state is much greater. True, the power of the insurrectionists has also increased, but still it cannot be compared with the state's. Besides, the revolutions in Russia, China and Vietnam succeeded in conditions of war and civil unrest. Not only do these prerequisites of a successful uprising exist in India, the other requirement of an absence of democracy is also not there. In the three countries mentioned above as well as in Cuba, the transition was from one variety of totalitarianism to another. What the Maoists are attempting, therefore, is a near impossibility since the opportunity provided by a democracy for a change of regime via the ballot box will always prove more attractive than a recourse to the bullet.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

ODISHA FILE

 

The world may be a smaller place, but the twain still do not meet. Certainly not with the language, as the very sophisticated Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Odisha, née Orissa, learnt to his chagrin. The sound and, one dares to add, the fury of Eastern languages have no immediate equivalents in English. The founder of Pakistan simplified the problem, as with other issues in his life, by replacing the letter Z with the letter J. Across the border, the other father of the nation still bears the cross since the Roman alphabets do recognize the nasal sound. The pundits solved this by using science: elaborate diacritical marks that are of no use in practical life. Thus, many distortions in the way Indian names and words are written and pronounced in English have been sought to be addressed in many different ways. Most have sought to invoke national pride: Chennai for Madras or Mumbai for Bombay. As in everything else, Bengal confounded the issue worst by replacing the C of Calcutta with a K. And nobody has found out why the rulers in Patna still persist with Bihar instead of the more correct Vihar. One does not have to be an adherent of Hindutva to discover that Mr Patnaik is no ordinary politician. Anybody else would have named the state Kalinga. But that would have been obvious and therefore ordinary. Mr Patnaik has chosen phonetics over politics. His government has put forward the proposal that the name of the state should now be written as Odisha. This is nearest to the correct rendering without using diacritical marks: a dot under the d. Mr Patnaik has suggested a phonetical correction. He has killed a political bird with wile and wisdom.

 

There is a larger, and perhaps more profound, point. The decision will force some people at least to think about the nature of language and of transliteration. It cannot be denied that the Oriental languages — or the non-Roman ones, as they are known as in the trade — succeed in conveying a wider range of sounds. The number of alphabets in Sanskrit that convey the various sounds of the letter S is an example of this. It is too optimistic to even think that the West will break out of its straitjacket of 26 alphabets. Thus, the problems of transliteration from Indian languages to English — and more generally from non-Roman to Roman languages — will continue to haunt the purist. Mr Patnaik has taken the right direction without falling into the trap of the popular rhetoric. He deserves a pat on the back.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PLAIN TRUTHS

 

Even the Chinese must have known that there was no question of New Delhi reconsidering its decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh next month. But by refusing to be swayed by Beijing's objections to the visit, the prime minister showed that he could more than match Beijing's hard-ball diplomacy. And he did so in a manner that is characteristic of Manmohan Singh's style of functioning. There was no flourish about it or any sign of unnecessary aggressiveness. Instead, he explained why India's decision was perfectly reasonable and why China had no business to react the way it did. Even the Chinese cannot quarrel with Mr Singh's description of the Dalai Lama as a religious leader. And they know how New Delhi prevented any large-scale anti-China protests, which rocked other countries, on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. Not that India needed to please China on this; New Delhi's position reflected its policy of not allowing the Tibetan refugees to use their country of exile for anti-China politics. The Chinese should take two clear messages from the prime minister's firmness — that India will not interfere with the Dalai Lama's rights as a religious leader, and that it will not compromise its territorial rights over Arunachal Pradesh.

 

However, there is no need to see Mr Singh's plainspeaking as the sign of a new trend of Beijing-bashing. He is too mature a statesman to give in to populist calls to take hawkish positions on China. This was evident in the way he played down some recent reports of Chinese incursions across the border. During his talks with the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, in Thailand, Mr Singh did not shirk from admitting that the two countries had some border disputes to settle. Despite China's problem with the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, he came up with the idea of India developing a strategic partnership with China. This clearly is the mark of a new confidence, and India will need more of this in dealing with China. Not engaging with China is not an option; taking an unnecessarily hostile line is even less so. The solution of the border dispute, both sides know, will take a long time. But that should not stop them from doing business in other areas. The prime minister's firm and confident approach should make votaries of the 'China threat' line look pretty amateurish.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LOOK FOR THE METHOD

INDIA IS PARTLY TO BLAME FOR THE DIP IN ITS RELATIONS WITH CHINA

K.P. NAYAR

 

The time has come to do some plainspeaking. The prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who met his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, in Thailand on Saturday and external affairs minister S.M. Krishna, who played host to China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, in Bangalore yesterday, appear powerless to stop the deterioration in Sino-Indian relations, which are being micro-managed beyond the control of the government in New Delhi.

 

Those in India outside the government, who want to roll back the progress — slow, but steady — since Rajiv Gandhi's visit to Beijing in 1988 have hijacked the agenda for Sino-Indian engagement: they must take the entire blame for the incipient war hysteria that came to dominate public discourse on bilateral relations in the run-up to the meeting between Singh and Wen on the one hand and between Krishna and Yang on the other.

 

For this columnist, whose adolescence followed the crushing Indian military defeat at Chinese hands in 1962, growing up in a state where the largest political party blamed India for that border war, it is not easy to point a finger at the Indian side for the latest deterioration in relations with Beijing. But the bizarre truth is that influential sections of the Indian media and manipulative elements in New Delhi's strategic community are responsible for creating a situation where the government's hands are now tied in any effort in the immediate future to take Sino-Indian relations forward.

 

Take, for instance, a widely circulated report in a print medium on September 15, which gave a very detailed account of firing by Chinese soldiers from their side of the Line of Actual Control in north Sikkim. The report claimed that two members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police had been injured in the incident, which was painted as a turning point in the deteriorating Sino-Indian border management, if only because guns had been silent in that area for 47 years. Besides, it was alleged in the report that by opening fire on ITBP personnel, the People's Liberation Army had reneged on a key Sino-Indian understanding 13 years ago not to open fire, whatever the gravity of any provocation.

 

The ministry of external affairs immediately looked into the report, as did the ITBP, only to find that no such incident had taken place, as both agencies insisted the very next day. While it is possible to cover up an incident of firing that has left no trails, it is not that easy to deny injuries to personnel on the ground, especially if the injuries are serious and the death of those injured is likely. Sadly, there has been a pattern to such lies in sections of the New Delhi media about Sino-Indian relations and such deliberate distortions have been building up for some years now, slowly poisoning the atmosphere between the two countries in public opinion, less so in bilateral engagement.

 

Perhaps the most damaging of such concocted stories in terms of popular perception was the lie, repeated over and over in certain newspapers and by specific television pundits, that it was China that prevented Shashi Tharoor's election as the United Nations secretary-general in 2006. Actually, it was the United States of America, the only country that vetoed Tharoor in the UN Security Council.

 

The truth is that before Tharoor's candidature was announced in New Delhi, back-channel contacts had been established with Beijing, which took the position that it will not veto any Asian candidate. At that time, this principled stand by China applied not only to Tharoor, it equally applied to Ban Ki-moon, who eventually became secretary-general, it covered Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, Surakiart Sathirathai of Thailand and some other Asians who fell by the wayside at various stages of the campaign to lead the world body.

 

Another lie, similarly propagated by this same crowd of writers and TV pundits was that the Chinese scuttled India's chances of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council through the Group of Four route when India, Japan, Germany and Brazil launched a very serious bid in 2004 to bring about reform in the structure of the Council.

 

It is true that the Chinese did not support the G-4. But their opposition was to the idea of Japan becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. China has issues with Japan left over by history, and Beijing will not allow Tokyo to claim its place in the world until the Chinese are convinced that the Japanese have permanently and irrevocably turned their backs on militarism. The Chinese also do not want a country that will permanently act as cat's paw to Washington in the Security Council. A change may now be on the anvil in Beijing with a new, progressive government in Tokyo that wants to move the country away from American influence.

 

But here again, it was the US which never supported India's candidature for permanent membership of the Security Council. The Bush administration, which is hailed in India as its friend, at best gave a character certificate testifying in principle to India's worthiness to be in the Council, but nothing more. On the other hand, even before George W. Bush became president, the US endorsed both Japan and Germany for permanent Council membership, although Bush had some reservations about Germany after it refused to support his invasion of Iraq. Contrary to the impression created in India by a section of opinion-makers, the US did not at any time come out in support of India taking its seat at the global high table.

 

When a vote on the follow-up of the Indo-US nuclear deal allowing the world to trade in nuclear material and technology with India was approaching, in the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and later in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the very same opinion-makers and strategic thinkers began a propaganda in the print and visual media that the Chinese would block exemption for India in both instances. When that did not happen and the Chinese voted for India, there was a spate of stories and commentaries about how the Chinese attempted to derail the process, which was only rescued by American knights in shining armour who valiantly fought for India.

 

It is true that the Chinese tried to get something for themselves in return for their vote supporting India. But that is what good negotiators always do. It is also true that the Chinese made a pretence of lobbying the IAEA on behalf of Pakistan, knowing fully well that Pakistan will never get a nuclear deal similar to India's. For the Chinese, the opportunity cost of that effort was next to nothing: at the same time, it got them some brownie points not only in Islamabad, but also in several other Muslim capitals.

 

For some time now, the Chinese have been complaining, officially and unofficially, to those in the government and to others outside it, that a large segment of India's English-language media has been engaging in a verbal war on Beijing and its India policies.

 

To be fair, well before People's Daily this month unleashed its reply to this war on China by a section of the Indian media, Sinologists in South Block and in other government agencies with Chinese expertise have been expecting a reaction from Beijing: they have only been waiting for the straw that would break the back of the proverbial Chinese camel. Perhaps, because many of those who received these complaints underestimated the gravity of the situation that was developing, they trotted out the excuse that the Indian media are free. The implication of this, of course, is that the Chinese media are not free.

 

It is perhaps not widely known in Delhi that at any given point, a political counsellor at the Chinese embassy on Shanti Path is constantly going through every item in the Indian press that is of interest to Beijing, line by line, even on weekends, putting individual commentators and analysts into ideological pigeon-holes. So when an Indian tells his Chinese interlocutor that India's press is free, he accepts it without hesitation. But he does not accept that everyone who writes for the Indian press is free.

 

When the Olympic torch was travelling around the globe preparatory to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was seized in Paris by a Frenchman, Beijing put on the internet a Google map of the exact location of the residence of the French citizen who vandalized the torch for the sake of Tibetans. If the Chinese can do this, would they not know the affiliations of those who mobilized an Indian media frenzy against China?

 

What is needed now, as the government tries to create a semblance of normalcy in Sino-Indian relations, is an acknowledgement that there is a method to what China is doing and that India needs to learn from this.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

PICK OF THE CROP

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

Two weeks ago, I deplored the growing British habit of using the wrong preposition, notably to, in place of the right one. Here are three new examples that I've gathered even since writing — and they were only the pick of the crop. One told me that a local sports club, though doing well, was losing ground on the league leaders. No doubt the writer had gaining ground in mind. But he was mistaken. If you must use the phrase, you could say losing ground to. But that would still sound a bit odd. In war, you may literally lose ground to the opposing army. In commerce, you may lose it metaphorically to some trade rival; Britain to Germany's exporters, say, or India to China's. But those are cases where your loss indeed goes to the other party. Not so in a football league table. Why not just say plain falling behind?

 

Two more cases came from my favourite semi-literate London newspaper. One spoke of cricket's apparent obsession on being the new football. That is weird. Fixation or concentration on, expectation or hope of, pleasure in, wonder at, but obsession with. The other one was crazier still: Louis Mountbatten, it seems, was Viceroy to India. He wasn't. You can be Russia's ambassador to India, Australia's high commissioner in India (though to might be allowable there) or an aide to either of these grandees. But Mountbatten was viceroy of, just as today Pratibha Patil is president of.

 

But right now I'm bored with, indeed tired of, collecting illiteracies. The intricacies of the correct preposition are just as great, and more useful to know. When, for example, should you say pleased with and when pleased by? Pleased with is natural in phrases such as I'm pleased with you or I'm pleased with my new clothes; it suggests a lasting state of contentment. Pleased by tends to suggest a more definite feeling and cause: in a novel, I'm always pleased by a strong plot. More definite and maybe shorter: she was pleased by his warm welcome. In this sense, pleased by can become pleased at, though this is less common.

 

In contrast, one may be angry at, or angered by (angered at is possible but rarer). But angry with can only be directed at some personal or at least living object of discontent: I'm angry with him; or I was angry with my dog when it bit my neighbour. You may be worried by your son or by his drinking. You may equally be worried about your son, or about his drinking; the circumstances — that he has no job, say, or that he drinks too much — rather than the son or the drinking in themselves. And you can't be worried with at all.

 

Things normally happen in a country or region or a large city, but at a small place: we met in India, in West Bengal, in Calcutta. In contrast we met at Chhotapur or at the station. But this depends on the context. What is large or small? Do both speaker and listener know the place? I might well say to my Scottish cousins let's meet in Largs (a small town that we all know), at the station. You meet at a bus-stop, at or on a beach, in a wood or field.

 

Countless verbs vary in meaning according to the preposition that follows them: think of run across (in the sense of finding by chance), run by (your scheme, by the sales manager), run into (that is, meet by chance), run on (as epic poems do), run over, run through (the figures, or the rival swordsman), run to (earth, or seed, or maybe lakhs of rupees), run up (large bills).

 

On top of all this come the familiar Anglo-American differences: the Yanks' free up, head up, meet with, speak with, visit with and others, where Britons free, head, meet, speak to (though they may speak with, to make plain that both parties did the speaking — few of us will speak to Queen Elizabeth for 25 minutes), or plain visit. And more.

One could fill a dictionary with all this, which is indeed a large part of the lexicographer's job. But neither The Telegraph nor I have the inclination or the space. Which is something readers may be content with, happy at, pleased by, or thankful for.

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SAVING THE ROCK OF AGES

 

The National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill, 2009, seeks to tone up the way in which India protects and conserves its rich storehouse of historical monuments, reports Devlina GangulyIndia boasts of 27 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) heritage monument sites, including such historical and architectural gems as the Taj Mahal, Sun Temple, Konark, Ellora Caves and the Red Fort. Thousands of tourists from all over the world come to visit these sites every year.

 

But are all these heritage sites as well preserved as they should be? Apart from the most famous ones, do the innumerable other valuable monuments and archaeological sites get the maintenance and attention they deserve?

 

The National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill, 2009, introduced in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year, seeks to beef up the entire system of preserving India's architectural treasures. If passed, it will set up a National Commission for Heritage Sites to give effect to the UNESCO Convention, 1972. The Convention aims at the preservation of immovable cultural property, such as buildings and monuments, and of natural sites, such as geological formations and the habitats of endangered species of animals and plants.

 

The Commission will recommend policies to the government with respect to the conservation, protection, and management of heritage sites, conduct research to identify heritage sites, publish heritage maps and prepare a list of heritage sites for nomination to the World Heritage Sites list. It will also maintain a roster of heritage sites all over the country that are of national importance. The central government is supposed to appoint a member secretary, chairperson and seven members to the Commission.

 

Says S.B. Ota, director, National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities, "Only a handful of sites is protected by the government of India, the respective state archaeology commissions and state authorities. This is less than 1 or 2 per cent of the cultural and archaeological resources of the country. The number of heritage sites lying unprotected runs into lakhs. The Commission will help frame policies on the conservation of heritage sites which are yet to be streamlined."

 

The Bill states that even though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has brought 3,675 monuments and sites under the purview of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, these constitute a very small fraction of the total number of ancient monuments in the country. Moreover, the present legislation does not extend to modern architectures of heritage value.

 

Says A.K. Sinha, director, Monument, ASI, "The Bill is welcome as till date data regarding national heritage monuments lie in a scattered form. The Bill will help in the creation of a proper data bank. The ASI can ensure protection to only those monuments that have been designated as being of national importance by the government. But apart from these, there are a number of heritage sites that lie in a state of neglect. There is not even any record of such monuments that lie scattered throughout the country."

 

However, some experts believe that the Bill could have done better. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), a non governmental organisation set up in 1984 to protect and conserve India's natural and cultural heritage, has submitted a statement of objection, highlighting certain omissions in the Bill. Says Yogendra Narain, member secretary, Intach, "The Bill is welcome but it has some serious lapses. Nowhere does it mention that the directions issued by the Commission will be binding upon all areas governed by existing Acts such as the Indian Forest Act or the Wildlife Protection Act."

Adds Calcutta High Court counsel Protik Prokash Banerji, "Maybe we need a composite law relating to not just heritage or religious or cultural sites but a broad definition of any place or structure that is worth preserving for historical, antiquarian, archaeological or scientific reasons."

 

The Bill also sets out guidelines directed at individuals who may be in a position to protect or endanger a historical site: "The Commission may issue directions to any person who is the owner of, or is in control of, any heritage site to provide access to such site for the purpose of its maintenance and preservation or to desist from doing any act, which in the opinion of the Commission is likely to endanger, damage or destroy such site. Any person who fails to comply with the directions issued by the Commission shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 10 lakh."

 

But experts point out that the Commission should be empowered to issue directions to local bodies or municipal boards rather than just individuals. Says Narain, "Right now the Commission can only issue directions to an individual. But the main culprits are these local authorities that pay no heed to even existing heritage conservation laws. The Commission should also have the right to issue directions to such local bodies or the Bill will fail to serve its purpose."

 

Besides, says Narain, the Bill ought to have given the Commission the power to punish offenders directly. Clause 17 of the Bill empowers the Commission to file a case in a court of law against an individual who fails to comply with its directions. "This will leave the Commission fairly toothless. It will not have the power to directly punish anyone not complying with its directives but will have to run to a court every time such a lapse occurs. And we all know that court cases can take years. Hence, such a provision is bound to handicap the Commission."

 

Despite its shortcomings, there is little doubt that the proposed law will go some way in toning up India's patchy efforts at protecting and preserving its rich storehouse of historical, cultural and archaeological treasures.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LEGAL FAQS

ADVOCATE NIBEDITA ROYE ANSWERS YOUR QUERIES

 

Q:My daughter, 23, was in a relationship with a classmate for four years. Although the boy had repeatedly said that he intended to marry her, he is now not interested in taking the relationship forward. He has even told his parents and friends that my daughter is 'cheap', and that there was no love between the two. Many of their common friends knew about their relationship but are silent now. My daughter has gone into a state of depression as he goes around maligning her. She has enough SMSes from him and pictures to prove their relationship. Please suggest some legal steps.

Soma Hazra, via email

 

A: Your daughter should send a legal notice to her classmate through an advocate immediately, warning him to stop causing disrepute to her. If he continues it, she can file a defamation suit against him, claiming compensation for the injury caused to her reputation.

 

Q:One of my neighbours has turned a part of his house into a lathe factory which is causing a lot of pollution in our area. When I protested, he and his accomplices began to badmouth me. I have lodged written complaints both with the pollution control board and the municipal commissioner, but in vain. It appears that the municipality issues false licences to such factories without proper inspection. Is there any way out of this nuisance?

S. Ghatak, Calcutta

 

A: You should lodge a complaint with your local police station regarding the nuisance caused by your neighbour and also file a civil suit for temporary and permanent injunction against him. If a prima facie case is established the court might pass an order, restraining your neighbour from carrying out the annoying activities that endanger the health and safety of his neighbours.

Q:Our building has six flats. None of the occupants can use the roof of our building as our late landlady constructed an unauthorised asbestos shed, which has been let out on rent for the past 15 years. How can we have the roof legally vacated?

 

Sandeep Das, via email

A: Since the unauthorised asbestos shed has been let out for the last 15 years, only her legal heirs have the right to evict the tenant. You, being co-tenants, have no legal right to get the roof vacated. However, you could inform the Calcutta Municipal Corporation about the unauthorised construction and wait for it to take action in this regard.

Please send your legal queries with your name and address to Legal FAQs, The Telegraph (Features),

6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001. Or email us at legalfaqs@abp.in

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY

"LOSS OF EYESIGHT WAS THE RESULT OF NEGLIGENCE."

 

Free cataract surgery at an eye camp in Nellore district has proved costly to at least 11 people. They have lost their eyesight due to post-operative infections that have been blamed on medical negligence. Another 20 patients are said to have developed infections as well.  Cases have been registered against the hospital that conducted the eye camp. Thousands of free eye camps are conducted by charitable trusts and hospitals across the country every day. Since surgeries here are conducted free of charge they come as a boon especially to the poor. That these free eye camps provide a useful public service is not in doubt. But when negligence creeps in, tragedies like the one at Nellore happen, depriving patients of their eyesight and undermining public confidence in such eye camps. The hospital that conducted the eye camp at Nellore has a proud record of having conducted 40,000 eye surgeries over the past 10 years. What went wrong at the Nellore camp then? A thorough probe is necessary to establish culpability and take the guilty to task.


India has the largest number of people who are visually challenged. It is the first country in the world to start a public health programme for control of blindness and it has achievements to be proud of. The country's cataract surgical rate (CSR), which is a measure of cataract service delivery ie it reflects the number of cataract operations performed per year, per million population, has grown considerably. Ten years ago, India's CSR was 1,500. Today it is around 4,500. This means that a growing number of people are able to access medical treatment for cataract, one of the largest causes of blindness in the country. The role of free eye camps in achieving these figures is not small.


Hospitals sometimes compete with each other to perform as many free cataract surgeries as possible. There have been instances of doctors and hospitals touting the number of surgeries they performed in a day. When numbers are given priority, quality sometimes suffers. While a rising CSR is heartening, that alone is not enough. Attention to quality of the service provided is as important.  Cataract surgery is a simple procedure these days, done with the patient awake and conscious. Patients are able to resume normal life quickly. Yet people have gone blind in Nellore after this simple surgery. This is what makes the tragedy at Nellore all the more distressing.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

IMPASSE ENDS

"A RUNOFF IS NO GUARANTEE OF A CREDIBLE ELECTION."

 

A deadlock over presidential elections that had plunged Afghanistan into deep political paralysis has ended with President Hamid Karzai finally conceding that he had failed to win an outright majority, necessitating a second round of voting. Initial results to the vote in August had suggested that Karzai had received 55 per cent of the vote and his nearest rival former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah 28 per cent, giving the former an outright victory. But allegations of serious rigging by the two frontrunners resulted in a recount that indicated that a third of the vote was fraudulent. With Karzai's share of the vote consequently dropping below the 50 per cent mark, a second round of voting was constitutionally required. There was widespread concern that Karzai would not accept the outcome of the recount. But under international pressure, he has come around. Had he failed to do so, Afghanistan's nascent democracy would have been severely weakened as the legitimacy of the election and the presidency would have come under question. This had implications for the security situation in the country too. A president lacking legitimacy would have failed to provide Afghanistan the strong leadership it needs and would have benefited the Taliban alone.

 

The runoff election is to be held on Nov 7. The challenges are daunting. Ballots will need to be distributed and election officials hired in a few days. It is likely that the Taliban will step up violence with renewed vigour. This and voter disgust with developments over the past two months, could result in an extremely low turnout in the runoff. This could impact the credibility of the vote. Besides, rigging could happen this time as well. A runoff is no guarantee of a free, fair and credible election. There are strong rumours that Karzai and Abdullah are discussing a power-sharing deal to replace a run-off. Given the extreme hostility that has marked their interaction over the past two months an agreement is likely to prove elusive. Besides, even if a deal is struck, chances of its survival are low.


As Afghanistan readies for another round of voting, Karzai and Abdullah need to realise that stealing an election might win them the presidency but it will only bring them a crown of thorns. They must respect the rules of the electoral game this time at least.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WHY NOT A DALIT PRIEST?

LET NOT THE NRIS WORK FOR CREATING RELIGIOUS FRICTIONS BY PRESENTING ONE SECTION'S FESTIVAL AS INDIAN FESTIVAL.

BY KANCHA ILAIAH

 

The Non-Resident Indians of North America have been trying to convince the White House that they should recognise the Deepavali festival as American national festival by celebrating it in White House. They made such efforts during the Bill Clinton period but failed. Then they tried very hard during the George W Bush term and again failed.


However, they succeeded during this time in convincing the Obama administration that it should celebrate the Deepavali festival in the White House. On the Deepavali day, Obama attended a celebration organised by Indians in the White House and lit a lamp. The main representative of India on the dais, along with Obama was an Indian Brahmin priest with a shaven head and semi-naked body covered with a Pattu Vastram and a dhoti. He also sported big three fold Vaishnava 'namam'.


Assuming that the NRIs were not willing to present a homogeneous Hinduism by keeping a Shaivaite priest also, the basic question that does bother is: does that priest represent Indian Dalits-Bahujans who hardly have any space in the Hindu religious temple structures?

The NRIs living in America used Obama's black background to convince him to attend the celebration and give a respectability to Indian-Hindu culture. What they have 'hidden' from Obama and his administrative staff was that in India still the Hindu priestly caste does not allow millions of Dalits to enter Hindu temples and they treat them as untouchables.


We were all a witness to Obama's oath taking ceremony where the black pastors played a key role, though there were white pastors side by side. In spite of an attempt to raise a controversy around his own pastor Jeremiah Wright, Obama refused to disown him.


Since Hinduism does not even give such a scope to Dalits and other backward castes, they are forced to remain unequal and outside its ritual celebrations. No Dalit-Bahujan is allowed to become a priest in any mainstream Hindu temple.


For a long time the American blacks faced a similar denial of spiritual rights (though there was no untouchability) within the white church. The blacks fought for decades to fight such spiritual racism and over a period of time they gained the right to go to the white church. But the blacks were not allowed to ordain as pastors and lead the church system. To counter such discrimination the blacks started their own churches, which have become a whole religious system in themselves. All great black leaders emerged from that black church.


Whether it were the first major black leader, Frederick Doglas of Abraham Lincoln's times, or Martin Luther King who emerged as the greatest leader of the civil rights movement and won a Nobel Peace prize at the age of 38, all were black pastors in black churches. Even Obama emerged as a political leader, while working in the black community church.


When the Indian casteist forces celebrated the Deepavali in the White House, the Indian community would have realised that it would have destroyed his race neutral administrative apparatus if they did not take a Dalit priest to the White House. They should have done that, at least, to tell the world that the NRIs do not believe in caste discrimination and untouchability.

Some of these NRIs were raising objections as to why the Congress House Committee of Human Rights (called the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations in the United States House of Representatives) heard the Indian delegation in 2005 about the existence of discrimination based on caste and untouchability in India.


Back in India Sri Sri Ravishankar, Ramachandra Guha and others accused us (myself, Joseph D'Souza, Udit Raj and Indira Atwale were the main deposers) as people who were indulging in internationalising the internal problems. How do these so called reform seers and intellectuals respond to celebration of Deepavali in White House and that too with a Brahmin representing Indian culture? Suppose the Kerala NRIs ask for celebration of Onam in the White House, who will represent that festival? Would a Bali's heritage Shudra represent it or a Brahmin from Vaishnava tradition?


Do not these intellectuals, so called seers and NRIs understand that Deepavali as it is being celebrated today is an anti-Dalit-Bahujan festival as Narakasura, who was killed was a Shudra himself? How could a festival that celebrates the death of an Indian Shudra be considered as a secular festival? Secondly, how does Deepavali represent India as a cultural festival when India is a country of multi-religious people?


The only festival that can represent all Indians is Independence Day (August 15) celebration. Let the NRIs not work for creating religious frictions by presenting one section's festival as Indian festival. Let the NRIs stop globalising communalism and casteism also in this from. Let Obama's administration realise that there are 200 million Dalits who cannot celebrate Deepavali as a festival in India.


This is the reason why the Obama administration should have asked for the presence of a Dalit priest on the occasion of celebration of the Deepavali in the White House.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ENERGY FEAR OVER NUCLEAR WASTE DUMPS

FORMER ADVISERS SAY MINISTERS 'CHERRY-PICKED' REPORTS TO BOLSTER CASE FOR NEW POWER PLANTS.

BY ALOK JHA,THE OBSERVER

 

Former senior government advisers on nuclear power have accused ministers of being 'cavalier' and 'cherry-picking' their advice to bolster the case for a new generation of nuclear power stations.


They and other industry experts say the government should not embark on building any new atomic facilities without properly tackling the unsolved problem of how to deal with radioactive waste from existing power plants.

In 2006 the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management published recommendations on how the UK should dispose of nuclear waste. A key idea was that long-term disposal would be best carried out by identifying suitable sites at which the waste could be buried, a process called deep geological disposal.


The conclusions were used by the government to bolster the case for the building of new nuclear power stations.

 

But Gordon MacKerron, chair of the committee until 2007, said the recommendations were meant for legacy waste and were not a 'carte blanche' to think that radioactive waste from a new generation of power plants could be dealt with in the same way.


"Although the government was getting more enthusiastic about nuclear power in July 2006, it wasn't as concrete about it as it has since become. My main quarrel is not that it hasn't taken those considerations seriously in relation to legacy waste, but it has unjustifiably extended the conclusions which we put forward for legacy waste alone as if they applied equally to any new-build waste."


GEOLOGICAL REPOSITORY

In a 2007 consultation report on the future of nuclear power the government cited this committee recommendation. "The government believes that new waste could technically be disposed of in a geological repository and that this would be the best solution for managing waste from any new nuclear power stations," it said.

MacKerron accused the government of being 'cavalier' in extending the committee's recommendations to new waste. "The government has too readily said, because the committee has found what seems like a credible way of managing legacy waste we can automatically extend that to new waste," he said.


Another former committee member, Peter Wilkinson, went further to say that the government had 'cherry-picked' ideas from the 2006 report to highlight deep geological disposal. "The government has used that as the fig leaf for radioactive waste management and, on the back of that, have gone ahead with this programme of new build. I don't think they should even be thinking about a new-build programme until such time as the deep geological repository has been demonstrated as scientifically proven, and that's a long way off," he said.



A spokesman for the department of energy and climate change said it took nuclear waste 'very seriously'. He said: "We do not agree that the committee's findings have been unjustifiably extended to new-build wastes. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has recently completed a detailed assessment of the disposability of new nuclear waste. They are providing advice to the independent regulators, who are responsible for making sure that any new nuclear power station built in the UK meets the highest standards of safety, security, environmental protection and waste management."


An NDA spokesman said that the European Commission had reported that safe geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste was technically feasible. "Also, of the 39 countries with significant nuclear waste, 25 have taken final decisions on long-term policy and all have opted for geological disposal."
Wilkinson said that waste from a new generation of power stations would be "far hotter and more radioactive than anything we've hitherto had to deal with". Both former committee members said the government's plans would put an already creaking interim storage infrastructure under strain. Nuclear waste is currently stored in interim facilities at decommissioned reactor sites or, in the case of the most radioactive waste, at Sellafield in Cumbria. Many of these stores were never designed to last for the amount of time they will eventually be expected to be in service." The government now suggests the lifetime of any future stores which will be necessary should be around 100 years," said MacKerron.


According to independent nuclear consultant John Large, the nuclear industry does not have enough storage facility and there is not enough money to build what is required. The long-term issue of waste still cast a shadow over any future nuclear ambitions. "So far as putting in new nuclear power plants, we are as ill-prepared to handle the radioactive waste as we were in the 1960s."

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ACCEPTING FAILURES

THESE DAYS, PARENTS WANT THEIR CHILDREN TO WIN BY HOOK OR BY CROOK.

BY SUDHA NARASIMHACHAR

 

Failures are a part of life. We must learn to accept them gracefully. This is the golden rule for leading a peaceful life. We should train our children right from childhood to accept failures as they come. That's why we expose them to competitions.


'Competition' has been a very important aspect of human life from time immemorial. The 'kick' of success and victory is irresistible to man. Maybe nature introduced this aspect with a secret objective of bringing an end to all games, including the game of this universe.


Millions of people die around the world due to deadly wars and terrorist attacks. Who benefits from this destruction? Definitely not the mankind. Then why do we indulge in such heinous attacks? Nations compete with one another in making weapons of mass destruction. As man is getting wiser and history is getting richer with lessons, instead of finding means of establishing peace on this beautiful planet, he invests loads of money and human resources on making more and more sophisticated weapons and more and more cunning ways of causing misery to others.


We introduce our children to competitions to arouse the 'killer spirit' in them as also make them learn the lesson of failure. But these days, we observe how competitions are getting uglier and the parents want their children to win by hook or by crook. Hence they adopt even unlawful means to aid their children. If the child fails, the parents are more affected and throw tantrums. So, what will happen to the psyche of such children? Will they not be learning the bad lesson that they should not fail, come what may?


All of us know that many of the wars that are being fought today are on account of such killer instincts of egotistic leaders, who can never accept failures. After all, every citizen of every nation wants just two square meals a day, a shelter to live in and clothes to cover his body. Which ordinary citizen is bothered more about the geographical borders of his country, the scientific and economic strength of his country or the super achievers of his country?  How does it matter to a man on the footpath dying of hunger and cold if his government has sent a mission to the moon or annexed a part of his neighbouring country?


Why all this empty talk about 'global village', when the lines separating countries are only getting thicker and the lives of commoners are only getting worse by the day? When will good sense prevail on our leaders about the right priorities of humankind?

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LET PALESTINIANS CHALLENGE THEIR LEADERSHIP

 

Can it be that we won't have Mahmoud Abbas to "kick around" much longer? Abbas is fed up - with Israel, with Hamas, and with the Obama administration for not delivering Binyamin Netanyahu prostrate.

 

Abbas reportedly told President Barack Obama that he would not be a candidate in the next Palestinian elections he's called for on January 24 unless Israel capitulated to his demands. He supposedly told aides: "Let the Palestinian people go to elections. If it wants to elect Hamas, let it. If it wants to elect Fatah, let it. What will be is what will be, that's not my business any more."

 

In an interview with Israel Army Radio yesterday, Saeb Erekat, Abbas's negotiator, replied "No comment" when asked if it was true that his boss, currently on a junket to Casablanca, had told Obama he was considering quitting.

 

Abbas has certainly done little to extricate himself from an admittedly difficult set of circumstances. Egged on by the White House - which has now apparently reversed course - he refused to negotiate with Israel absent a settlement freeze everywhere over the Green Line. The freeze has always been a red herring. Were a peace deal agreed upon, settlements on the Palestinian side of the divide would anyway be uprooted - so how much difference does it make if a settler family in a place destined not to be incorporated into Israel refurbishes its guest room?

 

Abbas also insists that negotiations pick up from the point where he rejected Ehud Olmert's final, unprecedentedly generous offer. That is not the way of give-and-take. He should have thought harder before walking away from the best offer the Palestinians ever got from an Israeli prime minister.

 

Even if negotiations resumed, Abbas's intransigence would obstruct progress.

 

He insists on an Israeli pullback to the hard-to-defend 1949 Armistice Lines. He says that after a Palestinian state is founded, millions of Palestinians, descendants of the 700,000 original 1948 refugees, should have a right to return to Israel proper. He would insist on creating a militarized state with the power, for example, to invite Iran to set up military bases just a few miles from Tel Aviv. And he has refused to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

 

Fatah's General Assembly held in Bethlehem during the summer heard Abbas promise that Fatah would liberate Palestine and "purge" Jerusalem of its "settlers."

 

If Abbas has been a disappointment to Israel, he must be an even bigger frustration to his own people. The Palestinian polity is today more fragmented than at any time since Yasser Arafat went to his Maker. Chances are slim that presidential and parliamentary elections will actually be held in both the West Bank and Gaza. If they are conducted in the West Bank only, they are likely to harden divisions and only cultivate a deeper sense of disenchantment about the Palestinian future.

 

It is simply undeniable: Neither Fatah's crooked, dead hand nor Hamas's firm grasp of belligerent medievalism is going to lay the groundwork for a viable Palestinian state.

WHAT TO do? One way forward is to let the Palestinian Authority die a natural death and encourage its replacement with a completely new, apolitical and technocratic provisional Palestinian government.

 

Its task, with Europeans playing a trusteeship role, would be political institution-building, socialization toward tolerance, the development of transparent government, and day-to-day administration of Palestinian affairs.

 

Such a provisional government would also assume the PLO's legal standing as representing the Palestinians. But the idea would work only if the Palestinians - perhaps via a referendum in both the West Bank and Gaza - were given the chance to embrace a new beginning... and did so.

 

A recent New York Times dispatch from Gaza revealed just how fed up modernizing Palestinian elites are with both Fatah and Hamas - while pointing out that they had no mechanism for effecting change.

 

A referendum that proposes to replace the Fatah-dominated PA and Gaza's Hamas government with an apolitical provisional regime could at least offer Palestinians a means to choose between more Fatah and Hamas, or something far better.

 

If Abbas is really fed up and ready to go, his departure could presage a revolutionary opportunity.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LION'S DEN: TURKEY: AN ALLY NO MORE

DANIEL PIPES

 

"There is no doubt he is our friend," Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even as he accuses Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to use nuclear weapons against Gaza. These outrageous assertions point to the profound change of orientation by Turkey's government - for six decades the West's closest Muslim ally - since Erdogan's AK party came to power in 2002.

Three events this past month reveal the extent of that change. The first came on October 11 with the news that the Turkish military - a long-time bastion of secularism and advocate of cooperation with Israel - abruptly asked Israeli forces not to participate in the annual "Anatolian Eagle" air force exercise.

 

Erdogan cited "diplomatic sensitivities" for the cancelation, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of "sensitivity on Gaza, east Jerusalem and the al-Aksa Mosque." The Turks specifically rejected Israeli planes that may have attacked Hamas during last winter's Gaza Strip operation. While Damascus applauded the disinvitation, it prompted the US and Italian governments to withdraw their forces from Anatolian Eagle, which in turn meant canceling the international exercise.

 

As for the Israelis, this "sudden and unexpected" shift shook to the core their military alignment with Turkey, in place since 1996. Former air force chief Eitan Ben-Eliahu, for example, called the cancelation "a seriously worrying development." Jerusalem immediately responded by reviewing Israel's practice of supplying Turkey with advanced weapons, such as the recent $140 million sale to the Turkish air force of targeting pods. The idea also arose to stop helping the Turks defeat the Armenian genocide resolutions that regularly appear before the US Congress.

 

BARRY RUBIN of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya not only argues that "the Israel-Turkey alliance is over," but concludes that Turkey's armed forces no longer guard the secular republic and can no longer intervene if the government becomes too Islamist.

 

The second event took place two days later, on October 13, when Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem announced that Turkish and Syrian forces had just "carried out maneuvers near Ankara." Muallem rightly called this an important development "because it refutes reports of poor relations between the military and political institutions in Turkey over strategic relations with Syria." Translation: Turkey's armed forces lost out to its politicians.

 

Thirdly, 10 Turkish ministers, led by Davutoglu, joined their Syrian counterparts on October 13 for talks under the auspices of the just-established "Turkey-Syria High Level Strategic Cooperation Council." The ministers announced having signed almost 40 agreements to be implemented within 10 days; that "a more comprehensive, a bigger" joint land military exercise would be held than the first one in April; and that the two countries' leaders would sign a strategic agreement in November.

 

The council's concluding joint statement announced the formation of "a long-term strategic partnership" between the two sides "to bolster and expand their cooperation in a wide spectrum of issues of mutual benefit and interest, and strengthen the cultural bonds and solidarity among their peoples." The council's spirit, Davutoglu explained, "is common destiny, history and future; we will build the future together," while Muallem called the get-together a "festival to celebrate" the two peoples.

 

Bilateral relations have indeed been dramatically reversed from a decade earlier, when Ankara came perilously close to war with Syria. But improved ties with Damascus are only one part of a much larger effort by Ankara to enhance relations with regional and Muslim states - a strategy enunciated by Davutoglu in his influential 2000 book, Strategic Depth: Turkey's International Position.

 

In brief, Davutoglu envisions reduced conflict with neighbors and Turkey emerging as a regional power, a sort of modernized Ottoman Empire. Implicit in this strategy is a distancing of Turkey from the West in general and from Israel in particular. Although not presented in Islamist terms, "strategic depth" closely fits the AK party's Islamist world view.

 

As Barry Rubin notes, "The Turkish government is closer politically to Iran and Syria than to the United States and Israel." Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post columnist, goes further: Ankara has already "left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis."

 

But officials in the West seem nearly oblivious to this momentous change in Turkey's allegiance, and its implications. The cost of this error will soon become evident.

 

The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

GRAPEVINE: TALKING TURKEY

GREER FAY CASHMAN

 

  TURKEY'S AMBASSADOR designate Ahmet Oguz Celikkol arrived last week, just in time to host this Thursday's reception marking the 86th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. Some invitees have already indicated that, in view of the recent strain in relations with Turkey, they would give the party a miss. On the other hand, there is talk of Israel buying water from Turkey, and Israelis with business interests in Turkey are not suspending them. This is not the first glitch in Israel-Turkey relations, and presumably not the last - and for some people, a party is a party, regardless of who may be hosting it.

 

Aside from that, the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, in cooperation with the Israel Turkey Business Council, will on November 1 host a discussion between Alon Liel, a former ambassador to Turkey and currently a faculty member of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Prof. Ofra Bengio of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, and Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, on "Israel and Turkey: Where to from Here?" Moderator at the event, to be held at Beit Shalom in Jerusalem, will be Menashe Carmon, chairman of the Israel Turkey Business Council.

 

  MEMBERS OF the Foreign Ministry's Protocol Department had a tough time last week with all the comings and goings of present and past heads of state, prime ministers, foreign ministers, et al. who came here for the second Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow. But even on Thursday night, after the conference was over, there was no respite. The Foreign Ministry's chief of protocol, Yitzhak Eldan, after spending three days in Jerusalem shepherding visiting dignitaries, consulting with conference organizers and advising on matters of protocol, found his way immediately to the Herzliya Pituah residence of Hungarian Ambassador Zoltan Szentgyorgyi and his wife Dr. Lilla Madaras to join them in celebrating the 53rd anniversary of the Hungarian revolution.

 

Among the other guests were Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Csaba Molnar and his wife, Chairman of the Hungarian Federation of Jewish Communities Peter Feldmajer along with Federation executive director Gustav Zoltai, former deputy head of mission at the Hungarian Embassy Csaba Czibere , who is now head of mission at Hungary's representative office in the Palestinian Authority but lives in Jerusalem's Yemin Moshe, Hungarian honorary consul in Jerusalem Yossi Weiss and his wife Anita, and Greek Ambassador Kyriakos Loukakis who has yet to present his credentials.

 

Due to a misunderstanding Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz thought that he was there to represent the government, but it transpired that Michael Eitan, the minister for the improvement of government services, was tasked with that responsibility. Eldan offered Hershkowitz the opportunity to speak as well, but Hershkowitz good naturedly declined, not wanting to rain on the parade of his colleague.

 

Szentgyorgyi, noting that this year is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain, claimed that this political phenomenon began in many respects with the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Another 20th anniversary that the ambassador found pleasing was the marking of the renewal of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Israel. Emphasizing Hungary's commitment to Middle East peace and security, Szentgyorgyi spoke in glowing terms of the cooperation in nanotechnology between Hungarian, Israeli and Palestinian scientists who work together in harmony.

  SOME OF the guests made an early departure from the Hungarian reception in order to attend a getting-to-know you party hosted by Irish Ambassador Breifne O'Reilly, who presented his credentials just under a month ago.

 

  AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR Michael Rendi introduced a few changes into the Austrian National Day celebrations this year by having the ceremonial part of the event in the sunken garden around the pool instead of in the far more humid atmosphere of the patio directly beneath his residence. There was also a brass army quartet that played military music, folk tunes, jazz and of course a couple of Strauss waltzes. Austrian soldiers serving with peacekeeping forces on the Golan Heights prepared traditional Austrian food for the guests.

 

Speaking alternately in Hebrew, German and English, Rendi enthused about how much he and his wife enjoyed Israel and disclosed that they were about to have a sabra extension to their family. Bilateral relations between Austria and Israel are at their best, he said, even though they are marked by the horrific events of the last century. Austria has accepted responsibility for that black chapter in history and is now interested in moving forward to the future, he indicated.

 

Soon after his arrival in Israel two years ago, Rendi reached out to young Israelis of Austrian background, inviting them to reconnect. He was pleased to report that there are growing numbers of such young people, many of whom were at the reception. The outreach initiative was not entirely his, he admitted. It had been signaled to him by Austrian Holocaust survivors in the hope that their grandchildren and great grandchildren would reconnect with the country from which they had to flee.

 

Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman, who lost five uncles and three grandparents in the Holocaust, said that the shared history of Austria and the Jewish people could fill many pages - with some glorious chapters and some tragic. Braverman listed Jews who had made a contribution to Austrian culture, among them Stefan Zweig, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Martin Buber and Karl Popper. He also made a point of mentioning Theodor Herzl, "the founder of the Zionist movement that led to the creation of the State of Israel" who though born in Hungary, spent much of his adult life in Austria.

 

  ZIONIST COUNCIL of Victoria President Danny Lamm wanted to do something really special for Israel's 60th anniversary, and hit on the idea of a two-volume anthology of stories by Australian Zionists and Australian expats living in Israel. The Israeli book launch of Building a Nation was held last Friday at the Begin Center, with 17 of the 20 olim authors present, and Australian expats converging on Jerusalem. The problem was that many of the authors were unknown to most of the other Aussies present. To his credit, Lamm took the criticism as constructive and said that he would try to raise sufficient funds to put out another book which would be largely devoted to contributions by Australian olim, including those who were more widely known.

 

Among the omissions were prime minister's spokesman Mark Regev, the most public of the faces of Australian olim; Jack Beris, a civil engineer, who built Kiryat Wolfson, Jerusalem's first mega sized luxury housing complex; Tal Becker, an important legal adviser in the Foreign Ministry; Isaac Ernest, who was for many years an English inspector of schools in the Jerusalem district; Yehuda Dayag, tour guide and former director of the Israel office of the Zionist Federation of Australia; Peter Adler, who is the Israel director of the Pratt Foundation that funnels some $4 million a year to Israeli projects; Paul Israel, who directs the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce; and hi-tech entrepreneur and former Bezeq director-general Izzy Tapoohi.

 

Immigrant Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein said that he never once regretted having made aliya, but understood that aliya is a very personal decision, and is not necessarily for everyone. Australian Ambassador James Larsen said that the stories of Australians who came to Israel to make a contribution are important. If their experiences are not recorded, he noted, they will be forgotten.

  NEW FASHION trends seldom take into account women who are generously proportioned or those whose mode of dress is dictated by religious constraints. In the latter case, the layered look so prevalent here may well be attributed to the ingenuity of women of the West Bank who began wearing sundresses over blouses and T-shirts, mini-skirts over long skirts or pants and skimpy tops over longer, more modest tops. This has now become the fashion for women across the spectrum.

 

However, with the notable exception of Kedem Sasson, few designers subscribe to the concept that fashion should not be created with only the very slim in mind. Adi Krif-Navon, an image lecturer in the Midrasha L'Ofna network of fashion design schools, teaches her students not to be slaves to "thin is beautiful" philosophies but to cater to the needs of buxom women and of religious women.

 

Krif-Navon is a living example of niche market consumerism. Like many women in the first months after giving birth, she was carrying around a little extra weight. Looking for a dress that was comfortable, fashionable, slightly sexy, yet nonetheless conservative, she went from store to store in what proved to be a fruitless search. Then it occurred to her that since she was teaching fashion design, she could surely design something for herself - which she did. The compliments that she received made her think a step further. Realizing that there were many other women with the same problem, Krif-Navon opened a studio in Jerusalem, designed a collection for sizes 40-50, held a sale which was most successful, and is now busy designing another collection. She also captured the attention of three Jerusalem boutique proprietors who are now selling her creations.

 

  AFTER ALL the hype by the various public relations outlets associated with the second annual Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow, participants on the opening night did not fill the Jerusalem International Conference Center. This was particularly noticeable in the roped-off super VIP section where there were many empty seats, and where the rows kept getting emptier as the night wore on.

 

However, at the start of the evening morale was high, there were lots of public figures from Israel and abroad mingling in the lobby, and there was very little evidence of the frustrations that had preceded the opening of the doors.

 

The conference was scheduled to begin at 8, and the opening of an exhibition highlighting the country's hi-tech industrial achievements at 6. The doors of the center were to remain closed till 5. This was a decision reached by organizers without taking into account that people who had come early last year and had been admitted, might come early again this year so as to get through registration as quickly as possible.

 

Thus at 4 there was already a small crowd gathered outside. By 4:30, those waiting to be admitted included former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, internationally renowned sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and lawyer Danny Jacobson whose family founded the Anglo-Palestine Bank. Without disclosing his identity, Halevy castigated security for keeping people waiting outside, especially after 5 p.m. when it could be seen through the plate glass doors that the staff on the registration desks were still getting their act together.

 

  IF WESTHEIMER had not been recognized, she was certainly compensated at the brief ceremony prior to the ribbon cutting of the hi-tech exhibition. Sitting on the aisle, she was warmly greeted by President Shimon Peres as he made his way to the dais. Then at the end, when he was exiting, he saw Raya Jaglom on the other side of the aisle and stopped to kiss her. "What about me?" demanded Westheimer. "Don't I deserve a kiss too?" The gallant president turned around and obliged, placing Westheimer, who also hobnobs with presidents of the US, in seventh heaven.

 

  IN THIS part of the world, everything starts at Jewish or Mediterranean time and the conference was no exception. When the official party eventually entered the hall, there were cheers and applause for Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but none as loud or enduring as those given to Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who was given an even bigger fanfare at the conclusion of his address - partially in response to his remarks about Iran.

 

"I believe it is completely irresponsible to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons," said Blair, adding that the problem was not simply a weapons problem, but "weapons with an ideology." Blair's appearance caused a little consternation among the Brits in the audience who commented on a change of hair style and hair color. Unless there's been a change in the interim, Blair's hair is a soft shade of apricot.

 

  DESPITE SOME of the organizational glitches, it can safely be said that the conference was a huge success in both the quality and variety of the content and some of the thought provoking issues raised by speakers in panel sessions more than in plenary sessions. For Peres, it was also a great personal triumph not only in terms of physical and mental stamina but also in popularity. Peres worked hard, speaking on a number of subjects at plenary and panel sessions, and was given a huge boost of adrenalin by way of individual and crowd adulation.

Blair said he should be studied and cloned; Netanyahu dubbed him a national treasure. Broadcaster Dan Shilon described him as ageless, and various leading figures from several countries spoke of his intellect, his vision, his commitment to peace and his standing in the world, and declared their pride to be included in his circle of friends. For Peres, whose political career was mired in controversy, vilification and public humiliation, notwithstanding his many extraordinary achievements, the presidency has truly become the jewel in his crown.

Meanwhile, he's already busy planning the third Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow, to take place in 2010. He's also getting ready to visit South America later this month.

 

  JEWISH AGENCY Chairman Natan Sharansky, who disdains a tie and usually wears his shirt with the top buttons undone, is apparently as allergic to name tags as he is to ties. While everyone else at the conference was walking around with a large name tag suspended from a neck ribbon, Sharansky clutched his in his hand.

 

  ALTHOUGH HE had not initially been listed as a speaker on a conference panel on "Is aliya good for the Jews?" Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former minister for social and Diaspora affairs, when coming in as a replacement asked whether he could speak the truth. On receiving the green light, he proceeded to shock some members of the audience when he declared that aliya, Jewish identity and Jewish peoplehood were not on the government agenda. When he was a junior minister without portfolio, he said, his budget was higher than that of the minister for immigrant absorption. Melchior also told members of the Reform Movement that they should not feel that there is discrimination against them, because Orthodox conversions are not recognized either.

 

  IT'S DIFFICULT enough for Defense Minister Ehud Barak who signed over his multimillion dollar consultancy to his daughters upon his return to government to account to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss for several million dollars that came into the firm after he allegedly quit. Worse than that, his soon-to-be ex son-in-law, Ziv Lautenberg, is reportedly claiming half of Michal Barak's share of her father's enterprise. Does that mean that there won't be a divorce if he doesn't get it?

 

  IN HIS weekly program i>The Israel Connection, anchorman Elihu Ben-Onn spoke on Sunday to colleagues in China who last month launched the China Radio International (CRI) Web site in Hebrew to provide Israelis with information about China. The site includes an interview last Friday with Ambassador to China Amos Nadai, who had just returned to China after participating in the Experience China celebrations in Tel Aviv hosted by Ambassador Zhao Jun in honor of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. At the beginning of last week, Minister of the State Council Information Office Wang Chen and CRI deputy director-general Xia Jixuan attended a press conference in Tel Aviv where the launch of CRI's Hebrew on-line service was announced.

 

  LONESTAR PUBLIC Relations CEO Charley Levine was on his way to his home state of Texas last week for Pastor John Hagee's Night to Honor Israel at which he annually contributes up to $10 million to organizations here. National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau happened to be on the same El Al flight to Newark and Canadian human rights activist Irwin Cotler was also on board.

 

In Newark, their domestic connection to San Antonio was changed. Landau, who was in the airport's business lounge, did not hear the announcement for the revised departure time, and he and the three people accompanying him therefore did not make it to the gate.

 

The plane pulled out and was just about to take off when the steward announced, "This has never happened to me before, but we are going back to pick up some delayed passengers." Other passengers voiced their displeasure. When Landau embarked, he discovered that his first-class seat had been given to someone else because he hadn't shown up. He absolutely forbade the stewardesses to move the person who had been upgraded and then he went around apologizing and explaining what had happen. His popularity rating soared enormously, and he received high praise from passengers and crew alike.

 

But that was not the end of the story. Someone on board had a heart attack and the plane diverted to New Orleans. Landau used the delay time to bone up on the Bible in preparation for an address that he later delivered at Rodfei Shalom, the largest synagogue in Texas. The plane arrived at its destination five hours late, but still with two hours to spare before Shabbat.

 

greerfc@gmail.com

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REMEMBER, THE TEMPLE WAS BUILT BY HEROD

ROBERT EISENMAN

 

The Temple, over which we now see such weekly struggles, was built by Herod who, for all intents and purposes, was not Jewish. He had not an ounce of Jewish blood in him - if one can speak in such "racial" terms in this period - his mother, according to Josephus, being an "Arab" from Petra, probably related to the royal family there; his grandfather, a Greco-Arab priest of Apollo from the Gaza/Ashkelon "Philistine"/Palestine Coast.

 

On occasion, he might have simulated Jewish ways in line with his appointment as king of the Jews (which did not necessarily require being Jewish - it was a Roman title and a tax-farming fiefdom). His father Antipater was the first Roman procurator of Judea (c. 60 BCE), who parlayed a Roman governorship into a family dynasty, in the process eliminating the Maccabees and garnering a Roman citizenship for himself and his family after him.

Herod might have had a few Jewish wives among the 10 or so he allowed himself, including two high priests' daughters - one the proverbial Maccabean princess Mariamme/Miriam, whom he actually had executed, as he did his children by her, due to his jealousy of their Maccabean blood and therefore their popularity among the masses. Almost all of his other wives were Greek or Arab.

 

He also built a host of Greek temples - in Sebaste (Samaria) in honor of the Emperor Augustus, at Caesarea and across the Mediterranean, as well as the Antonia fortress in the Temple in honor of Mark Anthony and Phasael (Feisal) after his brother was executed by one of his Maccabean wife's uncles.

 

Herod used his building projects to magnify his own image and keep a disaffected population busy. The Temple itself, which he began early in his reign in the 20s BCE, was not finished until shortly before its fall in 70 CE. Herod in fact was a typical Arab potentate, combining the worst qualities of a latter-day Saddam Hussein and the harem aspects of the House of Saud.

 

As Josephus tell us, Herod had spies everywhere, executed all the members of the previous Maccabean or nationalistic Sanhedrin except the two Pharisees "Pollio and Sameas" - probably Hillel and Shammai - and even went on the streets in disguise to search out malcontents. These he had taken to the fortresses Hyrcania and Machaerus (as John the Baptist was, by one of his Greco-Arab sons) to be tortured and ultimately put to death. He was hated by the Jewish people and, as noted, responsible for the extirpation of the whole Maccabean family root and stalk, including his own several grafts upon them; and there followed 110 years of struggle (37 BCE-73 CE) to be rid of him, his heirs and the Romans who imposed them on the Jews and supported them.

 

Nor is the celebrated Western Wall anything but a part of this extravaganza he built to mollify Jews and busy unemployed priests. It was consecrated by their Roman overlords, after they destroyed the Temple, as a place Jews could go once a year (on the Ninth of Av) in humiliation to bewail their former glories - therefore its traditional name, the Wailing Wall.

 

SO THE Jews go today to worship at the remains of a stone edifice built by their arch-enemy, responsible more than anyone else for their destruction, who was himself certainly not native born and hardly Jewish at all except where convenient. (This is much like Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. To paraphrase: "I am a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greeks, a law-keeper to the law-keepers, a law-breaker to the law-breakers. I believe in winning. I will do whatever I have to do to win. That's how I fight, not beating the air." And Herod did "win," as did Paul, his probable descendant).

But here's the rub. The Pharisees and the Herodian Sadducees whom they dominated were the only party willing to live with Herod and the Romans. In fact, Pollio and Sameas in 37 BCE recommended opening Jerusalem's gates to Herod and the Roman army given him by Mark Anthony. This behavior was repeated over and over, including 130 years earlier, at the time of Judah Maccabee, when they were willing to support Alcimus, a high priest appointed by a foreign power (the Greek Seleucids in Syria) - probably "the birth moment" of the Pharisee party. It happened again when Pompey stormed the Temple 100 years after that. According to Josephus, the Pharisees cooperated with the Romans in slaughtering the Temple's pro-Maccabean defenders.

 

Notwithstanding, over and over again the people rejected the counsel of the Pharisees, including at the time of the uprising against Rome in 66 CE, when they cooperated in inviting the Roman army into the city. The Pharisees were not the popular party they are assumed to be, despite the pretensions of historians probably based on Gospel portraiture.

 

Predictably the nationalists were the popular party (as they usually are even today).

 

Pollio and Sameas became the heads of Herod's Sanhedrin after he had executed all its Maccabean and pro-nationalist members when he took undisputed control. Earlier, in the mid-50s BCE, they alone opposed bringing him to Sanhedrin trial when he was governor of Galilee (under his father) and had executed guerrilla leaders there.

 

BUT THE Pharisees cum Rabbinic Judaism were, as noted, the only party Rome was willing to live with after the uprisings of 66-70 and 132-6 CE. Their patriarchs became the de facto Roman tax collectors in Palestine, as the Herodians had been earlier.

 

We all respect our rabbis, their durability, learning, and great venerability. We acknowledge their leadership in surviving 2,000 years of the Diaspora, that is, up to the Holocaust - but they were not up to the Holocaust. They could not provide real leadership then. Only the pro-Zionist parties left or right and the worker's movements did.

 

In the same manner, the rabbis, experts at non-territorial leadership, cannot provide - almost by definition - leadership in a territorial situation. Now, in the face of the seemingly miraculous Jewish regaining of the Temple Mount in 1967, their bans for or against walking on the Temple Mount smack of quaintness and out-of-touch or even self-serving unreality. One is not walking upon anything there except perhaps Herod's Temple (recently Herod's tomb seems to have been found under his pile of dirt Herodion, not surprisingly apparently smashed to bits by revolutionaries).

 

Perhaps there is an authentic First or early Second Temple Holy of Holies hidden somewhere beneath the ruins, but it would take an archeological investigation to determine this. The Western Wall with all its familiar comfort is nothing but stones set down by the destroyer of the Jewish people and its royal family and a probable abomination, i.e. kissing stones set down by Herod.

 

The problem is we must start from scratch based on being a territorial people once again.

 

We need a new approach to religion if, for instance, we are to combat the J Streets, Goldstones or George Soroses of this world, not to mention appealing to the imagination of questioning disaffected youth; and the first step should have been to start rebuilding the Temple.

 

This does not mean one should revive the priesthood or the sacrificial cult. You need living symbols to move the people. If nothing else, Herod showed us this and the durability of the wall he built is its final proof.

Unfortunately, Rabbinic Judaism can no longer provide us these. Two millennia, yes, and up to the Holocaust. But no further. It cannot provide us with the blueprint for becoming territorial once again. Moshe Dayan was wrong in ordering the Israeli flag taken down, in effect, surrendering sovereignty and giving the Muslim Wakf control over the Temple Mount. No self-respecting people after two victorious wars would have behaved in this way. But he had no guideposts to rely upon, only egocentrism and his own pragmatism - plus he loved the grande geste.

 

But now, almost three generations after the Holocaust and with its memory beginning to fade, we have nothing positive to appeal to our young generations in Israel and abroad. It is poetry and the spirit that provide this. They are the positives, not humiliating renunciations. The reconstruction of a Temple - any Temple - should have begun 40 years ago and we would be well on our way toward achieving these things. This does not mean we should emulate the old design. Its content, shape and operation should be open to investigation, even architectural competitions, and creativity; but the symbol would be there.

 

It took the Herodian Temple almost 90 years to be completed. Ours and even its early stage - archeological investigation - hasn't even begun. People need a positive historical Judaism to go forward and this does not mean a Roman/Herodian-sponsored Phariseeism. People need positive symbols to rally around. The time is late. There is plenty of room on the Mount for everyone.

 

In no other manner can we gain the respect of the world and regain our own self-respect, and the world come to understand us - and we come to understand ourselves.

 

The writer is the author of James the Brother of Jesus and The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians and co-editor of The Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered. He is Professor of Middle East Religions and Archaeology and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins at California State University Long Beach.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

IT'S TIME TO DEAL SEPARATELY WITH GAZA

YOSSI ALPHER

 

A Hamas-Fatah unity agreement is bad for the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, at least in the near term. If the current unity efforts are crowned with success, PLO negotiators with Israel, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, will have to show deference to Hamas sensitivities and toughen their stance on issues like the right of return. Assuming new Palestinian elections are the first order of business of a unity agreement, Fatah and Hamas will compete in displaying a hard line, and peace negotiations will have to be postponed.

 

So obvious does this seem that one wonders what motivates Fatah to agree to talk unity while at the same time demanding final-status talks. Why does Egypt, which is presumably dedicated to successful Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, continue all these years and months to shepherd endlessly abortive Palestinian unity talks? Why are appeals made to Syria to pressure Hamas to modify its unity demands, when the only way to seriously influence Syrian positions is through a Syrian-Israeli peace process, about which the moderate Arab states are not enthusiastic?

 

Why did the Obama administration seemingly wake up only last month to the detrimental effects of a unity agreement for the peace process and petition Cairo to desist?

 

I CAN conceive of two possible answers. One is that it's all a sham and everyone is just going through the motions in the name of political correctness, with Cairo finding in abortive unity talks a convenient and harmless way to keep tabs on Hamas and leverage its failing regional leadership aspirations. The other is that the alternative to Palestinian unity - Palestinian disunity, i.e., the ongoing Gaza/West Bank, Hamas/Fatah geopolitical split - is simply so awful to imagine that unity efforts will continue no matter what the cost.

 

Under present circumstances, a successful peace process means an agreement with the West Bank alone, even though both Israel and the PLO would declare their intention that it eventually apply to the Gaza Strip as well.

 

Eventually - because there currently is no prospect that Gaza will be pried loose of the Hamas grip. But an agreement with the West Bank alone is better - for Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab states and the world - than none.

 

And yet, argue the unity-at-all-costs advocates, a state in the West Bank alone won't be "viable." As if the Palestinian West Bankers with their superb human resources and dedicated diaspora can't create a state at least as viable as any other non-oil state in the Arab world. As if the addition of the overpopulated and impoverished Gaza Strip makes a state more viable. As if the emergence of a state in the West Bank won't provide the greatest incentive possible for Hamas to moderate its ideology and join.

 

Rather, the real dilemma embodied in any effort to confront the possibility of a successful peace process without Gaza is the question of what to do with Gaza on its own. Certainly neither Egypt nor Israel, Gaza's two neighbors, wishes to confront that question. Moderate Palestinians obviously shy away from contemplating the consequences of moving forward on the West Bank without Gaza: This would shatter their narrative of a two-state solution based on a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza.

 

Yet, if there is to be any viability to the notion of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process mediated by the United States, it's time for all parties concerned to recognize that, for the time being at least, Gaza is a separate entity.

We all have to begin reevaluating our failed strategies for Gaza. We need to look for new strategies that don't interfere with the process but are not, of necessity, a part of that process.

 

The writer is coeditor of the bitterlemons.org family of Internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article originally appeared on www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permission.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL?

ORLY NOY

 

Jerusalem's simmering embers were stoked again Sunday in a confrontation that broke out between Muslims who barricaded themselves in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, and Israeli police who came to remove them. Much to our concern, images of riots on the site have become routine in the past few weeks, and they put us in a dangerous cycle.

 

The careless conduct of both the Israeli and Palestinian side is liable to cause the situation to deteriorate quickly and easily into violence. Thus, the entry of a group of visitors to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif a month ago, on the eve of Yom Kippur, ignited a wave of violent riots that went on for days and caused injuries among the demonstrators and policemen alike.

As a result, Israel limited the entry of Muslims to the al-Aksa Mosque, causing a wave of additional protests and ongoing arrests of Islamic Movement leaders such as Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, Kamal Khatib and Ali Abu Sheikha. At the same time, the archeological excavations continue in and around the Old City, which are largely financed by extreme right-wing organizations.

 

These excavations, some of which pass under the homes of Palestinian residents - like the explicit efforts of right-wing organizations to expand the Jewish presence in the heart of the Old City's Muslim Quarter - raise intense fear among Muslims in the area and in the world, a fear that is channeled by radical Islamist organizations in order to stoke the flames and draw the Muslim masses out of their homes for the sake of "defending al-Aksa."

 

THE SAME dangerous oscillation, in which actions of extremists on one side immediately nourish the actions of extremists on the other, repeated itself this time as well: A conference of the "Joint Headquarters of the Temple Mount organizations," with the participation of Knesset members and rabbis from the extreme Right, whose aim is to "call upon the people of Israel to visit the Temple Mount in holiness and purity," led the Al-Aksa Foundation and the Islamic Movement to call on the Palestinian masses to go to al-Aksa Mosque, and "protect it from the planned invasion."

 

This is a dynamic of publicly announced escalation, as everyone understands that a mass call by public figures and rabbis for Jews to visit the Temple Mount can be expected to ignite an extreme response from the Muslim public.

 

In light of this, especially grave was the intention of Kadima MK Otniel Schneller to participate in the conference alongside extremists from the Israeli Right. Although he changed his plans due to pressures exerted upon him, we still should question whether Schneller represents the position of the political party that professes to be a center party. Has Kadima adopted the platform of MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), a disciple of Meir Kahane, on this most sensitive issue in the Israeli-Arab conflict?

 

Kadima head Tzipi Livni maintains a puzzling silence on this central issue, but also puzzling is the silence of the government given the ongoing provocations by extreme factions, which seek to exacerbate the conflict in Jerusalem and to give it a religious dimension.

 

Past experience teaches us that strengthening the religious dimension of the conflict in Jerusalem is liable to drag the region into an ongoing cycle of extreme violence, which would place Israel opposite a unified and hostile Arab-Muslim front. Incidents of the past weeks led to rowdy demonstrations even in moderate Muslim countries such as Turkey, while our ambassador in Jordan was called in for a reprimand by the Foreign Ministry.

 

If the government is not determined to stop the mutual and ongoing provocations that fuel this dangerous conflict, these examples are liable to be only the first signs of what the future may hold.

 

The writer is an outreach coordinator at Ir Amim. She is a long-time social change activist, and has been involved in editing and hosting a variety of public events on social issues and human rights.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A PLETHORA OF GAG ORDERS

 

Many police investigations in Israel are conducted under gag orders that prevent the public from hearing information of vital public importance. Recently, gag orders have been issued on cases that provoke vast media interest. These injunctions have been granted by magistrate's courts, based on a law that allows for discretion to prevent damage to an investigation.


For several years now, the police have rushed to secure injunctions even when they weren't necessary, and hesitated to remove them when they were no longer needed. The magistrates, for their part, easily comply with the police's requests, ignoring Supreme Court rulings under which freedom of expression and the press must not be impeded barring convincing proof of a grave danger to other vital interests.


The fact that the police find it convenient to carry out their investigations against the backdrop of a silent media does not justify infringing the public's right to receive information on important events as they occur.

 

In the past, the Knesset has received information indicating that the police were too quick to request injunctions and magistrates were too quick to grant them. For some time now, the Israel Press Council has been suggesting an arrangement under which a media outlet would be allowed to voice its position in court before an injunction is granted. The fact that gag orders are often lifted relatively quickly has prevented such cases from reaching the Supreme Court, which could have instructed magistrates to give greater weight to the public's right to know.


The acute need to regulate gag orders grows all the more due to blogs and Web sites that do not obey injunctions and publish details of investigations, creating rumors and showing contempt for the courts and law alike.

The Knesset must find a balancing formula that would make it clear that gag orders are exceptions to the rule of freedom of speech. The authority to grant them should be given to presidents and vice presidents of district courts, just as they have the authorization to permit wiretapping. Meanwhile, the media, nonprofit organizations and other representatives of the public and its right to know must receive the right to present their case in court before a gag order is handed down.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHO DECIDED TO GO TO WAR IN GAZA AND WHY?

BY ALUF BENN

 

I want to know how and why it was decided to embark on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip and to expand it into a ground offensive. I want to know if the decisions were affected by the Israeli election campaign then underway and the change in U.S. presidents. I want to know if the leaders who launched the operation correctly judged the political damage it would cause Israel and what they did to minimize it. I want to know if those who gave orders to the Israel Defense Forces assumed that hundreds of Palestinian civilians would be killed, and how they tried to prevent this.

 

These questions should be at the center of an investigation into Operation Cast Lead. An investigation is necessary because of the political complexities that resulted from the operation, the serious harm to Palestinian civilians, the Goldstone report and its claims of war crimes, and the limits that will be imposed on the IDF's freedom of operation in the future. There is no room to argue that the government should be allowed to govern without interference and investigations, with the public passing judgment at the ballot box. The government changed after the Gaza operation and the questions remain troublesome.


The investigations by the army and Military Police are meant to examine soldiers' behavior on the battlefield. They are no substitute for a comprehensive examination of the activities of the political leadership and senior command, who are responsible for an operation and its results. It's not the company or battalion commanders who need to be investigated, but former prime minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and the heads of the intelligence chiefs and Foreign Ministry, who were party to the decisions. It is also important to investigate Barak and Livni's election campaign advisers to find out if and how the campaign affected the military and diplomatic efforts.

 

The following questions require answers:


Why did the "cease-fire" agreement between Israel and Hamas collapse, and who decided and why on an IDF operation against the tunnel uncovered near the Gaza border on November 4, which resulted in renewed escalation in the south?


Before embarking on Cast Lead, were diplomatic alternatives explored for achieving calm in the south? Was Hamas' proposal for renewing calm in exchange for opening crossings seriously considered in Israel, or did the government only want a military operation?


How did the rising popularity of the opposition parties, Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, as reflected in polls at the time, affect Barak and Livni's stances before and during the operation?


What was the importance of image as informed by concepts such as "restoring deterrence" and "overcoming the trauma of the Second Lebanon War" in the decisions to embark on the operation and introduce ground forces?


Did the cabinet receive assessments that discussed the possibility that hundreds of Palestinian women and children would be killed? Did ministers voice fiery rhetoric at cabinet meetings that could have been understood as encouragement to harm Palestinian civilians? Did Olmert and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz intervene and silence such voices?


How did the personal and political infighting between Olmert, Barak and Livni affect the decision making?

Why did Barak support a humanitarian cease-fire immediately after the operation began, and why did Olmert and Livni reject his proposal? Why did Livni change her position as the fighting ensued and Olmert insisted on continuing the operation?


Who decided to bomb the flour mill and sewage treatment center in Gaza, and why?


Did Olmert weigh the expected damage to Israel at the United Nations when he rejected the Security Council's call for an immediate cease-fire?


Where did Olmert disappear to on January 13 when Barak and Livni could not find him in an effort to offer a cease-fire?

A state commission of inquiry should be established. Such committees have been set up before for significantly less important issues than the war in Gaza. But the political reality is paralyzing: The defense minister and the chief of staff fear the fate of their predecessors who lost their jobs because of the Yom Kippur War and the two Lebanon wars. The prime minister is afraid of Barak and Ashkenazi. The Knesset State Control Committee under Kadima's Yoel Hasson will not initiate an investigation against Livni. Without a state commission of inquiry, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss must undertake the role himself. He has already proved that he is afraid of neither Olmert nor Barak.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE LAST LEADER

BY NIVA LANIR

 

On the eve of the 1992 election, an argument broke out between candidate Yitzhak Rabin and the public relations expert in charge of his campaign. If you talk about politics too much, the PR man warned, you won't be elected. Their compromise was essentially to wage two campaigns - one for the PR men ("Israel is waiting for Rabin," "We're sick of corruption"), and one for Rabin, who, in his campaign advertisements and speeches, went into detail about his plans for an arrangement with the Palestinians, Israel's permanent borders and a change in the order of national priorities. That was Israel's last ideological election campaign.


Rabin was the last prime minister who publicly committed himself to a diplomatic and social doctrine. After him, no one dared. And that may well be the worst of the negative effects that his murder had on Israeli society: Vagueness came to dominate political life. After him, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon all preferred to wrap themselves in a veil of ambiguity. Issues such as incitement, the Palestinians and Hamas, Syria and Hezbollah, economic decrees and the defense budget were all pushed to the margins. Ambiguity is strength: Quiet, we're getting elected.


The calamity is that three of those who were subsequently elected turned vagueness into the crowning achievement of their terms. For years now, Israeli premiers have been proclaiming that "this is one of the most difficult periods in our history" without ever saying how they intend to extricate us from it, where their governments are heading, and why. But on the one issue where silence would be appropriate, they babble endlessly: "We're not taking any options off the table" with regard to Iran's nuclear program.

 

Rabin was 70 years old when he began his second term as prime minister. But his age, wisdom and experience were not the focus of his campaign; he focused on Middle East peace agreements, the education and defense budgets and investment in infrastructure. He saw the outcome of the 1991 Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union as providing a window of opportunity for Middle East peace deals. Thanks to a healthy intuition and his intimate knowledge of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli society, Rabin was able to pick up the signals, and he made a strategic decision to work toward diplomatic agreements in order to ensure our ability to live normal lives here.


Evaluating Rabin's term in its proper context is the essence of remembering him. Such an evaluation would reveal that he headed the last government to have a clear and transparent agenda. It would also show that he was steadfast in his efforts to realize it, while eschewing empty prattle and boasts.


There are some who claim that after his death, he was turned into a saint. But that is a baseless claim, as is the claim that he all he left behind him was an even more complex conflict with the Palestinians, as a result of the Oslo Accords. It is easy to forget the peace agreement with Jordan and the opening of the Syrian channel, since there is no one today who wants to advance either one. And why remember the flourishing of diplomatic and economic ties with Arab states and Europe, when today, the slogan "the whole word is against us" has returned to the newscasts?


We will never know whether he would have continued his policies, whether he would have frozen Oslo and switched to a Plan B, or how he would have conducted negotiations with the Syrians. There is no one to tell us. Nevertheless, some things are known: Rabin would have thwarted any effort to create a binational state, and he would have done everything in his power to achieve peace with Syria.


Reading the books written by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, his Middle East advisers Robert Malley and Dennis Ross and then U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, as well as Avi Shlaim's political biography of King Hussein, leaves no doubt: Rabin was the prime minister Clinton and Hussein liked best. And like many Israelis, they knew exactly why: because of his integrity, credibility, courage and ability to make commitments and take responsibility.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

MERETZ'S SILENCE IS ONLY A SYMPTOM

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

On October 17 the Jerusalem-based organization that calls itself the Sanhedrin (and more precisely, a commission it appointed to investigate the Goldstone affair, the United Nations and the Israeli government) issued an injunction prohibiting the Security Council or any other UN institution from discussing the Goldstone report. In its English version, the injunction begins with the words "In the name of God, Ruler of the Universe." It is signed by seven commission members, most of them rabbis; their spokesman is Prof. Hillel Weiss.


This is another example where the gap between the extreme right's lunacy and "the mainstream" of Israeli politics has been eliminated. Not only is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like the Sanhedrin, demanding that the international community change the laws of war so that the Israel Defense Forces' actions will become legal, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak is warning against the interrogation of officers and soldiers. You can only shake your head at this sight and recall what once was a "rent in the fabric of Israeli society," say in November 1995, compared to this paradise of reconciliation: Hillel Weiss and Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, all in the same boat swearing by the IDF and espousing its moral superiority as though there were two IDFs: the one on earth, which we all know, and the one in heaven, which is sacred and to be spoken of only in tones of reverent awe.


It's easy to disparage poor Netanyahu: Not only was he in the opposition during the war, and not only is he in effect the foreign minister, he is also the leader of the people, in the name of the father and Jabotinskyite majesty. And now it is he of all people who has to hang his head and explain to the nation so proud of its IDF that Israel does not speak "in the name of God, Ruler of the Universe" except when the United States allows it to do so.

 

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It's easy to disparage opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima, who sucked the marrow out of Meretz in the name of peace after her central role in the war. But what does Meretz have to say about the report? What are the remnants of "the Zionist left" saying about the demand to investigate the IDF? What are they saying, for example, about the distinction Zeev Sternhell has made between the political leaders and the army? As though firing phosphorus at human beings could hide behind "receiving orders." What are the aging counselors of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement saying about the argument "I received an order"?


Meretz's silence is only a symptom. Meretz is the party that upholds the position of historical acrobatics known as "the theory of stages." "In the first stage," war was just, and after that it wasn't. How many children need to die for this and for it to be understood that a left-wing movement must not take part in Israel's military games, if only because of the political arguments after the war? Let's admit that all the Zionist parties were intoxicated during the war. Now it seems they have been stricken by temporary blindness. Simply a hangover.


Ever since "the disgraceful business" of the Lavon Affair in 1954 it has been clear that the army - never mind if it engaged in lies, fakeries, cover-ups and even cover-ups of spies - is immune to real investigation. Touching it has been forbidden, both in the Israel of the 1950s (when a battle raged between a very strong political lineup and a relatively weak army) and in the Israel of the current decade. It is only ostensibly that all the symbols have fallen (the Agranat Commission that investigated the failures of the Yom Kippur War, which "confined itself" to the heads of the army, was excoriated). It's impossible to touch the army.


Before reawakening "the affair," when Pinhas Lavon was still secretary general of the Histadrut labor federation in the late 1950s, he said: "There is no doubt that [Moshe] Dayan is an excellent soldier, but it is the nature of democratic life that when a soldier folds away his uniform and enters the public arena, his opinions are examined for their substance and his military glories cannot cover up the damage."


Lavon also said what should be spray-painted on Barak's home: "The saying about the contrast between the soldier who crawls through thorns and the civilian leaders - that statement has very strange and disturbing resonances." And Lavon said this when the military people were only trying to sneak into politics.


The fact we haven't made their retirement from the army a real retirement is part of our disaster in which they are our heroic visage and we are an eternal home front.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

LOOKING FOR A BABYSITTER

BY KARNI ELDAD

 

I'm looking for a babysitter. No, this isn't a want ad - it's a real dilemma. I posted a notice in my neighborhood in Jerusalem, and the next morning the first candidate phoned. She sounded nice, a student at Hebrew University who has two children. She saw my notice at a cafe on Mount Scopus and would be glad to meet me.

"Great!" I said. "What's your name?"


"Suha," she replied.

 

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Terrific. A vortex of emotions and thoughts, fears and pangs of conscience. I tried to imagine an Arab caregiver for my son. No problem. She sounded delightful. She's not some 17-year-old
who is disgusted by changing a diaper and will be annoyed if he cries. She lives nearby (So what if her neighborhood is called Issawiya and not French Hill?) and is ready and willing to look after him for an hour a day. But what if....


What if she duplicates the key and gives it to her cousin who will steal the car/ computer/ wallet/ gun? Or what if she really is an honest and nice person and innocently tells a relative in Taibeh (or for the sake of argument, in Ramallah) that she's looking after a cute baby? Will that person kidnap him? Or extort money from us? Or worse? And what if none of this, but I always have the feeling that maybe, maybe yes?


From time to time we encounter a news report showing horror scenes (filmed with hidden cameras) of caregivers abusing babies or old people. Parents assume there is no one in the world to be trusted to look after the baby. So why the additional fears? I started imagining the worst.


This is a moral dilemma in the most basic way. A woman, an inhabitant of my city, wants to earn an honest living. An intelligent woman of about my age who has two children and is a neighbor. Why am I not hiring her? Really, why? What am I afraid of?


I scrutinized myself and my thoughts. I looked terrible. I was sorry about the situation I was in, about the fears that bind me and distort my decisions. I remembered that when we were little, we had an Arab cleaning woman. She wasn't at all nice but not because of her ethnicity. It's just that there are people who are not nice. Why weren't we afraid to employ her? Why weren't we afraid of having an Arab woman in our home every week? Were we naive? Were we less cowardly? Maybe in the pre-intifada era it was easier to employ Arabs. Have I become a racist? And the most difficult question: Am I prepared to live with that definition?


I phoned Suha. She asked when we would meet. I told her the truth. That I am afraid.


"Of what?" she asked.


"I am afraid to employ an Arab woman," I said.


"There's nothing to be afraid of. Do you want us to meet so you can see there is nothing to be afraid of?" she said. She was so nice, so noble. But I couldn't do it. Fear got the better of me. I let it take control of me.

"I've thought about it," I said to her, "and I have no problem with us being friends. You sound like a really great person, but I am afraid for my son," I stuttered. And she, all sweetness, wished me that I find someone with whom I'll feel comfortable.


How discomfiting

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE FOG OF ETHICS IN ALBANY

 

Extortion, bribery, racketeering — those are just some of the crimes that have sent members of the New York State Legislature to jail in the last five years. The good news is that the authorities caught up with them. The bad news is how easily and how long they were able to exploit the system, and New York's long-suffering citizens, before they were caught.

 

The most recent example surfaced last week when federal prosecutors released a sentencing document for Anthony Seminerio, the former assemblyman who resigned in June and then pleaded guilty to fraud. The Queens Democrat spent 30 years in the Legislature, collecting a paycheck from taxpayers. For a good part of the time, he used his elected position to solicit "consulting fees" from two hospitals, the Long Island Rail Road and other clients, all with important business before the Legislature.

 

The details of the government's case reads like a profanity-laden film script — with the growling lawmaker muscling people into paying him as a "consultant" or he would ruin their companies and "kill" their bills in Albany. This went on for years until another assemblyman — indicted for separate crimes — agreed to wear a wire while talking to Mr. Seminerio.

 

Obviously, there is no law, no commission, no finger-wagging that could turn Mr. Seminerio and his ilk into honest citizens. But there is something profoundly flawed in a system where, first, so many people considered it business as usual (or an unavoidable expense) to pay a legislator for special treatment.

 

What makes it even worse is that the Legislature's rules on reporting outside income are so weak that the public had no way of recognizing a scam like this one. As State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Manhattan Democrat, puts it simply: "Nobody's minding the candy store."

 

•Here are some of many ways the system is failing:

 

OUTSIDE INCOME IS ONE OF THE PERKS Legislators in Albany are considered to be part-time workers. They are allowed to hold second jobs, including as lawyers and political consultants, although many of the more diligent ones do not have outside jobs.

 

OUTSIDE INCOME IS BARELY MONITORED The Legislative Ethics Commission is a feeble operation created by the Legislature to oversee itself — very gently. Its deliberations are secret and the outcome is almost never made public. Its reporting rules on outside income are shockingly weak.

 

Lawmakers are required to list that income only within broad ranges (Category F is $250,000 or more, for example) on documents that are edited before the public sees them. Those who work as lawyers are told not to list clients. That exemption serves many lawmakers well, including New York's most powerful lawmaker/lawyer: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He works for Weitz & Luxenberg, one of New York City's largest personal injury law firms, which has strong connections to the influential New York Trial Lawyers Association.

 

We are not suggesting that Mr. Silver has done anything illegal. But without robust disclosure requirements, it is impossible for the public to know whether a lawmaker is maintaining an unbreachable wall between his or her private practice and public service.

Even the vague numbers for income from outside business that are reported are whited-out before the form is given to the public. In the case of Mr. Seminerio, it took federal prosecutors to discover that officials at one hospital had paid him at least $300,000 over the years. This hospital had secured more than $100 million in state financing and other benefits from state taxpayers.

 

If the Legislature required its members to reveal more about income and clients and to make that information public, the Seminerio caper would have raised questions, even in Albany.

 

ETHICS COMMISSION IS AN INSIDE JOKE Even members of the ethically challenged Legislature know that their ethics commission is looking the other way. When Senator Hiram Monserrate was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend, the voters' outrage was so high that Senator John Sampson, the Democratic conference leader, decided to bypass the commission. He established a public ad hoc group of senators to decide Mr. Monserrate's fate.

 

We hope that it will have the focus, muscle and gumption to call for kicking Mr. Monserrate out of the Legislature — and that the Senate will agree. Meanwhile, Mr. Monserrate has been raising money to pay his attorneys' fees and seems to have no plans to make his contributors public. He should be required to do so. The only word for this secrecy is outrageous.

 

HEAL THYSELF, NOW There are a few lawmakers, including Mr. Sampson and Mr. Silver, who say they are trying to come up with stronger ethics rules and better investigation and enforcement — for government workers and lobbyists. So far, we haven't heard much talk about how they plan to toughen up their own rules.

At some point, New Yorkers have to ask themselves whether they want lawmakers with outside jobs. But there is a lot that needs to be fixed right now, including limits on whose money legislators can accept and rigorous public reporting requirements for all outside income.

 

The corruption in Albany has to end.

 

This article is part of a series examining the political and structural crisis in the New York State government. The series can be read at nytimes.com/opinion

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MICROCHIPS AND MONOPOLIES

 

Following a 16-month-long formal investigation, and years of dithering during the Bush administration, the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly within weeks of filing an antitrust complaint against Intel for abusing its dominant position in the microchip market to shut out a smaller rival, Advanced Micro Devices.

 

The rest of the world has not waited. Since 2005, antitrust authorities from Japan, South Korea and Europe have taken action against Intel for anticompetitive behavior. In May, the European Commission fined the company nearly $1.5 billion for offering illegal rebates to computer makers that bought all or nearly all their chips from Intel, and delayed or canceled the introduction of products with A.M.D. chips.

 

Four out of five PCs in the world run on Intel's microchips. If Intel is abusing its outsize clout to marginalize rivals and hinder the development of competitive products, it should be made to stop.

 

Intel and its allies in Congress have been circling the wagons. The company wants the F.T.C. to delay any action until the end of a civil lawsuit between Intel and A.M.D. that is scheduled to go to trial in March after years of pretrial investigation. Intel is appealing the European decision, arguing that the commission cherry-picked evidence and relied on e-mails from ill-informed low-ranking executives. And it has been talking to members of Congress from states, such as Oregon or Arizona, where Intel employs more than 25,000 people in total.

 

A letter to the F.T.C. signed by nearly two dozen members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, blasted the fine as part of "a troublesome trend in Europe towards regulatory protectionism." They claimed the chip market was highly competitive — pointing to a fast decline in prices — and urged the Obama administration to be "an advocate of the 'American Way.' "

 

But the F.T.C. must focus on the issues, not the politics. A decade of Supreme Court decisions hostile to antitrust enforcement has let monopolists get away with a lot of abusive behavior because consumers weren't suffering higher prices. This approach ignores the importance of consumer choice in high-tech industries, which depend on competition to provide the incentive to innovate. Competition needs competitors.

 

Despite Intel's objections, the European Commission's evidence shows Intel leaning heavily on computer makers. In one e-mail, a Lenovo executive points to an Intel deal, in exchange for which "we will not be introducing AMD based products in 2007 for our Notebook products." A submission from Hewlett-Packard stated that to get rebates from Intel from 2002 to 2005 it had to submit to a requirement "that HP should purchase at least 95 percent of its business desktop system from Intel." A 2003 Dell presentation noted that if Dell were to switch any chip supplies to A.M.D., Intel's retaliation "could be severe and prolonged with impact to all LOBs [Lines of Business]." We don't consider that the American way.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOOD, HUMANITY, HABITAT AND HOW WE GET TO 2050

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, feeding humanity in 2050 — when the world's population is expected to be 9.1 billion — will require a 70 percent increase in global food production, partly because of population growth but also because of rising incomes.

 

The organization hopes that this increase can be brought about by greater productivity on current agricultural acreage and by greening parts of the world that aren't now arable. It is also "cautiously optimistic" that, even with climate change, there will be enough land and probably enough water to do so. It's important to look at this projection in light of another United Nations goal — preserving biodiversity — and ask whether the two are compatible.

 

In 2003, 123 nations committed themselves to "a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss" by 2010. According to scientists at a recent United Nations-sponsored biodiversity conference, that target will not be met. Biodiversity loss keeps accelerating, and extinctions are occurring at a rate that's 100 times what it was before humans dominated the earth. Species are going out like candles in the dark.

 

The "cautiously optimistic" authors of the United Nations food report believe that humanity will somehow be able to produce more food while still honoring the value of other species by protecting their habitat. And it's true that this is not a zero-sum game. A 70 percent increase in food production doesn't necessarily mean a 70 percent reduction in habitat.

 

But the Food and Agriculture Organization also warns that agricultural acreage will have to grow by some 297 million acres, a little less than three times the size of California. Add to this the ongoing rate of habitat destruction — including deforestation, often for fuel but usually for producing more food — and other threats like the growing production of biofuels, and it is hard to argue that there isn't a profound conflict between what our species will need to survive by 2050 and the needs of nearly every other species on this planet.

 

The question isn't whether we can feed 9.1 billion people in 2050 — they must be fed — or whether we can find the energy they will surely need. The question is whether we can find a way to make food and energy production sustainable in the broadest possible sense — and whether we can act on the principle that our interest includes that of every other species on the planet.

 

The only way to do that is to think about the habitat of all other species as the frame of our activities. Unless habitat is part of the equation, we're simply not talking realistically about the character, much less the future, of our planet. We have no idea what the "right" amount of biodiversity on this planet should be (although we seem at times to be running an ill-judged experiment to see how little we need). And we struggle to find reasons why other species and ecosystems are important, searching mostly for utilitarian arguments (their value as medicines, for instance) that specify their usefulness to us.

 

My own answer is less utilitarian: They have the value of their own existence. I adhere to a conclusion reached long ago — by James Madison in 1818, who said, simply, that it cannot be right for all of Earth's resources to "be made subservient to the use of man."

 

We need to act on that