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Sunday, November 8, 2009

EDITORIAL 06.11.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month november 06, edition 000343, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  3. 439, 2009

































  2. HOT AIR































The Prime Minister has no doubt expressed his "profound sense of sadness" at the death of Sumit Verma, a patient in need of emergency medical help who was not allowed to enter the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh because Mr Manmohan Singh was delivering a lecture inside on Tuesday, but it will not fetch the slightest comfort to the family of the victim of 'VVIP' security arrangements. Such vacuous expressions of regret have been heard earlier too whenever people have been inconvenienced or have had to suffer on account of security arrangements ostensibly meant to protect 'VVIPs' and 'VIPs' but in reality are no more than an elaborate effort to demonstrate the 'importance' of the person who is being protected. Not only are roads closed, traffic halted and life brought to a virtual standstill in the name of 'VVIP' and 'VIP' security, the policemen on duty are crude and rude with the people as if that, too, is part of the standard operating procedure. The tragic consequences of the ham-handed security arrangements for the Prime Minister during his visit to Chandigarh should serve to draw authority's attention to the urgent need for reviewing the existing system of protecting 'VVIPs' and 'VIPs'. To begin with, those who cannot step out of their homes and offices without disrupting the lives of people should desist from visiting public places. Frankly, the Prime Minister need not have accepted an invitation to give a lecture at the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh — or any other hospital, for that matter — as he knew very well that his presence would cause more than just inconvenience to patients and their relatives. Hospitals and similar public places are not meant for politicians to participate in outreach programmes meant to promote themselves. Such events are best held at the Prime Minister's residence where elaborate conference facilities exist or in one of the meeting halls of Parliament House complex. In the same manner, 'VVIPs' and 'VIPs' in States, too, should restrict their presence in events that create problems for the people unless they can ensure that security arrangements are non-intrusive and create no obstacles.

In fact, if at all the Prime Minister truly regrets the needless death caused by his visit to the the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, he should immediately instruct the Ministry of Home Affairs to instruct the police and other relevant agencies to stop turning 'VVIP' and 'VIP' security arrangements into a public spectacle and hold those on duty responsible for any inconvenience that is caused. Given the threat perception, especially from terrorist organisations, every possible step must be taken to protect the lives of those who hold high office. But this needs to be done with a measure of sophistication; nowhere else in the world, barring in countries where dictators rule and thus need to make a show of their clout and power, is security cover for important individuals either intrusive or obstructionist. Indeed, when our 'VVIPs' and 'VIPs' travel abroad, they have to do without the pleasure of making the lives of others miserable. The death of a critically ill patient has stirred the conscience of the nation and the national outrage is a measure of popular anger. Hopefully, the conscience of our security-crazy politicians, too, will be roused from slumber.>






The arrest of two Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives — Tahawwur Hussain Rana and David Coleman Headley — in the US is telling in more ways than one. First, despite the best efforts of the US administration to seal off America to terrorists, the incident has proved that loopholes still exist in US homeland security. It is true that the American intelligence machinery was able to apprehend Rana and Headley before they could do any harm. But as Rana's advice to another LeT operative on how to smuggle people into the US — evidence which is being used against him in a court of law — suggests, jihadis can still infiltrate America. Although it will be uncharitable to criticise the American authorities for allowing Rana and Headley to operate from the US for so long — the Lashkar men's arrest has provided India with valuable insight on how the National Defence College in New Delhi could have been the target of a terror attack — the episode should force the Obama Administration to re-evaluate its war on terrorism. There can be no denying that Pakistan and Pakistan-based terrorist organisations are central to global jihad. Unless this source of terrorism is effectively neutralised, the war on terror will be futile.

Rana and Headley's interrogation has once again proved that organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and its ilk continue to operate with impunity from Pakistan. This, despite repeated assurances by Islamabad that it was moving to dismantle all terror groups operating from its soil. It is also equally clear that US funding of Pakistan's anti-terror operations is achieving zilch. Not only is there reason to believe that the money is not being used for the purpose intended, there is also a strong possibility that it is being siphoned off to strengthen the terror infrastructure. Yet Washington, DC, believes that its perseverance will eventually bear fruit. This is the reason why it recently sanctioned billions of dollars in civilian and military aid even though Islamabad made it clear that it would not accept any riders. The result is there for all to see. Even though Islamabad has been making a show of moving against the Taliban and other affiliated terrorist organisations that are responsible for the present spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, it has done little to crack down on organisations like the LeT or the Jaish-e-Mohammad. This distinction between 'good' jihadiand 'bad' jihadiexposes Islamabad's reluctance to stop using terrorism as an instrument of state policy to keep Afghanistan destabilised and India on its toes. Unless the US addresses this fundamental issue, Pakistan will remain the epicentre of international terrorism. This time Rana and Headley's nefarious designs were stubbed out before they could be implemented. Next time the world might not be so lucky.



            THE PIONEER




Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind's reiteration of a 2006 fatwa issued by the Darul Uloom, Deoband, calling upon Muslims not to sing the National Song Vande Mataram is a grim reminder that fundamentalist Islam is not only very much alive in India but getting stronger by the day, thanks to the encouragement being provided by the so-called secular political parties. The Pioneer's editorial, "Jamiat's insidious agenda" (November 5) crisply summarises the 25 highly objectionable resolutions that were passed at the recent Jamiat convention. They are nothing short of declaring Muslims a separate nation within our state.

In this day and age the call for Muslims to abstain from watching cinema or television, or the imposition of sharia'h rules for girls above 10 years of age is akin to pushing the Muslim community five centuries back. From time to time we conveniently forget that Islam is a militant, imperialist ideology that cannot tolerate any other world view. It preaches hatred towards those outside the faith. It frowns upon any kind of entertainment. As Ayatollah Khomeini had said, "There is no fun in Islam".

It would be fitting to remind readers of what Winston Churchill had said in his book, The River War: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries…wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world."

What is really worrisome is that the Jamiat convention was attended by the Union Home Minister who did not condemn the insidious resolutions. The resolutions must be roundly condemned by the Government at the first available opportunity. There can be no compromise on our secular integrity.







All those tales of how frankly Devi Lal justified promoting his son also promoted the view that nepotism is an Asian vice. China's 'princelings' dominated the news until the world tired of a phenomenon that explains the political succession from Syria to North Korea. But India is still thought to offer the ultimate example of family solidarity.

It now looks as if Britain might steal our laurels. Oh, there's no equivalent yet of the Nehru-Gandhi clan or of the dynasties that assume an unquestioned right to power in some States. But as an addict of historical trivia, I remember my schoolboy surprise on reading that when England's 16th century Queen Mary Tudor asked the Holy Roman Emperor who she should marry, the Emperor replied he loved no one better than his son, Philip of Spain, whom she subsequently married. The reply made clear that Devi Lal did not invent the 'blood is thicker than water' concept or saying. Men of power acted on that principle centuries before Haryana existed as such.

So, it should not occasion surprise that about 200 members of Britain's House of Commons employed their wives, husbands, children and other relatives on their official staff, their wages being paid by the state. That may have nothing to do with the disclosure that MPs' staff costs went up by eight per cent to £ 59.96 million in 2008-9. But the parliamentary expenses scandal makes it impossible not to link the two.

This aspect of the controversy came to light when it transpired that Mr Tony McNulty, a former Minister in the Home Office, who represents the London suburb of Harrow East, but whose 'main' residence is in London, claimed expenses for a second home in his constituency. Harrow East being only eight miles from his London home, there was no need to maintain a second home there at the taxpayer's expense. He could have taken a taxi whenever he wished to attend to his constituents.

What made matters worse was that though Mr McNulty claimed £ 72,500 for the Harrow house between 2002 and 2008, he did not spend more than 66 nights there in a year. Finally, and to everyone's outrage, his elderly parents lived in the house free of rent. Mr McNulty, who has issued what many regard as a grudging token apology (one columnist called it a "pseudo-apology"), would disagree. He maintains he did nothing wrong, and

Prime Minister Gordon Brown supports him.

In India, he would qualify as a dutiful son. But the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges says he breached official rules for "subsidising the living costs" of his parents. The Parliamentary Commissioner, Mr John Lyon, thinks it inappropriate for an MP to subsidise the living arrangements of anyone other than a wife, husband, partner or children under the age of 18 who still live at home. That was the principle we grew up with. We travelled free on my father's railway pass until the age of 18 when we were no longer deemed dependants.

I remember that when my grandmother came to stay with us, my father paid back to the old East Indian Railway a small portion of the notional rent for the bungalows to which he was entitled and where we lived in Benares, Lucknow and Kanchrapara. His rationale was that he was in effect subletting a portion of the Government property that had been assigned to him. While he, as son-in-law, may have owed a duty to my grandmother, the Government did not.

Such hair-splitting accounting may have been rare even then; it would be very strange, indeed, to find it today in Lutyens' Delhi where Ministers and civil servants and their extended families occupy official bungalows.

True, no British MP has as yet been accused of renting out a portion of his official accommodation as some Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members have been known to do. But several allowed grown-up daughters, all professional women, to stay on without paying any rent in houses for which they claimed expenses. One MP, Mrs Julie Kirkbride, asked for and received permission to extend her flat in a Georgian country house and increase her mortgage for her "growing family". She used the money to build a separate bedroom for her brother who lives rent-free in the extended flat. It sounds like adding a barsati in Delhi except that Mrs Kirkbride's flat is in a gracious mansion set in rolling lawns.

The question of employing spouses and children is more complex. Some wives and daughters are trained office workers. Some have given up other jobs to work for the related MP. Asking them to quit recalls Mrs Indira Gandhi demanding querulously why Sanjay should be penalised — meaning denied the business opportunities he sought — for being her son. In Britain, Lady Thatcher similarly felt her son was discriminated against.

An MP's wife pointed out another dimension of the controversy. If she had just been living in sin ("shacked up" was the phrase used) with him instead of being bound in holy matrimony, there would have been no objection to her working as his secretary. Some partners — the contemporary word for a live-in girl friend or what would once have been called a 'mistress' — do, indeed, work in MPs' offices. No one accuses them of corruption. Being married makes the difference.

Some of these aggrieved wives are working on a scheme to find a way round the difficulty. Their spouses will swap wives. It's not quite as titillating as it may sound for all it means is that each working wife will work for an MP who is not her husband. It might work in some cases but it all depends on finding enough people with matching jobs to change with. Obviously, changes will have to match not only personality but also party: A Tory MP's wife cannot work for a Labour member. They must both hold similar jobs to exchange. Geographic convenience is an important factor. Even if all the out of work wives are catered for, there will still remain the husbands, children and more distant relatives who work for MPs.

It's a difficult matter that the law cannot solve. The British dilemma confirms that civilisational values alone can decide when family loyalty ceases to be a virtue and becomes a form of embezzlement.







With Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai suspending co-operation with the country's President Robert Mugabe over disagreements in power-sharing arrangements, the fragile coalition Government that was formed nine months ago is literally coming apart at the seams. Led by the Southern African Development Community, efforts are currently underway to try and broker some sort of an agreement to establish a stable Government in Harare. But finding middle ground between Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF is no mean task. President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF cronies are determined to continue their almost three-decade-old reign over Zimbabwe and have little patience for Mr Tsvangirai and his democratic ideals. The MDC's victory in elections held last year was brutally snuffed out by a systematic campaign of state perpetrated terror wherein MDC supporters were beaten up, raped, jailed and killed.

The intimidation tactics succeeded and despite the SADC's help in creating some space for Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC in Zimbabwean politics, Mr Mugabe remains firmly in control. With ZANU-PF loyalists in the Zimbabwean Army faithfully backing him to the hilt, Mr Mugabe has been able to crush any force that he has perceived to be a challenge to his authority. He has also exploited the post-colonial syndrome with a great degree of success by branding anyone who questions his supremacy as an agent of Western powers. He has also used this excuse to forcibly seize farmland from the Whites and redistribute it among the Blacks. As a result of Mr Mugabe's policies, Zimbabwe has gone from being known as the 'bread basket of Africa' to a country that is in the midst of an economic meltdown with widespread unemployment and hunger.

It is in this background that another sinister issue has come to light. Three years ago diamonds were discovered in the Marange fields of eastern Zimbabwe. Subsequently, the area was overwhelmed with prospectors and poor Zimbabweans looking to make a quick fortune through the illicit diamond trade. However, late last year Zimbabwean Army troops moved into the area, inflicting all kinds of human rights abuses on the local miners. Reportedly, around 200 people were killed, hundreds more beaten and women rampantly raped by the Government soldiers in the process of securing the diamond fields. Today, the Marange fields are being farmed by Army officers through force and coercion, with profits from the trade going to the ruling ZANU-PF regime.

Harare has been vehemently denying these allegations. But investigation by representatives of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme — an international body that regulates the trade in rough diamonds — earlier this year confirmed the abuses. In fact, member nations of the KPCS met this week in Namibia to consider suspending Zimbabwe from the scheme till the time abuses in Marange cease.

The vast mineral resources of African nations are central to most conflicts there. The issue of conflict or blood diamonds came to light during the 1990s with the civil war in Sierra Leon. High-grade diamonds were being farmed by rebel groups to fund their activities. It was in this scenario that the need was felt to come up with a regulatory mechanism to ensure that these blood diamonds do not enter the legitimate diamond trade. For this purpose the KPCS was set up by a United Nations resolution in 2003 and was backed by the diamond trading industry in the form of a system of warranties introduced by the World Diamond Council. It was envisaged that the trade in rough diamonds would be controlled by the KPCS participants by trading only between member nations after they had put in place a common certification mechanism. The diamond manufacturing and trading companies would then support the KPCS efforts by conducting their trade only on the basis of authentic invoices at every stage of the diamond processing and retailing pipeline to ensure that the diamonds are not funding conflict and human rights abuses.

But the KPCS has only been marginally successful. This is essentially because most of the diamond trading nations face another huge problem: Corruption within the state machinery. As a result, even if a country is blacklisted by the KPCS, the illegal diamonds find their way into the global trade through an active KPCS member nation.

In Zimbabwe's case the Government itself is guilty of fuelling the trade in blood diamonds. Therefore, even if the KPCS suspends Zimbabwe's membership — which is unlikely given the support Harare has from other southern African nation — the conflict diamonds will find their way into your nearest jewellery store through Mozambique and South Africa, which is an established illicit diamond trading route. Unless the international community finds an effective way to stifle the use of Africa's mineral resources to fund decrepit regimes and bloodthirsty guerrilla groups, all human rights efforts in the continent will be in vain.








As West Bengal explodes in a series of political encounters, beginning with Khanakul in Hooghly on November 1 to Nanur in Birbhum on November 3 in a swathe that touches the constituencies going to the polls on November 7, it is apparent that force rather than reason are the preferred tools of the political class in this State.

The Communist Party of India(Marxist), it appears, is fighting to recover lost ground following the shock of a series of defeats — panchayat elections in 2008, Lok Sabha election in 2009, by-elections and civic elections in between. The Trinamool Congress has not begun its counter offensive as yet. Its response, in so far as Ms Mamata Banerjee is concerned is to threaten bandhs and road blocks.

In circumstances such as these, the appeal by the veteran Marxist leader, Mr Jyoti Basu, seems to have been badly timed, ill advised and entirely inappropriate. His appeal of November 1, calling for a conscience vote by voters, from the Congress, the disgruntled from the Left who had withheld support after 2006 in the interests of West Bengal's future, its development and progress, instead of altering the political debate has proved itself to be irrelevant.

In the hands of an adroit leader, vastly experienced in sensing moods even before they become manifest, a cryptic message delivered to voters would be a potent weapon. Success, to some degree, could have been guaranteed if Mr Basu was well enough to fan the spark he ignited with his appeal to Congress voters on the eve of the crucial cluster of by-elections in West Bengal.

The onus to rescue the State from the crisis — of opposition assisted violence that has converted the State into a Maoist theatre of war — has moved from CPI(M)'s loyal voters to the party's disgruntled ranks, to Congress voters and by extension Congress leaders. West Bengal's politics, hitherto congealed in an ugly mix of hate and violence, may not change overnight; it may not change at all. But the appeal has been launched and its effect may fizzle out or grow.

With violence erupting in West Bengal it is inconceivable that Mr Basu's appeal will have any takers. On the other hand, given the violence the appeal to restore stability, peace and progress may have a different kind of allure. But, without the formidable skills of Mr Basu in using any weakness to create a breach through which a breakthrough can be achieved, it is difficult to imagine how a clumsy CPI(M) leadership, harassed and often looking hapless by an opposition that is careless of what tools it employs, will handle the inevitable aftermath of violence.

As West Bengal moves inexorably deeper into crisis, it seems as though the two principal foes are fighting a war of annihilation. The turf wars in Khanakul or Nanur or Nandigram or Singur reflect the intolerance of the political parties to the presence of rivals. The issue that made the opposition an attractive idea: The CPI(M)'s alienation from its voters: Because it ignored the peasant's anxieties over land acquisition, its reckless pursuit of investments for industrialisation, the corruption of leaders and the abuse of power by the cadres, the opportunistic identification with the party, the shelter it provided to anti-social elements: Is no longer relevant.

The issue has changed from rescuing maa, mati, manush as per Ms Banerjee's slogan from CPI(M)'s exploitation and oppression to a fight for territorial occupation and control. Voters are captives on the territories where they are rooted. Occupation of a particular turf seems to imply that the bulk of voters will also shift allegiance.
The turf wars, the violence that escalated as the Maoist presence grew is familiar, even though it is not a re-enactment of the early-1970s. In the hey-days of the Maoist movement, there was violence, there were killings, there were police encounters and there were raids. The difference was that the CPI(M) was out of power and on the defensive. The difference is that the CPI(M) is in power and still on the defensive, because the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists have targeted the Marxists.

If the deadlock is to end, a political gambit is necessary. Perhaps Mr Basu in his wisdom felt that an appeal for a conscience vote for stability-peace-progress would percolate and take effect, if not by November 7 then by 2011. In a situation where there is no politics other than hate and violence, a call to reason is perhaps futile.

But there is sense in Mr Basu's appeal, which has provoked the Congress, as a party, to react. In seeking a way to restore to the voter the power to make reasoned, sensible choices that affect, short and long-term interests, Mr Basu is calling for a return to normalcy. He is also asking voters to be discriminating. In other words, he is asking voters to cut off the supply of heat to the political leadership. If Mr Basu were active, the appeal would have had considerable force. His ability to persuade was awesome. He did it over the CPI(M)'s rigid position in 1996 over participating in a non-CPI(M) led Government at the Centre. By forcing his party to "withdraw" from the 1972 elections in West Bengal, declaring that it was entirely rigged, Mr Basu sold the idea of the CPI(M) as a principled political party to voters in 1977 apprehensive over its record for turbulence and agitational politics.

In an indirect way, Mr Basu is also asking the CPI(M) to rethink its position on perpetuating the break up with the Congress. It is, therefore, intriguing that the super sensitive CPI(M) leadership has not ignored the gambit. Instead, Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury has officially responded by describing it as sage advice from India's oldest statesman.








Why is the BJP unable to deal with its Chief Ministers from Kalyan Singh to Uma Bharti to BS Yeddyurappa? The party had to replace then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh because he refused to change his style of functioning despite warnings from the central leadership. But the NDA was in power then and the leadership was strong at the central level.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi does not like any interference in the affairs of his State. Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje also refused to change her style of functioning despite complaints from the BJP local unit and the RSS. She continued her defiance when she dilly-dallied about resigning from her position as the BJP's legislative party leader. Now the BJP is faced with the same problem with a powerful section in Karnataka rebelling against Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and is on a 'oust Yeddyurappa mission'. The sad story is that despite getting a foothold in the south for the first time, the BJP is unable to manage the State on account of its own problems.

The present crisis is mainly due to mismanagement and the ego trip of Mr Yeddyurappa and the rebels led by the powerful Reddy brothers of Bellary who are Ministers in his Cabinet. The tussle is for control over the prosperous mineral rich Bellary region and more clout in the Government.

Mr Yeddyurappa, who should have noticed the signs of unrest, should have taken steps to nip it in the bud. On the contrary, he allowed things to simmer that today his own position is shaky. The Reddy brothers have acquired clout because of their ability to fund several legislators during elections and these legislators owe their loyalty to them and not to the party. The dissidents are attacking the Chief Minister and his close associate Panchayati Raj Minister Shoba Karandlaje for interference in other Ministries. It reminds one of then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh and the alleged influence of his close associate Kusum Rai.

The crisis in Karnataka is also due to the State-level rivalry between BJP general secretary Anant Kumar and Mr Yeddyurappa. In the Brahmin-Lingayat power struggle, it was Lingayat leader Yeddyurappa who won the battle. The party decided to keep Mr Anant Kumar at the centre, leaving the State to Mr Yeddyurappa. With the loyalists accusing Mr Kumar of engineering the present revolt in the State Cabinet, apparently this formula has not worked well.

One of the reasons for the delay in resolving the present crisis is also due to the fact that the BJP central leadership is weak. BJP chief Rajnath Singh is a lame duck president and is on his way out. Leader of the Opposition LK Advani is not as strong as he used to be when a word from him was considered law. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is out of the political scene. The second-rung leadership is fighting for the cake. In such a situation, the State legislators are not ready to listen to the central leaders.

It is money that speaks as most of the rebels had won their seats with the help of the powerful Reddy brothers and what they say they will follow. With a weak leadership at the centre as well as in the State, it is only natural for the crisis to continue.

Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy has also emerged as a player if one goes by the rumours. Insiders say that he, being the business partner of the Reddy brothers, has a lot of influence with them and is keen to destabilise the Yeddyurappa Government.

The first priority for the BJP is to save the Government, irrespective of whether Mr Yeddyurappa remains or goes. So the crisis has to be resolved with a give-and-take attitude. The new formula should include keeping Mr Anant Kumar away from meddling in the affairs of the State. Using the influence of Ms Sushma Swaraj with the Reddy brothers may keep them under check. Ms Swaraj has been nursing Bellary since she fought and lost elections from there. Clipping the wings of Panchayati Raj Minister Shoba Karandlaje may mollify the dissidents. The Chief Minister should undertake a Cabinet reshuffle to maintain a balance and also address the concerns of the rebels. The Reddy brothers should be mollified and Yeddyurappa should do everything in his power to restore the balance.








There are a group of people who believe that innovation in the finance area should not be curtailed and market should be given a free run. These market fundamentalists have been variously questioned. Studying a pattern and doing content analysis is an effective learning instrument. A conference of International Institute of Finance was held in Athens in summer of 2007. It was a high powered conference, they were then discussing whether hedge funds and private equity funds should be asked to disclose their business or be asked to disclose their numbers. In that international gathering, no one even talked of whether they should be regulated. The flavour of times was free market and the approach was of promoting and encouraging innovation. Incentives and bonuses were amongst the instruments thought to promote it.

Then came the slump; and the state auditors got into action. The lavish earnings which actually came in the way of some in 2008, was almost parallel with the slump. It involved people getting mind-boggling perks. People got all varieties of bonus, and some bought themselves private jets. The immediate advantage for the person who was doing it within a system within a financial company led to such things happening. Clearly, nobody was supervising, much less regulating.

A moot question which to this day remains unanswered in an institutional mode is whether that was all something like a private contract or was it something which could lead to public harm? The question is not as complicated as it seems. If there are two persons in a room who are venturing with their own money and they are not borrowing money from anybody, this may be something between the two of them. But, if there is something where public money is involved, where money kept in fiduciary capacity, then somebody has to supervise and look at it. It was not happening enough when the so-called 'slump' took place and it is not happening adequately even today.

One thing is clear — when there is a company, the company is taking a credit risk. If the company is exporting or importing, it is taking a foreign exchange risk. The truth is they are taking an interest rate risk on the economy. So, one has to hedge. There is a natural case for you, a business case for you to hedge against your normal business — whether it is an interest risk or a credit risk or it is a forex risk. It has been a sad day when speculation became so important even for the corporate. The examples are many in India. Some sugar companies in India, or some auto component suppliers or some exporters in India who are exporting their merchandises started hoping that 30-40 or even 50 per cent of their revenue will come from their forex hedging. Clearly, it was not their core business. Consequently, when the hedge went against them, several of them went to various courts all over the world saying they did not understand this instrument. One can only wish they had realised it earlier. So long as they were minting money, they never went anywhere and when they lost money, complainants started saying they did not understand it and courts must provide protection!

Whatever be the instruments or systems which are being implemented in or are being planned for India, one has to accept that flow of capital will happen either way. All monetary policies, all regulatory architecture and all instruments have to be fully prepared for eventualities of huge amount of flow capital. It is interesting to note that the amendment in 1999 of the Securities Contract and Regulation Act began the process for creation of exchange-traded derivatives. It would be interesting to recall that India has a contract law where its Section 30 says that wagering contract is not legal. Any sort of wagering is not permitted and that is why this law provides that if trading is happening in exchange, exchange trading means that one party does not know which is the counterparty is. It is anonymous order-driven on the screen. So that was allowed. So, exchange derivatives are allowed and this led to creation of index futures, followed by single-stock futures, index options and single-stock options. There is a story of the ups and downs of interest rate derivatives. But, that is another matter and there are certain turf issues between the SEBI and the RBI.

That is how our financial systems work and clearly, they need attention!








THE Lashkar- e- Tayyeba terror is closer than we thought. After the dastardly terror attacks on Mumbai last November, there haven't been any attacks by terrorists from outside the country, but with the arrest and prosecution of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana in Chicago by FBI officials, it is apparent that an audacious plan to attack the National Defence College in New Delhi was in the making.


That two elite boarding schools — Woodstock and The Doon School — were also on the terror hit list is all the more chilling.


As was more than evident in the 26/ 11 attack last year, terrorists are well- trained — with military capabilities, are able to destroy targets using the most advanced weaponry, and most important of all, they have nothing to lose as they go into a mission knowing they are going to die.


Which is why, it is critical that India, along with other countries affected by terrorism, share intelligence and make valuable inputs available to each other so that counterterrorism measures mean that such plots are negated even before they go into execution stage.


The US effort to nab Rana and Headley was a unilateral one, and it was only after the targets were shown to be Indian did they share the news with the Indian authorities. However, with both the Intelligence Bureau and Research & Analysis Wing teams already in the US to find out more about the plots, it would give a great opportunity for investigators in both countries to exchange more than just a few notes about this case.


India can only gain from this symbiotic relationship, and with India's experience in gathering intelligence in the region, the US authorities will be able to make headway in partly abating, if not eliminating the terror threat here.







PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh is right to be irked over the absence of most concerned chief ministers from a conference on the implementation of the landmark Forest Rights Act. Tribal people form a significant component of the Maoist insurgents who are now in effective control of some 180 districts of the country. Yet the only chief minister who showed up was Navin Patnaik of Orissa; the others were represented by ministers and officials dealing with tribal affairs. Our chief ministers are zealous in guarding their turf when it comes to law and order, yet an important meeting with a bearing on the subject is treated with casualness.


As the Prime Minister pointed out in his address, the systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of tribal communities has come to a head. But nothing could be done in the lengthening shadow of the gun. On the other hand, he lamented the lack of committed and competent officials to provide governance to the tribal regions.


The quality of governance is evident from the sheer scale of the evidence available of the money that former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda allegedly made through corruption. One estimate puts it at a fifth of the state's annual budget.


The battle against the Maoist challenge is bound to be a complex one. It requires action on multiple fronts — the police, administration, judiciary, development and so on. Constitutionally the responsibility falls on the CMs of the various states to get their individual and collective act together.







THE controversy over Jamiat Ulema- i- Hind's resolution against Muslims reciting Vande Mataram is uncalled for. Hindutva elements employing the obnoxious ' cricket test' to claim that Muslims are anti- India have made this an issue. And the ulemas have reacted along predictable lines. Both are wrong because the issue of whether or not someone should sing Vande Mataram is, or ought to be, a matter of individual choice, not a test of nationality or religious affirmation.


That is the meaning of the freedom that our Constitution gives us.


Home Minister P Chidambaram has played into the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party by sounding defensive about attending the Deoband conference where the resolution was adopted. The BJP is in complete disarray and is desperate to find issues that help it regain its relevance. For the media and the Congress to join issue with it here only aids its divisive agenda.









IT IS difficult to raise any voice of sanity and wisdom in the war- like atmosphere with regard to the State- Maoists collision that is capturing the headlines for the last two weeks. In this atmosphere the national political class is feeling a sense of exhilaration.


With what is called the national media, particularly the TV channels, clamouring for the blood of the Maoists, it seems that the members of the capital's political class have to now jostle with each other to sacrifice themselves at war's altar and save the nation from bloodthirsty Maoists.


Instead of appreciating the decision of the West Bengal government to release adivasi women from jail, held there on fictive and flimsy charges, the political class is now crying for the blood of the West Bengal Chief Minister. Likewise, instead of appreciating the Maoists' decision to scale down their terms for release of the apprehended police officer, this is now portrayed as Machiavellianism and nefariousness of the Maoists.


With such advice all around, we shall not need Pakistan for a war; we shall soon have a theatre of full scale war in West Bengal and the adjoining regions, a replica of the Northeast in the heartland of the country.


Both central and state governments require better advisors— wise, appreciative and innovative of peace efforts, and above all sagacious, and thus knowledgeable of the art of peace making. These advisors, unlike the present lot, must not be selfappointed security specialists who only create horror, what the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls liquid fear , and live off that fear by selling sound bytes.


Remember how the peace process in Andhra Pradesh was sabotaged and eventually destroyed about six years ago? It was destroyed by the national security lobby, the intelligence, and the jingoist media whose members would have lost bread if peace had returned — peace for which some of the eminent citizens of the state ( known as Concerned


state ( known as Concerned Citizens' Initiative), a few politicians ( including some from Congress and Telegu Desam), and the Maoists had worked, showed courage, and had taken the first tentative steps — though not in coordination and often at cross purposes.



In any case the Maoists had as a result come out of the underground bases, reached Hyderabad, started talks, and then, we have to recall, had to go back empty- handed, losing on their way back a few of their leaders. And the result? Retaliation, more anger, and more brutalisation of modes of engaging the State.


Recent West Bengal incidents including the forcible stoppage of a Rajdhani Express train to make the demands of justice known force us to decide now: What do we want? Peace of the grave or peace of the brave? We have to decide also, are we to gradually create trust towards State- Maoists dialogue and therefore suggest trust creating measures, or mount an all out war against a section of citizens of the country? But more important, we have to decide: How do we take the open statements by the Maoists? Are they attempts towards fake publicity or the first uncertain steps by an underground party to come out and open talks? On this will depend how to interpret their actions of taking into custody a police officer or a train (!).


It should be clear that these attempts to take into custody an individual or a train or storming a party leader's house resplendent with wealth of the poor population around have been accompanied by minimum of bloodshed, a great deal of caution, planning, and intelligence, in short, minimalviolence. The signal is unmistakable. There is ground to interpret these actions as gestures , as the first signs of a dialogic situation.


War studies tell us how the first efforts towards conversation begin and trust networks form and spread.


Yet we tend to ignore this fact, also the fact that many more lives are lost and killed in operations and encounters — often with high civilian casualty. Terror and terrorist , the two appellations now attached to the Maoists by the government and the media through extra- ordinary laws, briefings, deployment of personnel, and media campaigns, will help none except the security lobbyists.


Liquid fear is when fear is exaggerated, multiplied, and made form- less, so that it spreads like thin gas. Liquid fear is the staple diet on which from now on we shall be asked to live.


Think of the attitude of the West Bengal government ( or the Union government) to veteran politicians like Rabi Ray, literary figures like Arundhati Roy, civil liberty campaigners like Sujato Bhadra, and several others, who call for sanity, restraint, and wisdom. The government taunts them, ridicules them, and openly says that exceptional measures are the only answer.


The government does not want to give peace makers any chance.


If you now call for peace in West Bengal you are then a sympathiser of the terrorists and are likely to be picked up by the police — exactly as in the sixties and seventies of the last century it was a crime for you to be young. Police would be waiting to pick you up. This has happened elsewhere also.


One of the problems on the path of peace is that most of the hack writers egging on the government to be militaristic are not literate in the relevant field of peace studies. Take for instance the controversy around Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, an understanding of which is necessary in order to create a middle space between two adversaries in an internal armed conflict. What defines internal armed conflict ? Is it enough to say that this not an international war? What will ensure the recognition of an armed adversary so that talks can begin and humanitarian purposes can be met?



As we know, recognition, legal recognition of ' the party in revolt' or ' the insurgents' depends not only on possession of ' an organised military force, an authority responsible for its acts, and acting within a determinate territory' but also on the de jure government recognising ' the insurgents as belligerents, ' the insurgents ( having) an organisation purporting to have the characteristics of a state', and so on. The de jure government will never like to give that recognition lest its freedom to take certain recourse is curtailed.


Therefore the law of proportionality, ensuring safety of the civilians, etc.will be never followed.The law of internal armed conflict therefore fails. The politics of war can be tamed not by the laws of war but by a politics of dialogue, of which one expression can be pluralism of avenues and talks. The casualty of not understanding this will be both human rights monitoring and humanitarian assistance in conflict.



While therefore the government will keep on promising us long and pleasant life, that life insurance will be henceforth connected with a death command.


To be sure the Maoists like many other rebels will take a long time to learn the art of peace and dialogue in order to press forward the demands of justice.


They may have learnt to some extent the art of war, but not the art of peace.


Meanwhile many lives will be lost, many more will be brutalised, still many more terrorised, and traumatised.

With so many individual killings, any sense and ethics of freedom will be gone.


Perpetual recourse to violence will impact on the Maoists themselves and badly alter their political nature. They will not learn how to govern, more importantly self- govern, as they will keep on copying the methods of the State whom they fight. This is evident to some extent already in Nepal. The need to keep violence at the minimum level is permanent, and therefore the acts of the Maoists in killing individuals, not in self- defence or clashes but as punishments, are condemnable.


All the more therefore is the need to understand and appreciate the signals of deliberately keeping violence low and attempts to converse. The responsibility of those who govern is immense in this respect.



Power must be linked up with the principle of responsibility.


The writer is a well known social scientist and Director, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata








IN A REMARKABLE shortterm achievement, Mr Asif Zardari, the leader of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and President of Pakistan, has managed to irrevocably alienate the army, judiciary, media and civil society. The angry public is already groaning under the weight of unprecedented inflation and shortages of basic necessities like energy, sugar and wheat. The opposition led by Nawaz Sharif, needless to say, smells blood and is moving in for the kill.


Mr Zardari sounds clever and cunning but has proved to be politically naïve.


After the 2008 elections, real politik demanded an " unholy alliance" between Mr Zardari's PPP and President Pervez Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League Quaid ( PMLQ) as originally envisaged by Benazir Bhutto when she cut a deal with the General that enabled her to return to Pakistan and win the elections. But Mr Zardari's personal ambitions came in the way. He allied with Mr Sharif to oust President Musharraf and then reneged on his public promise not to pocket the Presidency himself. This didn't go down well with any section of state or society. The army and media, in particular, didn't want the " supreme commander" of the armed forces with a sullied past. Like them, the opposition felt wounded by the " betrayal" and began to galvanise its forces.


M R ZARDARI now decided to seize Punjab province from the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz ( PMLN) government by proposing an alliance with the PMLQ. But this was too little, too late. The PMLQ was crippled by the ouster of its mentor General Musharraf and didn't trust Mr Zardari. Nonetheless, Mr Zardari imposed Governor's Rule in Punjab to facilitate the PMLQ into an alliance with the PPP. But the PMLQ was weakened by internal divisions and fumbled the job. Subsequently, the PMLN sought the help of the resurgent judiciary and romped back to provincial power, splattering mud on Mr Zardari's face.


Mr Zardari's third mistake was to renege on his public pledge to restore Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry as chief justice of Pakistan. This created divisions in his own party and enabled the PMLN- led opposition to mobilise the media, lawyers and civil society to launch a long march on Islamabad in early 2009.


Faced with the prospect of violence and civil disturbances, the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, stepped into the fray to " persuade" the Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to persuade Mr Zardari to back off from the confrontation and restore the judges. The stage was now set for the restored anti- Zardari judges to weed out pro- Zardari judges from their ranks and gang up with the anti- Zardari forces outside for the final push.


Mr Zardari did not expect such a destabilising and negative public response to the Kerry- Lugar Bill that pledges $ 7.5 billion in American grants over the five years. Far from it, he expected kudos for bringing US money to shore up the failing Pakistani economy. But the prickly army saw another opportunity in the language of the Bill — which explicitly talks of civilian control of the military — to tick off the Presidency. In an unprecedented move, it publicly raised the banner of revolt, enfolding the PMLN and media in its ranks. Meanwhile, unaware of the gathering storm, Mr Zardari made bold to protect the self- serving National Reconciliation Ordinance, which reprieves him and hundreds of others of past alleged crimes, in Parliament. But a wink from the same quarters put paid to that when Mr Zardari's alliance partners blithely left him in the lurch. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced a stunning anti- NRO stance and the Awami National Party cowered with ambiguity because it is dependent for its political survival on the army's protective umbrella in the NWFP, Swat and Waziristan. Another ignominious retreat here doesn't bode well for Mr Zardari. He is truly besieged. What next? Each of the four " players" in the game to " Get Zardari" has common as well as separate aims. The army wants a President who will back the military's strategy and tactics to deal " appropriately" with India, Afghanistan and America. Mr Zardari's " soft" approach to all three is not appreciated in GHQ. Indeed, his clumsy efforts at home and abroad to bring the ISI under civilian control and urge the army to back the US agenda in Afghanistan have aroused deep suspicion and hostility.


Under the circumstances, the fact that he has his trigger on the gun to fire the army chief is an added affront. So the military would like to replace him with a pliant pro- military President.


But the military also has an institutional memory. It wants to get rid of Mr Zardari but it doesn't want to shift the balance of political power in the direction of Mr Sharif, who sacked two army chiefs when he was prime minister the last time round and makes no bones of his desire to firmly put the army and ISI under civilian control. So the military would like to see PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and a new pliant new President do its bidding at the head of the PPP- ANPMQM alliance without opening the route for Mr Sharif.


Mr Sharif, of course, has other ideas. He wants to ally with the military to weaken Mr Zardari to the point where he is amenable to undoing the 17th amendment that bars Mr Sharif from becoming prime minister again, but not to get rid of him until that objective is achieved. Certainly, he doesn't want to push the system to breaking point, thereby enabling the army to play a dominant interventionist role all over again.


T HE MEDIA and judiciary have their own joint- agenda that is only partly supportive of the army and/ or Mr Sharif. They support the army's " Get Zardari" agenda but they do not want an army resurrection after having jointly got rid of General Musharraf only recently. They also don't want to see an unfettered Mr Sharif back in power because of his track record vis- à- vis both institutions. They see themselves now as key players in any state- power games in the future and will maintain a joint strategy to establish their independent claims and clout.


Everyone wants Mr Zardari to go. But not everyone wants a quick new election that brings Mr Sharif to absolute power.


Everyone also knows there is no way to get rid of Mr Zardari in any constitutionally transparent way. So everyone is ganging up against him in order to hound him into quitting of his own accord. The next big push is expected to come from the direction of the judiciary and media which will highlight past cases of alleged corruption against him and accept petitions challenging his credentials in the presidential election.


Mr Zardari is a much weakened man because of his own foibles and miscalculations.


If he wants to dig his heels in and survive, he will need to ditch his old bag of political advisors who have brought him to this sorry pass and make common cause with Nawaz Sharif. Both leaders need to hammer out a compromise solution — the PPP and President Zardari should be allowed to complete their terms more or less in exchange for relinquishing certain presidential powers and removing the constitutional road blocks to Mr Sharif and his PMLN as the logical successors to the PPP in government.


The army, media and judiciary must not dictate self- serving solutions at the expense of the political parties which, for better or for worse, represent the will of the people.

The writer is editor of Friday Times and The Daily Times ( Lahore)








POOR Asif. He sent me massage that look here. See what MQM and Altaf Hussain have done to me. They have stabbed me in the back. Not at all, I said. They have stabbed you in the front. Asif is surrounded by enemies and enemas. He has played lying, cheating, clumsy game. He thought he could smartout everyone.


He is not a smartie. Faujis, they are smarties.


Jugdes, they are smarties. Media, they are smarties.


Apposition, we are smarties. But one thing even I am knowing, Asif has been implied on the horns of a dilemma. His dalai lama was that if he did muk mukaa with me on Charter of Demo Cracy, made constitutional amendment to alloy me to be PM for thud time, and gave away presidential powers, then he would become dead duck.


I know it is a big dalai lama. But look here, I told him when we fust hugged and made up after the elections — that the enema of my enema is my friend. What Faujis will not alloy you to have, give to me. I will see them.


But what Asif anded up doing is this — neither I will play, nor I will lat you play. Sir jiiii, I told him, they don't like your hello- hi with Amercans. They don't like your hellohi with Indians. They want a president like Musharraf, who said one thing and did another. Who took the dallars from the Amercans and never gave accounts. Who was hands on against some jihadis but hands off against other jihadis. Then Asif said but in this uncertinity, there can be no dev lopment. Oye leave it ji, I said, who cares about eco nomy? Who cares about dev lopment? I gave him some frank adwise. I told him tell Faujis that Presidents are not like calendars that you can change them every month. Also tell them that three things are not worth running after.


One is bus, the other is woman and thud is pliant politician.


Because there will always be another one shortly.


Ok, ok, he said. I will take your adwise but fust take this beautiful new Ferrari and test drive it to Lahore on the Motorway. Don't take, my advisors said, he is trying to divert your attention. Oye, what goes of my father, I asked, hain ji? On the way, problem was. I ranged Asif and said " there is something wrong with your Ferrari, Asif". " Oh really?" he said, " what's the matter?" " I think so there is water in the carburetor" I said. " Don't worry" Asif said, " I will immediately send the Minister for Science and Technology. He will remove the water from the carburetor. Where are you?" " Actually, I am in the Chenab in the Ferrari" I said.







BIHAR'S ' deeply religious' director- general of police ( DGP) Anand Shankar often dons the mantle of a preacher. It was the turn of the businessmen to be at the receiving end of his sermons on Wednesday.


Shankar advised the traders to donate at least 10 per cent of their profits to serve the poor. " This is what has been prescribed in most of the religious texts," he said.


Quoting extensively from ancient scriptures, Shankar told the traders that if they did not donate for a noble cause, their money would be spent in courts and hospital.


The businessmen were lectured when they placed a charter of demands, including better policing to protect their community, before the DGP at an interactive police- traders' meeting. Shankar was the chief guest convened by the Bihar Chamber of Commerce ( BCC) in Patna.


Welcoming the DGP and other senior police officials, BCC president P. K. Agrawal suggested a few steps to improve the policing in the state. He said the police force should be modernised and more outposts should be set up. Among his other demands were facility for online registration of FIRs, clearance of traffic snarl- ups and good behaviour of the policemen.


Shankar heard their demands patiently before commencing his address by reciting the shlokas ( hymns) from Bhagwad Gita, which he had carried to the venue. He By Giridhar Jha in Patna Bihar DGP Anand Shankar ( right) at the police- traders' meeting in Patna.


then asked the businessmen whether they were ready to change themselves for the betterment of society. " Will you come forward to donate 10 per cent of your profits to serve the poor who are still deprived of the basic amenities?" he queried.Shankar's sermons bore fruit, as the traders' body agreed to open one outlet of free roti- sabji for the poor in Patna. But the police chief opined that it should be opened in each city of the state.


The DGP also advocated setting up of a welfare centre through donations, where the poor and the hungry could get meals and the homeless could get a roof over their heads.


He said the state's policemen were saddled with overload of work. " A CBI officer handles one or two cases in six months whereas a station house officer has to deal with 10 cases at a time," he said.A tough cop who does not mind wearing the spiritual side of his personality on his sleeves, Shankar is known for frequently visiting temples across Bihar. He has also been embroiled in a row over the big tilak ( vermillion) that he sports on his forehead.


The Bihar Policemen's Association had accused him of violating the Police Manual by doing this. But the allegation was levelled only after the DGP had directed the office- bearers of the association to wear police uniforms instead of dhoti- kurta in their duty hours.


Soon after assuming charge this year, the DGP had also asked the policemen to " run their homes with their salaries alone" — a statement which earned him brickbats from the state's policemen.






IN AN apparent concession to China, India on Thursday disallowed foreign journalists from covering the Dalai Lama's week- long visit to Arunachal Pradesh beginning November 8.


The government revoked passes issued to seven journalists, including two from the Associated Press and one from The Times , London.


Sources said these journalists were turned back from the Guwahati airport where they were about to board a helicopter for Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. Foreigners require Restricted Area Permits, issued by the Union home ministry, to visit Northeastern states. Indian journalists working for foreign media organisations have so far not been barred.


Reacting to the ban, Heather Timmons, president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club, said he was " incredibly surprised and disappointed" that permits had been cancelled. The Indian government is yet to comment on the development.


This is probably the first time that New Delhi has put a gag on covering the Dalai Lama's activities in India.


The Tibetan leader has considerable following in western capitals. The western media has been critical of China's handling of the Tibetan issue.


China is opposed to the Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Earlier this week, it blamed the Dalai Lama for straining Sino- Indian ties.


The Dalai Lama, on his part, said China was overpoliticising his travels, adding his decisions on where to go were spiritual in nature, not political.








AFTER trying her luck with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, socialite and social activist Nafisa Ali has returned to the Congress fold.


The Congress had nearly finalised her nomination to fight from the Lucknow Lok Sabha seat when she chose to fight the polls on a Samajwadi ticket. Nafisa had replaced actor Sanjay Dutt after he was barred from contesting the polls. A senior party leader confirmed that Nafisa has indeed joined the Congress again.


The former Miss World was seen campaigning in Lucknow along with state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi. They were canvassing for party candidate from Lucknow ( West) assembly constituency, Shyam Kishore Shukla, for the November 7 bypolls.



WHENEVER a certain Union minister is scheduled to inaugurate or attend a function, an informal advisory is sent to the organisers — " Please do not garland the honourable Union minister". No, the minister is not allergic to flowers, there is a far more awkward reason behind it. Those in the know say whenever the minister removes the garland, inevitably his wig and hearing aid also come off causing much embarrassment to him.


So, whenever the minister attends a function his anxiety increases if he sees an over- eager organiser with a garland in hand.



POLITICAL circles in New Delhi are abuzz with speculation that the Union Cabinet is likely to be reshuffled on November 10, ahead of the Parliament session.Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are also said to have given final touches to major changes in the All India Congress Committee and the Andhra Pradesh Congress unit.


There is also the likelihood of shuffling state governors. The two leaders have reportedly finalised the nomination of two Anglo Indians to the Lok Sabha.


Sonia has reportedly summoned Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and Andhra chief minister K. Rosaiah to Delhi for discussions on issues concerning their states.Rosaiah will be consulted on the future of the Jagan camp, and a possible alliance with Chiranjeevi's Prajarajyam Party. A date for the Congress legislature party meeting will also be decided to formally elect Rosaiah as the leader of the CLP. A decision on Jaganmohan Reddy's induction into the Union cabinet will also be discussed.



FRUIT merchants in Jammu and Kashmir have stopped sending consignment of apples to Pakistan- occupied Kashmir ( PoK). The traders say they did not get a single rupee for the consignments sent last year. This despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance to resolve issues affecting the cross- LoC trade started a year ago. Traders in Sopore claim not only were they cheated by their PoK counterparts in fixing the prices, but the Rs 14 lakh fixed by them arbitrarily as the price for the supplies received was also not paid.


The Kashmiri traders are upset that the government is doing nothing to help them recover their dues. Hence the best course, they felt, was not to supply any more apples to the PoK traders.





APROPOS of the news report ' Deora calls for safety audit of all oil and gas companies' ( November 4), it is pertinent to observe that every disastrous accident or failure evokes a similar response from the government.


This has become a ritual intended to bury criticism and to put out of sight the flaws in the system. Even while announcing this audit, the government has failed to see the issue holistically.


Safety, security and fire prevention in an oil installation are intrinsically linked and rectifying the shortcomings involves addressing all the three issues simultaneously if similar incidents are to be prevented in the future.


It may be worthwhile for the petroleum minister to order an audit in all the three areas besides ensuring that the standard operating procedures are taken out of the shelves, updated, and rehearsed.


There is a need to conduct training sessions at the level of the senior officers, executives and working hands. Until and unless we work on these lines right at the depot level with sincerity, the deficiencies in the system cannot be set right. It is better to sweat in training than to bleed in accidents.

Brigadier V Mahalingam ( Retd) via email



THIS is with reference to your news report ' SC judges opt out of two RIL cases' ( November 5). The report about Justice Raveendran recusing himself from the RIL- RNRL case raises several questions. The fact is that it is a high- profile case


involving two of India's biggest companies, and which has invited intense media scrutiny.


In this context it is surprising that no one was aware that Justice Raveendran's daughter is working with a law firm that advises RIL, one of the litigants in the case. But further, the manner in which this connection was brought to the notice of the judge forcing him to recuse himself is equally strange.


Ever since the Ambani brothers' spat reached the public domain, there has been no dearth of effort to muddy the waters and to obfuscate the issues involved. It seems that everyone, including the government, has something to hide.


The most obvious fall- out of the judge's action is that the case will get delayed further. It is indeed a criminal waste of the court's time and of the nation. This delay in the proceedings of the case, I am wont to believe, must be benefiting someone. From what we know about how corporate battles are fought, anything is possible.

Shivangi Vasudevan via email



APROPOS of the editorial ' VIP security is more than just a nuisance' ( November 5), it was good to know that the PM was secure, but heartrending to realise that a man lost his life after being denied entry into a Chandigarh hospital.The PM expressing his regret must be appreciated; however, the incident raises some significant questions regarding security protocols. But for the faulty

and cumbersome system coupled with the human sycophancy, time had run out for Sumeet Kumar Verma.

R. L. Pathak via email








The patriotic credentials of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind (JUH) have never been in doubt. Hence the current controversy over a resolution regarding Vande Mataram, adopted at the annual JUH meet in Deoband early this week, is misplaced. The resolution insisted that patriotism didn't require singing Vande Mataram in schools and supported a fatwa along those lines. The reservation among some Muslim groups towards Vande Mataram has a long history and the Supreme Court has indicated that the singing of national song must not be made compulsory for all. The national song is just another prop to celebrate the nation state and undue importance must not be given to it. Singing Vande Mataram must neither be made a test case of patriotism nor should people be obstinate about not singing it.

However, the other resolutions taken up at the JUH meet call for a closer look. The meet has taken an extremely critical - and in our opinion regressive - view of a host of public policies that have been legislated or are in the making. The JUH has opposed the move to decriminalise homosexuality and the Women's Bill that seeks to increase the presence of women in Parliament. Similarly, community members have been told to keep off government-run anti-AIDS programmes and to avoid cinema and television.

The decree against terrorism first pronounced by Darul Uloom, Deoband, last year was an attempt to clarify that political violence in the name of religion was unacceptable whatever be the reason. The JUH too has been active in decrying political violence and has projected avenues offered by parliamentary democracy as the legitimate platforms to espouse political demands. Such a modern political viewpoint is in sharp contrast to the organisation's conservative social agenda. The contradiction is not sustainable and is sure to unravel at some point. The experience of the Taliban is instructive on this count. Sections of Taliban trace their ideology to the Deoband school. The social conservatism of the Deoband teachings - attitudes to women, entertainment etc - is reflected in the political vision of the Taliban. The Taliban idea of a state is merely the political expression of its conservative social vision.

Hence it is important that organisations like the JUH take a critical view of their social agendas. Societies are not frozen in time. They are constantly evolving. Organisations that seek to represent communities must engage constructively with change and adapt accordingly. A regressive social agenda will prevent people from making full use of the opportunities offered by a democratic state. Whenever they fail to make sense of changing times, the politics of victimhood looks attractive.







Madhu Koda's meteoric rise would have normally made for a heartwarming story. Once a labourer in iron-ore mines, he won assembly elections from Jharkhand in 2000. Five years later and only in his mid-thirties, he was appointed state minister for mines in a BJP-led government. From 2006 to 2008 he was the Jharkhand chief minister. But now Koda stands accused of being part of a massive corruption scandal and faces the possibility of arrest.

Raids by the Enforcement Directorate and the income tax department over the past few days have unearthed Koda's alleged involvement in illegal transactions worth over Rs 2,000 crore, including several properties and acquisitions abroad. Latest investigations show that the former CM might even have been negotiating to acquire an SEZ in Noida for a staggering Rs 4,800 crore. The scale of allegations against Koda yet again throws the spotlight on corruption in Indian politics and the propensity of politicians to amass extraordinary wealth through illegal means.

Koda is by no means the first politician or even chief minister to be accused of massive corruption and to face arrest. Former Bihar CM and Union minister Lalu Prasad had been implicated in the multi-crore fodder scam, which first came to light in 1996, and was jailed for brief periods. That year, the CBI seized a few crores of rupees from Union communications minister Sukh Ram's house and subsequently arrested him. Lalu and Sukh Ram are distinguished by the scale of corruption charges against them and the high office they held. There are of course several corruption scandals that have tainted politicians big and small, including former prime ministers. Besides, many of our MPs face criminal charges. In the current Lok Sabha, nearly 30 per cent of the MPs face criminal cases.

In such a situation it isn't surprising that citizens have little faith in politicians. It is unfortunate that while investigating agencies and the media have highlighted corruption in the highest places, these cases have dragged on for years. Though some people have been punished in the Bihar fodder scam, it continues to make its way through courts at various levels. In the Sukh Ram case, a trial court found him guilty 13 years later under the Prevention of Corruption Act for amassing disproportionate assets. Sukh Ram has since appealed the verdict. The time taken to decide these high-profile cases gives the impression that politicians are above the law. If politics and crime cannot be prised apart, that represents the biggest threat to India's future.







While many disagree about how to fix Indian higher education, there is broad consensus that it is, to quote Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, "in a state of disrepair". Most analyses put the blame squarely on the government's shoulders. Higher education has been deeply politicised and as one of the last bastions of the licence raj, lofty rhetoric has typically disguised egregious venal behaviour.

However, much less attention has been paid to the role of business interests in shaping the direction of Indian higher education. Availability of skilled labour is a critical input for all firms, and hence Indian business has an enormous self-interest in the functioning of this sector. One could argue that just as Indian firms have been forced to adapt to chronic infrastructure shortages and disadvantageous labour laws, they have also adapted to the weaknesses of the Indian higher education system.

A surrogate higher education system has evolved and, in particular, workforce skill development is occurring outside the traditional domestic university model - within firms, by commercial providers, overseas, through open-source/virtual learning and in narrow specialised institutions. Investment by Indian firms in an array of workforce skill development practices, including new employee training, continual instruction, performance appraisal systems and university partnerships, have all gone a long way towards improving the skills of their workforce. But these practices are confined to the large corporate sector, which both has the capability to undertake such initiatives and can internalise the costs.


Indian business is also involved in provision of higher education. Where business enterprises offer narrow professional skills, such as training in a computer language, this model has been somewhat successful. But the vast majority of private sector efforts involve the promotion of professional education in fields such as medicine, engineering and business management. These are ostensibly not-for-profit institutions set up as trusts or societies, yet they represent some of the worst aspects of crony capitalism in India, with politicians and business interests colluding to provide dubious education at inflated prices. Government policies have ensured that it is easier for such suppliers to enter higher education than for genuine philanthropists. Professional associations, even statutory ones like the BCI and MCI, have largely failed to regulate the quality of these institutions - a testimony to the failure of the professions to self-govern.

But while Indian business has been somewhat successful in securing its short-term interests by aggressively pursuing skill development programmes, it has shown a striking absence of any long-term strategic vision with regard to higher education. No world-class higher education institution anywhere in the world makes profits. Great universities produce knowledge - where knowledge is a public good. Consequently all such institutions require subsidies, whether through the government or private philanthropy. Despite rapidly increasing wealth within the Indian corporate sector, private philanthropy has had very little impact on higher education.

The commitment of Indian business to philanthropy in higher education was strong prior to independence and has dwindled ever since. Pre-independence, business interests not only made the transition from merchant charity to organised professional philanthropy, but did so in a significant way. They created some of India's most enduring trusts, foundations and public institutions, including the Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Millia, Annamalai and Indian Institute of Science. Of the 16 largest "non-religious" trusts set up during this period, 14 were major patrons of higher education.

Today, the so-called not-for-profit educational institutions do not engage in philanthropy. Their income comes from fees rather than endowments and investments. Thus even while the number of "trusts" set up for philanthropy in higher education has been steadily rising, the total share of "endowments and other sources" in higher education funding has been consistently falling - from 17 per cent in 1950 to less than 2 per cent today. Some of this decline is to be expected, as the government has expanded its role in higher education, yet the extent is remarkable. Furthermore, donors today are more likely to retain effective control over the resources they contribute.

But Indian business has much to explain for a more egregious failing: for the most part, it sees little value in research and even less in building quality institutions that produce good research. This is manifest most starkly in its unwillingness to fund even world-class think tanks, let alone an outstanding university. The reality is that most Indian business elites' children study abroad, not in India. The sad implication is that this reduces their stake in lending a badly needed voice to genuine higher education reform in India.

It is extraordinary how much energy and capital Indian corporate titans are willing to commit to summits, conclaves and the like, where photo opportunities and power-point presentations pass off as the epitome of deep thinking and real insight. Yet, for all the posturing by Indian business elites and their courting of universities in the West (especially in the US), the notion of Indian business coming together to fund research centres that produce knowledge and provide quality education accessible to all sections of society in India does not seem to be on the horizon.

The writer is director, Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, US.







I wonder if the Indian government's decision to extend permanent residentship to exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen is going to make any difference to her nomadic existence. It's been 15 years that the controversial author has been scouting countries for a place she can call home. She did find a temporary refuge in Kolkata for some time but those in charge of Islam shook her haven one fine afternoon, forcing the administration to show her the door. That was in 2007. Near-riots broke out on the streets of Kolkata, buses were burnt, stones pelted and chaos reigned as a radical group maintained that she had no right to stay in the city or the country till she gave an unconditional apology for writing what she did in her book, Dwikhandito. Taslima initially refused to take those supposedly anti-Islam pages off her book but in the later editions they were deleted. However, she's still paying the price for her recalcitrance. Bundled out of her apartment like a fugitive in the dead of night and driven away to an unknown destination, it was like living those dark days in Dhaka all over again. That the West Bengal government gave in to the demands of Muslim fundamentalists helped matters little. The writer later said she never expected this treatment from a secular government.

The manner in which she was thrown out of the state left her wounded and brought back memories of another day in Dhaka. ''I was holed up in an attic,'' the writer had said on one of her visits to Kolkata, ''and i could hear extremists marching down the streets crying for my head!'' She was cornered, terrorised, traumatised, but Taslima did not apologise for the alleged ''blasphemy'' in her book, Lajja. After this, she had to leave Bangladesh and ever since she has been drifting. Kolkata had been dear to her and given the opportunity to choose an adoptive home, she would still opt for Kolkata, despite the fact that she had to leave the city humiliated and hounded. Like a good host, Pranab Mukherjee has said all arrangements would be made for a safe stay of a guest in the country but how far that 'safe stay', which amounts to being under house arrest, would appeal to Taslima is something time will tell. But as of now, it would be only fair to extend hospitality to a writer who has been barred from entering her own country for years.







Ines Alberdi, a professor of socio-logy at Madrid University who was elected to the Madrid Assembly, is at present executive director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Pamela Philipose interviewed her in New Delhi recently:

With a career spanning over 25 years studying gender, how do you perceive the situation of women today?
The situation of women all over the world has improved enormously. At the same time differences and discriminations persist. This means the question of gender equality remains as important as ever. For me the starting point of the process of empowerment began in 1975 with the UN Declaration on Women. We can see the differences between the 1970s and the present. Today, women's rights are recognised as human rights. But you can also see that innumerable women continue to be denied their rights. Therefore, governments and the international community are obliged to continue in their efforts to make real their commitments.

Do you think that commitments are made but not achieved?

Take Security Council Resolution 1325 about the need to have women involved in conflict resolution. It is a very important declaration - next year will mark its 10th anniversary - but the real situation is not optimistic. We have a lot of mediation efforts, peace agreements, but women continue to be largely outside these processes. I don't deny the importance of resolutions because every resolution is an international obligation. But what is equally important is their implementation.

You were once an elected deputy in the Madrid Assembly. How important is women's political empowerment?
Extremely important for the simple reason women comprise half the population and their representation is vital to deepen democracy. On international fora they are now discussing about how we can achieve fair representation of men and women, whether in parliament or in the corporate world, and they have come up with the 40:60 formula. Each gender should have no more than 60 per cent and no less than 40 per cent representation. I think we can achieve equilibrium through such a formula.

How would you rate the progress achieved on some central issues of 30 years ago - for instance, violence?
Violence against women remains a real problem, cutting across national borders, social classes, races and even age. It is a pandemic that needs to be addressed. To my mind, it is important to have both a legal as well as political definition of violence so that we can address it better. Recently, for instance, the 1888 Security Council resolution has defined sexual violence in conflict not just in terms of justice but also in terms of security.








The face of the goddess is 25,645 feet from the crown of her head to her chin, and she is smiling at me. Her name is Nanda Devi, and she is part of the great Himalayan massif, of which i have a grandstand view from the garden of The Deodars, on Almora ridge, the beautifully preserved 150-year-old bungalow where Richard Wheeler and his charming wife, Elizabeth, are gracious hosts to lucky friends like me. The Deodars' kitchen produces excellent fare, and an even more sumptuous visual repast is offered by the stunning view of the high Himalayas, dominated by Nanda Devi.


Looking at her you can clearly see the two dark lustrous eyes on her snow-white face, the straight line of her nose, and the serene smile. The eyes, the nose, the mouth are of course natural formations of rock and ice. But equally naturally they lend themselves to an imaginative invocation of an eternal deity.


Looking at the Devi, i can't help but think how blessed we are to have such wondrous mountains and hills that we can call our own. Or rather how privileged we are to belong to them. And how do we repay that privilege? How do we pay homage to not just the highest of all the world's mountains, but also the youngest, and still growing by some six centimetres a year? We contribute to their growth. The Himalayas were formed aeons ago by a tectonic plate shift which caused what is now subcontinental India to press up against the bulwark of Central Asia; the impact giving rise to the towering majesty of the Himalayan range, which continues to grow thanks to the pressure still being exerted by geological forces. To which we Indians - patriotic citizens one and all - are contributing our mite. Or should that be might? And what has been our contribution to the further growth and crowning glory of the world's most magnificent mountains? Plastic. Plastic in all sizes, shapes, forms and avatars: water bottles, pouches, bags, cups, sheets, plastic in all its myriad manifestations.


Our love of plastic is well known. We have choked all our cities, towns, villages and countryside with the stuff. Mera Bharat Mahaan? Dunno about that. Mera Bharat maha plastic? Most certainly. And having smothered all our plains with plastic, we're now carrying our plastic ambitions to new heights: we're increasing the altitude of our hills and mountains by heaping them higher with mounds of plastic.


From Almora we drive to Binsar where the hills huddle like giants under the green blanket of pine forests and the high cold air is crisp as a sip of dry champagne. We take a day trip to Bhimtal, a jewel box with its emerald lake basking under an aquamarine sky, where the staff of The Fisherman's Lodge, a boutique hideaway designed and run by Bindu Sethi and Bunty Singh, serve us a cordon bleu lunch. All in all, a scenario where every prospect pleases, and only plastic is vile. There is plastic everywhere; by the roadside, in nullahs and streams and valleys, in green pastures and verdant woods. All sheathed and swaddled in plastic. Each car that passes us - with number plates from Delhi, UP, Gujarat, you name it - pitches in to help, chucking out of the window an empty bottle, wrapper, packet, whatever, anything so long as it's plastic.


Why are we doing it? Why are we burying alive our country, particularly our mountains and forests, in plastic? Are we congenital vandals, inveterate garbage dumpers? Of course not. We are covering our beloved country in plastic to protect and preserve it. From global warming which will melt the Himalayas and flood the plains. So put it all - mountains, plains, everything - under plastic wraps. Plastic is the most imperishable of man-made substances. It'll be around for 10,000 years, doing its job of preserving the beauty and loveliness of our land. Not only from climate change but also from our gaze. I take a last look at Nanda Devi's smile, before it gets hidden forever by our terminal plastic surgery.







Like a seasonal malady, the old chestnut about Islamic clerics opposing the recitation of the 'alternative' national anthem 'Vande Mataram' resurfaced this week. Considering a fatwa was issued by Islamic clerics at the final day of the three-day conference of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, there was nothing really surprising about such a reaffirmation. The origins of 'Vande Mataram' — Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya's 19th century Hindu nationalistic novel, Anandamath — and its excised anti-Muslim connotations will continue to be fodder for future debates. But the twist in this continuing tale this time came in the form of criticisms from some quarters that Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has kept quiet about the fatwa so as not to ruffle any feathers. This, frankly, is making the proverbial mountain out of the proverbial molehill.


Mr Chidambaram, along with leaders from various other political parties, addressed clerics on Tuesday. It would be, however, silly to expect him to be involved in — or in the know about — all the proceedings of the seminary. Mr Chidambaram was not even present when the fatwa was announced. To expect him to be in cahoots with those who had issued the fatwa would be akin to mistaking his presence at the meet as support to the Jamiat's regressive social priorities. And therein lies the rub: Mr Chidambaram attending the Jamiat conclave. It would be obvious to anyone running a finger down the list of the Jamiat's priorities that they are in dissonance with those of the UPA government. The dismissal of the Centre's plan for a central madrasa board by the Jamiat is just one such disagreement. But Mr Chidambaram's role as a representative of the Union government is not to engage only with the 'converted' but also with groups who do not agree with the State policies. To engage with the Jamiat — which commands the allegiance of a significant number of Muslims in India whether one likes it or not — is not to support it but to seek a corridor for dialogue and, ultimately, seek the body to join the mainstream by way of ushering social reforms.


Mr Chidambaram's speech at Deoband, in which he drove home the point of the "golden rule of democracy": the "duty of the majority to protect the minority" is not something that any secular Indian will have a problem with. His approval of the Jamiat's February 2008 fatwa against terrorism was also an audible part of the rules of engagement. And engaging — even with a 'fringe' — is a job that is so much more commendable than to not talk to anyone who disagrees with the government.








Yup, we're biased. So blame us for violently shaking our heads in agreement with Vice-President Hamid Ansari when he spoke on Wednesday about the "challenge of bringing back the decisive role of the editor" in newspapers. In these hoary times, when 'journalists' are tagged as 'content providers' and editors are seen as silly tips of icebergs that come in the way of titanic marketing forces plying the choppy seas of Indian media, Mr Ansari's view is as wonderfully unfashionable as it is music to our ears. Yes, the editor is supreme.


Perhaps the word 'supreme' will make many suited gents in the media business squirm, as it will remind them why in the first place they rushed in to a space that angels feared to tread. But here Mr Ansari's observations — "Quality of news coverage has suffered and commercial  logic has come into play more prominently in the running of media organisations" — subtly tells us a story of the division between the editorial universe whose job it is to cook up a mean dish and the commercial one whose job is to see that the meals reach the tables of customers. When the waiter plays chef, you get a rubbery product. When the chef plays waiter, you have an empty restaurant.


So in this delicate tango, the editor is the guy with the rose between his teeth. Our marketing team told us to say that. Something about 'branding', the guys insist.









There are two reasons why Karan Johar apologised last month to Raj Thackeray after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena members forcibly stopped the screening of Johar's new film, Wake Up Sid: 1) A lot of money was involved in the movie, 2) It doesn't really matter in aesthetic  terms or in terms of value or belief systems whether people say Mumbai or Bombay. A Bollywood film is artistically meaningless. Which is why I am always surprised when I hear someone calling a Bollywood film 'good' or 'bad'. They are neither 'good' nor 'bad'. The limited sense of beauty that a Bollywood film might convey comes from the physical beauty of the actors and the 'beauty' of the sentiments expressed in the film.


There is no such thing as the beauty of the image or of the narrative in the Bollywood trope. They are about defending Indian culture, or, to be more precise, upper caste Punjabi Hindu culture taken as representing Indian culture as a whole. They are about defending arranged marriage, correctly understood as the fulcrum or foundation of the value systems and the belief systems that make up the Hindu world. They are, ultimately, about defending caste society, even though — and that is the wonder of it — the word 'caste' never finds any mention in Bollywood films.


The enemy is sexual freedom, especially for women. If a woman is free to choose anyone she likes as a sexual partner or husband, it is possible that she might choose a Dalit or a Muslim. Sexual freedom for women in Bollywood films is the purveyor of anarchy. Also, the enemy is the West that is the source of the sexual emancipation of women.


So, to rephrase our basic proposition: Bollywood films are about defending the institution of arranged marriage against westernised sexual  freedom. To take it a little further, it is about defending caste society against the values of freedom and equality that come to us from the West. It is about defending the indefensible.


If you ask a Bollywood filmmaker whether this is actually what he is defending, he will be surprised. He believes that the values he is defending in his film are universal —  love, family, country, religion... The word 'caste' would never cross his mind. Then how do we say that Bollywood films defend caste society?


The arranged marriage or marriage with parental sanction is an institution that supports, that takes the load of caste society through absolute parental authority when it comes to marriage or any other kind of relationship  with the opposite sex. This parental authority is taken for granted in Bollywood films. There is no need to even explain it. The world of Bollywood cinema is so cleansed of caste  and religion that one is almost tempted to believe that one is dealing with a bunch of ultra-liberals for whom caste and religion do not define the human personality. But the real reason for this absence is that women must not make the wrong sexual choice that could lead to the collapse of society as we know it. So, the world of Bollywood cinema is shown to be a 'natural' world, where upper caste Punjabi men are linked up with upper caste Punjabi women  without the problematic obstacle of caste ever coming in the way of their union. Whereas, in reality, especially for the middle-class, caste is an overriding factor in marriage in particular and sexual relations in general.


Even if the West is the 'enemy', it is never designated as such. This is partly because Bollywood films work in an implicit way, taking things for granted that explicitly stated would sound absurd. Besides, the West cannot be totally rejected, unless one wants to live in a fundamentalist society. The West is fabulously wealthy, powerful and culturally mighty. This last proposition is the one that is most consistently challenged in Bollywood films.


There are two aspects to Bollywood films' response to the West. A certain degree of freedom of social intercourse between boys and girls, such as that which takes place in colleges, has to be accepted. But having granted this limited freedom of social interaction, this is brought under an intense scrutiny in order to drain it of all sexual content. In any confrontation between Indian social values (read upper caste Punjabi Hindu values) and Western values, it is the former that invariably triumphs.


If you put the question in so many words: how is an arranged marriage with full parental  and social sanction — therefore, suppressing the individual to a lesser or greater extent, and affirming conformity with all existing social  hierarchy a superiority to love — it is one to which Bollywood films have no rational answer. Western values are immoral and bring misery whereas Indian values bring happiness and social cohesion. The manner in which this proposition is affirmed would be the equivalent of judging the entire edifice of Hindu thought through the narrow prism of the institution of sati. It is impossible for Bollywood filmmakers to shake off the suspicion that there is an organic link between Western values and Western  achievements, just as there is a connection between Indian values and Indian under-achievement. So Hindi filmmakers have to constantly ask themselves: to what extent is westernisation safe?


Bollywood cinema ultimately deals in fantasies, in wish-fulfilment. And the wish that it wants fulfilled is one of wealth, power, sexual pleasure and, above all, cultural harmony. The questions to ask about a Bollywood film are not whether they are aesthetically good or bad, but how  effective they are socially and politically. Do they add strength to caste society and its institutions? Or do they promote sexual freedom and social anarchy? Artistically, Bollywood films are meaningless.


Soumitro Das is a Kolkata-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.









Sugar, to mix one's metaphors, is heading for a perfect storm. And this is being made because of our own policies. By the year-end, retail prices of sugar in Delhi and Mumbai may cross the Rs 40 per kg barrier — an almost 150 per cent increase in less than 15 months. And no, you can't blame climate change or monsoon failures for this.


So, what triggered the sugar crisis? In 2006-07, India harvested 355 million tonnes of sugarcane breaking all records. This resulted in 28 million tonnes of sugar production. With the ratoon crop, the 2007-08 performance — harvesting 348 million tonnes resulting in 26 million tonnes of sugar — was almost repeated. India's domestic consumption of sugar hovers around 20-22 million tonnes. The international price of raw sugar in 2006-07 and 2007-08 hovered between 15 and 18 cents per pound, not very attractive for exports of white sugar.


Sugar stocks at home peaked at 10-11 million tonnes at the end of the sugar seasons 2006-07 and 2007-08. India exported roughly 8 million tonnes of sugar during 2007-08 and 2008-09 for around $2 billion and liquidated much of the sugar stocks by giving a freight subsidy (Rs 1,350-1,450 per tonne) for exports. It was clear by June-July 2008 that sugarcane production will drop significantly in the 2008-09 season, while continuation of export scheme till September 2008 remains puzzling. Was it an error of judgement? Or was it simple ignorance? Only policy-makers can explain.


It was only in February 2009 that imports of raw sugar were permitted. Import duty on refined white sugar was lifted (from an earlier 60 per cent) in a kneejerk reaction in April 2009. But it was already too late and global prices of white sugar spiked from 15-18 cents per pound in 2006-07 and 2007-08 to 25 cents per pound now. The futures for the month of December 2009 and March 2010 show no respite. The sugar storm, in all probability, will hit India in November-December when temporary relief from the de-stocking drive subsides.


It will continue on its rampage for much of 2010 when sugar price in retail will remain above Rs 40 per kg. What can help bring it down is the strengthening of the rupee against the dollar, or a huge import subsidy on government account to protect the retail consumers, or minimising cane usage for gur (or liquor) or ethanol, etc. Imports of 5-7 million tonnes of sugar seem imminent, especially for bulk consumers. But today, imports on private account have slowed down as the de-stocking drive by the government to hold the price line at festive season has marginally brought the domestic price under check. But with import supply lines being half empty it can suddenly erupt into a price inferno.


Can we take pre-emptive policy action to avoid such situations? In 2006-07 and 2007-08, sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh were getting a State Advised Price (SAP) of about Rs 120 per quintal against a Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) of Rs 80 per quintal, which led to a swing of area in favour of sugarcane over wheat and rice. Farmers had difficulty in selling their cane and cane arrears amounted to more than Rs 1,000 crore. Here the gur industry came to the rescue of farmers by making prompt payments. Today, virtually the entire quantity of gur is being used to make alcohol.


Also, India fell short of wheat and imported about 6 million tonnes of wheat during 2006-08, which made policy-makers nervous about food security. As a result, they started raising the SMP of wheat and paddy substantially to attract more sowing. No wonder then that by 2008-09, farmers in UP switched back from sugarcane to grains. Result: a shortage of sugar and abundance of grains.


Today, there is demand for SMP of cane to be raised to Rs 200 per quintal. If agreed, two years from today, India will again have a glut of sugar and shortage of grains. Policy-makers need to break this three-year cycle by reforming the administrative price regime, making it market-friendly and forward-looking. Not the stuff of kneejerk reactions and complying to political considerations.


Ashok Gulati is Director, Asia for the International Food Policy Research Institute.


Tejinder Narang is a freelance specialist on commodity markets. The views expressed by the authors are personal.








The news that Claude Lévi-Strauss has died at the grand age of 100 brings back memories of my student days, which coincided with the intellectual dominance of this great French anthropologist.


For young would-be intellectuals in the 1980s, his books The Savage Mind and The Raw and the Cooked had a biblical status. Lévi-Strauss was the high priest of structuralism.

Building on the linguistic ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, he argued that all myth, and, hence, all pre-scientific thought can be understood in terms of binary oppositions -- such as, er, raw and cooked.


The strange and troubling grandeur of Lévi-Strauss lay in his insistence on the `synchronic' and contempt for the `diachronic': that is, he was interested in structures of thinking that endure over the very long term. He was apparently not interested in history, in change. Paradoxically, his ideas were of great interest to historians.


I first encountered his work through a history book by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie that applied his methods to an 18th century French folk tale. Other French thinkers, notably Michel Foucault in The Order of Things, sought to switch attention to the violent breaks and transformations of one intellectual order into another. But Lévi-Strauss reflected a deep, and great, tendency in French historiography to draw attention to the `longue durée'.


History and art history really demand to be thought of in this way. When you read a story about, say, the marriages of Henry VIII or the life of Caravaggio, it's easy to fool yourself into believing you are glimpsing a world much like our own. To grasp the real, radical differences between one moment and another, you need to comprehend the vast web of everyday phenomena (food, illness, buildings ...) that shaped everyone's existence.


These things tend to change very slowly (at any time before 1900) and Claude Lévi-Strauss directed our attention to them.

His influence is subtle and will endure.

The news that Claude Lévi-Strauss has died at the grand age of 100 brings back memories of my student days, which coincided with the intellectual dominance of this great French anthropologist.

For young would-be intellectuals in the 1980s, his books The Savage Mind and The Raw and the Cooked had a biblical status. Lévi-Strauss was the high priest of structuralism.
Building on the linguistic ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, he argued that all myth, and, hence, all pre-scientific thought can be understood in terms of binary oppositions -- such as, er, raw and cooked.

The strange and troubling grandeur of Lévi-Strauss lay in his insistence on the `synchronic' and contempt for the `diachronic': that is, he was interested in structures of thinking that endure over the very long term. He was apparently not interested in history, in change. Paradoxically, his ideas were of great interest to historians.

I first encountered his work through a history book by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie that applied his methods to an 18th century French folk tale. Other French thinkers, notably Michel Foucault in The Order of Things, sought to switch attention to the violent breaks and transformations of one intellectual order into another. But Lévi-Strauss reflected a deep, and great, tendency in French historiography to draw attention to the `longue durée'.

History and art history really demand to be thought of in this way. When you read a story about, say, the marriages of Henry VIII or the life of Caravaggio, it's easy to fool yourself into believing you are glimpsing a world much like our own. To grasp the real, radical differences between one moment and another, you need to comprehend the vast web of everyday phenomena (food, illness, buildings ...) that shaped everyone's existence.

These things tend to change very slowly (at any time before 1900) and Claude Lévi-Strauss directed our attention to them.
His influence is subtle and will endure.







 SANCHITA SHARMA NEW DELHI Imagine having a failing heart and doctors injecting healthy stem cells to replace the damaged ones.


Or surgeons replacing a defective bladder not with a donor organ, but with a healthy, lab-grown one.


While experts are working on the first, the latter has been done successfully.


Stem cell treatment is offering cures that would have been called miracles just a decade ago. Clinical trials are under way to use stem cells to treat incurable conditions such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, leukemia; lymphoma, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, kidney and urinary cancer, skin tumour, blindness, among others.


There have been several successes.

Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at WinstonSalem ­ situated in the east coast state of North Carolina in the US ­ implanted bladders developed from stem cells in patients in 2006. Three years on, all of them are healthy.

HOPE AND HYPE Hopes aroused by advances in stem cell research were what prompted the family of senior Congressman and former cabinet minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi to take him to Germany for stem cell therapy after he remained in a coma one year after a heart attack.


Dasmunsi was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on October 12 last year following a heart attack, from which he has not recovered. He was shifted to Apollo Hospitals, where his condition remained stable but unchanged for over 12 months.


"In India, we got in touch with people like Dr Geeta Shroff but weren't convinced with the way she conducted the procedure. The German doctors appeared to be more transparent in their approach. They will take cells from his body and culture them for use in his treatment," said his wife, Deepa Dasmunsi, who has accompanied her husband to Germany.


IVF specialist-turned-stem cell expert Dr Geeta Shroff of NuTech Mediworld in central Delhi's Gautam Nagar, claims to use embryonic stem cell lines developed from patients themselves and unused embryos of patients who visit her in-vitro fertilisation clinic, but inspections by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) ­ the overarching monitoring body that published the Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Subjects ­ surveyed her centre and found her claims unconvincing. Dr Shroff refused to comment.


IVF, short for in-vitro fertilisation, is an infertility treatment in which eggs are fertilised with the sperm outside the womb. More than one embryo is fertilised and the healthiest implanted back in the womb. Stem cells derived from the inner cell mass of the discarded early-stage embryos, called blastocysts, are called embryonic stem cells.


Hers is not the only clinic promising quick-fix stem cell cure for diseases ranging from muscular dystrophy to diabetes. "Not realising that stem cell treatment is still at an experimental stage, desperate patients are risking potentially dangerous side effects by becoming unsuspecting guinea pigs," said Dr Katoch.

THE FUTURE IS HERE "We are now working to engineer more than 20 different tissues a kidney, muscle, blood vessel, lung, heart and liver, using stem cells and in some cases, a patient's own cells," Dr George Weightman, chief operating officer, Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, told Hindustan Times.


The range sums up the potential of stem cells, which are the foundation cells for every organ and tissue in the body. "Stem cells can be matured into any tissue type and used for the functional repair and replacement of diseased organs and tissues," said Dr V.M.Katoch, secretary, department of health research, Union health ministry.


The market size for stem cell therapy is projected to increase from an estimated $30 billion (Rs 1,44,000 crore) in 2008 to $96 billion (Rs 4,60,800 crore) by 2015, giving hope to millions not responding to conventional treatment.

MONITORING CURE Along with the department of biotechnology, the ICMR is finalising the Biomedical Research on Human Subjects (Promotion and Regulation) Bill, which will be tabled in Parliament next year. "The Ethical Guidelines are indirectly mandated through the Drugs and Cosmetics Act Schedule Y and amendments to the Medical and Health Council Act 2002, so action can be taken against researchers offering dubious treatment to patients desperate for a cure. Ethical researchers, however, always follow guidelines as they want validation for their work," said Dr Nandini Kumar, deputy director general, ICMR.


Among the centres with validated projects are the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi; Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Reliance Life Science, Navi Mumbai; Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; and L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad. Research here focuses on treating nerve disorders, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, eye diseases (such as corneal blindness), cancers (blood, kidney and ovarian) and skin disorders.


"The Bill allows stem cell research and therapeutic cloning but restricts human cloning till its safety and benefits are proven. Effective regulation will give stem cell research the impetus it needs," said Dr Katoch.

Regulation will also help weed out unscrupulous doctors hoodwinking chronically ill patients with promise of a cure.








The RBI has made clear its intent to tighten monetary policy in the near future in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, the reality of the growth versus inflation trade-off at this point in time does not support the RBI's stated policy position. While there is anxiety about the rise in prices, it is largely confined to the price of food items which have little do with the underlying demand conditions in the economy. The inflation we are experiencing now is a supply-side phenomenon — inflation according to textbook economics can be either the result of excess demand or insufficient supply — and a supply-side issue cannot be addressed by monetary policy except in a very crude fashion. If there is a monetary squeeze for long enough, food prices too will fall but with considerable collateral damage to the real economy.


If on the other hand we look at the one indicator that does provide an accurate picture of underlying demand — credit off-take — the scenario turns out to be pretty bleak for growth. According to the latest data, credit growth dropped to a single-digit level (9.66 per cent on a year-on-year basis through October 23) for the first time in 12 years. In fact, the growth in credit off-take, an indicator of consumer demand and corporate investment plans, has been declining since August, ironically the same period that the RBI has started hinting at tightening monetary policy.


Needless to say, banks are playing safe — just as they have done since September 2008 — and have parked a record amount of funds with the RBI through the reverse repo window. Companies, aware of an imminent interest rate hike, are going slow on borrowing. With a view to protect their fragile profit margins, they are instead trying to access alternative sources of funds including the cheaper but riskier option of borrowing abroad. Smaller companies and individual consumers already face very high interest rate burdens, comfortably in double digits. The segment of the economy and population which does not have access to cheap finance — they cannot borrow abroad or via equity — is going to bear the brunt of the RBI's irrational fear of inflation. Of course, if these segments suffer because of expensive money, then the economy as a whole will also pay a price in terms of lower growth, a price we can't afford to pay.







The debates raging currently on Maoism are inordinately adversarial. And to go by the battlelines being drawn, the fight is for the right to determine who it is that can speak for the inhabitants of the "red corridor" under the sway of the Maoists. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stepped away from this pointless confrontation, and reconfigured the debate. To those who sympathise with the Maoists, those "who claim to speak for the tribals", he has put forth a simple question: do they actually have any "alternate economic or social path that is viable"?


To ask that question is to admit, as the prime minister did, that India has been found wanting in giving its tribal populations a stake in "modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces". And he rallied a conference of chief ministers and state tribal ministers on Wednesday to take the benefits of the development process to tribals. It is in this delivery that the darkest, most sinister aspects of Maoism are made evident. On the map of India, the "red corridor" of Maoist influence overlaps neatly with some of the most under-developed parts of the country. These are also areas rich in forests and mineral wealth, and are inhabited by many of this country's diverse tribal peoples. With this overlap, a specious connect is often sought to be made by those who justify aspects of the Maoist agenda — that the Maoists are, with their admittedly regrettable use of violence, somehow filling the void left by the state, that they are heeding a moral duty to deliver social goods unavailable to the local populations. Certainly, the Maoists have found it easiest to raise their flag in areas where the state's footprint is light. But track their record once they are entrenched in an area: it is one of kangaroo courts, extortion, and obstruction to any development work and even to the sparse social services that may be available.


It is good that the argument with Maoist "sympathisers" has been joined at the highest levels of government. But re-affirming commitment to vast swathes of India's population is valuable for much more than simply winning that argument.





439, 2009


Generations of Indians can remember the first time they heard the name Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar: in late February of 1988, when they opened their newspapers to discover that a couple of schoolboys named Kambli and Tendulkar had put together a partnership of 664 runs for their school, Shardashram, against St. Xavier's. Vinod Kambli made 349, and his friend and team-mate made 329. Barely a couple of years later, Tendulkar was launching Abdul Qadir into the Gujranwala stands, his role as the mainstay of India's batting begun.


But the individual marks set then — which were not, in any case, the highest in the competition's storied history — have been eclipsed by a twelve-year old. Sarfaraz Khan, the son of a cricket coach and a student at past champions Rizvi Springfield, hammered out 439 off 421 deliveries. Bombay's inter-school tournament has set many stories in motion in its 112-year history; it is named for England's second-ever Test captain, Lord Harris — later a head of the MCC and governor of Bombay, where he did a lot for Indian cricket (and also where, at least according to the television series Bodyline, he set one of cricket's greatest stories rolling by presenting the young Douglas Jardine with a bat.)


Young Khan, from a cricketing family, will have had some sense of history. He had trouble sleeping the night before the record — at stumps, he had scored 235. In a post-match interview, he extolled the virtues of footwork, watching the ball, and playing it late. Whether or not Khan's story becomes one of those that we remember 20 years from now, one thing at least is clear: as Sachin Tendulkar's matchless career enters its twilight years, we will look at such schoolboy feats with a certain breathless hope.












Recall what happened on October 2, 1986 when Rajiv Gandhi went to Rajghat. As it later i transpired, the intelligence agencies had an inkling of a possible terrorist attack on the prime p minister on this occasion. The horror is that nothing f was done about this dire danger.


 Why cannot security drills be undertaken efficiently yet humanely?


THERE can be no doubt at all about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's agony over the avoidable death of a critically ill patient unable to enter Chandigarh's Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Research because of the utter insensitivity and incompetence of the PM's security detail.

On the other hand, there can be no two opinions on the imperative of protecting the prime minister and other leaders most diligently and effectively. It should not be necessary to say this after what happened to Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi seven years later.


The key question, however, is why cannot this essential task be undertaken efficiently yet humanely? Only in the world's largest democracy does the security establishment treat the people as dumb, driven cattle and get away with it. What drives me to despair is that the more the government talks about reforming and streamlining the security setup, the worse it becomes. It is the nature of the beast. As the Urdu poet said: "Marz barhta gaya, joon joon dwa ki (the more the medication, the worse became the ailment)".


During the recent talkathon on Indira Gandhi's life, times and legacy, Arun Nehru made the startling revelation that on October 31, 1984, when he and some other members of the family mournfully returned from the AIIMS to the prime minister's house there was total confusion: not a single securityperson could be found on the premises.
(Whether anybody took any action against the absentees no one knows.) It can perhaps be argued that circumstances on that egregiously black day had unhinged almost everyone. But did things improve even two years later?

Just please try to recall what happened on October 2, 1986 when Rajiv Gandhi went to Rajghat to pay homage to the Mahatma. As it later transpired, the intelligence agencies had an inkling of a possible terrorist attack on the prime minister on this occasion. The horror is that nothing was done about this dire danger. So much so that the assailant, who did shoot at Rajiv twice, had been able to merrily spend the previous night at Rajghat. Worse, when he fired the first shot (luckily he was a poor marksman), the prime minister's "protectors" blandly assured him that someone's motorcycle had backfired! When the second bullet followed, Rajiv was the only one to realise what was afoot. The security stalwarts were still clueless and complacent.


Characteristically, the government never disclosed why the intelligence warning was not taken seriously and acted upon promptly. Years later I learned that the joint secretary in the Union home ministry got the warning and his comment typed out and dispatched to Delhi's police commissioner by the fastest means at his disposal -- a motorcycle dispatch rider. The communication reached the police headquarters after the commissioner had left for the day. Since it was an "eyes only" document nobody else dared open it. When I got the opportunity I asked the then home secretary how on earth could such a casual, clumsy and tardy procedure be adopted when there was grave risk to the prime minister's life? His reply: "What did you expect me to do when I used to get four such IB warnings on every working day?" It is time to rewind and go back to 1980 when there was no visible risk to Indira Gandhi's life at home but the Anand Margis in Australia were threatening to kill her whenever she arrived in Melbourne to attend the conference of Commonwealth heads of government. On the second day of the conference, the Australian officer in charge of Indira Gandhi's personal security asked to see a senior member of the prime minister's entourage, and was taken to Ramji Nath Kao, her most trusted security adviser and the legendary founder of RAW, the external intelligence agency.


The Australian said to Kao that the Indian prime minister was not only a great leader but also a gracious lady. "I would lay down my life to ensure that no harm comes to her. But I have a problem. The greatest danger to her is while getting into or getting out of the car. That is when I must have my both hands totally free.
But that is precisely the moment when, presumably in continuation of the practice back home, the prime minister hands her purse over to me." Kao Sahib acted quietly and quickly.


Fast forward to the year 2000.

One of the ministries in Delhi had invited a distinguished foreign scholar, whose name escapes me at the moment, to deliver a lecture at Vigyan Bhavan. No problem with that. But all hell broke loose when, at the last minute, President K.R. Narayanan, aware of the guest's eminence, decided to join the audience. Security reinforcements were rushed to the venue, and all concerned ran helter-skelter.


When, after long introductory speeches, the honoured guest was asked to speak, he got up to confess that he was "speechless". The hysterical SPG had confiscated the text he had brought in a briefcase. Amidst the embarrassed flurry that followed a sheepish security office eventually brought in the black briefcase and the proceedings began. The Chandigarh infamy is the latest chapter in this shameful saga of stupidities but by no means the last.


All of us have stories of infuriating encounters with security. Let me narrate mine. In the days when P.V. Narasimha Rao was prime minister, I was walking from the India International Centre to Khan Market. Suddenly a police inspector stopped to say that I couldn't go any further until the prime minister's "carcade" had driven by. I said that was fine with me. But it was not enough for him. "You stand and turn your back to the road," he ordered. I testily replied that this I would never do, whatever the consequences. I would rather go back to where I came from.

But before leaving I asked him: "Officer, please tell me: is it the prime minister in his Ambassador car or Lady Godiva on horseback?" Unable to get it, he left me alone. The writer is a Delhi-based commentator








Making the bench attractive requires raising both pay and prestige The issue really lies at the lower end of the judiciary, as the bench seeks to bring in legal talent choosing a career.


AN anomalous conclusion presents itself if we place the recent "voluntary" disclosure of assets by Supreme Court judges in the context of the amounts made by other members of the legal profession.

Over the past decade, the practice of law has became much more attractive, financially.

There has been an infusion of youth into the Supreme Court bar in the last five years, the market for corporate transaction advisory practices has exploded, and the salaries on offer when firms and companies recruit graduates from India's leading law schools has gone through the roof. However, as with any discussion on the salaries of Indian public officials, we need to consider the easy and convenient link to corruption, and the need to attract good talent.


On the corporate practice side, a salaried partner (typically under-35, and working in metropolitan cities) at a large national corporate law firm today earns above Rs 60 lakh a year. Lawyers working within legal teams in Indian companies make tidy sums too. The growth of the profession has also opened up lucrative options for graduating law students who have the option of starting at salaries in excess of Rs 12 lakh a year.


On the litigation side, lawyers have to spend years negotiating non-viable monthly income in the hope of increasing their independent practice and obtaining financial security.

Today many senior advocates of the Supreme Court are sensitive to the financial security of their juniors. This turnaround is reason for cautious optimism.

Many experienced litigators in the country make enough in one week to make the annual salary of many professionals seem a pittance. (Rightfully so, as the returns in litigation are skewed towards the later years of practice.) So what are judges paid in India? In September 2008, the Sixth Pay Commission recommended a three-fold increase in salaries for the higher judiciary.

All judges of the Supreme Court now receive Rs 1 lakh a month; the Chief Justice earns 1.1, and sitting judges of the High Courts 90,000. In the lower judiciary, pay is far lower. Justice E.

Padmanabhan, appointed by the Supreme Court in April to recommend pay revisions in the lower judiciary, has submitted a report recommending a 3.07fold hike in salaries. The starting salary of a civil judge (junior division) is now expected to rise to around Rs 35,000 per month.

(In addition, judges in India enjoy several perks beyond their basic salary like travel, electricity and telephone allowances and infrastructure support.) It is with this backdrop that the Chief Justice of India has declared a Santro car, 20 sovereigns of gold jewellery and real estate worth 18 lakh rupees.

(These figures should be only be taken for what they are: the declared assets of judges at the top of the judiciary who were paid on a scale since revised.) We need to be mindful of the fact that in joining the judiciary, respect and authority of the position and the opportunity to be a key instrument of legal reform are major attractions, and are granted irrespective of success. This is not true anywhere else in the legal profession. Further, the prestige of the position does translate to some form of financial gain as postretirement. Judges have the built fairly lucrative practices providing opinions on legal issues and arbitrating in proceedings between parties.


The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court makes around $217,000 (about Rs 1 crore) a year, comparable to associates at top US law firms. However the fact that the US judiciary manages to tap good legal talent is evidence of having balanced the prestige of the position with the amount required for judges to not worry about their financial status or be led astray.


This balance between financial security and the prestige of a position on the bench is what needs to be examined and the issue really lies at the lower end of the judiciary, as the bench seeks to bring in legal talent choosing a career.


For young lawyers and law students (especially from top law schools), a decision to join the judicial cadre does seem financially unsound when compared to other avenues that are open to them. However, irrespective of pay increases, quality legal talent will move towards the lower judiciary only if the prestige of the position is improved.


Should judicial pay scales be further revised? Yes, but the members of the higher judiciary need to focus now on raising the pay scales and perks for the lower judiciary - both to stem corruption, and importantly, to build the right systems that will attract legal talent to the bench. After that, an increased pay scale for the higher judiciary would not even be a question of debate.


The writer works for a Mumbai based legal-services organisation








Why can't more countries adore their intellectuals, like the French?


THE death of Claude Lévi-Strauss reminds us, again, of the moment in our planet's geological history when the Earth tipped violently and all the intellectuals in the world ended up in France. No other country has quite this same cadre of men and women who can be introduced as "intellectuals" without making everyone else struggle to contain a smirk. In Britain, "intellectual" is almost a term of abuse, rarely used in polite company. Instead, we use euphemisms, like "too clever by half", as if to voice a stupider opinion would be worthier.

And we are the poorer for it.


In France, thinkers like Lévi-Strauss, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Raymond Aron are so confident about flaunting their opinions that they never beg forgiveness; they beg only to differ...
Bernard Henri-Lévy fills as many gossip columns as Catherine Deneuve -- even if he is an intellectual poseur who is known as much for the hairy chest that peeps from his white shirt as for his views on existentialism.


And their amorous liaisons give the lie to the old quip that intellectuals are people who have discovered something more interesting than sex. Their Left Bank cafés are well known to Parisians.

Their views are craved and courted on chat shows. Our chat shows court soap stars.


Yes, Britain has scholars and pundits. But on the intellectual spectrum they enjoy a status somewhere between being and nothingness... Intellectuals lift the national debate. They fertilise political thought. A country too embarrassed to embrace them is, well, too stupid by half.


From a leader in the London `Times'







The spectrum allotment saga is back where it always belonged — at the centre of controversy. The Central Vigilance Commission has raised questions about the manner in which the 2G telecom licenses bundled with spectrum were given away in early 2008, and the CBI has raided the telecom ministry offices and the premises of select beneficiaries. It has done India — an emerging global power and one of the fastest expanding telecom markets — little good for its image in that we could not get our governance right in so vital an area of economic policy.


The burden of this article is not about the suspected corruption in this episode; that is the area for the vigilance organisations, and we hope (though, piously and against past experiences) that the guilty will be brought to book. On the other hand, the concern in this article is on the policy issue — how in the face of global experiences and economic logic, a seriously flawed route was pursued in favour of administrative and arbitrary allotment of spectrum instead of giving it out through competitive bidding.


Spectrum is a valuable and non-renewable natural resource; it belongs to the people of India. It should be allocated to those who can make the most efficient use of it and will not trade or hoard it. And it should fetch the state a fair, neither too low nor exorbitant, market price. The best course for determining the fair price is through competitive bidding. Other natural resources such as oil, gas and coal, even the concessions for infrastructure projects under the PPP model like airports, bridges and highways, are auctioned by us. What justification then is there for not following the same principle for spectrum? This has never been properly explained by the telecom authorities to the public.


Two grounds against competitive bidding have been generally mentioned: one, competitive bidding will raise costs of the service providers and thereby make mobile telephony services more expensive for the common consumer; and two, it will lead to speculative bidding which will be unsustainable in the long run as indeed had happened in the poorly executed auctions in the first round of spectrum sale in India.


Both arguments are rather specious. In a competitive market, the consumer prices of mobile services are more directly dependent on the prevailing market prices; so if Airtel or Idea is charging 60 paise a minute, a spectrum bidder cannot hope to charge higher and yet survive in the market. Further, 2008 was not the same as 2001; in those seven years, the market had grown far more competitive. For example, Vodafone paid a hefty price for buying out Hutch, but it has had to match rivals' prices in the market, and in fact competition has led to an all round fall in tariffs. As for discouraging speculative bidding, the auction process can certainly be designed on sound economic principles, and sufficient experience and expertise are available worldwide, if only we are willing to learn from them.


In most countries today, auction is the accepted norm for selling spectrum. In the US, initially the spectrum was given away administratively (as in India in 2008). The process was inefficient, unfair, encouraged rent seeking, and sometimes led to bizarre results. In one case, a group of dentists (yes, dentists) won the license for the Cape Cod area and promptly sold it to Southwestern Bell for US$ 41 million (a'la Unitech and Swan in India). Finally, Congress directed the US Federal Communications Commission to resort to auctioning. The FCC in turn engaged game theory economists to design the auction. The bidders too employed game theorists to guide them towards rational bidding. The auction, billed by The New York Times as the "greatest auction ever", was a resounding success.


Since then, the US and other governments, such as the UK, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, et al have earned large amounts from spectrum auctions instead of the windfalls being reaped by private bidders. Only in a handful of cases, the auctions were not properly designed on economic principles, and these resulted in speculative bids or dirt cheap bids winning the auction. Corrective action was taken by these governments later. Why were we keen on repeating their mistakes, instead of learning from them?


In December, 2007, while I was head of the Competition Commission of India, my article, "Spectrum Bids and the Beautiful Mind" arguing for competitive bidding appeared in the financial press. The Competition Commission of India wrote to the Ministry of Telecommunications and met senior officers at the ministry. But the ministry never replied to the Commission's arguments, and persisted in its flawed policy. My efforts with some other high government functionaries on this issue also bore no result at that time. Reportedly though, Government has recently decided to auction the 3G spectrum.


It is only to be hoped that in all future spectrum sales (3G and beyond), not only will competitive bidding remain the definitive norm, but that the bidding process will be professionally designed, with expert economic advice, to ensure its success and inter alia, to discourage speculative bidding on the one hand, and throw away prices on the other.


The writer was former secretary, Corporate Affairs, and is acting chairman, Competition Commission of India








The recently concluded Assembly elections in three states have put the focus back on the integrity of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Some say that the machines can be manipulated; others say these can be hacked to favour a particular candidate. The machines are sometimes labeled faulty and unreliable.


I recently attended a meeting in Maharashtra as the observer of the Election Commission of India (ECI) where this issue was hotly debated. Representatives of some political parties wanted us to ensure that the machines were not manipulated through remote control. On another occasion, a senior IT professional wondered: what if a software module is embedded in the hardware, hidden in the sleeper mode, that could be activated to corrupt the machine at a later time. He was drawing a parallel with the Bluetooth feature that Apple has provided in one of the models of their iPhone that is to be activated at a later date. Both apprehensions are reasonable.


To examine the veracity of such claims and apprehensions, the voting process through EVMs needs to be put into perspective. For the uninitiated, the EVMs comprise two interconnected units. The first, called the control unit, lets the polling official enable the voter to cast her vote once her identity is verified. This unit also stores and computes the poll-related data like number of votes polled for each candidate and total number of votes. In the second unit, called the ballot unit, the voter casts her vote by pressing a button alongside the name of the candidate and symbol of the political party.


Universally, the electronic voting based election process consists of five stages: (1) device initialisation or preparation, (2) voting, (3) early reporting — in case of India, only the total is tallied with the voters' register, (4) tabulation, and (5) auditing.


Now, consider the hacking possibilities. Any electronic or IT-enabled system could be hacked or have its security compromised either by (1) an outsider attack, or (2) manipulation by people who officially manage the process (an insider job). Let us examine the risks on both counts and see how these are mitigated in the Indian context.


For an outsider attack to be possible, the fpre-requisite is access. As opposed to many other computerised voting systems, our EVMs, manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited and Electronics Corporation of India Limited, are designed to work as standalone systems.


Other computer based voting systems use generalised hardware and operating systems/applications (usually written in C++ family of languages) resident in flash memories, rendering them susceptible to manipulation. On the other hand, the software in the EVM is fused permanently onto the integrated circuits that cannot be retrieved, altered or accessed. According to the manufacturer BEL, the unique signature of every controller used in the machine is checked for authenticity, generating evidences if tampered with. During voting and the subsequent counting process, the EVMs are never connected to any network or device.


Other skeptics express apprehensions about the possibility of manipulation by way of an insider job. For this, we need to understand the complete voting process where EVMs are used. When the EVMs are prepared a few days prior to polling day, the candidates are permitted to inspect each machine and witness mock poll demonstrations. Subsequently, these machines are securely stored in rooms that are sealed in the presence of the candidates, with apt security. Before the actual voting begins at 8 AM on the poll day, the polling officers at each booth are required to hold mock polls from 7 AM to 8 AM in front of election agents. Let us assume a worst-case scenario where a polling official changes the hardware module causing the machine to malfunction. This is bound to be detected during the mock poll, either at the preparation stage, or on the poll day. In that eventuality, the faulty EVM is immediately replaced. Let us go a step further and assume that a smarter devil somehow accesses the hardware and programmes the machine in such a way that the machine works perfectly during the mock poll but malfunctions during the actual poll. Since nobody, including our "hacker", knows the number of mock-poll iterations after which the actual poll will be held, he cannot succeed through a pre-written malicious software. Finally, during counting of votes, the tabulation of results is done manually in the presence of counting agents of political parties. In addition, the audit of one-fifth of the machines, selected at random, is required to be done by the ECI observer. Hence the integrity of these processes cannot be compromised.


As an abundant precaution that mitigates further risk of an insider job, the Election Commission of India has introduced randomisation at different stages. The EVMs are assigned to various constituencies through a software-driven randomised allocation. Even within a constituency, allocation to a particular polling booth is randomised. As a further check, randomisation is done in presence of the representatives of political parties and contesting candidates, and is supervised by an independent ECI observer.


Does it then mean that our EVMs are so hi-tech that they are superior to the computer based voting systems practiced worldwide, especially in the US? I put forth this very question to Harvard Professor L. Jean Camp on a snowy day in the spring of 2004, while attending her course on (Cyber) Security and Privacy. After detailed discussions and several cups of coffee, the conclusion was: a big yes.


The writer is an IAS officer working in Rajasthan. Views expressed are personal






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 Hussein Moussavi, 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 Moussavi 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.


The New York Times







The big financial scandal allegedly involving the former Jharkhand Chief Minister, Madhu Koda, has resulted in editorial comments by many papers. Describing the sequence of events in the fast rise of the 38-year old former CM in politics, Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial (November 2) "Loot of public wealth", writes: "The short story of Madhu Koda's political rise at least speaks of the fact that he may be young in age but his deeds could surprise even politicians double his age." The paper further states: "This is not the first instance of any financial corruption on the part of a politician. From time to time stories of financial corruption of different individuals have been coming to the open. These instances prove that a considerable number of our politicians are up to their neck in muddy pools of corruption. Needless to point out that the role for us, the common people, in giving encouragement to such corrupt politicians (sar charhaney mein) is also not any good. Along with strict legal action against such persons, they should also be rejected by the people and their membership of Assembly or Parliament should be revoked."


Delhi-based daily Hindustan Express in its editorial entitled, "Koda par korey lekin..." (whiplashes on Koda, but...), writes (November 3): "Undoubtedly, our government is aware of the tricky world of flow of black money and income tax evasion and also serious about putting a stop to it. FM Pranab Mukherjee is struggling with the heaven of tax evaders — Swiss banks — so that the country's wealth could be bought back from there. But we cannot succeed in this campaign as long as the law does not catch hold of elements who produce Madhu Kodas. What is needed for this is firm political resolve, inflexible honesty and courage."


Hit at saffron parties

The results of the recent Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh have been generally viewed as a great loss to saffron parties. Hyderabad-based daily, Rahnuma-e-Deccan, in its editorial entitled "Firqa parast taqaton par ek aur zarb" (another hit at communal forces) (October 23) writes: "Communal parties, after coming to power, instead of working for the welfare of the people and their progress and for removing their difficulties, had made the people themselves strangers to each other, made them fight each other and get beaten up and destroyed their peace and tranquility — Now the democratic rights of the people have shattered to pieces these communal forces' dream (converting the world's largest democracy into a 'Hindu Rashtra')".


Jamaat-e-Islami's biweekly, Daawat, in a commentary (November 1) says: "The foundations of saffron parties and organisations are shaking." It writes: "The question is not only of continuous defeat of the BJP. The pitiable condition of all organisations of the Sangh Parivar, even RSS, is not different from that of the BJP. There is need for treatment of not only the BJP but of the entire Sangh Parivar. And it is possible only if destructive, riotous and communal viewpoints are made constructive, objective and better in the interest of the country and the nation."


Commenting on the delay in the formation of the Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra, the Delhi, Lucknow, Dehradun and Mumbai-based daily Sahafat (November 3) writes: "Due to the delay of over a week (in forming the government), a very wrong message is going out. There are whispers now that when there is so much delay in forming the government, what all cannot happen in running the government. This situation is not very pleasant in totality for the state." The paper says that following Sonia Gandhi's refusal to become the country's prime minister and Dr Manmohan Singh becoming the prime minister for the second time, "differences of Sharad Pawar and his party with the Congress are difficult to understand... Sharad Pawar too has never made clear the reasons for his opposition to the Congress now."

Pak's baseless allegations

Recent allegations of an Indian hand in some disturbances in Pakistan have given rise to some very agitated reactions. Kolkata and Delhi-based daily, Akhbar-e-Mashriq, in its editorial (October 28) entitled, "ulta chor kotwal ko daantey" (popular proverb about the thief audaciously accusing the police official) writes: "Whenever there is any crisis in Pakistan, it creates an enemy to give childish consolation to the people. Obviously who else except India can be this enemy?"


Commenting on the frequent "baseless allegations" made by Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the paper writes: "The fact is that at the international level such comic personalities keep emerging regularly that beat the clowns of circus companies hollow. Janab Rehman Malik too is one of such personalities in business. One can only despair at his baseless flights of imagination."


Rashtriya Sahara, in an editorial (November 1), quotes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, during her recent visit to Pakistan "very clearly" told journalists that "America, so far, has no proof about India's interference in Balochistan." The paper says: "She paid no heed to such allegations made by Pakistan against India during her press conference, something that made Pakistani journalists quite disappointed."







The central bank's clear signal that it intends to tighten monetary policy is already showing on bank credit off-take. For the first time in 12 years, credit growth dropped to a single-digit level, at 9.66% on a year-on-year basis through October 23, against 10.75% recorded up to October 9. Playing safe, banks have parked a record


Rs 1,33,295 crore with RBI through the reverse repo window that is used to suck out excess liquidity from the system. This will have far-reaching consequences on consumer demand and expansion plans of companies at a time when we are seeing some recovery in certain sectors. Requirements for working capital have not yet picked up, indicating lack of credit demand from the manufacturing sector, which accounts for the bulk of credit off-take. Anticipating interest rates to go up, companies drawing up expansion plans are now tapping non-bank sources such as commercial paper and initial public offerings. These sources, which are cheaper than borrowing from banks, account for about 70% of India Inc's long-term fund requirements. Companies are also finding global market more lucrative to borrow from as the credit default spread has come down to the same level as it was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Also, one of the reasons for the low credit off-take is the lower demand of funds from oil and fertiliser companies. In fact, last year these companies had borrowed heavily with the government deferring subsidy payments on fuel prices. While there were signs of an increase in the disbursal of loans sanctioned by banks, companies are now deferring disbursement of their sanctioned loans, anticipating interest rates to go up, which will be a drag on their profit margins.


The sluggish credit off-take in the first half of the financial year will make it difficult for banks to meet RBI's revised credit off-take target of 18% this financial, as against 20% estimated in April 2009. Though buoyancy in credit demand will not take place until some large projects take off and the global markets fully recover, credit at low interest rates in sectors like infrastructure, housing and consumer durables should continue for a sustained recovery. Real demand needs to pick up in non-metro and rural markets, which are crucial to sustain overall growth for the manufacturing industry. Banks have become wary of incremental exposure to real estate, gems & jewellery, textiles, leather, auto-ancillary and non-banking financial companies, but these are the sectors that were the main growth drivers of the economy. The central bank's signal on tightening the expansionary monetary policy to contain rising inflation, which is a supply-side problem, will undoubtedly stall the growth process. That can't be a good thing.






Minister Kamal Nath is a go-getter. He has been putting much-needed energies into the road transport and highways sector, which fell into an unforgivable rut over the past few years. At a recent interaction—the Idea Exchange—with The Express Group journalists, he said he would build more roads in a year than were built over five years of the NDA's tenure. There's, of course, UPA-I's abysmal record on roads. But what lends credence to his promise of constructing 7,000 km per year across all states, or 20 km a day, is the constancy with which he has been pursuing the target, across various mechanisms. It's not just the roadshows he has been holding in major capitals to encourage foreign investment for India's road projects; he enjoys great credibility today also because of how he has been trying to get domestic processes streamlined. The latest victory in this chapter involves the government's resolution to let the road transport & highways ministry decide on bidding procedures and make changes to bid documents. This effectively sidelines a dated Planning Commission regime that had introduced a string of tricky clauses in the bid documents, making the clearing of both requests for qualification and requests for proposal long-drawn, inefficient processes. According to the ministry, 27 projects involving about Rs 30,000 crore in investment are currently on hold, on account of obscure bid procedures. Nath can now clear these on an expedited basis, which will not only get the concerned road projects off the ground, but also help improve the general investment climate for the crucial infrastructure sector.


A crucial constriction has been the conflict of interest clause, with restrictive termination clauses, exit clauses, forfeiture of bid security clauses and so on also playing spoilsport in the game of getting investors interested. The global economic downturn obviously took an additional toll on investor interest. At the same time, we are told that India still remains a favourite investment destination. If we are to make the best of this guarded investor interest, it makes sense to give the minister enough room to try out the new process. As we have argued earlier, government concerns about bunching of projects in a few hands and any consequent time overruns could be better addressed through a properly balanced incentive structure that would reward timely completion of projects, penalise the laggards, plus perform a quick appraisal of the strength and capabilities of individual players based on past record. Nath has done well so far. But the clock has begun to really tick for him now.








Much as one would like to give kudos to Reserve Bank of India for quietly putting the focus back on liberalisation of the financial sector in its recent review of the monetary policy, its stoic silence on how to grow credit when India's growth pattern is still wavy and fragile is regretful. Just for record, India's non-farm food credit has dropped to single-digit level to 9.66% after 12 years for the year up to October 23.


RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao has deftly shifted the debate from the need to boost economic growth to managing inflationary expectations. He is clearly more concerned about rising prices today, though everyone reckons that much of the increase in the wholesale price index is because of food items. It is not unknown either that the significantly higher consumer price inflation (CPI) also derives from rising prices of food products that have a higher weightage in the CPI.


That India's recovery needs deeper nurturing by making credit available at affordable rates did not seem to have cut much ice with RBI, despite the fact that many sources of funding available last year have disappeared. Instead, it has sought to justify the low credit offtake by citing poor demand from the industry. This argument is specious, more because banks don't want to lend. They have turned pessimists for fear of delinquencies. A clear pointer to this is their huge investment in government securities—almost 30% of deposits—compared to the statutory liquidity requirement of 25%. While larger corporates get all the money at best rates, the small & medium enterprises never make the grade.


Strategically and systematically, the central bank had started building a case for unwinding of the easy monetary stance from the beginning of this financial year. Way back in April, RBI was worried about the consumer price index that was in double digits. And then by August-end, it turned squeamish about rising prices and had said that keeping the monetary policy loose will endanger growth prospects in the medium term. The wholesale price index based inflation then stood at -0.21% for the week ended August 22.


In the second week of September, Subbarao told an international audience in Basel that India may have to reverse its easy monetary policy stance sooner than other economies. Many could have seen it coming, given that inflation had just turned positive to 0.12% for the week ended September 5, after a 13-week stay in the negative territory. Of course, nobody disputes that central banks around the world are finicky about inflation. In India, it has been no different. But during difficult times, governments and monetary authorities worldwide work in tandem to nurse the economy back to a firm recovery. In fact, the governments play a more proactive role—not to conclude that the monetary authorities are losing their independence. So, while RBI thinks that inflation is a bigger concern than growth, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee feels inflation is not a pressing area of concern as yet.


What is unique about RBI is its mandate to strive for growth as well as financial stability with the same intensity as it is to anchor inflationary expectations. The strong double-digit growth rate of industrial output in August possibly egged on the central bank to decisively signal an exit in its recent review. Subbarao hiked the statutory liquidity ratio (the portion of deposits banks have to invest in approved government securities) by 100 basis points to 25%, directed banks to increase their provisioning cover against non-performing assets to 70% by September next and also made it more expensive for the commercial real estate sector to take loans from banks.


After the robust double-digit growth in the index of industrial production (IIP) in August, the 4% growth in the infrastructure output in September has left policy-makers more circumspect about the sustainability of the recovery. As Mukherjee said on Tuesday at the Economic Editors' Conference in Delhi, India cannot afford to drop guard.


The economic stimulus has to run its full course. Fiscal deficit is indeed a cause for concern, he acknowledges, but there is no need to panic.


It is the political economy—need for creating more jobs, protecting the interests and incomes of the existing labour force and increasing household incomes—that Mukherjee is bothered about. Rightfully, the FM expressed concern about poor credit offtake to employment generating sectors—the micro, small & medium sectors and agriculture.


So, the least to expect from RBI was to exhort banks to lend more to the SMEs, the backbone of India's manufacturing sector. But it pared the credit growth target for the financial year to 18% from 20%, tacitly encouraging banks to safely lock their moneys in g-secs. It also stressed more on financial stability by asking banks to provision more towards net NPAs. The country's largest banks, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, are already expecting RBI to review this decision.







The plea that private think tanks should be involved in energy futures is correct. The idea that only private think tanks should do it is wrong, as it takes a lot of in-house mindsets and skills to use a model for public policy. The critique that minister Jairam Ramesh should not set up a modelling unit at Isro, but give the money to private consultants is interesting. There is a long tradition in the Indian Planning Commission to use university and non-government specialists for energy modelling. Ram Prasad Sengupta was doing this work outside the Commission decades ago. In the mid-eighties, I remember the secretary of the Energy Policy Group under KC Pant, civil servant VB Easwaran coming to me in the Planning Commission to argue for import of wood to save our trees. On his behalf, the argument for OGL import of wood was made passionately by a young MIT-trained engineer who was consulting with the Energy Policy Group. He was so convincing that in the days of near-complete import licensing, we allowed import of wood on OGL with zero tariffs. His name was Jairam Ramesh.


A policy model is not just fun and games. It has to answer specific questions that the Cabinet may ask or that may arise in global negotiations. The other guy will have his answers and you have to push your interest. Again, you have to be consistent with the numbers and arguments you have used earlier, unless you are building up a new ball park, which is seldom the case. In theory, all of this can be given to an outsider. In practice, it becomes difficult. These difficulties arise for different reasons. All the data may not be available in the public domain. For example, you cannot, under the law, give out the numbers relating to a company or a person even if it is large. In fact, you can't do so for two persons or companies, for then one of them can subtract his numbers from what you have released and arrive at his competitor's numbers, and this is illegal in the Statistics Act.


I always publish reports when I work for the government and I discovered a long time ago that secrecy is a mugs game, and no governments fall when a sarkari economist prints his work. As the chairman of BICP, I wanted to publish the reports that were used to decontrol but had to hire economists, now all stars, to aggregate the tables for three companies. Studies on the Structure of the Industrial Economy that resulted, made the economists famous, but were read only by a few.


More importantly, the context can change quickly in a rapidly changing world and if you have the model in your laptop and knowhow, you can work out the new scenario in a matter of seconds. I remember the Plan models we used to run for hours can now be loaded on my mobile or computer diary, and one can play around with new export or rainfall data in plane journeys. In the 11th Plan they have largely subcontracted the statistical work. KL Datta has written an interesting history of the work, and its current state is supposed to be reported, although the Yojana Bhavan Web site hasn't reported it until now. But in the published version of the Plan, the numbers between different chapters are inconsistent, leading to many awkward questions. This is so for sectors like energy, employment and the demographic dividend.


On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that government in its current avatar will have the patience and put aside the resources for doing all the work in-house. A strong integrating group within the establishment with most of the detailed work subcontracted and done with periodic interaction seems to be the best bet. You need a lot of expertise to use experts. Defining the needs of decision making is not easy Normally, when the work is contracted out, you have to first state the terms of reference in a non-trivial fashion. Only the gifted, and in their absence the experienced, can spell out problems in a manner that the study does not reinvent what is already known in a more fashionable manner. Then when work is under way you need to review progress unless you want to be taken for a ride or led into interesting side paths of great interest for curiosity but not policy relevance. Also, since public money is at stake, the work has to be as laid out and paid for. Finally, preliminary results and drafts have to be commented upon. All of this will need expertise. You need a lot of expertise to use experts.


The minister should be encouraged to work in public-private partnership on climate modelling in Isro. That outfit has a long tradition of modelling, going back to Satish Dhawan and should soon give the Swiss and French energy modellers a run for their money. India led this kind of work in my youth. We can do it again. As a past president of the Indian Econometric Society, I'll be happy.


The author is a former Union minister







The Rs 86,000-crore Indian FMCG industry is on a roll. Compared to other corporate sectors in India, the FMCG industry has performed well in Q2 FY10.While many Indian corporates have reported heavy losses, major FMCG companies have posted a double digit growth in Q2 FY10. As a result, the industry has registered a 12% volume growth in Q2 despite the economic downturn and poor monsoon.


Backed by the softening of commodity prices, benefits of lower excise and on the back of a low base, the industry has registered a healthy growth in Q2. In fact, the industry is expected to register a double-digit growth in the next two quarters of this fiscal.


Sample this: FMCG major Dabur India has posted a 30.7% increase in its consolidated net profit for the second quarter ended September at Rs 140.3 crore, as compared to Rs 107.4 crore in the year-ago period on the back of strong volume growth across key categories.


While Tata Tea Ltd has reported a 32% increase in its consolidated net profit at Rs 287.44 crore for the second quarter ended September 30, 2009, Marico Ltd's total income has increased from Rs 495.21 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2008, to Rs 519.29 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2009.


Likewise, other FMCG companies such as Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, Emami, Britannia Industries and Colgate Palmolive India have posted double-digit growth in Q2 FY10.


Industry captains in the FMCG sector are optimistic about the sector's performance in Q3 FY10. "I think the Indian FMCG industry is doing pretty well. Many companies have posted healthy growth in the second quarter of this fiscal," said Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group.


Just what fuels the growth of this sector even during tough times? The logic is fairly simple. Consumers can do away with luxury items to tide over the economic downturn. But they vitally need their soaps and soups to lead a normal life.


Recession or no recession, consumers want to eat and live well. Hence, FMCG products will always be in demand.






The literature on conflict and terrorism has paid little attention to the economic costs of terrorism for the perpetrators. This paper* aims to fill that gap by examining the economic costs of committing suicide terror attacks:


Using data covering Palestinian suicide terrorists during the second Palestinian uprising, combined with data from the Palestinian Labour Force Survey, we identify and quantify the impact of a successful attack on unemployment and wages. We find robust evidence that terror attacks have important economic costs. The results suggest that a successful attack causes an increase of 5.3% in unemployment, increases the likelihood that the district's average wages fall in the quarter following an attack by more than 20%, and reduces the number of Palestinians working in Israel by 6.7% relative to its mean. Importantly, these effects are persistent and last for at least six months after the attack. These findings are important for a variety of reasons. Beyond their direct interpretation they highlight the importance of informing the leaders and the general population of areas harbouring terrorism about the extent of the associated costs. Perhaps this information would help to dissuade terror organisations' supporters, and strengthen the arguments used by the more moderate voices against terror attacks.


Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi and Esteban F Klor, The Economic Cost of Harbouring Terrorism, Working Paper 15465; National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2009


This paper* discusses some of the impacts attributed to climate change that are likely to hit Southern Africa as a result of increasing global GHG emissions:


As South Africa is a significant contributor to GHG emissions and is currently the top-most emitter in Africa, the paper assesses the country's GHG emissions profile and possible future implications. It then discusses the strategic interventions proposed by South Africa to reduce the gap in emissions between what is required by science and what would happen if development continues without abating GHG emissions. Given that majority of emissions are as a result of energy consumption, the paper provides practical solutions to themes such as energy efficiency. With international treaties on the reduction of GHG emissions, there are business opportunities in the area of climate change mitigation. Thus, the paper finally discusses the Clean Development Mechanism scenario in South Africa and how the country can benefit from other emission-trading schemes being practiced in different regions of the world.


Jongikhaya Witi, Vaibhav Chaturvedi; Climate Change Mitigation Potential in South Africa:

A National to Sectoral Analysis; WP No 2009-10-02, IIM Ahmedabad, October 2009









It is a well-settled principle of law that the presence of a conflict of interest — actual or potential — is sufficient to disqualify judges from participating in legal proceedings. The rule against bias emerges from the maxim 'Nemo judex in causa sua', which means no man should be a judge in his own cause. The withdrawal of two Supreme Court judges on a single day is a reminder of the principles of judicial recusal and the importance of satisfying a fundamental tenet in the administration of justice — that justice should not only be done but also be manifestly seen to be done. The recusal of Justice R.V. Raveendran in a high profile gas dispute case involving the Ambani brothers on learning that his daughter was associated with a solicitor's firm advising one of the two parties underlines a basic point about the applicability of the rule of bias. It is nobody's case that Justice Raveendran's judgment would have been influenced or impaired by his daughter's link with the firm; conflicts of interest in the judicial realm are rarely about real bias. Rather, they relate to what is described as apparent or unconscious bias, concepts founded on the principle that there should not be even a smidgeon of doubt about external factors interfering in the course of justice.


Justice Raveendran, who had offered to pull out of the case earlier on the ground that he had shares in companies promoted by both the Ambani brothers, was persuaded to stay by the opposing lawyers. Strictly, the principles governing pecuniary bias demand that any financial interest, however small, disqualify a person from adjudicating. Justice Markandeya Katju was right in informing the two sides that he could not participate in another case involving Reliance Industries since his wife owned shares in the company. That even the slightest appearance of bias is enough to ruin a case is reflected in one relating to Chile's General Augusto Pinochet, who challenged an adverse order by Britain's House of Lords on the ground that one of the law lords, Lord Hoffman, was a Director of a registered charity connected with Amnesty International, a party to the case. Pinochet's lawyers did not allege actual bias, but a challenge on appearance of bias was sufficient to have the order set aside (see


ld199899/ldjudgmt/jd990115/pino01.htm). It is not uncommon for judges to withdraw from cases in India. The present system of a judge merely declaring his interest and leaving it to the lawyers to object to, or accept, his hearing a case is clearly unsatisfactory. The rule against bias needs to be applied strictly and the recusal of a judge who has any kind of interest should be automatic and be done at the earliest.








When a two-decade-long search for an effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection has been a failure, the pressure to hype and provide spin to make results of a trial look successful increases. More so as only two trials have managed to reach Phase III, the final step in testing a vaccine. Aidsvax, the first Phase III vaccine trial done on more than 5,000 volunteers in Thailand, was found to be a failure in November 2003. The Phase II Merck trial in 2007 not merely failed; it increased the risk of HIV infection in those vaccinated. Unsurprisingly, the pressure to make the latest Phase III trial, conducted in Thailand on more than 16,000 volunteers, seem successful became overpowering. How else to explain the compulsions behind the positive portrayal of the Thai trial (RV144) results on September 24? It was announced that the trial using two different vaccines in a prime-boost regimen produced a modest preventive effect of 31 per cent in those who received the vaccine. What followed was euphoria among those working in the HIV vaccine field; this was the first time a vaccine was found to have the long-sought-after preventive effect.


The euphoria gave way to disappointment when the full results were announced in Paris on October 20 and published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine. The paper contained other data (intention to treat, and per protocol) not mentioned in the initial announcement; and they failed to show a statistically significant protective effect. Why did the sponsors who were aware of these data in September not disclose them? The modified intention-to-treat analysis, which was not part of the original protocol design, was added six months before the data were analysed. This design helped remove seven volunteers who tested positive, thereby increasing the odds of a successful outcome. Unlike other HIV vaccine trials, this one had 76 per cent of individuals at low- and moderate-risk. The trials' claim to success was based on moderate protection seen in those at low- and moderate-risk and not in those at high-risk of infection. This vital information was withheld initially. By cherry-picking the positive results, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the sponsors of the trial, has laid itself open to the charge of breaching the ethical norms for reporting clinical trial results. Hyping results and imparting spin to the interpretation of trial data is clearly detrimental to science, and is not something expected from a nodal agency responsible for oversight.










More than three years ago, Kashmiri secessionist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq made a dramatic admission of failure. "Our fight on the political, diplomatic and military fronts […has] not achieved anything other than creating more graveyards," the Srinagar cleric said during a speech at a January 20, 2006 dinner hosted by the former Pakistan-administered Kashmir Prime Minister, Sardar Attique Khan.


Late last month, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told journalists that he was committed to breaking the deadlock that has led to so many graves being dug since that historic speech. "We will consult every shade of political opinion," he promised, "but it will be done quietly, far away from the glare of the media."


Off-screen, as it were, the dialogue process is progressing. In September, highly-placed Jammu and Kashmir government sources have told The Hindu, the Minister met Mirwaiz Farooq face to face in New Delhi before the cleric left for an Organisation of the Islamic Conference meeting in New York. Neither Mr. Chidambaram nor Mirwaiz Farooq will confirm that he met the other, but authoritative sources said the two men discussed the prospects of the Hurriyat Conference bringing to the table a clear manifesto for talks. Mr. Chidambaram's quiet diplomacy is not, as many media accounts have suggested, a radical departure from the past.


In November 2005, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Mohammad Yasin Malik was escorted by Intelligence Bureau personnel to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — part of a process of high-level contact that paved the way for talks between the Hurriyat and the Centre the following year. Later, in January 2006, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan met Farooq Kathwari, a United States-based ethnic Kashmiri magnate with high-level links in Pakistan. Mirwaiz Farooq also arranged a meeting in December 2006 with N.N. Vohra, New Delhi's former interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir and now Governor.


But the contacts achieved little. Like the three rounds between the government and the Hurriyat which had preceded them, the 2005 talks were a photo opportunity; the secessionists later resiled on the promise to participate in the all-party conference called by Dr. Singh the following year. This independence day, Dr. Singh — the most committed supporter of dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir in the United Progressive Alliance government — made clear that he saw "no place for separatist thought." Many in New Delhi's policy establishment, among them Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Mr. Narayanan, are thought to be less than enthused by the prospects of talks. For its part, the Hurriyat is divided between pro-dialogue elements and rejectionists.


Key to the problem is the dilemma so familiar to South Asians who enjoy the art of street bargaining: the customer doesn't have enough cash and a shopkeeper doesn't have the right goods. The Hurriyat is willing to settle for an arrangement falling short of independence if it is guaranteed a share of power — and, moreover, if the deal is endorsed by its Islamist adversaries within Kashmir, as well as Pakistan and the jihadist groups based there. New Delhi — like Islamabad, which is increasingly mired in a worsening war with Islamists — simply does not have the influence to deliver on these demands.



New Delhi's efforts to reach out to the Kashmiri secessionists rest on the fact that a peace deal with Pakistan is now improbable. Besieged by the religious right, Pakistan's political elite cannot risk being seen as selling out on Jammu and Kashmir.

Envoys S.K. Lambah and Tariq Aziz, through 2006, hammered out the broad contours of a secret deal on Jammu and Kashmir that both Islamabad and New Delhi believed they could live with. Five principles — first reported in this newspaper — formed the foundations of the deal. The Line of Control would form a border, but there would be freedom of movement of trade and movement across it. Both sides would separately decide what quantum of autonomy their parts of Kashmir would have, and there would be some cooperative institutions. Finally, the State and the Line of Control would be demilitarised, as peace set in.


"I think the agenda is pretty much set," the Mirwaiz told an interviewer in April 2007. "It is September 2007," he continued, "that India and Pakistan are looking at, in terms of announcing something on Kashmir".


But President Pervez Musharraf was swept away — and with him, the deal Mr. Lambah and Mr. Aziz hammered out. Desperate, the Hurriyat leadership reached out again to New Delhi. "Let us come out of our delusions," urged the Mirwaiz at a 2008 seminar in Srinagar. His colleague Abdul Gani Butt, similarly, called on the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party to work with the secessionist formation to "mutually work out a joint settlement." For his part, the People's Conference chief Sajjad Lone called on the secessionists to focus on the "achievable."


Rejectionists hostile to the five-principle deal, though, soon demonstrated that they, rather than the poorly-organised doves grouped around Mirwaiz Farooq, had the power to impose unities of direction on events on the ground. Kashmir's Islamist patriarch, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, adroitly used ethnic-communal issues to mobilise against what he described as a sell-out.


The chauvinist storms unleashed by the former Governor, S.K. Sinha's decision to grant land-use rights to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board was used by Mr. Geelani to bring the Hurriyat to its knees. In 2003, Mr. Geelani formed his rival Tehreek-i-Hurriyat faction in protest against the Hurriyat's willingness to talk to New Delhi, and the decision of one of its constituents to contest elections. Five years on, he secured the Mirwaiz's submission. In a June 19, 2008 declaration, authored in the midst of the Shrine Board violence, the Mirwaiz dropped the option of direct talks with the government and agreed that his action would be bound by the decisions of a Coordination Committee involving both factions. "Both sides," the document states, "after considerable argument and discussion, reached the conclusion that the Hurriyat Conference will continue its political struggle for self-determination, which can be achieved through tripartite talks [involving India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership]".


Now, painfully aware that Mr. Geelani and the jihadists who support him can undermine the Hurriyat's credibility and its bargaining position, the Mirwaiz has set up a committee to build a new consensus.


Mr. Geelani isn't biting, though. The Tehreek-i-Hurriyat leader has made clear that his hardline coalition will oppose negotiations with New Delhi. "During the formation of the Coordination Committee," he said last month, "we [the two Hurriyat factions] had agreed on two points: one, that the right to self-determination would be our basic demand; and, second, that only a tripartite dialogue among India, Pakistan and Kashmir would be acceptable and only after India accepted that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory. If anyone from either Hurriyat enters into a bilateral dialogue, he will breach that agreement."


"Fighting for azaadi [independence] without also demanding an Islamic state is useless," he added before a gathering of lower-court lawyers in Srinagar on October 24.


Mirwaiz Farooq faces resistance from within the ranks of his organisation too. Late last month, Democratic Freedom Party leader Shabbir Shah said negotiations with the government would breach the June 19, 2008 agreement. He backed Mr. Geelani, arguing that the June 19 declaration would bind secessionists to "engage in dialogue only if it was trilateral and if it was focussed on the right of self-determination."

No one knows for certain just how the disputation will play out — but Mirwaiz Farooq repeatedly backed away from confrontation in the past, playing for time to build an evidently-elusive consensus.


Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir's major political groups have increasingly drawn on key elements of secessionist rhetoric, hoping to deny their potential rivals space should a deal go through. In a November 1 speech, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti argued that accession to India had proved calamitous to Jammu and Kashmir — in terms that could have been used by any Hurriyat leader. "After 1947," she said, "we were forced to surrender everything to India, including our water resources. We even lost our strategic geographic advantage. The state that should have been the hub of activities in central Asia turned into a land-locked territory. We have been living under an economic and physical siege since the State's accession."


For its part, the National Conference has been left insecure by a dialogue that appears to exclude it — and hold out, moreover, the prospect of its adversaries emerging strengthened. In practice, that has been characterised by a slowing down of counter-terrorism effort, and a marked softening of posture on the Hurriyat.


Where might the new New Delhi-Hurriyat engagement head? The best-case scenario is that a gradual process of dialogue will lead the Hurriyat's constituency to accept the inevitable — thus marginalising the Islamist-led rejectionists. But there are also substantial perils. Mr. Chidambaram — and the Mirwaiz — must be applauded for walking the road to peace. But they must step with care, for the path head is pitted with booby traps and mines.









Part superpower-in-the-making, and part infuriatingly dysfunctional democracy — the India that Pratibha Patil's recent tour of the United Kingdom showcased was truly a chronicler's delight.


The visit presented a kaleidoscope of contrasts. British and Indian functions made for charming opposites: on the one hand was the British obsession with precision and order, and on the other the Indian inability to be anything but unruly and chaotic.


Equally striking was the divergence between official United Kingdom's heavy wooing of newly ascendant India, and the English public and media's grand indifference to what to all appearances was a great story: The spectacle of the once imperial power wining and dining its former colony.


Anyone attending the Indian High Commission's reception for Ms Patil at a London hotel would surely have marvelled at Indian disorderliness having survived over a century of stern British rule. If the entrance was blocked by crowds stampeding to get in, bedlam reigned in the dining hall with the guests resolutely resisting the organisers' attempts to usher them into their designated seats.


More commotion followed once the organisers decided to invite the guests, table by table, for a photo-op with the visiting President. The invitees rose all at once, and rushed to the dais. The result was a hilarious mismatch between the names being called out and those turning up to be photographed. A fresh, young face among a group of supposed industrialists turned out to be Olympics gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra.


A surprise guest at the function was 2009 Nobel winner for Chemistry, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. Everyone wanted a piece of the man whose discomfort at the fussing was only too evident. Mr. Ramakrishnan would tell an agency reporter later that his Nobel was a "bigger deal in India" than in Cambridge where he was one of 15 Nobel laureates. Yet at the High Commission his presence would cause mayhem, with fans jamming the traffic to and from the presidential podium.


At a briefing by the Queen's staff the same evening, the Indian media accompanying the President got a foretaste of what awaited us the following morning at the Windsor Castle, where the President and the Queen would arrive in a horse-carriage procession. Each of us was given a booklet with minute-by-minute instructions and a colour-coded card that showed the precise spot where we would stand for the five-odd hours it would take for the ceremony to end.


At the appointed hour, we were led into our respective enclosures. We took in the elegance of the 900-year old, muted grey castle with its grass and gravel quadrangle. But of course there was no question that we could stop to take pictures or try and exchange our coded cards or wander around for a better view of the palace. "No straying" we were told, and that was the way it was, never mind that it had started to drizzle, our legs ached, and we were hungry. We longingly thought of the many different ways we could beat the system in India.


Yet the ceremony had only to begin for us to forget our ordeal. The quadrangle was doused in brilliant colour and piped music as the queen and the Duke of Edinburgh emerged from the Sovereign Entrance in their chocolate brown Bentley. They would soon return with their Indian guests in a ceremonial procession.


The visual extravaganza we witnessed over the next half hour left us spellbound. There was no way to describe it except in clichés and hyperbole; indeed, overused as the expression was, this was true pomp and pageantry. The splendid Australian State Coach brought the Queen and Ms Patil. Following them in their own separate coaches were the two spouses, Prince Charles and Camilla and Indian officials forming the Presidential entourage.


We could have set our watches by the military precision of the pageant. At exactly 20 past 12, the Guard of Honour gave a royal salute and minutes later the Mounted Band of the Blues and Royals were leading the way for a spectacular marchpast by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.


The next day we found ourselves at India House (for the handing over of Gandhi memorabilia to Ms Patil) — to some more official fumbling. The organisers had forgotten to provide for the visiting Indian media which meant that we would spill out of chairs hastily placed in the aisle.


By evening we were again in "prim and proper" mode — this time for a State banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor at the magnificently-built Guildhall. The invitation came with a map, instructions and a chart showing the exact seating arrangement. In all, 700 invitees would take their seats behind 18 tables — ladies in billowing period costumes, judges and aldermen in their cascading laces and scarlet robes besides a host of fashionable Londoners showing off their designer labels. Ms Patil arrived in a procession led by State marshals, trumpeters playing fanfares and sword and maces bearers. The banquet proceeded like clockwork — grace was duly said, toasts were raised and the invitees slow-clapped as the State guest departed, again in a procession.


We were in turn impressed and irked by British discipline that kept us imprisoned through the visit. At the Queen's Baton Relay for the Commonwealth Games on our last day in London, our hosts ruled out our leaving our allotted seats to take close-up photos. As for chatting up the Indian athletes, "no way". As we filed out of the venue, a colleague turned back to look at the podium, only to be told by our minder to "look ahead and keep walking."


And yet, really, what was the iron discipline and fussing all about? The U.K. was an ageing, declining power, hit by recession and looking somehow to hold its place in the comity of nations. India was messy, the bulk of its people were desperately poor, and even the better-off exasperated with their disregard for rule. Yet in a world that measured a country's worth by its money, India, with its vast markets and a recession-time growth of 6.5 per cent, counted for more than the U.K. And indeed, if the Queen made her Indian guest feel special, which she did by all accounts, it was in recognition of this truth.


The Queen's staff spent valuable time telling the Indian media of the charm offensive laid out for Ms Patil, who was only the seventh State guest since 1998 to stay in the Windsor castle. The Queen' royal collection displayed painstakingly selected items of common interest, including a shawl made from threads spun by Mahatma Gandhi and given over as a wedding gift to Elizabeth II, and the Queen spent an extra hour at the banquet where she toasted India thus: "Five years ago, our two governments launched a new strategic partnership which was founded on the sure knowledge that India's emergence on the world stage would be one of the main forces shaping the 21st century."


Prince Charles intensely quizzed Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandareswari on the Indian education scene, and was stunned when told of the more than 500 Indian universities. The education market came up repeatedly in conversations that Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Leader of the Opposition David Cameron had with the Indian delegation.


Clearly it made business sense to court India. Yet there was also the U.K public-media indifference to the Indian President's visit. As a rare English hack present at the Windsor ceremony remarked, "it will take a while before the altered U.K-India equation sinks in."









Deep in the remote jungle of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, Australia's new $370 million refugee detention centre reaches its full power after its lights come on at dusk. Bracketed by rain forest, steep cliffs and the sea, it rises from the enveloping darkness and becomes visible from the island's only inhabited corner, about 10 miles away.


The centre — opened a few days before Christmas but now nearly full with refugees from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — has come to symbolise what many call one of Australia's defining fears: the arrival of boat people from Asia.


All boat people seeking asylum in Australia are first brought here to Christmas Island, just over 350 kms south of Indonesia but over 1,600 kms from the Australian mainland, and most are now held at enormous cost within the centre's electrified, 13-foot-high razor-wire fences.


But even as boats arrive every few days, advocates for refugees and even the government's own human rights commission are urging the government to close the place down and sort the asylum-seekers on the mainland. They compare Christmas Island to Guantanamo Bay or describe it as a reincarnation of the many notorious prison islands in Australia's convict history.


"They put this centre way out here on this remote island, and then they built it way, way, way out on the island in the jungle," said Charlene Thompson, a social worker who counsels asylum-seekers here. She equated the new centre to Port Arthur, a 19th-century penal colony in Tasmania, Australia's southernmost island. "It's a jail, a high-security jail, and it feels like the asylum-seekers are being treated as criminals." The influx of boat people, which has swung elections in the past, has rattled the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a year before another election.


Recently, Mr. Rudd, accused by the opposition of being soft on illegal immigration, personally asked Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to intercept a wooden cargo ship from Malaysia with 260 Sri Lankans bound for Australia.


If the Sri Lankans, now held in Indonesia, had been brought here, their numbers would probably have pushed the centre beyond its capacity of 1,200. That, in turn, could have forced the government to start processing the boat people on the mainland.


"I make absolutely no apology whatsoever for taking a hard line on illegal immigration to Australia," said Mr. Rudd, who had initially won praise from refugee advocates for reversing some of the harshest anti-immigration measures of his predecessor, John Howard, including charging asylum seekers for their stay in government facilities.



Mr. Rudd has continued to send boat people here for processing. He has also retained his predecessor's "excision" policy, under which asylum-seekers on islands like this one are barred from the mainland's refugee review system. At first reluctant to use the new centre, the symbol of his predecessor's policies, Mr. Rudd housed the boat people in an older facility here.


But a surge of asylum-seekers late last year forced the authorities to start using the new centre. Nearly 2,000 boat people have been sent to Christmas Island this year. Currently, their numbers are believed to match the island's local population of 1,100. The boat people constitute only about 10 per cent of all asylum-seekers to Australia, according to immigration officials, with most simply arriving by plane. What is more, the boat people are far more likely to be recognised as political refugees after their applications are reviewed over a period of three to four months here.


Nevertheless, the arrival of illegal boats filled with Asians evokes a primordial fear here, one that has been instilled over past decades of anti-Asian immigration policies and is still stoked by conservative politicians.


"There is considerable anxiety about people coming by boat and from the north," said Bernadette McGrath, the director of Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service, who spent six months investigating the government's treatment of refugees here. "It's very deep in our psyche."


So regardless of how close a boat may have gotten to the mainland, the Australian authorities first steer it to Christmas Island, linked to the mainland only by a four-hour flight to Perth, about 2,650 kms to the southeast, that operates four times a week. A supply ship docks here every five or six weeks. Newspapers are delivered 10 days late. The Internet remains costly and slow.


Named by a British navigator who spotted it on Christmas Day in 1643, the island remained uninhabited until about a century ago, when phosphate was discovered. The British brought indentured workers from Asia to Christmas Island, which became part of Australia half a century ago. Until the 1980s, the island was racially stratified, with white Australian managers overseeing Asian workers barred from whites-only neighbourhoods.


Boat people who were interviewed said they were surprised to find themselves on an island they had never heard of.


According to a recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, a government organisation, the new centre "looks and feels like a prison." It called the security measures "excessive and inappropriate for accommodating asylum seekers." Inside the main fence, the report said, each compound is enclosed in a separate fence, and walkways are "enclosed within cagelike structures."


The Immigration Department rejected the commission's recommendation to stop using Christmas Island for detention. It described the use of islands like this one as "essential components of strong border control."


About 50 asylum-seekers, mostly families with children, have been permitted to stay in residential neighbourhoods on the island. Despite some local grumbling about the flood of boat people and immigration workers, the asylum-seekers said they felt welcomed.


"People here are all good," said a 35-year-old Iranian man who was staying with his wife and two sons on a block with Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum-seekers, and whose refugee application had just been approved.


The other morning at a local public school that the refugees' children attend daily, the young immigrants practised English composition, played polo hockey or baked chocolate chip cookies.


"The children's knowledge of Australia is very limited," said Mary Ford, 29, who began teaching here five months ago after moving from the mainland. "They wouldn't know Australia's cities.

"None of them have ever heard of Christmas Island. Most Australians haven't. I didn't know, geographically, where it was until I moved here. People kept asking me, 'Christmas Island? Where's that?'" — © 2009 The New York Times News Service









  1. U.K. trial judge in the compensation case says the court is "deeply concerned"
  2. The vulnerability of officials to corruption formed part of the background to the disaster


A pot of £30m compensation due to be paid to thousands of African victims of toxic waste may end up being stolen thanks to the Ivory Coast regime's corruption, their lawyers said.


The money was handed over by oil traders Trafigura in an out-of-court settlement in London and deposited in a bank in the West African state's capital, Abidjan, ready to be shared out in cash to each of the 30,000 victims. But the entire sum has been frozen in a sudden move backed by the local state prosecutor, according to Martyn Day, the senior partner at Leigh Day, the London lawyers who won the landmark settlement.


Moves are now in train, he said, to order all the cash to be handed over to a local group claiming to represent the victims. At the same time, Day has received a request to meet representatives of a senior Ivorian figure in Paris, to agree to come to an "arrangement."


"Blatant corruption" could be occurring, Day, who has flown back to London from Ivory Coast, said on Wednesday. "There is a very serious risk that the compensation monies will simply disappear and our clients will see none of it."


Mr. Justice MacDuff, the U.K. trial judge in the compensation case, issued a declaration on Wednesday saying that the court was "deeply concerned" because to hand over the £30m to anyone else would frustrate the order of the English court.


The local court in Abidjan is due to rule on the claim this week.


These developments follow the resolution of a bitterly fought compensation case in which Trafigura, a London-based multinational oil-trading company, became internationally notorious after issuing a so-called super-injunction, which had the effect of preventing reports of a question asked in parliament.


Hundreds of tonnes of sulphur-contaminated toxic oil waste were cheaply dumped on landfills and in ditches around Abidjan in 2006. The cargo ship had been chartered by Trafigura. In the weeks after, the fumes caused thousands of sick people to besiege local hospitals.


Day said on Wednesday that, after Trafigura agreed to hand over £30m to compensate those made ill, his firm had arranged an elaborate system of pin cards with the bank in Abidjan to allow local people, most of whom did not have bank accounts, to withdraw cash worth approximately £1,000 each. He said: "On October 22, we were served with an order freezing the payment of the compensation."


A local figure claimed to be president of the "National Co-Ordination of Toxic Waste Victims of Cote d'Ivoire," which was said to represent the victims. He applied to have all the money transferred to the alleged association's account and out of Leigh Day's hands.


Day said the association's claims were "false in all respects."


One of the lawyers' local employees then warned "he had been contacted by a highly influential figure within Ivorian judicial and financial circles ... This man had requested to meet me in Paris to see if an 'arrangement' could be reached in relation to the interest accruing on the clients' account. He let it be known he could arrange for the freezing order to be dropped if I agreed to the interest being paid to him."


Day refused to go along with this suggestion. A few days later, the Ivorian state prosecutor announced that the compensation money should be transferred — a stance that local lawyers said the Abidjan court was likely to accept.


"We are extremely wary that if the funds are transferred the compensation will not be distributed among the claimants," Day said. Instead, it was likely to end up in the hands of shadowy powerful figures.


The vulnerability of Ivory Coast officials to corruption formed part of the background to the original environmental disaster when the waste was dumped.


A by-product of primitive attempts to decontaminate a tanker-load of cheap Mexican gasoline, Trafigura's toxic waste consisted of hazardous and unstable sulphurous compounds that should have been disposed of by expensive specialist treatment. Eventually a contractor with no experience or facilities agreed to truck away the waste cheaply.


 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The monetary and fiscal authorities in this country have considered withdrawal of stimulus packages; and while the Union finance minister stressed these would remain for the time being, he also clearly said that the government would wait for third-quarter GDP numbers and advance tax collection figures to determine if the economy was solidly on the path of recovery before taking a call on ending the stimulus measures. Mr Pranab Mukherjee had voiced concern on the moderation of growth in September after signs of a pickup in industrial growth in the past few months. Exports to Europe, North America and Japan were down 32.7 per cent: these countries together account for 60-65 per cent of our total exports. He also articulated the need to return to fiscal prudence as soon as the economic circumstances permit. All in all, there are signs that unwinding of the stimulus package is not very far from the government's radar. The G-20 nations too feel it is time for countries to draw up exit strategies; and every time this is publicly spelt out, stockmarkets around the world go into a tailspin. The G-20 had earlier said there was no question of an exit till mid-2010; but today some countries like Australia and Norway — admittedly none of the major economies — have already taken steps in that direction by raising interest rates. The United States, Britain, and the major European countries are, of course, in no mood to dismantle stimulus packages yet.


This divergence of views about the immediate future — with a part of the world following an easy money policy and the other on a different trajectory — could well impact world financial markets. Australia, for instance, has raised interest rates, so US dollars could well flow there since the US and Europe have almost zero interest rates. If different nations follow different policies, there will be another round of adjustments. The Reserve Bank of India, for example, will have to absorb the capital inflow of funds, and has little choice but to absorb the foreign exchange at a cost. It will have to sterilise these dollars, which in turn will lead to a chain reaction. An easy money policy will also lead to a rise in the prices of crude, commodities, gold, etc, and this could have an inflationary impact as these commodities are rising due to speculation and not demand and supply.


There is, however, a positive side to the West continuing stimulus packages. Emerging markets such as India, China and some others in Southeast Asia, which depend on exports to the US and Europe, will benefit if these countries continue to import. There are exciting times ahead for the world's financial architecture as a whole new set of dynamics will start. A coordinated withdrawal of stimulus packages would be ideal, but if this is not on the radar of many nations, nothing much can be done about it. India, for one, will have to take a decision keeping domestic priorities in mind, but also not forgetting that there will be consequences given that we live in an interdependent world. India was not as badly hit by the global financial crisis as some other countries, therefore its stimulus packages were also not of the same quality as some others — such as the United States and even China. Fortunately, these packages coincided with the Lok Sabha elections in India, so it had a further dimension here. Of late, while the government has talked about withdrawing fertiliser and oil subsidies, nothing has been said about a waiver of farm loans this year even though farmers are in distress due to the drought in the kharif season and suicides by farmers continue.








There is an intriguing question mark over the resumption and continuation of the path-breaking experiments on fundamental particle physics at the Centre for European Nuclear Research (CERN). CERN had initiated a path-breaking project to observe and investigate the formation of matter in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang, i.e. precisely during a time span of 10 seconds after the cosmic Big Bang explosion. By simulating the Big Bang in the laboratory, the physicists of our planet were hoping to gain invaluable insights into the creation and dissolution of matter, or, for that matter, anti-matter!


With the largest particle accelerators on planet earth, including a few of the largest Linear Hadron colliders, CERN was slated to resume its exploration into the macrocosm cooped up inside the microcosm of the atom in November 2009. But overwhelming safety considerations cried a halt to the unfolding rapid pace of this stimulating subatomic research over a year ago.


But right now the buzz in the campus and its neighbourhood, strategically located 100 miles below the surface of the earth, is that it will take at least a few more months for the institution to hum again with its phalanx of exciting research projects. November 2009 will be an impossibly tall order as a deadline for the research establishment to meticulously pick up the threads of its full scale research once again and get going full steam. The CERN racing track is the longest racing track in the world, stretching to a total of 27 kilometres.


There is also a sullen undercurrent of resentment that is snowballing against the grandiose project. Poised, as mankind is, on the tingling threshold of a daunting and demanding 21st century, we are no techno-geeks and ning-nongs to cower and crouch at the feeblest hint of a pulley, a lever or a word processor. So why can't the CERN establishment make itself transparent and take all of us interested and concerned folks into confidence as to what is happening inside the hermetically-sealed and formidable fortification of European Nuclear Research? The complex is also home to 9,300 magnets as part of the infrastructure for accelerating the sub-atomic particles.


Another disappointment is that the heaviest sub-atomic particle discovered so far, the Higgs' Boson, is not likely to materialise in CERN as promised. The talk in town is that the particle is so repulsive that it will be done away with soon after its creation.


The precise reason as to why CERN applied the brakes to its fundamental particle research has itself not been clearly spelt out so far. A large number of people in Geneva believe that the leakage of some radioactive material from the campus was the reason behind the abundantly cautious cessation of scientific research activity. In the absence of open communication, ripples of fear spasms gnaw at the vitals and viscera of the local people every now and then. A lot of the inhibition is about the foolhardiness of man trying to play God! There is understandable concern about upstart man tilting at divine windmills!


Down the ages, time and again the point has been driven home to us that conquering and vanquishing nature is all fine up to a point. But when push comes to shove, we should respect divine turf. That is why whenever we have deigned to ask fundamental questions, nature has drawn the blinds and played its cards close to its chest. It should not become a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.


At a meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians on December 31, 1899, David Hilbert, a British mathematician and president of the Congress, threw the gauntlet to fellow mathematicians. He observed that mathematicians had, till then, been happily cruising along on the basis of deductive logic and self-evident axioms. But can we be sure that deductive logic will not lead us to any self-contradiction? How can we be sure that we will not contradict ourselves if we continue evolving and enunciating ever newer theorems through deductive logic?


Mathematicians diligently went to work to prove the absolute internal consistency of their discipline. But three decades later Kurt Godel in Germany proved that it was impossible to meet Hilbert's challenge. Even if such a proof, as to the internal harmony of deductive logic, were possible, what tool would that proof use? Again, only deductive logic. Using deductive logic to drive home the sanctity of deductive logic is like presuming what has to be established. It will be a classic case of "post hoc, ergo proctor hoc", a splendid illustration of begging the question.


It is one thing to anticipate and pre-empt the onslaught of an approaching infection. To cautiously inoculate yourself to anticipate and ward off a viral infection is perfectly in order. But if you want to dismantle and understand the theoretical foundations of the universe, then, as William Wordsworth warned us, "We (have to) murder to dissect". If you are going to rock the infrastructure of the world, then God had better sit up and take note.


Bertrand Russell used to recount the story of a Cretan who once observed that "Cretans are always liars". Was this statement of the Cretan true, or was it false?


If this generalisation was true, then in accordance with it, this Cretan himself must have been telling a lie when he made the statement. If, on the other hand, the statement was untrue, that would imply that Cretans are generally in the habit of lying. Therefore, the statement should be deemed to be true. So, if he was speaking the truth, he was uttering a falsehood. And conversely too.


Bertrand Russell's classic conundrum was that of the barber in town whose brief was to shave everyone who did not shave himself. But did the barber shave himself or not? If he did not, he did. And if he did, he did not.


With such treacherous pitfalls in the domain of mathematical logic, the CERN project is not going to be a fast track one.


S.H. Venkatramani is a former journalist, critic and commentator based in New Delhi







What is it about fish that fascinates the young and old? And why is it so restful to watch them swimming in a pond or an aquarium?


We have a small outdoor pond, four feet either way, with some golden Koi carp in it, and quite often when visitors come to our house they stop near the pond and say, "Oh, you have fish in it". A child once asked me if I had a seahorse. He had never seen one in real life.


The first time I saw a seahorse was in the Taraporewala Aquarium on Marine Drive in Mumbai. I was very young, and captivated by it. Years later, I visited the aquarium in Kolkata with my son but it was so dirty and pathetic that even the few fish that were there looked listless and morose.  


When I bought my first indoor aquarium (I say first because I have been through a few), I casually asked the shopkeeper if he had seahorses. He just laughed. Seahorses are delicate, saltwater creatures; they require special tanks that are very expensive, and need a lot of looking after. In short, they are not for the novice. I recently read about a book on seahorses called Poseidon's Steed: The Story of Seahorses From Myth to Reality by Helen Scales, a marine biologist. She has a fascinating description of the sex life of seahorses and how the male gets pregnant. They are also monogamous.


My pond is low-cost, low-maintenance and has a dozen carp in it, an inexpensive, hardy variation of its look-alike, the goldfish. I like to believe the whole effect is Japanese though minimalist would be more appropriate. Japanese garden ponds are intricate and more like art; every pebble merges with nature.


I built my pond because I like water; what's more, I like the sound of running water. Late in the evening, when the traffic outside the house ceases, the sound of water fills your ears. It's a nice, soothing feeling.


I put a green mesh over the pond because the leaves from the surrounding trees would fall into it and I would have to clean it every two weeks, which was quite a hassle. Then there was the kingfisher. I would often see it perched on a tree directly above the pond — a beautiful turquoise blue and chocolate-brown bird. It's easy to spot those brilliant colours on a tree.


I was so fascinated by it that I went out and bought a bird book, A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India. My birdwatcher friend tells me it's a white-throated kingfisher — also called white-breasted — and in fact quite common in this part of the world. I have actually seen it swoop down into the pond, catch a three-inch fish, and fly off to the perch with the catch in its beak — all in a matter of maybe five seconds. I wouldn't stop the bird because that's the law of nature. It stopped coming regularly when I put the mesh over the pond to catch the falling leaves.


When I go near the pond in the morning to switch on the water pump, the fish surge to the surface, expecting food. Contrary to popular belief that fish have a three-second memory, research has revealed that some may even have long-term memory. An example: Salmon return to the same stream they were born in during mating season. If they did not have memory, how could they make this journey? Goldfish have a memory span of up to three months. If fish did not have memory, how come Omega 3, a fat found in fish oil and prescribed to humans, is considered to be good for memory? 


Come November in Delhi, the water starts to turn cold and the fish in the pond become lethargic. They frolic in the water only when the rays of the sun reach the pond and water becomes a bit warm. I have no idea when they eat the pellets that are tossed into the water in the morning because I never see them near the surface in winter. They lie still at the bottom.


I know only the strong ones will survive the winter. Last year, just two lived. This happens every year since I built the pond. Every March or April, I go to the aquarium shop to replace the fish that have died. And every time I ask the shopkeeper if they will survive the winter. He says they are hardy cold-water fish. "They will survive even in freezing temperatures", he says. I know this is his sales spiel.


The option now is to let the fish stay in the pond and keep my fingers crossed that they don't freeze to death — or remove the mesh and expose them to the kingfisher. Within days this predator will consume most of the fish in my pond. 


My household tells me they have seen the pandubbia (vernacular for kingfisher) and have also heard its cackling call. Maybe it knows it's that time of year again and I will soon lift the mesh. At least the kingfisher will have a feast and it won't prick my conscience.


Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at








 It is absolutely essential to become an excellent innovator — relentlessly making things better and passionately discovering new ways to add value to everything. Working smarter and moving faster are core creative traits that the best in business live by. And to be astonishingly creative and generate those big ideas that catapult you to your highest level, you don't need to go walking in the woods or find some sanctuary. Some of the best insights come from innovating and thinking outside of the box at the very place where you now stand. As Tom Kelley, president of the Silicon Valley-based design firm IDEO, observed, "Brainstorming at ski lodges and beach resorts can be counterproductive. Do you want your team members to think that creativity and inspiration can only happen at high altitudes or within walking distance from an ocean? Don't get me wrong: Off-sites are fine. But remember, you want to buzz off creativity to blow through your offices as regularly as a breeze at the beach". So perfectly said.


— Excerpted from The Greatness Guide 2


by Robin Sharma. Published by Jaico


Publishing House,










Normally, we would have welcomed home minister P. Chidambaram's offer to the Maoists to discuss problems like land acquisition, forest rights of tribals, discrimination et cetera. However, our home minister — though quite intelligent and dynamic (especially when compared to his predecessor) — seems to have not read his full brief on the Maoists. He says that he is not asking them to give up arms but to only eschew violence as a means of redressing their grievances since the government is willing to talk to them.


Mr Chidambaram said at a press conference on October 30: "The Centre had never asked the Maoists to lay down arms since it was not a realistic expectation. We have always asked them to halt violence… They should come forward for talks if they consider themselves serious champions of the poor".


Such an approach presupposes that the Maoists are interested in solving the problems of the tribals and other neglected sections of society, and that they have taken up arms mainly because the democratic machinery refused to talk about these problems, much less solve them. But Mr Chidambaram errs. For all his tough talk and devising (at last) a national anti-Naxal strategy, he should be aware of what happened when the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy made a similar offer in 2004 and allowed Naxal leaders and cadres to go around freely, with their arms on display.


It is futile to ask the Maoists to give up their arms or engage them in talks. Maoists do not believe in dialogue. Lenin, who laid down the guidelines for the proletarian revolution, urged his cadres to use all types of deceit and arms to capture power. And once in power, they should eliminate their "class enemies", including other political parties. The state apparatus is to be used without mercy for this purpose. No other criteria for political morality exist in the Marxist-Maoist book.


The history of the Communist movement in the former Soviet Union, in China, in Vietnam, in Cambodia and elsewhere is replete with such instances. Lenin used violence, deception and treachery first to gain ascendance over the Mensheviks and then over his colleagues. Stalin used the state apparatus first to eliminate the Mensheviks and other Opposition political forces and then to finish his own colleagues one by one, starting with Trotsky. The Stalinist trials of the 1930s give a graphic insight into Communist tactics.


In eastern Europe just before the end of World War II, the Communists who were then in minority managed to come to power by collaborating with others. But soon they destroyed their allies from within, one by one, in a policy nicknamed "Salami tactics".


In China, Mao Zedong turned against his revolutionary colleague Liu Shao-chi and then Mao's wife formed the "Gang of Four" that sent several Communist leaders, including the most famous among them, Deng Xiaoping, packing to hard labour.


In Cambodia, the most gruesome killing spree in human history took place under a maniacal Communist leader. Poor peasants who found their land taken away for the collectivisation died in all these countries. India, either under the Maoists or Marxists, will have no different fate.


The ideological paradigm of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Maoists is one. Look at the Marxists who are in power in West Bengal and Kerala. They are no different from the Maoists in dealing with their political opponents. Having state power in their hand, the Marxists threaten and blackmail to smother political dissent. How the Communists succeeded in entrenching themselves in West Bengal over 30 long years has been exposed. Their unions hold several top-level Bengali newspapers under their thumb, so it is not easy to carry anti-Marxist news stories in prominent newspapers and television channels. The fearless among Bengal's journalists have been publicly beaten up by Marxist goondas.


In Marxist-ruled Kerala complete dominance is not possible as the state has been governed by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and Communist-led Left Democratic Front with the non-Communist political forces also gaining strength. Yet the Marxists seek to make up for this weakness by targeting newspapers and journalists at every turn.


In effect, there is little to choose between the Marxists and the Maoists — the former use violence under the cover of the state government while the latter use armed violence in their attempt to seize power.


If the Marxists appear to be working within the constitutional framework, it is because they have tried and failed to seize the state apparatus through violence. Now they are working to wreck the system from within.


The Maoists are convinced that they can seize the state apparatus through armed attacks on the state. There is hardly any doubt that if the Maoists succeed, the bulk of the Communist cadre would shift their allegiance to the Maoist leadership.


Communists of all hues believe in a proletarian takeover of the state through whatever means available. Such a takeover, according to the Leninist-Maoist line, should be followed by imposing the dictatorship of the Communist Party and ruthless suppression of all dissent, even internal, among the Communist leadership.


In this framework of faith in violence and dictatorship, does it serve any purpose to ask the Maoists to give up violence and open talks with the government?


Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at








Corruption in public life has almost become a norm, shockingly so. But even with the bizarre tales of corruption that do the rounds, the details of illegal assets of former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, amounting to an astronomical thousands of crores of rupees, are indeed astounding.


He seems to have accumulated much of his Himalayan hoard during the anomalous period he was chief minister from 2006 to 2008 and led a government as an independent candidate. The alleged billionaire with his unaccounted wealth is not yet 40 years old.


The allegations, as yet unproven show how the son of a simple farmer rose to this level in such a short time. That this should happen in a state with rich resources and extremely poor tribal people of Jharkhand is doubly fantastic.


The state was formed just nine years ago with the explicit assumption that the tribal-dominated area was being neglected as part of a larger Bihar and that local leaders, with an understanding of local issues, would be best equipped to run it for the welfare of the citizens.


Instead, the leaders who had pressed for a tribal state for its people have acquired the unenviable reputation of practising corruption of high proportion and who seem to vie to outdo each other in sleaze.


Koda is part of a corrupt system which involves not just other politicians, but also bureaucrats, businessmen and sundry money-changers, who operate across the country and beyond as well. This was a sophisticated operation which used hawala operators in the commercial capital of the country, Mumbai, who had links abroad. The tentacles of corruption are thus spread deep and wide.


Who are the people then who sustain this system? There are businessmen, industrialists, bureaucrats, middlemen contractors and politicians, all of whom understand the value of the mineral wealth of the state. It is not to be missed that in many other states -- Karnataka is a recent case -- mining groups have emerged as the new rich who like to dabble in politics.


Allegations against corruption at high levels are not new. Regrettably, few if not none of these allegations get proven or result in justice being meted out. In a case of these proportions, gathering evidence should not be difficult, if there is a political will to do so, of course. Bringing the guilty to justice will be the big challenge for the investigating agencies.










By opting out of the post of chief election commissioner for India and deciding instead to be the state information commissioner for Jammu & Kashmir, Wajahat Habibullah has emphasised the importance of the Right to Information.


This weapon, somewhat reluctantly handed to the citizens of India -- or some might say wrested from the government -- is essential to both increasing the common man's participation in governance as well as to ensure accountability.


Habibullah feels that he has served his time at the Centre and now needs to use that experience to make RTI work in a crucial state like Jammu & Kashmir. He said in an interview to DNA that the right will go a long way in "calming" the state.


This is a very significant statement in that it acknowledges the efficacy of this law to empower citizens. Because RTI allows you to ask questions of government, it removes or at any rate reduces the feeling that you are helpless.


But much as RTI is the answer to many problems, it has not been a seamless exercise in participatory democracy. Government departments across the country have tried their best to stonewall, stymie and in any way possible handicap the free flow of information.


Although RTI in India comes with a penalty clause, the fear of loss of salary has still not deterred many from withholding facts and details. All kinds of stratagems, from delays to invoking confidentiality to even giving half-baked information have been deployed to undermine RTI. Activists have been fighting this and Habibullah has passed several strictures on defaulters but not to much avail. He will be challenged in Jammu and Kashmir.


There has been needless controversy on his successor at the Centre and while a debate on what kind of a person should be the chief information commissioner is necessary, it is unfortunately turning into a personality and ego battle.


There is a fear that a bureaucrat in that position could be a hindrance, on the other hand civil servants also know the system well, so could be useful. The objective should be to get an efficient person and ensure the RTI becomes stronger and does not get diluted.


The fact is that government is used to being secretive. But the fight to open government up must continue. In the immortal words of the poet Arthur Hughes Clough, "say not the struggle naught availeth"; the tougher the battle, the more it must be fought. RTI is here to stay. Government has to make the necessary adjustments.











India's climate change negotiators were understandably outraged by the contents of a recent confidential note from environment minister Jairam Ramesh to prime minister Manmohan Singh. The note, mysteriously "leaked'' for public consumption, proposed what would have amounted to a U-turn in India's negotiating position on climate change.


As storm clouds gathered (one top negotiator wanted to resign immediately and the Congress party refused to endorse the proposals), the PM's office moved quickly to cap the controversy. It clarified that the note was only a discussion paper, not government policy.


The PMO's attempt to clear the air has only succeeded in creating confusion. By describing Ramesh's note as a discussion paper, the PMO seems to be suggesting that the issue is open to debate and review. Is the government then contemplating a shift in India's position before the December Copenhagen meet where a new roadmap will be drawn to address the critical question of global warming? Was Ramesh's note a trial balloon, floated to gauge public opinion before making the shift?


Or was the note part of a turf war between a pro-active environment minister intent on grabbing a lead role in the international debate on this century's most important challenge and diplomats already in the thick of ongoing negotiations?


The questions need answers quickly. As the countdown to the Copenhagen conference begins and negotiators from the developed and developing world move into top gear for the showdown that seems inevitable, it is essential that India is not seen as faltering before the finishing line.


Any misstep at this critical juncture has implications not only for our growth and development as a leading emerging economy but also for our aspirations as a global player of substance.


India's position in the runup deliberations before the Copenhagen meet places us squarely with the G-77 and China on two key demands: one, that developed countries agree to deep internationally binding cuts in carbon emissions and two, that mitigation targets for developing nations be accompanied by cheap and easy access to green technologies.


The argument of "common but differentiated responsibility'' flows out of our need to maintain growth trajectory while simultaneously addressing the effects of global warming on our climate, ecology, agriculture and other sectors. The position has evolved after intensive internal debates by successive governments in conjunction with other developing countries, especially the emerging economies like Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and China.
The suggestion, thrown in almost casually at the end of Ramesh's controversial note, that India "must not stick to G-77 alone and must realise that it is now embedded in G-20'' is patently absurd and naive. It also betrays profound ignorance of the dynamics of international power equations.


If India has been invited to sit at the international high table of the G-20 today, it's because we are poised to be an economic powerhouse of the 21st century. If the rich and powerful of the G-20 listen to what we say intently, it's because we, together with other emerging economies, have carved out an important space for ourselves at the negotiating table by standing united on key issues.


If the developed nations, led by the United States and the European Union, are trying to woo, pressurise and strongarm us into re-aligning our position so that it conforms with theirs, it's only because prising India out of the G-77 will hobble an important counterveiling force by depriving it of one of its main support pillars.


The diplomatic and political consequences of crossing the floor are enormous. The ongoing climate conference in Barcelona has seen major fireworks as members of the G-77 put up a brave fight to secure their right to economic growth and development.


Abandoning the coalition at this point will be seen a betrayal of everything that India has ever stood for. The inevitable isolation from our traditional constituency will have a spillover effect at other international fora, the most critical of which is the World Trade Organisation where the developed and developing countries are in the throes of the Doha Development Round of negotiations for equitable terms of trade.


It is ironic that China, which is within blinking distance of joining the ranks of the developed nations, is making an aggressive bid to assume leadership of the developing world through huge investments in Africa and Latin America. A section of policymakers here, on the other hand, seems to have bought into the glamour of sitting at the high table and rubbing shoulders with the rich and the powerful at the cost of dumping old friends.


As the Congress attempts to revive Indira Gandhi's legacy, its government would do well to remember her mastery over international power play. She had many warts but she left behind a strong legacy in the G-77 by honing it into a diplomatic instrument of considerable influence. There is no place for eager-to-please Uncle Toms in the emerging brave new world.






Philosophy is, in its essence, the quest of reality. In the attempt to determine what is real, one has to choose, in the first instance, between the percipient self and the things that it perceives.


This choice may seem to be purely metaphysical, but sooner or later it becomes a moral choice and one which is decisive of the chooser's destiny. For him who can face the problem steadily there is but one possible solution of it. If we may assume that each term of the given antithesis has some measure of reality, we need be in no doubt as to which is the more real.


The problem solves itself, for the simple reason that the decision as to whether the self or the outward world is real rests with the self. It is I who have to make the choice between myself and the world that surrounds me; and I have to make it to my own satisfaction.


If I invest the outward world with reality of any degree or kind, the fact remains that it is I who am guaranteeing its reality; and, that being so, the question inevitably suggests itself: If the guarantor is metaphysically insolvent, what is the value of his guarantee?


It is sometimes said that the idealist starts with himself, and never gets to the outward world. There are certain dialectical developments of idealism of which this criticism may perhaps hold good; but, as a general criticism of idealism, it is, I think, entirely untrue.


The idealist starts, where every thinker must start, with provisional acceptance of the outward world as well as of the percipient self; but, in the act of guaranteeing its reality, he guarantees a fuller measure and a higher degree of reality to himself. Nor is the value of the latter guarantee impaired by the patent fact that it is illogical to go surety for oneself.


To prove the reality of what alone enables one to prove reality is, for obvious reasons, impossible.


From The Creed of Buddha byEdmond Holmes








Finally, I reached the boiling point. In metaphorical terms: the precise moment when the dal on the stove froths over into a messy hot puddle on the kitchen floor.


In other words: basta is basta. One of the national dailies had three (or was it four) consecutive pages filled with just page3 folk. Yet another paper had an entire column on how to be a socialite, an "occupation" that bestows the credentials to have your mug -- and the rest of you -- on the hallowed pages. This for many has come to signify heaven-on-earth. And for much of our media the face of shining India they like to put on show.


It was that very day, later in the evening, that I went to an exhibition of photographs by octogenarian Ram Dhamija, titled Preoccupations: Forty Years of Imaging India. The bad mood vanished and hope was restored. The contrast between the current crop of quick-on-the-draw chroniclers of our times and what I saw here could not have been starker.


Through these black and white photographs, predominantly portraits, Dhamija has tracked the journey of an emergent nation, spanning four decades from the late 1940s through much of the 1970s.


It is the silent pulse of history of a nation walking towards a promising dawn that we hear beating beneath these arresting images. The photographs are portrayals of the quotidian moment and of quotidian lives, several with wit and a tinge of humour. There's no big drama here nor are there any oh-my-gosh pictorial epiphanies. No tricks of technology but the magic of the moment frozen in time.


You see the big story behind the little stories: a highway in Rajasthan in the 1960s, a man with a child in a drought-ravaged Rajasthan in 1969, a pucca sahib in a suit and hat with a pipe in his mouth inspecting a canal in Punjab in the early 1950s, architect Le Corbusier at a construction site in Chandigarh in the 1950s, a soldier in Ladakh in 1962 during the India-China war, sadhus at a Kumbh mela in 1954, MF Husain painting outside Jama Masjid in the 1970s, a sequence of images of the legendary Balasaraswati dancing, up close and personal.


You also see a relatively young Indira Gandhi in 1968 in Bhutan with hair made untidy by a stubborn wind, a coat casually flung over her shoulders like a woman of the world. Dhamija has caught her in an indeterminate mood -- a hint of both a frown and a smile on a face more filled out than we are used to seeing and a chin not so sharply defined as it came to be later.


Dhamija, a writer and editor and aficionado of the arts (performing as well as crafts) he worked for the Press Information Bureau. The job required constant travelling to all corners of the country with his Rolleicord camera as a constant companion.


Consequently, there is an ethnographer's eye at work: the portraits include tribal women, sadhus, farmers, porters and pilgrims in far corners of India. However, you don't feel the distance between the photographer and his subjects. They seem to be at ease. Particularly alluring is the portrait of Simkie, Uday Shankar's French dance partner who obviously shared a special relationship with the photographer: warmth radiates from the image.


Dhamija neither exoticised nor eroticised his subjects, unlike our shutterbugs who zoom in on bits and parts of the neo-tribes of today's instant celebrities. Dhamija's son, cinematographer Himman Dhamija (Mangal Pandey, Chandni Chowk to China, Little Zizou) has curated this exhibition, culling the images from thousands of negatives lying round in his father's Press Enclave flat.


Dhamija had put away his camera years earlier, disillusioned by the direction in which India was heading -- corruption was his bete noir. I hope this exhibition will prod the idealist-turned-cynic to pick up his camera once again and go out and capture the India of today.


The writer is a Delhi-based journalist







Whether it's at TF Green or Chicago O'Hare or General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration will soon be matching the fine print on passengers' boarding passes to their IDs — down to the hyphens, initials, and apostrophes. That means that Barack Obama won't be able to board a plane with a college ID calling him Barry Obama. But what happens to someone named, say, Bernard O'Bama? Some airline ticketing systems wouldn't even pick up the apostrophe in his name.

In fact, many airline and travel websites do not yet allow passengers to register their names exactly as they appear on their driver's licenses and passports. They require travelers to shed their Irish apostrophes, fuse what lies on either side of their hyphens, and clip their polymerous Spanish surnames.
Some don't have space for full middle names, others not even for middle initials. Yet, once the new security rules are strictly enforced, if a driver's license says Mary Katherine O'Brien, a boarding pass that says Mary OBrien won't fly.

Since August, some air travel websites have begun requesting the date of birth and gender of passengers to comply with TSA rules. Let's hope they also accept reservations for all kinds of names soon.
Regardless, the new rules mean all air travelers need to make sure their photo IDs, airline tickets, frequent flyer accounts — and quite often the credit cards they use to book their flights — all show the exact same name. Yes, it's a small price to pay for a safe flight. But it's one that the whole air travel industry should make easier.
—The Boston Globe (USA)









Prime minister Manmohan Singh's admission that 'there has been a systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in the modern economic processes' calls for serious introspection ('PM admits failure in giving tribals a stake in growth', DNA, November 5). The scheduled tribes remain low in our social order even after six decades of Independence. Their inability to integrate with the mainstream society pose a serious threat to India's security perspective. The problems of poverty and landlessness should be addressed in a time bound manner. The socio-economic factors such as social injustice, discrimination, no means for livelihood and oppression are the main reasons for the spread of Naxalism in the tribal areas.

Mathew Oommen, Pune


Apropos the report, 'BJP seeks inquiry into Cong chief's Koda connection', (DNA, November 5), Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda deserves to be arrested for illegal and hawala transactions amounting to more than Rs4000 crore. The BJP is now demanding an enquiry into Maharashtra Congress President Kripashankar Singh's alleged connections to Koda through Kamlesh Singh (NCP MLA of Jharkhand and Kripashankar's son's father-in-law). The bank accounts of Koda and Kamlesh Singh should be frozen.

 Achyut Railkar, Mumbai



The historic and landmark judgment from the state charity commissioner refusing to allow the sale of transfer of development rights of St Peters Church, Mazgaon is really excellent ('State charity commissioner nixes BDTA plans for St Peters Church', DNA, November 4). All the so-called custodian trustees of the BDTA are liable for criminal action and prosecution. St. Peters Church was constructed and dedicated in 1858. The land for the St. Peter's Church was given on lease by the secretary of state in Bombay. Various grants were given by the state government to construct buildings as mentioned in the original lease deed documents of the secretary of state of Bombay. In such a case the change of user is strictly prohibited.

Cyril Dara, via email


It is heartening to note that Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran withdrew himself from hearing of Ambani brothers' gas dispute case ('Two SC judges exit from Ambani cases', DNA, November 5). It is important to note that the lawyers of both the parties had no objection to him hearing the case. Justice Raveendran is absolutely right in his refusal. Every judge should emulate his example.
MH Nayak, Mumbai













Supreme Court Judges Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice Markandey Katju have set a healthy precedent by recusing themselves from hearing two corporate cases relating to the Ambani brothers, citing conflict of interest. This will, certainly, set a new benchmark for judicial conduct. Justice Raveendran has said that since his daughter is associated with a solicitors' firm in Bangalore which is advising the Mukesh Ambani group on global acquisitions, it would not be fair on his part to hear the gas dispute. His conscience was "clear", he said, citing the judiciary's time-tested principle that justice should not only be done but must also seem to be done. Likewise, Justice Katju, heading a Bench with Justice A.K. Ganguly, recused himself in another case between the Reliance Industries Limited and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited on the ground that his wife held shares in RIL.


At a time when the judiciary is passing through a bad patch following complaints of corruption and misconduct against some judges, the example set by Justice Raveendran and Justice Katju is timely. This needs to be emulated by all judges of the high courts, especially while adjudicating on corporate and related matters. The judiciary is the protector and watchdog of the Constitution. Thus, the judges need to protect its fair image and reputation. It is only by setting such examples that the judges can help restore the people's confidence in the judiciary.


It may be recalled how Chief Justice of India Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had recused from hearing the infamous Ghaziabad PF scam in which many judges are allegedly involved. When the counsel pointed out that the CJI, having sent a questionnaire to the erring judges in the scandal in the exercise of his administrative powers, could not hear the case from the judicial side, the CJI promptly recused himself. Clearly, this issue cannot be codified under any statute or regulation. It is purely a question of judicial propriety — which Justice Raveendran and Justice Katju have amply demonstrated.








The disclosures made by the FBI following the arrest of two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operatives — David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana — provide enough proof of this banned terrorist outfit being actively engaged in implementing its destructive agenda. The two men in FBI custody, who had been assigned the task of carrying out another 26/11-type terrorist attack, had been looking for an opportunity to strike at India's National Defence College in the national Capital. Among the LeT's other targets in India have been two elite schools in Uttarakhand, popular tourist resorts and many key installations. Rana, a Pakistan-born Canadian national, had been a frequent visitor to Pakistan.


What is, however, more surprising is that the LeT, which had started functioning as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa after it was banned, appears to have become overactive as the Pakistan Army is concentrating on its fight against the Taliban in South Waziristan. This indicates that the terrorist outfits targeting India are being allowed to have a free run under the guidance of the ISI. This means that despite the spate of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, there is no change in its policy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India.


The ISI's effort to revive terrorism in Punjab appears to be linked to its ill- thought-out policy vis-à-vis India. Punjab police chief Paramdeep Singh Gill on Wednesday stated that these days the ISI was busy roping in the activists of dysfunctional terrorist outfits like the Babar Khalsa International and the Khalistan Zindabad Force. Some of those suspected to have been involved in the ISI's terrorism revival plan have been arrested. India cannot allow Pakistan to succeed in carrying out this destabilising agenda. The ISI's audacious act is a matter of grave concern. Pakistan must remember the pledge it has made more than once that it will not allow any territory under its control to be used for spreading terrorism in India and anywhere else. It will have to bear the consequences if it fails to live up to its promise.








Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia's suggestion about "aggressive disinvestment" is welcome but to fetch a right price, stock market conditions and public and institutional appetite for PSU shares have to be considered too. The government cannot hurriedly offload its stakes in assets, built over the years with public money, at whatever price available and to whomsoever it feels like. The mistakes committed by the NDA government should not be repeated. The IPO route is proper but the public and PSU shares have to be properly priced. Foreign and domestic institutional investors may be offered shares through bidding in a bullish market so that the best possible price is realised.


The second issue is how to utilise the proceeds. Earlier, the government had set up the National Investment Fund (NIF) where the money raised through the sale of PSU shares was to be parked for financing social sector schemes and meeting capital requirements of public enterprises. Dr Ahluwalia has suggested that the proceeds from disinvestment should be used to fund new projects. The third possibility is the government may use the money to bridge the huge fiscal deficit it has run up by announcing two stimulus packages and tax concessions for saving the industry from a downturn. The government should stick to the NIF scheme since social sector spending should be a priority, while new projects can be financed through direct foreign investment by removing procedural, administrative and policy bottlenecks.


The third issue is which PSUs should be chosen for disinvestment. Only the profit-making government firms will get a good price. The others may be given more time, financial help and managerial autonomy to turn around. Those which keep making losses should be privatised. They cannot be allowed to bleed the exchequer forever just to keep some jobs. The labour laws need suitable changes so that PSUs are not caught in endless legal wrangles.















One midnight in April 1960 Zhou Enlai addressed a Press conference in New Delhi.  It was so crowded that in my firsthand memory I can see a couple of journalists standing on a window sill to be sure of being able to shoot their questions. The Chinese Premier suggested a compromise settlement of the then hotting up border issue between the two countries.  His offer was for China conceding to India what was then the North-East Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh, in exchange for India withdrawing its claim to Aksai Chin in Kashmir.


Zhou brought the matter out of the diplomatic closet and hoped for public opinion in India to press Jawaharlal Nehru to accept this swap offer.  There were signs that Nehru personally was inclined to view the proposed formula favourably but as Prime Minister of India he could not ignore the political forces arrayed against.  He was even reported to have said that if he surrendered Aksai Chin he would "cease to be Prime Minister". Zhou's mission failed.What followed was the India's utter humiliation in 1962. Unending logrolling has gone on since then with China scoring an advantage most of the time.


In the latest phase China has been creating problems on visas for residents of Arunachal, protested against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to India's north-easternmost state and the Dalai Lama's tour of Tawang.  Has Beijing then withdrawn the swap offer Zhou Enlai made nearly 50 years ago?  Perhaps, not.  Why then is it refusing to accept the status quo south of the McMahon Line?  One important fact should not be forgotten.  In 1962 the victorious Chinese march stopped on its own at NEFA's internal boundary with Assam although Nehru declared that his heart went out to Assam, clearly meaning that the despirited Prime Minister had given up that state too as lost.  The Chinese went back to their side of the McMahon Line. Had they been serious about treating that line, which they have never formally accepted, as irrelevant for them they would not have vacated Arunachal. They never retreated even an inch from what they took in Aksai Chin


On the Indian side, patriotism has played a role all along in holding up a settlement.  The people and Parliament have accepted the Nehru government's version of the dispute as the only truth and supported it fully.  It is, of course, true that India has never in its history been an expansive country.  In fact, post-1947 India has showed some keenness to humour some neighbours  which led to domestic protests. West Bengal stopped Jawaharlal Nehru from handing over Berubari to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  Indira Gandhi ceded to Sri Lanka the tiny island of Kachchativu over Tamil protests.  With China it has been different. In spite of "Hindi Chini bhai bhai", the Indian establishment has eyed Communist China with suspicion after its occupation of Tibet.  May be, that was not unjustified then.


China clashed soon after with the Soviet Union and Vietnam over their borders. The hostilities on the Burma (now Myanmar) border were an extension of the Chinese communist-nationalist civil war with the Burmese facilitating the task of the communists. All of the Chinese border problems have been sorted out except the one with India.


In 1947 India inherited the border with Tibet-China from the British. The British rulers had no problem drawing lines on the map as they thought fit.  On the Kashmir-Tibet border they, in fact, drew more than one. One British official was censured for taking his line too far to the east but he had the satisfaction of seeing his projection as the claim line of the imperialism he had tried to expand.  Neither this one nor the McMahon Line in the east was ever accepted by China but it was in no position then to make an issue of maps.


Tibet remained unconcerned since the situation on the ground remained anchored in tradition, unchanged by cartography.  It was only when the assertive Chinese communists occupied Tibet and extended their sway up to the Indian border that questions arose.  India decided to go by the maximum of the British claims.  But since these were not always supported by  ground reality New Delhi considered it expedient to withhold all maps of the Chinese border from all but a few and so too literature which created doubts about New Delhi's arguments. The bureaucrats went to absurd lengths. After Major Kathing with an army detachment raced to Tawang and expelled the Tibetan officials from there and ensured Indian control, the government tried to censor, officially or unofficially, all references to the area as Tibetan.


In his "History of Frontier Areas Bordering on Assam" Robert Reid, one of the last British Governors of

Assam, wrote in 1942 that the 1914 convention resulting in the McMahon Line was never published nor was

anything done to give effect to it because the Chinese never accepted it.  As a consequence, many maps by the British "still show the frontier of India along the administered border of Assam" that is, the status of the whole of NEFA or Arunachal was left undetermined.


Reid's book somehow went out of circulation a decade before Zhou Enlai said that although he did not accept

India's claim to NEFA, he was willing to concede in exchange for India's forgetting Aksai Chin, which was, to him, indubitably Tibetan-Chinese.  In its zeal for concealing unhelpful maps, New Delhi went to absurd lengths.


B.K. Nehru, Jawaharlal's nephew and one of India's ablest administrator-diplomats ever, wrote in his memoirs that in 1962, when he was India's Ambassador in Washington, he asked his defence attaches to show him maps of the NEFA area the Chinese had marched into and he was told those were classified and even they were not entitled to see them. The ambassador found the "classified" maps sold across the counter at the National Geographic. Two decades later, as Governor of Kashmir, B.K. Nehru wanted detailed maps of the Kashmir valley he was touring and was told that for "security reasons" those did not exist. Again, according to this Nehru, the maps he wanted "were available for public sale only in Washington.  At the same time the government did not even know for a few years that the Chinese had built roads in the territory claimed as India's.


Machiavelli laid down the principle: ends justify means. The assumption is that the ends will be achieved.  In the present context India's ends have not been achieved — at least not yet. India was also not prepared for war, even as a contingency, at any time. Jawaharlal Nehru believed that India and China would not fight each other in his lifetime. Yet he precipitately ordered the Army in 1962 to "throw them (the Chinese) out". 


After the disaster that followed, Parliament in New Delhi resolved to recover every inch of lost territory and Nehru led a marching contingent of MPs in the next Republic Day parade. But nothing worked and yet the Parliament resolution is still treated as unalterable.It would have been great statecraft had India been able to implement that resolution. 


Everyone knows that this parliamentary pledge cannot be redeemed in the foreseeable future. Not unnaturally, problems have been arising for half a century now. The Chinese are giving India pinpricks over Arunachal. It would be realpolitik for New Delhi to take facts into full account if it wants to root out the problem with China.








A hungry man is an angry man and an angry man is a savage. Josephine Licciardello warns us saying, "Anger is just one letter away from danger!" Anger is an emotional state from minor irritation to intense rage making one to punish oneself with other people's mistakes. It is a part of fight or flight response to certain real or perceived threats.


Phil Barker describes anger as a natural and potentially productive emotion. It can serve positive functions when expressed properly. A certain amount of anger is in fact necessary as it allows us to defend ourselves and can be useful in expressing how we feel to others.


Expressing anger makes one feel more powerful than the other. At times it can even help to solve a problem. But venting anger does not always work.


Anger can be suppressed by focussing it on something else. Well-wishers often advise us to count ten before saying or doing anything. It has been rightly said, "Never reply a letter when you are angry!" If you are prone to violence then walk away from the provocation before pressure builds up. You can calm down by taking a deep breath and relaxing. You may not get what you want at all, and yet in remaining calm, you may discover something else that you need even more than what you thought you wanted.


People who become social doormats do not admit feeling hurt about anything, but usually have resentment underneath their calm appearance. Whining, as said by Al Franken, is anger through a small opening. Apathy is a veiled form of anger with deep sorrow for all humanity. People get angry when their expectations are not met. Personal biases and emotions take over leading to aggression. Anger is the wish for harm to come upon someone that one believes has injured one. Often an angry person hurts innocent persons by manipulating circumstances.


Remember that when the boss slams his fist on the table and yells, "I'm the BOSS!" - he no longer is! Anger takes him off his rocker, thereby sending him up the air to hit the ceiling! He starts going bananas and beats his breast in anger, crying out aloud. This makes him lose his cool, his blood begins to boil and most likely he would have burst a blood vessel by looking daggers at someone!


Nevertheless, the best form of revenge is to forgive and never allow the sun to go down on your anger so that you can balance your stress.


Angry people commit many mistakes in life. But mistakes that lighten your mood can be real fun. For example, a furious teacher says, "Write down your name and father of your name!" Yet another one shouts, "Why are you looking at the monkeys outside when I am in the class?"


May God increase such angry people's tribe! After all, like laughter, anger is also nature's gift to us!







China has fast become old before it could become rich. The unwelcome and undesirable demonstration of the law of unintended consequences and a positive impact of its health care services have become a serious matter of worry for the authorities as the proportion of the aged population, people above 65, has already crossed a mark of 10 per cent.


But more worrisome is the problem that the proportion of the population in the age group of zero to 14 has registered a heavy drop. It will be telling on China in the next four years when China suffers labour shortage and shrinking of the state revenue and will need more funds for the care of its growing and graying population.


In a country where care for the aged is a cultural tradition from the time of Confucius, the issue has become a major worry for the nation and the authorities as less than 30 per cent of the aged have benefits of pensions and social securities.


They had worked for the public sector before retiring. Hence, they have some support system but the remaining 70 per cent have to depend entirely on the state, which is already suffering from a resource crunch.


A 97-year-old farmer, Ma Wenlong, is a worried person in the state-run home for seniors in a suburb of Beijing as he has none to look after him. His two sons are already above 70 and need care themselves. His grandsons are above 50 and close to retirement and do not have any child to look after them in the old age.


The entire family does not have benefits of social security and pensions as none of them had worked in the public sector ever. No one had obviously anticipated that the consequences of their policy measures would be so undesirable.


There is an improvement in the life expectancy due to various factors, including the health care schemes of the last 60 years. The life expectancy when China became independent in 1949 was 35 years. It is more than 73 years now, according to the official statistics. Hence more people are surviving today to grow old.


But the drastic impact was caused by the policy measure that China implemented nearly 40 years ago when it made it compulsory by a stringent law for one family to have one child. It was then hailed as a revolutionary measure for birth control that no other country had adopted.


The birth rate certainly dropped but now the country has to grapple with a bulging problem of seniors who have fewer relatives to take care of them in their old age.


The work force is also fast dwindling. More alarming for the authorities is the drop in the young population of China. It means more old men and women on hand and lesser numbers available as its work force. Every country suffers from the problem of an increasing number of old people due to improvements in life expectancy but it has become acute in China because the per capita incomes in China are only one-fifth of the developed nations.


That is why it can be said that China has become old before it could become rich unlike Japan that became rich before it became old. Japan and Italy are other nations that are also plagued by the problem of a fast-ageing population but they have a much higher per capita income as well as the young in the family to take care of the ageing people.


Zhuang Jian, a senior economist with the Asian Development Bank, feels that the ageing of society is coming much faster and much earlier than expected in China. Caring for such an enormous number of old people would be a burden as China is not well prepared for such dramatic demographic changes in such a short time and at a pace unseen in human history.


By 2030 China's 65-plus population would almost double from more than a hundred million now. It was estimated to cross the mark of 235 million. Five years before that stage is reached one in every five Chinese would be above the age of 65 years. A similar pattern can be seen only in two other nations with much higher per capita gross national product.


However, Cai Fang, Director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is more worried about a different aspect. He sees a fast drop in the work force available in China sooner than expected.


China's rapid economic growth was entirely due to the availability of a cheap labour force. It made China a fast-growing manufacturing hub of the world with its manufactured goods flooding the world markets in the last two decades.


However, the demographic advantage that China has enjoyed for the past two decades will soon begin to diminish. In fact, he predicts that China would begin to suffer from a shortage of labour.


There are no prospects of improvement in the situation for a long time as other features of the Chinese demography are even more alarming. The proportion of the population in the age group of zero to 14 has registered an arming drop from 40.6 per cent in 1964 to 17.8 per cent in 2007.


In other words, the work force will continue to shrink and the number of the aged continue to increase. Thus, it will automatically lead to a heavy crunch of resources. The young may not be able to maintain the age-old tradition of caring for their elderly as their work removes them from their homes.


The private sector has grown fast in the recent years but the private sector does not provide social security and old-age pensions or insurance. So also millions of farm workers and odd-job men and women are without such benefits of social security.


The World Bank statistics released recently paint a horrible picture of future. It estimated that only 160 million urban people nearly 15 per cent of the population, will have the protection of a social security net. The rest will need to depend on the ability and mercy of the state. A more pessimistic projection of the World Bank is that China has already suffered from a shortage of resources. Its need for expenditure was one and a half times more than its fiscal revenue last year.


The pension and social security system of China is already under-funded. However, it will come under a severe strain when medical expanses increase due to health problems of the aged.


The fast-ageing population and shrinking work force will have a double impact on the economic system of China as the revenue will decrease while the need for spending increase. It is a perfect prescription for undermining the fiscal position of China in future.


World economists and social scientists are watching the developments in China as the fastest-growing economy in the world aspires to reach the top in a few years. A report by the Strategic and International Studies says that the economic and social stakes are so high that China's leadership, despite being in the midst of a financial crisis, cannot afford to delay necessary changes in its policy.


How China navigates its coming demographic transformation will go a long way toward determining whether it achieves its aspiration of becoming a prosperous, stable and developed country with an expanding role in the global economic and political order.


Economist Zhuang says that the graying of China must be on the top of the political agenda of the leadership with immediate measures as well a long-term strategy. It will require political ingenuity that understands both the economy and human aspirations and knows the art of combining both the without creating new problems. The law imposed of one child per family was hailed as a revolutionary step only 40 years ago. It is now looked upon as a measure that brought only human miseries.









The baton-handing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games 2010 was held in London's Buckingham Palace on October 28 with the usual fanfare. But with this begins the countdown.


The recent spat between Kalmadi and a CWG Federation official raised a question mark about our preparations and readiness for the event. It is unfortunate that a seasoned sports administrator like Kalmadi should have chosen this time to express his ire on an important official and it was aptly commented that it was a wrong fight.


That there is growing uneasiness about the apparent delay in completing the important infrastructure projects can't be called unwarranted. The CWG OG is coming under fire because one of the reasons is that it has centralised every activity.


The organisational structure is different than what was at the time of Asian Games. There was high-powered co-ordination under the respective administrative heads, e.g. Lt Governor was the key stake-holder for all works to be executed by DDA, NDMC and NCT and the Urban Development Secretary was responsible for the infrastructure works entrusted to CPWD and so on in order to fix responsibility.


During 1980-82 an important feature was active coordination, cooperation and confidence building with various stake-holders and watching progress of the works by the Press and sports federations' representatives.


One believes that institutional arrangements made for the Commonwealth Games are well thought out, but somewhere effective coordination seems to be lacking.


For Delhi to host the 2010 Games, there were never more fortuitous circumstances; CM Sheila Dikshit and the UPA government getting the mandate for continuity, ensuring smooth flow of funds. Expert advice is freely available from CGF officials like Mike Fennel, Michael Hooper and even Sebastian Coe, Chairman, OG committee for London Olympic Games. Shenanigans of the CWG OC have never missed the opportunity to interact with them here or in London.


Former Sports Minister Manishankar Iyer, may have been critical of huge public spending on some of the avoidable projects, but he was quite firm on fixing responsibility for the implementation. He had set up sub-committees with domain knowledge and experience in project implementation, in technology and in banking and finance. That is now history.


What matters now is to ensure that the projects are completed in time. The OC is not to be blamed entirely because even as late in 2007 projects like Games village had not been approved. It is unfortunate that planning and approvals for the projects went beyond the standard practice followed for hosting such mega sports events.


But given that, the organisers had sufficient time for completing several of the venue projects — Games village, LNL stadium, Indra Gandhi Indoor stadium — all of which are running behind the target dates for completion. Completion of all infrastructure projects for the Games are important.


All facilities which are mandatory are to be checked from the point of view of international standards. The Commonwealth Federation officers will carry out checks on the standard of facilities created in the Games village. Various functionaries of different bodies will check all ancillary facilities to satisfy the standards required.


It may be stated here that during Asiad'82 the international authorities checked the accuracy and adequacy of facilities provided in the completed works a few days before the date of the event, and certain important deficiencies / defects were found. It was very difficult to rectify the same at the last moment.


Public memory is short and we seem to have forgotten that an entirely new infrastructure was to be created for the Asian Games. But until 1980 it was uncertain whether we would be able to host the Asian Games as the janata govt had been dragging its feet. It was in February 1980 the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, took the decision to hold the Asian Games and the entire infrastructure was to be created in about 22 months.


Many had doubted the country's capability and there were similar visits by the Asian Games Federations to Delhi to take stock of the situation. But the various bodies which had been entrusted to do the unthinkable had risen to the challenge, and pulled about a fine example of giving the country the best of the sporting infrastructure and winning accolade from international federations.


Sports Minister MS Gill assures us that Commonwealth Games "di gaddi ab tez chalegi….." To complete all infrastructures in the next 200 days will be a herculean task. We, the people, particularly the Dehliites, have a stake to give the country the honour it deserves and ensure an orderly conduct of the Games to save the honour of the country. It is possible, indeed.







Newspaper offices waste quite a lot of paper. So, in fact, do newspapers, as yesterday's splendid pine tree becomes (depending on your point of view) today's finely crafted chronicle of our times, or semi-literate showbiz goss, and tomorrow's guinea-pig toilet.


They like flights, too – indeed they have entire sections devoted to jetting round the world, and not just to report on wars, or elections, or famines, or corruption, but on luxury holidays in the Caribbean, or spas in the Seychelles, or massages in the Maldives. It's disgusting. It's really disgusting. I'm going to complain to the editor. In fact, I think I'll take him to tribunal.


There are other things I could mention, too. Women, for example. Newspapers like pictures of women. In this one, they usually have their clothes on, but not, frankly, always that many. I think the women could have more clothes.


And while we're at it, what's with the gloom? Why do we have to write about people dying, and starving, and killing, and embezzling, and fiddling elections, and fiddling expenses, and abusing, and being abused, and generally being miserable? Can't we, you know, ac-cent-tchu-uate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative?


Can't we write stories about people who've been happily married for 40 years, who have held on to their jobs, which they enjoy, and who go on nice holidays where they don't get food poisoning or drown?


You see, I'm a feminine feminist environmentalist positive thinker, and my beliefs are very important to me – so important that you could regard them as a philosophy, a religion, even, and I think that by disregarding my beliefs (my religion!) my employer is discriminating against me.


This, apparently, is the view of Tim Nicholson, the "head of sustainability" (whatever that might be) of one of Britain's biggest property firms, who was very, very, very cross when his boss did things like tell a colleague to get on a plane, when he shouldn't, because flying when you shouldn't is very bad. It's not against the law, but it's naughty. And people shouldn't be naughty. Tender-hearted Tim (the kind of man, one assumes, who has ten different bins in his kitchen and gives his children lovely wooden toys for Christmas), was made redundant last July, and went weeping to his lawyers.


Now a Mr Justice Michael Burton has ruled that his beliefs about climate change qualify as a philosophy or a religion and are therefore subject to the laws applying to religious discrimination. Yes, he has. He really has.


So, cheer up, everyone! The floodgates are open. And it's all about you. Vegetarian offended by your colleague's bacon sarnie? Bring on the lawyers! Feminist, who thinks that girl in advertising's skirt is just a little bit too short? Bring on the lawyers! Fundamentalist Muslim who doesn't like being told what to do by a woman? Well, gosh, that one's a tiny bit complicated.


 By arrangement with The Independent








Though wholesale price index-based inflation is still below 2 per cent, the consumer price index in the last one year has increased by more than 12 per cent with uncontrolled rise in prices of almost all essential commodities. It is important to note that food prices are the pace-setters for general increase in consumer price index and it spreads quickly to non-food grains areas of consumer services. The Centre, of late, has alerted its own administration as well as the States to take drastic measures to encounter the situation arising out of unscrupulous traders taking advantage of delayed and deficient monsoon in different parts of the country. Addressing a State Chief Secretaries conference around three months back at New Delhi, Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh said that the Centre and the States should not hesitate to take strong measures including those against hoarders and black marketeers to check the spiralling prices of essential commodities like pulses, sugar, edible oil, some vegetables like potatoes and onions, etc. The Chief Secretaries were also advised to take proactive measures with immediate effect to make ready contingency plans for crops, drinking water, human and animal health, fodder, etc. keeping a close watch on availability of food grains and prices of essential commodities.

This was urgent in the wake of some 141 districts of the country having been declared drought-affected and possibility of reduced production of Kharif-crops by around 16 million tonnes in terms of rice alone, which could lead to further rise in prices of food items in coming months. The price of processed food and cash crops along with dairy, poultry and live-stock products are continuously on the rise. The Prime Minister also reiterated that the Centre and the States must work together to take effective measures to tide over the situation and activise public distribution system which is an important safety-net and which has been subjected to numerous scandals and corrupt practices. What action the government has taken in last three months is best known to it though the impact is yet to reach the common consumer. It is good that the Centre is now planning to import 2 million tonnes of rice from Thailand and Vietnam. It is important to note that the country has already imported 2.6 million tonnes of food grains in the current year. There is no reason, therefore, for such a rise in prices of food articles which is being experienced at the moment unless there is black marketing, hoarding and malpractices in public distribution system. One fails to understand if the State governments, particularly of this region like Assam have completely surrendered to the whims of trade bodies. The absence of any concerted consumer movement is also to be equally blamed. The State need not wait for Centre's caution and is supposed to always keep a vigil on prices and verify justification of its hike by traders. The State should lose no more time to take stern measures against artificial scarcity of essential commodities and their continuous rise in prices to stabilise the ongoing volatile market.








In an incident that exemplifies appalling human cruelty to mute and defenceless creatures, a Himalayan black bear which happened to stray into a village from Manas Tiger Reserve was beaten to death by the people. It was a long and agonizing death, and the ordeal lasted hours as more and more people joined the 'fun.' To the credit of the Forest Department, all this took place in the presence of the supposed protectors of wildlife besides NGO activists, and police, paramilitary and media personnel. Shamefully, no intervention came from any of the authorities. And even as the dying bear was taking its last breaths, the people literally jumped upon it to get its claws, teeth, fur, and the bile. Later the incident was shown by TV channels, and the viewers must have got a taste of humanity degenerating into an abyss. Or could it be that we are now too insensitive to pause and ponder over such 'trivial' matters? Probably we have few believers in Mahatma Gandhi's famous words that the greatness and moral progress of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

The horrific incident exposes that notwithstanding our so-called progress, we are yet to leave behind the trait of primordial blood thirstiness. Kindness and compassion which we boast of being an integral part of our philosophy are rarely practised. This incident is not an aberration – such happenings are taking place as a matter of routine, with only a few getting adequately reported. The tragedy also raises several important questions, the foremost being the inaction of the Forest Department in saving a Schedule-I animal even though it had several hours to do so. The bear was first spotted early morning when it injured two persons after the duo tried to kill it, taking it to be a wild boar (which is also a protected species). It has also been reported that poachers have been very active in the area, which made the bear stray into the village. If such abysmal security marks as important a conservation area as Manas, the less said about other lesser-known forests the better. The incident is a blot on Manas which is struggling to regain its World Heritage Site status. It is an open secret that poachers are having a field day inside many of our protected areas and reserve forests, decimating wildlife at will. Another disquieting concern is the poor awareness level of the people living in fringe areas of forests. Notwithstanding tall talks by the Government, little has been done to make the people understand the value of forests and wildlife and turn them into stakeholders in the conservation process. We have no dearth of NGOs working in the field but the prevailing awareness belies any genuine work on such a crucial front.









The invasion of the tiny Caribbean state of Grenada by superpower America remains one of the most dubious examples of unjust war and military adventurism violating all international law to expand hegemony. It was almost three decades ago, on October 25, 1983, when the US President Ronald Reagan sent troops to Grenada, an island 1,500 miles off its southeast coast to end its internal power struggle and expel the Soviets and Cuban. This infamous invasion had started what we later saw in the military intervention by America for different excuses as in Panama (1989), Iraq (1991 and 2003) and in Afghanistan (2001).

When President Ronals Reagan assumed office in 1980, the world was heading for a collision course, polarised with doubt and hatred. It was the height of the Cold War and Reagan wanted to expand the influence of US hegemony in different parts of the world. The Grenada invasion was one soft target to show American power and serve its corporate interests.

An internal power struggle in Grenada preceded the US invasion. Prime Minister Maurice Bishop appeared to be an irritant for America for his growing ties with Cuba. On October 13, 1983 Granada's power was illegally seized by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard who murdered Prime Minister Bishop and ordered massacre of government officials This prompted the army under Hudson Austin to intervene by forming a military council to rule the country It appears strange how America felt threatened when a Cuban allied, pro-Communist ruler was overthrown and murdered in an internal power struggle of a tiny island nation.

America's Caribbean allies Dominica, Barbados and Jamaica appealed to Reagan for military assistance to intervene in Grenada. However, according to Mythu Sivapalan of The New York Times that appeal was made at the behest of the US government who had already decided to take military action in Grenada. It was a pre-emptive strike to destroy the emerging infrastructure of the Point Salines International Airport in Granada which, the US had doubted, would be developed into a Soviet base. The invasion was also aimed to evict the Cubans from Grenada,

Bishop's government started constructing the Point Salines International Airport on its capital with the help of Cuba, Libya, Algeria and Britain, its former colonial ruler and fellow Commonwealth state. Designed by Canada and constructed by a London-based firm, the airport was built to accommodate commercial flights to carry tourists. The US had been accusing the Bishop government of constructing the airport for Soviet-Cuban military build-up to transport weapons to insurgents in El Salvador and Guatemala. However, in reality, the Point Salines International Airport was too small for giant Soviet aircrafts carrying military hardware to land and there was no scope for any expansion of its runway as it abutted onto mountain. Earlier in 1982, Ron Dellums, member of US House of_ Representatives, travelled to Grenada in a fact-finding mission. In his report to the Congress, he rubbished the US claim. He said that "it is absurd, patronising and totally unwarranted for the United States Government to charge that this airport poses a military threat to United States' national security". However, the Reagan administration went ahead to invade Grenada claiming the large fuel reservoir at the airport meant for Soviet-Cuban military planes and for the safety of American medical students which could be taken hostage by the Grenadian authorities like the embassy siege by Iran after the 1979 Revolution.

Thus flagrantly violating every international law and arguing on false claims, President Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983. Seven thousand US forces, along with 353 troops from its Caribbean allies, attacked Grenada, in what is known as Operation Urgent Fury. The American forces captured the Point Salines airport and evicted 60 advisors from the USSR, North Korea, East Germany, Bulgaria and Libya, Resistance was given by 1,500 Grenadian soldiers and 700 Cuban, most of them construction workers. About 45 Grenadian soldiers and 24 civilians lost their lives during the combat and the Cubans lost 25. On October 22, 1983, Fidel Castro, deeply mourning the murder of Grenadian Prime Minister Bishop, sent a message to Cuban workers in Grenada not to take any action in the event of a US invasion, unless "directly attacked" and sent diplomatic communications to Washington assuring US concerns about the airport build-up. This was also reported by Alma Guillermo Prieto in The Washington Post. But the Reagan administration rejected the Cuban assurance as "floating craps game - and went ahead to attack Grenada The US forces remained there till December, 1983.

The invasion of Grenada by the US was opposed and criticised by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, one of the closest allies of President Reagan. Canada, Trinidad and Tobago also opposed it. China, the USSR and several other countries deplored the invasion, while UN General Assembly, by a vote of 122 to 9 with 27 abstentions, "deeply deplored the armed intervention in Grenada which had constituted a flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of that state. In the US the Time magazine described the invasion as having "broad popular support". However, Congressman Louis Stocks criticised it and seven Democrat Congressmen led by Ted Weiss attempted to impeach Reagan over the issues.

On a very false pretext America invaded Grenada and Reagan even lied to Mrs Thatcher that war was not contemplated. Similar falsehood was adopted by George W Bush in order to invade Iraq on the pretax of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

The Grenada invasion, twenty six years ago, was launched to experiment the US military adventurism for a long and far-reaching objective of global dominance and hegemony. Before Grenada American forces had never been engaged in any combat since the Vietnam War. The American forces needed exposure to alien landscapes and Grenada proved to be the ideal soft target. The action the GIs and Marines experienced in Grenada proved to be productive for the military intervention of Panama in 1989 when Reagan's successor George Bush sent troops to arrest its President Manuel Noriega. Two years later the deputy commander of US forces in the invasion of Grenada, Gen, Norman Schwarzkopf, became the commander of the coalition forces in Kuwait to liberate it from Iraqi occupation. The Gulf War of 1991 was overseen by Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney, who became the staunch advocate of the Iraq war in 2003 as the Vice President of Bush Junior. The military adventurism by the US from the Cold War period to the present situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been run by the same war-mongering conservative Republican establishment and it all started from Grenada. The Grenada invasion showed how a war can be waged by concealing truths and following a policy of bullying and intimidation based on conceit and falsehood. However, history never forgives anyone. In 2008, the government of Grenada and Cuba agreed to build a memorial site for the slain Grenadian and Cuban nationals in the US invasion. In May this year, the Point Salines International Airport was named after Maurice Bishop and the invasion day, the 25th of October, is celebrated as national holiday to commemorate those killed in the invasion.

(The writer teaches English in Lakhimpur Commerce College)











Rice is cultivated in Assam over an area of about 2.525 million hectares covering Kharif (70 per cent), Ahu (23 per cent) and Boro (7 per cent) paddy. Rice is the staple food of more than 70 per cent people in the region. Many efforts have been made to increase the yield of this crop and bring it to the national average productivity level. The occasional adverse natural situations like drought or flood apart, bronzing is one of the major nutritional disorders that cause low rice yield in Assam.

Bronzing refers commonly to the iron toxicity in rice on acidic soil. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, it has been popularly known as bhabani in Darbhanga ufre in Muzaffarpur, chatra in Sahabad, bhanjiphuti in Sambalpur, yellowing or browning in Orissa, akiochi in Korea, akagree in Orissa, akiochi in Korea, akagree in Japan, penyakit merah in Malay, mentek in Indonesia, panserk in Bangladesh and bronzing in Sri Lanka.

Bronzing is a chronic disorder in rice soils in the North East India. The soils turn acidic in reaction due to leaching of base cations during the usual course of high rainfall. In fact, there is a wide distribution of acidic soils in the North Eastern plains due to diverse climatic conditions in landscape, geology and vegetation. These soils are light-textured, poor in exchangeable bases, high in sesquioxides, have high phosphate fixing ability, and are poor in organic matter (except in the forest areas). Exchangeable iron plays an important role in developing acidity in soils along with other factors like availability of extractable monomeric aluminium and hydrogen ions, strong organic and inorganic acids, period of submergence, etc.

In Assam, iron-bearing minerals compose the majority of soils. This is why the total iron content in ground water ranges from 0.25-10.13 ppm in Dibrugarh, 4-23.3 ppm in Sivasagar, 0.70-71.0 ppm in Jorhat, 12-24.3 ppm in Golaghat, 1-93.8 ppm in Lakhimpur, 3.5-67.5 ppm in Sonitpur and 13.9-29.0 ppm in Nagaon districts of Assam. From these common scenarios, it is easily predictable that unless purified, the ground water is not fit either for drinking or for irrigation in cultivable land, except in Dibrugarh. A glaring situation prevails in the Boro rice-cultivated areas of the central Brahmaputra Valley zone of Assam, where shallow tubewells have been in practice frequently to supply irrigated water. Nevertheless, in Barak Valley zone of Assam, the cultivable land has been enriched with appreciable amount of soluble iron and suspended organic matter under the condition of high attitude (over 1200 metres) by deposition of alluvial soil from the downhills of Himalayas along with the inundating rainwater in rainy season.

Iron toxicity is a common feature in raw sulphate soils, poorly drained alkaloid soils, in valley receiving inter flow of water from adjacent arid highlands, clayey soils, and peaty soils. Toxicity of iron in acidic soils is dynamic in nature, because the critical concentrations of iron in the soil solution for rice vary greatly within a wider range i.e. 45 to 500 ppm. Despite this, in bronzed plants, the iron content usually remains as high as 200 to 600 ppm. This implies a significant increase in iron content in rice shoot with increase in the level of iron in the growth medium. In bronzed plants, the shoot contains considerably a several-fold higher iron than in a normal one.

Without doubt, bronzing is a yield-limiting factor in rice. The available ferrous iron absorbed by the root rhizosphere in rice is further mobilised into plant cells for localisation in organelles. Chloroplast, the food-manufacturing factory in plant cells, contains as high as 90 per cent of the absorbed iron in plants. Below the critical limit iron is non-toxic, generally while it is present in the form of phytoferretin, various cytochromes essential for energy metabolism, and iron sulphur protein. The rest ten per cent of iron is well distributed in the cytoplasm and other chambers which institutes haeme and iron sulphur bearing proteins. Overriding the threshold limit of iron, chloroplastic abberations like a decrease in size and inflammation of grana lamella occur, which cause reduction of green light harvesting chlorophyll molecules required for photosynthesis. Obviously, this phenomenon is associated with low rate of carbon assimilation due to apparent downfall of electron transport compounds.

Irrespective of the forms of iron as ferretin or ferredoxin, it catalyses the creation of highly damaging hydroxyl radical from superoxide or its dismuted product– hydrogen peroxide. The activated oxygen from hydroxyl molecule initiates breakdown of lipids and causes dysfunction of the membrane. Following this, solutes leak out from the cell through the fractured membrane, and membrane integrity is lost, leading to dislocalisation and changes in spatial relationship among the cellular component. Now, the cell becomes invalued. So, the final impacts of iron toxicity are grave and it needs stern action to combat this menace to increase productivity of rice in Assam.

Several common practices are generally suggested to overcome this acute problem. Out of these, the prominent means are application of potlassic fertilisers on plant and soil, water management, use of lime materials, and farm yard manures, adoption of iron-resistant rice varieties in Kharif season. Lime application is assumed costly for the marginal farmers. Also, lime-induced changes in acidity greater than a PH value 5.7 upto 6.5 may induce deficiencies of many nutrients, even iron. So, we should perhaps consider an alternative phyto-prophylactic measure in case of iron toxicity in rice in the greater interest of the farming community.









Sugar is turning bitter for the cane farmer, at a time when sugar prices are at an all-time high. And the reason is new regulation that replaces an older system that, imperfect as it was, still aligned, to an extent, the interests of farmers and the mills.


Under the new regulation, mills have to pay a fair and remunerative price for the cane they buy, the FRP being fixed by the central government, and nothing more. If the state government fixes a higher price, then it has to bear the cost, a provision which reins in state governments.

So the FRP effectively serves as the ceiling price, particularly in a state like Uttar Pradesh, which has put in place zoning restrictions: farmers in a locality can sell their cane only to a particular mill, and to no one else. This has created a situation in which the ruling price of sugar is sky-high, the mills rake in profits but the farmers get a price that is actually lower than the price they used to get when sugar prices were much lower.

This is patently unfair. Sugar and sugarcane are caught up in a special relationship that prevents the normal working of market economics. Cane has to be crushed soon after being harvested, in order to recover sugar from the sap. This makes mills monopoly buyers (monopsonists, in the jargon) for cane growers in the neighbourhood, even without zoning restrictions. This dependence is not one-way, however.

Mills too will face a shortage of cane, if farmers in the neighbourhood decide to not grow cane or to reduce the scale of their crop, in retaliation for poor prices in the previous season. This kind of inter-dependence makes an ideal case for regulation or integrating cane growing and cane crushing into a single enterprise. Sugar cooperatives should work, but most of them have been captured by politicians. And in UP, where there are few cooperatives, regulation is the sole solution. And that regulation should share the rewards of high sugar prices between the mills and the farmers. The simplest way to do that is to link sugarcane prices to the price of sugar.

The trigger for the new regulation was a Supreme Court order saying that the government should pay for levy sugar a price linked to the actual cost of cane, not the much lower statutory minimum price fixed by the government. The government's gain cannot be at the cost of the farmer.







In a turnaround economy like India, small can mean handsome returns. Ask auto makers Suzuki and Hyundai, focused on the sub-compact segment. It is thanks to buoyant small-car sales by their subsidiaries here that both Hyundai and Suzuki have posted record earnings growth, in the midst of a severe global downturn.

It suggests a growth-driver role for the domestic automobile industry, and not merely in terms of volumes and sales. A whole gamut of innovations-from green, energy technologies, to new materials and novel onboard computers-seem likely to be increasingly commonplace in the automobile industry. So proactive policy for the latter would have beneficial effects and spillovers across a panoply of sectors as varied as energy systems, value-added plastics and information technology.

It is true that a significant component of the recent spurt in small-car demand is due to pay revision in the government sector, reduction in excise duty and fuel-consumption subsidies. Besides, stepped-up small-car exports from India is also due to fiscal and monetary largesse in the mature markets. And these demand-side developments are a one-off boost, unlikely to be replicated.

However, the fact remains that domestic demand for transport equipment would remain strong, given our huge growth potential. We need forward-looking policy to rev up production of value-added offerings that have high fuel efficiency, safety and smart systems. This does not mean, however, distortionary tax breaks and holidays.

In an integrated value-added tax regime, exemptions would wreak havoc. What's necessary instead is policy to upgrade industrial skills, encourage a web of supplier networks and provide for critical policy infrastructure, apart from motorable roads. Land acquisition for factories, SME finance, labour laws need urgent attention. Organised bus fleets that run according to GPS-monitored timetables should be the mainstay of urban public transport. The increasingly technology-intensive nature of auto manufacturing would raise productivity across the board.









There is this Tamil movie where a character boasts that no one can predict what he will do next since he is like the Chennai driver who switches on his right-side indicator, gives a hand-signal that he is going to turn to the left and then proceeds to drive straight ahead.


Which could be one reason why, just the other day, CNN noted that "A form of Machiavellian realpolitik governs Indian roads. Lorries and buses coerce their way through traffic with their sheer size and power, overshadowing auto-rickshaws and motor-cycles and then bull their way through lanes. In the grand pecking order of the streets, one would think that cyclists would come second-to-last, just ahead of pedestrians."

However, CNN noted that Amit Bhowmik, founder of India's first social network for cyclists, was categorical that cycling on India's roads was picking up pace. Bhownik went on to add that "Cycling is safer than people think because you are doing it on the extreme left. It's safer to travel in Mumbai by cycle than in other cities like Bangalore where the lanes are narrower."

Not that everyone would agree with Bhowmik who owns a webs-solutions business and bikes to meetings and back. A decade before CNN quoted Bhowmik on biking in Mumbai, Philips Innovation Campus CEO Bob Hoekstra was pedalling to work and back in India's Garden City. On weekends, Hoekstra even pedalled all the way to the hill station of Nandi Hills, some 65 km from Bangalore.

Hoekstra has left India but is still remembered for inspiring the Netherlands deputy PM I J Brinkhorst and the ambassador to India Eric Niche to cycle with him through Bangalore's Cubbon Park on October 23, 2005. On that occasion, Hoekstra had stated that "Traffic is a big problem in Bangalore. It is much safer to cycle on these streets." Going by Hoekstra's statement that Philips R&D centre had registered an annual growth-rate of 35% a year, may be more and more CEOs should start pedalling!







Over the past year, the dollar has increasingly been at the epicentre of a so-called "carry trade." The Fed has been injecting liquidity into the monetary system to stimulate lending. Banks have the options of putting this money at the Fed at 0.25% (on excess reserves at 0.15%) or invest it in assets providing better returns. With interest rates effectively at zero in the US, stock and commodity traders are borrowing risk-free dollar at negative 20% interest rates (the fall in the US dollar leads to massive capital gains on short dollar positions) and investing in higher-yielding currencies and assets, such as stocks, commodities, oil, gold and emerging markets.


The announcement at the end of the two-day FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting on November 4 that policy interest rates will stay "exceptionally low" for "an extended period flashes a green light for the dollar-funded carry trade that has suddenly come in fashion and is conceivably behind the all-asset rally that has gained momentum since March 2009.

In the process, the 'dollar carry trade' will accentuate what is already a wide gap between valuations and the outlook for economic fundamentals in 2010. People's sense of the value at risk (VAR) of their aggregate portfolios ought to be increasing due to a rising correlation of the risks between different asset classes, all of which are driven by common monetary policy of central banks and the dollar carry trade.

Last year, anyone borrowing in yen to buy Australian dollars, a popular trade with Japanese housewives ('Mrs Watanabe'), would have lost 45% of their money in three months. That is why some equate carry trading with holding equities — both are great investments until they blow up. Still, carry strategies have outperformed cash since 1999 by an annualised 8%, rising by a fifth this year alone. Currently, carry trades have got ahead of themselves, returning to 2006 levels whereas equities trail three years behind.

What is more, if carry trades are the rage again due to animal spirits, why is ultra-safe gold at an all-time high? The yen and Swiss franc, traditional borrowing currencies, are also rallying. Perhaps investors reckon they are onto a "sure thing". And we all know — there is no such "sure thing".

Japanese investors are another big engine behind this new carry trade dynamic. When Japanese institutions invest in US dollar denominated assets, they become exposed to forex risk. As a natural hedge, they can make their liabilities also dollar denominated. In other words, they can borrow in ever-diminishing-in-value dollars to finance their investments. The graph below shows a clear correlation between the lower rates in US and the recent yen appreciation. The Japanese yen closely tracks US LIBOR. Why carry trade is dangerous ?

Firstly, The perils of the carry trade were seen in October 1998. Russia's debt default and the implosion of Long-Term Capital Management LP devastated global markets. It was a decidedly panicky period culminating in the yen, which had been weakening for years, surging 20% in less than two months.

Secondly, when the yen rebounds against the dollar, it often snaps back very fast. A graph of the yen/dollar exchange rate shows very rapid bounces that are equal to or bigger than the April's rally in almost every year for the past decade. So carry trades can go from profit to loss with almost no warning.

Thirdly, if there is no forex intervention and foreign currencies appreciate, the negative borrowing cost of the carry trade becomes more negative. If intervention or open market operations control currency appreciation, the ensuing domestic monetary easing feeds an asset bubble in these destination-economies. So the perfectly correlated bubble across all global asset classes gets bigger and frothier by the day.

Fourthly, many asset prices now seem to be extremely dependent on the glut of cheap liquidity that comes from the dollar carry trade; if you look a chart of the dollar/emerging market exchange rate against the MSCI emerging markets index this year, the correlation between the two is very striking. The implication is that if the dollar rises and carry traders bail out of their assets again, we'll probably see another sharp global sell-off in all assets.

World of contradictions confirm carry-trade-financed global asset bubble: Those who believe the worst is over have been merrily buying equities since March. They are also pushing oil and commodity prices higher, expecting global demand to recover to pre-crisis levels reasonably quickly. Simultaenously, for opposite reasons, doom-mongers are piling into bonds.

Oil is on a boil just when demand is easing. Buoyant traders wanting risk are loving Australian dollars and Brazilian reals. But safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen are rallying as well. Likewise, gold investors are schizophrenic; encouraging signs and negative news both seem reasons to buy.

The parallel universes existing in the world today merely reflect the inconsistency of fundamental data. Why are US retail sales improving while unemployment and foreclosures continue to rise, consumer credit is shrinking and consumer confidence still fragile? Export-heavy nations such as Germany are recovering just as their currencies are getting more expensive. Dodgy emerging market sovereign debt or US municipal bonds are priced as if riskless. Since early March, a Brazilian 10-year sovereign bond has seen its yield drop 208 basis points even as the US 10-year note's yield has risen 52bp.

Markets can remain irrational for a long time but the reality check will be brutal for some. To the extent that carry trade is supporting money growth, the Fed could be deceived into thinking monetary policy is looser than it really is. That could set up the markets for a nasty shock, in which the Fed signals an end to accommodation, the dollar surges, and the carry trade reverses.

Such carry trade reversal could bring the whole pack of global asset cards down with it.

(The author is CEO, Global Money Investor)









After almost 20 years, non-basmati rice import has been authorised last week on the government account. Imports on the private account are not commercially viable. The first tranche of government-sponsored import tenders of 30, 000 mt rice are opening soon. And market reports are projecting import of 3-4 million tonnes in the coming year.


This reflects a visionary approach on the government's part to pre-empt an immediate or long-term shortfall in domestic paddy/rice production. In these days of climate change, the weather can prove to be a rude shock for production estimates. Given that, the theoretical projection of sufficiency of supply in India (85 mt production+15mt carry-over) can prove to be lesser than the demand pull (of 93mt), leading to food security issues. The government has rightly decided to err on side of caution. The premise is simple: it is no use speculating whether next year's paddy crop will be inadequate or abundant, but be prepared.

India's entry into the world market has been marked with speed and surprise. Before India presses the accelerator, other nations/governments/traders abroad will attempt to promptly cover their requirements. Larger demand on an immediate basis has already emerged from major importers like Philippines, Iraq and Japan, as they would like to buy (but will not be able to) their requirements at current price levels (around $400/mt fob for 25% broken white rice of Thai and Vietnamese origin and $340 for the Pakistani variety). Prices are likely to spike by 25-50% — $75 to $150 pmt or even more — when subsequent tenders are issued by Indian PSUs.

Only 30 mt of rice is traded worldwide and that includes six mt of Basmati rice exported both by India and Pakistan. Net availability of non-basmati rice is 24 mt. If the Philippines and India together secure six mt in 2010, that would account for 25% of traded rice, which makes for a very bullish price signal. Indeed, rice markets are ablaze as suppliers in Thailand and Vietnam have effectively stopped quoting prices. All producers (Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Pakistan) will hold back their stocks for higher price realisation, with traders and buying nations frantically chasing them.

Thus, rice inflation is on the cards globally. But Indian domestic prices will remain stable to firm as the government has taken advance action to curb speculative interest and will also subsidise imported cargoes. India might review its rice requirements after July-Aug 2010 depending upon the intensity of monsoons. That might also mean a decline in international prices if India curtails its import demand after August 2010.

But the process of import itself is not so easy. Defined specifications of rice ensure that some varieties are not commonly traded. The Myanmar-origin, for instance, falls short of compliance as its grain length is less than six mm; the Viet and Thai-origin has to factor in a "on two-third broken basis" and chalky content, etc. Pakistani rice may too have some general quality and photo-sanitary issues. In fact, some of the parameters are so stringent that samples will have to be dispatched to Europe for testing. So, specification compliance will make imported rice more expensive than normally traded rice.

Vietnam's current crop season is ending and their next crop will arrive by March 2010. They have large existing commitments to Philippines and elsewhere and have already exported more than five million tonnes this year. Any worthwhile shipments from Vietnam to India would be feasible only from March/April 2010. Pakistani rice may be competitive, but could create a host of problems both for the buyers and the sellers. The safest, Thailand-origin variety is the most expensive.

India consumes 10,000 mt rice per hour (the basis being the annual demand of 93mt). The current tenders for 30,000 mt rice, thus, cover only three hours of that demand. Given the "trend is the friend" adage, it will be advisable to contract as large a quantity as available in a tender since much higher values will have to be paid for the subsequent purchases.

Post-contracting, execution could also prove to be very hard. With prices rising after each tender, old contracts could face defaults — not because the traders are not willing to supply, but because their vendors might either breach the contracts or foreign governments can step in to limit or ban exports to ensure their own food security.

The Rice Traders Weekly has commented: "Tenders may not be the best tool for a market short in supply. The mood is bullish and India will lead trends in the short term. Tenders in such a market are not the best method of obtaining a good price; tenders are more effective when supply is not questioned. Expect some very interesting pricing decisions with the winners likely to be those prepared to be less greedy and be prepared for a fixed return based on costs and the ability to secure supplies and partners for these tenders."

For India, as well as the rest of the world, the season of surprises in the rice trade has just begun.

(The author, a freelance commodity analyst, is a former director of PEC Ltd)








The Seeker asked: "How can I know if what you tell me is true?" To this, the Ancient One (for only a person of very aged pedigree can impress upon the novice such imposing ripostes) replied: "I tell you, seeker, that unless it exists, you cannot know the Truth. For if there is no objective Truth, then why go on deluding yourself through an entire lifetime? Would it not be better instead to try to enjoy the brief period left to your pointless existence? However, what if a deeper reality does exist? To be real, the Truth must stand alone; everything contradicting it has to be counterfeit."

But does a deeper reality of truth exist? In some cases, such as in mathematics, it seems like it definitely does. Two plus two add up to four, period. Whether minds, consciousnesses or people exist or not, whether the world or the universe exists or not, whether a creator or the entire cosmos exists or not, it seems extremely unlikely — if not totally implausible — that two of something and two more of the same would not total up to four of them. In terms of mathematical truth, as understood within the context of logical thought of deduction and induction, this suggests that such truths are pre-existent and thus discovered from within the realm of pure form. There's no getting away.

But now consider faith. The statement most followers of some religions would accept as truth is: "There is only one deity, and that God is an indivisible unity." Other followers of other religions — not to mention atheists and agnostics — however, would say the statement is false. The truth is that it's either true or false and a correct answer probably exists in some realm of pure form. But we can only know for sure which viewpoint is counterfeit if we were privy to all knowledge.

So the Seeker thought for a while and rephrased his question: "How can I know if what you tell me is counterfeit?" To this the Ancient One (with the same credentials) replied: "When you can justify your curiosity with your own answers to questions that have no solutions in the realm of pure form, you become your own fount of pre-existing knowledge and then are no longer deluding yourself or enjoying the brief period left to your pointless existence. But the problem is, such kind of knowledge puts a great burden of counterfeit. Will you consider yourself to be a valuable person thereafter and be able to live, like I do, with that deeper reality?"







There is an absolute ruckus over the swearing-in ceremony in Vidhan sabha — which hopefully will take place very soon. One fails to understand the confusion, as there is no concrete foundation to debate.

This ceremony completely belongs to Maharashtra and Marathi being the state language, there should not be a commotion over the choice of language. It's absurd to think it unreasonable for us to demand Marathi as the language at the swearing-in ceremony.

Hindustan is one and complete. And the oneness has a beautiful existence of unity in diversity. But our Constitution itself has created different states and different state languages are given their importance in order to promote smooth functioning in every nook and corner of our country.

There is nothing derogatory or criminal in promoting a language of a particular state for the progress of the citizens residing within the boundary of that state. Marathi is the common man's language in the state. It is also the commercial language of our financial capital, Mumbai. The government recognises Marathi as the official language.

The assembly also confirms Marathi as the language of the functioning. Then why should not Abu Azmi, the Samajwadi Party MLA, understand or use this language after residing in the state for years, and after being elected an MLA here?

And yes, there is no reason to object to Hindi. Actually, there should not be any opposition to any language in Hindustan. Raj Thackeray himself, and his party associates, have already circulated election appeal letters to voters in Hindi and Urdu. So Hindi does not become a part of the argument.

We are concerned with the upgradation of Marathi, not the degradation of any other language. Raising this issue is just a publicity stunt to capture the headlines.








India is a country of different and contrasting cultures and its linguistic chart is just as diverse. But there are certain groups of people who are trying to vitiate national unity and integration just to hide their recent poll embarrassment.

By calling for taking oath only in Marathi, the Maharashtra Navanirmana Sena has only revealed its inheritance of the hatred and vicious cultural xenophobia of the Shiv Sena. It is an attempt to revive the politics of regional identity and sub-nationalism that has been created by Shiv Sena, and Raj Thackeray is only giving new forms to this chauvinism.

Constitutionally, a member of the Maharashtra House can take oath in any of the around 15 notified languages. No one can decide for a member the language in which he or she should take oath. Even earlier, members have taken oath in Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Sanskrit and English, besides Marathi, so why the fuss today?

No one objected when some Maharashtra MPs took oath in the Lok Sabha in Marathi. Who is Raj Thackeray to force MLAs to choose a language? His diktat to legislators shows his disregard for rules of legislative business and procedure.

The MNS's anti-Hindi and anti-migrants campaign is a deliberate strategy to return to a hatred/majoritarian agenda because of the failure of Hindutva politics of Shiv Sena. The Congress is instigating the MNS against the Shiv Sena by making a sharp division of Marathi votes and thus created a clear path for itself with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to form a new government in Maharashtra.

Samajwadi Party believes in national unity and integrity and has no such vicious agenda to malign any language. The SP has great respect for all Indian languages. But it cannot tolerate if someone, in a lumpen manner, tries to malign the Hindi language. Therefore, the party supports the cause of its member Abu Azmi's desire to take oath in Hindi.







There is an absolute ruckus over the swearing-in ceremony in Vidhan sabha — which hopefully will take place very soon. One fails to understand the confusion, as there is no concrete foundation to debate.

This ceremony completely belongs to Maharashtra and Marathi being the state language, there should not be a commotion over the choice of language. It's absurd to think it unreasonable for us to demand Marathi as the language at the swearing-in ceremony.

Hindustan is one and complete. And the oneness has a beautiful existence of unity in diversity. But our Constitution itself has created different states and different state languages are given their importance in order to promote smooth functioning in every nook and corner of our country.

There is nothing derogatory or criminal in promoting a language of a particular state for the progress of the citizens residing within the boundary of that state. Marathi is the common man's language in the state. It is also the commercial language of our financial capital, Mumbai. The government recognises Marathi as the official language.

The assembly also confirms Marathi as the language of the functioning. Then why should not Abu Azmi, the Samajwadi Party MLA, understand or use this language after residing in the state for years, and after being elected an MLA here?

And yes, there is no reason to object to Hindi. Actually, there should not be any opposition to any language in Hindustan. Raj Thackeray himself, and his party associates, have already circulated election appeal letters to voters in Hindi and Urdu. So Hindi does not become a part of the argument.

We are concerned with the upgradation of Marathi, not the degradation of any other language. Raising this issue is just a publicity stunt to capture the headlines.







India is a country of different and contrasting cultures and its linguistic chart is just as diverse. But there are certain groups of people who are trying to vitiate national unity and integration just to hide their recent poll embarrassment.

By calling for taking oath only in Marathi, the Maharashtra Navanirmana Sena has only revealed its inheritance of the hatred and vicious cultural xenophobia of the Shiv Sena. It is an attempt to revive the politics of regional identity and sub-nationalism that has been created by Shiv Sena, and Raj Thackeray is only giving new forms to this chauvinism.

Constitutionally, a member of the Maharashtra House can take oath in any of the around 15 notified languages. No one can decide for a member the language in which he or she should take oath. Even earlier, members have taken oath in Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Sanskrit and English, besides Marathi, so why the fuss today?

No one objected when some Maharashtra MPs took oath in the Lok Sabha in Marathi. Who is Raj Thackeray to force MLAs to choose a language? His diktat to legislators shows his disregard for rules of legislative business and procedure.

The MNS's anti-Hindi and anti-migrants campaign is a deliberate strategy to return to a hatred/majoritarian agenda because of the failure of Hindutva politics of Shiv Sena. The Congress is instigating the MNS against the Shiv Sena by making a sharp division of Marathi votes and thus created a clear path for itself with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to form a new government in Maharashtra.

Samajwadi Party believes in national unity and integrity and has no such vicious agenda to malign any language. The SP has great respect for all Indian languages. But it cannot tolerate if someone, in a lumpen manner, tries to malign the Hindi language. Therefore, the party supports the cause of its member Abu Azmi's desire to take oath in Hindi.









As the scion of the one of the world's most influential business families — that own more than 100 companies, such as ABB, Ericsson, Electrolux, Saab and AstraZeneca — the 53-year-old Marcus Wallenberg has an unparalleled inside view of global businesses across sectors as varied as consumer goods, defence systems, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and financial services.


Mr Wallenberg is the chairman of Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), Saab, Electrolux, and the deputy chairman of Ericsson. He is also a director on the board of drug maker AstraZeneca, on behalf of the Wallenberg family's holding company — Investor, that has a market value of over $20 billion — which he led as CEO for six years between 1999 and 2005. On a recent visit to India as part of a European Union business delegation, Mr Wallenberg shared his views on the economic recovery under way, the importance to push the envelope on global trade and the role of family in global businesses with ET in a freewheeling interview. xcerpts:

Is the global economic recovery for real?

None of us has been through anything like this before. Therefore, you should be very cautious in trying to make a prediction. But, I think, there are a number of signs pointing in the right direction. Are there great threats or imbalances on the way? Yes, sure. But, fundamentally, we are not going to see an economic Armageddon, the one we were all thinking of just 12-18 months ago. I think it (the recovery) will take time because we have been through such a tough time, and it must take time.

One of the major issues when you think about the recovery is that we have to be very careful so that protectionism does not take over. India has been one of the countries that has been very vocal in saying that it is important, the trade issue and that we have to get to the (conclusion of) Doha round. But I think you have to realise that in difficult times, politicians are very much under pressure from domestic forces. And then you need even more leadership to get there. I think India has shown great leadership recently and that's very good.


What happens when governments withdraw stimulus measures they announced in the past year?
I think people are very careful and they should be careful. This is exactly (premature withdrawal of stimulus measures) what happened in 1930s (during the Great Depression) when they (the government) stopped the stimulus, when they didn't have to. With equity, commodity and real estate markets already beginning to overheat, is the financial sector again racing ahead of the real economy?

You have to wonder. The dollar and the oil have a sort of correlation — a negative one. We could have higher oil prices, but that's not good. Personally, I think there are many more aspects that come into this. I am not in a position to say if it is speculation or not. But the long-term energy needs of some of the world's largest countries like India, China and Brazil — if they continue to have such strong economic growth — that would create continued demand. We don't know if there is speculation or hedging.

Most of your companies have had a presence in India for a long time now. Why has Investor not invested directly in India as yet?

I am not here to do (direct) investment. We had done some indirect investments with some Indian friends here. But, we have not come in directly. We have been careful, and so far, have not seen a suitable opportunity to invest. We are focusing on indirect initiatives. It is basically Indians living here who have taken initiatives to do certain things here. I think it is now evident that in India, it is very important to find partners to do things. If you come here with a view to find a good home for your money, then it's important to find a good partner and you really have to stay close to the market, spend time, because you don't know the place.

So, as of now, you are not looking at investing directly in India via Investor or some India-focused fund?

No, not that I know of.

You have been coming here for the past 4-5 years now. You know the areas that are opening up. What are the areas of opportunity here?

I think, if you look at what Ericsson has done here in the past few years, they are very strong. I think all the companies are looking at this market with such growth rate.


What about the huge opportunity in the defence sector?

We (Saab) are a very small company, but we have technology for India, and good partners will help us. But it's a very competitive market, and we have some competitors, but we can handle that.

What's the role of the family in a global, multicultural business?

I think values are important. We plan for the long-term, try to keep things together and try to be together. In our family, there has always been a lot of focus around collaborators — who can you bring along, who can you work together with. We have to work together as a team with a long-term aim to build the company.

What's the role of sovereign wealth funds in the future? (Mr Wallenberg sits on the Temasek board)

I think most of them seem to be focusing on maintaining their asset value and to deliver (good) returns. Which I think is what they have tried to say for a long time (only that people were assigning other reasons to their investment strategy).










At a time when IT czars are foraying into venture capital, Shiv Nadar, chairman of the country's fourth-largest software services provider HCL Technologies, is fighting shy of any such plan.


The reason — Mr Nadar sees a conflict of interest in starting a venture capital fund, while he's still part of HCL, a stand contrary to that taken by his industry peers — Infosys chief mentor NR Narayana Murthy and Wipro chairman Azim Premji. While Mr Premji runs a private equity fund called Premji Invest, Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy trimmed their stake in Infosys to start a fund called Catamaran that would invest in Indian companies.

In the past few years, Mr Nadar has taken a backseat from the day-to-day operations at HCL and is focused on carving an overall vision for the group. As part of the Shiv Nadar foundation, he runs the SSN College of engineering in Chennai.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview:


You're already doing a lot of work in the area of education through the Shiv Nadar foundation. As an extension, would you also look at doing something to encourage entrepreneurs? Some of your industry peers have turned venture capitalists.

No. I have no intention of doing that at all. We have two institutions — HCL technologies and HCL Infosystems — and that's what we have. The rest is for pure philanthropy.

But aren't you looking at creating more entrepreneurs?

I can't do anything, which is in conflict with the institutions I built. That's not where we go at all.

NR Narayana Murthy is starting a fund. Premji has a private equity fund. Why would you not do the same?

I will not. I quite enjoy philanthropy. Every time I come to Chennai, have you seen me coming for a business trip? No, it's always SSN. I don't even go to the city. I come here only for this because I feel very fulfiled.

So you're not changing your mind on that anytime soon?

No, not me.









Superfund is a managed futures hedge fund which trades in futures across a large number of markets. The fund trades both commodities futures and financial products. Aaron Smith, MD, Superfund Financial spoke to ET NOW.

Why do you believe that systematic investing is dead?

That was the investment strategy of the past century. The investment strategy of this century will be in systematic trading like managed futures funds, products that can give returns in bull as well as bear markets. The past decade has proved that equity markets are just a big roller coaster and no one can pick the bottoms or the tops perfectly.

So it is much more important to have a systematic trading strategy where portfolio managers, human emotions, are taken out of the equation and you are able to just follow the discipline. After all, 80% of the futures markets worldwide are already electronic.

Why are you super bullish on gold?

In 2004-2005, our founder Christian Baha had told me that he thought gold would go to $1000 per ounce. Now Christian believes that gold will trade easily at $2000 per ounce in the next three to five years. It is just a question of how much money is printed and we do not even know anymore how much money is being printed... Of the $5.1 trillion worth of gold in the world, $800 billion is in Indian households.

The temptation for Indian investors will be to sell when gold hits the 1,100-1,200-1,500 mark, but you would be best to put your gold away, put it in the safe, forget about it and let your grand-children have it and use it in the future.

What's your own view on the dollar, going ahead?

It has gone straight down since 2001, with the exception of the first quarter of last year. The question is, what kind of effect will inflation have on all currencies. If you allow your local currency to get stronger against
the dollar, that is going to hurt your economy.

So all the economies around the world will be forced in this Catch 22 decision of whether to strengthen their currency, protect their purchasing power and kill their economy or depreciate their currency, which is I think is what they are more likely to do. The good thing about gold is gold has no GDP. It has no variables, it has no debt, so you can trust it.

Do you believe that soft commodities will see an exceptional run over the next few years? Or will they trade at the levels they are currently at?

That is another great reason to buy gold because it has 81% correla-tion to commodities since 1980. If you look at spot gold versus the Goldman Sachs commodity India index, that has a 81% correlation. Soft commodities have a tremendous upside.

At Superfund, we have long trading positions, technical trading positions in sugar and cocoa as well as other soft commodities. At the same time, we have taken short positions in some commodities like corn and wheat, where the trend for the past few months has actually been on the downside.

Besides gold, what asset classes would you advise diversifying into?

Well, agricultural land is a very good buy although it is difficult to purchase, and then we have liquidity issues. By 2050, 15% of the arable land in the world will not be farmable because of global warming.







In the last one year, while overall credit flow declined, credit to the SME sector grew an encouraging 28%. In an interview with ET's Ravi Teja Sharma, IDBI's executive director and SME head, TR Bajalia, however points out that the money raised isn't going into expansion projects.


Has credit flow for SMEs improved now?

Credit flow in the first eight months of 2009 for SMEs is up around 28% over the same period last year. Micro and small enterprises have seen a credit flow of Rs 40,146 crore this year compared to Rs 23,865 crore in 2008. The total credit flow in this period was down from Rs 4,84,805 crore in 2008 to Rs 3,08,718 crore. The share of SMEs in the overall credit flow has increased in this period from 4.9% to 13%.

When the government of India announced a policy package in 2005, the total bank exposure to MSMEs was Rs 67,600 crore. All banks were instructed to ensure 20% increase in credit to MSMEs every year so that it doubles in five years by 2010. In March 2009, the exposure stood at Rs 2,57,000 crore which is almost four times. The government should not forget this sector which contributes 40% to the country's manufacturing production and about 35% to its exports.

What has been IDBI's exposure to SMEs?

IDBIs total exposure to SMEs till March 2009 was about 12,000 crore or 11% of total exposure. From April to date, we have sanctioned over Rs 3,000 crore for SMEs of which Rs 2,000 crore has been disbursed. For IDBI, this is the second year of operations in the SME segment. The segment is starting to look up with sectors such as auto, pharma and textiles seeing improved growth.

What has been the nature of borrowing by SMEs in the recent past?

There is a slightly disturbing trend here. New capital investments are not happening. Most new sanctions have happened for additional working capital, new working capital and for non-fund based requests like bank guarantees and letter of credit facility. Very few requests have come in for expansion plans, technology upgradation and other capital investments.

Small companies are worried about the impact of the recent monetary policy. Are these concerns valid and will interest rates go up?

According to indications in the market, interest rates may harden. Liquidity is available but inflation is high so there might be an increase in interest rates but only if inflation rises further. There will not be any increase in the immediate term. Rates may go up by the end of the fiscal if inflation is not controlled.

How has external credit rating of SMEs helped banks in lending?

With Basel II norms coming in, all exposures over Rs 10 crore have to be rated by an external agency. Rating helps in faster processing by banks. With better rating, an SME can negotiate better interest rates. It can benchmark for improvement in the rating or can compare with peers. Rating gives an SME better standing in the market and confidence to the lender, suppliers, buyers and employees.

How is IDBI reaching out to SMEs?

We are creating a hub-and-spoke model where all SME branches having dedicated teams source business which is processed at a centralised processing centre. All branches try to clear loans up to Rs 5 crore in 10 days. We are trying to keep the turnaround time to a maximum of two weeks for small cases.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The monetary and fiscal authorities in this country have considered withdrawal of stimulus packages; and while the Union finance minister stressed these would remain for the time being, he also clearly said that the government would wait for third-quarter GDP numbers and advance tax collection figures to determine if the economy was solidly on the path of recovery before taking a call on ending the stimulus measures. Mr Pranab Mukherjee had voiced concern on the moderation of growth in September after signs of a pickup in industrial growth in the past few months. Exports to Europe, North America and Japan were down 32.7 per cent: these countries together account for 60-65 per cent of our total exports. He also articulated the need to return to fiscal prudence as soon as the economic circumstances permit. All in all, there are signs that unwinding of the stimulus package is not very far from the government's radar. The G-20 nations too feel it is time for countries to draw up exit strategies; and every time this is publicly spelt out, stockmarkets around the world go into a tailspin. The G-20 had earlier said there was no question of an exit till mid-2010; but today some countries like Australia and Norway — admittedly none of the major economies — have already taken steps in that direction by raising interest rates. The United States, Britain, and the major European countries are, of course, in no mood to dismantle stimulus packages yet. This divergence of views about the immediate future — with a part of the world following an easy money policy and the other on a different trajectory — could well impact world financial markets. Australia, for instance, has raised interest rates, so US dollars could well flow there since the US and Europe have almost zero interest rates. If different nations follow different policies, there will be another round of adjustments. The Reserve Bank of India, for example, will have to absorb the capital inflow of funds, and has little choice but to absorb the foreign exchange at a cost. It will have to sterilise these dollars, which in turn will lead to a chain reaction. An easy money policy will also lead to a rise in the prices of crude, commodities, gold, etc, and this could have an inflationary impact as these commodities are rising due to speculation and not demand and supply. There is, however, a positive side to the West continuing stimulus packages. Emerging markets such as India, China and some others in Southeast Asia, which depend on exports to the US and Europe, will benefit if these countries continue to import. There are exciting times ahead for the world's financial architecture as a whole new set of dynamics will start. A coordinated withdrawal of stimulus packages would be ideal, but if this is not on the radar of many nations, nothing much can be done about it. India, for one, will have to take a decision keeping domestic priorities in mind, but also not forgetting that there will be consequences given that we live in an interdependent world. India was not as badly hit by the global financial crisis as some other countries, therefore its stimulus packages were also not of the same quality like the US and even China. Fortunately, these packages coincided with the LS elections, so it had a further dimension here. While the government has talked about withdrawing fertiliser and oil subsidies, nothing has been said about a waiver of farm loans even though farmers are in distress due to drought and suicides by farmers continue.








Normally, we would have welcomed the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram's offer to the Maoists to discuss problems like land acquisition, forest rights of tribals, discrimination et cetera. However, our home minister — though quite intelligent and dynamic (especially when compared to his predecessor) — seems to have not read his full brief on the Maoists. He says that he is not asking them to give up arms but to only eschew violence as a means of redressing their grievances since the government is willing to talk to them.

Mr Chidambaram said at a press conference on October 30: "The Centre had never asked the Maoists to lay down arms since it was not a realistic expectation. We have always asked them to halt violence… They should come forward for talks if they consider themselves serious champions of the poor".

Such an approach presupposes that the Maoists are interested in solving the problems of the tribals and other neglected sections of society, and that they have taken up arms mainly because the democratic machinery refused to talk about these problems, much less solve them. But Mr Chidambaram errs. For all his tough talk and devising (at last) a national anti-Naxal strategy, he should be aware of what happened when the late Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy made a similar offer in 2004 and allowed Naxal leaders and cadres to go around freely, with their arms on display.

It is futile to ask the Maoists to give up their arms or engage them in talks. Maoists do not believe in dialogue. Lenin, who laid down the guidelines for the proletarian revolution, urged his cadres to use all types of deceit and arms to capture power. And once in power, they should eliminate their "class enemies", including other political parties. The state apparatus is to be used without mercy for this purpose. No other criteria for political morality exist in the Marxist-Maoist book.

The history of the Communist movement in the former Soviet Union, in China, in Vietnam, in Cambodia and elsewhere is replete with such instances. Lenin used violence, deception and treachery first to gain ascendance over the Mensheviks and then over his colleagues. Stalin used the state apparatus first to eliminate the Mensheviks and other Opposition political forces and then to finish his own colleagues one by one, starting with Trotsky. The Stalinist trials of the 1930s give a graphic insight into Communist tactics.

In eastern Europe just before the end of World War II, the Communists who were then in minority managed to come to power by collaborating with others. But soon they destroyed their allies from within, one by one, in a policy nicknamed "Salami tactics".

In China, Mao Zedong turned against his revolutionary colleague Liu Shao-chi and then Mao's wife formed the "Gang of Four" that sent several Communist leaders, including the most famous among them, Deng Xiaoping, packing to hard labour.

In Cambodia, the most gruesome killing spree in human history took place under a maniacal Communist leader. Poor peasants who found their land taken away for the collectivisation died in all these countries. India, either under the Maoists or Marxists, will have no different fate.

The ideological paradigm of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Maoists is one. Look at the Marxists who are in power in West Bengal and Kerala. They are no different from the Maoists in dealing with their political opponents. Having state power in their hand, the Marxists threaten and blackmail to smother political dissent. How the Communists succeeded in entrenching themselves in West Bengal over 30 long years has been exposed. Their unions hold several top-level Bengali newspapers under their thumb, so it is not easy to carry anti-Marxist news stories in prominent newspapers and television channels. The fearless among Bengal's journalists have been publicly beaten up by Marxist goondas.

In Marxist-ruled Kerala complete dominance is not possible as the state has been governed by the Congress-led United Democratic Front and Communist-led Left Democratic Front with the non-Communist political forces also gaining strength. Yet the Marxists seek to make up for this weakness by targeting newspapers and journalists at every turn.

In effect, there is little to choose between the Marxists and the Maoists — the former use violence under the cover of the state government while the latter use armed violence in their attempt to seize power.
If the Marxists appear to be working within the constitutional framework, it is because they have tried and failed to seize the state apparatus through violence. Now they are working to wreck the system from within.
The Maoists are convinced that they can seize the state apparatus through armed attacks on the state. There is hardly any doubt that if the Maoists succeed, the bulk of the Communist cadre would shift their allegiance to the Maoist leadership.

Communists of all hues believe in a proletarian takeover of the state through whatever means available. Such a takeover, according to the Leninist-Maoist line, should be followed by imposing the dictatorship of the Communist Party and ruthless suppression of all dissent, even internal, among the Communist leadership.
In this framework of faith in violence and dictatorship, does it serve any purpose to ask the Maoists to give up violence and open talks with the government?


Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at [1]








REGARDLESS of the views of the hawks in Pakistan's establishment, and howsoever strong they may be, Islamabad must give a positive response to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer of peace.
Normal relations and mutually-beneficial cooperation between the two closest South Asian neighbours has always been desirable for many reasons but their urgency has been increased many times over by the extremists' challenge to the Pakistan state.

No sane person on either side of the border can deny that the threat to the stability of Pakistan is also a threat to India's vital interests, and their joint efforts are needed to ensure victory over the terrorists.
That Pakistan needs peace along its border with India in order to be free to deal with the conflict in its tribal areas is only part of the argument for establishing peace in the subcontinent. Much more urgent is the need for India-Pakistan cooperation for winning the battle for democracy, tolerance and social justice. Losses in this battle will plunge the people of both India and Pakistan into unimaginable ordeals.

Hitherto a common view in Pakistan has been that India is ignoring the threat to itself posed by the terrorists' campaign against Pakistan.

There was reason to believe that the pro-confrontation lobby in India saw in Pakistan's predicament an opportunity to squeeze it for concessions it might not be willing to make in normal times. Such elements should not be expected to stop undermining the Indian Prime Minister's initiative.

It is in Pakistan's interest to ensure that he is not forced by anyone to withdraw his offer.

The Pakistan government too will be under pressure from hardliners in its ranks and outside. Any compromise with such elements will cause Pakistan irreparable harm. Islamabad should, therefore, press for the earliest possible resumption of the composite dialogue with India.

Unfortunately, several new factors have fuelled tension between India and Pakistan. One of them is the way the Ajmal Amir Kasab affair has been dealt with by both sides.
The unnecessarily prolonged haggle over Kasab's confessional statement merely exposed the size of the trust deficit. Was it impossible for India to supply Pakistan with an English translation of the court and police record in Marathi and was it impossible for Pakistan to get this work done?

Questions regarding the admissibility of a text not officially admitted by India could have been sorted out in due course. The two sides have to act in a spirit of cooperation to put the Mumbai outrage behind them. Pakistani authorities have been accusing India of interference in Balochistan and the tribal areas. One hopes they have much more credible evidence to support their charges than the use of Indian-made weapons by the Taliban in Waziristan or the receipt of some funds by the Baloch nationalists from Afghanistan.

The extremists' access to arms manufactured in a particular country is no decisive proof of that country's support for their cause and experts in money-laundering have considerable experience in using channels through any country. In any case, these complaints should be addressed on an urgent basis at India-Pakistan joint meetings.

This matter will assume greater seriousness as India's relations with Afghanistan are likely to grow with faster speed than at present. If Pakistan succumbs to the temptation of opposing India's overtures to Afghanistan it will only reduce the chances of normalisation of relations with both Afghanistan and India.

A better way of protecting Pakistan's interests in a democratic Afghanistan would be to grant the latter its due place in South Asian councils and develop a regional response to the twin curse of foreign intervention and civil war that are perpetuating the Afghan people's three decades-long tribulations. No single power can guarantee Afghanistan's recovery and peaceful progress; the task can only be accomplished by countries in Afghanistan's vicinity (all of them, including Pakistan and India) acting in concert.

The significance of the fact that Dr Singh chose to extend his hand of peace while on a visit to Srinagar is unlikely to be missed by Pakistani hawks. They will again advance settlement of the Kashmir issue as a precondition for normal relations with India.

Nobody can deny the importance of the Kashmir issue, especially to the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been wronged by both India and Pakistan.

But the disastrous consequences of sustaining a costly confrontation until the Kashmir issue is resolved are too apparent to permit persistence in this policy.

While talks to move towards a Kashmir settlement acceptable not only to India and Pakistan but also, and more essentially, to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, should continue, progress or setbacks in this area must not obstruct other initiatives for cementing India-Pakistan friendship and cooperation. More and more people are realising that a Kashmir settlement will follow India-Pakistan friendship and not precede it.
Above all, peace-loving people in both India and Pakistan are getting weary of meetings and talks that do not result in increasing India's stakes in a stable and prosperous Pakistan and Pakistan's stakes in a stable and prosperous India. Apart from giving a boost to India-Pakistan trade it is necessary to think of joint industrial ventures and meaningful cooperation in the fields of agriculture, education, health and culture.
It is possible that the current political crisis in Pakistan will be advanced by one side or another to put India-Pakistan bilateral talks on hold. The time for using such arguments has passed. In today's situation the only sensible course is to press on with establishing peace in the subcontinent regardless of the political crises in either country or a change of regime here or there.








One year ago on November 3, America officially became a postracial society. Fifty-three per cent 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 institutionalised dehumanisation 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. "Coloured" lasted 82.3 years, "Negro" less than half that. "African-American" was challenged by "People of colour" after an even shorter reign. May I suggest "People Whose Bodies Just Happen to Produce More Melanin, and That's OK", or PWBJHTPMMATOK? It's factually accurate, non-threatening and quite pithy. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People 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 the 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 pere 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 aperþus. 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 Morrison's timeless classic. We keep the name — it's so totally, invitingly postracial — 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 reimagined Do the Right Thing should reflect Brooklyn's changing demographics, with a group of multicultural Brooklyn writers — subletting realists, couch-surfing post-modernists, landlords whose metier 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 theorising. As the secretary of postracial affairs, I want to get out there and engage the people, organise town halls, get up in people's homes and faces. Eat their food. There's a variation on an old parlour 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 colour 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








There is an intriguing question mark over the resumption and continuation of the path-breaking experiments on fundamental particle physics at the Centre for European Nuclear Research ( Cern).

Cern had initiated a path-breaking project to observe and investigate the formation of matter in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang, i.e. precisely during a time span of 10 seconds after the cosmic Big Bang explosion. By simulating the Big Bang in the laboratory, the physicists of our planet were hoping to gain invaluable insights into the creation and dissolution of matter, or, for that matter, anti-matter!
With the largest particle accelerators on planet earth, including a few of the largest Linear Hadron colliders, Cern was slated to resume its exploration into the macrocosm cooped up inside the microcosm of the atom in November 2009.

But overwhelming safety considerations cried a halt to the unfolding rapid pace of this stimulating subatomic research over a year ago.

But right now the buzz in the campus and its neighbourhood, strategically located 100 miles below the surface of the earth, is that it will take at least a few more months for the institution to hum again with its phalanx of exciting research projects. November 2009 will be an impossibly tall order as a deadline for the research establishment to meticulously pick up the threads of its full scale research once again and get going full steam.
The Cern racing track is the longest racing track in the world, stretching to a total of 27 kilometres.

There is also a sullen undercurrent of resentment that is snowballing against the grandiose project. Poised, as mankind is, on the tingling threshold of a daunting and demanding 21st century, we are no techno-geeks and ning-nongs to cower and crouch at the feeblest hint of a pulley, a lever or a word processor. So why can't the Cern establishment make itself transparent and take all of us interested and concerned folks into confidence as to what is happening inside the hermetically-sealed and formidable fortification of European Nuclear Research? The complex is also home to 9,300 magnets as part of the infrastructure for accelerating the sub-atomic particles.

Another disappointment is that the heaviest sub-atomic particle discovered so far, the Higgs' Boson, is not likely to materialise in Cern as promised. The talk in town is that the particle is so repulsive that it will be done away with soon after its creation.

The precise reason as to why Cern applied the brakes to its fundamental particle research has itself not been clearly spelt out so far.

A large number of people in Geneva believe that the leakage of some radioactive material from the campus was the reason behind the abundantly cautious cessation of scientific research activity. In the absence of open communication, ripples of fear spasms gnaw at the vitals and viscera of the local people every now and then. A lot of the inhibition is about the foolhardiness of man trying to play God! There is understandable concern about upstart man tilting at divine windmills!

Down the ages, time and again the point has been driven home to us that conquering and vanquishing nature is all fine up to a point. But when push comes to shove, we should respect divine turf. That is why whenever we have deigned to ask fundamental questions, nature has drawn the blinds and played its cards close to its chest. It should not become a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.

At a meeting of the International Congress of Mathematicians on December 31, 1899, David Hilbert, a British mathematician and president of the Congress, threw the gauntlet to fellow mathematicians. He observed that mathematicians had, till then, been happily cruising along on the basis of deductive logic and self-evident axioms. But can we be sure that deductive logic will not lead us to any self-contradiction? How can we be sure that we will not contradict ourselves if we continue evolving and enunciating ever newer theorems through deductive logic?

Mathematicians diligently went to work to prove the absolute internal consistency of their discipline. But three decades later Kurt Godel in Germany proved that it was impossible to meet Hilbert's challenge. Even if such a proof, as to the internal harmony of deductive logic, were possible, what tool would that proof use? Again, only deductive logic. Using deductive logic to drive home the sanctity of deductive logic is like presuming what has to be established. It will be a classic case of "post hoc, ergo proctor hoc", a splendid illustration of begging the question.

It is one thing to anticipate and pre-empt the onslaught of an approaching infection. To cautiously inoculate yourself to anticipate and ward off a viral infection is perfectly in order. But if you want to dismantle and understand the theoretical foundations of the universe, then, as William Wordsworth warned us, "We (have to) murder to dissect". If you are going to rock the infrastructure of the world, then God had better sit up and take note.
Bertrand Russell used to recount the story of a Cretan who once observed that "Cretans are always liars". Was this statement of the Cretan true, or was it false?

If this generalisation was true, then in accordance with it, this Cretan himself must have been telling a lie when he made the statement. If, on the other hand, the statement was untrue, that would imply that Cretans are generally in the habit of lying. Therefore, the statement should be deemed to be true. So, if he was speaking the truth, he was uttering a falsehood. And conversely too.

Bertrand Russell's classic conundrum was that of the barber in town whose brief was to shave everyone who did not shave himself. But did the barber shave himself or not? If he did not, he did. And if he did, he did not.
With such treacherous pitfalls in the domain of mathematical logic, the Cern project is not going to be a fast track one.


S.H. Venkatramani is a former journalist, critic and commentator based in New Delhi








Cincinnati, Ohio

In Ohio, citizens marched to the polls on Tuesday and voted to allow gambling casinos in the state. This was obviously a message to US President Barack Obama that independent voters are not happy with the way the healthcare bill is going. Really, I don't see how else you can interpret it. Ohioans were looking forward to the lower insurance costs that would come with a robust public option, and if the President can't deliver, they're planning to pay their future medical bills with their winnings at the roulette wheel.

Also, people here in Cincinnati rejected a proposal that would have made it harder for the city to expand mass transit. Meanwhile, both Atlanta and Houston voted on mayoral races, and in each city there is now going to be a runoff between a woman and a black guy. You think this is a coincidence? The meaning could not be clearer if the ballots had a "maybe we should have gone for Hillary" line.

There seems to be a semi-consensus across the land that the myriad decisions voters made all across America this week added up to a terrible blow to the White House. If that's the way we're going to go, I don't think it's fair to dump all the blame on gubernatorial contests in New Jersey and Virginia. Although there is no way to deny that New Jersey and Virginia were terrible, horrible, disastrous, cataclysmic blows to Obama's prestige. No wonder the White House said he was not watching the results come in. How could the man have gotten any sleep after he realised that his lukewarm support of an inept candidate whose most notable claim to fame was experience in hog castration was not enough to ensure a Democratic victory in Virginia?

New Jersey was even worse. The defeat of Governor Jon Corzine made it clear that the young and minority voters who turned out for Obama will not necessarily show up at the polls in order to re-elect an uncharismatic former Wall Street big shot who failed to deliver on his most important campaign promises while serving as the public face of a state party that specialises in getting indicted.

They would not rally around Corzine even when the President asked them! Really, what good are coattails if they can't drag an unlovable guy from a deeply corrupt party into a second term? Also, we have heard a lot about the fact that Corzine's campaign made sport of his rather chunky opponent, Chris Christie. It was not until Wednesday morning that it became obvious that Christie's victory was actually an outcry by average, pudgy Americans against a President who has to continuously battle against a tendency to lose weight.

We have a dramatic saga storyline brewing here, and I do not want to mess it up by pointing out that Obama's party won the only two elections that actually had anything to do with the President's agenda. Those were the special Congressional races in California and upstate New York. But they reflect only a very narrow voter sentiment, since one involved a district that was safe for the Democrats and the other a district that had not been represented by the party since 1872. On the other hand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's victory clearly fits into the pattern of voter outrage against an unsuccessful White House. Initially, New York City residents couldn't figure out how to send their message of inchoate rage against all that Obama stands for, since Bloomberg is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but a member of the well-known splinter group, Extremely Rich White Persons. Also, Obama had backed his opponent, Bill Thompson, with an endorsement that could not have been more half-hearted if he had sent it via Candygram.

In the end, everyone got together and decided to re-elect Bloomberg by a margin that was much narrower than expected. I know this is the first time that you are hearing this, but I voted on my way out of town on Tuesday, and I can assure you that everyone in New York intended to convey their unhappiness with the administration's foreign policy by electing Bloomberg by a margin of five percentage points — exactly the average number of letters in "Iran" and "Israel".

The voters were directed by a crack team of political operatives disguised as elementary school bake-sale ladies, who spelled out their orders with chocolate chip cookies. The national news media missed this entirely, but insiders could tell that the cookie people were working under cover, since the school system banned genuine pastry sales as part of Bloomberg's healthier-than-thou initiative.

I hope Obama has gotten the message and he shapes up and completely transforms the way Washington works before the next election. Otherwise, another governor's head could roll.


By arrangement with the New York Times








THE party is decidedly desperate six months after the Lok Sabha denouement. It is of lesser moment whether Sunday's appeal by Mr Jyoti Basu came off his own bat or was advanced at the behest of the party. Indubitable is the fact that Alimuddin Street has once again taken a bow in the direction of Indira Bhavan. It is more than a mere coincidence that the war cry on the eve of the ten assembly by-elections was in parallel with Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's disarming candour in the pretty much helpless expression that "we have realised that a political change has come to Bengal". Unmistakable are two critical features in Mr Basu's "request" to "Congress supporters to support the Left for the sake of peace, order and development when the state is facing danger". It is quite another story whether any of the stated objectives will materialise should the voter abide by his advice. On the face of it, this is concordant with his post-Ayodhya political philosophy that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) reach an understanding with the Indian National Congress to confront the adversary. "We had supported the Congress unconditionally against communalism in the interest of the country." The adversary today is not the equally down-at-heel Bharatiya Janata Party, but the Trinamul Congress. In his reckoning, the strategy advanced in the mid-nineties is no less relevant today though this time the perceived nexus between the Trinamul and the Maoists appears to be the underpinning.

Second, the appeal mirrors the Bengal school's perception that the Karat lobby's decision to dump the Congress had done the party in in the Lok Sabha election. Mr Basu has made it quite transparent that the party had committed a tactical blunder. It bears recall that the Congress had waited and then tied up with the Trinamul only after the CPI-M resolved to effect a parting of the ways. The Left dumped the Congress, not the Congress the Left. Has Mr Basu pitched for a reversal of the process? He has studiously left it to the electorate to take the decision. Also clear is the intent to drive a wedge in the Opposition ranks. The subtext of the message is addressed no less to Prakash Karat and his acolytes. Bengal has reached a grim pass and the transition in 2011 ~ whichever way the vote goes on 7 November ~ will be still more violent.







RATHER than inspire others in J&K to emulate her heroism, developments in the Ruksana of Rajouri saga are likely to convince the common folk that resisting militants is an invitation to the kind of threat against which the state offers no shield. For despite all the trumpet-blowing from the Governor downwards, all the media splashes about a turnaround in the offing, the authorities are contemplating relocating the young braveheart to the Capital after a grenade attack on her house in Shahdra Sharif village exposed as hollow all promises to accord her due protection. No relief is to be drawn from the fact that there was nobody at home when the militants ~ supposedly LeT fighters ~ came calling again, even if it were on the advice of the police that everybody had moved away. Simply because even the presence of a police picket in the locality testifies to the lack of deterrence, and suggests that "revival" of the J&K police is far from what it is being cranked up to be. The village has been virtually deserted after the attack on Friday night. Even before that Ruksana's family had been ostracised by the local community because it feared that associating with them would attract the militant's wrath, an apprehension that now appears warranted. The police has further eroded its credibility by giving vent to its failure-induced anger on the village youth. The typical danda reaction only enhances alienation, and pushes young folk to the "other side".

For Omar Abdullah and his government the inability to adequately protect a "trophy target" is yet another major failure, and a loss of credibility that must extend itself to other spheres of governance as well. Now that the euphoria of electoral success has dissipated it is becoming apparent that even though well-intentioned, he requires much administrative and political support to turn the situation around ~ a task not limited to countering Mehbooba Mufti, nor something which a railway line will redeem. The issue under focus points to a dangerous gap between ground realities and Srinagar and New Delhi's projections of normality returning. The common folk have suffered enough to know who is calling the shots and to bend in which direction. In that context, while her personal safety may be enhanced, the relocation of Ruksana equates with surrender to militant diktat. 







Afghanistan grapples with a fresh crisis barely a week before the run-off election. That exercise may turn out to a one-horse race with Dr Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal in the face of President Hamid Karzai's refusal to remove key election officials. The motions of a run-off on 7 November are bereft of substance; Karzai is set to retain the office of President despite a fraudulent election which had turned out to be a matter of concern for the Western powers, not least Barack Obama. There is no denying that his administration will be considerably weakened, indeed shorn of legitimacy. The denouement in Kabul can only intensify the US President's dilemma over whether to beef up the military presence to confront the Taliban in a fractious land. And the decision will not be easy as the internal affairs of Afghanistan become increasingly puzzling. It bears recall that Karzai had agreed belatedly to a run-off only after considerable pressure from the US administration. Hillary Clinton puts up a feeble defence that "I don't think it has anything to do with the legitimacy of the election. It's a matter of personal choice." What the Secretary of State deems as Abdullah's "personal choice'' will only reinforce Karzai's fraudulence. The Islamist militant must now be laughing up his sleeve.

It is significant that weekend efforts by American and UN officials to reach a power-sharing deal had collapsed in the face of Abdullah's reservations on the credibility of the run-off under the supervision of the present set of election officials. Much as he is opposed to the proposed patchwork quilt of a coalition arrangement, he has conveyed the message to the West that a fraud-free set-up is still not in place. The presidential election has not been able to achieve the goalpost ~ post-Taliban Afghanistan's march, however tortuous, to democracy. The democratic exercise remains ever so mired in controversy. Abdullah has quite plainly taken the high moral ground, and 7 November is set to witness the renewal of a spurious presidency.








THE people of West Bengal have of late repeatedly heard certain demands raised by the leader of the state's main opposition party and presently an important union minister. Chief among them is that the Centre should invoke the powers of the President under Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss the government in West Bengal.

Such demands have been made in the context of several developments that have occurred in the state in the recent past. Similar war cries were heard in 2008, alleging that the state government was guilty of violating an agreement on Singur, one that was concluded in the presence of the Governor.

As a lawyer, I am pained by this political jingoism or "jargonism", if one is permitted to coin an expression. It rides roughshod over well-settled constitutional and legal principles and positions. Political rhetoric is a legitimate tool of a politician, but constitutional and legal principles should not be allowed to be turned on their heads while resorting to such rhetoric. That would be misleading the people. Senior politicians, and particularly ministers who have pledged their oath to uphold the Constitution, are expected to know the basic constitutional tenets and cannot be allowed to use a perverse interpretation of constitutional powers and positions to score political brownie points.

Incorrect perception

THE frequent demands for invoking Article 356 create an incorrect perception in the popular mind, i.e. that the Central Government is the guardian of the governments of the states, and is the disciplinary authority of the state governments. The Centre has not been conferred with such powers; indeed, to confer such powers would be inconsistent with the concept of federalism embodied in our Constitution.

The exercise of powers under Article 356 entails grave consequences. I shall focus on the scope and contours of Article 356 in order to put the matter in perspective and leave the issue of the so-called Singur agreement for discussion in a later piece.

In expressing my views on Article 356, I shall carefully avoid reference to the discussions, reports and recommendations of various commissions, committees and study groups regarding its merits and demerits in the context of the federal structure of our Constitution. As a practising lawyer, my endeavour will be to focus on Article 356 as it stands and the history behind its incorporation in our Constitution and the way it has been judicially interpreted.

It is imperative for the purpose of my exercise to reproduce the material part of Article 356 as it stands:
"356(1): If the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by Proclamation ...".

Any study of the scope and applicability of Article 356 will be incomplete and an exercise in futility, without alluding to the history behind its incorporation in the supreme document of our nation, including similar provisions in pre-constitutional legislation that governed the field at the material time. It is also important to emphasise the basic fact that the founding fathers have framed a Constitution with a federal structure with a strong unitary bias.

The observations of HM Seervai, the eminent jurist and constitutional expert, are instructive: "The test laid down by Prof Wheare in his classic work has been generally applied to our Constitution and, broadly speaking, that test can be accepted, subject to its being supplemented by the illuminating discussion of Prof. Sawer in which he rightly said that it is necessary to enquire whether a federal situation existed in a country before it adopted a federal constitution".

Referring to India, he said: "The subcontinent of India was another area which by reason of size, population, regional (including linguistic) differences and communication problems presented an obvious federal situation, if not the possibility of several distinct nations". The following historical account of how our Constitution adopted the federal solution supports Prof. Sawer's conclusion that "a federal situation clearly existed in India...


Conditions existed in India which pointed to a federal solution as the right one for a sovereign democratic Republic and the solution was embodied in our Constitution."

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India has held in the case of SR Bommai vs. Union of India reported in 1994(3) SCC 1 that democracy and federalism are the essential features of our Constitution and are part of its basic structure.

The present Article 356, which was Article 278 of the original draft, has been the subject matter of intense debate in the Constituent Assembly and the deliberations are highly instructive on appreciating the objectives of the founding fathers of our Constitution. However, it would be on anachronism to skip the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 before embarking on any discussion on our Constitution. As observed by the Supreme Court in MPV Sundaramier vs. A.P. (1958) SCR 1422: "Our Constitution was not written on a tabula rasa,  that a Federal Constitution had been established under the Government of India Act, 1935, and though that had undergone considerable change by way of repeal, modification and addition, it still remains the framework on which the present Constitution is built, and that the provisions of the Constitution must accordingly be read in the light of the Government of India Act."

Constitutional machinery

SECTION 45 of the Government of India Act, 1935 provided for failure of the constitutional machinery for the Federation in Part-II, Chapter V of the Act. Section 45(1) insofar as it is material ran as follows:
"45. Power of Governor-General to issue Proclamations ~ (1) If at any time the Governor-General is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Act, he may by proclamation ~

(a) declare that his functions shall to such extent as may be specified in the proclamation be exercised by him in his discretion;


(b) assume to himself all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by any Federal body or authority".

Section 93 of the Act of 1935 was on the same lines as Section 45 except that the Governors of provinces were substituted for the Governor-General, and that the government of the province was substituted for the Government of the Federation. Seervai has observed that the provisions of the Act of 1935 were enacted because one section of the Congress had declared its intention to enter the legislatures only in order to wreck them from within, since they fell short of the party's demand for full self- government.

Section 12(1)(a) of the Act of 1935 provided that in the exercise of his function, the Governor-General shall have, interalia, the special responsibility to prevent any grave menace to the peace or tranquility of India or any part thereof. The amendment moved by the Marquess of Lothian in the House of Lords to add the following words "for subversion of the institutions set up under this Act" as a special responsibility was withdrawn on an assurance by the Marquess of Zetland that if a really serious attempt was made to subvert the Constitution, even by constitutional means, it would be contrary to the general scheme set up in the 1935 Act and the Governor-General would be justified in taking action under Section 45. The reference to the provisions of the 1935 Act, which were the precursors to the present Article 356 and in particular the situations they were intended to deal with, has been made to demonstrate the situations in which such powers under the Act of 1935 were intended to be exercised.

(To be concluded)


The writer is Senior Advocate, Calcutta High Court







Washington, 2 NOV: Here's another reason why you should shed the flab ~ excess weight can hamper your bedroom life, for a study has found that obese people have less sex.

An international team, led by Professor Frances Quirk of James Cook University, has carried out the study and found that in addition to increasing health risks, obesity can kill overweight people's sex lives.
According to researchers, there are several biological and physical factors which could lead to a decrease in sexual functionality. "Sexual dysfunction is very personal and even within a relationship lots of couples find it very difficult to talk about changes. One partner may say: 'I think something has changed and I don't know what it is, while the other is thinking 'they've gone off me'.

"Excessive weight gain may lead one partner to find the other less physically attractive, a change in hormone production and lower energy levels and all these things can have a negative impact on your sex life," Prof Quirk said.

According to the researchers, people are likely to be attracted to certain body shapes in the opposite sex.
"When men see women with a small waistline and broad hips the are just primed to respond to those shapes, while women are attracted to the triangular shape of a man. These body types are indicative of hormonal and physiological characteristics that are naturally attractive.

"With a round body shape all of those cues are hidden so what you're relying on in terms of your own sexual response to someone is subjective feelings," Prof Quirk said.








The government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee seems to have been seized with fatalism. Not only has it proven itself to be inefficient on most counts, but it is also refusing to make an effort to look smarter and more active in the months that are left for the assembly elections in West Bengal. Ways to do this were provided by the recommendations of the administrative reforms committee headed by the former chief secretary, Amit Kiran Deb, a committee that the chief minister had asked for. But most of the recommendations of the committee will now be ignored, because the suggestions are likely to seriously upset the status quo. The committee recommends that 16 departments of the government with overlapping functions be reduced to eight. This would eliminate delays, lack of coordination, the spinning out of red tape and the stifling layers of obfuscation. But all that is better — in other words, people's harassment and administrative inefficiency are better, whatever the price, than upsetting coalition partners who must have a required number of departments under their control. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), now a little shaken by signs of its unpopularity that it cannot ignore even at its most arrogant, obviously feels it cannot afford to upset its allies. With the gradual lessening of its contact with reality and its slightly unbalanced focus on every breath that the Opposition draws, the CPI(M) is probably finding that the state and its voters have somehow become dimmer than the party's immediate interests.


In spite of frequently pronounced brave words, evidently the CPI(M)-led government feels that it is walking a tightrope. So there can be no question of merging, for example, the agriculture department with agricultural marketing as recommended, or fisheries with animal resources development, or school education with mass education extension, and so on. Only civil defence and disaster management have been brought together. But the government has also rejected the recommendation to divide six of the larger districts into smaller units for the sake of more efficient governance. All of which leads to a puzzling question: since reforms are intended to change things, did the West Bengal chief minister expect that reforms in the case of a CPI(M)-led government would mean something novel, defined as something that suits the Left Front government alone?








Even a Nobel laureate might end up feeling miserable, especially if he happens to be the president of the United States of America. What good is a peace prize given by a Swedish committee when people at home consider their president's party unworthy of their vote? Barack Obama, "surprised and humbled" by the Nobel peace prize, justified the honour as "a call to action". He need not have waited that long. It has been a year since Americans have elected their first black president. In these 12 months, Mr Obama has made too many tall promises and delivered too little on the ground. The national economy, in spite of the revival package, is yet to recover appreciably. Healthcare and tax reforms have put off the middle-class whites (who form the Republican support base), and Afghanistan is going from bad to worse. So Mr Obama should be the last person to be surprised by the Republican resurgence, as the results of the recent state elections across the US show. The Democrats have not only performed dismally, losing important gubernatorial posts in Virginia and New Jersey, but their defeats have also cost their president dearly. Since his inauguration in January this year, Mr Obama's approval ratings have been going down from an initial whopping 70 per cent. In July, his ratings were worse than what George W. Bush had enjoyed in the same period of his own presidency. By mid-October, the figure had plunged to 50 per cent, making Mr Obama's popularity slightly below the average for all US presidents since World War II.


Clearly, the aura of romance and heroism that the US media had so expertly cultivated around Mr Obama has finally started to fade. However, the time for a "Republican renaissance" — to quote Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican national committee — may not have arrived just yet. Although the Republicans have secured a number of key states, a clash of interests between the moderates and the hardliners within the party persists. There is no reason for the Republicans to forget just yet that their last president was voted out of power as one of the most unpopular leaders of the nation. Or put behind the fact that most of the crosses that Mr Obama is now burdened with were the fruits of Mr Bush's eight-year misrule. Equally, Mr Obama should also snap out of the fairy tale that has been spun around him by the liberal press. Romance must give way to real life.









A faded group photograph one chances upon shows the faces of the earnest members of the first national executive committee of the Congress Socialist Party formed exactly 75 years ago, in 1934. The CSP was put together within the folds of the Indian National Congress as a kind of ginger group to push the lugubrious juggernaut of the great parent party towards a more radical direction. The elderly caretakers of the Congress listened — half-mockingly, half-patronizingly — to the new breed who talked of such exotic things as happenings in the Soviet Union and the rise of the Nazis in Germany and the fascists in Italy as direct spin-offs of economic depression and mass unemployment. Even in the United States of America, capitalism was said to be malfunctioning, the ranks of hunger marches swelled every day, extensive public works under State auspices were somehow saving the system. The dedicated crowd milling within the CSP were grappling with the significance of these events for India. The nation must of course be freed, here and now, from foreign shackles, but that was not enough. What sort of free India was it to be, what would be the contours of its social and economic order? India belonged to its masses: the overwhelming number of dispossessed peasantry and underpaid workers and artisans of various descriptions as well as the mute castes and tribes at the receiving end of exploitation over centuries. The Congress must adopt concrete programmes for a total reconstruction of the economy in post-independent India so that a proper kisan-mazdoor raj emerged. The CSP was going to see to all that.


Its first national executive committee, the faded photograph attests, was a curious mélange: Farid Ansari, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Dinkar Mehta, Nabakrushna Choudhuri, Narendra Deva, P.Y. Deshpande, S.M. Joshi, Soli Batlivala, S. Sampurnanand, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Jayaprakash Narayan, N.G. Goray, Achyut Patwardhan, Purushottam Trikamdas, Charles Mascarenhas. It was too improbable a combination to last long; it did not.


Communists like Namboodiripad, Batlivala and Dinkar Mehta left this clandestine shelter by 1941. Nabakrushna Choudhuri, the devout Gandhiite, also soon detached himself, and later became Congress chief minister of Orissa, and subsequently joined Vinoba Bhave in his bhoodaan mission. Sampurnanand too, at some point, became Congress chief minister of India's largest state; by then he was an arch-social conservative leaning towards Hindu orthodoxy. Minoo Masani, a great admirer of Soviet collectivization in the 1930s, somersaulted, ending up as a foaming-in-the-mouth anti-communist and co-founded the Swatantra Party. Narendra Deva, the gentlest of souls, gradually withdrew from active politics and remained satisfied with his role as an ideologue of socialism, a slice of Marx, a slice of Gandhi, mostly Rousseau. Jayaprakash Narayan, the underground hero of the 1942 Quit India movement, mellower with the years; most of the time he was with the Praja Socialist Party — the CSP's direct legatee — but was also with Vinoba Bhave. He finally led the nava nirman struggles in the 1970s to emerge as the father figure of the Janata Party, which demolished Indira Gandhi's Emergency. He was lucky to die before his handiwork broke into smithereens.


Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was always a rebel of a woman in search of a cause, which at the end she discovered in cottage crafts and the theatre movement. Of the rest, S.M. Joshi, Achyut Patwardhan and N.G. Goray clung for long years to the Praja Socialist Party and its later incarnations, walked into the Janata Party when J.P. put it together, then migrated to the Janata Dal or one of its innumerable factions. Some of them had developed pockets of influence among a number of caste groups, 'other backward classes'; innate feudal instincts, however, drove them to waste their strength in endless internal squabbles until it was disaster time.


The Indian National Congress, it would seem, was both the curse and the ultimate provider of shelter for several of those rebels who loved to talk socialism in their calf days. It supposedly represented 'the stream of national consciousness'; its cloying charm was almost impossible to resist. For quite a few of them, the expression, 'national consensus', would have a bewitching effect: yes, engage in debate, let arguments and rhetoric have free flow, yet, at the end of it, it would be gross lack of patriotism not to fall in and join the national mainstream.


Others had disappeared; for the past few decades it is, therefore, only the communists who could claim the socialist inheritance. The Left and the communists became synonymous. Given their ideology, the communists, many had expected, would not get caught in the trap of 'national consensus'. Were not they the quintessential Left, the other side in the class war, where there could be no scope for compromise with adversarial forces? Their failure to tackle satisfactorily the class-caste dialectic was, however, a major problem. Equally ticklish was the issue of whether the global brotherhood of the working classes transcended national priorities. The communists have been extraordinarily cautious after the experience of 1962, and have taught themselves to be careful so that nobody could dub them as less than 'patriotic'. The Left led by the communists has, for instance, ceased to question the huge allocations in the name of defence and national security. The nuclear agreement signed with the US can be safely opposed; but courage fails when the question is one of across-the-board reduction in defence outlay; to argue for such reduction would not be 'politically correct'. The Left has thus modulated its ideology; it too must be an integral part of the patriotic front.


Consider this other instance. The Left in the past used to advocate the thesis that the Indian nation is a conglomerate of linguistic — and sometimes ethnic — sub-nationalities, and overall national progress was impossible if these sub-nationalities were left out in the cold. Its emphasis on an equitable structure of Centre-state relations stemmed directly from this understanding of the polity. They availed of the opportunity of the temporary decline of the Congress in the post-Emergency phase and were able to gain much credibility for their demand for expanded financial powers for the states. They dazzled only to disappoint. In the course of the past couple of decades, they have swung completely in the other direction: the state headed by the Left in West Bengal became most vocal in its support for full fiscal integration across the nation, a cause dear to the heart of the capitalists. It has indeed been a bizarre spectacle, the Left campaigning for a financial regime where the states will in effect be permanently at the mercy of the Centre.Even on the issue of globalization, the Left has succumbed to centripetal urges. The state governments under its control mouth the formal party line against economic liberalization. This is nonetheless being accompanied by a desperate zeal to invite capital, including foreign capital, into their premises. In a competitive environment, the Left, the argument goes, could not allow the territories under its influence to turn into an industry-less desert because of dearth of capital. Examining the feasibility of industrialization via the public sector route is no longer on the agenda.


Now for the tailpiece. The Congress ruling at the Centre, according to party theorem, represents feudal-bourgeois oppressor classes against whom the Left is to pursue a relentless battle. True, the Left is under great stress since the Maoists, for their own reason, have chosen the formal Left as their principal enemy. Even so, it is altogether incongruous how, to combat the Maoists, the Left has totally identified itself with the Centre. The incongruity appears all the greater because not so long ago the Left was vociferously opposed to the very concept of the Centre raising a police force; was not law and order a state subject?These are disturbing developments. Should not the Left re-wear its thinking cap? And, while doing so, should not it ask itself how a situation could be allowed to develop where Maoists can instantly mobilize a few thousands to lay siege on a railway station in a tribal belt, where a partisan of the Left dares not enter the area without adequate security guard?Or has a decision already been reached for self-destruction, the Left is to fade away — like the faded faces in that group photo discussed in the earlier paragraphs?








With China damming the Brahmaputra and holding India to ransom, it is time the Indian government got proactive with other governments, including that of the United States of America, to ensure that this kind of rough-and-tough, old- fashioned way of bullying and threatening another sovereign nation is stopped. If China is sitting at the high table of the committee of world nations, it must be compelled to address international issues in a dignified and democratic fashion. Strong-arm tactic and denials emanating from the Chinese government are completely unwarranted. Technological and scientific mappings of the world show the many 'intrusions' and expose the many lies. Therefore, political and military tactics, too, must change with the times.


India and China should ideally work in tandem to secure and protect the region. Instead, there exists a deep lack of trust between the two. To exploit a population economically and politically because it is still not as empowered as those in other parts of the world is clearly unacceptable. Politically irresponsible dictatorships will not be able to restore the lost human values and ethics that inform mankind. This simplistic and aggressive attitude in a complex world where people are asserting their identity, and demanding dignity and justice can only aggravate an already volatile reality.Because of its communist legacy, China still seems to carry the baggage of that political truth, is unable to abandon dictatorial positions, and is unwilling to come to the discussion table to find solutions. Grabbing territory is old hat, and it is time China undertakes a fresh approach towards its neighbours. Human beings cannot be suppressed beyond a point. The Americans were defeated by the Vietnamese who had no military might compared to their enemy, but the people routed that superpower and debilitated the US foreign policy.



Gandhiji led Indians using the weapon of civil disobedience to vanquish a dominant colonial power. Hitler brutalized a people, Stalin and Mao Zedong repressed their own countrymen. This millennium must bring with it composite dialogue, appreciation and acceptance of differing views and ideologies. Nations and governments must try to reach a consensus and agree to disagree if there is a logjam, give in and adjust in an effort to maintain peace and enhance civil society. There is no other way to deliver the goods and services to all the people of the world at all levels of society.


China and India need to take the lead and set the example of dialogue and consensus, much like Jawaharlal Nehru's attempt at Panchsheel.Those notions of collective responsibility are now more valid than they were at the time they were enunciated. What is lacking today is solid leadership. Nasser, Tito, Nehru were intellectual comrades. Today, when one looks for similar relationships in the top echelons of international leadership, one is hardpressed to find such collective thinking. That is the primary problem. No one is pulling in the same direction with the same set of rules and similar goals of governance. People are united in the belief that their patience and goodwill are being exploited by all leaders everywhere. Someone from among them has to step out of the restrictive lakshman rekha and lead a collegium to change the trajectory collectively, retaining the many special 'identities' that make the earth a diverse place.


India could take the lead and win over the countries of the East as its allies. China and India could come together to check other superpowers and their clumsy assertions. South Asia and Europe could lead the change and thrash out new mechanisms for equitable growth. The 'seat' is empty and someone has to take up the challenge.









The investigations conducted by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department against former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda are the largest ever against any Indian politician in terms of the number of places and premises raided and the strength of the staff deployed for the purpose. The findings are also among the biggest ever — hundreds of crores in accounted wealth, thousands of crores of illegal money laundering and investments in places like Liberia and Dubai.

Investigations show that Koda has a network of people inside the country and outside who formed a web of corruption, illegalities and cheating. He was a labourer with no means before he joined politics 15 years ago and had meagre assets before he became a minister and later the chief minister. It is clear where the wealth that he possesses came from. He was the first independent MLA to become the chief minister of a state. The Congress and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had supported him.

Jharkhand is rich in minerals and successive chief ministers and ministers have looted its riches to make private and illegal gains. Political instability has also been exploited to maximise personal returns. One of the country's most notorious symbols of corruption, Shibu Soren, is from the state. The present raids are the result of six months of investigations against Koda and his colleagues, involving even international agencies. Two former ministers are already in jail on money laundering charges. The results confirm the suspicions that politicians have stashed away their ill-gotten wealth abroad.

Koda's charge that the raids are an attempt to tarnish his image will not find any takers. The state is going to have assembly elections later this month and Koda has said that he has been targeted because of that. But he has not explained how he has come to possess so much wealth. It is also not known why the investigating agencies have  targeted only independents, when leaders of political parties in Jharkhand are also considered to be neck-deep in corruption. What has been revealed might only be the tip of the iceberg in the state where a politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus is very active. That is one reason for the growth of naxalism in the state. It is necessary to widen the scope of investigations, expedite them and ensure that they lead to punishment of the guilty. Often they are dumped when political equations change.









From India's point of view a  positive outcome of the seventh India-ASEAN summit which concluded in Thailand last week was the decision to expedite negotiations to finalise an agreement on investment and services. The call to set up an international university at Nalanda was another. The proposed agreement will be a follow-up to the India-ASEAN free trade agreement which has been concluded and it would benefit India more because the country, with the nature of its economy and its talent pool, can take better advantage of the opportunities in the south-east Asian region. India will have large deficits in its trade with the bloc, which is expected to grow to $50 billion by next year, but the advantage in the service and investment sectors will strengthen its economic relations with the region. The target date set for the agreement is December 2009 but it might take longer considering the long and difficult history of negotiations on the free trade agreement and the reluctance of the ASEAN countries to relax the barriers in the two areas.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement at the summit which called for promotion of trade, technology and investment flows through open, orderly and predictable channels pointed to the need for the new agreement. All this could help in better economic integration of India with the ASEAN countries and could lead to the creation of a wider Asian economic community. The prime minister also proposed the setting up of a joint task force to explore more areas of partnership so that the 10th India-ASEAN summit in 2012 would have a substantive outcome. The proposal jells with the idea of an East Asian Community, on the lines of the European Community, suggested at the main East Asia summit by Japan and Australia.

The proposal is still nebulous and has a long way to go. There are various views on its nature, structure and membership. The different historical experiences, cultural traditions and political systems and diverging interests of member countries are major challenges. But the very fact that it is being discussed shows the willingness to look for commonalities and build on them. The ASEAN will be the core of such a community but India, Australia and even the US would like to be a part of it.








If all the sponsored publicity by the Congress-ruled Central and state governments could efface the stigma of mis-governance on Indira Gandhi's part, it would have happened long ago. After 25 years of her death, the same sources did not have to go over the exercise all over again with crores of rupees going down the drain. The effort failed because there was no introspection, no regret.

Indira Gandhi's cardinal sin was not the imposition of the emergency but the elimination of morality from politics. She rubbed off the thin line that differentiates right from wrong, moral from immoral. Her demolition of values was so thorough that the dividing line stays erased even today.

In the first 19 years after independence, Jawaharlal Nehru and his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, saved the nation from becoming prey to power politics. They used their office to serve the nation. Never did pettiness or vindictiveness cross their mind. But Indira Gandhi was different. She had no qualms in making power the end by itself. She should have resigned on moral grounds when she was disqualified by the Allahabad high court for a poll offence. But how could she follow the rule of law when she was law unto herself?

Instead of resigning, she imposed the emergency to overturn the entire system to save her skin. She had parliament pass a legislation to remove the disqualification bar. She did not think it appropriate to consult even the cabinet, which was summoned in the morning to endorse the proclamation which the president had signed the night before.

Indira Gandhi was never happy with the press. Her first order was to gag it. The media has still not regained its equilibrium even after 34 years. It has now developed the quality to stay on the right side of every political party when in power. That is the reason why newspaper articles on her 25th death anniversary seldom mentioned her misdeeds either before the emergency or during the emergency. They were too laudatory even to shame the sycophants.

Mahatma Gandhi taught the nation to shed fear. Indira Gandhi recreated fear in the minds of people. Whether it was the press, the judiciary or the bureaucracy, they compromised because of fear. She decimated what was called the impartial bureaucracy. It caved in under pressure. Desire for self-preservation became the sole motivation for government servants' actions and behaviour. The fear generated by the mere threat made them pliable. They became a tool of tyranny in her hands.

Commitment re-defined

Indira Gandhi coined the word, commitment, long before the emergency to assess the loyalty of bureaucrats towards her. Some of them differed to say that their commitment was to the constitution of India. But they were either ignored at the time of promotion or sent to an unimportant position. This resulted in slow tracking of independent administrators, accustomed to note fearlessly on files.

The judiciary also felt the pressure of commitment. She superseded three Supreme Court judges to appoint her own person as the Chief Justice of India. He came in handy when the case of emergency's endorsement was before him. The Supreme Court judgment was 11 to 1. The lone dissenter, the senior most judge, was not made the Chief Justice when his turn came. It was rattling of Lewis Carroll's, "I will be the judge. I will be the jury, said the old cunning fury."

The biggest damage she did in her 18-year-rule was to the institutions which her father, Nehru, had founded and nourished. She manoeuvred even parliament when she lost the majority in the Lok Sabha in the wake of the party's split.

Indira Gandhi certainly began her political life with a remarkable mix of many things, a capacity to listen, to comprehend at different levels, to communicate with the last man. And she was strictly and totally secular in region and religion. These qualities underwent different permutations and combinations in later days. She would use every trick to win at the polls.

Somewhere along the way a new factor entered to restrict her vision. Her son, Sanjay Gandhi, became the extra-constitutional authority. He opened the doors to dubious muscles of lumpen youth. The order, built by him, has not been dismantled and one can see it in the governance even today. Indira Gandhi used all methods to break those who opposed her. I wonder if she would get even a footnote in history. If at all she gets mentioned, it would be because of Operation Bluestar against the Sikh's Vatican, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. She has had the tanks roll in within the precincts of the gurdwara.

She paid a heavy price for it. Her Sikh bodyguards killed her to avenge the attack on the Golden Temple. But then the government's retaliation was criminal. It did not act in 1984 for three days during which 3,000 Sikhs were butchered in Delhi in broad day light. It is an irony that the Sikhs have recalled the killings this weak, the 25th anniversary of the massacre, when the Congress party, too, has held meetings and photo exhibitions to glorify Indira Gandhi.









That Moscow's support has been enlisted by the US in the diplomacy around Iran's nuclear plans has not been without considerable behind-the-scenes goading by France and Germany.

The very heart of 'Old Europe' was never comfortable with anti ballistic missile systems being positioned in what Donald Rumsfeld called 'New Europe,' namely the Czech Republic and Poland. After all, Moscow's diplomatic support on Iran was obtained only after Washington agreed to withdraw missiles from eastern Europe.

But for Moscow it has not been a mechanical quit-pro-quo. Political advisers around the Kremlin have done their homework and joined the Iranian diplomatic concert after extensive discussions with the key country in West Asia — Israel.At a recent seminar in Herzilia, Israel, senior members of the Jewish state's intelligence community like former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, argued that the west's adversarial relations with Moscow would worsen with the deployment of missiles in eastern Europe. Under these circumstances it would be impossible to have Russian support on the Iranian nuclear issue. Israel sees this as an existential problem.

But realism dictates that Israeli nuclear arsenal is, likewise, an existential issue for Iran. In this context, statements from Washington policy makers like Bruce Riedel are seen by Iranians as "being helpful." Riedel said that 'double standards' in West Asia on the nuclear issue are not conducive to peace.

Exposing Israel

Therefore, embedded somewhere in the sub text of all the moves whether in Geneva or Vienna is to bring out into the open Israel's nuclear arsenal. It is recognised that resistance to this within Israel and an influential segment of the US will be profound.

Meanwhile some direct Israeli-Iranian contacts have already been established. While Tel Aviv has confirmed the contact, Tehran has not.

It would be interesting to gauge the dynamics within Iran following the demonstrations against President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's June 12 re-election led by former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mir Hussein Mousavi, the candidate who lost the disputed poll.

These are being hailed as the first contacts between Iran and Israel in 30 years when the Ayatuallahs first came to power in 1979. But this is in reality only a partial truth because in 1986, the Reagan administration made clandestine contacts with the Iranian regime. The story exploded as the infamous Iran-Contra deal or Irangate.
It was a complex deal in which Iran would be supplied Israeli arms to continue the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Israel would be re-supplied the arms. But the money from the Iranian sales would be funnelled to the Contras who were waging a war against the pro Soviet Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Reagan's National Security Adviser, Admiral Poindexter, declared that 'high level' contacts had been established in Tehran in the course of the controversial deal.

The high level contact turned out to be the then Speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Hashemi Rafsanjani, currently leading the charge against President Ahmedinejad.

When Irangate exploded as a major scandal which crippled the Reagan presidency, the revelations did not seem to adversely affect Rafsanjani's political fortunes. He proceeded to become President in 1989 for two terms.

Also, the Irangate taint did not seem to rub off on the present spiritual leader, Ali Khameini. He happened to be president in 1986, the year of Irangate. It is unlikely that Speaker of the Majlis, Rafsanjani, would have embarked on an audacious foreign policy initiative with the US and Israel without clearance from the then president, Ali Khamenei. Despite Irangate, Khameini too earned a promotion: he is the spiritual leader today.

The interesting fact today is that Rafsanjani and Khameini are on opposite sides in the post election standoff.

Since the US ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Saudi Arabia has watched developments with deep anxiety. Saddam was bad, but the emergence of Shia dominated Iraq next to Saudi oil bearing region of Damman, predominantly Shia, is something of a nightmare. Further, Shia majority in Bahrein, Lebanon, a large population of Shias in Kuwait are all morale boosters for Tehran.

Little wonder then that Saudis were invited to be present at the series Iranian-Israeli meetings in September. Also, Riadh has been encouraged to appoint a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir under the auspices of the hurriedly rejuvenated OIC.


Mysteriously, neither the government nor the Indian media has taken much note of this development.








My work as an interpreter in the UK brings me face-to-face with interesting people and situations. Most of my assignments are in hospitals (you could say that I am an interpreter of maladies). Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I learnt that my services were required by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).


Intrigued, I made my way to the home of the lady whose address I had been supplied. The interview began after the arrival of a grim-faced RSPCA inspector.

I was absolutely taken aback at what followed. The lady, a mother of five children aged between one and 12, had been charged with failing to prevent her kids from 'terrorising' chickens. She faced a hefty fine and a court case for her 'misdemeanour'. In addition, she was from the Indian subcontinent and spoke no English. She looked absolutely blank when asked if she had contacted her solicitor and did not seem to understand the 'gravity' of the situation.

The family had purchased some chickens from a market and brought them home. The birds had been thrown into a small cage, but they had apparently been fed regularly by the lady. Trouble started when a friend of one of the boys came home and started playing with the chickens. He had tossed some of the chickens high up in the air. The squawks of the birds had attracted the neighbours' attention and one gentleman had photographed the incident on his mobile phone and sent off the clips to the RSPCA. The 'terrorised' birds had since been removed from the custody of the accused, but she was told she could get them back if she promised her children would behave well with the birds.

The inspector fired a volley of questions at the lady. Why did she buy the birds, what she had been feeding them, where she kept them at night and whether she had taught her children how to handle the chickens. The entire episode was an eye-opener for me. I'm sure in India thousands of animals are 'terrorised' every day, but no action is ever taken against offenders. And, in the UK, somebody had actually spent time and money (they had hired me after all) to defend 'terrorised' chickens. What a great country this is!










This week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To celebrate the 444-day-long violation which came to personify the regime's sanctimonious thuggery and disdain for international norms, the mullahs organized yet more "Death to…" mass demonstrations.


Astoundingly, tens of thousands of anti-regime marchers piggy-backed on these rallies in Teheran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz - not to chant insults at America, but to plead: "Obama, Obama - either you're with them or you're with us."


The "them" is the syndicate dominated by capo di tutti capi Ali Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard sotto capo Mohammad Ali Jafari, and presidential mad-hatter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


The "us" refers to an amalgamation of individuals and groups who are sick and tired of "Death to…" and want Iran to be a normal country.


PRESIDENT Barack Obama noted the anniversary by saying, "Iran must choose. We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."


But this is a question the president, who this week marked the anniversary of his own election, cannot reasonably forever ask.


He has made it clear that he "wants to move beyond this past" and seek "a relationship with the Islamic Republic" rooted in "mutual interests and mutual respect."But Khamenei is not swayed. "The American government is a really arrogant power" and he's not "deceived" by Obama's "reconciliatory behavior…"


Khamenei needs America to be his Great Satan as the edifice of his regime slowly crumbles. Even some of the "students" who took over the US embassy are today locked-up as enemies of the state. The dissenters set out to create representative government with an Islamic face. What they got instead is authoritarian government with a stony Islamist facade. The revolution has consumed its makers.


Even the ruling clique has taken to internal bickering. This, in addition to Iran's standard one step forward, two steps backward "negotiating" technique, explains the latest flip-flopping about shipping enriched uranium out of the country.


IN ITS infancy, the mullahtocracy violated the extraterritorial sovereignty of the Israeli and American embassies. Thirty years on, Iran is on the brink of building an atom bomb and perfecting ballistic missiles capable of reaching beyond Europe. The Iranian regime is today the principal cause of instability in the Middle East; its ambitions extend to Latin America and Africa.


The world reacted to the capture by the Israel Navy of the Iranian arms ship Francop Wednesday with its usual attention deficit syndrome; a quick gasp… and then on to the World Series. The vessel was loaded with the equivalent of 20 cargo planes of weaponry and intended for Hizbullah, suzerain of Lebanon, proxy of Teheran. The Francop follows in the wake of the Santorini and the Karine-A. We shudder to think how many other ships have gone undetected.


Iran is now in naked contempt of clause 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) which forbids it from exporting arms; and of clause 15(a) of Resolution 1701 (2006) which prohibits sending weapons to factions in Lebanon.


Last month, Yemen captured an Iranian ship laden with weapons intended for Shi'ite extremists fighting the country's ruler. It's no secret that Iran has been shipping weapons by sea to the Polisario rebels battling moderate Morocco. But in arming its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran pulls out all stops - truck convoys through Sudan, trains through Turkey, donkeys, tunnels - whatever it takes.


This week Israelis heard Major-General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, reveal that Iran has provided Hamas with rockets that have a 60-km. range capable of striking Tel Aviv. Hizbullah already has similar weaponry. Barring a "lucky" strike, the only practical use for such rockets is to slaughter Israeli civilians en masse.


WE CLOSE out the week on a glimmer of hope - the certainty that evil regimes don't have to last forever. Next week marks the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.


If only Barack Obama could walk in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy (Ich bin ein Berliner) and Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and provide the moral leadership the civilized world needs to help the people of Iran take down this regime.











When a show is received with booing from the crowd and is torn to bits by the critics, it is brought down, taken off the screen. This way at least some expenses are saved and the disappointment of all those affected - from the management to the actors, all the way to the general public - is expedited. But what can be done when the theater's building itself turns out to be both a fiasco at the bank and with the critics? Is there any power in the world that can remove it from the stage and replace it with something else?

This is the question that comes to mind at the sight of the travesty constructed in recent months at the national theater, Habima - or at least what has been built on the ruins of the previous structure: an enormous block of concrete, sealed by walls, rising like a dam along the street; walls that make all the surrounding buildings appear tiny, including the adjacent Mann Auditorium; a building which in its clumsy style reminds us more of an industrial-zone shopping center than a theater ensconced within its urban environment.

When every city resident wanting to expand a window or close off a balcony must go through the purgatory of municipal red tape, it is puzzling that such a brutal, environment-altering structure could have emerged in such an attractive part of central Tel Aviv. The planning was done without any public input, without a broad competition among architects, and with almost no public debate until after facts were already established on the ground.


In a controversial process - without a tender, and contrary to the recommendations of the city engineer at the time - the theater's board chose from only two options. It was the proposal of Ram Karmi, an architect of substantial achievement and an Israel Prize laureate who has also been associated with a series of grandiose and stylistically brutal projects that have drawn broad public criticism. These included the New Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, as well as a plan (which has been rejected in the meantime) to transform the Prime Minister's residence into something resembling a fortress.

Habima is a nonprofit organization that doesn't require a process of tenders, but did those running it not understand the difference between farce and tragedy? And how is it possible that the Tel Aviv municipality did not take a decisive stance on such a critical change to the city's appearance?

If it's possible to put aside the architectural issue as a matter of taste, it is not so when it involves the conduct that is part of the "overhaul" - a process by which the divide between the artistic needs and the structural plans continues to grow, the timetable is plagued by delays and the growth of the building itself symbolizes the growth in costs, now nearing NIS 100 million: three times more than the original budget.

All of these delays and costs would have been forgotten if the actors and the audience could look forward to returning to a friendly, inviting and beloved building. But that is doubtful, mostly when comparing the emerging Habima building with similar structures around the world, which are characterized by a lighter and more open style. It is too late to drive this dybbuk from Habima, but perhaps other institutions will learn a lesson from this show - on proportionality, haste and megalomania.







Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's proposal to deprive the attorney general of the jurisdiction to act as head of the state prosecution is unbecoming. The problem is not, as many believe, the "perfunctory" manner in which the idea was formulated, or the fact that the proper homework was not done to prepare for such a far-reaching step. On the contrary, one is overcome with the suspicion that the plan was thoroughly weighed right down to the last detail, and that it found favor with its advocates precisely because of its sinister content.

There are countries like the United States in which the principles of the rule of law, including fundamental human rights, are anchored in a written constitution that is regarded by a cross section of the public, both right and left, as a sacrosanct document (even if at times it is interpreted in various, contradictory ways). There are other countries like Britain which do not have a constitution, though they do boast a democratic tradition that is nurtured and guarded to a point that ensures the existence of the rule of law and human rights despite the absence of a constitution.

Israel is unlike either of the aforementioned countries. On the one hand, it possesses nothing but a tiny fragment of a constitution (in the form of two Basic Laws), from which a significant chunk of human rights were knowingly excised. Despite its truncated nature, many consider it a historic accident that happened by chance or fraudulently. On the other hand, our country does not have a noted tradition of democracy, perhaps because most of the people who have settled in Zion were originally from a diaspora that encompasses Eastern Europe and the Middle East, places where human rights and the rule of law were not a part of the cultural tradition.


Without a real constitution and given that we have a democracy as fragile as it is, the principles of the rule of law and human rights are on shaky ground, for we have no guarantee that these principles will not be swept away in a wave of engulfing nihilism.

Our judicial history has proven that we have two main instruments that are relied upon in order to somewhat lessen the risk factors mentioned above. They provide a sliver of hope that the rule of law and human rights can be preserved. These are the Supreme Court and the attorney general. Much has already been written of the attempts to mar the constitutional underpinnings of the former. That same malevolent spirit is now seeking to curtail the functions of the attorney general.

The job of the attorney general in Israel is a unique concept in comparative law. The attorney general is not a consigliere for the Benizris, the Hirchsons and their ilk - the rich and powerful. Rather, it is a job that requires him or her to be an attack dog who carefully scrutinizes the government's actions, the rule of law and human rights, issues that are of little concern to the powers that be.

In the days when our most renowned attorneys general were in office, in line with the tradition pioneered by Meir Shamgar, the rule by which all government agencies and bodies must accept the attorney general's recommendations on legal matters was engrained and adopted. Woe be unto us in the event that the government did as it pleased without a seal of legal approval with which it is bestowed, like a precious gift, by virtue of the job done by the attorney general.

The fact that the attorney general is also the head of the state prosecution is what gives the watchdog its teeth. Removing that function from his jurisdiction and granting it to another official is akin to denying the watchdog the ability to bite those who act waywardly and, by extension, denying the government and the voters who entrusted that government to preserve the principles of the rule of law and human rights.

What are these principles? They are known to all: equality before the law for everyone, irrespective of nationality, religion, political views, skin color or sexual preference; distance between the government and one's private matters; preserving the right to live a lifestyle that conforms to law; freedom of debate, political expression and property acquisition.

While these principles may be cherished by some of us, they are a nuisance for others. Thus, why shouldn't those others object to the equal application of the law to both Jews and Arabs? Why shouldn't they object to equality before the law for men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, those who support the government and those who oppose it, our enemies who violate the law and do us harm in the process as well as those who violate the law to do our enemies harm, the affluent and the common man?

Weakening the attorney general post while encroaching on the authority of the Supreme Court is a calculated, carefully considered way to undermine the principles of the rule of law and transform it into something else entirely.

The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a former dean at the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.







The government and the man heading it are doing a good thing by vaccinating the population against viruses in Operation Immunize Israel - and not only against swine flu, which is by no means the greatest threat to our public health. There are graver menaces at our doorstep.

Some top ministers have shown determination to extricate us from all of the 49 gates of contamination and defilement. What a pity that they themselves are not the strictest observers of the rules of hygiene; even as they execute this sacred work they clear their throats and spit, sneeze, cough, without always bothering to cover their mouths or wear surgical masks.

It was Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon who launched the campaign not long ago, after he was the first to identify that dangerous virus - the left-winger - and especially its most virulent form, Peace Now, in our bloodstream. Since his diagnosis, it's been easier to combat those disease-bearing Sternhells.


Throwing his weight behind the decontamination campaign this week was the interior minister, who's also some kind of a vice or deputy premier or some-such position. On this occasion, for a change, he wasn't out to exterminate germs of the Arab, left-wing, or even homosexual (they're sick, poor things) varieties. No, this time he sounded the alarm against migrant workers and their children, who he said were known to carry infectious bacteria "such as hepatitis and tuberculosis and AIDS, and are endangering the Zionist enterprise." He's worth listening to, Eli Yishai. He certainly must have read the chapter in his history book on unclean nations who should be gotten rid of, along with the lice they are infested with. Meanwhile, we can keep them in forced labor camps.

Not only politicians, but also certain competent health authorities have been attacked by this obsessive-compulsive anxiety of late. A friend recently sent me a Magen David Adom blood donors' form, which demonstrates that nothing has changed since the great scandal a few years ago concerning discrimination between blood taken from various "categories" of people. The form is worded quite cleanly, but its purpose was and remains filthy: Homosexuals and Ethiopians were then and still are not wanted at blood banks - and if they do donate, their blood will simply be destroyed. This then is the overall picture of the viral and/or bacterial hazards thwarting each and every attempt to turn this land into a sterile living space, with only pure blood allowed in. And this was the list used by Jack Teitel the serial killer: lefties, homos, Arabs, messianic Jews, migrant workers, or even local ones as long as they're black or slant-eyed.

At least the Ethiopians could derive some cheer from one item that emerged this week: "The army is training Ethiopian trackers to guard the nuclear reactor at Dimona," reports said, adding that, "For reasons of security classification, the use of Bedouin trackers is not permitted." An old-time officer in the trackers unit explained: "A true tracker has to be someone who grew up outdoors, in conditions of poverty and hardship, and who went out to the desert or the hills with the herds from a young age." By virtue of their deprived childhood, and of their anti-Bedouin virus and high-security clearance, a new blood-brotherhood has been formed - for which the Druze and Bedouin have already paid the price.

At last, the Ethiopians will be allowed to serve as the bloodhounds and guard dogs of the self-defending Jewish democracy. They will be allowed to contribute blood to us without being suspected of carrying viruses, if not through Magen David Adom then at least through the Israel Defense Forces.







The media responded to the annual report on poverty, released this week, with disappointment. The expectation was for an incisive report, which would prove just how severe the situation had become and show how the cruel state continues to abuse its poor citizens and push them further down below the poverty line. But we received a different report, a much more moderate one. And so it was buried in the inside pages of the newspapers, because where there is no drama, there is no headline.

The new report on poverty reveals that in 2008 the situation did not worsen, but remained stable in relation to 2007. And furthermore, sectors of the population which had starred in previous reports - Arabs, children and new immigrants - actually improved their standing.

The truth is that maintaining stable levels of poverty is practically a miracle. Due to the dominance of two sectors - the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population and the Muslim Arab population (including the Bedouin) - we operate on a kind of automatic pilot that increases poverty annually.


Each additional child in the average ultra-Orthodox or Arab family immediately affects poverty statistics. And because these sectors increase in size faster than the average, the number of families living below the poverty line must naturally grow each year; if this does not happen, it's a great achievement.

A Bank of Israel study shows that if these two sectors are "neutralized" statistically, the poverty rate for the remainder of the population falls to 13 percent, a decent figure by Western standards.

The fact is, the problem can be increasingly seen among the ultra-Orthodox, and not among the Arabs. Many studies show that the number of children in Bedouin and Arab families is on the decline in the wake of cultural changes, an increase in the level of education, and awareness on the part of young Arab couples that, in modern reality, it's impossible to accommodate the needs of children in large families. We are seeing an increasing number of young Arab families with just two or three children.

The poverty report also reveals an increase in the number of wage-earners in the Arab sector. More and more Arabs are entering the work force, and if we add to this the reduction in the number of children, it is clear why poverty in the Arab sector is on the decline.

The situation is completely different among the ultra-Orthodox population. The report shows almost no reduction in the average number of children per family, which continues to stand at eight (compared to three or four in the 1950s). It must be understood that when it comes to such large families - who in the best-case scenario depend on one wage earner, and in many cases on a wage-earner who works only part-time - there is hardly any way to escape poverty. In order to maintain a family with eight children above the poverty line, one has to earn more than NIS 10,000 per month - and it's obvious that this is not the case in ultra-Orthodox families.

And so it's not enough to say that we have too many poor children. One must say, in all honesty, that the reason for this is that poor families have too many children. According to the statistics, 63 percent of families in which both parents do not work will live below the poverty line; when one parent works, 24 percent of the families live below that line; when both parents work, only 3.5 percent of families are poor. Basically, everything depends on work and on the size of one's family.

The economic history of Israel can be separated into two periods. During the first 30 years, working was the norm. People were ashamed not to work. They fought over a day's work, and would never ask for a single handout. But 30 years later, a fundamental change has taken place. We have moved from a culture of work to a culture of welfare. Successive governments gave in to political pressure and increased the size of welfare payments (for children and for a guaranteed minimum income) dramatically.

As a result, it has become less worthwhile to go out and work, and more worthwhile to establish a large family and live on welfare. But then came the second intifada, which caused great deficits in the budget and led to sharp welfare cuts, starting in 2003. The result was impressive growth and 500,000 people entering the job market.

The graph shown here teaches us that the first response to the cut in welfare payments was an increase in poverty - but that starting in 2005, poverty decreased due to a return to the work market.

And so the solution to the problem of poverty may be found in encouraging employment, encouraging education, and reducing the number of poor families. That's where efforts should be focused - not in increasing welfare.








The uranium transfer agreement reached in Vienna last month between Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), France, Russia and the United States is a bad deal. Its details are still not public, and Iran refuses to endorse it. Still, its general terms are known: Iran would ship a significant amount of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile to Russia for further enrichment. That would then be processed into fuel rods (in France) and returned to Iran for use in its Tehran research reactor, under IAEA safeguards. These terms leave some critical matters essentially unresolved.

First, Iran has no right to enrich uranium - not since the IAEA found Iran in noncompliance with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations and referred the matter to the UN Security Council. The Security Council said just that, in five successive Chapter VII resolutions. By negotiating a deal over Iran's illegally enriched uranium that does not even ensure a halt to all future enrichment, the United States, Russia and France - the three powers negotiating with Iran in Vienna - have effectively undermined the UN Security Council and handed a victory to Tehran: Its enrichment can continue.

Second, unless Iran's enrichment activities are verifiably suspended, the deal will gain the international community only a little time. The offer aims to reduce Iran's 1,500-kilogram LEU stockpile to the point where it will not have enough declared fissile material to build a nuclear weapon. It needs a minimum of approximately one ton - and under the deal, Iran would send 1.2 tons abroad by the end of the year. But according to IAEA reports, Iran's centrifuges enrich an average of 2.77 kilograms of uranium per day. At that pace, Iran could quickly replenish its stockpile - it would take it only 253 days to return to the level of one ton. If nothing else changes, we'll be back to square one by next summer.


Third, the deal does not address the issue of undeclared nuclear sites. Given that Iran is still refusing to provide information about the new nuclear power plant it intends to build in Darkhovin; the recent exposure of the clandestine underground enrichment facility at an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps base near Qom; and fresh allegations of an underground detonator test site near Tehran, any deal should include at least an Iranian agreement to immediately implement the Additional Protocol to the NPT that it signed (but did not ratify) in late 2003.

Fourth, the deal disregards various clauses in the aforementioned UN resolutions, which expressly forbid other countries from taking nuclear material from Iran and prohibit Iran from exporting it. Such a deal would require the Security Council to reverse itself - a dramatic and unprecedented step that would no doubt be noted by any other nation planning to undertake a clandestine nuclear program.

That is why Iran can consider this a significant victory: The Vienna agreement has it conceding little in exchange for significant international concessions. Why, then, would it reject such an advantageous deal?

Iran is not interested in solving the nuclear impasse - it is merely seeking to gain its scientists time while shifting the West's red lines. Though bewildering, Iran's diplomatic dance was a familiar one. One spokesman rejected the deal; a second suggested a compromise could still be reached; a third said Iran was still studying the offer; a fourth called the deal the work of the Great Satan; a fifth admonished the other four that it was up to the Supreme Leader; and Iran's president eventually rejected it, but his foreign minister quickly added that there was still room to salvage the deal. Some observers interpreted this as a sign of internal division, yet anyone who has followed the past seven years of negotiations knows that this is how Iran responds to proposals. Having already bagged not only the deal but also its endorsement by the West, Iran is now pushing for more concessions.

Iran used the deal to show how vacuous American ultimatums are. President Barack Obama said Iran should agree to talks by mid-September, or else. Or else what? Iran stretched that deadline to October. Obama thought exposing the clandestine Qom enrichment site to a stunned world would checkmate the Iranians. But Iran, having perfected the game of chess more than a thousand years ago, took its time opening the site to IAEA inspectors - after a thorough clean-up - and made it look like it was a concession, rather than the belated fulfillment of an obligation. By the time the deal was initially sealed in Vienna, Iran had gained another three weeks - and then it proceeded to mock another deadline, by not responding on time.

The international community should prepare for more of the same. Iran will keep its interlocutors hanging, and exploit its Russian backing, European divisions on sanctions and America's lack of resolve to gain more time.

This is why anyone concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions should breathe a sigh of relief if the deal collapses, and demand of America that it recognize now - and not six months from now - that this deal was engagement's litmus test. Iran flunked, and it is time to use other, tougher means of persuasion.

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi is executive director of the Transatlantic Institute, in Brussels, and author of the recently published "Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb" (Profile Books).










Scarcity. It's a word that evokes dread in the minds of Jewish organizational professionals struggling to meet their budgets while they continue to provide for their constituents. The sustenance of thousands in need - whether elderly, young children, immigrants, the destitute or others - stands or falls on the strength of the infrastructure the Jewish people have built in Israel and around the world over the past century. Reacting to the gloomy predicament caused by the international recession, Jewish institutions and organizations worldwide have moved to reduce expenditures and focus on their core agenda: cutting pay, shedding staff, and even shortening work weeks. Some federations in the United States have even been forced to cut allocations to service organizations - such as the 20-percent cut in Milwaukee's funding of the agencies it generally sponsors.

These cuts don't always preserve the core. In Chicago, Jewish United Fund agencies reported in June that state cuts would mean that "600 frail older adults who depend on these vital services [will] remain in their own homes, cut off from services, 226 no longer receiving home-delivered meals, 516 no longer receiving personal care services, 160 no longer receiving transportation, 120 no longer receiving care management services," among other challenges. What could be a more heart-rending call for action?

It's natural, then, that community leaders would question whether our dwindling resources should continue to go to what has been called Jewish innovation programming - generally, small projects in early phases, such as alternative prayer groups, cultural productions or new methods of education, which attract only a handful of people and follow-on dollars.


Unfortunately, when seeking to answer the question, organizational leaders and philanthropists often focus on the $100 million that was invested in this sector in 2008 alone - a figure arrived at by a study conducted by the organization Jewish Jumpstart - rather than on the future returns on investment that this truly innovative programming will offer. Instead of thinking about only the immediate effect of the investment, we need to keep our eyes directed toward the future.

Businesses understand the importance of investing in innovation, as do armies, scientists, and not-for-profit organizations. New ideas that can be used to solve problems more effectively and efficiently rarely come from the center of an establishment - and such ideas are crucial when developing products and services to meet the needs of constituencies.

If we believe the Jewish people have a role to play in this world, we must also invest in new ideas, products and services, even during the slow times. The question, then, should not be whether to fund innovation - but rather, how to tie that innovation back into the core of our institutions, enabling our people to upgrade our operations for the future. It is rare that this line of questioning is pursued in the boardrooms where funding decisions are made - and yet introducing it will lead to a new perspective on establishment-innovator relationships, and will enhance the value of innovation to our global community.

The means of tying innovation into the core include "tech transfer" departments, similar to those in universities, working to ensure that projects being developed can effectively transition into established programs - or at least that the lessons learned by entrepreneurs are taught to institutional professionals.

Taking examples from fellows graduating from our PresenTense Institute, Jewish schools could learn from, and adapt lessons learned by Matt Bar and Ori Salzberg, in the realm of multimedia educational projects, and seen on; or from Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz and Elyssa Moss Rabinowitz's blending of visual art and midrash, at Hillel International could pick up on Eli Winkelman's take on education for social action through Challah for Hunger; and the Joint Distribution Committee could learn from Bradley Cohen's work on All for the Kids.

By tapping into lessons and innovations developed in fast-moving, low-cost social ventures, our communal institutions could incorporate the implicit knowledge of the field into their structures at a fraction of the cost it would take for them to develop and test parallel structures.

Organizations could invest thought - as well as adapt ideas from the business world, like those seen in Cisco's recent reorganization - in building an environment that attracts the most creative talents to organizations without squashing their energy. The Jewish people could make their organizations environments that the best innovators clamor to join or be acquired by - instead of environments with serious problems of professional continuity.

If we are to build community institutions that serve the future, we should stop speaking of an innovation ecosystem existing alongside an establishment, and rather understand the Jewish community as a holistic environment that needs both the new and the current to thrive. As the old Jewish hymn goes, "What is good and pleasant? When we dwell together in unity."

Aharon Horwitz and Ariel Beery are co-directors of the PresenTense Group, which is focused on upgrading the Jewish people's "operating system" for the 21st century.








Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is correct in drawing the government's attention to the human capital that exists among Israelis living abroad. A great many citizens have chosen to make their homes outside of Israel, and some of them have done very well for themselves, in the worlds of academia, business and culture. At the same time, the premier is wrong in limiting the discussion to the question of encouraging their return to Israel by offering financial incentives - an approach that has been tried, and has failed, many times in the past.

According to estimates, between 500,000 and 750,000 Israelis reside abroad permanently. Despite programs aimed at luring them back home over the years, studies have shown that only a small proportion actually return, and even among these, the official "basket" of incentives has played only a marginal role in their decision.

In the reality of a knowledge economy, it's understandable that our leaders would want to recruit the Israeli (and Jewish) human capital living in the Diaspora. But in the Web-connected world of today, it's not necessary for them to return physically in order to make use of their knowledge and skills. Cheaper modes of transportation and advanced communication infrastructures allow even developing countries - not to mention developed ones like Israel - to import this knowledge without actually importing the citizens.


Beyond the ethical problems implicit in the idea of appealing to a handful of "stars" and ignoring the others living abroad, the central question need not be how to stop the brain drain. It's clear that the majority of those who left would have difficulty finding employment appropriate to their skills back home (as evidenced by hundreds if not thousands of Israelis with Ph.Ds who have been unable to find work in the academic world in Israel, which is collapsing under shrinking budgets).

Rather, the state should preserve and even strengthen the link with citizens living overseas. Successful efforts by other countries - in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Oceania - show that investment of financial resources in preservation of that link is likely to yield scientific, economic and diplomatic fruits of the first order. For this reason, France, for example, spends some 3.5 million euros a year supporting its citizens living abroad; Switzerland allots $1 million annually for support of Swiss civil organizations in other countries; and the Irish foreign ministry designated 15 million euros in 2007 to institutions operating in expatriate communities around the world.

Recruitment of the human capital of Israeli citizens living abroad does not require moving them here. All that's needed is a conceptual change, and adoption of a policy based on several simple principles. First, we have to understand that strengthening Israeli populations abroad is a national interest of the highest priority, and public and private funds must be invested to support and encourage community initiatives among them, be it programming or organizations. In Melbourne, London, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, there already exist local umbrella organizations for this purpose, and all that is required is for additional resources to be allocated to stabilize and augment them.

Second, considering that Israelis abroad have an interest in maintaining and passing on to the younger generation Israeli culture and the Hebrew language, it would be worthwhile trying to answer this need, in cooperation with local Jewish federations. Israeli schools and cultural centers abroad would not only help preserve the Jewish-Israeli identity of these citizens and their children, but could also serve as focal points for disseminating Israeli culture internationally.

Third, an international council should be created that represents Israelis abroad, and it should be seen as a strategic partner in advancing economic, political and cultural programs that will enhance their ties to Israel.

Fourth, special channels should be developed to allow Israelis abroad to become involved in social-welfare projects and other initiatives close to their hearts that are taking place in Israel. Finally, it's time to conduct a public discussion about the possibility of allowing Israelis living abroad the right to vote in elections back home.