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Sunday, November 8, 2009

EDITORIAL 04.11.09


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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month november 04, edition 000341, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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





























































In giving a declaration listing their wealth, assets and properties, the judges of the Supreme Court have enhanced the credibility and public standing of the judiciary. Over the past two years, the issue of transparency in regard to the assets of senior judges and their immediate family members has been a contentious one. Jurists, politicians, legal luminaries and public intellectuals have offered their opinions. In recent weeks, the matter of the elevation of an individual judge from the Madras High Court to the Supreme Court also became a controversial one due to some doubts about the legality or otherwise of his assets. This didn't help the public debate and, indeed, confused the imperative for honesty in the judiciary with the straightforward reasoning that honest judges — and there is no doubt that the Supreme Court is unimpeachable in this regard — should be proactive in telling the people what they are personally worth. In posting a compilation of their assets on the website of the Supreme Court, India's judicial leaders have lived up to their reputation for high integrity and to the public's aspirations. As with any innovation, there has been ample room for confusion. Some judges have stated the value of the jewellery or goods in their possession, some have merely described these; some judges have given the original (purchase) value of their propertied assets, some have updated these. These are acceptable angularities. It would be best, however, if the Chief Justice devised a standard format for declaration of assets. This template could then be used by all his brother judges, in the Supreme Court and in the High Courts.

More than the quantum of the assets or engaging trivia — one of the judges of the Supreme Court owns a Yamaha motorcycle as his only personal vehicle, another is paying EMIs on a car loan — this declaration has established that India's higher judiciary is responsive to the expectations of its people. It realises that Indians place an exceptional and sometimes unrealistic burden on the Supreme Court, seeing it not just as the final interpreter of the law but as the sanctuary of justice, the custodian of the Constitution, the only check against a malignant executive and the last refuge of the ordinary citizen. This is why the debate over whether or not judges should declare their assets acquired a certain moral importance that, for instance, questions of ordinary bureaucrats or even MPs revealing what they are worth have never had. India sees and places its judges in another category. To their credit, the judges acknowledged that and responded to the nation in equal measure.

By acting with such firmness, the judiciary has also put the Government and the political class on the defensive. In the past two decades, a weak and feckless executive has ceded more and more authority to the Supreme Court. It now finds that people think of the courts as a super-executive, whether it is to clarify economic policy changes or curb environmental damage to India's cities or fragile natural habitats. In recent times, politicians have sought to use the 'declaration of assets' business to run a whisper campaign against the judiciary. The Supreme Court has now put paid to all this. Indeed, if the Chief Justice designs a foolproof standard for wealth declaration, public pressure should ask Parliament and the Government to adhere to it as well.






Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission's decision to declare Mr Hamid Karzai President for a second term brings to an end the messy affair that has been the Afghan presidential election. The decision was taken in the wake of former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal from the scheduled November 7 run-off poll, which left Mr Karzai as the sole candidate. It will be recalled that none of the candidates who took part in the first round of polling on August 20 had secured an absolute majority to be elected President of Afghanistan. This had necessitated a run-off poll between the top two candidates — Mr Karzai and Mr Abdullah. But the entire election process has been ugly to say the least. Not only was the first round of polling marred by Taliban-perpetrated violence, there were also several complaints of fraud that resulted in hundreds of thousands of votes being declared invalid. This had severely dented the legitimacy of the election itself. Nonetheless, it was hoped that the impending run-off poll would salvage some trust in the electoral process. But with Mr Abdullah prematurely pulling out of the race, the risk of going ahead with the November 7 poll was rightly perceived to be too great to afford.

Given the way things have turned out, many have raised eyebrows at Mr Karzai's re-election. But it must be borne in mind that Mr Abdullah's decision to withdraw was a tactical one. Even though the Tajik-Pashtun leader had initially cited the impossibility of holding a fraud-free election as the reason behind his move to opt out, he later went on record to state that his decision was in keeping with the best interests of Afghanistan. Mr Abdullah knew that he had no chance of winning the run-off poll against Mr Karzai. Every opinion poll predicted a clear victory for the incumbent. Thus, by withdrawing, Mr Abdullah has sought to consolidate the significant political mileage he has earned over the last two months as a possible alternative to Mr Karzai. This is also the reason why Mr Abdullah has refrained from pushing the fraud argument too hard. On the balance, it is positive that Afghanistan now has a declared, legitimate leader. Mr Karzai has proven himself to be an astute statesman. There is no doubt that he is more than qualified to handle the demands of the post he occupies. That said, Mr Karzai has his work cut out. Over the coming months he must tackle the problem of rampant corruption within the Afghan Government on a war-footing. Also, in the face of a resurgent Taliban insurgency, he must initiate a slew of policy measures to politically unite Afghanistan's disparate groups under one umbrella. The road ahead will be tough. But negotiating it would be easier if Mr Karzai were to decide to have Mr Abdullah by his side.



            THE PIONEER




The former Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Mr Madhu Koda, who these days represents Chaibasa constituency in the Lok Sabha, has done what others who have been caught with their snouts in the trough have been known to do: He has checked into a hospital where obliging doctors have found a bed for him in the intensive care unit. According to a health bulletin issued late Tuesday evening by Abur Razzak Memorial Weavers' Hospital, whose doctors obviously hold the Hippocratic Oath in utter contempt, Mr Koda is suffering from a stomach-ache. Cynics would gleefully point out that it's a case of indigestion caused by Mr Koda stuffing himself with too much lolly, but such frivolity need not distract us from the offences he has been accused of committing.

Nor should we hold Mr Koda's humble beginnings — he was a welder and before that a mine worker till the late-1990s — against him. Others have risen from rags to riches by doing 'social service', which is how politicians describe their profession in their bio-profiles, and not all of them went to the right school, college and university. Indeed, politics offers a level playing field for those who have no compunctions about acquiring ill-gotten wealth. Perhaps that's the way it should be — after all, there is no reason why those from the 'masses' should be at a disadvantage compared to those from the 'classes' when it comes to sharing the proverbial loaves and fishes of office.

Yet, Mr Koda's alleged transgressions, ranging from illegal mining operations to kickbacks to money-laundering, are stunning because of the scale of the loot and the speed with which it was conducted. They also show that with the right determination and cunning, a nondescript milkman and the son of a chewing tobacco vendor can become the 'business associates' of a Chief Minister and front for him while negotiating 'investment deals' in places as far and wide as Dubai, Liberia and South Africa. But for their association with Mr Koda, neither Mr Vinod Sinha, who used to supply milk at homes in Ranchi, nor Mr Sanjay Chaudhary, whose father would hawk chewing tobacco (better known as khaini) from the carrier of his ramshackle bicycle, would have been among India's most-wanted men today.

Mr Koda and his associates who are on the run would tell you that it's all about seizing the right opportunity when it comes knocking on your door and not turning it away. For Mr Koda, who had contested and won the Assembly election on a BJP ticket, it came with the creation of Jharkhand in November 2000, a State carved out of Bihar ostensibly to ensure better governance and development for what was then considered a neglected tribal-dominated region. Statehood was considered fulfilment of the long-standing demand to protect tribal interests by delinking their fortunes from those of Bihar.

Mr Koda became Minister in the first Government of Jharkhand headed by Mr Babulal Marandi; he retained both his job and portfolio — Mines and Rural Engineering Organisation — after Mr Arjun Munda took over as Chief Minister. In 2005, Mr Koda was denied a BJP ticket, but that did not deter him from contesting the election as an 'Independent'; he won with a handsome margin from Jagannathpur.

In a hung Assembly, Mr Koda and four other 'Independent' MLAs played a crucial role, first in helping the BJP to form a Government (in which they became Ministers) and later in pulling it down at the behest of the Congress, the RJD and the JMM. That was Mr Koda's second opportunity: He manoeuvred himself into the Chief Minister's office in September 2006 and remained in power till August 2008, when Mr Shibu Soren pulled the plug on him.

Apocryphal stories abound in Ranchi about how Mr Koda acquired huge wealth and clout in less than a decade. His iron ore-rich constituency became the hub of illegal mining: Trucks would be loaded and despatched across the border with Orissa to Paradip Port from where the ore would be shipped out to foreign destinations. A senior journalist in Ranchi recounted how industrialists were delighted when Mr Koda became the Chief Minister: He ran a 'single window operation' whereby those wanting to short-circuit the tedious process of submitting tenders and competing with others would pay him directly. Apparently, he had fixed 'fees' for favours — for example, he would charge Rs 1 lakh for every acre of mines being leased out; whoever paid the 'fee' got the lease.

It is, therefore, not surprising that he should have amassed assets worth Rs 4,000 crore, which is almost a fifth of Jharkhand's annual budget, as is being claimed by the Income Tax Department. What is, however, surprising is that he should have thought of investing the slush funds in diverse businesses, including hotels, apartment blocks and shopping malls across nine cities. It is also a measure of the ingenuity of his two close associates, Mr Sinha and Mr Chaudhary, that they should have set up a bogus investment firm, Balaji Bullion and Retailers, in Mumbai, which funnelled money — according to one estimate, as much as Rs 990 crore — to a Dubai-based 'investor' called Abdul Bhai.

Was Mr Koda operating all by himself? Or was there somebody else, apart from Mr Sinha and Mr Chaudhary, who was advising him how to salt away the money he had looted? A former mine worker may be sufficiently brazen to demand bribes for favours and run an illegal mining operation, but would he be clever enough to invest in Liberian and South African mines? Recall how Mr Shibu Soren, far more crafty than Mr Koda, went and deposited the money he got for voting with the Treasury Benches so that PV Narasimha Rao's Government would not fall, in a bank from where it was later seized and used to implicate him and his party MPs.

We could, of course, ignore the possibility of a larger conspiracy to mint millions by defrauding the people of Jharkhand, whom Mr Koda and tribal leaders of his ilk insist they represent, and blame it all on coal which has proved to be a boon to the unscrupulous few and a bane to the many who still wait for deliverance from gruelling poverty in one of India's richest States.







Chandan Mitra's article, "Ekla Chalo re!" (October 25, The Cutting Ed, Foray) is a thought provoking write-up. It is a must read for the top brass of the BJP leadership. By and large the party's experience with respect to coalitions, both at the Centre and in the States, has not been very encouraging. That the coalition partners during the NDA regime had deserted the BJP for opportunistic gains is all too well known. It is sad to see that in order to accommodate parties with divergent ideologies, the BJP, time and again, has compromised on its core issues — implementation of uniform civil code, abrogating of Article 370 with respect to Jammu & Kashmir, and the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

By sidelining these issues, the BJP has lost its traditional vote-bank as well as its credibility as a Hindutva party. It has been too timid in its alliances. In Orissa, for instance, the party thought that it could cross the river on the BJD boat. But it ended up being marginalised and was thrown out as soon as the BJD sensed that the mood of the voters was in its favour.

In Punjab where the Akali Dal is in power in alliance with the BJP, both the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister are from the regional party and the people hardly know about the BJP MLAs in the State. The state of affairs in Bihar is no different. The BJP will have to fight the next Assembly election in the State at the mercy of Mr Nitish Kumar and the JD(U) as whatever development is taking place there is widely perceived to be due to the efforts of the Chief Minister.

To keep its identity, the BJP will have to chart a different path for itself (Ekla Chalo re) which is inclusive, nationalist and non-parochial. Hence, from now on, it will be in the best interest of the BJP to go solo as far as possible in State elections and preserve its identity as a national party.

For this the BJP will have to abandon its dream of coming to power at the Centre and shift its focus on the States. It is imperative that the party strengthens itself in the Hindi heartland and goes back to its core issues. If the BJP, like its old avatar, once again becomes a party with a difference and not a party with differences, I am sure that it will rise like a phoenix from its present state of despondency and regain its lost ground in national politics. The party must act now before it crosses the point of no return.








Abraham Lincoln was drawn into the American Civil War in 1861 almost immediately after being elected President on his anti-slavery platform. This is because the declaration to secede on the part of the 13 southern States came first. And it was the Confederacy again that fired the first salvo when it attacked the Union garrison stationed at Charlestown in North Carolina. These two events wrecked the option to negotiate.

And so it was only left to Lincoln to retaliate. And retaliate with such resolution that it broke the back of the secessionists and swept the old South into the dustbin of history, a process described poignantly in the pages of Margaret Mitchell's classic Gone With The Wind.

But in hindsight, and in the interests of equity and justice, romancing the South might have been just so much sympathy for the devil. Similarly, liberal sympathy for Maoists, even as they behead people, kill policemen and CRPF personnel, blow up roads and bridges, hold hostages and write slogans on hijacked trains, may be misplaced.

The Indian nation cannot responsibly ignore their declaration of war, emboldened, most probably, by the kid-gloves treatment accorded to them over years of state ambivalence. But the Maoists are dead serious and, seduced by petty successes at armed insurrection, are dreaming of victory over the Republic itself.

The recent hostage exchange in the Lalgarh region of West Bengal was portrayed as an exchange of POWs, and the Bhubaneshwar-Delhi Rajdhani train hijack later was an attempt to spring some other prisoners from captivity. Let us also remember that close cooperation between terrorists of different ideologies and persuasions is a grim reality.

The Maoists would have it that they are justified in waging all-out war against the Union of India. This even as their apologists try to find ways and means to explain their stance. But the time for debating pros and cons of such anarchism, its causes notwithstanding, may have slipped away. And the Indian state, like the America of Abraham Lincoln, is left with no choice but to firmly put down such blatant sedition. The consequence of further ambivalence over the issue will only result in turning problems even more intractable.

The US is now nearly two and a half centuries old. But in 1861, at the start of the Civil War, it must have seemed like a massive risk to both sides. Without the gift of omniscience, no one could have known how the conflict would turn out.

But after the loss of over 600,000 lives, a most effective naval blockade, and the passage of just four years, it all became crystal clear.

American nationhood was steeped in the blood of martyrs, from that of the earlier War of Independence from the British; and again, from their home grown, even harder fought, Civil War. In the interim there was also the shameful genocide of Red Indians and sharp battles with the Mexicans at the famous fort at Alamo.

Through it all emerged an unshakeable American nation with no further wars fought on its home turf since. But it consumed over a million lives to get there. And this without counting the American lives lost in subsequent wars fought abroad: In South Korea, in Europe, against Japan; in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan.

India may have had a reasonably non-violent independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, but it did have to send in tens of thousands of Indians to die on foreign shores during World War II. And it has fought three wars against Pakistan and one with China since independence. It has also faced constant challenges to its nationhood from within, in the North East, in Kashmir, in Punjab, and now via the old Naxalite movement grown into present day Maoist insurrection. Blood seems to be the price of nationhood.

Today the threat to India is unprecedented, both from within and without, from Islamic and Maoist terrorism, from Chinese belligerence, Pakistani chicanery, and a variety of secessionist and seditious movements in different parts. And most tellingly, from its state of abject unpreparedness.

But perhaps our policy-makers are at last coming around. It is ironic that we should be so threatened when India as an economic entity is poised on the threshold of greatness. There is reasonable commentary that sees the Sensex at 50,000 within five years, implying a more than doubling of the economy in the interim. Good and fine, but will we snatch defeat from the mouth of victory instead?

The American LeT operative Headley let slip to the FBI, news of the stalking of a certain "Rahul". This may or may not be referring to the scion of the Gandhi dynasty but it tells you how vulnerable the leaders of an open democracy and a soft-state can be.

The Home Minister's recent clear-cut warning that another 26/11 style attack masterminded from across the border will be met with decisive retaliation is most welcome. It represents a stiffening of the Indian spine not seen since Mrs Indira Gandhi authorised Operation Bluestar.

There are other stirrings; such as the raising of new and specialised battalions, moves to urgently improve infrastructure in border areas, provide our police, paramilitary and armed forces with modern arms, equipment, facilities, and move troops and equipment to where they may be needed; on fronts facing both Pakistan and China. These are long overdue steps, and given the right provisioning, India will be no pushover.

Former President George W Bush underscored the realpolitik involved on a recent visit to attend the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. He implied that India's entry to the UN Security Council, with or without veto powers, will depend as much on our hard power as our diplomacy.

None of the present five permanent members are going to countenance expansion of the Council, and a consequent dilution of their own power, without compelling bilateral and multilateral benefits. And this applies as much to other contenders such as Japan, Germany and Brazil, as it does to India.

Omniscience may not be a human gift, but prescience can be. India must modernise and strengthen itself on all parameters. We can't use the piece-meal approach anymore. This preparatory phase of India's ascension to the big league demands things be done very differently from that of a new nation emerging from the yoke of colonialism to freedom at midnight.








Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao held a bilateral meeting on October 24 during a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations. It was followed by External Affairs Minister SM Krishna meeting with his counterpart Yang Jiechi on October 27 during a trilateral meeting of India, Russia and China. These two high-powered meetings clearly suggest that both Beijing and New Delhi are keen to continue their dialogue on bilateral issues.

The Chinese and the Indians have to appreciate the logic of the 21st century which has brought great powers along with great responsibilities for the twin emerging economies of Asia. Hence, the terms of 'engagement' between India and China should be dictated by the logic of the present century which the Chinese have characterised as the Asian century. We no more live in a struggling, decolonised Asia of the post-World War II era. Thus, expecting an 'economic miracle' which will lead to a shift in the centre of global power from North America and Europe to Asia will be naive. Within Asia the catalysts for such an 'economic miracle' are India, China, Japan and the East Asian countries. This is the reason why both New Delhi and Beijing are attaching great importance to the idea of ASEAN and an attempt is on to establish a political group, may be an Asian Union or an Asian Common Market, along the lines of the European Union.

Policy-makers cannot ignore macro or mega trends at the international and regional levels because foreign and domestic policies have to respond to the new emerging global challenges. It is essential to keep in mind this framework of the 21st century for understanding the reality of India-China bilateral relations.

Besides, the recent bilateral meetings between New Delhi and Beijing assume significance in the wake of the discord that had arisen between the two neighbours over the border issue. Despite serious differences of opinion on the demarcation of the border, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the ASEAN summit said that India will have a "functional cooperation" with China. The two have long coordinated approach on climate change and are actively cooperating in negotiations on global trade at the World Trade Organization. The two have also dramatically expanded their bilateral trade relations: In 2005 India and China signed the Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity pact and, in 2008, Prime Minster Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao brought out a Shared Vision Document.

This engagement between India and China is for mutual benefit. The growing partnership between the two countries is the result of the logic of the 21st century.

This does not mean that India and China do not have areas of mutual conflict that have created tension between them. While the border dispute is a historical legacy, the construction of a dam across the Brahmaputra by China without taking India into confidence, and its involvement with projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have naturally generated ill-feelings about Beijing in New Delhi.

With the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers agreeing last month to gradually narrow differences on border issues, the focal point of the bilateral relationship is bound to shift. It will all boil down to whether China recognises the special status that India occupies in Asia and does India reciprocate the same feeling for the Chinese.

Besides, China must realise that its relationship with Pakistan will not lead it anywhere as the latter is facing a number of serious internal crises. Therefore, China's Pakistan card, suspected to be a counter-India strategy, is fast losing its significance. At the end of the day, the dialogue between these two neighbouring giants will sometimes be conducted in friendly and sometimes in not so friendly conditions. But there is no denying that dialogue is the only way forward to find solutions to the various bilateral issues.







Aid activists Oxfam complained recently that "it is time for G20 leaders to stand up and deliver the money needed to protect poor people," as heads of the world's biggest economies met in Pittsburgh in September. The real problem is that aid is actually rising but much of it never reaches poor countries and, when it does, it causes economic, social and political damage.

In fact, over $ 119 billion was budgeted for aid from rich to poor countries this year, up $ 16 billion from last year. But about half of that stays with donors in "tied aid" and other domestic spending. "Almost 50p of every pound of donor aid fails to target poverty, but instead aims to meet other donor priorities," charity and pressure-group ActionAid said in 2006, an estimate largely confirmed in 2008 by the Organisation for Economic Coopeation and Development.

Britain budgeted $ 8 billion for aid to last year — with India being the biggest recipient, although it is a tiny percentage of India's GDP — but recent research has uncovered numerous examples of waste and mismanagement within Government.

The British Government pays pressure groups to campaign and lobby Governments abroad and citizens at home, at the expense of actual aid projects. This year alone, the Department for International Development put £ 140 million (about $170 million) in its 'communications' budget — much of it propaganda within the UK. By 2011, a total of £ 1 billion ($1.2 billion) of public money will have been spent on this. Most of it is given away in unrestricted grants to hand-picked activist groups, with little accountability and transparency — and, worse, little evidence that the programmes are helping the poor.

Many of these are at best controversial and often hostile to development. ActionAid, for example, doing the 'other donor priorities' mentioned above, used Government funds to campaign against free trade, on one occasion stating: "There is very little evidence to support claims that free trade lifts people out of poverty."

This assertion simply ignores all the millions of people around the world who have been allowed to escape poverty through freer trade after decades of economic oppression. Anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof said this year that "probably the great unsung triumph so far of the 21st century was the lifting of 400 million Chinese people out of extreme poverty-through trade". Ideological groups like ActionAid can only make things worse for the world's poorest people, who already face high barriers to trade.

Some Western groups funded with 'foreign aid' money lobby and pressurise developing-country Governments to change their own policies. The UK charity Voluntary Service Overseas took offence at package holidays in Gambia and convinced the Gambian Government to ban them. Realising that the ban was doing more harm than good, the country dropped the policy just a year later.

Of the 'foreign aid' that never even leaves the UK, the Government has given millions to British trades unions who in turn fund the ruling Labour Party. This cosy system would be condemned by Westerners in a poor country yet is openly taking place in the supposed birthplace of modern democracy.

The Trades Union Congress (a group of 60 unions) describes on its website how, in the name of 'development,' UK taxpayers have paid for its three-year DfID "Strategic Framework Partnership Arrangement" whose "key achievements" included "the TUC's fifth International Women's Day celebration." How a party with Caribbean food and music helps women in poor countries, or indeed anyone other than the guests, remains unclear.

At the very least, the next Government should ensure that foreign aid is just that — help to the poorest people abroad. Better would be to reconsider the outdated and disproven ideas of development aid.

But even this Government has started to question its approach, accusing Oxfam of the "prioritising of advocacy over humanitarian delivery" with its £27.8 million ($ 31 million) grant.

Such mismanagement and the recession will cut into the amounts of aid actually transferred from rich to developing countries. But this might not be bad news: Experience and economic data have shown how foreign aid props up bad Governments and bad policies. It should be no surprise that aid fuels corruption and waste when it is poisoned at the source.

-- Caroline Boin is a Director and Julian Harris a Research Fellow at International Policy Network. They recently wrote Fake Aid: How foreign aid is being used to support the self-serving political activities of NGOs.







GRATITUDE is, at least in politics, a highly over- rated virtue. Leaders who expect people to vote for them because they have benefited from some scheme or sop are usually disappointed at the polls.


Political moneybags, too, Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa perhaps feels, should realise that their munificence counts for little with upright politicians like him.


The " Yeddy versus Reddy" crisis that has gripped state politics, pitting Mr Yeddyurappa against Bellary mine- lords G Janardhan Reddy and his brother and Minister of Revenue G Karunakar Reddy has its roots in a somewhat blatant case of political amnesia. The Reddy brothers believe that the Chief Minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party have forgotten that it is their money that enabled them to set up their first government in southern India.


Their supporters say that the CM and his protégé Shobha Karandalje, the Panchayati Raj Minister, are deliberately undercutting the Reddys' position in state politics.


Not only has Mr Yeddyurappa kept the Reddys out of the flood relief operations in Bellary, he has transferred out all officers who had a working relationship with them.


To add insult to injury, he has slapped a tax on the movement of iron ore, the source of the Reddys' wealth.


It is common in coalition arrangements for parties to keep their partners down even while trying to move ahead. Even then, rivals maintain a certain sense of practical decorum to keep the coalition going. Mr Yeddyurappa's self- promoting tactics are somewhat gauche even in the annals of Indian party politics. So it is not surprising that the BJP has had to send its senior leaders down from New Delhi to get him to step back into line. A five- point formula is on the table; whether or not it works is a different matter.







THE disclosure of their assets by judges of the Supreme Court is a welcome development.


But there is no reason why this should not have happened a long time ago.


The apex court judges ought to have done it of their own accord, out of respect for the post they hold, rather than on account of public and political pressure, and at the urging of some of their own colleagues.


The judges have reiterated that the disclosures are ' voluntary' in nature. This means that no query or scrutiny of the assets by the public will be permitted, making it only a half exercise in transparency as envisaged under the Right to Information Act. In any case, since the apex court's appeal before a division bench of the Delhi High Court in this connection stands, it is necessary for Parliament to enact a law to make such declarations mandatory.


The valuations attached by the honourable justices to their assets seem conservative, not having kept market forces in mind. Some members have also chosen to give sketchy details about certain assets.


The assets disclosed seem somewhat meagre for professionals who must have been highly successful lawyers before being elevated to the bench. Additionally, there is no reason why the SC should not have instructed the high court judges to also go public about their assets — though praise is due here for Karnataka and Kerala judges who have already done so and those who played a significant role in compelling the current disclosures.







HEALING the wounds of Jammu and Kashmir was never going to be easy. It has just become a bit more difficult because of the Services team's refusal to play a scheduled Ranji Trophy match in Srinagar. The irony of the Indian Army team citing security as a reason for not playing in the Valley is too obvious to ignore. Its members do belong to a profession which sometimes requires them to go into harm's way. Not that playing cricket in a secured stadium is the same thing as fighting a war.


Such short- sighted actions go against the grain of the efforts to normalise the situation in the state. It is just last week that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the Valley to kick- start his latest initiative in that direction. The BCCI has rightly disqualified the team from this year's championship, but surely the team's spinelessness calls for a sterner condemnation.










The government has not thought through the ban on pre- paid SIMs in Jammu &Kashmir


BEGINNING 1st November this year, pre-paid mobile connections have been abruptly banned in Jammu and Kashmir by the Home Ministry in Delhi. In the words of the Home Minister they were banned as they were 'prone to misuse'. The ban means that no fresh connections would be provided and the existing connections would not be renewed. The decision has not gone down well in the region as almost 38 lakh subscribers have gone off cellular connectivity. The Home Minister has indicated that such a ban could also be extended to North East India if needed.


Cellular phones were not functional in the Jammu and Kashmir region and the North-East till the Cabinet Committee on Security lifted the ban on setting up wireless/mobile telephone infrastructure in August 2002. The reason given at the time was that the Defence Ministry had objected to the same mentioning that militants and insurgents in the region would be able to communicate with each other easily.


However with public pressure from the region weighing in, as also the awareness that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, the then Communications Minister Pramod Mahajan took a strong stand and got a cellular network operational in the region.


The present decision is clearly not a popular one;, it bespeaks the fact that such decisions seem to be taken in the corridors of North Block without any reference to the realities on the ground. There is need for the authorities to clearly demonstrate how the ban will actually help address their security concerns. After so many years of use the mobile handset is seen as a necessary tool which will be difficult to live without for most users. Cellular connections in India are provided by the operators under a licence in the post-paid and prepaid categories. These connections are activated by the operators after a security check is done, based on the identity and address proof documents provided at the time of the submission of forms. Generally, for post paid connectivity, a proper check is done by visiting the address of the applicant while for a pre-paid phone, the connection is provided after document verification. In both cases, verification is done, though in different ways.



Operators cannot be blamed for the problems in the verification requirements — across the country many government agencies have issued identity cards which are based on false applications. In border states like Assam, many illegal Bangladeshi migrants have been able to secure ration cards, as also driving licences.


These persons are able to easily secure a connection with such documents and there is no way a cellular operator can deny them one. So the government must set its identity card issuance systems in order. With plans to provide Unique Identity Cards ( UID) to citizens, it is extremely important to do a re- check of the present identity documents, else we will be carrying many non- citizens as well as bogus cards into the system.


Second, banning such connectivity has to be seen in the light of present day cellular infrastructure technology. Cellular connectivity works on digital technology and offers a large footprint. So voice calls as well as short messaging services can be easily monitored and the present day monitoring technology allows for interceptions. Even if these connections were being misused for subversive activities, the law enforcement agencies should be able to pin- point the particular connections and take them off the network.


Actually such technology allows the security agencies to track and neutralise insurgents and subversives.


The list of those nabbed on its account is quite long.


These advantages and the fact that there are no difficulties in investment in surveillance and interception technologies make the government decision of banning connectivity surprising.


The argument offered could well be applied to a decision to shut down banks because they offer robbers an opportunity to steal money.


Third, banning pre- paid connections in J& K is unlikely to be the answer to the state's security requirements.


Pre- paid connections from other states could also be used for insurgent or terrorist activity. The SIM cards used in the Mumbai terror incident last year were purchased in West Bengal, though they were operational in Maharashtra.


Fourth, the government should not overlook the fact that cellular connectivity offers a lot of advantages to the people of the Valley, many of whom live in a difficult terrain. Currently, 90 per cent of the connections in the valley are pre- paid in nature and banning them abruptly is actually punishing genuine users. If only post- paid connections had been provided in the first place, it would have been a different situation.



The suggestion that all pre- paid connections be converted to post- paid ones could be considered, though not everybody would like to migrate given the many advantages that a pre- paid connection provides. The operators and prospective customers should have been provided incentives to go in for post- paid connections or even migration instead of an outright ban being imposed.


It was not very long ago that the government had also come up with a ban on handsets, many of Chinese origin, that did not have an International Mobile Equipment Identity ( IMEI) number.


Actually this is to be implemented from November 30.


About 2.5 crore such handsets are in use in India and many in the hands of genuine citizens, mainly from the poorer sections of society.


The cellular operators have tied up with the GSM Association to work out a bridge programme so that these handsets could be provided an IMEI number for nominal fees. Thus all such handsets would be identifiable and the cut off date for this remains November 30. This approach makes sense and will enable many people to remain connected.


At the same time, the government needs to check the import of non IMEI handsets into India by cracking down on Chinese imports.


It is still not too late for the government to revisit the harsh decision it has taken with regard to pre- paid connections in J& K. The government must understand that maintaining connectivity is wiser than banning it. It needs to do its homework and come up with an accurate verification process. As a first step, it could initiate a proper verification drive for all existing connections that appear suspicious and work out a more strict verification process for the future.



Agents and dealers of cellular operators must be oriented to the needs of security and advised to be more prudent in their document collection and verification. Strict action should be taken against those who do not observe the guidelines. It is equally important to improve the cellular network technology in the sensitive regions of the country so that traffic data that has implications for the country's security can be monitored. There is need for the security agencies and cellular operators to work closely to deal with the situation, rather than a mindless ban that is hard on citizens.


The writer is Country Head, India for General Dynamics. The views are personal









FOR the massive Indian economy, it may not be an achievement. But about a decade old microcredit initiative of a banker in Punjab is transforming the lives of a marginalised rural lot, literally.


Ask them about Resham Singh — a manager with Punjab Gramin Bank — and you are likely to witness an admiring smile. About 1,000 individuals whom he benefitted through innovative implementation of credit schemes, now count on him for practical advice to make themselves self-sufficient.


Resham Singh thought of intervening in the people's lives in 2000 when he was posted to a small Punjab village, Doomcheri — some 20 km from the state capital, Chandigarh.


The fact that marginalised landless persons in the villages worked for big landholders for hours on end but failed to meet their instant financial requirements disturbed him. They would look to village moneylenders for loans, with interest rates varying between 24 and 60 per cent. This scenario had virtually reduced them to the status of bonded labourers.


When the banker attempted to sell the idea of setting up self help groups involving labourers and other poor sections residing in the villages, people laughed at him. They were convinced that the poor villagers and unemployed youth — many of them addicted to drugs — would never respond to his initiative.


But, the enterprising banker devised a simple formula. He started counseling poor labourers individually and insisted that they save a meagre Rs 100 from their month's earnings. He promised that he would get them a loan equivalent to four times the money saved by them and put their skills — farming, cooking, weaving and embroidery — to financially productive use.


Once they started saving a part of their earnings every month, Resham made them aware of the latest microfinance facilities, modern techniques of farming, and the need to pursue allied activities and set up joint liability groups. H e proposed that women who cooked well set up stalls of traditional Punjabi food — makki ki roti and saag — at marriages and other social functions. Others who reared buffaloes for their landlords were encouraged to purchase their own milch cattle using their savings and credit from the bank. He encouraged young boys to acquire land on lease and grow vegetables for a livelihood.


Many doubted if the monetary advances would ever come back to the bank. But, as the ideas started taking shape, doubts withered away. Singh's endeavour benefitted the bank also.


The deposits at the bank branch more than doubled ( Rs 2.41 crore) and loan advances increased to Rs 2.66 crore from 37 lakh. The non productive assets ( NPA) of the branch came down to Rs three lakh from the earlier Rs 10 lakh. Marginalised rural folk in six other villages have also set up self- help groups and freed themselves from the shackles of poverty.


The rural folk now recount how difficult it was to overcome the challenges. But they are happy that they do not go to landlords for loans anymore.


The self- help groups support them financially and offer them loans on easy terms. The women contribute Rs 500 each every time a member solemnises her daughter's marriage.


They have a new found confidence to steer their lives. The change is for real as far as they are concerned.



PUNJAB'S ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, seems to have succumbed to pressure from its ally, the BJP. An Amritsar BJP legislator Anil Joshi had been displeased with IPS officer Kunwar Vijay Pratap — remembered for unearthing the kidney scam in 2002 — since the police had registered cases against some of Joshi's supporters.


The Akalis did not listen to Joshi initially since the cops claimed they had " evidence" that the MLA's supporters were involved in unlawful activities. But the saffron party's pressure has finally seen him getting transferred to Chandigarh.



DISILLUSIONMENT is rife among people who try to seek information from government departments in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh under the RTI Act. Activists rue that the information commissioners have been inordinately soft on the people who deny information to the public.


There are instances when hearing in appeals against the denial of information has lingered on for months with information commissions. The offending CPIOs are granted adjournments. The state information commissions have also become " rehabilitation centres" for retired bureaucrats.


In one recent instance, the Panjab University ( PU) sought Rs 12.22 lakh as fee from a student if he wanted detailed replies for 19 queries. The varsity's answers would extend over more than six lakh pages, the authorities claimed. The surprised student — Varun Malik — now plans to move the CIC for action. Malik alleged that the university's move was intended to block scams from surfacing. H C Arora, convenor, RTI Users Association says that information seekers are also being intimidated.



THE alumni of Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College ( GNE) in Ludhiana are working on a plan to convert the college campus into an energy efficient and carbon neutral campus. The ambitious plans of the former students — to be launched on November 8 — include the replacement of electric bulbs and tubes in hostels and classrooms with CFLs. The existing sodium lamps on the campus streets would give way to LEDs.


The LEDs and CFLs would be funded by the alumni.


After the successful completion of the first phase, the old students plan to utilise solar energy to facilitate cooking.


They also plan to promote a new motor vehicle policy on the college campus and limit the use of motorised vehicles.


The endeavour will require them to replace 650 light bulbs and 2700 tubelights with CFLs and install LEDs replacing the 150 sodium lamps — of 250W each — that light up the streets.


The alumni association has approached old students holding important positions in reputed electric companies for CFLs, LEDs and other equipment.


The GNE alumni hope that their alma mater would save about Rs 30 lakh on electricity every year because of their efforts.


The college paid over Rs 60 lakh on electricity bills last year. The money saved would be used for students' welfare activities, they propose. Their college will also become the country's first carbon neutral institute, they claim.


IT can happen only in Punjab. A cobbler has devised an innovative nomenclature for his often looked down upon occupation.


Bobby — who runs a small shoe repair shop at Punjab's NRI hub Banga — claims he is a " doctor" who mends broken footwear. A signboard atop his shop says in Punjabi: " Zakhmi juttian da hasptal ( Hospital for injured footwear)." Below the name of the " hospital," he signs off as " Dr Bobby." His quirky ways have no doubt drawn attention and given a fillip to his clientele.








KUDOS to all judges but one of the Supreme Court for finally disclosing their ( including spouse's) assets public and making them available on the court's official website.


The initiative would certainly become a first milestone in the long journey of ensuring the long- overdue judicial reforms.


This would also silence those critics to a certain extent who often decry lack of transparency and accountability in our judicial fraternity.


But merely revealing assets and making them available would be not enough. The SC in particular and the Indian judiciary in general need to submit themselves to the progressive peoples' legislation i. e.the Right to Information Act ( RTI). Only last month, the apex Court through its Central Public Information Officer ( CPIO) has once again moved the Delhi High Court challenging its earlier single- judge bench verdict ( Justice S Ravindra Bhat, September 2009) which ruled that the office of Chief Justice of India ( CJI) is a " public authority" under the Right to Information Act.


Pertinent to mention that the said judgment was delivered on a writ petition preferred by SC's CPIO against a Central Information Commission order of January 2009 which too held that the CJI office be within the purview of RTI. Being a member of legal fraternity with full respect for the SC, I find its present exercise of again approaching Delhi HC unnecessary.


The repute and image of the Indian judiciary would further rise in the eyes of our citizens if the RTI is implemented by SC in letter and spirit albeit with suitable exceptions so as to protect the independence of the judiciary.


Our judiciary – one of the strongest in the world – enjoys an exalted status above all other pillars of democracy. It ought to set a hallmark in the implementation of RTI so that others organs of our system may follow suit. If the apex court still falls short, a comprehensive RTI code for the institution of judiciary can be drafted so that there can be effective and hassle free adoption and regulation of RTI in the third powerful pillar of our democracy.

Hemant Kumar via email



THIS refers to your report ' BJP moneybags cut CM to size in Karnataka' ( November 3). It is really unfortunate that contribution of money to political parties plays a large part in the formation of coalition governments in states and of late, these money bags have started dictating the choice of men to positions in cabinet in coalition- led governments.


The Congress party, which has its still- untarnished political image, struggles for a clean alliance, be it Jharkhand or any other state where the party has an edge. The Bharatiya Janata Party bows its head to moneybags and powerful minelordsturned- ministers in the Karnataka cabinet and is searching for formulae to retain power in Bengaluru. However, in the process, they have stooped low and set their principles aside.


Perhaps the time has come to arrest this trend, as otherwise the country cannot boast of a democratic setup, whereby merely by financially supporting political parties, people with money can dictate the formation of coalition governments.

N. R. Narayanan via email








After months of jockeying, 20 of the Supreme Court's 21 judges have made public their assets on the court's website. The declaration, which comes after a war of words between the judiciary and the legislature, is 'voluntary' and has been done in accordance with a procedure agreed to by SC judges in 1997. This is an important step forward in imposing accountability and transparency for judges.

However, there is still some way to go for full transparency in the judiciary. Since the disclosure of wealth is entirely voluntary there are no guidelines that have to be followed by judges. Indeed, there is no binding obligation on all judges to declare their assets and, even when they do so, to show everything that they own. Thus, many of the SC judges, including the chief justice, have not declared their bank account details and savings. As for the high courts, only judges of the Kerala and Karnataka high courts have so far declared their assets, though it is expected that all of them will do so following the Supreme Court's decision. But as and when these do happen, they would still be voluntary.

The voluntary nature of the judges' declaration of wealth is due to the fact that unlike politicians, who are bound by law under the Representation of the People Act to declare their assets when they contest elections, it is not mandatory for the judiciary to do so. In fact, the judiciary has resisted putting itself under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Supreme Court challenged a chief information commissioner (CIC) order earlier this year directing the SC to disclose information on judges' assets. When the Delhi high court upheld the CIC order, the apex court decided to appeal. The next hearing is scheduled later this month.

It's a pity that the apex court has preferred to keep itself out of RTI's purview. The Supreme Court has to be the most accountable institution in any democracy because of its role as a watchdog. Indeed, judges must be held to standards that are higher than other government officials. And the apex court, as the highest judicial authority of the land, should be the first to embrace the ethics of transparency. The Supreme Court through its rulings has been instrumental in imposing accountability on MPs and public servants. That is why it has enjoyed a high reputation among citizens. However, there has been considerable controversy in recent times on corruption in the judiciary. Voluntary acceptance of RTI and clear guidelines of declaration of judges' assets would go a long way in scotching such accusations.







According to latest net state domestic product statistics, income levels in seven of India's eight north-eastern states have slumped below the national average. Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Nagaland are behind by 15 per cent, 2 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. In 1993-94, all three were comfortably ahead. Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya were laggards but have slipped further, the first two trailing by over 35 per cent. Mizoram is a bright spot: its per capita income has stayed above the national benchmark for the past 15 years. To a lesser degree, Tripura and Sikkim – lagging by only 5 and 2 per cent respectively – offer some solace.

This data may prompt glib talk about official neglect of the region. The malaise, however, may lie elsewhere, in issues of policymaking and governance. Since 1998, central ministries have been allotting 10 per cent of their annual budgets for the north-east. Between 1998 and 2006, Rs 42,600 crore were earmarked while, in the last three years, around Rs 1,100 crore towards development projects were approved. More, the UPA's North-East Vision-2020 document envisions balanced development as the means to usher in real change. The Centre's bouquet of big plans includes, among other things, roads, railway links, rural electrification, hydel projects, power plants and schemes for rural livelihood, handicrafts and agricultural marketing.

Yet the ground situation may not improve without overhaul of the funds management and project sanctioning system, casualties of systemic corruption and nepotism. If development remains prey to patronage politics, the crores pumped into the region won't help. The north-east has represented a tough remit in terms of political mainstreaming. But the challenge has largely been met despite hurdles posed by insurgency. However, governance-wise, it continues to suffer some of the worst excesses of political and administrative propensity for bad planning and greed. Arguments for north-eastern exceptionalism – given the region's natural, ethnic, linguistic and cultural specificities – have inadvertently provided cover to such ills.

The region urgently needs modernised agriculture, rapid industrialisation and their concomitant of increased rural livelihoods and factory jobs, much like anywhere else in India. Relatively high rates of literacy notwithstanding, manpower development demands vocational education and skills upgradation programmes. With India's Look East policy, the north-east's perceived geographical weaknesses can become strengths. It could be a major trading hub linking South and South East Asia, apart from boosting trade with Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Clearly, there's no dearth of vision, plans or money for the north-east's uplift. But delivery mechanisms will remain hobbled unless politicians and administrators in these states adopt the better practices of the mainstream development paradigm.









Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been rightly pointing out that Left-wing terrorism is the biggest threat to our national security. He has repeatedly done so for the past few years. However, his latest statement after the Maoists beheaded a police inspector in Jharkhand, that Maoists are not terrorists, has come as a surprise. For five years the home ministry had been in a state of stupor. After 26/11, P Chidambaram, on assuming charge as home minister, has brought dynamism in its functioning.

Our national security scenario with external threats from two nuclear neighbours and internal threats from two types of terrorism – jihadi and Naxal – is extremely sensitive. The Naxal menace threatens our Constitution and our way of life.


A red corridor has been established affecting 233 districts and about 2,000 police stations. A fourpronged strategy needs to be pursued to wipe out this menace. It must include sound intelligence, good policing, security operations and poverty elimination, all of which must be implemented concurrently.

Sound intelligence is the bedrock of successful anti-terrorist operations. The terrorist is an invisible enemy whose strongest weapon is surprise. Searching for a terrorist is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Through good intelligence one can do this successfully.

 Good policing is an essential prerequisite for success in combating terrorism. Unfortunately, the police in India suffer from numerous handicaps. After independence, the transition from a colonial police to a people-friendly police befitting a democracy has not taken place. On top of that the new political masters politicised the police in a most blatant manner. The recommendations of the National Police Commission and the directions of the Supreme Court have been ignored. Insecurity of tenure and the lure of wealth have been undermining police functioning.

A police station, the basic block of the force, has suffered the worst neglect. There were some 12,000 police stations at the time of independence. In the last six decades, when our population has increased four times and modern policing has become complex, there has been a marginal increase of about 10 per cent in the number of police stations. The staffing of police stations and facilities for functioning like accommodation, communication and transport are woefully inadequate.

 We had about 25 armed police battalions at the Centre and in the states in 1947. Their number has now risen to about 2,000. Increase in the number of armed police battalions was inevitable in view of
the violent society we live in today. However, the question is whether the quantum of increase and neglect of police stations have been wise policy.

 Today, we have the most top-heavy police organisation in the world. Proliferation of top ranks has been phenomenal. States now have numerous director-generals and additional director-generals when till recently, there used to be only one inspector-general in a state. Multiplicity of senior ranks becomes a drain on the exchequer. Upgrading where it is needed most has been ignored. A police station should have a deputy superintendent of police with inspectors in charge of different sections for investigation, intelligence and law and order.

 Reports in the media of encounters between the police and terrorists reflect poorly on training and junior leadership. During the recent parliamentary elections a full armed company holding a position was attacked by Naxals. The police suffered five casualties and the Naxals only three. At Korapat in Orissa, the district police armoury was looted and the Naxals took away 500 rifles. There was another instance at Jehanabad in Bihar when the Naxals attacked the district jail, rescued their colleagues, and allowed 350 prisoners to escape. These incidents showcase collapse of the administration and pathetic intelligence capability.

 Offensive action is necessary to defeat the Naxals. The police must ensure that Maoist bases and strongholds are eliminated through offensive action. All this requires specialised and intensive training which can be provided by the army. A beginning in this regard has been made.

People in the Naxal-affected areas are living in abject poverty. Good governance is totally non-existent in these areas. Development of these areas must be given top priority. The central government has recently sanctioned Rs 7,300 crore for the development of these areas. This amount should be speedily utilised on the ground. This will require close monitoring and ruthless action must be taken against defaulters. A special task force needs to be formed to execute projects in close cooperation with security forces. Naxals attempt to disrupt development projects by attacking roads, bridges, schools, and power grids. Children of tribal and other deprived people could be provided free quality education in cities. Cooperation of NGOs may be sought.

The battle against the Naxal menace can be won only if the government displays the required political will and determination, and various government agencies display competence and dedication. The results will not arrive overnight. But full support must be given by all, cutting across party lines, in this war to save our nation from disintegration.

The writer is a former governor of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir.







In his study of patterns of migration into Mumbai for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's Human Development Report released last week, D P Singh of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences discovered that the bulk of migrants into the city continue to come from within the state. He discusses his findings with Jyoti Punwani:


 How have migration patterns changed in Mumbai?

 In 1961, migrants made up 64 per cent of Mumbai; in 2001, as per the census, they make up 43 per cent. Two trends have remained the same: most of Mumbai's migrants – 37.4 per cent – come from within the state, and the largest chunk comes from the Konkan, especially Ratnagiri. But now, Satara accounts for the second largest chunk. Migrants from Satara and Sangli occupy low level jobs in PSUs, and are also a presence in the agricultural produce market in Navi Mumbai.

What's the percentage of migrants from UP and Bihar?

 Bihar is unnecessarily blamed – migrants come mainly from one district, Darbhanga, and are just 3.5 per cent. Most Biharis go to Delhi. Migrants from UP comprise 24.3 per cent of Mumbai. They are mainly from eastern UP, with Jaunpur heading the list. However, in the last 50 years, while the percentage of migrants from within the state has declined by 4 per cent, that from UP has almost doubled. But census figures reveal that this growth is also because in 1961, a lot of single males came here from UP, but over the years, their families have joined them. Interestingly, most migrants from Maharashtra move to Mumbai with their families.

 What jobs do the UP migrants do?

The British brought people from eastern UP to Mumbai to work in mills. Even today, most of them work as manual labour. Urban migrants tend to be more educated and get white collar jobs, while rural migrants – a higher percentage of north Indian migrants are rural – get blue-collar jobs. In Mumbai, the professional, technical, clerical and administrative fields are dominated by non-migrants. In servicerelated jobs, the proportion of nonmigrants and migrants is the same, while low-paid manufacturing jobs are dominated by migrants.

This also proves that migrants, anywhere in the world, fulfil a need. Everyone wants labour at cheaper rates. Politicians may grumble about slums, but they also encourage them to grow. Where will the poor go? You want to throw them out, but you are also dependent on them. If slums were not there, would the rest of Mumbai clear their own garbage, clean the streets and their own homes? The conflict comes when migrants create opportunities which non-migrants have not been able to. Migrants have skills and the ambition to develop them. Without migration, Mumbai would have been like Nanded.

How would you define a migrant?

In India, census personnel ask just two questions: your birth place and place of your last residence. In Japan, you're asked whether you've lived in the city for the last five years. I prefer the Japanese criterion.






Was Indira Gandhi a devi or a dictator, an iconic heroine or a national disaster? Twenty-five years after her assassination the debate still rages between her myriad worshippers and her fewer – but no less vocal – detractors.

To her many devotees, she is remembered as an incarnation of Ma Durga, who helped to liberate Bangladesh from the stranglehold of Pakistan and, in the bargain, indomitably faced down the threat of the US Seventh Fleet which had been sent into the Bay of Bengal to intimidate her. The transformation of the derided 'gungi guriya', whom so-called 'Syndicate' felt it could manipulate, into the charismatic leader who split the Congress, abolished privy purses and nationalised banks is the stuff of legend. True, she did impose the Emergency, during which democratic rights were suspended, dissidents jailed and the media muzzled. But surely say her admirers, she did all this to save India from the chaos into which irresponsible rabble-rousers like Jayaprakash Narayan and others were trying to plunge it. And, yes, Sanjay, was indeed a bit of a thug, and his goons did commit excesses like alleged forcible vasectomies. But what the heck, say acolytes of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, she was vindicated when she was voted back into power by a chastened electorate who saw her as the only saviour of the nation after the Janata government's misrule. Truly Indira was India and India was Indira, and she died a martyr's death on the bloodied altar of her iron-willed patriotism.


What adulatory nonsense, says the opposing camp. Far from being a saviour of aam aadmi, she was an exploitative demagogue who introduced the pernicious 'licence raj' which institutionalised corruption and ensured that her populist slogan of 'Garibi hatao' should really have read 'Garibi barrao'. During her reign, income tax rates as high as 97 per cent caused black money to proliferate and stifled private initiative and enterprise, dragging the country's economy down. Far from being a paladin of democracy as her father was, she was an out-and-out autocrat who was totally convinced that it was she alone who had the divinely ordained right to rule over India's destiny. It was this megalomania which led to the imposition of the infamous Emergency, one of the most shameful chapters in the history of independent India.

But perhaps her greatest crime against the nation, claim her critics, was that for her own manipulative ends she sowed the seeds of virulent fundamentalism by her creation of Bhindranwale as a counter-ploy to the Akali Dal in Punjab. The forces she set in motion snowballed into Operation Bluestar, the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and her assassination at the hands of her own security guards. The deep wounds of communalism she left behind, including the anti-Sikh riots following her death, have yet to heal. All in all, say her detractors, she was by far the most dangerous and damaging prime minister this country has had.

So, in this Gandhi vs Gandhi argument, who's right and who's wrong? Will the real Indira Gandhi, whoever and whatever she was, please stand up and be counted? Or could it be that there was no such thing? That there was no real Indira, but only a mirror reflecting the perpetual paradox, the enduring contradiction that is India itself: generous and cruel, violent and pacific, tolerant and fanatical, modern and ageless, opulent and starving, all at the same time.

A quarter of a century after her death, Indira remains as much an enigma as does the India she claimed as her own. The ongoing debate about her legacy – full of sound and fury and signifying not nothing but everything – will continue as long as this nation survives. And perhaps that's the best epitaph Indira Gandhi could have.







Gone are the days when you would find a scented handkerchief in a lady's purse. Hankies have been replaced by something more clinical – tissues. This has robbed wannabe Romeos of one opening line: 'Shayad aapka rumaal gir gaya hai' (I think your hanky has fallen). My earliest memory of nursery class is a picture of all students dressed up in uniforms, a hankie neatly attached to their shirts. Very handy and accessible! By the end of the day, we wouldn't present such a nice picture, what with ruffled hair, dirty dresses and missing hankies. There was a lost and found department that never ran out of lunch boxes, hankies, ribbons et al. When we grew up and started learning embroidery at school, a handkerchief was the best canvas to display our newfound skills. It was easy to finish and was an excellent testimony to our expertise. Our art would travel places with the owner and be appreciated. I gifted a couple of hand-embroidered hankies to my mother on her birthday and she cherished them. When she lost one, the pains she took to trace it back!

 As my elder cousins approached their 20s, they would be seen making sets of crocheted, embroidered, laced hankies. This was a subtle hint that they were getting their trousseaus ready. A set of six of each kind was mandatory. Everybody would admire these pieces of art and the skills of the girl would be judged accordingly. I'm nostalgic at the disappearance of this dainty accessory from the wardrobes of most modern girls. The world has warmly embraced the convenience of tissues. It's the hygiene and disposability of tissues that wins hands down over a handkerchief, which is after all nothing but a glorified piece of cloth. My friends in the western world haven't seen a hanky in ages. The new generation isn't even aware of the concept. But think of all the trees we could save if we stopped cutting them down to manufacture tissues! I know my plea falls on deaf ears, but ladies, if not for anything else, revert to hankies to bring back old-fashioned romance and give Romeos a fair chance.








India bought itself some glitter this Diwali. The symbolism in the purchase by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) of 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is inescapable in a land that venerates the metal and for a nation that had to pawn its bullion two decades ago. The cheer spreads when the deal forms part of India's commitment to shore up the IMF's finances so that it can offer soft loans to poor countries trying to extricate themselves from the financial crisis. And it also makes for prudent banking. Bullion had slid to under 4 per cent of India's foreign reserves as a tide of dollars sought out the most promising emerging markets. The central bank's first significant attempt at rebuilding its gold reserves since the 1990s will raise the share of a tested hedge against inflation and currency movements to 6 per cent of its foreign reserves.


Our gold reserves are still way below levels central bankers in the West are comfortable with. The US Federal Reserve holds nearly 80 per cent of its foreign reserves in bullion. The European Central Bank holds around a fifth. The French, Germans, Italians and the Dutch, however, retain well in excess of half their reserves as gold. China, which was widely expected to be the first to buy some of the 400 tonnes of gold the IMF is selling this year, has increased its holding by 76 per cent in the last six years. Efforts to keep the world economy afloat will, the IMF estimates, see public debt swelling by a third in the 20 biggest economies. This will exert unprecedented pressures on prices and exchange rates. It is a good time to get into gold.


Even if it means buying the stuff at record prices. The $1,045 an ounce the RBI paid for its October acquisition is just shy of gold's lifetime high in the open market. When an inert buyer stirs, two conclusions are unavoidable. One, gold has been gaining on its own, not merely because the dollar is weakening. And two, by locking $6.7 billion into bullion, the RBI expects the dollar tide will not ebb. Gold in the vault puts money a little further out of circulation because it is slightly more cumbersome to liquidate than, say, the euro. Buying gold, thus, makes more sense than hunting around for an alternative to the badly bruised dollar.








Thanks to legal professionals the world around, the 'dead' language of Latin remains happily alive. Thus the befuddlement of 'normal people' each time they are hurled terms like suo motu, sub judice and habeas corpus. But quite unwittingly, judges — especially judges of the Supreme Court of India — remind us of words in the language of the people whom the ancient Romans, genuine speakers of Latin, held up as role models: the Greeks. When we heard that Supreme Court judges have finally 'voluntarily' put the details of their wealth up on the apex court's website, the first word that came to our classical heads was 'ouroboros'. Let us explain.


It was Plato who first described a self-eating, immortal and perfect creature called the ouroboros, a snake that swallows its own tail to form a closed protective circuit. The Supreme Court had serious reservations about breaking its protective circle that made details of their assets a club secret. There are, of course, malevolent creatures out there ready to destroy the reputation of the members of the land's highest judiciary body. But finally, the mythical beast has deigned to take its tail out of its mouth and make its judges wealth public. (Well, one judge is still holding out.)


So is this a tremendously brave move? Well, considering that no one can do anything about the information posted on (ask questions about the posted assets, for instance), it's a touching gesture that's not quite revolutionary. Also, considering that the judges are tax-payers like the rest of us, the matter of their assets being in the 'public domain' should have been a given anyway. So, effectively, the ouroboros-like apex court has just perpetuated another Greek word: anti-klimax.

Oh these talented, naïve NRIs roaming about the motherland! Don't they know that when in Rome they should wear their togas tight?
Indian-American scientist-entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai may be the best thing for Indian science and innovation since sliced idlis, but he decided to take on the Brahmins of the Indian science establishment. He had to pay the price.

Mr Ayyadurai was hired to work for the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with the single task: of creating a new centre of excellence. His job was also to maximise the talent and research in India -- that he found to be world-class -- and make CSIR the next Bell Lab or CERN. Now, as all of us conversant with the quantum dynamics of Indian scientific excellence know, the way of building a world-class institution is to start with the premise that it's already a world-class institution with no blemishes at all -- you know, the `We invented the zero so everything else is a cakewalk' principle. Mr Ayyadurai tapped the wrong button. In a chapter of a report he submitted to the CSIR top brass, he made the fatal error of pointing out `challenges'. Now if he was a thoroughbred desi, our man from MIT would have realised that keeping the `challenges' in the airy-fairy domain would have sufficed. But no. He had to go on record about "lack of professionalism" and how some CSIR scientists felt a "loss of faith in leadership". Hmm, Houston, we have a problem.

In a hierarchy-obsessed culture like ours, Mr Ayyadurai's candid feedback amounted to making a lunch pack out of the hand that feeds you. Thus, a termination of his services ensued citing the NRI's demand for what serves as Mammon for all NRIs: more money. CSIR scientists supposedly crossed their fingers and hoped that Mr Ayyadurai's quantum leap in pay would create a domino effect in salary slips across the Indian scientific firmament. No such luck. In any case, Indian scientists don't need the money; they work to make their country proud. Right? Right.










Some of nature's deepest mysteries lie locked away in the realm of the small. And the small is the key to understanding the big. The biggest object we know, our universe, originated in a dimensionless point with an incredibly energetic explosion that we call the 'Big Bang'. Over the next 14 billion years, it evolved into the complex form we observe today, with hundreds of billions of galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, on an average.


In the realm of science, as we make increasingly accurate observations of the cosmos, we find that the trail to understanding leads inexorably backwards in time, to the first few seconds of the birth of the universe. This is when matter first made its appearance in the form of fundamental particles — as did the fabric of space and time that we live and work in today. Our quest compels us to understand the way matter and energy interacted and evolved during that short span.


One of the most interesting and important of the fundamental particles of matter is the neutrino. With a mass that is incredibly tiny compared to the other fundamental particles, and with interactions that are much weaker, it occupies a special place in our quest for understanding the universe. But it is extremely difficult to detect. Studying the properties of neutrinos is crucial to science's struggle to build a complete theory of forces and matter.


A step towards this goal is the proposal to build the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO). If built, it would be India's biggest basic science project. A collaboration of scientists spread over 25 universities and research institutes has proposed housing a massive 50,000-tonne iron detector deep inside a mountain in the Nilgiris, at Singara, Tamil Nadu. For strong scientific reasons, this is the best site for the project.


The INO would be the biggest detector of its kind in the world. It has been cleared for joint funding by the Departments of Atomic Energy  and Science and Technology, and included as a Mega-Science project in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. However, the project is held up as there has been no reply from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to INO's 2006 application for permission to begin construction.


Conservationists have objected to INO for its proximity to the elephant and tiger habitat at Singara. The proposed location is 7 km from the edge of one of the six sanctuaries in the Nilgiri Reserve. The collaboration is sensitive to this, and all efforts will be made to construct INO with minimal invasion. Not a single tree will be felled and no new roads need to be built. There is an existing Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) campus at Singara, and INO will be located on the TNEB land.  Water and electricity are all already available. A tunnel 2 km long and a large cavern need to be constructed to house the experiment under the mountains. There will be no radioactivity or pollution, and no noise other than when the first 200 metres of rock are cut away. Thus, the INO constitutes a small addition to an existing TNEB establishment that already has 13 km of tunnels and auxiliary caverns in use.


The INO project has expressed its commitment to respect the biodiversity and sanctity of the Nilgiri Reserve. An environmental management plan has been drawn up. During the construction phase, there will be movement of material due to iron being brought in and rock debris being moved out. Since there is an elephant movement corridor 2 km from the project site, all truck traffic will cease from November to February, when this movement peaks, to allow undisturbed passage for elephants.

Our quest for understanding the mysteries of nature would lose its worth if conducted in a manner that's not in harmony with nature. If nothing, the study of science inspires, in those who attempt it with sincerity, a deep sense of humility and an appreciation for nature's inner harmonies.


This alone, perhaps, should instil faith that the INO will attempt to achieve its goals by walking, with respect, alongside our precious reserves of tiger and elephant, and not by riding on their backs.


Raj Gandhi is Professor of Physics at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute in Allahabad, and Member, INO Program Management Committee


The views expressed by the author are personal.








The Golden Temple in Amritsar is one of my favourite places: welcoming, spectacular and peaceful. But tucked away up a steep staircase, in the Central Sikh Museum, are reminders of less peaceful times. On a recent visit, I took the stairs two at a time, then walked through room after room lined with paintings of gruesome incidents from Sikh history, all the way to what is, for me, the heart of the museum.


On the walls, there were plenty of portraits of admired men. On my left, a handsome one of Shahid Bhagat Singh in prison shackles, awaiting his fate. In front, a portrait of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. That's when I got my first flutters of unease: these images, complete with explanations in English and Punjabi.


To the right of Bhindranwale, there's an artist's rendition of 'Sri Akal Takht after Military Attack, 6 June 1984' — at the climax of Operation Bluestar, when the Indian Army entered the heart of Sikhdom to defeat armed men holed up here. The painting shows the Akal Takht badly damaged and burned. In fading English below, are these lines: "Under the calculated move of Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, military troops stormed [the] Golden Temple with tanks. Thousands of Sikhs were massacred. Sri Akal Takht suffered the worst damages. Sikhs rose up in a united protest. Many returned their honours. Sikh soldiers left their barracks."


There's one more sentence: "The Sikhs, however, soon had their vengeance."


My eyes moved further right, to settle on three portraits, all the same size as Bhagat Singh's. These list only names and dates: 'Shahid S. Beant Singh Ji, 1949 to 31 Oct 1984,' 'Shahid S. Satwant Singh Ji, 1967 to 6 Jan 1989,' 'Shahid S. Kehar Singh Ji, 1940 to 6 Jan 1989.'


You know those names and dates.


'Shahid' again, all three times, is written exactly as it is used for Bhagat Singh: to signify a martyr.


Indira Gandhi has plenty to answer for. My feeling is that a vast number of India's myriad intractable problems can be laid at her door. It's why I have minimal regard for her. But she was, when shot dead by Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, India's Prime Minister. To see her killers accorded the same esteem as Bhagat Singh, to see them called 'Shahid' like him, is to ask some serious questions about nationhood, about terrorism, about freedom and those who fight for it, about what those words really mean, and about India itself.


For me, the slaughter of 3,000 Indians just because they were Sikh during those days after Indira Gandhi died remains the greatest act of terrorism in our 62 years. That we have not punished the murderers a quarter century later is a national shame.


But this museum underlines what so many of us find hard to swallow: one man's terrorist is another man's … What? Martyr?


Dilip D'Souza is a Mumbai-based writer. His book Roadrunner: An Indian Quest in America will be out later this month(The views expressed by the author are personal.)







He reclined lazily on the diwan, a sumptuous lunch no doubt settling well. The kameez rested like a second skin, comfortable, but was spotless white and starched. Children played noisily on the lawns. It was in this soporific setting that Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi looked me in the eye and said, "Son, you better learn to dream bigger dreams."


I froze. I'd just told him, in all sincerity, that it was a 'dream come true' to interview him. As a cub reporter who had made the trip from warm Madras to the biting cold of the Delhi winter in shirtsleeves, it warmed me no end to be sitting in Tiger Pataudi's living room. He either did not know how little experience I had of former Indian captains, or chose to act like he didn't.


Those words of that day, on that wintry afternoon a few days short of Christmas, keep coming back to me in different contexts.


Today's world of cricket is a little different. For starters, there are no nawabs. There isn't one young person in the Indian team who plays the game solely for the joy of playing the game or because it's an honour to represent India. Being an Indian cricketer is a complex cocktail of commerce, social climbing, relevance and all-round acceptability. Yes, there's the small matter of runs and wickets. But anyone who gets that far is expected to deliver those details anyway.


Twenty years ago, what was it that separated an Arun Lal and a Sunil Gavaskar? They both opened the batting for India against the fiercest in the world, but the small matter of a 100-odd Tests and 10,000 runs separated the two. And their worlds off the field were different too. Gavaskar endorsed products, was conferred state awards and was made the sheriff of Bombay. In those days, longevity and success took you to the top 1 per cent, and brought the trappings of success. The rest, well, they plodded along like their counterparts in any other profession.


Move along a decade and you have the era when the World Cup became the most important thing to the Indian fan. This was a heady time when Mohammad Azharuddin and his young band of cricketers were showing the world that slow, unsteady, traditional Indian cricketers could play the 'western' game. From that shadow emerged a prince among batsmen, a king among one-day cricketers, Sourav Ganguly. Now measure again, Ganguly and Mohammad Kaif, who racked up 138 international appearances for the country. Unfair, isn't it? Cricket gave Kaif a life beyond what he imagined, but it never indulged him, never gave him what he wanted.


Cut to today. Put yourselves in the shoes of a young man aspiring to be a cricketer. He's fit, skilled, always the best in his age-group, a definite starter for his state, a regular for his zone, and there ends the certainty. Our young man might be an opening batsman in the time of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, he might be a wicketkeeper in Mahendra Singh Dhoni's trajectory, or even an offspinner in Harbhajan Singh's watch. India's doors are understandably closed, but his options are endless.


For today's cricketer — and there's no shortage of doting relatives or opportunistic agents to remind our aspirant — the future is an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract. In two months, some of these teenagers will pick up more cash than the average middle-class professional makes in a career. What's more, with a contract in the bag, they won't have to worry about some cranky selector dropping them or a section of the media calling for a replacement. There will be all the good things in life without any of the pressure, perfect for the individual in the short-term, and a recipe for disaster long-term.

Before the IPL, the sole point of a cricketer's life was breaking into the Indian team. Once that was done, life was a constant struggle to stay in the eleven. In time, the peripherals took care of themselves. This is why Ganguly fought as hard as he did to stay in the picture. It is why Dravid does not retire from one-day cricket despite being tossed around like a rookie. It is the fight to be in the top 1 per cent because that makes everything worth it.


You will not find a cricketer in this generation — the R.P. Singhs, Suresh Rainas, Virat Kohlis — who will play 100 Tests. This is simply because it isn't a realistic ambition to start with. Forget about the increase in number of matches and unrealistic demands on fitness. For Tendulkar and Dravid and Ganguly that was the only way out, their only shot at immortality.


In cricket circles in Chennai, where league cricketers have been getting paid tidy sums by their employers well before the board raised wages in domestic cricket, there's an affliction that's popularly called the 'Orgasm-Reached Syndrome'. It refers to the condition of the promising young cricketer who has secured a job, paid a down payment on an apartment and bought a car. The runs and wickets often dry up soon after.


The IPL is threatening to do this to young cricketers, only at ten times the pace and nationally. And this is why after the class of the 2000s is gone, we may never see a 100-Test Indian cricketer again.








It is by no means clear that the Obama administration has learnt from the terrible farce it has made of the recent exercise in Afghanistan to elect a new president. At a time when all-round unity was needed to confront a rising Taliban, Washington's foreign policy amateurs divided America's local allies fighting extremism in Afghanistan. Having come to office prejudiced against Hamid Karzai — who was seen as a protégé of the unpopular George W. Bush — Obama's White House publicly signalled its displeasure against the Afghan president. It then sought to undermine Karzai, tried to delay the elections, and when it could not, chose to pit the well-regarded former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against the incumbent. When Karzai was declared the winner after the first round, it alleged fraud, ordered a recount, and forced a run-off second round. In the end, the US and the international community could not sustain the process when power-sharing talks between the two men collapsed, Abdullah stood down, and the election commission declared Karzai the president for a second term.


If the Obama administration had managed to dislodge Karzai after pointing fingers at him, it would have earned some political respect and a bit of fear from its friends and enemies alike as a tough act to cope with in Afghanistan. In the unforgiving north-western marches of our subcontinent, the White House has come out looking like a bumbling neophyte. That Karzai has got the better of Washington throughout the last one year since the election of Barack Obama as US president, reveals how easy and dangerous it is for the West to un-derestimate the political sophistication of Afghan leaders. The time has come then for the Obama administration to shed its condescension towards Kabul and end its self-absorbed debate on Afghan policy that has become so thoroughly disconnected from ground realities.


The congratulatory call from Obama to Karzai should have been about reaffirming the shared commitment to defeat the Taliban. Instead, all indications from Washington are that the White House remains stuck on Karzai's legitimacy and credibility. Washington continues to talk about laying down "benchmarks" for the Afghan president to prove himself as an effective partner. It is not Karzai's credibility, however, that is on the line in Afghanistan. He has shown extraordinary ability to survive in the face of hostility from both Washington and Islamabad. After the presidential elections in Afghanistan, there is something else under question. It is whether the Obama administration has the political will, a military strategy, and necessary diplomatic competence to defeat the Taliban.







It's finally out. The judges of our Supreme Court put up details of their assets online on Monday. The move, billed by some to threaten judicial independence and leave their lordships open to ridicule, instead confirmed what we all knew — that the judges of the most powerful court in the world are in no way opposed to institutional mechanisms to increase transparency. For this opened window into their world, they deserve our gratitude.


But after the applause, three concerns must be addressed. The first is the new judicial accountability bill that Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily has said will incorporate provisions that make declaration of assets by the higher judiciary compulsory (as opposed to the voluntary nature of the current online declaration). The online declaration by judges must act as a spur to this final destination, rather than a stop-gap arrangement that becomes permanent. There is no reason why this should not happen, given that judges have agreed to the principle, and parliamentary fears of the public being denied access to the information have been put at rest. The second concern is for the high courts to follow suit. Currently, only judges from the Kerala high court and its Karnataka counterpart (site of an early rebellion) have declared their assets. The concurrence of the high courts is important also for the fact that they are the training ground for most Supreme Court judges.


The third, larger concern is how to avoid the recurrence of this long and ugly dispute. In other words, how to get the executive, legislature and judiciary on the same page when it comes to judicial transparency? The assets controversy was given momentum by a very public protest, dissent within the higher judiciary, opposition by some eminent jurists and stone-walling by parliamentarians — and it was solved by a unilateral gesture by the judiciary. That cannot be the roadmap for the future. As the controversy over Justice Dinakaran's appointment continues to simmer, the larger issue of judicial accountability needs agreed-upon mechanisms, not ad hoc initiatives. The tortuous path to online asset declarations is a cautionary tale of which road not to take.








Hindutva supporters make claims about how many of the technological advances of the West were known in ancient India. Bank nationalisation by Indira Gandhi is acquiring a similar status today. The West, it is claimed, is now trying to make its financial system safe by embracing bank nationalisation. This narrative holds that our wise sages knew this all along. We anticipated meltdowns like those of 2008 and nationalised our private banks much ahead of time in 1969.


To set the record straight, let us begin with what the West is doing. Northern Rock in the United Kingdom was the first significant "nationalisation" in the current crisis. The UK government has subsequently passed the SRR (Special Resolution Regime) for failing banks. The SRR provides the authorities with the power to place a failing bank into TPO, or "temporary public ownership". The public document released alongside it, arguing for a case for such a regime, says: "Had the authorities been able to have placed Northern Rock into an SRR at an earlier stage, when more of its value remained, it is possible that part or all of the bank could have been sold to a private sector buyer. This would have avoided the need to impose additional potential losses on the taxpayer by having to nationalise the bank."


In other words, the UK was an unwilling nationaliser. The conditions under which the banks have been put in public ownership, largely as a move to enhance their capital and to provide confidence among depositors, are very different from nationalising banks with the intent to run them and pre-empt credit and resources. In the West, when these banks become healthy, they will be privatised. There are no plans for the UK Treasury setting up a banking division to do their corporate governance.


Now turn to the benefits of public sector banks. While it is true that public sector banks are considered safer by depositors as they have a sovereign guarantee, this guarantee does not come free. These banks can take on larger risks knowing that they will be bailed out. Moreover, their political owners generally interfere in the process of giving out loans. This can bring bigger risk in the system, and constitutes a non-transparent mechanism for politicians to transfer money from the exchequer (that is, the shareholder of PSU banks).


Among the benefits of public sector banks, one sometimes hears the absurd claim that they provide employment. The larger employment generated by PSU banks is a cost to the economy. PSU banks have much lower productivity than private banks. The profit per branch of public sector banks is


Rs 0.5 crore, a fifth of the Rs 2.5 crore for private banks. The profit per employee at Rs 2.6 lakh is only a third of the Rs 7.6 lakh for private banks. This is despite much higher wages at private banks. They lag behind on efficiency and profitability, thereby making financial intermediation costly for the economy. This reduces growth and productivity in the Indian economy.


However, as the Raghuram Rajan report argues, if efficiency and profitability are not the correct yardsticks by which to measure the success of public sector banks, and "social goals" such as financial inclusion and credit to the priority sector are the right objectives to look at, PSU banks have failed even on those. India continues to have a very poor performance on financial inclusion, even though a certain recipe of bank nationalisation, directed credit, etc, has been tried for many decades.


While in the '70s and '80s, opening branches to raise deposits may have been a priority, today the experience of many countries, including India, has demonstrated that access to credit is very important in the reduction of poverty as it helps smooth consumption. It is claimed that the right way to get this done is to force PSU banks to open rural branches. Empirical evidence shows that these approaches are not delivering results. In addition, these old approaches have failed to take into account India's urbanisation and the increasingly important needs of financial services by the urban poor. The anti-competitive policies of the authorities, such as preventing branch opening or preventing the entry of new private banks, directly hurts the agenda of improving access to finance for the urban poor.


The American banking system erred on the side of too little caution. There was perhaps too much inclusion. Too many poor people got housing loans. We have erred on the side of too much caution. Banks are reluctant to give loans where there is risk. They would rather be safe and lend to the government or large companies. The opportunity of cost of this strategy has been lost growth and continuing poverty for many decades. If we look at only the safety aspect of the Indian banking system in isolation, we make the mistake of thinking all is well. This leads us to the mistake of continuing with a financial


system that fails to provide for the needs of the growing economy and large mass of urban and rural poor.


In all these years of economic policy distortions, we have forgotten what the primary objective of banking was. It was to provide entrepreneurs with credit to do business. PSU banks lend up to one-third to half the deposits they raise to the government. The rest gets taken up by various social objectives. Instead of thumping our backs about a safe banking system, we need to focus on creating a system which provides credit to those who need it. It is better to have a fully private banking system, and occasionally nationalise a few banks in a crisis, than to nationalise the entire banking system, and in the process not have an efficient and inclusive banking system.


The writer is a senior fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi








Indian Railways, unreformed, is on a track to disaster Any debate on social vs economic viability -- when in essence the clear aim appears to be political viability -- is irrelevant. It is not the Railways' business.


I l i NDIAN Railways (IR) must earn that there are important ssues to be addressed, not the least of them being rail safety and security. The image of a major train being held to ransom by a bow and arrow-wielding crowd is fresh in everyone's mind. There are other concerns which cry out for attention. Rail Bhavan needs a mantri who can spend more time in the office, remain focused on important rail-related matters and, in fact, function almost like a chief executive.


While IR has hurtled along, sometimes with some success, a prolonged drought of proper leadership has sapped its vitality and wasted its potential. Far from functioning as a bulwark of the country's transport infrastructure, it is nowhere even in the reckoning even regionally for technology, productivity and connectivity. Chinese Railways (CR) lagged IR as recently as a quarter-century; but it has surged far in network expansion, freight and passenger output, high-speed passenger services and heavyhaul freight corridors, enviable productivity levels and stateof-the-art technologies. IR, in comparison, remains content and smug with peripherals -flagging off "only ladies" or "Duronto" trains, Izzat passes and Yuva travels.


Every Railways minister is obsessed by new passenger trains. Not that passenger traffic per se is a bad bargain for railways: of the US$ 313 billion rail transport market, 57 per cent was passenger, and 43 per cent freight in 2005. But Durontostyle initiatives only exacerbate capacity constraints on the already clogged inter-megacity rail corridors and strain the availability of coaches as well as terminal and maintenance facilities.


IR at end-2007-08 carried more than 1,300 broad gauge coaches with arrears in overhauling, besides 3,500 ineffective coaches.
Of the 822 sections of the broadgauge network, as many as 173 are utilised far in excess of 100 per cent, and the golden quadrilateral routes are the worst hit. In the overall density of 32.6 train km per broad gauge running track km per day (2007-08), passenger trains already have a share of 20.2, and freight trains only 12.4.
Impairing freight-carrying capacity is detrimental to IR's own interests and inimical to the country's economy.


Capacity enhancement is IR's most pressing challenge: construction of new tracks and terminals, double or multiple-tracking of existing strained links, improved signalling, highcapacity wagons and locomotives, alongside innovative operating and management systems. Axle load of 25-30 tonnes and higher payload-to-tare weight ratio -about 4 -- for freight cars will augment the system's capacity and reduce unit cost of transportation. This has been acknowledged by IR; but there has been no time-bound follow-up plan.


All this would demand resources be marshalled, earnings maximised, costs relentlessly pruned. The world over, transport costs have been tumbling. IR too could reduce its freight rates.

There is need to reorganise and streamline the maintenance wing, for example, across the existing 100 loco-sheds, 257 repair depots and sick lines for carriages and wagons, and 45 workshops for periodical overhaul. An astute plan to rationalise, retrain and redeploy the workforce is a clear need, as is reorganising the apexlevel managerial cadre, trimming the tiers that only retard and slow down decision-making and blur responsibility. IR's organisational structure, now so old and anachronistic, needs to be revamped and modernised. Yet continuity and commitment to major policies and projects should be maintained.


Safety, security, productivity on the system are all intertwined, a matter of managerial efficiency and good governance. DelhiBhubaneswar Rajdhani being stopped by agitators near Jhargram is symptomatic of a deep malaise, manifest in petty politics and a soft state apparatus.

IR has to embrace a zero-failure regime for infrastructure and equipment, and provide for safeguards against human failure.

Two particular weak spots have been level crossings and traindrivers' lapses, responsible for several accidents. For decades, IR has harped on systemic solutions.

How does the Railway Board explain its prevarication in getting the anti-collision device installed even after its introduction in the Northeast Frontier zone?

Any debate on social vs economic viability -- when in essence the clear aim appears to be political viability -- is irrelevant. It is not the Railways' business to directly entangle itself in issues of poverty alleviation, inclusive growth, et al. In spite of reduction in the allocation for several critical activities, including for wear and tear as well as capacity increases, the IR budget 2009-10 warned it of the signal light, already amber. With the operating ratio now at 92.5 per cent, and uncertainties in the environment, it may not take long for the light to go red.


A general reform of the system is not only desirable, as from now, it is compulsory. Mere injection of funds into the system is no solution. Transport is fast-becoming a high technology industry, making research and innovation imperative for its further development.

IR, as an old patient, has had plenty of prescriptions but continues to resist bitter medicine. The writer was the first MD of the Container Corporation of India










The year 1989 was a turning point for Europe and for the world, a time when history went into high gear. This acceleration was symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the velvet revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe. Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes were exiting the stage of history. Those events, and their peaceful unfolding, were made possible by changes that began in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s. We initiated them because they were overdue. We were responding to the demands of the people, who resented living without freedom, isolated from the rest of the world.


In just a few years — a very short time in history's span — the main pillars of the totalitarian system in the Soviet Union were dismantled and the ground was readied for a democratic transition and economic reforms. Having done that in our own country, we could not deny the same to our neighbours. We did not force changes upon them. From the outset of perestroika, I told the leaders of the Warsaw Pact countries that the Soviet Union was embarking upon major reforms but that they had to decide what they would do. You are responsible to your people, I said; we will not interfere.


In effect it was a repudiation of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, based on the concept of "limited sovereignty." Initially, my words were met with skepticism, seen as yet another purely formal statement by a new general secretary of the Communist Party. But we never wavered, and that is why the developments in Europe in 1989-1990 were peaceful, without bloodshed. The biggest challenge was the unification of Germany. As late as the summer of 1989, during my visit to West Germany, journalists asked me and Chancellor Helmut Kohl whether we had discussed the possibility of German unification. I replied that we had inherited that problem from history and that it would be addressed as history evolved. "When?" journalists asked. The chancellor and I both pointed to the 21st century.


Some might say we were poor prophets. Fair enough: German unification occurred much earlier — by the will of the German people, not because Gorbachev or Kohl wanted it. Americans often recall President Ronald Reagan's appeal: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" But could that be done by one man? All the more difficult, too, because others were saying, in effect, "Save the Wall."


When millions of people in the East and West of Germany demanded unification, we had to act responsibly. Leaders in Europe and the United States rose to the challenge, overcoming the doubts and fears that quite naturally existed. Working together, we were able to avoid redrawing borders and preserved mutual trust. The Cold War was finally over. Developments after German unification and the end of the Cold War did not all go as we would have wished. In Germany itself, 40 years of division left a legacy of ruptured cultural and social ties that are even more difficult to repair than the economic gap. The former East Germans understood that all was not perfect in the West, particularly in its social welfare system. Yet despite the problems reintegration brought, Germans have made the united Germany a well-respected, strong and peaceful member of the community of nations.


The leaders who shape global and particularly European relations fared much more poorly in seizing the new opportunities presented to them 20 years ago. As a result, Europe has not solved its fundamental problem — creating a solid security structure. Immediately after the Cold War ended, we started discussing new security mechanisms for our continent. Among the ideas was creating a security council for Europe. It was envisioned as a "security directorate" with real, wide-ranging powers. Policy-makers from the Soviet Union, Germany and the United States supported it.


To my regret, the events took a different course. This has stalled the emergence of a new Europe. Instead of the old dividing lines, new ones have appeared. Europe has witnessed wars and bloodshed. Mistrust and outdated stereotypes persist: Russia is suspected of evil intentions and of aggressive, imperial designs.


I was shocked by a letter that politicians from Central and Eastern Europe sent to President Barack Obama in June. It was, in effect, a call to abandon his policy of engagement with Russia. Is it not shameful that European politicians gave no thought to the disastrous consequences of a new confrontation they would provoke?


At the same time, Europe is being drawn into a debate over responsibility for unleashing World War II. Attempts are being made to equate Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Those attempts are wrong, historically flawed and morally unacceptable. Those who hope to build a new wall of mutual suspicion and animosity in Europe do a disservice to their own countries and to Europe as a whole. Europe will only become a strong global player if it truly becomes a common home for Europeans, in the East as well as in the West. Europe must breathe with two lungs, as Pope John Paul II once said.


How do we move toward that goal?


In the early 1990s, the European Union decided to accelerate its enlargement. Much has been accomplished; those achievements are real. The implications of this process were not carefully thought through, however. The idea that all European problems would be solved by building Europe "from the West" turned out to be less than realistic and probably unworkable. A more measured pace of enlargement would have given the European Union time to develop a new model of relations with Russia and other countries that have no prospects of EU accession in the foreseeable future. The current model of EU relations with other European countries is based on absorbing as many of them as quickly as possible while leaving the relationship with Russia a "pending matter." That is simply unsustainable.


Rising to the historic challenges of security, economic recovery, the environment and migration requires a redesign of global and, most importantly, European political and economic relations. I urge all Europeans to give constructive and unbiased consideration to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's proposal for a new European security treaty. Once this core issue is resolved, Europe will speak with a full voice.


The New York Times








As Beijing continues to treat Indian citizens from the state of Jammu & Kashmir differently from the rest for consular purposes, Delhi must come to terms with the difficulty of sustaining the myth of "bilateralism" on J&K. Since signing the Simla Agreement with Pakistan in 1972, the proposition that J&K is a "bilateral" issue between India and Pakistan had become a mantra. That was never really true.


India's boundary dispute with China covers many parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir including the Aksai Chin plateau. Technically, then, one might want to say India has two sets of problems in J&K — one with Pakistan and another with China — and wants to deal with each one of them separately. Bilateralism, then was about India's preferred process and not the substance of the issue. Even that statement gets muddied by the fact that India's contested frontiers with Pakistan and China meet in J&K. When it came to exchanging maps showing the Indian and Chinese national perceptions — not a mutually agreed delineation — of the Line of Actual Control in the Western sector that covers J&K a few years ago, Beijing had backed off because it did not want to offend Islamabad. Meanwhile, India can't forget that Pakistan had ceded parts of the state of J&K under its control to China in 1963. China itself had stated that the final disposition of its border with Pakistan is subject to the eventual settlement of the Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir.


Although India insisted that Kashmir was a bilateral issue with Pakistan, Delhi had to often fend off America's ill-advised diplomatic activism in the state. It is only now that Delhi is being compelled to deal with the reality that there indeed is a third party to the Kashmir dispute — China. Washington may be the busybody, but it is Beijing that holds territory in J&K.


Wakhan corridor

As a rising China pushes its rail and road networks into the Subcontinent much to the consternation of Delhi, the next ambitious venture could be a highway through the Wakhan corridor to connect Afghanistan to Xinjiang. The Wakhan corridor was drawn across the Pamirs by the British Raj as part of the Great Game agreements with Russia. The corridor separated the Raj from Russia but also provided a small stretch of border — of about 80 km — with China.


The idea of a new road between China and Afghanistan apparently came up during the meeting between Presidents Hamid Karzai and Hu Jintao earlier this year. Although Kabul has been pressing for an early feasibility study of the project, Beijing has held back citing the huge costs and technical difficulties of building a road into Afghanistan through the difficult terrain of the great Pamirs.


Zardari's future

Although the world's attention is focused on the mess that the United States and the international community have made of the presidential elections in Afghanistan, it is Pakistan where some political change might be at hand. The impetus comes less from the unending terror attacks across Pakistan's cities, but from the many legal and political challenges facing the presidency of Asif Ali Zardari.


In July, the Supreme Court had declared null and void the sweet-heart deal Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf had unveiled in October 2007. The deal, codified in the National Reconciliation Ordinance, had granted immunity to Bhutto and her husband Zardari and allowed them to return to Pakistan and take part in the elections that swept their People's Party to power.As per the directive of the Supreme Court, Zardari needs to get Parliament approval to the NRO before the end of November. Since Zardari does not have the strength in the Parliament to steam roll the bill, he needs the support of others. With that support not forthcoming, Zardari's party backed off on Monday from tabling the bill in Parliament. One way out is for Zardari to cut a deal with his opponents under which he will remain in office but shrink the role of the presidency to a purely ceremonial one. But Zardari will surely wonder the point of staying on in the president's house without any power. If he does want to hold on, can he outsmart his growing band of opponents, especially the Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani? No one is betting on Zardari to win against the GHQ.


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








Retired tennis star Andre Agassi's revelations, in his autobiography Open, that he used two recreational drugs, crystal meth and amphetamine speed has once again brought to the fore the issue of doping in the sporting world. What is worse is that Agassi has admitted to lying about his drug use by sending the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) a signed letter claiming he had "unwittingly" taken the drug in a "spiked soda". By doing so, Agassi has cast a long shadow on the credibility, not just on his achievements in the tennis world, but also on the credibility of tennis as a sport.


The latest disclosures of Agassi calls for a serious shake up of the legal framework governing sport.


In his autobiography, Agassi asserts that he used the two drugs in the year 1997, at which point in time the World Anti-Doping Agency Code ("WADA Anti-Doping Code") was not even in existence. Even assuming for a moment that the WADA Anti-Doping Code did actually exist at that point in time, there is a clear provision in the WADA Anti-Doping Code i.e. Article 17, which stipulates that no action may be commenced against an athlete or any other person for an anti-doping rule violation contained in the Code unless such action is commenced within eight years from the date the violation is asserted to have occurred. In this case, any such action against Agassi, or his father Mike Agassi, should therefore have commenced in the year 2005. Considering the fact that these disclosures have been made by Agassi himself, should the governing bodies be taking such disclosures at face value? If Agassi could lie to the ATP by stating that the drug was taken "unwittingly", is there a possibility that he may not have revealed the full extent and time-frame of his drug use? Surely, the limitation period in Article 17 cannot be used to defeat the underlying purpose of the WADA Anti-Doping Code i.e. a dope-free sport. There does not appear to be any guidance on the scope and intent of Article 17, but the WADA would do well to carve out certain exceptions, which would grant it the authority to initiate action against an athlete even if drug-use has been detected (either by a disclosure by the player or by any other credible source) after the expiry of the limitation period.


Even granting that the WADA may not be in a position to exercise its jurisdiction in the present case, what of the ATP? The ATP has to act, and act fast against Agassi, in the interests of salvaging the credibility of tennis as a dope-free sport. The WADA has indicated that it will be asking the ATP and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to investigate whether Agassi "lied on oath" after he tested positive for crystal meth. In this context, it is pertinent to note that the ATP requires every professional tennis player who is registered with it to sign a document entitled Player's Consent and Agreement to ATP Official Rules Book, according to which such player consents and agrees to be bound and to comply with the rules formulated by ATP from time to time. This document contains a specific provision which refers to the Anti-Doping Programme administered by ITF at ATP-sanctioned events. By signing this document, the player submits himself to the jurisdiction and authority of ITF to manage, administer and enforce the Anti-Doping Programme and to the jurisdiction and authority of the Anti-Doping Tribunal and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ("CAS") to determine any charges brought under the Anti-Doping Programme.


If the ATP and ITF are serious about projecting tennis as a dope-free sport, they can exercise their jurisdiction over Agassi and his entourage at that point in time, make a reference to the CAS, and ask that the CAS penalise Agassi and his entourage appropriately for breaching the terms of the ATP Official Rules Book, particularly those in relation to anti-doping. As Harsha Bhogle pointed out in his column in this paper recently, pardoning Agassi for his offences will allow other players to cross the line as well, which can only be detrimental to sport at large.

The writer heads the sports practice at the law firm MMB Legal, Bangalore








Maharashtra debacle

While the CPI(M)'s mouthpiece People's Democracy was silent on the Assembly election results — understandably so since the Left-supported 16-party alliance failed to click — CPI's weekly organ New Age was frank in admitting that there was no "proper coordination" among the constituents of the front. In its lead editorial, the New Age went to the extent of saying that the TINA (there is no alternative) factor did play a role in the outcome of the polls in Maharashtra. "First of all the front came into existence very late. There was no proper coordination among the constituents and about 40 per cent of the seats there were mutual contests," it said. "After the foundation rally (on September 12), programme for four other rallies was announced, but none materialised," it says. Overall, the performance of the Left in the three states that went to polls was dismal, but the poor showing in Maharasthra calls for "serious introspection", particularly about the functioning of their party organisations.


Train hijack

Both the New Age and People's Democracy had articles insinuating that Trinamool Congress leader and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had a role in the Rajdhani train hold up. The New Age claimed that it never occurred to Mamata that the "mischief" will cause untold miseries to the passengers, small children and pregnant women. "Rajdhani Express is the symbol of comfort, protection and safe journey for the people. She (Mamata) has done the greatest disservice to the people and has no moral right to remain in the said post and play havoc with the life of the people," it said claiming thatthe train siege was "written and directed" by the railway minister.


On the other hand, the editorial in the CPI(M) mouthpiece wanted an investigation into the entire episode and asked the prime minister to explain the continuance of Mamata in the Union cabinet.


Spectrum scandal

Demanding the resignation of A. Raja, an article in the People's Democracy rejects the argument of the telecom minister that he did nothing wrong and he had in fact broken the cartel of telecom operators. "If this were so, then the consumer should have seen his telecom bills drop. This has not happened. What Raja has achieved is that he has enlarged the telecom cartel with his favourite companies," it says.


It says Raja's argument that he has broken the cartel does not go with his stated defence that he was only following the existing policy and TRAI recommendations while choosing the first-come-first served route for auctioning of 2G spectrum. "So he is either responsible for taking a decision to break the telecom cartel, and therefore also directly responsible for the loss to the exchequer or he is responsible for merely following existing procedures. He cannot have it both ways," it says.


Orissa farmers

During the Lok Sabha elections, the Left parties were competing with each other to shower praises on Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, whose Biju Janata Dal was an ally of the CPI(M) and CPI. It seems the equations have changed now. An article in the New Age accuses the Patnaik government of inaction in tackling the agrarian crisis. The headline itself screams: "Orissa farmers dying while government sleeps", and say: "In spite of the fact that the state government keeps assuring that there is no reason for panic, and the government is taking steps to improve the agricultural production, the farmers continue to end their lives in Orissa since last two months". It says the government is now giving thousands of acres of land to the companies, but a mere two acres of land is not given to the farmers. "There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the suffering farmers and perhaps there would be many more to follow the steps taken by their predecessors. Meanwhile, Orissa government is having a nice snooze."







The government, it seems, cannot find its way out of the mess that 3G spectrum has become. The embattled telecom minister, A Raja, facing serious allegations of subverting best-practice norms, has once again raised the bogey of unavailability of enough spectrum to conduct a 3G auction. The culprits are the armed forces, which continue to retain more spectrum than they could possibly require, even in a most dire emergency. Nowhere else in the world, including the US, do armed forces corner the kind of spectrum they do in India. The fact that they do control so much spectrum is an accident of history. When the department of telecom, the original owner of spectrum, gave up its ownership to the defence forces, there was no prospect of a mobile phone revolution, let alone 3G. But now circumstances have changed, and the armed forces must part with spectrum faster than they have so far. In their defence, the armed forces say that they are waiting for an alternative optical fibre network that will be ready by next June. Perhaps they could be reasonable and begin parting with it slowly starting now and culminating some time next year.


Still, this problem is not serious enough for 3G auctions not to take place in December or January. There is no reason that every bit of the spectrum that the defence forces will eventually release should be with the department of telecom before the auction takes place. In fact, the department of telecom already has enough spectrum to dole out to most operators in a large number of circles. Those who are left out in the initial allocation will get it shortly afterwards. Remember, there will be a time lag between the auctions and the actual rolling out of services. The winners of the auction will take time to set up the rest of their infrastructure. In any case, all auctions have a system of waitlists. There is no reason why this auction should be different. In the circles where spectrum is insufficient, those who miss out should simply be put on a waitlist until more spectrum becomes available. The government must stop any further delay in the 3G auctions, which are running behind schedule and depriving consumers in India of high-speed value-added services that are available to consumers elsewhere in the world. The telecom minister has committed a series of blunders in the time that he has held this office. He must be prevailed upon to limit further damage.






Yes, no, maybe no, yes and no, yes, maybe yes—that's been the policyspeak on FDI in retail since liberalisation. It's confused and confusing, but then that's what happens when vote bank politics overrules good economics. Manmohan Singh had it right when, during his reign as finance minister, Indian law was changed to permit FDI in retail trade in 1993. But a few years later, under pressure from Left coalition partners, the United Front banned FDI in the sector. Then NDA came along and considered lifting the ban. The consideration never reached fruition; millions of trader votes held sway instead. UPA-I raised expectations, with its commerce minister, Kamal Nath, considered a supporter of 100% FDI in retail. What UPA-I did deliver was 51% FDI in single-brand retail. Now, here we are in the reign of UPA-II and, as FE reported yesterday, what's on the anvil is hiking FDI in single-brand retail to 74%. We ask, what about 100%, what about multi-brand retail segments? We wonder, why won't our political leaders step away from the status quo, why won't they deliver what study after study has found is in the best interest of Indian consumers?


Consider both the domestic and global ramifications of such studies. On the latter front, consumer spending in India—along with China—represents the Promised Land that may replace America as the driver of global growth. Last year, in the face of a scary recession, retail sales held up surprisingly well across Chindia. Hence, whether it's Wal-Mart or Tesco, Louis Vuitton or Vogue, you see brand interest bearing up all the regulatory challenges in India—from difficulties in acquiring land to high import duties, government rejections and other restrictions. On the domestic front, an Icrier study released last year puts it all in a nutshell: households that earn less than Rs 10,000 a month save the most when organised retailers open shop in their neighbourhood, conserving about 10% of their shopping bills as a result. Other study findings were that, assuming increased FDI would increase modernisation, if the supply chains were modernised, this would both double employment opportunities by creating jobs in small manufacturing, food processing, construction, cold storages, warehousing, sorting, packing and labelling, and increase profit realisation for farmers selling directly to organised retailers by about 60%. In addition, consider the power factor: if US retail companies enjoyed a larger presence in India, in how many ways could India leverage that market effect? Plus, as the Economic Survey has been arguing, by establishing global retail brands in the Indian market, FDI in retail will create greater outlets for outsourcing and marketing of Indian products.








In order to ensure greater investor participation in various decision making processes of a listed company and thus usher in better corporate governance, the National Securities Depository and Central Depository Services are in the process of introducing online voting for shareholders.


Under electronic mode, shareholders would be able to vote using the Internet. Currently, Section 192A of the Companies Act 1956 makes it mandatory for all listed companies to pass a resolution by postal ballot that also includes electronic voting. It was never implemented as there was no clarity on the process, and bandwidth issues became a major dampener. The current system of postal ballot imposes a cost.


In fact, the new Companies Act has also suggested electronic voting for special resolutions such as preferential allotment and buybacks. Typically, about 10% of shareholders take part in any AGM by being present physically. Internet proxies could empower regional members to vote on changes affecting them without having to travel for the meetings that are usually held where the company is headquartered.


Globally, investors in the US have been voting online for more than a decade. Subsequently, countries like the UK, France, Japan and Germany have also introduced e-voting at shareholders' meet and it has made a big difference for shareholder activism. The online platform should enable shareholders to question their rights in real time just the way they would have done if they were present physically at the meeting. Shareholders need to keep in mind the technical glitches that may crop up. By voting


online, they cannot dispute decisions later if the transmission is discontinued by technical interruptions that may have prevented them from casting their votes. Secondly, the Web site has to be secured with a proper authorisation number given to shareholders.


With the Satyam scandal still in recent memory, it is important that shareholders participate in the governance process through online voting, instead of just complaining to the authorities about poor management and lack of transparency in a company.







India's export profile gives the impression that it is an energy surplus country. However, almost everybody knows it to be otherwise. Then why does it export so much of refined petroleum products?


During the year 2008-09, India's petroleum exports stood at $26.8 billion. These exports were 14.7% of the country's total annual exports. They were also the second-highest exports in value terms closely following gems & jewellery exports, which were worth $27.7 billion. In the previous year, petroleum exports were India's topmost exports at $27.4 billion and a share of 17% in total exports. The lower export value of petroleum products during 2008-09 is for obvious reasons. The global economic downturn from September 2008 affected prospects of such exports, particularly in India's main export markets such as in West Asia (e.g. UAE and Saudi Arabia) and Europe (e.g. the Netherlands and Germany).


Notwithstanding the downturn in 2008-09, petroleum products continue to remain India's main exports. This is puzzling since India imports almost 80% of its crude requirements. India does have a surplus balance in refinery production, mostly on account of its refineries working overtime. Capacity utilisation in Indian refineries—be it in private or public sector—is well above 100%. This is an activity where India's public sector has been matching its private counterpart in equal measure. But do India's refineries function beyond their capacities for meeting domestic consumption or exports?


There is no unambiguous answer to the question. Motivations for producing more for domestic consumption or exports are guided by the prevailing incentive structure in the domestic refined petroleum market. These motivations, again, are different between the public and private refiners.


With retail prices of domestic petroleum products continuing to be controlled, the incentives for private refiners are very different from those in the public sector. Private refiners cannot afford to sell their products at controlled prices. As a result, when operating costs increase, primarily because of increases in global crude price, they have no option other than passing on the increase to consumers through higher retail prices. However, with public refineries not doing so, the private refiners become uncompetitive in the domestic market. Thus, they have no option other than scouting overseas markets.


Diversion of output to overseas markets creates supply shortages in the domestic market. India's public refineries do not respond to market signals and rarely align retail prices in line with changes in global prices. They take hits on their balance sheets in the hope of getting saved by oil bonds. But they have to respond to the growing demand for refined products by producing more. Their efforts are inadequate for meeting the rising demand forcing them to import refined products.


The distorted price-incentive structure in the domestic market creates a piquant situation where India is found exporting and importing the same petroleum product. High speed diesel (HSD) is a typical example. In the year 2008-09, India exported 13,770 thousand tonnes of HSD while importing 2,734 thousand tonnes of the same. The imports would have been more had deceleration not affected the Indian industry. In order to respond to the challenges of higher demand, several segments of Indian industry, particularly small & medium enterprises, have been overcoming problems of irregular power supply by installing large captive diesel-driven machine supplies. The use of these diesel sets is typically more during summer. As industry grows and the demand for diesel grows, imports also grow. Another product where similar simultaneous exports and imports are observed is fuel oil.

The mystery of petroleum products becoming leading exports from a country lacking crude supplies is explained by the perverse incentive structure in the domestic market. Export of petroleum products is, therefore, more by default than design. If market distortions have created such strange 'synergies' of export and import of similar petroleum products, then is there a case for encouraging cheaper refined imports? The public refineries are not only bleeding from administered prices but are also having to pay for imported refined products. Rather than subjecting them to dual torture, it may be sensible to encourage them to reduce production costs and look out for cheaper imports. That may save some blood for them. Alas, there's little that this will do for private refiners. Given the way things are, they should rather be encouraged to export and earn more.


The author is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views







Something unprecedented is happening in the global financial markets all over again. We are seeing asset-price bubbles building in commodities, real estate and equities barely a year after the world suffered its worst recession since the Great Depression. History tells us that after a severe recession, asset prices take a long time to recover. But this time around, asset prices are rising back to the pre-Lehman levels very fast. Driven by massive liquidity, the financial economy is yet again running way ahead of the real economy. Some Wall Street leaders are worrying about this rather strange phenomenon.


For instance, the speculative trading volumes in oil have now hit an all-time high, almost close to the levels that existed before the collapse of Wall Street firms last September. Daily trading volumes in oil are about 16 times the actual underlying demand. In normal times, oil trading volumes were about 4 to 6 times the underlying demand. Real estate prices in cities such as Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore are also inching closer to their 2008 peaks. Equity prices have run up quite high in most emerging markets in the past six months, even if we are witnessing a slight correction now.


More importantly, the balance sheets of Wall Street firms are yet again getting leveraged higher on the back of rising asset prices. Their asset size had gone up to 30 times their capital base before the Wall Street crisis last year. The leverage came down to about 13 times after the crisis had played out. Now they are rising again to about 17 times their base, according to analysts. So, are we getting back to square one, is the question that must be asked seriously.


Have we forgotten all the lessons we were supposed to learn after the Lehman collapse? One had thought the one benefit of the global financial crisis was that it would force economic agents to acquire new knowledge in regard to what might happen in the future. For both governments and central bankers, the past has ceased to be an accurate guide for determining future policy.


There is absence of new knowledge when we begin to repeat mistakes and do not come with alternate modes of solving complex problems. Are governments and central bankers thinking differently so far in their response to the global economic crisis. Unfortunately, it does not seem so. The leadership of the US and EU also seem devoid of new ideas in this regard. The G-20 has created mechanisms to examine asset bubbles. But the G-20 is already getting overtaken by events.


In some ways, policy makers and central banks have done the only thing they could think of—inject massive fiscal and monetary stimuli. But this is old knowledge. Even Keynes may have protested at the manner in which his core ideas are being implemented these days. Animal spirits cannot be revived by unbridled government spending and throwing money at near zero interest rates. Capitalism was never meant to be premised on money having no price at all! We had Japan following a virtually zero interest rate policy in the nineties and the economy never recovered for years. Its growth rate stagnated at around 1% for decades together.


It is feared that the US may also be falling into a long-term liquidity trap characterised by a sub-par growth over a long period. This is inevitable unless the policymakers in America come up with some radically new ideas. In this context, RBI governor D Subbarao recently said that not much has been done by nations to debate the fundamental imbalances in the global economic system which could, in fact, have been the primary cause of the Wall Street financial crisis. This imbalance essentially made the US merrily borrow from the rest of the world to support its consumption. Of course, in the past year or so, some of this imbalance was partly correcting with the US current account deficit dropping and its savings rate going up. But that is not enough. The paradigm needs to change.


The US needs to recover its real growth impulse by becoming a prime exporter of high technology goods—it is no more competitive in the manufacturing sector—if it wants to substantially reduce borrowing from the rest of the world. Some of the bigger emerging economies must simultaneously take US's share as an absorber of world imports. US can no longer act as the world's super market. Consumption demand has to gradually decentralise and disperse to other economies.


If the US fails to do this, it will again end up using finance capital as a steroid to create an illusion of growth. Wall Street banks help in creating this illusion of growth, which eventually ends in a series of asset bubbles across the world. You don't sustain long-term growth with pure finance capital play. Finance capital works only when complemented by dynamic elements of the real economy. This was the biggest lesson of last year's crisis. Another crisis will surely occur if world leaders fail to recognise this.








The promise made in August that financial assets of Supreme Court judges will be in public domain has been more or less fulfilled with 21 judges, including the Chief Justice of India, posting the information on the Court's official website. While it is a matter of great satisfaction that the highest court in the land has gone public with details of the assets — a decision that was preceded by an intense debate about the need for greater judicial accountability — it has not gone far enough. The fact that this is a voluntary declaration — something that is emphasised in the website — makes it possible for some members of the judiciary to hold out, thereby defeating the main purposes of such disclosures, which are to promote judicial transparency and ipso facto to check judicial corruption. Also, the twin aims can be met only by regular and updated disclosures and not via one-time declarations. In this context, greater judicial accountability is best achieved through a mechanism for the mandatory public disclosure of judges' assets. Regrettably, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan and some sections of the higher judiciary continue to strongly oppose this.


The voluntary declaration should not deter attempts to introduce legislation that mandates an accurate and full public declaration of assets. In August, the Centre was forced to withdraw the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill in Parliament, after protests cutting across party lines against a weak and self-defeating clause that disallowed declarations of assets and liabilities from being made public or questioned by any citizen, court or authority. The Centre would do well to reintroduce the legislation after making the necessary changes in the offending clause. It is important to note that the current debate about making the judiciary more transparent takes place against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's ill-advised decision to appeal against the Delhi High Court's ruling that the nation's highest court falls within the purview of the Right to Information Act. Public faith in the judicial system will improve only if the functioning of the higher courts is open to public scrutiny. Where is the case for keeping the higher judiciary insulated from the RTI when the office of the President of India comes under its ambit? How can a judiciary that endorses the Election Commission's bid to make the declaration of assets of candidates to elected office mandatory sing a different tune when it comes to its own functioning? The higher judiciary must be open to supporting any move that enhances judicial transparency and, at the same time, safeguards judicial independence.








By initiating and then calling off an alliance with film star K. Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam for the upcoming polls to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the Congress party has sent out some confusing signals. In revoking the seat-sharing deal within a day of settling it with a party that fared poorly in the State capital during the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the State and central leadership of the ruling party clearly succumbed to pressure tacti cs from loyalists of Jaganmohan Reddy, Kadappa MP and son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The proposed tie-up, orchestrated by Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief D. Srinivas, had the blessings of Chief Minister K. Rosaiah and at least the tacit approval of the party high command. The State leadership was evidently looking for a charismatic campaigner in the Greater Hyderabad region. Following threats issued by Jagan loyalists, the contracted marriage of convenience was cancelled. It is understandable that a bereaved party does not want to lose a prestigious contest just five months after a strong leader led it to a famous victory in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. But that is history.


Although the succession was handled soberly enough and Mr. Rosaiah's continuance as Chief Minister may not be in question right now, many Congress leaders launched a vitriolic campaign against what they believed was a short-sighted alliance with the film star's party, which had polled a mere seven per cent in Hyderabad and a little over 16 per cent of the vote in the State. The Jagan camp insists that the Congress cannot possibly benefit from a tie-up with the Praja Rajyam, which they say is free to merge with the Congress. At the heart of the continuing feud are the present role and the future of Jagan. By not involving him in the campaign and thus giving the impression that he was being marginalised, the State leadership only succeeded in complicating the situation. The fact that the Congress Legislature Party has not met even once after Mr. Rosaiah was sworn in as Chief Minister speaks volumes about his wobbly position. After party president Sonia Gandhi met Jagan and he formally agreed to abide by her decision, the high command might have thought it had resolved the crisis in the party's southern stronghold. The policy of drift has taken a toll on both party and government, with the unassuming Chief Minister unable to rely on many of his Ministers despite repeatedly committing himself to the schemes and legacy of his predecessor. Perhaps, the high command wants to wait for the outcome of the November-end civic poll before taking a final decision. But the damage seems to have been done.










The so-called 'peace overture' that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made to Pakistan from the Kashmir Valley last week, came almost a year after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and New Delhi's subsequent indefinite halt of the peace process with Islamabad. The major dialogue channels between the two countries — the composite dialogue and the back-channel negotiations — continue to remain closed. Since November 2008, there have only been some un derdeveloped and half-hearted attempts towards a thaw in the prevailing icy state of relations between the two countries. There seems to be no way forward.


However, following mounting international pressure and an increasing number of jihadist attacks on its soil, including an audacious assault on the Army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and a series of attacks on police installations in Lahore, Pakistan has urged a resumption of dialogue with India. Dr. Singh's peace overture has come at a time when there is an urgent need to re-examine India's policy of 'no-dialogue' with Pakistan.



It is perhaps an opportune time to ask whether the Indian strategy of coercive diplomacy has worked against Pakistan. What has India gained by not talking to Pakistan for 11 months, and what more is India likely to gain if it continues along this path? Do New Delhi's foreign policy mandarins think India profits strategically by refusing to engage Pakistan in discussion?


Do they assume that India can indefinitely retain the moral high ground it thought it had when it broke off relations with Pakistan last year? They seem to hold this assumption, erroneous though this might be. As a result, New Delhi is not only losing precious time by isolating itself from Pakistan, but is harming its own strategic interests.


India has achieved all it can hope to with its silence; there is nothing more it can reasonably hope to gain by refusing to restart the dialogue process. Pakistan has accepted that the perpetrators of 26/11 came from its territory and has, in principle at least, agreed to prosecute them. India also helped focus the attention of the international community on Pakistan post-26/11. However, New Delhi's insistence that it will talk to Islamabad only after Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is prosecuted may indeed be demanding too much. India should work with Pakistan to initiate Saeed's prosecution rather than hounding Islamabad to go it alone: a strategy of pure coercion and compellence with no reasonable payoff is clearly counterproductive.


If New Delhi continues along this route, Pakistan may well up the ante against India (through border incursions, for example) in an attempt to bring India to the negotiating table: states have a tendency to behave irrationally when pushed to the corner. India's strategy of compellence has never really worked against Pakistan. And it is unlikely to work in the future.




Not only is a 'no-dialogue' policy towards Pakistan not useful, it is indeed counterproductive. Consider the following. First of all, the former Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, is increasingly becoming a 'persona non-grata' among the ruling elites of Pakistan — both civilian and military. There is an emerging tendency among many Pakistani politicians and retired generals who once worked under Gen. Musharraf, to feign ignorance of his statements and actions (especially vis-À-vis India) and to distance themselves from him.


In other words, there is today a clear unwillingness in Pakistan to own the political legacy of its former military dictator. It is now widely recognised that the 2004-2008 peace process — which was seriously considering out-of-the-box solutions to resolve outstanding rifts — not only had the full support of Dr. Singh and Gen. Musharraf but, through its back-channel route, had even prepared a tentative blueprint for peace. More precisely, it is believed that the bilateral back-channel negotiations had taken the peace process on Jammu and Kashmir to a new level. If the new government and the strategic community in Pakistan renege on Gen. Musharraf's past promises, there will be serious implications for Indo-Pakistan relations, especially with respect to Kashmir.


Therefore, undoing Gen. Musharraf's legacy will also mean undoing the Indo-Pakistan peace process and all that it may have achieved over time. If this process of demonising and demolishing Gen. Musharraf's legacy is already under way in Pakistan, then India's consistent refusal to engage Islamabad will only further contribute to the undoing of the gains of the Indo-Pakistan peace process. In other words, the Indian unwillingness to engage Pakistan will reverse the gains that India had made in recent years in resolving its conflicts with Pakistan.


Another emerging trend in Pakistan is to accuse India of sponsoring terrorism against Pakistan. Today many in the Pakistan establishment are making serious allegations that India supports the Baloch insurgents as well as some Pakistan Taliban groups. While such allegations may not be wholly new, what is perhaps new is the focussed and predetermined manner in which these accusations are being made today and the manner in which this argument is gaining currency within Pakistan's strategic elite. Although this may be purely for domestic consumption — as the international audience is unlikely to buy this line of argument — a Pakistani population and civil society unfavourably disposed towards India is not something New Delhi should ignore. It will be genuinely counterproductive for Indian interests in the long term.


More so, this shows that there is a perceptible change in Pakistan's attitude: from being defensive and cornered in the months immediately after 26/11, it is now on the offensive. To some extent this has been a result of India's overuse of coercive diplomacy, which it continues to indulge in without properly weighing its options in a cost-effective manner. Quite apart from the fact that this approach has degraded relations between the two countries and made Pakistan feel more insecure (which in turn may prompt it to be more belligerent), it has led the international community to regard the two countries as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution. More so, the more time India spends refusing to have a dialogue with Pakistan, the more difficult it will be for the country to start talking if and when it decides to talk.



New Delhi's unwise handling of Pakistan is a result of a deep-seated status quo bias that permeates New Delhi's policy towards Pakistan, terrorism, and even Kashmir which in many ways is the 'ground zero' of Indo-Pakistan relations and India's struggle against terrorism. This status quo bias has manifestly narrowed the Indian government's understanding and approach to terrorism in the region.


New Delhi sometimes appears to consider terrorism a problem that is unique to India, as though no other country has ever suffered its consequences. It therefore persists with its demand that others (that is, Pakistan) 'fix' the problem first before it (the perpetual victim) will discuss other political and security issues.


This head-in-the-sand approach ignores the reality that terrorism is a global/regional problem requiring a global/regional solution. This solution can only be achieved in a cooperative mode and by creating cooperative mechanisms to contain the menace of terror in the region. And India needs to take the lead in this process, however challenging and long-drawn-out it may turn out to be. It is imprudent to attempt to enact unilateral measures to 'control' terrorism, precisely because terrorists respect no borders and are by their very nature extremely difficult to control.


A status quo bias may 'benefit' the painfully slow-moving Indian political and bureaucratic apparatus, but it is not beneficial for a country that desires to become a great power in an age of fast-changing international politics. To start with, therefore, New Delhi needs to shed its status quo bias and restart the dialogue with Pakistan in its own long-term strategic interests.








It was late on a Monday afternoon at the drunk tank in Mytishchi, a Moscow suburb, but it could have been any day, at any hour, at any similar facility across this land. People would come. They always do.


Such is Russia's ruinous penchant for the bottle — and the challenge facing a new government policy to curb it.


First to be escorted in by police officers was a construction worker named Damir M. Askerkhanov, who said he had been bingeing on vodka and beer — "This is my very own holiday!" — before he was found stumbling about in the cold. At 23, he admitted that he had already been picked up intoxicated twice recently. 'Only even drunker," he said.


Sergey A. Yurovsky, 36, who is studying to be a government clerk, arrived next, mumbling and getting tangled up in his sweater when he was asked to take it off for a brief medical exam. After he was moved to a room to sober up, and dozed off, officers showed up with Larisa V. Lobachyova, 53, whose hair was matted with dirt from a fall.


"It is this way all the time," said Inspector Igor I. Poludnitsyn, who has supervised the drunk tank for seven years. "It is our national calamity."


Russia's President, Dmitri A. Medvedev, has been voicing that sentiment a lot lately, declaring that the government must do something about the country's status as a world leader in alcohol consumption.


The Kremlin has already vanquished one vice this year, casino gambling, which it all but banned in July. But drinking — vodka in particular — is another thing entirely. It is a mainstay of Russian life, both a beloved social lubricant and a ready means for escaping everyday hardship.



Mr. Medvedev is seeking steeper penalties on the sale of alcohol to minors, as well as a crackdown on beer, which has grown more popular among young people. Beer sales at kiosks would be banned, as would large beer containers. The government may seek more control over the market for vodka, still the most common alcoholic beverage.


Mr. Medvedev's plan, though, follows a long line of failed temperance campaigns here, going back centuries. The most notable was pressed by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who in the mid-1980s ordered shelves emptied of vodka and historic vineyards razed. Those measures succeeded at first, resulting in a nationwide bout of temperance that even increased life expectancy. But they also touched off a severe public backlash that damaged the standing of Gorbachev and the Communist Party, and he eventually relented.


In recent years, as Russia has rebounded and engaged more with the world, alcohol has hindered its development. Foreign companies that operate here are particularly aware of the toll as they grapple with lower productivity.


Russians consume roughly 4.75 gallons of pure alcohol a person annually, more than double the level that the World Health Organisation considers a health threat. The consumption figure for the United States is about 2.3 gallons.

The country will have difficulty resolving its demographic crisis — its population is predicted to drop nearly 20 per cent by 2050 — if it does not confront its alcohol problem. Life expectancy for Russian men is now 60 years, in part because of alcoholism.


Researchers studying mortality in three industrial cities in Siberia in the 1990s found that in several years, alcohol was the cause of more than half of all deaths of people ages 15 to 54, often from accidents, violence or alcohol poisoning, according to a report this year in The Lancet, a London-based medical professional journal.


The Public Chamber, a Kremlin advisory panel, has asserted that roughly 500,000 people die annually in Russia from causes directly related to or aggravated by alcohol.


"No matter what people say about it being too deep-rooted in our culture, about it being practically impossible to fight alcoholism in Russia," Mr. Medvedev said in August, 'we must recognise that other countries, and you know them yourselves, have been successful in their efforts to address this issue."



Several experts said they doubted that the government would accomplish much unless its plan was drastically strengthened. They said the most important step would be to raise vodka prices significantly through heavier taxation and the closing of unlicensed distilleries. A half liter of vodka now costs as little as $2.


They pointed out that in other countries, like France, people drink heavily, but mostly wine and beer, which are seen as less harmful. The trouble here is hard liquor.


In Mytishchi, with a population of 170,000, Poludnitsyn said it was clear that more limits were needed. The drunk tank typically receives a dozen or so people a day, and many more on paydays and weekends.


"It is not a fight that can be waged in a single year," he said. ``It has to be waged over time, over decades."


Drinking has increased sharply since the Soviet Union's fall in 1991, though heavily intoxicated people have been somewhat less visible on the streets in recent years, in part because the police do a better job of whisking them away.


Dr. Aleksandr V. Nemtsov of the Moscow Psychiatric Research Institute, one of Russia's leading alcohol experts, said that little would change unless the Kremlin got serious about shutting down unlicensed distillers, which produce half the vodka consumed in the country and usually are protected by corrupt officials.


``The government does not want to deprive poor people of cheap vodka," Nemtsov said. "Because it is better for them when people are drunk. You probably know that Catherine the Great said it is easier to rule a drunk public. That is the root of the evil."


Mr. Nemtsov said it would be foolish to constrain beer sales. Given that people are unlikely to spurn alcohol altogether, the government should prefer that they drink beer, he said. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service









Most developed nations regard healthcare as a fundamental right and quality healthcare services as an essential pre-requisite of development. Arguably, the finest example of national health service provision is the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. Developed by a Labour government in the post war years, the NHS soon became Britain's answer to the global search for an ideal healthcare model. Its inherent simplicity, being a government managed, socially driven model of equitable healthcare provision, led to its achieving "cult status" among healthcare professionals worldwide, and to its becoming an enduring symbol of British pride and sentiment. Indeed, many countries around the world, especially those in the commonwealth, replicated it unquestioningly, developing extensive links with it, for training and skills development.


Why then has the NHS model experienced significant change over time? The answer perhaps lies in its inherent un-sustainability; the government being wholly responsible for the costs of healthcare delivery, the consumer having to share only an insignificant part of the direct costs incurred, whatever his station in life. Not only did this make healthcare provision very expensive for the State, it resulted in inappropriate health service utilisation. The devolution of health service provision to local health authorities, in an attempt to "cap" costs, led to the NHS being increasing managed by professionals, many from non-healthcare domains, as also increasing disenchantment and attrition among key stakeholders; doctors, nurses and other senior healthcare professionals.



As the NHS in the U.K. strives to reinvent itself, we in India can learn much from its remarkable evolution, rise and perceptual decline. While government delivered models of healthcare guarantee social equity, governments in general perform poorly in the service sector, airlines and hospitality being classic examples in the Indian context. Evaluated objectively, the argument that government supported healthcare initiatives should be exclusively carried through public investment, in public healthcare agencies, is backed neither by logic nor by experience. Healthcare delivery, unlike health policy development, is not an area of governmental "core competency." A measured and rational approach that explores various healthcare delivery models, pilots chosen models judiciously, finally adopting those that have both relevance and viability, is called for.


The unit costs of healthcare: Whatever the preferred healthcare model, we must accept that every healthcare intervention, from a consultation-interview-examination process, to the conduct of the most advanced investigations and procedures, has a "unit cost" appended to it, this being the cost incurred by the provider in delivering that intervention. The argument in healthcare must move from the conventional "should there be a unit cost?", to the more contemporary, "who will pay the unit cost?" The responsibility for "unit cost payment" may rest entirely with the state, as for the person below poverty line, or one who is disabled or otherwise disadvantaged; partly the individual and partly the state as in those from lower income groups, the unemployed, public and NGO service employees and other selected populations; and entirely with the individual or other parties contracted on his behalf as in the higher income group individual or private sector employee with employer cover. Any healthcare model that disregards this "unit cost" that every healthcare intervention attracts, is doomed to fail, for sheer lack of sustainability or viability.


There are many examples of "unit cost sharing" world-over, with responsibility for health related costs being vested in both the individual and the State depending both on the nature of the service sought and provided and on the concerned person's socio-economic status. Many countries have also experimented with insurance managed participatory models of healthcare, with government taking responsibility for the insurance premium, wholly or in part, private providers contracted through the insurance company being responsible for healthcare provision, a model that is gaining increasing acceptance among various State governments in India. While insurance managed healthcare models are not without problems, as caricatured in the Michael Moore documentary "SICKO", a critique of the American managed healthcare system, they are arguably both robust and sustainable, thereby meriting consideration. Expanding these models to include premium contributions from government, employer and individual in varying proportions is another possibility.


It is important we acknowledge here that the majority of non-government healthcare services including health insurance are "for profit" enterprises, accountable to stakeholders and cannot on their own accord guarantee equity of care. Private providers also tend to marginalise those they perceive as "bad clients", people with chronic diseases, pre-existing medical conditions and those who cannot contribute to healthcare payments on regular basis. However, social responsibility dictates that all healthcare service providers participate in delivering healthcare to the have-nots in society and this is possible today in the context of government-driven health insurance schemes that cover families below the poverty line (BPL) for emergency and specialist treatments. Other participatory healthcare models include the contracting out select healthcare services to private providers and State support for charitable hospitals and NGO agencies through grants for subsidised healthcare delivery. Senior government officials point out that such government-private engagement in healthcare through contractual arrangements, are by no means new, and have existed for decades.


Making PPP models of healthcare operational: Can government engagement with the organised healthcare sector be operationalised more systematically nationwide, so that no PHC anywhere in the country suffers due to lack of staff or services? Can private and NGO providers step in to formally cover for the government in regions that lack healthcare provision; tribal areas and hill regions for example? To take the argument a step further, can we not envisage a time when one could walk into any registered healthcare provider (private, NGO or public) and expect a proportional healthcare cost subsidy based on one's ability to pay? Will this not guarantee "fair price healthcare" and thus greater health equity? These and many other questions beg answers in the contemporary global context.


The "H1N1 Swine Flu" epidemic has once again highlighted, like the HIV experience before it, the need for close and effective cooperation among the government, private and NGO-run healthcare service providers. The government reached out spontaneously to the private healthcare industry, engaging it in the national effort to fight the H1N1 epidemic. It seems eminently possible that such cooperation can extend far beyond the scenario of national healthcare emergencies, to include standard healthcare provision, primary, secondary and tertiary, especially at a time when we are contemplating "unique identification" for all Indian citizens. Even those sceptical of PPP (public-private participation) healthcare models will acknowledge that the private and NGO sectors have developed in the six decades after independence, impressive core competency in healthcare provision, often overshadowing the government sector with all its abilities of scope and scale, ophthalmological (eye) care being a good example.



PPP engagement in healthcare must therefore be approached in the spirit of greater common good, combining high standards of quality and efficiency with accountability, equity and transparency. PPP engagement must develop through a national healthcare blueprint, amalgamating government, private and NGO sectors in tripartite arrangements for healthcare provision, with the participation of all stakeholders, patient groups and healthcare professionals included. We must also engender the political will to legislate alongside for a "national healthcare guarantee" covering all Indian citizens. Health being a crucial indicator of human development, our failure to act with a sense of urgency, will only lead to further widening of the gulf between economic and human development indices in India.

(The writer is Honorary Secretary of the Voluntary Health Services at Taramani, Chennai, and convener of the Healthcare Panel (Tamil Nadu) of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The views expressed in the article are his own. E-mail: )








There is no point in denying it: we're losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere that cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.


A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the world has been warming over the last few decades has fallen from 71 per cent to 57 per cent in just 18 months. Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, U.S. voters who believe global warming has natural causes (44 per cent) outnumber those who believe it is the result of human action (41 per cent).


A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that man-made global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled last year. The Science Museum in London's Prove it! exhibition asks online readers to endorse or reject a statement that they've seen the evidence and want governments to take action. As of Monday (Nov. 2) afternoon, 1,006 people had endorsed it and 6,110 had rejected it. On, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 in the global warming category. Never mind that they've been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles. What is going on?


It certainly doesn't reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years. If you don't believe me, open any recent edition of Science or Nature or any peer-reviewed journal specialising in atmospheric or environmental science. Go on, try it. The debate about global warming that's raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.


An American scientist I know suggests that these books and websites cater to a new literary market: people with room-temperature IQs. He didn't say whether he meant Fahrenheit or Centigrade. But this can't be the whole story. Plenty of intelligent people have also declared themselves sceptics.



One such is the critic Clive James. You could accuse him of purveying trite received wisdom, but not of being dumb. On BBC Radio 4 a few days ago he delivered an essay about the importance of scepticism, during which he maintained that "the number of scientists who voice scepticism [about climate change] has lately been increasing." He presented no evidence to support this statement and, as far as I can tell, none exists. But he used this contention to argue that "either side might well be right, but I think that if you have a division on that scale, you can't call it a consensus. Nobody can meaningfully say that the science is in."


Had he bothered to take a look at the quality of the evidence on either side of this media debate, and the nature of the opposing armies — climate scientists on one side, rightwing bloggers on the other — he too might have realised that the science is in. In, at any rate, to the extent that science can ever be, which is to say that the evidence for man-made global warming is as strong as the evidence for Darwinian evolution, or for the link between smoking and lung cancer. I am constantly struck by the way in which people like James, who proclaim themselves sceptics, will believe any old claptrap that suits their views. Their position was perfectly summarised by a supporter of Ian Plimer (author of a marvellous concatenation of gibberish called Heaven and Earth), commenting on a recent article in the Spectator magazine: "Whether Plimer is a charlatan or not, he speaks for many of us." These people aren't sceptics; they're suckers.

Such beliefs seem to be strongly influenced by age. The Pew report found that people over 65 are much more likely than the rest of the population to deny that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, that it's caused by humans, or that it's a serious problem. This chimes with my own experience. Almost all my fiercest arguments over climate change, both in print and in person, have been with people in their 60s or 70s. Why might this be? There are some obvious answers: they won't be around to see the results; they were brought up in a period of technological optimism; they feel entitled, having worked all their lives, to fly or cruise to wherever they wish. But there might also be a less intuitive reason, which shines a light into a fascinating corner of human psychology.



In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with "vital lies" or "the armour of character." We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death. More than 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker's thesis. When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their worldview, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it, and increasing their striving for self-esteem.


One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death.


A recent paper by the biologist Janis L. Dickinson, published in the Journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult to repress thoughts of death, and that people might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival. There is already experimental evidence that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.


If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven't been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the last two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it? — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009










Al Gore's much-anticipated sequel to An Inconvenient Truth was published on Tuesday, with an admission that facts alone will not persuade Americans to act on global warming and that appealing to their spiritual side is the way forward.


In his latest book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, the man who won a Nobel peace prize in 2007 for his touring slideshow on the consequences of climate change, concludes: "Simply laying out the facts won't work."


Instead, Mr. Gore told Newsweek magazine in a pre-publication interview, he had been adapting his fact-based message — now put out by hundreds of volunteers — to appeal to those who believe there is a moral or religious duty to protect the planet.


"I've done a Christian [-based] training programme; I have a Muslim training programme and a Jewish training programme coming up, also a Hindu programme coming up. I trained 200 Christian ministers and lay leaders here in Nashville in a version of the slideshow that is filled with scriptural references. It's probably my favourite version, but I don't use it very often because it can come off as proselytising," Mr. Gore said.


Mr. Gore's book — which arrives at a time of intense scrutiny of U.S. environment policy, with the international meeting on global warming at Copenhagen just over a month away — draws on the scholarly approach of An Inconvenient Truth. Since 2007 the former Vice-President has been calling experts together from fields ranging from agriculture to neuroscience to discuss possible solutions to climate change.


The book draws on 30 such "solutions summits," as well as Mr. Gore's conversations with scientists. New polling last month showed a steep decline in the number of Americans who share Mr. Gore's sense of urgency in acting on climate change. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The public disclosure of assets by Supreme Court judges is likely to have a cleansing effect on the system, and boost the image of the higher judiciary in the country. On the basis of what has been brought out in the open, it is clear that our top judges are honourable officials. It is a relief to know that their moveable and immovable assets at the fag end of their working lives, and those of their spouses, are on the same footing as ordinary middle class professionals, if not lower in some cases. When it is widely perceived that institutions of public service have declined noticeably in standards of probity, the higher judiciary has clearly upheld the meaning of scruple. It is to be hoped that the example set by the Supreme Court judges will have a cascading effect on judges of the all the high courts. (To their credit, judges of the Karnataka and Kerala high courts have already made a full disclosure of their assets.) Perhaps this can pave the way for assets' disclosure by tiers of the judiciary below the high court level, whose reputation has been sagging for some time. India is passing through a phase of socio-economic transition that involves rural-urban migrations of a new order, occupational mobility, expansion of self-employment opportunities through financial openness, burgeoning of commercial interests, the large-scale displacement of populations, and property sales for purposes of urbanisation and industrialisation. If not handled with fairness and explicit sense of justice, the result can be an internal crisis that will weaken the system from within. A judicial system known for its uprightness is indeed the need of the hour.


True, the Supreme Court judges have made a "voluntary" disclosure of their assets as they are not bound by any law to do so. Whether such a law is needed, if the ripple effect of the action of our seniormost judges can be felt lower down the judicial ladder, is a moot point. However, the step taken by the country's highest judicial officers begs the question whether all those who depend on the public exchequer for their remuneration should not be made to follow their example. There is a widespread impression, for instance, that legislators grow seriously rich even after doing a single term. Naturally, a case can be made out for not only election candidates declaring their assets, but also serving legislators. If anything, the case of government officials at all levels is even more compelling.


India has the sorry reputation of being among the more corrupt places in the world. This straightaway impacts economic development and growth, and hurts the poorest sections more than anyone else. Any measure that helps to significantly reduce opportunities for corruption will be a social balancer of reasonable magnitude. Finding ways to have public disclosures of assets across all branches — judiciary, legislature and executive — is likely to go a long way in choking off corruption. Whether this should be on a voluntary or mandatory basis may be determined on the basis of evolving practice, for even one volunteer can put the others to shame and oblige them to follow.








Dharamsala got a shot of firepower last week as three Nobel Peace Prize winners from different corners of the world made the long trek to Himachal Pradesh to stand with the Dalai Lama after US President Barack Obama yielded to Beijing's will and declined to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader in Washington last month. Jody Williams from the United States, Mairead Corrigan Maguire from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Iran's Shirin Ebadi had helped form the Nobel Women's Initiative in 2006 to "strengthen and expand the global movement to advance non-violence, peace, justice and equality".


The women were a formidable presence on stage with the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children's Village in Upper Dharamsala, at an event organised by the Peace Jam Foundation. They presented the Dalai Lama with a statement signed by other Nobel peace laureates, affirming their support for this work. Said Shirin Ebadi: "Your Holiness, your political conduct has been a model to the entire world. At a time when human rights are being forgotten, you have shown that compassion does not mean surrender, your non-violence rules with the heart and not the sword".


The Dalai Lama then addressed an auditorium filled with young Tibetan students in the school he had created with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 50 years ago: "More than 200 million people were killed in the wars of the 20th century, but it didn't work; the problems remain. We must extend the Buddhist concept of interdependence to our global ecological and economic crises".


At a press conference organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile, Maired Corriagn Maguire spoke with passion about meeting 50 newly-arrived refugees from Tibet: "They told us of so many young people in Tibet taken from their homes, tortured and killed. We heard of people being buried alive, burned alive, thrown into rivers with their hands tied. We in the human family do not accept China's conduct in Tibet, and we challenge those political leaders who put profit before justice".


The Nobel laureates then announced the launch of their new website Ms Maguire spoke of "our sister Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is the only one of the nine female Nobel Peace Prize laureates who is imprisoned. China is behind it, China backs up the Burmese junta. Our power comes from telling the truth, we depend on the media to get the truth out".


For six decades the Chinese government has laboured to suppress all photographs, testimonies and witnesses of their relentless persecution of the Tibetan people from reaching the international media. But in the digital age, even a ruthless and efficient police state cannot control all paths along the information highway, which makes it more difficult for the Chinese government to cleave to the party line that the "Tibetan people love Chairman Mao as their own father", to quote Xinhua, the official news service of the Chinese government.


In the cafes of Mcleodganj, you will meet travellers who managed to get into Tibet just before the latest ban on tourism. They describe armed snipers posted on every rooftop in Lhasa, People's Armed Police marching around the holy Jokhang Monastery, counter-clockwise, in violation of Buddhist ritual, public denunciations of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan prisoners of conscience marched through the streets with pistols pointed at their skulls. At the Norbulinka Institute this week, the Dalai Lama led public prayers for four young Tibetan nationalists executed in Lhasa last week for "counter-revolutionary crimes against the state".


As Chairman Mao's empire strives for global hegemony, the Tibet crisis reveals deep fissures within the state. That ethnic identities, Buddhism, Falon Gong and community organising are forces that so petrify the mighty People's Republic of China, that summon punishments so cruel and extreme, reveals a crippling paranoia within the Communist leadership. The Chinese Communist Party commands fear but no loyalty, as did the Soviet Union as it stumbled towards collapse. But unlike the USSR, the People's Republic of China enjoys "unconditional engagement" with the United States and other Western powers, thanks to the Kissinger Doctrine — a remnant of the Cold War which has never been reconsidered or rewritten, even after the collapse of the Berlin Wall nullified its validity.


A Tibetan activist noted: "There are forces of reform and change within China, but Western governments are propping up the Communist Party and holding back political reform in the world's largest dictatorship. We fear they've abandoned democracy and are following the old formula that 'might makes right'".


The Tibetan refugees have neither wealth nor arms, but the support of groups like the Nobel Women's Initiative reveals the power and rectitude the Tibetan cause symbolises for citizens of the world. On their final day in Dharamsala, the three Nobel laureates roamed through Mcleodganj to buy handicrafts and say goodbye to new friends. In parting, Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work on landmines, said: "I consider it a great honour to be here in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama. The world needs his leadership, he embodies the values of peace and justice that the world is in danger of losing. Non-violence has power, it can topple governments, it should not be ignored. Gandhi proved that, didn't he?"


Maura Moynihan is an author and Tibet expert who has worked with Tibetan refugees in India for many years







Something is afoot on Kashmir. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while inaugurating the Anantnag-Qazigund railway stretch last week, declared that he was open to talks with Kashmiris of all shades of opinion in order to achieve peace. He also announced a readiness to talk to Pakistan, albeit with the caveat that Islamabad first act against terrorists targeting India. Home minister P. Chidambaram was in Srinagar a little earlier, talking about "quiet diplomacy" that would bring about a "unique solution" in Kashmir. New Delhi clearly has restarted the political process — gently but surely. The motives are unexceptionable, for there can be no arguing that Kashmir needs peace. The question is why now? For nothing has changed on the ground. Talks with Kashmiri separatists have been frozen since 2006 on account of their intransigence and Pakistan has not done a jot to address Indian concerns on terrorism.


Some sections of the polity have questioned the United Progressive Alliance government's moves and warned against any dilution of the Indian stance on Kashmir. While it would be absurd to assume that the Prime Minister would somehow compromise India's stand on Kashmir, there is a subtext that needs to be recognised and assessed. New Delhi today is faced with quiet but growing pressure to act on Kashmir. It is doing the best it can in the circumstances.


Some clues on the subterranean processes at work could be picked up from a new book, The Limits of Influence: America's role in Kashmir, written by a former US diplomat, Howard B. Schaffer, who once served in the American embassy in New Delhi and later in the state department. This insightful book, a must-read for Indian strategic analysts, argues for an American role in a Kashmir settlement. Schaffer points out President Barack Obama would like to see a resolution of the Kashmir problem: "Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign that he recognised that working with Pakistan and India to resolve (the) Kashmir crisis in a serious way would be among the critical tasks of his administration if he were elected... A Kashmir settlement has become even more important to American interests in South Asia and beyond... The traditional focus of the Pakistan armed forces on combating a perceived threat from India and the continued patronage that Pakistani intelligence agencies provide to Islamic extremists in Kashmir make it more difficult both politically and militarily for Islamabad to help the United States and its coalition partners combat these extremist forces in Afghanistan".


The key to success, according to him, would be the absence of any overt US move. "American officials should work quietly", he writes. "But Americans should not sit on the negotiating table — a bad idea and one that the Indians will not accept. Keeping to an informal, unobtrusive role, US diplomats will want to discourage any public discussion of their activities". He also warns against the appointment of any US special envoy on Kashmir. Instead, he says, "A private visit by someone recognised to have the President's confidence should be considered despite the obvious danger of leaks".


The very day the Prime Minister was in Kashmir, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, where she was explicitly asked by Pakistan's Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani to mediate on Kashmir. Mr Gilani got no public response from Ms Clinton. Earlier too, during a TV interview in Washington, when she was asked about a US initiative on the Kashmir issue, she had said: "But we believe that the most durable possible outcomes of any kind of resolution or normalisation can only come from the two countries themselves."


Schaffer's book tries to contend that American intentions on Kashmir have always been honourable and correct. The problem, according to him, has been the negative attitude of India and Pakistan, which has prolonged this dispute for more than 60 years. Schaffer seems to forget about the Cold War. In that instance there was no question of a negotiated settlement — it was prolonged, and one side had to win. The India-Pakistan tension is different because it affects American interests.


To be sure, there are deep differences in US opinion too. Strategic analyst Ashley J. Tellis, in an October policy brief, stressed that "Pakistan's continued refusal to comprehensively meet its counterterrorism obligations — despite all American inducements — will constantly tempt Washington to contemplate playing the midwife in resolving the Kashmir dispute in the hope that such a success might finally stimulate wholehearted Pakistani cooperation on counterterrorism. Yet such hopes are chimerical, because today the Pakistani military's antipathy toward India goes beyond any particular issue". A report prepared by the US Congressional Research Service after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks warned that the US government's focus on the Kashmir issue "would risk fuelling Pakistani expectations of a future settlement favouring Pakistan, thus in turn providing a motive for Islamabad to sustain pressure by ramping up support for Kashmiri separatists". The same report warned that "in the solution to the Kashmir conflict, a haven for Islamic extremist organisations not be created. As veteran South Asia observer Selig Harrison has argued, there is the real danger that an independent Kashmir, given the jihadi nature of some of the insurgent groups, could end up as another permanent sanctuary for Islamic extremist terrorist operations".


Pakistan today has two committed supporters — China and Saudi Arabia — and one reluctant ally, the United States. All three are deeply involved in Pakistan and for different reasons are committed to prop up this failing state. This presents Pakistan with more opportunities than India on the geopolitical level. Clearly, the big powers are aligned against India on Kashmir.


The moot point, however, is whether the latest initiative will work. The way things appear, a settlement on Kashmir at this juncture is doomed. Kashmir negotiations at a time of Pakistan's choosing or in an environment which seems to favour Pakistan has never worked. Instead of suspecting the intentions of the Indian leadership, the US needs to appreciate the limits of Indian flexibility and the futility of giving sops to an establishment that is the root cause of instability in the region.


Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi








The Supreme Court has raised the bar for transparency by detailing the cash and property that each of the 21 judges owns and placing the information in the public domain. It took some doing to reach this point, since the judiciary was for long resistant to the idea. But once one or two judges stepped forward with their declarations, it became inevitable.


We now know that going by their declared assets more than a majority of judges of the highest court in the land are modestly well-off. Their assets seem to range from a worth of a few hundred thousands to a few million rupees and they are to be found in the form of houses, plots, mutual fund shares, jewellery and provident fund savings.


This cannot however be treated as the closure of the issue. The scrutiny of judges' assets will be a continuous process. It cannot be claimed that property disclosures at one point of time should be taken to mean the end of the matter. The judges will have to get used to the fact that their private property is not just a matter of public knowledge but that it would attract public attention as to what is being done with it as well. New acquisitions and expansion of present assets will be under the scanner.


Probity of the judges has become a major issue of concern because of the widespread perception that judiciary has been exposed to corruption in the same way as the rest of society and that consequently it endangers the social fabric. The ongoing controversy about Justice Dinakaran and his alleged land holdings has further underlined this concern.


People want the assurance that individuals entrusted with the responsibility of delivering justice are not sullied in any way.The declaration of assets must be seen as part of the democratisation of the judiciary. It is only a beginning. The judges are accountable too in a democracy though in a different way than the directly elected legislators in Parliament and state assemblies.


This lies in being transparent not only in the way that justice is done but also in the lives of those who deliver justice. The misgiving that democracy implies popular pressure and that it compromises the high standards of judiciary is not tenable. The judges have now acknowledged that the high standards they apply to those who come before them are applicable to their own lives. Such declarations should now become the norm and not
remain voluntary any longer.








November 4 will see the prime minister inaugurating a three-day conference of chief ministers and state ministers of tribal affairs and forests, to discuss the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.


The ministry of tribal affairs has set a deadline of December 31, 2009, for the full implementation of the act. This is a completely unrealistic and potentially disastrous timeline.


Enacted in 2006 and commonly known as Forest Rights Act (FRA), this law came into operation in January 2008. The FRA will thus have been given a short span of two years for its full implementation, which is ridiculously short in a country where laws can take decades to reach any level of satisfactory implementation.


All the more so, given the complex nature of the FRA. The millions whose livelihoods and
cultures depend on forests should have beenprovided clear rights and responsibilities decades back. The Indian state's inability to do so, has created an extremely complex and messy situation. Original inhabitants have been added to by recent settlers, for example in parts of north-east India where refugees and migrants have occupied large areas of forest land.


Many Adivasi communities have been alienated from their homelands, dispossessed or
displaced by development projects and protected areas. Land records have remained
unclear, as disputes between forest and revenue departments, or between communities and the government, have dragged on.


Powerfulvested interests have been allowed to occupy lands, often hand in glove with the very government agencies meant to protect such lands. Cultural and economic changes in manytraditional communities, have weakened their traditional conservation ethos, or driven them to over-exploitation of forest resources. And as a result of all these, forest cover and quality have suffered, with negative impacts on wildlife and forest-dependent communities.


In enacting the FRA, the government has acknowledged that the security of both forests and forest-dwellers requires giving clear entitlements and responsibilities to communities. Unfortunately, it is far from achieving its aims.


This is partly due to faults in the FRA itself, including very unequal provisions for Adivasis and non-Adivasis, an overly 'generous' package to very recent encroachers, an unhelpful dependence on multiple bureaucratic institutions for processing claims and an unclear relationship withexisting forest and wildlife laws. But it is also very much due to very faulty implementation.


Most forest-dwelling communities lack 'evidence' of occupation and use of forest lands, and the bureaucracy has not been particularly helpful in recording traditional uses. The FRA provides for communities to claim rights using a large range of evidences, but generating such proof is not easy. There are many instances when even permissible evidence is being ignored by official committees that are handling the claims.


In states like Gujarat, claims are being rejected en masse. In many national parks, sanctuaries, and tiger reserves, communities are being told they cannot claim rights!

Several parts of the FRA remain seriously neglected, with implementation having focused on individual land rights. According to the ministry of Tribal affairs, of the total of 24 lakh claims made till end-September 2009, less than 30,000 are related to community rights.


Precious few claims are for the right to protect andmanage forests, even from areas wherecommunities have a proven record of conservation. Claims for rights to developmentfacilities have not even started in most states.


Some states like Andhra Pradesh have done commendably well in spreading awareness about and facilitating implementation. Others are lagging seriously behind. I was recently in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, and in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand; in both, villagers had only a vague notion of what the FRA was.


No one had as yet facilitated an understanding of the law, much less initiated the claims process. In Chhattisgarh a state-sponsored civil war in the name of tackling Naxalism, has denied any chance for hundreds of villages to make claims.


Any law of this nature takes years, for intended beneficiaries to understand and make use of, for relevant government officials to orient themselves to, and for synergies to be built with other laws.


On-ground processes involving gram sabhas and relevant government agencies, using traditional and modern knowledge, are necessary, but time-consuming. To dictate that the FRA be fully implemented in two years, is foolish. Instead, the meeting should discuss how to gear the state machinery and enable communities for comprehensive, well-paced out implementation, learning from the mistakes made so far.


The writer is an environmental activist










IT appears from media reports that Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P.D.Dinakaran is not being considered for elevation to the Supreme Court. The fact that a fresh inquiry has been ordered means the decision on Justice Dinankaran's elevation will have to wait for the outcome of the inquiry. There is no point in promoting a Chief Justice facing serious charges. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the charges of encroachment of huge chunks of land are not without merit and Justice Dinakaran is caught in a controversy that can embarrass the Supreme Court if he is promoted.


The Chief Justices and judges have to be, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion. They should not only be persons of integrity but also appear to be so in public. Even an iota of suspicion about a person's character should debar him or her from holding any top office, let alone in the highest court of the land. This is essential to maintain public faith in the judiciary. The people of this country have high expectations from this august institution. It is, therefore, surprising that the Supreme Court collegium has taken so long to take such a simple decision. The collegium, which recommends promotions to the apex court, has now suggested to the government to delink Justice Dinakaran's case from that of the four others clearly shows that he is no longer in the reckoning.


The question remains as to why Justice Dinakaran's name was considered for promotion in the first place. This exposes flaws in the existing selection system. Should it not be a regular procedure to fill a top post by making prior and discreet inquiries about a candidate's past? While some vigilant public-spirited citizens seem to have been aware of allegations against him and one member of the collegium also objected to his proposed elevation, the others cleared his case apparently without applying their mind. Now it is time to ask: If a person is not suitable for the job of a Supreme Court judge, should he continue as the Chief Justice of a high court. There is no dearth of talent in this country. Why not send Justice Dinakaran home since he himself refuses to withdraw gracefully? The Constitution provides remedies for getting rid of a judge who has not lived up to the oath of the Constitution and the values that should govern the conduct of a judge.








Karnataka has proved to be the latest flashpoint in the BJP's serial of woes. After days of dissident activity in which, ironically, assembly Speaker Jagdish Shettar has been a prime actor, the party high command has declared that Chief Minister Yeddyurappa would not be displaced and that there would be a Cabinet reshuffle to mollify those who are baying for his removal. Considering that there is no positive response from the BJP dissidents, the crisis is by no means over. Mr Yeddyurappa has been at the receiving end of a no-holds barred attack against him by Tourism Minister G. Janaradhana Reddy, and Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, who are brothers and mining kingpins from Bellary. It is no secret that the Reddy brothers were recently admitted to the BJP because of their tremendous money power. They had substantially financed the party's election campaign and clearly are out to extract their pound of flesh in typical fashion. That they managed to rope in the assembly Speaker with apparent lure of making him chief minister is a sad commentary on how the august institution of Speaker stands defiled today.


Interestingly, the transfer of some officials close to the Reddy brothers in Bellary district is being seen as the immediate provocation for the revolt against Mr Yeddyurappa. With some cases of irregularities pending against the Reddys, these officials were evidently a veritable shield for them. With the high command now putting pressure on the Yeddyurappa government to rescind those transfers, one shudders to think what effect this would have on the region's administration. Even if the proposed deal comes through and Mr Yeddyurappa is left untouched, it is anybody's guess how long the truce would last.


It is time the BJP in Karnataka set its house in order. Work in the secretariat is virtually at a standstill. While there are floods in some parts of the state, the Chief Minister himself admitted that many legislators from flood-hit areas in north Karnataka were pre-occupied with dissident activities in resorts and hotels outside the state. The party is indeed in danger of losing its lone bastion in the South if it continues to ignore governance.








OVER the years, medical practice in India, especially in the private sector, has turned into a moneymaking enterprise, across the country where invariably greed takes precedence over care and medical ethics. Many malpractices are rampant in many private hospitals in most states whose prime motive is to rake in moolah. The patients in these hospitals are treated as consumers. Inflated medical bills, doctors working for specified profit-driven "targets", substandard medicines being administered to patients and many hospitals ignoring norms for providing medicare to the poor are some of the ills afflicting private healthcare.


While private medicare is increasingly falling prey to crass commercialisation, the public health system is beset with many problems like inefficient funding and shortage of infrastructure leading to overcrowding and unhygienic conditions in government hospitals. Not surprisingly, surveys reveal that people in Punjab and Haryana prefer private medical care to public health systems. However, patients' hope of better healthcare is turning into disappointment. The essential message of the Hippocratic oath is often ignored. Many patients face penury after medical treatment.


A World Bank study had revealed that expenditure on a health event is the second most common cause of impoverishment in India, which, according to a WHO study, ranks 171 out of 175 countries in public health spending. While public spending has to be stepped up, it cannot turn a blind eye to the irregularities prevalent in private medical institutions. A monitoring body could ensure that private hospitals are not allowed a free run and are regulated on standards of quality, price and also patient satisfaction. Private hospitals, although all cannot be tarred with the same brush, need to look within and understand their social responsibility, especially towards poor patients.










AGAINST the backdrop of the raging controversy over the elevation of Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P.B. Dinakaran to the Supreme Court, the Bar Association of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court in a joint letter to the Union Law Minister has sought the discontinuation of the apex court collegium for the appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges. The letter says that the collegium system has not only proved to be a failure but encouraged lack of transparency and favouritism.


Indeed, judicial probity is closely linked with the proper appointment of judges in the higher courts. The health of the judiciary depends much on the people appointed as judges. The previous system of judicial appointments by the executive (1953-93) was substituted by a judicial collegium of five senior judges by the apex court's decision in the Second Judges Case.


Article 124 of the Constitution vests the power of appointment of the Chief Justices and judges of the Supreme Court in the President. The Constitution provides that the President will make these appointments in consultation with the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court that he deems necessary. The constitutional provision speaks of "after consultation" and not "in consultation" in the case of appointment of judges other than the Chief Justice of India. The appointment of High Court judges is also made by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the Governor of the state concerned.


In S.P. Gupta's case, known as the First Judges Case, the court by majority ruled that Article 217(1) put all the constitutional functionaries in the same pedestal and no primacy was given to the Chief Justice of India. S.P. Gupta's case did not deal with the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court. In 1993, in the Second Judges Case, the Supreme Court ruled that the recommendation of the Chief justice of India along with four seniormost colleagues is determinative and binding on the President. This was almost an attempt by the judiciary to rewrite the law through this judgment.


The new construction makes the Supreme Court and High Courts virtually undemocratic. According to a former Law Minister, under the present collegium system, the merit has been ignored while give and take has thrived. Even some of the former Chief Justices who believed in giving power exclusively to the judiciary in the matter of appointment and transfer of judges have revised their opinion.


In July 1999, the President sought the court's opinion on certain issues relating to the appointment of Supreme Court judges and transfer of High Court judges. A nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court (Presidential References, AIR, 1999, SC) reiterated that primacy is to be given to the opinion of the Chief Justice as laid down in the 1993 judgment, but also stipulated that the collegium should make the decision in consensus, and unless the opinion of the collegium is in conformity with that of the Chief Justice of India, no recommendation is to be made. The Chief Justice of India should consult a collegium of four seniormost judges of the apex court and even if the two judges give an adverse opinion, the Chief Justice of India should not send the recommendation to the government.


It has been found that the present system in the selection of judges is not transparent and often characterised by gross favouritism. Without a transparent procedure of selection, the selected judges will not command public confidence. Justice Krishna Ayer has called the present arrangement "incestuous" because the judges only react and talk to one another of their own kind. Right from 1950, appointments of judges have been broadly based upon the recommendations of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the High Courts except during the Emergency. It was rare that any appointments were made without the concurrence of the Chief Justice.


There is now a consensus that a National Judicial Council should be constituted for the selection of judges. The selection mechanism should be more broad based. The argument that to involve persons other than the judges in the selection of judges will bring into play extraneous pressure is somewhat simplistic.


Matters connected with the appointment and misdemeanour of the higher judiciary should be dealt with by an independent body using a transparent procedure instead of the present and unsatisfactory arrangement shrouded in mystery. The appointments of judges have to be above suspicion and the best way is to introduce transparency. The names of those proposed to be appointed as judges may be put on the court's website and time is given to the public in case anyone has an objection to any name.


The Parliamentary Standing Committee of Law and Justice recommended doing away with the existing mechanism of collegium. It says that the collegium system has been a disaster and need to be done away with. Former Chief Justice of India A.M. Ahmadi, who had opposed the creation of the collegium system by writing a dissenting judgment, has favoured reversion to the pre-collegium mechanism as there are serious concerns about the effectiveness of the present system.


There is no doubt that the present system has encouraged nepotism and many ill-qualified judges with poor records have been elevated. For example, Justice Ashok Kumar was elevated as an additional judge in Tamil Nadu in April 2003. The Collegium of the Supreme Court Judges unanimously decided not to confirm him as a permanent judge because of adverse reports against him. He was, however, confirmed in April 2007 on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India. The worst example of the collegium system was the appointment of Soumitra Sen as a judge of the Kolkata High Court in 2006 even as he faced allegations of having misappropriated Rs 50 lakh while serving as a court-appointed lawyer in 1993 in a dispute between two public sector companies. The collegium cleared him for appointment without bothering to go into his credentials even when the entire record was available in the court itself.


There is often lack of information with the collegium on the candidates which it considers for appointment. In every High Court, the Chief Justice is from outside the state as per the policy of the government. The seniormost judges who form the collegium are also from outside the state. As a result, more often than not, the appointments suffer from lack of adequate information. Judicial appointment is not a part-time job that members of the collegium can perform after doing their judicial work of deciding cases.


The Law Commission had, suo motu, studied the law on the subject as well as various recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committees and the law of foreign jurisdiction like the US, Australia, Canada and Kenya where the executive is the sole authority to appoint the judges, or the executive appoints them in consultation with the Chief Justice of the country. The Chairman of the Law Commission, Justice A.R Lakshmanan, has correctly observed that the judges constituting the collegium — a panel headed by the CJI — are not conversant with the names and antecedents of the candidates for judicial posts and, more often than not, appointments suffer due to lack of adequate information.


During NDA rule Law Minister Arun Jaitley in 2003 in the aftermath of the sex scam that led to the resignation of Delhi High Court judge Saumit Mukherjee, came up with the Constitutional Amendment Bill proposing a National Judicial Commission that tried to involve non-judicial members not only in the appointment of judges but also in disciplining them. Instead of improving on the Bill, former Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj rolled back the reform of involving other stakeholders. By proposing a National Judicial Council consisting of only serving judges, he acceded to the judiciary's claim that any effort to open up the process of judicial accountability would compromise judicial independence. The Bill has been pending before the standing committee of Parliament since August 2007.The present Law Minister has now proposed to bring a comprehensive Bill on judicial standards and accountability to deal with various issues and maladies afflicting the judiciary.


The writer is a former Director-General, National Human Rights Commission.








I chanced upon the recently published personal diaries (for private circulation) of an officer of the Indian Forest Service. This DFO's entries for December 21-22, 1951, make poignant reading. He had set out to establish a polling-booth in a remote village of Madhya Pradesh in the Balaghat forest division. A timber contractor's truck carried him, his clerk, two unarmed police constables, one sealed ballot-box and some stationery up to village Pathera, a 106-km bumpy ride over an unmettled road.


The next 32 km to his ultimate destination were covered in a bullock cart, through a dense forest, now a part of the Kanha Tiger Reserve. It was, therefore, natural that with the approach of evening, the bullocks sensed the presence of a predator. Quite involuntarily, their heads began swaying violently and their tails swished like pendulums. The DFO and his party jumped down to walk by the side of the bullocks both to becalm them and at the same time to induce caution in the stalking tiger. They talked loudly, clapped their hands frequently and also pelted stones into bushes on either side, as they went by.


The revenue authorities had alerted the headman of Baikal village to expect the DFO's party. All the 20 huts had been given a fresh coat of mud and time-wash for the big day. At the weekly market in their vicinity, the villagers had even acquired three National Flags which were already aflutter, one each atop the hut of the headman and over the two huts vacated for the election party and the election-booth! They also mounted vigil by night to protect the two bullocks against the tiger who naturally owed no allegiance to the election code of conduct.


By 10 a.m. the next morning, the entire village of about 60 Indians of all ages, had gathered outside the election booth. With utter humility and solemnity, the women folk first applied "Kum-Kum" on the ballot-box and then garlanded it. The DFO then called out to the 12 eligible listed voters of Baikal who were explained the object of the election, who the candidates were, what they stood for and the significance of their vote.


Of course, we shall never know what passed through their minds but when the last ballot was cast by 11.30 a.m. they all rose in unison and led by the headman returned to their huts, cheerfully chorusing aloud "Bharat Mata Ke Jai Ho!"


Two days later, the sealed ballot-box was matter-of-factly deposited at the district headquarters treasury.


Elsewhere in India and more than a thousand km away, I too was a witness to the initiative of a diligent District Collector-cum-Magistrate who had in the week preceding the polling day, crisscrossed his district from dawn to dusk. He wanted to ensure that all his subordinate revenue functionaries down to the Patwaris in the mofussil and the police constabulary at each "thana" understood the importance of the historic change-in-the-making and their onerous responsibility to create conditions for fair and free polling. Though strictly not his duty, but that is what had made the District Collectors in the first half of the last century the corner-stones of the administrative framework in India.


That was when public servants were truly looked upon and addressed as "Mai-Baap" and before the coining of the phrase "Saahub to beegee hain".









AN effective system of an executive's accountability to the legislature backed by rigorous processes of audit and reporting by an independent audit authority is universally recognized as an indispensable feature of parliamentary democracy.


The Constitution of India has prescribed the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) as the country's Supreme Audit Institution with necessary independence, authority and powers to act as an effective watchdog over the nation's finances and ensure public accountability of the executive.


The Comptroller and Auditor-General's (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971 (DPC Act), authorizes the CAG to audit the receipts and expenditure of the Union and the State Governments as well as the statutory corporations, Government companies, authorities and bodies and Government-assisted voluntary organizations subject to the conditionalities prescribed therein. The Act also authorizes the CAG to inspect the auditee offices and call for information, books of accounts and records for the performance of the audit tasks.


According to the Constitution and the DPC Act, the CAG's Audit Reports should be tabled in the appropriate legislature whereafter these stand automatically remitted to the financial committees of the legislatures namely the Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) and the Committee on Public Undertakings (COPU) for follow up action. The Committees are constituted under the Rules of Procedure and Transaction of Business in the Parliament/State legislature framed under the Constitution which in a way makes them creatures of the Constitution.


In its Fourteenth Report "Strengthening Financial Management Systems" (April 2009) the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has attempted a critical assessment of the existing audit system and made several recommendations.


The ARC has inter alia recommended better interaction between audit and executive, greater timeliness in audit and more balanced reporting by audit focusing not merely on criticism but making a fair assessment or evaluation that acknowledges good performance.


The ARC has also stressed the need for greater responsiveness to audit paras and recommended institutionalization of procedures for appropriate action against officers who default in submitting replies to audit.


These are welcome recommendations, though largely in the nature of 'more of the same'. It will however be interesting to see the Government response on the recommendation for taking action against officers who persistently default in replying to audit paras. This will require suitable amendments to the DPC Act as well as the relevant Conduct/Disciplinary rules.


But there are several other concerns as well.


First, although the DPC Act authorizes the CAG to call for information and records for conducting audit, he has no authority to compel compliance and the supply of information is often delayed or denied altogether. CAG's Audit Reports on direct taxes routinely report the number of assessment records that were not made available to audit; for example according to the Audit Report for 2007-08, nearly one lakh assessment records were not provided for audit scrutiny, more than 42,000 of these had been requisitioned prior to 2007-08.


This needs to be remedied. On the lines of the powers vested in the Information Commissioners, the CAG's organization should be empowered, at sufficiently senior levels and with appropriate safeguards, to impose personal penalties on the executive officers who delay or withhold information and documents and thereby obstruct the Constitutional authority from the discharge of its functions.


The very availability of such power with the CAG's organization, which hopefully may well remain a sleeping or reserve power, will ensure that the auditor is not obstructed in the performance of his duties.


Second, the presentation of the Audit Reports to the legislatures by the Government is unconscionably delayed. Recently, one of the State Governments did not table CAG's Audit Report for nearly one year; according to media reports the Audit Report included a case in which the accountability trail allegedly led to the highest political executive.


In many States, the CAG's Audit Reports on organizations like the Electricity Boards, Housing Boards, and Road Transport Corporations etc; have not been tabled for years. Ironically, these are organizations which do not enjoy particularly high reputation for good financial management.


There is need to prescribe a definite time limit by law within which the Government must present the CAG's Audit Reports to the legislature.


Third, the CAG's authority to audit the public sector companies is currently determined with reference to the percentage of Government equity therein and companies in which Government equity is not less than 51 per cent alone are subject to CAG's audit.


With the progressive dilution of Government equity in the Government companies through divestment or through issue of IPOs the threshold level may be breached even though sizeable amounts of Government moneys may still remain invested in such a company.


In order to ensure that the CAG's jurisdiction is not ousted because of the dilution of Government equity in percentage terms, the threshold level needs to be prescribed in absolute monetary terms as well and the CAG's jurisdiction should be made co-terminus with the Government's control over such companies.


It will be interesting to recall that in the fifties the then CAG had described the creation of Government companies and keeping them outside the audit jurisdiction of the CAG as a fraud upon the Constitution.


Fourth, the DPC Act 1971 was written nearly forty years ago. In several critical provisions it had borrowed

heavily from the Government of India, Audit and Accounts Order, 1936, that had defined the duties and powers of the CAG in the pre-independence era.


Since then and more recently there have been several changes in governance structures with the wide spread use of public-private partnership as the preferred instrument for development of infrastructure projects and for programme delivery in the social sector.


Such changes need to be appropriately recognized and reflected in the duties and powers of the CAG particularly in the matter of his access to records of the non- Government and private partners wherever public money and resources are involved.


Fifth, the effectiveness of audit as an instrument of public accountability and promotion of good governance depends on the action taken by the Government on the concerns expressed in the Audit Reports. Accordingly, the Government should be mandated by law to table an Action Taken Report within six months on every Audit Report.


This is extremely important since whereas the Central PAC and COPU discuss only a very small number of audit paragraphs, the State PACs and the COPUs are in arrears, some times for decades, in their follow up action on the Audit Reports.


There can be no accountability if nobody is held accountable.


The Eleventh Five Year Plan document had also stressed the need for strengthening public audit system and vesting additional powers in the CAG. At stake are huge amounts of public money and resources with the Union budget for 2009-10 alone being close to Rs. 10 lakh crore.


The writer is a former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor-General of India









THIS time next week Berlin will be suffering a hangover second only to the one that followed the collapse of the Wall 20 years ago. Even though a whole generation has now grown up across Europe with no first-hand memory of the dismembered city and the divided country that surrounded it, the scenes from 9 November, 1989, are lived and relived as the defining images of the end of the Cold War.


It is not just that this was one of the first events to be broadcast worldwide, in the earliest days of live 24-hour television, from anywhere – although it was. It was the sheer, undiluted ecstasy of the occasion. The Berlin Wall was demolished euphorically, spontaneously, almost by accident. A barrier that had taken years to build was torn down in hours with pick-axes brought from home, and bare hands. And the spell was broken that had kept 17 million Germans, and much of the eastern part of Europe, in thrall for almost half a century.


While there is no risk that the memory of this euphoric night will soon fade – especially not while the successive anniversaries of 1989 are still celebrated – the memory of the strange and cruel years that preceded it is vanishing all too fast. Not just in Germany, east and west, but right across what used to be called the Eastern bloc, the experience of repression and occupation is being consigned to an artistic world of fiction and film that is becoming unreal even to those who endured it.


There is gravitas in the vignettes about honourable individuals who are turned by a perverse state into criminals, the fiction that masquerades as truth, and the corruption which so penetrates society that honour ceases to be an absolute and is measured by degrees. But an audience without the experience or knowledge to appreciate that real people were driven by threats, vindictiveness and fear to behave in such debasing ways, has no reason to treat the absurdity they see on screen as the national catastrophe it actually was, rather than the comedy it appears now. No one would condemn those who suffered in the myriad ways perfected by totalitarian regimes for wanting to forget the reality of their past so soon. After the Berlin Wall fell, they had a lot of life to make up: family life, professional life, intellectual life. Why should they root around in this demeaning and perhaps shaming time? Why should they impose on their children a burden of fear they need never know?


And the transformed climate in which the children born after 1989 in East and Central Europe have grown up is too rarely remarked upon. Not only have they known nothing other than material plenty – shop shelves are full; fresh fruit and vegetables are available around the year; parents do not need to spend a small fortune at private markets to ensure their children are properly nourished – they have also grown up uninhibited by intrusive and malicious state scrutiny. In some places, and for some people, old fears linger. For decades yet there will be those who are woken by nightmares about prison camps, who live in terror of a knock at the door, who are paralysed by a sharp word from anyone in authority. But they will be fewer and fewer. The fall of the Wall, and everything that followed, lifted the collective sense of fear literally overnight.


This was inspiring for all who lived through it and for the many millions more who watched it from afar. But it was mostly inspiring because, then, everyone well understood what had gone before. If repression is consigned to oblivion, or translated so soon into farce, the real human cost of those years will not be commemorated, as it should be, in future.


 By arrangement with The Independent







You're out at a bar, and you see that girl in the Pixies T-shirt, hyping your favorite band. You're dying to talk to her, but you hesitate, worried that she'll think you're a jerk when you walk over there.


Clinical psychologists study that kind of crippling social anxiety all the time, says psychologist Todd Kashdan. But, as Kashdan sees it, they hadn't paid much attention to the flip side, the magnet pull in the other direction, the thing that makes the other guy plunge right ahead to strike up a conversation: curiosity.


Kashdan, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., has written a book arguing that it's one of the keys to a happy, fulfilling life. "Curious?" the cover blares, thick black letters on a bright yellow field, as though daring the reader to reach out and grab it. The book, written in a breezy self-help style, is backed by some of Kashdan's and others' research, making a case for curiosity and suggesting techniques for overcoming the anxiety that holds people back.


The 35-year-old professor could be a walking advertisement for his latest work. He boogie-boards, climbs rocks, obsesses over his favorite bands' live shows. He also has thrust himself into the pool of positive psychology, the study of the emotions, values, social factors and other concepts that help people flourish, rather than merely exist – a field that is dismissed by some researchers as fluff, with insufficient rigor to its research.


"There's a good portion of clinical psychologists that don't see much merit in positive psychology. I would say most people are skeptical of it," said Patrick McKnight, one of Kashdan's colleagues at Mason. "And a small minority just think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread."


Kashdan says he's not so much positive psychologist as provocateur. "He's always questioning the norm in the field," said Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University. "I don't know where he gets his ideas. He's hands-down one of the most creative people I've ever met in my life."


It's never too late in life to foster curiosity and even in the midst of the most mundane tasks, Kashdan says. Even the painful, the repetitive, the most mind-numbing tasks can keep people engaged. If people train themselves to be more attentive to the details, rather than drifting along on autopilot, they'll find that "there's beauty and intrigue around us everywhere – as long as we're open to what's around us," Kashdan says, sitting in an almost-dark office at George Mason with a single bright desk light, casting his face in shadow.


Kashdan says he thinks people can spark their curiosity to stay engaged in family life by learning from the way a small child can be transfixed by a sponge, say, or play happily with a stick for an hour. A child's sense of wonder and delight over the ordinary is instructive, he says.


McKnight, Kashdan's colleague, points out that there are downsides to curiosity, too: Some of their colleagues treat patients who are unable to finish projects because they're so easily distracted. Kashdan touches on some of that in the book, nothing the pathology of excessive curiosity: stalkers and flashers and people with morbid interests that dominate their thoughts.


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








There has been a steep increase in the prices of all food commodities all over India during the past three months or so. While the average rate of inflation has fallen the rate of inflation in respect of food commodities has been going up. The weekly average inflation has been minus and seldom over 1 per cent. In respect of food commodities, however, the increase has been 14 to 16 per cent. Several factors have contributed to this peculiar phenomenon. Decrease in production due mainly to the drought had its impact on prices. The general elections and the Assembly elections in a few States also added to this price increase. This is because the wholesale and retail traders had to pay subscriptions to the political parties and candidates involved in these elections and they made up the amounts paid by raising prices. In Maharashtra, for example, the sugar lobby had to provide finance for the parties involved in the State elections and as a result sugar prices were raised after the election was over. In Assam and the North Eastern States the situation is more acute and peculiar. Because this region is not self-sufficient in food production many commodities are required to be imported from outside. The transport system is not good and additional transport costs have to be paid for the long haulage. In the name of apprehending terrorists a large number of check posts have been set up inside Assam besides the official tax, forest and agricultural commodities check gates at the Assam– West Bengal border. Truck drivers and traders have to pay large amount to the Government officials manning these gates and posts as illegal gratification and also "goonda tax" to the syndicates formed by members of the student organizations and former or surrendered members of terrorist outfits such as SULFA. Traders, therefore, increase the prices of essential commodities to make up for these "illegitimate costs" incurred by them. In the process they also pocket some "unearned incomes". The victims are the general public and specially those whose incomes are not linked to the wholesale price index (WPI) such as Government officials. To be precise, the affected persons are the day labourers, and others who live below the poverty line (BPL).

There have been many protest rallies and demonstrations specially in the past few weeks. Two of these rallies in Dispur drew thousands of peasants and workers who came spontaneously and without any incentive payments from any political party. They were poor people. Many of them walked barefoot and in old clothes more than 10-12 kilometres on smouldering asphalts of city streets which were almost blazing in oppressive heat. Asom Gana Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party demonstrations also drew some middle class and city gentry. These latter demonstrations were important. But the massiveness and the sincerity of the peasant's rally should open the eyes of the Government and the political parties to the distinct possibility of these real sufferers joining the recently awakened Maoist insurgency. While the price rise is unabated and neither the Government nor the traders seem to be interested in checking it the Government of Assam has now raised the rates of Value Added Tax on certain commodities including edible oils, medicines and utensils, by 1 per cent by a notification on October 31, 2009. The ruling party must have known that this will raise the prices further. They must have calculated the risk involved in terms of popular resentment against such a measure when the by-elections in two crucial Assembly constituencies are just around the corner. It is not understood why they were in such a hurry and could not await one more week for the elections to be over. This move will certainly go against the ruling party and affect their election prospects. The least they can do now is to roll back the enhancement of Value Added Tax rates immediately. The Government should also take effective steps to curb price rise generally. They may follow the example set by the Delhi State Government in this respect. In Delhi, inspired by the Prime Minister's exhortations, very strict anti-hoarding and anti-speculation steps have been taken against unscrupulous traders. The Food and Civil Supplies Department of the Government of Assam must rise to the occasion.  







Andre Agassi's confession that he had lied to ATP to escape a ban after failing a drug test has startled not just the tennis world, but other sporting disciplines as well. While it has cast a shadow over the authenticity of performances in sports, the former world number one has invited widespread condemnation for telling a terrible lie during his playing days and coming up with a confession now, allegedly to speed up the sale of his book, despite knowing that it would leave an indelible black spot on his image. Agassi has candidly written, in his autobiography Open, that he had taken a performance enhancing drug in 1997 to stay afloat after falling outside the top-100 on account of injuries. On being informed about testing positive for 'crystal meth', Agassi had concocted a story and told ATP that it was due to a soda that had been 'spiked' with the drug. That lie saved him and no action had been taken against him at the time. Agassi then saw an incredible turnaround in his career and went on to complete a career Grand Slam in 1999 after winning the French Open. That year also saw the American climb up to No.1 spot with the US Open triumph and he went on to bag three more Australian Opens before retiring in 2006. All these top-class feats have now been stained with the lie and Agassi has risked falling in the eyes of everybody who regarded him as one of the greatest in history. Many have also called for slapping an exemplary punishment on him.

Agassi's confession should definitely serve as a wake-up call for ATP. Why the governing body had taken Agassi's words at face value and stopped short of starting an investigation defies logic. Ideally, he should still be taken to task for misleading the governing body and cheating his way to glory. However, one factor that might work in his favour is that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was formed two years after Agassi had taken the stimulant and the agency is stated to have an eight-year limit for handing out a punishment, and hence Agassi, having committed the offence in 1997, is safe. A disciplinary action therefore is unlikely to be taken against him now. Yet, striking off the titles he won since 1997 could be an option. All in all, the episode has shown that it is simple to deceive the authorities as the system has many loopholes. It is now extremely imperative that the ATP plug these loopholes and tighten the system. Sporting arenas are believed to have become much cleaner since the formation of WADA. But much still remains to be accomplished in this mission and the authorities must work on that.









The recent mayhem at Sonitpur by the warring factions of NDFB brings out again before our eyes the fragile state of conflict management in the State. One of the most significant paradoxes of modern living is that while every 'individual' in society has a huge stake in maintaining peace around him so as to be able to enjoy the benefits of enhanced lifestyle , common citizens by and large have very little power in the implementation of peace. So who are these people? How can we explain this heinous barbarism where warring human beings butcher harmless bystanders? Is this ideology? Ideology for whose benefit and for creation of what? Time and again we have experienced this indiscriminate cruelty and every time we have resorted to a reasoning that emphasized on a failing governance and democratic politics backed by an even greater assertion about a flawed post-colonial policy implication for North East India like the implementation of a number game politics through autonomous councils in Bodoland. However , a deeper insight would also reveal that effective democratic governance through proper developmental strategies targeting specific institutions for human resource growth at the local level could have altered both individual and community priorities. Literacy, education, utilization of local resources that are human, cultural and natural, building support structures for generating employment and entrepreneurship, cultural networking etc can channelize the prevailing negative energy invested in sectoral apathy and dissent into something that is not only utilitarian to begin with but may eventually transcend into something more humanly creative ,innovative and finally altruistic in nature.

The North East and its present mapping of complexities cannot just be rooted in socio-cultural identity assertion ,it is also economical in many ways. Fall in the standards of economic existence as well as in the basics of human conditions has resulted in low self esteem and identity assertion vis–a–vis a "mainstream Hindi hinterland" which is viewed as the main hurdle in the regions's battle for economic survival. Moreover, globalization which has found strong roots in North East through media glitz , economy of conspicuous consumption and aspirations for FDI has made this dichotomy and its comparison with the other world even more visible leading to a general apathy, competition and conflicting loyalties .In words of Milton Singer 'the little traditions'are in the process of 'universalization of its cultural forms' .This is not just in a blind effort to emulate the 'greater tradition of 'mainstream India' but also to reiterate and construct its own niche of unique cultural forms that is North East. This process obviously will involve tensions. However it can be assumed that given the right combination of developmental strategies and policy interventions traditional roots of dissent that are embedded in the traditional structure of identity assertions found in the multiethnic mosaic can be overtaken by the overwhelming forces that emanate from globalization ,through categories that create a global citizen with a global voice.

In the context of North East it is specifically significant to ask what are the connotations of peace in its different manifestations and its resultant consequences on the functioning of democratic governance given the vulnerability of its geographical position vis-a-vis the proximity of rogue nations that act as catalyst to its volatile outbursts not to mention the conflict and shifting series of loyalties embedded in its multiethnic structure which makes it difficult to control the sub-national aspirations of communities which have existed as independent nation-states historically. Negotiations of democratic governance constantly face the challenge of legitimacy when confronted even with issues of development. So how does one govern a region where development may not always mean a desirable option and issues more complex and divisive in terms of identity and ethnicity become more dominant? The fundamental question is: does one wait for peace to prevail before development measures are adopted by democratic governance or is developmental governance the only way for peace?. Whatever may be the answer to that ,one cannot deny the role of good governance through developmental initiatives not only to bring about changes in allocation and alignment of powers and resources within government and the wider society, but also to address the root causes of conflict and create an environment for sustainable peace building.

The United Nations with its four decades of experiment and experience in economic, political, social, cultural and humanitarian affairs, formulated important perspectives on human resource development. Basic to the United Nations perspectives is the need for an integrated approach that supports a comprehensive inclusive policy by providing sustained and equal opportunities to all. This allows societal acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies where society as a whole benefits. The approach puts primary emphasis on the enabling conditions that Must exist to support democratic governance dedicated to human resource deve lopment in any country and identifies them as peace, economic growth, sustainable environment, justice and democracy. Almost all the parameters seem to presume peace as an achievable standard for the effective functioning of the other parameters. If so, what happens to areas where peace is a distant reality? .In situations where conflict take institutionalized dimensions through public opinion, dissent, cessation, mass movement and insurgency it becomes imperative for the institutional spaces dedicated to human resource development to claim legitimacy from democratic governance and developmental strategies. Thus human resource growth through developmental democracy may ultimately lead to a peaceful life with four other accompanying enabling conditions such as economic growth, sustainable human development, social justice, democracy .

In this context it is significant to earmark, the stitutions which have proven their credibility through the depths of their intervention and the resultant impact on major areas of human resource growth. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and its role in the percolation of education for human resource growth is significant and can be ideally adopted as a role model for similar institutions. Indira Gandhi National Open University, is a National Resource Centre for Open and Distance Learning with international recognition and presence which provides seamless access to sustainable and learner centric quality education, skill upgradation and training to all by using innovative technologies and methodologies.It ensures convergence of existing systems for human resource growth in order to promote integrated national development and global understanding. The mandate of the University is emphatic about providing access to higher education to all segments of society and offer high quality, innovative and need-based programmes at different levels, to all those who require them. It aims to reach out to the disadvantaged by offering training programmes to inaccessible parts of the country at affordable costs. IGNOU seeks to promote, coordinate and regulate the standards of education offered through open and distance learning in the country and finally aims to achieve the objective of widening access for all sections of society and providing continual professional development and training to all sectors of the economy.. The University has, in a relatively short time, contributed significantly to higher education, community education and continual professional development.

The significance of this vision for human resource development for the North East is invaluable. With a low percapita income and geographical inaccessibility education and literacy can be seen as the most viable means of channelizing youth energy into more productive and creative fields. Very often this is compromised and what emanates is a general situation of apathy, dissatisfaction and conflicting interest. Support structures created by IGNOU for growth of literacy, skill building and entrepreneurship development are effective tools to combat violent outbursts that are in many ways ushered in by a struggle to claim legitimacy over limited resource allocation. Honouring this vision IGNOU set up four special institutes in NE after identifying the type of knowledge and skills necessary for the development of the region. They are:Institute for Vocational Education and Training (IIVET), IGNOU Centre for ODL for Research and Training in Agriculture, IGNOU Institute for Professional Competency and Ad vancement of Teachers through ODL and North East Centre for Research and Development.

The entire discourse on North East either as a political disorder or as the most unexplored frontier arises from two basic issues. First, this region which was earlier an 'enigma,' a mysterious and uninteresting periphery for the rest of India has today evolved into the 'last and most significant frontier land for the whole world' and secondly the dawning realization that endeavours to unearth the different complexities inherent in this region require a paradigmatic shift.

(The writer is Deputy Director NECRD)











Modern age is the age of science. Man has become materialistic and contributions of science are many. From morning till evening man is busy with material pursuits. Thus, man is extremely busy with earthly things. Similarly, modern education can be called 'Godless education'. If we look behind the glorious history of India, we find that ancient educational system was based on spiritualism. Modern education cannot help man to form our moral character; rather it helps us to forget the human values. But ancient education could help man to acquire the human values i.e. love, kindness, non-violence etc. The historical background of Indian education will enable us to comprehend the real nature of the problems of our education in the present context. Although the present system of education has all along been considered less worthy than the past, yet the present educational system cannot be summarily rejected as useless. A peep into our educational system will reveal that there are indeed some finer aspects of the traditional system which can always be incorporated in the present system. To a considerable extent the present system is profession oriented. But education in ancient India was based on Gurukul system which aimed at preparing the child for complete education. The sole aim of Gurukul system of education was to prepare a child for a fuller life so that material pursuits do not get upper hand at the expense of moral values of life.

There is a difference between the teachers of ancient time and the present ones. Ancient teachers were known as Gurus, who maintained a high degree of moral values with academic excellence. They were missionaries and did not hanker after worldly comforts. They lived a pure and pious life. The teacher was the direct and sole source of light and life and the pupil must depend upon him absolutely for his educational salvation for there was no other source of knowledge in the country. Hence, there was always a personal touch, a human element, a living inspiration in such instructions or in the form of education. If we go through the Rigveda, education has been understood as something which makes 'A man self-reliant and selfless'. In the Upanishad, education has been understood as something the end product of which is salvation. According to Yajnavalkya, "Education is that which makes a man of good characters and useful to the world". Sankaracharya regards education as 'the realisation of the self'.

At present it is possible to see that there is no good relation between teachers and students, and the students do not respect their teachers. The teachers too do not look upon the students as their children. But if we read the glorious history of India we find that in ancient times relation between teachers and pupils was smooth and pleasant; and students respected the teachers for their high and noble qualities. So, if we want to reform the present day society, we will have to introduce spiritualism in the present education system on the model of Gurukul system of ancient education. With the knowledge of spritualism a man cannot only realise himself, he can also rectify himself. The Sikh saint Guru Nanak said "One who conquer oneself conquers the world". If we can conquer ourselves and if we can rectify our mistakes then we will be able to conquer others. We can develop human values with the help of spiritual education. According to the father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi "To smile at an enemy is to disarm him". We can disarm an enemy with the help of spiritual knowledge and can bring about peace in the society. We have noted with concern that man has lost values and that is why present day society is burdened with various problems. Man kills man mercilessly on slightest provocations. Hatred, violence and non-coperation have become the order of the day.

The present education system has no room for spiritual education. If we impart spiritual knowledge in schools, then school education will be more fruitful and meaningful. Through this procedure it is possible to make the youngsters perfect human beings possessing all relevant good and ideal qualities. Spiritual education is one of the media that should be followed from the primary level along with other subjects of the curriculum as per their age group so that in the near future these children can establish a classless, spiritual and universal society – a society where there is no injustice, no cruelty and no inequality.

In the context of the present day where the youths have been led astray by the so-called technical marvels, it is only through spiritual knowledge that the youth power can be properly channelised and harnnessed for betterment of mankind.








There is only one aspect of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) purchase of 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on which there is likely to be any unanimity: the element of surprise. For the rest opinion is bound to be divided between those who view the purchase as an anachronism, a throwback to the past when the barbaric metal commanded a respect quite out of proportion to either its intrinsic value or the return it yielded as an asset class; and those who see it as a welcome diversification of our forex reserves.


But with the US dollar showing distinct signs of weakness (not surprising, given its weak macroeconomic fundamentals) and set to weaken further, it makes eminent sense to shift from a dollar-centric reserve basket to a more diversified one, long-term.

Many countries have been doing a subtle re-balancing of their reserves for years; partly to insulate their reserves from dollar weakness and partly in preparation of the day when the dollar will no longer be the international reserve currency. Yes, the latter does seem a long way off at the moment and one could argue that gold is a poor alternative. The RBI should, instead, be buying other currencies like, say, the euro or maybe even the Chinese yuan.

But gold remains an important asset class. Back in 1991, when our forex reserves were down to little over one billion dollars, it was the RBI's hoard of gold that came to our rescue. We were able to pledge it with the Bank of England and the Bank of Switzerland to give us the much-needed breather.

Today, with reserves of $285 billion, and likely to grow as dollar inflows resume, the purchase, entailing a payout of little less than $7 billion, is too insignificant an amount for anyone to lose sleep over it, except for its symbolic value. And that symbolic value would be to further feed the gold frenzy that has Indians in a perpetual grip. Total central bank holdings of gold is around 30,000 tonnes, the same level as 60 years ago, over which period world output has grown some 13 times. The relative decline of gold in the affairs of the world, we hope, will have some influence on Indians' collective craving for gold.







Is a government official a paragon of virtue? Is it inconceivable that he or she would fall prey to the normal foibles of power and pelf, considering that everyone is human? While it is true that back in the old days, the privileged officials of the Indian Civil Service were thought to be a special breed of superhumans, the country has moved on — some would say, moved down — since then.


Public standards are no longer what they used to be; and there is no better gauge of that than on the silver and small screens. If once upon a time, policemen were invariably portrayed as earnest upright men with clipped moustaches, today they are usually depicted as corpulent and corrupt; if 'sarkari afsars' were shown as almost divine in their benevolence back then, today they are shown wallowing in the cesspool right alongside their political mentors.

If truth is inevitably stranger than fiction, it should be no surprise that the popular media, from TV serials to cinematic potboilers reflect that reality. It is therefore quite amusing that a TV serial's depiction of a senior district functionary as lascivious and exploitative has invited official ire. That a negative fictional characterisation has been challenged when newspapers are routinely rife with incidents of excesses by people in positions of power, sounds even more unbelievable than the one-dimensional portrayal of the person in question.

The assumption that high office — relatively speaking, that can range from the district to the national level — exempts people from either criticism or even lampooning smacks dangerously of authoritarianism. Coming hard on the heels of the government reportedly hastening the cancellation of a film project on the relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten, it points to a rising degree of intolerance of independent appraisal and opinion.

While the ethics of taking artistic licence with the reputations of real people falls in a very grey area, there can be no such reason to curtail the portrayal of fictional characters. The government should realise that serials and films are mirrors not projectors.









The principal objective of competition law is to foster competition as an instrument for accelerating growth through innovation and economic efficiencies thus maximising consumer welfare by offering better products at lower prices. It achieves its objectives in three ways viz., prohibiting anti-competition agreements and practices that harm free trade and competition; preventing abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive practices that lead to such a dominant position and; regulating mergers and acquisitions.


Competition is irrefutably beneficial for every market participant. Competitive markets give consumers wider choice and lower prices. It gives sellers stronger incentives to minimise their costs through innovation and other productivity enhancing techniques. This enables firms to pass on cost savings to the customers and offer better products and greater choice at lower prices.

Nonetheless the gap between the assumptions of such theories and the market realities and practices both in developing and developed countries remains pervasive. While there is a broad consensus on the competition policy objectives there is considerable divergence in the application and practice of competition law leading to question marks about its efficacy. Even in a mature jurisdiction like the US with a century of experience in antitrust laws, there have been confusing and apparently contradictory judgements on antitrust cases.

US antitrust decisions in the first half of twentieth century exhibited hostility to large successful firms. This has since changed. Recent judgements have shown greater understanding of market economics and have been more judicious. Nonetheless defining monopolies continues to remain a challenge. Competition law poses more a public policy challenge than a legal argument.


In a seminal case known as the Grinnell Test, the US Supreme Court distinguished between the willful maintenance of monopoly power as opposed to power resulting from growth or development as a consequence of a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident. The court's language, however, provides little guidance on how one could differentiate the type of conduct that violated Section 2 of Sherman Act. As such even after more than four decades there remain disagreements over what constitutes a monopoly or abuse of market dominance.

The need for competition law becomes more evident when foreign direct investment (FDI) is liberalised. The impact of FDI is not always pro-competitive. Very often FDI takes the form of a foreign corporation acquiring a domestic enterprise or establishing a joint venture with one. By making such an acquisition the foreign investor may substantially lessen competition and gain a dominant position in the relevant market thus charging higher prices. Another scenario is where the affiliates of two separate multinational companies (MNCs) have been established in competition with one another in a particular developing economy, following the liberalisation of FDI. Subsequently, the parent companies overseas merge. With the affiliates no longer independent of one another, competition in the host country may be virtually eliminated and the prices of the products artificially inflated.

Most of these adverse consequences of mergers and acquisitions by MNCs can be avoided if an effective competition law is in place. Also, an economy that has implemented an effective competition law is in a better position to attract FDI than one that has not. This is not just because most MNCs are expected to be accustomed to the operation of such a law in their home countries and know how to deal with such concerns but also that MNCs expect competition authorities to ensure a level-playing field between domestic and foreign firms.

It has to be emphasised that a robust competition policy is central to economic reforms. Liberalisation, if not accompanied by competition laws and policy aimed at controlling economic behaviour and structures, can result in substantial price increases and reduced benefits for the overall economy. If monopolistic structures are allowed to continue unchecked, price liberalisation will not be effective. The same can be said of privatisation of state monopolies into private monopolies.

Similarly opening markets for imports and FDI might bring enhanced competition, but if no safeguards exist, foreign firms might also engage in anti-competitive practices and abuse dominant market position. Hence the need for a strong and effective competition law which will ban anti-competitive agreements and encourage conduct where there are demonstrable net public benefits.

This is why India decided to abolish its archaic Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act and passed the Competition Act 2002 thus shifting its focus from curbing monopolies to promoting competition.
Competition policy is a complex, cross-cutting policy instrument which is affected by a number of interconnected factors. Its effective implementation requires a holistic and integrated mind with ability to hold two opposing views in mind and still have the capacity to function. Its practitioners, more than anyone, need to be men of "significant learning.".

Competition law is essentially an economic law. It is anathema to the purists and doctrinaires. US Supreme Court judge, Justice Brandeis, the author of famous Brandeis Brief that has motivated social and economic legislation in US, says, "A lawyer who has not studied economics is very apt to become a public enemy". These are harsh words but as Lord Keynes said: "Words have sometimes to be harsh since they represent an assault on the thought of the unthinking". An overriding aim of competition law is to promote economic justice. "It is a handmaiden of modern economics and should be part of laws that reflect societal values known as sociological jurisprudence", says Mr Fali Nariman , one of India's foremost jurists.

We are living in a world of harsh inequalities, inequity and injustice. There appears a widening disconnect between law and justice. Lawyers are heirs to a noble tradition of inventiveness. The most ennobling element of a lawyer's profession is his ability to ensure justice for his client. As Pope Paul VI said: "If you want peace, work for justice." Competition law is essentially an instrument that helps us achieve that elusive goal.

(The author is president, World Council for Corporate Governance, UK)







Is the world's most populous democracy also the most litigation-prone, going by the sheer number of lawyers touting for clients outside the courts?


The flames which lit up the night sky over IOC's Jaipur depot for over 100 hours indicate that the answer is in the negative.

A similar situation in the world's most powerful democracy — the USA — would have seen a rash of class-action lawsuits being filed. Even those not directly affected would have sued for compensation on the grounds that their health had been irreparably damaged by the wide-spread pollution caused by huge, vertical tanks filled with petrol, diesel and kerosene going up in flames.

There was no immediate attempt by any individual aggrieved party to sue either IOC (which has made the Fortune 500 list) or the government for the massive explosion and conflagration at the depot near the Sitapura Industrial Area's Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPIP), 20 km south of the Pink City, on the highway to the airport.

And all this despite media reports that hundreds of the EPIP's 1,143 industrial units had been affected, with the explosion destroying every shard of glass and stick of furniture in nearby plants and causing cracks in buildings. A few complaints have been registered with the police and an advocate has filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Rajasthan High Court, citing IOC's failure to control the fire.

A Rajasthan minister has been quoted as saying that any IOC depot will now be located well outside Jaipur. Merely relocating an IOC depot to a less crowded area is not the solution if the necessary safeguards are not put in place this time around. Media reports tell us that the fire occurred when fuel being pumped through a pipeline leaked at 7.30 pm on the evening of October 29. The damage would have been much more if the fire had started during peak working hours or had spread to the LPG tanker.

Ironically, if India was really the world's most litigation-prone country, the conflagration in Jaipur might never have occurred. The fear of litigation and billion-dollar or thousand-crore rupee class-action suits could have seen the IOC top brass put proper systems in place to minimise the possibility of any leakage of fuel or conflagration at depots all over the country. There is much to be said for contingency planning where organisations like IOC hope for the best but prepare for the worst, given the incendiary nature of the products they store and distribute.

Instead, we have what is probably IOC's worst-ever accident, followed by a statement from Union minister Murli Deora that all the authorities could do was to wait for the fire to burn itself out. An IOC director says the Jaipur depot was an automated terminal whose state-of-the-art fire-fighting equipment could not quite cope with the magnitude of the fire. Which is a contradiction in terms!

A Fortune 500 company can surely do better. The number of those injured runs into almost 200, with over 10 being killed. The polluting effect of the dense smoke and black soot will linger for weeks. With work in the EPIP's industrial units coming to a halt, some 25,000 casual labourers were affected, schools and colleges in the area temporarily closed and even trains re-routed to avoid Jaipur. With Jaipur being a major tourist centre, there will be an impact on the season which has just begun.

Some months ago, a helicopter disappeared on a flight over hilly terrain in Andhra Pradesh. To this day no one knows what happened to those on board the missing chopper, despite their kith and kin going public with their anguish on TV news-channels like Times Now. However, subsequently, when the chopper with the AP chief minister on board disappeared on September 2 on a flight from Hyderabad to Chittoor, a massive operation involving the IAF and police commandos was launched. The debris of the missing helicopter was found within 24 hours and the bodies of all passengers recovered.

That sense of urgency is sadly missing when it comes to problems affecting the hoi polloi. In India, the people per se are less important than the VIPs who 'serve' them. For instance, stone-pelting at trains is regarded as rather routine in certain parts of the country.

However, when Rahul Gandhi travelled from Ludhiana to New Delhi in an AC chair-car coach on September 15 as part of a self-imposed austerity programme and stones were hurled through the thick glass window of the adjoining coaches, it not only hit the headlines but also galvanised the authorities into swift action. There were even reports of a few people being rounded up. Whether stones have been thrown at trains subsequently and action of any kind has been taken is not known. "Abolish the people", Bertolt Brecht would have said!








With Halloween having just been celebrated, it's time for thanksgiving. In its global avatar, the original festival of the Pilgrim Fathers has come to mean different things to different cultures across the planet. In some quarters, tofu has replaced turkey. In others, both items have given way to saffron and rice and raisins and turmeric, not to forget the vermilion and fresh mango leaves (both of the latter are decorations for the eye, not for the palate!).


All this only highlights the basic unity of humankind, and its intrinsic tendency of being grateful for mercies small or big, for favours imagined or actually received and reciprocated. Thanksgiving, however, is more than a mere ritual. For it lies at the very core of what it means to be human. Even so great a Darwinian and atheist such as Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist who first traced the roots of selfishness to our very genes, would agree that we humans have much to be grateful for.

And those who are vehemently individualistic need to reflect especially hard. Imagine if those who feel whatever they have is so rightfully theirs that there is no need to be grateful were to be forced to grow all the food, produce all the energy, and the goods that they consumed or used in the course of a normal day all by themselves. Whew! Even Biblical creation took six days. And the Creator had to rest, with the 'do not disturb' sign hung on the door of his cabin, on the seventh!

Think of the sheer back-break of the labour involved the next time you wolf down that vegan sushi or Mediterranean salad while using your smart phone.

Such a debate has become particularly relevant in the Obama era, in the half century following the publication of Atlas Shrugged (the fictionalised manifesto of rugged individualism Ayn Rand wrote in 1957). Ironically, the oxymoronic 'mass market elitism' sparked by Rand's magnum opus may be similar to the feelings of fervour produced by the installation of the new, 'Yes, We can' presidency in Washington.

In a world where mere intent is deemed good enough to win a Nobel Prize for Peace, ordinary souls reading Rand cannot be blamed if they regarded themselves as transformed or misunderstood geniuses. That's the point Anne Heller makes in her timely biography: Ayn Rand and the World She Made. That may also 'explain' the perennial appeal of the Vedantic line which says every average Joe is That, the Brahman.







Ajay Bagga, MD & Head, Private Wealth Management, Deutsche Bank feels that a good buying opportunity is emerging that investors should start increasing allocations to equity. Here is what he told ET Now this morning:


What you are telling your clients? Is it time to put it to work entirely to equities or is that the time to just wait for the correction to set in a little stronger?

I would say it is a middle path between the two. Over the last two years clients have moved very much into fixed income, short duration, extreme liquidity and we did not see much allocations going into equity during the March to October run up. Most clients were waiting for a correction to set in before they started allocating into equity. So, what we have seen over the last 10 sessions is more money returning into the equity markets. Our volumes have gone up and our allocations are increasing, our advice definitely to clients is to keep increasing in a measured manner, in a disciplined manner, the allocations to equity. This is a good buying opportunity that is emerging. Right now, if you see last evening's positions, markets were in extremely oversold position. So we did anticipate a bounce back today which started with Asia and we are seeing that continuing in India as well.

There is a view that there is still another 10% left to correct for Indian markets?

I do not think anyone knows that. If you look at the technical charts, major support levels have got broken. There were huge support levels on the way down which have got broken, so all bets are off. There is risk aversion which has set in and thirdly, a lot of the global rally was because of dollar carry trade which is getting unwound. But, yesterday the Euro has strengthened against the dollar, that would give some amount of support. I would not really hazard a guess whether it will be 10% down or 5% down before the market bounces back. But, what is very sure is that most of the economic forecasts that you see are much better for 2010. They are definitely hugely better for 2011 and markets will front-end the economy. So, if you have to invest, now is the time use every dip to invest is what we are telling clients. I would not really try to call the bottom of the market - we failed on that on March. I do not think anyone got in money at the bottom at 8000, I do not think anyone will get that right again.

What percentage of money would you recommend investing at the current levels if indeed the view could be that the markets could go down and what pockets do you think the money will find way into?

You will find very divergent views. If you look, the sectors that really did the best were also the ones that had got hurt the most - like real estate, like materials. So, right now I would say you have to play a dual strategy; one, is the safety first where you are seeing huge earnings, re-rating coming through I would say some of the industrials, pharma, selective media as well which have got hit very badly, but, you are seeing consolidation and earnings growth coming back. And, also selective large cap IT. On the other hand on the momentum side, I think real estate has got battered a lot with all the news flow, with all the talk of the leverage on their books. Again the situation is not as bad as its being made out in the market. So I would say on the momentum side you could have an upturn in the real estate as well as in the steel majors.

If you had Rs. 100 what is the quantum that you recommend investing and if say, if you are recommending Rs. 50, what would be the trade off between the high risky bets which could actually show a bounce back versus the ones which could be good for a bottom fishing kind of strategy for the next six to 12 months?

It is not an omnibus suggestion that you can give, we have various allocation points depending on the customers customised portfolio. But, on a broad sense do not wait to try and call the bottom of the market if you are an aggressive investor and your asset allocation calls for about a 50% to 60% investment in equities. I would put the major chunk into the large caps that I mentioned but you must play 10% to 15% of that on the momentum side also to gain the kind of re-rating gains that will come in or the bounce back gains because these sectors are really hugely oversold right now.

Talking about oversold stocks and oversold sectors, Suzlon is one that stands out and what would your call there be?

I would not really be able to comment on a particular stock because we would have positions either ways, both for customers as well as the books that we run. But, if you look at where the market is really looking at valuations, these kind of leverages, these kind of cash flows were a well known market fact. So what is really happening is March to October you really saw people investing on hope on the green shoots and now you are really seeing sell the fact post the quarter 2 earnings that have come through - mind you which have been quite good on an overall basis. So, we are seeing sell the fact happening and this is one of the stocks which has got hammered in that more than that I would not really be able to comment.

Do you think this has been an earning season that has really matched up to what you were expecting and setting the stage going forward or do you think that there has been a little bit of disappointment?

When we went into the earning season there was too much pessimism. So, there was a very strong bounce because there was a re-rating that happened both in forward looking earning estimates by analyst as well as the economic growth and we saw the August numbers coming very strong that helped a lot on the economy side. But, overall what happened globally was that there was too much pessimism in all the analyst projections that got re-rated and the markets benefited that. I would not call it a full out of the woods recovery yet, I think there are significant pockets of concern, there are concerns on the bank balance sheets -if the increased provisioning norms have to be followed over the next one year- what happens that's a huge drag on the banks earnings but on the other side we would say banks are a good surrogate for a growing economy as credit picks up banks will really lead the economy and lead the market. So it becomes a difficult call on banks for example.

Telecom you are seeing the morass 3G is in, you are seeing declining revenues and huge competition with barriers really being lowered for a new entrants to come in. Its moving to a plug and play, where nobody needs to really put in that infrastructure, they just put in the money on the marketing and they have plugged and play into the sector. So that has created significant headwinds but I would take a contrarian call and say this could be the point where you pick up the market leader or market leaders because there will be consolidation, the small players will get squeezed out over time and you could get a compelling valuation right now.

Similarly if you look across sectors, FMCG the top player we saw 41% increased in ad spends and just 1% increase in sales. So the classical model of where you spend your way out of a recession has clearly not worked in this case in a consumption economy like India so that's make you really pause. We are seeing that headwind on the FMCG leaders as well. So I heartily agree with you that earnings have been a mixed bag, but, it is definitely on a growth path with the kind of stimulus still out - cost of funds is cheap, the cost of inputs remains cheap. Right now your exports are still down 12% to 13% year on year, there is going to be a growth in that as the global economy grows, all that is creating a very positive substratum for the markets to go up going ahead. I would say it might take a quarter, might take two quarters but definitely the move is up and this might be a good point to invest.

How about power, none of the power IPOs did well for investors?

Yeah, as you have been saying, the IPO market has got hit by very greedy promoters, both the government as well as private promoters. Money should have been left at the table and you could have seen a rocking IPO market right now irrespective of the market moves.


Are you advising your clients to buy, not to just play the flip game and any of these are power stocks or utility companies?

Power, we are looking more at the generation side and more at the supplier side. So I would say our top pick today would be Jindal and Thermax in the midcap space.

You are not advising your clients to buy NTPC or NHPC or Adani Power?

Not at all, I would not suggest.


Warren Buffett yesterday night bought a transportation company, more like a company which is on the lines of Concor. So do you think that is one thing we need to reckon with going forward, utilities and logistics?

Warren Buffett, I would look at three four things. One he has put on his money into the US economy straightaway. He is saying I am betting on the longer range US economy, $26 billion bet. Look at his Goldman investment. He was right spot on; he caught the bottom for that. So I would say that is one vote of confidence into the US economy. It is a vote of confidence into his normal strategy.

But, I would say more he is looking at the cash flow that he will generate, which he can reinvest the best in the world and it is a broken down sector as such, needs a lot of investments, the US infrastructure needs a lot of investment. So, he is calling the next bet, that is what I would say. But overall it is very positive for the US markets and we saw the impact despite all the selling that was happening the markets closed marginally up. That was a big portion was contributed by Warren Buffett.

Well, let's quickly get a six month to one year view forward, where do you see our markets trading, they are already seeing a spectacular run up, this year already up more than 70%?

I think we will be better off from now. I would say from here we have a good chance of a 20 to 30% increase over the next one year given the kind of move that you are seeing in the economy, the kind of recoveries that we are anticipating. There could be some amount of headwinds by the first quarter of next year as the stimulus packages are unwound but we are anticipating that governments will not give up that easily and there will be more and more stimulus coming though despite the fiscal health of the economies. Overall if you see, we are positive on the economy and as a derivative we are positive on the markets, good corporates will grow stronger than the economy. In India historically growth rates have been 10% plus above the nominal growth rate of the economy and we anticipate that to happen.


Among the sectors we like, the top sector would really be industrials - as I mentioned select pharma, select media and select large cap IT. Again, it is a market where you have to really play the stocks rather than the sectors. I would say on a broad theme, stay with the large caps, stay with the growth stories, stay with the visibility of cash flows because that will now get into a capex cycle going into next year. Right now there has been an underinvestment on capex globally for the last two years. That cycle will reverse and then the gainers will be the ones who can leverage more and who have the cash flows. So I would say stay with those visibility of earnings, visibility of cash flows.








Sam Ghosh, CEO, Reliance Capital, explains why profits are down 30% in the current quarter and on the proposed IPO from Reliance Life. Excerpts:


Profits are down 32% and that is largely because you have not booked lots of income. Please explain.

We have decided to slow down the booking of capital gains, primarily because we feel that in the second half year we may do the stake sale of our life insurance company which will bring in substantial capital gains. So, by booking capital gains during this period does not make sense for us going forward unless the stake sale does not take place and therefore, we can obviously look at booking capital gains at that point.

How much of that drop of 30% plus is largely because of this entire capital gain issue?

This is entirely due to the capital gain issue because we obviously booked less gains.

When is your insurance IPO?

At this point, we are in the process of getting regulatory approvals. We expect the regulatory approvals for the disclosure norms at least for the IPO to come out by sometime during this month.

If you do not get the necessary approvals for an IPO would you be open to a stake sale?

We plan to divest stake through an IPO. There may be pre-IPO placement as well.


In Reliance Money, you just mentioned that you are planning some restructuring, can throw some more clarity on that? Also, in terms of the kind of trading volumes and the kind of pickup that one would have expected to see especially in the quarter given the kind of activity that we have seen in the equity markets.

Yes, in Reliance Money actually we have tried to get back to basics in saying that let us focus on three four key areas. Obviously, broking will continue to be a key area. Distribution of various financial services products would be a second key area. Third key area for us is we want to start wealth management and the fourth would be investment banking.

Broking volumes in the last quarter have been about 1,500 crore; obviously, we would like to increase that substantially. We have been re-looking at our franchisee network. The good ones we are obviously trying to ensure that they stay with us and improve volumes.

The other thing we have tried to do is move away from a flat fee structure on the broking side to more of a variable fee structure and that obviously has a certain impact but ultimately going forward this will help not only in ensuring the growth of the business but also the profitability.








MUMBAI: Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), the nation's largest utility vehicle maker, has posted a 32% sales growth in October and hopes to retain the momentum this month on the back of strong orders.


Senior vice-president Arun Malhotra said: "Lower interest rates and packages offered by finance companies have triggered sales in class B & C towns. Our strong distribution network in the rural markets has helped us notch up good sales numbers in these markets in the past few months."

M&M said the combined sales of its three models — Scorpio, Bolero and Xylo — went up to 18,410 in October. Industry analysts said M&M now commands 65% share of the Indian utility vehicle market, considerably higher than the 58% it had in the year-ago period.

The Rs 10,000 crore Indian UV market sells around 2 lakh unit a year. "The three UV products at different price points have managed to create a niche for themselves," said Mr Malhotra. The M&M stock slipped 3% to close at Rs 894.20 in a falling Mumbai market on Tuesday.

Sales of M&M's Xylo, Bolero and Scorpio models have overtook Toyota's Innova, Tata's Sumo and Safari and Chevrolet Tavera last month. In October, Tata Motors saw a decline of 16% in the Sumo and Safari range at 2,454 units, the company said on Monday. Toyota Innova sold around 4,050 units, while Tavera's sale stood at around 1,000 units in October, according to industry estimates.

Analysts said M&M has always been keen to further consolidate its position in the UV market and that is why it has re-positioned the Scorpio and re-aligned pricing of its other two products earlier this year. The Xylo continues its strong run since its launch in January this year.

M&M's utility vehicle range also includes Commander (recently renamed Major) and Max, which retails in the taxi segment. The festive period of the past two months generated strong sales and has given the Indian automobile industry some respite from the sluggish performance of the last few months, said an analyst.







Sumant Sinha, COO, Suzlon, is guiding the company through a period in which it has to restructure debt and fix problems with quality at a time when global and local markets are starting to recover. He spoke to ET NOW. Excerpts:

Your operating profit margins are better sequentially, but in comparison to last year, margin pressure has continued. How you are going to be looking at that scenario playing itself out?

If you look at our numbers, at the gross profit per megawatt over the past 18 months, it has held pretty steady and we are fairly comfortable about the gross profit that we are making at this point in time. The bigger issue is around our volumes and our expectation is that volumes will pick up. As volumes pick up, our net margin also will pick up.

You look at refinancing your debt and you have given a strong order book guidance. But how come the order book is not getting translated or captured both in top line and bottom line?

While we have a decent order book, a number of our deliveries this year has been back ended. Some customers overseas have asked us to postpone orders to the second half of the year, while in India, the budget came late (and the market took time to look up). Q1 numbers, hence, were much lower than expected, but if you look at the run-rate in India, for example, we are at fairly healthy levels and are back to the pre-Lehman crisis type of numbers, which on a run-rate basis, was giving us close to about 900-950 MW every year.

If you look at the international market, whereas I said while we had a hole in the first half, in terms of actual order deliveries, our outlook for the second half looks much better and also I will say that the overall outlook for the next financial year continues to improve as well. As the US economy and financing biggies come back into the market and we see a much more positive development in the international market environment. Some of our developer clients are beginning to access the capital markets again, so liquidity is beginning to come back into the industry.

What is the situation with Hansen?

We had stated a couple of months ago that we were looking to sell some or all of our stake in Hansen and the reason for that is we felt that we needed to deleverage the balance sheet in the face of a somewhat uncertain global environment. That strategic view still persists at our end, we are still as committed to as we were a couple of months ago.








India is also trading at a slight premium to the rest of the Asian region, but then it has always been that way. It could continue to trade at a slight premium even now, says Punita Kumar-Sinha, senior MD, Blackstone Asia Advisors, in an interview with ET NOW.


Historically, Indian markets have always moved in a PE band of 15-19. What is the band you expect Indian markets to trade in the near future?

No market ever trades at its fair value range, it always overshoots either on the upside or on the downside. Right now, the markets are trading slightly above their historical mean valuations in India and, also possibly, for some of the other markets. India is also trading at a slight premium to the rest of the Asian region, but then it has always done that in the previous earnings recovery cycles. So, India could continue to trade at a slight premium even now.

What's your view on earnings for the recent quarter? On an overall basis, are the numbers above expectations?

In some cases earnings have been above expectations, in some cases at expectations, but we have not seen too many disappointments. The good part is the margin expansion; the bad part is slow topline growth. Recovery in stock prices from here on is not going to be as sharp as it has been. What happens globally is quite important as are also the earnings within India.

In the credit policy, the central bank has kept key interest rates unchanged. But it appears that a rise in interest rates is imminent?

Credit growth is still not at peak levels, it is nowhere near what it should be for a growing economy such as India. It needs to recover more sharply. Right now, banks have a lot of liquidity and that liquidity is not getting converted into loans. This is because many are going in for QIPs (qualified institutional placements). They are raising equity first and will then possibly come to the banks for loans. I think, the demand needs to pick up before they start tightening up.

In the past three months, what has been your basic portfolio approach? Give us a sense, perhaps the flavour, of what you have done in terms of allocations, sectors, adjustments?

Well, in the past three or four months, we had done a rightsizing of our fund. So we raised new money and were really focused on trying to deploy that money and investing it into the market in sectors that we thought would be both stories for the long term as well as select mid-cap names.

Every bull market has a different leader. Going forward, which is the new sector theme idea that you have identified?
The Indian market has always had a number of different themes. So there are domestic consumption themes where we feel the business risk is behind us. We like the IT services segment. Within the pharma space, we like CRAMS (contract research and manufacturing services), and also some power stocks.

What's your view on telecom? The general opinion here is that there is a risk to the business cycle which will stay for a slightly extended period now.

I think the pricing environment is obviously very competitive and to that extent, the stress may stay for some time. But then the margins of these companies are quite high compared to their global peers. I think while they can cut pricing, they can still see some cushion on their margins. We do like select stocks for sure and I think it is a good story, but you have to be careful on the valuations.

What are the chances that the Indian market will touch a new high next year?

Equity markets rally the sharpest from a recessionary scenario. After that, they trend upwards if earnings continue to recover but not with the same kind of momentum and fierceness that they have rallied prior to that. Based on that theme, assuming if earnings estimates continue to get revised upwards and there is no other global shock, then the market could overshoot on the valuation side.








 He is widely credited as the man critically responsible for the dramatic turnaround of Tata Motors after the vehicle maker reported a Rs 500-crore loss in 2000-01. He played a critical role when Tata Motors acquired Daewoo Motors in 2004. So, not many were surprised when group chairman Ratan Tata chose Praveen Kadle to head Tata Capital, the new financial services company of the group. The former executive director of Tata Motors, who has performed in various capacities in the Tata group, knows that being one of the last entrants in the NBFC space life won't be easy. In an exclusive interaction with ET, Mr Kadle shares his plans and concerns for Tata Capital. Excerpts:


Being one of the newest players in the NBFC sector, what is it that Tata Capital needs to do right to be successful?
There is only one thing that is important — the customer. As the liquidity improves, banks and everybody else will start coming in to fight for the same retail market. That will lead to a price war. We need to be ready for that. As a new player, we have the advantage of not having any baggage and of being able to quickly rework our strategy. Our business model is relatively new.

So how would Tata Capital increase its customer base?

By making the customer a focus of our exercise and not relying on products alone. Earlier, companies used to focus on the number of (financial services) products that they had for customers, nobody really thought about what the customer wanted. We want to amend that. We'll open more branches (the company has a target of opening 120 branches by the year end) and recruit additional 1,000 people, essentially customer relationship executives to guide customers on what products to buy. There are internal training modules within Tata Capital that is used to sharpen the rough edges of new applicants. With the recruitment of these 1,000 people, our total staff strength will go up to 1,500 people.

Will that alone work?

Not necessarily. Parallely, we'll also work on reducing costs — being a new player, we can't afford the luxury of operating with high costs. We are targeting to raise the share of (the total loan book) consumer finance and advisory to 20-25% from the current 15-17%, and that will not be an easy task. We want to be present in small towns and villages as that is how we can build base. The average investor in cities is a harried lot and has been targeted quite often. But we don't have an aggressive plan to build the loan book as the focus on quality of investors is important than quantity.

Has Tata Capital planned out its strategy to increasing its marketshare?

The reworked customer-focused plan gained momentum after Jamshed Daboo joined us in June. Although the proposal to rework the strategy for Tata Capital had been debated since April, we were able to put it into action only after Jamshed joined us. Similarly, in private equity, we haven't replaced Shailendra Bhandari so far (He left in July this year) and have instead appointed a new head in Akhil Awasthi who is in charge of mid-market fund.
Tata Capital is also planning to launch a new fund and the size and time of the launch is still being worked out. I expect that the gradual focus on sectors, more than having a large overall fund, will make private equity work.

You have a different view on the future plans of corporates...

I think companies won't be very active with their expansion plans, and will keep most of such projects on hold. Demand for credit will be restrained. As banks are flush with liquidity they will use it in the retail market and this would trigger a price war.

In terms of raising funds, what kind of corporates would be keen?

In my view, companies which have performed relatively poorly and which have seen their stock prices come down, would be eager to raise funds. At the same time, I am also interested in seeing how the corporate debt market develops.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The public disclosure of assets by Supreme Court judges is likely to have a cleansing effect on the system, and boost the image of the higher judiciary in the country. On the basis of what has been brought out in the open, it is clear that our top judges are honourable officials. It is a relief to know that their moveable and immovable assets at the fag end of their working lives, and those of their spouses, are on the same footing as ordinary middle class professionals, if not lower in some cases. When it is widely perceived that institutions of public service have declined noticeably in standards of probity, the higher judiciary has clearly upheld the meaning of scruple. It is to be hoped that the example set by the Supreme Court judges will have a cascading effect on judges of the all the high courts. (To their credit, judges of the Karnataka and Kerala high courts have already made a full disclosure of their assets.) Perhaps this can pave the way for assets' disclosure by tiers of the judiciary below the high court level, whose reputation has been sagging for some time. India is passing through a phase of socio-economic transition that involves rural-urban migrations of a new order, occupational mobility, expansion of self-employment opportunities through financial openness, burgeoning of commercial interests, the large-scale displacement of populations, and property sales for purposes of urbanisation and industrialisation. If not handled with fairness and explicit sense of justice, the result can be an internal crisis that will weaken the system from within. A judicial system known for its uprightness is indeed the need of the hour. True, the Supreme Court judges have made a "voluntary" disclosure of their assets as they are not bound by any law to do so. Whether such a law is needed, if the ripple effect of the action of our seniormost judges can be felt lower down the judicial ladder, is a moot point. However, the step taken by the country's highest judicial officers begs the question whether all those who depend on the public exchequer for their remuneration should not be made to follow their example. There is a widespread impression, for instance, that legislators grow seriously rich even after doing a single term. Naturally, a case can be made out for not only election candidates declaring their assets, but also serving legislators. If anything, the case of government officials at all levels is even more compelling. India has the sorry reputation of being among the more corrupt places in the world. This straightaway impacts economic development and growth, and hurts the poorest sections more than anyone else. Any measure that helps to significantly reduce opportunities for corruption will be a social balancer of reasonable magnitude. Finding ways to have public disclosures of assets across all branches — judiciary, legislature and executive — is likely to go a long way in choking off corruption. Whether this should be on a voluntary or mandatory basis may be determined on the basis of evolving practice, for even one volunteer can put the others to shame and oblige them to follow.








Something is afoot on Kashmir. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, while inaugurating the Anantnag-Qazigund railway stretch last week, declared that he was open to talks with Kashmiris of all shades of opinion in order to achieve peace. He also announced a readiness to talk to Pakistan, albeit with the caveat that Islamabad first act against terrorists targeting India. The home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, was in Srinagar a little earlier, talking about "quiet diplomacy" that would bring about a "unique solution" in Kashmir. New Delhi clearly has restarted the political process — gently but surely. The motives are unexceptionable, for there can be no arguing that Kashmir needs peace. The question is why now? For nothing has changed on the ground. Talks with Kashmiri separatists have been frozen since 2006 on account of their intransigence and Pakistan has not done a jot to address Indian concerns on terrorism.

Some sections of the polity have questioned the United Progressive Alliance government's moves and warned against any dilution of the Indian stance on Kashmir. While it would be absurd to assume that the Prime Minister would somehow compromise India's stand on Kashmir, there is a subtext that needs to be recognised and assessed. New Delhi today is faced with quiet but growing pressure to act on Kashmir. It is doing the best it can in the circumstances.

Some clues on the subterranean processes at work could be picked up from a new book, The Limits of Influence: America's role in Kashmir, written by a former US diplomat, Mr Howard B. Schaffer, who once served in the American embassy in New Delhi and later in the state department. This insightful book, a must-read for Indian strategic analysts, argues for an American role in a Kashmir settlement. Mr Schaffer points out President Barack Obama would like to see a resolution of the Kashmir problem: "Mr Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign that he recognised that working with Pakistan and India to resolve (the) Kashmir crisis in a serious way would be among the critical tasks of his administration if he were elected... A Kashmir settlement has become even more important to American interests in South Asia and beyond... The traditional focus of the Pakistan armed forces on combating a perceived threat from India and the continued patronage that Pakistani intelligence agencies provide to Islamic extremists in Kashmir make it more difficult both politically and militarily for Islamabad to help the United States and its coalition partners combat these extremist forces in Afghanistan".

The key to success, according to him, would be the absence of any overt US move. "American officials should work quietly", he writes. "But Americans should not sit on the negotiating table — a bad idea and one that the Indians will not accept. Keeping to an informal, unobtrusive role, US diplomats will want to discourage any public discussion of their activities". He also warns against the appointment of any US special envoy on Kashmir. Instead, he says, "A private visit by someone recognised to have the President's confidence should be considered despite the obvious danger of leaks".

The very day the Prime Minister was in Kashmir, the US secretary of state, Ms Hillary Clinton, arrived in Islamabad, where she was explicitly asked by Pakistan's Prime Minister Mr Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani to mediate on Kashmir. Mr Gilani got no public response from Ms Clinton. Earlier too, during a TV interview in Washington, when she was asked about a US initiative on the Kashmir issue, she had said: "But we believe that the most durable possible outcomes of any kind of resolution or normalisation can only come from the two countries themselves."

Mr Schaffer's book tries to contend that American intentions on Kashmir have always been honourable and correct. The problem, according to him, has been the negative attitude of India and Pakistan, which has prolonged this dispute for more than 60 years. Schaffer seems to forget about the Cold War. In that instance there was no question of a negotiated settlement — it was prolonged, and one side had to win. The India-Pakistan tension is different because it affects American interests.

To be sure, there are deep differences in US opinion too. Strategic analyst Ashley J. Tellis, in an October policy brief, stressed that "Pakistan's continued refusal to comprehensively meet its counterterrorism obligations — despite all American inducements — will constantly tempt Washington to contemplate playing the midwife in resolving the Kashmir dispute in the hope that such a success might finally stimulate wholehearted Pakistani cooperation on counterterrorism. Yet such hopes are chimerical, because today the Pakistani military's antipathy toward India goes beyond any particular issue". A report prepared by the US Congressional Research Service after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks warned that the US government's focus on the Kashmir issue "would risk fuelling Pakistani expectations of a future settlement favouring Pakistan, thus in turn providing a motive for Islamabad to sustain pressure by ramping up support for Kashmiri separatists". The same report warned that "in the solution to the Kashmir conflict, a haven for Islamic extremist organisations not be created. As veteran South Asia observer Mr Selig Harrison has argued, there is the real danger that an independent Kashmir, given the jihadi nature of some of the insurgent groups, could end up as another permanent sanctuary for Islamic extremist terrorist operations".

Pakistan today has two committed supporters — China and Saudi Arabia — and one reluctant ally, the United States. All three are deeply involved in Pakistan and for different reasons are committed to prop up this failing state. This presents Pakistan with more opportunities than India on the geopolitical level. Clearly, the big powers are aligned against India on Kashmir.

The moot point, however, is whether the latest initiative will work. The way things appear, a settlement on Kashmir at this juncture is doomed. Kashmir negotiations at a time of Pakistan's choosing or in an environment which seems to favour Pakistan has never worked.

Instead of suspecting the intentions of the Indian leadership, the US needs to appreciate the limits of Indian flexibility and the futility of giving sops to an establishment that is the root cause of instability in the region.

* Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi








Ever since June 15 in Tehran I've been asking the most alluring and treacherous of historical questions: "What if?"

What if the vast protesting crowd of perhaps three million people had turned from Azadi (Freedom) Square toward the presidential complex? What if Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Opposition leader, had stood before the throng and said, "Here I stand with you and here I will fall?" What, in short, if Azadi had been Prague's Wenceslas Square of 20 years ago and Mousavi had been Vaclav Havel?

In history, of course, the hypothetical has little value even if at any one moment — like that one in the Iranian capital three days after the disputed election — any number of outcomes was as plausible as what came to pass.

Retrospective determinism (Henri Bergson's phrase) now makes it hard to imagine anything other than the brutal clampdown that has pushed Iranian anger beneath the surface. Yet of course things might have ended differently.

In 1989, the revolutionary year, the Tiananmen Square massacre happened in Beijing and, five months later, the division of Europe ended with the fall of the Wall in Berlin. Could it have been otherwise? Might China have opened to greater democracy while European uprisings were shot down?

We cannot know any more than we know what lies on the road not taken or what a pregnant glance exchanged but never explored might have yielded.

All we know, as Timothy Garton Ash observes in the New York Review of Books, is, "The fact that Tiananmen happened in China is one of the reasons it did not happen in Europe".

And now those events of 20 years ago — Europe's 11/9 — are pored over by historians in search of definitive answers to how that world-changing moment transpired, and pored over by 21st-century repressive governments to ascertain wherein exactly lay the weakness (as they see it) of Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who would not open fire.

The history of 1989 is still being written — a plethora of new books testify to that.

The history of Iran in 2009 will also be written many times over. Truth is elusive, but it's worth recalling that beyond the inexorable historical forces at work in moments of crisis, there often lies one person's decision in a particular confused moment.

The hinge of history hangs on a heartbeat.

Harald Jaeger is a good reminder of that. I first met him in Berlin a decade ago. He's the former officer in the East German border guards who, on the night of November 9, 1989, opened the gate at Berlin's Bornholmer Strasse, ending the Cold War.

Now 66, Jaeger recently retired to a small town near Berlin where he cultivates his garden. When I saw him a few weeks ago, he was wearing a blue T-shirt and gold-rimmed spectacles: an ordinary-looking gray-haired guy with a frank gaze. He's not been invited to the elaborate 20th-anniversary celebrations but bears no rancour. "To put it in a nutshell", he told me, "It was a lucky moment".

I tried to imagine him at his post 20 years ago, facing a growing crowd, defending the border that had been his life, knowing that a senior official (Günter Schabowski) had just said East Germans could travel "without meeting special provisions", unable to get clear orders from his superior, wavering, alone.

Just after 11 pm, he gave the order to open the gate. How did he feel? "Sweat was pouring down my neck and my legs were trembling. I knew what I had done. I knew immediately. That's it, I thought, East Germany is finished".

Jaeger had not set out to terminate a country. Behind him lay great forces: Pope John Paul II; Lech Walesa and the heroic Poles of Solidarity; Soviet economic collapse; Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall"; Gorbachev's refusal to go the Tiananmen route; the irrepressible stirring of the myriad European souls imprisoned at Yalta.

Yet, despite all this (history's long arc), the event itself — the unimaginable event — still needed a single beleaguered officer to open a gate rather than open fire. A decade ago, Jaeger told me: "I did not free Europe. It was the crowd in front of me, and the hopeless confusion of my leadership, that opened those gates".

Having been in that Tehran crowd, I know the force was with it.

I felt myself how fear evaporates with such numbers. Nobody, not in 2009, can slay millions. Behind those Iranians, too, lay greater forces, all Iran's centennial and unquenchable quest for some stable balance between representative government and religious faith.

The millions didn't want to overthrow the Islamic Republic; they just wanted the second word in that revolutionary name to mean something — enough, anyway, for their votes to count.

What if they had wheeled and borne down on the fissured heart of power in the instant of its disarray? What if this had been Iran's "lucky moment?"

I have no answer to my "what if?" but 1989 suggests this: One day the dam must break when a repressive regime and the society it rules march in opposite directions.








Dharamsala got a shot of firepower last week as three Nobel Peace Prize winners from different corners of the world made the long trek to Himachal Pradesh to stand with the Dalai Lama after US President Barack Obama yielded to Beijing's will and declined to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader in Washington last month. Jody Williams from the United States, Mairead Corrigan Maguire from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Iran's Shirin Ebadi had helped form the Nobel Women's Initiative in 2006 to "strengthen and expand the global movement to advance non-violence, peace, justice and equality".

The women were a formidable presence on stage with the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children's Village in Upper Dharamsala, at an event organised by the Peace Jam Foundation. They presented the Dalai Lama with a statement signed by other Nobel peace laureates, affirming their support for this work. Said Shirin Ebadi: "Your Holiness, your political conduct has been a model to the entire world. At a time when human rights are being forgotten, you have shown that compassion does not mean surrender, your non-violence rules with the heart and not the sword".

The Dalai Lama then addressed an auditorium filled with young Tibetan students in the school he had created with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 50 years ago: "More than 200 million people were killed in the wars of the 20th century, but it didn't work; the problems remain. We must extend the Buddhist concept of interdependence to our global ecological and economic crises".

At a press conference organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile, Maired Corriagn Maguire spoke with passion about meeting 50 newly-arrived refugees from Tibet: "They told us of so many young people in Tibet taken from their homes, tortured and killed. We heard of people being buried alive, burned alive, thrown into rivers with their hands tied. We in the human family do not accept China's conduct in Tibet, and we challenge those political leaders who put profit before justice".

The Nobel laureates then announced the launch of their new website [1]. Ms Maguire spoke of "our sister Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who is the only one of the nine female Nobel Peace Prize laureates who is imprisoned. China is behind it, China backs up the Burmese junta. Our power comes from telling the truth, we depend on the media to get the truth out".

For six decades the Chinese government has laboured to suppress all photographs, testimonies and witnesses of their relentless persecution of the Tibetan people from reaching the international media. But in the digital age, even a ruthless and efficient police state cannot control all paths along the information highway, which makes it more difficult for the Chinese government to cleave to the party line that the "Tibetan people love Chairman Mao as their own father", to quote Xinhua, the official news service of the Chinese government.

In the cafes of Mcleodganj, you will meet travellers who managed to get into Tibet just before the latest ban on tourism. They describe armed snipers posted on every rooftop in Lhasa, People's Armed Police marching around the holy Jokhang Monastery, counter-clockwise, in violation of Buddhist ritual, public denunciations of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan prisoners of conscience marched through the streets with pistols pointed at their skulls. At the Norbulinka Institute this week, the Dalai Lama led public prayers for four young Tibetan nationalists executed in Lhasa last week for "counter-revolutionary crimes against the state".

As Chairman Mao's empire strives for global hegemony, the Tibet crisis reveals deep fissures within the state. That ethnic identities, Buddhism, Falon Gong and community organising are forces that so petrify the mighty People's Republic of China, that summon punishments so cruel and extreme, reveals a crippling paranoia within the Communist leadership. The Chinese Communist Party commands fear but no loyalty, as did the Soviet Union as it stumbled towards collapse. But unlike the USSR, the People's Republic of China enjoys "unconditional engagement" with the United States and other Western powers, thanks to the Kissinger Doctrine — a remnant of the Cold War which has never been reconsidered or rewritten, even after the collapse of the Berlin Wall nullified its validity.

A Tibetan activist noted: "There are forces of reform and change within China, but Western governments are propping up the Communist Party and holding back political reform in the world's largest dictatorship. We fear they've abandoned democracy and are following the old formula that 'might makes right'".

The Tibetan refugees have neither wealth nor arms, but the support of groups like the Nobel Women's Initiative reveals the power and rectitude the Tibetan cause symbolises for citizens of the world. On their final day in Dharamsala, the three Nobel laureates roamed through Mcleodganj to buy handicrafts and say goodbye to new friends. In parting, Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work on landmines, said: "I consider it a great honour to be here in Dharamsala with the Dalai Lama. The world needs his leadership, he embodies the values of peace and justice that the world is in danger of losing. Non-violence has power, it can topple governments, it should not be ignored. Gandhi proved that, didn't he?"


n Maura Moynihan is an author and Tibet expert who has worked with Tibetan refugees in India for many years








The world is going to end in 2012, apparently — hopefully just before the start of the Olympic Games. Armageddon may come about as a consequence of those monkeys firing up the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, where they have Al Qaeda operatives attempting to create black holes which will swallow the earth whole, or reduce it to the size of an extremely dense tennis ball.

Imagine seven billion of us trying to stand on a tennis ball. You just hope personal hygiene standards won't be sacrificed. Or perhaps it will be giant solar flares frazzling the earth, or a sudden reversal of the earth's magnetic field which will see us cooked like cheap burgers in a microwave oven. How do we know this? Apparently the Mayans predicted it. They'll look pretty stupid if they were wrong, the Mayans. Nostradamus predicted it too and so, of course, did the Bible.

My mother-in-law is a born-again Christian who belongs to an obscure sect which believes the world will end in October 2017 (meaning we have to endure two more Olympic Games, plus the accompanying paralympics). On that date she and a few other people are going to be taken up to heaven for a bloody good party — slap-up meal, dance band, personal address by Christ, goody bag — while the rest of us are consumed by fire. One way or another we are destined to perish very soon. There's a film out soon called 2012 which will explain it all, if you're interested.

I wonder where this yearning for catastrophe comes from? It seems to exist inside most of us; perhaps it is a Darwinian trait, a by-product of self-consciousness. Obviously, only people with lime jelly for a brain, or those who have become the captives of some psychotic cult, seriously believe the stuff about 2012 (or 2017). But normal, apparently sane people seem to wish for catastrophe too: they are determined that calamity will befall us all, and are furious when they are gainsaid. In a very minor way we saw this recently with the British National Party's (BNP) appearance on Question Time, when perfectly sensible people feared that as soon as the public cast eyes upon the political colossus that is Nick Griffin, the BNP would sweep all before it, a kristallnacht in Knightsbridge every night of the week and the imposition of a 1,000-year reich.

More to the point, though, you hear it every time a "climate-change" evangelist opens his or her mouth — and I wonder if ecological disaster is an upmarket version of the 2012 scenario, a catastrophe the chattering class of every Western country have eagerly bought into, a politically-correct Armageddon which requires us to be endlessly self-flagellating. My own view of climate change — or global warming as it used to be called, before the evangelists changed tack when they realised everything wasn't getting warmer — is absolutely open. I am a little sceptical of man-made climate change because, for me, the raw statistics do not quite add up, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. And I also reckon that most of the stuff urged upon us in order to address climate change makes sense for other environmental reasons anyway. But this is not good enough; this makes me a climate-change denier and that's not on.

Because one is no longer allowed even to question climate change: it is a fact, and there's an end to it. This seems to me a little unscientific and reminds me of my mother-in-law insisting that the world is going to end and that this is an unquestionable fact. She is possessed of a knowledge which is denied to the rest of us, just as the "fact" of climate change is a "fact" to be held sacred and never to be challenged. And all the while you feel that these people actually want the earth to be heating up, the polar bears to die and the floods to engulf so that we will all burn, starve or drown. If somehow it could be proved tomorrow that climate change was a huge con, these people wouldn't be relieved — they'd feel robbed of something intrinsic to themselves.

So what about bees? You will undoubtedly have read many articles over the last year or so telling you that the bees are dying out and that, as a consequence of this, we will die out too. Bees, we are told, are crucial to the pollination of the world's foodstuffs, so if they die there will be no more food. And they are dying. Is this true? Let's look at the bee holocaust myth first. There is, we are told, a global pollination crisis caused by a dramatic reduction in the number of bees. We are further told that bees are "largely" responsible for the pollination of world food crops — "largely" is usually between 70 and 80 per cent.

There is a film out at the moment called The Vanishing of the Bees — like the stuff done by Al Gore about climate change. There's a non-fiction book called A World Without Bees by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum and one of our most notable novelists, the Canadian, Douglas Coupland, has written a dystopian fantasy about a beeless world.

The European Union has demanded urgent bee action and Britain's own MPs have not been lax, either. One MP has on his website the famous quote from Einstein: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left". And here's the spooky thing: the bees started disappearing last year — four years, then, takes you up to... aaaagggh! We're going to die! Here's another spooky thing — in fact we could call it "spooky action from a distance". Einstein never said that stuff about bees; somebody else made it up and it has somehow got itself attributed to him over the years. This is a lesson; it is how Armageddon works, through Chinese whispers and pseudo-science. And everyone is taken in, not least the politicians.

There was an article in the academic imprint Current Biology a couple of weeks ago, summarised and made intelligible for the lay reader in New Scientist last week. It's by two pollination experts, Lawrence D. Harder from the department of biology at the University of Calgary and Marcelo Aizen from Buenos Aires. They set about pinning down a couple of myths. First, it is not true that there has been a mysterious worldwide collapse in honey bee populations. In fact managed hives (which contain the bees which do the vast majority of our pollinating) have increased by a remarkable 45 per cent over the last five years. This is largely down to more managed hives in South America, Africa and Asia — it is perfectly true that there has been a reduction in the US and western Europe, but these are merely short-term blips. The bee disaster scenario is dependent upon data which is far too regional to take seriously and "not representative of global trends". The truth is that there are more bees in the world than ever.

Second, as Harder and Aizen put it: "It is a myth that humanity would starve without bees". While some 70 per cent of our most productive crops are animal-pollinated (by bees, hoverflies and the like), very few indeed rely on animal pollination completely. Furthermore, most staple foods — wheat, rice and corn — do not depend on animal pollination at all. They are wind-pollinated, or self-pollinating. If all the bees in the world dropped dead tomorrow afternoon, it would reduce our food production by only between four and six per cent.
Their paper does not yet seem to have been picked up by the mainstream press, still less the campaigners, the politicians or the distributors of the film The Vanishing of the Bees.

Nobody likes an Armageddon whipped from beneath their feet like that. You hold onto it, tight, and hope that it's true.


By arrangement with the Spectator








Since April 2007, New York magazine has posted online sex diaries. People send in personal accounts of their night-time quests and conquests. Some of the diaries are unusual and sad. There's a laid-off banker who drinks herself into oblivion and wakes up in the beds of unfamiliar men. There's an African-American securities trader who flies around the country on weekends to meet with couples seeking inter-racial sex. (He meets one Midwestern couple at a TGI Friday's.) But the most interesting part of the diaries concerns the way cellphones have influenced courtship. On nights when they are out, the diarists are often texting multiple possible partners in search of the best arrangement.

As the journalist Wesley Yang notes in a very intelligent analysis in the magazine, the diarists "use their cellphones to disaggregate, slice up, and repackage their emotional and physical needs, servicing each with a different partner, and hoping to come out ahead". Often the diarists will be on the verge of spending the evening with one partner, when a text arrives from another with a potentially better offer. To guard against not being chosen at all, Yang writes, "Everyone is on somebody's back-burner, and everybody has a back-burner of their own, which they maintain with open-ended texts".

The atmosphere is fluid, like an eBay auction. This leads to a series of marketing strategies. You don't want to appear too enthusiastic. You want to invent detached nicknames for partners. "Make plans to spend day with the One Who Cries", a paralegal, 26, from the East Village writes. You want to appear bulletproof as you move confidently through the transactions. "I have a Stage Five Clinger on my hands", a TV producer writes. "He asks me to hang out again this coming Sunday. I do not respond".

People who send in sex diaries to a magazine are not representative of average Americans. But the interplay between technology and hook-ups will be familiar to a wide swath of young Americans. It illustrates an interesting roadblock in the country's social evolution.

Once upon a time, courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.

Over the past few decades, these social scripts became obsolete. They didn't fit the post-feminist era. So the search was on for more enlightened courtship rules. You would expect a dynamic society to come up with appropriate scripts. But technology has made this difficult. Etiquette is all about obstacles and restraint. But technology, especially cellphone and texting, dissolves obstacles. Suitors now contact each other in an instantaneous, frictionless sphere separated from larger social institutions and commitments.

People are thus thrown back on themselves. They are free agents in a competitive arena marked by ambiguous relationships. Social life comes to resemble economics, with people enmeshed in blizzards of supply and demand signals amidst a universe of potential partners. The opportunity to contact many people at once seems to encourage compartmentalisation, as people try to establish different kinds of romantic attachments with different people at the same time.

It seems to encourage an attitude of contingency. If you have several options perpetually before you, and if technology makes it easier to jump from one option to another, you will naturally adopt the mentality of a comparison shopper.

It also seems to encourage an atmosphere of general disenchantment. Across centuries, the moral systems from medieval chivalry to Bruce Springsteen love anthems have worked the same basic way. They take immediate selfish interests and enmesh them within transcendent, spiritual meanings. Love becomes a holy cause, an act of self-sacrifice and selfless commitment.

But texting and the utilitarian mindset are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination. A coat of ironic detachment is required for anyone who hopes to withstand the brutal feedback of the marketplace. In today's world, the choice of a Prius can be a more sanctified act than the choice of an erotic partner. This does not mean that young people today are shallower than young people in the past. It does mean they get less help. People once lived within a pattern of being, which educated the emotions, guided the temporary toward the permanent and linked everyday urges to higher things. The accumulated wisdom of the community steered couples as they tried to earn each other's commitment.

Today there are fewer norms that guide in that way. Today's technology seems to threaten the sort of recurring and stable reciprocity that is the building block of trust.


By arrangement with the New York Times








Not all suicides are the same. Society, while recoiling in fear and guilt from the personal suicide, has always honoured the killing of oneself for a greater principle — in the case of warriors, for example, or women when threatened with dishonour. Organized religion has abhorred the personal suicide from the earliest times, especially the Catholic Church, for according to its philosophy, no one has the right to take the life that god has given. A distinction is made between those who go into grave danger to save others and lose their lives as a result, in fire, perhaps, or by disease, and those who "positively" destroy their own lives. The Catholic Church had always treated the latter with sternness, not allowing their bodies to be brought into the church, and only allowing them to be buried in a corner of the cemetery without religious rites. Yet suicide is also the kind of critical act that can expose the complicated bonds between society and organized religion. Greater popular understanding of states of mind that may lead to suicide would make the religious judgment seem harsh. The Catholic Church in India has now decided to allow bodies of suicides to be brought into the church premises and a "simple burial" with a priest's blessing in the family vault or a relative's grave.


The concession is being perceived as humane, especially from the point of view of the bereaved family. The church has opened its doors to those who end their own lives out of "chronic mental illness, depression or [a] sudden emotional outburst". These are the "non-scandalous" suicides; the "scandalous" ones will still go unblessed. Although it is not quite clear which suicides are "scandalous", the consideration for a "sudden emotional outburst" holds out hopes for most. The change was first discussed in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, where the Syro-Malabar community accounts for 50 per cent of Christians, who comprise 23 per cent of the 3.2 crore population. A special service for suicides who the priest thinks deserve the honour of a "simple burial" was announced in 2003, although it is only recently that it is being practised. The weight of social desire behind the change can be easily imagined. Yet that desire only emphasizes the importance of religious approval, underlining a symbiosis that has resulted in giving most suicides a blessed grave at last.








Hamid Karzai has been returned as president of Afghanistan for a second time a little earlier than scheduled. It was the chance withdrawal of his competitor, Abdullah Abdullah, from the run-off on November 7 that has cut short his waiting time. But the sudden cancellation of the second round, courtesy what is being bandied about as the political sagacity of Mr Abdullah, has perhaps done greater damage to Mr Karzai's public standing than the first round of polls in August. For one, Mr Karzai assumes office with less than 50 per cent of the votes polled (the mandate would appear more abysmal if one takes into account the fact that only a third of the eligible voting population had cast its ballot). A run-off, although no less sullied or violent than the first round, could have given Mr Karzai a chance to improve on this dubious tally. Ironically, the circus over the scheduling and then the cancellation of the run-off has incontrovertibly established an image of the president that he has been desperately trying to escape — that of being a manipulator and a stooge of his Western allies. Together with the image trap, one may add to Mr Karzai's woes the threat from a strengthened opposition under Mr Abdullah, now firmly on the moral high horse. Like the Taliban, who are congratulating themselves on upsetting the applecart of the West by preventing the formation of a representative government, Mr Karzai's political rivals have tasted blood. They are not going to make it easy for the president to achieve his first target of making the government as inclusive as possible.


But even if this first target were to be achievable, Mr Karzai would find it difficult to meet the summary demands that have been put before him by his allies, almost immediately on accession. He is to rid his government of corruption, and make it possible for the Afghan army to take on the responsibilities of the Western troops. The targets are laudable. It would not only make Mr Karzai's government more acceptable to the public, but also smoothen the exit of Nato countries from Afghanistan's soil. To cleanse the administration, however, Mr Karzai has to go after his own brother, his trusted warlords and governors, without whom it would have been impossible for him to win the elections. Quite certainly, a second term has complicated matters for both the president and his backers in the West.









President Barack Obama's war of necessity in Afghanistan is becoming a trap for the United States of America and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. American generals are openly acknowledging that the war on the ground is not proceeding well, the Taliban have the initiative, the situation is deteriorating, additional troops are needed and that the thrust of the US effort should be to win the hearts and minds of the people and not merely conduct military operations to eliminate the insurgency. It is being stressed that the US must not be seen as an occupying power. General Stanley McChrystal's new strategy of inducting more troops for gaining greater military advantage on the ground, while pursuing more people-oriented policies, is considered promising. But waging war in a foreign land and winning the hearts and minds of its inhabitants are not easily compatible exercises. For Obama to induct more troops at a time the war is becoming increasingly unpopular at home could be politically perilous. His AfPak policy has run aground very quickly, despite the additional 21,000 troops put into the fray. What is the guarantee that the new strategy would work better? There are some formidable factors at play — the mountainous terrain, the isolated valleys, the tribal social structure and the generally violent culture of the country. Historical experience also cautions against a successful external intervention. Above all, the presence of safe havens for the insurgents across the border in Pakistan presents a challenge almost impossible to overcome without violating the sovereignty of that country.


To actually achieve those levels of development that would win over the populace, time and good governance are needed. But time is running out and it is precisely the problem of governance that is plaguing Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai, in power for the last seven years, has provided political continuity. This should normally have been an asset for sustained implementation of development plans, yet the insurgency has gained greater ground, large parts of the country are under the control of "warlords", corruption is rife and drug trafficking is rampant. In any case, can one expect good governance in a war-wracked country without strong defence and police forces? Here the record of external powers has been deficient as sizeable, well-trained Afghan army and police forces have not yet materialized. The multiplicity of countries, with distributed responsibilities, separate jurisdictions, varying rules of military engagement with different international mandates for the external forces itself constitutes "poor governance" by those who demand high standards of governance from the Afghan government.


Elections in Afghanistan, seen as a critical factor in establishing the government's writ and credibility, have caused further confusion. Karzai's image has received a severe battering in the West because of widespread allegations of electoral fraud, now endorsed by a United Nations-backed commission. He has suffered the humiliation of being forced into a second round on November 7. If he wins, as he is likely to, he will have been politically and morally weakened as the taint of having tried to rig the election will stay. Western powers are looking for a credible Afghan partner to achieve the goal of progressively "Afghanizing" the war so that their weighty burden can be lightened. This is an element in their exit strategy. But can Karzai be that credible partner now? Ironically, it is Karzai's Western sponsors who have discredited him with their exaggerated demands for observance of high electoral standards in a country with no experience of democracy, and this despite the fact that they have to eventually work with him and have no credible Pashtun alternative in view.


The disarray in the West is visible also in the loss of public support for the war not only in the US, but, even more so, amongst its allies. Key continental European countries are firmly opposed to increasing their troop numbers. As it is, many countries are participating in the war in a show of solidarity with the US. With the US itself wavering on how far it should commit more men and resources, Western solidarity will come under more strain, with an impact on NATO out-of- area operations and the US's leadership role. Frustration with the war is leading to recriminations against the Afghans for not managing their own affairs better. It is as if the Western powers have entered Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission at the invitation of the Afghans and the latter are not delivering their part of the bargain. At times it is argued that the US and others are conducting operations in Afghanistan on behalf of the international community, and others, especially regional countries, ought to share their part of the burden. Initially, Obama spoke about involving the regional powers in finding a solution, but that thinking seems to have been abandoned. A regional approach would work only if all are agreed on the final outcome and their policies are adjusted accordingly. Regional cooperation should not amount to others providing the much-needed additional ground forces, but having to work largely on the US-NATO script with the Western powers preserving their autonomy of decision-making and action, especially in the military field. It should be accepted that the biggest threat in the region comes not from al Qaida but from the extremist Taliban ideology, which, whether it is anti-Western or not, is destabilizing for the region as a whole.


The US's approach to the Afghan Taliban remains ambiguous. When Obama first enunciated his AfPak policy, he concentrated on the threat from al Qaida and omitted any direct mention of the Taliban. Mullah Omar's presence in Quetta has been known to the Americans for years, and it is the Quetta Shura, with sizeable organized cadres at its command, that is held responsible for the mounting insurgency in Afghanistan. The US has curiously failed to act forcefully against this Shura. No move has been made in the UN security council to declare that the Taliban groups and their principal leaders are terrorists. The Pakistani military's offer to mediate between the US and the Taliban leadership points to ambiguous political undercurrents. The British have openly advocated overtures to the so-called moderate Taliban leadership and Karzai has proposed negotiations with the Taliban as part of an intra-Afghan solution. A deal with the Afghan Taliban appears to be part of a contemplated exit strategy.


If the central reason to intervene in Afghanistan was to prevent it from becoming a platform for radical Islamist forces to launch terrorist attacks against the US homeland and the West in general, then any premature withdrawal makes little sense. Obama himself has long identified Afghanistan, and not Iraq, as the real source of the threat to the US. Any hasty retreat from Afghanistan will, logically, only compound the problem for the US and, therefore, it must persevere in its own interest. Obama will have to eventually decide whether staying the course in Afghanistan in the larger national interest should override his personal interest in getting re-elected in 2012. To get a second term he has to show success on the ground by 2011, as otherwise he could end up as a one-time president. That might ultimately prove the most decisive factor in US policy.


The author is former foreign secretary of India










Assembly elections have been announced for Jharkhand. The small state, now under Central rule, could have gone to the polls earlier last month along with Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, but New Delhi had decided that tackling the Maoists was more important and a democratic procedure could wait. In the context of the overall situation created by the ultra-leftists, such thinking was along correct lines. However, after the Congress managed to scrape through in Maharashtra and Haryana, the party decided to try its luck in Jharkhand in the belief that its principal opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is very much on the backfoot these days. Political expediency, once again, was made to prevail over administrative need.


There is cause for concern here. During elections, no political party wants to alienate any section of the people and the Congress cannot be an exception. It will definitely put pressure on the home ministry to go slow against the Maoists in Jharkhand, a state where they are perceived to be at their strongest. Indications of such pressure can already be had with the party bigwigs suggesting that the Maoist threat be met with more development funds than force. Of course, once the election process gets underway, there will be restrictions on the release of such funds but the party is hoping to show its human face by voicing such sentiments. The gainer, in the process, are the Maoists.


They stand to gain otherwise as well. Their influence on the tribals will most certainly not be ignored by any of the contending parties, including the Congress. Deals may well be struck, particularly because the Maoists' aversion to parliamentary democracy has not, in the past, been known to have made them stay away from helping 'bourgeois' parties. In West Bengal, for instance, one of their leaders went out of his way to make public who he wanted to see as the next chief minister. Such deals come with a price, and since the Congress is in power at the Centre, who knows what will be asked for, and promised, in Jharkhand? Other parties may also approach the Maoists for favours, but since they do not call the shots in New Delhi, their bargaining power will be that much less.



This is no idle speculation. Maoist activities in Jharkhand have been going on for long but no political party in power there has been known to show any great interest in curbing them. For one thing, in the past, there has never been any serious attempt to seal off the border with West Bengal. The only explanation seems to be behind-the-scene fraternity, if not as a matter of policy then certainly as a way of peaceful co-existence.


However, with the Congress having in its wisdom opted for elections in the state, the biggest question is whether it will go alone or, keeping the recent Bihar by-elections in mind, consider favourably the Rashtriya Janata Dal's continued plea for a joint fight. There is also Shibu Soren and his Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Is he still an untouchable, or will the demands of the situation make the Congress think otherwise? As for the BJP, it must now be keeping its fingers crossed lest the divisions in the state unit rear their head. Its ally, the Janata Dal (United), will also be anxious to find out if its comparatively better showing in running Bihar has had any positive impact on the electorate in the neighbouring state.


For peace-loving Jharkhandis, the issue is Maoist depredation and they will go to the polling stations with this uppermost in their minds. Peace, most certainly, will be on the lips of every candidate and voters may, while separating the wheat from the chaff, decide to act on their own. This, if it were to happen, will be a new experience in Jharkhand and provide all and sundry, including Maoists, with food for thought.









The judges of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice of India (CJI), have delivered on their promise of voluntary disclosure of their assets and liabilities by publishing their details in the Supreme Court website. It is a step towards transparency and would be welcomed. The judges had resisted the demand for disclosure of assets for a long time and it was public and media pressure and a willing disclosure by a high court judge that finally persuaded them to do what they have done now. But the apex court still has not accepted the need for disclosure as a responsibility. Last month the  court challenged a single bench order of the Delhi high court, delivered in September, which ruled that the CJI is a public authority and disclosure of assets by members of the judiciary came within the purview of the Right to Information Act.

The disclosures which have been made are also disappointing because they lack many important details. They give an idea of the different saving habits of different judges. Some of them have invested in real estate, others in shares and yet others in the government's savings schemes. But the information will be useful only when the market value of the assets is known and details like the time of acquisition of property are given.

That will indicate the present value of the property and whether they were acquired during the judicial career or before that. It will also be noted that the properties in possession of the judges have not been identified. In many cases the amount of savings and the value of properties have not been provided. These details are very important. Another drawback is that the disclosures have covered only the assets of the judges and their spouses. Information about the assets of other close relatives, like sons and daughters, is also important in the Indian context.

The declarations have been made under a Supreme Court resolution of May, 1997 which calls upon the judges to disclose their assets. What has been done now is only in partial conformity with that requirement. It actually underlines the need for a law that makes the disclosure mandatory and open to the public, lays down in detail what are the assets to be declared, how the disclosure is to be made and who all should come under its purview. It should also specify the consequences of wrong declarations.








Afghan President Hamid Karzai was awarded a second five year term of office on Monday after his only political rival Dr Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the run off elections scheduled only a few days later. The former foreign minister Abdullah exited the political process on the plea that the government had not acceded to his demand for replacement of the 'tainted' election chief, but in reality, he realised he had little chance of emerging victorious. Karzai was accused of rigging the first round of elections, but for the people of Afghanistan, whether it is Karzai or Abdullah in power would hardly make a difference in terms of the much needed political stability. The fact of the matter is that the western inspired attempts to impose democracy have proved futile and the resolution of the conflict has become even more remote.

After bloodying its hands in the war for eight long years, Washington has realised that it is nowhere near winning it and the only honourable way out of the quagmire is to allow the Afghans to manage their own affairs. Afghanistan has historically abhorred domination by foreign powers and opposed them tooth and nail like they fought the Soviets and now the US-led NATO forces. Clearly the effort of the western powers to impose their writ over Afghanistan has failed and the political and social conditions are deteriorating from bad to worse and there appears to be no signs of hope in sight.  

US President Barack Obama is feeling the heat of 'body bags' and the demand to scale down the force levels in Afghanistan, but geo-political compulsions may not allow him to do so, at least in the near future.It will be interesting to see whether he goes back on his decision to upscale the US forces in Afghanistan.  Having derided and belittled Karzai in the run up to the elections in the hope of getting him out of the scene, the Americans are now left with no option but to do business with him, however reluctantly. It is reported that the US President's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is "shooting to get into a situation where negotiations" between factions in Afghanistan will lead to a political settlement. But having successfully fought the American attempts to dislodge him, Karzai will make sure that he has a decisive say in the terms and timing of any such settlement.








Peter Drucker was born in 1909. Drucker gave an academic frame to management. Drucker looked at all its aspects. Druckers' book 'The Practice of Management' bridged economics and other social sciences to show how to make things happen.

In 1955 he wrote that management was an entrepreneurial function: There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. It is the customer who determines what a business is.

Alfred Sloan who made General Motors the huge and successful corporation it was till 2006, demonstrated that management could make large organisations work and achieve complex and ambitious objectives. For him customers were in segments and he designed products to appeal to different segments. In 'My Years with General Motors,' Sloan described what he had done. Sloan also permitted Drucker to study GM in those formative years. Drucker wrote: Management converts a mob into an organisation and human efforts into performance.

General Motors and Drucker's lessons from it led to large organisations being created and run effectively. Polaris, the nuclear submarine was the first great example of successful management of large and complex tasks. However, recent events have shown that there is a limit to size in organisations. This is more so in service organisations.

One cause of the recent financial crisis was the unbridled growth of banks, brokerages, hedge funds, etc. Their size and complexity across geographies made planning, coordination and control very difficult. A refinement to Drucker's idea of managing large organisations was when companies diversified beyond their core competence.

In India unrelated diversification resulted from industrial licensing by government that refused companies permissions to expand. After the delicensing in 1991 most companies divested many unrelated businesses and focused on what they were best at doing. But diversified companies like General Electric do exist and are successful.

Even during the command and control regimes especially under Indira Gandhi, Peter Drucker's relevance was in enabling large organisations in the public sector, and running reasonably efficiently. However Drucker championed privatisation and argued that private ownership gave more incentive for an enterprise to perform well.

BALCO, CMC, privatised ITDC hotels, the privatised Delhi Electricity Board, are some examples of state owned enterprises performing better after privatisation. Drucker did not consider traditional methods as in the Indian private companies with single-entry book keeping, emphasis on cash management and the embracing of employees as members of the promoters family.

Even they had by the 1980s begun employing professionally qualified managers, managing enormous and diversified organisations, with distributed manufacturing, quality standards, national sales and distribution, etc. Professional management now pervades many not-for-profit organisations, government-owned enterprises, and social services like health and education.

Drucker said that a large organisation should aim to be No.1 or 2 in its line of business, or get out. Using this benchmark, Welch made General Electric the most successful and admired organisation. Some Indian companies have also begun to follow this idea. Drucker also argued for empowering workers, treating them as resources and not just as costs. Today many companies put a monetary value on their employee knowledge base.

Drucker criticised aiming for short term profit as the principal goal of business. To the dismay of some of us, SEBI imposed this condition on listed companies. Declaration of corporate results every quarter puts excessive pressure to deliver short-term results and less on long-term development and also encourages volatile share prices.

He criticised soaring executive pay. Stock options, directors commissions, and such sharing of annual profits as rewarding performance. However, one year's profits could be at the expense of future profits. Incentives must reward consistency over the longer term. Fortunately, India with past government regulation still avoids American excesses.

Drucker predicted the rise of a knowledge economy and that brains in a work force would increasingly replace brawn as has happened in India. Indian knowledge companies have shown how large work forces of skilled people over much geography can be managed to deliver high quality services at profit.

In the 1990s Al Gore advocated reinventing government. This was another Drucker idea. India is also in that process. Independent regulatory commissions have replaced government in many sectors and the Right to Information Act is making governments increasingly transparent.

Drucker extended the meaning of innovation from mere technology to management. He wrote: "The second function of a business is innovation, that is, the provision of better and more economic goods and services. Innovation may take the form of a lower price, be a new and better product, a new convenience or the creation of a new want or finding new uses for old products. Innovation must be in design, in product, in marketing techniques, in price or in service to the customer, in management organisation or in management methods, in materials handling, in manager development."

Drucker was against big government. For him, Edward Albee's 'man in the grey flannel suit' held more hope for mankind than the hidden hand of Adam Smith or the command and control model of the Soviet Union.

He did not use the rigorous mathematical models that many management scholars do today. He is not identified with a single great idea. His ideas are well known today. That is his major contribution. Drucker was the fountainhead of modern management.









Ten years ago, the US senate rejected a treaty to ban nuclear testing. To many, this was shocking. After more than 1,000 tests there was nothing of military value left for the United States to learn unless it wanted new warheads.

The Cold War had been over for a decade and the United States arsenal already had more warheads than imaginable targets. American conventional superiority was enormous and growing.

Now, as the debate begins anew, in a world where so much has changed, we are about to learn whether this time we can let go of the past and achieve substantial forward movement in this debate.

In 1999, there were technical reasons to worry whether a testing ban could be verified and whether American weapons could remain reliable indefinitely without testing. These worries have been erased. A global monitoring system has been built that can detect an explosion as small as one-tenth of a kiloton, and 10 times smaller in many critical regions.

North Korea's small underground test in 2006 was instantly detected by 22 of the system's nearly 300 stations, including one 7,000 km away. Within two hours, the data had been analyzed and sent to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty's (CTBT) member states.

Will there ever be 100 per cent certainty? No, but 99.9 per cent is good enough. When, if the treaty enters into force, nothing of military significance will be able to elude the completed system.

A bigger concern a decade ago was whether the US could develop a computer powerful enough to assure the reliability of the warheads without testing them. We can do that, said the scientists, if we can reach a goal of 100 teraflops (one hundred trillion floating operations per second). It was a big stretch.

Ratifying treaty

That leaves geopolitics. The CTBT requires that 44 named states ratify the treaty before it can come into force. In addition to the US, eight remain. Among them, Indonesia has announced that when the US ratifies, it will immediately follow. China is expected to do so as well.

Once it does, India should be able to fulfill the pledge it made to the United Nations 11 years ago, that it would not be one of a handful of states to stand in the way. If India ratifies, Pakistan will.

If only North Korea and Iran remain, the more than 160 nations that have joined the treaty will not allow them to block it. An amendment will be drawn that allows provisional entry into force without them.

But another outcome is possible: If the United States and others ratify the treaty, pressure can be put on Iran to prove that when it says it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons, it means it. A signature on a treaty alone wouldn't stop cheating, but it would be one more legal norm boxing Tehran in.

None of this is a sure thing. What we do know is that absent US ratification, none of it can happen. Washington and its allies cannot pressure others to do what the US won't. So, after 17 years of a voluntary, unilateral test ban, the US bears most of the costs of the treaty without its benefits.

The positive reason to ratify is that giving up nuclear tests enhances security. Since 1999, we have learned that a nonproliferation system designed against threats from states must be rebuilt to eliminate loopholes and to contain new threats from commercial groups and from terrorists.

Iraq, Iran and North Korea exploited a critical vagueness in the NPT that must be fixed. In 2003, the news broke that a multinational, commercial network was selling bomb technology. On 9/11 Americans awoke to the terrorist threat, and we have since learned of some terrorists' nuclear ambitions.

But 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the non-nuclear states feel that the weapons states haven't upheld their end of the NPT bargain: to move toward disarmament. They are, therefore, unwilling to discuss necessary new restrictions until they see movement. Ratifying the test ban is a necessary first step.

So the second senate debate on the test ban treaty pits an old way of thinking about nuclear war against today's totally different threat.


Countering proliferation requires military strength, which we have in abundance, and a willingness to connect the dots to political and diplomatic initiatives to which we have grown unaccustomed.

What's at stake is making the world safe for existing fissile material and for the nuclear energy that will be needed to deal with climate change, and keeping the world's nuclear weapons states at nine.









It was a Friday. My daughter had delivered a baby girl, whom we were going to name, 'Shama' (Urdu for 'lamp'). I had bought a cute frock for her costing more than a hundred rupees. With the daintily parcel in my hand ready for the naming ceremony I turned into our street.

Before reaching my gate, out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the woman standing in front of the tiny hut on my left where she lived. She was the wife of a poor mason who had put up the hut with the permission of owner of the plot, as he had nowhere else to stay. She had a new born baby in her arms.

I remembered her going away to her village for her first confinement a couple of months back. I also remembered the ceremonial send off given by her husband on that occasion. Since his wife's departure the mason had lived a lonely life, cooking his own frugal meal every evening in front of his hut.

All the while he must have been putting away something out of his earnings and a week before his wife's return, he had been busy doing some minor repairs to the hut and fixing up a door for the first time.

The woman stood there, looked at me and smiled, an unspoken plea for recognition of her return to our midst. Both she and her man were people of independent spirit. They never craved for pity. But a kind word or gesture from any of the neighbours always lit up their faces, though they never went out of their way to make friends with their social superiors. Many a middle class man would give his right arm for one-tenth of the contentment in the lives of these simple folk. Except for an occasional smile or nodding of the head, I had myself seldom spared a thought for her or her husband.

As this woman stood there smiling at me, my mind went back to the sermon I had heard at the mosque that day. "If you are a true Muslim," the 'khatib' (the priest delivering the sermon) had admonished, "the problems of your neighbour, however humble he be, whatsoever his faith, becomes your problem, your concern."

Suddenly my mind was made up. I took a step towards the woman. "Boy or girl?" I asked, pointing to the baby in her arms. "Girl," she replied shyly. I took the baby in my arms, fondled it and restored it to the mother together with the parcel meant for Shama (lamp), for this tiny new born was also somebody's lamp.







Presidents, and those aspiring to be presidents, routinely promise to reform the defense procurement process. And defense contractors, their lobbyists and the military services routinely ensure that never happens.


This year has been refreshingly different. President Obama and his defense secretary, Robert Gates, have made a compelling case for ending weapons programs that significantly exceed their budgets or use limited tax dollars to buy more capability than the nation needs. And Congress has agreed — somewhat.


The $680 billion defense authorization bill signed into law by President Obama last week pares back or cancels billions of dollars in expensive weapons systems that are either anachronistic, redundant, poorly performing or exceed the military's real requirements. Even with these reductions, the defense bill is one of the biggest in history, in part because of the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it sets an important base line for future cuts that need to be far more ambitious.


The new law ends production of the C-17 transport plane (military planners say they have enough to meet current and future needs) and cancels the airborne laser (a favorite of missile defense dreamers) as well as the heart of the Army's Future Combat System (an overly high-tech approach to war-fighting that was overbudget and ill suited to fighting today's counterinsurgencies).


The biggest political win was ending production of the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter jet after 187 aircraft. Several previous presidents, including President George W. Bush, tried and failed to end the program. The decision by Lockheed Martin and its partners to put plants and other facilities in dozens of states ensured that it had a lot of powerful friends on Capitol Hill.


This time, strategic reality finally trumped high-priced lobbyists. The F-22 was designed for combat against the former Soviet Union and has not been used in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Air Force's new high-performance F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a Lockheed Martin weapon that begins production in 2012, should be sufficient.


Mr. Obama did not get everything he wanted. Congress defied a veto threat and insisted on authorizing $560 million for research and procurement of an alternate engine for the F-35 that the Pentagon says is unnecessary. Lawmakers authorized an extra $1.8 billion to buy 18 F-18 fighter jets — twice as many as the administration sought.


President Obama and Mr. Gates are going to have to work hard to make sure that their hard-won victories stay won. The House and Senate are negotiating a defense spending bill that experts predict will include money for the C-17 transport plane. They should also continue to press lawmakers not to finance the alternate F-35 engine.


And they are going to have to be even bolder next year: pressing Congress to halt production of the V-22 Osprey and the Virginia class submarine and make deeper trims in the still unproven missile defense program.


The administration has also begun to make progress toward changing the defense procurement culture. Mr. Obama has wisely ended no-bid contracts and signed bipartisan legislation to improve how weapons are bought. It will take political courage and persistence to keep all those reforms going especially next year when many members of Congress are up for re-election.






Another day, another test of Congress's will to reform the financial system.


The Investor Protection Act of 2009, which faces final votes on Wednesday in the House Financial Services Committee, would make much-needed changes to protect individual investors from fraud and manipulation.


It imposes a fiduciary standard on brokers who offer investment advice, requiring them to act in their clients' best interest. It also requires enhanced disclosure by brokers, financial planners and investment advisers of their obligations to their clients and calls for more financing for the Securities and Exchange Commission.


There was a long time when even those common-sense requirements couldn't make it past the industry's lobbyists. In the wake of the financial crisis, few members of the committee are likely to vote against them.


The fight instead is over whether the bill should be amended to block the imposition of a post-Enron auditing requirement on small publicly traded companies — defined as those with a market capitalization of less than $75 million. Incredibly, nearly eight years after Enron imploded and more than a year after the failures of deregulation nearly brought the entire financial system down, some members are still insisting that the audit requirement will impose undue burdens on small businesses.


Under the post-Enron law, all public companies must have procedures in place to prevent errors and fraud in the

company's financial statements and have outside auditors assess the effectiveness of those internal controls. The S.E.C. long exempted small public companies from the audit requirement, but in September, it announced the exemption would end next June.


Small public companies are especially prone to fraud, in part because they have less oversight. Such audits are essential protection for investors.


Representatives Scott Garrett, a Republican of New Jersey, and John Adler, a Democrat of New Jersey, are, nevertheless, determined to permanently exempt small public companies — there are about 6,000 of them — from the audit requirement. If that amendment fails Mr. Garrett and Representative Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat of New York, have another that would delay implementation until 2011. Watching this fight play out, we despair whether corporate America or Congress have learned anything over the last year. We are even more disturbed by reports that the Obama administration is supporting the Garrett-Adler amendment.


If Congress and the White House won't get tough on accounting fraud at small public companies, how likely are they to take on tougher issues — and more powerful constituencies — when it comes to controlling the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market or downsizing too-big-to-fail firms? The committee should defeat these amendments and pass the Investor Protection Act.







Police officers giving drivers $204 tickets for not speaking English? It sounds like a rejected Monty Python sketch. Except the grim reality is that it has happened at least 39 times in Dallas since January 2007, according to The Dallas Morning News. At least six officers in several different patrol divisions wrote the tickets, each time citing a driver for violating a law that does not exist. All but one of the drivers were Hispanic.


The authorities say they are investigating, though one possible explanation has been offered by the police department. The officers may have been confused by their squad-car computers' drop-down menu of infractions, which displayed a federal statute on English proficiency that applies to commercial drivers. The Dallas Police Department does not enforce that statute.


Whatever we learn, it is likely to be highly embarrassing to the Dallas authorities, who have promised to refund the fines to the drivers who have already paid up.


This is a country that has repeatedly gone overboard in its reaction to immigrants who don't speak the common tongue, but the mind still reels at this one. Where were these officers' supervisors, who presumably reviewed and approved each of these tickets after they were filed? Where were the judges who must have encountered these language offenders in traffic court? The noxious practice was exposed and stopped only last month after one driver, Ernestina Mondragon, responded to her ticket with defiance and a lawyer.


The embarrassment is not just a problem for the Dallas Police Department. The country is in the middle of a fierce debate over how local police departments should deal with recent immigrants. Many but not all of them are here illegally but have otherwise committed no crimes.


On one side are the Obama administration and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who firmly believe in outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police departments. On the other side are the considerable ranks of police chiefs and law-enforcement experts across the country who say there is no good reason for turning cops into immigration agents.


There is no question that the efforts to do so have been marred by poor training, racial profiling and other abuses — and widespread fear in the communities that the police are sworn to protect. If there is any remaining doubt, just take a look at what happened in Dallas.








In 2003, I was on a trip to Iraq and had arranged an appointment in the Green Zone with a member of the then-Iraqi Governing Council. Security was tight. I was with my Iraqi translator, a middle-aged man who had once been a teacher. When we arrived at the council, after a long walk, I showed my ID to two young uniformed U.S. soldiers. They told me to wait, went inside and out came a man wearing civilian clothes, one of those fishing vests and an Australian bush hat.


He never properly identified himself, but it was obvious that he was a "civilian contractor" from the logo on his shirt. When I tried to explain why we were there, he literally told me to shut my mouth until I was told to speak. Then he told my Iraqi translator to sit in the blistering heat while he escorted me — the American — inside to see if our Iraqi interviewee was available. I have to admit it: both my translator and I really wanted to just punch his lights out. But I kept thinking to myself: "Who does this guy report to? If I get in his face and he comes after me, to whom do I complain?"


That was my first encounter with one of the many private security guards, service suppliers and aid workers — a k a civilian contractors — who have since become an integral part of the U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some were even used at Abu Ghraib to do "enhanced interrogations" — a k a torture — of suspected terrorists. Today, there is no operation that is too sensitive not to outsource to the private sector.


As we debate how many more troops to dispatch to Afghanistan, it might be a good time to also debate just how far we've already gone in hiring private contractors to do jobs that the State Department, Pentagon and C.I.A. once did on their own. A good place to start is with the Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger's new book on this subject, "One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy."


Every year, more and more of the core business of national security — diplomacy, development, defense and even intelligence — "is being shifted into the hands of private contractors — much more than our public realizes," Stanger said to me. One big reason why we've been able to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with so few allies is because we've basically hired the help.


"Afghanistan and Iraq," explained Stanger, "are our first contractors' wars, differing from previous interventions in their unprecedented reliance on the private sector for all aspects of their execution. According to the Congressional Research Service, contractors in 2009 accounted for 48 percent of the D.O.D. work force in Iraq and 57 percent in Afghanistan. And the Pentagon is not the only government agency deploying contractors; the State Department and Usaid make extensive use of them as well. Contractors provide security for key personnel and sites, including our embassies; feed, clothe and house our troops; train army and police units; and even oversee other contractors. Without a multinational contractor force to fill the gap, we would need a draft to execute these twin interventions."


Or, we would need real allies.


I am not against outsourcing, improving government efficiency or hiring the best people to perform specialized tasks. But we've fallen into a pattern of outsourcing some of the very core tasks of government — interrogation, security, democracy promotion. As more and more of this government work gets contracted and then subcontracted — or as Stanger puts it, "when money and instructions change hands multiple times in a foreign country" — the public interest can get lost and abuse and corruption get invited in. We're also building a contractor-industrial-complex in Washington that has an economic interest in foreign expeditions. Doesn't make it wrong; does make you want to be watchful.


In 2008, notes Stanger, roughly 80 percent of the State Department's requested budget went out the door in the form of contracts and grants. The Army's primary support contractor in Iraq, KBR, reportedly has some 17,000 direct-hire employees there.


The U.S. military is now proposing a huge nation-building project for Afghanistan to replace its dysfunctional government with a state that can deliver for the Afghan people so they won't side with the Taliban. I might be more open to that project if we had a true global alliance to share the burden of an effort that will take decades. But we don't. European publics do not favor this war, and our allies will only pony up just enough troops to get their official "Frequent U.S. Ally Card" renewed. We'll make up the difference by hiring private contractors.


The government may operate more efficiently with private contractors. And outsourcing can often deliver real innovation, especially in economic development. Still, I'm old-fashioned: When America is acting abroad, I prefer our public services to be provided as much as possible by public servants motivated by, and schooled in, the common good and simple patriotism — not profits or private ambitions.










I had a four-hour dinner once with Rush Limbaugh at the "21" Club in Manhattan, back in the days when I was still writing profiles as a "reporterette," to use a Limbaugh coinage.


He was charming, in a shy, awkward, lonely-guy way. Not a man of the people. He arrived in a chauffeured town car and ordered $70-an-ounce Beluga, Porterhouse and 1990 Corton-Charlemagne.


But he was not a Neanderthal, though he did have a cold and blew his nose in his napkin. He talked about Chopin's Polonaise No. 6, C.S. Lewis and how much he loved the end of the movie "Love Story."


In those days, he called himself a "harmless little fuzzball." He's a lot less harmless now. I went on to columny, as my pal Bill Safire called it, and Rush went on to calumny.


As he and Sarah Palin conduct their auto-da-fé of moderate Republicans — "Moderates by definition have no principles," he told his radio audience on Monday — Limbaugh is more than ever the face of his party, as Rahm Emanuel said.


He's also the mouth.


Limbaugh is right that Democrats tend to dither too much. They're always wondering if they're doing the right thing, indulging in on-the-one-hand, on-the-other paralysis by analysis, seeing, as James Carville put it, "six sides to the Pentagon."


President Obama will have to step it up on jobs and fixing the deficit if he wants to block conservatives from stoking the anger of Americans who only see a recovery on Wall Street, especially given the Republican sweep in top races on Tuesday night.


But the tactics of Limbaugh, Palin, Cheney & Fille are more cynical: They spin certainty, ignoring their side's screw-ups, and they exploit patriotism, labeling all critics as traitors.


In an interview on "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace," Limbaugh accused the president of trying to destroy the economy — yes, the same economy that W. came within a whisker of ruining.


"I have to think that it may be on purpose," Limbaugh said, "because this is just outrageous, what is happening — a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom."


Asked about Afghanistan, another W. cataclysm that has left Obama agonizing, Limbaugh stated, "I also don't think he cares much about it." Again suggesting that the president is an unpatriotic fop, the radio ranter averred: "He wants to manage this rather than achieve victory."


He told Wallace that "throughout the Iraq war, it was Barack Obama and the Democrat Party which actively sought the defeat of the U.S. military." Actually, rigorously examining the government's conduct of a war started on false pretenses is the best sort of patriotism.

Asked about fellow conservative George Will's contention that the United States should get out of Afghanistan, Limbaugh said, "I don't have the benefit of knowledge that George Will has, so I trust the experts, and to me they're the people in the U.S. military."


Even a chickenhawk like Rush should remember how well that worked in Vietnam, or in the early years of Iraq. The founding fathers designated a civilian as commander in chief for a reason.


Military brass have told the White House that this is the first time in eight years that they have gotten the attention and resources that they've needed in Afghanistan.


If W. had gone to Dover in the middle of the night to salute the war dead, Limbaugh and Liz Cheney would have been gushing about his patriotism.


But since it's Obama who at last showed up there to see the brutal cost of war, they simply have to dismiss the moving moment as a publicity stunt.


Years ago, when I dubbed Dubya "The Boy Emperor," Limbaugh spewed a stream of personal invective about me that embarrassed even my mother, a Limbaugh fan.


But now Limbaugh calls Obama the "man-child president."


The 48-year-old Obama is skinny and getting skinnier, but there's nothing childish about him. He more or less raised himself and came to terms with his Oedipal demons on his own, and he radiates a hard-won maturity.


W., on the other hand, was like a kid who knew that Daddy's friends would take care of him; he was always running off to the gym or going biking, leaving the governing to his regents, Cheney and Rummy, or incompetents like Brownie.


At our long-ago dinner, Limbaugh credited his success with being "one-dimensional." "I'm totally concerned with me," he said. And that was way before he got a contract for $400 million, so we can only imagine how one-dimensional he is now.


But on Sunday, he ripped the president for having "an out-of-this-world ego," for being "very narcissistic," "immature, inexperienced, in over his head." (Isn't immaturity scoring OxyContin from your maid?)


It gives new meaning to pot, kettle and black.








IN the year since his election, as he has since he first appeared on the national stage, Barack Obama has embodied the fundamental paradoxes of race in America: that we live in a still racially fragmented society; that we share a public culture with an outsized black presence, but that in the privacy of homes and neighborhoods we are more segregated than in the Jim Crow era; that we worship more fervently than any other advanced nation, in churches and synagogues that define our separate ethnic identities and differences, to gods proclaiming the unity of mankind. Why are we this strange way? Is President Obama the ultimate expression of our peculiarities? Has he made a difference? Can he? Will he?


We became this way because of the peculiar tragedies and triumphs of our past. Race and racism scar all advanced nations, but America is peculiar because slavery thrived internally and race became a defining feature of personal identity.


Slavery was quintessentially an institution of exclusion: the slave first and foremost was someone who did not belong to and had no claims on the public order, nor any legitimate private existence, since both were appropriated by the slaveholder. The Act of Emancipation abolished only the first part of slavery, the master's ownership; far from removing the concept of the ex-slave as someone who did not belong, it reinforced it. The nightmare of the Jim Crow era then extended and reinforced the public slavery of black Americans right up through the middle of the 20th century.


At the same time, the status of blacks as permanent outsiders made whiteness a treasured personal attribute in a manner inconceivable to Europeans. Whiteness had no real meaning to pre-immigration Swedes or Irishmen because they were all white. But it became meaningful the moment they landed in America, where it was eagerly embraced as a free cultural resource in assimilating to the white republic. In America race had the same significance as gender and age as defining qualities of personhood.


The great achievement of the civil rights movement was to finally abolish the lingering public culture of slavery and to create the opportunities that fostered the black middle class and black political leadership. This was a sea change. But Mr. Obama, by virtue of his unusual background as a biracial child reared by loving, though not unprejudiced, white caregivers, is acutely aware that the crude, dominating racism of the past simply morphed into a subtler cultural racism of the private sphere — significantly altered though hardly less damaging.


Seeing blacks as culturally different — a perception legitimized by the nation's celebration of diversity and identity — permits all kinds of complicated attitudes and misjudgments. Their differences can be celebrated on playing fields, dance floors and television, in theaters, hip-hop and cinema, and not least of all in that most public and ambivalently regarded arena of mass engagement: politics. But in the disciplined cultural spaces of marriages, homes, neighborhoods, schools and churches, these same differences become the source of Apollonian dread.


What then can we expect of Mr. Obama? One thing we can be sure of is that he will not be leading any national conversations on race, convinced as he must be that they exacerbate rather than illuminate. During the campaign last year he spoke eloquently on the subject, but only when he was forced to do so by the uproar over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And since he took office, his one foray into racial politics — his reaction to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. — was a near political disaster that must have reinforced his reluctance.


Mr. Obama's writings, politics and personal relations suggest instead that he prefers a three-pronged strategy. First, he is committed to the universalist position that the best way to help the black and Latino poor is to help all disadvantaged people, Appalachian whites included. The outrage of black over-incarceration will be remedied by quietly reforming the justice system.


Second, Mr. Obama appears convinced that residential segregation lies at the heart of both black problems and cultural racism. He is a committed integrationist and seems to favor policies intended to move people out of the inner cities.


Third, he clearly considers education to be the major solution and has tried to lavishly finance our schools, despite the fiscal crisis. More broadly, he will quietly promote policies that celebrate the common culture of America, emphasizing the extraordinary role of blacks and other minorities in this continuing creation.


At the same time, Mr. Obama seems to believe that the problems of black Americans are in part attributable to certain behaviors among them — most notably absentee fathers, dropping out of school and violence — which not only constrain their choices but rationalize the disfiguring processes of white cultural racism that extend the pathologies of the few to all black Americans. As a deeply committed family man, Mr. Obama has already made clear that he will use the bully pulpit of the presidency to encourage internal cultural reformation.


All of these approaches are likely to alienate the identity-seeped segment of black leadership, and they will not prevent the extreme cultural right from accusing him of overplaying race, whatever he does.


The uniqueness of Mr. Obama provides both obstacles and opportunities. My students have found that many young inner city blacks, while they admire him, find him too remote from their lives to be a role model. His policies, if properly carried out, might very well improve their chances in life, but in the end he is more likely to influence the racial attitudes of middle-class blacks and younger white Americans. This is all we can reasonably expect. It will take far more than a single presidency to fully end America's long struggle with race.


Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, is the author of "The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America's 'Racial' Crisis."








ONE year ago today, we officially became a postracial society. Fifty-three percent of the voters opted for the candidate who would be the first president of African descent, and in doing so eradicated racism forever.


How do I know? I have observed that journalists employ Google searches to lend credence to trend articles, so I compared recent hits on the word "postracial" with those of a previous year. There have been more than 500,000 online mentions of postraciality this year, as opposed to absolutely zero in 1982. Some say that's because the Internet didn't really exist back then. I prefer to think it's because we've come a long way as a country.


There are naysayers, however, who believe that we can't erase centuries of entrenched prejudice, cultivated hatred and institutionalized dehumanization overnight. Maybe we haven't come as far as we think. That's why I'd like to throw my hat in the ring for the position of secretary of postracial affairs. (I like postracial czar, but czars have been getting a bad rap lately.)


Call me presumptuous, but I've already bought three-by-five cards and jotted down notes. To wit: Sociologists say that racism is a construct, which means that our predicament is what we in the business world call a "branding problem." Time and time again, attempts to reduce a wildly diverse community to an ineffectual blanket term have yielded diminishing results. "Colored" lasted 82.3 years, "Negro" less than half that. "African-American" was challenged by "People of color" after an even shorter reign. May I suggest "People Whose Bodies Just Happen to Produce More Melanin, and That's O.K.," or PWBJHTPMMATOK? It's factually accurate, non-threatening and quite pithy. The N.A.A.C.P. says it's on board if we pitch in for changing the letterhead.


Pop culture is the arena for our hopes, our fears and our most cherished dreams. It is our greatest export to the world. That's why as your secretary of postracial affairs I'll concentrate on the entertainment industry.


Some changes will be minor. In television, "Diff'rent Strokes" and "What's Happening!!" will now be known as "Different Strokes" and "What Is Happening?" Other changes will be more drastic. "Sanford and Son" trafficked in demeaning stereotypes. In these more enlightened times, everyone knows that one person's "junk" is another's compulsive eBay purchase. A more postracially robust version features Sanford père as the genius behind a community-based auction site, with his son, Lamont, the reluctant Webmaster. Think of the opportunities for fleet-footed banter and sophisticated, pun-based aperçus. Like "Frasier," but postracial.


Sitcoms about impoverished PWBJHTPMMATOKs adopted by rich white people will have to be a thing of the past. It makes one uneasy, this retrograde idea that societal ills can be alleviated by the paternalistic Caucasian embrace. Less inflammatory, cute and therefore worthy orphans will come from a different sector, like those suffering from restless leg syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects an estimated 12 million people nationwide. Those living with restless leg syndrome often refuse treatment due to fears of social stigma, and I think a show like the one described above could raise awareness.


And literature? Take "Beloved," the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison. Angry and hostile PWBJHTPMMATOKs have no place in this new world, whether corporeal or ectoplasmic. Can we dial it down to "slightly miffed" or "had a bad morning" PWBJHTPMMATOKs? Let us improve Ms. Morrison's timeless classic. We keep the name — it's so totally, invitingly post-racial — but make the eponymous ghost more Casper-like. Without making her Casper-looking. That would totally change the aesthetic intent of the book.


Film is similarly problematic. A re-imagined "Do the Right Thing" should reflect Brooklyn's changing demographics, with a group of multicultural Brooklyn writers — subletting realists, couch-surfing postmodernists, landlords whose métier is haiku — getting together on a mildly hot summer afternoon, not too humid, to host a block party, the proceeds of which go to a charity for restless leg syndrome, an affliction that mildly inconveniences more people than you think.


In her seminal essay "Pimpin' as Metaphor," Susan Sontag wrote that "Given our nostalgia-mad society, a Blaxploitation revival is inevitable." But one wonders, how do you stick it to The Man when The Man Is A Bro? We also need to up the ante of these neo-blaxploitation films by giving the protagonists additional obstacles to overcome, and let me tell you, restless leg syndrome is quite the obstacle, what with the anguished tossing and turning, tortuous shooting pains, and vain cries for sweet, merciful release from an unfeeling or absent God.


My plans aren't mere abstract theorizing. As the secretary of postracial affairs, I want to get out there and engage the people, organize town halls, get up in people's homes and faces. Eat their food. There's a variation on an old parlor game that I use to ease people in. You write down on a card what race you were pre-postraciality, and stick it on your forehead so the other players can see. Then, prompted by their clues, you try to figure out what color you were before everything changed. It's a real icebreaker.


I can't do it alone. We each have to do our part. I'm just a sad, lonely man trying to piggyback on this whole postracial thing to educate folks about my restless leg syndrome.


Colson Whitehead is the author, most recently, of the novel "Sag Harbor."








Blaming external elements for events that take place in our country has long been a favourite pastime of leaders. Conspiracy theories centred around the notion of the 'foreign hand' follow many major incidents of terrorism or unrest across the country. Most of us have learnt through the years to look at such finger-pointing with at least some degree of scepticism. But in South Waziristan, it appears foreign nationals are genuinely present, working with the Taliban and bolstering them in various ways. As the military continues its advance into the core of the militant stronghold, laying a siege around the town of Srarogha and advancing towards Makeen, it has said some 600 to 800 fighters from countries outside Pakistan are now on the run across the tribal territory following the bombing of key hideouts. A senior military official has been quoted as saying that most of these individuals were Uzbek, though there were also some Chechens and Arabs. Accounts that suggest foreigners from Central Asian countries have been involved in various incidents of terrorism have come in from time to time. The argument goes that they are most likely to be willing to kill innocent children, women and men with little remorse or sense of guilt.

It is a disturbing matter for Pakistan that its territory should have become a point of convergence for militants. The presence of so many foreign militants also allows the US to regularly allege that the top Al Qaeda leadership is indeed based in that stretch of territory lying along the Pak-Afghan border. There is another issue to consider: are our borders really so porous that hundreds of people can enter, presumably without check, and conduct activities that threaten the safety of our country from within it? Where does the route of entry lie? Did the fighters from Central Asia all come in via Afghanistan or are there also other channels that allow them entry to our north? This is also a matter to be taken up with the governments of these countries and with Kabul. The kind of terrorism we encounter today needs to be dealt with in cooperation with our neighbours and indeed other nations affected by it. The authorities in Uzbekistan and elsewhere need also to stop the recruitment of militants and their travel across frontiers. They must detect how and why this happens. A wide-ranging effort is then needed to check the growth in militancy across the Muslim world. The sooner it begins the greater would be our chances of building a safer country in the near future.







With Mr Karzai now elected by default and declared the winner of one of the most shambolic elections of modern times Afghanistan becomes that least palatable of dishes – a dog's breakfast. Unfortunately, we are by force of circumstance faced with the prospect of sampling this culinary flop by virtue of the fact that we live next door to the country where the said breakfast is on the menu. Nobody emerges smelling of roses from this farrago, and those who have tried to make it less of a mess have either resigned in frustration or been sacked for their temerity. Enter our own Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi; who has said last Sunday at a meeting of the Group of Eight Developing Islamic Countries (D8) in Kuala Lumpur that it is about time somebody consulted Pakistan about the messes left on our doorstep. The Americans are working on a 'new strategy' for Afghanistan; as well they might because the old one has worked no better than did the strategy of the Russians or indeed the British in the last two centuries. Everybody who goes to Afghanistan in an effort to either make sense of it or bring some order to institutionalized chaos comes away dragging their tails.

Mr Qureshi makes the very valid point that Pakistan knows quite a bit about the Afghan problem, having hosted several million Afghans over the last three decades. He said to Hilary Clinton…"we understand the area, we understand the tribes, we understand the local customs and traditions and our input might be useful for the Americans". Quite so, and rather better, if we may say so, than do the Americans or any of their allies. He urged that there be a synchronization of effort to stabilize Afghanistan, and that a coordinated surge of troops would have a reasonable chance of success whereas a mere escalation of troop numbers is unlikely to do anything other than pressure the militants into moving across into Pakistan. We did not create the dog's breakfast that is Afghanistan today and if America expects us to be part of clearing up the mess that they have in large part created then it needs to be more inclusive when it comes to creating future solutions.








Some schools in Lahore and others elsewhere in Punjab have shut down once more after the latest bomb blast in the city, which injured 20. Others had never opened since the end of October, when schools across the country were closed following the attack on the Islamic University in Islamabad. The disruption in the life of students has been dramatic. Even during the days some schools opened, bomb drills and other similar exercises dominated thoughts. Attendance remained low and rumours of all kinds flew around campuses. Some schools called in security experts to talk to staff. With the talk of bombs and hostage-taking came fear. Accounts of 'incidents' at various schools added to this, even though it has been impossible to separate fiction from reality.

All this adds a new dimension to society. School administrators, teachers and parents ask how they are to cope with the situation and expect children to do the same without creating damaging paranoia. Security guards and cameras outside gates already contribute to this. One of the issues is that there is no way of knowing when things may change. The factors that give rise to extremism are buried deep in society. Already the very nature of society has changed. The toll on people is enormous. The extent is for the moment probably not fully recognized. But the hesitation to visit markets or parks or restaurants is everywhere. Combined with this we have a lack of hope on other fronts. Little that is positive seems to be happening. This lack of good news affects everyone. The absence of good governance and the lack of law and order adds to a national sense of loss. The question is whether we can find a way back to normalcy and how this will happen. For the moment there are few answers.







Hillary Clinton gained what few Americans could in Pakistan, a sympathetic hearing. Willing to listen herself she earned the right to be heard. By being "forthright and open hearted," not indulging "only in happy talk," and "at the risk of sounding un-diplomatic," she impressed her interlocutors. She pushed the right buttons with local audiences and gave the right answers, and deservedly earned credit for her candour and guts.

Her remark that it was "hard to believe" that no one in Pakistan's government had a clue where the Al Qaida leaders had been hiding since 2002 was well received outside government circles. The lack of knowledge we plead about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda operatives and, more so, the "friendly" Taliban does indeed stretch credulity. After all, Mullah Saifullah, Fazlullah's right-hand man, was in Barakau, only a stone's throw from the Presidency, when he was apprehended.

Hillary was right to refer to the "trust deficit" which exists between the two countries, and to apologise for the "mistakes" of the past, the need to put the mistakes behind us and to "turn over a new page." Indeed, that needs to be done quickly. Pakistan and America cannot afford to dwell on the past.

Hillary adroitly confronted the KLB critics. Her explanations that KLB was not meant to say, do or be, what is thought here and that in future greater care will be paid to Pakistan's sensitivities were welcome assurances. Of course, they did not satisfy all, given the popular prejudice against America that was never on the cards but, hopefully, it satisfied enough of those who matter to end further caterwauling over the KLB. Either we reject the KLB or lump it. The whingeing and the injured innocence are getting tiresome.

Hillary was also right when she said that in the US-Pakistan partnership "mutual respect and mutual shared responsibility was needed."

About the only issue on which Hillary would not be drawn out was that of the drones. And that, one suspects, was because she is aware that their use has been sanctioned expressly, or by a wink and a nod, from her hosts. Had Hillary confirmed such a suspicion it would have raised an outcry and marred her entire trip; she was wise to desist.

The aspect of Hillary Clinton's trip that was most disappointing was her inability to articulate anything by way of a US policy in Afghanistan, beyond that is, chasing the elusive Al Qaeda terrorists up and down the foothills of the Hindu Kush. Sorely missing in the mosaic of Obama's plans for Afghanistan is a vision for the future and of that there was not a whiff in Hillary's utterances. Strange too, because you cannot ignore the elephant in the room, was Hillary's indifference to Pakistan's concerns regarding India's increasing involvement in the Afghan imbroglio and specifically in the attacks against our armed forces.

It is now widely accepted that political stability is not possible in Afghanistan, and hence Pakistan, without the withdrawal of occupation forces. An indefinite American presence is viewed in the region, and the Muslim world, as a curse far greater than the presence of two or three dozen homicidal maniacs belonging to Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak badlands. It is similarly inconceivable that these harassed fugitives, who are constantly on the lam, should be the sole reason for the presence of 70,000 and growing number of American soldiers in Afghanistan. It defies common sense for America to earn the ill will, suspicion and distrust of hundreds of millions of Muslims, and the enduring hatred of the Pakhtuns, on a wager that the Taliban can be worsted in battle or their notions of life and religion be transformed by force; and that too under the stewardship of a corrupt puppet foisted on the Afghan nation through rigged polls and American bayonets. The Taliban function best when confronted by an enemy against which they can coalesce. Take away the enemy and the groups which form the bulk of the Taliban forces will turn on themselves and eventually dissolve.

The Afghan Taliban are no fools. They know how to defend themselves against a sustained assault on their culture traditions and their religion. Their forefathers have been doing so for centuries. The Taliban came to power in 1996 more out of guile and a better understanding of the social and political dynamics of the Pakhtun tribes than brute strength. They manipulated regional, ethnic and sectarian differences, including the schisms and groupings within the Afghan tribes, to such an extent that they hardly had to fight any battles.

Since then, the Taliban have been taught a salutary lesson. Actually, the Taliban were not beyond expelling Osama in 2001 and, had Bush and Osama not pulled the curtain down on the prospects of a peaceful settlement, may well have done so. There is, therefore, every chance that, offered a fair deal, conditional on an American/NATO withdrawal, the Taliban would be willing to negotiate.

As for India, a segment of that country has forever been rubbing their hands in glee at the prospects of Pakistan going under. The opportunities presented by the ongoing war to meddle and contribute their mite to Pakistan's problems are legion and inviting. The area and terrain, ranging from the unguarded border of Balochistan to the drug trails of the Afghan frontier, where allegedly Karzai's brother has his domain, is vast and porous. And apparently the self-righteous lot amongst Indians, when it comes to Pakistan, or the kind that burns innocent Indian Muslims alive only to reap the electoral dividend, are up to their necks in meddling and stoking the fires of revolt in Balochistan, if our interior minister is to be believed.

But even if we discount the minister's claims and take Dr Manmohan Singh at his word that he wishes Pakistan to prevail in the fight against terrorism there is nothing that Manmohan Singh has done that lends even a sliver of credence to his claim. The entire composite dialogue process remains hostage to the fate of one fanatic, whose destiny is of least concern to anyone except the trial judge, himself no more than a junior member of the judiciary. Similarly, for all that Hillary Clinton said, and repeated ad nauseam, about the need for India and Pakistan to forge better ties, it is difficult to recall a single initiative that would suggest that America is striving to prevail on India to be conciliatory in deeds and not merely words. It is the complete absence of public pressure on India by the US that gives rise to suspicions in Pakistan that America will passively accept, what India wants, namely, further destabilisation of Pakistan. The fact that such a perception may not be true matters less than that many here believe it. Sadly, Hillary did nothing to dispel it.

There will be many a sequel to Hillary's recent visit. On this trip she told her local audiences that it is a time to fight. On her next foray she may well be explaining why the time has come to talk. That will happen not because there has been any material change in the situation but because the loss of American lives and dollars and the increasing burden the war is placing on Pakistan's polity and resources have become unaffordable to both. Meanwhile, much time would have been lost and much life and treasure wasted.


The bare facts are that Afghanistan is in the grip of a civil war. Elements of Afghan society are pitted against each other. Americans, Pakistanis, al Qaeda et al have no place in their war. "Let the dust settle where it will in Afghanistan. We have no business to interfere," was the wise counsel of Benazir Bhutto as long ago as 1995; advice which our soldiers ignored at their own peril then and which the Americans seem no less heedful today.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:









As Pakistan continues to be drenched in blood, there are sane and conscientious voices emanating from within the US highlighting the absolute futility of its continued presence in Afghanistan and the dire need for formulating an immediate exit strategy. The latest to surface is Matthew How, the first US official known to have resigned over the Afghan war, who expressed his deep-set fears in his resignation letter: "I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is not based on how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end." He went on to write: "Many Afghans are fighting the United States largely because its troops are there – a growing military presence in villages and valleys where outsiders, including other Afghans, are not welcome and where the corrupt US-backed national government is rejected. While the Taliban is a maligned presence and Pakistan-based Al Qaeda needs to be confronted, the United States is asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what is essentially a far-off civil war."

In a candid conversation with Karen Young of The Washington Post, How said he decided to speak out publicly against the war because "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona to call their congressmen and say 'Listen, I don't think this is right'."

In an incisive account of the localised nature of the insurgency against the US presence in Afghanistan, How didn't realise that hundreds, may be thousands of groups across Afghanistan had few ideological ties to the Taliban, but took its money to fight the foreign intruders and maintain their own local power bases: "The war has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that supports the Pashtun insurgency." With multiple, seemingly infinite local groups, the insurgency "is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by external and internal enemies. The US and NATO presence in Pashtun valleys, as well as the Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified."

How ends his letter by stating: "American families must be reassured that their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, love vanished, and promised dreams un-kept. I have lost confidence such assurances can be made any more."

Coming from within the US hierarchy that, so far, has been engaged in perpetuating its illegal occupation of Afghanistan, it is indeed a telling blow to the entire edifice of irrationality of a presence that has few surviving buyers around the globe. Having long outlived its morality aspect, the US is currently engaged in a losing battle of finding ways to maintain a direct or proxy presence in Afghanistan. While there is a serious dialogue raging in the power echelons of Washington with regard to the advisability of sending more troops to Afghanistan, there is a concurrent move to start devising a credible exit strategy if the going gets tougher. It is to the strengthening of the latter prospect that How's resignation letter would add its due weight.

While the US exit from the area would be a welcome sight for most of the local and regional powers, it is its effort to suck Pakistan deeper into the Afghan quagmire that is laden with grave dangers. In spite of the fact that combating militancy would remain a top priority for any government trying to establish its writ, it is the manner and dynamics of the engagement that would determine its ultimate legitimacy and outcome. In its desperate bid to hang on to the area and a cause that is already lost, the US needs a proxy to carry on the unpopular war in Afghanistan after its potential exit. Should Pakistan espouse the dangerous role as it is being incessantly pressured to do? How would such a role serve its own strategic and allied interests domestically, regionally and internationally? Are all the national players on board with regard to adopting this option as a policy document? How would we address an eventuality that would expose our people to the prospect of a continuing bloodbath on its own soil? Already, there are innumerable inherent aberrations within the ruling hierarchy topped by the unconstitutional National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that it is presently trying to correct with little to no chance of success. Faced with this grave prospect, would the majority party opt to espouse another lost cause that may endanger strategic national interests simply by way of ensuring continued US crutches for a shaky coalition that is low on both legitimacy and competence?

On the face of it, none of the above would make any sense. Given that, should one surmise that sanity would prevail with regard to strategising and formulating a credible, pragmatic and durable Afghan policy that would serve the national interest now and in the foreseeable future? Having been exposed to an 18-month track record of the ruling concoction that has been patently self-serving, a correction may be hoping for a miracle. I would, therefore, be reluctant to put faith in the avowed ability of the incumbent coalition to fully comprehend either the enormity of the challenge that is laid out before it, or its competence to chalk out an effective strategy to deal with it in consonance with national interest. As Pakistan gets pushed deeper into the Afghan cauldron, and in the absence of credible ideas coming from within, it may be worthwhile for the ruling coalition to listen to saner voices irrespective of where they emanate from. How's may be one such voice.

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. Email: raoof







While we were studying geography at school, I came across two names that always fascinated me, and it almost became an obsession with me to see them one day. The two places of my dreams were Timbuktu in Mali (Africa) and Lhasa in Tibet (China). Timbuktu, we learnt, was a city in the middle of nowhere and Lhasa was on top of the world. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit both places and I would like to share some of the thrill of the experiences of visiting Timbuktu. Parts I and II will deal with some aspects of the geographic and historical backgrounds of the area, Part III will deal with the fascinating city of Timbuktu itself and Part IV will deal with our personal experiences there.

Together with colleagues and friends, I visited Timbuktu four times between 1998 and 2002, every time enjoying it more than on the previous visit. Every time we took a different route to get there, in this way also seeing many new places along the way. In Part IV I will also dwell on the fine character of the local people, their friendliness and hospitality and on some of our efforts to help the people of the area, who are extremely poor.

Since most of us do not have easy access to some of the lesser known aspects of our cultural heritage and history and are often not aware of its existence, I have elaborated on the geographic and historical backgrounds. The information contained in these articles is compiled mainly from the following three sources:

A travelogue written about our trips by my dear friend Mr A Mebood Siddiqui entitled Timbuktu – City in the Middle of Nowhere.

West Africa – Travel Survival Kit by Alex Newton and David Else, Lonely Planet, London.
The Songhay Empire by David C Conrad, Scholastic Library Publishing.
Statistics at a glance (dated 2001)
Country's name: Republic of Mali
Capital: Bamako
Area: 1,240,140 (483,654 sq.mi.)
Population: 10,800,000
Ethnic groups: Bambara, Tuareg, Dogon, Songhai, Senoufou, Fulani
Languages: French (official), Bambara, Songhai, Tuareg and Arabic.
Religion: Muslim 90 percent; traditional African religions 9 percent; Christian 1 percent.
Economy: GDP $ 5.8 billion ($1=470 CFA francs)
GDP per head: $300
Currency: CFA franc
Annual growth: 3.2 percent
Inflation: 12.7 percent
Major industries: Cotton, livestock, gold mining and fishing
Major trading partners: France, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Germany and Switzerland

At nearly twice the size of France, the landlocked Republic of Mali is one of the largest West African countries, but it has fewer people per square mile than any other country in the area. It is hemmed in by Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania and Algeria. The northern region of Mali is nearly completely made up of the Saharan desert, the middle is a belt of arid semi-desert (known as the Sahel) and in the south the rainfall is sufficient for cultivation. Mali's major geographical feature is the Niger River, which runs right up to the edge of the Sahara before turning right and heading back to the ocean. In the upper southern region, the Niger and Bani rivers join to form a rich inland delta, but it is only in the lower southern regions where rainfall is reliable that the dryness gives way to small pockets of natural forest.

Desertification is Mali's most serious problem, threatening even those parts of the country that are not desert already. The Mopti and Gao areas are particularly affected. Because forests have been cleared for wood to be used as fuel, the demand for which is constantly on the rise, even the well-watered south is threatened. Overgrazing and the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s are further factors of deforestation. Sixty-five percent of the country is now desert or semi-desert.

The temperature in Mali, particularly in the north, often reaches 40 C (104 F) or above, and rainfall is scarce. However, it does cool down a little towards the end of the year. In the south the rainy season is from June to September during which time the humidity is high. In the Sahel area rainfall is variable. Between December and February the Harmattan winds blowing off the desert deposit fine layers of sand in the cities. From October to February is the best time of the year to visit Mali's northern areas, which include the city of Timbuktu.

While Mali was a French colony it was planned to be developed into an agricultural area. The main idea was to grow cheap crops like rice and cotton for export to France. However, for various reasons, the plans did not deliver the desired results. When Mali became independent in 1960, the French left behind the largest irrigation works and the longest railways in West Africa (1,200 km between Dakar, Senega, and Bamako). During the 1960s Mali exported food and embarked on a limited programme of road improvement in order to boost the export potential of the country. However, this programme failed due to mismanagement, and within a few years food had to be imported. The droughts of 1973-74 and 1983-84 worsened conditions. Fortunately, Mali has rich gold deposits, thought to be equivalent to those in Ghana. Since 1990, Australia's BHP Mineral Company mines gold from Syama in the south and this accounts for 10 percent of the GDP. Livestock and cotton remain the major exports of the country.

The largest tribe in Mali is the Bambara, many of whom are civil servants. The Dogons and the Tuareg usually follow a more traditional way of life. The traditional music of Mali is based on the songs of the Jalis (or Griots), a distinct caste in the social structure since the days of the Mali Empire. The choice instrument is the kora, a harp-lute-type string instrument with 21 strings stretched over a long neck of rosewood and plucked with the thumb and index finger of each hand. Jalis music has been actively encouraged by official policy that values African music over Western influences. Mali's most famous musician, Salif Keita, is an ambassador for Griot music and although he now resides in Paris, he occasionally plays with the legendary Rail Band in Bamako. The most captivating event on the Mali calendar is the Crossing of the Cattle at Diafarabe'. In a tradition that goes back about 160 years, the Diafarabe' gears up to cope with a sudden influx of cattle and herders on the river bank in the month of December. This is a time for celebration and festivities as herders are reunited with family and friends after several long months in the desert. Local chiefs and elders meet before the big event and the order of the crossing is decided by the processes of fair play and democracy. The cattle are then led to the grass that is, both proverbially and literally, greener on the other side. The Dogons are famous for their masks and during the five-day Festivity of Masks held in April, many of these masks are used in ritual ceremonies that go back more than 1000 years.

Most common are poulet yassa (grilled chicken in chilli sauce), riz yollof (vegetables or meat cooked in a sauce of oil and tomato) and couscous (semolina steamed with meat and vegetables). Along the Niger, fish dishes are popular and include Nile perch, either fried, grilled, stewed or baked.


(To be concluded)







Hillary Rodham Clinton went back a very wise person after having interacted with the real Pakistan that the USA had so far ignored. That real Pakistan powered by a vibrant civil society backed by a fearless media has now come into USA's reckoning for the first time ever. One has to hand it out to Ms Clinton that she did a great job from the US point of view and for neutralising some of the damage done by the Kerry- Lugar Bill (KB). Having been wife to a governor for 12 years, USA's first lady for eight years and then an elected Senator from New York for nearly eight years, there could not have been anyone better equipped than Hillary to handle the US-Pakistan relations' crisis.

The KLB, with all its fall-outs, had heightened tensions between the US and Pakistan while the government was quite content. The support for KLB on the part of the Government of Pakistan will never be able to stand the test of time. When the bill will be put into operation, the anti-KLB stand taken by Pakistan's intelligentsia, media, civil society, all political parties except PPP and most significantly the Pakistan Army will continue to ring in one form or another. The USA went wrong in reading the pulse of the real Pakistan and missed an opportunity to soothe relations with Pakistan. In such an environment came Hillary Rodham Clinton.

She was quick to realise that her visit would be fruitless if she did not interact with real Pakistan. She had done her homework well in order to not be shackled in the name of security. She had come equipped with her own security of a few hundred personnel. Needless to say that Ms Clinton's encounters with the leading media personnel, college students in Lahore, tribal elders, members of the National Assembly, her visits to Police Lines, historical monuments and the tomb of Allama Iqbal went well. There is little doubt that Hillary Clinton returned to USA knowing that Pakistan will, in future, have to be dealt with in the light of its public perceptions. She must have understood that no individual can ever deliver Pakistan to anyone on a platter for use in the international power play unless the people-of-Pakistan factor is taken into account. Pakistanis, as a nation, must give all those people who interacted with Hillary Clinton in public debates and interviews broadcast live by the media, a standing ovation for having put real Pakistan on the drawing board of US policy makers. And if those in Washington still do not see the real Pakistan on their drawing boards they will make a mistake, diplomatically, as fatal as the mistake they made in Iran in 1979. Thirty years down the road, the US has still not been able to make diplomatic inroads into Iran.

Pakistan is neither for sale nor for grabs through individuals. If the US truly wants a people-to-people relationship with the Pakistani nation, then the rest of the US administration must take into account what Hillary Clinton will surely have to tell them about her interactions with Pakistanis in the country. Hillary with her pleasing mannerisms and friendly discourse was able to put across USA's point of view in an effective manner. What is more important is that she could also digest the point of view of the Pakistani nation. Given her experience, one can easily say that whatever Hillary said here to justify contentious issues was diplomacy, but what she will say of her experiences in closed door meetings of the Obama administration will surely portray that she saw a Pakistan out there that is progressive, moderate, friendly and democratic, but its democratic capacity has always been prevented by governments hoisted upon Pakistan mainly through US manipulation.

Ms Clinton will certainly play a major role in the correcting of the future path of Pakistan-US relations. It will be very unbelievable if Hillary Clinton has not, as yet, reported to her president that they will now have to deal with the real Pakistan, as no government in Pakistan will ever be able to deliver anything unless the actual face of the country supports the actions or decisions taken by that government. This side of the country is now here to stay and all else is superficial.

On another plane, it is sad that while Pakistanis were being killed by the dozen every day and the Pakistan Army was involved in sensitive and large-scale military operations that are crucial for Pakistan's survival, the parliament, which is anything but sovereign, was engrossed in political battles revolving around the infamous NRO. Do ordinary Pakistanis even feature anywhere in the political structure of Pakistan beyond casting (read selling) their vote in elections? The masses have no electricity, jobs, food or healthcare but all this seems to be a situation on some other planet and the government's apathy on this situation is too obvious to miss. The real Pakistan will have to emerge quickly to also take the reins of the government and only then will Pakistan and its people have truly synchronised as a solid nation.

The writer is a former director-general of the Intelligence Bureau and former vice-president of the PPP Parliamentarians. Email: and







The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

With men like Peter W Galbraith (Benazir Bhutto's old buddy), Matthew Hoh and Nick Horne around, we can dare to hope. We can also dare to dream of a fairer world order. The three have raised the bar for truth. They have challenged the UN and the US for following a trajectory in Afghanistan mined with iniquity, death and deception. As the UN deputy special representative in Afghanistan, Galbraith rang the alarm bells back in August against Karzai's electoral fraud. He got promptly fired by his boss, the UN secretary-general. Matthew Hoh, an American diplomat stationed in Afghanistan, resigned recently against US occupation in Afghanistan. Richard Holbrook's sweet persuasion failed to convince Hoh not to quit. And Nick Horne, another UN political affairs aide in Kabul, has just resigned for similar reasons.

"Among the greatest mistakes of the international community has been its laissez-faire approach to the corruption, cronyism and venality of the Afghan government," said Horne. Galbraith too said the United Nations not only ignored massive fraud in the August election but also told him to keep quiet. UN officials told a lie to reporters saying there had been a "personality clash" between Galbraith and his senior, Kai Eide. "I might have tolerated even this last act of dishonesty if the stakes were not so high," wrote Galbraith in The Washington Post. "For weeks, Eide had been denying or playing down the fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election, telling me he was concerned that even discussing the fraud might inflame tensions in the country. But in my view, the fraud was a fact that the United Nations had to acknowledge or risk losing its credibility with the many Afghans who did not support President Hamid Karzai." Besides, the sacked diplomat said he felt loyal to his colleagues who worked in a dangerous environment to help Afghans hold honest elections. "At least five of whom have now told me they are leaving jobs they love in disgust over the events leading to my firing."

While one can't expect these resignations to have rocked the US or the UN, still there is something called the "domino effect." The revolt has begun, and there's no saying where and when it will end.

While the White House and the State Department has declared Karzai the president of Afghanistan, his counterpart and brother across the border is facing his own demons crying for his blood with the NRO. President Zardari struck a special friendship with Karzai in recent months, with the latter declaring him his "Bhaijan." They are brothers in arms on hell's highway -- marooned in their presidential palaces fearing for their lives. Spurned at home, spawning a tainted track record, the American acolyte pair have duly been sanitised and declared kosher by Washington.

Don't you think Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erred on the wrong side of grandiosity when she archly asked Pakistani businessmen why the rich didn't pay income tax? "At the risk of sounding un-diplomatic," she intoned, "Pakistan has to have internal investment in your public services and your business opportunities… The percentage of taxes on GDP is among the lowest in the world... We (the United States) tax everything that moves and doesn't move, and that's not what we see in Pakistan," she sneered.

Great observation, Madame Secretary! But wait. Is it not your great country that exonerates corruption by devising devilish laws like the NRO? Was it not your predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, who baptised the NRO? Was it not Washington that connived with the Pakistani Army (read Musharraf), the PPP (read Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari) and the ISI (read Gen Kayani) to wash away the sins and crimes of our leaders now facing Pakistanis' frontal wrath?

"You do have 180 million people," continued Clinton. "Your population is projected to be about 300 million. And I don't know what you're gonna do with that kind of challenge, unless you start planning right now," she said. Great observation, once again, Madame Secretary! But your concern has such a hollow ring to it. Why, because the US has never considered the interests of the "180 million people" but has cherry-picked a handful few to rob a country screaming for help.

Mrs Clinton was huddled with Zardari and Gilani in Islamabad when the Peshawar bombing occurred. She, along with Zardari and Gilani, shed crocodile tears at the "loss of human life." (Oh, how empty and hypocritical these words sound!) Better it would have been had the good lady and our "grieving" leaders asked the Hoti government whether the following factoids were true: One ambulance per 200,000 persons in Peshawar; seven ambulances for Lady Reading Hospital, four of which are 1986 model and (needless to add) in pathetic shape, the only new one reserved for VIP use. Can young Hoti confirm reports that the 260-or-so wounded were taken to the hospital on motorcycles and rickshaws?

If the chief minister's answer is in the affirmative, then Hillary Clinton as the representative of America, the NRO-tainted leadership of Pakistan and their elected high priests in Peshawar have lost their moral compass. Death stalks Peshawar daily and not to even have one new ambulance is simply criminal. Where has the Hoti government spent all the money from USAID, the UN and donor countries? We need answers. But who will ask when their bosses in Islamabad steal with impunity?

Needed, then, are a few brave men in Pakistan who will stand up and say "enough!" Shahbaz Sharif sang Habib Jalib, Main naheen maanta/Main naheen jaanta, last year in support of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Why is he not singing now? Why did he allow his party MNA turncoat Zahid Hamid, the fellow who as Musharraf's law minister passed the NRO, to abstain from voting on the bill in the standing committee because Hamid had a flight to catch? Are the Sharif brothers and the MQM leader Altaf Hussain duping us by publicly opposing the "National Robbers Organisation" (NRO) while playing footsy with Zardari? And why is America-returned Aitzaz Ahsan causing more confusion by giving conflicting statements on the NRO, instead of taking a firm position? Is he with the masses or with Zardari?

One brave citizen of Karachi, Naeem Sadiq, has launched "People's Resistance," inviting all to join in a peaceful protest walk against the NRO: this "black law will rob Pakistani citizens of all equality and justice while providing indemnity to those who indulge in the biggest crimes and corruption." Huzaima and Ikram, another brave couple teaching at LUMS recently wrote: "Pakistan's economic crisis is due to criminal culpability of our ruling elite. The policy of appeasement towards tax evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth--NRO is a classical example--is proving disastrous. The state is going bankrupt, but those at the helm live lavishly--see their residences and investments in London, Dubai and elsewhere."

And they don't pay taxes either! Corrupt and inefficient departments like the police and revenue, "faithfully serve their masters" and, in the process, also make huge money for themselves. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) not only failed to tap the actual tax potential of Rs4 trillion but the Rs1,130 billion it raised in 2008-2009 in taxes got "plundered and wasted by the ruling elite. The ministers, state ministers, advisers, MNAs and MPAs alone squandered 700 billion on perks and perquisites."

Thank you America for gifting us the NRO and giving crumbs to the poor after our leaders have had their feeding frenzy under your benevolent eye.

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Once I asked a lawyer friend that how he rates American and British lawyers, whom he occasionally meets in relation to arbitration cases. He replied without hesitation that American lawyers are far ahead than us or the British. They come thoroughly prepared to the meeting and argue their case efficiently. Their powers of argument are highly developed and it is not easy to keep up with them.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was an outstanding lawyer, but she stopped practising because of her political commitments. When she visited Pakistan last week we failed to recall that she had been a high-ranking lawyer with mastery in argument and debate. She was twice listed as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. It was not easy to win an argument against her.After her husband Bill Clinton completed his tenure as president, she won the Senate election from New York and remained Senator for three consecutives terms of two years each. She narrowly lost to Barack Obama in the race for Democrats nomination for president.

President Obama fully recognised the political potential of Hillary. She had given him a tough time in the primaries. She was a worthy opponent; why not make her a worthy ally?

Hillary spent three days in Pakistan. I do not recall that ever before a US official of the rank of secretary or above has stayed in Pakistan for three full days. She did not share these 72 hours with Afghanistan and/or India, which has been the usual practice in the past. She had exclusively come here to allay the fears of Pakistanis about the Kerry-Lugar Law. She spent every minute of her 72 hours arguing with media persons, politicians, students, civil society and lawmakers. She even squeezed into her busy schedule visits to historical monuments and holy shrines.

Obviously the US is genuinely keen to understand the reasons of resentment over the KLL. Obama wants to help Pakistan in uplifting the poor social and economic conditions of its teeming millions. He could not have chosen a better person than Hillary to assess the situation at first hand. She openly admits that the US was wrong when it abandoned Pakistan following the Soviet exit from Afghanistan. She says that US would not repeat the mistake.Pakistani critics chose a wrong track when they attacked the KLL on the ground that it was loaded with humiliating conditions. Hillary faced the sharp criticism patiently and explained that the language used in the KLL was not different from similar laws made in respect of other countries. She told her various audiences that Pakistan could reject the $7.5 billion free of charge aid – spread over five years at $1.5 billion per year -- if it feels its honour threatened by accepting it. The critics, instead of refusing the aid, should have asked for bigger aid package because Pakistan is carrying bigger burden of American security than Israel or Egypt. Israel since its inception has received $1.2 trillion from America in direct aid.

According to Hillary America wants to help Pakistan to expand its energy base, sink tube wells, raise literacy rate, keep a vigilant watch over democracy, alleviate poverty and empower the Pakistani women. Our record in all these fields is very poor. But the question arises what our government would do if all these things are to be done by America? Already the government has unburdened itself from providing water, electricity and security to the citizens. If they want water, dig a well. If they want electricity, buy a generator. If they want security, hire a guard.









THE PPP Government on Monday became target of multi-dimensional attacks from friends and foes over the fate of the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The ferocity of the opposition to the ordinance ultimately forced the Government to declare that it would not present the controversial ordinance in the parliament for approval.

The fast track developments were a sort of political earthquake and it was feared that if the Government or for that matter the Presidency did not realize the gravity of the situation then the entire system might collapse. The first salvo was raised by MQM supremo Altaf Hussain, who reportedly advised the President to resign, a claim later denied by the MQM in a polite manner which was more a sort of PR and face saving exercise than denial. Incidentally, it was Altaf Hussain who originally proposed the name of Asif Ali Zardari for the coveted slot of President of Pakistan. Any how, the fact remained that the MQM conveyed its stand to the Government that it would not support the NRO in the parliament. FATA members who provide critical support to the coalition Government also openly stated that they would oppose the NRO if presented in the parliament. PML(N) also sent a loud and clear message to the Government that in case of adoption of the bill by the parliament it would go to streets and launch an agitation while PML(Q) also expressed its strong opposition to the bill. And combined walk out from the House in the evening by PML(N) and PML(Q) also transmitted a clear signal to those at the helm of affairs that things were slipping out of hands. Apart from moves by the major players, strong reaction by different sections of society as manifested in interviews and statements emanating from various television channels almost shook the Presidency, which ultimately felt the heat and succumbed to the pressure of the public opinion. It is not yet clear whether the issue has been shelved for the time being or forever but one thing is clear that it would not be smooth sailing for the Government in the days and weeks to come as there are possibilities of yet another turning point in the history of the country. It is regrettable that the Government seems to be completely devoid of feelings of the people, takes unpopular and questionable decisions and reverses them only under pressure. We believe that all stakeholders should pursue the policy of accommodation and adjustment and must not indulge in activities that could undermine the system as the country cannot afford political turmoil.










SOON after massive car bombing in Peshawar that killed about 150 people, the nation once again was struck by grief and shock on Monday morning when a suicide bomber killed 35 innocent people and injured 65 others in Rawalpindi. In another terrorist attack in Lahore, 20 people were wounded.

The attack in Pindi sent shock waves across the country as the bomber hit those who went to the bank to draw their monthly salaries or senior citizens waiting for pension. There are no doubts that the Federal and Provincial Governments and law enforcing agencies were taking utmost precautionary measures and there is also greater awareness amongst people about the security situation but the terrorists are sparing no targets. No place seems to be safe – educational institutions, staff and school buses, banks, bazaars, mosques, hotels, police stations and security pickets. This is the price that nation has to pay for the ongoing war against terrorists and the increasing incidents emphasize the need for greater unity and resolve to defeat the terrorists and their handlers. Of course, there is foreign hand and the country has become a sort of battleground for regional and international players that are trying to advance their own agendas. That is why we have been urging the authorities concerned to ensure precise, short and swift operation against militants so as to foil designs of those who want the Army to be entangled into one after the other internal conflict. This is also necessary because there is another dimension to the whole problem. There is a culture of revenge in our tribal areas and it is because of this that militants find instant volunteers, who have lost their relations in military operation or drone attacks, for carrying out suicide bombings.







PAKISTAN has suggested removal of all non-tariff barriers among the D-8 countries of the OIC to increase trade that would stimulate economic recovery. Speaking at the opening session of the D-8 Council of Ministers in Kuala Lumpur, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stressed the need for making the organisation more relevant and vibrant by expanding mutual economic cooperation and increasing trade and commerce.

While increased economic cooperation among the D-8 members of the OIC would be a welcome step, it is important that all member States of the organisation must work for economic integration. As a first step they could enter into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for their common good if the proposal of the Islamic Common Market cannot be materialised in the short term. Free trade increases well-being, reduces prices, raises competitiveness, accelerates growth, enlarges market size and ensures efficient allocation of resources hence increasing the wealth of nations. OIC States have a vast market of around one billion people yet regrettably the intra-organization trade is less than ten per cent. Therefore an FTA, increasing trade policy transparency and reducing non-tariff barriers, is essential for deepening of trade relations for the collective benefit of the people. Presently the non-tariff barriers, which may be under the umbrella of special standards or technical requirements, hinder trade and lower social welfare among the Islamic countries. Increased economic cooperation and a possible economic integration of the Muslim countries will no doubt increase trade volume, expand investment and employment possibilities, hence accelerating economic growth. Therefore we would urge the OIC countries to give priority to economic cooperation by emulating the models of European Union and the ASEAN, commit themselves to boost trade and investment for the well-being and prosperity of the Ummah.












Democracy is the buzzword these days. Even the United Nations Secretary General, speaking about the situation in Afghanistan of all places declared himself on the side of democracy. He appeared to indicate that the war in Afghanistan was to establish democracy in that war-torn land. Nearer home, one learnt some time back that the so-called "Friends of Pakistan" had transformed itself into "Friends of Democratic Pakistan", thereby connoting that the – so far non existent – assistance was not to support the country but its self-styled democratic leadership.

There uoy have it in a nutshell, as they say. Ever since the then US President, George W. Bush, announced in his message to the Iraqi people on the eve of the Iraq invasion that, "We are determined to bring (read: thrust-down-your-collective-throats) democracy to your country", the word "democracy" has become something of a sine qua non in all statements emanating from the West. In effect, in so far as the Western states are concerned, democracy is today a big thing, in fact, the one thing to propagate. By that token, any action by the baddies is instantly projected as "an attack on democracy" and woe unto the people who are on the receiving end! As Americans would say, it is either democracy or bust.

It is a different matter altogether what democracy brings in its wake. The frightful upheaval in occupied Palestine after the election victory of Hamas – and that in a free and fair election a la western prototype of democracy - is a case in point. The attitude of the sole super-power and its Western allies, at times, defies imagination. One may well be justified in affirming: either accept democracy, warts and all, or stop thrusting it on one and all. You cannot have it both ways. The western concept of democracy it would appear is founded on what can only be characterized as double standards. Our own herd of liberal intellectuals has been weaned on Western propaganda. DEMOCRACY, therefore, is bound to figure among the de rigueur words in their lexicon. In their estimation, any person wishing to be counted among those fit to be counted must needs be an admirer of the Western type of democracy or else. There are no ifs and buts about it. It matters not the least whether or not the person in question has the slightest inkling of what democracy connotes or what, if anything, it is made up of. The name of the game is to hold forth on the subject; the more profound (read: complex) a person's dissertation, the more his or her market value in the globalization-obsessed world of today. Democracy, in a word, is 'in'. And now the Land of the Pure is awash with the 'revered' cliché: "democracy is the best revenge", whatever that connotes.

What is one to make of democracy, then? Not that one would go to the good old dictionary for a definition since that would be banal in the extreme. Everyone knows how the dictionary would define it: something akin to Lincoln's well-known description of it as "government of the people, by the people, for the people". All this, though, is easier said than done. Defining is the easy part; transplanting the definition on to the field – and a field as slippery as that of the Land of the Pure - is something else.

Perhaps the most apt definition came from the pen of philosopher poet Muhammad Iqbal, who defined democracy as a form of government based on the premise that "people are to be counted rather than appraised". The stress in the so-called democratic approach to government, in other words, is on quantity rather than quality. Simply, if you have more persons in your corner than those in that of your opponent, you win. This would appear to be both the essence and sum total of modern concept of democracy.

People see democracy in different perspectives. Alan Coren once remarked –not inaptly – "Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear". G. K. Chesterton adopted an altogether different approach, when he opined Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated. Fisher Ames was somewhat ambivalent. He said, "Democracy is like a raft. It never sinks, but, damn it, your feet are always in the water'.

Rule of democracy, of course, is a nice rounded phrase that rolls ever so lightly off the tongue. Perhaps it is because of this that fashionable and fashion-conscious persons frequently make use of this phrase in their casual conversation without even bothering to understand its precise connotation. In fact, if one were to hark back at recent history, one would discover that several people who were projected as having 'struggled for democracy' were, in themselves, never quite clear as to its true connotation. One example that can be cited is that of the well-known demonstration in Beijing's Tiananmen Square years ago, that was hailed by the 'free' Western press as a 'pro-democracy movement'. If any one had bothered to scratch the surface, it would have become abundantly clear that hardly anyone taking part in that particular demonstration had the slightest inkling about what 'democracy' was or, indeed, what it stood for. Democracy manifests itself in divers (at times, bizarre) facets. Every so often, the unexpected rears its head.

The detractors often deride democracy as 'tyranny of the majority'. Yet it can also happen that a veritable minority can actually triumph in an ostensible democratic dispensation. This is what happened during the first term election of George W. Bush as the president of the United States, when the 'winner' had actually 'lost' on the popular vote count.

The Westminster type of democracy has peculiarities all its own. The 'first-past-the-post' concept is, at best, deeply flawed. If one does one's sums diligently, it would not be far to seek that this system almost never ensures that the winning party would be the one that polled the most votes. As a matter of fact, it is theoretically possible for a party to win an overwhelming majority of the popular vote and yet end up with a minority of members in parliament! These deviations are enough to shake the purist's faith in democratic institutions, such as they are.

Democracy, thus, is at best an over-rated system of government. Hullabaloo about the 'virtues' of democracy appears to have been blown out of all proportion. The Western propaganda notwithstanding, there is hardly any doubt that a system of government can be only as good, or as bad, as those administering it. Given dedicated, honest and well-meaning leaders, any system worth the name would be workable.

On the other hand, if the leadership does not measure up, then no form of government will deliver the goods, whether democratic or otherwise! Come to think of it, what matters in the long run is how well a people are governed and not how the government in question came into being. It is governance and the welfare of the common man that deserves top billing, rather than merely the form of government. Good governance, then, is what is - or at least should be - the ultimate touchstone.







On November 2, 2009 Suicidal bomber entered in National Bank building and blasted him. According to the media reports 35 individuals died and many injured. Reportedly, most of the individuals present in the banks to draw their monthly salaries .It may be mentioned here that during last few weeks suspected foreign sponsored militants have struck Pakistan several times, killing about 250 people. In the evening again near Babu Saboo Interchange two suicidal bombers came in the car and blasted them once they were stopped by the police personals on duty located In this blast 15 police personals have sustained injuries. The current blasts reveal that foreign hand have hijacked the Pakistani Taliban militant movement and speeded up their intrigues against Pakistan. An army offensive in a Taliban stronghold area is progressing well and determined security forces under the government direction have decided to continue with the operation to defeat foreign sponsored terrorism. The recent terrorists' attacks in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Islamabad and on GHQ are the continuation of series of planned commandos' actions against security forces and innocent people. These commandos are also known as Indian Black Cats and American Black Water terrorists' organization.

The Taliban fighting in Afghanistan have already refused to help militants operating in Pakistan. It is worth mentioning here that nation is fully supporting army in elimination of terrorism. Anti Pakistan forces are not digesting security forces success, since win over militants would bring stability in the country which is against their set design. There are reports that recently established "Indio Israeli Intelligence Agency "(Triple IIIA) has infiltrated their agents through RAAM (Afghan Intelligence Organization) in Pakistan, Iran and China. The agency has hired Afghan citizen and local criminal elements for launching sabotage acts in the said countries. There is a general perception here in Pakistan that USA is not serious in elimination of terrorism in the region. Pakistan time and again asked American to pressurize Indian for storming terrorism but unfortunately Washington's government deliberately closing her eyes over Indian interference. According to media reports, on October 31, 2009 Sectary of State Hillary Clinton has said that USA does not have any evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan. Mrs. Clinton with out going into details said that she has not seen any evidence from Pakistan about India's involvement in Balochistan. She has probably forgotten her General McChrystal argues. The General said that growing Indian political and economic influence in Afghanistan is likely to "exacerbate regional tensions", and accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, and Iran of helping the Taliban. His view would appear to be that Pakistan and Iran can counter India's growing influence in Afghanistan only by assisting those Afghans who are not favourably inclined towards India, and this potpourri is making his job difficult. Gen Stanley McChrystal suggests that Indian influence is "jeopardising US efforts to defeat the Taliban and al Qa'eda extremists. In fact India is funding and providing support to so called Baloch leaders to foment terrorism in Balochistan and rest of the country. Some Baloch leaders on their master's directive are asking government to stop operation and are against the establishment of cantonments in the province. Actually there is no military operation is going on. The purpose of opposing the presence of own army in establishing the posts in own country could be, (1) to carry out sabotage activities in the country with our adversary help freely (2) stopping government in developing Gawadar Port (3) leveling grounds for USA and Indian interference in the region (4) obstructing in development programmes in Balochistan since progress might lose sardars' hold over the general public.

The fact of Indian involvement in Balochistan and Pakistan's tribal areas is no longer a covert plot. The prevailing security environment has provided a chance to our adversary to carry out clandestine operations covertly and openly with a view to create instability our country. Pakistan Army has deployed over 50,000 troops to South Waziristan to take on an estimated 12,000 militants, including up to 1,500 foreign fighters, among them Uzbeks and Arabs. The soldiers captured the hometown of the country's Taliban chief on November 01, 2009. Pakistan Air Chief is also ensuring determined air support to the ground forces too. Pakistan army Spokes man Major General Athar Abbas also very rightly claimed that Taliban are in disarray due to their continue depletion in the current operation. He also said that our enemy country is directly involved in spreading terrorism and ongoing blasts wave. Pakistan Information also mentioned in a joint press conference that Nation will keep on supporting her forces in elimination of terrorism form the country. On November 2, 2009 Major General Athar Abbas also said huge quantity of Indian made ammunition and medical equipment has been recovered from during on going operation. At this moment Pakistan Information minister stated that matter would be taken with India on diplomatic front too.

Moreover it is also a known fact that India has a desire to keep world community away from her Maoist's movement and prevailing communal violence in so called secular country. The investigations of Mumbai Drama and Samjota Express and blasts at Margao in Gao has reveled that wife of state transport minister has a link with Sanatan Sanstha, a right –wing Hindu Group is involved in the blast. Reportedly Lt col Prohit nominated accused of Samjota Express has also illicit relations with the wife of Minister too. The relationship forced her to join Hindu terrorist organization.

The operation against militants was started after taking into confidence of political top brass. In this connection Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani called on General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Aarmy Staff to address the leaders of Pakistan's political parties. At this occasion Genral Kayani gave a detailed briefing on the prevailing national security situation and its ramifications in the future. Lt General Pasha Director General Inter Services Intelligence was also present in the conference. The top political and military leadership condemned recent militant attacks and agreed that these elements pose a serious threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the state. They showed consensus over the eradication of foreign sponsered militancy. Pakistan Army Chief also condoled with the families of victims of the Peshawar blast

Pakistan electronic and print media is very responsible and positive role in elimination of militancy. But a famous Pakistani news group still requires in changing her existing policy which is taking their channel away from the general masses. The anchors should know that 99 % of Muslim Population of Pakistan is in favour of the operation against militancy. Politicians and religious leaders like Imran khan, Qazi Sahib, Dr. Munnawar Hussain and Maulana Fazlul Rehman, Hamid Mir, Kashif Abassi and Dr. Shaid Massood should condemn the Fake Taliban, their brutality and barbarism. The positive contributions toward elimination of terrorism instead of providing forums to the public hated personalities like Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy and Najam Sethi for projecting their anti Pakistan views should be avoided. The media should indicate the involvement of the foreign hands in the recent blasts rather than supporting fake Taliban cause on the name of anti-American sentiments. At the same time Pakistani government should also monitor and keep an eye over Indian and others foreign embassies activities in Pakistan.






Civil society in Pakistan comprises nongovernmental organizations, community-based organizations, think tanks, trade unions, cultural groups, informal citizen organizations, political parties, professional associations, philanthropies, academia, independent and quasi-independent pressure groups and traditional, informal formations such as faith-based organizations, shrines, seminaries, jirgas (councils of elders) and savings groups. These organizations have been engaged in fighting for human rights and against poverty and working hard to boost the living standard of the masses. They have launched campaigns to protect the rights and development projects to lower the rate of unemployment, improve the literacy rate and health conditions and upgrade economic development in the developing country like Pakistan.

The popular mass protest movement of lawyers' fraternity is a fresh example of an active civil society movement in response to the actions of 9th March 2007 and get restored the judiciary, on 22nd March 2009, suspended by Pervez Musharraf, the then president. Civicus, an international alliance of civil society groups, described Pakistan's civil society as a "collection of incoherent voices, conflicting worldviews and opposing interests" characterized by "unresolved struggle between the practices and values of pre-capitalist society and new modes of social life, between authoritarian legacies, and democratic aspirations." According to the report, there are ten thousand to twelve thousand active and registered NGOs in Pakistan. Of these, 59 percent are in Punjab province. Up to sixty thousand NGOs if unregistered groups are counted. Eight thousand trade unions and six different laws under which NGOs have to be registered. The civil society kept the tradition of charity intact as volunteerism has traditionally been a deep-rooted impulse, encouraged primarily by the religious obligation of helping the poor and the needy. During the colonial period, prominent philanthropists established educational and healthcare charities that were open to all regardless of caste, creed or colour. They left behind a legacy that was to guide and inspire many a future philanthropist and volunteer. Charity organizations that were set up in Pakistan after partition drew on the historical tradition of providing relief to the needy. While such charity organizations have rendered invaluable services to the poorest of the poor, they have remained dominated by their founding fathers. Ehdi foundation is rendering wonderful services for the humanity. Development-oriented nongovernmental organizations that sprang up in the country addressed the problems faced by the millions of citizens that had been bypassed by economic development. While the impact of citizens' initiatives for development and poverty reduction might be debated, they have consistently addressed the needs of marginalized communities in the cities as well as the rural areas.

Many of them have opposed the diversion of scarce state resources towards conventional and nuclear defense regimes at the expense of human development. Human Development Foundation (HDF), for example, is providing all round services aiming at the complete transformation of the target population in specified areas. This is being done through basic preventive and curative health facilities, elementary and primary education through formal and non-formal schools, small loans through easy conditions to facilitate small businesses, provision of basic infrastructure, and at the base of all these, the program to mobilize the communities and create an awareness in them for the solutions of their own problems in the backward areas of the country with special focus on the areas of Mardan in NWFP, Lahore and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab, Karachi and Shamsabad (Tando Muhamamd Khan) in Sindh, Zhob in Baluchistan, Islamabad rural area in capital territory and Bugna (Muzafarabad) in AJK.

So far, since its inception in 1990, the HDF has established about 200 non-formal schools and 5 formal primary schools. The organization combines clusters of non-formal schools that are converted into one formal school. The Program also includes Adult Literacy courses that have benefited 3,729 individuals. The Health Program of HDF is based on primary health services with focus on health of mother and child. A total of eight Community Health Centers (CHCs) have been set-up by the HDF Health Program, through which health services are provided at the doorsteps of each household.

The hallmark of achievements is that over 80% of children and 90% the women of reproductive age have been immunized. In addition, Mobile Health Units are also providing services to the target population. The Economic Development Program includes capacity building through technical skills development and total of 9,437 people have so far been trained. For establishment of enterprises, HDF has provided over 75 million rupees in loans through the micro-credit program to about 7,000 people. Under the Sustainable Environment / Community Physical Infrastructure Program a total of 596 projects have been completed that cater for essential needs like provision of safe drinking water, sanitation, solid waste disposal, improvement of irrigation system and creation of healthy environmental conditions. The highlight of our projects is construction of two Delay Action Dams in Zhob area. Some nongovernmental organizations in Pakistan have played an important role in creating awareness on issues such as human and legal rights, women's role in development, and over-population. For women and minorities that have borne the brunt of religious bigotry and social repression, civil society came as a silver lining in dark, gloomy clouds. Advocacy groups have consistently campaigned for repealing discriminatory laws and reforming the electoral process. Civil society lobbying successfully blocked an attempt by the Muslim League government to introduce religious coding of the national identity cards. Civil Society's efforts gave an impetus to the government's slowly growing commitments towards greater gender equality, culminating in Pakistan ratifying the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Oppression Against Women in 1996. The efforts of human rights advocates have led judicial institutions to consider the plight of rape victims, for example, and take their claims seriously. They have thus become more responsive to citizens than in the past.

Today, the number of women organizing at grassroots level and establishing linkages with other institutions is remarkable, even though their impact at wider societal level is not so visible. However, women across Pakistan still continue to fight against primitive social customs and discrimination. Civil society's efforts in this regard entail a slow process, as deep-rooted societal norms cannot be altered overnight. The work of the of the Civil Society Organizations for the welfare of the Pakistani masses has gone unnoticed as they have no proper platform to get together in a bid to give exposure to their projects and share their experiences.

The HDF has resolved the problem by announcing awards for individuals and organizations working in the development sector and rendering outstanding contributions and services in the process of national building during the last five years. This will provide an opportunity to them to get together and know each other.







I was going through some archive articles over BBC News websites about the low morale of Indian Army, quoting that between 2004 and 2006, 408 Indian soldiers took their lives, killed colleagues or died after colleagues ran amok and that out of these 408 soldiers, 333 killed themselves. The figures of year ending 2008, officially admitted by Indian Ministry of Defence as well as other websites were even more depressing. One wonders that Indian Army is not that bad then why there is so low morale among the ranks.

The recent statement of Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor that Indian Army can rustle with China, reminded me of last year incident when I received a call from my fellow journalist friend from Azad Jammu and Kashmir that four Indian Army soldier have crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) and are presently dwelling with a local of Havalian near Chokoti. I rushed for Muzaffarabad to see the Indian soldier with my own eyes. The journey was horrible because of landslides at two locations. It took me over six hours to reach the small village near Chokoti where I found four Jonnies in Salwar Kamiz who were quite tense and apprehensive that some one might report to Pakistan Army about their presence. Their story of accidentally crossing LoC couldn't impress me but I never wanted to embarrass them by confronting as one of the Indian accompanying Junior Commissioned Officer was Kashmiri from Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and relative of host namely Saleem. My Kashmiri journalist friend wanted to cover a breaking story but I requested him to hold on as it was an unintentional crossover and next day we could always inform the local Police. It was three hours long chit chat in which we got the first hand knowledge about various tourist sites in India as well as inside story of Indian Army.

For the reasons best known to them, complains, complains and complains against the Indian Army was the topic but I could feel a spark in the eyes of one of the soldier, hailing from Chandimandar who did not like such things to be discussed with enemy. I still wonder why they crossed over LoC, only to complaint against their country. They praised the Kashmiri food served to them but complained about the poor quality of food provided to the Army troops in India, especially, Junior Commissioned Officers and other Ranks. They narrated a story of Lieutenant General S.K. Sahni who served as Director General (Supplies and Transport) in the Indian Army Headquarters, New Delhi and dubbed him as well as his under command officers as cheat and corrupt.

They disclosed that an inquiry was held against them for procuring poor quality food items for troops fighting insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. He added that although General Sahni retired in 2006 but under Indian Army Act, any retired officer can be called back for court martial proceedings for offences committed during his service tenure that had come to light before or after his superannuation. They disclosed that Court Martial proceedings against him was being held at Headquarter 11 Corps, Jalandhar but the officer approached Delhi High Court and got court martial proceedings stayed. They disclosed that Major General S.K. Dahiya of the Army Service Corps (ASC) while serving at Northern Command, Udhampur was also guilty of corruption and lapses in the procurement of frozen mutton but he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. Likewise, he took the name of Major General Gur Iqbal Singh of the Bareilly-based 6 Mountain Division and disclosed that he was caught with proofs diverting supplies meant for Indian armed forces to the civilian market. They took the names of a number of Commanding Officers and Second in Commands for their involvement in corruption and cruelty towards their under commands. They praised some of the outstanding officers including General Officer Commanding Northern Command for his positive approach. The Junior Commissioned Officer and the soldier from Chandimandar took the names of Major Misra and Colonel Chopra and praised them a lot. However, they disclosed that Hindu officers are very cruel to ranks belonging to minorities, especially Muslims and Christians. I am not very sure about the figures quoted by them but according to them 25% of soldiers of Indian Army are engaged in carrying out menial tasks for their superior officers.

Regarding the tourist attractions, they painted such a picture as if IHK is most beautiful place in the world. They appreciated mountains, valleys, greenery, rivers and streams of IHK. They discussed beauty of Dallake, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Ladakh as well as Srinagar bazaar. They also praised the hospitality of people of IHK and invited to visit them sometime. However, they cautioned that all Pakistanis are required to register themselves at Foreigners Regional Registration office. They disclosed that militants have become a headache for them, especially in Northern and Eastern Command. They disclosed that India has banned internationals organizations and aid agencies to operate in IHK to cover up heinous activities of Indian Army and Paramilitary forces against Kashmiris, which include torture, rapes, murder, staged encounters, genocide and ethnic cleansing. Coming back to articles over BBC News website, even with such a demoralizing record of Indian Army, they are much better than the Western soldiers, who actually refused to obey orders in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There weeping videos are still preserved. The conduct of these foreigners in joint exercises like one in Pune is in front of our eyes when over two dozen of British soldiers fainted. US performance in Jungle Warfare exercises is not worth mentioning with pride. India is a huge country so are its problems. Indian Army can perform better if colonial set-up in the Armed Forces is abolished.

Soldiers and their families must be looked after in the best possible way. Special attention should be paid to their food and health. Last but not the least, minorities especially the Muslims should be considered at par with Hindu officers and ranks and grievances of very personnel, irrespective of the fact that he can be accommodated or otherwise, should be given patient consideration. India must resolve its differences with its neighbours so that its Army should take part in security as well as development of the country.








The election in Afghanistan has turned into a disaster for all who promoted it. Hamid Karzai has been declared re-elected as President of the country for the next five years though his allies inside and outside Afghanistan know that he owes his success to open fraud. Instead of increasing his government's legitimacy, the poll has further de-legitimised it. From Mr Karzai's point of view he won through at the end and showed that nobody is strong enough to get rid of him. For the US President, Barack Obama, the election has no silver lining. It has left him poised to send tens of thousands more US troops to fight a war in defence of one of the world's most crooked, corrupt and discredited governments.

It is not that the Taliban is so strong, but the government is so weak," was a common saying among Afghans before the election. This will be even truer in future. The US and its allies may now push for a national unity government between Mr Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival for the presidency. This might look good on paper, or at least better than the alternative of Mr Karzai ruling alone. But enforced unity between men who detest each other will institutionalise divisions. Its value will largely be in terms of propaganda for external consumption. On 4 November 2008, when Mr Obama won the US election, he must have believed he had been right to take a soft line on Iraq and a hard one on Afghanistan. The former looked much the more dangerous place. Just 12 months later he is discovering that the reverse is true and Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy problem facing the US. It is a more dangerous place for the US and its allies than Iraq ever was.

In Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, a huge majority democratically elected the government in 2005. There was a savage civil war because the fifth of the population, who are Sunni Arabs, did not accept that victory. The Shia did not relish US occupation, but they were prepared to co-operate with it while they took power. Only the Kurds were long-term US allies. In Iraq the state was previously strong and can be made strong again. Above all the Iraqi government had money. Its oil revenues were $62bn (£38bn) last year. The Afghan government has in the past had limited authority outside the cities and it has no money apart from foreign aid handouts.

Another important difference between the two countries is geography. Iraq is flat outside Kurdistan and the great majority live in cities and towns on the Tigris and Euphrates. It is not good terrain for guerrilla fighters in contrast to Afghanistan with its high mountains, broken hills and isolated villages. The Taliban have been able to use safe havens in the Pashtun belt of north-west Pakistan. These areas are now under attack from US drones and the Pakistani army. But the suicide bombers who killed 35 people in Rawalpindi and maimed at least seven in Lahore on Monday showed that the cost to Pakistan of attacking an insurgency firmly rooted in its Pashtun community will be high. One of the few benefits of the Afghan election might be a more realistic understanding in the US and Europe – particularly in Britain – of the mechanics of Afghan politics. These were eloquently summarised in his resignation letter to the US State Department by Matthew Hoh, the senior American civilian representative in Zabul province. He was previously a US Marine officer in Iraq. Mr Hoh makes the important point that the US has joined one side in what is effectively a 35-year-long civil war in Afghanistan.

He sees this as being between the urban, educated, secular, modern Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional Pashtun."The US and Nato presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified," concludes Mr Hoh. "I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul."Mr Hoh's observations are confirmed by opinion polls in Afghanistan. The majority of Afghans do not want more foreign troops. They think their arrival will mean more dead Afghans. The areas where the Taliban is most acceptable is where US and allied planes and artillery have killed civilians. The idea that the US Army is going to turn into a glorified Peace Corps is romantic and unrealistic. Washington and London should really wonder after Afghanistan's farcical election if their political and military investment in the country is worth it. Their policy of propping up and strengthening the central government looks more ludicrous than before. There is something sickening when British troops had their legs blown off securing polling stations where Afghans could vote, when the British-supported government in Kabul was busily fabricating the vote so the presence or absence of polling booths was entirely irrelevant.

It is not one that the Taliban are likely to win, because they rely on the Pashtun community, which makes up only 42 per cent of the population. By the same token they are not likely to lose either. American troop reinforcements would give the anti-Taliban forces control over more of the country but would also intensify the war. The context of greater US involvement will be, thanks to the election, a weaker Karzai government so Americans, not Afghans, will take the vital political and military decisions. To Afghans this means the foreign presence will look even more like an imperial occupation. —The Independent








The government decision to bring the prices of non-urea fertilisers down will be most welcome to the country's farmers. This will require an additional subsidy of Taka 500 crore on top of the Taka 3,600 crore subsidy it committed earlier in the budget. The decision comes immediately after a visiting IMF (International Monetary Fund) delegation has strongly opposed subsidy on agriculture. We are happy that the IMF suggestion has been ignored in favour of a pro-farmer agricultural policy. After all, agriculture is still the mainstay of our economy. Also, the additional amount of subsidy is a paltry one compared to the amount slashed from the earlier Taka 5,785 crore. In fact, the government added Taka 1,500 crore to the allocated Taka 4,285 crore for the fiscal year 2008-9 when prices of all types of fertiliser registered an abnormal rise in international market. But then the prices came down to one-third of that level by the time the budget was being prepared. So, the government move is based on sound judgement.

Last year prices of triple super phosphate (TSP), murate of potash (MOP) and di-ammonia phosphate (DAP) were too high for the majority of farmers and they used urea in excess to make up for absence of those non-urea fertilisers. That is not a wise thing to do because it deteriorates the soil quality, leaving a long-term adverse impact on land. So this time the drastic reduction of non-urea fertiliser prices is aimed at not only arresting any further deterioration of soil but also encouraging farmers to go for crop diversification. Yet this may not be enough incentive if growers, like those of potato, do not get the benefit of a bumper crop while the middlemen do.

Surely the government is proving equal to the challenge of distributing fertilisers at prices affordable to farmers. The other challenge is to reach those in time. On that count, its track record is quite satisfactory though the government should remain watchful as there are forces looking for every opportunity to frustrate such moves. The decision is timely; now its execution has to be carried out with sincerity and seriousness. Let the farmers have no complaint and, rest assured, they will surely return the complement. 









Finally Bangladesh has entered the age of what is known as electronic commerce or more popularly e-commerce. "This is a revolution in the country's trade sector," Dr Atiur Rahman, governor of the Bangladesh Bank, enthused. Others related to the information world were equally excited and hoped that this would substantially improve trade and commerce in the country. But then the new phase in our financial world is not without its problems either.

In a country where internet penetration is at best rudimentary and computer literacy marginal, the impact of the electronic revolution will not be extensive, at least in the short-run. But for the formal sector of the economy like industry and international trade, e-commerce will be of great help. Businessmen are likely to take full advantage of the new opportunity leading to better market efficiency. The new vista will also bring Bangladesh in line with the rest of the world.   

However, the virtual market is not without its problems. A totally new generation of crimes like hacking, viruses and smart card abuses will increasingly become a part of our daily life. Are the crime-busting agencies ready for it? The governor's hint that the financial intelligence unit will look after that part is not particularly convincing as it will need much more than that, as information technology is a fast changing world and we will not only need skilled personnel to man it but also regular updating of skills.  We will, possibly, also need to frame new laws to combat some of the crimes.

Despite the fact that the virtual world is not foolproof we have no choice as the global experience is that the gains outweigh the pains. It is, however, desirable that we remain alert about the potential problems. 









"The Union Home Ministry's ban on pre-paid cell phones in Jammu and Kashmir, has not only left many angry in the state but also put around 20,000 youths in danger of finding themselves without a job…"


The sudden move by the centre to ban pre-paid connections in Jammu and Kashmir for security reasons reminds me of a man caught in a stalled lift. "Let me out! Let me out!" cries the man and outside the lift instead of bringing hammer and screwdriver or whatever else they bring to move a man out of a stalled lift, politicians gather. "This is very sad!" says the first politician. "Very sad indeed!" says the next neta. "Let me out! Let me out of here!" shouts the desperate man in the lift. "What are you going to do about it?" ask the people who hear the cries of the man stuck in the lift. "Are we supposed to do something?" ask the bewildered politicians to each other. "Do something!" shout the people. "Let me out of here!" shouts the trapped man. "This is very sad!" say the politicians again. "Do something!" shout the people. "Let me out of here!" shouts the victim in the lift. "We have to do something!" say the politicians to each other. "What?" they ask each other. "What?" they ask each other again. And then the people watch as the politicians whisper to each other. "They have come up with a rescue plan!" shout the people. "Our politicians will save the trapped man inside!"

"Dear people!" shouts the leader of the politicians, "We have come up with a solution, one that will have nobody trapped in a lift ever again!"

"Hear! Hear!" cry the people. "Let me out of here!" cries the trapped man feebly. "Dear people!" shouts the leader of the politicians as only politicians can shout, "We have decided to ban the lift!"

"Ban the lift?" ask the shocked people. "Yes, no more lifts in buildings, in residential colonies, anywhere! Use the staircase, it's safer. No stalling! No getting trapped…!"

In Jammu and Kashmir, a shell shocked people wonder why pre-paid connections could not have been better monitored instead of being banned, and elsewhere when books are banned, dance bars closed and knee jerk reactions replace well thought out strategies we stare aghast and shake our heads perplexed.          

While in the lift the man's cries become feebler and weaker and finally his voice is heard no more…and the people struggle up and down the stairs …!










Law and order having been the immediate issue, I planned quick restora-tive work.

The Deputy Commissioner and the Superinten-dent of Police were authorised to prevent unauthorised inter-state crossing of humans and merchandise by placing barricade on the known routes with bamboo bar with the help of ansar, police and office staff. Deputy Secretary Abu Hena monitored the operation. He also dealt with the rush for visa and passport. Osmany and other Senior officers of the Home Ministry did a wonderful job to reset the other various departments.

Some issues posed serious problems: (i) The government notified the holders of firearms unauthorisedly, asking them to deposit arms to thanas and other specified places but the response was poor. The Prime Minister next issued notice fixing the last date. After the expiry of the last date police launched firearms recovery drive. Finally, the government engaged armed forces for the job. Because of allegations of excesses in the recovery zeal, armed forces were withdrawn. Thus, a lot of firearms remained in unauthorised hands. With a shattered and inadequate police force it was not possible to score significant success in firearms recovery; perhaps more than one lakh firearms were recovered by the police in this drive. (ii) The role of Lal Bahini and Rakkhi Bahini overlapped with that of the police. There was occasional misunderstanding with regard to arrest and search. (iii) Some political zealots made arrest of subordinate police on charge of collaboration on local complaints. The zeal was curbed when the Prime Minister strongly warned activists. Police Directorate issued circular to the police not to arrest any police without prior order of the Inspector General. (iv) Apart from the loss of life, quite a lot of Police, BDR and Ansar personnel was wounded, maimed and crippled during the Liberation War. They were engaged in light duties in order that they and the members of their family could somehow get along with life. (v) Most police personnel who actively participated in the Liberation War lost their domestic property also. For a start in life they were given some financial help from the meagre Police Welfare Fund The Prime Minister was generous in granting many of them financial help and in some cases home-building gratuitous relief. (vi) For the children of subordinate police, who could be developed into technical hands the Prime Minister gave some money to purchase one bigha and fifteen kathas of land in Indira Road for setting up a technical school.
The government of Mujibnagar decided to form a screening committee composed of a Judge of the High Court, a Vice-Chancellor of a university and a top ranking Civil Servant (known to have no collaborative role), to handle complaints against class-I officers. Delinquent officers were to offer explanation. Proved cases of collaboration would end up in punishment. It was further decided that a high powered committee would be constituted to deal with the hard core other collaborators and in select cases prosecution would be launched under a special legislation to be made.

The government of Bangladesh enacted collaboration legislation by a Presidential Order, 1972 which provided an investigative procedure in which the police investigation was required to be vetted before submission to court for trial. The collaboration cases were brought under the over-all supervision of a pronouncedly honest, sincere and efficient Deputy Inspector General of Police (Md Nurul Huda) who was assisted by a special Public Prosecutor. Accusation of collaboration was measured in terms of the intention of the accused, rather than in terms of a mere act which the accused might have been compelled to do under duress.

It was discovered by the Prime Minister through his personal sources that under the garb of peace committee some AL members of unions, thanas, and districts acted as collaborators to save them and others from the fury of the military officers. Prudently, he decided to grant amnesty to minor collaborators to save his party. This amnesty was not expected by the freedom fighters. The government formed a special committee to find out the collaborators and the committee prepared a list of 195 persons. After the amnesty, the Home department lost the zeal to arrest collaborators and prosecute them. The hard core of collaborators such as arsonists, rapists, etcetera were not, however, given any amnesty. It may be noted that the Constituent Assembly comprised most of the members of the National Assembly and members of the Provincial Assembly. There were actually some cases of death, killing, disloyalty, etcetera in AL. On April 10, the first session of the Constituent Assembly was convened and a Committee of 34 Members was formed to frame a draft of constitution under leadership of Dr Kamal Husain (who was detained in Pakistan with family and children during the Liberation War and released after the defeat of Pakistan. He returned home with Sheikh Mujib on January 10, 1972). The Committee finalised the draft reportedly after consulting British and Indian constitutional laws and practices, amongst others. On November 4, the draft was accepted by the Constituent Assembly and signed on December 14 and 15, 1972. The Constituent Assembly had no law-making power which was exercised exclusively by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The constitution was framed in hot haste without any open debate on the various vital matters. The Attorney General (Advocate M. H. Khandakar) interviewed a selected lot of persons. In such an interview, I had pointed out the following for consideration:

a) There should not be universal adult franchise in an illiterate and poverty-stricken country. Such a franchise would open the floodgate of corruption in the election process;

b) The judiciary should be separated from the executive by a bold stroke of action. From the time of Warren Hastings, efforts of the government to separate the judiciary were frustrated. The functions which magistrates did in the judiciary could easily be done by judicial officers;

c) Public servants in the class-I category should be recruited Ministry-wise for a total service career in the same Ministry;

d) Bangladesh must stop to nationalise industry and other enterprise without having any socialist cadre in the administration and in the labour force. Nationalisation would lead to flight of capital and political frustration of enterprises;

e) There should be compulsory provision for education through Bangla medium, the madrasa system should be modernised on the pattern of medical and engineering education;

f) The framers of the constitution must be aware of the fact that the people of Bangladesh never saw democracy in action and as such, there was chance of mobocracy in the name of democracy;

g) There should be a "second chamber" of intellectuals, professionals, etcetra to check up the legislations of the Lower House;

h) There should be constitution committees for giving suggestions for a good constitution;
i) The Constituent Assembly should hold public debates;

j) Women should have reserved place (minimum 30 per cent) in administration, parliament and judiciary and in commissions, etcetera

The salient feature of the constitution of 1972 will show that the constitution accommodated modern and enlightened concepts of constitutionalism. It was the solemn expression of the will of the people and the supreme law of the Republic. If any other law was inconsistent with the constitution that law should, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. The constitution had a preamble, Fundamental Principles of State Policy such as nationalism, democracy, socialism and secularism. It designed Bangladesh as a Unitary, Independent Sovereign Republic to be known as the People's Republic of Bangladesh, with a one-Chamber Parliament to which the Council of Ministers was responsible collectively. Among other things, the constitution laid down a scheme of independence of Judiciary, gave importance to the Doctrine of Separation of Power of Executive, Legislative and Judicial Organs of the state, each controlled by the constitutional provisions and no Organ generally overlapping the other. Further, the constitution provided for the Doctrine of Judicial Review and Rule of Law.

In the bad year of drought (1974), there was a serious flood causing damage to crops, human habitats, cattle, etcetera. Food grains in the pipeline were not delivered in time as a political vengeance of a powerful country which was annoyed with the government for a deal of jute-sale with a communist country. Gruel kitchens which the government did not like was introduced during the absence of the Prime Minister in the Commonwealth Conference and this measure saved lots of lives. Yet there were about 30,000 starvation deaths because the government food stock was not updated after the Liberation War when food was stolen from the godowns. The discrepancy between book account and actual stock of food misguided the government in its food procurement policy, and this led to acute food inadequacy. The flood intensified mass poverty, destroyed infrastructural projects and created acute foreign currency problems. The Planning Commission (1973-1978) tilted towards a five-year socialist reconstruction of the war devastated economy but failed to immediately mobilise resources and put the productive process into appropriate gear. Bangladesh fell almost unawares into the vortex of international inflation, food and energy price hikes and the protectionist policy of advanced countries. The economic tenets prescribed by the Planning Commission lost their potency in this context. After about three years of confrontation with problems of socio-economic recovery, wide scale corruption, low industrial and agricultural productivity and management crisis in the nationalised sectors and disrupted export, Sheikh Mujib felt perturbed by the unexpected emergence of political radicalism of some of his erstwhile faithful. He decided to take recourse to the emergency provisions of the Constitution to restore order in the economy and polity, toward the end of 1974, and brought about some radical constitutional reforms by introducing one-party (BAKSAL) powerful Presidential rule with nominated Governors to administer the districts from September 1, 1975.


(The writer is retired IG Police and Secretary)








At the Senayan Indoor Tennis theatre, Jakarta, Indonesia one month after the July 17 bombings of the Jakarta Mega-Kuningan business district JW Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels, 75,000 happy children (and their mums, dads and grandparents) jumped and danced to the tunes of Barney the magic dinosaur and Bob the Builder. All the bombers in the world will never make so many children so happy. These young hearts and minds all knew, as the band beat out their favorite bouncy tunes, that with Bob the Builder, "We can fix it" and that at the end of every Barney show, on TV or live, we sing a song about love...

"I love you, you love me

We're a happy family.

With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you

Won't you say you love me too?"


I asked Tommy Pratama, a self-made entertainment impresario who runs Original Productions, if he was not a little crazy to put on a mass entertainment show for children in Jakarta, based on global Western-inspired children's icons like Barney and Bob the Builder, just one month after the Jakarta hotel bombs. Tommy was firm as a rock and with an eye on the future. "The customers decided what to do" he said, "We were sold out 75 per cent overall by the first day on 75,000 seats, and 80 per cent sold out on Sunday before we started." So he was sure that with eight shows spread over three days (two on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday) then he would be successful as the promoter, who takes more of the risks, and can gain a reward proportionate to success. In his business model the people who put on the show run their risks on fixed costs and can do well in relation to good performances.

But he as the promoter takes on higher variable costs, including higher security costs this time. If he judges his market right then he gains proportionate to his higher risks. So he gambled that a show involving performers from Australia, Thailand and the Philippines requiring a team of 100 would not be pushed aside as Manchester United had been and that Jakarta consumer confidence remained high. Tommy Pratama stuck to his guns so that 75,000 happy children, or rather just over half of them happy children, and the rest happy mums, dads and grandparents, could send a message to the bombers that ordinary people want a happy time and not hatred and that they cannot run their lives being terrified of terrorists. Tommy not only defied the terrorists, he also had an eye on the future of mass entertainment in Indonesia and on the promotion and export of Indonesian shows, including traditional culture.

He says that the new government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) should take the promotion of entertainment seriously as in Singapore and Malaysia and use entertainment and happiness to build Indonesia.
Then SBY will go down in history for the children of Indonesia as the President who brought them noodles and happiness. (SBY's campaign song was based on the well-known Indomie noodles marketing ditty, and all the children know it). So Tommy Pratama wants to lobby the President and to suggest a more aggressive policy to strengthen the Indonesian entertainment industry and make better use of it to promote Indonesia and confidence in its future, at home and abroad. President Yudhoyono should not be diverted by the bombers attempts to scare him and the Indonesian people, seeking to undermine Indonesian success and confidence.

He should be like Bob the Builder and tell everyone "We can fix it" and that we should love each other, and not hate anybody, like Barney says. Children already know these things, but we have to tell all the grown-ups, especially those who help the bad people. And we must not let bad grown-ups teach children bad things, but try to teach all the grown-ups to be good.

In Jakarta this August Barney and Bob the Builder showed everybody that they knew how to beat the bombers. Love and build, instead of hate and bomb.


(The writer, a development economist from Jakarta, writes on modernization in the Muslim world and on Islamic banking).


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